open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In Darker Than Black, Contractors need to perform a 'remuneration' of varying degrees of seriousness/irony after each use of their power, be it drinking beer, breaking their own fingers, baking a cake, or de-aging. Under rare circumstances, it is actually possible to 'pay off' the contract in full—like Mao, a Contractor whose human body died while he was animal-surfing, after which they don't need to do anything anymore.
- Or Hei who got his powers from his sister. She transfered them to him at the cost of her life. Because of this he also avoids the sociopathic tendencies of the other Contractors.
- In Nana Of Banana those with powers have a condition they must follow, for example the protagonist, Nana, has to eat bananas still in their skin the day after she uses her power to manipulate bananas.
- In the anime and manga of El-Hazard: The Magnificent World, the teacher Fujisawa has super-strength so long as he can refrain from drinking alcohol. In the anime, he gets even stronger after running out of cigarettes.
- A specific mechanic with Nen abilities in Hunter × Hunter is turning your power into this. By limiting the conditions in which you can use an ability and/or impose penalties for not using them within those conditions, a Nen user can multiply their Nen ability's power several times over, and the harder the conditions are to accomplish, the more powerful the technique becomes in turn.
- In The Law of Ueki, the God Candidates have, to varying degrees, powers, for which they have to meet special conditions. This includes requirements such as trash small enough to fit in your both hands for creating trees and control them, holding your breath to turn bath towels into steel or putting your fingers up someones nose to turn them ugly and/or fat.
- In Campione!, Godou Kusanade has several powers that he's only allowed to activate in specific conditions. He can only use his super strength in situations that would actually require super strength (for example, he could use it if he were fighting a bear, but not if he were fighting an ordinary human). He can only unleash a stallion formed from The Power of the Sun against a target who has committed great sins, etc.
- In Scott Pilgrim, being a Vegan gives you psychic powers by freeing up the remaining 90% of Your Brain, as demonstrated by Todd Ingram, the third evil ex-boyfriend. This bites him in the ass when he eats gelato shortly before the fight, and the Vegan Police remove them mid-battle.
- They're surprisingly lenient about it in the film compared to other examples of this trope. You get multiple screw ups before there are consequences.
- Lythande stories. Each Adept of the Blue Star has a Dark Secret, and if an Adept's secret is spoken aloud, henote will lose his powers.
- In Talking to Dragons Daystar accidentally makes Shiara's powers only work when she is polite. She does not like this one bit.
- Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis features a team of psychic children. Their powers require electrical batteries wired into their brains. As long as the batteries are charged, they can burninate and phase-shift to their hearts' content. Once they run out of juice though ...
- In Wizard of the Pigeons by Megan Lindholm, the wizard and his colleagues each have a condition on which their powers depend. (One, for instance, may not use her powers to help others unless they ask her to.) Some of the wizard's troubles in the book result from him forgetting which of the rules he lives by is the condition, and which are just rules he's given himself.
- In Pact, mystic practitioners are bound by agreements that they make, and are unable to lie, or they lose their power. Given that the setting also depends on making deals with Others for power, this means that several practitioners are bound by agreements that force them to not swear or make an effort to get to school on time. As oaths and promises accumulate, the practitioners must step carefully to avoid telling a lie or violating their agreements, thus losing their power.
- In Xanth, Ida's talent is that she can make any idea become true, provided that it's suggested to her by someone who doesn't know that she can do this.
- In A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle, Jonathan Rebeck's ability to see ghosts and speak with the raven is connected to his liminal existence in the cemetery; when he leaves at the end of the novel he loses both.
- In Super Powereds, the five protagonists are former Powereds (people with superpowers and Power Incontinence), who have been given control over their abilities through an unspecified procedure, becoming full-fledged Supers. They typically have triggers that activate their powers, although only one was actually described and ends up being a plot point several times. In order to become his Superpowered Alter Ego Roy, Hershel has to drink whiskey (which is illegal since he's not 21 yet). He always carries a flask with whiskey on his person, just in case he needs Roy to come out. In Year 1, when Hershel is kidnapped, the bad guys make sure to take away his flask, thus keeping him normal. Nick shoots him (non-fatally) with a whiskey-coated bullet, thus delivering it directly into his bloodstream.
Live Action TV
- Played with in Supernatural.
- The angel Castiel has multiple awesome powers, but they're to some degree maintained by his connection to Heaven. When he chooses to rebel against his orders and help the Winchesters, he loses certain abilities outright while the rest of them then diminish over time until he's left essentially human. For a day or two.
- The angel Anna had the same powers, but also disobeyed. Instead of losing power gradually, they straight-up ripped their Grace out and fell to Earth, which was probably a better option than sticking around to get executed. Disobedience generally robs angels of their powers one way or another.
- This trope dates back to the notion of the geas, a boon granted by a supernatural being that bound one to certain rules. Cu Chulainn was bound by two such laws: one, he could never partake of dog meat, and two, he would always accept hospitality when offered. His downfall came when a hag offered him a meal of dog meat, forcing him to break his geas.
- A Native American legend features a man who has a "can't be hit by bullets as long as I don't touch metal" power, which was nullified by accidentally touching a ladle.
- Antaeus was the son of Poseidon and Gaea, who remained invincible as long as he was in contact with earth. Hercules had to hold him off the ground to defeat him.
- Samson in the book of Judges had Super Strength in exchange for a number of promises to God, including not cutting his hair. When he tells his secret to his lover (who has already tried to exploit various fake weaknesses), Delilah, she betrays him and has him shaved, and he lost his strength. By this point Samson had already broken the other promises he made to God — the shaving was just the last straw.
- Many magic schools in Unknown Armies work this way.
- Shadowrun mages often prevent magic loss by accepting something like this being applied to their magic. They can be as simple as needing to chant while casting spells to needing to not eat anything for 24 hours or needing to be in a forest/city/desert/whatever.
- A standard way to build power modifiers in GURPS is to take a Vow, then add the point value of the Vow to the power modifier, to reflect the fact that your power goes away if you break the Vow. Vows are disadvantages worth negative points, so your power becomes cheaper this way, to make up for it being harder to keep.
- Many classes in Dungeons & Dragons, especially ones that grant powers with a divine power source. Paladins are arguably the most well-known example; if a paladin knowingly performs any act that isn't Lawful Good, his paladin powers are stripped from him until he atonesnote . But the Forsaker probably takes the cake as it requires you to destroy magic items daily to maintain your powers.
- Although alignments were mostly removed from 4e, meaning there was no MECHANICAL way for someone to lose their abilities, it's also explicitly stated that all rules are up to GM fiat. Meaning should the paladin of Bahamut not diverge the party from their trek to stop the Big Bad because a small contingent of his men are attacking from a village he's not instantly stripped of his powers; should he decide to instead extort huge sums of money from said villagers to protect them, he may suddenly find his charisma-based spells useless and his lower-strength basic attacks pinging futilely off of enemy armor.
- In The Dresden Files RPG, Items of Power and Sponsored Magic tend to come with restrictions on how and when they can be used. The most obvious for Items of Power is that the item has to be in your possession to use the powers. Some sponsored magics will only work for certain ends—a demon might grant a character a bonus to their spellcasting power, but only if they're using that spell to kill, for example. In other cases, it's a little more lenient, and will only not work for certain things—a Sword of the Cross, for example, will work for just about any ass-kicking so long as it's a righteous ass-kicking for the cause of good, but will stop working and drop out of the user's hands of its own accord if the wielder tries to use it for selfish or evil reasons.
- 7th Sea has the ability Geas which is given to you by their equivalent of a gypsy. It grants the user an extra experience die, as long as they do not violate the rule that was given to them.
- Combined with Oathbound Power in Princess: The Hopeful. Princesses have access to a specific set of powers known as Invocations, which allows them to enhance their Charms and is required to activate some of them. Each Invocation is connected to a specific Queen, and through her to her personal philosophy, which a Princess has to follow for the Invocation to work properly; if the Princess commits an action explicitly against the philosophy (such as starting a fight for a follower of the Queen of Clubs), she loses access to the Invocation for a specific amount of time.
- Downplayed in Pillars of Eternity. Through dialogue and story decisions, it is possible to acquire various "reputations", such as "Honest", "Rational", "Subtle", etc. The Paladins and the Priests' class powers depend on how well the Player Character's reputations align with the goals of the Paladin's order or the teachings of the Priest's deity, respectively. While role-playing the "wrong" way won't strip either class of their powers, it significantly diminishes their effectiveness, while role-playing "correctly" gives them a considerable boost.
- In Homestar Runner, Bubs apparently had the ability to fly (or at least hover a few inches off the ground) until Strong Bad got him to say "sbu".
- Part of the shtick in The Wild Thornberrys was that Eliza was given the power to talk to animals—and if she revealed the fact to anyone, she would lose the ability.
- Timmy's access to The Fairly Oddparents has the same condition.
- Sabrina: The Animated Series: it's not a direct problem for a witch to reveal his/her witchiness to a mortal, but if that mortal tells another mortal, the witch gets depowered.
- Raven from Teen Titans can only manifest her most dramatic magical abilities while feeling particularly strong emotions- something she deliberately avoids, as this also leaves her open to Power Incontinence and/or possession by her Superpowered Evil Side.
- From Gargoyles:
- Puck eventually has a geas laid on him that he can only use his magic to teach or protect Xanatos's infant son Alexander. Otherwise, he's just Owen.
- Demona and Macbeth are immortal thanks to a spell cast on them by the Weird Sisters. The spell keeps each alive as long as the other lives. The only way for either of them to die is if one kills the other. This turns out to be the true reason Macbeth hunted Demona for centuries. He is weary of his existence and he just wants to rest forever. He mostly gives this up after the Weird Sisters (for their own reasons) convince him that death has never brought him peace.
- In Miraculous Ladybug, Marinette's earrings let her transform into the superhero Ladybug, but she has to use them to do good. It's not clear what happens if she doesn't.