"I'm the caster, y'know! It's like I'm a cannon made out of glass. Like a... y'know, like a dainty figurine so ornately decorated you can't imagine how something so fragile manages to exist in this brutal, ugly world... And it makes you weep."
In short: he can dish it out, but he can't take it. Similar to (but distinct from) the Fragile Speedster, the Glass Cannon is characterized by insane attack power coupled with pathetic defensive ability.
Prevalent in RPGs and fighting games, as the cast needs to be big enough that "takes hits like a chump" becomes a viable character trait. In RPGs, the Glass Cannon tends to be a Squishy Wizard. Artillery units in Real-Time Strategy and Turn-Based Strategy games also tend to have this trait, as they're meant to be far away from combat, or at least in the back of the formation.
Make the Glass Cannon incapable of taking any punishment at all and you've got a One-Hit-Point Wonder. Glass Cannons often overlap with the Fragile Speedster; characters of that type tend to put out high damage and dodge most incoming attacks, but go down quickly if they do get hit. Another type of very common Glass Cannon would be an offensively oriented nuker, such as the Squishy Wizard, who is basically like a living artillery piece. Character-wise, The Berserker might also become a Glass Cannon, even if he's not inherently frail, but just doesn't bother whatsoever about defending himself tactically.
A matchup between two of these usually results in a game of Rocket Tag.
The direct inverse of Stone Wall who takes it but can't dish it out. Also contrast Mighty Glacier, who can dish out and still take it like a man but at the expense of speed, and finally Lightning Bruiser, who can do the same without sacrificing anything. See also: Competitive Balance and PVP Balanced. When the enemy tries to take out the Glass Cannon as fast as possible, it's Shoot the Mage First.
When adding an example, think, "If this character were to go against him/her/itself, how long would the fight last?". Not very long — offensive power has to outstrip defensive ability. If the character is just fragile, but not that powerful offensively, or vice versa, it's not this trope.
Also, hit-points vs resources spent is not factored into this trope; if the combatant deals fearsome damage, and still has a decent amount of Hit Points, but is costly to balance it out, then this is more a Mighty Glacier than a Glass Cannon. The character must have relatively sub par health AND fearsome destructive capability, excluding cost factor.
Not to be confused withcannons that launch glass projectiles such as the Glass Cannon artillery unit in the game Rise of Legends.
If it weren't for their Healing Factor, the Titans in Attack on Titan would be incredibly easy to destroy. Sure they're huge and if they grab you you're dead, but their bodies are incredibly light and fragile. This is especially true of Eren, who often hits things so hard, his bones actually snap apart from the impact and have to regenerate. This is best showcased when he punches a Titan in the head so hard, its head is sent flying into a church, but his hand is destroyed in the process.
Fate's Sonic Drive form introduced in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Strikers. It improves on her original Sonic Form by giving her a lot of oomph to complement the speed increase, boosting her magic powers to astounding levels and letting her access Bardiche'sRiot Zamber form. But much like the original Sonic Form, all of this comes at the cost of armor, so all it'll take is one good hit to make her fall. Not that it proves to be much of a detriment; so far, only Erio has managed to land a hit during a mock battle in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid, where it indeed wiped out most of Fate's Hit Points.
Hayate has also shades of this: her spells range from nuclear explosion to... bigger nuclear explosion, but it comes with looooooong casting time and inability to take hits. She even said Caro would win against her in one-on-one. This is counterbalanced by the fact that Hayate almost never fights one on one; even without her other allies, most of the time she still has Reinforce with her, who can separate and hold off a target with a slew of not quite as powerful, but quite a bit faster spells while Hayate prepares her Wave Motion Gun.
Lutecia Alpine is an S-rank summoner who, in StrikerS, was capable of summoning insects that rivaled Caro's powers, but had hardly any moves with which to protect herself. However, as of ViVid, she appears to have developed the magical capabilities to fight alone well enough to enter the tournament alongside Vivio and her friends.
The Numbers from StrikerS are very powerful, but they can't take hits that good and most of them seem to not have defense skills. Their teamwork makes them dangerous, but if you're strong or skilled enough to take one after another down, then it's not a problem. In the Grand Finale, all Numbers were defeated by one or a few hits. In contrast, both Super PrototypesSubaru and Ginga are Lightning Bruisers. And not all Numbers are powerful in combat. Uno and Quattro can't even fight.
Both prototypes were badly injured in episode 17, but they recovered within a week, before the Grand Finale. Cinque, who was visually less injured than them, was Put on a Bus because she suffered from too much internal wounds, like her spinal cord.
Like Fate, Micaiah Chevelle from ViVid has a Barrier Jacket (or Knight Clothing) which is designed to give her immense speed for minimum defense. This speed supports her extremely powerful sword attacks greatly, but her lack of defense became a lethal disadvantage against Lightning Bruiser Miura who has melee versions of Nanoha's Starlight Breaker.
In Mahou Sensei Negima! traditional style mages tend to be like this, which is why they have partners to guard them from their opponents while they prepare their big spells. The mark of the highest-level mages is that they grow tough enough to move past this and are powerful enough not to need the protection.
The Big Bad of the final arc of Ranma ˝ has powers bordering on a Person of Mass Destruction and he can tank Ki Attacks, but a rather pampered life has lead him to be rather weak against physical attacks. Of course this is just compared to the completely Made of Iron fighters in most of the series (he was called a wuss for being moderately injured by a boulder... being thrown by tornado winds that were drilling into the ground and altering the course of an underground river).
Cologne has some elements of this as well. Given that she's one of the two most prominent Miniature Senior Citizens and a veryOld Master (three hundred years in the anime), this might be somewhat explainable.
Akane Tendo as well. Though she can dish out punches with the best of them, she has nowhere near the healing speed or toughness of any of the other characters; while she is too skilled to be The Load in an actual fight, she is still regarded by some as a Damsel Scrappy because she insists on getting into a fight, but somebody (mainly Ranma) usually has to keep an eye on her because she can't take the hits they can.
Cologne's granddaughter Shampoo is even worse when it comes to taking hits, even when you don't take her curse into account. She often falls down with one good hit.
Pikachu fits this trope well in Pokémon. Massively powerful attacks? Check. Tendency to go down quickly in a fight? Oh yeah.
A lot of high-Speed, high-Attack Pokémon fall into this. Weavile springs to mind; blindingly quick and decently strong, but pit it against a Fire or a Fighting type and its toast.
Tieria Erde's Gundam in The Movie, the Raphael, is this. It is equipped with Big Friggin'Wave Motion Guns that can also function as Attack Drones. However, due to said Gundam not being equipped with real GN Drives as well as the lack of resources used while it was being created, all defensive capabilities were sacrificed in favor for its offense. His earlier Gundam Nadleeh qualifies as well: it's essentially a Fragile Speedster with the Exia's close-combat attack power. Naturally, it's only used in emergency as it's a Dual Mode Unit, its other form being Gundam Virtue.
The GN Arms from the first season too. Lockon absolutely owned everyone with it until Ali incapacitated him with a single well-aimed shot at his beam cannon. Then it turned out the Gundam piloting the exoskeleton is tougher than the actual exoskeleton! Setsuna's close-combat GN Arms fared slightly better as it took a couple of hits before finally succumbing. Another example of this trope is the Gadessa: its main weapon is a Wave Motion Gun with ridiculous range... and not much armor. It still has a backup weapon and a beam saber but its defensive capabilities are nowhere near those of the others, as Lockon took it out in the final battle with a point-blank burst from his Gundam's sidearm afterPlaying Possumto lure it close.
On the subject of Gundam, ANY Universal Century unit built after the events of the Gundam F91 movie... since Beam Weapons are so overpowered, by that time, they decided to change plans for future unit development; the mobile suit designers essentially threw their hands up and gave up on the entire idea of armor, focusing instead on speed and maneuverability. And beam shields. No, not shields designed to stop beams, shields that are beams.
Even seen in Mobile Suit Gundam MSIGLOO during the gravity front. Zaku's are portrayed as having tremendous and devastating firepower...but one direct hit from a tiny tank or missile team can still one shot them. Fortunately it seems that even non new type mook Zeke's can Dodge the Bullet.
Tongpu from Cowboy Bebop. The guy can destroy buildings, cause explosions and throw people across rooms, but if ONE little dagger penetrates his leg...
Tongpu ends up being almost a One-Hit-Point Wonder because of his Minor Injury Overreaction. He has incredible defensive abilities against virtually all projectile weapons, and nobody had ever thought to/lived long enough to stab him. When Spike does manage to get this hit in, he regresses to childhood, crying out for his mommy before he is squashed flat by the Space World robots.
Lillidan Crauser of The Prince of Tennis. He is extremely powerful, able to curb-stomp a bloodshot Kirihara using even greater violent play than him. However, he lacks stamina and defense. Once Kirihara brought out his devil mode...
In Hajime No Ippo, minor character Eleki Battery who fought Kimura is definitely one. He is able to keep up with Kimura's speed and has enough power to knock Kimura down in one blow, however, all Kimura needed to do was land one hit to his body to knock him down.
Also Ryuichi Hayami, who's got very good counters and speed as well as strength... but one well placed punch and he's out. This gets so bad that, when Kobashi manages to deal him a REALLY well-placed hit in the jaw, the injury he sustains forces him to retire.
Ichiro Miyata possesses ungodly speed and techniques, but he's also got a glass jaw inherited from his father that makes him very easy to take down. Hence why he relies so much on counters, which help him develop from a Fragile Speedster into this.
To be fair, said pistol-whip was a special move that could tear through a Heavily Armored Mook at one-fourth power.
The Japanese National Team in Captain Tsubasa. They've got excellent scorers in Tsubasa, Aoi and Hyuga as well as great GK's like Wakabayashi and Wakashimazu, but one of their biggest flaws is how easily their defense can be torn and the rival teams can try their luck at scoring. And since the two Waka GK's are prone to Game Breaking Injuries...
Single player version: Jun Misugi. Excellent strategist, very dedicated, great at teamwork, marvelous scorer... and with pathetic stamina due to being an ex-Ill Boy. Hence why he's seen more often than not in manager positions and doesn't play until it's mandatory.
Similarly, Hisashi Mitsui from Slam Dunk is one of the best 3-point scorers in Japanese HS basketball. But around 3/4 of an intense game, he's almost completely knocked out and unable to merely walk outside the basketball fields.
In the first season if Yu-Gi-Oh! (where the card game was the least like its Real Life equivalent) both Zombie and Machine-Type Monsters were described like this, incredibly strong on offense but really bad at anything else, especially defense. (Of course, the actual game isn't like this at all, at least not all the time.)
Nami from One Piece. Her Clima Tact can make very dangerous lightning attacks, and while they take some time to charge up, her offensive power with these makes her one of the most dangerous Straw Hats. She is one of the very few people who can hurt Luffy with a regular punch, though it is because she "beats up his spirit". Her durability, however, is very puny and no better than that of real life human.
Early series baddie Kuro is this as well. He can slice people up like Salami, and his Shakushi ability makes him damn near untouchable. However, he just can't take a hit. When Luffy slows him down, the fight ends very soon after.
King Elizabello II of the Prodence Kingdom's signature attack, the King Punch can make a hole in an enemy fortress wall but it takes an hour to charge so he needs to be protected while preparing it.
May of Fullmetal Alchemist has quite a few different ranged attacks with her alkahestry, but is one of the least durable characters, partly the result of being a young girl.
Alyssa of Mai-Hime has the ability to cause devastation on a large scale with her Child, Artemis, but unlike other Himes, does not have an Element to protect herself, instead relying on Miyu's assistance.
Shin Kazama of Area 88 fits this trope. He deals a nasty blow to Saki's head during a temporary psychotic rage, but Mickey floors him with one punch.
Itachi Uchiha is basically this in Naruto. Despite having three of the most powerful attacks in the entire manga, Itachi's base arsenal lacks versatility. Not only that, a sufficiently strong character could One-Hit KO if they got close. His stamina is particularly low as well, meaning he can't fight for extended periods. Those three powerful attacks? They cost more than 30% of his total chakra, meaning he can't spam them like his brother Sasuke can. Instead of aiming to beat Itachi in a straight up battle, Sasuke should have aimed to outlast him instead. In essence, the Jack-of-All-Trades and Lightning Bruiser, Jiraiya and the Lightning Bruiser, A the Raikage are Itachi's worst opponents due to them either being more well rounded than he is, or can hit harder than he can and tank his attacks. He becomes more of a Lightning Bruiser as an Edo Tensei since his Cast from Hit Points Susano'o no longer causes damage to his body, he can use it as freely as Sasuke does with his EMS.
Gaara may well qualify. His frighteningly powerful Sand-based ninjutsu is so complete a form of attack AND defense that Gaara has pretty much never displayed any sign of Taijutsu. The implication seems to be that he's the inversion of Rock Lee: a ninja reliant entirely on his ninjutsu, possessing little to no physical training. Landing a single hit on Gaara (as tricky as it is) almost guarantees victory. Not so much in Part II. While he still doesn't display much taijutsu, he isn't as frail as before-able to survive explosions going off inside his shield, to punches from Susano'o of all things.
Pandoras are an interesting case. Against each other, they are Lightning Bruisers, but they become this when battling against Novasand Pandoras who have been corrupted by them.
The Grand Cross from Bodacious Space Pirates can be considered as an example of this. It possesses advanced technology and high-tech weapons that can destroy spacecraft instantly. However, it's shielding is very vulnerable to heavy bombardment, and the ship's pilot, Quartz Christie, is overconfident to the point where she tried to operate three of these ships at once to defeat her opponents once and for all, without updating her battle strategy at all. It didn't end well for any of the ships, though she did survive.
Space Battleship Yamato has the Super Battleship Andromeda. All the ships in the Andromeda fleet have double wave motion guns but still get easily destroyed just by the force of the White Comet's vortex.
In Anatolia Story, Yuri is a pretty good fighter when she has her sword and Cool Horse. When an enemy actually gets a hold of her though, she has a hard time fighting them off. Given that Yuri is of small stature and is usually up against taller, more muscular opponents, it makes sense.
More importantly, Yuri is extremely new to fighting in general since she used to be a Girl Next Door in Japan without any kind of training in martial arts or weapon handling. (The closest would be the agility she developed as a prospect gymnast.) Her opponents, on the other hand, tend to have years of experience under their belts.
In The Legendary Moonlight Sculptor, the main character Weed considers his non-combat title-class to be this, he calls his class a "glass sculptor" as his unique attacks do a lot of damage, but because he is a crafter class, he cannot equip heavy armor, and does not receive the ordinary damage reducing skills of, say, a warrior.
Ikkaku's zanpakutou is unpredictable, dangerous and incredibly powerful. However, it breaks easily because the shikai is wooden and the bankai's overpowered force makes itself brittle. There's a heavy implication that his zanpakutou breaks so easily because Ikkaku is refusing to use his power correctly. Ikkaku himself is not this trope.
Ran Tao in the anime filler Bount Arc is a very skilled kidou user but her stamina is heavily compromised by her extreme age.
Chojiro Sasakibe never gets an opportunity to show it to readers, but he's one of the most offensively powerful of the lieutenants. As in, captain-level offensive power, since he has a bankai and gave Captain-Commander Yamamoto one of his prominent scars during a sparring match in the distant past. In his one on-panel fight, though, he shows that he also has a glass jaw; Ichigo knocks him out with a single uppercut before Sasakibe has a chance to land a single attack.
There is an old (board and miniatures) gaming expression called the fuzzy wuzzy fallacy (after the Rudyard Kipling poem). Basically it states that a unit's effectiveness goes up proportionate to the square root of any increase in firepower (provided the defense stays the same). For example, the above Mech has roughly 3.5 times the firepower of the old version. FW numbers say that it's about 1.87 (the root of 3.5) times as effective as the old one, given that both die just as easy (and will draw fire like no-one's business).
In the Flying Frog game Touch of Evil, the schoolteacher only has three hit points and no healing factor. However, loading her inventory up with books adds two additional fight dice per book. Collecting all the books on the board gives her three hit points...and up to twenty dice's worth of damage.
Many telepaths in X-Men, such as Professor X, have powerful Psychic Powers but very weak physical attacks, and aren't of much use against opponents immune to telepathy (like robots).
Lampshaded in X-Men: Evolution: He tells Jean that no matter the challenge they can be overcome. Cut to him at the top of a flight of stairs. "Of course some challenges are easier to overcome than others."
Similarly, Cyclops' Eye Beams are devastatingly powerful, but if anyone actually hits him he's just as vulnerable as any non-powered human. Well, any non-powered human in peak physical condition with iron willpower and light body armour, but still — a lot of X-Men fight scenes start with Cyclops getting punched out or shot with regular bullets, because (from a writing perspective) otherwise he could settle the whole business with a look.
And, Storm may have god level power, but up and close, she's just like Scott: Hard to hit, but just as easily hurt as anyone else. Same with most of the other X-Men who's specialty is offensive power.
The same is true of Marvel magic users like Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, or Wiccan. They can do frightening things to time and space with little more than a gesture and some concentration, but they can also be rendered helpless by a Tap on the Head, drugs, being overwhelmed by bodies, being distracted in mid-spell, or simply being Bound and Gagged.
Much like the X-men with offensive powers is Fantastic Four member Human Torch. His flame powers give him move high movement speed and an offensive edge. Unlike his allies he lacks any way to use his powers to defend himself other than flying out of the way.
In his first few appearances as Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner would often be subdued by a single blow to the back of the head. And he's not the only one; Hal Jordan also fell victim to this more than a couple times. But if you can't get behind him stealthily like that, he will fuck you up.
Ah, this explains that scene from Justice League when Batman took out Sinestro with a well-timed Batarang...
In the late 80's Justice League comic, Batman K.O.s Guy Gardner with "One punch!".
Zatanna of The DCU can kill people with a (backwards) word (not that she ever has, she is a superhero). Only the stronger magical, divine, or cosmic beings in the DC universe can resist her powers. However, she isn't any more durable than most humans and can be taken down with a single well-placed punch. Overlaps with Squishy Wizard. In Identity Crisis it is even explicitly mentioned in the narration-bubble: She is the most powerful member of the team, if she can get the words out. Slade Wilson (Deathstroke the Terminator) pokes her the stomach, so lightly that it does not even hurt that much, but once she begins to vomit from the damage to her liver she is out of the fight.
Prism, an on and off member of the X-Men villain Mr. Sinister's Marauders, is literally made of glass. He can store light and energy (such as sunlight or Cyclops' optic blasts) and redirect it to devastating effect. But he is still made of freaking glass. Jean Grey killed him once by throwing him into a wall (not even that hard).
Sizzle from the third Legion of Super-Heroes continuity is practically a literal cannon, needing a steady power source (ammo) to feed her energy projection abilities. The awkwardness in having to both provide power and cover to Sizzle while watching your own back is the reason she was sent to the Legion Auxiliary along with her Stone Wall friend Turtle.
The Spider-Man villain Dr. Octopus may have control of four powerful and deadly metal arms, but he's otherwise a normal, somewhat out of shape human. Once the super-strong Spidey gets past his formidable defenses, Doc Ock goes down pretty quickly. This has been deconstructed in later years: Doc Ock has developed serious health problems after years of Spider-Man's beatings, and has begun wearing Powered Armor to compensate. but is now Spider-man so he is much more durable.
In Queen Of All Oni, the old Oni rulers fit this, while the magic snake they conjured to attack Tarakudo was impressive, due to their advanced age and decaying power, he was easily able to stop it and kill them.
In An Entry With A Bang!, the marauding pirates with their Battletech... uh, tech... are somewhat confused by the fact that while Clancy-Earth has highly effective BVR capability, their warmachines can't take hits worth a damn.
On the other end of the scale, C-Earth technicians are utterly baffled as to why BT doesn't have a gun capable of blowing apart a mech in one shot, since as far as they're concerned, "Any gun that isn't a One-Hit Kill isn't worth having."
The Firefly fanfic Forward puts an emphasis on River being one of these; she's portrayed as fast and powerful but one good hit puts her down - which happens several times in the story.
Lightning Bolt is one of these in Ace Combat: The Equestrian War. She is the only pony of the main heroines to have a powerful special attack (Shining Spark), but she is prone to being injured during prolonged battles.
Battleship correctly shows that modern-day missile destroyers are this. They carry lots of missiles and the Aegis system allows them to Macross Missile Massacre an enemy, but they lack any real armor to protect them from return fire. The CIWS guns do an admirable job trying to protect the ships from the alien attack, but the enemy employs the More Dakka tactic to overwhelm the defenses. On the other hand, the mothballed battleship Missouri, completed during the height of World War II and protected by tons (literally) of armor, and being only slightly slower than the missile destroyers, is a Lightning Bruiser, able to take a punch as well as give.
Katniss of The Hunger Games is a quickdraw with a bow and takes out several competitors in seconds. Compared to the opposition she is untrained in how to fight up close and is slowed down significantly by relatively minor injuries.
Star Wars has TIE Interceptors, whose armament - twice or even occasionally thrice that of the more widespread TIE Fighters - means they actually represent a threat... for a short while. Their shielding is no better than that of the Fighters (that is, none whatsoever), so they break apart as soon as someone shines a laser pointer at them.
In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, the flashback to the DL-6 incident shows that young Edgeworth was able to bite Yanni Yogi hard enough to distract the baliff from hitting his father, and later threw a gun at him hard enough to knock the guy out. When Yogi shoves him hard enough to be knocked against a wall though, Edgeworth collapses almost immediately. Given that he's a kid, it's pretty justified.
In Pacific Rim, the Japanese Jaeger, Coyote Tango, has huge retractable cannons mounted on its shoulders, but is apparently the most lightly armored of the Jaegers.
In The World's End, the Blanks have inhuman strength and agility, but you could burst their heads open with a well-thrown punch. This probably explains why our heroes, a bunch of a middle-aged out-of-shape men, are able to deal with crowds of them.
In The Dresden Files Harry mentions that wizards are like this; for all of the magical weight they can throw around, they still need all of their squishy internals to work. Harry reasons that instead of being on the defensive, he should punish the other wizard in their back-alley duel. When dropping a car on the guy doesn't work, Harry realizes that he's boxing way out of his weight class. The guy in question is the current most likely candidate to being on the Black Council.
In Honor Harrington there are several ships like this. At one end of the extreme are outdated Solarian Navy ships which put more focus on offensive weapons than counter missiles and point defence lasers. Likewise, Maya's Arsenal ships which are capable of carrying thousands of long range missiles, but are just converted freighters and have no defence at all.
Special mention to HMS Wayfarer and her sisters: converted freighters, sluggish and armored for crap, but carrying super-dreadnought-class main guns capable of carving up a battlecruiser like a roast turkey, a complement of light-attack craft capable of laying down significant hurt in their own right, and, oh yeah, the first roll-out of the Manitcoran Missile Massacre.
Honor's first cruiser, the HMS Fearless was refitted with weapons that would allow it to kill far bigger ships. But the weapons' short range and the lack of any decent defenses resulted in a single resounding success during the first fleet exercise, and getting 'destroyed' in every exercise thereafter once the opponents had realized the threat and decided to give some payback for the first success.
The Manticoran LACs introduced in Ashes of Honor are armed with battlecruiser grade grasers, but other than their speed and relatively small size they're not very survivable should an opponent decide to focus on them. In universe, LACs in general are described as "eggshells armed with hammers".
Not surprisingly the Lensman universe plays with this one, but the vulnerable sluggers are always accompanied by copious numbers of their exact opposite - ships that are all shield and nothing else (sometimes not even a human crew). There are, however, usually large numbers of balanced ships in the same fleet.
In the Bolo books, there are Enemy units that are just counter-grav platforms mounting Hellbores. They can be easily swatted by said supertanks, but can be a problem if allowed to attack. They aren't One-Hit Kill-capable, but the numbers are always on their side.
Coinshots in Mistborn are a kind of Misting who have only one power- the ability to telekinetically shoot metal away from their bodies. This makes them able to dish out a ton of damage, since a Coinshot with a pouch of money is basically a human machine gun, but they have no greater ability to resist damage than anyone else. Have a half-dozen Coinshots protected by about the same number of Thugs (Mistings who can increase their strength, speed, and durability to superhuman levels) though, and you've got yourself a small but very effective army.
In an episode of Lois and Clark, Lex Luthor creates a boxer that he believes can take on Superman. The boxer delivers a flurry of punches that stagger Superman. For a moment it looks like Superman is actually on the ropes, but then he simply flicks the boxer in the forehead and knocks him out.
In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Jem'Hadar Fighters are pretty much this. They're able to deal heavy damage, at least early on, with only a few bursts of their phased polaron beams, but a few phaser cannon shots or a single torpedo are enough to either cripple or destroy them. This is deliberate on part of the Dominion, with the Fighters being cheap but deadly throwaway ships with minimal and expendable crew, and no features that aren't essential to combat.
The Outer Limits episode "The Camp" had super strong robots that were ludicrously fragile.
On the tabletop, Eldar are fast and fragile, and Dark Eldar are even faster and more fragile. The Dark Eldar are more of Glass Cannons than the Eldar, given the amount of firepower that squads of Dark Eldar can pump out for a relatively low cost and the eschewing of even what little armor their cousins use.
Harlequins are even more of a glass hammer/cannon than other Eldar. Absolutely unparalleled in hand-to-hand combat, they can rip right through a unit of Assault Terminators like tissue paper; but one good round of shooting from a basic Marine squad and they're splattered all over the landscape.
The Eldar Fire Prism grav-tank is armed with a Wave Motion Gun that is literally a glass cannon (even called the "Prism Cannon"), but due to holofields and the like Craftworld Eldar vehicles are one of the few things in the army that doesn't qualify.
On the flip side, this is absolutely the case with Dark Eldar vehicles. Unlike the Imperium's variant-based vehicles, their strongest armoured vehicle has armor so bad that they are generally described as 'kites'. It's a rare Dark Eldar vehicle that can't be taken down with small arms fire. If you get a chance to shoot them, that is.
Also in tabletop, the Space Marine Thunderfire cannon. As an artillery piece, anything shooting at it has a 50/50 chance of hitting either it or the Techmarine manning it. Hitting the Tech is not a huge issue, with a 2+ armour save, but if the cannon itself is hit, either a penetrating hit or glancing hit will completely destroy it. But it has a range of 60', and is heavy 4, with three types of ammo.
And Tau Fire Warriors, who are no tougher than Guard Stormtroopers and suck in close combat. However, they're armed with a gun that will punch through Stormtrooper armour, the Stormtrooper wearing the armour, and keep going out the back.
Speaking of Stormtroopers, their hellguns can punch right through Space Marine armor. Too bad for the shorter than normal range.
The Tau's Vespid allies straddle the line between this and Fragile Speedster. They have a gun that can blast clean through Space Marine armour from 18" away, and can move reasonably quickly, but even with T4 and a 4+ armour save, they still go down like chumps to even a brief encounter with heavy bolter fire.
Oddly enough, this trope can sometimes apply to Super-Heavy vehicles... The biggest, baddest, toughest things in the game! The "Chain Reaction" entry on their damage tables represents the shot hitting a fuel tank or something and doing further damage to the machine, and it then lets you roll on the damage table again. If you roll another 6, you repeat it all over again! With a huge amount of luck and several consecutive sixes, a single damaging shot can obliterate a Titan or Stompa that normally requires you to effectively "kill" it several times in a row to actually score a kill!
Made all the more jarring by the fact that the humble Land Raider still boasts the highest armor rating value, at 3 points higher (in total) than the Imperator Titan (the biggest vehicle you can field in the game, even in Apocalypse).
Ork Boyz borderline this. They have low point-cost, a massive amount of attacks for a rank-and-file trooper (three attacks per Boy, four on the charge), and... paper thin armor. Kinda balanced out by their ridiculously low point cost and high toughness, but when they get showered by bolter fire, expect a lot of Boyz to drop.
Daemons also deserve a mention — most of them pack a punch, but die like flies against standard Imperial weaponry because their "armor" is intentionally designed to be fickle. They have a 33% chance of surviving anti-starship weapons, but a 67% chance of dying to a single small-arms round to the face.
The Imperial Guard Hellhound. Most Imperial Guard vehicles are Mighty Glacier, but the Hellhound, for all the flamethrowers it mounts, can go up with a mild hit due to the tanks being hit.
The Rogue Trader rulebook specifically describes Raider-class spacecraft as "glass cannons, able to throw out heavy fire but unable to take it in return".
Eldar and Dark Eldar spacecraft in Battlefleet Gothic have wimpy armor, no shields, ridiculously powerful engines, and some of the nastiest guns possible.
The Hunchback IIc BattleMech exemplifies this trope in the Battletech universe. It mounts two Ultra autocannon-20s which, more or less, is apocalyptic firepower for any 'Mech (each can do 40 damage, which will destroy any mech its weight or less with a center hit), but sacrifices almost all of its armor in order to do so. Little wonder it's popular with Death Seeker Mechwarriors. In fact, a recent sourcebook clarifies: It was made as pretty much the Clan's equivalent of a Death sentence. Any warrior assigned to a Hunchback IIc was explicitly not expected to come back from their next battle.
It also barely has any ammo for those boomsticks (5 shots each, or 2 "double" shots and one regular). Its predecessor, the Inner Sphere standard Hunchback (circa 3025), has one AC/20, 10 shots, and near-maximum armor for a 50 ton mech chassis. The "new and improved" model, from 3050, has only 5 shots.
It is popular among youngsters trying to get a Mechwarrior status. To do that, you need to destroy at least one Mech in single combat (bonus rank if you take out more). This is just the design needed to take one out quickly if you don't need the bonus. It's also popular in duels - for similar reasons.
In the same vein, the dinky UrbanMech mounts an AC/10, but has only 6 tons of armor—appreciable for its size of 30 tons, but still not very much—and moves like molasses on top of being absolutely tiny. However, any light mech will be cored if Urbie hits it, and more than one Urbie makes things get very dangerous in a hurry unless you outrange them. Plus they're such cute little things! (The UrbanMech isn't a deathtrap so much as it's designed to fight in a very specific environment. Gee, I wonder what that might be?)
There is, however, a variant of the UrbanMech that reduces its armor to put the AC/20 in the same, now less-well-protected frame.
A lot of "support" 'mechs, like the classic Catapult or the frankly ridonkulous-looking Yeoman, will mount a lot of long range weapons like LRMs, but have little armour or weapons for close-and-dirty combat.
The Hollander BZK-F3 light 'mech tonnage is mostly taken up by the gauss rifle on its shoulder. (The mech weighs 35 tons, where the Gauss Cannon takes up 15.)
One of the newest 'Mechs in 3067, the LDT-1 Brigand, used primarily by the pirates, is designed like this. Armor up front is comparable to a regular light 'Mech, the back has a total of 1/2 ton of armor.
There are a few vehicles like this, such as the Hetzer Wheeled Assault Gun (effectively) a BFG mounted inside an armored box on a heavy truck chassis) and the tiny 5-ton Savannah Master - the fact that it was designed to take on an opponent four times its tonnage has to count for something.
In the novels particularly, the old Inner Sphere Rifleman 'mech is notorious as a deathtrap, with rear armour somewhere between cardboard and tin can levels. You don't want to be standing in front of it, though - each arm mounts an autocannon and medium and large lasers.
This is true even in the regular game. Some of the low-tech Riflemen, including the iconic original RFL-3N, have rear torso armor so thin that it's insufficient protection against falling on their back even once and that all but the very smallest 'Mech-scale weapons can punch through for internal damage in one shot. (Their front, to be fair, is a bit tougher, if still not up to par for their weight class.) One of the upgrades for it in the 3050 Tech Manual was to triple the armor on the back at a bit of cost to the legs.
The Hellbringer (Loki) Omni is another fine example of a machine that will slaughter most enemies in its weight class and down if they get too close, but will crumple and burn if anything with a decent gun looks at it funny. Its configurations focus on massed long range hitting power, with things like particle cannons, Gauss rifles, and autocannons coming into play. The primary variant is a highly accurate killing machine with enough firepower on it to literally slag four tons of armor in a single salvo and even includes various equipment upgrades like ECM or anti missile defenses. At 65 tons and with only 8 tons of armor, though, it'll have an extremely bad day if a sufficiently armed 'Mech draws a bead on it. It's so light on armor that it actually can't even absorb an AC/20 shot dead center—something that more than a few 15-tons-lighter 'Mechs can do.
The Adder/Puma is another high grade glass cannon. Its primary configuration carries dual ER-PPC weapons and includes a targeting computer to make them highly accurate. Any 'Mech who takes a Boom, Headshot from one of those guns is down for the count, no matter the size of it. The Adder, however, is all of 35 tons, has about 6 tons of armor, and generally isn't going to stick around very long once an enemy sniffs it out.
Dungeons & Dragons 4E gives us the Striker set of classes (Ranger, Rogue, Warlock, Barbarian, though the Barbarian has pretty good HP, if lackluster starting armor): Insane damage output, but rely on the Defenders to hold down the thing they're attacking so that they don't get crushed.
The problem with this is semi related to the 3.5 problem, but still significantly different. No one can take focus fire. No one. Not even the tanks. So what you really want is 1-2 enemies on each person, because anyone they gang up on is going down, no matter who they are. The only reason this doesn't make everyone a glass cannon is because without that focus fire, neither side can do any real damage to the other.
3.5 psionics has the wilder class. Less than a fourth of the powers of a Psion, but can up each powers output by your level, turning a single level 3 character into something capable of cutting down much higher level enemies on average rolls. Has little health and can daze/weaken themselves afterward. Unfortunately, the downsides add up to make it Awesome, but Impractical.
Some 3.5 characters, using a number of different sourcebooks, can become this trope. As an example, take an ordinary fighter and give him Power Attack, a feat which subtracts attack accuracy in exchange for higher damage. Then take a feat called Shock Trooper, which shifts the accuracy penalty to armor class — i.e. it makes you easier to hit. This build, known as the 'Charger build' and often by the name Glass Cannon, results in a character able to do massive damage when he charges in and attacks ... but at the cost of an armor class that a small child throwing rocks could probably hit.
The problem with 3.5 is that due to balance problems, almost everyone is made out of glass. That includes that "ordinary fighter", regardless of whether he goes the charging route or not. Doing so does give him a cannon, but since he'll be smashed easily anyways, there's no drawback to this. After all, if you're going to be super squishy no matter what, you might as well try to take them out with you, or better yet, first.
Meanwhile, many of the classes you'd expect to be glass cannons are actually lightning bruisers. For example, any wizard or sorcerer with stoneskin can get rid of any trace of glassiness with a turn while still keeping their offensive power.
3.5 Rangers fit this trope: A melee-focus Ranger with Weapon Finesse(allowing the dex-focused Ranger to use dexterity for attack accuracy instead of strength, and in some cases, generally House Rule, for damage as well) and a rapier-shortsword combo can cut through quite a few opponents at or even slightly above his/her challenge rating. The trade-off is that to use the Ranger's Combat Style, which is what grants free Two Weapon Fighting feats or Ranged feats depending on choice, the Ranger can only wear light or no armor, giving him/her a low AC that most enemies can punch through with no problem. The trick to turning the Ranger into a Lightning Bruiser, however, is about 4200 gold for a set of Mythril Breastplate, which allows a larger Dex bonus in addition to the large armor bonus, an almost-negligible Armor Check Penalty, and the lighter Mythril material allows the Medium-class Breastplate to be treated as a Light-class set of armor.
There are plenty of Magic: The Gathering cards that have high power but low toughness. However, the card Glass Golem seems to deliberately invoke this trope.
In chess, the Queen is strongest because she can move across the board and can move horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. Yet like with all chess pieces, she goes down in one.
There are various Yu-Gi-Oh! cards like: Goblin Attack Force, Indomitable Fighter Lei Lei, Spear Dragon, and Mad Archfiend that have incredibly high ATK, but zero DEF and move into defense position when it is time for your opponent to strike.
Warhammer Fantasy has a few. Night Goblin Fanatics follow it the best — they deal the same damage as a stone thrower (read, giant catapult) but are even easier to kill than a normal goblin and have a chance of killing themselves. There are, however, many others.
All varieties of elves have most of their units as Glass Cannons.
Wood Elves are similar to 40K's Eldar, being both this and Fragile Speedsters. They have little to no armour but can give out a lot of hurt with possibly the best core units compared to their prices (although they only have one real rank and file unit, which forces the player to pick the unit they charge). And to top it off they have the Forest Walking rule, which allows all of their units to walk through woods without any restriction which in other armies was only allowed for scouts. However, this has probably given several players the feeling of They Changed It, Now It Sucks, since in the new edition of the rulebook every army can walk through woods (and a lot of people thinks that the new rules hurt Wood Elves the most of all the armies, to the point where many tournament Wood Elf armies actually use an Elite MookLightning Bruiser build in which a handful of elves turn up to play cheerleader to as many Tree-Kin as they can legally bring).
High Elves have very few units with toughness higher than 3, but they make up for it with Speed of Asuryan, ensuring they always strike first no matter what the initiative values are and gaining attack bonuses if theirs are higher... and at 5 initiative on most of them, it usually is. This rule also ignores striking order penalties for weapons, so they can wield whopping weaponswilly-nilly at no penalty.
The mauler ships, which both avert this trope and play it straight at different times. Before firing, maulers are very difficult to destroy (due to how shield reinforcement works), and are as fast (if not FASTER) than other ships of similar size. After firing, they become much more fragile and sluggish as they struggle to recharge their huge battery banks for another shot.
Fast Patrol Ships (formerly known as Pseudo-Fighters). They can carry devastating armament, but their shields are paper-thin. The rules even refer to them as "eggshells armed with sledgehammers." PFs with Warp Booster Packs gain extra warp-engine power, which they can pump into their weapons for an even bigger punch, but are even more vulnerable to enemy fire.
This is the modus operandi of the Norse team in Blood Bowl. All their human players, including their linemen, start with the vital Block skill, Catchers/Runners get Dauntless to take down opponents far above their own weight class and Blitzers/Berserkers are Exactly What It Says on the Tin. However, every single human team member starts with an Armor Value of 7...the same as a regular goblin. This makes Attack! Attack! Attack! actually a viable strategy for them since they absolutely need to maintain the initiative. If the momentum shifts against them the entire team quickly turns into messy stains on the astrogranite...
The Amazons all start with AV 7 and the Dodge skill, and they have four blitzers with the Block skill as well (which makes them one of two players who start with both these skills, the other being Wood Elf Wardancers). With Dodge negating Defender Stumbles it gives the Amazons a lot of liberties with marking plays that other teams cannot do, and their movement around the pitch is only outdone by stunty players in reliability. This allows their blitzers good access to two-die blocks and allow them wins through KOing a few vulnerable players early on. However, Nuffle help you if you end up playing dwarfs...
Coffinshaker from Whats Shakin is a fairly powerful fire mage, but without his reliance of fire, is mostly vulnerable to all other attacks. He does seem to have some bit of acrobatic skills though.
Ran in Bob and George uses the Cossack Buster, a weapon of nightmarishly destructive proportions, easily able to cut a scar through a city. Unfortunately, Ran himself will instantly die if he is so much as touched.
Fortunately, due to being made of cheap Soviet components and a convenient teleporter, he can be brought back fairly quickly. In fact, he's pretty much Nigh Invulnerable!
The titular Dominic Deegan shares a handful of qualities with Marvel Comics' telepaths, i.e. physically weak while mentally untouchable. He describes himself as his body being "frail and weak, but [his] mind is a fortress you have no hope of conquering."
In Sluggy Freelance, Torg is capable of killing just about anything when his Cool Sword Chaz is powered up and starts glowing. While his sword is unbreakable and nearly unstoppable, however, Torg himself is as physically vulnerable as your average human being. It doesn't help that the sword's true potential can only be unleashed when it's fueled by the blood of the innocent, a cost Torg is understandably reluctant to pay.
In Suppression, Charlie is a electricity-wielder who was kidnapped by the villains so that he could power their entire facility. He can give off enough electricity to blow off Maxwell's arm. He is also skinny as a rail and has neither armor nor the ability to take a hit.
Fairies and tiny elves in Fairy Dust are quite deadly, but can be crushed by a larger humanoid's hand in a mere swat.
Played With with the titular Kid Radd. On the offensive side, his Mega Radd is technically only able to charge enough to deal 255 damage within his own game, but thanks to sloppy programming, there's actually no preset upper limit, meaning it's as powerful as the number of bits in the console he's on. When he's out on the internet, its power is effectively limitless, making him potentially strong enough to destroy the entire internet. On the defensive side, he can only take four hits before dying, but it doesn't matter what hits him. Getting hit with a nuclear bomb does the same amount of damage as having a Mookwalk into him.
