That One Disadvantage
The disadvantage that no smart minmaxer would ever take because it practically ensures a quick death or severe disruption of your plans. Clear requirement: it should be presented as a disadvantage from the beginning. It should not just be a less smart option, it should clearly be labeled as an intentional handicap. You should get something in return for it. It has to be voluntarily chosen. And it has to be a completely disastrous option that is just plain not worth it. The only reason any remotely intelligent player would take it is as a Self-Imposed Challenge, and even then it's borderline masochistic. Opposite of Minmaxer's Delight.
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- Rogue Legacy:
- Vertigo, which flips the entire screen upside-down, including interface elements and dialog boxes. Apart from being headache-inducing, vertically-mirrored text makes menu options so unintelligible the Dyslexia trait could only wish it was that bad (don't bother trying to flip your monitor). God help you if all three characters in a generation get stuck with Vertigo.
- C.I.P., which hides your health bar. In a game where keeping track of your HP is what keeps you alive, this is a very bad thing. Unless you feel like using math during gameplay to figure out how much HP you might have, you won't know how hurt you are until it's far too late.
- Alzheimer's for Spelunkers. Alzheimer's prevents you from using the map, though it doesn't disable the minimap. For a class whose main ability involves using the map to seek out treasure chests, this is more than a little bad.
- Shieldless in FTL: Faster Than Light. Only four ships (Stealth A through C, Zoltan B) don't start with laser and beam-repelling shield systems and while they have alternatives (a cloaking system in two cases and a special single-use shield for Zoltan B) they can be rapidly picked apart by anything with a beam drone (attack drones fire constantly for low damage which shields would normally absorb, but which adds up, and beams can't be dodged). Note you can buy a shield system but you are still vulnerable initially and have to spend a lot to get what normal ships begin with.
Role Playing Game
- Completely Inept and Cursed At Birth in Avernum. Combine them for additional fun!
- Completely Inept reduces hit chance by 10% and reduces confusion resistance by 30%. The former is nastier than it looks, as damage for weapon skills (and the blademaster skill) is directly tied to hit rate.
- Cursed at Birth increases all forms of damage taken by 50%. For even more fun, combining it with Brittle Bones makes them stack for an extra 100% damage from all physical attacks.
- Exile III had the Pacifist disadvantage. While it was technically possible to give this to a magic user and still have a semi-viable party member, in a game that is basically a series of Dungeon Crawls, a pacifist is of limited utility.
- Actually being a Pacifist made you able to take other nice benefits and retain a reasonable XP progression. This was the result of trade-offs: you advance slower or faster depending on your mix of edges and flaws. And it was certainly possible to keep one spellcaster busy doing nothing but healing and buffing, especially since buffs in Exile stack.
- The Sluggishness disadvantage makes a character get fewer action points every round. It wasn't worth much in XP savings, and a game like this requires perfect rationing of action points to succeed. A character with less-than-stellar action points will easily be left behind when everyone else advances on the enemy, and also left to be ganged up on and eaten alive when everyone else is fleeing. Furthermore, the Haste spells (critical in the late game) only multiply action points; someone who can barely move before Haste can still only move a little better after it.
- One background option in Arcanum is "Nietzsche Poster Child", boosting EXP in exchange for increasing critical failure rate ("That which does not kill me can only make me stronger."). Given Arcanum has really annoying effects possible for critical failures (most are "deal damage to self", but also found are "receive injury that reduces stats and can only be healed by upper end healing items" and "your weapon breaks instantly", "Armor damaged", "get stunned and most likely die because the thing you were fighting now has a few turns of uninterrupted, unmissable attacks", and multiple of the above) and EXP is given like candy already, only a pure diplomat (who doesn't really make any rolls that can critically fail, plu s doesn't get the game's insane amount of combat EXP) can make any use of it, and even then, a background that boosts your persuasion stats (and the cap for them, as a stat's cap is based on its starting value) with a hit to combat stats may be better.
- Weakness to Stealth Rock in Pokémon. Simply put, Stealth Rock is a semi-permanent trap move where Pokemon with typings weak to the rock type would get damaged for 25% (x2 weakness) or 50% (x4 weakness) of their maximum hit points. Per switch-in. This move redefined online competitive battling to the point that many bug, flying, fire or ice types that would otherwise be solid choices became disregarded.
- Stealth Rock has become such a mainstay in the Pokémon metagame that Rapid Spin, a rather weak move that involves the Pokémon rapidly spinning to hit the enemy has gone from "just another boring move" to "required to get rid of Stealth Rock".
- That said, there are a few mons that get past it despite their typing. Volcarona is so powerful that, in spite of it taking 50% damage from Stealth Rock, it managed to remain a great high-tier choice throughout all of Generation V. Ho-oh is another exception, due to having awesome moves like Sacred Fire alongside enough raw stats and an ability that allows it to recover 1/3 of its HP on switch in to stay a top threat in the banlist tier. In Generation VI, Talonflame has a powerful priority move, Mega Charizard Y holds the fabled Drought ability, while Mega Pinsir has very powerful attacks boosted by Aerilate, making them all viable.
- Having a low Endurance score in an Elder Scrolls game negatively effects your character regardless of build. More Endurance means more health, which means you'll last longer in combat. A Warrior may have heavy armor, but getting up close and personal with every enemy means you'll be taking a lot of hits. Rangers and Mages keep their distance, taking less hits overall, but are also far less protected in terms of armor. Most guides will recommend you level up your Endurance to 100 as quickly as you can in order to have the most health possible. This is especially important in Oblivion, where nearly every enemy's stats (including health) scales with your own level, meaning even a lowly bandit can potentially one-shot a low-endurance character at a high enough level.
- Hell Night has this with the game leaving you to be a One-Hit-Point Wonder. But it's not only that but some partners has this too: Naomi can see the monster's location on the map and compas, but is otherwise passive. Kamiya and Ivanoff can stun the monster for quite a while but that's it. Same with Rene, although she has limited ammo and is the last partner the player can recruit.
- The Moronic trait in Tropico is not a good trait to have, as it bars you from getting colleges.
- The Imbecile (or to a lesser extent, Incapable) trait in Crusader Kings II means that your character has to have a regent appointed to him/her, for rather obvious reasons. And this type of trait is (largely) random to acquire, so it can strike at any time.
- GURPS has a whole bunch of these. It's actually understandable once you realize that not all of them are necessarily designed to be taken by PCs, and are instead better suited to NPCs and enemies.
- Combat Paralysis - you tend to randomly "freeze" in combat. Some particularly fiendish GMs reccomend having each PC start with it in realistic 'normal people' games. It's nothing in comparison to the Hemophila disadvantage, which makes ANY wound you suffer into either a royal pain in the ass, a life-threatening disaster, or a quick trip to the morgue.
- Woe on anyone who takes the disadvantages Cursed or Unluckiness - you're just begging the GM to be a dick towards you at the worst possible time. Here's the actual description for Cursed:
Like Unluckiness, but worse. Whenever anything goes wrong for your party, it happens to you, first and worst. If something goes right, it misses you. And any time the GM feels like hosing you, he can, and you have no gripe coming, because you are cursed.
- While the 75 free points you get for it are a massive advantage, especially for a low-level character, there's no way any GM worth the name isn't going to take a huge amount of pleasure in making you regret it. One of the jokes in the GURPS magazine, Pyramid, revolved around a disadvantage called Spontaneous Human Combustion — also probably a bad one to take.
- Klutz and Total Klutz likewise encourage the GM to screw with you in their description. "The GM should be creative in inventing minor torments."
- There is an Easy to Kill disadvantage. I repeat, there is an Easy to Kill disadvantage. While it can be offset with plenty of Hp, DR, etc., it's rarely taken because it's only worth -2 points per level.
- Unique sounds cool until you find out it means that if anything ever changes the time line significantly (and you can only take it in worlds where this is possible), you not only cease to exist, you cease to have ever existed, anywhere, with no chance of ever being remembered. You can also take it in parallel universe settings, where it's closer to Minmaxer's Delight - not only do you get disadvantage points for taking it, it gives you the Zeroed advantage (i.e. your character is not listed in any of the usual publicly-available records) for free.
- Slave Mentality requires you to make a rather difficult roll "before you can take any action that isn't either obeying a direct order or part of an established routine." And to do anything other than fold to social influence requires GM permission and another difficult roll. As the book says, "rarely appropriate for PCs"!
- Also, maximum point value Enemies are really fun.
- At the highest level of Terminally Ill, your character will suddenly drop dead after a year or so; however, since that's its only effect, it can still be a Min Maxers Delight if you don't expect the campaign to last that long, though that's quite a real gamble if your GM hasn't let you know anything that could be used to gauge that at character creation.
- Reduced Time Rate makes it so a character takes twice as long to perform any non-combat tasks, and in combat you declare all your actions (like punching that guy in front of you), then wait a turn, then perform those actions (like punching the air where that guy was last round).
- The relatively obscure Anterograde Amnesia disadvantages (Cinematic and Regular) prevent your character from forming new memories. Have fun roleplaying that!
- Dark Fate in Legend of the Five Rings. Sure, it can save your bacon, but when the GM feels like it, you will betray everything your character holds dear, probably including the other players. Death is usually the result, although a Fate Worse Than Death is also a distinct possibility.
- L5R is rife with these. Momoku, which removes the ability to spend void, is not even close to worth the 10 Character Points you get. The creators have noted that disadvantages in their system are supposed to be deadly, not a minor handicap, and taking one is supposed to be handing the GM an excuse to ruin you.
- Dark Fate in the Old World of Darkness games. The books try to make it sound appealing by pointing out your Dark Fate means you have an effectively open hand until it hits (unless it's your Dark Fate, what can the situation do to you?), but realistically, the Storyteller will hammer you with your Dark Fate as soon as you screw up one too many of his plans.
- Bleeder in Serenity is like GURPS Hemophilia - any significant wound is death. "Things Don't Go Smooth" is another bad one (the GM can void any success he likes once or twice per game session, typically the "do or die" ones) - notable in that Mal has it. Although this shouldn't be too much of a surprise, considering it's named after one of his lines.
- The highest level of Coward in All Flesh Must Be Eaten. Buy it and your character will never play any real role in the game ever again.
- Dragon magazine
- Issue #325 has the Superstitious flaw. If you create a character with a crippling phobia of magic, maybe adventuring just isn't for you.
- Another issue of Dragon includes a selection of extremely crippling commoner-oriented flaws, up to and including Corpse. Oddly enough, creative interpretation of several of these ended up being a significant boon and turned what was originally a class with no abilities and bare minimum stats into a Lethal Joke Character.
- Dark Heresy has the Nascent Psyker background package. Notable in that it is the only background package that costs 0xp (the game lacking a point-buy advantage/disadvantage system), Nascent Psyker gives your character spectacular powers (fuelled by Hell) which they can't control, and which have a definite chance of randomly making you, or everyone around you explode, or sharing your head with a daemon. Oh, and you have to be under extreme stress before those powers will manifest, and if any other characters find out you have them, they are legally obliged to either kill you, or capture you and send you across the galaxy to learn how to control it over the next decade or so (both options effectively requiring you to retire the character). Even if you manage to hide it from the others (not particularly easy), or they are heretical/radical enough not to have you purged or sanctioned, it's only a matter of time before your magical mishaps kill you or worse... It is explicitly noted in the Splatbook it appears in that taking this package is effectively an open-ended death sentence.
- In a time travel-themed RPG, you'd better take the advantage to be conscious of shifts in the timeline. Otherwise, your character will spend forever trying to figure out what you already know!
- Dependence is this in the Hero System. While it was originally intended to replicate characters like Aquaman, who needed to dunk himself in water once a day, it turns into a bludgeon against the character, because all the GM has to do to screw over the guy is not allow access, storywise.
- "Palms Like Sieves" in Hack Master. And Hemophilia, again.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- The Bloodfeeder for the Chaos Lord. When used in melee, you roll 2 six-sided dice and get that many plus 4 attacks in that round (keep in mind that, for a character, you should usually get about five attacks). That is, unless you roll a 1 on either die, in which your Chaos Lord goes into a wrist-slitting emo mode, represented by him taking an armor-ignoring wound and forfeiting all of his attacks that round, which more-often-than-not coincides with him getting obliterated in whatever melee he was a part of. No surprise, the fluff clearly points out in many places that "Khorne cares not from whence the blood flows". The Chaos Marines have a number of Confusion Fu options in their codex, but the Bloodfeeder is by far the most self-destructive.
- Anything with the Rage special rule, prior to 6th edition (2012). A unit with the old version of Rage must move directly towards the closest enemy as fast as possible. A unit is usually subject to Rage because of a bad roll on a certain test, or as a mechanical counterbalance to some other amazing ability (often Furious Charge or something of the like). Often the trademark of a particularly Ax-Crazy model/unit. While it's a rather negligible drawback against new and inexperienced players, who will almost instinctively park on objectives and never move, a veteran player with a fast vehicle or two can drag Rage units by the nose all over the table.
- In deadEarth, the player is forced to roll several random mutations for their character, some of which explicitly kill your character during chargen (which is combined with the game only allowing you three characters ever.)