The standard rules for Phoenix state that characters get 10CP per level and they start at 4th level, which means they start with 40CPs. However, CPs are a very fluid game mechanic, so there are other ways to distribute them in your games: Front-Loaded, Lump Sum, XP Debt, and The One-Shot.
GMs are, of course, free to mix and match any aspects of these systems or to adjust the exact numbers of CPs they give out (either at character creation and/or per level). Once you start running the game, these things are all up to you. The distribution methods we’ve presented here give you a set of trustworthy defaults, but in the end, it’s your game. Never feel you’re so bound to the rules that you can’t use your own judgement.
At character creation, the PCs receive between 20CPs and 60CPs, but at every level thereafter, they get only 5CPs. This system is a compromise between the standard 10CP per level and the Lump Sum method. It creates more powerful characters to start with, but slightly less powerful as the PCs progress. If you assign 60CPs at character creation, for example, the PCs will be more powerful than the standard until 8th level, and then progressively less so as the levels go by.
The PCs start with 40CP at 4th level, as normal, but thereafter they receive only 5CP per level and the GM “seeds” the villains with items (approximately 5CP per level per player). In this system, the heroes get the Christmas-morning enjoyment of looting the villains along as well as taking advantage of the CP-based power rules. This kind of game will tend to be Item-based because those are the only kinds of powers that are transferable from person to person, and will be a lot more preoccupied with money in the form of Wealth awards (NB: Wealth +1 is worth about 1CP). It also might change the the public reaction to these “heroes” who beat villains and then go through their pockets, but that can be fun to play as well. I mean, how do you think we fund this little operation? We ain’t exactly the March of Dimes.
At character creation, the PCs receive a sum of character points, usually between 40CPs and 80CPs, depending on the GM’s preference. This system most closely mimics the way that superhero comics actually work. In theory, superheroes get powers at the beginnings of their careers and then, after that, they gain experience, but their powers stay basically the same. After the Lump-Sum amount, heroes get no more CPs at all. They simply progress through their levels. This is a low-powered option in the long run, but does produce high-powered characters to start with.
Sometimes, you might want to play a one-shot game, a single adventure where you won’t use the characters again, so you don’t need to calculate XP. For games like these, GMs can simply award a Lump Sum of Character Points, and PCs can take the Highly Experienced Ad to buy levels as well as powers. If you give the players 50 CP, then they can buy 4 levels and 10 CPs worth of powers, for example, or 5 levels and no powers, or whatever combination they like. The team’s powers will balance out despite different character levels and amounts of powers. This method creates a great deal of variety and flexibility among the players, which simulates the feeling of playing characters who developed on their own rather than just having been created; therefore, it’s particularly well-suited to a one-shot game.
PCs start play at 4th level and get 20CPs to start. They can then “borrow” character points against their future experience points. For every 10CPs they borrow, they must pay it back in the form of a 50% experience penalty for one level. This means that, for example, in exchange for 20CPs, a character must spend two levels earning half as much XP as she should. When she pays off the XP debt, she can then either start earning levels at the normal rate, or go back into debt. In this system, PCs do not get any character points per level at all. The goal of this system is to create a way for powered and non-powered characters to stand shoulder to shoulder. A non-powered character will always progress twice as quickly then a powered character because of the XP debt.