The game you're playing allows you to swap equipment in slots on party members. There're some slots the game won't allow players to empty. There are three categories of this trope:
- Defaults: A character comes with an item that can't be removed (sometimes because the character isn't allowed to equip other items on that particular slot); for example, a fisticuffs brawler may have their Weapon slot described as "Hard Fists" simply to keep that slot occupied and remind the player that they are not actually weaponless in battle.
- Un-Unequipables: You can equip the item but subsequently can't remove it (a common property of 'cursed items').
- Swappables: You may reequip the slot with whatever you choose, but you do have to equip it with something; you can't leave it empty.
Often related to Clingy Costume
and Clingy MacGuffin
- Dungeons & Dragons features cursed magical items that once equipped, will re-appear in the relevant slot and force the user to use it even if it has been physically destroyed. Usually requires a specific spell or combination of spells just to allow the item to be unequipped and thrown away. Probably the Trope Codifier.
- NetHack, Angband and many other Roguelikes use the same mechanic; you can't remove a cursed item once equipped without removing the curse first. This is especially bad if the item in question is a two-handed weapon (leaving no hands available to use other items) or an Amulet of Strangulation.
- Hilariously, in Ancient Domains of Mystery for some time it was possible for gold coins to be cursed. So if you decided to fool around and equip a coin as a weapon... you might have found out it was impossible to un-equip, and you were forced to walk around beating up monsters with a single coin.
- Used for flavor in Baldur's Gate: Minsc won't allow Boo to be removed from one of his potion slots.
- Imoen also starts Baldur's Gate 2 with a belt which cannot be removed and has flavor text saying she's been stuck with it as long as she's been in the dungeon. It provides a few hidden immunities to ensure she survives to reach the exit and trigger the plot, and it's gone when you get her back later.
- And Edwin has a non-removable amulet that's there because the devs wanted him to be really good at spellcasting but the engine doesn't allow for someone to just be given extra spell slots.
- In Eternal Sonata, you can't unequip the Weapons or Armor slot, only swap.
- Occurs in the later Final Fantasy games.
- In Final Fantasy IX you cannot have your weapon slot be empty, though you may change weapons around and run around "naked" except for your dagger/staff/racket/spear whatever.
- In Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy X, and Final Fantasy XIII you can't have either your Weapon or armor slot be empty.
- In Final Fantasy VIII, each character only has one weapon, which can be upgraded (or downgraded), but can't be unequipped.
- in Final Fantasy XIV the weapon or tool you have equipped defines your character's class and you can't be "classless".
- in Lost Souls MUD, some cursed items display sticky behavior. Hijinks ensue when players decide it is more cost effective to have their buddy hack off the hand with the cursed ring on it, then reattach the limb, than to get a remove curse spell cast on them.
- The Last Remnant gives a little control over party member equipment. You can get them to request certain pieces if it matches their equipment focus and will upgrade their weapons over time, but there is no way to manually change their stuff.
- Occurs several times in the SaGa series:
- In SaGa 3 (aka Final Fantasy Legend III), the equipment of Guest Star Party Members is stuck, including any gear they equip in empty slots.
- Mystics in SaGa Frontier all have some form of armor permanently equipped, usually "Mystic Mail", although Mesarthiim and Dr. Nusakan have a "Mellow Ring" and "Mystic Shirt" respectively. Depending on their body type, Mecs have one to four pieces of equipment that can't be unequipped, ranging from laser cannons to missile launchers to medkits.
- In SaGa Frontier 2, some characters are stuck with unequippable weapons, the most notorious examples being Gustave always having his steel sword (though hopefully upgrades as the story goes on); Gustaf (who inherits Gustave's sword, which is pretty much an Infinity–1 Sword at this point); and Firebrand (who wields a weaker sword). With both weapon slots occupied, Gustaf can't equip the Infinity+1 Sword (or any other weapon for that matter) preventing him from achieving Game Breaker status.
- Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song features this: certain recruitable characters have equipment that can't be removed. These include The Minstrel, Diana, Prince Niedhart and the various Everyone Calls Him Barkeep "generic" mercenaries. This prevents the player from pulling a reverse So Long, and Thanks for All the Gear on them, and can also hinder attempts to outfit them with the best equipment.
- Romancing SaGa 3 also has a fair number of characters with unremoveable items: the assassin-type character can't remove his secondary weapon (although he gains an upgrade for it late in the game), the snowman can't remove the crystal that keeps him from melting outside of his homeworld, the vampire can't remove his cloak (although it's not like you'd want to because it's one of the best armors in the game and any armors that share its name are vastly weaker), the bard can't remove his lute, the crippled swordsman can't remove his prosthetic arm, and so forth.
- In Unlimited Saga, Kurt and Michelle have cursed gauntlets that can't be removed, only upgraded through the game's distinctive Character Customization.
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion won't allow you to drop quest items. This is to prevent you from making a quest Unwinnable by losing quest-essential items. Also, said items are weightless. Unfortunately many items will not properly have the "undroppable" tag removed long after they are no longer needed and at least once (Molag Bal's quest) an item that needs to be dropped to complete a quest may get flagged as undroppable. Most of these are unfixed as of the last official patch, requiring fan-made patches to fix (If you are on a console, well, sucks to be you).
- In Planescape: Torment, The Nameless One can equip and unequip armor normally, and the body armour of everyone other than the Nameless One, Annah and Grace is stuck. Some characters have items that can't be replaced, like Dak'kon's Zerth Blade, Vhailor's helm, and Fall From Grace's journal. Other characters have eqipment slots that can't be emptied, but can have other items swapped into them, like Annah's daggers, Nordom's crossbows, The Nameless One's Eye and Morte's teeth and Annah and Grace's body armour. Most even have voiced lines if you attempt to try.
- Star Ocean 1 had accessories that couldn't be removed from Phia and Ioshua.
- There's a Vocaloid song about the singer being stuck with "cursed glasses" she can't unequip, which is a problem because she has 20/20 vision normally and with the glasses on she can't see. ... yeah, it's pretty weird.
- The Wild ARMs games generally let you upgrade your characters ARMs (or change their ammunition), but the ARMs themselves are character-specific and can't be unequipped.
- Justified in Warcraft 3 which has several (plot-important) items that can't be dropped; if you could drop them it'd be a Lost Forever situation.
- In World of Warcraft, you cannot un-equip the backpack you start with, ever. Which is annoying, as there are a few easily attainable alternatives readily available with 4-6 slots more.
- Gear weapons in Xenogears.
- Red Faction: Guerilla: Mason's sledgehammer is a default that can't be exchanged for a another weapon. On the other hand, it's the single most versatile weapon in the game.
- In the Suikoden series, the True Runes can't be moved or removed from their bearers. The same goes for certain other characters with "special" Runes, whether or not said Runes are actually unique and plot-relevant.
- Furthermore, some characters actually have armor pieces which cannot be removed or upgraded, usually owing to the person's profession (such as Mina's Toe Shoes, as she's a dancer).
- Demon's Souls gives you a bunch of items that remain bound to you during the whole game: the Augite of Souls (a glowy rock that frequently serves as your only source of light), Nexial Binding (a bangle you can use at any time to escape a level at the cost of all your souls/money), Blue Eye Stone (used to enter another player's world as an allied Blue Phantom), Black Eye Stone (used to invade another player's world and hunt them down as a Black Phantom), and after you fulfill the right conditions, the Red Eye Stone (used to enter a duel with another player).
- In Chrono Trigger, you cannot completely unequip any equipment slot on any character - they're all filled by default, and all you can do is swap them (with the slight exception of your time on the Blackbird, where the slots temporarily empty for everything except Ayla's weapon). The same applies to weapons and basic armor in Chrono Cross, but nothing else.
- Albion applies this for all plot-important items. (Unfortunately the dev team neglected to consider that "King Tharnos's Permit" allows you to deal with a Broken Bridge either through directly using it, or through selecting a relevant conversational option. Only if you use it directly will it be removed from your inventory—otherwise, it stays with you forever. At least it doesn't weigh much.) Albion also features the conventional cursed items, which reduce one of your stats and can't be unequipped (except by paying a healer to remove the curse, which destroys the cursed item).
- The Lufia series has cursed items, which after being equipped cannot be removed until you pay a priest to remove the item for you.
- Golden Sun has cursed weapons that are very powerful, but have the annoying side effect of causing paralysis when fighting. Once equipped, you can't take them off unless you visit a priest to remove the curse from the character. The weapon will still be cursed though.
- Though you can equip a special ring to remove the paralysis effect, making it a powerful weapon you probably won't want to remove anyway.
- Civilization V: Capital cities cannot be razed. Even if the original owner is defeated entirely, the city is there to stay for the entire game. This includes city state cities, and serves some purpose in that this allows players to liberate both major civs and city states, which is especially useful for a diplomatic victory. On the other hand, its impossible to get rid of such cities if you wanted to build another one in a better location nearby.
- In Jagged Alliance the biker mercenary Nails refuses to take off his leather vest... unless for another leather vest, for instance a kevlar-reinforced one (hint hint).
- In Kingdom Hearts 1 and Kingdom Hearts II, Sora and company cannot unequip their main weapons, although the Trio can change their weapon to another of the same type. Sora always has to have his Keyblade equipped; Donald and Goofy: their respective Stave and Shield, and any World Partner comes default with a weapon that can't even be switched out for another.
- The same goes for Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, in which Terra, Ventus and Aqua can switch out Keyblades, but cannot unequip them leaving them with nothing.
- In the case of the keyblade wielders, this is justified; the keyblade is usually the only weapon available to them, and their "weapon slot" is actually just a keychain used to modify the keyblade's attributes.
- The Dragon Quest series has cursed weapons that can only be removed with special methods once equipped. The moment you equip them, you'll hear an ominous tune play, which has become a sort of staple in the series.
- Some Harvest Moon games have cursed tools that can't be removed when held. Very annoying if you accidentally equip them with the switch tools button shortcut.
- Subverted in Valkyrie Profile. Lenneth's Nibelungen Ring has all the usual signs that it can't be removed, but it really can be and not wearing it at certain points in the game is necessary to get the best ending.
- The original Call of Duty and its expansion have a form of this - pistols are considered separate from the normal two-weapon limit, and you can't drop one unless you find a different one. However, after the first game's American campaign, you don't always have one to start with (this, combined with their general low damage, is probably why CoD2 and later dropped the dedicated pistol slot).
- Happens in Tales of the Abyss with Guest Star Party Member Asch. He comes pre-equipped with "Maestro" equipment, basically his uniform as God-General, that refused to be removed unless you use cheat devices. When you first get him, his equipment is top-notch and his accessory very useful, but the next time you can actually control him the rest of your party has clearly outclassed him.
- In Tales of Phantasia, Chester and Arche can't be stripped of any weapon they are currently in possession of. This is justified as Chester is an Archer not trained for melee combat and Arche uses flying broomsticks without which she wouldn't have much advantage in battle.
- In Pokémon, key items can't be tossed or sold once obtained. Trying to toss gets you a "That's too important to throw away", which is annoying in the early games, which limit your space severely, with items whose purpose has already been fulfilled, like the SS Anne ticket in Gen I after you finish with the ship.
- At least one slot in your party MUST be filled at all times. It can be any Pokemon, but if you try to deposit that last one in the PC, you'll get a "That's your last Pokemon" message and be stopped from doing it.
- Melia's starting hat in Xenoblade. It can't be removed until after a certain story event unless you're on a New Game+.
- This happens in Heroes Of Ruin for the 3DS. You can swap out your equipment, but once you put something onto your character, you can't remove it.
- In Live A Live, the weapon/left hand slot of a character cannot be emptied once it has been filled.
- In Magicland Dizzy, you pull Excalibur from the stone by picking up some 'sticky stuff' that allows you to get a good enough grip. It's then permanently attached to your hand (taking up inventory space) for the remainder of the game.
- XCOM: Enemy Unknown has this at the end: The Volunteer is unable to take the Psi Armor off.
- Koromaru can't equip footwear in Persona 3. This is largely because he's a dog.
- In Left 4 Dead, server mods aside, your secondary weapon slot will always be filled. You start with a pistol with infinite ammo, and you can get a second pistol, a magnum, or a melee weapon, but you'll always have at least one weapon on hand. Some campaigns even force you to progress with just the secondary for a while before you find any primaries.
- Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords: Mandalore's armor cannot be unequipped, though it can be upgraded.