As every smart hero or villain knows, the best way to defeat most adversaries is to Attack Its Weak Point. But said savvies will also know that this is coming, and may very well decide that they don't like being shot in their weak point.
The hero or villain may have a weakness, and they know about it. Or, they don't have any (or they've removed/cured it), but they want to make their enemies believe that they do.
This is where the Fake Weakness comes in: faking a weakness, whether it's an actual flashing weakpoint, a Weaksauce Weakness or just an Achilles' Heel, to put your opponents off their guard and make them waste valuable time and energy on a Red Herring before you proceed with the curb stomp.
Compare Obfuscating Disability, I Am Not Left-Handed and Briar Patching. Related to, but not to be confused with Faking the Dead. Often this is used as a justification for Our Vampires Are Different and the like, because if you start debunking beliefs in fake weaknesses, they might start stumbling onto the real ones.
- In the anime version of Bleach during the battle between Kyoraku and Starrk, the later intentionally holsters his right gun every time he fires a large Cero in an effort to trick his opponent into thinking that he needs to recharge a shot after every attack while continually firing weaker ones with his left gun. When Kyoraku attempts to exploit this, Starrk whips it back out and shoots him point-blank.
- In Heroman, the Big Bad implants some information about his race in the mind of a guy who later does a HeelFace Turn. This information includes the fact that the massive eye on his chest is a weak point that can be targeted to kill him. The titular robot punches said eye, putting his fist right through it — at which point the eye socket clamps down on his arm, immobilizing him long enough for the Big Bad to outright kill him.
- In a flashback in the first episode of Moshidora, Minami, playing in a junior baseball game, intentionally makes a terrible wild swing at the first pitch she faces, letting the pitcher think she is a terrible batter who will be easy to get out. On his next pitch, she makes a solid hit.
- Played straight and inverted at the same time in Overlord (2012), The title character fights against Shalltear, as an undead, he is vulnerable to fire and holy magic, so he uses an item which protects him from holy attacks. During the fight he acts as if he was resistant to fire but still very vulnerable to holy magic, tricking his opponent into spamming holy attack while also using the False Data:Life spell to make it look like he has less hit points than he actually has. He also pretended to not know anything about quite a few of her skills and spells while he knew about them since the beginning (in fact, since Shalltear's creation) to trick her into wasting them. The face of pure horror from said opponent once she realizes that she's been tricked and is now low on Mana is priceless.
- In Shakugan no Shana, Shana is fighting Sorath and Tiriel, who keep regenerating. Shana notices a magical plant in the distance and attacks it, but it fights back and restrains her. The two reveal they put the plant there because they knew she would mistake it for their Soul Jar.
- In Goddess Creation System it's implied that Xiaxi feigns physical weakness in an archery competition so she'll be allowed to use her own equipment. Since she brings out a crossbow, known for being a short ranged weapon, it's allowed with some amusement on the part of her adversary. However, it has a laser scope, allowing her to score a bullseye with no effort.
- Exploited and lampshaded by Roy Mustang in Fullmetal Alchemist during his duel with Edward Elric for their examination. Ed knows that Roy can't use his Flame Alchemy without his ignition glove, and moved to slash at its transmutation seal. However, he did not anticipate Roy to have another glove on his pocketed hand.
- Subversion in Blackest Night: the heroes were led to believe that they had to recreate the white light of creation to stop Nekron, but their first attempt only made him stronger leading the heroes to believe they'd fallen victim to this trope. Turns out they needed to free the white entity itself to do the job right (and resurrect Nekron's undead anchor, Black Hand.)
- There was one X-Men story where people discover ancient scrolls with rituals that would destroy Apocalypse. It turns out that they were created by Apocalypse himself, just to get people to try them out. The '90s animated series used the same plot.
- In Falling Up, both Mabel and Dipper Pines pretend to have specific weaknesses. Mabel pretends her powers are bright and flashy and that she requires an amulet to use them. Dipper pretends to have a weakness for redheads after Mabel asks, "Would you rather your enemies throw redheads or grenades at you?"
- Xander in Crush pretends to have powers over magnetism when he's actually a Gravity Master. This becomes a plot point when he's put before a Kangaroo Court that has a Tailor-Made Prison for people with magnetic powers. Xander calmly crushes the cell holding him, then plays it off as manipulating the magnetic fields between atoms.
- Megamind: Metroman pretends to be vulnerable to copper to fake his own death, because he has come to feel he and Megamind are in a rut and he wants to explore another career. This comes to bite Megamind in the ass later, as a trap made of the same stuff proves completely useless against the rampaging superhero-turned-villain Titan who had Metroman's powers.
- In the film Seven Samurai the lead samurai says, "A good fort needs a gap. The enemy must be lured in. So we can attack them. If we only defend, we lose the war."
- One Animorphs book featured aliens with translucent skin and completely visible internal organs. When Jake has to fight them he realizes that no animal would evolve such perfect targets for a predator and deduces that they must be distractions. He hits one of the aliens in the one empty spot and it drops almost instantly.
- In The Bible, Samson made up quite a few of these to mask his true Weaksauce Weakness of cutting his hair. However, it was less an attempt to be cautious and more an attempt to get Delilah to stop pestering him about it. Upon learning each "weakness," Delilah would send some Philistine soldiers to try it out, only for Samson to laugh and kill them. He apparently never noticed he'd accidentally Fed the Mole repeatedly, and eventually told Delilah his real weakness.
- The new(ish) Count de Magpyre of Carpe Jugulum added fake banishment rituals to several holy books. After those rituals fell out of use due to being completely ineffective, he and his family built up a resistance to the standard vampire weaknesses instead.
- A variation on this is actually exploited by Discworld vampires in general. While stakes, holy symbols, and sunlight can all reduce a vampire to dust, this is a fate they can, and eventually usually do, revive from with a simple drop of blood. There are, as it happens, more permanent ways to end a vampire's existance, and the de Magpyre's building a resistance to the more traditional methods caused the local villagers to experiment with such (usually culminating with separating the vampire's head from his/her shoulders). Turns out vampires remain susceptible, and encourage, the more traditional methods as a means of self preservation since humans easily outnumber them and are not tolerant of relentless predation.
- The witchfinder Perspicacia Tick is herself a witch, hunting prospective witches for recruitment rather than for terminal purposes. She distributes a manual on witch hunting and disposal to the more intolerant villages, with tips like tricking the witch into complacency with a good meal and bed for the night, nullifying her magic with a silver coin in each boot, and leaving immediately after binding her with easily escapable knots and throwing her into the nearest lake.
- In The Keep, the vampire-like Molasar allows himself to be studied by a Jewish history professor. In one session, the professor brings in several holy symbols. Molasar ignores most of them but reacts violently to a Christian cross. It's later revealed that he's not really afraid of the cross, but only reacted the way he did to feed off of the destruction of the professor's faith. Later in the book one of the German officers tries to use a cross to ward off Molassar and it goes very, very, badly for the German.
- It is implied in The Madness Season that many of the weaknesses that popular culture says belong to vampires were fabricated by their kind so that they could escape angry mobs relatively unharmed. Of particular interest is their "weakness" to wooden stakes. A properly skilled immortal is able to absorb the organic matter in the wood before it causes any damage to their heart. Unfortunately, some vampires wind up assuming that these weaknesses are the real deal, giving them a genuine aversion to such mundane things as garlic and holy water.
- In Brandon Mull's Beyonders trilogy, Maldor plants the Word- an ancient spell activator that would completely destroy him. It turns out that the Word is actually a fake. Maldor uses the hunt for the Word to not only send all of his enemies on a massive and dangerous wild goose chase, but is able to recognize the ones who survive as his actually dangerous enemies.
- Sylar does this in the third season of Heroes. Danko stabs him in the back of the head when he betrays him, which is the only spot that can stop the regenerating man via putting him in a coma as long as something is stabbed back there. Sylar gets up, though, thanks to his shape-shifting powers he got with Danko's help. He can now move his weak spot anywhere on his body, as he gloats.
- An episode of Scrubs has the Janitor convincing JD that he goes into a trance when he hears the word "popsicle". Of course this just serves as another way to lull JD into a false sense of security.
- On The Vampire Diaries, Damon stabs Mason Lockwood with a silver knife, which backfires when it turns out that werewolves arent actually vulnerable to silver, and he just made an enemy of someone who wanted to live in peace. And eventually we find it's more than fake — silver jumpstarts their Healing Factor.
Mason: You know, I think werewolves were probably the ones who started this whole "weak to silver" thing, just for moments like this.
- Glynn Washington of Snap Judgment tells a story from the perspective of a frustrated supervillain.
Kryptonite? Please, I think he started that nonsense. I tried everything: kryptonite rays, kryptonite missiles. Once I had the fool locked in a kryptonite coffin. "Oh, oh, it hurts, kryptonite, kryptonite." Then he broke out and started tearing up my secret lab! He just never stops. Then... then he's got the nerve to put on some glasses, and suddenly he's incognito. Like I'm stupid.
- Zigzagged in Vampire: The Requiem in several different ways:
- By default, the classic vampire weaknesses of running/holy water, holy symbols, and other folkloric weaknesses (like dying if pricked by rose thorns) don't work. Except both the first and second edition of the game feature rules for vampires who are vulnerable to them despite this not being the norm.
- The traditional "stake through the heart" is a straight-up zigzag of the trope. On the one hand, it does force a vampire into Torpor, leaving them a seemingly dead corpse. On the other hand, that state ends the moment the stake comes out, so a vampire can easily fake its death by letting itself get staked and then having some minion pull the stake out after the ignorant monster hunters have congratulated themselves on their victory and gone home.
- In AdventureQuest, King Frost's stats imply that he takes double damage from Fire attacks. The stat window is a filthy liar. Fire damage heals King Frost and makes his attacks much stronger. In a similar vein, the Razorclaw's stats also imply that it takes double damage from fire. Fire actually does hurt Razorclaw a lot. It also sets it on fire, giving Razorclaw the ability to retaliate with high fire damage in addition to its standard darkness attack.
- Chrono Trigger: It can't be certain if Lavos was being deceptively intentionally, but in the final stage of the battle against it the core you need to destroy is not the vaguely humanoid part in the center—that's just another part that will regenerate after being destroyed. The real core is the limb-like part on the right, which looks identical to the non-essential part on the left.
- This trope is inverted by Archer from Fate/stay night in the "Unlimited Blade Works" route when he gets into a fight with a 'not-holding back' Lancer. Lancer attacks and blocks faster than Archer can react, so Archer spends the entire fight on the defensive and creates intentional weak points in his defense in order to predict where Lancer will attack next in advance and block the attacks ahead of time. These are not fake weaknesses, however — Archer comments to himself how, if he misses a single block, he'll end up Impaled with Extreme Prejudice. Without these weak points he'll die a certain Death by a Thousand Cuts instead. Archer's objective isn't to win anyway, it's merely to drag out the fight long enough for the heroes to defeat Caster.
- One enemy in Final Fantasy IV (found in the last dungeon) casts an Enemy Scan on itself each turn. This is all it does. The scan shows you its Hit Points (a little over the 10000 Damage Cap) and that it's weak to lightning. Cast a lightning spell on it and while you do actually do more damage, it causes the creature to Turn Red and unleash a brutal counterattack. Though, anyone who trusts an enemy named "Trickster" deserves what they get.
- In Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, the ancient prophecy that says a hero will arise to defeat the Dark King was, it turns out, made up by the Dark King himself. That doesn't mean, of course, that you can't defeat him anyway.
- The final boss in Golden Axe also counterattacks the player if attacked while knocked down.
- Subverted in Jade Empire, where multiple characters throughout the first two thirds of the game will comment on how your character seems to have a flaw in his/her fighting style that they distracted themselves trying to exploit while you whupped their asses. All of them conclude that it is merely a clever ruse and compliment your master for such ingenuity in teaching you. The weakness was very real, and deliberately taught. Once your master reveals himself as the Big Bad, he proceeds to show you how to PROPERLY exploit the weakness in your character's style.
