Real Life Super Powers

Power can take many forms. When fiction is Like Reality Unless Noted, any power is something that requires Skill, Knowledge, Resources and Time. Without each of these things, power becomes unrealistic. At the far end of the spectrum, abilities that happen instantly, consume no resources, and can still tip massive scales of power are considered "super" powers. Often, these abilties are fantastical, and take forms such as Magic, Telekinesis, Super Strength or Flight powered by nothing but some vague Force or Applied Phlebotinum. There's usually a very clear difference, because said power sources won't exist in Real Life.

But somewhere in the middle, there are superpowers which are still considered "mundane". In theory, any human could possess them, but most of us don't except in small quantities. For this reason, people that have them in abundance can be considered "superpowered": having the ability to influence or do things several times greater than the average person or better than any person has ever done. However, the source of these powers still comes from a Real Life skill, knowledge, or resource acquired over enough time to make it plausible.

As an example, let us take a character who is known for using her beauty to get her way. If said character is beautiful to anyone, in spite of any context or changes that can affect how beautiful she is, then she probably has a fantastical superpower called "Glamour". On the other hand, let's assume her beauty requires plausible upkeep, modification, cosmetics, or skill, with the risk of being ruined by something as simple as a scar, becoming smudged or dirtied, or encountering a person of an incompatible sexual orientation. Now, she has a Real Life Super Power.

A more complete list of Real Life Superpowers include:

Demythtification thrives on this. In settings with actual paranormal or magical abilities, a Badass Normal is likely to have this.

These abilities are one step away from a Charles Atlas Superpower which can be acquired through mundane means but are not mundane themselves and instead step into Magic and Powers territory.

How a character got these abilities is often Hand Waved to preserve Law of Conservation of Detail. If we never see them use them, even in situations it would be relevant, they are an Informed Ability.

Please limit examples to characters who really stand out in the work. If all the characters are Badass Samurai, we can skip that work.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Spandam in One Piece is weaker than an ordinary footsoldier but has a high position in the World Government forces, thus allowing him to influence his underlings in ways to give our heroes just as much trouble as any other villain, if not more. He is also a fairly competent strategist, though a total jerk.
  • The protagonist of Darker Than Black is so skilled he was known for being able to kill Contractors even without using his powers and even before he had them.

  • Sure, John Constantine is a magician, and yeah, he'll readily admit to being useless in a straight fight—but he doesn't just sling fireballs around. He gets by on brains, ruthlessness, charisma, and his own reputation.
    • Though, judging from how things go in roughly the latter half of the series, magic runs entirely on charm and brains anyway.
  • Batman has absolutely ALL of these. In a way, leadership is his weakest attribute. But regardless of this, he still practically runs his own private militia of bat-and-bird themed vigilantes in Gotham.
    • Likewise, Nightwing as well, except he has the leadership part covered. In fact, that's arguably his greatest attribute, although it's hard to tell since he's good at ALL of them.
  • Black Widow's beauty lets her gain the trust of people she wants to manipulate.
  • The Punisher has the kind of skills you'd only expect from people in fiction, namely the ability to kill numerous (evil) people in limited time...and his way of pulling off such feats includes (but is not limited to) skill with blades, knowing how to physically break people, the ability to murder a man with his bare hands, and LOTS of guns, bombs and bullets. And all of this comes from his extensive military training, the kind you could realistically get as a Navy SEAL or Marine. The MAX series, which is far Darker and Edgier and is steeped in greater realism than the Marvel-616 universe, takes this and runs it Up to Eleven.
  • Originally, Captain America was supposed to have peak human speed and strength, though whether or not intelligence is included depended on the author. He has since gone onto superhuman territory, but this original Cap was not meant to be capable of anything more than a human could realistically do.
    • In a way, this trope is played with for Cap. He is at peak human ability for everything, which isn't possible in a stock human. A marathoner has a far different build and training style than a sprinter, for instance, yet Cap can do both.
  • Ozymandias from Watchmen emphasizes his Super Intelligence, but actually possesses many of these powers, so much more than the other Non-Powered Costumed Hero characters that he almost seems to have genuine superpowers. It's established, though, that all his abilities are mundane in origin, and the only true Super in the Watchmen universe is Dr. Manhattan.

  • Indiana Jones has Intelligence, Skill, Fame, and Money, and is also highly charismatic and dashing. But perhaps most importantly, he is an extremely lucky son-of-a-bitch.

  • Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty sometimes get into this territory, although the degree of it depends on the adaptation. Holmes's intelligence, powers of observation, unusual skills, and combat prowess are all impressive but within the realm of what it's theoretically possible for a "normal" human to do - but with his combined skillset he's unmatched in his area of expertise. Moriarty's intelligence and web of influence make him the most dangerous of all of Holmes's adversaries.

    Live Action TV 
  • This is the premise for the reality TV series, Stan Lee's Superhumans; finding people in real life that can perform superhuman feats comparable to the characters in Stan Lee's comics.


    Tabletop Games 
  • In GURPS, any and all of these can be bought as "advantages" for a character, including luck, slightly depending on the setting and Game Master choice.

    Western Animation 
  • In Justice League Unlimited Lex Luthor (intially) doesn't posses any supernatural power like the Justice League does. However, he becomes more dangerous than the superpowered villains when he manages to discredit the League.
  • David Xanatos from Gargoyles is smart and charismatic enough to become the Gargoyles' greatest foe through indirect manipulation.
  • General Malaise in Ozzy and Drix has no physical prowess by himself, but instead attacks immune systems en masse with his private army of Red Shirts. The rest of this series's Rogues Gallery is either superpowered or supernatural.
  • Princess Morbucks in The Powerpuff Girls can spend as much money as she needs; her plots are Screw the Rules, I Have Money! in their purest essence, from buying top engineers to produce weaponry for her to buying the local government altogether.

    Video Games 
  • Master Chief from Halo is stated to be the "luckiest" of all the Spartans many times throughout the franchise. He is also the only known Spartan to survive (as the player-controlled hero).
  • The Courier from Fallout: New Vegas is either a Skill or Luck variant of this. He/She can do many things that large portions of the NCR Military can't accomplish. Taking care of the lawlessness in Primm, or clearing the Deathclaws out of Quarry Junction are good examples.
    • It also helps that the Courier is a free agent, operating outside of the chain of command (so no being tied to an assigned post or complications with going AWOL), fields his/her own equipment (so no worries about logistics systems), and can bring his/her own crew to the battles. The NCR's bureaucracy really bogs them down in comparison.
  • Jason Brody, the protagonist of Far Cry 3, possesses an ample amount of these. With Skill being his primary asset. His official character profile refers to him as "naturally gifted", and it shows, because he catches on to the ways of the Rakyat and becomes the finest warrior they have. By the end of the game, he becomes The Dreaded and gains the Infamy portion of the trope as well.