1. Tallandboring
    Offline

    Tallandboring Member

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2011
    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Bremerton Washington

    Super powers?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Tallandboring, Sep 13, 2011.

    My novel is heavily based on super powers, I know it can be a tricky subject, but I just need to write it that way.
    My problem is finding ways to hinder powers and balance them, while still keeping them powerful.
    Any suggestions?
    Examples include: Fire, Shape Shifting, Electricity, Teleportation, Invisibility, Speed, Etc.
     
  2. agentkirb
    Offline

    agentkirb Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2009
    Messages:
    494
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    Houston
    Well, the easiest way is that using your powers take away from your stamina. For example, from with fire, electricity, speed, invisibility, etc... if they use it too much they get tired and maybe it's just not as effective. Or if it's something elemental like fire/lightning/whatever... say that they can only manipulate said element rather than create it themselves. That way if you are taken to a place that doesn't have said elements, the superhero basically becomes human.
     
  3. Mr Mr
    Offline

    Mr Mr Active Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2011
    Messages:
    701
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    London, UK
    You could counter balance them. For example the Fire person is weak to water, can't swim etc. The teleporter has to see where they're going. And so on.
     
  4. Tallandboring
    Offline

    Tallandboring Member

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2011
    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Bremerton Washington
    Well the fire manipulators come in multiple types, ones who create fire, ones who manipulate it, and ones who can set themselves on fire. They are all rendered powerless when they are soaked in water or any liquid that extinquishes flames. It takes an insane amount of focus to control their abilities, and emotions can disrupt them (example, shock can cause sudden bursts of their powers, fear snuffs out their flames, anger causes dangerous amount of fire, etc.)
    There are lots of other power types I'm still working on balancing other mutant races, but since all power work differently, its a bit difficult.
     
  5. lostinwebspace
    Offline

    lostinwebspace Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2011
    Messages:
    466
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Canada
    Some power don't need hindrances. They're just hindrances on their own. Look at Cyclops: he can't shut his power off. His power is his curse. Or Hulk. When his power turns on, he's an enraged behemoth. Or Rogue. She can't touch anyone.

    So, for instance, in the powers you listed above, what about a guy who moves at super-speed but can't move at a regular speed? How does he relate to the real world? He'd get bored in a ten-minute meeting when a regular person would find it just fine.
     
  6. Mallory
    Offline

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    191
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    This is all excellent advice. I'm glad you're thinking about balance - it's irritating when a character's powers make them invincible and magically able to solve all obstacles with ease. I like the one about opposites, i.e. the more fire you create the worse of a swimmer you'll become. You can also make the character's power inversely related to the state of their normal life - if their life is crappy and full of stress and problems, they'll have more powers, but if their life is good, their powers will be dormant.
     
  7. Tallandboring
    Offline

    Tallandboring Member

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2011
    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Bremerton Washington
    Exactly the kind of thing I was thinking, they characters are only really able to access their abilities when they need them. :)
     
  8. Mallory
    Offline

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    191
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    You should throw in an instance or two where they are stuck in a bad spot but can't use the powers for once, for whatever reason. Otherwise it's easy to get those "easy way out" vibes. Plus, in real life, we can't always rely on what we normally do, you know? :)
     
  9. Tallandboring
    Offline

    Tallandboring Member

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2011
    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Bremerton Washington
    Exactly!
    There will be a scene where it's a heavy downpour so my main character won't be able to create or control any fire.
    It will be fun to write it out, throwing in parts where their abilities are useful, and parts where their abilies are useless :)
     
  10. Flashfire07
    Offline

    Flashfire07 Active Member

    Joined:
    May 9, 2011
    Messages:
    174
    Likes Received:
    4
    I can see a few drawbacks for each power.

    Fire manipulation by itself is quite limited, without a way to create flames the character has nothing to use their powers on. If the character has the ability to throw fire from their hands they have to be fast or suffer burns, if it's more like pyrokinesis you'd better hope they don't get distracted or think of something else...

    Shape Shifting: Any form of shape shifting is going to involve your body changing, if you turn into a 6 meter long king cobra you will have your organs shrinking, stretching andd vanishing, your brain will compress, your teeth will shrink, your spine will stretch. Imagine all your bones dissolving, your skin thickening, your entire anatomy changing to fit your new shape. It will hurt more than anything you've likely experienced and then there's the fact you're now thinking with a reptiles brain. Even if you keep your human mind you still have a drastically different perception of the world, different instincts etc. What happens if things get cut off? A snake has no limbs so what happens if you lose a chunk of your tail?

    Electricity: Now this one gets a bit complicated. If it manifests as lightning bolts or some other form of flashy power there's the usual risk of injuring the user if the bolt is in contact with their skin or a glove or anything that can burn or melt or any conductive material. You'd also have to bear in mind that electricity tends to arc towards conductive materials, so if your hero tried to strike a villain in the middle of a hallway the bolt would go all over the place, hitting bins, door handles, etc. This is addition to the fact that electricity earths itself, so it would be less effective the further away the target is.

    Teleportation... well this one is tricky. I'd say that if they're not familiar with a location they could end up stuck in a wall or bit of furniture, the same could happen at a location they know of if someone moved the furniture or was standing in the wrong spot. Imagine appearing in a space occupied by another person, what would happen? Of course there is also the question of where your hero goes when they teleport. Is it a form of dimensional travel complete with possible predators or unwanted hitch hikers? Is it simply turning into light which can be deflected with mirrors or possibly overpowered with a brighter source?

