Sometimes a character has a ranged attack that's really powerful. Maybe it can destroy a planet, One-Hit Kill physical gods, or perhaps it can blast apart things Made of Indestructium. If it hits squarely, whatever is on the receiving end is screwed, Healing Factor, Super Toughness, ferrous composition, or Nigh-Invulnerability be darned.
Clearly there has to be some drawback to prevent this attack from breaking Competitive Balance, so often the creator will balance it by making it significantly less accurate than the other options. Whenever someone uses it, they're taking a chance that they will destroy their target if it hits, but also a high risk that it will miss and do little or no damage. Even users with Improbable Aiming Skills won't necessarily be able to make it more precise because it's not the attacker's aiming skills at fault, it's a flaw of the weapon or attack itself that it wants to go in a different direction than the user wants it to.
When an attack or weapon is powerful but inaccurate, it's this trope. Often Awesome, but Impractical if a weaker but more-accurate attack will statistically do more damage in the long run. If it's the fault of the user wielding the weapon/attacker, check out Imperial Storm Trooper Marksmanship Academy, where the bad guys may have accurate weapons but they're just bad shots, or A-Team Firing, which is when everyone and not just the bad guys are graduates of the academy. Short-Range Shotgun is a case where it becomes more accurate at shorter ranges.
See also Critical Failure for chances of an ability failing to work, in general. A Sub-Trope of Necessary Drawback. Compare Difficult, but Awesome, with which this may overlap if the inaccuracy can be overcome with sufficient skill, and Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon for weapons whose accuracy is largely dependent on whatever they are mounted on. Contrast Always Accurate Attack, which is often weak to compensate.
- In Attack on Titan, the fixed cannons mounted on the walls can either shoot explosive shells which do massive damage to Titans if they land but often miss entirely, or grapeshot which is more likely to hit but can only temporarily maim Titans before they heal themselves. In either case, if the Titan's neck isn't destroyed they will regenerate even if they were blown to bits, which is why soldiers with 3D maneuver gear are ultimately necessary to fight them. The outside world artilleries avert the inaccurate part, however.
- In The Mighty Ducks trilogy, Fulton Reed's slapshots are powerful enough to knock a goalie into the net, but his accuracy in the first film is 20% at best. It gets better as he gains more experience.
- One of the Sharpe books featured a unit of rocket artillery. The technological limitations of the era meant that the rockets were extremely inaccurate and field commanders deemed them to be only fit for scaring horses. However, if one of the rockets actually hit a target it could demolish a wall or massacre a unit of infantry. Sharpe worked around the limitation by only using the rockets at point-blank range.
- A general rule in Warhammer 40,000, where the standard weapons include handheld rapid-fire grenade launchers and disintegrator rays and the weakest possible gun can blow a man's arm off, for balance reasons. Less so in the fluff. Even further for the orks, whose guns are ridiculously overpowered but have the lowest Ballistic skill.
- In Flash Point: Fire Rescue, the deck gun on the fire engine can potentially remove five fire markers in one go, but the players can only aim at one corner of the house and then have to roll dice to determine where the water actually lands.
- Clan Heavy Lasers deal double the damage of an Inner Sphere laser of the same type, but it has a +1 to hit modifier and much more heat.
- Medium-range missiles can deal up to 40 damage by firing 40 missiles (the single most powerful 'Mech-scale weapon in the game), but they also have a +1 penalty to-hit and are very large, heavy, and ammo intensive. Also, the largest models require two perfect missile hit rolls to deal their stated maximum damage.
- The various types of indirect artillery are so inaccurate that it must target the 30 meter wide hexes instead of individual units, and even then they can land up to 120 meters away - plus more inaccuracy against a moving target due to travel time on long shots. However, they make up for it in area of effect damage and range, with the shortest (Arrow IV missiles) capping out at 8 game sheets (or 4 kilometers) and the longest (Cruise missiles/120) at 150 gamesheets, or a whopping 76 kilometers.
- Twisted Metal 2:
- Power Missiles have much less homing ability than Homing or Fire missiles, but are correspondingly more powerful. A very common and devastating means of compensating for this was to equip the Power Missile, fire a Freeze Missile with left right up (which homed about as well as a Fire Missile), ram them, then land a Power Missile or two before they thawed which would even One-Punch weaker vehicles.
