Sometimes, The Heroes
are faced with a seemingly insurmountable enemy. Be it a Mighty Glacier
that absorbs damage like a truck or a Fragile Speedster
that dodges attacks with lithe grace, some enemies are hard to defeat with standard tactics. They can generally be defeated through brute force, but it's very difficult. The smarter and much easier way to defeat such a foe is to employ clever strategy and some often unintuitive insight.
An Outside-the-Box Tactic
is a simple or otherwise overlooked tactic that is particularly effective against a certain monster or type of monster. It is closely related to an Achilles' Heel
; the difference being that this weakness is not the only reliable way to defeat such a foe. A foe susceptible to an Outside The Box Tactic is still vulnerable to other tactics, but is very weak to this particular strategy. It is primarily a Role-Playing Game
trope, but may be found in other types of games as well.
The most famous and common example involves the use of healing magics or other restorative items to harm the undead, examples of which should be listed under Revive Kills Zombie
. If this particular application of a technique is the only place where it is effective, it may be Not Completely Useless
. If the method was unintended
by the game developers, it may be the result of a Good Bad Bug
. If the method of attack actually involves not attacking the opponent at all, it becomes Sheathe Your Sword
. If it's not hinted at in any way, yet is the only way to defeat the foe, it may also be a Guide Dang It
. If it's not the only way to defeat a foe, but it requires Forced Level Grinding
to defeat it otherwise, it may be commonly thought of as That One Boss
or a Beef Gate
. Outside-The-Box Tactics are often necessary to defeat a Puzzle Boss
or the Final Exam Boss
Contrast Logical Weakness
, when it's immediately apparent what needs to be done, and Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay
, where the tactic shouldn't
be outside-the-box, but is thanks to defying game logic.
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Non Video Game Examples
- In Moria and some versions of Angband, the spell "Turn Stone to Mud", normally used for digging new passages, can also be used to devastating effect against stone-based monsters such as golems. Nethack, a distant cousin, lacks a similar direct equivalent of the Dungeons & Dragons stone to earth spell, but it does have "stone to flesh", which makes stone golems much easier to kill — and also, when used on rocks or boulders, produces prodigious amounts of perfectly edible meat, which non-vegetarian characters can use to stave off starvation.
- In Dragon Quest games, Holy Water is supposed to be used to help avoid Random Encounters. It can also sometimes be used in battle, but its only effect is to deal a pathetic amount of damage. However, it works just as effectively against Metal Slimes as any other enemy, and their low HP makes using Holy Water against them a good strategy.
- Final Fantasy:
- In the original NES version of Final Fantasy I, Tiamat can be killed with the instant death spell BANE.
- In Final Fantasy IV, the Wall (Reflect) spell is integral to defeating Asura, who heals herself twice, at the end of every round, in addition to attacking your party. The catch? You have to cast Wall on her. That way, when she attempts to heal herself, Wall reflects it and heals your party instead. Asura inflicts insane amounts of damage and recovers 2,500-3,300 HP per recovery spell, making her borderline impossible to defeat without this trick.
- Final Fantasy V:
- The only practical way to defeat Bonus Boss Odin is to use petrification attacks, which will instantly kill him.
- The Mimic. He'll attack with whatever you attack him with. The key to victory: Do nothing.
- There's an endgame boss that can learn any Blue Magic spell you cast on it and then cast it back at you. Exploder is a Blue Magic spell that kills that caster and does their current HP in damage: just cast it on the boss and watch it gleefully use its new toy to kill itself.
- Final Fantasy VI:
- The spell "Vanish". It temporarily causes all physical attacks to miss, but guarantees the next magical attack to hit. Death and X-Zone, normally Useless Useful Spells, suddenly become much more appealing. This combo will fail only on enemies immune to Vanish — since Vanish is supposed to be a positive effect, there are very few of these. It's also supposed to fail on enemies immune to instant death, but "Vanish = magic succeeds" is checked before "immune to death = death spells fail"; this was fixed in the GBA version.
- Final Fantasy VI also had the spells Rasp and Osmose, which depleted an enemy's magic points (the latter also restored yours by the same amount). Some enemies were noted (though only at one spot in the entire game) to be inherently magical, and unable to maintain their forms if their MP was depleted. You thus had the option of either depleting their hit points or magic points to defeat them; in the case of several that had last-ditch attacks when out of hit points (including That One Boss), removing their magic was the wiser (or sometimes faster) option.
- In Final Fantasy VII, the Demi spell is surprisingly effective against Emerald Weapon. Demi is a low-level Gravity spell, that does damage equal to 25% of the target's current HP. On most common enemies, it's a waste of time. Most bosses are immune. But Emerald Weapon is not, and, until you whittle his HP down, it can do the 9,999 damage cap to him.
