Antagonist Abilities
These powers are unfair, which is why the Antagonist has them.


(permanent link) added: 2013-11-17 10:53:01 sponsor: KingZeal (last reply: 2013-12-24 16:37:40)

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Antagonist Abilities are "unfair" powers which inherently prevent The Hero from fighting the villain on equal terms, forcing them to use an Outside-the-Box Tactic.

Antagonist Abilities are almost always an antithesis to Heroic Spirit. The pattern is simple: where the Protagonist needs to take risks and be brave, the antagonist's abilities are safe and secure. If the hero worked hard to be powerful, the antagonist's ability makes their hard work worthless. Where the hero struggles and suffers for his power, there is little to no downside at all for the antagonist. One clear example is when the antagonist's power turns the protagonist's against them, or makes them unable to use it effectively.

Powers of this nature primarily serve as a Foil for the aforementioned Heroic Spirit. It's an effective way of demonstrating that Evil Is Easy, or that Misery Builds Character. It also serves as a good way to make the hero an underdog, because the Conflict is rigged from the beginning.

Just to be clear, let's summarize the conditions that create this trope:

  1. The hero is strong or skilled, but needs a lot of effort to use it.
  2. The antagonist's ability does not match the hero with similar strength, skill, or effort. It prevents, detects, avoids, deflects, sabotages, steals, or otherwise compromises the hero's abilities in indirect (and often, greatly unsatisfying) ways.

Even if the good guys have an ability on this list, it's usually with restrictions or rules that don't apply to the antagonist. Often, the villain wants to steal those powers for himself, for that very reason, knowing that they'll be far more deadly than the hero ever was.

This is not to be confused with Bad Powers, Bad People, which is more about powers that are cruel or inherently harmful to others. While it can overlap with this trope, this is more about powers that are considered more "unfair" in a fight.

When this happens in a Video Game it leads to an SNK Boss that invokes Rules Are For Humans or My Rules Are Not Your Rules. See also Hard Work Hardly Works and Storybreaker Power.

Sub Tropes include:

No examples on this page, please. This is such a common trope that any examples should be placed on the appropriate Trope and Work pages.
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