Created By: immortalfrieza on December 9, 2012 Last Edited By: immortalfrieza on December 17, 2012
Troped

One Super, One Powerset

The tendancy for Superpowered heroes and villain to never improve their power set despite plenty of opportunity to do so in universe.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
A superhero or supervillain has a weakness, has Power Incontinence, is a Badass Normal, but still just a normal person. But wait! Here's this Kryptonite-Proof Suit/Powered Armor/Protective Charm etc. that can fix that!

Not going to happen. Status Quo Is God.

This trope deals with the Fridge Logic that inevitably arises as superpowered beings and thus the various means to create those beings become more and more commonplace in a particular fictional universe, it also means that ways to remove Kryptonite Factors, turn Badass Normals into Badass Abnormals, or just ways to make a hero or villain more effective and unstoppable in general pile up, yet despite this those beings will stay with the same powers and abilities they've had pretty much since their creation.

For instance, if a hero has water based powers and an weakness to electricity, expect them to rarely if ever wear rubber when fighting an opponent that uses it, or if the hero is a Handicapped Badass in a universe where plenty of examples of healing magic that can fix anything, has good or better than the original prosthetics, Powered Armor, etc. that are common or even easily accessible, don't expect them to ever use them.

This trope doesn't necessarily have to involve weaknesses or disabilities either. If a Super is already powerful and could use various means to become even more powerful, and doesn't, that also fits this trope.

Part of the issue seems to be that western comics (DC, Marvel) in particular are especially beholden to Status Quo Is God: the company owns the characters, the characters are part of a larger shared setting, and as writers come and go, characterization can only change gradually. By contrast, in Manga and more independent works, there is typically an overall narrative that a single writer is trying to convey. That's why it's called Shonen Upgrade: it's not that Spider-Man never gets new powers, it's that he has to lose them within the year, or new readers might be confused.

If the power-up involves Power at a Price, the Godzilla Threshold, or any other sort of negative consequences, are rare and difficult to pull off, or unique, it is justified and thus Not This Trope. This trope only applies if there is no logical reason in universe for why either the heroes or the villains to only have the same powers and use the same gimmicks they always have despite not only the ability to make themselves better, but the fact that such abilities are common. This also includes when the Super refuses the improvement when offered.

Compare Holding Back the Phlebotinum, Theme Deck, and Never Be a Hero,

Other causes may be Forgotten Phlebotinum, Forgot About His Powers, or possibly even Depending on the Writer. Related to Kryptonite-Proof Suit. Disposable Superhero Maker and Superman Stays out of Gotham are also related to this trope.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Justified in Busou Renkin. Using a different kakugane from your normal one just produces the same busou renkin with different styling. Likewise homunculi can't gain new powers; all they can do is train to use the ones they already have more effectively. Subverted with Kazuki, whose kakugane is eventually revealed to be a special black kakugane that produces a new busou renkin with different abilities.
  • One Piece has a good example too: similar to the Busou Renkin example above, Devil's Fruit abilities are stated to never get stronger per se, but you can discover new and better ways to use them. It is also a rule that you can only use one, that you'll die if you try to gain a second, but Blackbeard seems to have found a way around that.
  • * Played straight by most of the eponymous warriors in Claymore, who develop their special yoki techniques early in their careers and rely mainly on them for the rest of their lives. Completely averted, however, by the main protagonist Clare, who keeps picking up various techniques as the story progresses and thus gets to play in the highest supernatural league despite having relatively weak yoki potential.

Comic Books
  • Batman is the head of Wayne Enterprises, has fought against and alongside many superpowered beings that possess advanced technology, use magic, and have reliable and effective mutagens. Despite this he has been and most likely always will be only a mere Badass Normal Crazy-Prepared Genius Detective.
  • Superman has a weakness to Kryptonite, Superman also has a Kryptonite-Proof Suit. You'd expect him to wear it pretty much all the time or at least line his costume with lead to reduce the effects. However, he only brings it out when he's fighting a villain that specifically uses Kryptonite as a weapon and expects it in advance.
  • Barbara Gordan becomes crippled by The Joker in The Killing Joke, and remains crippled from then on until the New 52 reboot. This is despite the fact that people with superpowers that can heal any injury, Powered Armor, Magic, and others exist all over the DC Universe that can fix or replace her legs with but a phone call.
  • Similar to the above, Professor Xavier is in much the same boat. However, unlike Barbara he has tried to restore the use of his legs many times, but when he does succeed he becomes crippled again before long every time.
Tabletop RPG
  • At least two superhero games (Champions and Villains And Vigilantes) have specifically advised players not to significantly change their PC hero's powers. Champions has also advised players to not get rid of their PC's weaknesses, because they help to define the character.
Live-Action TV Video Games
  • Averted with Infamous 2. While in the first game Cole is stuck with his lightning powers and nothing else, in Infamous 2 allows Cole as part of the storyline to use a machine to copy either fire or ice powers from 2 other superpowered people, depending on his alignment.
Community Feedback Replies: 24
  • December 9, 2012
    TropeEater
    Probably related to Theme Deck.
  • December 9, 2012
    immortalfrieza
    ^Close but not quite. Theme Deck is when a character already HAS those powers and abilities but doesn't often use them, while this trope is when a character COULD have powers and abilities and has reason to get them, but does not for no in universe reason.
  • December 9, 2012
    doorhandle
    Perhpas a better tilte might be "one super one powerset?"
  • December 9, 2012
    immortalfrieza
    ^ Not bad, I'll switch it to that until a better title is suggested.
  • December 9, 2012
    StarSword
    Other related tropes: Forgotten Phlebotinum, Forgot About His Powers. Sometimes Depending On The Writer.

