Follow TV Tropes


Awesome, but Impractical

Go To
A giant knife's drawbacks outweigh its benefits.

"Well, this gun only holds 100 stakes at a time and takes two days to reload. So I guess it'll have to be the old-fashioned way."
Riff, Sluggy Freelance

It's awesome, powerful, unstoppable... but not as useful as it might seem (if it's useful at all).

Yes, it seems that the designers put so much time into maxing out the "ultimate" factor of the ultimate attack that they forgot to actually make it usable. Maybe it requires too many resources to use, causing its allure of "awesome" to be lost as fast as your party's money. Maybe it requires some sort of bizarre set-up to enact, making your normal attacks and spells much easier to apply inside of battle. Maybe it has a considerable chance of failing or backfiring that makes it unreliable from the start. Maybe by the time you get it, there's nothing worth using it on. Or maybe in mathematical terms it doesn't deliver as much bang for the buck as "inferior" alternatives.

Whatever the reason, it will get used once, as a test drive, and then never again. Yeah, it's amazing, but you've got a game to win here. It's Awesome, But Impractical.

Keep in mind, Awesome, But Impractical is not Cool, but Inefficient, which is where something appears to be awesome, but has no real benefit to using. Awesome, But Impractical is genuinely useful in the right circumstances — it just requires such a cost and/or is so ridiculously conditional that you're probably not going to use it very often. Sometimes, Awesome, But Impractical moves carry a situational advantage, or are so Difficult, but Awesome that even highly skilled players have trouble using them — but there is an advantage over normal moves if you can afford to pay the penalties and/or work around the drawbacks. Sure, maybe that mini-nuke will irradiate and possibly kill your party, but if you're in a big enough pinch, possibility of death beats guaranteed death, so you may as well try it.

The very act of using a million tons of firepower on a few weaklings (a.k.a. overkill) is also Awesome, But Impractical.

Mind you, if you care about doing cool stuff over winning, they can be quite fun. A competitive player will never look at them twice; this can be one of the good things about being a Noob.

Related to the Bragging Rights Reward and Inventional Wisdom on occasion. See also Useless Useful Spell, Blessed with Suck. Contrast Too Awesome to Use, Boring, but Practical, Game-Breaker, Simple, yet Awesome. Compare and contrast Difficult, but Awesome; there, the focus usually is on Impractical turning out to be Awesome. Crosses with Death or Glory Attack when a miss will result in nasty consequences, and Powerful, but Inaccurate when lack of accuracy is the reason for the impracticality, and with Joke Attack if they give some advantage. Scary Impractical Armor is a Sub-Trope, as well as Impractically Fancy Outfit. In Real Life, this trope is often the reason behind I Want My Jet Pack.

Please add only examples whose impracticality is shown within the work. If it works fine in-universe but later thought renders it clearly impractical, that's Fridge Logic.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

    Asian Animation 
  • In Motu Patlu, a lot of Dr. Jhatka's inventions sound cool or even awesome on paper, but in practice they get people in trouble more often than not.

  • Avant-Garde Metal in general can be this to more purist metalheads. Yes, there is a lot of experimentation and innovation, but more 'traditional' metalheads see the genre as unnecessary complexity.

  • The Gáe Bulg (alternatively spelled Gáe Bolg or Gáe Bulga) of Celtic Myth. While the specifics differ depending on the telling, it's typically described as a weapon that never misses when thrown, and kills the target in an impressively bloody manner. Problem is, it only works under very specific circumstances (i.e. you have to throw it with your foot), tends to get stuck in the person you throw it into, and you have to tear off all of the Ludicrous Gibs and wash it in a stream before you can use it again.
  • In Christian beliefs, Jesus was omnipotent, but using all his power would defeat the purpose of trying to convert the people through words and minor miracles. Yes, he could have just smacked Pontius Pilate (the governor who let the crowds Crucify him out of fear of a riot) aside with his mind or cursed those who crucified him, but that would make the sacrifice he was for Mankind's freedom null and void.

  • Almost three centuries into the Embers in the Dusk quest, you gain the blueprints for a Deus class superdreadnaught, an experimental capital ship of the Dark Age, along with a defence station built with the same technology. Problem is, even with all the Trust's infrastructure, a forty kilometer ship and an even bigger fort aren't easy to build in less than a century and without being bankrupted. Also, separate infrastructure needs to be designed and set for fueling, since both vessels run on antimatter instead of promethium.

