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"All power demands sacrifice"
—Sindri, Dawn of War
Power. The ability to influence, create, change, and even destroy. Things, places, people. It is by nature highly contentious: Some want it and would kill for it, others do not want it, or would gladly give away such a burden. Therein lies the rub. For all its force, blessings, or ability to change, power is not free... of responsibility, consequence, or cost. Some people think the exchange has to be "fair."
Admittedly, sometimes the power is worth it. But sometimes, it’s not.
Drama derives vigor from the quandary of how power, seemingly free of any strings, has inherent costs. Whether they are hideous mutations, social alienation, or even death varies by story, genre, and kind of power. But the underlying basis is the same: Power at a Price.
- Necessary Drawback—For items of great power.
- Artifact of Attraction—You'll be compelled to kill for it and be killed over it.
- Artifact of Doom—Use it at risk of becoming evil.
- Artifact of Death—Use it at risk of death.
- Clingy MacGuffin/Loyal Phlebotinum—Throw it away, and it will come back.
- Empathic Weapon—Then again, maybe it won't let you use it.
- Insert Payment to Use—It'll let you use it, but you have to pay with lifeforce, money, or some other form of currency.
- Situational Sword—You can use it, just not all of the time.
- Unholy Holy Sword—It's The Mole of artifacts.
- Equivalent Exchange and/or Deal with the Devil—Everything does not come free; it has a (sometimes terrible) cost.
- Black Magic—Very powerful magic, at a moral and material price.
- Eye of Newt—Magic requires magical components. Or less than corporeal components, which usually are harder to handle.
- Insubstantial Ingredients—Or something normally not even considered a "thing".
- Fantastic Fragility—Building in weaknesses to boost power.
- Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards—Wizards take longer to gain power, but gain more power in the end.
- Magic Knight—Can fight well physically, but usually isn't as powerful at magic as a pure wizard.
- The Red Mage—Can use all kinds of magic, but isn't the best at any of them.
- Squishy Wizard—Can cast powerful spells, but can't take a punch. Basically, magical power at a physical price.
- Cast from Hit Points—Magic fueled by sacrificing your current health (i.e., causing your body damage), your life force or your lifespan, which brings us to...
- Cast From Lifespan—Magic which shortens the user's lifespan.
- White Magic—Not as powerful as Black Magic, but less noxious.
- Magic Is a Monster Magnet—Using magic draws the wrong sort of attention.
- Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training — Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Bare-Fisted Monk—Does not need weapons, but, therefore, does not benefit much from better gear.
- Magic Knight—Again, a fighter who can cast, but usually isn't as good at melee as a pure warrior.
- Ambition Is Evil—Trying to climb the social ladder tends to knock everyone else down a rung; therefore, it is evil and shouldn't be done.
- Lonely at the Top—The more powerful you are, the more isolated and lonelier you'll be.
- Psychic Nosebleed—Overuse or misuse of psychic powers results in physical injury.
- The Dark Arts—The skill is deemed forbidden for any of a number of reasons.
- With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility—No inherent price except using it responsibly.
- With Great Power Comes Great Insanity—Power causes madness.
- A God Am I—Power will make you think that you're invincible. Regardless of whether or not it's true, you're gonna have a lot of enemies.
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul—Upgrading your hardware downgrades your humanity.
- Dangerous Forbidden Technique—A powerful ability, with a powerful cost.
- The Dark Side—applies mostly to Comes Great Responsibility, but branches into physical/madness.
- Mad Oracle
- Power Born of Madness—Madness causes power.
- Psycho Serum—Potion causes Madness.
- Unhappy Medium—You're powerful, but really unhappy.
- Disability Superpower—Power at the price of one or more faculties.
- Power Incontinence—Limited control over destructive or inconvenient powers.
- Blessed with Suck—You'll think it's worth it, but it isn't.
- Cursed with Awesome—You'll think it isn't worth it, but it is.
- Blind Seer
- Mad Oracle—Again.
- Age Without Youth
- Invisible Streaker—You can't be seen, but you have to be naked.
- Time Dissonance—You aren't in sync with the rest of causality.
- Disability Immunity—Rather than granting you powers to compensate, you are protected from something that would harm more able individuals.
- Power Strain Blackout—You faint after using your powers
- Everything but the Girl—You can do anything you like, except win over your True Love.
- One-Winged Angel—Physical power at the cost of your physical form.
- Clipped-Wing Angel—Eventually, the "new form" turns out to be a bust.
- Deadly Upgrade—Eventually, your new form will make you die.
- Explosive Overclocking—Or it will make your stuff explode.
- Lovecraftian Superpower—It looks really weird.
- Power Degeneration—Having superpowers will accelerate your aging and kill you.
- Shapeshifter Mode Lock—Inability to regain one's normal form.
- The Corruption—Uncanny powers are just a symptom of a malignant infection.
- Power Loss Makes You Strong—The flip side. By losing a superpower, you gain something. Namely, extreme badassery.
- Power Source—They may need to be refilled frequently.
- Reality Warping Is Not a Toy—When Reality Warping proves hard to control.
- Superpowers for A Day—Powers for the price of time. Powers can never be gained again.
- Superpower Lottery—Extreme superpowers at no cost, or at least not proportional ones.
- Heart Is an Awesome Power—Powers that require extreme out-of-the-box thinking in order to get any use out of it.
- Required Secondary Powers—For all those extra powers you have (or don't have) to deal with your "main" power.
- Weaksauce Weakness — Competitive Balance taken to extremes to offset for winning the lottery, likewise leads to ...
- Logical Weakness—A weakness because of a power that actually makes logical sense.
- Multiform Balance—When each of your forms has a power set suited for particular tactics and situations.
- Conditional Powers—When the power comes with something you must (or must not) do
- Virgin Power—You must remain a virgin to use your powers
- Sensory Overload—the drawback to certain Super Senses.
- Beneficial Disease - when a disease provides you from superpowers/immunity
- Science Is Bad—The Luddites' view that not everything scientific is good.
- Living Battery—the living power supply pays the cost. Can also power magical devices.
- Bribing Your Way to Victory: How much in Real Life dollars are you willing to pay for a Tier 1 deck in a CCG, or for enhanced equipment in an MMO?
- Comeback Mechanic—Being ahead of the other players means you make the other players stronger.
- Competitive Balance—In Video Games, characters have strengths and weaknesses.
- Crippling Overspecialization—Inverse of Jack of All Stats - really good at one thing, no good at everything else.
- Fragile Speedster—Speed without power.
- Glass Cannon—Offense without defense.
- Jack of All Stats—No weaknesses, no strengths.
- Mighty Glacier—Power without speed.
- Stone Wall—Defense without offense.
- Powerful, but Inaccurate--Power without accuracy.
- Level Scaling—Power that comes at a price of increased difficulty.
- Empty Levels—When the power actually makes your character weaker or increases the difficulty disproportionately.
- Magikarp Power—This character or ability can be very useful... if you bother to grind for it.