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  1. dragonflare137

    dragonflare137 Member

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    What Makes Someone "Overpowered"?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by dragonflare137, Jun 6, 2017.

    So a major problem with some characters is that they are considered overpowered, and within narrative that can be seen as a very bad thing. So I wanted to get other's opinions on what makes a character "Overpowered".

    This is my opinion on the matter. When I look at my characters to decide if they are overpowered, I look at the things that they will be combating. If my character isn't human, I'm not going to look at humans to decide if the character is overpowered. It's like if I look at two humans and a bug. No matter what power the human is, they will be able to kill the bug, but when combating another human they have a chance to be beaten.

    So I just want to know if I'm the only one that thinks this, or if my thoughts are flawed, or if others have a different way of constituting overpowered-ness.
     
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  2. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    No, that's pretty much what I do.

    I just don't always see that as a bad thing ;) If they atmosphere that I'm going for is horror, then I want the opposition to be completely overpowered compared to the protagonists :D
     
  3. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Nothing.

    There is nothing that makes a character overpower.

    Even in Paradise Lost, God -creator the universe- is unable to stop the fall of man.

    So if God (the most OP dude out there) fails at something, I don't see how you could create a character that is 'overpowered.'

    -OJB.
     
  4. dragonflare137

    dragonflare137 Member

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    Ahh you make a good point XD. I guess it does work with some characters well. I know a few that I enjoy, like god-like characters, but I never really see a lot of good main characters being overpowered. I guess that's where I got that convention from, since I guess when a main character is vastly stronger than any opposition, it makes the victory seem a bit more hollow since they had no way of being stopped. But that's just how I feel about it I guess XD.
     
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  5. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    It's not just you ;) Let's take a couple of approaches to making a Superman story tense:

    Kryptonite which takes away Superman's powers. Basically, this is an apology for making the powers too strong to leave any suspense about whether he'll win. This doesn't make a better Superman story, this tries to make the story better by not making it a Superman story anymore.

    (With the exception of Batman v Superman, actually: the best part of the movie was Wonder Woman, but the best part of the Batman v Superman part was that kryptonite wasn't as overpowered as in the comics. Instead of bringing Superman down from godly to human, being easy to find, and lasting a long time, it brought Superman down from godly to superhuman, was incredibly hard to make it do even that much, and it wore off very very quickly.)

    Second option: give Superman a rogues' gallery of opponents who are at least as strong as he is in the same ways (Doomsday, Alternate Universe evil twins, General Zod).

    Third option: give Superman a villain who is strong in ways that Superman himself is not. Superman is an absurdly overpowered individual, but he's not a corporate executive with thousands of minions across the planet working in synch, all being organized by the most brilliant mastermind the world has ever seen. Superman is essentially omnipotent, but he is not omnipresent. The best Superman stories would be about him not being able to stop everything simply because there was so much happening at the same time.

    That's the best answer to Superman being overpowered. Not kryptonite, not General Zod:

    Lex. Luthor.
     
  6. dragonflare137

    dragonflare137 Member

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    Yes this is a perfect example XD. I guess that's one of the reasons why I never really like the Superman stories.

    I agree that if you are going to give a character insurmountable power, give them an antagonist that can rival them in something, even if it isn't on the same scope as why the protagonist is super powerful. It's a great source of tension that makes it feel like the protagonist has a chance of losing. It makes something feel like it took some effort to do. Gives it a feeling of worth :)
     
  7. Gomorrah

    Gomorrah New Member

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    I don't think that's necessarily true. If you make an op character it weakens the conflict there by weakening the overall plot. The bible is not a good place to source for narrative development because its awful. With that being said even though god can fail at something, he is listed as being all powerful which means any problem that arises can be snapped out of existence. which again weakens the plot of "life" or the bible.

    And so to the poster of this thread. I don't necessarily think that comparable power is the issue with op characters (at least in narratives) because if you don't have someone who is stronger in some way the it kind of kills the hero's journey. (really im thinking in terms of zero to hero) I think a character is op as soon as what ever special skill they have kills the conflict before it starts, and if you dont handle the conflict in that way then it creates a plot hole.
     
