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Currently writing a fanfiction called Challenger, a spinoff of Uru-chan's unOrdinary. A sort of a fan parallel dimension, if you will.

Grey (inspired off of John Doe) is a 17-year-old highschool student-soon-to-be-hero, but, like all his other classmates, he has an Ability. 95% of humanity have been born with a single Ability, but the powerless 5% lucked out and ended up as a cripple.

Let me explain how Abilities work: Abilities are powers that people are born with, though the manifestation time differs per person; few individuals displayed their Ability at birth, but most discover their Ability when they are 5 or 6 years old. Hereditary Abilities are passed from the parent/s to the offspring, though parents without abilities can have a child with abilities, and children can sometimes possess Abilities that are different from their parents Abilities. Whenever an Ability is used, it usually gives off an Aura in the user's hair or eye color. It flows through Aura Channels which regulate he flow of Aura through the body. A stronger flow of Aura naturally results in a stronger Ability. Normally, the aura flow cannot be altered by consciously, though Meta Abilities (Aura Gage and Aura Manipulation) allow the user direct control to their Aura Channels.

Abilities usually have some kind of drawback, and the more powerful the Ability, the stronger the drawback. For example, the Ability Shield allows the user to create shields that reflect damage and are almost impenetrable; should they break, however, it can cause physical damage to the user. The Ability Hellfire, if used to long or too much, will begin to consume the user. Any kind of ability that transforms the user (e.g., Stone Skin, Invisibility, etc.) drains their stamina when powered off and can eventually cause pain throughout that body and possible damage.

A boy with a troubled past, Grey is naturally a good kid, but has a tendency to violence, and swears to destroy the system of hierarchy that places the strongest at the top of the social food chain, leaving the weak helpless and at the mercy of the higher tiers. He charades as a cripple (though his closest group of friends know about his power, and try to help him with his past), but is actually one of the strongest in his school. His Ability, Aura Manipulation, allows him to detect, manipulate and copy Auras, allowing him to observe the Aura Flow in other power users, copy their Abilities, and combine them in order to produce devastating results (e.g., copying and combining Fire and Wind produces Firenado, not a separate Ability but a combination of the two; some Abilities failed to combine, so not all abilities are compatible). The only limitations so far is that he can copy up to 4 abilities, and he can only use them for a short time period.

Grey has successfully dethroned the Houses (group of "elite" students at a school) of both New Bostin, Southport and Wellington High, and there is seemingly no end to his power. What are some possible nerfs that can be implemented to his power?

(P.S.: Abilities are pseudoscientific, not magically or otherwise.)

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    $\begingroup$ You need to flush out your concept so its rules are more well defined. What causes these powers? Genes? Harnessing special particles that permeate the universe but can't be normally detected? Something else? This definition alone could nerf your character, as, say, a genetic trait can't be learned just by observation, and changing your genetic code so you can integrate the new genes for the various abilities you want to use is bound to mess you up at some point. $\endgroup$ Nov 24 at 22:35
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with Project, would giving him a black-eye so that it' swollen shut decrease the expression of his power, for example? $\endgroup$ Nov 24 at 23:34
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe he should need physical contact so he is able to copy abilities? Sounds to me like a much harder task than just observation since people can now prevent the boy from copying $\endgroup$
    – Qrom
    Nov 25 at 13:08
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    $\begingroup$ Three votes to close as 'Too Story Based' and not even one comment explaining the vote... This is a typical balancing question despite it being asked from the first-person point of view. I do agree, however, that it would be nice to include some more details about the Abilities and their underlying mechanics. @AndroidWonKenobi, would you mind editing your question and elaborating on Abilities a bit? $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Nov 25 at 18:01
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    $\begingroup$ @JoshPart It also sounds a great deal like John from the comic unOrdinary. $\endgroup$
    – Douglas
    Nov 26 at 1:51

14 Answers 14

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He lacks "Drawback Mitigation"

Most super powers come with an inherent mitigation of risk associated with their power. A few examples:

  1. Super strength: Increased bone strength and durability so that the bones don't shatter when lifting a heavy load, or when hitting something hard.
  2. Fire Powers: Heat resistance, eyes adapted to bright flashes of light.
  3. Super Speed: Decreased friction and increased durability to survive high speed impacts.
  4. Telekinesis: Increased mental capacity for concentration and multitasking, otherwise they could barely be awake while using their power.
  5. Flight: Better lungs for operating at low pressure when at high altitudes, enhanced perception for judging speed, enhanced durability to survive crash landings.

While your hero can gain the base abilities of each of these powers, he doesn't get to mitigate the drawbacks of the powers for free. He would have to copy both a super strength power and a physical invulnerability power at the same time to be able to match what someone with just a super strength power could do.

This means that he has to be super careful using other people's powers to avoid hurting/killing himself. It'll also mean he'll have a steep learning curve whenever he copies someone's ability as he may not know what the drawback of any particular power is before he tries to copy it.

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    $\begingroup$ In other words, he lacks required secondary powers (caution, TVTropes!). $\endgroup$ Nov 25 at 13:25
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    $\begingroup$ pretty damned clever answer ! $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Nov 25 at 17:23
  • $\begingroup$ This is such a good answer and I think it could make OP's story much more unique. I can just imagine Grey attempting to stop a rogue bus with his newly acquired super-strength, only to break arms and legs as he absorbs the blow. Only thing is: he could just pair any ability with the ability of regeneration or invincibility. In the former case, he'd still be experiencing a lot of pain however, a significant drawback in it of itself. However, given the abilities' OP-ness, I bet it'd be hard to find someone with a regen/invincibility ability to copy. $\endgroup$
    – A. Kvåle
    Nov 26 at 16:24
  • $\begingroup$ Incidentally, this is the exact same solution used to nerf the main character in My Hero Academia: He inherited the powers of the world's mightiest hero, so how is he not overpowered? By having his bones shatter every time he throws a punch. $\endgroup$
    – Nolonar
    Nov 26 at 16:52
  • $\begingroup$ Can you say what's meant by a good kid, but violent, seeking to destroy the hierarchy of powers? How could the survival of the fittest come into any such thing? $\endgroup$ Nov 26 at 23:18
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It's not really clear how these Abilities work. Just to stay with the proven and true, let's say they're all extensions of a probability alteration field. Most humans possess now a probability-altering organ (it's actually a network of quantum-linked microtubule organelles laced through the frontal lobe, genetically engineered back in the day before the Discontinuity). The aura is a temporary coupling between the field and the local volume of space, sort of a Cherenkov effect.

The "Ability alteration" is the power of manipulating someone else's quantum lace, which is one of the few things that endanger the wielder more than they do the victim - those fields weren't designed to go one against another, and doing so was really, really ill-advised.

Ability "cloning" is achieved through a higher-than-average control of the quantum lace, having it operating as several separate laces at once. This requires more flexibility, a higher redundancy in the lace structure - which Ability Alteration can reduce - and closer integration between lace substructures (the looser the integration, the shorter the period two or more abilities can be blended).

So, some way of selectively defusing an Aura Control wielder - well, it turns out you've already done it.

The probability control fields weren't designed to go one against the other. When they do, in addition to whatever their wielders want them to achieve, like people battling with Silly Putty maces, the laces slightly imprint on one another.

That is why you - a declared villain - irrationally say things like, "What could I do to (slightly) decrease his Ability's power?" or "I'm not looking for a total removal of the Ability, as I can't and won't do that". You find yourself not wanting to go full out against the guy, and actually did not even realize this behaviour, however rationalised, isn't typical of a villain at all.

The good news is that whatever his opinions before the first clash, he now feels the same towards you, so neither of you has anything to fear from the other. Rather the contrary, actually.

The bad news - well, bad depending on the point of view I guess - hate being the one having to break this out to you, really - the embarrassing news is that the mutual imprinting you unwittingly achieved also has... or usually tends to have, let us say, deeper implications of a more, er, intimate nature, whose exact details I'm afraid you and your former arch-nemesis will have to work out for yourselves in a more private setting.

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He lacks control, and his Aura limit doesn't change.

Top hero, Morse, can throw around powerful flames, and shape them into anything from a defensive firewall to a laser-focussed cutting beam, or use them for flight and propulsion.

But, he's learned to do this through years of practice and honing his technique.

When Grey copies Morse's power, he can also produce flames. But, while he can choose which limbs to generate it from, it comes out as a mid-range blaze in the area; Grey doesn't know well how to focus or shape it. He's an uncoordinated novice, flailing wildly, and as much danger to himself as others.

Morse has a sidekick, Robbie. Robbie's power allows him to control wind! Grey can copy this power too, and use the wind to boost the fire power. However, he has to split his Aura in two to do so, half shaped for fire, and half shaped for wind. The combination might be stronger than each individual power, due to synergy, but the copied powers are only half as powerful as they would be if he only copied one!

Now, if Grey spent enough time around someone with a power, copying it repeatedly, then he could (with training) build up some technique and skill. And, some skills will carry over to similar powers. But, he will usually be outclassed by a specialist who knows what they're doing.

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There should be a difference between what people can do and how powerful they can do it.

For example, Character A might be able to create fire emitting 3000 watt of heat, while Character B can also create fire, but only with 1000 watt. Both A and B have the same ability, but B is generally less powerful than A due to B's aura generating fewer neutral particles.

When Grey copies an ability, he copies the ability, but not the power level. When Grey's emission of neutral particles is well enough for 2000 watt of fire, then it doesn't matter if he copies the fire ability from A or B - his fire will be 2000 watt, because that's the amount of power Grey's aura can manifest.

If Grey copies two or more abilities, then his power gets divided upon those abilities. For example, if he copies fire and wind, then he can only cause a firenado with 1000 watt worth of wind plus 1000 watt worth of fire.

With that system you no longer need to worry about how many powers Grey copies at the same time. If he copies 20 different powers simultaneously, then each individual power would be so weak that there wouldn't be much he could do with them.

This system also opens up another interesting plot: There might be a character who is thought to be a knock. But they actually do have an ability, and that ability might be very useful. Unfortunately for that character, their aura is so weak that they can't use that ability. So they might not even be aware that they have it. But that might not stop Grey from copying their ability and manifesting it through his considerably stronger aura.

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See that pale, soft mannered kid in the corner. Yes, that one, looking depressed and lacking the exuberant energy the other kids display.
If you look in the history of the incidents in the highschool yard, you'll see that the usual bullies let her be after a couple of tries. She was happy for some days after the bullies attempted to do their stuff with him.

Well, she's an aura blackhole - she doesn't project power though her ability, but she's able to, so far, drain any amount of power that other abilities project onto her and then feed her internal energy deficit for days. True, she can't drain any ability that is not projected towards her (she's not an aura leech or vampire).

Now, if you arrange her to be in the security team with someone with an ability that requires the projection of large amount of energy (say, fire or tornado or thunderbolt), well... if your villain combines the two, an "ability shortcircuit" ensures, with the projected positive power being drained immediately in the same source. I'll let you imagine what this shortcircuit will do to the "power supply" of your villain.


Were I to be you, I'd make sure to use my influence to find others with the same ability. And/or convince her to have kids with the hope that the aura/ability ecosystem is better balanced. With so many positive energy projecting abilities, this world started to show signs of "aurogenetic induces global warming". This "abilities" world is primed for a catastrophe if the emissions continue to like that, you'd better start to convince the people for a reduction of emission 20% below the 1990 level.

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Random results

Yeah, he thinks he is super powerful because he lucked out his first couple of tries. But combining random superpower silliness usually ends with more dubious outcomes. Fire + Wind can make a "Firenado" ... maybe... but more often you blow out the candle. I mean, burning out every light bulb in a five block radius will make you the toast of the Astronomy Club, but it's not tremendously powerful. And the next time you do it you'll end up with a Santa Ana in Montana, Burning Hail, Constellation of Chinese Lanterns, or the all-time favorite, Flaming Flatulence. Hope you remembered the Beano...

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What makes Grey so powerful is that he copies powers at full strength - since he can copy multiple at once, that means that copying two strong abilities at once effectively gives him twice the raw power.

You're able to tweak his capabilities... perhaps simply preventing his total power from going beyond the strongest power that he's copying would be a pertinent way to bring his capabilities back down to a more manageable level.

The reason that this is so useful is, he will never be more powerful than those he is copying. Which means that, if he tries to copy the powers of, say, two of your henchmen, he will be going up against more power than he's able to get from them, in total.

Of course, this is balanced by him having access to a greater variety of powers, which means that your henchmen won't be able to easily curbstomp him, or anything, but it's likely to be a fair fight.

While it's not an easy change for you to make, since it's a "natural" modification, rather than an alteration to the primary rules of the power, it's not nearly as taxing on your body.

What's more, it is probably safe to relax the changes you made before - an easy process, as it's simply a "reset". Let him absorb as many powers as he wants, and keep them as long as he wants - the more he has collected, the weaker each power is.

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The use of this ability , gives him ticks, were he has to use the withdrawn ability. So you have a villian, that causes you to forget "fireball" but casts it involuntarily, often at bad moments. Villain sits at the loo, casts fireball, celebrates a party in his palace - casts fireball, trys to remain stealthy- fireball.

His crippling of you, cripples him. It goes so far, that the "guild" trains bounty hunters and trys to connect bad habbits with the abilitys. Need to smoke opium to cast this and that. Your vampire leeches that - and gets the raving cravings.

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Eye damage. Having double the quantity of Aura particles around his eyes makes him blind after a while, whereas a single dose is managable. It's hard to see pretty quickly, and if he firenadoed for too long, his eyes would heat up and cook.

Or have another 'meta' Aura face him; a copycat or a 'an absorb it and hit you back twice as hard' character would do fine.

Or combine my suggestions: if he faced a 'hurt me more' character whose ability was preventing the other person from stopping using his ability; or even one who doubled his Aura (normally beneficial), then his eyeballs are going to be like popcorn in an industrial microwave.

Or face him in the right environment; inside a chamber that emulates the abilities I've suggested here.

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He can only copy a person's ability once, with the same 3-abilities limit. Once he's forced to replace an ability, he can never copy it again.

This limitation is bound to the person he copies from, not the ability itself. If a different person happens to have the exact same ability, he could still copy it.

He would still remain immensely powerful, but copying new abilities now comes with an immense tactical cost. His enemies could take advantage of this limitation and trick Grey into giving up a powerful copied ability to copy a seemingly better one; only to reduce his own net strength in the process.

It also brings some drama for a soon-to-be hero to be forced into such hard choices. Perhaps he'll be put in a situation where he has to copy a more specialized (but weak) ability to save someone; eroding his own power in the process.

This would also force him to keep tabs on potential targets to copy and replace abilities from later, in case he has to give something up.

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Make it such that despite being able to see and clone the Aura, he can't tell what the Ability will be or what a combination with another one will achieve.

So, he can control whose ability he copies, when he uses it, and with what other ability he will combine it, but not really what the effect will be.

This will make it so he will have to rely on battle-tested abilities he has used before, giving you the advantage of knowing what he is capable of. On encountering a new aura, he will have to wait to see what the ability is (giving the advantage of surprise) or risk copying it before, but not knowing what will happen if he uses it. Pretty risky for him, but less so for you as you already know what the ability is going to do.

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Obviously, the best answer would be to build up an arsenal of abilities at your company that can easily counter what he already knows to copy. However, you need to be careful when doing so.

In MHA, a similar character Neito can copy abilities. However, he has a significant drawback you may be able to use. Greatly stated by some random guy (Jexel Bur) in a Quora answer:

Accumulation and Base Form - This drawback is twofold. So far Neito is shown to only be be able to copy the base form of a quirk. Meaning he can only copy a quirk in the state it first manifested. This is supported by how he can copy One For All, but can’t use it. The second part of the drawback is that he can’t fully utilize quirks that must accumulate a resource to function. Since he can only copy a quirk in its default form, he can’t copy the storage effects. Therefore he can’t use Fatgum’s Fat Absorbtion because it stores the kinetic energy from physical attacks, he can’t use Eri’s rewind because it accumulates some (unknown) element, and he can’t use One For All because of the stockpiling effect.

In other words, your company should have defenses that rely heavily on stockpiling certain resources that are not easily available. You can get creative with this but some examples:

-An electricity ability that is charged by a physical manifestation allowing for the user to "Plug" themselves in (like to a wall).

-A speed ability that allows a user to move very fast, but is charged up by standing still. For every minute they are still, they can move 1 second at super speed. (this guy could be like a monk or something always meditating and thus can move super fast at will)

Additionally, you can also just make some pretty normal abilities that when first manifested were very weak and only improved through vigorous training. so when your hero uses a guys fire ability its more like a lighter.

Moreover, you can also limit his power by making them extremely difficult to use. Like an ability that lets you pass through objects but you have to practice activating only on certain parts for it to be useful or you will just fall through the floor. Moreover, activating it on your eyes makes you blind etc.. Hence if your hero was to use it, he would ungracefully activate it and fail to use it properly.

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Shared Fate

So this kid copies auras. Let's "improve" this ability a bit. He doesn't just use the same ability now, the aura he gains is the same aura as the person he copied from, entangled on a quantum level, and thus as long as he keeps up the ability, he and the person he copied are connected.

In other words: whatever happens to the person he copies the ability from also happens to him.

This means he can't copy the ability of the person he's fighting any more. Otherwise any damage he does is just done back to him and he's a kid so he has less endurance. If he copies from someone else then that person becomes a weak point for him. (If this damage mirroring goes the other way the victim might well not appreciate it, though I guess that might open up a loophole.)

From a meta POV also this is a pretty good excuse for him to learn to start caring about other people...

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I would suggest making a delay to Grey's powers, so he would not copy powers in an instant: he would have to be in eye contact with a person for a least a defined amount of time or longer to copy their Ability. Apart from that, it would be a good idea to make him lose these stolen Abilities after some time: this would make him vulnerable due to the limited time of an Ability usage.

(BTW, Grey's powers look like a mix of Eidolon and Victor from Worm.)

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