Story-Breaker Power

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"It feels like kind of a cheat; you can't have your characters be too powerful."
Marty, Stargate SG-1 episode "200"

A question writers should ask themselves when deciding which (if any) Super Powers to give the protagonists is "Which and how strong a set of powers does a character need in order for this story to be entertaining?". The reason why is because many times characters begin or end up having powers that in the hands of a competent and reasonably intelligent protagonist would allow them to handily solve a plot. Plot complications, the Sorting Algorithm of Evil and the Sliding Scale of Villain Threat would be incapable of dealing with this character... at least not without drastically changing the setting or the story's tone.

This is a common problem for sequels of works that end with the protagonist unlocking their full power. Once they get too much power they win the Superpower Lottery and become godlike or worse, Suelike. On the other hand, a simple or limited power can lead to viewers asking "Why doesn't he just use his power of X to do Y and stop the bad guy/get the MacGuffin?". The second easiest way to tell if this trope is in effect is when the writer resorts to handing the protagonist the Idiot Ball and Forgot About His Powers to keep the character from using their powers in a straightforward way. The easiest way of all is when it turns out that the author has resorted to actual amnesia to keep the character from solving everything in five minutes.

In order to challenge the protagonist the writers will have to ramp up the villain's power, find a way to otherwise remove or sideline them, De-Power them or at least reduce it to more reasonable levels, take away their weapons, or give them a Drama-Preserving Handicap of some sort. Otherwise, the character will be Too Powerful to Live. On a bit of a tangent, there's a reason why this trope applies mostly to protagonists; we expect the Big Bad to have a nigh unbeatable edge and get beaten nonetheless, giving us a typical underdog story. Though this isn't to say it's good for a villain to have a Story-Breaker Power, because they run the risk of becoming a Villain Sue. This is why most stories with such villains actually focus on stopping them from getting these powers.

The abilities most likely to be Story-Breaker Powers without careful use are:

It's worth clarifying that yes, characters with these powers can and often do have engaging stories, great struggles, and otherwise captivate the audience. When that is the case though, it's because the writer balances the powers with Heart (no, not that Heart!) and challenges that the hero can't hammer away at. What good is being a Flying Brick when a Smug Snake lawyer is out to sue them? Or Time Travel when time itself will kill a loved one from old age?

Compare Deus Exit Machina and Story-Breaker Team-Up, where this trope appears not because of a power itself but because of disparities between them. Game Breaker is a similar but otherwise unrelated trope, when a player manages to inflict this on a game.

Examples of Story-Breaker Power include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Fans often describe Yuki from Suzumiya Haruhi as the strongest character ever made. Although this is probably an exaggeration, she does demonstrate Nigh Invulnerability, Super Strength, Super Speed, and Reality Warper powers. Her crowning achievement would be hijacking Haruhi's full power to retroactively depower everyone and rewrite the universe to her liking. Her job is only to observe, however, so her overt actions are limited..
  • Giorno Giovanna of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure part 5 gains what is quite possibly not only the most broken power in all of anime and manga, but in all of fiction. In the final battle of the part, his Stand is shot by the Requiem Arrow, and gains the ability to nullify any action an opponent takes even ones he cannot himself see. In addition, if said opponent is actually hit by the Stand, he's doomed to experience death for all eternity. Needless, to say it's fortunate that this only occurred at the very end of the part.
    • Fugo was actually Put on a Bus for this very reason. His Stand Purple Haze produced a toxin that destroyed every living organism that came in contact with it. Araki eventually decided to bench him because it became too difficult to design fights with Fugo around.
      • It is not that Purple Haze was actually overpowered by the standard of this story. The entirety of Part 4, except the final fight, was built around the assumption that the protagonists could kick anyone's ass in close combat (Jotaro even retained his Time Stands Still power after the final battle of Part 3), and they still were severely challenged. The Purple Haze was just boring - either you were in range and you instantly died, or you weren't, and so it was never really useful for solving the situation.
  • Alastor from Shakugan no Shana is the God of Judgment. Manifesting physically is his "I Win" card. In the novels (and movie), he plays this to incinerate the first villain. The anime saves this for the climax of the first season, in which he blows up everything, sends the Big Bads fleeing, and saves the city from a massive pool of energy all by just showing up. He doesn't have to fight at all—he's just that awesome. Why can't he do this all the time? Because it will kill the Flame Haze that does it. Except Shana is special, so that limit doesn't apply, and the question stands.
    • Wasn't the reason given that since Alastor consumes massive amounts of energy, something the Big Bad had just flooded the city with, he now had another source of it other than his Flame Haze's.
    • The Snake of the Festival is the God of Creation, and he seems to have no problems showing off: infinite power, immunity to flame, Prehensile Hair, and a sword that causes anyone who tries blocking it to sustain heavy injuries (Blutsager). Plus the whole "Creator" bit.
  • The ending of My-HiME is made of these, complete with Miyu pulling powers out of her ass until she cracks the barrier to Fuuka by essentially smashing it with a really big mallet, the resurrection of everyone who had died at that point up to and including the Big Bad of the first half of the series, Yuuichi taking a couple hundred levels in badass, and finally ending with HiME Can Breathe In Space.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has been suffering from this in recent seasons. During the timeskip between the second and third seasons, the main characters (who were already People of Mass Destruction to start with) became obscenely powerful and had to have their powers nerfed in the third season by the use of Power Limiters, extensive use of Anti-Magic fields and a half-hearted attempt to shift the focus over to the newer (and much weaker) characters, though ultimately the focus returned to the super-powerful main characters beating the crap out of people. The SSX Sound Stage and the ViVid manga solved this issue by completely switching focus to follow the new characters, but Force went the opposite direction by introducing villains with the even more broken power of complete immunity to all magic, forcing the characters to essentially ditch their old powersets in favor of new weapons of questionable reliability.
  • Accelerator of To Aru Majutsu no Index won the Superpower Lottery with the ability to change the vectors of anything, as in he's immune to nukes if he wants to be and could take out an entire army by himself if he didn't get tired while slaughtering everyone. Then the story takes the time to illustrate that he's not a complete amoral psychopath so they can make him into a hero. Naturally, after getting a Morality Pet he makes an (anti-)Heroic Sacrifice that makes him far less brokenly powerful so he can be a hero fighting at a disadvantage. Later in the novels since vol.13 he has started to evolve his powers and vol.15 he had a power "awakening" killing the second Level 5 in the process giving him new levels of badass.
    • Accelerator actually can't count anymore. His ability can be countered as shown by Amata Kihara. His power can even by disconnected and taken away from him. There are also a lot of characters stronger then him currently. His awakening could still count but that's another story.
    • There's a list of at least a dozen characters, if not more, in the Toaru-'verse who are explicitly so broken no one can touch them except maybe a few other people on the broken list. There's a character who can make you fall into a coma if you ever think even the slightest negative or confrontational thing about her anywhere in the universe that's undefendable except with a Power Nullifier or Anti-Magic. There's a guy who's powerset includes the ability to be +1 in power to whoever he's fighting, can hit you with an instantaneous attack from anywhere that ignores everything but causality and destroys whatever it hits, and defends the same way PASSIVELY. Or the guy who can completely negate and make useless anything he thinks of "as a weapon". To be perfectly blunt, it's an entire UNIVERSE filled with cheating, insufferable assholes, who are all powermad, crazy, genocidal, A God Am I-types. This is done simply because the author needed people who only the somewhat doofy, nearly powerless main character could beat, catered to his own ability.
  • Given that he's literally referred to as a "real-life broken video game character" in canon, Jack Rakan of Mahou Sensei Negima obviously counts. Through skill alone he tosses around skyscraper-sized swords with ease, copies physics-defying sword techniques with a glance, and destroys pocket dimensions by flexing, explicitly defying the laws of magic with sheer awesomeness.
    • His rival and the protagonist's father, Thousand Master Nagi, is established to somehow be even worse, though the effect is mitigated by his reliance on a cheatsheet to cast spells and his greatest feats taking place off-camera. His "power"? Being invincible.
    • Turns out that Fate also has a game-breaking ability: Access to the power of the mage who created the Magic World, effectively making him a Reality Warper as long as he remains there.
    • For that matter, the Lifemaker, who goes beyond mere Reality Warper to Reality Maker: within the realm of the Magical World, he's practically omnipotent (logical enough, since he created said Magical World). He's vulnerable to "real" mages, from the physical world, but even compared to them he's tremendously strong. Only Nagi "Invincible" Springfield has ever been confirmed to have beaten this guy in combat.
    • And finally Evangeline AK McDowell, whose implied power level is so high that Fate ran away from her, stating that he would be at a disadvantage fighting against her. And when she loses any fight, it is suggested that she wanted to lose.
  • In Bleach, Ishida Uryu's Quincy Final Form nearly turns him into this. It dials his normal abilities Up to Eleven and then some, making him a quincy who can effortlessly absorb all the spirit particles around him (through that wing) and turn them into sheer destructive power. While fighting in a universe where literally everything is made entirely of spirit particles (Soul Society in this instance, though the same is true of everywhere but the real world), giving him access to a basically limitless amount of power. Averted because of the Final Form's extreme drawback: his human body can't withstand that much energy, so his powers burn out within minutes of using it. He got better, but can not use this form anymore.
    • If that wasn't enough, may I present Kirie Opie, who not only have an even stronger Final Form, but the reishi slavery can enslave and assimilate anything made out of spirit particles including people. Did I mention that he is also just one of the captain, and it was implied everyone in Vandenreich can do that?
    • Applies to the Big Bad of the story, Sosuke Aizen as well, whose special ability is complete control over the senses of other people, to the point were they cannot escape his illusions even if they know something's wrong. On top of that, the sheer magnitude of his spiritual pressure serves to make him extremely formidable even without using it. It works on anyone who has seen his sword's release, which is everyone of considerable power in Soul Society, and as a result it's impossible for any of them to beat him and why Ichigo was effectively the only one who stood a chance. By the time Aizen actually fights Ichigo, he doesn't even use his powers anyways, because both of them have several other story-breaker powers.
    • Yamamoto, with just his primary release, could be able to kill every single arrancar, shinigami, and vizard present, plus Aizen. Inevitably this leads to his sword getting sealed eventually resulting in his defeat, though even then he just casually goes about beating up the arrancar who sealed his power with his bare hands. Reminder: this particular arrancar was able to not only fight evenly with the likes of Urahara with his abilities sealed, but also overpower Ukitake, one of the other cemented badasses of the series (albeit by surprise).
    • And then there's Orihime, whose power basically boils down to "Fuck Reality" since she is able to undo anything from lost limbs to death itself. Which virtually makes fights of any kind (note that there is one thing essential in Bleach: fights) pointless. No matter what happens, Orihime can fix it up anyway. Kubo hasn't let her participate in the plot since revealing that, because it would destroy any conflict whatsoever. Aizen himself called her power the Story-Breaker Power.
    • Ichigo himself after his training in Dangai. He was strong enough to easily beat Aizen when Aizen was in his upgraded form thanks to the Hogyoku. No wonder he had to lose his powers or else every other conflict in the story would be Ichigo curbstomping his opponent. It still wasn't enough to kill Aizen who currently has a Nigh Invulnerability status.
  • The Digimon franchise:
    • Angemon, and later HolyAngemon, both seem to be on par with Digimon one level above their own. To recap: Patamon first evolved to Angemon in order to defeat Devimon (the first Big Bad), then didn't reach Adult-level again until halfway through the Vamdemon saga. When all of the Digimon evolved to their highest-level forms in order to face Vamdemon (Perfect for all 7 others), it was Angemon's attack that destroyed Phantomon, one of Vamdemon's most powerful subordinates at the Perfect level, and his attack had a debilitating effect on Vamdemon himself whereas no-one else could touch him until Angewomon came along. Angemon finally gets to evolve to Perfect just before the end of the show, and does the majority of the work in defeating Piemon, an Ultimate-level digimon that had already beaten the combined might of WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon twice. On the other hand, perhaps to counteract, Angemon spent most of Digimon Adventure 02 getting Worfed. HolyAngemon only made two appearances : in the first he failed to defeat another broken Ultimate, BlackWarGreymon, only because the power source he used to evolve was destroyed, whereas the second was not particularly notable and he didn't do much.
    • Specifically, HolyAngemon defeated Piemon with the ludicrously broken skill of opening a gate to a land of divine punishment, dragging him in and shutting the entrance. Admittedly, this does suggest that Piemon was himself a story-breaker as he was too powerful to conventionally defeat and could only be stopped by way of an equally broken Digimon.
    • It's worth noting that Angemon is supposed to be particularly powerful against thematically evil digimon (such as demons, ghosts, the undead, and clowns), which makes sense given that he is an angelic Digimon. On the occasions where he fights Digimon who don't fit this criteria, he's no better than the other Adult Digimon.
    • In a more extreme version of this trope, in Digimon V-Tamer 01, Arkadimon is pretty much the most powerful Digimon period. For one thing, it can one-shot a Ultimate-level digimon as a freshly-hatched baby. Not just any Ultimate, but the above-mentioned Piemon.
    • Another example would be the protagonist's very own partner, Zero. Not only does he boast enough raw strength and speed that he can match opponents a level above him (which is all he seems to fight), but when he reaches his Ultimate stage, he unlocks the Ulforce, a Healing Factor so strong that he can recover from instant death attacks! Even Daemon had to negate it before he started whooping ass.
    • Taiki Kudo and Shoutmon serve as an in-story example in Digimon Xros Wars: The Young Hunters Leaping Through Time. As the legendary general and the Digimon King respectively who saved the world in the preceding Digimon Xros Wars, the Watch Man is understandably concerned that his very presence will destabilise the balance of the Digimon-hunting game. So far, he's being proven very correct - Taiki and Shoutmon have spent most of the series so far effortlessly curbstomping everything that Tagiru and Yuu have trouble handling.
  • Claire Stanfield from Baccano! has a story-breaking Charles Atlas Superpower - despite being ostensibly a normal human, he's strong enough to take on anyone in the series (and a few in other series), including the resident demon/Eldritch Abomination and a vampire. In fact, the author has said that he purposely didn't give Claire his own plotline because there's no one in the series who could possibly challenge him, which generally doesn't make for the most interesting story.
  • One Piece loves introducing each and every character as though they were the single most powerful being on the planet... and some are:
    • Whitebeard can cause tsunamis with his Earthquake causing devil fruit. No wonder he's been in the background so much.
    • The Logia fruits as a whole have the potential to be this, as one characteristic that almost all of them share is the ability to allow their user to become the element on which they are based, albeit with the element's weaknesses (for example, Crocodile, the user of the Sand Sand fruit, cannot turn into sand if he is wet), thus rendering them virtually immune to physical attacks. While Blackbeard's Devil Fruit lacks that ability, it has the ability to cancel all other Devil Fruit powers if it hits the target.
    • Apart from being a super robot thing with Frickin' Laser Beams, Nigh Invulnerability and Super Strength, Kuma can use his Devil Fruit power to basically teleport anything anywhere he wants to by 'pushing' whatever he touches. He can literally defeat absolutely anyone in a single hit by teleporting a fruit user into, say, the ocean or anyone else into an active volcano. Or the ocean again. Luckily he seems to be a mostly decent fellow, or at least to have no pressing reason to kill the Straw Hat crew, considering he beat them all at once easily. He also was once on the Revolutionary Army's side, and thus willing to help Dragon's son, but now that he's been roboticized, he is now the Straw Hats' enemy
  • Hiko Seijuro XIII of Rurouni Kenshin has been described by the author as a "Joker in the Card Deck", being the God Mode Sue of the series. The fact that the author realizes this is also the reason why he rarely appears.
    • Shishio Makoto is so goddamn powerful that not even the main character with his ultimate technique could beat him. The only reason he loses is because he fought for so long that his body temperature went so high (he's incapable of sweating to cool off due to being covered in burns) that he burst into flames.
  • Lucy becomes this by the end of the Elfen Lied manga. Her vectors become so strong that she can single-handedly combat an entire army with little apparent effort. Partially subverted in that she was unable to sustain that level of power for long, and ignoring her limitations caused her to literally turn to mush.
  • Tenchi Muyo Ryo-Ohki: Tenchi and Z, whose introduced later, possess powers from something that's even more powerful than the Goddesses that made the universe. Some feats that are probably the bottom of the list of what they can do: Z destroyed half of the Earth and Moon in an instant (literally; the mantle and core of the Earth was visible afterwords) without exerting any visible effort, Tenchi traveled to Saturn from Earth within an instant (a physical impossibility as light is nowhere that fast), Tenchi stopped an anti-planet weapon single-handedly and Tenchi's powers going out of control as he began becoming the entity that created said goddesses caused a dimensional quake crossing all 11 dimensions and into the realm of the goddesses. Oh, and they can breathe and talk in space with no trouble.
    • Even before the feats of the 3rd OVA, the 2nd has Tenchi effortlessly not only escaping from inside the event horizon of a black hole, he did this not by moving faster than light or teleportation, but by sheer brute force, as he destroyed the black hole in the process.
  • In Katekyo Hitman Reborn where Time Travel is as easy as getting yourself shot by a bazooka, the newest Big Bad Byakuran's ability to sync with all his selves in different Alternate Universes will probably still count at least in the other 8 tetratrillion worlds where he successfully takes over. However, there appears to be certain as yet unspecified repercussions to this ability.
    • Recently, a potential weakpoint of his has been revealed: none of his alternate selves encountered the Vongola Boxes, leaving him unaware of their powers, and killing him in one timeline kills him in all of them since he is synchronized with all of his alternate versions.
  • Shinigami in Soul Eater. He started Shibusen to have humans fight kishin because he could not. If he had been freed from Death City when Asura was, the main cast would have had nothing to do for the last forty-odd chapters. As it is, he's kept effectively useless (combat-wise at the very least) within Death City while the students and his beleaguered staff do the dirty work for him. Aside from the one fight when Asura was inside the city, all we get is tantalising hints via flashbacks and his son, of what this grim reaper's capable of.
    • Deconstructed with Excalibur, it is the most powerful sword in existence, but he is too annoying to be tolerated by anyone.
  • Subverted with Casshern Sins, in that while Casshern is essentially the most powerful character and immortal (healing from all injuries), the story isn't about fighting but rather trying to Find the Cure, with bashing robot Mooks being secondary.
  • Hanma Yuujiro. The strongest creature on Earth. Able to fight anyone and win, earthquakes and the USA included. Just by Charles Atlas Superpower, because he fights so good.
  • While Naruto usually follows the rule of "the bigger the jutsu, the bigger the drawback" there are a few ones so unopposed in power that events conspire for them not to be used:
    • Itachi's version of Susano'o. Much like Giorno's power it can deflect any attack and permanently seal anyone with a single one of its own, with the only theoretical drawback being how physically taxing it is to use. Now that he's a zombie, with complete control over his own body and limitless stamina, this is no longer a problem.
    • Shisui's eye could Mind Control apparently anyone without them even knowing about it (although other people know when it's in use), albeit with a limit to how often, which was only used one or two times before being destroyed.
    • Edo Tensei brings back the dead, even the incredibly powerful,[1] makes them obey your every command even if you die, gives them immortality that can usually only be countered by sealing their souls, and in defiance of the series tradition has no drawback whatsoever! It was used once by Orochimaru and then forgotten about.. When Kabuto started using it on a large scale, it immediately made him a Dragon Ascendant that all of the world's superpowers were needed to face.
    • And then there's the real Madara, who as an Edo Tensei zombie, cannot be killed, on top of Eternal Mangekyo Sharingan, has the Rinnegan which he uses to absorb all chakra based attacks, Mokuton which includes the ability to make indistinguishable clones that have all his powers and even regenerate like he does, and can summon giant fucking meteors.
    • Tobi's Six Paths appeared to be this, since they were the Edo Tensei zombies of the dead Jinchuriki that had their tailed beasts resealed in them and a Sharingan, Rinnegan combo to let Tobi combine their attacks and predict any attempts made to attack them, it was subverted when Killer Bee and Naruto managed to kick their asses with a bit of help from Kakashi and Guy.
      • All of these characters are outclassed by the Sage of the Six Paths. The original Ninja who created Ninjustu and Chakra, and whom hundreds of years ago saved the world by defeating the original 10-tailed beast and then sealed the beast inside his own body. His powers were vastly extensive, as the original owner of the Rinnegan he had all the powers associated with the Senju and the Uchiha and had full mastery of all those powers, things like warping realities and dropping meteors that would dwarf the size of the ones Pain and Madara made were easy feats for him. Notably on his death bed the Sage was still so powerful that he was able to accomplish the incredible feat of splitting the 10-tails' power into 9 separate beasts and to create the Earth's moon as a prison for the demon's dead body so no one could ever reach it and revive it. There is a reason why everyone is seeking the Sage's powers, if they had his power then no one could defeat them.
  • Ryougi Shiki from Kara no Kyoukai: has the ability to kill absolutely anything instantly, including magical and telekinetic attacks. Her alternate personality is even more powerful, as it is actually an Anthropomorphic Personification of the origin of the universe, and is capable of destroying or recreating any aspect of existence at will.
  • Doraemon from Doraemon has a whole lot of stuff in his pocket. Until know there has been a count of 500+ different gadgets. Seems like Doraemon and Nobita are already used to have the idiotball with them so that they won't remember the wrong gadget at the wrong time (plotwise).
  • In Yu Yu Hakusho Raizen is stated to have once been the most powerful demon in the entire series. His power was so great that the other Two Kings of Demon World could be easily defeated if he was currently in his prime. What is preventing Raizen from using this power? He's starving. Raizen's power comes from eating human flesh and he gave up the practice hundreds of years ago. Notably on his death bed Raizen still has S class demon power on par with Yusuke's current powers who as far as S class demons are concerned is a runt in the litter.
    • For perspective Kurama talks about how there are some demons that are so powerful that even the S Class ranking (the highest level of demon) doesn't properly describe their power level, these kind of demons are more accurately described as gods rather than demons. Raizen is said by everyone who knew him in his prime as the most powerful demon that had ever lived and that his power was so great that his enemies would "piss their pants" if they saw him in action. Definitely counts as story breaking power.
  • In Dragon Ball Tienshinhan and Master Roshi have the ability to seal anyone withevil intentions in a can. The villains are lucky that this power is quickly forgotten after Part 1 ends.
    • Actually, Piccolo Jr. went on to reverse Kami's attempt to do this and sealhimin the can instead, right in front of everyone on the World Tournament stage. This was years after Master Roshi actually MISSED while attempting to use this on the original King Piccolo as well, establishing that the pinpoint precision and control it takes for the technique to work is extremely high. There's also the drawback that, reversal aside, the user is basically required to die. So this ability wasn't so much forgotten as it was deemed not worth the risk after seeing Goku succeed where the technique failed twice in a row.
      • Several characters have the ability to use Solar Flare and Destructo Disc, but they never think to use them together. However, after Frieza, it doesn't work because the main villains can regenerate.
    • The devil Akkuman emits waves that amplify every evil or impure thought, causing even saintly people to explode from within. He was defeated only because Goku has a totally pure heart and could not be affected. Unsurprisingly, he never appeared again after the story arc featuring him.
    • As seen in the movies and video games, apparently Goku can absorb the energy of the spirit bomb to supplement his own strength. Though it might be more practical to throw it instead.
  • Inuyasha: Bakusaiga. It was introduced towards the end of the story just before the Final Battle. It was immediately lampshaded that the Big Bad didn't stand a chance against it, since it's capable of killing anything that merely comes into contact with anything it's cut and it can kill thousands with a single swing. As a result, the Big Bad immediately steals the sword owner's Morality Pet and traps her inside his body for most of the rest of the story. Characters even point out that this was done solely to prevent Bakusaiga from being used. When Sesshoumaru does finally rescue Rin and use the sword, Naraku's body is instantly destroyed, leaving the only threat left to be solved by Kagome making a wish.
  • In a world where everybody is pretty darn broken, in High School DxD we have Ophis, a dragon who is also known as The Infinite One. First off, she's fully capable of wiping out anybody in this series, and no selling the strongest weapon of the series. She's also the leader of the enemy group, Chaos Brigade. Naturally if she went to the front lines, the story would have been over as early as volume 6. She actually has a few quirks of her own such as not really being interested in any fighting as long as someone can kick out Great Red from the Dimensional Boundary so she can "attain silence". Then when she joins the protagonists group, she gets hit with the Nerf stick twice; first from Samael the dragon eater, and by using up half of her already reduced powers to create a body suitable for Issei seeing as he died trying to save her.
  • Sebastian Michaelis from Black Butler is a Genius Bruiser with Nigh Invulnerability who can also use magic. The true extent of his powers is unknown. For example, we don't know if he can teleport or if he's just that fast, possibly with the aid of stopping time entirely. However it is, we can determine from other evidence that he does have some sort of time powers among his many abilities. He solves numerous seemingly impossible problems with ease. Though, especially later on, the plot does provide him with some challenges, such as opponents who can fight on his level. The true factor that prevents him from solving everything is that he's acting as a tool for Ciel, who wants his success to be because of his own efforts, as it won't be valuable otherwise. He doesn't know much more about Sebastian's abilities than we do, so Ciel isn't using Sebastian to his full effectiveness.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Superman. Not every writer can make his battles interesting, as he shrugs off pretty much anything not Kryptonite as easily as those idiot grunts whose bullets he probably doesn't even notice. Making something other than Kryptonite, Darkseid, or Doomsday challenge him without Nerfing Supes severely (see the early seasons of Justice League) is not a task just any writer can accomplish.
    • One fight with the Weaponsmaster had a twist on the situation. Superman was ill and told the bad guys that now he cannot judge the force of his blows, thus they risk death by punching. Yes, making Superman sick just makes him more dangerous.
  • One of the classic comic book examples is The Flash, or really any super-speedster. There's no reason the Flash shouldn't see the villain and have him tied up and in prison before the villain has a chance to react. Instead super-speedsters get treated like normal people with a few arbitrarily chosen speed based abilities.
    • It's beyond that. Fans have pointed out that, with Wally's ability to absorb "speed" from anything and his ability to take advantage of relativistic effects in order to increase his striking power without hampering his ability to move, he could theoretically make his fists weigh more than the universe itself.
      • The closest we ever see to that is the famous "infinite mass punch" from JLA #4. No explanation is given for why Wally doesn't use this move on every superhumanly-durable villain.
    • The Flash's game breaking abilities were explored in Kingdom Come and JLA One Million. In the former he is made of pure speed and is able to see the narrator in Another Dimension. In the latter a future Flash is the sole police force on the entire (heavily populated) planet Mercury.
      • Although in Kingdom Come The Flash can no longer talk with anyone except Superman, because he's too fast (only Superman's supersenses can hear him). In fact, he's so fast he's constantly blurry, even when standing still. The Spectre mentions that Flash is forever alone, unseen by most people in the city he guards "though all feel his presence".
      • Lampshaded a bit in the New 52 where Barry Allen is informed how fast he can process sensory input is the biggest bottleneck to his powers. At one point he gets shot due to over-thinking, and reverts to just processing the super-speed environment on a somewhat instinctual level.
  • This is why the Martian Manhunter rarely gets used to his full potential, both in the comics and on Justice League. He's Superman with Shapeshifting, Telepathy, Mind Control, and phasing, amongst other powers. Okay, so he's vulnerable to fire, but he's been shown to get over that. With the above mentioned problems with Superman, they're even worse for J'onn. Which might be one reason why they killed him off in Final Crisis.
    • Lampshaded in a recent Green Lantern issue: When Black Lantern J'onn is fighting Hal and Barry, he picks up the fire station they are in and throws it into another building, saying "I'm as powerful as Superman. Why does everyone forget that?" Indeed, by the end of the issue he's incapacitated them both.
  • This has been done right at least once, in Watchmen. Dr. Manhattan is a Physical God who wins the Vietnam War practically singlehandely and should easily dissect the problem in the comic and excise it... except The Chessmaster plays not against his powers but his post-empowering uncertainty to get him to leave the planet.
    • He's also hamstrung by his inability to see time like we do- he knows precisely what powers he's going to use, when he's going to use them, what they're going to do. He doesn't choose to use them, he just watches himself using them. He even describes the tachyon interference with his future sight, in the climax, as "freeing", allowing him to truly act for the first time in forty years.
    • It's not just that he sees the future: he is able to simultaneously exist in every moment in time. This makes him extremely disconnected from story events, so he has little ability to change them.
      • Not even so much that as he experiences time differently. He experiences it in a non-linear way, but he sees it as a whole.
  • The Legion of Super-Heroes were given a device they called the Miracle Machine by a race of Neglectful Precursors. Its power? Nothing less than turning your thoughts into reality. It's usually relegated to the their trophy room, because power corrupts, and it would be a shame if they saved a few billion lives while getting corrupted... or something. A later author wrote a plot specifically to remove the literal Deus Ex Machina from the plot forever (and make Matter Eater Lad useful in the process).
    • And as of Final Crisis, Superman has one of these things. That he built himself, meaning he knows how to build them. What do you wanna bet he never uses it again?
    • A minor character in the Legion comics is Duplicate Boy. Despite the name, he doesn't have the same power as Duo Damsel, instead he can duplicate anyone else's superpowers. He's not a story breaker only because he's not in the Legion (he's a hero on some other planet), and a bit of a lunkhead besides.
  • Morpheus, the title character of The Sandman, is more powerful than most gods and only cosmic level beings like Lucifer are a real threat to him. Even if he should die, a new aspect of Dream would arise in his place who may or may not be very happy with the fellow who slew his predecessor.
    • Morpheus is an interesting case. As one of The Endless, he's almost omnipotent within his own domain (dreams). On the other hand, he is weighed down with the rules and duties of his office, which renders him more impotent than many of his own dream creations. He is only able to use his full power in directly protecting the Dreaming (which does not necessarily mean protecting himself), and only while in the heart of the dreaming. He is imprisoned by a human wizard, brought to near-death by Dr. Destiny, a witch at one point prevents him from crossing a ritual circle made of chalk and goat's blood, and in many other ways threatened or hindered during the course of the comic. In the end, The Furies -- minor mythological creatures from Greek Mythology -- kill him because the act of spilling family blood has rendered him a lawful quarry for their wrath.
  • The Spectre from DC Comics. The wrath of God personified. Each major DC crossover event includes the obligatory scene explaining just why he can't help out this time.
  • One of the longest-standing examples in Marvel Comics is Franklin Richards, son of Reed and Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four. A Reality Warper on a cosmic scale, he has been largely kept as a child for decades specifically because it has been demonstrated that his mature power levels would be so far off the scale that he would become virtually unusable as a character.
  • His name is The Sentry. He may be the Angel of Death (it's implied he was the one who caused the Plagues of Egypt). He was used by Norman Osborn on the Dark Avengers team because he has Story-Breaker Power. Severe mental illnesses keep him from doing too much.
  • Professor Charles Xavier is the most powerful psychic in the world. By rights, any problems the X-Men face should be dealt with at, literally, the speed of thought. As a result, most of the major plotlines the team faces start with either a Deus Exit Machina or a lecture on Mind Over Manners. That or some kind of suitable anti-telepathy gadget has to be brought in to explain why he cannot do anything.
  • Doctor Strange. A long term editorial problem concerns just why Strange can't wave his hands and fix everything. Whenever the good doctor gets involved in any significant way in Marvel's other books, serious Nerfage occurs by necessity.
  • Loki, from The Mighty Thor, when you think about it. He's only a Squishy Wizard by Asgardian standards (note: in Asgard, the kids are all as strong as Spider-man, for comparison). So, in addition to vast magical power (he is only listed as surpassed by Odin and perhaps Karnilla, another Thor character, so his exact magical abilites are unknown in comparison to someone like Dr. Strange or the Scarlet Witch), Loki is also super strong, super durable, experienced in combat, a genius (though this aspect is limited by his Inferiority Superiority Complex, Unfavorite-ness, and need to defeat Thor no matter what), and is so much of Consummate Liar that he has tricked Mephisto (aka the devil), Norman Osborn, Doctor Doom, Odin, and the heroes of Earth several times over. At least some of these traits need nerfing to keep the story alive.
  • Ambrose Chase from Planetary had concentration-based Reality Warper powers that allowed him to alter physics at will in a small radius around himself. Barring taking him completely by surprise (like a particular villain did by battling him in a universe that ran on Horror Tropes and using a bullet of Applied Phlebotinum, hence the past tense), he was practically unkillable. It turns out it didn't take; Chase used his power to freeze his own injury and trap himself in a pocket dimension until the others could extract and rescue him.
  • In Irredeemable it turns out the Plutonian is literally this personified and the people who know have (reasonably) decided that the knowledge of the full extent of power must at all costs be kept from them so to stop Go Mad from the Revelation and/or the character becoming a Game Breaker in-comic. The power being absolute-level manipulation of reality, that's a good idea.


Fan Works[edit | hide]

  • In With Strings Attached, Ringo is able to mentally see anything he's ever seen before, and can work his way into unfamiliar places from a familiar starting point, including people and unique objects. And he can do it effortlessly and indefinitely. And he can see perfectly in the dark. And he can see things as small as atoms. And he never holds the Idiot Ball. The concept of “information is power” really applies with him. He is a plot destroyer.
    • And he's also telekinetic, with an enormous range. Thus, unless you magically hide yourself from him, he will fuck you up—and the plot along with you. As Jeft discovered to his sorrow.
    • Notably, Brox figured out how dangerous Ringo could be, and arranged to have the entire Ghost City of Ehndris covered with a hiding spell that also caused Ringo great pain when he tried to look in there.
  • Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami introduces several virtually unlimited powers to the normally heavily rule-bound Death Note universe, each one cancelling out the powers of another one:
    • First, the Royal Death Note lets the user bypass the rule that they must know their target's face and full name. The whole plot of Death Note - Light's hunt for L's name - becomes pointless, since Dark can simply write "L" and kill him. Except...
    • There is also a Life Note, which allows anyone, no matter how they died, to be brought back instantly. The Death Notes are essentially worthless. Except...
    • There is an Anti Life Note which is immune to the Life Note's powers. (Un)fortunately, the author forgets about this before it has a chance to pay off.
    • The granddaddy of all of these is the Everything Note, which can do everything. It can be used for resurrection, time travel, superpowers, teleportation and sex. As soon as it is introduced, any pretence at being a Gambit Pileup story is gone.
    • On a meta level, the Reset Note grants a metafictional Reset Button to Dark, which lets him Retcon Khaos's rise to power and making his defeat one of the greatest anticlimaxes ever. If he was smarter about using it, the Reset Note would be even stronger than the Everything Note.
  • New Dawn has several characters with extremely broken powers.
    • The Hero, Matthew, if he'd use his powers a little more ruthlessly. He can also create just about any legendary-class weapon except ones he cannot comprehend. He can do just about anything with swords in his Mage Killer mode. His Aura Rave Spell gets stronger with every use, and can even be used at half cost and half power...with the boost tacked on!
    • Shira, the first real villain, can freeze anything in his vicinity. The only reason he lost was because...he kinda wanted to.
    • Nebiros can read your mind based on certain vibrations in the air, and thus use his Barrier Warrior powers to dismantle your attack, dismantle you, and still have time to evilly gloat.
    • Dolph Gradich, one of the later villains, is basically Matthew 2.0, making swords out of Majitek Nanites, and having an arsenal of spells at his disposal, as well as Matthew's Aura Rave spell.

Film[edit | hide]

  • Bolt, which is about a dog who thinks he's a superhero when in fact he's simply an actor. One of his powers in his show is a superpowerful bark that can destroy... like 100 mooks, helicopters and cars all at once.
    • Though it's only useful in large open spaces without innocent bystanders. Of course his other powers are already bad enough.
  • The Matrix sequels have this problem with Neo, as at the end of the first film he is essentially a god of The Matrix, with the power to do anything he damn well pleases while inside it, the only limits being his own imagination and the ultimate parameters of the simulation. Because of this the writers had to considerably tone down his powers from Reloaded onwards, and up the villain threat.
    • His powers seemed to have the single limitation that they relied on his concentration to use, and thus exhausted him mentally: normally the amount of concentration he seemed to need was negligible, as shown in how effortlessly he dispatches Agents and the Merovingian's program thugs. On the other hand, fighting the huge number of Smith's seemed to tax him visibly, hence his choosing to run rather then fight an endless battle. In the later fight with Super-Smith though he was in every way Smith's apparent equal, he was worn down over time, because while Smith was as equally unbound by the laws of the Matrix as he was, he also lacked a physical body like Neo did: he could just act and his tireless program body obeyed, while Neo acted and his human body in the real world tired eventually.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Galbatorix from the Inheritance Cycle is constantly referred to as impossible to defeat. Not only does he have over a hundred years of experience over Eragon, as well as hundreds of Eldunari and another Rider at his disposal; his voice is said to be his greatest weapon. Up until he discovers the name of the Ancient Language, that is.
  • Necroscope's Harry Koegh his virtually unlimited teleportation power, and makes the climaxes of his stories anticlimactic, especially combined with the near omniscience his ability to talk to the dead grants. Basically he knows all about you if you've killed people, and can drop a bomb on your head no matter how heavy your defenses.
  • Gandalf of The Lord of the Rings goes offstage for hundreds of pages after the Balrog to allow other characters to struggle. He did this earlier in The Hobbit as well, as he would often leave Bilbo and the Dwarves to go on other business, leaving them to fall prey to spiders and elves.
  • In an obscure children's book called Samantha Stone and the Mermaid's Quest, Samantha spends much of the book trying to learn how to teleport - both herself and objects. She gradually becomes realistically better at it, able to teleport herself and others, but often not exactly where she intends. But by the end, Samantha is teleporting behind enemies to knock them out, teleporting out of ropes when tied up, and teleporting captured prisoners out of a cell. The villain only undoes this power by binding and gagging her, thus preventing her from casting the spell. However, the story ends shortly after that, on a cliffhanger. So basically, if Samantha keeps her teleportation powers for the sequel (should it get made), then she could easily "break" the whole story by warping out of danger at all times, unless the villains are prepared to bind and gag her over and over - unless something appears to Weaksauce Weakness her excessively powerful ability down to uselessness. She'd have to lose the power, or some sort of magic would have to nullify its usage in many areas, or the power would have to gradually drain the life out of her every time it's used - ANYTHING, to prevent it from being used to break the plot to pieces. Or unless the challenges she faces aren't of the type that can be avoided by teleporting.
  • As a War Wizard, Richard in the Sword of Truth series is explicitly capable of almost literally doing anything with his magic. Goodkind gets around this trope, though, in that Richard doesn't have the slightest idea how to use it when he wants to. It only really works properly when it's time to end the book.
  • As detailed under God Mode Sue, Noah Watanabe's every-growing power does break Brian Herbert's Timeweb trilogy, since he has no Kryptonite Factor and no qualms about interfering for the greater good. However, Herbert deserves a certain amount of credit for keeping him under control for two books without using the Idiot Ball.
  • In The Dark Tower by Stephen King, one of the side characters in the last book has the power to materialize anything, including inter-dimensional portals, out of thin air when he draws them on a paper. Guess what happens when he draws something/someone already there, and then erases it.
  • Larry Niven once wrote of this problem, which he encountered when he introduced the General Products Hull to his Known Space stories. The hull couldn't be damaged by anything except gravity or antimatter. Introducing this into the universe could potentially ruin a lot of stories and he ended up setting most of his Known Space stories before the hull was invented.
  • Mach from Piers Anthony's Apprentice Adept series gets access to the Book of Magic in Book 5, and promptly becomes the most powerful Adept in history, able to freely break the rules of magic that had been previously established. He's kept in check by Honor Before Reason; while he could simply blast either side in the plot into ashes by raw power alone, the circumstances under which he became the Robot Adept left him honor-bound to play by the rules that both sides had agreed to, essentially functioning as a Living MacGuffin.
    • The Platinum Flute is an even bigger case. Just possessing the flute puts an Adept on par with Mach. In the hands of a master musician (like Stile or Clef), it can invoke magic powerful enough to destroy the planet.
  • The Kingkiller Chronicle contain a Nested Story that depicts a hero known as Taborlin the Great. Why was he so great? He knew the true name of everything and could command it accordingly, for example, after being trapped in a tower, he told the stone to break, allowing him to command the wind to carry him to the ground.
  • In the Liavek books, if you ask Elmutt a question, the answer he subconsciously prefers will come true. This doesn't seem impressive, until you get to questions like "What will become of me?" or "What could possibly go wrong?" He doesn't seem to be able to change the past, but he can radically alter people's physical conditions, kill people, more or less brainwash them, and on one occasion doomed a man to be killed by a particular person. Once the first story is over- when Elmutt knows how his powers work and has sorted out his issues- it's more or less impossible for a story involving him to have dramatic tension, unless the question is asked by someone who has no idea what they're really doing. He's only had two total appearances in the series- his origin, and an unnamed but plot-relevant cameo two books later.


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Samantha from Bewitched and Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie. Their powers were pretty much "do anything by wiggling your nose/bobbing your head". If it weren't for the random nature of their powers and otherworldly relatives, Darren and Major Tony would lead completely idyllic and boring lives.
    • That fits into a major theme both shows shared: the destructive nature of conformity. Here we have two talented individuals, clearly intelligent in their own fields, who could have anything they want, and they give it all up, repeatedly, from a slavish devotion to being just like everyone else (including conforming to the sexism and sexual prudishness of their era). A dangerous theme in the 1960s when they aired—no wonder the shows had to hide the theme behind magical hijinks and light comedy!
    • Another interpretation is that both shows were allegories for Stay in the Kitchen - a woman is happiest living a normal life with her man, and all that power she has just screws things up.
  • A fifth season episode of Supernatural introduced a character with Reality Warper powers resulting from implausible circumstances (which also raised all sorts of questions), and who was obviously more powerful than any other character seen up to that point, even making the primary villain Satan seem like a joke by comparison. Having probably realized this, the writers quickly abandoned the character by writing him out at the end of his first appearance.
    • The fifth and sixths season suffered from this in the form of the angel Castiel. Angels are among the most powerful beings in the Supernatural universe, even "grunt" angels like Castiel can effortlessly dispatch most demons and monsters, heal fatal wounds, and even resurrect the dead. While this was fine for Story Arcs where he was fighting other angels who were equally powerful or even stronger than he was, it would have trivialized the Monster of the Week episodes as Cas could just locate the monster and zap it in two seconds. Thus, the writers were forced to weaken Castiel in awkward manners or avoid having him around in order to give the Badass Normals something to do. In the seventh season, the writers decided to bite the bullet and write Castiel out for most of the season despite his popularity.
  • Heroes has Peter Petrelli, a perfect example of a character that's too powerful, as he can gain anyone's power simply by being near them. Once he has Hiro's teleportation/time travel power, he can have any power that exists. If he wants Linderman's healing power? He can just go back to when Linderman was alive and get it. Et cetera. In season 2 it was necessary to give him amnesia to overcome this, and in season 3 he actually lost his powers for a handful of episodes. Of course, the fact that he has the Idiot Ball glued to his hands also serves the plot pretty well.
    • Hiro himself is an example of a power that's so powerful the show has to have him constantly not use it like he should. In fact, both Hiro and Peter are fond of Deus Exit Machina to cover the times their respective Idiot Ball isn't big enough.
    • Now, Peter can only replicate one power at once and cannot recall old ones-gaining a new one makes him lose his current one and Hiro can only control time, and even then it appears to be hurting him enough that he can't do it often.
  • Just like in the comics, Smallville didn't want Martian Manhunter hanging around overshadowing Clark, so they gave him an arbitrary weakness; his body's Healing Factor was inhibited by Earth's dense, oxygen-filled, and very un-Marslike atmosphere, so he frequently had to fly into space for extended periods to heal after a battle -- Put on a Bus to the ionosphere, so to speak. Later they just depowered him entirely in a contrived Heroic Sacrifice.
    • Also worth noting on Smallville is that Kryptonite Is Everywhere, and almost everyone worth fighting has it, sometimes in their very bodies where it can't be conveniently knocked away; thus vastly-powerful-and-constantly-increasing Clark can often be overpowered by relatively wimpy foes.
  • Parodied in That Mitchell and Webb Look, where Angel Summoner and the BMX Bandit form a mismatched duo. Angel Summoner can summon angels, which can accomplish essentially anything; BMX Bandit has... BMX skills, making him feel like a permanent third wheel. On one mission Angel Summoner allows BMX Bandit to fight alone, while secretly summoning invisible angels to help him.
  • In Angel, Illyria started out as very much one of these. That list of powers likely to be story-breakers? She was pretty much all of the above. She specifically dismisses the Big Bads of the entire series as being like insects compared to her, and not without justification claimed she was a god to the gods. She was so powerful than one wonders why she even needed an army back in ancient times, save that one recalls there were others like her running around. The heroes didn't (and couldn't) beat her; Illyria failed to conquer the world simply because she lost interest. In short, Illyria put the "cosmic" in Cosmic Horror. Until she lost control of her powers due to the puny human body she was reincarnated into, and got a Power Limiter slapped on her, taking away some of her powers entirely and dialing the rest of them down so she wasn't much stronger than the other protagonists.
    • Earlier in season one, Angel manages to acquire the Gem of Amarra, a mystical ring described as the equivalent to the Holy Grail for vampires, from Spike in a Crossover episode from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This artifact would grant the vampire wearer increased abilities and complete invulnerability to all their usual weaknesses, as demonstrated by Marcus earlier when he shrugs off a bow-to-the-heart from Oz and the ability to walk in direct sunlight without erupting in flames. At the end of the episode Angel, who had remained doubtful about keeping the ring or not, decided to destroy it, understanding that if he kept the ring he would be in danger of forgetting about his mission; while the Gem would allow Angel to help people in daylight, they already had help from the rest of the world, and it was his duty to protect those in the dark who could not ask for help themselves, but in reality there was no good reason to get rid of it besides allowing it to make the show and Angel's fights a lot less suspenseful.
  • Averted/played with in the fifth season of Babylon 5: Although Lyta can mind-control several dozens of people at the same time, there is one person she can not control. It's Sheridan, who was also Touched by Vorlons.
  • Kamen Rider Kuuga's Ultimate Form, which despite being a potentially Deadly Upgrade, is also debatably one of the most powerful Kamen Riders. To wit, one of his previous Finishing Moves, the Rising Mighty Kick, causes a 3 kilometer-diameter explosion; the Ultimate Kick has the potential to destroy the planet. In order to keep from overpowering the plot, Ultimate Form only appears in the last two episodes and is mostly used to battle the Big Bad, who is said to be just as powerful and both share a few common abilities like pyrokinesis.
  • While we're on the subject of Kamen Rider, we have Decade. Big Bad monsters from previous series iterations? Taken care of in no time flat. Still in a tight spot? Turn on your Super Mode and summon a previous rider clone for a synchronized double attack. Baddie still not finished yet? Turn that ally into a useful weapon or vehicle to blow him away. Going up against giants and spaceships? Merge with J and turn everyone else into a card to kick them all to death. Just another day for a passing-through Kamen Rider.
  • Kamen Rider Kabuto's Hyper Clock Up allows him to move faster than light, and travel through time and alternate dimensions. On top of Kabuto being The Ace. However, he does not appear to have full control over its more powerful functions, it will sometimes send him to random places of its own accord, his most powerful attack cannot be used while it is active, and some of his enemies have powers which can counter it.
  • Kamen Rider Double has the villanous rider Eternal who can make all gaia memories that were not crested before his stop working(Gaia memories are the source of power in this series for villains and heroes alike he can also use all T2 Gaia memories for several powerful attacks)
  • Doctor Who is the Trope Namer for the Timey-Wimey Ball because without it, The Doctor could simply time travel anywhere and change anything, and if he made a mistake just go back again and fix it. This problem was parodied in the Comic Relief parody "Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death," which put The Doctor and The Master in a series of time traveling counter-moves to each other.
    • The Doctor could just evacuate everyone on the doomed space ship that's getting sucked into the sun, sucked into a black hole, crashed into meteors a la the Titanic, etc, in the TARDIS, if it didn't always (in)conveniently get blasted away into space and out of useful range for the episode. (You'd also think that, given how clever he is plus 900 or so years of adventuring, he would have tried to develop an app or setting for his sonic screwdriver that would just turn off Cybermen and Dalek armour, but apparently that would break the drama too much.)
    • The Doctor is a member of one of the most advanced races that the universe ever has or ever will produce. If he seriously applied himself to any single project, he could probably end up running everything. However, his short attention span keeps him constantly moving and prevents him from hatching many long-term plans. His seventh incarnation was an unusual exception in that he apparently had a number of elaborate schemes going on. But he rarely bothers to clean up after them.


Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • One of the things that contributed to Dick Tracy 1960s Dork Age was the introduction of the "Space Coupe" and all its accompanying crime tracking and weaponry. Once you give the heroes a device that can go anywhere and track any kind of crime, the villains don't really have a chance. This led to the plot "Villains Try To Steal The Space Coupe" repeated ad nauseum for a while.
    • The "Villains Try To Steal The Space Coupe" thing was lampshaded in 2010, when the new creative team brought the coupe back, and had Diet Smith admit lied about why he mothballed it to begin with (he lied about the Coupe's energy source being a pollutant: he was just sick of bad guys constantly trying to steal the damn thing.)[2]


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • If you try making a super-speedster in a tabletop RPG like Champions, you'll quickly discover that you have to do it by buying the abilities the super-speedster actually uses, not the abilities the comic claims he has, since the latter is just too powerful (and therefore too expensive).
  • This is a major problem in Dungeons & Dragons, especially involving spellcasters in earlier editions; there's dozens of ways to break the game, but the simplest and most dangerous is commonly called "Scry and Die"—instead of traversing a dungeon or an elaborate plot to track down the Big Bad for an epic confrontation, the players scry out his location with magic, then buff up (and occasionally stop time) before teleporting in and killing the unfortunate enemy very, very quickly (or fetching whatever their goal is to fetch, and so forth.)
    • Worse, repeatedly casting the "Love's Pain" spell (someone the target loves takes damage, cannot be stopped) on a Mook who you have given Fake Memories of loving your enemy...
    • Hypothetically, a well-prepared Dungeon Master can counter all of these by having equally hyped-up enemies with appropriate countermeasures in place. Unfortunately, this not only pits the DM's foresight against the collective ingenuity of the players, and is little more than shooting down any possible solution the players come up with other than "big epic battle", it also pits the DM's memory against the collective output of Wizards of the Coast... forgot to give your big bad dragon a countermeasure to shivering touch? Ooops.
      • Pro-Tip for DMs in this instance when you have a villain with high Intelligence (such as a dragon): Cheat. So you didn't have the Intelligence to give your Big Bad cold resistance? Good thing that your Big Bad has an Intelligence far greater than your own, and did remember to prepare such a countermeasure. That's Schrödinger's Gun for you.
      • Really, this isn't that hard to do. Any spellcasting big bad you just state that he's always got one of the myriad scry fooling or blocking spells on his lair (heck, theres a standard magical item that makes him not scryable), stick a permanent anticipate teleport on his fortress in case of teleporting in, dump a bunch of magical traps of the "These go off if anyone bar me or my trusted minions is nearby" variety and have a contingent spell immunity up (say from the feat, or spell) that "Makes me immune to any spell effect that would incapacitate me". Plus have a silent Dimension Door or two memorised to jump away if all this fails.

Make your super powerful mage bad guy Genre Savvy and you're fine :)

    • The Wish spell, which is pretty much as it sounds. The player wishes for anything to happen and reality will reshape itself to make it come true. There are some limitations, and some downsides. The spell is difficult to obtain and cast, and drains the life force of the caster (read: XP loss) to empower the events. If the wish is something too insane, the caster may die without yielding enough power to make it happen. Second, and usually even more importantly, you should be very careful what you wish for. Just wishing for a lot of gold, for example, may result in all the gold in every king's treasury teleported to you. However, how you will explain that to their armies that are sure to follow is not in the scope of the spell. In fact, the GM is specifcially instructed by Gygax on what wishes to give them a chance, in Second Edition, and if the players ask for more, to make SURE they regret it.
    • Miracle, the divine flavor of Wish, is even more broken: The spell-replicating function of Miracle carries no XP burn and can duplicate the effects of ANY 7th level spell or lower and ANY 8th level Domain spell or lower. Only the massively broken reality-warping function of the spell incurs a possible XP burn. Also, Miracle is not a spell cast so much as a supplication made of a deity, removing the possibility of the spellcaster receiving any magical backlash—of course, if the deity in question (which is to say, the DM) doesn't feel like granting the request, Miracle may simply fail.
      • Easiest way to deal with this is "Err, ok, that's the eighth time this week you've used Miracle. Your deity tells you to shut the fuck up and stop bothering him, and ignores your petty request"
  • The Hero System rulebook puts stop-sign icons next to powers that have the potential to be Story Breakers, such as Danger Sense, Intangibility, Time Travel, or Summoning. The Game Master is urged to consider tightly limiting or outright disallowing them.
  • Warp is extremely powerful in GURPS, so much so that it is explicitly banned for players in the Dungeon Fantasy books. The authors did eventually cave and add it in with the requirement that the player take a small Unusual Background named "Ha-ha! I Can Teleport!" and isn't able to improve it.
  • The Primarchs and the God-Emperor in Warhammer 40,000 are obscenely powerful even for the setting (the first action of Leman Russ after birth was to climb out of a volcano, and later in life all of them casually crushed Greater Daemons), and if they were still around it would devastate the Status Quo Is God so beloved by the writers. Hence they have all, in one way or another, been out of action for ten thousand years, with the Emperor immobilised (possibly dead) and directing the Astronomicon, and the Primarchs either dead, incapacitated, lost, or in the case of the surviving Traitor Primarchs simply content to sit in the Eye of Terror. There is a very good reasons for this, as the one time a Primarch (Angron) decided to do something, he conquered approximately seventy sectors before the Imperium could direct a large enough force against him.
    • There are rules for the Primarchs, but they can only be used in 5000 point or higher games. Said rules cause them to take up about one third of that total.
  • The rulebooks for The Dresden Files make suggestions on this front in two ways. In the section on building opposition, most of the guidelines are along the lines of taking your villain and giving him powers equal in cost to the Player Party's. It suggests you create a group of antagonists instead, since as the party gets more powerful, the villain's powers would make them damn near impossible to fight effectively if the model was followed.[3] It also suggests that Harry Dresden himself might be one, and gives suggestions for taking him out of the picture. Needless to say, Harry's margin comments are less than enthused about it.

