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There is a direct relationship between the power and ability of a device and the drawbacks attached to using the damn thing. This means that the more powerful something becomes, the more likely it is to seriously harm its user in the process.

In stories, this balance exists for several reasons, but especially for two important ones: to keep an audience interested and to avoid making things difficult for the writer. Without this balance, it calls into question why someone doesn't use such a weapon in the first place, or why everyone in the world isn't using it if there is no drawback. For example, the invention of accurate, rapid-firing firearms killed Sword Fighting outside of gentlemanly sports contests. One plausible reason why only one combatant would use a weapon or power is if they're the first ones to find, invent or create it. Another plausible reason is that they are The Only One who has it, because the blueprints have been destroyed or it can only be used for a short time before it's gone for good.

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In games, this helps to create variety. For example, you might have a game system in which broadswords are powerful and have a wide range, but are slow and heavy, while daggers are quick and light, but with a short-range. Perhaps the Combined Energy Attack and Wave-Motion Gun requires a few seconds of prep time to use correctly, and even then it is usually a one time deal, or at most maybe three. Guns likewise have range, but have to be nerfed so that people would look at other weapon types out there. A Game-Breaker is something that ignores this rule, which means that everyone either has to do it or they will lose.

If the drawback is that the enemies are more powerful because you have become more powerful, it can be factored into So Last Season and the Sorting Algorithm of Evil. The Kryptonite Factor is also a part of this, as is Weaksauce Weakness. Characters such as Superman and Vampires will have these weaknesses automatically or else there is no drama involved, just an unstoppable force. Just giving someone a simple problem like "They care too much" is enough.

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There is a danger, however, that inept balancing can lead to too many drawbacks without enough benefits. If the drawback is worse than the effect, it can become Awesome, but Impractical. Drawbacks without added practical benefit can further slide into Cool, but Inefficient. At the other end is Fake Balance, where the developers thought they had balanced a character but didn't have enough Foresight and failed to remove a Game-Breaker aspect or two.

Compare the Competitive Balance character builds for how fighting styles and video game stats are evened out. See also the Inverse Law of Complexity to Power. Difficult, but Awesome can be a subtrope; the thing works well, but the drawback is the ease of use.

Tropes that are built on this include:


Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Naruto:
    • Sage Mode; Whilst Chakra is formed from a person's Mental Energy mixed with their physical energy, Sage Mode adds in Nature Energy, adding even more potency, super strength, super toughness, and the ability to sense people for miles. It is, however, very hard to learn, Jiraiya has trained for forty years yet still gets frog traits whilst using it. Nature energy is far more potent than the energy a single person generates, unless they have major Chakra reserves already the nature energy ends up overpowering them and turning them to stone, making them 'one with nature' literally. Its biggest drawback. however, is how to collect Nature Energy you are required to sit completely still and only lasts as long as you don't burn through your reserves. The title character finds a way around this, using a limited number of clones he prepared in advance to refill his powers with, simply staying perfectly still as the clone bursts to send its power to his real body. His weaknesses to these modes do go away: Naruto can enter Sage Mode near-instantly and keep it active for a relatively long time later on.
    • Naruto's Nine-Tailed Chakra Mode, power stolen from a duel with the fox himself. Not only was the amount stolen finite, but ran the risk was that the Kyubi would consume Naruto's chakra to the point where he could die from chakra exhaustion. The fact was that Naruto's trademark technique Kage Bushin, divides his power into many bodies would accelerate the process, thus he could only use it sparingly. However, after he and Kurama become partners there aren't any risks to the form, and it can even be used as a Fantastic Light Source.
    • The powers of the Mangekyo Sharingan have a drawback that they cost a staggering amount of Chakra to use and they will eventually blind the user. The former doesn't affect Sasuke as much as it affects Itachi, who with his low chakra reserves can only use the MS three times a day if he doesn't want to collapse. The only way to get rid of the drawback is an MS transplant, which gives the user the Eternal Mangekyo Sharingan-which only Sasuke and Madara have. Itachi doesn't have the drawback as an Edo Tensei due to unlimited chakra and regeneration.
  • In Dragon Ball, many powerful attacks require a long charge time:
    • In its first appearance in Dragon Ball Z, Piccolo's Special Beam Cannon is a Disc-One Nuke in terms of attack power, but takes five minutes to charge up. He is only able to successfully use it on Raditz by having Goku make a Heroic Sacrifice to hold him in place. The charging problem is largely corrected in subsequent appearances, presumably because Piccolo trained to perfect the technique. Until Dragon Ball Super, when Piccolo charges the Special Beam Cannon against Frost and it is specifically noted that this is the first time he's charged the technique to full power since the fight with Raditz.
    • Similarly, the Spirit Bomb is an ultimate attack that is more powerful than Goku could ever manage on his own, but he needs a long time to prep it while standing mostly still, rendering it Awesome, but Impractical at best.
    • The original power multiplier is the Power Stressed form, which increases one's muscle mass and power... And consume stamina much faster (in the original series Master Roshi managed to blow up the Moon, but completely exhausted his power in the process). Furthermore, if one goes overboard their muscles will become so large they'll obstruct movements, making the user too slow to hit the enemy.
    • Before getting Super Saiyan, Goku also had the Kaioken technique, which is supposed to increase one's power. However, because of the strain, King Kai specifically states don't go over Kaioken x2. His fight with Vegeta forces him to hit x4 and it leaves him so sore he can barely move and still doesn't stop the Saiyan. He even pushes himself to x20 fighting Frieza and all it does is leave him a sitting duck.
    • All Super Saiyan forms provide a massive increase in power (the basic Super Saiyan multiplies it by fifty times), but they also have drawbacks:
      • A common one is that they deplete stamina faster, with Super Saiyan 3 and Super Saiyan God being especially bad about it. Mastering the form can reduce this drawback to a minimum, with an increase in available power as a side effect, but it takes serious and long training (about one year for Goku), and nobody ever got around doing it with any but Super Saiyan, Super Saiyan God, and Super Saiyan Blue.
      • Ascended Super Saiyan combines the basic Super Saiyan form with the Power Stressed form, increasing the power through both multipliers... And so the stamina depletion. Ultra Super Saiyan is similar in that it increases the muscle mass more than Ascended Super Saiyan, with a proportional increase in stamina depletion... Plus increasing the muscle mass to the point the movements are impaired (hence Vegeta never bothering with it after discovering it, as he could anticipate the drawback).
      • Super Saiyan with its variations and Super Saiyan 2 also make the user far more arrogant and bloodthirsty than they'd normally be, at times prompting them to take utterly idiotic decisions (during the Android arc Vegeta was prone to overestimate himself and underestimate the enemy, leading to him taking on 18 alone and being utterly mauled and later allowing Cell to absorb 18 and achieving its much stronger Perfect form, and after becoming Super Saiyan 2 Gohan became a sadist that didn't take Cell out immediately just to make him suffer, allowing Cell to try and self-destruct himself alongside the entire planet). Mastering the form allows the user to think straight, but since it requires the user to stay in the form nobody tried it with Super Saiyan 2 out of fear of the potential consequences.
      • Super Saiyan God provides a far greater increase in power than almost all other forms (only Super Saiyan Blue is better, and that one consists in applying the standard Super Saiyan form to Super Saiyan God)... But requires a lengthy ritual, and upon initial achievement is a stamina sponge as bad as Super Saiyan 3.
      • Super Saiyan 4 has a x500 multiplier... But requires the Saiyan to still have their tail to use it at will. Alternatively, Bulma managed to come up with a way to achieve it without tail, but it requires a large device to be used for every transformation, and it can run out without warning.
      • The Legendary Super Saiyan form, or Berserker Super Saiyan, provides the same multiplier of Super Saiyan 4, though it's heavily restricted (it's said there's one Saiyan every thousand years who can use it). The drawback is, of course, that the user turns into a bloodthirsty monster until they master their emotions in the form.
    • Pikkon's lightning fireball attack from a filler arc was insanely powerful, but Goku caught the flaw in that there was a long prep time and a long execution time, giving him a chance to sneak in quickly.
    • Vegeta's Final Flash is powerful enough to present a serious threat to Perfect Cell, despite Cell being so much stronger than Vegeta at that point, it was borderline ridiculous. Given the size of the beam and the amount of damage a glancing blow did, it likely would've vaporized Cell and ended the arc prematurely had it hit cleanly. But it also took most of an episode to charge up, time Vegeta was able to get by appealing to Cell's Blood Knight tendencies and daring him to try and No-Sell the attack. Cell realized at the last second that it was an actual threat and tried to dodge, but still lost an arm and a good chunk of his chest. Later against a Cell Jr., Vegeta tries skipping the long charge-up sequence but this makes the attack much weaker and thus ineffective.
    • A filler arc in Dragon Ball Super has Goku combine the Kaioken with his Super Saiyan Blue form, which massively enhances the benefits of the former while temporarily suppressing the drawbacks. However, this has some new major drawbacks: besides requiring a very precise ki control, lest it misfires and kills the user (which is why Goku never attempted this until he obtained Super Saiyan Blue, which comes with perfect ki control), it causes "Delayed Onset Ki Disorder", aka a temporary loss of ki and control of the user's powers sometime after turning back to normal - and, if the technique is used too much, the power loss becomes permanent.
    • In the battle against Fusion Zamasu in Super, Goku and Vegeta fuse into Vegito and use the Final Kamehameha against him as a way to severely damage him. After the two defused and tried to turn into Super Saiyans in an attempt to deal with Zamasu's spirit, both of them are unable to maintain the energy because of all of the energy they used for the Final Kamehameha beforehand.
  • Heaven's Lost Property: The combat angeloids are built to have 3 main attributes: Computational ability, Combat prowess, and Emotional control. They are focused on two of them while lacking in the third one.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, as the series progresses Zenitsu steadily becomes one of the fastest beings in the story, but the drawbacks of his Thunder Breathing techniques never fade away, Zenitsu only works around making the extreme muscle fatigue on his legs take longer to kick in after continuous usage of his abilities; that limitation is put into place so Zenitsu doesn't become an untouchable speedster without limits, otherwise he would be an unparalleled demon slayer, with very few equals.
  • Inuyasha learned how to use the wind scar technique at any time, instead of using it only when he could sense the right moment. But from that point on, he encountered enemies who were able to defend against or reflect it, thus making it most useful for slaughtering mooks rather than villains like Naraku.
  • The ZERO System from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing provides speed-of-thought mecha control and predictions of enemy actions that border on prescience. However, the absolute focus has to be maintained, because if one's mind wanders, the massive feed of battle data is then applied to whatever he thinks about - like his homeland or his girlfriend - typically with bloody results, which makes his focus slip even more, which shows more horrifying images...and so on.
    • An invoked example from the same series comes from the space fortress Libra's Wave-Motion Gun, which requires massive downtime after firing and thus can't be used consecutively. In the penultimate episode, we learn that its creators (the Gundam Engineers) added the drawback on purpose to prevent its abuse. And it's strongly implied that Zechs Merquise, the guy in charge of Libra, asked them to do it.
  • Played with in Hunter × Hunter, as the Nen users can intentionally give their abilities specific downsides or limitations, which directly results in a massive powerup to the ability. For instance, Kurapika Kurta made a Nen Contract to only use Chain Jail on the Phantom Troupe with a penalty of his power killing him if he uses it on anyone else. The result is an ability that can restrain someone with Super Strength in addition to shutting down all their Nen abilities, but it only works on a very small group of people.
  • In My Hero Academia, most Quirks, being physical abilities, can cause exhaustion if overused. Some Quirks also have their unique drawbacks. To name some examples:
    • Izuku and All Might's Quirk, One For All, requires careful control to use. Concentrating too much power into one body part can result in grievous injury.
    • Ochaco Uraraka's Quirk, Zero Gravity, makes her sick to her stomach if she overexerts it, or attempts to use it on herself.
    • Todoroki's Quirk, Half-Cold Half-Hot, balance each other out. If Todoroki overuses one of his powers, it can weaken him, such as becoming more sluggish from overusing his ice powers.
    • Tokoyami's Quirk, Dark Shadow, is affected by the surrounding level of light. Bright lights make his Quirk weaker, but easier to control; while dark surroundings make it harder to control, but stronger.
    • Stain's Quirk, Bloodcurdle, has varying levels of effectiveness based on his victim's blood type: Type-B blood renders his opponent incapacitated longer than Type-O blood.
  • The Guyver Biobooster Armour has a neat sliding scale of power vs speed, with a Chest Blaster on one end of the scale that can destroy mountains but requires the wearer to open his chest with his own hands and takes several seconds to charge up.
  • Firing the Wave-Motion Gun in Space Battleship Yamato requires that the ship's engines be taken offline, leaving her a sitting target immediately before and after each shot.
  • Luffy's "gears" in One Piece. Gear Second gives him a massive speed and strength boost, but it burns through the nutrients in his body much faster, so he's sacrificing stamina for it. Gear Third makes his attacks even more powerful and with a much wider area, but his ability to flow from one attack to the next is about as quick as a snail trying to drag a crate of bricks, so it's not much good if an attack misses and he has to go again, or if he has to attack more than one opponent that is nowhere near each other. Plus once he's done with his giant form, he has to spend an equal amount of time as a helpless chibi. After feeling the downsides of both of these abilities during their debut in Enies Lobby, though, Luffy has mostly gotten around them by limiting their use to short bursts.
    • Then the Time Skip happened and now Luffy has gotten around both of these weaknesses, having used Gear Second for several fights without concern (even though he doesn't need to) and able to transition Gear Third techniques quickly and easily. Plus he's combining them with Haki. But now he's revealed the new Gear Fourth. Despite its power, this form is even more draining than Second Gear: it automatically deactivates after a short time, leaves Luffy so drained that he is barely able to fight and temporarily unable to use Haki. Using it twice in succession leaves him unconscious.
    • Trafalgar Law's Ope-Ope Fruit allows him to create "Rooms" where they can cut up and rearrange absolutely anything inside of it, including switching around people's souls. This would be a Story-Breaker Power if it wasn't for its drawbacks. First, he can only affect things that are inside a "Room" - which is stationary, and Law cannot maintain more than one "Room" at the same time. Second, he has to concentrate on what he's trying to affect, and if he's unable to (for example, if his target moves so fast he isn't able to follow them), he cannot affect them. Most importantly, unlike literally any other Devil Fruit, his abilities consume his stamina.
    • Blackbeard's Dark-Dark Fruit allows him to control darkness, and also gives him Gravity Master abilities such as using a black hole to pull opponents towards him. However, while all other Logia-class Devil Fruits allow the user to turn their body into their respective element and let enemy attacks pass through it harmlessly, Blackbeard's gravity does not allow him to turn incorporeal. The pulling force attracts enemy attacks towards his body, making them less avoidable and more damaging.
    • Chopper's Monster Point form is extremely powerful in both offense and defense, but it always comes with a drawback; and every time he fixes it, a new one pops up. Pre-time skip, the form turns him into a rampaging mindless beast, and the strain will eventually kill him unless he's disabled in some way. Post-time skip, he learns how to remain in control, and the strain is merely exhausting instead of lethal; however, Monster Point now automatically deactivates after three minutes. Some time later, he extend Monster Point's duration to 30 minutes, at the cost of temporarily locking him into a new minuscule form afterwards.
  • Anyone in the world of Toriko endowed with Gourmet Cells gets this trope. The cells provide you with tremendous power, but you gotta keep feeding them...a lot...every day. All Gourmet Cell users are by necessity Big Eaters.

    Comic Books 
  • A What If? story on Superman theorized that without the existence of Kryptonite, Superman himself would not be nearly as powerful. His strength is measured by the ability to weaken him. The more weaknesses he has, the more powerful he is. Hence his Power Creep, Power Seep from "faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound" to...well, Superman.
  • X-Men:
    • Wolverine has the Nigh-Invulnerable adamantium skeleton that renders him nearly invulnerable himself, adding to his already powerful Healing Factor. One story had the adamantium removed painfully from his bones, but without it, Wolverine was insanely fast, not being weighed down by an additional 200 pounds, and healed even faster, not having to deal with heavy metal poisoning. Then he got the adamantium back, and they forgot to tone the healing factor back down...
    • This is the reason behind Cyclops needing his ruby-quartz visor to handle his Eye Beams. If he had complete control most any battle would be short-lived or at least manageable through his involvement alone. The visor appears to focus the concussive blast into something with surgical precision and he can alter the exact power level, while once removed it becomes a random energy beam of destruction. This was explained that the nerve cluster in Scott's brain that would control the blasts was damaged in a head injury he suffered as a child before his mutation became apparent. And depending on the continuity if Rogue absorbs his power she might also be incapable of controlling it.
  • The most common explanation of the silver age Green Lantern's inability to affect yellow objects was that his ring and power battery had a "necessary impurity" in their composition.

    Fanfiction 
  • In the One Piece fanfic, This Bites!, Princess Vivi gains the power of the Sovereign's Will. The Sovereign's Will is a variation of Conquorer's Haki that forces the listener to obey her commands for a brief time, but comes with an additional requirement to work. Like Conquorer's Haki, Vivi has to impose her will on another, but that person must also respect her and her authority, or her Will won't affect them.

