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In my story, there is a character that is capable of using magic or an ability that allows them to "teleport" as long as they are in contact with the ground or the area that they want to use it on with at least one hand.

For example, in the middle of a circular arena 100m in diameter, as long as they are touching the floor (with a hand), they can teleport anywhere as long as it is "connected" or still physically part of the arena (which means that any floating rocks won't count, and they wouldn't be able to use it to get away from the arena in the case that it is floating).

What limitations can be set on it to avoid being too powerful, and with limitations in mind (or not), what would be the best type of magic/ability to use with it? (disregarding earth magic/manipulation)

My thoughts were to limit it to 75-100m and only usable every second or two, and to be used with wind magic mainly (if mist or fog can be made using wind magic).

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    $\begingroup$ "What limitations can be set on it to avoid being too powerful" in what regard? This character might open up as a company for moving furniture and would have exceptionally even unfair advantage over competitors. Is this too powerful? $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Mar 19, 2021 at 8:56
  • $\begingroup$ "what would be the best type of magic/ability to use with it? (disregarding earth magic/manipulation)" what's the choices here? Space manipulation would be an obvious choice for teleportation ability. Yet, you list "earth magic". What is earth magic for you? In Heroes 3, the spell Town Portal teleports an entire army to a friendly town. It belongs to the earth magic school. In Might and Magic 7, the ultimate spell of the water magic school allows you to teleport to wherever you have a marker.In Morrowind, Mark/Recall belonged to mysticism. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Mar 19, 2021 at 9:00
  • $\begingroup$ @VLAZ to be honest, I have not tried the games you mentioned, but when I meant Earth Magic, I meant magic that can modify the ground/earth to a certain extent, like being able to make a wall of dirt or stone using the materials from the ground. It acts like the Wood Release from Naruto. $\endgroup$ Mar 19, 2021 at 9:14
  • $\begingroup$ @VLAZ and it will be in regards of combat or fighting (It's probably the same thing but I put both just in case) $\endgroup$ Mar 19, 2021 at 9:15
  • $\begingroup$ My knowledge of Naruto is low but didn't basically everybody have some sort of teleportation technique? Well, not every single character but it was certainly very common. I remember a lot of "Ha, I killed you...wait, you're not actually there" happening. Point is, I'm still not sure why the limitation. Nor what the magic you have is. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Mar 19, 2021 at 9:18

8 Answers 8

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Limitations in other places

Positioning is powerful. Incredibly, insanely powerful. In any engagement this is more important that the weapon your holding, as the position in regards to your opponents dictate what is effective.

If you let someone teleport at will with some items every few seconds as long as they have contact with solid ground in even just a 50m distance, they are very hard to stop. They can move out of range, get a knife, gun or crossbow and teleport closeby to fire at the target. Before they can react effectively you're gone. You can get behind them with a knife or club and the target has so little time to react. In the movies they often teleport about with high predictability for the audience. Your teleporting person won't do that. She/he can just teleport away so the target doesn't know when you'll teleport back with whatever assortment of weapons they deem most appropriate.

Now imagine teleporting only the person. All clothes and weapons left behind. It might be more fair, but thus person is still Incredibly dangerous. Teleporting to weapons and firing/throwing them from a distance is still very powerful. Even at unarmed combat they'll be dangerous, lije a boxer that always can start behind the opponent. Medieval armour? Push them over or hit the knee from the back. Then attack at leasure with close combat for armoured and immobilised prey. More modern armour? They are still very vulnerable to many unarmed attacks.

Don't get me wrong. Being naked drastically decreases your chances. Still it has such great potential for someone learning to use this telepotation in fighting. It can even be a last resort. Fighting normally until surprise all clothes and weapons fall empty on the ground. While the target is confused about what just happened, the neck is twisted or a rock is banged to the head.

To decrease the effectiveness of teleportation you can do many things. A few here:

  • Naked.
  • Costs physical energy.
  • Costs mental energy.
  • Causes temporary disorientation, as the mind isn't where it expects to be.
  • Telegraphing the teleport on both starting and ending locations.
  • Damages the teleporter.
  • Requires immense concentration.
  • Can be dangerous and possibly end up inside the solid stuff that's being touched, so to reduve this chance teleportation is done sparingly.
  • Decrease frequency.
  • Decrease area.
  • More limitations in general for teleportation.
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  • $\begingroup$ Yes, it is amazingly powerful, but its main limiting condition is that he has to touch the ground with at least one hand (will edit that in), but I do like the area and frequency decrease. The temporary disorientation is negated by equipment infused with magic, and ending up naked is pretty much a no since in a sense it's just like MHA's Mirio but with actual teleportation. For telegraphing, it might be good if it appears a split second before the actual teleportation. The character in question has trained using teleportation for a good amount of his lifetime, so physical and mental is negated $\endgroup$ Mar 19, 2021 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not much of a fan of immense concentration, and the danger of being inside the solid stuff can be avoided with enough mastery (keep in mind the hand contact for teleportation). $\endgroup$ Mar 19, 2021 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ If your clothes and other things touching you go with you, yet not any of the earth you’re touching, I find the “suspension of disbelief “ more difficult. $\endgroup$
    – WGroleau
    Mar 20, 2021 at 0:27
  • $\begingroup$ @WGroleau most likely it's force-based. It takes more energy to separate clothes from the wearer than not, and to keep ground where it is than not. Wormholes will do the trick, but those will likely kill the teleporter. Patching spheres of space will do, but that does bear high risk of teleporting a bit of gravel (benign, and they'll likely be patched to where gravel already was, but you do lose some style points) or leaving behind a bit of shoe and/or foot (devastating in the latter case, and an unfortunate fate of many a young wizard). $\endgroup$ Mar 20, 2021 at 4:55
  • $\begingroup$ Then there’s the implosion of air (and things) rushing into the space that was vacated. And the corresponding explosion at the destination. $\endgroup$
    – WGroleau
    Mar 20, 2021 at 4:59
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Do a little twist on some old thaumaturgy tropes.

You want it to be contiguous floor or some such, so make it where a change in flooring would be a block. Tile floor acts as one piece, wood another. This sets up people who are aware of the ability to build in some limitations. If you can teleport, it's less effective if you can only do it in a two foot square because of the decorative pattern of wood, saltillo and wood tile. This is because there is no connection between the kinds of floor, so the thaumaturgical connection wouldn't work.

Another limitation could be with the cool down and cast times. If your guy has to wait 10 seconds to teleport, or it takes 10 seconds to cast and requires focus to do so, then that makes it less effective combat tool. 10 seconds is a very long time in a fight.

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Instead of true teleportation, have them move within the ground as if it were not solid. They can "merge" with it and move around really fast - maybe so fast that for practical purposes, it is much the same as teleporting.

The advantage of this is that it prevents the user from abusing this power. For example, in the teleportation model you propose, one could teleport from an arena to a floating island if a rope connects those. The user could throw a rope with a hook on a floating island, and then they could teleport at will. But if they have to physically move through the ground, this prevents them from moving through ropes, chains, or other narrow passages because their body will not fit through the passage.

An example of such "teleportation" is the Inkling in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. She is able to become a puddle of splashing ink and move around the scenario. In this manner she can avoid most attacks because they will pass over her, and she can move extremely fast from one point to another, but this does not allow her to move from one floating island to another.

Another example is Zetsu, from the animé Naruto. This guy is able to practically "fly" inside rock and earth. This allows him to disappear from one place and appear in other really fast, but also does not allow him to move from the ground to a floating place (and there have been floating places in the animé).

Zetsu, a character from the animé Naruto, merging with the ground.

And finally there is King Bumi in Avatar: the last Airbender. This technique shows in the few first and few last seconds of this video.

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Make her as powerful as you imagine she is.

Because that is where the awesome is! You worry your character will be overpowered which means you can imagine her doing overpowered stuff. You worry she will be able to do stuff no-one can counter. And I think you like it. Have her do that stuff! Please! Have her totally thrash her opponents with her overpowered skills! That is what I want to read.

But then how to beat her? That will be more fun to figure out than how to limit her. You do not need to figure out how to limit the character you can imagine. You need to imagine other characters on her level. Figure out how her opponents can best her or at least equal her. Or team up with her? Woo! Yeah!

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One of the easy ways to eliminate the more extreme abuses is a line-of-sight limitation. You can only teleport to a location if you can currently see it. That puts a hard cap on the range of the effect, and introduces opportunities for opponents to disrupt it (fight indoors, obscure their vision, etc). Teleporting somewhere you can't see isn't a really good idea anyway, because you have no idea if the laws of physics will even permit you to exist in that space (ending up inside a solid object would be game over for you).

For an extra twist, you can limit how close you arrive to your target point to be dependent on how clearly you can see that point. For example, stick out your thumb and hold it at arm's length, covering up your target. The area of your thumbnail represents the size of the area in which you might end up. When teleporting across the room, that area is only a few square inches so accuracy isn't really an issue. Teleporting to that hill far in the distance could be a problem, though. That same thumbnail-sized area is bigger than the apparent size of the hill, so you might miss your target completely and end up somewhere undesirable.

Any sort of teleportation is going to be rather overpowered in combat, simply because it lets you evade attacks nearly perfectly. The most straightforward way to reign in the usefulness would be to make teleportation not an instantaneous process. The caster has to focus/concentrate/channel for a period of time before teleporting. This prevents it from being used reactively, which is where most of its overpowered nature comes from. It also leaves your caster vulnerable just before they teleport, which means it has to be used much more strategically. Great for sneak attacks or initiating fights but once the fight starts, you can't fight invincibly like Nightcrawler in X-Men United.

You can even incorporate this into the lore if you want. Teleportation is a form of shadow magic. The caster channels their magic to send their shadow to a distant target location. Once the shadow reaches the destination, the caster will suddenly find themselves there as well (like how you can travel to the other room and turn on the light to make your shadow appear at your location, only it works the other way around). The shadow travels at a certain speed, say, 10x the speed of the caster. The caster would then have to channel for some brief minimum length of time plus however long it takes for the shadow to travel from A to B. That won't completely preclude its use as a combat escape mechanism, but will require your character to earn themselves enough breathing room to complete the cast.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like both the precision and duration angle, especially since being quantitative metrics there is an opportunity for the character to train and become both more precise and faster over time which offers additional plot hooks. And with both line-of-sight and scaling with distance, you avoid a lot of plot holes, such as: why didn't the character rob banks/villains to be super-rich? why doesn't the character just drop in the hero/villain lair overnight to off them? why doesn't the character just ambush the hero/villain from 1km away. Great answer, really! $\endgroup$ Mar 20, 2021 at 12:29
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"Electrical magic"-based teleportation: requires a conductive path.

Suppose your teleportation magic makes your teleporting person act as a self-propelled surge of electrons. As long as they are in physical contact with a conductive surface or conduit, they can teleport to any other point on it with enough space for them to materialize at the other side.

This would impose pretty strong limitations on general use.

  • Most dirt/rock/concrete and other surfaces one could stand on would not be immediately usable.
  • Bodies of water and wet surfaces (eg. during/after rain) would be easily traversable.
  • In urban settings, perhaps a likely use would be teleporting around the electrical grid between points of exposed wiring.
  • To use it in non-conducting settings, the teleporter would probably carry coils of wire with throwable weights or a grapnel gun, or perhaps something that splashes water, to deploy in the field.

If you want to impose limitations based on frequency, you can consider heat generated by the teleporter's passage through the medium. If they teleport across a thin film of water on pavement, perhaps the heat of their passage would evaporate too much water for them to take the same path back. If they teleport through a normal circuit in a suburban home, perhaps they'd set off the breaker and not be able to go back through that line.

Related to this, you could add a limitation that they must know, ahead of time, where they are going to rematerialize. Perhaps in electron-surge form, they cannot perceive the world outside of their conductive conduit--at risk of death or severe injury, they must be certain they are re-materializing in a place with sufficient room for their body.

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    $\begingroup$ Most dirt and concrete contain enough water to be fairly effective conductors (this is why earth-return grounding works). $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Mar 19, 2021 at 23:55
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Please be much more imaginative. Either explain or drop any difference between “using magic” and how else they might "teleport”.

Explain how a “hand” matters, rather than a foot or shoulder, knee or elbow.

A “circular arena…” is one thing. A “circular area…”; even “a circle…” very different. You might not care.

Your “floating” might have a use, or not.

If it is written that limitations should be set to avoid anything being too powerful, you might be able to Post where or when.

To disregard earth magic/manipulation when your Question is solely about “contact-based teleportation”, as explained by you as being in contact with the earth, seems like a contradiction in terms.

Limit what you want to 75-100m, usable only every second or two and with wind magic mainly.

Specify whether you’re writing about one second or two.

Name anyone who in a crisis, didn’t see all the difference in the world between one second and two.

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First, you already limited the most unfair application by limiting it to ground use : The dropping someone off in space and coming back.

This was also only usable if you allow forced teleportation of others. Which you can limit (maximum weight, maximum volume or needing the consent of other living beings to move them)

What you were going for in your thoughts as limitations are frequency and range. And those can be linked to have an adaptive cost:

  • Teleportation can take time to prepare and the longer you prepare the farther you can go. For example, by preparing 1 second you can just teleport 1m away but if you prepare 1 minute you can move 100m in one go.
  • If you need reflex teleportation, you can reverse the relation to time and instead of preparing you have a cooldown during which it is impossible to teleport after teleporting.

You can also make a limitation on precision. The farther you go, the less precise the teleportation is, which could be dangerous depending on how teleporting in a wall is handled.

As for what magic to use in addition to it, I don't see why that'll be necessary, adding anything in addition to teleportation is already overkill.

You thought of Earth Magic manipulating the ground and changing what's accessible, but that's true for any magic creating/manipulating solids (Ice at least and Plants if you allow teleporting through living beings). Now if you really want to add magic, there are a few kinds that works well with it:

  • Any Illusion Magic that makes it seem you didn't move yet
  • Any Stealth Magic that allows to teleport undetected
  • Any long range Magic that allows Hit&Run tactics

If you want another magic, that seems to combo well but still have limitations, any other contact-based magic will work well.

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