Created By: bulmabriefs144April 24, 2013 Last Edited By: bulmabriefs144May 1, 2013
Nuked

Lock And Key Tool

A bow is worthless if you don't have arrows.

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Trope
Suppose you have a tool or Mac Guffin. It's pretty much all-powerful, and can shoot giant lasers from space! Just one problem... it needs a certain type of ammo. Or some type of battery, in a setting where people are using swords. In any case, the other half of the Mac Guffin requires a quest of its own. Worse yet, the "key" part of this equation may be finite, forcing you to keep searching for the object in question (this is particularly the case, in the case of ammo).

Compare Dismantled Mac Guffin, though this is more about having a tool need to be assembled than having a tool that is worthless without its other part.

Examples:

Comic Books
  • The Green Lantern comic series, has Hal Jordan (and others) spend much of their time heading back to his lantern, because without it, his ring is kind of worthless. (One wonders why he couldn't carry his lantern around in one hand at all times)

Live Action TV
  • In earlier seasons of Supernatural there was The Colt, a special gun made by Samuel Colt himself, which could kill demons - but you had to have special demon-killing bullets for it and once those were used up, it was just a regular gun.

Tabletop Games
  • In Dungeons And Dragons, if material components is enforced, the wizard can pretty much learn any spells by study, but without components, they can't use most of them. Thankfully, there's usually a Eschew Components feat.

Video Games
  • In the original The Legend Of Zelda, you have a few of these, but the most egregious one is the bow in the first dungeon. You need to buy arrows for it to work (in later versions, enemies would typically drop arrows), meaning in all likelihood you'll face the boss with just a bow.
    • Also in the Zelda series, bottles are pretty much based around this concept. Once you've acquired one, you still need to find whatever you want to put in it (be it a potion or fairy to make the game easier, or an important item for a puzzle or sidequest).

Western Animation
  • Cyborg in Teen Titans normally has his power work without a hitch, but in two occasions, it is shown how fragile his power base actually is. The first is when Starfire visits the future, and his systems actually went obsolete. The second is another episode where he gets stuck in an alternate history that has ancient technology and he can't power his suit.
Community Feedback Replies: 8
  • April 24, 2013
    KZN02
  • April 24, 2013
    DracMonster
    A bow needing arrows or a gun needing bullets seems like People Sit On Chairs.

    I think you may have two separate tropes here. An artifact or power needing "fuel" is really a separate concept from need a "key" to start it.

    (I'm also all but certain we have these already.)
  • April 25, 2013
    Stratadrake
    If this is specifically about ammunition/fuel, then we have something akin to Ammunition Not Included.
  • April 26, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In earlier seasons of Supernatural there was The Colt, a special gun made by Samuel Colt himself, which could kill demons - but you had to have special demon-killing bullets for it and once those were used up, it was just a regular gun.
  • April 27, 2013
    Arivne
    Changed the Laconic so it made more sense and added Namespaces and media categories.
  • April 27, 2013
    Bisected8
    • The Metroid series has always done this with missiles (which you had a finite supply of, even when you had the launcher, and needed to bypass some obstacles/kill some enemies). The second Metroid Prime game also gave the later beam weapons a finite supply (the second and third beams used their own ammo and the last used ammo from both), although it allowed a single normal shot to be fired from them (since it was needed to open doors) to prevent the game from becoming Unwinnable.

    • Also in Zelda; bottles are pretty much based around this concept. Once you've acquired one, you still need to find whatever you want to put in it (be it a potion or fairy to make the game easier, or an important item for a puzzle or sidequest).

    If the "key" is sufficiently hard to come across, this might lead to the item in question being Too Awesome To Use.
  • April 29, 2013
    bulmabriefs144
    "A bow needing arrows or a gun needing bullets seems like People Sit On Chairs."

    It's not about simple ammo though. It's about having the ammo itself being a Mac Guffin of sorts. Like being in a low-tech setting and needing a power source for something. Which is why I'm not using the Metroid example. It's too common.

    Speaking of which...
  • May 1, 2013
    Arivne
    Quest For Rare Ammo?

    A Video Game weapon that is otherwise powerful and useful will be considered almost worthless if its ammo is very rare.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable