The tube is civilization!
I am the foam of my sword.
Plastic is my body, and air is my blood.
I have ploinked over a thousand people.
Unknown to injury,
Nor known to realism.
Have withstood thumps to create soft weapons.
Yet, these hands will never hurt anything.
So as I play, UNLIMITED NERF WORKS.
Any logically less-than-lethal weapon which ends up being otherwise just as effective as its "real" equivalent. This could happen because the setting of the story (or the censor) does not allow a character to carry a "real" weapon.
In video games
with changeable/upgradeable weapons, a Nerf Arm may be the weakest version of the weapon, but the only difference between it and its stronger alternatives is (usually) the number of hits needed to defeat the enemies
Note that there can be some Truth in Television
at work; A spud gun may not be a mortar, but it sure isn't Nerf, either. Simply being non-lethal is no indication of safety.
See also Improbable Weapon User
, Statistically Speaking
, Cherry Tapping
. Closely related to- but not to be confused with- Nerf
. Can overlap with Lethal Joke Character
. A Subtrope is Wooden Katanas Are Even Better
. Contrast As Lethal as It Needs to Be
Usually done for the funny factor, whether the players are laughing as hard as the programmers depends on your sense of humor
Not to be confused with Numb Arm
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Anime & Manga
- Motoko in Love Hina is one of many Kid Samurai whose wooden sword (bokken) is just as effective at dealing damage as a real katana, and sometimes more so.
- Most versions of this are Memetic Mutations from Miyamoto Musashi, the greatest Japanese swordsman, using a wooden sword rather than a real one as a handicap so people wouldn't be afraid to spar with him. This sometimes ignores the fact that being hit with what's essentially an edged baseball bat still hurts. It's also less likely to break in combat, a common issue of the standard katana (though not so much in anime)
- There is evidence that it was as much to keep his opponents alive so that he could then take them on as students as it was to show off his own skill. Only a handful of the duels he fought with bokken ended in death.
- In one instance this was because he was answering a challenge held amongst a hostile clan, and wanted to get in and out inconspicuously to avoid a fight with the entire school. So he left without weapons, carved a bokken from an oar as he sailed there, arrived just as the challenger was expecting a forfeit, and killed him. Then ditched the wooden sword and slipped away on his boat.
- Ranma ½
- Likewise, Tatewaki Kunō's wooden sword is capable of cutting trees in half and shattering stone walls. But of course, any unarmed character can beat Kunō with their pinky finger...
- In a later book of the manga, the "Kunoichi" Konatsu has to use a fake sword because he had pawned his metal sword. And he's deadly with it.
- Twilight Suzuka in Outlaw Star also favors a wooden sword, and is capable of quite astonishing feats of mayhem with it, up to and including slicing an oncoming truck in half, though she describes that as "a mere feat of strength."
- It does have one practical use: it's easy to sneak past metal detectors.
- In Revolutionary Girl Utena, this is subverted because when Utena brings a bamboo shinai to her first duel, her opponent mocks her for it and cuts the sword down to a stub. She gets a real sword in the very next episode — but not before beating her original opponent with the broken stub of her bamboo sword. In The Movie, she manages a decent fight with a broom, although she doesn't actually win until she gets a real sword.
- Rurouni Kenshin's Reverse Blade Sword (sort of; it doesn't cut anybody, but it's still akin to clobbering enemies with a steel rod). Plus at least two other members of his entourage, Yahiko and Kaoru, use wooden or bamboo training swords. Hell, Kenshin wins a fight with a beach umbrella.
- Sakata Gintoki from Gintama wields his wooden sword Lake Touya, which is able to smash through walls and even break conventional swords at times, due to being made from an ancient tree that's said to be as hard as metal. It's also a mass-produced mail-order product, which lets him replace it easily after the numerous occasions where it's been destroyed.
- The Tournament Arc in Mahou Sensei Negima! disallowed bladed weapons, so Setsuna improvised with a deck brush. It was still effective thanks to her Ki. Oddly, an earlier preliminary match by the Kendo captain showed that Bokken were allowed.
- Wooden swords don't really have a cutting blade, they are mainly for practice. So he was still within the rules.
- Of course, the latter would have clashed with her adorable outfit....
- In Hayate the Combat Butler, Isumi gives Hinagiku a bokken made by Masamune. It works on demons and has the usual powers a wooden sword has in anime, which is to say it can cut robots in half.
- In Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, the protagonist gets surrounded by a gang of mook girls armed with various weapons. The problem is that he Wouldn't Hit a Girl. Fortunately, in the last moment, Shigure comes to the rescue, but Kenichi wouldn't let her use sharp objects on the girls. So Shigure defeats them with a rice spoon.
- She doesn't just beat them, she slices all their weapons to pieces with her rice spoon, and while she's at it she also cuts a series of lacerations into their outfits so that when they try to carry on the fight their clothing starts falling apart.
- She later does this with a sword shaped videogame controller to the same group of girls, except this time the Clothing Damage was worse. She did remark on how much they had improved when their weapons weren't destroyed.
- In Bleach, Madarame Ikkaku is told he's not allowed to carry a real sword while in the human world, so he uses a wooden one. He never cuts anything with it, but Ikkaku is anything but weak, and can still send someone flying with it.
- It's a bokken (training sword) and those things are known to shatter bones and smash open heads.
- Noir has one of the female leads snap off the leg of a mooks sunglasses before stabbing him in the brain with it.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: Kaiba uses duel monster cards as throwing stars. He will knock whatever you're holding out of your hand with them.
- Kill la Kill gives us Sanegeyama's shinai, which he uses to curbstomp Ryuko with in their rematch, when she has an Absurdly Sharp Blade.
- Bugsy Malone. Miniature mobsters with pie-throwing weapons—that have made pies obsolete as weapons.
- In the recent movie Shoot 'em Up, a mook gets killed with a frozen carrot through his eye.
- The core heroes of Mystery Men have "superpowers" that are only mildly dangerous, like throwing silverware (but not knives), flatulence of doom, or being able to turn invisible if and only if nobody is looking at you. note All of these become critically important in the endgame, of course.
- Probably the most dangerous guy on the team is The Shoveller, then again shovels have been used as weapons since WWI.
- Not to overlook the possessed flying bowling ball of vengeance.
- In The Chronicles of Riddick, said Riddick kills using a teacup. Next, he implies that his next kill will be using what appears to be a disposable tin opener.
- Jason Bourne once fended off an attacker with a rolled up newspaper.
- Not to mention when he used a pen against an assassin.
- There have in fact been cases of both items being turned into makeshift shivs in prisons. Newspaper would be dunked in water, then compressed as much as possible until hardened, then sharpened.
- In Kill Bill Vol. 2, The Bride fends off Elle's Hattori Hanzo sword with - a broken TV antenna.
- In the low-budget 70's movie Axe!, a group of gangsters bludgeon a man to death with a child's doll.
- In Grosse Pointe Blank (which pre-dates the Bourne movie above), John Cusack's character uses a promotional gimmick pen (a Chekhov's Gun prop) to kill an assassin in a fight at his High School reunion. Complete with cool sword-drawing sound as he takes off the pen cap.
- Tangled has Rapunzel carry around a Frying Pan of Doom that she clocks Flynn with a few times. It becomes this trope when Flynn later finds himself fighting soldiers with it, and not only does it work well, it works better than their swords. The end of the film reveals that all the kingdom's soldiers apparently now carry frying pans.
- Death's harvest scythe in Terry Pratchett's Reaper Man is a Nerfed version of his preferred weapon, but that doesn't stop him from taking out the New Death with it when sufficiently provoked.
- A Song of Ice and Fire both plays the trope straight and averts it in the same scene, featuring a sequence where swordsmaster Syrio Forel takes out three Mooks in seconds with a wooden practice sword. However, when he faces down an Elite Mook, who has plate armor protecting every possible weak spot (throat, groin, hands), immediately afterward, he's stymied.
