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Situational Sword

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A sword, or any other type of weapon or ability, that unleashes some form of "hidden" (or not so hidden) power when certain conditions are met, such as the wielder nearing death, blood getting splashed on it, etc. This weapon tends to be most prominently used in a Desperation Attack.

Situational Swords are similar in concept to the Empathic Weapon but generally tend to be non-Sentient. When Empathic Weapon is a Situational Sword, it is usually Loyal Phlebotinum; an empathic Situational Sword can sometimes enforce its criteria through Weapon Wields You. One common subtrope is Weapon of X-Slaying. Can fall victim to Crippling Overspecialization if the situation where it's able to unleash its power is incredibly niche.

Compare Situational Damage Attack, Conditional Powers, and New Powers as the Plot Demands.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • One story of the Crying Freeman anime OVAs involved several parties falling under the curse of the Muramasa blades (explained below), which made the user go berserk until the sword left their grip.
  • Inverted in Dog Days with Cinque's Morph Weapon Palladion; though his weapon is a staff, he figures out how to make it change into other forms, including a Frisbee, but remarks that for some reason he can't make it turn into a sword. At the climax of the story, when faced with a giant demon that threatens all of Flognarde, he finally makes a sword out of it.
  • Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai: Dai's Full-Potential Upgrade, the Sword of Dai, refuses to be wielded irresponsibly - it will only open the lock on its sheath when Dai faces an enemy too powerful for him to defeat without its aid. The rest of the time, Dai fights with a knife or his bare fists. In the sword's introduction, this is used to establish how far Dai has grown beyond his opponents; afterwards, it's a source of Oh, Crap! moments when an enemy is so dangerous that merely showing up causes Dai's sword to unlock by itself.
  • In Fate/Apocrypha, Jack the Ripper's main Noble Phantasm, Maria the Ripper, are four daggers with three conditions. If the target is female, it is nighttime, and it is foggy, then they are an instant One-Hit Kill that eviscerates the target. If the conditions are not met, they are ordinary daggers. Luckily for her, another of her abilities allows her to summon a foggy night (with poisonous fog, no less) at will, so it's more frequently useful than you might expect.
  • Kite from Hunter × Hunter wields the... well, weapon Crazy Slot which randomly takes the form of one of nine weapons when materialized. These include a rifle, a Sinister Scythe, and a club. He cannot dematerialize or switch it until used.
  • Inuyasha:
    • Subverted with Tessaiga. Tessaiga's trigger is the desire to protect humans. Inuyasha therefore has to learn the value of protecting humans before he can start using the sword. However, once he's got the hang of it, that doesn't matter so much. Mainly because he's now using the sword for the right reasons anyway so he doesn't have to consciously think about such things. The sword can therefore be used in any situation that requires a sword with no restrictions.
    • Played straight with Tenseiga. Tenseiga is completely equal in strength to Tessaiga, but its trigger is compassion for all living things, even an enemy. The catch is that it is useless against living beings. Its reputation is to bring the dead back to life, which means cutting the pallbearers of the afterlife that ferry away the soul, restoring the soul to the body and therefore the life. It also has the power to cleanse the soul of the already dead, thus enabling a spirit trapped in purgatory-type hells to pass on peacefully. Outside-the-Box Tactic ends up revealing that Tenseiga is the only weapon capable of killing spirits or any type of being that is Made of Air. The sword is, in fact, hugely important to the plot but in a very specific way that's in keeping with the sword's limitations.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Johnny Joestar's Tusk Act 4 is as broken as broken gets, but Johnny can only use it when he's on a horse. Justified; Tusk Act 4 requires mastery of the Super Spin, the Spin augmented by energy of a living being moving in harmony with the Golden Ratio, and Johnny's paraplegia means he can only pull it off on horseback.
    • Catch the Rainbow's Making a Splash powers are incredibly versatile, but it works only with rainwater. And unlike the previous part's Weather Report, he can't actually make it rain. He's a terrifying opponent on a rainy day, but as soon as the skies clear, he's powerless.
    • Jojolion's Starter Villain Ojiro Sasame's stand Fun Fun Fun can use People Puppets, but it only works if he injures his target (directly or indirectly), and he can only puppeteer people who are physically beneath him, like being on a lower floor of a building.He eventually manages to solve the need for injury when The Bus Came Back later, but unfortunately he is soon after killed by Jobin.
  • The Medicine Peddler's sword in Mononoke can only be drawn when he learns more about mononoke. But once he gets the Shape, Truth, and Reason, asskicking ensues. Thankfully, he is proficient in the use of the sword even when it's still sheathed, by using it as a blunt weapon not unlike a billy club.
  • Naruto presents us with the Seven Swordsmen of the Mist, each of which possesses a sword with a special ability. Starting off, Kisame Hoshigaki has a shark-themed sword that can eat other people's chakra, among other things. The most interesting, though is that after all these years, we finally find out that the sword of Zabuza Momochi, the first Swordsman ever met in the series and original Big Bad before his spectacular Heel–Face Turn, actually does something other than look menacing and heavy. It can repair itself by sucking the iron out of someone's blood.
  • Ranma ½'s Cologne owns the Poison-Cleaving Sword, a semi-sentient Chinese dao with a flower at the tip. This flower has a mouth, and it detects poison and warns the wielder when poison is nearby... and then tries to run away from it, pulling the wielder along if necessary. The reason? Although the Poison Cleaver can indeed cut through any poison and render it harmless, it dies after just one stroke. And, in Hamlet's words, the rest... is silence.
  • Rave Master uses the Ten Commandments sword, which has a total of 10 separate situational swords. However, Runesave is the one that stands out the most, simply because it only cuts things that couldn't be cut, like the wind or magic.
  • In Reborn! (2004), Yamamoto has two weapons like this: A baseball bat that turns into a sword when swung at a certain (fast) speed, and a bamboo sword that turns into a real one when he uses his special techniques.
  • Inverted in Tenchi Muyo!: Tenchi (the sword) would refuse to activate whenever a failure would be funny, at least until Tenchi (the hero) Took a Level in Badass. Which is why Yosho, who was badass from the start, never had those problems.

    Comic Books 
  • Empowered: The titular heroine has a suit that makes her a not-entirely formidable crime-fighter, but once, when she was saving her best friend's life, it grew a pair of glowing wings and unleashed awesome power. She still doesn't know exactly what stimulus caused it (though it's a safe bet it was emotional). It's implied multiple times that her lack of self-confidence is the reason why she barely taps into her suit's abilities.
  • Some of the Abnormal Ammo types for the Lawgiver pistol in Judge Dredd can be this. Ricochet rounds in particular are intended for hostage situations to Shoot the Hostage Taker by using the ricochet to put the bullet in behind the hostage taker. Trouble is that this requires Improbable Aiming Skills. Dredd himself can consistently pull shots like this off, but other judges, such as Heller, can botch it.
  • In Papyrus, Papyrus' magical sword, the Sword of Sobek. Whenever Papyrus shows courage, it will increase in length. The reverse is also true when Papyrus acted cowardly: the blade shrunk to dagger-sized. The sword can only be used by him or anyone of his choosing. Anyone with evil intent who tries to wield it will get injured.
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: The Great Swords wielded by Drift and other members of the Circle of Light. They draw power from the wielder's spark, only the devout (or the new-born) can bring out the weapons' full potential. Cyclonus can use the blades very skillfully, and Whirl is also shown putting them to good use.
  • Witchblade: The titular weapon is stated to work exactly this way. It was adapted into a live-action TV series and an anime.

  • Lone Wolf: The Sommerswerd's "supernatural powers increase the bearer's CS by 8 (prior to the application of weapon skill bonuses), and also increase the sensitivity of his Sixth Sense. It is doubly damaging to undead foes and absorbs hostile magic. Perhaps its greatest power is the ability to kill Darklords, and it's possible, as stated in The Curse of Naar, that it might be able to kill Naar himself. Only members of the royal house of Sommerlund or a Kai Lord can wield it. If anyone else uses it in battle, it will slowly and irrevocably lose its powers." On the other hand, whip it out in the wrong spot, every Tom, Dick, and Rubicante shows up to kick your ass. Fortunately, evil beings can't take advantage of this to depower the sword — if you happen to be evil and try to hold the sword it will melt your fingers off.

  • Book of Swords: Some of Fred Saberhagen's Swords of Power have situational powers.
    • Shieldbreaker makes the wielder nigh-unbeatable in battle, but only if he's fighting an armed opponent.
    • Townsaver has similar powers, but only functions when defending an inhabited place.
    • Dragonslicer is the epitome, it only has magical powers when wielded against a dragon.
    • Stonecutter too. Its only "magical" property is the ability to cut through stone.
  • The black sword Dyrnwyn from The Chronicles of Prydain series can only be drawn by one of "noble worth". Taran at first assumes this means one born of a noble bloodline, but Gwydion later states that it is referring to character, not blood. In the hands of a worthy person, it is an Infinity +1 Sword capable of slaying just about any evil being. Those who are unworthy tend to get themselves killed trying to draw the sword. Taran has to go through four or five books' worth of Character Development before he can wield it.
  • In P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath series, the hereditary sword of the house of Knorth, Kin-slayer, can cut through opponents as if they were butter — but only when wielded by someone wearing the Knorth signet ring on their finger. Furthermore, it cannot be sheathed until it has killed someone, and the energy of the sword numbs the hand of the bearer. Meanwhile, the Ivory Knife, an ancient heirloom artifact reputed to come from the Kencyrs' God, kills from the merest scratch. It is called "the very tooth of Death."
  • The Dresden Files has the three holy Swords, Fidelacchius the Sword of Faith, Esperacchius the Sword of Hope, and Amoracchius the Sword of Love. Each has vast evil-smiting powers when wielded for a righteous purpose. There are certain protocols that the situation must align with for the Sword to use its Powers.
    • The person using it must be doing an action befitting that Sword's ideals. A half-turned vampire, who is normally burned by its presence can use the Sword of Love when she's using it to rescue her daughter. When a few years back in order to stop the Sword of Faith from being dropped, she grabbed it and the Sword left her arm numb.
    • The person must not have entered a situation on his or her own choosing. When a Knight observes a companion walk into a torrent of fires and will be attacked by a monster, she chose to enter this danger willingly and freely, the Knight had a harder time running in to help as the woman chose this course of action.
    • One is fighting against a Denarian, a person possessed by a Fallen Angel, who is fighting back. When Harry, who isn't a Knight or even holding the Sword is attacking Nicodemus, the Sword of Faith, in no one's hands at the moment, emits an angelic light that holds back Nicodemus' Fallen partner from aiding him. This leaves the confrontation just one man against another man.
    • The flip side is that if someone uses them for the wrong reason (such as when Harry brandishes one to try to break his word on a freely-made bargain) they lose their power and can be handled or destroyed by creatures of darkness unless they return to the hands of their chosen Knights. Demonstrated in Skin Game when Murphy rejects Nicodemus' surrender and attacks while passing judgement on him after he ordered his lackeys to murder Harry. He shatters it with ease.
    • That said, there is hope. The power in the Swords lay not in the sword but the concept from which the Sword is named. If one has faith in that Power, it can constitute the Sword. This is demonstrated when Butters later reforges it into a lightsabre because it is the symbol of Butter's Faith in right overcoming wrong, good beating evil, one man can make the difference, and if he needs to die to save the lives of children and friends in a delaying action, he will walk to that with his head high, and all this he learned from Star Wars. However, even this has a drawback. To have this stronger power there is now a limit on the Sword to only work on absolutes. It will not hurt mortal flesh like the metal form could. Mortals are rarely 100% absolutely evil. The angelic light passes through mortal skin and clothing without harming the person. A demon or supernatural evil will be harmed but not a mortal servant of that creature who serves willingly.
  • The title weapon in Lawrence Watt-Evans's Ethshar novel The Misenchanted Sword will do your fighting for you, but only against adult male humans, and once it kills, you have to sheath it and draw it again to re-activate its power. Also, you can't resheath it or even let go of it until it's killed someone.
    • Also, no one else can use it, and you will die if and only if you have killed a hundred men with it (at which point it turns on you and finds a new owner - they will then remain alive until their 99th kill, and so on until some poor soul is slain on first drawing the blade). At first the character is unnerved by not knowing how close he was and that he could die at any time. Later, the character realizes it was Age Without Youth and desperately tries to find a way to kill the last men. Nothing that a youth spell wouldn't handle, though.
  • Forest Kingdom: Early on in book 1 (Blue Moon Rising), Prince Rupert finds a sword which, if its wielder is in a desperate situation and his concern is less for himself than for others, will call down a magical rainbow that disintegrates the supernatural evils caused by the Blue Moon. He nearly gets killed trying to invoke the rainbow in a tight spot where he's the only one he's really worried about.
  • Felix's sword in Gotrek & Felix is enchanted to kill dragons and will grant its wielder extra strength and other bonuses, but only when fighting a dragon (or to get him through a fight so he can go fight a dragon later).
  • In the Harry Potter series the Sword of Godric Gryffindor appears in the sorting hat when a true Gryffindor has need of it. This is probably a power of the hat rather than the sword, but both belonged to Gryffindor and so this was clearly the intention he had for it. It wasn't specifically made for this purpose, but it also happens to be one of the only things capable of destroying a Horcrux (by virtue of having absorbed a basilisk's venom).
  • Among her many other properties, the sword Need in Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar series provides a considerable amount of protection from magic if she's wielded by a trained fighter. If wielded by a Squishy Wizard, on the other hand, she gives no magical protection but instead makes the mage an expert swordswoman. In the hands of someone with no particular talents in either direction, she does both (and some other neat tricks besides). What might have happened if Need were wielded by a genuine Magic Knight is never quite shown in the series, since by the time it's an option, Need has regained full sentience and thus gets a say in how she's used. The disadvantage is that Need can only be used by a woman, cannot harm a woman, and tends to provoke her bearer to protect women, which can get really troublesome at times.
  • In The Neverending Story, the magical sword Sikanda. Only those who have eaten, drunk, and bathed in the flames of the Many-Colored Death, and ridden on his back, may touch the sword without (unspecified) danger. Also, the sword may only be used when it leaps from the sheath. When the sword is drawn through brute force, it makes a terrifying noise, the sword's light goes out, and implicitly its enchantment is lost.
  • Percy Jackson's sword Anaklusmos (Riptide) is made from Celestial Bronze and is only effective against monsters or those with divine blood such as other demigods. It is completely harmless if used against regular humans. In fact, those properties are precisely why Celestial Bronze weapons are so popular among Greek demigods; deadly to monsters without risking mortal casualties. Sequel series The Heroes of Olympus introduces Imperial Gold and Stygian Iron, which are stated and implied, respectively, to have the same properties, while Magnus Chase similarly introduces Bone Steel.
