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
Anime & 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.
- 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.