First off, there are two keys to avoiding godmodding when creating things: Weaknesses and Limitations. And there are two key things to apply these to: Characters and Abilities.
Characters need weaknesses to balance out their strengths, similar to Superboy and Superman and their weakness to Kryptonite. If they have far more strengths than weaknesses, you're godmodding. Also, weaknesses are NOT small spots on the back of the neck, small areas were they are immune (like a literal Achilles heel), etc. Weaknesses; Characters need 'em!
Character Limitations Edit
The best way to do this is stamina. Characters, no matter the race, have limitations, too and they have stamina and energy that they use for activity. Some also feel pain. Not all characters can just ignore a wound. To some, it hurts! Most aren't immortal, either. They can and have to fall if their injuries become too severe and if they fight for too long, they have to get tried. If they're in too much pain, they won't be able to focus. Characters have endurance, a tolerance for pain, stamina, energy, willpower, spirit and morale, and other emotion, and don't say that "My character doesn't have all that! He/she's a god!" No. It doesn't work that way. Having a god for a character is godmodding to the biggest extreme, hence the name, unless, of course, he's the main villain. In which case the main goal of the story is to defeat him, so he needs to be strong, but NOT unbeatable.
The character can't dodge every single attack; they have to take a hit sometime. And don't just say "if the attack isn't good enough, I won't let it hit me". That's something another roleplayer once told me, and it was the most arrogant, self-centered thing anyone has ever said to me.
Outside Knowledge Edit
Then there's the situation of the godmodder knowing exactly how to defeat the opponent due to having read the character's profile. No, it doesn't work that way. Unless the opponent's weakness is within your character's abilities to figure out, he or she has to beat them the old-fashioned way.
"Jack-Of-All-Trades" Syndrome Edit
The character can't have a huge variety of abilities to make them ready for any situation. They need to have areas they aren't good at. For example, and in the simplest form, they may be strong and hard to injure, perhaps by possessing super strength and invulnerability. They may be, however, very sluggish and slow or they may be very fast and agile, but don't hit very hard. Characters need to have a theme with their abilities and a balance to go with the theme. If their abilities are just all over the place, it's not only silly, it's godmodding.
We'll start off simple with major character weaknesses. First of all, there's fears. Characters with fears won't be able to function when their fear is around. Artemis, for instance, was afraid that her family ties (the fact that she is the daughter of Huntress and Sportsmaster and the sister of Cheshire) to the team. On missions when these characters were involved, she would freeze up or show other signs of bodily stress.
Holes in Defenses Edit
Defenses can't be 100% impervious, no matter how "well built" they are. A barrier should fall or break if too much damage is dealt to it. A shield might only block from the front, and not from above, below, the sides, or behind. Or the barrier might only block energy-based attacks, but not physical. Or the barrier might only block projectiles, but not melee attacks. Another good way is for the defense to have a limit. The defensive attack could defend from attacks, but only for so long, and only for attacks below a certain level of power.
I shall now transition into placing weaknesses and limits on abilities.
Abilities, especially powerful ones, need weaknesses and limitations. You can't just have an ability that levels an entire area or instantly kills the enemy with a single, unavoidable attack.
A good way to limit abilities is to make it so they use up energy. Several series have special forms of energy that abilities use up when used. There's Chakra in "Naruto", Reiatsu/Reiryoku in "Bleach", Spirit in "666 Satan", Invento Hell in "Aflame Inferno", etc; you get the idea. And of course, the more powerful the attack, the more of this energy it consumes. And no one has infinite energy.
Strength to Accuracy Ratio Edit
The best way to limit a powerful attack is to make it so that it has a weakness. For example, an attack may be unavoidable, but it may not be very strong or the attack may be a one-hit kill, but it could be easily avoidable or interruptible. One such example would be the famed "one-hit kill" moves from the pokemon series, including Sheer Cold, Fissure, etc. These moves were one-hit kills, but had an accuracy of 30 out of 100.
Number of Uses Edit
The Chidori is further limited in that it is quite powerful, but Sasuke can only use it twice a day due to how much energy it consumes. He can force a third use out of it if he draws power from his cursed seal, but that's risky because it affects his personality permanently.
