A Power Crutch is some object which enables a character to use his or her superpowers, or at least assists in their use. It differs from a Magic Feather in that the Magic Feather is a placebo, while the Power Crutch is not. A Power Crutch has some in-story justification for why it works.
Without the Power Crutch, the character will find it difficult, if not impossible to use his or her powers. The Power Crutch may be filling in the Required Secondary Powers that the character somehow lacks. Characters who use Power Crutches may eventually learn to use their abilities without them. The power user, or sometimes others, may even mistake the Power Crutch for the source of his powers— though it isn't. Often, especially in sequential works like comics, a Power Crutch will be revealed (or retconned) to have been a Magic Feather all along.
Contrast its inversion, Power Limiter. They are not mutually exclusive, however; some characters may have uncontrollable powers that they need some device that limits their power AND allows them to control it reliably.
- Naruto: Naruto relies on a shadow clone to help form the Rasengan, since he lacks the fine control skills necessary to give it the proper spin. He's overcome this after the Time Skip, but still requires a clone to make the more powerful variations. By the end of the series, he's overcome that challenge as well.
- My Hero Academia:
- In a more indirect variant, Izuku uses specialized gloves and boots not to make One for All more powerful, but so he can use more of its power without hurting or killing himself.
- Aoyama was born with a birth defect that causes his navel laser to uncontrollably leak out and hurt him. To fix this, he uses a special belt that allows him to control the laser and use it as a proper superpower.
- Mage: The Hero Discovered:
- Kevin Matchstick's baseball bat Excalibur is one of these. If Excalibur gets more than a few yards away from Kevin, his powers conk out.
- One of the other avatars tells Kevin that he used to have a Power Crutch, but eventually learned to do without it.
- Hawkman's wings aren't necessary for him to fly (that power comes from his belt) but they are necessary for him to steer.
- Lady Liberty from the Force of July in The Outsiders. The Outsiders thought her energy blasts came from her torch and disarmed her. It turned out her power was internal and the torch just helped her focus it.
- A lot of these in X-Men, usually of the sort that makes their powers less destructive. Cyclops needs his visor to make his beams controllable, and also to see. Surge needs her gauntlets to regulate her electricity levels.
- X-Men villain Black Tom Cassidy has the superpower of projecting energy blasts, but he needs to channel it through and out of something made of wood. Usually he carries a shillelagh with him for this purpose. For a time he had a wood-like substance grafted to his body which eliminated the need for an external medium.
- A Certain Magical Index:
- After Accelerator suffers brain damage from surviving a headshot, he has to use a battery powered transmitter to link to a Hive Mind to control his powers.
- Misaki "Mental Out" Shokuhou's telepathic abilities are difficult to control, so she uses various (mundane) remote controls as props to help her focus on a particular task. E.g. to make someone recall a past memory, she'll take out a VCR remote and press Rewind.
- The Dresden Files: While Harry Dresden by no means needs his blasting rod or wizard staff to pull off magic, he definitely prefers them for the added focus they lend him (to clarify, he is entirely capable of summoning up vast, devastating power, blasting rod or not. The blasting rod, however, changes it from "general, wanton destruction" to "focused, targeted destruction"). Other characters use various items to channel their magic through as well, while some don't bother.
- The Empirium Trilogy: Humans who can use one of the seven types of elemental magic can only use their power by channeling it through a metal focus that they forged themselves. The two Chosen Ones, the Blood and Sun Queens, are the only exceptions.
- In the last book of the Harry Potter series, wandmaker Ollivander explains that wizards and witches can channel magic through just about anything to cast their spells such as an ordinary stick. Without such a crutch, a person's magic will have uncontrolled and unpredictable results a wand is needed to properly focus the magic into spells. To get the best results they need to use wands that are suited to them. Since a wand is to some extent an Empathic Weapon, it will only work perfectly for someone it likes. The wand choosing ceremony in a wand shop makes sure that this is the case for the customer's wand. Since wands also like to be owned by the strongest wizard/witch possible, they will also switch their loyalties to people who claim them by defeating their previous owners in a contest of magic or strength. For example: Hermione can't use Bellatrix's stolen wand very well because she never actually defeated her in such a contest; she remarks that it still feels like a piece of Bellatrix herself.
- Heralds of Valdemar: The trope is lampshaded in one of the Tarma and Kethry short stories where one of Kethry's classmates had stolen their teacher's staff, thinking that it was the secret to his great power. In truth, the only thing special about the staff was that it had been cut to just the right length to help him with his limp.
- Journey to Chaos, A Mage's Power: Beginner mages all require something to focus and direct their magic. This object can be anything but it's usually a manner of weapon such as a staff. Once a mage is no longer a beginner, they don't need anything. Basilard, for instance, is a Greater Mage with decades of experience. He can start a camp fire with a snap of his fingers. His students, Eric and Nolien, require their stave and a spell.
- In the Ravirn series of novels by Kelly McCullough, webgoblins and trolls are usually required to perform spells. Some like the Fates and Eris can cast spells by humming or whistling tunes, but this is usually more difficult and slower than casting a spell through a webgoblin.
- In Warbreaker, you need fewer Breaths to awaken something that has a bit of your own body (like a hair or something) on it, or that is in the shape of a human form.
- The Wheel of Time: In The Eye of the World, Egwene mistakes Moiraine's staff for an enchanted object. Moiraine corrects her, saying that using it just helps her concentrate.
- Heroes: Issac Mendez, the psychic painter, originally needed to get high on heroin in order to use his precognitive abilities. Even after he learned to do without, it was still easier for him to see the future while high. His paintings do become more focused while sober though. When he's sober he can actually focus on a certain person's future, such as Claire or Hiro. On heroin though, he has a tendency to paint the future totally at random.
- In Kamen Rider Zero-One, Gai Amatsu/Kamen Rider Thouser's main gimmick is his weapon, the Thousand Jacker, which gives him the ability to steal/copy powers from anyone with a Progrise Key, which he can use whenever he wants afterwards. This is to cover up Thouser's otherwise woefully short list of abilities, as the suit doesn't have any special abilities outside of enhanced durability and strength, nor does it provide a buffer to Gai's poor combat learning skills.
- Pugmire: Artisans need a Precursor relic to cast spells, it's powered by their life force but they need the device to cast spells, while Shepherds similarly need their holy symbols to cast spells. In the sister game Monarchies of Mau Mancers absorb the powers of a relic during their initiation but they still need a focus (crafted from bones) to use them.
- In the X-COM series, the Psi-Amps work this way: the abilities of the human psychics are their inner abilities, but they need these devices (and in the second game, an implant) to manifest them, unlike psychic aliens, who can mind-blast you without gadgetry.
- System Shock 2 has Psi Amps used the same way, although they have many more applications than just telepathy.
- The dragon amulet of Jade Empire allow the Spirit Monk to tap into his or her in-born powers and easier usage of ability-augmenting beads. Like most examples of this trope, the SM eventually learns how to function without the amulet. Unlike most examples of this trope the where the crutch is quietly discarded as useless by the hero, the amulet's focusing ability becomes very important to the Big Bad after he steals it.
- Guilty Gear:
- Sol Badguy of the series is a good example of someone using both a Power Limiter and a Power Crutch. As a Flawed Prototype, Sol need to wear his headband full of Gear-suppressor cells to keep himself from both loosing control of his powers and his mind, but alongside the headband he uses the Fireseal sword, one of several Anti-gear weapons (that he himself created) that act as magical focci.
- A playable version of him before he got the fireseal; Order-Sol, depicts him having to charge his attacks for them to be very effective, with them getting more unwieldy and wild the higher his charge level is.
- Mass Effect: Biotic Amps are devices implanted in a biotic individual to, well, amplify their power. Without an amp, they still have biotic powers, but those powers are too weak to really be useful for anything. With the amp, they are a deadly force on the battlefield. Asari are the only race whose biotics are powerful enough to do some good on their own, but they still use amps to strengthen their powers even further.
- Devil May Cry 5: V's cane has no power by its own, but as it's made of demonic metal, it's a good conduit for him to channel demonic energy.
- In Gunnerkrigg Court, blinker stones are power crystals that focus inherent psychic abilities like a lens. Etheric beings like The Fair Folk and animals, who can use such powers effortlessly, consider anyone using them and still tethered to their bodies stupid. Annie's eventually gets broken by Ysengrin to force her to stop suppressing her emotions and she subsequently has trouble astral projecting. She used to be able to see in the ether clearly but now everything is inky blackness and she can only sense Reynard's nearby etheric presence.
- Many people who are less proficient in wielding Shinsu in Tower of God use item called wands (though they come in many different forms) to make up for it.
- The running theme of Homestuck is a Coming-of-Age Story with the context of children being forced to mature by a universe propagating process that presents itself as an MMORPG where they hopefully can ascend into godhood. Over the course of their session they're supposed to find artifacts that grant access to abilities related to their mythological roles in completing their quests that they're meant to become able to use on their own as experience using them grows.