You've just run out of your source of magic
, whether it's Magic Points
or other Phlebotinum
, and you desperately need to cast a spell to save the day. What do you do? Spend your own Life Energy
on the spell in place of whatever would normally power it. The spell is then Cast From Hit Points
The cost of the life energy thus expended will vary. In extreme cases, a spell cast from HP may cost the caster their life, resulting in a Heroic Sacrifice
; this is often done for the purpose of Taking You with Me
. When done by multiple casters at once, this qualifies as a Combined Energy Attack
. Lesser versions may result in a decreased lifespan
, which is typically given in round numbers such as years. Whether this is cut from physical longevity or some kind of cosmic clock depends on the series. At its mildest, casting from HP leads to immediate physical effects such as fatigue or a Psychic Nosebleed
. Casting from hit points in a way that causes irreversible/cumulative damage to the caster is Power Degeneration
, while fueling a Super Mode
from hit points is a Heroic RROD
The effects of this on the magic itself vary as well. A spell cast from HP may work normally, but more often than not the plot demands
that the use of life itself must amplify the effect dramatically. If done well, this may represent the caster's Crowning Moment of Awesome
Some fantasy settings have this as their standard system of magic. In those cases, the process will typically exact a price significantly less than the life of the caster. Particularly common in settings featuring magic which has limits and obeys scientific
) principles to some degree. A common form of the Dangerous Forbidden Technique
if the costs
are exceptionally steep.
Not every spell used for Taking You with Me
involves casting from HP. A parting shot may hurt the caster, but unless it is the act of casting that does this, it doesn't qualify as casting from HP. Usually you can be healed after casting from HP — when there is no way to recover at all from the loss, it's Cast from Lifespan
instead. When the sacrifice is of mental rather than physical health, see With Great Power Comes Great Insanity
. A revival spell that harms the caster likely falls into Sacrificial Revival Spell
Compare Living Battery
. Polar opposite of Mana Shield
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Anime and Manga
- The Caster's three most powerful shells in Outlaw Star, #4, #9 and #13, work at the cost of the user's life force. Firing two will leave the user winded, and a third will bring them near death. "Just like, you know..." Gene fires four in a short period of time.
- In Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, the line between ordinary attacks, Cast from Hit Points, and Cast from Lifespan is blurry; characters use their ki to fire attacks, which is roughly analogous to their fighting power. Energy attacks can cause a huge exertion on the user's body, leaving them out of breath or weakened.
- Tenshinhan's Tri Beam (and Neo Tri Beam) draws on his life force to attack with, something that inherently adds to an attack's potency, as shown by its effect on Cell. In a straight fight, Tenshinhan's power is nothing compared to Cell's, but by using his Tri Beam, Tenshinhan is able to hold off Cell long enough for 18 to escape, but then collapses from the exertion. When the user is in good health the risks associated with it are minimal, but when Tenshinhan uses it on Nappa in a rage shortly after having his arm cut off, the strain is too great and he dies.
- The Mafuba/Evil Containment Wave was initially stated to be so taxing as to kill the user without fail, and indeed both Mutaito and Roshi die after they use it. If it actually always kills the user is somewhat unclear: in the anime Tien uses it against Drum (having aimed for Piccolo) and survivesnote . Both the anime and manga have Kami using the wave on Piccolo Jr., which he survives even though Piccolo reversed it on him; he even stated beforehand that it provided a way to stop Piccolo without killing him, which would also kill himself. Both of these suggest that a significantly strong body could survive without long-term consequence, there just wasn't anyone known to be strong enough before then.
- Goku's Kamehameha also seems to draw on his energy reserves a lot, as shown in his fight with Perfect Cell; after blowing Cell to pieces with the attack, Goku's power level dropped dramatically.
- Goku's transformation into a Super Saiyan 3 also serves to do this; the physical strain on his body of maintaining the state and using energy attacks whilst in it is enough to drain him of all his energy in a very short time.
- In the games, though, energy attacks are derived from an external Ki meter separate to health, with few exceptions.
- In the Budokai games, the Tri Beams are one of those exceptions. The Neo Tri Beam in 3 has two different versions: if done correctly, it drains very little from Tien, but if done incorrectly, he replays the end of the Cell battle and collapses, most of his health gone.
- Dragon Ball Z: Hyper Dimension differs from other DBZ fighting games in that instead of having a Ki meter, special attacks drain the player's health. Conversely, charging up can heal you.
- Somewhat related: in the manga version of Prétear, the Leafe Knights' Elemental Powers are connected to their own Leafe (Life Energy); overusing these powers drains their Leafe, regardless whether the attacks are performed by the Knights themselves or by Himeno when she merges with them. In the backstory, three of them died from overusing their powers in order to seal Takako, and were reborn; Shin, the youngest of them, dies for the second time after Himeno merges with him.
- In the anime, to seal the Tree of Despair, Himeno overloads it with her own Leafe and dies in the process. Only Hayate's True Love's Kiss can bring her back.
- In the game of Monster World (a made up tabletop RPG) in Yu-Gi-Oh!, Bakura (a white magician) converted his hit points to magic points to keep up a magic barrier when Zorc was blasting them.
- This is also the main rule in the Ancient Egyptian precursor to the Magic & Wizards/Duel Monsters game; Monster Spirits are summoned by sacrificing Ba (life force) instead of the modern life points system. Damage is also taken by decreasing the life force of the duelist, implying that a defeated duelist dies. See the "Card Games" section below for use of this tactic during the card game duels.
- Dark Bakura's second tabletop RPG (Memory World, the Shadow RPG), which is based on the Ancient Egyptian Kingdom that played the above game (as well as the events), employs this for all the character cards. When a character uses his/her Ba to empower/summon a Monster Spirit or gets damaged, it decreases their Hit Points.
- Yusuke Urameshi of YuYu Hakusho funnels his life energy into a last-ditch assault on at least one occasion. The strain leaves him unconscious and on the verge of (another) death.
- Kuwabara does the same.
- Kurama attempts a Heroic Sacrifice during the dark tournament using this trope. When he (just barely) survives, he discovers the magic fruit he's been using to temporarily become Yoko Kurama has been wearing off faster because Yoko Kurama's power is bleeding into his own.
- While first using it caused severe burns on the arm he cast the attack with, Hiei's merging with the Dragon of the Darkness Flame causes him to pass out for several days.
- This is how the original Shuffle Alliance defeat Devil Gundam Form II in G Gundam, at the cost of their own lives. The main characters later learn the same technique, but manage to pull it off without dying, possibly by virtue of being much younger and healthier than their aging predecessors.
- Natsume Yuujinchou — Whenever Natsume frees a Youkai from his late grandmother's (and his own) servitude, it has a physically draining effect.
- Sakura in Cardcaptor Sakura is physically drained by the effort of converting a Clow Card into a Sakura Card. When she learns that the cards will die unless they are converted, she attempts to convert six of them all at one time, half-killing herself in the process.
- Some spells in Slayers can be so powerful that they draw upon the user's life force when cast — the best example is the Incomplete Giga Slave, which temporarily bleaches Lina Inverse's hair white after she casts it. The novels explicitly state that one of the defining attributes of a spellcaster is a high amount of stamina, as casting spells physically drains a person. When the setting was adapted as a Role-Playing Game, firstly under the Big Eyes, Small Mouth umbrella and then under the D20 umbrella, casting spells would cost health.
- In the RPG, it normally costs nonlethal hit points (fatigue), but taking lethal drain is also an option.
- In Fushigi Yuugi, Mitsukake can only use his Healing Hands once a day because of this. When he overdoes it towards the end, he dies.
- Shakugan no Shana has this in Yuji. As a Torch, he's technically already dead, and, under ordinary circumstances, would inevitably be doomed to burn out and fade from existence. However, he's also a Mystes, and happens to have the artifact Reiji Maigo sealed within him, which replenishes his power of existence every midnight. As such, as long as he doesn't use up all of his existence in a day, he can lend his power to Shana, and, later, cast his own unrestricted spells, using his very existence.
- In Sailor Moon, Usagi's Silver Crystal worked this way for dramatic tension; it's explicitly commented on in two movies, specifically her (temporary) death after using it while already exhausted in the first movie. It is also heavily implied in the backstory Queen Serenity died from strain of using it. In the anime, Usagi's ability to have the senshi safely boost her power may explain why its use decreases later in the series.
- While the manga version seems more powerful and less dangerous to use, late in the manga, Sailor Moon's (temporarily) entire body disintegrated completely from its use.
- Played with in Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, where the audience assumes this rule for why Usagi shouldn't use her crystal. We later find out the object is dangerously neutral in regards to reacting to Usagi's emotions, and Beryl rightfully points out Sailor Moon could end up killing everyone else.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha gives one of these to Nanoha in the third season. It's called the Blaster System and it boosts Nanoha's power and gives her a set of Attack Drones that can cast her spells independently of her, for a potential boost of better than 4x her already monstrous power level. The cost of this is placing an immense strain on Nanoha's body and dealing physical damage to herself and to Raising Heart; when she used Blaster 3 in the climax of the third season, she lost 8% of her total magical power and had to spend the next few years on enforced vacation to recover it.
- In Mahoromatic, Mahoro's most powerful weapon (usually manifesting as a plasma-like flame on her fist) is directly powered by her life force. Since her energy is running low to begin with, using it shortens her remaining lifespan dramatically. Mercilessly made explicit by the "Days until Mahoro stops functioning" counter that is shown after every episode. There will always be a significant drop in numbers whenever she uses it.
- Infinite Stratos does a technological example of this. IS battles end when one side's energy shields are depleted in order to avoid injury to the pilot — in fact, the unshielded IS instantly shuts down to prevent further fighting. The protagonist's most effective (and for a long while, only) attack is Reiryaku Byakuya, which saps his own shields to pierce through the enemy's and score an instant kill. The first time he used it, he had no idea how it worked and therefore lost the match because his shield zeroed out less than a second before the attack connected. After learning about it, he's understandably reluctant to use it against a manned IS ever again.
- In fact, it was his sister who invented the attack and used it to win the IS world tournament.
- In Mawaru-Penguindrum, Momoka Oginome claims to be able to do this. She says that she can change the fate of living beings via her Destiny Diary, but adds that she'll have to pay a price: suffering bodily harm in exchange for what she wants to do/fix/etc.. To save a bunny from dying, she cast a "fate changing spell" in the Diary and got a cut on her hand in exchange; later, to rescue her friend Yuri from her abusive father, she cast another one and got severe burns that landed her in the hospital. In fact, when Yuri tried to touch the Destiny Diary, Momoka stopped her from doing so to avoid a possible backlash from hitting her.
- Toriko's Autophagy. If he runs out of energy and needs more, his Gourmet Cells "eat" his own body to gain more power. If the Autophagy goes unchecked, Toriko's body will eat itself to death.
- In Pokémon Special, though it's never explicitly stated, it's safe to assume Yellow's powers fall on the mild side of this trope as overusing her powers runs the risk of exhausting her and putting her into a deep sleep.
- In Naruto, jutsus require chakra and stamina to be used. In most cases, ninja get to the point where they're unable to use jutsu when they're low on chakra, but if they run out, they die.
- Rock Lee's Eight Gates are a more straight example of this. The more he opens, the more powerful he becomes, but the greater strain it puts on his body. It's stated that if anyone opens all eight gates (known as Hachimon Tonkō no Jin, or Eight Gates Released Formation (Eight Inner Gates Formation in the dub)) he or she will die, which is why the eighth and final gate is called Shimon - the Gate of Death. In Lee's case, his muscles actually ripped when he opened the fourth gate, appropriately named Shōmon - the Gate of Pain.
- In Magi – Labyrinth of Magic, using too much of your magoi is dangerous because of this. Magi, who can use the magoi and rukh outside of their bodies, aren't too bothered by this.
- While it's not strictly magic, One Piece has the Impact Dial, which can absorb and fire any physical force. However, the recoil is exactly the same force as the actual impact, meaning that whoever uses it takes as much damage as they deal with it. The improved version, the Reject Dial, actually increases the power of the impact, but it's said that using it twice will cause the user to die. After being told this, Wiper then proceeded to use it three times and survived.
- Luffy's Gear Second leaves him thoroughly exhausted after use, as it speeds up his blood flow to increase his power, which also speeds up how fast his body absorbs and processes nutrients. Lucci even pointed out that there was a danger of dramatically reducing his lifespan by using it. The Time Skip mainly fixes this problem.
- Trafalgar Law is unusual, if not unique, in the One Piece world in that his Devil Fruit power, the Op-Op Fruit, actually drains his stamina where nearly every other Devil Fruit user is able to spam their powers with impunity.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!: Capsule Monsters, the first times he uses the Duel Armor, Yami collapses, or is at least left drained.
- Magic: The Gathering has plenty of cards and effects that have a cost in health.
- Necropotence is the card that truly emphasizes the usefulness of this trope; when it was released, its use dominated tournament play. Remember, tropers: the only truly important hit point you have is the last one.
- Similarly, Channel is a direct-example of this trope, allowing you to trade life for mana. It was a vital part of the Channel/Fireball combo, one of the first known First Turn victory hands.
- The New Phyrexia set introduces "Phyrexian mana" (the symbol for which looks a bit like phi ɸ), which can be paid with either one mana of the appropriate colour or 2 life.
- For an example not derived from the player's life, Devoted Druid weakens itself to provide more Mana for you to cast with. Without outside help, this Only Works Once before it would die from lack of toughness.
- For the most part, whenever a card effect in the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game requires a cost to activate, it's generally one of two things: a discard from your hand or deck or a payment of life points. Considering that the loss of either resource in their entirety means game over for you, this is very much a Cast from Hit Points scenario.
- The third is typically the sacrifice of a monster, which also fits, even if it's not your hit points you're using.
- The Lightsworn-archetype Deck uses the first type, as several of the monsters and spell/trap cards discard two to three cards from the top of your deck after activation or at the end of every turn. The recently added Psychic-type monsters normally drain Life Points to use their effects, but there are also a few that give some back.
- In the under-advertised game Magi-Nation, ALL spells and abilities were cast from hitpoints. There was no MP or Mana to speak of, so monsters and your own character would use the same life force to cast magic with that they'd use to absorb damage from the enemy. Additionally, summoning your Mons cost the protagonist life energy equal to the beastie's hitpoints - in the video game its remaining HP would be refunded to the hero at the end of the battle. All this combined made for an interesting level of strategy wherein you would have to decide whether the loss of life was worth being able to kill the enemy that much faster (and also made heal spells rather dubious in their usefulness - the amount healed is almost always lower than what it costs to cast in the first place).
- Shadow Era also has several cards that can damage the user. Some items (such as Rusty Sword) damage the user when destroyed, while others can constantly drain from your health for some benefit (like Enraged which allows the player to draw an extra card at the cost of one health a turn).
- In Lycee TCG, since the orthodox way to lose the game is having no cards in your deck when you're supposed to draw one, your deck effectively acts as your HP. The more powerful Standard Abilities usually requires you to discard cards directly from your deck.
- The True Patronus charm in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.
Part of Harry's life flowed back into him.
Part had been lost as radiation.
...the magic flowed obediently out of him and helped Bellatrix to her feet. (For it wasn't his magic he had expended, it had never been his magic that fueled the Patronus Charm.)
- Innocence illustrates the deadly consequences of putting all of your life into the charm.
- Both Godzilla and Spacegodzilla in The Bridge seem to be able to unleash most of their special attacks from an energy pool. Once that is expended however, they can resort to this trope to keep fighting; abet at a cost. After dueling for hours they expended so much power that their last strike nearly killed both of them
- In Fallout: Equestria - Project Horizons, Trottenheimer's Folly is a massive single shot pistol that fires special bullets of unknown origin that can tear through everything: armored battleships, unbreakable magic shields, etc. However, firing it causes the shooter to be flooded with a massive burst of radiation. Firing it twice within the span of a week was deadly enough to kill Blackjack.
- In The Covenant, the teenage characters find they can cast powerful magic, including flight (including the car they're in) and indestructibility, but each time they cast a spell, they age themselves. That last clause doesn't really take into effect until they turn 18 though. Technically, they can use all the magic they want to before then with no ill effects, but magic is addicting, and such behavior gives way to very bad habits. Meaning, if one abuses magic before they turn 18 and get full power, then they will most likely age themselves horribly very fast.
- In Eragon, it is implied that magic exists but it is very rarely used because it harms the caster. Indeed, the main character almost dies trying to use magic.
- The Young Wizards series has this as a common technique. Everything has to draw energy from somewhere, even magic, and the wizard's own energy sometimes represents the most convenient source. With everyday magic, this simply leads to fatigue if overused, the magic equivalent of exercising strenuously. Magic that can save the day, however, is often Cast from Lifespan instead. This arises several times in the series, including as the primary plot of the second book, Deep Wizardry. One shield spell in High Wizardry costs a year of the casters life for each blast it absorbs (granted, these are attacks from a distracted Lone Power), and the characters discuss it during the fight: "What if you're scheduled to get hit by a car or something in less than a year?" "I'd better look both ways then."
- This isn't nearly as bad as it sounds, as dead wizards in all cases go to heaven, and living ones can visit whenever they like. Still, wizards live short lives; the girl casting that spell was fifteen, and has already survived a number of normally fatal situations, up to and including offering herself as a human sacrifice by accident - and then deciding it was worth it.
- In the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, the use of healing magic in great quantities is fatal for at least one supporting medic character.
- In the Inheritance Cycle, magic is cast by expending the caster's physical energy. It takes as much energy to do something magically as it would to do something physically. In addition, once an incantation has been uttered, the caster must commit to the spell, even if it kills them. Knowing your limits is very important for a spellcaster in this universe.
- Of course, dragon riders have an advantage: a rider can borrow his dragon's hit points to cast spells. Dragons, needless to say, have lots. As of book 2, Eragon learns to cast spells by drawing energy from his environment, which kills the surrounding wildlife, but doesn't cause him any serious harm (it affects him emotionally, though). He also learns to invest his energy into gemstones, after which he can use it to power spells without exhausting himself. In book 3, yet another power source is introduced: magical stones that come from dragons and also serve as their Soul Jars. In Inheritance, it is mentioned that one rider essentially turned herself into a matter/energy explosion during the Fall, rendering Vroengard a radioactive wasteland and killing at least one of the Forsworn in an extreme example.
- Mages in Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar series can do this; the eventual result is known as "drain shock", which is usually fatal. Alternatively, a mage can simply burn themselves out like a candle to perform a "final strike", the idea being that if you have to die, by god you're going to take someone out with you.
- Perhaps unsurprisingly, more than one protagonist mage uses the Final Strike to achieve a Dying Moment of Awesome.
- If the Shin'a'in get absolutely desperate, one of their Shamans or Swordsworn may be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to invoke divine intervention.
- It's implied that the same rules also apply for those with particularly powerful versions of the Gifts that also operate in the series. The power Lavan Firestorm unleashed is uncannily similar to a mage's Final Strike and the results equally cataclysmic.
- The magic in Katherine Kurtz's Deryni series works this way; using Deryni powers requires concentration and is physically fatiguing. The more powerful the working, the more exhausting it is, and repeated and/or extensive use of the powers in a short timeframe can cause a Deryni to black out.
- In Pocket in the Sea, there is a rare non-magical example when Clase (Mother) uses her body as a buffer against the electronic feedback from a submarine mecha's poor-quality piloting interface. It almost kills her and is written in such a way to suggest doing so also shears years off of her life. In the same book, it's also hinted to the reader that using psionic abilities also works like this.
- In the Sword of Truth series, a wizard can cast Wizard's Life Fire, a powerful explosion that kills the wizard but usually reduces whoever is nearby to ashy stains on the walls. The taste of said ashes yields a clue as to why the dying wizard chose to cast Wizard's Life Fire: if the ashes are bitter, the wizard cast the spell to save himself from torture; if they are sweet, the wizard gave his life to save another.
- In The Dresden Files, a wizard's "Death Curse" instantly kills the caster in order to inflict some horrible punishment on its recipient. Regular magic can hurt a wizard as well; when Harry conjures a rage-fueled firestorm in one book, he has a heart attack after sustaining it for too long.
- There's also the use of Soulfire, which allows a caster to infuse some of their own soul into their spells to boost the power and effect of the spell. Unlike Hellfire, however, Soulfire isn't destructive, but rather constructive. Harry ends up using Soulfire to generate a powerful hand-like construct of force to beat the hell out of a Denarian spellcaster. The drawback behind using Soulfire, of course, is that it uses your soul as the fuel to empower your spells. Partially drained souls in The Dresden Files universe do regenerate, and pretty quickly if you do soul-affirming things — but as Bob explains it very succinctly, if you subtract five from five...
- Also, for ghosts, just about any form of attack besides Good Old Fisticuffs is one of these. This becomes a major plot point in Ghost Story when an important character becomes one.
- In The Wheel of Time, channeling results in physical and mental fatigue, depending on the amount and duration of the channeling. In extreme examples, channelling have "pushed" themselves past usual levels, but it puts them at the risk of losing the ability to channel, or, in extreme cases, death.
- Some of the Fighting Fantasy books, especially the aptly named Sorcery! four-parter, have EVERY spell being cast at a cost of health.
- In books by Tamora Pierce, desperate bad-guy mages often kill themselves by using their own life energy for magic once they've run out of any other kind of magic. Usually, this is accompanied by one of the major characters shouting at them to stop or else they'll kill themselves, a warning they never heed.
- Although it's definitely not limited to the bad guys, as Ochobou burned out her magic and herself taking down five mages of her level in Trickster. And in the Circle of Magic book The Will of the Empress, when the Discipline four (who at this point in the books are basically the strongest mages in the world when they stand together) use their magic to break the border of Namorn, they are left extremely hungry and tired for days. Briar says that if they hadn't drawn power from all across the empire, they would be dead.
- The Name of the Wind uses a system similar to this — Sympathy is essentially a magical form of energy transfer. If you are good at it, and don't care about your own health, you can transfer the heat of your blood into something to set it on fire. This is not good for you.
- One upside is that instead of running out of mana, sympathists run out of fire.
- All spells in Wind Of The Forelands cost life energy, apparently of the nonreplaceable type. This, incidentally, is why the resident Witch Species is so frail.
- Mages from The Magister Trilogy are the same way, though the titular Magisters are those who have learned how to cast from other people's HP.
- Charles Stross's Laundry series features magic as multiverse trickery invoked by high-level mathematics, with a nicely handwaved reference to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and good ol' Schrodinger's Cat to explain why the more powerful spells require human sacrifice. While the reasoning breaks down a bit for smaller spells that just require some blood, it does provide an alternative motivation for the Holocaust: the Nazis were attempting to destroy enough souls to create a portal to a parallel universe and summon a weakly godlike entity.
- Beyond this, you can "run" a spell in your head as long as you don't mind some minor Eldritch Abomination taking a small bite out of your brain. Doing this too often, even accidentally, results in Kranzberg's syndrome and a permanent trip to St. Hilda's.
- How the Returned work in Warbreaker. Most people in that world have an energy called Breath that can be used to fuel magic, but if it's completely drained they just lose magical ability (and a certain degree of keenness of the senses) until they can acquire more from someone else. The Returned, however, are kept alive by one immensely powerful Breath — this allows them to perform miracles beyond the capacity of ordinary magic, for the cost of their life. The sword Nightblood, resident Artifact of Doom, also functions like this, drawing on the Breaths of its wielder to fuel its powers. If the wielder runs out of Breaths while still using the sword, the results... aren't pretty.
- Sorta in Discworld. For a Wizard to do something, it takes as much energy to do something magically as it does physically, unless you can harness an outside force. Having no outside force makes the Wizard rely on the leverage of his mind, meaning if they try to do something too difficult, their brain flicks out their ears. Example: Galder Weatherwax makes a protrusion of stone on the University fall, allowing him to zoom upwards.
- Psionics in The Second Gate normally channel energy they've "metabolized" and stored, but in a pinch, they can draw power directly from their biological functions. The mind instinctively tries to cut off psionic connections to prevent permanent damage at the same time, which can result in anything from mild burnout to a coma — which is usually too late to save the user anyway.
- While after the first book of the Dragonlance series, magic functions by drawing power from the Moon Gods, before they are unsealed all magic is used with the caster's own energy, as shown whenever Raistlin uses too many consecutive spells and is left exhausted.
- All spells in The Black Magician Trilogy reduce the caster's Life Energy unless said caster is a Black Magician, who may use others' Hit Points instead.
- Magic-users in The Soprano Sorceress and its sequels use their own body's reserves to cast; they have to eat like bargees just to keep their weight up.
- In Everworld, magic-users are shown to weaken if they use too much power, leading Jalil to wonder if magic burns calories. Merlin, for example, is so tired after his battle with Loki that it's months before he is able to fully recover.
- In the Bartimaeus Trilogy, the most vital part to a Golem's functioning is a magical scroll inserted into the construct's mouth. The writing of said scroll drains the vitality out of the writer to be transferred into the golem, and writing more than one manuscript (at least in a short time) is likely to kill you. (Though since golems completely neutralize all demon magic in their vicinity and all of magicians' power is based on demon magic, one is often enough.)
- In Doctrine of Labyrinths, mending the Virtu leaves Felix unconscious for two days, and he slits one of his wrists in order to lay the ghost of Magnus Cordelius.
- The Forgotten Realms novels see this a couple of times with mythals (see the setting's entry under Tabletop Games).
- In Elminster in Myth Drannor, Cormanthor's greatest elven high mage sacrifices his life to create the city's mythal, his life's work.
- At the end of Return Of The Archwizards: The Sorcerer, set several hundred years later, another high mage sings himself into the mythal over Evereska to help repair it after the damage done to it by the phaerimm siege.
- In Steven King's Firestarter, Charlie's father gets progressively worse physical damage from using his mental powers, from headaches to a ruptured vessel in one eye to a full-on stroke.
- Feruchemy from Mistborn: The Original Trilogy falls somewhat under this trope. A Feruchemist can draw off any of a variety of attributes from himself, then store them in pieces of metal to be withdrawn later. For example, if you become half as strong as you normally would be for an hour, you can then later become one and an half times as strong as you should be for an hour.
Live Action TV
- An unusual example in Smallville: It is possible to grant temporary kryptonian powers to humans, but it has negative effects like putting Jeremiah in a permanent coma and giving Jonathan lethal heart problems.
- The main character in Carnivŕle has to draw life-force from his surroundings to use his healing abilities. It is implied that he may have inadvertently caused the Dust Bowl in this way.
- Doctor Who:
- In Mawdryn Undead, the titular character and his seven companions were caught by the Time Lords while attempting to discover the secrets to their regeneration ability, and are punished by being granted a never-ending cycle of imperfect regenerations. Mawdryn tells the Doctor that the only way for them to die and end their torment would be for him to give each of them a surge of temporal energy taken from his remaining regenerations this being his fifth incarnation, he'd have none left for himself. Fortunately, the temporal discharge resulting from the Brigadier coming in contact with himself from a different era is enough to avert this.
- The Face of Boe makes a Heroic Sacrifice in "Gridlock," giving up the last of his life energy to help save the thousands of people trapped in New New York's underground traffic system.
- The Master, after Lucy disrupts his revival during "The End Of Time." He wins the Superpower Lottery as a result, but all his new abilities are fueled by his own life-force.
- In "Rise of the Cybermen," the Doctor uses ten years of his life to recharge a power source in the TARDIS. Subverted in that ten years to a Time Lord is a scant few moments, and the Doctor's regenerations never last for a full natural lifespan anyway.
- Witches' spells appear to take a severe toll on the body in The Vampire Diaries, to the point where it sometimes seems that Bonnie can't do anything useful (except mind-whammy Damon) without knocking herself out.
- In an episode of Gilligan's Island, the crew found a crate of vegetable seeds. They were so excited at the thought of having fresh vegetables that they didn't question the fact that they grew incredibly quickly, and it wasn't until they had actually eaten them that they discovered via a news report that the seeds were radioactive, and that what they had eaten would likely kill them. As the Professor tried to find a cure, some of them started to gain super powers due to the fact that the nutrients in the vegetables had been enhanced greatly. Gilligan, who had eaten the spinach, gained Super Strength from the iron in it. Mary Ann gained telescopic vision from the vitamin A in the carrots, and Mrs. Howell gained Super Speed from the enhanced sugar rush from sugar beets. The Professor commented that the vegetables "could make them the healthiest people in the world", to which the Skipper replied, "Yeah, if they don't kill us first!" Eventually, the Professor found out that they could neutralize the radiation with the stuff they had been using for soap on the island, and they survived, but unfortunately, they lost the powers.
- Magic in Buffythe Vampire Slayer sometimes works this way, Depending on the Writer. Notable examples would be Willow teleporting Glory away in Blood Ties (which leaves her bleeding, with headaches for weeks afterwards) and the portal-opening spell in Get It Done (which she casts from the hit points of Kennedy and Anya, the two strongest beings in the room).
- A variation in Reaper. Sock meets an attractive demoness and makes out with her. Afterwards, his strength, endurance, and speed are temporarily boosted to superhuman levels. It also feels like a great rush. When he confronts her, she admits that she's a succubus. Kissing a human drains a year of his life in exchange for a temporary boost in physical abilities. Sock, not being the smartest tool in the shed, figures he'll just live less as an old man instead of aging faster, and offers to meet once a year to make out. He then screws it up by suggesting that she make out with a friend of his to give him a rush. Angry at assuming she'll make out with anyone, she leaves.
- All spells and summonings have a Drain Value, damage that the mage has to resist after casting. If the Force of the spell or summoned spirit is greater than the mage's Magic attribute, unresisted drain is physical damage; otherwise it's stun damage. Blood Magic has techniques that mitigate drain by inflicting it on a prepared victim. The outward signs of unresisted drain can include fatigue, sudden nosebleeds, unconsciousness, or a spectacular death.
- Mages in Mage: The Awakening can burn some of their health for a quick boost in Mana. It also works the other way around, though this is easily the least efficient means of magical healing in the whole game.
- In the previous game, Mage: The Ascension, a substance called Quintessence makes casting spells easier. A mage that runs out of Quintessence can rip some from their own body, damaging it in the process.
- Demons in Demon The Fallen can enhance their powers by drawing energy from hitpoints... except that said hitpoints belong to their followers, not them.
- In Warhammer Fantasy, Ogre Butchers can cast a variety of Gut Magic. Along with the normal requirements of spells, they sometimes require the Butcher to inflict bodily harm on themselves. In particular, the Trollguts spell, which is the best out of the 6 available to the Ogres, but permanently takes off one health from the caster that cannot be regenerated in any way (whereas the other ones are usually avoidable unless you displease the Random Number God, and can be regenerated with another spell).
- Dungeons & Dragons, as usual.
- The psionics in AD&D used a spell-point system even when the actual spellcasters use Vancian Magic. Since an ability like Cast from Hit Points fits in so much better with a spell-point system, the 2nd edition had "Cannibalize", a power that allowed mid-level psionicists to get extra power points from damaging Constitution. The 'Death Field' power causes to everyone in the area of effect damage proportional to the sacrificed Hit Points 1:2 (or 1:1 for users of evil alignments).
- The imaginatively-named Level 1 Necromancy spell, Blade of Blood, allows the caster to take 5 damage to make their attack deal extra 3d6 damage from exploding blood. It usually spells One-Hit Kill for creatures of comparable level.
- 3E supplement Epic Level Handbook has several extremely powerful spells, such as Hellball and Let Go of Me, work this way. The greatest example of this, however, is Vengeful Gaze of God, which deals 305d6 damage to an opponent while dealing 200d6 damage to the caster, who suffers from bleeding eyes and convulsing skin and, most of the time, dies. This spell will almost always kill anyone and anything it is used against, excluding the most powerful of monsters, who simply might be killed by it.
- 3E Fiendish Codex II offers the Hellfire Warlock, which upgrades the warlock's standard attack from "kinda okay" to "nuclear inferno" at the cost of 1 Constitution drain per shot. Since Constitution affects both current and maximum HP, it's generally a good idea to have someone on standby with a restoration spell or a cheap wand of lesser restoration with the spell provided by a Paladin (it is even suggested in the fluff).
- To make it even better a Hellfire Warlock with one level of Binder can gain an ability that automatically heals 1 point of ability damage a turn. Then there's classes like Legacy Champion which increase your effective level in another class, even beyond the Cap. Combine the two and you get a supercharged Hellfire Blast usable at will.
- The Blood Magus class from 3E's Tome & Blood can sacrifice a little blood (hit points) to cast spells with slightly harder saving throws or replace material components.
- 3.5 Complete Arcane replaced its hit points damage with Constitution.
- And the 4e Blood Mage paragon path allows you to take damage to deal as much extra with encounter and daily spells. This was so abusable it needed to be nerfed with errata. Twice.
- Forgotten Realms:
- The AD&D era had some of more the formidable spells involving sacrifice of the caster's hit points — either normal damage, permanent, or the loss incurable as long as the spell is active. This includes several spells from Secrets of the Magister. Which may be a legacy of old Elven Blood Magic, which includes 'Blood Dragon' — near-unstoppable mass killing spell requiring the caster's death. Also, the Drow sometimes have "body weapon" enchantments as a last-ditch defence, which usually involves loss of a body part or other physical injury. E.g. Jalynfein, by breaking a finger and saying a word, could fire a burst of 24 magic missiles (cast normally, would be limited to 5). The Phaerimm dehydration spell 'lifedrain' (the one which made Anauroch a desert) also involves permanent sacrifice of a hit point, but holds for years — and dies with the caster.
- The 3.5E sourcebook Lost Empires of Faerűn includes rules for creating mythals, persistent magical fields first developed by ancient elven high mages that block or buff specific spells and spell categories. Among the rules is the option to reduce the DC of the mythal creation by having the caster sacrifice his or her life to its completion. This is mentioned to often be welcomed by the elven high mages as the pinnacle of a many-centuries-long, very productive life.
- The Spelljammer spell "Create Atmosphere" involves permanent hit point sacrifice from the caster. It makes a cubic mile/level of the air self-renewing for more than a year, after all.
- The 4th Edition Bloodclaw Weapon would let you pay a small amount of HP with every attack, which then would be doubled or tripled if the attack hit. This ended up being so much more powerful than other weapon enchantments (especially for Fighters and Barbarians, which get more HP than other classes) that it was nerfed to a once-per-battle use and it STILL managed to be usable.
- The Blackguard subclass of the Paladin from Heroes of Shadow uses a variant of this mechanic as well, which is powerful enough to be their entire Striker damage bonus.
- The 3E sourcebook Book of Exalted Deeds includes a category of spells called "sanctified magic" that can be cast by either divine or arcane spellcasters and require varying degrees of self-sacrifice to cast. This can be as simple as an "abstinence component"note , but it may also mean anything from ability drain on up to, in the case of Exalted Fury, death (you can be resurrected by the usual means, though).
- Dragon magazine #229 article "Wu-jen: The Oriental Mage Revisited". This Asian-themed mage can cast any spell they know at any time, without the spell memorization standard wizards require. However, there is a cost: casting a spell costs the wu-jen 3 Hit Points of damage per level of the spell. Considering how few Hit Points wizards have, this is a serious penalty, restricting them even more than normal wizards unless they have a significant source of healing available. Even worse, they only get half the normal benefit from magical healing.
- The previous edition (using the Revised Core Rulebook) of the Star Wars RPG rules generally had Force powers cost vitality (the system's version of Hit Points) to activate. If you didn't have enough vitality, you could even use wound points (representing real and dangerous — even potentially fatal — damage) to make up the difference. The only thing stopping characters from 'casting to death' is the fact that no Force power had a vitality cost so high that the damage could push a character far enough into the negatives to result in death.
- In the cooperative play game Middle-Earth Quest, your hero deck is also your 'life pool.' Any card you play in combat, or even to move around the map, costs you a hitpoint.
- In the German tabletop RPG The Dark Eye (aka Das Schwarze Auge in German), every magic user can do this, but not without consequences, usually additional damage and that damage might permanently reduce the maximum hitpoints of that character (only when he drops too low as a result of blood magic though). Excessive use of this in one of the novels leads to a mage permanently losing his ability to use magic. Later on, he uses a magic sword that also drinks from his Life Energy, losing fingers on his good hand as a result.
- Epideromancers in the tabletop RPG Unknown Armies power all their magic by hurting themselves.
- In the live-roleplay system Labyrinthe, almost all supernatural abilities have an hp cost in addition to a mana cost. The amount of damage done is relative to the level of the ability relative to the level of the caster.
- In the Swedish Tabletop RPG Chronopia, Orcs have access to a very interesting magical discipline; Painmagic, ripping off a finger can grant you skill bonuses, cutting yourself can give you visions of the future and hacking off an arm or a leg can make you temporarily invulnerable. Not surprisingly, they have also developed plenty of rusty prosthetics complete with hidden sawblades and other nasty surprises to replace those limbs lost.
- GURPS allows casters to do this, though it's more difficult than using other energy sources, presumably because the pain makes it hard to concentrate. Usually, spells are powered with Fatigue Points (i.e. wizards get tired when they cast spells) or with enchanted "energy batteries" called powerstones. Once you burn through all your available FP (or earlier, if you choose), if you keep casting spells without resting, you start burning HP. Ordinarily, you can only use up hit points until you lose consciousness, at which point the energy drain stops (you don't die).
- The supplemental advantage "Word of Power" drains so much fatigue that it's guaranteed to drain life from a normal person. It will keep speaking itself even if the caster dies in mid sentence.
- Pokemon Tabletop Adventures has the Psychic class, capable of using certain pokemon attacks, similar to the Martial Artist class. The martial artist's attacks can only be used a certain number of times per day, whereas the psychic's attacks can be used at will, but require this trope. (Thankfully, the nature of the psychic's key stats means they usually will have a large amount of HP to cast from.)
- Deadlands: The Weird West has the Whateley family's Blood Magic, which consumes both "Strain" and "Wind" (which would be "Subdual Damage" in other games) as the caster's tainted blood is consumed by dark forces. All without even breaking the skin!
- As mentioned above, casting or controlling a spell in Slayers d20 is based on stamina (a Fortitude saving throw modified by caster level), and deals subdual damage to the caster based on the spell's difficulty and your margin of success. You get a hefty bonus to your control checks by voluntarily taking lethal damage, or it might happen anyway if you botch horribly enough.
- Champions characters who run out of Endurance can continue to use their powers by taking Stun damage, at a rate of 1d6 Stun per 2 Endurance required. This only works for powers that draw on the user's own Endurance pool, as opposed to the Endurance Reserve power. A character can literally knock himself out from overexertion.
- Ixtli, the Aztanli-specific Boons in Scion, have a number of abilities that grant extra Legend for physical sacrifices. The amount gained from bleeding another creature is half what you get for doing the same thing to yourself.
- Several powerful Charms and spells in Exalted require you to sacrifice health levels as part of their activation cost.
- In high-paranoia games, where every attack might kill and so every attack must be answered with a Perfect Defense, every attack is cast from hit points: they cost charm activations and Essence, the two resources that fuel perfect defenses.
- There are also two spells that can be cost for minimum Essence (mana, magic points) expenditure but automatically kill you and deal significant damage to everyone around you.
- In fact, Dragon-Blooded have quite a percentage of Charms with the "Martyr" keyword. That means that they can be cast with greater effect, but killing the Exalt for sure. That is why they can be used with no Essence left. And some of such Martyr usages can last for generations.
- Fireborn had this as a potential side effect. It takes one(or a group) so much power to cast a spell to be built up. Depending on the situation, one can roll a lot of dice and hope to quickly cast it, or do so slowly and carefully. However, if you go over the needed number of successful rolls and charge up too much power, the excess physically damages you. Of course, one can eliminate this by learning ways to channel that overload into the spell, usually for enhanced range/duration/effect.
- The Sorcery power in the 1980's DC Heroes game had a function similar to this. Every time the power is used, the AP's (power rank) used is compared against his or her Spirit score (a combination of damage resistance and hit points versus mystical damage). Effectively, if he or she is using AP's lower than his or her Spirit, there's no problem. Otherwise, there's a chance of Spirit damage (affects the "hit points" versus mystic things, but not durability, that's always your maximum Spirit). If there's a significant difference between the two with the Sorcery being higher, the caster will likely be rendered unconscious by using a full powered spell.
- Many spells in Call of Cthulhu, and pretty much every spell costs sanity.
- Predictably, this shows up in Mortasheen, especially with healing spells.
- In Sentinels Of The Multiverse the hero Nightmist has multiple spells that damage her as well as achieve whatever the intended effect was.
- Kingdom Death: Monster has monsters who's AI deck acts as their HP pool. If a monster is harmed, you discard AI cards. It also means that every time a monster acts, it is casting from HP.
- Stars Without Number: psychics who use non-mastered powers after running out of points have a high risk of suffering Torching, which reduces either Wisdom or Constitution, determined randomly. Dropping Constitution too low will kill you; dropping Wisdom turns you into a deranged killing machine, and that you get to use powers for free is not much of a consolation prize.
- The central plot device in the Lamentations Of The Flame Princess module Better than Any Man is a spell that is essentially Wish, as a first level spell. The main catch is that the caster dies when casting it. (The other catch is that casting it requires several assistants, and all of them must agree on what they're wishing for. If even one of them dissents, the spell fails and the caster died for nothing.)
- Magic in The Dresden Files has everything it needs to be this. The attempt to gather and channel the necessary power for the spell can itself backfire and hurt the caster, especially if they're in a hurry, evocations always involve a mandatory hit to one's mental stress track (making it easy for a wizard to potentially knock him- or herself out with a few quick spells even if they all work as planned), one of the easier ways of adding power to a thaumaturgic ritual is to accept consequences reflecting mental or physical harm... Most of this is recoverable with time as long as the caster doesn't go overboard (simple mental stress doesn't even last from one scene to the next, for example), but it still serves as a major check on the power of magic in a game that, as per the source material, tends to focus rather a bit on it.
- Alchemical items in Hollow Earth Expedition supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth.
- The Life Channeling enchantment allows the user to power the item by inflicting either non-lethal damage on themselves or lethal wounds on other creatures.
- Blood Offering drawback. An item recharges its powers (so they can be cast again) by inflicting lethal wounds on other creatures.
- Exhausting drawback. Each time an item is used it inflicts a point of non-lethal damage on the user.
- Toxic drawback. Each time an item is used it inflicts a point of lethal damage on the user.
- Most spells in Castle Falkenstein are cast from ambient thaumic energy, but it takes time to gather this, so mages in a desperate hurry may cast from hit points instead; this is called "unraveling" and can be fatal (though if it isn't, you get better eventually).
- World Of Synnibarr. Some spells can be enhanced by spending points of Constitution while casting them, thus increasing the effect of the spell (such as damage done).
- In Eclipse Phase all Active psi-sleights (other than Downtime, that would be counter-intuitive) have at least a chance of inflicting damage to the user.
- In the first printing of Dark Heresy, a psyker could use the Corpus Conversion talent to take damage to add his Willpower Bonus again to a manifestation test. The errata changed the cost to a permanent Toughness point in exchange for another power die.
- In Pokémon Live!, Mewtwo hits MechaMew2 with enough of Ash's memories to make him faint, and when he wakes up, he can't remember the fight or what happened afterwards.
- In El Goonish Shive, Nanase claims she can Cast From Calories.
- She gets a more traditional one later.
- Kid Radd demonstrates the drawbacks of such techniques. When Radd and the others visit a fighting game, Sheena, being an NPC sprite, is unable to inflict or receive any damage from her opponent. Her opponent grows increasingly desperate to damage her, and finally uses an attack that sacrifices some of her life to attack Sheena. The attack fails and because Sheena's opponent has less health than Sheena when the time runs out (i.e., less than full), Sheena wins.
- In Hazard's Wake, Path is an Expy of Tellah, so he does this.
- In Not A Villain, the Game allows Specials which move points between attributes, allowing characters to cast from any attribute.
- Extremely powerful magics can take a toll on the caster's life force in Roommates too. Like, summoning a sea from nowhere in a magical land will drain the caster so much he is lucky to not pass out. The same in the real world is probably close to lethal or impossible.
- In Sorcery101, sorcery can take a serious toll on the human body, leading many practitioners to die of a heart attack at a relatively young age. For that reason, many who learn it are already immortal, like vampires or "blood bonds" (which includes the series' protagonist).
- In Gargoyles, the Magus taps the magic of Avalon in the episode of the same name, which severely weakens him. While initially it only exhausts him, he ends up casting so many spells this way that he dies as a result.
- In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, B'wana Beast pulls a Heroic Sacrifice this way, straining his powers to death to tear apart a revived super-Starro (after the Hunter had already drained him to revive it in the first place).
- In Huntik: Secrets & Seekers, there is a spell called "Soul Burn" which trades life force for enhanced powers, for a short time. Used in episode 26 by Sophie Casterwill.
- In W.I.T.C.H., those who use their magic without being connected to the Heart of Candracar end up using up their own life energy doing so. Halinor is shown to be exhausted after using some of her magic to protect the Citadel and it's implied that Nerissa's withered state is because of her constantly using Quintessence.
- Elita One, in The Transformers episode The Search For Alpha Trion, had the power to stop time at a localized level, but doing so drained her Hit Points.