Created By: Saiga on September 17, 2012 Last Edited By: Saiga on October 9, 2012
Nuked

All-or-nothing Attack

An attack that will either succeed or fail absolutely, with no middle ground.

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Trope
This is an attack, technique or ability that can have one of two outcomes: it either succeeds exactly as intended or has absolutely no effect on the target. These kind of techniques can not partially succeed in any form, so One-Hit Kill attacks, Standard Status Effect and Fixed Damage Attacks fall under this trope: it hits the opponent, or it doesn't.

All-or-nothing Attacks may result in Useless Useful Spell where the plot demands the technique never succeeds.

A related trope is the Death-or-Glory Attack, however in this case the downside is merely the failure of the technique rather than death/extreme punishment.

See also Dangerous Forbidden Technique.


Examples

Anime and Manga

  • From Dragon Ball, there is the Devilmite Beam used by Devilman, an enemy from the Uranai Baba Arc. The attack expands the evil in a person's heart, causing them to explode, however on someone pure of heart like Goku, the attack has no effect whatsoever.
  • Several techniques from Bleach counts, such as Soi Fon's Nigeki Kessatsu. As Aizen showed, the technique can fail to do anything against opponents who are too powerful for it. Kyoka Suigetsu's Absolute Hypnosis also counts, as it can not be removed once applied, but will not affect the blind or anyone who places their hand on Kyoka Suigetsu's blade before the hypnosis is administered.

Video Games

  • The many One Hit KO attacks in the Pokemon franchise fall under this. On the one hand, moves like Horn Drill and Sheer Cold will instantly knock-out your opponent. On the other, the moves have such low accuracy that you're better off not using them. And that's not getting into all the ways the moves can be countered otherwise (speed stats, level differences, etc.)
  • In the Paper Mario games, there is a badge literally called "All or Nothing", which increases your attack by one if you succeed in an action command, but decreases it to zero if you fail.
Community Feedback Replies: 19
  • September 17, 2012
    fluffything
    • The many One Hit KO attacks in the Pokemon franchise fall under this. On the one hand, moves like Horn Drill and Sheer Cold will instantly knock-out your opponent. On the other, the moves have such low accuracy that you're better off not using them. And that's not getting into all the ways the moves can be countered otherwise (speed stats, level differences, etc.)
  • September 17, 2012
    Stratadrake
    I'm worried about the concept here. A lot of attacks are all or nothing in the sense that the attack either "hits" (full effect) or "misses" (no effect).
  • September 17, 2012
    Generality
  • September 17, 2012
    MiinU
    The Soi Fon portion of the Bleach example should be excluded, since it's unclear whether or not she ever hit Aizen at all. It may have been an illusion.

    • For anyone who has any doubts, consider the following:

    The flashback panel, in chapter 392, pg.17, references the moment Hitsugaya attacked Aizen in chapter 389, where he commends Aizen on not having used Kyouka Suigetsu.

    Yet, two chapters later, Aizen reveals that he'd been using it, up until the moment he broke the illusion, revealing Hinamori in his place.

    Further, Aizen has conjured illusions without anything to cast them on

    • The first time was against Barragan, when he, Tousen, and Gin, slaughtered his army right in front of him, without Barragan knowing anything was amiss, 'til Aizen broke the illusion.

    • The second was when Hallibel attacked him. The illusion broke, revealing there was no one in front of her (lower right panel). Aizen was behind her.

    Meaning, Soi Fon may have hit nothing except empty space, believing she had hit Aizen.
  • September 18, 2012
    Saiga
    @Stratadrake That'd only really be a problem with video games. In other media (and certain video games) most techniques would have a middle ground between success and failure. In the case of video games it'd only apply to stuff like Pokemon's OHKO moves.

    @Miin U I'm just going by what was actually said and not speculation.
  • September 18, 2012
    MiinU
    ^@Saiga - So am I. And, according to Aizen, he was using Kyouka Suigetsu at that time. So we don't if she really hit him or an illusion. Meaning, we don't know (for certain) whether her shikai has such a limitation.

    In one chapter's he's saying, 'I did'. In the next chapter, he's saying, 'Or maybe I didn't'.

    Validating the first (without proof), because of what was said, while dismissing the other, despite not only what was said there, but sufficient evidence that supports that it may not have happened to begin with, is not only speculating, it promotes the first instance as "fact", when the character, himself, is calling the validity of what we saw into question.

    Also Nigeki Kessatsu should be potholed to Touch of Death, instead of One Hit Kill, since it reqires two stings to the exact same area.
  • September 18, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Then what do we do about videogames? A lot of videgames don't do separate accuracy/damage rolls - a "hit" has full effect while a "miss" has nil. It's not just a common pattern, it's nigh-omnipresent; attacks that have variable power are generally an exception, not the rule.

    (By "variable power" I don't mean that each attack inflicts a slightly varying amount of damage. E.g. in Pokemon each attack strikes with a slight variation from 85-100% base power. I would call that trivial.)

    That being said, tabletop RPG's may split an attack into separate rolls (one for the hit/miss and one for the actual damage) and that's where the all-or-nothing attack becomes notable. But then, where exactly do you draw the line between this and Death Or Glory Attack? And how does it compare to attacks with No Saving Throw (where if it hits, it hits)?
  • September 26, 2012
    Saiga
    @MiinU The fact that he had his illusions active the whole battle doesn't invalidate his explanation of how Nigeki Kessatsu worked. It wasn't just that he was shown being unaffected by it, but that he explained why he hadn't been.

    @Stratadrake As with certain other tropes, you'd only list examples which are considered egregious. So not including attacks that have a chance to miss. Death Or Glory Attack is different because it applies to extremely powerful attacks with dangerous risks attached. No Saving Throw isn't something I checked out before, but after reading it I can say that it's what I had in mind for the "absolute success" part of this trope.
  • September 27, 2012
    Koveras
    • The Biotic Charge+Nova combo of the Vanguard class in Mass Effect 3 either kills every single enemy in the targeted area or leaves you stranded with no shields or powers in the middle of a group of angry hostiles.
  • September 27, 2012
    Freezer
    Every listed example here is already under Death Or Glory Attack. Seems like a rather narrow subtrope. IIRC, the original YKTTW name for that was "All-Or-Nothing Attack."
  • September 27, 2012
    Saiga
    As far as I can tell, none of the ones I have listed are on Death Or Glory Attack.
  • September 27, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Well, Koveras's example is a Death Or Glory Attack for sure; massive success if it works but a massive backfire if it doesn't.
  • September 28, 2012
    morenohijazo
  • September 28, 2012
    dvorak
    Any Insta-kill spell from any RPG ever. If it hits (and the enemy isn't immune), dead enemy. if it misses, congratulations on wasting the local equivalent of MP.
  • September 28, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Agree that for a large part, any One Hit Kill, Standard Status Effects, or Fixed Damage Attack are by definition 'all or nothing': they either hit full effect, or miss entirely. (Often the latter :) )
  • September 28, 2012
    SAMAS
    In Virtual On: Oratorio Tangram, the Grim Reaper-like Specineff has an ability that makes him invincible for 13 seconds. If you fail to destroy the enemy in that time, you self-destruct instead.
  • September 28, 2012
    spandan
    In Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door, there is a badge literally called "All or Nothing", which increases your attack by one if you succeed in an action command, but decreases it to zero if you fail.
  • September 29, 2012
    Stratadrake
    ^ Already mentioned because that badge first appeared in Paper Mario before TTYD.
  • October 9, 2012
    Saiga
    Added the Paper Mario example but reworded it since it appears in the original as well.

    The Mass Effect 3 and Virtual On examples are definitely Death Or Glory Attack, not this trope.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=bneoog9i2y1dejuvbxmx1j6h&trope=DiscardedYKTTW