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Necessary Drawback
Cars: Fast. Reliable. Cheap. Pick two.
Jobs: Fun. Well-paid. Legal. Pick two.
College/University: Good social life. Good grades. Sleep. Pick two.
People in General: Intelligent. Nice. Ambitious. Pick two.

There is a direct relationship between the power and ability of a device and the drawbacks attached to actually using the damn thing. This means that the more powerful something becomes, the more likely it is to hurt you in the process.

There is a balance that has to exist in order to make things work effectively. If it is a Game Breaker that means someone overlooked a potentially devastating combo tactic or they just screwed up.

For example, broadswords are powerful, have a wide range, but are slow and heavy. Relatively speaking at least. Daggers are quick and light but with a short range. The Combined Energy Attack and Wave Motion Gun requires a few seconds of prep time to use correctly, and even then it is usually a one time deal, or at most maybe three. Guns likewise have range; but have to be nerfed so that people would actually look at other weapon types out there.

Without this balance it calls into question why someone doesn't use such a weapon in the first place, if there is no drawback.

If the drawback is that the enemies are more powerful because you have become more powerful, it can be factored into So Last Season and the Sorting Algorithm of Evil. The Kryptonite Factor is also a part of this as well as Weaksauce Weakness. Characters such as Superman and Vampires will have these weaknesses automatically or else there is no drama involved, just an unstoppable force. Just giving someone a simple problem like "They care too much" is enough. Mary Sues are often hated because they don't have any drawbacks. To avoid that, authors usually build in a Fantastic Fragility to powers and devices.

Compare the Competitive Balance character builds for how fighting styles and video game stats are evened out. There is a danger however that inept balancing can lead to too much drawback without enough benefits. If the drawback is worse than the effect, it can become Awesome, but Impractical. Drawback without added practical benefit can further slide into Cool, but Inefficient. At the other end is Fake Balance, where the developers thought they had balanced a character but didn't Think Of Everything and failed to remove a Game Breaker aspect or two. See also the Inverse Law of Complexity to Power.

Tropes that are built on this include:


Examples

Anime
  • The title character of Naruto can't pull off Sage Mode without risking transforming into a frog; requiring frog oil from a mountain a month away from home; a reverse summoning to send his clones home to help in a timely manner; and he only prepared a limited number of clones to refill his powers with, for reasons probably related to lack of infinite summoning; he also needs to be motionless to get natural energy (clone) and mobile to use it (real Naruto) so only he can pull this particular method off because of his ability to keep clones going a very long time. Since this is Naruto, we expect him to be pulling it off better and better jutsu each time a major villain shows up so the next drawback will probably be memorable...
    • His weaknesses to these modes have gone away: Naruto with Sage Mode can enter it near instantly and keep it active for a relatively long time now. For his Nine-Tailed Chakra Mode, the risk was that Kurama (Kyubi) would consume his chakra to the point where he could die from chakra exhaustion, and his trademark technique Kage Bushin would accelerate the process thus he could only use it sparingly. However now that he and Kurama are partners there aren't any risks to the form.
    • The powers of the Mangekyo Sharingan have a drawback that they blind the user and take an assload of chakra to use. The latter doesn't affect Sasuke as much as it affects Itachi, who with his low chakra reserves can only use the MS three times a day if he doesn't want to die. Only way to get rid of the drawback is an MS transplant, which gives the user the Eternal Mangekyo Sharingan-which only Sasuke and Madara have. Itachi doesn't have the drawback as an Edo Tensei due to unlimited chakra and regeneration.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, many powerful attacks require a long charge time:
    • In its first appearance, Piccolo's Special Beam Cannon is a Disc One Nuke in terms of attack power, but takes five minutes to charge up (and these are DBZ minutes we're talking about). He is only able to successfully use it on Raditz by having Goku make a Heroic Sacrifice to hold him in place. The charging problem is largely corrected in subsequent appearances, presumably because Piccolo trained to perfect the technique.
    • Similarly, the Spirit Bomb is an ultimate attack that is (ostensibly) far more powerful than Goku could ever manage on his own, but he needs a long time to prep it while standing mostly still, rendering it Awesome, but Impractical at best.
    • Pikkon's lightning fireball attack from a filler arc was insanely powerful, but Goku caught the flaw in that there was a long prep time and a long execution time, giving him a chance to sneak in quickly.
  • InuYasha learned how to use the wind scar technique at any time, instead of using it only when he could sense the right moment. But from that point on, he encountered enemies who were able to overpower or even counter the wind scar, making his mastery of it a moot point.
  • The ZERO System from Gundam Wing provides speed-of-thought mecha control and predictions of enemy actions that border on prescience. However, absolute focus has to be maintained, because if one's mind wanders, the massive feed of battle data is then applied to whatever he thinks about - like his homeland, or his girlfriend - typically with bloody results, which makes his focus slip even more, which shows more horrifying images...and so on.
    • A subverted example from the same series comes from the space fortress Libra's Wave Motion Gun, which requires massive downtime after firing and thus can't be used consecutively. In the penultimate episode, we learn that its creators (the Gundam Engineers) added the drawback on purpose to prevent its abuse. And it's strongly implied that Zechs Merquise, the guy in charge of Libra, asked them to do it.
  • Played with in Hunter × Hunter, as the Nen users are able to intentionally give their abilities specific downsides or limitations, which directly results in a massive powerup to the ability.
  • The Guyver Biobooster Armour has a neat sliding scale of power vs speed, with a Chest Blaster on one end of the scale that can destroy mountains but requires the wearer to open his chest with his own hands and takes several seconds to charge up.
  • Firing the wave motion gun in Space Cruiser Yamato requires that the ship's engines be taken offline, leaving her a sitting target immediately before and after each shot.
  • Luffy's "gears" in One Piece. Gear Second gives him a massive speed and strength boost, but it burns through the nutrients in his body much faster, so he's sacrificing stamina for it. Gear Third makes his attacks even more powerful and with a much wider area, but his ability to flow from one attack to the next is about as quick as a snail trying to drag a crate of bricks, so it's not much good if an attack misses and he has to go again, or if he has to attack more than one opponent that are nowhere near each other. After feeling the downsides of both of these abilities during their debut in Enies Lobby, though, Luffy has mostly gotten around them by limiting their use to short bursts.
    • Then the Time Skip happened and now Luffy has gotten around both of these weaknesses, having used Gear Second for several fights without concern (even though he doesn't really need to) and able to transition Gear Third techniques quickly and easily. Combine all of this with haki, and, well...

Comic Books
  • A What If? story on Superman theorized that without the existence of Kryptonite, Superman himself would not be nearly as powerful. His strength is measured by the ability to weaken him. The more weaknesses he has, the more powerful he is. (Hence his Power Creep, Power Seep from "faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound" to...well, Superman.
  • Wolverine has the Nigh Invulnerable adamantium skeleton that renders him nearly invulnerable himself, adding to his already powerful Healing Factor. One story had the adamantium removed painfully from his bones, but without it, Wolverine was insanely fast, not being weighed down by an additional 200 pounds, and healed even faster, not having to deal with heavy metal poisoning. Then he got the adamantium back, and they forgot to tone the healing factor back down...
    • This is basically the reason behind Cyclops needing his ruby-quartz visor to handle his Eye Beams. If he had complete control most any battle would be short lived or at least manageable through his involvement alone. The visor appears to focus the concussive blast into something with surgical precision and he can alter the exact power level, while once removed it becomes a random energy beam of destruction. This was explained that the nerve cluster in Scott's brain that would control the blasts was damaged in a head injury he suffered as a child before his mutation became apparent. And depending on the continuity if Rogue absorbs his power she might also be incapable of controlling it.
  • The most common explanation of the silver age Green Lantern's inability to affect yellow objects was that his ring and power battery had a "necessary impurity" in their composition.

Film
  • In The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne upgraded his Batman costume to fix some defects he learned in practice, such as a limit on his mobility and the inability to turn his head. Lucius Fox explained that this new suit is equally bulletproof and more mobile, but to do so he had to separate the pieces of armor, which gave the suit more weak points a knife (or claws) could get through.
  • In the Star Wars: Episode III Expanded Universe, the Jedi debated on who should fight General Grievous. Mace Windu concluded that while both he and Yoda are more powerful Jedi, their fighting styles come with inherent weaknesses that could be their downfall. Windu's "Vaapad" was overly aggressive with minimal defense and Yoda's "Ataru" was a matter of compensating for his height, involving a lot of acrobatics. Obi-Wan Kenobi, on the other hand, mastered the "Soresu" style — offensively "weak" but with no defensive flaws, allowing him to maintain his position effectively even against the four-armed Grievous while waiting for the right moment to strike. (Its "weakness" was that a Soresu user might have to count on an opportunity arriving instead of creating one.)
    • In The Phantom Menace Qui-Gon Jinn was also a master of "Ataru". He met his end when the fight against Darth Maul led him into a confined space which didn't leave much room for acrobatics.

