Created By: Mr.Movie on June 3, 2014 Last Edited By: Mr.Movie on June 12, 2014
Troped

Unique Protagonist Asset

The protagonist\'s unique ability that sets them apart from other characters/mooks/red shirts.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Being the protagonist has its perks. You escape all manner of danger however slim your chances, get your soul mate, hang out with some pretty cool people, don't have to answer for most of what you do, achieve your goals simply because Prophecies Are Always Right, and almost always get a Happy Ending.

However, one final perk may be having that one thing that makes you specially enabled in your quest to resolve Conflict, and that is your Unique Protagonist Asset.

It can be anything. Material objects such as weapons, clothes, or tools count. Abilities such as superpowers, Le Parkour, Improbable Aiming Skills, and Implausible Fencing Powers count. Vehicles can count as well, as can any special modifications these vehicles may sport. Literally anything can count as long as it fits these three criteria:

  1. The asset must be unique, endowed upon an individual or only small parts of the cast. But there are four exceptions to this rule:
    • The first exception is if the protagonist has the same kind of asset as everyone else, but has a much better version than everyone else has (i.e. everyone in the setting is packing heat, but the protagonist has a modern assault rifle while everyone else has muskets).
    • The second exception is when the protagonist has the same kind of asset and to roughly the same degree as many people off-screen, but the story puts him/her around people who don't the asset or to a lesser degree. See Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond.
    • The third exception is if the protagonist has the same kind of asset and to roughly the same degree as everyone else, but for some reason he/she is one of the few people who actually do something useful with it (i.e. Red Shirt ninjas getting slaughtered left and right by the antagonist, but the exact same ninja training the Red Shirt Army had is exactly what the protagonist curb stomps the antagonist with).
    • The final exception is when the protagonist and his/her companions all share an asset, but there are other groups/cast herds/ensembles/bands of characters that don't have anything special about them.
  2. The ability must be relevant to the story's Conflict in some way. Puzzle solving skills in a mystery novel are this trope, combat prowess in a romantic comedy is not. However, this asset does not necessarily have to directly lead to the conflict's resolution (i.e. the protagonist has a powerful Super Mode that helps out in combat, but the villain is defeated by a Deus ex Machina instead). The ability must also be noticeably demonstrated. Informed Ability, Off Screen Moment Of Awesome, and implied cases are not true examples.
  3. The character must be the protagonist. While antagonists may have special assets used to cause conflict in the story, the nature of conflict-causing abilities and the way they are used is often of a different nature than many special assets protagonists have.

If Mooks have this ability, they would be called Superpowered Mooks. May overlap with Road Runner PC if this ability is superior mobility and the protagonist is in a video game, as well as Protagonist Power-Up Privileges the main character acquires their UPA instead of having it right from the start. Possibly the reason why someone is a Born Winner. Almost every superhero within the context of their own stories has a UPA, although shared universes containing dozens or even hundreds of other supers cast a shadow on this trope.

Compare Standardized Leader and Designated Protagonist Syndrome, where the protagonist is rather generic in terms of ability.


Examples

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     Anime & Manga 

     Fan Works 

     Film - Animated 
  • In How to Train Your Dragon, Hiccup is the only person riding a Night Fury. No one else has one.
  • The Furious Five from Kung Fu Panda subvert this trope, being set up as master martial artists who go out to defeat the movie's villain but suffer a Curb Stomp Cushion. Po, however, plays this trope straight (albeit subtly) in that his special ability is to learn extremely rapidly when food is a motivation.
  • In The Sponge Bob Squarepants Movie, the Patty Wagon plays a crucial part in getting SpongeBob and Patrick to their destination.

     Film - Live-Action 
  • The Green Lantern is gifted with his Green Lantern Ring, and although he's only one of many Lanterns, he's the only one that makes a big difference in the conflict.
  • Superman in Man of Steel is the only non-villainous character with superpowers.
  • Batman throughout the The Dark Knight Saga stands out due to his ninja training, martial arts prowess, and gadgets.
  • Neo from the The Matrix is the one to end up with Matrix-warping powers at the end of the first film.
  • Peter Parker from The Amazing Spider-Man has superpowers with only the main villain having powers as well.
  • Subverted in A Beautiful Mind. At first, we are made to think John Nash is a genius mathematician who is the only person skilled enough to crack Russian spy codes, but it turns out he's just insane and it is all art of his mental illness. Double subverted when he uses his genius intelligence to realize that his hallucinations are not real, thus curing himself.

