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Pinkie Pie: What's not to believe? You do magic, what's the difference?

Twilight Sparkle: Huge! For one thing... [climbs onto a soapbox] 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 want 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 or Bunny Ears Lawyer, or probably anyone who’s just Crazy Awesome who uses Magic B, Magic C or even Magic Q. This character tends to be the only one with this ability.

Basically, it's the exception to the rule and potential 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 even The Multiverse.

Sometimes when performed, it's met with skepticism by "normal" magic users which looks Arbitrary Skepticism to those of us who consider all magic abnormal.

Compare Fantasy Kitchen Sink, Un-Equal Rites and Wild Magic. Contrast Rule Magic. Related but contradictory to Magic A Is Magic A. Characters who do this without realizing they're breaking the rules are accomplishing Achievements in Ignorance. Can be related to Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond, if used correctly.

Examples of Wrong-Context Magic include:


Anime and Manga

  • 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.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima: 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.
  • 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?"
  • 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.
  • 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 Kyuubi 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 Hachibi's flesh died.
  • In Yoku Wakaru Gendai Mahou, 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.

Comic Books

  • 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 would 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).
  • 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):

Fanfic

Film

Literature

  • Equal Rites has Eskarina Smith, a girl who can do wizard magic. It's not actually impossible for any other magic users, but most others have tradition so engrained into them that it doesn't occur to them that women can do wizard magic and men can do witch magic.
  • 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.
  • House Elves in Harry Potter have magic that works differently from wizard magic. Among other things, they can apparate into and out of areas blocked against wizard apparition. 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.
    • They can also apparently cast powerful spells without wands or incantations, as shown when Dobby levitates a large cake and blasts Lucius Malfoy. If House Elves weren't inherently subservient to their masters, they'd probably be considered a serious threat.
    • Phoenixes also have a teleport ability that bypasses anti-Appartion spells, as Fawkes demonstrates.
  • 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. However, in Magic Steps, Sandriliene 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


Myth

  • Similar myths from different cultures and times can sometimes result in a lot of mythological mash-ups. The result being many different rules that were consistent becoming inconsistent because they're being applied to each other.

Tabletop Games

  • The Expanded Psionics Handbook in Dungeons and Dragons has no less than two sets of alternative rules for running a "Psionics are just different" game.
    • Dungeons & Dragons, thanks to dozens of source books, has many magic systems (including, but not limited to, Binders, Shadowcasters, True Naming, Invocations and some, but not all, of the Martial Adept classes) in addition to Psionics that are separate from the standard Vancian Magic that are meant to co-exist (though be much less prominent) in the "official" game worlds.
    • Epic spells are spells invented by the caster using a separate set of rules. Normally spell-casting characters pick a spell from the spell list or find one in a spell book.
    • Deities can cast epic spells automatically, unlike normal wizards for whom it is difficult.
  • 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.

Video Games

  • In the second Kingdom Hearts game Sora and company can kill The Undead from Pirates of the Caribbean. Normally it's impossible, but they decide it must be because they're from a different world and "their rules are different." (Granted, nobody had access to magic keyblades or fireballs in the movies.)
  • 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 to 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.

Webcomics

  • The Order of the Stick does this with D&D rules (mostly). For an example, there's a strip where Durkon uses Weather Control to attack a group of treants warded against electrical attacks... by generating a thunderclap so loud that it breaks the treants in half. When an angel tells Thor that that's not how the spell works (Weather Control cannot determine where the lightning will strike), 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.)

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.

Western Animation

  • Lightning bending in Avatar: The Last Airbender 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, suffering a Villainous Breakdown after the Heel Face Turn of her minions, seems to have no difficulties wielding it.
    • Combustion Man has a very unique form of firebending that allows him to make things explode by looking at them.
    • Whenever Sokka has to deal with any magical stuff that isn't bending-related, he lampshades it as this. Spirits are so unscientific. (He doesn't even try to explain Aang, though; "that's Avatar stuff, it doesn't count.")
  • Fairly Oddparents has the Magic Muffin from The Movie "Abra-Catastrophe", which gives anyone who takes a bite a single wish that's exempt from "Da Rules" that normally constrain fairy magic.
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, according to Word of God, has three different kinds of magic: unicorns can cast spells related to their special talent, 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. There are, however, a few exceptions:
    • Pinkie Pie has her "Pinkie Sense", odd jitters and twitches connected to visions of the future.
      • And the ability to appear exactly where she needs to be to fill whatever joke she is currently enforcing. For example, in one episode she is always hiding exactly where Twilight Sparkle is whenever Twilight is about to break a promise. Even to the point where she almost bursts out of Twilight's mouth. Though this particular ability is probably not Magic but more likely simply a result of Pinkie Pie living under the laws of Toon Physics.
    • Twilight Sparkle, despite her skepticism of Pinkie's powers, is herself an example. Other unicorns have magic related to their special talent, but Twilight's talent is magic, making her incredibly powerful.
      • G.P. Trixie has a more performance oriented version of the same talent, so it isn't that unusual.
    • Rainbow Dash can perform the Sonic Rainboom, which is supposed to be altogether mythical.
    • Fluttershy, a pegasus, has poor flying skills (unless pushed too far), has never exhibited any control over weather, and her abilities with animals are more reminiscent of an earth pony than a pegasus. She also has The Stare.
    • The villain Discord has magic unlike anything else in the show. Justified because he's a Draconequus, a type of being never seen in the show either, as well as the spirit of Chaos itself.
    • Zecora 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 they're standing in.
    • Granny Smith uses an entire arsenal of bizarre rituals to make the best possible jam from "zap apples", a specifically magical type of fruit from the Everfree forest, though this does seem at least partially connected to the ponies' control over the forces of nature.
  • A sort of example is the Dathomir Nightsisters in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, they are Force users but they use it in a totally different way than all other characters, as Allyan Magic.
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