View Full Version : What is Power?

2012-01-16, 12:56 PM
Come along, student. You remember my last lecture on Alignments yes?

I ask you; What is Power?

I once heard a half dead man say "Power is Power." Ultimately futile description don't you think?

Let us investigate together about what power really is.

There are those that draw on "Divine" powers. The priests, the paladins, the champions and all manner of minor powers throughout the planes. But this power isn't theirs and so how can it be truly called power? If a man must call upon the influence of someone or something else, how can they be called "powerful?"
They aren't. A paladin may fall to the blade of a greater warrior because his god says otherwise. A cleric or a druid may have their magic fail at a key moment all due to some trick or plan they have no idea about.

So, from these people we can learn that Power must be internal and not reliant on something else. This would include then those that wield power based on artifacts or magical items on their person.

Hm? But what of those that wield arcane influence? The sorcerors and the wizards?
They wield power which can be negated so easily. I have seen more arcane mystics fall to a single spell or lone amulet than I care to mention. Without that internal power which they call upon so easily, they are but weaklings.

From this, my student, we learn a new feature of True Power: It must not be easily negated, if able to be negated at all. Otherwise, you will end up like that fellow you were telling me about last week. Dead and powerless.

And so to the martial arts. Those who command battle strength through weaponry and fighting skill. Those that hone their bodies to utter perfection. They fall pray to the divine and the arcane more than they do to each other. But they have unity. This, student, is perhaps the most important part of True Power.

A small diversion from the lesson so that I may tell you of a man who I encountered on my travels. I passed a man in the street when he asked me "You do know that you're being followed?" I nodded and tried to walk on. He then grabbed me and said "You don't care!? Gods above, he could kill you at any second!"
I laughed. I turned and saw that the mam follwing me had a longsword against him. I disarmed him in the usual fashion as a show of force. But then something truly amazing happened. The man tried to kill me with his bare hands. His training from the swordmaster hadn't weakened him in any other area. He was just as strong, flexible and enduring as he had been with the sword.
I grinned. I killed him, naturally. A slight of that level shouldn't go unpunished but he taught me a valuable lesson.
That lesson was that Power, my student, is only as good as you are. That power exists until the end of your fist. The killer wasn't specialized into just one area of power; he had several.

Power, then, must be general. If you take nothing else away from this lesson, know that Power is anything that can be used to your advantage.

Hm? Ah yes. Go to your other tutors, student. I will see you after the midday meal.

(I do enjoy writing these little essays. If you like them, don't hesitate to suggest another topic which I might cover.)

2012-01-16, 01:04 PM
ah but are not fists just as transient? lose them and you lose power just as a mage loses power to a spell or the cleric his god. it might be harder... but it may be done.

no true power is not power itself, as all power is transient. it is the abilaty to take power from others. with that even the greatest dragon might fall, even an elder titan might be humbled.

2012-01-16, 01:16 PM
The ability to take power? I disagree.

Fists are weak, material things. This I agree with. But it is the unity that a fighter or a barbarian may have that is the true core of power. He trains his weapon in all areas to become powerful. Where a mage may train the mind purely or a priest may seek only wisdom, they seek all physical attributes equally.

If I can take your power, then you are weak. The ability to take power is the sign of a lack of power, not the sign of True Power.

A titan with no magic can still crush a man. A dragon with no wings may still eat the average dwarf. To take away all the power of a single being is to kill it and thus shows weakness on their part. It does not show a strength on yours.

2012-01-16, 01:23 PM
but a fighter without limbs is as at mercy as a mage without spells. a few minutes work and a good sword... and his true power is gone.

without magic and without movment, one is just as weak as any other. the abilaty to render another so is a sign that you surpase them, and therfore as sign of power.

2012-01-16, 01:30 PM
If the ability to lose power is indicative of a lack of power on your part, than the only truly powerful being would be one that cannot lose its power. Such a creature does not exist. EVERYTHING can lose power, even gods and those that came before even them.

For example, the Draedens predate reality as we understand it, and yet, they have been driven outside of it or trapped within it by multiverse-scale effects. Are they without power? I would argue no, but merely that they play by different rules.

Ultimately, power is about what rules you play with. "True Power", such as it is, is the ability to change the rules you play by, not the ability to prevent the loss of power.

2012-01-16, 01:30 PM
I take it you have never seen a man bite?

The ability to weaken another is not a sign of strength or power. Luck plays a part in that.

The whole point of power is that it has more than one source. Movement may be one and magic another but there are far more than that.

What of luck? Of observance? Of the ability to roll in this case? Power is what allows you to act.

Taking Power from someone is no greater than killing them. Even the most stupid being can kill.

To have your power rely on others, it shows a lack of power yourself. Power must not rely on any being but the self.

2012-01-17, 07:18 PM
but the self is easily destroyed. if you must rely on the self the power is gone when you lose yourself. if you rely on others, your strength has more pillars, and takes more blows to fall.

Jade Dragon
2012-01-17, 10:26 PM
But isn't controlling Luck True Power? Luck will prevent you from losing your limbs or your spells, but it can also cause you to lose your limbs or spells. By controlling Luck, you can prevent the loss of any source of Power, and therefore, you have obtained True Power.

2012-01-17, 11:46 PM
If those without power can take the power of those with power, who has the power?

On a completely unrelated note, why is this in the homebrew section?

2012-01-17, 11:52 PM
Is this in a DnD world? If so, I must disagree with the premise.

Because a man with fists is far easier to kill with one of those "spells" or "amulets" than a well-prepared arcanist.

2012-01-23, 04:33 PM
Power is a +8 to listen bonuses.

Really, it is the ability to have more choices than others. The leader of a country has more power because he/she can choose to do more things than the average person. Power is having options.

Suggestion for the next one: What is magic?

2012-01-23, 05:06 PM
Power is not only transient, it's a completely abstract and arbitrary concept, merely a lazy attempt at ordering the world into boxes.

Arguably, the most powerful man in the world is the president of the USA, whose power is SOLELY based on the people around him, the military, the government, the big businesses, the public who put them there in the first place. The most powerful man in the world is 'powerless' without 'normal' people.

On it's own scale, a preying mantis is a frightfully powerful creature, but a relatively small bird makes it look like a newborn babe, 'powerless'.

A wizard is hugely powerful in his own environment, and equally deadly in most others, but without a spellbook or components, he becomes almost as 'powerless' as a commoner.

Power can't be categorised, rationalised, quantified or classified. It has no direct reference to reality (either this one or the one in which you immerse yourselves at the game table). Simply put;


2012-01-23, 05:35 PM
At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how much you talk about your power being "unto yourself" or not. Someone who can create universes, speak with the gods, transform into anything, become practically immortal, stop time or twist apart the very fabric of reality is more powerful than a guy who can't.

This isn't really a point for debate, unless you're going by a definition of power which is synonymous with self-mastery in which case look to Bruce Lee, who said quite wisely that "all knowledge is ultimately self-knowledge." So if all knowledge is self-knowledge, I'm gonna go with the knowledge that helps me stop time and create universes.

And let's be perfectly honest, there's no such thing as "independent" power. We all need to breathe air, eat food and stand on the ground ... you know, unless we have magic to do that for us. A martial artist's technique is worthless without gravity to help his muscles drive a strike through properly. A wizard's technique is worthless without the fabric of magic but the fabric of magic is generally more ubiquitous than gravity in most settings, so there's one more point for the guy who stops time and creates universes.

Yeah, I'm just gonna have to go out on a limb here and say that the most powerful guy is the one who stops time and creates universes.

On a completely unrelated note, why is this in the homebrew section?


2012-01-23, 05:45 PM
Power is the rate at which energy is transferred, used, or transformed. The dimension of power is energy divided by time. The SI unit of power is the watt (W), which is equal to one joule per second. :smalltongue:

So to define who or what is powerful, we'll look at how fast and in how many different ways they can transfer, use, or transform energy, and in how many different situations. This gets us out of the realm of philosophical mumbo-jumbo, and lets us compare what's important: results.

Spoiler: in context of D&D rules, Wizard wins. :smallwink:

2012-01-23, 09:44 PM
Some say arcane might is true power, others stay cold steel and still more say the power of the gods alone is the key to victory. I say no. Magic may be negated, swords blocked, Gods may turn away in your time of need. True power is in WORDS. Words may rally armies to your cause, and turn your enemy into a stalwart friend. But this is but a fraction of their true power, for true words, true names are something else entirely...

2012-01-24, 09:15 AM
Power is the rate at which energy is transferred, used, or transformed. The dimension of power is energy divided by time. The SI unit of power is the watt (W), which is equal to one joule per second.

Edit: Quoted for Truth.

If your focus is on power, then you are already lost.
Using, transferring, or transforming energy is nice and all, but the real advantage comes with leverage, rather than power.

2012-01-24, 10:25 AM
^This man is learned in the ways of wisdom.

True power is in WORDS.

Oh, I wouldn't say verbal components are all that important. That's what silent spell is for.

But this is but a fraction of their true power, for true words, true names are something else entirely...

Awful? Because that's what truenaming is.

2012-01-24, 08:55 PM
I was trying to do the whole sage thing, while supporting true naming, because I thought it would be hilarious.