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Physical, Mystical, Technological

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From top to bottom: Super Soldier, Super Armor, and Super God.
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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.

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.

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Sub-Trope to Three Approach System. Compare Fighter, Mage, Thief, which can overlap with this trope in various incarnations depending on what they use to fulfill their role in combat. A Fighter usually uses raw physical might and fighting skill, but can also use Supernatural Martial Arts or Full-Contact Magic, or anything from guns and Powered Armor to tanks and Humongous Mecha. A Mage most often uses magic and mysticism to control the battlefield, but they can also utilize Magitek, Sufficiently Analyzed Magic, Nanomachines or drones, or be a mutant, alien or monster whose powers are a part of their innate biology (or be a shapeshifter/beast tamer to make use of those powers). A Thief's toolset can run the gamut from tech gadgets, hacking skills, mechanical traps and explosives, pure dexterity and skill at running, hiding, sniping, archery, knife work and poisoning, or mystical tricks of Teleportation, illusion, concealment and manipulation.

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Examples:

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    Comic Books 

    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 
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe
    • In Avengers: Infinity War, Iron Man's Avenger faction forms a Power Trio with this dynamic.
      • Iron Man is the tech-based Science Hero wearing Powered Armor.
      • Doctor Strange is a Master of the Mystic Arts and the setting's premiere mystical hero.
      • Spider-Man is a genetically-altered human with an assortment of enhancements to his physiology like Super Strength, Super Toughness, Super Reflexes, and agility. He does have a specialized suit provided by Tony himself in this movie (which provides his webbing), but most of his powers come from his own physiology.
    • The Big Three of the Avengers themselves:
  • The various Kaiju from the Godzilla franchise can be divided into these three categories:
    • Kaiju that are fully natural in origin such as Anguirus, Rodan, and Titanosaurus are Physical.
    • Kaiju who are worshiped as Physical Gods or have otherwise supernatural natures like Mothra, Battra, and King Ghidorah are Mystical.
    • Kaiju that have been altered or created by humans/aliens like Mechagodzilla, Gigan, and Godzilla himself are Technological.
    • There are also a few kaiju who combine Mystical and Technological enough to fit both groups such as King Caesar (a Golem seemingly made from both science and magic), Biollante (a Botanical Abomination created through combining plant, Godzilla, and human DNA that somehow gained a dead human's soul), and Kiryu (a Cyborg Mechagodzilla that gets possessed by the spirit of the original Godzilla).
    • Due to the Depending on the Writer nature of the franchise, reoccurring kaiju often bounce back and forth on what group they fall into.
      • Godzilla is normally Technological by virtue of being mutated by radiation from nuclear weapons/waste, but in GMK he is Mystical because he's the incarnation of the angry spirits of those who died in the Pacific in WWII.
      • King Ghidorah is normally Mystical due to his powers (near immortal, independent space flight, Gravity Beams), even being an outright deity in one instance, but in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah he becomes Technological by being created through nuclear weapons testing (Time Travel was also involved).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Kamen Rider
    • The first Kamen Riders of each Japanese era: note 
    • Kamen Rider Agito:
      • The titular Agito is Mystical, using a combination between angelic and elemental powers.
      • Kamen rider G3 is Technological, being a police officer who uses Powered Armor.
      • Kamen Rider Gills is Physical as his transformed state and fighting style resembles a wild animal.
    • Kamen Rider Kiva
      • Kiva himself is Physical, using a bestial fighting style. Alternatively, he could be the Mystical because he has powers associated with vampires, switches between forms that have Playing with Fire, Making a Splash and Shock and Awe, can call his Castle Doran dragon to fight against giant enemies, and later on gets to transform into a dragon and use the magical Zanvat Sword.
      • The Kamen Rider Ixa system is the Technological, a suit of Powered Armor designed to fight Fangires.
      • Kamen Rider Saga as an array of Mystical powers, due to him being a Fangire himself. Alternatively, Saga can be the Physical because he only uses martial arts and his Jacorder whip and summons monsters.
    • Kamen Rider Ghost has this dynamic with Takeru, Akari and Onari.
      • Takeru is the titular Kamen Rider, qualifying as the physical fighter
      • Akari is the scientist, creating many inventions helping Takeru.
      • Onari is the priest of the Buddhist temple, who is adamant the supernatural exists.
  • In Legends of Tomorrow, the original Terrible Trio that comprised the Legion of Doom fits this dynamic.
  • The Librarians 2014 has a trio in the three Librarians-in-Training:
    • Cassandra Kilian knows the most about magic,
    • Ezekiel Jones is really good with technology, and
    • Jacob Stone is an experienced barfighter.

    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 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.
  • 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).
  • 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).
  • Bounty Of One: The first three characters fall into this archetype. Serra is the Technological, as she wields a crossbow gun. Nigel is the Physical, as his weapon is a shuriken that he throws with physical skill. Ollin is the Mystical, as he is a desert spirit who wields a Magic Staff that grants him cactus magic.
  • Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter has the main trio: Ryu who uses a sword, Nina who uses black magic and Lin who uses guns.
  • Chrono Trigger: For the Power Trio, Lucca's role pretty much defined as the Technological, but the other two can have different interpretations.
  • Civilization: Beyond Earth offers the player a choice of three affinities - ways of human development in the new world. At the heart of Purity's philosophy is a celebration of the human form and history, which its adherents are willing to defend with reinforced Battlesuits and a variety of heavy armored vehicles. Adepts of Harmony set themselves the goal of achieving a symbiotic relationship with the environment of the new planet, to protect which they use genetically enhanced local life forms, as well as a miasma that is poisonous to all but themselves. Finally, Supremacy, while believing in technology as the greatest gift of mankind, capable, if properly used, of making civilization completely independent of the environment, or giving society immortality, uses robotics, cybernetics and other similar technologies to protect its vision of a better future.
  • DC Universe Online has this built into character creation. There are 15 power sets, but you also have to choose an "Origin", Meta, Magic, or Tech independent of powers. Heroes will apprentice with Superman, Wonder Woman, or Batman respectively, while villains will follow Lex Luthor, Circe, or the Joker according to their origin.
  • Devil May Cry 5 has Dante, Nero and V. Dante fights with swords and guns; Nero, with cybernetic arms and a revolver; and V, by controlling Familiars.
  • 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.
  • EXTRAPOWER: Attack of Darkforce: The PMEC team has this composition. Platinum is the technological genius, crafting the shoulder-mounted cannons she uses for combat on top of other tech that her company uses. Kurogane puts her shinobi skills to use as the team's resident melee combatant. And Emerald is the mythical, with her phenomenal psychic powers.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • GreedFall: The combat Game System is based around weapons (physical blades and impact weapons), tech (firearms, traps, and bombs), and magic (both offensive and defensive). Of the game's six factions, three subscribe to one of these extremes: the Coin Guard are mercenaries who are all about raw muscle, the Thélème are religious zealots who believe magic comes from God, and the Bridge Alliance are merchants and alchemists who built the most technologically-advanced nation in the world. And, of course, the Thélème and the Bridge are permanently at each other's throats.
  • 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.
  • Kingdom Rush and its sequels 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.
  • Kirby: Three consecutive main series games feature enemy factions with this theme as Contrasting Sequel Antagonists:
    • Kirby: Planet Robobot: The Haltmann Works Company is the Technological, using high-tech devices to industrialize Pop Star for profit.
    • Kirby Star Allies: The Jambandran Religion is the Mystical, whose members include three mage-generals and a cultist who seek to revive a dark god.
    • Kirby and the Forgotten Land: The Beast Pack is the Physical, whose members are beasts that use their instincts and natural capabilities in combat, and their goal is to capture Waddle Dees for a sinister purpose. The true mastermind, however, is an Ultimate Lifeform who utilizes both Mystical and Technological means by psionically brainwashing the Beast Pack and enslaving the captured Waddle Dees as Hamster-Wheel Power to provide power to its containment capsule in Lab Discovera.
  • 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.
  • NieR has the core trio of Nier, Kainé and Emil. Nier is a normal human skilled in both one-handed and two-handed swords, as well as lances, and has to rely on his book Grimoire Weiss to use magic. Kainé has a Shade fused with her human body, which gives her electricity-based magic attacks. Emil's powerful magic attacks come from the fact that he's a living weapon created by a technologically advanced ancient civilization.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Torchlight has three classes: the Magic-based Alchemist, the Strength-based Destroyer and the Tech-based Vanquisher.
  • Trails Series has it in the protagonists of its first four arcs, despite the fact that all of these characters are front-line fighters. Estelle and Lloyd are Physical, as both are Badass Normal, using a bo staff and tonfa respectively. Rean is the Mystical, as he combines his Eight Leaves One Blade sword style with a Super Mode using the curse of Ishmelga which he contains in his body. Van is the Technological, as he's a Henshin Hero who fuses with his AI Mare to turn into Grendel, and when not transformed uses a hi-tech weapon called Stun-Calibur that can be charged with electricity, along with his fists.
  • Warcraft III: Heroes are almost all Mystical and Physical (the latter further divided into melee Strength heroes and melee or ranged Agility heroes), but one patch added the Goblin Tinker, an explicitly technological hero who builds robots, fires rockets, and turns into a tank (dwarves as a faction are Technological, having gunpowder and aircraft, but their hero is Physical).
  • Wild ARMs 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 Physical 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The first three students of HIVE introduced in Teen Titans follow the dynamic together.
  • 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.

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