Mundane Solution

A very exotic device or problem, against which all manner of intricate, powerful devices or strategies fail, is counteracted by something incredibly simple and mundane. It can't be solved by their conventional solutions of More Dakka, Attack! Attack! Attack!, diplomacy, or other Rule of Cool applications. Applied Phlebotinum, it seems, often turns out to have a weakness to some household product.

Supernatural beings in both Eastern and Western mythology have a tendency for strange weaknesses, like a demon's obsessive-compulsive need to count dropped grains of rice or a vampire's vulnerability to garlic and sunlight.

Contrast with Mundane Utility, where something exotic is used to solve something mundane, and Weaksauce Weakness, where a no less powerful individual gets strange weaknesses or power. Related to Muggles Do It Better.

Examples:

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     Anime and Manga  

  • In one of the episodes of the anime Birdy the Mighty, the space-babe informs the hero that the slime based shapeshifting horror can only be hurt by a chemical weapon, specifically a surfactant. The hero promptly runs home and grabs a bottle of dishsoap.
  • This is a common plot device in Haruhi Suzumiya, where Kyon repeatedly saves the world by doing very mundane things, like kissing Haruhi, convincing her to put a disclaimer at the end of her movie saying that all of the characters and events are fictional, or inviting the gang over to his house to do their summer homework.
  • The Mahou Sensei Negima! manga has a flashback showing the epic battle between Nagi (The Thousand Master) and Evangeline (an incredibly Little Miss Badass and vampire), who are two of the most powerful mages alive. After some suitably epic banter between the opponents, Nagi ends the battle before it even begins by catching Eva in a pit trap filled with onions and garlic. Game over.
    • Not to mention Chao's "secret weapon," which she didn't use in first place because she was afraid of the damage it could cause—a copy of her family tree. Against her ancestor's Unwanted Harem.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • A powerful fire mage is stopped by... a sprinkler system. At first, he scoffs at the lead for thinking that his fire summon could be put out with just a little water, and he's right about that—the real point was for the water to blur out the printed runes that were continuously allowing his fire to regenerate after being destroyed. With that ability disabled, the rest is easy. He learns from this: Next time he uses laminated rune cards.
    • GREMLIN's response to Touma's Anti-Magic that's been kicking the ass of every mage he goes up against: They bring guns. Nothing supernatural about guns, so Touma's Anti-Magic doesn't do anything against them, and without it he's just an ordinary guy.
  • This is why most of the cast of Fate/Zero hates Emiya Kiritsugu. Mages are typically very good at magical combat, but inexperienced in things like C-4 and sniper rifles. And that's before they discover the hard way that he also uses Origin Bullets as more or less the ultimate form of Anti-Magic at his disposal when the circumstances dictate soexplanation .
  • The Protodeviln of Macross 7 can only be harmed by The Power of Rock. One of their number, Gabil, gets a brainwave on how to deal with this: earplugs. This actually works for a while, but the humans just make their songs louder. Gabil then installs a noise canceller in his mech, which proves much more effective.
  • In the Mega Man NT Warrior anime, the heroes get tricked into using a battlechip that corrupts Roll and turns her against MegaMan. After some time struggling to hold her off their resident chip expert comes around asking what the commotion is about. When they ask what to do next, he just calmly says to put in any new battle chip and the corrupt one will pop out just like any other.
  • Yusuke of YuYu Hakusho is able to beat a demon using Botan as a Human Shield by simply telling her to simply raise her arms, which made her slip out of the jacket the demon was holding her by and giving Yusuke an opening.
  • Subverted in Neon Genesis Evangelion: The bridge crew attempt to turn the Magi system off during Iruel's (a nano-virus-like angel) invasion of it. Iruel deactivates the command option before they attempt it. To solve the problem mundanely from there, they would need to physically destroy the computer - not a good option, considering the Magi controls all of NERV's operations, and the only person smart enough to reconstruct it is dead.
  • The Paper Sisters in R.O.D the TV at one point go up against a villain who uses sound waves to disrupt their Paper Master powers. Anita's solution? Throw a book at him. A normal, unpowered, really heavy book. It hits him in the face and knocks him right out.

     Comic Books  

  • Superman shuts down Livewire by simply getting her wet enough so she ends up short-circuiting herself. Then there's the rubber suit he put on to prevent her from zapping him and Parasite from leeching his powers for a two-for-one deal.
    Livewire: Ooo, the Boy Scout brought protection!
  • In The Sandman: Endless Nights, the people in a castle bar Death from entering their home with a magic gate, rendering themselves immortal as long as they stay inside. After trying for about two hundred years to get in, Death (who is an attractive Perky Goth) asks an off-duty soldier for help. Not knowing who she is, but smitten and eager to impress the pretty girl asking him for help, he tears down the gate with brute force.
  • The Transformers Generation 1 comic had Scraplets - a sort of contagious "flesh-eating disease" which affects transformers. It was inevitably fatal, as well as completely uncurable, apart from some apocryphal records of a substance so rare that its very existance was doubted. Standard procedure for dealing with it was total quarantine followed by destroying the infected individuals. Oh, that nigh-mythical, incredibly rare cure? Water. Of course that cure only got the Scraplets off the infected, then shooting at it worked pretty well.
  • There's a The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck comic where villainess Magica DeSpell sprays Scrooge with a potion that causes his face to change to the face of whoever he looks at. Eventually Scrooge and company find that the solution is to simply wash the potion off with soap and water.
  • In Joker/Mask (a crossover of Batman with The Mask), The Joker is going on a rampage with the eponymous artifact, until Poison Ivy takes control of him with a pheromone spray to the face and forces him to do acts of Eco-terrorism instead. Lt. Kellaway convinces her that it would be better to seize the mask for herself rather than control its wearer. She orders Joker to remove it...but this frees him long enough to eliminate the spray with a simple squirt of water and re-don the mask.
    • Later on Kellaway disarms a nuclear bomb by simply unplugging it.
  • In Albedo Erma Felna EDF, a city is threatened with a nuclear bomb with anti-tampering functions installed to prevent defusing it. With no time for a better solution, Erma suggests a better idea: shoot it with a carefully aimed rocket launcher and hose it down with fire foam regardless of what happens next to destroy the bomb's mechanism without detonating it. It works.
  • The 1978 Hanna-Barbera/Marvel special Laff-A-Lympics: The Man Who Stole Thursdays dealt with Dynomutt's arch-foe, Mr. Mastermind, using a super-computer to eliminate Thursdays from the timeline. Captain Caveman defeats Mastermind by simply unplugging the super-computer.
  • From a Blue Beetle comic, in a showdown with a highly advanced alien race:
    Negotiator: Reyes! You could not possibly have co-ordinated with this "Bat-Man"! We monitored every electronic frequency, every bandwidth you could use to reach him!
    Blue Beetle: I know. Scarab told me. That's why I sent a letter.
  • In an Iron Man story, Tony Stark successfully managed to wipe the knowledge of his being Iron Man from the brain of every person and every electronic database on Earth. Only in a subsequent encounter with Doctor Doom, he finds out Doom still remembers. When demanding to know what techno-wizardry Doom used to thwart him, Doom simply shows him the handwritten note with the information on it.

    Fan Works 

  • In I Am What I Am, Kakistos and his minions (who ordinarily require invitation to enter someone's home) enter Xander and Faith's apartment by bribing the landlord to give them a tour of the building.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Vampire Hunter D crossover A Hunter's Tale, the Scoobies stop the Judge from being assembled by sealing a couple of it's pieces in concrete, inscribing the containers with holy symbols, and dropping them in the ocean. They later do the same with Acathla.
  • In Sight Ukitake has been suffering from his illness for centuries with nothing from Soul Society able to cure it. With some medical knowledge, Ichigo is able to narrow down Ukitake's illness to being either pneumonia, tuberculosis or lung cancer and recommends him to get some modern medical treatment at the Kurosaki clinic.
  • In A Teachers Glory, Orochimaru flees before the Reaper death Seal is used, leaving behind the resurrected First and Second Hokages with orders to continue fighting until they kill the Third. How do some ANBU and a genin get rid of them? With kinjutsu? With demonic chakra? With some complicated seal? They use the Academy-level Transformation technique to make it look like the Third Hokage is dead, allowing the First and Second to return to their rest.
  • In Xendra, the titular character suggests dealing with Acathla permanently by using power tools to cut off the portion sword sticking out of it's body. That way, no one can ever remove the sword and unseal it again.

    Film 

  • In the first Saw film, two detectives manage to catch Jigsaw in his hideout. Jigsaw activates one of his traps to distract them so he can escape. The trap involves two drills closing in on some poor bastard's head, and the key needed to free him was on a janitor-sized key ring with dozens of others. After a few seconds of trial and error with the keys, one of the detectives gives up and shoots both of the drills to deactivate them.
  • In Thomas and the Magic Railroad, Mr. Conductor scares off the evil Diesel by threatening him with... sugar. Pouring sugar into a diesel's gas tank will cause it to mix with the gas inside, eventually causing the diesel to explode.
  • In Executive Decision, a bomb is "defused" by the simple expedient of thrusting a plastic swizzle-stick between two electrical contacts, thus preventing the detonator from firing.
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, upon meeting the expert swordsman about to cut him to ribbons, Indiana Jones simply draws a gun and shoots him. Harrison Ford was ill due to the previous night's dinner disagreeing with him, so the planned action scene was abbreviated into a quick joke.
  • The Prestige centers on the rivalry between two magicians, who each perform the show-stopping trick of transporting themselves across the stage. One of them gets Nikola Tesla to build him a machine that creates a clone on the other side of the theatre and drowns the original, the other simply steps into a cabinet on one end of the stage, while his secret twin brother hides in the other.
  • Beware! Children at Play ends with all the adults just ganging up on the feral children and massacring them, primarily via shooting.
  • In Casper, the bully ghosts are sucked up by a vacuum cleaner.
  • James Bond:
    • In Casino Royale, Bond chases a crook who uses acrobatic Le Parkour to navigate obstacles quickly. Bond doesn't have these kinds of skills, so he uses ingeniously mundane solutions, such as simply smashing through a wall instead of bounding over it.
    • In Goldfinger, Bond is shackled to an atomic bomb that is counting down. With no time or skills to disarm it, he's about to start yanking wires — when someone comes in and flips the "Off" switch.
  • Johnny English Reborn parodies the classic spy film on foot chase scene with this (and is quite reminiscent of the Casino Royale scene mentioned above). While the Vortex agent uses quick parkour movements and dramatic acrobatics to escape, English non-chalantly uses the stairs, elevator, shimmies through a gap on a roof and opens a fence door that the agent leaped over to keep up, and catches him in the end. This is thanks to Johnny's training in the mountains, which taught him to seek a more direct path.
  • In I Robot, when the protagonists are trying to open a compartment to destroy the Big Bad. The Big Bad locks the compartment with a code. The smart chick tries to break the code... while Will Smith's character just punches the console, preferring Percussive Maintenance to complex code-breaking.
  • The Avengers:
    • After the Helicarrier is damaged by an explosion, Nick Fury orders the helmsman to steer them south and get them over water before they lose another engine. When the helmsman tells him that the explosion knocked out their navigation system and they're attempting to reboot it, Fury asks him if the sun is coming up. The helmsman hesitantly responds that it is, so Fury tells him, "Then put it on the LEFT!"
    • Steve mocks Tony about he's not the sort of man to lie down on a wire so his fellow soldier can get over it. Tony says that he'd rather just cut the wire.
  • In Sling Blade a man who owns a repair shop spends hours trying to figure out why a small engine won't start. His simple-minded assistant, Karl, then points out that it doesn't have any gas.
  • In Captain America: The First Avenger, the drill sergeant announces that the first person to bring him the flag will get a ride back to base. All the men try to climb the flag pole and all fail. This is when the drill sergeant says that no one has gotten that flag in 17 years. While he calls everyone to fall back into formation, Rogers walks up to the flag pole and proceeds to pull the cotter pin, pull the main pin, and let the pole fall down to ground level. Rogers then retrieves the flag and hands it to the drill sergeant.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day:
    • You can hotwire a car - or just check to see if the key is in the vanity mirror.
    • The Terminator components that need to be destroyed are in sealed containers. The head scientist is about to tell John how to open the containers when John simply smashes them on the ground and retrieves the components.
  • In Die Hard with a Vengeance, like the Terminator example above, Zeus could hotwire the car since as an electrician he knows how - or just stick his pocketknife in the ignition and turn.
  • In Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, Dane gloats that the hero has no chance of being able to break his "encrypted programming" and this is the only way to turn his system off. Turns out that just shooting Dane's laptop worked fine, too.
  • In X-Men: Days of Future Past, they need to find Quicksilver fast, but Charles makes it clear that Cerebro is out of the question. So they use a phonebook instead.

    Literature 

  • In the Night Watch series, the oldest and most powerful Others (usually wizards) have been extremely powerful and nigh-omniscient for centuries. As a result, they often don't bother to keep up to date with modern (or any) technology. In one book, a team of wizards is tracking a vampire, and need to find out when the train he's on will leave the station. An elder wizard goes into a prophetic trance, reads the probability lines, and finds the correct time. That takes about five seconds longer than it took his subordinate to read the train schedule on the wall.
  • In Dragon Bones, the heroes have to fight a mystical creature, a basilisk, and outsmart it by Ward blindfolding himself to avoid its gaze and distracting it, while Oreg uses magic to subdue it - they could kill it, but think it's too rare and beautiful to just kill it. Wizards and magical runes failed to have the desired effect. Oreg points out that the monster would, if they didn't take care of it, just die in the cold, as it is not used to the climate where it is at the moment. Nothing is magical enough to not be affected by a really cold winter.
  • Very common in the Discworld novels, especially where the witches are concerned. The primary example would be Magrat's magic wand in Witches Abroad: Magrat has a great many ceremonial athames, covered in filigre and runes and whatnot. Eventually she learns that the most magical knife is the reeeeelly old breadknife that not only can perform all the magical rituals the athame can, but also cut bread.
    • In the early Rincewind book Sourcery, Tyke Bomb Coin, the eighth son of a wizard and thus a Sourcerer (a wizard squared, and the reason wizards aren't allowed to get any) not only wields unstoppable magical power greater than anyone else alive but causes a huge rush of magical power to every other wizard on the Disc. Result: impending replay of the hugely destructive Mage Wars. How does Rincewind, self-professed Dirty Coward and the worst wizard in the world, if not ever, handle this? He takes the kid on with a half-brick in a sock. It's so patently ridiculous that Coin, for the first time ever, ignores his psychotic late father's order to kill the potential threat, because Rincewind looks so utterly harmless and funny to Coin. The giggles stop when Rinso makes his Tear Jerker Heroic Sacrifice at the very end to save Coin from the monsters the boy had attracted from the Dungeon Dimension... still with half-brick sock in hand.
    • It's mentioned repeatedly throughout the books that being being a wizard or being a witch is all about not using magic even though you could and instead relying on mundane solutions, because the magical solution will eventually come with a price tag, and it'll be a bill you can't afford to pay. In Lords and Ladies Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg demonstrate — some young wannabe witches come to challenge them, and Granny says they could demonstrate their knowledge of Witchcraft by knocking her hat off her head. After a few fruitless minutes, Granny they tells Nanny to demonstrate — and she does, by tossing a stick. When the young witches protest that anyone could do that, Granny says, "Yes, but the point is, you didn't."
    • Granny doesn't always get it right; in Wyrd Sisters, she uses her most powerful Headology on the Duchess to make her see herself the way she really is, and is shocked when it has no effect. At which point Nanny Ogg hits the Duchess over the head with a cauldron. And in Lords and Ladies, she spends some time Borrowing to find out what's been happening while they were away, and learns that a group of girls are going up to the Dancers. Nanny, meanwhile, has learnt exactly who they are by just asking her son what's going on.
    • Who needs stakes, garlic, and other elaborate and exotic methods to dispose of a vampire, when you've got a nigh-unstoppable tomcat who eats anything furry, bats included?
    • Carrot's sword is utterly mundane and absolutely magic free, which makes is a rarity on the disc. It's also very, very good at cutting things.
    • Mustrum Ridcully's policy on magic staves : if it's immune to a few good whacks from six feet of solid oak there's a good chance it's immune to fireballs as well.
    • In Maskerade, throughout the book, Granny Weatherwax asks various people, 'If your house was on fire, what's the first thing you'd take out of it?' She uses this to psychologically profile them: one person, for example, responds with, 'Who started the fire?', with which she's able to deduce that he's a cop. Walter, the Cloud Cuckoolander, gives a simpler - and patently correct - answer: He'd take out the fire.
  • In a case similar to the Wicked Witch of the West, in Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles, wizards can be dissolved by soapy lemon water. It is found out that lemon juice is a necessary ingredient. (The wizards do come back eventually, though.) It turns out, however, that magically created soapy lemon water works just as well, so by the end of the series the protagonists have what amounts to an instant wizard-melting spell.
    • In a climactic battle in Calling on Dragons, the wizard Antorell manages to escape from the magician Telemain by throwing his sword at him. Telemain doesn't block it because he assumes anything a wizard throws at him would be magical. What he doesn't know is that Antorell is a terrible wizard and couldn't throw a potent spell if his life depended on it.
  • At one point in Loyal Enemies, our heroes encounter a gate made of compressed snow that they don't know how to open. Veres tries to be tricky and while he's experimenting, Darkness proposes that he'll just fly over the gate and ask somebody on the other side to open. Subverted when he doesn't manage to take off, but double subverted when he accidentally shoots fire at the gate. And... well, let's repeat it: it's made of compressed snow.
    • As they're leaving, Veres asks an elf what was the correct way to open the gate, and you know what? You have to knock on the door.
  • In Raymond E. Feist's The King's Buccaneer, Nakor and Anthony confront the Lady Clovis, a very powerful sorceress. Nakor tricks her into erecting very powerful anti-magic defenses, at which point he defeats her by throwing pepper at her then hitting her with a bag of apples.