Soundwave, of Transformers Animated, can easily take on multiple Autobots at the same time with The Power of Rock, has a massive number of various gadgets, and can control machines, but he's made of Earth machines mashed together, which means that even Sari's little hand-blast can put a hole in his shoulder, and when he is forced into melee combat, he is smashed apart in single blows. This contrasts with normal Decepticons, which are both figuratively and literally Made of Iron.
While Aang in Avatar: The Last Airbender is at his most powerful in the Avatar State, he is also at his most vulnerable. If he is killed in the Avatar State, not only does Aang die, but the Avatar reincarnation cycle ends.
This existential vulnerability does not mean that he's more physically vulnerable, though. An Avatar has more defensive potential than any other bender in the world, and with the extra power of the Avatar State is capable of shrugging off devastating attacks (see Aang vs. Comet-enhanced Ozai). But that does not make the Avatar invincible, so most limit their use of the Avatar State to momentary power-draws.
Fire Lord Ozai, as well. Arguably the most powerful Firebender of the world, his fighting style reflects this if not his fragility. Unlike his brother and children who like to mix it up in close combat and are generally almost as dangerous without bending as they are with it, Ozai prefers to stay at a distance and blast his enemies with ranged attacks. (He spends most of the series as Orcus on His Throne.) In the absence of bending he even seems to consider himself outmatched by Zuko.
Of course, most benders don't train with arms and he doesn't have any with him even if he could use them, so without bending Ozai's down to 'punch stuff with my highly developed muscles,' while Zuko's a rather accomplished swordsman who's almost certainly much faster than his father, and could presumably carve him up if he were willing to try.
Also, in spite of his impressive spiritual powers, Aang is just a scrawny 12-year-old child. His bending is the only reason he's lasted as long as he has.
Eddy's Brother from Ed, Edd n Eddy. Years of torturing small children will do you no good when you're hit by a flying door.
Word of God has even gone on the record as saying Eddy's Brother had been dishing out pain all his life, but hadn't had it happen the other way around too often, and thus has a very low pain threshold.
It's implied with Ed's younger sister, Sarah, anytime someone manages to hit her back. She actually cowered before her brother when he talked to her in a threatening voice.
It was the third time Ed stood up to his bratty little sister, but the first time it actually worked. Ed actually had a pebble stuck in his shoe, which was what made him mad enough to actually stand up to his sister.
In the classic Donald Duck short "Canvas Back Duck", Donald ends up in a boxing match against Pee-Wee Pete, and is only saved from a merciless pummeling when he accidentally discovers Pete has a (literal) glass jaw.
The assassin Curare from Batman Beyond seems this way. She's a deadly combatant with a sword, incredibly fast and agily, and very hard to lay a glove on, but when Batman actually manages to do so, it seems to hurt her badly.
Since the introduction of gunpowder in the High Middle Ages, Artillery Cannons are (probably) the very first and oldest definition of this trope: Deadly when given a chance to attack from a safe distance but easily neutralized by the destruction of its crew and/or the cannon itself.
Tank Destroyers. Popular back in WW2, they were Exactly What It Says on the Tin — usually armed with a tank-grade BFG to destroy enemy vehicles with great efficiency, using the mobility allowed by their lighter armor to flank enemy tanks and attack from the rear. In modern warfare, the role of tank destroyer has been taken up by helicopter gunships, though a number of lighter vehicles have been adapted to the purpose as well. American tank destroyers during World War II in particular were very lightly armoured, in most cases lacking a roof for their turret which exposed the crew to all kinds of nastiness. They usually mounted a bigger gun than friendly tanks and were extremely fast: the M18 Hellcat can clock up to 55 mph on good roads.note While the same is true for early German tank destroyers ("Panzerjäger" or tank hunter), later ones ("Jagdpanzer" or hunting tanks) were built with as much or more armor as tanks, making them a Mighty Glacier, instead.
The M36 Jackson had the excellent 90mm gun which could destroy any German tank at distance. Sadly, it had a Sherman chassis and a very lightly armored body. The Yugoslavs converted M36 into a real tank by up-armouring it and changing the diesel into that of T-62. They served in the Croatian Army until 2005.
The Soviet IS-2 heavy tank from WWII. Its 122mm gun took ages to reload, but could penetrate a Panther tank — completely. One Panther was observed being hit by an IS-2 shell, with the shell coming out the rear of the tank, going straight through several inches of sloped armour, and several more inches of ablative armour (the crew). However, Panthers themselves, with much lighter (but still, for the era, very powerful) 75mm gun, could also penetrate IS-2 armour right back.
Another example:This. It's basically a Jeep-like vehicle with a recoilless rifle (think "bazooka") mounted on top. Or how about this: a recoilless rifle mounted on, of all things, a Vespa scooter, designed for airborne operations.
The Swedish Thirty Years' War era Leather Cannon, which could well be the Trope Namer. It was basically a copper barrel wrapped on stout leather, like cow hide. The idea was to make the cannon light enough to be mobile and easily carried, which it was. It weighed 40 kg (90 lb) and could easily be carried by two men. Unfortunately it also was prone on over-heating- leather is a good heat insulator - and tended to burst if three or more shots were shot in succession without letting the barrel cool down a bit. Purely as a weapon it was a failure, but as a concept it revolutionized the role of the field artillery. The Swedes developed then a heavier but more reliable bronze Regiment Gun, which could be considered as Lightning Bruiser, as it was towed by one horse or three men, was durable enough to be towed in gallop, and could be easily moved to new emplacement.
Suicide bombers also tend to fall into this. They don't usually pack armor or a gun, but when they explode, you're in trouble.
Admiral Sir John Fisher is famous for saying "speed is armour," and was a proponent of battlecruisers, ships with large (battleship-size) guns that traded armor for speed. Despite whatever advantages they presented, the Royal Navy's battlecruisers are now mostly remembered for two engagements: The Battle of Jutland, where several British Battlecruisers were blown out of the waternote though this was more due to poor powder handling on the part of British crews and the Battle of the Denmark Strait, where the HMS Hood was lost after a salvo from the German battleship Bismark caused her magazine to explode. HMS Hood was actually a true Lightning Bruiser when she was commissioned in 1920, but 21 years later technology had advanced rapidly and she hadn't kept pace.
Aircraft carriers exist to operate aircraft. Anything not related to operating aircraft, even to some extent being armed simply to defend themselves without their planes, is usually considered a waste, while the embarked aircraft give the carrier the effective ability to engage and destroy a wide variety of enemies anywhere in a radius of several hundred miles or more.
US carriers generally avert this, as they do carry a point-defense gun (that is, a specialized, automatic anti-missile multibarreled cannon with an absurd rate of fire) on port and starboard of bow and stern. This is partly US Navy doctrine to mount point-defense guns on everything (even supply ships that shouldn't ever get remotely close to any action carry them), and partly a reflection of the former USSR having developed large, long-range anti-ship missiles for the specific purpose of killing US carriers in the event of an actual war.
Almost all carriers still carry some measure of self-defense, especially against missiles. However, in 1920s, carriers were designed to carry cruiser guns, just in case they got into shooting match with surface warships (USS Lexington and Saratoga, for example, originally carried eight 8 inch guns, same as a contemporary heavy cruiser.) Post World War II Soviet carriers were heavily armed with dozens of launchers for surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, to combat surface warships directly. Compared to these vessels, modern US carriers are aviation specialists.
Light tanks by definition are supposed to be very mobile, protected from small arms and constitute a serious danger. E.g. Soviet BT Tanks: on most BT-5s, 45-mm longbarrel cannon, armour 10-13 mm — price of max speed 52 km/h on tracks and 72 on wheels. Some light tanks just go over the top, however. Look at this◊ experimental monstrosity (1936-1936). It's a launcher for two fortification-busting 245-mm missiles slapped on BT-5. Max range is 1500 m. Failed to hit production run as unfit for real assault due to its crappy accuracy, slow reload and — surprise — fragility from top to bottom. Normally light tanks have nothing to do within visual range from enemy fortification even without extra explosives strapped on top.
Nuclear missiles without silos are arguably the ultimate example of glass cannons in real life, especially in the context of a nuclear war. Ballistic missile submarines have torpedoes, but they would still be in deep trouble if found. Mobile ground based units are even worse, with no defenses at all◊ against the inevitable enemy counterattacks. Of course, you're supposed to just leave before the counterattack anyway.
The torpedo boat was a small but maneuverable ship that had powerful armaments that could be used to sink the much bigger battleships of the era, and relied on its speed, agility, and ability to field a lot of them to avoid not getting destroyed. Navies fielding torpedo boats also relied on having lots of them to make up for any losses.
...And "avoid not getting destroyed" they did, quite often.
Conventional submarines (at least up to and including WW2 vintage) also qualify — great for crippling or killing enemy surface vessels from ambush, but they have to get fairly close to do it and again their only real defense against anything that can shoot back is not to get hit in the first place.
WWI style Monitors were shallow draft ships of questionable seaworthiness onto which the largest spare gun(s) at hand was crammed. Basically a floating artillery battery, they had the advantage of being cheap and able to get in very close to shore where traditional naval ships could not go, even going up rivers.
Massively subverted with the original Monitor-type ships, which were almost Game Breakers. While they were unseaworthy at first, that rapidly changed even over the duration of the war, and they were equipped with guns that simply obliterated any conventional ship, while still sporting enough armor and low-profile design which made them almost invincible. They were sufficiently good that after the Monitor v. Merrimac duel (in which the Confederate ship actually fought a deliberately undergunned Monitor) that nobody ever really tried to fight them without strong fortifications and a large advantage in firepower.
They are both predated by Bomb Ketches, which where specialised to the point where they were impractical for anything other than attacking coastal targets.
Anything the Finnish Navy can throw in. Their ships are crammed with oversize guns and missiles, and outfitted with minelaying equipment, but have no armour whatsoever - they rather employ hiding in the archipelago as their defensive strategy.
Humans in hunting situations. If the guns fail to bring down that bear before it closes into close quarters, prepare for a trip to the hospital. Or to funeral home.
Humans in warfare are generally a case of glass cannons in that our technological ability to inflict damage is much greater than our technological ability to defend against damage. They had to build NORAD inside a small mountain to maybe protect it against nukes.
Bob Sanders of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts. One of the league's hardest hitters, maybe the best safety in all of football... when he's healthy, which is about as rare as the Colts beating the Chargers these days. Sanders frequently spends half the regular season on the injured list, which might be because he plays so hard all the time, running full-force into offensive players on every play.
The Eagles' Michael Vick fits the archetype perfectly. With his freakish speed and arm strength, Vick is the single most dangerous playmaker in the league... as long as he doesn't get hit too hard. In 9 seasons, he's played all 16 games only once, and has spent quite a few contests limited due to one injury or another. Not counting the 2 seasons he missed while answering to "Federal Inmate #33765-183".
One recent example is Washington Nationals ace pitcher Steven Strasburg. He has overpowering stuff which can strike out a lot of batters. Unfortunately, he keeps getting injured after he makes a couple of starts on the mound.
Several examples in mixed martial arts, including fighters that have devastating offense and a weak chin, or fighters with ludicrously brilliant skill in one area and none in any other.
Shinya Aoki is one of the most brilliant no-gi grapplers on the planet, but he reacts to punches as though they were illegal.
Similarly, Demian Maia is one of the most decorated Brazilian jujitsu practitioners in MMA. At one point, he was undefeated at 11-0 and had won 5 straight fights by submission, despite having no striking ability. Then he fought◊ Nate Marquardt...
Bob Sapp has enough strength to pick up a 260 pound man literally off the mat and piledrive◊ him violently to the ground. Yes, in MMA, where piledrivers are neither safe nor done with compliance from the victim. He beat one of the best kickboxers in the world (Ernesto Hoost) twice in 2002. Sapp is also known for the trifecta of having a glass chin, possessing very little toughness or heart, and having laughably few grappling skills. He lost in 2009 to a man 150 pounds lighter than him who fancies himself a superhero, sports a mullet, and goes by the name "Minowaman."
Melvin Manhoef, a dutch kickboxer, has truly horrifying punching power. He was the first, and so far only man to ever knock out Mark Hunt, who was famous for shrugging off career-ending strikes to his presumably granite-filled head. Manhoef delivered said KO◊ while moving backwards. Unfortunately, even though he's fought at the highest levels of kickboxing and MMA and can put together beautiful offensive combinations, Manhoef's strike defense is quite lacking, and he has been knocked out by mid-level fighters far more often than an elite striker should. More saliently, his grappling skills are pure garbage. For MMA professionals, fighting Manhoef can either end in Melvin decapitating you with a punch, or with him meekly tapping out 15 seconds after the fight hits the mat.
Many fighters like Melvin Guillard and Houston Alexander have decent striking, scary power and zero grappling skill. Stand with them and they're likely to hurt you, take them down and they'll play you the three-tap symphony.
Julian Jackson was a boxer whose career spanned the 80s and the early to mid 90s, and is boxing's patron saint of the one punch knockout. Being in the ring with Jackson was to always potentially be one punch away from being KO'd. However, some of Jackson's victims were only knocked out because they knew of the weakness in Jackson's chin and tried to knock him out first. The most prominent example is probably Herol Graham, a slick defensive specialist who made his living by dodging punches and countering his way to a decision. Graham was able to hurt Jackson consistently in the first three rounds of their fight, so he pushed the action and had Jackson backing up in the 4th. Then Jackson connected with a single blow and not only was Graham unconscious before he hit the canvas, he remained out for minutes afterward. Final round and aftermath of the Jackson-Graham fight. When attempting to move up a weight, Jackson was smashed up twice by Gerald Mc Clellan, whose career was subsequently ended by another fighter with Glass Cannon tendencies: Nigel Benn was also a boxer with an almighty punch but a suspect chin, who was knocked down twice during the fight but got up and finished by putting Mc Clellan in hospital.
Some would say that British heavyweight Frank Bruno was also a Glass Cannon. A punch that could stop almost anything if landed properly, but a bit slow and unwieldy, and against top opposition, liable to be vulnerable to a big hit, not because he would get knocked down - which might have given him some time to recover - but because he would stay on his feet while stunned enough for the subsequent series of punches to finish the fight.
Wlad Klitschko has excellent reach and power, but has been stopped several times in his career- and not always by top fighters.
Late in Mike Tyson's career Tyson's old trainer Kevin Rooney who coached him in his prime complained that Tyson was no longer the elusive Lightning Bruiser who had once dominated the boxing world. "His style was to use head movement, be elusive. He's not using the style the way he's supposed to be. He's just... he's just a puncher now. If he hits you, he'll knock you out. If you hit him, you'll knock him out".
Manny Pacquiao became a superstar boxer because of his freakish speed and strength which he used to overwhelm his opponents into submission, despite his small size. However, Manny Pacquiao also has a very fragile chin that can get damage when timed right. Earlier in his career, Pacquiao could easily get knocked down and out. However, after mastering his offense under the training of Freddie Roach (a well known offensive trainer), Pacquiao went a decade destroying some of the top boxers of his generation. That is until his nemesis Juan Marquez who he could never get a clear victory over, once again exposed his weakness by brutally knocking him out in their 4th fight by a well timed counter hook.
Mosquitoes. Their bite can transmit nasty diseases like Malaria, Dengue, Encephalitis and Heartworm, enough to kill or cripple a human for days. On the bright side, a well-timed smack kills them instantly (usually).
Hockey player Eric Lindros was widely heralded as "The Next One" by pro scouts in the late 1980s and early 1990s in reference to Wayne Gretzky, who was in turn called "The Great One" for being the all-time best player to ever put on skates. Lindros was the size of a train and dealt out hits to match, and was a highly skilled scorer to boot. When he made it to the NHL, he was both one of the most dominant and the most injured players in the league.
The Argentina national team was accused of this during the 2010 World Cup. Their dynamic and amazing offense blew teams away, until the Germans, who were able to shut down Argentina's scoring attempts, carved its way through the Argentines' notoriously weak defense in an absolutely brutal match.
Some of U-17 feminine teams in current world cup, being the match between South Korea and Nigeria (4-4 after 90 minutes, 6-5 for Korea after extra time) the maximum expression of this.
Indeed, most teams in the 50's and before could be considered like this comparing current teams. The popularization of catenaccio made football/soccer putting an emphasis on defense.
More or less the situation with human-held firearms these days. Armor is bulky and unwieldy and guns and ammunition that can penetrate said armor is readily available, even for common criminals, so often it comes down to trying to make sure that you can shoot first and that your opponent can't shoot back.
Cars. Arguably better at killing people and destroying things than guns, but quickly fall apart if they hit things. Granted the things they're good at destroying and the things that destroy them if hit aren't one and the same, but since you're from Column A, it's still a good idea to look up from your smartphone before you cross the street.
Older cars were sturdier. Modern cars damage easily in an impact because it's realised that what matters is not whether the car is damaged but whether the *occupants* are, so crumple zones are better than a really rigid shell.
Birds of prey. They have sharp and strong beaks and talons, capable of killing their prey in a split second... but if grounded by a broken wing or leg they are very likely to die of starvation.
Venomous snakes also. Sure, they have a very nasty weapon at their disposal, but the instant their venom glands run dry they're reduced to bluff or flight. And if an attacker is too thick-skinned or immune, they're lunch.
Combat Robotics has a surprising number of glass cannons. In Robot Wars, Razer had an almost unstoppable weapon, but often broke down of its own accord. Tsunami and Wheely Big Cheese had immensely powerful flippers (but the latter was very difficult to aim) but lacked the durability to fight Lightning Bruisers like Chaos 2 and Mighty Glaciers like Xterminator. In BattleBots, Nightmare had a massive 4 foot diameter spinning disc, and its destructive power was the original reason for the arena having a ceiling, but its wheels were very vulnerable. It lost after having a wheel (and sometimes the gearbox and part of the motor it was attached to) ripped off by horizontal spinners. Many "shell spinners" have huge destructive power, but if they get flipped over, they're toast. Finally, Last Rites, one of the current top-ranked heavyweights, practically defines this trope. Even the most heavily armored opponents cannot simply shrug off blows from its spinning bar, but it is lightly armored, and its wheels are vulnerable to a solid hit to the side. In fact, because its bar is so powerful, and so much weight is poured into the weapon system, it is frequently defeated by the recoil from its own attacks.
The Prussian infantrymen of Frederick The Great were renowned for their rapid rate of fire (pretty impressive, given the rather slow firing rate of muzzle-loaded muskets) but were pretty vulnerable in close combat, making them a ripe target for cavalry. Fortunately, Frederick was enough of a tactical genius and a lucky man to prevent decisive defeats.
Irukandji jellyfish. They are the size of a fingernail and are so fragile they can't be kept in a tank - they will die from bumping into the glass. They also have a venom that, while it is not lethal, will hurt you so very much that you will wish it was.
The Mitsubishi A6M Zero was extremely fragile, with no armor and fuel tanks that would leak continuously from even the smallest puncture instead of sealing like Allied tanks, so that even the most minor glancing hit could destroy it. It also had better armament than any of its rivals and could blast apart most Allied aircraft with a single burst, and a turn rate good enough to get into a firing position against even the most elusive enemy. It was the king of the Pacific skies until faster American fighters showed up that could simply barrel down on a Zero from above, destroy it, and run away before the Zero's wingmates could respond.
The design strategy that American fighters developed to counter this was to make very fast, well-armored, heavily armed fighters that could hit the lighter Japanese planes in head-on attacks. Even with the Zero's 20mm cannons, they would be shredded and set ablaze by the Americans' .50 caliber API barrages before they could deal out enough damage in turn. Japanese pilots were later instructed to avoid head-on attacks with American planes, even when they had a numerical advantage.
ME-163 Komet. It was a rocket fighter armed with two 30mm cannon or ten short ranged upward-firing single-use guns. It was designed to kill bombers with just a couple of hits and during its powered flight phase, moved too quickly to be targeted by the prop driven Allied planes. However, it only had enough fuel for about 7 minutes of powered flight and once it expended its fuel, it was a nearly helpless glider.
The Soviet Union produced a literal example. The 2B1 Oka was the largest self-propelled artillery piece ever built, and could fire a 420mm nuclear projectile from it's 65-foot-long barrel up to 28 miles downrange. Unfortunately, the recoil of such a monster cannon was too powerful, damaging the gun mount, snapping the treads, and tearing up the transmission. Assuming it even could fire a second shot, it would be effectively a stationary artillery piece.
An American nuclear recoilless rifle, the "Davy Crocket" had the opposite problem. The gun could easily survive firing the first round, the crew manning it wouldn't. The range of the nuclear fallout was larger then the range of the gun, which is why it never got out of the prototype stage.
Uh, actually the Davy Crockett recoilless rifle did not have this issue and was mass produced and deployed in West Germany during the Cold War. Thankfully, no situation arose that would have allowed anyone stupid enough to do so to use one.
Traditionally, archers in many armies did not wear any armour, partly because it would have interfered with their movements and also because they generally could not afford it. A particularly well-off bowman might be able to go into battle with a sword and buckler, a breastplate, and a helmet of some sort; most went off to fight with little more than a knife and the clothes on their back (and sometimes even less than that). Suffice to say, archers tended to get slaughtered if the fight came to them.
That being said, going into battle lightly equipped did have some distinct advantages in regards to skirmishing. If given enough time to prepare, archers could fortify their position with obstacles to deter or hinder attacks, such as wooden stakes and caltrops, which would make them incredibly difficult to dislodge.
In a way, elephants are this; they're extremely powerful, and fairly fast as well. Yet due to Square/Cube Law, tripping can greatly injure them.
War Elephants are not much better. Sure, they seem like they would be a Mighty Glacier at the very least, able to suck up lots of arrows and trample enemies, but they scare VERY easily, uncontrollably running away, often through friendly lines.
Modern Guided Missile Warships certainly count. The CG-47 "Ticonderoga" class cruisers started life as destroyers, but with some design changes (and some meddling from DC) they became cruisers. To give you an idea of what this means, think of it this way. Each 'Tico' is armed with two 5" rapid fire cannons for short range work, as well as Harpoons and Tomahawks for long range work. Both of those missiles are capable of ripping other ships apart from many, many miles away, and the 5" guns can track anything from small boats to low flying aircraft, and reliably take them down. But the armor is made of KEVLAR. Yes, the EXACT same material that soldiers put on to protect them from bullets. This was done to save weight since the hull was never designed for cruiser specs. Those aboard a Tico better hope that the AEGIS combat system doesn't Blue Screen... Not that armor would be of any value against modern anti-ship missiles however, especially as the primary means of damage is fire not the explosion itself.
Also of note is the "Kirov" Class of Battlecruisers. Each ship is armed with a an array of the appropriately named "Shipwreck" Anti-ship Missile, but the armor is only 76mm thick. There's been an ongoing debate over what would win, an Iowa or a Kirov. However, since the Iowas would likely be protected by the aforementioned Ticonderogas, and their GC Brothers the Arliegh Burkes, the Kirov would have to rely on a Macross Missile Massacre to hopefully destroy the battlegroup. If it fails to do so... In this case it would be the destroyers that would be doing most of the defensive work, the armor and big guns of the battleship would be almost entirely irrelevant in terms of winning such a battle, although the Tomahawk and Harpoon missile launchers which were fitted to the battleships in the 80's would give them an ability to shoot back.
Most modern warships fall under this design philosophy. Modern anti-ship weapons have such long range and sheer destructive power that it is simply impractical to carry enough armor protection to be useful, except for certain key areas such as the ship's ammo magazine.. Instead, the extra weight is either removed from the equation to allow the ships to move faster, or used on more useful things, such as the aforementioned long-range highly destructive missiles. In short, modern shipbuilders take to heart the saying that the best defense is a good offense.
World War II era Japanese Mogami class cruisers. Intended to conform to the requirements of the London Naval Treaty while maximizing armaments, the ships were designed for 9000 ton displacement while packing 'fifteen' 6-inch guns and a dozen 24 inch torpedo tubes. Unfortunately, the construction techniques that the Japanese were using did not quite pan out. The ships became notorious for their instability and structural weakness (the ship's armor plates buckled and split when the guns were being test fired!), requiring massive refit to make them serviceable. In the end, they weighed in nearly 4000 tons heavier than original design and somewhat unfairly came to be used as poster boy for how the Japanese grossly violated arms limitation treaties.