Limited-Use Magical Device

The limited-serving, Fun Size version of a Spell Book, a Limited Use Magical Device generally contains a single spell or a handful of spells or "uses" of a single spell, that is cast instantly on being activated, after which the item either becomes inert or is destroyed. They most often take the form of a scroll, but are not necessarily limited to them.

This is most often seen in Video Games and Tabletop Games using Vancian Magic systems; such an item often bypasses the usual spellcasting requirements such as material components, spell slots, and/or Mana costs, and sometimes even allows non-spellcasters to cast the contained spell.

Compare and contrast Spell Book, which is usually non-consumable and permanently teaches the reader one or more spells. Compare Breakable Weapons for melee weapons with this trait.

This is not necessarily the same as a magical object that can only be used for one purpose, but there can be some overlap.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In the world of Naruto, people are capable of using single-use Ninja Scrolls to inscribe elemental jutsus onto them for various reasons. This ranges from Water Style, to even Summoning Jutsus. Due to this, a ninja can use a element they normally do not have, provided they have a moment to open and use it.

    Comic Books 
  • X-Men: A minor character is a mutant whose power is related to the tattoos he has on his body. He can "activate" the tattoo to use its power, but afterwards it'll disappear. He has multiple kinds of tattoos, from one shaped like lightning bolt (allowing him to wield lightning and move super fast for a while) to even the logo of the Phoenix (allowing access to Phoenix Force's godlike power). It's revealed that that guy is not a mutant - rather, his tattoo artist is the real mutant who never knew his own ability.

    Literature 
  • The Octavo in the first Discworld novels is a tome that was used to create the world; it has eight spells left in it (one of which escaped and inhabited an unwilling wizard), which have to be spoken at the correct time in order for the Discworld to spawn a litter of baby Discworlds. After this is done, the spells disappear.
  • Jill Kismet: Among Jill's weapons is a "sunsword" that is very good for killing creatures on the nightside, but has to be charged in the sun during the daytime. At the climax of the first book she manages to drain so much energy out of it killing a hellbreed prince that it's rendered inert for the rest of the series, and she frequently wishes it still worked.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • D&D is the Trope Codifier; its scrolls allow spellcasters to cast the contained spell once without using a spell slot, after which the writing on the scroll is erased and the scroll becomes magically inert. Unlike many later examples, the caster must still be able to cast spells of the proper type (arcane or divine); a Magically Inept Fighter can't use a scroll to cast fireballsnote . Also, many scrolls contain more than one spell (even the weakest can hold up to three).
    • In early editions of AD&D magic-users/wizards can only cast spells that they have prepared beforehand by expending a spell slot, not by reading them directly from their spellbooks. However, in the AD&D 1st Edition Unearthed Arcana supplement Gary Gygax changed the official rules to allow magic-users to read spells from their spellbooks as if they were scrolls in an emergency situation. Doing so destroys the spell in the spellbook (essentially "unlearning" the spell), has a 1% chance per spell level of destroying the two adjacent spells in the spellbook, and a 1% chance of destroying the whole spellbook.
    • Many magical items such as wands or rings have a limited number of "charges", some of which are consumed every time the spell within the item is cast. Once the charges are consumed the item becomes useless.
  • Numenera has the eponymous artifacts left behind by the precursor civilizations. The most common type of numenera, the cyphers, are one-shot items the game encourages you to expend as an Anti-Hoarding measure. Artifacts, on the other hand, are much more durable, although most have the "Depletion" stat, given in standard dice notation, which means that every time you use an artifact, you have to roll those dice and if the result is below the given threshold, the items goes inert and useless.

