A number of characters in One Piece. Rubber Man Luffy is not a bad example (since among the other Devil Fruit abilities his one is actually rather low-tier until he starts inventing other uses for it) but the best example is Kaku, who boasts about gaining the power to turn into a giraffe◊ AND becomes more powerful thanks to it. Word Of God has said, the Devil Fruits themselves don't become more powerful, the users just use them better with more creativity.
Thanks to the large number of onomatopoeia in Japanese, he can do such things as cut anything or anyone that can possibly be cut under normal conditions
, one who can merge anything into his body by eating it*
As one result, he invented a metal so useful, he was reappointed a lesser king by the World Nobles
, and a main character who accidentally combined the power "to not die once" with getting lost, with the result being functional immortality and inhuman abilities.
Especially noticeable when Luffy goes up against God Eneru. Due to his rubber body not conducting electricity, Luffy was probably one of the few people on the planet who could've defeated him without needing a high level of Haki, the local Chi equivalent.
Luffy also gets particularly clever with his abilities by taking advantage of the fact that his entire body, including heart, blood vessels and bones, are all rubber. In the former he pumps his blood flow to a pressure level that would kill any normal human. In the latter he inflates his bones and increases his hitting power significantly.
Batholomew Kuma, with the ability to push things, is one of the most powerful characters in the story, especially since his power includes the ability to push abstract concepts like pain and exhaustion.
There's also Baroque Works Member Mr. 3. His power allows him to create an endless supply of candle wax from his body. He was also able to make this wax hard as steel and make keys out of it, but its greatest use didn't come in until he used it to stop the flow of the warden's impossibly corrosive and utterly deadly poisonous flood in Impel Down. Even Crocodile noted how odd it is when some powers meet.
In a more literal version of this trope, the author states that Sanji is able to set his leg ablaze without hurting it because his heart burns hotter.
The Law Of Ueki bases its entire setting on this. Nearly every power (with precious few exceptions) is weak or weird, but with proper application can become deadly.
Everyone in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Powers like healing, making maps and summoning zippers have all deadly combat applications when in the hands of a stand user. In a world full of guys who can stop time, have super strength, and can even reset reality, it's amazing to see what such seemingly under-powered abilities as controlling sound effects and drawing manga can do.
Pretty much all the awesome and suspense comes from how inventive someone can use their powers rather than outright brute strength—though that's not to say that beating someone with your fists yelling ORA ORA ORA ORA isn't awesome in itself. Still, as was once pointed out on a JoJo forum, landing the Spam Attack isn't the real mechanism of victory, but rather the reward for circumventing/negating the enemy Stand's power.
Koyomi in Yoku Wakaru Gendai Mahou has the ability to turn any spell into a basin. It seems like a lame power at first, until everyone around her realizes that it can transform any spell, regardless of who cast it or how powerful it is, effectively giving her a universal Power Nullifier. Koyomi herself never actually catches onto this.
In the absurd comedy manga, Banana no Nana, the main character has the power to manipulate... bananas! Of course, in a world where there's more traditional powers like water manipulation and superhuman strength, this seems like a pretty lame power to end up with. But Nana later explains (and demonstrates) she can manipulate everything about the banana, including size, weight, and hardness. Cue the absurd, but unusually badass scene of her using the banana as a bludgeon, morphing into a shield, and then morphing it into a sword. The fight ends with the villain taking a hostage, and demanding that Nana, "drop [her] banana!"
Also from Banana no Nana, there's a maid whose power is to "do housework really fast". She uses a sword in the form of a mop so her movements are extremely fast.
While the Nasuverse has a notable share of insanely durable or insanely powerful characters, there is at least one character per setting, who while having a power that sounds unspectacular, can produce results as equally ridiculous as their overpowered brethren. Consider:
Asagami Fujino: MildMannered High School student with the psychic power to... turn objects clockwise or counter clockwise? Uses? How about twisting victims into a bloody pulp by sight alone? Or reducing a whole suspension bridge into wreckage?
Kiritsugu from Fate Zero has the dual origin of severing and binding, which translates to breaking things and then putting them back together, which causes irreparable degradation. That doesn't sound very useful, but when his target is a mage's Magic Circuits... well, there's a reason people call him the Magus Killer.
In Aphorism, each character's power comes from a specific Japanese kanji. For example, the kanji for "change" allows someone to change their appearance; the kanji for "katana" allows the user to use ...a katana. In comparison, the kanji "righteous" is pretty much useless in combat, and its user usually winds up being the Distressed Damsel.Then we learn that the way the kanji manifests itself depends on how the user chooses to interpret the word. And then she realizes that the kanji for "righteous" and "subjugate" look very similar...
In Iris Zero, most of the Irises have seemingly useless powers like seeing what mood someone is in that they use to do things like manipulate people.
We have Fiamma of the Right, one of the most powerful characters in the series, outclassing monstrosities such as a fully-awakened Accelerator. His power? "The Holy Right", the ability to use all other abilities relating to the right hand. Lame? This is the ability that allows him to destroy an entire city in one fell swoop, teleport instantaneously to another location, and create a FlamingBFSforty kilometers in length.
Cendrillon has the power of Cinderella. This gives her incredible speed and agility to casually dodge a cluster bomb strike (based on Cinderella's dancing and the pumpkin carriage) and lets her remotely mutilate the feet of anybody with a different shoe size than her. After all, she can do anything that has to do with the story of Cinderella.
Paper Masters in Read or Die have the power to mentally control and manipulate paper, which also evidently comes at the cost of such extreme bibliomania that it can functionally ruin their lives (they can be hard-pressed to resist the urge to read or enter a bookstore when they should be, say, working, and they typically spend hundreds to thousands of dollars a week on new books for their collection). However, like the Banana no Nana example above, Paper Masters can control everything about paper and control all paper around them — leading to stunts like creating plane-swallowing dragon-beasts from masses of paper, turning a simple page into a sword that can cut through steel, and more. There's a reason why "Paper Master" is now considered an example of Stock Superpowers.
Recently, Dust Style has been translated as Particle Style, and one of these abilities creates a massive explosion. It's not dust. It's molecules, atoms, and a nuclear explosion.
The title character himself once used his "Sexy No Jutsu", which transforms him into a hot girl, to successfully stun the Third Hokage (the head of his village and one of the most powerful ninjas alive) in order to steal something. The ability is generally treated as a joke.
In the anime adaptation of Medaka Box, Fude Ezumachi can change the colours of things. He manages to disable one of the most powerful characters in the series by turning their skin splotchy blue, causing their body to react as if it had been heavily bruised. He also displays the ability to make things brittle by turning them grey, can shake his enemies' confidence by turning them pink, and implies that he can use the colour red to open massive wounds that bypass any defense.
A few nen abilities in Hunter × Hunter seem like this. Kortopi of the Phantom Troupe and his ability to copy items doesn't seem particularly useful to a Carnival of Killers. Except that things he can copy extend to entire buildings, and he can sense the positions of his copied items as well as anyone inside the particularly large ones, making him a good Enemy Detecting Radar. It also turns out to come in handy when the Troupe needs to Fake The Dead.
Hisoka is the king of this trope in the series with his Bungee Gum. His ability lets him make his nen stretchy and sticky like gum, and apply any kind of texture to it. He also happens to be one of the strongest and most dangerous fighters in the series, especially since his ability opens up all kinds of opportunities for misdirection (fitting his Monster Clown magician persona.)
"He could control every creature that lives in the sea. But I don't think either of you know what that really means. Do you know, do you understand, do you have any idea how much life there is in just one single square mile of sea? I don't think you do... and if you multiply that by lots of miles in every direction... I'd never seen anything like it in my whole life... and God as my witness, I hope to never see it again."
Perhaps the most awesome (and funny) example is Aquaman's friendship with sea life used to defeat Namor. Poor Namor never knew what hit him when he had an orca dropped on him.
A few writers give him the ability to command not only sea life, but also any animal with any connection to the sea, even vestigial or ancestral. Considering life originated in the ocean and every animal has an aquatic common ancestor, that means he can control every animal that has ever existed, including humans.
The New 52 reboot of Vibe drops the Captain Ethnic elements and makes him a more fully-realized character. His abilities allow him to sense breaches from other dimensions, making him the Justice League's guardian of the Multiverse.
Rising Stars has Laurel Darkhaven, who can telekinetically manipulate very, very small objects. Such as your carotid artery. She becomes a government assassin. She later uses the ability to control "very small things" to telekinetically sift EVERY inch of arable soil under the entire Middle East in order to make the entire region fertile again. The results can be seen from ORBIT!
Turns out many powers are like this because of implications or aspects directly hidden. Poet's powers are supposed to be just minor energy abilities, but they're actually control over the Power itself...
Mr. Brownstone was a minor Spider-Man villain who could teleport matter... a few grams at a time. He used those powers to become a drug dealer catering to wealthy clients wishing to indulge in heroin without any nasty needle marks. Naturally, he could also teleport drugs to people's systems against their will...
Recently the offpanel thing is becoming mostly subverted, as she easily defeats Wolverine in a sparring match, shown mostly in silhouette but still visible, and she was also shown ripping killer Nazi mechas to shreds.
This is a grand tradition for the Legion of Super-Heroes. Most characters have only one power, and it's not always something very impressive. One of their first recruits was Triplicate Girl, with the ability to transform from one ordinary teenage girl... to threeordinary teenage girls. Useful for doing chores and pretty fun in bed, but not much good in combat. At least, not until she became a master of Tri-Jitsu, a martial art based around the fact that you have six arms, six legs, and three potential points of attack to coordinate from. She is also an expert infiltrator. Go somewhere, leave a body behind, and walk out.
Matter-Eater Lad can... eat anything. Hardly a power to write home about. However, seeing as Tenzil Kem's personal definition of "stuff" includes laser beams and doomsday computers, you might want to keep him around in case you need to get rid of something. In one story he ate a supposedly-indestructible wish-granting device and so saved The Legion from the invincible monster it had created after everyone else failed. It drove him mad, but hey, he saved the universe!
In at least one version, being able to bite through and chew up anything meant the Required Secondary Power of acidic saliva, providing a potentially nasty ranged attack.
Chemical Kid can alter chemical reactions. In the New 52, he is terrified and asks why everyone is counting on him to subdue a rampaging Daxamite (Daxamites are just as powerful as Kryptonians). Element Lad talks him through slowing down the chemical reactions in the Daxamite's brain, causing him to pass out, then reversing the chemical reactions in his skin that let him absorb and process sunlight, taking away his powers. This means Chemical Kid can defeat Superman if he wanted to.
Almost all of the Substitute Heroes qualify in one form or another. Color Kid is perhaps the best example of the trope. He can make things change color. Doesn't sound like much, but during his tenure he turns green kryptonite into (harmless to Superman) blue kryptonite, switches the color of the sky and the ground (confusing fighter pilots), create clouds of "black" to blind opponents (and power up his teammate Night Girl, who loses her powers in daylight), change someone's entire body to match a wall to provide camouflage, and fire day-glo beams that blind and confuse opponents.
Turning yellow sunlight into red would instantly de-power any daxamite or kryptonian opponent as well.
Batman villain The Ten-Eyed Man is an interesting case. Fans usually interpret this as him having ten additional weak points. But as most people will attest, eyes are pretty useful. Eyes on your hands? Makes you one of the best shooters in the DC universe, due to an unerring aim.
Makes it a bit hard to pull the trigger, though...
It can make him nearly impossible to sneak up on, as long as he hold one hand behind his back.
Stormwatch: Team Achilles had a character whose superpower was to make plants grow really fast... and he worked as an assassin. The thing is, most people at any given time have seeds in their digestive tract from the vegetation they've eaten, and growing those up to full plants in a few seconds leads to a nasty death from internal injuries and/or choking.
Doug "Cypher" Ramsey of the X-Men junior team New Mutants originally had the power of comprehending languages, and that was it. Then he died and came back, with his powers expanding to all forms of "language". This includes computer language (making him a master hacker and programmer), arcane languages (letting him cast spells), body language (giving him the ability to fight all the New Mutants at the same time and win), and even the structure of buildings, allowing him to pinpoint their weak spots instantly. Took a Level in Badass, indeed.
Marvel's Razorback has the mutant ability to instinctivly operate any vehicle. Including Alien Humongous Mecha that didn't exactly come with instructions.
In Secret Avengers, the Scientist Supreme informs D-list supervillain Mentallo that his limited psionic abilities are quite laughable, but could be invaluable if utilized correctly. Cut to the next issue, where Mentallo throws the U.S. government into a state of emergency after mentally hijacking their entire fleet of Iron Patriotdrones.
Dove of the (Teen) Titans is a low-level Flying Brick, who also has the power of "perfect peace". In the recent Blackest Night crossover, this not only allowed the previous Dove to not come back as a zombie, but also allowed the current Dove to destroy hordes of the otherwise-unstoppable emotion-powered zombies at once.
One of the Captain Planet comic books actually has Ma-Ti lamenting over how lame "Heart" is as a power after Wheeler makes fun of him for it. Later in the issue, Ma-Ti uses his ring to reach and understand the hearts of all the creatures in the forest to help the other planeteers, including bears.
Marvel's very own Fad SuperDazzler has the ability to absorb sound and convert it into light. This may not sound like much at first glace, but she can do things like blinding people with bright flashes(duh),create a strobe effect that upsets equilibrium, create holograms, and even Frickin' Laser Beams. She's also immune to sound based attacks, because they just make her stronger. This ability is shown to be obscenely powerful, as Galactus once recruited her to retrieve one of his Heralds and exposed her to unimaginable sounds, including the explosion of an entire galaxy(yeah yeah, no sound in space. He's Galactus, he has no care for your paltry human physics), to boost her to sufficient levels. In fact, Black Bolt of the The Inhumans, who's considered one of the top-tier powerhouses of the Marvel Universe, would literally have NO WAY of defeating Dazzler.
It's also suggested that one day, she could expand this property to cover other fundamental forms of energy. Ever set off a nuclear explosion with a boombox?
Some of the Falcon's powers include talking to birds and seeing what they see. It doesn't sound to promising until you realize that these birds can aid him in battle and act as his spies from everywhere. It's been implied that between Nick Fury and all of the resources of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Falcon with all of the pigeons in New York, Falcon has the better intelligence network.
His powers also affect other creatures that have some sort of avian ancestry. An issue of The Avengers has him rescuing the team from a group of raptor-like aliens by using his abilities to force the creatures to flee.
People also forget that his wings are pretty powerful melee weapons, as demonstrated when he decapitated an Ultron drone during Avengers Disassembled. This was Lampshaded during Ultimate Nightmare, when Black Widow jokingly said that Falcon wouldn't impress Unicorn by flapping his wings, only to retract her statement when he used them to eviscerate the villain.
Spider-Man once ripped part of Norman Osborn's face off when he stuck to it with his stickum' powers during American Son. Not how Stan Lee imagined it being used, but awesome regardless.
On a similar note, Spider-Man's clone Kaine once used his sticking powers to tear off a piece of wall and beat the Rhino over the head with it. He would also use his sticking powers routinely to leave the "Mark of Kaine" on his victims, in the same manner that Spidey would later use them in the above-mentioned American Son example.
On a more meta level, this is how Batman evolved from a mere vigilante who dresses in funny costumes, to a Crazy-PreparedChessmaster whose supplementary "superpower" is Wonderful Toys; writers wanted to give him a bigger role than mere Mission Control in crossovers where he's shoulder to shoulder (and often toe to toe) with beings whose abilities were at the very least superhuman, if not supernatural, and therefore he developed the smarts to outthink everybody and the gadgets to deal with anything.
