Sometimes, you gotta go ol' school.
A technologically advanced empire has come to conquer a poor, defenseless, primitive planet where the most advanced piece of technology is a horse. Unfortunately for the empire, Our Heroes happen to be living on the planet and helping the natives at this time, and they are anything but Medieval Morons.
As it turns out, centuries of starship-to-starship combat with particle beams and shields have rendered The Empire ignorant of the simpler ways of getting killed. Wooden crossbow bolts don't show up on radar, and go straight through magnetic barriers. Humongous Mecha fall into hidden pits and get stuck. Swinging tree trunks smash straight through Powered Armor and send the enemy soldiers flying through the air into a conveniently placed abyss. A little pluck, some old-fashioned ingenuity, and a really big rock will beat a laser every time. Don't think too hard on this one. Suffice it to say these rocks tend to de-emphasize the eliteness of the supposed crack troops in a Redshirt Army.
Historically, industrialized nations regularly steamrolled over the armies of pre-industrial nations or tribes. Occasionally, pre-industrial forces won battles, but rarely wars, and even then this would typically be more because the more advanced armies were badly outnumbered or poorly led, or their troops made up of press-ganged conscripts with low morale or of otherwise low quality. In the rare cases where the technological underdogs managed to preserve their independence, they generally received a crash course in development and won with at least somewhat modern weapons of their own, rather than Bamboo Technology.note
Compare Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age, Cool, but Inefficient, Good Old Fisticuffs, Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better, Guns Are Worthless, Break Out the Museum Piece, Muggles Do It Better, Older Is Better and Scissors Cuts Rock. One of the things to watch for in How to Invade an Alien Planet. Contrast Low Culture, High Tech, where a low tech culture uses superior high tech devices. See also Superweapon Surprise when natives have something up their sleeves that could reasonably be expected to beat the invaders, or Insufficiently Advanced Alien when the invaders themselves really don't have anything that could reasonably be expected to beat the natives. See Schizo Tech for low tech and high tech used together. Can be justified if the primitives have a huge numerical superiority.
Incidentally, it is worth noting that, in Real Life, rock is one of the better materials to have between yourself and a laser, given its typically high melting point and lack of flammability. And a rock can make a good weapon, especially if you manage to drop it from high enough.
- Taken literally in episode 18 of Eto Rangers, where Bakumaru, wielding a Laser Sword, is effortlessly driven back by a caveman with a stone tomahawk. He also couldn't even scratch the Jyarei Monster that mission because of its stone body.
- New Mazinger. The trope is definitely subverted in this Mazinger Z spin-off. At the beginning, Mazinger easily defeats with a sword a bunch of mechas armed with laser blades, ray guns and missile launchers... However Mazinger later faced an army not even used firearms. Mazinger was loaded with clusters of missiles. He easily annihilated them.
- Tower of God: Rak and his spear easily took out Levin and his Sniper Rifle. Literally, the thing fell to pieces.
- In Transformers: Robots in Disguise, the Predacons attempt to steal an antique steam train which is being guarded by Team Bullet Train. Gas Skunk fires an EMP pulse which disables Rail Spike and Rapid Run, but has no effect on the steam train due it its lack of electronic components. Also, Sky Bite, Dark Scream, and Slapper are all disabled by smoke from its chimney.
- As a result of the predominant Steampunk Schizo Tech universe of Samurai 7, the only available weapon against a giant floating battlecruiser is... a massive sharpened pike the size of a building, hurled across miles by a giant ballista. And it WORKS.
- Largely averted in ∀ Gundam. Although the Earth Militia forces know their environment well enough to stage ambushes against the technologically superior Moonrace invaders (not to mention that solid munitions can pass through their advanced shielding), it doesn't change the fact that it's a lopsided contest. Especially given that Earth-bound humanity is using what amounts to World War I technology at best against enemies that can wipe out entire regiments with beam weapons. It's only after they uncover caches of mobile suits and with the Turn-A's help that they actually put up a decent fight.
- Space Battleship Yamato 2199 provides a few examples, thanks to the UN propensity for using firearms:
- Small arms are firearms, and they're just as capable as the Gamilas' energy weapon equivalents;
- Fighters too are equipped with firearms as their guns, and not only the smaller guns (apparently similar to current revolver cannons) are equivalent to the Gamilas fighters energy weapons, but the larger guns are more powerful;
- The Yamato's main guns are capable of operating both as the devastating shock cannons and as normal naval guns firing 'Type 3 shells'. The shells are something incredible: while short-ranged, they are just as devastating as the shock cannons, can fire indirectly, and, differently from energy weapons, can operate just fine inside portals, wrecking Deslar's flagship when he ambushes them inside one.
- Played with in Panzer World Galient. When the forces of Marder -which included infantry and cavalry equipped with beam weapons and giant war mechas- invaded the capital of the Kingdom of Arst, they easily won because the Arstians were armed with nothing but swords and spears. Later on, though, a rebel army equipped with bladed weapons and reinforced by Galient managed to beat Marder's war mechas.
- A case of "Rock Beats Better Rock" in the case of Attack on Titan: Paradis is about 50-100 years behind Marley in terms of technological level, but they absolutely wreck Marley's forces on the eve of Marley's war declaration against them. This is in part due to Paradis' use of ODM gear which Marley has no experience fighting, Paradis entrapping and delaying several of Marley's Warrior Titans so they cannot immediately react, and Eren's sudden transformation into the Attack Titan that catches the whole assembly off guard.
- In Rave Master, Sieghart showcases his elemental magic to completely overwhelm Haru's swordplay with Ten Commandments, claiming that a swordsman can't defeat a sorcerer. Haru manages to inflict his first wound on him using Eisen Meteor, the basic form of the Ten Commandments which is a mere steel sword and thus is unaffected by Sieg's magic. Much later in the story Sieg remembers this lesson and uses a mere, unenchanted wooden staff to defeat the more formidable but squishier wizard Haja.
- In an almost literal example, Soul Hunter has Bukichi (a man with Sennin Bone Structure but no Sendo training or Paopei) destroying the all-suctioning Paopei Kongen Kinto by throwing a large rock at it: because the rock was too big to fit through the vase Paopei's mouth, Kongen Kinto overheated and broke into pieces. (In context, despite looking like magic the Paopei are result of alien technology).
- In X-Statix/Avengers, Mr. Sensitive fights Iron Man armed only with an anvil, of all things. Well, on the cover, at least. Mr. Sensitive did win the fight depicted in the issue itself, though.note
- Daredevil, having failed to defeat Ultron by crashing a truck into him, knocks the robot's head off with a stick. And not one of those he always uses. An ordinary wooden stick. Then again you need to consider that the only reason he could do that was because Ultron 13 was an amalgamation of contradicting personalities and conveniently/literally tore himself apart...
- Justified in JLA: Year One with The Flash. Snapper Carr complains that the League having a library in their base is pointless, since they also have a computer and can use it to do research much faster. But no Internet connection in the world can move faster than Flash, who has a book open to the appropriate page before Snapper even finishes typing. And could probably even run to any library in the world and back in the time it takes Google to load. This was based on Real Life accounts of the series' writer answering comic trivia faster than the Internet.
- It's a fairly common tactic for the Hulk to use a blunt object against technologically advanced foes. This is presuming that he can't simply tear them metal limb from metal limb with his bare hands (which he usually can). Granted, the Hulk pretty much applies this tactic to any foe, regardless of the level of technology at their disposal. This is quite in line with real world physics; you can destroy anything in the universe, ANYTHING at all... if you hit it hard enough. And who could possibly hit harder than an enraged Hulk? .
- An interesting example involving laser swords is found in the Star Wars mini-series Jango Fett: Open Seasons, wherein the eponymous Mandalorian badass kills nearly a dozen Jedi Knights in close combat with his fists, armoured boots, garrote wire, his helmet (he kills his last opponent by throwing snow in his eyes and head-butting him in the face) and yes, a rock, before finally collapsing and being taken prisoner, an incident which many years later inspires Count Dooku (who was present at the time) to select Jango as the template for the Jedi-killing Clone Army.
- In an Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers comic, a gang of crooks turns up wearing laser-reflective armour that renders the Rangers' weapons ineffective. A Jerkass Bounty Hunter puts them down with regular bullets from a primitive firearm. Amusingly, the Rangers then arrest him for the use of illegal weaponry.
- In Wonder Woman: Amazons Attack!, the Amazons repeatedly take down tanks and jet fighters using bows and arrows.note
- In a Thunderbirds story in TV Century 21, a Jovian alien arrives on Earth in an African village, growing gigantic and turning people to stone. It's seemingly unstoppable, not even the most powerful atomic weapons can subdue it, but a single native kills it merely with a poison dart to the eye.
- From a Blue Beetle comic, in a showdown with a highly advanced alien race:
Negotiator: Reyes! You could not possibly have coordinated with this "Bat-Man"! We monitored every electronic frequency, every bandwidth you could use to reach him!
Blue Beetle: I know. Scarab told me. That's why I sent a letter.
- In a miniseries Image comic called Area 52, which is a giant warehouse full of supernatural stuff, the true enemy is revealed as a robotic head from outer space that can take over anything electronic, making it virtually unstoppable. It came to Earth in the 1940s, before computers were invented, so it didn't have anything to take over, and was promptly defeated and sealed in a crate.
- In IDW's reboot of G.I. Joe, one of the remote-controlled units that Destro had snuck into the Joes' Pit meets this fate after it and its brethren wreck havoc on the Joes plus surviving all sorts of ammo.
James McMullen XXIV/Destro: A three-million-dollar unit...
Rory: ...done in by a bloody rock.
(one of the Joes): Itsy-bitsy spider signing off! [rock smash]
- In Metroid's manga, the cutting-edge new Power Beam can't pierce Mother Brain's Zebetites shield, but Grey Voice's century-old weapon can.
- The Polish comic book Kajtek i Koko w kosmosie has out heroes captured and taken before the alien Big Bad in his planetary base. The Big Bad's robots assure him that the heroes have no weapons of any sort with them. But then Koko simply punches out a robot with his fists, and the other robots meekly admit that they haven't taken such a primitive weapon into account.
- Two issues of Hawkeye revolved around Clint trying to recapture a videotape of him murdering someone. Captain America notes that criminal organisations are using more and more analogue technology since digital information is much more easily traceable.
- In Fantastic Four: The End, the solar system is surrounded by a high-tech energy barrier meant to prevent any communication or travel between the solar system and the rest of the universe while it's completing its trial period before joining the Galactic community. The Mad Thinker, part of a group of super-villains seeking to work with outside agents to bring the barrier down, outwits the barrier by the simple method of using Morse Code and what amounts to a flash light since the barrier didn't block normal light from passing through.
- When The Losers need to steal some data from a Mega-Corp, they send Jensen to get the data. When the network proves too well-protected, he resorts to "analog hacking": Grabbing a fire axe and hacking his way into their server room to physically steal a hard drive.
- When Cindy and Biscuit were abducted by an alien scientist, it ended with Biscuit sending his spaceship haywire by urinating on an important control panel, and Cindy beating him with an iron bar until he agreed to take her home.
- The first arc of X-Wing Rogue Squadron has a TIE fighter, a small spacecraft not known for sturdiness, dramatically destroyed when a Wookie hits its wing with a stick. The same Wookie in a flashback destroyed a larger shuttle by hucking a rock at it. They're sturdier in the rest of the series.
- In Gold Digger, Madrid finds herself in a fight against herself from six years in the future (to protect herself from sixteen years in the future), but any weapon she pulls out or cobbles together gets just as hastily disassembled by "Plus Six's" Hard Light tools. Present Madrid puts together one last weapon, which turns out to be a spring-loaded rock with enough components to give off a high-energy signature to get Plus Six to take it apart, which launches the rock right into her face.
- In one Iron Man arc, Tony Stark fired up a virus that erased all information of him from the Internet and memories from everybody around the world. Tony later had to infiltrate Latveria and found out the hard way that Doctor Doom still remembered him and was not happy about his memory being tampered with. Doom then reveals that the amnesia virus was not able to make him forget that he had written a diary by hand (so it could not be hacked for deletion) that mentioned Stark.
- An ongoing theme of Tragg and the Sky Gods, as Handsome Heroic Caveman Tragg is consistently able to best aliens armed with Ray Guns and other advanced technology with nothing more than stone age weaponry. A literal version happens in #6, when Keera draws her blaster during a Duel to the Death, only to have it knocked from her hand and smashed by a rock thrown by Lorn.
- El Eternauta: Literally justified and used, as River Plate stadium is chosen because the big concrete walls are the best cover against the heat rays. Metaphorically averted, as alien tech is too big (although somewhat mundane) to be fought straight with seemingly "primitive" weapons (tanks, conventional artillery, even nuclear weapons). But if the tech itself is not absolute, the intelligent tactics of the Manos are.
- Subverted in The Krypton Chronicles. Several millennia ago, Kryptonians were conquered and slaved by an alien race known as Vrangs. The first slaves who revolt against the Vrangs use their own chains to kill the guards watching them, even though the latter were armed with beam weapons. Though, the rebels are aware that they couldn't fight a whole army armed with firearms, so they escape after stealing their masters' weapons, which Hatu-El manages to reverse-engineer and improve.
- Strangers at the Heart's Core: Variant. Supergirl cannot open her Kryptonian parents' house's door using her laser-key, so she uses a hairpin to click the futuristic lock open, something the locksmith could have never counted on.
- A literal example in Enemy of My Enemy, where Zerat kills the enemy sniper Yik by sneaking up behind him and crushing him with a huge rock.
- An even more literal example is in Fallout: Equestria - Pink Eyes, where the lead character Puppysmiles's only weapon is a rock. So far, her rock has claimed the life of anyone caught on the wrong end, even killer robots and manticores.
- Averted in Finishing the Fight, which has Master Chief and the UNSC crushing their medieval-level enemies with great ease. Even their armor is far superior. Also rather amusingly inverted on one occasion, where Briza Do'urden is barely halfway through gloating about her newly summoned Earth Elemental before it gets annihilated by a Spartan laser.
- Mass Foundations: Redemption in the Stars sees Courier Ethan Sunderland kill a heavily shielded Blue Suns Centurion by stabbing him in the throat with his Bowie knife (which is a regular bladed knife, albeit quite fancy). Justified in-universe as kinetic shielding is only meant to work against high-speed objects, either being very ineffective or completely useless against melee attacks.
- Subverted in Mass Effect: Human Revolution, where Hein only gets away with bringing Automatic Crossbows to a gunfight because the bolts release Snowblind particles to confound kinetic barrier sensors.
- Averted in a fanmade DEATH BATTLE! pitting Black Panther against Conner Kenway which is slightly more realistic. Conner enters the battle armed with 18th-century weapons and armor, whereas Black Panther has weapons composed of Vibranium, which are more advanced and effective than anything existing in the present day. The Black Panther's greater strength and fighting skills are enough that the writer found the battle so much a mismatch in Black Panther's favor that the set-up for the fight made his victory a Foregone Conclusion.
- Batman vs. Ezio. Much like the above example, Batman's more advanced equipment and gadgets are part of the reason for his victory, along with him being a much better fighter than Ezio.
- In Worldwar: War of Equals, the newly improved Killercrafts of the Race got their asses handed to them by Italy's Cold War-era fighters, more specifically F-104S already phased out but reactivated to face them.
- In Avengers: Infinite Wars, this plays a part in the Avengers' first confrontation with a Sith; while lightsabers can deflect blaster bolts, they just melt bullets, with the result that Asajj Ventress is struck by small fragments of molten lead when she tries to deflect Sam Wilsons shots.
- Played with in Shielded Under the Raptor's Wings: the author seems to be of the opinion that more advanced isn't always better, so, depending on the situation, it can be played straight or subverted:
- Early during the Earth-Minbari War, the more advanced Minbari ships usually had the advantage on their Earthforce counterparts, as the more advanced technology make them faster, better armed, and hellishly difficult to hit. Once the Alpha Quadrant forces enter the scene and provide Earth Alliance with sensors that break through Minbari stealth, however, Earthforce ships have the advantage due to their crews' superior skill and ability to get the drop on them, especially when railgun-equipped cruisers (nicknamed killcruisers by the Minbari before the new sensors appeared) are involved;
- Subverted between Alpha Quadrant ships and what the Babylon 5 factions have, as a number of various technical advances give the Alpha Quadrant ships firepower comparable or superior to the Minbari ones and shields strong enough to resist it while much smaller;
- Zig-zagged with the old fusion-powered Romulan ships still in service and the rest of the Alpha Quadrant ships (including the newer Romulan ships), all powered by antimatter: the antimatter-powered ships are slightly more powerful and the fusion reactors of the older Romulan ships are much larger and with smaller fuel reserves to compete, but the fusion-powered ships don't suffer of the antimatter shortage.
- Played straight when the Earthforce army fights the Minbari one. Human weapons are mostly BiL-Pro (that is, improved firearms) or missiles, with the only advanced weapons being vehicle-mounted energy machine guns, laser cannons for use against enemy aircrafts and artillery shells, and newly-introduced tank railguns, and their ground vehicles move on tracks. Minbari weapons are mostly energy except for their artillery, that fires Antimatter-loaded shells by gravity manipulation, and their vehicles move the same way. On the other hand, the former designed their equipment basing themselves on battlefield experience and are quite good at using it, while the Minbari, in their arrogance, took a long series of stupid decisions (their main tank is criticized for having its main gun fixed forward, an heat signature that makes it impossible to hide to anyone with even the most primitive heat-seeking missile, the gravity-manipulating equipment put in an unarmoured fin, and the armour plating being mechanically fragile and vulnerable to kinetic energy weapons that on the ground are used by pretty much everyone, while the antimatter-firing artillery is called out on the impracticality of only using antimatter as the shell filling) and didn't train their soldiers adequately, who had to learn how to fight effectively on the field. This results in Earthforce resisting the Minbari invasion of Cyrus for years in spite of the latter having orbital superiority and limited starship support, and once the starship support is eliminated the Minbari get annihilated.
- Partially subverted by the Windsword assault tank, that is explicitly better armed and armoured than anything in the Earthforce arsenal in spite of being just a Flawed Prototype rushed into production (the final product would be much superior). This comes from another instance of the trope being played straight: over two centuries earlier, Minbari analysts warned that their ground equipment was outmatched by what the Centauri and Orieni had for the same reasons it's outmatched by Earthforce equipment but were ignored until the Windsword clan, to shut them up, decided to verify and saw they were right, at which point they started a development program for a new tank with improved protection and a better and turreted main gun, with the assault tank having been literally cobbled together from the still incomplete new technologies at the start of the war to have something not completely outmatched by Earthforce vehicles;
- Subverted by the Alpha Quadrant ground forces: they're not seen in action, but the narration points out their equipment was designed well with superior technology than either the Minbari or Earth Alliance, with their artillery having various kinds of cheap but extremely effective munitions, Klingon tanks having coil guns and being Hover Tanks, and Federation hover tanks having phaser cannons and Deflector Shields. Also partially played straight, as the kinds of munitions available to Alpha Quadrant artillery include "the primitive but capable high explosive-fragmentation shells" (first fielded in 1887 in Real Life).
- In the Warhammer 40,000 Dark Fic The Age of Dusk, the Tau Empire assume that their war against the Chaos Daemons of the Terran Hells will be a cakewalk, as they have drones, plasma guns and hover tanks up against the Daemons with bows, axes and other iron-age weapons. The war was a bloody stalemate where thousands of Tau and allied human lives were lost only to empower the Daemons. Apparently intended as a Take That! to The Salvation War: you know, that story where the modern militaries of Earth invade Hell, annihilate huge armies of sword-wielding demons and kill Satan with an anti-ship missile.
- Cruelly averted in Bad Future Crusaders where in the backstory a Diesel Punk country inhabited by zebras went to war with a Medieval Stasis country inhabited by ponies. While the ponies were limited to bows and arrows and the inherent abilities of their three species, the zebras had World War I era weaponry including firearms, telegraph lines, tanks, and early fighter aircraft. Even though the ponies vastly outnumbered the zebras, the ponies were defeated so soundly that Apple Bloom, a veteran of the war, describes it as a "massacre".
- Played with in the background setting of Sonic X: Dark Chaos. The Demons initially thought that the Angel rebellion would be easy to defeat - the Demon Empire had technology that could destroy galaxies at the push of a button and control time versus simple projectile weapons and nuclear missiles. Turned out that the Jews, Muslims, and Angels had much more than that, and used their more... advanced technology to fight the Demons into a bloody, eternal stalemate. It helps that the Jews of the Tribal Republic are the masters of stealth and guerrilla warfare, and the Muslims are suicidally courageous and fanatical in battle.
- And then the Shroud appeared, playing this trope straight. The Shroud have no technology at all, being a parasitic Horde of Alien Locusts, and yet there are so many of them and they are so strong that they can easily fight both Demons and Angels at the same time.
- A non-fighting example in Avenger of Steel, where criminals are so afraid of being caught by Superman that they have resorted to buying typewriters and old computers to keep records of their activities that Superman can't easily hack.
- In Power Rangers Mythos, the Rangers learn that their main enemy, the alchemist Avanth, is passing instructions to his minions on paper because nobody would think to look for such messages in the year 2600. Later, they use an old-fashioned radio to intercept a message about Avanth's latest scheme.
- Discussed in Lessons With Hagrid, where Hagrid tells Harry that he should always keep a brick in his pocket since there are quite a few magic-resistant creatures in the world. At the end, Harry manages to sneak up on a dazed Voldemort and knock him out by hitting him over the head with a brick.
- On the Crossover fiction Just Won't Die by Jeffrey Keith Wong, multidimensional shenanigans have caused Ranma Saotome and Nene Romanova to arrive on Newport City, and needing information, Nene starts to hack around. Lacking the cerebral-cortex computer implants that are so ubiquitous to the Ghost In The Shell universe, Nene has to make do with "turtling" (using a computer with a manual keyboard), which is very slow comparatively... but unfortunately for Major Motoko Kusanagi, all of her info-warfare expertise is specialized in tossing firewalls and viruses that, if the hacker she was attacking was using said implants, would give him a fatal electrical jolt or would destroy his mind... but all Nene needs to do to get rid of the glitches that the attacks trigger on her computer is to just reboot it. As a result, Nene ends up nearly-relentlessly Mind Raping the Major.
- In The Legend of Zelda fic Zelda and the Manacle of Cahla, one of the types of enemies Zelda fights is Mecha-Mooks with built in Magitek weapons called Automatons. Wielding only a sword, bow and arrows, a whip and some magic spells from the titular manacle, she clears through literal hoards of them.
- Tarzan brings down a helicopter with a single well-aimed rock in the 2013 Tarzan 3D movie.
- Zigzagged in the second Ultimate Avengers movie. Wakanda's weapons technology is surprisingly effective, but this is solely because they are forged of Vibranium and their few gun-based weapons are powered/controlled from a downed Chitauri ship. When the ship is destroyed, and they have to rely on their medieval-grade tech, they really don't do so well, for all that their weapons are capable of piercing Chitauri armor.
- Star Wars:
- The Ewoks in Return of the Jedi overpower an "entire legion of [the Emperor's] best troops" with only spears and rocks. On the other hand, they were clearly losing against the AT-STs until Chewie and two Ewoks commandeered one. According to George Lucas, this was inspired by the less technologically developed Viet Cong defeating American troops in the Vietnam War (see the Real Life section for more).
- Apparently not that uncommon in the universe, as it also happened with the Noghri years earlier. Although they were a race of ninja-warrior-hunters living on a planet just a few steps up from a Death World, and consequently so badass Darth Vader decided to make them into his own personal death commandos, so it's not quite so unbelievable. Later in The Thrawn Trilogy, when the Noghri "adopt" Han Solo (for being "Lady Vader's consort"), he muses that while he'd previously been adopted by the Ewoks, who managed to bring down an Imperial legion thanks to camouflage, home field advantage, and weight of numbers, since he knows exactly what the Noghri are capable of, this time it doesn't feel quite as silly.
- Lampshaded in the EU:
"AT-STs will no longer be deployed on planets with an abundance of trees or other known obstacles such as rock-wielding primitives."
- Death Star gives us an example which even describes a knife as a "whittled rock", and has an expert Imperial pistolier taken down when his blaster malfunctions, permitting a knife-toting enemy to shank him.
- Regarding the other film, The Phantom Menace, that dealt with a technologically superior army dealing with an inferior group, it's notably averted: although the Gungans did manage to do in some numbers of the Droid Army in the climactic battlenote , they overall lost badly. In fact, literally the only reason they managed to live to tell the day was through sheer dumb luck from Anakin managing to blow up the Droid Control Ship, causing the droid units to shut down.
- In the climax of The Rise of Skywalker, the Final Order is about to employ electronic countermeasures against Resistance forces landing on a Star Destroyer hull. Then the Resistance fighters ride out of their dropship on horseback.
- Independence Day: No, seriously, the aliens come down to Earth, they glass a portion of the planet, they blow up some of the most advanced fighter planes in the world (and their elite pilots) and even nukes can't stop them... but a combination of Morse Code and a computer virus can?! It was even worse in the original cut of the movie. Russell is denied permission to fly one of the remaining F-18's, so he shows up to the final battle and destroys the enemy ship with his crop-dusting biplane with a Sidewinder missile taped to its side.
- Black Hawk Down: The Mogadishu militia are able to negate the speed advantage of the American assault force by having a kid with a cellphone set up on an overlook near the base. When he sees a large group of black helicopters taking off, he calls another kid with a cellphone who passes it to the warlord and then he gets people running around the city lighting tire fires, which act as warning beacons that let everyone know they're about to have company.
- Battleship: The USS Missouri, a retired battleship, is able to take out a highly advanced alien vessel.
- Eraser: In the climax, Witness Protection agent John Kruger (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his mobster allies are up against several mooks of the Big Bad who use deadly advanced railguns with Infrared X-Ray Camera. They get the upper hand on them with ambush tactics and normal guns.
- Dutch used this trope in the climax of the first movie making traps out of sticks and stones and covering himself in mud to mask his heat signature. But it doesn't actually work. Despite exploiting the predator's heat vision to his advantage, Arnold's low-tech approach fails to beat the alien. It's only when the latter decides to "even things out" by removing its multipurpose helmet and shoulder gun that Arnold manages to beat it. And even then it's more due to dumb luck more than anything. In the expanded Predator material, the Predators are shown to particularly enjoy hunting humans because of our ability to make rocks beat lasers. Being intelligent, wily, and resourceful makes us the second-ultimate prey. The expanded universe goes on to reveal that Predators themselves gain more honor from hunting things using only low-tech weapons: any hunter can laser someone with a rock from a kilometre away, but using a rock to beat someone with a laser takes true skill. In the 2010 Alien vs. Predator game, you gain bonus points for completing a level using only your wrist blades.
- Predator 2 shows us a Predator trophy room which contains, among other things (like the skull of an alien from the Alien franchise) a flintlock pistol... implying that not only did a human attempt to challenge a Predator with this weapon, this individual put up enough of a fight to be considered a worthy opponent!
- In Star Trek: First Contact, Picard pumps some Borg drones full of Holodeck-simulated lead from Tommy guns (with the safeties off), because Borg shields are calibrated to stop phasers, not old-fashioned bullets. The debate on whether holodeck-generated bullets are more phaser than bullet is something that fans debate to this day (plus, the number of Borg drones defeated by the holographic Tommy Gun is roughly equivalent to the number of drones defeated by phasers before they adapt... two). Later on in the film, Worf kills another Borg with a sword. He's a dangerous man — allegedly. Indeed, people tend to fare better against the Borg in close combat in general, until assimilation occurs. But that only really comes into play when dealing with inhumanly strong people like Worf or Data. Early on, a Red Shirt tries to rifle butt a Borg drone after his phaser is adapted to. The Borg shrugs off the hit and promptly hands the man his ass. Some of the expanded universe material does take the "kinetic strikes are effective against the Borg" approach.
- Though not quite as far apart technologically, in The Last Samurai the Samurai army universally favors "honorable" weapons like katanas, spears, and bows instead of the firearms of the regular Imperial Army of Japan. They win their initial battles against poorly trained soldiers armed with rifles, and only lose their climactic final battle after killing over two-thirds of the second, better-trained and armed army, who outnumbered them six to one. This is somewhat of a subversion. In the end the Samurai win a moral battle by showing the newer army that traditional values, especially courage against overwhelming odds, should be respected. This may have been their goal all along.
- In Flight of the Intruder, the eponymous plane is flown through a hail of anti-aircraft fire twice in an attack on Hanoi, but on the first mission of the film earlier, a weapons officer is killed by a farmer with an old rifle on the return flight. Actually justified, as the Vietnamese were trained to fire their guns in the air when they heard jet fighters, on the chance that one of them would get lucky. A single bullet hitting a vital part through sheer luck is known in the military as the "golden bb". It happens.
- The Dudley Do-Right movie: "That's unfair, they've got rocks! And all we have is machine-guns!" To be fair, said rocks are giant boulders coming down on them when besides some riot gear and said guns, they have no other defenses.
- Used in Avatar: On the one hand, when the Na'vi fire up at human vehicles, their arrows do little more than scratch the windows. On the other hand, arrows fired at a right angle from power-diving ikrans can punch through aircraft canopies (which is Truth in Television). But on the other other hand, the Na'vi still get their blue butts kicked by machine guns and missiles, at least until the planet itself sends its wildlife in as reserve. Turns out rocks can't beat mecha — but a stampede of armored rhinos that shrug off gunfire like a gentle shower can.
- In District 9, the MNU mercenaries are able to eventually bring down Wikus' hijacked Mini-Mecha, but it cost them two trucks, a minigun, a big bloody anti-material rifle, at least one rocket-propelled grenade, and most of their number. And it's clear that they only stood a chance to begin with because the suit is implied to be the alien equivalent of a jury-rigged prison slingshot and Wikus has no idea what he's doing.
- The War of the Worlds: The alien race dominates earth, but succumbs en masse to common bacteria as soon as they exit their machines.
- In Hostel, a pair of gun-toting professional killers are taken out by a gang of prepubescent boys armed with nothing but rocks and crowbars.
- About half of First Blood was made of this trope, when Rambo hadn't yet gotten a hold of a gun and had to use Nam-style mantraps against his pursuers.
- Quite literally in Yor: The Hunter from the Future, the main character, a caveman is confronting a robot with a laser arm, and Yor bashes its head off with a rock.
- And in another way too literal approach, Short Circuit's Number Five successfully blocks another S.A.I.N.T. robot's tank-busting pulse laser with a big rock.note
- Subverted in Cowboys & Aliens, in that the only reason the cowboys win against the bigger and Sufficiently Advanced Aliens is by using stolen technology and help from another Sufficiently Advanced Alien fighting against the first.
- In Down Periscope, it's revealed by Vice Admiral Winslow to Dodge, that an old diesel submarine could be a threat to US harbors - if it was crewed and commanded by people willing to play outside the rule books of more conventional submarine forces in an underwater version of guerrilla warfare. Given technical issues too complex to be addressed here, the scenario is one that makes Real Life military planners less than happy. Partially subverted by the fact that in conventional warfare a diesel is no match for a nuclear sub, see the Real Life section below.
- In Skyfall, the villain is a ruthless cyberterrorist who can hack any defense system. James Bond defeats him with shells in the floorboards, shrapnel in the light fixtures, and a hunting knife.
- Happens in Stargate, when Ra's soldiers, armed high-tech energy weapons, are defeated by a massive crowd of Abydonians armed with sticks and clubs. Justified in this case because they were outnumbered several hundred times.
- Jurassic World:
- The I. rex is an animal that manages to outwit some of the most advanced tracking and takedown methods available to the staff at the park using its natural abilities. It helps that it was engineered for precisely this purpose.
- The Pterosaurs take down a helicopter with a mounted machine gun by flying into it, killing the gunner and co-pilot and sending the copter out of control.
- The velociraptors (temporarily under I. rex's control) easily shred the well-trained, heavily armed InGen team using nothing but tooth, claw, and pack hunting tactics.
- The Marvel Cinematic Universe more often than not has the various sci-fi weapons and alien invaders being outgunned by conventional Earth tech. In Avengers: Infinity War, the Avengers who do the best against the alien invaders are those with regular guns and explosives; War Machine, with a minigun and a small missile launcher, probably gets more kills than the entire Wakandan army armed with vibranium spears and blasters. Rocket Raccoon, who has access to several energy weapons, is quite impressed by Bucky's fifty year old M60 and asks to buy it off of him. In The Avengers, Widow and Hawkeye's bulbous VTOL shoots down several alien aircraft with just its single GAU-17/A minigun, and a single tactical nuke launched by an F-35 annihilates the entire Chitauri armada with a proximity detonation (meaning only a fraction of the energy was actually transferred to the targets due to the Square-Cube Law). In Thor: Ragnarok, a small army of Magitek undead Asgardians get mowed down by a single guy with a pair of M16s.
- In Wonder Woman, the Amazons successfully dispose of a German platoon armed with bolt-action rifles using only ancient weaponry, superhuman strength, and lifelong martial training. With that said, they suffer many losses in the battle and even Antiope, their general and most skilled warrior is killed by a well-placed bullet.
- Justice League: Despite being physical gods with access to highly advanced tech that surpass anything in modern day, the Apokoliptians were defeated by humans, Amazons and Atlanteans over 20,000 years ago. Sure, they had literal divine intervention on their side (the Olympian Gods fought to defend Earth) as well as a couple of Green Lanterns to assist them, but it doesn't change the fact that a bunch of pre-historic warriors managed to beat Sufficiently Advanced Aliens with ships and hover tanks.
- Batalha dos Guararapes: The final battle between the Dutch and Brazilians is going poorly for the latter until the native Church Militant tribesmen armed with only spears, shields and righteous Catholic indignation arrive to turn the tide of the battle towards their allies, despite their Dutch enemies being armed with cannons and fireweapons.
- Terminator always in every iteration has the heroes fighting a technologically superior opponent and prevailing:
- In the first film, Badass Normal future soldier Kyle Reese fights a T-800 cyborg infiltrator with 20th Century ballistic firearms throughout the movie and eventually shears it in half with a homemade pipe bomb — though the machine survives and Reese himself is killed in the blast; Sarah Connor finally finishes it off by luring it into an industrial press and crushing it into scrap.
- In the second film, a captured and reprogrammed T-800 is sent back to protect a teenage John Connor from a T-1000, an advanced prototype cyborg made of liquid metal; the T-1000 is Immune to Bullets, can assume almost any form, and can reform itself after being shattered into a million bits after it is washed in liquid nitrogen — it is destroyed when it falls into a vat of boiling metal and the "consciousness" holding it together glitches out. Justified in the novels and comics: the T-1000 was designed by Skynet in tunnel vision as a peerless infiltrator first and a combat unit a distant second, and it proved a Flawed Prototype as it can only form blades and other simple weapons with its limbs which are useless against a T-800, and while it can heal from any damage, this takes time and stuns it for a brief moment; combined with concerns about its high intelligence and inherent sadismnote and the T-1000 was branded a failure and left by the wayside.
- Done literally in Mom and Dad Save the World as part of the parody. The resistance army throwing rocks has a significant advantage over the royal guards using laser guns... because the laser guns don't shoot in a straight line, giving a thrown rock a much greater effective range. The natives, who will cheerfully admit to all being idiots, all act as if rocks are a breathtaking new technology.
- In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the rogue apes use wrought iron fenceposts as spears and a manhole cover as a frisbee to take out police cars. Later on, when the police call in a helicopter, Caesar takes out the door gunner by throwing a big iron chain as a bolas at him.
- Although not from the Sci-Fi genre, in El Conquistador the Aztec warriors easily overpower the Spanish men, although they were one of the most sophisticated, clever and successful armies over all Europe at that time. This is because the Aztecs use their obsidian "Macanas" note and high-training at the calmécac to cut over the Spanish steel swords and armors.
- Genre SF's Trope Codifier: The High Crusade by Poul Anderson (1960). Many later instances contain Shout Outs to this one.
- A Medieval English army, fully prepped on the eve of leaving to join King Edward's crusade, crushes a small alien invasion force, by dint of cunning, superior numbers, and having no EMP-susceptible equipment or depletable bullets/explosives/laser charges - but plenty of reusable arrows, swords, sheer brute strength and a sense of righteous Christian indignation. Then, using the captured spaceship and the grudging assistance of a surviving alien interpreter (taught Latin by the army's cleric), they launch a counter-invasion of the evil intergalactic empire, whom they view as the more prolific, Heaven-soiling brethren of the heretics overrunning Israel. Because the invaders to our world have been dominant for so long over such a wide area, nobody up in the stars has any damn idea what politics are any more. The human leader manages to convince every single alien he meets, through bravado, underhandedness, trickery, and good old-fashioned lying, to assail their opponents. When "future" Earth finally reaches the stars, they are met by the emissary of the trans-galactic feudal Christian empire, run by Human descendants of the would-have-been Crusaders. And it is beyond awesome. Especially when the Space duke asks the Earth captain if the Holy Land is free of the Pagans. "Um, yes" says the Captain who is a loyal servant of the Israeli Empire.
- The English have an additional advantage over the aliens: the aliens' weapons have become so advanced that they no longer have any knowledge whatsoever of hand-to-hand combat. Once the English are able to get in close quarters, the aliens don't stand a chance. It takes the English army exactly one battle to figure this out.
- In Time Lag Vaynamo isn't even that primitive, though it lacks industry. The heavily overpopulated Chertkoi assumes it will be easy because it is still heavily rural.
- In Sargasso of Lost Starships, the aliens have superhuman Psychic Powers. They can turn back guns. Donovan alerts the soldiers that spears are more dangerous, and they ready them.
- The Uplift series has this as a running theme. As newcomers to a galaxy filled with Sufficiently Advanced Aliens with eons-old technology, humanity and its clients must rely on their wits and the technology that they've learned to understand in a few short centuries. In The Uplift War, humans and chimps with jungle camouflage and crossbows manage to slaughter the technologically reliant Gubru — after realizing that their initial severe losses were due to the Gubru having rigged the humans' technology so they could track it. Later in the war, they also manage to capture some Gubru weapons.
- Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series:
- Alternates between playing this straight and subverting it. The premise is an alien invasion at the height of WW2, and the trope is played straight when humanity's primitive weapons prove to be immune to technologically advanced countermeasures. EMPs don't work on vacuum tubes and analog computers, and anti-missile systems designed to defeat lightweight thin-skinned rockets can't turn back massive artillery shells. Not to mention that radar is nearly useless when trying to detect a low-flying plane built from canvas and wood.
- Also, the aliens' cultural ignorance of the strategic thinking and tactics (as they have not fought a war against an opponent with industrial technology in thousands of years, and their previous two conquests were tanks vs. spearmen slaughters) puts them at a disadvantage in skill and planning against even the most unimaginatively led human units.
- Some technology was simply unfathomable to the aliens, even though they're from outer space and have fusion at their finger tips. They never had someone twisted enough to employ gas during warfare, and hence are completely unprepared when the British decide to employ it when the Lizards invade. Their homeworld is very arid with no large bodies of water; a navy, especially an aircraft carrier, is completely mindboggling to them.
- Funnily enough, the Race expected the technological disparity to be even greater than it was. Their last probe was during The High Middle Ages, and being an extremely conservative species, they expected to be fighting knights on horseback. Never did they imagine that their own tanks and planes would be fighting native models, however primitive.
- The last novel subverts this. While humanity's first starship is, essentially, a knock-off of what find out about the ships of the Race and can't even move as fast, the Race is shocked when, several weeks after its arrival to their homeworld, humanity's first FTL ship arrives, having made the trip in under a month. The Race hadn't even considered the possibility of Faster-Than-Light Travel.
- Interestingly, the Race then threatens humans with a more primitive technology when the arrogant new arrivals try to dictate terms. They threaten to turn their STL starships into kinetic kill vehicles by accelerating them to 50% of the speed of light and slamming them into Earth, causing extinction-level events. Sure, it'll take decades, but the humans (who have stopped developing fast STL ships in favor of FTL, won't be able to stop them.
- From John Ringo's Legacy of the Aldenata:
- Guided weapons (or just about anything with active electronics) are easily detected and intercepted by incredibly accurate Posleen anti-aircraft fire, after which the alien hostiles return fire with generally fatal results, but unguided artillery shells are incapable of being engaged by the Posleen's weaponry, as are MLRS rockets if fired so the boost phase is out of the line of sight of the enemy aliens.
- There is another, more amusing example in book from the same series Yellow Eyes where a group of Posleen are walking through the Mojinga Jungle in Panama and are being hunted by a lone native, who repeatedly uses stone age traps and a bow with steel-tipped arrows to kill them. This works mostly because the arrows don't have enough metal to be detected by the Posleen's sensors and are traveling too slow to be considered a threat. It's so bad the Posleen sensors can't even see the arrows embedded in the dead Posleen bodies.
- Brutally shown in the novel Sten, by Allan Cole and Chris Bunch:
- Seems that the designers overengineered their powered suits to such an extent that each one could withstand nuclear blasts, any conceivable biological or chemical agent, and could fight off any conceivable opponent — except primitive ones. When first deployed, the men in suits run rampant — until the primitives notice that they aren't very maneuverable. So, the natives start making pit traps with nets, and once the suit is ensnared in the net the natives come out and poke long spears into the suit's waste vents, skewering the troopers inside and simultaneously poisoning them with their own wastes... To their credit, Chris Bunch in Real Life is an ex-Army Ranger, where Allan Cole has diplomatic experience.
- There's an incident with a less extreme tech difference later in the series. Sten takes charge of an old but heavily-armed strongpoint. When enemy tacships try strafing and bombing his position, he activates the air-defence system, not expecting much from the archaic guns. They rip the tacships out of the sky, because the guns are targeting and the proximity fuses detonating with radar frequencies so out-of-date that no one remembered to jam them anymore.
- One of the short stories in the collection The Human Edge has the main character bash out the brains of an Alien who six months previously took away his language and ability to think rationally. He gets the chance to do this when he sneaks into the alien ship and the alien is so surprised that he is still alive, and considers him such a non-threat, that it turns its back to him.
- The War of the Worlds, be it the book, radio broadcast, or film:
- A Culture in Iain M. Banks's series of novel has spent more than 10,000 years using her Special Circumstance elite agency to learn to beat lasers with rocks, rocks with lasers and Scary Dogmatic Aliens with apparently unarmed and captured spies, making them Crazy-Prepared masters of Bamboo Technology while still being able to throw blackholes when needed.
- Even they aren't immune to this trope, though, as in The Hydrogen Sonata, a Culture warship was destroyed by a small fleet of lower-tech Liseiden scavenger vessels. Granted, it was an LCU, one of the smallest and weakest Mind-equipped ships, and the 'rock' technology in this case included interstellar travel and remote-controlled missiles, but it was still a freak upset of a fight.
- In '80s post-apocalypse series C.A.D.S, the C.A.D.S is a heroic elite U.S military unit perfecting Power Armour battlesuits just days before the Soviets nuke America. The Power Armour is immune to small-arms fire but they keep losing members as the C.A.D.S constantly Failed a Spot Check for the bandit with a bazooka. The worst case was one C.A.D.S member dying after getting tackled by a crazy who was sick with a mutant virus. Despite weighing hundreds of pounds, the armoured soldier got knocked to the ground and because he foolishly had his visor open, the crazy barfed diseased vomit down his helmet and he quickly contracted the agonizing disease. The other C.A.D.S gave him a Mercy Kill with their built-in flamethrowers.
- In another '80s post-apocalype series Doomsday Warrior, book 13 American Paradise - it's more like "rock beats next-gen assault rifles''. Our party of heroes, including Ted Rockson the Doomsday Warrior himself, are on their way to meet some fellow resistance fighters when they're ambushed by vicious cavemen. The cavemen are protecting themselves with large rock slates that they use as shields. These are so thick that the party's Liberator assault rifles can't penetrate them even though they use armor-piercing ammunition. Even the martial art specialist's explosive shurikens ain't working. Only grenades and the crossbowman's explosive quarrels are having any effect. Luckily the other resistance fighters show up riding high-tech surfboards and they wipe out the cavemen with explosive-tipped tridents.
- The Fremen. Desert-dwelling nomads with handmade gear, beat The Empire's most badass, ruthless, and well-armed soldiers, the Sardaukar, with knives, sandworms, and, er, one teensy little atomic bomb (but this was used only to remove a geographic obstacle to worm-travel, not on the enemy). This deserves some clarification, because while it is an example, it's not as bad as it looks outside of context. Melee combat with bladed weapons in the Dune universe is actually the norm, because of shielding technology that renders projectile weaponry nearly useless. Although the Fremen lack such shielding technology, so it still counts. 1984's David Lynch movie adaptation kind of ruins this by actually giving the Fremen more advanced weapons than the Saudarkar, in the form of voice-amplifying sonic guns.
- The writers of the Sci-Fi Channel miniseries go a long way towards setting things right, exercising far less creative license than Lynch and, subsequently, remaining much closer to Frank Herbert's original novel.
- The Baron Vladimir Harkonnen uses ancient projectile artillery when he reconquers Arrakis, because even though the explosives can't penetrate shields, when the Atreides troops hide in caves, the artillery collapses the roof and seals them in. He does think artillery is barbaric and has the weapons dismantled immediately after, despite his rabid nephew Rabban's wishes to keep them - in part because they need the metal.
- This was used in all of Larry Niven's Known Space stories set during the period of the Man-Kzin war. The Kzinti, who possessed the technology to generate and control gravity (among other tech advantages) were consistently beat by the Humans, who used inferior technology but did it better.
- At one point in Alan Dean Foster's novel A Call to Arms, a company-sized unit of alien tanks is immobilized, then defeated by a band of Seminole Indians wielding mud, bows and arrows, and paint-ball guns. Of course, by that time in the story, it's been revealed that human beings are the most bad-ass fighters in the known galaxy.
- In Anathem, although they have femtotechnology they find that defeating the interuniversal menace it is much more awesome when done with space blankets, protractors, and mixed martial arts.
- In G. K. Chesterton's The Return of Don Quixote, medieval recreationists go out to arrest some people, with halberds rather than guns, and are scorned as foolish. They succeed.
The man says he won't go on wearing a sword because it is no longer any good against a gun. Then he throws away all the guns as relics of barbarism; and then he is surprised when a barbarian sticks him through with a sword. You say that pikes and halberds are not weapons against modern conditions. I say pikes are excellent weapons against no pikes.
- Robert A. Heinlein:
- In Tunnel in the Sky, many colonists on their way to new worlds take horses with them instead of motor vehicles, since horses have any number of advantages in a rural setting: they run on a renewable fuel which can be found all over the place, vs. fuel that needs to be refined and transported; they have a moderate ability to repair themselves; and if one gets too severely damaged, well, it's pretty easy to make more horses. Plus, if you start running out of food, they're edible. If they do require maintenance, then you don't need an extra specialist, just a doctor with an extra medicine cabinet and a textbook.
- Heinlein also makes the point that tactics and initiative can be as important as technology. To paraphrase: two men face off. One has a musket, the other an assault rifle. If the man with the musket fires first (and accurately), or is a smarter fighter and uses cover well, then the assault rifle's technological advantage is rendered moot.
- Discussed in Starship Troopers, in the chapter that discusses powered suits. The suits are designed to be as invisible to their users as possible, for admirably common-sense reasons: "If you load a mudfoot down with a lot of gadgets that he has to watch, somebody a lot more simply equipped - say with a stone ax - will sneak up on him and bash his head in while he's trying to read a vernier." The Mobile Infantry also train with more primitive weapons, from unarmed hand-to-hand combat on up to 20th-century weaponry, partly to prepare them for using the powered battlesuits and also to prepare them for situations in which the battlesuits would be impractical.
- The film version also touches on this, albeit in a much nastier way. A recruit questions the need to learn hand-to-hand combat when they can just kill their enemies by "pushing a button". His drill instructor responds by stabbing him through his hand, pinning him to a wall, and asking how he intends to push said button now.
- David Weber's The Excalibur Alternative has an odd take on this trope. Essentially aliens hijack an English war party during the Hundred Years War. At first the captors' Deflector Shields and energy weapons serve to create an illusion of invincibility. Eventually due to the ignorance at the arrogance of their captors and help from within, the English trick their captors into leaving their forcefields and getting filled full of arrows, since the aliens' protective gear withstands "modern" energy weapons but arrows are considered too primitive to be worth guarding against. Then later subverted when said party joins with the defectors and reverse-engineers the alien tech to an even higher level, enabling them to become Curb Stomping Big Damn Heroes.
- In The Bartimaeus Trilogy, the mercenary is invulnerable to ridiculous amounts of magic, but gets knocked out when Faquarl treats him to a good ol' knuckle sandwich, because his invulnerability and physical toughness depend on absorbing magic used against him.
- The Battle of Yonkers in World War Z could be considers an extreme example of this trope, in that living soldiers armed with every state-of-the-art weapon their publicity-minded superiors can load them down with get their asses kicked by zombies armed with ... teeth and jagged nails. Indeed, the advanced-against-humans nature of their weapons makes the soldiers' attacks far less effective than simple bolt-action rifles would've been, as they fire in shaky bursts aiming for the head, and their sophisticated communication links only serve to spread panic, as they can see and hear their comrades being eaten. Eventually, someone realises the problem and "invents" the Lobotomiser—more or less a modified shovel. Its simplicity and effectiveness restored troop confidence in a big way. Yonkers was explicitly a tactical failure rather than a technology failure. Later on they start forming phalanxes of soldiers armed with single-shot semiautomatic rifles with WW2-style furniture, and no accessories other than 3 barrels and an 8-inch bayonet. It works.
- In a Rock Beats Wand variant, a crooked casino dealer fools a roomful of gamblers in the Myth Adventures novel Little Myth Marker, by disdaining magical methods of cheating in favor of a marked deck. Naturally, the suspicious gamblers are too busy checking for covert magic-use to notice.
- In Arthur C. Clarke's short story "Superiority", one side of the war decides to go on an R&D binge to win a telling advantage over the enemy. Meanwhile, the enemy keeps plugging away with what they already have. In the end, the technologically superior sides face supply problems since the constant adjustment of logistics to cope with new weapons systems slows it down to a trickle. The other side, however, ends up with a massive number of slightly obsolete, but easily built and supplied equipment to Zerg Rush their opponents with.
We were defeated by one thing only — by the inferior science of our enemies. I repeat — by the inferior science of our enemies.
- The short story was intended as an allegory for World War II, with the "advanced" side being Nazi Germany and the well-supplied side being a stand-in for the Allies.
- There's a short story called Hawk Among the Sparrows about an advanced jet fighter accidentally sent back in time to the First World War. The American pilot thinks he can win the air war single-handed. However, his radar cannot pick up the mostly canvas-and-wood biplanes of the era, his guided missiles are useless as they are designed to lock onto jet exhausts not piston engines, his engines are fueled by what is used mainly as lamp oil and field-heater fuel, so he cannot get a sufficient regular supply, and even then needs to filter it, and his plane flies faster than bullets, so a gun cannot be fitted. Eventually he works out that the supersonic wash from his plane is enough to rip apart the German planes he is up against.
- As the protagonist of a Christopher Stasheff SF novel points out, anyone who denigrates the abilities of primitives armed with "sticks and stones" has never experienced a volley of stone-tipped arrows fired from ambush.
- In the first story arc of the Deathstalker series, slow-charging energy weapons and highly-effective energy shields have rendered the advanced weapons ineffective in ground battles. After an opening volley of disruptor fire, most soldiers charge into melee with swords. This tactic allows for a brutal example of this trope later. The protagonist's party locates a cache of "ancient" kinetic projectile weapons, including very effective machine guns. When they face an army using the standard disruptor-melee combination, they slaughter their enemy with machine gun fire when they drop their shields. The advances in technology had forced them to use primitive weaponry, which were useless against the antiquated/more advanced weapons.
- Not exactly. Force shields will indeed block bullets just fine, but most people are used to the energy guns, which take two minutes to recharge between shots. So after an opening exchange of disrupter fire (which the force shields deflect), standard practice is to shut down the force shields to save power. One the shields are off, the rebels pop up with machine guns and mow down the advancing Imperial troops. While the "official" reason for retiring projectile weapons was that they were outperformed by energy guns and force shields, the real reason was that energy guns and force shields were more expensive, so only the nobles or Imperial military could afford them, making rebellions much more difficult. Even so, the deciding factor in most battles was the main characters insane Madness Maze powers.
- J. R. R. Tolkien once gave a lecture to children about dragons where he claimed (in his view) that modern weapons such as machine guns would be ineffective against them, whereas the old heroic techniques such as the arrow in the vulnerable spots would still work. He could very well be right-a Black arrow brought Smaug crashing to the ground, while a lot of bullets would be needed to chip off the scales.
- Probably more true than one would imagine—overlapping sets of hardened scales would me more effective against bullets than they would be against a cutting attack. In fact a lot of modern body armor takes this approach, some of which is even called "Dragonskin."
- Prince Roger:
- The titular Prince, at risk of capture, points out that his royal cybernetic enhancements are among the best in the galaxy, and will resist any attempt by the bad guys to hack into them for brainwashing. Pahner replies that there's still good ol' fashioned psychotropic drugs.
- The Marine guard have super-advanced mini-railgun weapons, plasma guns, and reactive-armor suits... but the weapons keep running out of ammo and aren't even as effective against the semi-armored local wildlife as Roger's "smoke pole", the plasma guns can't handle the dampness and keep exploding violently, and the suits, while effective against the local weaponry, can't be moved without a power source. Eventually, the marines start introducing the locals to Roman-style phalanx combat and breech-loading cartridge rifles, which works much better. While the modern weapons really do a number on the Kranolta, that first battle pretty much wipes out their supplies.
- One of the layers of a Marine's dress uniform hardens in response to sudden impact, making it nearly bullet-proof. Javelins and swords don't hit fast enough to trigger this reaction, and can cut right through.
- First Flight, a Dinotopia illustrated novel packaged with a board game: At the climax Our Heroes, the human who has turned away from technology and his various animal buddies destroy a ridiculously huge flying scorpion mecha by scrambling around on top of it biting tubes, flinging berries, cutting wires, and finally removing the completely exposed, fist-sized, externally mounted power source. While the thing was created to be used against intelligent animals such as these, it was evidently very poorly designed for this task.
- Battlefield Earth is filled with moments like these...especially near the beginning when the main character is able to momentarily incapacitate an armored alien vehicle (capable of leveling entire buildings with a single shot) by dislocating one of its viewports with a club, allowing Earth's toxic atmosphere into the crew compartment. Although the gaskets holding the viewport were very old, and the only reason he even got to try was because the driver did not consider such an attack a threat
- Older Than Feudalism: In The Iliad, the bronze weapons and armor are described in the same sort of loving detail found for high-tech arms in modern techno-thrillers or SF. Despite this, on several occasions heroes who can't be defeated with bronze weapons are killed or wounded by someone grabbing a large rock and hitting them. E.g., Diomedes was wounded this way, Diorus was killed, and Ajax almost kills Hector with a rock — twice.
- Subverted by David Weber's Out of the Dark. Aliens with advanced technology and plenty of experience crushing primitive species invade Earth. However, humanity is the only species ever encountered that still fights wars with itself at a modern-day tech level. While we aren't as high-tech, we use what we have better. (e.g. Stealth fighter jets.) This doesn't erase their immense advantage over us, but it makes the invasion far, far more costly than they were expecting.
- In The Bible:
- Samson slaying 1000 soldiers with the jawbone of an ass.
- Then there's Shamgar in Judges 3:31: "After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox-goad."
- In Stone King, this is how Saionji comes to be known as Ishio, the Stone King of Ibaraki.
- Done literally in Sargasso of Space by Andre Norton. Traders ambush pirates' crawlers and beat pirates with thrown stones. They did have rayguns too, but they didn't want to attract attention.
- Artemis Fowl zig-zags with this pretty often. In general, the boy genius hero often gets the upper hand on the fairies despite their vastly superior technology; but he often does it by stealing and hacking into their technology, and there's less of this trope once he teams up with them.
- Butler often conveniently gets to use his martial arts skills to save the day: in the first book, he completely fails to harm a giant troll with a gun, so (after nearly dying and getting the Healing Hands treatment) he puts on a suit of armor and beats it into submission with a mace.
- In the second book, he demonstrates a justification for the trope: The Fairy society has long since moved past kinetic weaponry, and the majority of species are not very physically strong. This means their security doors, while impenetrable against the laser weaponry everyone wields, may as well be tissue paper when confronted by the vast specimen of Butler.
- Mulch the dwarf also does this a lot with his Bizarre Alien Biology; he disables a high-tech security camera by farting at it with enough force to make it rotate away from the area he needed to infiltrate.
- Butler often conveniently gets to use his martial arts skills to save the day: in the first book, he completely fails to harm a giant troll with a gun, so (after nearly dying and getting the Healing Hands treatment) he puts on a suit of armor and beats it into submission with a mace.
- In Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson's Hoka stories, one of the technologies introduced is superior navigational tools and practices. Captains leap to use it — but the crews ignore it, sticking to the old ways, presumably landmarks, prevailing winds, and currents. Given some of the results the captains can do, perhaps unsurprising, but the reason these techniques were developed was the horrific problems that ensued from the methods before them.
- In Andre Norton's The Zero Stone, the Guild fears the natives, though they have lasers and the natives spears. Eet points out that they would attack at night, too, making visibility difficult.
- In Margaret Ball's Disappearing Act, Maris uses a rock to deal with an attacker — a devotion to the rules about technology that raises the first suspicions about her.
- There is a reason spacemen in the Lensman universe carry space axes. Personal energy shields worked better the faster the incoming threat, so near-lightspeed threats like beams were shrugged off. The needle-sharp hardened tip of a space ax, even when swung by a well-trained spaceman, was still too slow for an energy shield to really affect it.
- In The Lost Regiment, the planet Valennia has long been stuck in a Medieval Stasis, with the 9-foot-tall Humanoid Aliens who rule the planet and constantly migrate in massive Hordes keeping their "cattle" (their word for humans) at primitive levels and periodically culling the population to keep the Hordes fed. Then one of the Tunnels of Light (the remains of a Portal Network built millennia ago by the ancestors of the aliens) brings to Valennia a group of American Civil War soldiers with their weapons and industrial experience. However, this trope is only partly played straight, as muskets and cannons can, at best, even the odds against the experienced mounted warriors of the Hordes, whose skills with bows and swords are unparalleled. Not to mention the sheer numbers of the Horde compared to the humans (the Hordes normally count their warriors in "umens"; each umen is 10,000 warriors), most of whom are untrained, illiterate peasants.
- Ends up being subverted in later novels, when the Hordes begin to advance to keep up with the Yankees and, in fact, some of their tech ends up being better, like their nuclear-powered airships.
- Played straighter in the distant past with a race of Starfish Aliens who brought Frickin' Laser Beams to Valennia. The Hordes managed to overpower them and then chose to dispose of the advanced weapons.
- In Year of the Ransom, when Exaltationists from the 31st century take prisoner a Time Patrolman and a conquistador, it's the conquistador who overpowers and kills them, with his nice sharp sword and their overconfidence.
- In Christopher G. Nuttal's Ark Royal the titular starship is decades obsolete with its mass drivers instead of Energy Weapons and armor so heavy it can barely move. But then humanity gets into a war with aliens whose weapons cut unarmored modern ships to pieces and the Admiralty brings the Ark Royal back into service believing that its armor will allow it to withstand alien attacks and its rock-chuckers can take out the enemy's ships with ease.
- Demonstrated in Sourcery when Rincewind beat a sourcerer while wielding nothing more than a half-brick in a sock. Played with, as the sourcerer saw him as such a non-threat that he refused to fight him at all and underwent a HeelFace Turn. The half-brick in a sock did prove useful when the sourcerer's staff tried to stop him, since it let Rincewind knock it out of his hand without touching it.
- In the Cassandra Kresnov novels, when faced with an enemy who has such insane hacking abilities that they can redirect missiles back at their launchers in less time than it takes to say it, take total control of the entire wireless network of a major city, and even actively hack the cybernetic implants of people in real-time to trap them in virtual reality constructs, the best defenses against them turn out to be low-tech assault rifles and hand grenades since there's nothing to hack on either of them.
- Averted in Blindsight and Echopraxia: Baseline mankind has little hope against the myriad transhuman subspecies running around.
- In Danial da Cruz's Texas novel The Ayes of Texas, an invading Soviet armored division is defeated by one man on a horse armed with a Flare Gun... and several acres of diesel-soaked ground.
- Honor Harrington:
- When dealing with Andre Warnecke in Honor Among Enemies, Honor and her armsmen need to board a shuttle with the madman in question and several of his goons without any weapons, which is confirmed with a scanner that detects power sources. However, the M1911 pistol, newly built but to the exact specifications of modern day Real Life Earth, that she sneaks aboard doesn't use a power source (unlike pulsers in the current setting), so it goes undetected in its hiding place until she brings it out and blasts Warnecke's henchmen.
- Unable to overcome Manticoran technical advantages in LAC combat, in War of Honor the Republicans develop the "triple ripple" tactic, which uses loads of the dirtiest thermonuclear warhead missiles (considered to be just about obsolete in modern space combat) they have to overload Mantie sensors with humongous EMP bursts, blinding them so that Republican LACs can get in licks while their opponents aren't able to target anything.
It isn't pretty, and it isn't elegant, but it is something more important than either of those things — it works. —V. Adm. Shannon Foraker
- Averted, however, in the first book, On Basilisk Station. The Bronze Age-era medusans manage to kill a few Manticorans with surprise and numbers. The reinforcements, now apprised of the threat, bring out the heavy weapons and air support. The aliens die. And die. And die some more without causing a subsequent casualty.
- In Victoria, older tech is always better, because Retroculture. Spar torpedoes can easily sink modern warships, old WWII short-wave radar is fantastic at spotting high-tech stealth bombers. T-34s are more reliable and easily repaired than modern tanks, though at least there it's acknowledged they'll want to avoid any pitched battles with newer armor. The only computers in Victoria are those their EW specialists use to hack and confound the enemy, so their electronic security is absolute.
- In Destroyermen, the USS Donnaghey is a square rig frigate with broadside weaponry straight out of the Age of Sail. The only main modern additions (by World War II standards) are rudimentary fire control (to target and fire all cannons) and a Y gun to shoot depth charges to scare off mountain fish. After a pitched battle with a similar Dominion vessel, the Donnaghey captures the enemy. Then the ships encounter a modern League destroyer. In order to give themselves a fighting chance, the crew of the Donnaghey run up a Dom flag in order to pretend that the battle went in the Doms' favor. Being currently allied with the Dominion, the destroyer's captain has the ship approach the "allies". When the destroyer is very close, the Dom flags are suddenly replaced by American ones, and the Donnaghey's captain demands their surrender. The destroyer's XO orders all weapons to fire, and a few manages to hit the Donnaghey but don't penetrate the tough wooden hull. The return broadsides from both sailing ships cripple the modern vessel and kill most of the officers.
- In Worm, Skitter escapes a cage made of nano robots that cut through anything using a lighter.
- Tom Kratman's Okuyyuki sees a sword-wielding US Army captain take on a tank platoon and win (albeit only a pyrrhic victory). Justified to some extent, since his sword is magical.
- Played very realistically in the 1632 series. The uptimers' modern firepower (even the relatively simple weapons and vehicles from a civilian town) initially make short work of downtime armies. But the wiser heads in town repeatedly caution that it doesn't make them invincible. Their limited supply of weapons and massive numerical disadvantage puts them at risk, the smartest of their enemies quickly develop tactics to neutralize their advantages, and a 17th century cannonball will kill you dead, no matter how well armed you are.
- In "Who Goes Here" by Bob Shaw, it's played for laughs. The Space Legion is armed with lasers and their enemy only has gunpowder weapons - but the planet has constantly smouldering vegetation (tobacco). Between the smoke from that and the smoke from the cannons, the lasers effective range is only a few feet.
- In the Animorphs series, this is the reason the Yeerks, a race of planet-conquering aliens, are attempting to take Earth by careful infiltration rather than open warfare; their top-ranked leader Visser One, who was the Yeerk who discovered Earth and reported its existence to the Empire, has a healthy respect for the military capabilities of humanity, no matter how far below the setting's various alien races it is, pointing out that while a human firearm can't disintegrate its target like a Yeerk Dracon beam or an Andalite Shredder, it can still punch a bloody hole right through their elite Hork-Bajir shock troops, and this low-tech destructiveness runs right up to human WMDs, which could still vaporise Yeerk spaceships if they hit.
- The heroes also take this to extremes in their resistance to the Yeerk invasion; while their abilities were granted to them by advanced Andalite technology, their primary method of fighting the invading aliens is to morph into native Earth animals and go feral on them with claw and fang.
- In an episode of Andromeda, when Captain Hunt tries to arm a peaceful settlement so they can defend themselves from space pirates, he brings along a load of force lances. But, what do you know, a religious extremist who'd rather see the people enslaved than lose their innocence explodes the box of force lances. So, Hunt has the natives sharpen sticks and throw them from the walls at the well-armed pirates, and they end up driving them back. The being said, Hunt is a relic of a bygone age when the Systems Commonwealth crews were some of the most badass men and women alive.
- Also, Captain Hunt was a member of the Argosy Special Operations Service, one of the most badass of the badasses. He was also batshit insane (as the events on Acheron proved...)
- Referenced, if not quite employed, in the Angel episode "A Hole in the World". At the beginning of the show, Angel and Spike argue—for half an hour!—about who would win in a fight: an astronaut or a caveman (i.e., technological savvy or primitive savagery). Later, when Fred lies dying from the essence of an ancient demon, she whispers, "The caveman wins. The caveman always wins."
- Said but not shown on Babylon 5: the reason energy weapons are used on the station and on starships is that the BiLPro weapons (Binary Liquid Propellant, firearms with extremely powerful liquid propellant that is partly stored in the round and partly in the gun in the form of two inert liquids) issued to Earthforce infantry for planetside combat are too powerful and have an unfortunate tendency to rupture the weaker sections of the hull and cause collateral damage with the ricochet from hitting the stronger parts of the hull (the ricochet will always happen with more conventional and less powerful firearms), whereas handheld energy weapons don't do either. The Expanded Universe explains that Earthforce is still using BiLPro as small arms for planetside combat as well as for artillery and tank guns, even if gauss cannons are starting to take over as tank guns.
- It's also shown that, in a literal example of this trope, attacking a planet with lasers and particle weapons is acceptable, but throwing rocks at it is a war crime due the greater devastation and the long-term effects.
- The game Babylon 5 Wars has the Attarn, a race whose hat is exactly this: they originally armed their starships with large-scale BiLPro weapons because, being almost identical to normal firearms, they were faster and cheaper to develop than lasers and plasma weapons, but kept and continued developing them after their first interstellar war proved their superiority over the (admittedly primitive) laser, plasma and particle weapons of the Skand. Their largest ships are a tough foe even for Earthforce and Narn ships of similar size, and in their war with the Gromenote they quickly overwhelmed them before the intervention of the Hurrnote managed to fight them to a standstill.
- Also Subverted: BiLPro weapons aside, the Attarn are a technologically advanced race, whose ships are equipped with indigenously-developed Artificial Gravity (something Earth and Narn got only at the end of the Earth Civil War, and even then with technological help from the Interstellar Alliance and, for Earth, decades of study of alien technologies), armour comparable to the ludicrously-armoured Earthforce ships and sensors extremely superior to what the Grome and Hurr had, meaning their ships could survive more punishment than their opponents, hit them at longer ranges and sneak over six hundred fighters and attack bombers in the middle of the Grome fleet assembled over their homeworld (the opening strike of the war).
- Battlestar Galactica (2003) downplays and justifies this. The Galactica avoids infection from Cylon viruses by not having a computer network. Instead it gets by using dumb computers, manually controlled starfighters and weaponry, and hardwired communications.
- In Cleopatra 2525, everyone uses Energy Weapons. However, one of the protagonists' colleagues is revealed to be a "thaw", someone cryogenically frozen before humanity was driven underground and defrosted after. The guy still has his nine-millimeter firearm, which he regularly cleans and maintains. So, when one episode's villain tries to hide behind an impenetrable Deflector Shield, Sarge grabs the gun and puts a bullet in his chest, as no one thought to protect against such a primitive weapon (shield only block energy blasts).
- The episode "The Tribe" of Criminal Minds features an Apache cop that Doesn't Like Guns and is instead armed with a knife. In his own words, he'll kill or disarm any gunman that is less than 6 meters away from him while he is still (re)loading or aiming; if he's more than 6 meters away, he runs.
- Zig-Zagging Trope in Deadliest Warrior: The general rule is, the warrior with the clear technology advantage is usually the one who wins in the end (as is the case with Pirate vs. Knight, French Musketeers vs Ming Warriors, Vlad the Impaler vs. Sun Tzu and Joan of Arc vs. William the Conqueror). Yet occasionally an older weapon manages to outperform a more advanced counterpart in simulation, such as Theodore Roosevelt's Gatling Gun actually managing to work better than Lawrence of Arabia's WW1-era Vickers. Sometimes, however, a warrior with more primitive weaponry manages to beat the odds and overcome their more advanced opponents (the Spartan, who manages to defeat both the Ninja and the Samurai, armed with steel weapons and armour, using only bronze-age gear, and the Jesse James gang, who go up against Al Capone's gang, who have Tommy guns, armed with Civil War-era rifles and revolvers, and win).
- Doctor Who:
- "The Daleks' Master Plan": Ancient Egyptians exploit the Renegade Daleks' lack of hovering apparatus by boxing a Red Dalek in with rocks.
- "The Dominators": Jamie and Cully defeat deadly robots (which are wielding some kind of powerful beam weapons) using rocks large and small.
- "Planet of the Daleks": Thals drop rocks on a Dalek rising through a long shaft on antigravity. The rocks, after all, have gravity on their side.
- "Death to the Daleks" has a subversion. A human spaceship, a Dalek spaceship and the TARDIS are immobilised on a planet. The Daleks try to exterminate the Doctor only to find their weapons don't work, one Dalek is taken out by the locals with rocks and spears, and some of the rest are captured and led off to be sacrificed. The remaining Daleks promptly replace their energy weapons with slug-throwing guns (meaning bullets, not gastropods), which still work just fine, and wreak brutal revenge.
- "The Pirate Planet": When faced with a locked door, the Doctor tries the sonic screwdriver, which fails. So he pulls out a bobby-pin, which succeeds. Quoth the Doctor: "The more sophisticated a technology, the more vulnerable it is to primitive attack."
- "Remembrance of the Daleks": Who can forget the episode where a Dalek was bagged by a feisty, tough-as-nails teenage Pint-Sized Powerhouse with a baseball bat? Later in the same episode, she takes out another one with an anti-tank missile. Ace is one of the most fondly remembered companions in the history of the show, and for good reason.
- Shows up in "The Sontaran Stratagem"/"The Poison Sky" with the Sontarans. For all their advanced technology they're caught by surprise and slaughtered by U.N.I.T. (the resident Red Shirts). The Sontarans have technology that expands copper casings of bullets, making guns unable to fire... so U.N.I.T. switches to non-copper casings. Hilarity ensues.
- Well, U.N.I.T. does also use a huge Airborne Aircraft Carrier firing an alien-technology-based laser cannon, so it's not as if they're that far behind technologically.
- "Silence in the Library":
Donna: Sonic it; use the thingy! [meaning the sonic screwdriver]
The Doctor: I can't; it's wood!
Donna: What, it doesn't do wood?
- "The Day of the Doctor": The Doctor (all three) can't use the sonic screwdriver to escape a cell because the door is too primitive. Of course, the Queen has actually left the door unlocked, figuring the Doctors would take forever to actually try opening it.
Eleventh Doctor: Shall we ask for a better quality of door so we can escape?
- "Resolution": In the backstory, three 9th-century armies managed to, at great cost, defeat a Super Prototype Dalek reconnaissance scout, mainly by managing to tie it down and then roasting it alive inside its armour. Not that this actually killed the creature itself, mind you...
- In Falling Skies, Tom learns that the Espheni/Overlords have already attempted to invade Earth 1500 years ago, but were driven off by primitive humans. Tom points out the stupidity of trying again.
- From the "Die Hard" on an X episode "I Shrink Therefore I Am":
Big, Armored Alien: Pulse-chamber overload. [snort] Not very creative.
Crichton: Bear trap. Ugly, but creative.
- Similarly, in "Lava's A Many Splendored Thing", the bad guys' personal shields protect them from pulse pistol blasts... but not from a conk on the head with a rock. Preceded by a wonderful explanation of why fire and rock beat laser.
D'Argo: That is your plan?...To hit him with a rock when they have these, like, shield things?
Crichton: The shields work against pulse energy. They don't work against other things. We saw the guy get burned.
D'Argo: Yeah, but not by a rock!
Crichton: Alright, let me lay this out for you. Fire is thermal energy. Thermal energy is like, kinetic energy. A rock has kinetic energy, ergo, a rock will work!
- From the "Die Hard" on an X episode "I Shrink Therefore I Am":
- The Firefly 'verse in general prefers projectile weapons to lasers. Specifically, in "Heart of Gold", the Big Bad brandishes a laser, which does do quite a bit of damage...until it runs out of power, very quickly, thus illustrating why projectile weapons are preferred. On the other hand, guns can run out of ammo too. Presumably, the Alliance troops who use lasers carry spare power packs, just like modern-day soldiers carry spare magazines. Supplemental material revealed that while laser weapons were effective, they were also bulky, heavy, and delicate compared to guns. This was not a huge liability on Core planets where Alliance troops would have ready access to spare parts, but out in the planets the show was mostly set in, using a laser meant that you'd have a powerful weapon that ran out of ammo quicker, you couldn't carry as much ammo (due to the bulk and weight of the power packs), and when (not if) it broke on you it would be harder and more expensive to repair it.
- In the Hogan's Heroes episode "Drums Along the Dusseldorf", Carter and Newkirk take out a truck of experimental fuel with a flaming arrow.
- This occasionally happens on Leverage against high-tech security systems. In "The Last Dam Job" this happens twice. As their antagonist has recognized them and knows them enough to predict what they will, do they are forced to be somewhat creative. Hardison and Eliot use Mussels (an invasive species) to shut down a dam instead of a more complicated computer intrusion. Later, Hardison and Chaos plan to give Archie and Parker a bunch of high-tech doodads to break into a vault. Archie thanks them, but notes that all they need is flour, milk, eggs, and sugar. With the only advanced tech involved being Archie's tazer cane and a bomb, it works perfectly.
- In an episode of The Muppet Show where Mark Hamill guest-stars as Luke Skywalker, he is about to vaporize Dearth Nadir only to find that Nadir disabled his blaster with a technobabble plot device. Thankfully, since "Dearth Nadir" is really just Gonzo the Great in a silly mask, Chewbacca proves more than capable of giving him a beatdown. Unfortunately, even Chewbacca is useless against the awesome might of Angus McGonoggle, the Argyle Gargoyle gargling Gershwin.
- On Mystery Science Theater 3000, Tom Servo accidentally shoots down a tiny satellite with an arrow. The mother satellite is not happy about that.
- In one episode of MythBusters, the team is trying to find ways to fool advanced security systems. Though most of them don't work, they do find out that it is possible to fool a state-of-the-art infrared motion detector by holding a large white sheet in front of yourself.
- The Outer Limits episode "Rule Of Law" has a scene where the judge protagonist, armed with a handgun, confronts a lynch mob armed with laser guns. The crooks mock his inferior weapon, but are defeated with ease, owing largely to the judge's superior marksmanship and training.
- Stargate SG-1:
- Human-made bullets are more useful than Asgardian high-tech weapons against Replicators: they absorb the energy of energy blasts, but bullets blow them apart. They may reconstitute if enough "blocks" are left intact, but on average two gunned-down replicators leave just enough for another to spring up, which can still get blown up too, so that's still a much better ratio than energy weapons.
- Also, it was shown that while Goa'uld personal shields can easily deflect fast moving bullets, they're powerless to stop a relatively slow-moving arrows or thrown knives. The implication throughout the series is that Applied Phlebotinum is often Awesome, but Impractical.
- It was lampshaded in one episode, when the team mentioned that the Goa'uld staff weapons are not meant to be effective so much as flashy and impressive, the better to intimidate conquered populations. The "sidearm" zat'nik'tel pistols are the weapon of choice for savvy Jaffa.
Colonel O'Neill: This [a staff weapon] is a weapon of terror: it's made to intimidate the enemy. This [an FNP90] is a weapon of war: it's made to kill the enemy.
- Later subverted when human-form replicators were created, who are immune to bullets, forcing the Asgard and Humans to create a brand new hi-tech weapon to fight them.
- US soldiers defend a gate and actually shoot down Goa'uld Death Glider fighters with Stinger portable AA missiles. Boom!◊
- On every alien planet or Alternate Earth where the Goa'uld came in ships, there was a Curb-Stomp Battle. Goa'uld technology is much better than Earth technology at ship-to-ship or ship-to-ground combat until the end of the series. However, five thousand years of A God Am I left them unprepared for guerilla warfare.
- When SG-1 gets captured by a Bounty Hunter named Aris Boch, O'Neill tries to throw a knife at him through the shield. The knife hits the shield and drops to the ground. Boch reveals that he has improved on the Goa'uld design so that slow objects no longer pass through the shield. It should be noted that if a thrown knife worked SG-1 could've walked out of the shield. As Boch himself put it, that kind of shield doesn't work very well as a trap.
- Averted with the Ori, who are so damn advanced that a single ship or emissary can curb-stomp the living hell out of everybody that gets in the way, guns or even nukes be damned. Stargate Command spends most of the arc on the defensive, seeking Ancient technology that will hopefully level the field.
- During her time on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Dr. Katherine Pulaski shows herself to be a believer in a peaceful variety of this trope — using low-tech medical technologies such as splints and chicken soup in place of the usual hyper-advanced Star Trek medical technology when necessary.
- In one Expanded Universe novel, the villain's headquarters was shielded against every type of technology-based weaponry imaginable, but not physical objects. So Worf replicated himself a catapult and spent the afternoon smashing a hole in the wall.
- Star Trek: Voyager: Janeway, not an exceptionally strong woman, manages to kill a Borg drone with a bat'leth at least once... after the drone had knocked down the bat'leth's owner — a large Klingon male. Though this was in a simulated world.
- Leslie Fish:
- The Aesop of the Car Wars inspired song "The Discards":
No radar for your jamming, no lasers to deflect, just armor made for ramming and bullets worth respect
- Also the point of Leslie Fish's song Serious Steel, in which members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, using steel armor and recreated medieval weapons, fight various bandits and dictators after the World War III.
Our armor proved half-bullet proof, our weapons worked as well.
The townsfolk afterwards thanked us all for freeing them from Hell.
- The Aesop of the Car Wars inspired song "The Discards":
- Defied in Sabaton's "Shiroyama", which acknowledges that Technology Marches On and there really isn't anything that can stop it.
It's the nature of time, that the old ways must give in.
- Space 1889 averts this trope or possibly even inverts it because in fictional Mars, the Europeans superior technology is even more effective than in historical colonial areas. Europeans use their superior technology just as effectively against Martians as against, say black Africans. Martian terrain does not lend itself to effective guerilla warfare nor do the Europeans have much trouble with Martian diseases the way they are subject to tropical diseases on Earth. It is the cost of transport to Mars and the lack of resources needed for European-style warfare (particularly coal or some other burnable fuel for the steam engines and metal for casings) that is slowing European conquest and colonization.
- Warhammer 40,000, due to the ridiculously Schizo Tech of the setting. On one side you could have the Eldar casually using fusion guns and black hole projectors, or the Tau whose basic infantry weapon is a plasma-launching coilgun assisted by sophisticated electronic targeting systems. But due to the game rules, if those warriors are unfortunate enough to get locked in close combat with a bunch of howling Orks waving around stone clubs, their advanced sci-fi ranged weaponry is exactly as effective as a stick with a nail in it (if only because the game rules don't actually bother to make a distinction between a stick with a nail in it to, say, a medieval sword).
- The Imperium of Man still makes use of firearms. While small arm-sized auto and stub weapons (pistol and rifle equivalents using caseless ammo) are often lackluster, larger guns are just as powerful as their energy equivalents, the bolters remain fast-firing rocket-propelled AP/HE/incendiary grenades, and their artillery (using the powder bag system dating to 1917) is one of the most devastating weapons of the game.
- And compared to the above, Chaos weaponry is downright archaic. The Imperium gets plasma-sheathed swords and fusion guns, while Chaos gets swords forged in hellfire and scythes with blades dipped in the cauldron of Nurgle. Doesn't make them any less lethal, in fact often they are more so.
- Primarch Vulkan once faced an entire Dark Eldar raiding force that threatened the people of his homeworld. The Dark Eldar are a race of technologically adept super sadists with guns that shoot razor floss, while Vulkan's homeworld hadn't even left the iron age and all he had was a pair of blacksmith hammers. He still massacred them.
- The later model for kobolds in Dungeons & Dragons was posited in a Dragon Magazine in the '80s, Tucker's Kobolds, as a way to turn single-HD runts into holy terrors for 20th level parties armed to the teeth with Infinity Plus One artifacts and insane eldritch arsenals. They became more formidable when they weren't dominated by evil wizards or warlords of more powerful races, as they would avoid battle-by-attrition in favor of ingenious traps and ambush-and-retreat positions.
- In the Mystara D&D setting's Hollow World, many members of lower-technology cultures get Immortal-granted bonuses in combat, as the Powers That Be don't want any one culture to overwhelm the others and are skewing the game-rules to ensure that Rock Holds Its Own Against Laser.
- Due to a variety of factors, usually happens at least once in a blue moon during a corp run in Shadowrun. As in sci-fi examples stated further above, megacorps do not bother with failsafes and countermeasures against primitive measures, as they just won't be utilized enough to make the cost worth it. Corps that fear such things may be used to infiltrate them tend to hire mage/tracker(usually a bandersnatch or hellhound) teams to roam their halls and spot anything out of the ordinary. From the sample NPC quotes for a Native American chief:
"I have a fine horse, so why would I need a car? A horse is a renewable resource. Have you had any success breeding your car lately?"
- In yet another Star Wars-related example, the Star Wars: Saga Edition RPG has it in the rules that while energy shields will stop any energy weapon, up to and including the ubiquitous lightsaber, a simple slugthrower or sling can penetrate it. And using that ruleset (namely the Scum and Villainy sourcebook) it was possible to develop weapons that could be used to take down shielded enemies in an area larger than a major city, so long as it was clear line of sight to them.
- There is a Chinese board game that has these aspects with 8 units, the elephant all the way down to the mouse. Simply put, it is a game of 1-8, where the higher number eats any number directly below it. However, the mouse which is the number 1 is the only piece that can eat the number 8 which means that it is the weakest that defeats the strongest. Stratego has the same mechanic, where the Spy can defeat the Marshal if it attacks first.
- Some of the more powerful units in Heroscape are Medieval units or colonial-times soldiers who are able to destroy the Soulborgs.
- Magic: The Gathering has a variety of formats, some with over ten thousand cards available, some with less than two thousand. While Legacy (which contains every card ever printed) is typically considered more powerful than smaller ones they are also specifically designed to beat the metagame they exist in. The result is that decks made for Standard (which has only the most recent cards) can sometimes create present Legacy decks with cards they're incapable of dealing with because the card is unplayable within the Legacy metagame.
- This happens very occasionally in Rocket Age. In close quarters jungle fighting a Venusian fighting with a club could easily outmatch an Earthling with a gun, especially considering how wet it is on Venus and the sheer size of the Venusian. Also sometimes something that appears low tech, like a Venusian wooden axe, has unusual properties that give it a huge edge against modern technology.
- The "technological" armours in Pathfinder are fairly good at defending against energy weapons like laser pistols (which normal armour can't block). However, they provide almost no defence against normal (medieval-era) weapons, and the latter do about as much damage as the energy weapons. One wonders why the armour's creators couldn't find a compromise between physical and energy defence when designing their armour...
- In Paranoia, lowly Red-clearance Troubleshooters (just one rank above the dumb masses who work in the food vats) are typically outfitted with lasers and reflec armor (shiny stuff that kinda sorta reflects lasers), while slugthrowers and kevlar are restricted to somewhat higher clearances.
- Happens sometimes in BattleTech. The setting's Humongous Mecha are thought to be the undisputed kings of the battlefield, but they can be brought down by an infantryman with a satchel charge who is willing to do a Colossus Climb and blow up the leg joints, in an anthropomorphic version of the sticky grenade rush sometimes attempted on tanks in World War 2. In the expanded universe, Mechs have been brought down by means as simple and expedient as rolling log traps, just like the iconic Star Wars example, and in one instance a Mech was defeated using nothing more than a broom handle, a severed power line, and a very good throwing arm. One of the highest-ranked generals in the Star League Defense Force was taken down by pit traps, burning oil, and infantry-portable weapons.
- In many video games (Quake II and Unreal games come to mind), the player's initial weapon is a futuristic blaster—a pea-shooter compared with less sophisticated weapons such as a shotgun (single- or double-barrelled), which can deal out much more damage. Even bullet-using rifles/SMGs and miniguns/chainguns are more effective. (There's usually a powered-up version of the pea-shooting blaster available, though, such as Quake II's Hyperblaster and BFG, or the various upgrades to the dispersion pistol in Unreal.) The futuristic but ineffective blaster does have two advantages, since it's intended as an Emergency Weapon—it doesn't break and never runs out of ammunition.
- Even more jarring, in many fps games, e.g., GoldenEye on Wii, meleeing someone with the butt of an assault rifle is more deadly than shooting someone with a bullet from said rifle. It will take just one or two melee hits, but many AK47 shots to kill someone.note This is mostly just to get the player out of tight spots, as actively trying to rush and melee will get you killed pretty quickly.
- In the far future of the 26th century, the massive alien empire known as the Covenant attacks humanity armed with advanced plasma weaponry, energy shields, and power armor. Humanity responds with... basically what they're using today, bar using coilguns in the spinal armaments of their spaceships and a few other bits. Several of the small arms calibers the UNSC uses are even no-shit modern models, such as 7.62 M118 NATO. Despite this, humanity holds its own pretty well, mostly being overwhelmed because all but the most extreme losses are simply shrugged off by the Covenant. Specific examples:
- In all cutscenes and novels (and gameplay), the basic human assault rifles, pistols, and shotguns are shown to be very effective against Covenant armor. Even Elites, who are decked out in full powered armor, goes down to single pistol rounds if their energy shields are knocked out (which typically only takes a few rifle or pistol shots anyway). In general, UNSC infantry consistently give as good as they get against the Covenant in ground combat; though it helps that 70-80% of Covenant infantry are Grunts and Jackals, who have horrendous morale, bad training, and are usually armed with little more than pistols.
- Special mention goes to one occasion in Halo: The Flood where a Covenant Wraith, a Hover Tank with a plasma mortar as its main armament, gets taken out by a .50 BMG machine gun (the bullets penetrated its lightly-armored rear section). The weapon itself may be futuristic, but the round was invented in 1921!
- In Halo: The Fall of Reach, a small Covenant warship is crippled by a nuclear missile detonated with a 100-meter proximity fuse, its point-defense having apparently failed it. That's completely within the range of something that can be created today.
- The UNSC's Scorpion tanks tend to tear through the Covenant's Wraith tanks (in fact every main game will have a breather sequence where Master Chief goes on a curb-stompy rampage in a Scorpion), despite being titanium-armored and equipped with a mere 90mm smooth-bore. Which, going by both the caliber and velocity, you'd expect to find on a Cold War era tank. It helps that, per Halo: Oblivion, the Wraith's plasma mortar has an effective range of about a kilometer (easy to believe), whereas typical Cold War era tank guns capped out at multiple kilometers.
- In Halo 4, you can witness several shielded Covenant light cruisers getting utterly gutted by a combination of 70mm autocannon fire and conventional cruise missiles.
- On that same note, a nearly kilometer-long frigate in Halo: Reach also gets destroyed by a salvo of conventional cruise missiles.
- The UNSC's main anti-air guns are essentially just Vulcan cannons (in-universe characters even refer to them as such as a nickname), down to firing the 20x102mm HEI round. They tear through Covenant gunships/transports (Phantoms) and light fighters (Banshees) easily. They're even used as point-defense weapons on the Infinity.
- The Onager at the end of Reach is basically just a scaled up version of the 32 megajoule railgun that the United States Navy is testing, at 33 meters long with a yield of 1,100 megajoules.note Yet, if fired at a Covenant battlecruiser's main gun, it will not only completely pierce the armor protecting it, but cause a backfire that destroys the entire ship, as Noble Six proves at the end of the game. Keep in mind that a battlecruiser is over a mile long (which makes the "weak spot" so massive that it's actually larger and easier to hit than a modern supercarrier...).
- Covenant Hunters are multi-ton twelve foot tall Mini-Mecha covered in several inches of the same material that the Covenant use for warship armor. A mundane 102mm HEAT rocket is still totally capable of overpenetrating them in both the novels (e.g. Halo: The Flood) and in gameplay. Ditto the 105mm recoilless rifle in Halo Legends.
- Chrono Trigger takes this to a literal extreme, where Lucca's prehistoric rock-slinger is more powerful than a laser pistol from the future. When Ayla reaches maximum level, her fist can hit for more damage than any other weapon in the game, including swords, guns, bows, etc.
- The Battle Walkers of Battlefield 2142 are supposed to be the pinnacle of Infantry Fighting Vehicles. Should an infantryman wander between its legs, however, he can whittle down the hulking machine with little more than a pistol pointed at its Achilles' Heel (though you'd still need a hundred rounds or so to do so). The Walker pilot can further uphold the trope, though, by simply crouching down, beating the infantryman's pistol with a very heavy chunk of metal.
- Similarly, the "Active Defense" shielding employed by most of the vehicle lines do not fully repel gunfire. Air vehicles (especially the heavily armed Gunship) are especially prone to AA fire.
- Ditto on both of these for the Battlezone RTS/FPS genre crossover remake and its sequel, except for the crouching part. However, being filled to the brim with hover tech, ANYTHING can fly given the proper incline to start up its ascent. Unfortunately they can't aim very far downwards, making this more of a sped-up transportation method (skipping slopes and pits in the terrain) than battle tactic.
- In Mass Effect, this is actually justified - while laser weapons do exist, kinetic energy weapons are more effective shot-for-shot. Thus even in the future, we're still using guns that fire bullets; although now that gun has nearly limitless ammo and is capable of freezing you, setting you on fire, punching through your armor, destroying your shields, increase their mass... That said, in close-range ship-to-ship combat, lasers will literally melt enemy warships, since point-defence lasers ignore kinetic barriers. The series zigzags it—the most technologically advanced weapons are not lasers, but streams of molten metal fired like one. It is absolutely played straight in the third game, however; the protagonists release a giant Sand Worm to distract the resident technological Eldritch Abomination, and the creature does them one better and manages to kill it. Without assistance..
- Horizon Zero Dawn can be summed up as "Rock Beats Laser: The Game". Taking place on an Earth populated by various Animal Mechas and humans still in hunter-gatherer tribes, the protagonist Aloy slays any machines she runs afoul of with her spear and a bow and arrows.
- Worms: A Space Oddity takes this to great levels of awesome for the final mini-game, which is also the final level of the single-player campaign. Realising that their high-tech weaponry ain't doing smeg against the invaders, the worms decide to arm the "trusty shotgun"... Which can take down UFOs. In a single shot. Much ass-kicking ensues.
- The Civilization series is notorious for this. Put a tank (attack 8) against a spearman (defense 3) that happened to be left lying around from the early game, make the spearman a fortified (+ 50%) veteran (+ 50%) defending a mountain (+ 200%) and presto. Or a missile cruiser against a galleon, or a helicopter against a maceman... games after the first one added multiple combat rounds to help modern units out, which made instances of this trope rare enough to stand out better.
- Worse yet, in the original Civilization, a battleship could attack a city guarded with just an ancient phalanx, only to have the phalanx win. Radar doesn't detect wooden rowboats indeed.
- Archer stack on defense.
- The developers have actively been trying to fix this problem in the later games, with mixed results. For example, one way is to disallow stacks, forcing each unit to fight on its own (although flanking bonuses have been added to slightly offset this change).
- Strangely, though, an airstrike against any target, even a primitive spearman, results in some damage to the aircraft. Did the fighter jet fly low enough to be hit by a spear or something?
- V even has an achievement, "Turtle Power", for invoking this trope - defeat an Industrial-era ironclad with the Renaissance-era Korean turtle ship. As the turtle ship is by far the strongest sea unit available to anyone in its era (it trades off the caravel's standard sea exploration for nearly double its attacking power), this is not as difficult as it sounds.
- Rise of Nations is almost as bad. Thanks to the Tactical RockPaperScissors mechanic, if the tech levels are different enough, you can see not just spearmen killing tanks, but archers killing missile-armed anti-tank infantry, cavalry cutting down machine guns (the reverse of which happened in real life), sloops sinking submarines, and lookout towers shooting down fighter planes. Perhaps the worse example is the transition from the enlightenment era to a late industrial navy. Dreadnoughts have a relatively minor stat increase compared to the Men o' War/Ships of the Line they replace, and are liable to be sunk when engaging more then one, when logically the latter shouldn't be able to scratch the former.
- Realistically averted in Medieval 2 Total War, but played straight in the Low Fantasy total conversion mod Thera. If you're playing as the Aztec-themed Paynal Empire or the Warriors of Kukulcan, you can expect to go up against the advanced armies of the Faustian Reich, the Ducado and the Privateers, as these factions all start on a western continent analogous to the Americas. The latter three have late-renaissance armies of musketeers, cannons and cavalry in steel plate armour, while the former two haven't yet invented metalworking or the wheel. It's also very possible for the former two to win.
- This can be the case in Total War: Shogun 2. In Fall of the Samurai, traditional units will walk all over modern units in the early portion of the game. This tends to get Subverted once better modern units like riflemen and Armstrong guns come into play, but that does not entirely relegate traditional units to history's dustbin: Yari Kachi fulfil an anti-cavalry and defender role very effectively even in late-game by protecting your vulnerable flanks and artillery pieces, and they can fare decently against missile troops in melee if they manage to close in. If the enemy tries a bayonet charge, a sprinkling of Katana Kachi and Shogitai behind your backlines will make them regret it. And Kisho Ninja may look wildly out of place amongst modern units, but they can give the enemy line a nasty grenade surprise provided they use their stealth carefully; they will also fillet most line infantry in melee and even hold their own against Western loan troops, and their climbing skill means they are adept at assaulting fortifications too.
- Done literally in sub-par platform game Xargon, where the laser is the protagonist's initial weapon, and the thrown rock is considered an upgrade (and, ironically, a worse weapon; it deals the same amount of damage, but flies in an upwards arc that makes it impractical to hit enemies in front of you). See also: Ghouls n' Ghosts. THAT FUCKING TORCH
- Sonic the Hedgehog does this:
- The titular character defeats an entire army of robots, guns, traps, and the Big Bad himself... by running fast and jumping into them.
- This is Silver the Hedgehog's bread and butter. While he can and will send a robot's missiles and bullets right back at them and employ Grievous Harm with a Body when in close quarters, he's usually able to get by perfectly fine by simply scooping up the debris and scenery around him and chucking it at his enemies.
- In the Xbox remake of Ninja Gaiden, Ryu defeats the slightly-beyond-modern technology-boasting forces of Vigoor, users of electrified batons, unlimited ammo firearms and cyborgs with energy weapons, using swords, nunchaku, and a variety of other old-timey weapons. Especially so if he uses the Wooden Sword (absolutely useless in most situations, unless the player upgrades it to level seven... where it becomes one of the most powerful weapons in the game. But still wooden.)
- A Protoss Dragoon is a massive Spider Tank with an antimatter cannon. A Zergling is a lizard with teeth and claws. Dragoons can quite easily be ripped to small pieces by a standard-issue Zerg Rush. Though this is actually somewhat more of an aversion, as Zerg are more an example of Organic Technology that's been constantly improving for ages. A Zergling is an animal, yes, but it's charging with mono-molecular blades, fitness and reflexes boosted thanks to thousands of years of directed evolution, and cannot feel any pain or fear. It's the weakest Zerg strain, with the others being even nastier.
- Also, in the campaign for the second game, you can use classic units from the first game, which in-universe are considered outdated and obsolete. However, there are times where players would gladly take a Science Vessel or Goliath over their more "advanced" counterparts.
- Mother 3 is big on this, what with the whole plot being nature vs. technology. It's especially apparent in the later battles where Lucas is still using a stick and able to take down mechanical monstrosities as well as guys equipped with armor and lasers. In fact the only thing that Lucas and the gang can't beat by punching and kicking and sticks is something that NOTHING can defeat.
- Shows up occasionally in World of Warcraft, particularly against gnomes and goblins. A giant mecha equipped with missile launchers and laser guns can be taken out with crossbows, maces, and animal claws.
- Shows up of all places Modern Warfare. Where with the right built the best weapons is a knife and shield combo. Also until being patched the model 1887 had the best range of any shotgun in the game, almost comparable to real life.
- In City of Heroes, your character may have powered armour, a Healing Factor, or control over gravity itself, but nothing will save you from the Knives of Artemis, whose main weapons are crossbows and caltrops. Then again, your Badass Normal hero can take out killer robots, alien warriors, super soldiers, evil wizards, rogue superheroes, cybernetic street gangs
- Galaxy Man, a UFO-like robot who creates black holes in Mega Man 9, is taken down easily by wet concrete. It does work both ways though, given Concrete Man's weakness is laser-powered.
- Mega Man X2: Magna Centipede, who's a tech-skilled ninja hacker centipede that teleports and throws homing mine-shurikens, is weak to scrap metal.
- You get Blasters near the end of Might and Magic VII (and some other games of the series). Besides incredible accuracy, they are inferior in raw damage to high-end bows and swords - but they do Energy damage instead of Physical, and the enemies in the area they're supplied for use in have more Physical resistance than they do Energy resistance. Kreegans (known as "devils" among natives) are Sufficiently Advanced Aliens that use Organic Technology' and are quite good at terramorphing. When they tried to conquer Enroth with brute force, they had a hard time dealing with 500 armed men and were completely stopped by dragons and titans that happened to live in neighborhood; after that, they resorted to infiltrating local society and building their own cult. Those that landed on Antagarich did a lot better due to being more numerous and willing to ally with some natives; nonetheless, they went from posing a major threat to desperately struggling for power to losing any importance and becoming simple mercenaries in less than a decade.
- The Global Liberation Army in Command & Conquer: Generals plays with this concept. On the one hand, they are mostly armed with Cold War-era weapons and little to no aircraft, but manage to match the much more technologically advanced US and Chinese forces. On the other hand, their individual units are far weaker and less effective compared with their enemy counterparts. The GLA instead wins by combining stealth, economic power, sheer numbers, and dirty tactics to overcome their technological disparity.
- A huge balance issue in the F2P (and now long-defunct) MMO Black Prophecy. Bullet weapons completely outmatched energy weapons because they ignored shields. Energy weapons had to deal with a fighter's shields first- and then they did less damage to the actual hull on average compared to projectiles. The only "drawback" projectile weapons had is that bullets supposedly slowed down when approaching an enemy with shields (with no damage penalties). This didn't actually happen ingame, and even if it did, chances of hitting the target would still be high, considering you are using either a fast-firing chaingun or a hitscan sniper rifle.
- In Metal Gear Solid 4, in a world where anybody with nanomachines can be manipulated and incapacitated, Johnny gets his moments to shine when he reveals that he never had nanomachines implanted into his body, rendering him immune to the high tech methods to disable nanomachine enhanced soldiers. There's also the point where Mei Ling is given command of the USS Missouri, a ship that, due to it's age, was the only ship unaffected by Liquids' takeover of military systems.
- In the reboot of Syndicate, the LAW-92 is a relatively low-tech unguided missile popular with terrorists because Agents cannot disable them via Breaching.
- Justified in Star Ocean: Despite having access to laser pistols, Ronyx and Ilia were chosen to go after the Jie Revorse with Millie, Roddick, and their four friends from the past wielding their bare hands, swords, knives, staves (or spears) bows, and symbology because Revorse was genetically modified to the point where he was immune to energy-based weaponry. Presumably, they don't have much Ballistics in the present time. Actually, it could be a safety measure - maybe the energy weaponry is a bit safe so that it only works on organic targets (or robots), or at least can't break spaceship walls like Ballistics could. Even if this is futuristic, early adapters could probably have banned ballistic weaponry.
- Inverted in Star Ruler: With a large enough gap in tech level, the more advanced faction will absolutely Curb Stomp the less advanced one. Furthermore, because production rate is also improved by research, the lesser faction can't count on numbers either.
- Powered Armor is nice and all, but it can still be chipped away by enough bullets and enemies.
- The Combat Shotgun in Fallout 3 is more powerful than any energy weapon you'll get until the end of the game.
- In the Mothership Zeta DLC, one of the allies you encounter on the alien ship is a feudal-era Japanese Samurai. A Samurai on a spaceship full of aliens with ray-guns. Curb-Stomp Battle waiting to happen, right? You can have an encounter where he is standing in a room, katana drawn, surrounded by dismembered alien corpses. Curb-Stomp Battle.
- Fallout: New Vegas:
- The Brotherhood was defeated before the events of the game by the somewhat less technologically-advanced NCR, though it was mostly due to the NCR overwhelming them with sheer numbers.
- Similarly, the NCR is caught in a stalemate with the Legion, who see reliance on technology as weakness and are largely armed with guns from the late 19th century, but are more numerous, employ guerrilla warfare to soften their enemies up, before going in for a full on assault, are cunning enough to manipulate other factions into serve them, and are lead by a more competent leader, who they are willing to die for.
- In Fallout 4:
- There's also the first Railroad quest after you join, which has you taking up the Railway Rifle (a steam powered hand cannon that fires massive iron spikes) and using it against a squad of Brotherhood of Steel Paladins clad in advanced Powered Armor. Granted, the weapon is specifically designed to shred armor like tissue paper, allowing the supposedly wimpy Railroad to level and possibly tip the playing field in their favor.
- If you help rebuild the Minutemen from The Remnant into the large police force they were meant to be, they can utterly wreck both The Brotherhood of Steel and The Institute, the former of which has a well trained army wearing Powered Armor, wield energy weapons, and are bringing air support from The Brotherhood's Cool Airship, the Prydwen and the latter has an army of Robot Soldiers, Artificial Humans, and weapons technology comparable to The Brotherhood. The Minutemen? They're a ragtag militia armed mostly with old homemade pipe pistols and rifles, laser "muskets" (crudely made, hand-cranked laser rifles), and good old fashioned and primitive WW1-era artillery guns. This can turn into an outright Curb-Stomp Battle, if you get them to ally with the aforementioned Railroad.
- One of the best weapons to defeat Coursers, Assaultrons, and other high-tech cloaking enemies is the humble Molotov Cocktail. If they cloak, toss one in their general direction and they'll catch on fire so you can see where they are and keep blasting them.
- Some entries on the Shield Tech Tree in Spaceward Ho!, by ascending effectiveness:
Quark ShellDelta WaveRefractor FieldGluon ArmorHide behind a big rock
- In Enemy Infestation, due to the aliens' Adaptive Ability, the effects of weapons on them are largely unpredictable every mission. There are two exceptions: a rocket launcher (primitive compared to the abundant rayguns), and a cook's cleaver.
- In Plants vs. Zombies, the Zombies try to invade your house using tools, vehicles, and a Humongous Mecha (and futuristic Mini Mechas in the sequel). They all get taken down by plants.
- In Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time, the Infi-nut (a projected Hard Light Wall-Nut that regenerates via its projector) can be instantly destroyed, projector and all, by a zombie carrying a lit wooden torch, a caveman pushing ice blocks, or a girl zombie with roller skates. In a literal example of the trope there's the Jurassic Rockpuncher, who's a caveman with rocks tied to his hands and uses said rocks to smash plants for a One-Hit Kill. It will also destroy the Hard Light laser Infi-nut along with its projector.
- In Dark Souls II, the "Strike" type weapons tend to be relatively crude compared to the other weapons in the game. The Great Club in particular is just a branch taken from a huge tree. Strike damage in this game is arguably the most useful type of damage in the game since many enemies take less damage from any physical damage except Strike damage, especially armored opponents. Quite a few enemies will go down faster when hit by a big rock on a stick or the aforementioned tree branch than by a fancy enchanted sword. Or hey, why go through the trouble of lugging around a giant log all day when you could just strap some studded pieces of leather to your fists and punch everything to death?
- Armored Core V and its sequel Verdict Day play with this trope. At certain points in the games, jury-rigged one-shot weapons known as Ultimate Weapons become available and can be loaded onto the player's AC. The weapon that embodies this trope, known as the Mass Blade, is a concrete pillar, outfitted with rocket boosters and used as a giant bludgeon. Said weapon can demolish a supertech, laser-armed Humongous Mecha in a single strike.
- A fully automated, aim-assisted Sentry Gun built by a man with 11 PhDs that usually takes an invulnerability shield and lots of firepower to destroy can be destroyed in two swings by a incomprehensible nut in an asbestos suit with a sledgehammer. Welcome to Team Fortress 2. On a related note, the miraculous glowing shield that provides total invulnerability to harm from bullets, explosions, fire, and even One Hit Kills? Its greatest nemesis is compressed air, also provided the aforementioned nut in a rubber suit.
- Unintentionally played straight by the flash game Age of War. The best strategy to beat the otherwise really hard Impossible difficulty is to stay at the lowest age and just keep spamming Cavemen endlessly.
- In Evolve, you have a four-man team armed with advanced weaponry and gadgets facing off against what is essentially a large and fairly intelligent animal. It is completely possible for the monster to tear the hunters apart, regardless of the technological differences. A literal example can occur if the Goliath uses rock throw against a hunter with a laser weapon.
- In Pulp Adventures, Tarzan and his bow aren't less useful against gun-toting Nazis than other heroes with more modern weaponry.
- The Elder Scrolls:
- The Bosmer (Wood Elves) of Valenwood are bound by the Green Pact, a deal they made with the patron deity of their forest homeland ages ago in which they are not allowed to harm Valenwood's plant life. Due to the Green Pact, forges are extremely uncommon in Valenwood. As a result, metal weapons and armor have never gained popularity amongst the Bosmer. Their weaponry tends to be made of natural materials, such as bone for clubs and obsidian blades. They are known to make composite horn bows which are said to be some of the best in Tamriel. For armor, they either forgo it completely or use light natural materials such as leather and hide.
- The Reachmen, tribal natives of the Reach region along the border of High Rock and Skyrim, eschew metal in their weapons and armor, favoring wood, stone, fur, hide, feathers, bone, and antler. Despite this, they are able fight evenly against better equipped adversaries through use of guerilla tactics and their druidic "hedge magic." In Skyrim, this can be seen in the weapons and armor of the Forsworn, a terrorist/freedom fighter group of Reachmen.
