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Position of Literal Power

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This trope is under discussion in the Trope Repair Shop.

Ever wondered why, in fictionland, leaders are usually stronger than their subordinates? In some cases, this is never explained or addressed and is just a byproduct of the author's desire to make the fights with the commanders more climactic. Wouldn't be much fun if the heroes had the battle of their life against the minions only for the commander to turn out to be a weakling. This is understandable from a writer's point of view, but the audience might be left scratching their heads if they think about it for long enough. It's not something that normally happens in real life, after all.

A Position of Literal Power is a lot like a position of power and authority, but instead of granting legal and political powers, it grants actual power, whether it's magical or physical. They can be gained in a multitude of ways, earned through great effort, won in some sort of competition, passed down in a family, or granted by a powerful being such as the embodiment of a concept, a being that's Made of Magic, a god, the Powers that Be, or even a Sentient Cosmic Force. They occasionally pass into whoever kills its previous owner, or they can be passed on willingly.

A lot of the time, the power gap between higher-ups and lower-downs is justified. When you are promoted to a higher position, you can get access to an exclusive weapon or special equipment that enhances your combat capabilities. Some works may even have a situation where the only/best way to become stronger is to rise through the ranks so you can get your hands on the premium stuff. For example, a senator could obtain the funds and contacts necessary to buy technological upgrades for his body and become a nigh-invincible man with the strength of a hundred. Or maybe a country's ancestral weapon can only be wielded by the prince or the king.

Unjustified examples of power disparity between leaders and subordinates go to Rank Scales with Asskicking. Compare Asskicking Leads to Leadership, when you get promoted precisely because you're an ass-kicker already — that trope and this one can coexist if the strong person gets stronger due to the promotion. See also Bequeathed Power and God Job.

Not directly related to Place of Power though such a place might come with the position, or a "seat of literal power" although they can certainly overlap. Can overlap with The Perils of Being the Best if needed. Not to be confused with Rank Scales with Asskicking, though this trope could potentially justify that one in-universe.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball: Kami. No one's entirely sure what the benefits of being Kami are, but the current Kami chooses his successor before his death. And they get the afore(un)mentioned benefits.
  • Nasuverse: Magic Crests are magical seals passed down from parent to child in a mage family, possessing power and knowledge from their entire line. They are attached to the next in line upon their predecessor's death. With practice, a possessor of a crest can learn any spell a previous user could use, without learning the spell themselves. As time passes, the magic circuits that contain the formula of the spells somehow become more stable, allowing the mage to learn the spells even easier. Simply put: once a spell is in the crest, your ancestors have already done the work for you, and the longer ago they did it, the better it works.

    Comic Books 
  • The Authority. The Doctor possesses great magical power from the Earth itself. Upon the Doctor's death, the power will be passed on to another worthy person, who becomes the new Doctor. There is only ever one Doctor at a time.
  • Doctor Strange: Stephen Strange possesses the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme, passed to him by his teacher, the Ancient One. Because of this mantle, the Vishanti, nigh-omnipotent beings, aid him more willingly in his spellcasting.
  • Silver Surfer: Galactus's herald is such a position, granted by Galactus himself. Benefits include nigh-invulnerability, being able to breathe in space, access to Galactus's stuff, and general incredible power.
  • The Mighty Thor: The kingship of Asgard comes with incredible power, enough to destroy and rebuild entire planets and more. Normally this is called the Odin Force, because normally Odin is the King of Asgard, but when the kingship passes to Thor, so does the power.
  • Once & Future:
    • Important narrative roles like being the Grail Knight let someone enter inaccessible places and win against dangerous monsters. Some creatures are only able to be killed by certain roles otherwise they're essentially unkillable. In addition, characters in the story will refer to humans by the roles they take on (i.e. Gawain or Percival). But an advantage in the demimonde doesn't translate into a mundane advantage.
    • Mixing roles is not recommended as you'll get pulled in many different directions, resulting in the story going in unpredictable ways that could be potentially troublesome or even lethal.
  • The Ultimates (2015): Black Panther is shown to be able to fight cosmic entities on a level playing field in the Superflow, a conceptual plane, because everything exists as metaphor there and his symbolic power as King of Wakanda therefore translates to actual power; presumably this would apply to anyone with similar symbolic authority.

    Fan Works 
Better Bones AU: In addition to the Clan leaders having nine lives like in canon, other groups have powers given to a significant position to show that they are not supernaturally inferior to the Clans. Tribe Stonetellers are immune to illness and consequentially live very long times for a cat (often living 30 years or so), and the Guardians' leaders can sense what is happening in their territory, like the needs of plants or whether a new cat has arrived there.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Disney's The Santa Clause Trilogy: Whenever Santa dies, whoever killed him becomes the new Santa, with all the abilities, responsibilities, and properties that entails.
  • In The Lord of the Rings Gandalf gains increased power and authority when he replaces Saruman as the white wizard and becomes Gandalf the White.
  • Whoever becomes the Easter Bunny in Hop gains powers from the Egg of Destiny, which enhances the bunny's natural abilities. Should any other species attempt to wield the staff, however, they transform into a weird rabbit hybrid.

  • This is a major part of Discworld as it synergizes with the Narrativium that the Disc runs on. Made explicit in Mort:
    "DEATH IS WHOEVER DOES DEATH'S JOB'" - Death's apprentice
  • There are multiple examples in Dresden Files:
    • Harry Dresden gains the "mantle" of Winter Knight in Changes, granting him a larger amount of overall power, Super-Strength, a Healing Factor, immunity to cold, and several new spells (including a boost to his ability manipulate cold in exchange for his service to the Fae Queen of the Winter Court). Likewise, there is also a Knight of the Summer Court, and THREE SEPARATE positions for the Queens of both Courts (The Mother AKA the Queen Who Was, the Queen, AKA the Queen Who Is, and the Lady, AKA the Queen Who Is To Come).
    • The Archive is the repository of all human knowledge that resides within a human being, and is passed down from mother to daughter. All knowledge includes all knowledge of magic, so she's the strongest human spellcaster in the world, though she's not supposed to ever be on the frontlines.
    • The Blackstaff of the White Council is their wetworks guy, who in his official position is allowed to violate the Laws of Magic, and gets an Artifact of Doom (the eponymous Black Staff) to be able to work Black Magic without going insane.
    • Slightly more metaphorically, several figures in the series hold different offices and possess different abilities while acting in different capacities. Therefore Donar Vadderung will have different powers depending on whether he is currently acting in his capacity as Odin, King of Asgard, Kringle, King of Winter or the leader of the Wild Hunt at the time.
    • The Knights of the Cross are a small order of the Catholic Church who wield swords forged from the spikes used to nail Jesus Christ to the True Cross. However, their power goes beyond the ability to wield the evil-destroying swords; they are literally called by God and the angels to execute their missions and they also find that circumstances mysteriously line up at the right times to enable them to do whatever they are being called to do. Interestingly, being Catholic or even believing in God is not a requirement for becoming a Knight; instead they must simply have strong enough faith in something and the right morality.
  • Incarnations of Immortality: When each of the Incarnations (Death, Time, Fate, War etc.) enters their position, they gain special powers that correspond to the nature of the office. E.g. Death gains the ability to kill people by drawing their soul out of their body, Time can speed up, reverse or stop the flow of time, etc. And they're pretty damn hard to kill, too, besides just being Immortal. Death can only die if he wants to (or if he slips up and gets himself killed by removing the gear that makes him invulnerable at just the wrong time).
  • Patternist: Patternmaster is set in a distant future where the Supernatural Elite are linked in a global psychic network that's controlled by the Patternmaster. The Big Bad's attempt to become Heir to the Patternmaster and The Protagonist's attempt to stop him is the primary conflict of the book.
  • The Daevabad Trilogy: The ruler of the Djinn is marked with the Seal of Suleiman, which lets them negate any djinn magic at will, up to inflicting a species-wide De-power. One coup stalls when the rebels realize they have no clue how the Seal is passed on. The true Seal is a ring that's absorbed into the new ruler's heart.
  • In Pyramids Teppic knows that his father has died and he has become king of Djelibeybi when he gains Fertile Feet, which prove inconvenient because people don't appreciate their tables and bread sprouting leaves. The ability goes away before very long, and for the most part the role carries little power, whether mystical or political.
  • Spinning Silver: The world's magic system is heavily legalistic and as such recognized definitions and authorities hold enormous sway. When one of the protagonists, Irina, makes sure to ask nothing of Chernobog save that he leave "me and mine alone." Because she is the tsarina, this means that he can't touch anyone in the country of Lithvas. That also includes her husband once he leaves his body, because her rights to him as his wife legally override his mother's contract selling him to Chernobog.
  • The Twelve Kingdoms: Rulers are inherently nigh-immortal. Time does not touch them, they're nearly immune to disease and poison, and can only be killed with 'special' weapons. They can also understand all languages, which is mostly important when dealing with visitors from OUR world. They DON'T get superhuman strength, speed, or anything of the sort, but every kingdom has one or more hereditary artifacts that only the king/queen can use, which may confer such advantages. More importantly, they have the right to add names to a special 'Scroll of Immortals', which confers the same advantage to anyone recorded in it. The price of all this? They become a Fisher King, tied to the fate of their realm. If they rule poorly, the lands will suffer, and their Kirin will be sickened. If the Kirin dies from the sickness, the ruler follows soon after. The scrolls of immortality, however, are relatively 'open' - the king/queen can add just about anyone they want to them, or remove them on a whim. Usually, valued advisers, nobles, generals and ministers are recorded in the scrolls to keep them around, and encourage them to do a good job. (After all, if they screw up and lose their title, immortality goes with it.) And, indeed, both royals and nobles often get valued servants added to the scrolls so they don't have to deal with watching people age and die around them all the time. Adds up to quite a few immortals bouncing around, one would imagine.
  • Warbreaker: The true power of the God Kings of Hallendren is revealed to be "Peacegiver's Treasure", a vast reserve of the Soul Power that drives the setting's magic system. It's transferred from the incumbent to the new God King at the time of succession... though, as a precaution, the priesthood only teaches the Kings the bare minimum on how to use that power.
  • The Raven Tower: The ruler of Iraden is granted conditional immortality by the city-state's Patron God, the Raven — they can only die by sacrificing themselves to the Raven to empower its Physical Religion. Anyone else who tries to kill them drops dead on the spot.
  • Warrior Cats: When a cat becomes leader of their Clan, they are given nine lives by StarClan.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Slayer possesses enhanced senses, strength, and speed, as well as the power to detect vampires (only mentioned in the first episode, never actually used). Upon each Slayer's death, a new slayer is "activated", instantly gaining the powers. Later on, Buffy activates ALL the Slayer candidates worldwide using the Slayer Scythe, giving her a massive army of Slayers.
  • Charmed: The Charmed Ones are the most powerful good witches in existence. However, all three must remain alive for them to possess any power above the ordinary witch. After one dies, they eventually find a replacement. Not to mention the "Source of All Evil". When he dies, someone else becomes the Source, which comes with authority over the Underworld (and The Legions of Hell) and potent evil powers.
  • Kamen Rider Zero-One: Only the CEO of Hiden Intelligence can don the Zero-One Driver to transform into Kamen Rider Zero-One. Accepting the position of CEO allows Aruto to beat up opponents since Episode 1.
  • Merlin: The Nine High Priestesses of the Old Religion wield power no normal sorcerer could hope to match, granted to them by the Triple Goddess herself. That said, the witches chosen for these powers were already damn powerful in their own right before gaining them.
  • Once Upon a Time: The Dark One. He who kills the Dark One, becomes the Dark One, gaining magical powers beyond belief, inherent knowledge of all things wizardly and sorcerous, and immortality. The Dark One can only be killed by a specific dagger, which has his name written on it. As a double whammy, he is magically bound to follow the orders of whoever holds said dagger. The current Dark One is Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin.
  • The Secret Circle: Members of certain magical families are naturally linked together, their magic is naturally more powerful when they are in proximity. Through a ritual, the "bind the circle", and become unable to use magic unaided by another of the circle. However, their magical power becomes much stronger. When a member of the circle dies, their closest relative takes their place in the circle.
  • Supernatural: Prophets — there is only one prophet at a time. When one dies, another candidate is "activated", and becomes a prophet. With the exception of their writer, prophets are the only ones who can read the Tablets, a mystical collection of stone tablets with all the information — and more — one a specific powerful supernatural race, such as angels, demons, leviathans.

  • Welcome to Night Vale: The position of town mayor gives the selected candidate a number of powers (which her cabinet members share), which includes the ability to disappear, fly, and turn into a horse. The only cost of the position is that it seems to take a heavy toll on the mayor's sanity...
    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: various gods have mortal "Chosen", that they supply with a fixed set of powers. In the Forgotten Realms there's also the Magister, tasked by Mystra, goddess of magic, to promote the Art of magic in the mortal world. There is only ever one Magister, and when they die or relinquish their title in any other way the mantle and its associated powers pass to the successor.
  • Nobilis: the godlike Imperators, who are the source and embodiment of the foundational concepts of existence, can share part of their being with someone, turning them into Nobles, Anthropomorphic Personifications of a particular concept. Should a Noble die, the Imperator can choose someone else to become Noble of that concept.
  • Unknown Armies: it's possible to become one of the Invisible Clergy, the Archetypes that shape existence, by embodying a new Archetype or usurping an existing Archetype.
  • Magic: The Gathering: Jace becomes the Living Guildpact, the ultimate mediator of conflicts between the guilds, which grants him immensely powerful magic that he can only use in circumstances where this authority is relevant. Though the first to hold this position, he is noted as being a singularly awful choice for it primarily due to being a planeswalker who often leaves the world and creates huge bureaucratic backlogs because its mystical nature allows no one else to make binding decisions in his absence. He is eventually replaced in the role by the dragon Niv-Mizzet, an erratic Insufferable Genius and previous leader of one of the guilds, who people still expect to be an improvement.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy VIII: Sorceresses pass their power to the nearest compatible woman upon death.
  • The The Elder Scrolls series invokes this trope with the concept of "mantling". In essence, to mantle someone (a person, a deity, a cosmic force, etc.), one must become so like them that there ceases to be a functional difference between the two entities; it seems that at this point the universe itself ceases to distinguish between the two, and they become one entity. It operates on the principle of "if you walk like a duck, swim like a duck and quack like a duck, you ARE a duck". As the Dunmeri Tribunal deity Vivec would say, "walk like the gods until they walk like you". There have been several notable examples throughout the series and in history. To note:
    • One theory behind Tiber Septim's ascension as the deity Talos is that Septim effectively "mantled" Lorkhan, the "dead" creator god of Mundus, the mortal plane. Between possessing the Numidium and the Mantella (an unimaginably powerful soul gem said to hold the soul of Zurin Arctus/Wulfharth Ash-King/the Underking, all possible Shezarrines), Septim found a way to claim Lorkhan's station in the universe.
    • Whether or not the Nerevarine in Morrowind is actually the The Chosen One reincarnation of the original Nerevar, if he/she does the things the Nerevarine is prophesied to do, he/she will be the Nerevarine.
    • The Champion of Cyrodiil and Sheogorath, Daedric Prince of Madness in Oblivion's Shivering Isles expansion. The Champion of Cyrodiil was given the mantle of Sheogorath at the end of the Greymarch. The exact nature of this mantling is difficult to understand in full. Rather than acting like Sheogorath until the universe effectively combined the two entities, Jyggalag surrendered the Mantle, or role, of Sheogorath to the mortal Champion of Cyrodiil. Two-hundred years later in Skyrim, the new Sheogorath looks and acts just as their predecessor; regardless of whatever their race or gender was prior to taking the mantle.
  • Pretender Gods in the Dominions series can grant one of their commanders the title of Prophet, which basically grants even the most mundane of mortals the ability to claim Thrones of Ascension on their behalf and essentially turns them into a souped-up priest capable of granting powerful boosts to their nation's elite sacred troops in battle.
  • In Doki Doki Literature Club!, it turns out that the position of "president of the Literature Club" is this. Only the president has the ability to perceive the virtual nature of their world and directly manipulate its code, though this ability to see how fake their world is tends to drive them a little mad with obsession over the player. After Monika is deleted, Sayori ends up taking on her role as president and thus gains all the benefits (and drawbacks, if you don't go after the Golden Ending) of it.
    Web Animation 
  • RWBY has four Maidens, one for each season of the year, each with great powers said to be different from Semblances (the show's term for special powers). Upon dying, the Maiden's power is transferred to the woman under the age of 30 she was thinking of at the moment of her death. If the person she was thinking about doesn't qualify, the powers go to a random woman in the world. Unfortunately, if a Maiden is killed, her last thoughts are probably going to be about her attacker, meaning that murder is a reliable way to get Maiden powers.
    Web Comics 
  • Erfworld: This trope comes part and parcel with the RPG Mechanics 'Verse of the comic. Unlike Real Life the people, or units, don't grow and learn new skills and positions they have to have the 'Special'. Want to hurt, let alone hit, someone with a thrown rock? Be an archer. Want someone to listen to you? Better be a commander.
  • Code Name: Hunter: When a Fae Aspect like the Summer or Winter Queen dies, they automatically do a Mental Fusion with the next most powerful Fae in line that just so happens to pass on their power. Note that the Aspect's personality is likely to be dominant.
  • Tower of God:
    • Anyone who becomes a Ranker must already be superhuman after climbing the Tower as a Regular, but the contract with the Administrators to become a Ranker makes them even more so. So much more, in fact, that the number of Regulars who have ever beaten a Ranker can be counted with the fingers on one hand with some left to spare. The powers gained or at least greatly enhanced by becoming a Ranker include Super-Strength, Super-Speed, Super-Reflexes, Super-Toughness, Shinsu manipulation, and possibly Super-Senses and Healing Factor (seen in some Rankers).
    • Princesses of Jahad are imbued with Jahad's blood, which makes them more powerful than normal in ways similar to Rankers, although aside from physical abilities, princesses who are only Regulars can't match Rankers.
    • Jahad and the other highest rulers of the Tower have a contract with the Administrators that makes them even more powerful and grants them Complete Immortality. Mind you, nobody has ever taken the place of any of them to see if they would get those powers in their stead. It's just been the same eleven guys since the beginning of the Jahad Empire.
    Western Animation