Created By: Aralar on February 7, 2013 Last Edited By: DAN004 on July 19, 2016

One Power at a Time

Someone can\'t use together two of his superpowers.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
DAN 004 wuz ere takin over ur druft


So a character has Combo Platter Powers. Neat!

But for some reason, a character is not able to use two of his superpowers at the same time. Maybe they share the same energy source and its strength can't be divided to be used on both powers. Maybe multitasking is hard and/or they never learned how to do that. Maybe the powers oppose each other, like fire and ice. Or it can just be handwaved by other means. They just can't do it, at least for now.

Related to Discard and Draw when one loses his powers (willingly or not) and then gains an entirely new one, and Diverting Power for, well, diverting a Power Source from one aspect to another.

A Super Trope to


Examples

Anime and Manga
  • It was a plot point in the final season of Cardcaptor Sakura. During the first season the Fly card added wings to Sakura's staff while the Sword card turned the staff into a sword. When she needed both simultaneously she had to find a way to cheat. That is, she moved the wings from the staff to her back.
  • Naruto's various Super Modes don't work too well together with his Shadow Clone Technique. Sage Mode has a limited duration after which the user has to stay afoot to replenish his nature chakra. Naruto solves this by creating a couple of clones who do this for him. However, since nature chakra is difficult to control, as a result he can't use more than three clones in battle. Similarly, even after Naruto learns to control the Nine-Tailed Fox he can't afford to risk creating too many Shadow Clones, because when he taps to the chakra of the Nine-Tails, the Fox does the same to him and dividing your chakra between clones only makes you lose it that much faster.

Comic Books
  • Jesse Custer from Preacher was able to beat his former friend Cassidy, a super strong and super fast vampire, because as was stated by Custer, Cassidy didn't know how to put his strength and speed together.
  • Emma Frost, from X-Men, developed a secondary mutation that made her able to turn her body into diamond, but she couldn't use her telepathy while transformed.
  • Blaastar is a Marvel Universe villain who can shoot energy blasts from his hands. He also can fly powered by the same energy blasts, so he can't attack with them while flying. As he is Nigh Invulnerable, he's still very dangerous as he rams himself against his foes.
  • The Legion of Super Heroes member Ultra Boy had a suite of super-powers, but could only use one of them at a time.

Film
  • Iron Man can't fly and use his Hand Blast, since the repulsers in his hands were originally intended as flight stabilizers (they just happen to make excellent weapons as well). This is rectified by his final armor in The Avengers which has a jetpack on the back, so that he can freely use his repulsers as weapons while in flight.

Literature
  • Golems on the Discworld are made of fired clay, so they're naturally immune to a lot of things, including fire, water, time, and Bolts Of Divine Retribution. As Anghammarad finds out in Going Postal, they can't take both heat and cold at the same time.

Live-Action TV
  • On Smallville first seasons, the Monster of the Week use to be small fries that Clark should be able to wipe the floor with... but he doesn't has practice with combining his super strength and super speed, so they are able to be decent challenges. On later seasons, as The Blur, Clark's modus operandi is solving crimes while using his super speed to become almost invisible, overcoming this trope.
  • Prue on Charmed originally had the power to move things with her mind; as her power grew, she gained the ability to push her consciousness out of her body as an Astral Projection. Whenever she did this, her astral projection could not use her telekinesis.
    • Piper shows an aversion of this. Originally she had the power to slow objects down to the point of seeming to freeze in time. Later she gains the power to speed things up to the point of exploding. One would think that these two powers wouldn't work at the same time, but the first time she blows up a demon, he freezes at the same time and then shatters like glass.

Tabletop Games
  • Champions
    • In early editions of the game, powers could be put in a Multipower to reduce cost. If a power slot was defined as "Ultra" and used all of the points in the Multipower, only that power could be used at one time: the other powers in the Multipower could not.
    • A power could be given the limitation "Can't be used while any other power is being used", which would reduce its cost if this disadvantaged the character.
  • Warhammer 40K: Combi-weapons (a rapid-fire weapon combined with another weapon like a flamethrower or rocket launcher) work this way, both weapons can only get a single shot off if fired simultaneously.
  • In Mutants & Masterminds, giving a power the Alternate Effect extra does this. In a point-based system like M&M, it's a good way to save Power Points. It's commonly used for characters that have many different attacks or modes of movement (attacks since you usually can't make more than one attack in a round anyway, and movement since you're unlikely to need to, say, fly and swim at the same time)
  • In Dungeons & Dragons 3rd (and 3.5 by extension) edition, monks suffered terribly from this. They had increased movement speed and could get skills such as jump and tumble, which increased their mobility options. They also had many physical skills, which required the monk to remain stationary while using them. This lack of compatibility between their movement and combat abilities results in their low tier.

Video Games
  • Meta example: Warcraft III has some spells be autocast by the unit instead of the player having to cast each spell on every target. However, only one spell can be set to autocast at any time, even if they're for different targets (ie, an ally-buffing spell and an enemy-debuffing spell). Starcraft II allows for multiple autocasts on a single unit.
  • Starcraft II:
    • In Heart of the Swarm, Kerrigan can only have four powers at a time, but has three types to choose from which are equally powerful: those from her Ghost training, from her Zerg Swarm and her Primal Zerg.
    • In Legacy Of The Void, the Spear of Adun has several powerful abilities but can only choose one out of three (for example, a five-target bombardment or a linear orbital laser) which increase in power but require more solarite to function.

Web Comics
  • Grrl Power
    • Halo has a set of seven Power Orbs, each of which gives her different powers, but she can only use two at any given moment because she has to hold them in her hands.
    • Maxima has strength, speed, armor, flight and particle blasts, but most of her power comes from a "reserve pool" that she moves between these stats, so she's only really strong in one or two at a time. On the other hand, she's pretty formidable even without using her power reserves.

Western Animation
  • In an episode of Arthur Francine is planning to sing and play drums during a Talent Contest. But she's terrible and her friends aren't sure how to break the news to her. It turns out that she has a wonderful singing voice and can play drums well, but when she tries to do both simultaneously she sucks big time.

Real Life
  • Averting this gave Genghis Khan the upper hand in his conquest of Asia. His army had bows, arrows, and horses, but so did the opposing armies. However, Khan's men learned how to shoot from horseback, and thus gained an advantage against their enemies in battle.
Community Feedback Replies: 40
  • February 7, 2013
    Earnest
    Contrast The Red Mage and Yin Yang Bomb.

    Some types of shape shifting limit or cut off other powers. Even within shapeshifting, some are unable to do a Partial Transformation or Shape Shifter Mashup.
  • February 7, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Anime & Manga
    • Naruto's various Super Modes don't work too well together with his Shadow Clone Technique. Sage Mode has a limited duration after which the user has to stay afoot to replenish his nature chakra. Naruto solves this by creating a couple of clones who do this for him. However, since nature chakra is difficult to control, as a result he can't use more than three clones in battle. Similarly, even after Naruto learns to control the Nine-Tailed Fox he can't afford to risk creating too many Shadow Clones, because when he taps to the chakra of the Nine-Tails, the Fox does the same to him and dividing your chakra between clones only makes you lose it that much faster.
  • February 7, 2013
    Larkmarn
    • Iron Man can't fly and use his Hand Blast, since the repulsers in his hands were originally intended as flight stabilizers (they just happen to make excellent weapons as well). This is rectified by his final armor in The Avengers which has a jetpack on the back, so that he can freely use his repulsers as weapons while in flight.
  • February 7, 2013
    Lumpenprole
    The Legion Of Super Heroes member Cosmic Boy had a suite of super-powers, but could only use one of them at a time.
  • February 7, 2013
    thewriter
    I think you should change the name, it seems a little unclear to me. Maybe something like One Power At A Time or Superpower Pile Up It should also be noted that sometimes this occurs when a person has two opposing powers. Ex. Someone with ice powers and flame powers sometimes can't use them at the same time, for obvious reasons.

    • Prue on Charmed originally had the power to move things with her mind; as her power grew, she gained the ability to push her consciousness out of her body as an Astral Projection. Whenever she did this, her astral projection could not use her telekinesis.
      • Piper shows an aversion of this. Originally she had the power to slow objects down to the point of seeming to freeze in time. Later she gains the power to speed things up to the point of exploding. One would think that these two powers wouldn't work at the same time, but the first time she blows up a demon, he freezes at the same time and then shatters like glass.
  • February 7, 2013
    Whitewings
  • February 7, 2013
    NateTheGreat
    • Emma Frost from the X-Men comic books has two distinct power sets, which are absolutely incompatible with the other. Either she's a normal flesh and blood woman who's one of the most powerful telepaths on the planet, or she's made of living diamond and is practically indestructable. No mixing and matching.
    • It was a plot point in the final season of Cardcaptor Sakura. During the first season the Fly card added wings to Sakura's staff while the Sword card turned the staff into a sword. When she needed both simultaneously she had to find a way to cheat. That is, she moved the wings from the staff to her back.
  • February 8, 2013
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Champions
      • In early editions of the game, powers could be put in a Multipower to reduce cost. If a power slot was defined as "Ultra" and used all of the points in the Multipower, only that power could be used at one time: the other powers in the Multipower could not.
      • A power could be given the limitation "Can't be used while any other power is being used", which would reduce its cost if this disadvantaged the character.
  • February 8, 2013
    Koveras
    Supertrope of Mutually Exclusive Magic, I guess.
  • February 8, 2013
    Tuckerscreator
    Real Life
    • Averting this gave Genghis Khan the upper hand in his conquest of Asia. His army had bows, arrows, and horses, but so did the opposing armies. However, Khan's men learned how to shoot from horseback, and thus gained an advantage against their enemies in battle.
  • February 9, 2013
    Arivne

  • March 27, 2015
    DAN004
    Bump, sounds tropable, might wanna grab this.

    Involves Combo Platter Powers by necessity.
  • March 27, 2015
    randomsurfer
    Does it have to be superpowers? Can it just be skills?
  • March 27, 2015
    dalek955
    • Grrl Power
      • Halo has a set of seven Power Orbs, each of which gives her different powers, but she can only use two at any given moment because she has to hold them in her hands.
      • Maxima has strength, speed, armor, flight and particle blasts, but most of her power comes from a "reserve pool" that she moves between these stats, so she's only really strong in one or two at a time. On the other hand, she's pretty formidable even without using her power reserves.
  • March 27, 2015
    KarjamP
    • This the default behavior of multipowers within the HERO System. It is, however, possible to use more than one power within a multipower, depending on how you had brought them. They tend to be of reduced strength when used together, however.
  • March 27, 2015
    bitemytail
    • In Dungeons And Dragons 3rd (and 3.5 by extension) edition, monks suffered terribly from this. They had increased movement speed and could get skills such as jump and tumble, which increased their mobility options. They also had many physical skills, which required the monk to remain stationary while using them. This lack of compatibility between their movement and combat abilities results in their low tier.
  • March 27, 2015
    DAN004
    @Randomsurfer: example?
  • March 28, 2015
    Arivne
    • Examples section
  • March 28, 2015
    randomsurfer
    ^^In an episode of Arthur Francine is planning to sing and play drums during a Talent Contest. But she's terrible and her friends aren't sure how to break the news to her. It turns out that she has a wonderful singing voice and can play drums well, but when she tries to do both simultaneously she sucks big time.
  • March 28, 2015
    Chabal2
    See also Dual Mode Unit, Multiform Balance and Diverting Power.

    • Golems on the Discworld are made of fired clay, so they're naturally immune to a lot of things, including fire, water, time, and Bolts Of Divine Retribution. As Anghammarad finds out in Going Postal, they can't take both heat and cold at the same time.
    • Meta example: Warcraft III has some spells be autocast by the unit instead of the player having to cast each spell on every target. However, only one spell can be set to autocast at any time, even if they're for different targets (ie, an ally-buffing spell and an enemy-debuffing spell). Starcraft II allows for multiple autocasts on a single unit.

  • March 28, 2015
    DAN004
    ^^ that sounds like mundane version of this. Not sure; either I would change the description to accomodate it or I just add it to the examples section under the pretense of Tropes Are Flexible.

    The latter is easier, but I'd like other ppl's opinion on this.
  • January 29, 2016
    DAN004
    Yo, bump
  • January 29, 2016
    acrobox
    we have this i swear
  • January 29, 2016
    DAN004
    Compare Stance System.
  • January 30, 2016
    acrobox
    It's like everything dances around it.

    I was thinking of Mutually Exclusive Power Ups but that's not quite it either. Between that and Stance System, Multiform Balance, Mutually Exclusive Magic, Discard And Draw, Dual Mode Unit i think we have a case of Missing Super Trope
  • January 30, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ and THIS is that missing supertrope. :D
  • January 30, 2016
    Laevatein
    Tabletop Games
    • In Mutants And Masterminds, giving a power the Alternate Effect extra does this. In a point-based system like M&M, it's a good way to save Power Points. It's commonly used for characters that have many different attacks or modes of movement (attacks since you usually can't make more than one attack in a round anyway, and movement since you're unlikely to need to, say, fly and swim at the same time)
  • January 30, 2016
    dalek955
    EDIT: Never mind, already posted it. This should really be updated with examples.
  • January 30, 2016
    Chabal2
    • Starcraft II:
      • In Heart Of The Swarm, Kerrigan can only have four powers at a time, but has three types to choose from which are equally powerful: those from her Ghost training, from her Zerg Swarm and her Primal Zerg.
      • In Legacy Of The Void, the Spear of Adun has several powerful abilities but can only choose one out of three (for example, a five-target bombardment or a linear orbital laser) which increase in power but require more solarite to function.
  • January 31, 2016
    DAN004
    • Blaz Blue: Nine's Flax Nurture special move is a Status Buff that buffs one type of her elemental attacks to deal more damage. Casting another elemental Flux Nurture while you still have its buff for an element will change the elemwnt buff.
  • February 4, 2016
    randomsurfer
    In Heroes Peter Petrelli's ability to absorb all powers he comes in contact with is later reduced to only being able to use the most recent power he has absorbed, losing whatever previous power he had. Comes up explicitly in one episode where he tries to race off at Super Speed only to discover that he has lost this ability because he accidentally absorbed Synesthesia from a woman who didn't even know she had it herself.
  • February 4, 2016
    Chabal2
    Warhammer 40 K: Combi-weapons (a rapid-fire weapon combined with another weapon like a flamethrower or rocket launcher) work this way, both weapons can only get a single shot off if fired simultaneously.
  • February 4, 2016
    DAN004
    Contrast the Ability Mixing ykttw.
  • July 19, 2016
    rmctagg09
    • In Infamous Second Son Delsin Rowe can use smoke, neon, video, and concrete powers as a result of his ability to absorb other Conduit's powers, but absorbing sources for one will prevent him from using the previous powers until he absorbs their source again.
  • July 18, 2016
    DAN004
    Buump
  • July 19, 2016
    Arivne
    Comic Books
    • In the DC Universe, the heroine Halo can use powers associated with specific Rainbow Motif colors (red = heat, orange = concussion/force beams, etc.). The first six powers can each only be used one at a time. When she uses the seventh (violet) power, her suppressed Split Personality takes over and can use all of her other powers at once.
  • July 19, 2016
    lakingsif
    Literature
    • Lorien Legacies: Number Five is able to bodymorph into any substance that he's touching continuously, and has best control over rubber and metal — of course, he carries around small balls of these items all the time but, when touching both, can only transform into one.
  • July 19, 2016
    Chabal2
    • Golden Sun: Class and available spells are determined by the type of Djinn attached to a character, so they'll have Psynergy reflecting those (water and wind, fire and earth, etc.). Giving someone a djinni of every element results in much weaker stats overall than a single, double or triple-element class.
    • Command And Conquer Generals: Rangers can be upgraded to have Flashbang Grenades (unlike the Real Life version, they're lethal and can One Hit Kill infantry in buildings), but can only use one or the other.
    • Real Life: Dragoons were infantry who moved on horseback for mobility and fought on foot, making them more maneuverable than standard infantry but weak against regular cavalry.
    • The earliest versions of bayonets were stuck in the gun's barrel, preventing it from firing.

  • July 19, 2016
    RazorSmile
    Does H.A.R.D. Corps from Valiant Comics count? It's a team of normal people who fight psychics with some very nifty technology that lets them each use one psiot talent at a time.
  • July 19, 2016
    NubianSatyress
    Possible page image (crop to the four bottom panels): Click here.

    And the caption could be: "He just gives her a normal punch to the face."
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