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Upgrade Artifact
Becoming truly skilled at something takes a long time and a lot of hard work. Sometimes, you can handle this with a Training Montage, but the plot doesn't always have enough time for this. So, how DO you go about transforming your Unlucky Everydude into a Bad Ass Super Hero in less than an hour?

Why, you hand him an Upgrade Artifact, of course! No hassle, no trouble, just pick this thing up, and you'll instantly learn an important skill! Real heroes work smart, not hard, it seems...

If the object is a magical sword, expect instant Implausible Fencing Powers.

Obviously, a natural result of Powers as Programs. Compare Amplifier Artifact and, for video games, Heart Container. Contrast Exposition Beam, when this is done with memories.

If the object has a variety of effects depending on the demands of the plot, it's Green Rocks.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • The Stand Arrow. Normally, it's used to turn normal people into Stand users. However, someone who is already a Stand user will gain additional powers if shot by the arrow again (Yoshikage Kira gained the ability to create time loops near the end of Part 4 to try and escape the heroes), and when a Stand is shot by the arrow, it becomes a MUCH more powerful version of itself, as seen when Polnareff's Silver Chariot becomes Silver Chariot Requiem and gains "Freaky Friday" Flip abilities. Likewise, Giorno's Gold Experience becomes Gold Experience Requiem and goes from being able to transmute objects into being able to divide by zero, thereby thoroughly trouncing Diavolo and his timeskipping abilities.
    • And before it, the Stone Mask that turns humans into vampires. The Pillarman Kars originally created it to make his race stronger and immune to sunlight, but he discovered it would need to absorb a ridiculous amount of energy before it could upgrade beings as powerful as the Pillarmen. Dio Brando was the benficiary of this and the aforementioned Arrow in his lifetime, making him one of the most powerful and persistent villains in the series.
    • In Part 7, Steel Ball Run, Johnny Joestar and others find Corpse Parts that allows them to awaken their Stands. The Corpse Parts are actually pieces of Jesus Christ.
  • Right at the beginning of Tower of God, Baam receives the Black March from Yuri as to help him out a little. It works wonders, but even though the Needle takes a liking towards him, she is almost never use and at one point given back to Yuri, kind of subverting the whole matter again.
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
    • Nanoha and Fate became the overpowered mages they are by training a lot. Hayate, who received the power and spells of the Book of Darkness after she became its Master, beats them both in raw magical strength (but because she skipped the basics she suffers from Ace Lightning Syndrome).
    • While training is responsible for much of Nanoha and Fate's crazy power level, a large portion of it is due to their Velka Cartridge Systems, which fall somewhere in between Upgrade Artifacts and normal old Mid-Season Upgrades.
  • Subverted/averted in Dragon Ball Z:
    • Master Korin tells Goku that the "Sacred Water" from a particular jar will make him stronger, but takes the jar away every time Goku wants to drink from it. In the end, the water has no effect: it's the exercise you have to do to get it that makes you stronger. Truth be told, Korin just fills the jar with ordinary water. When the assassin Tao Pai Pai scales the tower, Korin gives him the water straightaway, and even loans him an evil Flying Nimbus cloud to make the return trip down the tower, specifically to prevent him from exerting himself any more (and thus getting any stronger) before his rematch with Goku.
    • Though later, Master Korin sends Goku after "Ultra Sacred Water", which DOES have magical powers but tends to kill everyone who can't handle it.
    • The legendary sword which is supposed to make Gohan the strongest warrior in the universe is actually just very heavy. Gohan gets stronger because wielding it is like training with impossibly heavy barbells. Also because it's a Soul Jar containing an ancient Kai who enacts a power-unsealing ritual on Gohan. Admittedly it seems to be a few hours of him dancing around hooting and reading comic books, but it seems to have worked.
    • The Dragon Balls can be used for anything from resurrecting billions of people to obtaining panties... except leveling up. Unless you count the immortality the balls are capable of granting. Given that Saiyans get stronger every time they get badly beat up, this is all they'd need.
  • Bleach:
    • The Hougyoku does this to anyone it comes in contact with. Not only is it responsible for Aizen's MANY Squick and Narm filled transformations in the Deicide Arc, but its presence in Karakura was also partly responsible (along with contact with Ichigo's overactive reiatsu) for Chad and Orihime unlocking powers in the first place.
    • The Sanrei Glove Uryuu uses to power up for the Soul Society Arc has the capacity to do this twice over: its primary effect is to make it harder for the user to gather spirit particles, so it's like training with wrist and ankle weights for added resistance. Removing the Glove after training with it, however, results in a huge temporary boost...that in turn causes complete power burnout. Uryuu ends up using the dangerous secondary effect against Mayuri to try and avenge his grandfather's death.
    • The anime-only Filler arc that follows this restores Uryuu's powers temporarily with a bracelet-like Upgrade Artifact that breaks at the end of the arc, just in time to rejoin the manga plotline where his father restores his powers permanently.
  • Pactio cards in Mahou Sensei Negima! work like this, allowing the magister magi to buff the partner's physical abilities, summon them from a great distance, talk to them telepathically, transform and most importantly gain a new artifact. In most cases this artifact is a reflection of the partner's personality, often giving otherwise mundane girls an ability to fight on the same level as trained martial artists and demons (Asuna's BFS before her Training from Hell, though she already had a Chekhov's Armoury) or a new strength atop their fighting skills (Setsuna's floating Tanto knives). In some cases, the use of this artifact can be determined by the girl's inherent skills, (Haruna's drawing speed, Chisame's hacking-skills). Otherwise it usually serves as a tactical advantage as not to offset the earned talents of trained characters while making weak girls useful in combat (Nodoka's mind-reading book, Yue's Magitek Great Big Book of Everything). In exceptional cases, a girl will gain some tactical advantage while already being trained (Kaede's Ninja scarf).
  • In a twist, any previously-used object can work like that in the hands of a high-level Psychometrist in the Zettai Karen Children universe. Shiho (A Level 7 Psychometer) easily wins a fishing-competition despite having never fished before, simply by using her powers to 'read' the fishing-rod, instantly knowing how best to use it - and later gains Implausible Fencing Powers when handling a 5000-years old saber, since she can copy the abilities of all its previous users.
  • In Guyver, the Gigantic upgrade takes the form of a large piece of Creator technology which can be swapped between the Guyvers. It actually began as an escape pod for a Creator ship which was physically and mentally tied into Sho while it crashed.
  • Zero no Tsukaima presents this in the form of familiar runes. When a mage summons their familiar, the contract of servitude is manifested by a set of runes imprinted on the familiar. This can grant the familiar abilities or attributes they previously lacked, such as near-human intelligence, the ability to speak, or, in the case of the eponymous character, the ability to wield any weapon with ease.
  • In Hellsing, Father Anderson, while otherwise an Implacable Man, simply cannot muster enough gumption to go against Alucard, so he decides it's The Last Dance for him. He tributes his humanity to God by stabbing himself with the Nail of Helena, turning him into a divine monster on par with Alucard and a Humanoid Abomination. Alucard himself loathes the use of the trope, as he thinks only a real human has the right to truly defeat monsters, otherwise you're just replacing a monster with a stronger one.

    Card Games 
  • Munchkin has any number of "gain a level" cards, with excuses like "pay for the pizza", "shut up about your character", and "convenient addition error". Though the often ignored rules state that you can't reach level 10 (and thus win) using one of those cards.

    Comic Books 
  • Prometheus, a supervillain of The DCU, can download the abilities of 30 of the world's best martial artists into his mind by inserting a small CD into his helmet. Batman eventually figures this out and foils him by replacing the abilities with those of Stephen Hawking.
  • Spider-Man: Cosmic Spider-Man, as a result of the Enigma Force choosing Spider-Man as the next Captain Mar-Vell.
  • Doctor Fate: The Helmet of Fate will grant anyone who it allows to wear it incredible magical power and knowledge.

    Fan Works 
  • In Turnabout Storm, Phoenix's mystical Lie Detector, the Magatama, ended up working like this when Twilight made contact with it through her magic. It gave her the ability to see Psyche-Locksnote  without needing to hold the Magatama with her, albeit only temporarily.

    Films — Animation 
  • The magic orb from one of The Swan Princess movies that has power of granting perfect mastery of all three disciplines of mystic arts — Creation, Change and Destruction.
  • Subverted in Kung Fu Panda, where Po trains for most of the film to become the Dragon Warrior and be granted the Dragon Scroll, only to discover that the scroll is a mirror. It pulled double-duty as a Secret Test of Character: neither Shifu nor Tai Lung, nor even Po at first, could figure out why it was "empty", just apparently a blank but rather reflective scroll. It took learning there is no secret ingredient to the Secret Ingredient Soup for Po to realize that the scroll didn't MAKE you the Dragon Warrior, but made you realize you had it all inside of you already.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey comes in handy for our ape-man ancestors.
  • Used in The Matrix, of course — rather than spend time actually learning Kung Fu, Neo just has it uploaded directly into his brain. Voila, I know kung fu! At various other points in the series, other characters also gets instant uploads of useful skills, such as flying a helicopter, or hotwiring a motorbike. The second is gently spoofed when, before Trinity can be given the hotwiring skills, the Keymaker simply gives her the right key to turn on the bike.
  • The movie Dark City combines the Upgrade Artifact and the Training Montage. The psychic hero John has been captured and will be brainwashed, but the doctor in charge of the operation instead uses a different syringe containing the memories of a lifetime of training and use with his fledgling powers. Needless to say, much ass-kicking ensues.
  • Used in Battlefield Earth, though when the humans need to learn how to fly Harrier Jets, they inconveniently forget about the Upgrade Artifact and learn how to fly Harriers thorough trial and error in a few days. There's a reason this movie was so critically panned. (If only it was just that; other movies survive nonsensical plot holes; Battlefield Earth doesn't for other reasons.)

    Gamebooks 
  • Lone Wolf:
    • The Book of the Magnakai at the end of Shadow on the Sand, followed by the Lorestones in the Magnakai series. Each one Lone Wolf finds allow him to learn a new Magnakai skill by the next book.
    • In the World of Lone Wolf spin-off starring Grey Star, the Moonstone itself. In the fourth book, once the hero has completed his quest to find it, his Shianti magic is considerably boosted, gaining new advanced versions of his old powers, as well as a load of Willpower points.

    Literature 
  • Applied, sort of, in Michael Stackpole's Age of Discovery novel trilogy. Those who are supremely skilled in something can tap into magic through their skill, and they infuse their tools with magic in the process. Anyone who uses the tool thereafter will find his capability vastly increased... until the magic drains out through use. So an untrained peasant could pick up a master's sword, and fight like a master for a little while, slowly getting worse, until they're back to their own natural incompetence when all the magic "battery power" is used up.
  • The Apprentice Adept series has two: The Book of Magic and the Platinum Flute. The Book lets anyone who possesses it to cast magic spells at an Adept's power level (It let a troll with no inherent magic become the new Red Adept). The Flute enhances the innate magic of anyone who holds it (allowing Stile, the Blue Adept, to use his magic within the Anti-Magic influence of a unicorn circle). Anyone who can actually play the damn thing gains Adept-level magic. A master musician? Becomes stronger than all the other Adepts put together.
  • Both applied and lampshaded in the Inheritance Cycle.
    • First lampshaded when Eragon asks Oromis if there is no way to give him the skills he needs, and Oromis responds that, while there is, this would make Eragon startlingly unable to use these acquired skills.
    • Applied later, when Eragon's back is healed by the dragons, and he is given some upgrades to his abilities. Surprisingly few negative effects, despite Oromis' earlier statement.
    • Later applied when Murtagh is trained by Galbatorix, who himself has acquired this through the Eldunari.
    • Applied yet again when Eragon gets the remaining Eldunari in book 4. While this doesn't give him new abilities, it does make him far more able to use the abilities he already has.
  • In Isaac Asimov's short story Profession, schools have been replaced by teaching machines that implant the contents of education tapes into young people's minds. General knowledge, including the ability to read and write, is implanted at the age of eight. The knowledge and skills required for a specific profession are implanted at age eighteen, following a test of the individual's abilities, interests, and attitudes.
  • Used in Warcraft: The Last Guardian, when the wizard Medivh teaches his apprentice Khadgar how to ride a gryphon.
  • The magical sword Need in the Heralds of Valdemar books will give its bearer magical protection if a fighter, fighting skills if a mage, or both if the bearer is neither. Then things get more complicated...
  • The Helm is an unusually slow-acting example — much of the knowledge it imparts is not accessible by the wearer for months.
  • The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden was already a powerful wizard, but he'd usually run into bad luck using The Never-Never as a shortcut to get places. But when his daughter was kidnapped in Changes he needed to go from Chicago to South America in a hurry, which was when the Leanansidhe gave him the jewel from his mother's amulet, which contained secret knowledge of the paths through that realm.
  • The Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Debtor's Planet had a "learning helmet" that was widely used on the adult population of a low-technology planet during one phase of trying to turn it into a pirate base to trouble the Federation. It could, in a single session, implant advanced technical knowledge equivalent to several years of intense study, equivalent to, for example, attending Starfleet Academy. It also left many people with profound psychological problems, such as one character who frequently finds herself curled into a ball under her desk. One man who was deemed too crippled to bother with is glad he wasn't taught this way, and is glad that children are being taught in recognizable, traditional schools.
  • Nightside: When John Taylor gets Excalibur his hand-to-hand combat skills, speed and efficiency all improve and he gains considerable fencing prowess. According to him it's more like Excalibur is making moves and just needs the wielder for the ride. Overlaps with Empathic Weapon.
  • Out of the Dark: The Shongairi test direct "neural education" on humanity and finds us surprisingly better at receiving it than most of the Hegemony's species. This is no way comes back to haunt them in the end.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Stargate Verse:
    • Stargate SG-1 has the Ancient library device, which can imprint itself into a human mind, resulting in major technological advances. The drawback is the human brain can't handle it and the Ancient knowledge must be removed before there's permanent damage.
    • Stargate Atlantis has a device that accelerates a human's evolution to that of an Ancient, granting him Psychic Powers such as telepathy, telekinesis, healing, and super-intelligence (even more if the human in question is already a genius). Unfortunaly, the goal of the device is to force Ascension. If the subject is not ready mentally to become an Energy Being, he will die in a matter of days. Fortunately, it is possible to revese the process.
  • In Star Trek: The Original Series the episode "Spock's Brain" has a Teacher which gives whoever uses it the ability to perform brain transplants and removal, perfectly. The downside is the knowledge is short-lived.
  • In Power Rangers, any Ranger will instinctively know how to use all of his or her gear and Humongous Mecha, and generally only needs to be taught an activation phrase or two. Fighting skills also seem to come with the suit. Billy, the very first Blue Ranger, used Ranger fighting skills while in Ranger form, but in human form, didn't have them and still had to be taught karate to use it out-of-suit. Later Rangers have kept their fight skills in civilian form. Justified in some seasons, where it shows the Rangers have been training for a while before ever getting a morpher. Subverted in Power Rangers RPM, where Ziggy's fighting abilities still merely approach competence even after Falling into the Cockpit.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Vampirism in the Buffyverse consists of losing your soul, needing to drink blood, getting reversibly ugly, and spontaneously becoming a hand-to-hand martial artist, even if you were the uncoordinated nerd who'd never even seen The Karate Kid, let alone received any actual training. Those who have had training in life get a serious boost as vampires.
    • Lampshaded in "Lessons" when Buffy is teaching Dawn to fight, and, referring to a vampire who's just crawling out of the grave, Dawn says: "He's new. He doesn't know his strength. He might not know all those fancy martial arts skills they inevitably seem to pick up."
    • Not quite a Lampshade Hanging, but it is explained in the series that a person who becomes a vampire loses his soul and has it replaced by a demon's; it's not a stretch to assume that all demons have combat ability already.
    • On the other hand, Harmony still had absolutely no idea how to fight when she first became a vampire. Also in one episode, Buffy fights a newborn vampire which she usually kills easily, but because he had martial arts training in life it takes her the whole episode to kill him. Also, Buffy went to high school with the vampire, which made it awkward. He was Affably Evil, and as psych student, he got Buffy to open up to him and discuss her feelings in between rounds.
    • Also lampshaded in another episode where a vampire, who used to be a gymnast in his human life, gives the heroes trouble. In some of the official books with original stories (especially the first ones), some vampires outright said things along the lines of "You can't beat me little girl, I was top of my Taekwando class for two years before I died." and so on.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Kamen Rider Ryuki averts this. Main protagonist Shinji Kido, who gains the power to become a Kamen Rider but still has the martial arts ability of a civilian. He slowly develops his abilities as the series progresses, eventually becoming quite a proficient fighting.
    • As for the other Kamen Riders, only the ones that would have plausible ability at fighting frequently engage in hand-to-hand combat, such as Ren (bar room brawler), Sudou (hardened cop) and Asakura (psycho outlaw). The others frequently rely on their armour and special abilities to compensate: for example, Kitaoka is mainly a ranged combatant.
    • The Kamen Rider Double Returns: Accel has the Gaia Memory Enhancing Adapter which triples the power output of any Gaia Memory it is attached to. When attached to the Accel Memory allows Ryu to become Kamen Rider Accel Booster.
    • Kamen Rider Fourze also averts this as protagonist Gentarou Kisaragi has no real martial arts ability and usually just fights by the seat of his pants even after becoming a Rider. Later on, he ends up taking some kickboxing lessons. However, when he becomes Kamen Rider Fourze Meteor Fusion States, he ends up gaining the Jeet Kun Do skills of his ally.
  • Chuck: as of the season 3, having the new Intersect means you have a Great Big Book of Everything worth of feats at your disposal.
  • Imprinting can work this way in Dollhouse.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Shadowrun and other cyberpunk tabletop roleplaying games use "skill softs" and linguasofts, datachips containing memories and trained reflexes or foreign languages copied from a donor and uploaded into the recipient's brain via a datajack. For physical skills like combat or piano playing, it's necessary to install a skill wire cyber system into the body's nervous system and limbs which basically remote-controls the body and overwrites its reflexes with new ones while the skill chip is activated. In GURPS Cyberpunk, "slave chips" can be used to paralyze a subject (usually a prisoner) or overwrite his personality with a new subservient one, for example to turn someone into a sex slave.
    • Naturally, these were both invented by William Gibson, the latter in Neuromancer, the former in Mona Lisa Overdrive. The sex chip was usually implanted voluntarily (it makes earning money as a hooker less... icky) and the knowledge imparted by the memory chips vanished as soon as they were removed.
      • His choice of name for memory chips, micro softs dates the novel somewhat.
    • Also notable is the fact that a skillsoft cannot make you nearly as capable as normally-trained experts, represented as a cap of rank 4 on the skillsoft's rating as opposed to rank 6 in the skill (7 with natural talent) trained normally.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • One of the most disturbing Upgrade Artifacts is a specific torture rack in a level of Hell in the 3rd Edition D&D cosmology. Each round a character remains in it, they must not only make a Fortitude save (to avoid passing out) and a Will save (to avoid screaming in agony). If they miss one, they get no benefit. The longer they stay in, the better the benefits, up to fifteen rounds (ninety seconds). However, the benefits must be renewed after 99 days.
    • 1st Edition AD&D included magical books and ioun stones that granted you a free experience level if you read or used them. These were dropped from later editions of the game, on the grounds that levels should be earned through actual play, not found lying around in dungeons. There remain certain artifacts in edition 3.5 (The Book of Vile Darkness, etc) that grant this effect, though they can only be used by divine spellcasters, and then only once in a lifetime.
    • The Deck of Many things in 3rd Edition can still award enough XP to gain multiple levels. Or it can kill you, or worse. But, up through 3rd edition, the game also had magical Tomes and Manuals that gave the user permanent irreversible upgrades to their physical or mental stats. There are tons of items in the game that make you better at any given skill or task while you're wearing them.
    • One example is the Skillful melee weapon ability from Complete Arcane which allows one to competently operate a weapon without the necessary learning.
  • Mage: The Awakening features grimoires, books of magical knowledge that allow those who read them (and have the proper Arcana) to instantly learn spells. Somewhat justified in that a grimoire is created when one mage removes all knowledge of a spell from his mind and puts pen to paper, allowing for ease of instruction and duplication; in addition, the mage who created the grimoire can use it to relearn the spell, and having it around afterwards allows for easier casting of the spell, since you can use it to lighten the mental workload.

    Video Games 
  • Frequently used in the Final Fantasy series of games.
    • The first one is possibly the most notable, in that the Upgrade Artifact in question is a rat's tail. As in the literal tail of a rat, which you give to Bahamut to upgrade all four of your characters. Note that the tail itself bestows nothing; it's just a stinky rat tail, but you going to fetch it proves to Bahamut that your party is worthy to receive the permanent class change he grants.
    • In both Final Fantasy III and Final Fantasy V, the characters gains access to the skills of 'ancient warriors' by picking up the shards of the Crystals.
    • Has a small presence in Final Fantasy IV, as Rydia can gain several hidden summons from randomly dropped items.
      • In the DS remake, you can find or receive items called Augments that permanently grant the user new abilities.
    • Final Fantasy VI features Magicite, stones that contain the spirits of dead Espers, which can be used to learn spells and gain stat bonuses by carrying them in battle. Characters can also learn spells from certain weapons and armor found in the game.
    • Final Fantasy IX had a slow acting version, with gemstones and special weapons that contained special abilities that they "taught" to the character. Characters had to wear the item though enough battles to fully learn the ability. Afterward, they could throw away the mentor-item like so much used tissue paper.
      • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance did something similar. Characters had to go through a certain amount of battles with a particular weapon or armor equipped to get abilities.
    • In Final Fantasy X-2, Dress Spheres serves the same function, with the same explanation - they contain the abilities of legendary warriors. This became a plot point, as the memories fueling Yuna's Songstress Dress Sphere are connected to the Big Bad.
    • In Final Fantasy VII the characters had no skills (apart from unique limit breaks). EVERY skill that the player characters had was determined by what "Materia" was inserted into their weapons and armor. Some Materia could be "chained", having a Support materia enhance the active materia (making for some incredibly powerful combinations such as Final Blow + Phoenix, which revives the character equiped with it up to 5 times in the same battle).. One Materia (the Yellow Materia) would even let you use certain enemy skills against them - once the materia had "learned" the skill by being equipped AND having that character get hit by the skill in question. This of course was problematical for skills such as Death Sentence, which would kill the character after a timer runs out if it hits.
  • Applied without much explanation in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door - when picking up a new hammer or set of boots, Mario automatically learns a new skill, for no apparent reason. Granted, there is a brief tutorial session with Toadette; maybe Mario's just a quick learner.
  • In Fallout 2 you can find a number of mysterious memory modules which claim to permanently boost base stats, if you figure out how to use them, they allow you to undergo powerful operations... that take weeks to recover from.
    • Fallout 3 has a better example, in the form of bobbleheads and books that raise a specific skill when grabbed.
    • Fallout: New Vegas brings back the implanted stat boosters, except this time you'll be back on your feet in a matter of hours. There are also some new, more situational implants in the Old World Blues DLC that do things like making you move faster while sneaking.
  • All of the weapons in Drakengard come with a magical spell the protagonist can use perfectly once he equips the weapon. He can also use a variety of weapons and weapon styles perfectly, but that's probably because he's a Badass Normal.
  • In the Metroid series of games, not only does Samus acquire new powers and skills by collecting artifacts, she often loses these artifacts and has to collect them all over again.
  • In Fate/stay night, Emiya Shirou's (and by extension, Emiya/Archer's) unique Tracing allows him to gain the abilities of his faked weapons' previous owners. Each of the three scenarios also has another Upgrade Artifact: In Fate, it was Avalon. Unlimited Blade Works, it was the eponymous Reality Marble. In Heaven's Feel, Shirou is Blessed with Suck as his left arm is lost in a fight and replaced by Archer's, which allows him to match up against Servants but quickly overwhelms his mind and body.
  • The Golden Sun series of portable RPGs features items which teach specific psyenergy (the game's equivalent to magic) abilities to the character who equips them.
    • However, these items can be unequipped to be equipped by other characters, making this more a sort of Device Magic. A more fitting example is perhaps the Psyenergy-tablets in the elemental rocks in Golden Sun: The Lost Age.
  • The TMs and HMs in Pokémon, CDs that you stick to your Pokémon's foreheads. Somehow Pokémon can download the data off the disc like that.
    • The various evolution items straddle the line between this an Transformation Trinket. They grant new stats and moves, but unlike 'Trinkets, they aren't reversible.
      • Not to mention Porygon evolves through an item named Upgrade.
    • Don't forget Rare Candy, a level in a wrapper.
  • Shining Force II has Upgrade Artifacts for certain characters that let them promote to different classes than they would under normal circumstances (Mages can upgrade to Wizards or Summon Magic-using Sorcerers, Priests [Healers] can become either Vicars or Monks, etc.)
  • The same thing applies in Fire Emblem, where all base classes can promote at level 10 when using the right item. However, doing so also means missing out on the other 10 levels the character can gain in that class, so it's better to wait until the character has reached the level cap. Unlike a level, a promotion adds predefined stats to the character, and sometimes gives them a new ability and/or the ability to use new weapon types.
  • In Mega Man ZX you acquire new biometals.
  • Secret of Mana had you collect eight orbs each for your eight weapons. Once hammered into place by a trusty dwarf, you could then proceed to ... wait a bit longer for your strongest charge attack (it also increases the base attack of the weapon).
  • The augmentation canisters in Geneforge can instantly give your character new abilities or more points in a skill. Unfortunately, they tend to make you more arrogant, violent, and inhuman. Using more than a certain number of them will alter the ending you get.
  • The mysterious Monoliths in Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, which not only repair damaged units, but somehow increases their fighting skills too.
  • World of Warcraft features this too: Sometimes it's an item which the player character can create themselves through their profession to give them a small bonus, while other times its an actual book item that the player uses once to learn a particular skill (Or more likely, upgrade to their profession), such as improved Fishing. A lot of items and weapons DO require the player to be a certain level before they can use it (Including an entire class of Armor).
  • The Assassin's Creed series centers around a device called the Animus, which allows a user to experience the lives of their ancestors stored in Genetic Memory via a virtual reality simulation. Prolonged use of the Animus causes something called a "bleeding effect", whereby the skills of one's ancestors imprint themselves upon the user. Thus, someone can learn to be a master Assassin through mental osmosis of a sort, with only a few potential side-effects... like insanity.
  • In Borderlands, players literally find "artifacts" that they use to apply elemental effects to their action skill.
    • The main storyline in the Claptrap's New Robot Revolution DLC offers a corner case—one of the quest rewards is a skill point, meaning your character suddenly improves a skill just for finishing that quest.
  • The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games features radioactive objects that grant you immunities to environmental hazards, the ability to mend your wounds, or extra weight capacity depending on the artifact.
  • The relics in later Castlevania games are like this, often cube shaped things that give you magic powers. You can even turn them on and off at will!
  • In Nexus: The Jupiter Incident you manage to acquire a disabled mechanoid. Angel, the ship's AI advisor, subsequently integrates the mechanoid craft into the Angelwing at a molecular level, in spite of being told not to. The Cptn. Cromwell, while already having gotten several ship upgrades, takes a new level of awesome.
  • Circuit's Edge, the cyberpunk murder-mystery adventure based on When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger, features a wide variety of mind-enhancing and skill-providing software directly installed in one's brain in a vein similar to fellow cyberpunk pioneer, Neuromancer.
  • This is how you improve your ship in Darkstar One. By collecting enough artifacts, you can upgrade the Darkstar's wings, hull or engines, and unlock new abilities for the Plasma Cannon.
  • Snailiad has the Devastator, which upgrades all three of your weapons.
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind has The Thirty-Six Lessons of Vivec, which are scattered around the world for you to read and upgrade your skills by one of the demigods.
    • Morrowind, and all Elder Scrolls games since then (and possibly even before) have many, many skill-enhancing books of this sort
  • Inazuma Eleven features skill manuals, items that instantly teach a character the new skill, which becomes a plot device as the rookie Raimon team keep relying on getting new Game Breaking abilities every chapter to climb up the tournament. It doesn't work by the half of the game and the heroes are finally told they need to train properly instead of spending times looking for papers.
  • In Overlord the eponymous Overlord has to track down and return Tower Objects to his ominous dark tower in order to upgrade his stats, gain/upgrade spells, and access better armour.
  • The Prothean beacons in Mass Effect were set up to be this, one has supposedly helped advance the humans to the galactic stage and another has been a part of the asari's advanced culture.
  • Played with in Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny. Equipping a new weapon, armor or accessory will grant a character a skill, but unless you spend some time grinding to master the skill, the skill will only remain available while said item is equipped.
  • The Diablo Franchise has many Magic and Unique items which enable the use of abilities you haven't invested skill points into, or even abilities from a different class. However, take off that piece of gear or store that charm in your chest, and you can kiss that ability goodbye.
  • Certification Points in PlanetSide 1 are used as justification for players becoming Do Anything Soldiers given enough time. Every Battle Rank, soldiers get one Certification Point to spend on unlocking equipment, which grants them knowledge on its usage and grants them access to buy the equipment from equipment or vehicle terminals. "Medical", for example, allows you to heal allies and yourself with the Medapp, but you don't learn its resurrection function until you certify "Advanced Medical". Certification points can be refunded every 6 hours, which causes you to lose knowledge on how to use the equipment and the ability to acquire it from equipment terminals.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In the Whateley Universe, the sentient magic sword "Destiny's Wave" granted Alex Farshine qinggong agility, Taoist healing knowledge, peak physical fitness, superb martial-arts skills, Implausible Fencing Powers, and the ability to speak, read and write Chinese. Oh, and transformed him into a hot Chinese Girl.
  • Subverted with the SCP Foundation's SCP-572, a katana which makes the wielder think they're an invincible badass. And not only does it give the wielder delusions of grandeur, it's badly balanced and its edge is blunter than a butter knife.

    Western Animation 
  • Get Ed:
    • The series finale features an alien artifact simply known as "The Machine" which, when activated, will grant Ed superpowers (flight, energy blasts, etc). However, rather than turning Ed into a singular, superpowered teen hero, the artifact mistakenly splits the power between Ed and the Big Bad Bedlam, who has cloned Ed's DNA onto himself.
    • Half the episodes of this series involve various attempts of both Bedlam and Ed to get ahold of other Ed artifacts. Only two of those artifacts make lasting reappearances: Ed's Slammer, an extendable energy beam weapon that works like a sword or whip. And Ed's Optical upgrades that allow him to see in the dark.
  • In the Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers episode "It's a Bird, It's Insane, It's Dale!", the eponymous Dale comes into possession of an alien rock that cause anyone who comes in contact with it to become stretchy and bouncy. Naturally, the episode's villain also acquires a piece, and uses it to commit Carmen Sandiego-scale acts of theft. Rubber Bando!
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles receive these in the fifth season of the second cartoon, in the form of amulets which, along with the new weapons they're given, allow them to use ninja abilities reminiscent to those in Naruto.
  • Xiaolin Showdown had the collecting of magical artifacts as its whole MacGuffin, but still, the young monks would sometimes be presented with particularly powerful ones as a reward when they had officially reached a new level of skill. Certain Wu, however, took a fair bit of training to use correctly. The Tangleweb Comb comes to mind.


Summoning ArtifactAncient Artifact    
Unusable Enemy EquipmentVideo Game Items and InventoryUse Item
Unholy Holy SwordThis Index Has Magic PropertiesVoodoo Doll
UnobtainiumApplied PhlebotinumUtility Belt
Un Equal RitesMagic and PowersVoodoo Doll
Unwitting Test SubjectSpeculative Fiction TropesUplifted Animal

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