Created By: arromdee on June 21, 2011 Last Edited By: arromdee on July 2, 2011

Standardized Phlebotinum

Phlebotinum which does a large but limited set of things, even in unrelated works.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
A type of Applied Phlebotinum--often a power source--which provides a very versatile set of abilities that is nevertheless standardized. This core list of abilities will be used in many different works--even unrelated ones--and the mere mention of the phlebotinum's name will communicate to the reader a good idea of what it can do.

If a work does throw in some extra abilities that are not standardized, this still counts, as long as there is a core group of abilities which is.

This can often happen if the phlebotinum comes from traditions outside a particular work, either from folklore or merely tradition within a genre.

The standardization of this sort of phlebotinum can also be a shortcut to Magic A Is Magic A, since it may include a core set of limits as well as a core set of abilities.

Examples:
  • Ninja powers
  • Vampire abilities
  • "Ki" based abilities
  • Psychic powers
Community Feedback Replies: 14
  • June 21, 2011
    jaytee
    ^Are those really Applied Phlebotinum?

    When I read the laconic, I immediately thought of positronic brains. Fictional tech "invented" by Isaac Asimov, but used in a lot of series as the seminal AI tech.
  • June 21, 2011
    arromdee
    Well, the point is that if you say that someone has ninja powers, the audience immediately knows that they have one or more of Ninja Log, stealth ability, etc. but not that they can control computers or shoot beams from their eyes. If you say that someone has psychic powers, they may have telepathy, telekinesis, or precognition, but they probably can't pull rabbits out of hats. In other words, the power has built-in limits--not limits which follow logically from the premise, but limits which follow from the fact that a thousand other psychics in a thousand other works couldn't pull rabbits from their hat either.
  • June 22, 2011
    jaytee
    ^Oh. Uh....

    I don't really like it.

    What you're describing seems like a trope about defining words. Psychics have psychic powers because that's the definition of a psychic. Ninjas don't shoot lasers out of their brains because that has nothing to do with what a ninja is. We expect chickens to cluck instead of quack because that's what chickens do.
  • June 22, 2011
    arromdee
    A psychic is not defined as "character who can do anything in this list: telepathy, telekinesis..."--a psychic is defined as a character who can do things with his mind. Moving objects with your mind and, say, growing plants fast with your mind both fit the definition, yet only one of those is actually a traditional psychic power. People expect that psychics can do one but not the other because that's what all the other psychics are like, not because it follows from the definition.
  • June 27, 2011
    arromdee
    I found a trope I was thinking of: Magic By Any Other Name. Specifically, that trope is being averted. Some kinds of Phlebotinum avoid Magic By Another Name because while at first glance it seems like they can do everything, they really can't, because of this trope. Ninjas do specific things (unless they're in Naruto, and even there's a core of traditional ninja things they can do). Psychics do specific things. Neither of them is a replacement for magic, because they're too specific.
  • June 27, 2011
    MarqFJA
  • June 27, 2011
    Stratadrake
    No. Minovsky Physics is when you can deconstruct the phlebotinum and explain exactly why and how it works. This YKTTW is about certain names for phlebotinum always doing the exact same kinds of things. For example, everyone knows that a Universal Translator can't translate alien profanity.
  • June 27, 2011
    TBeholder
    Stock Phlebotinum. Public Domain Artifact intersects with it, but they aren't always used the same way.
  • June 28, 2011
    Ryusui
  • June 28, 2011
    DrNamgge
    This works on not just a personal level. Things like shields on space ships, although they could be made in numerous different ways, and absorb different amount of damage, they still do the same job - absorbing damage. But surely, this is just a big list of generic things, and hence this is more of an index of commonly found types of phlebotinum than an actual trope?
  • June 28, 2011
    Confusion567
    This could be made into an index, but I think it works on its own, just like Public Domain Artifact. Even in ^Dr Namgge's example of space ship shields, ships are almost always portrayed as having shields that can take a certain amount of damage before shutting down; it's very rare to have a shield on a ship that repels blasts or absorbs laserbeam energy for the ship's engines, or that does anything else besides "absorb damage and then shut down."

    Also, I like Stock Phlebtonium. Public Domain Artifact is about an object, but this is "powers" applied the same way. Applies to videogames especially, where the mp/mana system is nearly ubiquitous, and Cast From Hit Points or other effects are a clear aversion.
  • July 1, 2011
    jcdietz03
    Deflector Shields is an example of Stock Phlebotinum.

    Maybe this can be an index but we already have an index for specific kinds of Phlebotinum, right?
  • July 1, 2011
    Stratadrake
    Applied Phlebotinum, the Super Trope, is already an index.
  • July 2, 2011
    DorianMode
    Tractor Beams are a good example, along with Warp Drive, Hyper Space travel, the Self-destruct button, the escape pod, the stasis field, etc.
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