Some people let you spend willy nilly. Some (like myself) will only let you spend points at certain times. Some are point nazis (“Ve must spenct zee hours and zee points! SCHNELL”). However you you do them is all gravy with me. But this is how I do it for pretty much every single game I run:
- The character points gained per session for the first 3-5 sessions are between 3% and 10% of points of average or beginning point total, with a variance of about 50%. After that it drops to 1/5th that rate. If you want slow advancement using the lower range, faster, use the upper. About 5%-6% usually suits just about any game. So a a 200-point game you might see 10-12 points for the first 3-5 sessions, and then 5-10 points from there on. This isn’t absolute as I like to write specific rules for point gains for given settings based on the setting rules, its background, etc. Also note, a lot of this assumes some sort of point economy like Impulse Buys. When that’s out of the picture I’d probably cut the initial points by half again, but I rarely do that so I usually ignore that part.
- No character may upgrade until say so is given. Period. I do this because it’s weird as hell to suddenly be better at Guns/TL8 (Pistol) and the time elapsed in the campaign could be less than 10 minutes between sessions.
- Character points gained can only increase skill, attribute, or advantage by a level at a time. In some campaigns, skills can be bought up to attribute instead of a level at a time when initially bought.
- Disadvantages can only be bought off at one trait (a level if applicable) at a time. Doing otherwise is probably ok for some things – otherwise your character is just changing to quick to be recognizable as what he or she started as.
- The first three gaming sessions you may spend points freely on things you character would have, but both you and I have forgotten. For example, if you’re from a fishing village and don’t have Fishing. (You may also shift points around a bit, but that’s a whole other thing.)
- If I offer to allow you to buy a attribute, advantage, skill, etc during game you may immediately spend points to do so and treat whatever as if you had it. This is usually the result of a critical success (almost always a natural 3 or 4), being impressive or awesome in some way that just stops the game (I like to encourage this), or when I allow quick learning under pressure to come in (“You’re traveling in the jungle with a professional guide who is showing you the ropes, spend a point if you like.”)
- You can earn extra points by acting in genre, working with your teammates, or in general just being awesome roleplaying. Again, I like to encourage these things so I bribe players to “Do the right thing.”
- Probably other stuff I’m forgetting specific to certian genres.
Picking Over the Bones
I know not all GMs have rules like this – in my case it makes it so that the PCs don’t inflate themselves in one area and ignore others. When you can only purchase stuff in a specific way you end up become more balanced a character and that always works out in the end.