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"[Insert character here] is seriously wounded... but the soul still burns!"
Announcer, SoulCalibur

You're fighting your opponent in armed combat, and you lay a finishing move across his neck with your Absurdly Sharp Blade. The announcer declares your victory: "Knockout!"

— Wait, what?

A character in a fighting game is not "dead"; he's just... unconscious... even though you've been hitting him with a sword for 30 seconds... and broken both his arms... and impaled him on your blade before kicking him off at least twice. For that matter, why are you still alive, after being whacked in the head with his axe a few times? It seems all that stuff saying you should Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight was complete baloney. (Well, except for the not dying part.)

Compare Strong Flesh, Weak Steel, As Lethal as It Needs to Be and Made of Iron. Contrast Nerf Arm.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Subverted in One Piece; When Zoro the swordsman wants to knock someone out, he uses the blunt side of his katana, usually saying he did so for the audience's sake. Nami and Chopper point out that this can still be fatal due to broken bones and internal injuries.
  • Played with a bit in an episode of Slayers. Zelgadis tries to knock someone out by hitting him with the blunt side of his sword, then remembers too late that his sword is double-edged… This was a parody of Escaflowne, where such confusion didn't happen.
  • Rurouni Kenshin:
    • Kenshin has a reverse blade sword made specifically so he can stun or knock out opponents with it to keep his vow that he'll never kill again. How he doesn't frequently cause severe crushing wounds is better left unasked, though he does occasionally deal them on purpose, so he may be pulling his swings. Kenshin in fact used the crushing damage of the dull edge to break the thumb of a bloodthirsty opponent so he wouldn't be able to wield a sword in his dominant hand; when he learned to wield it southpaw, Kenshin crushed his other thumb so he couldn't hold one at all. Kenshin also attempted to use a crushing strike on another enemy once, which failed due to his opponent's sword hilt dampening the blow.
  • The Mahora Festival arc of Negima! Magister Negi Magi ended with a giant fight between the student body and an army of killer robots firing guns and Wave Motion Beams. At first, their weapons only served as stripper rays, but eventually they were upgraded to hurl whoever they hit forward in time to after the battle, effectively taking them out of the fight without killing them.
  • When Allen's Innocence in D.Gray-Man is upgraded to a BFS, it works this way against Noah, hurting only the Noah part of the victim but leaving the human part intact.
  • In Tenchi Muyo! GXP, Seiryo Tennan knocks out Tarant Shank with a single stroke of his lightsaber. He then says not to worry, that he'd hit him with the flat side of the blade. Fellow Space Pirate Kyo Komachi is openly confused because energy blades don't have a flat side.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid introduces the DSAAnote  Contact System, which lets Device users safely deal non-fatal and non-permanent damage to one another while still receiving simulated battle injuries for strong hits through "Crash Emulate". This allows participants of the Inter-Middle Championship to use swords, claws, and other normally fatal weapons without accidentally bisecting or decapitating their fellow competitors.
  • Fairy Tail has Erza Scarlet, capable of summoning all sorts of armor and weapons, who will unleash storms of blades at her opponents without spilling any blood at all.
  • Musashi Gundoh does this literally, with the protagonist wielding an electric stun sword along with a gun full of "sleeping bullets".
  • In Pokémon Adventures, Viola shoves Y out of the way of an attacking Honedge and merely gets knocked out with nothing more than a nasty bruise on her head. Considering that Honedge are living swords, the top half of Viola's head should have been sliced off.
  • The holographic battle system in Gundam Build Fighters simulates battle damage mostly harmlessly. Getting blasted by a beam cannon will leave your model fine by the end of the fight, and dismemberment by beam sword might mean you just have to pop the arm back on. But actual physical damage like from punching or impalement by a Physically-modeled weapon could leave the model with very real damage. In Gundam Build Fighters Try, the new and improved Gunpla Battle machine has Damage Level settings which affect the level of damage the participants' models suffer after the game powers down but has absolutely no effect on the damage it seems to incur during battle. In one episode, one Gunpla's forearms shatter like glass, but since the machine was set to Damage Level C it's perfectly fine afterward. Level B is more like the battles in the original series, while Level A apparently inflicts all damage realistically on the model.
    • This trope actually becomes a major plot point in the successor series, Gundam Build Divers. The Gunpla Duel system, which worked similarly to Build Fighters' own when set to Damage Level A, is phased out in favor of the virtual MMO, Gunpla Battle Nexus. Tsukasa Shiba, the first half's main antagonist, wants to destroy this game world because in his mind the combat experience there doesn't carry the same 'weight' as GP Duel, since players' Gunpla are scanned into the game world and do not take damage at all in the real world. Riku defeating Tsukasa on an old GP Duel machine with his 'inferior' combat experience forces Tsukasa to realize how baseless that ideal is.
  • In The Red Ranger Becomes an Adventurer in Another World, Red and Rosie's swords only seem to harm monsters. When used against people, they only seem to knock them out. This becomes especially egregious after Red uses the Maximum Kizuna Kaiser to push Lurguat's mutated body into space, cut it in half, and make it explode with Rosie's help, only for Lurguat to show up merely unconscious on the ground.
  • Wolfsmund: Plays with and possibly Justifies the use of this trope. Some of Wolfram's knights find Johanna escaping through the castle, and—remembering that they're not supposed to kill her—decide to grip their swords by the blade and beat her unconscious with their hilts. Shown Their Work, as this is a legit technique from German Longsword called mordhau.
  • Toji No Miko: The utsushi of the Toji also protects them from lethal injuries. Doing enough damage to break one's utsushi is usually enough to leave one unable to fight without any physical injury, and is used to decide the victor in fights between Toji. It allows swordfights as brutal as any in other media without and blood or permanent injury.
  • Done literally in Agent 008 with the Tie Blades, that, once activated, have two settings: "Shock", where they deliver a non-lethal electric shock to the opponent, and "Slash", where they can cut through almost anything. The protagonist Eito is well known in-universe for his refusal to use the Slash setting on anything that could be living even with his own life is in danger, so him suddenly turning it on against the school's traitor is an effective show of just how furious he was.

    Comic Books 
  • Justified by Marvel Comics' Black Knight. He sometimes uses a photonic sword which cuts through inanimate objects like a solid blade would, but acts like a high-powered taser when used on humans.
  • In Teen Titans, Robin once gave Ravager a pair of literal "stun swords" so she could use her otherwise very lethal fighting techniques to the fullest without actually killing anybody.
  • Psylocke generates a glowing arm-blade with her Psychic Powers. As such, it can slice through anything, but against living opponents it causes temporary incapacitation. However, it can kill if she puts enough power into it and plunges it directly into your head, something that, naturally, she threatens but never quite gets around to actually doing.
  • Captain America's shield is depicted as having edges capable of sheering through metal cables, but will never do more than bounce off a living target in a painful but decidedly non-lethal manner.

    Fan Works 
  • This is Deconstructed in The Bloodstained Hero. Izuku points out that bladed weapons are designed to kill. Non-lethal use is only possible when you are just that skilled to avoid all vitals, or your opponent can regenerate. Momo spends a long sparring session stabbing Izuku in various spots only to hit an organ or artery each time. Izuku is unharmed due to his Healing Factor.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Black Butterfly: The titular heroine of this martial arts film, a Robin Hood-esque thief, isn't a fan of killing, and wouldn't take lives unless she doesn't have a choice. So when fighting city guards and soldiers whom are just doing their jobs, she repeatedly knocks them unconscious with her swords, non-fatally, while fleeing. She does start taking names in the film's climax, since at that point she's fighting hostile bandit mooks.

  • Conspicuously inverted in the Alcatraz Series, where swords are one of the very few weapons that don't have a stun setting.
  • The aeon edge from Aeon Legion: Labyrinth has a non lethal setting where it passes through people and objects, freezing them in stasis rather than cutting them. Justified in that the Aeon Legion does not want to kill temporal criminals and change the history of those who may need to live on in their own times.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Jidaigeki drama Abarenbou Shougun makes an important plot point out of this. Our titular hero has to storm the castle and bring someone in, resulting in him using the dull edge of his katana for a series of nonlethal takedowns. This has turned into a Stock Shout-Out of sorts, to the extent that the actor, Ken Matsudaira, makes an appearance in the Kamen Rider OOO movie just to do this... despite not actually fighting humans.
  • The Star Trek: Voyager episode "Prophecy" reveals that a Klingon bat'leth (that bigass curved sword) can be blunted for non-lethal duels. This precedent was established by an emperor who didn't want his warriors to kill each other when they still had enemies to fight.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons had several iterations of this across its several editions.
    • The 1st edition Monster Manual had a rule specifically for dragons that allowed players to try subduing them rather than killing them.
    • 2nd edition featured an optional rule that allowed standard weapons to do nonlethal damage (normally the province of unarmed combat and a few particular weapons) in exchange for an attack penalty, since you're purposely using your weapon wrong in order to not seriously harm your enemy.
    • 3rd edition has the same rule. It also extends to inflicting lethal damage with nonlethal weapons (such as saps and non-monk unarmed strikes), justified by needing to seek out the most vital regions to strike.
      • With the right feat, you can optionally do nonlethal damage with spells. Yes, even Disintegrate.
      • 3rd edition also has magical weapons with the "Merciful" quality, which allows the wielder to inflict nonlethal damage, even with a sword or crossbow. This quality is generated by imbuing the weapon with a healing spell, ironically.
    • 4th edition finally simplified it all by allowing a player to declare whether a monster is killed or unconscious when reducing its hit points to zero, even if this was done with an explosion or disintegrate spell. Just let the players make up a reason for why it works.
    • 5th edition has the same rule as 4th, but only applied to melee attacks, presumably because a ranged or magical attack would be less discriminating.
  • Alchemical Exalted can install a Charm that allows them to keep all members of their unit alive in a war, despite damage done to a unit. An upgrade — the Riot-Dispersion Attack submodule — allows them to extend this benefit to the enemy unit they're attacking. Lunars, on the other hand, have a Subduing the Honored Foe Charm that ensures that they only cause bashing damage — even if they wields First Age chainsaw katana while being a 12-feet tall man-beast monstrosity.
  • Mayfair Games' DC Heroes RPG featured two styles of gaming, one "gritty and realistic", and the other more in keeping with the Silver Age mentality where nobody dies. This is spoofed in one of the modules where the characters are left at ground zero of a nuclear explosion, but it's all okay because of the game mode!
  • Hero Clix characters are KOd at the end of their dials. It doesn't matter what you're using on them, from powers named "Blades/Claws/Fangs" or "Big Uzi" or even "Death Comes Swiftly", whatever it is that hits you, it just knocks you out.
  • Cheapass Games features Spree, a game where looters with guns raid a mall for the best presents this Christmas. Being shot only makes you "fall down." You get up shortly thereafter. There are no health meters or character wounds.
  • The Dresden Files stipulates that any Taken Out result has the player who won the exchange getting to decide how this plays out, meaning any kind of attack can be non-lethal, though given the abstract nature of the game's mechanics, a fireball taking out someone non-lethally can be something like the target dodging but running into something and getting knocked out, or they're forced into surrender.
  • One of the less known jokes for Warhammer 40,000 is that no matter how the models died, they are going home. Yes, even from being made swiss cheese, exploded, incinerated or vaporized from a plasma shot.
  • Princess: The Hopeful: All the various charms that add weapons (ranged, melee, or other) to a Princess's Regalia have a rule that lets her switch them between inflicting Bashing and Lethal damage at will. There is no requirement that this change be reflected in the weapon's actual appearance.

