"A Jack of All Trades, who is incompetent in all of them."
One of the classic and most common character types in gaming
is the generalist, a jack-of-all-trades with capabilities in all fields and no particular weaknesses. But specialization has advantages, so it takes a deft touch to ensure that the generalist has reasons for being used.
Sometimes it simply doesn't work. They aren't completely useless at anything they try, but they're not good at it either. They have no particular weakness or vulnerability that can be easily exploited, but that's offset by the fact that they're kinda vulnerable to everything
. That character is a Master of None.
Master of None is the dark side of the Jack of All Stats
, where their weakness is the fact that they have no strengths that they can capitalize on. The Magic Knight
is easy to make into this, if the developers want to encourage specialisation in magic or physical combat. If Master of None is part of a band or Multiform Balance
, it often has some useful ability (for example, Super Not-Drowning Skills
) that prevent them from become Joke Character
, it's just that the ability isn't very versatile
The difference between why a Jack of All Stats
is useful in one game, but becomes a Master of None in another is often tied to how large the party or units are in the game. In a game with only one character, the character needs the capacity to handle every situation themselves, and in static parties with no ability to switch characters out, the ability to just be very good in one situation means being The Load
in other situations. In a strategic RPG with dozens of characters you can swap out any time you need a specialist, however, there's no reason to swap in anything but the specialist best at this particular specialization. If you can only send 4 characters in, any character 5th place or worse in your roster in that situation is a sub-optimal choice. Even a character that can do nothing but use poison spells
that deal more damage than normal, that's a specialization that makes them stand out from the faceless crowds sometimes. If they're not in the top spots in any
situation... why ever use them at all?
Compare with Crippling Overspecialization
at the other extreme, for the character who's great at one thing, but horrible at everything else. Contrast with the Master of All
, who is very good
at everything. Occasionally a Master of None is made intentionally as part of Multiform Balance
, as a stepping stone to stronger forms including a true Jack of All Stats
For the novel, see here.
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- Faize of Star Ocean The Last Hope. He starts off well enough, being your first offensive symbologist and having some melee skills, but he's soon overshadowed by Lymle and Myuria in attack symbology while Edge and Meracle outclass him physically. The Bradygames strategy guide actually recommends leaving him out of the party for your first playthrough due to how hard it is for him to pull his weight since he later leaves about 5/8ths of the way through the game. Even if you keep him for a second playthrough when he has the opportunity to learn much more useful and unique symbols, he's still shortchanged in the weapons department, with his best being a coliseum prize until you get to the second bonus dungeon.
- Kratos/Zelos in Tales of Symphonia remain somewhat competent melee combatants throughout the game thanks to having the stats for it and ability to pull off a full combo, but they quickly lose in spell casting because they stop at level 2 spells (opposed to the exponentially more powerful level 3 spells Genis has) and casting does not synergize well with melee due to the rather lengthy start up times. They have decent supplemental healing though, thanks to it being based on percentage instead of fixed numbers.
- Kratos, being a Crutch Character, never really gets to become a Master of None in the first place. Up until the end of the Journey of Regeneration he keeps track with both Genis' offense spells, Raine's healing, Colette's tanking and Lloyd's melee ability. He is a better example during the second Aselia ranch mission and his ending, but in his defence he hasn't had much opportunity to develop since he's been gone from the party.
- They both have a special ability that lets them insta-cast Level 1 spells while they're doing an aerial combo though. And then there's spell canceling.
- The War Magi in Etrian Odyssey suffer from this: they can cast healing-magic and buffs, but lack the more effective versions for those spells. They can equip swords, but they don't have many attack skills, and the few they have are woefully situational (stunning an enemy afflicted with Sleep?) Their stats aren't very helpful, either. Your best bet with a War Magus is to just choose a job and have them specialize in it, ironically, but even then, they'll be a sub-par healer/buffer/attacker. Their Cursecut/Transfer combo, on the other hand, redeems them, if only because it'll save you trips to the inn after your Medics/Bards/Landsknechts run out of TP.
- Likewise, the Beast class. They can be used for a combination of offensive and defensive strategies...but, they don't really excel in either role, thanks to the combination of poor skills and lack of decent armor.
- Shining Force: Arthur starts out as a Master of None, at least until his Magikarp Power kicks in. He's a fighter with some spells, but for the first several levels after getting him, he dies in two hits, barely does more than Scratch Damage, and has only level 1 spells.
- Final Fantasy:
- Red Mages from Final Fantasy I and Final Fantasy III tended to suffer from this. Later games like Final Fantasy V were much kinder to them, particularly when their abilities could be used with other classes, and gave them Game Breaker abilities like Doublecast... if you're willing to grind for it.
- The PSP remake gave the Red Mage a serious buff with access to some of the highest-stat equips, particularly the Barbarian Sword, the weapon with the highest attack power in the game.note
- Averted in Final Fantasy XI. Red Mages received two specializations, being strong (though not necessarily the best) enhancing and enfeebling spell casters.
- Kimahri Ronso of Final Fantasy X suffers from this. He's pretty average, not good or bad at anything. He can often hit fast and airborne opponents, deals decent damage, can pierce like Auron but lacks his strength, and aside from magic, is just generally all-round. He falls out of use fairly quickly because Final Fantasy X is, at least in the beginning, a game where you will rely almost wholly on your specialists, which means that by the time you get into the middle game where all-rounders become a bit more useful, Kimahri is badly underleveled.
- Gogo in Final Fantasy VI can use almost any ability worth using in the game, but all of his base stats are low and, unlike the other characters, he can't raise them because he can't equip Espers. No matter what you have him do, he'll be bad at it.
- Fire Emblem sees Eliwood's mediocre, "balanced" stat growths pale in comparison to Lyn and Hector's respective Fragile Speedster and Lightning Bruiser statuses, and have earned him the derogatory Fan Nickname "Eliwuss."
- Smeargle from Pokémon can learn any move in the game, but their poor stats mean that there's no point in teaching them 96 percent of them unless you're using them for breeding purposes. Granted, there are a few combinations of moves they can get that no other Pokémon can, but outside of those combinations, you're better off just using a more specialized Pokémon.
- There are a few strategies out there that Smeargle can take advantage of to devastating effects. Most begin with Spore, a 100% Sleep move. From there, the most common is either to use Transform, which copies the opponent's stats and allows Smeargle to fight on equal terms. Or use this opportunity to build up Status Buffs and use Baton Pass to transfer those buffs over to somebody else. Or, prevent a switch with Mean Look, Block, or Spider Web, use Mind Reader or Lock-On to guarantee the next hit connects, then use Sheer Cold, an instant-KO move that normally has 30% accuracy. The last one is not used competitively as much due to moves like Sheer Cold being banned from most unofficial tournaments.
- Despite it having access to some deadly move combos, however, it's still presented with the issue of actually getting a chance to use them before being KO'd in one hit, thanks to its average speed stat and horrible defenses.
- There are several Pokémon that aren't useful as their stats are often too rounded, but Glalie is a good one. Apart from awful typing, all of its stats are an average 80.
- Other Pokémon with equal, below-average numbers in all stats are Ditto (48 each), Spinda (60), Castform (70), and Phione (80). That being said, a majority of these Pokémon are Master of Nones with the intention of them being proverbial blank slates; they could potentially do anything, and as Pokémon battling is mostly about prediction and outmaneuvering, being a Master of None is actually an advantage due to their high surprise factor.
- Mixed-attackers tend to be this. Consisting of Pokemon trained in both physical and special moves, they're valued for their ability to hit both defenses, countering purpose-built walls like Blissey and Skarmory. However, their attacking stats are often far lower than a specialist Pokemon's single stat, their movepools have less space and tend to have less coverage, and given the need to EV train two stats, they're often slower and more fragile. Most "mixed attackers" are actually physical or special attackers who keep an unexpected move as a last resort.
- Shin Megami Tensei offers some demons, characters, and Personas that have perfectly balanced builds. These are much poorer choices of party members than characters who specialize in Strength or Magic, as such balanced characters can't dish out enough damage per turn or carry enough MP to be a worthy asset.
- Yukari in Persona 3 suffers from this upon closer inspection of her move list. While far from useless in battle, her movelist never really optimizes. She gains wind magic, mass healing and some status curing spells. However, she never learns Amrita, so she wastes two spots on status healing spells that may or may not help (and given her AI, it's not easy to force her to do them if the battle goes sour or if she's afflicted). Also, given that she wastes two skill slots (out of eight), she doesn't learn wind boost or wind amp, hampering her overall wind magic at endgame. Because of this, the player will have to think a bit more on what accessory to give her (the Wind Amp Bracers or the lightning gloves from returning Thor).
- Yangus in Dragon Quest VIII looks like he should be a Mighty Glacier, with a build that suggests Stout Strength and An Axe to Grind. He's certainly slow enough, but his damage output is average at best, and pales next to Jessica's spells and whips, Angelo's bows and arrows, and the Hero's swords or spears. He can get a few healing spells if you put points into Humanity, but his healing potential is limited by a small MP pool, and unlike the Hero and Angelo he never gets any way to regain magic points or mitigate casting costs. He's can wear some of the best armor in the game and has a massive HP pool, which qualifies him as a Stone Wall, but since there's no way for him to pull aggro he can't really tank for squishier party members. His Axe skills will eventually give him an attack which is a guaranteed critical if it hits, and since criticals in this game ignore defense, it's particularly useful against late-game bosses, but it misses more often than it hits, so it's too unreliable to use frequently. Early in the game he's useful in boss fights as a debuffer, although Jessica can do that as well or better. In the late game, he's mostly useful to hold on to a Sage's Stone, Rune Staff, Timbrel of Tension and Resurrection Staff and act as a secondary buffer and healer, not so much because he's particularly good at it, but because he's the only party member with nothing better to do.
- Competitive Team Fortress 2 circles assign this to the Pyro class—Pyros are among the least seen classes because their abilities, while considerable, are simply overshadowed by the other choices available to a 6-man team. Pyros can move quicker than most of the common competitive classes and excels at short range, but the Scout is both faster and more agile, and deals damage in bigger chunks. It's a good defensive class in close quarters, but the Heavy has better range, more health, and deals more damage. Spy checking, Ubercharge denial, and sentry defense, its remaining important uses, simply don't account for much competitive playtime due to the lack of need or lack of acceptance of the role. Ironically, this puts the Pyro (considered one of the classes requiring the least thinking to play) together with the Spy (considered the class requiring the most thinking to play) in the bottom of the competitive class tier—neither class' abilities play into a match strongly enough to justify their regular inclusion in a 6 vs. 6 skirmish.
- They are strong in competitive 9v9 Highlander, however. You will want to deprive the enemy Ubercharge or kill the enemy Pyro before pushing in with your own Ubercharge first, as a defensive Pyro can utterly shut down an Uber push, especially if he receives an Ubercharge himself.
- The Balance-class ships in space battles in Star Wars: Battlefront 2 (i.e., X-Wings, TIE Fighters, ARC-170's and Droid Starfighters/Vulture Droids). Anyone who knows what they're doing will immediately get in a Bomber-class ship (Y-Wings, TIE Bombers, V-Wings and CIS Strike Bombers) and go for the high-scoring capital ship vital systems. This may also be combined with a quick stop within the enemy capital ship to wreak havoc inside, in which case the heavily-armored Bombers are ideal. If all of the vital systems are destroyed and the match still isn't over, the only real option is to get in a Fighter-class ship (A-Wings, TIE Interceptors, Republic Starfighters and Droid Tri-fighters) and kill enemies ship-to-ship. The Balance-class ships don't have the raw payload of Bombers to be even slightly effective against capital ships and are far less effective at ship-to-ship combat than Fighters. The only possible advantage Balanced-class ships could have is the ability to switch up their strategy on the fly, but due to the way the game is set up, the need for this is practically non-existent.
- Combat Rifles in Blacklight Retribution were presumably meant to fill the gap between Assault Rifles and Bolt-Action Rifles: More powerful and longer-ranged than the former, less recoil and faster-firing than the latter. In practice the downsides are more obvious: Weaker and shorter-ranged than Bolt-Actions, more recoil and slower-firing than Assaults.
- In Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, this role falls to the Sixshooter. Intended to be the middle ground between the killing power of the Ranger and the rapid-fire Quickshooter, in practice using it means getting neither the Ranger's near-guaranteed One Hit Kills nor the Quickshooter's combo-extending speed-reloads.