    • Elsewhere in The Riftwar Cycle, Nakor has an empty bag that he can always pull an orange (or sometimes an apple) out of, thanks to a magical rift leading to a merchant's produce warehouse. In Into a Dark Realm, he goes to a place where his magic cannot possibly work and pulls yet another orange out of the bag, through the simple expedient of having stuffed the bag full of oranges before he left.
  • Four words from science fiction author Larry Niven: "A knife always works".
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Harry Dresden frequently runs into foes who are resistant to his magic. One confrontation with a spell-proof ogre is resolved when Murphy cripples the orge with a chainsaw and Harry drenches the ogre in gasoline and ignites it. Harry is also one of the few White Council wizards willing to use firearms and frequently uses his staff or blasting rod as a cudgel.
    • This was established as a key part of Harry's character as early as the second book, Fool Moon, when he'd run himself out of magic thanks to imprudent use of magical amphetamines, and still had a rather pissed-off lycanthrope alpha male to deal with... so he pulled a .38 revolver and shot the guy in the knee. It didn't really work all that well, seeing as lycanthropes have a Healing Factor to rival Wolverine's, but it sure wiped the smug grin off the son of a bitch's face for a while.
    • Speaking of Harry, special mention should go to how he handles a cult of practitioners who keep harassing him in the short story Side Jobs. Their leader challenges him to a magical duel, but Harry doesn't even bother. He just scares them off by pointing his gun at them instead.
    • A major lesson that Harry often reiterates (especially to his apprentice, Molly) is that knowledge and basic common sense are a lot more important than magic. For instance, on one occasion when Molly suggests using a tracking spell, Harry points out that a simple phone call would work just as well.
    • In Turn Coat, Morgan talks about how he once had to take on a skinwalker, an incredibly powerful demigod horror with a hefty resistance to magic. He knew he'd get pounded in a straight fight (not everyone can be Injun Joe, after all), so instead he lured it into following him to the middle of nowhere in Nevada. Specifically, a nuclear testing ground. He stepped into a portal to the Nevernever just as the bomb went off. Morgan 1, Eldritch Abomination From the Dawn of Time 0.
    • In fact, mundane weaponry is the accepted way for wizards to kill if it ever must come to that, as killing humans with magic carries not just the obvious moral and legal ramifications but also corrupts the soul. The Council's enforcers carry big ol' swords for this reason.
    • Likewise, all the magic of the Summer Lady isn't enough to stop a swarm of dewdrop fairies armed with cheap hardware-store boxcutters.
    • The most efficient way to handle Black Court vampires? A paintball gun that fires projectiles filled with holy water.
    • In Skin Game, Harry circumvents Marcone's high-grade anti-magic security not by casting a flashy spell, but setting off roman candles as a distraction.
  • Most of the crafters in Codex Alera have weaknesses like this. Firecrafters have Elemental Baggage at their command, and they're useless when they're soaked; Windcrafters can be neutralized by burying them in dirt, watercrafters are useless if dehydrated and surrounded by fire, and earthcrafters can't do anything unless they're touching the ground. In addition, wind furies are damaged by salt, which is a problem if someone throws some at you when you're a mile up in the air. All of these get exploited at some point or another, whether in fights or to keep the crafters in question prisoner.
  • In John Varley's Demon, the war against Gaia gets a boost when they discover that zombies are destroyed by a witch's recipe for love potion. It's hinted that Gaia, who by this time is batshit crazy and running the war as a game, built in this highly unlikely weakness as one of her private jokes and then forgot about it.
  • A Dragaeran saying: "No matter how subtle the wizard, a knife between the shoulderblades will seriously cramp his style."
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf tries to open the gate to Moria for many hours with spells, etc., until he realizes to actually do exactly what the inscription on the gate reads, which is to say the elvish word for "friend". Once Gandalf utters the words, the gate starts to open. After solving it he realizes it wasn't even supposed to be a puzzle. (In the film version, it's Frodo who comes up with the solution.)
  • In Honor Among Enemies, Honor meets with a Pirate warlord whose forces are holding a planet hostage. The pirate's crew make a point of scanning Honor and her armsmen to ensure they don't have any power sources on them strong enough to power the miniaturized railguns that everyone carries in this setting. Once this is done, Honor quickdraws a Colt M1911 and shoots the pirates dead. This was pretty much a Foregone Conclusion, as Honor's fondness for 20th century firearms was a Chekhov's Gun that she always kept in her hip pocket during this point in the series.
  • Of the Ass Pull variety in The Infernal Devices, when Mrs. Dark in demon form inside a pentagram can't be touched by seraph blades infused with the divine energy of God, but a falling chandelier kills her just fine. Sort of.
  • The Animorphs need to find out where a guy lives, so they start planning ways of tracking him. Cassie just uses the phonebook.
  • In the Heralds of Valdemar series, it is demonstrated several times that the easiest way to incapacitate a magic-user is to break his arms.
  • In Secret City, Santiaga has to somehow tame down a cloud of reality-warping energy about to explode on nuclear scale and level Moscow. He flushes it into a river. Water has rather large heat capacity.
  • In The General, the tenth book in the CHERUB series, the Cherubs take part in a military exercise where they role-play a small band of insurgents fighting a US army battalion. Rather than actually bothering to fight the soldiers, the Cherubs simply dump a strong laxative in the water supply and wait for it to incapacitate the entire US force, at which point they proclaim victory.