- Mr. Grimm's special attack lacks any homing ability whatsoever, but is one of the most powerful in the game.
- Warthog's special attack is an interesting variation: a cluster of missiles that increase in power the farther they travel before hitting the enemy, making them Powerful But Inaccurate at long range and the inverse at close range.
- World of Tanks: Plentiful, but in general anything that gets Fan Nicknamed a derpgun or trollcannon qualifies. The original derpgun, and the epitome of this trope in that particular game, is the KV-2, which has a heavy howitzer that has severe trouble hitting anything, but will often One-Hit Kill anything in its tier, and a few above it.
- World of Warships: Taken even further with main battery guns of battleships that have huge damage potential but are often hopelessly inaccurate. Hitting a target can be a lottery and a major source of frustration among battleship players.
- Borderlands 2 features Gaige the Mechromancer, whose Ordered Chaos skill tree is designed around this trope. The mandatory first-tier skill Anarchy accumulates stacks every time she kills an enemy or empties her magazine, increasing her gun damage by 1.75% per stack at the cost of an equal amount of accuracy. The initial cap is 150 stacks, for a 262.5% modifier, but the skill Preshrunk Cyberpunk can increase the cap to 400 (a 700% modifier) naturally or 600 (a staggering 1050% modifier) with the help of a Slayer of Terramorphous class mod. Needless to say, you won't be hitting your target very often by that point, but when you do, they'll feel it. You can offset the accuracy loss with the skill Close Enough, which gives bullets that hit solid terrain a chance to ricochet and hit an enemy for half damage, and The Nth Degree, which lets every few bullets that actually hit an enemy bounce towards another target.
Gaige: God help you all if I actually hit something!
- In PlanetSide 2, Terran Republic weapons generally have an unmatched rate of fire and damage-per-second, but are typically matched with utterly appalling amounts of random horizontal recoil. New Conglomerate weapons fire slowly but deal more damage and are more controllable, making their limiting factor putting the enemy's head in your crosshairs for the next round.
- Many shooters with limited arsenals tend to balance weapons of the same tier like this. For example, in Payday The Heist and Left 4 Dead 2, the AK-47 is the high-damage/low-accuracy rifle and the Mac-10 is the high-damage/low-accuracy SMG, with their replacement options being all 'low-damage/high-accuracy' weapons.
- Counter-Strike Global Offensive has the Negev machine gun, which has just awful accuracy when shooting its first 15 rounds, making burst firing difficult at range. However after 15 of its 100 shots it becomes ludicrously accurate when on full auto. Just remember to point it at the right guys.
- Ershin's Risky Shot in Breath of Fire IV guarantees a Critical Hit if it connects, but only has 40% accuracy.
- Final Fantasy I has a black magic spell called Poison which has the effect of instant death, but doesn't hit its target very often.
- Deathblow Materia in Final Fantasy VII will cause your character's attacks to either score a Critical Hit, or miss completely. Fortunately, Vincent can obtain a weapon called the Sniper CR with a maxed-out hit rate, and as such he can spam Deathblow without worry.
- Pokémon: A great number of Pokemon moves have low accuracy for balancing reasons. Most prominent among them are the one-hit KO moves, which down the target instantly if they hit their mark, but only do so 30% of the time. There are some ways to increase moves' accuracy such as weather conditions and stat boosting moves, neither of which affect OHKO moves.
- The Shin Megami Tensei games enjoy giving even low level enemies instant death spells, which thankfully have a high miss rate, and some can be blocked later on with elemental resistances.
- Shin Megami Tensei IV has several weapons and attacks that are classified as inflicting high damage and/or having a high Critical Hit rate, but with a low hit rate. Due to the turn penalty for missing an attack, these are best avoided unless the user has the Smirk status, which, among other things, buffs up their accuracy.
- Dragon Quest VIII has the Hero's Spear skills Thunder/Lightning Thrust and Yangus' Axe skills Hatchet Man and Executioner, which have a higher miss rate, but also a higher Critical Hit rate, than their standard attacks. These are very useful when fighting Metal Slimes, since Critical Hits ignore Defense and will always One-Hit Kill them. Angelo also has the Bow skills Needle Shot/Rain, which either deal 1 damage (functionally equivalent to a miss) or a One-Hit Kill (if he "hits a vital area"), but their low hit rate plus Contractual Boss Immunity to instant death makes them Useless Useful Spells. These skills returned in Dragon Quest IX under the respective weapon mastery skill lines.
- The Casey Bat from EarthBound had the maximum possible attack power, but also the lowest hit rate, actually giving it lower average damage than other bats available at the same stage of the game (unless you take the extra accuracy from a behind attack). This is also a joke on the poem "Casey at the Bat" where Casey, the heavy hitter of the team, strikes out.
- Skies of Arcadia has Drachma's mace hand, which has high damage but a base accuracy of 0. The only way to hit is by boosting your accuracy with other pieces of equipment. Fortunately, super moves like his Tackle have a 100% success rate; use another weapon while your SP builds up, switch to the mace, tackle, switch back, repeat.
- The Monk class in Bravely Default has the Strong Strike ability, which deals double the damage of a normal attack but only has a 50% chance of hitting an opponent.
- The Six Stars arms manufacturer in Xenoblade Chronicles X produces weapons with high offensive stats but poor accuracy, operating under the principle that the user's skill should be able to compensate.
- Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold's third major boss, Scylla, has Cry Soul, an attack that deals several blows that are powerful enough to one-shot all but the tankiest party members but so terribly inaccurate that usually none of them will actually hit. Unfortunately, she also possesses skills that inflict sleep and paralysis, and summons flunkies that attempt to bind your characters' legs — all of which prevent dodging attacks...
- Persona 5: the Lucky Punch and Miracle Punch skills have an increased chance to inflict a damaging Critical Hit, but also have a much higher chance of missing completely.
- The MMORPG Star Trek Online: The phaser spinal lance on the Galaxy Dreadnought Cruiser. It's a Wave Motion Gun that can do a lot of damage if it actually hits, but it's a Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon on a ship with a horrendous turn rate so even bringing it to bear is a chore unless the target is standing still. And that's before you get to where the thing has a massive accuracy penalty.
- In Nitrome Must Die, there is a power-up called "Mini Gun" that allows your Swiss Army Weapon to fire at a faster rate than the "Machine Gun" power-up, but this comes with apocalyptic recoil and inaccuracy even at short ranges. No two shots fired when the Mini Gun power up is active follow exactly the same path.
- Dawn of War
- The Squiggoth's melee and ranged attacks do damage in the thousands, but have anywhere from 75 to 50% accuracy.
- Artillery in general (except the Eldar and Sisters of Battle) can only hit something if they can see the target and it's not moving. In earlier games, this could be compensated for by spamming them.
- Supreme Commander has the 500 meter high, six barreled Cybran Experimental Mobile Rapidfire Artillery, the Scathis. It cannot reliably hit an enemy base but it packs a huge punch and when it does and takes the "rapid" part of it's name seriously.
- Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon: Carronades are more powerful than Laser Cannons of the equivalent weight class, but are less accurate and shorter ranged.
- Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup has the appropriately named Bolt of Inaccuracy. As expected, it is both very powerful and very inaccurate. Most players use it on slow Demonic Spiders, as it won't hit anything else.
- FTL: Faster Than Light has the Flak weapons, a shotgun-like weapon that fires a burst of inaccurate projectiles at the target. The Flak II fires 7 shots at once, making it an excellent shield-piercing weapon, but don't count on doing 7 points of damage even on a ship with all of its shields disabled.
- The Leper in Darkest Dungeon has enormous base damage but low accuracy, meaning that against a high-dodge enemy the battle will generally go "whiff, whiff, whiff, whiff, MURDER".
- Monster Rancher has techs that have high Force ratings that your monster can learn when sending it in a special training quest, depending on the game. These techs, obviously, are very powerful and, if your monster is trained well enough, can one-hit KO an opponent. However, these techs are counter-balanced by their low Hit Percentage ratings (i.e. low accuracy), meaning that unless your monster is trained to have high numbers in its Skill stats, you will find your monster not being able to land a good hit with these big moves; more so if that opponent has high Speed stats which means a much better chance at dodging your monster's techs.
- In MechWarrior Living Legends, Heavy Lasers aren't inherently accurate, being a Hitscan pinpoint-precise death ray. However, they have such a long burn time that the slightest bit of cockpit shake or the enemy simply turning away can cause the laser to splatter their damage across multiple components. Medium Range Missiles fit it to a tee, however; launching no less than 10 barely guided rockets that deal massive damage through massive salvos where its uncommon for more than half to actually hit a moving target.
- Advance Wars. Flak and Jugger's power makes their units hit harder but less accurately, though it can go both ways: sometimes the dispersion means more hits than normal resulting in a much more powerful attack.
- In The Battle For Wesnoth, units attack a certain number of times during each combat phase (for example, a Poacher attacks 4 times for 4 damage each time). Dwarvish Thunderers and their promotions only take one shot per ranged combat engagement, meaning they either hit very hard or whiff.
- In Disgaea, Axes have the highest ATK stat of any weapon type, even moreso than Swords, and also debuff the target's DEF on hit. However, Axes also have HIT penalties that scale with ATK (as well as SPD penalties). Lower accuracy in this game not only means less chance to hit, but even if the attack hits, it is more likely to suffer a "Nick" penalty (the opposite of a Critical Hit).
- Fire Emblem:
- Most of the time, stronger tiers of weapons are less accurate than the weaker ones. In the same tier, it still applies for different weapon types - swords are weakest, but most accurate; axes are strongest, but least likely to hit, and lances are in the middle for both. Several games also include Gamble skill, which increases your character's crit chance at the cost of accuracy.
- Dark magic has the highest raw might of all of the magic types (Fire, Wind, Light, Thunder and Dark), but it's also the least accurate. Within the Elemental triangle itself, Thunder is the strongest, but also the least accurate.
- Fire Emblem Fates introduces a Great Club, a type of Hoshidan club that serves as the distaff counterpart to the Nohrian Killer Axe. It has a positively insane 55% base critical hit chance, turning every unit who uses it into a Critical Hit Class. This weapon especially works well for the Berserker class, who already has incredible critical hit ratings. The catch is that the Great Club is one of the most inaccurate weapons in the game, if not the most inaccurate, with a measly 45% base hit chance, which makes killing anybody with the weapon a Luck-Based Mission at best, or an impossible task at worst depending on your Skill stat. However, access to the skill Certain Blow averts this problem, and can turn Berserkers like Arthur and Charlotte into map-clearing threats.
- 8-Bit Theater, Black Mage's Hadoken is like this. Early in the series, he shoots it at an ogre and destroys the entire Giant's Forest. Later he uses it to Dungeon Bypass the Four Hundred Bearded Trials of Strength. Every other time he uses it, he misses. At his worst, he managed to miss an entire volcano.
- Early firearms weren't accurate at all, but too powerful for armies to not use. The accuracy problem on the battlefield-scale was compensated with More Dakka (thus soldiers lining up and firing at the same time), although individual guns would remain unable to hit much for several hundred years.
- Many missile systems, both historical and modern, suffer from this; unintentional civilian casualties are common in times of war and often spun as "acceptable losses" or "collateral damage". One of the more infamous examples from modern times was the R-300 Scud-B used in many wars throughout The Middle East.
- Heavy artillery is lucky to average most shots being within a few hundred feet of the target.
- Naval artillery is this trope Up to Eleven and could well be the Trope Codifier. A single battleship shell could destroy any type of opponent, but naval artillery was (and is still) notoriously inaccurate because both the shooting vessel and the target are moving and it may take up to one minute for the shell to fly from the gun to the target. In WWII it was estimated that only 3% of all main battery shells hit the target.
- Aerial bombing. Gather enough bombers, and you could flatten just about anything with impunity - if you could hit it. WWII bombing was sufficiently inaccurate to miss cities, and as late as Vietnam it took an entire carrier air wing (80+ aircraft lugging bombs and rockets) just to take out a bridge... maybe. Guided bombs have now thoroughly averted this.
- That's one problem in what could be called "space defense" both against man-made objects (e.g. ICBMs or a Kill Sat) and against natural space objects falling on earth. Nearly everything we have that we can navigate accurately enough is too weak and/or slow and nearly everything that we have that is strong an/or fast enough is too inaccurate. And unlike atmosphere based artillery, we can't just hope to hit the general area, we have to land a precise hit dead-bullseye at speeds faster than bullets.