- Final Fantasy X
- The final boss can be easily killed by using Zombie and a Phoenix Down.
- You can do the same with one previous boss (Evrae Altana), who is undead to begin with.
- In Final Fantasy XIII, bosses are immune to Death... except the final boss, when it's staggered.
- And in Final Fantasy Tactics A2 the Ranger class gains the "Mirror Item" skill, which changes it from Revive Kills Zombie to Revive Kills Everything Except Zombie, as well as the more obvious inversions such as making Potions deal damage. And Remedies (normally a cure-all) now inflict everything. The same effect shows up on an item in Final Fantasy XII.
- In Deus Ex, you have the option of simply running past bosses without being required to fight or kill them.
- Persona 3 has the 6th full moon boss: Strength and Fortune. The gimmick of the fight is that every turn Fortune will use the "Wheel of Fortune" attack, which has a variety of effects such as inflicting damage, debuffs or Standard Status Effects on either your party or on themselves. Fear is one of those status effects. At this point, if you're versed enough in fusions, it's possible to have a Persona with the Ghastly Wail ability, which instantly kills all enemies with Fear. Strength and Fortune are not immune to this. Provided you know how to manipulate the wheel, the fight can easily become a Curb-Stomp Battle.
- In the ending chapter of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, the Black Knight can be easily beaten by forgoing use of the Infinity+1 Sword in favor of using a common Hammer.
- The Berserker in Legend of Legaia can be instantly killed via the Nighto spell. It is the only boss vulnerable to this tactic, and is That One Boss otherwise. It is Fridge Brilliance when one considers that Nighto inflicts the Confuse status.
- Get the hit just right, and it's possible to One-Hit Kill the final form of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening's final boss with the boomerang.
- Several enemies in Metroid Prime 3 can be killed in a single strike of the Nova Blaster augmented by the X-Ray Visor, due to the limitations of their Phazite armor.
- Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga features the Trunkle boss, which dies to one or two hits of the Chopper Bros. attack to the forehead.
- In Super Mario RPG, due to a design quirk Exor is vulnerable to Geno's One-Hit Kill attack, which all the other bosses have Contractual Boss Immunity against.
- Mega Man 2:
- The Mega Man X series continues the trend of its predecessor series. While many bosses have Logical Weaknesses, the Launch Octopus and Flame Mammoth both have one of these - the boomerang attack can cut off Octopus' tentacles and prevent him from using his homing and tornado attacks, as well as being able to cut off Mammoth's trunk so he can't throw around globs of oil he can set on fire and turn them into pillars of fire. You can also stunlock Spark Mandrill and Sting Chameleon.
- There's also Web Spider from X4. The Twin Slasher does more damage than normal to him, but in order to hurt him really hard, you should fire it at the web he's hanging from, cutting it. He'll drop and go splat on the ground for massive damage, although this tends to be more difficult than it was intended since the weapon fires at an angle that usually hits Spider as well when you aim it at the web and when he's under the effects of Mercy Invincibility, so is his web.
- The Final Bosses in the MOTHER series can't be defeated by typical RPG methods.
- Some otherwise difficult bosses in MOTHER 3 have some vulnerabilities to certain techniques.
- The Fierce Pork Trooper. Sure, he's kinda weak against fire, and it is possible to defeat him with standard melee and PSI attacks, but he becomes much easier to defeat by employing his weakness: DCMC merchandise. Show him some stuff featuring his favourite rock band, and he becomes unable to attack for several turns, turning this into a much easier battle.
- The Barrier Trio is a normally difficult boss who throws high-level PSI at your entire party every single round, when all methods of healing at this point will only affect one party member. However, if you constantly lower their defense with the Tickle Stick and Defense Down, they might attempt to bring their Defense back up, slowing down their barrage of attacks.
- In Odin Sphere, Onyx can be glued to the spot with a normally useless "Ooze" potion to stop That One Attack. Since he's so damn big and an Ooze is so small and moves back and forth slowly, Onyx won't be able to do a damn thing except watch his HP go down as you start whaling on him.
- It's a running gag that the final boss, Dhaos, of Tales of Phantasia is susceptible to the Indignation spell. In cameo appearances in later games, he dies to one use of the spell.
- Gespent, a sub-boss in Wild ARMs 3, can be killed with a single use of the Requiem spell.
- The Dominate special ability in Mass Effect 2, which lets you control organic enemies so they'll attack their allies (basically the equivalent of the normal AI Hacking power), is also inexplicably able to kill husks instantly.
- The Citadel DLC of Mass Effect 3 has overheard conversations that show the developer thoughts on these. For example, in multiplayer, one of the best tactics of a particular class is to use their tech armornote , and then detonating it For Massive Damage, rather than the intended use. Or the infeasibility of carrying more than one weapon into combat, when additional weight reduces power cooldown.
- Inferno, the final boss of Soul Calibur 2, is normally That One Boss... unless you exploit his weakness. Surprisingly for a flaming creature, he has no ability to avoid throws, and they take off much more damage than any other attacks.
- The World Ends with You: Two major flaws of the Time Bomb psych is that it takes a while to actually explode and when it does, any enemy hit flies into the air. Well, the elephants, including the Bonus Boss one, and both forms of the Final Boss are slow/immobile and cannot fly in the air. The Time Bomb psych will utterly destroy them.
- Team Fortress 2: Spies with the Dead Ringer can fake their own deaths while implementing Interface Screw to fake out the attacker's killfeed. Weapons with unique/altered killfeed messages like the Holy Mackerel won't show their unique message, tipping off the attacker to the Spy's trickery.
- Like most bosses in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, the Ancient Devil is immune to status effects. However, its main gimmick is its power to enchant your player characters into assisting it, and they can be hobbled by status effects. Since the Devil will just enchant someone else if its current ally drops, this is a better way to minimize losses.
- Jormungandr, the second boss of Magicka, is a giant snake of the burrowing flavor. Normally his head is the only weakpoint, which he holds above the ground when not attacking. While it's not too difficult to hit his head during the attack frames, it's far easier to use a shield spell before he comes up or burrows again because he takes collision damage. Not only does this do more damage than your average beam spell, it also stuns him briefly and then forces him back under ground before he can attack.
- In Paper Mario: Sticker Star, when you find yourself facing a Big Chain Chomp, the solution to the entire problem isn't trying to deplete the monster's HP with your attacks. Instead, you simply pound down the stake keeping it where it is (before you even go into battle with it), and then face it and just wait for it to wake up. It does the rest on its own.
- The giant Cheep-Cheep that's fought at the harbor can either be handled like a Timed Boss Battle, or you can simply opt to pop it with a Spike Helmet, circumventing the need to use up your powerful stickers and/or spend coins on the battle roulette to defeat it before it self-destructs on you.
- There are a few examples in the Super Smash Bros. series.
- One of the simpler ones involves the 15-Minute Melee, where the player has to survive against waves of drones for 15 minutes. The drones start off with very poor AI, but each replacement drone for one that was defeated has better AI than the ones before. Solution? Don't attack - it's trivially easy to defend against the poor (and seldom-attacking) AI of the early drones, and if they're never defeated, you never have to deal with the ones that might be a challenge.
- One that crosses over into Violation of Common Sense and A.I. Breaker involves the Cruel Melee/Brawl, where the enemy drones have extremely ramped up offense, defense, and aggression on their AI. However, it's possible to abuse that aggression by simply jumping off the stage - the player has ways to recover from that, but the AI doesn't, so its aggression just goads the drones into committing suicide. Flying characters and characters who are momentarily still before using a move to return them to the stage are particularly good at this, as they can remain tempting off-stage targets for longer.
- Some monsters in Monster Hunter have particularly clever ways to take them down. Is Big Eater Nibelsnarf giving you trouble with its charge attacks? Feed It a Bomb, then fish it out to make it vulnerable. Is the Zinogre, which uses Mega Thunderbugs to attack you, on the verge of going into its third Rage Mode? Make it trip and catch them with a bugnet.
Anime & Manga
- This can occasionally come up in One Piece, along with unexpected strengths, when a Devil Fruit power sometimes provides an unforeseen advantage against another power. One of the more prominent examples would be low-tier villain Mr. 3, whose power to create objects out of wax ends up temporarily providing the single best countermeasure against poisonous Implacable Man Magellan. It's also stated that one of the marks of a strong fruit user since the powers themselves don't change too much as time goes on, the main way to get stronger with a fruit is to figure out more creative ways to use the powers you already have.
- In A Certain Magical Index, Accelerator is pretty much invincible while his powers are active. However, one of the Sisters found a tactic that he couldn't simply reflect: continuously zap the air around him. This doesn't hurt him, but it does ionize the air and lower the oxygen content. For all his power, Accelerator still needs to breathe. Unfortunately for her, Accelerator figures out what she's up to and resolves to kill her before she can ionize the air to that extent, though he does congratulate her on being one of the few who has ever come up with a strategy that could possibly harm him.
- A large draw of Jojos Bizarre Adventure it's their sheer frequency. Rather than Once a Chapter every now and then, they happen constantly. The manga owes it's title in part to the strange powers both the antagonists and the protagonists have, so the mangaka, Hirohiko Araki, spends a lot of time and energy making them into viable, practical powers.
- Naruto does this when he's forced to fight Pain, trying to be the most unpredictable opponent possible, it does work for a time.
- In X-Men, Sebastian Shaw absorbs any kinetic energy directed at him, even a bullet, so Storm covers him in snow, which actually saps his energy, due to cold being a lack of said energy.
- Interestingly, 15ish years later the X-Man Bishop — whose powers are similar to Shaw's — would charge himself up by using snowfall. Bishop, however, can absorb any kind of energy directed at him where Shawn can only absorb kinetic.
- In Invincible the main character faces a villain with powers similar to the X-Men character mentioned above; the way the main character wins is he continues punching the bad guy until he's been overloaded with so much energy it travels through the floor vaporizing his family and emotionally crippling him. This is entirely unintentional, and Invincible spends a significant amount of time and effort trying to explain this.
- In Knightfall, Shondra Kinsolving had the ability to heal using Healing Hands, but when combined with her stepbrother, she and he could kill anyone from afar by healing them too much, putting the victim's glands and nervous system on fatal overdrive.
- In an issue of JLA, the League fight an Amazo who has the powers of the whole League...on a conceptual level. Every time they bring in more reinforcements, Amazo gets more powerful. The Atom works out how to beat him; he tells Superman to officially disband the League. Since the League now no longer "exists", Amazo loses all his powers and shuts down.
- The Avengers once fought a similar robot. They beat it by exposing it to Captain America, and it absorbed his fundamental goodness. Then it declared that the Avengers were good guys and it didn't want to fight anymore, regardless of the wishes of its creator.
- Then there was the time The Avengers were fighting the Super-Adaptoid (a power mimic). Captain Marvel (cosmic awareness, Flying Brick, blaster, and power wristbands that when clanked together would make him switch places with Rick Jones, who had been trapped in the Negative Zone for some time) let the Super-Adaptoid gain his powers: while the mimic was stunned from getting cosmic awareness, Mar-Vell clapped the Super-Adaptoid's newly-formed wrist bracelets together, banishing it to the Negative Zone and freeing Rick.
- AT-AT's in the Star Wars series have thick armor impervious to the blasters on rebel fighters. However, due to their being very top-heavy, a simple harpoon and tow cable can bring them down with ease. They're also much less heavily armored, and therefore more vulnerable, in the ventral aspect, though a competent commander will deploy them in such fashion as to obviate any potential risk thus caused; they're not particularly quick, so a long advance to contact provides more than enough time for their heavy forward-mounted guns to flatten anything which might shoot up at them from below. (Shot-down stray Jedi, of course, notwithstanding — but it'd take a whole lot of them, even at a rate of one Jedi and one thermal detonator per AT-AT, to make a real difference in any kind of serious battle.)
- In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, water is this to the Wicked Witch of the West.
- In the Star Wars Expanded Universe New Jedi Order series, the Yuuzhan Vong villains' Organic Technology ships use pinpoint black holes instead of Deflector Shields to "absorb" enemy fire, as well as for propulsion. This prompts a long chain of back-and-forth tactical innovations among the New Republic defenders, ranging from the trivial (unlike shields, voids can't be everywhere at once, so firing at a target from multiple angles will destroy it), to the inspired (an Ace Pilot can use the singularity to perform a gravity slingshot), to the outright bizarre (a Jedi can telekinetically seize the singularity and redirect it onto the ship, although it requires a lot of energy).
- Enderís Game features a virtual adventure game for the local Child Soldier to play, in which a giant provides a rat a choice whichever of the two provided grails does not contain poison. When Ender has tried both grails and gotten game overs, he controls the rat to jump directly at the giant and kill it. This amazes the commanders because nobody else has ever tried doing the same.
- The Giant's Drink was a deliberately unwinnable 'game' designed to show how potential soldiers and commanders dealt with losing. Both drinks were always different, but always poison. Ender went Off the Rails with a third option and broke the game. Although it dealt with this not by glitching and crashing, but somehow creating an entire new world for him to explore.
Live Action TV
- Star Trek: The Original Series the characters had to deal with an alien that fed off of anger. The Starfleet officers and the Klingons puts aside their differences and laugh it off.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation, there was a Vulcan device that turned people's anger into a weapon. To counter this, the characters calm themselves down.
- This thinking is what Buffy the Vampire Slayer is known for, from creating a Slayer army to defeat the Final Boss to the time she found out whether a demon who claimed to be invincible wasn't rocket proof.
- This appears to be the point of the Cruciamentum, a test undergone by Slayers who make it to 18 which strips them of their usual strength until they are at about the same as an ordinary human, thus forcing them to rely on other skills to defeat a particularly dangerous vampire.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- Casting regenerate on an Eye of Gruumsh (a one-eyed, mad orc fighter) restores its other eye and negates its magical abilities as well.
- Encounter a badass villain wearing Dragon Scale armor? Cast Resurrection (True or otherwise) on the armor, and let him deal with the angry dragon while you slip past.
- However, the 10 minute casting time of Resurrection and True Resurrection and the range of touch could be problematic.
- Transmutation school Wizards are the king of this trope. Flesh to Stone, Stone to Mud, Purify Water, anyone?
- Exalted has a Charm (Order-Affirming Blow) that undoes Shaping effects. Guess what? The Fair Folk use shaping effects to create their bodies. One-Hit Kill.
- In Fate/stay night, Saber is representative of King Arthur Pendragon. She is vulnerable to items and spells that harm dragons as a result.
- In the Whateley Universe story "Ayla and the Great Shoulder Angel Conspiracy", Phase sees Bladedancer losing to a power mimic in the school holographic simulator. Phase deals with the power mimic by deliberately letting the mimic get his Intangible Man power and then taking the guy into the concrete floor before he learns to use Phase's peculiar flight ability.
- Justice League Unlimited
- In the episode "Hawk and Dove", the Annihilator defeats much of the League by feeding off aggression and hostility. When Dove faces the machine and neither attacks it nor fights back in self defense, the machine shuts down.
- In the same vein, the android AMAZO mimics both the principal characters' superpowers and weaknesses. After he obtains Superman's strength, he also obtains his weakness to kryptonite. He quickly evolves past this weakness though. Then the trope is invoked a second time as the Martian Manhunter deliberately lets AMAZO copy his powers... which include telepathy, which it uses to read Lex Luthor's mind and discover how he tricked it into fighting the League in the first place.
- The Samurai Jack episode "Jack vs. Mad Jack" has Jack fighting a clone spawned from his irrational anger. At the conclusion, he catches on, steps back and meditates. With his anger calmed, the clone's power cuts off and it dissipates.
- When Trixie shows up for revenge and curb-stomps Twilight Sparkle in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Magic Duel", Twilight's only chance to fight back is some Training from Hell to become as powerful as Trixie. However, being well-aware that she can't match her power, Twilight instead uses trickery and stage magic, which is Trixie's usual specialty, to defeat her.
- Batman: The Animated Series had Batman vs a Robot Me that was trying to replace him. Batman (original) let? the Robot version kill him; and the robot was such an exact copy it self-destructed for violating Batman's One Rule.
- To some extent, the evolution of strategy and tactics is one series of these after another. Tactics constantly evolve to adjust to social, political, and technological factors, and in turn affect them in turn. One needs to look only at World War I: the deadlock of the trenches led to the development of quickfire artillery barrages, squad and platoon assault tactics, armored advances, all of which would have been unimaginable to all but the most prescient officers in 1914. The success of the tank led to entire strategies built around it that would dominate the Second World War and the Cold War. What seemed new and outside-the-box in the last war could quickly turn into standard operating procedure in the next.
- In team sports such as American football, on occasion someone will develop a new tactic that other teams simply aren't prepared to defend against when it's first used. If there isn't a rule change to prohibit it, other teams will often copy it or develop defenses to stop it.
- This can also happen to individual players, in team or individual sports. Bobby Orr wracked up high scoring numbers when he entered the National Hockey League by driving directly to the net, a tactic he was able to do because teams weren't used to defensemen being such aggressive scorers and so instead of going after him, they tried to block the pass to a forward that a defenseman would normally make.
- In ancient Greece, armies used the phalanx formation where soldiers would have several lines of soldiers of equal lengths with the front line interlocking shields. Because the shield was held in the left hand, the soldiers on the right of the formation would not benefit from the interlocking shields; to compensate, the toughest soldiers would be placed on the right side. At the Battle of Leuctra between Sparta - the dominant power of the time and with a reputation of having a strong army - and Thebes, the Theban general Epaminondas ordered his outnumbered troops to make unorthodox and uneven phalanxes, putting his elite troops on the left instead of the right and even more forces behind them. The result was the Spartans being overpowered, the Thebans gaining victory and ousting the Spartans as the dominant Greek power, and inspiring Kings Phillip II and Alexander III of Macedonia to adopt new approaches in battle tactics, changing the course of history.