Cixi's power from Lanfeust is to change water's state between liquid, solid and gas. Said like this, it doesn't seem that powerful, but it becomes horribly creepy when you realize humans are mostly made of water. At one point, Big Bad Thanos has her causing a man's blood to boil until he is literally burnt from the inside.
In Luminosity, Elspeth's powers all relate to effective communication. On its own, it can be used as an Exposition Beam or to be magically convincing, but only of things she genuinely believes. Not useless, but far from a Story Breaker Power. But it gets very interesting when someone capable of Mega Manning gets involved and starts using it on Elspeth herself and in combination with other peoples' powers. By the end of the novel, she can resurrect the dead. (Human sacrifice required.)
In Shinobi Of The High Seas, like in canon, Ms. Valentine can change her weight anywhere between 1 kilogram and 10,000 kilograms. At first, she merely uses it to float up and then crush people. Later on she learns that her physical strength is the same no matter how much she weighs and that she can increase the weight of other people/objects. Cue Ms. Valentine one-shotting a Pacifista by axe kicking it with a 5,000 kilo leg.
Film - Animated
In Shrek The Third, Snow White uses her animal-friend ability to its full extent: she summons them to do battle.
Also because the villain in question physically struck her, thereby justifying Layla's use of physical force in self-defense.
In Star Trek (2009), Kirk asks Sulu about his combat experience while en-route to fight hostile Romulans. "Fencing", he replies simply. Once the fight begins, Sulu produces a sci-fi collapsible sword which he promptly puts to use.
In The Hobbit, Gandalf believes that the best way to keep the forces of darkness away is to embrace kindness in all its forms, no matter how small, and this is the primary reason why he believes in Bilbo so strongly.
Which works at first sight only thematically, but per Gandalf's style ends up working pragmatically, too. Bilbo's niceness, lack of ambition and general rustic charm makes him a sort of Morality Pet of the Dwarfs, generally acting as a voice of reason and an inhibitor of conflict. Moreover, it makes him mostly resistant to the lure of the Ring, which is important in the sequel.
The main characters of Mur Lafferty's superhero novel Playing For Keeps are examples of this trope. In particular, the heroine, Keepsie, has the superpower that nothing that belongs to her can be taken from her without her consent. Anyone who tries is paralyzed until they stop trying. In the beginning of the novel, she considers this to be a pretty useless power. Once she figures out that her life counts as something which belongs to her...
"You're breathing my air."
In the Rose of the Prophet trilogy by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, a wizard named Mathew teaches several women how to cast a simple spell that will create a fog to help them escape from their enemies. The chief component of spell is water and Mathew has never cast the spell in a desert environment. While they provided all the water they could for the spell to work, it was not enough. What they didn't know is when the spell is not given enough water, it will seek out water from any source possible. And what is the human body mostly made of?
Door from Neverwhere can... open doors. Thing is, it doesn't matter where the door goes or whether there was even a door there to begin with. The Big Bad is treating her as a Living MacGuffin to get her to open a door to Heaven; she opens a new door on top of the existing door and throws him into outer space instead. Wow.
Not to mention that early in the story she is driven into a corner by her pursuers, and literally opens one of them. Yes, she can open doors in human bodies - the results are messy.
The powers in Brandon Sanderson's Alcatraz Series are all examples of this trope. The main character, Alcatraz has the gift of breaking whatever he touches, which he uses to break himself out of prison later. His grandpa has the power to arrive late to things, which comes in handy when he is being tortured and decides to arrive late to the pain! One of the other characters has the ability to say complete nonsense, which allows him to become unable to give away their secrets to the bad guys. Later Talents include bad dancing that doubles as kung fu fighting and "getting lost" from a flying glass dragon to the ground.
The Oculator lenses also apply. There are lenses that let you shoot wind, fireballs, inflict terrible pain... and the one that is the most powerful is a pair of glasses that lets you understand, read, and write any language. Knowledge is power.
In his short story "Leaks", David Langford mentions a wild talent with the ability to incinerate individual grains of dust—but only one at a time. He gets the idea of focusing his power on gunpowder, and goes on to have an illustrious superhero career as Mr Misfire, the Man Whose Adversaries Shoot Themselves in the Foot.
Similarly, the main character is targeted by a Mad Scientist who wants to see if his power can be expanded to other fields. The main character's power? Teleporting a pint of beer between glasses. Can it be expanded? Yes, to include any liquid in any container. Including, to the mad scientist's chagrin, the blood in the human circulatory system.
From the same short story anthology, Temps, the heroine of Roz Kaveney's Totally Trashed can materialize random pieces of litter and garbage out of the air. She stops a homicidal robot by covering it in old stamps and scraps of paper that block its sensors, and discovers that when she really gets mad, she can drop an old, rusted-out car on top of someone. Later she finds out that many of the things she materializes are actually potentially valuable antiques from alternate universes or timelines, such as a tarnished, slightly dented Roman centurion's shield that looks at first glance like a garbage can lid and old newspapers from other timelines that prove the existence of alternate universes, drawing in the interest of Nobel Prize-hungry researchers.
Don't let his power fool you. In the Circle of Magic books, Briar Moss' power is that of plants. You might think he can only grow plants, but in Tris' Book he works with his three foster sisters to create killer thorns to protect the temple he's currently calling home. And in Street Magic of The Circle Opens, he's considered a full mage, and on his own, he uses a basket woven from dried reeds to bind up and hold down a girl he was trying to convince she needed magic training, use roses to torture an allergic gang member for information, and in the climax uses plants to tear down walls, cause wooden doors to come alive as if they're still trees, and use a thorny vine to kill someone by having the thorn grow THROUGH someone trying to come up behind him. Awesome Power, indeed.
No, the awesome comes in when his teacher tells him that due to how much Briar put into his effort, it's not going to ever be unrooted from that spot. All those plants he fired up are going to stay right there, and nothing (not even other people's magical efforts) is going to undo it.
Lady Sandrilene Fa Toren would like a word with you, and she will tie you up with your own clothing (or anything else that could be considered "thread" or "woven material") if you try to defy her. Thread is an awesome power.
Sandry: The cloth-head tied [my bonds] with ribbons. I suppose it didn't occur to him ribbons are made of cloth. * later* Sandry: (her captors are now encased and gagged in woven cocoons, the ringleader tied to a rock in a similar predicament) You can tell all Namorn this is what happens when I'm vexed.
Even more impressive is in the first book, where she uses sympathetic magic involving thread to "tie" the four main characters' magics together. This is because her power doesn't just extend to physical thread, but also any magic that can be visualised as string, such as life and nothing.
In the first quartet, her consideration of escaping bonds by un-weaving knots leads to the idea of enacting a Defeat by Modesty.
In the same author's Lioness Rampant quartet, Alanna uses thread magic to dump an arrogant male student on his ass when he starts deriding "women's work".
In Elana Frink's short story "The Los Angeles Women's Auxiliary Superhero League", the character Jane is initially embarrassed about her power of "niceness". It turns out that she can mesmerize people by speaking to them gently in a soothing tone of voice, to the point where she can stun would-be muggers and reduce a supervillain to a drooling vegetable. She later gets the superhero name of "Hypnotique" which she likes much better than "the nice one".
In the Xanth novels by Piers Anthony, everyone has a magical power, but many of them are nearly useless. Some of these seemingly useless abilities turn out to be much more powerful than previously realized.
Useless abilities are referred to as "Spot On The Wall" powers, meaning that they do useless things like making a colored spot appear on a wall. One character literally has that power, but it turns out that she can use her power to make mosaic images with amazing detail. Furthermore, she doesn't even have to know what she's making in order to create it. In one scenario, she makes an image of an "operations manual" to a device in order to learn how to use the device.
Irene's power is to make plants grow faster, which is actually a pretty useful ability, but seemingly mundane. However, Xanth is full of a ridiculous number of plants with very specific powers, and armed with the right seeds Irene can produce virtually anything. Her talent is re-evaluated to Magician-quality a couple of books after her first appearance.
There's no specific criteria for a Magician level talent in Xanth (except, by definition, every one of Bink's direct descendants), Magicians tend be seen as powerful with the application of their talent.
The eponymous item in The Sword of Shannara and its sequels. It's power, which is hidden for much of the first book, is revealed to be telling the truth about whatever it touches. Lame right? Well, no not quite. You see, the Sword not only tells the truth, it forces whomever its touching to accept that truth. This comes in pretty handy as The Big Bad is revealed to be Dead All Along and deeply in denial about it. Bye bye Brona. But that's only one use right? Wrong again. The Sword shows up in almost every book in the series, proving to be the perfect antidote to every Manipulative Bastard and Evil Mentor out there. It saves Par from being possessed by Rimmer Dall in The Heritage Of Shannara by revealing the latter's lies, and sends the Ilse Witch into a Heel Realisation-induced Villainous BSOD after revealing the lies she has built her life on. So what's a lame power again?
A side character in The Wheel of Time is a very weak Asha'man who can channel just a little of the One Power, and therefore stands miles below the main characters. Fortunately for him, he's very good at making Gateways, to the point that he can make Gateways hundreds of times better than he should have been able to. The character uses this with quite a bit of imagination. Due to the unique properties of gateways, using his skill to cut an iron chain, is the least of it. He could hold is own in combat against the best, if not for the fact that an enemy channeler could just shield him.
Digger Downs can literally "sniff out" aces, but also happens to be a paparazzi who works in the magazine about aces.
Astronomer won Superpower Lottery, but employed a lot of aces and weak deuces and taught them to use their powers well. Did you know that if you can control nearby water, it also extends to bodily fluids?
Popinjay arguably takes the cake. He has a power to teleport... only other people, only if he can "shoot" them with a pretend gun (you know the gesture), and only to places he's been to numerous times and knows excellently. He works as a private eye and, amongst other things, teleports people to jail. However, later into the story we find out that the location from his recurring nightmare that makes him wet himself apparently works, too.
Billy Harrow, the main character of China Mieville's Kraken, is a hapless museum curator and preserver of dead animal specimens. In fact, it turns out that he is the saint of museum curators who preserve dead animal specimens. This isn't all that impressive, until he realizes that his preservationist powers extend to reanimating zombie lab specimens as his familiars, and briefly stopping time. He's also a pretty capable Barrier Warrior.
In Mistborn, a Feruchemist can use the fictional metal Atium to alter his or her age, but because Feruchemy is an Equivalent Exchange based magic system, in order to become young they'd have to spend an equivalent amount of time old, and as such, this power is considered worthless except as a disguise. Enter the Lord Ruler, who can do both Feruchemy and its sister magic system, Allomancy. The interaction between the two powers lets him, among other things, exponentially increase the output of his Feruchemy, so that instead of a worthless power, in his hands Atium gives him what amounts to a closed loop of infinite youth- thereby making him functionally immortal.
Tin, as an Allomantic metal, allows one to have Super Senses, but if you're just a Misting instead of a Mistborn (who is able to use all Allomantic powers) it essentially turns you into just a human watchdog. Useful, but not as devastatingly powerful as the powers granted by other metals like pewter, iron, or steel. Spook, who can only use tin, is Overshadowed by Awesome thanks to his comrades' far greater physical combat abilities. Then in Hero Of Ages he eventually burns so much tin he effectively becomes a "tin savant" whose senses are so intensely acute that he can locate enemies based solely on the sounds of their heartbeats and outmaneuver opponents by sensing what they're doing based on tiny things like the rustle of their feet on the ground.
In The Alloy of Law Marasi is a Cadmium Misting, a person who can burn Cadmium to create a bubble of slowed time; time moves slower within the bubble than outside it. Initially this power is considered rather useless, as there aren't many times that someone needs to move slower than the rest of the world. However during the final battle with Miles, she uses this ability once all of Miles's mooks are gone and he's distracted. Since Miles doesn't notice the bubble has gone up, this allows plenty of time for Wayne to get the police and come back to Miles's hideout, where they capture him.
He-Man villain Stinkor wasn't allowed to appear on the cartoon itself because his power of smelling really horrible was deemed too ridiculous. However, a supplemental book for the rejected Stinkor episode was in fact published. Turns out that Stinkor smelled so bad it sapped even He-Man's strength and Stinkor came closer to beating He-Man than almost any of Skeletor's other servants.
The Hunger Games: Peeta was a cake decorator at his family's bakery, which doesn't seem like it would be too useful in a death match. Until, that is, he uses it to paint his body to camouflage himself by the river.
In "Catching Fire" Katniss notes that out of all the Hunger Games' victors Peeta is the one who is best suited to lead a rebellion because whereas the others are all deadly fighters he possesses enough goodness to make people rally around him through the things he says.
John Taylor of the Night Side has a gift that lets him find anything. Big deal, right? Well, with only the slightest application of learned magic, he can find the activating key to any spell, holes in dimensions, the one pin on the grenade-belt that's looser than the others, the glass jaw of an eldritch abomination, etc. He calls taking bullets out of opponents' guns his "party trick", and routinely counters villains' threats with offers to do likewise to their favorite internal organs.
Harry Potter defeats Quirrell armed only with his mother's love. In fact, love is such a powerful force in the Potterverse that sacrificing yourself to save someone else grants them nigh invulnerability. It was Lily's love for her son that allowed him to survive the killing curse that gave him his scar, and when Harry (sort of) dies to save the inhabitants of Hogwarts they become pretty much immune to anything the Death Eaters can throw at them. In short, love is one of the most powerful forces in the entire Potterverse.
However, this example (the most prominent use of love as magic) is incredibly limited. It seems to only work if you sacrifice yourself without fighting, and it only works against the person you were specifically guarding against. Voldemort isn't able to even touch Harry, nor is anyone he possesses. But he can directly order someone he's not possessing to hurt Harry, and it works. His younger self, preserved with a piece of soul in a diary for fifty years, is also completely immune to the sacrificial defense. As well, the defenders of Hogwarts were not immune to Voldemort's spells after Harry's sacrifice, even if the spells were significantly weaker and easily broken.
That said, limited does not mean weak. In Harry's case, not only did it defend against a previously considered unblockable curse, but it reflected it back onto its caster, while also causing Harry's merest touch to sear the flesh of Voldemort or anyone he possessed. And it shielded Harry from most of the negative effects of being one of Voldemort's Horcruxes (i.e. holding a piece of Voldemort's soul in his body, preventing Voldemort from being killed) unless Voldemort was actually in the room. And when Voldemort found a way to cancel out the protection, it was actually a worse failure than leaving it up; doing so made him Harry's Horcrux. In the other case, the most powerful living wizard in the world, holding the most powerful wand ever known, couldn't even immobilize a single, unarmed teenager for more than fifteen seconds. And this protection was bestowed upon everyone in Hogwarts, all at once. And Harry survived the sacrifice cast.
In the Book of Swords series, Woundhealer destroys Shieldbreaker (the most powerful Sword) and saves the hero's life when Woundhealer is stabbed into his heart. The narrative explains this by stating that there is no power greater than the human heart.
In the third trilogy of the Kushiel's Legacy series, a group of occultists manage to summon up a demon from the Ars Goetia, who teaches them the language of ants. This is treated as a prank on the demon's part and a useless nuisance until one of the occultists learns to "speak" the language of ants and command them. And moves into the Amazon jungle, which is chock-full of soldier ant colonies. At that point it stops being a nuisance, takes a flying leap past Awesome and lands right in a lake of terror.
