The world is full of mysteries. And where a mystery exists, there is someone who is willing to investigate it.
It's not always an Adventurer Archaeologist, either. Anyone with a decent education, or just a lot of free time on their hands, can be a researcher. Lost Technology, Smashing Hallway Traps of Doom, and Inexplicable Treasure Chests await those who can unlock the ancient secrets.
But woe be to the researcher who also happens to be an NPC.
This trope is dedicated to those proud men who have braved the dangers, studied the ancient runes, and tried everything necessary to open the door. They have spent months or even years trying to make their studies bear fruit, only to watch wordlessly as The Hero arrives and cracks the puzzle before the break of dawn.
A cruel fate for a man whose only mistake was not being The Only One.
Video Game Examples:
- The Legend of Zelda:
- Shad from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has been investigating a legendary city in the sky where the ancestors of the Hylian race once lived, following the work of his father before him. While it is true that he could not have made much progress without a certain rod that was kept in one of the temples, that does not explain why Link shoos him away, takes the cannon himself, explores the civilization, and refuses to share his findings with him.
- Linebeck of The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass makes an interesting twist on this trope, being a character who very much wants to discover the secrets of the local Temple but has done very little to actually work for it. (Other characters, however, did make a considerable effort to uncover the Temple's secrets, as evidenced by the large number of corpses inside.)
- Linebeck also fails to carry a sword, let alone the legendary artifact that actually allows people to survive the temple. Even so, he still does more to assist Link on his quest than almost any other character in the game. Not that this stops the Exposition Fairy from teasing him for his bragging and cowardice.
- Not to mention The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker's Salvage Co., a group of brave explorers (with state of the art diving suits) in search of the legendary "Triumph Forks". Yeah...Apparently the legend degraded over time...
- Gorko the Goron in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has been unsuccessfully researching various things, such as the owl statues, which he can't figure out how to activate. Link just walks up to one and they all turn on automatically. Later, you can "solve" the mysterious Goddess Cubes for him by swinging your sword at them, and sketch things on walls to help him determine the meaning of some ancient puzzles. Gorko, of course, had no chance of figuring out any of these things himself, simply because he doesn't have Link's magic sword.
- Unlike most examples though, he's happy, and not entirely redundant, as the information he's gotten from studying the items allows him to explain to Link exactly what they do now that they're unlocked.
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: There's a researcher named Calip in the Hateno region who's trying to unearth a shrine based on a prophecy about a cursed statue. He somehow fails to notice one of the statue's eyes glows brightly at night, so it's up to Link to summon the shrine for him by solving the puzzle.
- God of War has all the other poor bastards who tried to get to Pandora's Box. You even have to burn one of them alive at one point. It seems that until Kratos no one was badass enough to succeed in solving the puzzles and kicking ass. Knowing Kratos as we do this is totally justified; No one is more badass.
- Badass is subjective. What isn't subjective is the fact that Kratos is a demi-god, and is much MUCH more powerful than your average adventurer.
- And in the sequel, there's all of the poor saps that are on their way to beg the Sisters of Fate for favors. One of them is your last mook. Zeus killed the rest while you were busy climbing out of Tartarus.
- La-Mulana is particularly cruel to these guys. By the time the protagonist shows up, the ruins are positively littered with the corpses of Indy wannabees who weren't quite good enough. Check their corpses for notes and items.
- They even mark the locations of traps for you. Sadly, they do this with their own corpses.
- The protagonist themselves is one in 1001 Spikes, as his goal is to case the Ukampa Ruins to show up his late father, an ace explorer he was never able to match up against in life. By the time he gets to the end, he finds out that his father had already explored the entire thing from front-to-back, and is Not Quite Dead.
- Toma from Chrono Trigger can be found drinking in inns as he researches an island known as the Giant's Claw. In the end, he discovers the location of the island, but has yet to make any progress when Crono and his friends explore the long-deserted prehistoric ruins, find the legendary Rainbow Shell hidden within, and beat him to the punch. It's just as well. If they hadn't, he would have died before he ever found the treasure, as his ghost was responsible for telling them where it was located and thus changing the timeline.
- Kolorado from Paper Mario goes on no fewer than three archaeological expeditions over the course of the game. Mario beats him to his goal the first time. The second time, the two explore a volcanic island as part of the same party, and Mario ends up doing all the work. The third time, one of Mario's party members leads him there, and makes it no secret that he and Mario have already cleaned out the place by that time. To be fair, Kolorado is the Small Name, Big Ego type, and Mario is nice enough to give him the ancient artifacts that he doesn't need.
- The sequels have their own characters, Flavio and Flint Cragley, in the same role. These two eventually make up for their ineffective exploration skills with negotiation and charisma.
- In Pokémon Gold and Silver, the Alph Ruins have existed for 1500 years, and a research center has been studying the place for ten years. When the protagonist arrives, it's only a matter of solving a single sixteen-block picture puzzle to open the ruins and reveal the existence of the ancient Pokemon species known as Unown. Ten years...
- Played around with in a television ad for Pokemon Crystal, which shows a group of explorers trying to push open a door that has Unown markings above it. Two native trainers/guides are watching, wondering if they should tell the explorers that the markings spell "Pull".
- Worse, there was an explorer in Ruby/Sapphire who had been looking for ruins in the desert for so long he can't remember when he started. And then you can find it, capture the Regirock inside, and use it against him in battle. Of course, no player would shatter another person's soul like that, right? Right?
- This one at least made sense, though, since the area you had to go to to open the place up was miles away and underwater. Not to mention you needed two hard-to-find Pokemon and had to read a secret code (which was actually braille, but still...).
- In Knights of the Old Republic, a technician on Manaan needs the main character's help to decipher a Sith passcard. This task requires basic arithmetic skills. Elsewhere, the mysteries of the Cave of Certain Death are unlocked by solving two oddly-worded trivia quizzes. Said unexplored cave is located 50 meters from Jedi HQ — although, given that the first thing you find there, apart from an ancient droid, is the corpse of your less lucky predecessor, maybe the Jedi really are that stupid.
- The second case is averted insofar as there doesn't seem to be any researchers to make redundant, your dead predecessor not withstanding (and she might simply not have had your language skills to get to the trivia quizzes) — it's implied that the Jedi Council prefers not sending people there for a very simple reason: they can sense that the Dark Side is strong there.
- Justified in Golden Sun: The Lost Age. While at least two sets of ruins have been discovered, it appears to be common knowledge among the local townsfolk that only those with the power of Psynergy will be able to make any progress investigating them.
- Also Justified in Suikoden V- the Sindar Ruins that Zweig, Lorelai and the other scholars are researching are directly connected to the Prince's Dawn Rune and won't activate unless he's there. Since the rune is unique, impossible to copy and chooses its wielder, none of them could possibly get past those particular seals on the ruins without him. In the chronologically later Suikoden II, Lorelai does a much better job of getting into Sindar Ruins elsewhere in the world that aren't connected to the Dawn Rune.
- Subverted in Phantasy Star IV. A guest character at one point in the game appears to be a character in this mold...but once you get into the ruins, it turns out that he's actually one of the incarnations of Dark Force, and was just using you to get inside. Now he plans to off you since You Have Outlived Your Usefulness.
- It actually isn't so clear. He never says anything to that effect, and in fact screams in horror when he starts to transform into the latest incarnation of the Big Bad, implying that he was somehow unaware of what he was.
- It also has an aversion in Professor Holt, whose only obstacle in getting into Birth Valley is the fact that he was turned to stone by a villain. The heroes don't even care about Birth Valley, they only go there because they were hired to rescue the professor. Once you've cured him, he goes on about his business exploring the ruins.
- Averted with Threads of Fate, either Mint or Rue retrieve artifacts for Klaus to research, but strictly speaking, Mint/Rue does nothing toward solving mysteries around them. In a further aversion, Klaus seemingly completes his researches in record time.
- Even major characters aren't immune to this. In Mass Effect, if you do the other story missions before recruiting Liara, she will lament the fact that you've learned more about the Protheans in a matter of days than she'd learned in decades of study.
- In the first game, there's a minor NPC named Chorban who asks you to scan the keepers in the Citadel to get scientific data on them. If you scan all of them, he sends you an email in the second game telling you that the keepers are programmed to respond to a signal every 50,000 years, and that the next signal is supposed to come out...about right now. It'd be pretty helpful information if it weren't for the fact that you learned about it two years ago. It would also be a push toward verifying that what you are saying is true, except that no one will listen to him either.
- Averted in Exit Fate—if you tell the Researcher in question that you know the location of the ruins he's searching for, he'll join you as an Optional Party Member and decipher the writing in the ruins.
- On the other hand, there's Myst and his constant efforts to revive the dead For Science!. He fails four or five times onscreen and has presumably done so several times before, so of course Daniel comes along and manages it on the first try.
- In Tales of Graces, the researchers of Strahta are astounded at the things that Pascal does with no apparent effort whatsoever.
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: Downplayed with the excavation of Vahtacen, since it's implied to be a low priority both for the Master-Wizard overseeing the project and the mages on site. All the same, the Player Character can quite handily unlock the ruins by solving a puzzle that was said to have stymied — and injured — an entire research team for weeks.
- Resident Evil has George Trevor, the ill-fated architect of the Spencer Mansion who, just like many architects in legend, is kept captive and ultimately dies to keep the secrets of his insane employer's trap-filled manor. What makes him a true-blue Redundant Researcher is that he escaped and left journal entries chronicling his hellish journey through the maze of his own making before he finally succumbed from fatigue and starvation. His journal notes act as clues for the STARS agents as they fight their way through the mansion.
Non-Video Game Examples
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: In the episode The Library, Professor Zei had made many fruitless, not to mention lifethreatening expeditions into the Si Wong Desert looking for Wan Shi Tong's library. It wasn't until Aang's group showed up that he was finally able to find it. Justified in that Appa allowed the possibility of an aerial survey.