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New Powers as the Plot Demands

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"Anytime a hero is somehow outpowered and/or outclassed by the villain, he will invariably release powers/new moves he never knew he could accomplish... but his old teacher did!"
The 100 Rules of Anime, "#84 The Law of Dormant Powers"

Some authors seem to get bored of the same old powers. They add new ones to the same characters whenever they feel that a new power would open up a new story, or a new danger needs a new response, or just to spice things up.

Sometimes a retcon, a power upgrade, or some bit of Phlebotinum is employed to explain the new power, but other times the character does some fantastic feat they've never done before; when their friends say, "I didn't know you could do that!", they come back with either "I've never needed to, till now," or "Neither did I!"

This kind of plot point is no big deal early in a story — a character who has only recently been empowered is fully justified in not knowing what they can do. Likewise, "neither did I until now" in an experienced character can be reasonable, if it's happening in some circumstance or special condition that the character has never encountered before. This trope generally applies when it's a steady parade of new powers that just keeps marching on.

If the plot was crafted to fit the powers (as opposed to the powers changing to meet the needs of the plot) you have a Plot Tailored to the Party or a job for Aquaman. When the new ability is something overly narrow or silly, this often leads to Flight, Strength, Heart, as was common in The Silver Age of Comic Books. Suddenly Always Knew That is the same type of retcon as this, but instead of "Neither did I", the character will explain that You Didn't Ask.

Some characters get a pass on this due to a Swiss-Army Superpower, where a very flexible superpower is set from the start, or an Adaptive Ability, where their power is explicitly the power to acquire new powers. Science Heroes are supposed to be building custom devices to deal with bizarre circumstances. Wizards in high magic settings tend to have this as an inherent power too for similar reasons — go check the spellbook for the obscure ritual that will save the day in this specific situation, and it makes sense for them not to have used such a situational spell before they needed it. Creative use of a Morph Weapon or the like can also justify this.

Tropes Are Tools, and many successful and loved works have characters whose power set just keeps surprisingly expanding. However, in stories meant to have at least some tension, this trope can slide into bad writing. The risk in showering down new powers constantly is that it becomes a go-to Deus ex Machina (or worse, an Ass Pull ). Having written themselves into a corner with a situation that's too overwhelming for our heroes to handle with the tools they've been given, the writer decides to have the hero conveniently learn the one ability needed to save the day. Do this too often, and it dulls the drama of any new situation that pops up later, as the audience won't respect the setting as having internal consistency or real limitations. This video explains it pretty well.

If a writer wants to sell a New Super Power better, sticking in at least a little Foreshadowing of the possibility is considered good form. A Training from Hell to Unlock More True Potential also avoids this trope.

See 11th-Hour Superpower when this trope happens during the climax. Compare Imagination-Based Superpower, Magic A Is Magic A, So Last Season, and finally Strong as They Need to Be. Contrast with The Worf Effect, where the plot demands the character's powers and abilities are suddenly rendered impotent; and Heart Is an Awesome Power and Swiss-Army Superpower, where a character has a very limited set of powers or skills and uses creativity to meet the needs of the plot. For the more prudent writer's alternative, see Sanderson's Third Law.

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  • In the Motu Patlu episode "Ice Factory", Dr. Jhatka, Ghasitaram, and the ice factory's manager, upon finding Motu and Patlu frozen in big blocks of ice, inexplicably breathe fire to melt the ice and free them. The ability is not from any of Dr. Jhatka's inventions, unusually enough, and neither is it demonstrated anywhere else in the episode.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering has planeswalkers, both old and new. Old walkers are able to do virtually anything according to the comics and novels, and Post-Mending walkers are capable of quite a bit (shown by them getting printed with new abilities). The players themselves are old walkers: literally capable of casting anything they have in their decks (provided certain limitations). But this is kinda the point of playing.

    Comic Books 
  • Superman:
    • Superman started out faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and invulnerable to anything less than a bomb. Since then he's learned to fly, blow like a hurricane, survive nuclear explosions, chill things with a puff of breath, shoot lasers from his eyes, and use X-Ray Vision. And that's just the powers that have lasted.
    • A lot of this stems from various media adaptations, particularly the Superman Theatrical Cartoons; originally the brothers Fleischer wanted to stick close to a relatively limited powerset, but animating him just "leaping" everywhere was time-consuming and expensive (even with their extravagant-for-the-time budget), so they asked DC "can we just make him fly?" DC said "Sure", he flew in the cartoons which introduced a ton of people to the character who then bought the comic and complained to DC, asking why Superman didn't fly like he did in the cartoon... and, well, we were off to the Super-races.
    • Superman's Mirror Universe counterpart Ultraman (no, not that Ultraman) actually has this as his superpower: exposure to Kryptonite, rather than harming him, causes him to develop new abilities (at least in his first appearance. Later on this was changed to Kryptonite being necessary to sustain his full levels of power).
    • And Red Kryptonite (occasionally, in some continuities) lets the "regular" Superman develop new abilities, albeit temporary ones.
    • Van-Zee, Superman's lookalike from Kandor, demonstrates Super Weaving. He's just using super speed to, er, weave really really fast.
    • Lampshaded in Who Took the Super out of Superman?. After Superman has put several bank robbers down, the stolen cash starts swirling upwards mysteriously, and a crook believes Superman -who had nothing to do with it- is showing off some new strange power.
      Bank Robber: Th-The money... swirling around—! Some kinda new Superman trick, I bet!
    • In one strip, Lois Lane is going blind and she wants to see a play based on herself before this happens. But the play is only a script, so Superman uses super-puppetry to make it appear that actors are performing on stage (Lois' vision is blurred so she doesn't notice). He also uses "super-memory" to learn the script, even though he could just read it given that he's offstage.
    • Other silver age classic powers: super-hypnotism, super-kissing, and super-mimicry.
    • "Super-hypnotism" — though not called that at the time — was actually acquired at a very early point, certainly by 1940 at the latest (he hypnotizes Lois in at least two different stories that year alone.)
    • The original TV show mostly restrained itself from this, but huffed this trope twice, once to give Superman the ability to phase through walls, and once to let him split himself into multiple two Supermen. Both of these powers vanished after the episode. The splitting ability came from his dense molecular structure (at the time, the explanation for his invulnerability) meaning he had enough mass to make up two normal people. The two were significantly weaker than when they were together creating dramatic tension when they couldn't merge.
    • In one episode of the DC Animated Universe, Superman teams up with Robin to search for Batman, and displays his super-mimicry, explained as him having extraordinary control of his vocal muscles, to first mimic Batman, then Robin himself. This completely freaks Robin out, and he demands that Supes "Never. Do that. Again." Superman never uses this power again.
    • There's plenty more examples from the comics.
    • The basic assumption was that, for any ability a normal man might have, Superman could do it or learn to do it much better. If a man can blow out a candle, then Superman can blow out a forest fire. The problem lay in that the writers didn't consider how ventriloquism or hypnotism really work, so Superman was shown literally throwing his voice, or hypnotizing people almost effortlessly.
    • The time travel ability is a logical extension of the fact that they'd already established he could fly faster than light; the real question is how he ever broke the light barrier without time traveling.
    • This didn't end with the Silver Age by the way. The modern Superman has been shown to use the psychic martial art of Torquasm-Vo which in one instance allowed him to alter reality.
    • Superman's set of powers, while extensive in number, were actually fairly set in stone by the early 1960s, when heat vision (the last major power addition) became a stand-alone power from his x-ray vision, and the yellow sun explanation for his powers came into use. (He'd use "the heat of his x-ray vision" to melt things in 50s stories.) The above mentions of "super-weaving"/"super-puppetry"/etc. are just using his usual powers (super-speed, etc.) to do some task in a creative manner, and not actual "powers." The extent of his powers, especially invulnerability and strength, were reduced post-1960s (and especially in the Byrne revamp), with a few powers outright tossed out by Byrne (in particular, time-travel and interstellar travel using his super-speed, super-hypnosis, and super-ventriloquism). The ability to use his super-breath to create freeze breath apparently fell prey to this for awhile, until it was brought back in 2000s stories.
    • Not that there weren't outright inexplicable new powers sometimes. In one issue, he managed to rewire complex circuitry with his vision to stop some evil machinery of Brainiac's, and another time he somehow used his vision to attempt a phone trace. It's especially Egregious with Silver Age Superman because of the number and extent of his established powers.
    • This applies to some of his supporting cast as well. In an old issue of Superman Family, Lois Lane assumes the identity of a Russian ballerina after knocking her out and leaving her bound and gagged in a closet. She's suddenly able to dance well enough to fool the audience and the other Russians, which she attributes to years of ballet lessons she supposedly had as a child.
    • Although Supergirl was created in the late Silver Age and she was so overpowered like her cousin, she was not liable to come up with new powers every issue. Still she had super-intuition -a power unique to her-, used super-ventiloquism, in Action Comics #258 she used super-aiming and in Supergirl Vol 1 issue #1 she uses Super-Suction Breath to capture a serial killer (she draws out the air out of a cab so the man in there faints).
    • Parodied in Supergirl (2005) storyline Way of the World. Supergirl fights a villain that at one point brags about his new powers:
      Luzano: Hyper-Strength! Hyper-Speed! Plasmagenesis! Yes, that's a word! Hyper-sensual perception!
      Supergirl: [incredulous] "Hyper-sensual"?
    • Parodied in the third issue of Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade when Linda tries to gain new powers combining different types of Kryptonite. She gains a bunch of useless powers until she gets something useful after several attempts:
      Supergirl: You gotta... be kidding. The power to overcook waffles...? How is that even a power?
  • Spider-Man:
    • Antagonist Norman Osborn is able to come Back from the Dead (via Waking Up at the Morgue) thanks to a healing factor he wasn't even aware he retained. Then again, it's not surprising that he'd be unaware of a power he had to die to use.
    • Spider-Man also has in his rogue's gallery a villain called "The Answer", whose powers are defined as "whatever is necessary in the current situation".
    • In Ultimate Spider-Man Peter Parker later comes back from the dead after it turns out that the serum that empowered him (as well as Miles Morales and Norman Osborn) makes them functionally immortal. Thereby explaining Osborn's Joker Immunity..
  • The Avengers have Scarlet Witch, who has possibly the most ill-defined set of powers in all of Marvel Comics. Depending on the Writer she can be a mutant Reality Warper, a mystical sorceress, both, or something else altogether.
  • Martian Manhunter was prone to this, at times having the power to control magnetism, strain gold from water, and create ice cream with his mind.
  • X-Men:
    • Marrow had her heart torn off her body by Storm, but later was revealed to be alive. How? Spare heart.
    • Storm can slip into this herself (her use of lightning in increasingly improbable ways qualifies), it even bleeds into other adaptations. For instance, an episode of the Black Panther cartoon had her able to use Cerebro, despite it usually only working for telepaths. One old comic by Chris Claremont also suddenly gave Storm Super Senses, because she could feel the effect everyone around her had on the local air pressure.
    • Magneto started off with the ability to control metal magnetically, then developed the ability to fly with a reasonable enough explanation. Then, as stories became more ambitious, he was suddenly able to control the entire electromagnetic spectrum, which effectively made him invincible, so long as no one managed to get in a cheap shot. He could even go toe to toe with the freaking Phoenix (admittedly, this was before the retcon of the Phoenix being a vastly powerful cosmic entity, but even so, it's no mean feat)! Of course, then there's the Planet X story by Grant Morrison, in which he's powerful enough to (somehow) control gravity and time. (Grand Unified Theory?) Of course, in that case, he was retconned into being Xorn posing as Magneto, while the real Magneto was living in the ruins of Genosha. However, stories like Avengers Disassembled when he demonstrated the ability to basically stargate across continents to get his daughter, which are canonically him, don't under-sell his ludicrously vast powers. And Ultimatum, in which Ultimate Marvel Magneto is able to use his powers to shift the magnetic poles of the Earth, which causes massive weather shifts, which causes massive tidal waves to destroy almost all of the East Coast. Admittedly, he needed Mjolnir to do it.
    • For a brief period during the Silver Age, Quicksilver suddenly gained the ability to fly by vibrating his legs. The writers ditched this idea pretty quickly, though.
    • Grant Morrison used this trope by an Ass Pull a Cerebus Retcon in his run on X-Men by introducing "secondary mutations", which would grant entirely new sets of powers to mutants, even years after they first gained their powers. This was his excuse for letting Emma Frost turn into living diamond for no obvious reason besides Rule of Cool. It turns out later that Emma was given that ability by Cassandra Nova so she could survive the Mega Sentinel attack as part of her plan to return if defeated. However, other characters get interesting (or terrifying) secondary mutations too.
    • Dave Cockrum used to drive Claremont nuts by constantly giving Nightcrawler new powers almost every issue back in the earlier X-Men days. Such as invisibility in shadows, or wallcrawling (the first of which got Orwellian-retconned in reprints, with the latter just being quietly dropped)
    • Professor Xavier's less-seen powers include telekinesis and the ability to give other people telepathy.
    • As originally written pre-Retcon, Phoenix was merely Jean Grey's "ultimate potential as a psi." She'd never shown that she was capable of that level of power before, and later stories brought in outside influences, but originally Jean spontaneously unlocked awesome powers when faced with death.
    • Darwin, whose body will evolve on the fly to meet the problems in the situation, even though Darwin has no control over what evolves or how it works. Lampshaded during World War Hulk when his power decided the best defense against a rampaging Hulk was... to not be there, as illustrated by his teleporting away. Which was pretty brilliant, although the power originally created a Gamma Energy Draining power to drain power from the Hulk to weaken him, but the Hulk is one of those sorts who fit the 'generates more energy than the enemy can hope to drain' trope so Darwin was getting nowhere and after being knocked unconscious by the Hulk his power reasoned it had no hope of defending against the Hulk directly and got Darwin several states away where it was relatively safe.
    • Similarly, the mutant Lifeguard will develop whatever power will be necessary next to save lives. So, unconscious precognitive adaptation. Like Darwin, it sometimes turns out that gaining the power necessary to save lives doesn't mean gaining the power necessary to defeat the enemy. On top of that, apparently, it only helps her save other people's lives. As often as Darwin she is more inconvenienced by a power she gains, or must make creative use of something that isn't the Super Strength or Eye Beams she'd rather have had.
    • Apocalypse is one of the most egregious offenders, he generally seems to have whatever powers needs to threat at the time or whatever the current writer finds cool. And that's not even taking into account what powers are naturally his and what ones are given by his technology. The in-universe justification is that his true mutant ability is the power to shapeshift at a subatomic level. Since mutant abilities are genetic in nature, he can alter his own DNA to give himself whatever power he wants.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes:
    • Ra's Al Ghul set the Moon on a collision course with the Earth. This gave off "hypertaxis energy", which caused humans to evolve to survive a threat before it happened.
    • Tyroc had the power to warp reality with his screams. (Of course, this made the "screaming" part just color... no pun intended.) He could do nearly anything, from teleportation to pyrokinesis to... making it rain glue. The character was soon written out; common wisdom is that the writers had no idea what to do with him. In his recent reintroduction he seems to have been Retconned into having more conventional Banshee/Black Canary scream powers.
    • Duplicate Boy had the ability to copy any power he wanted, including those he made up. Of course, his abilities were rarely used properly by the writers. He could copy the powers of anyone he's ever met including multiple powers at the same time much like the Super-Adaptoid. So he was effectively the most powerful being in the 31st Century, which is why they had a 'the rulers of your homeworld deem you must remain here to protect it' restriction on him along with the rest of his team for why he in particular never had an impact against the villains that showed up after his introduction.
    • The villain Nemesis Kid had the ability to temporarily gain whatever power he needed to fight any single opponent. This one was used just as badly; he was killed in hand-to-hand combat by Queen Projectra — without her using her illusion powers — the only given reason why his ability didn't provide him with invulnerability as well as immunity to illusions was being too intimidated to concentrate on activating his power. One would suppose he would gain invulnerability against physical attacks against any foe capable of throwing a punch... Nemesis Kid's powers explicitly only worked on one power at a time. That's why Princess Projectra was able to simply beat him to death: His power was occupied nullifying her illusions.
  • The Sentry is one of the more blatant examples of this; at first, he was a standard Flying Brick with additional Light 'em Up powers and Psychic Powers (sufficient to wipe everyone's memory of him), albeit strong enough to - with effort - contain a Cosmic Cube. Then his dark side, the Void, demonstrated all sorts of abilities like Weather Manipulation and combat tentacles strong enough to break every bone in the Hulk's body. After that, it steadily progressed up to grand scale Molecular Manipulation and being a flat out Reality Warper (which goes some way to explaining his constantly changing origin) - there's a reason that one theory about him holds that he's actually a sentient Cosmic Cube, like Kobik. Either way, he can't die unless he wants to, and is only generally restricted by his rampant neuroses. Then he came back from the dead as one of the Apocalypse Twins' Horsemen of Death, totally without the Void (apparently it got bored and left for the White Hot Room) and even crazier and more powerful than ever.
  • The Incredible Hulk #3 inexplicably gave the Hulk the power to fly, a development so surprising and out of nowhere that it was even referenced on the cover. The new power didn't last long, though, as the Hulk's flight was hastily Retconned into super jumping the very next issue.
  • The Doom Patrol villain "The Quiz" had "every power you haven't thought of". Literally; to fight her, you had to start shouting power names so she couldn't use them.
    • Gives you a bit of fridge logic as to why declaring 'the power to have every power I haven't thought of' wouldn't eliminate the power and render her powerless since she can't have any power you've thought of and her root power is told to you.
      • Or just rattle off this short list: "The power to breathe underwater. The power to breathe in space. The power to breathe in an atmosphere. The power to survive without breathing."
  • Inverted in an arc of Exiles in which the team arrives on an Earth where the Skrulls have ruled since the 19th century, and several of them are thrown into a gladiator arena to fight other superpowered beings. Mimic, a mutant with the power to copy and hold onto the abilities of up to five other mutants, strikingly showcases "all four" of his various powers as he fights his way to higher tiers of the arena, until he finally comes up against "The Champion", that universe's version of Captain America. The Skrulls are expecting an epic fight, when Mimic ends it in ten seconds by letting loose optic blasts he copied from the X-Men's Cyclops. The reader knows he has this power (if he's been paying attention, since Mimic had been using it since the start of the series), but the in-universe audience is shocked.
  • While not powers, per se, Batman seems to always have that one thing in his utility belt that saves the day, despite there never being mention of it before. This was especially true in the Silver Age, on the TV Show (shark-repellent bat-spray), and on the Superfriends ("You're a mouse? I'll put you in the bat belt mouse compartment!"). Fans have come to expect him to have all sorts of basic toys there (as well as a chunk of kryptonite in a lead-lined pouch because you can't be too careful), and the better writers either have him specifically preparing for a fight or have him MacGyver a solution out of things you would expect him to have.
    • In one episode of the TV show, the villains finally wised up and took away his utility belt (they couldn't just kill him because they needed him to ... extract musk from some weasels). So he asked for a couple of glasses of warm water, this being somehow essential to the musk-extraction process ... and proceeded to pull out dehydrated Bat-utility belt capsules from somwehere and reconstitute them.
    • The writers have also shown that Batman, down in the Batcave, has a set of dossier folders on every single hero and villain on the planet, with detailed plans on how to take down each and every one of them if he ever needed to. This even includes the really, really stupid villains for whom the plan ought to be "oh just kick his ass already."
    • The movies have their share of oddly specific and convenient gadgets, too, such as:
      • The Bat-Stop-The-Guy-About-To-Drop-Kick-Me-Arm-Apparatus from the 1989 film.
      • The Bat-Ice-Skates and Bat-Heaters from Batman & Robin.
      • The Bat-Van-Cutter from The Dark Knight.
    • In addition to his gadgets, Batman has whatever skills will be needed to solve the problem. And those skills have added up over the years to the point where he's an expert at literally every skill imaginable.
    • The utility belt takes it to a ridiculous degree in the animated movie where the New 52 Justice League fight Darkseid. The League is trying to push Darkseid through a boomtube. Superman and Wonder Woman keep punching him, but he barely moves and just knocks them aside. Batman slaps his belt on Darkseid and it shows a new power - rocket thrusters pops out. The belt pushes him hard, making the belt much stronger than Superman and Wonder Woman combined.
  • Captain Everything from normalman was the most powerful being on the planet Levram simply because he could defy all laws of physics, exhibiting a new power at every plot twist. Of course, this is just one of the ways in which he's a parody of Superman. He was also a complete moron, who forgot that he could fly while in midflight.
  • Also from The DCU, Infinity Man had the ill-explained power to bend all natural laws. He can modify the atomic structure of things. Good.
  • Resurrection Man's powers are literally dictated by the plot; anytime he dies, he'll come back immediately possessing some power that would have allowed him to survive what killed him. Drop him off a cliff, now he can fly, shoot him, now he's bulletproof, etc.
    • New Spider-Man foe The Freak has the same ability.
    • As does Doomsday, the only monster to ever kill Superman- except he develops new abilities that counter anything that harms him. At one point, he develops bony ear coverings to counter a powerful sonic gun. Until he is finally undone by the one thing that he evolved that made him weak: Sentience.
      Superman: You're different now. You can think for yourself. So think about this. Before, you were a mindless thing. Nothing could hurt you. You couldn't feel pain, much less understand it. But once you have felt it — it changes you — forever. And you'll begin to understand something new. Fear. I've lived with it all my life. You don't want to die again, do you? The agony of what's happened to you affects your speed — your strength... and that little bit of doubt — that you cannot win today — grows.
    • Doomsday's power could be summarized as, each time he dies and comes back, his overall strength and power increase AND he's made immediately and instantaneously invulnerable to and has the capacity to kill or destroy whatever it was that killed him. He doesn't have to die, though: we once see him bashing his way out of a metal box he'd been contained in; his fists grow bony protection and eventually spikes with each punch. He's constantly spawning the fix for whatever challenge lies in his path.
  • Dial H for Hero is based around a mysterious dial that enables an ordinary person to become a superhero for a short time, by selecting the letters H-E-R-O in order. Each time it is used, the dial causes its possessor to become a superhero with a different name, costume, and powers. The twist here was that the hero usually didn't get a power that would solve whatever problem he was facing in the most obvious and direct way. The trope was played straight, though, in that the power always turned out to be useful for the current situation, even if how it could be useful wasn't apparent at first. The basic plot of a Dial H For Hero story can be summed up as "figure out how being a human slinky helps you put out a forest fire."
  • In the children's comic Korgi, the magic korgi spontaneously develops the ability to breathe fire.
    • Ivy suddenly reveals that she has wings a la The Dark Crystal. These sudden powers are perhaps more jarring because the main story has no dialog whatsoever, and the only indication that the korgis are magical comes from the introduction - we're never given any hint as to how this magic manifests.
  • The Daredevil and Jessica Jones villain the Purple Man was hastily Retconned to possess a Healing Factor to explain how he'd survived getting punched to death by Namor during the Emperor Doom graphic novel.
  • Darkhawk is an interesting variant on this trope, in the sense that Chris Powell didn't get an instruction manual along with the fancy amulet that transforms him into Darkhawk, so he ended up discovering many of his powers by trial and error, most notably in reacting to new and stressful situations.
  • The New Warriors had an enemy/ally named Helix, who adapted to any threat against his body, be it disease, telekinesis, spider webs, or a beat down from multiple super sonic flying, nigh invulnerable, super strong enemies. As soon as he was out of range from whatever threatened him, his body dropped whatever adaptations it developed.
  • The DC villain Paragon has the power to mimic the superpowers of any superhero near to him. But he can also add a twist the originator cannot perform, so he thinks he is superior because he can use any power better.
  • In a non-superheroic example, Thorn from Bone displays more and more ludicrous powers as the plot goes on, everything from simple Psychic Dreams for Everyone to seeing invisible ghost circles to super-strength to flight. This is because her "true" power is power over dreams, and the awakening of the Big Bad is bringing the Waking World and the Dreaming closer together.
  • The Authority :
    • The Engineer is a repeat offender here. Her "powers" are derived from the "nine pints of liquid machinery" that was developed from a combination of her own research and that of another genius and with which she replaced her blood. It basically means she can create virtually any device she can conceive of on the fly. However, while originally this seemed to be limited to what she could shape out of the actual nanoblood, the scope kept increasing until she could eventually build even very large constructs on-demand, as well create duplicates of herself that shared her abilities. The only limit being how many different things she could mentally multitask at one time.
    • Seth, the ridiculously powerful metahuman sent to kill and otherwise maim the members of The Authority, might as well be a walking superpowered cafeteria. Having been designed to take down the most powerful superhero team in the world, he is given just about every superpower that his creators can imagine, at one point stating that he has powers "that [his enemies] don't even have names for".
  • The Mighty Thor was explicitly intended to be the most powerful superhero in the Marvel Universe, and in the early days this seemed to mean "modeled after the Silver Age Superman." He whipped out abilities like time travel and even super-ventriloquism on occasion before his powers became more clearly defined. (Though he actually became more powerful after they stopped throwing in weird abilities; in his early adventures he didn't really demonstrate the "Class 100" strength and city-engulfing weather manipulation he's known for now.)
  • A very '90s miniseries called The Psycho, by James Hudnall and Dan Brereton, is set in a world where people gain superpowers by taking various drugs. At one point, the title character develops the ability to breathe underwater— or maybe he had it from the start; after all, there's no way of knowing until someone's trapped you in a flooded room... The story also notes that powers come on over a few days, and while the protagonist gets some testing to see what he can do, none of it involves seeing what he can or can't breathe.
  • The eponymous Empowered has on at least three occasions demonstrated powers she had no idea her suit possessed: Clinging, surviving in space, and very possibly flight. She's not aware of the third. Given an interesting twist, in that many times, they are Chekhov's guns. She discovers the new power at the BEGINNING of the issue, points out how useless it is, and then uses it LATER to great effect. Another one? Her suit can turn invisible. Not turn HER invisible. The suit ITSELF turns invisible.
  • The female Green Lantern character Arisia, a one-time fling of Hal Jordan's, was thought to have perished. She was found years later (somewhat randomly) on the planet Biot in a pod. We were then told that Arisia's species can go into a deep state of mental and physical hibernation while only appearing dead. All this was done so Geoff Johns could put Arisia into the Green Lantern Corp ongoing. Not the most elegant way of bringing someone back to life.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics):
    • Sonic's "Super Peel-Out" maneuver became this in the early comics. In Sonic CD, the Super Peel-Out was nothing more than a way to get Sonic to reach high speeds without being a ball. In the comics, it was used for other methods, including limited flight and the ability to deflect attacks.
    • NICOLE, a small handheld device with utilities ranging from a translator, laser device, a protective forcefield and a scanner that can devise info and history from almost any object or area. In later issues NICOLE was evolved into the powerstation for New Mobotropolis from which she can transport or materialize almost any entity to the heroes' convenience, though at least by this point her multiple powers are becoming less of a surprise.
  • Spoofed in Tomorrow Stories with Splash Brannigan. "He followed them into the painting! I didn't know four dimensional ink could do that!" "Well duh! It can probably do whatever story purposes require."
  • At the end of the Buffy Season 8 comics, Buffy gets new powers like flying and super speed due to Twilight.
  • Herbie The Fat Fury got various superpowers from eating lollipops. These powers could be literally anything, from invulnerability and super-strength to hypnotism, talking to animals, time travel, and knocking out uncooperative indian chiefs.
  • The Molecule Man, a Fantastic Four villain, can control molecules, so he can do just about anything, but he's not the brightest bulb in the shed and not completely evil, so he's often beaten before he can really use his imagination.
  • Marvel's Doctor Strange makes even Silver Age Superman look downright consistent by comparison. One week he might say it's impossible to change the past, the next week he might casually rewind time by twirling his little finger and prevent the villain from ever being born. At his worst, it was less a case of him getting new powers as the plot demands, but more a case of him being able to do absolutely anything, unless the plot specifically required that he couldn't. This is probably one of the major reasons why he periodically gets stripped of his Sorcerer Supreme title and most of his power.
  • In early issues of Marvel's Fantastic Four, the Human Torch would often demonstrate seemingly random new powers all the time. Although all of them were (at least thematically) linked to his ability to control heat and fire, many of them made little sense (some examples include sonar heat waves, creating a lasso made only partially out of fire that could pick up paper objects without burning them, and the ability to surround an object with a coating of fire that could detect and react to someone's human aura in order to guide the object to them.)
  • Eobard Thawne, the Reverse-Flash, after the events of The Flash: Rebirth. Suddenly powered by an inexplicable thing called the "Negative Speed Force", he now has the ability to travel back in time at will and change history. He also gained gained Reverse-Flash II's ability to create a sonic boom when he snaps his fingers, something his Speed Force should negate (otherwise every step he takes should do that). He can also... reverse-age himself? What?
    • On the topic of Flash villains, Mirror Master's powers have never been clearly defined. So as long as whatever he's doing is vaguely related to mirrors, he can do pretty much anything.
  • Golden Age hero Stardust The Superwizard's powers are never clearly defined, other than his "tubular spacial" which he uses to fly, but mostly consist of whatever the author thinks would be cool at that moment.
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1992): Is there anything the handy Master Sword can't do? In addition to its established powers (deflecting Agahnim's magic and paralyzing Ganon), it can channel Link's rage into energy, causing electric storms.
  • Marsupilami, the Ensemble Dark Horse do-anything pet of Spirou and Fantasio. Although somewhat grounded in animal capacity, Marsupilami was intelligent, agile, strong and tough (even moreso when driven into a berserker state, where he was powerful enough to tear trees apart), and gifted with an absurdly long and perfectly prehensible tail. He was also amphibious, capable of perfect mimicry, and extremely resilient against many things, including being able to effortlessly shrug off the Zorglwave (a device that could either paralyze a person or brainwash them into a perfectly obedient slave). Other abilities popped up as needed.
  • Happens to Hawke near the end of the original run of the comic Tellos. He suffers lethal injuries during the flight, and when he dies, he turns into... a giant hawk. It had been foreshadowed several times: Hawke keeping some big secret was causing real problems in his relationship with his love interest.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • In Thirty Hs, Harry Potter is given a wide variety of powers he never had in canon, including groinsaws, the ability to punch astral vampires in half, the ability to summon holy fuck fire and meteors with his guitar fuck slayer, and the ability to see subatomic particles by squinting.
  • ultamite nineball's infamous fic soulless shell chronicles the adventures of Leif Melyamos, who develops the ability to shoot Frickin' Laser Beams, teleport at will, and outfight any opponent at the age of about three. By the time he's eighteen, he can take on a bizarre One-Winged Angel form with horns and wings, and by the time the story comes to a very abrupt stop, has got hold of a sapient blood-drinking sword. Keep in mind this fic was put in the Redwall section, and said canon is supposed to have no magic whatsoever (bar the occasional prophecies and Instant Expert routines). This fic is in fact a prequel to another fic entitled "Blood omen" (No, not that one), in which Leif's descendant Zain is an even better example, literally developing a new power with each fight scene.
  • Fan fiction of The Lord of the Rings
  • The Adventures of Kitty Pryde by Melodyrider (a series written as an ongoing companion comic to the Joss Whedon run on Astonishing X-Men) has this chapter where Kitty, Colossus and X-Factor take on a misguided future version of Kitty, who, while not having any new powers, was able to apply her powers in new ways that Kitty hadn't considered before, including phasing through dimensions, sending bioshocks of people who she phases through and phasing through light.
  • In a Bleach Fanfiction Wiki, Miharu Kurosaki's Zanpakutou is quite possibly the embodiment of this trope, creating anything or having any given effect the wielder (or in this case, the creator of the character) imagines. It's command is even "Improvise".
  • The Subspace Emissary's Worlds Conquest has an interesting non-Ass Pull version. The main characters get new powers depending on what world they're in.
  • Marrissa Roberts from ITS MY LIFE!. Her powers include electric fight abilities, being able to fly to and breathe in space, MEGA PAWNCH, "nerotksin" immunity, a super detective power and being able to materialize stuff out of nowhere.
  • Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami adds new "Notes" whenever the plot demands. In addition to the Death Note, we have the Royal Death Note, the Life Note, the Anti-Life Note, the Teleport Note, the Time Note, the Ghost Note, and the Everything Note.
  • Mi Tru Lov sees Russia gain earth powers. If that wasn't enough, Kawaiilyn suddenly gains the ability to manipulate earth, water, fire and lightning as well as air the second she needs them.
  • In Young Offender, 001's Psychic Powers are constantly evolving, and he often discovers new talents right when they're needed. However, this doesn't help Ivan's mental stability at all; he's particularly terrified that his powers might eventually drive him mad, just as they did his aunt Katarina. His potential also terrifies his own teammates, and to make matters worse? Katarina confirmed that he will develop the same powers that drove her insane, though she believes he might be able to control them if he doesn't give in to the desire to change the future.
  • Rose Potter in The Girl Who Lived has a tendency to get random superpowers and spells for no reason, solely for the purpose of making her seem "cooler."
  • In the cancelled My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic meta-fanfiction Human, the titular character, Lord Second, is almost the embodiment of this trope, being internally aware of concepts like Dramatic Convenience, In-Universe Explanations, and Off-Screen Teleportation. At one point, he gains a healing factor simply by verbally acknowledging the offscreen healing that occurs between plots. He is also able to leap across entire cities at once, and will be literally forced by the story to dodge any physical attack, except ones by main characters. Also, at one point, his son manages to circumvent this by training Princess Celestia to become a main character.
  • Link in the Legend of Zelda fanfic, Zelda's Honor, can summon up horses, bows, torches and just about anything else as the plot demands because of his Nevachrean heritage. He also can defy death by an eleventh hour appearance of Navi. Can't beat the villain with the powers he has now? No problem! Just put on the Fierce Deity Mask that you just recently restored using the innate temporary healing powers from the newly reawakened Triforce of Courage within you and due to the new Hylia like qualities Navi bestowed upon you, become a righteous god of terrible power!
  • Actually sort of Paul's powerset in The Keys Stand Alone, though hints of it were given in With Strings Attached. He develops so many new powers that Ringo describes it as gaining a new power every time he blows his nose.
  • Izuku is still growing in Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, resulting in him gaining access to new Kryptonian abilities as the plot needs him to. For instance, he discovered his Super Strength, Nigh-Invulnerability, and Super-Hearing at four, his X-Ray, Telescopic, and Infrared Vision at 9, and his Heat Vision and Super Breath at 10. He spontaneously develops his ability to fly after getting blasted off Mt. Fuji along with a powerful bomb. Izuku himself is acutely aware of his growing list of Combo Platter Powers and is terrified of the thought that he'll never stop gaining powers or learn to control them properly in both a nod and a deconstruction of this trope.
    Izuku: I mean, when my powers first came in, all I could do was jump really high and punch people way too hard. By the time I was ten, I could shoot lasers out of my eyes and knock people down just by exhaling. Now I'm fourteen going on fifteen, and all of a sudden, I can fly. Am I just going to keep getting more and more powers, the older I get? When I'm eighteen, are bones going to start shooting out of my fists? When I'm twenty, is my body going to turn into electricity, and I'll just zap everything around me? Is it ever going to end? Am I even going to be able to control it, forever?
  • Torrent: Ash's Seadra gains the power to levitate when it evolves into a Kingdra due to its new dragon typing. Word of God admits this is because without it, Kingdra would be relegated to only battles near large bodies of water.
  • Pokémon Reset Bloodlines: This often happens with Ash and co. learning new moves when they need them:
    • Ash uses Counter for the first time when shielding Pikachu from an angry Spearow and Fearow flock.
    • Later, when he and Anabel are tired from training, they both learn to use Heal Pulse.
    • Misty learns to use Aqua Ring when she feels she needs something to last longer with the training.
  • Wyvern: Since Taylor's power is that of canon Lung, she is capable of "ramping up", becoming more powerful the longer a fight goes on. This is initially only shown in the aftermath of the Boat Graveyard battle, when she's noticeably larger than when she started the fight. Like Lung, this also comes with gaining new powers the longer she's fighting.
  • In Inquiry about Yuuka Kazami, circumstances pit Yuuka against Team Nineball in a duel. After dispatching Mystia, Wriggle and Rumia, Yuuka realizes she's been conned into thinking Cirno was already out, when actually she's been generating a colossal iceberg to drop on her. First she tries her brutal physical strength and then Master Sparks the ice mass... but even that just won't cut it. She's about to allow herself to be crushed when Keine reminds her it's a duel, and holding back would be a grave disservice to her foes. Sighing, she reveals her wings, showing herself to be a fairy so old and powerful she evolved into a youkai. This allows her to pull out Double Master Spark and obliterate the iceberg.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Frozen II, Elsa being able to conjure images from the past in ice, complete with sound, because "water has memory".
  • At the climax of Kubo and the Two Strings, Kubo gains the ability to turn the Big Bad human and erase his memories with his shamisen. How he was able to suddenly do this with an instrument he used only to animate paper for most of the film is never explained.
  • The Secret of the Hunchback ends with Quasimodo having wings burst out of his hunch and managing to fly away safely from a long fall.
  • The Iron Giant doesn't find out he has boosters on his feet until he accidentally falls off a cliff and they activate automatically.
  • In one of the Wallace & Gromit films, Gromit is heading toward a cliff in a runaway motorcycle sidecar, falls off, and...pushes some buttons that suddenly cause it to sprout wings and a propeller.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Near the end of Breaking Dawn, Alice has a vision of a massive battle with the Cullens and their allies on one side, and the Volturi on the other that involves the shapeshifters and Renesmee. This is despite the fact that she's supposed to be incapable of having visions involving shapeshifters and/or half-vampires. (It's almost as if the scriptwriter(s) wanted a fight scene while also keeping to the book, really....)
  • The Heisei Gamera series deconstructed this trope completely. Gamera reveals in the second film to have a "Mana Cannon" that obliterates the enemy of that film. It is learned in the final film that using that attack drained the Earth of its health, and releasing a hoard of Gyaos upon the planet. It is also learned that Gamera bonded with humans in order to gain the ability to mutate and get new powers such as the Mana Cannon and Flame Absorbing powers — but the Mana Cannon cost him that connection to humanity as well! This causes him to ignore Property Damage as he hunts the Gyaos.
  • Godzilla most famous examples would have to be his gravity-defying drop kick, and his sudden ability to fly at the end of Godzilla vs. Hedorah by curling up his body and firing his atomic breath backward so he shoots through the air like a rocket. Additionally, Godzilla developed magnetic powers to get the upper hand in the climactic battle of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.
  • In Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday Jason is ambushed by the FBI which leaves his body completely obliterated, forcing his heart to evolve into a small creature that can hypnotize and possess people.
  • K12: Crybaby (played by Melanie Martinez) as well as her friends gain God-Mode Sue levels of power which they simply didn't have in the last album (which K-12 is a sequel of). Her new powers contain everything from levitating (both herself and buses), telekinesis, mind control, teleportation, seeming omniscience at least in one scene and the ability to lift the ENTIRE SCHOOL IN A SPIT BUBBLE in a bizarre way of destroying it. One wonders exactly how the character is ever in any real danger when she can pull a new power out of her ass every time a new problem emerges.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Iron Man's previously unmentioned one-use lasers that he uses to finish off the Hammer Drones in Iron Man 2. Justified in that Tony clearly enjoys making new Iron Man suits (as seen by the previously featured Mark V suitcase armor) and weapons/systems for them.
    • In Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Star-Lord and his team crash into the Dark Aster to stop Ronan the Accuser from destroying Xandar with the Power Stone. While they're in a dark hallway, Groot puts out glowing spores to light the way. Drax asks when he was able to do that.
      Star-Lord: Pretty sure the answer is "I Am Groot."
    • In Captain America: Civil War, Ant-Man displays the ability to transform into the colossal Giant-Man, something he couldn't do in his own movie. Slightly offset by this power at least being logically connected to his existing abilities, and Giant-Man's fight scene being considered one of the best parts of the movie.
    • In Thor: The Dark World, Loki shows the ability to assume other people's forms — after his release from the prison, when he comes before Odin disguised as a guard and when he pretends to be Odin. Said ability wasn't used in his previous appearances in Thor and The Avengers, and was absent from the original script of The Dark World. The scenes were added/edited late in production to enforce his Joker Immunity after test audiences found Loki's death too upsetting. The ability is then used or discussed in Thor: Ragnarok and in Avengers: Endgame.
  • Horribly abused in Midnight Movie. Try to escape through a window or door? The killer makes them impenetrable. Try to call for help? He disrupts phones. Try to get the attention of someone on the outside? He makes it so no one can see or hear you. All that, combined with him being Made of Iron, being able to teleport, and being able to find people wherever they hide due to literally sensing fear and you've got one of the most unfair Slasher Movie villains in history.
  • Nightmare City, a low budget Italian flick where protagonist Dean Miller has a touch of Commando Concentrate™ (Just add weapons!). A news reporter with no combat training magically knows how to make functional firebombs and handle a sub-machine gun.
  • The hero of The Pumaman has a number of random seeming powers such as flight, jumping around really high like an idiot while his sidekick does the fighting for him, teleportation, super strong and sharp claws, superstrength and the ability to go into a deathlike trance. (The Puma Man has the powers "of a Puma Man", rather than them being derived from actual puma abilities. This essentially gave him whatever powers the writers needed to continue the script.)
  • Star Wars:
    • R2-D2 manages to do just about anything when the plot requires, especially in the prequels. Like fly. According to the expanded universe, R2-D2 doesn't fly in the original trilogy because he damaged his rocket boosters in the interm between Episodes III and IV and could not get them replaced as the company that manufactured them was shut down by the Empire.
    • The Force itself is this. The Force is apparently able to do anything from seeing the future, to shooting lighting from the hands, to changing creatures into grotesque monstrosities, and so on, whatever's required for the plot of the week. What keeps the Force out of Story-Breaker Power territory is that many powers seem to be unique or rare enough that only a few Force Users are actually able to use them, Force Users tend to neglect to use powers when they probably should, and that the Force is pretty fickle about if and when it'll let a Force User access its powers.
  • The Superman Film Series were even worse than the comics with this. The movies introduced:
    • Superman: The Movie had him flying around the world backwards to reverse time, though some consider this a visual metaphor taken too literally. Superman could and did travel through time in the comics by flying faster than the speed of light; apparently in the movie we're seeing this from his point of view, rather than him physically causing the earth to spin backwards and this somehow causing time to reverse.
    • Superman II would be the worst offender;
      • The infamous "Saran-wrap-S-shield" he throws at Zod's gang.
      • Superman's memory-wiping kiss.
      • Zod and his gang have telekinetic powers, which they never had in the comics. Superman also appears to use a similar power during a scene of the fourth film.
      • All the Kryptonians shooting Hand Blasts.
      • Superman creating fake duplicates of himself that are intangible or shatter when touched.
    • The most infamous new power, from Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, "Rebuild-the-Great-Wall-of-China Vision". Superman was originally supposed to fly around fixing this at superspeed, but they ran out of money so he had to use Eye Beams instead. Some movie critics dubbed this masonry vision.
    • Supergirl (1984): Given the extreme liberties taken by the films with her cousin's powers, the movie surprisingly averts this, as Kara has all of her powers from the comics with no "extras" pulled out of thin air specifically for the movie (other than making a flower grow by shooting her Eye Beams).
    • The DC Extended Universe isn't too bad for this. A Deleted Scene in Man of Steel has a child Clark scream so loud it breaks every window in a doctor's surgery, and Justice League has him using his arctic breath, a power he nearly always had in the comics but wasn't previously mentioned in the setting.
  • Grandpa Seth in Troll 2 can do pretty much whatever he feels like, by virtue of being dead. Although the ability to stop time he showed at the beginning of the movie would have been very useful later on, to say the least.
  • Lampshaded and played for laughs in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Roger Rabbit meta-explains his ability to escape his handcuffs easily, when he left them to help stabilize the table as Eddie Valiant was trying to saw them off.
    Eddie Valiant: You mean you could've taken your hand out of that cuff at any time?!
    Roger Rabbit: NO! Not at any time — only when it was funny.
  • In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Kitty Pryde now somehow has the ability to send people's consciousnesses back through time. (In the comic books, it was done by telepath Rachel Summers, daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey. In the comics, it was Kitty who got Quantum Leaped into her past self; letting her be the sender was something of a Mythology Gag that let her be involved in the plot even though it's naturally Wolverine who travels. It's still clearly this trope, though, as intangibility has nothing to do with sending a consciousness back in time, and we're not given any idea of how she can suddenly do this.)
  • In a villainous variant, Jeepers Creepers didn't reveal that its demon/monster/alien ''thing'' had wings until it'd been shown on screen several times.
  • Pacific Rim gives us Otachi, an iguana esque Kaiju with a Prehensile Tail and acid-spitting glands. After a long protracted fight with Humongous Mecha Gipsy Danger where its tail and acid glands are ripped out it reveals its last ability, unfurling its wings and takes flight with Gipsy Danger in its claws.
  • Subverted in Tremors when the final Graboid is chased off a cliff and plummets to its doom, while Val mockingly yells "Can you fly, you sucker?'' This becomes ironic upon the third film however, when it's revealed that the Graboids indeed do have a flying form as the final stage in their life cycle.
  • Probably the earliest known example of this trope occurs mid-way through Varan, the Unbelievable, when the titular kaiju climbs to the top of a mountain and suddenly unfurls flying squirrel-like wing membranes, inevitably making his way towards Tokyo.
  • Possibly as a nod to Varan, during the climax of Rampage (2018), Ralph (a giant mutated wolf) leaps to reveal similar gliding membranes without warning (although this is at least partly justified by him being a Mix-and-Match Critter). Note that it comes doubly as a surprise because this isn't an ability Ralph had in the original games.
  • A variation in Back to the Future: threatened by the bad guy with a gun, Marty jumps off the rooftop in apparent suicide... only to reveal he jumped onto the roof of their flying car, which floats back up just in time to whack the bad guy with one of the doors.

    Music Videos 
  • The Music Video for Asian Kung Fu Generation's "After Dark" features a man randomly sprouting wings on his back one day, and desperately hiding them until some window-washer is dangerously close to falling off a building.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Hand Waved in The Dark Crystal. At the moment when it would be most convenient, one of the two main characters, who are the last of their kind, exposes wings and starts to fly. They have this matter-of-fact conversation:
    Jen: Wings? I don't have wings.
    Kira: Of course not. You're a boy.


    Tabletop Games 
  • In general, most role-players have characters with predetermined skills and abilities. If the player characters run into a monster/enemy/whatever that is nigh unkillable, sometimes the storytellers may bestow the characters with a new power to help them combat the threat. While instilling new powers on the fly can help create a more exciting story, it can also seem like a cheap ass pull when done too much (making the player characters look like they can't do anything until the plot says otherwise) or done badly.
  • Most games that have character advancement systems provide the new abilities from leveling up or spending points on new traits immediately, without requiring any explicit training time. If the campaign takes place over a compressed period of time, this can result in characters whipping out new spells or abilities that they didn't have a few hours ago.
  • This is such a prevalent trope in superhero comics that most superhero RPGs have some sort of mechanic to represent it. For instance, the RPG Mutants & Masterminds has a Hero Point mechanic that allows you to turn one of your superpowers into another for a single use. While keeping the new power "in theme" with your other abilities is encouraged, it isn't strictly necessary...
    • There are also the Variable structures, which let you have a pool of points to devote to various powers and that you can reallocate every round, and actual powers such as Nemesis and Adaptation.
    • And few feats are similarly open-ended. "Jack-of-all-Trades" makes every one of your skills that you don't have points in work as though you had points in it.
  • Parodied in Paranoia by the aptly-named "Deus Ex Machina Man". Also, if games use the optional Latent mutant powers rule, the GM is encouraged to throw the players who don't know they have powers into situations where that power would help. While they've had the power the whole time, it certainly seems like this trope for the players. Of course, like a lot of things in Paranoia, this often becomes a bad thing because all the players are trying to hide the fact they are mutants.
  • Fantasy Craft, based (loosely) on open source elements of Dungeons & Dragons rules has a feat titled "I can Swim" which allows the player character to place their new skill points at any point before their next level up, instead of doing it right when they gain a new level. This can lead to the same idea, with characters suddenly remembering that they totally always knew advanced mechanics in the same scene that their vehicle or golem breaks down.
  • Marvel Super Heroes has rules for "stunts," creative uses on a hero's primary superpower. By spending experience points, your character can essentially gain another superpower at reduced cost, as long as it's thematically related to a primary power.
  • The original DC Heroes RPG by Mayfair (later republished by Pulsar Games as the generic superhero game Blood of Heroes) actually included this in a number of game mechanics:
    • The power "Omni-Power" allowed the user to replicate pretty much any power at the same rank as this power by paying a certain fee (the base cost of a power from character creation).
    • The advantage "Omni-Connection" allowed the character to suddenly pull out a contact of either low level ("My buddy from college is a night watchman there!") or high level ("Wow, Tommy boy did good! He's the CEO!") by paying a fee of 'hero points'
    • Buying "Omni-Gadgets" allowed the player to create one use, nebulously defined gadgets. Upon pulling it out, he declared what the gadget's power was, used it, and it was 'burned out', simulating the ability to pull out "Bat Shark Repellant" by declaring the gadget was Animal Control, for example.
    • Later modifications to the rule set included "Omni-Scholar" (pull a specific area of expertise out of your... utility belt), and other New Powers as the Plot Demands type abilities.
  • Changeling: The Lost includes the Goblin Vow merit, which basically combines this with Dangerous Forbidden Technique, allowing the person to make impromptu deals with various abstract things to gain new (temporary) powers in exchange for either doing something, or refraining from something. Breaking the deal is ill-advised.
  • Promethean: The Created recommends this as a way of unlocking new Transmutations, or even shifting Refinements entirely - your character is on a constant journey of self-discovery, and odds are they won't know just what they're capable of until they're put in a crisis situation.
  • Mage: The Awakening forgoes the previous edition's actual time-travel magic (which basically did nothing but annoy the other players by undoing their actions and/or splitting the party and made combat impossibly bookkeeping-based) with this trope. Technically what time-sphere spells do still involves time travel, but what the players see is just the end effect: suddenly, the Mage spent all of his time at university studying quantum physics and practicing at the gun range even though five minutes ago he was a poetry major with no hand-eye coordination. Mind arcanum magic can sometimes have a similar effect by pulling previously unknown (mundane) skills out of the group-mind for short periods or stealing them from another character.
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade, any Vampire NPC at the Antediluvian gets a power merely called "Plot Device", which means that can do whatever the Gamer Master needs them to do to advance the plot, as along as they (at least try to) give some explanation rooted in the used Discipline.
  • This is one of the tropes that Badass is built on. Buying new powers just requires a flimsy exposition sequence between action scenes (a journey of self discovery about being a dinosaur the whole time, a training montage of you learning kung fu, whatever). Or if you've got "Little do you know I am actually a ROBOT!", you can buy new powers in the middle of fight scenes just by declaring that you were secretly a robot (or a ninja, or a mad scientist, or a shark, or whatever) the whole time.
  • Following the Batman example under 'Comics', GURPS Supers has an advantage for gadgeteer-type superheroes which allows the ill-defined contents of their utility packs to contain just the thing necessary to escape from mortal danger.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Tn the Chameleon prestige class and the Factotum. The Chameleon, at second level, has a bonus feat he can change daily to whatever he has the requirements for. The Factotum has a pool of Inspiration Points, which he can use for a buttload of stuff, such as arcane spells, sneak attack, ignoring spell resistance, as needed.
    • The ultra-cheesy Pun-Pun build uses a customized Manipulate Form to literally grant him any power that it would be beneficial for him to have. This includes anything you can imagine, such as "Pun-Pun cannot be harmed, directly or indirectly. Any act that would harm him automatically fails, at any place and at any given time. Further, Pun-Pun automatically succeeds at anything he attempts."
  • Pathfinder:
    • The Brawler, a hybrid class that combines the Fighter and the Monk, whose primary class feature is best described as this. As long as they still have access to their Martial Flexibility uses for the day, the Brawler can gain whatever combat feat they could qualify for on the fly, including otherwise-situational combat feats that are very effective for their current fight.
    • The Book "Ultimate Intrigue" introduces the Brilliant Planner feat, which functions similar to the above-mentioned GURPS advantage, allowing anyone with the feat to pull out a mundane item or have a service that could have conceivably been prepared ahead of time to happen.
  • Big Eyes, Small Mouth: take Unknown Power and hope your GM is feeling lenient.
  • FATE system games such as Spirit of the Century or the Dresden Files RPG encourage gadgeteers and magic-users to have "undefined" gadgets and mystical artifacts (in the case of Spirit) or potions (Dresden Files), which can be activated later to get a necessary effect at a critical moment. After the story in which they're used, or at certain (GM-decided) intervals within the story, they reset back to undefined.
    • Many Fate games also suggest players at the beginning of a campaign leave a lot of their character sheet blank, especially for players entirely new to the game. When the party comes up against a new obstacle (be it a locked door or a gang of hostiles), players are then allowed to declare their character always had a skill or aspect relevant to the situation and fill it in, unless their sheet is already completely filled out.
  • Aberrant: Doing this has a significant chance of warping the character - physically or mentally - due to the source of their powers.
  • Dead Inside: Magic powers work this way as characters can learn how to do them by seeing them happen, or are taught by important NPCs (such circumstances which the Game Master obviously controls). One, the Shadow, exists largely to let the GM offer new powers whenever players are in a tight spot (such as teaching you how to fly while you're busy falling off a skyscraper), or just to tempt them with convenience, but the Shadow's gifts usually have a cost.

    Theme Parks 
  • Universal Studios:
    • E.T. Adventure: E.T. is now able to make the flying bicycles go into lightspeed towards his planet as well as later being able to teleport the riders back to Earth, which of course would beg the question as to why he didn't do this in the film...
    • Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast: Poultra has an added corrosive breath ability, which proves a brief obstacle for the two protagonists.
    • Revenge of the Mummy: Imhotep apparently has the ability to plunge people into Egyptian Hell and back, which is what he does with the riders.

  • The writers of BIONICLE tried to avoid this trope with their main bad guys, the Makuta. Since at one point, a huge variety of differently colored and shaped Kraata slugs could be bought, they had to come up with 42 different powers - one for each kind. Since Kraata are basically physical forms of the Makuta's essence, the writers decided to give these powers to them
    • They played this trope straight with Artakha, Tren Krom also seems to show off unknown powers (and body parts) at times, but in his case it is justified, since he is just this side of a god, and we barely know him. In the case of the Toa Nuva gaining new powers, it is handwaved that they're a special kind of Toa, who have not yet learned all of their abilities.
    • It seemed that Tahu was going to demonstrate this trope at one point, as Word of God refused to state how many Makuta powers he had absorbed from the Golden Armour. However the story got Left Hanging before we could have found out.
    • In the first movie, Kopaka wore a Mask of X-Ray Vision as his standard mask. But Kopaka wasn't in the second movie, and the writers needed someone to see through the floor to advance the plot. So Whenua's Mask of Night Vision got enhanced by them to the point where it functioned both as a flashlight and an x-ray device. In the third, when the characters were mutated into forms that could not use mask powers, it was Nuju who received the ability to see through rock with the help of his built-in mechanical eyepiece. It never displayed this function before and made Whenua's similarly out-of-the-blue ability redundant in retrospect.

    Video Games 
  • Eddie suddenly gains the ability to sprout awesome-looking demon wings in Brütal Legend. Apparently The Power of Rock has to be invoked, because the wings disappear whenever he's not in a Stage Battle. Turns out, he's half-demon. His mom was Succoria. Not, as he thought, his girlfriend...oops.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) :
    • Silver manages to instantly learn chaos control during a fight with Shadow despite having no prior knowledge of it. Sonic pulled off something similar in Sonic Adventure 2, albeit some time after learning of it from Shadow.
    • Also introduced in this game is the ability to create a space time rift via a double chaos control. Said portals seem to function however they need to depending on what the scene requires.
  • Half-Life 2: Episode 1, the Vortigaunts go from electric powers to stealing the essence of Xen creatures to rescuing Gordon and outwitting the G-Man himself.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, the protagonist finds him/herself in dire straits as he/she is put into a cell full of poisonous gas. Just as all hope seems lost, Kreia contacts you telepathically, and quickly teaches you the Jedi art of Guybrush-caliber breath-holding.
  • This happens to Seere in Drakengard as part of a ludicrous Hand Wave that was necessary because they were all doomed, and the ending couldn't be "Everyone was eaten."
  • In Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman already has his entire arsenal of weapons on the island - he just doesn't bother to activate or get most of them until the plot requires it. For instance, Batman always had the components for the Ultra Batclaw (the upgraded three-shot version of the weapon), but he doesn't bother to upgrade it until he needs to; when Poison Ivy's vines destroy portions of the Arkham Batcave while he's inside it, it becomes the only way to leave. He also has the Cryptographical Sequencer on him from the beginning of the game - but it only works once he gets Warden Sharp's passcodes.
    • The sequel, Batman: Arkham City, lampshades Batman's apparent habit of going into danger unprepared.
      Alfred: I see you've requested another equipment drop, sir. Have you considered a larger belt?
      Batman: Tried it. The extra weight slowed me down.
  • To keep the four Spider-Men's abilities consistent in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, Spider-Man 2099 gets spider-sense, while Spidey Noir gets improved web-shooting abilities; the changes are lampshaded by the characters.
  • May come up in Persona 3 depending on your dialogue choices. Assuming the protagonist wasn't just hitting buttons randomly (which you can fess up to), or using her women's intuition (which you can ALSO confess to), how DID he/she know which switch controlled the breaks to the train car? In The Movie, Makoto had played a train simulator at the arcade a couple of days back. Lampshaded in the manga, which revealed the Male MC had a hidden love for trains.
  • In Life Is Strange, every new episode, Max gains new abilities that help her when she needs it. In the second episode, she manages to stop time long enough to get to the rooftop before Kate jumps, and in the third one, she learns how to time travel with a picture just so she can prevent the death of Chloe's dad.
  • Literally in Psychonauts. Barring three which aren't plot-important, that you get by leveling up, the game basically hands you a new power at the exact time you reach an obstacle that can only be overcome with that particular power. After the first couple of times, they don't even bother giving you some kind of training course to justify it; they just hand you the merit badge and let you get on with it.
  • In Touhou Eiyashou ~ Imperishable Night; apparently, everyone has the ability to cause an endless night in order to restore the original moon. It makes sense with Yukari and Sakuya, but the rest seemed to incidentally have some sort of magic in order to do it.
  • Devil May Cry:
    • In the first game, the Yamato is only available when playing with the "Legendary Dark Knight" costume, and although the lore on its description mentions that it has "will and the power to divide and wipe out the darkness", it functions identically to the Alastor. But as the series progressed, the katana gains new traits and abilities that were not shown in the previous installments:
    • At the end of the hostage exchange sequence in DmC: Devil May Cry, Mundus uses his powers to cause a massive chaotic dimensional shift in an attempt to kill the heroes. While Vergil and Kat attempt to escape by car, an earthquake causes them to be thrown into peril. Luckily, Dante gains the power to spontaneously shift to-and-fro between dimensions while those in the car suffer from time dilation, allowing him to leap about and rescue them. Tragically, he loses this ability without comment when the scene ends.
  • After Mask de Smith from Killer7 is defeated in a duel with one of the Handsome Men, he suddenly transforms into a Kamen Rider-esque figure with a new super attack and no reloading. Mask transforming and getting stronger is actually a game mechanic, but normally only happens when he finds a new mask, while the transformation with the Handsome Men is completely out of the blue and goes without a word by anyone.
  • Indivisible: Ajna develops new powers and abilities whenever she needs to, sometimes even in the middle of boss fights. During one such fight, she spontaneously gains the ability to teleport to an enemy struck by her arrows right as the boss becomes unreachable by any other means.
  • Deconstructed in the Henry Stickmin Series. Henry can pull out abilities, items and techniques out of his stick butt at seemingly any moment, but they're never a guarantee that they'll save the day or work the way you would think.
  • Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2 SISTERS GENERATION: When the White Disc / Lowee Mascot gets a duplication ability like the Black Disc / Lastation Mascot:
    IF: Hey... In Lastation, we got a bit of the Mascot's power, even though it stayed behind, so how about it?
    White Disc: Unfortunately, I lack the proper technique to perform such a...huh?
    Broccoli: Patchwork with genetic materials may cause some glitches in the disc, but this glitch is cool, nyu.
    IF: So, like... The Mascot made a clone of itself just in case its physical body got destroyed?
    Broccoli: I guess we can go with that, nyu.
  • Genshin Impact does this with an in-universe fictional work: Junkichi, the author of a popular light novel in Inazuma, has resorted to giving his main protagonist so many random new abilities to the point of him being a invokedGod-Mode Sue. He stops when it becomes clear that he's confusing his readers.
  • Played kind of lopsided in Kingdom Hearts I and II. For both of the ginormous final bosses, you suddenly gain the ability to fly through the air, without wings. It sort of makes sense because in I, there's a level you could already do this. In II, you can get this ability beforehand, but only at an ungodly high level. In the usual player's case, both are the gameplay equivalent of a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere.
  • Interactive Fiction example: Photopia. The way to escape The Maze is to remove your spacesuit, then 'go up' or 'fly'. (If you wander around long enough, a gentle breeze on your back will give you a clue.) The author mentioned that he got the idea from Ron Hansen's Mariette in Ecstasy.
  • Lloyd in Tales of Symphonia suddenly sprouts wings to save the world in the ending. Though this was not entirely unexpected, as his Exsphere's special nature had been foreshadowed for much of the game.
  • In Grandia, the Icarians are a winged race that has entirely died out - except for Leen and her sister Feena. The latter is revealed when she and Justin fall off an airship.
  • In World of Warcraft, Baron Sablemane at first gives the player lots of things to help them kill the gronns. At the end of the chain, in Alliance version, he personally help the player to fight Goc, starting with some...questionable words, and shortly after transformed into his true form, he is a black dragon all along. Once finished, he even apologized to the players for his "startling transformation".
  • Downplayed in The Very Definitely Final Dungeon of Lunar: The Silver Star. How exactly are you supposed to get up to The Fortress of Althena? Well, it turns out Nall has you covered, since he's actually a baby white dragon. He always had the wings, of course... he just wasn't big enough for the party to ride on (seeing as he's the size of an ordinary cat) until he gains the ability to transform into a much larger dragon at the very end of the game.
  • In the video game The Legend of Dragoon, the character Meru is revealed to be a descendant of an ancient winged species, sprouting wings of energy. Multiple times thereafter, she uses this ability for various reasons. Another character, the villain Lloyd, is also revealed to be this same species.

    Web Animation 
  • DSBT InsaniT: Lampshaded in 'Untamed and Uncut' when Alex and Seth are fighting Robo-Wolf. They point out all of the all of the new abilities Robo-Wolf has, such as flying and supersonic howls.
  • RWBY:
    • As early as the first episode, it's hinted that Ruby's silver eyes are special in some way. At the end of the third season, Ruby activates the secret powers her eyes have, freezing the Grimm Dragon, but not outright killing it, in place and defeating Super Mode!Cinder off-screen. Afterwards, it's explained that "Silver Eyed Warriors" have special powers that allow them to beat even apocalyptic Creatures of Grimm with ease. The next season then reveals that the Four Maidens, legends hyped up throughout the last season, happen to be weak to Silver Eyed Warriors, sidestepping how Cinder could be defeated and crippled despite having stolen the Fall Maiden's powers. However, she's considered a novice by the people who have dealt with her kind before, and as it turns out, her powers don't really work on normal humans, giving her a critical weakness.
    • Recent volumes, however, have showed greater detail: The reason behind Cinder's weakness to the Silver Eyes is hinted to stem from the Grimm Insect she used to steal the Autumn Maiden's powers — the insect was seen entering her body to ensure the power transfer, thus Grimm flesh / essence was implanted into her. Further evidence comes from the Volume 5 battle: Cinder was affected by the Silver Eyes, but the Spring Maiden was unharmed by it (though Cinder having had a new Grimm arm grafted on to replace the one she lost to the Volume 3 events certainly didn't help her chances either). Volume 6 heavily implies that the Silver Eyes may have originally come from the God of Light, as it was seen using a similar flash of light to erase several Grimm during a spat with his brother, the God of Darkness whom created the Grimm. Maria Calavera, a former Silver-Eyed wielder, not only helps coach Ruby in learning how to wield their power, but her story also implies that someone was deliberately hunting the Silver-Eyed people down, hence a general lack of concrete evidence on their abilities.
    • Sea Dragon Grimm only pulls its wings out after several minutes of fighting, when it sees the ship it's fighting roll out some heavy guns that could actually hurt it.

  • Aylee from Sluggy Freelance gets this a lot due to periodically undergoing some involuntary Shapeshifting. It's explained early on that her species has a natural ability to adapt until they achieve a form most suited for whatever planet they're located on to justify her changes. At various points she's gained the ability to regenerate, fly, breathe fire, extend and retract poison spikes, and emit electro-magnetic pulses. She loses most of her old abilities whenever she assumes a new form, however, so it hasn't made her overpowered.
    • Aside from the involuntary nature of her shape-shifting, she's also hampered by the time it takes to adapt. She could enter a cocoon and mutate a new form to counter the current threat, but emerge only months after said threat has been dealt with, leaving her in a body she has no idea how to operate or maintain.
  • Wonderella totally gets like a spillion powers when tied up.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • The Monster in the Darkness. The author has stated that he is a pre-existing monster, but we'll have to wait and see how well his abilities synch up with what he is. It's been suggested that he has wish as a spell-like ability. And Wish can do practically anything.
    • Roy's sword eventually develops convenient magical powers.
    • Quite Justified in the case of Vaarsuvius — V is a wizard, and as such can learn new spells by scribing them to their spellbook. As part of their Character Development, Vaarsuvius pointedly picks spells that solve some problems or weakness the party encountered before — like the lack of easy communication between separated members of the group during the pyramid skirmish prompting V to select the telepathic bond spell, which precisely covers this need.
  • El Goonish Shive has a magic system that allows for characters to gain new powers as needed. When someone uses magic, their magic gets stronger, and they gain more spells. Characters typically get spells based on who they are and what they do, but were someone to "awaken" as a mage under unusual circumstances, they would gain spells based on those circumstances for a while. Considering the author's usual approach to Foreshadowing, this typically means that, while characters often gain new powers, they tend to do so a bit before the plot demands them.
  • Axe Cop, having sprung from the imagination of a young child during playtime with his much older brother, tends to have characters randomly gaining powers left and right. Sometimes its explained, and sometimes it's "the secret technique no one knows" or something one of the characters "always had". The adult drawing the strip and crafting it into structure plays such moments for all the laughs they're worth. This truly meets its apex when Axe Cop gains the ability to fly by asking his creator to give it to him.
  • In Sonichu, Author Avatar Christian Chandler displays this trope in increasingly absurd ways, up to and including spontaneously bringing his twin sister to life through the combination of a a torch made from Pixelblocks and an ancient Cherokee ritual.
  • Homestuck:
    • John Egbert gives a fellow God-Tier player advice on using the new powers based on this trope. A player unlocks their powers depending on how important it is to them to use them, not simply for; if they do not have the conviction, then they simply can't do much even if told that their class/aspect combo has the ability. Given that said player, after a shift in perspective and goals, showed a significant improvement in ability, it seems to hold true.
      • This is a result of the game's artificial limitations on God Tiers, as making them too powerful would take away from the point of the game. They only figure out their potential when they need it the most.
    • Makaras seem to have a nack for getting new abilities. Such as Gamzee being able to manipulate fears and materialize objects based on them, including Li'l Cal himself, Kurloz having a form of mind control similar to those of the Serket's, and Gamzee being extremely difficult to kill on account of being a clown. The first two, and possibly other abilities, at least have some kind of linking theme of being related to fears, and are possibly part of their Sgrub-given powers. Their aspect, Rage, has not yet been properly defined after all. But the last one makes no sense and the closest foreshadowing it gets is the lack of any form of Gamzee having died on-screen and the lack of any ghosts of him in the Dream Bubbles, even though it was implied that (B1) Jack Noir took out his dreamself.
  • Grrl Power:
    • Played for Laughs in the backstory. Maxima, the most powerful super on the planet, has so many powers that she used to just discover new ones every once in a while. Such as when her brother popped a bag by her ear as a prank, and she blasted a giant hole in the wall, missing him by less than an inch.
      Maxima: So... apparently I can do that.
    • Vehemence is constantly pulling new powers out of his ass. Root himself to the ground to keep from being lifted, create new pants after bursting out of his original pair while growing to ten feet tall, awakening all the unconscious heroes and villains and also causing them to fight each other, etc. Handwaved by the explanation that he can use his "vehemic energy" to do pretty much anything he can think of, especially when he has mountains to spare.
    • Sydney a.k.a. Halo gains her powers from seven orbs which didn't come with an instruction manual. In addition to having no idea what two of them do, she occasionally discovers that some of them have secondary functions which may or may not be related to the primary. Her telepresence orb also grants her an incredibly powerful truthsight, her shield orb has a button for shrinking and enlarging it, and her flight orb cancels vertigo. On top of that, Halo will occasionally get "skill points" that she can use to upgrade her orbs, unlocking new powers or enhancing the ones she already has. But since the skilltree has no labels, she has to guess what each new upgrade does. So far she's accidentally unlocked the ability to teleport using her truesight orb, gained a rapid-fire mode for her laser orb, and FTL travel for the flight orb.
  • Mountain Time has Dave, who has shown the ability to duplicate himself (at least enough times to make a basketball team), teleport, shapeshift, fly, create portals to other dimensions out of nothing, pluck out his heart and turn it into macaroni salad, and cause others to shrink and/or grow. He is also adept at carpentry. As these acts are all done at his whim, there's no telling how much he's holding back.
  • Many of the alien characters in Schlock Mercenary have revealed previously unknown abilities when the plot required them:
    • Sergeant Schlock is by far the worst offender, while his ability to conceal objects in his amorphous body is shown in the first strip, his pulling himself together after being torn apart, extremely good sense of smell, at-will biosynthesis, or survival in vacuum don't come up until he needs them in story.
      • Subverted in the "Barsoom Circus" arc where it turns out the Show Within a Show based on his life attributed powers to him that he explicitly can't do, namely changing color and impersonating humans, resulting in three other Amorphs losing their jobs with the titular circus and him taking a (cover) job as a janitor.
      • Enforced in the Planet Mercenary RPG, where the Amorph-specific skills are locked until the PC thinks they could use them to solve a problem.
    • Legs' good flight instincts were foreshadowed by her vestigial wings, but not her meters-long prehensile tongue, or the nearly Schlock-level sense of smell it affords her.
    • You'd expect a species with a softball-sized eye to have good vision, but microscopic?.
  • Aldran, the necromancer and party leader in Antiheroes, doesn't reveal that he has wings until the party confront his archenemy and twin brother, who also has them. May be justified by his secretive personality, as he didn't even admit his name was Aldran until the 36th strip.
  • Marsha in College Roomies from Hell!!!. After being bitten months ago by vampire potatoes. She found out when she was about to kill herself by jumping off a tall building, but changed her mind, but then the cat with a piece of Dave's soul surprised her and she fell off.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • Italian Spiderman has this in spades. He can teleport, outrun motorbikes, make chickens lay eggs (or cigarette packets), control spiders, summon penguins, fly, and his mustache can be detached and used as an exploding projectile.
  • The Nostalgia Critic and friends sometimes call movies out for this. Typically it's Played for Laughs, and irreverent to whether or not the trope is actually present in the work:
    Critic: [on A Troll in Central Park] But I guess the queen uses her power of controlling thumbs... yeah, that's one of her powers now... to use Gus' thumb to turn Stanley into stone.
    Diamanda: [on Heavy Metal] So the Green Glowey thing infects the plane and turns the dead crew members into zombies because... it can do that now.
  • Mocked in a RiffTrax riffing of the film Superargo vs. the Faceless Giants. When the titular Superargo is shot by a brainwashed girl but survives, he tells his mystic companion that he would have been dead had his costume not been bulletproof. Mike responds with "Your costume is bulletproof?! Maybe lead with that next time someone asks why you wear it!" as he's constantly talking about his past as a wrestler. When a later scene has Superargo leap several stories, Mike muses that, by act three, he'll have heat vision and time travel.
  • Search for Sandvich: The Medic suddenly demonstrates the ancient ability of the mind-meld to communicate with the rest of the mercs from afar.
  • Ultra Fast Pony uses this as a punchline. Thanks to the abridging process, all of the canon foreshadowing about the powers of the Elements of Harmony gets left on the cutting room floor. So when it comes time to use those powers:
    Twilight: Vaguely established magical friend powers, activate!
    Night Moon Mare: What the heck is that?
    Twilight: It's a plot hole. Deal with it!
  • Conveniently in Vaguely Recalling JoJo, Heirophant Green can create gems for communication (Heirophant Call), bandage wounds (Heirophant Mosaic) and splash water (Splash) on things.
  • Vision of Escaflowne Abridged:
    • It has a field day lampshading the main character's tendency to do this in canon. Van especially keeps getting new powers over the series.
      Millerna: Well, that's bullshit! First you get Hitomi's seeing powers, and now my healing? What are you gonna steal next, Allen's sex appeal?
    • Later, when Hitomi suggests Van break them out of the villain's dungeon by using his new empathic link with Escaflowne (which he got by being angsty for the fangirls) to control it from outside the cockpit...
      Van: No offense, but it sounds like you're making this up as you go along.
      Hitomi: Of course I am, but that doesn't mean it won't work.
    • A few minutes later, when they're trying to out-fly pursuing enemies...
      Allen: We can't possibly escape this many!
      Hitomi: Well, pulling random super powers out of our butts has gotten us this far.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series mercilessly spoofs the original series' tendency to randomly change up the rules of Duel Monsters or add new powers to the Millennium Items. Season 4 in particular mocks how the Seal of Orichalcos shows off new powers pretty much every other episode.
    "Conveniently, my Millennium Puzzle allows me to put souls back into their original bodies!"
    "I activate a spell that allows our monsters to trade places! Which would be completely useless in any other situation."
    "I have placed a part of my soul inside the Millennium Puzzle, because apparently I can do that."
    "Now I shall use Mega-Ultra Chicken's secret ability that I just this second made up to convert my Life Points into Attack Points, merging me with the beast itself!"
    "Now watch as I magically force you to experience a flashback to someone else's memories, which is yet another thing that the Orichalcos is apparently able to do!"

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has a downplayed version of this, in that the powers frequently appear As The Plot Demands, but are logical extensions of the characters' abilities. Katara learns to heal with Waterbending after being burned, Toph invents Metalbending (supposed to be impossible) because the earthbending she uses to compensate for her blindness lets her feel bendable impurities in her metal prison, and Aang is taught to Spiritbend to take away Phoenix King Ozai's Firebending abilities without killing him.
    • Played more straight in The Legend of Korra when, after failing to learn metalbending earlier that season, Bolin learns that he has the even rarer talent of lavabending while under duress.

  • Ben 10:
    • Original series:
      • This series' portrayal of the Omnitrix's Master Control. Ben unlocks it by accident, and it allows him to transform from alien to alien at will with no time limit. He also somehow knows how to disable it at the climax of the episode.
      • Upgrade suddenly develops the ability to fire a laser out of his optic in "Tourist Trap", and Gwen's latent magical ability is suddenly revealed in "Lucky Girl".note  Additionally Stinkfly's projectile slime was used to extinguish flames in "Tourist Trap", but was shown to be flammable in the previous episode with Word of God saying that he has different kinds of slime he can switch between instinctively.
      • Gwen's magical/mana abilities often seem to fall into this.
      • The Omnitrix's ability to scan new DNA samples, introduced in "Benwolf."
      • "Secret of the Omnitrix" introduces several Omnitrix functions, including the Self-Destruct sequence and the ability to act as a tracker leading Ben to it's creator.
    • Ben 10: Alien Force:
      • The Omnitrix's ability to repair genetic damage and talk, first seen in "Max Out".
      • The Alien Force portrayal of the Master Control also falls into this, as it announces that every single DNA sample is unlocked, but Ben doesn't utilise this.
    • The adding of new aliens in the original series almost always worked this way (except for the monster aliens), with their powers just happening to be useful towards the Monster of the Week. It would sometimes be done in different ways such as someone with greater knowledge of the Omnitrix unlocking a specific function or just random unlocking from playing around with it
    • Same for Ben himself. He once revealed that he has photographic memory so that he can remember some runes that the Big Bad had activated, which pretty much never comes up again.
    • Alien Force and Ultimate Alien could get pretty bad about this, such at some point showing Waybig with super speed, Chromastone with the power of flight, and Diamondhead with what's essentially telekinesis.
    • Ben 10: Omniverse has its moments too:
      • Malware was initially established as merely being able to absorb technology in order to copy its capacities. Over the course of his story arc, he reveals the abilities to destroy and/or consume Ben's alien forms (who are for the major parts biological) take over a whole planet and grow into a One-Winged Angel form that is bigger than Way Big.
      • Then in the Galactic Monster story arc, Lord Transyl suddenly reveals he has the ability to hypnotize people and tries to use it on Ben. Especially ridiculous in that he technically doesn't need such an ability, considering his main power is Mass Mind Control.
  • Danny Phantom:
    • A regular element of the show that's occasionally played for laughs, with Danny wondering How Do I Shot Web? after he discovers a new ability, such as making reflective shields. The biggest example in the show would have to be his development of ice powers in the third season, however.
    • The plot of one season three episode is the result of one villain utilizing a previously unmentioned ability to blow kisses that cause men to disappear, something which surprises her own allies.
  • Doc McStuffins:
    • "Let the Nightingale Sing" reveals that Doc's magic stethoscope not only can animate toys, but is also apparently capable of transporting both her and them into the real life version of a scene depicted in a book, something apparently even she wasn't sure it could do until she actually tried it and it worked. She's so excited about meeting the real life Florence Nightingale as a child that she decides to double down and break another show convention by revealing the amulet's magical animating powers to her.
    • In "The Doc McStuffins Christmas Special," she uses it to go back in time a day to save Christmas, another power that had never been mentioned before.

  • Inspector Gadget. "Go, go, Gadget <Fill in the Blank>!"
    • A particularly bizarre instance happened in the episode "Prince of the Gypsies". At one point, a MAD agent challenged Gadget into picking up a scarf while on horseback, and he must do so using only his teeth. What does Gadget do? He deploys his "Go-go-Gadget teeth", which causes a set of automated flying dentures to pop out of his mouth and grab the scarf with ease. Why Gadget would ever have such an unusual gadget in the first place is anyone's guess.
  • El Dorado, one of the many token minorities of the Superfriends was the poster child of this trope for a long while.

  • Rick and Morty parodies this by making the new powers unnecessary before they could be used.
    Rick: Quick, Morty, you've got to turn into a car.
    Morty: What?!
    Rick: A long time ago, I implanted you with a sub-dermal chip that could call upon dormant nanobots in your bloodstream to restructure your anatomy and turn you into a car.
    Morty: Oh, my God!
    Rick: Concentrate, Morty. Concentrate and turn into a car, Morty - Never mind. Here's a taxi. Get in. It's fine.
    • This power gets activated by accident in the post-credits scene, while Morty is in class.
  • Teen Titans (2003):
    • Raven can do pretty much whatever she wants depending on the situation. She mainly relies on Flight and telekinesis, but has demonstrated the ability to use clairvoyance, stop time, pass through walls, see brief glimpses of the future, create monsters and change her appearance to a monster to "persuade" a villain to help them, among other nasty things.
    • As a villainous example, Brother Blood fits as well (in fact, his powers seem remarkably similar to Raven's, apart from the Mind Control). Also overlaps with Power Creep, Power Seep, as he goes from a psychic with a Compelling Voice (in his first appearance) to a near-god who can take all the Titans at once effortlessly and is only stopped by Deus ex Machina (the season finale).
      • Ironically he would be defeated by Cyborg's own new plot-based power, which was to magically leech parts from Blood until Cyborg regenerated all of his mechanical components, conveniently rendering Blood incapacitated. He even lampshades this at the end, where Beastboy remarks now Cyborg is part magical, with Cyborg retorting that it was just a one-time thing. Oh and the power was said to be of love and friendship.
  • Thunder Cats loved this. Cheetara's psychic powers, Tygra's illusion abilities, almost anything the Sword of Omens did. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
  • While The Galaxy Trio had consistent enough powers for Gravity Girl (play with gravity, usually by making things fly) and Meteor Man (grow parts of body, super strength follows), Vapor Man seemed able to do just about anything by attaching "-vapor" to the end. This included, but was not limited to: combustible vapor, freezing vapor, storm vapor (read: lightning), explosion vapor, and steam.
  • Artha and Beau from Dragon Booster display this a lot. It is explained that Beau has many hidden powers that would manifest themselves with training and experience. This, however, does not explain why the majority of these powers only appear for one episode and then vanish for the rest of the series. Especially jarring in the case of Artha and Beau fusing together at the climax of one episode, as the theme of combining abilities was central to the series.
  • In an episode of Doug, Doug quickly regrets inviting Skeeter in on creating a story about his superhero alter ego Quailman when Skeeter's own avatar the Silver Skeeter starts pulling powers out of his ass left and right.
    • His inspiration, the Silver Surfer, is known for doing the exact same thing. Power Cosmic is more or less a ticket to do this.
  • When The Pirates of Dark Water was a miniseries, Tula was just a talented thief. When it got picked up as a series, she quickly gained heretofore unknown (even to her) powers of "ecomancy", effectively making her Mati from Captain Planet and the Planeteers, but more with plants.
  • Speaking of Captain Planet, there was the titular hero himself, pulling out new powers out of nowhere anytime he needed to clean up the latest mess.

  • Justified on Generator Rex due Powers as Programs. Rex starts out limited to six weapons (jetpack, giant metallic hands, cannon, sword, giant metallic boots, and hover-cycle), but after receiving some phlebotinum in the first season finale, he starts gradually discovering new weapons, such as a whip, axes, and a hoverboard.
  • Cathy from Monster Buster Club has so many wacky alien powers, it'd be easier to list the ones she doesn't have. She has a stretchy Mr. Fantastic body, can levitate and perform telekinesis, can glow in the dark at will, spins her forearm around like a drill... and many, many more, all conveniently described on the spot as something Rhapsodians (like her) can all do.
  • On Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Batman uses astral projection in one episode — an ability he's never even been hinted at having before, or has used since. He learnt it from monks apparently.
  • Robotboy does this. When the title character "super-activates", it's as though his circuitry starts running on phlebotnium instead of electricity.
  • Jenny Wakeman of My Life as a Teenage Robot seems to have gadgets for nearly every situation, despite her frame, though she only uses a few of them in more than one episode.
    Queen Vexxus: A cheese grater?! She has a gadget for everything! How can I ever beat her if I never know what insane gizmo she has up her sleeves?!
  • Futurama:
    • The writers admitted that they liked doing this when writing for alien species. Kif's abilities to climb walls and shed his skin were some examples of it.
    • Bender seems to gain a piece of hardware whenever the plot requires, or if the writers need some sort of joke. They all seem to come from his chest.
    • In one episode, Steven Hawking breaks up an argument by suddenly shooting lasers out of his eyes.
    Hawking: I didn't know I could do that.
    • Lampshaded in one episode when the Professor's new artificial-nose-and-toxic-waste-making machine is then used by him to translate an alien language containing important information.
    Fry: Isn't that the machine that makes noses?
    Professor: It can do other things! Why shouldn't it?
  • Get Ace: Ace's superpowered braces supposedly have a set number of 50 functions, but neither Ace nor the audience knows all of them at the beginning, so new powers pop up whenever needed. Some functions are used once and then forgotten, like the Animal Translator that's used only in an early episode and nowhere to be seen when Ace needs to converse with some angry penguins.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998):
    • The episide "Ice Sore" centers around Blossom discovering that she has ice breath ability, conveniently in time to stop a flaming asteroid from crushing the city. In what might be a deconstruction, she actually notices that her new power is ostracizing her from her sisters and doesn't want to use it to stop the asteroid. She later uses the ice breath in later episodes, although not really more than her other powers.
    • In another episode ("Nuthin' Special") that focuses on Buttercup's lack of a special power, the girls show off a vast array of powers that has never appeared on the show and are never mentioned again. These powers include cloning, teleportation, size change, shape shifting and bending over backwards in slow motion.
    • In the 2016 episode "Power Up Puff," it's Blossom who is devoid of a power level when Bubbles and Buttercup obtain theirs, and it breaks Blossom's heart.
  • In Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures, Hadji conveniently discovered his "latent" telekinetic abilities in the second season (along with a good many other revamps).
  • Total Drama: Harold basically runs on this trope, he's a geeky Napoleon Dynamite Expy most of the time, but whenever a random (and usually incredibly odd) skill is required for a challenge he suddenly becomes useful again.
    • In Revenge of the Island, Zoey suddenly gains great athletic ability and strength the episode after her Love Interest gets voted off. She's never showed, or even implied, to be that skilled before. But this is quickly explained as a result of her mind breaking, and quickly becomes a case of With Great Power Comes Great Insanity. But then in the season after, All Stars, she's back to her usual self and still has all the skills she had during that phase, this time with no consequences and no explanation as to why or how.
    • In World Tour Sierra has a set of random skills whenever convenient. Some of her skills include: basket weaving, balancing stuff and her head, and apparently being part german.
  • The Venture Bros.:
    • "Dude, no one tells me anything!" While 21 doesn't quite develop new powers, it seems that he's informed of the costume's latest capability the second it becomes necessary.
    • Phantom Limb's powers also seem to change from season to season. In the first season, he can One-Hit Kill any animate thing by touching it, and this makes veins grow very prominently on their corpse. He still is able to do this in seasons 2, 3 and 4, but the vein effect is replaced by his invisible limbs glowing brightly as he does his thing. In season 4 and onward, he also seems to be able to detach and independently control his limbs, and by the fifth season he has also picked up the ability to electrify his arms.
    • The Monarch's henchmen themselves didn't know the wings on their butterfly-themed costumes could be used to fly until someone tried to in the second season finale.
    • The Monarch also reveals that he can fly in the first episode of season two. It's supposed to be this grand reveal, but as the writers point out, it's done so casually that you're just left wondering when you missed him flying the first time.
  • Roger from American Dad! is one of the best examples of this trope you can find, to the point where even Roger is surprised to find out he has certain powers.
    Roger (after Stan set him on fire): How did you know I was fireproof, I didn't even know! ... You did know, right?
  • Transformers does this on occasion. In the the original series Optimus Prime revealed he could mentally control pieces of his body after being disassembled by Megatron. Ironhide sprayed a huge variety of liquids from his sprayer-hand, from glues to liquid nitrogen to firefighting foam to oil to paint, and each liquid would be just what was needed for the situation. Beast Wars had Blackarachnia show off telekinesis after becoming a Transmetal 2 (for one quick scene and never again), and there were so many instances of New Weapons As The Plot Demands (in one episode Cheetor pulls a massive missile launcher bigger than he is out of nowhere, fires it once (missing his target and accidentally hitting Optimus), drops it and forgets about it. The various Japanese Transformers series are even worse about it.
    • Processor-over-matter from Transformers: Animated, which seems to be concentration/meditation as a Charles Atlas Superpower that allows for telekinesis, is not seen or mentioned until the season 2 finale, where cyber-ninja Prowl uses an incomplete version of the skill to escape some handcuffs that also paralyze the 'bot they're used on. However, the ability is not immediately forgotten and Prowl spends the rest of the series trying to master it, eventually succeeding just before his death.
    • The series-ending "Endgame" is a variation on this: Megatron has captured the massive Autobot Omega Supreme, and in order to combat him should Megatron try to use him against the other Autobots, Ratchet and Sari build a jetpack with wing stabilizers for Optimus Prime.
  • Near the end of the first season of W.I.T.C.H., Will spontaneously uses the ability to have the Heart of Candracar duplicate itself to fool the bad guys. She never uses this again.
    • In the second season, all five girls develop secondary powers seemingly out of nowhere—Hay Lin can become invisible (often something related with the element of air), Taranee can read minds, Cornelia gains telekinesis, Irma gets mind control (though this was first demonstrated early in season 1), and Will can talk to electronic appliances. Will also discovers her real element, thanks to Nerissa, and instead of going with 'the Heart' and 'Rebirth', she can use 'Quintessence'. They also, at the very end of the second season, reach their 'zenith' forms, where they each become pure manifestations of their element. The drawback of this is they very nearly lose their minds in doing so.
  • Miraculous Ladybug:
    • The episode "Syren" introduced Kwami transformations recipes, which give the heroes special abilities such as flying to space or breathing underwater and natural swimming skills. Only a few of these transformations have been revealed so far, leaving room for many new ones in the future.
    • As of season 4 Ladybug becomes the Guardian, meaning she can unlock new abilities as she studies the miracle box and the grimoire.
    • When Hawk Moth re-akumatizes someone, he often gives them new abilities.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Pinkie Pie's Pinkie Sense, despite being common knowledge to everyone who had prior knowledge of her in the show, had never been evident before the episode "Feeling Pinkie Keen", and has seen little screentime afterwards. It almost seems like she only had it to provide that episode's Aesop in teaching Twilight Sparkle to not adhere so rigidly to logic and to what can be explained.
    • As are Pinkie Pie's odd and Reality Warping abilities which pop up at pure random, physics be damned. Flying, melting, stretching, wall-crawling, super speed, Hammerspace, levitating, Offscreen Teleportation, prehensile hair, sprouting extra limbs, the list goes on. Though they're typically used for sight gags, this scene, where a mote of magic returns to her, in School Raze - Part 2 makes it quite clear she actually does have super powers, as the only pony that's an Earth Pony we see that gets a mote returned, the rest being unicorns.
    • Twilight Sparkle herself defies the trope constantly. Spells brought out on the spot, such as the one she uses on the parasprites in "Swarm Of The Century", and the Cutie Mark creating one she tries on Apple Bloom, fail or backfire more often than not. The ones that do work are justified by her having researched and practiced them previously. Also, she constantly seems to have merely forgotten about spells she's used without a hitch that could significantly aid the current issue.
  • The Animated Adaptation of Beetlejuice is an unusual variant in that Beetlejuice displays all kinds of weird powers, but since the show is a comedy rather than a "good vs. evil" show, it's typically done through Rule of Funny more than anything else.
  • It's not a "superpower," but similar to Batman, the eponymous heroes in SWAT Kats often got new gadgets as the plot demanded. The worst of them were arguably the cockpit-cutter from "The Giant Bacteria" (a missile specifically tailored for extracting a pilot from his plane, which was never seen again) and the real offender, the Wire-Clipper Missiles from "Night of the Dark Kat," which seemed perfectly tailored for capturing Hard Drive in his Energy Being form.
  • Megas XLR abused and lampshaded this trope, including having a button in one episode that was labeled "same button Coop used a minute ago" which, of course, produced a completely different effect.
  • Of all things, invoked in Redakai in reference to "Inner Kairu" which allows one to perform feats straight out of The Force Unleashed. It is explicitly stated that one's Inner Kairu develops "when the time is right".
  • In Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness, Po gets new powers each time some mystical artifact passes by the Jade Palace which he eventually has to use against some bad guy who wants it (even though he's responsible for causing property damage along the way). Of course, most of these powers are never mentioned again.
  • Mocked in the "Good Time with Weapons" episode of South Park. When the boys were all playing as ninjas, Cartman kept on giving himself all sorts of powers, much to his friends' annoyance.
    Kyle: Okay, hang on guys, I'll use my special power to see into the future, and find out where we should head next.
    Cartman: Hold on you guys, I actually have another power. I can see into the future too, but better than Kyle. Let me try.
    Kyle: God damn it, Cartman, you can't keep making up powers!
    Stan: Yeah, dude, that's like the fifth power you've come up with!
    Cartman: I am Bullrog, and I have lots and lots of powers.
  • The Simpsons episode "Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in 'The Curse of the Flying Hellfish'" has a good and evil version of this trope. For the evil version, in most other episodes, Mr. Burns is humorously old and frail; however, in this episode's climax, he suddenly has the strength to kick Bart into the safe and send him overboard. For the good version, it made way for Grandpa's taking a level in badass.
  • Cronus, the Big Bad of Class of the Titans seems to pull new powers out of his godly butt almost every episode, which he would never use again, despite how helpful they might be. Yes, he is a Greek God, but still.

  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: In "Much Ado About Boimler", this is parodied with The Dog, which is constantly unveiling various (and usually horrifying) new abilities, such as being able to bend its legs backward and climb on walls like a spider, change into a solid cube and roll around on its own, implode its own head and eject its eyes (which fly around on little bat wings) before re-creating it, talk in Federation standard, and levitate.
  • Steven Universe: Gems often reveal bizarre powers they'd never used before, which in a few cases are never seen again. Pearl, for instance, has been shown controlling sand and wind in exactly one episode each. With Steven, these powers are things he's discovering along with the audience, but the other gems are implied to have always had these powers and just not used them.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender:
    • Justified, as the Paladins are new to the Voltron lions and are learning on the fly what they can do, separately and as Voltron.
    • Less justified is Princess Allura. During the second half of Season One, she seemed to reveal a different Altean ability every other episode.

  • PJ Masks has villainess Luna Girl, whose Luna Magnet can do whatever the plot requires it to do, even things it never did before and are most likely never used again. Make her moths grow, control the weather, hypnotize people, create an impenetrable forcefield; you name it.
  • Played for Laughs in Infinity Train. One of the main characters in season two is Alan Dracula, a Nearly Normal Deer save for the fact that he randomly pulls out a new superpower at least once per episode. Given his limited intelligence, however, this is as likely to hinder as help MT and Jesse on their journey through the Train.
  • Paper Port: Thanks to the coconut breaking, Mathilda gets a different power everyday, and said power is the focus of each episode.
  • Played for Drama in Justice League Unlimited. The Ultimen are prone to developing new powers at the drop of a hat... because they're genetically unstable clones with extremely short shelf-lives. The new powers are signs of the instablity increasing.

  • Winx Club:
    • The show starts like this, with Bloom using magic to drive away some shadow beasts, though she never used magic before.
    • Technically, the Enchantix is an in-universe example, given that most of the Enchantixes are gained by the fairies putting themselves in situations where they would die if not for their new powers.
    • In the first season, Bloom is suddenly able to see people's auras, which is semi-useful for a single episode and then never used again, even in situations in which knowing someone's character is extremely important such as with Avalon or the Wizards of the Black Circle.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Wing Pull


Ultra Bucket

What do you do when you've got a drunken Kaiju by the name of Veron getting up to mischief? Taro has the answer, thanks to his King Bracelet being able to transform into a handy bucket (water included!) to sober Veron up, in one example of a new power for the bracelet being brought in because the plot required it.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / WaterWakeup

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