Created By: LadyJuse on September 16, 2012 Last Edited By: ZuTheSkunk on October 28, 2015

Double-Edged Sword

It either damages both you and the enemy, or comes with both positive and negative effects

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Trope
This trope refers to any kind of special power, item or unit that does one of the following:

  • Always hits both you and the enemy.
  • Has both a positive and a negative effect.

This is usually implemented as a way of balancing especially powerful items.

Not to be confused with Death-or-Glory Attack, which is about attacks that leave you at a disadvantage if it fails to hit the enemy/damage the enemy enough.

Compare Cast From Hitpoints, Suicide Attack, Powerful but Inaccurate and Self-Destruct Mechanism. See also Taking You with Me and Dangerous Forbidden Technique.

Subtrope of Power at a Price.

Examples

Anime and Manga
  • The Irregular at Magic High School: Tatsuya takes out his designated opponent in tiebreaking mock-combat match during culmination of the Inter-High School Competition, by getting near, then snapping his fingers real close to the opponent's head. Amplifying the sound by magic. The guy is out cold, but since Tatsuya is litterally at arms reach from the epicenter, he isn't left unscathed and has to lip-read his teammates' post-victory banter, among other things.

Comic Books
  • The Xavier Academy student Gentle is capable of boosting his strength and muscle mass, but every time he uses this power, it causes him to suffer seizures, and if he keeps using the power, it will eventually kill him.
  • One of the future Shadowpact members, Miss Poltergeist, has telekinetic powers that have the side effect of making her constantly angry.

Live-Action TV
  • In 24, during the day 4, the Corrupt Corporate Executives whom CTU were investigating have set off an EMP bomb, despite the fact that it would cripple themselves electronically. They concluded that it would be better than going to prison.

Literature
  • In Anita Blake Vampire Hunter, the vampire ability called 'the arduer', a power which allows a vampire to inspire love or lust in themselves and others, is often called a 'double edged sword' by Anita, because you can only inspire as much love in others as you are willing to love in return, (so making someone love you will make you love them just as much). About it she often comments that "you can only cut as much as you're willing to be cut, and apparently I'm willing to be cut deep."

Video Games
  • The "Chainsword" in Angband is very sharp, can cause bleeding wounds, has a bonus to damage on top of a hefty damage roll, allows you to see invisible creatures and slays orcs and trolls. On the downside it's horrendously inaccurate unless you use a ridculous number of "enchant weapon to hit" scrolls to correct the issue and is so noisy it aggravates and attracts nearby creatures. Some versions also penalize some of your stats.
  • In Arc Rise Fantasia, the Anti-Magic Arm Force and Status Buff can be this, as while you're protected from any Magic spells from the enemy, you also can't heal yourself. Also the Anti-Force Arm Force, which can cancel out any Boosted or Supreme Magic Arm Forces, even if it's from an ally who's trying to heal you or give a Status Buff.
  • BlazBlue: Ragna has a Super Mode named Blood Kain, which improves his Life Drain ability, but also slowly drains his health while active. It's no longer the case in the third game where it is improved to not drain his health anymore.
    • In the third game, part of the Burst/Overdrive mechanic has this: Break Burst and Overdrive runs off the same gauge. Activating Overdrive means you can't use a Break Burst to escape from your opponent's combo until the gauge refills to full, while using Break Burst means you can't use Overdrive until the gauge refills to full.
  • Dawn of War: Chaos Rising has a corruption meter which varies mostly depending on your wargear. Most Chaos-tainted wargear has much better stats at the cost of increasing corruption, while redeeming wargear tends to have negative effects like a negative armor rating.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion:
    • Scales of Pitiless Justice are a reward from one of the Dark Brotherhood quests. As long as they are in your inventory, they give you +2 to Strength, Agility, and Intelligence, but also -2 to Personality.
    • The Shivering Isles expansion adds a Cursed variety of randomly dropped equipment. Items of this variety come with some negative effect in addition to the positive ones.
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics A2, Scholar spells hit everyone, both allies and enemies. This can be turned into a Game Breaker, though, by equipping allies with armors that absorb specific elements and having the Scholars cast spells of the same element, thus healing allies and damaging enemies at the same time.
  • The Spirit Precipice in Kingdom of Loathing. Any time it strikes a critical hit, a bolt of evil energy arcs out of the sword and damages the wielder.
  • Mega Man Battle Network: The Geddon series of chips do this. Geddon 1 cracks all of panels in the battle area, including your side, so when you walk off a cracked panel it'll leave a hole you cannot step on, potentially getting you trapped until the panel regenerates; the same applies to the enemies. Geddon 2 outright turns all empty panels into holes, instantly trapping both you and the enemies. Geddon 3, meanwhile, turns all panels into "swamp" panels that deals Damage Over Time to both you and enemies. Note that you can actually protect yourself against all of them by equipping the Floatshoes/Airshoes program; the same can be said for enemies who innately have those programs as ability.
  • Might and Magic VII and VIII:
    • Armageddon spell. Deals damage to everyone on the map, including yourself.
    • Certain artifacts work like this, usually giving bonuses to some stats while decreasing others, or in case of one weapon, inducing a fireball explosion every time the weapon hits (which damages both the target and you).
    • Several cards from the Arcomage minigame work like this:
      • Brick Shortage: All players lose 8 bricks.
      • Goblin Mob: 6 Damage to enemy, 3 Damage to yourself.
      • Goblin Archers: 3 Damage to enemy's tower, 1 Damage to yourself.
      • Imp: 6 Damage to enemy, all players lose 5 bricks, gems and recruits.
      • Berserker: 8 Damage to enemy, 3 Damage to your tower.
  • Hellfire Warlocks in Neverwinter Nights 2. They can use Eldritch blasts empowered with Hellfire, but it drains their Constitution stat, giving them less maximum hitpoints. They can also call devils from the Nine Hells to help them fight off their enemies, but the devils have a chance of turning against them.
  • In Path of Exile, many unique items have at least one negative mod to go with their positive ones, such as increasing damage dealt with an element while also reducing your resistance to it.
  • In Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, if a character contracts the 'cursed' status effect, it turns all of your damaging attacks into this. The amount of damage you do to an enemy is subtracted from your HP.
  • Pokémon:
    • Any attack that confuses the Pokemon who uses it.
    • Explosion and Self-Destruct attacks, which deal damage, but render the user incapable of continuing combat.
    • The Swagger move actually does this to the enemy. It increases the enemy's attack greatly, but also confuses them, so when they hit themselves it hurts more.
    • Any move that does recoil damage, one of them even being called "Double-Edge".
    • Any move that lowers the user's stats upon use (unless they have "Contrary").
    • Hyper Beam and its variants. If the attack connects, you can't move on the next turn because you have to recharge. However, you don't have to recharge if you miss.
  • Starcraft: Siege Tanks deal huge Splash Damage, but often end up killing their own units when the enemy sends melee units (as Terrans lack a melee / damage sponge unit). In Starcraft II, it's noted that siege tank crews have to stay together on shore leave for this reason, and one of the upgrades greatly reduces the damage it does to your own units.
  • Warcraft III: The Undead's Unholy Frenzy spell greatly increases the target's attack speed, but does continuous damage to it. The Orc's Purge spell removes all buffs from the target but slows them (even if they're allied).

Tabletop Games
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • This is typical of the Wild Mage, especially in earlier editions. -ZCE
    • The Vicious weapon property deals a good amount of extra damage to enemies, at the cost of taking about half the extra damage yourself.
Community Feedback Replies: 80
  • September 16, 2012
    chicagomel
    I'm not sure if there are moves like that, but there are definitely some that fit. Double Edge,Take Down,Curse might fit, since the opponent cuts HP to use the move. Bascially the moves that say "*Pokemon* suffered recoil damage!"
  • September 16, 2012
    azul120
    Various weapons (usually cursed) and special moves from the Dragon Quest series.
  • September 16, 2012
    MrRuano
    • Blazblue has this trope encapsulated in Ragna the Bloodedge. His power, while allowing him to drain the life of his opponents, leaves him with a fairly pitiful defense. This gets even more amplified in Blood Kain mode, which makes all his attacks stronger but gives him a constant health-drain for the duration of the mode.
  • September 17, 2012
    Nomic
    In Warhammer40k, any weapon with "gets hot" special rule (most commonly plasma guns) will hurt the user if you roll a 1 to hit. Chaos daemon weapons and Dark Eldar djinn blades (both sentient weapons containing a bound daemon in case of the former and a trapped soul in the latter) also have a chance of rebelling at attacking their wielder.
  • September 17, 2012
    Astaroth
    Compare Cast From Hitpoints

