The GURPS "you have 100 point to buy attributes, advantages and skills, but you can get disadvantages for bonus points" mechanic can work in browser based RPG's?
It may work.
What does it mean to take a disadvantage?
There are two ways to implement a disadvantage mechanic. One is a difference in scale and the other is a difference in kind.
Difference in Scale
If taking disadvantage means to take points from zero (going negative). The question is whatever or not there is a valid range for the values.
If there is a minimum for the stats (such as -3, for example) then it is possible to transform the stats to a system where there are no negatives.
For example, if you have three stats A, B and C, and you can use 10 points to set among them, and the value of each stat can go as low as -3... it is equivalent to having three stats A, B, and C, having 19 points and the value of each stat can go as low as 0, plus you see by default A = 3, B = 3 and C = 3 (up to 9 points set by default, out of 19, leaving your original 10 points to set).
You may not have a minimum, but you have a maximum... For example, if the stats A, B and C can only go up to 10, and you have 10 points, you could put all those 10 points on A, put B to -10 points, and put those in C. You will not be able to go below B = -10 because you will not have where to put those points... therefore, -10 is your implicit minimum. Now that you have a minimum, you can change your system to be A, B and C with 40 points and set to A = 10, B = 10 and C = 10 by default (up to 30 points set by default, out of 40, leaving your original 10 points to set).
Doing that transformation makes it clear to the user that he can remove points and put them somewhere else. The user may not know that they can remove points from zero points.
Alternatively, if you have a system where there is no minimum, you may have a character with something like A = -100000, C = 0, B = 100000, or A = -1000000000, C = 500000000, B = 500000000, or worst, you get the idea. Does that break your game? Will the player be able to exploit this? - Unless you are designing for this scenario, I suggest having a valid range for your points.
Edit: there would be a theorical limit to the valid ranges anyway. Either imposed by the data types you choose or by the patience your players may have moving points around.
Under the assumption that there is some minimum and you did the transformation to zero based points, you end up with a system used in some computer games. For example, Fallout character creation follows this method. Moreover, I would say it works.
Difference in Kind
On the other hand, taking a disadvantage could mean some other constraint that change the gameplay, something that can't be quantified.
Some examples are:
- Only being able to use single hander weapons when you normally would be able to use any.
- Causing a new type of enemy to spawn
- Making certain drops disappear completely
- Changing the starting area to a more difficult one
- Closing access to locations that allow healing or looting
Then this becomes a more powerful mechanic. It add potential to replay the game with the added constraints as an extra challenge.
Note: I would count less inventory space, more enemies to spawn and less drops as numeric disadvantages. We can invent stats for them, and they only cause differences in scale and not differences in kind.
Since the question about a browser game in particular, we should consider what challenge this restriction adds to the proposed system.
For a browser game, the main consideration would be how much time do you expect the player to expend during character creation and how much time will the player stay with the same character.
Being a browser game does not need to imply casual gameplay. For example, if the user can save his character in his account to use it in multiple sessions, it makes the extra time investment into creating the character worthwhile.
If we were indeed talking about a casual game, I would suggest keeping it simple, at least have a few preconfigured setups for people who do not understand or do not care and just want to jump into the game. Yet, that should not discourage you from using something like this. In particular, as mentioned before, adding this kind of configuration may add replay value for you game if you design gameplay for characters that focus on each of your stats.