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I've got a human like being in one of my stories I'm developing who can control all the elements. Not like one of them controls fire, one controls water, etc. but actually controlling all the elements. The back story being that they wanted to be the most powerful creatures in the world so they figured out a way for them to harness the elements. The thing is I don't want them to be completely overpowered even though that is what they want.

How to I keep them from doing this? And how might one go about gaining the ability to control the elements anyway? Also, if there once was a way for them to gain this ability in the first place, might there be a way to take it away from them as well?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Frostfyre, John Dallman, TrEs-2b, Aify, Thucydides Aug 28 '16 at 5:41

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ magnetism... and make the field of elemental control short $\endgroup$ – Charon Aug 27 '16 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ What happens if two of them try to control the same element? $\endgroup$ – n00dles Aug 27 '16 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site, Sunny. Please note that the magic tag asks you to describe how magic functions in your world. Lacking that knowledge, every answer is equally valid. As is, all of your questions are dependent on knowing how your magic functions, which we won't define for you. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Aug 27 '16 at 17:33
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  • How to Keep them From Being too powerful...this boils down to making a magic system in your world which limits all casters or magic.

some elemental combos are not possible to wield by one person Fire & Air, sure, Water & Fire no. While they might have the ability to wield all the elements, they can't do them all at one time. Certain elements are too opposite for them to do this. That opens the door to a band of heroes, each with their own element (or two) being able to go up against this one person, if they are clever.

it takes energy/spells are limited Take a look at gaming systems where magic or a power is involved. You'll notice that the system itself limits the power. Look to those for examples--a person only has so much energy in a day. Now you can have them bend the rules with a way of storing power eg. something like a Pearl of power or a spell storing item. You can also have magic be drawn upon their will or physical selves, a limited but renewable resource.

  • Gaining Magical Ability/Elemental Abilities Except for study, all these can be taken away/broken.

Study/Magical Trial

Magic Items

using magic to trap/use an actual elemental and force them to do your bidding

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Not like one of them controls fire, one controls water, etc. but actually controlling all the elements.

That depends on how you define 'all elements'. Typically this means Avatar styled Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. This is, logically simpler to do, seeing as there are only four -- contrasted with 8 elements, 16 elements, etc.

If you want to go with 'magic' but explainable, then you can try having them exchange energy (ATP for example) which limits how much 'elemental magic' they can use. Or use surrounding energy, or control the energies around them (e.g. force them to cast a fire spell, but powering it with an ice spell to 'power it', or using their own body heat to power it). How to get it? Study. How to lose it? A concussion, affecting their memory either temporarily or permenently.

Another route, which is slightly less 'scientific approach' but fits in well within certain 'realities' is have them bound to spirits which control the elements. This allows for these spirits to be the limitor of the power allowed in each spell. How to get it? Contacting and contracting spirit(s). This could be done via ritual, or physically going to certain locations rich in that element (volcano for fire, lake or sea for water, mountains for earth, windy plains for air). How to lose it? That depends on your binding ritual/contract. If the spirit is someone to negotiate with, then displeasing them would tempt them to break the contract. Another way is if you use too much of their energy, making them is untenable relationship, and you get abandoned.

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This seems to me like asking for blue-sky, throw-at-wall-to-check-if-sticky type ideas. So, here are a couple off the top of my head:

  • Restrict the mechanics of "control" to have certain rules -- for example, in the Mistborn series, certain magic users have the ability to control metal, but only by "pushing" and/or "pulling" on it; basically, they exert a force from their own center of mass that acts on the metallic object's center of mass. And since it's fundamentally just a way of exerting force, Newtonian physics apply -- casters can propel themselves by pushing on heavy objects, coins on the ground, nails, etc. As demonstrated in the series, these abilities are plenty powerful with sufficiently creative use, even with the additional limitation that casters require access to iron and steel reagents as their "mana".

  • Maybe similar to the above, define "control" such that it comes with limitations, provisos, and/or drawbacks. For example, perhaps the (typical?) human(oid) brain has trouble adapting to voluntarily controlling more motor functions than it already does at base level, i.e. most casters can levitate and throw a fireball, but only by temporarily giving up control over their own arms; you could construct a mud golem and control it, but your own body would only perform involuntary functions while you were possessing it.

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How can you keep them from being overpowered, hmm - how about letting them control only one element at a time. Still pretty dangerous, especially if they've time to plan - but if they have to let go of whatever they're doing, to counter (or even sense) what's coming at them, they are less dangerous. If they're matched by more than one person, they can have their attention divided even if the sum of their talents matches the sum of their opponents' talents, because they can only do one thing at a time (even if it is a great and planned thing). One set of eyes, one mind, one thing at a time.

What else... You can go the standard route of having the powers (physically) expensive, have them run out of energy after a while, and need food and water and rest. They will need to concentrate in order to do things - and having more power to keep track of, they might find it harder to concentrate than a single-element. Possibly, they might have more sensory input depending on how "connected" they are to each element - if they can sense the element, and/or tell if someone nearby is manipulating or attacking with it - they can sense ALL OF EVERYTHING and thus are easily distractable, even though that was originally a good skill.

Or, if each elemental power has its upsides and downsides, strengths and weaknesses (as each power should, to be balanced) have him hit by all the downsides as well as the upsides. Even if only when they're using the element in question, it might help bring them down in power by enough. Or make using more than one element at a time make it possible for the elements and/or their limitations, or even their boosts, to clash with each other or possibly cancel each other out. If the power affects the person as much as the person wields the power (as some stories have it) then having different energies flow through at different times, or having them competing, might be very troublesome indeed.

I can't tell you how they got the power, it is your world and story. But, it was probably really dangerous, if no one else has succeeded or even tried. Maybe he bargained with other powers or spirits, or risked his life, went on spiritual quests, or made sacrifices. He may have extra downsides attached to the method that let him get control, beyond the power limitations themselves - if he has bargained, he is limited by the agreement he made with whatever bargained with him (including limitations in power or behavior). If he risked his life doing something risky, (again, risky enough no one ever has done so) he may have physical damage, old wounds, psychological damage or power limitations from whatever it cost him to survive.

Can the powers be taken back... yes. If he bargained with something, they can take it back (if properly appealed). Not the same thing as saying they must, though, it will take cause and depend on the bargain. If it was a spell, there's a counter-spell. If all else fails, try brain damage - that will stop just about anything. It might leave him unable to draw the power, or make him forget he has it, or not let him concentrate enough to use it. It can be targeted (spell of forgetting), it can be massive (hit him over the head till he stops moving, which can leave any damage), it can be clinical and targeted (brain surgery), it can be violent (spike through his skull, if he survives - not gonna be controlling anything).

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