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Acceptable Breaks from Reality
aka: Acceptable Break From Reality

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"In this kind of story the pseudo-scientific apparatus should be taken simply as a machine in the sense which the word bore for the Neo-classical critics. The most superficial appearance of plausibility—the merest sop to our critical intellect—will do."
C. S. Lewis, On Science Fiction.

A Willing Suspension of Disbelief is a must for every work of fiction. There are certain elements of story or gameplay where realism would simply make a work tedious, difficult, or confusing for the audience. Thus there are ways in which works will be blatantly, unabashedly unrealistic, and nobody really minds. See the Rule of Index.

It's possible for these to become unacceptable, when the abstraction gets in the way of enjoying the work. On the flip side, it's possible to get so accustomed to a particular break from reality that people stop realizing it's unrealistic.

Of course, different people have different tolerances for the balance between "abstraction" and "simulation," which means that some media creators make conscious and deliberate efforts to avert at least some of these tropes. Those sorts of things, however, tend to cater toward a rather niche crowd. Even then, there's still a small measure of abstraction and/or Modular Difficulty options simply to prevent things from getting too tedious.

Overlaps with The Law of Conservation of Detail, for those tropes that could be justified but aren't worth the time. Anti-Frustration Features are a related trope in video games, but are more about when gameplay elements or rules are temporarily changed or suspended to make the game easier for a specific section.

Note that despite the title, these tropes are about realism, not reality. Some of them may be Truth in Television. (Reality Is Unrealistic, after all.)

Compare with Cliché for when these acceptable breaks are expected by the audience and Favorite Trope for when the audience loves seeing them in use regardless if the trope is realistic or not.

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Forms of Acceptable Breaks From Reality include:

