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Glass Cannon

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Though its ammo is pricey, the Crystal Cannon Balls never miss.

"I'm the caster, y'know! It's like I'm a cannon made out of glass. Like a...y'know, like a dainty figurine so ornately decorated you can't imagine how something so fragile manages to exist in this brutal, ugly world...and it makes you weep."
Black Mage, 8-Bit Theater

In short: they can dish it out, but they can't take it. The Glass Cannon is characterized by insane attack power coupled with pathetic defensive ability.

Occasionally referred to as a Glass Dragon, Glass Cannons are prevalent in RPGs and fighting games, as the cast needs to be big enough that "takes hits like a chump" becomes a viable character trait. In RPGs, the Glass Cannon tends to be a Squishy Wizard. Not all Squishy Wizards are completely Glass Cannon, though. A Squishy Wizard still can have decent or good magical defense but abysmal physical defense (and the aforementioned good magical defense may be undermined by low hit points), and likewise, a brawler may have good physical defense but poor magical defense (though physically-oriented units are more likely to have a good amount of hit points). Artillery or archer units in Real-Time Strategy and Turn-Based Strategy games also tend to have this trait, as they're meant to be far away from combat, or at least in the back of the formation. If a boss happens to be a Glass Cannon, that's a Rush Boss.

This can even apply in real life. Some military weapons and vehicles can deal a lot of damage, but they're easily destroyed if they take a hit. Athletes who play contact sports can also count if they run up really good statistics but are also easily injured.

Make the Glass Cannon incapable of taking any punishment at all and you've got a One-Hit-Point Wonder. A matchup between two of these usually results in Rocket-Tag Gameplay. When the enemy tries to take out the Glass Cannon as fast as possible, it's Shoot the Mage First. They may have a Full Health Bonus ability as another way to encourage them to avoid getting hit.

The Glass Cannon is very much a Red Oni method. Since it promotes aggressive, reckless tactics over patience and endurance. Glass Cannons can very easily lose their cool, since they're taking a lot of damage leading to a beserker-like rage which, in their case, won't last very long before they're defeated.

This trope is one of the most flexibles of the Competitive Balance:

  • Glass Cannons often overlap with the Fragile Speedster; characters of that type tend to put out high damage and dodge most incoming attacks, but go down quickly if they do get hit. Alternatively, the Fragile Speedster may be the only one able to dodge or may be more acrobatic while the Glass Cannon may be quick, but stuck on the ground.
  • Also often overlaps with Long-Range Fighter, using range to keep out of harm's way.
  • The direct inverse of Stone Wall, who takes it but can't dish it out.
  • Compare and contrast Mighty Glacier, who can dish out at the expense of speed rather than toughness, and Lightning Bruiser, who can do the same without sacrificing anything (or sacrificing a "secondary" characteristic, such as range).
  • A vessel mounted with a Wave-Motion Gun may have some aspects of this immediately following its use, as the Power Limiter of the weapon often is that it leaves the vessel defenseless for a time. See also: PVP Balanced and Instakill Mook.

Not to be confused with actual cannons made of glass, which would be its Trope Namer. For those, see Glass Weapon.


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    Film — Animation 
  • Kung Fu Panda has Master Shifu, a Red Panda. He's incredibly fast and strong, able run rings around and throw the far larger and heavier Po, a giant panda, but has a lack of stamina and reach against larger opponents. It often takes one blow from a sufficiently strong opponent to take him out, though getting that hit before being defeated is hard due to his aforementioned speed and own surprising strength.
  • In Moana, demi-god Maui becomes this by the time of the final battle with Te Kā, as his hook- the source of his power- was damaged in a previous battle, so that all it would take is one good hit to destroy it for good. Fortunately, Maui is fast and strong enough that he manages to hold Te Kā back for some time even with that particular weakness to take into account.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Back to the Future, George is a lanky kid who gets manhandled pretty easily by the much taller and burlier Biff, but when he finally gets serious he one-shots Biff with a single punch.
  • Battleship correctly shows that modern-day missile destroyers are this. They carry lots of missiles and the Aegis system allows them to Macross Missile Massacre an enemy, but they lack any real armor to protect them from return fire. The CIWS guns do an admirable job trying to protect the ships from the alien attack, but the enemy employs the More Dakka tactic to overwhelm the defenses. Their aforementioned Aegis systems also failed to work given that the attackers were often too close and failed to properly show up on radar.
  • Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance: Roarke compares himself to a flamethrower made of paper while explaining to Danny about his powers; he is unable to use his full power while in the human world because of his fragile human body. Thus, he needs to possess Danny, the boy being his son and all.
  • Godzilla vs. Megaguirus: Megaguirus is so fast she can Flash Step circles around Godzilla, and is strong enough to knock Godzilla down and even lift him into the air and throw him. Her main strategy involves confusing him with her high speed and painful wing frequencies, giving her the opening to fly past and strike Godzilla repeatedly and pick him up. Once Godzilla manages to catch Megaguirus's stinger in his mouth and bite it off, she's completely defenseless, and goes down to a single shot of his Atomic Breath.
  • The Hunger Games: Katniss is a quickdraw with a bow and takes out several competitors in seconds. Compared to the opposition, she is untrained in how to fight up close, and is slowed down significantly by relatively minor injuries.
  • Mad Max: A psychological application of the trope in the form of the Nightrider. While most of the pursuit has him in total control of both the situation and his faculties, taunting the MFP relentlessly over the radio, one near-miss with Max reduces him to a blubbering, insecure, terrified wreck.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Scarlet Witch has immensely powerful telekinesis, but she has to concentrate on whatever she wants to affect and seems to take a short time to ramp up to full strength. This makes her nearly unbeatable if she can focus on a single opponent (notably in Avengers: Endgame where she completely overpowers Thanos one-on-one), but much more vulnerable against unexpected attacks and any hit that does get through disrupts her current focus (such as in Captain America: Civil War where during a mission she accidentally destroys an office building).
    • Spider-Man: Far From Home: Mysterio has full control of his Attack Drones disguised as Elementals, whose holographic projections are capable of warping their senses as well as pelting them to death with bullets, which makes him incredibly deadly when out of reach. However, Beck himself has the resilience of an ordinary human to the point that, when Peter manages to close the distance and find him, he goes down rather easily without putting up much of a fight.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3: The High Evolutionary's gravity powers are undoubtedly deadly — they can annihilate an entire roomful of enemies in a Sphere of Destruction at maximum output — but they (and his combat skills in general) are so crude and simple that they offer him zero defensive options. Once you get past that, he's a lightly-armoured Human Alien with perfectly ordinary durability and pain tolerance — which is even more of a problem than it sounds, since being a Gravity Master apparently requires some level of concentration on his part. Any reasonably serious injury will distract him so much that he essentially loses any meaningful ability to fight back against whoever injured him, leaving him entirely dependent on his first-strike capabilities. There's a reason his "fight" against the Guardians can be summarised as "Rocket shoots him, and then a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown ensues".
  • The Mighty Ducks: The titular team provides an athletic example. They use lots of Confusion Fu on offense, but their defense is rather lacking. This is pointed out in the third movie by Coach Orion, who teaches them how to play "two-way" hockey.
    Orion: I've seen your tapes. I know you can score goals; I just don't know if you can stop them.
  • Pacific Rim: The Japanese Jaeger, Coyote Tango, has huge retractable cannons mounted on its shoulders, but is apparently the most lightly armored of the Jaegers.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: The flashback to the DL-6 incident shows that young Edgeworth was able to bite Yanni Yogi hard enough to distract the bailiff from hitting his father, and later threw a gun at him hard enough to knock the guy out. When Yogi shoves him hard enough to be knocked against a wall though, Edgeworth collapses almost immediately. Given that he's a kid, it's pretty justified.
  • Real Steel: Metro beats down Atom badly but gets taken out by one hit.
  • Rocky:
    • Apollo Creed is strong, fast, and has decent stamina but can't take lots of punishment. It should be noted that this is a downplayed version to the usual; Apollo doesn't really have a glass jaw, but his ability to take damage is merely average compared to Rocky’s more impressive ability to absorb his opponents’ blows and keep standing even against overwhelming odds. Apollo was strong enough to deal with most opponents in the ring before this became an issue, but Rocky and Drago were durable enough to hold out against Apollo’s earlier blows and do more serious damage later when he was less prepared to fight back.
    • In Rocky III, Rocky’s opponent Clubber Lang is ultimately a variation of this, with his weakness being stamina rather than defence. While Lang is a powerful fighter who hits hard and generally demolishes his opponents quickly, his reliance on this strategy means that he puts too much power into his initial assaults. He defeats Rocky in their first bout because Rocky was out of practice and emotionally shaken by his manager’s recent fatal heart attack, but when they engage in a rematch Rocky has worked hard to get back in shape and manages to provoke Lang into a rage where he makes mistakes, resulting in Lang exhausting himself while Rocky utilises his greater endurance to strike back and win.
  • Scream: Ghostface, unlike most iconic Slasher Movie killers, is not an Implacable Man who can No-Sell any attack the heroes can come up with. Under the mask in each film is an ordinary man or woman without any supernatural abilities, armed with only a knife, who the heroes can easily push around if they get the chance. However, unlike the lumbering Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, Ghostface is fast and regularly runs after his or her targets, and one stab from that very large knife is usually enough to debilitate a victim and allow Ghostface to go for the kill.
  • Star Wars:
    • TIE Interceptors' armament — twice or even occasionally thrice that of the more widespread TIE Fighters — means that they actually represent a threat... for a short while. Their shielding is no better than that of the Fighters (that is to say, they have none whatsoever), so they break apart as soon as someone shines a laser pointer at them. Though if one actually watches the films, Rebel fighters actually die just as easily when not flown by main characters. So one wonders what those shields are for.
    • The MG-100 Star Fortress SF-17 bomber in The Last Jedi is an exaggerated and infamous example of this trope in the Star Wars saga. It's a giant target that is sluggish, poorly shielded, and possesses a brittle hull. But carries a massive payload of magnetic proton bombs that can destroy a single dreadnought if it reaches the target. Unfortunately the bombs need to be in close proximity to the target, and the magnetic bombs can be a hazard to wingmen should a bomber be destroyed.
    • Rogue One: The AT-ACT has the same offensive power as the Mighty Glacier AT-AT, but much weaker armor.
    • The Rise of Skywalker: The Xyston-Class Star Destroyer can blow up planets, but has no shields while in the turbulent atmosphere of Exegol, and can be blown up with one or two shots to its main cannon.
  • The World's End: The Blanks have inhuman strength and agility, but you could burst their heads open with a well-thrown punch. This probably explains why our heroes, a bunch of a middle-aged, out-of-shape men, are able to deal with crowds of them.
  • X-Men Film Series: The ultimate example is Professor Charles Xavier, whose considerable telepathic powers are generally taken Up to Eleven by allowing him to take control of minds halfway across the world, potentially commit genocide, and even transfer his consciousness to his comatose twin brother. He can't take any more punishment than any other human, though, and he's paralyzed from the waist down and restricted to a wheelchair.
    • X-Men: Apocalypse:
      • Professor X is the second-most powerful mutant (third after Jean Grey accesses her Phoenix Force), and the story even makes a point about how a "god" is incomplete without his psychic ability ("To be everywhere, to be everyone"). But because his telepathy is ineffective against Apocalypse's Psychic Block Defense, Charles is totally defenseless; he's no more physically resilient than any other human, and as a paraplegic, he can't even try to run away from his captor.
      • Quicksilver's Super-Speed, which normally gives him a huge advantage over his foes in combat (Apocalypse is flying through the air when Peter is punching him),note  is nullified after Apocalypse traps his foot into the ground and breaks his leg. In the vicious hands of the god-like mutant, Maximoff is as fragile as a toy.

  • The third GrailQuest book, Gateway of Doom, contains an interestingly extreme example with the Bota-Botas. Their only form of attack is their war-cry, and rather than fight back at you they will concentrate on absorbing enough energy from the earth to be able to make the war-cry. The moment one of them manages to do so, you will die. There are six of them in total, and each one has so few LIFE POINTS that one hit is enough to kill them... but you can only hit one of them per round, and they take six rounds of combat to absorb enough energy, so there is no room for manoeuvre at all. If even one of your attacks misses, you're dead.

  • Taako from The Adventure Zone is an insanely powerful wizard, capable of casting giant fireballs and missiles of pure magical energy, and has on one occasion dealt 160 damage with one hit. He also has pathetically weak armor and low max-HP, meaning he can get knocked out of the fight with just a few solid hits, and needs healing most often out of all of his teammates.
  • The Runepunk podcast series from RPGMP3 features a character called Kieron Hammerfall, an Andari Rune caster. Kieron is imbued with momentous arcane power, as well as the durability of a dry twig.
  • Antares from Sequinox can dish out a decent level of damage, but has next to no defence and therefore has to hide behind her Scorpie minions.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Masakatsu Funaki in both pro wrestling and mixed martial arts, the latter even more so. Susceptible to take downs and no chin, he relied on simply submitting you before you hit him.
  • Kevin Nash, big guy around seven feet tall, likes to brag about how badass he is, tears his quadriceps by stepping through ring ropes.
  • Many power wrestlers tend to be injury prone, such as Mark Henry and Gangrel and Jazz. Batista's case was lampshaded by Triple H, who teased an Evolution reunion to deal with Legacy, only to reject the idea because Randy was a jerk and Dave was always hurt. It was also lampshaded by AJ Styles in a wonderful Take That!.
    AJ: (in response to Dave calling him a Spot Monkey) I think it's funny that a guy who takes a bump and tears his back tells me I don't know how to wrestle.
  • Minoru Suzuki was an example of a mixed martial artist, who in turn went back to pro wrestling as his injuries started to rack up. He was solid in taking down people and submitting him, but some hits were enough to stop him.
  • Many "high flier" wrestlers such as Matt Sydal, who showed these tendencies right out of Gateway Championship Wrestling, are also this trope, the commentators actually yelling at him for doing a cannon ball off a balcony after returning from injury. Místico became one when he went to WWE and was repackaged as "Sin Cara".
  • CM Punk is a downplayed example, as his famous hour long matches and Garbage matches make it hard to view him as "fragile" but he's one of the few wrestlers who will actually sell for the notoriously non athletic Paul Heyman. Punk has only "sold" when Heyman was wielding a weapon, but Madusa and Chris Benoit wouldn't even do that much. Punk can hoist wrestlers like Raven and Samoa Joe up, if they get careless, and knocked the likes of BJ Whimter and Alberto Del Rio unconscious, so he could presumably harm Heyman much worse than Heyman could harm him.
  • WSU has many examples, such as The Human Tornado (before they became an All Women's fed in 2007), Marti Belle (large spirit, small frame), the Fly Girls (Niya's really strong anyway but both tend to get tossed around simply because they're so short), the AC Express (great at countering moves, tend to be gone as soon as they don't).
  • The Queen of Cats La Felina in the Apocalypse Wrestling Federation. Able to go entire matches taking virtually no offense from opponents only to lose in the end.
  • La Rosa Negra's self appointed bodyguard Noemi Bosques. One the top ten bantam weight boxers in the world, top three in the country, most of Rosa's would be assailants shrink away from her fist and those that don't get floored. Boxing bantam weight's 110-118lbs, making Noemi noticeably smaller than her charge and quickly brushed aside by the few who managed to get her before she could land a punch.
  • Manny Ferno in Puerto Rican EWO. Perhaps the best spear in the business ("una lanza incredible!"), but he's much smaller than most men who use the move, to the point one of his other moves, which involves putting his weight on the back of his opponent's neck, has seen him flung skywards.
  • Part of the reason why Ashley Massaro's momentum was killed in WWE. She only wrestled for three years, yet suffered about as many injuries as someone who had been wrestling for ten.
  • Layla also became very injury prone in her final years.

  • In American Football, quarterbacks can do punishing damage throwing the ball downfield and serve as the offense's field general. However, if the Stone Wall offensive linemen screw up their blocking assignments, the quarterback usually doesn't have the strength or mobility to do anything except brace for impact and try not to get hurt by the 300+ pound men piling onto him. Mobile quarterbacks like Dak Prescott or Deshaun Watson have the speed to evade defenders, but exposing themselves out of the pocket keeps the trope in force: both quarterbacks have suffered gruesome injuries — Prescott a compound fracture of the leg when tackled on a run during a game, Watson tearing an ACL in practice running a read-option play — trying to make plays on the go.
  • Bob Sanders, safety in the NFL, long of the Indianapolis Colts. One of the league's hardest hitters, maybe the best safety in all of football... when he was healthy, which for a while was about as rare as the Colts beating the Chargers in those days (the latter is no longer rare for the Colts). Sanders frequently spent half the regular season on the injured list, which might be because he played so hard all the time, running full-force into offensive players on every play. The Colts finally released him after the 2010 season, and Sanders played one more (injury-shortened) season for the Chargers before being dropped for good.
  • The Eagles' Michael Vick fits the archetype perfectly. With his freakish speed and arm strength, Vick is the single most dangerous playmaker in the league... as long as he doesn't get hit too hard. In 9 seasons, he's played all 16 games only once, and has spent quite a few contests limited due to one injury or another. Not counting the 2 seasons he missed while answering to "Federal Inmate #33765-183".
  • Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins is frequently ranked as one of the NFL's greatest quarterbacks of all time, setting or breaking numerous records. Sadly, during his professional career, the Dolphins had one of the worst defenses in the league. He got to play in only one Super Bowl, Super Bowl XIX in the 1984-85 season, where the Dolphins were throttled 38-16 by the San Francisco 49ers. It probably didn't help that he wore the #13 jersey.
  • The Houston Oilers of the Late 80's-Early 90's lived and very much died on this trope. Spearheaded by Quarterback Warren Moon, the Oilers with their famed "Run & Shoot" Offense would consistently blaze up and down the field and light up the scoreboard en route to many wins, but never won anything of note due to their glaring weakness: they couldn't slow the pace down or run the ball effectively to grind the clock down, leading to their Defense remaining on the field for long stretches, where they would eventually collapse. This infamously bit them hard in the 1992 playoffs against the Buffalo Bills, where Houston ran up a 35-3 lead on the road, only to blow it and lost 41-38 in Overtime.
  • Hockey player Eric Lindros was called the "Next One" by pro scouts in the late 1980s, in reference to Wayne Gretzky's nickname of the "Great One" as the single best player to ever put on skates. Lindros seemed to have it all, from massive size to impressive speed to a gifted scoring touch. When he made it to the National Hockey League, he was one of the most dominant players in the league...and one of the most injured, which led him to top both the scoring charts and the injury reports.
  • The "Seven Seconds or Less" Phoenix Suns of the mid-2000s had arguably the most potent offense in NBA history, but their porous defense caused them to never reach the NBA Finals. The 2016-20 Houston Rockets, under the same head coach as the Seven Second Suns in Mike D'Antoni, suffered similar fates in the postseason with one of the most potent offenses in the league but an inability to stop anyone in turn.
  • In baseball, the Colorado Rockies, although part of it is out of their control. Coors Field in Colorado is a mile above sea level, and the thin air exponentially boosts fly balls to incredible degrees, even with the somewhat deep field dimensions. This, in effect, has turned the Colorado Rockies franchise into baseball's perpetual Glass Cannon; no matter the roster, they will be atop offensive categories in the league and at the bottom in pitching. While the Rockies have no trouble developing or signing hitters, developing or convincing pitchers to come there is a whole other story. This forces Colorado into simply bludgeoning teams to win at home, since they can even the odds against teams with superior pitching, who will be negated by the altitude of the park.
  • Mixed martial artists:
    • Alistair Overeem is known for two things: his freakish knockout power and his glass chin.
    • Brock Lesnar was known for his incredible speed and strength, which he used to ragdoll heavyweights and pummel them into paste... unless he got hit on the chin, in which case he'd instantly turtle up.
    • Johnny Walker became infamous for this. Out of all the 23 fights in his record, only five went past round one. He either completely destroys his opponent or gets destroyed in the first round.
    • Andrei Arlovski had excellent hand speed and punching power, but was notoriously easy to knock out.
  • Many a college basketball star player wound up falling short once in the National Basketball Association as their bodies just couldn't stay healthy. The Portland Trail Blazers had two big cases in Brandon Roy, who was Rookie of the Year yet only lasted five seasons before his knees forced a retirement at the age of 27, and Greg Oden, who missed what would be his rookie season recovering from surgery and would then only play 82 games across two seasons before again spending a whole season on the injury list that made him be waived (and to make it worse, the guy picked right after him, Kevin Durant, would become a superstar).
  • In motor racing, it is not untold of teams which were very competitive but struggled in reliability. For example, in Formula 1 known examples were the Williams-Renault of 1991 and the Mclaren-Mercedes of 2005: by far the fastest cars on track, but afflicted by technical issues that costed many retirements, ultimately giving up the title to their opponents (respectively Mclaren-Honda and Renault). This mostly because innovative designs can result in high performance but also increased fragility until enough development is done through seasons, but also because sometimes high performance puts more stress to technical components which are more prone to failure. In these examples, Williams managed to become one of the dominant forces of the 90s starting from 1992 when it achieved both speed and reliability.

    Web Animation 
  • Mera Salamin in Epithet Erased has a powerful destructive epithet that can defeat the likes of Indus in one blow, but her stamina stat is tied for the lowest in the cast. Just kicking a box in frustration is enough to break one of her toes. This is mostly due to a case of Power Incontinence; her “Fragile” epithet allows her to weaken and break practically anything, but also weakens her body and causes her constant pain. Using it in combat actually causes her to take damage.
  • The three gods in the Sock Series have very destructive powers but can be killed in rather simple ways, such as being crushed by a magical shrinking cylinder, being cut in half by a tongue or being bitten in half.

  • 8-Bit Theater's Black Mage described himself in these words, a few days after this page was launched.
  • Bob and George: Ran Cossack is an exaggerated version. His Cossack Buster is the most powerful weapon in the comic amongst the various robots, but even a slight breeze can kill him. Death only annoys Ran, however; he has a Body Backup Drive at home, complete with teleporter to return him to the place he was last alive.
  • Darths & Droids: Chirrut in the Rogue One adventure turns out to be this. Pete applied his usual extreme Min-Maxing to the character, making him formidable in combat, with a Dodge modifier so high that he was literally incapable of being hit by a direct attack... at the cost of having only 9 hit points, resulting in him dying the moment he was hit by an area of effect explosion.
  • Dominic Deegan: Dominic is physically weak while mentally untouchable. He describes himself as his body being "frail and weak, but [his] mind is a fortress you have no hope of conquering."
  • Kid Radd: Played with with the titular Kid. On the offensive side, his Mega Radd is technically only able to charge enough to deal 255 damage within his own game, but thanks to sloppy programming, there's actually no preset upper limit, meaning it's as powerful as the number of bits in the console he's on. When he's out on the internet, its power is effectively limitless, making him potentially strong enough to destroy the entire internet. On the defensive side, he can only take four hits before dying, but it doesn't matter what hits him. Getting hit with a nuclear bomb does the same amount of damage as having a Mook walk into him.
  • The Night the Magic Died: This is the case with Gralo, the Big Bad. While immensely powerful and capable of causing a universe wide extinction on his own, he's only protected by being able to eat any magic sent his way to a Walking Wasteland level and isn't exceptionally durable without it. Once that's bypassed, he is easily wounded and easily defeated by the Princesses.
  • The Order of the Stick: Vaarsuvius fits this trope. As with Black Mage, they fall pretty squarely in Squishy Wizard territory.
  • Outsider: Loroi warships have tremendous ranged firepower compared to the Umiak's, but aren't as robust.
  • Sluggy Freelance: Torg is capable of killing just about anything when his Cool Sword Chaz is powered up and starts glowing. While his sword is unbreakable and nearly unstoppable, however, Torg himself is as physically vulnerable as your average human being. It doesn't help that the sword's true potential can only be unleashed when it's fueled by the blood of the innocent, a cost Torg is understandably reluctant to pay.
  • Suppression: Charlie is a electricity-wielder who was kidnapped by the villains so that he could power their entire facility. He can give off enough electricity to blow off Maxwell's arm. He is also skinny as a rail and has neither armor nor the ability to take a hit.
  • What's Shakin': Coffinshaker is a fairly powerful fire mage, but without his reliance of fire, is mostly vulnerable to all other attacks.
  • XRS: Despite its vaunted capabilities, the XRS is extremely vulnerable when its energy shields are down.

    Web Original 
  • Cobra Kai has two notable examples, from that dojo:
    • Hawk is a combination of The Berserker and Blood Knight. He thrives on fighting and throws some wicked shots that can overwhelm his opponent (as the tournament at the end of the first season showed). While it wasn't much of a problem in the first season, the second season brought this trope into full force. Training under Kreese, he would become surprised when a defense-oriented opponent (such as Demetri) held him off for a while. In such a case, it usually takes only one shot to lay him out (as both Robby and Demetri ended up doing). But in the third season, he neatly subverts the trope by internalizing Kreese's "fight smart" lesson — and utterly obliterating Brucks during tryouts.
    • However, Unskilled, but Strong Tory plays this trope straight throughout: great at charging and has some wicked kicks and punches of her own. Problem: she's not much better defensively (especially against Sam, who is Weak, but Skilled) and tends to get pissy when she can't put away an opponent fast enough. Once she loses her cool, one good shot can stop her.
  • DSBT InsaniT: 'VRcade' shows that Evil Balloon is far stronger than he looks...but also as fragile as he looks.
  • Left POOR Dead: The zombies are clearly dangerous, but never seem to manage to do any damage and are felled by even a gentle push.
  • Shadiversity: In this video Shad discusses the idea by name, saying magic users having greater physical vulnerability to offset their magical powers is one way medieval-type knights could remain relevant in a fantasy setting (otherwise, they would just slaughter a knight every time, as demonstrated humorously at the beginning).

    Western Animation 
  • Arcane: While Caitlyn's an excellent shot with a rifle, she proves easy to knockout in close combat.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • While firebending boasts immense raw power than other bending arts, one of its glaring downsides is that they have no special defensive abilities whatsoever, fitting for the element's confrontational and upfront nature. Their combat philosophy centers around overwhelming their opponents as soon as possible. True to the themes of how elements are similar to one another, this obvious weakness can be mitigated by applying other bending philosophies to firebending. Iroh, Zuko, and Jeong Jeong, all who subscribe to such innovative thinking, employ firebending as a defense, utilizing fire walls, redirecting flames, and doing circular motions to dispel attacks. In fact, one of the signs that a firebender is a master firebender if they can last long in a fight, which is taught at Dancing Dragon, an ancient firebending form that the Fire Nation forgot upon taking up their imperialistic ambitions to the world.
    • In the Avatar State, Aang can be the most powerful bender to ever live, but if he is killed in it, the Avatar as a whole will cease to exist.
  • Batman Beyond: The assassin Curare is a deadly combatant with a sword, incredibly fast and agile, and very hard to lay a glove on, but when Batman actually manages to do so, it seems to hurt her badly.
  • Donald Duck: In "Canvas Back Duck", Donald ends up in a boxing match against Pee-Wee Pete, and is only saved from a merciless pummeling when he accidentally discovers Pete has a (literal) glass jaw.
  • Transformers: Animated:
    • Soundwave can easily take on multiple Autobots at the same time with The Power of Rock, has a massive number of various gadgets, and can control machines, but he's made of Earth machines mashed together, which means that even Sari's little hand-blast can put a hole in his shoulder, and when he is forced into melee combat, he is smashed apart in single blows. This contrasts with normal Decepticons, which are both figuratively and literally Made of Iron.
    • Swindle. As a result of his arms dealing he has some of the most impressive weapons in the universe, but is the only Decepticon in the whole show that Bumblebee's stingers have ever been effective against.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender: The Red Lion is stated and shown to be a Fragile Speedster but it also has a heat beam that can melt starships and a back-mounted Wave-Motion Tuning Fork that can destroy whole sections of a massive space station.

    Real Life 
  • Since the introduction of gunpowder in The High Middle Ages, artillery is (probably) the very first and oldest definition of this trope: deadly when given a chance to attack from a safe distance but easily neutralized by the destruction of its crew and/or the cannon itself.
  • Between the development of practical firearms and bulletproof body armor, armor became obsolete so armies just stopped using it. Similarly, although muskets were often unreliable and inaccurate over long distances, bullets could rip flesh and shatter bone if they hit. Everyone could either One-Hit Kill their enemy or be OHK'd themselves.
  • Before gunpowder, there were Battering Rams, whose only functionality and purpose was to knock down walls. They were slow and heavy, and unless they were constructed with an outer shell, they were completely helpless against ranged and melee combatants. When carried by people, as opposed to supported by ropes or chains, those carrying the ram would be defenseless themselves, as both their hands would be occupied. In spite of these drawbacks, they continue to be used by modern-day police forces and fire brigades to enter locked doors; the latter even benefits from being used in a non-combat context, with the raw power of the battering ram only helping them in their goal to extinguish the fire as soon as possible.
  • Most anti-tank weapons teams count as this. Whether armed with an anti-tank rifle, manning an anti-tank gun, or carrying around a guided missile launcher, they have the power to potentially destroy an enemy tank before it gets the chance to destroy them. However, they lack any protection other than their firearms, and the sheer bulk of their weaponry limits their mobility, making them easy targets if detected.
  • Tank destroyers. Popular back in WW2, they were Exactly What It Says on the Tin — usually armed with a tank-grade BFG to destroy enemy vehicles with great efficiency, using the element of surprise. However, their limitations compared to regular tanks (lack of armour, a gun with limited traverse, or both) make them vulnerable to a well-coordinated counterattack. In modern warfare, the role of tank destroyer has been taken up by helicopter gunships, though a number of lighter vehicles have been adapted to the purpose as well.
    • Modern wheeled tank destroyers are armed with large calibre guns and very mobile, though lacking in armour. They're not supposed to take on enemy tanks unless necessary, as their main missions are tactical reconnaissance and fire support.
    • American tank destroyers during World War II in particular were very lightly armored, in most cases lacking a roof for their turret which exposed the crew to all kinds of nastiness. They usually mounted a relatively powerful anti-tank gun in a fully-traversing turret and were extremely fast: the M18 Hellcat can clock up to 55 mph on good roads. (That's 88 km/h for the rest of the world.) Conversely, M36 Jackson sported a 90 mm M3 cannon, which was able to defeat any German armour at any distance. Last Jacksons participated in the Yugoslavian Wars of Disintegration and were finally phased out in 2002.
    • Though the German and Soviet tank destroyers tended to go in the opposite direction, with heavy armour and powerful guns with limited traverse, they also produced a large number of lightly-armoured, open-topped self-propelled guns which were often used to take out enemy armour. In the case of Germany, some of these were specifically designed and pressed into service as tank destroyers, following their encounters with superior Soviet armour.
  • This a big reason that the USMC didn't adopt the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife (and its derivative Marine Raider Stiletto) for general issue during WWII. While the needle point profile was excellent for killing things with a stab in the right place, it was too fragile to do anything else when compared to the more durable spear point profile. Because of the shortcomings in its design, the Ka-Bar knife was issued to the Marine Corps in 1942, as it was simply more versatile.
  • The Swedish Thirty Years' War era Leather Cannon. It was basically a copper barrel wrapped in stout leather, like cow hide. The idea was to make the cannon light enough to be mobile and easily carried, which it was. It weighed 40kg (90lb) and could easily be carried by two men. Unfortunately it also was prone on over-heating — leather is a good heat insulator — and tended to burst if three or more shots were shot in succession without letting the barrel cool down a bit. Purely as a weapon it was a failure, but as a concept it revolutionized the role of the field artillery.
    • This was excellently highlighted in an episode of MythBusters, where the cannon was recreated and fired. Their prototype replica cannon successfully damaged the targets, but broke on the first firing. They still considered it a successful recreation because the output of the cannon was comparable to a period iron cannon, and because of its historical reliability issues.
  • Aircraft carriers exist to operate aircraft. Anything not related to operating aircraft is usually considered unnecessary, as the embarked aircraft give the carrier the effective ability to spot and engage enemy targets in a radius of several hundred miles or more. That they also tend to be crammed full of munitions and volatile aviation fuel is just icing on the cake. Taken Up to Eleven by Japanese WWII carriers, which had an enormous airplane capacity, but tended to ignite violently on two or three hits, largely because of poor damage control and internal design. They attempted to rectify this with the Taiho, with the design expected to remain able to operate after multiple bomb and torpedo hits. A single American submarine-launched torpedo caused a fuel vapor explosion that sank her.note  Modern day aircraft try to subvert this by loading them up with the best anti-air and anti-submarine defenses possible, but hold superiority mostly due to just how huge the ship is and how deadly the aircraft and how precise the targeting and sonar systems are.
  • The American Northampton, Portland, and New Orleans-class heavy cruisers, designed in the 1920s and '30s, were particularly infamous examples of this. These ships were designed as light cruisers under the WWI definition with nominal armor and heavy 8" guns, but were reclassified as heavy cruisers as a result of the Washington and London naval treaties due to their gun calibers. These ships suffered horrendous losses during the war due to their inadequate protection, including three being sunk with within two hours during the Battle of Savo Island in 1942.
    • "Treaty Cruisers" of this era (so named because the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 placed strict limits of 10,000 tons displacement and 8"/203mm gun caliber on cruisers, and the the London Naval Treaty of 1930 refined this by codifying the difference between heavy and light cruisers) were almost all glass cannons. The tonnage limit made it nearly impossible to build a truly balanced heavy cruiser, with enough armor to have any meaningful defense against its own guns. The only way to achieve a heavy cruiser with acceptable firepower and also acceptable armor was by building them significantly heavier than was legal and then lying about it.
  • The British Courageous -class "large light cruisers" (strictly battlecruisers) of late WWI had battleship-grade main guns (albeit in fairly-small numbers)... and next to no belt or deck armor, in order to maximize speed and minimize draft. They were so lightly armored that the Royal Navy saw them as fairly useless in a fight, as they had absolutely no ability to take a hit from anything heavier than an anti-torpedo-boat gun, and all three were converted into aircraft carriers during or after the war.
  • Light tanks by definition are supposed to be very mobile, primarily designed for scouting and exploiting breakthroughs in enemy lines, so they would often give up armour in exchange for greater speed and range. Although many fall under the Fragile Speedster category, several designs (particularly the American M24 Chaffee and M41 Bulldog, as well as the French AMX-13 series) qualify as Glass Cannons, having sufficient armour to tackle heavier armour.note  The Soviet and British "cruiser tanks" of the 1930s and 1940s (which eventually evolved into the Cromwell, Comet, and T-34) also placed speed and armament above armour. A good example would be the British "Crusader" cruiser tank: extremely fast and agile and armoured with the superb 6 pounder 57 mm cannon, which was able to knock out any German tanks at the desert, but itself vulnerable. By comparison, the Matilda and early models of Churchill, while far superior to most German tanks, were armed only with a 2-pdr.
    • The Vickers Medium Mk.II, designed in 1925, was armed with a 47mm anti-tank gun (and as such, were among the best-armed tanks of the time, even better than many WWII designs) but only had 8mm of armour. By comparison, the WWI-era Whippet had 18mm. The design was due to the doctrine that the best tool to fight a tank was another tank, and that armour was essentially for defence from small-arms fire (against which it was fitted with machine-guns). The Medium II was designed to replace both the WWI-era medium and heavy tanks, to break through the the enemy line and then exploit the rear, destroying headquarters, artillery parks, etc. while taking prisoners as a precursor to the cruiser tank doctrine. Crucially, it was designed in a time when carriage-mounted anti-tank guns were not yet developed, and later British cruiser tanks following the same doctrine against such weapons tended to fare poorly.
    • The Soviet BT-series tanks were among the fastest tank designs of WWII, and were also fairly well-armed for their time with a high-velocity 45mm gun. They could reach speeds of up to 72 km/h on good roads, and had good range to boot. However, their light armor couldn't protect against anything much more powerful than rifle-caliber gunfire.
      • BTs were actually the typical European "cruiser tanks", that were envisioned to work much like the horse cavalry as a raiding and attack force, and thus featured high mobilitynote  and firepower at the expense of the protection, unlike the "infantry tanks" that were planned to advance in the infantry ranks against the enemy fire and so were heavily armored but slow. These narrow niches were, however, proven to be impractical in the actual fighting, and the later types become much more balanced machines.
    • The American M551 Sheridan (technically an "armoured reconnaissance/airborne assault vehicle") provides a remarkable example of this trope, being poorly armoured but armed with a low-velocity 152mm gun. Put into context, its shells packed almost as much explosive as heavy artillery shells. It could also fire anti-tank missiles, which could theoretically take out any contemporary battle tank, though these were almost never used.
      • In the 1930s, the Soviet Union experimented with mounting rockets on tanks, producing this monstrosity. Due to several defects with the design (namely horrifying lack of accuracy), it was never put into production.
    • The modern Russian Sprut-SD(P) light tank is basically a T-90 125-mm smoothbore cannon put into the BMD-3 APC chassis. It packs a huge kick, is extremely fast and nimble, and is actually air-droppable, being envisioned as a paratroopers' own tank destroyer, but its thin aluminum shell can't really take anything much above the small arms fire.
  • Main Battle Tank design took something of a detour in this direction during the 1960s, at least in Western Europe. Confronted with widespread HEAT weapons, against which steel armor required prohibitive thickness to stop, the designers of the French AMX-30 and German Leopard I dispensed with the heavy steel armor of many contemporaries in favor of greater mobility afforded by the lighter weight. Not that they were un-armored, mind you, but they were emphatically not designed to take hits from anything larger than autocannon and keep trucking. This detour ended in the 1970s with the development of composite and reactive armors, which could provide protection against HEAT weapons without prohibitive weight costs.
  • Missile transporter-erector launchers are arguably the ultimate example of Glass Cannons in real life, being armed with a weapon that can wipe out a small town but completely lacking any means of self-defence. With that said, the concept inverts this in that the launchers are hard to track down and can relocate after firing.
  • For much of their existence, submarines have proven to be exceptionally deadly against ships, utilizing their stealth to sneak up on surface vessels and sink them before the latter can react. However, if they are detected before they have a chance to fire, submarines pretty much lose the only advantage they have.
    • Ballistic missile submarines take the concept to an extreme, in that they are armed with enough nuclear weapons to vaporize a small country, though are virtually incapable of defending themselves if detected.
  • Torpedo boats were essentially small but inexpensive vessels armed with torpedoes, and later on destroyers after the latter took on the role of the former. They have sometimes managed to sink even vessels as heavy as battleships; they also were highly vulnerable to gunfire from larger ships, especially WWII Japanese ones with their explosive "Long Lance" torpedoes.
  • WWI-style monitors were shallow-draft ships of questionable seaworthiness onto which the largest spare gun(s) at hand was crammed. Basically a floating artillery battery, they had the advantage of being cheap and able to get in very close to shore where traditional naval ships could not go, even going up rivers.
  • Anything the Finnish Navy can throw in. Their ships are crammed with oversized guns and missiles, and outfitted with minelaying equipment, but have no armor whatsoever — they rather employ hiding in the archipelago as their defensive strategy. It helps that Finland has one of the most diabolical archipelagoes and littoral waters in the world. There is always a small island behind which you can hide.
  • Japanese cruisers during WWII. They had excellent firepower, especially thanks to their long-range torpedoes already mentioned above. However even if they were not badly armored a lucky hit on the torpedo launchers could be enough to disable or even sink them, as happened during the Battle of Samar. Japanese torpedoes used highly-compressed pure oxygen as their fuel oxidizer rather than the typical compressed air used by other nations. This allowed the infamous Type 93 "Long Lance" torpedo to be faster and longer-ranged than other torpedoes despite being larger and carrying a much heavier warhead, and also made them nearly invisible in the water since they produced no wake. But oxygen is also intensely flammable, so having the air tanks filled with pure oxygen instead of 21% oxygen and 78% inert nitrogen meant any explosion near the torpedoes would set them on fire and detonate their large warheads.
  • Japanese aircraft during the early stages of WWII; while fast for the early 1940s and well-armed, they had next to no armor or safety features such as self-sealing fuel tanks or armored glass to protect pilots and crew. While some Allied designs were notorious for taking hundreds if not thousands of rounds of ammunition and still flying, even a short burst of gunfire would be enough to set a Zero ablaze and generally take its pilot with it. Later designs had armor and speed to match next generation Allied fighters, but by that point Japan had lost the best of its pilots and could only send up half-trained rookies to fight.
  • Humans are generally a race of Glass Cannons in that our technological ability to inflict damage is much greater than our technological ability to defend against damage. They had to build NORAD inside a small mountain to maybe protect it against nukes. On the purely physical level, with peak physical training, you can dead-lift hundreds of pounds, fight several other people or animals at once, and even kill with your bare hands if need be. But you have no natural external armor, and your vital organs are still vital and vulnerable to nasty things such as being stabbed or shot.
  • Many venomous snakes and bugs can seriously injure or even kill with a single bite/sting. but with the snakes, the second you grab the back the head or they run out of venom, all they can do is wriggle helplessly or try to escape. It's even worse for the arthropods, since if you can see them coming, all it would take is a shoe or a newspaper to take them out. Of course, not needing defenses is much the point of having venom in the first place; the reason so many are brightly colored is that they realize the threat of injury is a much more effective deterrent than most any physical defense.
  • Small dromaeosaurs such as Velociraptor had a sickle claw on their feet that could deal grave damage and bleeding to prey, especially if they managed to slash a prey's throat. However, thanks to their small size, one good hit from a larger dinosaur could gravely injure or even kill them.
  • The technical, basically a four-wheel pickup truck with a weapon mounted in its bed. It's quite speedy and maneuverable, and thanks to its heavy weapons (which have historically included things like rocket pods, anti-aircraft cannons, and turrets from proper fighting vehicles), it can be a terror to even armored vehicles if it gets the drop on them. It also has the armor of, well... a pickup truck.
    • Historically, the "technical" evolved out of the portée anti-tank guns used in WW2. This concept was evolved independently by Britain and Germany and was seen as an expedient to get the best possible use out of their standard towed guns, in the wide-open spaces of North Africa and Russia. The standard British AT gun, the two-pounder, was over-engineered and its carriage was simply too fragile to withstand being towed across rocky North African terrain. Britain got round this by scrapping the carriages and welding the gun assembly into the cargo-bed of the trucks that had once towed them, creating a fast and manoevrable self-propelled gun which remained vulnerable to counter-fire. Germany did likewise with many of its PaK 35 37mm weapons. When the USA entered the war in 1942, it copied the idea by marrying its 37mm anti-tank gun to the cargo bed of light trucks, usually the Dodge 3/4 tonner.
    • The Willys MB were often converted to combat vehicles, most notably by the SAS "Desert Rats" in North Africa; the nimble little vehicles could be mounted with a staggering amount of firepower, including but not limited to Tommy Guns, twin Vickers .30 cal machine guns, M2 50 caliber machine guns, and even bazookas, and usually carried all these weapons all at once to rain absolute hell on German bases. However, the core vehicle was still the humble Jeep, which typically had armor measuring between nil and none. For this reason, the Desert Rats would operate primarily at night, forming raiding parties that would rush in, cause as much damage as possible, and then rush out before the enemy even knew what hit them.
  • The Macuahuitl, a pre-Spanish-conquest-era Meso-American weapon which is essentially a large, flat wooden club embedded with obsidian blades. Said obsidian blades make for a deadly weapon capable of easily cutting off a person's head, and it was even capable of decapitating horses. Unfortunately, obsidian — being, essentially, natural glass — is very brittle in comparison to steel, so these blades easily shattered if they hit anything hard enough, such as steel armor or swords.
  • Some spiders, such as the black widow, brown recluse, and Brazilian wandering spider have venom powerful enough to cripple a human, something at least 100 million times their weight, however, all it takes for a human to kill them is a simple step or swat.
  • Generally speaking, octopuses have a smorgasbord of tools and skills for killing prey. Most species have: a very sharp beak, excellent camouflage, the ability to squeeze through small holes, and incredible intelligence. Some species even have venom, and there's still more. However, their soft, squishy bodies make them very vulnerable to predators like sharks and large fish. Some, like the coconut octopus, use coconut shells or seashells to defend themselves, as those things are much harder than their bodies.
  • Most muscle cars can easily keep pace with sports cars that cost more than twice as much... when racing on a straight road. The "muscle" refers to their massive, highly-tuned engines, and in their original configurations in the '60s and early '70s, these engines were dropped into family sedans that were given just enough modifications to handle their power. While this kept them very affordable compared to dedicated sports cars, it also meant that they had the handling of large American sedans, and were prone to spinning out if you tried taking on tight corners in them. This is why oval racing predominates in American motorsport: because the emphasis was originally on showing spectators what they could do in a car that they could buy from any dealership (the old slogan being "win on Sunday, sell on Monday"), tracks that played to those cars' strengths predominated, while more technical circuits fell by the wayside. More modern muscle cars typically offer more high-performance models that come with suspension and handling upgrades to go with the monster V8 engines, but these usually come at a higher price point.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): All Offense No Defense


Kannabi no Mikoto

She can cut through an entire mountain range in one slash but can't survive a bunch of arrows and any reasonably serious injury will distract her from using her powers effectively.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

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Main / GlassCannon

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