On Overpoweredness in the Town, by Douglas Tudor
Some of you may have noted the alarming tendency of Town characters to be incredibly powerful. The more observant of you may have noticed that this is by no means limited to strength of power in a fight. In this essay I intend to explore the extent of overpoweredness in the Town, the causes behind it, and possible solutions.
I. On the Magnitude of the Problem
Many characters in Town are just frankly overpowered; they are so strong and skilled as to defy all sense of modesty, much less realism. But what exactly is “overpowered”? For the purpose of this essay I propose to define it as a state of a character’s being that comes about through the character excelling in any given area or focus to the point of making other characters feel inadequate. Simply put: an overpowered character is too powerful. Some examples of this are a character being immortal, a character being able to beat everyone in a fight, and a character that is immune to certain nonlethal effects. What makes these examples detrimental to role-playing?
Ia. Examples Part One
If a character cannot die, then there is no point in fighting them; when dealing with an immortal character that is specifically against your character there are really only two options. If your character is lacking imprudent they will be killed, if your character is logical they will not even bother to attack that which they cannot kill. Either way, immortal characters who provoke in-character fights only serve to aggravate the players.
If a character is so strong that their attacks would kill anything that was not implausibly invulnerable, they have no business fighting anybody. It is the player’s responsibility to keep these types of characters out of situations that demand in-character fighting. An example of this is Beholder1995’s characters Zealot and Bigot. These characters were incredibly hard to kill and capable of moving extremely swiftly and striking with great force. Moreover, it frequently seemed to the players that their only point was to provoke Lawful or Good characters into fighting, and subsequently losing to, these demigods.
A more controversial form of overpoweredness is a character that is invulnerable, even to beneficial actions, outside of combat
. An example of this type of overpowered character is somebody who cannot be healed, scryed, or aided in a similar matter during the course of nonviolent role-playing. The vast majority of the time this occurs the player attempts to justify it by claiming it is in the name of plot. And while it would not be fun to have a plot related injury or grievance be magicked away with ease, we must recognize that having a character cry out for succor and having one’s own character being unable to provide this aid and in fact able to do little more than stand idly by is extremely frustrating to most players. This counts as being overpowered because it makes other characters feel weak or incompetent.
Ib. Examples Part Two
It is important to note that the state of being overpowered is not just restricted to individual combat. The majority of main characters in the Town have another way to be the best: resources. Whether it is a ridiculous amount of money or a powerful army filled with powerful warriors eager to fight a character’s battles, nearly every player has doled out ample resources to their favorite character. I understand that, for the most part, these characters have excellent and in character reasons for their abundance of resources, but for the purpose of this essay I am putting that aside. To show the magnitude of this form of overpoweredness, I will list several players and their characters; please keep in mind that this list is by no means necessarily current.
The whole premise of FireFox’s character Tobias is that of a cunning strategist in command of a powerful personal army and nation.
Mee’s character Orianna had, and possibly still has, a legion of angelic soldiers under her command.
Beholder1995’s Baron has a large estate and somehow owns a great amount of money.
Quinsar the mage is the master of a large tower with numerous servants, a private army, powerful artifacts, and many other resources.
Lupy’s Archbishop, while also completely inline with the very premise of the character, is also the most egregiously overpowered character in this facet. Millions of powerful soldiers, worlds full of resources, and the personal favor of an omnipotent God all contribute to Lupy’s overpoweredness.
This is by no means a condemnation of any one player; rather, these examples are solely intended to illustrate the scope of the problem.
II. On the Causes of the Problem
Now, why are characters so overpowered? The answer lies in several parts. First, we cannot ignore the physical aspect of the problem: Testosterone. It is not a coincidence that our female friends have no really overpowered characters while almost every male player has at least one. The psychological need for a powerful character or persona stems from the fact that we “Townies” are, for the most part, American males. We collectively hate losing and enjoy having the strongest and toughest characters around. I believe that this is simply a result of our cultural identity. On the other hand, perhaps the answer lies in our individual faults. It is possible, and fairly likely, that any one of us creates an overpowered character as a matter of compensation for our own shortcomings. If this is true, it bears mentioning that we can avoid falling into this trap and still make a perfectly normal character despite how we feel about ourselves.
However, I find the main cause of overpoweredness to be a direct need for powerful characters as a result of the snowball effect. One person brings in an overpowered character, and other players feel the need to match that power with their own character. This need to balance the scales of power stems from an admirable desire to keep the Town fair by keeping one character from dominating over everything. While this seems to work in the short run, it only worsens the problem over time
. By making powerful characters, a player is only fostering the mistaken impression that overpowered characters are acceptable.
III. On Solutions
In order to correct a problem it is first necessary to know both the extent of the problem and the underlying causes. Once these are known it becomes possible to systematically attack the problem in a way that will destroy it permanently. This can be done by first stopping the problem from spreading by neutralizing its causes and then, through the intelligence of the extent of the problem, carefully eliminating ever last vestige of overpoweredness. However, every player who wishes to enjoy Town as a role-playing experience must cooperate to achieve this end
. The people have at least two options. We can either attempt to eliminate overpoweredness immediately and completely, or we can ease into it by taking slow steps to end the problem.
If we decide to try and solve this the fast way, every willing player must tend to their own characters. This can be done in any one of a least three ways: removing the character, fixing the character, or relegating the character to a lesser role. While it is a more drastic measure, one can simply stop playing an overpowered character. It is possible to fix an overpowered character by crippling it or making it less powerful through either making it weaker in a fight or losing the resources that makes it so formidable in the first place. The last option is to take a powerful character and do much less with it. Have it be more of a behind the scenes character that does not interact very much outside of plots. Then you could make a much less powerful character that interacts frequently and does not overly dominate in fights. If every player chooses an option that best suits them and their overpowered character and enacts it immediately we will all be in a suddenly better environment that is more conducive to fair role-playing.
This option may seem to be too hasty or even drastic, so we players may decide to ease into the transition by enacting the options outlined previously at a far slower pace, giving the individual players weeks to plan how they wish to go about this, or setting time aside to develop a plot that results in an overpowered character dramatically becoming more reasonably strong or influential.
In conclusion, characters being so powerful as to be detrimental to the overall quality of the freeform, group role-playing atmosphere are alarmingly common in Town. Regardless of why they exist, they all make things less fun and entertaining for everyone and should be eliminated as conveniently as possible. I strongly urge you all, my friends and fellow players, to reflect on my words and to consider abolishing overpowered characters. It is my belief that doing so can only prove to be extremely beneficial.