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Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors

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The simplest example: The starters from the Pokémon series — Fire burns Grass, Grass absorbs Water, and Water quenches Fire.

"If there's one thing I know, it's water beats fire. But grass beats water, and fire beats grass. Good God, it's like a never-ending circle!"
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Many works feature characters that have some elemental association, and this often includes some form of resistance or weakness to one or more elements. In some cases, these are arbitrary—even very similar characters may have wildly different resistances and weaknesses.

In the case of this trope, however, quite the opposite is true: if you know what elemental associations a character has, you know which elemental skills to use to deal the most damage. This is because, under Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors, the elements are arranged in a pattern of fixed relationships to each other: Element A beats element B; element B beats element C; and so on.

In short, this trope is the application of Elemental Powers to Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors.

Note that while while the trope is named for Rock–Paper–Scissors, which has a simple three-item cycle, that needn't be the case for an example to fall under this trope—Tropes Are Flexible, after all. The core idea here is that, given an element, you can reliably say which elements it "defeats" and which it's "defeated by". That said, cyclical patterns are not uncommon—likely because a cycle instates a degree of balance, with no one element being "the best".

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An elemental sub-trope of Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors. Contrast Elemental Tiers, where one element is intended to be dominate above all others. When a character sticks with a single element regardless of such a system, they become Poor, Predictable Rock. Rules established can be changed further either side, through Scissors Cuts Rock, Barrier Change Boss and Kryptonite-Proof Suit.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Naruto has this in their elemental jutsus. Each elemental jutsu has its own "theme"; for instance, Earth jutsu are mostly defensive (making walls, for example), and that plays into how they work. Fire attacks feast on Wind, so if you counter Fire with Wind you will simply make the Fire more powerful; Lightning disrupts and tears through Earth; Earth blocks Water; and Water obviously snuffs Fire out. Wind beats Lightning by disrupting it (given how lightning travels through air). Other elemental clashes can still have bad effects — Lightning vs. Water, for instance, is usually bad for any ninja touching the water, except for the caster of the lightning jutsu. It's a somewhat different cycle, though (element points to one it beats): Fire→Wind→Lightning→Earth→Water→Fire. Also, this only appears to apply to the effect of jutsu on each other, not with regular materials.
  • In One Piece, a number of occasions show up that set two Devil Fruits against each other with surprising, yet still logical, outcomes. For a few examples, the abilities of 'Fire Fist' Ace and Smoker canceled each other out, the supposedly godlike abilities of God Eneru were completely canceled out by the allegedly weak powers of Luffy, and the previously unbeatable poison-based powers of Magellan were successfully blocked by the considerably weaker wax powers of Mr. 3.
    • At least until Magellan made an even stronger poison.
      • As of Chapter 573, we have learned of such an effect with Marine Admiral Akainu and his power to become magma: Magma has an advantage over regular fire. There is actual science behind this, as lava has both heat and mass (effectively smothering a weaker flame with its own) hotter than normal fire.
  • Bleach: Hitsugaya points out that it doesn't matter how much water Harribel throws at him, his power is based on converting water to ice, so he can counter it every time. Harribel observes that logic works in reverse by using boiling water to melt Hitsugaya's ice into back into water she can exploit. Hitsugaya then clarifies he understands this and proceeds to demonstrate that he can control even her boiling water. However, since all they both have is ice and water, this doesn't change their stand-off.
  • A manga chapter, and an episode of the Toei Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, had Yami Yugi playing a magical game where he and his opponent controlled dragons that represented the five Eastern elements. A bit more complex than most examples, since the dragons not only had dominance against other elements, they could also be joined with complementary elements to gain more strength, like in the Chinese philosophy of the five elements. For instance, an Earth dragon is strong against Water, is weak against Wood, strengthens Metal, and is strengthened by Fire.
    • Early chapters of the manga featured a system like this, though it was never properly elaborated on. Along with the typical ones you'd expect (Lightning beats Water), there were some oddball ones (Fire beats Dinosaurs, Illusion beats Shadow and loses to Demon). How it worked varied as well; sometimes it made the monsters invincible, other times it granted an ATK boost. Some videogames attempted to adapt the concept, with varying results.
  • Fairy Tail
    • Played with in 100 Years Quest when the gang fights against Mercuphobia, the Water God Dragon. Mercuphobia's control over water is so impressive combined with his raw power he's able to extinguish Natsu's fire (playing it straight) and negate Gray freezing his attacks by just turning it back into water (subverting it) easily. Fellow God Dragon Ignia notes that in terms of elemental matchup, Mercuphobia's water has the edge on his fire despite their roughly equal raw power, but he himself is able to produce fire so intense not even water can put it out.
  • In My Hero Academia, this occurs several times with elemental quirks.
  • Compared to the games, the anime version of Pokémon actually downplays this. While type advantages are acknowledged to exist in-universe by the characters, it isn't uncommon for Trainers' Pokemon to be able to overcome them completely with the right strategies, moves, and brutal training.
  • In Tokyo Underground, the elemental effectivity chart is actually based on conventional physics and common sense: thus, for example, a water mage was easily able to win against a lightning mage due to the fact that pure water is a poor conductor of electricity.
  • The first season of Saint Seiya Omega featured the following dynamic: Fire→Water→Earth→Lightning→Wind.
  • Blazer powers in Chivalry of a Failed Knight can be oriented around elements, such as with Stella and Shizuku. Shizuku surpasses her weakness to lightning-oriented Blazers in an early battle with pure water, but later loses to the lightning-using student council president Touka.
  • The Chinese elemental cycle is used in Ushio and Tora by some high-ranked members of the Kouhamei Sect to kill and fight Youkai. Though not all the elements are shown in action, it is stated that Tora and the Hiyo are Wood-aligned and harmed by the Metal Qi, the artificial monsters made by Inasa are aligned with Water and harmed by Earth Qi, while the Kokuen are seemingly aligned with Earth Qi. This is also an example where the user's elements doesn't need to match his own actual powers (Tora can breath fire and summon lightning, but both are repelled by paper tags imbued with the Metal Qi).
  • Soul Hunter:
    • Ryuukitsu Koushu easely curbstomp Ryuu kan since, on top of the difference of level between them, her water powers have a neat advantage over his fire powers.
  • In Black Clover certain magic attributes are effective against others. Poison Magic has an advantage against Plant Magic, Steel Magic is at a disadvantage against Flame Magic, Water Magic has an advantage against Flame Magic, etc.
  • The world of Rave Master features eigth possible elements (Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, Thunder, Sea, Light and Darkness), with each couple of elements in magic being effective against the opposite. For example, during the battle against Climax Boss Doryuu, Ruby saves the party from the former's deadly spell "Nightmare Spread" by temporarely changing everyone's affinity to Darkness, and eventually Haru's Million Suns sword proves extremely effective at cleansing Doryuu's darkness and evilness. This is also subverted in between the two events, when Doryuu reveals that some spells can harm even people aligned with the same elements and tries to crush the party with such a spell.
  • The Qwaser of Stigmata has an unusual version of this trope since the titular Qwasers control the actual chemical elements. For example, an oxygen Qwaser has an advantage over Qwasers with metallic elements since she can oxidise their elements.

    Comic Books 
  • Various Marvel Comics heroes have used this trope at several points to defeat certain enemies, most often villains who either transform themselves into some giant elemental-type creature or otherwise use a certain type of energy in their powers.
    • Spider-Man villains Electro, Sandman, and Hydro-Man have all been defeated by being doused with water and/or some chemical compound that negatively affects them, like wet cement.
    • The X-Men hero Iceman once defeated the Human Torch despite the apparent weakness, using his ice powers to create steam and water vapors around Torch and extinguish his flames. Obviously, The Torch was struck dumb.
    • The Incredible Hulk has defeated some of his opponents this way, such as by spraying the villainess Vapor with oxygen when she had transformed herself into hydrogen, effectively turning her into water (which should have required burning it), or by beating X-Ray (a living field of radiation) with a lead pipe, which disrupts his radioactive body.
      • This is much more more fun if you realize that pure oxygen and pure hydrogen tend to explode when combined.
      • Vapor and X-Ray were both members of the U-Foes, a group of villains who tried to get superpowers by copying Reed Richards' flawed space flight. They ended up as direct analogues of the Fantastic Four (but evil, and therefore punchable), making them Elementals twice removed.
  • The Golden Age Green Lantern has an inverted version of the East Asian elemental relationships. He used the element of fire, was strong against metals, but was weak against wood.
    • The modern Green Lantern comics have this with the emotional/color spectrum rather than elements. For instance, Willpower/Green rings are vulnerable to Fear/Yellow rings, which are vulnerable to Hope/Blue rings, which depend on the aid of Willpower/Green rings to actually do anything.
      • Rage/Red rings give the user the user the ability to vomit blood that weakens other rings, the disadvantage is that most red ring users are unable to make constructs, and they also were vulnerable to blue.
      • Greed/Orange rings can store far more charge than normal rings and can absorb energy from other colors, but not blue.
      • Indigo/compassion can copy other colors.
      • Black/Death, which is the absence of color and life, normally can only be beaten by a combination of green plus one other color or by white.
      • White/Life is the combination of all other colors except black, and their combined abilities.
      • The First lantern was a Reality Warper and Emotion Eater who had an advantage over all the colors, although Orange was particularly resistant to him. His only vulnerability was against Black.
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    Fan Works 
  • In With Strings Attached, during the Fourth Movement, the Raleka wizards plan to fight water-wielder John with fire and electricity. This might have worked if they hadn't been distracted into attacking a whole lot of other people first.
  • In Sailormoon Millennia Trilogy there is a part where Arseniru attacks the Sailor Senshi with fire. Sailors Mars and Leo, who have fire powers, are especially affected by it, while the ice warriors Sailor Mercury and Sailorgemini are immune.

    Literature 
  • In Kaze no Stigma, fire mages can't be harmed by fire and can even stand on lava.
  • In one of Piers Anthony's Xanth novels, a literal game of Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors and different interpretations lead to the death of a merman. In this case, according to the dragon: Sand smothers fire, fire boils water, and water covers sand; while according to the merman: Fire melts sand, sand displaces water, water douses fire. The dragon's interpretation matches ours. The dragon threw Fire and the merman threw Water. Each thought he had won and an argument ensued with the dragon killing the merman in the scuffle. When the Dragon realizes the mistake, he decides to make it up to the widow.
  • In Codex Alera,there are three pairs of opposing elements: Fire vs Water, Air vs Earth, and Wood vs Metal. Keeping a craftsman with only an Earth Fury suspended in mid-air saps their powers, burying an Aircrafter saps theirs, dunking a Firecrafter in water or surrounding a Watercrafter with fire will cancel them out, and putting a Woodcrafter in a metal box will cancel out theirs. It's never seen, but it can be assumed that stuffing a Metalcrafter into a wooden crate would drain their powers. An exceptional craftsman can have multiple elemental pet Furies of varying types, though, which makes keeping them prisoner or nullifying them much more difficult.
  • Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters series has four elements: Air, Water, Fire, Earth. Neighboring elements, like Air and Fire, can enhance each other, but opposing pairs (Water-Fire and Air-Earth) are bitter enemies. This came out particularly grimly in Phoenix and Ashes, where an Air Master pilot crashed and was held at the mercy of corrupted Earth elementals for a while, emerging with severe PTSD.
  • Sharon Shinn's Troubled Waters novel, though written by a Western author, uses the Eastern elements. Each person is governed by one element, giving them certain personality traits and sometimes superhuman abilities, and some elements pair very well with one another and some are always in opposition. For example, the main character is a coru, governed by the water element; she eventually marries a hunti man, governed by the element of wood. Occasionally this subverts itself—the heroine's mother was a coru and her father was a sweela (fire element).
  • In The Girl from the Well series, every ghost is aligned with one of the five Eastern elements. Because Okiku drowned in a well, she is a spirit of Water, making her strong against spirits of Fire but weak against those of Earth. The ghosts of Aitou village are of Earth: strong against Water and thus Okiku; but weak to Wood, thus allowing Tark to exorcise them with wooden stakes. The woman in black is aligned with Fire, and Hiroshi Mikage is aligned with Wood.
