Point Build System
aka: Character Points
Point Build, or Point Buy, is a method of generating traits for characters
in a Game System
by allocating points from a budget, rather than randomly by rolling dice
or picking from a menu of characters with predefined stats and abilities. In most games, Point Build methods work alongside a Class and Level System
, although there are some in which they replace it entirely.
In theory, this type of system promotes game balance by ensuring that characters built with similar point budgets have similar power levels, as opposed to the wildly imbalanced characters that can result from random rolling. However, it can lead to Min-Maxing
, where players deliberately allocate points to the "best
" stats and abilities for their character concept while neglecting others
, which is often frowned upon.
Many systems take the Point Build method beyond character creation and award additional Character Points either in addition to or in lieu of Experience Points
. In a hybrid system, each Character Level
awards additional points to spend on stats and abilities. Other common features of Point Build systems include:
- Different traits cost different numbers of points, theoretically putting higher costs on more desirable attributes.
- Buying higher levels of a trait costs more points per rank than lower levels.
- There are multiple pools of points, each of which is spent on different types of traits. This is sometimes just done at character creation to ensure the player starts off reasonably balanced, but sometimes it carries on to gameplay by having different types of experience points that can only be used on specific attributes.
- Similarly, sometimes points earned during play must be allocated to skills or abilities that the character "used" in some way, or can justify having used; thus stopping you from getting smarter simply by killing monsters.
- You can gain extra points by lowering your attributes below the default starting level or taking negative traits that affect roleplaying or game mechanics (physical impairment, inability to use guns, paralyzing fear of snakes, spectacular clumsiness, etc.). There are usually limits to this to prevent ridiculously powerful characters, or characters whose flaws are actually advantages.
- Likewise, in addition to your core stats, you can spend points to take positive traits that affect roleplaying or game mechanics (such as the capacity to acrobatically dodge attacks, Matrix-style.)
The concept is not limited to characters in an RPG
; simulation games frequently use point allocation (or the equivalent in terms of a cash pool) to build vehicles, robots, spaceships, or other units; and strategy games usually use a point system to create armies, with units costing a variable number of points based on their presumed strength and battles rated in terms of the number of total points allocated to each side.
See also An Adventurer Is You
. A form of Character Customization
- Iji, a two-dimensional multi-directional-scrolling platforming computer game, contains a statistic system that allows the player to improve health, kicking ability, shooting damage, gun access, etc. by spending well-earned points at specific locations.
- Borderlands has a point system to build up character traits and abilities, such as regenerating health when on a killing spree or increasing accuracy for sniper rifles. Every Level Up gives you one point to spend on these traits and spending enough in some skills unlocks further skills and you can choose to empty out all the points spent to reallocate them if you desire. However, you will never be able to max out every skill since the max character level is 69note .
Hack and Slash
- Although used for building a race instead of a character, the second and third Master of Orion games give you a set amount of points to distribute as the player wishes, with positive and negative attributes. For the second game, a later technology, Evolutionary Mutation, allows the player to add four extra points, though there are some restrictions on what racial traits can be modified.
- The Galactic Civilizations games allow you to customize your race using a similar system, although some racial benefits are hardcoded. You get 15 pts to spend on a Custom Race, but only 10 pts for the pre-made ones who have built in bonuses that can reach levels a Custom Race would need to cripple themselves to achieve. They also have built in penalties to balance it out.
- In Sins of a Solar Empire, capital ships level up to 10. Three normal skills that can level up to 3 and a super skill with one level. Some of the super skills are game breakers; as such they're only available at level 6. Lvl6 cap ships are notably more powerful than Lvl5.
- Diablo has a class/level system, but each class has skills that can be purchased like a point build.
- Shattered Galaxy, a squad-based MMORTS
- In Guild Wars, depending on your primary and secondary class, you have a variety of attributes on which you can spend Attribute Points, which are earned by leveling and two particular quests depending on where your starting zone was.
- Ragnarok Online gives stat points for a Base Level up, and gives Skill Points for a Job Level Up.
- In World of Warcraft (among others), every class has three "Talent Trees" that they may invest points in to gain new skills, specializing in certain abilities.
- The Discworld MUD
Shoot 'em Up
- Might and Magic
- Only the later ones (6 and up), and with a twist in 6 and 7: the pool of points was shared among all 4 characters. The early games (1-5) used random dice rolls.
- Shin Megami Tensei games frequently allow the protagonist to distribute stat points when leveling up (other party members have fixed stat assignments), though you can't change your starting stats. Examples include Devil Survivor, Soul Hackers, Digital Devil Saga, and every numbered main series game. The first took it further in that you could decide your entire party's starting stats, too.
- Knights of the Old Republic uses the D&D point buy.
- Science Girls uses this in combination with regular level building. HP and SP still go up per level, but to strengthen your moves or other stats, you have to spend points earned with each new level.
- Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura's character generation system gives you five points at creation, one point per level, and an extra point every five levels. These points can be spent on eight statistics, sixteen skills, fifty-six technological disciplines, and eighty spells, or you can just dump them directly into hit points or fatigue.
- The Fallout series' trademark SPECIAL system has separate pools of points for stats (assigned as character creation, can have limited alteration in-game) and skills (start out based on stats, increase at level up).
- System Shock 2 used cyber modules, which were found in-game rather than earned through level ups, to upgrade stats and skills based on a complicated point-buy structure.
- Warlords Battlecry 3 (and possibly other related games) is an RPG/RTS hybrid with a Point Build system for developing the player character.
- Tales Of The Drunken Paladin has Brownie Points for each level up.
- The Baldur's Gate series uses a hybrid system for assigning the PC's atributes: the game does the usual 2nd Ed. D&D method of rolling 3d6 for each stat, but then allows the player to redistribute the points as they wish. Of course there's nothing stopping them from hitting the 'Reroll' button until they get a point buy in the high 90s, but playing an Honest Rolls Character is a popular Self-Imposed Challenge.
- Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2 use a pure point-buy system.
- Dragon Age and Mass Effect use point buy during character generation and give additional points on level up.
- The main character of Dubloon has his stats defined at the beginning of the game by allocating a total of 240 points to each stat.
- Heavy Weapon gives you an upgrade point after each completed level, which you can distribute among your weapons and equipment. You are able to freely move points from one weapon to another, however, you must use all your upgrade points before you can do the next level.
- 1943: The Battle of Midway gives your P-38 Lightning five different aspects to put points into. You start with one point in each category and three points to distribute as you need. As you play the game and discover special power-ups, you can add more points to these aspects.
- Slave Maker lets you spent points to build a special talent after each slave you complete. Eventually, versions of the game let you use a 100-point system from the start to determine your character's starting abilities.
- Dwarf Fortress, in both its Fortress Mode and Adventure Mode. A fortress mode player must purchase skills for his starting seven dwarves, as well as equipment and pets. An adventurer just has to allocate points for skills and physical attributes, and is automatically assigned fixed gear based on highest weapon skill. After that, all attributes and skills are only increased by using them.
- The disc-based version of Crush, Crumble, and Chomp! allows you to build your own monster with "Monster Points". The number of points available and the cost for each ability varies based on the body form you choose to start with.
- Sims 2 does this for creating personalities for individual Sims, with the twist that each personality trait is on a continuum between two extremes. You spend the points to move one trait or another toward the "positive" extreme.
- Champions with its HERO System was the first RPG to use a Point Build system; all other RPGs at the time used predefined characters or dice rolls, being directly inspired by Dungeons & Dragons.
- GURPS, probably the most well-supported point buy system to date (in terms of supplemental material).
- Fallout, originally planned to be an adaptation of the above, but latter turned into the SPECIAL system.
- Mutants & Masterminds
- 7th Sea
- Car Wars
- The Tri-Stat system, used for Big Eyes, Small Mouth, Silver Age Sentinels, and various other games.
- Editions one through three had you assign "Priority" to each of 5 categories: attributes, skills, resources, magic, and race. Each priority had a different amount of points (or money and spell-only skill-points, in the case of resources) to spend on that particular category. The Shadowrun Companion featured an optional character build system that was entirely point-based.
- In Fourth Edition the tiers are gone. Character creation is based on total build points, and there are only limits on how many points can be spent in a few categories that apply across the board.
- Fifth Edition returns to the priority tiers.
- Storyteller System games:
- In Old World of Darkness, every game has characters built with a slightly different set of rules, right down to what skills are available. In New World of Darkness all characters are built first as though they were normal mortals. Then, if they are not normal humans, they have a character template attached from the specific system.
- Exalted has a point-buy system in which you get a certain number of points to spend on each section and a number of bonus points to spend anywhere you like. Some gamers houserule it to give out a set amount of xp at character creation instead, since one of the awkward points of the Exalted system is that it has flat cost chargen and a variable cost experience system, meaning that someone who buys all their traits at 0, 1 or 5 can leave someone who went for a more well-rounded build sitting behind in the dust.
