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Glass Cannon

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Frail, but deadly.

"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."
8-Bit Theater's Black Mage, on himself

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.

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. 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.

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.

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. 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. 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.

Not to be confused with actual cannons made of glass, which would be Glass Weapons.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Accelerator from A Certain Magical Index is a strange example of this. Normally he's Nigh Invulnerable thanks to his ability to redirect all vectors within a certain radius of him (if he has an oxygen tank a nuke wouldn't faze him). He's also incredibly powerful to the point of being able casually break a continent if sufficiently pissed. However, once that fancy ability of his is bypassed he's nothing more than a scrawny teenager waiting to be pummeled.
  • Shin Kazama of Area 88 fits this trope. He deals a nasty blow to Saki's head during a temporary psychotic rage, but Mickey floors him with one punch.
  • If it weren't for their Healing Factor, the Titans in Attack on Titan would be incredibly easy to destroy. Sure, they're huge, and if they grab you, you're dead, but their bodies are incredibly light and fragile. This is especially true of Eren, who often hits things so hard, his bones actually snap apart from the impact and have to regenerate. This is best showcased when he punches a Titan in the head so hard, he knocks it right off and sends it flying into a church, but his hand is destroyed in the process.
  • Shiki, The Dragon and (sort-of) Squishy Wizard from Black Cat. His normal attacks do more damage than anything this side of The Hero, the Big Good, and the Big Bad's final moves, but he goes down with one pistol-whip from Train.
  • Bleach:
    • Ikkaku's sword is unpredictable, dangerous, and incredibly powerful. However, it breaks easily because its shikai form is a wooden spear, and the bankai's overpowered force makes itself brittle. Ikkaku is refusing to use his power correctly and has been chastised for that by Iba; It's heavily implied that his misuse of his power is why the weapon keeps breaking so easily; the Zanpakutou inventor, Nimaiya, openly tells Renji and Ichigo that Zanpakutou which are not correctly used will break easily. Ikkaku himself is not this trope.
    • Ran Tao in the anime filler Bount Arc is a very skilled spell user but her stamina is heavily compromised by her extreme age.
  • The Japanese National Team in Captain Tsubasa. They've got excellent scorers in Tsubasa, Aoi and Hyuga as well as great GK's like Wakabayashi and Wakashimazu, but one of their biggest flaws is how easily their defense can be torn and the rival teams can try their luck at scoring. And since the two Waka GK's are prone to Game Breaking Injuries...
    • Single player version: Jun Misugi. Excellent strategist, very dedicated, great at teamwork, marvelous scorer... and with pathetic stamina due to being an ex-Ill Boy. Hence why he's seen more often than not in manager positions and doesn't play until it's mandatory.
  • Death Note: Light Yagami and all other Deathnote users definitely qualify. They can kill anyone whose face and name they know but are not more bullet resistant than anyone else.
  • Wisely of D.Gray-Man can be considered this compared to other Noah (they are all physicially superhumans anyway). His power allows him to One-Hit Kill anyone by crushing their brain with a mere glance. However when he indirectly received an attack on his head he was stunned for the rest of the arc. Besides he declares himself as "not a fighter".
  • May of Fullmetal Alchemist has quite a few different ranged attacks with her alkahestry, but is one of the least durable characters, partly the result of being a young girl.
  • In Hajime no Ippo, minor character Eleki Battery who fought Kimura is definitely one. He has enough power to knock Kimura down in one blow, however, all Kimura needed to do was land one hit to his body to knock him down.
    • Also Ryuichi Hayami, who's got very good counters and speed as well as strength... but one well placed punch and he's out. This gets so bad that, when Kobashi manages to deal him a REALLY well-placed hit in the jaw, the injury he sustains forces him to retire.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Diavolo's Stand in part 5, King Crimson, is one of (if not THE) most powerful Stands in terms of raw striking power, with an A rank in Power and Speed. However, it has an E rank in terms of durability. This is why Diavolo tries to end his fights with a single strike, as he can't survive an extended assault.
    • By part 6, Jotaro's Stand, Star Platinum, has degraded from Lightning Bruiser to this. It maintains its legendary speed and strength, but Jotaro's age combined with the strain inflicted on him when he uses its time stopping power resulted in its durability dropping from rank A to E.
    • Stand users in general, with a few exceptions like DIO, aren't any tougher than those without powers; so any with a particularly potent offense is going to fall into this if they start taking direct hits. Most noticeable with Iggy in Part 3, who has a very powerful stand with a wide range of abilities, but is still a small dog with all the fragility that one would expect. Leading to him being mortally injured from a few strong kicks.
  • Lyrical Nanoha
    • Fate's Sonic Drive form introduced in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Strikers. It improves on her original Sonic Form by giving her a lot of oomph to complement the speed increase, boosting her magic powers to astounding levels and letting her access Bardiche's Riot Zamber form. But much like the original Sonic Form, all of this comes at the cost of armor, so all it'll take is one good hit to make her fall. Not that it proves to be much of a detriment; so far, only Erio has managed to land a hit during a mock battle in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Vivid, where it indeed wiped out most of Fate's Hit Points.
    • Hayate has also shades of this: her spells range from nuclear explosion to... bigger nuclear explosion, but it comes with looooooong casting time and inability to take hits. She even said Caro would win against her in one-on-one. This is counterbalanced by the fact that Hayate almost never fights one on one; even without her other allies, most of the time she still has Reinforce with her, who can separate and hold off a target with a slew of not quite as powerful, but quite a bit faster spells while Hayate prepares her Wave Motion Gun.
    • Lutecia Alpine is an S-rank summoner who, in StrikerS, is capable of summoning insects that rival Caro's powers, but has hardly any moves with which to protect herself. However, as of ViVid, she appears to have developed the magical capabilities to fight alone well enough to enter the tournament alongside Vivio and her friends.
    • The Numbers from StrikerS are very powerful, but they can't take hits that well and most of them seem to not have defense skills. Their teamwork makes them dangerous, but if you're strong or skilled enough to take one after another down, then it's not a problem. In the Grand Finale, all Numbers are defeated by one or a few hits.
    • Like Fate, Micaiah Chevelle from ViVid is this overlapped with Fragile Speedster: she has a Barrier Jacket (or Knight Clothing) which is designed to give her immense speed for minimum defense. This speed supports her extremely powerful sword attacks greatly, but her lack of defense becomes a lethal disadvantage against Lightning Bruiser Miura who has melee versions of Nanoha's Starlight Breaker.
  • Alyssa of Mai-HiME has the ability to cause devastation on a large scale with her Child, Artemis, but unlike other Himes, does not have an Element to protect herself, instead relying on Miyu's assistance.
  • Tieria Erde's Gundam in The Movie, the Raphael, is this. It is equipped with Big Friggin' Wave Motion Guns that can also function as Attack Drones. However, due to said Gundam not being equipped with real GN Drives as well as the lack of resources used while it was being created, all defensive capabilities were sacrificed in favor of its offense. His earlier Gundam Nadleeh qualifies as well: it's essentially a Fragile Speedster with the Exia's close-combat attack power. Naturally, it's only used in emergency as it's a Dual Mode Unit, its other form being Gundam Virtue.
    • The GN Arms from the first season too. Lockon absolutely owned everyone with it until Ali incapacitated him with a single well-aimed shot at his beam cannon. Then it turned out the Gundam piloting the exoskeleton is tougher than the actual exoskeleton! Another example of this trope is the Gadessa: its main weapon is a Wave Motion Gun with ridiculous range... and not much armor. It still has a backup weapon and a beam saber but its defensive capabilities are nowhere near those of the others, as Lockon took it out in the final battle with a point-blank burst from his Gundam's sidearm after Playing Possum to lure it close.
    • Even seen in Mobile Suit Gundam MS IGLOO during the gravity front. Zaku's are portrayed as having tremendous and devastating firepower...but one direct hit from a tiny tank or missile team can still one shot them. Fortunately it seems that even non new type mook Zeke's can Dodge the Bullet.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • Seiji Shishikura is a pretty extreme glass cannon. His power, "Meatball," allows him to reshape the flesh of anyone he comes in physical contact with, which pretty much instantly immobilizes them. He can even detach chunks of himself and shoot them at others, which will adhere to them. In his introduction, he effortlessly inflicts one-hit KOs to at least a dozen heroes. However, if he so much as takes damage, anyone he's shaped into meatballs will revert back to normal. That is, for him to be effective, he cannot be hit by any attack, no matter how small.
    • Kaminari's power is the ability to discharge an enormous amount of electricity into the surrounding area. The problem is, once he does this, the power basically fries his brain and turns him into an idiot, meaning that he gets one shot before becoming totally useless for the next hour or so. And he's not any physically stronger than a normal human, making him something of a sitting duck. Later on, he starts to train specifically to avoid this issue.
  • Itachi Uchiha is basically this in Naruto. Despite having three of the most powerful attacks in the entire manga, Itachi's base arsenal lacks versatility. Not only that, a sufficiently strong character could One-Hit KO if they got close. His stamina is particularly low as well, meaning he can't fight for extended periods. Those three powerful attacks? They cost more than 30% of his total chakra, meaning he can't spam them like his brother Sasuke can.
  • Nami from One Piece. Her Clima Tact can make very dangerous lightning attacks, and while they take some time to charge up, her offensive power with these makes her one of the most dangerous Straw Hats. She is one of the very few people who can hurt Luffy with a regular punch, though it is because she "beats up his spirit". Her durability, however, is very puny and no better than that of real life human.
    • King Elizabello II of the Prodence Kingdom's signature attack, the King Punch, can make a hole in an enemy fortress wall, though it takes an hour to charge so he needs to be protected while preparing it. When tried out in an arena, it basically destroyed it, and would have killed the audience if a Barrier Warrior hadn't been standing by. Unfortunately, he's nothing special in terms of toughness, getting one-shotted by the same barrier warrior immediately afterwards. With a punch, at that.
  • Ouja No Yuugi: the magic-wielding strategists are powerful, but fragile glass cannons, and have to be protected by their generals on the battlefield.
  • The Big Bad of the final arc of Ranma ˝ has powers bordering on a Person of Mass Destruction and he can tank Ki Attacks, but a rather pampered life has lead him to be rather weak against physical attacks. Of course this is just compared to the completely Made of Iron fighters in most of the series (he was called a wuss for being moderately injured by a boulder... being thrown by tornado winds that were drilling into the ground and altering the course of an underground river).
  • Akane Tendo as well. Though she can dish out punches with the best of them, she has nowhere near the healing speed or toughness of any of the other characters; while she is too skilled to be The Load in an actual fight, she is still regarded by some as a Damsel Scrappy because she insists on getting into a fight, but somebody (mainly Ranma) usually has to keep an eye on her because she can't take the hits they can.
  • Pikachu fits this trope well in Pokémon. Massively powerful attacks? Check. Tendency to go down quickly in a fight? Oh yeah.
  • Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace: Akechi can dish out a lot of damage due to his correspondence karate, but breaks bones after hitting tougher and older opponents.
  • Similarly, Hisashi Mitsui from Slam Dunk is one of the best 3-point scorers in Japanese HS basketball. But around 3/4 of an intense game, he's almost completely knocked out and unable to merely walk outside the basketball fields.
  • Space Battleship Yamato has the Super Battleship Andromeda. All the ships in the Andromeda fleet have double wave motion guns but still get easily destroyed just by the force of the White Comet's vortex.
  • Lillidan Crauser of The Prince of Tennis. He is extremely powerful, able to curb-stomp a bloodshot Kirihara using even greater violent play than him. However, he lacks stamina and defense. Considering this it comes as no surprise that Devil Akaya completely trashes him in a matter of minutes.
  • In The Legendary Moonlight Sculptor, the main character Weed considers his non-combat title-class to be this, he calls his class a "glass sculptor" as his unique attacks do a lot of damage, but because he is a crafter class, he cannot equip heavy armor, and does not receive the ordinary damage reducing skills of, say, a warrior.
  • King from The Seven Deadly Sins is capable of dispensing incredible attacks with his Morph Weapon. However, he is a massive Squishy Wizard as he can't even physically beat an old man with a bad back in unarmed combat.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul, this is the defining characteristic of the Rinkaku Ghouls. Their kagune possess incredible striking power, but the cellular structure is brittle and easily damaged.
  • In the first season if Yu-Gi-Oh! (where the card game was the least like its Real Life equivalent) both Zombie and Machine-Type Monsters were described like this, incredibly strong on offense but really bad at anything else, especially defense. (Of course, the actual game isn't like this at all, at least not all the time.)
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, Shun Kurosaki is not only a skilled duelist, but very strong, skilled, and agile in hand to hand combat. However, he's laughably easy to knock unconscious and gets injured frequently. His English voice actor Matt Shipman has commented on this shortcoming a few times.

    Comic Books 
  • X-Men:
    • Many telepaths, such as Professor X, have powerful Psychic Powers but are extremely poor at defending themselves, and aren't of much use against opponents immune to telepathy (like robots).
    • Cyclops' Eye Beams are devastatingly powerful, but if anyone actually hits him he's just as vulnerable as any non-powered human. Well, any non-powered human in peak physical condition with iron willpower and light body armor, but still — a lot of X-Men fight scenes start with Cyclops getting punched out or shot with regular bullets, because (from a writing perspective) otherwise he could settle the whole business with a look.
    • And, Storm may have god-level power, but up close, she's hard to hit, but just as easily hurt as anyone else. Same with most of the other X-Men whose specialty is offensive power.
  • In the show Angel the Senior Partners are built up to be this great unmatched evil that span multiple dimensions and can bring about the apocalypse. In the comic book spin-off Spike we see what the actual Senior Partners look like: 15 ft tall demons that can fire deadly lightning bolts. The problem? The Senior Partners are relatively fragile compared to other Buffyverse Big Bads. Spike fires at one with a pair of machine guns and it's left crying in the corner letting our heroes get away in defeat. It's revealed that the reason the Senior Partners conduct their evil scheming though law firms is that they lack the brute strength to take over worlds through sheer force.
  • The same is true of Marvel magic users like Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, or Wiccan. They can do frightening things to time and space with little more than a gesture and some concentration, but they can also be rendered helpless by a Tap on the Head, drugs, being overwhelmed by bodies, being distracted in mid-spell, or simply being Bound and Gagged.
  • Fantastic Four member Human Torch's flame powers give him high movement speed and an offensive edge. Unlike his allies, though, he typically lacks any way to use his powers to defend himself other than flying out of the way. This example changes based on who's scripting the book — Johnny's also been shown to make himself bulletproof by melting the slugs before they hit; on other occasions, he's pulled the same thing on various flammable or meltable objects up to a bulldozer that was thrown at him by She-Hulk.
  • Zatanna of The DCU can kill people with a (backwards) word (not that she ever has, she is a superhero). Only the stronger magical, divine, or cosmic beings in the DC universe can resist her powers. However, she isn't any more durable than most humans and can be taken down with a single well-placed punch. Overlaps with Squishy Wizard. In Identity Crisis it is even explicitly mentioned in the narration-bubble: She is the most powerful member of the team, if she can get the words out. Slade Wilson (Deathstroke the Terminator) pokes her in the stomach, so lightly that it does not even hurt that much, but once she begins to vomit from the damage to her liver she is out of the fight.
  • Prism, an on and off member of the X-Men villain Mr. Sinister's Marauders, is literally made of glass. He can store light and energy (such as sunlight or Cyclops' optic blasts) and redirect it to devastating effect. But he is still made of freaking glass. Jean Grey killed him once by throwing him into a wall (not even that hard).
  • Emp's hypermembrane suit from Empowered. Amazing Super Strength, flight, energy beams, who knows how many other powers...and the durability of wet tissue paper. Good thing it can repair itself.
  • The Spider-Man villain Dr. Octopus may have control of four powerful and deadly metal arms, but he's otherwise a normal, somewhat out of shape human. Once the super-strong Spidey gets past his formidable defenses, Doc Ock goes down pretty quickly. This ultimately led to his death as his body couldn't take the punishment various superhumans had dealt him any longer.
  • In Über, the Nazi "blitzmensch" superhumans have Eye Beams powerful enough to demolish towns and sink warships at ten-kilometer ranges, but their bodies are as fragile as a normal human's, allowing the stronger "panzermensch" to rip them apart at close range.
  • Scott Pilgrim: Todd Ingram, Ramona's third ex, is even more powerful than Gideon due to his immense psychic powers, yet after being depowered by the Vegan Police he goes down to a single headbutt from Scott.

    Fan Works 
  • In An Entry with a Bang!, the marauding pirates with their Battletech... uh, tech... are somewhat confused by the fact that while Clancy-Earth has highly effective BVR capability, their warmachines can't take hits worth a damn.
  • The Firefly fanfic Forward puts an emphasis on River being one of these; she's portrayed as fast and powerful, but one good hit puts her down, which happens several times in the story.
  • In Fractured, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands crossover, some starships rely on their BFG destroying all opposition before it can shoot back, having only light armor. In the sequel, Jack and Brick start off this way with their teaching style, only to realize later on how problematic the technique could be.
  • Lightning Bolt is one of these in Ace Combat: The Equestrian War. She is the only pony of the main heroines to have a powerful special attack (Shining Spark), but she is prone to being injured during prolonged battles.
  • Devastator in The Measure of a Titan is practically the paragon of this. His powers are theoretically capable of splitting a planet in half, and he can use them to fight multiple high-level metahumans at once, but he is as fragile as any normal human, and heals as slowly also.
  • Midori is one in Seven Days Survivor, as per Word of God and comments from the other characters. Minato explicitly includes a dedicated healer (Either himself or Yukari) on the team when Midori is in play simply to keep her up.
  • In The Games We Play, the White Tiger style is this - massive boosts to offence and mobility, but no buffs to defence. It left practitioners capable of dealing lots of damage, but being no tougher than an ordinary human. This was only slightly mitigated by the later development of the White Tiger's Hide, and is exacerbated by the Cast from Hit Points nature of the style's two strongest skills. As a result, while a master of the style is a tiger, tiger burning bright, he will not last the night. Jaune gets around this problem by picking up other defensive skills.
  • The Mass Effect story Mesozoic Effect introduces a whole class of ships that follow this rule, known as battlecruisers. Like their historical counterparts, they mount the firepower of a dreadnought on the frame of a cruiser, but stuffing in such a huge spinal gun leaves almost no room for armor. Mass production of these ships is apparently one of the things the Treaty of Farixen was designed to prevent. The Pangea Alliance's frigates also fall into this category, as they forgo armor for superior engines and racks upon racks of fusion missiles.
  • Jen in Princess of the Blacks has functionally infinite magical reserves due to being able to channel the Earth's magic, only limited by how much she can channel at once. However, not having a magical core of her own makes her far more vulnerable to others magic. A spell designed to have someone instantly awake and alert sends her into an adrenaline fueled panic.
  • Aesir: Cross Wars: Crushadion was incredibly powerful, with attack power rivalling Azazel, but against Uriel, she went down in 2 hits.
  • A key issue with Ash's battle style in Pokémon Reset Bloodlines; Pokémon such as Squirtle can hit hard, but their unevolved state limits the amount of punishment they can take in return.

    Film 
  • 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.
  • Katniss of The Hunger Games 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.
  • 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.
  • Metro in Real Steel would be a Glass Cannon, as he beat down Atom badly but got taken out by one hit.
  • Star Wars has TIE Interceptors, whose armament - twice or even occasionally thrice that of the more widespread TIE Fighters - means 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.
  • In 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 baliff 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.
  • In 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.
  • In 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.
  • In 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.
  • In The Mighty Ducks trilogy, 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.
  • Roarke (imply to be Mephisto) of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance 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.

    Literature 
  • In The Dresden Files Harry mentions that wizards are like this; for all of the magical weight they can throw around, they still need all of their squishy internals to work. He also frequently complains that nearly all supernatural creatures are Made of Iron at the least, cementing this trope
  • In Honor Harrington there are several ships like this. At one end of the extreme are outdated Solarian Navy ships which put more focus on offensive weapons than counter missiles and point defense lasers. Likewise, Maya's Arsenal ships which are capable of carrying thousands of long range missiles, but are just converted freighters and have no defense at all.
    • Special mention to HMS Wayfarer and her sisters: converted freighters, sluggish and armored for crap, but carrying super-dreadnought-class main guns capable of carving up a battlecruiser like a roast turkey, a complement of light-attack craft capable of laying down significant hurt in their own right, and, oh yeah, the first roll-out of the Manitcoran Missile Massacre.
    • Honor's first cruiser, the HMS Fearless was refitted with weapons that would allow it to kill far bigger ships. But the weapons' short range and the lack of any decent defenses resulted in a single resounding success during the first fleet exercise, and getting 'destroyed' in every exercise thereafter once the opponents had realized the threat and decided to give some payback for the first success.
    • The Manticoran LACs introduced in Echoes of Honor are armed with battlecruiser grade grasers, but they're not very survivable should an opponent decide to focus on them. In universe, LACs in general are described as "eggshells armed with hammers".
  • Not surprisingly the Lensman universe plays with this one, but the vulnerable sluggers are always accompanied by copious numbers of their exact opposite - ships that are all shield and nothing else (sometimes not even a human crew). There are, however, usually large numbers of balanced ships in the same fleet.
  • In the Bolo books, there are Enemy units that are just counter-grav platforms mounting Hellbores. They can be easily swatted by said supertanks, but can be a problem if allowed to attack. They aren't One-Hit Kill-capable, but the numbers are always on their side.
  • Coinshots in Mistborn are a kind of Misting who have only one power: the ability to telekinetically shoot metal away from their bodies. This makes them able to dish out a ton of damage, since a Coinshot with a pouch of money is basically a human machine gun, but they have no greater ability to resist damage than anyone else. Have a half-dozen Coinshots protected by about the same number of Thugs (Mistings who can increase their strength, speed, and durability to superhuman levels) though, and you've got yourself a small but very effective army.
    • Somewhat averted in The Alloy of Law, as firearms have become commonplace, and Coinshots are possibly the only Mistings who can reliably deflect bullets (Lurchers, who have the opposite ability, generally pull bullets toward a metal plate carried on their chest).
  • Deathpoint in The Reckoners Trilogy can kill almost anyone just by pointing at them but lacks a "prime invincibility", meaning that he can be killed just as easily as anybody else.
  • Leila in the Night Prince series. A human ordinarily couldn't hope to defeat even the youngest vampire, yet with her electricity whip, Leila once killed a group of five vampires. Before that, she took out a group of three. This is purely an offensive power, though; she's as fragile as any other human.
  • The Hunger Games: Despite being quick-thinking, agile, and a good shot with a bow and arrow, years of being underfed really limits how much stress Katniss's body can take.
  • Deliberately invoked in the 1632 series. When the USE attacks Denmark with ironclad warships more advanced than anything else at the time, Prince Ulrik counters by building a fleet of longboats armed with spar torpedoes. Being little more than large rowboats, they're easily gunned down by the USE navy, but they can be built sufficient numbers to swarm the larger battleships, and, if they get close enough, it only takes one good torpedo hit to disable an ironclad.
  • Jade in Fallocaust is one of, if not the most powerful character in a series full of them. However, he lacks the pure muscle of some of his brothers, and several characters manage to incapacitate him by virtue of getting a lucky hit in.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: While riding her dragons, Daenerys is a person of mass destruction, capable of sinking an entire fleet of ships by herself and managing to deal a massive blow against a good third of the Lannister army during the Battle of the Goldroad. Having said that, outside of her immunity to fire, Daenerys is still as vulnerable as any normal human being to blades and arrows. When she lands with Drogon on the ground to remove a scorpion bolt from him, she is practically defenceless to Jaime's do-or-die charge and she likely would have been run through if Drogon hadn't interposed himself between them.
  • In an episode of Lois & Clark, Lex Luthor creates a boxer that he believes can take on Superman. The boxer delivers a flurry of punches that stagger Superman. For a moment it looks like Superman is actually on the ropes, but then he simply flicks the boxer in the forehead and knocks him out.
  • David Haller from Legion is possibly the most powerful mutant ever, with immensely strong telekinetic, telepathic, and Reality Warping abilities. However, he’s as vulnerable to physical damage as a regular human being is.
  • Most space-faring vessels in the Star Trek universe fall under this category if something ever happens to their Deflector Shields. (It happens more often than you'd imagine.) Watch the Federation's Flagship get roflstomped by an obsolete warbird thanks to shield sabotage here. Mind you, turnabout's fair play, and the Klingons get one-shot after they lose their shields as well.
    • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Jem'Hadar Fighters are pretty much this. They're able to deal heavy damage, at least early on, with only a few bursts of their phased polaron beams, but a few phaser cannon shots or a single torpedo are enough to either cripple or destroy them. This is deliberate on part of the Dominion, with the Fighters being cheap but deadly throwaway ships with minimal and expendable crew, and no features that aren't essential to combat.
  • The Outer Limits (1995) episode "The Camp" has super strong robots that are ludicrously fragile. An untrained woman can tear them to pieces.
  • In robot combat events, such as Robot Wars and BattleBots, full-body spinners (robots with a chassis that rapidly spins and has blades, spikes, or hammers attached to it) tend to fall into this category: While they are able to deliver some of the strongest attacks ever seen in robot combat, any opponent who can slip through their offense or can withstand multiple blows without breaking can easily and quickly render them useless. In particular is Mauler 5150, which is infamous for getting tipped upside-down by pretty much anything that its spinning doesn't wreck first, such as with a light tap from Jabberwock.
    • Any robot with a flywheel too. They're very devastating weapons, but also very heavy too, usually taking up 20%-25% of the robot's weight allotment. Designers, forced to shed weight to ensure it's light enough to compete, often go for shedding armour first. Flywheels also tended to have enormous recoil when they struck something, causing damage to internal components. One of the best examples would be Robot Wars' Hypno-disc, which became the reason bots had to invest on heavier armor after utterly tearing apart another bot in its very first match, and would generally mangle its opponents spectacularly. But it had the problem the rest of its chassis was rather frail and easy to shove around, and a bot with enough armor could simply outlast it by tanking its strikes until it tore itself apart. Most of its losses were from having taken so much damage even after a Curb-Stomp Battle it had to battle with incomplete repairs.
    • Nightmare from Battlebots is one of the finest examples in robot combat. The details have changed over the years, but at its essence Nightmare's basically a monstrous vertical flywheel mounted on a spindly, easy-to-tip three-wheeled frame with exposed tires (although it did get wheel guards for the 2015 reboot). Whenever Nightmare fights, someone is leaving the Battlebox in pieces - usually depending on who gets the first hit.
  • Babylon 5 has the Centauri warships. Their firepower is high enough that they usually destroy their targets with one or two shots, and their rate of fire is high enough that a single Centauri battlecruiser overwhelmed the station's Interceptors faster than multiple EarthForce warships would be able to in other occasions, but once you manage to hit them they go down quickly.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has most of the Inhumans, at least the ones relevant to the series. Most of them only gain one power, and while that power tends to be very useful, they generally lack anything else to protect them. In particular, the series' lead Daisy Johnson has a power that is comparable to the Hulk in terms of damage she can dish out, but excessive use of it can injure her and beyond that she's a rather short woman who, while exceptionally combat trained and more resilient than most, can still be overpowered and outmatched by stronger combatants or numbers. As a result of this, he Inhumans that avoid this status, such as Hive and Lash (who both have a very wide array of powers that include super-fast healing factors and/or invulnerability), are treated as pants-shittingly terrifying as a result, while Joey, who's power to control matter makes him both bullet proof (bullets just melt) and useful in combat situations, is a Story-Breaker Power who got Put On The Bus to avoid him being able to solve most problems.

    Podcasts 

    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 NONO 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • There is an old (board and miniatures) gaming expression called the fuzzy wuzzy fallacy (after the Rudyard Kipling poem). Basically it states that a unit's effectiveness goes up proportionate to the square root of any increase in firepower (provided the defense stays the same). For example, the above Mech has roughly 3.5 times the firepower of the old version. FW numbers say that it's about 1.87 (the root of 3.5) times as effective as the old one, given that both die just as easy (and will draw fire like no-one's business).
  • In the Flying Frog game Touch of Evil, the schoolteacher only has three hit points and no healing factor. However, loading her inventory up with books adds two additional fight dice per book. Collecting all the books on the board gives her three hit points...and up to twenty-two dice's worth of damage. By the game's mechanics, that's theoretically enough to one-shot Cthulhu.
  • The Eldar and Dark Eldar of Warhammer 40,000 often overlap this with Fragile Speedster.
    • The Dark Eldar are more of Glass Cannons than the Eldar, given the amount of firepower that squads of Dark Eldar can pump out for a relatively low cost and the eschewing of even what little armor their cousins use.
      • Harlequins are even more of a glass hammer/cannon than other Eldar. Absolutely unparalleled in hand-to-hand combat, they can rip right through a unit of Assault Terminators like tissue paper; but one good round of shooting from a basic Marine squad and they're splattered all over the landscape.
    • The Space Marine Thunderfire cannon. In fact, all artillery pieces were like this prior to 6th edition. As an artillery piece, anything shooting at it has a 50/50 chance of hitting either it or the Techmarine manning it. Hitting the Tech is not a huge issue, with a 2+ armor save, but if the cannon itself is hit, either a penetrating hit or glancing hit will completely destroy it (until 6th edition, when artillery guns were given a very strong Toughness value of 7 and two "wound points"). But it has a range of 60', and puts out four explosive shells per turn.
    • And Tau Fire Warriors, who are no tougher than Guard Stormtroopers and suck in close combat. However, they're armed with a gun that will punch through Stormtrooper armor, the Stormtrooper wearing the armor, and keep going out the back.
      • Speaking of Stormtroopers, their hellguns can punch right through Space Marine armor. Too bad for the shorter than normal range.
    • The Tau's Vespid allies overlap this with Fragile Speedster. They have a gun that can blast clean through Space Marine armor from 18" away, and can move reasonably quickly, but even with T4 and a 4+ armor save, they still go down like chumps to even a brief encounter with heavy bolter fire.
    • Ork Boyz: they have a massive amount of attacks for a rank-and-file trooper (three attacks per Boy, four on the charge), and... paper thin armor. Kinda balanced out by their ridiculously low point cost, but when they get showered by bolter fire, expect a lot of Boyz to drop.
    • Daemons also deserve a mention — most of them pack a punch, but die like flies against standard Imperial weaponry because their "armor" is intentionally designed to be fickle. They have a 33% chance of surviving anti-starship weapons, but a 67% chance of dying to a single small-arms round to the face.
    • The Imperial Guard Hellhound. Most Imperial Guard vehicles are Mighty Glacier, but the Hellhound, for all the flamethrowers it mounts, can go up with a mild hit due to the tanks being hit.
    • The Rogue Trader rulebook specifically describes Raider-class spacecraft as "glass cannons, able to throw out heavy fire but unable to take it in return".
    • Eldar and Dark Eldar spacecraft in Battlefleet Gothic have wimpy armor, no shields, ridiculously powerful engines, and some of the nastiest guns possible.
    • Most walkers, due to them having medium to light armor all around, as opposed to the incredibly tough front armor and weaker side and back armors of conventional tanks. The Penitent Engine and Ork Killa Kans in particular have it bad, as their armor is no better than the lightest transports in the game (the Penitent Engine is an open topped vehicle too). The only aversion so far is the Soul Grinder, which has near land-raider levels of armor while packing very effective guns and devastating melee capability (its only real weakness is everything else in the army tends to suck).
    • Imperial and Renegade Knights are devastating weapon platforms capable of wielding rapid-fire battle cannons and massive gatling guns simultaneously. However, they only have an armour value of about 13 and their ion shield can only protect one facing at a time. On top of this, the absolute cheapest Knight is about 325pts and only has six hull points, about twice that of the much tinier Space Marine Dreadnought; the kitted-out ones can close in on 500 points, still with only six hull.
    • The Chaos Forgefiend with three ectoplasma cannons is capable of tearing through heavily armoured elite forces in seconds - its blasts can disintegrate entire squads of Grey Knight Terminators. However, those same cannons are prone to overheating and damaging its hull, which is comparatively fragile at 3 Hull Points for a 200 point unit.
  • The Battletech universe:
    • The Hunchback IIc BattleMech exemplifies this trope. It mounts two Ultra Autocannon-20s which, more or less, is apocalyptic firepower for any 'Mech (each Ultra AC can do 40 damage, which will destroy any mech its weight or less with a center hit), but sacrifices almost all of its armor in order to do so. Little wonder it's popular with Death Seeker Mechwarriors. In fact, a recent sourcebook clarifies: It was made as pretty much the Clan's equivalent of a Death sentence. Any warrior assigned to a Hunchback IIc is explicitly not expected to come back from their next battle.
    • In the same vein, the dinky UrbanMech mounts an AC/10, but has only 6 tons of armor—appreciable for its size of 30 tons, but still not very much. However, any light mech will be cored if Urbie hits it, and more than one Urbie makes things get very dangerous in a hurry unless you outrange them. Plus they're such cute little things!
    • See also the Hollander family. The original was a 35-tonner packing a mighty Gauss Rifle... and only that. With only four tons of armor for protection, it can barely take a hit from its own weapon. Other variants tried to mitigate this with limited success, but a few actually doubled down on it. One variant of the 45-ton Hollander II carried a Heavy Gauss Rifle, but had so little armor it stood a chance of killing itself every time it firednote .
    • A lot of "support" 'mechs, like the classic Catapult or the frankly ridonkulous-looking Yeoman, will mount a lot of long range weapons like LRMs, but have little armor or weapons for close-and-dirty combat.
    • There are a few vehicles like this, such as the Hetzer Wheeled Assault Gun, effectively a rehash of a World War II design, and the tiny 5-ton Savannah Master - the fact that it was deliberately designed to take on enemy Battlemechs has to count for something. Neither design has much armor, but both have a lot of firepower for their size. The Savannah Master has the firepower and speed to equal to a 'Mech four times its size, but can be destroyed by a single laser hit from its own gun. Meanwhile, the Hetzer is larger and slower, but mounts a huge, dangerous 200 millimeter autocannon in its hull that has a chance to bring down even the mightiest of 'Mechs with a single hit—without giving it more than a token amount of armor to cover its fragile, boxy hull.
    • In the novels particularly, the old Inner Sphere Rifleman 'mech is notorious as a deathtrap, with rear armor somewhere between cardboard and tin can levels. You don't want to be standing in front of it, though - each arm mounts an autocannon and medium and large lasers.
    • The Hellbringer (Loki) Omni is another fine example of a machine that will slaughter most enemies in its weight class and down if they get too close, but will crumple and burn if anything with a decent gun looks at it funny. Its configurations focus on massed long range hitting power, with things like particle cannons, Gauss rifles, and autocannons coming into play. The primary variant is a highly accurate killing machine with enough firepower on it to literally slag four tons of armor in a single salvo and even includes various equipment upgrades like ECM or anti missile defenses. At 65 tons and with only 8 tons of armor, though, it'll have an extremely bad day if a sufficiently armed 'Mech draws a bead on it. It's so light on armor that it actually can't even absorb an AC/20 shot dead center—something that more than a few 15-tons-lighter 'Mechs can do.
    • The Adder/Puma is another high grade glass cannon. Its primary configuration carries dual ER-PPC weapons and includes a targeting computer to make them highly accurate. Any 'Mech who takes a Boom, Headshot! from one of those guns is down for the count, no matter the size of it. The Adder, however, is all of 35 tons, has about 6 tons of armor, and generally isn't going to stick around very long once an enemy sniffs it out.
    • The Cougar is, if anything, even more extreme than the Adder. While weighing the same 35 tons, its armor is pared down to just five and a half tons, and its speed is further cut to levels more often seen on Clan 'Mechs twice its size, making it less capable of dodging attacks. In exchange, it now boasts a full ninteen tons of firepower, meaning that over 50% of this thing is guns. Its basic configuration carries two highly accurate long-ranged lasers and a pair of long range missile racks. One of its alternate models matches the Adder exactly for deadliness with its dual PPC loadout, while another is a perfect copy of the Archer, a highly respected Inner Sphere 'Mech that is twice the size of a Cougar.
    • The Hollander is a classic example, being sluggish, lightly armored, and inherently fragile—it weighs 35 tons, carries a mere 4 tons of armor, and one side of its torso is packed full of volatile, explosive capacitors. It's so fragile that a large laser hit to any body part is enough to seriously threaten its continued existence. However, those same capacitors power a 15-ton Gauss rifle, which packs enough kinetic energy to bore a hole straight through smaller 'Mechs or smash a ton of armor off bigger ones, and Sniping the Cockpit is a One-Hit Kill on any 'Mech.
    • The Excalibur is a mighty-looking machine and boasts both a Gauss rifle and a long range missile pack in its primary configuration. It even moves at a healthy 86 kph, impressive for a 70-ton 'Mech. It buys that mobility and long-range prowess with a woefully thin seven and a half tons of armor, enough to weather one or two light missile barrages, but not enough to survive repeated fire from bigger guns like a PPC or a 100mm autocannon.
    • There's a variant of the Shadow Hawk that adds a second short range missile launcher, a second medium laser, and two more heat sinks to its chassis. This changes the Shadow Hawk from a mediocre Master of None into a respectable barrage vehicle at short range—it can leap into battle and unload all its weapons without too much stress on the heat gauge. The problem is that it buys this firepower in armor, reducing it to an anemic 4.5 tons of armor, less that some 'Mechs half its size... and it still carries four tons of highly volatile missile and autocannon ammunition in its chest, so one unlucky hit could lead to a lot of Stuff Blowing Up.
  • Dungeons & Dragons 4E gives us the Striker set of classes (Ranger, Rogue, Warlock, Barbarian, though the Barbarian has pretty good HP, if lackluster starting armor): Insane damage output, but rely on the Defenders to hold down the thing they're attacking so that they don't get crushed.
    • 3.5 psionics has the wilder class. Less than a fourth of the powers of a Psion, but can up each powers output by your level, turning a single level 3 character into something capable of cutting down much higher level enemies on average rolls. Has little health and can daze/weaken themselves afterward. Unfortunately, the downsides add up to make it Awesome, but Impractical.
    • Some 3.5 characters, using a number of different sourcebooks, can become this trope. As an example, take an ordinary fighter and give him Power Attack, a feat which subtracts attack accuracy in exchange for higher damage. Then take a feat called Shock Trooper, which shifts the accuracy penalty to armor class — i.e. it makes you easier to hit. This build, known as the 'Charger build' and often by the name Glass Cannon, results in a character able to do massive damage when he charges in and attacks ... but at the cost of an armor class that a small child throwing rocks could probably hit.
    • 3.5 Rangers fit this trope: A melee-focus Ranger with Weapon Finesse(allowing the dex-focused Ranger to use dexterity for attack accuracy instead of strength, and in some cases, generally House Rule, for damage as well) and a rapier-shortsword combo can cut through quite a few opponents at or even slightly above his/her challenge rating. The trade-off is that to use the Ranger's Combat Style, which is what grants free Two Weapon Fighting feats or Ranged feats depending on choice, the Ranger can only wear light or no armor, giving him/her a low AC that most enemies can punch through with no problem. This is slightly compensated for by their high hit dice(a d8, instead of the d6 of Rogues or the d4 of spellcaster classes), which is still smaller than that of fighters and Paladins. The only way to get a higher AC, meanwhile, is to invest a lot of gold into mithril armors(which makes Medium armors into Light armors) or a shirt of Millennial Chainmail from Complete Divine, which is exorbitantly expensive but allows for a whopping +8 Dex-to-AC.
    • Duskblades utilize a nasty form of Full-Contact Magic that can reduce most level-appropriate foes to dust, but possess virtually no defensive spells, middling HD, and similar armor restrictions to the Ranger.
  • There are plenty of Magic: The Gathering cards that have high power but low toughness. However, the card Glass Golem seems to deliberately invoke this trope.
    • Not to mention cards like Rocket Launcher and its later cleaned-up cousin Goblin Cannon, which take the "cannon" part more literally.
    • Also, a number of Illusion creatures are designed to hit hard, but die as soon as targeted by anything.
    • Force of Savagery is another extreme example. It has massive power but zero toughness so it automatically dies when it enters the battlefield unless its toughness is being passively boosted.
    • Perhaps the most extreme example lies with Master of Cruelties. It has a moderate Toughness of 4, and a mediocre Power of 1, and can only attack alone without backup. However, it also packs First Strike and Death Touch, thus becoming instant death to any creature that blocks it. Even worse, if its attack connects without being blocked, the unfortunate player's life total instantly drops to 1.
  • Between the five colors, red is the one that most exhibits this trope. Most mono-red creatures tend to have very low toughness, but higher power. Since red is more about dealing as much damage to its opponent as quickly as possible, its creatures don't need to survive, just take a few cheap shots in.
  • Carefree Hedonist characters in Bliss Stage start out with 7 instead of 6 relationships, most of which have very high Intimacy and form very powerful psychic weapons. Only TWO of those relationships have enough Trust for the weapons they manifest as to survive a critical failure.
  • There are various Yu-Gi-Oh! cards like: Goblin Attack Force, Indomitable Fighter Lei Lei, Spear Dragon, and Mad Archfiend that have incredibly high ATK, but zero DEF and move into defense position when it is time for your opponent to strike.
    • Clear Vice Dragon has double the ATK of the monster it's attacking. When it's not attacking, it has 0 ATK.
    • Similarly, Metalmorph gives the equipped card a massive attack boost, but only while attacking.
    • Dragon Master Knight has a titanic ATK stat and an effect that makes it stronger, but it has no defenses whatsoever from card effects.
      • This was the standard design philosophy for an ace card until Stardust Dragon showed up: a card with 2800 ATK or more, with an effect that lets it kill even more monsters and do even more damage than its ATK score would suggest, and no protection or negation abilities whatsoever. The most infamous examples should probably be the Chaos monsters, which can easily knock off half your opponent's LP in a single turn on their own, but fold like a wet paper bag to a garden-variety Bottomless Trap Hole or Sakuretsu Armor.
    • Berserk Dragon has 3500 ATK and 0 DEF, which would already qualify it for this trope. However, it goes the extra mile, with an insanely strong offensive effect (can attack all cards your opponent controls) and a tendency to fold quickly if it doesn't knock out the opponent in one shot, due to growing weaker every turn it's on the field.
    • Armityle the Chaos Phantasm is the biggest example in the franchise. When it's attacking, it has 10,000 ATK; the highest fixed number in the entire game, and twice as high as the highest-ATK monster in the game. When it's not attacking, it has zero - and on top of that, it can't be destroyed by battle, meaning the opponent can keep attacking it over and over as if they were hitting you directly.
  • Warhammer Fantasy has a few. Night Goblin Fanatics follow it the best — they deal the same damage as a giant catapult but are even easier to kill than a normal goblin and have a chance of killing themselves. There are, however, many others.
  • Wood Elves are similar to 40K's Eldar, being both this and Fragile Speedsters. They have little to no armor but can give out a lot of hurt with possibly the best core units compared to their prices.
  • High Elves have very few units with toughness higher than 3, but they make up for it with Speed of Asuryan, gaining attack bonuses if their Initiative score is higher... and at 5 initiative on most of them, it usually is. This rule also ignores striking order penalties for weapons, so they can wield whopping weapons willy-nilly at no penalty.
  • Star Fleet Battles has:
    • Fast Patrol Ships (formerly known as Pseudo-Fighters). They can carry devastating armament, but their shields are paper-thin. The rules even refer to them as "eggshells armed with sledgehammers." PFs with Warp Booster Packs gain extra warp-engine power, which they can pump into their weapons for an even bigger punch, but are even more vulnerable to enemy fire.
  • This is the modus operandi of the Norse team in Blood Bowl. Catchers/Runners get Dauntless to take down opponents far above their own weight class and Blitzers/Berserkers are Exactly What It Says on the Tin. However, every single human team member starts with an Armor Value of 7...the same as a regular goblin. This makes Attack! Attack! Attack! actually a viable strategy for them since they absolutely need to maintain the initiative. If the momentum shifts against them the entire team quickly turns into messy stains on the astrogranite...
  • Coinshots in Mistborn Adventure Game. Just like in the source material, these guys can essentially become human machine-guns, but they have no defensive powers and inferior Health when compared to an unpowered character.
  • Dark Pokémon in the Pokémon Trading Card Game, when introduced, had very low HP but either high damage, low Energy requirements, or useful effects. This trait was cast aside in "EX Team Rocket Returns," however, as the Dark Pokémon in that set were just as hardy as anything else. Nevertheless, there are still a few specific species of Pokémon whose HP are lower than other fully evolved Pokémon from their sets but make up for it with other means, such as Raticate, Delcatty, Castform, and Durant.
  • The Zealous in Fleets: The Pleiad Conflict has only six health and can't support many consorts, but it not only has eight strength, but its special ability allows it to attack twice, for a whopping sixteen strength attack.
  • Many of the aircraft carriers in Victory In The Pacific are this, with low armor factors and airstrike with a bonus die-roll modifier representing the highly-trained pilots, but most notable is the Japanese carrier Hiryu, the sole fleet carrier with an armor factor of only 1.
  • Legend System: The Sage and Shaman classes. Courtesy of their numerous and powerful spell-like abilities, Sages can put out a lot of pain from both close-up and at a distance, on top of their considerable crowd-control and support options, but a poor BAB combined with No-Self Buffs means they're rather fragile if an enemy actually manages to get through the onslaught. Shamans, meanwhile, can inflict staggeringly high single-target damage via their Imbue Spell ability, but suffer from many of the same durability problems as the Sage. Legend being what it is, both of these classes can become less squishy (or more in exchange for more power) via multiclassing.
  • Star Wars Battlefront: Han Solo is a glass cannon. He carries his most powerful pistol in the galaxy the DL-44 Blaster Pistol. He can overpower his enemies in great distances. He has three outstanding output ablitites: 1) Rapid Fire: A long range ability to let him rapidly fire repeatedly without over heating against group of enemies. 2) Lucky Shot: A long ranged charge up blaster so powerful it can break Darth Vader lightsaber blocks and it can lock on soldiers and vehicles. It can lock and take out a group of Imperial starfighters in a single shot. 3) Shoulder Charge: A short-ranged ability let Han Solo to lower his shoulder into his enemy to apply damage. It only works in line of sight. Han Solo defense is terrible. His hit points will drop faster than you can say "Oh S***!" He can't handle in a melee. He is doomed if surrounded by a group of Imperial soldiers and Galactic Heroes. The only way to avoid short melee is activate shoulder charge for a great escape.
  • Wizard 101: Storm wizards in wizard 101 has tremendous single and area of effect attack spells. But their hp and defense is terribly low.
  • In X-Wing Miniatures, the TIE Phantom has a massive four-die main attack, the only ship in its size class with such a statistic, and can take the potent Crew and System upgrades. On the other hand, when uncloaked, it is no more durable than a humble Z-95 that costs considerably less. The dominant Phantom build, when Phantoms are run at all, is specced around getting to a high Pilot skill, taking an upgrade that lets you cloak after attacking, and praying that you get initiative so you can get that precious +2 Agility to make you die slightly slower.
  • In Sentinels of the Multiverse, several of the heroes have low HP and low or action-intensive damage resistance, but can dish out staggering amounts of damage. Chrono-Ranger (whose damage with Hunter and Hunted goes up as he takes more bounties...but the damage he takes goes up at the same time) and Absolute Zero (whose playstyle is built around modifying the effects of punching himself in the face) are particularly notable, as is the Wraith (no natural damage resistance outside her base set version's power, but an array of incredibly destructive or inconvenient weapon attacks).

    Webcomics 
  • XRS Despite its vaunted capabilities, the XRS is extremely vulnerable when its energy shields are down.
  • Coffinshaker from Whats Shakin is a fairly powerful fire mage, but without his reliance of fire, is mostly vulnerable to all other attacks.
  • 8-Bit Theater's Black Mage described himself in these words, a few days after this page was launched.
  • The titular Dominic Deegan shares a handful of qualities with Marvel Comics' telepaths, i.e. 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."
  • In 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.
  • Vaarsuvius from The Order of the Stick fits this trope. As with Black Mage, (s)he falls pretty squarely in Squishy Wizard territory.
  • In 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.
  • Fairies and tiny elves in Fairy Dust are quite deadly, but can be crushed by a larger humanoid's hand in a mere swat.
  • Played with with the titular Kid Radd. 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.
  • This is the case with Gralo, the Big Bad of The Night the Magic Died. 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.
  • Ran Cossack from Bob and George 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.

    Web Original 
  • Worm:
    • Besides enhanced timing and perception, Flechette has no defensive abilities. She has, however, demonstrated the ability to cancel the Siberian projection, which no other cape in history has managed to do. She was also able to kill a cloned Grey Boy which had only been done previously by one of the most powerful characters in the story.
    • Shatterbird takes the trope to literal levels, as she is able to cause glass in a city-wide radius to explode. This makes her one of the most devastating members of the Slaughterhouse 9, but she is also one of the most vulnerable.
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • Typical firebenders in Avatar: The Last Airbender have no special defensive abilities whatsoever. The only known modern defensive firebending technique was invented by Iroh by studying waterbending for inspiration and is very situational (only useful against other firebenders), with the ancient defensive moves of the Dragon Dance having been long lost (to most). However, they are capable of laying waste on a scale the other bending disciplines are incapable of.
  • Eddy's Brother from Ed, Edd n Eddy. Word of God has gone on the record as saying that unlike Eddy, who's had pain dished out to him but has built up more of a resistance to it, Eddy's Brother had been the one dishing out pain all his life, but had never been on the receiving end of it, and thus has a very low pain threshold.
    • To a lesser extent, Ed's sister, Sarah, is possibly not as tough as she likes to make people think she is—for starters, whenever she gets into a fight with someone like Ed's friend, Eddy, he usually manages to put up a decent fight against her. Also, in Little Ed Blue, Sarah looked at her brother the same way he and others normally look at her when they scared and told everyone to back off the instant she realized that Ed wasn't backing down.
  • In the classic Donald Duck short "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.
  • The assassin Curare from Batman Beyond seems this way. She's 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Swedish Thirty Years' War era Leather Cannon. It was basically a copper barrel wrapped on 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 40 kg (90 lb) 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.
  • Suicide bombers also tend to fall into this. They don't usually pack armor or a gun, but when they explode, you're in trouble.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 armament to tackle heavier armour.note  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.
    • 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.
    • The Soviet BT-series tanks were among the fastest tank designs of WWII, but 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. They were however, poorly armored: they could only protect their crews against regular rifle fire and nothing else.
      • 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.
      • In the 1930's, 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 extemely 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 later took the role of the former. They have sometimes managed to sunk 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 off Samar.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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. However, mobile quarterbacks like Dak Prescott or Deshaun Watson have the speed to evade defenders.
  • Most venomous snakes and bugs are these. Many of them 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.
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): All Offense No Defense

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