Follow TV Tropes

This is based on opinion. Please don't list it on a work's trope example list.


That One Disadvantage

Go To

The disadvantage that no smart minmaxer would ever take because it practically ensures a quick death or severe disruption of your plans.

Clear requirement: it should be presented as a disadvantage from the beginning. It should not just be a less smart option, it should clearly be labeled as an intentional handicap. You should get something in return for it. It has to be voluntarily chosen. And it has to be a completely disastrous option that is just plain not worth it. The only reason any remotely intelligent player would take it is as a Self-Imposed Challenge, and even then it's borderline masochistic.


Opposite of Minmaxer's Delight.


    open/close all folders 

  • Rogue Legacy generates three characters for each generation for you to choose from. Each includes traits that may dissuade you from using that particular character, and all three having one came make that generation feel like a suddenly daunting task:
    • Vertigo flips the entire screen upside-down, including interface elements and dialog boxes. Apart from being headache-inducing, vertically-mirrored text makes menu options so unintelligible the Dyslexia trait could only wish it was that bad (don't bother trying to flip your monitor). It's useful against a boss, but good luck actually getting there with it in a healthy enough condition to abuse it.
    • C.I.P. hides your health bar. In a game where keeping track of your HP is what keeps you alive, this is a very bad thing. Unless you feel like using math during gameplay to figure out how much HP you might have, you won't know how hurt you are until it's far too late.
    • Alzheimer's for Spelunkers. Alzheimer's prevents you from using the map, though it doesn't disable the minimap. For a class whose main ability involves using the map to seek out treasure chests, this is more than a little bad.
  • Shieldless in FTL: Faster Than Light. Only four ships (Stealth A through C, Zoltan B) don't start with laser and beam-repelling shield systems, and while they have alternatives (a cloaking system in two cases and a special single-use shield for Zoltan B), they can be rapidly picked apart by anything with a beam drone (attack drones fire constantly for low damage which shields would normally absorb, but which adds up, and beams can't be dodged). Note you can buy a shield system, but you are still vulnerable initially and have to spend a lot to get what normal ships begin with.
  • Illiterate in Cataclysm makes you completely incapable of using any book, which makes it much harder to train your skills and impossible to learn advanced crafting recipes. Nowhere near worth the 6 points it gives you, since you can get that many points by taking multiple less harmful disadvantages. The only reason you'd want to have it would be for a Self-Imposed Challenge.

