Cast From Lifespan

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Sometimes, powers are free. Sometimes, they have a price. There is a kind of price which is not paid immediately on screen, as is done with the Heroic RROD or other forms of Dangerous Forbidden Technique that damage your body. There is the price of your life - or rather, its duration. Even if you can Cast From Lifespan to perform something overpowered such as warping reality or healing your wounds instantly, you bring yourself closer and close to the grave with each and every use, and there's usually next to nothing you can do about it.

For this subtrope of Cast from Hit Points, lifespan serves as an inherent limiter to a given ability and is usually reserved for Limit Breaks and other similar "ultimate attacks" within that powerset. How this price is paid varies with the method: healing factors may run headlong into the Hayflick limit, with the sped-up cell division causing the user to age faster, perhaps near-instantly. Maybe a Deal with the Devil was the source of your power, and shortening your life span is how Ol' Scratch holds you to your end of that Faustian bargain. Perhaps it's a Dangerous Forbidden Technique that circumstances pushed you into using against your will, or a Deadly Upgrade that could lead to a literal Heroic Red Ring scenario or other nasty long-term damage. Or perhaps your very finite Life Energy was used to fuel the ability, and internal consistency prevents you working around that limit so easily.

As for whether or not the consequences manifest themselves and in what ways, this trope usually serves as an unspoken signal for a Downer Ending to a main character's arc later in the story, or a Tear Jerker for any secondary characters. If handled badly, this may result in an overpowered character bludgeoning as many foes as they like, and dropping dead only because it served a convenience to the plot.

Usually also a case of Blessed with Suck. Rapid Aging as a side effect of some versions of Cast From Lifespan.

Examples of Cast From Lifespan include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Darker than Black, there was a contractor whose remuneration was aging each time she used her power. Another's was aging backward; this can also count, since overusing it would cause her to remove herself from existence.
  • Robert from The Law of Ueki has this. Each use of his ability cost him a year of lifespan.
  • Naruto: Tsunade's and Naruto's healing factor makes them age faster. Technically, they both involve making their cells regenerate faster, but since cells only have a limited number of regenerations, this means they will run out of regenerative cycles and die sooner. As a result, Tsunade uses her Healing Factor only when without using it her lifespan will shorten much more.
    • Pain's most powerful attacks are also cast from lifespan. He ended up expending all of it and dying by resurrecting the people of the village he just destroyed.
    • Naruto may be somewhat protected from this since he's from a clan known for having very long lives. This may very well cancel out the effects on his lifespan.
  • One Piece: Body strain from Luffy's Gear Second shortens his lifespan. After the Time Skip, Luffy seems to enter Gear Second for almost every attack, usually averting the consequences of the action by staying in this form for just enough time to launch the attack.
    • He also was healed from uncurable poison. Cost? One tenth of his remaining lifespan in exchange for boosting his survival rate from 0% to a measly 3%.
  • Chrono Crusade: Chrono is powered by Rosette's Life Energy, shortening her lifespan. It leads to her dying at the end of the anime. In the manga, it leads to her becoming an Ill Girl by the end, and she dies at age 23.
  • Death Note: You can have Shinigami eyes for half of your lifespan. (That's half your remaining lifespan, so the longer you have left to live, the more time it'll cost you.) Even if you lose the power, you don't get the time back.
  • In Hibiki no Mahou, the director of the Mage school has his lifespan exchanged for his magic.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Ed once used his own soul as a Philosopher's Stone (read: a huge energy source, itself made of souls) to heal himself from mortal wounds, shortening his lifespan in process.
  • In Infinite Stratos, Ichika's special attack drains his own meager shields in order to launch a devastating attack that can theoretically 1-shot his opponent. That is, if his shields aren't worn down before he can get close enough to use it, or if the target doesn't simply dodge the attack first.
  • In Mahoromatic, everything Mahoro does costs her a certain amount of energy (which can't be refilled for some reason). Even if she doesn't use her combat abilities, she's got about a year to go when the series starts. Using those abilities costs her a lot more, and she keeps being forced to; at the end of the series, she would have died at any moment even if she hadn't made a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Both Tohno Shiki from Tsukihime and Emiya Shirou from Fate Stay Night have insane powers which put intense strain on their bodies and minds. It's implied that Shiki won't live too long even if his eyes don't drive him crazy. Shirou risks his life every time he uses magic (especially before Rin trains him), and in Sakura's route, he has a much more immediate limit: three tracings with Archer's arm will kill him.
  • In Violinist of Hameln, Flute and her mother can heal anyone but at the cost of their own lives. To compensate, they have extra long lives.
  • In Dragonball Z, Tien's Tri-Beam attack is said to have this effect. Which makes it a Crowning Moment of Awesome when he absolutely spams it against Cell simply to buy time for the others to escape.
  • In Nabari no Ou, Yoite's Kira technique continually saps his lifespan. By the beginning of the series, he only has 1 or 2 months left to live. He dies from this in both the anime and the manga.
  • This is a fundamental tenet of the world of Maburaho—every person has a certain number of times they can use magic, after which they turn to ash.
  • Each time a Magical Girl in Puella Magi Madoka Magica uses magic, her Soul Gem darkens depending on the amount of magic used. Cue the reveal that the Soul Gems are in fact the Magical Girls' souls, and that they mature into the witches they fight once the accumulated darkness reaches critical levels.
    • In the new universe created by Madoka in the final episode, where Magical Girls are no longer doomed to become witches, when a magical girl uses up all her power, she simply fades away instead of becoming a witch like in the previous universe.
  • An earlier example of the above is Vash from Trigun. He has various inhuman powers including the hilariously powerful Angel Arm which can put a huge crater in the moon with only a single shot. Too bad every use of his powers costs him a portion of his lifespan as measured by the color of his hair: human-form Plants start out as blonde with their hair darkening as their internal power is spent. If it turns fully black, they die. By the time Knives is defeated in the manga, Vash's hair is almost completely black.
    • And this is after we're told that Vash could easily use his powers to regenerate all the scars his body bears but chooses not to. He most likely knows this trope is in effect and doesn't use his powers for trivial purposes (as well as invoking Be All My Sins Remembered by retaining them).
  • Zearth from Bokurano: to operate it, it costs the pilot his or her entire lifespan.
  • Kanon Makoto is able to become human at the cost of her memories and her life.
  • Tenshi na Konamaiki the demon gives you the opposite of what you wish for then offers to trade 10 years of your life to undo the wish.