  • 24-Hour Armor: Characters constantly wearing armor may be unrealistic, but it makes them easy to identify and cuts down on design costs. See also Informed Equipment.
  • 555: Because if you'd use real phone numbers in fiction, people would keep dialing them and put those poor guys who happen to have these numbers through an uneasy time.note 
  • Acoustic License: Because, really, five exchanges of "what did you say?" in between every interesting line of dialogue would go beyond boring.
  • Aliens Speaking English: And with perfect American/British/Australian/wherever-the-work-was-made accents too!
  • Already Undone for You: Someone already got through this trap-laden dungeon to wait for the hero, so why are the traps still there? It wouldn't be dramatic, otherwise!
  • Annoying Arrows: Having your hero(es) killed or disabled by a single arrow wouldn't be nearly as entertaining, so the damage done by arrows in fiction is heavily downplayed.
  • Artificial Gravity: Virtually all Sci-Fi starships have some form of artificial gravity. This carries over to video games because it's difficult to make tight control systems for moving in 3D space using only analog sticks and buttons, not to mention that moving around in a weightless environment can be counter-intuitive (and thus, frustrating) for humans who have only ever been on Earth.
  • Artistic License – Biology: No, the work doesn't follow actual biology, but if it did, we wouldn't have a very good story.
  • Artistic License – Law: To the extent that litigation is dramatic, almost none of it happens in the courtroom. But the way it actually plays out, i.e. trading written motions over several months, doesn't exactly make for gripping television.
  • Artistic License – Martial Arts: Fight scenes are usually very dramatic, adding to a good story. Slow, concentrated movements don't make for exciting scenes.
  • Artistic License – Physics: No, the work doesn't follow actual physics, but if it did, we wouldn't have a very good story.
  • Artistic License – Politics: The story doesn't follow political procedures correctly, which is for the better because otherwise it would be extremely boring.
  • Astonishingly Appropriate Appearance: Having a character's appearance coincidentally match their personality, occupation and powerset is a good way to convey what they're all about at a glance.
  • Automaton Horses: Horses never have to be watered, fed, or rested in most media, because it's usually not relevant to the story. (See Plot-Powered Stamina.)
  • Benevolent Architecture: Architecture and geography seem to be designed for that genre and your character's abilities, because if you wanted 100% realistic driving in a racing game you could play a simulator instead.
  • Big Damn Fire Exit: Because dashing through flames to the exit is just that cool!
  • Bloodless Carnage: If there weren't times where devastating injuries didn't lead to bloodshed, a lot of stories wouldn't be very family-friendly.
  • Bottomless Bladder: Fictional characters don't have to do mundane things like use the restroom unless the story dictates it, because they're needless and unimportant diversions from the plot.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Characters get unlimited shots, because who wants to stop the action to reload?
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: Having the Action Hero survive gunfire by hiding behind a Mook might not be realistic, but it's definitely cool.
  • Chaos Architecture: Building dungeons from the ground up can take up far more time than programming a random dungeon generator, and locations become boring if they look identical game after game.
  • Clean, Pretty Childbirth: Because real-life childbirth is bloody and rather disgusting and real newborns are not all that cute at first. It also tends to take longer in real life. On top of that, there are laws meant to protect babies and those have to be followed.
  • The Coconut Effect: Something in the work is inaccurate, but is included anyway because audiences expect it to be that way.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: It would be frustrating to get into what you think is cover only to find out that your enemy can still hit you just fine.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: Otherwise, you wouldn't get to go into volcanoes and fight fire enemies, which makes a lot of potentially awesome fights impossible. Plus, the game would get too hard if you had to fight off the invisible heat as well as the enemies.
  • Convenient Weakness Placement: Having conventional "weapon vs. weapon" bosses can get monotonous, and unbeatable bosses defeat the point of having bosses, so you've got to include something to deal damage with.
  • Conveniently Close Planet: Everything in space being way closer than it is in real life.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: In terms of technique, you can't do realistic-looking CPR on a live actor without injuring their ribs. While it's easy to avert the "Reliable" part, "Clean" and "Pretty" are much more difficult, as it would require significant makeup and rigging to truly make it look realistic—getting almost to the point of Gorn.
  • Cranial Plate Ability: When a character acquires new abilities thanks to a steel piece implanted (accidentally or via surgery) in their head.
  • Eternally Pearly-White Teeth: Actors generally have healthy teeth, even when the medieval characters they're portraying wouldn't. But hey, our heroes have to look good.
  • Explosions in Space: Should be impossible, but...
  • Fourth Wall: One many people gloss over, but still there. In any play, characters will always face each other so both faces can be seen from one particular wall. And though there are assorted important doors, windows, etc. on all three walls, that fourth one never has any important features, despite the fact that everyone keeps standing facing it. However, looking at the back of people's heads doesn't make for great storytelling.
  • Free-Range Children: Otherwise a lot of stories about children would be either boring, require parents to supervise the adventure, or be made of angst about how nosy parents can be.
  • Free-Range Pets: It'd get boring if the animal protagonists were stuck at home all day, especially if their owners don't have any other pets to interact with.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Having a home larger than a character should be able to afford because in a realistically small apartment, the actors would always be getting in each other's way. It also makes for easier filming, since realistic apartments are generally not laid out in a camera-friendly way.
  • Gold–Silver–Copper Standard: Because who honestly wants to realistically calculate relative market values and exchange rates?
  • Guns in Church: It may be unrealistic that the heroes are allowed to take their guns anywhere without consequence, but stopping to explain it would take time away from cool and exciting action sequences.
  • Hard Head: Dying from a head injury would make characters too vulnerable. When it's done in a video game or movie that has a vulnerable protagonist, then that's great.
  • High-Pressure Blood: If flesh wounds didn't ever lead to massive tsunamis of blood draining out of living creatures, a lot of films, television shows, comic books, and video games wouldn't be as visually dramatic as they really are.
  • Hit Spark: Just in case you missed someone getting slapped in the face.
  • Hollywood Darkness: When you want to see that it's dark, but the audience still wants to see in the dark. Being forced to rely on senses other than sight can be done well in media, but it can also make things confusing.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Because real hacking is actually quite boring and would become worthless after the technology is exposed.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: If the bad guys were perfect shots, the movie wouldn't be very long.
  • In Space, Everyone Can See Your Face: Having lights on the inside of a helmet makes it largely impossible to see out of it in an otherwise dark environment, but otherwise we would be unable to see the characters' faces.
  • Infinite Flashlight: A flashlight that never runs out of batteries or needs to be recharged, except if the plot demands or if it's a gameplay mechanic. The occasional horror genre game will limit this, but even there being unable to see runs into the same problems as Hollywood Darkness above. Related to Nuclear Candle, where the flashlight will also produce an unrealistic amount of light.
  • Insecurity Camera: You can easily just destroy the security cameras or otherwise make them useless and nobody will be alarmed by it. Unless there's a very smart supervisor present, at best it'll be dismissed as a temporary glitch to not worry about. Stealth games often need this trope, as otherwise your location options are limited to either universe without camera surveillance or before the 1900s.
  • Instant Sedation: Because we don't have 15 minutes of valuable airtime to waste watching a tranquilizer go into effect.
  • Instant-Win Condition: When you clear a game stage, all the troubles, death traps, remaining enemies, etc. are completely ignored, because you won. When this is averted, it can become a Hope Spot, or worse, a Kaizo Trap.
  • Iron Butt Monkey: No matter how much damage he suffers, he just keeps coming back, because a character intended to be Plucky Comic Relief becomes less so when what's supposed to be humor winds up hurting or killing them.
  • Kid Hero: In reality, allowing or actively putting a child in any kind of danger is a big no-no. But kid readers want to see people like them be heroic.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: Because they can only afford to hire so many actors, and besides, it's hard to get invested in a constant stream of new characters.
  • Major Character, Mainstream Accent: The main character speaks in a relatively neutral accent, usually for the audience's benefit.
  • Muzzle Flashlight: You have no flashlight, so just start firing your weapons and follow the muzzle flash! If you can't see, you can't really fight effectively.
  • News Travels Fast: As soon as something important happens in the plot, everyone in the world will know about it, since taking time to show its journey down the grapevine is the sort of detail that's usually unimportant.
  • No Cure for Evil: A lot of enemies can't heal, especially since this would get very annoying for some particularly hard enemies. Aversions are often designed with this trope in mind.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Wacky Shenanigans in construction sites and factories in fiction would be nowhere near possible (or fun) in real life without someone being fired or put in prison, but in the world of fiction, you can be as negligent and unsafe as much as you want. So if you want to go for a jog on that spinning cogwheel or play chicken with a hydraulic press, go on ahead. The inverse of this trope can also count, particularly in theme parks and similar settings. Even if you're constructing immersive replicas of historic landmarks or fantastical worlds, they still need to conform to modern building standards, be accessible to individuals with limited mobility and feature clearly signposted safety information in the locally relevant languages.
  • No Periods, Period: You just don't go there.
  • Nobody Poops: At least not onscreen. (See Bottomless Bladder.)
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Because sometimes we just have little to no frame of reference for how these people would "realistically" sound speaking a "modern" language.
  • Nuclear Candle: A small light source will be able to light a huge area rather brightly. This is usually done for the viewer's convenience.
  • Olympus Mons: The game allows the player to capture and control creatures that would realistically never follow the instructions of some preteen hero, because not allowing it wouldn't be any fun at all.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Introducing another One-Shot Character for each new type of science question that comes up in a story is a bit excessive just for the sake of averting this trope.
  • One Dose Fits All: Much like with Instant Sedation above, it would be an unnecessary distraction to have characters calculate the dosage of tranquilizer, poison, etc. per person before administering it.
  • One-Steve Limit: Unless there's a specific storytelling reason for it, having characters with the same or similar names would only make it harder for the audience to follow along.
  • One True Faith: A work of Science Fiction or Fantasy has only one religion (The Church) in it; furthermore, there are never any factions of it or different interpretations of its belief. This is mostly to keep to the things that are important to the plot. If a new religion appears expect it to be an evil organization run by the Big Bad.
  • Optional Traffic Laws: Drivers can safely ignore all the rules of the road, often with no more consequence than at worst, a bystander making a rude hand gesture and/or being profane towards the driver.
  • Painfully Slow Projectile: Bullets are slow enough to dodge. Especially common in Platform and Shoot 'Em Up games. This is sometimes counterbalanced by One-Hit Kill mechanics or significant knockback, but having bullets instantly hit you makes for incredibly difficult game.
  • Patchwork Map: Geographical biomes and regions that should not be able to exist next door to each other can still do so. This is sometimes to help fulfill the Law of Cartographical Elegance, sometimes because we don't want to spend so much time describing all the traveling across continents the heroes did, sometimes because the locals used that much magic in the area and sometimes because having a story or game with nothing but grassland areas is boring.
  • Pedal-to-the-Metal Shot: Because slow movements of the accelerate pedal don't translate well to the camera.
  • Police Are Useless: There are many legitimate satirical or practical reasons this trope may be employed. But in many more examples, this trope simply exists because a lot of plots would be trivialized if characters could just call the emergency services and have them deal with whatever problem they're facing.
  • Present-Day Past: Frequently seen in television true-crime re-enactments where the production budget and time isn't sufficient to fully recreate things as they would have looked decades ago. As the focus tends to be on the investigations, it's not really critical a modern police patrol car is standing in for one from the 1980s, and as long as they don't make it too obvious such as showing personal computers or people using smartphones.
  • Rank Scales with Asskicking: The higher a character is in his hierarchy, the better he is in a fight. Why? So it's easy to know who to look out for.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Having everyone speak like they would in real life would just make a reader think that they never bothered to check their work or just make it hard for them to understand what's being said.
  • The Reveal: Not only for other characters to catch up to the events, but also so the viewer is on the same page as the characters. Sometimes literally.
  • Ribcage Stomach: The inside of a creature's stomach looks like the inside of the entire creature lacking organs. Without this trope, say goodbye to the Womb Level.
  • Risking the King: The people in charge take direct action when other people are available to do it for them. This not only gets more plot-important characters involved in the action, but it also prevents a scenario where the victorious army has to also chase down the fleeing leader.
  • Rock Star Parking: Because no one wants to put the story on hold for half an hour while the characters are looking for a spot.
  • Rule of Cool: Yeah, it's totally unrealistic, but man, it looks awesome.
  • Rule of Funny: Some stuff that's Played for Laughs is funny only because it's not real, namely Video Game Cruelty Potential or Comedic Sociopathy. In Real Life? Not so much.
  • See the Whites of Their Eyes: Most ship-to-ship and air-to-air (and especially starship-to-starship) battles occur at ranges where visual sightings are impossible — but shooting at seemingly nothing doesn't look interesting, so combatants will instead be shown much closer than they really would be.
  • Short-Range Long-Range Weapon: The inability of a long-range weapon user to use said weapon at long range because long-range fights aren't as exciting.
  • Single-Issue Psychology: Real people's mental states and issues can be very complex. To save time and trouble, fictional people's mental problems will usually hinge on some critical memory or issue; addressing this will cause rapid improvement.
  • Soft Water: A fall from any height at all can be rendered harmless or merely incapacitating if, at the end of the fall, the character meets a body of water. This is mostly for drama's sake, as if a story started out with an airplane crash it would be over awfully quick if this trope averted.
  • Sole Entertainment Option: In the entire in-work world, there's only one kind of entertainment or only one city where you can find it. It often shows up in the Minigame Zone, and making a massive bank of minigames to choose from can take unnecessary time for what is often an optional area to get rare and powerful items, so having it in only one location is more convenient for both developers and players.
  • Steel Eardrums: Nobody is ever bothered by extremely loud noises unless it serves the plot, for the same reason as Acoustic License.
  • Super Swimming Skills: If (or once) you know how to swim, you'll do it perfectly and for as long as you like, because oftentimes learning how to swim is not the point of the game, so there's little point in making it a comprehensive mechanic.
  • Surprisingly Functional Toys: When a character is shrunk and encounters a recognizable object scaled to their new size, said object will retain the functionality and properties of its original size (a toy car will have a functional engine and steering wheel, and the interior will be fully detailed, for example). If it didn't, then being small would have little purpose other than taking a much longer time to get from one place to another (see Space Compression).
  • Suspiciously Small Army: Micromanaging or representing a military force on the scale of most modern armed forces would likely destroy either one's patience or video card.
  • Terrifying Pet Store Rat: Wild animals are difficult, if not outright illegal, to handle and keep, and pose a high risk of injuring themselves or the actors and crew if used in a movie, so a tame and socialized animal is used instead.
  • Things Are More Effective in Hollywood: Bulletproof vests are nowhere near as effective as portrayed in the movies but if it was realistic the hero would get shot and either bleed out or spend the rest of the movie in hospital.
  • Third-Person Flashback: Normally, people don't see themselves in their own visual recall unless some mirror was there showing themselves, but it's usually difficult to show events through the point of view of one character due to the lack of an Establishing Shot.
  • Three-Month-Old Newborn: Film sets are hot, noisy, dirty, and altogether not suitable places to bring a newborn baby whose immune system is still developing.
  • Undead Tax Exemption: Supernatural beings don't need to worry about paperwork when it comes to trying to adjust to new society, even if they're technically considered illegal immigrants, because seeing them having to go through customs is boring.
  • Universal Driver's License: A character can drive any vehicle they come across without any training. Adding training would make for unnecessary interruption of gameplay when you're just using it to cross between plot-important places.
  • Universal Poison: There's only one type of poison and generally one type of antidote for it. This prevents the player from having to tote around thirty different antidote potions, hoping they'll have the right one for the next encounter.
  • Very High Velocity Rounds: You've slowed down time and while enemy bullets will crawl like molasses, yours go at normal speed. This keeps time-altering mechanics from being Awesome, but Impractical, or even a Useless Useful Spell.
  • Volumetric Mouth: How exactly did that mouth grow ridiculously huge? Probably because it helps convey the character's emotions more clearly. Or maybe because it wants to eat you. Or it's just funny.
  • Worst Aid: Often overlooked when it's Played for Drama because sometimes medicinal practices are bent a little for the sake of an engaging, tense scene.

    Specific to Games 
  • All in a Row: Because they'd get stuck behind a table sometimes. It'd be annoying depending on whether or not you're teleported to a battlefield or fight enemies wherever you stand and your character's stuck.
  • All Swords Are the Same: Because designing a wide variety of swords, as well as making unique battle animations for every single one of them, is hard.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: They'd never make sense storywise, they're just there to keep the player from getting frustrated.
  • Anti-Trolling Features: It may not make sense in-universe, but it's there so a Troll or an Internet Jerk doesn't get under the player's skin.
  • Arbitrary Augmentation Limit: A means of preventing your character from acquiring every trait enhancing or ability-granting upgrade in the game.
  • Arbitrary Gun Power: Video game guns damage your life bar, not your organs. Accurate simulations of the physics and biology of bullet wounds are prohibitive in terms of development time, or simply don't fit in with Competitive Balance, so the effects of bullet wounds are abstracted.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Arbitrary requirement that stops you from having too many characters in a party or unit. Truth in Television with regard to close quarters and stealth missions.
  • Arbitrary Weapon Range: In real-world physics, there's no "maximum range" or "minimum range" for weapons.
  • Bag of Sharing: Everyone in the team can access the same inventory even when they're apart because forcing the player to micromanage the inventory would be too obnoxious.
  • Blatant Item Placement: What's a medkit doing here anyway? Well, the wounded player won't be complaining.
  • Cap: The maximum quantity of something that a game allows for, be it a set amount of inventory space or anything else.
  • Command & Conquer Economy: Otherwise the game would just be too easy. Oftentimes even if the option is available to let the AI control the economy, players continue to do it themselves because they don't trust the computer to make the right choices.
  • Competitive Balance: Because having a character that can't win against any other character, unless you're Cherry Tapping, isn't really having much of a character at all. Balance encourages diversity in a game with many playable characters, and gives different types of playing styles to choose from without making all the characters clones of each other.
  • Conspicuously Selective Perception: Having a guard change their pattern due to some random occurrence wouldn't be that fun after a while.
  • Continue Your Mission, Dammit!: Because enforcing Take Your Time in the middle of a crisis is more unrealistic than having characters shouting at you about it, even if there's no real-time limit.
  • Cooldown: Being able to use a reusable Limit Break or Last Disc Magic every turn becomes a Game-Breaker otherwise.
  • Critical Encumbrance Failure: Adding in conditions for every individual possible item configuration in the game takes far too much time to make in development, and dealing with the additional question of added weight alongside "do I want to carry this item" can make for more frustration than it's worth.
  • Critical Existence Failure: With 1 Hit Point left or if you're one step away from death you're fine, but lose the last bit of health and you die instantly. This is to prevent players from having to buy a disproportionate amount of healing items just so they aren't slowed down or otherwise made to be less powerful due to health, because the game becomes a lot harder when you effectively have half the health bar you actually have.
  • Crosshair Aware: A character in a video game can see when/where an attack is going to hit because it would be frustrating if they couldn't. Also related to gun-wielding enemies having Laser Sights even when it doesn't make sense (such as snipers using them.)
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Having there be a penalty for dying can interrupt the narrative, and certain games are more fun in multiplayer or in alternate modes if you aren't forced to sit out the rest of the game.
  • Door to Before: A door that leads you straight back to the beginning of a dungeon so you don't have to walk out the long way.
  • Easy Communication: Instant commands make for more interesting games, especially in Real-Time Strategy games. Why? Because it's frustrating to command something and have troops not do it simply in the name of realism.
  • Easy Logistics: You don't need to worry about feeding your troops or keeping up supplies; that all happens automatically. This is to prevent players from sitting around waiting for supply lines.
  • An Economy Is You: All stores in a videogame city are centered around selling things you, in particular, will need, because no one likes wasting money on unnecessary items.
  • Enough to Go Around: In MMORPGs, a quest item is supposedly unique, but there's one for every player of the game in order to prevent Loot Drama.
  • Eternal Equinox: Day and night are always the exact same length, regardless of the season or the latitude. 99% of players won't notice or care about it, and it often has marginal, if any, impact on the story.
  • Equipment-Hiding Fashion: Allows players to have their character's armor covered by clothes, even when they logically shouldn't, to allow for more customization of a character's appearance.
  • Event-Driven Clock: In-universe time and calendar are based on the hero's actions and progress rather than a real-time clock. Time of day can be very important to a scene, and technical difficulties can arise if the alternative is used, especially in pre-rendered cutscenes.
  • Every Bullet is a Tracer: You'll be able to see the path of bullets to assist in aiming or following the action. This helps deter camping and informs players where the fighting is.
  • Everything Fades: Keeping track of corpses and items takes extra memory, all that stuff piling up can eventually obstruct pathways, and sometimes it just looks unappealing and can make a game controversial.
  • Exposed to the Elements: Because it would be annoying to have to change gear when going from the Shifting Sand Land to the Slippy-Slidey Ice World, temperatures be damned. It could also be detrimental, such as if your Armor of Invincibility can stop arrows but isn't rated for below-freezing temperatures...
  • Firewood Resources: Resource icons/sprites are simplified at the cost of scale and accuracy.
  • Flash of Pain: Because it's satisfying, because it looks neat, and because it shows that you successfully inflicted damage.
  • Floating Platforms: Because it's much easier than building proper structural supports when all you'll be doing is jumping on them.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Combat would be less fun if the player had to constantly worry about not hitting their teammates and/or getting hit by their allies.
  • Gameplay Ally Immortality: Plot-critical friendly NPCs cannot be permanently killed, to release players from the burden of protecting them.
  • Gameplay-Guided Amnesia: Because the character of a game knows things the player doesn't, sometimes the character gets amnesia to excuse the explanation to the player. It can't be done often.
  • Gateless Ghetto: You're dumped in a small part of a city walled off from the rest of it, so you can't explore what hasn't been programmed. This is to ease the workload for the map designers and programmers, because nothing else in that city is story-important.
  • Global Currency: The same money is used across the entire world (spanning multiple countries and/or times) to avoid cluttering up the menu with 30 different kinds of currency.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Stealth-Based Games would become frustrating if guards were actually competent.
  • Hands-Free Handlamp: Fumbling with your light sources can be inconvenient and detrimental to gameplay, to the point of bogging down the pacing.
  • He Knows About Timed Hits: How else are you going to learn which button does what?
  • Heal Thyself: When you pick up a medkit or use a potion, you get healed instantly. Sitting around waiting for a week in-game to recover from even merely moderate wounds makes for not-so-fun gameplay.
  • Hitscan: Bullets in most 3D shooters are simulated by checking once what lies in the bullet's path and dealing damage as soon as it's fired. Real bullets aren't that fast, but players will certainly appreciate not having to Lead the Target or wasting ammo on a target that will be taken down by bullets already in flight.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: Eating food will instantly heal you. (See Heal Thyself.)
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: In games, you can carry an absolutely enormous amount of stuff, though where it's actually kept is a mystery. Oftentimes developers don't want to spend the time creating additional models for items and weapons, and including them may make for an additional discrepancy if the player or enemies have Bottomless Magazines.
  • I Fought the Law and the Law Won: The supposedly understaffed police or army that doesn't have enough hands to deal with the criminal or enemy army problem can somehow cough up a seemingly limitless number of mooks to put down that pesky protagonist.
  • Improbable Power Discrepancy: Enemies in RPGs are given statistics based on how powerful you're expected to be at that point, not how strong that enemy would be based on common sense. But it would get boring if you had to wait 30 hours into the game to start fighting the enemies that looked cool, and besides, cool fights with dragons wouldn't be likely otherwise.
  • Improbable Self-Maintenance: Characters look bizarrely well-groomed for their circumstances. After all, actors are paid to look good and it takes additional resources to render characters as believably dirty or scruffy while keeping them recognizable and desirable.
  • In-Vehicle Invulnerability: Driver doesn't die or get injured when a car crashes without explosion. Having your character die if they suffer too much whiplash either force level designers to use simple, boring tracks or makes the game unfair or just not as fun.
  • Inexplicable Treasure Chests: Where did they come from? Who put them there? Why does nobody else ever open them? Answering the first two questions would require some complex justifications, and as for the third one, going through an area and getting nothing due to all the chests being empty doesn't feel very rewarding for your dungeon-crawling effort.
  • Inexplicably Identical Individuals: Many Casual Games have NPCs who fall into this, in order to reduce strain on the game engine and/or the developer's budget.
  • Inexplicably Preserved Dungeon Meat: Without them, those epic dungeon crawls tend to peter out after a few days.
  • Informed Equipment: Game characters' equipment won't show up visually. This saves developers from spending time on hundreds of additions that are mostly cosmetic. This is primarily a 2D phenomenon, however; games with models have less of an excuse because those are much easier to animate than redrawing entire character sprite sheets.
  • Instant 180-Degree Turn: Characters can turn around in an instant. Implementing non-instant turning requires extra programming, and if it's a Side View game, extra artwork.
  • Instant Home Delivery: When you buy something, it shows up instantly or at least much faster than in Real Life. Waiting for a month for backorders is already frustrating enough in real life, so why would that be included in a game intended to be enjoyed?
  • Interchangeable Antimatter Keys: It would be extremely cumbersome to have every key unlock one and only one door, so every key unlocks every door. But this just adds a different problem that you'd only ever need to pick up one key throughout the entire game, so the keys also disappear when you use them.
  • Just Add Water: Items can generally be created by just sticking two or three things together. Having to possess a mortar and pestle can make Item Crafting more inconvenient than it's worth, and that's not even getting into the expense of acquiring a laboratory or blacksmith...
  • Law of Cartographical Elegance: Land masses will never cross the edge of a world map since if they did the developers would get ceaseless questions asking "what's over there?"
  • Lazy Backup: Yes, the other fifteen members of the party could carry on the fight should the frontline trio fall, but that would make the battle too easy.
  • Leaked Experience: When fighting in RPGs, characters not in the active party will get some percentage of the experience that the active party gets to prevent Can't Catch Up situations.
  • Limited Sound Effects: Because not all programmers go the extra mile of having a sound-effect ensemble.
  • Mercy Invincibility: Because being hit again and again without being able to retaliate is a bit unfair. This also sometimes alleviates the unfairness of Ledge Bats, but only sometimes.
  • Money Spider: Enemies you wouldn't expect to hold any money drop them anyway. A more believable scenario would be getting rewarded for killing the monsters, but it'd simply take too long to go back to the person and get rewarded every time you did it.
  • Never Recycle a Building: Don't worry about zoning laws, the abandoned building is just waiting for you to use it. Red tape is not generally included in games because red tape is not fun.
  • No "Arc" in "Archery": For balance purposes, mostly.
  • Nominal Importance: Only people that are relevant to the plot or a sidequest will be blessed with names. Everyone else will be nameless or be referred to with generic or descriptive titles because having names for everyone can make for a confusing conversation, especially if One-Steve Limit is averted.
  • Non-Lethal Bottomless Pits: Plummeting 300 feet into lava is undoubtedly lethal, but platforming would be frustrating to the point of unplayability if you went to Game Over every time you mis-judged a jump.
  • No Recycling: In strategy games, you can't scavenge debris for usable materials, because this would essentially make for free resources, defeating the point of gathering those materials.
  • No Stat Atrophy: Once you raise a stat, it'll never go down again, because if even your stats aren't reliable, you're in for a rough time.
  • No Such Thing as Dehydration: Because having characters need to drink may become boring.
  • Now, Where Was I Going Again?: The ways to combat this are acceptable because not knowing what to do next in a video game is frustrating, time-wasting, and not fun.
  • NPC Amnesia: Because picking a wrong choice in a Dialogue Tree could otherwise result in the game becoming Unwinnable, and programming alternate ways to proceed can be tedious.
  • One Bullet Clips: In a game, if you fire one bullet and reload, you'll be shown reloading a full magazine, but will still only have reloaded one bullet and not lost any others doing so. Wasting half a magazine can get annoying, and sometimes it's preferable to reload safely with half your magazine than to reload in a critical situation with your magazine empty.
  • Onesie Armor: Armor is treated as a single unit (or fewer parts than in real life) to make calculating the armor value easier, particularly in Tabletop Games
  • One Size Fits All: Clothing and armor can be worn by anyone, regardless of its source or the wearer's size or gender. This saves time for developers and also saves money and time for the player who won't ever buy something that winds up being useless gear.
  • Pamphlet Shelf: Whenever you see a bookshelf, there'll never be more than one book (and often one line) that you can read so that you don't spend an hour looking for something relevant.
  • Party in My Pocket: Sometimes from a developmental point of view, showing all 3-8+ party members on-screen at all times means issues such as them taking up a lot of space in the area and having their pathfinding programmed without Offscreen Teleportation.
  • Plot-Powered Stamina: You don't have to break off the action to rest, eat, or sleep in-world, though your characters may abruptly decide to do so in a cutscene. These are the logistics of traveling that most video game players don't want to spend time doing when they could be off killing monsters.
  • Power Equals Rarity: The more powerful an item, monster, or ability/spell is, the harder it is to find. This is to keep items intended for the Final Boss from becoming a Disc-One Nuke.
  • Puzzle Reset: In a game, if you exit and re-enter the room, any puzzle will reset itself. This is a basic Anti-Frustration Feature to keep puzzles from potentially becoming Unintentionally Unwinnable.
  • Rate-Limited Perpetual Resource: A resource or source of resources in a game is impossible to run out of, preventing an unwinnable game state, even if only a certain amount can be used or taken at a time.
  • Reduced-Downtime Features: Features in a game that reduce tedium and mundanity between action, such as waiting for health to recover or searching for key items.
  • Reward from Nowhere: A seemingly arbitrary prize for an in-universe action with no explanation as to who gives out the prize or why. These exist to encourage the player to explore; if averted it can lead to Dude, Where's My Reward?
  • Ridiculously Fast Construction: All buildings can be produced and military units trained in a ridiculously short amount of time. Games that require you to wait hours for anything to happen can become tedious, or result in very long playing sessions.
  • Ridiculously Fast Population Growth: For much the same reason as fast construction, populations seem to expand at a rate far in excess of what humans can sustain.
  • "Risk"-Style Map: A war or other contest (like a turf war) on a larger map involves struggles for smaller regions which are wholly in the possession of one side or the other, and are treated as "spaces" for movement which can't be divided up in any way. This makes games about conquering easier, as if it were accurate to real life, dealing with continuous rebel insurrections is something most people only want to do once when taking over a nation.
  • Selective Gravity: Gravity is only applied to some things. This is often a feature to make projectiles more predictable (or unpredictable), especially in platformers. The alternative requires players to understand both the direction and arc of incoming dangers, which can easily make a game Nintendo Hard.
  • Shop Fodder: Merchants are more than happy to purchase your useless junk in endless quantities, even if there's no chance of reselling it. Sometimes can be justified if it's a valuable commodity that has no use in combat or if it's said to be a disposal service, and being forced to keep random things that might be valuable in your inventory can make for a good deal of frustration when no one will buy it and you chose not to pick up other items that might have been valuable..
  • The Simple Life is Simple: The simple life is indeed simplified for games where farming is (one of) the objective(s); the complexities of real-life farming would take the fun out of it otherwise.
  • Simple Rescue Mechanic: Hostages disappear and are considered "Saved" the moment you find them. Would you rather deal with escorting each and every individual person out of the area?
  • Skill Point Reset: A way to completely forget everything you knew about your current job and learn everything from scratch again, to give players an opportunity to optimize their setup and prevent their characters from becoming too situational.
  • Sound-Coded for Your Convenience: In video games, many things make sounds more distinct from each other than in real life so the player can more easily tell what's happening just by hearing them.
  • Space Compression: Where an environment is blatantly not to scale so you don't spend an entire real world day just walking to the next city.
  • Statistically Speaking: In Video Games, no matter how high your strength, speed, etc. goes, you still won't be able to, for example, lift that tree in your way. This may be Railroading, but it's meant to keep the story on track anyway.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: Video game characters can breathe underwater for infinite amounts of time. Level design is limited if characters are required to go up for air, and oftentimes when there is an air mechanic characters that were just fine a moment before immediately asphyxiate.
  • Super Wool Growth: In games with wool as a crafting resource, sheared sheep grow their wool back really fast because waiting months or years for their wool to regrow would be tedious, boring and impractical.
  • Suspicious Video-Game Generosity: When the game gives you a whole bunch of healing items and ammo, you're about to fight a nasty boss battle. This performs two practical functions: First, you have an opportunity to breathe and restock in a safe environment. Second, savvy players will know to be prepared for a boss battle.
  • Take Your Time: The villain won't put his dastardly plan into motion until you get there, no matter how long you partake in various sidequests. Wouldn't be fair to just realistically railroad you.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: At least in a tabletop RPG like Dungeons & Dragons, it is. Because not being able to talk strategy or tell people what you're doing would be a real pain to work around, you can just talk during combat without interrupting anything.
  • Tech Tree: Tech Trees mostly only exist in games where the absence of them would make every civilization or group a clone of each other or would result in very comprehensive (and expensive, and time-consuming) gameplay. (See Competitive Balance.)
  • Three Round Deathmatch: Best of three wins in a Fighting Game. You start again with full health. This is often for the sake of preventing luck from being a factor in fighting games and allowing human players to adjust for their adversary's playing style (especially if it's a new character they haven't fought against before).
  • Thriving Ghost Town: Cities and towns are much smaller than they should be for sustainability. This saves time and money on set design/development. See also Space Compression.
  • Took a Shortcut: A common Hand Wave to explain other NPCs suddenly showing up past the dungeon you just risked life and limb getting through. But of course, if the villain went through the dungeon themselves, the path would already be cleared, making the dungeon too easy (see Already Undone for You).
  • Trauma Inn: Sleeping at an inn is guaranteed to instantly cure all your wounds because having characters heal at normal rates would probably necessitate the subtitle Waiting in a Hospital.
  • Units Not to Scale: In Real-Time Strategy games, infantrymen are ridiculously large when compared to vehicles and buildings. If they were to scale it would either be difficult to see every unit clearly and click on them accurately, or you would have trouble telling the layout and location of your buildings because you can't fit many on your screen at a time..
  • Universal Ammunition: You can just pick up ammunition and put it in your gun, without worrying about different calibres and magazine types; because dealing with all of that would be tedious for the player and the developer.
  • Videogame Dashing: Lunging forward or back-stepping has the same effect as firing an invisible jet pack. This makes dodging bullets possible, so why wouldn't you be okay with keeping unrealistic instant movement?
  • Video Game Geography: The world map is a toroid. Distances aren't quite right. But hey, it's a video game!
  • Video Game Sliding: Sliding is much more useful when you can do it from a standstill, with enough force to break walls and/or kill enemies.
  • Video Game Stealing: A thief can pick the pockets of a giant dire wolf in the middle of an all-out brawl and come away with an eight-foot claymore. But without that ability, being a thief or rogue class would be very situational to the point of needing specific instances where their abilities come in handy.
  • Video Game Time: Fake use of a time scale means that empires rise and fall in the time it takes to take the trash out. But this is because it's a video game, and it'll have some liberties taken with time if it means the whole story is told in a more entertaining way.
  • Wallet of Holding: Where you can collect millions of gold coins and not have your pants fall down. Having a money limit is never fun, though, because it creates an extra unnecessary hassle for a player.
  • Warp Whistle: In real life, you can't just open a map, select a location, and instantly appear there (or pay to suddenly appear there at a specific spot), but if it saves you from trekking across a huge world, no problem.
  • We Buy Anything: Wanna sell that suit of armor at a grocery store? They'll take it! While it may seem jarring, it's preferable to searching through the city (or worse, through multiple cities) to find the one vendor that deals in magical weapons.
  • Welcome to Corneria: Minor NPCs always say the same dialogue because programming in endless dialogue is a time-consuming activity when few players will actually talk to them again anyway.
  • You All Look Familiar: Not all games and animated shows have the time, budget, or inclination to go for a Cast of Snowflakes.
  • You Call That a Wound?: Without this, you're dealing with an Escort Mission, which is the very thing this trope is supposed to avert. This is usually meant as an Anti-Frustration Feature, which excuses the fact that the guest character is an Implacable Man.
  • You Get Knocked Down, You Get Back Up Again: In Video Games, when you're knocked down, you can't be damaged until you get back up, because it's quite annoying when it's averted.



  • Pomysłowy Dobromir: The various devices build by Dobromir work on principle, but are still greatly simplified from their real-life counterparts.

Anime & Manga

  • Fullmetal Alchemist (2003): In Real Life, Fritz Lang looked nothing like King Bradley and is almost 30 years younger at the time, but it hardly takes away from the story.
  • Girls und Panzer:
    • In-universe, Sensha-do teams seem to use modern radios and throat mics, rather than the far more varied systems of the time. For instance, the volleyball team's Type-89 I-Go shouldn't have a radio at all! Supplemental material point out that this is part of the partial modernization of the tanks to make matches safer and more even.
    • Despite the use of live rounds, and thanks to some briefly-described safety features, Sensha-do is apparently very safe. The massive amounts of damage we see never do more than smudge the girls. If this weasel did not exist, the show would be much darker, and probably have a body count.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: What seems to be standard breaks from reality found in Humongous Mecha anime, turns out to be very well backed-up in-universe. As a result, it's less of breaking away from reality as it is that the anime's reality is so off-rails, it can justify its wacky state of affairs. The pilots are so young because they can't be tainted by the Second Impact, and as that event happened fourteen years ago... The Hero can get so good at his job, not because of any merit of his but because his mecha is a Soul Jar for his mother and a hijacked clone of the enemy species — it's his mecha doing all of the work. And so on.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! SEVENS: Even though Yuga only just invented "Rush Duel", everyone has cards built around that format, even in flashbacks. Since Yuga envisioned the format because he felt the game proper was stale, it's implied he designed it to work well with already existing cards.


  • The Last Supper: It would make a lot more sense to have the Apostles sitting on opposite sides of the table, but it's for the best Leonardo da Vinci didn't dedicate his talents to a painting of six peoples' backs covering up what is either Jesus or an Italian hobo.


  • A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry: Conversed.
    • Dr. Devereaux often points out in his essays on Lord of the Rings when the filmmakers had to change things to make scenes possible to film. For instance, the skirmish between the Rohirrim and the warg riders in The Two Towers features a lot of ahistorical elements, such as minimal tactics besides charging in and the Rohirrim using few spears and not wielding their shields. He points out that the rather basic tactics on display are likely because the scene is supposed to be a short appetizer before Helm's Deep and therefore going simple is favorable, and filming a horseman with a spear and shield in an action scene is rather difficult (shields are cumbersome, and prop spears are much more dangerous than prop swords).
    • It has a similar verdict in regards to the extreme control the player usually has on their troops in a strategy game compared to what the generals would have in the pre-modern period, as having to blindly rely on a pre-conceived plan without much ability to influence the things that happen on the battle wouldn't be very fun.
      "Having to make a plan effectively blind and then mostly just hope it goes well would be very frustrating for many players. It was frustrating for many generals too, of course!"
  • John K. Stuff: Conversed. In "Wayne Boring's Superman", the eponymous blogger points out that Superman is so beloved because of the preposterousness of his premise, specifically, that he cannot be killed in-universe.
  • The Tyrannosaur Chronicles:
    • Traumador can write and post blog entries during situations in which it would logically be inconvenient for him to do so (such as while being trapped inside a backpack and menaced by dromaeosaurids). He has even been known to respond to comments while supposedly being caught in these mishaps. Additionally, the posts sometimes end on cliffhangers, despite the fact that it would make little sense for Traumador to either have been blogging in real time or to leave the readers hanging had he made the posts after the events described.
    • There are occasionally posts by characters other than Traumador that provide insight into plot points to which he is not privy, often with no in-universe explanation as to why they are posted on his blog. There is also no reason given as to why Traumador presumably cannot or does not see these posts.

Comic Books

  • Papyrus: The comic's historical setting demands that children under the age of six are to be naked. However, this is not adopted to prevent pedo-pandering.

Live-Action TV

  • Better Call Saul:
    • Gus and Hector are both native Spanish speakers, and logically should be holding most of their conversations in Spanish, especially when talking with the people they're in business with for The Cartel (Nacho, Eladio, Bolsa, Lalo, etc). However, Giancarlo Esposito and Mark Margolis can't speak Spanish and get their Spanish lines phonetically, making their delivery extremely stilted. So, whenever there's a scene where Gus or Hector should logically be speaking Spanish, the writers can either have them speak Spanish, where it will be obvious to any fluent speaker that they can't really speak what is supposed to be their native language, or have them speaking English inexplicably. The show does both, depending on the situation, but both actors are otherwise excellent at playing their roles, so most will let it slide (by contrast, Tony Dalton and Michael Mando both speak fluent Spanish, so Lalo and Nacho speak the language far more often; Lalo in particular exclusively speaks Spanish when talking to Hector).
    • Every single character who also appeared in Breaking Bad (Jimmy, Mike, Tuco, Huell, Gus, Hector, Eladio, Bolsa, etc) is supposed to be anywhere from 5-8 years younger than they were when they appeared in Breaking Bad. In real life, the actors are all several years older. The show puts very little effort into hiding this discrepancy; at best some of the characters look about the same age and are old enough for it to be handwaved as them no longer visibly aging. Hector is the only one who really pulls it off, just because he spent all of Breaking Bad as a mute invalid. A couple of flashbacks even show Jimmy right around the time he started working in the mailroom in the early 90s, meaning he's supposed to be a good 20 years younger than he is in Omaha, and all the show does to try to sell this is give him a cheap wig. It's clear the showrunners aren't even trying to fool anyone, which is reasonable given that de-aging CGI would be expensive and would also invoke a distracting uncanny valley effect, and that makeup would likely not be effective either. The only other solution would be to recast the actors, which would be pretty much guaranteed to irritate the fanbase, so just looking the other way is the best solution.
    • ADX Montrose is based on one of the most human-rights-violating prisons in reality, ADX Florence. Prisoners there are kept in solitary confinement for twenty three hours, and patients with mental illness (which Jimmy would be classed as, with his PTSD and dissociation tendencies) have a high rate of suicide. But Jimmy needs to have some sort of peace, with regular visits from Kim and the hope of getting out early, so prisoners can move around, have recreational activities and Kim is able to sneak in as his lawyer.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The she-mantis has a distinctive accent because her actress is from South Africa. The accent only adds to the fact that she's a giant insect and, thus, doesn't possess a mandible or vocal cords.
  • Cobra Kai: The All Valley Tournament doesn't have any weight or gender divisions. This is done to allow the cast to fight in the same tournament and get to fight whatever opponent it's needed for Character Development or plot advancement.
  • Mr. Robot: While the show goes out of its way to avert Hollywood Hacking at all costs, some of the hacks are sped up for the sake of keeping the show theatrical and entertaining.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 in additon to being the Trope Namer for the MST3K Mantra, has a case of "Acceptable Breaks From Cinema History." The premise of each iteration of the show is Mad Scientists forcing captives to watch bad movies to see which ones do the most psychological damage, and use said movies as weapons. The theme song even describes the movies as "the worst [they] can find." But the show's real-life creators generally avoided featuring truly terrible movies on the show, since it's been proven that the host's riffing can only do so much to make a bad movie tolerable to sit through, not to mention the problems with showing films with serious issues of Values Dissonance or terrifying subject matters, and the true stinkers they did feature usually came the closest to driving the captives insane. So it's either this trope, or all Mads are rather bad at finding bad movies (which is quite plausible, given their general track record).
  • Only Fools and Horses: The fact that Uncle Albert had parachute training while serving in the Royal Navy in the episode "Hole in One" is an obvious Plot Hole, but most fans give this one a pass for three reasons:
    • The episode's original plan was for Grandad to have had parachute training while serving in the Army, only for Lennard Pearce's death to force a hasty re-write.
    • Albert's motive for staging the 'accident' is so that his great-nephews can have some money to pay for his brother's headstone (originally, Grandad's motive was to have been to make up the shortfall caused by Rodney's ill-advised investment in sun-tan lotion).
    • In wartime servicemen are sometimes trained for roles outside their normal ones, to increase their availability to be redeployed if needed. Albert could well have done parachute training to enable him to serve with a naval aviation unit.
Video Games
  • World of Warcraft:
    • Quite a few. Ranged weapons don't run out of ammunition any more, your mounts can fly or run indefinitely, eating or drinking heals all wounds, you can carry hundreds of items with you without so much as a bulging backpack showing, and you can swap pants without ever getting off your horse, as long as you're not in combat.
    • In-Universe, Warlocks, Demon Hunters, and Death Knights are not very well trusted. Warlocks and Demon Hunters must work very hard to ensure their demonic powers do not get the better of them, and death Knights were hated for well, being (former) agents of the Scourge who caused a lot of ruin. (This was even shown with how, with the exception of the Undead, Warlock class trainers tended to be in back alleys or behind buildings while everyone else was front and center and how Death Knights had to go to Acherus to train.) Yet they all start with the same neutral faction and never have to worry about hate crimes or the rogue person who still does not trust them.
    • Averted with the Forsaken, however. Originally neither the quests, the NPCs, or even the in-game voice-over were vague about the Forsaken joining the Horde only out of convenience and not having any real loyalty towards them. Over time the Forsaken appeared to begin developing some real camaraderie with the Horde until Cataclysm came and their queen was shown to be doing all sorts of shady things behind the backs of the other Horde leaders. Because of this, the Forsaken start out as Neutral with other Horde factions (except the Blood Elves, probably due to the Forsaken's leader being a former High Elf) rather than Friendly as all other races, on both factions, do.
    • Things that don't have blood or aren't even biological, like golems and elementals, can be poisoned and made to bleed by player attacks, and elementals can be wounded and killed by their own elements when logically it should just harmlessly be absorbed into their existing mass. This is only the case for Burning Crusade onward though, in the original/"Classic" lifespan, these resistances and immunities did logically apply, but was changed later when the developers realized this made some player specializations borderline useless, or have to rely on their off-spec elemental spells which were much weaker, and were changed as part of a shift to a "bring the player, not the class/spec" game balance philosophy.
  • The point of Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? (1997) is for people to learn. Its extensive manual mentions that a lot of creative liberties were taken in order to make the game playable. These include:
    • The fact you can understand everyone. Aside from a few English Speaking areas? You would not have been able to understand anyone.
    • You're also able to walk up to historical figures (including royalty) and casually have a chat with them. Which you wouldn't have been able to do.
    • Some areas have some pretty notable travel times between screens (in real life). This is cut down in-game so that it could be completed within a 10-20 minute play session.
    • In 1002, Erikson's expedition to the Americas is shown as consisting of only four people. It would take a lot of time to round up the likely dozens if not hundreds people that were actually on the expedition.


Western Animation


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Acceptable Break From Reality, Necessary Weasel


The Magic School Bus

At the end of the show's debut episode where the titular bus took the class on a tour of the solar system, a producer explains to a viewer how they changed certain things around to better tell the story, such as shortening the travel time between planets to fit the runtime. He also admits to a lot of guesswork about Pluto, which we knew very little about back in 1994 when the episode first aired.

How well does it match the trope?

4.78 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / AcceptableBreaksFromReality

Media sources: