Mar 29 2009

Is teleportation overpowered?

Published by at 4:23 pm under Superpowers,Writing Superhero Stories

What do you think?  Is it hard to challenge a character that can teleport?

50 responses so far

50 Responses to “Is teleportation overpowered?”

  1. B. Macon 29 Mar 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Teleportation can be problematic, but it’s not nearly as bad as time travel, the ability to freeze time, immortality/unkillability and (to some extent) super-speed.

    I’d say the problem with teleportation is that it mostly takes physical movement out of the story. But physical movement can be very interesting. For example, let’s say that you have an artifact deep in a fortress. If the hero can teleport in, grab the artifact and teleport out, that’s not very dramatic. It’s also very hard to do a chase scene or an escape scene with a teleporter. In contrast, a non-teleporting hero would have to work to sneak into the fortress and survive the traps, etc. He’d have to work to catch the villain.

    Fortunately, placing limits on the teleporter’s ability can help make teleportation more drama-friendly. For example, if the hero’s teleportation ability takes a minute to charge up, then he can’t use it to avoid a chase or escape scene. If his teleportation abilities are limited inside buildings, that will force him to retrieve the artifact from the fortress in a more interesting way.

  2. Holliequon 29 Mar 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Yeah, I don’t think teleportation would be overpowered if you placed limits on it. If he’s only able to teleport to place he’s already been or only able to teleport through mirrors (or some other surface), then that makes things more difficult for him.

    I agree that unlimited teleportation would be pretty awful though.

  3. t3knomanseron 29 Mar 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Phasing is more overpowered than teleportation. I ran a PDQ game where one of the characters had Phasing, Teleportation and Invisibility powers. It was tough finding things to challenge her with that combo. Invisibility was easy (give people powers that let them see through it; limit the character that they can only get certain EM wavelengths, etc), teleportation wasn’t too bad (in part because her ability to cover long distances was pretty limited), but the phasing was a killer.

  4. B. Macon 29 Mar 2009 at 6:50 pm

    I wouldn’t be too worried about the ability to go through solid surfaces a la Kitty Pryde. However, the ability to go intangible like the Martian Manhunter makes it very hard to come up with physical challenges for the character.

  5. Fitzon 29 Mar 2009 at 7:36 pm

    I think that both are overpowered, but I think intangibility would be way worse than unlimited teleportation (Why does Firefox say that’s spelled wrong?). With intangibility, there is pretty much no way you can hurt the guy. Bullets and weapons pass harmlessly through him, there’s no way to capture him, and no obstacles can stop him. With teleportation, you can still hit them and kill them at least, though it is still difficult to give the guy a challenge. Unless of course, the intangible man falls through the ground because of gravity, or is unable to eat because the food just falls straight through him. Then teleportation would be more overpowered, and intangibility would be useless.

  6. Lunajamniaon 29 Mar 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Couldn’t that blue … thing … from X-Men teleport? It wasn’t that overpowered, he was still caught and punched and all that. At least in the cartoons.

  7. B. Macon 29 Mar 2009 at 9:13 pm

    On the other hand, Nightcrawler did nearly succeed in a direct attack on the White House. Even Juggernaut hasn’t been that gutsy yet.

  8. Marissaon 29 Mar 2009 at 11:34 pm

    …Ugh. Read this thread to a friend, now I need an argument helping me with the following:

    A hero who can run at the speed of sound is overpowered and his story will not sell. Five hundred miles per hour tops is a better substitute, especially with a couple of further restrictions (at five hundred miles per hour, even, his senses are starting to get blurred, not be able to catch up).

    Be as convincing and logical as you can? =/

  9. B. Macon 29 Mar 2009 at 11:47 pm

    The speed of sound is about 760 miles per hour. I’d recommend something like 250 miles per hour for a few reasons.

    1. 250 mph is still impressive but is more relatable. That’s just twice as fast as a regular car can manage, so it should be pretty easy to visualize. In contrast, what does 750 mph feel like? I’ve never flown a plane, so I don’t really know.

    2. Going above the speed of sound raises physics concerns (like sonic booms, who hears what when, etc).

    3. 250 mph is slow enough that a villain or criminal could at least attempt to escape in a fast car or a helicopter. That will help you write chase scenes.

    So I think that a publisher would probably prefer something a bit slower than Mach 1. However, I think that Mach 1 is pretty doable. I vaguely remember at one point that your friend was thinking about 10,000 mph or 100,000 mph. Those numbers are so ludicrously fast that it would probably cause an editor to roll his eyes.

  10. Marissaon 29 Mar 2009 at 11:56 pm

    …Wait, you were aware of that? And here I thought I was just consulting Davis the whole time.

    And yeah, it’s an ongoing battle. Went from Flash-fast to ‘only ten thousand’. We ended up settling on 500 tops before the risk isn’t worth it, and now that he hears it again out of context of that discussion, he says, ‘What? We agreed to double that.’ =/ Thanks, B., I’ll use those.

    Any more help, guys, would be amazing.

  11. B. Macon 30 Mar 2009 at 3:31 am

    Yeah, I’m also on the Superhero Nation e-mailing list. I wasn’t in charge of the responses, but we’re a team and we sometimes consult each other about questions we receive.

  12. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 30 Mar 2009 at 4:29 am

    I’d say teleportation is overpowered, but it would be much more interesting if it was restricted somehow, like Holli said.

    I don’t think I’d want teleportation as a power. I make mistakes so often that I’d probably teleport to the surface of the sun by accident. Haha. I’d end up looking like a piece of overcooked chicken from Red Rooster.

  13. Stefan the Exploding Manon 30 Mar 2009 at 5:02 am

    I have a character tucked away somewhere who can teleport, but only short distances. Like the action sequences in Jumper. I think extremely long ranged teleportation isn’t overpowered, because there are loads of ways to get around teleportation. For example, you could have your character make an extremely loud noise when he teleports to and from somewhere, a little bit like the pop wizards make when Apparating in Harry Potter. Boom Tube technology from the Fourth World in DC Comics does this.

    If the tone of your story is such that you can suspend the reader’s disbelief for longer, would that make running at the speed of sound and beyond more plausible? And if so, how could you make the suspension of disbelief work?

  14. B. Macon 30 Mar 2009 at 5:13 am

    If your character is capable of more ridiculous feats, I recommend against quantifying his abilities. That will help us suspend our disbelief. Nothing makes readers roll their eyes like hearing that a character can lift 50,000 tons with one hand. It’s not just that the character is ridiculous, but seeing all those zeros is really cheesy. Instead, I’d recommend describing the character in terms of real-world analogies. Compare “I can lift 50,000 tons” to “I can lift a battleship.”

    Instead of saying “he can go 750 miles an hour,” say he’s as fast as a jet. Instead of saying “he can go 2000 miles per hour,” say he’s as fast as a speeding bullet. Instead of saying “he can go 15,000 miles an hour,” say he’s as fast as a space-shuttle. Etc.

    What do you think? Does that help?

  15. Ragged Boyon 30 Mar 2009 at 6:52 am

    I definitely don’t like teleportation, intangibility, and superspeed. They’re pretty low on my list of least favorite superpowers, superstrength being the worst. The only way to beat a character like that is for them to have some type of sixth-sense. Then they could sense where they are or where they would appear and counter accordingly. Without that it seems that the characters can run wild with their powers.

    I’d prefer a power like my character from Showtime, Camo. Color manipulation (thanks B. Mac) with a combination of a stealth ability like wall-crawling. Although, this can allow him to be technically invisible, it still leave the opportunity that he can get caught.

    On a side note, this is probably a reason I prefer more exotic powers, usually one’s that are interesting but have a workable flaw. And because of the fact that I hate plain powers, but that’s just me.

  16. Wingson 30 Mar 2009 at 9:02 am

    I’m with you, RB. I’m fond of the exotics that no one uses (metal manipulator Pierce anyone?) but have a workable flaw (Heat, of course).

    And, seriously (don’t kill me for this), if there were other superheros and I had access to some kryptonite…well, you can probably guess what I’d do to a certain overpowered guy…

    – Wingsy Wings Wings

  17. Tomon 30 Mar 2009 at 1:41 pm

    It depends. It really does. Nightcrawler’s teleportation wasn’t ovepowered. In fact, it was pretty awesome. On the other hand. Dr. Manhattan’s teleportation is way overpowered, but that’s what they were going for with him.

    Yeah, if you can put good enough restrictions on it, like, say, you can only teleport to places you’ve been to before, then it can work. But yeah, it can easily become very overpowered.

  18. scribblaron 30 Mar 2009 at 1:43 pm

    God, I’d love to write some superman stories.

    I’d have a baddie make kryptonite bullets and sell them to every street level thug in metropolis. I’d inject Lois with kryptonite into her blood. I’d put it in the walls of the Daily Planet (like Asbestos).

    I wouldn’t kill him, I’d just make his life hell. For fun.

  19. Dforceon 30 Mar 2009 at 2:08 pm

    scribblar, but what would happen if he found you, away from kryptonite? How far do those laser beams of his reach, anyway…? lol. (Personally, I like Superman, Goku, the chosen ones… he he).

    I read “freezing time” up there, and I thought about DBZ. I’d like to share:

    Guldo, a martial artist alien of the Ginyu Force (loooooong story, lol), has a few abilities– one of which is to freeze time. His limitation is that he has to hold his breath to do so (the longer he holds it, the longer time freezes). He’s not the most athletic of the team, so seeing him freeze time as he is about to be punched, then seeing him running away (while holding his breath) was kinda funny. That’s him on the link.

  20. scribblaron 30 Mar 2009 at 2:09 pm

    I’d inject myself with kryptonite, too. Just in case.

  21. Dforceon 30 Mar 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Touché. But… can’t kryptonite melt? Alright. I’m gonna drop this now.

  22. scribblaron 30 Mar 2009 at 3:22 pm

    No, it’s good to think about these things.

    Okay, how would you kill Professor X? When you got close he’d know you were coming to kill him.

  23. Wingson 30 Mar 2009 at 3:40 pm

    *joins forces with scribblar*

    Anyway, how to kill Professor X…

    Plan A:

    ME: *snaps fingers* TITAN!

    PIERCE/TITAN: Yes, creator?

    ME: *points* See him?

    PIERCE/TITAN: *nods*

    ME: Steel fingers. Now.

    PIERCE/TITAN: *presses fingertips to ground*


    *ten giant steel spikes erupt from underneath Professor X, killing him instantly*

    Who doesn’t love the element of surprise?

    PLAN A 1.5:


    MEG/SPARKS: What now?

    ME: Electrocute him to make sure he’s dead.

    (I could seriously do this for ages. Poor Professor X….)

    – The Ever-Violent Wings

  24. B. Macon 30 Mar 2009 at 3:51 pm

    It’s not that easy to surprise a mind-reader. Oh, he talks a good game about “privacy” and all that jazz, but I bet he reads everyone just for kicks.

  25. scribblaron 30 Mar 2009 at 4:04 pm

    I’ve got to agree with B.Mac. He’s going to know your plan. I recommend a distance.

    My slightly more violent than Wings response is… Nuke whatever city he is in. Or for more definate results, nuke the entire US.

    There’s bound to be some collateral damage, but then, there always is…

    I wish I was a super-villain.

  26. Dforceon 30 Mar 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Hmm… your question intrigues me. And as I suspected, whilst I typed this up I would be usurped from first answer place. I knew it! Lol.

    Lemme give two options:

    The lame version would be to hypnotize myself to carry the command of shooting him robotically (as in by movements alone, and no thought processes; he can’t read what’s not there, right?).

    A more… elaborate version would have me concoct a plan. I have no superpowers, but I know his and I have the element of surprise… I’d… monitor his daily routine via spy cameras (that I placed one holiday night while ninjaing). After having plotted the potential escape routes, decide which has the highest potential for traffic should a catastrophe arise. Take note of whomever could potentially act as his “bodyguard pro tempore” and opt for devising a “distraction plan” for each. Denote a date on which to carry out the attack and the distractions (noting that the distractions were spread afar from the immediate location of one Target X). Then stock up on AA batteries, a loud CD player, a considerably loud boombox, flashbangs, smoke grenades, knock out gas, heat-vision goggles, and a short sword (I should also make myself a note to train in swordsmanship prior to the event and to buy the utmost portable stuff I could find).

    Proceed to activating the distractions en masse (they’d probably invlove the trapping and gassing of clusters of citizenry within sealed malls in several states, a dirty bomb here, a toxic gas there; activation via remote with the aid of a wide array of clandestine “signal carriers” would suffice I think). As the X-men are busy saving the day with a “WTF??” on their faces, I’d personally make my way to one unsuspecting Chuck.

    I’d opt to move about their HQ with headphones on and DragonForce blaring (I have a tendency to follow the lyrics as I hear them, in my head). Find an open room with plenty of cover. Place boombox, at loudest decibel on. Wait for someone to show up. If Proff X, flashbang and slice– no speeches, no gloating, just getting it over with. If Beast, Jean, or Scott, smoke the place, turn on goggles, aim for their faces throw flash bangs, and proceed to dispatch. If Wolverine, knock out gas is the option, bub; then move on to find the Proffessor (and once found, do the same: flashbang first, then smoke, then slice).

    Of course, I didn’t take as much time planning for this (right now– typed in a ~hurry), but it is the jist of how I’d do it.

  27. Dforceon 30 Mar 2009 at 4:13 pm


    By “one holiday night” I meant a night in which a majority (if not everyone) of the X-men were out of the mansion.

    Also, ignore the sealing of malls– open air gassing would be what I could accomplish in a hurry. Though, I’d make a note to have the detonation of the dirty bombs and gassing on a secluded area (or, rather, well inside a structure).

    As for how I’d be able to pull it off: I’d make myself proficient in search-and-breach as well as offensive SWAT tactics. It may take a while for me to get on it…

  28. B. Macon 30 Mar 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Scribblar, I respectfully disagree. The more collateral damage your plan entails, the more likely a hero is to stop it. That’s why no one has ever destroyed the world. Pretty much the closest anyone has come is Stamford, Connecticut. Stamford!

  29. Chulanceon 30 Mar 2009 at 5:17 pm

    Hello, I can help Teleportation and Intangiability are not godly neither as running at the speed of sound. These powers are actually fairly weak in some stories(like mine). Teleportation is not truly godly to challange him just give him an enemy who can run at the speed of sound therefore . The speedster could attack him before he could teleport.

    As for Intangibility that’s not godly either just give them a weakness such as radiation or bullets. If bullets was a weakjness the hero wouldn’t be godly any mroe and most people can get guns.

    Speed of sound isn’t godly just make other people that fast for example Jumper’s has other Jumpers. Balance it out. Or somone faster than sound or somone with time manipulation. Or somone with the ability to control gravity are all good challanges for Speedsters.

  30. scribblaron 30 Mar 2009 at 5:21 pm

    What about Watchmen?

    Or that weird Superman one where he was old, and Batman had robots and so on. I can’t remember what it was called and I didn’t like it.

    Or Galactus.

    Or the Joker (in the Dark Knight movie) did Batman really win?

    Or Doomsday, who killed Superman.

    PS do any of you watch Smallville? Doomsday is in it – gonna be good.

  31. Ragged Boyon 30 Mar 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Quoting scribblar: “I’d inject myself with kryptonite, too. Just in case.”

    You’d eventually die of kryptonite poisoning like Lex Luthor will.

    Regarding Chulance’s response: It’s still overpowered, at least in my opinion, just because you make the other character as strong doesn’t mean it’s not a ridiculously powerful power. If Goku and Majin Buu can destroy the Earth with one blast, they are equally powered, but this overly powerful. All you did was raise the bar for everyone else, and this works, but they are still powerful over regular people and whatnot.

    Sorry if that sounded a little harsh. 😉

  32. Ragged Boyon 30 Mar 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Smallville got way too complicated. He’s not even Superman yet and he’s gone through this ridiculous amount of drama. If this is the actual story of Superman, I’m glad they didn’t make it into a comic.

    I did, however, like the last episode with Zatanna and her gorgeous, magical self.

  33. Chulanceon 30 Mar 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Smallville did get way too complicated no flight he’s already batteled Zod,Doomsday, and killed Brainaic one of Superman’s main enemies. They should just make this an alternate universe.

    Well I mean sure it may be “overpowered” compared to other characters from other shows for example Ben Tennyson is much more powerful than Nathan Petrelli in Heroes Ben has 1,000,903 aliens all with powerful abilties. Nathan would certainly loose, but Ben isn’t overpowered in his own universe, therefore the story can still have drama although if Ben was in the Heroes universe he could solve most problems and wipe out the Governmenent with ease.

    Swampfire’s regernation is even stronger than Claire’s and she’s immortal. The point is each show has a different level of power. Peter was overpowered in his own universe but bring him into the Ben 10 universe he wouldn’t be that strong and in the DBZ verse he would be a weakling. (I mean when he still had Empathic mimmicry)

    Blowing up planets is easy in the DBZ universe heck Cell could have destroyed a Solar System and their WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY stronger than him. DBZ is still a great show because the creator makes challanges for the heroes. I personally love that show it’s my favorite Anime/Manga ever!

    I really don’t think being powerful over regular people is a problem unless Regular people are the villians.(Volume 4 of heroes). That’s one reason regular people shouldn’t be villians unless they have some sort of weaponry, item, or the hero isn’t that strong. Spiderman is certainly more powerful than regular people but compared to other superhumans he’s not too powerful and compared to many in the Marvel universe he’s a weakling.

  34. Ragged Boyon 30 Mar 2009 at 6:03 pm

    I hated DBZ with all my heart. It was essentially the same story on repeat, with a slightly different skip eveytime.

    DBZ was too powerful, I rolled my eyes so much I thought they would fall out.

  35. Chulanceon 30 Mar 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Okay, well it dosen’t matter matter if you hate DBZ or not I was just using that as an example of powerlevels. How was it the same story in your opinion, too may it was very different it started with a more fantasy theme and ended up futuristic . I like powerful heroes and I thought it was very drmaatic.

  36. B. Macon 30 Mar 2009 at 6:24 pm

    Hey, R.B. Could you check your e-mail? Thanks.

  37. Ragged Boyon 30 Mar 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Basically, it was this formula. Remember, it was slightly different each time.

    -A villain is usually found out of nowhere. It’s usually to strong to control, like originally planned.

    -Villain goes crazy with killing and destroying.

    -Fighters try to stop them and get their asses kicked. Usually one fighter is slightly strong and lasts a little longer. Someone usually dies and is wished back later.

    -Villain gets stronger.

    -Person with just the right skills to win arrives. 3-5 episodes of repetitive superspeed fighting. Same fighting, same blasts, same stopping to talk for about half an episode. Everything is destroyed and special person finally wins in some all out power struggle.

    -Everything is wished back to normal, and fighters continue training. They never really get any stronger, but it doesn’t matter, they’ll always be unprepared for the next villain.

    But that’s just my opinion. I could see why most people like it. But like you said it doesn’t matter anyway.

    I don’t really like superpowerful character. I have a character, Sketch, who can summon whatever he draws to live. He seems overpowered, but I’ve put tight restrictions on his abilities to keep them interesting.

  38. Ragged Boyon 30 Mar 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Okey dokey, B. Mac. I got your email.

  39. Ragged Boyon 30 Mar 2009 at 6:56 pm

    B. Mac, I’ve replied to your email with other concerns. Please respond, thanks.

  40. Chulanceon 30 Mar 2009 at 6:58 pm

    I’m just going to say something I’m not going to try to convince you to like DBZ at all or anything like that. But DBZ never just made things up and didn’t make things up as they went along. Villians weren’t found out of nowhere If you watch the story in order it makes sense. Freiza was a a cruel villian who used henchmen, Cell wanted to achieve perfection, Buu was the only true insane villian but even than kid buu was the one who was abosultey insane.

    They all have their reasons for being evil of course. They didn’t just wake up one day and say”Time to kill everyone!!!!! Also the wishing system is more complex but that’s going off topic.

    If you don’t like super strong people than you wouldn’t like DBZ, but I don’t want to get into that. Sketch sounds interesting I have a guy who can manipulate heat so he can use it in unique ways.

  41. Ragged Boyon 30 Mar 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Ok, that’s understandable. 😉

  42. scribblaron 31 Mar 2009 at 1:32 am

    I will agree Smallville got ridiculous for a while, but this season is the best ever – I’m really enjoying it. You’re right about the AU though. Apparently they are planning on killing off Lex.

  43. B. Macon 31 Mar 2009 at 3:17 am

    The worst fanfiction in the world has an unauthorized webcomic! Excellent.

  44. Marissaon 31 Mar 2009 at 3:27 am

    “When a wolf loses all of its blood, it can’t live anymore. Fascinating!”

  45. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 31 Mar 2009 at 3:42 am

    Talk about Captain Obvious!

    I like the example picture on this page:

  46. scribblaron 31 Mar 2009 at 2:38 pm

    We need a “How would you kill thread…” to get us into the heads of our villains.

  47. B. Macon 31 Mar 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Hi, Scribblar. I’ve added a villain’s forum here.

  48. scribblaron 31 Mar 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Hi, B.Mac – that’s great. I’ll go there in a moment. I’m off to ask you a question on the blogs thread, first.

  49. SlashBeaston 01 Jul 2009 at 4:06 pm

    Teleportation can be overpowered but there are some easy ways to place limits on it.

    Maybe the teleporter has to be able to visualize where he’s going in order to actually teleport there (Nightcrawler in X2). Maybe the teleporter can only teleport somewhere if he’s actually BEEN there before.

    Some depend on the teleporter’s fighting ability. In The Most Dangerous Game arc of Ultimate X-Men, Arcade is able to stab Nightcrawler because he knows that Nightcrawler’s an amateur fighter and would therefore try and attack from the most obvious spot (Behind him).

  50. TheNewHeroon 30 Mar 2010 at 9:32 am

    Hm… well, usually when developing weakness, a good way to do so is to tie the superpower to some genetic factors (fatigue, line of sight). So like with Stopping time it could be (as previously mentioned) as long as you can hold your breath. Going back in time could have a time limit (OOH! Interesting option: only as far until when you last went back?) etc etc. Thus, teleportation would be:
    What you can visually see? Teleportation is nearly the same as running full speed soemwhere, so teleporting far tires you out, (as was previously mentioned) either places you have been before or somewhere in your immediate area… Also, when teleporting (Very scietnific now though) your teleporter has to teleport himself, his supply of oxygen and about everything in his immediate area (five centimeters of his body?) and as he arrives, displace the air space he will arrive in. And live. So technically, heshould have more trouble teleporting into denser places.

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