  • September 17, 2012
    partner555
    Do you allow non-videogame examples? There might be some out there.
  • September 17, 2012
    TJack
    • The Boston Basher from Team Fortress 2. It's a spiked wooden bat for the Scout that inflicts the bleed effect on hit, but damages the user when he misses.
  • September 17, 2012
    LadyJuse
    ^^ Yes; non-videogame examples are allowed
  • September 17, 2012
    randomsurfer
    According to this Cracked article Batman's batarang, Oddjob's razor bowler hat, the Krull Glaive, and a Klingon bat'leth are as likely to chop the wielder's fingers off as they are to do any damage to anyone else.
  • September 17, 2012
    PsiPaula4
    • Explosion and Selfdestruct from Pokemon as well.
  • September 18, 2012
    Chabal2
    See also Taking You With Me, Dangerous Forbidden Technique.

    Yet another Pokemon example: from Generation 2 onwards, High Jump Kick damages the user if it misses (Hitmonlee used High Jump Kick! Hitmonlee's attack missed! Hitmonleee kept going and crashed!).
  • September 18, 2012
    McKathlin
    Does this include attacks that always damage both self and enemy (e.g. the dark knight's Darkness attack in Final Fantasy X 2 or Ramming in Dragon Quest Monsters)? If not, is there a different trope that covers that?
  • September 18, 2012
    Diask
    ^ Cast From Hitpoints is when Hit Points must be sacrificed to cast a spell.
  • September 18, 2012
    CobraPrime
    I guess this would be the supertrope

    In Dungeons And Dragons, this is typical of the Wild Mage, especially in earlier editions.
  • September 21, 2012
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Monofilament melee weapons can do incredible damage to your opponent but also great damage to you if you miss. Examples include the Force Sword in Paranoia and the Monofilament Whip of Shadowrun.
    • Critical Miss tables almost always included a "You hit yourself with your own weapon" entry.
  • September 21, 2012
    chicagomel
    I think I know now what the confusion move in Pokemon was that the OP was referring to. Some moves cause confusion from fatigue eventually. Outrage is one.
  • September 22, 2012
    Arutema
    • The Vicious weapon property in Dungeons And Dragons deals a good amount of extra damage to enemies, at the cost of taking about half the extra damage yourself.
      • There is also the Cursed Backbiter, a spear which stabs its owner on an attack roll of a natural 1.
  • September 22, 2012
    dvorak
    The Ion Cannon summon in Epic Battle Fantasy 2.
  • September 30, 2012
    aurora369
    The spell Doomsday from Final Fantasy IX. It damages everyone on the battlefield who is not protected from Shadow damage. Including the caster and their allies.

    The spell Armageddon from Heroes Of Might And Magic works similarly. There was a "Dragageddon" tactic that involved recruiting only black dragons, immune to the spell, and spamming it.
  • October 3, 2012
    unfound
    I think this is Death Or Glory Attack.
  • December 31, 2012
    WilliamRadarStorm
    Star Wars EU sometimes portrays Light Sabers as this; if one doesn't have sufficient control, it is very easy to cut or burn yourself with one.

    Also, Reppenmaru from Strike Witches 2, a sword that not only drains the user's magical energy, it drains her magical potential.

    And Death Or Glory Attack is different, that either works OR it hurts you, a Double Edged Sword both works AND it hurts you.
  • December 31, 2012
    GreatHylianKing
    Another Pokemon move, Swagger, actually does this TO the enemy. It increases the enemy's attack "greatly", but also confuses them, so when they hit themselves it hurts more.
  • January 3, 2013
    TrueShadow1
    • In Final Fantasy Tactics A2, Scholar spells hits everyone, both allies and enemies. This can be turned into a Game Breaker, though, by equipping allies with armors that absorb spesific elements and having the Scholars cast spells of the same element, thus healing allies and damaging enemies at the same time.
  • January 3, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In Twenty Four day 4 the Corrupt Corporate Executives whom CTU were investigating set off an EMP bomb, even though it would cripple themselves electronically, figuring that it would be better than going to prison.
  • January 3, 2013
    Stratadrake
    Agree with unfound's comment that this is too close to Death Or Glory Attack to be splittable.
  • June 11, 2014
    WilliamRadarStorm
    Is this idea limited to just attacks made by characters? If not, would the tickets in Ticket To Ride count as one (complete the route on them, points for you! Fail to do so, points taken away)?
  • June 11, 2014
    DAN004
    So how is this not Cast From Hitpoints? It pretty much has examples of users getting hurt by their own moves as they use it to attack their foes...

    BTW Taking You With Me and/or Suicide Attack is only tangentially related to this trope.
  • February 4, 2015
    MajinAkuma
    I think this trope should be not only about getting hurt, but that a amazing technique or tactic etc. has also a risk. For example, a technique that allows you to attack three times in a row, but it leaves you wide open for a counterattack.
  • February 4, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ Then that's Death Or Glory Attack
  • February 4, 2015
    ZuTheSkunk
    • Might and Magic VII and VIII:
      • Armageddon spell. Deals damage to everyone on the map, including yourself.
      • Several cards from the Arcomage minigame work like this:
        • Brick Shortage: All players lose 8 bricks.
        • Goblin Mob: 6 Damage to enemy, 3 Damage to yourself.
        • Goblin Archers: 3 Damage to enemy's tower, 1 Damage to yourself.
        • Imp: 6 Damage to enemy, all players lose 5 bricks, gems and recruits.
        • Berserker: 8 Damage to enemy, 3 Damage to your tower.
  • February 4, 2015
    shalashaska
    There's a weapon in Fire Emblem called the Devil's Axe that is powerful but might damage you if your luck stat is too low.
  • February 4, 2015
    DAN004
  • February 4, 2015
    acrobox
    ^^^^ To make it splitablle: Death Or Glory Attack is High Risk high reward. If it works it works amazingly. If it doesnt it hurts badly.

    Double Edged Sword can be guaranteed results with guaranteed side effects.

    The first is either good or bad. This is both good and bad at the same time. If you want them to be two separate tropes. Otherwise I could see a softsplit, or just a redirect working too.
  • February 4, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ I was responding to Majin Akuma that we already have the variation that he said.

    Although we need a distinction from Dangerous Forbidden Technique.

    Who's managing this, btw?
  • February 5, 2015
    acrobox
    Dangerous Forbidden Technique is.... Forbidden.

    Double Edged Sword doesnt have any taboo, it just hurts and helps at the same time.

    DFT don't have to hurt the user either. they can be forbidden for other reasons too.
  • February 5, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ Tell that to many of the examples in DFT.
  • February 6, 2015
    TrueShadow1
    ^ Then those examples don't fit in the tropes and should be moved somewhere else. Dangerous Forbidden Technique should be, well, Dangerous and Forbidden. If not, then it's misuse.
  • February 7, 2015
    acrobox
    time to mine examples and prepare for a split
  • February 7, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ I think you gotta make a TRS for DFT, or at least ask it first in Ask The Tropers.
  • February 8, 2015
    Arivne
    • De-capitalized (Great Damage).
    • Created Examples section.
  • May 18, 2015
    ZuTheSkunk
    Bump?
  • May 18, 2015
    Chabal2
    Starcraft: Siege Tanks deal huge Splash Damage, but often end up killing their own units when the enemy sends melee units (as Terrans lack a melee / damage sponge unit). In Starcraft II, it's noted that siege tank crews have to stay together on shore leave for this reason, and one of the upgrades greatly reduces the damage it does to your own units.
  • May 26, 2015
    ZuTheSkunk
    Attempted to compile the examples together. I didn't include examples that would fit better in Death Or Glory Attack.

    I would appreciate if someone took the time to expand Zero Context Examples.
  • May 26, 2015
    hbi2k
    The laconic, trope description, and examples all disagree with one another. The laconic says it "might" hurt you, the trope description very clearly specifies that it will hurt you every time, and the examples are all over the map.
  • May 26, 2015
    StrixObscuro
    Comic Books
    • The Xavier Academy student Gentle is capable of boosting his strength and muscle mass, but every time he uses this power, it causes him to suffer seizures, and if he keeps using the power, it will eventually kill him.
    • One of the future Shadowpact members, Miss Poltergeist, has telekinetic powers that have the side effect of making her constantly angry.
  • May 26, 2015
    ZuTheSkunk
    @hbi2k: Which examples are incompatible?

    Also, I expanded it to cover also stuff that comes with both positive and negative effects.
  • June 9, 2015
    ZuTheSkunk
    Bump?
  • June 9, 2015
    Bisected8
    Contrast Exploited Immunity, where someone takes advantage of the fact that the negative effects don't apply to them.
  • June 9, 2015
    henke37
    A lot of the examples in Death Or Glory Attack really belongs to this trope, that's why there is such a confusion.
  • June 10, 2015
    dalek955
    • In Path Of Exile, many unique items have at least one negative mod to go with their positive ones, such as increasing damage dealt with an element but also reducing your resistance to it.
  • June 11, 2015
    dalek955
    Correction, the Po E example (along with a couple others) is Power At A Price.
  • June 11, 2015
    ZuTheSkunk
    ^ Oh, so basically this already covers the stuff that has both positive and negative effects... but why the hell are there no examples on that page?!
  • June 11, 2015
    Lythande
    ^ Because that appears to be an index, not a trope. A good index for this to go on.

    I would think that there should maybe be a different trope for things with both positive and negative effects rather than lumping them in with the more literal "cuts both you and enemy" definition.
  • June 12, 2015
    Chabal2
    Warcraft III: The Undead's Unholy Frenzy spell greatly increases the target's attack speed, but does continuous damage to it. The Orc's Purge spell removes all buffs from the target but slows them (even if they're allied).
  • June 20, 2015
    SetsunasaNiWa
    • The Irregular At Magic High School: Tatsuya takes out his designated opponent in tiebreaking mock-combat match during culmination of the Inter-High School Competition, by getting near, then snapping his fingers real close to the opponent's head. Amplifying the sound by magic. The guy is out cold, but since Tatsuya is litterally at arms reach from the epicenter, he isn't left unscathed and has to lip-read his teammates' post-victory banter, among other things.
  • June 21, 2015
    Exxolon
    The "Chainsword" in Angband is very sharp, can cause bleeding wounds, has a bonus to damage on top of a hefty damage roll, allows you to see invisible creatures and slays orcs and trolls. On the downside it's horrendously inaccurate unless you use a ridculous number of "enchant weapon to hit" scrolls to correct the issue and is so noisy it aggravates and attracts nearby creatures. Some versions also penalize some of your stats.
  • September 20, 2015
    lapistier
    In Arc Rise Fantasia, the Anti Magic Arm Force and Status Buff can be this, as while you're protected from any Magic spells from the enemy, you also can't heal yourself. Also the Anti-Force Arm Force, which can cancel out any Boosted or Supreme Magic Arm Forces, even if it's from an ally who's trying to heal you or give a Status Buff.
  • September 21, 2015
    DAN004
  • October 25, 2015
    DAN004
    I still believe Death Or Glory Attack indeed covers attacks that are both powerful and dangerous for the user, in a broad way. But if we're still needing this, you gotta make clear that this trope is specifically about something that directly harms the user as it is used. Making this a subtrope basically.

    ...Dunno though, Cast From Hitpoints also already covers that. It covers both this and "taking some of your hp for the attack".
  • October 25, 2015
    acrobox
    This trope is straightforward and distinct from all of those.

    If the move is successful, you incur a penalty.

    That's it. Or put another way, whenever the positive effect activates so does the negative effect.
  • October 25, 2015
    acrobox
    I'm also surprised that recoil moves from Pokemon aren't included on this list, particularly Double-Edge.

