Powers (Marvel Universe Supplement)

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My daddy said once "If you don't make a choice, the choice makes you
—Johnny Blaze, Ghost Rider
This page is part of the

Marvel Universe
Campaign Setting

Game Masters: For Information on using Powers in your campaign, click here.


Origin of Powers[edit]

Most of the superhumans in Marvel's Earth owe their powers to the Celestials, cosmic entities who visited Earth one million years ago and experimented on our prehistoric ancestors (a process they also carried out on several other planets). This resulted in the creation of two hidden races, the godlike Eternals and the genetically unstable Deviants, in addition to giving some humans an "x-factor" in their genes, which sometimes activates naturally, resulting in sometimes superpowered, sometimes disfigured individuals called mutants. Others require other factors (such as radiation) for their powers to come forth. With the exception of psionic abilities, these powers are usually random; rarely do two people have the exact same set of powers. It is not clear why the Celestials did this, although it is known that they continue to observe humanity's evolution. (A Marvel series called Earth X explored one possible reason: that superhumans are meant to protect a Celestial that is "growing" inside Earth; but this series repeatedly contradicts previously established Marvel continuity). The majority of the public is unaware of what may cause superhuman powers.

Other possible origins for superhuman powers include: magic, genetic manipulation or bionic implants. Some heroes and villains have no powers at all but depend instead on hand-to-hand combat training or advanced technological equipment. In the Marvel Universe, technology is slightly more advanced than in the real world; this is due to unique individuals of genius intelligence, such as Reed Richards (Mister Fantastic) of the Fantastic Four, Tony Stark, the Invincible Iron Man, Bruce Banner, the Incredible Hulk, and Victor Von Doom Doctor Doom. However, most of the really advanced devices (such as powered armor and death rays) are too expensive for the common citizen, and are usually in the hands of government organizations like S.H.I.E.L.D., or powerful criminal organizations like the Maggia,Advanced Idea Mechanics, and Hydra. One major company producing these devices is Stark International, owned by Anthony Stark (Iron Man)but there are others. Advanced technology has also been given to humans by hidden races, aliens, or time travelers like Kang the Conqueror, who is known to have influenced the robotics industry in the past.

Marvel tries to explain most superpowers and their sources scientifically, usually through the use of pseudo-scientific concepts, such as:

  • The battery effect; the cells in the body have the same function as batteries, being charged with energy that comes from an outer source. This is most often seen in gamma exposed individuals as the Hulk, who get their powers from this stored energy. The powers will remain as long as the energy is present, and can even be increased by filling the "batteries" even more. If the energy is emptied, the powers will fade away.
  • Power Primordial is a leftover force from Big Bang, and is controlled by the Elders of the Universe.
  • Psionic energy, which is assumed to be an invisible, unknown form of energy generated by all living brains that has the ability to manipulate other forms of matter and energy.
  • Universal psionic field is a force present everywhere in the universe, but only those with abilities to connect to it can make use of its energy.
  • Enigma Force is suspected to be connected to the Microverse, and is also the source to the Uni-Power, which transform an individual into Captain Universe.
  • Extra-dimensional space: dimensions that can be tapped in order to pull mass from them (to add to objects on Earth) or taken away from those objects and be stored in those "pocket dimensions" to be retrieved later. This is how characters like the Hulk can grow and shrink with no visible absorption of mass. A type of subatomic particles called Pym Particles can be used for these effects. (Note that many giant-sized characters have the secret ability to manipulate gravity to handle their increased weight.) The change in mass can be in the form of a density change instead, allowing a character to become harder or incorporeal. Some characters can seem to "transform" themselves (or others) into nonliving substances, or even pure energy, by storing their bodies in extra dimensional space and replacing them with bodies made from matter or energy from that dimension, while their souls remain on Earth, controlling their new body. Travel into other dimensions can also be used as a way to "teleport" by re-entering the Earth dimension at a different point from the exiting one.
  • The Darkforce is an unknown, dark substance from another dimension (known simply as the Darkforce Dimension) that can be summoned and manipulated in many ways: to create impenetrable darkness, to solidify it in various forms, and (most notably) to absorb the "life energy" from living beings (not all users can use all these effects). The Darkforce can also be used to travel to and from its home dimension, but this is dangerous to all except those with Darkforce powers. Some believe that the Darkforce is sentient and sometimes has an evil influence on those who use it. Various heroes and villains have versions of Darkforce powers, including Darkstar, the first Blackout, the Shroud, Cloak and Quagmire (of the Squadron Supreme Universe). Cloak seems to be the prime 'portal' to the Darkforce, however.
  • The Living Light is the opposite of the Darkforce: a form of energy that resembles light and also comes from its own dimension, but has healing effects on living beings (except ones made of darkness or Darkforce.) It is unknown if it might be sentient. Cloak's partner, Dagger seems to be the Living Light's main avatar.
  • The Power Cosmic is a force that can alter reality, allowing the user to do whatever he or she wants (including breaking the laws of physics), only being limited by how much cosmic energy the character can tap at a time. It seems to be part of the universe itself and it can be linked directly to Galactus as its primary wielder or even source. The Heralds of Galactus, including Silver Surfer and Nova are imbued with the Power Cosmic.
  • Magic also appears to be like a form of energy, except that it can defy the laws of physics naturally. However, it does have rules of its own to follow, which vary with the method of invocation, usually in the form of spoken spells. It appears to be present in everything, even living beings. All humans in the Marvel Universe have the ability to use magic, but only if properly trained. Most people are unaware that magic actually works. In addition, powerful magical beings from other dimensions have created specific, extremely powerful magical spells that they allow to be used (often indiscriminately) by those sorcerers who invoke their names; one example is the trinity of beings called The Vishanti, who serve as patrons to heroic sorcerers. At any given time, there is a sorcerer on Earth whose task is to protect the universe against extra dimensional mystical invaders; this sorcerer is known as the Sorcerer Supreme, an office currently held by Doctor Strange.
  • "Hellfire" is a magical force that resembles fire, but is cold and hurts the soul rather than the physical body; it is used mostly by demonic beings.

Available Powers[edit]

Examples of methods by which a character generates an effect.

Energy sourcing[edit]

Ability to draw power from large or small but abundant sources of energy, such as turning kinetic energy into physical blasts or converting solar energy into other forms. Sometimes based on proximity to source, sometimes stored for future use.


Many characters in martial arts gain superhuman capabilities by learning to harness ki or some other form of vital energy. This type of method generally provides extraordinary strength, speed, durability and reflexes. Also often used for superhuman awareness, energy blasts, elemental powers and sometimes resistance to fatalities.

Magical powers[edit]

Ability to use magical forces to varying degrees. Often used to simulate other powers, such as mind control and elemental attacks.

  • Supernatural

Not all "magical" superpowers are actually supernatural, but are based on alternate or futuristic "science" which is unexplainable. Mxyzptlk's abilities, for instance, rely on a set of physics different from our dimension's.


Ability to manipulate technology. Manifested as a special form of electrical/telekinetic manipulation, a special form of morphing which allows physical interaction with machines, or even a special form of ESP that allows for mental interface with computer data.


Ability to manipulate and control objects with the mind, often in ways not visible to the naked eye.


Superpower manipulation[edit]

This section refers to the ability to manipulate superpowers themselves, not "power" such as electrical power or gravitational power.

Power bestowal[edit]

Ability to bestow powers or jump-start latent powers.

Power mimicry or absorption[edit]

Ability to copy or absorb another's powers or skills.

Power negation[edit]

Ability to cancel the superpowers of others.

Power sensing[edit]

Ability to sense or recognize superhuman powers.

Personal physical powers[edit]

Powers which affect a physical person's body.

Accelerated healing[edit]

Ability to heal rapidly from any injury; the rate of recovery varies from character to character. Can sometimes result in the slowing of aging.

Acid generation[edit]

Ability to generate acid, can be manifested through touch or as a spray.

Animal mimicry[edit]

Ability to take on the abilities of certain animals.

Biological manipulation[edit]

Ability to control all aspects of a living creature's biological make-up. This includes, but is not limited to, genetic alterations, physical distortion/augmentations, healing, disease, and biological functions.

Body part substitution[edit]

Ability to replace one's limbs or other body parts with those of another.

Bone manipulation[edit]

Ability to manipulate the bones in one's own body. This includes, but is not limited to, the generation of new bone mass, projecting bones out from the skin or rearranging one's own bones.


Ability to create physical duplicates of oneself.

Temporal duplication[edit]

Ability to bring past and future versions of oneself back to the present.


Ability to determine location of items in the environment by use of reflected sound waves, whether generated by the character or ambient sound. Also known as sonar or radar sense.


Ability to render the user unseen to the naked eye.


Ability to be immune to one or more forms of physical damage.

Kinetic absorption[edit]

Ability to absorb forms of kinetic energy into oneself and convert it into physical strength.

Matter ingestion[edit]

Ability to consume any sort of matter without any ill effects on the user.


Ability to temporarily merge two beings into a single being, which results in a completely new and stronger being.

Pheromone manipulation[edit]

Ability to generate and control pheromones which may have various effects.

Poison generation[edit]

Ability to assault others with one or more varieties of toxins, with widely disparate effects.

Prehensile/animated hair[edit]

Ability to animate and lengthen one's hair.

Reactive adaptation/evolution[edit]

Ability to develop a resistance or immunity to whatever they were injured by or exposed to. This effect can be permanent or temporary.

Self-detonation or explosion[edit]

Ability to explode one's body mass and reform.

Sonic scream[edit]

Ability to generate vocal sounds of a higher amplitude than a normal human.

Superhuman breath[edit]

Ability to inhale/exhale with superhumanly powerful lungs. This can range from exhaling on par with a giant fan's wind current to inhalation on par with the power of a gravitational vortex.

Superhuman durability[edit]

Ability to have a higher resistance to one or more forms of damage before being injured.

Superhuman reflexes[edit]

Ability to react faster than a normal human.

Superhuman senses[edit]

Ability to see, smell, taste, feel and/or hear more than a normal human.

Superhuman strength[edit]

Ability to have a level of physical strength much higher than that possible by any human.

Superhuman vision[edit]

Ability to see better than normally possible.

Night vision[edit]

Ability to see clearly in darkness.

X-ray vision[edit]

Ability to see through solid objects.

Telescopic or microscopic vision[edit]

Ability to magnify vision to various levels.


Ability to cling to objects or surfaces by a variety of means. Often related to animal mimicry.


Ability to respirate through water in lieu of a gaseous medium. Not to be confused with an ability to go without breathing or to be able to breathe an alternate air supply.

Mental faculty and knowledge-based abilities[edit]

Innate capability[edit]

Ability to naturally have skills and/or knowledge typically earned through learning.


Ability to understand any form of language, a natural polyglot. This can be accomplished in various ways.


Ability to know anything and everything.

Superhuman intelligence[edit]

Ability to have intelligence far above that of a genius level.


The abilities of extra-sensory perception (ESP) and communication.

Astral projection[edit]

Ability to separate and control one's astral body.

Cross-dimensional awareness[edit]

Ability to detect actions and events in other dimensions. This is occasionally used in comics as an awareness of the fourth wall between the characters and the artist or audience.


Ability to read or sense the emotions and/or control the emotions or feelings of others.


Ability to see and communicate with the dead (ghosts).


Ability to perceive the future. It may be expressed in vague dreams while asleep, other times it can be clear and can occur at will. It may also be used as a form of "Danger sense" to show the user that they are being threatened and from what direction it is coming from.


Ability to relate details about the past or future condition of an object, person or location, usually by being in close contact with it.


Ability to read the thoughts of, or to mentally communicate with others.

Domination and mind control[edit]

The ability to alter the perceptions of others, and general ability to control the actions of others with the mind.

Astral trapping[edit]

Ability to cause an astral projection to stay on the astral plane, usually in one specific place.

Memory manipulation[edit]

Ability to erase or enhance the memories of another.


Ability to take control of another person's body via astral projection or mind transfer.

Psionic blast[edit]

Ability to overload another's mind causing pain, memory loss, loss of consciousness, vegetative state or death after having created a psionic link into that person's mind.

Psychic weapons[edit]

Ability to create a weapon of psychic energy that can harm mentally and not physically.

Manipulate fundamental forces or reality[edit]

These powers may be manifested by various methods, including: by some method of molecular control; by access to, or partially or fully shifting to another dimension; by manipulating the geometric dimensions of time or space; or by some other unnamed method.


Ability to bring inanimate objects to life or to free a person from petrification.

Darkness or shadow manipulation[edit]

Ability to create or manipulate darkness, often by mentally accessing a dimension of dark energy, the Shadowlands, and manipulating it.

Density control[edit]

Ability to increase or decrease the natural density of an object and/or one's self.


Ability to disintegrate matter through touch or through beams.

Elemental transmutation[edit]

The ability to alter chemical elements, changing them from one substance to another by rearranging the atomic structure. May be limited to self-transmutation.

Gravity manipulation[edit]

Ability to manipulate or generate gravitons, or other types of gravitational interactions.


