I have the principal antagonist for my modern fantasy alternate world setting. Unlike the typical antagonist, this particular character, whom I named Vritra. He weilds the exaltation of a goddess, which granted him a slow aging, stronger than average magical capabilities and fast healing far beyond what the main characters can access. He used to be a very respected member of the magic association, and once destroyed the incarnation of a chaos god, saving thousands of lives, however he was deeply contaminated by chaos.

Short time after that he found out how that particular incident was because the neglect and corruption from the magic association. He also found that the only way available under the circumstances to prevent more incidents like that one would end up cutting the ties that the people had with magic, however the association wasn't particularly happy about it. When he tried to bring the issue to the public, the association labeled him as a traitor, and conspirator and tried to kill him.

From then and onward he fought alone, externally against the bounty hunters from the magic association and against the forces that threatened the world (which the mage's guild were neglecting, for fear of loosing their monopoly on the magic and overestimating their ability to solve the issue without giving up on the magic). And internally against the chaos that was corrupting his essence. After several years he has come close to finally cutting the ties to the mana, but has become so corrupted that he's loosing his sanity. He kills not only to defend himself but also for pleasure, and since long ago stoped caring about the consequences of his deeds, no matter how high the price, he will accept it in order to accomplish his objective.

My problems comes in his impact to the plot. I fear that he might be bordering on marty stu territories. He is not the strongest mage, nor he has a particularly wide array of spells to use, but the few he has are versatile and strong. So far he has meteor swarm (deadly, and can be spammed to some degree); a limited, non spammable flashstep, that he uses to cut distances and blast someone pointblank; a strong chaos emanation (the one that gives me headaches) that easily disrupts mana, breaks spells and deals severe damage to magic casters, but using it propagates his own corruption; strong, telepathically controlled fire chains (but require him to focus on controlling) and a partial dragon transformation that puts him near the level of the stronger physical fighters, but limits his spell to fire and lightning blast. He is also skilled in close combat, posses a great magical resistance, and on his more sane moments is a great tactician (but easily gets carried away when he's exited in a fight)

So far I use his corruption to limit him, even tho the exaltation grants fast healing and a demigod stamina, the mental straint of containing the chaos limits how long he can fight, also all of his spell requiere huge amounts of mana and can't be cast together lest he risk loosing control of the chaos.

I also had him loose one of his dragon wings at the end of book 1 (cutting his sky superiority, for flying here is rare and unique), and during book 2 he sustains severe wounds fighting a demigod while off camera that impair for the remaining of the series, but also gained a manadrain spell that gave him a huge edge on a fight that would have killed him before the climax (and somewhat solved the issue of his spells requiring huge amounts of mana).

What else could I do to limit him? or are the limitations imposed on him fair enough. He's supposed to win in the end, accomplishing his objective of cutting everyone's ties with the magic, causing a global catastrophe, but ultimately saving the planet, but he also has to die just after that, in a post climax fight against the protagonist (that ends just as they are loosing their cuts to the mana). I have already planned the climax, but I feel that he needed a bit of deus ex machina to get there alive, and I want his victory to feel real, not just because I, the writer, said so

P.D.: He is the "protagonist" of the global story, my main character is the protagonist of her personal story, and serves to narrate Vritra's story (besides a few, particular chapters, I don't want to have him as the narrator, mainly for the Marty Stu issues, and mainly for I want to make the point that the story resolves around a LOT more characters than just the protagonist)

  • If he is being corrupted by chaos and aware of it, wouldn't he want to die as soon as he succeeds? And deliberately keep alive someone who is up to doing it? So as long as the MC is not a threat to his mission but is capable of killing him, you don't really need any extra limits. Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 16:28
  • Thats exactly his relation with the mc, at times he provokes her, at times he acts as her mentor. He cant die until his mission is over, and the chaos corruption (plus his pride, he really wants to die in a glory blaze) makes it almost impossible for him to suicide. Only in the latter half of the series, is that the mc becomes a threat, and he still prevails until the end
    – Silver
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 16:32
  • This is why I made a comment, not an answer. I don't understand your problem. Given this scenario he would automatically use the minimal force needed with occasional arrogance and underestimation of his opponents causing "excitement". Happens when you really want to die and have regrets about what you are committed to doing. What are external limitations needed for? Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 16:36
  • Because I fear that the reader might see him as a marty stu, for he's never really defeated
    – Silver
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 16:39
  • Ok, I think I get it, I'll try to write an answer. Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 16:45

4 Answers 4


The problem with Marty Stu and similar types is not their power or competence, it is that since they are never really tested, they never grow as characters beyond cardboard silhouettes. Which for important characters such as the antagonist in your story pretty much kills the story.

So just show how he is tested. Show how he sometimes fails those tests. Show how he suffers when tested. Show how he regrets the cost of his failure. Show how he regrets the cost of his success. Show how he resents having to bear this burden. Show how he is ashamed of his weakness and resentment.

This will make him grow as character. Both in the eyes of the readers and in relation to the main character. I'd recommend using the main character as a mirror for such development, so that she doesn't get sidelined and overshadowed.

The MC should regret killing the the antagonist. She should regret not making it before. She should resent having to make that choice. She should resent the antagonist for dying. For making her kill him. For making the choices he made. She should resent the people who forced him to make those choices. She should miss him.

