The Heroic Red Ring of Death occurs when a hero has pushed him/herself too hard physically and abruptly starts to break down physically. That one of these is coming may or may not be clear in advance, but when it starts, it will hit all at once.
Causes vary. It could simply be the hero wearing him/herself out after a good case of Heroic Resolve — or Bottled Heroic Resolve — or it could be the consequence of using a Dangerous Forbidden Technique. Some works directly support this via Cast from Hit Points. Often caused by Phlebotinum Overload, deliberately removing Power Limiters, or applying Deadly Upgrades, especially if the hero is a Flawed Prototype. It might be represented with burning Tron Lines, Tainted Veins, Volcanic Veins or turning red. If it's done on purpose, it may be a Heroic Sacrifice, but it is at least as likely to be accidental.
Injuries sustained during Heroic RRODs should range between serious and fatal if left untreated (although rarely crippling), possibly leading to a case of You Are Already Dead, or Secretly Dying. Also a common cause of You Can Barely Stand.
Named after a warning signal on Microsoft Xbox 360 consoles.note They normally have a green four-part ring when they power on; when one gets the red ring instead, it usually means that the system can no longer physically function. The red ring generally doesn't appear until it's too late to do anything about it, at which point it's usually time for a new console. Originally there were 4 red ring codes in total, three red lights being the classic RROD and indicating the dreaded hardware failure (stemming from a bad soldering job on the motherboard). One red light indicates another kind of hardware failure, and two red lights mean the console is overheating. Four red lights (the only actual *ring*) is known as the Fake-out Red Ring and appears when the console is turned on without plugging the AV cables into the TV. But that just confused people and led to a lot of unnecessary returns, so in later models the red ring always means something has Gone Horribly Wrong.
A Sister Trope to Power Strain Blackout (when the cause is not as serious), Heroic BSOD (the mental and emotional counterpart).
Compare Super Power Meltdown, Power Degeneration, Post-Victory Collapse, Explosive Overclocking (the Phlebotinum version), Power-Up Full Color Change (often used as visual and literal indicator).
Not to be confused with Rings of Death.
Since this is an ending (and sometimes a Death Trope) spoilers are unmarked. You've been warned.
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Anime and Manga
Happens to Ill Girl Chizuru in Combattler V. Made worse by how she had hidden her heart illness to her friends... and it kicked in when they were fighting
The Prince of Tennis likes this one a lot — the main character never suffers from it, but Tezuka does, and there's at least one minor character with a super special tennis move that will mess him up if he uses it too often. Then there's the character who winds up in the hospital for reasons unrelated to tennis, but even he works himself to the point of collapse on the courts before admitting (or finding out?) that there's anything wrong with him.
Happened to Nanoha of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, between the second and third series. The teachers in StrikerS spend quite a bit of energy convincing the kids that no, consistently overdoing it is not good for you.
Usually, achieving a higher plug depth results in a higher sync ratio but more risk of mental contamination/absorption (Shinji goes over 280 depth/400% synch during the Zeruel battle). When Mari uses Beast Mode, it undoes her Eva's restraints, causing her plug depth to go into the negative. And she actually survives it!!
And in Rebuild 3.0, Asuka repeats Mari's feat, albeit with a little difference: she uses a different voice command ("Mode change: Code 777!") and it's not enough to take down the Mark.09 until Asuka grapples onto her opponent, arms the self-destruct and ejects.
Chrono Crusade - Given that the mostly normal main characters are fighting against high-caliber demons, they battle to exhaustion almost every time.
There's a specific example in the manga, where Rosette decides to release Chrono's seal (which eats away at her life force) and fight her brother at the same time. The stress of it is so great that her soul disconnects from her body and she dies. She gets better, though.
This is what seemed to have happened to Angelica in Gunslinger Girl, until the second season set the record straight.
Or just retconned it away, depending on how you look at things.
Lumiere goes through this late in Kiddy Grade but gets better.
Chise from Saikano literally falls apart for the entire series duration.
The Chakra Gates in Naruto have this trope as the consequence of pushing the body beyond limits. How much the body can actually take depends on the user, but opening all 8 gates will absolutely bring death. Happened otherwise in the animé series fillers.
For bonus points, opening the third gate actually turns the user red. And if a user opens the eighth gate, they begin to emit an aura tinted red by the vapors of their superheated blood flooding out of their straining heart.
At higher stages of the tailed beast forms, the user's skin is flayed off by the strength of the chakra, but at the same time is healed fast enough that they aren't killed. Those that have befriended their inner demons can become the full beast without issue, though the lesser forms still present the skin problem.
Chouji's special food pills convert calories into chakra at an alarming rate. Chouji's girth is the only reason is isn't instantly fatal, and it would have been anyway if not for proper treatment.
Naruto developed the Wind Release/Wind Style: Rasenshuriken, an upgrade to the Rasengan that is vastly more powerful, but does cellular damage to his hand. Tsunade forbids him from using it, but eventually he fixes the problem by throwing it, so that only his enemy is hit.
Kakashi is made of this trope. At one point other characters are actually shocked when Kakashi doesn't have to go to the hospital after a fight..
Extended use of his Sharingan drains tremendous amounts of his own energy. Any time he reveals it, he's effectively racing against the clock to finish the fight before his collapse.
The Mangekyo Sharingan makes the user go blind eventually.
Susano'o causes severe physical harm to anyone without the Eternal Mangekyo Sharingan.
In general, overusage of chakra has this effect. As chakra is essentially life-force, using too much can dip the user's reserves below the minimum that their body needs to function correctly, causing heavy exhaustion and even internal damage; Tsunade is actually rendered comatose after expending nearly all her chakra to shield the village's populace from Pain's city-flattening gravity attack. Kakashi explicitly states (at least in the English dub) that if you use up absolutely all of your chakra, you drop dead. It's theorized that Kimimaro and Itachi both died not from injuries, but as a result of draining their chakra to absolute zero. This is pretty rare, though, and both of them were already dying to begin with.
Near the end of Tekkaman Blade, D-Boy uses the Blaster Mode so often that his mind gets completely screwed up. So much so, that he starts forgetting everything, ultimately ending with him forgetting everything else except his hatred towards Radam. He still won like that, but ended up in a coma.
The main cast isn't immune to this. After the villainous example mentioned above, Kenshin himself collapses and his friends have to carry him away. Due to his lack of muscle, Kenshin's body goes through serious stress when using Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu. The repeated overuse throughout the series inflicts hell upon him, and by the end of the series he is completely incapable of fighting at his old level.
In a sense it is a concept of "the straw that broke the camel's back". Kenshin's style mastery was incomplete so he fought mostly with what he had. He usually showed no sign of slowing down before. However, once he learned the ultimate technique, it all snowballed since it put a lot more strain on his body than any other technique.
Sanosuke's hands get broken whenever he uses Futae no Kiwami after the Kyoto arc.
Tien/Tenshinhan's Tri-Beam/Spirit Cannon attack, which is supposed to kill the user if used too long; nevertheless, Tien is able to master it so that it can be used repeatedly. In Z, given the exponential power rise of the opposition, it quickly becomes Tien's first-choice technique, and using it, he's even capable of pinning Semi-Perfect Cell down for a while before getting incapacitated.
Particularly when he uses the technique to save Gohan from an attack by a Piccolo and SSJ3 Gotenks absorbed Majin Buu.
Goku's power-multiplying Kaioken technique, which is also supposed to be crippling if the multiplier is set too high. After learning x2, however, Goku takes it up to x3 and even x4 for short bursts in his battle with Vegeta; at the climax of his pre-Super Saiyan power, he is able to practically sustain x2 and has mastered the use of levels up to x20 by activating it only in precisely timed pulses just before landing a blow or dodging an enemy attack. However, it is rapidly rendered So Last Season by the advent of the Super Saiyan transformation, and it may be that using it in tandem with the transformation would result in severe enough damage to make it impractical - the last time it's seen, and the only time it's used in tandem with Super Saiyan, is in the anime filler Otherworld Tournament mini-arc where Goku no longer has a physical body. Turns out the energy limitations make it so if he tried using both for more than a few seconds, he'd have completely used up his energy reserves and disappeared. Something even the Dragon Balls can't fix.
The Super Saiyan 3 transformation. It is only attained by Goku harnessing the unlimited energy supply of the Otherworld, and he can never sustain it for very long in the physical world because of its massive energy consumption. This is a major factor in his fight against Kid Buu, where he can match Buu's power but can't maintain it for long - eventually being rendered unable to power up due to the strain, losing all his remaining energy, and downgrading into a heavily weakened normal state.
Vegeta's Super Explosive Wave/Final Explosion, where he just fills the space around him with as much energy as he can muster. He unsuccessfully uses it early on in Z in his fight against Goku, Gohan, Krillin and Yajirobi having lost too much energy, and ends up only weakening himself further. Many seasons later, as a Super Saiyan 2 in his fight against Fat Buu, he spends all of his life energy on the attack and dies, disintegrating Fat Buu... for all of thirty seconds before the latter regenerates.
The Super Explosion, however, is a different attack (according to the graphic novels), merely sending out stored ki as an offensive attack (ala the Younger Toguro's demon energy in YuYu Hakusho) rather than using his life energy to make a Anti-Heroic Sacrifice as in the Ultimate Final Skill. The Ultimate Final Skill is differentiated specifically by the stone statue it leaves behind upon the user's death. (Although, in practice, not THAT different, only in theory and application).
For those of Saiyan descent, pushing themselves into this (whether to death or just near-death) is the most efficient way to get stronger.
This is the result of firing the unlucky-numbered caster shells in quick succession in Outlaw Star. While firing two is survivable (though not recommended), a third shot is likely to kill the shooter as much as it is the target. Naturally, Gene fires all of them in the final battle and survives.
There are also Emporio Ivankov's Tension Hormones, which energize and relieve pain for a period of time, at the cost of suffering all of it later.
The Energy Steroid pills also grant immense power at the cost of the lifespan of the one who consumes them. Hody Jones pops them like it was candy, but he and his New Fishmen Pirates plan to kill all of the World Government kings, including their own, and die right afterwards, so it doesn't matter to them.
Use of rumble balls makes Chopper's body become numb numb for a long time. Post-Time Skip, this happens only if he uses his Monster Point.
Sanji has a minor version where the strength of his blows can be too much for his body to withstand, at one point breaking his ribs from kicking someone.
In Slayers Next Lina seems to go into shock after overcasting, getting just enough healing to overcast again, having both arms broken, then flung into a mountain with enough force to leave a crater. Somehow though she gets better with no further healing.
Casting the Giga Slave, meanwhile, turns her hair white, and exhausts her. Fortunately, the first time was at the end of the novel, so it wasn't as big of a deal. Casting it again, meanwhile, is a different Trope.
In the original Ghost in the Shell, Major Kusanagi tries to pry the hatch of a very heavy-duty tank open. She pushes her superhuman cyborg body to the limit...at which point her limbs shatter. In the second movie, a sex doll possessed by Kusanagi does the same to its arm when she yanks out a heavy computer device from a wall; as it's not really her body, the scene is played for a small laugh and the Shout-Out to the original that it is with her simply moving on to the next part of what she's doing. In Stand Alone Complex, the second episode contains a Shout-Out to this with Kusanagi again jumping onto a huge tank and trying to pull the hatch open, with similar cinematography. This time, however, she simply can't do it, and pulling as hard as she can is just a non-event.
The Trans AM system in Mobile Suit Gundam 00 gives a huge boost to a Gundam's power output, multiplying its combat prowess several times over. However, it's only designed for limited usage (measurable in minutes), and will leave the Gundam and its pilot defenseless when it runs out, or if it's used up too quickly.
Two different cases here. The Gundams themselves have enough power left to stay aloft with all systems running but with reduced performance. The imitation system introduced by the antagonists actually shuts the suit down altogether when it runs out.
Essentially, true GN Drives produce nigh-infinite power. Trans-Am simply runs out the GN Condensers (think capacitors), thus making all systems pull directly from the main power source as well as recharging the condensers. In the GN Tau Drives, there is a limited amount of fuel and thus once they run out, it's over.
This happens to Lucy herself in Elfen Lied, whose flesh almost literally melts off her bones due to overexerting her powers after she finds a way of circumventing the limitation on the length of her vectors.
In general, whenever a Diclonius loses their horns, they cannot use their vectors. This is due to their horns having an organ that is a part of the pineal gland, which controls said vectors. Also, if they endure constant pain, they will not be able to use their vectors. Varying levels of pain happen throughout the series to almost every character, not just to Diclonius.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann's Simon has this problem after Kamina dies. He suffers what appears to be a mixture of Heroic BSOD and "Berserk Button Syndrome" as his personality starkly changes from his usual timid self into a crazed Beastman killer, even going so far as to repeatedly stomp a felled Gunman into the ground. His RROD moment comes as his anger peaks, causing his uncontrolled Spiral Energy to build up and overflow. Gurren Lagann starts literally puking it up.
In Solty Rei, Integra Martel had an ability of Super Speed, but she was limited to three uses before risking neurological damage. Against the Big Bad, she pulls out four before collapsing.
In Berserk, this is basically Guts' super power, especially after he starts using the berserk armor.
In Muhyo And Roji, Muhyo typically has to sleep after using major magic laws, which take away from his body's tempering, but if he pushes himself too far and uses up all his tempering he goes into an unconscious state, and his life is endangered unless he gets rest or drinks tempering water (which can be poisonous).
In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Chao Linshen's red rings of death are actually magical runes engraved on her body which allow her to use powerful magic, but have a deadly strain on her body.
It's also later revealed that, after learning magia erebea, Negi will experience similar effects.
Mind you, the person who tells him that doesn't seem overly concerned; he just mentions to make sure to get help sooner or later. Of course, that guy is also pretty much immortal...
The problems effects eventually manifest as a Superpowered Evil Side, and it's implied that the Magia Erebea is getting really unstable. When Negi pulled it out for the first time, he's clearly fatigued immediately afterward, despite not actually taking much damage. He very briefly activates it again later, and despite not actually using it for anything, he faints soon after it's deactivated.
Later, it turns out that he's being so weakened by it because it doesn't work well being used by humans. Since he's using it so much, its literally converting him into a demon, and the conversion process is painful. Its implied that when he finishes transforming, the problem will end. He finished. It ended. Now guess where Chao's magical runes come from?
Claymore turns this into a regular plot point. Almost every major bad guy except the Organization itself is a direct result of it.
In Digimon Savers, when Shine Greymon uses Burst Mode for the first time, he goes mad (Digimon characters have this happen at least once a season, usually due to bad emotions on the part of the Mons' human partner.) and attacks wildly, until he finally runs out of power and reconfigures, reverting to an egg.)
Angemon in Digimon Adventure did a similar thing after using up all his power to fight Devimon.
A variation with Greymon happened when Tai first got his Crest. Tai decided that Agumon needed a huge amount of energy, so he forced him to eat a huge amount of food, leaving him overfull and sluggish. When Etemon set a brainwashed Greymon on them, Agumon was the only one able to fight it (at least partially because the other Digimon had to give up their food for Agumon), and Tai keeps pushing him to fight in spite of his disadvantage and the other kids pleading with him to call him back. The kicker comes when Tai deliberately puts himself in danger in order to force Greymon to Digivolve, and he does so into Skull Greymon (an undead Digimon).
Also the reason why Digimon tend to revert to one of their baby forms after being in a high evolution level. At least in the first two series; it's not so common in later ones.
In Tegami Bachi, Letter Bees who fire their "Heart Guns"- guns that fire bullets from their "hearts" become fatigued over time, and need rest and food. If they fire their entire heart, they completely lose their personality and emotions.
In Gundam Wing Endless Waltz, in order to breach the Big Bad's fortified bunker, Heero repeatedly fires his buster rifle at it. However, the Gundam sustained a good deal of damage over the course of an earlier battle, so the recoil of each shot begins breaking chunks off of it until the third and final shot causes catastrophic failure.
Also arguably a Crowning Moment of Awesome for, not Heero, but the Wing Zero itself as this is the best Gundam 'death' in the Gundam Wing universe, if not the entire franchise.
This happens in Metropolis. Tima goes Ax Crazy after engaging the weapon of mass destruction in order to prevent the death of Keiichi. But she pretty much is destroyed at the end because the power is too much for her to handle.
It happens to wielders of Witchblades and Cloneblades in Witchblade. Reina tries to fight off Maria and reaches her limit, turning to dust, while Masane uses up all the strength left in her in the final battle, and meets the same fate.
Happens to Usagi twice in the manga: the first time was at the end of the Dark Kingdom arc when she gathers all the power she had to defeat Metallia, causing her broach to shatter and Usagi herself to fall over stone dead. The second time was in the fight with Chaos in the Galaxy Cauldron: she channels the power of hundreds, if not thousands, of Sailor Crystals within the Cauldron through her body to dissolve Chaos into the Cauldron, hopefully not to be reborn from a long long time. This act causes Usagi's body to totally disintegrate.
In the anime, this is a regular threat of using the full power of the Silver Crystal (though the English dub cut any and all references to this). Queen Serenity died using the power of the Crystal to banish the Dark Kingdom and send her dead subjects to Earth to be reborn - at the cost of her own life, as she was not reborn with them. The first series ends with Sailor Moon doing the same thing and dying as well (though she and the others end up reborn anyway with no memories of the events that took place in the preceding year). The end of the Sailor Moon R anime has Chibi-Usa and Usagi using all of their power to save the Earth and nearly expiring together (and at one point, they meet in spiritual form and believe they have actually died from overuse of their powers.) The Sailor Moon R movie's big climax is Sailor Moon using the crystal's power to destroy the Xenian Flowers all over the meteor that would spread them to Earth. Despite her friends telling her she could die and their pooling their own power to try and prevent this consequence, the crystal shatters and Usagi dies to save the Earth. A remorseful Fiore gives up his own life force in the form of a flower to revive her.
Notice that this only happens until the the S season. From then on this is no longer a death thread and by the time Usagi fully becomes Neo Queen Serenity, she can use it to heal the world and create Neo Tokyo without kicking it. (Though Usagi still can be heavily drained if she uses an external source of power, like the Holy Grail)
Giant Robo, of the Giant Robo OVA, has a link with its controller, Kusama Daisaku. If he is ever in mortal danger, Robo will immediately take off to save him. At 50 times normal output. While this would normally be enough to, say, punch a hole in the moon, Robo can't actually control this output. So when it tries to get to Daisaku through an impenetrable barrier... he has to order Robo to stand down or explode. There's a damn good reason Daisaku wants to avoid this.
This happens to Ciel in Black Butler. Already a pampered, but somewhat frail boy he joins Noah's Circus to find out the whereabouts of children that have recently been disappearing. He's only there a day before the mix of the cold weather and the new strain being put on his weak body takes its toll and he ends up vomiting violently. As it turns out he has asthma (inherited from his Missing Mom Rachel) and, although its symptoms haven't turned up in the three years Sebastian has been with him, the sudden stress on his body on top of a cold he caught takes him out with a high fever and he's forced to rest, despite his retaliation. Keep in mind the series takes place in the 1880's and that such a condition would be much more life threatening than it is today.
