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Possession Implies Mastery

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"How do people in movies always know how to do this stuff without practice?"

A reasonably common fallacy based on the notion that the possession of a piece of technology, excluding things specifically described as a Black Box, implies that the owner has a full understanding of its workings and mechanisms, the principles on which it operates, and can adapt and use those principles in other matters in a reliable way, and can even undermine them as necessary.

In other words, anyone who owns a car is fully capable of building a car, and ought to be able to build an anti-car weapon.

This makes more sense when dealing with governments, mind you, who are both interested in and good at reverse-engineering. Groups throughout history have been stealing and reverse engineering each other's technology since somebody figured out a better way to tie a rock to a stick and lost it in a fight with a neighboring tribe.

Also, a character who is explicitly responsible for repair and maintenance of a piece of technology as well as operating it is likely to understand the underlying physics of its operations in great detail: The chief engineer of a nuclear-powered submarine probably could design a nuclear reactor, or at least explain the physics to a physicist from the early 1930s well enough to get the ball rolling on a prototype. Still, different cultures do have different ideas about the dissemination of knowledge; a Slave Race or the conscript-heavy military of a paranoid autocracy may not be entrusted with such information lest they betray it to the enemy.

This fallacy is often reinforced by Mr. Fixit, who generally can adapt any piece of technology he gets his hands on to do whatever the plot calls for — especially if he's a Technopath.

Compare Instant Expert. Contrast Cargo Cult, Clarke's Third Law, Scavenger World (where people forgot how to make a lot of things After the End), How Do I Shot Web? (the inverse of this trope with superpowers), You Shouldn't Know This Already (which stops gamers from using something they have before they learn how in-game), Low Culture, High Tech (where the this is not the case for a low tech culture using high tech gadgets), Black Box and Loyal Phlebotinum.

Has nothing to do with Demonic Possession (although one might wonder how easy it is for demons to work out how to use their hosts' bodies...)


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    Anime & Manga 
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Averts this for the most part, with those who have a good grasp of their Stand’s being either A) Natural born users who’ve had their stand since birth (Polnareff, Kakyoin), B) People who’ve had rigorous experience with using theirs (DIO’s assassins, Johngalli A.), or C) their stands literally explain their powers to their users (Trish Una).
  • Inverted in D.Gray-Man. Most exorcists only have a basic knowledge of innocence and their learn more about it through battles. Allen didn't even know what innocence is before joining the order and needed Komui to explain it to him. Conversely, the scientists of the Black Order study it and have a deep knowledge of its mechanics even though there is still a lot to be discovered.
  • Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Conspicuous by its absence; where barely understood higher technology acts like it.
    • Multiple plot points involve the protagonists being forced to use a foolhardy technique or maneuver and having it blow up in their faces. The Cool Ship first takes off using alien antigravity generators, which proceed to tear through the hull and float off into the sky. The second attempt is done with rocket engines made on Earth. On the other hand, the crew then pulled off an extreme low altitude space fold jump to outmaneuver the Zentraedi, leaving the aliens astonished that their enemy could do something they thought impossible. The inexperienced and desperate Macross crew had no idea this was supposed to be impossible and succeeded by pure luck. This actually works somewhat in their favor since their enemies are kept continually off guard with each stunt, unable to decide if their completely unpredictable enemies are pathetic amateurs or half-crazed tactical geniuses.
    • On the other hand, the Zentraedi could operate all their technology — but when something broke (such as the big screen in Breetai's command deck), all they could do was clean up the mess and make do without because they were kept deliberately ignorant of how to create or repair their own technology.
    • This lack of understanding actually kicked off the plot, on both sides:
      • On humanity's side, the crew of the Macross found out too late that the original owners of their ship had rigged it to fire its main cannon on the first Zentraedi ship that came in range, thus throwing humanity into a war with the aliens. More to the point, the low altitude space fold jump mentioned above ended up bringing an entire island (with over 5000 civilians) along for the ride, out to around the orbit of Pluto (they had intended to jump behind the moon. WITHOUT the island, in case you were wondering). Better yet, the fold space generator that they had used to make the jump literally vanished into thin air during the maneuver.
      • On the Zentraedi side, they quickly realize the crew of the ship is not their enemies and, knowing their penchant for similar traps, intended to leave humanity alone as soon as they destroyed the ship... Until they actually took a good look at the humanity-modified Macross and realized humans could actually understand and fix technology, at which point they changed their goal into capturing the ship and forcing the crew to teach them how to do the same.
  • This is the power of the Gandalfr Familiar, the position held by Saito, in The Familiar of Zero. If it's made for battle, he can use it. This is demonstrated when a shiny display sword given to him by Kirche completely fails in battle.
  • Haru Glory's Ten Commandments sword in Rave Master. It has ten forms, and Haru seems to know exactly what every form does the moment he needs it, such as bringing out Runesave to save Elie without having to kill her. This is however justified since the Rave of Knowledge explicitly provides this insight.
  • In Bleach, this is quite the opposite for pretty much anyone with spirit abilities. Especially captains, no matter how much of a genius they're stated to be. Which explains just why characters like Ichigo and Toushiro can keep getting pretty much curb-stomped, despite their power levels and genius. They have it — doesn't mean they have mastered it yet. Kubo seems to take great pleasure in avoiding this trope.
    • Kenpachi Zaraki is the best example of subverting this trope. He owns a Zanpakuto... but to him, it's just a normal sword. He makes up for the lack of Zanpakuto abilities with monstrous strength and spiritual pressure. Similarly, lesser shinigami have Zanpakuto without abilities, but it's implied that for most shinigami, gaining the abilities simply comes with time and effort, leading to an increase in rank and power.
    • Potentially utilized in the latest arc a Vandenreich member has literally stolen a Bankai, and gloats on how he will kill his opponent with it. The ensuing attack is completely ineffective and he gets stomped in less than a second, and it's pointed out that the attack was much less powerful than it was under its original owner.
  • A lot of characters in Code Geass seem to be able to pilot Knightmare Frames, despite having found themselves using them for the first time. Somewhat justified in that Suzaku mentioned having had some military-mandatory training on simulators in the first episode, Lelouch having used the Ganymede to make giant pizzas during previous school festivals, and Kallen having assumedly had some time to practice with that old Glascow. Still, a line from the Abridged Series is used as the page quote for Falling into the Cockpit...
  • Averted in Gantz. The main protagonist (among others) are given special combat suits and weaponry, but they have literally no idea of how they work until they figure it out by trial and error.
  • One Piece:
    • Usually averted with the Devil Fruits (especially with Luffy), but not so much for Kaku and Kalifa. While being top-ranked assassins with all sorts of cool superpowers, they were given Devil Fruits to be even tougher. Only a few hours later do they appear having nearly complete mastery over their powers, with the exception of Kaku, who, while shifting forms, accidentally enters his animal form instead of his hybrid.
    • Played straight with Usopp. He can operate or make wondrous inventions out of anything he can put his hands on, including a cannon (which he's never operated before), advanced fireworks, and the bizarre "Dials" of Skypiea (which he could never, ever, have seen or researched). His immediate understanding of any object in his possession would border on intuitive aptitude if he weren't so miserable at making repairs to the ship.
  • The magical girls of Day Break Illusion seem to have an inherent understanding of how to use their powers. Which would help explain why they're not actually trained.
  • At the beginning of the second season of Ojamajo Doremi, the heroines get new versions of their Dreamspinners, which require way different maneuvers than the first one,note  and they can easily do it without getting explanations on how to do it like it happened with the first one.
  • Fate/stay night averts this trope in the case of Gilgamesh, who has a Noble Phantasm which amounts to a Hyperspace Arsenal containing the prototype versions of every legendary weapon in history. Despite this, he can't actually use any of them effectively because he was a king in life, not a warrior. He instead resorts to firing hundreds of weapons against his enemies in combat, overwhelming them with power rather than skill. Shirou points this out in their final fight in the Unlimited Blade Works route as why Gilgamesh is just about the only Servant he could hope to defeat: Gilgamesh is so dependent on winning fights with barrages of swords that as soon as he fights someone who can do the same thing but even slightly faster, he's unable to match his opponent in close combat.
  • Fate/Zero:
    • This is the primary ability of Berserker. If he touches anything that could remotely be considered a weapon, he instantly is able to use it like a master. Worse, he corrupts it with his mana and powers it up so that it's more powerful than it would otherwise be. This works on everything from swords to clubs to gatling guns to F-15 fighter jets.
    • Specifically averted with Archer, whose primary ability is that he owns all the treasures in the world, including famous mythological weapons. He states himself that his wealth has long since exceeded his own knowledge and his primary fighting style is shooting ancient, super-powerful weapons at his enemies. It's implied that he couldn't just pick up any old sword in his treasury and use it to the same level of skill as its original owner, if very well at all.
  • In the first episode of Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon, Ash is gifted a Z-Ring with the Electrium-Z Crystal by Guardian Deity Tapu Koko. In the second episode, Ash and Pikachu use a Z-Move with little apparent difficulty — though Tapu Koko does guide Ash in the motions necessary to activate the Z-Move, and the crystal shatters afterwards.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Subverted during Mai's battle with Marik — she uses a card that lets her control Marik's god card The Winged Dragon of Ra, but because the card is written in an incomprehensible language she can't use it, but Marik can.

    Comic Books 
  • Subverted mercilessly in Marvel Comics' GLX-mas Special #1, where the second Grasshopper is taking his first jumps in a brand-new super-suit. After foiling a villain, Grasshopper is approached with a dinner invitation by his unwitting sister. After denying her advances, he makes a heroic exit by engaging the suit's "Maximum Jump" ability, which propels him into space, killing him instantly. Sidenote: to this day, there have been three Grasshoppers in Marvel continuity, and not one have them have survived more than a single issue. The most recent one debuted and was killed in all of three panels.
  • Played totally straight with the character Adept from Strikeforce: Morituri, whose superpower was the ability to analyze and understand anything she touched. Since their primary opponents were a race of alien Planet Looters with scavenged technology, this was very useful.
  • Averted for most of the Blue Beetle legacy. The first one, Dan Garett, got powers from it by saying a magic word (ultimately revealed to be misusing it, and the magic likely damaged its true function). Then Ted Kord came into possession of the scarab but never got it to work, instead borrowing its motif for his costume and gadgets. It was only the third owner, Jaime Reyes, who had it work as intended - but he still hasn't mastered it; the scarab activated because it chose to, and he still argues with it over what to do at times. (And now, in Rebirth, Dr. Fate reveals that the Scarab is actually magical after all, which implies that Dan had been using it correctly and Jaime had been using it wrong all this time, so it seems like nobody knows exactly what this thing is or how to use it properly!)
  • Discussing and averted in an issue of Transformers: Generation 2, when Starscream's gotten his mitts on the Matrix. Optimus and Megatron are being dragged to their death, and Megatron asks Optimus if he can't just override Starscream's control. Optimus tells him that this isn't the case with the Matrix, which Starscream goes on to prove when it turns out the Matrix is subtly making him nicer.
  • Averted in PK (the reboot of Paperinik New Adventures): when Zondag and his faction of Evronians get their hands on Kronin's chronosail they find how to make it work easy enough... But don't know what they're planning to do with it, that is alter the timeline to prevent the creation of their enemies Guardians of the Galaxy, is incredibly stupid. Kronin is too knocked out to warn them... And when he sees that a side effect of their job was to drive the warlike Evronians to pacifism he can't help but gloat that this is why he, a time-traveling pirate, never even tried to change time.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Some demons steal the lasso of truth but they can't figure out how to get it to activate so it's essentially an indestructible length of rope in their hands. They decide it's broken, but really they just didn't know how and probably weren't capable of using it.
  • Averted in Thunderbolts. When the bulk of the team separates from Zemo and Techno, M.A.C.H.-1 has trouble repairing the Powered Armor Techno made for him. He's a skilled engineer in his own right and had previously designed his own armored suit as the Beetle, but he didn't design this one.

    Fan Works 
  • Averted in With Strings Attached when John is handed a sword, but wields it rather inexpertly.
  • Averted in XCOM: Second Contact: The reason why humanity hasn't advanced too much from what they had at the end of the Ethereal War was that they spent the past century-plus having to learn the base principles of their tech rather than just randomly slapping things onto blackboxes like they did back then.
  • Averted in The Universiad with Forerunner tech. Despite having had the Forum for thousands of years, scientists and engineers still have yet to fully replicate the power of its equipment. The Forerunners are that far ahead.
  • Justified in Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, where Aria T'Loak has more knowledge of Star Wars tech than anyone else in her party—she specifically notes that after she stole a Trans-Galactic Republic starship she tried to learn as much about how it worked as possible. She even uses Technobabble pulled straight from the source that (obviously) makes no sense to her fellow Mass Effect-verse inhabitants. Samantha Shepard gets a downplayed but justified example—guns are guns (even across sci-fi universes). Pull trigger, discharge death. Plus, she's kind of a trained Super-Soldier who would be expected to play this trope straight with as many weapons as possible.
  • Averted with the Temptation's Touch Jutsu in Eroninja. Kanji, the first person introduced as a user, never went beyond the first "complete" version of the jutsu as he was only interested in its ability to turn women into sex slaves. Kanji's former village only has his incomplete notes and created a weaker version that makes people want to help the user (usually by giving them classified information). As a result, whenever something new happens with either the jutsu, Naruto, or one of his lovers, they have to spend time researching to figure out what changed. Even after three years of usage, one new change was so great that the group put a freeze on Naruto gaining any more lovers while they study it.
  • Discussed by Cerea's internal monologue in Daily Equestria Life with Monster Girl. She points out that just because you have a piece of advanced technology, or even know how to use it, it doesn't necessarily follow that you fully understand how it works. Cerea can use a cell phone without understanding programming or electrical engineering at any but the most superficial level, and just because Celestia can raise and lower SUN and Princess Luna can do the same with MOON, that doesn't mean that the Diarchs know how to repair or replace either if they break.

  • A little-known UK movie called Morons from Outer Space plays with this trope, as the aliens who crash-land on Earth are assumed to be a higher order of intelligence. In point of fact, they are the interstellar equivalent of ignorant tourists who rented a camper and ended up running off the road in the wrong town.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    Iron Man: THIS looks important! [R-r-rip!]
    • Seemingly played straight in Iron Man 2 when Rhodey takes the Mk. II suit to fight Tony in it, even when a scene earlier in the movie showed the disastrous consequences of people trying to make their own Iron Man armors, but it's shown he's able to get the armor moving, sure, but his control is much less refined than Tony's, even when Tony is completely drunk. Later on, it's also mentioned Tony made the armor with multiple redundances designed to prevent unauthorized access.
    • In Avengers: Endgame, Steve is able to use Mjölnir very effectively when one considers that he's never wielded it before, and it had been nearly a decade since the last time he'd even touched the hammer.
  • Averted in District 9 when Wikus gets into a suit of power armor and is shown stumbling around awkwardly. His good aim with alien handguns is shown (via the sophisticated HUD) to be a function of the suit itself, being highly automated and taking high-level orders via a semi-biological link. It's implied that if he actually knew how to use the thing, he would have been able to tear through the mercenaries like tissue paper; the auto-pilot curbstomps an entire gang in about ten seconds.
  • Averted in Ghostbusters (1984). On their first real job, the Busters end up causing a ton of damage to the hotel, including destroying a maid cart and completely wrecking a reserved dining room. Harold Ramis has gone on record for stating that the key was to portray the Ghostbusters as really trigger-happy and nervous when they're on their first bust.
  • Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace:
    • Anakin Skywalker assumes that because Qui-Gon Jinn has a lightsaber, he must be a Jedi. When Qui-Gon jokingly retorts that he could have alternatively killed a Jedi and snatched the lightsaber, Anakin claims that no one would ever be able to kill a Jedi.
    • The Jawas are known to be experts in scavenging and re-purposing even derelict junk, turning it into workable technology without having any real understanding of the mechanical processes involved. They don't comprehend how the EMP discharge from an ion blaster creates a power surge through a droid's circuits. They just figure out that if you attach a restraining bolt to a stripped-down blaster and fire it at a droid, that droid gets paralyzed.
  • Averted in The Terminator when Kyle Reese talks about how the resistance captured the time portal device to send him back to the 1980s. The consulting psychiatrist for the police asks him how it works and gets shut down with "I didn't build the fucking thing!!"
  • Sarris in Galaxy Quest apparently adheres to this trope, insisting that the Captain must know everything about his ship, including the intimate workings of the Omega 13. Nesmith finally has to reveal the fact that the "historical records" aren't real and he isn't really a captain to convince Sarris that he really doesn't know anything about the Omega 13.
  • Subverted in The Watch (2012): "I'm not an engineer, I didn't build it. I mean do you know how your cellphone works?"
  • The Boy Who Cried Werewolf: Subverted for Jordan, but played straight with Hunter. This could be explained by his being a natural werewolf, while she became one due to a blood infusion. He's able to use his werewolf abilities immediately, while she learns slowly.

  • The Fithp in Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's 1985 novel Footfall are a young alien species who came across a cache of technological knowledge left by another, older species and built their entire civilization around it. However, they never developed any kind of science and have a cultural tunnel-vision centered around the technologies in the cache; not only are they unable to analyze or extrapolate base principles from the ancient knowledge, but they cannot imagine or cope with a technology not laid out in detail for them in the cache.
  • The Yuuzhan Vong in the Star Wars Expanded Universe consider it heresy to even consider attempting to devise new biotechnology. Their race has possessed and used for their entire recorded history a cache of biotech they claim was given to them by the gods. New designs have secretly been introduced by their Supreme Overlord, who claimed the designs came from (fictional) parts of that cache only he can access.
  • This trope is lampshaded in the The Corellian Trilogy, where people who live on Centerpoint Station deny having perfect knowledge of how the station works. The character in question proceeds to ask the heroes how much they actually know about the technology behind their own spaceships. (Hint: few people in real life actually know how to build a jet airplane, and even fewer in the Star Wars universe know how to build a spaceship, especially a hyperdrive-capable one.)
  • Invoked briefly in the Star Wars Revenge Of The Sith novelization: Anakin Skywalker manages to land an alien ship whose controls he's never seen before, which wasn't designed to be landed in an atmosphere, while half of the spacecraft is missing and the remaining half is on fire. Because he's just that good (or because the Plot is with him). Lampshaded in both the novel and the film when he comments "Under the circumstances, I'd say the ability to pilot this thing is irrelevant."
  • The Posleen of John Ringo's Legacy of the Aldenata. All of their tech was ripped and copied from the withdrawn from the galaxy and negligent Aldenata (in a sort of angry Cargo Cult fashion) and they only vaguely understand how it works, but they can, and do, produce more. The limited AIs and the 'Net' that controls their society is copied into the new systems, and when long unused alarms go off people don't understand what Incoming Artillery Strike means.
  • Played with by Mostly Harmless. Arthur Dent's only practical skill is making sandwiches, so when he crashes on a primitive alien world he can't offer any of humankind's knowledge and inventions ("He couldn't even make a toaster"). But the alien villagers still venerate him as 'The Sandwich Maker' since they hadn't thought of the idea.
  • Averted in the Honor Harrington novels where Admiral Shannon Foraker is quite frank about how even when they capture Mantie technology they can't actually use it because they don't have the same tech base or miniaturisation technology, but that it's still worthwhile because it gives them ideas on how to do it, and how to develop countermeasures.
  • Subverted in The Tommyknockers. The eponymous entities have no clue HOW their stuff works, but somehow managed to figure out how to make it.
  • Averted in Harry Potter as a whole. Just because you have a broomstick/wand/crystal ball/whatever doesn't mean you can use it without going to school first, except for the main character, who knows how to fly a broom well enough to make the Quidditch team without a full lesson. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it becomes a key plot point that merely wielding a certain wand is not enough to be its "true" master. However, there is no requisite knowledge the wielder might lack, just the requisite action of "defeating" the old master.
  • Averted in The Bartimaeus Trilogy, where Nathaniel gains possession of an extremely powerful magical artifact and tries to use it against his enemy. Bartimaeus notes that there's no chance of him being able to master it on his first try, but stops when he succeeds in generating a massive surge of magical energy. Then he loses control and the backlash knocks him unconscious.
    • In the final book demons possessing people run into this problem, having very little idea how to actually work their new bodies. At one point the immensely powerful demon Nouda is seen being helped to his feet by a lesser demon who's had a body longer after he fell over and started twitching.
  • Scott Adams discusses this in relation to UFOs in his book The Dilbert Future. He points out that "just because you see a person driving a car, that doesn't mean that they invented the automobile," so we can't assume that an alien piloting an advanced spaceship is a genius. He goes on to speculate that the aliens that abduct people are actually The Greys' equivalent of rednecks, and that Anal Probing is their equivalent of Cow Tipping.
  • The Heechee Saga books involve a lot of this. The eponymous station contains many ships, each with an FTL drive and a navigation system that works by pushing a few buttons. Unfortunately, nobody quite knows how the ships work or how to navigate them. Humans explore the galaxy with them by pushing the buttons in different combination and seeing where the ships go. Hope you brought enough supplies to survive the trip there and back (not that you know how long the trip is going to be). Some ships just don't come back.
  • Amusingly averted with Bertie in Jeeves and Wooster:
    You see, I'm one of those birds who drive a lot but don't know the first thing about the works. The policy I pursue is to get aboard, prod the self-starter, and leave the rest to Nature. If anything goes wrong, I scream for an A.A. scout.
  • Notably averted in the Star Trek: Mirror Universe book series. After some fans complained that the 22nd century Terran Empire acquired a 23rd century Federation starship in "Through A Glass Darkly", so shouldn't they have reached 24th century standards by the time of "Mirror Mirror", the story "Age of the Empress" establishes that having a 23rd-century starship, and being able to build more of them (let along advance further) are very different things.
  • Averted in The Guns of the South, where the Rivington men have great difficulty replicating future tech, as they're mainly warriors, not computer engineers. Even a computer engineer cannot replicate a microchip in their basement.
  • Averted in Johnny and the Bomb, when, after returning from the year 1941, the group meet their friend Wobbler, who was left behind due to having accidentally Ret Goned himself.
    Bigmac: You could've invented computers!
    Wobbler: Really? You think so? Who'd have listened to a boy who hadn't even been to university? Besides... well, look at this... *picks up a plastic fork* See this? We throw away millions of them every day. After five minutes' use they're in the trash, right?
    Kirsty: Yes, of course.
    Wobbler: A hundred years ago it'd have been a marvel. And now we throw them away without a second thought. So... how do you make one?
    Kirsty: Well... you get some oil, and... I think there's something about it in a book I've got—
    Wobbler: Right. You don't know. I don't know, either.
  • Averted in The Lord of the Rings. Gandalf says that Sauron will assume that the new wearer of the Ring (presumably Aragorn) will be so intoxicated by its power that he'll rush to attack Mordor before he has truly mastered it.
  • Princesses of the Pizza Parlor: Cassandrella's gets her scepter divinely transformed into a sword made of apparently magical light, and also apparently gets divinely granted skill to use said sword. Whether said sword skills stuck around after her scepter transformed back, has not been tested.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Mandalorian: Averted when Din comes into possession of the legendary Darksaber. Din hasn't had the extensive training needed to wield a laser-sword that can cut through almost anything but doesn't have any weight to it other than the hilt. He does know how to use regular melee weapons, but this is a whole other level of difficulty and danger (that it's an Empathic Weapon doesn't help either). In The Book of Boba Fett, Din is wielding the Darksaber in a fight and accidentally slashes his own thigh with it (thankfully, just a light grazing wound).
  • Star Trek frequently uses this trope; it's Lampshaded in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine where minion of the Dominion notes that, while they otherwise hold the Federation in contempt, Starfleet Engineers are famous as being the undisputed masters of technology adaptation and modification. "Turning rocks into replicators." Considering the variety of cultures that make up the Federation, this may be a Justified Trope, as Starfleet engineers would be trained in the use of technology which is itself a pastiche of many different technologies. Plus, there's the fact that all aliens have base-10 numeral systems, have the same emotional and intellectual range as humans, progress along the same basic technological path as humans, look like humans in rubber masks, and can even write documents word-for-word identical to the U.S. Constitution without ever having seen it.... With all those similarities, is it any wonder they all build similar technologies?
  • Memorably subverted in one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation: Troi is trying to qualify as a bridge officer, and the last exam is a simulation in which something goes terribly wrong with the ship and causes it to explode. Try as she might, she just can't wrap her head around the engineering specs enough to solve the problem. She eventually passes when she figures out the real test: she's not expected to fix it herself, she has to order an engineer who can fix it on a suicide mission to save the ship.
  • The title character in The Greatest American Hero received an Applied Phlebotinum powered Super Hero suit at the start of the series, lost the instructions, and spent most of the series amusingly floundering about trying to figure out how to use it correctly.
  • Stargate SG-1 tends to play with this trope fairly successfully on occasion. In one episode it's revealed that the SGC computers can't even interpret many of the Stargate's feedback signals, and others are disregarded on a routine basis in order to establish a connection. This is suggested to be a major contributing factor to the various mishaps of one type or another that have occurred when using the gate. Another episode introduces the Air Force's prototype hybrid fighter craft, combining standard Earth technology with that of Go'auld Gliders - which promptly goes wrong due to an incomplete understanding of the alien technology incorporated in the design.
    • This is also true of the Goa'uld themselves, who mostly just use stolen technology without really understanding it. There are a few Goa'uld who genuinely are good at understanding science and technology (such as the System Lord Baal and a lesser Goa'uld who served Cronus), but they are decidedly in the minority.
  • Heroes: Sylar's base power inherently grants him this effect; as soon as he acquires a new ability, he instantly understands how to use it perfectly. Everyone else on the show suffers How Do I Shot Web? at first (Peter suffers it constantly).
  • In Power Rangers, this is pretty much the standard. Hand five people giant robots, watch them pilot them effortlessly, including the part where they merge into one giant robot, although many series with robotic zords have the combination process mostly automated and those with living zords simply ask them to do it for them (basically).
    • Apparently, it's part of some Rangers' power sets: in the first episode ever we hear two of the kids marveling out loud at how they instinctively know how to drive their giant animal mecha.
      Trini: This is amazing, I seem to know how to drive this thing!
      Billy: Affirmative, I do too. It's almost like second nature to me!
    • Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue - the first series to be entirely divorced from what went before, even moreso than Lost Galaxy - turned away from this (as well as everything else about the previously half-magical ranger tech) and have the heads-up display in the helmets instruct the heroes on any new gadgetry.
    • Power Rangers RPM; the three starting Rangers had been Rangers for a while when we first saw them suited, and Dillon's enhanced abilities made him a fast learner and a superb fighter from day one. Ziggy, on the other hand, Falling into the Cockpit, is hilarious as we watch him try to get the hang of his gear. His first Zord battle winds up with him accidentally taking out several Mook vehicles by activating the spinning attack.
    • Justified at the beginning of Samurai Sentai Shinkenger in that all of the characters have been training to carry on their family legacies. It's subverted in the second episode, as Ryuuonosuke knows about the Samurai Gattai but doesn't actually know what it does or how it's done, and winds up getting everyone to stack themselves up in a totem pole like formation.
    • Power Rangers Turbo has the team having problems combining the first few times as they get a handle on it, though there isn't any difference in the stock footage.
      • Hilariously defied in Gekisou Sentai Carranger, the source of Turbo's stock footage. The Rangers have to refer to the instruction manuals of their Formula Nova and Ranger Vehicles in mid-battle to figure them out. This has proven flawed at least once when a copy of the manual once fell into a fire in the middle of a battle.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Averted in the serial "Attack of the Cybermen", in which the Cybermen plan to use a time machine to change history. The Doctor cannot understand why the Cybermen would do something so catastrophic, since it would be just as damaging for them as for everyone else; it falls to another character to point out that the Cybermen's timeship is stolen, not built, and that they do not understand its principles.
    • Averted for most of the classic series with the TARDIS. Part of Sydney Newman's original character brief for the Doctor was that he did not know how to steer his stolen timeship; however, in execution, it was a combination of "the Doctor didn't know how" and "the ship was already old"—this is why the Chameleon Circuit broke down in 1963 England. The TARDIS is also fully sentient and aware in eleven dimensions, so it always sends him where he needs to go instead of where he wants to go.
    • It's further revealed that a TARDIS is designed to be piloted by several Time Lords at once. The Doctor, piloting alone, consequently has trouble.
  • Modern Kamen Rider series sometimes have a character just know how to use their Rider powers within seconds of obtaining the Transformation Trinket - including how to use the Trinket in the first place. This depends on the series, there are subversions and some series play this straight.
    • The original Kamen Rider did not know anything about his powers, due to them being forced on him and then the inventor of said powers passing away in the first episode. Numerous episodes show him trying to figure out what he is.
    • Kamen Rider 2 seems to play this straight until it's revealed that he has had some kind of training in his powers by the bad guys before defecting to the good side.
    • Kamen Rider Kuuga did not know anything about his powers or transformation trinket but received a telepathic "last will" that gave him hints.
    • Kamen Rider Agito has no idea what he's doing with his powers, actually going on some kind of autopilot due to amnesia and doesn't even remember what he's supposed to be doing with his powers.
    • Kamen Rider Ryuki has no idea what his deck of cards does or why monsters are suddenly attacking him. He has to be shown what they do, as they were intended for someone else.
    • Kamen Rider Faiz plays this straight, actually taking the transformation trinket from someone who can't use it; and then using it perfectly his first time. However, he still requires help to use the extra powers.
    • Kamen Rider W is a subversion and playing it straight all at once. Phillip, half of W, knows exactly how the powers work. Shotaro actually doesn't and lucked into being the other half of W.
    • Kamen Rider OOO is given his trinket and told how to use it by a centuries-old monster.
    • Kamen Rider Fourze had no idea how to transform, and is viewed as a complete idiot for grabbing his transformation trinket from someone who DID know how to use it. (But could not) Every episode is a subversion as the sheer number of powers Fourze gets all require either explanation, testing, or just dumb luck.
    • Kamen Rider Gaim has absolutely no idea what he's doing when he first transforms out of instinct and has to be shown how to operate his weapons by a mysterious woman in white.
    • Kamen Rider Drive once again has no idea what his powers are as they are still being developed during the show. Fortunately his trinket itself knows what its own powers are, and it talks back.
  • Explicitly Averted in Babylon 5, where when you get a new alien technology you either have the original builders helping you or the initial efforts at using it are less than satisfactory (as shown when a Human fiddled with some devices from Ikarra and became a Super-Soldier hellbent on killing anyone who wasn't a pure Ikarran, with parameters decided by fanatics, and the Excalibur, who has some troubles any time she fires her Wave-Motion Gun).
    • The three groups known for being technology scavengers (Earth Alliance, Centauri Republic, and Narn Regime) have taken a rather pragmatic approach to this: on one side, they disassemble what they find, analyze and experiment on it in a safe location until they have a good understanding of what it does and how it works, and then build their own version; on the other, they're known to take advantage of this by selling what for them are cast-offs to less technologically advanced groups but withhold the plans, so they'll later be able to sell them spare parts and, at least in the Centauri's case, slowly come to economically dominate them, with the use of less advanced technology being used as a safety in case the buyer actually reverse-engineers their new technology (this actually being how Earth Alliance obtained their first pieces of advanced technology, by buying it from the Centauri).
  • Averted in Alien Nation. The Newcomers were all slaves, who obviously weren't allowed any knowledge of how the Overseer ship that brought them to Earth worked. As one of the Newcomer characters noted, one wouldn't expect all of the passengers of a 747 to know how to build and fly the plane amongst themselves. The disconnect between what the Newcomers actually know and what the civilization that built the ship is capable of fuels much of the social tension between humans and Newcomers in the series.
  • Played straight with Clifford DeVoe (AKA the Thinker) in The Flash, which is justified by his extreme intelligence. After taking the powers of metahumans, he's instantly able to use them much more efficiently and in creative ways than their original owners. For example, his usage of a Gravity Master's powers borders on full-blown telekinesis.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons up to 3rd edition averts this, as you need an (expensive) Identify spell, a good skill check or some creative experimentation to understand what a magic item does and how to activate it. Capturing magical items in (A)D&D used to be only half the battle, getting them to work was even more 'fun'. This was lampshaded by the 'magical items' in Expedition to the Barrier Peaks... which used flowcharts very similar to those from Gamma World as the hapless PCs tried to figure out advanced technology.
    • 4th edition plays it straight: any adventurer who spends five minutes studying a magic item will automatically know everything useful about it. It's the same in 5th edition, except the duration is increased to an hour.
    • Weapons were first just allowed by class lists, but obvious issues led to simple solution in AD&D — penalties for non-proficient use. A character can grab any weapon, but this won't do much good without a proficiency in it, which for a non-warrior class may or may not be learnable at all. Fourth edition reversed it: anyone can use any weapon at its base stats, but if you're proficient you get a bonus to it, and certain abilities require certain equipment (two melee weapons, a ranged weapon, the right class' implement, etc.) to even be used.
    • In third edition, you could get the "Skillful Enchantment" on any weapons. After being so enchanted, anyone can pick up the weapon and use it at least as well as they can their normal weapons or better in the case of character classes that least emphasized combat (so it eliminates the non-proficiency penalty and sets your attack bonus up to the middle progression if it wasn't already at that level.)
  • GURPS has similar, highly amusing tables for meddling with stuff you don't understand. Including modifiers for poking it with a stick.
  • Averted in Numenera. Just because you have a piece of the titular numenera, that doesn't mean you know how it works or how to use it. And even when you can figure out how to make the numenera do something useful, that may or may not be anything even close to its original purpose (it's implied that a lot of numenera are the equivalent of ripping the laser out of a CD player and using it as a flashlight).
  • The Imperium of Man in Warhammer 40,000 are pretty much the same. More than a fair proportion of their military equipment relies on technology long since lost. Tech-Priests pray to the machines to convince them to fix themselves, while doing rituals they believe appease the machine spirit rather than realizing they're the ones fixing it.
    • The Orks would seem like a straight play of the trope, as the "Mekboyz" know tech on a genetic level, including captured enemy hardware. Looking deeper, all Ork tech runs on the psychic gestalt generated by Ork belief in the fact that the tech will work, to the point where a human opening up an Ork gun may find simply a load of junk parts in a shoddy casing. Looted vehicles also have a chance of catastrophic failure... although to be fair, this is true of even scratch-built vehicles.
  • This is an unfortunate fact of life for Yu-Gi-Oh! card game players; duelists looking for a quick and cheap (figuratively, though definitely not literally) victory will "netdeck", or go online and copy a tournament-winning deck card-for-card. The theory is that playing a tourney-winning card will give them the ability to win more, and assuming they'll be able to pull off all of the best combos and strategies associated with that deck as the original player has. This should not work in reality, but somehow it does, because within the (relatively) simple ruleset of the game, the idea of being able to reverse engineer the winning strategy for using the deck just from looking at its parts makes a bit more sense.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, don't expect to win a large tournament by just netdecking, looking up a deck that's currently dominant, and showing up with it. Having a good deck doesn't necessarily mean you know how to use it. Control decks require precise timing and an exact knowledge of where to spend your limited answers, combo decks require that you know how every card in your deck interacts to generate the winning combos, and aggro decks require that you know when to attack, when to hold back, and when to block - all of which requires knowledge of the constantly evolving metagame. If the deck is so strong, you're going to run into other people playing the same deck, but who know what to do with it. In addition by the time you get to a tournament, really good players will have analyzed the famous "winning deck", noted its vulnerabilities, and may have modified their own decks to include counters or even built new decks specifically designed to beat it.
  • Parodied in Paranoia, where players are often ordered to test out new experimental equipment in the field and report back on the results. Unfortunately, because the equipment is always well above their security clearance level, they cannot be told how it works, or even how to operate it. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Explicitly a rule in The Hero System. If you purchase an item (or special ability) with character points, you are automatically assumed to know how to use it. If you do not use character points (for example in a fantasy game, buying a sword with gold pieces) you need a requisite weapon familiarity skill.
  • In the text RPG Rifts, a PC can use any weapon they have without a Weapon Proficiency (WP) in that type of weapon with no disadvantages. But when a player does take a WP in a weapon type, they get bonuses. However, a player can't pilot some of the more 'fun' vehicles without a Piloting Skill in, say... Giant Robot.
  • Mutants & Masterminds does away with the d20 proficiency rules and assumes that characters are proficient with their weapons, equipment, and powers to the extent of their bonuses when using them. Of course, there are optional rules in "Mastermind's Manual" (akin to D&D's "Unearthed Arcana" to cram proficiencies back into the system for those who like to make the needlessly complex again.
  • Some games play it straight to streamline certain assumptions, such as the Prose Descriptive Qualities system games like Dead Inside or Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies. Any Quality or Forte is assumed to have a "penumbra" of related knowledge reflecting broad experience with the subject at hand. In other words, if ownership of a car is important enough to your character that you've noted it down on your character sheet, then you probably do know how to fix it up or break it down. The idea is to let characters be fairly competent and able to maintain their skills and gear without having to go into the minutiae of whether they know how to do so.
  • Played straight in BattleTech. Anyone who's trained as a mechwarrior can climb into the cockpit of pretty much any mech they'd like and use it without issue as soon as they get the neurohelmet tuned and the command couch adjusted. There are numerous examples of mechwarriors stealing a mech that's radically different from the one they normally handle and instantly be able to pilot it without complication. Somewhat justified in that Mechs are built with the same controls and the neurohelmet has a Heads-Up Display, and readouts on the Mech itself may be in different places depending on the manufacturer but generally are going to display the same information, meaning the most the pilot has to adjust to is the class of the Mech and the weapons layout.

    Video Games 
  • ANNO: Mutationem: Ann is an Action Girl who specializes in martial arts and swords. When picking up new weapons/skills such as a Pocket Rocket Launcher, particle cannon, and a Super Mode, she's able to use it intimately to her advantage.
  • In Far Cry 3, Jason only has some marksmanship experience on the gun range prior to the events of the game, yet despite this he's able to use every weapon in the game with little effort.
  • Persona: The cast of each game are experts at using their weapons, despite there being no sign that they've had any sort of training.
  • Whenever Dante of Devil May Cry acquires a new weapon, he instantly has intimate knowledge of how it works, no matter its complexity or peculiarity, to the point where he can use the weapon far more competently than it was even intended to be within seconds of acquiring it. In the first game, it was implied that this was because the weapons were sentient and were guiding his actions, or communicating to him. In Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Dante's character profile states that this is actually one of his specified superpowers—he can use ANY weapon, period, the moment he touches it.
  • In Company of Heroes, if your infantry squads can pick it up, they can reload and handle it like the original owners. Even if the weapon was comparatively rare on the enemy faction.
  • After playing through Shadow of the Colossus, one gets the idea that while Wander can shoot a bow well and ride his horse like a pro, he swings a sword like he has no idea what he's doing with it. Makes sense, since he's supposed to have stolen the sword. Maybe.
  • It's a plot point in Mass Effect that the peoples of the galaxy have access to Mass Relay technology, and are able to use it quite effectively, but have no real understanding of it (or rather, they understand how Mass Relay technology works, but can't replicate it).
    • Shepard, having the collective experience of the Prothean race in their mind, becomes a minor plot point in the first and third games. Due to this Cypher, all Prothean technology reacts to their presence as though they were a Prothean; allowing them to see Prothean data where others would see only static, as well as fully activate the Prothean beacon on Thessia, which has defied comprehension by the Asari for millennia.
    • After the first manifestation of human biotics in the 2150s, the Biotic Acclimation and Training program was forced to rely on aliens (often mercenaries) to serve as instructors to the students, due to the sheer lack of available information of the phenomenon. Similarly, early model biotic amplifiers were infamously bad, with the L1 configuration barely allowing someone to lift a cup, while the L2s contained a host of side effects ranging from migraines to full-blown psychosis. The L3 model avoided side effects, but very rarely matches the power occasionally seen in L2s. By the time of the second game, humans are experimenting with L4s and L5s.
    • Similarly, in Mass Effect: Andromeda, there's the Remnant, the leftover technology of an incredibly advanced alien race who up and disappeared some time ago. The angara have been sitting on their tech for four hundred years, and don't have the faintest clue how to get it working beyond "prod it and hope really hard". The kett are in the same boat, with the Archon having a small hoard of Remtech in his quarters, but his attempts at getting them to work are so fumbling he's broke several specimens.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Played with Final Fantasy VI, Sabin, (a martial artist that spent the better half of 10 years living secluded in a wooded valley,) Cyan (a technophobe samurai,) and Shadow (a ninja who lives off the land and presumably doesn't hang around machines much) all manage to be able to use Magitek Armor within minutes of finding some. However, Cyan initially cannot pilot his armor, and Sabin comes from a kingdom with highly advanced technology, so at least in his case, this may be somewhat justified.
    • A better example is Final Fantasy VII. The prequels show that Cloud is a very poor shot, even with automatic weaponry. However, he's able to pick up a SOLDIER sword and use it to dispatch said SOLDIERs. It can be reasonably assumed that Limits helped, but the point is still made that he has a natural affinity for swordsmanship.
    • A similar scene occurs in Final Fantasy X. Auron hands Tidus a sword. He stumbles a bit, but once he gets used to the weight, he's pretty much fine. Auron is more effective, but then again his weapons are heavier.
  • In every game in The Legend of Zelda series, once he finds an item Link is automatically able to use it almost perfectly (depending on how good the player is, of course). Subverted in the case of items like the sword and shield, which some of the games give a tutorial for and thus does have Link train to learn to use them.
    • Averted. Word of God states that Link has many incarnations with a collective memory that spans millennia. And every "Link" is a reincarnation of a legendary hero born in ancient times. This collective memory makes every version of him proficient with swords, bows, and horse-riding, just to name a few.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, it's justified that Link knows swordplay and horse riding from before the start of the game.
    • And in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Link was on the cusp of graduating from a Knight Academy before the game starts, justifying his ability with a sword. And maybe his increased amount of hearts (six as opposed to the usual three). As this is the historical first Link, it ties in with the reincarnation aspect to further justify their adventuring skills, as it essentially means every Link has trained at the Knight Academy.
  • In Homeworld 2, a Marine Frigate is able to dock with an enemy ship and deploy commandos to take it over from the inside. After a successful hijacking, however, the commandos are apparently able to fight with their new ship just as effectively as the previous crew without first having to familiarize themselves with how to operate it.
  • While previously this trope was averted in World of Warcraft with everyone's weapon skill starting out at one, in patch 4.0.1 weapons skills and training were done away with - now your character automatically fits this trope, so long as they can equip the weapon. This was because weapon skill added nothing whatsoever to the game, and simply resulted in higher-level people who acquired a new type of weapon having to spend a lot of time hacking away pathetically at equally pathetic creatures while grinding their weapon skill up through 400-odd skill points before they could fight real enemies again (death knights, starting at level 55 and initially untrained in several of their common weapons, were particularly troubled by this).
  • Call of Duty 2 plays with this trope. On one hand, your character doesn't seem to have any trouble using captured German weapons, but that's no surprise given that small arms tend to be similar no matter where they're from. On the other hand, Private Macgregor's attempts at driving a captured German armored car were less than impressive.
  • Particularly egregious in Nazi Zombies, where everyone instantly knows how to use the new Wonder Weapon introduced in each map to electrocute zombies, shrink them, turn them back into humans, suck them into a miniature black hole, etc. Especially in the Call Of The Dead map, where the player characters are actors.
  • In Master of Orion 2, any ships captured by boarding can be used as one's own, but scrapping them gives a chance to learn any unknown technologies they use.
  • Jade Empire: The protagonist was trained by one of the greatest combat geniuses in history, who taught them an ultra-adaptive Confusion Fu-powered learning style on how to pick up a wide array of techniques and train themselves in mere days - the Spirit Thief technique is demonstrated once, the transformation powers are gained by defeating the same monster, and several weapon styles become available after you've gained the weapon. You can effortlessly swing two massive axes without a second of prior training and can service, load, wield and fire a blunderbuss imported from an analogue of Britain. And then there's the flying crafts that you've had no experience with either. This bites the protagonist in the ass when their master betrays them; knowing that the protagonist has not extensively trained or reviewed what they quickly mastered, he uses a style specifically designed to counter their unevolved core Confusion Fu and wins in seconds. Except immediately afterwards, the protagonist studies the flaws in their life-long style and patches them in mere days.
  • The ease with which the Exile in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords picks up new lightsaber forms ends up being a plot point later.
  • Halo:
    • The Covenant have lots of tech superior to that of the UNSC. Luckily for humanity, they don't seem to understand it much better than we do. In the novel Halo: First Strike, Cortana manages to vastly improve the performance of a Covenant cruiser by fiddling with the settings and immediately gets yelled at by the Covenant AI for "blasphemy". Yes, the Covenant deliberately shot themselves in the foot by even making their AIs constrained by religious dogma.
    • More generally, Halo goes the extra mile to justify the fact that the player character can operate everything from a sniper rifle to a rocket launcher as well as alien weapons, or do things like control (almost) every vehicle he comes across. The Master Chief has neural augmentations that allow him to learn faster, along with extensive training in every possible scenario he could find himself in, such as piloting aircraft or driving tanks, and even using alien technology. Later Halo games do not emphasize the fact that this is a special result of Spartan abilities and feature things such as ordinary Marines flying covenant aircraft without any kind of training or experience.
    • A handwave introduced to the series by its Expanded Universe but later picked up by the games is that the Forerunners intended for humanity to succeed them as the supreme race in the galaxy, and as such not only programmed all their leftover tech to respond only to humans, but also implanted Genetic Memory in humanity that would allow them to use it as soon as they found it. Covenant technology being largely reverse-engineered from Forerunner tech, there is still an element of this at play: in the novels, humans describe just knowing how to operate certain Covenant tech despite never having seen it before.
  • In Sword of the Stars, capturing an alien ship with a boarding pod allows you to fire the ship's weapons but not move it. Slightly justified in that everybody apparently uses the same types of weapons (a human-designed red laser is exactly the same as a Tarka-designed one), while the engine technology might be different (e.g. Liir ships teleport through space and lack traditional engines; Tarka can also get rid of traditional engines by topping their hyperdrive tech tree). It can also be justified in the case of telepathic races, such as the Liir and the Zuul, who can pull information out of the enemy's head (the Zuul particularly enjoy Mind Rape).
  • Fate/stay night:
    • Shirou develops the ability to construct imitations of legendary swords out of his prana. The full technique also recreates the history of the weapon and allows Shirou to sympathize with its experiences, allowing him to imitate the skills of the previous wielders and display some proficiency.
    • Inverted in "Unlimited Blade Works". Gilgamesh and Shirou both possess an immense number of weapons but are simply "owners" who lack true mastery of them. Against a "wielder" who had spent years fighting with such a weapon they would be completely outclassed in direct combat. Shirou acknowledges this is the reason he can rival Gilgamesh, but would be defeated by any other Servant.
  • In Fire Emblem: Awakening, Noire has never wielded a weapon, much less a bow, in her life. During the chapter where you recruit her, she finds a Steel Bow. And promptly starts shooting enemies. To put this into context: It takes a unit with a C rank in bows to shoot a Steel Bow. Most characters start with an E rank in bows. Your first Archer starts with a D rank in bows.
  • Averted in Thief with Garret's sword. He knows how to wield it at a basic level, but odds are that even the common guards in the game are better with a sword than the player ever will be. This is because Garret is, fundamentally, a thief, and tries to avoid combat in favor of stealth whenever possible. The sword is an absolute last resort.
  • Played with in Omega Quintet. As proved several times, potential Verse Maidens can destroy MAD and clear Blare in clutch situations - but only when desperate. Meaningfully applying the ability requires conscious effort and a decent singing voice; lack of training, laryngitis, or performance anxiety all render the user helpless. Additionally, the exact mechanism of the In-Universe Popularity Power is poorly understood, and suspected to be a placebo effect at best. It's speculated that the girls would be much better off with military-grade armor and combat training instead of cute costumes and cameras, but this is a Crapsack World, and singing may be their only hope.
  • Played with in Mega Man, where it's not the titular Blue Bomber's lack of mastery which tends to give him a weaker and less effective version of the robot master's weapons he obtains, but rather that he lacks the specialized bodies of said masters which are used in conjunction with their weapon and instead has to adapt it to his Mega Buster. He instantly knows how to use said ability, but can't use it to its full potential due to physical limitations, essentially making him a form of Weak, but Skilled in that regard.
  • In full effect in Monster Hunter, even though your Hunter is probably a rookie at the beginning of the game, you can still use all weapon-types and their moves right away, even the more non-conventional ones like the Insect Glaive and Chargeblade. Monster Hunter: World justifies that by saying your character is already a veteran Hunter: a total rookie would never have been sent on an expedition to the New World.
  • Averting this trope is an important game mechanic in Syndicate Wars. You can use any weapon looted from enemies, even if you've never seen it before. But until you've taken the time to research it, every shot comes with the chance of instantly draining all your energy. You're forced to choose between using a more powerful but unreliable weapon or backlogging it for research without knowing when you'll find another one.
  • Zigzagged in Dragon Age:
    • Blood Magic is devastatingly powerful in the right hands, but learning it requires either making a Deal with the Devil or learning it from someone who already knows it. The former runs the risk of possession, and the latter means you're only getting what they were able to learn from someone else or the demon that gave them the knowledge.
    • Magic itself is also horrendously powerful in the setting, despite the risk mages face of Demonic Possession. However, most young mages, despite having magical abilities, have no real control or understanding of what they're capable of doing and require years of study to learn how to use their abilities safely and effectively.
    • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, the Inquisitor is able to use the mark on their hand that they've had for less than a day to open and close Fade rifts easily, even if they had no magical talent previously or are part of a race that can't use magic. However, while their skill with using the mark grows as the game progresses, by the end of the last DLC (set two years after the end of the game), they don't understand how exactly it works, only that it works.
  • Dark Souls: The player character can use any weapon and all of its techniques as long as they have the prerequisite stats to wield it. No explanation is ever given, though most of the weapons are made from the souls of their former masters.

