Crippling Overspecialization

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Good at combat...very bad at feeding himself.
"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."
Robert A. Heinlein
"It's simple: Overspecialize, and you breed in weakness. It's slow death."
Major Motoko Kusanagi, Ghost in the Shell

Competitive Balance exists so that there is some symmetry between specific advantages and the Necessary Drawback. If someone can hit hard but not take any damage themselves, they are a Glass Cannon. If they are unstoppable but slow moving they are a Mighty Glacier. A crippling overspecialization occurs when one, obscenely powerful advantage makes a trade-off that limits how effective it is.

In Real Time Strategy games, unit types are often specialized beyond all reason. They often have only one weapon, effective against just one particular kind of enemy, and usually cannot defend themselves at all if their particular weapon is ineffective. The most prominent examples can be seen in this genre, causing absurd situations where humongous tanks with huge anti-armor guns can destroy an enemy vehicle in a single shot, but will barely scratch unarmored soldiers. This is typically justified by the assumption that each individual infantry unit counts as a company or battalion. Armor penetrating weapons can kill one or two people, but they're not terribly useful against formations of 20-100 or more (which is why tanks in Real Life tend to have machine guns and anti-infantry shells).

This is usually a result of game balance. After all, if tanks are effective enough against other tanks and infantry, then why build anything else? Additionally, until recently, most units in games were depicted with only one weapon. A few might've had a second gun used for attacking enemy fliers, but that was about it.

Can result from a Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors design scheme, or from intensive Min-Maxing in a character build. People who do this for Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors are suffering from Poor Predictable Rock.

See also Anti-Air and Strong Flesh, Weak Steel. Compare to An Adventurer Is You, where this is used to force players to work together. See also Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training for a characterization equivalent. Severely Specialized Store is a comedic variation.

Don't confuse "having a weakness" or "not being the best at everything" or even "not being quite good enough" as being this trope. Don't be tempted to list something because it failed in some way unless you can point a finger at its crippling specialty!

The opposites of this trope are the Red Mage and the Jack of All Stats.

Examples of Crippling Overspecialization include:

Non-Video Game Examples[edit | hide | hide all]

Anime & Manga[edit | hide]

  • In Naruto, members of most clans seem to suffer from this, as they tend to only use the clan's signature techniques even when they could learn others. Plus their specialization can be found out just by knowing their last name, which brings the question as why they don't learn a single non-clan related technique to catch your opponent off guard. Of course, in theory it's possible that they do know a wider range of justu- there certainly doesn't seem to be anything preventing them from learning- but the author Masasi Kishimoto just doesn't bother showing this stuff to make them more distinct.
    • Subverted in the sense that teamwork is greatly stressed and teams typically consist of 4 people from different clans or backgrounds, so the "crippling" part is usually guarded against, though they tend to have a specialised theme (eg. Team Gai are all Taijustu types, but different types of Taijutsu; Team Kurenai / 8 specialize in tracking, but different types of tracking, etc.). It is also not uncommon for different teams to work together, or for members to join other teams temporarily.
    • Averted, in theory, by the Uchiha clan. Their Sharingan allows them to copy other jutsu and taijutsu. In practice, the important Uchiha rely almost entirely on their eye techniques in Shippuden.
      • However, even that is shown not to be a world winner. The Sharingan can only go so far.
    • Possibly also averted by the Aburame clan—while they indeed only have a handful of jutsu, the main jutsu is basically the ability to control a swarm of chakra-eating bugs, it's actually extremely versatile and effective, so a lot less crippling overall.
    • Subverted by The Uzumaki clan. They primarily excelled in sealing arts, which themselves have a very wide range of powerful and possibly dangerous uses, but if orphans Naruto and Nagato are of any example, they had no problem utilizing other techniques. Added to that, the clan was known for their ridiculous resilience and vitality, which is why Naruto is capable of fighting so long and hard without dipping into the Nine-Tailed Fox's chakra. Double Subverted in that most of them are dead, so we can't really tell how much they qualify.
    • Subverted by the Six Paths of Pain. Each one of the Paths has a very specific ability, which with advance knowledge, can be easily exploited. However, the 6 Paths tend to work in concert flawlessly to eliminate any weak points.
    • A the Raikage is this in spades. His entire style, nintaijutsu focuses on melee combat using his high speed and stregth to overwhelm the enemy. We see that when he tosses Sasuke around like a ragdoll. However, he tries to do the same against the much stronger Madara Uchiha...and it doesn't work too well. He has no long ranged jutsus at all, or even summoning, bushins displayed, or anything to make up for his styles weaknesses. Thus, he's the only Kage to under perform in the War. Especially against Madara, since he needs Onoki's help to even breach Madara's Susano'o.
  • Kinnikuman: Hawaii champion Jessie Mavia had this problem. He was absolutely unrivaled in his ability to counter and reverse attacks, but as a result had no original techniques of his own. Kinnikuman achieved victory in his fight by realizing this, goading Jessie into attacking him, and hoisting him by his own petard.
  • Crossbone Gundam has the Jupiter Empire try to counter the eponymous Gundams with a trio of mobile suits that excel in one area exactly: the Quavarze is a Glass Cannon, the Abijo a Fragile Speedster, and the Tortuga a Stone Wall. This comes back to bite them in one of Tobia's Crowning Moments of Awesome when he manages to circumvent their advantages and exploit their weaknesses (grabbing the Abijo so it can't dodge his attacks, attacking the Tortuga in the joints where its thick armor and beam shield can't protect it).
    • Earlier on, Kincaid Nau bests the above trio in a similar manner (not dodging the weak attacks of the Abijo, closing range on the Quavarze, and flanking the Tortuga before it can deploy its shield). With a Gundam whose arms had already been sliced off.
  • This probably would have been a factor for Mobile Suit Gundam 00 had the Gundams not been finished products. The Exia is almost entirely melee oriented but its rifle is perfectly capable of harming gundams, Setsuna just happens to have really bad aim... The Dynames is shown to be able to use its handguns as a proto-melee weapon due to its rapid rate of fire and it has beam sabers as per normal.[1] The Kyrios is good in both ranges and is only bad at taking hits (which it should not since it is a hit and run unit). The only problem is the Virtue's bulk which had no real supplement... until you find out it can purge the armor.
    • This was of course not the case with the generation that preceded it. The Astraea and Plutone had no weakness for the sole reason because it was manufactured as a jack of all trades. The Sadalsuud's unwieldy nature made it useless for anything other than long range combat and even then only as a sensor. The Abul Hool literally HAD NO ARMS and had to make do with its quasi-jet mode. To a point even the 0 Gundam suffered from this because it quite literally had no strengths. (1 rifle, 1 beam saber, 1 shield, the worst efficiency of them all, yes it sucks balls)
      • Except that everything else in the 0 Gundam's era was far weaker, making it effectively a giant among midgets.
    • The units used by the Innovades also have a habit of being like this. The Gadessa has no real ranged weapon other than the Mega-launcher. When it gets blown up, suddenly your opponent is a LOT harder to hit. The Garazzo is of no different in that it replaces the Mega launcher with beam claws, leaving it without any effective ranged weapon ever. The Gaddess would have been a subject too except it has 7 GN bits so it alone would suffice as a balanced unit... Too bad its opponent was the Cherudim which had 9/15 bits, a rifle and 2 axe/guns.
  • Gundam Seed had examples of this. The Buster Gundam, for example, was a purely ranged suit with no close-range options. Interestingly, the Strike Gundam manages to be both this and Jack of All Stats since it can change its loadout. In Sword Strike mode the closest thing it has to a ranged weapon are beam boomerangs and rocket propelled anchors which can draw a target into closer range. In Launcher strike mode it has the same problem as the Buster, its only close-range weapons are a small pair of barely used daggers. Most other suits, despite having clear specialty, manage to avert this. Aegis is a melee monster with four (!) beam sabers (with two of them in its feet, so all four can be used at once), but also has a Wave Motion Gun in its mobile armor mode. Duel has beam sabers and a beam rifle with a grenade launcher, and gets upgraded with further ranged weapons. Blitz is stealth-oriented with a Cloaking Device, but also has a shield that is loaded with various weapons (a beam saber, a beam rifle and a trio of rocket darts) and a rocket anchor like Sword Strike's.
  • Kenshin Himura is a master swordsman, but is hopeless at unarmed combat and often gets confused by enemy swordsmen that throw in punches or kicks between sword strikes. Less so in the anime. Averted by Saito Haijime, who fights entirely with varying types of stabbing, but is such an excellent swordsman that he doesn't need anything else. Saito is also an expert boxer and is willing to use other weapons like his belt. In one of the last chapters of the manga Kenshin tells a member of the latest Quirky Miniboss Squad—one who specialized in countering stabbing techniques but was defeated by Saito anyway—that if defeating Saito's Gattotsu was enough to defeat Saito himself, Kenshin would have killed him years ago.
  • Most Ranma ½ characters, but especially one shot practitioners of Martial Arts and Crafts. There's really not that much call for the use of Martial Arts Chess, is there? The problem inherent in this is often demonstrated when Ranma casually trounces these people who then complain that he wasn't playing by the rules of whatever bit of martial madness they practice.
    • Hilariously, Ranma often makes a point of adhering to their rules and restrictions just so he can learn their style properly, and then incorporate their strengths into his "Anything-Goes" school. Not to mention the satisfaction of beating them at their own game. He only occasionally bends or breaks the rules after he learns what he's supposed to do. This caveat is to excuse his standard 'beat the crap out of them without regard for their crazy martial art' that starts most Martial Arts and Crafts episodes.
    • Averted with Martial Arts Tea Ceremony. Despite having an unusual restriction (the combatants must be kneeling at all times, even when running at incredible speeds), the Martial Tea Ceremony masters are actually capable of beating the crap out of Ranma. The actual story battle has him facing a younger opponent though.
  • Early on in Negima, the explanation for Negi's need to kiss girls in his class is to give them artifacts. Because a traditional mage is useless in unarmed combat and it takes time to cast and activate offensive magics. So they need a partner to defend them and distract the opposing forces. After a few fights where this was a problem for Negi, he learned kenpo. Evangeline explains that eventually any magic practitioner will reach a point where it no longer matters.
  • Wonderwiess of Bleach was made for the purpose of using this trope. Giving up speech, intelligence, memory and reasoning so as to have the ability to seal Ryujinjakka's flames.
    • Fortunately, his target does not fall into this trope, having been around long enough to know better. Yamamoto may have the strongest zanpakuto, but he didn't limit himself to it , choosing instead to fight the unfortunate Arrancar with his bare hands, and winning with ease.
  • Monta, the Deimon wide receiver from Eyeshield 21, is only good at catching. This makes him bad at his original favorite sport, baseball, but good at American football.
  • The Fang Regalia in Air Gear, a set of A-T wheels can be seen this way as it deprives the user the ability to jump. Instead, it allows the user to release Razor Wind from their A-Ts.
  • All the characters in Fairy Tail have one type of magic that they use, and frequently run into opponents with powers custom tailored to trump that one specific magic, most notably Yuta, whose power was to nullify magic-later revealed only to work on fire magic, and he just happened to have been fighting the fire mage. This is especially jarring when Natsu reveals he can actually use more than just fire magic, but never tries anything else in battle anyway. In fact, only Lucy subverts this by being proficient with a whip in case her summoning magic doesn't work.
    • Erza might be a subversion, since while she uses one type of magic, her magic involves changing her armor and weapons to suit the situation.
  • Double subverted in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS. First with Nanoha's training on the forwards, she aims the training to sharpening each member on their own unique abilities to the edge but avoided the "crippling" part by also reinforcing their teamwork tactics in order to cover each other's weaknesses. Then, by revealing that the "overspecialization" part of the training only covers phase 1-2, once they dominated their main abilities Nanoha proceeds to balance them by giving them experience and alt-modes for their devices that allow them to face battle conditions outside of their main area of expertise by themselves.
  • Clare starts out as this in Claymore. She's ranked as the weakest warrior in the Organization because she neglected the standard youma fighting skills to specialize in fighting Awakened Beings. Initially, Awakened Beings are rare enough that the other Claymores consider her to be The Load. By the time the Time Skip rolls around, Awakened Beings are coming out of the woodwork, and regular youma are little more than mooks.
  • Happened to Ash in Pokémon. Even though Grotle still won at times, it became absolutely pitiful when it was Torterra, having never won a single battle. Ash's team in the Sinnoh sage was mainly based on small, fast Pokémon who can deliver hard hits, as well as take some too. But a damn near immobile tank like Torterra was just not his style, and never really adapted to it.
  • Several examples in Infinite Stratos:
    • Ichika's IS is a close-ranged fighter, so in a ranged fight he has to dodge or absorb shots thrown at him until he can get close enough. Unless another IS user allows him to use their ranged weapons. Averted with Rin, who has a weapon that has some medium range capabilities.
    • Laura's A.I.C. (Active Inertial Canceler) seems to nullify any attack thrown at her, but she has to stay focused on the attacker for it to work. So if someone else shoots her from behind...
    • Cecilia's IS is designed solely for long ranged combat, so if an attacker can close the distance before she can take them out, she usually seems screwed. Chifuyu also comments in one episode that she's also designed to take on multiple opponents, but in the anime at least, she only ever fights against one opponent at a time.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Sonic The Hedgehog: The battle suit used by Eggman in issues 175-177 was designed specifically to outmatch Sonic, which it proceeded to do marvelously. However, this meant that when the other Freedom Fighters took it on, it went down in a matter of panels.

Fanfic[edit | hide]

  • It starts out looking like this will be the case for one of the Angels in Shinji and Warhammer 40 K, as it tries and fails to use Eva-focused attacks like venomous spikes on Magnos Tancred (which is basically a tank with feet, and has none of the squishy biological components that were being targeted). Then it disgorges an army of relatively tiny monsters, which kill two-thirds of Magnos Tancred's crew and begin slaughtering their way through Tokyo-3.

Jokes[edit | hide]

  • A man was working in an office overlooking a park. Over the course of a day he saw two city park workers - one would dig a hole, and then the other would fill it in. This went on all morning, so the man wandered down on his lunch break to ask about it. "Well," said one of the workers "I dig the holes, Charlie puts the tree in, and then Bob here fills them in. Thing is, Charlie's sick today."

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Used in Philip K Dick's short story "The Variable Man": the eponymous man is a jack-of-all-trades tinker picked up from the past by scientists in a highly specialized future. They need him to fix something that no one has the specialization for.
  • The Book of Swords has two primary examples. The first being the sword of heroes, which if not used against dragons just acts like a very well crafted sword. The second is the sword of siege, which if not used against earth or stone, acts likewise. This is from a series of books where comparatively speaking, the most powerful of these swords had the power to kill deities. Of course, since every sword has a Necessary Drawback, Overspecializing also seem like not to big a deal after a while...
  • In Lensmen the overspecialised ships are frequently either laden down with defence shield generators ("I can't hurt you but you can't hurt me") or all weapon (frequently one big Wave Motion Gun style weapon) and tend to accompany each other in large groups. The fleet flagship, Directrix, is all combat-management and defence shields but never goes out and about without an englobing escort of Maulers.
  • Happens to some Insequent in The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. They gain their powers through knowledge, so an Insequent who studies only one or two specific things may be powerless in situations not involving them. For example, the Harrow has made a study of the Demondim and related creatures, meaning he can tear through them like wet tissue paper all day - but he goes down like a chump against a Kastenessen-powered Roger Covenant.
  • Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter. He turns out to be good at only one thing - memory charms - and has leveraged that talent into stealing other peoples' exploits and claiming them as his own.
  • In the sci-fi book Matched this is one of the main tenets of the Society. Nobody learns anything but what they have to know, including of the past. The Society chose 100 of the best of everything from the past for everyone to know about. They also even extended this to choice, in that nobody should have to choose anything that they don't know about.
  • The cruiser Honor Harrington commanded in the first book of her series had been refitted as a testbed around a nigh-unstoppable weapon, however the reduction in normal weapons load and extreme short range of the prototype weapon meant the only way the ship was effective in combat against an equal or larger opponent was to either somehow to sneak in close enough to fire the weapon, or pray the ship could hold together long enough on an near-inevitable suicide run to get close enough to fire the weapon.
  • Discussed in Jean Auel's Earth's Children series. Woolly mammoths, by becoming so specialized and adapted to such a narrow climate range, ensured they'd survive and exploit a unique niche on the dry, cold ice age tundra, but such specialization also meant that warmer, wetter climates would be utterly devastating.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Time Enough for Love contains the opinion that specialization is sub-human:

Lazarus Long: "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

  • In World War Z, this is one of the reasons the initial outbreak wipes out human armies, shown with the US Army specifically. Modern military thinking is no good against an enemy that can be neither shocked nor awed.
  • The Lancer-class frigate from the Star Wars Expanded Universe was specifically designed as a counter to the starfighter-heavy Rebel Alliance/New Republic fleet. It's a 250-meter ship bristling with laser cannons, intended as a flak boat to protect other capital ships. Unfortunately, in addition to being too expensive and manpower-intensive, it had no heavy weaponry for fending off capital ships, so most admirals eschewed it in favor of expendable TIE screens.
  • In The Wheel of Time this is Aginor/Osan'gar's main obstacle towards being an effective villain. As a channeler he's overwhelmingly powerful (among the Forsaken he's behind only Ishamael and maybe Lanfear), but he's really only good at doing one thing- using Magitek to make monsters. Problem is that while this made him essential to the Shadow in the Age of Legends, in the modern world the necessary magitek no longer exists, and every time he's in a straight fight he tends to attack a lot ineffectively before getting curbstomped. He ends up dying having been one of the least effective Forsaken.
  • A Simple Survey has a short story about different types of heroes, each of whom specialize in fighting one type of threat. Just as police are meant for handling criminals, magical girls fight mystical beasts, bike riders fight mystery villains, and heroes in Combining Mecha fight giant demons. However, these various kinds of heroes experience an attack on the economic front, which they have no idea how to deal with. The ending reveals the type of hero meant to combat this: salarymen.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The fact that the Lexx has no other weapons or defenses apart from its planet-shattering Wave Motion Gun have caused plenty of trouble to the protagonists over the course of the series.
    • Could be justified, if his divine shadow wanted it easily re-taken if it ever fell into the wrong hands. (Which, in fact, it did.) Presumably it would've had escort ships along to defend it if it'd ever been used as intended.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • All Chess pieces are overspecialized, to some extent or another. The Queen's enormous power and value comes from being the least specialized, being able to move like any other piece except the Knight.
    • Of course, that is the whole point of the game: it forces the player to think strategically and learn how to best use limited resources.
  • Warhammer 40,000
    • The Eldar have this as their Hat. Each Eldar going down the Path of the Warrior dedicates himself or herself to one Aspect at a time, each with its own strengths and weaknesses against specific types.
      • It's said that if you match five Space Marines against five Eldar, the Marines will win four times out of five. The fifth Eldar will singlehandedly slaughter all five Marines, because that's what it's focused on doing.
    • The Tau also fit in this category, with their main military force focusing purely on firepower and having next to no close-range combat capabilities.
      • To be fair, the Tau do what armies in the past did and brought in auxiliary units suited for melee, but their close combat specialists would be considered pathetically weak in any other army, and they are largely there to counter-charge for the tau, rather than go toe-to-toe with their chainsaw-wielding foes head on.
    • This is also a perfectly valid way to build a tournament winning army, as long as you can correctly guess the kind of army you need to cripplingly overspecialise against.
      • It's largely encouraged if you want to be competitive, as any unit not overspecialized in one particular aspect would be wasting half it's points every single turn (for example, a Space Marine Tactica Squad armed with a Lascannon and a Flamethrower. If you shoot at a horde the lascannon cant fire, as you'll probably have to move to get the flamethrower in range. If you fired the lascannon, chances are whatever you're trying to hit is both out of the range of the flamethrower, and is a vehicle that can't be harmed by it) whereas a unit dedicated in its task would probably be doing the fullest until all viable targets are eliminated (which, given the points efficiency, would be insanely quick).
    • This is the case with Tyranids when the new Dark Eldar came out. Focusing on the gimmick of having monstrous creatures with multiple wounds and high toughness but susceptible to Instant Death, they were found to be utterly crippled when the Dark Eldar brought in Instant Death Weapons and Poison Weapons (Poison weapons ignore toughness altogether).
    • Daemons take this to ludicrous extremes with deepstriking, being the only army that needs to do so. It has landed them anywhere between Gamebreaking (capping an objective from the get-go) to horribly underpowered (Annihilation, where you have to kill everyone else). Compounding the fact is if you tried to run anything but Tzeentch, as he possesses the only Daemons with guns (you can't move or charge after a deepstrike, but you can shoot or run away), effectively giving all non-Tzeentch units a one-turn handicap as they are left standing still while the enemy shoots first.
  • Dungeons & Dragons.
    • For every single ability in 3.5, there's at least one way to reduce or negate the damage. Fighters who specialise in the longsword will find themselves disadvantaged against an opponent who negates all damage that isn't piercing. A sorcerer that only chooses fire spells will not have a fun time against the monster with fire immunity. Rogues dread encounters against enemies that are immune to sneak attacks (which are many). At higher levels it's not uncommon for fighters to carry multiple weapons made of many different materials, just so they can be prepared for any situation. This is one reason why Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards is in full effect: spellcasters who prepare their spells from a list can avoid this trap by changing their spells in accordance with the situation.
    • In 4th Edition, one has the option of using a significant number of their starting stat points to boost a single score to 18 (potentially a 20 if the character gets a bonus to that score from race). However, this costs such a prohibitive number of points that all the rest of that character's stats will be Below Par, at the very best. Since defenses and secondary abilities of powers are often based on scores not directly related to a class' primary attack stat, this usually leaves a character open to attack. And since many feats have ability score prerequisites, the choicest of these will often be out of reach of a character who has overspecialized a single stat.
      • In 4e, the selection of attack powers available at each level - and this applies to several fighting and magic using classes - can differ between direct attacks that affect one opponent (the sin qua non of the "striker") and area of affect attacks (bursts and blasts) that can damage many targets. The latter tend to do less damage and may not have as good a hit chance as the former. Without a mix, a character can be vulnerable to either solo monsters or minions.
    • Note that this can be entirely nullified by having a well-balanced group. (ie. a bard with maxed Charisma and terrible defenses in a group with many tanks/strikers will never get attacked if the group remembers to keep her in the back/center)
    • D&D's unofficial Tier System reinforces this fact. The Top Tier classes can either learn every spell of their paradigm they come across, have access to their entire spell lists by default, or can replicate any spell in the game. (The Cleric and Druid can also function as melee on top of all that, hence the CoDzilla term in the metagame). The Tier Two classes are equal to the tier ones in raw power, but lack the versatility of their counterparts. As the tier thread puts it: "If the Tier 1 classes are countries with 10,000 nuclear weapons in their arsenal, these guys are countries with 10 nukes. Still dangerous and world shattering, but not in quite so many ways."
    • Many powergamers in all TTRPGS, but especially D&D, who have their pet "broken" builds run into a serious problem when faced with GMs who throw unexpected challenges at them; by relying on shattering the game in one particular place, they are vulnerable when challenged out of their depth by the GM.
      • This was parodied in Order of the Stick, where Roy encountered a Half-Ogre with a spiked chain who had figured out the perfect melee build that involved jumping back while attacking on his turn every time, so that he would get free attacks when Roy tried to get close to him. While he's explaining that with this perfect combo he can't be beaten so there's no reason for him to vary it, he jumps over a cliff that suddenly appeared behind him. This is probably how a lot of DMs would handle such a player character.
  • In the classic Metagaming Concepts game Rivets, the premise is simple: all the people are dead, and the remaining Boppers (Battlefield Orientated Pre-Programmed Eradicator Robots) are fighting it out over the resources they need. The trouble is, these Boppers are pretty stupid, 'average IQ only slightly higher than that of most kitchen appliances'. Each player has to choose what type of unit each type of unit attacks. That's right. You don't program an individual unit, you program a type of unit to go after another type of unit. If you're attacked by a unit you're not programmed to attack, you're screwed. You can, however, reprogram them, but that means bringing every one of that unit type back to your base/factory.
  • The BattleMechs of BattleTech are prone to this, as well as subverting this. You can either have a general jack-of-all-trades or a specialized 'Mech that's doomed once someone skips out of its range bracket. Also, under the latest rules, most (not all) 'Mech-scale weapons do only a small fraction of their regular damage to conventional infantry, which can become a problem at those distances where the infantry can actually shoot back.
    • Justified Trope in that 'Mechs are designed for specific military roles, and meant to used in concert (IE, fire-support standing behind the close-assault mechs, scouts staying in cover and acting as spotters for long-distance artillery, high-speed mechs flanking while the main assault force holds the enemies' attentions, etc.). Individual 'Mechs are specialists; the military units they make up are intended to be balanced. And unlike the 40K examples, factions generally don't have built-in weaknesses beyond the differences in tech-level and societal taboos; you won't find any sizable society that built it's entire army around being super-artillery and utterly useless at short ranges, for example.
      • Most mechs are moving away from this trope, especially in the current era, where vehicles and infantry are becoming more prevalent, so even specialist mechs often mount secondary weaponry like machine guns, flamers, or short-range missiles to defend themselves against infantry and tanks.
  • In Exalted, the Primordials, the transcendently powerful beings that created the setting, each have their own themes, and are absolutely all-powerful, invincible, and unassailable within those themes; Authochthon is the Craftsman, Malfeas is the King, She Who Lives In Her Name is the Organizer, the Ebon Dragon is the Corrupter, etc. The thing is, each Primordial is not only absolutely helpless outside of those themes, but absolutely incapable of even thinking outside of them. For example, Malfeas is incapable of any kind of subtlety, compromise, or anything else that requires him to act from a position of anything less than absolute power and authority, and She Who Lives In Her Name cannot be unpredictable or spontaneous in any way.
  • In Magic: The Gathering there's a branch of decks known as Combo decks that tend to fall into this. They tend to aim to do one specific thing using a certain combination of cards. When this thing happens they usually win instantly. If they can't get the cards in or one of them gets destroyed, they're usually left with a sub-par deck. Combo decks tend to be very good against 'raw power'/'aggro' decks because comboed cards will dismantle an equal number of individual cards without synergy (even though said cards tend to be stronger individually), and are vulnerable to control decks that systematically block or remove the components of a combo.

Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • The Bulletproof Man in SMBC
  • Zz'dtri in Order of the Stick has fine-tuned his build around countering Vaarsuvius' 'blaster-caster' approach to combat. When Vaarsuvius figures out that this leaves him with a weakness to more mundane tactics, and starts fighting smart, the tables quickly turn.
    • Earlier, Roy encounters a half-ogre who has specialised in a very specific style of spiked chain fighting. Aside from being based on incorrect rules interpretations, it is also restricted to a very specific movement pattern, and the half-ogre eventually falls off a cliff because of this.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

And they haven't been taken by Blaculas. Though I'm not prepared to rule out Caucasian vampires.

  • Combustion Man of Avatar: The Last Airbender has the unique Firebending ability to focus his energy through an eye tattoo on his forehead, and release it as explosive blasts. While incredibly powerful, it lacks any kind of versatility, and he is apparently incapable of any other techniques. It also makes him quite vulnerable, as any form of disruption to his chi (such as by a blow to the head) can disable his ability to do it. Or cause him to explode.
    • He is also apparently unaware of it being disrupted.
  • Pro-benders often suffer from this in The Legend of Korra. While characters like Bolin and Tahno are among the top competitors in their chosen field, their sport's long-range fighting style is laughable when used in real combat. Pro-benders tend to fight as if they're still on the game field, and will sling fixed amounts of rock or water at an enemy. Get up close and a pro-bender's defense falls apart. In comparison, someone with Avatar Korra's comprehensive education in the traditional bending styles will move between long- and short-range fighting as necessary, and will use the whole environment against an enemy. Basically, pro-bending is fencing and traditional bending is back-alley brawling.
    • The reverse was true when Korra first joined the Fire Ferrets. She was literally a last-minute replacement when their previous waterbender no-showed, and started out by thrashing the opposing players with highly effective attacks...that were against the rules, resulting in fouls against Korra. Just like what's good in a pro-bending isn't necessarily good in a fight, what's good in a fight isn't necessarily good in pro-bending.
  • In The Simpsons the town of Ogdenville makes nothing but barley, even their history is centered about barley. When the barley got tainted, this cause their entire business to go bust, and sent their town into a depression!
  • In an episode of Wait Till Your Father Gets Home, Harry drops his car off at the service garage, then comes back later to find they're not finished. Perplexed that a mechanic is standing by his car doing nothing, Harry asks why the man isn't working on it. "I only do headlights," the mechanic explains. "Left headlights."
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends had an episode where the home was overrun with Scribbles (imaginary friends conjured up from infants), which as their name implied, were basically floating black line scribbles. Initially thought annoying and bothersome, they were shown as being very adept at doing chores, yet each Scribble could only do one task (such as washing the dishes, but not putting them away) or they "overload" and start shrieking until calmed down.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Cheetahs, specializing in ultimate sprinting, left them with a very light build and not much strength compared to other large African predators. Against lions, hyenas, leopards and hunting dogs, all a cheetah can do is run. When it comes to prey, anything larger than a Thompson's gazelle is off-limits to most cheetahs (some males can become large and robust enough to take down yearling wildebeests).
    • This is actually common among heavily endangered species- species with a strong degree of specialization are very, very sensitive to any disruptions in their environment, and any changes can be devastating for them. See the giant panda below.
  • The people the world considers to be geniuses tend to suffer from this to varying degrees. History is rife with stories of great artists and intellectuals all suffering due to having a phenomenal grasp of the subjects they are gifted in, while having a weak grasp in areas that are essential to master for the sake of functioning normally from day-to-day.
  • World War Two German tank destroyers (Mainly the Elefant, the others had hull MGs or a roof MG) were highly effective as mobile artillery and killing tanks but had no turret and early versions had no machine guns... meaning (as Soviet infantry soon demonstrated) that if you could get close to one you could even climb on it perfectly safely and then plant explosives or do whatever you wanted, and they had no way of getting you off except popping out and trying to shoot you with personal weapons.
    • German tank design in general was overspecialized. You had your Panthers, your Tigers, your Ferdinand artillery unit, which often meant complex mechanical systems and no compatibility between one type and another, so repairs were not efficient. The Soviet Union averted this by focusing primarily on the all-round T-34 tank, which was cheap to build and easy to maintain and operate, not to mention much more mobile in the Russian Winter than your average Panzer.
      • The Panther and T-34 were the two best medium tanks of the war, being well-armed and armored yet also fast and agile. On a 1 to 1 basis, the Panther was somewhat better...except that it had an unnecessarily complicated drivetrain and was much slower and more expensive to built. Thus, Russia had far more T-34s than Germany had Panthers.
      • Russians do have assault guns too, the most infamous one is the ISU-152 which is a terror weapon for German tank commanders.
      • Overspecialisation was subverted, however, with the German 88mm Anti-aircraft Flak Cannon. It was discovered that by pointing them lower, they made equally devastating anti-tank weapons, allowing for flexibility of purpose that wasn't even intended in its design.
      • In a similar manner to how it was quickly discovered that the American Quad .50 anti-aircraft array did amazing damage to infantry when the four guns firing half-inch rounds at a combined rate of about 2000 rounds per minute were mounted to shoot things lower to the ground.
    • Tank destroyers, and their sister class of assault guns, were all rather prone to this issue, but the designs were simpler than a full tanks, and thus cheaper and more reliable, and you could supply a sizable infantry accompaniment for the price difference.
    • The Elefant does have its advantages though, being one of the few things that can survive a direct hit of the Russians' SU-152's guns (though the massive impact from the 152mm howitzers will almost always kill everyone inside on a direct hit). The Russians' solution for that problem? Shoot it again until it breaks apart.
    • In Company of Heroes, such a Tank exists for the Allies, but all other tanks have some way to defend themselves, while heavy weapons teams will have 1 guy to man the weapon and 2 guys to lay down covering fire, or man the gun when the first guy buys the farm.
    • On the Allies' side, the French had the vast majority of their defensive capacity as part of the Maginot Line, defending against a direct assault by Germany. The line was quite good at repelling the German forces—until the Germans simply went through Belgium instead, catching France defenseless.
      • Actually, they expected the Germans to pass through Belgium and along with the British send their army in Belgium to stop the German advance. What they estimated wrongly was through which part of Belgium the Germans would come through - they never expected them to pass through the supposedly impassable Ardenes.
  • The Germans also made the ultimate in crippling overspecialization during WW 1 with the Paris Gun - a mammoth gun that shot shells so high they had to compensate for the fact they left atmosphere. While the range of was impressive, it burned through barrels so quickly they needed to load progressively larger shells for each shot, could only shoot around 20 shots a day, and the accuracy was so poor it only stood a chance of hitting a large city.
    • It made enough of a psychological impact though that the Versailles Treaty specifically banned it. In the 1930s, this led to the German Army looking into rockets as a replacement for it, and the rest is history.
    • In WWII, 800-mm guns Schwerer Gustav and Dora. Yes, a 7-ton shell can wreck a lot. But for the same reason it's only useful when it hits a thick piece of reinforced concrete on top of something important. Also, it's not precise enough to pick off such targets. Otherwise it's only going to penetrate ground very far - that is, make a deep well and explode at its end. They weren't completely useless, but in the end, scored a worthwhile hit only once - Gustav wrecked an undersea ammunition magazine of a coastal fort (part of Sevastopol fortifications) so big that it sank a boat in the bay as a side effect. Such a gun, once assembled, was 7 m wide and 47 m long, weighted 1,350 tonnes and required two parallel railroad tracks to move - and took 3 days to assemble by crew of 250. Of course, it's a big juicy target that without its own fortification practically could be used only if its owner already has reliable local air superiority… But if you can just send bombers at will, do you really need this gun?
  • With the discovery of guided missiles in the early years of the Cold War, the US thought machine guns on aircraft were obsolete, and so they lost many jet fighters in in the Vietnam War. The F4 Phantom was armed with the then state-of-the-art AIM-7 Sparrow missiles, which were capable of locking on to a target far outside of visual range. However, the Rules of Engagement mandated that the pilots make visual contact before firing their missiles. The problem with this was that the missiles would not lock on at that range (not to mention that they required the pilot to keep the radar focused on the target, which is easy when it hasn't seen you yet, but becomes impossible to do when it's dodging and weaving all over the place), and the pilots got slaughtered by the MiG-21. Seeing this mistake, all jet fighters today are equipped with autocannons and all pilots receive training for dogfights.
  • Dedicated interceptor aircraft, such as the F-106 Delta Dart and the MiG-25 Foxbat. Designed to accelerate fast (the MiG-25 could reach Mach 3.2, once) and climb fast in order to shoot down enemy bombers, they were next to useless in any other combat role and eventually replaced (in most air forces; Russia still maintains MiG-31 interceptors due to the amount of area it has to defend) by all-around air superiority fighters such as the F-15 and Su-27.
  • Frederick the Great's Prussian infantry could fire twice as fast as the Austrians' but couldn't hold their own in a drawn-out bayonet fight. They still kicked ass, though.
  • The opposite extreme is the famous phrase "Jack of all trades, Master of None", typically used to deride characters with a "general" skill-set, originally ended with "...though often better than a master of one". Now You Know.
    • Adam Savage asserted and popularized that, but he's wrong. In fact, originally, the famous phrase was just "jack of all trades" and a compliment. Sometime later, people added on the derisive bit that made it "jack of all trades, master of none." Then Adam Savage stepped in and added that part.
    • In general, this tends to be the case with some people who get a Masters degree in a field, and then make a career out of that skill. Unless they have hobbies and outside interests, if the field empties out due to something like Enron, they may be in a situation where they are "overqualified" (but underskilled) in other fields, and other businesses in that field already have the employees they need. As an added bonus, some managers can't really do the job they manage (this is sometimes the case in computer jobs, where the person managing has a degree in Business Management, and the people working have Computer Programming degrees), so if the company goes under, and jobs are filled for management...
  • The Space Shuttle. Designed by committee, it is reusable, has capacity for massive payloads, can be launched into polar orbits, and basically was made to deliver what everyone involved (Congress, NASA, the military, etc) wanted it to be able to do. Problem is, the minimum level of ability needed to accomplish any of those tasks are so high that Crippling Overspecialization is the only way for LEO launches to be cost-effective.
  • The giant panda, which evolved in a time when there were massive forests of bamboo and becoming one of the few large animals that could the eat the stuff seems like a good idea at the time... before the bamboo forests started shrinking and breaking up into smaller areas, with the panda's diet effectively holding them prisoner on rapidly sinking islands. Oops.
    • It also doesn't help that the panda eats a vegetarian diet with what is essentially a carnivore's digestive tract. The panda in many ways represents a cascade failure of the evolutionary process, a series of "good enough" kludges that let it just barely hang on in its environment.
    • They do have one very important evolutionary adaptation that will pretty much ensure their survival; being adorable. First priority endangered animal!
  • Most modern Aircraft Carriers are built for one thing: Launching planes. The ability to defend themselves without aircraft or escorts consists of a few point defense weapons. Which is exactly why Carriers always have escorts and some kind of air cover.
    • The Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov avoids this to a certain degree, though not really in a good way. It carries a large complement of anti-ship missiles and anti-air weapons. However, this is to make up for the fact that it has a small number of aircraft compared to American carriers, and for the lack of support ships in the Russian Navy. While it is less specialized than other carriers, it is MORE vulnerable.
    • Launching planes is a lot more flexible a schtick than 'try to engage enemy surface vessels in a single decisive battle' though, which was what the earlier battleships were built around. Equipping the planes differently can allow a variety of different missions to be carried out, from air defense to bombing to anti-submarine. And engaging the enemy before you're in his range.
  • Paleoartists are freelance artists that have confined their entire portfolio and thus career prospects to the depiction of extinct animals(mostly dinosaurs). A combination of extremely low demand and competition from generalist freelance artists means that even highly skilled and firmly established paleoartist are struggling to find work and stay afloat.
  • Bananas. Before the 1950s, the single largest banana cultivar by far was the Gros Michel, which was favoured since it could survive in temperate climates and was easily shipped without any special care. Because bananas were bred at the time of their original domestication to remove the seeds from their fruit, they can only reproduce parthogenically, meaning that they are extremely slow to develop a resistance via natural mutation. This meant that the entire Gros Michel cultivar was vulnerable to, and ultimately nearly wiped out by, a single disease. The modern banana cultivar of choice is the Cavendish, which has precisely the same level of market penetration, and precisely the same potential for global collapse if the same disease mutates (as it already has) and goes global, or if a new pathogen emerges.
    • Agricultural experts (at a couple of Australian universities, at least, haven't heard about the matter in an international context) have gone on record stating that almost all staple food crops—corn, wheat, sugar, etc. -- are in roughly the same position. Since most large scale growers buy the cheapest seeds they can, the vast majority of growers end up using the same crops, leaving a serious risk of not only a virulent strain coming along and devastating crops, but also, should the Hollywood Global Warming situation go as badly as people fear, the environmental conditions for growing these common strains becoming too precarious to support wide-scale growing. We could face a global-scale famine before a more resilient strain of seed is found, grown en-masse (after all, seeds don't just come out of thin air![2]) and distributed.
    • Similarly, this trope is part of two different hypotheses explaining colony collapse disorder, i.e. the sudden die-off of honeybee colonies. According to the first hypothesis, centuries of selecting bees for useful traits (producing more honey, pollinating certain plants more efficiently) has reduced genetic diversity within commercial bee populations, leaving them vulnerable to pathogens. In the second one, feeding bees a diet of pollen from just one species of plant (i.e. one of the commercial food crops) leaves them with a less healthy immune system than feeding them pollen from several different plant species.
  • Mostly averted in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, where it's pretty much universal that you have to have some proficiency at wherever the fight goes, even if it's purely defensive. It's arguably Min-Maxing if the fighter is really, really good at their one specialty, but if the fighter isn't that good at it or at keeping the fight there, then this trope applies.
    • For example, Shinya Aoki and Demian Maia are considered extremely high-level grapplers, and Melvin Manhoef is a high-grade (offensive, anyway) kickboxer who's considered devastatingly potent in stand-up... unfortunately, this isn't pure grappling or kickboxing.
    • The thing is, the "keep the fight where you want it" bit pretty much requires learning the opposite of the techniques useful in the situation you're trying to keep in. You're going to end up on the ground very quickly if you don't know much grappling (as most techniques to get a man to the ground where grappling is more useful are in themselves grappling based), and if you're no good at striking, chances are you'll be beaten to a bloody pulp before you can get anywhere near the ground where striking is less useful.
    • UFC fighter Cody McKenzie is a unique in a sense not that he's a high-level grappler but all but two of his wins come from the same hold (a guillotine choke.) On a similar note Bellator fighter Giva Silva received the nickname "The Arm Collector" because 13 of his 17 wins have come via armbar.
  • While it's usually averted in the sport of roller derby (most blockers can also jam in a pinch, and most jammers can throw a good hit,) happens from time to time. Some jammers are fast and agile enough to get through the pack without any help at all, but if they get so much as a love tap, they go down hard.
  • Savant Syndrome basically, you're a genius in one specific area but otherwise you're mentally disabled.
  • Many sole proprietorships and independent businesses - particularly those in retail.
  • Pure gaming machines have gone extinct, with every current game console supporting other functions such as DVD or Blu-ray playback, internet browsing etc.
  • The South during The American Civil War. Not only were they so focused on cotton that they had exactly one factory that could produce cannon, they didn't have enough land left over to grow enough food. Even with the Confederate government taking food from private farms for the war effort, the Confederate army was often severely underfed and it wasn't uncommon for soldiers to be malnourished.
  • True for almost all animals from an evolutionary standpoint. Many animals tend to specialize in adapting to their particular environment (e.g. Australia has an unusually high number of unique animals due to multiple habitats that are separated from each other - Costa Rica is similar), and if anything alters that environment, that animal could die off rapidly, while more generically adapted animals (scroungers in particular, such as rats) will make it through all but the most catastrophic environmental alterations. But after the change, the available animals will begin to fill the now abandoned niches, such as when mammals took over after the massive die-out of the dinosaurs.
  • Rules in a survival situation are this trope. They are the first thing to go out the window in a survival situation. "There are no rules in love and war" is a popular saying for a reason - the victors get to live and pass on their genetic code. The losers die.
  • Older Than Feudalism: Roman Legionnaires were trained to fight as a cohesive unit, not as individuals. While this strategy worked them quite well most of the time, it hit a massive snag during the Battle of Teutoburg Forest. The thick woods and rough terrain of the region forced the Romans to split into smaller groups, which enabled the Germanic tribesmen, who were better fighters individually, to overwhelm and defeat them. The defeat proved to be psychologically devastating for Rome, bringing an abrupt halt to its then-relentless expansion.
    • Not true at all. Rome continued to expand north, into Germanic territory, taking the regions then known as Germania Inferior and Germania Superior. If anything, the trope is reversed. Roman legionnaires were experts in a wide variety of tasks, such as fighting in formation, breaking formation in a "mop up" attack when the enemy lines were broken, building Rome's famous roads, building bridges, including one across the Rhine in just a few days, and laying siege to enemy cities. By contrast, Rome's Germanic enemies at the time were illiterate, incapable of executing complex orders, and had no skill in siege-craft, let alone building roads that still stand to this day.
  • Toyota essentially initiated the third "industrial revolution" (first being the actual, second being assembly line thanks to Ford). One of the components? Have your workers know how to do more than one thing so you can be more efficient with less.
  • To many weapons to count have failed because they were to focused on one job, while the unpredictability of warfare often calls for any weapon to do all sorts of jobs in a pinch. That is why most modern Assault Rifles are Jack of All Trades that are good in any situation, with mounts designed to place any attachment needed on a weapon.
  • For food, there are kitchen gadgets specialized only in cooking, preparing, or cleaning only one kind of thing. For example, zesters can only obtain the zest of citrus fruits, butter knifes are too dull to do anything but serving soft butter, egg slicers are only great for people who want sliced eggs in their salad, etc. An entire list on near useless kitchen appliances can be found in this thread [1] here
  • Muzzle devices are meant to do a few things, reduce visible flash, reduce muzzle climb, and mitigate recoil. Several are fairly good all around, some are absolutely great at one area yet fail at the others. Because exposing your position is more often fatal than slower follow up shots, the US standard issue muzzle device, the A2 birdcage, is a pure flash hider and one of the best options for that despite being dirt cheap and common. Unfortunately it has minimal recoil and muzzle climb reduction over a bare barrel.
  • Commercial camouflage patterns intended for hunting very closely mirror specific environments, not just forest but specific type of forest, and preform very well in them. They tend to preform very poorly in everything else.
    • Anti-night vision patterns tend to preform poorly not just in real vision, but against night vision devices of a different generation than they were intended to defeat.

Video Game Examples[edit | hide]

Adventure Game[edit | hide]

  • In the first and fourth Gobliiins games, the player controls three goblins whose specializations border on the ridiculous. One can only pick up and place objects (only one at a time), another can only punch things, and the third can only cast spells. Apparently, the other two goblins haven't grasped the concept of, well, grasping.
  • In Solatorobo, this is what Merveille says is wrong with Nero and Blanck, as though they live for The Order and can perfectly perform their one duty of controlling Lares and Lemures, once that duty is fulfilled, they have no reason to exist. Those who are imperfect, like their brother Red, are free to grow and develop in any way they choose, not bound to any one destiny.

First-Person Shooter[edit | hide]

  • In Battlefield: Bad Company 2 you have a choice of 4 specializations. It is possible to be crippled by the Medic's lack of explosives, or by the Recon's lack of ammo. Just as much as it is to be crippled by the Assault's lack of specialization.
  • While all the classes in Team Fortress 2 are very specialized, they do have an item or two to make them a bit more versatile. However, the Demoman holds onto this trope with a deathgrip. Both his primary and secondary weapons are explosive (which can cause self-damage if he's near the projectiles when they detonate), inaccurate over long ranges and don't directly hit enemies (unless aimed and timed specifically). While this forces some players to get creative with strategies, more often than not a Demoman player will resort to wildly firing both weapons in the general direction of the target.
    • During the WAR! update, the Demoman was given the Chargin' Targe, a shield that replaces his stickybomb launcher with a charging rush that turns his melee attacks into guaranteed criticals. This has given rise to a new way to play the class; the "Demoknight". It involves using the Targe (or another shield) alongside one of the many sword and axe-like melee weapons he's received since then. Rather than make him more of a generalist, this has actually just given him the ability to overspecialize in melee. (especially if you equip the boots that replace the grenade launcher) So, one has a choice when playing Demoman; overspecialize in long-range? Or in melee.

Real Time Strategy[edit | hide]

  • In the Command & Conquer games, units usually have only one weapon, and are on their own extremely vulnerable to units impervious to their single weapon. A rifleman never has rockets or other explosives to use against vehicles, a grenadier has only grenades and no firearm for self-defense, a rocket soldier only carries rockets effective against vehicles and aircraft, tanks never have machine guns for close defense against infantry, and so on. This is sometimes in spite of the fact that the unit's sprite/model, or promotional images, will show it with additional anti-personnel weapons. The series also harbors one near constant aversion, however - the Mammoth Tank and its successors have almost always had a big pair of cannons for taking out buildings and vehicles, and ground-to-air missiles for dealing with airborne enemies. They can also run infantry over.
    • Lampshaded as of Red Alert 3 with the background information on the Allied Hydrofoil unit, which has a weapon jammer device. The background states that Allied tank crewmen and fighter pilots asked why their units could not also be equipped with jammers, but engineers the world over have encountered unspecified technical difficulties designing vehicles with multiple weapons. Red Alert 3 actually changed the whole model on this one, given that all units in that game have a special ability of some type, and for about half those units that ability is a second weapon. The hydrofoil's primary is an anti-aircraft gun.
      • Those in the modding community for early games can attest that technical limitations make it impossible to mount more than two weapons on any given object and even then, the two are mutually exclusive when it comes to target selection.[3]
    • One of the worst units in the series is the Tank Destroyer in Red Alert 2, the unit itself can only do maximum damage to enemy vehicles, but it can barely hit infantry (though can still run over them) and can only do minor damage to buildings which can be easily repaired while it's still firing.
    • Snipers in all games, can one hit kill most infantry, but useless against anything else. However, in C&C 3, they get a passive ability to spot for Juggernauts.
    • Commandos somewhat avert this trope, since they all carry some form of explosives for buildings. However, only Tanya from Yuri's Revenge ever thought of using it against vehicles actively. All other Commandos would simply shoot at a tank with anti-infantry guns (although a few commandos possessed weapons powerful enough to utterly destroy tanks just as easily as infantry)..
    • Mammoth Tanks is another aversion, in all installment are able to engage all targets effectively. It has dual cannons to engage vehicles and missiles for use against infantry and aircraft. Since C&C 3 however they are even more effective because they will fire both weapons against ground targets (though the missiles are now less effective against infantry), and the cannons can be upgraded to railguns, which will one hit kill most infantry and make it even more deadly to vehicles, in addition for the ability to crush smaller vehicles under their treads.
      • Boris from the expansion pack was allowed to call in an airstrike to whatever targets his AK-47 couldn't kill (namely, buildings and tanks) which made him alot more effective than Tanya, as he did not need to close the distance. Yuri Prime, however, averts this trope to hell as his psychic power was able to affect anything other than airborne targets (and only while they stay airborne).
      • In Generals, all commandos had their way to fight vehicles, Colonel Burton could lay C4 on them (though he would be revealed doing that), Jarmen Kell could pilot snipe them for capture by friendly infantry and Black Lotus could at least shut them down and flee.
      • The series returns to this again in Tiberium Wars with the Commandos. They are devastatingly effective against buildings and infantry, and exactly ONE type of vehicles: Walkers. There are, prior to the expansion, exactly 3 units of this classification, and at least one was considered Awesome but Impractical and another was an artillery unit. In the expansion they were made a bit more useful, with a few new variants of the walkers appearing and being genuine threats, while an entire faction focused on infantry.
      • In Red Alert 3, the aforementioned Tanya can destroy them with C4, Natasha can order a bomber to kill them or pilot snipe them similar to Jarmen Kell and Yuriko simply compresses them into tincan size with her powers.
      • Additionally, in Red Alert 3, the Apocalypse Tank (a Mammoth Tank Expy) has lost its anti-aircraft missiles in favor of a big magnet that pulls enemy vehicles towards its circular saw. Basically, the tank has been redesigned to be more effective against vehicles, something it was already good at, while leaving it vulnerable against airstrikes.
    • Hammer Tank also played with it, since its special ability is an absorption beam which in addition of draining the HP of the enemy while repairing itself, but is also able to steal the weapon of enemy vehicles destroyed while it is targetting them, effectively giving the Hammer Tank a second primary weapon, and possibly an ability to engage air targets.
    • Two units introduced in Kane's Wrath are dedicated anti air, however the AI doesn't seem to know this and often sends them in place of normal tanks, where they get torn apart due to their lack of ground weaponry.
  • In Ground Control II, helicopter-type units will just own armoured vehicles, such as tanks, with impunity because the tanks have no defense from aircraft.
    • In Ground Control 1 anti-air Terradynes cannot target anything on the ground and rocket Terradynes cannot target infantry.
    • Also, in the second game, most units armed with guided missiles can't attack infantry. The in-universe explanation is that individual soldiers are too small for missile tracking to work.
  • Warcraft III's human faction has a unit called the Steam Tank, which does fantastic damage to buildings... but can't attack any units. Its sole use is to damage enemy structures. The Frozen Throne expansion pack remedied this a bit by giving the player the option of buying an improvement that added a rapid-fire (though weak) attack that can only be used against flying units.
  • The StarCraft: Brood War expansion introduced new units to all three factions (Terran Valkyrie, Protoss Corsair, Zerg Devourer) which have no function other than to attack air units, particularly masses of air units. If your opponent uses a strategy other than mass Mutalisks they were pretty much useless...but given how fond some players were of mass Mutalisks, one could see the reason for doing so.
    • The original game's "Guardian Aspect" Mutalisk was this trope. A very powerful ground attack with incredible range (enough to take out stationary attackers before getting into their range), but slow as molasses and possessing no air attack whatsoever. If you failed to back them up with anti-air units, they'd get wiped out.
  • Occurs to some degree in Sins of a Solar Empire. Light carrier-type cruisers have no onboard weapons, just their two fighter or bomber squadrons. Siege frigates and support cruisers have ship-to-ship weapons, but they're rather wimpy.
    • Siege frigates and torpedo boats fall into this trope as well. Siege frigates are extremely weak against other ships/buildings, but are the only non-capital ships that can bombard a planet. Torpedo boats in the expansion packs make mincemeat out of buildings and starbases, but are unable to attack other ships/bombard planets.
  • Combat in the second The Battle for Middle Earth game tends to consist of a desperate attempt to get the right type of unit fighting the right enemy, because if they're fighting the wrong type they get slaughtered. Well, unless they're fully upgraded elven archers, who can usually mow down an entire cavalry unit while they're charging. Or fully upgraded Rohirrim, which can trample right over pikes.
    • Incidentally, these two units are the ones capable of both melee and ranged combat. The first game even allowed you to merge two infantry units into one. If one unit was melee fighters, while the other one was archers, then the archers would take the back rows and first while the infantry holds off the enemy. In the case of two joined elven archers battalions, the ones in the back would use their bows, while the front lines would switch to swords.
  • Total Annihilation did this about as naturally as possible. Every weapon in the game can fire at just about any target (and will try to if necessary), but only the anti-air units have the turning speed, range, or homing ability to actually catch air units 95 out of 100 times. While this meant that generally only anti-air units could take out aircraft, ever so often, you'd see a fighter or bomber shot down by an artillery cannon.
  • Played straight and averted in Supreme Commander, most anti-air units are only able to fire at air units, but the Cybran T1 and Cruiser both have a switch to change their weapons from homing missiles to dumb-fire rockets for fighting surface targets. Spread means that it's more effective from the latter, which is fighting large ships, but in groups the former becomes remarkably dangerous.
    • Then there's stuff like the UEF Anti-Tactical-Missile Defense, which is basically a Phalanx CIWS. It can only shoot down tactical missiles.
    • While most naval units for the UEF and Cybrans have some AA guns mounted on them, the Aeon ships lack any AA, instead mounting them on small, cheap attack boats which are incapable of engaging anything OTHER than air. However their Frigate at least gets torpedo defenses in return and the Cruiser ships are better for AA overall.
    • Averted by research in the second game, at least for the UEF; higher level techs can install defensive guns on certain installations, grant anti-air weapons to standard tanks and assault bots, and anti-ground guns to your anti-air unit. With enough research, a massed force of common tanks needs no anti-air support; they launch enough AA missiles to shred almost anything that would dare tangle with them.
  • Little King's Story gives us the Chef. He can kill a Cock-a-Doodle in one hit. He's useless in almost any other task (well, about as useless as carefree adults), and he's expensive as hell. The only reason you'd buy more than one is if your first one got killed.
  • One of the few notable RTS aversions is the Sudden Strike series. Most tanks have machine guns effective against infantry and one of the two most common types of infantry, submachine gunners, have grenades which work against tanks when you have enough of them.
    • In fact, if tanks run out of ammunition, they can run over infantry.
  • Battle Realms both uses and avoids this trope. All ranged units can also attack in melee (but most of them are horrible at it), while most tier 1 melee units have only a melee attack and nothing else. The tier 2 and 3 melee units of the Dragon and Serpent clans have a secondary ranged weapon, however, which is useful in a pinch. There are also 7 damage types (slashing, piercing, blunt, crushing, fire, explosion and magic) and all units have different resistances to each type—any commander who tries to overspecialize by fielding an army of one unit type will quickly find that this is not a good idea since they can be quickly countered by a smaller number of units whose attacks screw them over.
  • In Age of Empires III, mortars are incredibly powerful against buildings and ships, but can't even be used at all against other units.
    • Pikemen are good against all cavalry, but useless against infantry and artillery.
  • In Frontline Attack: War over Europe, the only armoured vehicles that have any effectiveness against infantry are the light armoured cars. You can send 20 Pershing tanks to attack an enemy base, but if there's just one team of anti-tank infantry, or grenadiers, or a flamethrower squad, not one of those Pershings will survive. Escort them with M8 Greyhounds, and watch them all die as the light anti-tank emplacements blow up the M8s, then the flamethrower squads do their work on the Pershings. And don't take your own infantry either, because enemy buildings have machine guns, and most infantry is actually crap at anti-infantry work.
  • In Metal Fatigue, combots that dual-wield ranged weapons do twice as much damage in the same amount of time but absolutely suck at melee combat. Not only they do very little damage by bashing the opponent with the guns, such a build has much less HP and armor than a melee build which in turn is a real powerhouse that can close up into melee range and wreck the ranged combot before it can inflict any real damage. On the other hand, melee combots have two banes: hit-and-run attacks by missile cars and Nemesis trucks[4] supported by bombers.[5] Both of these threats are cannon fodder to ranged combots who can easily One-Hit Kill the offenders without having to chase after them.
    • Flying combots are excellent Lightning Bruisers... as long as they have time to land since while flying, they have zero armor which means AA towers can really tear them up. Plus the part that makes the combot fly has absolutely laughable HP. If we take these two into count, a flying combot is actually a Fragile Speedster Glass Cannon: it has firepower AND mobility but it sucks in defensive capabilities so it's only good if the target isn't surrounded by AA.
  • The Galactic Armory mod for Star Ruler has weapons excellent at killing shields but don't hurt armour or the physical ship.
  • Company of Heroes averts this for most of the main units with upgrades. For example, a basic rifleman squadron can be upgraded to have sticky bombs, which are highly effective against armored vehicles. Main battle tanks come equipped with a basic machine gun and can be upgraded for a more deadlier one. Even AT guns can make short work of infantry provided they don't get too close. With the upgrades, the game mangles with the Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors.

Role-Playing Game[edit | hide]

  • In Pokémon games:
    • Gyms, their Trainers, and their Gym Leaders all follow a type specialization that can be exploited by the player with counter-strategies using their obvious weaknesses. It's slightly rectified in later versions, as their Pokémon know moves to compensate.
      • One gym surprisingly averts this. Koga's gym has always had 4 Psychic specialists in it. And the 2 remaining trainers who do use Poison types also have a Sandslash (Ground being strong against Poison). In fact, Koga's the only one in the Gym who uses all Poison types. Under his daughter's leadership in Gen 2, it plays the trope mostly straight (2 trainers have Nidoking and Nidoqueen, one each, which are Poison/Ground type).
      • Several later Gym Leaders and Elite Four members did avert this sort of, but usually in some strange ways. Candice in Generation IV specialized in Ice-types, but had a Medicham, which is a Psychic/Fighting type. The weirdest would be Volkner and Flint, at least in Diamond and Pearl. They specialized in Electric-types and Fire-types respectively, however Volkner's four-mon team consists of only two Electric-types, the other being Octillery, a Water-type, and Ambipom, a Normal-type. Even more damning, Flint, a member of the Elite Four, only has two Fire-types on his team of five, the rest being Drifblim (Ghost/Flying), Steelix (Steel/Ground), and Lopunny (Normal). This was because in Diamond and Pearl, there only were two evolved Fire-type Pokemon, Rapidash and the starter Infernape. Platinum expanded the Pokedex, in part to give them teams that are closer to their specialized types.
    • Many Pokémon fall into this as well. Rampardos is a Glass Cannon with ridiculous Attack and decent HP, but its defenses and Speed are so low it falls in a couple of hits, and its pure Rock-typing does it no favors. Ninjask is ludicrously fast (one of the fastest in the game, and its ability makes it only go faster), but is not only easily walled with poor attacks and an average Attack stat, its bad defensive Bug/Flying typing and really low defenses make it really only useful for Baton Passing, as it learns a few good set-up moves. Too fragile to do much else though.
      • There's also Shedinja, which can only be hit by super effective attacks and passive damage but only has 1HP at any level. Not to mention five weaknesses. And there's a lot of passive damage attacks.
      • This can apply to many Mons concerning their movesets and whatnot. Many of them can only learn a small type pool, effectively making them one trick ponies. Take the Dugtrio family, for example. Their attacks mostly consist of shaking the ground, shaking the ground harder, randomly shaking the ground at varying strength levels, and burrowing underground and then shaking the ground as they come up.
      • Smeargle is interesting as all of its attributes reflect Master of None and its stats are completely poor. But it famously boasts being able to learn any move through Sketch.
      • Deoxys can take several different forms. The Attack and Normal forms have the highest attacks and special attacks in the series and a fantastic speed, but their defenses and HPs are so weak that they go down in one hit from about anything. Its defense form has superior defenses, but can't really dish anything out. Speed form however, is more of something between a Lightning Bruiser and a Jack of All Stats.
      • A Skitty with the ability Normalize will use all moves as if they were Normal-type. While this means constant STAB bonuses and being able to use moves against types that normally resist them, it also means anything the Skitty does will be resisted by Rock and Steel types, and it is completely useless against Ghosts. This is especially problematic in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon if you get a Skitty as your character; be thankful the game allows Normal moves to do slight damage against Ghosts.
      • Another good example is Shuckle. It's got ludicrously high Defense stats, but all of its other stats are practically non-existent. There are a few tricks to turn Shuckle into a powerhouse, but this usually leaves it very vulnerable.
    • Gen V Pokemon have significantly less type range overall in their movesets compared to previous generations. Generally, they get moves in their own type(s) and a few Normal moves, along with some Status-type moves. Moves outside their typing are rather difficult to come by.
    • Speaking of type predictability, either your crime group comes from Orre or you assign very specific Pokemon species to your grunts. Teams Rocket and Galactic are reasonably safe from monotyping (even though their lineups are reasonably weak), but Aqua fears Grass/Electric and Magma loathes Water. Also on that note, Team Plasma does not take Fighting well (the grunts use Watchog and Dark types, N's only protection is Archeops and a Dragon, and even Ghetsis can lose half his team to Fighting attacks).
    • For the most part, Gen V champion Alder. While he has extremely powerful pokemon, all but two can be easily taken out by the fire starter. And the two that can't? One is so slow that a powerful dragon or ice move will take it out before it does any damage. The other one tends to be That One Boss.
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online has the Sorcerer class that can use far fewer spells than ordinary Wizards, they cannot swap between spells on the fly either, but they have much greater magical reserves to draw upon, making them able to hit harder with the same spells and cast them for much longer. However, having few spells to choose from can quickly make a Sorcerer useless - specializing in only fire based spells will not help a player against opponents with fire immunity.
  • City of Heroes has this to a degree, but you have to try for it. You can make a Blaster with all the primary set attacks, as many tertiary/epic attacks as possible, and maybe a travel power, and dump a bajillion damage (and maybe some accuracy) enhancements in, that overall gives enough attacks to be able to blow nearly anything in the game away; unfortunately you'll have no defense, and draw so much aggro that the best tanks and healers in the game will look on helplessly as you get stepped on. Speaking of tanks and healers, you can dump so much into the stay alive/keep them alive sets that you're utterly useless soloing unless you like spending 30+ minutes per random mission. Controversially Cryptic/NCsoft implemented features like diminishing returns and power set restructuring that made these types of setups not only difficult to accomplish, but redundant and more-or-less pointless.
  • In the Dragon Force (video game) game on the Saturn, archers fit this trope. Their only strength is against harpy troops, but they're either weak against, or average against everything else.
  • In Golden Sun games, the versatile Class and Level System and skewed casting system makes it easy to adjust warrior-type characters to do anything needed in combat, leaving the caster-type characters in the dust unless there's a rock that needs moving.
  • In Diablo II, this is often done intentionally: your character may be completely unable to kill cold immune enemies, but that's okay if there are no cold immunes in your favourite hunting grounds and you got rushed to said top level area without killing more than a handful of enemies on your way. There was a time when javazons were popular: they were only viable in one level but that just happened to be the farming hotspot.
    • In the first Diablo, the mage was devastating against non-resistant or even resistant enemies, but there was a particular type of enemy that was immune to all magic at the end of the hardest difficulty. Hope you brought a sword.
  • Mint from Tales of Phantasia is the only purely supportive character in the Tales (series), all of the healers falling into the Combat Medic archetype. While it's not an issue in her game of origin, it makes her rather obsolete in the crossover titles like Tales of VS and the Radiant Mythology series.

Simulation Games[edit | hide]

  • Missile frigates in X3: Terran Conflict are normally just glass cannons, weak on defense but able to level entire sectors from extreme range. However the Boron Kraken eschews any form of point-defense in favor of more missile launchers. This essentially means they have no way to protect themselves from incoming missiles, save for spamming their own missiles at enemy missiles and hoping they hit.
    • The OTAS Sirokos missile frigate is designed specifically for launching boarding pods at enemy craft, and can carry ten more marines than any other missile frigate (30 instead of 20) ... at the cost of having no method of attack other than Ramming Always Works. It works fine for boarding TLs,[6] but it can't really do anything else.

Tower Defense[edit | hide]

  • Happens to the enemies in the Tower Defense game Tower Madness. The towers you build (save the flamethrower) do either energy, explosive, or electrical damage. Powered Armor aliens come in three varieties- Light, Heavy and Bionic, each of which is resistant to one type of damage, but weak against the other two (light resists energy, heavy resists explosives, and bionic resists electricity). If you place two turrets of different damage types, they're pretty much sunk.

Turn-Based Strategy[edit | hide]

  • Units in the Advance Wars series can usually only (effectively) attack a few types of other units. For example, infantry can attack vehicles, copters and other infantry to varying degrees of effectiveness with their firearms, but cannot even engage ships or planes. Some units have a primary and secondary weapon however, which they use against different opponents. The most notorious example is the Missile unit, a devastating anti-air unit that is incapable of firing on anything that doesn't fly. It's also rather weak in the armor department. Woe to the player that accidentally deploys this one on a map without air units.
    • The most recent game, Days of Ruin, features a new unit called the seaplane which totally averts this trope and can attack every single unit with its main weapon. The downside? It has practically no fuel or ammo and so has to be restocked constantly by units with little or no attack capabilities. And it can only be produced by the expensive Carrier unit, which has little purpose beyond that and the ability to supply and repair up to two aircraft units at once.
    • It also features the Anti-Tank, an expensive form of artillery with the ability to counterattack. Unlike other ranged units, it cannot attack sea units and is less effective than the basic artillery against anything but tanks, especially considering the price. It also has the Flare unit, which shoots Flares to light areas in Fog of War and doesn't suffer from as many stiff penalties the recon does in forest terrain.
    • Some COs (Commanding Officers) also fall victim to this trope. Max, for instance, has powerful melee units but incredibly weak ranged units. His opposite Grit is generally considered to be a Game Breaker. Other COs suffer from specialisation in units or circumstances not present on all maps at the cost of unit types that are present on nearly every map (for example, Sonja has attack penalties on all units but increased range in Fog of War, which isn't present on every map).
  • The Fire Emblem series takes this to extremes, as not only are archers helpless in melee, but entire classes (cleric, troubadour, etc.) have no combat skills whatsoever, leaving them doomed if the enemy catches them off-guard.
    • Radiant Dawn averts. Archers armed with crossbows or the Infinity Plus One Bow can counterattack at melee range, and clerics can even retaliate with their staff, albeit generally for 0 damage.
    • Also averted in Fire Emblem Gaiden, Archer can melee and shoot more than 2 squares away. They're Game Breaker in that game.
  • Happens a lot in Galactic Civilizations 2. Typically, when computer-controlled, a race focuses on one type of weapons and armour. Terrans, for example, tend to use armour (good vs. mass drivers - basically huge space guns) and lasers (which are blocked by shields), while Drengin tend to focus on mass driver cannons and armour plating. The player, on the other hand, has the option of focusing on areas the closest races are weak against. This then leads to a second example of this trope where your fleet of Terran-killing shielded missile cruisers runs into a squadron from another race with missile defences and heavy-duty mass driver guns who proceed to eat them alive. So you have to go research armour and mass drivers to exploit their weaknesses and hope that you don't run into a third race who like armour and missiles.
    • It's also ludicrously easy to capitalize on a potential enemy's specialization. In some cases, a race will develop a particular weapon (say, mass drivers), and also the defense against that weapon (armor). You can then trade money for their own defense research, and send your now-fully protected ships against his helpless vessels. On higher difficulty levels, you can do this exactly once, and then the AI will counter-research and murder you.
    • It becomes really hilarious when you focus on lasers and point defence, your enemies focus on missiles and shields, and then your spies collar the design for a missile weapon from them so you can give them a rude shock by killing them with their own weaponry.
  • In Sword of the Stars there are ways to counter, weaken and negate pretty much every weapon type. Being overreliant on one weapon type often leads to this as the enemy researches and equips the appropriate counters.
    • Drone carriers can fall into this. While dreadnought versions usually have enough mounted weaponry to act as The Battlestar, those below the wall of battle have the majority of their firepower on their drones and become much less useful once PD works its way through said parasite craft.
    • Interceptor missiles are even better than phasers against big PD targets like guided torpedoes and drones, but are completely unable to maneuver against other missiles.
    • Shield Breakers are excellent are killing shields but don't do anything against the ship proper.
  • Total War tends to avert this: While melee units still don't have ranged weapons, archers can, potentially, be used in melee. Because of their lighter armour and worse melee weapons, however, this is more of a last resort (or used to break wavering units with a flank attack) than anything else.
    • The same it true for artillery crews, who can defend themselves with swords, but aren't even strong enough to fight off peasants with pitchforks.
  • Averted in the first Luminous Arc game, where units typically had one or two skills to cover glaring weaknesses. For instance, Theo, despite being The Archer, had a Flash Drive that was only effective at point-blank range, perfect if your lines were breeched. Later titles play this trope straight.
  • In the Space Empires games the enemy tends to focus on just one type of weapon.
  • Getter 3 and Getter Poseidon in Super Robot Wars are pretty much built for underwater battles because they don't suffer from movement limitation. The main problem is the fact that most of the battles takes place in Air, Ground or Space which the other forms excells in. Add to the fact that most of its attacks cant hit Airborne units(inlucing the Daisetsuzan Oroshi and it become fairly apparent why its the least useful. To compensate for this, Musashi or Benkei posess some of the more useful Seishin amongst their teammates to use in their own Getter form.
    • This frequently happened to the Getter Liger and Getter Two as well, for its ussual inability to attack flying units. In fact, a sizable amount of players said that Getter-1 is the form that you will use 99% of the time, and you should give it adapter anyway.
  • Almost all air units in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri can't capture bases. You've got to use ground units (for bases on the ground) or sea units (for bases in the sea) for that.

Wide Open Sandbox[edit | hide]

Colonel Taggart: We've been preparing to fight the wrong war, We can't beat this! We need to pull out and deal with it at a distance!

  1. And Lockon didn't even want the sabers, but got overruled by the chief engineer, which is why he came up with the idea of pistols with axe-like blades under the barrel, implemented on Dynames' successor Cherudim.
  2. Unless an enterprising company were to genetically engineer new varieties of GMO crops that can grow in harsher environments. Unfortunately, that course of action is expensive and limited to the developed world, so...
  3. Specifically, the primary weapon can force-fire at the ground, onto terrain objects and is normally used against enemies; the secondary can only attack stuff the primary either can't or where the primary would do less damage, PERIOD.
  4. whose only real function is paralyzing combots via a self-destruct EMP
  5. since melee weapons can't attack air units
  6. giant freighters that can transport stations from shipyard to jobsite