Antagonist Abilities

Antagonist Abilities are "unfair" powers that inherently prevent The Hero from winning easily against a villain, and can force them to resort to 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 antagonists do not need to do the same and can afford to be cowardly. If the hero worked hard to be powerful, the antagonists made a Deal with the Devil. 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 in a fight. 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 their abilities to the fullest.
  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.

This is often a case of Protagonist-Centered Morality, because it requires that the audience identify with the hero and know what makes the way they fight heroic, skillful, risky or courageous. 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, a weakness to help antagonists get around it, or it's pitted against another ability listed which specifically counters it. Often, the villain wants to steal those powers for himself, for these very reasons, 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. These powers may phase out the longer they're on screen.

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:

Versus Melee

Versus Projectiles

Versus Stealth

Versus Detection

Versus Defenses

Versus Optimal Range

Versus Single Combat

Versus Defeat Itself

Versus Everything

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.

Alternative Title(s): Antagonist Ability