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Weaker in the Real World

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"That's the door to Earth. Go through there, you'll be wherever you need to be. You won't have any other powers though. You wanna get around, you're just gonna have to take a bus or something."
The Doorman, The Good Place

In Dream Lands and Spirit Worlds, there is often an Eldritch Abomination who is able to harness the limitless power that exists there. An omnipotent Reality Warper who can fully utilize the concept Your Mind Makes It Real. Sadly, the bane of many of these creatures is that this power only exists in their native world. Ergo, if they try something like invading reality hoping to use their near infinite power to Take Over the World, they'll usually find that their power didn't make the trip with them.

In other words, they've encountered literal reality.

If the creature relies mostly on its powers and is naturally physically weak, it's Weak, but Skilled. If the creature is still able to cause trouble even without its god-like abilities, that's Brought Down to Badass.

In the event the creature does manage to bring its omnipotent powers with it into the real world, be prepared for The End of the World as We Know It.

The creature may or may not be a Domain Holder.

Subtrope of Your Magic's No Good Here. For other cases where beings are stripped of their powers, see Brought Down to Normal. See also Dimension Lord. A common weakness for creatures that normally live in Dream Land or have power there, such as the Dream Weaver, Nightmare Weaver, and Dream Walker.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Within a dream, Yuko from The Demon Girl Next Door can conjure into being anything her imagination can come up with — unfortunately, with her being a bit of an airhead with an extremely sheltered upbringing (somewhat justified for being sick most of her life), her imagination has trouble coming up with very much. Her Whatever Staff, already capable of defying the laws of nature in the real world, is practically a Reality Warper when she brings it into the dream world. Screw entropy, screw probability, screw thermodynamics, screw logic, if Yuko thinks it'll work, it'll work — the only catch being that doing the impossible in a dream is incredibly taxing on her very limited magical power and it quickly runs out; doing such things in reality is completely beyond her capacity. For now.
  • Played for Drama on the protagonists' side in the third Yo-kai Watch Non-Serial Movie. The animated yokai world is being turned into the real world by a mysterious force. The yokai find in this new reality that their powers are weaker. Jibanyan's Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs become a much more realistic speed and end up underwhelming.

    Comic Books 
  • Ashley Guthrie, one of the "slashers" in Hack/Slash, retreated into the Dream Lands when he was murdered on earth. In the dream realm, he is almost omnipotent. When forced back into the real world, he is almost powerless (and bound into the form of the teddy bear that was used to smother him).
  • The Sandman (1989):
    • John Dee is a shriveled, malnourished old lunatic in the waking world, but when he got his hands on the Materioptikon, enabling him to tap into The Dreaming, he became powerful enough that he not only drove a whole diner full of people insane, but he also caused a wave of homicidal madness to spread out over the world. Even Dream, who created the Materioptikon, nearly died at Dee's hands, surviving only because Dee destroyed the Materioptikon in the mistaken belief that doing so would kill Dream.
    • Dream/Morpheus himself also counts. He's no slouch in the material world, where he's immortal and has a variety of powers/abilities and tools that he can use for magical effects, but in the Dreaming he's practically an omnipotent Reality Warper. He can effortlessly change the surroundings of the world, or the perceptions of anyone in it, and can be everywhere and nowhere at once. When the demon Azazel, one of the former co-rulers of Hell, challenged Dream in the Dreaming, the result was Dream effortlessly crushing and then imprisoning Azazel. The number of beings that can plausibly be a threat to Morpheus while he's in his own realm can probably be counted on one hand.note 

    Fan Works 
  • In the Persona and Little Witch Academia crossover A Fools Study Into Witchcraft, Akko can summon her Personas in reality, but it takes more out of her than in the Cognitive World. Being around a Ley Line helps significantly.
  • In Super Mario World (Max Landis), humans have extraordinary strength and durability in the Mushroom World and other dimensions, giving them a huge advantage over the inhabitants. The climax of the script involves Wario being dragged to the real world, as it's the only way to inflict damage that sticks.
  • Tantabus Mark II: Moondog, as a revamped version of the Tantabus, is a Dream Weaver surpassed only by Luna herself. In the real world, though, she's a Master of Illusion and not much else, with too much magic use causing aches and pains. Furthermore, her existence and magic are powered by mental energy; she can easily grab bits and pieces nopony will miss while in dreams, but reality keeps draining her health while all her magic is Cast from Hit Points.

    Films — Animation 
  • Mune: Guardian of the Moon: A rare heroic example. Mune is seen as a nobody and a weakling in his own world, but learns that he has incredible power in the dream world, which he uses to fight off the nightmares that try to attack him and Glim.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, this is one of Freddy Krueger's Achilles Heels. Within the dream world, he's pretty much a fear-empowered god. Outside of it, he's only a guy with a bladed glove who is somewhat harder to kill than a normal man, but die he does... until the Sequel Hook appears, that is.
  • Both played straight and subverted in Last Action Hero. When both Action Hero Detective Jack Slater and Professional Killer Benedict escape the Film Within a Film and reach Danny's "real world" they both have to get used to the fact that Surprisingly Realistic Outcomes occur and the real world is very different from the over-the-top action movie universe they've inhabited. Jack is somewhat dismayed to learn that a lot of his tried and true techniques don't work; in real life cars don't explode when you shoot them in a random spot, and trying to punch out a glass window hurts like hell and is likely to injure you. Combined with him being stripped of his Plot Armor, this makes Jack considerably weaker in the real world than he is in the movie. Benedict, on the other hand, is delighted to learn that some of the tropes that work against the bad guy in movie world, such as Instant Emergency Response, don't happen in the real world and Apathetic Citizens in a rundown part of town don't care when you kill somebody for no reason. If anything, Benedict has the advantage over Jack in the real world, a fact which Benedict gleefully boasts about in their final confrontation.
    Benedict: Here, in this world, the bad guys can win!
  • The Matrix:
    • 'The Matrix'': When Neo is first disconnected from the Matrix and wakes up in the real world, he realizes that his actual body is so atrophied from never being used that he's too weak to move under his own power.
    • 'The Matrix Revolutions'': Smith, a powerful rogue computer program, can only interact with the real world by possessing the body of someone that he had taken over in the Matrix, and he notes that real human bodies are really weak compared to the abilities he's used to possessing in the Matrix. And when Neo and the body possessed by Smith fight in the real world, there are no fancy martial arts, no gravity-defying jumps or displays of Super-Strength that both showed in the Matrix, just a pair of guys awkwardly grappling and trying to slam each other into walls or grab anything that can be used as a weapon.

  • Discworld:
  • In C. S. Lewis's The Magician's Nephew, this phenomenon keeps Jadis from conquering our world with her magic, but even here she keeps her strength sufficient to rip an iron crossbar from a Victorian lamppost. Far worse for her is the Wood Between the Worlds; there she is weaker than Digory or Polly, gasping for breath, stooped and staggering: she herself says it is literally killing her.
  • In a heroic example, the Sleepwalkers in Side-By-Side Dreamers are just ordinary high school girls in the real world but are able to fight to protect humanity while dreaming. In particular, Saya notes that it's surprising to see Hitsuji so intense while fighting Suiju in the Nightland when she seems so delicate and aloof in the waking world.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Good Place, Michael and Janet lose their otherworldly powers when on Earth, though Janet still knows everything up to the point when she left due to the nature of her existence.

    Video Games 
  • Mega Man Battle Network 6: Net Navigators, normally cyber-entities, can manifest in the real world through the newest technology called Copybot; the Navi is uploaded into the bot, which then shifts shape into the Navi in question. The uploaded Navi is limited to their most basic of abilities while inhabiting a Copybot: its operator cannot "feed" them Battle Chips and its physical strength and speed are explicitly said to be limited to roughly the level of an average adult human. Late in the game, the villains are shown to possess modified Copybots that allow a Navi to use much more of their powers in reality than the common models.
  • This applies to most protagonists in the Persona series. In metaphysical environments like the Dark Hour, TV World or Metaverse they have access to a powerful Fighting Spirit that also boosts their physical abilities, but in mundane reality it takes a lot of focus and experience to manifest a persona. Most don't realize it's possible at all.
    • This is extended further to Persona 5's Phantom Thief attire. In addition to looking cool, the Phantom Thieves are also gifted with superhuman agility and dexterity, allowing them to perform daring acrobatics. It's noted that they do not have this same level of athleticism outside of the Metaverse.
  • The Elder Scrolls series has the Daedric Princes, the "original spirit" divine beings who did not take part in the creation of the mortal world (known as Mundus). Unlike the Aedra, they did not sacrifice any of their power during creation and remain truly immortal. Each has a particular sphere, which they are said to govern from their planes of Oblivion which they inhabit and rule. (In some interpretations, a Prince's realm is considered an extension of that Prince themselves, as their "body". Furthering the "body" analogy is that while a Prince has absolute power in their realm, it doesn't translate into omniscience within that realm.) However, because they did not participate in the creation of Mundus, the Princes are subject to metaphysical barriers which prevent them from manifesting at full divine power in the mortal world outside of some very specific circumstances. As such, the Princes prefer to work through mortal agents to accomplish their goals within Mundus. Mehrunes Dagon is one of the few Princes who has been able to manifest at full power several times in history, causing massive destruction each time and requiring the intervention of other deities (Almalexia in the late 1st Era when he destroyed Old Mournhold and Akatosh himself to end the Oblivion Crisis).
  • The titular OMORI is a standard RPG hero within Headspace, and has access to a wide array of moves, higher attack and defense, and the emotion-manipulating mechanic, among other things, as do the three dream versions of his friends. His real-life self, Sunny, and the real-life counterparts of his friends, on the other hand, are severely restricted in real-life battles, with less moves, lower attack and defense, no ability to change emotions using skills, and basically none of the extra things Headspace combat has.

    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe: Spirits that are strong enough to manifest outside of Astral Space have an energy requirement to manifest, making them weaker in the real world than in the Astral.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!, Skeleton King traps the Hyperforce in a shared dream world, wherein his power is greater than ever, effortlessly Curb-Stomping the entire team. After the Hyperforce awaken and escape, however, Chiro drags Skeleton King back to the real world with him when he awakens. Skeleton King's power is greatly weakened here, even moreso when the morning light starts burning him.
  • Humans in Gravity Falls are weaker in real life than dreams: Bill Cipher usually interacted with the world through the mindscape, which he has endless influence over, but people can fight him back by controlling their own dreams. Upon entering the real world, Bill's powers evolve to full-fledged reality warping levels, while others are no more powerful than normal. Despite his newfound ultimate power, however, he cannot leave the magical boundaries of the titular town.
  • In Justice League, Doctor Destiny is omnipotent when operating in people's dreams, but he is easily taken out by Batman in the real world, who has taken three cups of coffee (among other things) to avoid falling asleep.
  • One episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) has the Dream Beavers, nearly invincible when inside the dream world, but reduced to harmless, cute plushies when they manage to enter the real world. The irony is that escaping to wreck havoc was their goal, and preventing it was the charge of a man that refused to sleep for years, and both are disappointed by this turn of events as the beavers return to the dream world.
  • Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker: Jonas and the other lucid dreamers are regular humans at day, but powerful in the dream world, having the ability to control aspects of said dream world or create objects in order to protect innocent dreamers from the evil monster of nightmares.
  • In one episode of Darkwing Duck, Darkwing and Morgana tangle with Nodoff, the king of dreams. In Dream Land, Nodoff is a nearly omnipotent Dream Weaving Trickster who can reshape the world or give himself new powers and abilities with a thought. However, when Darkwing blasts him with his own sleep sand, Nodoff is transported to the real world, where he is basically just a short gremlin with no powers.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Back to the Sewers, while in the digital domain of the internet, the Cyber Shredder could do virtually anything due to being made of data, much like Viral, whose body he had taken over. Upon crossing into the real world, he lost most of these abilities due to being matter now. Nevertheless, he was still dangerous due to his naturally fighting abilities along with being able to interface with computers.
  • Zigzagged in one episode of Extreme Ghostbusters where Morpheus, a dream demon, sought to crossover into the waking world. While his reality manipulating powers were just as potent as they were in the realm of dreams, he overlooked the fact that in entering the real world, he gained a weakness: namely becoming an ectoplasmic entity the Ghostbusters could trap.
  • Averted in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?" where Princess Luna explicitly states that if the Tantabus succeeds in escaping the dream world into the waking world, it could uses its nightmarish powers to terrorize Equestria, requiring the heroes to stop it before that happened.