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"You don't need a master... or do you choose your own master? Do we control them, or do they control us?"
It is a truth universally acknowledged that weapons are just as capable of choosing owners
as people are of choosing weapons. If you're an aspiring Evil Overlord
trying to Take Over the World
, what's the one thing more frustrating than needing a Clingy MacGuffin
that you just cannot steal from The Hero
? Needing a weapon or magical artifact that you can
steal, but it still won't do you any good. For some Empathic Weapons
, Possession most definitely does not imply Mastery
. Loyal Phlebotinum refuses to work for anyone but its Chosen One
, no matter who else steals, wins, or accidentally comes across it. The owner does not even necessarily have to approve of this choice
, but Synchronization
usually prevents that, making you inexplicably feel like this sword is the one you're meant to have, or that this dragon is just a better partner for you than any others.
Some phlebotinum may be loyal to only one specific person, for reasons ranging from ancestry to destiny
. Or it may just be loyal only to someone worthy enough
, which usually involves virginity
or purity of heart
or the like. Names, voices
, sentience, and/or a psychic link
that allows the owner to find it when lost are possible but not universal traits.
Be forewarned that such devices can actively discourage unauthorized people from using them
— typically in the form of a painful zap. If a desperate villain is willing to risk this, the only options are:
of Situational Sword
and Phlebotinum-Handling Requirements
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- In the Tenchi Muyo! OAVs, the Master Key/Tenchi-ken is like this, as it can only be used by Juraians of royal blood. This is why Ryoko couldn't take her gems back and why Ayeka used the key as a torture device.
- The Org from Bulge of the Battlestar, also known as Sensei no Bulge, a mythical royal weapon that can only be used by certain members of the royal family.
- The Vision of Escaflowne: The guymelef Escaflowne will only work for Van Fannel, because his blood was mixed with its energist crystal.
- Samehada, Kisame's sword in Naruto, which sprouts spikes from its handle if someone else tries to use it. Not too loyal though, as it will readily switch sides to whoever can feed it more chakra.
- The Kaleidosticks in Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA☆ILLYA: Much to the annoyance of Rin and Luvia, their Kaledosticks decided that they wanted new owners... while the both of them were using the wands to fly in mid-air.
- The Digivices, crests, Digi-eggs, etc. of the various Digimon series (and the Digimon themselves).
- InuYasha: Several of weapons fit this trope.
- Tessaiga initially appears to be this, requiring compassion and half-human, half-youkai heritage to use so only Inu-yasha can wield it. Then it seems to be subverted when Sesshoumaru reveals he can use it more easily than Inu-Yasha can — it's simply the youkai-repelling barrier that prevents him from doing so. This fact is what keeps the true ownership of the sword from being properly decided between the two brothers for a long time until eventually Tessaiga gives Sesshoumaru the proof he seeks in a Die or Fly test of Inu-Yasha's worth — every time Sesshoumaru steals Tessaiga's power, the power immediately returns to Inu-Yasha.
- A more straight-forward example is Toukijin who is so powerful and evil not even Toutousai can approach it. Sesshoumaru overcomes the blade's evil will easily and the sword obeys him loyally from that point until the day it's destroyed — ironically by the strength of Sesshoumaru's compassion.
- Tenseiga is also this. It accepts only Sesshoumaru as its true master even though Sesshoumaru doesn't want it at all. Even when he deliberately shatters the blade and discards it, the sword ends up reforging itself and landing back on the ground near Sesshoumaru. The only reason Tenseiga is not a Clingy MacGuffin is because it can be physically separated from Sesshoumaru. It just won't stay separated.
- The Escudo weapons in Magic Knight Rayearth, to the point that Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu can't even use each others' weapons. Hikaru's sword burns anyone besides Hikaru who tries to wield it, Umi's sword turns into water and cannot be picked up by anyone except Umi, and Fuu's sword becomes ridiculously heavy when anyone but her tries to use it.
