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Physical, Mystical, Technological

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A trichotomy of character/faction archetypes that expands the Magic Versus Technology dichotomy with the Charles Atlas Superpower: one archetype learns magical spells, another builds crazy gadgets, and the third perfects their own body to reach levels of personal power comparable to the first two. They may be standing against each other in a triangle of Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors, or they may instead be part of the same team/group, using their distinct set of abilities to solve various problems together. In games, they can form the basis of a Three-Stat System.

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The "strength" character/faction may symbolize people with low-to-mid technology and looking more down-to-earth compared to the magic and tech characters/factions. In a work that employs multiple (humanoid) races, the "strength" faction tend to be normal humans, while elves often represent the "magic" faction, and dwarves, the "tech" faction.

Sub-Trope to Three Approach System. Compare Fighter, Mage, Thief, which can overlap with this trope in various incarnations — say, the thief relies more on tech gadgets and ingenuity than on dexterity and back-stabs, or the fighter employs Supernatural Martial Arts while the mage is a scholar of Sufficiently Analyzed Magic who uses properly engineered Magitek in place of all that outdated chanting and hand-waving (and the thief just stabs the monster to death while they argue about it).

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Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • The holy trinity of DC Comics
    • Superman's powers come from his alien biology.
    • Batman is a mortal with Charles Atlas Superpower, armed to the teeth with gadgets and technology he built.
    • Wonder Woman's powers were granted to her by the Greek gods. Though, in some continuities, she is a goddess herself.
  • The Avengers' most iconic members: Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man are physical, mystical, and technological, respectively. Usually also applies in adaptations of the Avengers as well, such as The Ultimates, The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!, or the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
    • Cap was turned into a super soldier by Super Science during WWII.
    • Iron Man relies on the suits he builds, all powered by the arc reactor he invented.
    • Thor is a Norse god, with a mystical power over storms and lightning.

     Films — Animation 
  • Kung Fu Panda: Each of the three movies' villains have this, which overlaps with Fighter, Mage, Thief to provide Contrasting Sequel Antagonists.
    • Tai Lung is Physical, trained to be a master of kung fu and expected to become the Dragon Warrior.
    • Lord Shen is Technological, inventor of the cannon in a world mostly protected by martial fighters.
    • Kai is Mystical, a long-dead warrior returned from the Spirit World who can steal the chi of others.

    Films — Live-Action 
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    Live Action — TV 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Blades in the Dark has a strict Single Phlebotinum Limit and everything in the setting is powered by electroplasm, but there are different in-universe approaches to using it: spectrology, rituals, and arcane enchantments take a more mystical stance, while alchemy, spark-craft and plain-old industrial engineering champion the scientific approach. The seven available playbooks break down (almost) neatly into three equal groups: Lurks and, particularly, Whispers have mostly magic/arcane powers; Hounds and Leeches rely heavily on tech; and Cutters and Slides are largely all about the physical (whether violence or personal charisma). (Spiders sit comfortably in the middle of the net, without any truly superhuman abilities except foresight and management skills.)
  • The gameplay divide in early editions of Shadowrun was Street Samurai (strength), Mage/Shaman (magic), and Decker (tech). Later editions added more archetypes that blurred the lines like the Rigger, Technomancer, and Adepts.
  • Starfinder: The core classes of Starfinder revolve around this trope
    • Pure Might: The Soldier, who can use all weapons and armor in the game
    • Pure Tech: The Mechanic, whose abilities are tied to either their robot or exosuit
    • Pure Magic: The Mystic, who channels the power of gods or cosmic forces into spells
    • Hybrid Might/Magic: The Solarian, who channels the power of the stars into powerful melee effects
    • Hybrid Magic/Tech: The Technomancer, who treats magic as a science and combines it with technology
    • Hybrid Might/Tech: The Operative, who uses tactics, stealth, and subtle technology to land critical attacks
    • The final base class, the Envoy, is a jack-of-all-trades and can play towards any one of these.

    Video Games 
  • In Dragon Ball Online, these are the three classes available for the human race: the physical-based Martial Artist, the magic-based Mystic, and the technology-based Engineer.
  • RF Online: the three playable races/factions are nicely put this way - Accretian Empire are all robots and uses (mostly) high tech equipments, Holy Alliance of Cora are Space Elves-like race with lots of mysticism, and the Belato Union are normal-ish short people. The last one can be geared towards either tech or magic depending on their class choice, however.
  • The Mass Effect series has three main skill sets for Shepard and Ryder to develop: combat, tech, and biotics. Combat skills revolve around using common weapons more efficiently while taking more punishment than a normal person could; tech is all about hacking and building multi-purpose drones; and biotics are essentially space magic. This is particularly noticeable in the first Mass Effect, where each player class and each companion have a rating in each of these three parameters, visible on the party selection screen. There are also hybrids of the sets: the Infiltrator (Combat/Tech), who can turn invisible and uses sniper rifles; the Vanguard (Combat/Biotics), who can warp themself into a biotic battering ram; and the Sentinel (Tech/Biotics), who can combine tech and biotics to create powerful defenses.
  • Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura: The main gameplay divide is between tech and magick (using one greatly limits the other). Physical fighters can practice either or neither; thieves can practice either, but lockpicking is either tech or magic (and stealthy lockpicking is tech).
  • The canceled Western RPG Project Resurgence would have been set in a post-apocalyptic world whose inhabitant tribes take conflicting approaches to rebuilding their world: some rely entirely on science and technology, some go for the newly-emergent magic (which nobody still quite understands), and some reject both in favor of perfecting their combat and other physical skills. The player would have been able to choose any of these approaches and even mix them, if they wanted to.
  • Torchlight has three classes: the Magic-based Alchemist, the Strength-based Destroyer and the Tech-based Vanquisher.
  • In 7th Dragon, most classes are focused on physical or magical damage. Then there's the Hacker and Agent classes from the Tokyo-based games, who have low damage output but provide tactical support by "hacking" enemies to debuff them, inflict status effects, or sap Mana from them.
  • In Stellaris' Utopia expansion, you are able to take on Ascension Perks (special modifiers that grant you a huge boost in certain aspects, such as a massively-increased military limit, or a boost to border size). There are six ascension perks, split up into three groups of two that are mutually exclusive to each other and which fill this purpose. Psionic Theory fills magic ("Mind over Matter" and "Transcendence"), allowing civilizations to gain telepathy and other supernatural abilities, which allows them to communicate with the otherwise-unintelligible endgame crises, as well as pierce the shroud and gain powerful modifiers. Gene Tailoring ("Engineered Evolution" and "Evolutionary Mastery") fills Strength, allowing you to modify your any species within the empire to remove negative traits and replace them with positive ones, with the second-tier Ascended Trait adding special options for gene modding that no one else can access. Synthetic Evolution ("The Flesh is Weak" and "Synthetic Evolution") fill tech, as civilizations may choose to convert their entire citizenry into synthetics/robots, meaning they will never die of natural causes, and do not need food to survive, giving you one less resource to have to worry about.
  • System Shock 2 begins with the player choosing a career as a Marine specialising in weapons, a Navy agent capable of hacking into technology or an OSA agent specialising in Psychic Powers.
  • Starbound's endgame armor features such a branch: The Accelerator (Aegisalt ore) path is the technological path, where ranged weapons like guns receive a damage boost and an efficiency boost due to high energy restoration; the Manipulator (Ferozium) path is the magical path, providing the highest bonuses to staff and wand users; and the Separator (Violium) path is the strength path, providing health and melee damage bonuses when equipped.
  • Kingdom Rush and its sequel fit this in regards to the four tower types. Archers and Barracks are the Physical towers, doing melee damage and in the latter case spawning soldiers to block enemies and attack them with swords. Mage towers are the Magical units, whose attacks deal magic damage and are effective against foes with high physical armor. Finally, the Artillery towers are the Tech units, who specialize in physical Splash Damage via liberal use of explosives, and/or electricity.
  • Iron Marines:
    • The player has three categories of deployable troops. Army, which are base humans wielding guns and armor and closest to the "Physical" units, Empyreans, which are psionic aliens and the "Mystical" units, and Mechs, which are Mini-Mecha with high-tech weaponry and drones and are the "Tech" units.
    • The three villain factions also count. The Fell are the "Physical", being fleshy and bony organic aliens that use brute strength, biological attack and Organic Technology. The Peripheroids are the "Technological", being metallic and mechanical robots that utilize lasers, missiles, electricity and machinery. The Raad are the "Mystical", being Energy Beings in containment suits that utilize Elemental Powers of fire, electricity, gravity and quantum physics, all derived from the plasma they're made of.
  • Honkai Impact 3rd: The playable characters and enemies come in one of the 3 attributes: Biologic (physical), Psychic (mystical) and Mecha (technological). They also form a Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors, with Biologic beating Psychic beating Mecha beating Biologic.
  • Chrono Trigger: For the Power Trio, Lucca's role pretty much defined as the Technological, but the other two can have different interpretations.
  • Armory & Machine: The "Surroundings" zone is split into three areas: The Landfill, the Laboratory, and the Forest. The enemies in the Landfill are mainly Earth Elementals that control the Earth via unknown forces (Mystical), the enemies in the Laboratory are robots with lasers, electricity and high amounts of shielding (Technological), and the enemies in the forest are beasts and killer plants that attack with Natural Weapons (Physical).
  • Final Fantasy VII Remake: Cloud and Tifa are the Physical, Barret is the Technological, and Aerith is the Mystical. Cloud is a Mighty Glacier who relies on powerful attacks and counters with his colossal sword, Tifa is a Glass Cannon who unleashes quick combos of punches and kicks for heavy damage. Barret uses mechanical arms as his weapons and his moveset is primarily focused on shooting, but he can become a Physical character too if given a melee weapon. Aerith, the party Squishy Wizard, uses magic for all her attacks.
  • Played with in Terraria where weapons fall into melee, ranged (technological, mostly guns) and magic. Later in the game armor sets start to match this by having different helmets for each category which can provide substantially different bonuses. However, nothing is stopping you from freely switching between types of equipment, mixing and matching the play a hybrid character (at the very least it's common to have both a melee and ranged weapon available regardless of your overall focus) and there is also a bit of equipment catering to the more niche summoning archetype.
  • Wild ARMs 1 has Jack as the Physical due him being a swordsman and therefore having the most 'normal' skillset of the playable trio. Cecilia is the Mystical due to her having spent ten years of her life studying magic and being able to communicate with the Guardians. Rudy is the Technological due to his ARM abilities and being made of Lost Technology.

    Western Animation 
  • Ben 10:
    • The original Power Trio of Ben 10 had this dynamic.
      • Ben wields the Omnitrix that gave him raw power by transforming him into a super alien of his choice.
      • Gwen studies arcane arts and was able to fight using magic.
      • Grandpa Max is a Badass Normal who relies on skill and various gadgets at his disposal.
    • Played with in regards to Ben's Team from Ben 10: Alien Force to Ben 10: Ultimate Alien:
      • Ben is usually the might as he still relies on the power of his alien transformations granted by the Omnitrix/Ultimatrix. Though he sometimes shifts to technology due to the capabilities of the Super Wrist-Gadget.
      • Kevin is the resident Gadgeteer Genius who collates an assortment of alien gear, however he often plays The Big Guy too with his Osmosian powers granting him Super Strength and durability.
      • Gwen still plays the magic part straight, despite her powers being retconned several times to alien heritage rather than straight-up magic.
  • Steven Universe: The first trio of Homeworld Gems to appear in the show (Jasper, Lapis Lazuli and Peridot).
    • Jasper is a Quartz gem that can give a hard fight simply with her innate strenght.
    • Lapis Lazuli is not physically tough, and her powers could be considered useless in her homeworld, but NOT on Earth.
    • Peridot, before discovering her ferrokinesis, heavily relied on Homeworld's gadgets and her own limb enhancers for protection.
  • Filmation's animated series Thundarr the Barbarian fields a Power Trio of heroes that go Walking the Earth (riding, actually) thwarting various villains in an After the End world.
    • Physical: Ookla the mok, one of the Beast Men in form who roars and growls to communicate. He's a Walking Shirtless Scene in a loincloth that does all the team's heavy lifting and much of the melee combat.
    • Mystical: Ariel the mage, who's better dressed than a Nubile Savage, and has Waif-Fu combat skills. While not quite a wizard-class magic wielder, she can and has cast a useful spell when needed.
    • Technological: Thundarr, the group leader, wields as his principal weapon the Sun Sword, which he deploys when fighting Mecha-Mooks.
  • Kim Possible does this with the three main human members of the primary crimefighting team. Kim is the physical muscle, Wade with his gadgets is technological, and Ron has his mystical monkey powers.
  • The Legend of Korra:
    • Korra herself is the obviously the Mystical, being the Avatar and having strong connections with the Spirit World, though she prefers using more aggressive Bending styles like Earth and Fire than the more spiritually-driven Air. Bolin is the Physical because he's a strong Earthbender (who later on learns the insanely powerful Lavabending), but doesn't have much in terms of Spirit connection. Asami is the Technological, as she's a non-bender who relies on technology, machines and being a Combat Pragmatist to hold her own against bender enemies.
    • Each Arc Villain also follows the theme: Amon is the Physical, as he fights enemies head-on and erases their power, Unalaq and Zaheer are the Mystical, as Unalaq is a powerful Waterbender with connections with the Spirit Realm, and later forms a pact with the evil god Vaatu, while Zaheer is an ascetic Airbender anarchist obsessed with Air Nomad culture and mysticism, whose intense meditation gives him the power to fly freely. Kuvira is the Technological, as her army uses lots of hi-tech weapons and machines including a giant spirit-powered cannon and a Humongous Mecha. Subverted with Zaheer, as he tends to use his spiritually-driven Airbending to fight up close instead of being a Squishy Wizard.

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