- City of Heroes: Tri-Form Kheldians can easily fall into this trap if the player spreads their enhancement slots too thin rather than choosing to make certain powers better at the price of others.
- Back in the day, this was a huge problem for hybrids in World of Warcraft, especially in Player Versus Environment gameplay. Druids made for completely awful tanks, physical DPS, magic DPS and were also slightly subpar in healing. Shaman could heal okay, but again, didn't deal much damage. Paladins also had an unimpressive damage output, and weren't good at soaking up damage, but they had the best buffs in the game, didn't need to use totems, and were arguably the best healers. The Burning Crusade expansion took care of most of the deficiencies until basically they became specialized and differentiated from the basic healer, the priest. Now, the 'pure' classes like the Mage, Warlock and Rogue are frustrated that they do not add much versatility, and they do not excel over the supposed 'jack of all trades, Master Of None' classes.
- This was a potential pitfall of the talent system, especially before the Cataclysm expansion overhaul. To make a long story short, it was not an especially good sign to see a player without a minimum of 51 points into their primary talent tree because this usually means that their character will lack a powerful top-tier talent for their primary task. Even with 51 points in a character's primary "spec" it was still possible for a player to overlook crucial talents considered mandatory for Crippling Overspecialization in either PVE or PVP. This issue also created complaints, from some class players, about being "restricted to cookie cutter specs" to perform their role optimally.
- Blizzard finally prevented this with Mists of Pandaria by ripping out the talent system completely. You now pick your role which specializes you immediately. The few talents left to choose from are "situational" abilities that players may or may not need. This of course prompted cries of They Changed It, Now It Sucks.
- Though supporters of this new post-talent system say you can choose 6 (out of a total of 18) very useful skills, as opposed to 12-14 (out of 50+) kinda-sorta useful skills. As an added bonus, the skills in each tier of the Mists of Pandaria talent tree often change a core skill in different ways. For example, the first tier of Hunter talents, unlocked at level 15, all change the Disengage skill (you leap backwards to get out of your enemy's range). There's Posthaste (temporarily increase running speed after you Disengage), Narrow Escape (trap nearby enemies when you Disengage) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Chimaera (reduces the cooldown on Disengage, allowing you to use it more often).
- According to the Let's Play, Charlatans in Drakensang due to the games system of buying new abilities with EXP, forcing their abilities to be spread thin, or to abandon some facets.
- Jedi Sentinels in the first Knights of the Old Republic have the combat abilities of a consular (pure caster), and only slightly better force powers than a Guardian in exchange for skill points... completely worthless in the first game and immunities to various force powers (that many items can negate, and only bosses use anyways). Fixed entirely in the second game.
- The Assassin Class in Ragnarok Online. He sucks at PvP, isn't that useful in WoE, can hardly beat any boss monster and pretty much his only specialty is grinding alone in PvE. Only that other classes such as the Hunter are much better at that, too. At least it used to be that way. With newer updates, the Assassin gained effectiveness. His rebirth class, the Assassin Cross, is the complete opposite and has been accused of being overpowered quite often.
- While this is true, a more glaring example is the Super Novice class of RO, who is a literal Jack. They can pick any skills from the first-tier classes freely, making them a neat side-character. Unfortunately, they are limited to novice-only weapons (meaning they can take Archer skills but can't use a bow), and more cripplingly, retain Novice-level health and mana pools. They're the weakest character in the game, but they're an "Expanded Class", which Gravity has made clear are not intended to be balanced.
- At top levels magic-oriented Super Novices can become immune to ranged or melee physical attacks and have near-instant spellcasting at the same time, which makes them able to do some burst damage in PvP if they get the jump on the enemy. Still, their health pools usually prevent them from surviving the return damage.
- The balance (sorcerer) class in Wizard 101 is this, having buffs and traps for every other school and some multipurpose ones, as well as having a few spells that mimic those of other school's such as their unique healing spell.
- Starcraft and its sequel
- Any unit that can attack both ground and air units, and which uses a Normal attack instead of Explosive or Concussive/Plasma, qualifies here. Examples include the Terran marine, Zerg mutalisk, and Protoss carrier. Other units might see limited use, but not due to a lack of specialization.
- You want to achieve a balanced research in Star Ruler. While Crippling Overspecialization invites counters, spreading your research too widely will result in more focused opponents rolling over your forces with tougher ships, ships that can regenerate faster than you can hurt them or ships that can blow yours up easily.
- In Homeworld 2, frigates, especially Vaygr frigates, are rather hard to find a tactical niche for. The core problem is that they are scissors in a game with rocks but no paper: Heavier capital ships aren't useful against strikecraft and corvettes, but extremely useful against frigates and captial ships, while the lighter strikecraft and corvettes are moderately usefull against everything. As such, no type of frigate can handle anything bigger, even in a Zerg Rush, while they can't catch (and can, at a cost, be ZergRushed by) lighter ships. They could be used to protect bigger ships against smaller ships, but other small ships can do that too without getting slaughtered by enemy capital ships.
- The TIE Avenger in the TIE Fighter series is one of the fighters obtained by the midgame. It's the ship that Vader's personal craft was the prototype for, a TIE fighter that was designed to traditional fighter standards rather than an engine with guns strapped to it. In its own levels, it's not really an example, as it performs quite well until you obtain the TIE Defender and stacks up well against an X-Wing. However, in-universe, it's considered an example of this: the Imperial combat doctrine is We Have Reserves, where the standard TIE and TIE Interceptor excel but the Avenger is too expensive to do, while missions that DID require a smaller number of powerful fighters would use the Defender instead, since the Defender is one of the greatest space-superiority vessels ever made and the Avenger is just decent. It says something that there were fewer Avengers made than Defenders, even though the Defender is the more expensive one.
- Boron fighter ships in the X-Universe series of Wide Open Sandbox space combat/trading games. They have the shielding of Split ships, but aren't anywhere near as fast. They have the firepower of the Argon, but lack the energy reserves to fire their weapons. The ships can mount only energy weapons, and the energy weapons that they mount are all horrible energy hogs like the Ion Disruptor, making their tiny energy reserves even more painful. Their only redeeming features are their looks and their relatively large cargo hold to spam missiles from, though their cargo capacity is still nowhere near as big as Teladi ships. However, their capital ships do not suffer from this, carrying overwhelming anti-capital ship firepower and fairly good shielding and speed, though at the cost of pathetic anti-fighter defenses; good thing you can simply smash the capital ship into the fighters or enabled 10x time acceleration and watch the fighters plow into your hull.