    Role Playing Game 
  • Completely Inept and Cursed At Birth in Avernum. Combine them for additional fun!
    • Completely Inept reduces hit chance by 10% and reduces confusion resistance by 30%. The former is nastier than it looks, as damage for weapon skills (and the blademaster skill) is directly tied to hit rate.
    • Cursed at Birth increases all forms of damage taken by 50%. For even more fun, combining it with Brittle Bones makes them stack for an extra 100% damage from all physical attacks.
  • Exile III had the Sluggishness disadvantage, which makes a character get fewer action points every round. It wasn't worth much in XP savings, and a game like this requires perfect rationing of action points to succeed. A character with less-than-stellar action points will easily be left behind when everyone else advances on the enemy, and also left to be ganged up on and eaten alive when everyone else is fleeing. Furthermore, the Haste spells (critical in the late game) only multiply action points; someone who can barely move before Haste can still only move a little better after it.
    • Exile II has Pacifist, a trait that makes you unable to attack enemies in any way, and even prevents you from casting spells that could indirectly damage them. While it greatly increases the experience you gain, this is not nearly enough to make up for all the experience you'll miss out on due to not killing stuff. Namely, the game rewards around 85% of the experience for killing a monster to the character who made the kill, while the remaining 15% is shared out among the others. Since the Pacifist never makes a kill, he's stuck to getting a measly 3 to 15% of the experience from each kill, depending on how many other characters there are in the party.
  • One background option in Arcanum is "Nietzsche Poster Child", boosting EXP in exchange for increasing critical failure rate ("That which does not kill me can only make me stronger."). Given Arcanum has really annoying effects possible for critical failures (most are "deal damage to self", but also found are "receive injury that reduces stats and can only be healed by upper-end healing items" and "your weapon breaks instantly", "Armor damaged", "get stunned and most likely die because the thing you were fighting now has a few turns of uninterrupted, unmissable attacks", and multiple of the above) and EXP is given like candy already, only a pure diplomat (who doesn't really make any rolls that can critically fail, plus doesn't get the game's insane amount of combat EXP) can make any use of it, and even then, a background that boosts your persuasion stats (and the cap for them, as a stat's cap is based on its starting value) with a hit to combat stats may be better.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Throughout the series (until it did away with Attributes in Skyrim), a low Endurance attribute was absolutely killer, regardless of your character build. A higher starting Endurance means more starting Health, and a high Endurance also means a greater Health increase every time you level up. A Warrior may have heavy armor, but getting up close and personal with every enemy means you'll be taking a lot of hits. Rangers and Mages keep their distance, taking less hits overall, but are also far less protected in terms of armor. Most guides will recommend doing what you have to (class selection, Birthsign selection, etc.) to get a high starting Endurance and then level it up to 100 as quickly as you can in order to have the most health possible. This is especially important in Oblivion, where nearly every enemy's stats (including health) scales with your own level, meaning even a lowly bandit can potentially one-shot a low-endurance character at a high enough level.
    • In Morrowind, "The Lord" Birthsign. It grants a healing spell which is outclassed by Hearth Heal, a spell you can get in character generation for free by having Restoration as a Major or Minor skill. (Failing that, it is also available for purchase from the only merchant in the First Town.) The tradeoff is doubling the fire damage you take. Other Birthsigns provide better skills and weaker penalties, making it suicidal to choose The Lord unless you're roleplaying.
  • While a low Intelligence build in the first two Fallout games can be funny to experiment with due to other characters' reactions to your unintelligible caveman grunting and short Manchild sentences, in terms of practicality it's utterly abysmal, as almost every NPC will ultimately refuse to give you the time of day, cutting you out of a lot of sidequests and thus making it hard to get XP outside of killing things.
    • The same is true in 3 and New Vegas but for different reasons. Intelligence determines a character's Repair, Science, and how many skill points they get per level (+1 per point in 3, +0.5 per point in New Vegas). Having to spend more caps/equipment on repairs sucks but is manageable, but being locked out of side rooms full of treasure AND being worse at just about everything is something you'll be feeling throughout the playthrough.
    • The trait "Skilled" is also widely considered a bad choice for the first two Fallout games. It gives you extra skill points each time you level up, but the tradeoff is that you get fewer Perks, which are generally far more useful than skill points.

    Survival Horror 
  • Hell Night: The player character is a One-Hit Point Wonder, but having a partner along can give you one extra hit, though your partner then dies. If the player chooses to not recruit any of the partners available (and letting Naomi, who joins you by default in the beginning, die as soon as possible), this causes the entire game to have to be played as a No-Damage Run, and there is no reward for doing this, as it locks you into a Bad Ending.
  • World of Horror:
    • Picking the Medical History backstory is essentially asking for ending your run quickly. The injuries sustained in combat will rack up quickly, even if you run from combat (due to forced combat in at least one mystery you'll get) and chew through your funds when you try to treat them. To make matters worse, you will need to do this if you want any other backstories, as it's the first one unlocked and is required for obtaining other ones.
    • The Ill-Fated background is arguably even worse. It causes you to automatically fail all event skill checks, meaning you're likely to lose Stamina or Reason almost every time you have to investigate somewhere. It also unlocks Card Pack C, so you'd be forgoing plenty of content if you don't complete a run with it. Its only saving grace is that Miku can get a perk that gives her +1 Reason after failing a skill check, making it only slightly worse than Medical History for her and her alone.
    • From the randomly-chosen influences of the Old Gods hoisted upon you after finishing a mystery, getting Contaminated Water or Fetid Fumes are perhaps the worst - the former denies you the free healing of using the bath in your house while the latter makes your Rest action less effective. This means you'll either spend more time Resting and racking up Doom or spending Funds on healing items. Getting both at the same time is bound to give you problems unless you are close to finishing the run.

