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Out of Continues
My only consolation is that true death comes closer with each dying.
The Alien Inventor, The Dig

Let's face it: Death Is Cheap. If you die, there's always some alien artifact or magic spell or wish-granting being of immense power that's ready, willing and able to bring you back. Coming back as a shapeless, soulless horror? Never heard of it.

Sometimes, though, this nigh-immortality has other, no less dangerous caveats. If the number of times you can come back is limited, then you will eventually run out, and when that happens, you're as mortal as anyone else.

See also Living on Borrowed Time, where a character is already technically dead, but has had their life artificially extended.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime 
  • Once you use one of the Dragon Balls to resurrect someone in Dragon Ball, you can't use them to come back again. They eventually work around it by getting a bigger dragon.
    • That dragon, on the other hand, can only resurrect one person at a time (though it gives three wishes instead of one) and then has to rest for six months, so they still can't bring back large groups (or entire planets; the first dragon can bring back a great number of people with a single wish, so long as their deaths are reasonably tied together, ie all being killed by the same person or group) more than once and it still has the limitation that it can only resurrect a given person once. The first dragon eventually gets upgraded to two wishes, and the same process "resets" it so that any resurrection that happened before the upgrade can be repeated. Thus, over the course of the series, a given character can be resurrected a maximum of three times.
  • In Naruto, each method of resurrection only seems to work once. Unlike other Dangerous Forbidden Techniques, these are actually very likely to kill the user.
  • In Inuyasha, Sesshomaru's sword (the one that brings people back to life) can only resurrect a person once. This became an issue when Rin died again.
  • In Fate stay/night, Berserker has quite a few lives, Rin takes one, Archer takes 5, and Saber takes the rest at the same time. Hax.
    • Also from Fate/stay night, Shirou runs out of continues when he gives Excalibur's scabbard back to Saber, causing him to lose his incredible Healing Factor. He explains this with the line "People die when they are killed". Which, in context, was him expressing the opinion that people should die when they're killed.
  • In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Hanyuu's ability to send Rika back in time when she dies is each time less effective than the last, so the second season's final chapter cranks up the drama when it's revealed that there's only one more chance to get things right.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, the homunculi do a good job making themselves look invincible (and mostly act as though they were, even Greed who cut himself off from the one way of recharging his stone), but there is a limit on the number of times they can heal themselves before they run out of juice. Good luck burning through it all in one sitting, though. Unless you're Colonel Mustang and incredibly pissed. The ones with the largest number of "continues" were Father and Hohenheim, who each started out with 536,329 souls, and Father briefly expanded that number to over 50 million. Each uses many of them for purposes other than resurrection, though, as unlike the other homunculi they're capable of performing alchemy (meaning that the stones can be used as a power source as well as a method of revival).

    Comic Books 
  • One EC horror comic from the fifties (later adapted into a Tales from the Crypt episode) had a doctor discover that a cat does have nine lives thanks to a special gland, and also that he can transfer it into a human. He performs the process on a man, and they then go into show business. Because that's the only possible use for it. The man becomes "Ulric the Undying", and does things like leaping over Niagara Falls and getting the electric chair. For his grand finale (his eighth life) he'll be sealed into a coffin and buried alive for three hours. As he lies there, he reflects on the whole experience... and then realizes that the process of transferring the gland killed the cat, thus that one life had already been spent. Oops.
  • We'll see if it sticks, but supposedly this is the case for the entire DCU in the wake of Blackest Night; according to Dan DiDio, Death Is Cheap, which had been taken to absurd levels in recent years, no longer applies.

    Film 
  • The Crow suffers this in the movie, while his bird is being held by the Big Bad's sister. He got better, and then he didn't.
  • Slightly related: in the John Travolta movie Michael, Michael is using his very last trip to earth.
  • For characters in their own games in Wreck-It Ralph, Death Is Cheap. If they're anywhere else, they die permanently.

    Literature 
  • One of the purported uses of the Philosopher's Stone is granting eternal life. Many a tale involves the consequences of its destruction; modern examples include Fullmetal Alchemist and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. In the latter, it is revealed that Nicholas Flamel successfully created the eponymous artifact and has kept himself and his wife alive for over 600 years with it. However, since Voldemort seeks the Stone as a means of resurrecting himself, Nicholas Flamel and his wife agree that the Stone must be destroyed, and they accept the consequences of doing so.
    • Another example from Harry Potter would be Voldemort's Horcruxes, a set of Soul Jars he created to ensure his immortality. By the end of the seventh book, they've all been destroyed through the efforts of Harry and his friends.
      • Rowling stated that Voldemort ultimately wouldn't have used the Philosopher's stone to maintain his immortality as he would've been dependent on constantly drinking the elixir of life which he'd need the stone to produce, thus having a serious weakness. The horcruxes were a better alternative in his eyes.
    • The myth of the Deathly Hallows is that they make he who unites them, Master of Death, which they take to mean immortal. In reality, this is not so; the Cloak and the Wand are only marginally more useful than any other Invisibility Cloak or regular wand, and the Stone doesn't really bring people back from the dead. Master of Death is more of a philosophical thing - someone who has accepted, and does not fear, Death.
  • Saash in The Book of Night with Moon by Diane Duane is a cat on her ninth life.
  • In the Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones, several characters have nine lives. Only one story in the series, "Stealer of Souls", deals with an Out of Continues situation.
  • The Cat (an assassin who can transform from cute little tabby into a vicious anthropomorphic killer) in The Looking-Glass Wars was made with nine lives — by the end of the first book he's been killed eight times, both by the heroes and as punishment for failing his mistress.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, one of the motivating reasons for Palpatine trying to possess an infant Anakin Solo is because most of his supply of clone bodies used to resurrect himself were being killed, and those that were remained were tampered with by a traitorous Imperial lieutenant, leaving the clone bodies with rapidly decreasing lifespans. Palpatine is understandably worried about the fact that Anakin Solo is an infant at this point, meaning that even if he succeeded in the plan, he'd be helpless for years.
  • The plot (and title) of The Ninth Life of Louis Drax seems to have some relation with this. Can anyone who's read the novel confirm?
  • Riverworld: Everyone respawns at a random location whenever they die. One character takes the "Suicide Express" trying to reach his destination (and evade pursuit). He kills himself so many times that he is eventually informed that he's reached the upper bound of lives and is very likely to not come back with each following death.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: Time Lords can come back to life up to twelve times after being killed, for a total of thirteen lives.
    • The Master actually did run out during the classic series, but got around it via body-snatching. He was then resurrected by the Time Lords during the Time War and given a full regeneration cycle... only to "die" spiting the Doctor and suffer a sabotaged resurrection.
    • In the episode "Let's Kill Hitler", The Doctor is drugged with a lethal poison, and cannot regenerate to save himself. Fortunately for him, River Song cures him by burning through her remaining regenerations all at once.
    • Series 7 reveals that the Eleventh Doctor has already used up all of his regenerations, the two uncounted ones being the War Doctor and the Metacrisis Doctor, and his (permanent) death becomes a plot point. (Again.)
    • As of Series 8, the Twelth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is stated to be an exception to the rule of the ultimate number of regenerations, and had to bend the rules quite seriously in order to get that far, so he may be the last.
  • Torchwood: If Jack Harkness really is the Face of Boe, then this eventually happens to him. For that matter, it might anyway.
  • Weyoun of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is killed more than once, and brought back via cloning. In the final season, during the Dominion War, the place where his clones are created and/or stored is destroyed, and he is killed during the finale. It's stated that this was his last clone. (Do we have to say that the Expanded Universe had more turn up the first chance it got?)

    Tabletop RPG 
  • In second edition Dungeons & Dragons, your originally-rolled Constitution stat was also the number of times your character could be brought back from the dead. To help you keep track, you lost one point of Con with each death/return.
    • In 3rd Edition and 3.5, death costs one of your character levels if you're above first level - it takes away two points of Constitution if you've only got one level to begin with.
  • A Promethean starts its existence with one free resurrection on its account... assuming it has more than one Azoth dot. Once it dies, all but the one dot burn away and it gets back up, but the next death will finish it. Osirans (and those other Prometheans willing to pay for it) start with a power called Revivification, which lets them expend their own Azoth to bring back fallen Prometheans (at an ever-increasing price), and which sacrifices itself to raise them if they fall rather than expend the "free" revival. It can be repurchased, but once you don't have the experience or Vitriol to rebuy it and have expended your resurrection, assuming you don't have any friends willing to give up their own progress for you, you've run out of continues as a Promethean.
  • Recent editions of Paranoia let you buy more clones when your first six-pack runs out, but they're expensive, and then your genetic template starts suffering copying errors which cost even more to scrub out.
  • If you die in Geist The Sin Eaters, your geist can bring you back to life again - just like the first time you died. Except this time, your Synergy (the Karma Meter that represents how well you and the geist can work together) goes down one... and its maximum goes down two. When Synergy (maximum or current, whichever bottoms out first) reaches zero, you become a Monster from Beyond the Veil. This means that, at most, you can come back four times. (The first time doesn't count because that's how you got into this to begin with.)

    Video Games 
  • Sudden Death in most games where it is taken literally.
  • Unreal Tournament III uses the Hand Wave of "respawn teleporters" to explain how people can die and return; Out of Continues, in this context, means your teleporter's out of juice.
  • Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard uses this at the end of the first level, where Matt is told that someone hacked the game to erase all his saves, so that when he died, he would die for good.
  • The page quote comes from the Alien Inventor from LucasArts' The Dig, who sealed himself away in a pyramid so that future generations who arrived on the planet could revive him (using the very same life crystals he invented) and learn of his grievous errors. Chatting with him reveals that the crystals' effect wears off with each subsequent use, until the crystals fail to resurrect the subject at all. He himself dies mere minutes after each revival, though whether it's due to the crystals failing or his own desires is left unsaid.
  • In Left 4 Dead, going down twice will result in your vision turning greyscale. If you get knocked down again without receiving medical help, you're not getting up. Until your teammates find you in a Rescue Closet.
  • It is implied early on that the protagonist of Immortal Defense and his fellow path defenders are a case of this: their minds may be immortal and nigh-godlike entities in pathspace, capable of raining destruction upon countless fleets of enemy ships, but destroying their original physical bodies will kill them. It's later revealed that this is an outright lie. Path defenders exist independently of their bodies: they cannot be killed, period, nor can they ever return to their physical forms. This is not necessarily a good thing.
  • Face of Mankind, an MMO shooter, has clones for lives. If your character is killed, you're out of clones and have no money, it's Perma Death.

    Web Comics 
  • After Heaven burned down in Achewood, Roast Beef's next death was much less straightforward.
  • In a Captain SNES: The Game Masta episode, it dawns on Mega Man that the building where extra lives are made has been blown up to bits.
  • In Homestuck during Act 5 Act Jack Noir destroys Prospit and Derse in the troll's session, thus killing their dream selves and destroying the sacrificial slabs that served as a backup ascension method. Both Jade and Jake had their dream selves die, but Jade was able to resurrect hers and Jake's backup ascension still existed. Rose, Dave, Jane, Dirk, Roxy, Rufioh and possibly others all died and were kissed back to life as their dream selves. This also happened to Sollux but he had a second one.
  • In Sonic the Comic Online! in order to stop Vichama, the God of Death from trying to kill everyone, Knuckles destroys his Immortality Inducer The Guardian Emerald which makes Knuckles' current life his last life.

    Western Animation 
  • The Season 3 finale of The Venture Bros., when the Hank & Dean clone slugs are used as cannon fodder.
  • There was a Tweety and Sylvester cartoon where Sylvester had used up eight of his lives, and if he died again he died for good. Naturally the world was out to kill him at that point.
  • In Drawn Together, Link Expy Xandir decides to commit suicide and does so... but re-appears with 98 lives instead of 99. He spends the entire episode killing himself until he has only one life left, at which point he decides to continue living.
    • In a later episode, Ling-Ling becomes so furious with Xandir that he begins killing him... and keeps on killing him until all of his lives are gone. The words "Game Over" appear and Xandir stays dead. For the rest of the episode, at least.
  • Spawn goes to hell when his power ends, but other than that, he can basically regenerate from near-death experiences.

    Web Original 
  • Khalid Shamoun from SOTF: Evolution has the power of resurrection, with the downside that each resurrection takes longer than the last. In theory, he eventually won't revive at all.

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