Greetings everyone, and welcome to the first installment of a new blog series from me titled "Nanja's Classroom" where I go in detail about a number of roleplaying tips and tricks that I've picked up in my 13 years of roleplaying experience.
In this installment I'll be detailing what is probably one of the most misunderstood topics of roleplaying and character creation: weaknesses.
The common misconception is that weaknesses should be abandoned or at least grow less and less relevant the stronger your character becomes. But that is false, and in this guide I'll attempt to tell you why.
What are Weaknesses?
In simple terms, a weakness is a deficiency within your character, a flaw that might be exploited by a cunning foe or in some cases, an ally in order to produce a beneficial outcome.
They might be physical, psychological, or specific to a certain ability, form or release. Indeed, they even come in several different forms and types, which I'll briefly detail here.
Limitations: A Limitation is arguably the simplest and cheapest form of weakness, in that it doesn't introduce an avenue for the other person to gain an advantage, but rather is a definition of what a character cannot do. They're commonly put on otherwise ridicolously overpowered abilities in order to direct their potential and make them usable in good faith. They're also frequently employed in order to preserve proper power scaling. Limitations might be removed as the character grows in power, albeit with some caution.
Weaknesses: Unlike Limitations, a true weakness isn't meant to be overcome, and they're also many times more significant. These are the kind of shortcomings that can be used to directly affect the outcome of a fight against your character. There's various variants of weaknesses, there's weaknesses to certain elements, mental vulnerabilities such as particularly great arrogance, foolhardiness or general outlooks -- or even particularly severe phobias; although the last one is dependant on each phobia in question.
Achilles Heels: The greatest of all types of weaknesses, this type is derived from the legend of the Hero Achilles, who was dipped into a blessed river by his mother in order to make him invulnerable if struck anywhere the water had touched. However, the mother held him by his heel, and it was thus the only unprotected area of his body, and when he was struck there by an arrow, he died. Granted, the original legend would be an exagerration, but far more than a common weak point, it has the potential to defeat the character right then and there if exploited, or at the very least severely screw them over. In practise, these might be extremely severe elemental weaknesses, or more commonly, a specific character archetype done properly.
Path to Victory: This isn't so much of a weakness as much as it is a promise, a predetermined win condition for your enemy. Essentially, it promises a single result in exchange for meeting a specific objective. As an example, my own Hiroya is warded by roughly 30 layers of wards, highly resistant to physical damage -- and I've promised that should all these wards be destroyed, Hiroya will be defeated in a single blow. That is not at all an easy feat to accomplish however, but for those who can, it simplifies him a great deal.
Why do I need Weaknesses?
Well, this is a question that I imagine quite a few ask themselves, after all, we all enjoy making powerful characters, and giving our opponents a simpler way to defeat them seems fairly counterproductive, right? Not exactly, see, as long as you make a character, and you write them down, that character WILL have weaknesses -- even if you didn't intend for them to.
Someone who has plenty of awesome super techniques but little thought put into the actual relevant skill descriptions is probably overly reliant on their abilities. Finding and understanding these is pretty important, if you constantly try to band-aid any shortcoming on your character, you're gonna end up a victim to the Nanami Principle before you can say K-kurosaki-kun.
But this hasn't answered the question, why do I need weaknesses? Is it to be fair to my opponent, not really no. Is it to increase the quality of my character, and make them seem more authentic? Could be, but not exactly correct either.
The reason we have weaknesses, is actually a mixture of the two above, although it includes a third reason; without weaknesses, your character simply put cannot have any true strengths. Because weaknesses exist to shape the character along a specific path, they reinforce their underlying theme and informs their design.
Furthermore, in the way of healthy character building, weaknesses and limitations serve as a way to "buy" power; with my character Hiromasa Ishikawa, I gave him a pretty severe weakness to the element of fire, due to his element being Air. Meanwhile, that allowed me to give him complete immunity against Wind-elemental attacks, as well as strong resistance against Lightning.
Hadn't I given him that weakness, I'd probably have had to choose. It also enhanced his theme, and I've similarly added quite a few limitations into his abilities in order to make him more interesting. The bigger the weakness, the bigger a "power budget" do you get.
So, to prove to you that even some of the most powerful of characters have weaknesses, I'll now bare Hiroya's weaknesses to the entire fanon and analyzing how it helps make him who he is.
Weakness - Fear: Hiroya as a character is full of insecurities, even if he does his utmost not to reveal them. His existence is one he sees as absolute, and his strength unconquerable. For this reason, and a lack of actual combat training, he tends to get really nervous around the kind of people who just won't give in. If it gets dramatic enough, he just straight up flees.
Limitation - Technical Pacifist: Originally, Hiroya was conceived of as a complete pacifist, over time he evolved into someone who went to great lengths not to kill people. Although putting mortals in their place is perfectly valid, henceforth, Hiroya will often hold back until he feels an opponent can take what he dishes out. This limits his offensive potential early on in a fight.
Achilles Heel - Assassin-types: For all his power, for all his wards and for all his precautions, Hiroya will never be fast. He's in general weak against opponents he simply can't seem to hit, but especially so against dedicated Assassin-characters like Void's Kenshin Yagami (Spirit). Alongside my own Grimmjow, both of these have immense speed, and are capable of slipping past his wards and defenses with ease, they could probably kill him in a single strike if he was caught off-guard for even a moment.
Path to Victory: Anyone who manage to dismantle Hiroya's Twenty-Seven Scales of Kouzenkojun are more or less guaranteed a victory with their following attack, as destroying them is a pretty monumental task.
But what is the purpose of showing you all this, beyond proving that even extremely powerful characters have a pretty large list of weaknesses?
Well, although many of us worry about those nasty meta-gamers, weaknesses are best if they're left in the open as a form of trust. Indeed, doing so is a weakness of its own and can be used to justify adding a bit more oomph to your roleplaying character.
So, hopefully this little primer has been helpful for some of you, if not, tell me why in the comments. And don't forget to read my Nanja's Arsenal: Introduction blog and vote for the class you'd like to see explained soon, see ya!