    Video Games 
  • Cyberpunk 2077 features a weapon mod for firearms that makes them nonlethal, and a cybereye mod that makes every weapon, from katanas to sniper rifles, nonlethal.
  • Soul Series:
    • SoulCalibur 3 is an especially notable example, considering that Sigfried uses an incredibly large sword, and is frequently seen to drive the pointy end directly into an opponent's skull, yet sometimes after a match, he remarks, "I avoided your vitals. You'll live."
    • Not only that, but any throw would be fatal. Any throw. And yet, it takes roughly six or seven to "K.O." your opponent (and sometimes more than that). To clarify, Siegfried/Nightmare (either or both, depending on the game) throws his opponent by ramming his 6 foot long, 2 foot wide BFS straight through the opponent's body, lifting them into the air, and slamming them to the floor. Ouch. Of course, this is only the most over-the-top ones. The more subtle ones involve simply snapping the opponent's neck.
      • The cake goes to Ivy Valentine in II — her throw from behind involves wrapping her bladed whip around her opponent's neck, kicking them to their knees, and stomping on their back, causing their spine to very audibly snap. Then they get back up and fight.
      • Taki has many by the same virtue. One of her throws has her grab her opponent by the neck and shove her sword straight through their neck clear to the other side.
      • Or Raphael, who stabs his opponent roughly 10 times in the chest.
      • Actually averted by Guest Fighter Link, whose most oft used throw is just a painful (and overly flashy) arm twist. It proves to be one of the most lethal anyway.
    • In other words, Siegfried is saying there's nothing vital in our heads.
    • A particularly bad example has to be the lightsabers in IV. They're shown clashing with swords, despite being shown in the films to cut through almost anything.
  • Battle Arena Toshinden has a similar schtick (weapon-based fighting game), including Rungo's massive club or Vermillion's guns.
  • Star Wars games are often examples, with lightsabers only doing a small amount of damage with each strike, despite normally being treated as capable of cutting through flesh, bone, and even metal like a plasma knife through butter.
    • Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II nicely avoided this problem, though, making the lightsaber nearly a Disc-One Nuke. Hit anything with the saber (Well, anything smaller than a truck), and it goes down.
    • Later Dark Forces games — Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy — went back to the usual patheticness, but a simple and popular *.cfg option restored the instant deadliness of a lightsaber. Even grazing an unshielded character, whether you were attacking or not, would sever limbs, heads, or torsos on contact. Best of all, this applied to the player too, so while Mooks became much easier, battles against multiple Dark Jedi became much more challenging.
    • Jedi Academy multiplayer servers use house rules when dealing with lightsaber damage. Occasionally, one will find a server where damage behaves just like one would expect a condensed plasma stream to behave. For extra simulation, there is a dismemberment-on-death flag that can be toggled in the *.cfg file.
    • The lightsabers in Star Wars: Galaxies did bashing damage in their first incarnation. It has then been changed to energy damage.
    • Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi is basically Tekken but with Star Wars characters, meaning that lightsabers aren't treated as lethal. In fact, much like the swords in Soul Calibur, they act more like clubs or baseball bats. Even if you defeat an opponent by using a lightsaber, it's still simply classified as a "Knockout" rather than anything fatal.
    • As mentioned in the Soul Calibur section, Soul Calibur IV features Darth Vader, Yoda and Starkiller as Guest Fighters. Their lightsabers are treated as no more lethal or dangerous than any other weapon in the game, and can easily be blocked.
    • Knights of the Old Republic treads the line a bit. Lightsabers are still the deadliest melee weapons by far, and can be used to break open doors and containers effortlessly, but many weapons and armors of this era are made with "cortosis weaves" (something that's supposed to be much rarer than KoToR implies) that enables them to resist a saber being sliced right through them. They are still far less deadly than they really should be, though.
      • Somewhat justified in that the Old Republic is, well... older than most of the other Star Wars properties, timeline-wise. The time between it and the Skywalker era represents a long, steady decline of the empire with lots of lost technology. Cortosis going from common to rare follows the same trend of medical science going from miracle gels that can cure the most debilitating injuries to women dying easily in childbirth and having to use prosthetics to deal with burns, things that real-life medical science today would consider hopelessly low-tech and crude. This is actually a continuation of an even longer trend; Rakata technology from thousands of years before the Old Republic directly used the force without human interference and could store sentient minds, eat stars to make fleets in a matter of days, and reduce entire star clusters to ionized dust.
      • Similarly for Star Wars: Battlefront, where lightsabers are the strongest weapon in the game, yet it took at least 2 hits to kill the average mook.
    • Super Star Wars: Tusken Raiders can sometimes survive a full-contact swing with the lightsaber. Also, Stormtroopers can survive one laser blast from your gun, while in the movies, they usually died when that happened.
    • Unlike the above, The Force Unleashed has the lightsaber as the ONLY available weapon. Some players have referred to it as the "lightbat" because of its inability to cut through anything. Indeed, hitting a stormtrooper only creates a small glow on the point of impact and causes them to fall over. Some enemies don't even die on the first hit. This complaint has been addressed in the sequel (at least as far as enemies go). Stormtrooper heads and limbs will be lost this time for sure. As for slicing up the rest of the level... probably not.
    • And then Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order went right back to the old routine by requiring multiple lightsaber strikes to kill a humble Stormtrooper. It also introduced Stamina, a secondary protective layer that melee attacks have to break through before health damage can be inflicted, and like in The Force Unleashed your lightsaber is your only weapon. About half of the imperial troop types are specialized melee fighters with weapons that can block and parry lightsabers as if they were standard swords, so even a guy with a stun baton can kick your lightbat-swinging posterior in this game. And if you thought that the wildlife makes easy prey at least, read the in-game databank and reconsider - a disturbingly large percentage of the critters you encounter are stated to have lightsaber-resistant hides or scales.
  • Sword of the Samurai 2 is both an example and a subversion, in that, on Extreme mode, any hit from any weapon could kill you.
  • Aversion: Bushido Blade has no life bars, and matches can be decided with a single well-aimed strike. Hell, if you wound your opponent properly, he'll beg you to kill him to end his misery. Rune goes halfway here (especially in multiplayer matches), as while its Health Points work just like most other games, a lucky swing at an opponent's head that gets through means decapitation and is always an instant kill.
  • Mortal Kombat:
    • Mortal Kombat 3: Technically, you can hit an opponent 5 or 6 times in a round with Stryker's hand grenades, as they only do 7-8% of damage. His pistol attack (only in Ultimate MK3) is curiously a ranged one and consists of firing 3 bullets from point-blank range. It does a bit more damage than a grenade, but still, the other character should be dead on the spot. Cyrax and Sektor use bombs and rockets respectively. They inflict about the same damage as Stryker's hand grenades.
    • Mortal Kombat 4:
      • All characters have weapons that do significantly less damage than one would think. This trope applies to Sonya for example, who is a regular human, yet a full-on swing with a sword can't kill her on the spot. You can also throw stones and skulls at your opponent, and realistically these items also would inflict quite a lot more damage.
      • As a precursor of the X-Ray moves in Mortal Kombat 9, MK4 has "bone breakers", which are unique for each character, and consist of breaking the opponent's bones. All the fighters of course are a-ok in just a few frames, losing around 15-20% of their health, and are perfectly capable of punching and comboing normally, using their (supposedly) broken limbs. The most egregious example is Liu Kang's bonebreaker, as he is straight up breaking the other character's spine... as usual, without any gameplay-affecting ill effects.
    • In Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, though, some characters had an "Impale" feature for their weapons, which allowed you to, well... impale the enemy with your weapon, causing them to leak blood and reduce their health gradually at the expense of losing the ability to use your weapons for the rest of the round.
    • Mortal Kombat 9: Once and for all, it is proven that swords are indeed sharp, because all character models show damage. By the end of a close fight, both fighters will have missing skin and exposed innards to go along with the bones that were shown being physically broken. It doesn't affect your fighting ability, though. (And then you stand up for round 2, and your health is refilled but the damage is still visible.)
      • The worst part is the X-Ray moves. Over the course of the match, Sub-Zero can freeze and shatter his opponent's liver several times. Baraka's move involves using one blade to impale and lift the opponent through the stomach, while using the other to impale him through the throat and then through the head. Some Kombatants break their opponent's skulls, legs, spines, whatever, and the opponent just gets up and keeps fighting after all of this.
    • Mortal Kombat X: The 10th game of the series marks the return of Brutalities. These finishers were last featured in UMK3, but work entirely differently than in that case. They are now tied to the specials of the characters, and are sometimes involving stabbing weapons. Kitana and Mileena are the worst offenders. Kitana has a special move, where she is jumping on the opponent's chest and slices their throat using her fans. Even though normally this would be instant death, when the opponent has more than 10% of health (or so), this only damages them. It turns into a Brutality, when the opponent has less HP than that, and the Kitana player performs the right input for the finisher, and only then will it chop the other figher's head off. Mileena's stabbing special move, where she uses her sais to absolutely gut the opponent with multiple stabs is similarly only lethal under the Brutality circumstances detailed above.
    • Mortal Kombat 11:
      • Cassie Cage has a throw that finishes with shooting the opponent in the back of the head. If used on an opponent's last hit point, it can be used as a Brutality as a Subversion. She can also use her pistols to shoot an opponent in the knees, which can be Enhanced to kick them up in the air and shoot them a couple more times. They don't seem to have much trouble standing afterwards.
      • Erron Black uses a level-action hunting rifle in battle, and the individual shots are only marginally more powerful than his fists.
      • Quite literal with the Shao Lin Arrow fired by using the Broken Quiver Konsumable. It fires an arrow that deals low damage and stuns its target.
      • Some of the scenery hazards can be used to impale a Kombatant through the chest or crush their skulls, and are only slightly more powerful than a Kritical Hit.
  • In the Samurai Shodown series, only the last strike of the round can be fatal.
    • Played completely straight in Samurai Shodown: Tenkaichi Kenkudan/VI, which has a "festival" theme and therefore nothing's explicitly lethal. However this comes off of the Bloodier and Gorier Samurai Shodown V Special so Samurai Shodown can play it both ways...
  • Since battles in the Touhou Project series always result in a Non-Lethal K.O. or mild Clothing Damage due to the spellcard system, it's implied that all characters are actually using their own powers but with them being limited to incredibly flashy attacks (such as Marisa's "spark" spellcards or Yukari's boundary themed attacks)
  • Particularly bad in The King of Fighters games, as many characters have attacks that could level a building, yet leave no lasting damage anyway. One really nasty example is Orochi (a god), who can apparently steal and destroy his opponent's soul, yet if said opponent is not KO'd by this attack, then they can still get up and fight, despite the fact that they should be a hollow shell. Whip has a gun and, in some games, it doesn't even deal damage. She has another one as an HSDM and at least deals a good amount of damage. Other characters even have missiles, lasers, a gigantic drill, an iron ball... Hell even the flames should be enough to deal third-degree burns but don't. Also, Nakoruru literally stabs you in the heart as part of her throw move, and as long as your HP isn't completely depleted, no overly long bleeding occurs and your character walk away just fine.
  • Justified in Way of the Samurai 3: you can use the blunt end of your sword to knock out opponents as opposed to killing them.
  • Another frequent offender is Zero from the Mega Man X series. It's especially noticeable in his own games, where most enemies have a special animation for being cut in half by his Z-Saber. Okay — so why didn't that happen until the final hit? Because the kill shot is always the final hit.
  • Melty Blood is a particularly strange case. The victory screens, the character portraits, the backgrounds, etc. can all show as much blood as they want to, but absolutely no blood comes out from anyone. Makes sense, they're all being punched and kicked... except by the characters that have claws and one in particular who uses a fruit knife to devastating effect. The rerelease of Melty Blood: Act Cadenza even removes what little blood was present (one character throwing a knife into someone and ripping it out, and a young vampire ripping into someone barehanded). Also add to the fact that, much like Soul Calibur, certain attacks should be fatal. Shiki not killing anyone by simply knife-fighting is justified and plausible... but his Arc Drives use his Mystic Eyes of Death Perception, one of which slices the opponent into seventeen pieces. Though granted, he never seems to use the truly, unquestionably fatal attack... which his Enemy Without, Nanaya, does use - on top of slitting his enemy's throat.
  • In the Tekken series, characters frequently suffer broken arms, legs, necks, etc., dislocated shoulders, hyper-extended joints, crushed gonads, and occasional impalement, only to get back up off the floor and jump back into battle, unless the round is over.
    • Particularly bad in the case of Lee, many of whose moves are flat-out murder. One, for instance, is a snap-kick to the opponent's nose; in the game, it merely stuns the opponent for a moment and does less damage than a standard kick. In real life, that move, called fouetté à figure ("whip-kick to the face") is banned from sport savate, for its tendency to snap people's necks.
    • And then there's Kuma, Panda, Yoshimitsu, Kunimitsu, Devil Kazuya, Devil Jin, Angel, True Ogre and Alisa. Negan in Tekken 7 carries with him "Lucile", his barbed-wire baseball bat, and his Rage Art even mimics the scene where he kills Glen in the series but you'll still get up after if you have any health left.
  • In Darkstalkers 3, certain attacks by each character can kill, by slicing the opponent in half... but only if they're the last blow in the last round. If it's not, the killing effect is seen regardless but the damage done to the characters' bodies is instantly fixed in a cartoony manner, like for example the upper body of the character being cleaved clean off, only for it to perform a quick somersault and land back on the waist with no lasting damage. Likewise, these attacks don't always line up with what should be fatal — Bulleta/B.B. Hood's throat-slit grab is, understandably, fatal, but her various guns, missiles, and mines aren't.
  • Likewise, in Dragon Ball FighterZ, Majin Buu can turn his opponents into cookies and then eat them. While this obviously killed people in the TV show, the victims return to normal immediately after being devoured in the game.
  • The Capcom vs. series:
  • The Last Blade games follow the same mold as Samurai Shodown, in that attacks can only be lethal on the last hit of the round, and some of the characters are surprised when slashing their foe to itty-bitties manages to kill them dead. Hibiki is downright horrified when she kills someone... unless she does it too many times.
  • Dynasty Warriors has a K.O. count instead of kill count. In Musou Mode, a general will live or die depending on if his character is needed, meaning that most generals will only die on the last level. Justified in that, because not every general uses a weapon capable of killing, from staves to the power of wind, it's easier just to tack "K.O." on the counter and the bladed weapon just wounded them badly or they suffered blood loss.
    • The Japanese version of Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage also had the same KO counter, despite the fact that dozens of Mooks are turned into red paste or getting cut up into ribbons every time you use a Signature Move on them or hit them with a heavy attack, and even when you don't, they leave a large pool of blood under them as they collapse. Changed in the US/PAL version where the counter now reads "Kills", although the trophy/achievement icons are unchanged and still read "KO".
    • Hyrule Warriors, made by the same people behind Dynasty Warriors, goes back and forth on whether you're killing enemy units or not. Like Dynasty Warriors, it uses a K.O. count, and defeating enemies is usually framed as you either knocking them out and forcing them to retreat. That said, one of Fi's battle quotes has her remark that the enemy's life-force can no longer be detected (bear in mind that Fi is a sentient sword), and one of Proxi's quotes has her worry if an allied officer is 'still alive' after they've retreated.
    • Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, again made by the same people, has a rather blatant case early on when, in a cutscene, the Player Character Shez takes a stab to the chest from Byleth (the now-Rogue Protagonist of Three Houses), and instead of being run through like you'd expect, they get knocked back and sprawled out on the ground as if Byleth was wielding a bomb on a stick instead of a sword. Naturally, because this is still the first mission, Shez survives this.
  • Pokémon:
  • The High Frequency Blade in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is lethal, inasmuch as Raiden can kill any human enemy with it (the reason that it takes several strokes to kill is that the enemies from that point in the game wear extremely heavy armor). However, he can reverse his grip so that he smacks foes around with the dull edge instead of slicing them to kibble, knocking them out in order to allow the player to complete a "No Enemies Killed" play-through. You still kill them if you stab, though. Raiden uses the same technique again in Metal Gear Online.
  • Super Robot Wars can't seem to decide on how lethal the attacks are. Defeating a given character, so they explode entirely, may result in that character dying, that character ejecting, that character running away. There are missions in which you 'capture' an enemy unit by bringing it down below 10%... and in the same mission you capture another unit by blowing it up completely. Additionally, there are some characters with weapons designed to cleave battleships in single strikes, but you still won't necessarily kill targets with it. Lampshaded in one chapter of Super Robot Wars: Original Generation 2, where, Kyousuke uses his "Trump Card" against Wodan's Thrudgelmir (and hit him straight in the cockpit, no less!) leaving the other protagonists to wonder how Wodan could have survived that. To be fair, Wodan is a cyborg zombie samurai.
    • Played straight in Super Robot Wars L, where "killing" a boss unit won't show the animation of it getting destroyed. They simply escape afterward most of the time, exploding only if it's actually destroyed during the storyline.
  • Counter-Strike: Can you survive a shoutgun blast from point-blank range? In Real Life, even with kevlar, the answer is no. In the game, you might.
  • Unreal Tournament: An automag bullet in the brain? No problem, it hurts a bit, but it only takes away 25 HPs. Shock Rifle blast to the face? More dangerous, you lose 50 HPs. The ultimate weapon, the Redeemer, should be a nuke, but it also tends to underperform. There are however weapons that can insta-kill.
  • Avoided partially in Bio Freaks. Your characters could take explosive rounds, rockets, and chainsaws to the face surprisingly well, but most characters had moves that could strip your enemy of one or both arms, or the head, the first two greatly limiting their fighting abilities, and the latter instantly killing them. Similarly, getting tossed into some of the hazards, such as industrial grinders, would either kill you outright or strip you of your arms.
  • Time Killers allowed you to perform instant amputations and decapitation moves that could end a fight in one blow. However, only decapitation was fatal.
    • This got even more extreme in the Spiritual Successor BloodStorm, where you could cut your opponent in half, but again, only decapitation was fatal. The game would actually credit you if you somehow managed to win a fight without any limbs at all.
  • In City of Heroes, you can "defeat" opponents with a katana, broadsword, battle axe, gigantic mace, or Netherworld-energy punches... but they are just arrested. And that's just counting the melee weapons, not the assault rifle, lightning bolts, or Atomic Blast.
    • Technically, "Defeated" is intended to be a vague, blanket term that allows the player to decide what happens to everyone. Considering the genre...
    • Also note that they have the uber medical system. The basic assumption is that someone is slapping them with some sort of teleport system recall chip that sends them directly to the zigg's hospital wing.
  • While some of the franchises in Magical Battle Arena have the benefit of possible in-universe justifications, such as how the Lyrical Nanoha characters may be using Magical Damage or how the lethality of Cardcaptor Sakura's Sakura Cards may be based on Sakura's intent, others do not. Somehow, getting sliced by a Ragna Blade or being drilled repeatedly wouldn't end with death.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time on the SNES has Leonardo as a character you can choose, but his Katanas — which should slice the advancing foot soldiers in half at each swing — are not performing as well as their Real Life counterparts.
  • An example of Non-Killing Bullets: In Terminator 2: Judgment Day for the Sega Genesis, enemies are described at the end of a level has having been "immobilized" due to "non-fatal wounds." Despite being shot. In the chest. With a shotgun. At point blank range. Of course, this comes from a joke in the movie: John Connor tells the Terminator not to kill anybody, and so the Terminator shoots a man in the knee. ("He'll live.") Doesn't explain how a chest shot could be non-fatal, though.
  • In Neverwinter Nights 2, characters don't die, they merely go unconscious. This makes one wonder why the King of Shadows, despite being an ancient evil capable of destroying entire civilizations, seems utterly incapable of killing your gang of misfits. This also explains why no-one knows how to resurrect a party member who suffers a plotline death well after the spell should be pretty casual; it never came up before (before the expansions there were no resurrection spells in the game).
    • Averted in the second expansion Storm of Zehir, which follows the pen-and-paper rules more closely in this regard. Party members that lose all their HP fall unconscious and will bleed out if not treated.
  • Dissidia Final Fantasy:
    • Everyone's beating the crap out of each other with giant swords and explode-y magic, the same ones that can reduce monsters into a pile of ashes in the original games, yet nobody seems worse for wear because of it. Final battles are fatal, however. It isn't explained how your final battles with them should be any different than the dozen or so times you've beaten them before. During their death scenes, none of them seem particularly injured at all, they just fade away.
    • Of course, in the original games, the characters were extremely resilient to begin with, beginning with shrugging off bullets and ending with being relatively unfazed by the destruction of half the solar system.
    • Of particular note is the specific mechanics of the game. There are two attack type, brave attacks and HP attacks. Brave attacks drain your foe's brave, and HP attacks expend all of your brave to do that much damage to your opponent. Brave attacks do absolutely nothing, but make your next HP attack do more damage (And make your opponent do less). Which means characters can get hit infinitely by bravery attacks (Which involve guns, fire, lightning, and all manner of sharpened melee weapons) and never die.
  • Though Crisis Core doesn't specify whether enemies die or not, Zack goes out of his way to use the dull end of his sword (except in the battle animation) to prevent "wear and rust" because his sword is an heirloom. Therefore he's probably just knocking them all out.
  • Paladins in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance can learn the skill "Subdue", which makes them hit their target with the flat side of their sword, dealing one point of damage. You're supposed to use this on charmed and confused allies, to break their trance.
  • BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, ironically, subverts the hell out of this — each and every fight that the players play can not only result in a character's death, but can be argued to be canonically possible as well. The reason? The entire game is stuck in an insanely long "Groundhog Day" Loop. Any killed characters simply return once the loop resets. This being said, the particular brilliance of this isn't present in the sequel, Continuum Shift.
    • This varies. In story mode, quite a few characters survive the battles against other characters (indeed, some of the alternative plot lines can only be accessed by losing certain battles). In fact, some characters are canonically "defeated" by having the player character hold their own in the battle (even though they still have to be beaten the same way). For example Rachel never suffers any harm from being defeated and either leaves or kicks the character out of her garden when she's met in story mode, Arakune always flees or is spared at the end of a battle (or Litchi appears and talks down whoever defeated him), while the best any character can hope for while fighting Nu-13 is to survive long enough to note that their attacks haven't been doing anything before being killed Or suffer a Fate Worse than Death in Ragna's case. The most amusing example is probably Bang (who every other character treats as an annoyance), who fails to beat anyone (sometimes justified, for example; by Ragna basically muttering about how he let Bang defeat him so he wouldn't have to kill him).
  • A version occurs in the Dungeon Keeper series. Enemy creatures are 'knocked out' by such things as steel claws, spiked balls hung from the horns, hurled dwarves and imps, huge swords and generally lethal weaponry. This is so they can be dragged to your prisons, and used or abused appropriately. However, if left untouched by your or enemy imps (which drag them back to their own base to recuperate), the creatures will actually die. So it's easy to assume that they are wounded too badly to keep fighting, but might survive given medical attention. In the first game, you can toggle whether enemies are stunned rather than killed on or off.
  • Played straight and averted in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, with story/quest important characters merely being "knocked unconscious" rather than killed, no matter if they got mauled by a bear, gored by a minotaur, or gutted by bandits. You can try to kill them, but that'll just piss them off. Non-vital characters are all fair game though.
  • Fallout
    • In Fallout 3, during your escape from Vault 101 in the beginning, you cannot kill Amata. No matter what. Shooting her in the head five times at point blank range renders her "unconscious." James likewise is a Determinator of the grandest scale for walking across the wasteland in only a ratty vaultsuit and taking down super-mutants with a lead pipe (or, when the pipe breaks from excessive wear, his fists.) He's the protagonist's father, so badassery may be genetic.
    • If you're not using hardcore mode, companions in Fallout: New Vegas cannot be permanently killed — they go unconscious and wake up when the fight is over. (Some extremely powerful enemies may avert this — for instance, the enemies at the Deathclaw Promontory can tear ED-E into scrap and make him vanish, although the game still thinks he's in your party.)
    • Fallout 4 has an amusing twist: if one of your settlements is attacked, the settlers can't be killed by the raiders. They're just winded for a minute and then get back up and rejoin the fight. A stray shot from your own gun, however, is still quite lethal.
  • All melee weapons in the first Gothic were set to stun, forcing the player to administer a Coup de Grâce to every human enemy before they would be considered dead. Rectified in the second game where the weapon lethality is automatically adjusted based on whether you might want a certain enemy alive, allowing you to perform therapeutic pummeling sessions while saving you the need to extra-stab every last bandid least they stand up and annoy you further. Zig-Zagging Trope: Magic and arrows (except blunt arrows in 3) are always lethal which makes some duelling side-quests Nintendo Hard for characters that specialize in those.
  • An unusual in-universe example occurs in Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade (the last one to not be released outside Japan) with the eponymous Sword of Seals. Although it doesn't affect Roy's battle capabilities when he ultimately gets to use it, its strength evidently depends on the resolve of its wielder. Its original owner, Hartmut, had used it to slay a great number of dragons during The Scouring, but, upon discovering that their leader had assumed the form of a frail young girl, didn't have the heart to kill her, so, when he struck her with the blade, it ensured that the attack would only knock her out.
  • At several points in the Conquest route of Fire Emblem Fates, it's noted that Corrin and their allies only knocked out the Hoshidans they were fighting, even though the Nohrian army is still using razor-sharp swords, lances, and axes (indeed, the only blunt weapons in the game are Hoshidan clubs, and throughout Birthright and Revelations, they have exactly as little trouble inflicting lethal injuries as would be expected of a massive, two-handed bludgeon) and in the animations, they're clearly not striking with the flats of the weapons.
  • Semi-justified in Eternal Darkness in that, for the most part, you're using medieval (or earlier) weapons against anything from The Undead to Eldritch Abominations. It also allows you to perform a Coup de Grâce to a downed monster to regain some sanity points. The one time you're in a modern day story and get a fully-automatic assault rifle with underslung grenade launcher, it's much easier to take the nasties down.
  • In Chrono Trigger, during the prison escape sequence, it's possible to sneak up behind many of the guards and slash them in the back of the neck with your katana. This knocks them out. Note that this makes sense if Crono is using the Wood Sword from the start of the game. (He'll likely have picked up at least a metallic upgrade by this point, though.)
  • In Mount & Blade, a leader with the Surgery skill has a chance to convert any friendly casualty into a KO. Even if it was inflicted by a knight's full-speed couched lance charge, which usually hits for about 2-3 times the maximum hit points of any unit. Heroes, nobles, and the player can never be killed, only knocked out, even if you ram a lance through their faceplate at 25mph. However, enemy casualties are for the most part accurate; stab a mook, and he's almost certainly going to die. The player can order their troops to switch to blunt trauma weapons to raise the chances of knocking out enemies to keep as prisoners. Of course, that has the inverse problem - blunt type attacks can never kill. Even when you cave someone's skull in with a two-handed mace, they'll live to be taken prisoner.
  • Inverted in one (and only one) notable case in Touhou Project. Normally the flashy magical duels never kill or even seriously injure anyone... but during the fight against Mokou, Reimu and friends go all out, killing her repeatedly.
  • Super Smash Bros.:
    • Characters like Link and Fox can come equipped with blasters, bombs and the Master Sword, yet they never even knock people out - just send them flying away until they fall off the edge of the screen. Even in the pre-rendered trailers in the fourth game, getting slashed by a sword means you get launched far away, not getting cut up.
    • Somewhat justified as the fighters are explicitly implied to be trophies and/or dolls in an imaginary world and are thus Made of Iron. Any mortal damage they may take only makes them retreat into their trophy/doll form.
  • The DC Comics fighting game Injustice: Gods Among Us has many characters with lethal weaponry, like the guns that The Joker, Deathstroke, and Harley Quinn wield, as well as Badass Normal types with no special protection, such as the Green Arrow. The game justifies this in the story mode: every character who isn't already Nigh Invulnerable takes some kind of Kryptonian nano-tech pill to compensate...after they've already been smacking each other around. In one scene, the Joker takes a burst of gunfire to the chest and says "I should be dead! Thanks, happy pill!".
  • Erus and Zenka in Super Cosplay War Ultra have rather Egregious examples of this. One of Erus' super attacks has her ripping out her opponent's heart and crushing it in her bare hands. It only deals about 1/6th of a life meter of damage. And then there's Zenka's MAX, which, while one of the most devastating attacks in the game, isn't necessarily lethal. When used against male opponents, it acts as The Nudifier, but if used against girls and certain male characters, it flat out bisects them.
  • The pre-Empire Total War games have the capture mechanic that allows your soldiers to take prisoners on the battlefield. Basically, any strike to an enemy's back is usually treated as a Non-Lethal K.O.. If the enemy wins the battle, then these soldiers are treated as wounded who are healed after the battle. If you win, then they are considered prisoners, at which point you can decide what to do with them. You can execute them (earning your faction ruler dread), release them (earning him chivalry), or offer to release them for a price. In the latter case, if the enemy refuses to pay, the prisoners are executed automatically (earns you no points on the Karma Meter). This was removed starting Empire and not even re-introduced in the Shogun and Rome remakes.
  • Almost every character in Skullgirls has deadly weaponry of one form or another, but no-one is killed in even in Story Mode as a result of using them.
  • Batman: Arkham Series:
    • In Batman: Arkham City and Batman: Arkham Origins, Bruce beats criminals in light clothing to a pulp in the dead of winter, often inflicting crippling injuries and leaving them exposed to the weather and rival gangs. But he's not killing anyone, honest!
    • Batman: Arkham Knight: The Batmobile can shoot bad guys in the head with "slam rounds" and instantly neutralize them during certain combos. As mentioned on Tap on the Head, this is actually very dangerous, and would have a high chance of breaking their necks.
      • He also sends mooks flying with the 'Mobile itself, using a "pulse taser" force field that activates and neutralizes anyone within proximity of the vehicle while it's in motion (in other words, shocking someone with a medium-wattage taser the size of a tank and shooting them ten feet up in the air is somehow far less lethal than a collision with the tank itself). This is especially absurd when the taser doesn't work on other vehicles, so cars will upend, fly through the air, and even explode without any goons inside being harmed.
    • Whenever the player uses a clearly lethal character (Joker or Red Hood), all takedowns, be it an explosion, Neck Snap or more than enough bullets, will have the bodies still breathing afterwards. Justified Trope, due to engine limitations, and they are not supposed to get up.
      • In challenge maps/outside his story DLC, Red Hood's victims will be identified unconscious, and medics can revive them. note 
  • Senran Kagura: Being a lighthearted version of a Hack and Slash game, attacks never deal any visible damage other than their clothing, even if they're done by swords, knives, hammers, guns, or even explosives.
  • The Yakuza series has a certain amount of notoriety for the dissonance between the player characters stance on killing and the many clearly lethal combat options available to the player. You can brandish anything from butterfly knives to shotguns against your enemies but after the fight ends they'll be no worse off than if you'd slapped them around a bit.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: Arena fights in the Gladiator Subquest are handled exactly the same as normal combat but are confirmed to have been non-lethal after the fact, even if you burned your opponent to a bare skeleton and then detonated the bones.

  • Parodied in RPG World, where Deadpan Snarker Cherry reacted like a normal person would when she saw Hero (yes, the main character's name is just Hero) get shot in the face with an assault rifle. She's in disbelief until the next enemy takes his turn and she gets shot in the face too, to the tune of a few minor points of damage.

    Web Original 
  • In Monty Oum's web video series Dead Fantasy, the girls are beating the crap out of each other with swords, Rachel has her War Hammer, Yuna is using guns, and the Final Fantasy girls in general are using potent magic. What do they have to show for this? Not even a bruise. Averted with extreme prejudice from episode IV onwards.
  • In Tales of MU, "mockboxes" used during class create phantasmal copies of real weapons, which generate disappearing injuries. Justified in Callahan's classes, as the roster would be drastically reduced after each class otherwise.
  • Justified in RWBY (also by Monty Oum) where people have Aura that manifests as a form-fitting force field. This lets characters score flurries of slashing blows on each other without reducing them to sushi. Best exemplified by Penny in the season 1 finale, when her swords toss mooks aside but slice through metal and pavement. However, if your aura is used up or your opponent can cut through it, sharp pointy objects still do terrible things to soft humans as Yang and Pyrrha find out. Cinder later finds out that the downside to having a Grimm arm is that she can't protect said arm with Aura, making it vulnerable.

    Western Animation 
  • Used for every blade in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), notably Leonardo's katanas and the Shredder's claws. If used on a non-living object, like a Mouser robot or a water tower, swords and blades are ludicrously sharp. If used on other characters, swords and blades simply knock people unconscious or seem to inflict the same damage as a direct hit with a blunt object. However, exceptions are made in certain situations, such as when Karai stabs Leonardo in the back or when Leonardo decapitates the Shredder, which turns out to be a case of Mobile-Suit Human.
  • Star Wars Rebels kills an age-long Star Wars joke about younglings killing each other by accident (started when small children in Attack of the Clones were using lightsabers and probes to train) by showing that lightsabers can be set to stun for training.
    • The Jedi Path had already stated that younglings were issued low-power training sabers. If such a blade hits you, it'll hurt, but you (probably) won't lose any body parts.
    "The energy blade of a training saber will not cut; however, it is still a weapon, and it must be handled like the real thing. A hit from a training saber will stun nerve endings, burn skin, and singe fur. You will undoubtedly be hurt in your practice sessions, but a sore arm is better than a missing arm."
  • In Steven Universe, while Rose Quartz's sword is sharp enough to hurt organics, its real purpose in combat was to destabilize a Gem's physical form as quick as possible, often in a single strike, without doing damage to their core gemstone. A Gem's body is a Hard Light hologram created by its Heart Drive gemstone; destroy the body, and she will eventually regenerate, but the Gem is out of commission for some time. Destroy the gemstone, and say adios.
  • In Shaolin Wuzang, Tang sometimes slashes opponents with his sword, only to have them fall down afterward as if unconscious.
  • In She-Ra: Princess of Power, Sea Hawk can do this in the most literal way possible with the photon cutlass that his father, the legendary pirate the Falcon, gave him. His photon cutlass has two modes in addition to its default one, the red blade mode makes it cut through anything (even through other energy swords in the story), and the blue blade mode stuns a person hit by its blade.
  • Xiaolin Showdown: Justified by the Sword of the Storm; normally it controls the wind, but when Raimundo tries to use it like an actual sword, the blade just phases through his opponent's weapon. It can't actually harm someone directly.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television: In the eighteenth century, officers would use their swords to keep order in the ranks. Naturally, they would seldom wish to kill their own Redshirts and so would use the flats.
  • Professional juggling knives are designed to seem sharp but are really blunt. This does not mean, however, they won't hurt like hell if you get hit with one.
    • They are certainly sharp enough to cut vegetables, something that almost every knife juggler does at the beginning of their show to demonstrate that the knives aren't blunt.
    • One routine by Penn & Teller lampshades this, demonstrating that juggling torches are specially weighted to be very difficult to catch by the lit end, and that if you do, all that happens is that you drop it and calmly walk to the nearest fire extinguisher. Penn then breaks the ends off three bottles and says that, being of irregular weight and having a sharp edge that could actually do some damage, these actually are difficult and dangerous to juggle. Then he does it anyway.
  • This is most certainly NOT Truth in Television during actual fights. Blades are designed to cause grievous injuries and kill what they cut/stab. As one addage puts it: The loser of a knife fight dies at the scene, the winner of a knife fight dies on the way to the hospital.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Non Killing Weapons, Sword Set To Stun, Swords Set To Stun


K.O. by impalement

Helen slashes across Master T with her sharp sword and then stabs him with the tip of the blade, spraying his blood all over the screen. Despite this, however, the warrior monk is still only KOed, and is quickly back up on his feet to fight in the following round like if nothing had happened.

How well does it match the trope?

4.83 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / SetSwordsToStun

Media sources: