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Overpowered

Quick Definition

Overpowered characters, items, or plot devices are elements of a fictional work that are too powerful for their role in the narrative of the story. While it can be fun to play a game as an overpowered character, it can also ruin the fun because it means you'll never really be challenged by anything you encounter.

When creators realize that they've let something become too powerful for its own good, they often attempt to fix the problem. Unfortunately, the solutions that they come up with are often just as bad for the story as the original problem.

One example of an overpowered plot device is the transporter from Star Trek. They were initially created as a solution to a design problem. The cast needed to be able to go between different locations quickly, and it was deemed to be too expensive to show the crew traveling in shuttlecraft on a regular basis. Additionally, these shuttlecraft sequences would stall the action, which isn't good for any story. Thus, the transporters were created so that the away teams could move about freely with a cheap visual effect.

The problem with the transporters is that they were too effective: if anyone ended up in danger, they could simply be "beamed" back to a safe location, effectively ruining any attempt at drama. The solution to this was to make the transporters unreliable in various ways. Perhaps they couldn't get a "lock" the target, maybe something was interfering with the signal, or using the transporter risked creating new obstacles for the cast to overcome.

This "fix" worked to a degree, but it also gave the universe's "safest means of transportation" a terrible reputation. This is even reflected in the series, as several characters are noted for being terrified of or uncomfortable with using the transporter.