    You could also expand to mean double edged sword situations generally, not just as techniques.
  • October 26, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ So Death AND Glory attack, basically?
  • October 26, 2015
    Chabal2
    Dawn Of War: Chaos Rising has a corruption meter which varies mostly depending on your wargear. Most Chaos-tainted wargear has much better stats at the cost of increasing corruption, while redeeming wargear tends to have negative effects like a negative armor rating.
  • October 26, 2015
    DAN004
    Is Zu The Skunk still there?
  • October 26, 2015
    ZuTheSkunk
    Yes, I'm here.
  • October 26, 2015
    DAN004
    Death Or Glory Attack is about attacks that leave you at a disadvantage if it fails to hit the enemy/damage the enemy enough.

    Description should write it that way.
  • October 26, 2015
    acrobox
    ??? Death Or Glory Attack = a positive effect OR a negative effect This = a positive effect AND a negative effect

    that's how its worded already. what are you talking about?
  • October 26, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ The descriptionnnnn... It talks about how DOGA is about damage.

    At least I gotta rewrite it myself, that part shouldn't be a big deal. And rewriting Blazblue example.
  • October 27, 2015
    NoirGrimoir
    I'm kind of iffy on the name. I know that Double Edged Sword is actually a standard phrase for situations that have both a good and bad effect or affect both you and an enemy, but I still worry that it is going to be used for literal double-edged swords/weapons, just because people just look at a trope name and make decisions on what it's about without reading the description.

    • In Persona Q Shadow Of The Labyrinth, if a character contracts the 'cursed' status effect, it turns all of your damaging attacks into this. The amount of damage you do to an enemy is subtracted from your HP.
  • October 27, 2015
    DAN004
    Maybe call it Affects You And Enemies?
  • October 27, 2015
    acrobox
    The vast majority of swords are double edged. I don't think anyone would use this to just list pretty much non-katana sword weilders.
  • October 27, 2015
    BreadBull
    I think there are a lot of RP Gs with items that raise one of your stats/attributes and decrease another - Scales of Pitiless Justice, for example, from TES IV: Oblivion.

    Also, apparently not many people know "double edged sword" as an idiom.
  • October 27, 2015
    acrobox
    source?

    The fact that it is an idiom implies it is at least somewhat known. We don't have to dumb things down for people.
  • October 27, 2015
    KarjamP
    • Any Pokemon move that does recoil damage, one of them even being called "Double-Edge".
    • Any Pokemon move that lowers the user's stats upon use (unless they have "Contrary").
  • October 27, 2015
    NoirGrimoir
    Double-edged sword is a very common, well known idiom. I see it used often in books, especially where referencing a sword is highly applicable to the story. I think calling it Double Edged Attack might eliminate the possibility of people using it for swords completely, but I'm not going to push it. You can change it if you want, or not. I think Double Edged Attack might be a little ambiguous in it's own way too.

    Here's a non-Video Game example:

    • In Anita Blake Vampire Hunter, the vampire ability called 'the arduer', a power which allows a vampire to inspire love or lust in themselves and others, is often called a 'double edged sword' by Anita, because you can only inspire as much love in others as you are willing to love in return, (so making someone love you will make you love them just as much). About it she often comments that "you can only cut as much as you're willing to be cut, and apparently I'm willing to be cut deep."
  • October 27, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ this trope isn't always about an attack.
  • October 27, 2015
    NoirGrimoir
    ^ Maybe not technically, but in practical terms it's probably usually about using an ability that attacks or damages something.
  • October 27, 2015
    chicagomel
    ^^ It might be worth mentioning in the Pokemon examples that Rock Head ability prevents recoil damage, except from Struggle. And recoil damage moves' power can be increased by the Reckless ability.
  • October 27, 2015
    acrobox
    Pokemon in addition to recoil and stat lowering moves, there's also Hyper Beam and its variants. If the attack connects, you can't move on the next turn because you have to recharge. True to the trope you don't have to recharge if you miss in the first place.
  • October 28, 2015
    DrNoPuma
    Video Games

    • Gash the Shark from Insaniquarium will help you by fighting the enemy aliens, but will sometimes eat one of the very fish that you're protecting from said aliens.
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