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One Curse Limit

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"A more powerful spell is already active."

When a world's rules state you can't curse someone who's already cursed.

This trope centers on situations where an attempt to cause Status Effects fails because the intended victim is already being affected by something. It could be the same effect from a different source or else the fact that they were hit by something separate previously is preventing a new effect from working.

Not to be confused with Acquired Poison Immunity, in which a character is resistant to a poison or effect because they'd been affected by it previously and recovered. This trope is when an attempt at poison outright fails because they're currently affected by something else. Bonus points if the current curse is useful in the first place.

This sometimes overlaps with Hybrid-Overkill Avoidance if the curse would turn the character into a monster (for example, vampires can't be cursed with lycanthropy and vice versa). In cases where the resistance is caused by being diseased, this overlaps with Beneficial Disease. See also Disability Immunity, which this can be a sub- or Sister Trope to.

Not to be confused with only allowing one swear word in a work. Compare Curse That Cures, when a curse cures a character of an existing illness or injury.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ayakashi Triangle: When Matsuri takes a curse meant to kill Suzu, it has an unexpected reaction with the Gender Bender spell he was already under, splitting him into an Opposite-Sex Clone without harming either. It turns out neither is harmed because the curse only kills its specific target and will lay dormant when they're not around. As per this trope, the gender-changing spell was still attached to the girl and the killing curse went into the boy.
  • In the Berserk universe, a person who's already been branded for sacrifice by the Godhand on behalf of another cannot be made a sacrifice by anyone else. Since most people who get branded do not survive their initial sacrifice, cases of branded survivors are vanishingly rare so this seldom comes up, but during the third major manga arc (the last one before the Golden Age arc), the Count tries this with Guts only to be told by the Godhand that he can't sacrifice him because of what Guts already went through during the Eclipse, and because Guts is an enemy, not someone the Count loves.
  • Played With in Blood Blockade Battlefront. "Lucky" Blitz T. Abrams has been inflicted with so many curses that they canceled each other out—for him, at least. Everyone around him, however, suffers from egregious amounts of bad luck.
  • Death Note:
    • Once your name is written in a Death Note, you can't be affected by any other Death Note. Of course, since you're going to die within the next 23 days at most, it's a rather cold comfort (but the movie below shows this can be make a difference).
    • Another loophole: if two people attempt to kill you with a Death Note within 0.6 seconds of each other, their effects will cancel out and you will survive.
    • Humans with less than 12 minutes of life remaining to them cannot be killed by a Death Note.
    • If someone attempts to kill you with the Death Note, but writes your name incorrectly four times, you can no longer be affected by the Death Note. Trying to exploit this loophole by intentionally misspelling someone's name four times will kill you.
  • In Dragon Pink a magic sword obtained after defeating a monster had a death curse on it: Santa immediately falls sick and his lifeforce is slowly being drained away, but Pink (who's already cursed) is not affected.
  • In One Piece, eating one Devil's Fruit will give you its power, but eating a second will kill you. Stealing powers however is perfectly okay. Though there seems to be something unique about the character who is able to do that which allows it.

  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Dark Messiah, anybody who uses the Seal of Orichalcos will wander the Earth as a ghost unable to pass on after they die unless they have special protection. When it is pointed out Yami Yugi used it before, it is explained that Yami was already under the curse that erased his memories and bound him to the Millennium Puzzle.
  • In Fate/Parallel Fantasia, Illya is immune to False Avenger's cursed chains because she has already been cursed by the tainted Holy Grail. Kirei Kotomine is not affected by the chains either because of the black heart given to him by Angra Mainyu.

  • In the movie version of Death Note, Kira couldn't kill L with his Death Note, because he had already "cursed" himself with another one.

  • In Princeps' Fury, book five of Codex Alera, Amara is able to resist the effects of a Discipline Collar, a Slave Collar that causes ecstasy in the wearer, by having one put on her by someone else prior to getting captured.
  • Inverted in Patricia C. Wrede's short story "The Sixty-Two Curses of Caliph Arenschadd". The cure for the unbreakable curse the family is under turns out to be having a different curse put on them, which displaces the first.
  • Discworld:
    • A form of this occurs in Making Money when Topsy Lavish has a contract put out on Moist von Lipwig, with the caveat that he is only to be killed if her dog, to which she left the remaining shares in the bank, and then bequeathed the dog to Moist in her willnote  along with a stipend, dies of unnatural causes. This actually protects Moist, as the Assassin's Guild won't take two separate contracts on the same person, and none of them will stand for the indignity of accepting a contract on a dog.
    • Similarly, the Thieves' Guild has strict limits on how many times a given person can be robbed in a year. Citizens are given receipts when robbed, and in Wyrd Sisters we see that some citizens specifically arrange to be robbed so they can get it out of the way and get a say in what gets stolen.
  • In Alcatraz versus the Scrivener's Bones, Attica Smedry foils a Deal with the Devil by realizing that the trick is to not own your soul when you sign it away, and bequeathing ownership of his soul to his son Alcatraz first.
  • A variant shows up in Eyes of the Overworld. A ghost threatens to condemn Cugel to unending tedium if he does not perform a certain task. A bandit outside the ghost's tower curses Cugel with an immediate onset of cankerous death when Cugel kills him. Cugel's response is to simply leave, causing the ghost to make good on his threat. The "undending tedium" and "immediate onset of death" perfectly cancel each other out, leaving only the "canker," which Cugel is already suffering from in the form of a demon attached to his liver.
  • In Animorphs, the Animorphs can go back in time to fix the broken timeline, but Crayak has a condition—one of them must die in the process. Not surprisingly, Jake dies partway through their mission. However, the Ellimist turns out to have made a condition too—if Crayak gets one death, it could only be one death, meaning that the others are invincible for the rest of their mission.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Sinbad, Sinbad is cursed to die if he stays on land for more than 24 hours at a time. In "The Siren", Roisin the Siren enchants him and steals his memories so he will stay with her on her island. This conveniently nullifies the curse so he survives long enough to be rescued. The curse comes back when Roisin is defeated and his memories come back.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Averted in Munchkin, where the rules state that curses (or traps) may be played at any time. A player can get a pile of curses at once, but if it allows you to win....
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • In 1st Edition AD&D, insane creatures were immune to psionic attack.
    • In 3rd Edition, when someone is hit with multiple curse spells, only the most recent one actively affects them. This can be Exploited by someone who doesn't have a means of properly removing the curses, since they can just curse themselves with something relatively harmless, like infertility or the inability to rhyme.
    • A rather literal example: In 4th Edition D&D, the Warlock character class has a Warlock's Curse ability. By the rules, "You can’t place a Warlock’s Curse on a creature that is already affected by your or another character’s Warlock’s Curse."
    • In 5e, buff spells don't stack, the higher-level spell's effect replacing the lower-level one if cast on the same person.
  • Curses - and rules for using them - are detailed rather thoroughly in the Ravenloft setting, and this is one of the most important ones. (The Vistani can't, for example, curse one of the Darklords, as even being a Darklord is one of the worst curses in the setting.)
  • The Fallen, or rather, their human hosts, in Demon: The Fallen are immune to any and all forms of Mind Control, by the misfortune of already being essentially mind-controlled by a demon from hell.
  • In the Pokémon TCG, the status conditions Sleep, Paralysis, and Confusion are mutually exclusive because each one is indicated by rotating the affected Pokémon card at a specific angle. On the other hand, Burn and Poison conditions are indicated by placing specific tokens on the card, and are therefore not mutually exclusive.
  • Contrary to the main series, Pokemon Tabletop United averts this. Pokémon can easily be affected with multiple status ailments at the same time. Houndoom even gets a unique Ability that allows it to automatically poison anyone it inflicts a Burn on.
  • Arkham Horror: The Status Effects "Blessed" and "Cursed" cancel each other out and can't stack with themselves, so if a Cursed character would get another Curse, they ignore it. All Curses are the same — only rolls of 6 in the pool of six-sided dice count as successes, compared to 5-6 by default and 4-6 when Blessed.

    Video Games 
  • Castlevania: Circle of the Moon: DDS Jupiter + Black Dog's poison overwrites all other status effects, and DDS can be turned on and off to act as a slightly damaging cure.
  • In Dicey Dungeons, you cannot burn and freeze the same dice: if it gets burned and is the highest number on your hand, the second highest-numbered dice will be frozen instead. Additionally, locking a dice will prevent it from being burned or frozen as it can't be used, anyway. However, combining the Hotheadnote  and Snowmannote  Rules will still freeze the burning 6, effectively extinguishing the fire and turning it into a 1.
  • In Dragon Quest VIII, the Hero is already under the effect of a curse, which is why the spell on the castle didn't effect him. In a case of Gameplay and Story Integration, he cannot be placed under the Curse status effect in battle, and he can equip and remove cursed equipment without penalty. He was cursed to have memory loss by the King of the Dragovians in a spell so strong that it wards off all other curses.
  • In Pokémon, any given Pokémon can only be under one of the major status effects (Sleep, Paralysis, Burn, Freeze, Poison, Bad Poison) at a time. They can still be affected by secondary status effects like Confusion or Attraction, but a burnt Pokémon can't be paralyzed, and a poisoned Pokémon can't be frozen, for example. In fact, in competitive echelons, players often intentionally inflict their own Pokémon with a status that isn't much of a bother, purely to prevent more crippling ones: for instance, a Pokémon with the "Guts" ability may be given a Flame Orb (which burns the holder) to trigger the abilitynote  while also rendering them immune to Paralysis or Sleep.
    • The Generation VII Pokémon Komala exploits this with its ability "Comatose", which causes it to always be treated as having the Sleep status despite being able to act normally. This makes it totally immune to major status effects. The downside is that moves that only affect or deal extra damage to sleeping targets will always work on it.
  • In the Shin Megami Tensei games you can only get hit with one status ailment at a time. As long as you have one, any other ailment will miss.
    • Averted in Shin Megami Tensei IV. A few of the bosses have attacks that leave the targets hit by multiple status affects.
  • In Final Fantasy games, being zombified grants immunity to poison and petrification. Regeneration deals damage though.
    • Final Fantasy X has this as a minor mechanic against Yunalesca: Curing the Zombie condition she afflicts you with is a bad idea, because she tends to follow it up with a Death spell, which zombies are immune to. Note that it's also a case of Gameplay and Story Segregation, since two party members are technically not alive, with one being an Unsent and the other a manifestation of the Fayth.
    • Final Fantasy XIV features Primals, who are able to 'temper' (i.e. brainwash) people into subservience. This forces only those with the Echo, a blessing from the goddess Hydaelyn, to fight Primals as the Echo grants immunity to tempering. However, tempered people also cannot be re-tempered by another Primal and some Primals mistake the Warrior of Light's Echo for them having been already tempered. The revelation that Hydaelyn herself is an extremely old and powerful Primal raises concerns that the Warrior of Light might genuinely have been tempered, but it is ultimately shown that the Echo is nothing more than it first appeared, a spell that wards the recipient from malignant magicks.
  • One boss in Bunny Must Die attempts to curse Bunny in his death throes. It doesn't work, because she was cursed in the backstory.
  • Averted in The Jackbox Party Pack game Monster Seeking Monster, anyone is capable of being turned into a werewolf, a zombie, a vampire, or obtaining the mummy's curse simultaneously.
  • A couple examples in the World of Mana series:
    • In Secret of Mana, the Midge Mallet and Moogle Belt toggle the "pygmized" and "moogled" status effects on a character. In addition to countering those specific status effects, the duration of the animation renders the character immune to spells and other enemy moves.
    • This can be exploited in Trials of Mana to heal all status ailments on the party for free. Using the Minor Mallet will make your team miniature, replacing whatever status effect they have, and using it again will invert the miniature status effect turning them to normal.note  It's also integrated in the story in that there is an NPC who wears a cursed choker that can... choke her to death, but on the plus side, this makes her immune to Mind Control. Then the villain who put the choker on her has to take it off in order to use her as a Human Sacrifice to unseal the Mana Stone of Fire... just in time for the party to rescue her.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • Warlocks work this way, in that a Warlock can only apply one curse-type spell, such as Curse of Weakness or Curse of Tongues, on a target at a time, with any new curses overriding the previous. In fact, two strong spells that were once curses had to be made into a new type (Banes) so that Warlocks could use them with their other curses. Though it is played with since a target can have multiple curses at a time so long as each curse was placed by a different Warlock.
    • A spell specific to the Affliction specialization, Unstable Affliction, has this relationship with its counterpart in the other two specs, Immolate.
    • In-Universe, this is the reason the Hillsbrad refugees accepted the curse of the Worgen — they would rather die than do so, but to do so would let the Forsaken reanimate their bodies. They accept the Worgen affliction, as it prevents being turned undead.
  • Warcraft III's coding allows you to create new spells, but two buffs/debuffs based on each other (or even the custom buff and the original it's based on) cannot stack. Different buffs and debuffs can be applied at the same time, however.
  • 12 Tails Online averts this not only by allowing multiple statuses to stack on a single character, but by also allowing (under certain conditions) multiple instances of the same curse to stack on a single character.
  • In Nethack, the Dunce Cap is a cursed item that fixes your intelligence (and wisdom) at 6 until you find a way to remove it. However, it prevents your intelligence from being reduced further, thus protecting against the mind flayer's brain-eating attack.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, vampirism and lycanthropy are both diseases. Each also makes you immune to all other diseases, meaning they are mutually exclusive. This also allows for Hybrid-Overkill Avoidance, barring cheats or Game Mods.
  • In Path of Exile you can only apply one type of curse on an enemy at a time, but there is one passive and a few Uniques that let you apply more curses at a time.
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, Saucerors can learn 4 different kinds of Curses, but you can only have one of them on a monster per fight.
  • Wario Land: Inverted; Collision Damage with nearly every enemy causes Wario to gain a particular condition that's necessary to progress (turning into a balloon, a vampire, a spring, flattened, on fire...) but taking damage resets you to your normal form.
  • Dark Souls: Zig-zagged with regards to the Poison and Toxic status effects: They're essentially the same effect (take damage per second), except Poison lasts three minutes and Toxic lasts ten, and your resistance to both is even determined by the same stat, but they are still technically two different effects, with separate buildup meters, so you can be affected by both at once. However, the amount of damage per second inflicted by these effects is dependent on the source. Some players take advantage of this while descending into Blighttown, which has enemies called Blowdart Snipers that inflict Toxic. By deliberately giving themselves Toxic with Dung Pies, they become immune to the Blowdart Snipers' Toxic, which is more than three times as damaging as the Dung Pie version.
  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice has an item called Contact Medicine, an item explicitly meant to make the user immune to enemy poison by giving them another, less damaging form of poison first.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Mario Kart:
      • In all games, falling off the track protects the racer from other effects until they hit the ground again. This is most beneficial in 8 when lightning strikes. Falls in 8 don't cost too much time, but getting shrunk by lightning does. Falling does cost three coins, but the lightning would have done that anyway.
      • Mario Kart: Double Dash!!: Only one attack can take effect at a time. A kart spinning from a banana peel might shrug off Lightning strike shrinking and a dozen Red Shell hits. On the other hand, anything (besides Lightning) that's powerful enough will override a lesser effect. You can get catapulted by an explosion, rolled by a Bowser Shell, or knocked back by a Mushroom-boosting or Starred kart.
    • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars: You can only have one status ailment at a time. Depending on which ailment you have, it will either block or be replaced by the new one.
  • Guild Wars 2: Minions of one Elder Dragon cannot be corrupted by another Dragon. This foreshadows the reveal that the Sylvari, the only mortal race immune to Zhaitan's influence, were created by the Elder Dragon Mordremoth.
  • The Big Bad of Helen's Mysterious Castle was cursed to abhor sunlight as punishment for instigating a Great Offscreen War. During the final confrontation with him (as the sun is rising), he states that he overpowered that curse with another curse. What that second curse does is never explained, but given that his HP bar is obscured and he seems to have pustules on his arm during the final battle, it probably isn't pleasant.
  • Miis in Miitopia can only have one status effect at a time, good or bad. It's possible to override certain negative effects with positive ones.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror: The Devil demands Homer's soul, but he earlier promised his soul to his wife Marge, so the devil can't collect. However, to punish Homer for promising him something he couldn't give in exchange for a donut (that's right: Homer traded his soul for a donut), the Devil turned Homer's head into a donut.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Wanting his money to talk to him, Mr. Krabs sold his soul to the Flying Dutchman. When the Flying Dutchman tried to collect, he was sent to the end of a line that already had other spirits and SpongeBob, to whom Krabs offered his soul to avoid paying five dollars.
  • In Adventure Time, Jake the Dog wore the Ice Crown without being corrupted. According to Word of God, this is because he already has magic powers due to being part shapeshifter.