  • Journey to Chaos: The magic system features ten elements and all of them have an opposite that they are both strong and weak against. For instance, water puts out fire but heat from the fire can be used to evaporate the water. During Mana Mutation Menace, Eric uses air magic to prevent someone from teleporting with lightning magic.
  • "The Bear, The Fire, and The Snow" by Shel Silverstein. The bear fears the snow, the snow the fire, the fire the river, and the river the bear.
  • The magic system of I Favor The Villainess involves the four classic elements, each weak or strong against another: Fire beats Earth, Earth beats Air, Air beats Water, Water beats Fire. Outcomes can still very, however, given difference in magical aptitude, how the magician applies their talents, and very rarely, individuals with control over more than one element.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the reality gameshow series Endurance the Temple of Fate showdown were resolved by pitting Wood, Water and Fire against each other. Water doused Fire, Fire burned Wood, and Wood floated on Water.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Ammo: When it comes to demons of elemental nature, Fire beats Water and Air beats Earth, but the opposite is also true.
  • The Time Travel-laden 'Verse shared by the Feng Shui Tabletop Games and Shadowfist card game also uses this variation. Coincidentally, the most significant "boss" NPC associated with the Shadow element also becomes a technological cyborg when travelling into eras that won't support her magic.
  • Some of the earlier video game adaptations of Yu-Gi-Oh! used two tiers of Elemental RPS based on eleven elements: The first one is, in advantageous order: Fire, Forest, Wind, Earth, Thunder, Water, and Fire. Then you have Shadow→Light→Evil→Dreams→Shadow. The eleventh element, Divine, had no type advantages or disadvantages. A monster with a superior Attribute will automatically win a battle regardless of actual stats.
  • Dungeons & Dragons features the four classic Western elements as monster subtypes, Inner Planes, and fundamental building blocks of the Multiverse. The basic game had a notion of "elemental dominance" in which one elemental would deal extra damage and enjoy protection from another: Air has dominance over Water, Water has dominance over Fire, Fire has dominance over Earth, and Earth has dominance over Air.
  • Magic: The Gathering has a stylized version of this trope with its Color Wheel. The game has five colors associated with land forms, creatures, and most importantly a style of play. Adjacent colors tend to share strengths and play styles (red and black are both great at killing creatures, for example), but are opposite/opposed to the two other colors (white likes to prevent damage, red likes causing it, while black will simply bring a dead unit back to unlife). But opposing colors are capable of finding common ground, and characters in the setting can have allies of opposing colors; Lorwyn's beauty-obsessed elves sport green and black members, while there's a group of white and red giants who oscillate between being extremely zen and extremely passionate. The game also has some "colorless" cards such as lands or artifacts, and a few that are multiple colors. As for the colors themselves:
    • White is associated with light, valor and order. On the attack it uses numerous weak creatures working together or a few powerful champions, all of which can be further augmented through spells. But White tends to show itself best in defense; White is where you most likely find creatures with Vigilance.note  White magic is partial towards life-restoring spells, or enchantments that prevent your opponent from doing damage to you or your creatures (Lifelink is most often seen in White creatures). But while White can deal with almost any threat, it does so only partially; its removal spells either give your opponent an out, or make an "equal" trade that destroys a lot of things, including your own. If a White spell doesn't destroy something, it more than likely only taps (temporarily disables) a target, meaning you need to coordinate such effects so as to take advantage of these openings.
    • Blue is the magic of air/water, deception, and intelligence, built around counterspells and altering the flow of the game. Blue magic tends to have the highest number of Flying creatures, but they are generally ill-suited for direct combat and instead employ indirect damage or disruptive abilities. While Blue is good at shutting down the enemy, it doesn't have many offensive options. Blue spells usually don't destroy cards but instead forces them back into the hand or Library.
    • Black is the color of death, night, and amorality, and its magic is designed to degrade enemy creatures and whittle down the other player's health points. It's also very strongly associated with the Cemetery so Black cards tend to have effects like Unearth and Deathtouch. This power usually comes at a price, but the payoff is generally worth it. However, Black magic struggles to deal with things that aren't living, such as enchantments, artifacts, and other Black creatures
    • Red magic is associated with earth/fire, destruction, and chaos. It's the most offensive color, boasting spells that do direct damage or destroy enemy artifacts and lands, and fast-striking creatures that do the same (Red creatures are the most likely to possess Hastenote ). But like Black, Red has trouble with enchantments, and has to burn down big creatures with damage since its own creatures tend to fall short of Green's power.
    • Green is the color of nature, life, and raw power. It likes big and powerful creatures that trample the opposition, and its magic can buff them further or gather the resources necessary to summon them. But the only way Green can deal with opposing creatures is through direct combat; to help balance the opposition to Blue's Flying creatures, Green creatures are the most likely to possess Reach.
    • In a more traditional example of this trope, it's fairly common to see cards that are either more effective against enemy colors or are very efficiently costed but *only* work against enemy colors. For an example of each, Kor Firewalker is a white creature that can't be directly interacted with by red cards and gains its controller 1 life whenever an opponent casts a red spell (red has the most damage-dealing cards in the game, so gaining life works directly against it). Flashfreeze is an undercosted, easy-to-cast, counterspell (causes an opponent's card to be discarded without effect) that can only target a red or green spell.
  • Master of Magic adapts the same colors as Magic: The Gathering with a similar differentiation of available spells.
  • In Scion, the titular children of the Gods can utilize Boons that fall under a variety of Purviews, which range from the elemental (earth, fire, sky, fertility) to the abstract (guardian, chaos, death, health). Although the different Purviews have no direct relationship with each other in normal gameplay, there is one aspect in which they do: dealing with monsters of the Greater Titans. As the chthonic embodiments of different elements, the creatures that dwell within the Greater Titans possess different templates depending on the Titan. In addition to specific skills and powers, these templates grant the monsters an immunity to their own element, but attacks of certain other Purviews are granted bonuses against them (e.g. Monsters dwelling in Musphelheim, the Greater Titan of Fire, have the infernal template, which renders them completely immune to the Fire Purview, but vulnerable to the Water and Sky Purviews).

    Toys 
  • Surprisingly averted in BIONICLE, besides light and shadow being equally weak to each other.
  • in the 80s, Battle Beasts had a heat sensitive sticker on their chests which, when rubbed, would reveal their elemental strength. The symbols would represent either fire, wood, or water and could be used in a rock, paper, scissors game — fire burns wood, wood absorbs water, water extinguishes fire. Later a rare fourth emblem was added, the Sunburst, and it would beat all other types.
  • The semi-obscure "Fistful of Aliens" toy line from the early 21st century featured three monster races with incredibly subtle names - the muscular red Dredrocks, the insectoid green Gangreens, and the slimy blue Bluspews. Dredrocks beat Gangreens, Gangreens beat Bluspews, and Bluspews beat Dredrocks; clashes between creatures with the same color were resolved by looking at the number on the critters' feet. There were also mutants that combined two races, automatically killed members of the third race, and would often have a high enough point value to crush anything that shared a color; the Rare Alien Metallic Mutants, which would trample anything not a RAMM; and the Big Bad, Jangutz Khan, who was only available by special order, and not only murdered virtually everything else in the game, but let you bring a significantly more powerful lineup.

    Video Games 
  • The combat for Arcana on the Super NES was centered on the idea of elemental strengths and weaknesses. Several spells either affected an element onto the target, changed the target to a given elemental alignment, or even combined several elements together to make spells that could affect multiple weaknesses; these were strangely given the name "Attribute X", with the X being the power level of the spell. The game based not only its gameplay but its world mythology around the interplay of the four elements. It also subverted some of the typical expectations of Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors, as each element was either strong or weak against the element next to it in the sequence, and was neither strong or weak against itself. Earth-elemental attacks, for example, were weak against Wind-elemental enemies but did a lot of damage against Water elementals, while being neither strong nor weak against Earth- and Fire-elemental enemies.
  • Azure Dreams is about as explicit as you can get: Fire beats Wind. Wind beats Water. Water beats Fire.
  • A few Castlevania games in the Metroid Vania genre have weapons that deal elemental damage and enemies variously affected by it. The one that takes the cake is Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, which had a whopping ten elements (Fire, Ice, Electricity, Poison, Plants, Ground, Stone, Wind, Light and Dark), one for each of the Battle Cards. However, except for the elemental Armors and Devils, the strengths and weaknesses of the monsters to the various elements were never explicitly spelled out, and this added to the Guide Dang It!-ness and the Fake Difficulty of the game.
  • Child of Light has Fire > Lightning > Water > Fire. Aurora's Light-elemental spells are also effective against undead and dark-aligned foes and aren't resisted by anything, making Light an Infinity +1 Element.
  • The console RPG Chrono Trigger uses a Fire → Lightning (divine form) → Water (including ice) → Shadow wheel, with a few quirks. In the original Japanese the Lightning element uses the kanji for heavens, which explains why Crono uses both lightning bolts and Luminaire; the DS retranslation goes with "Light" instead. Another oddity is that futuristic technology, including light-based lasers, deals Shadow damage, as do any Combination Attacks that mix different energy types, but if Light represents purity it makes sense that Shadow represents the opposite. Interestingly, there are several in-game examples where Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors is replaced by "Fight Fire with Fire." The different-colored Scouts in the Ocean Palace absorb all elements besides the one they use. When you fight Magus, he also uses Elemental Shields which absorb all elements except the one he's currently throwing at you.
  • The sequel Chrono Cross is a bit weirder about it. Its elements, called innates ("elements" are the spells themselves), are white (holy/energy) versus black (shadow/gravity), red (fire/magma) versus blue (water/ice), and green (wind/plant) versus yellow (earth/lightning). All are strong against their opposite when attacking, but take extra damage in response. As a result, it's wise to build a party using different innates so that one character of the opposite color could deal extra damage to a boss, while another of the same innate as the boss could survive and heal as needed, and a third character with a neutral element played support. Especially when fighting that bastard Miguel.
  • Crash Fever has four colors, each represented by a symbol of the respective element that they’re based of, and their order of effectiveness against the others is as follows: Red(Fire) > Green(Grass) > Yellow(Electric) > Blue(Water) > Red.
  • Similar to .hack// below, Dauntless has six elements that are grouped into pairs: Blaze and Frost, Shock and Terra, Radiant and Umbral. Behemoths of one element take more damage when attacked with weapons of their opposing element, and armor provides better protection against attacks of its element. For instance, when fighting a Blaze Behemoth, it is recommended to wear Blaze armor and fight with a Frost weapon. Neutral weapons, armor, and Behemoths do not factor into elemental interactions.
  • Dinosaur King has six elements which roughly correspond to a dinosaur type, and two which don't: Fire (mostly tyrannosaurids and some carnosaurs), Water (sauropods and a few spinosaurs), Electric (ceratopsians), Earth (ankylosaurs and stegosaurs), Grass (mostly hadrosaurs) and Wind (a theropod grab bag). Secret and Unknown are the element types that have no other affliations.
  • The .hack series has its own take. There are a total of six elements in the game, with each element opposing another: Fire-Water, Earth-Wood, and Thunder-Darkness. If you attack an enemy using skills or spells of their elemental affinity (Fire attacks on a Fire enemy, for instance), they will take little if any damage; but attacking enemies with an element they are opposed to (Fire attacks on a Water enemy) will inflict significant damage.
  • In addition to the weapons Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors, Fire Emblem has a magic triangle that tends to vary. Anima beats light, light beats dark, and dark beats anima is most familiar to recent players.
    • In FE 9 and 10, there are thunder, fire, and wind spells that form a triangle (these are all part of anima in the other games). FE 10 took the trope to a new level by having another triangle for light, dark, and anima, and within anima another triangle of fire, thunder and wind. The Thunder/Fire/Wind triangle from FE 9 was originally present in FE 4 and 5; the Anima/Light/Dark triangle replaced it in the GBA games.
  • Flight Rising has eleven elements: Earth, Water, Wind, Fire, Ice, Lightning, Light, Shadow, Arcane, Nature, and Plague. In the Coliseum, each element does extra damage to three other elements, does reduced damage to two elements, takes extra damage from three elements, and takes reduced damage from two elements. Except for the fact that dragons/enemies of a certain elements always deal reduced damage to and take reduced damage from their own element, these strengths and weaknesses don't necessarily correspond to each other (for example, Earth is strong against Lightning, but Lightning isn't weak against Earth). And there are different degrees of effectiveness, not just "extra damage" and "reduced damage", but also "really high damage" and "somewhat higher than average damage". It all balances out, but it gets complicated enough that even the simplified guides can be difficult to follow for new players.
  • In Fossil Fighters, water beats fire, air beats water, earth beats air, and fire beats earth. Neutral-type vivosaurs are unaffected by this.
  • Freedom Force is another game that uses binary opposition—fire and ice are each weak against each other, for instance. In practice, this means the lucky fellow in any elemental confrontation is the one who can get off the first shot.
    • Partially averted. The substance a character is made of (flesh, stone, ice etc.) sets their base resistances. But attacks and defenses are all bought with points, meaning that you can have a character made of ice who throws fireballs and has a passive defense vs fire. Attack types and resistances/vulnerabilities are largely arbitrary. Aside: Characters made of flesh are vulnerable to radiation attacks making a character with radiation attacks scarily effective. The assigned heroes are all balanced for this, but a custom can hit well above their weight class...
  • Golden Sun is an interesting case. It has only four elements (Earth, Water, Wind, and Fire) and each one is both strong and weak against its opposite. For example, a fire enemy is (usually) weak against water attacks, but a water enemy is also (usually) weak against fire attacks. This does not apply to the Player Characters, who are roughly-equally weak (+/- 2%, hence how earth adepts are "weak" against fire and vice versanote ) to the elements that they do not have affinity with, versus a (starting) 30% (relative) resistance to their base element.note 
  • Granblue Fantasy - Earth beats Water, Water beats Fire, Fire beats Wind and Wind beats Earth. There's another elemental set, Dark and Light are weak to each other. Only the player has the advantages of the second set, enemies with those elements aren't strong against the opposing element.
  • In Heroes of Might and Magic III, the magic system is like this. The castle of Conflux in the expansion is even based on this trope, with most of the units being elementals and a building that allows leveling up each of the elemental schools.
    • The Elementals provide a nice twist to the "rock-paper-scissors" aspect: Fire and Water are vulnerable to the opposite element's damage spells and immune to their own, while Earth and Air are vulnerable to their own damage spells and immune to the opposite's ones.
    • Heroes of Might and Magic V has the Dungeon Racial ability Elemental Chains, which lets Dungeon creatures and the elemental spells of the hero inflict additional damage if the target has the opposite element. Creatures change their element randomly when this happens.
  • Hoshigami: Ruining Blue Earth has an eastern elements-inspired hexagon, in which elements both oppose and assist one another: Fire opposes Ice and assists Force; Ice opposes Wind and assists Earth; Wind opposes Force and assists Lightning; Force opposes Earth and assists Fire; and Earth opposes Fire and assists Ice. There's also the Light and Dark elements that oppose each other and assist Lighting and Fire respectively.
  • The original Jade Cocoon has a Fire—>Air—>Earth—>Water—>Fire sequence, plus a non-elemental foot stomp attack to which fliers are immune. Each spell in the game is tied to an element and, with the exception of the damage and elemental boost spells, unique to that element. You can combine your divine minions in such a way that they have two or more elements, but it reduces their elemental damage output accordingly and cuts them off from the boost spells.
  • The many hundreds of Divine Beasts in Jade Cocoon 2 each belong to one of four elements; Fire, Wind, Water or Earth. Each element has its own specialties and attributes. Fire beasts generally have high Strength and Wisdom (measures of the strength of Skill and Magic attacks, respectively) and powerful Skill (melee) and Magic attacks, and are the strongest attackers. Wind beasts usually have high Speed (the beasts with the highest Speed value attack first) and a lot of special attacks (which induce status effects, like poison and sleep). Water beasts, as well as having some potent Magic attacks, also possess healing spells for restoring the HP and MP of your Divine Beasts and curing status effects, and are generally resistant to special attacks. Earth beasts specialize in defense, with high Vitality and Spirit (which dictate a Beast's Skill and Magic defense, respectively) and a variety of buffs (such as Defense and Speed increases), defensive spells (like damage-absorbing walls) and impressive attacks. As a rule of thumb, Fire's high attack power beats Water and Wind's low HP, Wind's high Speed and status effects beat Earth's general sluggishness and susceptibility to special attacks, Water's healing spells and resistance to special attacks beat Fire and Wind's primary abilities, and Earth's excellent defense beats the offensive power of Fire and Wind.
  • Kartia: The Word of Fate had a variant using the "qualities" of creatures you could summon, which were Common, Doll, and Shadow. Common beats Doll, et cetera. For those who couldn't keep the dynamic straight, these creatures also had a symbol by their name: rock, paper, or scissors.
  • Spoofed in Kingdom of Loathing, which features a set of five rather ridiculous elements: hot, cold, stench, sleaze, and spookiness. Each "element" is weak against two of the others, sometimes with little logic to those weaknesses (spooky-elemental monsters, for example, are weak against hot and stench attacks).
    • Well, the interesting thing is that "sleaze" seems to be defined as "oily" half the time. Bacon grease, motor oil, even a rotting fish (though that rather obviously also deals stench damage).
    • There are also a few minor elements like Bad Spelling that aren't part of the cycle, and it's possible to discover that the game supposedly has a sixth major element: Cuteness. Maybe.
    • The KoL element chart looks rather similar to that of Wu Xing, noted at the top of the page. Granted, some of the elements aren't in their strictly original positions, but the same general shape applies.
  • The Eastern variant is used in Kingdom of Paradise (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water). It also uses the complimentary and charging system. This is important when constructing your Freestyle Bugei to maximize damage. For example, if you wanted to defeat a Fire boss, you have several options. You can use a pure Water Bugei. You can also charge 9 Wood kenpu and finish it with a powerful Water Kenpu. Or you can do a cycle the system twice starting with Wood and ending with Water.
  • The Legend of Dragoon's cast of characters are all of a specific elemental alignment — Dart for Fire, Lavitz/Albert for Wind, Shana/Miranda for Light, Rose for Darkness, Haschel for Lightning, Meru for Water, and Kongol for Earth. Note that all elements except Lightning follow the Light/Darkness opposition scheme (Fire and Water being strong against one another and so forth), with Lightning's lack of an opposite mitigated by its lack of heavy-hitting skills. There's also a neutral element, mostly possessed by enemies. Dart has this in his Divine Dragoon form.
  • The main character in Legend of Fae uses spells based on the four Western elements, however their relationship with each other is cyclic: Water —> Fire —> Earth —> Wind —> Water (each element counters the one on its right). Casting a spell that counters an enemy's elemental alignment increases the damage output and, if it kills them, also increases the score multiplier at the end of the battle.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Fire attacks one-shot Ice based enemies and vice versa. More subtly, electric weapons gain a powerboost around water whether rain or in a body of water, exploding into a dome field, while wood weapons gain a powerboost in fire and hot temperatures when they are literally lit on fire. Similarly bomb arrows instantly diffuse in water, and instantly explode in firey areas. The Master Sword, Ancient, and Guardian weapons also get a boost against Guardian enemies.
  • Luigi's Mansion had the Poltergust 3000, which was able to suck up "elemental ghosts" after collecting a Fire, Water, or Ice medal (in that order). You suck up a certain elemental ghosts, and press L to expel that element. The mansion had candles, things that held water, and some iceboxes. Guess what did what.
  • Luminous Arc 2 has Fire, Water, Nature, Wind, Light, and Shadow Frostnote , the six of which are involved in a web of conflict (increased damage) and support (increased healing/buffs) links, though the difference is subtle enough to be ignored save for out-and-out immunity. The game also has non-elemental (neutral to everything) and silver magic, which resists any elemental attack and gain support boost from any elemental heal/buff.
  • Luminous Arc 3 develops the elemental relationships further. The six common elements (Fire, Water, nature, Wind, Light and Darknessnote ) are divided into two groups; Fire → Dark → Wind → Fire and Water → Light → Earth → Water, elemental opposites increases damage against each other, Non-Elemental is not affected by the six and Silver is effective against all including non-elemental. Healing and other support spells are excluded from the chart but considered non-elemental.
  • The Magical Vacation games have this:
    • Magical Vacation has fifteen elements, but it's overall a lot simpler than Pokémon: twelve of these elements are each weak to one other element and strong to one other element, so those can be diagrammed in a circle. Then there's Darkness which beats those other twelve, Light which specifically beats Darkness, and Love which is neutral to everything.
    • Magical Starsign has Wood beats Wind beats Earth beats Water beats Fire beats Wood.
  • MARDEK RPG actually had a sensible explanation for all four interactions: Water extinguishes Fire, Fire consumes Air, Air erodes away Earth, and Earth absorbs Water.
  • Capcom likes this. Mega Man Zero and Mega Man ZX have a triangle of Lightning beats Fire beats Ice beats Lightning — and of course, bosses usually come in fours, one of each and one of a neutral (sometimes earth or plant themed, but never affected by the cycle) variety. Mega Man Battle Network also has a Fire>Wood>Elec>Water cycle, supplemented (in the sixth game only) with a secondary Sword>Wind>Targeting>Breaking cycle. The primary cycle was held into Mega Man Star Force; the secondary cycle was never heard from again.
    • Oddly, Mega Man X: Command Mission has a triangle of Lightning beats Water beats Fire beats Lightning. What's odd is that this game treats ice as Water (in agreement with Mega Man and Mega Man & Bass), and the Zero series treats water as Ice (in agreement with Mega Man 6 and most of the X series). So at some point between the X series and the Zero series, the triangle inexplicably double-reversed itself.
    • The second rotation (Mega Man 6, many X games, and Zero and ZX series) is generally more logical, except for its infamous side-effect: Despite boss battles entirely underwater, Fairy Leviathan is weak to fire and resistant to lightning.
  • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes uses the Light-Dark dichotomy: the Light Beam slaughters Ing and other Darklings, and the Dark Beam is generally very effective against creatures on Light Aether. The first Metroid Prime would have fallen squarely into this with its elemental beam weapons, but with the exception of a few fighting-fire-with-fire enemies and the Chozo Ghosts, the Plasma Beam kills everything dead, even the creatures in Magmoor Caverns.
  • Interactive Fiction game Mingsheng by Deane Saunders has an almost literal case of Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors: in the climactic battle, the opponent takes battle stances named after the five Eastern elements, and the player has to type in the right element to make the PC carry out the appropriate battle stance to defeat him.
  • The magic system in the MMORPG Perfect World is this to a T, using Taoist elements: Fire>Metal>Wood>Earth>Water>Fire. Then again, since the game is developed in China, this isn't all that surprising.
  • In the final Wizard Mode of Plants vs. Zombies Pinball, Dr. Zomboss attacks by launching fireballs and ice balls; you defeat him by destroying each projectile with its opposite element.
  • Pokémon has eighteen (formerly seventeen, even earlier fifteen) type. A super effective damage (deals double damage or more) occurs when the attack's type is good against the other's type while a not very effective damage (dealing half the damage or less) occur when the opposite happens. As for how type weaknesses work, most of them are pretty standard like Water beats Fire and Grass beat Water, there are some with clever but more subtle logic like Steel beats Fairy, and there are some unusual ones like Bug beats Dark and Psychic beats Fighting, which are probably an attempt at balancing at the expense of logic, though fans still try to make sense out of it anyway.
    • Pokémon further plays with this by having many Pokémon with two types, so some Pokémon can take up to four times the damage from certain moves (such as the Fire/Rock Magcargo against a Water-Type), and other advantages/disadvantages can end up canceling each other out. Some types are also outright immune to others.
    • An NPC child in Accumula Town even invites you to play Pokémon rock-paper-scissors, with the options being Grass, Fire, and Water.
  • In Pop'n Magic, all enemies belong to one of three elemental types. Fire is strong against earth, which is strong against water, which is strong against fire.
  • Quest 64 plays this one in a less typical faction. In fact, every element interacts with each other in various ways, and there's no immunities, just resistances.
    • Earth - Does double damage to Wind, regular damage to Water, 50% damage to itself, and 75% damage to Fire.
    • Wind - Does double damage to Earth, regular damage to Fire, 50% damage to itself, and 75% damage to Water.
    • Fire - Does double damage to Water, regular damage to Wind, 50% to itself, and 75% damage to Earth.
    • Water - Does double damage to Fire, regular damage to Earth, 50% to itself, and 75% damage to Wind.
    • Neutral/Universal/Nonphysical: Does regular damage to everything, and resists all elements.
  • In Quest for Glory II, you use fire to beat an earth elemental, earth to beat an air elemental, air to beat a water elemental, and water to beat a fire elemental.
  • Septerra Core. Fire beats Earth, Earth beats Air, Air beats Water, Water beats Fire.
  • Skylanders' PvP mode has the following cycle: Life > Water > Fire > Air > Earth > Tech > Magic > Undead > Life. A Skylander deals more damage if their opponent is weak to their element.
  • In Spectrobes, Corona->Aurora->Flash->Corona. Also, in the Wii game Origins, Fire->Plant->Earth->Sky->Water->Fire.
  • Exemplified in the Suikoden series of games — where using two highest-rank spells of compatible element in the same round would result in them combining into a single ultra-powerful spell.
    • In Suikoden IV, shipboard sea-battles are fought using Elemental Cannons. Countering an enemy attack with the appropriate element would result in the enemy's attack being absorbed into your own, thus dealing damage to the enemy ship equal to each ship's attack power combined.
    • In Suikoden Tactics, the elemental wheel is more strongly emphasized, with each character having an innate elemental alignment. Characters are healed (and their attack and defense go up) when standing on terrain whose alignment matches their own, and are harmed (and attack and defense go down) when on their "enemy" element. The chain goes: Fire < Water < Lightning < Earth < Wind < Fire. While some of the relationships make sense (Water/Fire/Lightning), some are more esoteric and seem to rely on science (earth being a ground for lightning/fire burning up oxygen).
  • The Tales Series often uses Fire, Ice, Wind, Earth, Lighting, and Water, in a cycle, then has Light and Dark, which were both strong against each other.
    • Tales of Legendia had Fire-Ice, Lightning-Earth, and Dark-Water/Holy, which each being strong and weak toward each other. Of course, certain enemies were strong to both in the pair...
  • Tales of Graces uses both physical and elemental ... elements. Enemies will carry many weaknesses and you get bonuses for hitting them, and more bonuses for hitting all of them. Most attacks have Two or Three elements, and spells can be charged up to add another 2 in the Updated Re-release. The elements are all represented somehow. Fire attacks hit the burn weakness. Ice hits Freeze. Wind hits poison (and aerial and/or bird sometimes). Earth hits petrify. Lightning hits Paralysis (and almost always hits Nova too). Water hits Slow (and sometimes aquatic). Light hits Nova (the evil element) and often blurs with Lightning. Darkness hits humans. The rest are just type of enemy (beast, reptile, etc) and how you hit them (slash, impact, etc).
  • Tears to Tiara 2 has two sets. The European four (though Fire beats Wind, Wind beats Earth instead) in one. In the other, Holy beats Cosmic, Cosmic beats Darkness, and Darkness beats Holy.
  • In Terra Battle, Fire and Ice oppose each other, and Lightning and Darkness oppose each other. Later patches introduce "super-elements" Sun, Moon, Photon, and Graviton. Sun and Moon oppose each other, but also are strong against Ice and Fire respectively. Likewise, Photon and Graviton oppose each other, but are also strong against Darkness and Lightning respectively. There's also Non-elemental, which is neutral towards all elements.
  • Terra Battle 2
    • Initially, the game has quite a complex elemental system. First, Fire, Ice, and Earth are in a triangle, with Fire -> Ice -> Earth -> Fire. Then, Lightning and Wind oppose each other, and so do Photon and Graviton. Finally, there's Darkness and Non-Elemental (which isn't a true non-element, as it still belongs in the RPS), which have their own interactions with each of the other elements. Darkness Non-elemental 
    • It was considered too complicated, so an update revamped the elemental system and simplified it into two circles. The first circle is Fire > Ice > Earth > Lightning > Wind > Fire, and the second circle is Darkness > Non-elemental > Graviton > Photon > Darkness.
  • Warriors of Might and Magic follows this scheme: Fire burns Earth, which blocks Air, which bests Water which beat Fire. Furthermore, Light and Darkness are efficient against each other and other two elements (Light against Fire and Air and Darkness against Earth and Water).
  • World of Mana tends to have elements that oppose each other in pairs: light versus dark, moon (cosmic) versus plant (terrestrial), fire versus ice, and earth versus air.
  • World of Warcraft has this in some places. Elemental creatures do exist, and will usually be immune to their own form of damage (Fire immune to fire; water immune to frost; air immune to lightning, etc.) Some elementals take extra damage from their opposite number and others do not; for example, the water elementals in Arathi Highlands are extremely vulnerable to fire damage, but Ragnaros the Firelord is not especially bothered by frost. The elements are Fire, Frost, Arcane, Nature, and Shadow. There's also Holy but players couldn't build resistance to it.
    • The elementals in Arathi Highlands elaborate on this: they have all four types of elementals in different places around the zone, and each type will drop a special, one-use object that can be used to instantly kill one of the other types. For example, the water elementals drop "Crest of Water" which destroys a fire elemental, and so on.
    • Generally, WoW's Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors isn't much of one, since there are so few enemies that are weak to an element. The secondary benefits of elements (Fire burns for a while and can stun, Frost slows and freezes, poison (part of Nature) does damage over time, Shadow tends to cripple by lowering stats and defenses while doing damage over time) are far more important. Only elemental beings and some bosses (Notably Chromaggus, who changes his resistances and vulnerability at random) can take more damage from an elemental attack.
    • The Ascendant Council fight in the Bastion of Twilight raid instance has elements of this. You fight two sets of two elementals at the same time, and use the abilities of one elemental to negate some of the more damaging abilities of the other. Most notably, using an earth debuff from one elemental to prevent a one-shot kill from the wind elemental, and a wind debuff to prevent the one-shot kill from the earth elemental.
    • That said, the game's fourth expansion pack introduced Pet Battles, a Pokémon-like minigame using the already existing collectible pets. Those are grouped into 10 kinds, some of them vaguely elemental ("Aquatic", "Magic", "Undead", "Mechanical") and others less so ("Beast", "Critter", "Humanoid"). Each of those groups is strong against two others (defense and attack separately), weak against another two. Thus forming two, not exactly Rock-Paper-Scissor graphs, one for defense and one for attack.
  • On the higher difficulties of Ys VI, there are color-coded enemies that can only be defeated with the corresponding elemental sword. Ditto for the Final Boss's first phase. Conversely, Ernst's fairies can only be KO'ed with a different element than their own.
  • The Denpa Men has eight elements: Fire, Water, Electricity, Earth, Wind, Ice, Light, and Darkness. As far as standard elemental advantages go, Fire > Ice > Wind > Earth > Electricity > Water > Fire. Light and Dark are more complicated: Light Denpa Men resist Dark but are weak to Light. Light enemies are often weak to both. Dark enemies are often only weak to Light, but Dark-aligned Denpa Men strongly resist both Light and Dark, while being slightly weak to all other elements.
  • In Plants vs. Zombies, fire plants like Pepper Pult and Fire Peashooter are useful for countering ice-based zombies, while ice plants like Iceberg Lettuce and Cold Snapdragon can disable the zombies' torches and dynamite.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Reshef of Destruction, this is a crucial gameplay mechanic. For example, a Fiend—no matter how weak—can destroy any Dream monster, no matter how strong. This becomes a lifesaver because it's one of the easiest ways to win the game, as most opponents will use monsters with the same attribute between them.
    • Before Reshef of Destruction and its prequel, Yu-Gi-Oh! The Sacred Cards, there was the Game Boy Color title Yu-Gi-Oh! Dark Duel Stories, which had the dual-elemental loop from Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden Memories. In short, Light beats Dark beats Dream beats Shadow beats Light, and Fire beats Forest beats Wind beats Earth beats Thunder beats Water beats Fire. Divine-type monsters in the handheld games were the Infinity +1 Element, having zero weaknesses.
    • Speaking of Forbidden Memories, every monster card in that game had two Guardian Stars, which gave an ATK/DEF boost to whomever had the advantage. Sun beats Moon beats Venus beats Mercury beats Sun, and Mars beats Jupiter beats Saturn beats Uranus beats Pluto beats Neptune beats Mars.
  • Monsters in Summoners War: Sky Arena can be either Fire, Water, Wind, or more rarely, Light and Dark. Fire beats and is resistant to Wind, Wind beats and is resistant to Water, Water beats and is resistant to Fire. Light and Dark beat each other, but they neither beat nor are resistant against anything else.
  • Gyromancer, to a limited extent. A monster's colour doesn't determine whether or not it beats its opponent (that's up to players), but it can give it a head start. For example, a blue monster (associated with water) is advantaged against a red monster (associated with fire), which is in turn advantaged against a green monster (associated with plants). There isn't perfect symmetry, though - for example, nothing is advantaged against purple (darkness).
  • In Moco Moco Friends, fire beats nature, nature beats water, water beats fire, and light and dark beat each other.
  • In Taming Dreams, each sentimancy (attack) has a rune and a sentiment associated with it. Each character has three runes and a sentiment associated with them. The closer the caster, target and sentimancy's runes and sentiment match, the more effective the sentimancy is. Additionally, each sentiment is effective against itself and one other. This is explained by the fact that the battles are against enemies without and the better you understand the enemy, the easier it is to defeat.
  • Parodied in the Rick and Morty game Pocket Mortys, which uses this literally and figuratively, as "rock" "paper" and "scissors" are elemental types.
  • In Club Penguin, this is basically how Card-Jitsu works: Water extinguishes Fire, Fire melts Snow, and Snow freezes Water.
  • In Legend of Fae fire beats water beats earth beats air beats fire.
  • In Xenogears, "opposing" elements (Fire and Water, Earth and Wind) beat each other, and increasing your resistance to attacks of one element makes you weaker to its opposite (ex. casting a spell to raise your Fire resistance will make you more vulnerable to Water). However, most attacks and enemies are non-elemental.
  • There are five elements in Tokyo Xanadu. The first four play this straight, going Fire > Wind > Steel > Spirit (ice) > Fire, while the fifth element, Shadow, beats itself. eX+ adds a sixth element, Light, which is weak to Shadow but strong against everything else.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • Taken Up to Eleven with RPS 101. Each 'element' is weak to 50 and strong against 50, and there are descriptions for why for each.
  • Demon Thesis has this to an extent, as elemental spells will affect each other differently. The creator of the game made a cheat sheet that lays out all the effects, as well as some other nuances. (For example, if a character standing on a grid that was frozen by an ice spell and you attempt to hit them with a fire spell, the ice and fie will cancel each other out, since the ice melts and the fire never get a proper chance to burn anything, and the character will be undamaged).

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender is based on the four among others, ancient Buddhist elements, represented by the four nations. Although in 'real life' no element is shown to be particularly stronger than the others, they do have their own literal Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors, as in a game (earth beats fire apparently). It was also somewhat parodied in one of the chibi shorts, where they spent the episode arguing over "what beats what".
  • In an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Master Splinter defeats the Foot Mystics (who represent steel, fire, water, earth, and wind) by using the Sword of Tengu to turn their elements against each other, while using the following quote:
    Master Splinter: Fire melts metal, water quenches fire, earth swallows water, wind scatters earth, and I shall quell the wind!


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