The Generic Villain on Heroes Powering Up

A while back, I wrote about how we could increase our ability levels to compensate for the inevitable heroic power levels. But while staying constant with them is Dramatically Interesting and thus sanctioned by the Laws of Dramatics, there’s no rule saying we can’t try to counter their typical ways of gaining power. Fortunately, most of these ways are similar to our ways, so here’s how to counter those.

  • Items of Great Power. There are a lot of ways that one can circumvent an Item of Great Power. Someone who knows the item’s out there might be able to get to it first, then destroy it if they can’t use it (yes, I know, it’s traditional to seal it away, but tradition gets us defeated and clichéd rather than just defeated) or use it if they can, maybe leaving a decoy in its place either way. If the hero’s already got it, there’s good old theft, dangling a hostage, and other means of separating hero from Shiny. But that’s not all. If you’ve got the foreknowledge (and if evil is your business, knowing about all Major Relics is part of the job description), there’s also trying to get some rumors seeded saying that the particularly shiny MacGuffins of Making Your Life Difficult are tainted, or require some sort of dark price—if the heroes are leery of using them, it probably won’t save you in the endgame on its own, but it’ll make them hesitate, and it might make them a little more careless about their shinies. For extra credit, spread rumors that they’re the key to your continued survival, and actively impede any and all attempts to destroy them. Don’t you love how heroes always do what they think you don’t want them to?
  • Deals with their sponsors. This is one of the places where the heroes have all the advantages, since they’re serving the Forces of Sweetness, Light and Fluffy Bunnies, who of course will selflessly grant them all the power they need if they’d just be willing to protect the ingrates who envy them for their power and can’t value them for what they truly are and still sell to them at full price when the world’s about to end…. you get the idea. The short version is, their deals with their sponsors aren’t as self-destructive. They’re also a lot harder to interfere with… but not impossible. The Light really doesn’t like to see its heroes misbehaving. If you can start making the heroes choose between their sponsors’ ideals and their sponsors’ agendas, push their moral codes so far they start wandering into our moral territory in attempting to enforce them, and otherwise tarnish the Shining Champions of the Light, there’s a strong chance their sponsors will take the nice gifts back.
  • Fortunately for us, heroes don’t generally steal power. They are, however, likely to inherit it, usually from their Wise Mentors or other inconvenient dying or dead things. Unfortunately for us, the most convenient answer to this is not to kill people anywhere near the heroes (though it does also mean we’re not getting the inevitable backlash from killing people in front of them), particularly not Wise Old Mentors, powerful spirits or other potential sources of magical oomph. But that’s okay. Taking them far away before killing them, or having some sort of portable power-transfer-squelching apparatus, means that we can try to steal that power for ourselves.
  • On the other hand, holding back their true power to make us underestimate them is one of those things that heroes do best. It’s annoying, but it’s hard for us to avoid. Ways we can get around it are underestimating them too far, so they start letting off with more just to prove us wrong; perpetually overestimating them, which is generally reliable but occasionally leads to issues when we’re assuming intelligence and they bypass our contingencies with sheer idiocy; or holding back as well, so when they toss off their training weights, reveal their Move, or what have you, we can do the same thing. Gethin’s working on a device that should limit their actual power level to their initial apparent power level, but it still explodes too often to make taking it into the field workable.
  • Teamwork. One sometimes wonders if heroes have little magnets in them that pull anyone with even the slightest modicum of narrative importance towards their side; it would certainly explain how they manage to recruit so easily. The little suckers attract allies like a corpse attracts carrion birds. The nice thing about this, though, is that parties of protagonists are rather like atoms; as the number of the particles in the nucleus increases, the mutual repulsions between the individual particles become strong enough to outweigh the strong nuclear force (played in this case by Narrative Causality and the PeeCee Aura) keeping them together. From there, it’s just a matter of applying the usual intra-hero-party dissension-spreading techniques, then standing back and watching the radiation.

So don’t limit yourself to just increasing your own skills; be ready to counteract those of your foes as well. We need every advantage we can get to balance out Narrative Causality.

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