- Fading Suns
- Legend of the Five Rings (although eventually the points will result in gaining a rank and hence a new skill, the speed of this depends on where you put them).
- Fudge, a tabletop system has a point based system as one character generation method. The other is a totally subjective system, and there are no levels.
- The Fate system, based on Fudge though having since evolved into its own direction, uses a simple point-buy-ish system that basically involves choosing this many aspects, that many stunts, and usually filling out the slots in an already pre-arranged skill "pyramid" or "column" (such as e.g. one peak skill at maximum, two of the next lower rank, three of the one below that...); there is no one point pool to be split between the different categories here.
- The Unisystem, used for games like All Flesh Must Be Eaten, Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Conspiracy X, Witchcraft, and various others.
- Savage Worlds: though it's a mix of several things. An optional rule (thanks to the Deadlands inclusion) is to determine your starting stats and skill points by drawing a hand of cards and assigning them to each.
- Heavy Gear 2 had a limit for number of points in a single gear, and for the whole team.
- Unknown Armies.
- Eclipse Phase
- Most newer Class and Level System games tend to compensate for their weaknesses by adopting a point buy method for various parts.
- One option in Pathfinder at the GM's discretion.
- Dungeons & Dragons, originally the Trope Codifier of dice-based character creation, adopted a Point Buy system as an alternative (and frequently preferred) method in 3rd Edition onwards. Even in 2nd Edition, they added player chosen 'proficiencies' that allowed PCs the option of becoming craftsmen, etc. In 3rd Edition, this became a point-buy skill system. 4th edition finally went fully point-buy with that method becoming the default for attributes and the skill system pared down to a simpler version ("trained" or "untrained" vs. counting ranks, paid for with initial class skill choices and optionally feats rather than from a dedicated "skill point" pool).
- Used for game balance and regulating battle size/length in Warhammer 40,000. Each unit in an army costs a certain number of points, and before the game the players agree on the number of points available per side. The armies must also fit a designated minimum and maximum number of units in each category and models in each unit. The more points, the more numerous and/or powerful the units in each army will be. Also, the more units in each army, the longer the game tends to go on, because they take longer to move and determine attack. 500 points is probably the lowest playable total (that's maybe a squad or two, depending on the race), 1,000 is the average game and 4,000 is usually as high as most players will go outside of a multi-player "megabattle"; much more than that and the game would take all day. Also, Crack is Cheaper than Warhammer40000, so it's hard to get past that even when if you want to.
- Cartoon Action Hour does this in both editions. The first season points are called "Character Points", while the second season points are called "Proof of Purchase Points".
- New Horizon is exclusively pointbased, although some traits cost geodites (the setting's currency).
- Some versions of Traveller, though not all.
- The already unusual Amber Diceless Role Playing had an unusual twist to this. Purchasing allies, artifacts, personal universes, and cosmic powers used a set scale, but your attributes were purchased in a competitive auction with the other players. Since this is a game where scheming against the other people at the table is only slightly less encouraged than in Paranoia, this provided much of the drama and entertainment to get the game's plotting started.
- Nobilis: you get eight points of Skills and Passions, 13 points of Bonds and Afflictions, and then 25 character points to spend on stats, miracle points, Gifts and extra skills/passions.
- Ironclaw, which also has species and careers that act like a fusion of Splats and ability scores. Though the default character creation method in the 2nd edition simplifies it to 2d8, 3d6, and 1d4 to assign to abilities, 13 skill marks, and three Gifts in addition to those from species and career.
- Ponies and Parasprites uses a point buy system. At character creation, characters gain a number of points to raise their Attribute and Skills scores based on their Age.
- The Singularity System utilizes a point-build system for its characters. Attributes are bough with attribute points, perks are bought by taking weaknesses, and everything else, including skills, combat maneuvers, gear, cyberware augmentations, psionic talents, spells, vehicles, starships, etc. is bought with Skill Points.
- Certain games in the Super Robot Wars series follow this method of character growth with a few examples being the Original Generation games and MX. You use points from leveling a pilot up to increase their stats or buy new special abilities. The mechs, however, are upgraded with money and plot-based events.
Wide Open Sandbox
- Mafia Wars has players allocate points earned with each Character Level among five stats: Energy (allowing more jobs to be performed), Stamina and Health (allowing more PvP battles), and Attack/Defense (making the character more effective at PvP).
- Minecraft has an experience points system that is used to enchant tools and pieces of armor. The more levels you spend, the stronger the enchantment gets and the higher the chances of having multiple enchantments will be. Placing bookshelves around the enchantment table will increase the chances of getting higher level enchantments.