Brennus File 16: Meta-Powers

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, the “Meta” rating is the most nebulous power classification there is, encompassing a wide variety of effects with only one commonalty: they are powers about powers. From the power nullifier all the way to the power granter, any metahuman whose abilities affect their own or others’ powers earns a Meta rating.

No two powers are ever exactly alike (there are cases of two people having the same power, but in that case, they literally have the same power, not a power each which are exactly alike) and this counts double for Meta powers – not only is the power itself always unique in some form, but it’s also most likely going to show differences in how it interacts with any other power, some obvious, some subtle – and it’s the details that can be the most important.

Furthermore, responses to Meta-powers have to be as varied as the abilities themselves – against a power nullifier, a power mimic or a power thief, you’ll usually want to rely purely on normal human troops, while fighting a power shifter or someone who grants powers to their minions requires that one throws as many and as powerful metahumans at them as possible to overwhelm their power advantage.

So why not just split the classification further? Well, because, for one, there are already so many different ratings and complicating it even further is not well-advised. Furthermore, there are some common themes that run through all Meta-powers, perhaps not pertaining to how to combat them, but to where they come from and how they may function.

Above all, though, ratings are not meant to be the be-all end-all in figuring out how to deal with a threat. When you’re in the heat of combat and you hear “Meta!”, that means you assume the worst and verify the situation first before proceeding. Metahuman assets are pulled back until the nature of the threat is understood. It means you assume that things are going to get weird, because no powers ever get quite as weird (barring time-manipulation) as meta-powers.

In fact, weird could well serve as an alternate classification for meta-powers.

***

Common Origins

Meta-Powers as the dominant/main power all but always arise from Origins in which other powers were heavily involved – it can’t have been just other metahumans playing a role, but rather, their powers had to be a deciding factor. A much rarer form of Origin is one in which there was a distinct lack of any theme, an absence of input.

In technical literature, there are four accepted  types of Origins for Meta-Powers, and Meta-Powers themselves are classified according to those four types. The four known classes are Plus, Minus, Null and Wyrd.

Interestingly, these terms were taken from the remnants of Gwen Whitaker’s own research notes, a stack of which she handed over to a Canadian research team in 1981 in secret. Someone must have let that slip, though, and several villains, as well as at least one Intelligence Agency, attacked the lab trying to obtain them. During the resulting chaos, the lab and the notes were destroyed, with only a single page (partially) left over, on which these four words as well as fragmentary descriptions could be made out.

Someone later published those same pages and they became the basis of much speculation, due to their cryptic nature, as well as the basis for the classification of Meta-Powers.

In detail, the four Types of Origins are described as:

Plus
This term is applied to Origins where powers played a positive role. They may arise from someone being protected by a power during a crisis, being healed or otherwise supported by powers (such as a person manifesting while under the effect of a power-granting power). This most commonly results in powers which, in turn, affect other powers in a positive way – enhancing powers, granting powers, mimicing powers and such.

Minus
The exact opposite of Plus, the term ‘Minus’ refers to Origins which involve a negative relationship to powers. Someone who’s being electrocuted by an Electrokinetic, or being mind-controlled or otherwise harmed in some fashion, be it physically, emotionally or mentally. This tends to heavily emphasise powers which affect other powers in a negative fashion: countering powers, negating powers, shielding from powers, stealing powers and so on.

Null
One of the rarest kinds of Origins of all are those which are so lacking in definition as to be best described as empty. A person has lost all their memories and has not yet had time to build much of a foundation for their personality, lacking the usual lifetime of experience that powers mold themselves to. An abused child, kept locked up in a room since birth, leaves its prison for the first time. Two girls manifest powers before even being born, having not yet made a single experience for their powers to refer to.
With such an utter absence of definition, the resulting powers usually lack definition of their own and work with that – power mimics, thieves and shifters are most commonly Nulls.

Wyrd
As the name might imply, this is possibly the weirdest kind of Origin one can have – Wyrds are those who manifest due to or while a power breaks reality in the viscinity or in relation to them. A man manifests while caught in a time loop. A child manifests while being teleported away from its mother. A youth manifests as a cataclysm shatters the world around him, setting him adrift between realities. A girl manifests after her own death.
When reality itself no longer applies, the weirdest of all powers are born. Unlimited power shifters (often with heavy drawbacks), powers which interact with reality, including other powers, through non-standard vectors. The specific law of reality which was broken tends to heavily inform the resulting power (if time was broken, then the resulting power will often involve a temporal aspect; if space was broken, there will be a spatial theme).
These are the rarest of rare Origins, with only four confirmed cases known.

***

The Results

While the individual powers tend to be extremely diverse, there are some common types of effects that can be described:

Negation
All but exclusively Minuses, these powers reduce other powers in some fashion. This can range from reducing the intensity of an effect all the way to negating it entirely. However, few are so powerful and comprehensive as to categorically negate any power at all – the strongest known Negator, Ember,  found himself unable to negate the Dark’s power, with the implication that it wasn’t that the Dark was unique in some form, but that there was a flaw even in his power – aside from the fact that he had to be touching his target anyway.
Most Power Negators usually work in a lesser fashion, such as dampening powers, cutting down their effect by a set percentage, or preventing them from being used under specific circumstances.
While not technically power negators, metahumans who add negative side-effects to other metahuman’s powers are usually lumped in together with Negators.

Enhancement
In contrast, these powers arise all but exclusively from Plus Origins. Enhancers boost the powers of other metahumans to varying degrees. This can mean outright boosting its raw power (flames burn hotter, strongmen lift more weight, teleporters reach further) or affecting other parameters – making powers easier to use, negating negative side-effects, preventing backlash, and so on.

Power Control
The power to control another’s power while still leaving it in their hands. This can range from having complete control over another person’s power to merely being able to set when it is used, but not how (or the inverse) or to affect a single parameter (like being able to determine at what range a power will take effect if used, or preventing it from turning off).

Endowment
The ability to grant powers to others; specifically, while Enhancers improve on existing powers, Endowers add powers, either to metahumans, norms or both. This may well be the most coveted kind of power there is, at least as far as the world’s governments are concerned.

Mimicry
Being able to copy powers (usually with some limitation) used by other metahumans. Very rarely able to assume powers on a permanent basis, and even then only with other limitations (such as being able to retain a copied power permanently, but only being able to hold three such powers at a time). The prototypical Meta-Power.

Theft
Powers which steal powers from other metahumans. The difference between these and Mimics is that Mimics generally don’t affect the ‘target’, Power Thieves most definitely do, reducing their powers in some fashion, in the rarest cases even permanently!

Cultivation
The ability to grow powers over time, often adjusting them as they so grow. Only two known cases, both the result of Wyrd Origins.

Adaptation
Gaining powers in response to specific circumstances (such as assuming defensive abilities suited to environmental threats, or the feared Nemesis-type, who gain powers suited to fighting a specific metahuman they target).

Shifting
Similar to Adaptation, only more active, with the metahuman being able to actively choose powers, usually from a limited (but not necessarily fixed) selection.

***

Exemplary Metas

  • Desolation-in-Light: Generally considered to be the most powerful metahuman short of the Godking of Mars, DiL has an apparently unrestricted ability to choose multiple top-tier powers at will (on top of at least two major permanent abilities). One of two known pre-natal manifestations.
  • Gloom Glimmer: DiL’s younger sister and the only other pre-natal manifestation known, Gloomy’s power can provide an apparently unlimited variety of powers, though she has little in the way of actual control over what she gets – and sometimes over how to use it, even – and can only try to hold onto or push away a given ability, hoping that her power will cooperate for once. Fortunately, her control has been improving as of late.
  • Baba Yaga: A Null if there ever was one, Baba Yaga awoke with no name, no past nor much in the way of higher thought, but with the ability to permanently steal the powers of any metahuman of whom she gains a sufficient genetic sample, gaining them at full strength. Recently she’s also demonstrated the ability to bestow these same powers unto others, losing access to them herself in the process.
  • General Disarray: One of the founding members and current leader of the Chaos Corps, a British team of (borderline) supervillains and the Archenemies of Lord Buckethead’s Gremloids, General Disarray is capable of enhancing or dampening any metahuman power within about a block of himself, as well as controlling any power in use (he can’t force someone to use their power, but if they do, he controls it, so long as it happens within his range).
  • Major Mayhem: Another founding member of the Chaos Corps, Major Mayhem is a power thief. He can drain other metahuman’s powers by punching (or otherwise striking) them, draining a bit of their energy with each hit (the bigger the hit the more he takes). Powers so diminished recover over a short amount of time, unless he manages to land enough hits to drain a hundred percent, in which case it takes days for them to recover. He can himself use a lesser version of any such power (a tenth of its original strength at most, no matter how much he drains), running on a limited charge based on how much he drained. The charges don’t run out on their own, so he can store a wide selection of powers until he needs them.
  • Corporal Disorder: The first teenage (and female) member of the Chaos Corps’ ‘Brass’, Corporal Disorder can empower any physical object she touches (usually her gloves, bullets she fires or, most commonly, the pellets in a gadgeteer-made paintball gun) with an effect which scrambles the nerve signals of anyone they hit, with the effect growing more and more discombobulating the more often the power is applied. If she hits metahumans, the effect also spreads to their power, causing it to go out of control.
  • Ember: Among his many, many, many other abilities, Ember was capable of simply shutting off the powers of any metahuman whom he managed to physically touch with his hands. The limits of this ability (other than the limited range) are unknown, though the Dark’s ability to counter it certainly proves there is at least one.
  • Queen Madeleine: One of only two known Power Cultivators, Madeleine started off with but a single ability (being able to increase or reduce her own density) and cultivated more and more powers over time. Currently, six God-Tier powers have been confirmed, including a much more powerful version of her original density-manipulating power, as well as the ability to control the effects of any one power within her sight (giving her both a main and derived meta-rating). She is now working on her seventh.
  • Cyclops: A Greek supervillain and one of the few confirmed Wyrd Manifestations, Cyclops manifested while stuck in a time loop with the ability to assume any power at all, but only one at a time. Each power comes with a time limit, after which it disappears, only to be replaced by another. Both the time limit and the number of powers he can choose from after each such cycle vary due to unknown factors, a great source of frustration for him.
  • Aphrodite III: The third Aphrodite, a member of the Olympians, can enhance or reduce the powers of any metahuman by touch, with the effect petering out over time. The longer and more intense the contact, the stronger the effect.
  • Rounds: The leader of the New Lennston United Heroes’ team, already mentioned in the Spawner file. He can create spectral copies of any metahuman he touches, which have one half of the original’s powers, while he gains the other half, for as long as the copy persists. Can make up to twelve such copies.
  • Heckler: A German metahuman, Heckler has the power to endow projectile weapons with a variety of effects (electric, explosive, acid, paralysing, freezing, infinite ammo, several others), though only one at a time. Once a weapon is so empowered, anyone can make use of it until it runs out of its charge – either a limited number of shots, or a time limit in the case of infinite ammo.
  • Aheri: A South African warlord and one of the most successful ones, Aheri has multiple powers, the most dangerous of which is her ability to bestow any of her powers onto any powered or unpowered recipient, losing access to them herself until she recovers them.
  • Zincar: A former Brazilian drug lord, he could transform people into living steel statues (with an accompanying degree of super-strength) which were also capable of delivering electric shocks by touch, from the strength of a taser up to a lethal dose. Killed by Quetzalcoatl.

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47 thoughts on “Brennus File 16: Meta-Powers

  1. You wrote her down as a null. While she does cause people to lose their powers, that seems to be a side affect of her stealing the power. Not an actual ability to inhibit other abilities

  2. Major Mayhem reminds me of a character I thought of (and abandoned) some time ago. Drains powers by physical contact, only to use them later. The main difference is that his drain wasn’t as powerful (A metahuman would recover after about a night’s rest if fully drained), but he could use stolen powers at full strength.

    That character kind of broke the world I imagined for him, which means that Major Mayhem might be able to do the same if he meets the right meta. Imagine you have Bob, who can permanently copy powers with a touch (though only use 1-2 at a time). Bob and Major Mayhem shake hands, and copy each other’s powers.

    Mayhem then uses the stolen instance of Bob’s power, on Bob, to acquire a permanent copy of Bob’s ability. For symmetry/humor, at the same time Bob could use Mayhem’s power to drain Mayhem of all his charges before tossing him in prison.

      • Well, that certainly doesn’t break the world so badly as what I had in mind. That story basically died once I realized that I couldn’t really go anywhere after that.

      • I think you overestimate that power. Even if it worked the way you intended it to, he’d first have to collect so many powerful abilities and avoid dying while doing so

  3. Yay, my theory that Bree is some kind of mimic/cultivator still holds up. How long does it take Maddy to cultivate a power? and how does she get the powers she cultivates? Do they stremgthen by usage or incubtion?

  4. So i had an interesting idea and was curious what you would have done for their Origin. A young couple manifest together. the boyfriend gains the ability to draw very well and quickly. the girlfriend gets any 2 powers he draws her using. the boyfriends drawings only work on her. and only work for half an hour. the girlfriemds interpretatiom of what she thinks he is drawing also plays into what powers she gets.(if you like this, keep it.)

    • Hm, this seems like just one power to one person, not two. It could be the boyfriend manifesting a power-granting ability with a particular fixation/totem (his girlfriend), or it could be the girl is a power shifter who is dependant on an outside totem (her boyfriend) to control her power.

      Either way, his or her origin would involve both of them, perhaps in a situation of being victimised by powers and/or protected by someone with powers, while unable, powerless, to do anything htemselves, having only each other for support. I’d refine this more, but i’m busy writing the next chapter, so this’ll have to serve for now

      • Ooo. i like that. to add a little the girlfriend can “see” what ever the boyfriend is drawing in her mind. and the boy is mute.(cause why not?)

  5. Very interesting as lways I love these looks at how powers work, now then I noticed that you did not put a pure endower in the cape exemples you put here(well you put Baba Yaga but then she does really give new powers more like she moves them from one person to another by stealing them and giving them to others when she does not want said power so she’s more of a power mover/administrator than an endower)which makes me wonder about how those power sets work: Do they even come on their own without anything else à la Othala from worm or do they always have another power with it or a side effect à la Teacher ? How strong can the given powers get exactly ? can some endowers get things from giving their gifts ie give firebreathing to someone you get it to ?

      • Ah I see the exemples of endowers nice ones and scary in the case Aheri, especially since the listed abilities are not the whole list she must be quite a pain to fight and on the top of that she can bestow powers to others…For some reason I think she might tend to keep the invulnerability on herself. Also testament to how dangerous she is: Severence has not killed her yet.

        Eh, Zincar was out of luck especially if endowing was all he could do.

        Also forgot to say: Damn Queen Madeleine is even better than i thought not only does she have more than one god level power but she can grow new permanent ones, damn wonder who the other one is also power interaction question:if a power thief does their thing on a Cultivation type meta would they take one or all the powers they grew/are growing or would they take their ability to grow new ones ?

      • Okay, so say Babayaga gets some blood from a cultivator who already cultivated some abilities, what would happen ?

        Also cultivators can Cultivate gadgeteer powers right ? I mean I am pretty sure Contriving is out of question for obvious reasons but what about Gadgeteering ?

      • They can cultivate Contriving too, in theory, provided they have the proper mind-set.

        Gadgeteering is also possible, though Madeleine herself is not interested in it.

        Again, it would depend on power interactions. In Madeleine’s case, she’d be able to steal the cultivated powers (probably not all at once), but not the ability to cultivate powers as a whole.

      • Oh ? color me surprised but then they would only be able to cultivate a single one of those as more than one wieleded by by one person should not be possible due to the incompatibility of the delusions involved in such powers,w ell I think so at least.

        Ah, as for Madeleine not being interesting in that particular type of power well that doesn’t surpirse as she did not seem the type from what we saw of her, pity though given what this could potentially generate oh well she is already awesome as she is.

        Ah that’s very interesting to know, now the question is could the regrow the exact same power given time or would it stay forever beyond her reach ?

      • not the exact same, but something similar. Like having two apple seeds. BOth will grow into an apple tree, but they won’t be the same.

      • Hmmm…so say she gets her density power stolen and wants to replace it what would the difference be between the new one(once grown)and the one that got stolen ?

      • I don’t want to get into too much detail regarding her specific loadout yet, so I’m going to use an example power which she doesn’t have and won’t be cultivating for herself any time soon.

