Game Master: What will YOU do this turn, Cyclops?There are many superheroes out there. Some, like Batman, do their super-heroing using years and years of training their bodies, showing human capability to a remarkable extent, possibly with the help from a utility belt as well. Others are like Superman, having a whole grab-bag of superpowers that needn't even be remotely related in some of the extreme cases. Then, there are superheroes like Cyclops. Beast Boy. Static. The middle-roaders. The ones that only have one listed superpower, but which they sometimes have many uses for. As you can guess, this trope excuses unmentioned Required Secondary Powers, since they often aren't a power in their own right, though the line can get a little fuzzy at times. Elemental Powers are a sub-trope of this. In a show with Cast Speciation, this can easily become What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?. (See Hawkman in the Superfriends cartoon.)
Cyclops: (deadpan, despondent and bored) ...I shoot it with my Optic Blast.
Cyclops: (deadpan, despondent and bored) ...I shoot it with my Optic Blast.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- The espers in A Certain Magical Index and A Certain Scientific Railgun generally seem to operate like this. They have one very specific power that they can use in all sorts of ways (eg. Misaka has control over electricity, which she can use to stick to walls, shoot lightning, create railguns...). The one esper who breaks this rule is Gunha Sogiita, who has several powers that don't seem to have anything to do with each other, frustrating researchers to no end, especially since he has no interest in learning how his powers work. Mages tend to be a bit more complicated.
- Contractors in Darker Than Black have only a single power. They might be creative with it, but it always comes back to one general ability.
- Most of the Wizards of Fairy Tail are only proficient in one type of magic, but can use that magic in many different ways. Erza has a full arsenal of magical weapons and armors she can summon, and Gray can make anything out of ice.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure gives us Stands, most of which have one ability (healing, stopping time, turning things into paper). The majority of a Stand user's strength comes from how flexible they are with these powers (for example, the Stand with "healing" as its ability can heal human wounds... and rebuild broken objects, and reconstitute meals into their component ingredients, and...).
- Devil Fruit from One Piece gives a person one super human ability. What regular humans can do in that universe would be super powers pretty much anywhere else though.
- Although many of the Devil's Fruit have multiple powers that all fall under one name. For example the Desert Desert Fruit lets you control sand, turn into sand, and drain water out of other people's bodies.
- The best example of this trope would have to be the protagonist himself, Monkey D. Luffy. He is a Rubber Man, able to stretch and contort his body like it was rubber. That's about it. He keeps discovering new and increasingly creative applications for it, however, that it's the only power Luffy needs.
- Similarly, most alter-users from sCRYed have one ability granted to them, at least at first. They may later get upgrades in power, and several characters have multiple largely unrelated abilities (Straight Cougar, for example, has the ability to make things fast, which manifests as super speed... and turning cars into pink supercharged vehicles). Main character Kazuma's only ability at the beginning of the series is an armored right arm.
- This is how superheros work in Boku no Hero Academia. Heroes are born with only one power (called Quirks), and this is a medical fact. Heroes with more than one facet to their powers (like Todoroki, who has ice and fire powers) are considered unusual. The concept of humans gaining more than one quirk, and the medical consequences of this, is a running plot point.
- A significant number of characters from X-Men. Cyclops, Quicksilver, Magneto, Polaris, Rogue (even though she uses her one power to get many), Mystique, Shadowcat, and almost too many others to mention. In theory, all Mutants are supposed to have one and only one power, but this is not really the case.
- This is inconsistently applied to Nightcrawler. Sometimes teleportation is considered his only "true" power, with things like hiding in darkness being just a function of his dark fur and wall-crawling coming from his unusual fingers and toes (and he's therefore unable to cling to very smooth surfaces). Other times he has full-on invisibility in shadows and can climb pretty much anything.
- Daredevil. His only power is enhanced senses.
- From DC Comics, we have Wildcat, Dr. Mid-Nite, both Wonder Twins, Metamorpho...
- At the time he was created, The Flash's sole superpower was super-speed. However, he's since gotten a host of... very vaguely speed-related powers, turning the Speed Force into a Swiss-Army Superpower.