  • Alanna's sword Lightning in Song of the Lioness reveals its powers only after she has given herself up to death. Or certain enemies are involved.
  • The Sword of Good can give The Chosen One a significant power boost as well as the ability to one-cut through all who stand in the way of good... but it also forcefully jams entire video libraries' worth of documentaries about human suffering perpetuated by humanity into the wielder's head, and then directs the wielder to cut down the nearest threat to the greater good (i.e. a high ratio between suffering inflicted by the potential target and proximity to stabbing range), regardless of their allegiance or alignment. In short, it can only be used against a perpetrator of human suffering and never against someone who seeks to alleviate human suffering. The hero, brainwashed by the sword, cuts down his anti-heroic party of cowards and thieves and gives the sword to a corrupt but compassionate and well-intentioned overlord. The end.
  • The Sword of Truth in Sword of Truth is a big honking sharp piece of metal... that doesn't allow the bearer to hurt anyone or anything they believe innocent and magically guilts the user every time he kills someone, regardless. You have to be full of righteous fury just to use the damn thing. Unless you figure out how to be full of sympathy and love for your target instead, which is a much better insulator. And then it turns out that the sword is also a repository for all of the experience and fighting prowess of all its past users that is instantly transferred during a specific test in an obscure jungle.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • The sword Sting from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is effective against most anything, but it also glows blue to give warning when orcs are near. This is a trait it shares with other Elven blades crafted during that period.
    • The dagger Merry attacks the Witch-King with was also specifically made to fight beings of his nature, and so does crippling damage despite the Witch-King being a Ringwraith. In other situations, it's merely a decent hobbit-sized sword.
    • Also from J. R. R. Tolkien: The sword Caudimordax (aka Tailbiter) in Farmer Giles of Ham will not stay sheathed if a dragon is within five miles, and also apparently gives a skill boost to its wielder when used against a dragon.
  • In the novel User Unfriendly by Vivian Vande Velde, the player characters find a sword that glows in the presence of orcs. Since the players have artificially inflated their combat stats, the sword turns out to be more trouble than it's worth.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Deus Sanguinius, Rafen learns that to wield the Spear of Telesto, he must let loose with the Red Thirst. Fortunately for him, the spear protects him from the Black Rage, the insanity that ensues when the Red Thirst runs wild in a Blood Angel.
  • Parodied in Terry Pratchett's The Wee Free Men: the Nac mac Feegle have swords that glow blue in the presence of lawyers. It does lead to a nice case of foreshadowing on the cover of the book if you pay attention to who's present in the illustration.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: Many BattleMechs are designed to be very effective in one battlefield role (or one specific kind of battlefield), and are severely hampered or useless outside it.
    • The Rifleman is an excellent long-range and anti-air 'Mech, but its long-range weapons and thin armor make terrible as a front-line combatant, a role it was often pressed into during the Succession Wars.
    • The Victor has good speed and mobility for an Assault 'Mech, 4 hexes of walking movement and 4 jump jets letting it ignore hindering terrain, change its facing easily, and making it harder to hit when it jumps, and has a brutal array of short-range weapons with its AC/20 and SRM 4, but is severely underarmored for its tonnage. This makes it great in quick skirmishes and especially striking from ambush, where it can get close and deliver a knock-out blow before the enemy can chew through its meager armor. In a stand-off battle, the Victor is likely to take severe damage before it can close to effective range, if not be destroyed outright.
    • Fire support 'Mechs like the Trebuchet, Catapult, Archer, and Viking can deliver a punishing Macross Missile Massacre at long ranges, but have few options for self-defense if an enemy gets close.
    • The Atlas is a 100-ton terror, but a single LRM 20 is its only concession to long-range fire. It needs to get close to bring its AC/20, SRM 6, medium lasers, and massive fists to bear, and at only 3 hexes walking speed, few enemies will let it get close if they can possibly avoid it.
    • Perhaps the most spectacular of these is the UrbanMech, a 30-ton light 'Mech with only two walking speed (yes, slower than the 100-ton Atlas), two jump jets for maneuverability, near maximum armor for its tonnage, and an AC/10 that takes half the 'Mech's mass. In the close, confined quarters of a city fight, it's a potent (and very cheap) little powerhouse. In any other environment, it's a pure liability.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The rules for intelligent weapons include the option of a special purpose that comes with a matching special power only used in the pursuit of said purpose. The chance for a randomly rolled magic weapon to have this property is somewhere around 1% or less.
    • You don't have to go quite that far, however. Unintelligent weapons with situational bonuses and/or powers are likewise a long-standing and rather more common D&D staple,
    • The Bane enchantment is entirely this. (Animalbane, Demonbane, Elementalbane, etc.)
  • Munchkin has the Sword of Slaying Everything Except Squid. It's a very effective weapon... unless you happen to be fighting a squid.
  • For trading card games in general, especially those that allow a sideboard, there are cards known as "silver bullets" or "techs", which is quite powerful against a few decks but has limited use in other matchups. Popular techs are brought out to counter a tournament-dominant deck, or to cover the deck's glaring weakness whenever its counter is expected.

    Video Games 
  • In 3D Dot Game Heroes, weapons are effectively useless unless you are at full health, at which point the upgrade abilities that either came with the weapons or were bought later kick in.
  • In Aggelos, the Bubble Sword and Coral Armor greatly increase your attack and defense while you're underwater, with the Bubble Sword also granting a short-range Bubble Gun attack.
  • Baldur's Gate has one kind of sword that glows when enemies are nearby, though unfortunately it counts normal-sized rats and spiders as enemies even though they can't hurt you. Also, weapons 'Of Disruption' have a chance of instantly vaporizing undead upon contact. The original also had a nifty 'bastard sword +1/+3 vs. shapeshifters' (which you fought a lot of).
  • Castlevania
    • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has swords such as the badelaire, which powers up as the in-game clock counter increases, and the muramasa, which gets stronger if you strike enemies capable of bleeding.
      • There's also the Sword Familar, which is an Empathic Weapon version of this. It can only be equipped as an actual weapon once it hits level 50, and the amount of damage it can do as a standard sword becomes greater as its level increases, making it one of the best weapons in the game.
    • Most of the weapons in Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia are based around the idea of being used in conjunction with each other, i.e. if you use two wind glyphs and throw them simultaneously, they will create a screen-high tornado.
  • Chrono Trigger: Robo's ultimate weapon, the Crisis Arm, has its power depend on Robo's last digit of HP. If the last digit is 0, it does no damage. If the last digit is 9, then it can consistently outdamage everyone except a level 99 Ayla. Thankfully, Robo hits 999 HP relatively early, so keeping the Crisis Arm powerful is merely a matter of keeping Robo as close to full HP as possible.
    • The DS remake gives Lucca the Spellslinger, a similar weapon based on the last digit of her MP.
  • The Dark Cloud series has the Lamb's Sword. In the first game, allowing the Lamb's Sword to reach critical WHP transforms it into the much stronger Wolf Sword until it is repaired. In the second game, the sword becomes the Wolf Sword from 9PM until 6AM, again with a boost in attack power.
  • Darkest Dungeon: Almost every non-standard piece of equipment comes with a drawback of some kind, usually in the form of a stat decrease or skill lock. The more rare the equipment, the better the tradeoff between bonuses and drawback(s). Half the equipment is specific to a single character class. If it doesn't have a drawback, it's usually weak or requires its set-sister to function at full power. Finally, you can't equip the same item twice on the same character.
  • In Dark Souls II, the Majestic Greatsword is said to have been passed down into many generations, all of its wielders being left-handed. If you do wield it on your left hand, the sword gains better scaling plus a new moveset reminiscent of Artoria's Greatsword from the first Dark Souls.
  • Demon's Souls has two of those: The Morion Blade, and the Storm Ruler.
    • The Morion Blade is a relatively weak two-handed sword with nothing too special about it... Except its special effect - when under 30% HP, you deal a lot more damage. Combine the Morion Blade and the Clever Rat's Ring and you absue what is commonly called the Hyper Mode, which allows you to deal three times as much damage on whatever you do.
    • The Storm Ruler also doubles as a Sword of Plot Advancement, just not quite. You get it during the Storm King boss fight, and though it can be used outside of it (Normally during New Game Plus) it's actually pretty weak outside of it... Inside of the boss's arena, though, both the normal and the heavy attack cause the sword to create a powerful and gigantic shockwave in the exact direction it was swung, this is the quickest way to beat the Storm King since you can't hit him with physical attacks and magic. Though you can beat him by just shooting arrows at him all day. It just takes one million times more.
  • Dragon Age also has plenty of these. In fact, using runes the player can opt to make their weapon like this ie. +10 damage to darkspawn.
  • Elden Ring:
    • Some Golden Order spells and weapons are built specifically to hunt Those Who Live In Death, doing extra damage and preventing them from resurrecting. The best example is the spell Litany of Proper Death, which is a very weak AOE normally, but outright deletes undead foes.
    • The Serpent Hunter is a completely unremarkable greatspear except when you're fighting against Rykard, where it has a powerful ranged attack and does insane damage. Rykard's knights specifically sought it out and left it in his boss arena so that somebody could use it to kill their lord after he went off the deep end.
  • Fate/Grand Order:
    • Siegfried, a legendary dragonslayer, has a Noble Phantasm and third skill that would indicate that he's supposed to be used to slay dragons like the historical figure he's based on. The problem, however, is that the majority of dragons in Grand Order are Rider-Class, which are weak against Assassin-class Servants, and Siegfried is a Saber-Class, who not only are strong against Lancer-Class but aren't even part of the same triangle - this resulted in many players taking advantage of said triangle and using Sasaki Kojirou to clear Orleans, which was meant to be Siegfried's time to shine. However, he does incredibly well against Lancer-class enemies who have the Dragon attribute, a fair number of whom (i.e., both versions of Lancer Artoria, Elizabeth Bathory) are bosses. Also, if paired with St. Georgios, whose NP can give an enemy the Dragon Trait for a few turns, he's a lot less situational than on his own.
    • Boudica is just as bad if not worse than Siegfried - while she's set up to be a tank, her first skill increases her attack against enemies with the Roman attribute; however, the majority of said enemies are found in the Septem interlude, and the majority of them are part of the three Knight classes (Saber, Archer, Lancer), which Boudica being a Rider class servant, part of the four Cavalry classes. Even worse, unlike Siegfried, her Noble Phantasm is a defensive one, and her attack stat is very poor without her first skill. However, it is worth noting that against Swimsuit Nero, Caligula, or Spartacus, she's terrifying. In addition, after the release of Romulus-Quirinus, who can bestow the Roman trait on enemies with both his skills and Noble Phantasm, she can suddenly be used in any context.
    • Mysterious Heroine X is built as an "Anti-Saber Decisive Weapon" and gains bonus damage against them on one of her skills and her Noble Phantasm. However, as an Assassin, her damage bonus is at best barely higher and usually is actually lower than the bonus gained by Archers (who are super effective against Sabers as a part of the game's Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors). MHX gains anywhere from 30+150% to 50+200% damage, while Archers have a permanent 200% damage bonus and 50% damage resistance against Sabers.
    • Although Mysterious Heroine X (Alter) is built as an "Anti-Anti-Saber", her Noble Phantasm actually has the same damage multiplier against Saber-class servants as Mysterious Heroine X herself. However, she also has the class advantage of Berserkers, giving her extra base 50% damage, as well as just higher damage overall, making her considerably more effective against Sabers than her non-Alter version.
    • Gawain's first skill, Numeral of the Saint, only gives its full effects when in a Sunlight field. However, there are very few fields with the sunlight property. A rank-up quest however gives his second skill the ability to change the field to Sunlight for a few turns, averting this problem. However, said quest is only available when Gawain's level is fully maxed out.
    • Cú Chulainn Prototype's third skill is for fighting enemies with the Beast trait. Nothing more.
  • Seen a lot in Final Fantasy games, notably with weapons like Ultima Weapon (attack strength is tied to HP,) the ancient sword (chance of putting enemies to sleep,) and some weapons in Final Fantasy VI (which unleash spells when used on occasion.)
    • Final Fantasy III and IV both allow you to cast spells from weapons if you select said armament from the inventory.
    • Final Fantasy V: Some Blue Magic spells have "Level [value]" in their names, meaning they only work if the target has a multiple of the specific Level value. For example, Level 5 Doom only works on targets whose level is a multiple of 5. The caveat to this is that their effects typically bypass any immunities to their intended effect, including immunity to instant death.
    • All the Ultimate Weapons in Final Fantasy VII have effects like this, with some examples being the aforementioned Ultima Weapon, Vincent's Death Penalty (does more damage depending on how many enemies he's slain), and Tifa's Premium Heart, which does damage based on how much of her Limit gauge is full.
    • All the Celestial Weapons from Final Fantasy X are tied to a stat of the user, usually HP or MP. They do normal damage if that character's HP or MP is maxed, and less damage as HP/MP decreases. It's worth noting that Auron's sword, the Masamune, is an exception; it's weakest when he's at full health and deals far more damage as he loses health.
    • Final Fantasy XI has many weapons (and armor!) that will be stronger or have added effects depending on anything from the time of day, to the moon phase, to the weather, to being a Status Effect-Powered Ability that checks the wielder, etc.
    • Calculators/Arithmeticians in Final Fantasy Tactics take the "Level X Spell" mechanic and build an entire moveset around it. Spells cast this way take no MP, no charge time, and you can pick the spell and the conditions it applies to, pushing this trope to an outright Game-Breaker. For example, "Height Prime Holy" will laser blast any unit at heights 2, 3, 5, 7, and so on, which depending on the map could mean everyone on it, friend and foe alike.
    • In Dissidia Final Fantasy, booster accessories multiply the effects of most of your other accessories when certain conditions apply. The Iai Strike build in Duodecim takes this to its absurd conclusion. Take an accessory that gives you a 1% chance of instantly breaking your opponent and another that gives you a repeatable 1% chance of surviving lethal blows. Now all you need are enough boosters to get the maximum 99.9x multiplier to become functionally invincible, though in practice, that means you'll be walking in with no gear whatsoever and at level 1, against a fully-armed level 91-100 opponent.
  • In the Golden Sun series, any Artifact weapon, which is every weapon that's not a generic store-bought one, can randomly Unleash a named special attack instead of a normal hit, which is announced with a rather satisfying "[Character]'s [Weapon] lets out a howl!". Unleashes are elementally-aligned and add to or multiply the damage further than the basic Critical Hit, often with a further chance of extra effects. The games' best weapons are usually defined by how good their Unleashes are.
    • Starting in The Lost Age, gear exists to up the chances of Unleashing, which can reach 100% to subvert the "Situational" part trope... and create one of if not the most powerful equipment setups in the game for Attack-heavy characters.
    • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn cuts out the middleman and makes the Critical Hit itself an Unleash. Most middle and endgame weapons are able to unlock further Unleashes the more each is used, with their original one usually being the last of those.
  • Granblue Fantasy:
    • Seraphic Weapons provide bonus damage only to the characters whose element it is strong against.
    • Bahamut Weapons raise a percentage of HP and/or Attack but only to the characters of a specific race.
    • Cosmos Weapons provide bonuses to characters of certain gameplay types (i.e. Balanced, Heal, Defense, Special, Attack)
    • Atma Weapons provide bonuses to characters whose weapon proficiency matches that with the Atma Weapon's type.
  • In Guild Wars some weapons have a "slaying" modifier which grants a 10-20% increase in damage to specific enemy types.
  • In Guild Wars 2 "Slaying" sigils offer similar bonuses against specific enemy types.
  • Jak can get a Situational Lightning Gun in Jak 3: Wastelander with a specific upgrade for precursor orbs. Normally, Arc Wielder is a cool-looking but uninspiring weapon that shoots lightning arcs. With upgrade, it essentially oneshots robotic Mooks. Considering one of the three main factions you fight against is entirely made of them, this makes it much more useful.
  • In King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame, you are King Arthur in the main campaign and start with the Excalibur (supposedly the greatest magic item in the game). However, the Excalibur is never used in combat; its power is to bless a place of arcane power so that you can create a seat of government on that site...and there's less than a handful of these sites. However, meeting the Lady in the Lake and empowering Excalibur allows Arthur to convince his subjects to pay their taxes and agree to him drafting them into his armies.
  • League of Legends: The Manamune sword, Archangel's Staff, and Winter's Approach armor transform into the Muramana, Seraph's Embrace, and Fimbelwinter, respectively, after enough magical energy has been channelled through them (ie. the player casts enough spells after purchase).
  • Haschel's ultimate weapon in The Legend of Dragoon deals 50% more damage if he's at half health or less and double damage if he's at quarter health or less. The latter makes it the strongest weapon in the game, but he's too fragile to be reliably kept alive in such a condition, especially because all forms of healing (besides defending) would put him above half health.
  • Link's sword in The Legend of Zelda shoots energy beams when he's at full health in the 2D games, otherwise it's limited to melee. In every 2D game except the first two, however, Link doesn't have this ability until he gets the Master Sword (or what other legendary sword is standing in for the Master Sword).
    • The Master Sword is also known as the Sword of Evil's Bane, and can reflect and dispel evil magic. It's also stated to be wieldable only by the true hero, and untouchable by evil, but those never play much of a part in the actual games. It also serves as a lock at least twice. In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, pulling the sword from its pedestal transports Link to the Sacred Realm, where he sleeps for seven years, and putting it back returns him to his childhood, allowing him to travel back and forth in time. In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker pulling the sword breaks the seal on Hyrule, which had been frozen in time in a bubble beneath the Great Sea.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the Master Sword has an above-average power of 30 at all times, and whenever it "breaks" it regenerates in just ten minutes. However, when put up against foes under the direct control of the Calamity, or Calamity Ganon itself, its strength doubles, which can make taking out the Blight Ganons pretty much trivial. This can also be subverted by the same weapon because completing a difficult gauntlet available via DLC makes the doubling effect always active, which means you have a permanent, technically-unbreakable 60 Power shortsword at all times.
  • There's a number of these in the Mega Man Battle Network series, such as the Muramasa (Damage is equal to your missing HP), the Custom Sword (Causes more damage the more filled the Custom Gauge is), the Gaia Sword (Absorbs the power of all the battle chips selected after it), and the N.O. Beam (very powerful, can only be used if there's an obstacle or enemy attack on the square behind you).
  • Rift Inducer in Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal is like this. It is an instant kill to anything it works on, which is small to medium-sized enemies, excluding bosses.
  • In the Sonny series of flash games, many of the techs for the Shadow Psychological build are situational to the point of being frustratingly inconvenient at times, causing many to prefer the Electric Psycho build. In the Cold Hydro build, there is one attack called Shatter that can only be used on opponents who have 3 Ice elemental debuffs (if one debuff expires before Shatter can be cast, then it won't work).
  • Several weapons in Team Fortress 2, including the Axtinguisher which does critical (triple) damage to burning players, and the Equalizer and Escape Plan, which does more damage and makes you run faster if you are low on health, respectively.
    • And the Sniper's Bushwhacka which does critical damage whenever it would normally do a mini-crit, usually against a victim of Jarate.
  • World of Warcraft always had a few weapons with conditional effects, such as Loksey's Training Stick which was more effective when attacking beasts. But the Legion expansion brought in Artifact weapons for all players, each with their own unique bonuses and backstories, and most had some hidden trait that would show up in the right situation. Some gave combat power (Maw of the Damned did more damage after killing a humanoid or demon), some gave non-combat utility (Thas'doras made its wielder and nearby allies move faster), some were merely cosmetic (Aluneth and Xal'Atath would talk when the player was in a particular place). Some of these effects were disabled when the weapons were nerfed down to normal at the end of the expansion.

  • Played for Laughs in 8-Bit Theater. Sarda used a spell on Black Mage to make him vomit his own intestines. Fortunately, Black Mage had recently become a Blue Mage and was ready to return the favor. Unfortunately for Black Mage, the spell was not 'make the target vomit their guts', but rather 'make Black Mage vomit his guts'. When he used said spell, it only resulted in him vomiting his own intestines again.
  • As an RPG Mechanics 'Verse, Goblins has a few:
    • Big Ears' axe has a situational strength and weakness at once: it can't hurt paladins. Useful when someone tries to take it from Big Ears, not so useful when trying to fight another paladin (though this limitation was once cleverly exploited).
    • Forgath and Minmax win an axe whose accuracy and damage skyrocket when the target is the same species as the wielder. It can also telescope out into a longsword, making it... situationally a sword.
    • And who can 'forget' Oblivious, Minmax's Infinity -1 Sword which scales negatively with the user's intelligence modifier and instantly warps through time and space into Minmax's hand from the moment he unequips it to the moment he grabs it - which is a BAD thing when Forgath is disarmed and Minmax is too busy holding a deathtrap open to fight. Watching him desperately try to throw the sword to Forgath and instantly retrieve it every time would be funny if Forgath wasn't about to die.
  • In a parody of The Lord of the Rings example, Lambert of Irregular Webcomic! has a magic sword that sings "Don't Stand So Close to Me" when orcs are near.
  • Tavor's swords in Looking for Group reveal a map to Kethenecia when coated in blood.
  • Since being reforged with starmetal, Roy's sword in The Order of the Stick occasionally channels energy that is harmful to undead and evil outsiders. With it becoming an Ancestral Weapon during his fight against Vampire!Durkon, he attempted to learn how to turn it on and off at will. Instead it became a Clingy McGuffin, since it turned out what he really wanted was to stop losing it every fight.
  • Sluggy Freelance: Torg has a magical sword (dubbed Chaz) that, upon "drinking" the blood of an innocent, can cut through anything, kill Physical Gods, and speak. Torg is typically too nice of a guy to actively acquire the needed blood. An amusing case is when his friend Zoë, unaware of Chaz's true nature and utterly stupefied by the suggestion, makes her single wish to a demon that allows Chaz to be empowered again.
    Zoë: [facepalm] I want the blood of the innocent to rain down in every room of our house.
    [cleaning] "Did you have to say every room??"
    "I couldn't remember which room it was in!"
  • In Zita the Spacegirl, the giant robot fighter can only be piloted by a true hero, because only a true hero has enough self-sacrifice to let the robot adsorb him.

    Web Original 
  • In Red vs. Blue, Tucker's energy sword generally acts just the same as the Halo item, but it also occasionally functions as a key for alien tech. The key thing is its intended use, it being an effective weapon is actually a secondary benefit.
    Church: So, it is a sword. It just happens to function like a key in very specific situations.
    Caboose: Or... it's a key all the time... and when you stick it in people, it unlocks their death.

    Western Animation 
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) and She-Ra: Princess of Power give us the Sword of Power and the Sword of Protection, respectively. In a jam? Stab the Sky and invoke the Power (or Honor) of Grayskull. Superpowered Alter Ego invoked, problem solved.
  • Samurai Jack's sword will not cut anyone pure of heart, as evident both when Aku stole it and tried to stab Jack with it and when Jack tried to use it to cut up a deer for food.
  • Lion-O of ThunderCats fame possessed the Sword of Omens, a nifty sword that in addition to its "Sight Beyond Sight" ability and its power to call upon the other Thundercats, could literally get him out of any situation. For example, on one occasion it essentially transformed into a vaulting pole and propelled him up the side of a castle.
    • In one episode of the reboot, The sword refuses to activate when Lion-O intends to use it against someone who turns out to not be a bad guy.
  • The Leadership Matrix in Transformers canon only works in situations where the Autobots are faced with the most abominable of Eldritch Abomination types, such as Unicron or a virus swarm, and there's little other recourse for them. Under the right conditions, the Matrix can then be used to "light our darkest hour".
  • The sword Rubilax in Wakfu is technically a four-element demon, and therefore assumably has as many forms in addition to his normal one.

    Real Life 
  • Smart guns are prototype firearms that use a unique locking system to prevent anyone who doesn't have the matching magnetic key from firing them. There are a number of systems: RFID tags, grip patterns, and fingerprints. They are however universally rejected by police, military, and private owners as above all a firearm needs to be reliable in an emergency and too many things can go wrong with such a system leaving the owner of the firearm defenseless at the worst possible time.
  • Viruses are only able to target specific types of cells. The bacteriophage viruses for example can only target bacteria, and each specific strain of bacteriophage can only target specific strains (and closely related families) of bacteria. The Measles meanwhile can only infect human cells. It all depends on the virus' ability to bind to a cell's surface proteins, like a lock and key.