Playing With / Crutch Character

Basic Trope: A character/ability/item that starts out powerful, but becomes less useful as the game goes on.
  • Straight: At the beginning of the game, Bob is your strongest character, but your other characters start overpowering him later in the game.
  • Exaggerated:
  • Downplayed: Bob can still slog through the rest of the game, but for maximum effectiveness it's best to switch to another character.
  • Justified:
    • Bob is a grizzled old fighter who can defeat weaker enemies with ease, but can't catch up with the newer fighting styles that the other characters and tougher enemies use.
    • In an RPG, Bob is a latecomer to the group, and in order to avoid a large imbalance between his level and the others (so that he is not ignored by all who play), he has an item which gives him a nice power boost. This boost is proportional to the difference between his level and the others, so that he is not useless at first but the item becomes less and less powerful as Bob catches up.
    • Bob is actually hiding his true strength. In the first dungeon he easily defeats enemies because he uses just enough abilities to get over the weak enemies, but declines to show his true strength for some reason. He keeps acting weak after because he fears being caught more than holding back and having the party fail.
    • Bob was an anti-slime warrior for the local village, and the first dungeon is full of slimes. After the first dungeon, Bob's over-specialization means that his talents don't work as well, and he only follows the heroes because he counts as a knight.
    • Bob's abilities are all centered around fighting weaker, more common mooks. Cut to the mid/late game, and these enemies appear much less often. Cross this with the abundance of Demonic Spiders, and Bob's going to have a hard time.
  • Inverted: Magikarp Power.
  • Subverted:
    1. While it seemed that Bob's character is becoming increasingly ineffective in battles, the party eventually travel to a strange land where only his attacks could damage the enemies, allowing him to regain his usefulness.
    2. Bob had to leave the party for a while, seemingly rendering the experience gained moot. However, he later returns: If you treated him like a normal party member early on, he'll be able to hold his own. If you kept him out of the party while you had him the first time, he'll be too weak to catch up.
  • Double Subverted:
    1. He becomes useless again once the party moves on to different locations.
    2. He stayed off the team too long and didn't gain any experience in the interim and, when he gets back on the team, is too weak to fight even if you level grinded him when you had him available before.
  • Parodied:
    • Bob is a Jerk Ass who is deliberately not giving 100% so he can enjoy watching Alice and Report Siht attempt to not die.
    • Bob's class is "Goblin Slayer," and all of his skills and bonuses are focused on killing goblins, disarming goblin-made traps, and so on, while being absolutely pathetic against anything else. The first enemy you fight in the game is the last goblin in the entire world. Oh, and you can't flee from the encounter.
  • Zig Zagged: Bob's usefulness fluctuates wildly throughout the game.
  • Averted: No character starts out significantly stronger than the others early on.
  • Enforced:
    • "The game testers said the game is way too hard in the beginning. Let's give players a powerful character to start with to make it easier".
    • Alternately: "Let's give players A Taste of Power".
  • Lampshaded: "Bob is a strong guy, but don't rely on his power too much; if the others don't get some fighting experience, you'll be in trouble later on".
  • Invoked: Bob purposely lets the others get stronger than he is so he can retire.
  • Exploited: Aware that the plucky, inexperienced heroes are bound to come after her, Evil Overlord Alice sends her powerful henchman Bob to "help" them, depriving them of needed experience so when they do face Alice they're hopelessly outmatched.
  • Defied: To avoid being left behind, Bob continues to train himself to remain one of the strongest in the party.
  • Discussed: "You know, Bob, if you don't keep up with your training, we're all going to become more powerful than you later on!"
  • Conversed: "Are you close to the final boss?" "Yeah. Why do you ask?" "Don't pick Bob. Just don't."
  • Deconstructed:
    • Possibly due to "So Long, and Thanks for all the Experience", Bob becomes a character that no serious player would use, to the point where players wonder why he's even in the game.
    • Bob becomes aware as the story progresses that the rookies he used to look out for are out-pacing him and he Can't Catch Up, leading him to doubt his ability and role within the team.
  • Reconstructed:
    • Bob is still recognized as "a good character for beginners to use" to adjust to an otherwise-difficult early learning curve.
    • Instead of getting frustrated, Bob takes pride in watching the former rookies blossom and grow more powerful, and eventually retires after becoming certain that they won't need him holding their hands and protecting them any longer.
    • Bob even offers to train his eventual replacement, Charlie, so that his experience doesn't go to waste.
  • Played For Laughs: When setting up for The Very Definitely Final Dungeon, if you add Bob to your party, everyone else in the party groans and starts complaining about how pathetically weak he is now.

Back to Crutch Character. It's not a very good page the further down you get, though...
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/PlayingWith/CrutchCharacter