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The fact that you can warp reality does not change the fact that you're still just a puny dork in a dress.
"Well, I'm terribly sorry I spent my extensive lifespan unlocking the means to unravel the universe and reshape it according to my will rather than, say, jogging. It has a tendency to leave one relatively fragile."
It seems that many who possess great magical, mental, or otherwise mystical might are also in the worst of shape. They may be sickly, horribly ill, crippled, or just physically weak and puny; in general, people who have reality-bending powers seem to suffer for it in other areas.
There are usually reasons. Powerful psychics may suffer from this, as they can do anything with their minds — for what do they need their bodies? It may also be the result of a magical Old Master or The Obi-Wan experiencing the declining health that comes with age. Alternatively, physical health can sometimes be traded for magical power, be it through a bargain of some sort or the use of very draining magic... or it may be more mundane: rather than go outside or exercise, the magicians spent all their time studying spells, and are thus very weak physically. From a Doylist POV, it's about game balance. Without their physical weakness there often wouldn't be any reason not to use them.
In terms of characterisation, this trope creates a duality and contrast with the strong, stupid guy. Since Squishy Wizards tend to focus on powerful offensive attack spells ("Nuking"), they are also contrasted by The Medic, a form of Squishy Wizard who focuses on healing and defensive magic to stand in for their frail defense instead. Squishy Wizards, because of their fragility, are often paired up with fighters in a Sword and Sorcerer ensemble or part of a full-blown adventuring party.
In addition in combination with the concept of "aggro" (non-player characters who attack pre-emptively, rather than merely defending themselves), this was one of the biggest contributors to the standard Tank/DPS/Heal/Nuke party formation as seen in many MMORPGs — because characters that can nuke the hell out of the opposition and heal allies are usually the squishiest members of the party. The Stone Wall, who can withstand aggro and keep it off the others, was created to keep these squishy party members alive during those big battles.
This trope is distinct from Disability Superpower, in that the power in question is not necessarily making up for the disability; rather, this trope refers to the lack of physical prowess that tends to accompany mystical powers.
In game mechanic terms, the Squishy Wizard is usually a Glass Cannon, being able to dole out big hurt but generally dying if a tough monster looks at it funny.
It should be noted that not every wizard is squishy. See Combat Medic, Magic Knight, and Kung-Fu Wizard.
Contrast Magically Inept Fighter, who are strong physically but weak with magic. Compare Armor and Magic Don't Mix, Blind Seer, Waif Prophet, Black Mage, White Mage, and Shoot the Mage First. Corollary to Magic Is Mental.
It is explained that mages can infuse their bodies with magical power, converting it into physical strength. However, this requires a great deal of control, and it seems only well-trained mages can do this and even then, the standard mages will get destroyed by purely physical fighters. This is why they usually form pactio with fighters to protect them while they stay in the back line. It was originally presented as a trade-off, in that focusing on self-enhancement and physical training comes at the cost of improving magical versatility and maximum power yield, so that you're safer and more self-reliant, but there's a greater number of things you simply aren't equipped to handle.
Negi defeats martial arts masters in a single punch because he uses combat magic, but this prowess only come after he goes Magic Knight and starts seriously training in martial arts like a straight up warrior would. His unwillingness to depend on others has directly led both to his increased dependence on his students for noncombat support and most of his Black Magic-related problems.
Evangeline noted that beyond a certain level of power, the Magic Knight and artillery mage become indistinguishable due to the sheer amount of power a mage is then capable of channeling. None of the high-level mages in the story have problems with close-ranged combat.
The squishiness was why Kotarō initially despised western mages. He started respecting Negi after he proved not-so-squishy.
Princess Amelia of Slayers is a well-rounded sorceress. She can utilize an effective balance of White Magic and Shamanistic Magic. However, she's usually the one that gets tossed around the most: there's when the low-ranking demon Seigram nearly kills her with a toss into a cliff wall in the second season of the anime/seventh book, and another demon breaks several bones in her body in the sixth book/fifth anime season. She also doesn't wield a weapon, which puts her at a disadvantage depending on the situation. Surprisingly, Lina, a far more powerful sorceress, is less "squishy.", early in the series she is capable of actually matching an average swordsman, its just that people who are in her team or people they are fighting are usually either highly skilled mercenaries or very powerful high class demons that it is impossible for her level of sword skills or simply immune to physical attacks, but when her magic is sealed during the plot, she continued to show she know more than a thing or two in swordsmanship.
Lelouch has an Magical Eye and an excellent sense of strategy but is one of the weaker cast members. This is usually played for comedy. In one example, during the school festival in R2, he was outrun by Suzaku, Shirley, Kallen in a walrus mascot suit, and even Milly, dressed as a dead ringer for Little Bo Peep. During actual combat however, while his strategies can make or break battles, his combat abilities are subpar, and will usually lose in a one on one fight.
Meanwhile in the Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion manga, Euphie is given this treatment, and shown to be unable to kick a soccer ball more than a few feet. This despite being a member of the Britannian Royal Family, and thus guaranteed to be at least somewhat intelligent and good with plans (she was able to "defeat" Lelouch, as he himself admitted, when it came to the SAZ), as well as being Cornelia's baby sis.
In one of the additional OVA-episodes of Ojamajo Doremi, the title character meets an ill (cancer, as it seems) girl called Nozomi, who believes in witches and that a witch's magic can only be strong, when her body is weak. Nozomi is discovered by the Ojamajos to be the ideal choice for becoming a witch-apprentice, since she seems already to be able to use magic to certain extent, even without using magic equipment or even a tap. However, Nozomi dies from her disease, before the girls are able to introduce her to the queen.
Hayate Yagami is a Squishy Wizard in a team comprised mostly of Magic Knights. Ranking SS on the mage power scale, her main repertoire is a vast array of powerful spells that cover a wide-area, nuking everything in its path. At melee range, she's helpless and needs somebody else, usually her Wolkenritter, to keep the more troublesome enemies away from her. It was explained in the sound stages that she never learned any magic the way Nanoha and Fate did. Instead, the power and spell knowledge came from her Linker Core merging with the original Reinforce's, so it is entirely possible that she simply doesn't have any spells weaker than a tactical nuclear device. Seeing how she rarely gets a chance to practice her even those (each is accompanied by mandatory authorization by TSAB and advance evacuation orders, no kidding), she also needs Reinforce Zwei to aim them for her. This is odd considering that Rein Eins not only had the Nigh-Invulnerability to No Sell everything thrown at her, but spells like Bloody Dagger show that she can fight effectively at the anti-personnel level.
One is free to doubt the canonicity of supplementary games, but The Battle of Aces shows that Hayate can handle herself quite well in melee. Either she is holding back that much in StrikerS or the game developers saw a need to prevent her from becoming a Joke Character like in Magical Battle Arena. This is explained by The Battle of Aces being an Alternate Universe to the main Nanoha Universe in which Ein is still alive and is around to teach Hayate how to use magic properly. BOA!Hayate already knows flight control in a few days after the main conflict of A's while Main!Hayate takes months being taught by Nanoha and Fate in the Sound Stage. BOA!Hayate could likely defeat Unison!Main!Hayate in a fight.
In Sailor Moon, the magically strongest senshi, Saturn and Moon, are both rather unimpressive physically. Mercury as well, being the support "caster" of the bunch.
Misaki Shokuhou is the fifth level 5 in the city, Mental Out, with telepathy and mind control so strong she can casually take control of an entire library full of mid level espers. Unfortunately for her, she uses this power to skip PE and make people fetch things for her.
Shokuhou:[gasping for breath] Don't start running with all your might... Mikoto: I thought I was only jogging.
Fiamma of the Right has the power of Archangel Michael and fire manipulation, but he's a scrawny wimp who goes down in one punch. Good luck getting close enough to hit him though.
The Graviton Bomber was a bullied geek who gains the power to make explosions and decides to get revenge on everyone, even people who didn't do anything to him, by blowing them up. Mikoto, a 14 year old girl, to prove a point about powers not being the only thing that matters, floors him with a single punch.
While not Wizards in the traditional sense, the puppeteers have this problem as they rely exclusively on their puppets to protect them and have no close combat skills whatsoever (with the exception of Chiyo, who was able to put up a fight against Naruto and his clone when she mistook them as enemies).
Nagato/the real Pain also qualifies relying on his six extra bodies which he can control from a distance, but only has one way to defend himself at close range (impaling someone with one of his chakra receivers and taking over their body) and can't move around easily — although it's not because of frailty from focusing on non-physical abilities, but a crippling battle wound.
Gaara, as he is very adept at jutsu (and makes heavy use of Shukaku's power), but almost never uses Taijutsu. (His stats confirm this trope.)
Nico Robin is squishy compared to the freaks of nature that inhabitat the Grand Line. If you manage to get past her long range power you have a good chance at victory. As a result, once the enemy gets in position to give her direct blows, she's screwed.
Nami also fits, especially the wizard part, what with her Clima-Tact's ability to create mirages, rain, and lightning.
Caesar Clown. Despite (or, perhaps more accurately, because of) his logia abilities, he's downright useless in a fight without them. That's why he relies on the fame of his far more powerful benefactors, because he's a weakling by New World standards and he damn well knows it.
Hohenheim in Fullmetal Alchemist has truly amazing (literally godlike) alchemical powers, but in terms of athletics, is exactly the geeky Non-Action Guy he looks like. This is kind of surprising when revealed, given that nearly every other character is a good fighter or at least fairly athletic, and alchemists tend to be more of the Kung-Fu Wizard persuasion. In Hohenheim's case, though, he makes up for lack in athleticism by being able to regenerate, likely from From a Single Cell as the homonculi can.
Big Bad example in Delphine Eraclea from Last Exile. She's developed some incredible More Than Mind Control brainwashing technology to control anyone she wants, but, she's very weak physically. Especially with her inability to stop Alex from choking her to death with one arm.
Played straight in Dragon Ball, the few cases we see of magic tends to not be directed towards combat. The one time a magician tried to fight was Babidi fighting Piccolo, and Piccolo quickly cut him in half (though it was a bit longer in the anime). Later, Buu easily kills Babidi by gagging him so he couldn't use any spells.
Whilst most of the Fairy Tail cast are either Kung Fu Wizards or Magic Knights, a handful of characters play this straight. Levy, Wendy and Bixlow are all pretty weak if you can get past their magic (and if you have your eyes closed in Bixlow's case). This is discussed early on, when some mercenaries mention that most mages neglect to keep their bodies in shape while they study magic. They must not have met many.
Sniper from YuYu Hakusho codifies the trope perfectly. His power gives him an Always Accurate AttackUp to Eleven, making him virtually unstoppable at a distance, even against monstrously powerful enemies. However, once that distance is closed he's completely helpless.
Rundelhaus Cord is this in Log Horizon. In his early adventures into a dungeon with a group, he attracts too many enemies, and fails to let the tank gain aggro to focus the monsters on him instead of the former, forcing them to run away repeatedly. It's only after Minori put her foot down and they all discussed their abilities with each other that they finally start working as a team and manage to finish the dungeon.
The various "magical" creature types in Magic The Gathering, such as wizards and shamans, tend to have lower power and toughness (on average) when compared to more smash-mouth creature types, such as beasts and warriors. As such, they tend to have more varied and useful abilities, taking the role of support or utility creatures. The new Planeswalker cards, introduced later, undermine this by making some fairly (if variably) tough characters who are, essentially, powerful wizards. One case of this appears in abilities with Gideon Jura, who as an ability that doesn't affect his loyalty that turns him into an indestructible 6/6 human soldier.
Professor Xavier of the X-Men, the most powerful telepath on the planet, can go anywhere and into anyone's mind... but not up the stairs.
Rachel Grey is an omega-level mutant with telekinesis and telepathy that are practically reality-warping and she's curb-stomped Galactus before, but in a pure melee she gets dropped fairly often including an absolutely vicious No-Holds-Barred Beatdown from her uncle Vulcan after he ambushed her.
Loki is a downplayed example; most depictions have him as a weak fighter... in comparation to Thor. He does have super-strength and endurance , which added to his magic make him a very powerful opponent.
Amora the Enchantress is in the same boat. She's got alot of magical power at her command but has no combat skills and has been beaten by other Asgardians easily. Compared to human beings she can take hits and barely feel them.
Oracle from the Batman and Birds of Prey books is frequently regarded as one by the few who see her due to her paraplegia and the fact that she concentrates on the mission control/hacker deity side of things. Those mooks who get in range of her clubs find out differently, usually the hard way (although compared to the people she runs with she is not that dangerous). This is perhaps to be expected, given that before she was shot and paralyzed, Oracle was Batgirl.
Marvel's first Star Thief represents the extreme end of this. He's permanently paralyzed and insensate, none of his five senses work. Due to this, however, he gained the ability to use his dormant psychic powers to the full. First he learned to sense through other people; then, he gained the power to vanish stars.
The heavily manga-influenced indie comic The Demon Mages stretches this trope to its literal extremes with sorceress/scientist Countessa Tesryon, a succubus (closer to an energy-vampire in this series) whose insides are described as being gel — like that of a spider. This has the effect of making her both physically durable (though still weak) and, to quote artist and writer Jason Robinson, "extra squishy".
Zatanna from DC Comics can do anything with her spells, as long as she's able to say them. One hit to the throat or gut and she's out of the fight. A fact that The Joker uses to his advantage in the Batman storyline Trust. He shoots Zatanna in the throat and dumps her into a glass casket full of water, while he's got Batman trapped in a chair, helpless to watch as she dies. Turns out she's not so helpless when hit in the throat. She heals herself and escapes by writing the required spells on the side of the casket with her own blood. Zatanna has been shown exploring other ways of charmcasting, owing to her heritage as a bona fide sorceress. However, she has always returned to logomancy.
Billy/Wiccan from Young Avengers. He's a borderline Reality Warper if you make him mad enough, but, like Zatanna, a good hit to the throat can take him out of a fight.
Hellblazer: While he's not terribly squishy. John Constantine is notoriously bad at fistfights, somewhat depending on the writer, losing almost any even fight with a common punk. All that smoking doesn't help his Constitution score.
Nico Minoru from Runaways. If you can prevent her from summoning the Staff of One, she's powerless (although she has been seen using the odd spell without it...) Then again considering that drawing blood is what summons the staff engaging her in combat might not be a good idea.
Mezmerella from The Incredibles. Her hypnotic abilities are impressively powerful and actually have a Lotus-Eater Machine effect on Dash, but the moment her power-channeling goggles are broken, it doesn't take much to bring her down.
The Scarlet Witch often received this treatment in The Avengers, being taken out of battles almost immediately so that her hex powers wouldn't end things too quickly.
The Molecule Man, at least until he discovers his full potential. For example, in the Secret Wars he is able to drop an entire mountain range that dwarfs the Appalachians on the heroes but is dropped by a single stab from Wolverine who had spent most of the series to this point getting swatted around by lesser villains.
Doctor Strange is a Kung-Fu Wizard, but he's also a physically-ordinary human being, so compared to heroes with super-strength or unbreakable skin, he's pretty darn squishy. As with Wiccan and the Scarlet Witch, he's prone to being laid out early by a blow a superhuman could shrug off, just to preserve the drama.
Lung, Daolon Wong's former apprentice, is a powerful dark chi wizard, but is not that good at physical combat. As proven when Right curbstomps and kills him.
Jade, after her encounter with Lung, is reduced to this, as most of her physical strength has been burned away, forcing her to rely on her (increasingly impressive) magic skills.
Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness: Jovian and Jacqueline, or at least the originals who served as Hokuto's Co-Dragons. They're noted to have immeasurable magical reserves, with Apoch's Laser Blade and their own powers being the only known weapons or powers thus far that can actually penetrate their barriers or deflect their energy beams, but have been shown to be rather poor physical fighters; in both of their major fights in Acts IV and V, the minute someone actually bypasses their defenses, they go down rather easily.
Films — Live-Action
Gandalf and Saruman in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. They are generally portrayed as physically feeble due to their (apparent) age, but not so much that they can't hold their own in a battle or ride long distances on horseback. Gandalf is shown to be anything but physically weak, and he kicks serious ass with both his staff and his sword. This is, of course, mostly because the Wizards aren't actually human beings, or elves for that matter (they're something closer to angels or minor gods). It should also be noted that Gandalf rarely uses his magic, except against magical opponents. He seems to prefer using his physical abilities.
Considering how easy it is for Rogar to kill him, Ambrose in The Gamers definitely qualifies.
Subverted in Warlock. For the most part the Warlock indeed relies on his eldritch powers and avoids physical confrontation. In the climax Redferne challenges him to take the final pages of the Grand Grimoire from him by force alone, without magic. The Warlock agrees and it looks like a typical Batman Gambit when the hero plays on the villain's hubris to even the scale, but the Warlock holds his own pretty well in a fight and it's Redferne who has to resort to supernatural means to stop the Warlock from kicking his ass.
Grey Star, the protagonist of the 4-book spin-off of Lone Wolf, exemplifies this, especially compared to the extremely badass Psychic Knight of the main series. Although Grey Star gets the same basic stat rolls as Lone Wolf, he receives none of the healing powers, combat-enhancing disciplines, or special items, and is heavily penalized if he ever has to fight bare-handed or with a weapon other than his magic staff. Sure, he can use his magic to multiply the damage inflicted by the staff — but this cost precious Willpower points that are much better put to use casting spells. The best strategy to win those gamebooks is certainly to avoid combats like the plague — and in fact, Books 2, 3 and 4 can all be finished without any fights if you're lucky (not so much with Book 1, though).
Carr Delling, protagonist of the Kingdom of Sorcery trilogy, starts as a fairly athletic young novice. By the time the last installment of the series begins, he's a prematurely-aged powerful wizard crippled by a teleportation freak accident.
While most of Tamora Pierce's mages are skilled in combat as well as weaponry, in the fourth Protector of the Small book, the villain Blaise relies on his seven foot bodyguard for protection.
Raistlin from the Dungeons & Dragons-derived Dragonlance Saga, who traded his health for magical power, resulting in a chronic, racking cough. Another mage is introduced who was also forced to sacrifice his great athletic prowess for his magic. This is a rule for Dragonlance wizards: they're basically a religious order, and their gods forbid them from doing any more weapons training than is necessary for self-defense, so they can better concentrate on their magic.
The Mule in Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. Also Hari Seldon who generally appears in a wheelchair. Prelude to Foundation (that deals with a young Seldon) describes it as almost sacrilege to think of him outside of that chair. Even moreso as a good martial artist, which he was.
Wizards in the Discworld novels tend to be unhealthy in a different way: most of them are Big Eaters (a "light snack" at Unseen University can run to several courses) and unlike many examples of that trope they do become hugely overweight. Exceptions include the Mustrum Ridcully, the current Archchancellor (a firm believer in healthy exercise), Rincewind and the Bursar (both of whom fit the "frail and emaciated" version of the trope, although Rincewind is capable of a fair turn of speed, perhaps making up for his total lack of magical ability), and the Librarian (who will squish you if you get on his bad side).
The trope is mostly averted overall though, indeed, before Ridcully, the major method of advancement in the University was killing a wizard of a higher grade with non-magical means, leading to a tendency amongst wizards to be quite tough.
Justified in the Heralds of Valdemar books: maintaining your skills as a magic-user is a full-time job. Maintaining your skills as a fighter is a full-time job. Yes, there are people who do both, but they do so by giving up any pretense to having a life outside their skills, and usually giving up on getting a good night's sleep as well. This is discussed off and on in later books, especially By the Sword — Mercenary Captain Kerowyn has to explain to magic-wary Valdemarans that magic is not all powerful and that mages go splat just as easily as anyone else; perhaps more. On the other hand, while few mages learn professional-level fighting skills, quite a few of them still maintain high degrees of physical fitness. Then again, the fact that in the Valdemar books manipulating high amounts of mana is work equivalent to heavy manual labor helps explain why there are so few fat, out-of-shape wizards. Of the various magic-using protagonists in the series, Kethry of the ''Vows and Honor' trilogy is the best example of a Squishy Wizard - and even she gets around it most of the time thanks to an Empathic Weapon that can take control of her body to confer upon her the skills of a master swordsman.
Voldemort is described as being very tall, thin, and bony, with chalk-white skin and spidery hands.
Harry could use a little meat on his bones too in the book, though in the Goblet of Firefilm, he's revealed to be quite athletic-looking once he takes off his clothes. Justified in that he plays sports (ie. Quiddich), and thus likely gets some kind of workout.
In Order of the Phoenix, Neville gets himself mocked by a whole group of Death Eaters for his pathetic skills with magic. A second later and he proceeds to tackle one of them to the ground and display the "other" use of a wand by stabbing it into the Death Eater's eye. The others seem somewhat shocked by such unorthodox tactics, giving Harry a chance to act.
Also, despite otherwise being heavily based on real British high schools, Hogwarts is notably lacking any sort of PE program. They have one sports team, (a sport in which most of the movement is done by magical broomstick) and nothing else. Though depending on the teacher their classes may be a bit more physically demanding than the average Muggle classroom.
In Anne McCaffrey's Pegasus in Flight (a Prequel to The Rowan) Peter Reidinger is the world's most powerful psychic Talent, with a totally paralyzed body. It's only because he is paralyzed, in fact, that he was able to discover his powers by telepathically calling for aid.
In The Elenium trilogy by David Eddings, Otha, the Emperor of Zemoch, is an immortal graced with unimaginable magic powers by his god. He's also lazy and stupid, and over the millennia of his existence has morphed into something that is described as being roughly analogous to Jabba the Hutt in appearance. He can't even walk; he has to be carried around on a litter by slaves.
Also in David EddingsPolgara the Sorceress, where Polgara notes that despite his elderly looks Belgarath will as readily resort to bar brawling tactics as to magic. Not to mention Beldin who casually tosses people twice his size around. Or Garion, who tends to prefer his BFS to magic. Or Empowered Badass Normal Durnik, who was a blacksmith before dying and coming back as a sorcerer. David Eddings likes 'verting this trope.
Oromis is the Cripple who is Whole. He can't use large amounts of magic and he has seizures from time to time. This (especially the latter) contributed to his death in Brisingr.
The High Priest (Priestess?) of Helgrind gave up all of its limbs (and part of its tongue) in ritual self-mutilation. It also possesses incredible psychic powers which it uses in a mental battle with Eragon, Arya, Angela, and Solembum. Oh, and it battles these super-powerful magicians all at the same time.
John Brunner's Telepathist introduces Howson, whose telepathic power is second-to-none. Yet he is afflicted with haemophilia, scoliosis and never went through puberty, because the region of the brain that controls the growth of the body was overwhelmed by the area that governs telepathic ability.
Wizards are not any more squishy than normal humans. In fact, their magical abilities grant them the ability to recover from injury that is beyond standard human capacity, enabling them to regenerate from third degree burns if given enough time and live for centuries (and Harry and plenty of other Wardens are in pretty good physical shape). However, wizards are still human and when compared to vampires, demons, ogres, trolls, things that hunt trolls, fallen angels, dragons and other super-strong monstrosities, they are subject to this trope. In one book, Dresden mentions that he's become so used to successfully fighting off magical assaults, that it never occurred to him that a sniper's bullet would do him in without so much as a saving throw. Ultimately, this is how he is killed. However, it did occur to him because he orchestrated the whole thing.
Harry himself has dismissed direct physical enhancement as an impractical use of magic given the number of required secondary alterations. It's possible having worked out those problems means giving up some claim to be human, and the White Council seems very reluctant to think of a nonhuman as a "wizard", making the term self-enforcing. At one point, Harry goes on a rant lampshading this trope during an alley duel. His enemy turns out to be an exception. Oops. He's also has been known to laugh at this. On one occasion, he uses a blast of fiery destruction to distract a monster, then runs up and just punches it in the face.
Man, the yahoos I scrap with never seem to anticipate that tactic.
In Nick Perumov's Keeper of the Swords series, there is the world of Evial, which features a "Rule of one Gift", meaning that you simply CANNOT be both a good wizard and a good fighter. In another world Mel'in, the physical weakness of most wizards allowed the young Emperor to successfully wage war against wizards. Nevertheless the same series there are Battle Mages, who are both super strong wizards and good fighters.
Justified for humans in the Myth Adventures series, where Aahz observes that, judging by Skeeve's learning curve, human lifespans aren't long enough to master both combat and spells. Nonhumans like Aahz (and possibly Tananda) have longer to practice and can thus become both magically competent and non-Squishy. Humans are also one of the physically less formidable races to begin with. Tandy, a trollop (female version of a troll), is every bit as powerful as her 8 foot tall musclebound walking carpet of a brother, Chumley, and while Aahz is shorter than Skeeve (something that the artists usually got wrong), Pervects are immensely strong, have scales that are indestructible against anything other than fire, plus vicious claws and fangs. Forget wizards, even physically formidable combat specialists Guido and Nunzo end up looking squishy next to them.
Sonea in The Black Magician Trilogy by Trudi Canavan, wins a critically important duel, that would determine whether she could continue as a commoner to learn magic, simply by the fact that her opponent had never done any exercise, and in a later scene couldn't even punch hard enough to leave a bruise on her shoulder. Sonea on the other hand was more than capable of breaking his nose and bruising his eyes badly enough to leave him blind until treated.
Most Qirsi from The Winds of the Forelands are short-lived and frail owing to the rigors of their magic. The exceptions are Weavers, the rarest and most powerful form of Qirsi — of the two Weaver characters, Grinsa is described as very physically fit, while Dusaan is built like a warrior king.
Inverted in the Black Company series, in that strength of magic makes a wizard harder to kill. Evil Overlord level wizards cannot only survive but function while suffering from wounds that even the most advanced life support systems would be unable to cope with, like having your head cut off.
In Jason Cosmo and its sequel, mages supposedly have fast recuperative abilities and enhanced stamina (apparently the result of magical energy constantly pouring into the body), but we virtually never see any evidence of this, with the exception of the Lancer of the story, arcane master Mercury Boltblaster. Mercury has the excuse of spending much of his life travelling to obtain the finest education in the world in martial arts and swordsmanship, to avoid having to depend on spellcraft. As he spends much of the books either unable to cast spells or unable to do so without calling hostile and (ludicrously) overwhelming force to his exact location, this turns out to have been an excellent use of his time.
Defied with the Asha'man of The Wheel of Time. When Rand sets up his Wizarding Boot Camp, he insists that the recruits learn swordfighting and hand-to-hand combat so they can defend themselves without magic if need be. The Aes Sedai usually plays the trope straighter; that's why they have Warders.
Terry Brooks' Shannara series toys with this notion in the form of the Wishsong users, who are Glass Cannons of the first order, and can easily be taken down once you get past the magic of the Wishsong. Since the Wishsong gives them Reality Warper powers, however, getting past it is not an easy prospect. The trope is averted by the vast majority of the Druids and the villainous magic users. Allanon verges on Kung-Fu Wizard, Walker Boh can take beatings that would make most shounen protagonists wince, and the various Big Bads are typically all but indestructible.
Most of the magic systems in Brandon Sanderson'sThe Cosmere avert this (the eponymous magic-users of Mistborn do so particularly spectacularly), but Shai from The Emperor's Soul is a straight example. Her magic is extremely potent- she's basically a Reality Warper, albeit on a small scale and with built-in limits- but because she needs to know exhaustive details about the nature and history of a person or thing before she can make a lasting transformation, she's much more scholar than warrior. However, if she does have to fight, she has a Soulstamp prepared to rewrite her own history so that she becomes a Proud Warrior Race Girl. In this state she can't use her magic, but she is an incredibly lethal warrior.
From the same novella, the Bloodsealer is also pretty frail, especially since he seems to take a bit of psychic feedback when his skeletals are destroyed. Since he's the only one who appears, it's unclear if this squishiness is the norm for Bloodsealers.
The 1973 proto-TV Tropes compendium The Book Of Weird (originally published in 1967 as The Glass Harmonica) describes with utter realism those common (and a few less common) elements found in your Standard Fantasy Setting. On the subject of Wizards, Author Barbara Ninde Byfield advises us to "Trust those wizards who are thin and fine drawn. Mighty muscles, ruddy cheeks, and genial dispositions bespeak wizards who when apprentices sneaked out to play instead of applying themselves to long days over hot crucibles and long nights poring over scrolls, tomes, tablets, and tracts."
Averted by Gandalf, Saruman, and the other Maia in Lord of the Rings, as they aren't human to begin with (and are as formidable physically as they are magically).
Older Than Feudalism: The Odyssey famously gives us Circe — who had no trouble at all turning Odysseus's men into pigs once they'd fallen into her trap, but immediately folded when her magic (due to a little help from Hermes) failed to work on him. Thankfully for both sides, in this case defeat meant friendship.
Black Swan: Averted by Von Rothbart, who according to Odile specifically disdains sorcerers who rely on their magic at the expense of mundane strength and combat skill. To that end, he's kept his body quite fit, is very adept with a sword, and has warded himself against most metals used in weapons although the one he neglects to does him in eventually.
Willow was BOTH Smart Girl and Squishy Wizard. She was fragile, shy, and physically weak, but was first choice for research and magic. Later she becomes powerful enough that she can use magic to make herself tough enough to beat up Buffy. She took an axe to the back and got right back up.
Out the Trio, Jonathan is the most magically adept.
It doesn't take much for Buffy to knock The Shadow Men to their knees.
Subverted with Cyvus Vail on Angel, an elderly demon sorcerer who appeared barely able to walk at first, but when attacked turned out to be faster and stronger than someone in his prime. Although as a demon, it's possible that this is just in comparison with humans and by his own species' standards he was very weak.
Although not exactly "squishy", Sylar from Heroes is shown as vulnerable whenever he is unable to use his powers - he gets beaten up by Peter and has to run away really fast from Noah Bennet. When he can use them, on the other hand, he is possibly the most powerful character on the show.
The titular character of Merlin fits this. He's the most powerful warlock in the world, but he's also skinny and physically weak and easily trounced when Arthur's using him as training practice. From Series 3 on, he inverts this; nowhere near Arthur's level, but skilled enough.
This is the case of all magic users in Noob. The fourth novel explains that there is a trade-off between capability to use magic and physical fitness for the human habitants of the Fictional Video Game's universe. Gaea stands out among the characters in such a case, as she sometimes uses it as a semi-legitimate excuse to retreat from battle and consider her teammates (including those that are presumably just as fragile as her) as human shields.
The Trope Maker gaming-wise has to be Dungeons & Dragons. The Wizard Character Class always has the smallest Hit Die (often a four-sided die), determining their number of Hit Points. They also start with no armor. In 3rd Edition, wearing armor inflicts a percentile Arcane Spell Failure chance that goes up as you get heavier armor — and in the earlier editions, wizards (who were called Magic-Users in the earlier editions and Mages in 2nd Edition) could wear no armor at all, ever, having to rely on magical items like Rings and Cloaks of Protection and Bracers of Defense to raise their AC. This cuts down on mage survivability at lower levels, especially since the AC system that D&D uses determines how hard you are to hit rather than damage, and Wizards get precious few spells at first level on a Vancian Magic system.
The Rules Cyclopedia, the definitive resource for Basic D&D, tells you straight out on page 19 where the Magic-User class is introduced about how a mage should not adventure alone and that his survivability is rather low without others to protect him. It also has Elf as a class that can use all armor but can only use up to fifth-level magic at their highest level (10th) unlike the mage who can get up to level 36 with up to ninth-level magic.
This has changed a little in 4th Edition. Controller classes (of which the only one in the first book is the Wizard) get the lowest number of starting Hit Points, the lowest rate of HP gain per level, the fewest number of healing surges, and are only proficient with the worst armor in the game. While it is possible to overcome these deficiencies with feats, it takes a lot of investment that could be spent elsewhere. Of course, they are also the only class that has a number of Area of Effect abilities. You can add your Dexterity bonus OR your Intelligence bonus to your AC when wearing no armor or light armor. Guess what's the wizard's primary ability score. Plus, wizards get numerous defensive and evasive spells. Overall they're not nearly as squishy as rogues.
Sorcerers in 4E unleash their power though 'psychical discipline', have strength as a key ability and have basic weapon skills. Some can also reinforce their bodies with magic. Not squishy, but tend to have low Armor Class.
Constitution-based Warlocks are among the toughest of the caster classes. This was explained as their powers being harmful to the mortal body by default. One such build, the Infernal Pact Warlock, can even gain temporary hp when Cursed enemies die, improving their staying power even more. This leads to the popular nickname "clothroach" for an Infernal Pact Warlock. Dark Pact warlocks don't have the same sack-of-HP qualities, but if you hit them, you take a pile of damage and are weakened. Sort of a horrible supernatural porcupine.
There's also the factor of enemy damage output in 4E being so low that no-one is squishy as long as enemies divide attacks, and everyone is squishy if enemies focus their attacks on one target at a time which renders the question of "more" or "less" squishy moot.
Mages in all The World of Darkness games are by far its most powerful and versatile supernatural creatures in general — but since they're physically human, they're still Squishy Wizards compared to vampires, Prometheans, werewolves, and demons, and need time to set up their more impressive feats, not to mention the risk of a Paradox backlash if any Muggles see them working "magick."
Then you have the Technocracy, the Sons of Ether, and the Virtual Adepts. Because the way the system is set up, the rules of the universe is defined by what most people believe to be possible; i.e. technology and science works because people believe it should. All three of these mage groups use very scifi-style magic and magical devices like: power armor, plasma rifles, cybernetics and bioengeneering. Which means you can end up with a spell slinging Space Marine character capable of taking on a tank battalion single-handedly. (The Technocracy has five Conventions, each of which has a sub-department dedicated to Breaking Things And People. The Void Engineers have actual Space Marines.) And there's the Akashic Brotherhood, martial artist mages.
Warhammer 40,000 plays this straight by most races' psykers, with the exception of some being real hardcases, such as Tyranid Hive Tyrants (but not Zoanthropes), Space Marine Librarians, Grey Knights and Chaos Daemons. Eldar Farseers are actually tougher than most other Eldar, due to slowly turning into crystal.
Wizards (apart from an extra wound or two) are barely more resilient than an average foot soldier. Then there's the Slann: although they can't fight in combat, they are near as dammit impossible to kill, having the second-highest number of wounds in the entire game, are always surrounded by Temple Guard to protect against physical attack, and have big shiny magic shields to protect against ranged. Also avoided by Vampires; already more than equal in combat to the Lords of any race except Chaos, you can then trick them out and make them the equal of almost any magic Lord. Speaking of Chaos, their wizards also have a tendency of being a lot harder than they have any right to be; mortal Chaos Sorcerers are the only wizards in the game that can wear armour. For the complete antithesis of Squishy Wizard, nothing beats sticking a couple of magic levels on a full-fledged Greater Daemon.
Vampires aren't dedicated wizards, the magic using lords of most factions start at level 3 and can be upgraded to level 4, Vampire Lords start at level 2 and can only be upgraded to level 3, so they might be better described as Magic Knights than wizards. Similar deal with Archeon in the Chaos army, who is in addition to being arguably the strongest fighting model in the game (currently), is also a level 2 wizard.
Ogre Butchers are Smash Mooks that practice a form of magic known as Gut Magic.
Then there is the High Elf mage Teclis, who is the extreme of this trope. Aside from having 3 wounds (which is meh by lord standards), he has the worst defensive stats in his army, who are Glass Cannons to begin with... and the best magic rules in the game. According to the fluff, Teclis' body is so weak he needs a regular diet of healing potions just to stay alive.
Anyone can purchase the Magery advantage and Spell skills quite freely; however, unless you have a lot of character points to build with, it's difficult to build a character who is both a powerful spellcaster and a mighty warrior.
3rd edition has a sort of built-in aversion; casting magic costs Fatigue, and Fatigue is a substat of Strength, so mages want to have a decent Strength.
4th edition bases Fatigue on Health instead; Strength now determines Hit Points. And Fatigue can now be raised independently of Health, so a Wizard can use Strength and Health as Dump Stats, freeing up points for magic spells and the like, at the cost of making himself squishier.
Anyone can pile on armor and anyone can be good at dodging and have a high Body stat, but Mages have to spread their points thinner, though, because they have magic to spend them on. And non-mages can afford to pile on cyberware and bioware that can give substantial defensive bonuses.
Wizards maintain a high casualty rate in Shadowrun due to a simple aphorism: "Geek the mage first." The cheapest heavy-damage abilities are magical, as are the only rapid healing abilities. Thus, the one throwing fireballs and healing spells gets the first clip emptied into him.
Drain; a few too many spells combined with poor rolls on Drain Resistance, and the mage ends up knocking himself out.
The Fantasy Trip plays this pretty straight. Wizards have to pay twice as many memory slots to learn non-magic skills (like how to swing a sword), and get penalized for wearing armor or carrying weapons (handwaved in-game by claiming that ferrous metals interfere with magic.)
In The Dark Eye, all magic users have trouble with heavy armour, since iron interferes with magic. Druids have a religious taboo against smelted metal, so they can't even use a regular knife (do get skill points for flintknapping, though). Wizards specifically are forbidden by law to wield weapons bigger than a dagger, or wear armour heavier than a gambeson.
Exalted mostly averts it, as anyone can learn Sorcery under the right circumstances, and there's nothing preventing a sorcerer from learning Resistance Charms. The Twilight Caste of the Solars were originally all about averting this, as when their Anima Banner flared, they could reflexively "harden" it to avoid taking damage. After the 2.5 Errata, the concerns about being one-hit-killed while prepping to cast a spell were reduced, so the Twilights were given magical senses instead; that said, the Resistance charm notes above still apply.
Magic-users in The Dresden Files can end up falling into this trap somewhat easily because (a) they need to spend a chunk of refresh on their powerset, leaving little to nothing for more "mundane" human-level stunts and (b) the system sharply constrains how many "top-level" and second-tier skills any given character can have and being competent at magic practically requires being good in three specific skills — Conviction, Discipline, and Lore — that, while not without their mundane uses (Conviction in particular sets the length of a character's mental stress track), aren't exactly very applicable to combat. Going the Magic Knight route is possible to an extent, that character is just apt to end up average at best (and possibly subpar) at anything that's not magic or fighting, which as in any modern setting is its own potential handicap in the Dresdenverse.
Luminous Arc 3: Yuu has tremendous MAG and MP, two AOE attacks and one life draining attack, easily outkilling and outdamaging everyone else in the game. Unfortunately he also has horrible HP and DEF (two hits will kill him), slow movement and poor range. Sara and Shion share a similar problem with worse stats.
Wizards in Incursion are exceptionally vulnerable to suprise attacks. They also need to see things from afar to kill them reliably - combine this with meager spot and listen skill ranks..
The spellcasters in Betrayal at Krondor are an interesting example. Seeing as casting spells depletes stamina and then health, in that order, they're technically Glass Cannons mechanic-wise while not being actual Squishy Wizards; They are less tough than the warriors and casting spells by itself makes them more vulnerable to going down if an enemy lands a hit on them, but in-game logic dictates that they're actually pretty physically tough to be able to cast powerful spells for a prolonged period of time. That being said, Owyn begins the game with strictly inferior weaponry, strength, health, and defense, eventually climbing his way to Badass only by participating in the majority of the game's battles, stat-boosting sidequests, and training sessions. Another playable spellcaster, an old man named Patrus, has such horrid physical stats that he'll probably spend most fights on the ground, bleeding to death.
Played straight in the Legacy of Kain series with Moebius the Timestreamer. Take away his vampire-paralyzing staff and Knight Templar mooks and all you've got is a skinny old guy that could be knocked over with a feather.
Mages in Retro Mud, which is balanced out by the fact that they don't see much danger.
As a psychic example, Alakazam from Pokémon. According to the Pokedex fluff in Emerald, its muscles are so weak that it has to use its psychic powers just to stand and move around.
Most Psychic Pokémon are infamous for having low defense and HP in contrast with high speed and Special Attack. The exceptions are usually Legendary Pokémon. Even Mewtwo became this when the Special stat was divided into two stats. Also, Alakazam has the second highest permanent base Special Attack of all non-legendary Pokémon, beat only by Chandelure (though Porygon-Z ties with it; Zen Mode Darmanitan and Blade Forme Aegislash also beat it, but only as long as they're in their corresponding formes). Pokémon with high Special Attack and Speed are called Special Sweepers. In competition, Special Sweepers are used to wipe out as many Pokémon as quickly as it can before ultimately dying... very good examples of glass cannons in action. (Chandelure, for the record, has competent defenses, and thus does not fit this trope quite as well as Alakazam, although it does have low HP.)
Other notable examples include Gengar, Mismagius, Florges, and several Electric-type Pokémon, such as Jolteon, Manectric, and Heliolisk.
Most Suikoden mages play this straight. However, due to the front and back line nature of the party (that is to say, a full party of six will always have three in front, and three in back), and that only certain enemies and attacks can hit the back row, mages are pretty safe. To provide balance, the primary casters are only able to use short range weapons, weapons that can only attack from the front row. Given how few spells a mage can cast before resting during the early game, you're stuck between letting the mage get the crap beaten out of her, or letting her do nothing half of the time.
In Suikoden I, Ted is the holder of the Soul Eater rune (which does exactly what it sounds like it would) and dies fairly early on in the game because of this.
Viki is one of the strongest magic users and has a unique "Blinking Rune". She is also the weakest physically and sometimes joins the Tenkai Star's army because she's looking for her next protector.
The OHRRPGCE game Magnus has quite possibly the squishiest wizard ever: Quio (or Ouio; the game can't make up its mind), who starts with just a little over fifty Hit Points, about half of that of each of the other heroes. Needless to say, he falls very quickly.
True for most spellcasting classes. While their hitpoints can easily compete with the other classes, mages, priests and warlocks can only wear cloth armor which offers low protection against physical hits, and fare poorly in most defensive type of stat such as defense or dodge. In theory, random items could provide any sort of stat, but those never keep up with the more "conformist" items. There are more hardy hybrid types, but they tend to be worse at spellcasting in return.
Although eliminated from the Player Versus Player metagame, a common PvP Priest build used to involve acquiring as many Armor-increasing as possible, along with the armor-enhancing self-buff Inner Fire, which with good equipment could lead to an AC similar to mail and a shield, rendering them nigh unkillable healers.
Paladins (a tank/healer hybrid) were known to outperform Priests in healing power, but only if they exclusively used cloth items, earning them the nickname Clothadin.
Warlocks, on the other hand, tended to prize sheer amounts of stamina (which increases their health) rather than stats that generally improve the amount of mana and mana regeneration. They can essentially trade health for mana instantly, and then drain the life of their victim to recoup the health loss. With proper talents they can also have damage reduction comparable to wearing mail with Soul Link and Demon Armour.
Magi, after being nerfed badly, complained on the WoW Fora: "We're not glass cannons anymore, we're glass peashooters!"
Another great example would be the Warlock's Imp minion. It only has long-ranged attacks, which do huge amounts of damage (compared to the other demons at least), however has very low defense and relatively low health. A non-caster could easily kill one in three or four whacks with their weapon.
In a raid, everyone but the tanks is this, regardless of how much armor and damage reduction effects they have. And even the tanks won't last long without a steady flow of healing in most cases. This coupled with a lack of caster equipment for the other armor types led to the previously mentioned Clothadins in early raids.
Every faction's casters are very fragile, vulnerable to most ranged attacks, spells, siege weapons, dedicated anti-caster units and abilities, and of course melee units if they get close enough. Caster-type heroes like the Archmage and Lich are also kind of fragile compared to other heroes, but get all the defensive benefits of being heroes, still.
In Final Fantasy II, equipping heavy armour decreases your Intelligence and Soul stats, so if you equip your mages with heavy armour, their magic will be almost useless, and if you equip your mage with light armour, they'll take heavy damage when they're hit. This was changed in the GBA/PSP Updated Re-release, so heavy armour will no longer decrease your magic stats, so now your wizards won't be squishy.
In Final Fantasy IVEdward might fit the trope. He can use his instruments to put status effects on opponents, but suffers from low HP, weak defences, and subpar attack strength (to the point where Edward would lose a purely physical fight with Rydia as a seven year old girl, based on their stats). However, he's not completely useless. In the GBA version when you can take him through the Cave of Trials, keeping Edward equipped with the Lamia Harp is a good thing since its Confusion status effect often results in the monsters killing each other rather than attacking your party and furhtermore it is inverted beyond level 70. Then his stats undergo the greatest gain potential (depending on the stat level up combinations, as in the SNES/GBA versions, whenever a character undergoes a level up beyond 70, there are several stat change combination possibilities, many of which actually include STAT DOWNS), possibly an artifact of a programmer joke prior to the realization that Edward would be dropped from the party within the early arc of the game.
Final Fantasy IV features a (temporary) aversion as well, in the form of Tellah, one of the few examples anywhere of a Stone Wall Wizard. When he first joins your party, his HP is significantly higher than the other characters, and the enemies are still weak enough that he can take some damage. Considering that Rydia is extremely low-level at this point and highly vulnerable, one of Tellah's roles is to provide a little physical distraction from the fragile child. When he comes back, he becomes a stone wall again as he is still initially sturdier than Palom and Porom, and until you complete Mt. Ordeals, he lacks most of his spells and his only real purpose is to help the kids conserve MP and take hits for them so they can stay alive long enough to Twincast. As the game goes on, he gradually eases into the role of Squishy Wizard as his stats actually decrease with level-ups and by the time his role in the game is finished, he is far and away the physically weakest character in your roster—so much so that his physical weakness becomes plot-relevant!
Final Fantasy XI provides the means to subvert this trope. The red mage and white mage can both be very survivable if they are equipped correctly, and the blue mage isn't all that bad a starting point for a non-squishy spellcaster either. The combination of the spell Stoneskin, which provides what's effectively a small pool of bonus Hit Points, and Utsusemi, an ability to nullify hits that is activated through expendable tools which can be accessed by setting your support job to Ninja, is the most powerful and popular way to do it, but there are other approaches as well.
Lulu and Yuna in Final Fantasy X do not take hits well at all. At the very least, they both make up for it by having the best evasion stat in the game and simply dodging. Oh, and for some reason Lulu comes with game-best physical defense, though not enough to offset her game-worst HP by much.
Final Fantasy XIII has Hope Estheim. He has the highest magic stat in your party and is the only one who can learn every offensive spell. However, he also has the lowest HP in your party.
Final Fantasy V subverts this by allowing your squishy wizard to equip the barehanded skill so that they can retaliate if left with no magic.
Tales of Eternia's Keele Zeibel embodies this trope — right down to his long, flowing robes, anemic appearance, and his quintessential mage's staff. Since childhood, he has been awkward, clumsy and sickly (and thus a target of taunts and teasing courtesy of Reid), but makes up for it by being a dedicated and highly intelligent (and argumentative, and anti-social, and obstinate...) university student who learns some immensely powerful spells as the game progresses.
In Golden Sun, where every character uses offensive "magic", Ivan stands out. He's got the lowest defense and attack of the party, worse than even Mia, the healer. However, he's a Fragile Speedster in addition to being a Glass Cannon, his weapons' special effects activate much more frequently than anyone else's, and with the right sword, he can deal tremendous physical damage.
In Phantasy Star IV, This is the case with most of the primary magic-users; Raja and Kyra, both potent magicians, benefit very little from being armed with physical weapons (Raja because he has low attack power and low natural defense, and Kyra because her magic is plentiful and much stronger than her regular weapon attack anyway). Designated party wizard Rune can cast so many spells between visits to the Trauma Inn that he can reasonably be given two shields as opposed to a weak staff. Since most other characters have their hands tied with weapons, this easily puts Rune's defense on par with everyone else. Early on when he first joins the party, giving him two shields, putting him at the front, and letting him clear the screen of monsters in one or two rounds is the best way to level grind. It's entirely possible to spend most of the game with your squishy wizards near the front of the party while your melee fighters take a safer spot at the back.
In Phantasy Star Online, the technique (magic) using class called Forces have nearly negligible physical attack and defense power and upon reaching ultimate difficulty, their own magical attacks become mostly ineffective against enemy resistance. However, once they find high-level disks for the spells Deband and Jellen, all Forces break this trope entirely and are capable of boosting the party's defense and lowering the enemy's attack so much that they become like kittens.
The Wizard class in Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords suffer from this. Battle (Attack power) and Morale (Hit Points and spell resistance) stats are the lowest of the four class AND the most expensive to upgrade (3 points each per Level Up. You only get four points to spend). But he does gain the powerful Fireball spell fairly quickly, and in the upper levels (around 35 or so) becomes an efficient death-dealing machine. (The Druid is similarly HP-challenged, but has some of best defensive spells in the game and learns them fairly quickly.)
Every single playable character in the DS RPG Magical Starsign is a squishy wizard with a different elemental affiliation.
Battle for Wesnoth's wizards and other magic users are generally fairly squishy, particularly at lower levels. Taken to extremes with the Dark Adept, who has no melee attack at all.
The Protoss High Templar from StarCraft are powerful psychics that can unleash psionic storms to devastate entire armies. However, a single Zergling can kill one of these guys if it makes it into melee range. This more or less applies to all the other casters in the game as well.
Only in game though. In the lore a High Templar is a veteran zealot who has no issue slaughtering a dozen zerglings in hand to hand without even bothering to strap his armor on. Tassadar could extend his wrist blades far enough to cut mutalisks out of the sky. You can probably see why they left that part out of the game.
The Controller and Defender archetypes in City of Heroes. They're "wizards" in that they possess a far greater range of powers than the more combat-oriented archetypes and have access to heals, buffs, debuffs and status effects that the others generally don't. They also have the joint-lowest hit points and virtually no defensive capabilities. The Blaster, Controller and Defender are, in fact, often collectively referred to as "Squishies" by the players of other archetypes (though the Blaster is more of a Glass Cannon).
In City Of Villains, the Corruptor, Dominator, and Mastermind fill this position — although the Corruptor overlaps with Glass Cannon, and the Mastermind is the best pet summoner and when used right is almost a Game Breaker. The game in general is a bit less focused on party roles and the "balanced party" concept than usual, resulting in more aberrations to the norm. Powerset and build choices are significant to level of squishiness, and an occasional complaint with recruiting certain Defender subtypes is that their personal survival abilities are so good they'd rather be soloing.
Donald Duck is a text-book example. Due to his utter lack of defense, hit points, and a way to replenish his magic points which forced him into attacking enemies physically, poor Donald seemed to die every time that a Heartlessbreathed in the same room as him. Fortunately, the sequel made him less of a glorified punching bag and more of a valuable party member.
Ana in MOTHER 1 is the only party member capable of using offensive PSI and has huge library of PSI abilities (both offensive and healing). Her attack and defense are abysmal however, her non-PSI attack does one maybe two damage and while her PSI attacks are useful in battle she's typically knocked out before real use can be made of them. She can make a great healer but can't use her powers if knocked out (which is often) ironically she learns the PSI to revive knocked out members far before anyone but being unable to use them on herself means lots of expensive hospital trips. Made worse is the fact she joins the party at Level 1 while other party members are typically between the Level 18 - 30 mark meaning lots of level grinding to get her to the point were she can survive.
Similar story with EarthBound's Paula who also starts out at level 1 when you get her and you have to travel through an area that has monsters that tend to one shot her. Although unlike Ana, she doesn't stay as that squishy and she isn't totally incompetent in physical damage as is the norm for this trope.
Mages and Skulls in Disgaea are by far the frailest units in the game. The exception to the rule (Flonne, when properly trained) easily demonstrates why; magic units that could take a hit would be total Disc One Nukes.
Played straight at first glance, where the magic-oriented classes do have the weakest armor, but they all have ways to bolster their defenses, especially those who pick up Ranger, Monk, or another class that gives them access to defensive abilities.
Earth Elementalists are the extreme however. They have an armor spell that alone adds more armor than a Warrior has, Ward Against Melee, which causes 50% of enemy melee attacks in an area whiff, Ward Against Elements, which provides a healthy bonus against elemental attacks, and Eruption, which blinds (90% miss chance) enemies in an area for up to 15 seconds. With the addition of other spells, an Earth Elementalist can prevent huge amounts of damage to himself and his party.
Played straight with mesmers though. Low armor, almost no direct damage dealing capabilities, and an extreme lack of self heals means that this is a VERY squishy wizard.
Played with in Darkstone. Although the wizard class starts with the lowest strength and the weakest weapons, through the use of attribute enhancing rings and elixirs, it is possible to have wizards who have similar strength to a warrior as well as the capability of wielding weapons from other classes.
As well as having typical druid powers, like transforming into a werewolf. Still pales in comparison to the damage they can put out with magic and throwing weapons, however. (especially due to the cancellation glitch, moving while in the middle of a throw stops the animation, allowing for a rapid-fire attack)
In Shining Force I and II, mages and clerics are usually at the bottom end of the stats ladder and, if you don't constantly use their powers even in inappropriate situations you might not get enough XP to keep them up with the others. Unless you are using Monks. In the first game, the only Monk has higher attack than the rest of the starting party. In the second game, (Master) Monks are so overpowered that the fighters might as well stay at home. Unfortunately for the good guys, the bad guys in II have monks too, but not nearly as hyper-strong.
The Necromancer in Diablo II is overpowered in the offensive spells department, and at the same time is frustratingly squishy.
Diablo III has two such classes: the Wizard (naturally) and the Witch Doctor. Interestingly, the Wizard himself is more of a Glass Cannon than the Witch Doctor. The former deals a large amount of direct damage, while the Witch Doctor relies on summoned pets, indirect damage and status effects.
In Tales of Maj'Eyal, the Sorceror gets more spells and magic power than other mages can ever dream of, but becomes twice as squishy as they are.
The online game ZeningDouble Subverts this trope. Angela is meant to be the team healer, and comes with 3 spell slots, as well as a whopping 108Hit Points. Unfortunately, she has abysmal attack power.
The Nu Mou race in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Final Fantasy Tactics A2. They are small in stature and have very slender limbs, making them a magnet to enemies who have high attack power, like the Bangaa. Obviously, the Nu Mou have the best magic stat out of all the races and use many kinds of offensive and elemental spells.
A2 somewhat lampshades the physical weakness of the nu mou by having one of the nu mou clan leaders in a cup tourney asking you to be gentle on them since they are old and their bones aren't what they used to be.
Conversely, Geomancers, the only magic-focused Gria, have below-average magic attack (and physical attack) but very high physical and magical defense. This very much makes them Masters of None, because the still below-average HP and limited armor selection makes their defense only slightly above average.
The Combine Advisors in Half-Life 2. They are large grub-like creatures that need mechanical arms and wear some sort of breathing apparatus, but they possess powerful psychic abilities. At their weakest they're still capable of telepathic attacks that leave Gordon (and the player) disorientated, scaling up to lifting multiple humans off the ground at once and immobilising them completely, with the current known peak of their personal power shredding buildings and smashing through defences without noticeable effort.
In experimental flash game Storyteller, when a knight and a sorcerer overlap, the knight always kills the sorcerer.
Doubly so in Warhammer Online: not only are Bright Mages and Dark Elf Sorcerers weaklings who have fewer hitpoints than everyone else and lack any form of armor whatsoever, but their spells can actually cause a magical backlash which hurts them too. Hilarity Ensues when they somehow manage to blow themselves up trying to kill you (which is rare, admittedly. Because they kill you very, very fast).
In Kingdom of Loathing, each class is aligned with one of the three stats, giving it a boost. Muscle increases your Hit Points, and Moxie increases your evasion chance. There is no defense given by high Mysticality though, so if you don't increase your other stats Saucerors and Pastamancers end up pretty squishy. On the other hand, they do get higher elemental resistance.
Miriene from Mystic Ark, though to compensate, she's the only character in the game who learns a spell to protect allies from spells for a limited amount of time.
Diver Down, and more specifically the character of Jenna, demonstrates why this trope should never be applied to a system that doesn't allow casters to leave the front lines. Better cast a protective spell at the beginning of any tough fight, or she's going down.
Merlin, the wizard in the classic game Gauntlet, has the worst armor (he has zero, actually), and he's hopeless at fighting. However, when it comes to his magical ability, watch out.
Wizards in Ragnarok Online are quite squishy. They do have a shield that uses their mana to soak up damage, though.
Aion follows this trope in an odd way. Sorcerers and Spiritmasters, who use offensive spells (and summoned monsters in the SM's case) are forced into wearing robes and having little HP in exchange for bending the universe to their will, and thankfully have some shield spells as protection. Clerics and Chanters (healing and buffing classes respectively) however, apparently don't spend as much time with the books, being allowed to wear chainmail armor and wield decent weaponry while beating things into submission without the use of offensive spells.
In Children Of Mana, Poppen has the best magic stats of all four playable characters, but atrocious defense and HP.
In Mass Effect 1, all of the "support" classes (Engineer, Adept, Sentinel) have powerful support abilities based around technology or biotics, some of which border on Game Breaker, but can only wear lightweight armor. The more combat oriented classes with support abilities (Infiltrator, Vanguard) have more armor and weapons skills but consequently less support capability. OTOH, all biotics can learn Barrier, which provides significantly better shields than the best armor Soldiers can buy. And their lightweight armor tends to provide better defenses against biotic and tech attacks. Quadratic, indeed.
In the sequel, Shepard can wear any type of armor regardless of class, but the support classes tend to have somewhat lower health. In addition, the squad members with biotic and tech powers tend to have lighter armor, with characters like Mordin, Tali, Kasumi, and Jack having little to no armor at all. Oddly enough, while Engineers and Adepts are not noted for having strong shields (Engineers in particular are advised to only stick their heads above cover when they have to), the Sentinel's Signature Move, Tech Armour, makes it surprisingly durable, especially if combined with a talent like Energy Drain in 3, which in extreme cases will allow a Sentinel to stand out in the open, in front of basic geth troops, without actually losing any health.
Just like in the regular game, Dungeons & Dragons Online makes wizards and sorcerers the squishiest of all the playable classes, with elven and drow mages being especially squishy due to lower Constitution. Playing them is mainly reserved for those who are good at the game, as just like the regular game, low levels can be unforgiving as hell for mages. Also those who know exactly what spells they'll need for their next quest; wizards in particular are designed for And Knowing Is Half the Battle... um, Crazy-Prepared.
Reyvateils in the Ar tonelico series are this combining with a very dangerous Glass Cannon. They can't attack or defend and tend to have very low hit points. Instead, they sing a song to either cast a powerful recovery magic every turn, or to build up a Combined Energy Attack while the enemies are busy attacking their bodyguards, and then launch it and hit for Massive Damage. The only exception for the first two games is Coccona, a Cute Bruiser who fits as a bodyguard instead of a singer.
Otani Yoshitsugu is an Evil Sorcerer with leprosy. He's confined to a palanquin he levitates with his telekinetic powers, and attacks enemies using telekinetically manipulated praying beads. His HP, attack and defence stats are decisively below average, in addition to his slow movement rate and horrible turning radius.
Oichi in her third game incarnation is similar. Using magically conjured shadow hands to attack and throw mooks about from a great distance, Oichi's body is in itself little more than a puppet dragged along by those very same hands and is defenceless without them. Like Yoshitsugi she depends mostly on keeping enemies at a safe distance where she can keep stun-locking them.
RPGs from Bethesda tend to subvert this trope as the game progresses. Wizard-type characters do start pathetically weak compared to pure warriors, but then you gain experience and abilities, and by the end of the game you're wearing enchanted defensive vests and making potions so insanely powerful gulping one can send your stats up to demigod levels. Cue instazapping everything to death and beating, slicing and pincushioning the survivors with stupidly damaging enchanted weapons.
Downplayed (after Daggerfall) in The Elder Scrolls series due to their class/skill/levelling systems — the distinction between wizard-types and other-types are softer than in most other games. It is entirely possible to have what is otherwise a mage-type that uses heavy armor (which in Morrowind and Oblivion will also lead to the stat governing health being more advantageous and easy to increase). When it comes to Skyrim, the removal of the class system means that this trope is more something you grow into as you put more resources into magicka and your magical skills than something you start as.
Melia in Xenoblade has natural ability to manipulate ether energy, which is about as close to magic as it gets in the game's setting. Her defensive stats aren't actually any worse then the rest of the bunch, but her HP is barely over a third of the amount that the toughest party members possess at max level. On the other hand, she's the only party member who's capable of dealing over a million damage in a single attack under the right circumstances.
In the Dawn of War series, you have actual Squishy Wizards, Psykers, who teleport in, blast everything to death (or not to death) with their psychic abilities, then (hope to) run away to regenerate their energy and let their abilities cool down. And on the other hand, you have Religious Magic (or Daemonic Intervention, or Chaotic Sigils, or <insert more lore-o-babble here>), used by the actual soldiers able to withstand a few hits.
