About the OP versus Not-OP debate....

#1
This is primarily looking for a consensus -- I don't know if this is the right place, but okay for now.

In one forum I've replied to someone, where the requester is looking for an OP MC, that my own story might fit that bill, at a later point. Right now, the story is still too early on to tell this, though.

My query is more on the nature of what is or is not "OP". In my own story, it will in future chapters be revealed that the main character, having come from Earth, is "empowered" by the process of opening the transdimensional tunnel/portal between worlds. As formalized "Heroes" (capital H for merely titular importance) from Earth are known to be to denizens of that other world, all of them will have some innate abilities surpassing that of "normal peasantry". It may not be so huge a difference as to what normal individuals with a trace of ability would think threatening; but I've heard the classic saying that in a room full of blind people, a person with even just one seeing eye could be king.

Is "OP-ness" delimited by how much ability the character has by him/her self alone, or does it take into account the amount of power in relation to normal people around them? My world features people who are without power -- except for the minority of the total population who are members of royalty, or in service to such royalty. And in most cases of governance, it's the norm to dispose of the unwanted upon one whole continent set aside by agreement of all the nations, as a disposal place for their rebels and rejects. Maybe think "Hunger Games" but without the games. The kingdoms of the world (some of them anyway) might be on the verge of going from a middle-Medieval era to a slightly Victorian era, except nearly all these nations are too deadlocked into warring with each other.

As medieval-fantasy, magic is part of the problem, and maybe solution, but those with magic like to keep it tightly under control or fear losing their perceived power. It's in this constructed scenario that I wonder, if my main character/protagonist is given the capacity/capability to change/influence a whole world, ... does that make him "Over Powered"? Or, merely just "Empowered" or "Powered" where few else have that power?

See, my opinion is that my MC isn't so "OP" but is certainly "E" or "P". For the adventure to not be a cakewalk for him, this world has to have a group of people (admittedly few) with the chance to stop his heroic action. Also since his intent will be to share some of this empowerment with the otherwise unwanted/disposed ones, it's within a sort of "levelling mechanic" for decreasing a gap in the ... whatever it's called.

RE: About the OP versus Not-OP debate....

#3
OP is really about what kind of drama engine your story has. 

Someone threatens your character. Is the audience just waiting for your character to reveal how powerful they really are to the unsuspecting poor fool who insulted and disrespected them? (YOU DON'T KNOW WHO YOU'RE MESSING WITH BUT YOU'RE ABOUT TO FIND OUT!) That's OP. 

If the audience is wondering if the character is going to get rescued, run away,  or talk their way out of the situation that they're in, that's non-OP.

RE: About the OP versus Not-OP debate....

#4
Yes, "environment" matters. Superhero stories are pretty good at showing the difference ... Batman is badass compared to some normal guy, but compared to the threat he's going against he isn't OP. Superman meanwhile needed krypton introduced to be in even remotely threatening situations ... 

And that can be translated for most typical heroes: Luke is the "Chosen One" archetype in Star Wars, but he's still not OP, since the Empire/Imperator/Vader are big enough antagonists.

OP character usually pop up in the typical wish-fulfillment stories we have here. Sometimes it's used for comedic effect - at least I can think of a bunch of web novels where that's true; like Average Abilities (not average at all of course) - but more often than not it's primary purpose seems to be to avoid actually having to come up with a reason as to why the hero/ine would win. They just do. Because they are OP. No effort required, either on the writer's or the character's side. ^^

RE: About the OP versus Not-OP debate....

#5
5/15/2018 11:03:24 AMPyottl Wrote: [ -> ]avoid actually having to come up with a reason as to why the hero/ine would win. They just do. Because they are OP. No effort required, either on the writer's or the character's side. ^^

Ah; good distinctions, I suppose. Probably the main reason why I dropped from going the LitRPG route -- I was really tempted to play it out like a game setting, but then that requires handling all the stats and screens. It might slow some stories to a crawl, calculating all that....

RE: About the OP versus Not-OP debate....

