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Guy 1: But how are you flying?
Guy 2: I just typed "import antigravity".
Guy 1: That's it?
Guy 2: ...I also sampled everything in the medicine cabinet for comparison. But I think this is the Python.
xkcd #353 - Python

Even if a writer is avoiding science fiction, the modern age has seriously affected cultural notions of magic, be they mutant powers or deity/demon granted.

Powers and Special Abilities often seem to be "spiritual programs" in human beings. They can be added, removed, or copied without physiological change, and they're all "encoded" in the same way, so a device or person that can steal, detect or otherwise interact with "powers" will work on any superhuman, regardless of where their abilities come from. In video games, these abilities often use "MP" the same way a computer uses electricity.

Thus, if you need to increase your powers fast, just look around for an Upgrade Artifact! Forget about rolling your own powers, however — the tools required to create the programmed powers in the first place (such as a programming language and associated compiler program) are nowhere to be found, and nobody even thinks to ask about them. The closest anyone ever gets to exploring how all of this fits together is that the recipient has to initially be "reformatted" in some way or another before any "updates" can take hold. Compare Vancian Magic and Power Copying. May also overlap with Powers via Weapon. A subtrope is Discard and Draw, where the "diskspace" freed by losing one power gets utilized for another power afterwards. For powers that are performed through actual programming with mathematics, see Formulaic Magic. A subtrope of Meta Power. When combined with Shapeshifting abilities, this can result in a Transferred Transformation or a Physical Attribute Swap.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Accel World, White cosmos can take player data modify her fellow burst linkers avatar or use their power, she has an ability to recall the data of former players and can use these "ghosts" for their abilities she also was able to place the player data of a previous player and merge it with another player into as alternate personalities.
  • In Code Geass, Geass powers apparently cannot be copied or transferred per se, but the "Code" — a power package of immortality, immunity to Geass, vaguely-defined psionic facilities, and Super-Empowering — can be transferred to a Geass user at the cost of stripping them of their original Geass. C.C.'s initial goal is to find someone to pass her powers to, so that she could die.
  • In Digimon Tamers, cards from the Digimon card game can be slashed through a Digivice to temporarily load its effects onto one's partner Digimon. Additionally, killing a Digimon and loading its data enables one to use the attacks of that Digimon.
  • In Hunter × Hunter, powers are essentially creations by the people who wield them, and they can be stolen, duplicated, disabled, swapped for another power, or transferred to another user by people who have those powers (which themselves can be stolen, duplicated, disabled, swapped, or transferred). Most of the powers shown don't have these capabilities, but a handful of characters, like Kurapika, Cheetu, Leol, Chrollo, Abengane, Ging, and the Chimera Ant Queen operate mainly on these aspects. Leol, in particular, is an especially literal example of this trope, as he stores his stolen powers in a music player whose index looks just like a playlist.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Stands and other abilities are largely considered as unique to their individual Users and unable to be transplanted to another. During Part 6, however, Big Bad Enrico Pucci's Stand, Whitesnake allows him to extract (among other things) the Stand of his victims in the form of CD-like DISCs. These are physical objects that can be handled by anyone and inserted into any person whose personality is compatible with the Stand's powers. They can even be swapped into non-human lifeforms, like, say, giving a colony of plankton a DISC that covers their bodies in boiling water. If a person loses both their Stand and their memories to Whitesnake's power, they gradually and ultimately lose the will to live and require life-support machines to stay alive unless both DISCs are returned quickly.
  • Kinnikuman had a Devil Chojin named Stecase King. A walking cassette player/walkman who could obtain the fighting skills of other Chojin by switching out his cassette tapes. This eventually backfired because his tapes of Kinnikuman himself were badly outdated, leaving Stecase King with the Crouching Moron before he got the Hidden Badass.
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
    • Downplayed in the fluff, which explains that magical programs/spells cannot be copied arbitrarily and each mage has a highly personalized library of spells. They can share the principle of their respective spells (cf. generic algorithms) but each spell is its caster's personal implementation and often an upgrade of an older spell from their library. For example, despite having the same name, Nanoha's and Subaru's versions of Divine Buster function differently from each other.
    • Although Reinforce can copy the spells of anyone who has had their linker core drained by the Book of Darkness, but that's a unique ability that only she possesses.
  • In Medaka Box, not only are powers freely tradable (assuming you have someone with the power to trade them) there's one character who can create powers from nothing and give them to people (as long as they specify what they want) and another who can alter existing powers.
  • My Hero Academia has two examples: All Might's "One for All," referred to as a cultivated power, gets stronger with use and can be passed to another individual (All Might is actually the eighth person to wield it). Its Evil Counterpart is "All for One," which can take Quirks and bestow them upon others; however, it's shown that stuffing too many Quirks into a single person is a terrible idea since it turns them into mindless brutes named "Nomus". A long time ago, All for One's user granted his supposedly Quirkless brother a Quirk that stockpiled power, which somehow merged with the brother's previously unknown and functionally useless Quirk which could only pass itself on to others. "One for All" was the result.
  • Played with by Devil Fruits in One Piece. Taking just one bite instantly gives you the power, and renders the fruit powerless. However, some do have physical changes, there is no way to remove them, and trying to eat a second one apparently causes a very nasty and fatal backfire. Blackbeard is the exception to the latter rule. He somehow has the ability to possess multiple Devil Fruits and found a way to directly steal the abilities of other people, after killing them.
  • In UQ Holder!, Magitek has apparently advanced since the days of Negima! Magister Negi Magi to the point that it is now possible to purchase "Magic Apps," or buy spells rather than train to acquire them. This has lead to a rather nasty divide between the upper and lower classes, as the rich are now able to afford instant magic powers, while those who cannot afford it must train for years to acquire it. However, users of Magic Apps tend to be much less skilled at magic than those who trained for it, for obvious reasons, although there are a few who are legitimately skilled at magic despite buying their way into it.
  • In World Trigger, the superpowers generated by Border's Triggers are basically mass produced, standard issue weapons that can be equipped and wielded by anyone regardless of their Trion level or mastery of said weapon. One can even pick up and activate another user's Trigger Holder in a pinch, as was the case when Yuuma used Osamu's C-rank Trigger to fight a Marmod that was attacking the school.
  • Powers in Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches can all apparently be copied. Though of course, only one can be stored at a time, and it's overwritten by the next power if another power is copied.

    Comic Books 
  • The trope is common in Comic Book superhero worlds like The DCU and Marvel Universe. Marvel's Rogue, for example, can take others powers, either temporarily or permanently. There are other "borrowers" (such as Parasite from The DCU) and "copiers" (such as Mimic from the Marvel Universe) throughout both. There's even some Green Rocks on the DC side: pre-Crisis "Gold Kryptonite" could permanently rob Kryptonians of their powers and render them just like humans.
    • The character Sage from the Marvel Universe really stands out for this trope. Via her Awesome by Analysis powers she is able to jump-start, overclock, alter or even trigger mutant abilities.
    • Not counting Rogue, mentioned above, whose power as mentioned above is explicitly this), the X-Men's most egregious single victim of this trope is Psylocke. She started as a out as a telepath and precog and subsequently gone through so many power changes that her abilities seem to literally be gained or lost Depending on the Writer, sometimes without even a Hand Wave explanation.
    • Rogue herself takes it to a new level. She doesn't just borrow powers, but knowledge and skills as well. Everyone she's ever touched stays in there, and it's driven her to near madness before. However, she's also had all those past powers activated at once before (Sage did it, natch), sending her into one-woman army territory. It doesn't happen often because of the danger of losing herself (and being a Story-Breaker Power) but it's awesome to behold when it does.