- Trinitro Man's nitroglycerin-filled head capsule in Mega Man Unlimited. Hit it and it will deal a good amount of damage to the boss. Hit it 3 times and Trinitro Man blows the hell up along with Megaman.
- Played with in Mega Man X4 when battling Double. He is weak against Double Cyclone as it does more damage to him than any other weapon, but using it causes pieces of his body to break off and morph into little flying attack robots that make the battle much harder.
- ST Arachnus from Metal Combat: Falcon's Revenge will sometimes reveal a hidden weak spot in its abdomen after you hit it with a powerful attack. While attacking this spot does deal a considerable amount of damage, destroying it also opens you up to a barrage of bullets from the lower body that is almost impossible to defend against.
- In the Monster Hunter series, the Gypceros will sometimes stagger and fall to the ground as if dead, only to thrash about moments later, most likely causing damage to any player that had attempted to move in to carve the corpse up.
- In later games, it actually is possible to carve the Gypceros when it plays dead. It just isn't a particularly smart thing to do because of the aforementioned thrash attack.
- Shao Kahn of Mortal Kombat does a taunt that makes him seem vulnerable. Attack him during this, however, and he'll nail you with a painful counterattack.
- In No More Heroes, the boss Bad Girl will sometimes fall to the ground, seeming like a big opening for you to attack... take a single swing at her while she's on the ground and she'll parry, and the game will enter a cinematic of her beating you to death. Seems like a trap for gamers who are used to bosses who periodically leave themselves vulnerable, right? Well, not quite - she actually has two "fall to the ground crying" animations. One leads to the instant kill, and the other genuinely is an opportunity to knock her senseless. The trick is to check her hands: If one's still on the bat, do not attack.
- Perhaps not the straightest example, but about halfway through Paper Mario 64, Bowser flat out asks Peach about Mario's weaknesses. If Peach answers honestly, there will be several powerful enemies around the next game area, but if she tells Bowser that Mario is deathly afraid of healing items, he will take this at face value, and there will be several useful items scattered around the area instead.
- The tanuki from Sexy Parodius looks like he has two weaknesses: his face and his balls. While shooting his "other" soft spot disrupts his psychic attacks, shooting him there too many times causes him to turn into a Cute Monster Girl that is much harder to defeat.
- In the Nintendo Hard Persona 3 FES epilogue, The Answer, a lot of the bosses have a specific weakness. However, they also have the corresponding Dodge/Evade skill with an extremely higher percentage to evade said weakness than their names indicate.
- The Bonus Boss Contrarian King in Persona 4 starts off the battle by casting Red Wall on himself, which makes the target strong against fire attacks: enemies with elemental weaknesses generally try to cover them by casting the appropriate Wall spell on themselves, and taking advantage of them is strongly encouraged by the game. However, once it wears off and you try to cast a fire spell on him, he just absorbs it, causing you to both heal him and waste your turn. Though, like Trickster above, if you take a boss with that name at face value, you deserve what you get.
- The Psychic type has nothing but these in Pokémon Red and Blue. Future games fixed this, but as of Gen I, they have:
- The Bug-type, in practice: While the Elemental RockPaperScissors chart does indeed double the damage of Bug-type moves against Psychic-type mons, trying to actually use Bug as a Psychic-killer is a bad idea — the type has three damaging moves (of which only Pin Missile even approaches being worthwhile), and the majority of its mons are half-Poison, a type which takes double damage from Psychic.
- The Ghost-type is afflicted by a programming bug which makes Psychic mons immune to it, despite the developers' clear intentions for them to be weak. To add insult to injury, even without the bug it would still be an example for much the same reasons as Bug; the two damaging Ghost moves in the entire game are Night Shade, a Fixed Damage Attack that ignores type advantage entirely, and Lick, with a whopping 20 base power to hit like a feather even with type advantage. And the one Ghost-type mon family is half-Poison and thus vulnerable to Psychic-type attacks.
- Done in Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love by Ranmaru. During your second fight with him, the head of his mech is no longer his weak point and acts only as a distraction. The demonic bunny learned from his previous attempt. This time, he's hiding between the main body and the propellers.
- In Scott Pilgrim, both Natalie Adams and Todd Ingram have powerful counterattacks if the player tries to attack them while they're knocked down.
- Comes up in Sharin no Kuni. Hozuki's limp AND Kenichi's drug addiction. They're both faking them to get the other's guard down, and it works in both cases.
- Dampierre of Soul Calibur V has a Critial Edge move called The Land of Plenty, which he pretends to be panicking and executes a Guard Impact to parry off attacks, if the others hit him at this moment, he ripostes with an Ass Shove in response. You can counter him with Devil Jin's Diving Kick or any unblockable ranged projectile, such as Cervantes' Pistol Sword.
- The player might be able to do that with certain characters in Street Fighter Alpha. Stand just out of range, taunt, then strike them when they move into range. Works best with someone with long range like Vega (claw).
- In Horizon Zero Dawn, the Deathbringer, like most enemies, has a huge number of weapon pods that can be targeted to take out some of its firepower. If you attempt this, though, you'll find that the Deathbringer's weapons are far more resistant to being destroyed that those of other machines. You'll be dead long before you can cause a meaningful decrease in its available firepower. Instead, you need to hit it with fire attacks until it overheats and shuts down, exposing its real weakness, its heat sink array.
- Grrl Power: During the fight with Vehemence, he hits Maxima with an electrical attack and notices that all her strength is draining away. The cameras that are broadcasting everything live overhear him say that lightning drains her powers. The thing is, Maxima's weakness is purely tactical: She has the top-secret ability to swap her stats between strength, speed, armor, flight, and blasting power. Vehemence hit her with so much power that she was forced to dump everything into armor, leaving for Nigh Invulnerable but dropping her offense down below the point where she could match him. After, when her superiors realized that people thought she was weak to electricity, they were happy to subtly encourage that rumor.
- In Spacetrawler, Yuri gets captured by some not-too-bright alien mercenaries who intend to torture her but know nothing about human physiology. She pretends to be horrified at the prospect of eating chocolate or butterscotch, so the aliens duly try to torture her with these. In the following pages she is given more and more "tortures" of the same vein. Things go south when her torturers decide to cut off her limbs instead.
- The party in Adventurers! have equiped themselves with all manner of fire-based weapons and spells for their battle with the boss of the ice cave. And then
Red Dragon: I'm the fire dragon of the ice cave. Grr.Karn: That's it, I quit. [Party flees]Red Dragon: Heheh It's amazing what some red paint can do!
- As quoted above, the Evil Overlord List condones this sort of action.
- A small one appeared in The Salvation War. A group of human insurgents were wiping out small groups of demons and their outposts, but always retreated when the Grand Duke of the area came with his army, making him assume that the humans feared him and his presence would always win battles. The fact he was leading his force made him easy pickings in an ambush.
- In Worm, Tattletale realizes that the Simurgh, the most "human" of the Endbringers, is doing this. Simurgh appears to be a fifteen-foot-tall humanoid with wings sprouting asymmetrically all over her body, but Tattletale realizes that the body itself is of no use to Simurgh, as she's a powerful telekinetic and telepath and not even human. Instead, the center of her cognition and power is located in the main joint of her largest wing, the most well-protected point on Simurgh's body.
- In the Whateley Universe, Phase gets a fake weakness put on his powers testing results: dark chocolate, administered orally. So now he can have enemies try to stop him by bringing him delicious desserts (and, you know, find out who was paying off Third Platoon for that information). The one who fell for it? Tisiphone, who admitted has the money for it, a genuine grievance with Phase, and serious psychological issues.
- One episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy is set in a dystopian future where Mandy, now a giant slug-thing, rules the world by her production of spice (namely cinnamon) and keeps around clones of Billy to keep her company. She tells her latest Billy the "secret weakness" to her cinnamon power was frogs, and when he inevitably blabs to La Résistance it turns out she knew this would happen and was using this trope to draw them out.