- Similarly, The Hulk was originally just a very big, very strong behemoth. Soon, he gained an assortment of powers, some which were logical in relation to increased muscle ability, such as super-leaping, Nigh-Invulnerability, Super Speed and Super Reflexes. Then, over time, things just got crazy, and he gained other abilities such as immunity to mind control, ability to see supernatural creatures, ability to absorb radiation, a Healing Factor that rivals Wolverine's, a gland that lets him breathe underwater, and sometimes the ability to create new personalities as needed (each with their own power set).
- Replace "Superheroes" with "Anti-Heroes" and Cassie Hack now qualifies thanks to the recent arcs of her comic book series, because she gained a healing factor (literally her only genuine super-power at this point) since then.
- The pre-reboot Legion of Super-Heroes had the "No Duplicate Powers". They accept only one member with a prticular power..with some exceptions like Superboy and Supergirl.
Films — Animated
- In The Incredibles, most members of the Parr family have one superpower each (Super Strength for Bob, Rubber Man powers for Helen, Super Speed for Dash), and the film implies that is also the case with most supers. The exceptions are Violet, who has both invisibility and force field generation, and Jack-Jack, who appears normal but develops a wide variety of powers in the climax.
- Of course, Violet's powers are identical to Marvel's Invisible Woman, who originally only had the invisibility and developed the forcefields later. Helen is a gender-swapped Mr Fantastic, Bob's powers are equivalent to the Thing, minus the downside, Dash has Quicksilver's powers and Frozone has Iceman's.
Films — Live-Action
- In the Wearing the Cape setting, a significant percentage of breakthroughs are single-power types, loosely or tightly defined. Blackstone practices "stage magic" (illusions, levitation, teleportation), The Harlequin is bouncy to the point of physical invulnerability, Rush is "fast", etc.
- In Worm, most superpowered individuals have one superpower and its Required Secondary Powers. That said, there are exceptions. A few, notably Scion, have multiple unrelated supwerpowers. Many others find uses for their secondary powers; notably the protagonist, who can control bugs; her ability to sense bugs in her range of control makes her an almost perfect scout.
Live Action TV
- Witches from Charmed are usually born with a single unique "active" power along with their basic witch abilities. The Charmed Ones start this way (telekinesis, time-stopping and premonition), but subsequently develop new powers as advancements of their original powers. It's subverted with Paige. The prophecy dictates that she would gain the power of telekinesis, but also discovers that she possesses a whole set of other powers due to her Whitelighter lineage. Piper's children also continue this trend (also being half-Whitelighters) and possess even more powers than her aunt.
- Most superpowered characters in Heroes have only one power, and many others have "related" powers (eg Hiro Nakamura can bend time and space).
- Pretty much everyone on Misfits are only given one power by a mysterious storm. In the original gang, Kelly has Mind Reading, Curtis has Time Travel, Simon can turn invisible, Alisha makes people want to have sex with her, and Nathan is immortal. In the new group, Finn has telekinesis, Jess has X-Ray Vision, Rudy has a Literal Split Personality, and Curtis first switches powers to become a Gender Bender and later switches to raising the dead. Most of the other powered characters also have one power, and sometimes it's useless anyway (or seems that way).
- Due to the way the Hero System rules work, on paper most of the characters from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe have multiple superpowers on paper. Functionally, however, what most of them have is just a single power for which they've discovered multiple uses. For example, Bungie is a Rubber Man who has superior strength (because she can use her strechability to change her point of leverage in her own body) and invulnerability to most physical attacks (because her elastic body stretches with the force of the attack), and can change her shape (by stretching her body into various forms), but it all boils down to Bungie stretching.
- To elaborate, the Hero System defines powers in terms of game-mechanical effects, not so much in ones of concept. So instead of giving your character the explicit power of "plant control" the way you might in some other superhero systems, you'd look at what you wanted them to be able to mechanically do and then pick appropriate pre-defined "stock" powers (say, things like Change Environment, Entangle, and Telekinesis), tweak them to suit the concept, and unite them all under the same "special effect"...which would just so happen to be "plant control". (Mutants & Masterminds works the same way.)
- A lot of the supers in the Whateley Universe. Chaka can control ki. That's it. Except she can control her ki, your ki, pull extra ki out of the ground, read ki in other people, learn tricks by watching people use their ki... Blot can absorb electromagnetic energy. Kamuro can shoot sparks out of her hands.
- How to Succeed in Evil has this in characters mentioned off-hand by the narrator or the protagonist.