Not sure how concrete I should get with advice on how to actually do this. It is your story and all that. But basically with this set up the focus should be in the internal struggles of the characters.

You really screwed over the antagonist and the story should show that in his actions. He should be conflicted. He should sometimes mess up because he can't really focus.

Sometimes the conflict comes out as frustration, arrogance, and overconfidence. So he makes dumb mistakes and has to recover by doing things that don't reflect well on him. He might be ruthless or simply look embarrassingly incompetent while running from opponents he really should have dealt with easily.

Sometimes it comes out as kindness, tolerance, and understanding. He might just back off or even help out his enemies in a chivalrous fashion if it doesn't compromise his ultimate goal. He might even occasionally have doubts about his goal being justified and back off until he regains his resolve.

  • Thanks for the answer. He does indeed have a inner turmoil, while his ethics are long gone, he still thinks that the price was too much. His biggest fear is loosing his mind to the chaos before finishing his mission. I loved the part of the mc, she does harbor mixed feelings against him. On one side she understand why he's so screwed up, and resents the conditions that forced him, and why she has kill him but on the other side she genuinely sees him as a mentor and cant justify the choices he made and the price he paid to get there.
    – Silver
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 18:42
  • 1
    "The problem with Marty Stu and similar types is not their power or competence, it is that since they are never really tested, they never grow as characters beyond cardboard silhouettes." Great Explanation.
    – raddevus
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 18:59

Given the story arc you outlined, I would start him out as much less powerful and let him gradually gain strength throughout the series.

It would seem like the obvious way to do this would be to emphasize the fact that he's fighting to hold on to his humanity, and that the stronger powers come with a high cost. It strains credibility to have your protagonist continually prevailing from the beginning against such a strong opponent.

  • the point is that my protagonist never wins against him. Even in the climax, she knows that she on because he was already wounded and nearly at his limit of controlling the corruption. What Im worried is instead that I feel that without some deus ex machina he wont reach the climax, but I dont want to give him more power
    – Silver
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 16:34
  • By the point the series start, he has been fighting against the corruption for years, and thus he gained a lot of strength, but is a the edge of loosing his humanity. Instead he gradually looses more and more control of his evergrowing power since the first encounter against the character (that ends in the cliched death of the mentor, and everyone else badly wounded).
    – Silver
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 16:37

Consider other types of vulnerability. Does he have a loved one? A woman, a kid, a dog? When characters love something it humanizes them for the reader, but also makes them more vulnerable. Their feelings for their kid conflict with their duties as savior of the world. (Then there's the overdone trope where the villain kidnaps their family.)

Let's try an example: He loved his dragon and he mourns it at every opportunity. The loss clouds his judgment. He flies into rage at the wrong times, and tears blind him during fights. He can't sleep, so he's exhausted easily. He's vulnerable, not because of curses and contaminations, but by normal emotions.

  • If by his dragon you mean his second in comand/ally, then yeah, tho to be precise before being framed, he used to be the dragon, and his best friend the leader/hero archetype. It was his best friend's sacrifice that kicked the current plot, and he does indeed mourn him. Good tips with the clouded judgment, I liked the normal emotions parts =)
    – Silver
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 15:16

Give him a pyrhic victory, or make him fail.

.. A great many leading characters are massively OP in some way or another, but ppl love Iron Man, Spiderman, Sherlock Holmes etc

The other answers probably give you a lot to work with, what I'd say is that you can achieve your goal for the story without letting him achieve his, or at least - not how he wants to. Dealing with failure, with what feels like real jeopardy is one way of making a character feel worthwhile, I'm not a writer, but it seems to me that when the losses a character 'suffers' are all internal 'feelz' when it's other people doing the dying, well, it feels trite.

You mention that he's going insane 'losing himself,' etc, idk how you've written this out obviously, but maybe you'd think about introducing some external, tangible loss. It's all well and good for the guy to feel bad about killing people, you may have written that well and it may be convincing, but you don't seem like you've even convinced yourself... I'd consider giving him something to lose..and taking it from him, friendships before the split, an expectation that some close members of the Association would help him and then being betrayed.

Perhaps give him a less than ideal role after dying, some real revenge from your latest protagonist, rather than simply her being an agent of his wish fulfilment and manipulations.

gl & hf

  • Hi Gui Piete, and welcome. Doing this might help the OP in their goals, or it might not, but it would be much better if you elaborate on why you feel this is the right answer to the question being asked. As it stands, this answer may be at risk of being downvoted or deleted because of being low on explanation. You can Edit to expand on it.
    – user
    Commented Nov 24, 2018 at 7:48
  • Baaah, even when I try to be short & sweet I get told off ;-)
    – Giu Piete
    Commented Nov 24, 2018 at 8:00
  • Short and sweet isn't a problem. Not explaining why you feel that this is a correct answer is a problem. There's a balance... :-)
    – user
    Commented Nov 24, 2018 at 8:05
  • The question implies that the OP and enduring success of the MC feels easy to the author, a lack of jeopardy etc. I think that my writing out his own question in other words is just more words.
    – Giu Piete
    Commented Nov 24, 2018 at 8:15

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