     Live Action TV  

  • In an episode of the Animorphs TV adaptation, the kids go to a spot in the zoo (where Cassie's mom works) where the more dangerous animals are kept to get some battle morphs. Jake and Marco talk about different ways to get over the chain link fence with barbed wire on the top. Cassie just uses her mother's keys to unlock the door.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • One episode has Carter, an Ascended Daniel, and Jonas Quinn trying to figure out how to open a secret chamber to find an artifact. Daniel and Jonas look around for clues until Carter, noting how they don't have much time, tells them to get out of the way and blasts the compartment open with her P90.
    • To disable some kind of Goa'uld technology, Teal'c says they need to remove specific crystals from the control panel... and then Jack blasts the lot of them with his P90, which does the trick anyway.
    • Daniel tries to figure out the complex sequence of panels to push to disarm a device, then finally gives up and just shoots the crystal tray.
    • From "The Serpent's Lair":
    Bra'tac: The field generators are far below. There—in the very bowels of the ship. We must climb down several decks through the length of the ship, then taking our weapons, we must...
    {Jack drops grenades down into the core)
    O'Neill: Grenades.
    • When Jack took command of the SGC, his first day on the job had a fast-growing plant start filling the corridors. When it was explained to him that any light source would fuel its growth, he calmly reached over and flicked the lights off. The scientist then had to hastily justify not using that technique since it would only slow the plant down, not stop it, and it's difficult to work in the dark.
    • In Stargate Atlantis a piece of Lantean tech has swapped Dr. Keller's mind with a thief. Ronon solves the problem by shooting it.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Pirate Planet", a machine is destroyed by hitting it with a spanner, albeit telekinetically.
    • Mickey tended to have simple solutions to problems. To get past a locked door, with coaxing from K-9 he just rammed it with a car; then to shut down the alien-influenced supercomputer, he pulled the power plug.
    • The Doctor manages to capture an electronic lifeform who essentially exists as a living television signal... on a Betamax tape. Also, the Expospeak Gag on how he will permanently eliminate her.
    The Doctor: I'll use my unrivaled knowledge of trans-temporal extirpation methods to neutralize the residual electronic pattern.
    Rose: You what?
    The Doctor: I'm gonna tape over it.
    • When a Silent makes the mistake of taunting an FBI agent by saying that they have no need of guns, the agent demonstrates the flaw in his logic by shooting him. America!
    • In "The Day of the Doctor", the three Doctors have been placed in a cell, and spend a long time working out a complex method of using all their sonic screwdrivers to open the door by decomposing it. Just before they have the chance, however, Clara arrives and opens it manually - turns out it was unlocked.
  • Smallville:
    • A de-powered Clark faces a foe who has Psycho Electro powers, but they've gotta be fed almost constantly (if he's zapping you with one hand, he's drawing power from a source with the other.) Clark stops him by shutting off the power.
    • Subverted in a later episode. Clark tries to stop the rampaging Metallo by triggering an EMP wave. It shuts him down, but he restarts in a few seconds. Clark then takes him out with his heat vision and super speed.
  • NCIS:
    • In one episode Gibbs has to shutdown a computer server before it can upload secret data to the Internet. McGee tries to talk him through the complicated process of hacking the security. Gibbs simply unplugs all the power cables and when this does not work due to battery backups, he simply shoots every piece of electronic equipment he sees in the room.
    • In another episode, Abby and Mcgee are furiously typing away on a keyboard to stop a hacking attempt, when Gibbs simply unplugs the computer.
  • The very first episode of Chuck has the titular character disarming a complex laptop bomb with... wait for it... a virus-ridden porn site.
  • A sketch on Saturday Night Live had a group of defeated former James Bond villains (mostly from the Roger Moore films) discussing how to deal with James. One points out that if you're close enough to try something like dropping a poisonous spider down his back, "Just shoot him!"
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In the episode "Helpless", Buffy had to fight a vampire without her powers. As a former psychotic mental patient, the aforementioned vampire depended on pills to function. She was able to defeat him by pouring holy water into a cup, which he then drank to help swallow said pills.
    • Recurring villain Ethan Rayne, an Evil Sorceror, was gotten rid of when Riley had government agents arrest him.
    • After numerous failed high-tech and/or magical schemes to kill Buffy, Warren just got a gun, went to the Summers house and started firing.
    • The Judge was an hell of a foe: invulnerable to forged weapons, if cut to pieces he'll revive once reassembled, first time it took an army to cut him to pieces, and can burn anyone with humanity inside him, initially by touch but, as he kills more people, his power grows (a day after being reassembled he needed a gesture and could 'bounce' his power from a person to the other, and would eventually grow strong enough to kill people by looking at them). Buffy blasted him to pieces with a bazooka, after which they disperded the (very small) pieces around the world.
  • A Wendigo on Charmed was killed when the sisters just shot it with a flare gun.
    • In another episode, the Monster of the Week is a succubus (who the authorities assume is just a serial killer) that is killed when an inspector just shoots her with a plain old handgun. Unfortunately, she Woke Up In The Morgue.
  • In Sherlock, the title character doesn't know how to disarm a bomb, but does know that they must have an off-switch.
  • In one episode of Poirot, the great detective discovers a blackmailer's home address by...looking it up in the phonebook.

