- The hard way is doing the necessary research, and lots of it.
- The easier way is to have the character act out their expertise without going into technical details. The military leader arrives at the war room, going from briefing to briefing, gives out commands over the radio and the tide of battle turns. The master composer comes up with the hook for a popular singer's upcoming single, and a week later we hear that it is topping the charts. The character can display their skills without showing their work directly - it's only an informed ability if there is no meaningful evidence they have it, or, worse, evidence they don't have it at all.
Examples:Note: If the particulars of a character's skills are intentionally hidden from the audience for dramatic effect, but the skill itself does come into play, that's another trope.
- Anime and Manga
- Comic Books
- Films — Live-Action
- Live-Action TV
- Video Games
- Western Animation
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- In The End of Ends, we're only told of what Copy Cat could do, and outside of his namesake ability to change into anyone he touches, we never see them get used.
- Inner Demons: In the follow-up stories and sequels, the reader is told that Vale is exactly the same as Rarity in almost every aspect save her cutie mark. Rarity is a Drama Queen tailor who usually struggles between her greed and her desire to stand with her friends, and ultimately cares for the ponies around her. Vale is a stone-cold serious warrior-goddess who Would Hurt a Child, refuses to go against her "mission", and seems to think murder is the only solution to every damn problem she faces, regardless of whether it makes a situation worse or not.
- Showa & Vampire: The main character's mother is supposed to be one of the greatest authors who ever lived (she writes erotica). She's incredibly famous for her output and most of the "good" characters are fans of her work, but none of her prose is ever actually shown.
- In My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic, Lightning Dawn is trained by the Grand Ruler to be stronger and faster than most other characters (as compensation for his lack of magical ability). Thing is, he gets tuckered out lifting crates and vegetable baskets, and altercations with others show him to be about average physically.
- Unicornicopians are repeatedly touted as being a "warrior race" who spend most of their time exercising and training for battles and hostile situations. When villains show up, they inevitably break into panic just from seeing them. In comparison, most MLP ponies (including non-protagonist civilians) are usually able to stand their ground just fine when a villain appears, unless threatened directly.
- Laura, as in legolas by, has apparently "got a power and she can distoy us all the bad guys". She never actually uses this power, even when she's imprisoned, tortured and raped by the orcs, or during the big important final battle, and what the power is supposed to be or do is never actually described.
- One of the few recurring criticisms of Rites of Ascension is that Twilight Sparkle, despite having supposedly expanded her magical knowledge even beyond that from canon and in fact pushed the boundaries of magical theory, is only briefly shown as such in-story by her channeling magic through her hooves at the beginning (only possible because she has unknowingly become an alicorn) and developing a new method for producing solidified magic (which is suppressed by Celestia in order not to cause upheaval, thanks to unpleasant past experience). Otherwise she seems to mostly react to others' feats and knowledge, frequently being blindsided by the techniques of both antagonists and supporting characters. Even one of her most awesome feats (entrapping a volatile portal and preventing worldwide damage) is dependent on a shield spell which Shining Armor had shared with her. The author has stated an intent to correct this in later arcs.
Films — Animation
- In the Miramax cut of The Thief and the Cobbler, when Princess YumYum is attempting to convince her father, King Nod, that she is the best candidate for venturing into the desert, she argues that she is, apparently, "smarter than any man in this city and faster than your clumsy henchman," when there has been no evidence of these claims up to this point; all she has done in the film is sing, as displayed in the "I Want" Song "More Than This" (along with her impressive ability to sway back and forth and spin a lot) and the Distant Duet "Am I Feeling Love?" This inconsistency is most likely due to the particularly lazy rehashing of the script.
- The *ahem* "film" Ratatoing spends the first five minutes telling us how great the main character's food is, over and over. Whenever we see it, it looks like brown sludge. His actual technique seems to be to "steal the freshest ingredients" (but only once a week, and he just leaves them on the table without preserving them in any way) and stir them together in a pot. Then again, they are rats.
- Tenacious D's "Tribute" parodies this trope, claiming that Tenacious D themselves successfully played "the greatest song in the world" when the devil demanded it, but they can't prove it because they forgot what it sounds like. However, the fact that Kyle does play the famous riff of "Stairway to Heaven" right when at the part of the story where they play the greatest song in the world makes it more than a little obvious what song they're really talking about.
- The Lonely Island song "Sax Man", with guest artist Jack Black boasting of Sax Man as a legendary virtuoso who's been rocking out since he was three weeks old. When Jack prompts Sax Man to play however, all we hear are blowing noises and a bit of discordant tooting.
FUCKIN' PLAY SOMETHING SAX MAN!
- For Better or for Worse:
- Mike is supposed to be a brilliant best-selling novelist who sold his first book on his first try with no editing needed. Yet the excerpts from his first novel, as featured in the character's letters, are filled with implausible and maudlin situations, and insightful lines like "The living buried the dead."
- Liz's parents and friends are constantly telling her how successful, smart, funny, and great Anthony is. However, he only got his job through connections, never says anything witty, and isn't even shown at the astronomy club, his only social outlet.
- Dennis The Menace, despite being regarded as such by his parents and neighbors, is hardly ever shown misbehaving at all any more, no doubt due to parents complaining about him being a "bad example" or the fear thereof. But he was a real terror in the early days.
- Bart Simpson was created specifically because Matt Groening remembered how disappointed he was with Dennis, and wanted to create one whose troublemaking wasn't an Informed Ability.
- It got even worse in the Dennis sitcom and cartoon, where the kid wasn't actually allowed to do anything bad. Instead, he was written as an innocent well-meaning lad who always got into trouble by accident. A better title might have been "Dennis the Unlucky." On the other hand, this qualified as Adaptation Distillation to those kids who found the good-natured Dennis to be a much more likable character than the nasty Bratty Half-Pint from the early comics.
- Calvin and Hobbes:
- In the strip, this is used for comedic effect. Calvin's imaginary alter ego Spaceman Spiff is constantly described as a tremendous pilot, superb marksman and all round brilliant space explorer, but pretty much every story about him begins as his ship is crashing and/or he's captured by aliens. His "Death-Ray Blaster" also tends to be utterly useless, because in real life it's actually a squirt gun. Spaceman Spiff's piloting is also lampshaded in one strip: "The intrepid Spaceman Spiff is stranded on a distant planet! ... our hero ruefully acknowledges that this happens fairly frequently."
- Same with Stupendous Man; after yet another blunder, Hobbes asks Calvin if Stupendous Man ever won any battle. Calvin replies they are all "moral victories."
- In Dick Tracy, the Iceman is described as being in the top elite of hitmen, has pulled off a dozen killings without even getting a criminal record. No-one is ever a match for Tracy, of course, but even before he encounters Tracy, the first killing that the Iceman is shown commiting is a real amateur affair. He not only leaves his disguise behind where the police easily find it, he allows himself to be seen committing the crime.
- Dilbert is supposed to be a brilliant engineer, thus explaining his constant frustration with his idiot-run workplace. While early strips did show him as a fairly talented (albeit eccentric) inventor, this has been gradually phased out as the comic focused entirely on office humor, giving readers little evidence of his over-qualifications. Averted greatly in the animated series, which routinely showed his mad-scientist level accomplishments.
- Alice is an even stronger example. While Dilbert can lay claim to getting one or two strips per year where he's working on a specific project, Alice has 14 patents and was the highest paid engineer at the workplace but all she ever does on-panel is use her Fist of Death on hapless co-workers.
Myths & Religion
- In the Bible, King Solomon was said to have been divinely granted the gift of immense wisdom in a dream. The text gives just one specific demonstration of this wisdom. He also allegedly wrote three deeply philosophical books of the Bible. However, the aforementioned books allegedly contain loanwords from other languages, which according to many historians weren't known to the Israelites until centuries later. The Queen of Sheba also found his wisdom appealing enough to make a very lucrative business deal with him, but the text doesn't recount what exactly he told her. Moreover, in his old age he turned his back on God and imported some idols to worship (despite having personally conversed with God more than once), this being one of the gravest sins in the eyes of the ancient Hebrews and a sure way to lose divine favor. Oddly, in Ecclesiastes Solomon actually laments the futility of wisdom (and of everything else).
- Greek mythology often has gods that the writer of the particular piece don't like fall into the informed abilities category, most frequently Ares, who despite obligatory religious praise of his bravery and cunning often gets to play the fool and coward in stories written or conveyed through Athens, which had its own lower-profile war god patron to shill.
- Often happens when the commentators have to shill a Creator's Pet, and moreso when they're simply trying get a new act "over". Jobbers and journeymen are made to seem like extremely talented athletes all the time — a good example of a Justified Trope in this instance. It's pretty much the announcers' job to do this.
- Similarly, wrestlers are often verbally boosted even if they're higher up the rankings. Triple H is a wrestler who was rather good, but not exactly a technical mastermind (he kicked and punched a lot, and stuck to only some basic submissions or wear-down holds). And the extent of his planning was usually "lure opponent down to ringside, then hit with a sledgehammer". The announcers played him up as not only the best technical wrestler alive, but the "Cerebral Assassin", noted for his brilliant planning. Of course, considering he's gotten 14 world titles off of it, maybe you credit his superior intellect to finding a Boring, but Practical strategy and sticking with it, as opposed to riskier Awesome, but Impractical moves.
- Similarly, although maybe a little more methodical is Randy Orton, who although would be a little unnerving to actually have to deal with, his "psychological torture" of his opponents usually extends as far as extending submissions, moving slowly, hitting them, and giving a few evil-looking stares. Has an evil air, but not exactly a super villain.
- Subverted with Hulk Hogan. Commentators often talk about how exceptional he is despite most of his technical performances being average. He actually was, at a minimum, a better than average technical wrestler, which is more obvious if you see his performances when he was less well known. As he became more popular, he dialed down the technical aspect of his performances to minimize the chance of injury. Effectively, the audience was being informed of his technical abilities, which virtually none of them would ever see, despite the fact he was, at least to some extent, a better wrestler than his performances indicated. Maybe not as exceptional as the commentators would have you believe, but good enough that he didn't rely on mic skills as completely as many of his critics would indicate.
- Many times, although not always, whenever Wrestling Doesn't Pay come into play, this happens. Most recently, it's fairly obvious that Fandango and his partner Summer Rae simply cannot dance.
- Was sadly the issue with Chavo Guerrero. Known within the wrestling community for being extremely talented. Unfortunately, many WWE fans never saw Chavo's true potential as a wrestler. Because he was often made the Butt-Monkey of many matches, resulting in them ending because of some outside interference or Chavo, himself, being a Heel, never pressing to win many of his matching, resulting in him holding back most of the time in the ring.
- Michael Cole seemed to throw out the phrase "Architect of The Shield" in every match regarding Seth Rollins, implying he was the one giving orders and blueprinting the assaults. From what we saw, Dean Ambrose was the one planning backstage, and Roman Reigns gave orders during the assaults, making this mostly hype from Cole.
- This title normally refers to the bit of trivia that the Shield was apparently Rollins' idea, having contacted Ambrose and Reigns about it. This would be fine if not for the fact that this was never alluded to at all until Cole started saying it about a year after the Shield formed.
- Being a WWE performers with a combative skill set that isn't specifically wrestling can lead to this. For instance, being a Golden Gloves winning boxer in the cases of Baron Corbin and Heath Slater. The commentators frequently mention this real accomplishment, but neither wrestler does a whole lot of boxing in the ring.
- The War Games match was supposed to be The Four Horsemen's "specialty match". It was their house and leading into the Pay Per Views where it would feature, the commentator would all talk about how dangerous it was to face the Horsement in this match. Career Record: 1-15
- Happens often in tabletop RPGs, where a character might have a lot of points in charisma, intelligence, or wisdom, but will still be played like a boorish nincompoop because of player incompetence. For these reason, many game systems allow the GM to ask for a skill or attribute check rather than roleplay out a situation to allow the character to succeed even when the player has no idea what to do. The GM can also provide hints to players when they start doing things that their characters would know is a bad idea.
- Dungeons & Dragons: Fighters in 3.5 are describe them as a leader class. The archetypes described often include things like kings or generals, fighters seem to be leading whenever an adventuring party is shown, and many NPCs designed to represent military leaders are fighters. This is in spite of the fact that the fighter is, though competent enough in the field of murdering things, one of the worst classes for leading in the entire game. Most fighters have mental ability scores that range from "the bare minimum to qualify for that one feat" to "Dump Stat", so in personality, they're stupid, thoughtless, and repellent. They have a very limited list of class skills and few points to use them on, so without special training, they can't do things like negotiate, remember historical battles, identify threats, notice they're being deceived, or hear someone sneaking up on them. Finally, they have no class abilities that can be used to assist their troops, since all their class abilities are bonus feats relating to helping the fighter in combat. A fighter trying to be a general through any metric besides Asskicking Equals Authority would be a complete General Failure. This is partly The Artifact from earlier editions, where fighters would gain access to troops of henchmen and eventually be promoted to lords with their own castles as they levelled up. When these rules were dropped for being cumbersome, suddenly all the fighter had was their combat skills.
- It is interesting to read the original AD&D Dragonlance adventures and compare them with how the characters act in the novels. Raistlin, the epitome of the sickly Squishy Wizard, is given a Constitution of 10 - perfectly average. He is also described as one of the greatest geniuses that ever lived, and engages in battles of wits with gods and near god-like beings... with his Intelligence of 17, which is quite high, but not nearly super-genius (at least, compared to the Intelligence scores frequently seen in the game; it's a point shy of the maximum for a first-level character). According to the ruleset at the time, he couldn't even cast the highest level of spells.
- The 3rd Edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting is absolutely insane in this regard. Since it was made very early in that editions's life cycle, the designers plainly had no idea how to make characters competently. Many were inexpertly converted from their AD&D stats, and it really shows. The most famous examples would probably be Drizzt (CR 18 and supposedly the greatest swordsman of his generation, would probably get killed by a frost giant of half his level) and Elminister (CR 39 and supposedly nearly a god, he's got a whole load of Dead Levels that put him on par with a wizard ten behind). They're far from the worst offenders, though; check out Harper leader Storm Silverhand's unmanageable mess of a build and Scyllua Darkhope, High Captain of Zhentil Keep, frequently out-damaged by her own mount.
- Some Ravenloft modules by their very nature cause Rudolph Van Richten to fall under this trope, considering a good number of the Quests involves the man getting tricked by any number of evil entities far more often than the 'Land's Premier Expert on Undead and Other Evil Horrors' really should be. It takes a skilled GM to not turn Van Richten into an unintentional Miles Gloriosus. Later justified in that he is under a Vistani curse which keeps him alive as everyone he loves dies for most of his life. He disappears shortly after the curse is broken.
- Warhammer 40,000
- Most of the lore you'll run into makes the Space Marines out to be the biggest badasses in the history of ever, but ingame in terms of stats and abilities they're pretty much the baseline army. This is due to both Gameplay and Story Segregation and Power Creep; Space Marines, while nowhere near as overpowered as the fluff make them out to be, are indeed better than the average rank-and-file troops of every other army. This is evident if you compare Warhammer 40k with its parent game Warhammer Fantasy; the baseline toughness is 3 while the best rank and file armor is usually 5+. This is in contrast to the Chaos Warriors, who are literally Space Marines in all but name (and gun) and considered one of the elite troops. However due to the vast majority of the players playing Space Marines, as well as the subsequent numerous spinoff armies, they became the baseline.
- There is a tongue-in-cheek army list Games Workshop created that did have the Marines as powerful as they are in fluff. In a full-size game they could field 6-10 guys depending on equipment, and they are called "Movie Marines" because in-universe this is how they are depicted in propaganda videos.
- In Sunday in the Park with George, Act II George is supposed to be an innovative artist (or "inventor-sculptor" as he thinks of himself), but all the audience sees of his artwork is a stage prop that breaks down when he tries to activate it. But the point of Act II George is that he's worried his art is beginning to grow stale, as shown in his conversation with the art critic and the song "Lesson #8."
- In the musical In the Heights, the main character Nina is supposed to be the smartest, brightest, and overall "best" in her community. As far as the audience can tell, the only thing she ever accomplished was getting into Stanford, where she promptly lost her scholarship due to poor academic performance.
- Played for Laughs with Dr. Tran. The audience is constantly told about how he's a badass secret agent who has a PhD in kicking your ass and once killed his mother with a broken lawn chair. In reality, he's just a very confused Chinese boy who's constantly harassed by the narrator.
- A minor Running Gag on Homestar Runner is that Coach Z likes to brag about having "fairly good teeth", even though he has No Mouth.
- Drowtales has the Hermoinne, who are supposed to be a legitimate threat to fae. In reality, as of this writing, they've only ever managed to kill one faceless mook on-panel (one war-dragon was also killed off-panel), and that was during a battle wherein they outnumbered the drow 100 to 1. Said battle ended with the Hermoinne general dead and their army routed.
- The elder Dr. Narbon's mad science skills in Narbonic. Another character brings this up eventually.
Dave: She used your death ray, the conspiracy's teleporter... doesn't she invent anything of her own?
Dr. Narbon's clone: She made me.
Dave: ... Okay, she's a one-trick pony.
- Least I Could Do features Rayne, supposedly a master at picking up chicks. Yet virtually every strip featuring him hitting on a girl shows his asinine pick-up lines, childish behavior, and utter shoot-downs from the girls. 95% of the time, his hook-ups are only shown AFTER they've already happened. Sure, Rayne's supposed to be good-looking, but it's more than a little obvious the writer doesn't really know how a master pick-up artist works.
- There's also his job, in which it's repeatedly stated he isn't fired for constantly leaving early or acting offensive because he's a business genius. However, most times he's at work, we get generic lines about meetings or when shown in detail, his decisions are actually quite naive and would be disastrous in the real world, such as giving away free eBooks in the hopes people will use them to subscribe to a digital newspaper.
- Misho, a Solar Exalt from Keychain of Creation supposedly has high awareness. The only way you'd know this is by the other characters reminding him he's supposed to have high awareness when he misses important (and sometimes obvious) details.
- In Sonichu, Chris has given descriptions to each of the female characters' personalities, ranging from "smart and quick-wit" to "generic high-school girl personality." Of course, we never actually see any of this, since every female character is either interchangeable or useless.
- In Homestuck, the Kids share a skill with their Guardian, but not as well: John is always bested in prank wars by Dad, Rose falls short of Mom's insane passive-aggression, and Dave is just not as cool, fast, or ironic as Bro. They still try to build up these abilities as part of their core personalities.
- Subverted when the Kids meet; Rose acknowledges that she "cannot hope to defeat [John] in a prank-off. He is simply the best there is." Rose also acknowledges how amazingly cool Dave is when he shows off his audio gear and some of his mixes.
- Gemel from Tony TH is supposed to be very powerful, but always gets Curb-Stomped whenever he appears. This is actually justified though, for two reasons: A) while Gemel has a lot of power, he really can't take a hit, and B) he always fights alone against groups of good guys. The end result is that the heroes spend the entire battle blindsiding him whenever he tries to make an attack, making it less of a battle and more of a game of tennis with Gemel as the ball. During the few times he fights one-on-one or as part of a group, he actually lives up to his reputation.
- In El Goonish Shive, Susan's magical powers, which are seen exactly once and then aren't visible for many arcs. Then Susan explains that Nanase's powers are of a different order than hers ("Awakened" vs. "Dreaming") without going into detail—until much later, when Susan explained her magical abilities with a big flashback. And she is properly "Awakened."
- Tom, a boy from Moperville North high school, is touted by an ex-girlfriend as a highly skilled Manipulative Bastard who has set his sights on Susan. While his initial interaction with Susan bears this out, when she unknowingly throws him a curve ball (telling him she has no interest in dating, period) he fumbles badly and his attempts to regain his footing only tip Susan off to what he's doing.
- Ace from Commander Kitty is touted as the greatest spacer in the galaxy, but despite being a main character, he does very little to live up to his reputation. This includes repeatedly failing to notice the weird things going on around him, sulking when someone turns out to be more competent them him, taking credit for Mittens accidentally solving the problem, and even getting his ship hit by a torpedo shortly after he takes the wheel.
- Karin-dou 4koma: The fact that Mifi has Virgin Power as shaman of her now-lost tribe gets repeated mentions as the reason why Elza Sleeps With Everyone But Her, but there are no explanations or even indications that she's actually ever used it.
- The nerdy Ruby of Sticky Dilly Buns has a BBA, giving her apparently much better academic qualifications than the rest of the cast. Admittedly, book-smarts aren't everything when it comes to intelligence, but still, to begin with she shows no clear signs of being more intellectual or focused than anyone else. However, over time, once she has adapted to her unfamiliar situation, she does begin to display flashes of sense and mental agility.
- Lily in Leftover Soup is supposedly a successful small business owner, but the only evidence presented is that she sucks at face-to-face customer service.
- Tales of MU:
- Amaranth seems to border on having Informed Flaws. Word of God is that if the author had wanted to write a Mary Sue, it would have been Amaranth without the flaws. The problem is that while Amaranth's perspective on some matters is clearly skewed, her actual effect on the storyline is always extremely positive. Even her informed flaws are that she's not quite perfect. She's not quite as genius-level smart as she thinks she is, she's not quite perfectly adjusted, and she's not quite as sensitive and empathetic as someone perfect would be. Saying Amaranth has flaws is like saying that an M&M is less chocolatey than a Hershey's Kiss.
- Amaranthe's intelligence is something of an Informed Attribute to begin with. She collects books, but "can read" isn't all that uncommon an intellectual ability in the setting, despite the feudal aspects literacy is in excess of 80%. She's almost never the source of any knowledge outside of her goddess' demesne (basically, sex and nothing else), and even regarding sex she's sometimes blatantly ill-informed. And her advice almost always causes problems or makes them worse (at one point, she advises a rape victim to submit to the rapist, for instance) so the Blue and Orange Morality of her race seems to ruin any chance of her supposed insight being particularly useful, either.
- In lonelygirl15, the main characters have a strange tendency to panic whenever they see Lucy show up. As a sunglasses-wearing Order operative, there is reason to consider her dangerous by default, but she is treated as if she were the single deadliest person that could be thrown at them. She gets nastily proactive toward the end of the series, but before that point, her greatest known feat was physically restraining a smallish teenage girl. The behind-the-scenes InsideLG15 videos do include non-canon clips of Lucy shooting Danielbeast in the crotch and shooting P. Monkey in the head.
- Survival of the Fittest:
- Adonis Zorba is played up as a awesome fighter, excelling in multiple fighting disciplines, however in his brief fight with plain-old boxer Bobby Jacks (admittedly a hulking Scary Black Man) Adonis came very close to getting his ass kicked. Notable also is that previously (in a pregame tournament) Bobby was defeated with relative ease by an opponent with far less 'fighting ability' than Adonis is touted to have.
- Dan Brent, of V3, is a decent example of this, as his every attempt to score kills fell horribly flat.
- Stupid Mario Brothers: Both Mario and the Darkness describe Link as the strongest of the heroes, but he loses every major fight he gets into, is captured offscreen in season 1, and dies twice. For real, the second time.