"A more powerful spell is already active."
When a world's rules state you can't curse someone who's already cursed.
This trope centers on situations where an attempt to cause Standard Status Effects
fails because the intended victim is already
being affected by something. It could be the same effect from a different source or else the fact that they were hit by something separate previously is preventing a new effect from working.
Not to be confused with Acquired Poison Immunity
, in which a character is resistant to a poison or effect because they'd been affected by it previously and recovered. This trope is when an attempt at poison outright fails because they're currently
affected by something else.
This sometimes overlaps with Hybrid Overkill Avoidance
if the curse
would turn the character into a monster. For example, vampires can't be cursed with lycanthropy and vice versa. In cases where the resistance is caused by being diseased, this overlaps with Beneficial Disease
. See also Disability Immunity
, which this can be a sub- or Sister Trope
Not to be confused with only allowing one swear word in a work
. Compare Curse That Cures
, when a curse cures a character of an existing illness or injury.
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- In the Berserk universe, a person who's already been branded for sacrifice by the Godhand on behalf of another cannot be made a sacrifice by anyone else. Since most people who get branded do not survive their initial sacrifice, cases of branded survivors are vanishingly rare so this seldom comes up, but during the third major manga arc (the last one before the Golden Age arc), the Count tries this with Guts only to be told by the Godhand that he can't sacrifice him because of what Guts already went through during the Eclipse, and because Guts is an enemy, not someone the Count loves.
- In the Death Note universe, once your name is written in a Death Note, you can't be affected by any other Death Note. Of course, since you're going to die within the next 23 days at most, it's a rather cold comfort (but see the movie, below).
- In Dragon Pink a magic sword obtained after defeating a monster had a death curse on it: Santa immediately falls sick and his lifeforce is slowly being drained away, but Pink (who's already cursed) is not affected.
- In One Piece eating a second Devil's Fruit is supposedly fatal. Stealing powers however is perfectly okay. Though there seems to be something unique about the character who is able to do that which allows it.
- In the movie version of Death Note, Kira couldn't kill L with his Death Note, because he had already "cursed" himself with another one.
- In Princeps' Fury, book five of Codex Alera, Amara is able to resist the effects of a Discipline Collar, a Slave Collar that causes ecstasy in the wearer, by having one put on her by someone else prior to getting captured.
- Inverted in Patricia Wrede's short story "The Sixty-Two Curses of Caliph Arenschadd". The cure for the unbreakable curse the family is under turns out to be having a different curse put on them, which displaces the first.
- A form of this occurs in the Discworld book Making Money when Topsy Lavish has a contract put out on Moist von Lipwig. This actually protects Moist, as the Assassin's Guild won't take two separate contracts on the same person and Moist is only in danger if the dog doesn't live out a natural lifespan.
- In Alcatraz versus the Scrivener's Bones, Attica Smedry foils a Deal with the Devil by realizing that the trick is to not own your soul when you sign it away, and bequeathing ownership of his soul to his son Alcatraz first.
- A variant shows up in Eyes of the Overworld. A ghost threatens to condemn Cugel to unending tedium if he does not perform a certain task. A bandit outside the ghost's tower curses Cugel with an immediate onset of cankerous death when Cugel kills him. Cugel's response is to simply leave, causing the ghost to make good on his threat. The "undending tedium" and "immediate onset of death" perfectly cancel each other out, leaving only the "canker," which Cugel is already suffering from in the form of a demon attached to his liver.
- Averted in Munchkin, where the rules state that curses (or traps) may be played at any time. A player can get a pile of curses at once, but then, driving your opponents to tears is a viable strategy if it makes you win...
- Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition AD&D. Insane creatures were immune to psionic attack.
- In Dragon Quest VIII, The Hero is already under the effect of a curse, which is why the spell on the castle didn't effect him. In an aversion of Gameplay and Story Segregation, he cannot be placed under the Curse status effect in battle, either.
- In Pokémon, any given Pokemon can only be under one of the major status effects (Sleep, Paralysis, Burn, Freeze, Poison) at a time. They can still be affected by secondary status effects like Confusion or Attraction, but a burnt Pokemon can't be paralyzed, and a poisoned Pokemon can't be frozen. In fact, in high level Pokemon players it consider normal to intentionally inflict one's own Pokemon a status that isn't much of a bother (or with some special abilities, a benefit) purely to prevent more crippling ones.
- In the Shin Megami Tensei games you can only get hit with one status ailment at a time. As long as you have one, any other ailment will miss.
- Averted in Shin Megami Tensei IV. A few of the bosses have attacks that leave the targets hit by multiple status affects.
- In Final Fantasy games, being zombified grants immunity to poison and petrification. Regeneration deals damage though.
- One boss in Bunny Must Die! Chelsea and the 7 Devils attempts to curse Bunny in his death throes. It doesn't work, because she was cursed in the backstory.
- This can be exploited in Seiken Densetsu 3 to heal all status ailments on the party for free. Using the Chibikko Hammer will make your team miniature, replacing whatever status effect they have, and using it again will invert the miniature status effect turning them to normal.
- Warlocks in World of Warcraft work this way, in that a Warlock can only apply one curse-type spell, such as Curse of Weakness or Curse of Tongues, on a target at a time, with any new curses overriding the previous. In fact, two strong spells that were once curses had to be made into a new type (Banes) so that Warlocks could use them with their other curses. Though it is played with since a target can have multiple curses at a time so long as each curse was placed by a different Warlock.
- A spell specific to the Affliction specialization, Unstable Affliction, has this relationship with its counterpart in the other two specs, Immolate.
- In Nethack, the Dunce Cap is a cursed item that fixes your intelligence (and wisdom) at 6 until you find a way to remove it. However, it prevents your intelligence from being reduced further, thus protecting against the mind flayer's brain-eating attack.
- In Suikoden II, Neclord is not able to curse Riou because of the Bright Shield Rune.
- In Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, only one attack can take effect at a time. A Kart spinning from a banana peel might shrug off Lightning-Strike Shrinking and a dozen red-shell hits. On the other hand, anything (besides Lightning) that's powerful enough will override a lesser effect. You can get catapulted by an explosion, rolled by a Giant Bowser Shell, or knocked back by a Mushroom-boosting or Power-Starred Kart.
- In The Elder Scrolls games from The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall onwards, you can only be a werewolf or a vampire. You can't be both.
- The Simpsons Treehouse of Terror: The Devil demands Homer's soul, but he earlier promised his soul to his wife Marge, so the devil can't collect. However, to punish Homer for promising him something he couldn't give in exchange for a donut (that's right: Homer traded his soul for a donut), the Devil turned Homer's head into a donut.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: Wanting his money to talk to him, Mr. Krabs sold his soul to the Flying Dutchman. When the Flying Dutchman tried to collect, he was sent to the end of a line that already had other spirits and SpongeBob, to whom Krabs offered his soul to avoid paying five dollars.