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Drama-Preserving Handicap

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It's a standard setup to have heroes race to stop the nigh unstoppable villain before he becomes all-powerful, unseals his true potential, or gets released. However; more often than not, the heroes fail. So, how's the average Farm Boy hero supposed to take on Excruciant, the Omnipotent! without getting turned to a fine red mist within five seconds of opening the door?

Give the baddie a Drama-Preserving Handicap.

To make things more interesting, a handicap is given to that person or organization to give the other a fighting chance. Sometimes this becomes the Kryptonite Factor. Sometimes a person will feign having a handicap and reveal I Am Not Left-Handed. Other times it's a simple moral code holding them back.

This actually works both ways. Heroes who've won the Superpower Lottery, are unstoppable, or just plain badass may be injured (either by being worn down by Mooks on the way or just from falling down the stairs at home), hit with Green Rocks, are being forced to comply some sort of No-Harm Requirement which forces them to not inflict excessive harm if any, are accosted with their Weaksauce Weakness or find out their invulnerability doesn't work with certain things to make the more modestly powered villain (or his Mooks, if he's a non-combatant) an actual threat. Clever antagonists will use tactics and plans that can bring about these handicaps (or advantages to themselves) either by injuring their enemy to the point of barely being able to stand or using Geo Effects. Sometimes the hero himself chooses to be Willfully Weak for any of several reasons...but when he gives his "No More Holding Back" Speech, the villain better be running.

This is often a more ideal solution than using Deus Exit Machina or randomly depowering the character, as it can keep him in the cast with his normal power intact. Related tactics include Amnesia Danger, Forgotten Phlebotinum, and How Do I Shot Web?. This is the opposite of Eyepatch of Power and Disability Superpower, where the handicap is the power. Almost every Enemy Civil War story is about this, as are a lot of Right Hand Versus Left Hand stories where the heroic factions would normally be able to beat the villains if they worked together.

A mundane version of this trope would be the heroes' ammo count in a gunfight. During normal scenes, the heroes will be able to waste ammunition with reckless abandon, shooting at anything and everything but not hitting much of either while the enemy does the same, and barely any mention being given to how many rounds are in the chamber or how many magazines are left. But then sometimes the heroes are counting their rounds, shouting "reloading!" or "last mag! Make it count!", their shots becoming more careful and sparse while the bad guys close in on their position. At this point, the heroes will either start making plans to go out with a bang or hope some Big Damn Heroes show up to pull their asses from the fire.

Game-Breaking Injury and Worf Had the Flu are subtypes. See also Depower and How to Stop the Deus ex Machina. Compare Nerf for changes to a game that weaken something in the interest of gameplay balance. Contrast Kryptonite-Proof Suit.

Spoilers below.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • One of the most famous examples, and one used against the Good Guys, occurs in Dragon Ball. In the Cell Saga, Cell has proven to be completely outmatched by Super Saiyan 2 Gohan. Then Gohan gets his arm broken by Super Perfect Cell.
    • Goku sacrifices himself to stop Cell's suicide explosion from ending the series entirely, which twofold gives Cell a power boost due to his Saiyan Cells and ability to regenerate, and gets Goku out of the way.
    • Upon his return, he immediately slays Trunks while everyone is distracted, removing him from the picture as well.
    • Lastly, he No-Sold Vegeta's Roaring Rampage of Revenge against him (for Trunks' sake), responds with a strike strong enough to floor Vegeta instantly and almost kills him were it not for Gohan's Diving Save, which leaves Gohan weakened as well.
    • The stage is then set for the ultimate Beam-O-War of all time, which would have been impossible to do otherwise as Gohan didn't need help at all until he was injured.
    • This also happened at the start of the Androids Saga due to Goku's Heart Virus kicking in while he's fighting Android 19 and leaving him out of commission until Cell is about to absorb Android 17.
    • Likewise, the Freeza Saga pulls this for both Goku and Captain Ginyu. With Goku's new level of strength after training in 100G, he is easily overpowering the Ginyu Force - and that's not taking into account that we also have Krillin, Gohan, and Vegeta healed up to full strength, plus a newly-resurrected Piccolo joining the mix not long after. Banded together, they could potentially give Freeza a serious run for his money despite his status as the dreaded. Thus, Ginyu steals Goku's body, it gets beat up while he's in control, and when Goku's mind returns to it he's sealed up in a healing tank while everyone else is dealing with Freeza, who transforms past their current limitations and eventually mops the floor with them. When Goku recovers, Vegeta's dead and the others are beaten and exhausted, setting the stage for a 1-on-1 Freeza fight. In turn, while Ginyu's in control of Goku's body to keep him from curbstomping everyone with Goku's powers the bodyswitch ends up weakening him, giving Gohan, Krillin, and Vegeta a fighting chance.
  • In the final mission of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S, since Fate was now unrestrained by a Power Limiter, Fate was forced to fight Jail and two of his Numbers Cyborgs under heavy Anti-Magic Field conditions to give them a better chance. That, and she was still holding back her full strength since she was planning to catch up to Nanoha afterwards.
    • This trope in general runs wild throughout StrikerS. The stronger heroic characters spend nearly the entire season operating under power limiters, and with that in place, most of the fighting is done by the newbie Forwards. Nanoha, Fate, and Signum don't get into any serious fighting until the climax. Hayate in particular, who specializes in large bombardment magic that would be overkill in most fights, is under special limiters that can only be lifted by designated individuals, so she only gets to see action twice: once during a large-scale enemy action in the middle of the season, and again during the endgame when the villains have committed all their resources to an all-out-attack, both cases where her bombardment magic is needed to get the sheer number of Mecha-Mooks under control.
    • In supplemental materials after the end of the main events of the second season, Nanoha and Fate suspect the Wolkenritter held back to avoid killing them, not wanting Hayate to be responsible for murder. The Wolkenritter also are forced to restrict their use of cartridges (which increase their magic power and enable them to use their more powerful moves) and magical energy in general (because they have to fill the book on a short timetable and keep energy in case the Bureau attacks them), which leads them to sometimes hold back or flee from the protagonists to conserve energy.
    • Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force implied that Signum may now suffer from this because, despite having risen up from her hospital bed, her body hasn't fully recovered yet from the heavy injuries sustained during her fight with Cypha. It's also implied the possibility of her spinal injuries leaving permanent sequels but that's yet to be confirmed.
  • Captain Tsubasa has examples aplenty:
    • Jun Misugi from is handicapped with a heart disease. He wipes the floor with both Nankatsu AND Tohou before his heart gives out in both matches. Hence why he's recruited as The Strategist by Katagiri. For the time of the WYC, Misugi was completely recovered from the heart disease. The only handicap remaining is his rather low stamina.
    • The Japanese team often suffers from having to bench some of their best players due to injuries. In the Asian preliminaries, Genzo Wakabayashi is unable to use his hands to catch shots due to getting them injured in the Bundesliga, limitting him to barely be able to punch the ball away (adding to it that Ken Wakashimazu left the team over not been given the titular keeper spot). Then in the World Youth proper, Misaki is forced to sit out through most of the World Youth Cup due to getting his leg injured saving his little sister from being run over by a truck (though he recovers enough to play the last 30 minutes of the finals).
  • Bleach: Orihime has the power to reject physical events in a manner characters in-universe have speculated to be akin to time-space manipulation or completely rejecting the reality of the event having ever happened. The only thing controlling this power is her personality. If she doesn't believe she can do something, she can't. If she doesn't think of trying something because she's been raised or led to believe it's impossible, she doesn't even think to try it. Her kill-attack is also kept under control by her personality which is unsuited to battle in the way other characters are until she takes a third option and incorporates the kill attack into her much more powerful defensive shield, making it a pretty powerful Attack Reflector and marking her evolution from The Medic to Combat Medic. In short, her state of mind is her major limit.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, there are several stances in the series, to always build up tension throughout battles the titular slayers are part of:
    • Hinokami Kagura, the breathing style Tanjiro uses once he realizes his family's tradition is in fact a fighting art, it is shown to be extremely versatile and a battle changer. However, Tanjiro quickly learns that said breathing style is very taxing on his body, and continuous usage of it will completely wear him off; if Tanjiro had unlimited access to Hinokami Kagura, demons would soon be not much of a threat to him. It's no wonder, since eventually it's revealed that Hinokami Kagura is no other than Sun Breathing, the original style which all others stem from.
    • Zenitsu's reluctance and self-deprecation are narrative handicaps in itself, since his proficiency with Thunder Breathing is quite good despite his own assertion of otherwise. Thus, Zenitsu early on the series must rely on his trance sleep mode to override his mental blocks and truly unleash his current potential; with his psychological issues out of the way, demons usually don't last more than a single attack of his. Also it is noted the extreme muscle exertion Thunder Breathing inflict on Zenitsu's legs quickly place a limit to how much he can perform his most powerful techniques. If Zenitsu was a brave warrior with total confidence in his Thunder Breathing skills from the start, and had unlimited usage of his arts, he would be unmatched for at least half of the series. To no surprise, near the end of the series Zenitsu becomes quite impressive by completely forsaking his sleep trance during fights.
    • The Demon Slayer Mark is the visual cue for a slayer who has tapped into a state where their already superhuman might is amplified further: more strength, more speed, more power to fight better against the Upper Rank demons. However that power takes a heavy toll on the slayers, which translates into a time limit; as soon as it passes, the Mark fade away. With more experience the slayers actually start to leave their Marks permanently etched on their bodies, but that is also an omen, as revealed later on that growing stronger with the Mark is the sign that a slayer is approaching death, possibly even before the observed 25-years-old deadline.
    • At the end of the series Muzan gave all of his remaining blood to Tanjiro in hopes of creating a superior successor, more powerful than he ever was. However, Tanjiro still went through the process of adaptation a newly born demon goes through before becoming fully acquainted with their powers, although he was going through it in an extremely accelerated pace. Tanjiro was growing stronger by the second, but he never grew powerful and sapient enough to completely decimate the already fatigued remaining slayer corps before he was turned back into a human. If Tanjiro had become more powerful than Muzan and grew awareness from the get-go, he would have certainly killed everyone on sight instantly, become the superior successor Muzan desired, and ended the series on an absolute tragedy.
  • In the Ryuuguujou arc of Gintama, Gintoki and Katsura were turned into old men before they can see any action, by Tamebako G, a device that can turn anyone into old people. The only reliable fighters at the time were Kagura and Kyuubei, and later the rest of the main characters were turned into old people as well. Had the device never existed, the arc could have easily ended in one episode. The great moment and Gintoki's Rousing Speech will never happen as well if that's the case.
  • In Ranma ˝:
    • Akane Tendo injures her hand before fighting the Dojo Destroyer. What should have been an easy battle for her (given the foe's fighting style) ends up putting her on the defensive, all to allow Ranma (who had run out on her earlier) to come back to help her and defeat the enemy in a single panel.
    • Another deliberate instance (and lampshaded) is found in the Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics tournament. Normally, Ranma is far, far above Kodachi's league —but the rules of the sport state that contact without use of a tool is forbidden, and thus Ranma is restricted to the use of tools instead of his own style.
    • This is true for most of the Martial Arts and Crafts Ranma gets involved in. None of the bizarre martial arts practitioners have Ranmas level of skill (With the possible exception of the Martial Arts Tea masters, whom he never faces in a direct battle), as Ranma is capable of mastering the art fast enough to win the rematch, or sometimes the first match.
    • Ranma's girl form sometimes counts, as Ranma is physically weaker as a girl. However it's usually also noted that he's faster that way too, and considering Ranma's specialty is speed, this doesn't come up unless he really needs that last extra bit of strength. His biggest problem in the girl form is usually shorter reach since as a girl his (her?) arms and legs are shorter.
  • Inuyasha:
    • If Rumiko Takahashi wants a villain to be dramatic, she'll make sure that the story takes place on the night of the new moon, when Inuyasha - normally a Made of Iron Half-Human Hybrid - is instead trapped in human form, and thus finds himself vulnerable to punches, poisoning, impalement, and everything else he can ordinarily shrug off. In some cases, he even forgets he's not as tough as he normally is, leading to one particularly embarrassing incident where he attempted to punch a giant stone sage who was falling on him. Unsurprisingly, he was crushed, passed out, and wound up getting captured instead. And if not the moon then something else, like when he ran too far into the sacred barrier surrounding Mount Hakurei, which purified his demonic blood, turning him into a human. Then he ran into his sadistic Stalker with a Crush, who reveled in the newfound ability to injure him, as during their previous encounters Inuyasha had been able to fight him off relatively easily.
    • In the final arc, Sesshoumaru has obtained a sword that can pretty much One-Hit Kill anything, and anything touching it, and anything touching that, and so forth. Naraku is aware of this and thus is forced to kidnap Rin and keep her with him to prevent Sesshoumaru from ending the series in a single attack.
    • Before Sesshoumaru, there was Miroku's Wind Tunnel which did the same exact thing, as it sucked everything in its path into a black hole. Naturally, Naraku comes up with poisonous bees to keep Miroku from sucking him up and just ending the series. Many other enemies who weren't Naraku would also be willing to take hostages or had other things to make Miroku's wind tunnel useless like attacking it (physical wounds speed up the critical point of Power Incontinence that will make the Wind Tunnel kill him). In one particularly egregious occasion, a filler villain otherwise completely unrelated to Naraku's schemes borrowed a flight of bees purely to hamstring Miroku from ending the threat then and there.
  • Saint Seiya's Gold Saint of the House of Virgo, Shaka, is already unbelievably powerful. But he's constantly handicapping himself by keeping his eyes closed, to avoid going all-out on his enemies. The Bronze Saints are explicitly warned not to let Virgo Shaka open his eyes, for they will be doomed otherwise. Naturally, Phoenix Ikki proves so resilient Shaka is forced to open his eyes and stop meditating, at which point he focuses all of his attention on swatting down the bothersome pest... and Ikki then manages to turn Shaka's own attacks against him in a Taking You with Me.
  • Naruto:
    • Pain vs. Naruto could have been considerably one-sided in Pain's favor had the villain actually tried to kill Naruto instead of merely capturing him alive.
    • Similarly, Deidara holds back against Gaara, and except for one explosive he drops on the village to divert Gaara's attention, doesn't use many powerful bombs. When he goes up against Sasuke, whom he doesn't need to take alive, he uses powerful explosives while trying to kill him. This could apply to the Akatsuki in general, who are forced to capture the jinchuuriki live, but these two examples stand out.
    • Sasuke vs Itachi has layers of this. The fight seems close, going back and forth, with impressive displays on both sides, but eventually Itachi comes out on top, reaches out to end it, and..... dies. No visible injury. He just... falls over, dead. It turns out that Itachi had been dying from illness for some time, and was only alive at all by that point due to copious amounts of medication. Not only that, but due to overuse of the Mangekyo Sharingan if Sasuke was more than around 3 meters away, all Itachi could see of him was a hazy smear even while standing still. And Itachi actually wanted Sasuke to win. Tobi explicitly notes after the fight that even considering the fact that Itachi was essentially a walking legally blind corpse, if he had actually wanted to win, Sasuke would be dead.
    • This trope is a constant companion for Tobi in every battle in which he participates. His abilities make him a defensively formidable combatant and even knowing about his abilities and planning against them isn't enough, as Fu, Torune, and Konan can testify. So in order to get past this, all of his opponents have had some sort of exclusive technique to counter his warping/intangible abilities or on him himself imposed that limitation. Minato was able to defeat Tobi by just a split-second using his Flash Step technique; Konan had been observing Tobi's abilities in Akatsuki the whole time and she had to ''heavily'' plan, simulate and plant billions of traps to battle him, and she still lost; Kakashi, Naruto, Guy, and Killer Bee had been having trouble even scratching Tobi until Kakashi realized he just happened to have the exact same Kamui dimension as Tobi; upon becoming the Jinchuuriki of the Ten Tails, Tobi is unable to use Kamui due to having the Ten Tails sealed inside his body. And this is not to mention the fact that in each of these battles he had only one of his Mangekyou eyes which means that he could use only half his strength.
  • One Piece:
    • Zoro is incredibly tough, but almost every one of his significant fights has him either injured from a previous battle, not in possession of all of his weapons, or even handcuffed to a friend. The few times he can fight without a handicap, he can usually make The Dragon of any given arc look like a chump.
    • Robin's a brutal Combat Pragmatist whose preferred usage of her Hana-Hana-no-mi is to simply sprout arms on the backs or necks of enemies and break their spines, instantly removing them from the fight if not killing them. As a drama handicap, these limbs can still be injured and carry over to her, and if the opponent has a touch-based power, it will affect her. Also many enemies she attempts this on are either Logia who can turn into their element to break out of her holds, have the aforementioned touch-based powers, or just have general biological weirdness that makes this hard to successfully use, forcing her into more drawn-out engagements.
    • Trafalgar Law's power is a mobile Strapped to an Operating Table within areas called "Rooms", making him a light version of a Reality Warper. To balance this out, Law has the entirely unique-to-him limitation that maintaining rooms uses his stamina, so the longer he maintains them and the more he makes, the weaker he gets. this doesn't stop him from nearly killing himself in the process of making a Room bigger than Doflamingo's mansion in a desperate attempt to deliver a fatal coup de grace to him.
  • Arcueid from Tsukihime suffered from a particularly acute version of this—in the very first scene she appears in, she gets sliced into 17 pieces. She did recover, but she's weakened enough that she needs her "killer"'s help to fight.
  • At one point in Gokusen, Action Girl and Badass Teacher Komiko catches a nasty cold. Then she makes it worse by single-handedly beating up a CLASS of delinquents (her own, incidentally). So when a repeat antagonist (whom she has swept the floor with twice already) suddenly pops up, she essentially collapses from the fever halfway through the battle.
  • Roy Mustang is one of the most powerful protagonists of Fullmetal Alchemist, easily able to defeat Envy in single combat. However, due to his fire-related powers, he's useless when wet, and coincidentally the first fight against Scar is during a rainy day. Later, an injury from his fight with Lust starts acting up just in time to prevent him from helping against Gluttony. Even worse, at some point, he goes blind, and thus he cannot use his fire powers. Riza, his Friendly Sniper bodyguard (and who had barely survived to having her throat slit in the same incident that left Roy blind) solves this via using her uncanny accuracy and sharp eyes to direct Roy's attacks for him, telling him where to aim.
    • Wrath is nearly unbeatable thanks to his Combat Clairvoyance, but he's otherwise just a Badass Normal without the Homunculi's usual Healing Factor advantages. As well, he's physically in his 60s and out of his prime, plus he has a public identity as the country's leader King Bradley and is frequently busy with other matters. Even so, he's easily one of the best fighters in the entire series; in the final battle, after a sneak attack leaves him half-dead, Bradley can still fight Scar to a standstill. And even then, Wrath would've outright WON if not for a near-literal Deus ex Machina (sunlight reflecting off a sword into his eye) distracting him for a moment, and still nearly killed Scar by stabbing him using his broken sword held with his TEETH.
    • Envy's shape-shifting could have become a Story-Breaker Power in the more cloak-and-dagger portions of the plot, of which there are many. Good thing Envy doesn't pay much attention to detail...or have much control over its temper or its desire to punt puppies.
    • Between his massive strength (he's physically stronger than any other Homunculus) and blistering speed, Sloth is an extremely dangerous Lightning Bruiser. It's quite likely that he could crush any of the main characters he encounters with very little trouble... if it weren't for the fact that his speed makes it hard for him to aim (while he could learn to improve this, that's too much work), and the fact that his laziness ensures that he won't put up much of a fight unless he has no choice.
    • Hohenheim is limited by ethics. At the outset, he was exactly as powerful as Father, if what the latter said about how he had split the souls evenly between them was accurate, but actually using that power would have required using the tormented souls of his destroyed civilization as an energy source. After taking centuries to get to know every single one of his souls, he's even more powerful because they're all working in concert, but by then, Father has increased his own power.
    • Greed has the Ultimate Shield power that makes him completely invulernable, but since it makes him look like a monster his vanity means he only covers as much of his body with it as he thinks he'll need. It gets him killed fighting Wrath, as between Greed underestimating him and Wrath's speed, Greed doesn't start armoring up until it's too late. Notably, the one time his second host, Ling, has full control of Greed's powers he immediately deploys the Shield over his entire body and uses his invincibility to great effect.
  • Goku from Saiyuki could beat nearly every enemy they have to fight if he took off his power limiter; however, this also results in him attacking anything that moves. Hakkai too is very powerful without his limiters but can't remove them often thanks to the minus wave, and at least partly not wanting to.
  • Mad Hatter, a powerful Chain from PandoraHearts owned by Xerxes Break, would make the rest of Pandora completely useless, as it can destroy anything from the Abyss. However, Break coughs up blood and keels over nearly every time he uses it, so he can't do it too often. The cumulative damage from using Mad Hatter eventually leads to his death.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Joey would have actually beaten Dark Marik if not for the fact it was a Shadow Duel that made him pass out from the pain.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: Because Sanosuke would Curb Stomp almost any opponent not at Kenshin or Saitou's level with his new technique, it manages to put immense strain on his hand so he has trouble facing foes weaker than he's been fighting.
  • Everyone in Soul Eater has this. Black Star has his horrible showboating which prevents him from being a good assassin. Death the Kid has his symmetry fetish. Stein has his insanity. Free, who is an immortal werewolf with the eye of the most powerful witch alive manages to stop himself in his first appearance, plus purposefully getting himself locked up in prison for 200 years. Shinigami is tied to one spot.... The list is endless...
  • Kazuya, arguably the main protagonist of Freezing has the unique ability to use talents like a Limiter without... well, limitations, including dispelling other Limiter's Freezing abilities and applying his own, which... well, freezes anyone in place. Unlike every other Limiter, he does not need to be linked to a Pandora in order to use his abilities. Moreover, his power is considered significantly stronger than any other Limiter shown thus far, overpowering top-ranked and multiple limiters at any time. This should allow him to settle any problem in an instant, but he constantly seems to forget his powers even exist, to the point it drastically affects the storyline. And that's when he's around or left conscious during a fight.
  • In Pokémon Special, Yellow, among her arsenal of powers, can boost her Pokémon's strength by roughly fifty levels. There are two reasons why she's unable to curb stomp anyone in her way: 1) using her powers makes her drowsy rather quickly and 2) she has to be properly motivated. As she is a Martial Pacifist who prefers healing instead of fighting, this does not come to her easily.
  • Another Pokémon example, this time from the anime. Ash could easily beat the Cerulean Gym if he used Pikachu, but he's facing Misty and Pikachu doesn't want to battle her, so he's forced to use his non-Electric Pokémon.
    • Ash is only rarely allowed to have and use powerful, evolved Pokémon on his team. He's been allowed to keep evolved Pokémon on his team in the most recent seasons, but the early show (the Takeshi Shudo era) deliberately went out of its way to submarine Ash's journey To Be a Master. Butterfree was released to go participate in his mating season, Primeape was given to a boxer to go be trainednote  (in the very episode that it began to listen to Ash, no less), Pidgeotto evolved into Pidgeot and was left with a flock of other Pidgey and Pidgeotto in the very first episode of the Orange Islands arc, the list goes on. (Misty had some of this, too — when she returns to Cerulean City to briefly star in her sisters' underwater ballet, the episode ends with Misty's sisters relieving her of Starmie).
    • When he was allowed to keep powerful Pokémon, they would often have personality quirks, flaws, or foibles designed to prevent them from operating at maximum (or even remotely decent) efficiency. Most famously, Ash's Charizard was temperamental and often simply refused to lift a finger to help Ash in his battles. Late in the Orange Islands (EP105), Charizard is moved by Ash's devotion and finally decides to get its butt in gear. However, in the Johto arc, Ash is told that Charizard is too powerful and that he's been abusing its superiority, and the writers have him leave Charizard in the Charicific Valley for training (EP134)note . Look at those episode numbers again — Ash gets to enjoy a hard-earned, obedient Charizard for less than thirty straight episodes. This made room for Cyndaquil, a little badger cub with powerful fire attacks hampered by its serious ignition problems.
    • Similarly, Ash's insistence on dropping his whole team (aside from Pikachu) with Oak at the beginning of each new series and starting from scratch keeps him from using his League-level Pokémon to steamroll most of the new region.
  • YuYu Hakusho:
    • Yusuke is at a disadvantage against Kazemaru and Rando because he already used up his Reigun (which, at the time, he could use only once per day) on his previous opponent in the tournament.
    • Later in the Dark Tournament arc, Hiei busts out the Dragon of the Darkness Flame attack on the first enemy he fights. While it looks awesome, not only is it total overkill, but the attack burns up his right arm, leaving him unable to use his arm (and that move) again until the finale of the arc.
  • In Muhyo and Roji, the group runs into trouble against Face-Ripper Sophie and Rio almost immediately afterward, because Muhyo, the executor of the group and the one able to sentence spirits, is low on tempering from the previous sentencings.
  • Fairy Tail: Natsu's Super Mode, Dragon Force enables him to be powerful enough to face and defeat Jellal, a Wizard Saint and Zero, Brain's Superpowered Evil Side and Master of Oracion Seis, along with being able to match, though not defeat Mard Geer, Dragon-in-Chief of Tartaros in his own Etherious Form in terms of power. Since that easily makes him one of the strongest characters in the series, the plot makes him unable to activate it without outside forces or at least until his father Igneel unseals himself from within him, but even then only when sufficiently enraged.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena has a very literal example in Ohtori Akio. Despite having minor reality-warping powers and psychological manipulation of the whole cast, everything he does must be theatrical. Even everything his former persona (the Prince) did was followed with a flair for the dramatic. Not only is he the reason that the anime series is the subtext porn Mind Screw that it is, but his dependency on the dramatic makes him incapable of pursuing a plan that might actually have a chance recovering the power of the Prince or saving his sister. Instead, he relies on other peoples' psychoses.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • The titular Index wears a nun's habit called the Walking Church, which is as strong as an actual church, meaning she can't be harmed by anything short of heavy artillery. One of the very first things that happens is Touma accidentally destroys it to prove the powers of his Anti-Magic hand.
    • Accelerator. Originally introduced as a villain, when he began a long, slow Heel–Face Turn and became a protagonist, he suffered severe brain damage, crippling him. He now has a transmitter device that allows him to connect to a giant telepathic network in order to function like a normal human being, and he can only use his utterly broken powers for a few minutes at a time. And, they can be deactivated if the enemy has a simple radio jamming device. The brainpower of 9,970 (9,969 Sisters plus Last Order) people only gives him the computing power to perform at half his previous level. And he can still stop the earth's rotation for a few minutes.
  • Li Xingke of Code Geass is as smart as the Protagonist Lelouch, and as capable a warrior as the Antagonist Suzaku, which means he can both play Xanatos Speed Chess on the battlefield, and do the heavy lifting himself, which means no margin for error due to miscommunication or incompetency of allies. He's also almost entirely collected and has it together much more than either of them who both have their share of mental issues. By all rights, he should utterly crush Lelouch in battle and nearly does. His flaw? He has an unspecified terminal illness that regularly disables him with great pain and Blood from the Mouth. And it usually kicks in during combat, leaving him vulnerable. As a result, he's generally less effective than either of them. Without it, he'd be the most dangerous and competent character on the show. And he's still the only one to come out of the final battle with his Knightmare intact and himself unwounded.
  • In Attack on Titan, as a result of fighting the Female Titan, Levi's ankle gets twisted, thus subsequently getting taken out of action for awhile. As a result, the other characters cannot rely on the latter during the Wall Rose Titan crisis or when Eren is kidnapped by Bertolt and Reiner. Happens AGAIN after chapter 125 when it is revealed that he lost his right eye and two fingers from the thunder spear explosion; this incident keeps not only him and Hanji out of the battle that takes place right before Eren starts the rumbling, but hinders him from being as OP as he has normally been shown to be in the final fight against Eren.
  • In Green Worldz, the badass Iwatobi owned the first round fight with the female human hybrid until his health took an unexpected decline in the midst of the fight, and remained helpless for a while.
  • Yuzu and Serena from Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V have Living MacGuffin status but are both skilled enough to hold off most would-be kidnappers on their own. Naturally Serena gets hit with nerve gas rendering her immobile so that several other characters can rush around protecting her for a few episodes. Likewise, Yuzu keeps losing her duel disk throughout the Synchro arc so that other characters can rush to help her (although in one case her rescuer arms her so they can fight together) or so that she'll be more easily kidnapped.
  • Used for much of the series in ∀ Gundam to conceal the fact that the titular Gundam is the most powerful weapon of war ever built by humanity. Initially, the machine is in poor condition after being buried in a mountain face for a few millennia, and Loran is an inexperienced pilot working from an unintuitive user manual. When he does gain enough skill, he's handed a pair of nuclear warheads and hides them in the chest compartments, forcing him to take a backseat in battles until he can get rid of them. He finally manages to do this on the trip to the Moon, and it's there that everyone learns just what the hell he's been piloting this whole time.
  • KanColle: In episode 7, Kaga is clearly the better carrier compared to Zuikaku, so naturally she suffers some damage just before a vital mission. And to make matters worse, they're out of instant-repair buckets, so like Akagi, she has to wait until repairs are complete. As a result, Shoukaku, Zuikaku's sister carrier, is assigned to the mission instead. Though they're fairly competent, they're not as good as Carrier Group One.
  • Shin Mazinger Zero: After his victory over Gordon Hell, Koji's cyborg body breaks down from the stress and he has to go back to being flesh and blood, meaning he can't use the Mazin Powers against the Mycenae Empire anymore.
  • Legato from Trigun is so strong that nobody, not even Vash, can even begin to hope to have a fair fight against him. Therefore, Legato gives Vash a device that weakens his own special power and explicitly invokes this very trope as the reason why he'd give him such a device. It also counts as Nice Job Fixing It, Villain, since at the time Knives' plans would have been better served by keeping Vash disabled rather than giving him a fighting chance. Then again, by that point, Knives' desire and Legato's don't quite overlap anymore (although the latter remains blindly loyal).
  • Fleonell in The Dark Queen and I Strike Back has two: her power has been taken by the Holy Sword and she can only temporarily regain it by touching the Holy Sword's wielder; and she can only use her powerful Arcana techniques three times a day. Considering that her Arcana can do things like wipe out thousands of soldiers in a single blast or reshape a city, that second handicap is very much necessary to ensure she doesn't win the war by herself.
  • In Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead, Akira's and Beatrix's shark suit and armor dramatically reduce the amount of risk they're in, as the zombies simply can't bite through them. Because of this, they run into several situations where they're forced to leave their protection behind, such as when the camping van is stuck behind a blocked tunnel or it runs out of gas.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman. Think of how often he comes into contact with all sorts of alien technology, high-tech outfit technology, and super-scientists with all sorts of awesome nonlethal crime-fighting gadgets...and consider that he still uses mostly what he can make himself. He's either incredibly arrogant or incredibly thick in order to perpetuate the Rule of Drama. One reason given for this is that Batman doesn't want to rely on something that he doesn't know for a fact won't go out of control. Alien technology can be manipulated by aliens, foreign tech could be a trap, and if anything happened to that tech he would be at a serious disadvantage. And given that he's a billionaire, he could make anything that he needs.
  • Superman -and his whole family, for that matter- can type a hundred pages a minute, and do any number of other tasks at super-speed. But he can't fight at super-speed. The in-universe explanation for this is that he holds back to keep from injuring anyone else. The real explanation for it is simply that someone with the strength of the Hulk and the speed of the Flash could never even be challenged, let alone defeated. The real reason becomes especially evident when the villains with Superman's powers, who have no reason to hold back, also face the same problem. Later stories such as those in the New 52 implied that he is simply not agile enough to fight at superspeed, comparing him to Usain Bolt while Wonder Woman is Bruce Lee, which still doesn't make much sense because of all the non-combat tasks he does at super speed.
  • Spawn has a suit of Necroplasm that lets him do anything. However, he's only got 9999 units of power, and when they're gone, he's dragged to hell. When the creators stopped keeping track of how much power he had left, it became an Informed Flaw and drama was no longer preserved. He only had 9999 units of power himself, but he was taught how to draw energy from his symbiotic outfit, which had the ability to regenerate it. It took longer to draw from the suit, so he had to use his own built-in energy for fast reactions, and fear of running out is why he cached the huge military weapons in his alley. After being dragged to hell and coming out again, the problem went away.
  • The Incredible Hulk: the Abomination/Emil Blonsky generally has a default strength level that is greater than the Hulk's, and also retains his human mind where Hulk could be reduced to his familiar Dumb Muscle whenever he transforms. However, Blonsky's main weakness in a fight is that his strength level is fixed, with the result that Hulk can easily beat Blonsky if a fight lasts long enough for him to get sufficiently angry and thus strong enough to beat his foe.
  • Although he was never more than a C-list character, Sleepwalker had a major advantage in that he could focus his warp beams directly on any human opponent, which would turn them into Noodle People and force them to experience nightmares over and over again. The reason Sleepy didn't do this was that all the members of his race swear a very strict oath to never use their warp vision on living beings. The sole exception is when people are being used as People Puppets, at which point hitting them with a Sleepwalker's warp beams actually frees them from the demonic possession.
  • During his time with the New Teen Titans, Kid Flash contracted a mysterious illness that worsened the more he used his Super Speed. This is because Marv Wolfman notoriously found Kid Flash's speed powers difficult to write without making the rest of the team look useless.
  • Doctor Strange:
    • The character routinely deals with planet-eating megamonsters and walks without blinking through Acid Trip Dimensions, but he's still a human being who needs the free use of his hands and voice to cast spells. Attacking him physically is a routine method of affecting a Deus Exit Machina. On the other hand, he has enemies that could and would easily squash him like a bug, except that they prefer to play cat-and-mouse with him and prolong the fun. This gives Strange enough time to spot their weaknesses and exploit this knowledge to defeat them.
    • Strange's power level also make him notoriously difficult to write in team-ups or crossovers, which is why he was Put on a Bus during Civil War. When Doctor Strange later joined the New Avengers, he was quickly stripped of his Sorcerer Supreme status, which greatly weakened him and limited what he could do with his powers. He would not be restored to full power until the final issue of Brian Bendis' run.
  • Similar to the Dr. Strange example, Zatanna is a powerful magician whose spells work only if she speaks backwards, stating whatever she wants her spells to do. Because of this, her enemies naturally try to find ways to stop her from speaking. Even though Zatanna's been defeated many times by someone shutting her mouth, and though the backwards speaking isn't her actual superpower rather than just a tool she uses to focus her magic, for whatever reason she hasn't really learned other ways of casting her spells, so the handicap remains. Averted at one point when The Joker thought this about her so he gagged her and shot her in the throat for good measure, thinking that would neutralize the threat she posed. She managed to avoid death by scrawling "Heal Me" backwards in her own blood. She also recently learned sign language.
    • There was a period in The '80s where her powers were seriously weakened after she overexerted herself one time too many, which meant she now merely had control over the elements of fire, air, water, and earth.
    • It's also been established that there are nebulous limits on her power. During Final Night, a civilian asked why she couldn't just turn the sun back on with her magic. She demonstrated that it was way outside her ability.
    • In Dwayne McDuffie's Justice League of America run, it was shown that her spells take a physical toll on her body, and that particularly powerful ones eat away at her stamina and can render her physically exhausted.
  • Green Lantern:
    • Since the Green Lantern ring is repeatedly stated to be the "most powerful weapon in the universe" and can literally do anything the wielder wills it to, wielders have to have their weakness to yellow come up constantly, have the rings taken away from them or otherwise neutralized, or have the wielder have some personal hangup that keeps them from using the ring at its full power to justify the fact that they can't just wish the problem of the week away.
    • During the iconic "Hard Traveling Heroes" period from The '70s where Green Lantern and Green Arrow set off on a trip across America, the Guardians of the Universe weakened the potency of GL's ring. This, among other things, meant that the ring no longer provided automatic protection from mortal wounds, which allowed the writer to use more grounded, realistic threats than usual.
  • Examples from the Disney Mouse and Duck Comics:
  • At the start of the 2016 Thanos series, the title character learns that he is dying from some unidentifiable ailment. This greatly weakens him, making the character much more vulnerable than usual. At the end of the first arc, Thane uses the Phoenix Force to strip Thanos of his powers, making him even weaker.
  • Used In-Universe for The Tick, whose main superpower is "Drama Power". This means he is exactly as strong and invulnerable as the situation calls for and gets more powerful as the stakes get higher and things get more dramatic. And since a Heroic Second Wind is always more dramatic than just No Selling everything from the get-go, The Tick starts out all battles with this trope on by default.
  • The mini-series Ultimate War revolves around a conflict between The Ultimates and the Ultimate X-Men. Before the battle begins, Nick Fury has his men activate neuron dampeners that shut out psychic abilities, which temporarily depowers both Professor X and Jean Grey and stops them from immediately ending the fight.
  • Ultimatum: Jean Grey had resurrected Angel a short time ago, after the battle with Apocalypse. She can't do this again and bring back anyone, because she has lost the Phoenix powers.
  • Wonder Woman (1942): When she first locates "Princess #1003" the princess semi paralyzes Diana, forcing her to move with her legs together and arms at her side for the ensuing challenges which Di wins anyway.
  • In the Power Rangers special Soul of the Dragon, Tommy Oliver is searching for his missing son using his Master Morpher, which allows him to morph into any of his five past Ranger identities. However, the Master Morpher suffered damage the last time Tommy used it in a fight, and as a result, while Tommy can still us it to morph, he can only morph in reverse order of his previous powers (Black Dino Thunder Ranger to the original Green Ranger), he can only hold each morph for a short time, and once it demorphs he cannot use that Ranger form again, forcing him to carefully choose when he morphs. At one point, his son's friend Anara explicitly observes that Tommy is saving the Zeo powers for a truly desperate situation given how powerful they'll be by now.
  • Nova: At the start of the fourth series, Nova has the entire Nova Force at his disposal, making him as powerful as the entire (recently destroyed) Nova Corps combined. Then he gets infected by the transmode virus during the tie-in to Annihilation: Conquest, which forces him to dedicate most of his power to keeping the virus in remission lest it turn him into a minion of the Phalanx. This leaves Nova much weaker than he'd otherwise be until Warlock cures him of the virus.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW), a number of stories have injured or made Sonic incapacitated lest his Super Speed ends much of the conflict:
    • Metal Virus arc: Sonic is among the first infected. Even if he can temporarily reverse the infection by running, this means that he has to be almost constantly on the run, he has barely time to rest without risking being fully infected, and has to keep a distance from his friends in order not to spread the virus. This, naturally, makes Sonic far less effective than usual, and by the end of the arc he's an exhausted mess that can barely walk.
    • Imposters arc: Since Sonic pretty much demolishes Surge in their first bout despite the fact that, on paper, the opposite should have been truenote . So during their next bout, on top of Surge carrying a gadget that enhances her already formidable powers, Sonic has to fight her with a hurt leg.
    • Scrapnik Island arc: Sonic once again hurts his leg at the beginning of the story.
  • Cable, being the son of Madelyne Pryor - a clone of Jean Grey - and Scott Summers, would probably be one of the most powerful mutants around, and you'd be right. However, because he's infected with a Techno-Organic Virus, a vast amount of his power is used to hold back the virus' spread, thus his '90s Anti-Hero usage of guns. The times he's had the virus removed, he's had god-like power.

    Fan Works 
  • Atonement: In her initial appearance, Pandora's biggest Story-Breaker Power was her ability to clone herself an unlimited number of times, with the clones possessing her full powerset and forming a Hive Mind. Ballistic headshotting the "prime" Pandora near the end of her first appearance crippled that power, leaving the Pandora getsalt limited to a max of eighteen bodies at once (later reduced to sixteen after two of the Pandora personalities were Killed Off for Real).
  • Avengers: Infinite Wars;
    • Word of God confirms that Spider-Man will be unable to sense the true threat posed by Palpatine as Peter Parker is still too new with his powers to realise just how his spider-sense works.
    • After the Earth-based Avengers activate the Infinity Gate on Earth, Stark, Hank and Erik Selvig note that they can't just go through the Gate until their comrades in the other galaxy have secured a relevant Gate to be the doorway on the other side, as otherwise anyone going through this gate will at best end up on a specific planet with no way to contact the other Avengers or at worst the remaining members of the Earth team will be displaced across the galaxy at random.
  • Avengers of the Ring;
    • Upon arriving in Middle-Earth, Thor and Bruce Banner are de-powered due to the energy drain of the vortex that sent them to this new world, requiring time to regain their lost energy and full strength.
    • In Methteilien, while Thanos was able to use the Silmaril as a limited substitute for the Mind Stone, he recognises that he would be unable to bear the strain of using it to try and enact the full scale of the cleansing he intended with the planned Gauntlet even if he performed smaller snaps in different parts of the universe. It is also noted that he has put the Stones through such strain already that he can't perform another Snap without risking destroying them, although he can still channel the powers of the individual stones.
    • On another practical note, the lack of the Mind Stone prevents Thanos reading his enemies' minds, with the result that he can't predict what foes such as Captain America plan to do, while Morgoth is able to use the Mind Stone to cloud Thanos's ability to perceive the future with the Time Stone by disrupting his focus.
    • For the heroes, Thor entering the Odinsleep deprives them of the advantages offered by the Bifrost, as Gandalf's own teleportation abilities are far more limited. Later on, when the Avengers rescue Ant-Man from the Quantum Realm, Gandalf rules out the idea of using the Quantum Realm to attack Thanos via time travel as Thanos's command of the Time Stone would make him immune to such temporal interference.
  • Dekiru: The Fusion Hero!:
    • Izuku's Material Fusion allows him to increase his durability and even use the full power of One for All with minimal issue. However, it also diminishes the powers of his blows compared to if he were just flesh and blood.
    • Human Fusion is a borderline Story-Breaker Power. Not only do the resulting fusions have more powerful mutations of his and his classmates' Quirks, they also have access to One for All, and since they're not only more durable than normal Izuku but also flesh and blood, they have more control over it. As a result, Human Fusion is given many drawbacks to make it a Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Cast from Stamina, memory-sharing, pain-sharing, and unpredictability. Even with the drawbacks, the technique is powerful enough that Aizawa was genuinely worried Izuku would come to rely on it too much.
  • In Doctor Who and the Rambaldi Enigma, after Sydney Bristow is sent back to 1496 by the Path, Milo Rambaldi’s latest discovered invention, the Third Doctor soon determines that the Path was only capable of a one-way trip. On top of that, the Doctor is currently serving his exile to Earth in the 1970s and was only able to travel to 1496 because the Time Lords allowed the TARDIS to make this specific trip, with the result that he cannot take Sydney back to her time himself, forcing the Doctor and Sydney to work together to investigate the mystery of Rambaldi's genius.
  • In Dog Breath And Bird Brain a fake grimoire not only forcibly sends Octavia and Loona to Earth, but strips them of their magic, rendering them unable to use their human disguises to blend in and forcing them to live in the woods away from human eyes. They end up relying on a human named Grace to be their Secret-Keeper and give them food and supplies to avoid starving out.
  • Fate/Harem Antics: Saint Martha is summoned as Servant Ruler. Ruler normally has two Command Spells for every other Servant in the Holy Grail War, but since she was summoned improperly, she lacks them. The author admitted this was done to prevent her from being too powerful.
  • Fate: Kill: Shirou Emiya from Fate/stay night gets sent to the world of Akame ga Kill!. He quickly learns that while he still has his magecraft abilities, this world has no mana in the air, preventing him from easily recharging. So far, the only sources of mana he could find are Danger Beast carcasses, which disintegrate after their mana is extracted. This means Shirou has to be careful about overusing his powers and has to periodically recharge using Danger Beast body parts he collects.
  • Fate/Starry Night: Much like the events of Shimousa, something is stopping Chaldea from sending Servant backup to Ritsuka. In this case, it's a wall of grail mud that injures EMIYA for trying to break through it and even obscures Gilgamesh's clairvoyance. But as a wall of curses, a conglomeration of wraiths and hatred like Jack is the only Servant who can be sent through.
  • In Frozen Turtles, while Elsa is technically powerful enough to take out most of the heroes' enemies by herself, she’s often handicapped by the fact that she lacks fine enough control to unleash an attack that could defeat her enemies without hurting her allies. More explicitly, during Frozen Turtles in Space, Elsa is basically powerless on the planet Magdomar, as the temperature is so hot that anything she tried to create on that planet would melt (although she is able to channel enough power to freeze the heart of the Triceraton commander Zanmoran when he is right in front of her).
  • Heroes Never Die:
    • While Izuku can learn to handle One For All better using his "Groundhog Day" Loop quirk, he can't increase his capacity. That is based on the strength of his body, and it's impossible to increase his physical power through timeloops. Worse, One For All's power does increase through the loops, so if Izuku loops too much it will outstrip his training.
    • Invoked during the Sports Festival. Izuku does such an excellent job organizing his class into a singular fighting force in the first round (every single one of them places in the top twenty), that the teachers realize he'd dominate the planned cavalry battle. They do a King of the Hill type match instead and change the way teams are chosen so that he can't control the outcome too much.
  • Hogyoku ex Machina: Orihime's powers are damaged early on to, in the author's words, "removed the get-out-of-death-free card".
  • In Infinity Crisis, time travel is explicitly ruled out as an option for defeating Thanos, as the Waverider is essentially rendered useless due to the risk of it being erased from history, and Barry and Wally note that they don’t have access to their full power in the Avengers’ universe. Downplayed as Barry uses his own experience to explain why using time travel to solve their problems would likely just create new ones.
    • Also a factor in the spin-off Distant Cousins; unexplained interference in the dimensional barriers prevents Captain Marvel and Black Widow immediately returning to their world after they arrive in Earth-38 during a fight.
    • May be considered in the later storyline Tomorrow's Guardians; tracing time-travellers in possible futures can be challenging as certain futures can 'wink out' the closer they get to the present as the odds of that specific future coming to pass are erased.
  • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail: Chloe Cerise hails from a world with supernatural creatures, but the Infinity Train picks her up just as Chloe decides she's going to take Yamper on her and run away from home. Without Yamper and his handy Spark ability, Chloe can't rely on the Puppy Pokémon to help her fight off against some of the nastier parts of the Train, thus having her rely only on her wits, her allies, and her donut holer if she wants to leave.
  • Some Dragon Ball Z stories such as Inheritance remove the dragon balls from the story so as to avert Death Is Cheap. In the aforementioned story, King Cold blows up Namek when they refuse to name his son's killer and Piccolo is forced to fuse with Kami when King Cold attacks Earth.
  • Jaune Arc, Lord of Hunger: Given that nothing short of a Physical God would be capable of stopping a fully-powered Darth Nihilus, various limitations are placed on him to keep him from steamrolling all of Remnant. While inside his mask, Nihilus's spirit is severely weakened and only has a fraction of his original power. Also, New Body, Old Abilities does not apply to him and he can only possess the bodies of Force-sensitives; explaining why Nihilus can't simply take over the body of the first random schmuck he comes across. Even when he does find a host who fits those requirements, they also need to be a Willing Channeler for it to work. The moment Darth Nihilus takes over Jaune's body, he immediately doles out an epic Curb-Stomp Battle to anyone foolish enough to take him on and he shrugs off everything the heroes throw at him.
  • Kimberly T's Gargoyles series;
    • Although the Xanatos family are now basically on the gargoyles' side, the geas Oberon placed on Puck means that they don't have access to magic to deal with bigger problems. Since Owen can only use magic to teach or protect Alexander, he can only act to protect Alexander under specific circumstances, such as if the castle is attacked during the day, and often he cannot provide more immediate magical assistance as Alexander isn't old enough to understand how to perform such a spell and there's no way Owen can justify performing that spell as Puck.
    • Due to a deal with the Illuminati, Xanatos is prohibited from doing more to help the gargoyles than just giving them a place to sleep during the day, when he was contemplating such plans as officially hiring Broadway as a chef to create legal precedent for gargoyles as people. That said, the Illuminati also impose prohibitions against the Quarrymen trying to attack Xanatos in other areas, and affirm that Xanatos can still defend the gargoyles if they’re attacked while at the castle.
  • "The Not-So-Average Girl" expands on the limitations of Peter Petrelli (Heroes) and his ability to copy the powers of others. More specifically, while he can imitate the power of anyone he meets and copy it by recalling how they made him feel when out of their company, Peter can only exactly copy that power when he is in their presence; when he is away from the source of that power, he can only imitate the copied power at half the strength of its original owner, and he will never be stronger than the other superpowered person on his own.
  • In Once More With Feeling, two SOLDIER cadet squads play a game of Capture the Flag but one of them is undermanned, the other members having been expelled. As such, that squad gets a trio of SOLDIER Third Classes to help. Since those three could take on both squads at once with ease, they're given direct orders to follow the Exact Words of their squad leader, both to make things more fair and to teach the cadets to be careful with their orders.
  • In Power Rangers Mythos, the temporally-displaced Rangers initially assume that they’ve been brought to the future to use their morphers after Fae’s own was disabled, but Fae reveals (and Flynn confirms) that the damage to the Grid has disabled their morphers as well and the Mythos Morphers are their only option.
  • To keep the Triwizard Tournament from favoring the older students too much in Princess of the Blacks, the junior champions (between 14 and 16 years old) are given a magical item to make things easier, such as a fireproof cloak or a compass pointing towards their hostage.
  • Ring of Fire explicitly states that the One Ring can exert an influence over Toothless the closer he gets to it, thus ruling out the option of having Toothless fly it to Mount Doom directly as it would create the risk that he would be corrupted by it and become Sauron's servant by the time he got there.
  • RWBY: Epic of Remnant: The Servants are still very powerful by Remnant standards, but being turned into teenagers has weakened them slightly, and since they are now human, they can't go into spirit form and are vulnerable to being harmed. This means while they will still win most fights, they can't get complacent and actually have to work for their victories.
  • In the Fate/stay night fanfic What if Almost Everybody was Shirou's Servant, all the Servants save for Berseker are summoned to protect Shirou from Berserker and Illya, with the teen becoming their master. Normally, this would give him a guaranteed victory, but since even a single, normally summoned Servant costs a lot of mana to maintain, the six Servants are one-sixth as strong so that they won't drain Shirou of his mana.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 fanfic series What You Already Know, while Daniel Jackson gains powerful psychic abilities, he gets serious headaches that could actually damage his brain if he uses these powers too much, so he only ever uses his abilities when there is no other clear choice, although with training and experience he learns how to use his powers to achieve his goals without inflicting too much pain on himself
    • In WYAK: Resolutions, Daniel initially suggests the use of the Dakara superweapon to stop Anubis’s supersoldiers, but despite using it against the Replicators as in canon, Sam determines that they can’t use the weapon against the Kull Warriors as it would have to be programmed to exactly match the frequency of the anti-Kull disruptor, and they don’t have the means to control it that specifically.
  • In Wilderness, to keep magic and technology from making things too easy, whenever Harry jumps to a new world, all his more complicated mechanical items fail. Anything from a flashlight to a water filter to gunpowder will suddenly become just useless bricks. Similarly food from his own world provides no sustenance, forcing him to hunt and forage for food while in a new world.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Peter Pan, Hook calls Pan a coward for flying away instead of facing him man to man. He gives his word to not fly and they fight. Although Hook gets the upper hand, Peter wins the day with his agility and quick wit.
  • In Kung Fu Panda 2, Crane's wing is injured right before the one point in the movie when it would be most useful to have a flying team member.
  • Zootopia: Shortly before the confrontation with the Big Bad, Judy Hopps injures her leg badly enough that she can barely stand unaided, let alone run, leap, or kick her way out of the situation.
  • Storks: Junior is shown very early on to be the best delivery stork in the entire company. So his wing is injured to prevent him from easily delivering the baby.
  • The climax of Justice League Dark has Felix Faust cast a spell that renders Zatanna unable to speak, thus stopping her from immediately ending the fight with her vocal magic.
  • In Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay, Professor Zoom would normally be able to take down the Squad before they knew what hit them. However, Zoom is dying from the headshot he took in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox — he's using his Super Speed powers to defer the moment of death and has little left over for anything else.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Enter the Dragon had Bruce Lee as a literal unstoppable fighter. No one, not even the impressively skilled Big Bad, could reasonably match him in a fight. So he not only used claws built into his prosthetic hands, he trapped Lee in the famous Hall of Mirrors to balance out the odds.
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe has the battle between Aslan's army and the Witch's go decidedly in her favor. Having both great combat skills and a petrifying wand, no one can get close without dying or being turned to stone. Seeing her headed straight for Peter, Edmund nearly dies to destroy said wand and give Peter a fighting chance. He still nearly loses, but at least it isn't a curb stomp. The exact same thing also happens in the book, but the fact that it's related to the other characters after the fact rather than being described in the narrative prevents it from functioning as an example.
  • Superman Returns had Lex Luthor threaten Superman and the lives of everyone in the North Atlantic with a Type 0-1 disaster by creating a giant Kryptonite island, stabbing supes with Kryptonite (and lodging a piece of it inside of him), letting his goons beat him up, and finally dumping him into the ocean. Yet still, Supes manages to lob the island into space and fly back to a Metropolis ICU. It's arguable whether this worked for the viewers.
  • Star Wars:
    • In Return of the Jedi, the plan is to stop the completion of the second Death Star. When it all goes to hell, it's revealed that the Death Star's superlaser is already operational, at which point it starts picking off the Rebel Alliance's capital ships one shot at a time. Lando Calrissian then suggests engaging the Imperial Fleet directly in ship-to-ship combat, correctly guessing that the Death Star would hold its fire to avoid destroying friendly ships.
    • While the Millennium Falcon usually looks like junk but runs perfectly, it has constant engine trouble only in the The Empire Strikes Back because otherwise Han and Leia would be able to easily evade Vader and the entire B plot and climax of the movie wouldn't happen, and Luke would be able to finish his training without issue. So the hyperdrive constantly fails until the very last scene.
    • In The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren gets gutshot by Chewbacca's BFG of a bowcaster just before his climactic duel with Finn & Rey. Furthermore, Finn further wounding Ren gives Rey the advantage she needs to be able to overwhelm him, despite being far less skilled in lightsaber dueling and the Force than he is.
  • In Rocky Balboa the odds of the fight between the current champ, the youngster Mason Dixon and the pushing 50 Italian Stallion is evened when Dixon breaks his dominant hand in the second round. Dixon chooses to put his career at risk and has to go the distance with a star that's powered by a chanting crowd of baby boomers.
  • It's pretty clear in Gladiator that Maximus would utterly destroy Commodus in anything resembling a fair fight. So, Commodus invokes this trope with a dagger to Maximus' lung before they go out to duel in the Colosseum. Commodus still never lands a blow on him, but it at least looks like Maximus is working hard.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In all three Iron Man movies, Tony Stark is weakened before the final battle. In the first, his improved arc reactor is removed and he's forced to use the inferior prototype, severely limiting the suit's power. In the second, he uses up his best weapon on the Hammeroids before he fights Vanko, and is also battling in an enclosed environment where he can't just fly around and blast his enemy from a distance. Then, in the third film, Tony has been up for the last 72+ hours without sleep and faces Super Soldier opponents who possess superhuman strength and the ability to generate flames hot enough to melt through his suit. He also spends the majority of the film stuck with the Mark 42 armor, which is a buggy prototype that is prone to falling apart.
    • In Thor, Thor gets stripped of his power for being a Jerk Jock. Even after regaining them, he is reluctant to use his full power. The third movie then has his trademark hammer get destroyed in the first act, forcing him to rely on other, far less powerful weapons. It is only in the final battle that he unlocks his full potential and learns to unleash lightning blasts without the hammer.
    • In Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spidey gets his suit taken away by Tony Stark as a punishment for not only being responsible for the Vulture's escape, but also nearly getting numerous lives killed in the ensuing battle on the ferry. When it's time for the climactic battle with the Vulture, Spider-Man is forced to fight the hardened criminal with reworked alien Powered Armor using his homemade Beta Outfit without all the technological advantages his original suit brought, on top of the fact that he's both inexperienced and doesn't want to go all-out against his love interest's dad. All of this contributes to a fight where Spidey can barely even survive against Vulture, and only "won" in the end by accident where Vulture's own suit was destroyed by overheating.
    • In Black Panther, T'Challa is forced to eschew his vibranium-laced costume and drink a special potion that temporarily strips him of his superhuman abilities just prior to both of his duels for the Wakandan throne. This allows his respective challengers, M'Baku and Erik Killmonger, to fight him on equal footing.
    • Avengers: Infinity War:
      • In the opening scene, the Hulk is dealt a severe beating by Thanos. This somehow prevents Bruce Banner from being able to transform into the Hulk for the rest of the film, meaning he's unable to help out during the initial fight between the heroes and the Black Order in New York.
      • The Vision, one of the most powerful and versatile Avengers, is stabbed from behind shortly after he makes his first appearance in the film. The damage to his body prevents him from using his trademark Intangibility and greatly decreases his physical capabilities for the remainder of the film. When Thanos finally confronts him in the finale, Vision is easily killed without putting up much of a fight.
      • In the other direction, Thanos is nigh-omnipotent after obtaining all six Infinity Stones, but the sheer magnitude of deaths caused by his Badass Fingersnap wounds him and visually damages his Infinity Gauntlet. When the remaining Avengers confront Thanos at the beginning of Avengers: Endgame, his injuries are even worse due to him having used the Gauntlet to destroy the Infinity Stones. As such, the heroes overpower him with ease, and Thor ends up decapitating him.
    • With Wanda Maximoff being one of the most powerful superheroes in the world, with the same reality-warping powers as her comics counterpart (with "power that exceeds that of the Sorcerer Supreme"), there tends to be a reason for her not to use her full powers each film post-Heel–Face Turn, lest she solve the problems in five minutes.
      • In Captain America: Civil War, she stays at the Avengers Compound rather than being involved with the plot for quite a bit of the film after being horrified when she accidentally kills civilians. When she finally does fight, she's holding back since it's against her teammates.
      • It gets very blatant in Avengers: Infinity War where Wanda spends almost the entire battle of Wakanda protecting a vulnerable Vision rather than getting out onto the battlefield. Once she finally gets out there and starts decimating Thanos' troops left and right, Okoye even lampshades the point by asking what she was doing up in Shuri's lab the whole time. Vision, however, is promptly attacked by Corvus Glaive. One could even argue that Wanda getting dusted in the Snap was also to make things more difficult for the remaining heroes during the Time Heist in Endgame.
      • In Avengers: Endgame, Wanda very nearly kills 2014 Thanos all on her own in her rage without any help from another superhero. It's only her desire to see him suffer that allows him to call in an airstrike that finally gets her to back off a little. WandaVision has Monica Rambeau even speculate that Wanda could've done it by herself if not for that.
  • At various points in X-Men: Days of Future Past, the most powerful mutants are incapacitated or kept from using their powers to full extent, thus allowing the plot to advance. This includes Xavier losing his mental powers due to the effects of the drug which allows him to walk, Wolverine dazed by flashbacks of being tortured by Stryker and allowing Magneto and Mystique to escape, Magneto kept in a prison of concrete and plastic, etc.
    • Each entry in the X-Men film series sidelines Professor Xavier, whose full faculties would solve every plot in moments.
    • This isn't exclusive to Xavier either. In Apocalypse, the writers got around Quicksilver's Super Speed by having the title villain break his leg. Similarly, Nightcrawler was rendered inert for part of the final battle so that he couldn't simply Teleport Spam the bad guys into submission. This happens again in Dark Phoenix, where Quicksilver spends the majority of the film in a coma after a fight with Phoenix during the first act. He doesn't wake up until after the climax.
    • After X-Men Origins: Wolverine was criticized for lacking stakes due to being a prequel and Wolverine himself being functionally immortal, steps were taken to avoid this in the two sequels.
      • In The Wolverine, Logan spends most of the film implanted with a device that nullifies his healing factor. He removes it just in time for the final battle with the Silver Samurai, a Mini-Mecha outfitted with adamantium katanas that are capable of cutting through Wolverine's seemingly-unbreakable bones.
      • In the aforementioned Logan, Wolverine's healing factor is now much weaker than it was when he was in his prime due to the adamantium in his body poisoning him. This allows the villains to pose an actual threat to Wolverine, and ultimately leads to him being Killed Off for Real in the utterly heartrending finale.
  • In Deadpool (2016), Deadpool has a really bad habit of forgetting his duffel bag of guns and ammo, which constantly prevents him from just shredding the opposition with More Dakka. In the first battle he participates in, he only has his swords and twelve pistol rounds, which force him to be really careful with his shots even against Mooks. And in the Final Battle, he brings all his guns and three thousand rounds of ammo to take down Francis and his army... only to forget them all in the taxi he rode there, leaving him with just his swords and a single gun he stored somewhere in his suit.
  • The title character of Bruce Almighty was completely omnipotent, aside from 2 rules. He couldn't tell anyone about his powers, and he couldn't affect free will. Most of the difficulties that Bruce encounters could have been solved had he not had to obey the two rules, as evidenced by his attempts to make Grace love him. Hell, even without willing her to love him, telling her about his powers probably would have helped her to understand why Bruce was doing some of the things he did, and maybe help her to forgive him. It's like God wanted Bruce to struggle...and He did. The point of the exercise was to show Bruce that even omnipotence couldn't solve his problems, which were caused by his failure to appreciate the good things in his life and his refusal to put any effort into becoming a better person. Grace leaving him is the one problem he cannot solve with God's powers, and this realization is the catalyst that gets him to do the hard work of working on himself.
  • Jeepers Creepers 3: The Creeper has a lot of trouble pursuing Addison because of all the damage it has sustained. It gets trapped in its own boobytrap, losing an eye, making it difficult to throw a spear accurately. It tries to fly after her, but since it lost one of its wings in a previous fight it immediately loses balance. Then it also loses one of its feet when it gets hit by a truck, giving her enough time to get away entirely. Frustrated, he has to make do with the truck driver for spare parts.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (2020), in his first meeting with Tom, Sonic is hit with a bear tranquillizer, not only causing him to drop his bag of rings through a ring but rendering him unable to run when he wakes up (which is around the same time Robotnik arrives at Tom's house).
  • During the climax of the The Terminator, Reese sacrifices himself to destroy the T-800 with a pipebomb, which damages it enough so it's only a torso that can slowly crawl. At this point, Sarah could just walk away from the cyborg at a normal pace without too much worry. So in order to keep the intensity of the situation intact, her legs are injured due to the shock from the explosion and a shrapnel wound to the thigh, forcing her to crawl away from it.
  • During the climax of the The Northman, Amleth, who has been shown to be a One-Man Army, goes into the final battle severely wounded from a sword slash and multiple stab wounds he suffered in a surprise attack. This makes the results of the battle far more close than they had any business being.


  • In Animorphs, initially, it's in both sides' best interest to keep the war a secret. The Yeerks prefer a strategy of infiltration, then suddenly seizing control of the planet, in order to minimize both Yeerk casualties and the deaths of thousands of potential host bodies. The Animorphs, on the other hand, prefer the war also remain a secret, for tactical reasons: the Yeerks have much more advanced technology and would certainly win any open engagement where they were free to use all of their weapons (a bunch of animals can't do much good against Yeerk capital ships destroying cities from orbit). Also, the primary reason the Yeerks want Earth is because of the large population, and a war would reduce the value. On the other hand, there are so many damn humans compared to Yeerks (6 billion versus a couple hundred thousand) that open warfare might even hurt the Yeerks despite their serious technology because humanity could and probably would Zerg Rush any terrestrial fortifications, at least enough to turn the campaign into a Pyrrhic Victory that the Andalites could take advantage of.
    • There have been several books where the central plan the Animorphs had was to reveal the existence of the Yeerks to the world in such an obvious way that even the most skeptical had to admit they were there and let the human military bring the Yeerks down, but in every case their plan to do so either fails and/or backfires horribly so that the secret war can continue.
    • Then there's the morphing technology itself. As it gives whoever has it the power to turn into any life-form the user can touch, its power and applications are potentially limitless. However, what keeps it out of Story Breaker territory is that the inventors the Andalites lack the strategic thinking necessary to use it for anything other than infiltration, and the protagonists only have access to Earth animals most of the time, which keeps the 6 from being able to easily win the war single-handedly. The Big Bad Visser Three/One does not have these limitations, and as a result the protagonists barely escape with their lives time and time again.
  • In the first book of the The Dark Tower series it is clear that King's titular Gunslinger is an unstoppable force of death and destruction after he guns down several dozen enraged assailants. By the end of the book, it is clear that Roland has no equal. King fixes this by mutilating Roland's primary hand to make him more dependent on his friends.
  • During Dinoverse, in which four tweens end up in the bodies of prehistoric beasts and sent on a quest to go home, one among them is in the body of a Quetzalcoatlus. The others quickly get a handle on the abilities inherent to the bodies they've been stuck with; being a Tyrannosaurus, being armored and club-tailed, being nimble and fast. Janine, the Quetzalcoatlus, struggles for half the book to learn to fly. Problem is, every single obstacle the four faces could be easily solved by having a character fly overhead, scouting and bringing items back, so she spends the rest of the book away or injured.
  • Raistlin Majere from the Dragonlance series is one of the most powerful magic users in in-universe history to the point of having several of the gods so worried about his ambitions that they actively work to sabotage him in an effort to save their skins. The only thing that really prevents him from being able to pull off his plans sooner is his exceedingly frail constitution and a nagging cough; for much of the Chronicles, he's simply too physically weak to survive the strain of casting the spells necessary to his plans. He gets better, though.
  • Albus Dumbledore has his primary wand hand cursed into functional uselessness in between Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to preserve the dramatic tension in his and Harry's subsequent adventures.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • In The Thrawn Trilogy, there's a whole planet covered in animals that block out the Force, so Luke can't go around using all his Jedi powers. Thrawn, ever the tactical genius, carries one of these animals around with him to avoid Force attacks.
    • Luke later does this to himself in the Hand of Thrawn duology due to his concern that he's coming to rely more on brute power rather than wisdom, which might risk him falling to the dark side. It does however give him the advantage of greater foresight.
    • This happens with Luke a lot, given how he's vastly powerful even for a Force user. Luke spends a lot of the EU either out of contact, incapacitated, or with his Force powers neutralized somehow to keep him from being able to solve the plot in about 5 minutes. Only during stories where he faces a Dark Sider of equal magnitude is he really able to cut loose, and even then said Dark Sider tends to have him incapacitated before doing much else.
    • In Galaxy of Fear this usually happens with Hoole. Since he has the Story-Breaker Power of being able to mimic the shape and abilities of just about any creature in the Star Wars universe perfectly and thus would be able to quickly solve just about every problem the rest of the protagonists come up against with ease, he spends the vast majority of almost every book either incapacitated or doing his own thing off-screen.
    • Kenobi is set on Tatooine just after Revenge of the Sith. Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi would be able to handle most of the issues in the book without difficulty. Desert hermit Ben Kenobi, on the other hand, is far more limited in his options, lest someone out him as a Jedi and turn him in to the new Empire.
  • In Super Powereds, while most of the characters start at very low-level, Mary is a very powerful telekinetic and mind reader right from the get-go. To prevent her from being able to beat 95% of the cast just by smacking them into a wall until they stop moving, she's unable to use her powers directly against anyone living without the risk of hurting them.
  • The White Queen, the Big Bad of The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign, is the most powerful being in the series by an enormous margin. She's a Yandere for main character Kyousuke, but she hasn't caught him yet because (a) she won't do anything to kill him (though this doesn't stop her from injuring him) and will even fight to keep him alive; (b) she finds losing to him fun, so deliberately restrains herself to make it possible for him to win. Her being evil also prevents Kyousuke from ever wanting to summon her, acting as a handicap for him. More generally, the White Queen is incredibly difficult to summon and she's still subject to the normal rules of summoning, limiting other summoners from making use of her power.
  • The Vagrant (first book of The Vagrant Trilogy): Singing Swords like the one the Vagrant uses are extremely powerful weapons, especially against infernals. But to use its full power you have to sing with it, and the Vagrant is mute. It turns out the reason he is mute is that when he tried to sing with Gamma's blade, its power proved too much for him and struck him dumb.
  • Whateley Universe: Bladedancer. She's the Handmaid of the Tao. If the Tao gives her enough power, she's unbeatable. But the reader never knows whether she's going to get any help from the Tao, in which case she's just a mere baseline with a really cool sword.
  • In Worm, Contessa has the most capable precognition of all parahumanity, being capable of beating almost anyone and accomplishing almost anything... except that it flat out doesn't work on Humanity's biggest enemies, the Endbringers and Scion.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Daisy spends the first few episodes of season 4 without her custom-made gauntlets, which means that every time she uses her powers, she hurts herself. She gets more and more damaged over the course of the season, to the point that even when she does get her gauntlets back, she's warned that it will take her time to recover, and if she overuses her powers she could shatter every bone in her body.
    • Elena/Yo-yo has Super Speed powers, with the downside that she bounces back to her starting point whenever she uses it. Even so, she was incredibly powerful for a guest character, so when she became a main character from season 5 onward, Elena got a series of restrictions to stop her speed from breaking the plot. Initially, the team is trying to keep a low profile and can't rely on her powers too much. Later, Elena's arms get cut off and replaced by prosthetics that glitch out whenever her powers are used. That problem is eventually fixed, but later, trauma from a near-death experience leaves Elena unable to access her powers. She only gets over that, as well as the bounce-back problem, just a few episodes before the series finale.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • A first season episode features a living ventriloquist dummy named Sid. They both think the other is the bad guy, but a wooden dummy versus the slayer is not so much an The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny as it is a curbstomp. So the writers specifically had Sid drop a chandelier on Buffy so that she was restricted and he had somewhat of a fighting chance.
    • In Season 6, Willow's power grows immensely, way before she nearly destroys the world. But in Season 7, where she could use it to solve many if not most of the Scoobies' problems, she won't because she was afraid of the dark power. Willow was pretty powerful in Season 7, but the reason she was so powerful at the end of Season 6 was that she absorbed a metric fuckton of magic and transformed into her Superpowered Evil Side. Without that, she wasn't much stronger than at the end of Season 5, when she could barely manage to hurt Glory.
    • A particularly satisfying example was the demon known as the Judge, whose DPH was disguised as an ancient threat: "no weapon forged can kill him." As Buffy points out, "That was then; this is now." And she blows him apart with a rocket launcher, which may not have killed him, but very effectively took him out of the fight. Arrogant in his assumed invincibility and ignorant of the modern world, he does nothing to stop this.
  • Doctor Who: The Doctor is regularly separated from the TARDIS in order to provide a valid reason why he can't simply escape danger or use it to solve whatever problem at hand. A good example of this is in "The Eleventh Hour", where the severely damaged TARDIS is knocked out of commission whilst it rebuilds itself and the sonic screwdriver breaks soon after, forcing the newly-regenerated Eleventh Doctor to rely on his wits alone to try and save the world in under twenty minutes.
  • Heroes:
    • Peter has every superpower he's ever been close to, making him practically invincible and all-powerful. Usually this was tempered with a heavy dose of Idiot Ball, but starting in season 2, the show started giving him actual handicaps. Season 2 gave him total amnesia about himself and his powers. Peter eventually had his power nerfed down to only being able to copy one power at a time.
    • Sylar became powerless for the whole second season. The third season returned his telekinesis and ability to steal powers, but he was forced to re-steal any additional powers.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, the reason why Ted cannot get into a serious committed relationship with other women is that a small part of him is pining after Robin. The episode No Pressure makes it clear to Ted that Robin loves him as a friend, which now opens the possibility of him finally getting together with the mother.
  • In the premier episode of Inhumans, Medusa is captured and forcibly shaved by Maximus, which prevents her from using her trademark Prehensile Hair for most of the series. Similarly, Karnak suffers a head injury early on, which prevents him from using his power to predict the future.
  • In Minority Report (2015), main character Dash had precognitive abilities that allowed him to see future murders, but his abilities only let him see the emotional trauma of the deaths and some general details and images, where his fellow precogs Agatha and Art saw more details, with Agatha getting a good view of the overall picture and Art the names and a few other relevant details. As a result, while Dash's visions can be useful in solving or preventing crimes, he doesn't see enough of them to solve whole murders on his own, requiring him to work with an experienced investigator like Vega to actually solve everything.
  • In the series finale of Mystery Science Theater 3000: Pearl accidentally sets the Satellite of Love on a course back to Earth, then breaks the controller she was using, so she can't stop it. Observer couldn't simply use his powers to fix things because Pearl had "playfully" poured Mountain Dew into his brain pan, affecting his powers and giving him a mild case of aphasia ("Table dog purple liquify.")
  • In the season six finale of NCIS, viewers find out DiNozzo survived a fight with Mossad assassin Michael Rivkin because Rivkin was drunk.
  • The main source of drama in Person of Interest is caused by the fact that Finch purposely handicapped the Machine in what it can do. He rightfully feared that the government would abuse its power if given unrestricted access to its inner working. Thus it only gives out a single number that points to a person that will be central to an upcoming deadly tragedy. The government has the resources to quickly find the Relevant person and neutralize the threat. Finch and Reese are working to save the people on the Irrelevant list and while Finch's resources are considerable he cannot match those of a US government agency. Thus Reese often gets to the threatened person at the last moment and has to Indy Ploy his way out of danger. The drama is further upped by the fact that sometime he gets there too late and an innocent person dies as a result. It also doesn't always tell whether the person will be victim or perpetrator.
  • Some of the sixth rangers of Power Rangers get this. For example, the first Green Ranger was shown to be able to fight the Red Ranger to a standstill and take on the entire team at once. Then Rita used the Green Candle to sap his powers, forcing him to stay on the sidelines unless he was really needed. The Gold, Silver and Titanium Rangers had similar disabilities; the Gold Ranger powers weren't meant to be wielded by a human long-term (Jason only became the Gold Ranger when the original was injured), the Silver Ranger's morpher was initially damaged so that he could only stay morphed for a few minutes at a time, and the Titanium Ranger was subjected to a curse that would potentially kill him each time he morphed (and after the curse was broken, he moved on to explore other ways of stopping the current demon threat).
  • Sam, the Reaper, had his hand broken right before he could beat the Devil in a game of coin-tossing and win his soul back. By an angel, no less!. Although the drama was preserved just fine, it turned out to no purpose, as it was the last episode before the show got cancelled.
  • In the series finale of Spartacus, Crassus and Spartacus meet in a Duel to the Death. While Crassus has been pumped as a badass swordsman, Spartacus is a walking death machine, so he's powered down with a whole slew of battle injuries to make it competitive.
  • This was very common with Deanna Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Because her abilities could be a Story-Breaker Power in most suspense-driven situations, she was often (in many cases inexplicably) unable to use them to do things that she was depicted doing very easily in stories that required her to be more perceptive. The most glaring example is in the episode "Disaster", where Troi's empathic abilities abruptly become functionally useless, preventing her from determining how many people are alive or dead, or where they are on the ship. The best excuse is that everyone is freaked out. But this neglects the fact that the Enterprise has been in deadly danger before and Troi's powers were never white-noised (except when dramatically necessary). The main purpose of this power outage is to preserve the tension over the question of whether or not to separate the saucer section from the stardrive section which might explode. Hence she cannot tell if anybody is alive in that part of the ship, or if particular individuals (even her closest friends, the command staff) are among the living period.
  • Stargate Atlantis opened with the SGC (as depicted in Stargate SG-1) sending an expeditionary force to the Ancient city of Atlantis in the Pegasus galaxy. The distance between the two galaxies means that it requires an exceptional amount of power to dial the eight-chevron address via Stargate (standard addresses are just seven and confined to one galaxy), and the SGC drained their only power source to establish the first wormhole. For the first season, the expedition was thus cut off from Earth and with only limited power in the city; the mid-season two-parter saw them forced to improvise a plan using lightning as a temporary power source so that the city's shields would be able to protect it during an intense storm. From the second season onwards, the expedition were able to discover new Zero Point Modules- the power source needed to power Atlantis- allowing them to dial Earth and maintain the city's shields when required, although they never have access to enough ZPMs to run the city at full power.
  • In Stargate Universe, the main goal of the expedition was to find a way home after dialling the nine-chevron address that led them to the Ancient ship Destiny. However, after drifting in space for millions of years, some of the ship's components have become worn down, with the result that while Destiny can refuel by literally channelling power from stars, its maximum charge capacity at present is only 40% of what it would have been capable of when the ship was new. While most ship functions operate at a normal level, such as life support and shields (albeit likely at a lesser efficiency than what they would have been capable of when the ship was totally new), this power supply is inadequate to dial a wormhole back to Earth via the Stargate, and attempts to dial the gate while the ship is charging have been dismissed as too dangerous due to the potential risk of an overload.
  • Supernatural:
    • In "Mommy Dearest", the villain Eve is able to suppress Castiel's angelic powers, effectively turning him into a normal human. He gets them back after Eve is killed by Dean, and proceeds to wipe out all of her remaining Mooks in about three seconds.
    • This happens to Castiel quite a bit, presumably because he would have Story-Breaker Power otherwise. Over the course of the fifth season, he slowly loses his powers as a result of being cut off from Heaven. In season 7 the Leviathans are somehow able to kill angels despite otherwise being depicted as weaker than them (See Informed Ability). From the end of the eighth season, Castiel was stripped of his grace and thus reduced to a normal human level; he was able to restore some of his powers by taking the grace from enemy angels, but this would eventually kill him until he managed to retrieve his original grace where it had been hidden.
  • In Vikings, Ragnar is suffering from lingering injuries during his duel with the Earl, preventing it from being a Curb-Stomp Battle.
    • Angels in general as of the end of season 8. After Metatron cast his spell, every angel was expelled from Heaven and their wings burned off. While it did result in "thousands" (according to Naomi) of angels walking the Earth, they lost a number of their higher-level powers: teleportation, time travel, and reality warping.

    Multiple Media 
  • Makuta Teridax and his Brotherhood in BIONICLE let the main characters live (and on occasion helped them out) because they knew that fulfilling their mission was a key element of their plan. But to keep the fans from finding this out too soon, most Makuta were outfitted with such handicaps. The three Phantoka Makuta got blinded, and the Mistika team members suffered Mode Lock and lost several of their powers due to a mutagen. Icarax, the Makuta who wanted to have it his way, and so didn't bother following rules, got devolved into his pre-Energy Being state, causing him great pain as there was no space left for his muscles and internal organs in his special armor (though it did turn into a boon when he finally betrayed the others and they tried to cut his armor open to dissolve his energy...only for him to smugly tell them that while he didn't have that problem anymore, they did as he revved up his own weapon). The only Makuta in Karda Nui that didn't have a handicap was Mutran, and as the resident major Mad Scientist, he preferred not getting his hands dirty directly anyways and spent most of his time in his lab doing research and churning out monsters and shadow leeches, only fighting directly when the Toa raided his lab and when the Makuta went on the full offensive.

  • The ability to rewind time is a lot harder to implement in a roleplay setting, so in Mahou MUSH Homura Akemi can still stop time but finds her ability to rewind time mysteriously blocked by a power which manifests via a cryptic "" symbol. Because she's no longer able to reset and try again if things go wrong, the stakes are correspondingly a lot higher - particularly when Walpurgisnacht comes calling.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Orks of Warhammer 40,000. The Orks outnumber every faction in the game, and could easily steamroll to galactic conquest through sheer numbers alone. Luckily for the galaxy at large, the only things Orks enjoy more than a fight is fighting other Orks. Which keeps them disjointed and scattered enough so this doesn't happen.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age: Origins: Riordan damages the Archdemon's wing while falling, so that during the final battle, it can't just fly away and escape the Grey Warden. This also kills off Riordan, to prevent Riordan from being able to perform the Heroic Sacrifice and leaving it to the Grey Wardens of the party to do so or use the ritual.
  • Yuna's group in Final Fantasy X has a whole host of different elements to make sure that they're the only ones who can defeat Sin once and for all. First, there's the fact that Sin contains the soul of Jecht, a previous guardian to the High Summoner. Then Tidus, Jecht's son, happens to end up on Spira. Then there's the fact that Jecht liked the Hymn of the Fayth, and the airship that Yuna's party acquires late in the game has the ability to play a recording of the Hymn. If any one of those things didn't happen, Sin stays alive, especially considering the party kills Lady Yunalesca, who had the only alternative available.
  • God of War (2018): Both of the dwarven Huldra Brothers, Brok and Sindri display an ability to step into the Realm Between Realms as an in-universe explanation for how they are able to move around so easily and provide their exceptional smithing talents to help Kratos and Atreus on their journey. However, as Sindri learns the hard way, this ability is useless against the keen senses of a dragon, resulting in a detour for the duo on their path up the mountain when they have to save him from the dragon Hraezlyr.
  • In Golden Sun, the heroes are able to fight Saturos (previously a Hopeless Boss Fight) in the Mercury Lighthouse, because the lighthouse weakens his Fire-based magic, and strengthens the heroine's Water-based powers (which he is weak against). Notably, his ally Alex was impressed that they managed to beat him, noting that he expected Saturos to win.
  • In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the final boss has an attack that instantly turns all of the heroes into trophies a little while before the final battle. Right before the battle begins, Sonic appears and attacks the boss's wings, weakening this attack considerably (though it's still almost a OHKO).
  • Metal Gear Solid:
    • Otacon deliberately designed a blatantly obvious weak point for the Metal Gear. He claims it gives the mechs "character" but he may also have been indulging in being able to bring a common Mecha-based anime plot point to "life".
    • Gray Fox's last heroic deed is to take out Metal Gear REX's exterior vision modes, forcing the pilot to open the cockpit in order to see and giving Snake a legitimate weak point to fire at.
    • Solid Snake ends up on the receiving end of having to open the REX's cockpit when it's his turn to use it to fight in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.
  • World of Warcraft often does this to justify players being able to kill a certain Big Bad. Some raid bosses have been weakened by another force, sometimes NPC's join the fight on the players' side, and some quests give you an item that will turn an elite mob into a normal one. Many of the hardmodes and achievements require you not to activate the handicap and still win the fight.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons Online, there is a very early quest, where you are level 1 or 2, where you destroy a crystal, which was allowing a mind-flayer to control a dragon. This is a clever way to allow a low-level player to defeat enemies which otherwise would curb stomp the PC in one blow.
  • Def Jam: Fight For New York has the Big Bad Crow stabbing the player character with a blade hidden inside his cane. It's non-lethal but halves your health for the fight.
  • In Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, Dracula is basically the most powerful being alive. In his prime. When the game picks up after the Action Prologue, he's been asleep for centuries without feeding. He can't even fight. Most of the game has Dracula journeying into his Mental World of Castlevania to regain his powers.
  • In Dark Souls, all of the most powerful figures in the setting's lore have been reduced to shadows of their former glory, yet another sign that the Age of Fire is ending. This is why a lone Undead (albeit a badass one) can potentially defeat them. Even then, they aren't exactly pushovers.
    • One example in Dark Souls which happens long before the events of the game proper due to Time Travel is Knight Artorias. He was one of Gwyn's Four Knights (the same order that Ornstein was captain of), known for being almost unbeatable with his trademark greatsword and greatshield. When you fight him, he's been tainted by the Abyss, his armor is in tatters, his sword has been wrecked and coated in dark slime, his greatshield is gone protecting his wolf companion, Sif, and his left arm (which is implied to be his sword-arm) is broken and useless, forcing him to fight one handed. And he still puts up a formidable fight. One can only wonder how strong he was in his prime...
    • The Last Giant from Dark Souls II has been buried underground for ages with a large pillar impaling his torso, which gives you half a chance of defeating this several stories tall rock monster. Going into one of the Giant Memories lets you fight him in his prime as the Giant Lord, and he puts up a much better fight with a greatsword as long as five of you stacked on top of each other.
    • A more spoiler-y example in 2 comes at the reveal of King Vendrick's hollowed state. This character has been set up as the Final Boss, but by the time you get to him, he is a barely functional zombie that won't even attack you. Unless you provoke him, at which point he'll put up quite the fight that will be Harder Than Hard unless you have at least four Giant Souls in your inventory. Still better than trying to fight him in his prime, but not by much since he still hits like a freight train.
  • In Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes, the game forces you to use Nadia in the final Boss Fight (for plot reasons). At this point in the game, you won't have had time to level up Nadia to max (you don't gain access to her until the endgame and her stage lacks the side missions the others have to gain EXP). And as a bonus handicap, Nadia is the only playable character whose Limit Break strikes randomly, rather than full-screen or aimed. What would've been an Anti-Climax Boss with Godric or Anwen turns into a Luck-Based Mission.
  • In Super Robot Wars V, it's noted by Tetsuya Tsurugi that the only reason why Earth Fleet Tenku stood a chance against Mazinger Zero was because Koji hasn't been fully assimilated yet and is actively resisting. This slowed down Zero's full awakening enough that its abilities (especially its probability and reality manipulation abilities) hasn't fully come online yet. It's still by far the most powerful enemy that the player would face in the game thus far, and makes both the Angels Bardiel and Zeruel fought in the same map look like jokes in comparison.
  • In the final stage of Bayonetta, Jeanne retrieves the title character from Jubileus' left eye, allowing the goddess to only use half of her full power.
  • In Undertale; a handicap in favor of the player is in effect for Asgore, the Big Bad. As you go through the game it's repeatedly hammered into your head that he is the strongest Monster, more than capable of putting your character (a small child) into the dirt with little effort, and Undyne says that she's only ever landed one solid blow on him in practice because he's so fast. When it comes time to fight him you find out that at 80 ATK and 80 DEF, he has more statistical power than anything else in the game... and then you actually meet him, it turns out he's a Tragic Villain who despises himself for killing children for the sake of his kingdom's hope. He can't bring himself to attack you full-force (and will in fact never kill you until your HP is already at 1), he's swinging wildly with what should be a precision weapon because he can't look you in the eyes, he leaves his guard down so his sky-high defense is irrelevant, and he'll just stand still tanking your attacks until it kills him because there's only one way he wants this fight to end.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has you fight Jin, one of the main villains and head of the Torna organization, about midway through the game. The issue is, Jin's currently one of the strongest Blades in the world, owing to his forbidden merging of human cells with his own Core to become a Flesh Eater and has powers ranging from light-speed movement to freezing an area to absolute zero to full elementary particle manipulation. Suffice to say, the party, despite having all members by this point, is nowhere near capable of facing him in combat. Fortunately, the party is currently being escorted by Fan La Norne, a Blade acting as envoy to the Indoline Praetorium with the unique power of restricting Blades by nullifying their powers. The party notes that her power appears to not be working on him, until it is stated that he's just so powerful that the nullification is just barely able to bring him down to the power level of a regular Blade, which they are able to face in combat.
  • Monster Girl Quest!:
    • The original trilogy has both Luka and Alice greatly weakened at the start of its third chapter: the former has his spirits sealed while the latter is herself sealed (and can only escape the seal in a weaker, child-sized form). As a result, the monsters and angels encountered from then on are actually challenging. It's also later revealed that Tamamo has been stuck in a weaker form all along, and is actually one of the legendary Six Ancestors.
    • Monster Girl Quest! Paradox RPG has Alice and Ilias both reduced to weaker, child-sized forms right from the start of the game, as well as losing the support of their subordinates. This forces them to find new allies.
  • Fate/Grand Order:
    • Demon King Goetia, the Big Bad of the first arc, is all but unstoppable when finally confronted, having stolen the powers, possessions and body of his creator King Solomon, the World's Strongest Man in regards to magic, while also possessing the power and knowledge of 72 Demon God Pillars that he controls. Despite this, he's still able to be beaten because he lacks the final Magic Ring of his creator, denying him the ten rings' Set Bonus ability of shutting off magic from any human he wishes and giving Chaldea the chance to fight back against him. By the time Goetia finally gets his hands on all ten of Solomon's Rings, he's crippled and beaten beyond recovery, reduced to a rapidly dying form as the King of Men.
    • Chaldea themselves suffer from this, with events conspiring to prevent them from using the hundreds of legendary heroes, mythical monsters, and stronger oddities they've recruited from simply blitzing through every obstacle in their path. Heian-Kyo explains that the Singularities themselves inhibit bringing Servants depending on the danger the Singularity poses to Proper Human History, which is why every major Singularity in the first arc is only handled by the protagonist and Mash. Meanwhile, the Shadow Border simply can't support a large number of Servants in a Zero Dive, encouraging Chaldea to summon more on-site throughout the secondo arc. It isn't until Tunguska that simply bum-rushing the objective with a bunch of heavy hitters becomes a viable plan, and even that falls flat on arrival.
  • The Daedric Prince Hircine does this to himself willingly at the end of the Bloodmoon expansion pack for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. As a mortal fighting a Daedric Prince at full power would be like an ant fighting a tsunami (which, in his own words, would be "less than sporting"), Hircine takes a form that can offer a fair challenge to the player.

    Visual Novels 
  • Lampshaded by the protagonist of Double Homework. Dennis, with his computer ability, can do a lot of damage by manipulating the availability of information, even though he has very little in the way of physical strength or social standing. The protagonist, meanwhile, has damaging information that can ruin him if it leaks out.
  • In Fate/stay night:
    • Saber is the strongest member of her class, already considered the most outstanding of all classes, making her one of the strongest Servants period. She possesses almost unmatched combat skills, excellent stats, is practically immune to all forms of magecraft, and possesses some of the most powerful Noble Phantasms in existence, including Excalibur - a Wave Motion Sword capable of flattening mountains. She would normally be capable of single-handedly defeating all opposition, with only Gilgamesh being a challenge, which would make the novel rather unexciting as she's partnered with the main character — a guy who has next to no actual magical power. So she ends up getting improperly summoned, which leaves her with reduced stats and inability to regenerate prana through normal means - which limits her to single use of Excalibur before she becomes almost cripplingly weakened. Furthermore, she only reclaims her third Noble Phantasm - which power makes her immortal and invulnerable - just before the last battle when she has to face Gilgamesh, the strongest of Heroic Spirits. Predictably, it turns out to be exactly what she needs to win.
      • She doesn't have all her Noble Phantasms because as King Arthur, she made a deal with the world right before she died to claim the Grail, which limits her to have only the Noble Phantasm she had with her on her death bed and causes her not to be a full and true Heroic spirit... even in Fate/Zero or as Rin's Servant.
    • Gilgamesh is by far the oldest heroic spirit in a world where Older Is Better. He has rather high stats across the board ( his lowest stats are on par with most servant's highest stats) and owns a ridiculously powerful Noble Phantasm that gives him access to the superior ancient counterparts of all existing weapon-type Noble Phantasms. If he so deigned, he could very easily beat all other servants in the story even at their absolute best. The only reason this isn't the case and anyone lasts longer than ten seconds against him is because he's so inconceivably arrogant that he absolutely refuses to put serious effort in fighting others, even if they are a threat to him. In all routes, he gets taken out by opponents he could defeat if he were to seriously fight them, but he took the battle for granted and lost (and in Heaven's Feel, gets eaten) as a result.
    • Berserker is both freakishly fast and strong, nigh-invulnerable, and has multiple lives to boot. He's summoned as a Berserker, rendering him incapable of doing anything more complex than Attack! Attack! Attack!, locking out his offensive Noble Phantasm, and making him all but uncontrollable. He's still useful to his Master, simply by virtue of said master being the most powerful one and thus being able to control him anyway.
  • Arcueid of Tsukihime is one of the most powerful characters in the Nasuverse. However, she uses the majority of that power suppressing her urge for blood, and after Shiki "kills" her early on, she ends up using most of the remainder to regenerate herself. And the method he used to kill her means she takes the majority of the plot to fully recover.
  • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc: The Mastermind enforces this by erasing Kyoko Kirigiri's memories of her talent (Ultimate Detective), because if she had full access to it, she could have ended the Killing Game far earlier than planned. She still has her natural instinct as a detective, figures out that her memories have been tampered with, and later deduces what her talent was regardless.

  • Keychain of Creation: The first story arc takes the main characters into a corrupted Place of Power that suppresses their Regenerating Mana, forcing them to budget their powers.
    Ten: So, on our very first big adventure, we're going to be under an area effect that severely limits all our incredible, divine, make-things-a-lot-easier superpowers.
    Misho: Yes...?
    Ten: ...Weak.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Ultra-powerful post-splice Vaarsuvius is the most powerful mage to have ever long as they hold on to the splices. Good thing one of them (a legendary necromancer no less, who would have been uniquely qualified to help against V's undead foe) slips away BEFORE the elf goes to fight the Big Bad, Xykon, or else the Order Of The Stick's quest would end in a Curb-Stomp Battle. Plus, Vaarsuvius has a revelation about more effective use of their power immediately after losing the other two splices. And they were further hampered by the fact that every stat other than their effective caster level (which, before losing the first splice, was somewhere in the 90s) and available spell slots was not enhanced by the splice.
      • V gets another lesson from the black dragon just before all that. In an anti-magic field, V is just a talking monkey, while the dragon is still a dragon.
    • Also happens repeatedly during Linear Guild confrontations, as lampshaded by Roy here. Roy seems to be outright defying the trope in that comic, but it ends up being played straight again a dozen strips later when the Linear Guild attacks immediately after Vaarsuvius is incapacitated by a trap.
    • This also applies to Azure City being captured and taken over by Team Evil. Having the resources of a powerful city-state at their beck and call and ruler ready to accommodate them in any way gives the good guys a possible edge against the forces of darkness. In order to keep a real sense of drama and impending doom through several more story arcs, something had to happen to make sure the good guys wouldn't have it so easy.
  • In Sluggy Freelance, you'd think Torg having a sword that can kill anything with one strike would make him unbeatable against the various aliens and demons he comes up against. It has a double-catch, however, since it (a) needs to feed on the blood of the innocent to gain that power, and (b) depending on the enemy, will need to hit a specific part of their body in order to kill them. (Fortunately, unpowered, it's still a pretty sharp normal sword that will work against non-superpowered opponents.)

    Western Animation 
  • Across the Ben 10 series (all iterations of the franchise), there's aliens on the Omnitrix with a Story-Breaker Power, but one or two have a handicap that seriously limits their usage:
    • Alien X is a Celestialsapien, a species which is a Reality Warper, but the Split Personality of Bellicus and Serena (and then Ben, meaning Alien X has three personalities) endlessly debating and Alien X being unable to do anything without agreement (until Ben somehow manages to convince them that he'd be better in control and they can debate endlessly) means that drama is preserved; this is shown during the episode "Universe vs Tennyson" where the Galactic Gladiator appears. Alien X could not do anything until his personalities agreed - in Alien Force and Ultimate Alien, it had to be a Majority Vote, while in Omniverse it was retconned into being a Unanimous Vote - and since two of them (Love/Compassion and Rage/Aggression) have been arguing for eternity, getting them to focus on any present task was difficult at best, leaving Alien X motionless. Ben became the voice of reason, making this Celestialsapien unique as being the only one In-Universe to have three personalities.
    • Clockwork is a Chronosapien, from an unknown planet. Normally, usage of him would end the story quite quickly due to being able to use time-manipulation and Time Travel powers unless used against a similar antagonist with time-based powers. When Clockwork has been used in this manner, it was normally to demonstrate his abilities to Gwen and Kevin.
    • Gutrot was only used five times, but Ben's lack of knowledge on gases in a scientific manner is the handicap here; used to full potential, it could kill anyone.
    • Juryrigg is an interesting example of this trope; his strong desire to break down and take items apart (mostly machinery) makes him useful, but the ability to be mischievous (well, maybe more like a cross between The Gadfly and at worst a Troll) rather than malevolent or evil stops him from being able to be a possible Story-Breaker Power. He isn't as widely used as other aliens in the Omnitrix since there haven't been situations where his abilities would fit in well.
  • In Danny Phantom, Danny uses the specter deflector on Vlad to weaken him to make it a fair fight. Later episodes show them pummeling each other on equal terms due to Danny's Character Development.
  • In the final episodes of Gravity Falls, it's revealed that Gravity Falls itself has a weirdness barrier around it to keep the weird happenings going on there contained there. This (until then unmentioned) barrier is the ONLY thing that stops the series Big Bad Bill Cypher from conquering the world at that point, as he had already conquered Gravity Falls and was nearly omnipotent.
  • Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League weakened Superman severely so he couldn't curb stomp everything and the other members of the league could be useful. This also gave most supervillains a (vague) chance against him, since he felt pain from most attacks (more Heroic Willpower than Nigh-Invulnerability.)
    • Superman: The Animated Series used Kryptonite everywhere. They also used the Parasite to sap Supes' strength, and in one episode they removed yellow sunlight so Luminus could fight Superman one-on-one.
    • He did receive a major buff at Justice League season 2, since so many fans complained he became a superwimp. He can still be physically exhausted (see "Secret Society") but it takes a LOT more effort. And it was eventually revealed that he was inhibited the whole time out of fear of hurting others.
    • Justice League occasionally did it for other characters too. A good example is where Wonder Woman was poisoned to give Black Manta Captain Ersatz Devil Ray, an entirely original character not related to Aquaman, a decent chance against her in hand-to-hand. "The Savage Time" three-parter also saw Green Lantern's ring run out of power in the first installment, forcing him to rely on his military training for the remainder of the storyline.
    • J'onn J'onzz is a martian who is as powerful as Superman and also an extremely capable psychic and shapeshifter. He is usually taken out very quickly or has his mind scrambled by the villain somehow.
    • The Flash falls prey to occasional tripping on objects he should otherwise see far in advance, to explain why he doesn't just beat everyone up before anyone else gets the chance. "The Great Brain Robbery" episode of Justice League has Green Lantern explain that The Flash has basically been holding back in every fight because if he wanted to, he could just phase through anything and explode it. J'onn is pretty much the only being who could revive from that. Wally uses it twice, to destroy a robot clone of himself, and to destroy robot parts of Brainiac fused with Lex Luthor.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: At the end of Season Two, Aang undergoes spiritual training that will allow him to enter the Avatar State at will. With that ability, Aang would've been able to take on Fire Lord Ozai then and there and end the war. So naturally, the first time he tries to invoke this power, he's nearly killed when Azula blasts him in the back with a lightning strike. When Aang recovers, he finds his injuries have blocked his chakra, sealing him off the Avatar State. He doesn't get it back until the Grand Finale (the end of Season Three).
    • In Sequel Series The Legend of Korra, Korra has a similar problem. She can't go into the Avatar State or communicate with her past lives due to her undeveloped spiritual side until the end of book one. By the beginning of book two, she can use it almost at will, but she has to face spiritual enemies normal bending has little effect on and near the end of book two, Unalaq manages to tear the Avatar Spirit out of her and destroy the connection it had to the previous Avatars. While Korra is able to get the spirit back, losing the connection to the other Avatars means she's back to being on her own advice-wise when it comes to literally Earth-changing decisions.
      • Not to mention how she's weakened in season four from being exposed to mercury during the season three finale.
    • Toph and Katara, despite being two of the most powerful benders of their generation and arguably of all time, do not participate in the fighting against the assorted villains because age hasn't been as kind to them as it has to some people. Toph delivers a Curb-Stomp Battle to Kuvira's forces to rescue her family in Operation Beifong, but in the aftermath, says she threw out her back out, and that it's up to the younger generation to deal with its problems.
  • In the first and fourth seasons of Teen Titans (2003), the Big Bads could have easily killed the Titans but were more interested in convincing one of them to defect to the villains' side instead.
  • DC Super Hero Girls: They decided to re-imagine Jessica Cruz (Green Lantern) as a Granola Girl and Technical Pacifist since she and her Green Lantern Ring would have been able to defeat pretty much any opponent otherwise.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Princess Celestia may be the princess of Equestria, but being such a powerful entity makes her the queen of this trope as she could theoretically solve every problem in the series if she isn't taken out of the picture somehow. The only time an excuse is given for her inaction is when faced with Tirek who could drain her power and thus become a bigger threat. The rest of the time she sits it out at the palace or is being held hostage while Twilight and company save the day, and when she does step up to fight she either gets her royal can thoroughly kicked by the unexpectedly powerful villain or finds her magic rendered unusable. Princess Luna is only moderately better as she has gotten to save the day a couple times, much to the chagrin of Celestia fans who are literally begging for "Sunbutt" to get off her laurels and finally get an episode of her own.
      • As of Season 7, she does in the episode "A Royal Problem", and it gives the implication that she's been holding back in fear she might harm others by using too much power at once. Of course this doesn't explain why she thinks that's a bigger risk than standing back and doing nothing, but it's at least something.
    • Twilight Sparkle's biggest weakness is crumbling under pressure combined with an inability to quickly improvise strategies, effectively meaning she often forgets to dip into her ever-increasing array of spells in a fight and instead tends to just rear up and blindly shoot blasts from her horn. Notably this is a driving reason behind how Starlight Glimmer was able to take her down in two separate battles.
    • Unsurprisingly after Twilight Sparkle and Tirek's Dragon Ball Z Level tussle in the Season 4 Finale, the Season 5 Premiere villain Starlight Glimmer specialized in Power Nullifying: rather than overpower the main cast she simply snatched away their cutie marks (and by extension their skills and extraordinary abilities) leaving them borderline helpless.
    • Even back in the Season 3 premiere, King Sombra is cunning enough to invoke this. He uses a Power Nullifier curse to block Shining Armor's magic and prevent him from helping Princess Cadance with her shield spell, waits for her to exhaust herself in a Morton's Fork situation without her aforementioned husband's backup now, and indirectly gets Twilight with one of his Anti-Magic traps to prevent her from just teleporting to safety with his Achilles' Heel.
    • The Changeling Hive in "To Where And Back Again - Part 2" is surrounded by a powerful Anti-Magic field, preventing Discord from just solving all of the episode's problems with a snap of a finger (and also explains how they were able to capture the main cast and the princesses, which is why it's up to the secondary characters to save the day in the first place.)
  • Mighty Ducks: The Animated Series;
    • Mainly for the benefit of the Ducks, as damage inflicted on the Raptor early in the series leaves Dragaunus forced to focus more effort on finding a new source of power for his ship than actually conquering the planet.
    • A more distinct example occurred in the episode "The Human Factor" when damage to the Mask forced the Ducks to rely on more conventional detective work to investigate odd events in a small town when the Mask would have quickly revealed that everyone in that town had been replaced by robots; when Wildwing observed at the end that recent events would have been easier with the Mask, Tanya noted that it would have made for a much shorter episode.
  • In one episode of The Powerpuff Girls (1998), a burglar breaks into the girls' house. Since he is an ordinary, non-superpowered human, the girls could easily deal with him...if it weren't for the fact that the Professor needs to sleep for a dissertation he's giving the next day, and they don't want to wake him up, thus forcing them to hold back when dealing with the crook.
  • In The Owl House, Eda Clawthorne is generally billed as one of the most powerful witches in the world and the only one to master every form of magic. Pretty much every time she's operating at full power, she can defeat just about any common enemy and resolve the plot in ten seconds. However, she also happens to be suffering from a curse that cuts her power significantly when it kicks in and risks turning her into a mindless monster permanently, which can only be held off with an elixir that exists in limited supply and grows less effective regularly. Consequently, many episodes in the first season that need her held in check have her suffer a relapse, run out of elixir, or have the elixir not work. Her having the curse restricted in the first season finale coincided with her losing access to her magic.
    • To a much lesser extent, Amity's broken leg leaves the team of younger heroes without one of their strongest witches in the season one finale.
  • By the fourth season of Castlevania (2017), the three main heroes have slain many powerful monsters, and nothing they face in this season is any more powerful than previous villains (except for Death). To preserve the drama, Trevor and Sypha can't instantly annihilate their enemies because they're exhausted after six weeks of constantly fighting monsters, and Alucard is in poor shape after Drowning His Sorrows.
  • In Wolverine and the X-Men (2009), Professor X and Jean, the most powerful mutants and psychics of the X-Men, are missing. This causes the X-Men to disband and the goal of the series is to find them.
  • In Rick and Morty, many a climax has had the heroes trying to escape from or outrun some kind of messy situation that, if they just used Rick's portal gun—an Interdimensional Travel Device—would be easily solved or avoided. Sometimes it's justified when the portal gun is directly shown to have been left behind by mistake or not be working for some reason, but more often, nobody seems to think of it or bring it up, and there's no indication that Rick even has it on him, even though it's one of his most important and well-guarded inventions.


Video Example(s):


"You guys don't get it."

If the other Spiders stay in the wrong dimension for too long, they'll die.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / DramaPreservingHandicap

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