    Invisibility: Well there are two ways this can go bad, one is that if light passes through you it doesn't reach the retinas, thus making you blind. The other way is more like a distortion of light around you, this results in a heat haze type effect which can give you away if you're too close to whoever you wish to hide from. Or you could have them vibrate too fast to be processed but that would just result in a blur probably.

    Super Speed: How do you avoid running into a solid object at 100kmh? What happens if a flying insect gets in your way? What about perception? You would need insane reflexes to cope with the speed s you'd be moving at, and if your perception was on the same level as that speed how do you function when you're not moving at those speeds? Does everything feel slow? Do you get jittery and hyperactive like someone who has had too much caffeine or less legal substances? Super speed is a really dangerous power, if you run into someone you'll both end up as a blob of human jelly with various bones lodged in places they aren't meant to be. There's also the fact the brain is not designed for high speeds... I could go on but I'd end up nit picking with that one.
     
  11. Tallandboring
    Offline

    Tallandboring Member

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2011
    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Bremerton Washington
    Ok thank you!
    Those are all great suggestions!
     
  12. NateSean
    Offline

    NateSean Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2011
    Messages:
    254
    Likes Received:
    16
    Location:
    Salem, Mass
    Other people have added some great suggestions. But here are some ideas of my own to add to the fire. (Pardon the pun)

    Fire: There are so many things that would make this power extremely inconvenient, no matter how you slice it. In the air or in any building where oxygen is in use it would be absolutely useless unless you were extremely psychotic. Firestarter has some great examples of what could happen with this power in the wrong hands. (Namely a little girl with a vague conception of right and wrong on the run from people who want her power)

    Shape Shifting: Exhaustion, potential loss of molecular structure. The Werehunters in Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series lose control of their powers if they get hit with a taser or a random bolt of electricity. It causes them to shift uncontrollably. And, if the Were-hunter or shapeshifter is pregnant, they absolutely cannot shift or it's fatal to both the parent and the child.

    Electricity: Anybody of water renders this power either completely useless, or completely lethal depending on the user. Also useless in case, or on someone wearing proper protection.

    Teleportation: Moving through time and space is always a tricky concept. The movie Jumper handled teleportation pretty realistically I thought.

    Invisibility: Two words: Public Nudity. You do the math.

    Speed: Crank tackled this one quite nicely. What if speed was an absolute requirement of your character's survival? As in slowing down didn't bore him so much as kill him?

    Etc: The all mighty power of etcetera could...oh, that wasn't a power. You were just inviting people to add to the list. Oh well. There you go.
     
  13. tiggertaebo
    Offline

    tiggertaebo Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2011
    Messages:
    62
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Cumbria UK
    Making elemental powers dependent on the immediate environment is a great way of controlling power levels in a plausible way. As well as reducing them you can also use it to give them an occasional boost for a difficult situation without having to up their permanent power level - I've got a character who can manipulate nearby water (so for a limiting factor if her surroundings are very arid she won't have anything to work with) but contact with water strengthens her - I needed her to be able to take on some strong enemies who would normally squash her like a bug without that happening, so it was as simple as having it be raining at the time.
     
  14. psychotick
    Offline

    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2011
    Messages:
    1,371
    Likes Received:
    307
    Location:
    Rotorua, New Zealand
    Hi,

    Just a few ideas to add. In The Lost Room one of the characters had a comb which gave him super speed, though only for a few seconds. But every time he used it and the more he used it, his sense of balance and co ordination worsened. So in essence he had a power he couldn't use.

    For fire starting / pyrokinesis and the other elemental casts, I'd suggest weaknesses might be slowness in summoning the power, even if its only a few seconds, if people know what you're doing that's long enough totake cover. Also aiming might be an issue, especially for lightning bolts since they generally don't seem to travel in strightlines,and sometimes fork. So maybe in using it you character risks hitting the wrong person, maybe even himself.

    Super speed, I would suggest its physiological problems that get in the way. Massive hunger attacks, exhaustion after running a few hundred yards and of course the one that has always annoyed me about it, you would need super strength and super toughness to do it. The strength needed to run twice as fast as normal, is far more then twice as much as normal and the wear and tear on a body enduring those sorts of forces would be massive, requiring great recovery.

    Cheers.
     
  15. Tallandboring
    Offline

    Tallandboring Member

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2011
    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Bremerton Washington
    Thanks everyone!
    These suggestions and tips are really great, a few other powers on the list are: Air, Water, Earth, Sound, Healing, Mind Reading, Light and Dark
     
  16. psychotick
    Offline

    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2011
    Messages:
    1,371
    Likes Received:
    307
    Location:
    Rotorua, New Zealand
    Hi TallandBoring,

    With healing again physical exhaustion from overusing the power would be my thought, a la 4400. Also it may be extremely painful to touch someone with serious illness or try to heal them, and might even be dangerous a la Paul.

    Light bending though is an awesome power. I wrote a novel stubb about a light bender which will probably never go much further, and realised that light benders could be some of the strongest talents / wizards around. They have a decent weapon in the laser, have two types of invisibility, true invisibility by bending light around themselves, and a sort of chameleon type where they simply camoflage themselves, they can create illusions, rob people of their sight if they can steal the light from their eyes, and also dazzle / blind people with light bombs (think of a flash bang grenade).

    Mind reading / telepathy, the usual weakness is that the power runs twenty four seven, and so they can't turn the power off. They hear the voices in their head all the time and go slowly (or quickly) mad.

    Also, have you considered that sometimes one school of magic has a rival school, against which they are peculiarly vulnerable. So a light wizard / mutant might be vulnerable to anyone with the power ofdark and vice versa. Water and fire would be natural enemies.

    Cheers, Greg.
     

Share This Page