Another example is "Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion". The power of Geass, which the main character is given in the first episode, can be used to make anyone do whatever he wants. Mind control, if you will. However, it only works on a person once. Once he uses it to make someone do something, he can't make them do anything else.
A similar method is to make an "ammunition system". The attack can only be used a certain number of times before neading to reset. Renji’s sword in "Bleach" can stretch out on a band and attack with bladed segments. When the sword extends, it can do three separate movements or attacks before it has to retract to normal. Then Renji can extend it again. One of the characters in "Bleach" explains that this system is similar to ammunition used for firearms. The amount of uses is proportional to the power of the attack. Like how a pistol can be fired six times, a missile only once.
Frequency of Use Edit
Another great way to limit attacks is to limit how rapidly it can be used.
In "Naruto", Pain's "Shinra Tensei" ability can repel any incoming projectiles or people with the force of gravity. However, there is a window where Shinra Tensei is unusable, which manifests as not being able to use the attack again until about four to five seconds after the last time it was used.
Conditions for Use Edit
Then there's conditions. The character could only be able to use the ability under certain conditions. In "Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion", the main character's Geass requires direct eye contact to work. If the target is looking away, has their eyes closed, or is wearing sunglasses or a visored helmet, it won't work. Though on the upside, it can be reflected by mirrors or other reflective surfaces.
In "Death Note", the titular notebook of death can kill anyone. However, it only works if the person writing in it knows the name and the face of the person they want to kill. They need to be able to write down the person's real name while imagining their face, or it won't work. And this is more challenging than it sounds, I can assure you.
Limited Range Edit
And of course, there's always range. You can limit attacks by giving them a limited range. An arrow only flies so far, right? Well, an energy-draining attack might only work through direct touch.
In 666 Satan, one of the minor villains has claw weapons that can extend very far. However, there is a limit as to how far they can extend. Ball, the character who fights him, manages to trick him into extending them to the maximum so he can land an attack on him without fear of getting skewered. Yes, the character's name is "Ball". Get over it.
Lack of Control Edit
A really good way is to make the attack undependable, unpredictable, or just difficult to control. I hate to use a Pokemon reference, but the attack "Metronome" can make basically make anything happen, summoning a random attack from the game. It can be a lifesaver, or it could result in ultimate self-annihilation.
Another example is good ol' "Naruto". The titular character, Naruto, has a tremendous amount of Chakra, which is the unit of energy used for attacks. However, he has extremely poor control over his Chakra. This means that he can only use a handful of attacks, as the basic ones that most people know use so little Chakra that he uses too much and overloads them.
Another great way to limit attacks is that they have drawbacks to their use. One Piece is a good example. Luffy's "Gear Second" allows him to achieve levels of near unimaginable speed. However, due to the way it functions, using it will decrease his lifespan. Luffy's "Gear Third" is also very powerful, but after he deactivates it, he's pretty much helpless for a time roughly equal to however long he spent in Gear Third.
I'd hate to throw out a Pokemon reference, but take the “Hyper Beam” attack. It's very powerful, but after using it, the Pokemon that used it has to skip the next turn to recover from the attack.
Naruto is able to draw upon the power of the demon within him to coat himself in violent energy in the shape of a four-tailed fox. However, the violent energy burns and damages his skin. His body's automatic healing powers, which become fully active in this state, simultaneously repair the damage while it is being repeatedly dealt. This means his skin goes through a constant state of perpetual damage and repair. Not only is this extremely painful, but it shortens Naruto's lifespan.
In "Naruto", Naruto's special attack "Wind Release: Rasenshuriken" is a close combat attack that does damage on a molecular level. It is very powerful. However, due to its ability to directly damage molecules, it hurts Naruto's arm, and repeated use can severely hurt him. It's been said that being used too much in one battle can even permanently scar Naruto.
The drawbacks don't even have to be that severe. A defensive move might leave the user completely stationary. They won't be able to move unless they break the defensive position, such as with the "Tekkai" move from One Piece, which tightened the muscles to resist damage, but the user couldn't move while tightening their muscles.
Pain while using an attack or ability is actually a very good way to give it weaknesses. Characters can't just ignore injuries. They feel pain like other, regular characters, unless their body is completely numb or invulnerable. They suffer from blood-loss, too and if they lose too much blood, they can and will faint or die.
Then there's the issue of healers. Show some limits! Most people with healing abilities shouldn't be able to use it on themselves, not when they have a gaping wound in their chest or stomach. With that much pain, they wouldn't be able to focus to use the healing move on themselves. And even if they could, healing doesn't restore lost blood. And the healing attack should still use up some form of energy to use, just like any other attack.
And here's the biggest problem: Some people make characters that have all these godmodding combat powers, but then they throw in a healing move they can use on themself at any time. No. Just... no.
Healers specialize in healing and little else. That's the way it's always been, right down to the days of the first Final Fantasy game. White Mages specialize in healing and support magic, and have next to no ability to do damage.
In "Bleach", Orihime can do three things: Heal, shield from attacks, or attack with a piercing projectile. And she sucks at the third one. Similarly, the character Hanatarou is a skilled healer, but completely sucks in combat. In fact, he's never even been seen in combat, outside of Bleach video games and extra joke segments. Few people actually know what his special sword does, since a good number of Bleach fans haven't seen the omake or don't play the games.
In Naruto, Medical Ninja specialize in healing, and have very few other abilities that aren’t somehow related to healing. For example, Tsunade, a great medical ninja, has super-strength, but this is related to her ability to control her body's energies to apply healing. She can also scramble the brain's messages to the body, but this is probably medical-related, too. Like perhaps for use as a way to keep the patient still or to repair the nervous system. Kabuto can attack the opponent's insides with a tiny blade of energy, but this, too, is based on healing. The blade is a scalpel used for surgery in ninja healing.
In "One Piece", Tony Tony Chopper is a skilled doctor. He actually is not that strong, but can become stronger using special medicines he has made. One Piece is one of the few examples where medical technicians can be somewhat skillful in combat, but this is because One Piece has no means of magical healing. All doctors in One Piece do things the old fashioned way: Bandages, disinfectant, splints, and medicine. Just like nature intended it. Poor One Piece... you are so underrated...
Of course, healing characters are useless when no one takes a bloody hit. Sigh... my healer characters are useless in every roleplay I'm in...
Copycat Abilities Edit
As for the subject of copying the abilities of others, show some restraint, for the good of all things fair. NO ONE likes someone permanently copying their character's abilities and keeping them for the duration of the roleplay. The player spent a long time coming up with and working on the abilities of their character, and did not create them only for them to be copied by a character that can copy abilities.
What's even worse is a character who can copy abilities, then use them with even more power than the one who originally possessed them. That's just the worst. Don't do it. Ever.
If you're going to make a character that can copy abilities, do it right. Make it only temporary, or make it so that the character can only copy one at a time. And make it so that they can only use them to the extent of their own abilities. They won't be able to use a power they just attained at the same level of skill as the one who originally possessed it. And they won't have the necessary power levels to use it to the same extent as the one who originally possessed it. Different powers take different skills and talents to use. For your character to have all the skills and talents necessary to use all of them perfectly is godmodding, plain and simple.
An example. In "Naruto", when Sasuke used his abilities to copy some of Lee's physical fighting style, he couldn't use it without it being heavily taxing on his body. Lee had special training to adapt to the advanced techniques of his fighting style. Without the same training, Sasuke found it difficult and very tiring to use the advanced techniques.
Altering Reality Edit
Now, the golden rule of altering reality: Don't do it. Ever.
I once saw a character who could freely manipulate the fabric of reality, to an extent (at least, that's what the roleplayer told me). She could transform one material into another, such as turning stone or metal into easily breakable glass, and could alter the landscape as she saw fit. And she had this huge cheesy move where she would drop the ground below my character's feet so she would be rendered airborne and unable to dodge the character's next attack, which she could initiate right away by teleporting behind my character. She also used this attack where, get this, (and I am NOT making this up): Two eyes appeared in midair behind a character and out of these eyes stretched two arms holding guns which when shot "magic bullets". Worst of all, the character could recycle this fabric-altering energy, allowing her to have an unlimited supply of energy to use her tricks with. Can you honestly tell me this is fair, considering that all the other character had going for her was a body made of stone, hand-to-hand combat, and the ability to manipulate water?
I saw another character who had a wide array of powers and could summon legions of demons from hell. He had insane speed and he got a few strikes in (and the other character got none) before the two realized that they could not beat each other in a contest of speed. So the first one started trying to use little tricks like messing up the others internal body by injecting his energy into her, and trying to disable her eyesight. All the while he was completely immune to her ash attacks. Then he opened up a huge cravaces in the ground leading straight to hell. I'm serious. This created little area to stand, but then he called forth Invisible Demon Scarabs to terrorize the area, then finally an invisible and invincible (invisivincible?) demon slave that held the character in place and was immune to both her sword attacks and ash attacks, while simultaneously draining her energy, causing a rapid aging process to begin. He finally ended the fight by opening a portal to another dimension where souls sucked in would be forever tortured. This not only sucked in my character's strongest attack, but also my character. I admited defeat, being the sensible one.
Anyway, you see the problem? Far too many generic, uncreative, unrelated abilities. And what I just described was only the tip of the iceburg. He had tons of other unrelated abilities, all of which either torturing the opponent with little to no work or altering reality in some way, most of them related to the demons of hell. And need I remind you that this was in a Naruto RP?
Now, transformation. If you're going to have a shapeshifting character, do it right. If the character can shapeshift into anything, there'd be no stopping them. They could easily transform into a creature the size of a planet and destroy the world.
Put limits on the shapeshifter's transformation abilities. Make it so they can only transform into a certain variety of things. Like a shapeshifter that can turn into any animal (Beast Boy being the perfect example here), or a shapeshifter that can only change into other people or other human appearances (like Mystique from X-Men).
Similarly, while Mystique can change into other people, she can't turn into people larger than herself. Well, she is capable of it, but the size of the person would be her regular size. So if she changed into the form of the massive Blob, Blob-Mystique would be the same size as regular Mystique.
But be realistic. If your character transforms into animals or other people, where do their clothes go? Some newbies can't stand the idea of their character forced into a situation without clothes, so they usually do something n00bish like:
- 1. The clothes are teleported to a pocket dimension upon transformation
- 2. The clothes become the animal's fur.
- 3. The clothes are part of the human to human transformation.
- 4. Etc. Etc.
There are disadvantages to all of them. If the shapeshifter could access a pocket dimension, why only store clothes there? They could store anything in their pocket dimension, which would be godmodding. Why would a character be able to shapeshift AND access a pocket dimension? Those abilities are completely unrelated.
Clothes becoming the animal's fur is just too ridiculous. What if the shapeshifter was naked? Would the animal they turned into be furless? And what if the animal was shaved? Would the shapeshifter be naked when they changed back to human form?
And how exactly is a human shapeshifter able to make clothing a part of their body? If the character removed the clothes while shapeshifted, would they not lose a part of themselves? The clothing is separate from the body, so how can it be part of the body, for that matter? Unless the shapeshifter can turn into multiple things as well as objects, that's just ridiculous.
If the character could not shapeshift with their clothes, not only would it humanize them and add a touch of realism, it would make for all kinds of interesting situations and important challenges and hardships. Characters cannot have it too easy, or they aren't fun to watch or read about.
The same goes for invisibility, intangibility, and teleportation. Unless the character can specifically turn other things invisible or bring other things with them when they pass through things or teleport, their clothes will not go with them. If you want the character’s clothes to turn invisible, make it so they can turn objects and other people invisible, too. If you want the character’s clothes to come with them when they pass through things, make it so they can bring objects and other people with them when they pass through things. If you want the character's clothes to go with them when they teleport, make it so that they can teleport objects and other people with them.
Then there's another subject. If a person shapeshifted into an animal when they normally are human, or shapeshifted into a female when they are normally male, they likely wouldn't be as skillful in this new body. A human is used to a human body, not a tiger body. As a tiger, a shapeshifter can run faster and leap higher and farther, something they likely wouldn't be used to, and thus would stumble for a while until they got used to the form. Housecats are capable of great balance, agility, and can leap high and far. But if you'd had a cat before, you'd see that a kitten or young cat slips up or takes a spill every now and then. They aren't use to their body's capabilities yet. When the cat gets older and more used to their body, they can do all kinds of feats with very few spills and slips.
And people are all different. They all have different body types. And with these body types, especially between males and females, the center of gravity and the sense of balance is different.