    Web Comics 
  • Averted in Captain SNES: The Game Masta, when Alex gets the Mouse. He's supposed to be able to say a phrase to activate its power but has no idea what the phrase is, and the people who gave it to him thought he'd already know, so they didn't bother to find out themselves.
  • Zig-zagged in Erfworld, where Ansom schlepped the Arkenpliers around for ages without being able to attune them. Wanda on the other hand…
    • Lampshaded in their first mention, Ansom's allies weren't aware of this distinction and he had to explain it to them.
    • And Played Straight with Charlie's anachronistic guns, which are "self-specialing": any unit that holds one immediately knows what it is and how it works and can use it proficiently. This notably only applies to the guns Charlie makes, and is implied to be some form of Carnymancy.
  • Subverted in 8-Bit Theater, when the Dark Warriors stumble upon the four Orbs and decide to steal them, they seem to be assuming this trope, until Sarda comes in and asks...
    Sarda: Do you have any idea how to use the orbs?

    Web Original 
  • Both played straight and averted in the Whateley Universe, depending on the type of power. Most Energizers can just blast away with their powers with no training. Telekinetic bricks seem to know how to use their power instinctively, even if they don't know some of their weaknesses or how to control their strength without lots of practice. Wizards usually need lots of classwork to learn spells and focus. Then there's Phase, who nearly died several times while struggling to learn to use his powers, and is still figuring things out months after getting his powers.
  • Libertarian vlogger "Beau of the Fifth Column" picks the fallacy apart here, in response to propaganda videos of kids field-stripping assault rifles.
    If you want to be a warrior, you need to be able to critically think. And if you can critically think about any subject, you can critically think about "any" subject. It's a transferable skill.
  • Despite getting her Magical Girl transformation only minutes before, Bee in Bee and Puppycat nonetheless knows that she can magically pull a sword from her costume's collar bell. Of course, that doesn't mean she knows how to use a sword, as she uses it to bludgeon her enemy.

    Western Animation 
  • Wade can understand anything given ten seconds to scan it with the Kim Possible Kimmunicator.
  • Averted in My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, when a newly-human Twilight Sparkle quickly finds out that bipedal locomotion takes some getting used to when you've lived all your life as a quadruped.
  • The same thing that happened to The Greatest American Hero above happened to Fenton "Gizmoduck" Crackshell in DuckTales (1987).
  • Lampshaded in Gargoyles: Lexington builds a motorcycle. Brooklyn asks why this is such an arduous task for him, given that he has ridden one before, and Lexington responds, "You've ridden a horse before; could you build one from spare parts?"
  • In Megas XLR, when Coop first gets the Megas, he somehow successfully attaches a car in place of its missing head/cockpit. He then pilots it skillfully, with no understanding of how it works, or what any of its features actually do. But then, the controls change from episode to episode. Make of that what you will.
    • Handwaved, in that Coop was the one who did the heavy modifications. Doing that without blowing it up is a miracle, however...
    • Handwaved by a later episode where it is revealed Megas' computer core can calculate a lot of tactical data and all of the fancy stuff it does are interpretations of what Coop wants it to do. When it breaks, Hilarity Ensues...
    • And inverted, subverted, or something, in that Kiva, who is the expert in how Megas is supposed to work, can't operate it at all after Coop's modifications.
  • Primal: Downplayed. In the second season, when Spear starts encountering more human enemies, he often uses their own weapons against them. The first time he picks up a sword, he clearly has no idea how to use it, and wields it more like a club, savagely beating his foes to death with any successful cuts being more like happy accidents, but he learns quickly and is dishing out perfect clean strikes before long.
  • In Bump in the Night, Molly applies to become a doctor and assumes that just because she has all the instructions and equipment necessary for the average doctor, she has instantly become a doctor. It gets worse when Bumpy eats the pages from the manuals and replaces them with gardening and home repair manuals.
  • Averted in Ben 10. The series repeatedly shows that Ben only has the vaguest idea of what the Omnitrix is capable of.
  • In Transformers: Prime, only Ratchet has any idea on how the eponymous Mechanical Lifeforms work, him being the equivalent of a medic. When Jack asks how come Arcee doesn't know how to build a motorcycle despite being one, she asks bluntly, "You're human, Jack, can you build me a small intestine?"
  • Averted in The Adventures of Puss in Boots, Puss assumes he can use the Seven League Boots with ease, only to run out of control requiring a training montage to get the hang of them, while Dulcinea acquires a magic sword that gives her super strength, she still needs to be trained in swordfighting techniques before she is any good with it.
  • Double subverted in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Zuko has a pair of short swords on the wall of his quarters, which another character notices and says he didn't know Zuko could do swordwork. Zuko comments that they're just decoration, but later it turns out Zuko really is proficient with them. Justified since he's a prince in a feudal-style world, and he would have had some kind of weapons training.
  • The Legend of Korra: Korra assumes in Book 2 that thanks to having figured out how to airbend, she has mastered it. Typically, it's considered that it takes four years of training for an Avatar to master each bending technique, and Korra's only known how to airbend for a few months. Tenzin tries pointing this out, but alas, Korra's not in any mood to listen.
  • Played with in Miraculous Ladybug:
    • When one obtains a Miraculous the Kwami, it can explain how it works and they have an immediate understanding of the basics but nothing more, and they actually need to train to become truly proficient. Most noticeable with the two main heroes: Ladybug at first couldn't use the yo-yo she got as a weapon and had to train with it, and Chat Noir has a Martial Arts Staff that he rarely uses as one, preferring to use it as a foil as he's actually an accomplished fencer.
    • One that is Akumatized by the Butterfly Miraculous obtains immediate mastery of their new powers, with any limit coming from the user's creativity. Best shown by Volpina, who has a copy of the powers of the Fox Miraculous but is immediately far more proficient than Rena Rouge (who has the actual Miraculous) ever showed herself to be.

Alternative Title(s): Possession Equals Mastery