    Anime and Manga:
    • Justified in Busou Renkin. Using a different kakugane from your normal one just produces the same busou renkin with different styling. Likewise homunculi can't gain new powers; all they can do is train to use the ones they already have more effectively. Subverted with Kazuki, whose kakugane is eventually revealed to be a special black kakugane that produces a new busou renkin with different abilities.
  • December 9, 2012
    immortalfrieza
    ^ Thanks, adding that.
  • December 9, 2012
    StarSword
    You know you can copy-paste bluelinks by clicking the comment's edit button and copying the comment text, right?
  • December 9, 2012
    Earnest
    You'll want to put in Kryptonite Proof Suit, a specific anti-Weaksauce Weakness supers can use.
  • December 9, 2012
    StarSword
    Tweaked formatting and links.
  • December 10, 2012
    immortalfrieza
    No actually, I didn't know that.
  • December 10, 2012
    DorianMode
    Part of the issue seems to be that western comics (DC, Marvel) in particular are especially beholden to Status Quo Is God: the company owns the characters, the characters are part of a larger shared setting, and as writers come and go, characterization can only change gradually. By contrast, in Manga and more independent works, there is typically an overall narrative that a single writer is trying to convey. That's why it's called Shonen Upgrade: it's not that Spider Man never gets new powers, it's that he has to lose them within the year, or new readers might be confused.
  • December 10, 2012
    DorianMode
    Oh, One Piece has a good example too: similar to the Busou Renkin example above, Devil's Fruit abilities are stated to never get stronger per se, but you can discover new and better ways to use them. It is also a rule that you can only use one, that you'll die if you try to gain a second, but Blackbeard seems to have found a way around that.
  • December 10, 2012
    immortalfrieza
    ^ Those are both good, added them in.
  • December 10, 2012
    Earnest
    ^^^ That reminded me of Superman's controversial Re Power as Superman Red/Blue, where he got Energy Being based abilities before returning to his Flying Brick former self as a reset.
  • December 10, 2012
    Koveras
    • Played straight by most of the eponymous warriors in Claymore, who develop their special yoki techniques early in their careers and rely mainly on them for the rest of their lives. Completely averted, however, by the main protagonist Clare, who keeps picking up various techniques as the story progresses and thus gets to play in the highest supernatural league despite having relatively weak yoki potential.
  • December 10, 2012
    immortalfrieza
    I'm thinking this would be more complete if we could find some examples for the other categories, Literature, Video Games, Western Animation, etc.
  • December 10, 2012
    Earnest
    This trope has surprising parallels with Never Be A Hero, which is about how muggles shouldn't try to be (super) heroes.

    I also want to bring up Disposable Superhero Maker and Superman Stays Out Of Gotham as related to this trope. The Disposable Superhero Maker is why you only have one Supersoldier, Captain America (derivative serums notwithstanding). And Superman Stays Out Of Gotham is about how characters and, to a certain extent, tech, stays out of corners of a setting to preserve story atmosphere.
  • December 10, 2012
    immortalfrieza
    ^I'll add those, but the description is already pretty long as it is. It could use some streamlining but I don't really know how to do it.
  • December 11, 2012
    StarSword
    You don't necessarily need to explain how two tropes are related; that's why most tropes have a compare/contrast section. I'm not familiar enough with these to tell you which is which in your particular case, unfortunately.
  • December 11, 2012
    immortalfrieza
    ^ Neither am I, that's the problem. I tend to be a little long when I write, because I have the habit of making my writing more complex than it really needs to be, and then I have a hard time figuring out how to simplify it. I'll remove the descriptions of the other compared and contrasted tropes I put up there though.
  • December 12, 2012
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • At least two superhero games (Champions and Villains And Vigilantes) have specifically advised players not to significantly change their PC hero's powers. Champions has also advised players to not get rid of their PC's weaknesses, because they help to define the character.
  • December 12, 2012
    HawkofBattle
    • One early episode of Angel had the title character aquire a ring that grants vampires immunity to sunlight. He destroys it by the end of the episode, deeming it "too powerful." What a dumbass.
  • December 17, 2012
    immortalfrieza
    Ok, I just thought of another one, and I'm launching this trope.
  • December 17, 2012
    immortalfrieza
    Something's up, every time I try to launch this my internet goes to the "internet explorer can't open the webpage".

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=u1ipermj821tivmuhxe2otap&trope=OneSuperOnePowerset