Everyone has their own take on constructing an ability, how it should be done and what unique effects they want to achieve. Things get especially complicated when complex abilities which yield various results dependent on so many variables are created, especially with explicit aim to take a step away from having anything end up genialised. Unfortunately, that also starts to blur the lines between what is acceptable, and it especially gets difficult for staff and those awaiting staff verdict on abilities. We put cooldowns on some abilities, ask for durations or ranges, and with others we're not as demanding--why? To clear some confusion, this guide is being made as a reference point
to help understand how at least I personally view abilities to get a better grasp on whether they cover all grounds necessary to make it approvable.
All in all, it's strongly advised to consider these five factors when making your abilities to ensure that they are balanced.
In my opinion, abilities can ultimately have their functions divided into five categories. The level of power, height of the numbers, and general strengths of these sections determine whether an ability is either overpowered, underpowered, or right on mark.
I'll explain why these categories are separated in such a manner, 2-1-2, as there's reason for it.
Likely the most complex category amongst the five, mainly because it can feature the most information. Utility explains the usefulness of this ability, or in what scenarios it can be used, how it might accentuate, coalesce, and/or synergise with the environment around them. Take for example a buffing spell. It's usage is typically put on oneself, especially for a solo-operating characters, but a part of utility is saying this buffing spell can be cast on other people too. Or, the buff can be cast on a certain zone, so whoever is in it gets the buff. A higher level of utility is saying that whoever walks into the zone will retain that buff for an allotted duration after leaving the zone. The reason it's of a higher level of utility is that it can both constantly buff anyone inside so long as they stay inside the zone, on top of continuing to buff them outside of the zone. Utility more so goes into the range of uses a spell has and the parametres of its effectivity. We can break this down even further; the previous buffing spell example has several parametres around it detailing it's utility:
Obviously, the larger the range of cast, the higher the utility of the ability. A buffing spell being usable on someone from 200 meters away is obviously a lot more useful with a lot more utility than one which can do the same thing, but is restricted to a 50 metre radius. That's the range section.
Regarding Duration, you can either limit or empower this ability by determining the duration of it. The longer it goes on for, whether it's in terms of keeping up the buff itself, or say keeping up the area buff, the higher the utility and overall more useful and powerful the ability. This is especially powerful if the area-buff spell retains its effects on a target even after exiting the area of effect, the longer its effectiveness on the person thereby increasing the effectiveness of the ability and utility exponentially.
Targets go hand in hand with range most of the time, as range determines which targets you can buff. Sometimes, the range is more or less unlimited due to the manner of activation. An ability that solely requires making eye-contact for example, has varying ranges but in theory is unlimited. The target sub-category determines who can be effected, the buff example taking into account whoever can be empowered through the character's energy, or whoever enters their buffing zone, so on and so forth.
Finally, purpose, the most important part to utility. Purpose is really just the intended effects of the ability. In our example, this is a buff. Furthermore, focused purpose can vary in a buff alone, whether it's explicitly increasing their strength, making them faster, making them more focused, or even an all-round buff for every function and parametre.
Easy enough and self-explanatory, potency denotes the strength and power of the intended effects of the ability. To make things clear, let's refer back to the buff spell. Power in terms of the buff spell would usually dictate the extent that the buff applies, in terms of how much stronger the characters get. This can also reach into different parametres depending on how intrinsic the level of power is to these parameters. For example, an ability that floods an area with a massive wave. The potency of the ability directly correlates to the speed of the wave or size, so potency also determines the physical dimensions. Alternatively, in the case of a defensive spell like bakudo, the efficacy of the barrier as well as how much ground it covers determines its potency.
This is usually the area where there's the most issues for an ability, since potency can be ambiguous and dependent on other factors and variables, sometimes often arbitrarily decided. Potency of an ability as a touchy aspect can often be restricted or very specifically defined when it comes to characters, members, or abilities that staff may have a hard time trusting. A good example of this is blood manipulation related powers, since it's easily abused and very hard to work around when respecting an RP partner's character and posts, and blood manipulation by nature borders that line between godmodding and fair roleplay. Fortunately, Platinum Hearts doesn't restrict access to any sort of ability, so long as it's properly balanced, which is what this thread is here to help people understand and figure out.
Energy obviously dictates how much energy is used for this sort of spell. The reason it's separate from the other two sections is because energy is what justifies and powers the other two sections. This one changes depending on potency and utility, and naturally the higher the potency and utility of the ability, the higher we expect energy costs to be. An ability which only shoots a laser in a very small radius, maybe only up to say 20 metres effectively, presumably takes very little energy. However, if the strength or potency of that laser is enough to break through something like Nagato's laser, you can assert that it's a pretty fucking strong laser, and therefore takes up a lot of energy. Conversely, an ability that shoots a massive laser up to 200 metres would take up a decent amount of energy to expel, but if the level of strength only goes so far as to be stopped by drywall, it's probably not going to be that bad, as it doesn't do much beyond offering a light show.
Energy is in-between utility/potency and limitations/drawbacks because it's usually the factor which connects everything and serves as the justification for all these other factors. Additionally, this section isn't technically just limited to "energy expenditure", but rather "resource expenditure'. For example, someone like Mifune would instead of running off of energy for his ability, goes off of physical stamina. Or Valentine, who uses psychic ability and doesn't operate conventionally and off of "energy". However, they both have their own kind of resources to utilise these abilities, and that resource is what's exhausted, whether it be something on the level of mental strength that leads into mental strain, or physical stamina that leads into exhaustion. But, those kinds of features are to be gone over in drawbacks.
Drawbacks are what's used to counterbalance the strengths and ferocity of an ability. Something like Henrex's speed is pretty overwhelming, especially because it's further enhanced by his bird-like physiology. But it's not without it's counteracting drawbacks which also brings points of vulnerability to the individual ability/physiology, and the character Henrex as a whole. His Avian physiology means his bones are structured to enable rapid flight and operation with atmospheric buoyancy; conversely, his bone structure also leaves him considerably less durable, as he literally has bird-bones, and they can much more easily be broken compared to anyone else on his level.
Another example is the level of potency and sheer magnitude of synergy Mana has to demonic, negative, and chaotic energies. She is so powerfully empowered by them, that things like Holy Aether Energy, or an actual Angel's Holy energy, effects and abilities with purifying elements as a whole are particularly effective against her, much more than you might find these effects on a normal demon. This sort of susceptibility makes it easier to approve abilities of incredible power knowing that it's in turn counterbalanced.
Drawbacks are intrinsically tied to energy or resources often because the limited resources often effects how intense the drawbacks apply. If a character uses an ability multiple times and quickly exhausts their energy, that inherently means they won't be able to use the ability because they don't have a resource to power it. Specifically the relation to drawbacks is if a character can
use this ability beyond the normal parametres, but overusage causes some symptoms and drawbacks. An example of this is Nizhuan, and a lot of her abilities take up a lot of energy. A lot of the time, overuse of these abilities get to the point that it makes Nizhuan nauseous, gain headaches, lose focus, and at a point eventually be unable to respond and continue fighting for a period of time until these symptoms settle, or some other outside influence gives her aid.
Limitations denotes what areas an ability doesn't work, or the extent to which they do work. Limitations most strongly applies to characters of a lower tier, who can perform wonderful techniques and abilities, but due to their lack of energy, can't bring it to the next level quite yet. Limitations most specifically define things like cooldowns, durations, range--really just the negative or constricting mirror to utility. An ability's lack of utility is often characterised by their limitations, or specifically attempts to hinder the potential utility of an ability or its potency.
For example, pretty much any ability that specifically references skill sheets. Naturally, if an ability works off of skill sheets, then for the most part its limitations involves being ineffective to characters with a certain level on their skill sheets. Of course, when your own character has high skill levels, then the limitations are pretty redundant, but that's why there's a plethora of manners in which you can apply them.
Another example of limitations is conditional or circumstantial abilities, ones in which their actual effects can only take place depending on the scenario. Because this inherently means anything outside of the necessary scenario makes these abilities useless, they are typically very powerful--but of course, that level of strength scales the more stringent the requirements are to active/utilise the ability. For example, Claire's emotional manipulation, which only works depending on the opponent's emotional state and degree of emotional output they're giving. Because of this, it's not very useful to almost entirely useless if the opponent isn't susceptible to emotional manipulation or variance in emotions.