    Simulation Game 
  • The Moronic trait in Tropico is not a good trait to have, as it bars you from getting colleges.
  • The Imbecile (or to a lesser extent, Incapable) trait in Crusader Kings II means that your character has to have a regent appointed to him/her, for rather obvious reasons. And this type of trait is (largely) random to acquire, so it can strike at any time.
  • Several traits in Rimworld are considered very undesirable.
    • Pawns' backstories affect which jobs they are incapable of doing. In the early game, the worst of these are "Incapable of dumb labor" or "Incapable of violence". Being unable to haul crucial resources can slow down your colony's growth, and being one man down when enemies attack can potentially be troublesome. As you gain more people, these traits become more manageable, but in the early game they can significantly crimp your growth. A very popular Game Mod called "Pawns Are Capable" nerfs this by substituting "incapable of" traits with "hates doing", which gives pawns a mood malus for doing things that they hate. This means they can still be pressed into service for when you really need something done.
    • Pyromaniac is considered the worst negative trait a pawn can have, to the point where players try to kill Pyromaniac pawns off or put them into cryptosleep pods just so they don't have to deal with them. A Pyromaniac pawn can't fight fires and can randomly have a mental break where they go around setting fires. At best, this can be annoying, as they set some small fires and force your other pawns to clean up their mess. At worst, they might set a fire that spreads to something you really don't want burning— like your wooden base or chemfuel stockpiles.
    • Volatile gives a pawn a staggering 15% higher mental break threshold, meaning they will be more susceptible to breakdowns. This is especially bad in the "Rich Explorer" scenario, where you start with one pawn. If they break down, your colony's growth will be stopped dead in its tracks, potentially for a long time.
    • Chemical fascination causes pawns to occasionally go binge on hard drugs like yayo and go-juice. While binging, they are uncontrollable, which can be very bad if you need them to do something else other than stuff their face full of drugs. At best, they might develop a new addiction after binging: at worst, they might kill themselves through an overdose. Its lesser cousin, "Chemical interest", is somewhat this, but is a bit more manageable as they binge on softer drugs like smokeleaf. The only way to stop these binges without mods, as with any mental break, is to arrest and/or beat the piss out of them. Thankfully, some balance came later, and it's mildly less annoying now; the binges are now Mental Break only, and now they have the Need for chemicals, dampening the mood if they've been sober too long but actually improving their mood if they've had a decent drug streak.
    • Gourmand acts rather like both the above Chemical traits, except the pawn will binge on your food instead, sometimes even without being on the brink of a mental break. He won't kill himself like that, but he will deplete your food stocks, which can be a problem if you're short on it as is; a Food Binge at a bad time can lead to starvation. Thankfully, as above, if this is badly timed arresting the pawn or knocking them to the floor will stop this. Also thankfully, this is the ONLY mental break they now can get, meaning the more destructive breaks like going berserk or into a murderous rage never happen to them.
    • Sickly colonists will randomly get diseases literally no one else in the colony catches, leading to the usual travails of disease: Potential death at every turn, spending valuable medicine and wasting your doctors' time. Even more if the pawn is a Wimp, as they'll drop to the floor right then and there due to pain and be unable to work (though note that Wimp on its own isn't one of these; while annoying, it also means there's a much lower chance of that colonist getting lethal/maiming injuries because they drop in agony way before that and make the opponent move on to the next target).
    • Old colonists tend to get a slew of these as the birthdays go by, from arterial damage (essentially a long term death sentence, since Heart Attacks will eventually happen and are a bitch to cure) and body frailty/pain (slow them down bit by bit until turtles can outrun and out-manipulate them) to neurological degenerations up to and including Dementia, which will slowly but surely incapacitate them until they're unable to do anything at all. Every birthday, they can get yet another one of these as a "gift".
    • "Slow Learner" colonists will acquire experience at such a sluggish rate they're nearly not worth the investment; don't expect them to level up their skills, even the ones they have a passion for, at a decent speed. Particularly undesirable in the early game, where time is key.
    • "Body Purist" slowly becomes this as the game advances. At the very beginning, where advanced prosthetics even better than regular limbs aren't a thing, it's little problem. But later on, after all the limb-removing battles, the fact it's especially expensive to regrow natural limbs will mean these colonists will either stay crippled, or be permanently unhappy. And worse, they actively hate people with artificial limbs, meaning a body purist in an advanced colony will slowly hate everyone and possibly start fights with people who have bionic limbs that can break him in half.
  • Oxygen Not Included: Among dupes, negative traits can go from entirely inconsequential to "don't even bother unless you're looking for a Self-Imposed Challenge". Among the latter are:
    • Flatulent, which will cause the dupe to occasionally generate Natural Gas. Never in a big enough amount to be useful, but always enough to cause the occasional choke and be a real problem for your greenhouse's gas control.
    • Narcoleptic dupes will randomly fall asleep in the middle of their tasks, priorities or materials be damned. Annoying already when doing something relatively harmless, something that can paralyze your colony if they are, say, hauling a pile of Slimelung-infected slime somewhere and just dump it in the middle of the hallway.
    • Mouth-Breathers will need twice as much oxygen as regular dupes, and those with a Bottomless Stomach will likewise eat twice as much as any other, taxing your stocks of both.
    • Duplicants with Allergies will take one whiff of Floral Scents (emitted by certain flowers, both the flowers and the scents normally helping the dupes' moods), and immediately start sneezing wildly, grousing and generally having their stress rise faster than just about anything else in the game. Having a flower anywhere near your base will result in constant Stress spikes (with associated responses) and massage table hogging.
    • Any dupes with a Destructive stress response. Others will simply lower morale or tax your supplies depending on what they do, but only Destructive ones will actively threaten your colony, by way of kicking apart any machinery they can find no matter how vital it is to their continued living, just because they're pissed off.