- The Twelve Kingdoms
- Royal Treasure-type artifacts answer only to their proper ruler. The sword that Nakajima receives near the beginning is one of these — in her hands, it can slay Yokai, while another cannot even draw it from its sheath. (Later, she is forced to destroy the sheath, so anyone can draw it — but it's still just an ordinary sword in their hands.) This property ends up being quite important, since her possession of and ability with the sword proves her royal status.
- Youkai themselves can be tamed by a Kirin, through a process that largely boils down to a staring contest. If the Kirin perseveres and the Youkai submits, the Kirin recites a sutra and gives the Youkai a name. Failure might result in the Kirin being eaten.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: After the dummy plug incident, Unit-01 won't work for anyone but Shinji. The Evangelions generally don't work very well for anyone other than their designated pilot. NERV does experiment with switching pilots into different Evas, but it doesn't accomplish much except making Unit-00 go berserk (again) when Shinji is placed in it.
- Subverted with Kaworu. Since he is an angel, he can control any eva against its will so long as its soul has become too weak to resist.
- A Certain Magical Index: Aleister Crowley is capable of wielding an artifact known as "The Blasting Rod". Its exact capabilities aren't known, but it did nearly kill Fiamma of the Right without effort. The Blasting Rod is said to follow Crowley out of "pure respect", though exactly what he did to gain its respect is not known.
- The Egyptian God Cards in Yu-Gi-Oh! can only be used safely by certain duelists with birthrights that give them approval by the gods themselves; anyone else who tries to use one (or even a counterfeit version of one) risks death, madness, or even worse. Known duelists who can use them safely are Marik Ishtar (the heir to a bloodline of sacred tomb-keepers), Seto Kaiba (the reincarnation of Priest Seto, the advisor to the Pharaoh), Yugi (whose Spirit Advisor is the Pharaoh), and Jaden Yuki (the reincarnation of the Supreme King).
- The Cloths in Saint Seiya are this. Every single of them are outright stated to be sentient beings that must be revived with blood if damaged beyond repair, to have a will of their own, and the Gold Cloths have been proven to have outright will and Undying Loyalty to Athena. Most prominent examples would be Aiolos' Sagittarius Cloth who could act of its own will (it's outright stated Aiolos' soul lives on in the Cloth) and hopped more than once to save Seiya, Deathmask's Cancer Cloth who decided it wouldn't stand anymore for its bearer's atrocious acts and outright betrayal of Athena, or Anime-only Gemini Cloth separating itself from Saga as he was about to land a blow on Athena.
- Green Lantern
- When Green Lantern Abin Sur is dying, he commands his power ring to find and fetch a suitable replacement. It brings test pilot Hal Jordan, who takes up the ring.
- The comics have been highly inconsistent with regard to who can wield a ring. In some stories, only a person who is courageous and has great integrity can use a ring. According to Lex Luthor, "The damn thing's fueled by honesty." However, other stories have entire plots built around a villainous or otherwise unworthy person coming into possession of a ring, usually thanks to Plot-Induced Stupidity. Though it actually is fueled by willpower, which is neutral in the emotive spectrum.
- When Kyle Rayner was the only Green Lantern, the ring only worked for him, as former Green Lanterns quickly discovered. Later, he managed to amp up its abilities, so he could control it even if someone else was wearing it.
- The original Green Lantern's (Alan Scott's) ring put a really nasty spin on this: if worn by someone with malevolent intent, it would kill them.
- The weapons used by Judge Dredd and his colleagues are equipped with biometric scanners and each can only be used by its registered owner, they explode violently otherwise.
- In THUNDER Agents, the belt that gives Dynamo his powers has to be carefully calibrated to him; if anybody else uses it, the effect will be misaligned and they'll be torn apart.
- Marvel Universe: The Mighty Thor's hammer can generally only be wielded by Thor. Anyone else trying to pick it up will find it impossibly heavy — even the Incredible Hulk! Or even Superman. However, it's not completely exclusive, and on at least one occasion, a worthy and properly-motivated hero (and one specific version of the aforementioned Hulk) has managed to pick it up and use it. This is (as one of the few things about him) fairly accurate to the myth.
"If he be worthy..."
- Iron Man's armors are equipped with a neura-link control system that is specifically calibrated for Stark. Anyone else who uses the armor for an extended period of time for months will develop severe neurological problems, such as what happens to Jim Rhodes when he subbed for Stark. He later gets a War Machine suit that is properly attuned to him.
- Justified in Creature Tech: Dr. Ong determines that the alien symbiote is sapient and capable of moral reasoning, and gambles on it preferring him as a host to Jameson.
- With Strings Attached
- George's ring. He doesn't find this out until it's forcibly removed from him, which is like having his soul's arm ripped off. Later he realizes that he's bonded with the ring and it won't work for anyone else. It's probably not an Empathic Weapon, though it can hop of its own volition onto his finger from about a foot away. He can also sense it from far away.
- John's Kansael as well. This one's definitely an Empathic Weapon. It likes him. No... it loves him. And it's impossible to remove without great care, or Brox and Co. would've simply cut it out of his chest in Ehndris.
Films — Live-Action
Neytiri: Now you choose your ikran. This you must feel inside. If he also chooses you, move quick like I showed. You will have one chance, Jake.
Jake Sully: How will I know if he chooses me?
Neytiri: He will try to kill you.
Jake Sully: Outstanding.
- In District 9 the only ones who can operate the alien weaponry are the aliens themselves. After being infected by a mysterious black fluid that slowly turns him into a prawn, Wikus is able to use them as well, making him a target for MNU, who was anxious to find a way to operate the machinery.
- In Blade, the hero's sword handle is booby-trapped so that it will shoot silver spikes into the hand of anyone who doesn't know how to disarm it when they grasp it.
- In Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, the Vorpal Blade is the only weapon that can slay the Jabberwock, and only if Alice uses it to do so. (Whether it is an Empathic Weapon is unclear, but it likely is; the Caterpillar tells her to simply "hold on" and let it do the work, implying that she simply has to be holding it.)
- In Shoot 'em Up, the villains have some pistols with fingerprint locking technology.
- Personalised weapons show up a few times in the James Bond films:
- In Licence to Kill, Bond is issued a sniper rifle with fingerprint scanners on the handle, preventing anyone but him from firing it. It comes in handy when assassins try to use the gun against him.
- In Skyfall, Q issues Bond with a Walther PPK/S coded to his palmprint.
Q: Less of a random killing machine, more of a personal statement.
- In the Lone Wolf gamebook series, the Sommerswerd can only be used to its full potential by a Kai Lord, like the eponymous hero, or a member of the royal house of Sommerlund. If wielded in combat by anyone else, it is said that its power will fade and be lost forever. Furthermore, if a truly evil creature makes the mistake of just holding the sword — as an ugly dwarf servant of Lord Zahda painfully discovers in Castle Death — it will cost it a few fingers.
- Doctor Who: The TARDIS is alive and has a psychic link with the Doctor, so don't think she's going to leave her Time Lord without a fight.
- As different Power Rangers series work differently, the requirements for making the suits work is also different. The series that most have it as a plot point are:
- Power Rangers Time Force — they link to the DNA of the user, and they only work once the red one has been activated. They had to find an ancestor of their deceased leader before they could power up. Figuring out how to shot web was harder for them than for most any other team. But that's what you get when you steal the morphers and go on an unauthorized mission.
- Power Rangers Lost Galaxy — the Quasar Sabers could only be wielded by the worthy, and went nuts when a Monster of the Week tried to use them.
- In Power Rangers Dino Thunder, Dino Gems also choose their users, and non-suited powers can be used even if the gem has been taken. However, no suits without the morpher (which is powered by the gem).
- The original dinosaur Power Coins from Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers were like this. In order to change users without the current ones dying first, an artifact called the Sword of Light is required. So when it was time to pass the torch, the Rangers had to journey to an abandoned planet to retrieve said sword.
- The super suit in The Greatest American Hero will only work for the person chosen by its alien creators.