    Web Animation 
  • The Creature-Hunter Organization D.H.O.R.K.S. from Helluva Boss seems to fight exclusively with weapons from Edo period Japan. When the group ends up getting slaughtered in a Curb-Stomp Battle against I.M.P (who, besides being physically stronger than any D.H.O.R.K.S. member due to being demons, have guns and far more practical melee weapons), Agent One questions why they only use these weapons instead of something actually more useful. Agent Two's answer? Because the Edo period was badass.
  • Marckus' Stake-jacket from Hunter: The Parenting. It can be used to stake any vampire that attacks him from the front, but it's useless at any other angle, requires him to put himself in danger, and runs the risk of him staking himself with one wrong move.
  • Murder Drones: The protagonist Uzi creates a railgun design to fight the titular Murder Drones. When she is actually able to use it, the blast is powerful enough to blow one's head off in a single shot. However, this one shot is likely all one would get as it requires about 30 minutes to recharge and the Murder Drones also possess a potent regeneration ability and can simply repair the damage done to them, meaning that the shot will only be a temporary setback unless both the head and torso are destroyed.
  • RWBY: While Dust is mostly used in bullets, it can also be fused with the body. The problem with this is that it will leave anyone who does so in immense pain, too much to actually use the Elemental Powers Dust grants. However, Hazel Rainart's Semblance enables him to Feel No Pain, and as such he is unaffected by the adverse effects of Dust fusion and can utilize massive amounts of it in battle. As each Semblance is unique, he's really the only one who can pull this off.
    • Velvet Scarlatina's entire skill set is this. Velvet's Semblance is Photographic Memory — she is able to perfectly copy any fighting style of any Huntsman or Huntress after watching them in action once, and her weapon Anesidora is actually the camera she carries everywhere, it can create Hard Light copies of other weapons she has photographed. This combination means Velvet is an astonishing Ditto Fighter: during the Battle of Beacon, she singlehandedly defeated two Paladins, the same kind of Atlesian war mech Team RWBY plus Sun and Neptune fought in Volume 2 (and they had a bit of trouble with one Paladin). However her camera requires photographs that are expended after use, the projections only last briefly, about half a minute at most and according to RWBY: Amity Arena, Anesidora needs a special kind of very rare Dust to create those projections. This means she has to be very sparing and strategic about when to break it out, relegating her to a Kick Chick in most fights. Even during the Battle of Beacon, she only used her weapon when Coco gave her permission.
    • Neon Katt is a firm believer of Rollerblade Good, combined with nunchucks and Hit-and-Run Tactics using Ice dust to restrict her opponents' movement. It's an incredibly effective way to fight... provided the ground is nice and even. She dominates Yang for most of their bout in Volume 3's Vytal tournament arc, until Yang gets pissed and starts wrecking the floor with blasts from Ember Celica. When Neon trips up on a crack in the floor, she rolls into an arena geyser trap and practically eliminates herself.

  • 8-Bit Theater: "Sword-Chucks, yo!"
    • Sword-Chucks were only recognized as unusable by every idiot in the cast. White Mage pointed out they could be useful with a longer chain.
    • Staff-Chucks: Like sword-chucks, except that they shoot magic in every direction. Black Mage loved them, since destroying everything in sight is his favorite thing to do.
    • Black Mage's Hadoken could count since, while it's incredibly powerful, he can only use it once a day. The Blackjack Hadoken makes this go even further.
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja has Chainsaw Nunchucks. Badass, but no human being could possibly wield them. That's why they have the Uberninja though.
    • Also Frans Rayner's laser eye. Highly destructive...but burns calories to fire, tiring the user out in one shot.
  • Emel's 3D-printed gun in Broken Telephone. It's made entirely out of plastic, so it can be smuggled through airport security, but it can only be fired once.
  • City of Blank: One of the top Blank Hunters wields a combination axe/flamethrower/club. Fully developed blanks are just normal people, but a select few hybrids can change their shapes to make their limbs act as weapons, and the only thing developing Blanks have that make them out of the ordinary are dark patches of skin that don't get injured or experience pain if you stab them. A net would probably be more effective for subduing developing Blanks, albeit there wouldn't be as much of an intimidation factor.
  • Dragon Ball Multiverse: While Super Saiyan 3 suffered this in the original, Multiverse takes this aspect of it further by having it drain the user's ki and stamina faster the stronger they are. Meaning that someone like Vegito can't even use the form for a minute before he reverts back into his base form. The failure to take this drawback into account is what leads to U13 Vegeta's death against Raichi
  • In El Goonish Shive, Pandora notes, that due to Muggles Do It Better being in full effect in modern times, "exotic and scary" magic is no match for a muggle with a gun.
  • Girl Genius: Invariably, most Sparks use this as their modus operandi in Girl Genius, with many being disposed of by their own faulty/crazy creations.
    • Genetically engineering a super intelligent cat so that he can persuade other cats to act as spies, messengers, saboteurs, etc. Unfortunately cats have an attention span that measures in microseconds they’ll do what you want until they fall asleep or see something move.
    • Later averted, because some animals actually do listen...
  • When Jade enters the medium in Homestuck, Bec prototypes her kernelsprite with himself. The upside? Jade's Sprite is a Nigh-Invulnerable Reality Warper! The downside? So are all the mooks...
    • The upside is that after the White Queen's plan succeeds and PM puts on her ring, Jack Noir is effectively neutralized since he is no longer a hundred times more powerful than everyone else. Jade also gets First Guardian powers by merging with Jadesprite while ascending to god tier.
      • Except it goes right back to being a problem when Jade is mind-controlled by the Condescencion upon entering the Alpha session, allowing her to take control of Jane through the tiaratop and zapping Dirk, the person most likely to beat her, to outside the universe.
    • The Unreal Air gives you unlimited vertical flight. Stable, blandly slow, unsteerable flight. Dave finds a good enough use for it to ascend to his Gates, but it has no other practical use.
    • Caliborn enters Sburb by himself, rather than with his sister Calliope as originally intended; since it is intrinsically a multi-player game, the game is forced to adapt by generating an almost unique variant: a dead session. This session has much higher stakes, depending on whether you are a passive or aggressive player. For an aggressive player, you get the chance to gain completely unconditional immortality, transcending the typical limited immortality of God Tiers; however, not only are the rules of the game completely different in a dead session, but the game becomes nearly unwinnable. First, the game doesn't naturally generate a planet for you, so you're forced to transport your own entire planet with you into the game first. Then, you can't even unlock your quest until you've already done a bunch of messing around on your newly altered homeworld. Then, Skaia produces fifteen planets (resembling billiard balls) before collapsing into a black hole, which you have to shoot all the planets into in the correct order (saving the eighth planet for last) before each one is destroyed by a bomb at its core; if at any point you're too slow, you lose. Forever. And even if you manage all that, you're still up against a boss fight with Yaldabaoth, the single most powerful Denizen in all of Paradox Space. It's heavily implied that Caliborn was only able to beat his session on account of being so damn stubborn.
  • Irregular Webcomic! has a laser-nunchaku and the quadruple, quintuple, and septuple laser swords.
  • A Loonatic's Tale: Lynch Cruor fights using a Punjab lasso; in layman's terms, a weaponized hangman's noose. Unfortunately, he's a vampire who's just shy of 1000 years old, so he's had plenty of time to practice.