In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the children of Demeter can make plants grow. This comes in handy in the Battle of Manhattan, where Percy has them use their powers to block up the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel against an invading army of monsters.
Live Action TV
One of the Objects in The Lost Room is a pair of scissors which can rotate things around a point, which seems pretty limited until you realize that the center of rotation can be outside of what's being rotated. The protagonist finds out the hard way when the previous owner uses the scissors to toss him around the room like a ragdoll.
Another is the clock, which can sublimate manganese. How often does one encounter manganese, you ask? Turns out it's a component of quite a few alloys, including brass and stainless steel.
On one episode of Misfits we see a guy who can control milk and dairy products telekinetically. No one takes him seriously until he realizes that he can force dairy food around people's bodies and more specifically, back up people's digestive tract to choke them with it. The episode ends with a Kill Em All situation.
One of the first spells Willow Rosenburg learns is levitating a pencil. She levitates it into a vampire's heart.
While hardly lacking for decent superpowers, Buffy herself also learns to use other skills in hunting vampires. Her keen fashion sense, for instance, comes in handy for spotting vampires, who frequently wear dated garb.
Kamen Rider Fourze, with 40 different pieces of equipment, was bound to run into this. In one episode Kengo is ready to write off the Hopping Switch as useless, but Gentaro insists that everything has its use; he demonstrates this by dodging the chameleon Monster of the Week's tongue (and again in The Movie, where he uses it to pinball-kick about a dozen Mooks). Later on, even Gentaro thinks the Pen Switch is a wash, but his friends discover that its ink hardens into a metallic substance, meaning it can make instant barriers (and in that specific case, block the Monster of the Week's Medusa power).
One Pulp Sport sketch has a superhero whose power is to be able to find the start of a roll of sellotape in an instant. This proves incredibly useful.
Once Upon A Time: Emma is the product of True Love, so she seems to be magical by default, being a Living Lie Detector and apparently being able to jumpstart Regina's magic just by touch. In general, however, her "magic" seems to just be the fact that she is a physical form of The Power of Love. This suddenly becomes useful when it's revealed that love allows her to No Sell Cora trying to rip her heart out.
The player characters of Nobilis are Physical Gods. Mortal NPCs often have enormous magical, supertech, and quasi-miraculous powers - and remain completely unable to challenge them, except extremely indirectly. What is the one class of mortals these Sovereigns of Creation must be cautious of? Botanists. It turns out the Angels used a language of flowers to define reality. Clever botanists can write their own addenda.
The Nobles (player characters) themselves can be like this, if the player wants them to be. There's an example of a Noble who is the Power of... Blankets. All blankets. Everywhere. And he can see through them from any distance. And he can make them do anything he wants, also from any distance. Including suffocating you while you sleep in them.He is one of the most feared Nobles in the setting.
Power of various emotional Estates are ridiculously powerful when combined with the animistic nature of Mythic Reality, especially in 1st & 2nd edition. Suddenly, gravity doesn't like you anymore.
In 3rd edition, Persona miracles can let you affect the "borders" or your Estate, making things more or less like the important traits of it. For example, if the Power of Hope states that one of the properties of Hope is that "Hope springs eternal," then Persona miracles of Hope can make things immortal.
Illusion is the same way. Even a low level illusionist has the ability to create voices in crowds, pass unreadable messages, and make documents that appear to be whatever paperwork is required, which while not spectacular in straight combat are ideal for running a rebellion. At higher levels, incredibly complex illusions can be created with a nigh-impossible saving throw, or can manipulate foes by substituting their reality for another or causing them to die of a fright-induced heart attack. (Your Mind Makes It Real applies in all these situations.) The problem here that something like 2/3rds of the creatures in the game are flatly immune to 90% of the spells in the illusion school. Enchantment has this same issue.
In 4E, there's Warlords (and to a lesser extent, Bards) with the "grant free melee/ranged basic attack" gimmick. Hey, cool, a free attack that usually has a lower to-hit chance than most abilities, and one roll of weapon damage instead of potentially between 2-5 rolls plus all sorts of bonuses. Nice, not great. And then Essentials came out, whose character classes usually base around turning someone who only has melee/ranged basic attacks into a Person of Mass Destruction suddenly lashing out three times their equivalents' damage per attack, and a Warlord that could grant an extra attack or three just cut the average encounter time in half...
Some classes also have powers that can be used as a basic attack.
The number crunchers talked about overpowered this ability was when it came out. Tactical/intelligence based Warlords added their intelligence bonus to the basic attack. By 11th level at +4, this was statistically equivalent to "roll twice and take the better result" and got better later on. Furthermore, it allowed rogues and rangers an extra chance to get their extra damage when they missed on their turn, and another character could take feats and powers to min/max their basic attack to get the most out of it.
Except Sorrow's Path. It's been years since The Dark has been released and this card still vehemently refuses to yield any sort of useful combo, cementing its Useless Useful Spell status.
Challenge accepted. Because of the card's Exact Words, two creatures flip-flopped with Sorrow's Path will re-trigger the ability "Flanking" if the attacking creatures have it. Pair that with Light of Sanction, or better yet Vigor, and you can reduce your opponent's blocking creatures to dust before the fighting really starts, with your creatures ending up stronger. That's not even getting into cards like Cavalry Master and Palisade Giant, which make Sorrow's Path even better.
The (very) old Marvel Comics Superhero RPG had numerous weak powers that could be awesome in the hands of a creative player. Best example is Coloration, the ability to change the color, transparency and refractive index of matter. Seems very lame, until you're fighting vampires in the sewers and you turn the ground above, not just transparent, but into a giant magnifying glass.
Mage The Ascension becomes this trope for beginner characters. Being limited to a couple Spheres at rank 1 or 2 does seem sucky, doesn't it ? Until you realize that, for instance, the first rank in the Mind Sphere already gives you the ability to boost your cognitive abilities to superhuman levels (total eidetic memory, information processing, etc) and psychic Aura Vision. Being that the whole game is pretty much about thinking outside the box, players and Storytellers are encouraged to take lateral thinking Up to Eleven.
As a warning for potential game masters out there: Don't let someone who understands basic chemistry or physics to take Matter or Forces unless you are prepared to deal with the consequences of, say, mud in a swamp being transmuted into sodium metal under your bad guy. If you don't know the consequences of that statement... just don't let your chemistry geek friend take Matter.
Any sphere can become this with enough imagination. Spirit becomes a taxi service to the Umbra, Life allows for crazy healing, helpful player mutations and terrifying Body Horror on their enemies, Entropy brings the failing of every mechanism not working in the player's favor... the list goes on.
Entropy Level 1: Sense Fate And Fortune. Go to casino. Play slot machines. Wipe your ass with $100 bills.
Touhou contains plenty of Superpower Lottery winners who are Reality Warpers or have immense Elemental Powers... then there's Reimu, who has the power to fly, something which nearly everyone else in Gensoukyou also possesses along with their other powers. Except Reimu can also fly away from reality, making her completely untouchable for as long as she wishes.
Kogasa isn't as spectacular, but she still qualifies, an umbrella youkai with the power of "surprising humans", and she's not even very good at it. She appears as a Stage 2 midboss and boss, and that appears to be the height of her power. Until she suddenly appears as the mid-boss of the EX-Stage, complete with the massive power boost that suggests! What a surprise for us!
Rin Kaenbyou has the power to haul corpses to fuel the fires of Hell. This apparently extends to making them corpses, as she memorably and repeatedly tries to do to the player character.
One of the Cobras in Metal Gear Solid 3, The Pain, controls bees and is effectively a living bee hive. This makes him pretty much unstoppable on an open battlefield, stinging to death any soldiers without having to even be present himself.