Harry: Billy, this whole section DISTURBS me. I'm making this face at you. Like, the one in the picture right here.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • In the second game of the Ace Attorney series, Phoenix Wright acquires the "Magatama" which is an special charm that allows its user not only to see if a person is lying after being asked a question but also shows how willingly is that person to fight so her/his secret remains hidden in the form of many locks, every lock representing a safe measure that the person thought in order to keep his secret and to top it all, once all of one's Locks are broken, that person will finally admit to the truth and will reveal his or her secret in full. It is an understatement to say that this device used in a trial will be the ultimate Story Breaker Power.
    • This could have had a decent explanation (the power of the Magatama will also destroy your soul if you fail at breaking the locks too many times) or in the worst case be an example of Forgot About His Powers if the "Magatama" didn't activate itself automatically when you're investigating (it requires you to show it for the lock-breaking powers though), making actually carrying it the only requirement to use it. Since Phoenix always brings the charm to his trials and it never activates, this is one of the VERY few examples (if not the only one) of They Just Didn't Care in the series.
  • In Touhou, Fujiwara no Mokou and Kaguya Houraisan drank the Hourai Elixir, granting them immortality and the ability to come back to life even if their bodies were completely destroyed. Specifically, they can come back to life and keep fighting no matter how many times they are killed, as the very concept of death has been erased from their beings, and the only limiting factor is how much pain they are willing to endure before they just give up and decide it's easier to just drink tea with your enemies instead.
    • Keine Kamishirasawa has what is widely believed to be one of the most potentially abusable, if least understood powers, which grants her the ability to both remove elements of history and, in her hakutaku form, create brand new history. However, she's very bad at controlling it, as attempting to "eat the history" of the human village and hide it still didn't prevent the protagonists from detecting it.
    • Reimu Hakurei possesses literal Plot Armor, her status as Gensoukyou's Barrier Maiden ensuring that she can never be killed as it would cause Gensoukyou to experience Critical Existence Failure. Furthermore, her Fantasy Heaven ability temporarily causes her to "fly away from reality" and become completely invincible, and Word of God is that if she didn't implement a time limit she would be unstoppable. She has lost battles though, as fighting in Gensoukyou is largely a game and pushing the "I win" button all the time would be boring.
    • Yuyuko Saigyouji has the power to kill anything (except, of course, the above-mentioned two unkillable characters) just by thinking about it. However, gaining this ability is the reason she was Driven to Suicide in the first place and is thus highly reluctant to use it (except against aforementioned Mokou, who considered it rather rude).
    • Yukari Yakumo the most blatantly abusable power; her ability to "manipulate boundaries" allows her to teleport at will across space and time, summon anything from anywhere, up to and including nuclear weapons, and can alter the border between "fantasy and reality" to attack people with things that can't even physically exist, or just alter the border between them existing or not existing. Fans refer to any inconsistencies or unexplained events with the disclaimer "Yukari is fooling around again", as a bored Reality Warper with with no limits aside from her sloth would tend to create a lot of weirdness.
    • Eirin Yagokoro, as former Brain of the Moon and a super genius, basically has the superpower of making Artifacts Of Doom. Aside from the aforementioned Hourai Elixier, her plot in Imperishable Night was to hide outer space from the Earth. She did this by hiding Earth in a pot. In a pot she kept on the Earth. She made a fake moon and sky to stick to the inside of the pot, too, so people wouldn't notice they were suddenly in a world that could fit into the hand of a person standing on the world that was in the pot they were holding in their hand.
    • Kogasa Tatara's power to surprise people would seem to be the exact opposite of this trope, except that after she managed to surprise the player by re-appearing as an Extra Stage midboss, with the required massive power boost, she could potentially do anything she wanted if it was simultaneously surprising enough.
    • It is telling, that Flandre Scarlet, whose power,"Destruction of anything and everything", allows her to annihilate things with a mere thought is so far down on the list.
    • ZUN is very aware however of the stupid levels of power many characters can throw around, and has spent a lot of effort explaining it. Firstly, the Spell Card system ensures that by law everyone is Holding Back the Phlebotinum during battles, and while they are nowhere near equal the disparity is vastly reduced. Secondly, most of the characters are either Blood Knights, far more interested in finding someone with whom they can have a good fight than completing or thwarting plots, or realise that just eliminating everyone who annoys them by unleashing their full power will make their life boring, never mind that it might destroy the world, so they prefer to play by the Spell Card rules. Thirdly, for all their bluster and sloth Reimu and Yukari are truly dedicated to protecting Gensoukyou, and if anyone becomes serious in their plots they will come down on them hard (just ask Tenshi).
  • Shiki in Tsukihime kills things in one hit. Period. No matter what, if you have a concept of death, he can kill you. The limiter factor he has during the story is A. no one tells him what he needs to know, B. he thinks killing is wrong, C. initially he can't fight properly unless put in Nanaya mode, D. overuse will implode his mind since a human mind can not continously perceive death. Also E. has a nasty scar that likes bleeding and making him pass out. All of these (except for D) are essentially dealt with by the end of the story, so the sequels so far have given him opponents that he can't simply kill, even if he could beat them. Len? Doesn't want to. Wallachia? Exists as a unique repeating phenomenon. Since they've done away with them, one has to wonder what kind of opponents he can really have in Tsukihime 2.
    • His power does have some limits, as there are a handful of beings that his eyes can't kill, like Wallachia, who exists as a phenomenon (basically, it'd be like killing the wind. You... can't really do that), Arcueid, who literally is incapable of dying at night time (usually), and ORT, who... doesn't have a Gaian concept of death because it comes from Mercury...
    • The direct sequel handles things a little more interestingly. Due to story reasons, Shiki outright forgets his ability, and every time he ends up using it the world literally melts down, sending him back to the first day of the time loop he's in. When he finally remembers his ability though, he instantly kills the Big Bad of the story with little to no fanfare after a grueling battle detailing how there was no way Shiki could defeat the Big Bad normally.
    • I don't know if it's storybreaking but a full powered Arcueid is one of the most powerful beings in all of the Nasuverse. In terms of brute force, perhaps only the "Types" themselves and people like the dimension-hopping wizard Zelretch and Ado Edem with his reality-cutting sword Slash Emperor are more powerful.
    • A more broken variant is the original Ryougi Shiki's version of this power, where she can "kill" pretty much anything - magic, emotions, ghosts, living people, etc. - and her powers work through projectiles, which just screams for a sniper rifle.
  • Saber in Fate/stay night. When she's actually properly supplied with mana, the first description of her is that she's absolutely invincible. There is no way anyone could possibly beat her. Naturally, for the rest of that route she has no fights that let her take advantage of this, only a straight swordfight against Assassin. The actual use of all the raw power she has is that she has enough mana left after firing Excalibur to stick around if she chooses.
    • And Avalon. Partially plane shifting that leaves you utterly immune to any form of attack. And also passively makes you essentially immune to normal means of death. Even being turned into a gooey puddle apparently isn't enough if you're a Determinator... and that is Avalon being passive. Sure you can't attack while it's active, but it can be turned on and off fast enough that it usually doesn't matter.
    • As the oldest heroic spirit and original owner of most of history's most famous weapons, Gilgamesh has a stockpile of thousands of Noble Phantasms, included among them one of the few swords in existence able to out-power Saber's. Theoretically, he could win almost any fight in seconds simply by virtue of the fact that he has weapons suitable for exploiting the weak points of basically anything he encounters. He is, however, held back by the fact that his galaxy-sized ego prevents him from ever fighting seriously, thinking his foes to be 'unworthy' of his true strength.
      • Fortunately, there are foes that he deems worthy in Fate/Zero. So he brings out the big guns. These guns happen to be attached to NUCLEAR POWERED BABYLONIAN SPACESHIPS.
    • Then there's Archer. He has an infinite stockpile of super powered weapons and is an Instant Expert at using all of them. Still, there are some incredibly vague limits on how many and how powerful the weapons he can draw out are, so whenever you discuss him you get power level arguments all over the place (varying from "always has a magic sword at hand" to "has the combined powers and skills of every weapon that ever existed and anyone who ever wielded them"). It doesn't help that he is subjected to Worf Had the Flu in every fight which isn't cut short. Even the fans hate discussing his power level.
    • Speaking of Fate/Zero, there's the matter of Rider. His Reality Marble, Ionioi Hetairoi, summons his entire army from when he was alive; all of which happen to be Servants. The only thing that could annihilate his Reality Marble was Gilgamesh's own Noble Phantasm.
    • Also from Fate/Zero we have Berserker who can use anything he grabs hold of as a Noble Phantasm of his own, from another Servant's Noble Phantasm to even something as simple as a lamp post. Besides that, he instantly gains mastery over anything that can be considered a weapon upon wielding it. He can also disguise himself as anyone he wants. And then there is his own Noble Phantasm, Arondight, which is not only just as powerful as Saber's Excalibur, but also boosts all his already-high stats. So how does the story prevent him from abusing it? All of them require insanely huge amounts of prana and his Master, Kariya, is an untrained mage who is only relying on his uncle's penis worms and hence, is unable to provide him with it.
  • This Trope in video games often manifests as Gameplay and Story Segregation. An example is Safer Sephiroth in Final Fantasy VII, whose 'super nova' spell can apparently destroy every planet in the solar system (multiple times) but does not simply destroy the Earth.
    • To be fair, it's entirely possible that the animation of the spell in question is an abstract interpretation of the kind of hurt he's inflicting on your party, or simply an illusion.
      • That's almost certainly the effect. Sephiroth, like his mother Jenova, specializes in Mind Rape techniques and psychological attrition. Supernova is basically a attack in another plane of existence (The character's mind, most likely) designed to break the will of his enemies. It's more or less described as such in Dissidia, though that's not technically canon.
  • The title character of Mega Man Battle Network. Due to his nature, it is implied that if he were to have access to his full potential, he'd be the most powerful entity on the planet. Demonstrated very clearly in the fifth game where he briefly ascends to this level and destroys the final boss (the manifestation of humanity's evil) with a wave of his hand.
    • Earlier in the series is Mega Man X, who literally has unlimited potential. In fact the attempted reboot of his series, Maverick Hunter X, has Dr. Light state that X can evolve as he fights, explaining how he retains certain powers and upgrades between games. The only reason he has problems in battle is his kindness causes him to hold back.
  • The witches in Umineko no Naku Koro ni. Bernkastel can make any event happen so long as the probability of it happening isn't zero. Lambdadelta can also make any event happen provided that whoever or whatever is trying to cause that event doesn't give up. Featherine Augustus Aurora beats them all by being able to literally Rewrite Reality


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Richard from Looking for Group. He is a nigh-invulnerable dark mage with vast, vast powers: half the time he is sidelined in one way or another to let the other characters achieve something, the other half he is jarringly abrupt in his resolving of fights/problems. An entertaining character, but problematic.
    • And his behavior is so erratic that he can't be counted on to help the group, and when he does, sometimes they have to say Stop Helping Me!.
  • In Order of the Stick Vaarsuvius becomes ridiculously powerful through a Deal with the Devil. The resulting arrogance results in a serious backfire/subversion later on when Xykon turns out to be much too well prepared for a simple brute force attack to work. The above-described Scry and Die tactic is explicitly mentioned.
    • Also, Story Breaker Power is averted in that, despite being a wizard, Conjuration is V's banned school - which means no Teleportation, and forces the characters to actually travel places instead of just being able to 'port around. V defends his choice of barred schools by pointing out that when he/she chose them, Teleport was not a Conjuration spell, and it's not his/her fault that the fundamental laws of the universe have been changed since then.
    • According to Burlew, even with V having the two most useful spell schools on his banned list, it is very hard to write scenarios that he can't trivialize with the other six spell schools.
  • One character in Casey and Andy is Satan. And she (yes, she) has Reality Warper powers. The author has remarked that it's hard to come up with reasons why she isn't using them to help her boyfriend out of whatever jam he finds himself in.
  • This is why Petey only rarely gets screen time on Schlock Mercenary any more. His personal power level is currently at least an order of magnitude above any of the civilizations in the story, and he is currently fighting a war against the Andromeda galaxy.
  • Last Res0rt has a number of characters with these, given some hard limits that make those powers suck.
    • Jigsaw the telepath can't control her mind-reading and thus gets blasted half the time with thought overload.
    • Daisy the teleporter can only teleport to places she has a Line Of Sight on. (She even says in some of the filler art that trying to teleport through walls could kill her.)
    • Qin Xu has a Save Scumming power, but only once he gains access to Nanotech that he's been deprived of going into the story, and even then it's only for a few moments at a time. Presumably, he's trying to conserve what he has rather than spend it in one go.
    • Much of Volume Two is focused on an unknown Reality Warper that makes taking on Gabriel's ship impossible in the first go. Daisy figured it out first, so she's made it her mission while on the ship to hunt down the source, with the implication that once she finds out who it is, stopping them will be trivial.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Tennyo, in the Whateley Universe, is so powerful that in her battle at Christmas she ripped a hole in space and time and destroyed an unkillable thirty-foot regenerating monster. Plus, she may be the strongest regenerator on the planet. Other authors have had to come up with reasons why she isn't saving the day in their stories when she's around. Apparently, the Idiot Ball is not allowed as an excuse. So far.
    • Tennyo is arguably a deconstruction. Yes, she's an unholy terror in a fight (quite literally at times). But her problem is that her powers are potentially too destructive—her "death blow" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, she can end up irradiating the area she's fighting in without meaning to or noticing, and sometimes when she loses her temper badly enough something seems to get loose that drives normal humans insane with fright before she's even really done anything to them.
    • In fact, she has SEVERE trouble in the team tactics class, as she has to dial herself down, and in fact now has a Rad-counter bracelet to check herself.
    • In "Ayla and the Great Shoulder Angel Conspiracy", the authors figured out how to use her backstory to give her a Heroic BSOD and totally take her out of the game.
    • Speaking of Ayla, his money is actually a Story-Breaker Power. Part of the Whateley Academy's basic culture is that of powerful mutants being the cool kids on campus, whether they use that power for good or for evil. But Ayla, who is actually a mid-range mutant with a mild case of "GSD", managed to use his very human social skills and a large dose of financing to make himself one of the most popular kids in the school. Plus, he's genuinely well-liked, rather than intimidating, like the Alphas or the Future Superheroes of America.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Kim Possible's battle suit was meant to be a one-shot Eleventh-Hour Superpower in the Grand Finale; its enhanced strength, speed and other nifty abilities allowing her to put a definitive beatdown on arch foe Shego, and then ride off into the sunset... er... prom. Then the show was Uncancelled and the writers had to deal with a weapon that would let Kim curb stomp her entire rogues gallery. Solution: Split time between making excuses to not put on the suit and having bad guys try and steal it. Up until the other Grand Finale, where Warhok is strong enough to take Kim out, suit or not. Of course then Ron's Story Breaker Power kicks fully in...
  • The Zeta Project introduces a remote that can control any mechanical device, even Zeta. Eventually, Roe gets her hands on one, but by the end of the episode it is forgotten and for good reason, If the heroes have one they never have to fight again and if the villains have one they don't need to work to stop the heroes.
  • Generator Rex has Breach, an E.V.O. with the ability to create portals that go anywhere, including at least one Pocket Dimension where she placed an entire city to be her "dollhouse". The only thing keeping her from completely breaking the story for either the heroes or the villains is that she's too mentally broken to reach her full potential.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Bloodbending, which enables the user to control people's bodies, would be this if it were not only usable under a full moon. The only way Katara is able to defeat Hama while she is Bloodbending Aang and Sokka is to use Bloodbending herself.
    • The Avatar State itself is this. The Avatar is already one of the strongest benders around in each of the four elements. The Avatar State takes that power and increases it exponentially. Aang's ability to enter the state at will would've been devastating... if he ever got to use it.
  • This trope is the reason Makeshift of Transformers Prime didn't survive his debut episode. The creators felt his ability would be too powerful, so, he went boom.
  • Teen Titans Raven can bring a movie to life subconsciously. If it weren't for being afraid of her powers going out of control she'd end every episode on five minutes. She does this once against Cardiak.
  • Justice League Unlimited, The Flash, period. Like the comics, the writers had to find a way to nerf his powers to better maintain tension in the story. When the writers finally have him go all out, Flash completely curbstomps Brainthor.
  1. Specifically anyone whose soul is in the normal afterlife and whose DNA the user can find.
  2. Apparently "hire better security" or "give it to the government" weren't viable options.
  3. One character having powers equal to three or four low-level characters is doable; one character having powers equal in cost to three or four high-level characters results in someone with huge magic potential, is impossible to hit, damn near impossible to harm even if you do hit'em, and will heal fast even if you somehow manage to harm them.