    Film 
  • In The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne upgraded his Batman costume to fix some defects he learned in practice, such as a limit on his mobility and the inability to turn his head. Lucius Fox explained that this new suit is equally bulletproof and more mobile, but to do so he had to separate the pieces of armor, which gave the suit more weak points a knife (or claws) could get through.
  • Star Wars:
    • In the Expanded Universe, the Jedi debated on who should fight General Grievous in Revenge of the Sith. Mace Windu concluded that while both he and Yoda are more powerful Jedi, their fighting styles come with inherent weaknesses that could be their downfall. Windu's Vaapad style was overly aggressive with minimal defense and Yoda's Ataru was a matter of compensating for his height, involving a lot of acrobatics. Obi-Wan Kenobi, on the other hand, mastered the Soresu style — offensively weak but with no defensive flaws, allowing him to maintain his position effectively even against the four-armed Grievous while waiting for the right moment to strike. (Its "weakness" was that a Soresu user might have to count on an opportunity arriving instead of creating one.)
    • In The Phantom Menace Qui-Gon Jinn was also a master of Ataru. He met his end when the fight against Darth Maul led him into a confined space which didn't leave much room for maneuverability.

    Jokes 
  • A common add-on to the "X, Y, Z: Pick two" setups is to designate a sub-category that's even worse off.
    College: Good grades, good social life, sleep: pick two. Engineering/Medical/Legal/etc. Students: Pick one.

    Literature 
  • In Codex Alera, each different type of fury crafting has several drawbacks, both the need for free contact with the element involved, I.E. some dirt or stone to earthcraft, trees to woodcraft, etc, but also tend to have lingering mental and/or emotional effects, which are stronger the more powerful the fury-crafter is. Water crafters, for example, are constantly inundated by the emotions of everyone around them. For weak crafters, this is a minor annoyance, but for stronger ones, it can drive them quite mad.
  • Discworld: Going Postal has not one but two drawbacks to getting the Grand Trunk back online: "Do you want it fast or good or cheap, gentlemen?"
  • All sources of supernatural power in The Dresden Files. No exceptions. It's one of the biggest themes in the series.
  • In The House Of God, medical interns are advised that they can be lazy, incompetent, or assholes, but not more than one.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Burn Notice has mentioned repeatedly how to properly search a location and hide your valuables. A hiding spot that would be difficult for crooks to locate also has to be difficult for yourself to retrieve easily. Thus hiding something in the wall will require straight-up demolition to find. Most of the show is about learning where those drawbacks are and finding the most efficient advantage, thus Michael hid a key card in the door frame behind the hinge using a saw and then covering it up. No one would think to look there and recovery just required 30 seconds and a screwdriver.
  • In Crusade and A Call to Arms, the main gun of the Excalibur can blow pretty much anything out of the sky, but each shot completely drains the capacitors, leaving the ship dead in the water with no defenses for a full minute. Better not miss.
  • Cloaking devices in pretty much every incarnation of Star Trek has two drawbacks: you can't fire weapons while cloaked (meaning that you have to reveal yourself to attack), and you have no shields while cloaked (meaning that if someone does manage to find you and hit you somehow, you're toast).
  • Most of the artifacts in Warehouse 13 and its predecessors, as lampshaded by the Arc Words "There's always a downside", and often involves Kill the Ones You Love. For example, there's a metronome that can bring someone Back from the Dead, but only by making the person who revived them feel their pain, a phoenix medallion that makes someone invulnerable to fire at the expense of Innocent Bystanders' lives, a cigarette case that gives a blues musician amazing talent at the cost of taking on other peoples' pain, an astrolabe that can undo the previous day but produces an Enemy Within, and a butcher's knife that can cure someone by transferring the ailment to someone else.

    Pinball 
  • Alien (2017): Using the Flamethrower briefly activates the ball saver, giving the player a valuable safety net from any kind of drain. However, it only lasts for two seconds, necessitating proper timing for it to be of any use. As the designer of the rules states here:
    "That's by design, I didn't want it to be too powerful."

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: A recurring theme in the construction rules is that equipment made of lighter materials than normal ends up being bigger than normal and thus eats up more internal space; classic examples are extralight fusion engines, endosteel structure, Ferro-fibrous armor, and double heat sinks. Where this principle isn't followed — XL engines on aerospace fighters are notorious offenders, and double heat sinks arguably also qualify since, when done right, they can end up saving internal space as well as weight relative to the standard model, — the items in question do acquire certain Game-Breaker qualities. (In-Universe, these things may be to some degree balanced by the cost — indeed, quite possibly the only reason internal combustion engines are still used at all is that they're notionally cheap and available, because they certainly have no actual in-game advantages whatsoever to compensate for their drawbacks, — but in actual gaming practice certain pieces of gear are just flat-out preferable to others. The Battle Value system tries to help balance things out, but it ultimately remains an imperfect rule that even after a couple of decades of development cannot hope to account for everything and retains several bugs.) From a material sciences point of view this makes a lot of sense. It is very very rare for one substance to be just plain better than another. For example, steel is much stronger per unit volume than titanium, but we use titanium quite often in aerospace construction where a bulkier (you still need to pass certain mechanical limits) but lighter structure is better. We rarely bother to use titanium in a tank.
  • Changeling The Lost: Goblin Contracts have powerful effects balanced by significant drawbacks, but there's one noteworthy inversion: Call The Hunt. It summons a Fae hunting party to your location without any drawback, because its effect is already its drawback. Needless to say, only Loyalists or the truly desperate will use it.
  • Dungeons Fantasy Roleplaying Game: The heavier head armor protects your head and eyes (which is very useful) but hinders your peripheral vision.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Paladin have access to extremely powerful abilities, but are required to be strictly Lawful Good and cannot do anything immoral. Notably, clerics and druids do not suffer these setbacks, and can be potentially much more game-breaking as a result.
    • Fourth Edition has created a much better balance between the classes at the cost of the "Simulationist" part of the "Gamer-Narrativist-Simulationist" triad in role-playing games. Character classes are here clearly divided into roles that complement each other. The result is a game that is mechanically far cleaner but which has lost some of its fluidity. Fourth Edition characters built "rules as written" and following all errata are barely able to be above or below the intended power curve. You could put your stats where the game recommends and pick powers at random and wind up barely weaker than someone who painstakingly min-maxed their character. However, each character can only handle their role of Defender, Leader, Controller, and Striker. Put out of their element, each character class is weak. It's Necessary Drawback for everyone. Some players love the playability and balance, while the others hate the movement from "rulings to rules." Neither side is right, as this is a personal preference, do not argue this with fans of one style unless you want a headache.
    • In-universe, guulvorgs have incredibly high metabolisms, giving them boiling-hot blood that harms anyone who tries to wound them and fueling their swift reflexes and constant growth. However, maintaining such a metabolism requires an immense amount of energy, forcing guulvorgs to eat voraciously and leaving them constantly hungry, and most die young from either starvation or literally burning themselves out.
  • Magic: The Gathering: This is an explicit design rule, as stated by R&D director Mark Rosewater. A card can have only two of the following: a low mana cost, high power, or no drawback. An entire Player Archetype, "Johnny", enjoys building decks around cards with quirky drawbacks.
  • Mutants & Masterminds: Every power has a point cost. Adding flaws and drawbacks reduces the cost. In addition, heroes can pull out related powers in a crisis by spending Hero Points; said power has to match the point value of the original power. Therefore, a common method is to take the regular power and add a flaw for the single-use such as the power taking longer to charge up, causing the power to tire out the user, adding a side effect, or preventing dodging while the power is being used.
  • My Life with Master: This is a gameplay mechanic. All players possess a "More Than Human" power which allows them to do a certain action and automatically succeed; however, they can't use their power in a specific situation (they can move silently, except in presence of babies). Additionally, they possess a "Less Than Human" weakness that works in reverse: it makes them automatically fail a certain action unless they're in a specific situation (they can't talk except when in their Master's presence). Often, players make it so that the thing that prevents them from using their power is the same thing that temporarily suppresses their weakness.
  • Pathfinder enforces the necessary drawbacks of the traditional D&D classes. It does this by nerfing the abilities of the once high-tier classes to render their weaknesses moot and spectacularly upgrading the abilities of the formerly low-tier classes to make them far more capable — so players will pick them. For example, the CoDzilla era began when players learned a Cleric or Druid could buff themselves to outperform the Fighter in his role, so Paizo nerfed the more powerful CoDzilla abilities while also buffing the heck out of the Fighter.
  • Rifts is not known for its game balance, but you can spot a few of these. The more widespread Super Soldier classes have a number of in-universe issues that serve as checks on their usefulness:
    • Juicers are fueled by Psycho Serum which makes them incredibly powerful, but it also means they have seven years to live before their hearts blow out.
    • Crazies gain their power from brain implants that will eventually cause them to go irredeemably insane.
    • Glitter Boys are usually seen as a Game-Breaker, but they have one problem that others don't: they're a Mighty Glacier class that everyone knows the weaknesses of. Glitter Boys also have very little manufacturing support, and what little they do have is very centralized in one particular political power. Consequently, they tend to suffer a lot of wear and tear just by being used in engagements over time, which can potentially shift then into Awesome, but Impractical territory for the pilot who does not want to risk adding a few more scratches to his paint job.
  • 7th Sea: In-universe, every school of sword fighting has one flaw, which can be exploited if you're familiar with the school (represented in-game by bonuses if you're fighting someone of a school you know). For example, one school teaches its students to fight by playing a song in their heads and attacking in time to it. The flaw? The chorus — the only time in the song where your motions will always be the same.
  • Warhammer 40,000 generally tries to have this, with the level of success varying, sometimes wildly, depending on who wrote the codex — one of the reasons a Space Marine bike list became powerful in late 7th edition was that bikes brought with them speed and durability and a decent amount of hitting power, without being all that expensive.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: A handful of monsters are obscenely powerful, but require quite a bit of set-up to accomplish, such as most Fusion and especially Ritual monsters. When the Chaos cards came out every player did a double-take, because they effectively changed the game forever with their Game-Breaker status. Remove two cards from your graveyard (a mildly unused resource anyway) to bring out monsters that can obliterate almost anything. Ever since then the card restriction list has always either banned them or restricted them to one in a deck, to maintain some sense of limitation.
    • Synchro Monsters are powerful and easy to Summon, but even they have a few drawbacks. One of the monsters needed to summon it has to be a Tuner. (Some Synchro Monsters need multiple Tuners to Summon, though XX-Saber Gottoms has the option of using more than one Tuner to Summon it.) Going even further than this are the Xyz Monsters, the third Extra Deck monster type. They have power comparable to Synchros, but their effects require monsters attached to them as a resource. This means they can only use their effects two or three times.note  Furthermore, a player can only have 15 cards in the Extra Deck (Fusion, Synchro, and Xyz), so the right monsters have to be chosen carefully, depending on the deck.
    • In the early days of the game any high-attack monster that was also sufficiently low in level to summon normally without tribute was given some downside to making up for this, such as Panther Warrior requiring a tribute to declare an attack or Goblin Attack Force turning to defense position where it could be easily destroyed after attacking.
    • Many powerful card effects are balanced by having them affect both players; Skill Drain shuts down the user's monster effects as well as those of their opponent. Players often find ways around these restrictions, however, such as by using them in decks that don't care about the drawback or finding a way to negate the effect once their turn begins so only their opponent experiences the downsides.