The Sorrow, another Cobra, is kind of a spirit Aquaman. He didn't just talk to spirits, he could pull battle plans, orders and other assorted information regarding the opposition from ANY dead soldier (which, you know, there can be a lot of in a war). He could also, apparently, temporarily take on the abilities of certain fallen soldiers, going from untrained to combat ready in a matter of moments (though this could be simply Fan Wank).
The second Knights of the Old Republic turns the leadership "power" up to eleven. While the two main characters were still badasses in their own right, it's explained through backstory that Revan converted his entire legion of doom with this ability. The player character of the second game is an extreme example, by using the same ability to grow stronger with everything he or she kills without even knowing it, and at higher levels could devour all life in the universe, in a bizarre deconstruction of Experience Points.
Tsukihime : Tohno Akiha's power is called Plunder, which gives her the ability to "steal body heat." ...Well, okay, but we have people that can kill absolutely anything and others that can drop the moon on you, so what? How about being able to steal all of it from a person at any range, with such sudden violence that the target will instantly and functionally Self Combust? *
Note: They're not actually catching on fire or anything, it just feels like it to them because they can't understand what she's doing.
Shirou in Fate/stay night is so limited in magic that he can only use two kinds; Reinforcement and Projection. Neither seems very useful because Reinforcement just strengthens existing objects and Projection can only create an object for a very limited amount of time. In Shirou's case however he can use Projection to recreate any weapon he's seen before as a slightly weaker copy. Shirou is surrounded by heroes and demigods who use absurdly powerful weapons. By the end of the three routes Shirou is... rather dangerous for a human.
Let's not forget that anyone who read the visual novel knows that those two magics are just a byproduct of his true magic, which is a reality marble called Unlimited Blade Works where he literally rewrites the world around him briefly to reflect his inner world. Think of it this way: When Shirou projects a weapon, he's pulling it out of the library that is Unlimited Blade Works. Actually casting Unlimited Blade Works changes the world around him and his opponent and takes them into◊ this library where he doesn't have to project them since they're all right there. However he doesn't think that he has sufficient magical power to use it normally - in the Unlimited Blade Works route he and Tohsaka make a contract so he can use her as a back up tank of magical energy. After having used up all the power she gave him, he realises that he's been doing it backwards all along, and unlocks his Reality Marble with just his own power.
And that's without mentioning that Twenty Minutes into the Future (in an alternate continuity) he turns into Archer, who is one of said heroes in his own right. And Archer has access to Unlimited Blade Works on his own.
In City of Heroes, one of the least-played Controller powersets is Mind Control; it has a bad rep due to not having a summonable combat pet as a tier 9 ability (among other issues). This would seem to give it "What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?" status, except for the minority of players who use this set, who can attest to just how powerful it is in capable hands.
As an aside, Mind Control is actually one of the more popular sets for Dominators (who have control and ranged damage abilities, as opposed to buffing/debuffing abilities like Controllers). M.C.'s ability to hold, sleep, and confuse multiple targets while your character is in "Domination" mode makes the immobilization powers found in other sets seem obsolete.
Monkey Island's Guybrush Threepwood can famously hold his breath for 10 minutes. The Pirate Elders are, to say the least, less than impressed when Guybrush mentions this as his special skill. As it turns out, being able to hold your breath for 10 minutes is a DAMN useful skill for, y'know, A PIRATE.
The Realm has 5 schools of magic, magic costs mana crystals which cost gold. One of the circles is Enchantment, which lets you permanently enchant items. But enchantment has no innate spells so its entire circle requires you to have learned other circles, but with enough ability, you can enchant any spell to any item.
Epic Mickey uses the thinner and paint mechanic to mean destroy/kill or repair/love. There is not actually any change in battle style, except the first will remove the tank from the fight, and the second will make him fight for you. Many have also pointed out the Fridge Horror in that mind control is the far darker option.
In the Super Smash Bros. series, a number of characters have moves fitting the description of this trope. However, an extreme example of this is seen in the case of Jigglypuff, whose "Down-B" special attack is "Rest". This doesn't even heal the character, as it does within Jigglypuff's origin franchise. However, if used with perfect timing, it can cause a two-hit KO; KO's at 30 damage, and it DOES 30 damage.
Until they Nerfed it in Brawl. Even then, it can KO in 3-4 hits against an opponent with full health, as well as inflicting a health-draining status (which helps reach the KO-mark).
In World of Warcraft, the engineering was largely considered a joke profession, most of its unreliable gadgets being watered down versions of better spells. Then the Burning Crusade expansion was released, and some smartass figured out that you could use the otherwise pointless Gnomish Remote Control to take command of the unstoppable Fel Reaver. Hilarity Ensued.
Final Fantasy VI gives us Gau, who has a lot of powers, but most players don't know how to use them*
especially since he's uncontrollable, but all he does is attack or do one technique
, and lament that he is uncontrollable. He also gets to attack for quadruple damage by using the rage of a lost housecat. Or he can use flowers to turn your enemies against each other with his charm ability. And he can use a jellyfish for the one time in the first half of the game that pussycats can't kick ass.
"Wind God Gau" is his best known set up. Attach a Merit Award to Gau to let him use any weapon, and then a Tempest, which randomly casts Wind Slash when using the attack command, Offering, which lets you attack 4 times when using the attack command, and the Stray Cat rage, whose attack command is sometimes replaced with the Catscratch ability, which deals 4 times the normal damage. The result is a character who attacks 4 times each round, whose every attack does 4 times as much damage, and whose attacks sometimes deal extra damage and hit all enemies at once (while still doing 4 time as much damage on top of that). So powerful was Wind God Gau that later releases of the game stripped Gau of the ability to equip the Merit Award, leaving him without the ability to equip any weapons.
Even without the well known over powered strategies. Any observant player can see Gau use magic for free and earlier than normal.
The same game also has Relm. She can draw pictures. Completely useless, right? Except that with it, she can single-handedly defeat the most powerful cephalopod in the game.
Of course, depending on the version of the game, her pictures were so powerful that they could warp reality itself and corrupt the game's memory...
The Top Spin in Mega Man 3 is frequently regarded as the absolute worst weapon in the series. Once you figure out how to use it, however, it is one of the most powerful weapons in the game. It will one-shot any enemy who's not outright immune to it, with the exception of most bosses. Even some bosses are destroyed in one shot by it, including the final boss! The only thing you have to keep in mind is which enemies are immune to it, and the fact that the weapon drains energy for as long as you're in contact with the enemy, so it can empty out its energy very quickly if you're not careful.
Various ghosts get various powers in Ghost Trick, but the one who takes the cake for this trope is Missile, upon his second death. Now, badassery in this game isn't dishing out pain, but rather saving lives. This character has two powers with which to do that. He can swap the location of two objects... if they're the same shape and about a couple meters away from each other. This makes him the only one able to stop someone from being shot after the gun has fired. The other power he shares with the protagonist, upon contact with a corpse he can travel to 4 minutes before their death. And he can do this over and over. How does he use this power? Travelling to the death of someone who technically died 10 years ago (it's complicated), take The Slow Path to a few minutes before Missile himself died, and convince someone to help in the hopes of saving the lives of everyone. Oh, and did we mention that Missile is a puppy?
In EarthBound, Paula's Pray ability produces unpredictable results throughout the game. However, it's absolutely essential to defeating the final boss, Giygas. When Paula prays during the final battle, it deals five digit damage to Giygas and eventually kills him.
In this one, a villain called the Existentialist, whose powers aren't exactly defined but are sort of implied to consist of knowing existential philosophy, comes up with a plan to beat the invulnerable Regenerating Man by causing him existential angst and confusion.
Junpei of Megatokyo claims that Magical Girls follow a "code of love," which is much more dangerous than the ninjas' code of honor, and results in "much destruction of urban area". Considering that magical girls have been shown to possess super speed, super strength, super athleticism (balance and so forth), teleportation, and shrinking, he may be right. Considering that the closest thing this setting has to a Big Bad is an immortal Really 700 Years OldDark Magical Girl who controls hordes of zombies and destroyed one of the most complicated MMORPGs in existence when she was bored, then he's definitely right.
While we are on the subject of Magical Girls, let's talk abut Yuki Sonoda. Her power is stealing things. Even she doesn't think her power is any good, but at one point she steals a Rent-a-Zilla. And it seems to obey her perfectly.
Aquerna has the spirit of the squirrel, and is a joke on the campus of Whateley Academy. But in her combat final, she figured out how to use her powers to pwn one of the school bullies.
Generator is practically the patron saint of this trope, since her power starts off looking unbelievably lame. But she keeps figuring out new things she can do with it (other than babysitting and doing the dishes).
Gateway can only open 'gates' to other places. Then she finds out she can summon things from other dimensions through those gates. Starting with Rythax, an intelligent winged panther-like thing bigger than a tiger.
Verdant can secrete stuff. But she can secrete anything she can think of, through any of her glands. She can bite you and inject the deadliest poison known to man.
In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, Madras had telekinetic control over fabrics, and only fabrics. That sounds like an amazingly lame power, until you look around and realize just how much fabric surrounds us every day of our lives (and the fact that most people go around covered in the stuff). Combine telekinetic control of fabric with a ten-foot-long canvas cape, and you've got one Badass crimefighter.
There was a similar low-level villain in the Marvel Universe who went by the names of Gypsy Moth and Skein. She had the ability to create knots in material and control fibers — which not only gave her the ability to trap someone in their own costume, but also the power to inflict muscle contortions at the worst possible moment.
Tavros in Homestuck. His seemingly-useless ability to commune with Alternian fauna? It works on the hordes of imps, ogres, and other such beasties that appear in Sburb, allowing him to amass an entire army of imps, ogres, and basilisks before even hitting his second gate. Suddenly, the guy who was mercilessly taunted for being a useless cripple before, is now probably the most powerful player in the session.
Said powers of communion extend to Becquerel, Earth's First Guardian and Reality Warper extraordinaire.
And then the Condesce copied this power for herself.
Applies even more so to John. His friends eventually have the power to teleport, jump around in time, and manipulate luck. John just has wind powers. And he ends up stronger than all of them put together simply because he was tricked by Vriska into a permanent Super Mode.
Vriska's mind control has kind of a weird power curve: it starts off very useful but becomes somewhat pointless when the game starts (there are 12 trolls around, some with resistance/immunity to boot, and like 50 million enemies? Awesome.). Of course, by the end of the session these 12 trolls have become absurdly powerful. And that's nothing compared to all the ghosts of every dead Beta version...
So it turns out that Gamzee can amplify people's fears and give them terrible nightmares. He uses this to doom the kids' universe.*
Because of said nightmares, John draws harlequins all over his bedroom, leading Dad to collect them because he thinks it will bring him closer to John, so John ends up prototyping one that he got for his birthday, so all the Dersites wear harlequin clothing, which makes Jack Noir kill the Black Queen, become absurdly powerful, and set out to destroy everything in his path.
The fanbase assumed that Heroes of Heart in Homestuck were simply good at managing relationships. Eventually, we discover that in Sburb mechanics, Heart is roughly synonymous with Soul. To hammer it in even further, this is revealed to a character known as the "Prince of Heart", along with the fact that "Prince" is a "destroyer" class. In other words, he's the "Destroyer of Souls"
Alternate Interpretation: Prince of Heart can also mean "one who gains victory by shattering souls". The soul he shatters is his own, causing him to have multiple simultaneous and concurrent splinter existences that can plot and execute plans in synchronous tandem.
Jade, with her friends flying around, creating super tornados, time traveling and using other amazing magic powers, was unsure of how useful her potential "space" powers were going to be when she would inherit them. Later she is shrinking planets to the size of baseballs, teleporting meteors, and accelerating battleships to the speed of light.
While changing the size of objects is certainly a power of the Space aspect, it is unclear whether teleportation and telekinesis are part of her Space powers or due to her merging with Becquerel and gaining his dog-like powers.
Biscuit of the Felt's "power" is to hide in a broken oven, mistakenly believing it's a Time Machine. Much later, it's revealed that said oven's true power is that it's Bigger on the Inside. The entire Felt gang can be transported inside it.
In Sidekick Girl, Illumina's powers are floating a few feet off the ground and creating light, powers that she has no idea how to use practically and uses them just to show off. Then she and Sidekick Girl have a Freaky Friday Flip, and the much smarter Sidekick Girl shows what these powers can really do.
For reference, she manages to discover that Illumina can fall safely from any height — she slows into a hover rather than suddenly stopping by hitting the ground. As for light? Well, extremely high-intensity but otherwise normal light is the "flash" part of flash-bang grenades. Intense enough light can stun, as well as temporarily or even permanently blinding.
By being able to effect the earth's rotation you can manipulate sea level across the globe (since the earth's rotation causes the earth to currently bulge out a a little more at the Equator). Slowing this would cause planet-wide floods. You could level civilizations at a whim. You'd be unaffected yourself by groundwater tainting due to your water generation powers and could provide any area you wished with relief and/or immunity to the world-wide sea level crisis. Your ability to create currency means that while all other nations take a huge financial dip from dealing with rebuilding their ruined cities you can further undermine their currency through generating lots of extra cash in their denominations. Establish your own nation in the wreckage of civilization, declare your currency to be solid gold coins and produce the heck out of them making wherever you choose to rule the world's newest financial superpower.
Ashlie Jackson of Survival of the Fittest: Evolution falls into this trope nicely. Her power was that if she spoke, her speech would come off as Ear Rape rather than anything intelligible, causing the listener to feel ill. How does she use this? She uses it as a distraction so that she can get a bullet into someone while they're down.
El Goonish Shive: Elliot gains the ability to turn into a girl by messing around with experimental alien technology and an ancient magical artifact (in that order). Elliot's a fairly well built martial artist, and his female form is a more idealized form, so the ability is really only useful for slipping out of ropes at first. It acts as the catalyst for turning him into an actual mage, and later allows him to shapeshift into any female body he imagines... around the time this new magical power forces him to transform on a regular basis, because of all the previous interference. He quickly grows to find the transformations inconvenient, creepy, and awkward. His friend Tedd theorizes that the reasoning behind his magical evolution is that the magic is trying to find something that pleases Elliot, and that genuinely liking the transformations might help ease up on the forced transformations. Considering that Elliot's had the need to transform pop up while making out with his girlfriend, him liking the magic seems... unlikely. Then he gets a spell which, while it still keeps him female, turns him into a superhero with some Stock Superpowers, and three "Secret Identity" forms which gently alter his behavior so as to keep a low profile. For some reason, he's been transforming a lot more often lately. It's kind of a mix between Heart Is an Awesome Power and Magikarp Power.
In the Spanish-language A Friki's Life, an elf's gun of choice when surrounded by giant, carnivore ants: Invoking the flower fairies in their circulatory systems.
As it turns out, this delves more into Crippling Overspecialization. The ring was originally designed with the express purpose of counteracting magic. When it was successful in doing this by defeating Malachite the first time, it resulted in the world eventually being dominated by technology, with so little magic left for the ring to counter against that it ended up basically useless - until Malachite came back.
Done with a magical object rather than a person in Goblins: Life Through Their Eyes. Forgath has the Anymug, an enchanted mug capable of creating any non-magical drink the owner desires. Emphasis on drink — although it can produce disgusting things like urine that no person would willingly drink, it can't create anything that's outright too toxic or volatile to drink at all. When in a fight, he uses it to create an indefinite supply of Dragon Lung, an ultra-flammable liquid.
In the superhero serial Worm, the main character is a fifteen-year-old wannabe superhero in a world full of people with powers. While most famous heroes and villains have standard abilities like flight, strength, healing, etc, she only has the power to control insects, spiders, and other invertebrates. She's smart enough to come up with all sorts of creative ways to apply her powers, which means she has put a famous and nearly-invulnerable supervillain in the hospital by attacking him with hundreds of black widow spiders and other venomous creatures, learned to spy on people from two blocks away by looking through the eyes of insects, and devised a bullet-resistant costume by commanding spiders to spin one from their silk according to her directions. When she is caught outside without her costume, she surrounds herself with carefully directed insects, which not only conceals her identity but intimidates her opponents with a giant, creepy-looking human-shaped swarm and leaves plenty of space for bullets to pass through without touching her actual body.
Even more creative applications come up later in the story. The main character figures out how to arm even the nonstinging, nonvenomous insects that are available for her to summon. Imagine being divebombed by bugs whose undersides are coated in capsaicin(what pepper spray is made from), who are guided to the mouths, nostrils, and eyes of an opponent. Also, a large enough insect like a beetle is strong enough to carry a lit match in its mandibles as it crawls up your leg...
In We Are Our Avatars, Sawbuck's ability to teleport him and his attacker to any place in the space-time continuum is used by Snowman to kick Drakina out of her building.
Jack from Zebra Girl has power over all things plaid. That sounds ridiculous and useless until Jack points out that at a near-microscopic level, any fabric's weave is a form of plaid. He used this logic to trap Harold Duvase (an evil Harry PotterExpy) inside his own scarf and then banish him into another universe.
In the Bad Future episode, we meet Boxlunch, daughter of The Box Ghost and another recurring enemy, The Lunch Lady. She's got the powers of both her parents, which she quickly uses to create some Power Armor for herself.
Captain Planet's Ma-Ti himself is no pushover. In the It's a Wonderful Plot episode where Wheeler never got the ring, Ma-ti managed to get a snooty businessman to give him money. He can sense the location of seemingly any conscious life form, and if the comics are to be believed he can read minds, knock people out, influence their decisions and command an endless horde of rabid wildlife to do his bidding. Screw fire! Heart is hardcore!
Influence their decisions, indeed. One episode even shows a Bad Future where Ma-Ti stops playing around and becomes an unopposed dictator. Used effectively, Heart really is the strongest power, and Gaia wasn't just lying when she told him that in the first episode. However, Ma-Ti is so kind-hearted that he doesn't dare to use it to its full extent.
Which is why The Nostalgia Critic's review of the series kind of is 'dumber in hindsight. Heart can basically mind-control and Mind Rape people with his power if he wanted to. He even said 'I can sense you all'...did he have any idea how BROKEN that ability is?
Assuming Captain Hindsight's ability to know how something happened is real, it would be a powerful asset in any field where it's useful to know the not obvious cause of a problem. In short, he'd be an asset in any field that requires thinking (forensics, science, finances, politics, etc).
Amongst the unique abilities ponies possess, Fluttershy being the Friend to All Living Things is highly useful when nature needs to managed, but doesn't seem that impressive. Except her ability really does include all living things, including a manticore, a gigantic adult dragon, a cockatrice, and even Cerberus himself, all of whom she managed to pacify with nothing but a firm tone and a kind touch (with a bit of help from The Stare). Good thing she's the nice, shy little pegasus she is...
And now Fluttershy's ability to befriend any creature is taken Up to Eleven after she becomes friends with Discord himself.
Earth ponies don't have any obvious magic, unlike the unicorns, who cast spells from their horns, and the pegasi, who walk on clouds, control weather, and have tactile telekinesis that allows them to tow things while in flight. According to Word Of God, they're stronger and have more endurance than a unicorn or pegasus of comparable physique, and have a deeper connection with nature*
Making Fluttershy a bit of an odd duck, since she's a pegasus whose specialty lies within the earth pony domain
and the earth. The latter means that they are inherently better at growing and tending plants of any kind, to the point where in ancient times earth ponies were the only pony tribe capable of producing food, and even in modern times only earth ponies have ever been seen growing anything.
The greater strength of earth ponies is seen most notably in "Hearts and Hooves Day", where an earth pony schoolteacher is strong enough to break through two walls when properly motivated (and without Efficient Displacement, she just demolishes it), while one who is notably stronger than average is shown effortlessly towing a house.
And finally, if you extend the definition of "earth pony" to include zebras as well, the earth ponies' connection to nature could also extend to creating alchemical potions and powders from herbs and other various plants.
Also, consider that the Windigos are spirits that feed themselves with disharmony and infighting among ponies in order to freeze Equestria into permanent winter, thus making Pinkie Pie's parties one of the only safeguards between Equestria and The End of the World as We Know It.
If the fight vs. the Changelings is any indication, Pinkie has also learned to weaponize her special talent: partying.
A literal example with Princess Cadence, the third Alicorn in the series. She's a Love Goddess who has the power to repair the bonds between ponies and spread love wherever she goes. Compared to the Physical Goddess level abilities her aunts show, this doesn't seem as impressive. Then you remember that The Power of Friendship is the most powerful magic in the world, and The Power of Love is it's close cousin. Cue her and her husband-to-be using The Power of Loveto deliver a Heart Beat Down to Queen Chrysalis that sends her and her minions hurtling over the horizon. We see in the Season 3 opener that her love magic is capable of repelling King Sombra, an ancient and extremely powerful unicorn king who took both her super powered aunts to defeat a thousand years ago.
The aformentioned Stinkor in the 2002 He Man And The Masters Of The Universe series. In this cartoon, the character got the chance to show just how lame of a power stink really was, and He-Man was almost defeated. In later episodes, Skeletor treated Stinkor much better than his other minions, just because of how powerful he was. Stinkor's stench is so awful that Skeletor has to hold his nose around him. Skeletor doesn't have a nose.
Another episode showed that his stench is strong enough to send dragons running for the hills, no easy feat. He proceeded to clear out basically every dragon in the country so Skeletor's plan could move forwards (the dragons were the natural predators of his latest weapons).
Some of Ben 10's alien forms can work that way; most notably, Grey Matter's power is to be small and have high intelligence. Seems pretty weak, until you realize he can build a lazergun out of pieces of crap, destroy Killer Robots from the inside, hide in smaller spaces and outsmart most opponents, it turns out to be actually quite useful. The Omnitrix, which give Ben his ability to turn into aliens, was created by a guy from Grey Matter's species (and he is considered to be the smartest sentient being in multiple GALAXIES).
In a non canon future episode (confirmed by DwayneMcDuffie) (Though the Ultimate Alien series reveals that the timeline still exists, it just isn't the future Ben is going to experience) Ben's son Kenny used Grey Matter to hack the Omnitrix (being given his own as a birthday present) and turn off the power limiter, therefore giving him access to all alien forms currently available with no time limit between them.
Cannonbolt is an in-universe example. The first new alien Ben unlocks after the original ten, Ben laments that all the form can do is turn into a ball and roll around. It's only later in the episode that he finds out that when Cannonbolt picks up speed, his tough shell makes him more or less a free-rolling wrecking ball. Not only does Cannonbolt rip the planet-destroying Monster of the Week apart from the inside out, but he goes on to become one of Ben's more prominent alien forms.
As seen in "Be Afraid of the Dark", Cannonbolt can survive atmospheric re-entry and the resulting crash into the earth while encircling two completely normal people.
In Sabrina: The Animated Series when everyone ends up inside Harvey's comic book world, Sabrina's power is to make squids shoot out of her hands. It seems pretty useless until Harvey's draw-it-and-it-comes-to-life pen gun runs out of ink and Sabrina remembers what squids are good for...
When Barack Obama was asked in an interview what superpower he'd like to have, he picked the ability to speak any language.
Which is actually a power from the Bible. In the New Testament, the 12 apostles of Christ were briefly given the ability to speak in any language, which led them to gain large numbers of followers.
Drummers. They get a lot of flack because their job looks so simple, but good luck starting a band without one.