    Mythology 

  • Older Than Feudalism: In Greek Mythology, King Gordias tied a cart to the gate of Persepolis with a knot that nobody could untie; prophecy said that whoever did untie this would become ruler of Persia. Alexander the Great is said to have solved the puzzle by cutting through the knot with his sword. (Another account features Alexander merely removing the pin that held the knot and then untangling a little rope. A more thorough, yet no less mundane, solution suggests he fished out one or both ends of the rope and undid the knot correctly.)
  • According to Japanese urban legend, if Kuchisake-onna approaches and asks if you think she's pretty, answering no will get you slashed to pieces in a violent rage. Answering yes will get you slashed to pieces because the word she uses for "pretty" (kirei) is a near-homophone of a word meaning "to cut" (kire), and Japanese bogeymen are fueled by bad puns. Giving a neutral answer like "you're so-so" (or asking her how she thinks YOU look) will confuse her into letting you go.
  • There is an urban legend that the Soviet Union space program responded to the expense and effort of the invention of the Fisher Space Pen by using pencils. Although this story is not actually true (after the Apollo 1 disaster, NASA decided pencils were too flammable for the high-oxygen atmosphere of a space capsule), it does point to a general principle of Russian engineering: smart people, dumb machine. That is, the critical point is to make sure that above all, the device works and to trust the user and maintenance crew with the rest; as a result, a Russian car (especially Soviet-era) might be overall a piece of garbage with about as much comfort as a gokart with no suspension, but it's guaranteed to start and run in the winter. (On the other hand, you do wind up paying a price in terms of safety and steeper learning curves, but the Soviets obviously thought the tradeoffs were worth it.)

     Tabletop Games  
  • Rifts has a little fun with the concept of fae weaknesses. Among the ways to protect yourself from Faerie Folk is to turn your clothes inside-out or backwards when traveling through their territory, or by tying colorful ribbons all over you and your gear. But this is less a matter of them being unable to approach you as it is them being too busy laughing to trouble you.
    • As well, the vampires race that has conquered all of Mexico is so vulnerable to holy water and crosses that Super Soakers and floodlights with crosses painted on them (which create big cross-shaped shadows) are some of the best weapons against them.
  • In Mage: The Ascension, magic is indeed impressive given enough prep time, but mages taken by surprise tend to be in big trouble, being simple humans with none of the unique physical powers most other supernatural creatures have (vampires, werewolves, demons). That's why having a gun, sword or baseball bat with you always pays off.
  • Mage: The Awakening reduced the time needed to cast some impressive spells, but keeping a normal weapon around was helpful. Even more so if it was enchanted or enhanced-or both. A really good Mage could even have a kickass sword that made Paradoxes he triggered weaker if he used it while spellcasting.
  • In d20 Modern, there are classes of monsters that are tougher than the standard monster manual fare; to balance the fact that they are functionally invulnerable, they also have a table of unusual Weaksauce Weaknesses, ranging from 'the laughter of children' to 'Elvis memorabilia'.
  • In most editions of Dungeons & Dragons, spellcasters have one flaw: They can be interrupted mid-spell with an attack. They can cast defensively to reduce the risk, but a well-timed thump to the head can still completely fizzle a spell powerful enough to disintegrate an army.

