Activation of most superpowers and magic spells requires you to use parts of your material body in some way: physical contact, specific hand gestures, targeting with and/or firing from your hands, uttering incantations and/or activation phrases with your lips, establishing eye contact, firing from your eyes, etc., etc..
This trope is about characters who have honed their powers to such a degree that they don't require any of the above, and can activate and control them solely by thought or will. Such characters are almost inevitably feared, because they can attack anyone without any warning at all, without even looking at them. Moreover, they cannot be prevented from using their powers with Bound and Gagged treatment, so any captor will have to either keep them unconscious at all times or use some kind of Power Nullifier, if one exists. As such, this tends to be very high on The Law of Power Proportionate to Effort.
The rule of thumb to determine if a character's power falls under this trope is to check whether he or she can still use it when tied up, gagged, and blindfolded.
Many instances of Telekinesis fall under this, but not all telekinetic powers are thought-activated and not all thought-activated powers revolve around moving physical objects. This trope is less about what the power does and more about how it is triggered/controlled.
Pstandard Psychic Pstance is not required by these folks, but they might do it anyways.
Also, such a character will inevitably be a master of Ominous Walk. Required Secondary Powers usually include some kind of Super Senses to complement the ability to act in all directions with sensing in all directions at once. In combat, expect that Powers Do the Fighting while they stand still.
Not included in the definition are psychics who use their minds to affect other minds, since their powers are usually this by default and don't cross into the material world directly.
- In Bleach, the powerful arrancar Coyote Starrk usually fires cero beams from his "guns", but can fire them from his hollow hole without posing. This comes as a surprise to the opposition.
- Galatea from Claymore can manipulate flows of yoki (demonic energy) around her just by thinking about it. Most of her encounters with powered enemies therefore boil down to calmly walking past them while redirecting each their hit to miss her with her mind.
- Most geass in Code Geass require eye contact. Rolo's pseudo-time stop instead has an Area of Effect triggered completely at will.
- Diclonii in Elfen Lied possess several pairs of invisible hands called "vectors" that can pass through material objects but cut human flesh with ease. Their captors keep them inside steel spheres just thick enough for their vectors not to reach the outside.
- By Ghosts of the Past, sequel of Child of the Storm, Harry doesn't actually need to move his hands or anything similar to use his Psychic Powers. Nor, indeed, does any sufficiently skilled psychic, mage, or similarly empowered being. However, it does seem to make it easier to focus, in the same way that using a wand does. He also retains a tendency to use a Badass Finger Snap, which Hermione disapprovingly refers to as a piece of unnecessary theatrics.
- Ringo in With Strings Attached and even more especially in The Keys Stand Alone, which makes him the scariest person on C'hou to anyone who realizes exactly what he could do with his telekinesis/mindsight combination. Good thing he's an Actual Pacifist.
- John, to a degree, though he needs his eyes and hands most of the time. But he can still get plenty of stuff done without themlike the time he rusted away the armor and weapons of six annoying guys.
- Parodied in Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space when fighters with thought-controlled weapon systems are chasing a Flying Saucer and end up destroying the LAX terminal.
- Although he prefers Magical Gestures, Bruce Almighty's powers count as this, as he is able to use them to do absolutely anything (except mess with free will or tell anyone he's God) simply by exerting his will.
- In the Clint Eastwood's movie, Firefox, one of the reasons that the Western Powers want the new Soviet fighter plane, code-named "Firefox," is that the weapons system is fired through thought processes rather than a fire button on the pilot's joystick. The hitch: the command must be given in Russian. Eastwood's character, Mitchell Gant, grew up with a Russian mother so he was qualified to steal the plane. In the finale, as he is being chased by the second prototype plane, he is shouting, "Fire rearward missile! Fire rearward missile!" It doesn't work until he thinks the command in Russian. Cue fireball on the second plane.
- Fully-trained Jedi Knights from Star Wars are capable of using many of their Force powers sans Magical Gesture or eye contact (case in point: Luke Skywalker levitating C-3PO in Return of the Jedi). They still tend to do so anyway, as it's how they're trained to use their powers and it does help with focus.
- Sorcerers in the The Belgariad and Mallorean series use the "Will and the Word." Belgarath says he's fairly sure you don't really need the Word, if your Will is strong enough and given that Poledra doesn't seem to need the Word at all, he's probably right.
- Magic in The Dresden Files is emotion shaped and directed by will, but wizards almost always use (made-up) incantations to help focus their minds, almost like mnemonics. When Harry casts a spell mentally, he's left with a headache and a wicked case of synaesthesia. In Changes, he summons the faerie Queen Mab just by imagining the ritual in perfect detail.
- Charlie's pyrokinetic powers in Firestarter. To a lesser degree, her parents' respective powers.
- In The Imager Portfolio, the titular mages just need to imagine something and it happens. Comes with a nasty side of Power Incontinence, as daydreams or even regular dreams can trigger imaging. For this reason, no imager can sleep (literally sleep, not have sex) with anyone, including their spouse, parents, or children.
- The final stages of mastery of magecraft in Journey to Chaos involves casting without a Magic Tool, words, or anything. Very few mages can do this since it requires lifelong practice and discipline. It is also one of the advantages that divine magic has over academic magecraft; one just imagines the desired effect and it happens.
- In Mistborn: The Original Trilogy Kelsier explicitly points out while training Vin that you don't need to gesture to use Ironpulls or Steelpushes.
- Certain forms of Magyk in Septimus Heap, unlike other forms, can be used without the help of words or Charms.
- Lensman. Helmuth has a mysterious device acting as Betrayal Insurance in his personal safe that can be activated by a thought. When our hero realises this, he keeps up his own mental and physical assault so Helmuth can't risk lowering his mindshield even for a moment to activate it.
- In Heroes, Hiro's teleportation and time dilation powers. Although, in one case, Ando was able to activate Hiro's powers by squeezing Hiro's eyes manually. It's possible this triggered some sort of reflex.
- Upon the arrival of the Ori Priors in the Stargate SG-1 canon, the Stargate teams had to completely overwrite their previous alien containment techniques. Against the Goa'uld, who used chicanery and technological trinkets to simulate godhood, binding and gagging their foes would be enough, but the Priors could trigger massive shockwaves by blinking, could easily perceive things others missed, and had limited telepathy.
- In the second Star Trek pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before", Gary Mitchell gains ESP powers from the Galactic Barrier and nearly takes over the ship. Dr. Elizabeth Dehner also gains power, but slower since her potential was a little less than Mitchell's.
- In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Fury", Kes returns to the Voyager with her Psychic Powers boosted Up to Eleven. She is shown walking through a hallway with the bulkheads exploding around her without even a hand wave.
- The idea is discussed in Merlin (1998) when Merlin is getting his training. His instructors are disappointed that he never quite got that far in skill, and suspect he just didn't want to. The only character who actually displays the ability is Mabb, a fae goddess.
- While many characters in Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues require some external stimulus to activate their power, a few instead need simply use their minds:
- Ciro doesn't require any physical action in order to activate his invisibility and force-field powers. While this makes them very versatile, it also puts him at greater risk of having his powers fail if his concentration is broken.
- Harriet has a spear that she can telekinetically control. While normally the spear inflicts physical damage, she can also give it a mental command to inflict illusions or Sensory Abuse instead.
- Naturally, Zia only requires a thought to use her telepathy. It makes her one of the most dangerous and unpredictable characters to fight against.
- Jacob's power to create miniature time loops doesn't require him to move or speak. This actually works against him, as he uses it subconsciously and keeps injuring himself by rewinding dust motes into his body.
- Most activatable powers in Champions and GURPS Supers are this by definition unless the character's creator gives them a disadvantage that requires some special activation technique. (Most powers affecting things beyond the character's own body will still require some appropriate sense to aim properly — so being blindfolded can still be an issue —, just not to activate in the first place.)
- In early editions of Dungeons & Dragons, innate creature spell powers and psionics were usually activated "at will" unless specifically described otherwise. In some editions, certain spells can be cast without any verbal or somatic (hand movements) components, or can be made as such via using various abilities.
- Improvised spells in Mage: The Awakening are purely mental, powered solely by the mage's connection to the Supernal Realms and personal understanding of the magical discipline being used.
- Pathfinder: In contrast with other magical disciplines' gestures and incantations, Psychic magic is fueled by mental constructs and emotional states, with no outward sign of the spellcasting.
- Shadowrun mages can cast spells just by concentrating on doing so. It's possible for a mage to voluntarily use gestures or speech as a centering technique or be forced to do so because of a geas.
- Ars Magica: Magic is this by default, but casting by thought alone is hard. Magical Incantations and Gestures help to focus the mind and boost the mage's power, to the extent that there's a small but worthwhile bonus for being extra-dramatic in their spellcasting. A mage can train in specific spells to negate the penalty for casting them mentally.
- Unsounded: "Tacit casters" like Duane are born with an extra connection to the Background Magic Field in their souls, which lets them cast spells just by thinking the Magical Incantation rather than speaking it out loud. Speed and secrecy make tacit casting a huge tactical advantage, but they still need the same expertise in the Language of Magic as normal spellwrights.
- In El Goonish Shive, most magic is this which comes in handy when Elliot shapeshifts in order to escape being tied up with a guard within earshot. In contrast, his non-shapeshifting related offensive magic requires both a Magical Gesture and speaking the Language of Magic (in this case Japanese) and thus utterly fails.
- While most bending in Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra requires some sort of movement, Combustion Man's explosions in Last Airbender and bloodbending as used by Yakone and Noatak in Legend of Korra explicitly require only the user's focus. For the latter this is used to obfuscate that they were bending at all.