Thematic Power Set YKTTW Discussion

Thematic Power Set
A characters powers are built around a theme.
(permanent link) added: 2012-01-01 23:20:43 sponsor: Deboss (last reply: 2015-03-31 20:03:04)

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Meta: realized we didn't have this, thought we should. Planning to scoop a bunch of examples off of Combo Platter Powers.

Actual trope.

Some super people have a dominant power and then the Required Secondary Powers that go with them. Others have a broad power that can be applied in different ways. Still more will have a random power set or copying a bunch of useful ones. These characters have a powerset built around a theme.

In most cases a thematic power set will have multiple explicit powers based around a specific concept, such as an animal or an element. Others will have a "concept" power that can be expanded to include others.

A closely related trope to Combo Platter Powers. Animal Themed Being is a direct subtrope.


Anime and Manga

  • One Piece: Paramecia type devil fruits work this way. Each starts as a single ability, but can be turned into an array of powers by finding new ways to interpret it.

Comic Books
  • Marvel Universe
    • Fantastic Four:
      • The Human Torch has a plethora of fire based powers, including: generating flames around his body up to "nova flame" levels; immune to fire less intense than his "nova flame"; flying by shooting his flames out behind him; firing flames at opponents; manipulate his flames into various shapes; control any fire he can see even if he didn't create it; absorb flame into his body with no ill effects; see in infrared (heat) vision.
      • Susan Storm who started out with just invisibility, then gained force field powers to allow her a more active role in the stories. A much later Retcon claimed that her invisibility was actually an instinctive use of the forcefield to distort light around her.
  • Spider-Man: Most of his powers are supposed to be those of a spider, amped up to human proportions, but with Spider-Sense standing in for a spider's multiple eyes. But once having got these powers, Peter quickly invents his web-shooters[[hottip:*:Originally, he knew instinctively how to mix chemicals to make web, which he then loaded like cartridges into a "blaster" on his arm]], which are thematically appropriate, but not really connected to the rest of his powers. Later versions of the character have given Spidey "organic web-shooters" to more closely tie his powers together. Over the decades, Spider-Man has developed other temporary powers or devices. A secondary mutation gave Peter more spider-based powers including the ability to feel trace vibrations in his weblines, enhancing his spider-sense to where he can practically see in the dark, making his hairs more sensitive, giving him poison stingers in his arms... and the power to instantly recognize what species a spider is by looking at it. However, most of these powers, plus his organic webbing, have been lost in the Time Skip between One More Day and Brand New Day.
  • Static: Almost anything as long as it can be given a vague connection to electromagnetism. Including listening to CD's without a player.

Films - Animation
  • The Incredibles:
    • Jack-Jack can shape-shift, turn into metal or a goblin, phase through walls, fly, set himself on fire, eat wood, and shoot Frickin' Laser Beams, and that's just what we've seen so far... And he's a baby. Word Of God goes that he has so many powers precisely because he is a baby. When he grows up, he will make his choice of powers.
    • Violet' had the seemingly unrelated powers of turning invisible and generating a force field, as a Shout-Out to the Invisible Woman. As the Invisible Woman's entry above explains, those powers could be related -- you might use a field of some sort to bend light away to go invisible, and if you can project a field that bends away light, why couldn't it deflect other stuff too?


  • Codex Alera: Even a single-element Crafter will get an impressively broad array of powers. As an example, an Earthcrafter can gain superhuman strength, shift rock and earth to create barriers or tear down walls, calm animals, travel rapidly over the ground, induce lust, and sense people's locations if they're on the ground. Tavi is smart enough to recognize the implications of this, and when he is short of combat engineers enlists the local brothel to aid a demolition project.

Tabletop RPG
  • Champions allows this with the power framework called Elemental Control. The player chooses powers that all have the same special effect (e.g. fire, cosmic power, electricity, psionics etc.) and puts them in the Elemental Control, which greatly reduces the cost of each power.

Web Original

Western Animation

Video Games
  • Dungeons of Dredmor has many selectable skills, like a school of magic based around mathematics, or one that's all about various uses of fire, or talents relating to swordsmanship or burglary, as well as some odd thematic stuff like Emomancy. It's possible to put together up to seven of these skills to make a character, and it's up to the player whether or not the whole set follows a theme. Of course, given the nature of the game, most of the powers are Played for Laughs to some extent.
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