    Video Games 
  • The Standard FPS Guns in general fall into this, with rapid-fire weapons doing less damage per shot. In real life, an assault rifle has better range, accuracy, power, and rate of fire than a pistol, but in a video game that would make it overpowered, so they usually make pistols more accurate and powerful while making assault rifles fully automatic with large magazines.
  • Most RPGs fall into this same category concerning weapons and armor.
    • Powerful weapons are often slower or have longer recovery times, while more protective armor is almost always heavier and more movement-hindering. In reality, however, a two-handed sword is actually faster to swing and recover than a one-handed sword while also doing more damage (the weight difference between the two is minimal, while the power and maneuverability you can deliver with both hands increase considerably.) The real trade-off is that you can't carry a shield which, before the advent of plate armor, was a very risky proposition. This tradeoff is also regularly used in RPGs where weapons don't have speeds and a two-handed weapon uses up both hand slots. Beginner Dark Souls players will testify to how much harder the game is without a shield until you get your dodge roll timing down.
    • Speaking of armor, plate armor is often depicted as being heavier and more hampering than mail armor (commonly called 'chainmail' in games), when in reality, a full suit of plate armor is not only lighter than full-body mail armor, it's also less encumbering for its weight because the weight of the armor is distributed evenly across the body and locked down to minimize shifting when the wearer moves. In terms of combat effectiveness, plate armor is superior to mail in every measurable way, including weight and maneuverability. The reason it wasn't more common was that it was expensive and time-consuming to produce, so only the wealthy could afford it.
  • The Ace Combat series categorizes each plane as an Attacker optimized for air-to-surface (ground or naval), a Fighter optimized for air-to-air, or a Multirole plane that have a mix of both air-to-air and air-to-surface special ("SP") weapons. The most common "drawback" is Attackers and Fighters lacking SP weapons for the other role with some exceptions, or Multirole planes whose SP weapons don't particularly excel at their role. (Multirole planes will have to lean towards Attack or Fighter since planes can only carry one SP weapon type at a time, but in games that allow SP weapon switches the mix allows them to tackle missions with mixed opposition.) Of course, some planes (including the superfighters) will blur these lines...
    • Specific examples for air-to-ground SP weapons: Precision Guided Bombs/Guided Penetration Bombs (PGB/GPB) have a relatively short lock-on range and a small blast radius in return for the player being able to "fire and forget" and deal high damage to a single target. Advanced/4-Target Air-to-Ground Missiles (XAGM or 4AGM) has a decent lock-on range and can hit targets that are further spread out than a bomb could but can be wasted against large groups of ground targets clustered together which could have been defeated by a single Unguided Bomb (UGB). Long-Range Air-to-Ground or Air-to-Surface Missiles (LAGM and LASM) have extremely long range and high power, but with a much smaller explosive radius than bombs, the former deals less damage to naval targets, and the latter's unique flight path prevents it from actually hitting non-naval targets.
    • Even the QAAM has one drawback: it has the same lock-on range as the regular missiles. (Not that this balances against the unGodly agility.) Later games lowered the agility of the QAAM, changing it from a "hit eventually" weapon to a "probably hit eventually" weapon. In addition, the range of the QAAM dropped significantly starting in Ace Combat Zero, making it fly a much shorter distance than standard missiles, meaning that the player would have to get much closer to the target than the lock-on range to ensure a hit.
    • The add-on parts in Skies of Deception almost always have trade-offs, such as armor throwing away speed for defense or engines that do the reverse.
    • The Tactical Laser Systems has incredible range and power and will always hit what's in the targeting circle. However, that accuracy is also their greatest weakness; being unguided, if you can't keep the target in the circle then it is not going to get fried. Start working on your gun kills!
    • In 7 this is a balancing mechanic for multiplayer. More advanced planes are faster, more agile, and often (but not always) more firepower, but have fewer flares and lower upgrade part caps. For example, the sleek, bleeding-edge F-22 Raptor (described as "Kim Basinger as a plane") has just two flares while the ancient MiG-21 Bis "Fishbed" (which first flew in The '50s) has half a dozen. Going far up the Tech Tree gives you more performance, but you pay for that sheer power with less versatility and are expected to make up for the fewer "get out of explosive missile death-free" cards with better evasion skills.
  • Most equipments in Alpha Protocol have this. A certain magazine type may increase ammo capacity but penalize stability. Armored joints increase Endurance but make more noise. Stealth armor has good sound dampening but inferior Endurance bonuses to combat armor. Even the stuff that is a straight upgrade over base gear, usually guns manufactured by Hamilton, usually has inferior stats in certain areas compared to other manufacturers' weapons that greatly improve one or two areas in exchange for penalizing others.
  • Assassin's Creed has a couple of examples:
    • From Assassin's Creed II on, you have firearms, which are an instant kill on almost all enemies, but take several seconds to aim and also alert any guards in the area.
    • In Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, you can send novice Assassins out on missions by themselves. There is a chance that they can fail. The chance of success can be improved by sending multiple or more experienced Assassins on the mission, but doing the former means that the benefits of success are split amongst them while doing the latter can result in the less experienced Assassins losing out on leveling opportunities.
  • Battlestar Galactica Online:
    • Weapons are divided into three types. One gives More Dakka but is short-ranged, one has a long-range but poor rate of fire and the third offers a balance.
    • Hull plating offers bonuses to hull points, defense against normal attacks, defense against critical hits, or a mix of two or more of those. The mixes give less of each attribute.
  • Defense of the Ancients shows this: Early-/mid-game gankers and mages have strong spells that can kill enemies easily at first, but the damage is fixed, and therefore as the enemy builds health, the spells become less powerful, plus they usually lack passives that scale well with items. Late-game carries are weak at first both in health and damage, but become very powerful with farming and usually have passives that scale with their growth. You do have some semicarries who can both gank and carry, but they can't do either as well as a hero dedicated to either archetype. Even within spells, there are tradeoffs: ranged fire-and-forget (almost) sure-hit stuns like Storm Bolt have a low stun time compared to, say, Shackles that needs the user to stand still and channel, leaving himself open, or Elune's Arrow where the target needs to be led a certain distance to achieve a long stun and the projectile is rather easily dodged.
  • In-universe example in Dragon Age: Origins. Mages have incredible power literally at their fingertips. However, this power draws the attention of demons, meaning that anyone who shows signs of magical ability is sent to the Circle Tower to be trained as a mage — under the watchful eye of the Templars, who will kill anyone who shows even a hint of consorting with demons. On top of this, all mages must provide a sample of blood for their "phylactery", a device that can be used to track them flawlessly, should they escape the Templars. Even if a mage does completely break free, they are still in very real danger from the actual demons.
  • The advanced vocations in Dragon's Dogma enhance aspects of their base class, but at a cost. The Warrior can inflict greater damage with greatswords and warhammers, but cannot use shields to bolster their defenses like Fighters, and their heavy weapons can leave them vulnerable to bosses. Rangers can fight well from long distances with longbows and have a wide array of skills to disrupt enemies, but their melee capabilities pale in comparison to Striders, making them less flexible. Sorcerors have access to the most damaging attack spells in the game, but sacrifice their healing abilities as Mages to use them.
  • In Earthbound, the Casey Bat is Ness's most powerful weapon... until you account for its 75% miss rate. When it hits, it hits hard, but as befitting its namesake, you're just as likely to strike.
  • Final Fantasy games that use the Active Time Battle system usually couple powerful spells with longer wait times between inputting the command and the actual execution, in addition to the higher MP costs. This can be deadly in a heated battle against enemies who like to spam powerful spells, since these restrictions don't seem to apply to them; when your only option for healing is Curaja, everybody else will likely have had their turn before the casting is finished. note .
  • Some custom parts in Ghost Recon: Future Soldier work like this - modifying a part on a gun will usually confer a bonus but also add a drawback. A long barrel will increase accuracy but also reduce maneuverability, an overpowered gas system will increase the rate of fire but also make it harder to control, and so on. On the other hand, some parts are objectively better than others; for example, the Gripod combines all the advantages of a bipod and vertical grip, and almost all attachments are better than no attachment at all.
  • The .357 Magnum in Half-Life 2 has pretty much perfect accuracy regardless of distance and can take out most enemies with one shot, but ammo for it is rare and you can't carry much with you. That, and it has a fairly long reload time.
    • Same for the crossbow in both games: similarly-perfect accuracy and high power, but ammo is again rare and they have a long cycle time between shots, combined with slow reloads for the first one and having to account for bullet drop for the second one.
  • Halo's Spartan Laser, introduced in Halo 3. It has pinpoint accuracy and will kill almost anything, soldier or vehicle, in one shot. This is mitigated by several Necessary Drawbacks - It can only fire 5 shots before running out of charge, it's very very rare, and has to charge up for about 3 seconds before firing.
  • In Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, right-clicking while Jake is using the Dallas mask causes him to whip out nunchucks and turn into a human buzzsaw that shreds any mooks he gets near to, plus greatly increases his speed. However, it has a long windup and cooldown time during which he's completely immobile.
  • Into Space: The better items are, the more they weigh, potentially slowing the rocket down slightly. Additionally, several items tend to improve something at the cost of something else getting worse, for example, Econom Mode that decreases both fuel consumption and engine power.
  • Kingdom Hearts coded has Cheat Tuners that can be toggled for some sort of gameplay benefit, but most also come with a penalty. The Loot Cheat increases the chances of random item drops but decreases Player Character Sora's HP, the Prize Cheat increases the prize drop chance but increases enemy damage, the CP Cheat increases the amount of CP awarded but decreases the amount of EXP that is gained, and the HP Cheat reduces enemy HP but Sora's is decreased by the same amount.
  • Left 4 Dead 2 has three extremely powerful weapons, but also very limited as designed:
    • The grenade launcher can kill common infected with a direct hit (and the splash damage can also damage or stumble nearby infected), make most special infected stumble, can inflict massive damage to the Tank, and the splash damage can make it easier to rescue pinned survivors. The grenade launcher can't have its ammo refilled, fires one shot at a time, it's quite easy to cause friendly fire damage, and reloading takes about three seconds.
    • The M60 is a heavy machine gun that can kill common infected in one shot, does a good amount of damage to special infected, and its beefy 150 ammo reserve means you can go full auto without needing to reload. The drawback is the M60's ammo reserves can't be refilled, making it a one-time use weapon.
    • The chainsaw is a powerful melee weapon that can kill common infected and most special infected in one hit and if you play your cards right, you can rip up a Tank in just seconds. The chainsaw takes a few seconds to rev it up for use, making you open to attacks. While logic dictates that a chainsaw can be refueled with gasoline, you can't use gas cans to do so.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild:
    • The soldier's armor set gives some of the best physical defense of any armor in the game; it also makes a tremendous amount of noise, making stealth nearly impossible. By contrast, the barbarian armor sends Link's physical attack to its maximum level and the stealth set makes him move in near-total silence — but the first mainly consists of leather wraps and war paint and the second is made of thin cloth, and both provide little physical protection.
    • Two-handed weapons deal tremendous amounts of damage and can easily send enemies flying with their blows, but their greater weight makes using them slow and awkward and leaves Link open to counterattacks. By contrast, spears strike quickly and have good range, making them useful for delivering rapid flurries of strikes with which to keep enemies off-balance, but deal very little damage per blow. One-handed swords occupy a middle ground.
  • Mario & Luigi: Dream Team: All the more powerful gear comes under this in some way, with the increased stats being part of a tradeoff for some other drawback. The Crystal items raise stats massively but can break during use and be destroyed. The Dark items do the same but hurt the wielder for every attack. And the Legendary Wear boosts every stat you have by a pretty big amount... with the not so minor drawback that you automatically get KOed in two turns. There are also a few badge effects that have great effects for the user... 50% of the time, with the alternative being to potentially KO everyone on the field at once.
  • Mass Effect:
    • The Normandy's revolutionary stealth drive relies on storing all outbound emissions in massive heat-sinks, thus making it virtually undetectable to other vessels. However the ship can only remain in stealth for a few hours at the most, or the massive buildup of heat will slowly begin to cook the crew alive. It also doesn't have any form of optical stealth, so even at maximum concealment it's 100% detectable if the enemy so much as looks out their window. This is a non-issue in practice, however, since the vast distances of space mean that combat virtually never happens in visual range.
    • The hybrid classes — Infiltrator, Sentinel, and Vanguard — make up for their talent flexibility with a lack of focus; a Vanguard won't have the nastiest talents a Soldier or Adept can bring to bear, for example. Then they got unique abilities, which gave them stronger definition but reduced flexibility — while neither a Soldier nor an Engineer can use a Vanguard's biotic charge, it does tend to push Vanguards into a tactical model of screaming and charging.
  • Path of Exile has these with its super-powerful passive skills called "Keystone Passives." They balance excellent advantages with harsh disadvantages, to the point that choosing one may fundamentally change how the game is played. Among them: your attacks will never miss at the cost of never being able to deal a Critical Hit, your summons deal much more damage but you can't deal any damage yourself, and being unable to dodge but being immune to stun. Several unique items also balance traits impossible to get on the Randomly Generated Loot with significant drawbacks. Immortal Flesh gives enormous life regeneration and physical damage resistance but also greatly lowers elemental resistance, Saffel's Frame can block spells but not physical attacks, Void Battery actually reduces your spell damage if you haven't optimized your build around power charges, and so on.
  • In the Pokémon games, the most powerful attacks either require a charging turn, a recovery turn or have very low success rates. Recoil damage and one or two of the user's stats being lowered are also things to watch out for, the most powerful attacks in the game will likely disable the Pokemon or even you. Generally speaking as well, the more powerful an attack, the less PP it will have.
    • The two moves with the highest Base Power out of all Pokemon attacks, Self-Destruct and Explosion, deal massive damage, hits all Pokemon on the field save for Ghosts, and halves the target's Defense on damage calculations,note  but causes the user to faint. The Damp ability also nullifies these.
    • The two status moves Shell Smash and Belly Drum are this because they boost the users' offensive power but make them more vulnerable to attacks. Shell Smash sharply boosts the user's Attack, Special Attack, and Speed, making them much better sweepers, but also lowers their Defense and Special Defense. Belly Drum maxes out the user's Attack but cuts their HP by half the maximum level (not current level, maximum level).
    • The status move Curse works differently depending on whether or not the user is a Ghost-type, but operates on the necessary drawback principle either way. If the user is not a Ghost-type, it boosts their physical stats but lowers their Speed. If the user is a Ghost-type, it causes the target to lose a quarter of their maximum health every turn but cuts the user's health by half the maximum level.
    • Ingrain gradually heals the user each turn, but it roots them to the ground so they can't switch out.
    • Smeargle's Secret Art is Sketch, which lets it copy almost any move in the game. To balance this, its stats are lackluster and its abilities are merely okay.
    • Most pro players prefer to use attacks with slightly less power, but no drawbacks. Others will use specific Pokemon or moves in combo with the power attacks to increase accuracy, remove the need to charge/recover, or prevent recoil - but since the number of Pokemon on a team (and moves a Pokemon can learn) is limited, this itself can be considered a drawback.
    • This also occurs in items and strategies, especially ones most often used for attackers in the metagame:
      • Choice Items like Choice Band and Choice Scarf can greatly increase a Pokemon's power or Speed, at the cost of forcing the Pokemon into using only one attack until it's switched out.
      • Life Orb provides a power boost to all attacks but causes the user to take damage with each attack (although Abilities like Magic Guard and Sheer Force can negate this).
      • Users of the Guts or Quick Feet Abilities can boost their Attack or Speed, respectively, when they are affected by Status Effects; this is often taken advantage of by players deliberately burning or poisoning their Pokemon with the Flame Orb or Toxic Orb items, resulting in Pokemon being faster or stronger at the cost of taking damage each turn and using up their item slot.
      • Introduced in Pokémon X and Y, some Pokemon are capable of Mega Evolution, a transformation that changes the Pokemon's appearance, grants a huge stat boost (the stats of the Mega-form Pokemon are different from the original form, but almost all gain an additional 100 points on top of their original base stat total), and even grant new abilities and types that further boost their power. The drawbacks? The Mega Stone takes up an item slot, and you can only have one Pokemon Mega Evolve in a given battle. If it faints, it reverts to its original form and can't Mega Evolve for the rest of the battle, even if you revive it. The sole exception to the former rule is Rayquaza, who instead needs to know Dragon Ascent to Mega Evolve — and this exception helped make it so powerful that Smogon banned it from Ubers, something they had never done before.
      • There are also drawbacks mentioned in Pokedex entries that are not actually reflected in gameplay (nor the anime), such as it causing many Pokemon to become bloodthirsty, and, for some, to even to be in pain (Mega Glalie jaw breaks because of the power overflow.)
  • The powers in [PROTOTYPE] show this: Claws are the fastest but weakest of the melee ones, Hammerfists are slowest but strongest, Muscle mass trades some power for a boost to Alex's basic offense moves, Whipfist gives range but loses power and Blade achieves something of a balance. Meanwhile, Shield can be broken after taking some punishment and needs to regenerate, whereas Armour gives a consistent damage reduction but lowers Alex's mobility.
  • Traditionally, in the Resident Evil series, the various types of magnum are extremely powerful weapons, capable of killing multiple enemies in a single shot. However, it has a very slow firing rate and ammunition is typically rare. When the game does start giving you more bullets to play with, it typically means you'll need every bullet you have for whatever is coming next.
  • In Rusty Hearts, bonuses to physical protection often come at the cost of penalties to magic protection, and vice versa.
  • In both South Park RPGs, Kenny doesn't get knocked out; he outright dies. On the plus side, he always has ways to come back; on the minus side, he cannot be resurrected by normal skills or items and has additional drawbacks that make it easier for him to die.
    • Princess Kenny from The Stick of Truth auto-revives a few turns after dying. She also dies if you fail any prompt when using her skills.
    • Mysterion from The Fractured but Whole turns into Dead Mysterion after being knocked out or using his Limit Break. Dead Mysterion can inflict various status effects and is invincible, but cannot inflict any damage, and he can only be resurrected by his secondary Limit Break. On top of that, if Dead Mysterion is the only character left standing, you automatically lose the battle.
  • Splatoon 2: The Salmon Run-exclusive Grizzco weapons are generally enormously powered-up versions of the normal weapon types. To keep them from being too powerful to be fun, they each have at least one glaring weakness to balance things out. In particular, almost all of them have insane ink consumption, the Grizzco Brella lacks any shield, and the Grizzco Slosher has a Painfully Slow Projectile (albeit one that that can damage normally-invincible enemies).
  • In Splinter Cell: Conviction, the various guns show this. The Five-Seven has the most number of Marks of all but isn't the strongest for the chaos of CQC when you don't have time to line up headshots. Scope-attachable assault rifles like the G36 or AK have the best range but can't be suppressed. The SC3000 is powerful and suppressible but its lack of scope limits its range and has only a measly two Marks. So on and so forth.
  • Star Ruler uses this as a key part of the game design; new subsystems unlocked through research are not just incremental improvements on the existing ones but have their flaws to balance the advantages they bring. To list just some examples:
    • Heavy Hulls are better protected than other hulls but have less space on the Design-It-Yourself Equipment screen.
    • Antimatter Generator generates much more power for less fuel but requires much more "control" than fusion.
    • Overpowered Laser deals much more damage than the standard laser but has much higher power need and cooldown time.
  • Star Wars Legends: In Jedi Outcast you can switch among three lightsaber stances: the Strong stance has powerful attacks that can overcome the defenses of melee opponents, but is slow and defensively weak. The Quick stance has very fast but weak attacks, high defense, and is the most effective at deflecting blaster shots. The Medium stance (the first one you learn) is a balance between the two, with a better defense than the Strong stance and better offense than the Quick stance.
  • In Super Smash Bros., Shulk's Monado Arts grant him a useful buff for a short time, but each Art also has a drawback:
    • Jump lets Shulk leap high into the air and increases the vertical range of his Air Slash attack, as well as his vulnerability to damage.
    • Speed increase Shulk's running speed but decreases his attack power.
    • Shield increases Shulk's defenses and makes him harder to launch, but also decreases his movement speed and jumping height.
    • Buster increases Shulk's damage output, but reduces knockback on his attacks and makes him take more damage as well.
    • Conversely, Smash increases Shulk's knockback, but reduces his damage output and makes it easier for him to be launched.
  • Sword of the Stars
    • Weapons: The weapon higher up the Tech Tree may deal more damage and have better range but is costlier to mount, fires less often, and may need a larger turret that tracks more slowly. Armor piercing mass drivers suffer a loss in actual damage and knockback to get higher accuracy, range, and less deflection off shielding.

      The sequel adds more complexity to the layer system. Some weapons deal incredible damage to ship internals but horrendous armor-piercing damage. Some weapons deal "deep" but "narrow" damage, meaning you have to get lucky but will quickly get to the innards when they hit the same spots. Others deal wide but shallow damage, meaning less penetration but you don't have to be as accurate. This is however averted with most late-game weapons that have deep and wide penetration and also greatly damage internals.
    • FTL drives also have their advantages and drawbacks. Hivers have to STL anywhere but can set up gates that enable one-turn movement. In the Antimatter era, they get the Farcaster tech that allows them to "teleport" to a system within 10 lightyears, but there is a chance of missing by up to two lightyears. Human node drive has the second-highest stated speed but must follow the natural paths, which are rarely straight-line between any two distant systems. Liir Stutterwarp has a comparable speed and can move directly between any systems, but slow down severely near gravity wells. Morrigi Void Cutter can theoretically attain the highest straight-line speed but requires large fleets; single-ships move slowly even with maxed upgrades. Tarka Hyperdrive is the simplest straight-line system, lacing funny conditions or effects, but isn't very fast. Zuul tunnel drive is similar to humans' but being able to form their paths comes at the cost of not being as fast (their paths also collapse over time, accelerated by continuous use). Whew!
  • Team Fortress 2 makes this trope a basis for every non-stock weapon as a balancing factor, so that pretty much everything is designed to be more a sidegrade than an upgrade in general use.
    • This is part of the reason the Engineer rarely ever gets new weapons.
    • One notable subversion is the Third Degree, which is a straight upgrade to the Pyro's stock Fire Axe, being able to hit both an enemy and the Medic healing them, but this usually means charging at an over-healed Heavy Weapon Guy and only with the strength of a regular fire ax. The Solemn Vow and Holy Mackerel/Unarmed Combat also provide upgrades without any particular downsides (Stat-O-Vision in the former and denying Spies who try Faking the Dead in the latter).
    • Team Fortress 2's entire design philosophy is based around the idea that nothing can go without a flaw, even with stock equipment and classes. The classes with One-Hit Kill are fragile and forced to play dangerously to do their jobs. The faster battle classes must go to close range to do damage and risk being counterattacked. The classes with the biggest guns are slow and easily targeted, but make up for it with higher health (or Sentry health in the case of the Engineer). The classes with the ability to deal widespread explosive damage are hampered by lower speed, self-damage, and long reload times.
    • This can play hell with the meta, however: Pyro used to have the "Puff and Sting" with the Degreaser flamethrower (which switches faster) and the Axtingusher (which has extra damage on burning enemies). Before this was the way the Pyro was supposed to get kills instead of using fire and afterburn. The reason  To nerf the strategy the devs gave Axtingusher a 75% slower switch-to speed (making it slower than molasses even with the Degreaser's 60% switch speed buff) and 20% slower attack speed (along with doing 1/3 less damage). This drawback was so severe that the Axtingusher stopped being the go-to weapon for pyro, even as a sidegrade.
  • In Wipeout 2048 Prototype crafts usually have some kind of drawback to secure that they are used either skillfully or don't become overpowered.
    • The FEISAR Prototype starts slow but gains more speed by passing through boost pads, to the point that it becomes faster than the majority of the other crafts in the game. However, it loses a speed charge on a violent collision, and the bar resets to zero upon starting a new lap.
    • The AG-Systems Prototype is the most maneuverable craft in the game and can pull off Double Barrel Rolls and Combat Spins outside of Eliminator mode. On the flip side, its shields are so flimsy you'll probably absorb almost all of your weapons throughout the race.
    • The Auricom Prototype cannot be stunned by weapons and regains shield energy over time, but cannot absorb weapons normally and cannot pick up defensive weapons either.
    • The Qirex Prototype ditches the use of normal weapons for a special self-reloading Minigun that can deal even more damage than the Plasma Bolt. A full clip can destroy even the sturdiest crafts in the game.
    • The Pir-Hana Prototype is the fastest craft in the game, with its top speed matching that of a fully boosted FEISAR Prototype. However, its acceleration is automatic and it cannot steer without using the airbrakes.

    Webcomics 
  • Bowman's Wolves in Freefall can react properly to human gestures and body language, because Dr. Bowman repurposed their mirror neurons. They can't react properly to the body language of their species. The current population of the Bowman's Wolf species is 14, so reacting properly to humans is, at least, far more valuable.
  • The Dewitchery Diamond in El Goonish Shive, to the point that in the most extreme cases it's a horrible idea to use it. All its creator Abraham wanted was a spell that would cure lycanthropy. Unfortunately, the lycanthropy had to go somewhere, so the werewolf form became a separate rampaging entity. And if you use it on someone with cosmetic magic on, then the magic is separated and becomes a clone. And added fun comes if the subject of cloning has lots of latent magic abilities... As a result of this, he's become an infamous Anti-Role Model in magical education — the correct answer would have been to sell the massive diamond and hire a competent mage to break the curse.
  • Torg's talking sword Chaz in Sluggy Freelance can kill just about any supernatural creature in a single strike, but it has to feed on the blood of the innocent to pull this off. Torg, being a good person himself, is naturally against the idea of using the obvious sources of such a commodity.

    Web Original 
  • Shadows, the Elite Mooks of the Order of Denderah in lonelygirl15, take several drugs that raise their awareness, build muscles and remove the need for sleep, but as a side effect, few can survive past the age of 30.

    Western Animation 
  • Aladdin concludes with Aladdin freeing Genie from the lamp, with the result that Genie is no longer bound by the restrictions of only being able to grant three wishes at a time and can come out of the lamp whenever he wants. However, when Genie returns to Agrabah after touring the world, in their subsequent adventures Genie makes it clear that his powers are now just "semi-phenomenal, nearly-cosmic" as opposed to his previous PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWER, thus making it harder for the heroes to defeat their foes as Genie often doesn't have the power to just deal with the current threat with the equivalent of a wish.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • The elemental benders have weaknesses and strengths to balance out everyone, making it a matter concerning the skill of the user rather than the actual bending practice that has the advantage. Fire is less effective in cold environments and gone during a solar eclipse. Water can easily be removed from the bender and is gone during a lunar eclipse. Earth only works with direct contact with the earth (although some powerful benders like King Bumi can overcome this weakness). Air has a limitless power supply, but is usually not an aggressive fighting style and does not feature any type of finishing move.
      • Note that Airbending's drawback is, in its entirety, the pacifism of the monks that use it. When Big Bad Zaheer gains the use of it from Harmonic Convergence, he quickly turns it into the Infinity +1 Element, capable of flight without a glider, creating hurricanes, and sucking all the air out of a victim's lungs.
    • The use of lightning attacks for firebenders is a powerful attack but requires some prep time. Likewise, the technique to redirect lightning can be devastating but has to be done fluidly, or else it could kill you just the same.
    • Water is an adaptable element, but this element's fluidity requires an almost exclusive reliance on the arms for bending. If the bender's arms are disabled, it's almost impossible to waterbend. Benders of sufficient skill/training could theoretically bend with their legs but this would be easily negated by simply binding them sufficiently.
  • The Justice League Watchtower had a Wave-Motion Gun built into it, powered directly by its fusion reactor. Besides the political implications of having that thing pointing at the Earth, once fired it required a 1-hour downtime to reset the circuits and power back up. This became a major plot point in "Panic in the Sky".

    Real Life 
  • You can argue this about personality. Every person's strengths also leave them vulnerable to a specific weakness. If you're incredibly kind and gentle you will be loved and trusted, but may also be used and have to deal with the pain that comes with caring too much. If you're incredibly determined, you can accomplish more, but at the risk of becoming stubborn and hard-headed. Having a strong imagination is great, right? It provides pathways to creative, entertaining careers and means you're rarely bored, but it's not so great when it's causing you to become paranoid over all the horrible things you imagine happening to you, your friends, and family.
  • As mentioned above, just about any weapon or fighting style created will have to sacrifice some advantage to gain a more powerful advantage. When you've found something wherein the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, everyone will do their best to jump on it, thus necessitating something new be found or made for you to continue to be ahead.
  • Project management. The variables are budget, schedule, and scope. You can fix only two of those variables at a time. If you have a fixed cost and timeline, you cannot know how much you can accomplish. If you know what to do and how much you can spend, you won't know how long it will take. If you have a schedule and a well-defined task, you will not know how much it will cost.
  • Automotive:
    • Vehicles equipped with a nitrous oxide injector will give the engine a sudden burst of speed but has to be in low doses and for short periods or else it will overheat catastrophically. Likewise, larger engines like a V-8, V-10, or V-12 will have more power but will suck up gas.
    • Newer larger engines attempt to overcome the "more power, more gas" problem by selectively firing some cylinders. A powerful V-8 engine, for example, may fire all cylinders while accelerating, but will only fire half when cruising. These engines have a new drawback as a result: acceleration lag while the unused cylinders finally start firing again.
    • Turbocharged engines have the drawback of turbo lag, the time between when the gas pedal is pushed and when the turbo kicks in (if the turbo only activates at high RPMs, for example, then there's a noticeable difference in acceleration power until the turbo kicks in). Generally speaking, the larger the turbocharger, the more power it can achieve, but the longer it takes to kick in. One particularly ingenious design, first introduced in a BMW diesel sports car (according to Top Gear (UK)) features a small turbo for lower RPMs, and a massive turbo for higher RPMs.
      • A similar way to avoid turbo-lag is to have multiple smaller turbines feeding the same engine. While effective at minimizing lag, it requires more space than a single turbo.
      • Don't forget variable geometry turbos where through various methods (Adjusting the turbine vanes for an example)
      • And on top of VGTs, there are anti-lag systems where there is a fuel injector (!) placed in the exhaust pipe before the turbo, strictly race use only. Some early anti-lag systems had some type of "bleed back" system where the exhaust is piped back into the turbo. (Audi Quattro from Group B)
      • For Group B cars, twincharger, supercharger for low RPMs, turbo for high RPMs
    • Fuel economy, performance, reliability. Pick two, you cannot get third.
    • LeMans Prototypes are on a similar level of sophistication as Formula One, but they need to be able to withstand endurance racing so they don't have the same level of engine tuning as in F1. They also have added weight from having lights so that they can race in the dark, and can't handle corners as well as an F1 car, but their top speed is typically better than an F1 thanks to their lower drag bodywork and their fenders.
  • Investment funds. The high-return ones have quite a high risk of crashing and burning, while safer ones like saving deposit funds have low returns. Very low returns.
  • Lots of good-tasting foods are awful for the waistline, while many health foods and products aren't tasty or are outright sour or bitter. This is because the easiest way to make food taste good involves adding more sugar, fat, or salt.note Some exceptions taste good and are good for you, but they tend to be more expensive and less profitable, leading to less variety and availability.
  • A country's currency system can only manage two of three desirable outcomes: capital mobility, independent monetary policy, and fixed exchange rates. Most industrialized countries sacrifice the last of these via a currency with a free-floating value on the world market. Countries that don't have a free-floating currency usually sacrifice the second point, pegging their currency valuation to an external source (gold, the US dollar, etc.) outside their control. Sacrificing the first makes international commerce horrendously difficult, so it's now exceptionally rare.
  • Most people, especially kids, find cough syrup to taste disgusting. This is an intentional trait so that nobody will overdose on it because it tastes good. They're also typically given strong or bitter flavors because society expects that effective medicines taste bitter. Studies have proven that flavorless medicines are ranked worse than foul-tasting medicines in terms of effectiveness even when they're the same drug!
  • Mouthwash tastes disgusting due to the amount of alcohol in it specifically so people don't drink it. However; anyone who watches Intervention can tell you that people actually do get drunk off of Mouthwash or Vanilla Extract.
  • It's often joked that when you're looking for romance on the internet, there are plenty of attractive people, sane people, and single people, just nobody who meets all three criteria.
  • A common truism in security work is that the harder you want it to be for bad guys to get things the harder it is for you to get them when you need them and anything you do to streamline the process also weakens security. For example. a randomly generated twenty-digit password is tough to crack but hard to remember, and if you write it down, anyone who can get at the paper can break security.
    XKCD comic 936: "Through 20 years of effort, we've successfully trained everyone to use passwords that are hard for humans to remember, but easy for computers to guess."
  • The myriad laws of conservation mean that, as far as Science can tell, every technological advancement comes with a laundry list of drawbacks that weren't present in earlier devices. The key (and some might say the art) lies in making sure that as few as possible of these new drawbacks affect what Joe or Jane Average does with the technology in 99% of their intended everyday use. Many plausible methods have been proposed for overcoming one or more of the laws but their drawbacks tend to be the massive costs involved (monetary or otherwise). As an example, E-books are lightweight, cheap, and consume less paper than a stack of books carrying the same amount of information. On the downside, e-book readers require power and are made with several materials that are toxic if not disposed of properly, plus have a high up-front cost that has no analog for paper books. You could write an essay detailing the necessary drawbacks of both mediums.
  • In desktops, there's performance, quality, and price. You can only pick two. In laptops, there's performance, battery life, and price. Again, you can only pick two.
  • Every engineering project has to choose between the two of three: how fast you can get it down, how cheaply you can do it, and how good the quality of the object is.
  • The laws of aerodynamics and hydrodynamics mean that every airplane and yacht is a compromise. Fast, Dry, or easy to handle; Pick two, because you cannot get the third. For airplanes: fast - safe - maneuverable - pick two but not three. Except when you're just willing to spend more money, time, and resources on a design, which then becomes the drawback.
  • In every landscape except plains with no human settlement (which raises the question of what the point of the rail line is in the first place) a rail line can be any two of the following three: cheap, straight, flat. A straight line is necessary for High Speed Rail, a flat line is necessary for freight, but if you want a line to be both flat and straight, you will have to tunnel through every mountain and bridge over every valley - none of which is cheap.
  • In computer programming, you can make something faster at the cost of needing more (random access) memory or decrease its memory needs at the cost of being slower. A lot of computer evolution, both in hardware and software, has been finding ways to improve the exchange rate or just straight increase the number of resources available to fiddle with.
  • The reason there are three different kinds of skates, one for each sport (Hockey, Figure Skating, and Speed Skating)
    • Hockey skates are built for sharp, sudden, motions. Their blades are short and curved on both ends, with dual-edged blades to maximize control and maneuverability. Their boots are tall and thick, providing extra reinforcements for the ankle as well as protection from the numerous heavy collisions the sport involves. However, the short blade makes high speeds harder to maintain over long distances, and the heavy boot is more restrictive of one's range of motion.
    • Figure skates are wider and longer than Hockey skates and are only curved at the front, which also has a series of sharp spikes, or picks, built into it for jumping, while the rear is straight and extends out further. Figure skating boots are lighter, and typically don't have as much ankle support, especially on the front, to enable the leg to bend forwards more, being designed for long, graceful motions and jumping. The pick at the front limits a skater's options and the overly wide blade makes higher speeds difficult to achieve.
    • Speed skates are not curved at all, with the blade extending out on both ends, the boot is effectively a shoe, with no ankle reinforcements whatsoever, and are occasionally hinged at the front to allow the blade greater contact time with the ice. They sacrifice the ability to make turns as well as other skates for raw speed, both in acceleration and maximum sustainable speed.
  • Cheetahs are known for being the fastest land animal, but that speed comes at the cost of being very fragile compared to the other predators in Africa. They also must stop and rest after a full-blown run or they will die from overheating, so they can't even eat immediately. This means other predators commonly steal their kills.
  • Warships and other military vehicles (e.g. tanks, aircraft, etc) have a "design triangle": You can have firepower, armor protection, or mobility; Pick two. This is because weapons and armor are heavy, so the more you add the harder it is to move the thing. Sometimes it's possible to get all three, but then the "triangle" becomes a "quadrilateral" because creating a vehicle that is heavily armed, well protected, and highly mobile will come at an extremely high cost. Some examples of the extremes:
    • Towed artillery pieces have absolutely no armor protection and very little mobility, in return for heavy firepower and relatively low cost.
    • A pillbox or other small fortification is a tank featuring extremely strong armor and high firepower, but no mobility. Depending on construction methods they can also be fairly inexpensive.
    • Early tanks were slaves to this triangle; if you wanted a tank that could move quickly and hit hard, it would have to sacrifice protection; if you wanted it to hit hard and be survivable, it would be very slow. The advance of technology allows for modern main battle tanks that have very strong armor, powerful guns, and are pretty highly mobile, but they are very expensive to build, maintain, and fuel.
    • Extreme combinations of mobility and armor protection without firepower are rare, but this is because if you can add enough mobility, it can effectively replace armor. The SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft flew so high and so fast that despite several attempts no one ever managed to shoot one down because the aircraft and missiles sent after it simply couldn't catch it. As a recon aircraft, it had no weapons.
    • Infamously, battlecruisers were an early-1900's attempt to create fast ships with heavy armament, by sacrificing armor protection to save weight. The concept was that they could outgun anything that could outrun them (e.g. cruisers and destroyers) and outrun anything that could outgun them (e.g. battleships). This would make them excellent fleet scouts and long-range commerce raiders that wouldn't need escorts. However, their battleship-caliber guns proved too tempting for most admirals and they wound up being used in the line of battle against much better-protected ships on several occasions, leading to disastrous results and the rapid and complete loss of several ships with most of their crews in both World Wars.
    • As with tanks, naval architecture eventually advanced to the point that it became possible to create a ship that was heavily armored, well-armed, and fast—the Fast Battleship—but ruinously expensive. Besides the extreme range and flexibility, one of the reasons for the eventual disappearance of battleships and the rise of naval air power was simply that airplanes were cheaper.
  • Electronic musical instruments can have lots of features, they can have a user interface that's easy to use, and they can be cheap. But they cannot be all three at once.
    • An instrument that's both cheap and easy to use can only be quite limited. A common example is the entry-level arranger keyboard, and the Korg Monotron series and the Dübreq Stylophone go even further. The Roland TB-303 is very limited, it's fairly easy to use, and at least it used to be cheap before it became a Cult Classic.
    • Since one major factor in a synthesizer's price is the amount of real-time controls on the panel, a cheap and powerful synth will be hard to use because the limited user interface will require lots of menu diving. This trend started in The '80s with both analog and digital synths, the Yamaha DX7 notoriously taking the cake before the Oberheim Matrix-1000 appeared. It continued with many ROMplers, although what made early ROMplers expensive was the ROM rather than the controls. And it got Awesome, but Impractical with small virtual-analog or analog synths from the late '90s on, examples being the Clavia Micro Modular, the Alesis Micron/Akai Miniak, and the Dave Smith Instruments Tetra.
    • Synths that are powerful and accessible at the same time will require a big casing with lots of controls, and this will get costly. An example is the Schmidt Polyphonic Synthesizer, an eight-voice analog synth that was designed with "money doesn't matter" in mind. This was also one of the reasons why the Roland JD-800 started as expensive as it did. And the six displays on the John Bowen Solaris make it both rather user-friendly and pricey.
    • That is, in general, lots of features and parameters and "one knob, one function" will contradict each other sooner or later. Most one-knob-one-function synths are rather limited analog synths, and most more powerful machines require menu diving or even a software editor. What happens when both are combined was demonstrated by Jellinghaus: When people wished for a hardware controller for the Yamaha DX7 and the like, Jellinghaus made one with one knob or switch for each parameter. A DX7 patch has got 144 parameters, though, so this thing ended up almost the size of a coffee table and littered with so many knobs that its usability suffered again. And putting almost every last parameter of the Schmidt on its surface didn't make it as easy to use as a Minimoog either, it just relieves you from walking through countless menus.
  • Tribute bands that imitate a more sophisticated original than, say, a guitar rock band, especially when synthesizers are involved, have to choose between very detailed faithful reproduction, everything being played live on stage, and a band line-up and stage setup that doesn't get out of hand. But, again, they can only pick two.
    • Most bands have a normal number of musicians with a normal number and selection of instruments who play everything live because that's the easiest way. However, these musicians cannot reproduce the sound of the original that exactly to a tee.
    • Bands with a normal line-up who want to sound precisely like the original have to resort to using sequences or outright audio playback for those parts they can't play by hand. An ugly compromise would be to have additional musicians hidden away backstage from the audience's eyes.
    • Some bands start ambitious. They want to replicate the sound of the original to pain-staking detail and at the same time stay honest and play everything live. But they'll soon discover that this endeavor would take lots of musicians on stage with piles of instruments that are both expensive and too unwieldy for touring. Where other bands have one keyboardist with two keyboards, these bands would have something akin to mid-70s Kraftwerk, so they opted for half-playback or the "sounds close enough" route instead.

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