Statistically Speaking

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Statistically speaking, the PC is the strongest man in the world. But will the reality reflect this?"

So you've been diligently leveling up, using Upgrade Artifacts, and equipping items to make your strength, magic, and HP stronger and greater, but for some reason you still can't lift the tree blocking your path! Especially jarring if you manage to increase it from 10 to 9,001, but the only quantifiable change is damage dealt to enemies.

A particularly counterintuitive bit of Gameplay and Story Segregation, it includes everything from strength (though it does explain carrying improbable weapons), speed/dexterity (No Super Speed for you), intelligence (can't have the mage see through the Evil Plan, can we?) and HP (You literally have the HP to survive a flamethrower in the face, but can't even get near measly Cutscene flames without intense pain).

Compare to Cutscene Incompetence, contrast with Cutscene Power to the Max for the opposite situation. Compare Plot Lock, where your character can do these sorts of things, but not when the plot demands he shouldn't. Not related to If My Calculations Are Correct.


Tabletop Games

  • Many tabletop games in general avoid this trope, thanks to the presence of a human being judging the rules and interpreting the game's gray areas, instead of a computer that only allows you to do whatever the developers could squeeze into the engine.
  • Early Dungeons and Dragons averted this in two ways. While a character's class abilities improved over time, their base stats didn't without the aid of magic, and only the most powerful of magics could make such a change permanent. At the same time, it was plainly stated that if there was any task a character wanted to attempt that wasn't outlined in the rules, the game master could improvise a check using any of the six ability scores.
    • Starting with 3rd edition, characters could slowly increase their base stats over time, and the Difficulty Class system allows the game master to assign appropriate target numbers even to things that would be "impossible," like balancing on the end of a tree branch or swimming up a waterfall. Of course, these challenges become less impossible as your characters gradually become the stuff of legend, with Charles Atlas Superpower to match.
    • This trope is played straight with mental attributes, however—it's pretty difficult to put yourself in the shoes of somebody who is four times as intelligent as any real-world individual ever will be. Additionally, while the rules do allow you to use your character's Intelligence or Wisdom to solve puzzles, it's explicitly recommended that the Dungeon Master disallow this if it seems like it would be anticlimactic.

Video Games

  • Games by Black Isle Studios were among the first to kick this trope square in the nuts with Fallout, as every skill and ability has multiple applications, including checks made during dialogue, special interactions, and clues that the game can drop in your direction for characters able to notice them. Then they took this approach when making Baldur's Gate, which many considered the first computer game to truly capture the "spirit" of D&D. Bioware and Obsidian (mostly Obsidian, Bioware tends to use the options as pure flavor or as an alternative that gives the same results) continue this tradition today, as seen below.
    • Likewise, Fallout's spiritual sequel Arcanum contains all of the above examples, as well as numerous others. If one achieves 20 strength and dexterity, you will be preternaturally powerful and able to easily solve any problem you can murder your way out of. This is greatly helped by the lack of cutscenes to move the story along.
    • In Dragon Age: Origins, new conversation options are opened thanks to your Cunning attribute. There is, of course, a Coercion skill. Apparently lopping off enemy heads can make you really, really good at convincing people.
    • In Neverwinter Nights, the character's intelligence and wisdom scores affect what dialogue options are offered. Dumb characters get grunting, wise ones intuitive solutions, and smart ones lore.
    • Especially important in Planescape: Torment, where each stat has an effect on at least a few non-combat choices. Because each level gives you another point to place in any stat, whether you've been packing them all into dexterity and wisdom or strength and endurance will determine whether you spot and disarm the trap, or take it like a man.
      • However, in the same game, having maximum charisma does not actually enable The Nameless One to lead the planes to war or even simply recruit additional followers, even though the description implies that he should be able to. Wisdom and Charisma do, however, allow you to TALK characters to death/defeat! It grants you massive stat-ups as well.
    • Knights of the Old Republic does this; improved attributes open up new conversation options, so a particularly intelligent or perceptive character will pick up subtleties that others might miss. The sequel does even more of it.
      • The Let's Play for KOTOR 2 pokes fun at this, since the game's laughably easy "puzzles" become almost insulting if your character has an Int of 14 or higher, since the game literally gives you the answer.
  • The Quest for Glory series includes several skills, all of them used in conjunction with your core stats. Each of the three basic classes will have different starting distributions of stats and skills, and will approach each problem in different ways accordingly: someone with high dexterity and good climbing skill can scale the wall rather than take on the guard at the gate, and so on.
    • Notably, Qf G averts this particular trope: certain actions depend on your abilities at the time, which can be improved. You can't move a very heavy rock until you have a particularly high strength stat, picking a lock requires dexterity and lockpicking skill, and if you don't have a reasonable level of climbing skill at key points, it's Have a Nice Death. Naturally, the only stat that doesn't have a direct effect on gameplay is Intelligence, which is only used to determine your mana points.
      • However, to keep the treadmill going, the same character in Qf G 4 now needs ~350 Climbing to climb a city wall which doesn't really look at all different from the city wall in Qf G 1 which took ~50 Climbing. Likewise for Lockpicking, etc. Maybe Mordavia is just so oppressive that even common tasks require a diehard veteran.
    • Although the "communication" skill wasn't added until the second game, and the moments where it actually makes a difference are rather rare.
      • Communication is specifically related to bartering, which makes it useless in Qf G 4, where bartering isn't an option.
  • The Pokèmon series has this in spades with H Ms.You may have a Scyther who knows how to slice and dice anything in four different fashions, but to get rid of that little shrub blocking your way, you'll need a Pokèmon who knows the (much statistically weaker) move Cut.
  • Near the middle of Fable, there's an (actually unremarkable) mystical weapon stuck into a stone. Unless you manage to get there at maximum physical stats (you can't even be one short), it is impossible to pull the sword when you first get there - you must raise them proportionally or max out later.
    • A pity, too - the sword requires no physical abilities to be used normally once it has been pulled out, though the PC version does let the player simply give it to themselves.
      • Why should it? It would be somewhat redundant, given that you are supposed to have high stats to get it in the first place. (Technically they don't need to be maxed; they can also be sufficiently higher than when you first try it.)
  • In Deus Ex, strength and speed upgrades change the ability to deal with the environment, such as enabling the movement of troublesome boxes or expanding movement abilities, and the levels seem to be designed with this in mind.
    • Oddly, the super strength used to lift heavy objects and the super strength used to hit harder in battle are separate augmentations.
      • This is explained by which muscles are being enhanced. The damage enhancement enhances the arm muscles significantly, whereas the lift enhancement augments the arm, back, shoulders, and legs. i.e. the damage one your arms could take the stress, but you'd still throw out your back or bust all of your joints.
      • Furthermore, "lifting heavy things" isn't the same as "moving things rapidly". Think about a car jack - it lets you lift a car using just your muscles, which is pretty super, but it's not going to help you swing a baseball bat because it's too slow.
    • Although the Shifter game mod fixes this little oddity via combining the two augs into one. Makes it a lot more appealing to use upgrade canisters on, too.
  • An example of stats not being well-connected: video games where Strength improves your damage output, but not the speed at which you swing your weapons (Metroidvanias are especially guilty of this). In real life, being strong increases your "damage output" because it lets you swing your weapon faster (momentum equals mass times velocity, so faster swing = harder hit). Another example is when your movement speed also effects how well you dodge attacks. In reality, running fast (movement speed) and reaction time and acceleration (dodging) are completely separate abilities (although they often come together, e.g. a sprinter has to have all three in order to get good times).
    • This is displayed in many boxing games where hand speed and power are separate stats. This is Truth in Television to some extent, having fast hands does not guarantee power (usually because a boxer sacrifices power for speed). However, games such as Fight Night Round 3 carry it to extremes where a boxer whose hands move like molasses inexplicably do massive damage when they land.
      • Equation for kinetic energy is 1/2mv^2. So, increasing your velocity has more effect on the amount of energy you hit with than mass, because it's squared. A heavy boxer will more often move with their entire body mass, though, which can increase the mass they hit with by a factor or 10 or 20. If the slow as mollases boxers are just half fastie's speed (1/4 the energy) it could be Truth in Television.
        • However, it is only a superficial interpretation of how a punch effects a person. Even so, just because velocity is squared does not mean that is the more important factor. Mass can be altered fairly significantly, not only by increasing weight, but also by technique. Changes to punch velocity are minor. For the same type of motion, there isn't that much difference between a fast boxer and slow boxer in terms of actual velocity. Increasing punch speed also usually requires motions that impart less mass behind it, usually resulting in a weaker punch. That's why jabs, despite being very fast, aren't as effective as a hay maker or upper cut.
      • Hand speed can indeed be separate from punching power. This is because it often refers to something other than the speed of the boxer's hand at impact. Boxers who are referred to as having high hand speed are those who can quickly and unexpectedly punch and return to their guard, allowing them to fire off many punches in rapid succession. This can be achieved through throwing your fists faster, which will increase power, but it can also be achieved by reducing the length of the punching arc, and reducing the amount of lower body motion powering the punch. "Arm punches," punches using only or primarily the arm muscles to generate force, can therefore be considerably "faster" in that they're more difficult to see coming and can be fired quickly in large numbers, but punches using the whole body to generate force are atually moving much faster at impact. In professional boxing, where the number of times you strike your opponent is less important than the damage you do, the latter kind of punch is preferred.
  • Averted in Champions Online. The amount of strength your character has DOES determine how physically strong you are. A character with minimal strength can barely lift a bench or a mailbox, where as a character that has 300 or more strength could easily pick up and toss cars, tanks, or pretty much anything not nailed to the ground.
    • Champions uses a logarithmic scale for strength; a Strength of 300 is actually enough to lift, oh, a smallish mountain range. If the online game really lets you do that, that's impressive.
    • Unfortunately, it falls prey to the above example as well, where weapon wielding heroes don't swing any faster. And made even stranger is some characters that invest in no strength at all and use primarily physical attacks, could do just about as much damage as another who did.
  • In Digital Devil Saga Heat shows off his near single minded devotion of his stats points to strength quite well in cut scenes, even when untransformed he is able to break down stone walls and effortlessly lift people by their throat one handedly.
  • In the Mehrunes' Razor downloadable content for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, you must consume the beating heart of Dagon's former champion in order to pass the gate and claim Mehrunes' Razor. However, if you have a really high strength stat, you can instead spit on Mehrunes' task and just force the gate open with your bare hands and take the Razor.
  • Inverted in The Legend of Zelda. The Golden Gauntlets and similar items make you strong enough to lift blocks the size of small mountains... but only affect lifting strength. Your weapon damage is not increased.
    • They also only affect the lifting strength of your arms; hoist up one of those mega-gigantic things and then watch as poor little Link is stuck there unable to move until you hurl it!
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne has doors which will test your statistics (or sometimes those of your demon allies) in order to see if you are worthy of being allowed passage.
    • And, in a more direct aversion, there is one giant door in particular which you can open by brute force if your Strength stat is high enough. The reward you get is pretty good, too.
  • Super Robot Wars is really guilty of this thanks to the attack damage numbers. However a good and possibly best example might be the gameplay potrayal of Mazinkaiser and Mazingers in general. Mazinkaiser is well known for its unstoppable defense, not its power(which is by the game story considered strong but just high standard of Super Robot Genre) and Mazingers are supposed to be really standard in term of power and specialize in their Endurance therefore making them Mighty Glacier. Yeah, sure while Mazinkaiser is strong in defense, its offense sure isnt as standard as the story suggest. Since they posses the Super Mode Mazinpower which increase their attack power by 25%, this turns their attack FAR stronger than its supposed to be. It says something when its standard Chest Blaster reach higher power level than Explosions like Mei-oh or Final Kaiser Blade BFS(which in canon only strong enough to shake the ground) become even more powerful than Genesic Crusher which destroyed the SOLAR SYSTEM