    Video Games 
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • The spell scrolls are a textbook example, allowing a single free casting of the contained spell even if the caster would not normally have enough Magicka or a high enough skill level to do so. Incidentally, the eponymous Elder Scrolls themselves are an aversion, being ridiculously powerful cosmic artifacts that, when they can be read at all (it takes either years of training or special Lost Technology), do not disappear.
    • Magical items other than scrolls come in three types: constant effect (e.g. an article of clothing that increases magicka), cast on use (e.g. a stave that shoots fireballs), or cast on hit (for weapons such as Flaming Swords). The latter two have a limited number of charges and become inert when they're expended, but may be refilled with soul gems and the Soul Trap spell.
  • In Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy VI, scrolls can be used exclusively by ninja to cast elemental spells.
  • Diablo series:
    • In the original Diablo all spells are available in one-use scroll form as well as in Spell Book form, which teaches the spell to the reader permanently. The scrolls have lower requirements, making them more usable for the non-mage classes.
    • In Diablo II, each class has a unique repertoire of skills, and only the universal utility spells of Identify and Town Portal are available as single-use, no-requirement scrolls. They can no longer be learned as spells. Up to twenty such scrolls can be bound into a book to take up less inventory space.
    • Averted in Diablo III; as an Anti-Frustration Feature both spells are free to cast, and scrolls are obsolete. The game lampshades this by having them fall out of bookcases in the early part of the game and lie unheeded on the floor.
  • Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights, and pretty much every other D&D video game adaptation in existence replicates the tabletop prototype faithfully, with an added option to copy the spell to a mage character's own spell book instead of casting it (which likewise uses up the scroll).
  • In Pillars of Eternity, anyone with a high Lore skill can cast spells from scrolls, which is usually a good option if you need an additional caster or want to spam a particular spell without expending the caster's spell slots (since scrolls can be crafted in ridiculous quantities by the endgame). There are also Rites—a special non-craftable, non-purchaseable kind of scrolls that boost the entire party's skills for a long period of time.
  • Warcraft III: Scrolls of various types (healing, armor, town portal...) can be bought in shops (higher-level spells or multiple buffs can be found as high-level loot) and are one-use, though it's relatively easy to make a stacking system in custom maps.
  • Path of Exile follows the Diablo II model and has only two types of scrolls, Scroll of Wisdom (Identify) and Portal Scroll, but with a few twists. First, both types serve as Practical Currency, since in-game vendors don't accept gold as payment. Secondly, early game enemies rarely drop whole Scrolls of Wisdom, so you'll have to put them together from five Scroll Fragments. Lastly, you can skip Portal Scrolls entirely if you find the colorless Portal gem, which takes up one active skill slot but frees up some inventory space.
  • Skies of Arcadia has single use crystals that can be used to cast spells the characters don't know yet, and to save on magic afterwards.
  • Crypt Of The Necrodancer has consumable scrolls, including a Freeze Enemies scroll and a Scroll of Need, which gives you an item that you need.
  • Divinity: Original Sin features one-use scrolls that can be used to cast spells not learned yet.
  • In the text adventure trilogy Enchanter, spells are learned from scrolls that are copied into one's Spellbook: Copying that spell causes it to vanish.
  • In Neopets, you can purchase scrolls for your Neopet that have a magical effect on them or can be used in the Battledome. They are one-use only.
  • Ragnarok Online:
    • The Sage/Professor class can make scrolls to do elemental works. This is used to mess with a target's element if the Sage/Professor or the party is focused in an element the odd mob isn't.
    • Several monsters drop scrolls which allow anyone to use skills as long as the scrolls last. This has led to priests casting Lightning Bolt or Fire Wall in the fields just to mess with some people.
    • The Rune Knight class (advanced form of Lord Knight) are able to make runestones, which they can then use to cast some unique spells, and they expire afterward.
  • Thematic (i.e not exactly literal) example: in El Sword, Aisha's special gameplay mechanic "Memorize" lets her save up to 3 spells in her "memory slot" so she can instantly use them later. Every time she memorizes a spell, a scroll icon appears above her.
  • In most installments of the Fire Emblem series prior to Fire Emblem Fates, most spellbooks can only be used for a set amount of times before breaking.
  • Gothic has single-use scrolls that can be used with minimal cost in mana and with no training, in contrast to the runes which can be used indefinitely, but use up mana and require having learned the appropriate level in magic. Most scrolls are just a single-use version of runes, but there is a handful of spells (like shapeshifting) that are only available on scrolls.
  • Pixel Dungeon (and its mods) contain scrolls which allow you to cast a special non-wand spell once per scroll, allowing you to do everything from damaging your enemies to escaping from them.
  • Dragonstomper had magic items you could gather from Random Encounters, and more you could buy from shops. Each item cast one spell and then disappeared.

    Webcomics 
  • Referenced in 8-Bit Theater, which is based on a mix of Final Fantasy and D&D. The "Light Warriors" come across Chancellor Usurper while he's monologuing and he attempts to defend his actions by claiming he was reading from a letter that disappeared like a scroll. To which Black Mage states that scrolls don't disappear, just the writing on them.
  • Erfworld: Its scrolls appears to be single use. It's here in the caster's hands, then it's gone.

Alternative Title(s): Limited Use Magic Device

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LimitedUseMagicalDevice