Ability to live forever. This may be complete immortality encompassing invulnerability, partial invulnerability to all but specific events (i.e. decapitation or exposure to a specific chemical such as kryptonite), the ability to die but become resurrected, or simply an inability to age normally.

Intangibility or phasing[edit]

Ability to phase through solid matter without harm.

Light manipulation[edit]

Ability to control, generate or absorb photons (particles of light).

Magnetism manipulation[edit]

Ability to control and/or generate magnetic fields.

Mass manipulation[edit]

Ability to increase or decrease mass in an object or person.

Molecular manipulation[edit]

Ability to mentally manipulate the molecules of objects and/or one's self on a molecular level.

Probability manipulation[edit]

Ability to alter probability, causing unlikely things to happen or likely things to not happen.

Radiation manipulation[edit]

Ability to generate, manipulate or have immunity to toxic radiation.

Reality warping[edit]

Ability to change or manipulate reality itself.

Sound manipulation[edit]

Ability to manipulate sound waves.

Time manipulation[edit]

Ability to affect the flow of time by slowing, accelerating, reversing, or stopping it.

Classical elements[edit]

Ability to control or manipulate the classical elements.

Air and wind manipulation[edit]

Ability to control, generate, or absorb air or wind.

Cold and ice manipulation[edit]

Ability to reduce the kinetic energy of atoms and thus reduce temperature, can be used to control, generate, or absorb ice.

Earth manipulation[edit]

Ability to control earth; sand, stone, rock, lava, dirt, or minerals.

Plant manipulation[edit]

Ability to control, manipulate or animate all forms of plant life.

Electric manipulation[edit]

Ability to control, generate or absorb electrical fields.

Fire and heat manipulation[edit]

Ability to control the kinetic energy of atoms to generate, control or absorb fire.

Water and moisture manipulation[edit]

Ability to control, generate or absorb water.

Weather manipulation[edit]

Ability to control or mentally affect the weather. This includes the ability to generate various natural phenomena (rain, tornadoes, lightning, ocean currents, etc.) or control the intensity of the weather.

Energy manipulation[edit]

These powers deal with energy generation, conversion and manipulation. In addition to generic energy, versions of these powers exist that deal with such things as light, sound, electricity, nuclear energy, and the Darkforce dimension.

Concussion beams[edit]

Ability to generate or transform various forms of energy into a "solid" or concussive beam of energy.

Energy blasts[edit]

Ability to expel various forms of energy from the body.

Energy constructs[edit]

Ability to create complex shapes (such as giant boxing gloves or cages) or even functional machinery (such as fire extinguishers or laser rifles) out of solid energy.

Energy conversion[edit]

Ability to absorb one form of energy and convert it into another form of energy.

Force field generation[edit]

Ability to project powerful fields of manipulated energy.

Transportation or travel[edit]

Dimensional transportation[edit]

Ability to create wormholes, portation "discs" or other spatial portals for transport between two non-adjacent locations

Electrical transportation[edit]

Ability to travel through electrical conduits (such as power lines, or telephone lines). Can enter through devices such as televisions, electrical poles or computers.


Ability to be present anywhere and everywhere always.


Ability to summon objects or beings for assistance.

Superhuman speed[edit]

Ability to move at speeds much faster than a normal human.


Ability to move from one place to another without occupying the space in between.

Time travel[edit]

Ability to travel back and forth through time.


The following powers could be manifested in any number of ways.


Ability to lift off the ground, to ride air currents or to fly self-propelled through the air. Different forms of flight include:

Energy propulsion methods[edit]

Cosmic energy control
Energy aura projection
Gravitational manipulation
Magnetic levitation
Molecular manipulation
Sonic repulsion field
Telekinetic power
Thermo-chemical energy

Physical propulsion methods[edit]

  • Insectoid form
  • Wind current control
  • Wings


Ability to alter or deceive the perceptions of another. Can be sensory, a light or sound-based effect, or an alteration of mental perceptions.


Ability to change appearance or body structure.

Types of shapeshifting include:

  • Animal morphing: Ability to take on animal forms. May be able to take on the abilities of the altered form.
  • Elasticity: Ability to stretch, deform, expand or contract one's body into any form they can imagine.
  • Inorganic: Ability to transform completely into an inorganic substance while retaining organic properties.
  • Liquification: Ability to turn partially or completely into a liquid.
  • Size shifting: Ability to increase or decrease one's size.
  • Sublimation: Ability to transform into a gaseous, mist, or fog-like form.
  • Transformation: Ability to transform into substance touched.

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