worldbuilding header 2 Rough Passages

Labeling superpowers: a tricky trick.

Today I roll out the first of two posts about the superpowers system in my fantasy series, The Rough Passages Tales.

Those who might develop special abilities are known poz, for positive R-factor potential. If they “roll over” from potential to active in middle age, the Department of Public Safety assigns their new abilities a letter-number-letter classification. The first letter designates their primary ability, the number gives an idea of their power level relative to others with similar abilities, and the second letter indicates any number of assorted variations or secondary characteristics.

It’s a lousy system, but there are reasons for it persisting despite its flaws. I’ll get to that in a bit. Below you will find a list of the major power classifications developed by the Department of Public Safety.

I: Series Designations:

  • A: not used. This letter is reserved for designating secondary variants. It indicates a pure specimen of a particular primary power. For example: someone classified P1A has pyrokinetic powers in the top power tier, but has no secondary powers (telekinesis or air control are common) and no physical characteristics distinguishing them from non-powered people.
  • B: Perceptive powers like enhanced senses, inexplicable ability to sense specific traits or conditions. The variant letters for this series narrow down the nature of the perception.
  • C: The slang term “carnie” refers to any rollover who exhibits a radical change in physical appearance. Physically deviant individuals who exhibit other powers are assigned to that series, with a variant indicator. Individuals assigned to a primary C-series designation are bascially furry, scaled, or feathered people. (See also: S-series, T series.) This Hazardous Variant tables for C’s runs several hundred pages long.
  • D: Doctor. Individuals who can cure—or cause—disease or injury by laying on of hands or by proximity or any number of other ways laid out in the variant listings for this series. Most of the higher power-class rollovers in this series can heal and harm at will.
  • E: Projective empaths and manipulative telepaths. Not as rare as the general public believes. Sequestered on discovery and treated as deadly threats until certified safe by specialized F-series pyschics.
  • F: F for fortuneteller. Precognition, telepathy, receptive empathy and telepathy, and clairvoyance that isn’t tied to a sensory element—most of the typical psychic powers. Why F? The first psychic identified was a precog, and by then someone had already assigned P, T, and E to more obvious, common, and dangerous powers.
  • G: Gaia. Second-rarest series. If it’s alive, a G-series can affect it in some way. Most G’s do not survive the rollover transformation, falling prey to the overwhelming and distorting effects of their own powers.
  • H: H for hydro. Water elementals.
  • I: not used. (yet) Too easily confused with H or lowercase L
  • J: from jockey. Animal and/or plant control and/or communication
  • K: from kryptonite. A rollover whose power negates other powers. Usually specific to another power series which would be indicated by the variant letter.
  • L: not used yet. See I
  • M: not used. W got assigned first.
  • N: Nature-related powers that don’t fall into any other designation, including air-benders and weather-workers.
  • O: not used yet. Too hard to distinguish from zero.
  • P: Heat and flame elementals without a concurrent earth manifestation. Various manifestations of pyrokinesis.
  • Q: see O.
  • R: Earth-movers, magma-summoners and other stone or seismic-based powers.
  • S: S for superhuman. Enhanced strength, speed, senses, or any combination of the three. Also used as a variant letter for carnies who are also super-strong etc.
  • T: see also carnie. T from troll. Various manifestations of skin/ height/ muscle/ weight/ strength /hormonal changes. Most have enhanced senses, all can boot their strength, speed and regeneration to enhanced levels under stress.
  • U & V: not yet used
  • W: W from weird. Telekinesis and teleportation in a variety of forms from personal and passenger movement or translocation to portal opening and summoning things/people from a distance.
  • Y: Like A, reserved for describing variants
  • Z: Elevated R-factor detected, but no power develops. The rarest of primary designations, only discovered/added after the blood tests for rollover were invented.

Additional letters — or doubled ones– are often assigned for cataloging precision, but they are rarely noted outside official paperwork. (think of the extra 4 digits in a zip code)

DPS staff with personal agendas or quotas to fill can bend definitions like pretzels to justify putting particular power manifestations into designations, and the whole set-up is vulnerable to misuse. Annual scientific conferences hold high-powered discussions about the need to revamp the whole system, but no one has come up with a better one yet.

More on that in the next post (LINK HERE!) along with a primer on power ratings and variant letter designations. For now, that’s a wrap. Don’t forget your coats, and remember to tip your server.

3 thoughts on “Labeling superpowers: a tricky trick.

  1. Jen Ponce says:

    That’s fantastic. You have a lot of fodder for short stories there, even if you never use most of it in your main body of work.
    How long did it take you to develop these?
    Did you develop all of it before you started writing or as you went?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dawnrigger says:

      Great questions!

      The fodder thing is soooooo true. I came up with half a dozen story ideas just finishing the list. (There’s a story reason the deprecated letters are not used, f’rex. Confusion can be deadly.)

      How long? Hm. I started the list when I was developing Powerhouse and have revisited it off and on ever since, adding a letter here and there while writing stories. So in that sense it took over 2 years developing as I went. But quite a few of those letters were only given their final status as I wrote this post. So in terms of time spent on-task…maybe 20 hours total?* The blog post where I hammered out all the codes for variances and power ratings only took a few hours.

      *Not counting thinky-think time, of course. This world idea was simmering for a decade or more before I tackled it as fiction. A variant of it served as a setting for an email RPG I ran in the late 90’s/early 00’s. I taught myself HTML so I could post “web news articles” for the players. Ah, the old days.

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