You have no power over me!

(Jareth) “Sarah, beware. I have been generous up until now, but I can be cruel.”

(Sarah) “Generous!? What have you done that’s generous?”

(Jareth) “Everything! Everything that you wanted I have done. You asked that the child be taken. I took him. You cowered before me; I was frightening. I have reordered time. I have turned the world upside-down, and I have done it all for you! I am exhausted from living up to your expectations of me. Isn’t that generous?”

(Sarah) “Through dangers untold, and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here, to the castle beyond the goblin city, for my will is as strong as yours: and my”

(Jareth) “Stop! Wait! Look, Sarah. Look what I’m offering you – your dreams. And my kingdom is great. I ask for so little. Just let me rule you, and you can have everything that you want.”

(Sarah) “Kingdom is great… Damn! I can never remember that line.”

(Jareth) “Just fear me, love me, do as I say, and I will be your slave.

(Sarah) “My kingdom is great… My kingdom is great… You have no power over me… You have no power over me!

   OK. So Labyrinth was not one of the greatest movies of all time. It was fun however – and it did have some very classic bits. One of the most classic is that a great deal of supernatural power is essentially an illusion, driven by fear and ignorance. Once the hero comes to understand his or her enemy and overcomes that fear, their enemy will be greatly weakened – and may well no longer be able to stand against an otherwise fairly normal hero.

   Thus the experienced swordsmaster, the mighty mage, and the righteous clergyman may be shown up by the relatively inexperienced hero who understands the emptiness at the core of some mighty villains power and does not fear it.

   In literature, and in movie scripts you can just assume that sort of thing. The experienced, powerful, characters don’t get it because the author says they don’t.

   In games you can probably assume that every player will get the idea right away – and that that information will carry over from game to game. That makes the “because I say you don’t get it!” approach awkward – but the effect can still be represented in a couple of ways. You could assign a value to an individuals, or a groups, “determination” (or “karma”, or whatever), and give it a bump every time they get beaten by the monster of the scenario, deal with the aftermath of one of it’s atrocities, gain information about it, or figure something out. Perhaps when that value hits particular thresholds they’ll get special bonuses, be able to overcome a creatures special defenses, or have the opportunity to truly strike a final blow.

   Of course, that gets awkward when people simply go and look up all of a creatures relevant weaknesses and want credit for that information. That’s reasonable enough in a lot of ways – if horrible werewolf-creatures are a regular thing, I’d expect every library to stock a dozen copies of “the big little book of werewolf weaknesses” – but practicality often does take part of the fun out of things. That’s the problem with many werewolf movies; every viewer can recite a list of the creatures major weaknesses, and watching yet another clueless hero who’s never heard of the creatures find out about them makes them wonder why – in a world where such things actually exist – the characters aren’t at least as aware of them as they are.

   On a more individual basis, you can ask that the individual characters spend some of their personal resources on such understandings. That’s fairly effective, since it provides a reason why the most skilled characters – who spent their character-building resources (whatever the system in use may call those) on personal abilities – do better in general situations than the characters who buy abilities which are specifically useful against the major villain.

   In Eclipse, you can represent creatures with such weaknesses with Corrupted and Specialized abilities – defenses and powers which quit working against heroes who figure out what’s going on, or a world law, or some such – but it’s a lot simpler to approach it from the player’s side.

   What we have here is an Immunity to a particular menage. That’s Uncommon (against a particular villain type), Severe (they do tend to kill you), and at a variable amount. For example a Minor Immunity would cost six character points – the same as a normal Feat – and would protect the user against twelve points of damage from each of the enemies attacks and from effects of up to level three (with a +4 bonus on saves against higher-level effects). It would even allow him or her to bypass some minor defenses, such as that requirement for silver weapons.

   That’s fairly impressive. A werewolf-slayer with that package would certainly have a big advantage over a swordsman without it – as long as they were facing werewolves.

   On a party basis, the easiest way to apply this is to leave a few points free in a Party Template. Party Templates are allowed to vary with retraining anyway, so as the party gathers information and builds up their determination to deal with a creature, those points can be invested in an appropriate immunity – thus allowing the party to face and defeat a foe that was far beyond their abilities at first. Since we’re dealing with a “training” situation, we can reasonably assume that getting information from books and such is less effective than practical experience – and possibly even that precautions like “getting the appropriate weapons” are built into that practical experience.

   On an individual basis, characters can simply spend those points – or pick up a version of Enthusiast that can only be used for such an immunity (Specialized) and can only be gradually shifted as the character gains experience with, and understanding of, his or her foe.

   That version would only be 3 CP, but would also only be half as strong as the basic version (a Trivial Immunity instead of a Minor Immunity) – still a very useful edge.

If she’d ‘ave kept on goin’ down that way she’d ‘ave gone straight to that awful castle! – The Worm

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2 Responses

  1. A while ago, I was reading the review of Labyrinth over on The Spoony Experiment (http://spoonyexperiment.com/labyrinth/) and noticed, between bouts of laughter, something interesting that he pointed out.

    “The worst part is the anti-climactic ending, where Sarah simply declares “you have no power over me” and returns to her room, brother in tow. How is that supposed to stop the king of the goblins? It didn’t work for Freddy Kreuger.”

    Now, I only have a passing familiarity with the Nightmare on Elm Street series, but from what I recall he makes a good point; there are some villains who are vulnerable to being “disbelieved” of their power…but the process can work in reverse too, where the villain can forcibly re-empower themselves (perhaps based on someone else’s belief in them) and overcome this weakness, even against a hero who made a declaration of negating their power.

    I’m not explaining it well, since as I said I’m trying to reference something I’m only familiar with second-hand, but it’s still an interesting corollary to this.

    • I think the distinction there is between a villain who draws power from belief in him or her and a villain who’s power is wholly or partially an illusion. The one may be weakened by disbelief, but can and will regain power when he or she finds new believers. Moreover, such weakness applies to all opponents, not just against the ones who actually disbelieved.

      The other will lose a portion of his or her power over a particular opponent – the illusory part – when said opponent comes to understand the illusory nature of that power, but will remain at full power against opponents who do not understand.

      “Freddy” presumably falls into the first category; “his” power is strengthened by belief and fear, but he has a certain amount of genuine power. The Goblin King in Labyrinth apparently falls into the second category; virtually all his power is fundamentally illusory, and when the heroine realizes that, it ceases to affect her permanently.

      (And I’m still trying to find time to get back to the companions series; I’ll get there eventually).

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