    • Also the other side of the coin where devices or artifacts that render superhumans powerless apparently work on ALL superhumans, regardless of their type of powers or the origin of them. DC is worse about this than Marvel; Marvel usually just applies this to mutants, who get their powers from a particular genetic strand and could thus (at least with comic science) reasonably be repressed, but DC tends to have the same power-dampening collars work on (for example) Superman, Supergirl and Wonder Woman, despite the vast difference in the way their powers work and the source of them.
      • Not that Marvel is innocent of this: anyone up in arms about the Juggernaut being a mutant in the movieverse, an assumption based on Leech's ability to depower him, should remember that in the comics, Leech has been able to depower Inhumans (offshoot of humanity empowered by the local Green Rocks' mist), the Power Pack (kids whose powers were transferred to them by an alien whose species is born with powers), and Spider-Man as well as mutants. Whether it'd work on Iron Man or someone else whose powers are externally-based remains to be seen.
      • Marvel Comics also has S.P.I.N. technology, Super Power Inhibiting Nanobots that can strip seemingly any super of their powers. They were used during the after math of the Civil War arc. Which seemed to work on Mutants, Mutates and Gamma Mutates to various degrees. And of course some genius sent amateurs to use them on Spider-Man, it ends how you think it would. Unknown how the S.P.I.N. tech would work on martial arts based powers like Iron Fist's, but it's been noted at other times that characters who use magic or have powers with a mystic basis are much harder to affect with most tech-based power dampeners than other characters are.
      • Though S.P.I.N. did tend to avert this at first. The nanites had to be specifically designed for the intended victim, and wouldn't work on anyone else (unless they had the same power etc). Eventually, generic ones were developed, but these only covered common powers rather than everything (Spider-Man got stung with them once - he lost his strength & agility, but kept his spider-sense) and were temporary in effect, which fit better.
      • Peter Petrelli (see Heroes in "Live-Action TV" below) owes a lot to Mimic. Mimic can take on the powers of any mutant he's around, his body altering itself to match (such as gaining Beast's physique and Angel's wings). The villainous main Marvel Universe one has permanently taken on the powers of the original X-Men in addition to gaining new ones based on who he's around. The good Exiles version can hold any five powers at once (though he only started out with the ability to copy mutant powers, he later learned how to copy the powers of non-mutants). At one point, Exile!Mimic mimics the Phoenix Force from one of the Summers - granted, as with all his mimics he got it at half power, but he mimic'ed a fundamental force of the universe (and half of infinity is still infinity). When copying someone's powers, Mimic (either version) can't do so selectively; he gets their entire power set, including any weaknesses that might go along with them. Exiles!Mimic also was shown to not always be able to use all copied powers simultaneously: he could use Colossus's armored body and Super-Strength with Wolverine's claws and healing factor, but not Jean Grey's psychic powers (he also didn't appear to have Wolverine's Super-Senses even though he should have).
  • Anthony "Tony" Masters, aka Taskmaster can copy every muscle fiber twitch of most people's physical abilities (he can throw a shield like Captain America, punch like Iron Fist, but don't ask him to jump like Hulk) from simply watching it of this as just like a computer his mind gets full, so his brain has formatted itself to dump memories even those of his wife and past life as an ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, which is how he met his wife. It gets even sadder as Avengers Academy member Finesse believes she may be his daughter due to her having similar abilities, meaning she's possibly gonna have this weakness. He admits when they meet alone that he can't remember but it's a possibility. He won't take a DNA test, though, as he likes to stay off the grid. Avengers Academy #23 has a possible future version of Finesse, and her memory has been affected so much, that as she looks at her daughter, she can only remember her vaguely by her movements.
    • One aspect/flaw of his abilities is that he's only able to replay (and to an extent, integrate) moves but not expand or tweak them to his own needs (depending). For instance, he can punch at superhuman speeds by watching a video on fast-forward but can not simply punch at superhuman speeds just because he wants to (not to mention, he explicitly says he doesn't do this often anyway since being an otherwise normal human, superhuman feats destroy his body from stress and strain).
  • The pre-teen Four-Temperament Ensemble Power Pack has this as a key part of their origin story, and at times their powersets even get reshuffled among them, sometimes with one of them getting them all at once temporarily.
    • Averted in one storyline, where for several issues, the kids' powers are swapped around. The skills are individual, and they all have fits learning how to use the powers they're not familiar with, and come up with individual applications of the new powers.
  • In JLA (1997), villain Prometheus uses a helmet that allows him to download other people's physical skills and knowledge for his own use (he can't duplicate superpowers, though). Hilariously, Batman defeats him by overwriting his fighting skills with the physical skills of Stephen Hawking.
  • Superman:
    • In Demon Spawn, villain Nightflame intends to transfer Supergirl's powers to herself.
    • In Strangers at the Heart's Core, another villain -Shyla Kor-Onn- attempts to steal Supergirl's powers by plugging her into a life-draining machine.
    • Several examples in Kryptonite Nevermore:
      • The Sandman Superman gradually drains Superman's powers.
        Superman: The faster I fly... the faster it flies! And I can't seem to attain top speed... Almost as though it's somehow... draining my power!
      • An ancient artifact called the Devil's Harp steals abilities and powers from other people. His owner Nyxly wanted to be a great musician, and the Harp stole the talent from a famous pianist. He wanted to fly, be super-strong and invulnerable, and the Harp stole Superman's powers.
    • In The Girl with the X-Ray Mind, Kryptonian mad scientist Kru-El devises a belt device which can give other people Kryptonian-like powers. His partner-in-crime Jax-Ur tests it on Lex Luthor.
    • Subverted in Kurt Busiek's Action Comics arc Back In Action, where an intergalactic Auctioneer kidnaps a bunch of heroes with the intent of selling them to collectors. On his ship, everyone lost their powers. Superman figured that since everyone's powers came from different sources, that they were being blocked mentally. He breaks the block by putting himself in mortal danger (for a normal human) and is protected by his invulnerability. Since he knows it's a lie, the mental block is broken.
    • The Death of Lightning Lad: Saturn Girl is able to copy the Legion of Super-Heroes' powers by instructing them to use their powers while wearing medallions made of spectrium.
    • Whenever someone ends up getting Bouncing Boy's ability to inflate his body like a huge ball, they usually end up looking rather chubby even when not using this power. This happens to Superboy in "The Secret Of The Mystery Legionnaire," Ultra Boy in "The Unkillables," and Lightning Lad in the cartoon tie-in issue "The Powers That Were." Strangely, Bouncing Boy would inexplicably become skinny during the swaps despite his origin story proving he was already heavyset before he gained his power.
    • In a story focused on Bizarro, the Thing of Steel creates Bizarro Amazo. The reversal of Amazo's ability to copy every power for himself means he steals superpowers to give to powerless people. He spends the issue causing chaos by giving powers to random people who don't know how to control them, with the heroes near powerless to stop him, relying on tricks to get him to both give them back and leave.
  • Black Alice (real name Lori Manning) is basically the Dark Magical Girl version of Rogue. She's an Anti-Hero (or Hero or Anti-Villain depending on the story) who can temporarily steal any magic user's powers and use them as well as they can. She doesn't even have to be near them; Zatanna could be halfway across the world and Black Alice could still steal her powers. Lori has even managed to steal two magic users' powers at once. The Superfriends version of Black Alice (from the latest comic book iteration) only copies magical abilities, rather than stealing them.
  • JLA: Act of God relies on this as its premise; a mysterious event removes superpowers from all the characters in the DCU albeit inconsistently. Humanoid Aliens like Superman and Martian Manhunter lost abilities that are typical of their species (i.e., they don't actually have "superpowers" per se) beyond that of baseline humans. Technology is supposed to remain functional so Steel's Powered Armor is unimpeded, but somehow Kyle Rayner's ring (made with Oan technology) no longer works. Yeah, it really made no sense at all.
  • DC One Million: At some point it became common practice for civilians to emulate the powers of ancient superheroes signified by them wearing their icons.
  • Fantastic Four: In Mark Waid's run, Reed Richards once switched Johnny and Susan's powers in a ploy to trick aliens into thinking he depowered her. An accident switching them back knocked all of their powersets out of them them, which then randomly jumped between civilians throughout New York City, and they had to be tracked down and taken back.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Dark City treats memories this way; Dr. Screber mixes them in a lab and injects them into the forehead using a syringe.
  • This arises as a temporary side effect of the Silver Surfer's energy aura on Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Whenever Johnny touches one of the other heroes, they swap powers with him (this somehow even includes instantly transforming Ben back into his human form). Near the end, Johnny ends up copying all their powers to face down Doctor Doom with their combined might.
  • Inspector Gadget 2 does this with Gadget's glitches when he and G-2 swap processor chips. Her chips stabilize his gadgets, and his chips give her a cartoon hammer and wrapping-paper launchers. Somehow.
  • In The Matrix, skills are literal computer programs, and any of the rebels at any time can call Mission Control, ask for a program, and receive instant powers. (The films don't make it clear how far this goes past providing raw information, as the rebels have and use private and apparently sped-up simulated spaces for training, but at the least this can give somebody who can drive, fly, shoot and fight a Universal Driver's License and its equivalents.)
  • In My Super Ex-Girlfriend, the eponymous superhero initially absorbed her powers from a meteorite. This very meteorite is also the key to taking her powers away again to be transferred to another character
  • The film Space Jam has a bunch of aliens using technology to steal the basketball talents from NBA stars. This results in them becoming inexplicably uncoordinated but the diminutive aliens that take on their talent mutate into giants as well.
  • In Vice (2015), James mentions to Robot Girl Kelly that he can 'upgrade' her by installing new skill packages into her. She initially refuses, but after Kelly takes up Tedeschi's offer to stay and shut down Vice, they visit James and Kelly is upgraded to possess advanced combat skills.

  • Being Able to Edit Skills in Another World, I Gained OP Waifus: Skills can be absorbed and rejected by anyone, and there is an actual industry dedicated to finding skills. The main character has the unique power of being able to modify skills by exchanging words between any two.
  • Esper abilities in A Certain Magical Index seem to operate this way on some level, as each power is completely unique to an individual through a concept called "Personal Reality" and every esper subconsciously emits a unique signal called an "AIM field". An esper can only have one type of power, but there are methods for reproducing and/or copying abilities. There's a Cyborg who can copy the power of any nearby esper, though she can only copy one at a time. Another character has the power to sense and track others with abilities by reading their AIM fields, which she can use to alert her teammates to a target's location. It's useful in its own way, but doesn't have much function outside of a support role. However, her true power theoretically allows her to remove and bestow abilities at will by manipulating those fields.
  • The Cosmere runs on very strict Magic A Is Magic A rules, and as such there are ways to steal other's powers if you know enough about manipulating Connection and Investiture. Ishar of The Stormlight Archive tried to steal Dalinar's Bondsmith powers and destiny, only failing because he was interrupted by Nightblood.
  • Slightly varied in Alan Dean Foster's Cyber Way, where a Navajo sandpainting grants 20th century detectives natural language command level access to Reality's core AI.
  • The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter: Noir learns three skills that allow him to create, modify and bestow skills of his own — at the cost of his life force. Fortunately, this can be regained by satisfying his own desires... like making out with pretty girls.
  • In The Laundry Files, computer programs are magic. "Forever exit and collect all the garbage. Amen." For this trope however this applies mainly to computational daemonology, especially pre-prepared spell apps. Ritual and mental magic doesn't apply, however.
  • Necroscope:
    • The villain, Boris Dragosani, has the ability to read the memories of the dead. This also allows him to steal and learn the powers of the super-powered dead, which means that he gets pretty badass by the end of the book.
    • The protagonist, Harry Keogh, also has this ability. Unlike Dragosani, Keogh learns from the dead by asking nicely. This also gives him the "power" of having the nearby dead rise from their graves to serve up a Deus ex Machina With Cheese.
  • In Julian May's Saga of the Exiles and Galactic Milieu series, a lot of metapsychic stunts, performed both by a single and several characters, are literally called "programs" and can be shared, optimized and booby-trapped.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrowverse:
    • Supergirl (2015): Parasite can absorb the powers of any alien, using them for a short time before it has to find more to absorb. This is especially odd as most of these "powers" are the result of complicated biological processes unique to each species. And yet absorbing an illusionist's shapeshifting is just as easy as absorbing a Kryptonian's Super-Strength.
    • The Flash (2014):
      • Clifford Devoe, AKA The Thinker, creates a busload (literally) of metahumans then uses his Cool Chair to absorb their powers.
      • There's also a Villain of the Week called Melter who can remove superpowers by scrambling DNA, or something.
    • In the Elseworlds (2018) crossover, the robot AMAZO was designed to copy metahuman powers to use against them. Then it turns out that it can copy the powers of aliens as well. And the abilities of a Badass Normal.
  • Common plot device in Charmed where some demon or warlock/evil witch is stealing other people's powers.
    • They even go so far as to have a group of demons who spend their time trading powers like trading cards... (though that could well be Lampshade Hanging). Another episode had demons using powers as currency for an auction over souls.
    • One episode revolved around the sisters accidentally swapping powers. A later episode had them use the same spell, but they accidentally ended up going into two random passersby.
    • Cole managed to absorb enough powers by hanging out in the demon afterlife and taking the power of every one that died that he broke out, loaded down with a ludicrous number of abilities.
    • This isn't even limited by the type of supernatural being. For example, in "Love Hurts," Prue swaps powers with a Darklighter (named Alec and played by Michael Trucco) and Piper swaps powers with the resident Whitelighter, Leo.
  • Dollhouse is all about this as a commercial business. Want a super-spy? Just programme one of the dolls. Later on, Topher shows he can imprint certain skills into existing personalities without a full wipe/imprint, such as giving Anthony (Victor's original personality) mad hand-to-hand fighting skills. Anthony at first isn't sure it worked, until he suddenly explodes into action on a pair of Rossum assassins, knocking them out in the space of two seconds (and this is in addition to his normal training as a soldier). Thanks to Echo's later ability to retain the Echo personality while also seamlessly switching between all of her imprints, she has Topher load her up with every imprint they have in order to be able to have any skill she needs on demand. In the Bad Future, Victor joins a group of resistance fighters, who use portable technology to swap out their own imprints with useful skills.
  • On Haven, one of the Troubled has the ability to steal other people's Troubles, one at a time—he takes on the Trouble, the person who had it loses it, and then when he takes another Trouble the previous person gets theirs back.
    • One of the main cast has a trouble that nullifies other troubles in the entire bloodline if they make contact with the blood of a troubled person they killed. Later on it turns out these troubles are absorbed and stored within his body, found out when trying to restore his first one activates them all and makes him a ticking time bomb. He later becomes capable of using these stolen powers at will.
  • On Heroes, Peter Petrelli's power is to copy other superhuman powers. Arthur Petrelli also makes use of this trope, instantly stealing all powers from a target by touching them. Perhaps it runs in the family. Sylar, from the same series has a more villainous way of doing the same thing, stealing powers by killing other superhumans and examining their brains. It's later revealed that killing and cutting heads open isn't actually required, and Sylar can copy powers by using empathy, but he feels off when he does it that way, and the only person, whose power he copies this way, he later goes back and does it "properly".
  • Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, the Super Sentai Milestone Celebration and equivalent to Kamen Rider Decade (above), has this as well. In the backstory, the 34 previous Sentai teams sacrificed their powers to protect Earth from an alien invasion. The Gokaiger have recovered those powers, which take the form of keys that can be used in their Transformation Trinket cell phones to change them into any previous Ranger, with all the powers and abilities inherent. The keys can also be used in the Gokaigers' weapons to power them up for a Finishing Move.
  • The second wave of Heisei Kamen Rider seems to be heading this way, arguably a result of the Merchandise-Driven nature the series developed with each series' subsequent Transformation Trinkets. Earlier series played with this idea. The Movie of Kamen Rider Ryuki shows the Ryuki Advent Deck being passed to Shinji from the former Ryuki, and he receives the Knight Deck from a dying Ren after the Ryuki Advent Deck is destroyed, while Kamen Rider 555 shows the various Rider Gears changing hands variously throughout the series to the point that it becomes a secondary gimmick; there's a point in the series when the hero Takumi Inui becomes Kamen Rider Delta when he loses possession of the Faiz Gear. Kamen Rider Kabuto also plays with this in how often the TheBee Zecter switches hands.
    • This started in Kamen Rider Decade where the title character and his similarly-powered rival (despite being from entirely separate versions of Earth) use cards via their Transformation Trinkets to become/summon Riders from any past Kamen Rider series, perform special attacks, summon equipment, and make their finishing moves. The official descriptions of the suits and Transformation Trinkets even say that the cards are just stored data and that the suits have the power to read the data and alter reality in order to create things or change pre-existing things, as seen with their ability to turn past Riders into objects.
    • Kamen Rider Double is similar, possibly even justified, as all of the superpowers in the show derive from USB flash drive-like Transformation Trinkets called Gaia Memories are said to contain all the Earth's knowledge about a single subject from straightforward powers like "Magma" and "T-Rex" to objects like "Money" or even concepts like "Violence" and "Yesterday". They come in two forms. The Gaia Memories used by the Monsters of the Week are bonded to them by a device and they apparently cause G-Rated Drug addiction/withdrawal (though they can be passed around or used without a port, this is shown to be a bad idea). The Big Bad group uses the same ones as the subordinates but they use belts that apparently limit the addictive nature (and allegedly the power); the mid-season "boss" believed this to be true and had experimented with several Gaia Memories, even stealing the powers of others' he has chosen to make his own even stronger. The Kamen Rider heroes use more refined Gaia Memories that are apparently plug-and-play, as demonstrated when Kamen Rider Double loans his Cyclone Memory to his ally Kamen Rider Accel, who plugs it into his sword to beef it up with wind power (and the hypothetical CycloneAccel Xtreme implies that Accel's Memory can be used in Double's transformation belt rather than his specialized one).
    • Kamen Rider OOO featured O Medals, the "bodies" and minds of the Big Bad Greeeds that all have different powers when used by the titular hero. These powers could be mixed and matched, with the mono-colored combinations being more powerful, and taxing on the hero.
    • Kamen Rider Fourze features Astro Switches that plug into the heroes' belts and weaponry. Fourze's powers were mix-and-match, except for a few that were for form changes. However, some switches worked better in combination with each other, like the Radar Switch allowing Fourze to control the missiles fired by the Launcher Switch. Meteor didn't have as much plug-and-play as Fourze, but he could borrow Fourze's elemental form changing Astro Switches for various elemental attacks. The Movie played this trope even straighter when Fourze borrowed Meteor's Meteor Switch and gained his mastery of Jeet Kun Do in his special Fusion form
    • The magical powers in Kamen Rider Wizard are all based on magically powered Wizard Rings. The hero Wizard uses rings powered by crystals, shared with the White Wizard and the various Kamen Riders Mage, while Beast has a completely different set and style. However, the two sets are incompatible with each other: Wizard waves his hands over a belt buckle, while Beast inserts his rings into a socket on his belt like a key. In a do-or-die situation, Wizard was able to borrow one of Beast's keys (we later find his own rings don't fit Beast's belt, to Beast's disappointment.) He was unable to use one of the White Wizard's rings, with his belt simply saying "ERROR".
      • In the non-canon direct-to-DVD joke episode, Wizard and Beast can indeed use each others' rings with exactly the same effects; however, this same DVD has Beast use his Buffalo ring on Wizard to make him sprout horns and a giant nose ring, so...
    • Kamen Rider Gaim employs Lockseeds, which summon fruit- (or nut-) themed armor from a parallel dimension, each with their own thematically-styled weapon; the general populace also has them, and they simply summon what they thought were holographic monsters. The various first set of Kamen Riders generally keep their Lockseeds to themselves, but they can be shared amongst each other, although as they're all rivals this is rare. The next generation Energy Lockseeds are more refined, apparently manmade in comparison to the "harvested" ones, but all seem to give their user the same power. That is until Kamen Rider Gaim snatches them from the group during their skirmishes, giving Gaim his Mid-Season Upgrade with different powers depending on which Energy Lockseed he's got on him.
    • Kamen Rider Drive has Shift Cars used by the hero, Signal Bikes used by the secondary Riders, and Viral Cores used by the villains. Each Shift Car gives Drive a different unique ability, symbolized by whatever tire and weapon gets summoned onto him, with some even changing his forms. The Signal Bikes simply change the sign on Mach's chest, and each one gives his weapon a different bonus ability, like homing shots or scatter shots; Mach can also use the Shift Cars. There's also a shared Signal Bike Shift Car shared between them for a Mid-Season Upgrade form for both. Before his Heel–Face Turn, Chaser's different Viral Cores changed his weapon from a claw, to a whip, to a crossbow, and he could use either Shift Cars or Signal Bikes in his weapon, but after he becomes a hero he simply uses the Signal Bikes.
    • In Kamen Rider Ghost all Eyecons can be shared among Ghost, Specter and Necrom, but their own (Ore, Specter and Necrom Eyecon). Each provides different form with different abilities and weapons.
    • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid has Gashats that should all be interchangable besides some exceptions like Mighty Brothers Double X, Dangerous Zombie and Kamen Rider Chronicle ; but the only ones that actually are used by more than one person are Dragon Knight Hunter Z and Gashat Gear Dual Beta.
    • Kamen Rider Build: FullBottles are used for a Multiform Balance in sets of two by Build. In Sento's words, they are not one size fits all and thus they can't be exchanged without consequences. Sento can't use Ryuga's Dragon bottle for long because the unstable reaction sets him on fire. On the other hand, Ryuga can use Dragon bottle (only it and Lock apparently) and does so along with Cross-Z Dragon to transform into Cross-Z.
    • The 20th season, Kamen Rider Zi-O, uses its anniversary status to pull a similar gimmick to Decade, this time utilizing RideWatches to upgrade the heroes with armor, and by the villains to mutate civilians into twisted monster versions of the previous Riders. The monster-version overwrites the previous Riders' existence, and then Zi-O and Geiz have to use their armor-versions of the same powers to defeat them; due to the time-altering nature of the Watches, however, the Riders' histories are not restored, meaning the heroes are stockpiling powersets by deleting the sources.
  • Misfits:
    • Superpowers granted by the storm can be transferred from one person to another by organ transplants.
    • Ecstacy causes powers to invert e.g. a girl with the ability to generate ice becomes a pyrokinetic for a while, and Curtis goes forward in time instead of backwards.
    • Seth is effectively a Power Disk Drive: he can absorb powers from people, store them in his body and then grant them to anyone else. So through him people can swap powers, lose powers or even gain multiple abilities.
    • In season 5, Finn gets a bad power that is later removed via a Power Nullifier. When Jess asks why he still has his telekinesis, he speculates that it must be Last In, First Out.
  • In Smallville, Clark Kent has lost his powers so many times, the wiki has a page for it. Naturally, as the comics section stated, it generally makes no sense.
    • He also temporarily transferred them to Eric Summers, twice, and Lana Lang (albeit only half).
    • But there is something even worse in season six to eight. Chloe Sullivan gains Empathic Healing from kryptonite exposure. When Brainiac uses a Mind Probe on her, it somehow gives her Super-Intelligence and removed her healing power. It is never explained. It is also mentioned in "Cure" that Chloe has a large amount of kryptonite around her heart, which causes it to make even less sense since Brainiac obviously didn't remove that.
  • In StargateSG1, it becomes a plot point that Sam Carter, who had been in a symbiosis with a Tokra, can use their technology due to the aforementioned having done what amounts to installing a "driver" in her brain; while other humans can not.
  • VR Troopers had any sort of new gadget or power created in virtual reality and then transferred into the real world or the virtual world as needed. These ranged from tools used for detecting or repairing something, to new powers and vehicles.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The eponymous hero of Joe 90 acquires his abilities by having the "brain patterns" of specialists downloaded into his brain by a computer, via the electrodes in his glasses. The brain patterns are acquired by scanning their original owner's brains, either voluntarily or covertly, and recording them on tape to be stored until needed.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Cosmic Encounter represents the racial advantages of each race in this fashion. Even though different powers are implied to come from from physiology, social structures, technology and so forth, there are cards and powers that can mimic, swap, or replace them all with ease.
  • d20 Modern has spells you can send as emails, burn onto CD, or cast from a PDA.
  • Numerous examples can be found in the Dungeons & Dragons game. Some specific monsters or magic treating Powers as Programs include:
    • Spells:
      • A spell from 1E supplement Greyhawk Adventures, Rary's aptitude appropriater, shortly gives the caster the use of someone else's non-weapon proficiency with the same level of skill. The proficiency isn't stolen, just duplicated.
      • The 3E spell mirror move, from an online supplement, likewise allows the caster to copy any general feat with visible effects simply by observing another character using it.
      • The Bard spell combined talent (from Complete Mage) allows a subject to use the skill ranks of another character in one specific skill instead of its own.
    • Monsters:
      • The obliviax monster, or memory moss, can steal memories from the mind of humanoids, and use their spells if attacked. The easiest way to regain the memories (and spells) is eating the obliviax (which is mildly poisonous).
      • A Blob Monster from the Fiend Folio, the enveloper, can use the spells and powers of the adventurers he'd devoured.
      • The gross and nightmarish version of this is the Living Wall.
      • The Ethereal Doppelgänger goes well beyond the ordinary kind of Doppelgänger with the Assume Identity power, allowing to absorb another creature's memories, personality, and all of its abilities (save for that are divinely granted). It's however a lengthy process (furthermore if the subject is high level) and far easier if the creature is willing. The subject doesn't lose its own abilities, and must stay alive for the Doppelgänger to keep impersonating it.
    • Classes:
      • The "Jackal" wizard kit from The Complete Sha'ir's Handbook can cast no spell on his own, but steals spells directly from other mage's minds. (And let's not get into the Clockwork Mage, Digitalogist or Mageweaver kits...)
      • 3rd Edition's Spellthief class does Exactly What It Says on the Tin and could also steal a monster's spell-like abilities.
      • The Hierophant Prestige Class can pick a couple of special abilities that allow the transfer of either the Turn Undead power or Druid class features to another creature.
      • The Ur-Priest Prestige Class, beyond stealing spells from the gods, can at its highest level copy the spell-like abilities of a nearby creature (it's confusingly called "steal," but the subject doesn't lose her own powers in the process).
      • The Kensai Prestige Class gains the "Instill" power at high level, which can transfer some of its combat ability (base attack bonus and/or save bonuses) to a willing ally for an hour. This is a risky move, however, since if the ally is killed before transferring back the power, the Kensai may die too.
    • Psionic (mostly 3.5th Edition examples):
      • Feat Leech temporary steals psionic or metapsionic feats from another creature and allow to use them.
      • Thieving Mindlink can do the same with one psionic power.
      • Psychic Reformation can modify the choice of skills, feats or psionic powers made at previous levels.
      • Psychic Chirurgery can inscribe into the mind of another manifester any power the telepath knows.
      • Apopsi can definitely erases powers from the mind of a psionic creature.
      • The variant class Erudite can also learn about any Psion power by establishing contact with the mind of another psionic being, willing or unconscious.
  • Exalted represents nearly all powers as "charms," regardless of who has them; some charms allow you to copy others, while the Eclipse castes can (at a steep XP surcharge) learn the charms of anyone, regardless of power source. In a subversion of the usual rules, however, the compiler for new charms is available to most types of Exalt, who can freely invent new charms with enough time and experience.

    However, "regardless of power source" is somewhat disingenuous— all magic in the setting, and, for that matter, all everything in the setting, is essence based, essence being the metaphysical atomic structure of creation. Charms are simply specific patterns of essence run through a conscious soul — much like computer programs are specific patterns of electricity through a set of circuits.

    Video Games 
  • Downplayed in Battlerite. The game's namesake is a selection of "Battlerites" (presumably some rituals the character performs before combat) that, rather than granting new abilities, slightly improve the character's pre-existing abilities, such as making a skill add debuffs or deal more damage. A character can only have five Battlerites at once, and a maximum of two upgrading the same ability or one upgrading the Ultimate ability, so finding different combinations of Battlerites that work best together is a key part of the game's experience.
  • Despite being changes to your genetics, Plasmid and gene tonics in BioShock can be installed, removed and re-installed with ease. Then again, player characters seem to be the only people in Rapture who can withstand constant genetic alteration without going stark raving mad.note 
  • BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm:
    • Each party member can equip one accessory at a time, and there’s a wide variety to pick from. Some of them give the user new attacks, while others unlock some kind of field ability (like sprinting). Still others increase the amount of money or EXP you get after battle, or protect against certain status effects, or double the loot inside treasure chests. To get the most use out of them all, you’ll likely be swapping them a lot.
    • Cornelia has a literal version as her unique gimmick. If you take her to visit the A.I. Labs, she’ll be given a set of four “Drives” that alter her stats and abilities. Want to make her a tank? A Fragile Speedster? A magical powerhouse? Just install one of the Drives, and then switch it out when you change your mind. Each one also gives her a new costume and some kind of passive bonus, like health regen, double mana, or status immunity.
  • The video game characters in Captain Gamer are actually digitally created, with any special abilities just being part of their program. The title hero is thus capable of copying their signature abilities (Mario's jumping ability, Sonic's supersonic speed, and so on) by 'sharing data' with them, which is accomplished upon forming a bond of friendship.
  • The relics in Castlevania games. Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia is the strangest, with double-jumping granted by an ordinary rock (it was supposed to be a SPRING rock or something like that, but the the translator royally screwed up on it).
  • Celestial Hearts: Sylvie can equip up to two enemy essences to gain their skills.
  • In Cosmic Star Heroine, shields equippable on your party members not only give damage resistance but also programs, which are like the characters' standard abilities but cannot be recharged and require a sufficiently high "hackitude" stat to use, similar to how normal abilities are learned by getting levels.
  • Justified in Cyberpunk 2077: quickhacks, which have effects ranging from setting enemies on fire by overheating their cyberware to inducing cyberpsychosis, are computer programs that are installed into a "cyberdeck" implant.
  • In DC Universe Online the player characters get their powers from nanobots called Exobytes that Lex Luthor stole from Brainiac in the Bad Future.
  • Devil May Cry 2: The properties of your Devil Trigger form vary depending what Devil Hearts are equipped on the Amulet.
  • Dragoneers Aria had the same concept as FFVII. You have Socketed Equipment, and ability-granting gems to put in those sockets. Said gems also level up based on use.
  • Grimoire Stones in Etrian Odyssey Untold and its sequel allow the equipping characters to access skills outside their normal skill set. These stones are normally generated in combat and can feature a mixture of skills from the one who created the stone on top of any enemy skills. They also can be equipped and swapped around your party outside the dungeon.
  • Various Final Fantasy games have played around with this in their magic and summoning systems:
    • Final Fantasy V had each of several "Jobs" represented by a crystal shard. When you picked up a shard, you got that class for your party. And then, after leveling up that Job suitably, you could equip one of its abilities or commands while in another Job.
    • Final Fantasy VI used literal Green Rocks called Magicite as both a way to permanently learn spells and to summon the Esper it belonged to. Because these could be given to every character except the hidden characters, it was possible for most of your team to learn every spell in the game.
    • Final Fantasy VII used Materia of varying colors as a way to grant powers while attached to a character's equipment. Two very significant pieces of Materia would eventually drive the plot for the entire game. These Materia orbs were the only way to differentiate between characters' abilities, other than their Limit Breaks. One part of the game has your materia being stolen, which severely limits your party as your stats drop heavily without materia and you have nothing to attack or heal with besides normal attacks and items.
    • Final Fantasy VIII allowed characters to 'junction' one or more beings called Guardian Forces to gain access to new menu commands. Like the Materia system in Final Fantasy VII, it is the only way to vary a character's abilities beyond their Limit techniques. Also, magic could be transferred between characters as easily as copying files from a CD.
    • Final Fantasy IX has Quina, a creature who can learn monsters moves by eating them, and equipment such as magic wands that can teach your black magician spells permanently.
    • Final Fantasy X has the so-called Sphere Grid which looks like a board game with substitutes for your characters on it. You can activate the fields on this grid with matching spheres and the character would immediately gain the status buff or magic spell from the field permanently.
    • Let's not forget the Blue Mage and Mimic classes. Blue Mages have the power to permanently use certain attacks after being hit by them (assuming they survive). Mimics have the ability to copy what ever attack was used immediately before their turn via the Mimic command.
    • In Final Fantasy XIV, each job has an accompanying "Soul Crystal" that, in the case of the 2.X classes, changes a base class into its corresponding job.note  While the game's lore is ambiguous on how a Soul Crystal functions exactly, a commonality among each job is that its Soul Crystal is a concentrated mass of aether that contains a wealth of knowledge related to that job, which it bestows upon its holder. Some jobs expand slightly on the functions of their Soul Crystals: Black Mages need their Soul Crystal to prevent self-destruction from their incredibly powerful spells, Scholars use their Soul Crystals to transport their fairy familiars, and the Soul Crystals of many non-magical combat classes grant their wielder the ability to perform otherwise-impossible physical feats.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance allows units to learn skills by equipping weapons. After using the weapon enough, the skill is mastered, and the character will always be able to use this. The original Final Fantasy Tactics also had characters able to "equip" and un-equip action (job set) abilities and reaction and support abilities, although they were learned in a less explicitly "programmy" way. The FFTA method is directly lifted from FFIX.
    • Final Fantasy X-2 also used this trope to the extreme, by allowing characters to switch classes via the use of Dressspheres, complete with a Magical Girl style Transformation Sequence. Switching between classes only used up a turn, and the party member could only use the moves related to that dresssphere. Later on, you can acquire accessories and Grids that let you use abilities learned on one dressphere while equipped with another another. None of them are that surprising if you understand that the Dress Spheres are crystallized memories of someone's life and skills, meaning that each of the Dress Sphere's correspond to someone that was once alive and possessed the skills used by the cast. Oh, and yes, it is extremely similar to Materia, that isn't your imagination.
  • Finding Light: While there are still some regular equipment with skills attached to them like in Knight Bewitched, characters cannot learn skills through leveling. Instead, the majority of skills are tied to skill orbs. Everyone can equip 6 skills orbs, but the amount of each type, spell and tech, depends on the character.
  • In Gate Keepers 21, advancements in technology have allowed the AEGIS Network to replicate Gate Powers and encode them into cell phones, thus giving even non-Gatekeepers a fighting chance against the Invaders.
  • Grim Dawn has Components, which are fragmented odds and ends that can be applied to the sole invisible slots in an item. While the incomplete components offer stat boosts and/or a few dice worth of the games damage types, certain complete components grant spells. Searing Embers, for example, grant the spell Fireball. For another, Mutagenic Ichor adds Poison Bomb
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • In the numbered titles, Sora and his party members get Abilities as they level up that grant new attacks or other effects. These can be turned on or off at will (except during battles) and require having enough AP to use.
    • Commands in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep can be purchased, combined, and stolen from you in some cases.
    • An earlier example occurred in Chain of Memories, with some justification. All of Sora's powers were in cards made from his memories. It Makes Sense in Context.
    • And of course Kingdom Hearts coded. Justified since the game takes place in virtual reality. Sora's stats and abilities are actually defined by power grid where you insert chips which can be exchanged and the Deck of commands you use have memory consumption that cannot exceed 100%, while the commands can be exchanged and combined for stronger versions. Even the equipment is in fact the chips.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, magical powers can be "distilled" into Link's Sheikah Slate, in much the same way that one downloads apps onto a tablet computer.
  • In principle, this is one part of how Mega Man's powers work: he acquires them via Power Copying (which is the other part) from the defeated Robot Masters, then he can equip them at will. X works under the same principle.
    • Half of Mega Man Battle Network takes place in cyberspace, so most powers are programs that can be installed or uninstalled at will.
      • Special attacks are represented by Battle Chips that are installed in a folder. They act like cards in a deck, so there's a limit to how many Battle Chips you can have at once, and having too many makes it less likely to get a specific one.
      • The "Navi Customizer" feature that debuted in the third game. You obtain these programs as you progress throughout the game and do events and you encode them into a special puzzle-like interface, these parts either enhance Mega Man's abilities (like increasing the damage his Arm Cannon deals or how many chips you have available at the Custom screen) or alter some events like being guaranteed data chips from every battle (provided you can actually obtain chips from them normally) instead of a chance between it or some Zenny. You can even compress these programs a little via a cheat to help you fit them into the puzzle.
      • The "Soul Unison" in the fourth and fifth games and "Cross System" of the sixth work in a similar way. Megaman "unites" with another Navi (after story events, of course), which temporarily grant him the special powers, strengths, and in some cases, weaknesses, of the other Navi (such as getting Protoman's shield). His armor changes color and design to reflect the change.
    • Mega Man Star Force operates by the same principle as Battle Network, albeit using less complex systems.
  • Metroid:
    • It is implied that Samus Aran's Powered Armor is at least partly a psychic construct aided by an onboard computer (also, it's alive), which would explain why it changes shape when it downloads new data or absorbs the remains of bosses.
    • In Fusion, a few of the abilities (all of the missile abilities and the 2 bomb abilities) are gained by going to a data room, where they have been transferred to, and "downloading" them, if you will.
  • In the Neptunia series, the chief superpower present in the universe is CPU/goddess form, the ability of the patron diety-queens of each realm to transform into superpowered (including the Most Common Super Power) avatars. These abilities can be freely stripped, transferred, and copied, notably by the Big Bad - who is a personification of piracy to the goddesses' personification of game consoles.
  • In Ori and the Blind Forest, there are eight Ancestral Trees scattered across the Forest of Nibel, where members of Ori's kind died when the forest was blinded. Ori can interact with these trees to gain the skills these ancestors possessed, allowing Ori to proceed further into the game.
  • The first two Paper Mario games have a Badge system that works this way. Some Badges contain new moves for Mario's Hammer and Jump attacks. Others contain status buffs to Mario or his partners. Mario has a certain amount of "Badge Points" that limits the amount of Badges he can equip, as each Badge requires a certain amount of Badge Points to equip, but the player has the option to increase his Badge Points if he levels up.
  • In Path of Exile, all active skills are obtained by socketing Virtue Gems into your weapons and armor. Active skills can be linked to support gems to add additional effects to the skill. A character can use any skill gem regardless of class as long as they meet the level and attribute requirements.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon moves and abilities work this way. All Pokémon have exactly one ability and one to four moves. Moves can be learned and forgotten like programs. And some moves have the effect of calling other moves, like one program calling another. All Abilities can temporarily be copied, nullified, or replaced, even when it wouldn't make physical sense, with exception of a few abilities that are immune to being changed or given to another Pokémon for technical reasons. For example, the move entrainment replaces the target's ability with the user's.
    • The Technical Machines (TMs) and Hidden Machines (HMs). For goodness sake, the machines are discs from FireRed and LeafGreen on! While this makes sense for some technological Pokémon like Magnemite, it makes less sense that a CD could teach a rat how to spit lightning.
    • In FireRed and LeafGreen a cutscene appears when you teach a Pokémon a move by TM/HM in which you see the disc going directly to the Pokémon's head, and apparently force-feeding it the move.
    • There was a scene in a Pokémon manga where the TM used was a somewhat blocky-looking contraption that separated into two parts on each side of the Pokémon's head, and what were either sparkles or a spray came out to imbue the new move.
    • The same design also appears in the TCG. To make things more confusing, every item except TMs appear the same as it did in the TCG. The fact that the first appearance of TMs was a horribly broken set that was only released in Japan while the others are from the original set of cards may be a factor.
    • Smeargle's signature move Sketch allows it to permanently copy the last move its opponent made, presumably just by drawing a picture of it. The very few exceptions are for technical reasons, not physiological ones. There is also a similar move called Mimic that works the same way but isn't permanent, the copied move is replaced with Mimic again when the battle ends.
    • There are eight moves that call other moves. Assist calls a random move known by one of the other pokemon on the same team. Copycat calls the move that was last used in the battle. Mirror Move calls the last damaging move the user was targeted by by a pokemon still on the field. Metronome randomly calls almost any move in the game. Me First calls the same move that the target is using this turn and boosts its power, but doesn't work if the opponent attacks first or is using a status move. Nature Power calls a move that is determined by the environment. Sleep Talk calls a random move the user knows, but only works if the user is asleep. Finally, Snatch calls status moves with positive effects on the user used by other pokemon this turn and negates the other pokemon's use of them.
    • Silvally can change type by holding a disk like item called a memory corresponding to that type. In the anime, Gladion is shown changing the type of his Silvally by inserting the memories into a drive on Silvally's head. Genesect also works similarly to Silvally, but only changes the type of one of its moves if it is holding a item called a drive.
  • Neuromods in Prey (2017) work by taking a brain scan from a person with a desired skill (say, engineering) and rewriting the synapses of another to match that scan, giving the neuromodded the same ability as the first with no work. In-game, this also applies to the Typhon powers you can acquire, albeit with less justification until you learn that the player character is itself a Typhon being made to think it's human. There's a nasty side effect, however; if you ever want to remove a neuromod, the brain gets reset to the state it was before the mod was applied and you'll lose all the memories you formed in the meantime.
  • Remember Me features a combo system you can rewrite on the fly; the Combo Lab lets you assign powers to different combos, which can be tailored to enemy weaknesses.
  • In Robopon, skills are equipped to Robopon via "software," though most Robopon learn at least one skill on their own. Moreover, by combining specific types of software together, you can teach Robopon new techniques. However, Boot-type Robopon cannot learn techniques from software.
  • Shadow Hearts series:
    • Shadow Hearts: Covenant has Magic Crests, named after 72 demons of Ars Goetia. They can be equipped on any character in the party (except for Yuri, who doesn't know how to use them), and provide the wielder with several spells. Each character has a stat called "Dominance Capacity Points", that determines how many crests the charater can use. More powerful crests usually require more DCP, but their amount rises with levels.
    • Shadow Hearts: From The New World replaces the system with Stellar Charts. It's a series of charts, modelled after constellations of Western Zodiac. Each star is a node, that can be filled with a "Stellar" - an item that adds one spell at its wielder's disposal.
  • Shin Megami Tensei:
    • In Devil Survivor, the human main characters get to use spells and skills with the help of the Devil Summoning Program, and their skill sets can be modified and swapped around in between skirmishes.
    • In later SMT and Persona games, demons or Personae will inherit skills learned from their predecessors; inheritance mechanics are more or less random, leading to the potential for hours of annoyance while fusing and re-fusing demons. This is not an inconvenience as of late, though, for Atlus has heard everyone's prayers and allowed the player to choose the moves the fusion result will learn in later games, starting with Devil Survivor, and the trend has continued with Devil Survivor 2, Persona 4: The Golden, and Shin Megami Tensei IV.
    • Speaking of Shin Megami Tensei IV, there's now the Demon Whisper mechanic, in which after a demon has learned all the moves it can learn as it is leveling up, it will talk to you and offer to teach you one or more of its moves, barring passive abilities and some seriously broken moves. You can even ask your demons to teach you the same move several times, increasing its effects or lowering its cost.
  • Street Fighter IV: Seth's Tandem Engine allows him to take data of other fighters and use their moves, leading to Gameplay and Story Integration in his moveset. Where it strays into this trope is when his data allows him to recreate Guile's Sonic Boom, as well as Dhalsim's Rubber Man and teleportation powers.
  • In a way, the upgrading in System Shock is rather Powers as Programs styled. Justified because your character has been cybernetically enhanced and can thus use the terminals to enhance his body and mind.
  • Transistor had the titular artifact be able to absorb and process people's Traces and turn them into different functions, which even follow the same naming conventions as functions in coding (i.e. Breach(), Jaunt(), Help().)
  • Used in TRON 2.0, which is set Inside a Computer System. The player receives Experience Points through version upgrades and gains new powerups through swappable and upgradeable subroutines.
  • Pretty much the same for TRON: Evolution, with older abilities being archived when upgraded into newer ones.
  • Warframe has the mod system, which is what gives your equipment the majority of its power. Mods can have a wide variety of effects, from simple stat boosts to mechanical changes, new behaviors for your companion, and so much more. Until Update 15, even your Warframe's powers were mods, so you could leave out a less-than-useful power to make room for another, more helpful mod in your build, at the cost of flexibility.
  • Wild ARMs series:
    • Used literally in Wild ARMs: Alter Code F. Professor Emma, now a playable character in this version, can "download" enemy special attacks by utilizing a special portable terminal that she carries around, then use the same terminal to execute any attack she's learned up to that point. This trope was also used in Wild ARMs 2 by Marivel, though it was more magical in nature rather than scientific.
    • Wild ARMs 5 has Mediums - special equipment that raises user's stats and gives them new skills, both active and passive. Each character has their own unique medium, but they can be copied and freely swapped around.
  • Players in The World Ends with You battle Noise with Psychs. These Psychs are activated via Pins. Normally, a player can activate a single Psych. Neku can use nearly all of them, even ones exclusive to Reapers. He just needs the appropriate pin. This leads to an interesting situation during a certain boss fight...
  • ZanZarah: The Hidden Portal: You can swap offensive and defensive spells among your fairies as you see fit, as long as they meet the slot requirements.
  • This is how the skill system works in zOMG!. Since normal weapons don't work against the resident enemies, Gaians are forced to use special rings given to them by G-Corp Labtechs that augment their physical abilities and allow them to summon weapons of varying legitimacy to combat the animated threat. Of course it turns out that G-Corp isn't really giving out the rings in the first place...
  • The Zone of the Enders series plays this trope straight, considering that every Sub-Weapon you obtain must be acquired via 'downloading' it from either a conveniently placed terminal (in ZOE) or via stealing the data from defeated units (in The 2nd Runner).
    ADA We have obtained the program; Zero Shift

    Web Animation 
  • Aside from the experimental Project Freelancer equipment seen in the story, Red vs. Blue gives us a literal example of powers as programs, in the form of the various AIs seen throughout the series. More often than not, the "powers" associated with the AIs are tied to a custom device found in their Freelancer agent's armor, but the Meta is able to instantly add them to his own armor without trouble. At least, unless you consider insanity "trouble."

  • Coga Nito: The Breach ability is described as a program that must be installed in the user's brain.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, when Bob briefly gains super-powers, Fructose Riboflavin uses a machine to steal them. Bob kicks the machine's ray off-target, and his powers are transferred to a potted geranium instead. The flower becomes self-aware, thanks them, and flies off to explore the universe.
  • Spinnerette has powers run on a metaphysical phenomenon known as the Cherenkov-Kirby Reaction; The main character gained her powers when a CK reactor being used to study spider biology hit her while she was in a vat used for study. Both magic and scientifically granted powers generate this force. An untested Power Nullifier grenade temporarily depowered heroes and villains alike, one of them being mystically empowered, but when they returned they were scrambled amongst them.

    Web Original 
  • In the Whateley Universe, there's a pile of Applied Phlebotinum to explain this stuff. The "science" of pattern theory is provided to explain how people with superpowers get enough energy to do the things they do, so people like Negator can block local powers, and people like Duplex or Thunderbird can mimic nearby powers. It's all explained by pattern theory.

    Western Animation 
  • In Ben 10 and its spinoffs, almost all "superpowered" characters that appear are actually members of distinct (sort of) alien species, with traits that are presumably normal to their species; however, the more impressive (and superhuman) traits are referred to as "powers," and can be suppressed, absorbed, stolen, switched, etc.
  • In the Darkwing Duck episode "Jailbird," Negaduck steals the "Mystic Eye of Quackelcoatyl" and transfers the other villains' powers into himself. He even (accidentally) steals Joker-parody Quackerjack's "wackiness".
  • In the Kim Possible episode "Go team Go," it's revealed that Shego's powers are the result of an irradiated meteorite which gave her and her siblings super powers. The episode's villain found a way to steal these powers and "download" them into another person, until the "weapon" ends up broken and all powers return to their original owners.
  • In The Legend of Korra, a look into the past reveals that basal Energybending treats elemental bending as programs. Energybending can remove bending, give it back, and replace it with a different element. The only reason humans can't bend multiple elements at once is that they lack the necessary energy. Avatars don't have this limitation because each one is a Fusion Dance between a human and the spirit Raava.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a little inconsistent on whether cutie marks act as this or not.
    • Subverted in the season 3 finale, when the main cast gets their cutie marks swapped. Although their interests got swapped (such as Pinkie Pie trying to buck apple trees and Applejack trying to make clothes), the actual talents didn't and they all suck hard at what they're trying to do. In fact, going back to their original talent is actually the key to reversing the spell.
    • Then played straight in the season 5 premiere. Starlight Glimmer developed a spell to remove cutie marks and replace it with equal signs, taking away the special talents of ponies. Even abilities that seem purely physical in nature are lost; though she flaps her wings as much as any other pegasus, the equalized Rainbow Dash flies so slowly that when others easily outpace her walking, she sighs and lands.
  • The plot of Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel is kicked off when a freak accident involving a stray shot from Doof's -inator bouncing off of Phineas and Ferb's satellite and drains the powers of Marvel superheroes. This involves depowering someone mutated by radiation, someone mutated by radioactive spider venom, a god-like alien and an obscenely rich businessman in a high-tech suit. This is especially nuanced in regards to Iron Man, who becomes immobilized in his depowered suit, and when Hulk ends up with his powers later he doesn't gain any of its powers, but says he feels "entrepreneurial".
  • Being derived from the result of a chemical fluke, The Powerpuff Girls are naturally this. The notion that their powers can be used by anyone is also employed, either when Mojo Jojo simply duplicates their powers onto himself or when Princess Morbucks uses Chemical X on herself to evolve identical powers.
  • One episode of Tiny Toon Adventures featured "Batduck" being repeatedly laughed out of the "Just Us League" by all of the super-powered superheroes. When a Lex Luthor-pastiche steals all of their powers with a super vacuum cleaner for himself, Batduck accidentally saves the day by coming over again to try and brag about his greatness as a superhero, prompting the villain to try and absorb Batduck's "power"... and getting only Batduck's ego and incompetence.
  • Transformers:
    • Used nearly literally in an episode of The Transformers, in which Megatron used a device to transfer all the Decepticons' gimmick powers (including hardware-based ones, such as Starscream's null ray guns) to himself so he could defeat Optimus Prime in an honor duel. He won, obviously, and it took the Autobots half the episode to figure out that Megatron didn't usually teleport around when people took a shot at him.
    • Similar to Power Chip Rectifiers, it strains even the level of Willing Suspension of Disbelief afforded a kids' cartoon that transformation - hundreds of parts moving around just so to allow a giant robot to turn into a car or plane - is the doing of a single "Transformation Cog" whose removal can disable any Transformer's ability to change, but it is! In some versions, anyone can use anyone else's; sometimes not. Even in the more serious Transformers: Prime, a T-cog stolen from Starscream allowed a manmade Optimus Prime duplicate to change into a truck identical to the real deal's vehicle mode. (However, this series aids suspension of disbelief by making it an organ, biology rather than technology even if it's metal. It's best thought of as similar to how the heart alone is not the whole circulatory system, but something it definitely needs.)
    • The Transformers: Animated version of Blackarachnia can steal powers from other Transformers a la X-Men's Rogue — hardware-based ones included. New parts seem to grow from nowhere... The reason she's technorganic in the first place is that she used her powers on a Giant Spider in a desperate attempt to save herself.
  • One episode of Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? had Carmen using a neuro-net to steal artists' and performers' abilities.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Powers Are Programs



The Power Transfer Device is able to use blast cores to swap the powers of conduits.

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Main / PowersAsPrograms

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