Put on a trenchcoat and fight some conspiracies.In many RPGs, there are many "non-combat abilities" that let you get through situations without fighting (like diplomacy for negotiating with enemies or stealth for sneaking by them), but these are often not nearly as useful as advertised, for the following reasons:
Get experience and level up abilities.
Will you pick rifles or computers?
Don't pick swimming because it's fairly useless!
Get experience and level up abilities.
Will you pick rifles or computers?
Don't pick swimming because it's fairly useless!
- There are many enemies that players must kill to complete key objectives, such as bosses, that are harder to kill than enemies that you can avoid fighting. Hence, if your character or party is powerful enough to kill the bosses (as is necessary in order to progress in the game), it is also more than powerful enough to kill the grunts, so it is unnecessary to avoid combat with them.
- Getting by enemies without combat prevents you from getting the experience and loot rewards that you would have received had you killed them, so it leaves you handicapped for later in the game.
- The effects provided by the non-combat abilities can be more easily achieved other ways.
- The effects provide things which aren't necessary or even useful in the game.
- There are simply not enough places in the level design that allow these skills to be used to their full potential. A hacking skill is only useful if there are enough systems that can be hacked to avoid combat reasonably often.
- In games that have a "Barter" or "Persuade" type of skill that can be used to get discounts in shops or increase quest rewards, the extra money can often be useless due to Money for Nothing.
- Certain skills can often be tried over and over again until they succeed, making any positive probability of success as good as a 100% probability, as long as you are willing to keep sitting there and pushing the button.
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- Though most tabletop RPGs have stat for non-physical skills, most GMs won't let the characters solve social interactions with dice rolls. It doesn't matter if your character has an amazing score in Persuasion, you—the player—still have to make up their lies and be convincing. Dice are mostly there to help you get the desired result, they're not an automatic win. However, DMs will often treat an awesome roll/ability score as a license to get away with Blatant Lies and be believed.
- Examples from 3.5e Dungeons & Dragons:
- Craft, Perform and Profession were essentially designed to be skill-point sinks for NPC characters like blacksmiths or tavern owners. Yes, you can use them to make money, but your allies are not going to wait for weeks while you forge longswords and busk when they could be making thousands of gold beating up the local Money Spiders. Bards require one Perform skill at high level to use some of their abilities, and Craft can become a Game-Breaker when combined with spells like Fabricate, but otherwise those skills are only as useful as the DM will allow.
- d20 Modern, which is built on the same system as Dungeons & Dragons, has its own examples, such as Knowledge (art), Knowledge (popular culture), and Perform, that are only useful in very limited situations. Craft is in some ways worse since crafting an item is usually more expensive than buying it, although some advanced classes use it in special ways (such as MacGyver style improvising).
- Perform in particular says nothing more about an effect than "Masterful performance. Audience awed". The D&D 3.5 counterpart at least assumed you were busking and earned some money for your efforts (although see Profession, above). When asked about this, the game's designers basically admitted it had no purpose beyond giving flavour to a character or whatever the GM might homebrew.
- Interestingly enough, with the most recent Expansion Pack to Neverwinter Nights 2 (that would be Storms of Zehir) and a new overworld map, a number of otherwise marginally useful skills suddenly become much more useful, such as Survival (you can track specific enemies AND get a bonus in resting and random battles) and most of the communications skills (Bluff, Diplomacy and Intimidate can be used prior to a random battle to gain a not-insignificant advantage).
- On the other hand, some games that use D&D rules but focus mostly on combat make almost all skills useless. Eye of the Beholder, for instance, made Forgery completely worthless, Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Climb mostly useless, and even the cool-sounding Spellcraft rather less impressive than you'd think.
- All this being said, without DM intervention Diplomacy can become a game-breaker... and because of that, so too can any skill due to the Exemplar prestige class.
- Tracking-related skills are usually joked to be this, overlapping with This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman. The logic goes, if you don't have a tracker, then you're never going to need a tracker - anything that needs to be tracked is probably plot-relevant, and the DM isn't going to make plot-relevant things impossible to find, so groups that don't have a tracker just never encounter anything that needs training to track.
- Lampshaded in the Discworld Role-Playing Game, with Academic Skills such as Astrozoology. "Some may seem rarefied, even useless – but roleplayers can be good at finding uses for things."
- The Elder Scrolls:
- Recurring series examples:
- Speechcraft: You can easily max out a target's disposition with a custom-made spell or potion when required, making Speechcraft unnecessary. Through Oblivion, it is also possible to simply bribe them over and over to increase their disposition. (Quite easy to do with all of the series' Money for Nothing as well.)
- Mercantile: In most games, even with a maxed out Mercantile skill, it is nearly impossible to haggle for an item for more than a few percentage points over/under it's base value. And as mentioned above, the series has more than enough money available for you to acquire without having to do bother with this. Mercantile was dropped as a skill as of Skyrim, where its effects are folded into a somewhat more useful Speechcraft skill tree.
- Etiquette and Streetwise: These skills make nobles/scholars and commoners/underworld types (respectively) respond to you more positively, and may get them to give you extra information and hints. Realistically, they don't help very much. If you need additional information out of them, there are much better ways to gain it.
- The various Language skills, such as Giantish, Impish, Orcish, etc. A higher skill score in them gives you a chance to avoid combat with the creatures who speak it. Practically speaking, it isn't very useful. One minor use is that using the skill potentially allows you to level up several skills at once, increasing the rate at which you gain character levels. For instance, you can speak to an Orc to increase the Orcish skill, then (succeed or fail) attack him anyway to increase your combat skills.
- Medical: You recover more health points per hour you sleep. Given that time is only a factor in a select few Timed Missions, there is no real benefit to healing more quickly in fewer hours of sleep.
- Mercantile is an aversion here. Because the game makes a separate skill roll for each attempt, you can simply set the price of an item to whatever you want then spam the accept key until the merchant accepts. While each failure makes it less likely to succeed and drops the disposition of the merchant, you will eventually get a 'critical' success that will get the merchant to accept no matter what. Further, the disposition drop will will reverse itself if you leave the conversation and then re-enter it.
- Acrobatics: You can eventually jump over buildings at a high skill level, but aside from the fun of it, there's not much reason to do so. Levitation is a better alternative, and potions of Rising Force are quite common.
- Willpower is a rather useless Attribute. One of the only things it affects is your maximum Fatigue, which is also affected by other stats. It also controls your rate of Magicka regeneration, but it's more effective to increase your Intelligence so you have more Magicka in the first place. In addition, mages often take Atronach birthsign which give you additional max Magicka and a chance of absorbing enemy spells, at the cost of your Magicka regeneration.
- Security: It governs your ability to pick locks, but picking a lock is a mini-game based more on player skill than anything else. A high Security skill makes it somewhat easier (and saves you from breaking as many lockpicks), but a skilled player can easily pick even the highest leveled locks with a minimum Security Skill. Notably, this is not the case in Morrowind, where the success of picking a lock is up to the Random Number God. A higher Security Skill increases your odds of picking it, while having too low of a security skill will make it impossible to pick higher leveled locks.
- Lockpicking: Just like Security in Oblivion, for the exact same reason.
- Recurring series examples:
- Some examples from Knights of the Old Republic:
- Security: All locked doors can be bashed open very easily, making lockpicking unnecessary.
- Averted in the second game. Bashing a chest open will usually break something valuable, leaving you with junk that can only be broken down for crafting parts. Picking any lock will also earn the player a small amount of experience.
- Stealth: See the first example under Useless Useful Stealth. The only time it is remotely useful is when you're sneaking past the rancor in the Taris sewers or choose Mission to break you out of the holding cells.
- Awareness: There are very few stealthed enemies in the game, and those that are stealthed cannot be detected with the awareness skill (they can only be detected after being triggered by an Event Flag), making awareness useful only for detecting mines, and mines are so easy to spot they can usually be spotted without investing very many points into this skill.
- The second game at least made Awareness useful for the main character by making it double as Sense Motive for opening up different dialogue options.
- Persuade: It's helpful most of the time, and it's the only skill that you can't just delegate to a more specialized party member, but it's not going to help one bit in The Very Definitely Final Dungeon. That diplomacy-optimized Jedi Consular you built? Yeah, you're gonna have a rough time. Even worse, the actual success thresholds are all quite low in the early game, and later on it will be mostly supplanted by Force Persuade in any case.