  8. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    On a more thematic/meta and less technical level, I think a character is overpowered when there are never any stakes. There's never any real concern that they could lose or get hurt. You manage this by giving them villains (Lex Luthor) or obstacles (kryptonite) that can pose a threat to them in one way or another, but they feel OP in the first place because without these things, we know that they can do whatever they want. Lois Lane keeps Supes from being OP if it's demonstrated that he can't keep her safe, because even though he's bulletproof himself (no consequences), she's not and if he can't be her shield all of the time, he stands to potentially lose her (consequence!).

    You can have a character who's super powerful, even to absurd degrees, but as long as you keep them grounded in humanity somehow, you keep them vulnerable.

    I have a character who's ridiculously difficult to kill (off the top of my head he falls off a very high building, gets run over by a tank, steps on a land mine, gets his hand melted off ...) and I worry about him seeming OP and the story losing any sense of real danger, so I balance it out with, well, suffering. He doesn't die, but by the end of things he's dealing with both chronic pain and numbness, addiction issues, pretty hardcore PTSD, and intense body dysmorphia due to the fact that after all of this he's considerably more metal than meat (it's a sci-fi setting and he doesn't think cyborgs are as cool as I do, unfortunately). If he went through all the shit he goes through and came out of it feelin' groovy, then he'd be OP - who cares if he gets banged up, he'll be totally fine in a few weeks! But weighing him down with non-death repercussions and still 'punishing' him for going through bad things averts the problem. Hopefully.

    I'd also consider that the same things that make someone debatably OP can be weaknesses, as well. Superman's abilities make him powerful, but they also alienate (get it) him from society. Honestly I haven't seen the Snyder movies but the impression I've gotten is that, in them, humanity itself is one of his biggest obstacles, because his differentness and power mark him as an outsider and a threat. He can't just go around doing good because pesky governments are like "hey, no, stop that" - whereas he can do good completely unchecked as a reporter because he doesn't stick out.

    If your power also hurts you / your cause in a meaningful way, it's probably not OP.
     
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  9. dragonflare137

    dragonflare137 Member

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    Ahh these are more good points! Humanity's emotions and mind are their greatest weakness'.

    I have a character that is similar to yours. Super hard to kill, nearly impossible, and I always worry that he, along with the others like him, are OP. I try and combat that by keeping them in check with rules that they must follow, or else they will get eliminated by the very person who gave them the power. They also have to protect human lives, which can make their job very difficult since humans can't really combat what my characters fight against. In many cases they have to protect a couple of humans from nearly a million different things at once (the enemies swarm, which makes them an actual threat to the characters, and if they aren't careful could actually die to them). They also have to deal with the fact that they were once human, and they still have the same emotions as humans do, albeit a little bit skewed as more time goes on not being human. They have to fight the idea that they may not actually care about humans, or they have to deal with the fact that they can't save everyone, and it can make them suffer.

    But I totally love your ideas. They give a different perspective on the idea. :)
     
  10. rktho

    rktho Contributor Contributor

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    Okay, so take my Elder Swords for example. They're the most powerful artifacts in the universe, so they'd be pretty overpowered, right? So how is my villain supposed to be defeated once he gets them? (Oops, spoilers.) Well, in looking for the solution to another problem regarding magic, I created a parallel world where a metal called azulorum exists, and that to unlock one's azra, one must travel to that world, Azulor. Azulorum is inherently magical and objects forged from it are imbued with magic. The Elder Swords are made of azulorum and are far more powerful than any other azulorum artifacts. The Rishnaran has written that the Elder Swords cannot return to Azulor. This is to stop the protagonists from simply returning them to their origins to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands, but it also means that the holder of the Elder Swords cannot follow anyone who enters into Azulor. In Azulor there is an artifact one must destroy, and if it is destroyed, the Elder Swords lose their power until that artifact reforms. So that's my answer.

    tl;dr: Overpowered means that even you struggle to come up with a way to defeat something. Once you have a satisfying solution, however, the enemy is no longer overpowered, no matter how powerful they are. Because it's ridiculous to put a ceiling on power. People believe in an all-powerful God. Omnipotence should not be considered taboo in fantasy because it's difficult to work with. You just have to make it work. And that is hard and sometimes people don't pull it off very well, and it seems like the solution was too easy or came out of nowhere.
     
  11. rktho

    rktho Contributor Contributor

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    My antagonist, Zarakharn, can't die, but that's pretty much it. All the pain that comes with any injuries is the same for him as it is for mortals, which means he can sustain fatal injuries without the release of death. Now, he can heal himself magically, but he has limited energy that has to replenish over time, so it's not like he can instantly heal himself whenever he wants. In one book, he gets crushed under rubble, which should kill him, but doesn't. However, his energy is spent and he can't heal himself until his magic returns. (Side note-- if you were in that situation and blacked out, would you ever wake up? I need to know if he can save himself or someone needs to step in.) Anyway, after recovering from such devastating pain, his thirst for revenge goes WAY up and he starts making the decisions that villains usually make just to let the hero escape, but it's realistic because he's not content just to kill them. He wants them to suffer more pain than he went through, and he didn't die from it, so he's going to squeeze as much agony as he can from them before he finishes them off. And that, of course, leads to less tightly-woven vengeance plots. I won't spoil the terrible things he does, but he and the protagonists are both at serious disadvantages at this point, so it becomes a huge power struggle.
    Zarakharn's magic is also capable of being drugged via an enchanted serum the protagonists happen to have, but it's only applied when Zarakharn gets captured by the police and jailed. Since he's in disguise and can't reveal himself without also revealing he's a wizard to the police (and doesn't know the protagonist wizards are in on it) he has to break out after being captured.
     
  12. Dr.Meow

    Dr.Meow Contributor Contributor

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    I think @Simpson17866 has a very good example of how to bring down an overpowered character. Lex Luther is sorta the ultimate opponent for Superman, brains and organization against pure brawn and super abilities. My thing is, it eventually does get boring...how many times are we going to enjoy seeing Lex outwit Superman? One of the reasons I'm not a huge fan of Superman is because I got bored with it pretty quick. Sure, there's always a new twist, but it's still predictable, and eventually Superman wins at some point - you can only tug on Superman's cape so many times.

    The problem with creating more super villains that can counter the overpowered protagonist is you also have to keep inventing new ones after the last one is defeated, and it starts getting to the point where the imagination is too stretched. Having a more powerful enemy can also lead to having the protagonist become stronger, and once they do, you need another enemy that's stronger yet. This is what happened to DBZ. Goku became so powerful that they had to keep pumping the enemy up, then pump Goku up again, or sometimes another character like Gohan or Vegeta, etc. That kills the story fast. DBZ wasn't supposed to go beyond the Cell Saga, but the producers pushed it against the creator's vision and it ended badly IMO.

    Personally, I try not to get stuck in either camp. Just for an example, I'll create a universe where there's different types of power, and ways that the character's strength can be focused. No one is all powerful, because there's more than one counter. A wizard can be beaten by an enchanted weapon, or vice versa depending on their personal strength, but then anti-magic isn't effected by either depending on the circumstances. However, if the wizard/enchantment isn't directly affecting the person with anti-magic, but instead being smart and affecting an object that is thrown or swung at them to make it move faster than they can, then it doesn't matter how much magic they can deflect. This isn't a great explanation, but I think the jist of it is there.

    You can have a powerful character, but I still say don't make them too powerful. If you do want them to be overpowered, then at least keep them from being all powerful and have a two or three other things that can bring them down. We do want things to be daunting, but we don't want it to be impossible...have more than one reason why the MC can't simply walk up to the evil emperor and take them down, but don't make it so that the emperor himself is the main one and he's just too strong to comprehend. Too cliche anyway.
     
  13. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    I think the interesting thing you bring up here - which I started to say something about before but uh, got bored first - is overpowered characters in serialization, specifically. If Superman hadn't been in comics for, what is it, like 80 years? Then we probably wouldn't be so bored of seeing him win over increasingly amped-up villains. And DC tried to remind readers that there really totally were stakes by killing Supes that one time ... until they tore out all of the stakes forever by just bringing him back.

    I never watched DBZ enough to see it do what you describe, but I would bring up Supernatural as another example. At first the brothers were fighting a demon - just one demon. Just a guy. But the show had to up the stakes, so they ended up fighting the king of hell, and Lucifer (different people, mind), and angels, and the horsemen of the apocalypse, and God, maybe? I don't remember. Like DBZ apparently, it was never supposed to go past the first three seasons, but since it was popular, it got dragged out into this whole messy thing.

    I guess the lesson to be learned here is about planning. In cases like tv shows that're subject to executive meddling, there's not much to be done, but if we're all writing alone we get to be in control of things. Know where your climax is, not only in serialized fiction, but in one-off novels, too, because they're also chains of events - it's just a smaller scale. Don't beat up god in chapter one, probably. Because you gotta go somewhere from there, and if your mc can already elbow drop a deity, you have to figure out what's bigger than a deity for chapter two. And three. And so on.
     
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  14. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    When I think of OP, I think of being near invincible (or plain old invincible).
    When they shrug off getting hit by a truck like no biggy, or heal way to
    quickly from being wounded, or are virtually untouchable (ie: all the bad
    guys are Storm Troopers that couldn't hit the broadside of moon to save
    their own assess). If any of this can be found in your story then someone
    might be a little OP.

    Some might say that my MC Marckus is OP, but the guy takes beatings,
    bullets, and gets tired from time to time. Hell in the sequel he gets taken
    out for a little while after taking a through and through to a lung. But
    being the stubborn jackass that he is, marches onward having to deal
    with the pain by being on heavy pain meds just to function. After undergoing
    surgery to remove a couple of bullets in his shoulder, lung patching, and a
    short stay in a Martian Colonial military hospital. :)
     
  15. Arcadeus

    Arcadeus Senior Member

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    Do you have a sample of your writing?

    People generally assume the problem is the characters when this is said about a story. A lot of times it can be remedied by perspective and focus within the writing. Choosing what you focus on and what you leave out.
    Examples of common mistakes:
    If you info dump character strength it makes the character un-relatable.
    If you focus too much on a special power or ability that doesn't have a cost.
    If there is no viewable room for growth.
    If you don't pay any attention to setting and focus too much on people.
    If you don't give them any character flaws.

    The last one I made bold for a reason. It's the easiest way to make a character strong and get away with it. The example I use is Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. Rand is the dragon reborn. As he comes into more and more power, the reader starts to develop a love/hate relationship with him. This is because the power also comes with a flaw, which is madness. (Keep in mind flaws don't need to be permanent. The overcoming of flaws towards the end of a book are always lovely.)

    Sometimes you have to think... what would the reader want this character to do?(the logical choice), then have the character make an opposing decision. I know there is a name for this, but to me it's the cringe moments.

    If you want to message me a sample I will try to deduce what people might be seeing that is making them think your character is too overpowered.
     
  16. FlyingFishPhilosophy

    FlyingFishPhilosophy New Member

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    I believe there are multiple reasons why overpowered characters can stand in the way of your characters and story being both interesting and relatable. Most of which have already been brought up by others.
    While powers make a character interesting, weaknesses are often as interesting. If your protagonist is too powerfull at the start of your story there can also be hardly any character growth (in strength) and the conflict of your story could easily become bland.