     Literature 
  • In Venus Prime, Sparta was trained from birth and surgically altered to become the epitome of human intelligence and skill.
  • Temeraire: A lot of things wouldn't happen if Temeraire wasn't a particular breed of Chinese dragon who (a) had a reason to visit China and see how dragons are treated differently elsewhere and (b) was basically a prince. Cue Laurence getting caught up in all sorts of international intrigues and going Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right! as a result of new perspectives.
  • Tortall Universe
    • Daine of The Immortals has an unprecedented amount of wild magic, allowing her to communicate with (and eventually turn into) just about every animal. This proves to be critical to winning the Immortals War, as animals make great spies and she can communicate with non-humanoid immortals.
    • Beka Cooper of Provost's Dog can speak to lingering ghosts and hear the sounds that collect in dust spinnersnote  at street corners. This leads directly to the Dogs cracking a decade-old serial murder case in the first book and materially assists her investigations in the next two.
  • Circle of Magic In the first quartet, the kids' ambient magic and subsequent bond allows them to survive and then deal with the threats they face—without their ability to combine their magic, Gold Ridge Valley would have burnt to the ground and Rosethorn would be dead, among other things.

     Live-Action TV 
  • In Dollhouse, Echo has something in her spinal fluid that allows her to retain memories from her imprints.
  • In the 1950s The Adventures of Superman TV series Superman is the only person with superpowers we ever see (and by implication the only one on the entire planet).
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer is gifted with superhuman abilities as a Slayer.

     Video Games 
  • God Hand: the player character Gene has the titular God Hand that gives him the fighting chance against the crooks in the game. Though it's revealed later that one of the bosses, Azel, possesses the other God Hand (the left one, to be specific). Mirror Boss ensues with the two.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic II, the Jedi Exile is one of the few surviving Jedi and the only one who's actually still Jedi-ing in public rather than hiding or working secretly. This attracts all sorts of enemies, particularly the Big Bad Duumvirate that is the primary threat to the Republic. Also, the Exile draws their Force powers from other people, allowing them to make Force bonds really easily, which results in most of the party being Force-sensitive and thus potential new Jedi.

  • In the text-based RPG Mobile Armored Marine, you are the only person with Powered Armor on your mission.
  • In 'Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars, The Hero has the ability to generate a power ether field. This allows him to lead a team into the Labyrinth to hunt the source of the monsters. Before he was around, the Disciples were forced to wait outside the labyrinths and kill monsters as they came out.
  • In Watch_Dogs, the main character has a hacked cell-phone which gives him access to much of the city's infrastructure. While the police can access some of the infrastructure, they cannot control as much and have to call into Mission Control to do it, while you can do it much quicker.
    • Aidan's Bullet Time effect is also unique to him. In-universe, it represents his quick reflexes.
  • Faith in Mirror's Edge has Le Parkour on her side, and possibly Super Strength as well (seeing as how she can take out a fully armored police officer in only a few hits).
  • Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine: Captain Titus has an innate resistance to warpcraft that is never really explained in-game.
  • All the main protagonists of the FEAR series have a Super Reflexes power (either from the start or as a Second Hour Superpower) which manifests as a limited ability to enter Bullet Time and is implied to be possible thanks to Psychic Powers.* The player characters in both Persona 3 and Persona 4 have the ability called "Wild Card," letting them change their Persona at will.
  • The Player Character of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a Dragonborn, a rare individual who can permanently destroy the otherwise immortal dragons by consuming their souls. Seeing how Skyrim is currently under siege by the dragons, the Dragonborn represents the only hope its inhabitants have of beating them back.
  • The Player Character of Dragon Age: Inquisition is sucked into the Spirit World at the start of the game and branded with mark that lets them quickly close even the largest breaches between reality and the Fade, which The Legions of Hell are using to invade. Since the Inquisitor is the only one with such power, they are instrumental to defeating the demons.
  • Rico in Just Cause has a grappling hook gun, which makes vehicle hijacking easy, enables Rico to reach high places, offers both ranged and melee attack options, and can be combined with a parachute to achieve Not Quite Flight.
  • John Martson from Red Dead Redemption has Dead Eye Targeting, which slows down time and enables the player to aim and shoot at a practically superhuman level.
  • Super Mario Bros.: Mario was at first distinct due to the fact that he could jump (unlike the Goombas) and could run relatively faster than his enemies.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog, of course, is THE Road Runner PC, with the unique ability of insane running speed.

     Western Animation 
  • The heroes of Super Why! help the helpless heroes of other stories through the ability to change stories by directly altering the text of the books they enter.
Community Feedback Replies: 37
  • June 3, 2014
    randomsurfer
    In the 1950s The Adventures Of Superman TV series Superman is the only person with superpowers we ever see (and by implication the only one on the entire planet).
  • June 4, 2014
    DAN004
    Sometimes overlaps with Born Winner.

    Compare Exotic Weapon Supremacy.
  • June 4, 2014
    Koveras
  • June 4, 2014
    Larkmarn
    • The player characters in both Persona 3 and Persona 4 have the ability called "Wild Card," letting them change their Persona at will.
  • June 4, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    Moved Kung Fu Panda from "Film" under "Film - Animated", linked the Sonic The Hedgehog and Super Mario Bros examples to their respective pages, and fixed a Red Link in the Green Lantern example.
  • June 4, 2014
    acrobox
    Would being the only character(s) with a Super Mode also qualify?

    Or essentially any kind of Chosen One? I.E. Would Anakin Skywalker count since he's the chosen one, even though he doesn't have any unique abilities beyond having the highest force potential on record.
  • June 4, 2014
    Mr.Movie
    If that Super Mode is relevant to the story's conflict and helps out the protagonist in a significant way, then yes.

    Chosen ones often have a UPA, but beng the chosen one would not count if there was nothing special about you other than being "chosen".

    Anakin Skywalker does have the highest midochlorian count on record, but unless his abilities were explicitly shown to be significantly better than anyone else, it does not count.
  • June 4, 2014
    DuneTheWanderer
    • The Fallout New Vegas expansion Old World Blues plays this straight when the rest of the series usually averts it. The bullet your character took to the head altered the programing path of the lobotomy robot that caused every other patient to become the mindless drones you fight across Big Mountain. So, pretty much, your asset was a life-threatening wound and it's effects on you.
  • June 4, 2014
    Generality
    One Hero Hold The Weaksauce is a common form of this.
  • June 4, 2014
    DAN004
    • In Wreck It Ralph, Vanellope has a weird form of this: In her own racing game, she's a glitched character who tend to blink to whenever she likes. She uses this to her advantage multiple times.
  • June 5, 2014
    Synchronicity
    • Subverted in Attack On Titan: Eren's seemingly one-of-a-kind ability to shift into a Titan form is considered this, and he is hailed as humanity's hope in defeating the Titans. However, it's deduced that some of the more dangerous Titans are Shifters, too.
  • June 5, 2014
    Koveras
    ^ I would spoiler-tag some parts of that example...
  • June 5, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    ^^ A better example is this. Since everything there is a spoiler.

  • June 5, 2014
    Chabal2
    See also Normal Fish In A Tiny Pond.

    • The main character of Dragon Quest IX is an angel, meaning he can see supernatural phenomena. He also has a unique encouragement ability.
    • Berserk: Guts is one of two people in Midland to have survived the Eclipse. Unfortunately for him, this means every monster in the world is attracted to him. Unfortunately for them, it means he just gets better at killing them.
    • Warhammer 40 K tends to have a lot of these: a one-in-a-million ability is a lot more common when there are millions of planets housing billions of people.
      • Psykers are rarely born, and must be found and indoctrined very quickly before their powers cause them to summon demons through their heads. Even rarer are blanks, who are Anti Magic but often cause feelings of disgust and revulsion in normal humans.
      • Pretty much every Space Marine is this: some Chapters count four candidates (who have shown great strength and fortitude) on a single planet as an exceptionally good catch, and even those are thinned out by the grueling surgeries and Training From Hell. And it's even worse for the Librarians, who train as psykers in addition to the physical tests.
    • Warhammer 40000 Space Marine: Captain Titus has an innate resistance to warpcraft that is never really explained in-game.
    • Averted in A Link To The Past: People's true natures are revealed in the Dark World, and even Link is transformed (into a pink bunny that can't use items) until he gets the magic mirror.
  • June 5, 2014
    Bisected8
  • June 5, 2014
    DAN004
    Contrast Uniqueness Decay and The Chosen Many (when it's revealed that the asset isn't unique to the protagonist).
  • June 5, 2014
    bitemytail
    • In Watch Dogs, the main character has a hacked cell-phone which gives him access to much of the city's infrastructure. While the police can access some of the infrastructure, they cannot control as much and have to call into Mission Control to do it, while you can do it much quicker.
      • Aidan's Bullet Time effect is also unique to him. In-universe, it represents his quick reflexes.
  • June 5, 2014
    Shieldage
    Fan Works
  • June 5, 2014
    randomsurfer
    Many instances in Star Trek The Next Generation, where if it weren't for Data (only known android) or Wesley (supergenious kid) Enterprise would have been destroyed a hundred times over. Specific examples escape me at the moment though.
  • June 5, 2014
    ultimomant
    • In A Certain Magical Index, Touma Kamijou has the unique Imagine Breaker, a right hand that cancels out powers and enchantments, making him able to defeat incredibly powerful characters that no one else can.
  • June 6, 2014
    bitemytail
  • June 6, 2014
    Mr.Movie
    Improved the description.
  • June 6, 2014
    DAN004
    • Na Ruto: The titular character is not just a Jinchuriki like 8 others, he's also one to the strongest Tailed Beast, the 9-tailed Fox.
  • June 6, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    ^ I'd rather link Jinchuriki to Sealed Inside A Person Shaped Can.
  • June 6, 2014
    DAN004
    One Piece: The King's Disposition Haki is considered the rare form of Haki that only appears randomly on people, whereas everyone else can learn the other 2 common forms of Haki. Our protagonist, naturally, has access to said rare Haki.
  • June 6, 2014
    eowynjedi
    ^ For DQIX, it should probably be "they" instead of "he" since the protag has a customizable gender (like the Knights of the Old Republic games).

  • June 7, 2014
    Koveras
    • Downplayed in Dragon Age Origins: Only a Grey Warden can slay the Archdemon and end the Blight—and the player character is ostensibly far from the only Warden in the world. Nevertheless, there are no more than three of them left in Ferelden, so it's up to them to stop the Blight before it spreads to other countries—and only one of them additionally possesses the leadership skills needed to pull this off.
  • June 8, 2014
    DAN004
    Where's the op?
  • June 8, 2014
    Mr.Movie
    Here. What do you need?
  • June 8, 2014
    DAN004
    Add my examples plz.
  • June 8, 2014
    eowynjedi
    Lit:
    • Temeraire: A lot of things wouldn't happen if Temeraire wasn't a particular breed of Chinese dragon who (a) had a reason to visit China and see how dragons are treated differently elsewhere and (b) was basically a prince. Cue Laurence getting caught up in all sorts of international intrigues and going Screw The Rules Im Doing Whats Right as a result of new perspectives.

    • Tortall Universe
      • Daine of The Immortals has an unprecedented amount of wild magic, allowing her to communicate with (and eventually turn into) just about every animal. This proves to be critical to winning the Immortals War, as animals make great spies and she can communicate with non-humanoid immortals.
      • Beka Cooper of Provosts Dog can speak to lingering ghosts and hear the sounds that collect in dust spinnersnote  at street corners. This leads directly to the Dogs cracking a decade-old serial murder case in the first book and materially assists her investigations in the next two.

    • Circle Of Magic In the first quartet, the kids' ambient magic and subsequent bond allows them to survive and then deal with the threats they face—without their ability to combine their magic, Gold Ridge Valley would have burnt to the ground and Rosethorn would be dead, among other things.

    Videogames:

    • In Knights Of The Old Republic II, the Jedi Exile is one of the few surviving Jedi and the only one who's actually still Jedi-ing in public rather than hiding or working secretly. This attracts all sorts of enemies, particularly the Big Bad Duumvirate that is the primary threat to the Republic. Also, the Exile draws their Force powers from other people, allowing them to make Force bonds really easily, which results in most of the party being Force-sensitive and thus potential new Jedi.
  • June 8, 2014
    DAN004
    • God Hand: the player character Gene has the titular God Hand that gives him the fighting chance against the crooks in the game. Though it's revealed later that one of the bosses, Azel, possesses the other God Hand (the left one, to be specific). Mirror Boss ensues with the two.
  • June 8, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Literature
    • In Venus Prime, Sparta was trained from birth and surgically altered to become the epitome of human intelligence and skill.

    Live Action TV
    • In Dollhouse, Echo has something in her spinal fluid that allows her to retain memories from her imprints.
  • June 9, 2014
    DAN004
    Add my example plz...
  • June 10, 2014
    partner555
    In How To Train Your Dragon, Hiccup is the only person riding a Night Fury. No one else has one.
  • June 10, 2014
    Mr.Movie
    Is there anything else that I need to get hats?
  • June 10, 2014
    DAN004
    Contrast Standardized Leader and Designated Protagonist Syndrome (when the hero lacks this).
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