A Power Crutch
is some object which enables a character to use his or her superpowers, or at least assists in their use. It differs from a Magic Feather
in that a Magic Feather is a placebo, while the Power Crutch is not. A Power Crutch has some in-story justification for why it works.
Without the Power Crutch, the character will find it difficult, if not impossible to use his or her powers. Characters who use Power Crutches may eventually learn to use their abilities without them. The power user, or sometimes others, may even mistake the Power Crutch for the source
of his powers— though it isn't. Often, especially in sequential works like comics, a Power Crutch will be revealed (or retconned) to have been a Magic Feather
May be an Amplifier Artifact
raising the power level from "sometimes noticeable" to useful. Compare Transformation Trinket
, a different sort of superpower enabler.
- In Mage, Kevin Matchstick's baseball bat Excalibur is one of these. If Excalibur gets more than a few yards away from Kevin, his powers conk out.
- One of the other avatars tells Kevin that he used to have a Power Crutch, but eventually learned to do without it.
- Hawkman's wings aren't necessary for him to fly (that power comes from his belt) but they are necessary for him to steer.
- Lady Liberty from the Force of July in The Outsiders. The Outsiders thought her energy blasts came from her torch and disarmed her. It turned out her power was internal and the torch just helped her focus it.
- A lot of these in X-Men, usually of the sort that makes their powers less destructive. Cyclops needs his visor to make his beams controllable, and also to see. Surge needs her gauntlets to regulate her electricity levels.
- In The Eye of The World, Egwene mistakes Moiraine's staff for an enchanted object. Moiraine corrects her, saying that using it just helps her concentrate.
- Notably subverted in The Lord of the Rings, where Théoden's advisor Gríma thinks Gandalf's staff is a Power Crutch, and orders the doorwarden Hama to have Gandalf surrender it. (The consensus among Tolkien fandom is that the staves of the Five Wizards are just lengths of ordinary wood.)
- Gandalf breaking Saruman's staff is treated as a big deal, however, and when Saruman next appears he is considerably diminished in power.
- There's a strong school of thought that says that the staffs, while not actually magical, are a kind of symbol of office, and the breaking of Saruman's staff loses him a lot of credibility - akin to, say, a crucifix worn by a Christian clergyman, and if he allowed it to be profaned he'd find it hard to "sell" his beliefs.
- While Harry Dresden by no means needs his blasting rod or wizard staff to pull off magic, he definitely prefers them for the added focus they lend him (to clarify, he is entirely capable of summoning up vast, devastating power, blasting rod or not. The blasting rod, however, changes it from "general, wanton destruction" to "focused, targeted destruction"). Other characters use various items to channel their magic through as well, while some don't bother.
- In the last book of the Harry Potter series, wandmaker Ollivander explains that wizards and witches can channel magic through just about anything to cast their spells such as an ordinary stick. Without such a crutch, a person's magic will have uncontrolled and unpredictable results — a wand is needed to properly focus the magic into spells. To get the best results they need to use wands that are suited to them. Since a wand is to some extent an Empathic Weapon, it will only work perfectly for someone it likes. The wand choosing ceremony in a wand shop makes sure that this is the case for the customer's wand. Since wands also like to be owned by the strongest wizard/witch possible, they will also switch their loyalties to people who claim them by defeating their previous owners in a contest of magic or strength.
- For example: Hermione can't use Bellatrix's stolen wand very well because she never actually defeated her in such a contest; she remarks that it still feels like a piece of Bellatrix herself.
- In the Ravirn series of novels by Kelly McCullough, webgoblins and trolls are usually required to perform spells. Some like the Fates and Eris can cast spells by humming or whistling tunes, but this is usually more difficult and slower than casting a spell through a webgoblin.
- The trope is lampshaded in one of the Tarma and Kethry short stories where one of Kethry's classmates had stolen their teacher's staff, thinking that it was the secret to his great power. In truth, the only thing special about the staff was that it had been cut to just the right length to help him with his limp.
- Issac Mendez, the psychic painter from Heroes originally needed to get high on heroin in order to use his precognitive abilities. Even after he learned to do without, it was still easier for him to see the future while high.
- His paintings do become more focused while sober though. When he's sober he can actually focus on a certain person's future, such as Claire or Hiro. On heroin though, he has a tendency to paint the future totally at random.
- In the X-COM series, the Psi-Amps work this way: the abilities of the human psychics are their inner abilities, but they need these devices (and in the second game, an implant) to manifest them, unlike psychic aliens, who can mind-blast you without gadgetry.
- System Shock 2 has Psi Amps used the same way, although they have many more applications than just telepathy.
- Protoss Psi blades from Starcraft seem to work like this.
- The dragon amulet of Jade Empire allow the Spirit Monk to tap into his or her in-born powers and easier usage of ability-augmenting beads. Like most examples of this trope, the SM eventually learns how to function without the amulet. Unlike most examples of this trope the where the crutch is quietly discarded as useless by the hero, the amulet's focusing ability becomes very important to the Big Bad after he steals it.
- In Gargoyles, people who use human magic tend to need a magical object or scrolls to cast spells. The Magus can do it without using one, but it hurts a lot and one too many spells kills him.