- Averted in the ancient past when the Aldmer, ancestors of the modern races of Mer (Elves), first came to Tamriel. Tamriel was said to have already been inhabited by the Beast Races, but they were aboriginal and primitive, making them "easily displaced" by the more magically and technologically advanced Aldmer.
- Empire Earth:
- Nuclear submarines are only capable of shooting buildings and land units, while only attackable by frigates and other subs. The very first ship is a war raft, consisting of a pair of cavemen throwing big rocks, that eventually upgrades into a frigate... but even at that point it can still attack nuclear subs without fear of retaliation.
- In the second game, gun-wielding infantry now upgrades directly from its sword/spear/bow-wielding predecessor (instead of from an entirely new arquebus unit like the previous games), as a side effect of the game treating unit classes (Heavy and Light Infantry/Mounted/Artillery) as have Evolutionary Levels. This in turn means that infantry can attack helicopters at any tier, including when they're club-wielding caveman who bear the chopper's shadow to death.
- Iron Marines has examples on the planet Borealis — where the nomadic warrior Ga'r are fighting against the Sufficiently Advanced Alien Raad:
- The primitive Ga'r were being outmatched by the Raad until the Iron Marines came to their rescue. That said, the Ga'r combat units can hold their own against small groups of Raad.
- The Ga'r King can easily take on the Raad and their combat vehicles with just a huge battlehammer and by throwing very painful chunks of ice at them. He's also defensively capable of tanking their laser and plasma attacks and healing from them via eating a huge chunk of meat.
- There's also the Fenrirs, who are native wolf-like aliens that can hold their own against most Raad thanks to sheer numbers. The Alpha Fenrirs are capable of tearing both the Raad and the technologically advanced Iron Marines apart with nothing but tooth, claw, and stealth tactics.
- Warframe: Played with. During the Old War, the Orokin tried to use their incredibly advanced weapons against the Sentients, only to fail horrifically because the Sentients could easily subvert Orokin technology. The Orokin resorted to "zero-tech," primitive weapons like guns and swords, and equipped their slaves with them. This worked slightly better, but not by much. Then they created the warframes and the Tenno, nigh-Physical Gods who could not be subverted by the Sentients because they were created by the Technocyte Plague, a cyborg/biotech virus, instead of traditional Orokin super-science. The Tenno still had to be equipped with zero-tech weapons, but they were so incredibly powerful that they were able to win even with that disadvantage. By the time of the game, the Orokin and the Sentients are both long gone, but the Tenno still use archaic weapons, partly because more powerful weapons are incredibly rare, but partly because of tradition.
- Lumberwhack: Defend the Wild: On the player's side, we have a bunch of forest/jungle animals armed with Natural Weapons and Improvised Weapons. On the enemy side, we have an army of lumberjacks with technology such as chainsaws, explosives, and cutting vehicles. The forest animals are more than capable of defeating the lumberjacks.
- In Rainbow Six Siege, Thatcher invokes this, as his specialty is in evening the playing field by disabling other Operators' various types of high-tech weapons and cutting edge gadgets with EMP grenades, and then rolling in with conventional firepower and knife work to take them down while their high-tech gear is cut off.
- In EndWar, the Russian Spetsnaz' philosophy seems to be "whatever works, works", employing tried-and-true tactics and equipment over the high-tech gadgets of the American JSF and the European EFEC. Bears engineers get modern day ballistic vests over futuristic nano-composite armour and Training from Hell instead of advanced sonic wound sealing medical systems, Wolves riflemen get camouflage paint over Active Camouflage, T-100 Ogre tanks get mine ploughs on the front to make up for the Russians' lack of "smart mine" technology... In fact most tellingly is how their command vehicle is guarded by squads of regular infantry instead of high-tech robotic drones like the JSF and EFEC (but the men are still referred to as "drones", make of that what you will) - however these "Bodyguard" infantry are arguably better than the drones because they come in twenty-man squads rather than a group of four and unlike the drones, they can take cover which increases their survivability, range and accuracy beyond that of the drones.
- In Armory & Machine, the Hunter Class Skills are more archaic weapons and traps like Crossbows, Ballistas, Kukris and Bear Traps. Thanks to dealing penetrating damage that bypasses enemy shielding, these weapons are extremely effective against the futuristic laser-shooting robotic enemies in the Laboratory, all of which have high shield but very low health. The Ballista and Bayonet skills in particular will One-Hit Kill these.
- In the brutal and brilliant Serbian RPG Underrail, energy fields are a common battlefield protection from directed energy weapons, bullets and shrapnel. However much like the distortion fields from Dune, they only work on fast-moving objects, so they are useless against more primitive weaponry. A warrior with a fancy energy shield can be impervious to explosions and laser fire but be felled by a simple crossbow bolt, a blade to the gut or simply a good right hook.
- Battalion Wars features the Iron Legion, which are basically orks using steampunk mechanisms powered by coal, er, Nerocite, and are able to go toe to toe if not outright beat the Solar Empire, who use plasma shells, anti gravity for flight, and artificial intellignece assistance in their weapons and vehicles. The Iron Legion would have won against the Solar Empire, were it not for a surprise super weapon the Solar Empire deployed as a last ditch effort.
- Spoofed in Anti Hero For Hire: Canada managed to conquer the northern half of the United States using dinosaurs. Yes, dinosaurs. The American hi-tech missile shields, prepared to stop WMDs, were never programmed with anti-dinosaur measures. It was called "The Unexpected War".
- Likewise, Axe Cop brings a "Dinosaur Horn" with him when he goes to Invisible King Bad Guy Planet Number Two, saying that he doesn't know what he'll find up there, but that it probably can't beat dinosaurs. And indeed, dinosaurs seem to be the only thing Invisible King Bad Guy's scientists can't make.
- In Freefall, Ecosystems Unlimited attempts to control the information leaving the company by dosing recycled parts with EMP before releasing them to destroy any clandestine listening/recording devices that someone may try to sneak out that way, which has absolutely no effect on hand-written notes.
- In a Story Arc of Sluggy Freelance, it looks like some Hereti-Corp agents are royally screwed when they're faced with an army of robots that are Immune to Bullets. Then it turns out that, while the robots' builders thought to make them bulletproof, they didn't do anything about flammability. Cue the flamethrower.
- Prequel treats its readers to a flash minigame where they control Katia as she chases a skilled mage throughout the city of Kvatch — his ability as a wizard gives him a great advantage in agility as he escapes from the normally clumsy Katia. The chase ends with Katia performing a combat roll, simultaneously grabbing a stone, chucking it at the back of his head and scoring a direct hit. "Situation: controlled!"
- Darths & Droids:
- It justifies this trope by virtue of a Stone Age weapons table and no damage scaling.
Stick, two-handed, hardwood: 1d12
Blaster, second-hand, dodgily repaired: 1d10-1
- Cue the players blatantly abusing this trope.
Sally: [reading off the Stone Age weapons table
Bows. 2d8 is enough to penetrate trooper armour. [Ewoks archers fire]
... lassos and ropes can totally stop any moving creature. [an AT-ST tumbles]
Rocks, of course. [stones are dropped on several troopers]
Clashing logs. 20d6 damage. [another AT-ST gets crushed between two massive trees]
And a logfall trap. [logs are dropped on a third AT-ST]
Pete: We should totally be using these against the star destroyers in the space battle.
- It justifies this trope by virtue of a Stone Age weapons table and no damage scaling.
- Unsuccessfully invoked Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: "Rise of the Machines". The Robot Rebellion fails because the machines use algorithms to determine the best tactics based on history, and historically speaking, most wars have been won with premodern weaponry.
- Explicitly argued against in Orion's Arm, where the "Plucky Baseline" is specifically declared impossible. A higher sophont is fundamentally unbeatable by a lower one barring the aid of an equal.
- Parodied in Kingdom Paf, where it's briefly mentioned how the Halloweenians managed to defeat a tank using pitchfrocks. The tank's driver was so busy laughing his ass off when he saw them attack him, he didn't notice he was going right in a pit they had just made.
- In DEATH BATTLE!: Solid Snake vs. Sam Fisher, this comes up. Sam's usual loadout includes a modular SC-20K assault rifle, a Five-Seven pistol, and a slew of other hi-tech gadgets including EMP grenades and his iconic Night-Vision Goggles. Snake prefers to travel light on missions and only has an M1911 Operator, a stun-knife and a few other innocuous items. Snake is no match for Sam in a direct firefight, but Snake is able to gradually pull the technological rug out from under Sam using his famously unorthodox tactics. And when it all comes down to a Knife Fight at the end, Snake kills Sam quite easily.
- In Avengers Assemble, Hawkeye literally defeats two Doombots with rocks by flipping two pebbles into their knee joints, completely paralyzing them. Why a super genius like Doctor Doom would overlook such an obvious design flaw is anyone's guess.
- Zig-Zagging Trope in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!:
- When the Avengers fought Kang the Conqueror, a villain with 41st century tech, Cap and Iron Man have to pull out all the stops just to stay alive. However, when The Hulk arrives, he smashes Kang's shields with nothing but his fists. However, Kang later brings out his hover chair, which has an even stronger shield that not even Hulk can break, and Kang laughs at Hulk for thinking that throwing rocks will be enough to break his shield. However, Hulk reveals that even though Rock can't beat Laser, Rock can certainly distract Laser, and Black Panther uses this opening to attack Kang from behind, buying time for Iron Man to hack the hover chair.
- In the same series, Wakandan technology is superior to pretty much everything, thanks to their strongly implied usage of Magitek and the fact that the spears and arrows are outfitted with heads made of Vibranium (the ultimate Unobtainium of the Marvel Universe — to put this into perspective, the Adamantium used on Wolverine is Vibranium's second-rate, inferior copy).
- See any show having a special episode about guns, where the guns are also used, then the gun user must be defeated with non-lethal methods to show who's "good" and who's "bad". Captain Planet and the Planeteers got a character out of this trope! (Lootan Plunder, prior to any summoning of CP, to the point his frustration rants sometimes make him sound like a Scooby-Doo villain.)
- In the Dexter's Laboratory Dial M For Monkey segment "Huntor", Monkey defeats Huntor by smashing his weapons with rocks and trapping him like a tiger using a hole.
- Gemma from Dogstar is an expert with thrown rocks (as are most of her race). In "Persuasion", she destroys an entire space station with a single, well-thrown rock.
- Parodied in a Scary Door episode (that happens to be a parody of The War of the Worlds) in the third movie.
Narrator: In the end, it wasn't guns or bombs that defeated the aliens, but that humblest of God's creatures: the Tyrannosaurus Rex.
- Also the page quote that is from a classic monster horror movie that was made on a planet inhabited only by robots. It had the robots as heroes (obviously) and a human as the monster that resisted even their most powerful magnetic pulses, but dies by falling into a stick.
- In "A Taste of Freedom", the Decapodian Mobile Oppression Palace (a war mech intended to subjugate Earth) gets destroyed by a single 1980s cruise missile that Fry found in a museum. The missile itself ends up requiring a designator (namely, a burning flag) to lock on and hit the Palace because most of it is made of mud.
- In "Fun on a Bun", the army of Neanderthals along with various beasts manage to handle themselves wellnote against the modern humans, led by Zapp Brannigan mind you.
- DOOP's initial invasion force to the ball planet (Spheron) gets thrashed. The Earthlings have Poistron Shooters, the ball-like aliens are unarmed and simply bounce on them until they die (okay, they had ONE bomb... a 19th century one). It helps that the Earthlings just sit still closely-clustered in the open and take individual potshots at the Spheroid Zerg Rush.
- Parodied in a Scary Door episode (that happens to be a parody of The War of the Worlds) in the third movie.
- Occurs often in one episode of Megas XLR, where a fountain drink is teleported into the control room of a doomsday weapon, frying the controls, and destroying the weapon.
- The Powerpuff Girls:
- In one episode, the combined energy blasts of Mojo Jojo, Princess, and HIM only manage to hold off the girls... until Fuzzy Lumpkins drops a rock, and defeats them.
- In another episode, when a race of advanced vegetable aliens try to invade the planet, the Powerpuff Girls and the kids of Townsville fend them off by literally eating them.
- The Simpsons:
- Parodied in "Treehouse of Horror II", where the primary weapon for the human uprising against their alien overlords is Moe wielding a board with a nail in it. This makes sense considering the aliens invaded when the entire earth was unarmed after Lisa wished for world peace, and had things like slingshots. After being driven off, the aliens muse that one day the humans will "create bigger boards and bigger nails" until one day "they will create a board with a nail so big it will destroy them all!"
Kang: Your superior intellect is no match for our puny weapons!
- Parodied again in "The Lastest Gun in the West" when Buck McCoy stops a robbery by Snake and his gang, armed with assault rifles and riot armor, using only his lasso. Since the robbers' bullets just go straight through the lasso's loop when they try and shoot at it, the robbers exclaim that it's the ultimate weapon.
- Parodied in "Treehouse of Horror II", where the primary weapon for the human uprising against their alien overlords is Moe wielding a board with a nail in it. This makes sense considering the aliens invaded when the entire earth was unarmed after Lisa wished for world peace, and had things like slingshots. After being driven off, the aliens muse that one day the humans will "create bigger boards and bigger nails" until one day "they will create a board with a nail so big it will destroy them all!"
- In the Spiral Zone episode "Back to the Stone Age", the evil Black Widows disable the heroic Zone Riders' equipment during a battle in the Australian outback. The Zone Riders respond by enlisting a friendly tribe of aborigines to train them in using ancient weapons, which they use to defeat the Black Widows.
- Parodied in SpongeBob SquarePants B.C. (Before Comedy), in which a caveman's curiosity about a robot activates its defense mechanisms. The caveman later responds by throwing large rocks at it; for the rest of the fight, they seem evenly matched.
- In the episode "The Infinite Vulcan" in Star Trek: The Animated Series, a container of knockout gas proves to be very effective in a room with a phaser-disabling field.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
- "Trespass": Territorial natives of Orto Plutonia attack Republic troops that have superior armament. Their attacks are surprisingly effective due to their camouflage and superior knowledge of the terrain.
- Massively and horrifyingly averted later on. When Grievous and his droid army head to Dathomir, the Nightsisters attempt to fight back using spears, bows, and hand-to-hand skills... against enemies who are made out of metal, are physically stronger than organics, and are wielding guns, bombers, tanks, and artillery firing shells that only affect organics. They proceed to get slaughtered with relative ease, except for Ventress who was smart enough to use her lightsabers and Force powers.
- Applied literally in the pilot of Star Wars: The Bad Batch, when the clones destroy several battle droids by rolling a giant boulder onto them.
- Transformers: Beast Wars:
- In "Go with the Flow", Oona, the little protohuman girl, successfully took down Waspinator with a stick thanks to Cheetor's advice: "When you're battling 'bots, hack at the hinges." Really, Waspinator may have been the series' Butt-Monkey, but he's still an alien war machine.
- Also, in the series finale "Nemesis", the primitive humans held off Inferno, a flamethrower wielding war machine, and Quickstrike, a poison wielding war machine, with, well, sticks. The two did eventually get their act together, though, mostly because they weren't expecting the assault. They were inspired by Dinobot, who took down Megatron with a stone hammer in "Code of Hero". Although, again, Dinobot is an alien war machine. Subverted moments earlier, when Dinobot attacks Megatron with a stick (no rock yet) and is brutally smacked aside and mocked for thinking it would work.
- In "Bad Spark", Rampage's introductory episode, he proved to be unstoppable by conventional weapons. They could only halt his progress by having Silverbolt bury him in a rock slide.