    Example: The strong hero was born! The strong hero was raised! His powers were amazing!! The dark priests serving the even darker priest emperor started tainting the land with their evilness.. The hero felt it was enough!
    He went to the first 5 priests and killed them with an amazing huge fireball. The 6th priest was so strong that even the hero's amazing fireball did not completely kill him.. The hero therefore shot another one! 'HA!' he said as the priest died. The remaining 6 priests resisted the hero's fireballs with their FIRESHIELD! The hero thought long. Our hero thought hard. Then at the time when the priests had almost completely destroyed the entier world, our hero killed the priests with an amazing, crazy, huge ball of frost! The angry priest emperor hit our hero with a big flaming SWORD. This, ofcourse only itched the strong hero. He bitch-slapped the emperor and killed him with his biggest fireball yet!
    ~the end.

    Your solution of making the antagonists stronger will help, but that alone I think is not enough.

    Example: The hero shot a firebal at the priest emperor his chest. The priest emperor felt his chest itch and hit the hero in the face with his evil claw! Our hero laughed. It did not faze him. He shot a an even bigger even more amazing fireball at the emperor..

    I am of course exaggerating, but can you see where I am getting at?

    This problem can be circumvented by giving your character weaknesses (Cost of his powers/People to protect) or by acquiring powers throughout the story. The last one is more challenging than the first as getting stronger in an new interesting way every time your protagonist encounters problems is hard. Where the previously mentioned DBZ is the perfect example.
     
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  17. Dr.Meow

    Dr.Meow Contributor Contributor

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    Yeah that was really stupid, why kill supers if you just bring them back? I think they realized their mistake when they killed them and simply wished they hadn't, then ripped them back into existence...but we, the readers, called DC on that bullshit.

    I never got into Supernatural, on the outside it seemed like an action and mystery drama with nothing special about it. More of a teen heartthrob from the images they showed of the protagonists. I might have been wrong, but they didn't draw my interest enough to make me give it a try. haha Sounds like a classic example of "what do you do after you've beaten a demigod". That hole is one to never fall into, unless of course you simply end it there and don't try to continue, because the only thing that comes next after a demigod is a full "god". One of my favorite game series is Elder Scrolls, been a fan for quite a while, but they scared me when they brought out dragons in Skyrim...but it was the answer to what they had done in the previous game. Now it's debatable whether the series will truly continue, and I kinda want to go slap the director, he's smarter than that. It's a real killer, and it can happen before you realize it's happened.

    I think the main takeaway here is that a story needs to focus on the story itself. Having super powerful characters is almost a cop-out to having an excellent tale to tell. Ultimately, why are we bothering with this story to begin with? Is it because two uber powerful characters are having a throwdown for supremacy, or is it because the tale of the protagonist, their inner struggles, and the issues they face along the way that we can relate to are so compelling?
     
  18. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I think about what these powers would mean in the real-real world because on the few occasions I have given people powers in stories, my concern is over my pet-peeve that this is never taken into account. Comic-book superheroes live in a universe where certain human dynamics are glossed or just ignored in order for these characters to exist without the repercussions of dealing with actual human society. Like, how do modern governments not engage these beings as massive problems to national security? Where are the hordes of militant religious extremists trying to eliminate these "abominations", or, conversely, the cults treating them as some sort of messiah? Batman and Superman, as they are treated in Comic-Book land, operate outside our legal system of due process, so where is the juridical engagement?

    So anyway... My personal strategy is to keep powers very, very low key and "low-wattage". In my current WIP, there are only two characters who have higher-than-average wattage. One is a telepath whose power can be used over great distances and he can force his way through the blank wall of non-telepaths (normal telepaths have a very short distance of reception, like in the same room, and they can't read non-telepaths at all). In order to keep him from being a massive plot hole of I Know Everything and Can Control You Meat-Puppets™, his wattage makes it so that living outside a special meta-psychic Faraday cage (for lack of a better term) means he gets blasted by all the incoming psychic energy and is reduced to a spittle-beflecked writhing mass on the floor. The same cage serves as a sort of antenna to focus his power so he can communicate with people, over distances, but without the massive blast in either direction. The other character is telekinetic, and can deploy much further than any other of his kind, but he can't lift buildings or mountains or anything ridiculous like that.

    So, yeah, low key and low wattage is my ploy.
     