Literature
  • In The House Of God, medical interns are advised that they can be lazy, incompetent, or assholes, but not more than one.
  • In Codex Alera, each different type of fury crafting has several drawbacks, both the need for free contact with the element involved, I.E. some dirt or stone to earthcraft, trees to woodcraft, etc, but also tends to have lingering mental and/or emotional effects, which are stronger the more powerful the fury-crafter is. Water crafters, for example, are constantly inundated by the emotions of everyone around them. For weak crafters this is a minor annoyance, but for stronger ones, it can drive them quite mad.
  • All sources of supernatural power in The Dresden Files. No exceptions. It's one of the biggest themes in the series.
  • Going Postal has not one but two drawbacks to getting the Grand Trunk back online: "Do you want it fast or good or cheap, gentlemen?"

Live-Action TV
  • In Crusade and A Call to Arms, the main gun of the Excalibur can blow pretty much anything out of the sky, but each shot completely drains the capacitors, leaving the ship dead in the water with no defenses for a full minute. Better not miss.
  • Burn Notice has mentioned repeatedly about how to properly search a location and hide your own valuables. A hiding spot that would be difficult for crooks to locate also has to be difficult for yourself to retrieve easily. Thus hiding something in the wall will require straight up demolition to find. Most of the show is about learning where those drawbacks are and finding the most efficient advantage, thus Michael hid a key card in the door frame behind the hinge using a saw and then covering it up. No one would think to look there and recovery just required 30 seconds and a screwdriver.

Tabletop Games
  • Dungeons & Dragons features characters with a balance between strength, power, speed and durability. One of the character types, a Paladin, is one of the most powerful characters to be, but are required to be Boy Scouts and cannot do anything immoral. And then 3rd Edition came along, and so did CoDzilla, and suddenly everyone realized that playing either cleric or druid was like being a God-Mode Sue. In fairness, much of the imbalance came from the myriad splatbooks and were not in the core ruleset. It only gets worse once the various splatbooks enter play.
    • Fourth Edition has created a much better balance between the classes at the cost of the "Simulationist" part of the "Gamer-Narrativist-Simulationist" triad in role playing games. Character classes are now clearly divided into roles which complement each other. The result is a game which is mechanically far cleaner but which has also alienated a large part of its Unpleasable Fanbase because it has lost some of its fluidity. Fourth Edition characters built "rules as written" and following all errata are barely able to be above or below the intended power curve. You could basically put your stats where the game recommends and pick powers at random and wind up barely weaker than someone who painstakingly minmaxed their character. However, each character can basically only handle their role of Defender, Leader, Controller, and Striker. Put out of their element, each character class is weak. It's Necessary Drawback for everyone. Some players love the playability and balance, while the other hates the movement from "rulings to rules." Neither side is right, as this is a personal preference, do not argue this with fans of one style unless you want a headache.
    • {Tabletop Game/{Pathfinder}}, a rebuilt 3.5 with a much better eye for balance, enforces the necessary drawbacks of the traditional classes. It does this by nerfing the abilities of the once high-tier classes to render their weaknesses moot and spectacularly upgrading the abilities of the formerly low-tier classes to make them far more capable - so players will pick them, flaws and all. For example, the Co Dzilla era began when players learned a Cleric or Druid could buff themselves to outperform the Fighter in his role, so Paizo nerfed the more powerful Co Dzilla abilities while also buffing the heck out of the Fighter.
  • Rifts is not known for its game balance, but you can spot a few of these. Juicers are fueled by Psycho Serum which makes them incredibly powerful, but it also means they have seven years to live before their hearts blow out. Crazies will eventually go irredeemably insane. Glitter Boys are usually seen as a Game Breaker, but they have one problem that others don't: they're a Mighty Glacier class that everyone knows the weaknesses of.
    • Glitter Boys also have very little manufacturing support, and what little they do have is very centralized in one particular political power. As a result they tend to suffer a lot of wear and tear just by being used in engagements over time, which can potentially shift then into Awesome, but Impractical territory for the pilot who does not want to risk adding a few more scratches to his paintjob.
  • This is an explicit design rule of Magic: The Gathering, as stated by R&D director Mark Rosewater. A card can have only two of the following: a low mana cost, high power, or no drawback. An entire Player Archetype, "Johnny", enjoys building decks around cards with quirky drawbacks.
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! collectible card game, they have a handful of monsters that are obscenely powerful, but require quite a bit of set-up to accomplish, such as most Fusion and especially Ritual monsters. When the Chaos cards came out every player did a double-take, because they effectively changed the game forever with their Game Breaker status. Remove two cards from your graveyard (an mildly unused resource anyway) to bring out monsters that can obliterate almost anything. Ever since then the card restriction list has always either banned them or restricted them to one in a deck, in an effort to maintain some sense of limitation.
    • Synchros are powerful and easy to summon, but even they have a few drawbacks. One of the monsters needed to summon it has to be a tuner, and only one. You also can only have 15 total, so you have to choose carefully. Going even further than this are the Xyz monsters. They have power comparable to Synchros, but their effects require monsters attacked to them as a resource. This means they can only use their effects two or three times.
  • A recurring theme in the BattleTech construction rules is that equipment made of lighter materials than normal ends up being bigger than normal (never mind the logic behind that) and thus eats up more internal space; classic examples are extralight fusion engines, endosteel internal structure, ferro-fibrous armor, and double heat sinks. Where this principle isn't followed — XL engines on aerospace fighters are notorious offenders, and double heat sinks arguably also qualify since, when done right, they can actually end up saving internal space as well as weight relative to the standard model —, the items in question do acquire certain Game Breaker qualities. (In-universe these things may be to some degree balanced by cost — indeed, quite possibly the only reason internal combustion engines are still used at all is that they're notionally cheap and available, because they certainly have no actual in-game advantages whatsoever to compensate for their drawbacks —, but in actual gaming practice certain pieces of gear are just flat-out preferable to others. The Battle Value system tries to help balance things out, but it ultimately remains an optional rule that even after a couple of decades of development cannot hope to account for everything and retains a number of bugs.)
    • From a material sciences point of view it makes a lot of sense. It is very very rare for one substance to be just plain better than another. For example, steel is much stronger per unit volume than titanium, but we use titanium quite often in aerospace construction where a bulkier (you still need to pass certain mechanical limits) but lighter structure is better. We rarely bother to use titanium in a tank.
  • In-universe example, from 7th Sea: Every school of swordfighting has one flaw, which can be exploited if you're familiar with the school (represented in-game by bonuses if you're fighting someone of a school you know). For example, one school teaches its students to fight by playing a song in their heads and attacking in time to it. The flaw? The chorus - the only time in the song where your motions will always be the same.
  • Within Mutants & Masterminds, every power has a point cost. Adding flaws and drawbacks reduces the cost. In addition, heroes can pull out related powers in a crisis by expending Hero Points, but said power has to match the point value of the original power. Therefore, a common method is to take the regular power and add a flaw for the single usage such as the power taking longer to charge up, causing the power to tire out the user, adding a side effect, or preventing dodging while the power is being used.

Video Games
  • Path of Exile has these with its super-powerful passive skills called "Keystone Passives." They balance excellent advantages with harsh disadvantages, to the point that choosing one may fundamentally change how the game is played. Among them: your attacks will never miss at the cost of never being able to deal a Critical Hit, your summons deal much more damage but you can't deal any damage yourself, and being unable to dodge but being immune to stun.
  • Team Fortress 2 makes this trope a basis for every non stock weapon as a balancing factor, so that pretty much everything is designed to be more a sidegrade than an upgrade in general use.
    • This is part of the reason the Engineer rarely ever gets new weapons.
    • One notable subversion is the Third Degree, which is a straight upgrade to the Pyro's stock Fire Axe, being able to hit both an enemy and the Medic healing them.
      • In theory. In practice the fact that you can do something extra for no drawback goads many players into trying, and nine times out of ten this puts you at point-blank range with an overhealed Heavy Weapons Guy.
  • The .357 Magnum in Half-Life 2 has pretty much perfect accuracy regardless of distance and can take out most enemies with one shot, but ammo for it is rare and you can't carry much with you. That, and it has a fairly long reload time.
    • Same for the crossbow in both games: similarly-perfect accuracy and high power, but ammo is again rare and they have a long cycle time between shots, combined with slow reloads for the first one and having to account for bullet drop for the second one.
    • In a similar vein is the Spartan Laser in Halo 3. It has pinpoint accuracy and will kill almost anything, soldier or vehicle, in one shot. This is mitigated by several Necessary Drawbacks - It can only fire 5 shots before running out of charge, it's very very rare, and has to charge up for 3 seconds before firing.
    • Another magnum from another game. Traditionally, in the Resident Evil series, the various types of magnum are extremely powerful weapons, capable of killing multiple enemies in a single shot. However, like the above examples, it has a very slow firing rate and ammunition is typically rare. In the few instances the game does start giving you more bullets to play with, it typically means you're gonna' need every bullet you have for whatever is coming next.
  • In the Pokémon games, the most powerful attacks either require a charging turn, a recovery turn, or have very low success rates. Recoil damage is also something to watch out for, the most powerful attacks in the game will likely disable the Pokemon or even you. Generally speaking as well, the more powerful an attack, the less PP it will have.
    • The two moves with the highest Base Power out of all Pokemon attacks, Selfdestruct and Explosion, deal massive damage, hits all Pokemon on the field save for Ghosts and Pokemon with Sturdy, and halves the target's Defense on damage calculationsnote , but causes the user to faint. The Damp ability also nullifies these.
    • Most pro players prefer to use attacks with slightly less power, but no drawbacks. Others will use specific Pokemon or moves in combo with the power attacks to increase accuracy, remove the need to charge/recover, or prevent recoil - but since the number of Pokemon on a team (and moves a Pokemon can learn) is limited, this itself can be considered a drawback.
    • And, of course, there's Focus Blast. Unlike many of the attacks in Pokemon that fall under this trope, this one often is necessary, as many specially-focused attackers like Gengar and Alakazam need it for coverage in the series's Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors. However, its reliability is so notoriously poor that it has gained the Fan Nickname "Focus Miss".
    • This also occurs in items and strategies, especially ones most often used for attackers in the metagame:
      • Choice Items like Choice Band and Choice Scarf can greatly increase a Pokemon's Power or Speed, at the cost of forcing the Pokemon into using only one attack until its switched out.
      • Life Orb provides a power boost to all attacks, but causes the user to take damage with each attack (although Abilities like Magic Guard and Sheer Force can negate this).
      • Users of the Guts or Quick Feet Abilities can boost their Attack or Speed, respectively, when they are affected by Standard Status Effects; this is often taken advantage of by players deliberately burning or poisoning their Pokemon with the Flame Orb or Toxic Orb items, resulting in Pokemon being faster or stronger at the cost of taking damage each turn and using up their item slot.
  • Final Fantasy games that use the Active Time Battle system usually couple powerful spells with longer wait times between inputting the command and the actual execution, in addition to the obviously higher MP costs. This can be deadly in a heated battle against enemies who like to spam powerful spells, since these restrictions don't seem to apply to them; when your only option for healing is Curaja, everybody else will likely have had their turn before the casting is finished.
    • The cast time restrictions do apply to to the AI, but it uses inhumanly precise micromanagement to avoid common human mistakes.
  • The Ace Combat series categorizes each plane as an Attacker optimized for air-to-surface (ground or naval), a Fighter optimized for air-to-air, or a Multirole plane that have a mix of both air-to-air and air-to-surface special ("SP") weapons. The most common "drawback" is Attackers and Fighters lacking SP weapons for the other role with some exceptions, or Multirole planes whose SP weapons don't particularly excel at their role. (Multirole planes will have to lean towards Attack or Fighter since planes can only carry one SP weapon type at a time, but in games that allow SP weapon switches the mix allows them to tackle missions with mixed opposition.) Of course, some planes (including the superfighters) will blur these lines...
    • Specific examples for air-to-ground SP weapons: Precision Guided Bombs/Guided Penetration Bombs (PGB/GPB) have a relatively short lock-on range and a small blast radius in return for the player being able to "fire and forget," while "Multi-Tgt" air-to-surface missiles such as the XAGM or LASM have their long lock-on range and cover-defeating flight paths be wasted against ground targets clustered together which could have been defeated by a single Unguided Bomb (UGB)... but due to the short forward bomb drop distance the plane will have to approach the target at certain angles and altitudes at risk for anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire.
    • Even the QAAM has one drawback: it has the same lock-on range as the regular missiles. (Not that this balances against the unGodly agility.) Later games lowered the agility of the QAAM, changing it from a "hit eventually" weapon to a "probably hit eventually" weapon. In addition, the range of the QAAM dropped significantly starting in Ace Combat Zero, making it fly a much shorter distance than standard missiles, meaning that the player would have to get much closer to the target than the lock-on range to ensure a hit.
    • The add-on parts in Skies of Deception almost always have trade-offs, such as armour throwing away speed for defense or engines that do the reverse.
    • The Tactical Laser Systems have incredible range and power and will always hit what's in the targeting circle. However, that accuracy is also their greatest weakness; being unguided, if you can't keep the target in the circle then it is not going to get fried. Start working on your gunkills!
  • Defense of the Ancients: All-Stars shows this: Early-/mid-game gankers and mages have strong spells that can kill enemies easily at first, but the damage is fixed and therefore as the enemy builds health, the spells become less powerful, plus they usually lack passives that scale well with items. Lategame carries are weak at first both in health and damage, but become very powerful with farming and usually have passives that scale with their growth. You do have some semicarries who can both gank and carry, but they can't do either as well as a hero dedicated to either archetype. Even within spells there are tradeoffs; for example ranged fire-and-forget (almost) sure-hit stuns like Storm Bolt have a low stun time compared to, say, Shackles that needs the user to stand still and channel, leaving himself open, or Elune's Arrow where the target needs to be led a certain distance in order to achieve a long stun and the projectile is rather easily dodged.
  • The powers in Prototype show this: Claws are the fastest but weakest of the melee ones, Hammerfists are slowest but strongest, Musclemass trades some power for a boost to Alex's basic offense moves, Whipfist gives range but loses power and Blade achieves something of a balance. Meanwhile Shield can be broken after taking some punishment and needs to regenerate, whereas Armour gives a consistent damage reduction but lowers Alex's mobility.
  • In Earthbound, the Casey Bat is Ness's most powerful weapon... until you figure in that it has a 75% miss chance. This is explained in that the bat makes you want to swing with all your might... but you might "just whiff." When it connects, though? Whoo boy. Remember, Casey struck out.
  • In Splinter Cell Conviction, the various guns show this. The Five-Seven has the most number of Marks of all, but isn't the strongest for the chaos of CQC when you don't have time to line up headshots. Scope-attachable assault rifles like the G36 or AK have the best range but can't be suppressed. The SC3000 is a good, suppressible infighter but lacks a scope and has only a measly two Marks. So on and so forth.
  • In-universe example in Dragon Age: Origins. Mages have incredibly power literally at their fingetips. However, this power draws the attention of demons, meaning that anyone who shows signs of magical ability is sent to the Circle Tower to be trained as a mage—under the watchful eye of the Templars, who will kill anyone who shows even a hint of consorting with demons. On top of this, all mages must provide a sample of blood for their "phylactery," a device that can be used to track them flawlessly, should they escape the Templars. Even if a mage does completely break free, they are still in very real danger from the actual demons.
  • In Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, you can send novice Assassins out on missions by themselves. There is a chance that they can fail. The chance of success can be improved by sending more or more experienced Assassins on the mission, but doing the former means that the benefits of success are split amongst them, while doing the latter can result in the less experienced Assassins losing out on leveling opportunities.
