Slithering Ink

A writing, character and story advice blog. The Ask Box is OPEN and ready for your questions!

Power Primer Volume 1: The Elements

You Got Your Magic in My Superpowers!

There seems to be an argument regarding whether or not magic can be defined as superpowers and vice versa. In my experience, it depends on what origins you associate with them. In comic book universes (like DC) magic and superpowers are separate entities, stemming from different places. Magic is often supernatural while superpowers have a more worldly explanation. As such, it creates a system of checks and balances between characters who have superpowers and those who can use magic. For instance, Superman in all of his overpowered glory, is weak against magic.

Of course, you don’t have to separate the two because when it comes down to it, they’re the same thing. Yeah you heard me, magic = superpowers and you can do just about anything you want with them, the only limitation being your imagination!

The Elements

This is probably the most commonly used set of powers out there, and for good reason. You can do a ton of different things with them! A lot of what your character is going to be able to do will depend on their knowledge, skill, experience and the limitations that you’ve set for your world. The lists below will hopefully help you figure out a power set, but not that they aren’t all-inclusive.

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  • Mainset: FireFire projectiles of all shapes and sizes, create walls, firestorms, control heat, manifest and control fire, rain of fire, use fire as boosters to fly, ignite weapons, user is immune to heat and fire, withstand high temperature environments, may be able to control surrounding environmental temperatures, boil targets alive from the inside, fire breath, fire aura, fire absorption, turn into fire, fire armor, healing fire, summoning demons or spirits from fire, fire constructs, or flammable blood.

  • Subset: Hellfire The user can manipulate the fires of Hell. Hellfire is generally a different color from other types of fire and is summoned from the plane of Hell. Hellfire doesn’t have to kill the target but can instead cause incredible amounts of pain. Hellfire is also very hard, if not impossible to extinguish and burns underwater.

  • Subset: Holy Fire Holy Fire is the righteous fire of Heaven, especially effective against evil. It focuses on the purifying aspect of fire. It’s generally white or light in color, having the power to immobilize or trap instead of kill if deemed by the user. It’s also incredibly hard to extinguish.

  • Subset: Dark Fire This focuses on the destructive aspect of fire. Dark Fire is generally black or purple in color and can incinerate a target to the point where nothing is left of them, not even ash. Dark Fire incinerates everything, even water and other kinds of flame. Like the other fire subsets, it can’t be extinguished by normal means.

  • Subset: Lava/MagmaThis can also be a subset of Earth. The user can control magma within the planet as well as lava that’s already erupted. The user also may be able to manipulate geothermal energy.

  • Subset: Solar – The user can control the fires of the sun. Depending on the power level of the character, this can be done at a distance.

  • Subset: Phoenix User may be able to resurrect from flame or ash if killed. In this manner, the user may also be immortal.

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  • Mainset: Water Water projectiles, ocean control including waves of tsunami size and parting the sea, constructs and elementals, rain and storm control, underwater breathing, may be able to withstand cold temperatures and higher pressure, pressure manipulation, use of water as a propellant, control of moisture in the air, walls, water walking, water armor, manifest and control water, water breath, become water, control water in the human body (similar to blood bending in Avatar), remove water from the human body (dehydration) to the point where a person turns to dust, add water to the human body so a person bursts, absorb water, control water at the cellular level or infuse objects with water.

  • Subset: Ice – You can freeze water, giving you greater control of your abilities. You can create ice slicks, control ice storms, blizzards, have an immunity to cold and ice effects, absorb ice, create ice weapons, objects and structures, surround yourself with ice (ice block), immobilize targets, etc.

  • Subset: Dark Water – Dark water is the evil subset of water, and is often near sentient. The basis of dark water stems from a fear of drowning that’s manifested into tangible form. Dark water seeks to kill, to drown targets, destroying everything, even normal water. It is all-consuming. Demons, fear constructs and undead can be created and summoned from dark water.

  • Subset: White Water – This focuses on the purifying and healing aspects of water. White water is often lighter colored than other water and may give off a holy aura.

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  • Mainset: Electricity Lightning bolts, ball lightning (travels through walls), electrically charged projectiles of all shapes and sizes, electric shields, barriers and auras, static electricity, electric energy control and manipulation, electric absorption (may be able to boost your power level in this way), immunity to electricity, electric constructs and elementals, travel by turning into electricity (speed of light), light manipulation, electrical dispersion (may be difficult or impossible to hit), may have an immunity or resistance to heat, melting certain substances with electrically generated heat, may be able to knock out or paralyze foes, levitation, healing with electricity, may be able to manipulate and pull certain objects, breath weapon, electroreception and teleportation.

  • Subset: Electromagnetism You’re able to create and manipulate magnetic fields. You can release an EMP blast to disrupt electronic devices or even fly using electromagnetic repulsion. You may also be able to control metals via magnetism.

  • Subset: Bioelectricity – The ability to control electricity generated by the human body. You may have fine control over the electrical (and electrochemical) impulses of the nervous system, allowing you to turn your target into a helpless meat puppet. You may extend that control to the brain, implanting or removing memories as you please, even completely wiping a target’s mind if need be.

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  • Mainset: AirConcentrated air blasts, air bullets, weather control (hurricanes, tornadoes, etc, as well as being able to move weather formations from place to place), air control and manipulation, walls, armor and barriers, constructs and elementals, density control and phasing, air walking, flight, levitation, air as a speed booster (super speed and air dashing), increased jumping, the ability to turn air into a solid, transform into air, vacuum creation, manifestation of air in vacuum environments, fine control like creating air embolisms in a target’s bloodstream, temperature control via air movement, control on a chemical level allowing you to determine the make up of air, wind control, teleportation, moving and transporting objects using air and pressure manipulation.

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  • Mainset: Earth – Projectiles of all shapes and sizes, earth control and manipulation, walls, shields and armor, move mountains, cause landslides of rock and mud, create constructs and elementals, transform into different aspects of earth, draw from the earth to increase your physical strength, create structures and weapons made from earth, gem and mineral manipulation, earth healing, movement (dive underground and the earth around you propels you forward or move the earth beneath you), create new landscapes and manipulate environments, may be able to withstand intense pressure, element manipulation (fine control over natural occurring elements) and earth sense (detect people around you through your connection to the planet or use vibration).

  • Subset: Metal – You have the ability to control and manipulate naturally found metals. You may be able to pull metals to you or propel them away.

  • Subset: Sand You can control and manipulate sand, create sandstorms, sand tombs (force sand into the lungs of your target), and sand projectiles.

  • Subset: Nature – You are so in tune with your earth powers, that you have control over the forces of nature. You may be able to control plant and animal life, as well as create it. You can do things like summon roots and vines to entangle targets, unleash packs of wild beasts or even animate plants to devour a target. You may have control over natural toxins, have the power to become or infuse yourself with the abilities of a certain animal, manipulate forests, heal wounds, resurrect targets or cure disease.

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  • Mainset: Spirit The ability to control and manipulate the human soul. You may be able to commune with the spirits or realm of the dead. You may also be able to see the dead.

  • Subset: Light – This represents the good or positive side of the human soul. Powers may include Holy-based sets like light control and manipulation, emanation, healing, holy fire, attribute enhancements (super speed, super strength), banishment of evil, light prisons, holy breath, holy aura, holy weapons, armor, barriers and constructs, voice of God (also called holy voice), angelic transformation, spirit summoning, resurrection, regeneration, flight, teleportation, invulnerability and immortality.

  • Subset: Darkness This represents the evil or negative side of the human soul. Powers may include darkness/shadow control and manipulation, summoning demons and elementals, construct creation, dark energy blasts, necromancy, regeneration, invulnerability, immortality, flight (manifestation of wings), energy draining, the power to rot targets and destroy life, dark vision, dark breath, transformation into demons or other dark beings, possession, fear, illusion and shadow teleportation.

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References:

Checks and Balances

It’s pretty easy to balance out elemental power sets if you have some common sense and are aware of exceptions. These are my musings:

  • Fire Gets canceled by enough water unless it’s a kind of fire that either burns hot enough to destroy water or can’t be extinguished (hell, holy or dark usually). Fire trumps ice, can be fueled or put out (if air is removed) by air powers or smothered by earth powers. Fire burns nature and would probably put up a good fight against electric, light or dark.

  • Water – Extinguishes fire or evaporates, gets frozen by ice, washes away or is contained by earth, conducts electricity, and would probably put up a good fight against air, light or dark.

  • Electricity Would struggle against earth only in the sense that earth powers can produce substances that are insulators, however the force of a lightning bolt can split trees and shatter stone. The heat can also turn earth into glass. It should put up a good fight against the others. Bioelectricity is incredibly overpowered but may require some form of concentration.

  • Air Storms can ravage earth and destroy nature, air can suffocate fire if the user is smart. It would put up a good fight against the others.

  • Earth Would do well against fire since it has the ability to contain. Nature could be destroyed by fire though, or water, or ice. It’s the set that’s thematically the most physical and could produce characters that are very difficult to hurt.

  • Light and Dark These sets are built to counter each other. How they perform depends on the specifics of the powers. I think that these sets are the easiest to become overpowered as they can counter all of the other sets with not a lot of thought, often stepping into the supernatural angel and demon territory. They can also be combined with the other elements to make unique powers.

-Morgan