Cheaper by the dozen: Cutting the cost of high-level everything

GURPS has long toyed with ways to reduce the cost of high levels in its Strength attribute, creating odd schemes under 3e and, in 4e, cutting the cost of ST across the board and simply requiring less ST to achieve satisfactory power (thanks to the new Basic Lift calculation).

Yet there’s still a wish out there for cheaper levels of über-ST, even within 4e rules (as seen in its special ST cost discount for large critters). That’s where Rules Nugget (GURPS): A Better Cost for ST and HP comes in, offering an optional cost progression (the brainchild of D. Weber) that makes the cost of a massive ST (or its components) both bearable and easy to eyeball. Take a look at the progression if you deal in designs in the ST 21+ range; you just might like it.

One reader, in fact, likes it so much that he uses it to rein in the cost of high-level everything, from all attributes (not just ST) to leveled advantages, powers, and even languages. For a field report on using the decreasing cost progression all over the place, head to the article linked immediately above and check out the comments by Kallatari. It’s interesting stuff for GMs willing to experiment with costs!

I myself have not been as daring as Kallatari, and haven’t applied my ST cost progression article’s idea to traits beyond ST (though if it’s used for ST, it really should be used for DR too). In fact, on the topic of adjusting the cost of high-level items, the only other work of mine that comes to mind is my experimental (i.e., unused) ESCARGO system that suggests ever-increasing, not decreasing, costs for skills and the attributes that accompany them (DX and IQ). Yes, that’s quite the opposite of what my ST article’s progression does to costs!

So what’s my take on the cost of high-level anything? I’m undecided. In simple terms, I can make good arguments for why costs should keep increasing as levels rise, and I can also make good arguments for why costs should keep decreasing (which is why I don’t use ESCARGO). I lay out the competing arguments in this short article. And so with both approaches claiming to be the best, I end up splitting the difference and using the overall GURPS preference for flat costs at all levels. (It’s not a big issue for me anyway; I tend to play in lower-powered games where high levels of anything don’t often come up.)

That said, I do like the decreasing cost progression for ST, and am intrigued by Kallastari’s argument for applying it more broadly. How about you? Any strong preferences for whether the per-level cost of a high-level trait should go up, go down, or stay flat?


  • kirbwarrior

    Any damage-based trait needs to line up with however we change the cost of Striking Strength; DR, Innate Attacks, etc. Other than that, everything seems to play out well (and certain traits are absolutely a no, higher IQ being cheaper doesn’t sit well with me because I don’t think it’s actually possible to roleplay someone with that much higher IQ than yourself). One I could see with a change is Temperature Tolerance, but I already use a good enough fix for that (square your level, then multiply by HT). There might be a few exceptions I don’t remember.

    • tbone

      Indeed, anything damage-related needs to carefully align its costs with several other things.

      As for other traits: Yes, I think it’s pretty much as you say. Some things seem to fit nicely with a decreasing cost; other things seem to call for full cost regardless of level. And some traits are a bit hard to classify either way, because what they offer increases with each level, or decreases, or both, depending on just what you look at. (ST is an example: every 10-point level buys the same +1 on rolls, and (sort of) the same flat bonus on damage… but buys an increasing absolute amount of additional BL… which, however, is actually a decreasing relative amount of additional BL…)

      BTW, your Temperature Tolerance method is interesting. The squaring makes it feel like BL!

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