        Basically, it’ll always have the same core theme, but develop a different, if similar power.

        Imagine she cultivated a space-bending attack which destroys matter by twisting space, rending it apart.

        In its original iteration, she fires it off from her hands in a straight line, obliterating anything in a straight path up to the maximum range she sets.

        In its second iteration, it may instead take the form of a sphere of chaotic, all-rending space which she can move around by thought.

        In a possible third iteration, it may instead be an armour/aura of space which rends anything within striking distance of her, clinging to her body.

  6. Dang, Aheri sounds like she could be a major player. The ability to give powers to your underlings could certainly make for a successful warlord.

  7. Not just give them abilities, but also being able to use all the powers she can give to others herself and given the number of powers she has, yeah that means quite something as she is far from the squishy Endower who can just enpower peole like say Zincar.

    Also the powers she gives seem to be rather high level ones, I am wondering what kind of origin she had to have so much powers(I mean the powers listed here are not even the full list of what she has) and be able to pass them on to others as well as what her SOP is or who she is as a person.

    Gifting her regeneration to heal her people when they need it must be a part of that, which ought to make her rather popular in her holdings.

    On a totally unrelated note(okay not completly but still)is growing an endowment type power possible for a Cultivator ? it should but since I thought they could not do Contriving and that it turend ou they can I find it better to ask.

    Also have already heard of or seen the Cultivator that is not Madeleine in story ?

      • Yeah well even so she seems on the Dark Five/Shining Guardian level of the scale plus I am sure she has more than one Apex in her list. But I am still wondering about the kind of origin she had to have such a wide selection of abilites and the power to gift them, hell if I didn’t know better I would say she is the other Cultivator but with less patience and instead of growing one power until it reaches Godlevel she disperses herself with lots of powers ranging from Paragon to Apex(with perhaps one Godleleves hidden in there).

        But seriously I wonder what kind of person she is and how she operates, I mean to stay alive and be successful as a warlord in this setting’s South Africa she must be quite the woman and not just because of her powers.

        is Severence Diantha’s father ?

      • No, he’s not. He’d probably throw up if someone suggested him having sex with Lady Light, much less having a child with her (he’s literally known her since he was a preteen)

        Cultivators can’t necessarily increase a power up to god tier. Do remember that these ratings don’t relate directly to the powers. A power may be cultivated, yet never change its tier.

        Aheri’s origin involved a fight between multiple metahuman warlords.

      • I was not really being serious about that one but eh thanks for the answer anyway.

        Well the only known Cultivator, her Majesty Queen Madeleine of Australia, can do that so I made assumptions. As for a power being Cultivated and not changing tier i’m afraid I need an exemple of that.

        As for the rating I really think you should separate the Exemplar/Paragon/Apex/God/fuck this I’m outta here rating for powers and the numbered system with the former indicating a power’s potentcy and the latter being used to indicate the threat level of said power but that’s just me. One being used for academics and such and the other for the people having to fight Metahumans.

        Okay, I can see that that can explains it a little bit should I read something in the fact that you are only given limited information on Aheri ? I also note you said nothing about the other Cultivator…

        Another question: South Africa and South America ARE the most dangeorus places to be right ? Well since Madeliene took over Australia at least since Pre Madeleine Australia was also very very dangerous.

      • Ah, good got that right though if I may am I right that Zincar was a pure endower à la Galvanate from worm ? Because if so he was stupid to start shit on Quetzalcoatl’s turf.

        Also what are the main differences on how things work between South America and South Africa, I mean the both of them have warlords and other assorted deadly things there but what are the differences between both places ?

        Another thing would I be right in thinking that PreMadeleine!Australia was worth than both places ?

        Are there endowers that get powers from endowing people IE the endower is normal until he gives a power to someone at which point he gains the same power. And the more times he gives the same power to others his version gets stronger and stronger, by the same token he gets weaker if one of the people he gave that power dies or loses it somehow.

        Also I am surprised you did not put Coach as an exemple of endower typer metas.

      • Didn’t think of Coach when I wrote this. Should’ve.

        Of course such an endower as you describe could come to be. Though I’d probably attach some pretty hefty drawback(s) to that power, just to keep it interesting.

        pre-Maddie Australia was worse, yes.

        The difference lies in the culture. South Africa has more warlords, South America more drug lords.

        South America is more civilised and there are still governments – they’re just utterly, completely corrupt. The villains, while powerful, work within the system and manipulate it to their advantage, mostly because it’s so damn EASY to do so, due to the rampant corruption. The villains are more like mob bosses and DRUGlords.

        South Africa is, in large parts, completely lawless, without even the pretension of governments. Here, WARlords rule supreme, constantly fighting over territory, back and forth. Genocide is on the daily menu.

        I don’t think that’s quite valid. Villains gonna be villain, of course they have to be careful where they start their shit. But if villains were never to take risks, they wouldn’t be villains, now would they?

        Btw, Zincar predates Quetzalcoatl. He was one of the first druglords that fell after quetzalcoatl appeared.

        He was a pure endower, yes. Couldn’t bestow powers to himself, but he had a lot of very loyal soldiers.

    • Meh, that happens besides there is nothing preventing you from adding him if you feel like it.

      Hmmm…I dunno about that: if you want said endower as a protagonist then sure you would need some kind of drawback(although I am of the opinion that the protagonist’s high power level and general ability does not prevent a skilled writer from writing a good story)however as an antagonist I would say he is fine as is.

      Ah, good to have read that right but then the Kangaroo King alone was quite the clue.

      Ah, so South America did not collapse as thouroughly and the Druglords did not go full on Warlords, okay then.

      Well yeah villains gonna be villains but aside from the insane and stupid ones they should have the sense not to start shit in a place where the local hero will eat them alive, litterally if they do not have pretty heavy duty powers themselves.

      Okay he predated Quetzalcoatl so not stupid then just a case of bad luck with somone like that manifesting in his neck of the jungle.

      Does Quetzalcoatl have a local nemesis ? Someone he can’t just kill because they are too strong/smart/Durable/all the three together ?

      Is there a reason Severence has not moved against Aheri ? Sure she is powerful but there has to be more to it than that.

      • There’s the Dowager, for one. She’s in charge of the South American Syndicate.

        Severence is taking care of most of South Africa, working with the smallest UH division in the most dangerous places in the world. Even if he had the resources, he wouldn’t have the TIME to go after every warlord out there.

        He has trouble enough keeping the lid on just crime in the actually civilised parts.

      • The Dowager huh ? Well I don’t know much about either of them but from what I know I say that they deserve to have to deal with each other.

        Okay, I get that but I thought he would go after the most successful warlords so they don’t get too big and become too much of a threat, granted competition amongs their ranks must be great but still…oh well.

        Also smallest branch in the UH ? How many people does that mean ? Just himself, two, Three ? No junior heroes that’s for sure though.

      • He has, across all of South Africa and parts of the territories (not countries) immediately around it, maybe twenty, twenty-five heroes to work with, about half of them juniors.

      • There are juniors in South Africa ? Eh, I guess they take everyone they need seems like I tend to forget they are NOT a government organisation and that they do what it takes in the places that need it, heh Quetzalcoatl being in the UH at all is proof of that. guess the people in his branch must be hardasses given where they are, heh wonder how they and those of Quetzalcoatl’s branch are perceived by the US members.

        Ah, thought he did that, guess Aheri just doesn’t rate high enough as a threat yet for him to take time to go after her. by the by I would imagine that some of the criminals from the civilised part of South Africa have dealing with some of the Warlords right and that they must be nasty pieces of work too, especially if Kraqok is the one handling syndicate business for the area.

      • Let’s just say, there’s a reason the Dark sent the unrepentant cannibal to take charge of things there.

        Aheri is a case where it’s just not worth the trouble. She’s a monster, but she’s not the worst. She’s powerful enough that the resources/effort/risk required to put her down just isn’t worth it, compared to all the other monsters that roam that part of the world.

      • Eh that’s a good point, besides among the five guy’s the most suited to handle South Africa the only other place I could see him manage would be South America but then the Dowager must have it well in hand, pretty sure lots of people signed a contract with her there, eh she HAS a meta rating too with those contracts when you think about it.

        So in short she is one of the”fair”Warlords when it comes to her territory and her people, okay then.

        BTW will you do Brennus files for Control types and other powers too ?

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