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Wrong Context Magic

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Twilight Sparkle: Well, I still don't believe all this... "special power" stuff. It's just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo.
Pinkie Pie: What's not to believe? You do magic, what's the difference?
Twilight Sparkle: Huge! [stepping up on a soap box] For one thing, magic is something you study and practice. It only happens when you decide to do it. It's meant to make something specific that you choose to happen happen. With you, ugh, it makes no sense at all!

In a World… where Magic A Is Magic A, there is one character, possibly a Cloudcuckoolander, Bunny-Ears Lawyer, or someone far more sinister, who uses Magic B, Magic C or even Magic Q. This character tends to be the only one with this ability.

It's the exception to the rules that govern the setting and potential source for the Rule of Funny. Can also turn into an achievement in ignorance, depending on the situation. May also crop up when a story involves Alternate Universes or The Multiverse, where a Dimensional Traveller uses their world’s magic which doesn’t follow the same rules as the local magic.

Sometimes it's met with skepticism by "normal" magic users. They will insist that the strange magic is fake or against the rules and so they will be left scratching their heads when the rulebreaking magic continuously works. Of course, in a world where magic is considered normal this can be justified since having magic that works on other rules is a lot like having a microwave that works by taking away cold instead of adding heat. For the record, that's impossible because cold is actually just the absence of heat.


See also Our Mages Are Different. Compare Outside-Context Problem, Fantasy Kitchen Sink, Unequal Rites and Wild Magic. Contrast Rule Magic. Related but contradictory to Magic A Is Magic A. The opposite of Your Magic's No Good Here, although it's possible for both to coexist if the wrong-context magic doesn't work in particular circumstances. New Life in Another World Bonus frequently grants these. Characters who do this without realizing they're breaking the rules are accomplishing Achievements in Ignorance. Characters who break the rules of magic/super science etc are going Beyond the Impossible. Can be related to Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond, if used correctly.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Alice & Zoroku​:
    • Sana is the only Dream of Alice whose power is not limited to any one theme, or Card. Her abilities are limited only by her imagination and include telepathy, telekinesis, teleportation, and flight along with being a Reality Warper.
    • Minnie C thinks this is happening in her fight with Ichijo, as the agent is able to wield a multitude of different weapons against her while also having a Double Jump and long range voice communication. The trope is subverted in that Ichijo's Card is simply that versatile, having come from an anime character whose magic doors give access to multiple weapons.
  • Black Clover:
    • Mages should only have one magical attribute. However, through experimentation the Diamond Kingdom created mages who could have two — Mars and Fana both have flame and mineral magic due to having parts of their grimoires torn out and grafted to each other's. There's also Charmy, who has cotton and food magic thanks to being a dwarf hybrid. The Dark Triad also have two attributes due to using their own natural magics plus those of the devils they host.
    • The Heart Kingdom's Magic Stages scale has Arcane Stages, who are mages whose magic are referred to as inexplicable powers. They include Asta, who was born without magic, letting him use Anti-Magic, Nero's Sealing Magic permanently changed after using Forbidden Magic, Yami's Dark Magic that can affect the underworld, Vanessa's magic to change fate to favor her friends, and Grey's transformation magic to transmute magic into different attributes.
  • A Certain Magical Index has two systems of supernatural powers, magic (which is based on legends and myths and can be used by anyone with training) and esper abilities (which are vaguely scientific and are normally induced artificially by various procedures, except for a few who are born with them and are known as Gemstones). Then there's Imagine Breaker, the power to negate both magic and esper abilities, possessed by main character Touma Kamijou. He was born with it, similar to a Gemstone esper. However, both experts on magic and experts on esper abilities have said that it isn't either of these. There are two powers that are similar in that they're also channeled through a right hand - Holy Right (the power to perform any feat ever performed by a right hand, though it apparently can't copy Imagine Breaker or World Rejecter) and World Rejecter (the power to banish things to another world) - but these are described as being magical in nature. Several explanations have been proposed: it's a medium to amplify the power of the Holy Right; it's a reference point for the world that Magic Gods can use to restore it, in the event that they change it too much with their Reality Warping; it's a tool that can restrain demons. These explanations are not mutually exclusive and may simply be possible applications of Imagine Breaker, instead of its true origin.
  • In The Dark Queen and I Strike Back, most of the world uses Techniques, which can only modify existing aspects of reality and are divided into the three categories of Creation, Destruction and Restoration. However, some people are capable of using Divine Crafts, abilities of unknown origin that can alter reality in ways that surpass common sense. One example is a Divine Craft that creates clones from shadows.
  • For several universes, the tricks pulled off by fighters during others during the bouts between universes in Dragon Ball Super can be this. Most notable of these would be Auta Magetta, who unlike most characters in the Dragon Ball series does not fight with Ki Manipulation. He instead spits out lava.
  • Alkahestry, the Xingese version of alchemy, appears to be this at first in Fullmetal Alchemist. It can be triggered at a distance, runs off the flow of chi in the land, and isn't affected when Father shuts off the use of alchemy in Central. Subverted in that alkahestry is actually the pure, untainted form of alchemy brought to the East by Hohenheim, while Amestrian alchemy has been systematically corrupted by Father for his own benefit.
    • The various abilities of the Homunculi are debatably this. Logic dictates that their powers should all be based in alchemy somehow, but Pride is especially baffling; no attempt at all is made to explain how his control over shadows works, which is probably for the best.
      • It is likely his shadow powers are derived from the exotic shadowey substance that comes from the Gate of Truth, the material that composes Truth's body and Father's true form.
    • It is not particularly apparent since he is the protagonist, but Edward Elric's ability to do alchemy without the transmutation circle is also this, and the result of his contact with the Gate, which carried an extremely high price. Later on Roy Mustang gains this, at the cost of his eyesight, though he eventually gets it back after the end of the series.
      • Said spoiler themselves is an example of this even among the other transmutation circleless alchemists. All of them consciously broke the taboo of human transmutation and lost body parts due to meeting the Gate. This alchemist however was forcibly involved in a human transmutation as a third party to purposefully make another alchemist who didn't need a transmutation circle. This results in them losing their eyesight, but not their eyeballs, despite them not performing the taboo transmutation themselves. A situation Ed says shouldn't happen, given that the whole purpose of it is as a punishment by the ambiguously godlike Gate: the body part lost is explicitly stated to have a symbolic meaning to the taboo breaker's goals. Izumi wanted to bring back her child and lost her womb among other internal organs, Mustang ended up losing the ability to the "see" the world they envisioned. This set up is also likely the reason they're potentially allowed to regain their eyesight through medical treatment later, while the other circleless alchemists must use prosthesis, cope, or make additional deals with the Gate.
    • The 2003 anime has its own example of this in the homonculus Wrath. By the rules of Alchemy in the anime, homonculi cannot perform 'regular' alchemy because they're not human; instead they obtain a unique alchemical power to manipulate their bodies in a single way (such as Voluntary Shapeshifting, converting the Carbon in your skin into diamondoid or turning one's body into a coherent liquid form) during maturation using the Red Stones that make up parts of their bodies. Wrath, meanwhile, does not have any homonculus powers... But he can perform 'regular' alchemy on an instinctual level without using a transmutation circle. This turns out to be because of his unique maturation process, which gave him access to a human arm: The Gate of Truth 'thinks' the arm is still attached to its original body and thus alchemical power flows through it normally.
      • Wrath also has a second element that makes him outside context: Unlike every other homonculus in the setting, Izumi made him by transmuting the complete corpse of her dead son instead of using pieces and supplementing the rest with other elements. As a result, he has no earthly remains that can be used against his Kryptonite Factor.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure's Stands are the main Magic A Is Magic A element of the series, being (generally) anthropomorphic psychic projections of the user's will that act out the user's innate psychic abilities, overall adhering to a consistent set of rules divided into a few subtypes. They are completely invisible to people who don't possess Stand powers (unless it's bound to a physical object) and the destruction of a Stand causes its user's death (and vice versa). Minor "rules" are broken all the time as part of the mystery of that particular fight and sometimes that leads to the introduction of a new subtype. When a major rule is broken, however, it tends to be a significant element of that particular plot.
    • On the goofier side, Diamond is Unbreakable has Mikitaka Hazekura, a character with Voluntary Shapeshifting abilities who seemed to start displaying them after he was struck by a Stand-imbuing Arrow. However, he claims to be an alien from another galaxy and these powers are just innate to his species (despite being named like an individual Stand). He has no reaction to a feint punch from another character's Stand implying he can't see other Stands, and the Stand Arrow actually began to deflect its course away from him when it was about to hit him. The author Hirohiko Araki even goes out of his way to neither confirm nor deny that Earth Wind and Fire is a Stand, instead referring to it as a "Stand?" on several occasions.
    • On the more serious side, while Stands that break the rule of persisting after the original User's death are technically as old as the Part that introduced Stands, Anubis still needed a "User" to be more than inanimate and the later Cheap Trick survived by moving between Users. Notorious B.I.G. from Part 5, Golden Wind, however, didn't even manifest until its User's death and needed no User to function. This, coupled with its ability to come back From a Single Cell and feed on practically any form of energy or attack, made it a stakes-raising enemy that is one of the few Stands to ever be merely escaped and not defeated.
    • The spinoff Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan is more or less explicitly about Rohan running into exactly these sort of situations that aren't explained by the series' established supernatural rules. Among these are what are heavily implied to be an actual Yōkai, nature gods who demand absolute etiquette from their devotees, paintings haunted by the hatred of its painter an insect that inhabits cellphones and predates on humans, the incarnation of an actual Physical God, and a Stand-empowered Gucci bag, just to list a few of his adventures.
    • Also there's the mess that is Jorge Joestar which adds three more supernatural abilities to the non-canon piece: Wounds, which are formed as a result of the user's repeated trauma and exist to stop their suffering; Bounds, which allow the user to physically bind to particular locations; and Beyonds, abilities whose reach exists beyond space and time and the fourth wall.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid has Fabia Crozelg; a "True Witch" as opposed to the Magitek users throughout the series, her powers are a variant of Summon Magic using devils to empower her various Status Effect dealing Curses.
  • In Modern Magic Made Simple, magic is so strictly rule-based that it works far better when controlled by a computer rather than a human. And then there's Koyomi, who cannot use magic in general, except for her ability to transmute any spell into a washbasin. No one has any idea how she does this.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • "One for All", the quirk used by the main character and his mentor, is unique from all other quirks in the setting for multiple reasons. It was created artificially when a villain with the power to steal and grant others quirks gave his brother the ability to stockpile power. The stockpiling ability combined with the brother's then-unknown ability to pass his quirk to another, creating One For All. That second ability also makes it the only known quirk with the ability to be passed down to a chosen successor, when all other quirks are either inherited directly from a parent or develops as a combination of both parents' quirks. Finally, while quirks aren't known to grow in power with each generation, One for All grows more powerful with each successive user it's passed down to due to its stockpiling aspect. Izuku Midoriya can use certain abilities of One For All which are exclusive to him. Deceased users of One For All can speak to him and show him visions of the past. Izuku can also access the Quirks of the previous users, which have been drastically strengthened by One For All.
    • Quirks are generally straightforward in concept, if often wacky. Then comes in Eri, who through some unexplained freak mutation ended up with a reality-warping Semantic Superpower of "rewinding" people to a previous state, that ranges from healing wounds, to reversing biological evolution, to outright erasing the target from existence that would be more at home in shows like JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. This is not a good thing, and pretty much ruined her life, since she's a little girl with a dangerous, unknown, barely controllable superpower that destroyed her family and left her in the hands of very nasty people who'd like to profit from it with little regard for her well-being.
  • Naruto has two examples of this.
    • The Second and Third Tsuchikages possess the ability to combine three elements in what they refer to as a "Bloodline Expansion". This is the only known example of such an Expansion. It was also hinted that unlike regular Bloodline Limits this was an ability that needed to be learned rather than inherited.
    • Also, there are Kinkaku and Ginkaku. They were swallowed by the Nine-Tails and survived for a significant period of time by eating its chakra flesh. When they emerged, they could complete a partial transformation into a jinchuuriki's form without themselves possessing a beast. The only other time this was attempted, a person who ate the Eight-Tails's flesh died. That said, it’s hinted via the data books that their ability to survive eating a Tailed Beast’s flesh and become pseudo-Jinchuriki is the result of them being the descendants of the Sage of Six Paths.
  • Nasu Kinoko's works have a nasty habit of setting up incredibly complex and detailed rules about The 'Verse... then having a character with some really rare ability break those rules. Of course, only that character alone can ever do it (and probably not more than once).
    • Reality marbles are either a very good example of this trope or not, depending how you look at it. But ultimately the concept boils down to a detailed and structured set of rules for breaking a detailed and structured set of rules.
    • Needless to say, the rules in the Nasuverse are extremely complicated to the point of Mind Screw. The fact that more than a few rules actually contradict others really doesn't help.
    • Fate/stay night has a fairly simple set of rules for the Grail War. And then everyone starts cheating in some way. It's telling that, before the 5th Grail War, no Grail War has ever been properly concluded.
    • One recurring issue with the series is that even the mages themselves don't really know the more advanced rules of magic, and are prone to being mistaken in their assumptions. They will state that something is a rule when in fact it is not, not out of intent to deceive but because they don't know that they're wrong. Some have compared it to scientists in the real world: do today's scientists understand everything about science? No? Then why would mages studying magic be any different?
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi:
    • Negi can break the rules by kissing hard enough. Then again, Negi can create souls for Robot Girls by kissing hard enough, so this is hardly surprising.
    • In the situation of Negi and Jack Rakan, whenever they break a seeming rule, it is brought to our attention, such as Chisame calling Rakan the man with infinite cheats, the one time he doesn't break a rule.
  • One Piece:
    • Blackbeard has at least two or three distinct cases of this all on his own.
      • His Devil Fruit, the Dark-Dark Fruit, is different from most Logia-type Devil Fruit in that it specifically does not allow him to turn into a version of Made of Air, allowing attacks to pass through him, like all other Logias do due to its nature being to absorb things. It also allows him to nullify Devil's Fruit powers, as well.
      • More importantly, however, is during the Paramount War when Blackbeard is able to possess two Devil Fruit powers at once by somehow absorbing Whitebeard's Tremor-Tremor Fruit, a feat known to kill everyone else who has ever attempted it, due to unknown traits unique to his body.
    • Post Time Skip, we have SMILEs, artificial Devil Fruits of the Zoan class that Kaido's pirates are using; Unlike actual Zoan Fruits, whoever eats a SMILE undergoes some sort of Body Horror that alters a part of their bodies; For example, one SMILE user can turn his hand into a ram's head, and a "Gazelle-man" with the appropriate legs that has the speed of a gazelle... but none of the endurance. Holdem, a Headliner stationed in Wano, has a lion's head where his stomach should be. This lion also seems to have a mind of his own, and gets into quarrels with Holdem. Furthermore, the SMILE Fruits only work 10% of the time; If ten people eat a SMILE, only one will gain powers. The other nine will be Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul.
  • Ichijou, the Class Representative from Pani Poni Dash!, is weird even for a thoroughly Widget Series. She appears to have inexplicable (and unexplained) powers that ignore the laws of physics, reality, and sanity. For example, she once cut a conversation with Miyako short by rocketing into the stratosphere. When Miyako caught up with her again and mentioned it, she went "What are you talking about?"
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon are capable of doing many, many different things that are clearly fantastical in nature but never specified to be magic; apparently they are all just natural abilities Pokémon have. Humans are normally not capable of any of these things, but a certain few humans are shown that are able to do things that are supposed to be impossible. Sabrina the gym leader is perhaps the most well known example; she has psychic abilities that range from the standard Telepathy, Telekinesis and Teleportation, but also turning people into dolls. Ash is another example as he's one of the very few humans capable of manipulating Aura (although this ability is rarely ever brought up).
    • In one episode, Ash is turned into a Pikachu by a witch. Humans aren't supposed to be capable of this. Even Pokemon can't do this. Out of the 800+ Pokemon there are, not a single one of them has been shown to be capable of transforming someone else, and only a select few can transform themselves. (The transformation meant here is distinct from normal evolution, which most Pokemon are capable of doing.) The whole thing was just an oddity that lasted only a few minutes.
    • In a season that introduced Mega Evolutions to the table, XY&Z features a unique take with Ash's Greninja, which is able to transform into "Ash-Greninja", a new form that is reminiscent of Mega Evolution. However, this particular Pokemon doesn't need to hold a Mega Stone, nor does Ash need to have a Key Stone to activate it. Instead it relies on a Synchronisation between Ash and Greninja. This was a completely alien concept. (It was later brought into Pokémon Sun and Moon via the Battle Bond ability. The Greninja that has it is implied to be Ash's Greninja from the anime). It is unknown if any other Pokémon has this ability, but a Ninja Village has an ancient picture depicting an "Ash-Greninja" so this kind of transformation is at least known to exist for Greninja. Various characters have speculated In-Universe if it counts as a Mega Evolution or not.
    • In Sun and Moon, Ash does it again. Z-Moves are special moves that can be used when a Pokémon and Trainer connect, using a Z-Crystal inset in a trainer's Z-Ring to turn that bond into power. Each Z-Crystal corresponds to only one Z-Move, and there's no way around that. Z-Moves may be specific to certain species of Pokémon or associated with a type of move. Ash and Pikachu, however, have a special Z-Move, 10,000,000 Volt Thunderbolt, that only they can use. It doesn't have a proper Z-Crystal, either: When in use, Ash's Electrium Z transforms into a Pikashunium Z, and promptly changes back when the move is over.
  • In Reborn! (2004), in order to generate a Dying Will Flame, one normally needs a conduit to convert a person's internal wave energy into a Flame, such as a Mafia Ring, or special weapons like Tsuna's X-Gloves and Basil's Metal Edge. Xanxus and Ricardo are exceptions to this rule, able to generate their unique Flame of Wrath with nothing but their bare hands. However, a stranger case is Iemitsu Sawada, who lacks any special Flame, but is still able to use Flames barehanded for an unknown reason.
  • The Red Ranger Becomes an Adventurer in Another World: Tougo Asagaki, the Kizuna Red Ranger, is a Henshin Hero from a Sentai series who gets transported to a fantasy world. Several characters are baffled by his transformation and powers because they are not magical in nature. He is fueled by his Hot-Blooded spirit and The Power of Friendship and bonds, with the magical characters saying they have never heard of such a thing.
  • Saint Seiya Omega: In a world where everyone hones their Cosmo to be able to do devastating attacks, Haruto is a Ninja who uses contemporary ninjutsu. There is a long and very personal history how he's able to do that.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V
    • In the Standard Dimension, there are three types of summoning: Fusion Summoning, Synchro Summoning, and Xyz Summoning. All of these methods are limited by the ability to produce different types of energy, which is viewed as a semi-mystical ability. Reiji is a prodigy because, among other things, he's able to use all three summoning methods. Then, by the end of episode 1, Yuya's pendant glows, which spreads to his cards, and he alone produces a new summoning type, Pendulum Summon. This produces a unique energy signature like the other three types, and it takes some time before Reiji manages to produce his own Pendulum Cards.
    • The series later moves on to other parallel worlds: the Fusion Dimension, Synchro Dimension, and Xyz Dimension. True to their name, each dimension only has access to their namesake summoning method but can easily specialize in it, so other methods are completely foreign to them. The Fusion invasion of the Xyz Dimension makes it clear how one's summoning method identifies where they come from (leading to some Fantastic Racism on both sides depending on the cards they find in their deck, as well as mistaking the denizens of Standard for another dimension depending on what cards they summon in a duel). When Yuya engages Jack Atlas of the Synchro Dimension, he's already developed prowess in Fusion and Xyz summoning, and by combining it with his Pendulum summoning is able to surprise Jack with these new mechanics and force him on the back foot. The fact that Jack recovers and wins anyway is more a testament to his own prowess than anything else.

