"A master of the Dim-Mak can poke an enemy in a certain spot and they die. It originated in ancient China when early man still had prominent off-switches located around the body, much like a modern lamp. Back then, you could kill a guy by selling him the wrong sized hat."
A particularly subtle type of Dangerous Forbidden Technique
, the Touch of Death allows its practitioner to instantly kill their opponent with extremely minimal force. This can be accomplished either with one touch at a specific point
, or a series of precisely calculated strikes.
The victim often survives for a few moments, allowing for the drama quotient to be raised either by quiet resignation or desperate denial, sometimes while the killer describes in exacting detail
what the technique is doing to the victim.
For the non-lethal version that renders an opponent simply immobile, see The Paralyzer
A subtrope of the One-Hit Kill
. Not to be confused with video game Collision Damage
, which is often given this name. See also Finger Poke of Doom
, Make Them Rot
, Psychic Surgery
and Poisonous Person
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- Fist of the North Star: The martial art of Hokuto Shinken specializes in this, with often very messy results for the poor bastard on the receiving end.
- Bleach: Soifon's released zanpakuto creates a butterfly print on the body of whoever it hits. When the attack hits the same spot a second time, that person dies after a time period sufficient for them to realize their predicament. What makes this ability even scarier is that the second strike does not need to share the same entry point as the first one; it only needs to share the same surface of the first strike's wound itself. She demonstrates this by impaling Ggio Vega twice, once from the front and once from the back, both times striking the same area in his lung inside his body.
- Matsuri's Inherent Gift in Sola is the ability to rapidly decay anything she touches (if she chooses). Takashi freezes in place when she grabs hold of his arm during one of their battles.
- Scar's body destruction technique in Fullmetal Alchemist. It's explained as being incomplete alchemy- - alchemy is in three parts, analysis, disintegration, and reintegration; Scar stops at the second step. Edward does the same while fighting the Slasher Brothers.
- The title character of AR∀GO: City of London Police's Special Crimes Investigator picked up this ability from a supernatural Serial Killer, but has failed to find a way to turn it off. So far he's not angsting much about it, since it helps him fight other monsters, but it's a bit inconvenient, to say the least. (It's decay-based and works on anything organic, though it's slow-acting enough that he's been on the wrong end of an Armor-Piercing Slap with only minimal damage to the slapper's hand.)
- The Hyuuga Clan specializes in the "gentle fist" technique. By attacking chakra points, they can screw with your internal organs.
- Danzo's body guard Torune can also kill you with nothing but a touch as any contact with his skin can spread microscopic insects into the target that rapidly destroy their cells with poison.
- One Piece:
- Darker Than Black: If Hei can touch you (either directly or indirectly with a conductive material), he can electrocute you to death.
- November 11 as well, where Hei can essentially fry people he can turn them into popsicles - he can instantly flash-freeze anything he makes contact with.
- This isn't a literal example, but if you watch Axis Powers Hetalia, you know that Russia is not to be angered. EVER. All of the countries know this. So when he goes to visit Italy and Romano, he tries to be as sweet as possible, and goes as far as putting his hand on Italy's shoulder. This causes them both to freak out, and Romano's next line could be the Trope Namer. (At least, in the English dub.)
Romano: Touch of death!
- A Certain Magical Index: Accelerator can use his vector control to reverse a person's bloodflow or bioelectricity just by touching them if he wants to (with the obvious exception of touching Touma's right hand.
- Black Mage Zeref from Fairy Tail has this as his main magic, but he can't really control it, that's why he isolated himself for several centuries.
- Laurel Darkhaven of Rising Stars is dismayed at first that she can only use her telekinesis to manipulate small objects. Until she realizes that includes the carotid artery. She becomes an assassin for the government.
- Rogue from X-Men is normally Blessed with Suck, but during some issues her sucky power was overloaded into the "you touch her, you'll die" category.
- There was also Wither from New Mutants, whose power was decaying any living (or once-living) thing he came into contact with. He eventually left the institute and fell in love with Selene, who was immortal and couldn't be affected by his power.
- Carrion, from Spider-Man's rogue gallery is a virus variety of undead, with a death touch.
- Another Spider-Man villain with touch of death is Styx who got his powers from cancer experiment done by his associate Stone. He needs to kill in order to survive, can kill almost anything living and can disintegrate organic matter. He almost killed Venom Symbiote with his touch in one of his first fights.
- An early issue of Grant Morrisson's Animal Man featured the tragic "Red Mask" who'd always wanted to fly. In the 50's he touched a glowing meteor hoping it would give him powers; it did but the power was a literal death touch, any person or animal he touched would die. He feels he has no choice but to become a villain, something he's not very successful at. Animal Man runs into him in the midst of a last hurrah, attacking San Diego with lowtech robots he'd won in a poker game. Now elderly, overweight and dying of cancer he throws himself off a building and Animal Man is too late to save him.
- The Touch Of Death is common in the Marvel Universe. Besides Rogue and Wither, there's Selene the former Black Queen of the Hellfire Club, a mutant with a life draining touch who has lived for millenia thanks to her powers, during which she also became a powerful sorceress. One of her followers, Lois London aka Mortis, constantly emits a disruptive energy field that can induce heart attacks in living creatures. X-Force member Joshua Foley aka Elixir can use his bio-manipulation abilities to kill people (pretty horribly too). Dark Young Avengers member Melter can, well, melt anything with a touch, and much like Wither, accidentally killed his parents this way.
- Alpha Flight villain Deadly Ernest was an example of both this and The Punishment: as a soldier in World War I, he was killed in battle, but rejected Death when she came for him. As a result, he was cursed to kill every living thing he touched. He ended up using the power to set himself up as a crime boss.
- In Batman, the third Clayface, Preston Payne, received the power of melting human flesh into protoplasm with his bare touch. Preston is reluctant to use this ability, but he's wracked with horrible pains and headaches, and his touch momentarily allows him to transfer the sickness to another person. It's been mentioned that he's now on medication to reduce this pain, so any time he feels he needs to relieve his suffering is psychosomatic.
- In Green Lantern, a member of the Sinestro Corps, Murr the Melting Man, was an alien scientist mutated in a lab accident into a shambling, mindless being who can melt anything he touches. His teammates make a note to keep their forcefields up when he's around.
- The Flash: Wally West learned a death touch technique in one mid-80s annual that was never, ever referenced again.
- In issue #398 of Supergirl, Supergirl briefly gains a power that means she kills everything she touches.
- This happened because the writers were realising quite how ridiculous and annoying the League of Superpets had become, and it was an easy way to drop bridges on them.
Films — Animated
- In The Book of Life, any living thing Xibalba touch dies. The best example is the food from the Land of the Remembered, that instantly turned to mold, with a sickly green color, after they touched him.
- In Epic the Boggans' weapons can deteriorate anything they touch. Mandrake's staff is much more potent, able to fell a tree with one swing.
- Kung Fu Panda:
- Tai Lung is able to paralyze anyone with his nerve strikes, but his method was crude and amateurish compared to Master Oogway who is fast and skilled enough to strike with a complex pattern of nerve strikes and do it in Bullet Time! Also subverted in that one of Po's advantages is that his body fat protects his nerves so well that nerve striking is useless on him.
- There's also the Wuxi Finger Hold, which (neither the scene in question nor Word of God is entirely clear) causes the victim to explode with city-shaking force merely by flexing the pinky finger.
Films — Live-Action
- Kill Bill: Pai Mei's legendary Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique, which is used by the Bride on Bill himself.
- Eponymous in Kiss of the Dragon, where Jet Li is able to do this by delicately applying a needle to the base of the skull, such that when he removes it, all of the victim's blood will travel to his head and not come out, resulting in an agonizing death as he bleeds out of every orifice in his head.
- Death in Last Action Hero can kill with a touch (complete with a tinkly "ding!" sound effect for extra Lampshadiness).
- Iron Monkey's Hin-Hung, Imperial Legate Officer, renegade Shaolin monk and all-around Big Bad of the movie, wields the "King Kong Palm," which allows him to deliver "the Buddha's Hit," which leaves a handprint embedded on the victim and poisons the blood.
- In The Men Who Stare at Goats, a move fitting this description supposedly killed China's greatest martial artist - thirty some-odd years after the fact. Lyn believes himself to be affected by this. Presumably the story is based on the "quivering palm" theory of the death of Bruce Lee. (Short version: a martial arts master, angry over Lee revealing martial arts sequences in his films, killed him with a slow-acting deathblow.)
- In Osmosis Jones, Big Bad Thrax has a particularly long clawed finger which allows him to kill the other cellular beings he interacts with by simply touching them. Within moments of appearing on-screen, he gently pricks a harmless cell worker who horrifically boils/burns alive from the inside out.
- Possibly example: the infamous Avada Kevadra spell in Harry Potter kills (almost) anything the instant it strikes. It also utterly obliterates objects.
- To clarify, it's not known whether the spell fulfils the 'minimal effort' criteria. The only wizards absolutely known to have used it (Voldemort, Barty Crouch Junior, Severus Snape and Thorfinne Rowle) are all dark wizards that have presumably practised the spell and are very much in tune with that area of magic. The Cruciatus Curse is not an easy curse for somebody that doesn't 'mean it' and so a similar rule might well apply to the big daddy of the curse world, too.
- In the novel Forever After, hingu master Gar Quithnick can inflict all sorts of instant or conditional death or paralysis with a touch (in addition to conventional martial arts). The highest technique of his art is a touch that will kill an opponent when he experiences a moment that defines his life. After using it on a deposed tyrannical despot, Gar informs him that he can live a long life of modesty and humility, or go back to his old ways and die.
- In Loyal Enemies there's a caste among the elves, the liorel, who can kill by their touch. Virra's one of them. Their treatment by other elves vary from "I don't want to have you nearby" to "Well, they can't help it."
- In the Larry Niven short story Death By Ecstasy the detective hero uses his "imaginary arm", a form of short-range telekinesis, to stop the Big Bad's heart by reaching inside his body and squeezing.
- In his books, Robert Rankin frequently references a supposed martial art called "Dimac", with which one can maim and disfigure opponents with a mere fingertip's pressure.
- In the Wild Cards universe, there is a literal example and the slightly different "deadly stare" power of the ace Demise, who can kill by locking eyes with a person for few seconds.
- Employed in the first book of the Martial Arts series Jason Striker by Piers Anthony.
- Sau'ilahk of The Saga of the Noble Dead is capable of killing humans with a single touch. (Dwarves are somewhat hardier, as he learns to his consternation).
- In the second book of Skulduggery Pleasant, Playing With Fire, the villain, Baron Vengeous, has a power that quite fits this: If he looks at people and has the will to, he can make "The body forget everything it ever learned about holding together", in short: explode
- The fifth book, Mortal Coil, has the Russian assassin Tesseract, who has a rare ability called Bonebreaker. With it Tesseract can fatally shatter bones with the lightest of touches, but apprently it only works if he's touching the victim with his fingertips.
- In The Adversary Cycle book The Touch, the Dat-tay-vao, a healing power, also works in reverse if someone gets in the way of the person with the power, and kills them with one touch.
- In the Laundry Files novel The Fuller Memorandum, the Nyarlathotep cultists' bungled summoning leaves Bob with the necromantic abilities of an Eater of Souls including the clearly labelled one. It takes some time for him to learn enough control to be able to touch someone without killing them.
- In the Paradox Trilogy, the Stoneclaw virus grants this power to its host. When it is active, her hands turn a sooty black color, and anyone she touches dies.
Live Action TV
- Dungeons & Dragons
- Earlier versions have a few spells that do this (such as Slay Living, the evil reverse of the 5th-level Raise Dead for clerics), as well as the Quivering Palm ability of the Monk, which allowed the monk to simply will the death of the target for some time afterward. The downside is you can only use it once per week. Thanks a lot, Wizards!
- Although Monks in 4th edition have no instant Touch of Death attacks, Quivering Palm returns as a highest-level once-per-day power that does high damage and ongoing damage that gets worse with each failed saving throw.
- A demilich, which is a lich only more so, can trap a living creature's soul if they fail a saving throw. What's more, unless it's defeated less than twenty-four hours afterward, the demilich will devour it, rendering the unfortunate victim Deader Than Dead. And it can trap up to eight souls per day. Have fun.
- There is an Epic Level spell in 3rd edition called Memento Mori. You think that you want someone dead. They die. Nothing else to it. They call it Epic Level magic for a reason.
- 3.0 and 3.5 editions really love these kinds of abilities. Many "save or die" effects exist in the game. To name a few: Flesh to Stone, Disintegrate (you MIGHT survive, but probably not), Power Word: Kill, Implosion (one target PER ROUND), the special Cleric power for the Death Domain (I believe it's even called Touch of Death), the Vorpal weapon enchantment (decapitates on a failed save), to name a few. There are also numerous Psionic variants which are even more brutal, with Decerebrate (save or get lobotomized) being probably the most straightforward. Some of these are not guaranteed to kill you instantly (even if you fail the save), but you have to be really durable to survive them.
- Slightly more balanced is the Enlightened (read: fancy-pants martial artist) ability in Deadlands, the aptly-named Poison Palm. Hucksters have a similar ability. Sykers have a number of variations on this trick, but the one that actually requires touch is called "heartstopper." Then again, Sykers are Bad Ass Super Soldier Ninja In The Future. (Yeah. Dey gots baggage.)
- Warhammer 40,000: Mostly the province of daemons and C'Tan, but psykers have been known to pull it on occasion. By accident, on themselves. And anyone unlucky enough to be anywhere near them.
- GURPS: Martial Arts notes that this exists everywhere, 17th century fencers had the botte segrete. The actual dim mak is just a use of the (fortunately cinematic) Pressure Secrets skill or an Innate Attack called "Hand of Death".
- Feng Shui doesn't have many fu powers that might qualify as a "Touch of Death" (even Lightning Fist, on a path that includes "Dim Mak" which only ignores armor, mainly does damage that bypasses Toughness), but the prime contender for the title would be Storm of the Tiger, the ultimate technique of the Path of the Healthy Tiger, which you can only get by mastering both the healing and the vengeful paths of the style, and which allows you to spend as much Chi as you want on a barehanded strike that you have just made and do twice that amount of Chi in extra damage.
- Ming I's Arm of Darkness. The name should say it all.
- Magic: The Gathering the keyword ability "Deathtouch", means any creature dealt any damage by a source with this ability is destroyed no matter how tough it is.
- Exalted, being the game it is, has a myriad of ways to do this. One of the more painful is the sorcery spell Blood of Boiling Oil; Essence swirls around your hands and coats them red, and the first person you touch has their blood turn to... well, you know.
You can also punch off souls, hurl opponents into a temporary orbit, summon a demon to hurl them into a permanent orbit, dismember them, and kick people's heads off with a sufficiently impressive stunt.
- Pokémon: Horn Drill, Fissure, Guillotine, and Sheer Cold (30% Accuracy, but opponent faints instantly if hit).
- Dragon Quest VI The Pressure Pointer skill that the Martial Artist vocation learns is a pure example of this. There's also the Poison Needle, available since Dragon Quest III, that can get a one-hit kill if it critically hits (it's extremely weak otherwise).
- The Poison Needle's effect actually makes it the safest way to kill Bomb or Crag type enemies. Simply hand it over to a Jester (huge crit range), then have the rest of your party just sit back and have a staring contest with the little bastards till the needle procs.
- EverQuest has many bosses that use this as their initial attack. This lead to a rather humorous habit of bringing sacrificial halflings, rangers, et cetera.
- Gaia from Grandia is capable of absorbing any living being's life force and consequently petrifying them with nothing but it's presence. The worst part? Gaia is a humongous plant/insect Eldritch Abomination that spreads like wildfire.
- The Touch of Death as a spell used by high-level spell casting monsters, and a more potent version by Death himself. Unlike the other versions, this one is unlikely to kill a well-prepared adventurer.
- The Wand of Death, which, coupled with an angry gnome, can really ruin your day.
- Powerful wizards can learn the finger of death skill (which is what the wand shoots). Anything without resistance is instantly obliterated (including the Wizard of Yendor). Oh, and did I mention it's a ray spell, meaning it can hit multiple targets at once?
- Shiki's Magical Eye in Tsukihime allows him to see points of death. Simply poking such point with any sharp pointy object (like a kitchen knife or a sharpened pencil) will not only instantly kill said thing but also terminate its reincarnation cycle and any other metaphysical life functions it may possess. And this power is not limited only to living things, incidentally: he can "kill" non-living things as well. He once cured a person of poisoning by "killing" the poison.
- In Worms 4: Mayhem, if you use Prod on an enemy worm during a match where the "Dim Mak" option is selected in the Wormpot, it will instantly kill him.
- In World of Warcraft, monks have a skill called Touch of Death that can instantly kill an enemy if it has less health than the monk (though you can't use it on other players for obvious reasons).
- Death Touch was a spell used by "Guardians of Blizzard", which were NPCs that served as a Border Patrol for areas players weren't supposed to enter. These have disappeared since Cataclysm unlocked any areas that a player could get to that they previously weren't supposed to.
- Any game that uses the Super Star power up, which makes your character invincible and uses Collision Damage to instantly kill enemies by just touching them.
- Feng Wei of Tekken practices the particularly brutal (and fictional) God Fist Kenpo style, with one of his unblockable attacks invoking the Dim Mak directly, both by name (Death Palm) and method (being what amounts to a highly ritualized short palm thrust that takes away a massive amount of your health bar).
- In Scribblenauts, if you create Death, the game makes a small Grim Reaper which has this power and can kill anything with a touch, including Death and God.
- Touhou has Yuyuko Saigyouji, whose Informed Ability is to, plain and simple, cause anyone not immortal to die.
- While not as easy as it is in fiction, a strike to the front or back of the neck can kill a person with much less force than anywhere else on the body.
- This is commonly referred to as a "Rabbit Punch", and as such is highly illegal in professional combat sports.
- Halfway between the above and below examples, a precise strike to the carotid artery can stimulate the vagus nerve, drop the heart rate and blood pressure of the victim and cause immediate unconsciousness. The touch of death part comes from the very real chance of dislodging a cholesterol plaque and causing a stroke.
- It's also theoretically possible to kill someone with a very precisely timed blow to the heart during the T-wave (the refractory period), initiating ventricular fibrillation, and effectively stopping the heart in what is known as commotio cordis. The level of precision this would require (plus the knowledge of the human body) makes it extremely difficult to do deliberately.
- There have, however, been documented freak cases of children dropping dead from cardiac arrest after being struck in the chest, particularly with a baseball or other sports instrument. Children are particularly susceptible to commotio cordis due to the lack of development in the rib cage. This can also be triggered by lightning strikes.
- On the opposite end of real-life touch of death, there is the "precordial thump", which is essentially a desparation move when a defibrillator isn't imminently available. It is done by placing a sharp strike to the center of the chest. It's the same mechanism as commotio cordis, but in reverse. It's usually only attempted once, and only when cardiac arrest is directly witnessed.