  • Narbonic: In the last strip on this page, Mell comments on how Madblood's laser pistol fits this trope.
  • Nedroid: Reginald has two of the world's deadliest weapons: invisible swords.
  • Taken to hilarious extremes in Oglaf with the enormous weapon the dwarves make in "The Obituator".
    • If you don't want to look for the comic the blade, according to the dwarves: is the size of a plow,note  has three blades (one of which flies off and slices their enemies faces off and the other has belts to strap a live viper note ), and a large penis that comes alive at night to have sex with your wife. It has to be said that the dwarves are fukken stupid...
      • Almost everything. They get it just right in 'The Lonely Mountain', where they build a very literal dragon dildo. That spews fire. The Smaug expy was very pleased.
  • 1/0: Mock's horizonite(TM) claws.
  • Vaarsuvius of The Order of the Stick has chosen to specialise in evocation magic at the expense of conjuration and necromancy. In layman's terms, this means they have access to a lot of flashy destruction spells at the expense of losing access to many 'utility-effect' spells (teleport, summoning minions, level drain, etc). Many experienced D&D players are of the opinion that damage-dealing evocations are one of the least optimal ways of utilising a wizard's power. The method Vaarsuvius eventually found to counteract this temporarily — the Soul Splice — wasn't much better, seeing as it involved renting Vaarsuvius' soul (trust me, It Makes Sense in Context) and only lasted so long, as well as making them feel sufficiently omnipotent to take on Xykon and the rest of Team Evil... single-handedly. In short, once is enough.
  • In this SMBC, the wife creates a super powerful exoskeleton, capable of, among other things, lifting two thousand kilograms. She built it for the purpose of having sex.
    • "It sounds like you just selected easily measured metrics, and increased them, rather than trying to actually make the sex better." "That's called progress John."
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • The flying uniforms are useful for transport and getting into good positions, but the Toughs still do a lot of foot-slogging because being in the air makes you fairly obvious, and being obvious on the battlefield makes you a target.
      Legs: Do you know what we call flying soldiers on the battlefield?
      Tino: Air support?
      Legs: Skeet.
    • Dragon-class cruisers like the Kitesfear (the first ship Tagon owned) were originally designed to have a main gun, but budget cuts scrapped it. When Tagon gets a new custom Dragon-class cruiser, the company pays extra to add back the main gun. Tagon speaks with the shipwright, and is told that it's a short-range but powerful weapon. Tagon is not impressed.
      Tagon: So... it's a gun you bring to a knife fight.
      Shipwright: You sound just like the bean counters who killed the project.
  • In a similar vein, Second Empire Dalek instructors in Second Empire make sure to drill into the green soldiers that the flight mechanism is really useful, but situational at best in battle and conditional on possessing absolute air superiority. Pturdd, a particularly idiotic General Failure, activates the feature to escape an explosion. It works, and he even has time to scream vengeance for the damage to his casing's paint job... for all of five seconds before every enemy Special Weapons Dalek locks on his position and blows his sorry carcass to kingdom come.
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • Riff uses one of these in this strip. At first a gatling gun that fires 100 stakes per second sounds like a great anti-vampire weapon. But when you realize that it can only hold one hundred stakes at a time and takes two days to load... well, you can stake one vampire really, really good. The other dozen or so will tear you to pieces. Reloading the weapon apparently takes longer than it took to build it.
      • He eventually makes it better by adding a beltloader, similar to a mini-gun.
      • Most of Riff's inventions (at least in the earlier days of the strip) seem to fall into this problem. Look at some of the later (and alternate universe), stuff, however...
    • As revealed at the end of "Oceans Unmoving", at some point in the future, people discover Timeless Space and get excited about it as a potential "extradimensional" shortcut through space, investing a lot in exploring it. Eventually they abandon the attempt when they realise it's not so much a shortcut as a slog through mushy porridge of doom. This is because everything brought there risks running out of time and freezing up, and it takes a lot of effort and planning to prevent this.
  • Deconstructed in this Subnormality strip
  • Terror Island: The Green Grocer's spaceship, which only goes to the Moon. Not to the Moon and back, just to the Moon.
  • xkcd has several in his "What If" column. To name just one: You really can build a jet pack from machine guns firing downward. The physics work out. (It's still not in wide use.)
  • Yehuda Moon & the Kickstand Cyclery has Arboritum, an extremely light alloy that would be excellent for bikes if it wasn't also extremely fragile, ensuring the rider serious injury from frame cracking.

    Web Videos 
  • Discussed in the video 5 Most Insanely Massive Projects Never Completed by Dark5:
    • Project Atlantropa: A plan to dam the Strait of Gibraltar in order to provide power for the entirety of Europe and much of North Africa and the Middle East. In the process, it would've caused the sea levels in the Mediterranean to drop by 200 meters, creating a land bridge between Spain and North Africa. While the power output of the resulting structure would have been more than enough to meet the area's energy needs, the amount of money and manpower needed to construct it would have been unfeasibly high, and the resulting environmental damage to the Mediterranean Sea would have been downright catastrophic.
    • Project Plowshare: An attempt to use nuclear explosives for peaceful, non-military purposes such as oil fracking and natural gas extraction. Not only was it soon done in by public opposition and international treaties banning the underground detonation of nuclear weapons, but the oil and gas extracted was of very poor quality in addition to being contaminated by radiation from the explosives.
    • Project Mohole: An attempt to drill into the Mohorovičić discontinuity — the boundary layer the between Earth's crust and mantle — via multiple super-deep boreholes on the ocean floor and bring up core samples. Not only was the project criticized as a waste of funds that could have been better used for other scientific endeavors, but very little useful information on the planet's internal composition was obtained anyway.
    • Welthauptstadt Germania: Nazi Germany's plan to rebuild Berlin in their image and serve as the capital of their proposed Greater German Reich. Their proposal would have seen the construction of such megastructures as a Triumphal Arch six times the size of the Arc de Triomphe and a domed People's Hall the size of several city blocks. The end results would not only have been too heavy for the city's soft soil to handle, but would have created an utterly inhospitable living environment for the city's ordinary citizens. On top of all that, thousands of Jews, Romani, homosexuals, and political prisoners were worked to death in order to facilitate its construction. Only a handful of the proposed structures were built, and most were demolished after the collapse of the Nazi regime.
    • Project Pluto: A proposal for a cruise missile utilizing a nuclear-powered ramjet engine. While its range would have been far greater than any other cruise missile at the time, it would irradiate everything in its path, making it impossible to fly over friendly territory or even launch from American soil, and was quickly rendered obsolete by the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
  • Alien Biospheres: The synischians have a fused limb girdle that allows them to grow to massive sizes, but unfortunately limits their movement. The megalobrachids and the isopterygians have their size as their main defense mechanism, so they don't need much agility, but this becomes critical for the eudeinognathans, which are unable to adapt to some environments in which they are unable to employ their ambush hunting tactics (like in the steppe). In fact, this fused limb girdle and massive size ultimately leads to the synischians' demise during the extinction event, with the exception of the hybognathans.
  • Played for Laughs in Dragon Ball Z Abridged's Buu Bits when Vegeta lampshades how ineffective Goku's Spirit Bomb had been up until that point.
    Vegeta: You used it on me, didn't work. You used it on Frieza, DIDN'T WORK! AND YOU DIDN'T EVEN BOTHER USING IT ON CELL!
    Goku: Well yeah, 'cause I knew it wouldn't work. [Beat] But it will this time though!
  • False Swipe Gaming: Reshiram boasts the unresisted STAB combo of Dragon/Fire,note  and can 2-hit KO just about anything in Gen 5. However, its inability to switch in safely, vulnerability to entry hazards, and low speed rendered impractical to use. And when Kyurem-White was released and did everything Reshiram did but better, Reshiram was rendered unviable.
  • Jet Lag: The Game: In the European tag game, the rules technically allowed for a player to board an airplane, which would likely make them impossible to catch. However, affording it would have required so many challenges that the player would almost certainly be caught.
  • Odd Squad Gadget Testers: The gadgets that go in the "scrap it" pile look sturdy and decent enough, but what they do turns out to either be detrimental to the user and/or the target or turns out to be completely worthless. Of note is the Make-Another-Gadget-inator Gadget, which can only be used to make a copy of the same gadget.
  • Pirates SMP: From an in-game perspective, Scott's kangaroo army peaks at around 25 members and are a force to be reckoned with, but when he brings them all out for a run in the finale, their presence causes some severe technical issues and a Blooper where the server crashes halfway through a large battle.
  • SMPEarth: Planes — they can achieve high-speed flight, but require fuel and cost a lot. Wilbur Soot tried to capitalize on this by building a paywall bridge across the Atlantic ocean, but that became awesome but impractical in itself, because Wilbur was killed seven times while building that bridge.
  • Stampy's Lovely World: Stampy admits that the You Again Cloning Contraption is this in Episode 707, "Collecting History"; having a cloning machine in what's essentially the equivalent to his basement is amazing, and it is legitimately useful for duplicating building materials or food, but the fact that the Big Bad's used it for his own evil schemes twice by that point means that it's really done more harm than good.
  • Tulok the Barbrarian discusses it with some of his builds, which are more focused on character consistency than Min-Maxing. Builds that dump Constitution (i.e. All Might and sans) are never really good ideas because of how vulnerable it makes you, multiclassing Monk/Barbarian isn't optimal by any means, focusing on a specific element will hobble you if the monster happens to be immune to that element, and characters who focus on support or trickery often have very little methods of actually dealing damage.
  • Discussed beautifully in Vision of Escaflowne Abridged.
    Hitomi: "Energists"?
    Merle: Fossilized dragon hearts, stupid. They use them to power Guymelefs.
    Van: That's why I had to kill a dragon before I could claim Escaflowne and become king. In a war, the side with the most energists usually wins.
    Hitomi: ...Huh. And Zaibach mines them in mass quantities?
    Van: Yup!
    Hitomi: And your people get them by killing live dragons in single combat?
    Van: Yup! ...When you put it that way, it sounds pretty stupid, huh?
    Hitomi: A little bit, yeah.

Alternative Title(s): Cool But Impractical, Awesome Yet Impractical


The Wallminator 3000

Hate to break it to you, Jimmy, but that thing probably won't work in your favor.

How well does it match the trope?

3.6 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / AwesomeButImpractical

Media sources: