Writing: What does it mean not to be overpowered in a series?


What does it mean not to be overpowered in a series?
Does he have to weaker than everyone? Doe he rely on wit more than luck

Are we overusing the term overpowered?
Have we gone overboard with declaring a series to have overpowered MC.
After all, the main character has to win or the series ends.

 Is there good example of series without a overpowered MC.
Does such a series exist?
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  • answer to the second question: YES. many times we use OP, they aren't actually OP we're just to lazy to use longer terms such as strong, powerful, dude is pwning.

    what does it mean to be OP in a series?
    depends really. technically even a lot of characters we call OP are only OP relative to the people of equal rank. this is especially so for xianxia. for instance, Qin Yu, Linley, Meng hao, Yun Che, Chu feng; they are indeed OP if you only count those  of the same rank, but if you go a rank or 2 above them, they are still weak in the grand scheme of things (cept for endgame, at that point they are OP but thats the end of the story, of course the MC is gonna be OP by then)

    but generally, since the story revolves around the tiny bit of universe the MC's are in, they are OP since the big dudes aren't around to swat them like flys.

    as for what it means to be OP. well to be OP one must be able to curbstomp those at the same level/rank, and be able to defeat people levels or ranks above you. to be the definition of OP though, one must be able to curbstomp the final boss with sneeze.


    for the last one. there certainly are. i just don't know about them, but a good place to start looking is probably wuxia.
  • What does it mean not to be overpowered in a series?
    Be normal or weaker than others who are at the same level

    Are we overusing the term overpowered?
    So far, I believe it's used spot on. When the MC can easily beat anyone who are at his level or even one or two level higher, that's OPness.

    Is there good example of series without a overpowered MC.
    The Deer & The Cauldron (by Jin Yong)

  • edited May 2016
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  • edited December 2015
    hmm. you can divide people into 3 levels (more if you want to further define things but lets keep it simple). you got you're normal average people, people who establish the common sense of the world as in a lvl 1 can't beat a lvl 2 unless they have something to boost them, and no matter how strong a lvl 1 can't be a lvl 4 and above. (im talking xianxia power levels here. not game levels). then you have the strong people, the ones people look up to and get written down in history, and some even create legends, these are people who at lvl 1 can beat a lvl 3, and with boosts can even beat lvl 5-6s. these are strong people. then you have your OP people. these guys can dominate their individual ranks in power. (eg. spirit realm, foundation realm, profound realm, ect.) and not only that but can even take on people who are above them in realms.


    examples of strong but not OP characters would be: nei li's group. (they are strong and have strong beasts but they don't have the control or experience to use them to maximum ablity). drawing a blank, but usually all you have to do is look at the people who follow the MC and they are usualy in the 'strong' category.


    noticed koto put up some english books. kinda pointless to just name 2 when pretty much all of them have non-op characters except the villains. just to name a few i can remember, 'the inheritance trilogy', 'monster hunter international' (very good series by the way. would recommend to anyone who's into supernatural types and guns. lots of guns), forgot a bunch of them would have to look them up on goodreads but basically anything before 2000 falls into this category.

    but again my knowledge of 'xianxia' (i'm generalizing this term to basically anything with immortals in it), i don't know of any who just have strong characters or normal types. currently in the translated parts Shen mo (divine grave (have no clue why the translator felt tomb of god was more fitting since there were no 'tombs')) fits into the strong but not OP category. will probably turn OP later though.
  • edited December 2015
    I don't think a person's "overpoweredness" has to do with anything about whether he's above, equal to, or below his peers in whatever measure of 'strength' is important to the story. The feeling of being overpowered is when the MC can solve any source of conflict without any significant risk of failure or loss. E.g. a character might be twice as strong as his peers, but if he's facing an army of 1000 peers and gets injured badly, I wouldn't say he's overpowered. I think generally speaking 'overpowered' means that the author fails to scale the difficulty level of his encounters to adequately to match the MC's abilities, so there's no tension in the story.
  • Tasear said:


    What does it mean not to be overpowered in a series?
    Does he have to weaker than everyone? Doe he rely on wit more than luck

    Are we overusing the term overpowered?
    Have we gone overboard with declaring a series to have overpowered MC.
    After all, the main character has to win or the series ends.

     Is there good example of series without a overpowered MC.
    Does such series exist?

    I think overpowered means, when the mc solved all his enemies easily. He's just too powerful, no sense of danger as he/she roam the realm.

    Can't tell about whether we overusing the term or not. Yun Che (ATG), Nie Li (TDG), Yue Zhong (GDW), I think the example of overpowered mc, but I won't say Meng Hao, Wang Lin (Xian Ni), are overpowered.

    While I choose Meng Hao and Wang Lin as some of the examples of MC that's not overpowered, I'd like to mention some Gu Long's characters, like Lu Xiao Feng or Li Xun Huan (flying dagger), I think although they're powerful established martial artist, they're far from overpowered. Some of other characters within their story were acknowledged as stronger than them.

    Btw I think more Wuxia's main character aren't overpowered compared to Xianxia's main character.
  • edited December 2015
    OP = Character who has way too many game changing tools in his kit which results in him being a "master" at way too many things, making it impossible to for more balanced opponents to seriously challenge him.

    i.e. the Mega Raquaza problem.

    You could say characters are talented in various things, some specialise and are great at a few things, others are more general jack of trades and are good at many things; and in an RPG game type sense, you could quantify individual capabilities by giving them ratings (particularly relative to a population, say all the ppl out there at his age group) such as,

    HP A
    Physical Attack B
    Physical Defence B
    Magic Attack D
    Magic Defence B
    Intelligence C
    Skill C
    Innate Skill A
    Items C
    Plot Armor B
    Potential B
    Rate of Growth B

    Then maybe give a general ratings, maybe also taking into account other more individually signficant things ( and maybe adding extra weight to things like Potential and Rate of growth to have a more end-game evaluation): B+.

    In a lot of cases, MCs can consistently be more akin to,

    HP A
    Physical Attack S
    Physical Defence S
    Magic Attack B
    Magic Defence S
    Intelligence "S" (but this is mainly thanks to plot armor making everything go to plan always)
    Skill S
    Innate Skill SSS
    Items SSS
    Plot Armor SSS
    Potential SSS
    Rate of Growth S

    General rating: SS

    A fight between an individiual with a general rating of B+ vs an individual with a general rating of SS is not going to close at all and very predictable.

    The ratings aren't static also. A character might have a general rating of C at the start of the game, or even E or some shit, starting out at the very bottom, and end up having a general rating of SSS as a result in of encounters and changes to the environment and etc.

    I don't have a problem with OP characters as long as the novel is still fun to read also.

    -----------------------

    A not overpowered character is basically one who isn't a master at everything, can suck at somethings. 

    Maybe the not overpowered character might have a special SSS tier innate skill or something, which he abuses to win against those with general ratings much higher than himself, which can help keep the novel interesting, but because of his other stat ratings, his ending general ability rating might not be that high.
  • I think reading an overpowered mc have its own attractiveness. Especially if the readers somehow felt powerless in face of current society's structure/rules/etc.

    Since overpowered mc, basically beyond any rules and laws, they never bow to anyone, any rules or any authority. I can imagine how it could act as an escapism when you felt that you can't escape from the role that is given to you. For those who feel trapped with their life and see no way out of their situation reading such mc could be a way to psychologically projecting their frustration.

    Even when the mc was chased around, bullied, etc, it only help the reader to put themselves on the mc's shoes, "to be" the mc, because they know that at the end the mc will pay it back, hundred folds. It might even gave the reader a boost of dopamine since as they read the mc bullied/etc, they're already anticipating to read the part where the table is overturned. And guess what, it never disappoint you because that's exactly what's going to happened.

    So I guess there is reason why there is such pattern in xianxia like : harem, overpowered mc, etc, simply because it works and staying with the same pattern ensure the reader to get what they're expecting.

    Of course the writer need to remember, after a while any kind of same pattern of cycle would make the effect less pleasant. In such case, some writer gave a different twist and make the reader felt the excitement again or in some other case you make the reader satisfied by amplified the dose. More overpowered mc, more badass, more cruel at his/her revenges, more females in his harem, etc.

  • anonpuffs said:

    I don't think a person's "overpoweredness" has to do with anything about whether he's above, equal to, or below his peers in whatever measure of 'strength' is important to the story. The feeling of being overpowered is when the MC can solve any source of conflict without any significant risk of failure or loss. E.g. a character might be twice as strong as his peers, but if he's facing an army of 1000 peers and gets injured badly, I wouldn't say he's overpowered. I think generally speaking 'overpowered' means that the author fails to scale the difficulty level of his encounters to adequately to match the MC's abilities, so there's no tension in the story.

    This
  • edited December 2015
    So after being inspired by posts above. I going to agree that's the main character isn't over powered as long as there's tension in the series. Meaning as long as we think that he might lose.
  • edited December 2015
    Tasear said:

    So after being inspired by posts above. I going to agree that's the main character isn't over powered as long as there's tension in the series. Meaning as long as we think that he might lose.

    that is indeed what not being OP is. as long as the dude can't One Punch everyone and everything to death, they aren't OP yet.
  • Tasear said:

    So after being inspired by posts above. I going to agree that's the main character isn't over powered as long as there's tension in the series. Meaning as long as we think that he might lose.

    Note that the tension doesn't all have to come from battle --though in Xianxia most of it will-- but can also come from quests to find treasured items, clues to solve cultivation puzzles, romantic subplots, political machinations, and other trials that can't entirely be solved by overpowering them.
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