Magicka plays it for laughs, since the players can and will kill each other as or more easily than the enemies with their own spells.
In Persona and Persona 2: Innocent Sin and Eternal Punishment, persona selection and stat growth determine a character's role. Maki is very squishy in the first game. In Innocent Sin, Jun is overall squishier than the other characters. You can also choose to build your protagonist (unnamed in the first, Tatsuya in P2:IS, and Maya in P2:EP) as squishy or not as you like.
In Persona 3 and Persona 4, the protagonist's squishiness depends entirely upon the persona he has equipped, but usually is more of a Magic Knight. Yukari is more of a Squishy Wizard in P3, while Yukiko is similarly so in P4.
In the Devil Survivor games, focusing most of your points into one stat is better than rounding out, so the protagonist is either a vicious brawler or this. Yuzu also tends towards this, as does Amane.
In The Denpa Men, Denpa Men with antennas (essentially, magical powers) have far weaker physical stats and tend to be slower than Denpa Men without skills. The more offensively-oriented the skill, the weaker their stats tend to be, too—so a Denpa Man who can blast all enemies with light will have weaker stats than one who can merely blast one enemy with light, who will have weaker stats than the speed-upper, who will have weaker stats than the 'man who merely cures Poison for a living.
Caster in Fate/stay night is an unbelievably powerful spellcaster, but she is considered among the weakest Servants because the others all outdo her in physical capability. In fact, in Unlimited Blade Works, she is taken down easily by a mere human being in a fist fight, which would be completely out of the question for any other Servant.
In Highborn, the Wizard units that can be recruited in towers will go down in one hit but are able to deal a lot of damage with their magic if they get the first strike. Their unit description explains that a lifetime of being cooped up in a tower studying old tomes doesn't leave room for exercise.
Being based on Dungeons & Dragons, the Neverwinter Nights series follows the trope. Pure wizards start with pathetic hit points - it's absolutely impossible to survive without allies to act as tanks, because you start with pathetic defensive spells and anything that so much as sneezes on you will rob you of all your hit points. And you can't even go all tin-can happy, because wearing armor reduces your spellcasting abilities. It takes a surprising amount of progression before you can cast enough defense to afford some tanking yourself; in the meantime, you'll be entirely dependent on your party for survival.
In-universe example with Noel from BlazBlue. She's stated to have received below average academic and athletic scores from testing, but she makes up for it by having the highest Ars Magus aptitude score ever recorded in the history of the NOL Military Academy. The poor athleticism thing seems to be an Informed Flaw, though; her fighting style is very acrobatic, though she is quite a Fragile Speedster in gameplay terms, so maybe it is true.
Riannon in Aquapazza moves much slower than the other characters and relies on long-distance zoning tactics.
In Clash Of Clans, Wizards shoot powerful fireballs, but can't take much of a hit.
Most electronic warfare ships in EVE Online, while quite useful in battle, have no tank whatsoever.
Roxis, on the other hand, keeps this status throughout the game. Even Jess takes hits better than he does,and she's Secretly Dying.
Lords Of Magic has this and the enemy AI is very aware of it, making a beeline for your mages the second battle starts. The main thing that makes the Death faction's special creature the Lich superior to other mages isn't its immense mana pool, but the fact that it has decent physical stats and the Defend ability, allowing it to cast some spells and turtle up instead of you devoting all your concentration to keeping it alive.
Yuga, the Big Bad of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Whereas Ganondorf is a mighty Magic Knight even without the Triforce of Power, Yuga relies on magic and trickery. Although he was clearly underestimating Link, he was forced to turn him into a painting after being beaten in their first fight and was forced to retreat during their second encounter or Link could have defeated him.
Black Dragon: What would happen when we turn the magic off? Anti Magic field. Fascinating. It appears that you cease to be a mighty wizard and become a fragile pointy eared monkey.
Black Mage of 8-Bit Theater has been described as "weak" and "noodly" by his party members. Also smelly, but that's irrelevant.
Black Mage: I'm the CASTER, y'know. It's like I'm a cannon made out of glass. Like a... y'know, like a dainty figurine so ornately decorated you can't imagine how something so fragile manages to exist in this brutal, ugly world... And it makes you weep. Red Mage: I... would've just stuck with Glass Cannon, probably.
Such claims aside, however, the facts would seem to contradict this, as he has frequently survived consecutive collisions, impalements, incinerations, and the like, any one of which would, if the damage were distributed evenly over an average RPG party, probably result in a Total Party Kill. (Indeed, BM is often subject to The Worf Effect, and thus must be quite durable to avoid having been Killed Off for Real.) His skill with daggers has proven sufficient to slaughter hordes of massive sea monsters without the aid of his ungrateful party members, and the one time a spinal injury did result in his death, he was no longer bound by the restraints of a physical body and simply took control of Hell and came back. Alternatively, his ability to survive these injuries may be due to Sarda's hateful patronage. Sarda makes sure he survives, but in a very brutal manner. Sarda wants Black Mage to HURT, and hurt A LOT. He literally teleported him to "Hurt, Australia" and dropped said continent on him. Black Mage survived, of course, but was blamed for destroying a city with the tidal wave.
Dominic Deegan, as his prosthetic leg, false teeth, and note from his doctor expressing disbelief that he's not dead can attest. Though he is rather strong on the psychoplanes. And his younger brother Gregory was rather frail at first, though that was due to infection by the blight of the undead, once that was removed his White Magic went into overdrive. And every mage mind controlled by King David Johann practically falls apart when attacked thanks to his magic rotting them from the inside. Though there's also several exceptions, such as Milov Danovich the Spellwolf, The Infernomancer who is practically unkillable thanks to his pact with the demon of wounds, and Dominic's other brother Jacob the self-proclaimed "zombie alive".
Weregeekillustrates this with Sarah's mage's attempt to wipe out a roomful of orcs in the D&D game. Said spell was her last one.
Hanna seems to fit this trope: a scrawny little guy who writes runes as his main form of attack.
Aetheria Epics's first story primarily stars a magic-user who is pretty useless at physical combat and goes down without much effort. It hasn't stopped the readership from voting for her to try it a few times, though.
This running gag is amusing but inaccurate. Richard has proven himself in physical combat more than once. And being undead, he does not bleed or feel pain. Benny, on the other hand, is a much straighter example since she has lost every physical fight she's been in (not counting the bar fight in her first appearance due to Early Installment Weirdness).
In the Whateley Universe, powerful mage Fey was considered a pushover in a close-up fight. After she was nearly beaten to death by a mutant ninja, she's been learning Tai Chi and learning how to use a scimitar. It appears to have worked rather well, considering her fight against Mule.
The "jammers" in Shadow Unit have reality-warping psychic abilities, but tend to be physically vulnerable for an extremely good reason: killing people with your brain burns calories. A lot of them. And if you think that sounds like a selling point, ask yourself when was the last time you went into ketosis after missing lunch.
Actually invoked in The Guild, in which, while confronting Zaboo's mom, Tink tells her to lay off Codex, saying "she's squishy."
The Beacon, a mystic superhero from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, was once described by a teammate as "fluffy". Another teammate called her "well padded." She describes herself as a big beautiful woman. Either way, she tends to avoid close combat as she's horrible at it and always gets her butt kicked when it happens.
Mozenrath of Aladdin: The Series. The necromantic magic he uses is VERY powerful but, it continuously drains his physical strength and life energy.
A somewhat more literal example. The episode Wizard Battle features a wizard named Abrakadaniel, whose body is squishy:
Abrakadaniel: It's how I survive.
The Ice King. Without his crown, he has no magical powers, and without his beard, he cannot fly. And he's a scrawny old man.
Raven from Teen Titans isn't as squishy as she could be, seeing as she has at least some martial arts moves, but she's still the most vulnerable to direct physical attack of anyone on the team, and if her spellcasting is interrupted the effect will usually fizzle (or worse, go haywire).
In Teen Titans Go! Raven has become so dependent on levitation that she can no longer use her legs properly. This is likely a case of Flanderization, however.
Zatanna again in Young Justice. Magic aside, she can dodge a thrown sword, she can jump between rooftops, she can pull off a diving save, but when she actually attempts physical combat, Harm drops her in one hit.
In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Twilight Sparkle sometimes is and sometimes isn't shown to be one. Overall, she seems to be a downplayed example. Although she does lack in physical strength, she does have stamina and endurance to spare (necessary for her Iron Butt Monkey status). Occasionally, Twilight manages to compensate for her lack of strength by using her vast knowledge to accomplish a physical task in the most efficient manner that requires less brawn (as shown when she wins fifth place in a race involving dozens of competitors without using magic, because she knows a lot about the proper technique even though she had never raced before).