  19. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    Being "overpowered" is a combination of traits, that causes said character to solve the story's problems so efficiently, it diminishes or eliminates the story's potential for conflict and drama.

    A character with overwhelming physical or magical power, in combination with a lack of psychological restraints.
     
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  20. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    This is not true. The Batman one week can throw down with Darkseid when he's out on some distant planet: https://comicnewbies.com/2014/12/31/batman-in-hellbat-armor-vs-darkseid/
    https://comicvine.gamespot.com/forums/batman-286/taughts-on-batman-vs-darkseid-1602673/

    And the next week struggle against The Joker when he returns to Gotham.

    People still buy it.

    You don't have to always keep escalating conflicts to challenge a hero.
     
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  21. Dr.Meow

    Dr.Meow Contributor Contributor

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    I think that's more a lull in the story rather than a downgrade of the villain. It gives a bit of breathing room, but also maintains a threat that's not as mentally exhausting week after week. Also, whoever really said the Joker wasn't an escalation of a threat, he's Batman's nemesis. I don't know much about Darkseid, but even if he's extremely powerful, he might not be as cunning as the Joker is on his return maybe? Even DBZ had lulls to their story though, enemies that weren't too bad and not as scary as the last one, but then before you knew it they'd lead into an enemy that was. It got to the point in DBZ GT that they had to keep killing the MC's just to make it interesting. Goku died early in the first saga, but they didn't do too much more death until later on in the series. And then they took it beyond death and had some underworld fighting championship, or something like that, it got ridiculous. lol

    Comics suffer from more than just this though, and their fanbase is much more niche than ever before. They used to be in the hands of just about every kid and young adult in the country...now they're left to be more of a fanboy thing. Cool kids get manga and graphic novels nowadays. lol
     
  22. Safety Turtle

    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    This is something I've thought about a lot and especially worried about in regards to the story I'm writing.
    Having a main character that just keeps coming back to life when he dies (his only "superpower") may be too boring, as someone mentioned before, there's really not stakes in it.
    Then I thought about the whole "coming back to life" thing, it may sound awesome, but if you're someone who feels they have nothing to live for, have nothing left and wants nothing more than for it all to end, then not being able to die would be torture.
    Added to that, that every time he comes back he loses a bit of himself, becoming less and less "human", as it were.

    I think the trick to avoiding overpowered characters is simply to give them a weakness. In the case of physically strong characters, it might be that all they're going through is taking a severe toll on their mentality.
    I believe there was a story line with Ironman (touched on in the third movie) where he gets PTSD, now Ironman isn't really that overpowered (I think) but I think it's a good example of creating stakes.
    As long as the character has something to fear or lose, they're not overpowered to me.

    I think it's a common theme in superhero stories, the whole "what good does it do to have these power if I can't protect the ones I love", and it's a good one too.
     
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  23. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

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    Power at no cost is "overpowered".

    If a character doesn't "pay a price" then they are overpowered.
     
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  24. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    It certainly solves the problem with your story ;)

    If the conflict is "will my protagonist get killed," then there's no tension because we know that the protagonist will come back to life if he does. If the conflict is "will my protagonist accomplish X," then the fact that he would survive failing to accomplish X wouldn't change the fact that he failed.
     
  25. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Uxas_(New_Earth)#Powers

    • It is generally accepted that Darkseid is multi million mega ton range of strength and is among the universe's strongest beings.

    Darkseid possesses intelligence that surpasses even the greatest minds in the universe. With this he is an excellent strategist, and has proven that not only sheer force of strength and power has aided him in battles.


    He's far beyond Joker.

    But that doesn't matter because The Batman doesn't use his most powerful technology for Gotham villains because of escalation.



    I want to see if I can go from a main villain strong enough to invoke omnipotence paradoxes.
    To a main villain that's just a bandit chief.

    Without changing or writing out any of the cast.

    I believe with enough creativity, that can be done. Writing is so potentially limitless, that to say it can't be done, seems a self imposed limitation.
     

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