     Video Games  

  • Deus Ex:
    • In the original, it is often possible to simply break down locked doors by hitting them hard enough with a melee weapon.
    • Due to the nature of the game, you have so many ways to complete an objective, some of them are so mundane and "obvious" that no one would think about it being possible. For example, in one mission, you have to get on a freighter, there is a ramp but you need a code to activate it. So you either need to hack the panel or find the databook (which may require hacking/lockping/searching). Actually, you don't need to do this, you don't even need the ramp. The freighter has a ladder.
      • This applies to most levels in the game. Since hacking/lockpicking used up consumable resources the developers always included at least one mundane way to complete the objective in order to prevent the player from getting stuck. Normally this involved shooting everyone in a frontal assault.
    • This trope is invoked in the game itself. When you need to get inside a cathedral and the doors are locked, Tracer Tong says you can just climb a certain place and go through the roof. "Never depend upon weapons and hi-tech when there is a simpler solution at hand".
    • In the 2011 prequel, there is a part where the protagonist, Adam Jensen, must face off against a force of mercenaries before a funicular (elevator) arrives to take him to a secret sublevel base. The player is given time to prepare before the assault, and the enemy doesn't even need to be wiped out, Adam just needs to survive long enough to take the elevator down. The entire situation can be resolved by blocking the two entrances with vending machines.
      • There are many ways to deal with auto turrets, you can use explosives, invisibility, hacking...Or you can just grab them and leave in a corner looking to the wall where they can't hit you.
      • If you need to get into a high place, you can buy a super jump augmentation. You can also search for a box or barrel and jump on it (for free) through...
  • The Big Bad of the Gamecube Custom Robo, Rahu, was at first a shapeless, invisible force of destruction that sought to annihilate everything and adapt their abilities and traits to its own. At one point it comes across a Robo, which in those days was nothing more than a children's toy. When Rahu took on the power of the Robo, it took on its form and became tangible, allowing the humans to fight it and, eventually, seal it.
  • In the original Paper Mario there was a chest in Shy Guy's Toy Box containing a badge that was guarded by Anti Guy, who would let you have the treasure if you gave him a Lemon Candy. This is generally easier than fighting him since he's ridiculously strong.
  • In the Dark Sun games by SSI, mages, clerics and psionics are incredibly powerful. While a few high-level spells exist specifically to shut down a spell-caster, with a relatively large chance of working, the easiest solution is to just hit them: the turn after being hit, they are completely unable to use anything magic or psionic (of course, this is also true for your characters).
  • This occurs at the end of the final boss battle in Portal 2. It turns out that the new physics warping gels all wash off in minimal amounts of water. You knew that, because it was required to know for previous puzzles. The boss wasn't around for that part, and thus Wheatley lampshades how much easier it would have been for him to win if he'd known that ahead of time.
  • In Psychonauts, mental inefficiency is actually cleaned up with a cobweb duster. It helps that they're literally "mental cobwebs".
  • In I Wanna Be the Guy, Dracula can infamously kill the Kid in the cutscene leading to his boss fight. You can just skip the cutscene.
  • In World of Warcraft there's an Achievement for surviving a very long fall (without using a slow-fall effect), which is not lethal, but requires serious measurement. That or you can use invincibility such as a Paladin's Hand of Protect (Conveniently castable on others, so simply asking one for help will usually work.) and drop from any height that reaches the requirement. Also, druids and rogues of sufficiently high level have a passive ability that lowers their fall damage (the druid one normally works only in cat form, but there's a glyph that'll let it work in all forms; the rogue one always works, and has a glyph that will boost its effect).
    • A bug allowed Alliance players to gain the long-fall achievement during a Mists of Pandaria questline where one automatically parachuted out of a crashing aircraft. For some reason, the parachute didn't count as a slow-fall effect for purposes of the achievement.
    • Even easier, there's a quest in Swamp of Sorrows which nets you the achievement as a part of it, as you get shot out of a canon to a ship out in the water. It's part of the Bogpaddle part of the questline, called "In With a Bang."
  • In the Night Watch video game, you can kill enemy mooks with handguns (and, later in the game, semiautomatics) instead of using magic. It would just take longer. It comes in handy when your character uses up all the mana.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle is a fighting game revolving around people with psychic powers, vampires, and artificial sunlight-powered, vampire-killing martial artists. While Joseph Joestar is one of the last ones, his Heart Heat attack has him...pulling out a tommy gun and pumping his opponent full of lead (which is a Call Back to the original series, where he does the same thing against a vampire, though to less effect.)
  • In Iji, the legendary alien warrior Iosa the Invincible has a unique shield, created by a freak accident, making her immune to all of the nanotech-based guns the aliens, and Iji, use. Iosa is happy to gloat about this. Iji then defeats her by... kicking her. Or using a perfectly mundane shotgun.
  • At the end of the first Simon the Sorcerer game, Sordid spends some time trying (and failing) to light through magic a lava pit that Simon has previously turned off. Eventually, Simon manages to light it by using a box of matches.
  • PAYDAY: The Heist features this as an achievement. During the Slaughterhouse heist, an armored truck will get stuck in the roof of the titular slaughterhouse, either rear-end up or front-end up depending on whether or not it was shot by the players during the ambush at the beginning of the heist. If it lands rear-end up, the player can either shoot the wires keeping it afloat... or just wait a few minutes and let the wires snap on their own. (They don't snap if the truck lands front-end up.)
  • One of the recruitable citizens in Citizens of Earth has been trapped on the top floor of a building thanks to an Evil Elevator and taking said elevator is the only way to reach him. After he's recruited, how does the party escape the room and leave the building? By taking the perfectly-working door into the stairwell and walking down.

    Webcomics 

  • Given the profusion of Mad Scientists in Girl Genius, it's hardly surprising that it has several examples:
    • Gil attempting to catch Zeetha with a cage clank. Said clank missed, and went on a rampage trying to catch something. After everybody else failed to defeat it using various means, Krosp checks with Gil to be sure that the clank will not hurt whatever it catches, then tosses a little girl into the robot and lets it capture her. Having achieved its objective, the bot promptly settles down and simply sits there, with the little girl happily inside.
      Little girl: Yay! Hey Mamma! I'm inna show!
    • Also, when everyone is trying to kill/cure Agatha, Gil, and Tarvek, one of the machines goes haywire, and the Sparks start screaming about how everything is going to blow up, and "NO FORCE ON EARTH CAN STOP IT!" Then, the machine spontaneously stops. Cue everyone looking at Von Zinzer, holding the power plug.
    • Moloch Von Zinzer is very good at this sort of thing. It tends to annoy Sparks, who don't like having their drama harshed by a Mundane Solution.
      Moloch: Why don't we just move this winch? There should be enough cable, and it looks strong enough that we could lower everybody on a platform.
      [turns around and notices he's become the subject of several disapproving glares]
      Moloch: ...and then, at the bottom, it could unfold into a ... a giant caterpillar or ... something...
      Dr. Mittelmind: No, no. You've already taken all the joy out of it.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, after the Space Pirates of Ipecac have gone to a great deal of trouble to steal some Unobtainium called borfomite on a distant planet, they realize they have to combine it with plain Earth caramel to make it power their BFG. This is far from the only example, as part of Bob's shtick is his knack for hitting upon simple solutions to bizarre problems.
  • The The Order of the Stick had Haley use a bow and arrow to solve the Knights and Knaves problem in this strip.
    • When a storm hits the airship the Order is on Belkar begins ranting about how its not the real Durkon, and Thor won't help him, along with Durkon's spirit... and the spirit possessing Durkon uses Control Weather.
      Vamp!Durkon: What? It's on the standard cleric spell list. Geez.
  • When the clue hammers in El Goonish Shive were shut down, Susan was suddenly deprived of her habitual method of dealing with inappropriate comments. Enter Catalina Bobcat with a toy hammer...
    Nerd boys: Ow! The plastic, it hurts!
  • xkcd tells us how to beat cryptography in the kneecap.
    • Also known as rubber-hose cryptanalysis. For obvious reasons, this method is unfit for gathering court-admissible evidence.
  • Bigger Than Cheeses mocked the difference between the way Hollywood stops hackers, and the way you should stop them. note 
  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Gordito dealt with Victor, an obvious villain claiming to be a plumber, by hiring another plumber and firing Victor.
    • Later, King Radical is trying to generate radical energy in order to summon the residents of his world into the other one which has them forcibly replace the boring original residents. He is about to give up, however, because even making a giant robot out of the town's buildings only made a little energy and he can't possibly top that. One of his minions then suggests he have the robot DO something, which starts producing a lot of radical energy.
    • The entire plot is defeated by Gordito turning off the robots power source and breaking the ignition key.
  • Manly Guys Doing Manly Things are infected with a virus that transforms them into Bishounen. Commander Badass goes on a long elaborate hunt for the mastermind of this plot and battles him to the death. In the meantime, Canadian Guy... goes to the doctor, and is cured before Commander Badass returns. Healthcare! Commander Badass then has everyone else's blood transplanted to Canadian Guy so he can get treatment for them, too.

    Web Original 

     Western Animation  

  • In The Venture Bros., one of Doctor Venture's actual good inventions over the run of the show was an impenetrable force field. Unfortunately, he gets stuck on the inside with the president, a broken control switch and no way to get what was needed to fix it. Throughout the episode, the White House maid touted the cleaning power of club soda. It turns out to be the only thing that can break up the force field.
    "Child, a little club soda can get out anything."
  • Xiaolin Showdown:
    • In an early episode the Monks are tackling an obstacle course where they jump through hoops and swinging logs and such to retrieve a stuffed dog at the end of the circular track, back near the starting line. When it comes around to Clay's turn... he turns around and grabs the dog from the end of the track. As Clay says "I don't see the point of all that hoppin' around, so long as I got the dog." At the end of the same episode, he wins a "sparrow catching" Showdown by filling his hat with seeds to lure the bird. Simple solutions to complicated problems!
    • An evil mime has trapped the monks in an invisible prison. They spend most of the episode trying to blast their way out of prison.. then they get out by miming a door and opening it.
    • In the very first episode, several of Jack Spicer's robot minions are defeated by turning them off. Jack wonders aloud why he made the on/off switch so obvious.
    • Yet another episode has a When You Snatch the Pebble-style test, which Omi passes by asking nicely for the objective. Xiaolin Showdown is quite fond of this trope in general.
  • In South Park, when a lack of internet connectivity forces the townspeople to move to an internet refugee camp, Kyle fixes the problem the same way that we all would: he pulls the plug on the monolithic server and powers it up again until the flashing yellow light becomes solid green.

    Real Life 
  • Computers. When they start to bug out or your internet fails, rather than sitting down and diagnosing the problem it's almost always easier, faster, and more effective to just turn your computer or modem off and on again. The same can be said for any machine that can be fixed by giving it a good, solid kick rather than actually taking it apart and repairing it.
  • There's a common story about the Russian and US space programs which states that America spent hundreds of thousands of dollars developing a pen that could write in zero gravity, while the Russians used a pencil. In truth, while America really did switch to using specially designed pens after first using pencils, it was due to the concerns over flammables and pieces of floating graphite damaging equipment. The pen was developed privately and only offered to NASA once it was completed, and cost about 3 dollars in 1965.