  • Sword of the Stars weapons: The weapon higher up the Tech Tree may deal more damage and have better range but is costlier to mount, fires less often and may need a larger turret that tracks more slowly. Armor piercing mass drivers suffer a loss in actual damage and knockback in order to get higher accuracy, range and less deflection off armour.
    • FTL drives also have their own advantages and drawbacks. Hivers have to STL anywhere but can set up gates that enable one-turn movement. In Antimatter era they get the Farcaster tech that allows them to "teleport" to a system within 10 lightyears, but there is a chance of missing by up to two lightyears. Human node drive has the second highest stated speed but must follow the natural paths, which are rarely straight-line between any two distant systems. Liir Stutterwarp has a comparable speed and can move directly between any systems, but slow down severely near gravity wells. Morrigi Void Cutter can theoretically attain the highest straight-line speed but requires large fleets; single-ships move slow even with maxed upgrades. Tarka Hyperdrive is the simplest straight-line system, no funny conditions or effects, but isn't very fast. Zuul tunnel drive is similar to humans' but being able to form their own paths comes at the cost of not being as fast. Whew!
  • Star Ruler uses this as a key part of the game design; new subsystems unlocked through research are not just incremental improvements on the existing ones but have their own flaws to balance the advantages they bring. To list just some examples:
    • Heavy Hulls are better-armoured than other hulls but have less space on the Design It Yourself Equipment screen.
    • Antimatter Generator generates much more power for less fuel but requires much more "control" than fusion.
    • Overpowered Laser deals much more damage than the standard laser but has much higher power need and cooldown time.
  • In Rusty Hearts, bonuses to physical defence often come as the cost of penalties to magic defence and vice versa.
  • Battlestar Galactica Online:
    • Weapons are divided into three types. One gives More Dakka but is short-ranged, one has long range but poor rate of fire and the third offers a balance.
    • Hull plating offers bonuses to hull points, defence against normal attacks, defence against critical hits or a mix of two or more of those. The mixes give less of each individual attribute.
  • Some custom parts in Ghost Recon: Future Soldier work like this - modifying a part on a gun will usually confer a bonus but also add a drawback. A long barrel will increase accuracy but also reduce maneuverability, an overpowered gas system will increase the rate of fire but also make it harder to control, and so on. On the other hand, some parts are objectively better than others; for example, the Gripod combines all the advantages of a bipod and vertical grip, and almost all attachments are better than no attachment at all.
  • In Mass Effect, the Normandy's revolutionary stealth-drive relies on storing all outbound emissions in massive heat-sinks, thus making it virtually undetectable to other vessels. However the ship can only remain in stealth for a few hours at the most, otherwise the massive build up of heat will slowly begin to cook the crew alive.
    • It also doesn't have any form of optical stealth, so even at maximum concealment it's 100% detectable if the enemy so much as looks out their window.
  • In Wip Eout 2048 Prototype crafts usually has some kind of drawback to secure that they are used either skillfully or doesn't become overpowered. The Feisar Prototype is a good first example: It's one of the fastest crafts you can get, but it starts off slow. It gains more speed as you pass over speed pads, usually exceeding most Speed class crafts. The Auricom Prototype counts too, as it deals decent damage, doesn't get slowed down or wipes out upon contact with enemy weapons, but can't pick-up defensive weapons.
  • All the more powerful gear in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team comes under this in some way, with the increased stats being part of a tradeoff for some other drawback. The Crystal items raise stats massively, but can break during use and be destroyed. The Dark items do the same, but hurt the wielder for every attack. And the Legendary Wear boosts every stat you have by a pretty big amount... with the not so minor drawback that you automatically get K Oed in two turns. There are also a few badge effects which have great effects for the user... 50% of the time (with the alternative being 'potentially KO everyone on the field at once').
  • Most equipment in Alpha Protocol have this. A certain magazine type may increase ammo capacity but penalise stability. Armored joints increase Endurance but make more noise. Stealth armour has good sound dampening but inferior Endurance bonuses to combat armour. Even the stuff that is a straight upgrade over base gear, usually guns manufactured by Hamilton, usually has inferior stats in certain areas compared to other manufacturers' weapons that greatly improve one or two areas in exchange for penalising others.

Web Original
  • Shadows, the Elite Mooks of the Order of Denderah in lonelygirl15, take a number of drugs that raise their awareness, build muscles and remove the need for sleep, but as a side effect, few can survive past the age of 30.

Western Animation
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender :
    • The elemental benders have weaknesses and strengths to balance out everyone, making it a matter concerning the skill of the user rather then the actual bending practice that has the advantage. Fire is less effective in cold environments and gone during a solar eclipse. Water can easily be removed from the bender and is gone during a lunar eclipse. Earth only works with direct contact with the earth (although some powerful benders like King Bumi can overcome this weakness). Air has a limitless power supply, but is usually not an aggressive fighting style does not feature a type of finishing move.
    • The use of lightning attacks for firebenders is a powerful attack, but requires some prep time. Likewise, the technique to redirect lightning can be devastating, but has to be done fluidly or else it could kill you just the same.
  • The Justice League Watchtower had a Wave Motion Gun built into it, powered directly by its fusion reactor. Besides the political implications of having that thing pointing at the Earth, once fired it required a 1 hour downtime to reset the circuits and power back up. This became a major plot point in "Panic in the Sky".

Webcomics
  • Torg's talking sword Chaz in Sluggy Freelance is able to kill just about any supernatural creature in a single strike, but it has to feed on the blood of the innocent to pull this off. Torg, being a good person himself, is naturally against the idea of using the obvious sources of such a commodity.
  • The Dewitchery Diamond in El Goonish Shive, to the point that in the most extreme cases it's a horrible idea to use it. All its creator Abraham wanted was a spell that would cure lycanthropy. Unfortunately, the lycanthropy had to go somewhere, so the werewolf form became a separate rampaging entity. And if you use it on someone with cosmetic magic on, then the magic is separated and becomes a clone. And added fun comes if the subject of cloning has lots of latent magic abilities...

Truth in Television
  • You can argue this about personality. Every persons strengths also leave them vulnerable to a specific weakness. If you're incredibly kind and gentle you will be loved and trusted, but may also be used and handle the pain that comes with caring too much. If you're incredibly determined, you can accomplish more, but at the risk of becoming stubborn and hard-headed.
    • Having a strong imagination is great, right? It provides pathways to creative, entertaining careers and means you're rarely bored, but it's not so great when it's causing you to become paranoid over all the horrible things you imagine happening to you, your friends and family.
  • As mentioned above, just about any weapon or fighting style created will have to sacrifice some advantage in order to gain a more powerful advantage.
  • Vehicles equiped with a nitrous oxide injector will give the engine a sudden burst of speed, but has to be in low doses and for short periods or else it will overheat catastrophically. Likewise, larger engines like a V-8, V-10, or V-12 will have more power but will suck up gas.
    • Newer larger engines attempt to overcome the "more power, more gas" problem by selectively firing some cylinders. A powerful V-8 engine, for example, may fire all cylinders while accelerating, but will only fire half when cruising. These engines have a new drawback as a result: acceleration lag while the unused cylinders finally start firing again.
    • Similarly, turbocharged engines have the drawback of turbo lag, the period of time between when the gas pedal is pushed and when the turbo kicks in (if the turbo only activates at high RPMs, for example, then there's a noticable difference in acceleration power until the turbo kicks in). Generally speaking, the larger the turbocharger, the more power it can achieve, but the longer it takes to kick in. One particularly ingenious design, first introduced in a BMW diesel sports car (according to Top Gear) features a small turbo for lower RPMs, and a massive turbo for higher RPMs.
      • A similar way to avoid turbo-lag is to have multiple smaller turbines feeding the same engine. While effective at minimizing lag, it requires more space than a single turbo.
      • Don't forget variable geometry turbos where through various methods (Adjusting the turbine vanes for an example)
      • And ontop of VGTs, there are anti lag systems where there is a fuel injector (!) placed in the exhaust pipe before the turbo, strictly race use only. There were also some early anti-lag systems that had some type of "bleed back" system where the exhaust is piped back into the turbo. (Audi Quattro from Group B)
      • Speaking of Group B cars, twincharger, supercharger for low RPMs, turbo for high RPMs
  • Investment funds. The high-return ones have quite the high risk of crashing and burning, while safer ones like saving deposit funds have low returns. Very low returns.
  • Lots of good-tasting foods are awful for the waistline, while many health foods and products aren't tasty or are outright sour or bitter. This is due to the fact that the easiest way to make food taste good involves adding more sugar, fat, or saltnote . There are exceptions that taste good and are good for you, but they tend to be more expensive and less profitable, leading to less variety and availability.
  • A country's currency system can only manage two of three desirable outcomes: capital mobility, independent monetary policy, and fixed exchange rates.
    • Most industrialized countries sacrifice the last of these via a currency with a free-floating value on the world market.
    • Countries that don't have a free-floating currency usually sacrifice the second point, pegging their currency valuation to an external source (gold, the US dollar, etc.) outside their own control.
    • Sacrificing the first makes international commerce horrendously difficult, so it's now exceptionally rare.
  • Most people, especially kids, find cough syrup to taste disgusting.
  • Mouthwash tastes disgusting due to the amount of alcohol in it specifically so people don't drink it. However; anyone who watches Intervention can tell you that people actually do get drunk off of Mouthwash or Vanilla Extract.
  • It's often joked that when you're looking for romance on the internet, there are plenty of attractive people, sane people, and single people, just nobody who meets all three criteria.
  • All weapons have to compromise between number of shots, stopping power, maneuverability and accuracy. A few examples:
    • A sniper rifle is powerful and accurate but must reload frequently and can't be quickly brought to bear due to weight.
    • SMGs carry dozens of shots and can be used in close quarters but use pistol calibers and aren't much use are long range.
    • This even extends to weapons in the same class. Classic example (and prime flame bait): AK-47 versus M-16 are both Assault Rifles and in theory Jack of All Stats. One is powerful, reliably, cheap, simple, and ubiquitous. However, it is comparatively inaccurate, hard to control on automatic, has a wide range in quality, so you could get a militarily great weapon or something cobbled together with backwoods tech and duct tape. It is also heavier, has a slower rate of fire, it's ammo is twice as heavy, and the sights aren't so great. The other is Lightweight, Accurate, incredibly modifiable and generally standard quality. However it has lower stopping power, is more expensive, is less reliable, tends to be hard to get even when you can afford it.
  • A common truism in security work is that the harder you want it to be for bad guys to get things the harder it is for you to get them when you need them and anything you do to streamline the process also weakens security. For example: a randomly generated twenty digit password is tough to crack but hard to remember and if you write it down then anyone who can get at the paper can break security.
  • The myriad laws of conservation mean that as far as Science can tell every technological advancement comes with a laundry list of drawbacks that weren't present in earlier devices. The key (and some might say the art) lies in making sure that as few as possible of these new drawbacks affect what Joe or Jane Average does with the technology in 99% of their intended everyday use. Many plausible methods have been proposed for overcoming one or more of the laws but their drawbacks tend to be the massive costs involved (monetary or otherwise).
  • One could say jobs are like this. There are jobs that are interesting, jobs that make good money, and jobs that are legal. Good luck finding one that is all three.
  • Likewise, college students joke that time as a student is like this. You can study, sleep, or have a social life. Pick two.
    • Plus, to keep most jobs and make money, you have to work for it.


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