Power can take many forms. When fiction is Like Reality, Unless Noted, any power is something that requires Skill, Knowledge, Resources and Time. Without each of these things, power becomes unrealistic. At the far end of the spectrum, abilities that happen instantly, consume no resources, and can still tip massive scales of power are considered "super" powers. Often, these abilties are fantastical, and take forms such as Magic, Telekinesis, Super-Strength or Flight powered by nothing but some vague force or Applied Phlebotinum. There's usually a very clear difference, because said power sources won't exist in Real Life.
But somewhere in the middle, there are superpowers which are still considered "mundane". In theory, any human could possess them, but most of us don't except in small quantities. For this reason, people that have them in abundance can be considered "superpowered": having the ability to influence or do things several times greater than the average person or better than any person has ever done. However, the source of these powers still comes from a Real Life skill, knowledge, or resource acquired over enough time to make it plausible.
As an example, let us take a character who is known for using her beauty to get her way. If said character is beautiful to anyone, in spite of any context or changes that can affect how beautiful she is, then she probably has a fantastical superpower called "Glamour". On the other hand, let's assume her beauty requires plausible upkeep, modification, cosmetics, or skill, with the risk of being ruined by something as simple as a scar, becoming smudged or dirtied, encountering a person of an incompatible sexual orientation, or a target that simply isn't interested. Now, she has a Real Life Super Power.
A more complete list of Real Life Superpowers include:
- Beauty: Their good looks alone change the way others react to them.
- Intelligence: Intelligence tends to be used as a justification for just about anything in fiction.
- Skill: Essentially, the person is a badass.
- Political Influence/Leadership/Charisma: A person who can inspire, trick, or motivate almost anyone to do anything.
- Fame/Infamy: Not the same as charisma; this is when a person's reputation alone carries tremendous weight.
- Money: Especially in cases of Fiction 500 or Crime Fighting With Cash.
- Physical Presence: Usually used to threaten rather than attack.
- Superior Arms: Same as Physical Presence, except using weaponry or munitions to intimidate or neutralize threats.
- Luck: Sometimes known as the Right Man in the Wrong Place. (Less frequent than the others as it's often a case of supernatural forces or an Ass Pull.)
How a character got these abilities is often Hand Waved to preserve Law of Conservation of Detail. If we never see them use them, even in situations it would be relevant, they are an Informed Ability.
Please limit examples to characters who really stand out in the work. If all the characters are badass Samurai, we can skip that work.
- One Piece:
- Whilst also being in possession of some pretty superhuman abilities, Dracule Mihawk notes during the Summit War Saga that Luffy has the incredibly dangerous ability to turn almost any enemy into an ally, something that he specifically calls 'the most dangerous ability on the seas'.
- The Straw Hat crew in general also seem to have a nearly mythical ability to survive impossible odds, defeat opponents more powerful than themselves, and cause huge embarrassment to the World Government whilst doing so, through determination but also a huge share of luck. Trafalgar Law specifically references this during his fight against Donquixote Doflamingo as the reason why he allied with them: He knows that his dream of taking down Doflamingo is that much more likely with the Straw Hats on their side, as they are a crew who 'make miracles happen'.
- Spandam is weaker than an ordinary footsoldier but has a high position in the World Government forces, thus allowing him to influence his underlings in ways to give our heroes just as much trouble as any other villain, if not more. He is also a fairly competent strategist, though a total jerk.
- The protagonist of Darker than Black is so skilled in armed combat that he can defeat other Contractors who have specifically taken measures to protect themselves from his electrical powers. In fact, he earned his nickname "Black Reaper" based on the number of Contractors he was able to kill before he had powers of his own.
- Trash of the Count's Family: The series is all about the physically weak protagonist Cale using these (and Media Transmigration foreknowledge) to bluff, manipulate, and scheme his way through conflicts while Obfuscating Stupidity as someone useless, with the goal of ultimately living a peaceful and safe life. Eventually by chance he does come across an ancient power that boosts his charisma, but he was a successful Guile Hero long before.
- Sure, John Constantine is a magician, and yeah, he'll readily admit to being useless in a straight fight—but he doesn't just sling fireballs around. He gets by on brains, ruthlessness, charisma, and his own reputation.
- Though, judging from how things go in roughly the latter half of the series, magic runs entirely on charm and brains anyway.
- Batman has absolutely ALL of these. In a way, leadership is his weakest attribute. But regardless of this, he still practically runs his own private militia of bat-and-bird themed vigilantes in Gotham.
- Likewise, Nightwing as well, except he has the leadership part covered. In fact, that's arguably his greatest attribute, although it's hard to tell since he's good at ALL of them.
- Black Widow's beauty lets her gain the trust of people she wants to manipulate.
- The Punisher has the kind of skills you'd only expect from people in fiction, namely the ability to kill numerous (evil) people in limited time...and his way of pulling off such feats includes (but is not limited to) skill with blades, knowing how to physically break people, the ability to murder a man with his bare hands, and LOTS of guns, bombs and bullets. And all of this comes from his extensive military training, the kind you could realistically get as a Navy SEAL or Marine. The MAX series, which is far Darker and Edgier and is steeped in greater realism than the Marvel-616 universe, exaggerates this.
- Originally, Captain America was supposed to have peak human speed and strength, though whether or not intelligence is included depended on the author. He has since gone onto superhuman territory, but this original Cap was not meant to be capable of anything more than a human could realistically do.
- In a way, this trope is played with for Cap. He is at peak human ability for everything, which isn't possible in a stock human. A marathoner has a far different build and training style than a sprinter, for instance, yet Cap can do both.
- Ozymandias from Watchmen emphasizes his Super-Intelligence, but actually possesses many of these powers, so much more than the other Non-Powered Costumed Hero characters that he almost seems to have genuine superpowers. It's established, though, that all his abilities are mundane in origin, and the only true Super in the Watchmen universe is Dr. Manhattan.
- Indiana Jones has Intelligence, Skill, Fame, and Money, and is also highly charismatic and dashing. But perhaps most importantly, he is an extremely lucky son-of-a-bitch. And he can get the crap beaten out of him and still keep going.
- X-Men Film Series: Even without his psychic superpowers, Professor Charles Xavier still exerts influence through his intelligence, charisma and money, and these three attributes are more vital to the formation and continuation of the X-Men than his mutation.
- Unbreakable: The "superpower" of the antagonist Mr. Glass is that he is highly intelligent.
- Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty sometimes get into this territory, although the degree of it depends on the adaptation. Holmes's intelligence, powers of observation, unusual skills, and combat prowess are all impressive but within the realm of what it's theoretically possible for a "normal" human to do - but with his combined skillset he's unmatched in his area of expertise. Moriarty's intelligence and web of influence make him the most dangerous of all of Holmes's adversaries.
- Codex Alera: In a world where everyone can use elemental spirits called Furies to do pretty much everything, the only human that cannot do that, main character Tavi, runs everyone ragged with his smarts, his out-of-the-box thinking, his charisma and his growing skills. When he later gets his furies, he begins to apply all of his learning to furycraft things no one thought about.
- In Discworld, a running theme is that magic is sort of like nuclear weapons—it's good to have, but ideally people shouldn't be using it very often. Brains are generally a better way of achieving one's goals, and the witches in particular see "headology" as their primary skill. And hey, if you're going to carry around a Magic Staff anyway, you can always bop someone over the head or use a Groin Attack.
- This is the premise for the reality TV series, Stan Lee's Superhumans; finding people in real life that can perform superhuman feats comparable to the characters in Stan Lee's comics.
- The Superhero Episode of This American Life featured the tale of a Real Life woman, Zora Colakovic, who at the age of 12 made a list of every skill she would need to become the Amazonian superheroine of her dreams and then set about checking off every item on that list.
- List items included martial arts, electronics, chemistry, metaphysics, hang gliding, helicopter and airplane flying, parachuting, mountain climbing, survival, weaponry, rafting, scuba diving, herbology, CPR, first aid, bodybuilding, archery, demolitions and explosives, hunting, human tracking, major physical conditioning, elephant and camel riding, evasive driving and stunts, use of Throwing stars, compound bows and throwing knives, etc. She was also a Teen Genius, completing high school by age 15, college by 18, a Masters degree by 20 and all of her coursework for a PhD in Geopolitics by 21.
- Her goal was to join the CIA and use her "powers" to defend America, however time spent in the company of various right wing terrorist groups ultimately led to her being denied the job on security grounds. Fortunately she got involved with a Private Detective and embarked on a new career as an International Private Investigator which only needed a new extra skills in the realm of using her female attributes to help achieve her missions.
- Master Chief from Halo is stated to be the "luckiest" of all the Spartans many times throughout the franchise, having survived things that even others of his kind wouldn't be able to live through.
- The Courier from Fallout: New Vegas is either a Skill or Luck variant of this. He/She can do many things that large portions of the NCR Military can't accomplish. Taking care of the lawlessness in Primm, or clearing the Deathclaws out of Quarry Junction are good examples.
- It also helps that the Courier is a free agent, operating outside of the chain of command (so no being tied to an assigned post or complications with going AWOL), fields his/her own equipment (so no worries about logistics systems), and can bring his/her own crew to the battles. The NCR's bureaucracy really bogs them down in comparison.
- Jason Brody, the protagonist of Far Cry 3, possesses an ample amount of these. With Skill being his primary asset. His official character profile refers to him as "naturally gifted", and it shows, because he catches on to the ways of the Rakyat and becomes the finest warrior they have. By the end of the game, he becomes The Dreaded and gains the Infamy portion of the trope as well.
- In Justice League Unlimited Lex Luthor (intially) doesn't possess any supernatural power like the Justice League does. However, he becomes more dangerous than the superpowered villains when he manages to discredit the League.
- David Xanatos from Gargoyles is smart and charismatic enough to become the Gargoyles' greatest foe through indirect manipulation. His billions of dollars, of course, are also an important factor.
- General Malaise in Ozzy & Drix has no physical prowess by himself, but instead attacks immune systems en masse with his private army of Red Shirts. The rest of this series's Rogues Gallery is either superpowered or supernatural.
- Princess Morbucks in The Powerpuff Girls can spend as much money as she needs; her plots are Screw the Rules, I Have Money! in their purest essence, from buying top engineers to produce weaponry for her to buying the local government altogether.