Ever wondered who would win if Batman and Luke Skywalker got in a fight? How about Aragorn and Captain Jack Sparrow? If you have really immersed yourself in fiction, you might even have had conversations with friends about whether Ryu Hyabusa (Ninja Gaiden) could beat Dante (Devil May Cry).
My friends and I have had those conversations. Many of them.
Eventually we decided to create a power scale upon which one can place any character in fiction. Power Scale is the outcome of that discussion. We created an exponential power scale, from power level zero (0) to one hundred (100), upon which we placed many of the characters from fiction that we knew best. We regard the placement of the characters as something that can be refined through successive iterations of the scale. What we are proud of in this effort is our attempts to quantify concepts of ‘power’, when normal conceptions of power break down.
For example, what happens if Genie (Aladdin, etc.) tries to fulfill a wish to kill Goku (Dragon Ball [Z], etc.). How do we quantify who is more dangerous (or simply capable of winning more difficult battles)?
We were forced to confront the problem of infinities. What happens if a character has ‘infinite’ power (i.e. they can choose to do anything)? Are they automatically the maximum power level? Actually no, there is more to it than that. Can they do anything at any point in a timeline (i.e. are they outside of time)? Can they manifest an infinite variety of things at any given time? Are they aware of everything, at all times? Is it possible for them to not exist? Can they be hurt at all?
In order for a character to be max power level, they would need, in theory, to indeed have all of these. There are many levels of infinite power. For any mathematicians reading this, I think of it something like the cardinality of infinities given by the Aleph numbers. A set is Aleph-naught if it is countably infinite, i.e., if you counted one number after another for infinite time you could count all of the numbers. But if a set is Aleph-one, it is uncountably infinite, e.g., even if you spent infinite time counting all the real numbers between zero and one, you can’t count them all. In a similar fashion, overgods like UL (David Eddings’ Belgariad and Malloreon) and Ao (Forgotten Realms) have greater purview – their universes are bigger – than Earth-centric gods of our mythologies like Odin (Norse), Ra (Egypt), Zeus (Greek), and Yahweh / Allah (Judeo-Christian-Islam). Regarding the assignment of power levels to gods, another of the useful metrics is what are the things this character is purported to have done according to the mythology from which they were born. This obviates a lot of the ‘infinities’ that people like to claim regarding our cultural mythology.
The development and slow refinement of this project has led to a large number of interesting conversations. Most conversations reflect the true intent of this project, to stretch our imaginations by considering the interactions of characters we feel we know. However, some conversations fall down into what we might call unwholesome fanboyism. Some people feel obligated to argue that a character, perhaps their favourite, should be higher on the power scale. They then often approach the conversation as a contest, trying to argue their character’s way to a higher power level. My friend and I are generally not that receptive to this approach. If there are genuine reasons to raise a character’s power level, sure, let’s hear them and they we can talk about how high they should go. It is very reasonable that we might have missed something, particularly if someone knows a character better than we do. However, logical fallacies and other failures in argument often creep up, even in something as innocuous as a discussion about fictional characters. Looking at it from this perspective, I feel stronger than ever that something like the power scale is an excellent place to practice our discussion skills. If we can’t discuss in an honest and decent fashion about fictional characters, then we are likely doomed to similar dishonesty and indecency if we try to discuss matters of real import.
You can find the scale at the Power Scale website. It is still in the process of being developed as of the time of this writing, but the comment system works already. For any of the characters with biography pages written, or any of the universes featured, you can add your comments already.