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"Fun fact about Voodoo, Larry... can't conjure a thing for myself."
Doctor Facilier, The Princess and the Frog

Strangely often, the magician, witch, wizard, cleric, Evil Sorcerer, Mad Scientist, support class, etc. have the ability to bestow strange and amazing transformations, alterations, powers and enhancements on other people, for whichever reason, but are unable to use this ability to directly benefit themselves.

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This is a plot device and a video game balancing mechanic: it means the enchanter/caster/Defender/whatever requires other people to move things along, and prevents him from making everything trivial with his own power. Exceptions can result in a very powerful character.

The person receiving these buffs is the Sword in Sword and Sorcerer.

Compare The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes.


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Examples:

    Anime & Manga 
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable:
    • Josuke has the power to restore anything and everything to a previous state... except himself. It will work on matter separated from his body (like blood), so long as he doesn't make it part of his body again.
    • In the same part, Yoshikage Kira gains a power called Bites the Dust, which will automatically kill anyone who uncovers his real name. Since he's trying to hide from the heroes, it's extremely useful. However, the power must be "set" on someone, and since it requires removing Killer Queen from himself to set it, Kira can't make himself the focal point.
  • At one point in Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle, the princess tries casting a high level sleep spell on herself. It knocks out everyone in the castle except her.

    Comic Books 
  • The deformed mutant Masque, from the Marvel Universe, has the power to alter anyone's facial features, save for his own. This served to the irony that he couldn't fix his own deformed appearance, leading to bitterly and sadistically deforming other Morlocks to enforce loyalty. Later appearances avert this into full on Voluntary Shapeshifting territory.
  • In Gold Digger, Djinn cannot use their powers for their own benefit. For example, a Djinn could make themselves physically stronger, but only to defend someone else. Most were content with granting each other's wishes, but the ambitions of Madrid to try and bypass this limitation was a major focus of an earlier story arc.

    Fan Works 
  • It's mentioned in the setting guide for RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse that voodoo practictioners can never be affected by their own powers, for good or ill. They can, however, work magic on each other. This is hinted to be because voodoo runs heavily on Clap Your Hands If You Believe (it's more effective on those who believe in it, for one thing), and obviously you can't truly fool yourself.
  • In The Bridge, the Kaiju in Equestria need benign magic in order to charge up and temporarily return to their original forms. But this magic has to be external, like from one of the Mane Six, even the Kaiju whose new bodies can use magic can't charge themselves for some reason.

    Films — Animation 
  • As per the page quote, the witch doctor Facilier in The Princess and the Frog mentions this as a reason he has to work his schemes through others. However, his living shadow can manipulate objects for him, and he can cast illusions that affect other people to further his own goals, so long as it's what they think they want.
  • In Aladdin and its sequels/spin-off TV series, the Genie's power is much greater when granting wishes for others than when doing things for himself. The former lets him wield "super-phenomenal cosmic power", while the latter only lets him use "semi-phenomenal nearly-cosmic power." One really powerful individual with chaos powers was described as a "genie who could grant his own wishes." This character provokes an Oh, Crap! from Genie. Since Genie is a free genie, technically everything he does is for himself rather than granting the wishes of others, which explains why he is weaker.
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    Films — Live-Action 
  • Maleficent, in contrast to her animated counterpart, can shapeshift other creatures but not herself.
  • The Fairy Godmother in The Slipper and the Rose can't use her magic to do things for herself.

    Literature 
  • In the book The Candy Shop War, magicians can't usually use their magic on themselves for a number of reasons. The most prominent is that magic works better on the young, and by the time you're old enough to understand magic, you're not a kid anymore. The villain of the first book's plan is to gain access to water from the Fountain of Youth, allowing her to combine that youthful power with her knowledge of magic to become perhaps the most powerful magician ever.
  • In the Discworld novel Sourcery, it was mentioned that the only thing the wizards couldn't magically improve- even after they started recieving power from the Sourcerer- was themselves (or at least, not for more than a few seconds).
  • In the Spellsong Cycle by LE Modesitt Jr, magicians cannot cast magic on themselves. They can, however, cast magic on each other.
  • In Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Herbert (the grandson of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles version of Rumpelstiltskin) can spin straw into gold for other people, not himself.
  • In The Wheel of Time series the Aes Sedai cannot use their powers (mostly Healing) on themselves. This is explained by the magic needing to be "weaved" and "applied" to someone. In this way its impossible to lay a weave upon yourself as you would be unable to properly see it. It's a pity they couldn't use mirrors or bend light or something to get around that ... other than that, it's a pretty consistent rule: there's an anecdote about an Aes Sedai whose mental block (Wilders often acquire these when learning to keep a lid on their powers on their own) was that she couldn't touch the Source with her eyes open. Naturally, this made her rather ineffective.
  • Inverted with Feruchemists from Mistborn. Their Equivalent Exchange-based powers only work on themselves - Feruchemy can't be used directly to alter someone else's abilities. Feruchemy's sister magic system Allomancy is similar, though it has some "external" powers that work on others, while the third system in the triad, Hemalurgy can power up anyone so long as the person actually performing it is willing to pay the price.
  • Trapped on Draconica: Erowin can't use her healing power on herself. Mordack takes note.
  • This is the last obstacle to becoming an orah in The Quest of the Unaligned. You can never take light magic for yourself, only give it to someone else.
  • Whateley Universe: As said in The Curse of the Dragon Queen, there's the Law of Balance that makes it so helping yourself leads to hurt yourself later, or something:
    The Law of Balance, that ‘TANSTAAFL’ rule, says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, just like Newton’s Second Law. Or, as they put in the mystical biz, ‘For every boon there is a price’.
    the Law of Balance only kicks in when a working imposes change on the external world... [not if you] simply change the caster’s way of seeing the world

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Charmed, witches cannot use magic for personal gain. If they try, the world will twist it against them, or outright delete the results. This only applies to good-aligned witches, enforced by The Powers That Be. In the Post-Script Season comic series an incident renders humans magical and witches powerless and the empowered humans can freely use magic for any whim. Evil witches can do pretty much whatever they want, something the protagonists regularly lament, but they usually have to steal the power to do so from forces of good.
  • Legends of Tomorrow: Fairy godmothers have incredible power, but are cursed to only be able to act on the direct orders of who they are bonded to (or to defend them from immediate danger). Tabitha, the primary fairy godmother in the show, convinces Nora Darhk to take her curse by leading her to believe it will help her heal a friend. Without the curse, Tabitha is significantly weaker, but still a powerful witch, and now free to do as she pleases.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In early editions of , some monsters (archdevils, efreeti and noble djinn) could grant another character's wishes, but not wish for things themselves.
    • On the other hand, most "actual buffs" can be applied to anyone, including the caster. Many are even caster-only! This is part of why a well-built spellcaster can take the place of a full party.
    • A few bardic music abilities can only be used on other members of the party but not on the Bard himself, mostly because he's busy singing/playing/reciting to activate them and can't act otherwise at the same time. Other have lingering effects, however, and a Bard can thus use them on himself.
  • Inverted in Mage: The Awakening: casting a spell on oneself is always easier than casting it one someone else. For example casting a protective Mage Armor spell requires two points in any of the Arcana, but casting the same spell on someone else requires three points. This is done away with in 2e: Mages no longer require having a higher level arcanum to target others with their spells.
    • Princess: The Hopeful: Inverted with the Princesses of Mirrors, who can apply their Invocation for free to any Charm they cast that targets themselves (which will, for obvious reasons, usually be buff spells). Similarly, several Bless Charms have an upgrade for each Court that grants a more powerful blessing, but restricts it to a specific subset of rolls where the base version can be used to boost anything. In every case, the Specchio version of these Charms grants the enhanced bonus to every roll, but can only be cast on the Princess herself.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, the creatures nicknamed "lords" by the players buff all other creatures of a certain species/class but don't buff themselves. This was actually averted in the early days of Magic, but players kept forgetting that it applied to the lord, leading Wizards to change the design.

    Video Games 
  • War Craft III:
    • Holy Light and Death Coil are very powerful healing spells which can only be used on other units. (Though to compensate, the Paladin can become invulnerable and the Death Knight can absorb the health of a nearby friendly unit.) Some spells also don't work on the caster (but do if from another caster) like Invisibility and Anti-Magic Shell.
    • Lightning Shield is an Orbiting Particle Shield that doesn't increase the target's armor but does cause damage to nearby units (allied or enemy) and can be cast on allies or enemies. However, it can't be cast on the caster by the caster.
    • The Shadow Hunter's Big Bad Voodoo makes all nearby allied units invulnerable... except, of course, himself.
  • Mostly averted in World of Warcraft, any spell which can buff a target can buff the caster (indeed some default to buffing the caster if there is no target).
    • A few exceptions exist where the caster can only cast a buff on someone else, but the effects of the buff also benefit the caster. One example would be Focus Magic, which increases the target's Critical Hit chance by 3%, and when they score one increases your own. A fairly common variant is a spell cast on the casters minion by default that directly or indirectly benefits the caster as well. And then there's the Paladin's Hand of Sacrifice, which transfers damage from someone else to the Paladin. Even when Glyphed to remove the "To the paladin" part or when used by Retribution Paladins for it's second effect of dispelling debuffs, it can't be cast on the Paladin themselves.
    • With the introduction of Deathknights, Death Coil returns as a spell that can be used to damage enemies or heal friendly undead, most commonly the Deathknights Ghoul minion. However, they can temporarily become undead themselves and use this spell to heal themselves.
    • the Shadow Hunter's ultimate spell is Big Bad Voodoo, which turns every friendly unit in range invulnerable except the caster. Meaning that for the duration of the spell, the enemy can only attack him.
  • City of Heroes naturally has the support powersets mainly only able to buff others, though some can also buff themselves; sometimes while debuffing or damaging enemies in the process, sometimes in a power that affects all of their teammates, including themselves. The reasons for this are obvious; even two buffers looking after each other can be a very effective team.
  • The Medic from Team Fortress 2 can't heal or buff himself with his Medigun (barring the Kritzkrieg's taunt, which is deliberately too slow for practical use), but has slowly Regenerating Health to make up for it. Most of his possible Ubers make both him and his Uber target invulnerable or at least much more durable, but the Kritzkrieg's Uber crit-boosting is completely unusable by the Medic (as it only takes effect when the Kritzkrieg, which can't attack, is deployed).
  • In Shadow Hearts: Covenant, Lucia's oils will affect the three other party members but not her. In Shadow Hearts: From The New World, Ricardo's songs work the same way.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • In Final Fantasy VI, Sabin can use his "Mantra" and "Spiraler" Blitzes to heal his teammates, but not himself (using Spiraler actually kills him).
    • In Final Fantasy XIV most buffs are usable on any party member (and some even on people outside the party), but there are a few exceptions. The Arcanist skill Eye for an Eye for example can only be cast on another, although Scholars can subvert this by spreading the buff to everyone in range with Deployment Tactics. Similarly, the Astrologian ability Time Dilation, which increases the duration of Astrologian-cast buffs, cannot be cast on the user.
  • Disgaea: Hour of Darkness:
    • Flonne has a skill named "Power of Love", which recovers the HP of her allies, but not her own.
    • Other spells in the game can be cast on anyone of the player's choosing, including damaging spells and debuffs. You and your allies are most definitely NOT Friendly Fireproof.
  • Pokémon Black and White introduces Heal Pulse, which heals a target other than the user. It's made for double battles. Which does nothing to abate the guilt when a wild Audino spams it on you while you're beating the crap out of the poor thing for precious EXP.
  • In Mini Robot Wars, the Fixer Bot can heal all minirobot units around her, but not herself.
  • In zOMG!, the strongest and most stamina-effective heal is Wish... which can't be used on the user. Previously, this was also the case with Rock Armor, which has since been changed.
  • The Medkit of X-COM: UFO Defense is a remarkable device. It allows a medical novice to diagnose and treat any injury. Oddly, though it isn't possible to point this medical marvel at your own leg, only at other people.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Staves can't heal the user, Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade and Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, for example, contain staves that heal everyone else on the battlefield except the user. There are a few exceptions though.
    • In Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, Staves are automatically equipped after use, and each one bestows an effect on the user. Some of them heal, and equipping a Restore staff will cure the user of status between turns. (Very useful when dealing with Silence)
    • The Balmwood Staff from Fire Emblem Awakening, which has to be used as an item to do so. The Rally skills don't work on the user either.
    • Fates averts staffs not healing the user with a skill from the Butler/Maid called "Live To Serve" which restores the healer's HP based on the amount of HP restored to the recipient. And with reclassing, healers that can get the class can regain lost HP. This is also the extent of Kaden's personal skill which recover half HP to the healer.
  • In Eternal Sonata, Claves' only healing move, Unicorn Horn, cannot target herself. (By contrast, Polka starts with a move that can target herself if there's no party member in the vicinity who needs it more. She later learns Earth Heal, which cannot target her, but it only takes a Light Special Move slot if you choose to put it there. Most other healing move don't have this limitation... particularly the ones that heal all.)
  • In Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time, the Glitter Zombie's rainbow trails will affect all zombies that aren't herself or other Glitter Zombies. A damn good thing too, as said rainbow trails make all zombies within completely damn invulnerable to damage and slowing/stunning effects.
  • A similar instance in Iron Brigade, where the Jacobs Tubes can shield all nearby grounded Tubes around it to make them Nigh Invulnerable, but thankfully can't shield themselves or other Jacobs.
  • StarCraft I: the Arbiter passively cloaks nearby friendly units, but remains visible itself, even two Arbiters won't work.
  • Empire Earth: Both types of hero unit have an ability that only works on other units and not themselves: the Warrior hero causes friendly units to take half damage, while the Strategist heals them. However, they are immune to their and each other's effects, though they have very high health, regeneration and can still be healed at a hospital to make up for it.
  • In PAYDAY The Heist, players can equip "crew bonuses" to, well, provide bonuses to their crew — things like increased health, damage, ammo capacity, et cetera. Since these bonuses only apply to the player's crewmates and not the player himself, the meta is for a full four-man crew to have two players equip one bonus and the other two equip another, so the full crew can benefit from both bonuses.
  • The Advocate from Nexus Clash can grant enormous bonuses to other characters at the price of most of their Character Points, but doesn't benefit from any of these buffs itself. There is no upper limit to the number of other characters who can get buffs, making a sufficiently well-developed Advocate a case of sacrificing personal power for the power to alter the course of the whole war.
  • Overwatch has Mercy, a Swiss medic with an angel motif and a staff that can either heal her teammates or give them a damage buff, but not herself. Her suit can heal her, but it only activates after she hasn’t been hit for a couple seconds. Something that is slightly difficult when you’re a Support character
  • The APC from Advance Wars can resupply adjacent units (including a fighter jet or a battleship) at the beginning of each turn and after it's movement but somehow if it runs out of fuel, it can still resupply others as usual (even other APCs) but still can't resupply himself and so can't move.

    Western Animation 
  • Shimmer and Shine: Wish magic is the most powerful magic a genie can use but no one can use it to grant one's own wishes.
  • Miraculous Ladybug:
    • Hawk Moth can empower others, but Nooroo's power doesn't work on whoever holds the Miraculous. When he needs to akumatize himself to throw off suspicion, he temporarily renounces his power so he'll be vulnerable and has a previously created akuma merge with him, fooling even Master Fu, who knows about this aspect of Nooroo's power.
    • In the second season finale, Hawk Moth exploits another loophole in the inability of Nooroo's power to affect his bearer. He empowers a willing accomplice with the ability to amplify the powers of others, allowing him to make as many akuma as he wants at a time.

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