    Comic Books 
  • Gold Digger: "Magic" refers to any type of physics or technology that uses the natural laws of another universe/dimension, so it's all science that's made magic when in the wrong context. What's interesting about this is that the biophysics of alien lifeforms or functions of technology from another reality will continue to work because they contain the physical mass and space from where they work, presumably until the "spacetime" runs out due to decay or replacement. This means that the protagonists can leap into an Eldritch Location and manage to survive for a few months without mutations or technology failure because their cells and atoms still follow the laws of gravity while all their shiny weapons and armor do what they were built to do.
  • Some characters can get away with this like Loki (god of Mischief and possibly Chaos and Lies) because of a long history of doing those things and having other weaknesses (again with Loki: some mental issues, is/was physically weak compared to most Asgardians, and a tendency to defeat himself). Other characters however cannot and avert the trope massively (essentially becoming Plot Coupon characters): Loki's magic gained some rules over time, which may or may not be true as mostly he was the one doing the explaining. Basically he claims that he just lies to the universe, so he needs to keep the lie straight and look out for the Theory of Narrative Causality (this is why he defeats himself, the narrative kicks back).
  • Runaways features the Staff of One, which can do practically anything (save bring someone back to life). However, its spells can only ever be used once, and attempting to cast the same spell twice will do something random. Despite this, Alex Wilder once got hold of the Staff and managed to cast the same spell repeatedly. (The suggestion is that he found two words or phrases that meant the same thing, which appears to be a workaround, as Nico has performed teleportation at least twice by changing the command phrase.)
  • Scarlet Witch has always had Power Creep, Power Seep, but there was no indication before House of M that she could rewrite the entire universe, just that she was dangerous when insane.
    • Additionally, in the JLA/Avengers crossover, she inverts the Your Magic's No Good Here trope, by virtue of her own chaos magic functioning the same as that used by the DC universe's Lords of Chaos, enabling her to tap into that nigh-infinite power freely while present in that universe. According to Zatanna, the Lords of Chaos themselves were very concerned indeed about this.

    Fan Works 
  • Crossover fics between two universes with magical systems can result in this accidentally if not done carefully. A clever writer can come up with reasonable explanations and handwaves for the discrepancies, though. On the other hand, this can be done intentionally to show just how different the magic systems really are. Beyond the Outer Gate Lies..., a crossover between The Dresden Files and High School Dx D, handles this by explaining that Harry's usual magic spells are derived from his willpower and belief, while their system of (normal) magic uses what amounts to rituals in his, where he just has to put in the power and not the belief, so it doesn't need him trying to micromanage it.
  • Turnabout Storm: Phoenix's truth-detecting Magatama comes out as one of these in Equestria, being an amulet charged with a spirit channeler's spiritual energy, which is unlike the magic unicorns have access to. This has the side effect of working as a temporary and unintentional Upgrade Artifact when Twilight's magic interacts with it.
  • On the subject of Harry Potter fics, one common bit of Fanon is that if history ever changes due to time travel or other temporal shenanigans, Luna Lovegood will always be the first or only character who figures it out, or at least is peripherally aware of it.
  • In Incarnation of Legends, Araki accuses Kojiro of using magic when he sees his Tsubame Gaeshi. Kojiro simply denies it. After all, who would believe that a man could possibly make reality give in to let him swing thrice with one motion through skill alone?
  • Biotics in the Mass Effect series are based around manipulating Element Zero, giving users access to a variety of telekinetic powers. Biotics are shown in The Mission Stays the Same to pale in comparison to Warhammer 40,000 psychic powers (especially when the wielder of the latter is a centuries-old Space Elf), which bend the fabric of reality to create chain lightning attacks, fine-tuned telekinesis, Super Speed to the point it appears that time has stopped, Super Strength, and telepathy (among other abilities).
    • To a lesser degree, Gallardi's lasrifle. In Warhammer 40,000, laser weaponry is the most basic and common human weapons tech, and one of the few things they fully understand. In Mass Effect, laser weaponry is for all intents and purposes nonexistent, and everything about combat is built around the kinetic barriers. Since those barriers do nothing to stop laser weaponry, Gallardi gifting humanity the secrets of Imperium laser weaponry has the potential to become a colossal Game Changer.
  • While Pokémon Reset Bloodlines is a Pokemon fic where knowledge is fairly well spread, rarer battle techniques can be this. This can range from Mega Evolutions in regions they are less common, to the really rare tricks like Bond Phenomenon (The same as Ash-Greninja as mentioned in the Anime section). Then there are Bloodline Powers.
  • Boldores and Boomsticks: While Magic A Is Magic A is in effect to equate the Aura of both settings, Weiss is initially confused as to how Pokémon are able to use elemental attacks without Dust. It's revealed later that their Auras are naturally associated with Types and they are talented at shaping their Auras in complex ways. While humans and faunus are Typeless (except for some Semblances that give Types to the Aura used) they can be taught to use moves.
  • In The Bridge, Equestrian and Terran magic are incompatible and can't be used to counter each other. Equestrian magic works by tapping into emotions while Terran magic works by harnessing mana.
  • In Brilliant Lights Will Cease To Burn, Izuku's magical abilities as the Cardcaptor baffle the authorities, who keep trying to rationalize his abilities as a Quirk even after he flat-out tells them that he's using magic and that he's Quirkless. They continue to believe this even after Eraserhead's Quirk fails to work on him.
  • Child of the Storm mixes a number of magical systems relatively neatly, but Chaos Magic is implied to be a whole different ball-game, and confirmed as such in the sequel. The rest of the series' magic broadly follows Magic A Is Magic A - there is internal consistency, and magic has to do business with the laws of physics. Raw chaos magic, on the other hand, allows the wielder to do more or less anything they can think of, as long as they have enough power and focus (and don't mind potential side-effects like generating deadly radiation when transmuting elements, or potentially ripping holes in reality).
  • Citadel of the Heart has the Mewtwo that appears in Truth and Ideals, as well as other Pokémon fics in the Series Fic, equipped with a Looplet, specially designed to also function as a weapon as to generate dust to create Emera with from draining energy from opponents. This allows Mewtwo to effectively bypass the need for a Key Stone and Mega Stone in order to Mega Evolve, as all Mewtwo needs to do is generate an Awakening Emera to activate Mega Evolution; the only downside is that it's random as to whether it becomes Mega Mewtwo X or Mega Mewtwo Y.
  • Code Prime: The Codes and the Geasses that Code Bearers can give people are not something the Cybertronians have any familiarity with, despite having some magical powers/artifacts of their own. Additionally, they have no effect whatsoever on Cybertronians. This appears to be because Cybertronians' sparks vastly outclass Geass in terms of power. Later chapters reveal that Code Bearers can still affect Cybertronians, opening up the possibility that fully mature Geass' can do the same. It's revealed during Lelouch's confrontations with Mao that a fully developed Geass can affect Cybertronians. Mao can read Cybertronian minds, but his immaturity and lack of control make it impossible for him. Bismarck's Geass, while only active in one eye, is strong enough for him to predict Optimus's next movements when they duel durin the Black Rebellion. By the time R2 starts, Lelouch's Geass has fully developed, and he can now use it on Cybertronians. Near the end of R1, Megatron gives himself a Dark Geass that can affect Cybertronians, and Code-Bearers like C.C. and V.V..
  • Equestria Girls: Friendship Souls: Equestrian magic and Soul Reaper and Quincy skills like Kido are noted to be different. When Clover teaches Sunset Shimmer to control her Reiatsu, Sunset learns that her methods for controlling her Unicorn magic don't work, and she needs a different kind of thinking. This actually helps the Humane Seven along with other magic users very well, as combining the two dimensions' powers often produces new and improved game-breaking techniques and abilities.
  • Fate DxD AU: When Ritsuka Fujimaru lands in the DxD world, his abilities baffle everyone, especially when he uses the Class Cards, because they are different from Sacred Gears or any kind of magic they are familiar with. When he calls on Lobo, they comment no human can control a wraith, so what they are seeing is unprecedented. When he uses Medea's card, they are shocked that he can fly without wings.
  • Fates Collide: The Nasuverse characters don't use Dust for their abilities and their abilities are often too versatile to be a Semblance. This, their Noble Phantasms, and spells like Bazett Fraga McRemitz's runes and Kairi Sisigou's necromancy baffle the RWBY characters.
  • In Friendship Is Magical Girls, the character Starscream can harness Fullmetal Alchemist style alchemy, usually expressed as earth and metal manipulation. The other magical characters have never heard of such a thing.
  • In God Slaying Blade Works, Shirou and Illya's magical abilities baffle the other characters. In Campione!, all magic is performed by invoking the power of magical beings like gods, angels, or fairies, but the two still run on Nasuverse rules and only need to use the magical energy in their bodies to perform magic.
  • Present in the crossover The Good Hunter. In the universe of Monster Girl Encyclopedia (MGE), every creature should have mana. However, the Player Character of Bloodborne, Cyril, is a literal void. His absence of mana means that he should not be alive and be able to use magic by any means necessary, yet he is obviously alive and is able to use Functional Magic in the form of Hunter Tools, assuming he has any in his arsenal (though he is not shown to use any).
  • One of the central plot elements of Harry Potter and the Natural 20 is that the magic used by the main character (who is from an RPG-Mechanics Verse running off D&D 3.5e rules), and Harry Potter verse magic are pretty much mutually incompatible. At one point the Main Character has to do high level D&D magic to fake having a tiny amount of Harry Potter magic.
  • Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash features Ron being a practitioner of something known only as "Ron magic." It may, or may not, involve throwing your wand at your opponent.
  • Heroic Myth:
    • The Servants baffle the other characters because they have skills and powers unrelated to receiving a God's blessing by joining a Familia.
    • EMIYA especially shocks people because he can casually create magic weapons that don't break after using their special power. Similarly, Welf becomes shocked when he learns Sigurd's sword Gram can be used multiple times without breaking.
    • In Danmachi, all spells are verbal, so Sigurd and Brynhildr shock everyone by drawing glowing Runes in the air or on surfaces to perform spells. EMIYA and Gilgamesh also shock people when they use their powers without saying anything.
    • The Servant summoning spell itself is this. In Danmachi, summoning or controlling spirits is almost impossible.
  • A Hero's Wrath:
    • Despite their similarities, distinctions are made between quirks and mantra affinity. With over 80% of people on the planet possess quirks, mantra affinity can be traced through bloodlines and are found around 12 known families. While incredibly rare, those who possess both a quirk and access to mantra do indeed exist, Momo having "Creation" and Wrath Mantra and Nejire wielding "Wave Motion" and Lust Mantra.
    • While the Eight Mantras (Wrath, Pride, Sloth, Lust, Violence, Melancholy, Greed and Vanity) were all wielded by the Demigods and now their human descendants, Kalrow explains that the Gohma were creatures made manifest by a Ninth "Primordial" Mantra wielded only by Vlitra, described by Izuku as being similar to Wrath Mantra, but being more intense, corrosive and corrupting. Since no one other than Vlitra has wielded it, imagine everyone's surprise when Izuku manifests it.
  • I am Superman: The Giant is of alien origin and had his existence covered up by the government. As a result, many who see him are under the impression that he's either just advanced Tinker Tech or an artificial Endbringer and not a super-powered alien machine. After Piggot learns that he's an alien, it really unnerves her that not only is there life on other planets, but they can create technology that's on par with creatures that can bring about Armageddon.
  • The Infinite Loops takes this trope and makes deep passionate love to it. Loopers, various characters stuck eternally returning to the past, sometimes find themselves in alternate pasts that run under different rules then their home universe or in an entirely different setting. This means that most Loopers over time acquire a wide variety of different abilities, which they can use to completely curbstomp everything in their native settings.
  • Jaune Arc, Lord of Hunger:
    • Jaune's Force-sensitivity is unlike any Semblance that anyone has ever seen. While most Semblances are only a single power, Jaune's connection with the Force gives him access to multiple different abilities like telekinesis, mind-control, enhanced reflexes, Combat Clairvoyance, the ability to shoot lightning, and the ability to heal himself. After seeing a recording of Jaune using the Force to shoot lightning and Life Drain the Grimm, Ozpin compares Jaune's powers to that of the Maidens.
    • In order for the Mask of Darth Nihilus to possess someone, the individual must be Force-sensitive. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem for Nihilus since everyone in the Star Wars galaxy is connected to the Force in some way or another. So when Nihilus's spirit finds himself on Remnant, he is shocked to find that no one on the planet has a connection to the Force and is confused by the people's use of Aura and Semblances, which are like no Force power he's ever seen.
  • Maria Campbell of the Astral Clocktower: Mostly averted; the Blood Magic of Bloodborne doesn't work in the Fortune Lover world, because no one's blood has any special power. Maria makes due with memories of her old sword skills, her new Light magic, and Combat Pragmatism. However, there is one exception: In Bloodborne, coaches don't have drivers, which helps underline the overall creepy theme. Therefore, Maria's coaches don't need drivers. When she wants her coach to move, it moves, and it will continue on its path whether she is paying attention or even asleep. She sees nothing strange about this, assumes everyone else is just using drivers out of vanity, and doesn't understand why people keep asking if she used magic on the horses.
  • My Miraculous Academia: Quirks in My Hero Academia often lack Required Secondary Powers, operate on Surprisingly Realistic Outcome in-practice and theoretically has science to back up how they work. The Miraculous on the other hand are magical in nature and provide their wielders with a grab-bag of super-abilities like enhanced physical abilities on-top of their specialized superpowers. Because of this, people tend to notice the versatility in Izuku's "quirk" and question just how it all works, from his ability to sprout butterfly wings to how a Super Empowering quirk can alter a person's superhero costume and can turn Kirishima into a dragon.
  • In the Pony POV Series:
    • Professor Kabuto is capable of using alchemy in Fullmetal Alchemist style via a combination of magic and alchemy, something only he seems capable of and makes him much more dangerous.
    • Princess Jiniri (G3 Razzaroo's Alicorn self) is the Anthropomorphic Personification of Wishes and Miracles. As such, she's capable of doing some things that are unheard of in her universe such as resurrecting Concepts who have had their Concept in some way taken by another, which is normally a permanent death not even the Elders can undo.
  • By the time Izuku enters class 1-A in Pro Hero Metal Bat, Aizawa and Nezu have determined that due to multiple third-party witnesses, genetic tests, physiological tests, hospital records, and more, that they are one hundred percent sure that Izuku does not have a Quirk. They even had Aizawa using his Quirk on Izuku the whole time they were testing him. They still have absolutely no idea how Izuku is able to become superhuman when he gets a hold of a baseball bat, since normal people can't knock holes in concrete, stop giant robots, shrug off bullet wounds, or bat a baseball 2.5 kilometers.
    • On top of wielding Wrath Mantra, Momo also possesses what's called "Divine Mantra".
  • Repairs, Retrofits and Upgrades features an extremely power sandbender and Red Lotus member capable of creating entire sandstorms and transforming their sand into glass shards.
  • Ring-Maker: There is the normal "tinkertech" that Gadgeteer Genius Capes produce as per the canon of Worm, and then there are the Rings of Power and other things from Tolkien's Legendarium that Taylor Hebert, reincarnation of the Dark Lord Sauron, user of the latter's "Annatar, Lord of Gifts" guise, and Celebrimbor-tier magic craftsman, produces. The Middle-Earth artifacts are, quite predictably, an entire league above and beyond other tinkertech.
  • The Scars That Make You Whole: Normally, Celestial Spirit Magic requires a Key to allow Celestial Magic to access their contracted Spirit's power, and that includes the Star Dress and the Eclipse Gate. However, Lucy had discovered how to access their power by focusing on the Spirit's associated constellation and legend. When Zeref analyzed this ability, he states that the technique puts a dangerous strain on space itself.
  • The Keyblade in A Skittering Heart, a Worm fanfic. Super powers in Worm come from extra dimensional beings called shards, and the Keyblade has been shown to not play nicely with anyone who uses Worm super powers on it (hurting Circus when they tried to put it in a pocket dimension and making Tattletale start speaking prophetic nonsense when she used her super intuition on it).

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Doctor Strange (2016) explains that magic in the Marvel Cinematic Universe works by invoking the natural laws of alternate dimensions where physics works differently. In particular, it gives some examples of how Earth's natural laws interact with those of the Dark Dimension, which has no concept of time: the Ancient One stays immortal by leeching some of the Dark Dimension's timelessness for herself, and Strange blackmails the Eldritch Abomination Dormammu into submission by introducing Earth's concept of time to the Dark Dimension, which is utterly alien to Dormammu, and trapping them both in a time loop until it gives in.

  • In Animorphs, someone who stays in morph for more than two hours gets Shapeshifter Mode Locked; one of the main characters, Tobias, got stuck as a red-tailed hawk early on. However, the local Sufficiently Advanced Alien, the Ellimist, later gave Tobias his morphing powers back, despite the fact that his Shapeshifter Default Form is still a bird. There are a few books where they use this to their advantage—most notably, using him to convince the Yeerks that their Anti-Morphing Ray didn't work.
  • Belgarion does this at least twice in David Eddings' The Belgariad series:
    • First by using magic while manifesting remotely in a shadow-form (a spell universally recognized to only be good for communication and intelligence-gathering, since your shadow can't interact with anything physical).
    • Second, later by bringing a colt, and later, a person (Durnik) Back from the Dead, which is widely known to be utterly impossible for even the strongest practitioner - though it is suggested that this issue has more to do with power than anything else, and both times, he had a degree of help from the Necessity (and in the latter case, the Gods).
    • Belgarath the Sorcerer, the most ancient, most experienced, and (Belgarion aside) most powerful practitioner in the world, explains this by revealing that there really are no hard-and-fast rules about what 'The Will and The Word' can and cannot do, with one exception. Specifically, you can't unmake someone else - blowing it up, setting them on fire, that's fine. That's just changing the state of the various particles of their existence. Making them Not Be, on the other hand, is a very different matter. It's basically just a dumbed-down, simplified version of the same power the Gods used to create the world, and the only real limitations lie in the willpower and raw energy of the user.
      • Belgarion, being The Chosen One, has vast reserves of both (even before you take into account the Orb of Aldur, which is essentially a pet Reality Warper), enabling him to break most of the normal rules if he wants it bad enough - though as is pointed out on several occasions, this is not always a good thing, as he tends to be ignorant of the consequences (one storm in the wrong place and time nearly sets off another ice age).
  • In Jane Lindskold's Breaking the Wall trilogy, Brenda Morris shows a distinct tendency to do things she shouldn't be able to, such as manifesting powers exclusive to the group's Zodiac Rat while her father, the current Rat, is still alive and holding that power. It also causes her to be a Spanner in the Works for her enemies because she doesn't work the way they expect. This is eventually explained by Sidhe heritage on her mother's side.
  • Circleverse:
    • In Circle of Magic, at first all of the main characters run into this, using ambient magic, which is difficult to recognize compared to the normal form of magic. However, once they move to a school that specializes in ambient magic, this trope falls off.
    • The Circle Opens: In Magic Steps, Sandry has to figure out a mage whose magic can only just be described as "ambient" — he somehow manipulates sheer nothingness as a magical weapon, and his magic is exceptional in many ways.
      • On top of that, Sandry possesses, in addition to her thread magic, power to control magic itself.
    • In Battle Magic, Rosethorn, Briar and Evvy go to Yanjing as the honoured guests of the Emperor. The Emperor and his mages only half-believe that ambient magic exists, know nothing about it and don't really take them seriously. When they turn against the Emperor, they start battling him in ways he and his armies have never seen.
  • The Cosmere:
    • In the first three Mistborn books, where the magic of Allomancy is normally powered by eating metal, Vin can occasionally use exceptionally large amounts of power without any metal at all. This is later explained as the god who powers Allomancy in the first place giving her power-ups in key battles as part of his Batman Gambit to destroy a rival god.
      • This trope is also discussed when Vin discovers that she can see through "copperclouds", magic stealthing bubbles that are supposed to be completely invulnerable to penetration by Seekers, who can detect whenever magic is cast nearby. Thankfully, it isn't a GameBreaker. The trope is subverted, however, in the third book when it's revealed that Hemalurgy was affecting her, boosting her power to a higher level (apparently copperclouds aren't an absolute block, only a relative block, and Vin had very strong magic) which even had the side effect of preventing her from using the god of allomancy's magic.
    • We're also shown that its possible to break the rules by compounding allomancy and feruchemy, part of the lord ruler's attempt at eliminating feruchemy is to keep people from finding out that his power is merely allomancy mixed with feruchemy, letting him store properties like a feruchemist, then burn the store properties like an allomancer to get far more out than he put in.
    • The Stormlight Archive:
      • Wit/Hoid can manipulate emotions, cast illusions from sand, and comments on having achieved perfect pitch. None of these are covered by any of Roshar's Surges (magic disciplines), but all of which are present in (three different) magic systems of other Cosmere worlds, not to mention his use of Allomancy. It's also suggested since he understands the fundamentals of Investiture better he knows how to get around limits, such as using Stormlight instead of Breath to Awaken.
      • The Old Magic is this simply by name. No other magic system in the Cosmere is ever referred to as magic in-universe; this makes the Old Magic stand out as more alien. The Old Magic in general allows this, since it can create bizarre powers and curses that are completely outside of the normal context of magic in the setting, such as erasing memories temporarily, giving someone variable intelligence each day, or letting someone physically touch the normally-intangible spren.
      • Nightblood is able to use stormlight rather than Breath or life energy on Roshar.
      • All Surgbinding runs on a relatively limited supply of Stormlight, which can only be held in gemstones. Once that Stormlight runs out, they're just ordinary humans again, since there's no way to generate new Stormlight until a highstorm arrives. Lift, however, ignores this limitation, since her gift from the Old Magic lets her transform food she has eaten into Stormlight. As long as she can keep eating, she can keep using her powers.
  • In The Darksword Trilogy, there is Simkin, a mage who can draw mana without the aid of a second person, and work in all of the elements, something no other person in the setting can do. Near the end of the series, one character surmises that he may be the Anthropomorphic Personification of magic itself. This might explain why he was completely unprepared to deal with guns. And why he consequently came Back from the Dead.
  • Discworld: Equal Rites has Eskarina Smith, a girl who can do wizard magic in a world where "witch magic" and "wizard magic" are normally divided along gender lines. It's not actually impossible for any other magic users, but most others have tradition so ingrained into them that it doesn't occur to them that women can do wizard magic and men can do witch magic - and in a world that runs on belief and narrativum, that's a stronger block than it might seem. Esk proves to be really good at it. She can do things like teleport without a counterweight, simply because no one had told her that it's impossible.
    • In the context of the later series a witch being able to perform wizard-style spells is rare but not unique. Someone with a natural affinity for wizard magic learning witchcraft is.
    • There are also Sourcerors - literal sources of magic who don't have to obey the normal rules. To the point that the mere existence of a Sourceror in the world is enough to threaten the fabric of reality.
  • In Dragon Blood a wizard is fascinated by the magic that "follows" Ward, whom they have taken prisoner. He has never seen anything like it. The truth is much simpler, a dragon is following Ward. Dragon magic hasn't been around for hundreds of years.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Played for drama in Skin Game. Mortal high-level wizards cannot get close to technology because their magic shorts them out. When Harry sees fellow practitioner Molly Carpenter casually using a mobile phone without issue, it's a tragic reminder that they are no longer human and have become Lady of the Winter Fae.
    • Then there's Demonreach, which uses runes so far beyond ordinary magic that even Bob, who despite his perpetual horniness is one of the most intelligent spirits of intellect in the series, has trouble with them. It later turns out time travel was involved.
  • Harry Potter:
    • House Elves have magic that works differently from wizard magic. Among other things, they can apparate into and out of areas blocked against wizard apparition and can cast powerful spells without wands or incantations. However, they also come with a major Restraining Bolt: They apparently cannot use their magic if it would counteract their master's orders. Due to societal prejudice, most wizards do not take house elf magic into account when planning, making them very useful allies to those who do take them into account.
    • Most of the most common magic in Harry Potter runs on pretty strict Magic A Is Magic A rules, but the magical protection that Harry's mother gives him against Voldemort (powered by the Power of Love and her Heroic Sacrifice) does not, as far as we can tell, require any wandwork or Words of Power like typical spells. It provides Harry with near-total protection against Voldemort's Avada Kedavra (the Killing Curse), something previously thought impossible.
    • The Deathly Hallows are suspected to be artifacts once owned by Death himself, which would put them firmly outside the "ordinary" context of magic in the series, in a sort of Maybe Wrong Context Maybe Magic A situation. Given that we never actually see them do anything that can't be reproduced using various Magic A effects, it's more of a subversion. Dumbledore himself suggests that the three brothers who supposedly received the Hallows from Death were simply three gifted wizards who created the Hallows themselves.
      • The first of the Deathly Hallows is the Elder Wand. It is simply a more powerful than normal wand made out of non-standard materials. No other wand like it has been successfully made.
      • The Resurrection Stone allows you to summon the spirit of the dead. While no other item like it exists, it isn't the only known method of communicating with the dead and there are some known special circumstances that can summon spirits of the dead, so it is conceivable that an especially clever wizard could create it.
      • The last Deathly Hallow is an invisibility cloak. Invisibility cloaks are a well known magic item and skilled wizards can make themselves invisible with only a spell. This cloak is slightly odd because its invisibility never wears out.
    • Voldemort and also Snape have the ability to fly without a broomstick, a feat that supposedly violates the laws of magic.
    • At one point, Harry's wand saves his life by shooting golden flames at Voldemort all by itself and nobody knows how this is even possible, and some don't even believe him when he recounts this. Wands are not supposed to cast spells on their own. Harry doesn't get a possible explanation for why this happened until he meets Dumbledore in the afterlife and asks him about it.
  • Magic in the ancient language in the Inheritance Cycle is fairly consistent: casting a spell will always take a certain amount of energy taken from the caster, words most be spoken from the ancient language in order to cast, and there are many tasks that magic simply can't accomplish. Dragon magic, on the other hand, can do pretty much anything without limit, including straight-out Reality Warping in some cases. However, dragons can't consciously control their magic, and can only access it in under extreme emotional duress.
  • In the Iron Druid Chronicles, iron interferes with and absorbs many types of magic including druid and faerie magic. The protagonist is a druid who found a way to use an iron amulet to infuse his aura with the properties of iron in such a way that it does not interfere with his own magic. It is a revolutionary innovation that allows him to fight and defeat gods.
  • Ixia and Sitia: In Magic Study, the protagonist is being taught magic by a master wizard, but none of her powers work correctly. When challenged to focus her energy into pushing her instructor over, her instructor's legs give way. When given the simple (to anyone else) task of igniting a candle, she focuses and focuses and focuses, then the candle catches fire and the master is confused because it was their power that did it, under her control.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Tom Bombadil is the only character who is completely unaffected by the One Ring, and even in-universe, no one knows who or what he actually is or where his powers come from.
    • Word of God states that even J. R. R. Tolkien never knew the answer. He felt that Tom Bombadil should be a total enigma and chose not to give him a background, just existence.
  • Magic Ex Libris: Libriomancy runs on fairly consistent rules, magic items and sometimes spells can be obtained through literature, large-scale reality-warping, wishes, and time travel are impossible, giving yourself powers removes the ability to do libriomancy and e-readers don't count. Some cheat around these rules, like using cybernetics or symbiotes, but Jeneta can use e-readers for reasons no one understands, while Gutenberg Meridianna and later Isaac takes the rules more as guidelines.
  • In the Old Kingdom series, magic is normally region-locked to the eponymous nation, while south of the Wall (which is as much a magical as physical barrier) in Ancelstierre (a pretty blatant Fantasy Counterpart Culture of early-20th century England) it rapidly becomes weaker the further south you go and is essentially useless in most of the country (modern technology, not-coincidentally, breaks down if taken into the Old Kingdom). Unfortunately, the Destroyer is such a powerful source of Free Magic by itself that when it is moved (still as a Sealed Evil in a Can) to Ancelstierre, the energy it gives off lets its minions use their powers at full strength while technology fails — in effect, bringing the conditions of the Old Kingdom into a place where by all rights they shouldn't exist.
  • In Shadow of the Conqueror, Daylen's abilities with both sunforging and Lightbinding are well beyond anyone else's, allowing him to do things like sunforge darkstone or stack four bonds of Light at once. His sunforging comes from him being just that good at it, but his Lightbinding powers seem to have to do with the way he obtained them, which might not be the same process as the Vigil of the Archknights.
  • In Laura Joh Rowland's Shinju series, a series of detective novels set in Feudal Japan, there are minor elements of fantasy sprinkled in. In one book, the mythical Art of Kiai, the art of using one's voice as a weapon to kill instead of martial arms, is explored. In the beginning, Sano, the protagonist, assumes that only one who has mastered the martial arts to their highest degree is capable of such a feat. He later discovers, however, that it can also be used by someone whose rare physical disability(in this case what appears to be a form of Parkinson's) enables them to project their voice with the strength to kill.
  • Skulduggery Pleasant: A Neoteric is a sorcerer who didn't discover their magic until after their Surge (the moment where a sorcerer's magic is supposed to become "fixed") and didn't receive formal training in a magical discipline, so their magic is shaped by their personalities rather than training. The result is magic that either doesn't follow the usual rules of their discipline, such as Nero being a Teleporter who can teleport another person without touching them and bypass teleportation-proof barriers, or is wholly unique, such as Azzedine Smoke's corrupting influence or Cadaverous Gant's ability to manipulate the inside of his home.
  • In the Sword of Truth series, the protagonist Richard grew up in a land without magic, so he doesn't really understand the limits of what magic can do. A running theme through the books is that Richard proposes something, only to have his companions explain, "Magic doesn't work that way." (Usually, he tries it anyhow and it turns out that, for him at least, magic does work that way.)
    • Early on in the series, in the first and second books, Zedd explains that most magic works on changing or altering the properties of elements that are already there. Fireballs can be created by stoking even the tiniest flame, hair can be grown by stimulating the smallest potential for growth, etc. But this is all based on Additive Magic, which at the beginning of the story is the only kind wizards have, so they are handicapped compared to the wizards of yore who possessed both. While with imagination and skill they can achieve quite a lot, they still have to work within bounds that the ancient wizards could simply ignore. Richard, who is the only wizard to have both Additive and Subtractive magic, has his magic work based on need and emotion. Because he's not handicapped by the need to work around the lack of Subtractive, his gift instinctually seeks out the easiest path toward what he wants to achieve. Since no other character has his exact magic, no other character can teach him, and when after several books Zedd is finally in a position to teach Richard, he declines, as since Richard has been able to achieve so much by pure instinct, he doesn't want to teach him anything that would suggest limits to what he can do.
  • In the Tortall Universe, Daine's Wild Magic serves this purpose. While it isn't a power unique to her (Daine's uniqueness being the sheer level of her power due to her being a demgoddess), it is largely regarded as an old wives' tale by most scholars in-universe. Among Daine's enemies, those who do know about Wild Magic and don't discount it offhand end up viewing and treating it like the regular human Gift that is fairly commonplace throughout the setting. Unfortunately for them, Wild Magic functions in nowhere near the same fashion, which leads to their efforts to contain or hamper Daine's power being completely useless.
  • In The Wheel of Time, the standard accepted form of magic is channeling the One Power, which is a genetic, sex-segregated geometric magic that can do just about anything and in sufficient strength makes a channeler a Person of Mass Destruction. But popping up in the series are people who can do strange things that are apparently not related to the One Power, such as dream walkers, wolfbrothers, Min's Aura Vision, and the ability to smell past deeds of violence. Most of these powers have at least a handful of people tied to them, but not so many that most people have heard of it. Because time in the setting is, per the title, cyclical, these are cases of The Magic Comes Back, though there is no remaining record of them having existed and gone away. Combined with the fact that our own world is a past era of the setting, and Rand's increased Reality Warper power in the ending of the final book, the suggestion is that the nature of magic changes in some significant way with the passing of every Age. In particular, Slayer and Padan Fain are stated to be unique entities even in the Pattern, and the first of their kind.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Kamen Rider:
    • In Kamen Rider Wizard, Kamen Rider Beast uses a more ancient form of magic than the other wizards, which causes some strange interactions:
      • The main difference is that Beast can't generate his own mana and needs to consume Phantoms in order to get it, leading to some wacky misunderstandings as he thinks Wizard's magic works the same way and they're competing with each other over who gets to defeat Phantoms.
      • In one episode, Wizard and Beast accidentally swap Rings Of Power. Beast's rings work drastically differently in Wizard's hands: while the Dolphin Ring is supposed to grant healing and swimming ability, instead Wizard can leap into and out of the ground as though it was water; and the Falcon Ring lets Wizard dissolve into a mass of feathers to avoid attacks and then re-form instead of its normal power of Flight. Meanwhile, Beast can't even use Wizard's rings, since he has to insert them into a slot on his belt and the modern ring style won't fit due to being the wrong shape.
      • By the end, though, the differences in Beast's powers become plot-important: the White Wizard can't use Beast in his plans because of his incompatible magic, so he summarily ignores him and dismisses him as a threat. As a result, when the White Wizard captures the other wizards and uses their magic to try to sacrifice all of Tokyo in a ritual, Beast is the only one free to stop him.
    • In the Kamen Rider Ex-Aid tie-in miniseries Kamen Sentai Gorider, Kuroto Dan sets up a video game world and draws in a handful of former Kamen Riders in one of his schemes. Unfortunately, one of them is Kamen Rider Blade, who operates by the rules of his own series' Battle Fight. Dan's plan fails because he ends up triggering the Battle Fight's Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies condition, dooming the game world.
    • In Kamen Rider Zi-O, the villains mess with time to steal the powers of previous Kamen Riders and turn people into Evil Knockoffs — but things tend to hit snags when taking the munitiae of the Riders' own powers into account. For instance, Kamen Rider Den-O is immune to time alterations, so he keeps his powers even when his knockoff is made. Kamen Rider Ryuga originated in a pocket dimension in an alternate timeline, complicating efforts to get the means to fight him. The Kamen Rider Blade episodes ran afoul of the same Battle Fight complications as in the above-mentioned Gorider. Kamen Rider Agito has strict rules on who his powers can be passed to and how, and so on and so forth.

  • Jemjammer: The Ring of Flying that Aelfgifu looted from a mad cleric in Krynn has unwanted side effects when taken out of its sphere of origin, something the gods there are notably capricious about. It causes her to blink in between her own reality and the Feywild.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Vancian Magic is used as its core spellcasting system, but the dozens and dozens of sourcebooks introduced over the years have added Psionics, Pact Magic, Shadow Magic, Truenaming, Invocations and some, but not all, of the Martial Adept classes. In the case of psionics, the Expanded Psionics Handbook has no less than two sets of alternate rules for running a "psionics are just different" campaign, though Dungeon Masters also have the option to avert this trope and treat magic and psionics as functionally identical when it comes to things like spell resistance.
    • Epic-level spells aren't chosen from a list like normal spells, they're invented by the caster using a separate set of rules.
    • Deities, depending on the sourcebook, can cast such epic spells automatically, or else have Divine Salient Abilities that replicate their effects.
  • The Classic and New World of Darkness are Fantasy Kitchen Sinks where this crops up a lot:
    • Mages from Mage: The Ascension are like this among themselves: because every Tradition has its own paradigm (i.e., viewpoint of Reality and how it can be manipulated), it can be rather unusual when two mages see each other replicating the same effect (for example, breaking a table) using the same Spheres (in this example, Entropy) with completely different Foci. A more focused version happens within the Sons of Ether tradition; their organizational flaw is that their adherence to personal science means that an individual Etherite's paradigm may run on theories completely counter to another Etherite's paradigm, let alone that of any other awakened being. This can result in rivalries... sometimes, ones not confined to editorial sniping in publications.
    • Mages in Mage: The Awakening view the "magic" used by any other supernatural creatures this way, ranging from the Disciplines of vampires to the Gifts of werewolves to the Contracts of changelings. They know that all true magic derives from the Supernal Realms, so they're trying real damn hard to figure out just how beings with no Supernal connection can work their tricks — especially because some of them have advantages that Supernal Magic lacks.
    • And then there's The God-Machine, whose understanding of occult and science and its mastery of Gambit Roulette is so advanced, it can combine all 3 to create effects which other Supernaturals in the setting would consider impossible. Yes, that includes The Archmasters.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Adeptus Mechanicus knows that technology functions with the help of "machine spirits" that must be placated with chanting, incense, consecrated engine oil, and occasionally a ritualistic tap with a wrench. As such, they find non-humans' technology unnerving at best - Ork "teknology" appears to work because the greenskins terrorize their machine-spirits into submission, while the Tau's technology is highly sophisticated, yet the aliens show no reverence for it at all, and treat their devices as mere tools.
    • And believe it or not, they might be right. To clarify, the Adeptus Mechanicus believes that machines have within them "machine spirits" (what these are is ambiguous, with the most common interpretation being that they are low level AIs) that must be appeased in order for them to work properly. The thing is, at least in the mechanicus' case, they might actually be right, with some tales from in universe claiming such things as tanks fighting on after their crew had been killed when properly appeased or weapons firing without their power source, while a machine spirit that has not may well break down or explode on the user at the most inopportune time.
    • As for the Orks, a good deal of their tools effectiveness runs off so called "Waaagh" energy, and without it, their tools would either be greatly impaired or cease functioning entirely. In extreme cases guns will fire without ammo or vehicles run without fuel simply because an Ork failed to notice.
  • In Magic: The Gathering:
    • Any Planeswalker is going to invoke this, since their entire power is the ability to use magic from many different planes.
    • Chandra Nalaar's plane of origin, Kaladesh, was a plane of Magitek where innate magic was virtually unknown. Her pyromancy manifesting was quite a paradigm shift.

    Video Games 
  • Dark Souls III has a Downplayed example: while all games series featured the holy-themed Miracles, offensive spells have always been variations of lightning, such as lightning spears and enchanting weapons with lightning. However a select Miracles associated with the Angelic religion of Lothric, such as Blessed Weapon, Divine Pillars of Light and Prince Lothric's magic are all MUCH more akin to the standard Light 'em Up of holy magic, and gameplay wise actually deal physical damage instead of elemental ones.
  • God of War (PS4): When Atreus falls ill and Freya needs an ingredient found only in Helheim in order to cure him, Kratos is told that Helheim is a land of deathly cold where no magic from the Nine Realms can sustain a flame, likewise the frost axe that he's been relying on up to this point would be useless against the undead there. Out of options and desperate to save his son, Kratos is forced to unearth the Blades of Chaos which, due to being forged by Greek magic, are able to maintain their fire even in Helheim. Lampshaded by Brok who immediately starts marvelling over the Blades of Chaos the first time he sees them.
    Brok: What? Hey! You reek of foreign magick. Sweet Nanna's nethers, what are those? I've never seen the like.
  • Kingdom Hearts has a thing with this trope, especially where Pirates of the Caribbean is concerned.
    • In Kingdom Hearts II, Sora and company can kill The Undead from Curse of the Black Pearl. Normally it's impossible, but they deduce it must be because they're from a different world and "their rules are different." Pete has figured this out in advance and tries to warn them, but Barbossa's crew isn't exactly renowned for their intelligence. During their second visit, they're likewise unaffected by a Heartless that re-curses Jack, and Luxord is able to steal the cursed gold without being affected.
    • In Kingdom Hearts III, the Organization is keeping an eye on Davy Jones and the Dead Man's Chest because they're fascinated by how he can still exist with his heart separated from his body, rather than becoming a Nobody. Except, inside the chest is Jones's literal organ and not the series' standard metaphysical heart. When Vexen sees this he decides that he's been wasting his time and leaves the world annoyed.
    • In multiple games, the Disney characters with magic like Merlin and the Fairy Godmother are shown to be capable of feats that violate the normal rules the rest of the cast are bound to, such as being able to affect the past with time travel or teleport to places you can't reach by just flying there. Their abilities breaking the rules is sometimes called out, but no explanation is ever offered.
  • The Power of Words in Yggdra Union and Blaze Union, which only Nessiah can utilize. The plot never calls for it to be used, but suffice it to say that the Power of Words created Magic A, the Tactics Cards. Blaze Union treats Nessiah's alleged ability of prophecy the same way, since seeing the future is supposed to be impossible using orthodox magic. With good reason—Nessiah seems to use the label of "prophet" to his advantage, so that he can plausibly discuss facts and theories that no person who doesn't have a thousand years of observing humans and a literal eye in another country could know.
  • Final Fantasy XV has a crossover quest featuring characters from Final Fantasy XIV, who have been teleported from Eorzea to Eos. The basic plot of the quest follows Noctis and his entourage working together to stop the summoned primal Garuda. Purely magical beings are very rare on Eos and number only daemons, Astrals, and their Messengers. Garuda is neither a daemon, nor Astral, nor messenger: she is, in essence, a sentient mass of aether given shape and will by the minds of her devotees, the Ixal. There is no aether on Eos, but the Ixal brought there are apparently able to pull Eorzean aether through the Rift by channeling energy from meteorshards. On the heroes' side, Miq'ote arcanist Y'jhimei is able to use straight-up healing magic, which similarly doesn't exist on Eos; the healing items in the game are described as energy drinks and the like given power by the magic of Lucian kings, and the offensive magic in the game is specifically a gift from the Crystal that Lucis controls.
  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn pulls this on the series' classical-elements system with the introduction of Light and Dark Psynergy, opening up a lot of questions that remain unanswered.
  • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, the opening of a massive Hell Gate known as the Breach alters the fundamental rules of magic, with effects ranging from the mildly unusual to the theoretically impossible - a Tevinter magister discovers Time Travel, although it's very unstable and he can't go back to before the Breach existed. The Rift Mage specialization is a nascent school of magic that focuses on manipulating the energies of the Fade in ways that were not previously possible.
  • Pokémon:
    • Many Pokémon possess type combinations that appear to contradict each other, but few more so than the Mythical Pokemon Volcanion. Who is a Fire/Water type. It uses its typing to generate powerful steam. An NPC suspects that it has an organ within its body that can instantly vaporize water, but apparently this is completely unheard of in Pokémon biology.
    • There are various ways that Pokémon can imitate the attacks of enemies or allies in combat, or even transform into a copy of the opponent, but these effects always end when the battle ends... except for Smeargle's "Sketch" attack, which allows it to permanently learn the attack its enemy just used. Smeargle can't learn attacks (other than Sketch) by any other means, making it a tricky character to use, but in theory it can have almost any moveset.
    • One Pokémon completely breaks the rules of the game's internal mechanics. All Pokemon stats are determined by a strict formula - except Shedinja's HP stat. It can only ever have one (1) Hit Point, which would be impossible if it used the game's general stat formula.
  • Magic in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is Magic from Technology, channeled through Quartz and Orbments. So when one party member is able to perform more traditional magic naturally, it's a hint they're much more than they appear. It turns out they're a member of an ancient witch clan who knows about events hundreds of years past, and one of the Anguis of Ouroboros is also a member of this clan.
    • The Trails Series as a whole has the Divergent Laws, a descriptor applied to objects and phenomena that produce effects that can be explained by neither science nor scripture. As the name implies, they don't follow the physical laws of the world created by the goddess Aidios, because they originate from another world entirely.
    • In Trails of Cold Steel, one of the main reasons Rean Schwarzer grew up fearful of his ogre power is that it is something so uncontrollable, unexplainable and unlike anything you can find in Zemuria.
  • Myst IV: Revelation: Atrus writes linking books that can teleport him to other worlds, but when he's told of a flower that allows people to talk to the dead, he thinks it's just hallucinogenic gas.
    • In the series as a whole, Catherine's books seem to be this, regularly breaking the rules of the Art as Atrus knew them. Notably, the flower mentioned above is a product of a world that one of Catherine's books links to.
  • On account of being a crossover series, there are many, many, many times in the Super Robot Wars series that seemingly iron-clad abilities, technology, or even outright magic are overridden courtesy of something from a different canon. Easy examples of which include Gaiking's Flame being a natural counter to the Overdevil's Overfreeze, the Excellence's Time-Flow Engine being able to counter the timestop powers of the Fury's Larselium, and Chou-hi Zeta from SD Gundam being able to absorb the electricity from Dr. Minami's MR-1, even though everyone else is vulnerable to it. One of the earliest was the functionality of Universal Century and After Colony Mobile Suits when Mobile Suit Gundam SEED is used. It boils down to nuclear fusion and nuclear fission being two different power types.
  • In The Elder Scrolls, conventional magic involves set principles studied by mages over millennia and uses the magicka flowing into the world from the realm of Aetherius through the stars and sun. However, certain esoteric powers such as the Thu'um and Dwemer technology do not play by these rules and confuse those who study conventional magic. These forms of magic use "tonal architecture" to manipulate the "Earth Bones" - the bodies of the divine beings used to build the world - making it more akin to reality manipulation instead of normal magic.
  • While everyone else in Guilty Gear uses magic, the Japanese are unique in their natural affinity for channeling ki, causing the last few surviving Japanese to be rounded up and locked up in sealed colonies by the IPF, allegedly for their own protection, but in reality for study and experimentation. There are a few non-Japanese ki users, however, such as Chipp and Kliff.
    • There's also the lack of magic or supernatural abilities in a highly-magical setting. Old world technology, which was outlawed soon after the discovery of magic, is still used by the nation of Zepp in characters like Robo-Ky and Potemkin. Black Tech in the Guilty Gear universe is the equivalent of showing up to a wizard duel with a Glock.
  • Genshin Impact: The Traveler's magic is strange to the world of Teyvat. For starters, they take magic from the Statues of the Seven, rather than being gifted a Vision from the gods to wield magic with. This allows them to wield more than one element in battle, unlike other people who are limited to one. Secondly, corruption has absolutely no effect on them; while Vision users suffer intense pain when trying to touch something corrupted, the Traveler ignores this and even purifies corruption if they hold onto something corrupted long enough. This is exploited by Albedo, who gifts them a cursed sword that cannot affect the Traveler. Mona, a skilled Seer, is also powerless to see the Traveler's fate in the stars. All this is after the Traveler lost most of their power, by the way.
  • The collaboration event in Monster Girl Quest! Paradox RPG has characters from seven other worlds enter the Monster Girl Quest world. This results in many instances of this trope, the most notable being the introduction of Nightmares: special succubi with immunity to anything other than pleasure attacks, and the ability to ignore resistances with their own pleasure attacks (though they also cannot do damage with anything other than pleasure attacks, and they cannot gain any resistance to pleasure attacks).
  • Persona 5: In the Updated Re-release Persona 5 Royal Maruki has both a Palace and a Persona, which were thought to be mutually exclusive, much to the confusion of the Phantom Thieves.
  • Persona 5 Strikers: Morgana is very confused when Sophia summons Pithos for the first time. It acts like a Persona, but comes out of nowhere. Sophia was only copying the actual Persona users and does not know what a Persona is. Pithos's stat screen adds to the confusion- unlike any Persona it has no Arcana and its skills have question marks at the end of their names. Sophia eventually has a proper awakening after studying the heart and Pithos becomes a normal Persona, Pandora, gaining an Arcana and losing the question marks in the process.

    Web Animation 
  • Winds up being invoked in both directions in If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, during the brief Warhammer crossover. A Custodian shield captain with loads of genetic enhancements from the 40th millenium and literally centuries of training and experience possesses almost godlike powers compared to the denizens of a Medieval European Fantasy setting, so much so that their weapons are unable to even scratch his skin. Unfortunately for the custodian, being in a fantasy roleplay setting also makes him subject to its rules. He winds up being laid low despite his overwhelming advantages due to a combination of absurdly lucky dice rolls and a low willpower stat.
  • RWBY: Humanity doesn't believe magic exists, but the Four Maidens secretly possess powers that neither humans nor trained Huntsmen can wield, and which don't come from either Dust or Semblances. Unlike Semblances, this power can be wielded even if a Maiden's Aura has broken. Remnant's secret history reveals that humanity has existed twice, originally gifted with magic before being destroyed by the gods and re-evolving into a fractured remnant of itself that can't wield magic. Two members of the original humans exist — the Big Bad and the Big Good. Except for the Big Bad, all magic on Remnant originates from the Big Good: he created the Maidens, fathered the two progenitors of the Silver-Eyed Warriors, and gifted Qrow and Raven Branwen with the ability to shapeshift into their namesake birds.

    Web Comics 
  • In Blindsprings, Tamaura can do things with ease that costs others many years of training. She's a long-lost princess of the realm, and the bloodline is tied to the spirits of the country, or something like that.
  • The Order of the Stick does this with D&D rules (mostly). For an example, there's a strip where Durkon uses Control Weather to attack a group of treants warded against electrical attacks... by generating a thunderclap so loud that it breaks the treants in half without harming anything else. When an angel tells Thor that that's not how the spell works, Thor tells him to be quiet because it was awesome. A later incident had Durkon wonder why he couldn't run faster in his Thor's Might mode despite being 15-feet tall. Cue Tiger of the Southern Pantheon growling a warning against Odin and Thor. This and some of the background material suggests clerics can have greater effects in their home continent's domain at the behest of their god, which in turn cannot be done in another continent due to the rules by which the gods abide by.
  • Sinfest never uses the word "magic", but Squigley's shamanic powers are very different from the abilities demonstrated by angels and demons, and seem to come from a different source. (This may be related to the fact that Squigley is the only explicitly nonhuman character who can survive in the reality zone, although that might just be Continuity Creep from what was originally intended as a one-off joke.)
  • Drowtales:
    • Kiel'ndia is the only character in the story who's aware she's in a comic, and additionally actually speaks to the readers. Later in the story it's revealed that the reason she can do this is because the seed she was "tainted" with (i.e. merged her soul with) is actually made of humans, specifically the readers of the comic itself, explaining her strange powers.
    • Seers were originally mentioned as being able to predict the future in some limited and sometimes uncontrollable fashion, getting visions of events and dangers to come, but it was partially retconned (mainly to limit this trope as much as possible) as having the ability to feel other people's emotions and motives with varying strength, range and control. It can be used as a form of Combat Clairvoyance.
  • Happens several times in TwoKinds. Originally, the Keidran learned how to use magic by storing Mana in special crystals — no crystals, no source of magical energy, no spells. Then the Humans appeared, learned the magical arts of the Keidran, and proceeded to break the rules by drawing mana directly from the surrounding environment, usually killing nearby plant-life and small animals in the process. This came with its own drawbacks, namely what happens if you kept drawing energy from the land after all the nearby sources ran out. They then compensated for THAT by building huge towers that stored enormous amounts of mana that nearby human spellcasters could draw on. Then main character Trace is shown to be capable of using Black Magic without the usual associated side-effects of 'permanent insanity', instead getting away with nothing more than a temporary Unstoppable Rage and a Red Right Hand. And finally, the Basitin were well-known to have NO magical power whatsoever... until someone figured out how to break THAT rule, too. (Hint: It was the humans. Humans are really not big on rules, as it turns out.) Except that Basitin brains can't handle magic and it's a Templar plot to trick the Basitin leadership into lobotomizing themselves.
  • In Stand Still, Stay Silent, this seems to be how Icelandic and Finnish magic interact with each other. The mages that get focus in the story are two Finnish cousins with some experience and a budding Icelandic one, making the latter come across as the odd one. The Finnish ones can see all kinds of spirits while the Icelandic one can only see a specific type of ghost and omens. Another difference can be found in the dream world, in which each mage has a protected area and the protected areas are separated by an expanse of water overcast by a black sky that fans have nicknamed the "chatroom". That "chatroom" appears to Finnish mages as large and uniform with spirit birds of sorts marking the entrances of protected areas, which are otherwise invisible and possibly have a Pocket Dimension connection to it. They are also unable to walk into another mage's area without being let in. To the Icelandic mage, the inside of other protected areas are perfectly visible and appear as various small islands populating the chatroom. He can also casually walk into them as if their protections didn't exist, helped even more by the fact that some are only a few steps away from each other.
  • Time travel in Homestuck follows very strict rules: You Already Changed the Past, and you must complete the Stable Time Loop under threat of being spun off into a timeline where everyone is going to die, goal unaccomplished. Late into the comic, John gets a completely different power: the ability to travel through the narrative, which gives him Retconjuration abilities, as well as the ability to travel between universes instantaneously.
  • Magic in Unsounded generally follows very strict rules—the Background Magic Field only responds to mathematically-precise spoken instructions from someone who has gone through a complex ritual to activate their magic. That is, unless you're a "tacit caster" who can skip both the ritual and the speaking, allowing you to cast spells wordlessly from an early age. This doesn't seem to be a skill you can learn, but some sort of rare genetic trait. The only named characters capable of this are Duane and his daughter Mikaila, a Posthumous Character.
  • Daughter of the Lilies:
    • In her backstory, Thistle was able to heal a baby's congenitally stunted lungs, which is described as beyond the realm of conventional Healing Hands. This might be a creative workaround, as air magic was involved, but is implied to have something to do with the patronage of the One Who Is Three.
    • Wizards are a unique case in-universe because many of the rules of magic simply don't apply to them. For instance, they live for centuries and have inexhaustible Mana, whereas normal mages can run out and have to wait for it to regenerate. These are strongly implied to be a favour granted by the One Who Is Three.
  • El Goonish Shive: Magic is known to function differently depending on which dimension you're in. Magus, however, is still able to use much of his normal magic despite being from a different dimension. When he's taken over Elliot's body and so is on the physical plane, anyway. Sirleck calls him out on this, and Magus implies that he has absolutely no idea how he's able to.
  • Old Alemi magic is not based on tshetsha unlike everything else in Anecdote of Error, which most people have no idea about, so the builders of the school’s dungeon didn’t take that into account, and so Luntsha can free Zeya effortlessly, by summoning the key.

    Web Original 
  • Tales of MU runs on this where the laws of magic will change if they detect someone trying to figure them out. In-universe, science is a heavily discredited pseudo-, uh, science, much like people who believe in All-Natural Snake Oil in the real world. How, then, does the heavy use of Magitek work, in-universe? Carefully. Examining a complex spell too closely can break it. Since the local equivalent of television works in a way that no one believes should work, people are afraid to look too deeply into why for fear that it suddenly won't.
  • Elcenia follows the First Contact between two worlds with different magic systems, and the use of one world's magic in the other.
  • The Gods Are Bastards has a firm and solid Magic A Is Magic A Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors system in the circle of interaction, opposing magics (infernal and divine, nature/fae and arcane) react explosively with the stronger magic overwhelming and destroying the weaker, while going clockwise around the circle each magic can casually negate the one next to it (divine trumps fae trumps infernal trumps arcane trumps divine) and can also absorb/corrupt or harness and convert that magic. But exceptions exist.
    • Priestkillers are demons who can absorb divine energy to get stronger, they are extremely rare and powerful however.
    • Fross is a pixie, normally a bottomless well of elemental fae magic, but can convert fae magic into arcane, a thus-far unique gift.
    • There are also magics outside the system, under the general heading of "shadow magic." The most prominent examples being Lovecraftian Chaos magic and shadow-jumping.
    • A half-demon Gabriel Arquin is made a paladin and wielder of holy power, which normally burns demons and demonbloods indiscriminately. As the God who empowered him said, they get to set the rules.
    • Holy Summoners use divine magic to summon and control demons, though this is noted to be a crude and inefficient process compared to traditional infernal diabolism.

    Web Videos 
  • Critical Role has the magic of Dunamancy in its second campaign, which falls outside the usual schools of magic and can be used to manipulate things like time, gravity, and luck. The Empire is desperate to learn more of it, while the nation of Xhorhas has known for some time and uses it for reincarnation purposes, including with its more-than-thousand-year-old queen.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra:
    • The Avatar is fused with the spirit of light and peace, and therefore has a bunch of abilities not available to normal people. He or she can learn all four Elemental Powers instead of just one, plus spiritually-related additional powers such as communicating with past lives or briefly adding these past incarnations' skills and strength to his/her own, which amplifies their bending to epic proportions. Spirits on the whole are in a different class than "mundane" bending of the elements, and Sokka usually lampshades them when they come up; he eventually just waves it all off with "That's Avatar stuff; it doesn't count."
    • There are also examples of people who break the known rules of bending. Some are explained as manipulating old rules in new ways, which any bender can do when taught how (earthbenders can't bend metal, but Toph discovers that they can bend earthen impurities in metal), but others still qualify as Wrong Context Magic:
      • Most bending involves heavy use of Supernatural Martial Arts, so it's noticable when someone is able to bend the elements with very minor or even no movement. The first is King Bumi, who earthbends while restrained from head to toe ("but they didn't cover my face!"). Yakone and Amon, described below, also demonstrate this, as part of showing that they're just that powerful. Ming-Hua takes this to an extreme, as she has no arms yet can still effectively waterbend, using malleable water tentacles in their place.
      • Lightning can only be generated by a firebender who can clear his mind of emotion and distraction — something the internally conflicted Zuko finds himself unable to pull off. However in the end Azula seems to have no difficulties wielding it during a Villainous Breakdown. It's possible that her mind was indeed clear of emotion and distraction; she was completely focused on killing her brother. The power-up from Sozin’s Comet likely also had something to do with it.
      • Rather than normal firebending, Combustion Man can instead make things explode with his mind. P'Li can do the same, even better than Combustion Man did (being able to "curve her shots") and in addition to normal firebending, though by this point it's apparently been adopted into context and given the official name of "combustionbending".
      • Yakone and his sons Tarrlok and Noatak, aka Amon can extend their waterbending abilities to other peoples' body fluids (called "bloodbending"), without the external power boost of the full moon that was thought to be necessary. This again is lampshaded by Sokka in a flashback, as he admits it breaks the known rules but notes that he's seen such rule-breaking before (citing Toph and Combustion Man), so they shouldn't dismiss it as impossible. The show suggests that it's simply a quirk of genetics that has made them powerful enough to pull such a thing off.
      • Amon can rob others of their bending abilities (which only Avatar Aang knew how to do) and resist having his own blood bent by a waterbender. In each instance it's lampshaded that he should not be able to do these things, though he claims he was chosen by the spirits and therefore exempt from the normal rules. Subverted, as when explained it turns out to follow normal bending rules: as noted above he's an immensely powerful waterbender, and robbing others of bending stems from his bloodbending in an implied combination with waterbender medical abilities and/or known techniques that block chi flow and impair bending. A waterbender powerful enough to bloodbend without moving would also logically be able to resist being bloodbent.
      • Book 3 of The Legend of Korra features an evil team of benders, most of whom demonstrate "wrong context" abilities. Besides Ming-Hua the armless waterbender and P'Li the combustionbender mentioned above, Ghazan the earthbender can melt earth into lava and bend that. Near the end of the season, Bolin also manages to lavabend. The fourth member of the group is Zaheer, who is by all counts a normal airbender — the odd thing about him is that he's an Instant Expert at it, but that's justified by his having studied airbending for a long time before receiving the ability, and his skill doesn't come close to a true master. His main gimmick is that he's using Airbending (which rewards evasive and defense tactics) in an extremely aggressive style more reminiscent of Firebending; an actual master of Air can counter it easily, but nobody else knows how to deal with it. That is, until he figures out the trick to some actual nonstandard abilities, levitation and flight.
  • In The Dragon Prince, elves and dragons, as well as certain other animals, are born with an "arcanum" that connects them to one of the six Primal Sources. Humans are not. They can only do magic by a.) using a Primal Stone that's connected to one of the Sources, or b.) using Dark Magic, which drains the power from a magical creature. The latter would have been considered this trope when it was first discovered, but it's well-established (if controversial) by the time the series takes place. The season two finale threw things for a loop, however, when Callum, a human, figured out the Sky arcanum, meaning that he can do Sky magic.
    • Aaravos, a Startouch elf, is naturally able to control all six Primal Sources. As far as we know, he's the only one who can do so, and how has yet to be explained.
    • Ezran Speaks Fluent Animal. Word of God says that this is supposed to show that he's extremely empathetic, but concedes that the show basically presents it as an inexplicable superpower.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, according to Word of God, has three different kinds of magic: unicorns can cast various spells and usually have one iconic spell related to their special talent (Rarity's gem-finding spell is a perfect example), pegasi have powers such as cloud walking and tactile telekinesis that allows them to tow stuff while flying, and earth ponies have a more subtle variety that gives them enhanced strength, endurance, and a closer connection to the earth than the other two races. And Alicorns have All Your Powers Combined and Up to Eleven. There are exceptions to this:
    • Pinkie Pie has her "Pinkie Sense"; odd jitters and twitches connected to some odd, unexplained power of premonition, with specific tics predicting specific events or situations. She also has the ability to be exactly where she needs to be to fill whatever joke she is currently enforcing. For example, in "Green Isn't Your Color" she is always hiding exactly where Twilight Sparkle is whenever Twilight is about to break a promise. She even bursts out of Twilight's mouth. This second ability is probably not "magic" per se, but simply a result of Pinkie Pie living under the laws of Toon Physics. The Season 8 finale even implied that her toon physics are an actual magic ability; the scene that depicts all the unicorns and alicorns magic returning also has a ball of magic return to Pinkie Pie's nose.
    • While the Pinkie Sense hasn't been explained, one episode features another pony, also in the party planning business, who has an identical ability.
    • Pinkie's older sister Maud, who is likewise an earth pony, has a "Maud Sense" that allows her to track down lost objects.
    • Fluttershy, a pegasus, has the ability to connect with animals in a way that is more reminiscent of an earth pony than a pegasus. This may be a Shout-Out to the fact her G3 namesake was an earth pony, and in development it was considered to make her one as well. She also has The Stare which is closer to Psychic Power than magic.
    • The Everfree Forest is a place where nature works by itself. Normally, the ponies themselves make adjustments to nature, e.g. pegasi changing the weather, Celestia raising the sun, Luna bringing night, etc. Naturally, the ponies of Ponyville are terrified of the place. This is made worse by all manner of monstrous mythical creatures such as manticores, cockatrices, Ursa Majors, and the odd dragon making their homes here. Oh, and Zecora, hence her initially chilly reception.
    • Zecora the zebra is able to put curses on the main characters, despite "curses" not existing in this universe (at least according to Twilight Sparkle). Subverted in that the "curses" are side-effects of the plants the characters are standing in and Zecora had nothing to do with. While most of Zecora's "magic" is based on her ample knowledge of flora and potions, she does, at one point, appear to refill an empty teacup with a wave of her hoof.
    • Discord is a Draconequus, a type of being never seen before or since, and possesses magic unlike anything else in the show. As the spirit of Chaos itself, his magic produces what is pretty much pure chaos and insanity. Even when his magic is taken from him and transferred to other characters, they can't actually control it if they try to use it, with Cozy Glow's attempt to do so backfiring on her embarrassingly. The only other one they work for is Pinkie Pie.
    • King Sombra's an evil example, having enough Black Magic to be a One-Man Army. Among other things, he can use kingdom-wide Gemstone Assaults, curse whole areas into vanishing, become a Living Shadow monster, seal others' magic, Mind Rape masses, regenerate from harm, and make Pocket Dimensions of stairs and traps to hide his Achilles' Heel. These, mixed with his Crazy-Prepared defense plans, make him almost as broken as Discord.
    • For another villainous example, the centaur Lord Tirek is shown to be capable of forcefully draining the magic of any earth pony, pegasus, unicorn, or alicorn. This causes any pony to lose their innate power and abilities, even those specific to their race, and causes their cutie mark to vanish. It can even drain Discord's magic. A similar ability was demonstrated uniquely by the alicorns, who transferred their magic to Twilight, but only voluntarily.
    • In yet another villainous example, Starlight Glimmer is a seemingly ordinary unicorn who possesses a personal spell that can both remove a pony's Cutie Mark and replace it with a new one, an equal sign that makes the pony in question no better than the average pony at anything. Previously in the series, Cutie Marks were stated to be mysterious things that just show up on a pony's body after a realization on what made them special. They couldn't be forced upon others, and nothing short of draining a pony's magic was able to remove them. In another example, Starlight Glimmer develops a working means of Time Travel for the season 5 finale. As previously seen in "It's About Time", the best available time travel spell only allows one to travel back to the past for a few moments. By tapping into the Cutie Map, Starlight's spell lets her travel into the past whenever and wherever she wishes to change the world by altering the past.
  • The Real Ghostbusters,
    • The heroes usually deal with supernatural menaces, but in "Loathe Thy Neighbor", their clients are an oddball family who live in a house full of supernatural things. (Kind of a pastiche of The Addams Family and The Munsters) but are troubled by a haunting there. Egon eventually discovers that the problem is not a supernatural being, but a paranatural being. The difference, as he explains, Supernatural means something that was once human like a ghost, while Paranatural means a being of completely alien life, not from our world.
    • The Boogeyman, one of the few recurring villains in the series, is referred to as a "solid, trans-dimensional creature" (meaning not composed of ectoplasm, like ghosts are) which gives him a major advantage against the Ghostbusters. While the P.K.E Meter can still be used to track him, the proton throwers do little but annoy him, and he's impervious to the traps.
    • Trolls and gremlins seem to be similar to the Boogeyman. In both cases, the heroes have to outsmart them to solve the problem.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Dathomir Nightsisters are Force users but they use it in a totally different way than all other characters, as Allyan Magic.
  • Steven Universe:
    • In the show's Fake Crossover with Uncle Grandpa, the Crystal Gems are completely freaked out by Uncle Grandpa's wacky Reality Warping and attack him as a threat to both Steven and the planet.
    • Fusion is a normal thing with Gems, but Steven managed to fuse with the completely human Connie to create Stevonnie. The other Crystal Gems (especially Pearl) were confused how they managed it. Also, pure Gems identify and present as female while Stevonnie is a fusion of a male half-gem and a female human, making their gender a mystery.
    • Likewise, Pearl suggested that an organic organism probably couldn't fuse with a normal Gem anyway, since their bodies are made of Hard Light. Then Steven and Amethyst managed to form Smoky Quartz.
    • In a way, Steven's entire existence is Wrong Context Magic. He is the first Half-Gem-Half-Organic-Being to have known to exist and nobody is quite sure how he works. Not just in terms of powers (like being able to fuse with both other Gems and other organic beings, as mentioned above), but also in terms of his very personhood. Steven has his mother's gemstone, which in Gem's term is basically her brain and her soul — and yet Steven is not her. "Three Gems and a Baby" is an entire episode about how neither Garnet, Amethyst or Pearl quite understand what Steven is and try and define him in Gem terms. Amethyst thinks he must be just Rose shape-shifted, Garnet thinks he's a fusion and Pearl assumes that Rose's gemstone is just "trapped" in this human baby.
      • "Change Your Mind" drives that point home even more. Big Bad White Diamond separates Steven from his gemstone, assuming his mother will emerge from it. Instead, the gemstone forms... a Hard Light version of Steven. Essentially his Gem-half separated from him, but not quite. Much like how his biological body is not quite human, being unable to function physically and mentally without his gemstone, his Gem body is off compared to every other Gem on the show. He's an emotionless Creepy Child driven only by the desire to reunite with his physical body again, walks over holes in the floor like a glitched videogame character and is powerful enough to No-Sell White Diamond's attacks. Although he has the same defensive powers as Steven, they manifest very differently than Steven and his mother's Bubble and Shield and look a lot more unpolished and raw. And most importantly, despite being Hard Light, he is able to fuse with his organic body and become one Steven again. White Diamond's inability to grasp Steven's existence is what leads to her Villainous Breakdown.
    • After The Reveal in "A Single Pale Rose", it becomes clear that Pink Diamond was the only one of the Diamonds whose primary abilities could affect organic life, being as she was also Rose Quartz, who had tears capable of resurrecting the dead and considerable Green Thumb powers.
  • In The Owl House, Witches can perform magic by drawing circles in the air, while humans can do it with runic circles drawn on the ground or on paper. When Luz faces the emperor Belos at the end of season 1, he teleports, conjures illusions and abominations and many other arcane tricks with no circles of any kind.
    • A curse example. According to their mother, Eda's curse is nothing like the Healing, Potion or Beastkeeping covens have ever seen. She's spent years trying to find a cure, and her sister even gave her eternal servitude to Emperor Belos if he would heal her curse. Neither of these have resulted in any success, although Belos likely has the ability to heal Eda's curse, but just doesn't want to.
      • "Knock, Knock, Knockin' on Hooty's Door" reveals that the curse is actually a living creature originating from another Titan who was trapped in the scroll Lilith purchased and is currently sealed inside Eda. The fact that a) the Owl Beast doesn't come from the Boiling Isles and b) Eda's condition is likely very different from other curses is presumably why no one has been able to cure it.

Alternative Title(s): What Measure Is A Normal Magic, Outside Context Magic


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