Power is a touchy subject. Ask what's the most powerful, the USS Enterprise or a Star Destoryer, and you'll likely kick off a flame war between the Star Trek and Star Wars fandoms.

Balance is also a touchy subject. Just look at just about any RPG forum and you'll probably see something about linear figthers and quadratic wizards, or some build that got the nerf bat.

But you need power to have balance, otherwise you're just playing a rock that just sits there.

Which brings me to the topic of this post, what power level do we need to start at for this little Sci-Fi campaign of mine. I'll be referring to the GURPS Action series a good bit in this post because I'm probably going to be using it and Spaceships 2 to define core activiies, and it makes a pretty good baseline for this discussion.

I've talked with my players about what they want to play and the general consensus is that the 250 point limit in Action is about right. However, that doesn't tell the whole story because with GURPS, you have disadvantages that give points and powers, such as magic and psionics, that can change the feel and utility of a character. There's also the way GURPS defines characters. A filled character sheet from Dungeon World, Pathfinder, or Dungeons and Dragons may hint at some of a character's background and personality, but that's mainly in skills, or if you're playing Pathfinder, with traits. A GURPS character sheet, though, tells a good deal more. Advantages and disadvantages, especially disadvantages, define a character's personality and some of their background. Action limits disadvantages to 1 point per 5 points allowed, which means that an Action character tends to have few disadvantages. This fits the genre bcause most action heroes have few disadvantages and only as much background and personality as they need to make things enjoyable and believeable. There's nothig wrong with that, and you can get a lot of mileage out of 50 points of disadvantages, but I would like something more. The Basic Set suggests keeping the disadvantage limit to no more than half of the character point limit. This allows you to have plenty of interesting disadvantages while not crippling the character. I think it's a good idea, and it gives the players plenty of wiggle room.

I've said all of that to say this: characters in this game are 250 points with up to 175 points in disadvantages.

Point totals are only part of the equation. There's also powers to discuss. I have never played a GURPS character with any sort of powers, and this is the first GURPS game that I've tried to build and run, but I think its worth discussing anyway. What can powers do? They can certainly make it harder for the GM to prevent the party from bypassing encounters and short-circuiting adventures. It can also provide options for players to spend character points on. It can add another facet to the world and give a worldbuilder another hook to build off of. It can also make life complicated by giving both players and GMs more rules to remember and makes what can already be an overwhelming buffet of choices to a new player even more so.

There are upsides and downsides to having powers in the game, and seeing as I'm already planning on having cybernetics, biomodifications, and possibly aliens, It might not be a good idea to add yet more complexity on top of that. On the other hand, powers can make it easier to differentiate between aliens and give those that are humanoid something besides strange outlooks and rubber foreheads to make them alien instead of human. It's a point that I think needs looking at and one that I'm not ready to make a decision on. The good news is that I can at least narrow things down a bit and say that if there are powers in this game, then it'll likely be psionic instead of magic.