- The second game attempts to avert it by having every skill be involved in its crafting system. The thresholds to get some really good upgrade parts are pretty high, so there is a reason to invest that much in otherwise unused skills. Persuade, however, doesn't enjoy this perk, and suffers from this trope as badly as it did in the first game.
- Security: All locked doors can be bashed open very easily, making lockpicking unnecessary.
- Notably, BioWare has been learning from this. In Mass Effect, the skills for Decryption and Electronics (used to open chests and repair damaged electronic equipment, usually for items that are likely to be Vendor Trash) have useful combat abilities attached (though Charm and Intimidate are still strictly optional). In Jade Empire, social skills are based on your combat skills and not purchased separately, though they can be improved independently through techniques or gems.
- Speaking of BioWare, Dragon Age: Origins. Traps lags behind, you don't get as many of the materials for it as easily as you can for Herbalism and Poison making, and as a whole they're rather situational. Pretty much the best way to use them effectively is to trigger an encounter, then revert to an earlier save so you can set up traps and bring them over or have prior knowledge. However, one of the best uses of traps is to make a Bonus Boss easier. Surround the area where you fight Flemeth with traps, talk to her, and when she turns hostile... they all go off. While it may not be entirely useless in that regards, you can literally go the entire game without even investing a single point in traps or even using the traps you find. Which is not to say that Trapmaking is actually useless — if one knows what they're doing, it's a great source of experience and money too.
- It also made finding traps easier, which is more than can be said of the other two crafting skills. However, there was no point in leveling any of those on your main character (except maybe for Poison, which is required to actually apply the poison to your weapon) - most companions already have some points in them.
- Runecrafting in Awakening fared somewhat better, as higher level runes are hard to find otherwise, especially the new ones.
- Diplomacy in Might and Magic VI was so utterly useless they removed it completely from the following game. All it does is makes it a little bit easier to hire NPCs — which isn't a problem to speak of in the first place.
- Puzzle Quest's Cunning stat: the main benefit of which is the player with the higher Cunning stat makes the first move. You will have to dump a disproportionate amount of Level Up points into Cunning to outrank some of the higher level enemies and bosses (And just forget about Lord Bane). However, Cunning also gives you bonus Experience Points and gold after you win a battle. The real skill never to increase is Morale. Morale raises your maximum Hit Points, which is well and good... but you don't need to waste a single Level Up point on it, because the game hands you bonus Morale points every time you stop to tie your shoes.
- Deus Ex:
- The swimming skill. It makes you swim faster and hold your breath for longer, but there are very, very few underwater areas in the game. The Aqualung nanomod is useless for the same reason and takes up a slot a more useful nanomod can take. You're better off keeping a couple rebreathers in your inventory (which you often find around the levels that have underwater areas) instead. Hell, once you get the Healing Augmentation, you can activate it to heal the damage that running out of oxygen does to your body, allowing you to stay underwater for as long as you want, provided you have enough bio-energy.
- The alternative to Aqualung, Environmental Resistance, is even worse. The game conveniently places a Hazmat suit (an item that negates the damage Environmental Resistance protects you from) near any situation where Environmental Resistance would be useful. You also would need to upgrade it to the maximum rank to completely negate damage, thus working as effectively as a Hazmat suit, which means not leveling up more useful skills. At least Aqualung at the first rank completely negates the need for the Swimming skill and there are points where swimming underwater is helpful, even if specifically leveling the skill or upgrading the augment are not.
- For that matter, in the same way that it can be used to cure drowning while you are drowning, the healing augmentation can also immediately reverse the effects of radiation and patch up bullet wounds - in short, the only reason to ever choose a different main torso augmentation is as a self-imposed challenge, simply because leveled-up regeneration is too useful.
- The prequel, Human Revolution, has a minor example: the Hacking Analyze augmentation allows you to see the chances of being detected by the security mainframe for every node, even though you can already tell what the chances are for every node you can currently capture and since chance of detection is based on security level (which you can already see for every node) it's not that hard to guessnote .
- The old RPG Wasteland had a few of these. Some skills were useful, like Rifle, Energy Weapon, Perception, and Brawling. Some had limited use, like Demolitions, Swim, and Gambling. And then there were Metallurgy (two uses: to identify free money in a mine, to diagnose a car's issue—and an NPC you could recruit could just fix it himself), Cryptography (one use, though it's to get a lot of good stuff), and Bureaucracy (that one makes sense actually). The ultimate example: the IBM DOS port has a Combat Shooting skill, which can only be bought at character creation. No one—not even Brian Fargo, the man who created the game—can figure out what it does; hackers and others have come to the conclusion is does absolutely, positively nothing.
- What Fallout player has ever found much of a use for Trapsnote or Outdoorsmannote ? The viability of investing points into some skills, such as Science, Repair, and (in the sequel) Unarmed is undermined by the many books and teachers in the games that make it easy to boost a skill to 100% without investing a point into it. Many of the Perks are also infamous as pretty useless.
- Fallout 4:
- Animal Friend is significantly modified and there are now separate perks for abominations/mutated creatures and humanoids. Now pointing your gun at an enemy has a chance to pacify them, and at higher levels, they'll even fight on your side and take orders from you... as long as you pass a charisma check, and don't do anything but point your gun or else they might turn hostile again, and if that happens (or if you fail a later pacification check) you can't pacify anyone else until exiting and re-entering combat. On top of all that, a large chunk of the game's quests (including several mandatory ones) require killing all the enemies in an area to proceed, so a true Pacifist Run is basically impossible without exploits.
- The V.A.N.S. (Vault-Tec Assisted Navigational System) perk allows you to see a path to the nearest tagged objective in VATS. The problems with this: 1) you only get one perk per level up, and there's almost always an option that's more useful in terms of actual gameplay, and 2) the player can always check nearby objectives on their Pip-Boy map, so V.A.N.S. is only even conceivably useful in particularly difficult to navigate areas. V.A.N.S 2 sounds much more useful, giving you plus 2 to Perception, two whole levels for free! Except for three "teeny-tiny" things: 1) you have to waste a level up on V.A.N.S. just to get the chance of it, 2) you need to be level 36 minimum, 3) you need the Nuka-World DLC to get it (which has much better things than a second level in a useless perk).
- Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Final Fantasy Tactics A2 have several abilities that remove enemies without harming them. Parley lets you convince a humanoid enemy to leave, Oust sweeps away monsters, and Wyrmtamer removes dragons. However, the chance of these abilities working is directly based on the damage you've done to them at once you've done enough for them to have a decent chance at working, you're better off just killing them because that gives you loot and experience. In Advance, these abilities would work less often, and eventually never work if the user kept killing targets. In A2, they can always work, but again, based on the target's remaining HP. The only reason someone would want to use these types of abilities often is to avoid being instantly killed by a Tonberry since they have an ability that causes damage based on how many units that target has killed and by the time you fight these guys, they will usually do 999 damage every single time they decide to use said ability.
- Early versions of the Mac Shareware RPG Realmz had a large number of skills like Break Bars/Gate/Door, Climb Wall, Hear Noise, Hide In Shadows, Move Silently and Pick Pocket that were practically never used, as well as heaps of oddball spells such as Dig, Hold Portal, Locate Object, Ventriloquism and Wizard Eye, and items like iron spikes, mirrors and wine. Most of these were removed in later versions, long before the Divinity scenario editor was released.
- The Run Away ability, which ensures you can always flee from wild Pokemon. Most Pokemon with the ability tend to already be fast, so the inability to flee is rarely a concern. As a result, Run Away is situational at best, and is made even more useless by the existence of the Smoke Ball hold item, which provides the exact same effect for its user. Run Away's uselessness is occasionally acknowledged in a meta sort of way, as it's often a filler Ability on Pokemon that gain a far more useful ability upon evolution.
- The Illuminate ability raises the random encounter rate, while the Stench ability lowers it. Unfortunately they did nothing in battle when they were introduced, were ultimately outclassed by Sweet Scent's out of battle ability and Repels respectively, and in Emerald were outclassed by other abilities having extra effects that mimicked the two abilities while having actual in battle uses. Fortunately Stench got upgraded later on to do the same thing as a King's Rock, but Illuminate has had no such luck.
- Some Pokemon have the Honey Gather ability, which does nothing in battle and just causes the Pokemon randomly find Sweet Honey after battle. In most games Sweet Honey is pretty useless, and in the few games where it isn't, it's easily obtainable without needing an ability.
- Two Worlds lets you put points into a "swimming" skill, which lets you wear armor in water and increases your swimming speed. Since you can't drown, never fight in water, never have a time limit, and can put on and take off armor instantly, this serves purely as a convenience.
- Runescape has this problem for a long time with the Firemaking skill. It's only purpose was to increase the total level of bored players with money to burn. Higher levels of the skill let you burn more expensive wood, creating longer lasting fires. Except that if you're cooking a lot you'd just use a stove or permanent fire, making the skill completely useless. Fortunately, Jagex noticed the problem and has added various minigames and quests where firemaking is actually useful.
- Skills in Star Ocean generally tend to be of the "Skippable" variety. HOWEVER... if you take the time to invest in skills, you'll wind up highly rewarded with free items that restore HP & MP, infinite experience, building the best items in the game, and learning your relationship values.
- World of Warcraft has a few, but patches over the years have removed them, or at least made them less annoying to use.
- Druids used to have Soothe Animal, that would reduce the Aggro Radius of Beast type enemies. This was basically useless, because druids can avoid fights anyway by using stealth. Cataclysm changed the ability to a "tranquilize" effect, removing Enrage buffs, and removed it entirely in Legion.
- Similar to the original Deus Ex, three of the five tech skills in System Shock 2 are rendered fairly redundant to someone who understands the game well enough:
- Modify: Used to permanently upgrade a non-melee weapon one or two times, with higher skill levels allowing higher tier upgrades. These upgrades are fairly useful, but there is a type of item called a French-Epstein device that gives you a free modification—regardless of the skill needed to normally upgrade—and there are enough to fully upgrade the few weapons you're best off specializing in. One might still bring Modify to level one or two to get the lowest tier upgrades and save your French-Epstein devices for the others, but bringing it any higher is really only useful in co-op (where there are more people and thus more weapons to modify, but no more upgrade items available).
- Research: Used to research objects, with the lower level projects granting damage bonuses against certain enemy types and clearing one mandatory objective while higher levels projects let your use the exotic weapons. However, exotic weapons are Awesome, but Impractical even when you don't count the research costs, already suffering from extremely scarce ammo and Crippling Overspecialization. The plot-necessary project only requires one level of Research, which you can obtain temporarily with an implant, while the damage bonus projects only take two, meaning it's again smartest to invest one level at most.
- Repair: Used to repair broken weapons and a few broken machines with nanites. Functionally it is very similar to Maintenance, which uses expendable items to keep weapons from breaking in the first place. Investing in both stats is almost entirely redundant, and most people favor Maintenance because its side benefits (extra energy capacity for implants, armor, and energy weapons) are better than Repair's (a few more replicators and earlier access to some weapons, often before you'll get much ammo for them)
- Averted in the Geneforge series. The Leadership skill opens up new options in the Dialogue Tree system that can make boss fights and mandatory fights either significantly easier or completely avoidable through Talking the Monster to Death (literally in a few cases). Leadership also gives you several chances to talk NPCs into giving you items you otherwise could not have obtained. The Mechanics skill is used not only for opening locks and disarming traps (which can again give access to otherwise inaccessible loot) but also to sabotage Magitek devices to weaken or kill a boss that relies on them. These actions also give XP rewards comparable to what you could have gotten from simply killing the enemy.
- Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines has the Seduction and Intimidation skills, neither of which do much that the Persuasion skill can't. While they unlock some fun dialogue options and Seduction lets players go the Vampires Are Sex Gods route by sampling some enthusiastic blood donors, the Point Build System makes them impractical to spend Experience Points on.
- Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures gives you the ability to hide under barrels or bushes to slip past enemies. This is entirely useless as enemies are easy to just fight head-on and there is always some sort of puzzle that must be solved to progress through the area which can't be done while hiding. At most you'll try it once just for the novelty of it.
- Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning: Lock Picking, Dispel and Mercantile.
- Lock Picking and Dispel (effectively magical lock picking) get you more loot, but there is already loads of loot lying around unprotected. There are a handful of side quests which require you to pick hard locks or Dispel wards, but you have Prismere lock picks and Save Scumming for those.
- Mercantile gets you better prices in shops, but you can usually find or make better gear than you can buy, and Money for Nothing is in full effect.