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Unbreakable Bones

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Talis: It was an interesting operation. The replacement had to be done molecule by molecule, taking care to match your original skeleton exactly in shape and weight, and to ensure that your bone marrow adapted. But it all seems entirely successful. There is an interesting side effect. The alloy has quite surprising resilience and strength. Our tests have shown that it is almost completely infrangible.
Keill: Infrangible?
Glr: It means, mudhead, that your bones cannot be broken.
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Not everyone can have a body that's Nigh Invulnerable. So, what's the next best thing for creating a character who is highly resistant to injury? Why giving them bones that can't be broken. The character will still bleed and bruise, and will still be vulnerable to a cut throat, or a stab to the heart, yet will be immune to any number of potentially crippling injuries. From a storytelling perspective this can be the best of both worlds, providing a character who can justifiably shrug off incredible beatings, while still being in a believable amount of danger from most weapons.

How their bones became unbreakable can vary. Perhaps they were surgically reinforced or altered. Perhaps they were bonded with, or even replaced with, metal. Perhaps the character is a mutant, and bones with the tensile strength of titanium are simply a part of his or her natural makeup. This trope is most often seen in science-fictional settings where mutation, genetic engineering, or advanced surgical techniques can justify its existence, though it can show up anywhere.

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May be a trait of the Cyborg or Super Soldier. Might be combined with a Healing Factor to create a truly unstoppable warrior. See Super Toughness and other Nigh Invulnerable subtropes for when it's the entire body and not just the bones that are this hard to damage. Not to be confused with I Am Big Boned.


Examples:

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     Comic Books  

  • Wolverine:
    • Wolverine himself is probably the most famous comic book example, having had the nigh-indestructible metal known as adamantium bonded to his bones during surgery.
    • Wolverine's foe Lady Deathstrike believed that her father's process for bonding adamanitum to bone had been stolen by the people who created Wolverine. To gain revenge on him and claim his skeleton, Deathstrike had herself rebuilt as a cyborg, complete with her own adamantium skeletal structure.
    • Several of Wolverine's major enemies, including Sabretooth and Romulus have, at various points, had adamantium infused into their own skeletons, though they have rarely kept it.
  • Daredevil nemesis Bullseye had adamantium applied to parts of his skeleton and spinal column after one too many defeats at Daredevil's hands.

     Film  

  • Avatar briefly has Colonel Quaritch mention that Na'vi bones are reinforced with naturally occurring carbon fiber, with the implication being they're more resistant to breakage than human bones.
  • Hugh Jackman's portrayal of Wolverine in the X-Men Film Series has the same unbreakable adamantium bones as his comic book counterpart.

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     Literature  

  • The Cobra Trilogy by Timothy Zahn features super soldiers whose bones are engineered to be unbreakable as part of their conditioning. Though in a catch, the process causes them to develop arthritis and anemia later in life.
  • One criminal in the Judge Dee series used his thicker-than-average bones to his advantage in fights, but claimed to be haunted by bad luck throughout his life. Although there was a sizeable amount of Never My Fault in his Motive Rant, the judge's lieutenants can't help but see his point when the executioner has to chop at his neck to or three times before it finally takes due to the man's strong bones.
  • Last Legionary has protagonist Keill Randor whose bones were surgically replaced, molecule by molecule, with an incredibly resilient organic alloy as part of an attempt to save his life from the radiation sickness that had settled into his skeleton. This, coupled with his Legionary training makes him a veritable One-Man Army. In an interesting contrast, his archenemy, The One, is a crippled dwarf in a suit of Powered Armour.
  • Uglies: The Specials are super soldiers with aircraft metal in the place of their bones, alongside numerous other body modifications.
  • One sci-fi novel (maybe predating the introduction of Wolverine) set after the end had the amnesiac male protagonist discover that among other things he had an unbreakable metal skeleton and a healing factor.
  • Parahumans in The Pride of Parahumans have titanium alloy skeletons to prevent microgravity-induced osteoporosis, and it has the side effect of making their bones very hard to break.

     Tabletop Games  

  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Space Marines have their bones coated with ceramite to harden them against most injuries. They also have their ribcages solidified into a single block so that no weapon can slide between their ribs. Their evil counterparts, the Chaos Marines benefit from the same modifications, and may have their toughness farther enhanced by deals with the Chaos Gods.
    • Tyranids have naturally tough bones which, when sharpened, can serve as bladed weapons. They can also reinforce the Tyrannids already tough carpaces.
  • Shadowrun. The cybertechnology technique called bone lacing uses metal and plastic to increase the strength of the subject's skeleton, making it more resistant to injury.
  • Cyberpunk 2020
    • Applying TuffBone cyberware skeletal enhancement to a person makes it more difficult to damage their bones.
    • Bone Lace uses nanotechnology to wrap the skeleton in a weave of metal and plastic threads, making them stronger and thicker. This increases its ability to absorb physical damage.
  • Gamma World. The Skeletal Enhancement mutation increases the strength of a creature's bones, causing them to take less damage from attacks.

     Video Games  

  • The Fallout series features "Adamantium Skeleton" as a perk that can be purchased and which massively reduces limb damage.
  • Spartans from Halo have "carbide ceramic ossification" as part of their Bio-Augmentation package, which gives them something to this effect. It's the main reason they can use their Powered Armor, which is otherwise literally too strong for humans to use (a poor Red Shirt who tried out a prototype ended up shattering every bone his body).

     Web Comics  

  • Genocide Man has the Genocide Men whose bones are hardened via the implantation of ceramics.

     Real Life  

  • A Connecticut family were found to possess a mutation that results in significantly higher than usual bone density. No one in the family has ever been reported to have so much as fractured a bone. Unfortunately, these people are also unable to swim, since their increased bone density leaves them unable to float.
  • The Hero shrew whose specially reinforced spine and ribcage allows it survive being stepped on by a human.


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