Some characters aren't really cut out to be dangerous combatants. Maybe they lost the Super Power Lottery, didn't train, grew old and weak, or just were never intended to be more than Mooks in the first place. In short, they're too average, or even weak, to truly strike fear in the hearts of the truly powerful heroes and villains, or even gain their attention.
And then they find a horrendously powerful weapon, device, or piece of equipment from near the peak of the power curve. Whether it is a wand of hellfire, a BFG, or a magical sword, the wielder of the weapon is capable of causing far more damage than they were before, making them a force to be reckoned with. After all, who needs skill when one can just pull the trigger and watch the fireworks?
This is different from Amplifier Artifact and Upgrade Artifact in that the weapon doesn't necessarily enhance the wielder - they're still as weak and mortal as before, only wielding an extremely potent weapon. When the powerful weapon is given to a character as a last resort, see Giving the Sword to a Noob. Compare Bigger Stick, which is about having superior weapons and equipment, and Unskilled, but Strong, which is more or less the non-weapon version of this (in the sense that while a character is not a good fighter in terms of skill, they may nevertheless fight effectively through special abilities alone). If the super weapon is permanently attached it's probably Badass Transplant. May be a Unique Protagonist Asset.
NOTE: Only list cases where the character's power is clearly attributable to the weapon. If the character is tough regardless of the weapon they use, it's not this trope. If a character is simply accused of only getting by because of a powerful item, see You're Nothing Without Your Phlebotinum.
- Yukino Agoria from Fairy Tail is a stellar spirit mage, with two Golden Keys and the legendary key of Ophiuchus, but without those three keys, she's completely harmless.
- Soul Eater: Excalibur is the strongest Demon Weapon, and instantly usable by anyone without the (direct) need for compatibility like most have. The catch is that he's such an insane jerkass that almost no one can put up with him, even for that much power. But Hiro, the only person we've seen that could stand him, instantly jumped from the DWMA's worst student to completely unbeatable once he partnered with Excalibur. Then even Hiro rejected Excalibur for sneezing too much.
- In a mid-1980s issue of Justice League, an alcoholic drifter's mind accidentally takes control of the super-android Amazo and threatens the world.
- Even earlier, the Silver Age League tended to encounter ordinary hoodlums who had stumbled upon amazing alien machines that enabled them to take on the entire team. They usually didn't reappear after a single story, typically because the alien devices would be destroyed by the heroes to end the menace.
- Issue 13 of The Transformers had Megatron getting locked in his alternate mode (as a gun) and being used by a random crook.
- In his original run as the "heroic" Green Goblin, Phil Urich had been exposed to a formula that gave him great strength, but only while wearing the Goblin suit, which was also packed with weapons. Without the suit he was a completely average person, to the point that when the suit was destroyed in a fight he was forced to retire because he couldn't conceive of any way to keep fighting crime without it.
- Laserblast: A teenager acquires an alien laser gun. The problem? The medallion he has to wear to use the weapon turns him into an evil alien, and he goes on a rampage.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- In Captain America: The First Avenger, in the midst of the jailbreak from the Hydra facility, Dernier picks up a tesseract-powered energy weapon dropped by a dead member of the Gas Mask Mooks. Jim Morita asks him, "Do you know how to use that thing?" Dernier fires a wild shot, then proceeds to use the gun to begin decimating HYDRA troops.
- The Avengers: Agent Phil Coulson, a non-powered special agent, grabs a BFG that had been built by reverse engineering from the Destroyer Armor in Thor and uses it against the Big Bad. However, how "average" he is is up for grabs, seeing as he works for S.H.I.E.L.D..
- Item 47 features a young Outlaw Couple that found an alien arm cannon left over from the movie's battle and started robbing banks with it. Since they know how to use it, Jasper Sitwell ends up recruiting them for S.H.I.E.L.D..
- In RoboCop (1987), the criminal gang working for the Big Bad is easily neutralized and arrested by the title cyborg. When they are later freed from jail, they are given military-grade anti-tank weapons and become a credible threat to the hero.
- In The Cleric Quintet there is a character named Ghost who is just a normal human with a VERY powerful soul-shifting mirror.
- The Icewind Dale Trilogy: In The Crystal Shard, the Big Bad is a very weak wizard that finds a magical artifact that lets him summon demons and stuff, but eventually kills him for his incompetence, choosing to be buried indefinately than to live with him.
- The Legend of Drizzt: In The Two Swords by R.A. Salvatore, a mundane orc comes to possess Khazid'hea and goes on a killing spree. Up until he runs into Drizzt.
- Sixth Column's plot revolves around this trope - a group of six ordinary American soldiers and scientists manage to overthrow an Asian occupation by using recently invented horrendously powerful Doomsday Devices that grant them near-omnipotence.
- A published Pathfinder adventure for levels 1-2 features as its final boss a level 2 cleric wielding a +2 flaming greataxe, which a PC could usually not hope to afford until at least 7th level.
- Early editions of Dungeons & Dragons. More than one Dungeon Master lost control of his game when he let a low level wizard/mage Player Character obtain a powerful magic item such as a fully charged Wand of Lightning or Wand of Fire. The wizard/mage usually went on a killing spree, slaughtering all opponents the party met until the charges ran out.
- Additionally, artifacts pretty much intentionally invoke this trope in third edition. Not only do they possess power beyond normal items, they're indestructable and have their own mental stats and (usually) greater knowledge of waht's going on in the setting than the player using them. A character with an artifact in hand is almost a completely different, and much more powerful, character.
- The Witcher: Game of Imagination has this relationship with crossbows, as long as their users aren't blind and have basic Shooting skill. They deal enough damage to take down anything human-sized with a single bolt. Critical hit or just good aiming allow to badly maim a dragon, if not outright kill it.
- Mutants & Masterminds: The 2ed "Book of Magic" supplement had a "Jumped-Up Dabbler", a otherwise normal dude who had somehow acquired and gained (limited) control over an incredibly powerful magic item, as one of its villainous archetpes.
- NetHack fans know this phenomenon as "The Gnome with the Wand of Death". Gnomes are early game pushover monsters, but like other humanoids and the player, they are smart enough to use wands - including the One-Hit Kill Wand of Death.
- In Dungeon Crawl, monsters are sometimes generated with branded weapons that can make them extremely dangerous. A mere kobold with a distortion sword can send the player into the Abyss.
- A number of early mini-boss enemies also qualify. Ijyb is a goblin slightly tougher than normal, but can generate with a wand or a branded weapon. Terrence and Edmund are adventurers who get better-than-normal starting equipment but no spells or special qualities. Crazy Yiuf is a gnoll with a chaos-braded quarterstaff, which can mimic a distortion weapon or a number of other effects.
- The aged Altair pulls this off twice in Assassin's Creed: Revelations. First, he assassinates Abbas using his newly-fashioned hidden gun, and later on fends off a Mongol siege using the Apple of Eden.
- The Max Payne series has only a few types of enemies (mobsters of various ethnicities, MIBs, black ops and this is all) but they differ by the weapon they wield. So even a puny Mafia soldier becomes dangerous if he's equipped with a powerful weapon like a sniper rifle or an M79 grenade launcher.
- Halo has Grunts. Gas Mask Mooks and eternal Butt-Monkey species of the entire series. They turn incredibly deadly when equipped with the Fuel Rod Gun.
- The mission "Crew Expendable" from Modern Warfare contains one Mook armed with a Desert Eagle. Plus he's in a dark corner of the level and is positioned so that he'll probably come at you from behind.
- In Super Paper Mario, there's one Koopa Troopa that realizes it can take the invincibility-granting starman powerup for itself. Unfortunately, the powered-up Troopa is still vulnerable to certain attacks, unlike a star-powered Player Character.