- Played straight in the Hand's tourney. The lances used for jousting are deliberately Nerfed and shatter on impact to prevent death, but Ser Gregor manages to impale a knight through the throat with one anyway. As the Hound remarked afterward, "Gregor's lance goes where Gregor wants it to go."
- An early episode of Chuck features a fight between Sarah and Casey using plastic forks and corn dog skewers.
- In the short-running TV series Martial Law, a belligerent man says to the main character, "I hear that you can make anything into a lethal weapon. Prove it." He then proceeds to hand him a chalkboard eraser, which Sammo completely KICKS HIS ASS with.
- The New World of Darkness Core Rulebook introduces the Weaponry skill with a short vignette about a young woman fending off an attacker...with an umbrella.
- In the game Battletech, swinging the blown-off arm of an enemy mech can do more damage than firing a mid-grade or even high grade cannon, depending on your mech's size — for a lot less heat buildup.
- Penny Arcade's "Cardboard Tube Samurai" strips recast Gabe as a wandering samurai in feudal Japan... only, instead of a katana, he wields the titular cardboard shipping tube.
- Yoshimitsu gets it in a special alternate costume in Tekken 6.
- The webcomic Sluggy Freelance had a storyline where alien invaders with Bizarre Alien Biology were violently allergic to Nerf toys, both weapons and non-weapons. Their world domination strategy started with the infestation of Santa Claus, who the aliens mistook for Earth's biggest arms dealer.
- In Adventurers!: The dreaded newspaper.
- In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, the Doc mocks his parents' story of their family's origins, pointing out the ludicrousness of using frozen shamrocks as shuriken. Needless to say, he himself must resort to using the very same against some pirates later in the story.
- There's always a few gag weapons such as this in Survival of the Fittest, though with some of them it is possible to kill an enemy with some creativity.
- A kill was made in v3 by smashing an ocarina in the victim's face, then stabbing him in the neck with a broken shard and knocking him off a cliff.
- In Nuklear Age, during a D&D parody arc featuring the main characters lost in a mall, three characters are forced to take up arms to defend themselves against hordes of small, toy-crazy children. Their weapons of choice? A foam ax for the berserker, a kid's magic kit for the acting mage, and a foam shield and sword for the leader.
- Demise, the super-assassin from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, once used a paperback book and a rubber band to kill one of her targets.
- The Angry Video Game Nerd sometimes uses a Zapper as if it were a real gun.
- Atop the Fourth Wall: Invoked by Linkara's "Arsenal of Freedom" which is made up entirely of toys and prop replicas; handwaved in that they turn out to be enchanted to work like their "real" counterparts.
- SCP Foundation's Mobile Task Force Omega 7 Incident Log mentions that SCP-076-2, being The Juggernaut that he is, once broke a man's jaw with a Nerf sword when he got bored without a fight.
- In The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, one weapon is a giant nerf pointing hand, with which one pokes people. In one fight, the "hand" was pulled off of its handle, only to reveal an actual sword. Despite this, the party holding the sword declared himself to be defenseless and jumped off the whale/ship.
- Similar to Flapjack example, Johnny Test had an episode where wooden swords had Audible Sharpness when used against metal ones.
- South Park spoofed this trope in the episode that mocked Steven Spielburg's decision to replace guns with walkie-talkies in his re-release of ET. Here, the cops shoot weapons that look and sound exactly like walkie-talkies...and which have the same effect on that which they're targeting.
- Codename: Kids Next Door had an episode where Numbah 1 was being targeted by the rest of the KND and he didn't have access to the regular 2X4 technology so he substituted with whatever was lying around. Most notably his mail, like an actual letter in an envelope.
- In Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, The Joker has the choice to fight the Phantasm with either a giant, menacing, kitchen knife or a processed Bologna log. Guess which one he chooses.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, we have the episode "Over A Barrel", In which pony settlers fight off a stampeding herd of buffalo... with apple pies. The pies apparently hit with enough force to knock a charging buffalo flat.
- An episode of Dexter's Laboratory focusing on Dee-Dee involved her paper route running into competition from ninjas. Rolled-up newspapers were used as sword analogues, complete with a failed ninja committing seppuku at the end by whacking himself in the face.
- Miyamoto Musashi. In 1612 he fought a duel with a bokken he had carved from an oar while waiting for his opponent — and killed him very shortly.
- Don't underestimate the power of wood. There is a reason why the Australian Aborigines make weapons from it. Oh sure, you might laugh at those small wooden ones that come back after you throw it but otherwise wouldn't do much more than stun a rabbit — but then there are the other kind that don't come back. On account of being stuck in someone's ribcage.
- The same reason bows are usually made from wood. Wood usually combines high tensile strength with a certain amount of flexibility (how much depends on the type of wood). This also explains why trees are usually still standing after heavy storms that utterly devastate human constructions (which are insufficiently flexible). When trees fall down it's either because they got uprooted, or because the forces exercised on them were greater than that particular tree could withstand (which may mean the tree was in a bad condition in the first place).
- Baseball (and cricket) bats generally aren't this trope. They are a club by any definition; just because they're not labeled as one, doesn't mean they're not exactly identical to any historical weapon of war in functionality. In particular, the aluminum baseball bat used in North American college and lower baseball/softball is perhaps the most deadly club ever designed: it's very strong, extremely lightweight, superbly balanced, and easy to be lethally used by anyone older than about 8. There's a reason that carrying a bat towards the pitcher's mound is an extremely serious offense in organized baseball, resulting in instant ejection and a possible ban. Not to mention that use of one in a crime is considered a "deadly weapon", putting it on par with a sword or other weapon of war.
- Perhaps most importantly, with respect to this trope, is that an opponent wielding a baseball bat will immediately be recognized as a threat, and taken seriously, and thus, is not this trope.
- The tessen — better known as an iron fan, or Japanese war fan — was given metal rods instead of wood or bamboo ones. However, it was always made to look like any old fan. Several legendary warriors of Japan were said to be so skilled in using them, that they could fight a samurai armed with a sword or spear and win. Not only that, someone skilled in Tessenjutsu, the martial art of wielding fans created for tessen, can use a regular fan as a lethal weapon. It's said that people would learn it so they could be armed in a place where weapons weren't allowed. Seriously, who'd take an old man's fan away on a hot day?
- A samurai's wife would also be taught to wield a tessen... In case she couldn't take her trusty Blade on a Stick, that is.
- US Army Rangers have a small shovel as part of their kit. While it's an ordinary (if well-made) shovel, they can chop a man's head in half with it.
- The military Entrenching Tool has a long and proud history as a close quarters weapon. Several WWI and WWII-issue models were designed with edges that could be sharpened, producing a crude axe with better reach than a knife but more close-quarters utility than a fixed bayonet.
- In 2010 they still make them, they still issue them, and infantrymen still sharpen the edges in order to be able to use it as a makeshift battleaxe in CQB. And infantry training, at least in the US Army, still includes systematic training in its use as a melee weapon.
- It all started with Roman legions...
- Humble Lobo... We heart you so...
- Many boffer LARP groups have strict regulations on weapon crafting. Materials like wood, metal, and some kinds of plastics are banned because of the risk of them breaking and piercing through the foam padding, possibly into someone and resulting in injury or death. The most popular materials instead are PVC, bamboo, and graphite fiber rods.
- The vast majority of injuries in fencing are due to folks crashing into each other or twisting an ankle. The only reason jackets are worn is because blades on very, very rare occasions snap (and also because being poked repeatedly with stiff bits of metal hurts). If this happens, it's often user error. It also results in a very jagged piece of metal which can wound or kill an opponent. Historically, the methods of nerfing (back then, they called it "foiling") lethal swords was remarkably unreliable. Plenty of foiled weapons accidentally or "accidentally" killed someone.
- "Less-Than-Lethal" or "Less-Lethal" weapons can and have caused deaths due to bad luck, bad design, or improper usage. Rubber bullets and blanks can both be deadly at close ranges, tasers and stun guns can unintentionally cause heart attacks, people can have very nasty reactions to tear gas or knockout gas and so on. Hence the Insistent Terminology.