- The Stargate Verse includes two notable examples:
- In Stargate SG-1, several pieces of Goa'uld technology will only work for someone with naqadah in the bloodstream — namely Goa'uld, Tok'ra or former hosts. This include the weapon hand-device, the healing hand-device, and quite likely the personal shields and invisibility cloaks too, as they are never seen used by Jaffa. This aims essentially at enforcing the belief in the mystical powers of the Goa'uld, as they pass off those effects as divine magic.
- Likewise, many artefacts of the Ancients need to be touched by an Ancient or a human carrier of the "Ancient gene" (probably human descendants of the Ancients that fled from Atlantis) before working. Sometimes, this activation is all that is needed, and the item can then be used by anyone. The Atlantis expedition specifically hired as many gene carriers as they could find, and later managed to circumvent this limitation by inducing the Ancient gene through genic therapy (with variable success, depending on the individual).
- In Continuum, Kiera's futuretech pistol has a biometric lock that prevents anyone besides her from using it. Attempting to do so results in an "UNAUTHORIZED USER" message and a lethal electric shock. Two people have fallen for it so far, one tricked into it, and the other who was from the future and really should have known better.
Myths & Religion
- In Norse Mythology, the hammer of Thor would not be wielded by anyone else. It could still be stolen (and is, on at least one occasion), but it's only in the hands of Thor that it turns into a godlike weapon. At least in some versions, that was due to Thor being the only individual strong enough to actually throw the hammer rather than any loyalty on its part.
- Bucephalus was said to only let Alexander the Great ride him. There's a story where Alexander is solely responsible for the creation of Bucephalus, and trained him so that he would only allow him to ride it. (And attached a golden horn to its forehead, just because he wanted a magical sort of horse.) Indeed, no-one could even approach the animal, let alone ride it — until one fateful day, when King Philip lets his 3-year-old son, also named Alexander (different son from a different wife) to mount the horse. Alexander finds his half-brother riding his horse, and can barely hold in his rage. He decides he has to kill the horse now, because it had accepted another master. His father warns him that you can't be a good king with that kind of attitude (i.e. killing anyone and/or anything that doesn't go your way). Alexander ignores the advice, and there are consequences in the long run for him....
- In the Mutants & Masterminds RPG, you can take a power feat called Restricted for your devices that does this.
- In Champions, when a power is purchased through a Focus (an item required for the power to function), the purchaser has the option of defining the Focus as "keyed" to the character whom it's bought for. In that case, if an enemy gets ahold of the Focus, he can't use it against the character — but the character's allies can't use it, either.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- Intelligent weapons greatly prefers to be wielded by characters of the same alignment as them or a close one, and can refuse to use their powers for people who don't agree with their goals. If someone of an opposite alignement picks up such a weapon, it will likely give the "painful zap" response, the amount of damage depending of the weapon's ego score.
- Some other magic weapons (which may be intelligent or not) have restrictions on the classes or races that can use them. Weapons forged for paladins, for example, will only bestow their full power when wielded by a paladin and no other class, even if Lawful Good. In the hands of unfitting characters, such items will at best perfom like average magic weapons, or be non-magical, or could even act like cursed weaponry.
- The 3.5 rules introduced the Legendary Weapons. Those magic items only bestow a fraction of their powers to ordinary adventurers; to gradually unlock their full potential, a character must adopt the appropriate "Scion" Prestige Class and devote most of his or her career advancing in this class.
- Firearms in Shadowrun can be fitted with biometric safeties to prevent them from firing for unauthorized wielders.
- In Kingdom Hearts, Sora is the Keyblade's chosen wielder, and usually refuses to even remain in someone else's hands for very long. It can be quite fickle, however, especially when Sora is in the dumps.
- Similar to the Real Life entry below, most weapons in the Metal Gear Solid series are programmed to only work for the person that it was issued to. Originally used to justify your inability to loot an automatic rifle off every mook you kill, it becomes a major plot point in the 4th game.
- The Mani Katti in Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword will only permit itself to be used by Lyn. A bandit who had tried to steal it earlier couldn't even remove it from its scabbard.
- Similarly, in the games taking place in the Fire Emblem Akaneia universe, the Falchion may only be properly wielded by the Hero-King Marth and his descendants, the line of the Exalts. If the blade is wielded by one who does not meet the requirements, they will find it incapable of cutting even a simple log. That there's another person wielding a second of this one-of-a-kind sword without problems in Fire Emblem Awakening is a plot point. The answer is probably not what you were expecting.
- Quest artifacts in NetHack will hurt you if you're not the right class. (Every class has its own quest and artifact, but you can use wishes to get others.) Picking it up, wielding, wearing or using it results in a painful shock that can even kill you on lower levels. (This is NetHack, after all.) If your alignment does not match the item, it will even refuse to let you pick it up!
- Many, many items in the various BioWare games (and other similar RPGs) are only usable by certain classes or characters. Especially notable is "Spellweaver" in Dragon Age: Origins, a sword that can only be wielded by an Arcane Warrior.
- In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, made by Obsidian Entertainment, the player will find a lightsaber crystal called "Insert Player Name Here's Crystal" that only the player can wield. As you level up, and get Karma Meter points, you can ask Kreia to "tune" the crystal, increasing it's stat bonuses in different ways, based on how you are playing the game. It's unclear what exactly effects it, but it's color will change (white, grey, black) with your karma values.
- In the AGD Interactive King's Quest II Fan Remake, Neptune's trident is stolen by the evil Sharkees, and King Graham is promised the Water Gem in exchange for getting it back. Sneaking into the Sharkee Palace, Graham comes across the Sharkee King trying intensely to the trident to work, but to no avail, as it is enchanted to only obey people of noble blood and good will. The Sharkee King also knows of this enchantment and it angers him, as he, being the ruler of the Sharkees has the "noble blood" part covered, and since he obviously has the greatest will of all underwater creatures, wielding the trident should be a cinch for him. As Graham steals it back, he has no problems with using it for his own protection as he is a king after all and has a good will.
- "Moonthril" weapons in Kingdom of Loathing are very time-consuming to obtain but extremely powerful. Unfortunately, they bind to their original owner and vaporize when their owner dies... and since the New Game+ involves reincarnation they are just not worth it.
- When Daxter picks up a Dark Eco bomb in the opening of Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, nothing happens. When Jak touches it, however, it lights up immediately.
- The Master Sword from The Legend of Zelda series cannot be touched by those with evil hearts, and generally can only be wielded by Link himself. (Presumably. In practice, there is at least one boss battle where it can be stolen and used against the hero.)
- Only the Goddess Sword is wielded by anyone else, unless you count the boss rush mode, which is probably just an illusion anyways. The Master Sword, on the other hand, is the only item of yours that is not stolen and stashed on a treasure chest (though it is inacessible to you anyways) at a certain part of the game.
- In Pokémon Black and White, the "star" Pokémon of the games are bitter rivals who seek trainers to end their feud. The star of the game you're currently playing (Reshiram if Black or Zekrom if White) chooses you as its trainer, while the other sides with N, the leader or so we - and he - are led to believe of Team Plasma.
- Something similar occurs in the sequel with Cobalion, Terrakion, and Virizion; when you encounter the three of them, it's clear that they are waiting for you to battle them. (The storyline mentions a Great Offscreen War in which their friend Keldeo was hurt, suggesting that befriending a trainer might be needed to undo the damage.)
- Tucker's energy sword in Red vs. Blue binds to him when he first acquires it and won't turn on for anyone else who tries to wield it.
- Phaeton has the Shield of Eons, which will only work for someone who values the lives of others above their own, Tom values the lives of others to such an extent that the shield will actually appear in his hand if he calls for it. Even if it's on the other side of the planet.
- Lampshaded and Discussed in an episode of The Fairly OddParents: Timmy wishes for a "Reset Watch" that lets him travel back in time. After Vicky gets a hold of it, Wanda recommends that whenever he wishes for gadgets like that, he should add the requirement that they only work for him.
Timmy: Wanda, I wish you were a Reset Watch! (Wanda glares at him) That only works for me!
- Ultimately, this is how he gets back the other watch — he claims the Wanda-watch to be much more powerful, tricking Vicki into switching them only for her to find out she can't use it before suffering from a large amount of Amusing Injuries.
- By all appearances, the Omnitrix in the Ben 10 series: It doesn't work for Vilgax when he steals it in an episode of Alien Force, and after it gets Ret Conned to being easy to remove from its host, Azmuth is still only reluctantly resigned to letting Ben keep it. It can only be that he knows that the watch chose Ben and won't work (at least as well) for anyone else. He originally intended it for Ben's grandfather Max, but there's no rule saying an Empathic Weapon's choice in owner can't conflict with its creator's choice. Although the first case was the Omnitrix reconfiguring.
- In an episode of Samurai Jack, Aku manages to disarm Jack and tries to kill him with his own sword. It harmlessly bounces off of him because it cannot harm anyone who is pure of heart.
- Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers: While the other three Mechanical Horses of the Galaxy Rangers are okay with having a teammate other than their "designated" one ride them (Doc and Niko trade off on Mel and Voyager several times), Triton is very forthright with the fact that only Shane can ride him, only making an exception on Shane's explicit orders.
- The Autobot Matrix of Leadership could be said to be like this. While it is said that the Matrix would "light their (the Autobots') darkest hour", the Matrix chose to empower Hot Rod (thus turning him into Rodimus Prime) and not Ultra Magnus, which may mean that it still only responds to certain individuals and not just any Autobot.
- Transformers Prime has the Star Saber, and the Forge of Solus Prime, can only be wielded by a Prime. Megatron gets around this by surgically replacing his arm with that of a previous prime and use the Forge.
- The Hearts of the World (Candracar, Meridian, Zamballa, Earth) from W.I.T.C.H. are like this. They can only be used by a chosen person, can only be given up willingly by said chosen and if it's taken by force, it returns to them. Unfortunately for Elyon and Kadma (bearers of the Heart of Meridian and Zamballa, respectively), Nerissa used this to her fullest.
- ThunderCats, while the Sword of Omens is only ever to be wielded by the lord of the Thundercats, Lion-O. it has been used by other characters of 'pure spirit' on occasion; Willa of the warrior maidens once used 'Sight Beyond Sight' in the episode 'Garden of Delights', and the Sword has also responded to Lynx-O in 'Ravage Island'. In the episode Tight Squeeze, Snarf used the Sword of Omens with no problem.
- Like in the original, in Thunder Cats 2011 only the protagonist Lion-O appears able to utilize the Sword Of Omens' "Sight Beyond Sight" Though others may take custody of the blade, it's enchanted against "being touched by the hands of evil," which appears to be a failsafe against Big Bad Mumm-Ra's using it. Curiously, Slithe holds the sword just fine after Lion-O is killed in "Trials of Lion-O".
- Felix the Cat's transforming "Magic Back of Tricks" only works for him.
- Twilight Sparkle's crown (one of the Elements of Harmony) in My Little Pony Equestria Girls. Even when Sunset Shimmer is wearing it, Twilight can still use its power to defeat her.
Twilight Sparkle: The crown may be upon your head, Sunset Shimmer, but you cannot wield it, because you do not possess the most powerful magic of all: the magic of friendship!
- A firearms company has been working on a gun that won't fire if it is stolen and turned against its owner. At the moment it just sometimes refuses to fire even for the intended owner. Fingerprint lock gun technology is possible if not practical currently.
- Devices with physical or digital locks can ideally be used only by the authorized holder of a key or password. Of course, this can be subverted if the owner loses the key or chooses a bad password.
- Some modern smartphones can actually be unlocked by fingerprint, as can many models of laptop as a built-in capability. This means even if the phone is stolen or confiscated or lost, nobody but its owner can actually access it.