- Billy Jean Blackwood in Backyard Sports has equal stats in everything in almost every game. She's a Master of None and not a Mario because she doesn't help your team in any way. This was probably the reason she was discontinued from the series (that and being a Southern Belle).
- Pandemic has one role literally called The Generalist, which has five actions instead of the usual four, and no special powers.
- Bards in Dungeons & Dragons edition 3.5 have a medium base attack bonus (without the cleric's Divine Power spell, the druid's wild shape, or the rogue's sneak attack to augment it) and lower than full spell casting progression, neither really meshing with the other (as opposed to, for example, the assassin Prestige Class, who gains spells like invisibility, that allows it to land its sneak attack ability constantly). Even so, they are casters in a game that greatly favors spellcasters, albeit not full ones, making them better than any non-caster core class thanks to save or suck effects and a number of unassuming but powerful effects like the power to make Blatant Lies seem believable with Glibness. Bards also get great support in supplements, allowing them to choose alternative specializations. The first edition bard was oddly Magikarp Power.
- That said, bards also have the Diplomacy skill, which when used properly becomes a highly effective version of Mind Control, and unlike Charm and Dominate spells is nonmagical and has no saving throw.
- Mystic Theurges, Red Mages who cast both arcane and divine spells are another example, suffering from stunted casting in a game where casters grow exponentially, loss of the benefits of each casting type (divine magic can be cast in armor, but arcane magic has a decent chance of spell failure, so a MT shouldn't wear armor like a pure divine caster), and unless the build is Wizard/Archivist/Mystic Theurge or Sorcerer/Shugenja/Mystic Theurge, they need to buff two attributes to be able to cast high level spells. Like bards, though, they're still very powerful classes pretty much by virtue of being casters, and their flexible entry requirements makes it easy to qualify as, say, an Ur-Priest (who gets casting at such a fast rate that the Mystic Theurge can't slow it down).
- M.A.D. (Multiple Attribute Dependence) kills many attempts at jacks.
- An even less powerful Master Of None is the 3E monk, mainly because it gets a mishmash of abilities that don't synergize - notably, high speed combined with attacks that only work while standing still. Among others, it gets many attacks with a moderate chance to hit and low damage, decent defenses but no ability to wear armor, good damage while grappling, but poor ability to actually grapple, and a good list of skills but lack of points to actually improve them with. They also has a severe case of M.A.D. - they need Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, and Wisdom to work properly.
- The Psionics Handbook Soulknife got particularly badly hit with this. It's a melee class that is forced to use a single weapon (the soulknife), which deals pitiful damage and needs pre-emptive action (and feats) to be shaped into a useful form. The class also has medium BAB, and nerfed versions of the bonus damage ability of the rogue (without its skill selection) or the monk's mobility (without stunning fist or all its flavour abilities), while being limited to medium armour. At 13th level it gets the Knife to the Soul ability, which would make it useful for hunting spellcasters or killing fighters by ability damage... Provided the targets survive long enough to be permanently inconvenienced by repeated applications instead of dying by HP loss, and provided they don't just kill the soulknife first, both scenarios being more likely.
- Medium armor. All the speed penalties of heavy armor while offering, at best, one extra point of AC bonus compared to light armor. At worst, they offer protection equal to light armors while being heavier, with lower maximum dexterity bonuses and higher skill penalties. The only decent medium armor is a heavy armor made of Mithral, which makes it count as a medium armor.
- In D&D, each race of genies has a powerful connection to one of the four elements (djinn for air, efreet for fire, marid for water, dao for earth) — except for the jann, who are connected to all four elements but are the weakest of the genies.
- The Hexblade, of Complete Warrior, was an early attempt at a Magic Knight base class. It failed miserably, since the designers badly overestimated how strong the Hexblade's various abilities were. On the physical side, it couldn't wear any armor lighter than a chain shirt, it didn't get any feats or abilities to boost its combat capabilities, and its sole unique power was the rather poor once-per-day debuff Curse ability. On the magic side, it was limited to fourth-level spells (the same as Paladins and Rangers, who no one would call caster classes), and the need to buff its combat stats often left its Charisma lagging. Even the class's creator apologized for it, giving the class a much-needed unofficial fix that became widely-used. The revised Hexblade has since found a niche as a melee-focused debuffer and wielder of the game's strongest familiars.
- Certain official NPCs tend to become this. Most of the time, when trying to mix two classes, players prefer to either use a prestige class like Eldritch Knight to advance both, or use one class to mimic the other (for instance, a Cloistered Cleric with the Trickery domain can fill in for a Rogue pretty well). The designers took longer to figure this out. A quick look through the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting reveals a multitude of characters with builds like Jezz the Lame - as a drow Rogue 6/Sorcerer 6, he's considered CR 14, despite possessing no spells above third-level, a Sneak Attack that deals 3d6 damage, and only thirty-six hit points. Storm Silverhand, though, is the absolute reigning queen of this. The formidable Bard of Shadowdale is a Chosen of Mystra Rogue 1/Fighter 4/Bard 8/Sorcerer 12/Harper Scout 3 - in layman's terms, a character with a CR equal to many an Eldritch Abomination, who would probably get eaten by a bog-standard beholder.
- Multiclassing when poorly done usually results in this, if the two classes don't synergize well. For instance, a fighter 4/sorcerer 4 may be as strong as an 8th-level character on paper, but in practice, he's just mixing abilities that would have been handy four levels ago, and the fact that he has a lot of them doesn't matter, because he can't use both at the same time - he has the option of doing one thing that does nothing, or one thing that also does nothing.
- Warhammer 40,000 has a couple of units that fall under this, although it's fully possible for an entire army to become this if point allocation is stretched too thin. The rule of thumb is that if you absolutely need to fulfil a specific role like taking out an enemy's vehicles, it's better to dedicate a specialist squad or unit to that task; trying to load all of your squads with some level of anti-vehicular firepower is expensive, generally not as effective, and will leave you outmatched and outnumbered in the face of combined arms tactics. That being said, there's nothing wrong with attaching some versatility wherever possible, although this is heavily dependent on how each unit is to be deployed.
- The 5th edition Space Marines codex fell under this for a number of years. Although Space Marines are more of a Stone Wall and Jack of All Stats faction, the problem is that the vanilla codex is overshadowed by the codices written for specific chapters like the Blood Angels, which have all of the usual Space Marine stuff in addition to having better vehicles and some of the most powerful close-combat units and characters in the game. 6th edition countered this by providing specializations for each chapter, although the Ultramarines still try to fulfill this (in practice, their rules lend themselves best to devastating alpha strikes supported by powerful special characters).
- To their name, the humble Tactical Squad is the epitome of this trope; each trooper is armed with a Bolter (good against hordes of infantry), a Bolt Pistol (allowing them to fire their weapon and charge in the same turn), Frag Grenades (negating any cover bonuses when they charge an enemy) and Krak Grenades (allowing them to engage even heavy vehicles). They also all have Power Armor and usually one trooper will be armed with a close-range special weapon (such as a flamer) and a heavy anti-tank weapon (usually a Missile Launcher or Lascannon). They are also a troop choice, meaning they also fulfill your basic minimum requirements no matter what your army is built to be. The problem is none of those weapons excel at what they do; the average space marine can't put out enough attacks in close combat to make it worth charging anyone, krak grenades only give them the ability to engage tanks (you still need 5's and 6's on a D6 to actually inflict damage against most things), and the special and heavy weapons they have do not put out enough shots to deal respectable damage to their intended targets. And prior to the Combat Squad rule, the heavy and special weapon couldn't even be fired at the same target! (the Special Weapon usually need to be extremely close to the target while the heavy weapon can't shoot after moving; you had to be within spitting distance of the enemy to actually fire both at the same target, and usually by then they would have already charged you).
- Eldar Guardian Defenders, the generalist unit in an army of specialists, can theoretically be kitted out to provide support firepower. The problem is that they're Fragile Speedsters armed with anti-infantry guns that shoot about as far as shotguns, which mean that they get outranged in firefights or get charged once in range. They're a bit better with a heavy weapons platform (which they have to take), but that in turn means that about 90% of the squad will generally be sitting around doing nothing, either because of the aforesaid range issues or because the heavy weapon is targeting a vehicle. They are also Over Shadowed By Awesome, since Dire Avengers fulfill the same general infantry tactical niche, but do everything better than the Guardian Defenders do, from better weapon range to better armor to hitting their targets more often. The trade-off being that Dire Avengers cost more, are fielded in smaller numbers, and cannot not take heavy weapon platforms.
- The Eclipse Caste of the Solar Exalted (and their Infernal and Abyssal variants, the Fiends and Moonshadows) are both this and the Minmaxer's Delight, for entirely different reasons. On the one hand, several of their Caste abilities are woefully underdeveloped mechanically, making their core role as diplomats incredibly difficult to fulfill. On the other hand, their anima power allows them to learn the Charms of other beings, creating unintentional and game-breaking synergies that no one else has access to.
- In the Digimon Collectible Card Game, Vaccine Digimon are strong against Virus Digimon, Virus Digimon are strong against Data Digimon, and Data Digimon are strong against nothing in particular. To compensate, Data Digimon have higher stats overall.
- Halfling teams in Blood Bowl consist of the Mighty Glacier treemen, and the not-so-mighty halflings. Halflings have the movement speed of dwarfs comboed with the strength and durability of goblins, while lacking the former's team-wide invulnerability (due to ridiculously high armor and high number of blitzers with Block) and the latter's penchant for bringing illegal weaponry (bombs, chainsaws, pogo sticks... the works) onto the field as equalizers. Halflings only get general skills on doubles, meaning they'll be eating dirt a lot, and their treemen launchers have a tendency to take root and become immobile. They're widely considered to be one of the Joke Teams, the other being the Ogres, and only played as a Self-Imposed Challenge. That said, their discount on master chefs is worth it when you end up stealing all your opponent's rerolls... Even if they do crush half your roster into a fine red paste as payback.
- Most of BattleTech's various Humongous Mecha and other combat are specialized to a degree, such as Fragile Speedster scout 'Mechs and hovercraft, or Mighty Glacier assault units and main battle tanks. Even main-line combat units are designed to favor power or speed for a specific reason. Some designs, however, are so average that they ultimately can't accomplish much.
- The SHD-2H Shadow Hawk is a 55-ton 'Mech that has average speed, average armor, and average firepower for its size. However, this means that while it can fill a hole in a unit, it can't actually do anything effectively. It is too slow to act as a scout and lacks the agility to flank, but does not have the firepower to do more than plug gaps in a line of battle. It suffers from terrible range overlap, where half of its weapons will work well at one range but not the other, and ultimately means it does mediocre damage at every range.
- The STN-3K Sentinel weighs 40 tons and moves at an average speed for that size. It carries modest armor and a small selection of weapons, but suffers from the same problems as the aforementioned Shadow Hawk by having its largest and most powerful weapon suffer inaccuracy at short range, which is the only range that its small missile launcher and laser can reach. It is generally not guilty of any major battlefield sins aside from not being able to fill a useful role, which is in some ways the ultimate failure.
- The SR1-O Strider is another 40-ton machine that, in spite of its good armor and acceptable speed, is considered something of a joke by the fanbase, due to its nature as a highly expensive and experimental Inner Sphere Omnimech with the ability to be reconfigured for multiple roles...and not actually being much good in any of them. It can choose to be a slow and defenseless scout, a wimpy close-fighter, or an underpowered missile boat.
- The Clan-built Thresher is explicitly noted to be one of these in-universe. It is sarcastically considered the natural result of democracy, committees, and compromise, and is a Clan heavy 'Mech that doesn't kick ass and take names the way Clan heavies generally do. While it isn't a complete failure, its generalized nature makes it so mediocre (it's too expensive to even be a basic trooper design) that it has ended up doing very little other than sit around far away from the front lines and look lumpy.
- The Iron Chain cards in Yu-Gi-Oh! are intended to combine a strategy of attacking, Burn damage, and milling the opponent's Deck to be flexible and overwhelm the opponent. Unfortunately for them, they're pretty bad at all three. Iron Chain Repairman is their only non-Synchro attacker, with an average-at-best 1600 ATK, while ace Iron Chain Dragon has a good-but-not-great 2500, plus an ATK bonus that might get 1000 points for one turn if you've got a lot of Chains in the Graveyard. You can try to weaken your opponent's cards with Iron Chain Snake, but even then, doing so is incredibly slow and cumbersome. Burn cards are pretty sparse; Iron Chain Blaster does 800 damage a turn at the cost of a Monster, which is pretty lame since some cards can do 500 a turn with no other requirements, while Iron Chain Repairman and Paralyzing Chain do 300 damage per activation, which is barely even chip damage. And milling the Deck? Well, there's destroying a Monster with Iron Chain Snake, which has all the problems above, there's Poison Chain, which knocks off only a few cards a turn and stops you from attacking, and Dragon, which knocks off just three cards per attack. All this, combined with how tiny the archetype is, means that the Iron Chains will do just enough attacking to stop them from using stall cards, just enough burn damage to make their attacking force insufficient, and just enough milling to give your opponent Graveyard resources.
- In the first and second Advance Wars, Andy was the Jack of All Stats and was a viable character because all his units were always evenly-powered, but with the massive introduction of lots of new characters and the revamping of one or two older ones, there were many many characters with advantages and no drawbacks, and these weren't even the Game Breaker characters. These drawbackless powers include extra vision in Fog of War and superior counterattacks, extra defence against ranged attacks, and several with bonuses on specific terrain, like plains, cities or roads. That said, Andy's still usable, thanks to his decent CO power.
- In Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, the ability to play without a CO character was added. This makes you even more of a Master of None than the characters that lack useful skills; you have nothing but your own ingenuity to fall back on.
- Advance Wars: Days of Ruin also had The Beast, the Warm-Up Boss designed for you to sink your teeth into in the first few missions. He has no CO power, can't load a CO into a unit, and has absolute base-level stats.
- Magic Knights in Disgaea have only a leveling speed of B in swords and a B in staffs (most classes have an S in their main type or at least an A for the initial ones) and needs to level them both up. The same goes for the angel class (a slightly better jack that has an A in staffs and swords). They end up becoming the strongest mages and one of the deadliest units overall in the second game, however.
- Majins, however, are Lightning Bruisers who excel in everything, needing only a reincarnation/pupil to get spells if desired. Their drawbacks of low Movement range (which can be overcome), and a paltry throw range of ONE SQUARE (which cannot be enhanced) can be daunting though. In the first Disgaea game, Majins are the best class in the game at practically everything. Their only "drawback" being that they take an awful lot of Level Grinding to unlock, making them the character class equivalent of the Infinity+1 Sword. The sequels nerfed them somewhat, giving the player a reason to use other character classes alongside them.
- Final Fantasy Tactics Advance's Montblanc is a character who, like any unit in the game, can go into any job that his race is capable of. However, his stats are so abysmal that there's really no point in using him at all, as even later units that join your clan have better stats. What's really crippling is the fact that the game will not even let you remove him from your party (short of killing him in a Jagd) so you'll have to endure his subparness for the whole game. He's likable enough that most people put up with him.
- The Lightning from the original X-COM. It can intercept and carry troops, but is a worse fighter than the Firestorm and a worse troop bus than the Skyranger. Its successor, the Avenger, fits the trope by being Awesome but Impractical: it carries more troops than the Skyranger and is a stronger fighter than the Firestorm, but loses by being horribly expensive to build and fuel, so a lot of players refuse to build it until it's time for the endgame mission (which requires one to carry the team) because Skyrangers and Firestorms are simply more efficient.
- A real danger in Shadowrun Returns. Since it becomes ever harder to put points into skills the higher level you go, it can be tempting to grab the low-hanging fruit instead. This spreading out of skills, however, can make things difficult in the lategame. This is further compounded by the fact that spellbook and item slots are shared among all the possible archetypes' needs. It's almost always better to specialise, and the ingame hints themselves suggest as much.
- Civilization 4:
- Spearmen and Pikemen. Their innate combat bonus against mounted units clashes with their offensively-oriented promotion tree.
- Grenadiers. Their innate bonus against riflemen clashes with their defensively-oriented promotion tree.
- Marines. Their amphibious ability and bonus against machine guns clashes with their defensively-oriented promotion tree.
- Coμ -Black Dragon In A Gentle Kingdom- has the Bishop class, which has stats of seven across the board, where other classes have two threes, a six, and a ten in the four stats. Except each team has five people — most of which are of the normal classes — that usually has four members that end up with four different tens.
- In the Ultima series from part four onwards, the Shepherd class is the Embodiment of Virtue of Humility and therefore has low stats across the board (compare/contrast the Ranger class, which has medium stats in everything). As a consequence, Katrina, the series' Shepherd Non-Player Companion, usually plays The Load to the Player Party in games that require recruiting her.
- Medium armor in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind doesn't get any of the goodies that light and heavy get and without the expansions (where it is still weak) doesn't get a set comparable to last tiers of light/heavy armor. Not to mention that without the expansions, wearing the best set of medium armor in the game will make every guard in the largest city in the game attack you on sight.
- Diablo II: The Druid is sometimes accused of being a Master Of None. He uses elemental magic, nature summons, and has shapeshifting for melee. However, his magic is weaker than the sorceress', often with huge timers placed on them. His summons are limited to 1, 3, or 5 damaging minions, while the Necromancer can have somewhere around 40 skeletons total. His melee skills are up to the task, but since his were-forms have limited durations, he has to worry about turning back into a human mid-battle.
- While every magic-user in Might and Magic VI could upgrade those magical skills they could learn to the highest rank, and so were only kept from mastery of magic or combat through what skills they could learn and how many hit points and spell points were received per level, VII to IX added the ability to restrict what rank the skill could be upgraded to. This made hybrids less powerful, as upgrading magic schools allowed the learning of new spells and enhanced old spells... though it also allowed some of them to become Masters of Something: yes, the archer might not be all that good a spellcaster, but being able to directly add to the damage done when attacking with a bow has its uses, the druid might only be second best in elemental or clerical magic, but can have more spell points than anyone, etc.
- Mass Effect's Kaidan Alenko avoids being The Load only by lieu of his Romance Sidequest and interesting backstory. He has biotics, but Liara has better ones (including Singularity, one of the most overpowered moves in the game). He has tech abilities, but so do Garrus and Tali. His weapon skills are the worst in the game (Tali, who in some ways is squishier than him, compensates for her similar weaknesses by having the highest shield ceiling in the game as well as being able to upgrade from basic pistols to shotguns), and he can only wear light armor (Garrus, in addition to being more durable, is able to upgrade to Medium Armor). Manually tweaking his stats can turn him into a versatile and powerful backup character, but most people only use him early on and dump him on the Normandy for the rest of the game.
- That's because Kaidan is a Sentinel, undoubtedly the weakest class in the first game. It was meant to be a tech/biotic mix, but overall squishiness combined with lack of damage output meant it was just a worse Adept. It had tech powers that could lock down enemies, but they replaced biotic abilities that could do the same thing better. It had biotic powers that once again could lock down enemies, but they didn't get the really powerful ones. They could use pistols, but their version of the talent for pistols (in that they gained the usual benefits through their passive skill) was weaker than any other class's version, and they didn't get any other weapons to make up for this. Tech/Biotics also don't complement each other as well as Combat does with either, since both are primarily set on making enemies vulnerable while Combat kills them. In the Sentinel's case, making them helpless didn't matter if you could barley hurt them. Sentinels usually relied heavily on teammates to do the killing. By Mass Effect 3, however, the Sentinel has become a true Jack of All Stats, when tech and biotic powers in general gained much larger damage output and the Sentinel's weapon skills became far more practical. It helped that they also got Tech Armor, making them the most durable class.
- While Kaidan was only this in 1, Jacob is definitely this. He only has two basic offensive powers (Pull and Incendiary Ammo) that aren't incredibly useful later on, especially when two other squadmates (Jack and Grunt respectively) have the same powers and are better in combat. He gets Lift Grenades in Citadel, but again doesn't bring anything else special, as another teammate (Wrex this time) has the same power and also happens to be better in combat than Jacob.
- In Dragon Age II, it's best to focus all of a character's ability points in their specialization tree and one ability tree, with maybe a few extra points in another tree when the first two are maxed out. Trying to spread the points equally across three or more trees can easily lead to Master Of None syndrome since you won't have enough points in any one tree to unlock the secondary bonuses, which can be a real problem at the endgame or on higher difficulties. Many of the available moves are decidedly mediocre without those bonuses.
- That goes for weapon and magic skill trees. On the other hand, Rogues get a lot more value mixing-and-matching skills across trees than from most of the top ranked skills in each tree. They can still be effective as a Master Of None.
- Kamil from The 7th Saga. Presumably, he was worth using in the original version, but in the version we all know, his stat growths are so hampered that he ends up below average in almost every way.
- This is a potential pitfall in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. With the game eschewing classes in favor of an open-ended leveling system, players going the Magic Knight route are easily tempted into spreading their points too thin and not being as effective as a pure fighter or caster. Due to Level Scaling, enemies constantly get stronger, but a Magic Knight will level their magic slower than a pure caster, and spells do not level-scale, so by the point you got the latest level of useful spells, enemies are likely going to have outlevelled them already, plus there is the issue of balancing Mana/Stamina/Health, which likely either means your character will have too few mana to make spellcasting useful for more than a weak initial shot, too few stamina to handle themselves decently in melee, or not enough health, which opens them up to the One-Hit Kill attacks of dragons.
- You want to avoid this in Alpha Protocol. Without the boost from Veteran it's impossible to fully level everything and most paths don't give you the really good stuff until far in, so too generalised a spread will leave you with a deficient Mikey that can't do much usefully. The game isn't completely unbeatable this way, but it'll be difficult. On the flipside, completely neglecting the other aspect will end poorly; stealth/technical builds need some investment in combat skills for the unskippable bosses and combat builds need some investment in technical to pass some puzzles.
- The Brig Of War in Sid Meier’s Pirates!. There are two schools of play in the game, "Board 'em quick" and "Pound them until they yield", which means that players will, depending on style, get a ship that is either extremely quick and maneuverable or has a huge broadside. This leaves the Brig Of War, which is slightly above average in speed, manouvering and weight of broadside, tragically unloved.
- The tragedy is compounded by several of the rare Brig of War's basic stats, such as cargo space, cannon count, and crew size being matched by the extremely common Frigate, with only a few small differences in speed and agility to differentiate the two. Similarly, this is why traders rarely take Barques out into the water; they're a little faster and a little more agile than some of their peers, but their weight of cannon is so average and their cargo capacity is so light by contrast that merchant players usually pick up something either ultralight for smuggling runs (such as the Pinnace) or something massive and decently armed for bulk shipments (such as the Merchantman). And no one likes Fluyts.
- Franklin Payne in Arcanum, due to how the game's Item Crafting system works. There are eight technological disciplines in the game, and five followers who have item-crafting skills. Franklin has novice level mastery of all eight disciplines, meaning he can craft a wide variety of basic items, but the other 4 followers (who specialise in two disciplines each and can attain technician level mastery of those two) are far better to call upon for assistance if you can recruit them.
Anime and Manga
- Jagi from Fist of the North Star is the weakest of the four Hokuto Shinken brothers. He tried to compensate for his lack of skill by fighting dirty, but it didn't work out for him in the long run. Jagi also knows Nanto Seiken, but Kenshiro deemed it too slow and an "insult to Shin" before sending him to Hell.
- Gundam SEED has the GAT-X102 Duel Gundam, which, being a system prototype for the Earth Alliance's other, more specialised mobile suits (Buster for ranged artillery, Blitz for stealth, Aegis for commanders and Strike for either close-combat, heavy assault or high mobility) has nearly no customisation or specialisation, despite being a "Close Quarters" mobile suit. Without its Assault Shroud, it tends to get knocked out by the Strike in most of its battles.
- The basic Strike, without its Striker Packs to specialise its battlefield role, is less capable of doing anything than Duel, having next to no in-built or equipped weaponry (the others get a rifle, at the very least).
- Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam gives us the RMS-106 Hizack. In theory, it's easily to see it as a major successor to the Zeon Zaku, despite it being used by the Earth Federation and the Titans. However, they skimped on the suit's power supply, meaning it can't handle beam weaponry like it should and you can either have a beam saber and a machine gun or a beam rifle or the old heat tomahawk. Its early replacement, the RMS-108 Marasai, easily fixes this problem and quickly becomes the mainstay Titans unit.
- This is a problem from some Burst Linkers in Accel World. Not many details are given but there is a point-buy system attached to the levelling up mechanic, allowing you to upgrade a Duel Avatar's existing abilities or unlock new ones as you level up. In the early game spreading points around to unlock new abilities can help cover obvious weaknesses but at turns you into this trope at the higher levels. This is noted to be a problem for Cyan Pile.
- The Garland from Mega Zone 23. Unlike the other mechs in the show it can transform on its own rather than having to combine with extra parts, but as a result its bike mode is extremely large and unwieldy. When Shogo first gets it and tries to weave through traffic with it the way he does with his old bike he causes a multi-vehicle accident.
- Silver Spoon: Hachiken feels like this after his mid-term exams. While he got the best overall grades by a pretty wide margin (scoring in the nineties in all subjects) he didn't get a full hundred or the highest grade in anything.
- The Y-Wing in Star Wars was designed to be a Jack of All Stats, but by the time of the films it had been equaled or surpassed in all areas by the X-Wing. Notably, only one Y-Wing survived the Battle of Yavin.
- The TaToBa form from Kamen Rider OOO. Sure the combo grants Eiji great jumping strength and Wolverine Claws, but he's been rarely in a situation where he didn't get better mileage from other Medals instead, like the Mantis medal's blades (longer reach than the claws) or the Cheetah medal's Super Speed. The Telescopic Sight the form also gives him has rarely been of use too.
- Tiga Blast in the Ultraman Tiga movie The Final Oddyssey. It's much like Multi Type form, but much weaker.
- In Silicon Valley, Nelson "Big Head" Bighetti has been trained in the various disciplines necessary to work in the technology field, but he's not particularly skilled in any of them. He's even called a "master of none" at one point.
- Notes in the Honor Harrington novel The Short Victorious War state that battleships, considered a Jack of All Stats a hundred years ago, have come to be seen as this instead by the time of the book. Sitting in the gap between battlecruisers and dreadnoughts, they lack the firepower and survivability of full ships of the wall as well as the mobility of battlecruisers or anything below; hence, nobody makes them anymore. The Havenites do redeem theirs by clever deep-raiding tactics, but even that's only something they bothered to do because they had a huge stock of the things still sitting around from their heyday; even Haven does not and will not build any new battleships.
- In Star Wars Wraith Squadron Falynn Sandskimmer sees herself as this but in reality she really is more of a Jack-of-All-Trades. The fact that there is always someone in the squadron that is better than her at something, not realizing that it is several different people, causes her to take extreme risks to be the first at anything. In the end she succeeds and dies at the same time.
- In A.L. Phillips's The Quest of the Unaligned, the unaligned mages of the royal house have access to all four of the elemental magics. However, every time an unaligned mage uses one of the elements, they grow slightly stronger in that element and slightly weaker in its opposite. For that reason, unaligned tend to become dabblers in each of the four domains, never really growing strong in any one.
- As indicated by the page quote, this is parodied in 8-Bit Theater with Red Mage, a Munchkin who firmly believes that the world works on tabletop RPG rules. Considering the amount of times he has be able to abuse this conviction in his favor, he might actually be right. However, regardless of whether he is right or not, one fact still stands: He is totally and completely inept at pretty much everything he does.
- To make matters worse, he is The Light Warriors' selfproclaimed strategist, and it could be argued that Black Mage's standard solution to any problem they encounter (to set the world ablaze and let the flames sort everything out) is far more likely to solve, or even address the problem at hand, than Red Mage's plans, which are mostly a mix of Insane Troll Logic and complete absence of logic in any way or form.
- Since 8-bit Theatre's universe runs on Rule of Funny, Red Mage's plans DO work sometimes, but only if they are so mindfuckingly stupid that they are likely to give the other characters, and the readers, an aneurysm as he is explaining them, and another one when the plans are pulled off successfully... Unless, of course, the universe decides that physics don't work that way, after all.
- Seńor Vorpal Kickasso in Goblins, who tries to master 11 Dungeons & Dragons classes at once and ends up with 1/11th of a level in each of them. This allows him to do things like hide 1/11th of his body in shadow (hey, it could be useful... if the enemy was only looking for his ankle), or cast 1/11th of a sleep spell (it makes you feel kind of lethargic... maybe).
- Nale in The Order of the Stick has levels of fighter, rogue and sorceror, giving him roughly the same ability set as his Quirky Bard twin brother, Elan, but in a needlessly complicated way. Furthermore, while he is an effective strategist and schemer, Elan's Medium Awareness cuts right through almost all of Nale's schemes. He tries to match Roy in terms of leadership, but unlike Roy only two of his minions have any form of loyalty to him, while the others are only drawn to him to fulfill their revenge against the protagonists.
- Similarly, there's Jenny, a rogue/bard/sorcerer. A bard is already sort of a combo of a rogue and a sorcerer, so she's basically got a whole bunch of very small, mostly redundant bonuses (not to mention an abysmal Base Attack).
- Gorgons in The Salvation War. "Every gorgon quickly became used to being told they were not as effective at persuading humans as succubi, much weaker fliers than harpies, less powerful witches than naga, poorer fighters than a common lesser demon."
- Kevin in Ben 10 suffers from this initially; an accident with the omnitrix leaves him with the superpowers of 10 different alien species, but those powers are 'diluted' and weaker than they should be. During an episode when circumstance force him into an Enemy Mine partnership with Ben, Ben suggests Kevin combines his powers to compensate for their relative weakness, such as using Super Speed and Super Strength to augment his melee skills, allowing him to become more of a Lightning Bruiser.
- This is Played for Drama with Applejack in "The Last Roundup". Applejack competes in a rodeo competition, winning second to fourth place in every one of the events. Besides a blow to her pride, Applejack promised she'd come home with a lot of blue ribbons and prize money to fix Ponyville's town hall, so she stays behind in the rodeo town to try and earn some money before coming home.