Comic Books

  • In the Legion of Super-Heroes, Kid Psycho could project a forcefield at the cost of one year of his life.
  • The Batman villain Bag O'Bones could become invisible, except for his bones, and gained electrical powers, but for each second he spent in that state he lost a day of his life.
  • In the Shadowpact books, Enchantress is mentioned using a spell that takes an year off her life to keep her team's leader Nightmaster alive for either another hour or another day. However its also mentioned that she's supposed to live for centuries like a lot of other magic users in the DC Universe so she probably doesn't mind nearly as much as a normal person would
  • In one popular version of Barry Allen's origin (the retelling in Secret Origins Annual #2), the lightning bolt that gives him his powers actually speaks, offering him the choice of whether to accept. It warns him that his life will be shorter if he does. (How does it know? Because it's Barry himself, at another point in the closed electrical/temporal circuit of his life.)
    • Flash's successor, Wally West, once had to heal from repeated lightning bolts cast down upon him by Kadabra, he did this by speeding up his body's natural healing process so quickly he basically aged himself a couple of years.
  • In X-Men Forever, The more a mutant uses his powers, the shorter their lifespan becomes. That is why there are so few old mutants.
    • This may be Fridge Brilliance on the author's part since the vast majority of mutations in real life are very bad things.
      • The vast majority of mutations in real life are neutral, with about 120 per person.
  • The Great Ten's Immortal Man in Darkness pilots the otherworldly fighter known as the Dragonwing. Each flight of the Dragonwing takes a year off his life. Pilots tend to last between 7 months and a year before a replacement is required, but there is no shortage of volunteers.
  • At the beginning of Spawn, every time Spawn used one of his powers, he was closer to dying and going back to hell and the reader was constantly reminded of this at first by the appearance of his power bar. After a while, the power bar appeared less and less, until the creators seemed to forget about it altogether. Recently, having lost the throne of Hell (and the unlimited power it maintains), Spawn has limited power again, cued by the reappearance of the power bar.
  • Used in a particularly barmy (probably Italian[1]) Scrooge McDuck story. Let's see... Scrooge finds out that if you travel to the centre of the Earth (beware the giant snails!), you'll find a smaller Earth whence all time originates, and there the keepers of time can give you the key to time, which enables you to operate on all time zones at once. (No-one knows what that's supposed to mean, not even after he starts doing it, but it's the key to making boatloads of money.) But they also give him twenty-four negative briefcases. Those vanish, but they're still with him, much like the key is never shown to be an item but just is in his pocket. Anywho, it turns out that in doing whatever he's doing with the "key", he's also consuming his own time twenty-four times faster. Not that it's very relevant, since very shortly he would have been crushed by the weight of the briefcases anyway, whatever that means. Um. Got it?

Films -- Live-Action

  • The Golden Voyage of Sinbad: Each time Prince Koura used his black magic he became older. By the time he confronted Sinbad at the Fountain of Destiny he was an old man.

Prince Koura: To summon the demons of darkness has a price. And each time I call upon them, it consumes part of me.

  • All magic users in The Covenant are like this; we even get to see the consequences via one man who looks probably 30 years older than he should.
    • This only happens after 18. Before, they can do only limited magic (although still pretty powerful) at no cost. The four "good" guys know about the price, but the Big Bad only found out after the magical addiction has set in.
  • In Clockstoppers, a hypertime watch allows you to effectively stop time, but you'll still age normally, so from the outsider's perspective, your lifespan is drastically shortened.
  • In Time takes place in a future where the aging gene has been switched off, so people stop aging at 25. To prevent overpopulation, lifespan is used as currency: everything you buy is bought with lifespan, and you're paid with lifespan. When a person's clock reaches zero, they die.


  • Faust: The Trope Maker of Deal with the Devil had this part in the contract.
  • In one of the Artemis Fowl books, Holly uses magic to heal Butler from a fatal gunshot wound, but her magic is not enough and the spell starts drawing on Butler's life energy as well. For the rest of the series, his body is about ten years older, although they use plastic surgery to mask it.
  • In Nora Roberts' Key Trilogy, three women are tasked with finding three keys, with the caveat that if they fail, each loses an undisclosed year of her life.
  • The titular magic patch of skin in La Peau de Chagrin.
  • In Diane Duane's The Tale of Five books, wielders of the Fire die young.
    • And in her Young Wizards series, powerful spells may result in a reduced lifespan or death. Much of Deep Wizardry revolves around Nita's participation in a ritual that requires the central wizard's death, and in High Wizardry she uses a shield spell that drains a year of the wizard's life each time it's activated.
    • Similarly, in The Book of Night with Moon (which takes place in the same setting as the Young Wizards series), one of the cats sacrifices one of her nine lives to fuel a wizardry.
  • In the Magic or Madness trilogy, using magic costs you your lifespan. However, not using your magic costs you your sanity, so it sucks either way.
  • The Qirsi from the Winds of the Forelands are shorter lived than the non-magical Eandi because their magic burns up their life-force.
  • Mages from the Mithgar books age rapidly when using their magic, though they can enter a trance-like state to regain their youth (this also allows them to be functionally immortal, as long as they don't over-exert themselves). Black Mages have a way around this by basically becoming psychic vampires, drawing on the fear and misery of others instead of their own lives.
  • The children's book and movie The Halloween Tree involves a group of children questing to save the life of their friend Pipkin, who has appendicitis. In the end, each gives up a year of his or her life in exchange for saving their friend.
  • In one of the multitudinous Dragonlance books a mage casts Haste (which speeds you up and alters your perception of time) on himself and a buddy so that they can run faster for a time. He neglects to tell his friend that they have just shed a year of life in the process thanks to the rapid flow of time in their bodies.
  • In the Secret Histories series Wild Witch Molly Metcalf traded several years of her life to gain the powers necessary to avenge the murder of her parents.
  • In P.B. Kerr's Children of the Lamp series, any djinn who uses their powers will reduce their lifespan. How much varies depending on the power used, but granting a typical wish will cost someone about a day of their life. Considering that djinn can live over 500 years, and entering a lamp puts them in suspended animation where they don't age, this isn't all too bad.
  • This trope is foundational to the Magister Trilogy. Whenever anyone casts a spell, it costs them part of their allotted life span, and human society is built upon the sacrifices of witches. Magisters seem to be able to circumvent this law and do any magic without ever paying for it, but even they are afraid of what would happen if the secret behind their power ever got out.
  • In Firestarter Andy McGee has the ability to implant suggestions into others, however each time he uses the power he damages his own brain with a microstroke, and knows that eventually it'll kill him.
  • In The Wheel of Time, the Seanchan suicide assassins known as Bloodknives use magical artifacts to gain extreme strength and speed as well as a cloaking effect. The downside is that once they activate it, it can't be turned off, and they have only a few weeks (at best) before the side effect poisons their blood and kills them.

Live-Action TV

  • Supernatural has two instances of this:
    • A Deal With the Devil usually includes selling your soul after a fixed amount of time (effectively reducing your lifespan to that amount).
    • There was an episode with a magic user who played poker with people, and the chips represented years of his life. If he won he got 25 years back, but if he lost he aged 25 years (he did this so he and his wife could be immortal).
      • He wasn't all bad though (as he keeps telling everyone). Notably, he deliberately folds to let an old man see his grandson grow up.
  • In Reaper, kissing a succubus takes years off the end of your life. You temporarily gain super-strength, super-speed, and the good effects of a hundred cups of coffee.
  • In seasons three and four of Heroes, Hiro Nakamura's ability to Time Travel gives him a brain tumor that only gets worse each time he uses his ability. He gets better.
  • In one episode of Doctor Who, the Doctor sacrifices ten years of his life to help recharge the TARDIS when it's stuck in a parallel universe. Granted, he has a centuries-long lifespan, and the ability to completely regenerate when near death, but still...

"I just gave away ten years of my life." (manic grin) "Worth every second!"

  • A variation is featured in Babylon 5: A healing machine that can heal injuries and restore life by drawing life force from the operator. Treating severe injuries requires a Heroic Sacrifice or operators working in shifts to share the load. If this sounds like a poorly designed piece of medical equipment, then it's worth pointing out that it was designed by an unknown alien race for executions. A condemned person would be hooked up to one side, and a sick person would get the other side.

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Several spells caused aging as a side effect of using them, including Gate, Haste and Wish. Varies from edition to edition.
    • One possible side effect of using an artifact/relic was aging three to 30 years.
    • In module I9 Ravager of Time the Big Bad Nuala aged one year per spell level each time she cast a spell. She used her Life-Bane power to drain youth from her victims to negate this aging.
    • The armor of the Ventadari is one of the most powerful suits of armor ever to exist. Named after the first warriors who wore it - the all female bodyguard of Adrasta the Windmàster - the armor was made from Pure Energy and had many potent magical abilities. one of these abilities enabled the wearer to cast a double strength haste upon herself, but at the cost of aging 5 years. (The armor had another effect that was Cast From Hit Points , enabling the wearer to give herself extra hit points at the cost of permanently deducting her total by one.) According to legend, the Ventadari pledged Undying Loyalty to their mistress, and in one notorious assassination attempt, they managed to defeat an entire army of devils, before literally dying of old age due to using the armors effect repeatedly.
  • Exalted has Tien Yu, the Goddess of Lookshy, whose most powerful attack, Lance of a Fallen Era, shortens the lifespan of the city of Lookshy by a number of days equal to the damage it does.
    • This makes perfect sense when you consider that Lookshy fields the Gunzosha commandos. Gunzosha power armor is one of the few artifacts in the entire game line that can be used by non-Essence users—at the cost of a year of your life for every twenty minutes of use. This can be mitigated by having aegis-insert amulets surgically implanted, allowing a commando to use his armor free of charge...but the amulets themselves cause you to age twice as fast as normal.
  • 7th Sea has the Bearsark advantage, which allows a player to fly into a superhuman rage so terrible to behold that enemies must make a Resolve test to keep from cowering. However, the Bearsark ages by 1 week for each round he is in this state.
  • In Planescape, a Prolonger is a mortal so terrified of death that they have used a sort of dark magic to turn themselves into fiends that can drain the life force of victims to make themselves younger. A side effect of this is that they age naturally five times faster than usual for whatever race they are. This puts them in a vicious cycle where they have to drain victims simply to prevent themselves from aging.


  • Dragon Age: Darkspawn's blood is poisonous. And Grey Wardens drink it. So, if you managed to survive the Joining, you've got no more than 30 years to live.
    • Also, Wynne is dead. She was brought to life by a spirit of the Fade, and using her Spirit Vessel ability shortens her lifespan each time. She doesn't seem to care, though, because she is already very old and her bonus lifespan is going to be short.
  • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates does this. Whenever twins Yuri and Chelinka do their weird... glowy... thingy, Chelinka gradually loses her soul while Yuri's lifespan is shortened drastically, leading to his near-death at the end of the game and prompting a Heroic Sacrifice from Chelinka.
  • Time Hollow: Too much use of the Hollow Pen causes a person to age beyond his chronological age.
  • Magic And Mayhem: Using magic in the Arcane Realms causes your body to age. This doesn't affect game mechanics, but it does drive the storyline; the Overlord is trying to recover various artefacts with which to reverse the process before his body wears out.
  • In Castlevania, use of the unsealed Vampire Killer by someone who is not a direct descendant of the Belmont clan will shorten their life. In the case of John Morris, this resulted in his wounds from his battle with Dracula not healing, culminating with his premature death. This trope is the entire reason his teaches his son Jonathan how to fight without the use of the Vampire Killer and refuses to tell him the means of how to unlock the whip's true power -- the Lecarde family. (Jonathan is resentful of this at first, but comes to respect his old man's choice by the time of The Reveal). This is Gameplay and Story Segregation in Portrait of Ruin, since the effects of such are well beyond the game's timespan.
  • In Persona 3, The Great Seal which you must use to end the final boss fight. The protagonist dies slightly more than one month later.
    • It's later discovered in FES that if you cast the Great Seal and don't die, the seal will fail. Sacrifice is necessary.
  • In SaGa Frontier 2, you can use a Life Point at the beginning of each turn to restore your character to full HP. However, once you run out of Life Points, that character is dead and is unable to be revived.
  • MMORPG A Tale in the Desert had (has?) Speed of the Serpent, a potion that let you teleport for a certain amount of distance. Want more teleportation? Drink more! The downside is that it is poisonous. The antidote is not especially difficult or expensive, but you must remember to take it every 30 days after your first drink or else your character dies. Subtract one day from your time limit for every successive Serpent potion. There is no respawning in A Tale in the Desert.
  • Might and Magic has more powerful spells and effects aging characters. This can be reversed except for some of the most powerful spells and effects, such as miracle or a ghost's attack, which increase your PERMANENT AGE.

Western Animation

  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender Word of God holds that Aang's spending a century as a Human Popsicle burnt up a lot of extra Avatar time. As a result, he died young, at a mere sixty-six years old (fellow Avatar Kyoshi lasted two and half centuries), paving the way for Sequel Series The Legend of Korra, set seventy years after series' end, and following his titular seventeen-year-old successor.
  • Mozenrath from the Aladdin sacrificed two things for his magical gauntlet. The immediate price was the flesh from his right hand. In the last episode starring him as the villain it's revealed that his lifespan was also severely reduced and he is at death's door. He tries and nearly succeeds in performing a Grand Theft Me on Aladdin in a bid to cheat death.


  • In Sorcery 101, both Magic and Sorcery takes a heavy toll on the user's health, with the result that neither Mages nor Sorcerers ever get particularly old. (It's more of a 'Will drop dead around 60-70' thing than an 'unlikely to see their 30th birthday' type thing, but still an unpleasant fact.) The main character, Danny, is a Sorcerer, but he's safe from these consequences due to being the Blood Bond of a powerful vampire. His teacher IS a vampire, and thus also safe. Main character Ally, however, is a Mage with no added advantages, so...
  1. This is based on the Finnish translation, but since those particular translations are pretty decent, it can't have made any more sense to begin with. Less is possible.