Created By: superfroggy on January 26, 2011 Last Edited By: superfroggy on August 31, 2011

Mechanical Muggles

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This is a do-over of an old YKTTW that I forgot about and eventually discarded. It's possible that a similar trope had been launched when I wasn't looking.
In a fantasy setting, artifical beings are often incapable of using magic. This primarily occurs in settings that combine magic and technology -- robots in particular almost never get to use the in-world magic equivalent, with creatures such as golems which are more explicity derived from Magitek having better odds (though not much better).

The typical explanation for this is that you have to be "alive" to use magic; no matter how intelligent and humanlike an android may be, it will still lack that vital "something" required to rearrange matter with its thoughts. Alternately, it could be that robots simply cannot comprehend magic; try as they may, the concept of exploding somebody's head with one's mind is just too fantastic and illogical for them to truly grasp.

The exact execution of this varies, ranging from being completely cut off from magic and immune to its effects to simply being incapable of using it.

Video games often give robots a magic analogue, for the sake of balance.

Please note that while the above write-up uses "magic" as the supernatural force in question, psychic powers frequently serve a similar role and robots are just as likely to be incapable of using them.

Contrast Magic from Technology.


  • Robo from Chrono Trigger. Fortunately, his lasers work just as well.
  • Droids in Star Wars are incapable of tapping into the Force.
  • One of the unlockable party members (I can't remember his name; please help) in Final Fantasy Tactics is a robot whose Faith stat is locked at zero, making him immune to magic entirely.
Community Feedback Replies: 21
  • January 26, 2011
    While they aren't mechanical, the Orks in Warhammer 40 K are artificial beings among whom psykers are extremely rare, although it's implied they're all latent psychics who power their technology on a Clap Your Hands If You Believe principle.
  • January 26, 2011
    • Zig Zagged in Bionicle. First, it's debatable whether Psychic and Elemental Powers qualify as "magic" or whether they're just very soft science fiction. If they do count, then Toa are an aversion, (or possibly an inversion, since the organic beings of Bara Magna do not have any inherent powers). Then we have Matoran, small bio-mechanical beings who can't access their inherent Elemental Powers and can't operate a Mask Of Power- essentially the "muggles" of their world- as straight examples.
  • January 26, 2011
    One I'm not too sure about but am suggesting anyway: Bubo the Clockwork Owl from the original Clash Of The Titans. Although Bubo himself was magical (having been crafted by the gods), he did not exhibit any magical abilities -- unless you count his ability to speak to Perseus and to fly despite being made of metal.

    (p.s. wasn't there a Clockwork Owl in The Remake as well?)
  • January 26, 2011
    ^ the remake (more like re-imagining) had a brief cameo combined with a Take That. One soldier pulls a clockwork owl out and is told to leave it as it will be of no use. (which is not really fair, while Bubo was a comedic relief character he did prove useful)


    He-Man/She-Ra: there are plenty of robotic characters and plenty of magic users yet the robots never seem to use magic. In fact a running gag involves robots or computers scanning Orko -who is practically made of magic- and not being able to compute him. Often his very nature causes them to overload and explode.
  • January 27, 2011
    Also related to Cybernetics Eat Your Soul.
  • January 31, 2011
    • Machines in Warcraft 3 (And possibly warcraft 2 and 1) cannot be targetted by most buff and debuff spells.
  • February 4, 2011
    ^^ The droid example is lampshaded in the Return Of The Jedi radio series, where C-3PO can't see the force ghosts of Luke's mentors and concludes that his photoreceptors must be faulty.
  • February 7, 2011
    Tabletop Games
    • Shadowrun -- Essence loss (especially via cybernetics) will most assuredly hinder magical ability.
  • February 14, 2011
    • Androids in X-Com: Apocalypse have zero psionic energy and psionic attack stats and cannot be trained to improve this. In turn, they are completely immune to telepathy and Brainsuckers.
  • March 3, 2011
  • April 16, 2011
    "Artificial Muggles"?
  • April 16, 2011
    Averted in the GURPS roleplaying game: robots can get a "mana co-processor" installed, allowing them to use magic just like anyone else.
  • April 16, 2011
    In Phantasy Star Online, android characters can't use magic techniques- they get the ability to set traps instead.
  • August 30, 2011
  • August 30, 2011
    Some parts of the Star Wars Expanded Universe claim that since Darth Vader is significantly mechanical, he can never be a true master of the dark side.
  • August 30, 2011
    Using Muggle in the trope title probably isn't the best way to go, it may make people think that these are robots who THINK they are muggles, or that it's a living person who is some form of luddite.

    How abput Magicless Machine Man, or Magicless Mechanoid?
  • August 30, 2011
    An unlockable robot character in the original Final Fantasy Tactics was not only incapable of casting magic, but invulnerable to all forms of magic aswell.
  • August 30, 2011
    Not fond of using "Muggle" in the name, as that implies the normal people, and robots rarely are, even without this trope.

    Call it something like Robots Cannot Use Magic.
  • August 30, 2011
  • August 31, 2011
    Zig Zagged in the Lyrical Nanoha franchise. While some Combat Cyborgs (mainly clones of a powerful dead mage) have been shown to cast regular magic, the majority of them never use anything other than their highly-specialized magic-like abilities.
  • August 31, 2011
    Magical Mechanical Zero Sum (Re-punctuated: Magical/Mechanical Zero Sum)?