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Phlebotinum-Handling Requirements

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Not always this clearly spelled out.

"Well, we know in other cases with their later technologies that the Ancients used sensors that restricted access by detecting specific genetic markers."
Dr. Dale Volker, Stargate Universe, "Human"

An item, MacGuffin, or other such that can only be used by someone who is, for example, pure of heart, a certain age, part of a certain family/bloodline, or has some rare property that only certain people have. This does not include needing a password, key, or other such item.

In other words, the requirement to use it has to have more to do with the actual plot, although the actual importance of said requirement does not matter. Sometimes the requirement is a background detail, other times it has a major effect on the story.

Super-Trope to:

Types of items

Types of requirements

Sister Trope to Operator Incompatibility. Contrast Self-Guarding Phlebotinum, which is when the item protects itself against people with a certain quality. If a character is the only one in the cast who meets the requirements, they might also be The Team Benefactor.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Barrage: Astro's weapon is described as working only for those who have the qualifications. Initially, it's assumed to be his bravery and pure-heartedness, but it turns out that it's actually royal blood, which Astro secretly possesses.
  • Code Geass: Downplayed by Lelouch's late-story personal Knightmare, Shinkirou, which employs an extremely powerful and sophisticated defense system that can be used by any mech pilot, but only someone of intelligence comparable to Lelouch's can actually use its full defensive capacities in real time. This is not a problem for Lelouch, since the mech was custom-built for him, but when his brother Rolo has to pilot it in combat, he is immediately swamped by incoming battle data and can barely get its defenses to the level of a typical Knightmare.
  • DARLING in the FRANXX: Franxx cannot be piloted by just any pair — the duo, aside from being opposite genders with good mental sync, must also be naturally compatible. This is taken to an extreme with Zero Two and Strelizia: she can pilot Strelizia solo in an alternate wolflike form if her "stamen" male partner is incapacitated, but still requires the stamen to unlock the Franxx's full combat power, and none of her partners until Hiro in episode 6 survived their third sortie because syncing with her a third time killed them.
    • It's later revealed that while the pair being opposite genders is necessary, the mental sync doesn't have to be mutual interest — mutual understanding is enough. For instance, Ikuno (whose relationship with her partner is entirely professional) has to lie back and think of Ichigo before she can get going, and Ichigo herself can only synchronize with Hiro by accepting he'll never have any interest with her and rolling with it.
  • Gundam:
    • Various types of mobile suits are made specifically for Newtypes.
    • The RX-0 Unicorn Gundam from Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn can only be piloted by someone who has a noble heart, and has a noble reason to pilot it. The pilot also has to be a Newtype.
  • In Naruto, the sword Samehada can only be wielded if it likes the taste of the wielder's chakra.
  • In the unproduced Robotech sequel Robotech II: The Sentinels (as shown in the Novelizations and comic adaptations), the alien Karbarran race has a unique bond with the Applied Phlebotinum-laced "Sekiton" peat moss on their homeworld. Sekiton can be burned to produce enough energy to power interstellar starships — but only if it's physically handled by a Karbarran. If not, it remains so inert that it can't even be lit on fire. This gets used as an excuse for Phlebotinum-Induced Steampunk.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Avatar, each half-human, half-alien Avatar is bound to a particular person's DNA. Jake is only brought along because his twin brother died — and the highly costly Avatar was meant for his twin brother.
  • In District 9 only prawns can use the prawn superweapons. Thus human Wikus becomes of interest to the authorities when he is infected with alien prawn DNA.
  • As in the comics it's based on, Lawgivers in Dredd are DNA-locked, working only for their specific Judge and exploding if anyone else tries to use them. Kay tries to get clever and shoot Anderson with her own gun. He pays for it with his right hand and forearm.
  • Star Wars:
    • Downplayed with lightsabers. They have a very counter-intuitive balance, requiring either preternatural balance or extensive training to use one properly; therefore, they are almost exclusively used only by Force-wielders. Non Force-sensitives can use them, but they can't deflect blaster bolts with them, which is the primary advantage of a lightsaber. In the films, General Greivous is a cyborg who uses mechanical precision to wield multiple lightsabers at once, while a few human characters use one very briefly with limited success without killing themselves.
    • The canon Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels show several non-Jedi characters, usually Mandalorians, skillfully wielding lightsabers. They never deflect blaster fire with them, but they're able to hold their own going saber to saber with Jedi. The Mandalorians even have a unique lightsaber called the Darksaber, which was built by the first Mandalorian Jedi and is now handed down through the planet's leaders. One Rebels episode revolves around training a non-Jedi to wield the Darksaber, and she gets very upset when forced to start her training with a wooden training blade.
    • It's mentioned in Rebels that using a lightsaber most effectively requires bonding to its khyber crystal; this is why all Sith lightsabers are red, as the crystals refuse to serve a Dark-sider and have to be tortured into obedience. The crystals can, surprisingly, bond even with non Force-sensitives, and Sabine's skill with the Darksaber noticeably improves over a few sessions. In The Book of Boba Fett, we see the other side of this, with a character who is refusing to bond with the Darksaber because he rejects the responsibility it represents. He claims that it "grows heavier with every swing," and tends to use it like an awkward cleaver rather than a proper sword.

  • In Lone Wolf, only a Kai warrior such as Lone Wolf can wield the Sommerswerd. If anyone else tries to wield it, its powers would slowly fade until they were lost forever. The sword will also burn any evil beings who lay hands on it.

  • The Spear of Telesto in the Blood Angels novels can only be wielded by carriers of their Primarch Sanguinius' genes (i.e. just the Blood Angels and their successor chapters). Its flamethrower attack will likewise refuse to damage such.
  • Genocide Online: Priest's Necklace, which Rena got after killing him, has lower stats than a gift from NPC in Belzenstock, even though it's just a copy of other necklace and Priest's Necklace gives huge buffs to Order. Since Rena is a member of Chaos, she cannot benefit from those buffs, so she happily exchanged it.
  • Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain: Only a member of the House of Llyr, such as Princess Eilonwy, can command the power of her "bauble" (a.k.a. the Golden Pelydryn) and use the House's magical spells.
  • Covenant's white gold ring, which grants power over wild magic in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant has fairly finicky requirements — it only works in the hands of its rightful wielder, which is to say, Covenant himself or anyone he voluntarily gives it to. That voluntarily is important — if the ring is taken by force, given under coercion, or Covenant is possessed or otherwise ensorcelled into giving it away, it'll still have some power, but nowhere near its full potential. As Lord Foul needs every drop he can squeeze out of it to destroy the Land, this qualifier represents a significant obstacle in his schemes. Arc Villain Kasreyn from the second trilogy is more willing to push things; for him, the ring itself is what mattersnote ; he doesn't care about getting its full power, and Word of God indicates that the only reason he didn't try to just chop if off Covenant's hand was fear that it might blow up or something if he did that.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Downplayed with wands, which have a certain loyalty to their owners and will not generally operate at full capacity for anyone else. Lore around the Elder Wand, a legendarily powerful item in Deathly Hallows, suggested that it can be passed at full, prodigious strength to any person who defeats its last owner. Despite a string of deaths, the Elder Wand is no more powerful for Voldemort than his usual wand (which isn't saying much given the scale of Voldemort's powers), because he misread the chain of succession.Explanation (MAJOR SPOILER WARNING!) 
    • Invoked by Dumbledore in Philosopher's Stone. He sets up the Mirror of Erised so that only somebody who wanted to get the Stone but not use it would be able to retrieve it. This of course means that Harry and Co. very nearly brought about Voldemort's return several books early by accident, since Harry is able to retrieve the Stone from the Mirror when Voldemort, who got to the Mirror first, couldn't.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe novel The Crystal Star features a Jedi and Dark Jedi who have lightsabers that lack a traditional on/off switch. Instead, igniting them requires using the Force to close an internal electrical connection. In the New Jedi Order series the Skywalkers have a similar security feature on the bridge airlock of the Jade Shadow: opening the hatch from outside requires use of the Force to manipulate the internal mechanisms; the actual hand-operated latch is nonfunctional.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Season 5 features a big hammer which can only be wielded by someone of near-godlike (or Slayer) strength.
    • Season 7 introduces a custom stake-ended scythe that "feels right" in the hands of the Slayer. Faith wields it just as well as Buffy. And by the end of the season a whole slew more girls would find it just as "right."
  • Charmed:
    • The Charmed Ones' Book of Shadows would only let good beings or mortals touch it and it would shield itself from Demons and the like. Similarly, The Grimoire, being an ancient and demonic tome, would only let demons and the like touch it and wouldn't let anyone good touch it as it was the Evil Counterpart to the sisters' magic book.
    • In Season 2, an evil witch is released from a magical sleep and goes out seeking her wand. If she were to obtain it she would be nigh impossible to vanquish. The only way to destroy her would be to use her wand against her, but the only person capable of wielding it would be someone who was the seventh son of a seventh son.
    • In Season 8, Hippolyta's Belt would only let a morally good woman wear it or else it exploded.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship", the controls of the alien spaceship only respond to two pilots who are genetically linked. (How lucky that Rory's dad got dragged along on this adventure...)
  • Stargate-verse:
    • Some Ancient technology (most famously the Puddle Jumpers) requires a genetic marker (quickly dubbed the Ancient Technology Activation [ATA] gene) to activate. This renders it inaccessible to most humans in the galaxy since the gene is recessive and tends to get bred out of smaller populations. Earth's is big enough to maintain it, and the SGC eventually developed a gene therapy to add the gene to their personnel.
    • Much Goa'uld technology requires bloodborne naquadah to activate, including the hand device and healing device. The most common way to get this is by hosting a Goa'uld, hence why Samantha Carter, who briefly carried a Tok'ra in "In the Line of Duty", can use them.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Spell scrolls can usually only be activated by characters who can also access the spell through their class spell list (e.g. only a wizard or sorcerer can use a scroll of magic missile, only a cleric or druid can use one of flame strike, et cetera). This restriction can be overcome with a Use Magic Device check, or the Magic Domain for clerics. Use Magic Device also lets you overcome several other restrictions, most of which fall under Level-Locked Loot.
    • Downplayed example: The Holy Avenger is a powerful magic longsword that only allows Paladins to access all of its abilities. Subverted in that any character with the right training can trick it into believing that they're a Paladin.
    • Sanctified and corrupt spells (from the 3E supplements Book of Exalted Deeds and Book of Vile Darkness, respectively) require the caster to be of a class that prepares spells. Sanctified spells can also be used by those with a non-evil Character Alignment. Corrupt spells, notably, don't have a similar requirement and can be used by good characters... but casting any of them being an evil act, they thus act as The Corrupter.
    • Many magical items have prerequisites such as being evil or worshiping a specific deity; however, they'll usually have a reduced magical effect for those that don't meet the prerequisite or that actively harm opposition instead of acting non-magical.
    • intelligent weapons usually have their own special purpose and/or limitation, so unless the wielder serves the same cause, the choices are few: lack of cooperation, constant wrestling of the wills or bargaining. It may demand encrustation and luxury scabbard or "I'll help you to beat that dragon, but then we'll have a big undead-chopping foray."
  • In Fringeworthy, only a tiny percentage of the human race has the innate ability to use the Fringepaths without dying.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, Tau vehicles apparently use a genescanning system to prevent hijacking, as seen when an Imperial commando tried to steal a battlesuit and got fried for it.

    Video Games 
  • NEXTs in Armored Core, which can only be piloted by people with some special type of psyche. Ill-defined, but still an example.
  • The Apple of Eden in Assassin's Creed can only be used by descendants of the first civilization.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • In Morrowind, you must be wearing Wraithguard in order to handle Keening and Sunder without dying instantly. And in order to even wear Wraithguard, you must sacrifice a large portion of your health, permanently. If acquired the "standard" way, through Vivec, he will take you "outside of time and space" so that it doesn't harm you.
    • Oblivion:
      • The player can't wear the Amulet of Kings; the clasp refuses to close. An in-game book, The Amulet of Kings, explains that it can only be worn by those who have "Dragon Blood" in their veins. This was initially unclear in meaning, but with the release of Skyrim it's evident that it refers to the Dovahkiin (Dragonborn), humanoids with the souls of dragons, of whom the Septim Dynasty is one line.
      • The Divine Crusader equipment set in Knights of the Nine. To use it, you need to go on a long, annoying pilgrimage, and if your Infamy is raised to anything above 1 after you have obtained it, then you must go on said pilgrimage again.
  • Halo:
    • MJOLNIR Powered Armor can only be used by Spartans because it's literally too powerful for normal humans to handle. When a Red Shirt was given a MJOLNIR prototype for testing and attempted to simply move his arm a little, the armor moved with such strength that it broke his arm bones, causing a pain-induced muscle spasm that made the armor move again and break some more bones... effectively trapping him in a painful cycle that only ended with his Cruel and Unusual Death. Spartans, on the other hand, can avoid this problem and safely use MJOLNIR because part of their augmentation procedure reinforced their skeletons to be nigh-unbreakable.
    • There's a reason 343 Guilty Spark keeps addressing Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 as "Reclaimer" in Halo: Combat Evolved. The Forerunners keyed some of the technology they left behind to only be usable by humans before they activated the Halo rings to destroy the Flood and themselves. This is to the point where in Halo 3 the Prophet of Truth is shown trying to physically force Sergeant Johnson to remotely activate the remaining Halo rings.
    SgtMaj. Johnson: [while being slammed into a control panel by a Brute] What's the matter, can't start your own party?
In fact, it's later received that even among humans, only some have the ability to access Forerunner tech; namely those descended from specific prehistoric humans whom the Forerunners had given inheritable geas to.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Link could only wield the Master Sword when he is an adult, so upon gaining it he was put into a sleep for seven years.
  • Various items in the Neverwinter Nights series are keyed to a particular race, class, and/or alignment. For example, the sequel's Hammer of Ironfist can only be wielded by dwarves, and many prestige classes have unique armors. A successful Use Magic Device check will override these restrictions, however.
    • Inverted with the plot-relevant Ceremonial Sword of Neverwinter and the Silver Sword of Gith, which are classified as "universal swords" to allow even characters that lack sword proficiency to wield them. The downside is that this typing also means that none of your weapon specialization feats (e.g. Weapon Focus) work on them.
  • In the Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door intro, the chest containing the magical map that the merchant gives Peach says that only someone pure of heart can open it. Peach was able to open it. Later, it is revealed that The merchant was actually Beldam in disguise; who did so because she was trying to unseal the Shadow Queen, and needed the Crystal Stars to do so since the Crystal Stars are needed to open the Thousand Year Door, which is where the Shadow Queen is sealed. The magical map is what allows you to find them.
  • Inverted in Severance: Blade of Darkness. The macguffin required to defeat the final boss is the only weapon that isn't restricted by class.
  • The MacGuffin of Skullgirls, the Skull Heart, can only be used by those who are absolutely pure of heart, or else they will become the Skullgirl themselves. Parasoul's mother wanted to end a war, and the war ended, turning her into the Skullgirl and forcing everyone to unite against her. Similarly, Bloody Marie presumably wished for her freedom from enslavement by the mob, only to become as ruthless as the mobsters she kills.
  • In Xenogears, the "Fatima Jasper" is said to be the key to the treasure of the Fatima dynasty, the Omnigear Andvari. Rumors imply that the Fatima Jasper is a precious stone, to hide the fact that it actually refers to the distinctive blue eyes (or more specifically the retinal pattern) of the Fatima royal family, needed to unlock the retinal scanners protecting the Omnigear. This also serves as an opportunity for the story to reveal that Bartholomew Fatima's companion Sigurd is his illegitimate half-brother, when his eye ends up being needed to help unlock one of the doors.

    Web Animation 
  • The titular technology of gen:LOCK is a means of Brain Uploading, allowing users to inhabit and pilot Humongous Mecha. However, the system requires such a high degree of neural adaptability that viable candidates are literally one in a million. It also means that there's an age limit; as neuroplasticity decreases as a brain ages, even previously compatible individuals can grow out of their compatibility. Attempting gen:LOCK while incompatible is not a good idea, as fake!Sinclair discovers to his sorrow. As Dr. Weller puts it, "Might as well stick your brain in a microwave."

    Web Videos 
  • In Tales From My D&D Campaign, the evil Kua-Toa have found out how to power an alchemical Invisibilty Cloak using their skin secretions. This not only lets them produce the cloaks for 1/100th of what such a powerful item should cost, but also makes them impossible to steal, as only a living Kua Toa can produce the chemicals that power the thing.

    Western Animation 
  • An inversion in The Batman. When Batman goes up against Gearhead, who likes to use his nanomachines to hijack vehicles, he is forced off the road and the Batmobile is totaled. Bruce reverse-engineers one of Gearhead's nanite launchers (recovered from an Armed Blag he pulled) in order to make his new Batmobile Gearhead-proof: it electrocutes him when he tries to take over its systems.
    • He later pulls off the classic version of this, during a brief time when the Joker stole his utility belt, remarking 'biometrics' and then explained it meant the belt's compartments only opened for him. Presumably a precaution against it being stolen exactly like it had been.
  • The Elements of Harmony in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic require wielders who embody their respective virtues and work together as a team. Otherwise, as shown in for example "The Return of Harmony" when five of the main six are "discorded", they simply don't work.
  • Regular Show has the Sandwich of Death, which is deadly unless you eat it the right way: by wearing a mullet and cut-off shorts.
  • Steven Universe: Gem technology (most obviously Warp Pads) can only be activated by gems and lays dormant otherwise. It's unclear if this is a deliberate feature or accidental, but the result is ancient-looking high technology sitting around the Earth unguarded for thousands of years without any human reverse-engineering. The only exceptions are the replicator wand in "Onion Trade" and the Warp Whistle that lets humans active Warp Pads in "House Guest".
  • Quite a bit of Galra technology in Voltron: Legendary Defender, especially their control panels and computers, can apparently only be activated by either a Galra or by other Galra technology. Shiro can do it due to his Galran prosthetic arm, otherwise it requires a Borrowed Biometric Bypass from a Galran Sentry. Keith manages to close a set of hangar doors just by placing his hand on a handprint made for only Galra to use, which was a major hint that he's a Half-Human Hybrid whose mother was Galra.