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File:Mass-Effect-as-Phlebotinum 6452.jpg

Some settings have Phlebotinum. It helps move along the plot, Hand Wave various characters' improbable powers, and conveniently get the Heroes from point A to point B quickly. It can let you just say A Wizard Did It.

But then some settings...are different. They have nothing but Phlebotinum. That City of Adventure the heroes are exploring around? It's completely floating in the air; not one building is touching the ground. Why? Phlebotinum! In fact, the whole planet is probably bound together with some sort of magical or super-science energy, without which it would simply explode. Every single thing around requires whatever the local flavor of Phlebotinum is to run in worlds such as these, whether it's magic, Nanomachines, The Force, or something else similar.

The main dividing line between a world that simply has a lot of Phlebotinum and one that's made of the stuff is this litmus test: if you took away the Phlebotinum, would your world still exist in any meaningful sense, or would it more or less just collapse? If it would, your world is just plain Made Of Phlebotinum.

There is actually a great deal of evidence that Real Life is thus: when you develop a potent capability to the point that there are few side effects, you start using it for everything imaginable. When we learned to harness electricity easily, the only things weren't 100% electrical were the things that we used to generate electricity. When computers became advanced enough, we started carrying them around with us. Litmus Test? If you took away computers, it'd re-create The Great Depression. If you took away electricity, ninety percent of the world would die within a decade.

If something is literally made of Phlebotinum, see Made of Magic.

Examples of Made of Phlebotinum include:


 Youtube Commenter: I'm not sure which is weirder, the way the universe in this series works, or the fact that the universe works EXACTLY HOW KAMINA THINKS IT DOES!



  • In David Wingrove's Chung Kuo, the world-spanning City is made of "Ice"
  • Discworld can seem ordinary enough at first glance, until it's pointed out that, without heavy duty magic involved, a flat world on the back of a giant turtle that swims through space should be utterly impossible.
    • The Science of Discworld books go on to give the Phlebotinum a name: narrativium, which (together with chelonium and elephantigen) in fact makes the formation of flat worlds on board giant turtles and elephants not only natural, but inevitable. Too bad Roundworld lacks these perfectly normal elements and had to concoct some outlandish alternative involving big rocky balls...
    • In The Last Hero Discworld comic, Cohen and his Silver Horde have made it their mission to bring fire back to the gods --- via a large explosive. This would suddenly remove magic from the world and cause everything to die.
  • The Roman-based society of The Codex Alera is so connected with their Phlebotinum of Furycrafting that the use of certain techniques and technologies, such as quarrying, are a lost art.
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Then, in the Second Trilogy, They lose the phlebotinum. This is way more horrific than it sounds.

Live Action TV

  • Technology in Doctor Who is pure phlebotinum: the Sonic Screwdriver that can fix anything (unless it's deadlocked or wood), Psychic Paper (in the new series), Transmat teleporters, Dalek antigravity, time rings/vortex manipulators that fit on one's wrist, and of course the blue box that's bigger on the inside and travels through time and space. Despite its ostensibly scientific worldview, it's hard to think of a story that uses accurate science.
  • Star Trek probably is, too. Most tools in the Trekverse don't need to touch what they're working on, just to give one example.

Tabletop Games

  • Eberron's Dungeon Punk world comes to mind as an especially obvious example of this trope. Without that magical-flavored Phlebotinum, everything in that world would fall apart hard. It's pretty much Made of Phlebotinum.
    • To a lesser extent, all Dungeons and Dragons settings fit this trope. Planescape and Spelljammer especially, but even a place like Forgotten Realms is mildly Made of Phlebotinum.
    • Ravenloft literally so - it's a series of artifically-created "demiplanes" floating in the misty emptiness of the Ethereal Plane. When a domain's Cosmic Keystone is destroyed, it may be absorbed by neighboring domains, or it may simply collapse into the Mists.
  • Exalted, full stop. Creation itself is the greatest artifact ever built, while Odd Job Gods exist for individual rice grains and their interactions provide the physics of the universe.
    • The Phlebotinum is named Essence, and it is the essence of everything ever. Even the unshaped raksha are made of it and use it to fuel their eldritch powers. Its name is used in many places where we would use the word "atom".

Video Games

Web Comics

  • 8-Bit Theater has recently proven it's made of Phlebotinum, since, in that world, you can drill for mana.
    • No, you can't. That's why attempting to do so is bankrupting Cornelia. Their king is just crazy.

Web Original

  • In the blog-novel Flyover City! – Malphysical Particles create a cosmic loophole which render the laws of physics “malleable”, allowing the story’s superheroes to do all those superhero-y things that are impossible in the real world.
  • The world of Tales of MU is driven by Magitek, the physics are based on A Wizard Did It, and from the point of view of people in other worlds, a knife that was said to be "barely enchanted" is made out of magic.
  • Elcenia:

 "Physical laws? Oh, those things. We don't have them."

"But everyone has them. It's a fundamental principle."

"Not in this world. Everything is taken care of by magic in various forms. What's holding you to your seat isn't gravity, for example."

"Oh, what then?"

"Magic. Don't look so alarmed. It's at least as reliable as gravity is."

Real Life

  • The four fundamental forces of the universe. We know how they work; the why on the other hand would need a theory of everything (Or at least this universe).
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