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Meta Power

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Many superpowers exist within many classes. There are elementals, shapeshifters, time/space manipulators, and many more. One class of powers, however, is unique. This class is only of any value or even meaning in the presence of people with more concrete powers. This is the power over powers, a range of abilities that impact external forces without any ability to use them on one's own.

These powers separate from standard supernatural powers in the fact that they have absolutely no meaning on their own or in a world where people with power don't exist, but in the presence of a battle that calls upon powers, they can be a real game-changer. In fact, many of these are in danger of being Story Breaker Powers unless used with extreme care.

Compare Meta Power-Up, Magic Enhancement and Status Buff. See also Antagonist Abilities, which this usually is.

Not to be confused with a character who happens to have powers over the Fourth Wall (e.g. Fourth-Wall Observer or Reading Ahead in the Script), nor someone with outright Author Powers over a given setting - that's Meta Fiction ("fiction about fiction"). The Meta Guy, who is Genre Savvy but not fourth-wall aware, is likewise not an example of this trope.

This is also not to be confused with certain fictional superhero universes' use of "metahuman" as a pseudo-scientific term for superpeople.

Please only add specific examples if they don't fit into any of the common sub-tropes listed below.

Types of meta-powers:

  • Ability Mixing: Combining two of your powers together to create a new effect.
  • Anti-Magic: Magical abilities simply do not work on people with this power (compare No-Sell).
  • Keystone Superpower: A power that allows a person to use different powers.
  • Magic Is a Monster Magnet: The power itself, or some aspect of the power, attracts those with powers toward the user as a byproduct or direct result of its use.
  • Power Catalyst: This power triggers changes in individuals' abilities, sometimes awakening latent powers in someone, or enhancing existing powers, or possibly controlling and/or suppressing them.
    • Power Nullifier: This is, quite simply, the ability to temporarily or permanently cancel or erase powers. Frequently, this requires some degree of proximity, from a varied range to actual physical contact; but once conditions are met, all powers good and bad alike are rendered nonexistent, at least as long as the conditions remain.
    • Man of Kryptonite: A power consisting of having power over the specific weakness(es) of someone with powers.
    • Super Empowering: Unlike the other powers, which depend on the existence of people with other powers or potential, this power allows an individual to create totally new powers in others as well as possibly enhancing existing ones.
    • Touched by Vorlons: Proximity or contact with supernaturally powerful beings permanently rubs off on someone.
    • Upgrade Artifact: A specific skill or ability is permanently granted or augmented by an artifact.
  • Power Copying: This power allows a person to replicate another's powers as their own by using their power to copy them.
  • Simplified Spellcasting: Using a power while skipping some of the normal requirements. E.g. if casting a spell normally requires a long incantation, this person can do it instantly.
  • Supernatural Repellent: The power serves to drive away other people with powers, particularly mystical based ones.
  • Supernatural Sensitivity: Sensing the presence of other people with powers, particularly magical or spiritually based ones.

Unique variations include:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Alice Academy: Yuka has the Alice "Steal", which removes another person's Alice and turns it into an Alice stone.
  • The Seven Deadly Sins: Holy Knight Death Pierce's power is the ability to alter the rhythm of magic, causing the powers of people around him to not work properly if he doesn't want them to.
  • Blaz Blue Remix Heart: Because Mai Natsume unwittingly absorbed the power of the Azure and it reacted with the power of the mysterious "grimoire" she absorbed, she herself has become a grimoire that can copy abilities from one person and then put it to another, but cannot use them herself.
  • Bungo Stray Dogs: Director Fukuzawa's ability, "All Men Are Equal", lets him suppress the ability of anyone in the Armed Detective Agency. Effectively, this means that anyone with Power Incontinence who joins the Agency will find themselves able to better control their ability, as seen with Atsushi (whose Involuntary Shapeshifting became Voluntary) and Kyouka (who became able to personally control her Demon Snow, whereas before, other people could control it against her will with a cell phone).
  • My Hero Academia:
    • All for One's quirk has the power to remove other people's quirks and keep them for himself or give them to other people. He can also safely hold far more quirks in his body at the same time than a normal person can.
    • The brother of All for One had as his Quirk the ability to transfer said Quirk to other people. Since the quirk itself did nothing, it was believed that the original holder was Quirkless. His quirk then merged with a Super Strength Quirk given to him by All for One, turning into "One for All", super strength that can be passed down through generations, and the main character Deku is its ninth holder. It's later revealed that One for All can also allow its user to use the Quirks of its previous users. One for All is also the only quirk that is immune to being stolen by All for One.

    Comic Books 
  • Lanfeust: Every human has a randomly determined magic power, some more useful than others (heating metal by looking at it, teleporting, making people thirsty, farting from the ears...). These powers only work when in range of a sage, who ritually abandoned their own powers to become relays for magic. During Thanos' takeover of the world, the imprisoned sages attempted a mass reverse ritual to regain their individual powers and fight, but were interrupted.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • The Infinity Gauntlet (among other comics) has a Cosmic Keystone for power itself simply called the Power Stone. The nuances are vague, but it's stated to grant unlimited access and control over all power and forms of energy in the universe. Anyone who wields it can will themselves into invincibility, making themselves so strong they can literally singlehandedly destroy a planet with one punch. They can also turn it on anyone nearby, magnifying their abilities until they lose control and their powers backfire on them. It's unstated if it can be turned around to dampen or nullify powers, but it seems reasonably within its capabilities to do so.
    • The Inhumans: The exiled and Un-person past Inhuman king, The Unspoken, got the power to pick whatever power he wanted from terrigenesis. Every exposure to the mists lets him decide a new ability to have. In his prime, he was unassailable, in the present (after being hit by an aging ray), he's still formidable but much more dependant on new exposure to terrigen, as his abilities fade sooner.
    • X-Men:
      • Rogue can absorb the powers, memories, and skills of any person she touches. Unfortunately, she isn't in control of this power and has to wear a full body costume to avoid draining someone to the point of death when she touches them.
      • Fabian Cortez, a member of the Acolytes, can augment the powers of other mutants, often to dangerous levels. Cortez can also use this power to read genetic code and harm other mutants while appearing to heal them.
      • Generation X: Synch's powers give him an aura that allows him to "synch" with other superhumans, thereby gaining their abilities. The powers Everett "synchs" will fade if the superhuman he is "in synch" with leaves the vicinity. He has been able to copy powers from tissue samples as well. He can also use his aura to track other mutants.
      • Hope Summers from Generation Hope has the similar ability to copy any mutant power in her vicinity, seemingly without limit. She's also demonstrated the ability to cure the Power Incontinence of any mutant she touches, with her forming a telepathic bond with new power manifestations. A made up Bad Future had her becoming a Hive Queen of all mutants after amplifying their powers to the point where they were consumed by them, becoming mindless drones. X-Men (2019) lists her power as "Omega Level Power Manipulation", and she usually uses it to synch up with and amplify the powers of mutants she's working with.

    Fan Works 
  • Elementals of Harmony: Sideboard of Harmony - Is Ditz Your Card?: "magic that manipulates other magic" is described as one of the kinds of magic that unicorns can do.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • X-Men: The Last Stand: Callisto can not only sense other mutants but she can identify what their powers are and what class they are in.

  • Ciaphas Cain: The shadowlight (always written in italics in the text) is an artifact that can (among other things) greatly enhance the faintest of psyker powers even if the affected individual never manifested any psychic potential previously. Fortunately, they're prone to Power Incontinence as well, and are still just as affected by Blanks (as is the shadowlight itself).
  • The Cosmere:
    • Mistborn:
      • The four "enhancement metals" are Aluminum (erases all the burner's metal reserves), Duralumin (when burned simultaneously with another metal, consumes the entirety of the other metal for a massively amplified effect), Chromnium (as Aluminum, but affects someone you were touching rather than yourself), and Nicrosil (as Duralumin, but affects someone you were touching rather than yourself). The first two are only useful to Mistborn, becoming essentially non-powers for a Misting who has them as their only power.
      • Of the eight base metals, Bronze lets you detect allomancy, and Copper protects you and those near you from Bronze and emotional allomancy.
      • Lerasium is a rare "god-metal" that permanently grants all the allomantic powers to a non-Allomancer who consumes it.
    • Warbreaker: One of the most advanced Awakening powers, currently only achievable by the God-King, is to take control of other Awakeners' constructs. It's played for Black Comedy when it's mentioned that the God-King personally has to reboot the nation's zombie legions whenever a commander forgets their operating codes.
  • In the Inheritance Cycle, the "Name of Names" or the True Name of the Language of Magic grants dominion over all spells cast in that language. Anyone who knows the Name of Names can erase or alter other spells pretty much at will. Galbatorix plans to use it for controlling who can use magic.
  • The Scholomance: A wizard's "affinity" might let them use certain magic more easily and efficiently or even change how magic works for them. Orion's affinity lets him create mana by killing monsters; El's affinity for The Dark Arts gives her a massive power boost to any destructive spell, a Supernatural Sensitivity for malia and maleficers, and other dubious perks.
  • ''Parahumans: One of the classifications the PRT uses for parahuman abilities is "Trump", referring to powers which either affect or are affected by the abilities of others:
    • Worm:
      • Jack Slash's secondary power is the ability to influence the Shards of other parahumans due to having the Broadcast Shard, which gives him an uncanny insight into the workings of their powers, nudges him from having the Slaughterhouse Nine engage in fights with other parahumans that they can't win, and even influences other parahumans to use their powers in ways that are counterproductive while fighting him. It's so subtle that he doesn't even know he has it, but it's what he's used to make the Slaughterhouse Nine one of the most dangerous villain groups in the world. Its main Achilles' Heel is that it's useless for dealing with the unpowered, but since Jack is surrounded by dangerous parahumans most of the time, actually getting a competent enough non-cape into position is easier said than done.
      • The supervillainess Ingenue has as her power the ability to boost one aspect of a person's power in exchange for another, such as boosting their overall power, but at the cost of fine control, or vice versa. It also has the downside of turning those she uses it on homicidally insane from prolonged use. She also has the ability to see people's powers.
    • Ward:
      • Goddess has the ability to "align" any parahumans she sees with her primary Master power, and only parahumans, even over video communication, which would imply some manner of influence over the Shards. It's not outright mind control, but any parahuman under her thrall has their minds realigned to have their value systems be in line with Goddess'.
      • Megan, who is part of the same cluster as Goddess, has as her primary power the ability to amplify the abilities of other parahumans via manipulating Shard connections. For instance, when under the influence of her power, Tori's telekinesis, which normally only pushes or pulls things in straight lines, gains the ability to move things from side to side as well.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Misfits, Seth is a "power dealer", whose power is to permanently remove another person's power but to then be able to confer it on one other person. He can store them indefinitely (and not just one at a time) but not use them himself. Powers he gives to people also happen to be more controllable than they were with their original users.

  • BIONICLE: Makuta Gorast's Mask of Power, the mask of disruption, has the ability to make a target temporarily lose control over one of their powers, which for some powers can be fatal.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons 3E and Pathfinder, "metamagic feats" are special abilities for magic users that allow them to modify standard spell effects, e.g. shorten casting times, automatically maximize randomized effects, etc.
  • Many versions appear in Magic: The Gathering.
    • "Lord," creatures are members of a tribe (a creature type) that grant some form of boost to other members of the tribe. In many cases, the ability gained isn't one the Lord has on its own.
      • Slivers are a tribe whose whole gimmick is that every Sliver is a Lord.
    • Many (primarily white) creatures turn off the abilities of other creatures or other permanent types.
    • One iteration of Big Bad Nicol Bolas has a passive ability that grants him the loyalty abilities of all other Planeswalkers on the battlefield. One iteration of Kasmina does the opposite, granting her own abilities to every other Planeswalker her controller also controls.
    • Rarely, cards can gain the activated abilities of other cards. The best known is Necrotic Ooze, a card that gain the abilities of creatures in your graveyard.

    Video Games 
  • Azure Striker Gunvolt: Joule's ability, "The Muse", primarily is used to enhance other Adept's powers through Magic Music. If her special skill "Anthem" activates on Gunvolt (i.e you), he can use his lightning powers without limits.
  • Dawn of War: Joining a Farseer to a Seer Council reduces the cooldown for her abilities the more Seers are present.
  • Golden Sun:
    • Djinn are the basis for the game's class system, switching them around gives new classes and abilities, while stacking them in the right proportions increases stats, class rank and spell power.
    • Later games give some enemies the ability to neutralize some (or even all) the party's Djinn, making the odds of a Total Party Kill rise as the party's stats are drastically lowered and reviving and most multiheal spells are now unavailable.
  • Pokémon: The Disable move prevents the opposing Pokémon from using one of their moves. Only one move can be disabled at a time, and in the first generation the move is chosen at random, while in all subsequent generations it affects the last move the target used, failing if they haven't used one yet.
  • Warcraft III:
    • Brilliance Aura increases mana regeneration in nearby friendly units.
    • The Goblin Tinker has three active abilities, with the passive fourth one upgrading his other abilities (cooldown, damage...) rather than being a Critical Hit or unit-boosting aura.

  • Strong Female Protagonist: Max Prescott turns out to have the power to massively and permanently strengthen other people's superpowers. However, he is so selfish and privileged that he doesn't see any value in a power that doesn't benefit him or make him look cool. Thus he refuses to use it out of spite, and Alison has to physically threaten him with her Super Strength to get him to use it for the aid of the world.

    Web Original 
  • RWBY: Mercury Black describes his father Marcus as having the ability to take away other people's Semblances. When he first unlocked his, Marcus removed it with the justification of Semblances being a "crutch". He claimed he wanted Mercury to become strong first, but he never did restore Mercury's Semblance. Even after Mercury killed him, his Semblance never returned. Now he's a Badass Normal in a world of Semblance-powered fighters.

    Western Animation 
  • The Legend of Korra:
    • The first season villain Amon is the leader of the Equalists, who feels that people with Elemental Powers have an unfair advantage, and that the world would be a better place if no one could bend at all. Amon himself can't bend, but has the power to remove other people's bending ability. Naturally, he's a hypocrite: he's actually a very good waterbender, and his Power Nullifier is actually bloodbending.
    • In Season 2 the lion turtles are revealed to have the ability to both grant and take away Bending by using energybending, which they gave to humans to defend themselves as they foraged through the Spirit Wilds 10,000 years ago.
  • Emperor Belos in The Owl House forbids witches from using more than one type of magic and enforces this through the coven system, in which witches choose a type of magic to specialize in while their ability to use any other kind is completely removed via magic tattoos.
  • Xiaolin Showdown: The Reversing Mirror shen gong wu has the power to cause another shen gong wu to do the opposite of its normal effect.