Object transformation is a tricky subject. Logically, if your character could fully transform into objects, there’d be no place for their brain or organs to be so they could remain conscious and alive. They need the organs of a living body to survive. Therefore, it’s best if the character can only transform parts of their body into objects.
Fan Characters Edit
Now we move on to fan characters. Characters created for the world of an existing series, be it anime/manga, cartoons, TV series, books, comics, or movies.
Character Copying Edit
Now, here’s the issue with making characters based on your favorite series:
DO NOT COPY CANON CHARACTERS! Plain and simple. Don't give your character any of the special abilities that only belong to one character. A good example is Pain's “Shinra Tensei” from Naruto and if you do give your character an ability of a canon character, which is always a bad idea, don't make it so that your character can do it better than the canon character. No. That's just wrong.
Another example is in Bleach. Ichigo is noteworthy for having a very high rate of growth, allowing him to quickly learn new concepts and abilities. Well, some fans think this is pretty cool, so they use it for their own Bleach character. Only sometimes they exaggerate it, making it so that their character can learn new abilities and concepts far faster than even Ichigo. This is godmodding. The advanced growth rate is Ichigo's signature talent. You can't just copy it for your own character just because you think it's cool. You need to respect the original series. Plain and simple.
Series Copying Edit
Then there's the issue of people copying things from one series to use for fan characters in a different series. A very popular trend is for people to have their Bleach fan characters wield a sword just like InuYasha's Tetsusaiga; Inuyasha's Tetsusaiga transforms in a manner similar to the Zanpakuto swords in Bleach. The connection is obvious, but it's just uncreative to copy Inuyasha’s sword for a Bleach fan character (as well as overused). Be your own person. That goes for your characters, too. Don't copy canon characters. Come up with something yourself. If you can't come up with something yourself, you shouldn't be creating fan characters.
Of course, we can't have a character that doesn't at all fit the universe he's from. This can include using Saiyans and Shinigami/Soul Reapers in Naruto and One Piece and using ninja in Young Justice; it just doesn't happen.
Canon vs. Fanon Edit
Then there is the issue of making fan characters stronger than canon characters. I once saw a Bleach story where one of the characters easily beat Aizen. Aizen is the main villain of Bleach, and also the strongest being in the Bleach series. Aizen has been described as “plot-changingly powerful”. To have a fan-made character easily beat the strongest canon character in the series is possibly the biggest form of godmodding ever, not to mention that it shows extreme immaturity and lack of respect for the series.
Speaking of lack of respect for the series, as well as speaking of Bleach, there is no Zanpakuto form higher than Bankai. "Bankai" means "Final Release"; emphasis on "final". It is the strongest form a Zanpakuto can attain, and to make something stronger is not only godmodding, but it spits on the original concept of a Zanpakuto invented by the mind of Kubo, the author of Bleach. Unless Kubo himself reveals a form higher than Bankai, there is no form higher than Bankai. And if you're going to create a form higher than Bankai, don't use it in a public roleplay or other community fan website. Use it only in your fanfiction stories.
Adding weaknesses and limitations to characters:
- Tolerance to pain
- Focus under stress and pain
- Severity of injuries
- Spirit and morale
- Things they are not good at
Adding weaknesses and limitations to abilities:
- Uses up energy
- Drawbacks to its use
- Charging time
- Defenseless afterwards
- Limited number of uses
- Can't use in rapid succession
- Conditions for use
- Limited Range
- Lack of Control
- Unavoidable, but not very powerful
- Unavoidable, but easily blocked
- Unblockable, but easily dodged
- Unblockable, but not very powerful
- Instant-kill, but easily dodged or blocked
- Temporary defenses
- Holes in defenses
- Follow a theme
- No random healing moves
- Specialize in healing
- Make combat moves related to healing for healer characters
- TAKE BLOODY HITS!!! Otherwise healer characters are useless
- Temporary copying
- Lesser skill copying
- Lesser power level copying
- Different body capabilities realism
- Don't do it. Ever.
- Don't do "Evil/Demons = Cool". Too cliche and overused.
- Specific category shapeshifting
- Partial object transformation
- Realistic clothing situations
- Different body adjustment realism
- Be original
- Be creative
- No copying the abilities of canon characters
- Show respect to the original series
- Stay faithful to the original series (make characters match the world they're in)
- Honor the ideas and creations of the author