#6
5/15/2018 11:03:24 AMPyottl Wrote: [ -> ]OP character usually pop up in the typical wish-fulfillment stories we have here. Sometimes it's used for comedic effect - at least I can think of a bunch of web novels where that's true; like Average Abilities (not average at all of course) - but more often than not it's primary purpose seems to be to avoid actually having to come up with a reason as to why the hero/ine would win. They just do. Because they are OP. No effort required, either on the writer's or the character's side. ^^


In discussions I've had on other forums, some friends and I have talked more about "Mary Sue" problems than about "Overpowered" problems, but I think it amounts to much the same thing in practice. If the main character of the story is able to overcome each "challenge" in about ten seconds flat, because of her Sheer Awesomeness, over and over, without ever breaking a sweat or suffering a temporary setback, then something is terribly wrong with the way this plot has been structured. But that shouldn't be blamed on the character -- it's the author's fault for not creating challenges which can actually give the protagonist some serious headaches along the way. 

As I understand it, "Mary Sue" is a term that was first used in the 1970s when Star Trek fans were criticizing some of the over-the-top fan fiction written by other Star Trek fans, and the original meaning was something along these lines: "I think this story was written by a fan who has inserted a newly-created female crewmember into the regular cast of the original TV series, and then allows that female character to live a life of shameless wish-fulfillment based on the author's daydreams. For instance, if the author is in love with Spock, then Spock falls madly in love with the Mary Sue at first glance. Furthermore, the Mary Sue is a better pilot than Mr. Sulu, is better at diagnosing and treating an obscure alien disease than Dr. McCoy, is better at fixing engine trouble than Mr. Scott, and is better at making brilliant tactical decisions in the middle of a space battle than Captain Kirk! She never fails at anything, and that's final -- the author always stacks the deck in favor of the pet character who is loosely based on the author herself!" 

That is my understanding of what "Mary Sue" originally meant, in practice, although people have given it other shades of meaning in the decades since the 1970s.

RE: About the OP versus Not-OP debate....

#7
5/16/2018 1:23:32 AMLorendiac Wrote: [ -> ]In discussions I've had on other forums, some friends and I have talked more about "Mary Sue" problems than about "Overpowered" problems, but I think it amounts to much the same thing in practice. If the main character of the story is able to overcome each "challenge" in about ten seconds flat, because of her Sheer Awesomeness, over and over, without ever breaking a sweat or suffering a temporary setback, then something is terribly wrong with the way this plot has been structured. But that shouldn't be blamed on the character -- it's the author's fault for not creating challenges which can actually give the protagonist some serious headaches along the way. 
As I understand it, "Mary Sue" is a term that was first used in the 1970s when Star Trek fans were criticizing some of the over-the-top fan fiction written by other Star Trek fans, and the original meaning was something along these lines: "I think this story was written by a fan who has inserted a newly-created female crewmember into the regular cast of the original TV series, and then allows that female character to live a life of shameless wish-fulfillment based on the author's daydreams. For instance, if the author is in love with Spock, then Spock falls madly in love with the Mary Sue at first glance. Furthermore, the Mary Sue is a better pilot than Mr. Sulu, is better at diagnosing and treating an obscure alien disease than Dr. McCoy, is better at fixing engine trouble than Mr. Scott, and is better at making brilliant tactical decisions in the middle of a space battle than Captain Kirk! She never fails at anything, and that's final -- the author always stacks the deck in favor of the pet character who is loosely based on the author herself!" 
That is my understanding of what "Mary Sue" originally meant, in practice, although people have given it other shades of meaning in the decades since the 1970s.

All very good analysis; that connection between OP and Mary Sue you have explained quite well. I'd already heard of a "self insert" character but hadn't made the connection that it was more directly analogous to OP.

So ... I can write an OP character, and try to do so well, in fact, without being Mary Sue? (If overpowered or empowered is at least some point in a story's nature...)

In lieu of not being able to somehow favorite or pin a thread response, here's a +1 for you.

RE: About the OP versus Not-OP debate....

#8
To me, this is a bit like the harem-problem. Of course you can write a great harem story with nuanced interactions; or that's great comedy with surprising depth and unexpected plot twists. 

But most likely it'll be crap.

I think OP protagonists are similar. Comedy is of course a way to handle it - they are OP, but it doesn't matter, since the story you are writing isn't about overcoming challenges, it's about something else altogether. 
For example, Astro Fighter Sunred is a Power Rangers sort of parody, with emphasis on what a basically retired "ranger" would do in their everyday life ... and typically of the "red" character, he's super-powerful and the bad guys never really have a chance.

But it doesn't matter since it's more about the fact that the guy is a useless slob who doesn't have a job. While the bad guy is some nice neighbor who gives cleaning tips and hands out baking recipes.

There's plenty of manga/anime example of that sort of thing.

Or it could be a direct parody of OP-ness, like One-Punch Man. Or something different altogether.

Another way is to mitigate the OP-factor: they might have some blind spot (like for example Nono in Aim for the Top is simply stupid, no matter how powerful she is), or some weakness (not necessarily their power, but also stuff like people they care about or whatever), or their OP-ness could only happen after a long journey there so the reader feels "they deserve a break now" and so on.

I think generally people here kinda try to do some of that - on some instictive level I feel we all understand that a character that's 100% perfect and has no weakness or anything doesn't work. So authors here make their character lazy, for example. But it's usually half-assed and not really to the point where it actually makes the plot more interesting. It's tokenism, a concession that a character shouldn't be "perfect", but then it's usually done by giving them a negative attribute that's not very negative at all; or that doesn't lead to developments that actually matter too much.

In a more general sense, I think it's overall accepted that litRPGs have a tendency towards OP-ness; or at least part of the trope is definitely giving the protagonist some unique "somethingsomething" (usually a skill or multiple skills) and thus a certain level of OP-ness is already build into the genre, basically. I don't think that's bad; sometimes you just the literary equivalent of Die Hard, where somebody badass goes and kicks ass.

What's important is to not take it too far. McClane is still human. He's precisely badass because he's a normal person who turned badass. Not because he's got some [Immortality] skill and so you know he can't be hurt by enemy goons anyway. That's just boring (even if rationally anyone will know that a protagonist has enough plot armor to at least survive to the end...).

RE: About the OP versus Not-OP debate....

#9
My story has elements of it for which I do and do not want OP to be in it. Difficult to find a balance, unless I just go "all OP, all the time" -- and that isn't me as a writer. No, my MC isn't "You insulted me, now die", he's more "Do what you want to me, but leave my friends out of it and fight like a ___" (whatever word of morality that would incite someone to fight for a pure reason or in an honorable fashion).

I have one future scene unwritten, that I'm trying to decide which side of overpowered/empowered the MC is or should be. Naturally, it's because I was borrowing thematically from a certain song's themes -- Imagine Dragons' Radioactive -- from its official music video. The one where a girl carries a covered cage with a fluffy creature in it to some kind of pit fight....

This being in a fantsy world, there's some secret OP demon clan that has powers matching or exceding the Heroes from Earth; they've been capturing villagers and whatnot for sport play, and -- you know what, just replace the demon clan with a prototypical goblin or orc war party that captures the females for breeding, and you have a setup, but moreso because demons versus humans.

If I sync up the visuals of the imagined scene to that music video, then where the girl with the cage is walking down a road, the MC is also out on a stroll in the world. Where the girl pauses at the sight of the rundown shack, my MC is told by a man running toward him that the MC's party (sisters + 1 maybe-girlfriend of MC + various female NPCs/villagers) has been captured by said demon clan.

Cue the music video's montage of monster pit-fights; as the clan is forcing a similar pit-fight with captees versus their own champion, my MC is racing toward where the demon clan is known to be. They will clash and he will get his friends back. It's just the point at which I'm deciding how it all goes down.






Okay, so I also want to mention I've been thinking, my definition of OP should take into consideration maybe a thing or two about the scenario.

  • how quick or slow he is to initiate a fight, or if he throws down a proverbial gauntlet before attacking (i.e., alerting them to his presence before starting a fight)

  • whether any physical/psychological/verbal "posturing" is done in a lead-up to a battle

  • how untouchable/undamageable he is by that enemy (affects maybe how much of a "chance" the opponent will have vs him; he thinks it should be a fair fight)

  • how much damage he has to dish out to finish a fight or conquer the opponent

  • how much respect or standing-down the enemy is likely to do, after said conflict

I don't believe he'd do any posturing; in the scene I've imagined he goes emotionless under the necessity of tactical analysis in combat (like Sato Yu in some later scene from web novel TDADP).

The fourth point affects how long the fight lasts ("one hit kill" vs "it's been a 3 hr fight"); changes to it alter a scenario ("knock 'em out/grab friends/run like hell before enemy wakes" vs "wipe out the enemy entirely and walk home victorious").

Well, ah, I suppose, a hero could be OP, and yet circumstantially hold back on all of the OP-ness (sort of what I want for the whole story)....

RE: About the OP versus Not-OP debate....

#10
Having your OP character conceal their OPness is actually a super common trope in the web fiction sphere - it's really not hard to justify and if that's how you want to write it more power to you. 



Also:

Quote:"one hit kill" vs "it's been a 3 hr fight"




That right there is pretty much the difference between an OP character and a not OP character, if you ask me. Unless they spend the 3 hours fucking around ofc. But if it takes the MC a serious investment of time / effort to beat the opponent then he isn't OP relative to their setting.

RE: About the OP versus Not-OP debate....

#11
5/16/2018 2:16:23 PMPyottl Wrote: [ -> ]To me, this is a bit like the harem-problem. Of course you can write a great harem story with nuanced interactions; or that's great comedy with surprising depth and unexpected plot twists. 

But most likely it'll be crap.

I think OP protagonists are similar. Comedy is of course a way to handle it - they are OP, but it doesn't matter, since the story you are writing isn't about overcoming challenges, it's about something else altogether.


Something that might amuse you: 

I have no intention of writing a harem story with a protagonist who is OP in the romantic sense because he is utterly irresistible to any and all members of the opposite sex who catch his eye. But I have been fooling around with the first few chapters of a story which is meant to have a subplot that makes fun of that concept.

Basically, the story starts out this way: In a medieval fantasy world lightly based on a tabletop roleplaying game (but without the characters knowing anything about "game mechanics" or other meta stuff), there's a sincere young man who has just finished his Paladin training and is now seeking adventure out on the wild frontier. A new adventuring party soon coalesces around him. As it happens, the other adventurers in this new team are all reasonably attractive young women (of one humanoid race or another). This was not by design; the young Paladin was willing to team up with anybody, regardless of gender or species, if they seemed fairly capable and reliable when it was time to go fight monsters. 

The Paladin is not trying to get romantically involved with any of the women. He has sworn vows which he takes very seriously regarding "honorable behavior." What his female companions most like about him as a partner in adventure is that he is a very clean-living sort who always speaks courteously to women, doesn't make sexually-charged remarks, doesn't have a bad case of wandering hands, doesn't believe the best way to celebrate a recent victory is to get stinking drunk, and -- perhaps most importantly -- he can be trusted not to abscond with other people's shares of the loot after the party has completed a successful dungeon crawl. From their point of view, all this puts him way ahead of about 98 percent of the other male adventurers in the region. (Some of these young women have tried teaming up with some of those other male adventurers in the past, so they ought to know.)

My plan is that after the party has gained a bit of fame in the region, other people (mostly those other male adventurers I mentioned) will start making lots of jokes about "that lucky Paladin who is building up a harem! How does he do it?" (After all, with one guy and at least three girls all traveling together, there must be something steamy going on between them, right?) At first, the Paladin will be blissfully unaware of this gossip in the background. Then, when he does hear mention of the idea that he has his own little "harem," his first reaction will be to laugh at such a silly joke which clearly is meant to be outrageously over-the-top. 

Then he eventually realizes that some people really believe this "harem" nonsense, and his training never covered the tricky subject of "what to do if strange rumors are spreading about your insatiable libido." (Perhaps his teachers optimistically assumed that no one would ever believe such a thing of a real paladin in the first place?)

All that won't be the main focus of the plot -- just a situation that gradually develops whenever the adventuring party comes back to town after another foray into the wilderness to fight monsters and gather treasure. I figure it will add a little humor and let me make fun of some of the stereotypes. The Paladin won't be conquering women with virtually irresistible charm (as a "Gary Stu" -- male equivalent of "Mary Sue" -- might do), but he will discover to his horror that some people honestly think that he is, in fact, the Main Character in a classic Harem Fantasy! (And of course his female allies will have a few opinions of their own on that subject.)

RE: About the OP versus Not-OP debate....

#12
Well, this mostly sounds like the typical harem lead in an anime (the nice, clueless virgin boy), so I don't see this as particularly subversive. I mean, if you actually avoid the girls fawning over him, it's at least "no harm done", but it's still not something that sounds very appealing to me; at least from the summary, sorry ^^;


5/18/2018 6:41:49 AMsinkingship Wrote: [ -> ]Having your OP character conceal their OPness is actually a super common trope in the web fiction sphere - it's really not hard to justify and if that's how you want to write it more power to you.

Yeah. I think this needs to be emphasized: readers on here like OP stories. Maybe under a critical eye many of them are very flawed in terms of plotting out stuff, but it doesn't change that people enjoy them. So it shouldn't be taken as a "for the love of the goddess, don't do this!" 

But if the goal is to avoid the OP trope then I agree; this just sounds like window-dressing, not actually avoiding the trope. But it's tough to decide from just the situation described -
basically, if the villagers go "oh chosen one, save our women!" and the hero goes "leave it to me!" and then makes a bit of a plan and with minimal mishaps achieves all his goals and comes back with everybody happy and the bad guys defeated it's most likely OP stuff.

If meanwhile the hero wants to help but feels it'd be better if he had more time to plan and more actual support, but feels forced to act because the lives of those kidnapped is in peril, and then makes some plan, is determined but perhaps apprehensive about it; then executes his plan, and some things work, and some things don't, and he needs to have some luck and sheer grit to get through it, and the bad guys manage to counter some of his moves with plans of their own, and maybe he doesn't rescue everyone (or maybe not even anyone...) and he makes it out injured and bleeding and maybe with a bunch of new scars and so on ... then likely it's not OP.

I mean, basically just avoid having the heroes always getting everything right and make them actually work for their goals. It's more difficult to write, since you need to find actual reasons as to why people win or lose, and you need to plan a bit more for the bad guys 'cause they need their own counter-plans and such, but it's also very rewarding. More satisfying to win against proper odds than just "cheating" and being done with it ^^

RE: About the OP versus Not-OP debate....

#13
5/18/2018 11:53:35 AMPyottl Wrote: [ -> ]But if the goal is to avoid the OP trope then I agree; this just sounds like window-dressing, not actually avoiding the trope. But it's tough to decide from just the situation described -
basically, if the villagers go "oh chosen one, save our women!" and the hero goes "leave it to me!"

That last bit gave me a deliberate chuckle; I see how that could happen, just not in this story. Nope; not avoiding the tope -- I'd go as hard-OP as I thought the story needed to be; but maybe I'm just trying to refine the breaking point.

5/18/2018 11:53:35 AMPyottl Wrote: [ -> ]If meanwhile the hero wants to help but feels it'd be better if he had more time to plan and more actual support, but feels forced to act because the lives of those kidnapped is in peril, and then makes some plan, is determined but perhaps apprehensive about it; then executes his plan, and some things work, and some things don't, and he needs to have some luck and sheer grit to get through it, and the bad guys manage to counter some of his moves with plans of their own, and maybe he doesn't rescue everyone (or maybe not even anyone...) and he makes it out injured and bleeding and maybe with a bunch of new scars and so on ... then likely it's not OP.

That's a lot closer to what I'm feeling, with variations; I haven't really settled on the fantasy-world combat aspects yet, so it will be more adaptable later.

5/18/2018 11:53:35 AMPyottl Wrote: [ -> ]basically just avoid having the heroes always getting everything right and make them actually work for their goals. ... More satisfying to win against proper odds than just "cheating" and being done with it

Exactly this. What I'm aiming to do.... Of course the temptation is to give the Hero(es) magic that can be fired off from a distance, and have them do just that.

--

As long as we're sharing about other stories & ideas, in my 2nd novel here I was working on setting up a mildly OP character but that due to emotional damage he doesn't believe he's so special. Like Lorendiac mentioned for that paladin story, I also attemp a deconstruction or subversion or some variant of them, about the harem trope. I won't "make fun of" the concept, but the MC is certainly on an emotional roller coaster of a sort, some of it his own fault, and some of it done to him in cruelty.

The MC is a young guy who's been summoned to a fantasy world's kingdom, but I don't have a twist ending, I have a twist beginning. Both he and his sister died on Earth/a Japan-ish country, from being captured by thugs and tortured and raped and stabbed to death, and both he and she are offered separate chances to survive and reunite some day; he spends a lot of time thinking how he can find his little sister. With help from the goddess in charge of that world, he has managed to turn the tables on everyone in the world (I think big in such plots) but soon ends up out and about in the world more or less on his own ... plus a few females tagging along.

To be honest, to prevent it from becoming a "typical OP hero" story (I don't mind OP, I just wanted to write a flawed character for this story) he is/was a gentlemanly honorable young man who *asks* them to come along; it doesn't stop them from developing feelings for him anyway. Plus I'm giving him a bit of anxiety and a damaged past, enough so that he just keeps telling them that he's like a broken pottery jar, just broken. He has the will to do what's necessary in his existing in this world, except a slight resistance to believing he should be happy and in a relationship with someone.

Re: About the OP versus Not-OP debate....

#14
It's all relative.

For example, if the protag beats an opponent in one move, that may be considered "OP."

But, looking further into this, it may not be. It all depends on why/how the protag got to be this strong to defeat his opponent in one move.

Is there a big level difference between the two? (Is the protag a much higher level?)
Was the opponent careless and made a mistake, and the protag took advantage of that?

Or quite simply--assuming everything else is equal--the protag is just simply that much stronger than the opponent (...and possibly everyone else).

So, IMO:

If the protag worked hard and trained hard to get to where he is, then he isn't OP because he's earned the power he's gained. (The amount of power he has accumulated under this method doesn't matter....even if he's trained to become a God. Just know that it would be very unfair for the rest of the characters/antagonists and if there's no competition for the protag, it would make for a stale story. So, if your protag gains godlike powers under legit and reasonable circumstances, it would be a good idea to also have other characters/antagonists equally as strong, or stronger.)

However, if he's put little effort and has magically been endowed with the powers of a God where no one can stand up to him, then yes, I would say that's OP.


Power, no matter the level or quantity, is a non-factor in storytelling so long as another character(s) has an equal amount of power. (In story telling, it's best if an antagonist has this same level of power, or an even greater one.)

**Just be careful with the pacing and progression of powerleveling progression. You want a good, steady and reasonable progression of powerlevel progression. Because you don't want to start chapter 1 with a protag barely lifting a 30lb rock, and then by the next chapter they are destroying planets. Lol.**

(Stories that do that ^ are where the MCs are truly classified as OP. They magically gain superpowers overnight.)


Nonetheless, many people love OP protags, because they want to see pure ownage of the protag against his enemies. It's essentially a superhero story for them, and it's quite thrilling to see bad people getting stomped and owned.

But what makes it a turn off for some people is that it's very unrealistic (especially if you don't have development and good pacing in powerleveling progression), and may seem too over the top sometimes, or too easy for problem solving (like snapping your fingers and bam! your problems are solved and your enemies are lying dead on the ground).
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