->"A more powerful spell is already active."
--> -- ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft''

When a world's rules state you can't curse someone who's already cursed.

This trope centers on situations where an attempt to cause StandardStatusEffects fails because the intended victim is ''already'' being affected by something. It could be the same effect from a different source or else the fact that they were hit by something separate previously is preventing a new effect from working.

Not to be confused with AcquiredPoisonImmunity, in which a character is resistant to a poison or effect because they'd been affected by it previously ''and recovered''. This trope is when an attempt at poison outright fails because they're ''currently'' affected by something else. Bonus points if the [[CursedWithAwesome current curse is useful in the first place]].

This sometimes overlaps with HybridOverkillAvoidance if the {{curse}} would turn the character into a monster (for example, vampires can't be cursed with lycanthropy and vice versa). In cases where the resistance is caused by being diseased, this overlaps with BeneficialDisease. See also DisabilityImmunity, which this can be a sub- or SisterTrope to.

Not to be confused with only [[PrecisionFStrike allowing one swear word in a work]]. Compare CurseThatCures, when a curse cures a character of an existing illness or injury.


[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* In the ''Manga/{{Berserk}}'' universe, a person who's already been branded for sacrifice by the Godhand on behalf of another cannot be made a sacrifice by anyone else. Since most people who get branded do not survive their initial sacrifice, cases of branded survivors are vanishingly rare so this seldom comes up, but during the third major manga arc (the last one before the Golden Age arc), the Count tries this with Guts only to be told by the Godhand that he can't sacrifice him because of what Guts already went through during the Eclipse, and because Guts is an enemy, not someone the Count loves.
* In the ''Manga/DeathNote'' universe, once your name is written in a Death Note, you can't be affected by any other Death Note. Of course, since you're going to die within the next 23 days ''at most'', it's a rather cold comfort (but see the movie, below).
** Another loophole: if two people attempt to kill you with a Death Note within 0.6 seconds of each other, their effects will cancel out and you will survive.
** Humans with less than 12 minutes of life remaining to them cannot be killed by a Death Note.
** If someone ''attempts'' to kill you with the Death Note, but writes your name incorrectly four times, you can no longer be affected by the Death Note. Trying to exploit this loophole by intentionally misspelling someone's name four times [[ObviousRulePatch will kill you]].
* In ''Anime/DragonPink'' a magic sword obtained after defeating a monster had a death curse on it: Santa immediately falls sick and his lifeforce is slowly being drained away, but Pink (who's already cursed) is not affected.
* In ''Manga/OnePiece'' eating a second [[CursedWithAwesome Devil's Fruit]] is supposedly fatal. [[spoiler: Stealing powers]] however is perfectly okay. Though there seems to be something unique about the character who is able to do that which allows it.

* In ''Fanfic/YuGiOhDarkMessiah'', anybody who uses the [[ArtifactOfDoom Seal of Orichalcos]] will wander the Earth as a ghost unable to pass on after they die unless they have special protection. When it is pointed out Yami Yugi used it before, it is explained that Yami was already under the curse that erased his memories and bound him to the Millennium Puzzle.
* In ''Fanfic/FateParallelFantasia'', Illya is immune to False Avenger's cursed chains because she has already been cursed by the tainted Holy Grail.

* In the movie version of ''Manga/DeathNote'', [[spoiler:Kira couldn't kill L with his Death Note]], because he had already "cursed" himself with another one.

* In ''Princeps' Fury'', book five of ''Literature/CodexAlera'', Amara is able to resist the effects of a Discipline Collar, a SlaveCollar that causes ecstasy in the wearer, by having one put on her by someone else prior to getting captured.
* Inverted in Creator/PatriciaCWrede's short story "Literature/TheSixtyTwoCursesOfCaliphArenschadd". [[spoiler:The cure for the unbreakable curse the family is under turns out to be having a different curse put on them, which displaces the first.]]
* A form of this occurs in the ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'' book ''Discworld/MakingMoney'' when Topsy Lavish has a contract put out on Moist von Lipwig, with the caveat that he is only to be killed if her dog (to which she left the remaining shares in the bank, and then bequeathed her to Moist in her will[[note]]Allowing him to control those shares by proxy[[/note]] along with a stipend) dies of unnatural causes. This actually protects Moist, as the Assassin's Guild won't take two separate contracts on the same person, and none of them will stand for the indignity of accepting a contract on a dog.
* In ''[[Literature/AlcatrazSeries Alcatraz versus the Scrivener's Bones]]'', Attica Smedry foils a DealWithTheDevil by [[spoiler:realizing that the trick is to not own your soul when you sign it away, and bequeathing ownership of his soul to his son Alcatraz first.]]
* A variant shows up in ''[[Literature/DyingEarth Eyes of the Overworld]]''. A ghost threatens to condemn Cugel to unending tedium if he does not perform a certain task. A bandit outside the ghost's tower curses Cugel with an immediate onset of cankerous death when Cugel kills him. Cugel's response is to simply leave, causing the ghost to make good on his threat. The "undending tedium" and "immediate onset of death" perfectly cancel each other out, leaving only the "canker," which Cugel is already suffering from in the form of [[RestrainingBolt a demon attached to his liver]].
* In ''Literature/{{Animorphs}},'' the Animorphs can go back in time to fix the broken timeline, but [[EldritchAbomination Crayak]] has a condition--one of them must die in the process. Not surprisingly, Jake dies partway through their mission. However, [[SufficientlyAdvancedAlien the Ellimist]] turns out to have made a condition too--if Crayak gets one death, it could ''only'' be one death, meaning that the others are invincible for the rest of their mission.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* In ''Series/{{Sinbad}}'', Sinbad is cursed to die if he stays on land for more than 24 hours at a time. In "The Siren", Roisin the Siren enchants him and steals his memories so he will stay with her on her island. This conveniently nullifies the curse so he survives long enough to be rescued. The curse comes back when Roisin is defeated and his memories come back.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* Averted in ''TabletopGame/{{Munchkin}}'', where the rules state that curses (or traps) may be played at any time. A player can get a pile of curses at once, but if it allows you to win....
* ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons''
** In 1st Edition [=AD&D=], insane creatures were immune to psionic attack.
** A rather literal example: In 4th Edition D&D, the Warlock character class has a Warlock's Curse ability. By the rules, "You can’t place a Warlock’s Curse on a creature that is already affected by your or another character’s Warlock’s Curse."
* Curses - and rules for using them - are detailed rather thoroughly in the ''TabletopGame/{{Ravenloft}}'' setting, and this is one of the most important ones. (The Vistani can't, for example, curse one of the Darklords, as even ''being'' a Darklord is one of the worst curses in the setting.)
* The {{Fallen|Angel}}, or rather, their human hosts, in ''TabletopGame/DemonTheFallen'' are immune to any and all forms of MindControl, by the misfortune of already being [[DemonicPossession essentially mind-controlled by a demon from hell]].
* In ''TabletopGame/NewWorldOfDarkness'', no creature in existence may have more than one supernatural template. Vampires cannot Embrace werewolves, mages cannot undergo the First Change, supernatural creatures stolen away to Arcadia cannot become changelings, and using a supernatural being's body to make a Promethean only makes a new Promethean, with all previous powers and abilities lost. The only partial exception is that the ghosts of mages can still use the magic they knew in life... and even ''that'' is altered into a form befitting their new state.
* In the [[{{TabletopGame/Pokemon}} Pokémon TCG]], the status conditions Sleep, Paralysis, and Confusion are mutually exclusive because each one is indicated by rotating the affected Pokémon card at a specific angle. On the other hand, Burn and Poison conditions are indicated by placing specific tokens on the card, and are therefore ''not'' mutually exclusive.
* Contrary to the main series, ''[[TabletopGame/PokemonTabletopAdventures Pokemon Tabletop United]]'' averts this. Pokémon can easily be affected with multiple status ailments at the same time. Houndoom even gets a unique Ability that allows it to automatically poison anyone it inflicts a Burn on.


[[folder:Video Games]]
* In ''VideoGame/DragonQuestVIII'', [[spoiler:The Hero]] is already under the effect of a curse, which is why the spell on the castle didn't effect him. In a case of GameplayAndStoryIntegration, he cannot be placed under the Curse status effect in battle, either.
* In ''Franchise/{{Pokemon}}'', any given Pokémon can only be under one of the major status effects (Sleep, Paralysis, Burn, Freeze, Poison) at a time. They can still be affected by secondary status effects like Confusion or Attraction, but a burnt Pokémon can't be paralyzed, and a poisoned Pokémon can't be frozen. In fact, in competitive echelons, players often ''intentionally'' inflict their own Pokémon with a status that isn't much of a bother, purely to prevent more crippling ones: for instance, a Pokémon with the "Guts" ability may be given a Flame Orb (which burns the holder) to trigger the ability[[note]]Guts increases the Pokémon's attack power and ignores the Burn status's attack drop[[/note]] while also rendering them immune to Paralysis or Sleep.
** In addition, a Generation VII Pokémon named Komala has an ability called "Comatose" which renders it immune to status effects because the game treats it like it has "Sleep" despite acting normally. The big downside to this is that Komala also takes attacks as though it were asleep, meaning moves like Dream Eater and Nightmare will always work on it and Wake-Up Slap will always hit with double the power.
* In the ''Franchise/ShinMegamiTensei'' games you can only get hit with one status ailment at a time. As long as you have one, any other ailment will miss.
** Averted in ''VideoGame/ShinMegamiTenseiIV''. A few of the bosses have attacks that leave the targets hit by multiple status affects.
* In ''Franchise/FinalFantasy'' games, being zombified grants immunity to [[UniversalPoison poison]] and [[TakenForGranite petrification]]. [[ReviveKillsZombie Regeneration deals damage though]].
* One boss in ''VideoGame/BunnyMustDie'' attempts to curse Bunny in his death throes. It doesn't work, because she was cursed in the backstory.
* This [[GoodBadBugs can be exploited]] in ''VideoGame/SeikenDensetsu3'' to heal all status ailments on the party for free. [[spoiler: Using the Chibikko Hammer will make your team miniature, replacing whatever status effect they have, and using it again will invert the miniature status effect turning them to normal]]. It's also [[SlidingScaleOfGameplayAndStoryIntegration integrated in the story]] in that there is an NPC who wears a cursed choker that can... choke her to death, but on the plus side, this makes her immune to MindControl.
* Warlocks in ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'' work this way, in that a Warlock can only apply one curse-type spell, such as Curse of Weakness or Curse of Tongues, on a target at a time, with any new curses overriding the previous. In fact, two strong spells that were once curses had to be made into a new type (Banes) so that Warlocks could use them with their other curses. Though it is played with since a target can have multiple curses at a time so long as each curse was placed by a different Warlock.
** A spell specific to the Affliction specialization, Unstable Affliction, has this relationship with its counterpart in the other two specs, Immolate.
** InUniverse, this is the reason the Hillsbrad refugees accepted the curse of the Worgen -- they would rather die than do so, but to do so would let the Forsaken reanimate their bodies. They accept the Worgen affliction, as it prevents being turned undead.
* [[VideoGame/TwelveTailsOnline 12 Tails Online]] averts this not only by allowing multiple statuses to stack on a single character, but by also allowing (under certain conditions) multiple instances of the ''same'' curse to stack on a single character.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Nethack}}'', the DunceCap is a cursed item that fixes your intelligence (and wisdom) at 6 until you find a way to remove it. However, it prevents your intelligence from being reduced further, thus protecting against the mind flayer's brain-eating attack.
* In ''VideoGame/SuikodenII'', Neclord is not able to curse Riou because of the Bright Shield Rune.
* In ''VideoGame/MarioKartDoubleDash'', only one attack can take effect at a time. A kart spinning from a banana peel might shrug off Lightning strike shrinking and a dozen Red Shell hits. On the other hand, anything (besides Lightning) that's powerful enough will override a lesser effect. You ''can'' get catapulted by an explosion, rolled by a Bowser Shell, or knocked back by a Mushroom-boosting or Starred kart.
** In all ''VideoGame/MarioKart'' games, falling off the track protects the racer from other effects until they hit the ground again. This is most beneficial in ''8'' when lightning strikes. Falls in ''8'' don't cost too much time, but getting shrunk by lightning does. Falling does cost 3 coins, but the lightning would have done that anyway.
* In ''Franchise/TheElderScrolls'' series, [[OurVampiresAreDifferent vampirism]] and [[OurWerewolvesAreDifferent lycanthropy]] are both [[TheVirus diseases]]. Each also makes you [[IdealIllnessImmunity immune to all other diseases]], meaning they are mutually exclusive. This also allows for HybridOverkillAvoidance, barring cheats or {{Game Mod}}s.
* In ''VideoGame/PathOfExile'' you can only apply one type of curse on an enemy at a time, but there is one passive and a few Uniques that let you apply more curses at a time.
* In ''VideoGame/KingdomOfLoathing'', Saucerors can learn 4 different kinds of Curses, but you can only have one of them on a monster per fight.
* Inverted in the ''VideoGame/WarioLand'' games, where CollisionDamage with nearly every enemy causes Wario to gain a particular condition that's necessary to progress (turning into a balloon, a vampire, a spring, flattened, on fire...) but taking damage resets you to your normal form.
* Zig-zagged in ''VideoGame/DarkSouls'' with regards to [[StandardStatusEffects the Poison and Toxic status effects]]: although resistance to both is a single stat, they each have a separate buildup meter, so you can be afflicted by ''[[FromBadToWorse both at once]]''. However, there are different ''forms'' of Poison and Toxic, with varying duration and rates of damage, that can only be applied one at a time, favoring the one you already have. Some players take advantage of this while going through [[VideoGame/DarkSoulsI Blighttown]], intentionally using [[DungFu Dung Pies]] [[ViolationOfCommonSense to inflict Toxic on themselves so they'll be immune to Toxic from Blowdart Snipers]] (which is more than three times as damaging).
* You can only have one status ailment at a time in ''VideoGame/SuperMarioRPG''. Depending on which ailment you have, it will either block or be replaced by the new one.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* In the second season of the [[WebVideo/ImAMarvelAndImADC Randomverse]], Joker's attempt to turn all the heroes into brainwashed DarkerAndEdgier versions of themselves doesn't work on SpiderMan because Mephisto has already altered his mind.
* Subverted in ''WebVideo/DeathNoteTheAbridgedSeriesKpts4tv'' when Light writes [[spoiler: [[AssholeVictim Higuchi]]]]'s name down in the [[ArtifactOfDeath Death Note]]. He's dying horribly and then... "Oh, that's right! I don't have a heart! I'm safe!" and then he's immediately killed by DaChief's [[FingerGun "fingerbanging"]].

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons Treehouse of Terror'': The Devil demands Homer's soul, but he earlier promised his soul to his wife Marge, so the devil can't collect. However, to punish Homer for promising him something he couldn't give in exchange for a donut (that's right: [[IdiotHero Homer]] traded his soul for a ''donut''), the Devil turned Homer's head into a donut.
* ''WesternAnimation/SpongeBobSquarePants'': Wanting his money to talk to him, Mr. Krabs sold his soul to the Flying Dutchman. When the Flying Dutchman tried to collect, he was sent to the end of a line that already had other spirits and [=SpongeBob=], to whom Krabs offered his soul to avoid paying [[TheScrooge five dollars]].
* In ''WesternAnimation/AdventureTime'', Jake the Dog wore the [[ArtifactOfDoom Ice Crown]] without being corrupted. According to WordOfGod, this is because he already has magic powers due to being part shapeshifter.