Sebastian gets one in chapter 65, nearly collapsing after being Impaled with Extreme Prejudice by the Undertaker, getting Ciel off a ship that's been chopped in half, and eradicating the zombie horde, while on a rowboat in the middle of the Atlantic.
Kurapika from Hunter × Hunter suffered from this once in the first OVA; he passed at least 4 days without sleeping or eating, he overused his Nen by fighting and killing a Ryodan, kidnapping another and using his ultimate weapon in 3 people at the same time, including himself and stayed altered too much time. What happened? He entered a coma, with no possibility of treatment due the circumstances, and when he finally woke up, he entered a BSOD and started having hallucinations. Sometimes, a Level in Badass has too much of a price.
Gon, too, undergoes major setback after essentially using every ounce of his potential growth in nen all at once to demolish Neferpitou, resulting in turning the tables of the Curb-Stomp Battle in exchange for his future inability to use nen. While it's not yet known exactly how permanent and thorough the damage is, but needless to say, he's now missing an arm on top of all of that...
The "Codes" (super-powered humans) of Code:Breaker suffer from this if they use their powers too much: Okami loses consciousness; Toki becomes a child; Yuuki and a villainous Little Miss Badass become tiny animals (a cat and a turtle, respectively); Sakura and The President shrink. The Codes can recover, but "Rare Kinds" Sakura and the President require a special liquid made from the President's blood.
Shizuo from Durarara!! is a rather exaggerated example of what the human body is capable of when it overcomes its unconscious limiters (read: Super Strength). He's also a perfect example of why those limiters are there in the first place, as his childhood was filled with painful trips to the emergency room for everything from dislocations, to torn ligaments and muscle, to a shattered spine and pelvis. It's only by virtue of Hollywood Healing that he didn't completely cripple himself before his body finally grew strong enough to handle the strain.
Mahoro in Mahoromatic has this as the principle reason for her leaving military service and becoming a super powered maid. However, she is coerced into resuming 'full combat mode' at the end of the series, which if used will drain all her remaining power and end her life immediately.
In Change 123 the described risks of fighting as Zero are scarily similar to the real life example below. Zero doesn't seem to have the mental block everyone else has and could easily rip her body apart by fighting all-out. Luckily she usually over-exerts herself and passes out before anything like that can happen.
In Macademi Wasshoi, it's implied that George's supermode is this, though on a less serious scale.
In Holyland, this occurs following Yuu's Heroic BSOD. Although the cause is more psychological than physical, the result is that Yuu loses his form, and with it, most of his fighting ability. The local thugs, many of whom were afraid of him until that point, take advantage of this.
In Heroic Age, the Heroic Tribe members, which are insanely powerful, can fall in a state of "mental chaos", in which they get even more powerful, but may kill themselves if they snap out of it.
The signature move of Hiei from YuYu Hakusho is the Dragon of the Darkness Flame, which summons demonic energies in the form of a dragon made of black and purple flames. While technically not deadly, the only way to lure the Dragon of the Darkness Flame from whatever hell it is in is to use a piece of one's own soul as bait, although actually letting the Dragon have the soul is not required. Still, it is very dangerous — one false move, and the wielder is devoured by the dragon
Yusuke's fight with Suzaku winds up draining all his spiritual energy, leading him to use his life energy instead. He manages to kill Suzaku, but the act of doing so nearly kills himself as well.
Kurama has the ability to put all his remaining energy into one final attack to summon one of his demonic plants, and does so to try and kill Karasu during the Dark Tournament. Thanks to some recent transformations into Yoko Kurama increasing his strength, it makes him able to survive the act.
Kurama goes through one notably nasty case during the Dark Tournament when he attempts to take out as many members of Team Masho as possible, due to him and Yusuke being the only available fighters at the time. In the first few fights he gets his powers sealed, is badly wounded and suffers a large amount of blood loss, and is forced to infect his own body with his demonic plants to win his next battle. As a result he winds up losing consciousness at the end of said fight... while still standing perfectly up right, causing the corrupt tournament committee to rule him as still being eligible to fight. Uh oh.
In Soul Eater, Black*Star had the Uncanny Blade that could devour his soul and put a strain on his heart.
Bleach: Ishida and Ichigo get one of these when they voluntarily engage in acts that they know will end up destroying their powers forever (they both eventually get them back).
Notably, Ishida and Quincies in general have an ability to avert a Heroic RROD. Ransotengai allows Quincies to keep moving regardless of broken bones, tendons, tissue, or even paralysis.
When Ichigo first uses Bankai, he pushes his body so hard that his bones start disintegrating. His inner Hollow takes over when at his limit and immediately brushes off all injury, as well as calling out Ichigo for using Bankai so recklessly, and proceeds to Curb Stomp Byakuya
Yuki from Haruhi Suzumiya is coming dangerously close to RROD in the preview of Book 10 of the light novels.
D.Gray-Man: Lenalee after the fight with Eshi. Also happened to Allen when he pushed his arm too far.
In Innocent Venus, overuse of the mechas leads to side effects for the pilots... unless they're terrible people. This is due to the fact that they're Powered by a Forsaken Child, and those trapped souls aren't happy.
In Eureka Seven, Holland had to consume drugs in order to pilot the LFO typeB303 "Devilfish" seen from episode 43 onwards. Overdose of the drugs could shorten lifespan or even result in death.
Whoever uses the power of "Eye of Aeon" in 11eyes will end up causing great pain and strain on the user. Protagonist Kakeru at one point have his entire body nerve cords severed because of it. With each use means danger to the user as it sucks the soul of its user.
In Get Backers, it is hinted that if Ban Mido uses his "Evil Eye" 4 times within 24 hours of the first usage will result in his death.
In volume 22 of A Certain Magical Index, Accelerator uses the magical grimoire lambskin to heal a sick Last Order who was slowly dying due to the strain of the summoning of Aiwass since he is an esper, using magic caused his body to essentially start self-destructing
Tsuchimikado does this as well, though his esper ability (level 0 auto-regenerate) allows him to live through more spells than most.
Acqua of the Back can remove his biological limiters, granting him tremendous Super Strength and Super Speed at the cost of muscle strain and burnout.
Chapter 46 of Rosario + Vampire Season II reveals a new technique for Ruby— A magical iron maiden themed armor that greatly boosts all her capabilities in exchange for putting massive strain on her body, to the point that it could potentially kill her.
Yoite in Nabari No Ou lives this trope. Using his Kira technique slowly kills him (by draining his chi/ki/lifeforce), and there are points in the series when he'll use it repeatedly until he is too weak to stand. Eventually it kills him, turning his relationship with Miharu into the ultimate Tragic Bromance.
In Getter Robo Armageddon, the Shin Getter and Shin Dragon combine their Getter Energies to perform the powerful Final Getter Tomahawk attack, obliterating the Getter Sun (formerly Jupiter), Jupiter's moons and Big Bads Cohen and Stinger. When the explosions die down, Shin Dragon is out of power and Shin Getter's missing its arms. Then, when the two machines are tossed into another dimension and the Shin Getter ejects them out of said dimension, Shin Dragon's left as a skeleton-like husk.
All over the place in Rave Master. Haru nearly kills himself in an early battle from using his explosion technique too many times, and again towards the halfway point when he tries to use the Sacrifar sword. Resha famously died from overusing her magic, and when Elie finally blasts the enemy with Etherion the combine stress of the choice to do so and the strain of her powers wipes her memory.
Played for laughs in Steel Angel Kurumi Encore. Kurumi decides to act like a yamato nadeshiko in an attempt to get Nakahito to start being romantic towards her. However, she does this to the point that even her Angel Heart can't take it anymore and she shuts down in the middle of making dinner. She comes to soon after and Nakahito tells her he likes her the way she is and she didn't have to push this sort of thing.
Sayaka goes too long without using Grief Seeds to cleanse her Soul Gem, and fights more and more recklessly while angsting over several things: losing Kyousuke to Hitomi, learning how much being a Magical Girl SUCKSand seeing her ideals crash down. Eventually she runs out of steam and turns into a witch.
Kyouko defends Madoka while she attempts to get through to Witch!Sayaka, but eventually she decides it's hopeless, stops fighting, and kills herself so that she and Sayaka can be Together in Death.
Homura is injured while fighting Walpurgisnacht and decides she can't reset the time-loop again, because that would just make Madoka's fate even worse. She gives up completely, and her Soul Gem starts turning black. Madoka shows up just in time to stop her (and everyone else!) from becoming a witch.
In another timeline Mami does this along with a Despair Event Horizon crossing when she learns that magical girls turn into witches...unless they die. She kills Kyouko, intending to Mercy Kill herself and all her friends. But she can't go through with fully when it's time to kill Homura and freezes up, allowing Madoka to Mercy Kill her before she gets her resolve back.
In Suite Pretty Cure ♪, the Fairy Tones end up nearly killing themselves via this method - they accidentally lost some of the heroines' MacGuffins and, in between being their transformation and weapon summoners, they started searching high and low Kanon Town to find them again to the point where one fight had all seven of them collapsed on the ground. This forces the girls to get their Mid-Season Upgrade.
In High School D×D, Issei's Boosted Gear doubles his strength every ten seconds while it is activated. While this makes him very strong the longer the fight goes, the more his strength is multiplied, the greater the stress on his body and he will eventually run out of energy if the fight goes on too long. His training regimens focus on building up his endurance and toughness so he can handle the power boosts.
In Kill la Kill, the Godrobes feed on their user's blood in order to gain their tremendous power. As such, they're vulnerable to the volatile nature of their wearers. When main character Ryuko lets her fury get the better of her fighting her father's killer, her Godrobe Senketsu can't control his urges to consume her, and transforms itself - and her - into THIS.◊ Only timely intervention from her best friend Mako keeps the main antagonist Satsuki from taking her head.
Captain Tsubasa, Jun Misugi has a heart disease, but he insists to play full-time against Nankatsu SC. At the climax the disease acts up, causing him to stand frozen for a moment in the sense that his heart completely stops in the middle of the play. He turns out more or less all right, but he then has to stand by his team's goal post for the rest of the game and, in the original series, is hauled to the hospital immediately after the match is over.
A softer version of this happens three years later. Misugi returns to soccer after years of medical treatment, but while his skill is intact his physical stamina is very limited. Naturally, when his team has to play against Hyuuga's, he overexerts himself and has to be taken away again. From then on he becomes The Strategist and only plays very counted times.
Toriko himself unlocks this in the form of 'autophagy' which begins breaking down his body's own tissues for a complete reboot of his calorie reserves. However if he doesn't eat something soon, his body will essentially shut down as the 'creature inside him' eats him in his entirety.
Spawn has a limited amount of necroplasm in his body, which he needs to use his powers. If he uses it all, he gets sent back to Hell. It happened to him at least once. He got better.
Technically, his body and costume weren't working together properly and basically went home for repairs; he still had necroplasm left. And he didn't get better, Malebolgia sent him back to Earth after having him go through several kinds of Hell. Literally!
In the Knightfall arc of the Batman comics, this was Bane's key strategy in handing Batman a rare and devastating defeat: Releasing all the inmates of Arkham Asylum at once and letting him wear himself out trying to recapture all of them, then easily crumpling the exhausted superhero.
During Daredevil's first encounter with the Kingpin, he broke into Kingpin's vault which had the weight of the vault door as it's only defense. It's worth noting that a teenage Spider-Man had previously struggled hard to open the very same vault and that this was back in the day when Kingpin was still a house-wrecking, Spider-Man-pummeling monster of a mobster. DD decided to give it a try and pulled beyond his breaking limit (much like the Real Life example below). Using sheer willpower to pull until his limbs were literally about to come off. He got it open and when cornered by Kingpin himself, still managed to put up enough of a fight to hurt the big man... before running out of breath and being one-punched into oblivion.
The Flash can run faster than sound without too much difficulty. When he runs faster than faster than light, he risks being permanently absorbed by the "Speed Force" that powers all DCU speedsters. A number of other speedsters, such as Johnny Quick and Savitar, have met with this fate (which isn't considered a bad way to go; sort of like reaching nirvana). Wally West is the only person to consistently be able to return; his love for his wife Linda provides a sort of "tether" to the real world.
In a classic Iron Man story, back when his armor was also life support, Tony overrides his suit's Power Limiters to put all his power into one punch. A punch that knocks out the Incredible Hulk. He then proceeded to pass out from a heart attack.
This trope is a regular thing for Tony, especially pre-Extremis.
By the last 30 minutes of Brick, Brendan has been victim of so many beatdowns and had so little sleep or food that he's barely able to stand and can't go more than a minute without coughing up blood. It's not pretty. Every second or third line of dialogue from the other characters is something along the lines of "Dude, go to the hospital, now."
In Amadeus, a disguised Salieri contracts Mozart to write the Requiem Mass in D Minor, and then pushes him to work without pause until he collapses and dies, leaving the Mass unfinished. In real life, overwork is believed to be one contributing factor to Mozart's death, though not the only one (the main cause is thought to be rheumatic fever), and Salieri had nothing to do with it.
in The Core, the Virgil's builder has to go out in the 9000 degree heat and engage the automatic-separation manual override — in a suit designed to withstand only half that temperature. His body is visibly breaking down by the time he makes it to the switch.
In Iron Man Tony Stark fights Obadiah Stane on the roof of Stark Industries with 2% power left on the electromagnet that keeps him alive. He orders Pepper to overload the arc reactor directly beneath him, even though he's still within its path. The electricity blows up the Iron Monger and overloads Tony's own arc reactor, leaving him lying on the ground unconscious...only for the residual energy to cycle back up the arc reactor keeping him alive.
In Robert A. Heinlein's Have Space Suit – Will Travel, Kip damages himself so badly trying to set up the homing beacon on Pluto that it takes the Vegans (folks from Vega, not folks that eschew animal-based products) months to rebuild his body.
In The Long Watch, Ezra Dahlquist, a young nuclear weapons officer, foils a military coup by disassembling the nuclear weapons and smashing the warheads. In doing so he suffers a lethal dose of radiation. He is given a lead casket and a Geiger counter "that never was quiet."
In Heinlein's The Green Hills of Earth, the poet Rhysling makes critical repairs to a nuclear core, but sustains fatal radiation poisoning. He composes the eponymous song as he dies.
In the Heralds of Valdemar series, Mages and those using Gifts run the risk of overexerting themselves and going into "backlash shock". This can sometimes be done deliberately as a form of Cast from Hit Points; taken to the ultimate conclusion it's known as a Final Strike, as in it's final for the mage attempting it.
One of Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories the villain fights the lightning-quick Mouser to a standstill for a while. When defeated the tremendous overstrain caused the villain's corpse to go into immediate rigor mortis.
Harry Dresden mentions in one of the early books that over doing magic could essentially burn out your brain and render you unable to use magic again.
It's also possible for mages to do this intentionally, by drawing on all of their life force, and all available forces around them. Upside, one really really powerful spell. Downside, the witch or wizard who uses this method WILL die.
Since Small Favor Harry has had access to Soulfire; a heavenly force of creation that he can use to power his spells. Unfortunately if he uses it too much, he'll burn out his soul and die. Without a soul...
Jaenelle Angelline, in the Black Jewels trilogy, when trapped in a village with Lucivar, villagers, and insufficient supplies. Her power begins to consume her body as it is used. Afterwards, she can barely walk under her own power.
In the original Stephen King novel Carrie, Carrie died after her final vengeance upon Chris Hargensen and Billy Nolan caused her heart to give out through overdoing the use of her power (having been stabbed by her mother really didn't help, either). She's not really heroic, though..
Andy McGee in Firestarter does this, pushing his Mind Control power further and further until eventually he gets a brain aneurysm.
John Henry, the legendary American folk hero, died this way, proving that he could out-tunnel a power hammer all by himself armed with just a pair of 20-pound hammers. He won the contest but died immediately afterward.
In Mistborn, a magical ability that sharpens the senses can also sharpen thoughts. The idea is that increased input shocks a faltering mind into full orientation and awareness. This can be combined with other magical abilities in any number of clever ways, all of which hinge on being able to brutalize oneself and stave off passing out from the strain.
The final Mistborn novel has a strange inversion, in that a destructive superhuman feat depends on the sudden loss of an ability. A character who's been using the sense-sharpening power the way most people breathe turns it off and runs into a burning building. The narrative goes on about the way "everything is cold, dull, and distant, and blast it, my hands stopped working and I can't work this handle, let's try the elbows..."
In Brazilian novel A Droga da Obediência (The Obedience Drug), one of the teen test subjects of the eponymous drug dies after doing much work and exercise (the drug doesn't let him feel exhausted, but the body doesn't think that way...).
Miles Vorkosigan's seizure disorder. Technically, it's a sort of epilepsy due to neurotransmitters instead of electrical impulses, a relic of his cryofreezing...but really, it's his body's payback for what he did to it for thirteen years. Not that he let up afterward...
In Belgariad, it's possible for sorcerers to strain their powers to the point where they can suffer permanent damage, or even die from depleting their bodies' will to stay alive. This comes very close to happening to both Belgarath and Polgara at different points.
Wencit of Rum is the only White Wizard left in the WarGod series because setting up The Strifing killed, drove insane, or drew out all the powers of every other remaining wizard. Wencit survived only because he's a once in thousand years Wild Wizard who's not dependent on his own magical powers.
In the Percy Jackson series, children of the Big Three are more powerful than most so they can use stronger attacks. Percy at one point uses water from his own body to defeat a group of enemies. Afterward, he was very dehydrated and spent a few weeks recovering.
There's another time when he taps into Poseidon's earthquake abilities inside Mt. St. Helens and nearly causes it to erupt but he begins to break the seal on Typhon. The drain on him is so strong he slips into a coma.
During the climactic space battle in Larry Niven's Footfall, construction worker-turned-spacecraft-repairman Harry Reddington stays to fix a leaking steam shunt despite the fact that the steam escaping around him is raising his body's internal temperatures up above the point at which the human brain shuts down. He gets the job done, and manages to die shortly thereafter from exhaustion, just before a leak in his pressure suit would have killed him anyway.
In Fred Saberhagen's Book of Swords the sword Townsaver essentially forces its wielder into RROD. You can't succumb to your wounds during the fight, but the sword doesn't help you avoid fatal wounds. Once the fight is done, so are you.
Something similar happens with Shieldbreaker when its wielder is faced with unarmed opponents. The user can't put the sword down and, eventually, has their life energy drained. This is something that can even affect a god.
Eisenhorn keeps pushing himself far beyond the limits of human endurance to chase down and destroy the enemies of mankind, generally without giving himself nearly enough time to rest in between. Today his facial muscles have been destroyed, his legs have been replaced with crude augmentic units, and he's killed or driven off all of his allies except for Cherubael, all through his utter refusal to compromise or stop fighting.
When the First Doctor regenerated into the Second on Doctor Who, it was directly stated to be a physical breakdown. In the past few adventures, he'd been: aged by the Time Destructor, vanished by the Celestial Toymaker, had his life energy drained, been in the same time and city as a future incarnation, and suffered in a planetary energy drain.
The Ninth Doctor became the Tenth by taking on energy so strong that it would have killed Rose.
The Tenth Doctor became the Eleventh by absorbing a critical amount of radiation.
Which was also how the Third Doctor became the Fourth.
Donna's exit can also be considered this. Donna absorbed the Doctor's intelligence and saved the multiverse. Afterwards, however, the extreme amount of information started to kill her because it was too much for her human brain. In order to save her, he had to erase all of her memories of him so that the information would remain locked away.
Phillip in Kamen Rider Double suffers something of the sort in the last arc, since he's actually a mass of data that, in the previous arc, was infused into Wakana. After being forcefully extracted, he begins an irreversible defragmentation/disappearing process that would hasten to its end the next time he becomes Double. They use this overflow of emotion and data to its advantage to effectively defeat the Utopia dopant. Cue Tear Jerker farewell.
The single color Medal Combos in Kamen Rider OOO cause Eiji to collapse due to the stress they place on his body. As the series goes on he's slowly getting used to it but a Combo still leaves him exhausted and unable to fight effectively for a period afterward.
In the Kamen Rider Fourze movie, "Everybody, It's Space Time!", Gentarou ends up shoving the massive orbiting weapon satellite/giant robot XVII through one of his wormholes in Cosmic States form. However, the strain of doing so ends up blowing out all of his Switches and weakening Gen even further (already haven been pummeled by the other Space Ironmen.
Top Gear does this to many of the cars they use in stunts and challenges if they aren't destroyed by the stunts themselves. The amount of stress they go through on race tracks just cause the car to slowly break down. Except the Toyota Hilux.
Invoked in the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers episode "Wild West Rangers". Zordon tells Kimberly that too much pink energy is dangerous. Also used in Power Rangers Zeo; humans can't handle the Gold Ranger powers. Jason survives but he has to rreturn the gold ranger powers to their original, non-human, owner.
In 24, Jack Bauer is usually on the verge of a complete physical breakdown by end of the season, as a result of the punishment he's endured and from simply going at least twenty-four hours without sleeping, drinking, eating or using the bathroom. Being the determinator, it (usually) doesn't stop him from laying the smackdown on terrorists. Notable examples:
Day 2, where Jack is having heart attacks in the final hours as a result of being tortured earlier in the day.
Day 7, where Jack is exposed to a fast-acting bioweapon and spends the remainder of the day showing more and more symptoms: shakes, memory loss, collapsing in the middle of FBI headquarters...
In Roswell, Max is forced to make an old man young again, since he's a "healer". Since Valenti's life is on the balance, he does it, but in the process he ages and destroys his own body. He also faints at a hospital after healing five kids from cancer. After the first one, he seems okay, but by the last one he can barely stand, has tunnel vision, and is sweating. Hence, the fainting.
In Lois and Clark, Superman stops a space station from falling out of orbit, which he later describes as the heaviest thing he has ever lifted. He returns to Earth with over-strained muscles, and is in pain for a short time.
In Chuck, prolonged use of Intersect 2.0 without the Governor to manage it will eventually fry the user's brain. Chuck spends most of the third season finale enduring incredibly painful and eventually debilitating (and potentially fatal) overloads every time he flashes. The sabotaged Intersect Morgan uploads at the end of season 4 begins to destroy his memory, and Quinn uses the government's own malfunctioning incomplete Intersect Sarah uploads in season five to intentionally destroy her memory. The process is shown to be incredibly painful.
Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 brings us Transcend Mortality, an Asian-character-class-only spell that does Exactly What It Says on the Tin. The caster is given tremendous power, nigh-insurmountable defensive abilities, and essentially becomes unstoppable (to varying degrees depending on what level you were when you cast the thing). But after the spell runs its course, the caster crumbles to ash. And while resurrection magic exists in the game, only three very high-level spells can bring back a character who has died in this fashion. Two of them are called Miracle and Wish, to give an idea of the scale.
The proliferation of 3.5 sourcebooks brings quite a few of these. There's the Frenzied Berserker, who is capable of ignoring any amount of negative hit points while raging - but the full effects are applied immediately when the rage ends. The Corrupt and Sanctified spells, which are extremely evil and good respectively, take a toll on the caster; the most powerful ones cost the caster's life, in more or less painful ways - generally "more" for the evil ones. Then there are the Epic spells; creating one is a fairly involved process that includes determining the difficulty for the spell. The difficulty can be lowered significantly by including a "backlash" that hurts the caster.
This trope can come into effect at less dramatic levels as well. Rage will inflict an exhaustion penalty on a barbarian after wearing off, which can turn into a huge disability if the fight doesn't end shortly thereafter. The Diehard feat can also be considered this: it allows a character to either stabilize instantly after incapacitation or remain conscious and mobile below 0 HP. True, sometimes all you need is one last round of action to win the day, but trying to fight with only ten or less HP separating you from semipermanent death (with the DM often declaring additional penalties) is pushing it.
BattleTech, being the basis for the Mech Warrior video games, also has alpha striking as a powerful attack with dangerous drawbacks, but features a few other systems and weapons that also fall into the same category. Inferno missiles dish out a consistent 6 levels of heat (20% of the maximum heat scale in the game) for 3 turns with just a single hit on a target 'Mech, and are death to vehicles and infantry. They also come loaded in numbers large enough to afford using them liberally. Unfortunately, any pilot using Inferno rounds has to be extra aware of their heat; Infernos have an unfortunate tendency to explode with even less provocation than normal ammo when heated up, which causes both the napalm and the rocket fuel to cook off, instantly overheating the 'Mech and often blowing off a good chunk of its chassis. Jump jets grant extra movement options and agility, but they also allow a 'Mech to pull off the infamous Death from Above maneuver, dropping anywhere from 20 to 100 tons of bipedal war machine onto another. It's every bit as devastating as it sounds, but the attacker risks incurring a lot of damage to their legs and is almost certainly going to be helpless on the ground afterwards, until they can make it back to their feet—and jumping onto an enemy usually means that 'Mech is near the enemy's line. The enemy might be feeling a bit vindictive towards the flying collection of armor and weapons that just landed on one of their own. Finally, triple strength myomers actually gain strength and speed when heated up, ultimately allowing 'Mechs to cause double damage with physical attacks. That same heat causes the 'Mech's targeting computers to suffer, lowering weapon accuracy, and if the 'Mech overheats too much, the speed bonus is lost entirely. If the heat can be kept in a certain range and the 'Mech comes equipped with a dedicated melee weapon, however...
There are also the Clans' Enhanced Imaging Neural Implants. Getting the implants (which look like brightly colored facial tattoos) means you don't need to wear a neurohelmet to inteface with your 'Mech, Battle Armor, or whatever, but also gain enhanced reaction time with your machine. Of course, the human brain wasn't intended to interface directly with technology, so they burn out your brain in only a few years. Of course, the Clans, especially the Crusaders, are pretty much built on Death or Glory, so they don't really mind.
In the backstory of Magic: The Gathering this seems to happen with some regularity, especially with the Planeswalkers. One of the most prominent examples is Barrin, who during the Phyrexian invasion loses the last of his family, his daughter Hanna. Grief-stricken, he draws in enough magical power to completely destroys the Phyrexian-infested island of Tolaria, killing himself in the process. See http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=23098.
Now that Planeswalker is a card type, you can witness this yourself. Unlike creatures, which have power and toughness, planeswalkers only have a loyalty stat, which can be increased or decreased by using printed abilities. They can also be attacked, directly, like players. Now, most planeswalkers have an ability that uses up a large amount of loyalty for one big effect, but leaves them open to being cherry-tapped by a lowly 1/1 goblin. Hereareafewexamples.
7th Sea has the (nigh-extinct) El Fuego Adentro ("The Fire Within") school of Sorcery. It allow the character to start, control, and feed fires, even when there is no logical fuel present. However, using said Sorcery, especially the Feed knack, damages the Sorcerer constantly. This is more severe than normal Cast from Hit Points because healing is much trickier in Seventh Sea than in most games, as there is no healing magic and surgery is invasive and time-consuming.
Happens more than a few times in the Warhammer / Warhammer 40,000 worlds, but tends to be more villainous than heroic, being as only the evil races tend to be willing to risk body and soul for victory, especially when victory entails simply keeping body and soul. Notable examples are Dark Eldar combat drugs that run the risk of ravaging the user's system, Slaaneshi spells that cause enhanced performance at the cost of bodily shutdown, and a whole swathe of Skaven items and spells that give bonuses in exchange for members of the unit simply dropping dead afterwards.
Yriel, Grand Admiral of Craftworld Iyanden, defeated the Tyranid horde that was ravaging his Craftworld by grabbing a cursed spear out of stasis and using it to drop the Norn Queen at the heart of the swarm. Unfortunately, the spear is now slowly killing him.
The latest Eldar Codex has also introduced the psychic power Death Mission, which gives a Farseer significant bonuses at the expense of killing him a turn or so later.
In Exalted one of the Charms for the Air Aspect Immaculate Monks is Hurricane Combat Method, which gives you a boost to attack power, but chews up your health.
It's also the problem with using too many Sidereal prayer strip Charms, since the majority of them cost a health level to activate and Sidereals are the squishiest kind of Exalt, with the weakest Ox-Body known to man.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse has a mechanic built in that allows a werewolf to keep going after suffering injuries that would kill them. But only by burning points of Rage, which are not only in very limited supply, but using them prompts berserk rage. Characters rarely survive after reaching this threshold, but the heroic Last Stand usually makes for a great story.
Spellcasters in Shadowrun can do themselves serious injury by overusing their powers, up to and including killing themselves.
Nobles in Nobilis suffer wounds when they use a Word of Command, basically pushing their power in an Attribute to the absolute limit. Mind you, this is enough to have someone with Domain 1 pull high-level Domain 9 stunts out of a hat, or someone with Treasure 1 speak an Imperial Miracle.
In GURPS, strenuous activities and spell-casting cost Fatigue Points (FP), and running really low on those can cause a character to suffer penalties to movement and other actions. If necessary, after running out completely, the character can go on to spend Hit Points (HP) in place of FP, and running out of those will eventually kill you.note (This leads to the notorious effect that lack of sleep, which mostly costs FP, can eventually kill you. Which may be Truth in Television of a sort, as really extended sleep deprivation really is dangerous, but maybe not quite the way that the game shows it.)
A constant risk of the Phazon mode in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots makes it clear from the start that Solid Snake is running on sheer willpower and nothing else. His health is in a constant state of deterioration, but it doesn't really hit him until the fifth act. After fighting off the last of the Beauty and the Beast Corp. and a squad of Elite Mooks, Snake finally hits his limit all at once and collapses just outside the entrance to the microwave corridor, with enemies moving in for the kill. Thank goodness Raiden catches up with him.
Limiter Release mode from Armored Core 2. When activated, your AC is provided with unlimited energy for about 50 seconds. But once those 50 seconds are up the generator goes into low power mode for about a minute to a minute and a half, which prevents you from being able to dodge effectively or use energy weaponry. Death usually follows if your enemies were not wiped from the field during your assault.
D-Dive mode in Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter. Keep this going too long, and your game automatically ends.
In the end, Ryu is eventually forced to push the D-Dive mode way beyond its limits and fatal cut off point. But he gets better.
Gulcasa from Yggdra Union gets a Deadly Upgrade halfway through the game that closely resembles Dragon Quarter's D-Dive mode. He RRODs twice from using it—the first time, his little sister saves him, but the second, the entire intent is for him to die, and he does no matter what the player's actions are.
And after the first incident, Gulcasa is out of commission for two entire chapters.
In Blaze Union, he is revealed to suffer from similar, albeit less severe, collapses and illnesses due to his constant use of Genocide putting too much stress on his body. One onscreen incident has him become so sick that if he does not kill a human with Genocideimmediately, he will die. Further upgrading his demonic powers in Yggdra Union seems to push this beyond what Gulcasa and the Imperial Army can handle, which is even worse because The Caretaker isn't there to nurse him back to health anymore.
The Rune of Punishment from Suikoden IV. It can annihilate entire navies, sure, but the rune will punish its wielder for such an abuse of power. Most of the previous wielders simply died from overuse, causing their own obliteration, and the rune's transference to the nearest valid host. The hero of the game, Lazlo, naturally winds up having to use it, too, saving La Résistance several times, and spending days in a coma as a result. If you don't get the best ending, he winds up killing himself with it at the end.
Suikoden V has a few similar concepts... Raging Nostrum, a drug developed by the assassin organization "Nether Gate", sends the user into a powerful and violent rage... and then causes them to collapse dead when it's all over.
When Sialeeds unleashes the full power of the Twilight Rune, she ends up dying soon after. It also claims the already mortally-wounded Lyon's life later, as she was mainly only kept alive by the Dawn Rune to begin with. If you collected all 108 Stars of Destiny, she'll be revived. If you didn't, she dies permanently.
Arguably, the ARI glasses used by Norman Jayden in Heavy Rain. Basically, they make his life way easier, but in the same time ARI destroys Norman's brain, almost killing him multiple times in the game. It is also implied that if he doesn't stop using them, he WILL die.
Any strenuous use of the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception tends to leave Shiki Tohno with horrible headaches and brain damage. The most notable examples are when in Ciel's route he uses his power to kill nature itself around the school he goes to in order to partially depower Arcueid. The other example is where he forces his eyes to not only be able to see the death of the concept of poison in someone's veins, but also work as X-ray eyes. The latter sends him blind for a large chunk of time, and both are strongly implied to have shorted his lifespan by a great deal.
The end strongly implies that Shiki will die shortly after the events of Tsukihime because he pushed himself too far (and having that whole shared life thing with Akiha and SHIKI)
Actually, the later chapters say straight out that anyone but Akiha killing SHIKI results in Shiki's life force returning to him, thus bringing his lifespan back to a reasonable amount in the first two routes. Shiki sharing his life with SHIKI is only an issue in the Far Side routes.
Epilogue confirms it, however. Shiki's lifespan is still on the level of 'death uncertain', but he's not likely to die immediately after.
In the sequel, Kagetsu Tohya, Shiki performs another case of this by consciously ignoring the biological limiters in his muscles to fight an enemy who outclasses him physically, giving him beyond-normal speed for the fight. He notes beforehand that this will destroy his muscles and would normally leave him crippled for life, but by this point he's realized he's in a "Groundhog Day" Loop dream, so he'll wake up the next morning none the worse for wear.
This happens a lot to Shirou in Fate/stay night as well, due to his affinity for a certain kind of magic and his tendency to push his body beyond the limits of what any normal human body should take, usually causing him to experience Post-Victory Collapse and requiring magical healing to get back up again. It reaches its natural conclusion in the endings of Heaven's Feel, where Shirou's over-dependence on a Dangerous Forbidden Technique for projection magic causes his body to be gradually converted into swords — without Ilya to bail him out in the Normal Ending, this kills him. Well, technically, he dies anyway, but...
White Knight Chronicles: Done in a particularly slow and heart-wrenching fashion in the second game. The Hero, Leonard, finds himself gradually weakened by the use of the titular White Knight. Eventually, it gets so bad that he collapses in the middle of a major battle and needs to be carried back to Balandor. The next time he's seen, he's in bed, grunting from the sheer pain caused by his Heroic RROD. After that, he's either shown unconscious, intensely struggling with his condition, or laying around, too weak to move and completely out of it. We're not kidding! He's gone for about a fourth of the game!
Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume does this - the titular plume raises a character's stats to ten times normal, makes them immune to status aliments and elemental damage and casts a character-specific Game Breaker ability The Hero learns after the battle, instantly turning any battle into a Curb-Stomp Battle, but having their potential unlocked in this manner kills them permanently.
Aigis of Persona 3 can activate her Orgia mode during a battle, which makes her attacks stronger for a few turns, but you better hope the current battle ends before she has to cool down for a few turns making her totally vulnerable. One cut scene shows what happens if she doesn't cool down.
As of Persona 4 Arena, she can switch in and out of the mode at will, And the only penalty for overuse is to lose the ability until it fully recharges.
In Shadow Hearts II, this is the insult to injury of the Mistletoe Curse. The harder Yuri fights against it, the faster it develops and kills his memories. But if he doesn't resist at all, it'll gradually overtake him anyway. Fortunately nothing. There's no cure. There's a happy ending anyway, though. Kinda.
Ceodore's Awaken in Final Fantasy IV The After Years. Heals him completely and doubles his stats for three rounds, which translates into him temporarily becoming a powerhouse, but drops him to single digit HP afterwards.
The series' Dark Knight class may be susceptible to this in the hands of a reckless player, as they traditionally have many moves that are Cast from Hit Points.
Especially in Final Fantasy Dimensions, where, in addition to the life-draining Darkness and Onyx Wave, they have Last Resort, a move that massively improves their stats, but inflicts them with Doom, which will kill them at the count of 10.
Batman undergoes this again in Batman: Arkham City, though not only is he fighting more thugs, more supervillains and having to travel much greater distances, he's also slowly dying of poisoned blood and is minutes from death before he manages to find a temporary cure. The moment he's taken it, it's right back to forcing his way through the dozens of challenges left in the game that would tax a Navy Seals platoon through sheer force of will with no promise of a cure.
The villainous example happens to Genesis in Crisis Core, who proceeds to hijack the plot. Also happens to Angeal's clone and Zack
Bonus points go to Zack, though, as pushing himself beyond his physical limits requires that he simultaneously fight and severely damage most of the standing Shinra army. Voluntarily, knowing it would be his end.
In World of Warcraft, warlocks have a spell called hellfire that will instantly and continuously do massive amounts of damage in a radius around the caster (literally, red rings of death.) However, doing this also damages the warlock, and will kill him if used for too long.
A similar but less extreme example is the Life Tap spell which allows the warlock to directly convert health to mana, but it is impossible to life tap to death.
Making this more of an HP -> MP situation
In World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, Mages have the Cauterize talent that saves from instant death. Unless they're tended by a healer immediately afterwards, they'll burn to death.
In Baldur's Gate II, one of the main limits to using the Superpowered Evil Side mode your character eventually gets is that if you keep it on for more than a while, it will start heavily damaging you. Death ensues quickly.
The Spirit-Eater curse in Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer starts draining the user's soul. If you keep using it to consume spirits, it drains your soul faster. You become slowly more inhumanly powerful as your hunger level grows, though it causes your energy meter to deplete faster as well.
Kingdom Hearts: Riku during his fight with Roxas. Throughout the entire time between Chain of Memories and the final fight in Days Riku had been holding Ansem's Darkness deep within his Heart to prevent another bout of Demonic Possession. After a fairly even match Riku acts defeated before striking Roxas down. Feeling victorious he then drops his weapon (which is actually one of Roxas's Keyblades). Roxas then picks it up and attacks, summoning his second. After getting his ass handed to him Riku decided the only option is to stop suppressing his Darkness. When this happens he takes the physical form of Ansem and can't turn back of his own free will. It isn't until the end of Kingdom Hearts II that he returns to his real form.
The anti-form in Kingdom Hearts II probably qualifies. Sora always runs the risk entering this form whenever he goes into a drive form (With the lone exception being Final Form, which causes the chance to encounter Anti-Form to decrease).note A few different unstated rules seem to govern the transformation: you get one invisible point to an Anti-Form probability counter every time you "Drive", the counter resets to zero whenever you earn a new drive, and Final form drops these invisible points by ten with each use. The probability, however, doesn't ever increase higher than 25% chance, with the exception being against certain boss fights such as Xemnas, where there much greater chance of triggering Anti-Form In this form, he doesn't have his keyblade, nor can he use magic or items, and takes double damage from all sources with no way to heal until the transformation wears off. On the other hand, he retains his attack power in the form of brutal clawing attacks, and his speed and agility are increased immensely, making it a very powerful form if you can avoid damage and blurring the line between this trope and a Superpowered Evil Side.
Mech Warrior games have Overheating: you can easily Alpha Strike a single target and take him out in one hit, but you'll shut down and be a sitting duck. Some mechs are also set up specifically to do this, only popping out of cover to fire everything they've got.
Generally, this trope applies to every powerful energy weapons: they deal nice damage, has a long range but generate so much heat that excessive use in combat is dangerous, regardless if you escheved armor for extra heatsinks or not. Not to mention that while flushing coolant can help, you only have access to a very limited supply; once that runs out, you have to go easy on the heat.
Equipping a Novacat in MW4 with a quartet of ER PPCs will result in a mech that can oneshot light and some medium mechs without ammunition issues. However, not even spending all other tonnage on heatsinks can save you from overheating after each shot - perfect for snipers, suicide for everyone else (gauss cannons have a similar damage output and longer range, but very limited ammo). On the other hand, shutdown due to overheating will hide you from enemy radar while you are cycling for the next shot.
Mechwarrior Living Legends implemented massive penalties on going over the heat shutdown red-line, such that staying over the redline for more than a second or two will cripple a mech. In combat, it's not uncommon for players to melt off their own arms while trying to kill their target. A critically damaged mech will blow itself up if it overheats for too long. Laser-heavy mechs like the Awesome and the Novacat are prone to exploding from the inside if the pilot is not careful.
In one of the bad endings in Odin Sphere, Oswald overuses his dark power while fighting Onyx and turns into a Revenant. The game indicates that this is the usual fate of wielders of Oswald's sword Belderiver.
Ikaruga: After absorbing a minute's worth of projectiles from the Stone-Like, the Ikaruga releases the restraining device on the craft to unleash all the energy back at him, destroying them both in a Heroic Sacrifice.
In Sa Ga Frontier, The Mind Magic skill Awakening increases the users power considerably, but drains 1 LP from them after four turns unless the battle ends beforehand. In the same vein, T260's Omega Body has a skill called V-MAX, which gives a much larger power boost than Awakening and unlocks two borderline Game Breaker skills. After 4 turns, T260 loses 1 LP and takes a massive hit to their stats for the remainder of that battle, unless of course the battle is ended before that.
In Sa Ga Frontier 2, once your characters run out of WeaponPoints (WP) or SpellPoints (SP), they'll lose their Life points (which are different from regular Hit Points) if they try to use a Technique or a Spell, which can result in a permanent death once they run out of Life points. However, the lower WP or SP they get, the stronger their attacks become, hence the RROD.
Happens in Pokémon with the moves Selfdestruct and Explosion, though due to the non-lethal nature of the series's battles, your mons merely faint.
In Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, this is how Starkiller dies in the Light Side Ending. Being shocked by Emperor Palpatine's lightning, Starkiller marches forward and bearhugs him, shocking the Emperor. Seeing his friends about to be shot by stormtroopers, Starkiller opens his body to The Force, creating an enormous Force Repulse that wipes out the stormtroopers and knocks Darth Vader and Palpatine out cold, allowing his friends to escape. The strain ends the Jedi's life.
Sixth Ranger Arumat from Star Ocean: The Last Hope has, through extensive amounts of gene modification, combat stims, and lord-knows-what-else, has made himself into a BadassOne-Man Army. However, it's also caused a breakdown in the structure of the cells that make up his muscle/skeletal systems; and he doesn't have long until his body starts to literally fall apart. Arumat's well aware of this, but refuses to seek treatment for his condition, preferring to live his life out as a fighter. It's his way of atoning for all the men he's lost along the way.
In the first .hack game series, overuse of Data Drain (without killing enemies normally) can eventually kill you. Instantly.
And, of course, risking this is the only way to finish one of the bonus dungeons in the fourth game.
In Asura's Wrath, Asura disintegrates his original and added arms while defeating Wyzen. He does this again while fighting Augus. In addition Asura's Wrath form is a dangerous form Asura enters after his Berserker Form which is so dangerous to him that if he is not stopped his own power would tear his body apart. In Episode 19, he goes into Wrath form again while fighting Chakravartin, and is trying to punch through the barrier holding Mithra. She begs him to stop, saying that he will kill himself if he pushes too hard, but his only response is "I. DON'T. CARE!"
In Heavenly Sword the opening scene depicts Nariko's death at the hands of a sword so powerful it kills the user. Throughout the course of the game it is revealed that the sword slowly drains the life of anybody who uses it for extended periods of time.
The Berserk status in Parasite Eve 2, which grants Aya more strength in her powers and guns, but every attack she makes is Cast from Hit Points, which can cripple her extremely fast and lead to swift death from enemies if you are reckless in attacking.
Torque's monster form in The Suffering depletes a special "Insanity" bar. However, he will only return to human form when the player explicitly switches back—if the bar empties completely, the monster simply starts to drain his Life Meter instead, and this will kill him if not manually disengaged.
Hisao from Katawa Shoujo suffers more than one of these, due to having severe heart arrhytmia. The majority of these are relatively light, but some specially severe ones happen in: the Prologue (setting the plot), in Act 1 (if he has very high points with Emi) and in Lilly's route (one comes up when he's having sex with her and the other when he's trying to catch her and Akira in the airport).
In Kid Icarus: Uprising, using the Power Of Flight for more than five minutes, or multiple times in quick succession, is warned to cause severe damage. After already pushing the five-minute time limit very close to ignition while chasing the Chaos Kin, Pit demands Viridi reactivate the Power Of Flight to save Dark Pit from Chaos Kin. In the process, his wings burn up, leaving the bones behind.
Xenoblade Chronicles: The Action Prologue shows Dunban using the Monado to change the tides in the battle against the Mechon, one year before the game's events; he succeeds, but using the sword cost him his right arm and his health. One year later he springs back to action when the Mechon attack again, but this time using the sword almost costs him his life, and effectively cripples his right arm. He takes some time to recover, but later on he joins the team again, this time with a sword that won't kill him for using it.
In the Onechanbara game, both Aya and Saki have "Rampage Mode" where they transform into a more demonesque state. Although these forms are stronger and faster, they constantly drain their health, ultimately killing them if the player does not use a healing item or an item to bring them out of "Rampage Mode".
In the Touhou Project games, some bosses, particularly in final or extra stages, will make use of the "Last Word" type of spellcard, a desperate last-ditch attempt to win the fight. Often, this Last Word is the most powerful/difficult attack they're capable of throwing at you. During the attack, they're completely invulnerable, leaving dodging wave after wave of bullets until they run out of power and lose by default as your only way of winning.
Rune Factory series, performing any action (except walk and run) when you're running of RP will tear away your health points, and you'll eventually collapse if you keep pushing too hard.
Coga Suro: Steve's Super Suit Mark 3 has a generator that produces more power than his body could handle if it was at maximum output continuously. Releasing a 'limiter' [first time by removing a fuse-like item from his belt and overdramatically crushing it, subsequent times by voice command] allows Steve to use this greater energy output for a limited time, acting as a Power-Up that leaves him physically battered and exhausted after using it.
A mild case happens to Nanase in El Goonish Shive. Her "angel form" powerup uses up so much mana that she's Brought Down to Normal for a while, with a side effect of temporary hair color change.
A comedy version in Ménage à 3; Peggy executes an Operation Jealousy while suffering sleep deprivation, largely as a way to solve the underlying problem causing the lack of sleep, and ends up dancing to live rock music for an hour continuously at the climax of the scheme. Not surprisingly, she's on the point of total collapse. ("No... no... don't pass out now... I'm so close to getting my sleep back...") She achieves a Crowning Moment Of Awesome by successfully completing her plot, triggering possible Character Development in one of the comic's lead characters, while losing consciousness.
In MSF High, Forum Continuity, anyone who has the "Mana Body" disadvantage can do this to themselves! (You don't have HP, only MP...So each time you cast spells...) Luckily, you heal up to 100% every day. Unluckily, dying still hurts.
Homestuck: Both the Captors. Sollux Captor half-kills himself using his psionics to speed the troll meteor away from Jack Noir and to the Green Sun. His ancestor's pre-scratch counterpart Mituna Captor is brain-damaged as the result of overloading his psionics. Unless Kurloz did something.
This seemed to happen to Vaarsuvius of The Order of the Stick, after the party split up following the battle of Azure City. (S)he's been unable to locate or communicate with the missing members, and has become obsessed with succeeding, such that that V began to work literally nonstop on the problem. Though elves have no physical need for "trance" (their equivalent of sleep), weeks of intense effort without any rest have turned V into a pale, veiny, shaky, irritable wreck. It was eventually revealed that V had been forgoing trance because of guilt and nightmares. When fleeing Azure City, (s)he ran into a group of retreating soldiers who pleaded for his/her help. Because V had no power left to help them, the soldiers were horribly slaughtered. Every time V trances, that memory replays. If you were forced to watch something like that every time you dozed off, you might try to avoid sleep too.
In the EverQuest based WTF Comics if Straha Ironscale pushes his power too hard it can be fatal. His daughter, Kaitis, has the same powers but lacks the control he has causing concern that she could die using it.
In an event in an ORPG (think about it) called Dragonfable, which is advertising on this site, your mentor/mission control-ish character Warlic is revealed to have one. After a long "war" in which players have to collectively whittle down the huge number of enemies(standard practice), the generals confront his spoiled apprentice, who killed him and stole his power, and a fight occurs with the player controlling said apprentice. Now, normally the fight screen has a list of all your abilities with the mana cost, like "15", on the corner. In this fight, you start out with zero mana, and all the mana costs say things like "-350." When your mana meter fills, you DIE. After said apprentice realizes that Warlic was right in that she can't control his power, she resurrects him and apologizes. He forgives her, and uses his power to scare off said generals, who happen to be GODS.
DC Nation's universe has a few. One Original Character is a 9-11 firefighter who used up the last of his oxygen evacuating survivors from the first Tower. Death was impressed enough to recruit him as an agent. Another OC can absorb and use ambient magic, and always runs the risk of burning himself out by absorbing (or using) too much power for his mostly-human body to withstand. A third OC has "freak outs" or "bad trips" if pushed to a Heroic BSOD. It makes her a VERY impressive combatant, but burns her out afterward.
In Avatar: The Last Airbender , Aang is so freaked out about fighting the Fire Lord, he goes without sleep for three nights, practicing. Fighting, talking pets, dancing rocks, and singing sheep are the result.
Toph: (Spitting it all out on Katara): Why?! Is it poisoned?
Aang: No, but I had a dream we were in the middle of the invasion, and you had to stop and use the restroom. WE ALL DIED BECAUSE OF YOUR TINY BLADDER!!!
This is what happens to the protagonist of "World Record" short story in The Animatrix: he almost frees himself from the Matrix on his own, but is caught just before he can get out and ends up disabled. Except you can't just forget that. At the very end, he demonstrates he isn't completely disabled...
In Beast Wars, the Transformers have a fail-safe mechanism that forces them to power down if overworked, to prevent this very trope from happening. Unfortunately, Dinobot, the show's primary antihero, ended up in an uphill battle against the Big Bad and ALL OF his minions. Being at his limits, the only way he could keep fighting was to override this safety feature and just fight himself to death. Sure enough, that is exactly what happened, though he managed to foil the Big Bad before going kaput. It became both his Crowning Moment Of Awesome and Crowning Moment Of Heart Warming, as he accepted a more idealistic worldview. This showed when his token emotionless computer voice told him of the danger and tried to activate his automatic shut-down, and when he overrode it it sounded worried.
Computer: "Warning. Power reserves 96% depleted. Stasis lock commencing."
Computer: "Repeat: power loss critical. Further expenditures will result in loss of spark. Stasis lock must commence."
In Batman Beyond this lead to Bruce's retirement as Batman. He had been poisoned, drugged, and tortured in many, MANY different ways by various enemies that took a toll on his body over time, and he explains in the episode "Disappearing Inque" that an experimental exosuit he had designed, which increases the amount of force one's effort puts out and increases stamina, put a strain on his heart that eventually lead him to hang up the cape permanently. This leads to an Oh Crap moment for Terry when Bruce arrives to bail him out in a fight with Inque while wearing the aforementioned exosuit.
In an episode of Sponge Bob Square Pants, Spongebob enters his Pet snail Gary into a race. Preparing for the race, he puts Gary through a brutal training regimen, giving him no break whatsoever. On the day of the race, Gary is already tired. During the race, Spongebob harshly orders Gary to move on until Gary's eyes blow up and he has a "Blown head gasket." Then he literally crashes like a racecar.
Jeremie attempts this in Code Lyoko with a device that enhances his intelligence with every trip to the past. Prolonged use actually puts him in a coma, although naturally he gets better.
In the Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers episode "Changeling," Shane was already taxing his Shapeshifting abilities to infiltrate a prison during a riot. A crossfire between inmates leaves him injured, so he ends up taxing it even more. He finally gets control of the prison and its security systems, but the communications systems are fried, and his bio-defenses are literally tearing him apart. Worse, the Laredo was set to open fire and blast the whole prison to atomic dust unless the stand-down order was given. In a last, desperate gamble, Shane uses the last of his charge to send a telepathic shout to Niko. The strain came really close to killing him (Never Say "Die" was an averted trope with the series). The fact he was able to use telepathy, as well as the continuing Ship Tease between the characters has led to some interesting speculation.
Ben 10: Alien Force uses this on some occasions as well (mostly with seasons 1 and 2) and its brethren new series as well; Ben 10: Ultimate Alien. Mostly when Ben wants to transform into a particular alien, the device tends to be non-responsive.
In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002), in the origin of the power of Grayskull, King Grayskull, the original wielder of He-Man's sword, fought with everything he had to save his kingdom from the evil Hordak, at the cost of his own life.
What makes it really bittersweet was the fact that he was told by an oracle this would happen. Despite knowing his fate, all that Grayskull cared about was that his kingdom would be free. That just shows how much a guy will lay down for his people.
In ReBoot, Bob suspected this would happen when he fused with Glitch, which was broken at the time. Overuse of his new powers nearly kills him later, with a transparent and static visual effect when it happens.
In the South Park episode "Margaritaville", Kyle uses a credit card with no spending limit to pay off the town's debts. This task turned out to be so exhausting that when he collapsed, everyone begins to fear that he had died.
Happens to Applejack in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Applebuck Season". She tries to harvest her family's entire apple farm by herself, and refuses to rest or accept help. As the episode progresses, she gets more and more exhausted, her vision and hearing become blurred, and she slowly goes insane from sleep deprivation (and this is after a whole week of non-stop work). She finally accepts help when she assumes she was finished, but finds that she only harvested about half the orchard.
In Winx Club S4 episode 24, Nabu uses all of his magic to close a dark vortex that the Wizards of the Black Circle created to suck up all the Earth Fairies despite knowing the dark magic from said vortex might be too much for him to handle. He succeeds in closing the vortex, but dies shortly afterwards.
A (surprisingly common) cause of death in Japan is karoshi, or death by overwork. It's a rather sad example of Japanese working habits. The benign form of this is Inemuri. Obviously exhaustion from work is so common in Japan that it has become socially acceptable to fall asleep at the workplace. Some people even fake Inemuri to show how committed they are to their work.
Humans are capable of using only one-third of their muscles' potential strength (even when hyped up on steroids) due to a biological block. Only a few people have gone past this with even fewer reaching full potential. Every one of those situations was a life or death situation, when special hormones such as adrenaline are able to allow us to override the block, hence how people refer to this reaction as "fight-or-flight". The reason why this Defence Mechanism Superpower can only remain as a defence mechanism is because the stress reaction deprives other systems of energy, like for example digestion (hence Bring My Brown Pants) and the immune system (hence why chronically stressed people are more likely to get sick), and also because any amount of exertion above the one-third limit causes our muscles (and even tendons) to tear themselves from the bone, rip themselves apart, or even start to liquefy. Of course, the severity of the damage depends on the intensity of the stressor, how far beyond the limits one goes, and for how long.
Some athletes that use "blood doping" (i.e. removing blood, then putting it back in later) to raise their red blood cell count (and thus provide more oxygen to their muscles) have simply keeled over dead because thickening the blood like that greatly increases the risk of clot-related complications such as heart attacks, pulmonary embolisms, and strokes.
James K. Polk worked himself into an early grave due to the fact that he didn't like to delegate work to other people.
One of the theories behind Vladimir Lenin's early death. It took an attempted assassination and three strokes to bring him down. Even after his second and third strokes he would work continually, despite being unable to talk or feed himself properly.
Some say that creative overwork was the death of composer and organ virtuoso Max Reger. He was found in full rigor mortis at the writing desk in his hotel room while on tour, performing; he had been up to the wee hours of the morning writing music and his heart failed around 2 AM.
Oddly enough, this is the goal (thought not the only goal) for some military branches, especially special forces. Sleep deprivation, inadequete food, extreme physical work... very often, however, the purpose is not to see if you can endure such conditions, but rather to see how you react to them, and whether you give up or keep going despite the exhaustion.
It's a common side effect of any physical career, like being a stevedore, or working down t'mill. While, on the one hand, it's true that you gotta use it or lose it, it's also true that the more you use it, the more it breaks down. It's why the age for social security hasn't ever been raised in the US (you still apply at fifty); people are living longer, but they're still breaking down at the same rate.
Some dog breeds, such as border collies, have been known to work themselves to death.
In some musical circles, it's considered a rite of passage for hand drummers (bongos, congas, and similar) to piss blood at the end of a long night of playing. In fact, they've been playing so long that they've broken down the muscles in their hands from the damage, and they're pissing muscle tissue.
Marathons, Iron Man, and other extreme events have this happening so often (and frustratingly close to the finish line) that its practically a cliche.