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Single Phlebotinum Limit

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In some fictional worlds, all the crazy (and mundane) technology is powered by a single kind of Applied Phlebotinum, often even the very simplest things that otherwise would be very simple to do, such as electricity or even fire.

Related to, but not quite the same as Minovsky Physics (In that it might not be heavily explained, and particles that follow Minovsky Physics may be joined by other Phlebotinum) and Green Rocks (which while vaguely defined enough to be used for everything, aren't necessarily always used as such). A Phlebotinum Muncher takes this to its logical conclusion by feeding on the phlebotinum.

Steampunk and other *punks tend to be like this to a greater or lesser degree.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Giant Robo: The Shizuma Drive, explained in that it's pretty much free unlimited cheap power and it's totally scalable, deconstructed in that it shows you shouldn't put all your eggs in one Phlebasket.
  • Code Geass: Sakuradite, although there are other forces at work, every piece of non-real-life technology is Sakuradite-based. As well as, apparently, all the power plants; the Gefjun Disturber is explicitly stated to affect only Sakuradite-based tech, and when used to cripple Tokyo's defences in the Second Battle for Tokyo knocks out every electrically-powered device in the city.
  • In Last Exile, Claudia, which allows for all flying ships as well as serving as a currency.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • I Woke Up As a Dungeon, Now What?: Absolutely everything in this setting runs on the mana that dungeons generate. Plants need mana to grow, people use mana to enhance their strength, even light and heat are provided by spells (powered by mana) rather than by torches or bonfires.

  • Discworld: Narritivium. Everything traces back to it; justified by the fact that narritivium is literally story- so of course it causes everything, the Discworld is a series of books!
  • The Eastern Empire in Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar books has become so dependent on magic for basic needs like heating that it nearly collapses when magic becomes unreliable.
  • Blake Snyder's Save the Cat! book on screenwriting specifically advises authors to do this under his Double Mumbo Jumbo theory. According to him, if you try to make the audience buy two separate supramundane elements it stretches the film's credibility to the breaking point. He pointed out a flop like Signs which asked the audience to juggle a debate over whether or not God exists and one over whether or not evil space aliens exist. note 
  • An Unkindness of Ghosts: The knowledge has been lost, but the Generation Ship setting relies on siluminium to distort space and travel at relativistic speeds. The metal is liquid at room temperature and somehow lighter than water, and its anomalous properties are responsible for both a mysterious poisoning incident and several blackouts when the ship is secretly rerouted.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • While it didn't run everything, an awful lot of the heroes' technology in Buck Rogers was based on the synthetic antigravity substance "inertron." This is really a perfectly justifiable application of Niven's Law—if an antigravity substance existed, it would be incredibly useful; once the stuff was introduced into the series's continuity, it would be odd if it didn't start appearing in all kinds of machinery.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Kamen Rider franchise, there's usually one per season, with both villains' and heroes' powers ultimately derived from the same source. In the original, Ichigo and Nigo are both modified by SHOCKER, they just escape the brainwashing and use their power to fight against it. In Ryuki and Blade, riders' powers are derived from sealing the same monsters they fight into playing cards. In Faiz, the equipment requires Orphenoch DNA to function and was intended as their ultimate weapon before being stolen. In Den-O, rider powers are derived from befriending some of the Imajin. In Double, everything is based on Gaia Memories with only differences coming from technology filtering their powers. In OOO, the rider is powered by Greeed's Core Medals and everybody is constantly snatching them from each other, trying to make a full set. In Wizard, magical powers manifest through Phantoms and the only difference is whether you take control of one born inside of you or if they break out. In Gaim, rider technology is using same Helheim Forest fruits that it's protecting people from. In Drive, the rider system and the Roidmudes were created by same scientists. In Build, everything is powered by Nebula Gas and rider's technology is derived from the relics found on Mars that both sides are trying to collect.
  • Everything in the Stargate-verse runs on Naquadah or Naquadriah (which is really just a more potent variety of the former). The gates are made out of it, it enhances bombs, the starships run on it... If what you want to do can't be done with Naquadriah, then you don't have enough of it. Stargate Universe kicks off the plot by using a planet which has its entire core made up of Naquadriah to reach the Destiny.
  • Carniv├ále: Every one of the seemingly unrelated supernatural phenomena in the series ultimately turn out to have its origin in the power of the avatar bloodlines.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Shock Social Science Fiction does this, recommending only one Shock per session.
  • Blades in the Dark: Every single fantastic element of the setting, from trains, industrial machinery, and alchemy to vampires, demons, and ghosts, is powered by electroplasm (essentially ectoplasm capable of producing electric charge) in one form or another.

    Video Games 
  • Skies of Arcadia: Moon Stones. They even make liqour Loqua out of it. There are several varities of moonstone, each with their own elemental flavor, useful for specific applications. The yellow (electric) moonstones are put to very effective use by The Empire (which is based out of the region where yellow stones are found)
  • Mass Effect: Element Zero ("eezo") is a fictional alien substance off the Mendeleev table, which manipulates the mass (not weight, mass) of objects around it when an electric current is applied — this is, in fact, the eponymous "mass effect". In the setting, this has been used to power everything from Faster-Than-Light Travel, since relativistic speeds are a cakewalk when you can reduce the transported mass to zero, to pseudo-Psychic Powers, wherein people generate mass effect fields with their cybernetically enhanced bodies.
  • Mega Man Battle Network: The Internet.
  • Zone of the Enders: Metatron, powering everything from repair, to making prosthetic hands out of it, to being the secret behind advanced AI's.
  • Valkyria Chronicles: Ragnite.
  • The eponymous Elebits have replaced all forms of energy in their world. A history book evens depicts prehistoric humans using them in place of fire for light and cooking.
  • Iji has nanomachines, directly used in player's weapons, armor, and skills.
  • Metal Gear introduces nanomachines in the Shadow Moses Incident, later versions being refined. It eventually creates a problematic form known as Dread Dust.
  • X-COM: UFO Defense: Elerium-115, an element only found outside the Milky Way Galaxy.
    • X-COM: Terror from the Deep: The underwater equivalent is Zrbite. Although constructed from different materials, it is still used to manufacture equipment as well as to fuel submarines.
  • Final Fantasy VII: Mako, which is actually the Lifestream, and all Materia is a condensed form thereof.
  • The Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles series has magicite, which is used for everything from making fires to purifying water. Kinda justified though, as it does warp reality.
  • Dishonored is whale-punk: That is, whale oil (harvested from not-quite whales) is combustible enough to explode if you throw it, meaning it's used for everything from fuel to making slightly explosive bullets. No other energy source except electricity seems to exist, and even that seems to mostly come from whale oil tanks strapped into machinery like batteries (although in the sequel, wind power seems to gradually phase out oil-based generators, at least in Karnaca).
  • Sakura Wars is Steampunk to the point that there's even steam mobile phones.

  • Tales of the Questor: Racconans use lux manipulation and lux-powered fabrials for just about everything, for pretty much the same reason that modern First World civilizations use electricity so frequently - it's a versatile energy source that can be used in large quantities with relatively little cost or side effects.
  • In Tower of God, everything runs on Shinsu.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Everything runs on Dust in its various forms. It's used for energy production, vehicular fuel, and as ammunition for weapons. One of the consequences of this is shown in a "World of Remnant" short: because Dust stops working upon leaving their planet's atmosphere, the setting doesn't have any space technology whatsoever, despite being more advanced than modern society in many ways, since they've never discovered fossil fuels or nuclear energy.

    Western Animation 
  • Storm Hawks: Crystals. They even have flavoring crystals for making food, including one that turns things into cheese. One episode does have Piper attempting to make a fire with two stones when the crew is stranded on an island without the Condor and their crystal stash, showing the knowledge to work without crystals does exist, but she doesn't have much luck and it's clear a lot of it has to do with how crystals are just plain convenient.
  • BIONICLE: Protodermis in the Matoran Universe. Everything in it is made out of it, which makes sense given the inhabitants and the Great Spirit robot were made specifically by the Great Beings that way.
  • Pretty much everything in the Transformers Verse runs on Energon. The earliest Marvel Comics stories avert this, having them use a liquid fuel that can be derived from oil, but the writers quickly adopted energon from the TV series and never looked back.

    Real Life