So I asked the font of all internet knowledge (Reddit) what they thought were the most overpowered skills and magic in fantasy – partly for the laughs (Reddit is my favourite website to get a giggle) but also to generate more ideas for my stories. The internet hivemind delivered of course, and after wading through a lot of odd anime based arguments, I’ve whittled it down to my top three favourites:
First up is Balefire (from the Wheel of Time series). Better than overcomplicated time travel that can easily go very wrong (which is why I’m not including it in the list), balefire is a magic attack that not only kills you but also (based on the strength of the user) erases you backwards out of time! What does this mean? Say you stab me and eat my burger – and as I lay dying I kill you with balefire – if I’m strong enough you won’t have eaten my burger, and if I’m stronger still you won’t even have stabbed me! (but you would still be dead). This sounds awesome, but problems occur when too many people use it as too many big changes cause reality to start breaking, and that is a bad thing.
Next is the Path to Victory power (from the Worm series). This power lets its user automatically know the solution to any challenge they come up against, meaning they can predict problems and always succeed as long as there is a chance in that situation that they can succeed. It’s kind of like being able to see the future (or the millions of potential futures) and be able to decipher it all without going mad. This skill is actually found quite often in fantasy in lesser forms, either as a short-term power (think atium in the Mistborn series that lets it’s user predict other’s actions for a short time) or as a character trait (think of Vetinari’s ability to predict his enemies and plan for them in Discworld).
Finally, I had to include my favourite answer: Plot Armour. How can you beat an author’s unwillingness to let a beloved character die? You could throw anything at them but they will keep on making it out alive, somehow magically beating the odds despite reader’s cries of deus-ex-machina! This made me laugh when I first read it because for some stories it’s just so true…
I’d recommend taking a look at the full discussion to see all of the suggestions.
Some of these abilities work and improve fiction, but others don’t. A lot has to do with how storytellers build these powers into their worlds, but more importantly, it comes down to how they build in limitations to these powers too that makes them interesting for readers.
A particular callout from the discussion was reality warping and the ability to create and destroy universes. The most famous current example of this is the upcoming Marvel film and it’s infinity gauntlet, that when constructed allows the user to basically do anything they want with reality (essentially rewriting history, physics, etc). Both these skills are obviously very overpowered but to my previous point, I struggle to see how these can improve a story unless there are very real limitations to their use.
Got an opinion? You can rant at me in the comments, or you can weigh in on Reddit with the link below: