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Reality Warping Is Not a Toy

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"Maybe you haven't noticed, but my emotions are dangerous. I can't afford to feel anything."

Reality warping is a cool power, isn't it? Definitely. But here is the catch. It can make your dreams come true, but not all dreams are goodnote . So what happens when a weak-willed paranoid person becomes a Reality Warper? Things go Horribly Wrong pretty quickly — suddenly the monsters under your bed are real, your Imaginary Friend becomes an Imaginary Enemy, all Paranoia Fuel becomes real, and in the worst case scenario, you could end up in a Self-Inflicted Hell.

Even a strong-willed person will have trouble with winning this Superpower Lottery; Power Incontinence due to subconscious slips are no less likely for the Determinator with Heroic Willpower, and minor carelessness or forgetfulness can have disastrous consequences. Just how exactly do you practice Warping Reality without risking messing up the world you live in? At its darkest and most horrifying, it may even get to the point where the user can't tell what's real from what they themselves altered. After all, if you are the one who defines what reality is what's the difference between real and fantasy? Worse, reality warping doesn't necessarily provide a defense for consumption of drugsnote , Mind Control, or simple psychological manipulation. Too bad you can't get ticketed for "Reality Warping Under The Influence".

Often used as a Fantastic Aesop on why only select people like God can have such power. See also Be Careful What You Wish For.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Bleach:
    • The Hogyoku stretches the rules of probability to let its owner achieve his heart's desire. For Sousuke Aizen, the desire is power and for most of the series it works fine for him — he becomes The Juggernaut capable of curbstomping most of the remaining cast combined. The problem is, he associates humans (including shinigami) with weakness... while he is in control of the situation, he stays close to Bishōnen Line. But once he meets his equal and suffers a Villainous Breakdown, the artifact dutifully fulfills his wish for more power, by "evolving" him into a full-blown Eldritch Abomination. Eventually, it takes away Aizen's powers, and Ichigo speculates that Aizen subconsciously wanted that all along, feeling isolated due to his intense power.
    • In The Thousand-Year Blood War arc, we have Gremmy Thoumeaux, the "V" (the "Visionary") Sternritter, who has a literal Imagination-Based Superpower, whatever he can imagine becomes reality (though the changes he makes can revert if he doesn't continue to focus on them). This ability, powerful as it is (there's a reason this guy claims to be the most powerful of his compatriots) ends up also working to his detriment when he faces Kenpachi, whose sheer power ends up scaring Gremmy to the point where he starts imagining that Kenpachi might kill him- which nearly actually kills him. Though he survives that, he ends up killing himself by imagining a paradox; he imangined himself to be stronger than Kenpachi, but he was also convinced that Kenpachi's power was infinite. His body couldn't handle the strain of being greater than infinity and tore itself apart in a gory Puff of Logic. Kenpachi immediately realizes what happened and comments on the idiocy.
  • In Franken Fran, a bullied boy is given a treatment that allows his body to adapt to his thoughts, reforming according to his whims, but also instincts and self image. He is mostly happy with it, but when he gets depressed... well, considering the rest of the chapters, he got let off easy, but still...
  • This is why the protagonists of Haruhi Suzumiya go to such absurd lengths to prevent the titular character from discovering that she is a Physical God. They already have enough trouble trying to keep her from annihilating all of reality by sheer accident, and they really don't want to find out what would happen if she found out that she can use her powers.
  • The entire plot of Pokémon 3 is a result of this trope, Blue-and-Orange Morality, and Living Dream. The Pokémon Unown abduct Molly's dad. Molly wants her father back. The Unown, not understanding how humans think, create an illusory Entei based on Molly playing pretend with her father and cover the estate in crystal. Molly wants a mommy, the Unown teleport Ash's mother. Chaos ensues.
  • The witches of Puella Magi Madoka Magica are a result of individuals able to use magic succumbing to their own despair and ultimately setting their magical abilities loose, creating a frightening dreamworld centered around their obsessions or regrets and manifesting hordes of minions that futilely try to satisfy the wishes of their master. Muggles who wander inside by accident are quickly rendered dead, insane, or slaves to the witch. And according to the movie, the witches don't even revel in their insanity; they suffer throughout due to being able to understand their own condition but unable to do anything about it.

    Comic Books 
  • Briefly discussed in Alala, les télémorphoses, a picture book for children. Alala can "jump" into TV programs and wreak havoc on them, and Alalas parents are not happy with her choices: "Barbarella is no playmate for little girls!"
  • Batman: In the Intercompany Crossover Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk, The Joker gets the power to warp reality. Batman challenged Joker about how lacking in creativity he'd been so far taunting him with a Batman Gambit to get him to unleash his full imagination, but going that far Joker finally goes "I never imagined..." and when he does the Shaper Of Worlds promptly ceases giving life to Joker's whims leaving him defeated.
  • Captain Britain: Mad Jim Jaspers from Captain Britain: A Crooked World is a powerful reality warper... who is utterly insane. An alternate world version of himself exterminates all the other superhumans of his reality, then destroys his entire universe via misuse of his abilities. The mainstream version is even more powerful, and sometimes doesn't even recognize that the "bundles of pretty string" he sees and torments are actually people seen through his reality distorting powers.
  • Fantastic Four:
    • Inverted in one story featuring a middle-aged milquetoast has the mutant power of omnipotence... but being a milquetoast, he always caves to others' needs and therefore, never realizes he had it. In that issue, Earth is devastated by a gravitational pulse from Ego the Living Planet, and when he sees the Fantastic Four flying into space to deal with Ego, he assumes they're fleeing Earth and wishes things were as they were before. His power burns out in the process of reverting Earth to how it was prior to the attack (although it doesn't recall the FF).
    • Played straight with Franklin Richards, whose powers often cause more harm than good, due to him being a child and unable to control them properly. However, once he grew up things were a different matter, as he resurrected Galactus and saved the Earth from the Mad Celestials.
    • Also played straight with a young mutant named Willie Evans Jr, who absorbed ambient cosmic energy to power his ability to warp reality. In his initial appearance he was feverish and dying from power overload and created evil counter-parts to the FF. After he was drained of the excess, his father foolishly ignored the offer of taking him to Professor X for training. As a result his subconscious manifested a talking frog (based on the singing frog from the old WB cartoons) containing his negative impulses that revealed it was the one that killed his mother through a car accident. He dies trying to stop it, but it persists past his death and swears to cause trouble later.
  • The Flash: An Impulse arc dealt with this. Impulse gets possessed by a genie that imbues him with unlimited magical powers. He changes the world and tries to make it better, inadvertently making it worse. For example, having cars run on water instead of gasoline, getting rid of pollution, but with the effect of countries now going to war over water rights instead of petroleum.
  • The Mask: This tended to be the focus of the stories with the original comic book series.
  • Secret Wars: Doctor Doom experiances this after having stolen the Beyonder's power. He dare not sleep otherwise his thoughts will alter reality. When he does eventually fall asleep, he subconsciously resurrects the heroes he just killed.
    • In Secret Wars II, the Beyonder rants about being Blessed with Suck. He is a literally omnipotent reality warper — his every thought defines reality around him. While it never directly works against him, it means he cannot really experience anything, since everything becomes what he expects — he literally lives his life surrounded by nothing but figments of his imagination.
  • Superman:
    • Emperor Joker: The Joker steals Mr. Mxyzptlk's Reality Warper powers, which Joker could control with ease. Reality turns into bubblegum under Joker's thrall. In the end, he's defeated because he can't imagine reality without Batman, making it his universe, not the Joker's.
    • Supergirl (1984): Zaltar steals the Omegahedron, a reality-warping device which keeps Argo City's support life systems, because he wants to see real, organic trees. When he is almost caught with it, his frantic attempt to hide it away causes its loss and jeopardizes the entire space city. And how does the Omegahedron become lost, exactly? Zaltar gives a little kid his own reality-warping gadget so she plays with it. Kara materializes an insect, gets scared when it flies too close, and drops the Omegahedron. The insect crashes into Argo City's protective membrane, and the Omegahedron is sucked out of the barrier.
  • Thorgal: Jolan's Imaginary Friend Alinoe gets warped by his anger and not only turns against him but becomes The Virus.
  • Tom Strong: The story "Tom Strong's Pal, Wally Willoughby" is about a pathetic nerd with unknowing reality warping powers whose rage and self-loathing nearly destroy a city.
  • Wanted: Imp is having a secret affair with Deadly Nightshade. His boss doesn't want him doing this incase he accidentally undoes reality while in the throes of passion.
  • Young Avengers: In issue #4 of Vol. 2, Loki suggests to Teddy that the only reason he met and fell in love with Billy is because Billy's powers made it happen. Teddy protests that Billy would never have manipulated him like that. Loki explains that whims and daydreams are all it takes, and Teddy is a "very lovely daydream". Issue 12 reveals that Loki isn't immune to this either. Most of the villains in this run are actually his self-loathing given form when he briefly wielded Billy's powers.
  • X-Men: Galacta: Daughter of Galactus posits that the X-factor actually grants the same power to all mutants: reality warping. The problem is that most of them can't actually control it, so they unconsciously warp reality in different ways that manifest as their mutant powers.

    Fan Works 
  • Alya and the Harem Reality is a more sympathetic take on this trope as Alya's Wish (that people would love Marinette) was something she had only a few seconds to think up as part of a desperate plan to stop Hawk Moth from making his wish after he had already defeated the heroes, and it was the first thing she could think of that was relatively harmless (she reasoned that Marinette was Loved by All already, so the wish wouldn't have to change that much). Though as the Kwami Stompp bluntly tells her Alternate Timeline self, there's no such thing as a harmless wish, since the alterations are something that not even the Kwamis themselves can control. The results range from positive (Chloé having a Heel–Face Turn thanks to being in a relationship with Marinette and Alya), to negative (Master Fu already killed by an unknown adversary after having to scatter the Miraculouses), or even completely mundane changes (Zoe being taller than her half-sister Chloé).
  • In Anderson Quest: Killing Vampires and Werewolves and Leprechauns, Micolash explains he's been removed from his position as the central mind sustaining the School of Mensis, and the Wet Nurse left him with a small amount of the original Reality Warper powers he originally had. For a while, he used them to keep himself fed and entertained, but as he mentions, his memory is starting to fail him. Originally, he could easily conjure cigarettes, but as he forgot the original taste, errors began piling up until every single one came out as garbage.
  • It's played with within yoshi3000's Blackthorn fanfics, with certain members having less control over their abilities causing the worlds they enter to distort and change.
  • Child of the Storm highlights this as a particular problem of being a Phoenix Host, and one of the reasons why the Phoenix tends to pick hosts on a temporary basis - and that's before you get to the issue of Phoenix fire being neither inherently good, nor bad, but insanely volatile, meaning that it's liable to cause With Great Power Comes Great Insanity in an insufficiently mentally balanced wielder. This is how you get the Dark Phoenix.
  • In Eternal Fantasy, several students of Mahoutokoro learn of a muggle RPG similar to Final Fantasy named Eternal Fantasy, find the general idea interesting, and decide to make a closed space to literally bring it to reality, fueling it with the convergence of three major leylines. Unfortunately, a stupid mistake ends with an inverted boundary, resulting in a World-Wrecking Wave propagating from the leylines that creates an entirely new magic system and spreads it beyond any form of containment into both the Wizarding World and the muggle reality, breaking most forms of technology and corroding existing magic, now a dying system known as Terran magic, into the newer and far stronger Gaian magic.
  • In The Lament Series (ChaoticNeutral), Wishes effectively function as a Role Swap AU; the effect is directly compared to recasting a play, putting new actors into the same basic roles and shuffling things around to account for whatever the Wisher requested. But even the most minor change can have far-reaching implications — much more extensive than anyone could possibly anticipate or plan for, and the user tends to wind up in a Self-Inflicted Hell.
    • Chloé's Lament, for example, has Chloé wish to swap places with Marinette after finding out that she's Ladybug. So, now she's the baker's daughter who ran into Fu while Marinette is the Mayor's daughter. Chloé only realizes after the fact that while she knows Marinette did become Ladybug, she doesn't know how, so Chloé can't re-create the events that led to Marinette getting the earrings. Chloé's utter self-centeredness meant that she carelessly wished away everything that protected her from the consequences of her bad behavior, since she took it completely for granted.
    • Recklessness, a Recursive Fanfiction inspired by The Lament Series, has Alya run headlong into this by deciding to use a Wish to learn Hawkmoth's Secret Identity. Horrifyingly, she uses the fact that reality will be rewritten to dismiss the anguish and agony she causes with her betrayal, reasoning that the fallout will be wiped away. Suffice to say, she ends up suffering a severe case of Laser-Guided Karma with how her Wish gets granted.
    • Villain Of Your Own Story: After learning about the Wish, Alya assumes she can use it to learn who Hawkmoth is, only to accidentally end up in a world where she was Hawkmoth all along. This is also further Played With in that her Wish for Marinette to be happier actually gets granted without a hitch... aside from the fact that said happiness didn't take the form Alya expected, spurring her to write it off as "going horribly wrong" since she can't accept that she didn't know what was best for her "bestie".
  • Miraculous Escalation: This is the reason given why using the Wish function of the Ladybug and Black Cat Miraculouses is too dangerous to risk. The Wish disables the Power Limiter encoded in the Miraculouses, invoking the true divine power of Tikki and Plagg. But playing literal God is hard for creatures that are normally constrained by the limits of flesh and blood, space and time and causality. The last time a Wish was used, it rewrote history to prevent World War III, and even thirty years later the effects of that Wish are still playing out.
  • A Price to Pay: Gabriel and Adrien learn this the hard way when Gabriel convinces his son to betray his partner, plying him with promises of a shiny new reality where his mother will be restored to life and nobody will know the Awful Truth of what they did, as their Wish is granted in a way that ensures they face consequences for their actions:
    • As Equivalent Exchange for Emilie's life, Tom Dupain-Cheng died in a car crash... caused by Gabriel. While he used his resources to rig the trial in his favor, Emilie was so disgusted by her husband's actions that she divorced him, disowning her son for his Lack of Empathy for the Dupain-Chengs.
    • Not only do Gabriel and Adrien not have any of the Miraculouses in the new world, it's implied they ended up in the hands of their biggest victims instead.
    • Marinette also got Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory, meaning she remembers Adrien's betrayal in the original reality on top of how his father killed hers in the accident.
  • In the Project Dark Jade fanfic Queen of Shadows, Shendu tried to use the Rewriting Reality powers of the Book of Ages to reshape reality/history to better suit him, like in canon, but lost control of the outcome thanks to Jade's interference.
  • Quicksilver Scribe is a Lunar Exalted trying to use the Language of Magic to give the Primordial War of ancient history a more peaceful ending. The plot hook is that this might work, or it might make everything a hell of a lot worse. For one thing, she can't fully understand said language (being only mortal)...and for another, if she accidentally makes it so humanity lost the war, they will be Ret-Goned out of existence. Even if she succeeds, she will probably get Drunk with Power.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • This is the primary plot twist in Altitude. It turns out that Bruce is inadvertently causing all the events, unconsciously summoning the tentacle monster from his comic book into reality. With Sara's help he eventually learns to control his fear and summon them back to their own reality.
  • In Before I Wake, 8-year-old Cody's dreams become reality, much to the shock of his new foster parents. While it starts out with butterflies appearing out of nowhere, he mentions a monstrous "Canker Man" that appears in his dreams as well.
  • Just one of the many lessons that the title character of Bruce Almighty is forced to learn when he gets God's powers. At first, he spends his time getting everything he'd ever wanted - big boobs and lots of orgasms for his girlfriend, his dream job, revenge on people he doesn't like - but eventually things turn sour, as he realizes that running the world is harder than it looks. In one particular instance he decides to automatically fulfill all prayers sent to him. Every single one. The world immediately collapses into anarchy and forces him to rewind time back to undo it.
  • The Krel from Forbidden Planet built a machine that could create whatever they wanted from the power of their own minds, but even so advanced and philanthropic a race weren't immune to the monsters from their ids.
  • The Man Who Could Work Miracles: When Fotheringay initially becomes a Reality Warper, his first experiments with his power are modest, such as summoning exotic fruit. However, after being persuaded to use his power for the greater good, he quickly slips into megalomania. He starts using his power with out concern for the consequences. He changes the Colonel's house into a spectacular palace of real gold and marble. He then summons up all the pretty girls, not to mention the Colonel's entire regiment, dressed as Beefeaters, after which he summons all the butlers in Essex, the leaders of the world, the teachers, musicians, priests, etc. He dresses up like a king and appoints the girl he loves as queen, then commands the leaders of the world to create a utopia, free of greed, war, plague, famine, jealousy, and toil. Eventually, he commands to the Earth to stop rotating. He fails to consider the basic physics of the rotation of the planet and so sends his palace, all living creatures and objects whirling off the world's surface.
  • Overdrawn at the Memory Bank has Aram taking advantage of his personal Holodeck to do things like have female co-workers have sex with him, earning him a What the Hell, Hero? from Apollonia.
  • Twilight Zone: The Movie does this with its adaptation of "It's a Good Life," an episode from the original series which didn't have this Aesop. Little Anthony Fremont has the power to alter reality as he sees fit, but is also a small boy and doesn't understand how to use his abilities. To that end, he kidnaps travelers to become a new "family" (it's never stated outright what happened to his old parents), and tries to make them happy by doing the things that make him happy, like eating candy for dinner and making magic tricks real. Given that everyone he's kidnapped lives in absolute fear of his temper tantrums (which either kill people or give them horrible fates they can't escape), he's clearly doing something wrong. Thankfully, the segment gives little Anthony a happy ending in the form of Helen Foley, a kindly teacher who, upon learning about his gifts, promises to be his companion forever and teach him how to use them properly.



By Author:

  • Ursula K. Le Guin:
    • The novel (and The Film of the Book) The Lathe of Heaven. George Orr's "effective dreams" cause him (and the rest of the world) a lot of problems, especially when his psychiatrist starts trying to use him to improve the world.
    • Earthsea wizards are capable of reality warping through use of the Old Speech and true names. However, since everything has a name, which it sometimes shares with other things, and assorted other elements of the cosmic balance, wizards are wary to actually use this power. One story of a wizard who wasn't ends up with him being condemned by the gods to shovel the salt he had accidentally extracted from the ocean (all of it)... and the gods, being the gods, keep him alive so that he can actually finish the job.
  • There was a short story describing a man in a psychiatric hospital, who developed reality-warping powers. He spends the story exploring his abilities, watching humanity and moving them like pawns. Until he squishes one pawn that wouldn't move... only to realize it was himself.

By Title:

  • An alien species called the Assiti, whose "art" involves restructuring Quantum String fragments, are behind the relocation of Grantville, West Virginia in the year 2000 to Germany of the year 1632 in the 1632 novels. They didn't plan on moving a town backward through time... they were just being artistic and an inferior species got caught up. The Assiti are later wiped out for being careless with their toys. In a twist, the problem with their carelessness was not that the reality warping caused Bad Things to happen to them, but that other species got tired of warning them to cut it out and be a bit more responsible.
  • Big Wish has the main character driven insane by wish-granting and how pointless it makes life to get anything you want, so in the end he gives up all but one wish, which he saves for an emergency.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, the villain of the second arc has an apparently unbeatable Reality Warping power but is defeated by making him lose control of his fears; the hero begins loudly speculating what would happen if the villain had a stray thought about his powers going out of control, whereupon the villain accidentally weakens himself, heals the sidekick from being ''skinned alive'', and makes the dismembered hero invincible - and then a giant ghost dragon head bursts from the hero's arm stump. And then the villain can't think about anything but the dragon mauling him, so it happens. note 
  • Chasing the Moon: Diana learns that constant borderline omnipotence is something you really don't want. It's pretty nifty for making a substitute moon though, and deliberately keeping it around conveniently eats up all her excess magic.
  • Both implied and applied (the last couple of pages of Blood of Amber, and the beginning of Sign of Chaos) in the Merlin cycle of Roger Zelazny's The Chronicles of Amber; this is the reason that they don't take hallucinogenic drugs. Or, at least, not more than once. Everybody's tried them — it's just that this also turns out to be the reason nobody bothers to mention the result to newcomers. To be more specific, the characters don't have the ability to change reality per se — it's merely that all realities exist side-by-side simultaneously, and they have the ability to travel between them by picturing where they want to go. Altering your mental state is thus likely to put you in one of the less pleasant realities, and the farther away from your home reality you travel, the worse your chances of ever getting back again.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the heroes' ship gets lost in a dark fog at sea. As they approach a mysterious island, they meet a lone survivor from a previous expedition, who warns them that this is the place "where dreams come true". At first, most of the crew are elated, but once they realize that this doesn't mean wishes or daydreams, but actual dreams, they leave with all haste.
    There was about half a minute's silence and then, with a great clatter of armour, the whole crew were tumbling down the main hatch as quick as they could and flinging themselves on the oars to row as they had never rowed before; and Drinian was swinging round the tiller, and the boatswain was giving out the quickest stroke that had ever been heard at sea. For it had taken everyone just that halfminute to remember certain dreams they had had—dreams that make you afraid of going to sleep again—and to realize what it would mean to land on a country where dreams come true.
  • In the Coldfire Trilogy, the fae of the world of Erna reacts to the minds of the people who live there, making everyone on the planet reality warpers. It's particularly sensitive to fears, as those are much harder to keep your mind from fixating on and the first sign of one's fears becoming true only intensifies them, giving the fae more to react to. The only reason that humanity has survived on Erna into the present day of the books, even with their level of technology stagnated by 1000 years, is because the leader of the colonists who originally crashed on Erna in the backstory sacrificed their ship and all of its knowledge (the fae responds to sacrifice) to create the Functional Magic system that allowed humans some measure of control over the fae.
  • In the Doctor Who novel The Sorcerer's Apprentice, a really advanced race developed a swarm of nanobots capable of virtual reality-warping. One of them idly wished for some more color in the night sky, and the nanobots complied by triggering a supernova. This drained the system of energy for some years, during which the race suffered from brutal culture shock from which they never recovered. Afterwards, a lost human colony settled in the same planet, and mistook the recovered nanobot network for Functional Magic.
  • The Eyes of Kid Midas has an Ordinary Middle School Student gain access to Reality Warping powers. It's all fun and games until he forgets himself and tells his rival to "Go to Hell." Then the Reality Bleed starts to set in. And it turns out to be Addictive Magic. And then he starts to lose control. And then he accidentally stops time right before the glasses break.
  • In From the New World, everyone has extremely powerful psychic powers, which can do anything from telekinesis to altering a creature's genetic code. The bulk of the series focuses around what happens when people suffer mental illness, develop Power Incontinence, and the side effects of subconscious fear. Contrived religious ceremonies and Social Darwinism are required to keep people's conscious and unconscious minds from wreaking havoc; despite this, most of the world is a wasteland populated by the horrific manifestations of humanity's nightmares, and occasionally an unstable person slaughters hundreds or thousands of people (billions died when these powers first surfaced).
  • Haruhi Suzumiya: In The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi, Yuki Nagato rewrites the last 365 days of the year, causing everyone in the SOS brigade to be normal. Kyon's character development shows when he's forced to choose on whether he wants to keep the normal life or the eccentric, adventure-filled one. Although that instance was deliberate. The random changes Haruhi imposes on the world while filming a movie and losing track of the distinction between reality and fiction are a better example.
    • There's also the general fact that the entire reason for the Masquerade is that they're afraid that if Haruhi finds out, it will all get much, much worse.
  • Imager Portfolio: This is one of the major dangers of the eponymous Imagers' powers. The protagonist discovers his powers when he starts daydreaming about his master's Jerkass apprentice blowing himself up through mixing some oils incorrectly and the studio explodes, and it's a rule that all Imagers must sleep alone in a lead-lined room to prevent dream-imaging.
  • In Is This A Zombie?, Eucliwood briefly transfers her incredible powers to Ayumu. He is warned not to let his mind wander, but then he inadvertently causes every woman in the area to suddenly be in a bikini. They angrily beat him up.
    • The reason why Eucliwood doesn't change reality all the time is because she's very disciplined, always keeping her emotions in check and rarely ever speaking. This very much leans towards Cursed with Awesome for her as she really doesn't want to hurt people with her powers, but does so by accident.
  • In the horror novel Jago, a cult leader gains reality warping powers. The effects are bad for people in the vicinity, as their fears and bad memories start taking on physical form. It goes better for him at first, but things end badly for him after he loses control of his powers.
  • Labyrinths of Echo had the protagonist who have all his true wishes come true "sooner or later, one way or another" — Max survived only due to being too scatter-brained to concentrate on seriously willing anything and very afraid of dying. The magic with talent and will required, but control and understanding optional gives borderline cases. "Horror of Mages" happens when a powerful wizard is very afraid of a thing that doesn't exist — it may become real; bad news: such a phantasm can be destroyed only by its creator, who can't do it while afraid, and seeing one's personal nightmare approaching for real doesn't help. Mages with bad self-control sometimes have dreams reflecting into reality — so if one dreams of scorching a building, well, let's hope there was no one inside. The Echo's ex-Big Bad not only "demolished whatever offended his taste without leaving his bed", but had babies just appearing near his mistresses who wanted such a "souvenir" — "Loyso's children" weren't normal humans.
  • Nearly Older Than Radio, in H. G. Wells' 1898 short story, "The Man Who Could Work Miracles". George Fotheringay discovers he can work miracles; he can wish anything to happen and it does. He wishes the sun to not set, causing the Earth's rotation to instantly stop, sending everything on the planet's surface flying. He wishes to survive this, then very carefully wishes for a Reset Button back to the moment he discovered his powers and that he wouldn't have them.
  • In the original Mistborn trilogy The Lord Ruler when he was wielding the powers of the Well of Ascension and then in Hero of Ages Vin gives it a whirl only to realise she's doing more bad than good and right at the end of it all Sazed comes out of nowhere (Er, sort of) and does what his predecessors could not by rewriting the entire world to the absolute point where it was previously before the Lord Ruler screwed the entire planet.
  • The central argument of Of Two Minds is over how much and how often reality warping can be safely used. Conclusion: Less often than the heroine uses it. The sequel takes this a step further, arguing that a society where everyone is free to reshape the world is ultimately boring and unsatisfying. That said, the heroine rejects this Aesop, arguing that there must be an alternative to the boredom of normal life.
  • In Sabina Kane: Red-Headed Stepchild, wizard Adam Lazarus cautions the eponymous half-mage, half-vampire that use of magic inherently disturbs the natural order, and even small castings have unforeseeable effects elsewhere in the world (usually imperceptible effects, but it has an effect). Large castings have been known to cause natural disasters.
  • The Scholomance: It's mentioned that long-term reality warping is impossible because reality inevitably wins out in the end. However, the more power you put into it, the more elaborate your personal fantasy universe can be, and the bigger the explosion when it implodes.
  • The title object in Sphere gives those who go inside it this ability — from teleporting a spaceship to the bottom of the ocean and hundreds of years back in time, to manifesting giant killer squids. Bottom line, lots of people die.
  • In The Wheel of Time, when Reality Warper and Fisher King du jour Rand is crazy and suicidally depressed, people die by freak accident and food, already in short supply, becomes rotten much more quickly than normal. When he has an epiphany and gets a new outlook on life, people escape death through freak happenstance and rotten food becomes fresh.
  • In Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones, Charles enchants his hated classmate Simon so that everything he says is true, with some rather horrific results: he turns a girl's hand to gold and then temporarily makes it disappear altogether, and by saying "I'm not thinking of anything!", he makes himself mindless. It's pointed out that he's rather a silly person and it's pure luck that he hasn't said "Two and two are five" (or, come to that, "This pencil is a stick of dynamite" or "I don't exist".) Another classmate gets him to say "Nothing I say came true, and nothing I say will come true in the future", but this of course just inverts his reality-warping powers (and makes them less predictable). Eventually Charles is forced to admit both that it was wrong to cast such a spell, and that even if it weren't, Simon is the last person he would want to have that kind of power.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Anya's necklace allows her to do this in "The Wish", but it backfires and she loses her powers.
  • Cole in Charmed (1998), when he was promoted to an avatar. He created a world where he was married to Phoebe, but she hated him, and to add injury to insult, he became Balthazar again, thus getting himself killed rather easily.
  • Project Moloch in the second season of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency was a quite powerful one. Although he managed to materialize a toy for himself he was prone to accidentally warp reality around himself, especially when in distress. In a minor case he manifested a monster from his nightmares, but was later able to trap it in a pocket dimension. In a major case he accidentally created a whole new universe that started to interfere with the normal one and caused some havoc, while he was temporary out of the picture. When he returned, he managed to clean up the mess and properly preside over his own creation, keeping it out of trouble.
  • Red Dwarf: In "Better Than Life", when the crew enter the Better Than Life video game, Rimmer's power to make things 'better than life' simply ends up sabotaging the game for all involved, as his subconscious won't let him be happy.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series:
      • The teenage boy Charlie from "Charlie X" has these powers, causing serious problems for the Enterprise crew until the Energy Being aliens take Charlie away.
      • "Shore Leave" has a planet where the crew's thoughts are made reality (if you think of a Knight in Shining Armor, he appears — but he might run you through!). The crew figures it out about the same time the "curators" of the planet realize that the visitors don't understand what is going on.
      • Trelane from "The Squire of Gothos" is a godlike alien reality warper who creates new worlds to suit his whims. He torments the Enterprise crew with his powers, but just as he's about to kill Kirk, his parents show up and remonstrate him.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
      • In "Where No Man Has Gone Before", the Enterprise is blown all the away to the edge of the universe (a freak accident with an experimental engine upgrade). The laws of reality are pretty loose there, and so the crew spends most of the episode trying to avoid bringing their imaginations to life (which is a lot like trying not to think of pink elephants) while the technical crew tries to replicate the accident to send the ship back.
      • In "The Survivors", one of the titular survivors is an immensely powerful being wracked with guilt after wiping out an entire race of invading race of aliens in a fit of rage.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine gets into the act with "If Wishes Were Horses". It turns out the Negative Space Wedgie that threatens to destroy the station only does so because the crew find a sort-of similar occurrence in their records and expect it to. Also, Rumpelstiltskin and a submissive Daxelganger show up.
  • WandaVision: The MCU's first Reality Warper, Wanda Maximoff, gaining those powers as a result of major trauma means that a small town in New Jersey gets turned into a 1950s Sitcom, and everyone in town gets brainwashed to play along.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Hc Svnt Dracones Transcendent implants work by harnessing Cuil Theory and abstract reality. When implanted they have a Cuil level of 1 to 5, when an implant of Cuil 3 or higher is activated there's a good chance that the owner will die messily: A Translocation Implant could suffer a Teleporter Accident, while an Exciter implant could set yourself on fire, etc. While Cuil 5 implants are just instant death to activate, you just can't survive it. And Transcendent implants temporarily go up a level each time they're used in combat.
  • Subverted in Mage: The Ascension, of all places. The Marauders (the only faction prone to warp reality without explicitly meaning to) usually like what they get. Then again, they are all clinically insane. Played straight with the normal mages, though. Doing too much paradoxical magic results in the universe backlashing, which is not fun.
    • It's also why the various tools and mechanisms of magick are necessary for new mages. They can't accidentally affect reality because, at lower levels of Arete, a mage "knows" that they can only change things through a focus. With greater mastery comes the realization that the tools are unnecessary — and the control to manage without them.
    • Ultimately played straight for Marauders, as well. The price of their incredible abilities is that the universe doesn't enjoy being toyed with like that. Eventually, once they become strong enough, reality realizes who's screwing with it and snaps back - and the Marauder is no more.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Orks' quasi-psychic field that makes things work according to how the Orks think things work usually works in their favor (in fact, the only reason such an ability isn't utterly broken is that Orks are stupid). However, in at least one case it's backfired on them: when Sebastian Yarrick slaughtered an unbelievable number of Orks, the Orks began thinking of him as an unstoppable Ork-killing machine... which, thanks to their powers, whenever he goes up against Orks, that's exactly what he becomes. Averted in The Beast Arises series. Bad things happen when an Ork manages to become a Beast, the most powerful of their kind. A Beast's influence on the rest of the Orks vastly increases their strength and intelligence. The above part about how the Orks' stupidity keeps their Waaagh! Energy from being utterly broken? Yeah.
    • The main reason psykers are so hated and despised throughout the Imperium in a way that would make X-Men Muggles proud is that if they lose control of their powers, they become easy prey for Chaos, and daemonic incursions are sure to follow. A single psyker getting possessed could cause a daemonic invasion big enough to envelop planets or whole star systems. Thus, the Inquisition is extremely diligent in finding psykers before they start exploring their powers, hauling them off in Black Ships crewed entirely by anti-psykers to be brought before the God-Emperor, where their souls are either too weak and serve to keep him alive a little longer or undergo Mind Rape that leaves them in slightly better control of their powers but far more pliant.

    Video Games 
  • In the Alan Wake series, the protagonist and his fellow creatives, granted Rewriting Reality abilities by proximity to Cauldron Lake, an Eldritch Location, all learn the hard way that they're unwittingly playing directly into the ambitions of the Dark Presence, its resident Eldritch Abomination, which aims to become a Humanoid one, using Plot Holes and ambiguities in their works as a pretext.
    • Control: The backstory of Jesse Faden: Playing with a reality-warping Object of Power that turns ordinary slides into portals to other worlds is all fun and games until an Eldritch Abomination from one of these worlds takes control of your O.O.P. and murders your entire town by reality-warping them into mutated piles of feral flesh... or worse. There are other Objects of Power and Reality Warpers out there, which end up misused and cause Altered World Events; reality-warping on a massive scale, destroying entire cities and leaving behind Altered Items note  in their wake. Also, Alan has honed his reality-warping powers for the past 10 years, but has developed a severe case of schizophrenia; an inability to tell the difference between reality and fiction, because his powers prevent him from seeing anything that's both real and unchanging. He's trapped in a narrative Hell, yet he could become an insane reality-warping threat if he ever escaped.
  • Hemah in Fall from Heaven. His civilipedia description involves creating extremely dangerous monsters while dreaming. It's implied that the Octopus Overlords are his creation.
  • First Encounter Assault Recon is one big hammer with the trope's name engraved on the head. Alma was born a powerful psychic, but sensitive to negative emotions — not only did she feel them herself more than usual, she created and propagated them in others, too. Then her father locked her up to create more telepathic children. She bore decades of horrific abuse and suffering, and then she died. But her sheer concentration of hatred and power meant that death had no effect on her at all. Result: insane, uncontrollable, homicidal psychic presence with the mind of an abused young girl that bends reality and cannot be killed — and her own powers and creations aren't completely under her control. For example, the Creep is one of her creations, yet she fears it more than anything else because it's the embodiment everything she despised about her father, Harlan Wade.
  • In many incarnations of The Legend of Zelda franchise, the evil Ganon steals the Triforce, the relic of the Golden Goddesses that contains their power and is a reminder of how their world was created. It exists in the Sacred Realm and grants the wish of whomever touches it, altering the Sacred Realm to reflect that person's heart. In A Link to the Past specifically, because Ganon's wish was evil (to rule everything), the Sacred Realm was altered into the Dark World. In Ocarina of Time, Zelda claims that this happened because Ganon had only the Triforce of Power. Without the complete Triforce, Ganon could not control the power of the gods to grant his wish.

    Visual Novels 
  • In the Nasuverse, Reality Marbles are a form of magecraft that allows the user to temporarily force the world to conform to his or her own vision of reality. The Magus Association has banned research due in part to the danger it poses to those researching it.
    • As Shirou learns in Fate/stay night, even the practice of developing the Required Secondary Powers needed to realize their inner world is considered terrifyingly dangerous (it's disturbingly close to self-elimination); everyone who sees his daily training worries for his life, and the fact that he doesn't think much of it is an early clue that he's beyond help.
    • Case in point: Fate/stay night has Shirou's Reality Marble, Unlimited Blade Works. In Heaven's Feel his use of Archer's arm causes his Reality Marble and Archer's to come into conflict, slowly destroying Shirou's body. Even though Shirou and Archer are actually the same person and have exactly the same Reality Marble, Archer is a version of Shirou who ceased to be human and thus their powers are incompatible.

    Web Comics 
  • In 1/0, this occurs with both the author and the characters, which two of them hop from the author's given world into their dream worlds. This comes back to bite them when, since these characters can create anything they want, nothing's unexpected and it becomes boring, to which the author pulls them out of the dream.
  • Played with in APT Comic. It is a toy, but makes things too easy and not fun enough to be utilized most of the time (according to Ammika, at least).
  • In Endstone, apparently the discovery of the God of the Spire. Though he may have warped a Lotus-Eater Machine.
  • In Grrl Power Krona has the power to magically hack reality. There's a few issues with that:
    • One, she is the only one with that power and no mage has ever had it before. She's essentially learning as she goes while playing with the fabric of reality itself.
    • Two, she's not always correct about how things work. While her "save point" allows Sydney to survive being killed and resets time to before Sydney went into the dangerous warehouse and she claims it's just a limited timeloop to allay Pixel's fears...only to realize she did it wrong and the time loop was only "local" and quickly cancels it out while admitting she needs to do more testing.
    • Three, her power is such an obvious threat to reality itself that the local superheroic branch of the military has to take her into custody in order to make sure she's not going to break reality on accident.
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court Reality Warping is no fun at all for Zimmy. She has terrible Power Incontinence, and in fact can't control her powers even a little. Confusing hallucinations, hideously nightmarish monsters, and nonlinear time are just the start — she has her own personal Self-Inflicted Hell, a nightmare mirror of Birmingham, England inhabited by faceless "nobodies," where she can easily become trapped. Fans sometimes call it Zimmingham or Birminghell, but it's no laughing matter. The only things that even partly give her a break are rain, and the proximity of her psychic friend Gamma. Word of God says that she has the same sort of power as deities like Coyote, but without the Required Secondary Powers.
  • minus. plays with this trope constantly (the main character being a young girl with nearly omnipotent Reality Warper powers) but the biggest example comes at the very end with innocent little minus accidentally killing everyone on the planet by, ironically, resurrecting everybody who ever died (mass suffocation ensues as the earth is covered in layers of people and animals). It's played for laughs, though, because everybody decides to just create a utopia in the afterlife, and eventually the ghosts turn Earth into a theme-park based on how things used to be.
  • A minor example in Misfile. A fortune teller is in a relationship that turns sour through a series of bizarre coincidences. It turns out that her playing with magic has coalesced her anxiety into a sentient being that seeks to make her fears come true.
  • In PS238, this is a lesson that Toby Marlocke, Tyler's clone that gets reality warping powers quickly learns. His powers mostly run on Equivalent Exchange — anything more complex than very basic super abilities (like flight) cause something else to happen. Minor effects typically just transform nearby objects, but more complex alterations of reality cause larger side-effects (like attempting to give his brother powers ended up depowering every other super in existence and giving powers to all other non-supers). What's worse, figuring out the side effect ahead of time requires concentration and isn't guaranteed to give all of the details.
  • There is a highly meta example in Roommates. The cast members are fictional characters, so their reality is their Canon and fanon story and every single storyteller ever unknowingly warps it. If they mess up the result won't be pretty... Poor Morgan (Morgause/etc.) The Healer (LaFay/etc.) is more than bipolar by now.
  • According to Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, this is both God's power and the reason he seems much more absent than in the early bible. Whenever he had a violent or bad thought, it manifested. Hell was a crazy judgement scheme he came up with when someone was annoying, and then it was too late. So he stopped thinking bad thoughts, but that made him just introspective and passive, so he no longer acts.

    Web Original 
  • In-universe, this trope is why the SCP Foundation kills off most of the Reality Warpers it finds. Out-of-universe, it's to keep every Game-Breaker off the SCP lists.
    • The one they do keep has been tricked into thinking she's a magician with much more limited powers, like putting out fires, making pretty lights, assassinating enemies of the SCP foundation... at least until she was nearly killed by her own powers (and almost taking the world with her) thanks to her fear of Doctor Clef. She was so afraid of him that she thought he was planning to kill her. Her powers made that fear into reality, and he nearly did kill her. After she started getting creative and making up her own spells, the latest lore has her contained more efficiently. The Foundation is fully aware of what this means should she ever wake up...but given that this trope is the alternative they'll take their chances.
    • When the reality warper is a cat, you get to be the toy.
    • Supposedly, this is the reason the Challenger space shuttle crashed. A young Alto Clef had a stray thought about it crashing while he was watching it on TV and saw it crash. It was only later that he realized that it wasn't a coincidence. It's why he's so dedicated to hunting down Reality Warpers since he knows all too well how dangerous they can be to others and to themselves and why he's so good at it; he secretly uses a bit of his own Reality Warping power to turn the odds in his favor. This is eventually revealed to be a lie, the truth is far more horrific.
    • SCP-818 and SCP-1915 are stuck in loops thanks to their powers. 818 is a low-functioning autistic and stuck himself in a routine because the Foundation couldn't (and wouldn't) deviate him from it, and 1915 has the personality of an office drone whose aspirations and ambitions have been ground to nothing, and thus cannot envision anything that isn't the current status quo, and since his powers are so strong and active, all he envisions is all that happens.
    • SCP-2599's reality bending combined with her insecurities mean she has to do everything she's told but always fails. Ask her to play a piece of music she's never heard, and she'll play it most of it perfectly before being unable to finish it. Ask her to turn a white piece of paper blue, and it'll turn purple. Ask her to fly, and she'll jump five meters into the air and break her legs when she lands.

    Western Animation 
  • This is the basis of the Adventure Time episode "Rainy Day Daydream", when Jake's imagination takes on Reality Warping powers, without any cause. He simply chooses to imagine a machine that can turn his imagination off, but still can't keep from placing obstacles and dangers in his own path to the machine.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold:
    • A lighthearted example happens to Bat-Mite. Since he was living vicariously through Batman (tossing foes at him just to see him battle), Batman convinces him to cut the middle man out and do it himself. Problem is, his imagination started running away with him and he started fighting all of Batman's Rogues Gallery at once in a Dali-esque world. Batman had to talk him down / bail him out.
    • In the finale, Bat-Mite decides he's gotten bored with the hammy, comedic show and decides to get it cancelled in favor of a Darker and Edgier series by using his reality-warping powers to make TB&TB Jump the Shark. After Bat-Mite has succeeded in his plan, Ambush Bug reminds him that Bat-Mite himself is too silly a character to be included in such a dark series and thus Bat-Mite fades into nonexistence. Whoops.
    • It's also (perhaps inadvertently) a perfect illustration of the Fridge Horror of such characters and why reality warping is not a toy. It's fun magical pranks for a while, but if they get bored with the world they can break it beyond even their own ability to restore, with a thought.
  • This is a recurring theme in ChalkZone. Rudy Tabootie possesses magic chalk capable of creating anything he can imagine, and he quickly realizes the dangers of such power. He keeps himself limited to creating things that are harmless or useful for getting out of trouble. He refuses to create living beings unless it's for the most dire of circumstances and when he does try to use the chalk for personal gain, it's born more out of hasty panic or not thinking things through. He still has to be reminded time and again just how big of a responsibility it is to wield the magic chalk.
  • I Married a STRANGE Person!: After Grant Boyer is zapped by his TV satellite dish, he starts to warp reality to match whatever he imagines, and he just cannot stop imagining.
  • In one episode The Mask hides from Lieutenant Kellaway by turning himself into a character in a comicbook. When he comes out from it, he accidentally drags along with himself three supervillains of the world of the comicbook. He spends the rest of the episode trying to defeat them, only to discover that Death is Cheap. Ultimately he ends up tearing the comicbook apart, which wipes out the villains from his reality.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: As Spike learns a bit too late, the desire to exercise the "Inspiration Manifestation" power takes hold of a pony (in this case Rarity), and they can't help but use it. A crazed Rarity 'beautifies' the town into such chaos that Discord would be hard-pressed to compete with it.
  • The Simpsons: In the segment "It's a Bart's Life" of "Treehouse of Horror II", the world lives in fear of an omniscient Reality Warping Bart. Bart only wakes up screaming from the dream after his dream-self starts turning nice and hugs Homer.
  • In Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Doctor Doom is anything but weak-willed. Yet when he tries to steal the Beyonder's power, his new utopia is soon assaulted by demons born out of his nightmares and subconscious fears. This is pretty much what happens in Secret Wars, which that episode was based on.
  • That happened with Cornelia's little sister in W.I.T.C.H.. She was being read to and unwittingly making the story come true, because as the Heart of Earth, she has Reality Warper powers. They end up convincing her to seal up her powers in a trio of regents until she grows up.