Super Toughness on steroids.
Someone is tough. Merely fighting them won't make them go away; if at all possible their defeat requires one to figure out how, which is a legendary quest in and of itself. Usually the ability of the Big Bad in sci-fi and fantasy settings, few heroes get this one. (Except in Superhero series, with Superman being the flagship example.)
Either one has to find their Achilles' Heel, or else summon up a nuclear-bomb's worth of power in the last episode, either through The Power of Love or Ki Attacks or really heavy armaments (e.g. When All You Have Is a Hammer) and hope for Villain Decay.
Sometimes a vaguely defined nigh-invulnerability is just a way to make a hero only as tough as he needs to be to advance the plot.
There's a number of ways one can have Nigh Invulnerability.
- Being a God: Face it. Sometimes you CAN'T kill a god. It's physically and theologically impossible. However other gods can sometimes kill gods, so they do technically fit the "nigh" part.
- Divine Protection: The character themself is not a god, but can survive anything due to intervention of a favorable god/guardian angel/spirit of parent that has been 'struck down and become more powerful than you can possibly imagine'.
- Made of Diamond: Way, way beyond Super Toughness. The power of the Implacable Man and The Juggernaut, nothing does anything to this being. Not a boot to the head, or a bullet to the eye, or a sledgehammer to the groin. Sufficiently strong characters might be able to knock them through a wall or mountain, but just one hit like that won't have any lasting effect. This is generally what people first think of when referring to this trope.
- Made Of Air: Going the opposite direction, there doesn't seem to be something to fight... but that "something" can fight you. Either they have the power of Super Smoke or the Intangible Man completely at will so that you can't attack them, or they may exist in some form that makes direct confrontation just not possible. (A possessing spirit, for example, who jumps from body to body.)
- The Blob: a common variant of this, when the character is made of some sort of fluid stuff that makes him tangible, but completely impervious to damage with bludgeoning or piercing weapons.
- Made of Rubber: Somewhere in between the last two, where most attacks just seem to bounce off with little to no effect to the victim.
- Regeneration/Regrowth: They have the truly nasty tendency to recover from anything. Cut off their head, and it grows back. Cut them to pieces, and they just reassemble themselves. Burn them to ashes, and mail them to Mexico, Norway, and Hong Kong, and they'll rebuild themselves From a Single Cell. Whether the character can survive being utterly atomised varies from fiction to fiction.
- Resurrection: You technically can kill them, but the problem is that they don't stay dead. Just pray that they don't the have the ability to adapt to whatever that managed to kill them before such that It Only Works Once.
- Can Only Kill Part Of Him: Fighting a Shadow. Similar to Regeneration/Regrowth/Resurrection, but basically the whatsit that you were fighting was just its... "representation" in the same world. Killing its body in this dimensional plane is a mild setback... if at all, as it can grow that back very quickly or replaced. Technically not that different from Resurrection except for semantics. Usually applies to gods, demons, and Cosmic Horror.
- The Proxy: Another example of Fighting a Shadow, but differing in that the individual in question is very much present in the world and very much capable of dying through conventional means. They usually make use of other bodies or identities in order to conceal themselves and reduce the risk of death or injury through direct contact. The proxy could take the form of a remote-control robot, a cloned flesh puppet, or a victim of mind control or possession, and is usually killable. If the proxy is encountered often enough, it can give the semblance of invulnerability.
- External Repair/Spare Body Parts: Like regeneration and/or regrowth, but external, most common with machines but occasionally works for the undead or supernatural foes. Chop off an arm? Meh, if it's too damaged to reattach, no big deal: it's replaceable. Blown into tiny chunks? Allies or drones will show up and rebuild. In some cases, they can modify themselves, or even abandon their body entirely after building a new one to transfer into, or, if they're Made Of Air underneath it, choosing a new one to possess.
- Multiple Bodies: The classic power of the Hive Mind. Killing one body is irrelevant; at worst, it will reduce it's cognitive abilities; more often, though, the only way to kill him is to kill all of him, as even one survivor may be able to recreate a whole new army of selves.
- Extreme Luck: The part where the clumsy hero/heroine can dodge everything just because of extreme luck. The only problem is if the extreme luck is unwieldy.
Contrast Made of Iron, where no explanation is given for an individual's incredible resilience. Compare of course Physical God, Implacable Man, The Juggernaut, Intangible Man, Blob Monster and Made of Indestructium. Taking this the logical step beyond nigh invulnerable gives the character Complete Immortality or may even make the character The Omnipotent. See also Immortal Life Is Cheap, which applies to such cases as Multiple Bodies and Regeneration.
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