    Tower Defense 
  • Gemcraft: Chasing Shadows: features a Traits or disadvantages that make the game harder for you in exchange for more experience points, and since on replays you get only difference between the current XP score and previous for specific field, you have interest to turn them all on once you have access to them and can handle them to maximize your level and consequently skill points pool. That is, with the exception of Hatred. You'll come to hate this disadvantage, because it's just not worth it. The thing has 10 levels and each multiplies the enemy health by more and more. On maximum, the starting wave of the monsters has 100000x more health and each has 7% increase. Even the most insane players - those who had finished Endurance - say that you'll always should leave that thing turned off.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In general, any RPG with time travel in it has some way of making your character conscious of any timeline changes. If this ability is optional and the game focuses on time travel, it generally turns into this trope; skip getting this ability and you'll be spending all of your time trying to get your character to figure out things you already know instead of taking advantage of whatever you get in return.
  • GURPS has a whole bunch of these. It's actually understandable since not all of them are necessarily designed to be taken by PCs, and are instead better suited to NPCs and enemies.
    • Combat Paralysis — you tend to randomly "freeze" in combat. Some particularly fiendish GMs recommend having each PC start with it in realistic 'normal people' games.
    • The Hemophila disadvantage makes any wound you suffer into either a royal pain in the ass, a life-threatening disaster, or a quick trip to the morgue.
    • Woe on anyone who takes the disadvantages Cursed or Unluckiness — you're just begging the GM to be a dick towards you at the worst possible time. While the 75 free points you get for it are a massive advantage, especially for a low-level character, there's no way any GM worth the name isn't going to take a huge amount of pleasure in making you regret it. Here's the actual description for Cursed:
      Like Unluckiness, but worse. Whenever anything goes wrong for your party, it happens to you, first and worst. If something goes right, it misses you. And any time the GM feels like hosing you, he can, and you have no gripe coming, because you are cursed.
    • Klutz and Total Klutz likewise encourage the GM to screw with you in their description. "The GM should be creative in inventing minor torments."
    • There is actually an Easy to Kill disadvantage. While it can be offset with plenty of Hp, DR, etc., it's rarely taken because it's only worth -2 points per level.
    • Unique sounds cool at first, but it means that if anything ever changes the time line significantly (and you can only take it in worlds where this is possible), you cease to have ever existed, anywhere, with no chance of ever being remembered. You can also take it in parallel universe settings, where it's closer to Minmaxer's Delight — not only do you get disadvantage points for taking it, it gives you the Zeroed advantage (i.e. your character is not listed in any of the usual publicly-available records) for free.
    • Slave Mentality requires you to make a rather difficult roll "before you can take any action that isn't either obeying a direct order or part of an established routine." And to do anything other than fold to social influence requires GM permission and another difficult roll. As the book says, "rarely appropriate for PCs"!
    • At the highest level of Terminally Ill, your character will suddenly drop dead after a year or so. This potentially flips over into Min Maxers Delight if you don't expect the campaign to last that long, but that's quite a real gamble if don't know how long it will go at character creation.
    • Reduced Time Rate makes it so a character takes twice as long to perform any non-combat tasks, and in combat you declare all your actions (like punching that guy in front of you), then wait a turn, then perform those actions (like punching the air where that guy was last round).
    • The relatively obscure Anterograde Amnesia disadvantages (Cinematic and Regular) prevent your character from forming new memories. Have fun roleplaying that!
  • Dark Fate in Legend of the Five Rings. Sure, it can save your bacon, but when the GM feels like it, you will betray everything your character holds dear, probably including the other players. Death is usually the result, although a Fate Worse than Death is also a distinct possibility.
    • L5R is rife with these. Momoku, which removes the ability to spend void, is not even close to worth the 10 Character Points you get. The creators have noted that disadvantages in their system are supposed to be deadly, not a minor handicap, and taking one is supposed to be handing the GM an excuse to ruin you.
  • Dark Fate in the Old World of Darkness games. The books try to make it sound appealing by pointing out your Dark Fate means you have an effectively open hand until it hits (unless it's your Dark Fate, what can the situation do to you?), but realistically, the Storyteller will hammer you with your Dark Fate as soon as you screw up one too many of his plans.
  • Bleeder in Serenity is like GURPS Hemophilia — any significant wound is death. "Things Don't Go Smooth" is another bad one (the GM can void any success he likes once or twice per game session, typically the "do or die" ones) — notable in that Mal has it. Although this shouldn't be too much of a surprise, considering it's named after one of his lines.
  • The highest level of Coward in All Flesh Must Be Eaten. Buy it and your character will never play any real role in the game ever again.
  • Dragon magazine:
    • Issue #325 has the Superstitious flaw. If you create a character with a crippling phobia of magic, maybe adventuring just isn't for you.
    • Another issue of Dragon includes a selection of extremely crippling commoner-oriented flaws, up to and including Corpse. Of course, they weren't intended to be used, seeing as it was an April Fools' Day joke. Oddly enough, creative interpretation of several of these ended up being a significant boon and turned what was originally a class with no abilities and bare minimum stats into a Lethal Joke Character.
  • Dark Heresy has the Nascent Psyker Elite Advance package from The Inquisitor's Handbook. The only Elite Advance that costs 0 xp (the game lacking a point-buy advantage/disadvantage system), Nascent Psyker gives your character spectacular powers (fuelled by Hell) which they can't control, and which have a definite chance of randomly making you, or everyone around you explode, or making you share your mind and body with a daemon. Oh, and you have to be under extreme stress before those powers will manifest. If any other characters find out you have them, they are legally obliged to either kill you, or capture you and send you across the galaxy to be turned into a living battery for the Astronomican or be taught how to control it over the next decade or so: all of these options effectively require you to retire the character, though the latter at least gives you the chance to come back as a Sanctioned Psyker. Even if you manage to hide it from the others— which is not particularly easy— or they are heretical/radical enough not to have you purged or sanctioned, it's only a matter of time before your magical mishaps kill you or worse. It is explicitly noted that taking this package is effectively an open-ended death sentence.
  • Dependence is this in the Hero System. While it was originally intended to replicate characters like Aquaman, who needed to dunk himself in water once a day, it turns into a bludgeon against the character, because all the GM has to do to screw over the guy is not allow access, storywise.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Bloodfeeder for the Chaos Lord. When used in melee, you roll 2 six-sided dice and get that many plus 4 attacks in that round (keep in mind that, for a character, you should usually get about five attacks). That is, unless you roll a 1 on either die (which has a 30.6% chance of happening), in which your Chaos Lord goes into a wrist-slitting emo mode, represented by him taking an armor-ignoring wound and forfeiting all of his attacks that round, which more-often-than-not coincides with him getting obliterated in whatever melee he was a part of. No surprise, the fluff clearly points out in many places that "Khorne cares not from whence the blood flows". The Chaos Marines have a number of Confusion Fu options in their codex, but the Bloodfeeder is by far the most self-destructive.
    • Anything with the Rage special rule, prior to 6th edition (2012). A unit with the old version of Rage must move directly towards the closest enemy as fast as possible. A unit is usually subject to Rage because of a bad roll on a certain test, or as a mechanical counterbalance to some other amazing ability (often Furious Charge or something of the like). Often the trademark of a particularly Ax-Crazy model/unit. While it's a rather negligible drawback against new and inexperienced players, who will almost instinctively park on objectives and never move, a veteran player with a fast vehicle or two can drag Rage units by the nose all over the table.
  • Things with the One-Use rule is generally this or a Gamebreaker. Because of the way the game is set up, there are a number of ways for a one-use item to absolutely crap out and be a total waste of points, and they often came at a premium due to the disproportional effects they have.
  • In deadEarth, the player is forced to roll several random mutations for their character, some of which explicitly kill your character during chargen (which is combined with the game only allowing you three characters ever.) At least you can later roll a radiation mutation later in character generation to nullify such effects.
    Turn-Based Strategy 
  • Numerous in XCOM 2:
    • There are some very unpleasant Dark Events such as one that has the UFO chase the Avenger (and often being the cause of That One Level), Avatar breakthroughs (which can often cause permanent time loss to the Avatar timer that can only be offset in the War of the Chosen DLC), Viper Bullets for ADVENT soldiers (which makes every successful shot at your soldier poison them), and cutting the next month's supply drop in half.
    • The Scramble Sensors dark event is an absolute bitch to deal with, as it nearly doubles the time it takes to scan and complete tasks on the world map, cutting your ability to get things done in half, and this can last for 6 weeks.
    • In War of the Chosen, a new Dark Event makes the Black Market unavailable for 6 weeks. That's already a sizable disadvantage, but even worse, when it resurfaces, you have to re-scan the location. Because it's now a scanning location, the Chosen can kick you in the teeth further by extending this scan to eleven days with their Chosen sabotage action.
    • The "Made Whole" Dark Event completely remove all of the Chosen's weaknesses while active, taking away what little advantage the player had or could exploit. If the "Grim Horizon" modifier is on then this can last the entire game, if it is not stopped.
    • Zig-zagged with the Alien Cypher Dark Event, which increases intel costs by 100% for a whole month, which can set a run back up to months if it arrives at an inopportune time, such as when you're about to make a push forward or need to rush somewhere to destroy an alien facility and need to spend intel. If it shows up when you're in a comfortable position to just clean up everything you already have unlocked, it's utterly harmless.
    • Several Dark Events in War of the Chosen are odd cases— several of them lose any weight once one or more Chosen are taken care of, and the game fails to remove them from the Dark Event pool, so you can still get The Collectors (the Chosen will attempt to capture soldiers at every opportunity) and Made Whole even if they're all dead, meaning that they're a non-factor. There's a mod on the workshop that fixes this which removes such events from the pool and prevents them from showing up again for the sake of consistency.
    • An inversion of a strange variety (that's still as frustrating as an example being played straight), the Chosen weakness "Groundling" makes it easier to land a hit from shots taken from above. This does not affect damage output whatsoever.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: