When All You Have Is a Hammer

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

    "When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

    Abraham Maslow

    A character has a limited offensive repertoire, but the writer wants to make him look clever anyway, so he faces him off against something which requires a little bit of strategy. Unfortunately, this strategy ends up being "Just do what you always do, but slightly better." It's not that our hero is uninventive. He may be an outright MacGyver, but he just doesn't have much to work with.

    Most often, this offensive capability ends up being "punch the other guy really hard", and the "solution" to the current dilemma is "punch the other guy really hard in the face."

    Sometimes, this is a little more elaborate, and the hero has to do something totally different. Then he gets to fall back on his usual strategy. "Cast 'dispel invulnerability' on him. Then punch the other guy really hard. In the face."

    A partial justification is that there are many ways to arrive at what looks like the same conclusion. For example, all of General Patton's strategies were elaborate ways to shoot stuff with tanks, and all successful modern infantry tactics ends the same way: "and then we shoot them."

    This generally happens due to the Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality; the more a character specializes in combat, the smaller the characters' repertoire. If characters can't pull this off, it's Crippling Overspecialization.

    Damage Sponge Boss can be a justification for this trope.

    The All-Solving Hammer is when this becomes a Running Gag. Can sometimes be related to What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway? and Death of a Thousand Cuts. See also Plot Tailored to the Party, Smash Mook. Your Answer to Everything may be said about this. Contrast Every Device Is a Swiss Army Knife when something does have enough functions to tackle a wide range of problems.

    Not related to characters who use hammers as their (primary) weapon. Unless, of course, they use nothing but this hammer at every opportunity.

    Examples of When All You Have Is a Hammer include:

    Anime and Manga

    • Light Yagami's only weapon is a Death Note. It kills people. Can't do much else, of course, so every crime tends to receive the same punishment. By the end of the series, the worst criminals in the world are things like purse-snatchers, so they receive the axe as well.
      • Of course, Light being Light he manages to figure out ways to use the Death Note to accomplish things as a result of a very specific death (since the Note can be used to specify all of the circumstances of one's death); with the right specifications and proper circumstances set up, he can manipulate an FBI agent into giving up his name and writing the names of his fellow FBI agents onto a page of the Death Note.
        • And let's not forget the ending of the first film, in which he gets Naomi Misora to kill Shiori, despite being unable to write the action directly into either murder. Even Ryuk is impressed.
    • Voltron frequently fell into the pattern of having a monster require a clever strategy to weaken it, but then it was always time to form the blazing sword.
    • Parodied in one episode of Samurai Pizza Cats, where the Monster of the Week is fully defeated by a clever stratagem... but then Speedy performs his standard Stock Footage finishing move anyway, because it's in his contract that he gets to do it Once an Episode.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh!! The Movie: Big evil comes back to destroy the world, they defeat it with card games. It's Not Quite Dead, but a quick trading card later...
      • Yu-Gi-Oh! in general. Oh no! A giant that could kill us all with a flick of his wrist is coming at us... well, time to get out the cards.
        • Kaiser was the epitome of this trope, before he had a Freak-Out and got new cards. His entire strategy consisted of summoning Cyber End Dragon OVER AND OVER again.
          • To be fair, he technically only did that once. He did have several other monsters, but everything in his deck was Cyber Dragon based.
        • Meet Youma/Yuma Tsukumo, the new protagonist. Every single duel of his devolves into him seeing how many things he can smash with Number 39: Utopia (or Aspiring Emperor Hope, if you're in Japan). This is despite the fact that every Numbers card he collects is at his disposal.
    • Naruto uses this trope a lot. About halfway into the series, the title character learns this nifty technique called a "Rasengan" and from then on whenever he encounters a problem he infallibly resorts to punching it in the face with this technique. If that doesn't work, 9 times out of 10 he resorts to some variation of it to win.
      • Before he learned Rasengan, his favorite (only) tactic was to bum rush with his shadow clones a lot, then when that by itself inevitably failed, use it in combination with his disguises to sneak his real self into position while his clones distract the villain.
      • Generally speaking, a lot of the time everyone sticks to what they're good at, even if more variety would help. Almost everyone with abilities unique to their clan/bloodline/whatever they thought up never bothers with the multitudes of techniques they could learn anyway. This is probably because the most obvious way to not do that would be letting everyone learn everything—and who wants to read a Fighting Series where everyone has the exact same set of powers?
    • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Hope you like drills.
    • GaoGaiGar, where it is a case of "When All You Have Is A Goldion Hammer".
    • Ippo from the manga Hajime no Ippo is an in-fighter with exceptional power. Unfortunately, that's all he has going for him, so he makes up for it by focusing on being a purebred in-fighter, despite the drawbacks.
      • Pointed out when Ippo learns the Dempsey Roll. At first, he wins a lot of fights by using the massively powerful technique, but after fighting Sawamura Ryuuhei he realizes that he needs to seal the technique in order to ensure future victories; otherwise, all his opponents will start figuring out ways to capitalize on it.
    • Bleach has a couple of examples. Kenpachi Zaraki has no interest in the sort of tactics, strategy or sophisticated moves used by other Shinigami. He relies heavily on his ability to tank blows and his raw, powerful reiatsu. As a result, his general tactic is to charge at things and slice them one-handed. When the going gets tough enough, his strategy consists of slicing things two-handed instead. Against Tousen, once he'd ruled out that he was really bad at strategy, he concluded his best solution was simply to rely heavily on his tanking ability and tank a sword to the gut just so he could grab Tousen. In doing this, he accidentally negated Tousen's bankai (although he never understood how) which allowed him to win the fight.
      • See also Ichigo. When all you have is Getsuga Tensho and a tendency to rush in, everything's a contest of power, which he has in spades.
      • Hitsugaya and Harribel get trapped in a battle that consists of this. No matter how pretty or powerful their strategies get against each other, every single tactic boils down to Hitsugaya trying to throw more ice at Harribel than she can cope with and Harribel trying to throw more water at Hitsugaya than he can cope with.
      • Yasutara Sado's El Directo was his hammer for a very long time, until he got his second hammer, Le Muerete.
    • Contractors in Darker than Black get only one ticket in Superpower Lottery. Some adopt the "hit it with a hammer" approach and act like walking guns with a single type of ammo, but smarter or Badass ones are more than just their powers. Hei and Wei, as martial artists, use sound tactics and combine powers with normal moves. In addition, some contractors are very versatile and find a Mundane Utility or dozen if possible. Force whip cuts bottle necks, people or incoming projectiles just as well. Ice may immobilize, stab or shield. Electrical discharges allow to attack via various conductors, repair a TV, crack electrical locks, defibrillate hearts, tweak particle beams, alter substances...
    • Mahou Sensei Negima: If Jack Rakan has anything to say about it, just about every problem can be solved by summoning a sword. Or multiple swords. Or a sword the size of a skyscraper. Or he could just flex his muscles—that works, too.'
      • Actually subverted: Rakan has seen every trick in the book, twice. Much of his apparent invincibility comes from his flexibility, knowledge, and cleverness. Of course, he keeps this a secret, only using his intelligence when it's evident that his "Rakan Smash" technique won't work.
        • And then when intelligence and strategy prove useless against Fate, he shows just how ridiculously strong his "Rakan Smash" technique is regardless.
      • Negi also seems to have a tendency to solve problems by making Pactios with his students. It's a bit of joke in the fandom that he can solve any problem by finding the right girl and snogging her.
        • And it's not even limited to just his students anymore! This is HOW he unmasks Shiori/Luna of all people.
      • Negi's father Nagi plays this straighter: He states outright at one point that if he can't solve the world's problems by beating up bad guys, someone else will come along with a better solution.
    • Captain Luffy of One Piece tends to get caught up in adventures of political intrigue, corrupt governments, and false Gods. His general solution to the problem is to find the most powerful guy on the opposing side and beat the crap out of him. He's even been known to run off while the other characters were planning their elaborate strategy because he figured he could get to the guy whose ass he wants to kick faster on his own.
      • This is in general true with more or less all Devil Fruit users, who usually have no other combat abilities whatsoever, but learn to utilize what they have in extremely varied ways. Luffy himself is no exception.
      • It's even mentioned at one point that the devil fruit's powers don't get any stronger, but the user gets more inventive with how they use their ability.
        • Bartholomew Kuma deserves a specific mention. His DF power is to push things. Somehow, he figured out that his means he can "push" pain from somebody's body.
    • In the manga series Fairy Tail, the main character Natsu has the power to project/eat/breathe/be immune to/etc. fire. He fights an opponent whose main power is the ability to shoot fire, so he's not affected and goes to deliver a flaming punch. Natsu then learns that his opponent can control fire, so he makes the hero punch himself in the face. Natsu's response to learning that his only weapon can be used against him? Use more fire! He did this until he finally makes a fire blast too big for the enemy to control, thus winning the fight.
      • Another time, Natsu faced an opponent who could cripple Natsu's offensive ability by using his wind armor to blow away Natsu's flames. The winning solution? Make more fire.
      • One more, he goes against a opponent who can nullify magic covers himself in a shielding that hurt Natsu if he punches into it. Natsu's solution, use his flames on his elbow to give him the velocity to break through the barrier. Let's just say Natsu good at improvising with his flame magic.
    • Getter Robo: "If it doesn't work, we'll just have to make it work!" Though the series uses comparatively more strategy in its battles than other Super Robot shows, an awful lot of problems are solved by just getting a bigger axe and hitting things with it.
      • And then things get crazy when we get into combining.
    • Pokémon's Team Rocket trio up to no good? Use a Pokémon to shock them or pop their balloon. A giant serpent gone mad, destroying the countryside? Why tranquilize it when you can defeat it with a couple of two-foot tall monsters? All of time and space in the process of being destroyed? Good thing we've got just the Mon for the job. Every once in a great while, a Guest Star Party Member would throw a tranq dart at it, or calm it down with The Power of Friendship, but 99% of the episodes have been solved by "battling it with a Pokémon until you can throw a Poké Ball at it." This is especially painfully obvious in the episode where Ash fights Brock for the Boulder Badge. What does he do when his Pikachu can't beat Brock in a straight fight? He charges his Pikachu up with MORE ELECTRICITY! Sadly, this tactic works, even though no amount of electricity should've made any difference.
      • To be fair, any tactic other than "use a Pokémon" would've been cheating.
      • That's a weird example, too- Misty offers to loan him a water Pokémon, which would have solved the problem and is the obvious solution. Ash goes with the lightning.
        • Ash was the Idiot Hero back then, and a combination of pride and stubbornness made him stick by his decision. Either way, he always prefers to defeat an opponent with his own Pokémon and strategies than rely on the easy way out.
      • When he faced Drake, the leader of the Orange Crew, Ash used this tactic to take down Drake's first Pokemon. That first Pokemon was a Ditto that would copy the appearance and moves of its opponent, which caught Ash and Pikachu off guard when the match began. Misty suggested that Ash change Pokemon, but he pointed out that Ditto would simply change shape again into whichever Pokemon he sent out next. He eventually defeated the Ditto by simply having Pikachu blast it with everything he had, realizing that while the Ditto might have copied Pikachu's abilities, it couldn't copy Pikachu's power level and couldn't take as much punishment.
    • Speed Racer The Movie: When told that racing isn't going to solve the world's problems, he says, "Racing is the only thing I know how to do, and I gotta do something."
    • In Blame, Killy's solution to everything is "shoot it with the Gravitational Beam Emitter". Granted, when you have a pistol that can leave a 70 km long hole in absolutely everything, that's one hell of a hammer to just swing around.
    • Rurouni Kenshin's Saito Hajime follows the philosophy that a warrior does not need several special moves. He needs only a single move refined to the point of perfection. Thus, his only named attack is his Gatotsu and uses variations when the situation calls for them. Opponent above you? Gatotsu second form. Opponent dodging? Gatotsu slash form. Need to bust down a door? Gatotsu. Need to clear rubble? Gatotsu, of course!
      • In the final series of battles, when Saito's "perfect" attack is foiled by his opponent and Gatotsu is defeated (or so the opponent thinks), Saito shows that all he needs is a slight variation in his move to win.
      • A point is made that Saito only needs two things: his Gatotsu and Aku Soku Zan. This is because two warriors generally met in battle once, since most ended in death; thus if you had one move honed to perfection with which you could defeat any opponent... why not?

    Kenshin: If Hajime Saito could be defeated just by defeating his Gatotsu, the duel between him and I would have been settled long ago in Kyoto during the Bakumatsu...

      • Sanosuke also adheres to this philosophy. Tough enemy? Take the blow, and return the favor with a punch. Not strong enough? Hit even harder with Futae no Kiwami.
    • In Letter Bee, the Letter Bees' heart bullets are not only their typical way of killing armor bugs, but for main character Lag Seeing, they can apparently show people what's in others' hearts, resulting in him learning about and sharing other people's pasts and solving seemingly impossible problems- often in the middle of killing the bug of the week.
    • Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch has all enemies defeated with song. The only time this didn't work was when an enemy COVERED HER EARS (shock, horror). They steal her hat, and the song defeats her. Music also apparently cures illness, brainwashing, and changes the weather... so actually might be a flexible tool?
    • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: "Punch him really hard in the face" is literally the hero's big plan for defeating the final villain. Word for word. AND IT WORKS.
      • Jotaro has a variation, punching Dio in the knee.
    • In Yakitate!! Japan, Azuma's bread has taught people to swim, reunited a father and son, and altered history. And that's just from one story arc.
    • In Saint Seiya, Athena's Saints typically have anywhere between three to four attack techniques: a basic, general-purpose one; a mid-level one for difficult foes; a situational specialty; and a Dangerous Forbidden Technique that might kill the Saint and his foe. Seiya himself has three, but he has only used the Pegasus Rolling Crush and Pegasus Comet Punch exactly once each, preferring to just spam his Pegasus Meteor Punch against every. Single. Enemy. Always. And if it doesn't work, he'll do it again, but faster.
      • Seiya actually uses the Rolling Crush and the Comet Punch when they're practical. The Comet Punch is just one big blast, easy enough to block or dodge so he needs an opening for it to work. The Rolling Crush is more of the same; it's kinda useless if you can't grab your opponent and have room to jump.
    • Meet Touma of A Certain Magical Index. He has one hammer, his Anti-Magic right hand which he uses to great effect by punching and or blocking. Enemy in your path, punch him in the face. Attack coming your way, dodge or block? That is the question. Still, it seems to serve him well. And it's not like he could try to do much else anyway...
      • Also Mikoto, who ends all fights with her trusty Railgun and Accelerator, who end all by changing vectors. Given that most, if not, all people their owns one kind of power, we might say that most heroes in the series ends their problems with the only hammer they have.
        • Misaka tends to avert this trope in her Railgun spin-off, however, in which she uses her basic power (electricity manipulation) in a staggering array of different ways. This includes subverting security systems, reading electrical impulses in people's brains, and magnetizing the armouring in concrete in order to walk on walls (which begs the question of what exactly her shoe soles are made of...). She rarely uses the actual Railgun move because it's not exactly collateral damage-free.
        • Accelerator also starts to subvert this after he loses his powers because he can only use them with the help of a very fallible radio collar with limited batteries. He of course turns to none other than good ol' guns when he wants to conserve electricity.
    • Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the Sengoku Basara anime has The Strategist Hanbei make plans for him: The man himself approaches problems mainly by punching them, and if that does not work, punching it harder. His introduction sees him defang the Uesugi and Takeda clan by punching all their arrows out of the sky (and punching a hole in the cloud cover in the process), and he defeats Chousokabe Motochika and his enormous floating fortress by punching the Setochi inland sea so hard that it splits.
    • Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt: A little quiz, shall we? It's the Darkest Hour. Your partner in crime-fighting has been Put On A Bus, you've been left depowered, and the friendly neighbourhood Big Bad has kidnapped the closest thing you have to a Love Interest in order to open a gate to Hell with his penis. So, what do you do? If you have any idea what this show has been like previously, you should know that Panty's answer is fuck a guy. The best part? It turns out to be EXACTLY the right thing to do.
    • Durarara!! has Saika, a demonic blade that truly loves humanity and wants nothing more than to express that love. Unfortunately, its a sword, so the only way it knows how to do anything is to cut it.
    • Virtually every episode of G Gundam ends with Domun ending his battle with the same move. When he learns a new move, he doesn't increase his repertoire, he just replaces the hammer. Given the name of the first two finishing moves he uses, you could say that he effectively wins fights by giving his enemies The Finger.
    • Kekkaishi has a good deal of this. As a Kekkaishi killing monsters typically comes down to 1) Form Barrier. 2) Explode what's in barrier. It starts to get interesting when characters realize that there's a hell of a lot you can do with just a box shaped barrier. Thin, long ones are like spikes, many small ones act like restraints, a barrier inside another barrier explodes exponentially harder. They have other powers, but they typically don't need them.
    • Prince of Tennis: Some of the characters in the series have a limited arsenal of shots. Kaidoh only has one called "The Snake"...along with many variations to confuse opponents.

    Comic Books

    • Miles Morales, the second Spider-Man from Ultimate Spider-Man, has this approach to super-heroism. Miles isn't particularly aggressive, so he typically bounces around until he can get in close and then pokes the villain with his paralyzing venom strike. The venom strike has so far been instantly debilitating to villains twice Miles' size, so it's the only strategy he needs. Also relevant:

    Spider-Man: Okay. Guy's crazy.
    The Ringer: YOU WILL NOT TOUCH ME!
    Spider-Man: All I need to do is smack the crazy off his face...

    • There's always the title character of the comic book Groo the Wanderer by Sergio Aragones. Aside from being the godchild of Fate herself, which protects him from all manner of schemes both vengeful and proactively self-defensive, Groo has... swords. And lots of skill with swords. Not that he's beneath taking an errand or two, but he usually messes that up, or else does the errand far too late, or talks about it to the wrong person. And then a couple of armies storm the village and he kills everybody with his swords. Swords rule!
    • One of the older Thor annuals in his Marvel Comics series involved Loki stealing his hammer (see Mythology below) in order to escape from his mystical prison. Thor fights through much of Asgard in order to get it back, solving various problems by making hammers out of nearby materials.
    • In a Crisis Crossover in The DCU a few years ago, Superboy Prime, who was previously Ret-Gone, punched his way back into continuity. He punched at the walls of time and space until he existed again.
      • Although it should be noted that he was in a (rather large) Pocket Dimension at the time; the "walls of time and spice" was an actual, reachable, delineated area.
    • Spider Jerusalem from Transmetropolitan usually doesn't use firearms except for self-defence, but for everything else, there's the (usually) non-lethal bowel disruptor to incapacitate painfully and messily.
    • Well-Spoken Sonic Lightning Flash of the Super Young Team is a speedster. When the team temporarily disbanded, he did the one thing that felt right: he walked aimlessly. His thing is forward motion, and it's all he knows. That's why his immediate reaction to most problems is to simply run directly at them.
    • The Incredible Hulk, of course, frequently violates the "clever trick" aspect of this by simply beating things harder and harder until they break anyway, regardless of how cleverly designed or how skilled they are at absorbing or avoiding damage. He is thus the ultimate "hammer" and disabuser of the notion of rock/paper/scissors story design.
    • Lampshaded early on in Ultimate Spider-Man, when Peter gets his ass kicked by The Kingpin and Electro, and realises that just because he can shoot a web at someone then punch them really hard, doesn't mean he should stop using his brain. He goes back for a second round but with a plan this time - the Enforcers end up in jail, The Kingpin has to flee the country as a known murderer, and Electro is taken into S.H.I.E.L.D custody. (Of course, most of this work is undone eventually because Status Quo Is God, but Peter does continue to use his brain thereafter.)
    • Although he's intelligent, and is capable of coming up with plans and tactics, Superman's default method of attack is just to fly up to a problem and punch it. Given that he's Superman, this does solve a number of problems. Likewise for Supergirl, Superboy, Power Girl and any other Kyptonians.
    • Very common for most X-Men, especially more minor characters, to fall under the trope and basically be reliant solely on their mutant powers. This is not completely universal for every mutant though. For example, Gambit very notably has many non-mutant skills and can manipulate his powers in a lot of different ways. Generally, his well known Death Dealer approach is most emphasized when he plays a minor role in a comic.
      • Another X-Men example is their reliance on the Fastball Special, especially during Joss Whedon's run on Astonishing. Lampshaded by Emma Frost when she once told Colossus, "You can't just throw people at all your problems, dear."
    • In War Machine' case, it's "When all you have is an electric minigun, a missile box and a crapload of other guns".



    • Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter, who could do only one spell with any degree of competence: memory erasure.
      • While Harry does use a variety of spells, he generally only uses them after Expeliarmus fails.
      • Voldemort and his Death Eaters tend to spam Avada Kedavra. And that's about it, really. Voldy does get to fly in the last book, but it's mostly just him flying and spamming Avada Kedavra even more.
        • Somewhat ironically, if they stopped using the humanly-dodgeable, single target bright green spell and instead went for instant-effect spells like cutting curses or massive Area of Effect Kill'Em All spells like Fiendfyre, they might have won. After all, Harry would have had a hard time reincarnating as a pile of ashes, or a torn-up corpse. At the very least, they might have been more effective. Then again, if the Death Eaters had been smart, the series would have been over in book four or five.
        • The only verbal spells Voldemort uses are the three unforgivable ones. Period. And he wouldn't even have died in the first place if he'd just used Stupefy or even Imperius on Lily!
    • This became a problem for Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Granted, the Force isn't so much a hammer as it is a complete garage full of the best power tools money can't even begin to buy, but even the Jedi of the old order, flawed though they were, knew that Jedi had to have tools and training beyond lightsabers and the Force. It was "fixed", temporarily, by one author, who noted that Yoda, Obi-Wan, and so on didn't use the Force except when forced to make a point, and that excessive Force use—coming to see the Force as a sonic screwdriver—was the equivalent of making a whole lot of noise all the time, making you unable to hear even important whispers.
      • Again in the Star Wars Expanded Universe: when he established the Academy, Luke initially doesn't see the use for any weapon but lightsabers. Corran points out, however, that lightsabers have no stun setting, and convinces Luke to have the trainees study basic unarmed combat too.
        • Somewhat justified when you consider that he was taught in a few months an art that should have taken years, all Yoda and Obiwan had time to do was teach him the hammer.
    • In the 4th and later books in Spider Robinson's Callahans Crosstime Saloon series, mass-telepathy becomes the go-to solution for whatever horrible conflict is currently facing our intrepid barflies, even referencing the quote at the top of the page. It almost turns into the literary equivalent of Overly-Long Fighting Animation. In the first three, the problems are on a much more personal level, and the solutions are far less predictable. The group telepathy doesn't even show up until halfway through the final story in the third book.
    • Subverted in Gromyko's Witch as Profession series. The heroine once explains: "A battlemare can't win by just dishing fireball after fireball, you must THINK, and fast!"
    • In Only You Can Save Mankind, Johnny accused Kirsty of having a mind like a hammer and treating everyone else like a nail.
      • Another example from the same book would be Johnny initially keeping firing when the aliens in his video game try to surrender. After all, there wasn't a Don't Fire button.
    • Anita Blake. Except all she has are her genitals.
    • Late in the Animorphs series, Jake makes this assertion regarding Visser Three.

    Jake: "Visser Three doesn't do tactics. He fights with a sledgehammer."
    General Doubleday: "If you have a big enough sledgehammer, that's all you need, son."


    Concentrated now in the one Sword was all of Vulcan's power, and all his hope. He knew that he must win with it, or die.

    • The page quote comes back often in Liberty's Crusade, seeing how Mengsk' primary strategy to solve every problem is to plant a PSI Emitter near it and let the Zerg take care of the rest (followed by the entire planet being incinerated by the Protoss).
    • Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse in Cryptonomicon is more or less useless in any situation that doesn't involve mathematics. It's rather astounding the number of different ways he does manage to bring this particular hammer to bear.
    • Honor Harrington: Baron High Ridge and the rest of their cabinet know nothing about political strategy except as regards domestic jostling between factions and interests. As a result, they blindly set the Kingdom of Manticore up for an interstellar war by being nothing but normal sleazy politicians engaged in what they think is routine sleaze and look at foreign policy as somehow an extension of that.


    • Send The Marines by Tom Lehrer ("Fortunately, in times of crisis like this, America always has its number one instrument of diplomacy to fall back on...").

    Live Action TV

    • Power Rangers is a particularly Egregious offender, almost every episode requiring that they devise some special technique to render the monster defeatable by one of the stock finishing moves. Several noteworthy examples:
      • The second season's Mecha-Mooks, Z-Putties, were completely indestructible unless you knew their weakness. This weakness: being punched really hard at a point in the middle of their chest which is conveniently marked. (Despite learning this weakness during their first encounter, the heroes never aimed for it immediately, which would've made the show both realistic and boring.) This once led to them being defeated by ten-year-olds with dodgeballs.
      • In another early episode, the Power Rangers are faced with evil doubles that they aren't able to beat, so Zordon gives them new weapons...which look exactly like their old weapons. (Specifically, they're stronger versions meant to overpower the Mutant Rangers' weapons)
      • SPD: Reflections: Sam, who can turn into a ball of light, realizes that a monster's weakness is the mirrors built into its chest. So, is his brilliant tactical strategy to somehow leverage his light-form to turn those mirrors into a liability? Nope, the answer is "punch him really hard in the chest." To be fair, though, his Super Sentai counterpart didn't turn into a ball of light, and this monster battle was undoubtedly done with Stock Footage from SPD's' Sentai counterpart, so this is barely forgivable. If you're fighting a monster made out of one of the most brittle substances around, devising a strategy more complicated than "punch it really hard and watch it shatter" is over-thinking things anyway.
      • Operation Overdrive: Man of Mercury: Future Sixth Ranger, Tyzonn, has the power to turn himself into mercury, T-1000 style. Faced with the need to stop an alien army from escaping their imprisonment in a mirror, you might think that he'll use the reflective qualities of his mercury form in some way, as he'd been seen to do a few scenes earlier. He does end up using his powers: he extends his reach and smashes the mirror. Power Rangers writers seem inordinately fond of smashing mirrors.
        • A different example is pointed out in at least one review of the episode "Both Sides Now" in which the Black Ranger seemingly defects for the purpose of stealing back an artifact from the bad guys. While it's clear that it wouldn't have gone as smoothly if the Rangers didn't have a career criminal on their team, it's also likely that they would never have even thought to try the Fake Defector plot if someone with Will's skill set wasn't around.
      • But finally something different in Power Rangers RPM: "Doctor K": Faced with a monster that can duplicate anything it can reflect in its mirror, Dr. K does a well-timed feint, causing it to duplicate not her weapon, but a generator the rangers need two of.
        • Still, it wouldn't be Power Rangers without falling back on the old chestnut. While all this is going on, the Rangers defeat a larger version of the same monster by a well-placed flying kick to the chest-mirrors.
    • Despite being surprisingly sophisticated in its character drama and plot development, Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future was prone to resolving all its moments of suspense by the simple expedient of having it turn out that the heroes were not hurt quite so badly as it had at first appeared.
    • In several episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when the story required a less than super character to handle a situation on their own, it was suggested that Buffy sit that one out as it didn't require slaying, citing Buffy's tendency to respond to even minor conflict with violence. And while she has quite a repertoire, her go-to weapon is a good-ol' pointy stick.

    Buffy: Why don't I just put a stake through [Anyanka's] heart?
    Giles: She's not a vampire.
    Buffy: You'd be surprised how many things that'll kill.

    —"The Wish"
      • She also uses an Anti-tank weapon to take down a particularely tough demon on one occasion.
    • Lily Aldrin solves all of life's problems by treating them as she would in a kindergarten class and recommends her friends do the same.
    • Claude Raines stopped Peter Petrelli from turning New York into rubble in Heroes with a well-placed right cross. Given that he was played by Christopher Eccleston, it was awesome.
      • This is similar to the method used to stop the alien villain in the Doctor Who serial "City of Death."
    • In any Cop Show featuring a Cool Car, there will be a Chase Scene at least Once an Episode (e.g., Alarm Fuer Cobra 11, Starsky and Hutch, see also The Dukes of Hazzard.)
    • Frank has a gun. He wants you to know that and will pull it out at the slightest provocation in what is otherwise a (very dark) Sitcom. It's basically the only reason anybody ever does anything he says.
    • Cameron in The Sarah Connor Chronicles, being a literal killing machine, tends to view any problem in the context of how many people she has to kill, treating alternative methods with anything from bemusement to derision. That she is willing to apply other methods (including but not limited to her epic levels of Fetish Fuel) as the series progresses is an important point of Character Development for her.
    • In Stargate Atlantis, the titular city is invaded by aliens in powered armor who have come to steal a device. During their escape, one provides cover by throwing up an energy shield which blocks bullets. Undaunted by this, the heroes unload on this guy for nearly 30 seconds, eventually breaking the shield and killing him.
      • Of course these aliens (the Asgard) have long ago written off ballistic weapons as archaic.
    • Subverted by Doctor Who. Sure, all The Doctor has is a Sonic Screwdriver, but it has more features than a swiss army knife with extra hammer space. If we're to judge by Doctor Who, the grand unifying theory of science is that everything is controlled by screws. In fact, it was temporarily taken off the show because it was feared it would become a Game Breaker, so to speak.
    • Across assorted tv and live shows, Australian comedy troupe the Doug Anthony All Stars had a running gag involving moral dilemmas, each of which would describe a particular quandary in varying amounts of detail, including situations involving alcholism, losing a job and so on. The last line of each dilemma was inevitably "You have... a hammer."
      • Except for unwanted pregnancies where it ends with "You have... a coathanger."
    • The titular character from Angel will often claim to have a plan to solve the current crisis. If any of the other characters bother to ask for details, it usually involves going in the front door of the bad guy's lair and stabbing it/them. (In another humorous case, the plan to avoid security was "walk really fast", and then, of course, stab something.)
    • How many times did Star Trek's Captain Kirk punch an offending alien in the face? Or order his crew to fire phasers?
      • Handheld phasers borders between Every Device Is a Swiss Army Knife and this trope - on the one hand they can be used in a fair number of non-weapon ways (plus, they can serve as improvised explosives), but on the other hand a lot of problems were solved by firing at someone/something until it fell down/exploded/disintegrated.
    • There is an interesting variation on the Leverage episode The Rashomon Job where each of the various thieves tried to steal the same rare dagger on the same night using their designated skills and inadvertently sabotaged each other, only to realize that the mastermind of the group had really ended up with it. This was before any of them ever really met, mind. it also turned out that the dagger was really a fake and that it was all just an insurance scam.
      • Eliot often plays this straight as well. His primary means of gaining a proper disguise is to beat up the person wearing it and steal it.
    • A nonviolent variant from MythBusters: No matter what the problem, Grant has the same solution: build a robot.
    • In the Red Dwarf episode Meltdown, Pythagoras believes there is a solution to the war, possibly involving triangles. Einstein is annoyed saying "Always with the triangles".
    • Babylon 5: John Sheridan's motto appears to be, "When in doubt, nuclear warheads."
      • It gets to the point that the saying can be rephrased "When all you have is a hammer, everything else is also a hammer" in his case. A strange alien probe has appeared and is acting in an illogical manner? It must be a nuke. Granted, Sheridan was right that time, but still.
    • Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear is particularly fond of hammers, using them at every opportunity even when it's not the best idea in the world.

    Professional Wrestling

    • Several wrestlers can win pretty much any match with their Finishing Move. When Batista claimed the STFU (a submission move) was completely useless in a Last Man Standing Match, John Cena proceded to lock him in it until he passed out, then counted to ten, proving him wrong.
    • Many of the less athletic pros out there fall under this, The Great Khali being amongst the top offenders. He has literally three "moves": overhead chop, choke-bomb, head-vice. The last two are finishing moves, and anything that doesn't involve swinging his arm over his head is either basically just running into someone, pushing them in various ways, and falling on them in various ways while the ring announcers desperately try to call it a leg/elbow drop.


    • Tales of the Norse god Thór sport an early example of this trope, as his repertoire was so limited that he was always content to solve any problem with a literal hammer, no matter the odds. This was actually lampshaded though, as Thór once lost the hammer to theft, and was then screwed to the point of begging Loki's help to get it back.
      • Averted once when Alvíss, the all-knowing king of the dwarfs, wanted to marry Thór's daughter Thrúd. Thór kept Alvíss busy and distracted with questions until sunrise, knowing that sunlight would turn the dwarf into stone.
    • Zeus used transformations to sleep with women or solve problems. (The rest of the time, he threw lightning bolts.)

    Tabletop Games

    • The only thing the Imperial Guard of Warhammer 40,000 really have going for them? Guns and manpower. When confronted by the enemies of Man, they employ both of these, and if that doesn't work, they just keep throwing bigger guns and more men at it until it breaks.
    • GURPS give us the Hidebound Disadvantage, meaning a character prefers to use tried and true methods, or in some cases is psychologically unable to do otherwise, that have served them well in the past.
    • Dungeons & Dragons:
      • Specialist wizards could sacrifice breadth of knowledge for depth. By forsaking one (in AD&D2 - there are much more multiple-school spells that will be denied too) or two (in D&D3) of eight schools of magic, the Wizard chose one other school and gained a special spell slot at each spell level that could only hold a school from his chosen school. Elementalists are slightly different, but mostly also treated as specialists - have spells related to the opposing element prohibited.
        • A splatbook adds the "Focused Specialist" class variant in which a wizard could sacrifice a third school to gain two more spell slots for their chosen school (for three extra slots total...at the cost of forbidding the wizard to use roughly 1/3 of the spells on his class list). and 3e version of Forgotten Realms Red Wizard does much the same.
        • Some specialist wizards end up more specialized than others. Necromancers at least have Black (not much) and White (very little) arts, Summoners have acid arrows and suchlike, but what sort of spells do you think a Fire Elementalist is going to have? Protection from fire, hurling fire, breathing fire, beating with fire, fire wall, fire cloud, fire trap and... and... yeah, right, that's about it.
        • Forgotten Realms has elven Dualists who instead of not having spells from one school opposed to the one chosen, have spells only from the chosen and the opposite schools - but with greater specialist bonuses. Not quite as bad as it sounds, because elven wizards are generally more capable of teamwork than others, and most would find someone to complement each other's "blind spots". Still, it was described as a dying out tradition.
      • Other (typically less useful) classes also forced specialization on individual characters. For instance, Shugenja had to forbid a quarter of their class list from their class list, Warlocks could only ever learn about 1/4 of the available Invocations, and all spontaneous casters (save the Spirit Shaman) had to permanently commit to a small pool of the spells on their list. The sublime martial artists of The Book of Nine Swords faced similar restrictions.
      • 3.x had this in spades among players. The best fighter build, for instance, is considered to be one which uses feats to give a ridiculous number of bonuses to a charge, then praying for that one charge to kill the opponent.
      • Although spellcasters aren't generally subject to this as much, since their big advantage tends to be a lot of versatility, there's a feat called Arcane Thesis, which lets you really specialize in a single spell above all others. Paired with a few other abilities, you can pile on the metamagic for an empowered, twin, chain, repeat, maximized, enervating, admixed, searing orb of cold that deals solely fire damage, and enough of it to literally kill gods. But, you won't be able to do much else, and it's actually considered one of the weaker ways to go. Yes, godslaying is subpar for casters. Go figure.
      • The known named, themed series of spells, especially from the classic characters - Bigby's Hands, Otiluke's spheres, etc lead to the jokes about how those wizards do everything in the same way. Especially when you know that Greyhawk materials have much more of these than Player's Handbook, and indeed with more varied application of the same. Making up additional - usually silly (or perverted) - variants for these collections became something of a Running Gag in the player circles.
    • Exalted:
      • The Green Sun Princes are explicitly told to move away from this paradigm. What separates them from their Yozi masters is that they can think outside of the box and mix-and-match their masters' gimmicks to best deal with the situation at hands.
      • The Yozis, on the other hand, have this as a fundamental tenet of their existence. For Malfeas, "solve this problem" = "use overwhelming force to solve this problem". Someone has to die? Smash them into a pulp. Need to debate someone? Shout them down.
    • Though the sheer length of time that Magic: The Gathering has been around means that each of the five colors have a vast and expansive repertoire of spells at their disposal, each color tends to fall back on the same themes time and again. The biggest offenders are Red, the color of "throw fire/lightning/goblins at it", and Green, the color of "throw nature at it".
      • "Of course you should fight fire with fire. You should fight everything with fire." Jaya Ballard, Task Mage.

    Video Games

    • Players can fall into this in RPG games that have multiple solutions to problems, particularly if they optimize characters for combat rather than diplomacy. How this is handled can vary from a drop on the Karma Meter, to economic penalties, to nothing at all.
    • Summon Night exemplifies this trope.
      • The hammer is a Craft Knight's first weapon, as well as a tool for producing more weapons.
      • In the very first Swordcraft Story game, Pratty (or Cleru, but who uses him anyway?) can't get in the labyrinth without a weapon, but she can't forge a weapon without first collecting the materials from the labyrinth, so what she going to do? Why, use a hammer of course!
      • Then in the second game, Aera (or the guy, whatever his name is) is given the materials to make a basic dagger... which promptly breaks after the first boss fight. Then she gets another set... which ends up poorly forged and breaks immediately. Cue Hammer Time at the local forest.
      • Also, the hammer is the Emergency Weapon of the game, and is always used whenever the player breaks all of their equipped weapons (or has none equipped to start with).
      • During tournament battles in the first Swordcraft Story, each Craft Knight gets to bring a single weapon to battle. If a combatant's weapon breaks, they lose.
    • Jet Set Radio/Jet Grind Radio: The evil millionaire is summoning demons with a turntable. Since this is a graffiti game, you have to spray paint all over his sigils to defeat him.
    • City of Heroes and City of Villains. Click on things, and blow them up. You can blow them up in a variety of interesting and unique ways, or even heal people while blowing them up, but you'll blow them up. Trying to find the Council's hidden base, key to their plot to take over the world? Screw infiltration or keeping an ear to the ground; you'll just blow up Council till one of them spill the beans. Need to develop a new component based on Freakshow and Rikti technology? No, we won't be scavenging their bases; just go and blow them up. In fact, there are many missions that are ostensibly about "investigating" enemy bases; this can reliably be interpreted as "pound every single opponent on the entire map into the ground." The development team has tried to subvert this, but attempts usually fail internally due to it simply not being as fun as blowing things up.
      • As a general rule of thumb, any task, no matter what its objective is, can be accomplished by simply beating up everything that can be beaten up in the target area. There IS, however, at least one subversion in a mission specifically supposed to be about stealth. On it, defeating certain enemies will actually FAIL the mission, which can catch people by surprise.
      • It's also why Mayhem Missions (Blow everything up) is generally considered more fun that Safeguard Missions (Stop people from blowing stuff up. Granted, you stop people from blowing stuff up by blowing them up, but still...
    • Is this a Cryptic Studios thing? Basically any mission in Star Trek Online involves either shooting crowds of enemies alongside your BFG-wielding bridge officers on a planet or a space station, or else blowing up waves of enemy ships in an asteroid field. It took a serious amount of player outcry just to get a diplomacy system implemented, and this is The Federation we're talking about. The Klingon faction essentially has nothing to do but blow other people out of the stars, whether that's their actual enemies or other Houses.
    • Sonic Blast Man proves that all problems can be solved through gratuitous use of the 100-Megaton Punch. Gangster stealing a lady's purse? Hit him with a right cross through the jaw. Meteor threatening the Earth? Body-blow that sucker straight out of orbit.
    • Hammerfight: you swing a hammer around your craft by moving it and letting the attached free-swinging hammer or sword get tugged around. That's it for attacking, defending, and everything.
    • Portal's gameplay is centered around applying the same one tool (the Portal gun) to solve puzzles and defeat enemies. Having said that, the Portal gun lends itself to slightly more creative applications than, say, a left hook.
    • Team Fortress 2
      • In general, game strategy can be described as "Find creative ways to keep your enemy occupied while the The Medic builds up his Ubercharge."
      • The Engineer is a better example. As the Meet the Engineer video says "The answer...use a gun. And if that don't work, use more gun." A built up sentry gun, or several built up sentry guns can even defeat an Uber.
    • Tsukihime: And then Shiki stabbed the unkillable super death machine vampire. And it died. Next! If you want someone to do a different method of fighting, talk to Arcueid (Wolverine Claws, Marble Phantasm, Mystic Eyes, Healing Factor etc) or Ciel (sword fighting, sword chucking, the Seventh Scripture, magic) because Shiki is noted even in story as basically skipping all the complicated parts so long as he gets near his target, to the point that his surviving to get near is the whole tension in his fights - once he can get the stab in, it's done.
    • Touhou:
      • All characters solve their squabbles with relatively non-lethal combat magic. The first boss is almost never related to the real incident of the game; nonetheless, delivering beat downs to at least three random youkai will always point a heroine in the correct direction of the person responsible. Then you deliver a beat down to that person as well, and come back in a week to deal with their quirky entourage. Getting hit in the face with a bullet is practically a "hello" in Gensokyo.
      • Many characters come with a special gimmick and their Vancian spellcards play on as many non-lethal applications of this power as they can imagine. Other characters, based on folklore and youkai, have theme-tinted techniques. The fandom takes this to extreme limits by developing world-building routines that can be based around thorough mundane application of their power. In an aversion, some residents have rather abstract powers that are hard to understand or have set limitations (e.g., Remilia).
    • Lampshaded by Master Chief in Halo 3: "I thought I'd shoot my way out. Mix things up a bit."
    • Sonic the Hedgehog:
      • The titular character of the series has two attacks: "curl into a ball and hurl self into the enemy at high speed"; and "turn into Super Sonic and fly into the target at even higher speed". Over the years, he's destroyed armies of Dr. Robotnik's robots with the first attack, and defeated several evil gods with the second. Though the series does mix things up occasionally with Puzzle Bosses, and the major gimmicks of Sonic Unleashed and Sonic and The Black Knight involve hand-to-hand combat and sword fighting, respectively.
      • Shadow has all the same abilities as Sonic...but in his Day in The Limelight, his usual homing attacks took a back seat to guns as a weapon of choice.
    • Iji: The second battle against Assassin Asha pretty much boils down to this, due to the guy having "Plasma Cannon reflexes". He will dodge anything (including the Nuke weapon you might have fired on him in Sector 5) that isn't the Shotgun or Buster Gun, because he thinks dodging such pathetic weapons is shameful. He will continue not dodging pellets even on the verge of death. The Shotgun is the only weapon you have on Ultimortal that isn't the Resonance Detonator (you get the Reflector on that difficulty before the battle with Tor), so...
    • Fate/stay night: During his fight with corrupted Berserker in the Heaven's Feel route, Shirou mentions that when brute strength goes beyond a certain point skill has no meaning anymore. He then uses Archer's Arm, which copies both a sword and the skills and abilities of it's owner (apparently including brute strength), to get both. Shirou's basic tactics boil down to this; as he doesn't have the wide array of skills that most mages employ, his tactics mostly consist of finding the right sword to project and whacking the bad guy with it until he falls over. If that doesn't work, Unlimited Blade Works usually does the trick.
    • Painkiller, as described by Yahtzee:

    Okay, so maybe it is nothing but murdering tonnes of dudes, but it does it so well, what more could you want?

    • Super Mario Brothers:
      • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door does this with the Hammerman badge. It doubles the Attack power of your hammer... And nukes your Jump ability until you take the badge off. Similarly, the Jumpman badge powers up jump attacks but disables hammer attacks.
      • Mario in general is original video game king of this trope, as the Portal developers mentioned in an interview once. To get over obstacles, jump over them. To gather coins and upgrades, jump under a "?" block. To kill baddies, jump on them. To lower the flag at the end of the level, jump into it. Everything else is an optional bonus. He manages to be a One-Man Army with nothing but jumping. That sort of takes him to a whole new level of awesome.
    • Sexy Hiking
    • The downloadable game Splosion Man has you controlling a little fireball-man who has only one move: creating an explosion around himself. You use this for everything from attacking enemies to jumping.
    • Kingdom Hearts' Keyblade can solve pretty much any problem you come across. Of course, it is more versatile than most weapons, functioning as a Sword, Magic Wand, Skeleton Key, and Spaceship. That doesn't change the fact that many of the problem a Keyblade Wielder comes across can be overcome by smacking the offending object with a giant key. Need to open a chest? Smack it! Big Bad firing a giant cannon at you? Smack enemies into it! Evil computer program trying to kill you? It's okay, with a bit of help, your keyblade can shoot HACKING LAZERS! Need a minion? Stab someone in the chest! They won't even die!
    • Mario in Super Mario Sunshine can't seem to do anything without the help of FLUDD. Never has spraying water at something been so vitally important.
    • If you ask Lilarcor for advice in Baldur's Gate 2, he will recommend killing things. In fact, his only solution for anything is killing things. Need money? "Find someone rich, and kill them. Then find someone richer, and kill them too!". Need to find your way around a labyrinthine plot of intrigue? "Start swinging. Eventually you'll lop off the head of *someone* important and the good fights will really start!" Need to defeat the Evil Sorcerer? "Kill him!" Then again, Lilarcor is a sword. Everything probably looks like a stab victim to him.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Despite the vast variety of tools at his disposal, almost all bosses still go down with Link's sword. Boss have a specific weakness? Use dungeon tool, then sword.
    • Many of the princesses in Princess Waltz fall into this. Angela, for example, uses a lance and fire--guess what her answer to everything is. Suzushiro, however, takes the cake. Her only real ability is to concentrate all her alma into her fist, making it harder than steel. Her answer to everything is to punch it.
    • The title characters of the Raving Rabbids games have a problem with this as a result of their phenomenal idiocy. Most of the unlockable videos in the first game are built around the structure of a Rabbid being in an everyday situation, then "solving" it by pulling out a blunt instrument of some kind and screaming "DAAAAAH!" (Also, plungers. Plungers everywhere.)
    • Chester from the original Tales of Phantasia has only one attack: his arrow shot. He hits high, low, and hard. He doesn't even need a special skill or a need to locate an enemy's weakness to be powerful.
    • Qara in Neverwinter Nights 2 is a Sociopathic Hero sorceress who specializes in fire spells. Naturally her preferred solution for solving problems is to blast everything in sight. She ends up drafted into the party after nearly burning down the tavern; the innkeeper (your foster father's half-brother) basically has her paying for the damage in sweat.
    • In Luigi's Mansion (and probably Luigi's Mansion 2: Dark Moon), the solution to pretty much everything is 'use the poltergust 3000'. Ghosts are sucked up with this vacuum cleaner, anything that needs moving is moved around with it, and when the game can't find a way to vary it up any more, you get various elemental medals that let you shoot fire/water/ice from it.
    • Lampshaded in Kid Icarus: Uprising. During the Lightning Chariot level, Pit comes across an obstacle he needs to get past to proceed. When he wonders aloud what to do about it, Hades says "The same thing you do with everything. Shoot it."
    • Dwarf Fortress players joke that there is one thing in the game that can deal with all other troubles - Magma. This was so even before minecarts made liquid management cheaper and safer, and heat-stabilization of magma pump stack (preventing most of simulation slow-down it causes) was invented - see also Boatmurdered below:

    Magma is very well known for being the perfect solution to any problem encountered by dwarves. Giant badger invasion? Pour magma on it. Noble being his usual snotty, useless, arrogant self? Pour magma on it. Door locked due to invaders? Pour magma on it! Flooded your fortress with magma? Start pouring magma out of it. Congratulations, you just won the game!

    • One of the most iconic weapons in video game history is the impossibly cool Buster Sword used by Cloud Stryfe in Final Fantasy VII. In the original game, this was Cloud's "starter" weapon, and like most characters in RPG games, he'd swap it for something better rather early. However, during the time between the original version and remake, the Buster Sword has become so iconic that fans would want to lynch the developers if they forced a player to do that, so in the remake, Cloud has it for the whole game, the player able to upgrade its capabilities using XP points, causing the weapon to gain power as Cloud does. Of course, you can give him a new weapon, but honestly, you wouldn't be playing this game if you wanted to do that.
      • And it's not just Cloud; the "starter" weapons used by the other playable characters can be upgraded the same way.

    Web Comics

    • Another Gaming Comic has Nuclear Dan who is fire obsessed, with his entire spell list being a fire spell, he even spent a levels worth of points on fire imunity so he could firball himself and not die.
    • Broken Plot Device parodies the trope in the spirit of World of Warcraft here.
    • 8-Bit Theater:
      • Fighter thinks very much this way. He's dumb enough to miss important clues to the workings of the world around him, but he's also exceedingly skilled with his swords (not to mention fixated on them). At a certain point he creates "Sword Chucks" (a combination of swords and nunchucks, that allows him to wield four swords simultaneously). His spiritual mentor appears to him in the form of a giant sword wearing glasses. Oh, and when conversations don't involve swords, he completely ignores them. We also have Black Mage, who tries to solve most problems with stabbing or a Hadoken spell. This trope in regards to Fighter is taken to its logical extreme when he faces his own worst vice, the manifestation of Sloth, which accuses him of always falling back on his sword techniques instead of improving himself in new ways, like using his mind. Fighter gets past it by killing it with his swords, saying "my mind told me this would be faster."
      • The Light Warriors in general seem to adhere to this philosophy. Their general plan for any situation is "kill everyone and steal anything that isn't tied down and on fire." So far it's worked, mostly through luck.
      • Black Mage, in the early stages, discovered how frustrating this trope can be when you can only use your hammer once a day. Then he developed his Knife Nuttiness and some fire and lightning spells that didn't involve directly nuking an area the size of Vegas.
      • Red Mage believes that there is no obstacle that cannot be overcome by vigorous application of the Animal Husbandry skill.
      • Thief resolves most problem by stealing stuff, and then stealing some more stuff, be it riches, mcguffins, plot devices, the actual soul of his enemies and other intangible stuff, to the point of stealing his class change from himself in the future. This actually comes back to bite him when, during the battle with Sarda, his past self steals his class change.
    • Khrima, the Big Bad from Adventurers!!, was a Kefka-class archfiend, with magic powers up the ying-yang. So naturally, his solution to every issue, from stopping the hero party to quashing revolts in conquered cities to cutting his sandwich in half, was Big Friggin Lasers. Once had a minion executed for suggesting that lasers were actually pretty inefficient and they had much better weapons (energy and magic-based) available. He also once fired a scientist when he told Khrima that he was developing an energy-beam weapon to make Khrima's lasers obsolete. The guy really should have just called it a "super-laser".
    • Order of the Stick:
      • Xykon's two main tactics consist of brute magical force and sacrificing minions (sometimes combining the two by using brute force to kill his minions and then turning then into obedient zombies). He has no head for strategy and hates thinking too hard, but as he put "there's a level of force against which no tactics can succeed", and takes extra pleasure in killing wizards who accuse him of being dumb and repetitive. But while he hates battle tactics, he's absolutely brilliant at psychological manipulation. Examples include the rubber bouncy ball engraved with the Symbol of Insanity which causes an entire room of paladins to start killing each other and the brutal "Butch and Bitch" speech in Start of Darkness, where he gets Redcloack to kill his own brother so the guilt will tie him to Xykon forever.
      • The good guys' Wizard has the same problem. Vaarsivuus' obsession with arcane magical power as the solution to any kind of problem as opposed to tactics and intelligent use of all assets really bit the elf in the ass when Xykon showed he could think outside the box.

    Xykon: You know what does equal power? Power equals power. Crazy, huh? But the kind of power? Doesn't matter as much as you might think. ... Right now, power takes the form of a +8 racial bonus to Listen checks.

        • Of course, Vaarsuvius proves capable of learning from experience and turns this one around on Xykon immediately, inflicting a humiliating defeat -- which but for a stroke of luck could have been much, much worse than it was for the lich -- using just two potions to revive O-Chul, zir level one class feature raven companion to carry Xykon's stolen phylactery, and zir 3rd-level Explosive Runes spell to guard said phylactery.
    • Schlock Mercenary:
    • Starslip's Memnon Vanderbeam apparently thinks all the universe's problems can be solved through art theory. And tries to prove it. Hilarity usually ensues.
    • Kyros in Irregular Webcomic generally tries to solve problems by putting more mana into his flame spells, causing much work for the Death of Insanely Overpowered Fireballs.

    Lambert: You can't fight fire with fire!
    Kyros: Of course you can fight fire with fire. You can fight anything with fire!

      • It gets better, too. According to the GM's house rule, characters can only spend experience to improve skills they actually used. All Kyros ever uses is his fireball. Ergo...
      • Kyros's latest trick? Help the party on the quest they've been botching for the last several (realtime) years by annihilating a mountain range. You can panic now.
    • This Greenside cartoon (see also Tom Lehrer above).
    • Rusty and Co. here:

    Mimic: To a hammer, the world is full of nails.
    Rusty: Eat nails?

    • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal lampshaded it on this page.
    • The way the Strife Specibus system works in Homestuck forces the users to have only one (and, later, at most a limited) type of weapons. As the story progresses, these weapons gets bigger and badder, but still of the same type as earlier in the story.
      • Used very literally with John Egbert, who had to put something in his Strife Specibus, and chose the obvious choice When All You Have Is a Hammer. Because of this, he's forced to result to simple brute force of smacking his opponents really hard with large hammers. Later on he acquires the Fear No Anvil, which can alter time to stun whoever is hit by it. It's still a hammer though, whose primary function is to smash things really hard. In the face.
    • Basic Instructions occasionally features a group of weird and dysfunctional superheroes. One of these, considered pathetic even by the others is the "Knifeketeer". He's a (not very) Badass Normal who stabs people with knives. That's it. When the others complained that most heroes prefer non-lethal tactics, he got himself a boxing glove knife. Yes, a boxing glove on a knife handle. That he then "stabs" people with.
      • His associate Rocket Hat is a subversion of this, in that he is a guy with rockets mounted on his hat, who uses them in all sort of inventive ways. (Flying, highspeed headbutting, impromptu blowtorch, and so on.)
    • Housepets, in The Adventures of Spot (superdog), this is parodied, as Spot (superdog) solves everything by punching. Then the writer, Peanut, tries to make the story better, based on Grape's advice. Spot (superdog) goes into a Heroic BSOD when he finds out that there's a problem he can't solve with punching: The villain making kids obese with snack foods. Spot (superdog)'s first attempt to solve this problem without punching is to make a PSA to stop kids from eating too much junk food. Then the villain mentioned earlier wears a disguise as a scientist to refute Spot (superdog)'s claims. Spot (superdog) tries to refute that, and the villain states that it'll take 20 years for the science boards to agree on why the kids are getting fat. Then:

    Spot (superdog): *Punches villain*
    Grape: So what was the entire point of--
    Peanut: I DON'T KNOW


    Sam: The lesson to be learned today is that any difficulty can be overcome by proper application of hordes of intelligent robots.

    • xkcd with "Golden Hammer". And yes, some people do things this roundabout or worse, even in commercial products.

    Web Original


    15. Plan B is not automatically twice as much gunpowder as Plan A.

    • In the I'm a Marvel... and I'm a DC, It's Just Some Random Guy only really uses two special effects. His lightning is used for everything from tazers to the Joker's staff to Iron Man's repulsor pulses. His circular fade is used for any form of teleportation as well as any character shifting from one model to another (e.g. Modern Superman and Batman to overly friendly 80's Superman and Batman). Fortunately, his effects pool was slightly increased before Green Lantern used his powers. unfortunately, that just meant that everything goes green for a second.
    • Cracked.com: "Nobody outpunches the Punchmaster!"
    • Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Captain Hammer hits things. Sometimes he throws things. But usually he hits things.
      • The one time he tries to mix it up and shoot things, it goes really bad.
    • I Am Not Infected has "The usual plan:" Push Charlie at the zombies and run.
      • They only use it twice or so though. And Charlie survives both.
      • They even say it's more like what they use in absence of a plan more than anything. However, one one occasion they used it rather than simply shoot the zombies.
    • Zero Punctuation's Yahtzee describes Batman as responding to everything by either punching it, or applying "bat-anti-thing spray" first, and then punching it.
    • Chaka of the Whateley Universe is a martial artist with control of Ki. She uses Ki for everything. Punching an opponent? Ki attack. Learning an opponent's moves? Ki reading. Drying off in the shower? Ki trick. But while the attitude fits the trope, the results usually invert it: her power is so flexible she's almost a living Green Lantern Ring.
    • In Smash Kingdom, King Dedede, a king with a nation of weapons and variance of abilities, is a bit too dependent on his hammer, as per the quotes page.
    • Referenced in this abridged script for the Thor movie:

    Chris Hemsworth hammers the fuck out of the robot, hammers the fuck out of some Frost Giants, hammers the fuck out of Tom Hiddleston, and hammers the fuck out of the Rainbow Bridge.
    Chris Hemsworth: Everything looks like a nail!

    • In Boatmurdered once Operation Fuck The World (which when activated floods everything on the map outside the fortress with lava) was complete, it became their response to everything. Initially designed to provide a permanent solution to the elephant problem, it was eventually used against goblin invaders, a bronze colossus, an inoffensive merchant caravan come to trade with them, and a flood The last of these was disastrous, creating an enormous cloud of steam that enveloped the fortress and scalded many dwarves to death.
    • In Atop the Fourth Wall's crossover review of Southland Tales, Linkara claims the safety of the universe is threatened by the film, and tells the assembled they must review it.

    Nash: "Why is our default response to everything to automatically review it?"

      • Justified, in that most of the producers for That Guy With The Glasses are critics in some form.

    Western Animation

    • Clamps, of Futurama's robot mafia is so clamp-obsessed that the Don Bot once chastises him for assuming every problem has a clamp-based solution.
      • Bender has also supplied the line, "When you look at it the right way, everything is just a primitive form of bending."
      • Also Roberto, as a function of being Axe Crazy.

    "This here's my stabbin' knife!"


    Hardware: Hint for the show kids in the class: extremely bright light will take them down.
    Hawkgirl: So does a mace upside the head. Actually, I've found the mace works in pretty much every situation.

    • Popeye. Spinach. When punching doesn't work, punch it with the power of spinach!
    • Megas XLR. Coop is good at smashing things, and Megas, being a walking homage to the Super Robot genre, is very very good at smashing things. However, when put up against enemies resistant to smashing (such as a nano-mechanical robot capable of integrating any metal into itself to gain new abilities and able to regenerate infinitely, even to the point of replicating itself a thousand fold) he has a few problems. True to the Super Robot genre, though, smashing always works if you smash hard enough.
      • it doesn't work, Coop has to think outside the box and in this case learn the they were solar powered so he uses Megas to create a massive smog cloud
      • There's also the one time Coop fought a cloaked robot. Instead of figuring out some way to detect the robot, Coop simply fires missiles in every direction, rendering the cloaking meaningless.
    • Titan Maximum uses the same basic solution. According to Palmer, their entire strategy for every fight they have ever been in is to "Punch the f*ck out of it"
    • Parodied on The Simpsons in the show-within-a-show "Knight Boat." A Knight Rider-esque sapient crime-solving boat is never stymied when the crooks go on land, because, as Bart says, "There's always a canal. Or an inlet. Or a fjord."
    • In one episode of Superman: The Animated Series, Supergirl and Batgirl team up to take down Livewire, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. Harley's response every time the three villainesses find a locked door is to repeatedly(and futilely) hit the door with a large prop hammer. After Harley's second attempt, Ivy just looks and Livewire and says, "She tries so hard."
    • EVE, from the movie WALL-E. Her problem solving tree is something like "blast it with my arm cannon. Does it still need to be blasted more? [Y/n]"
    • Sandman from The Spectacular Spider-Man and his sand-based powers. In season 2 he learns how to use them more creatively, becoming much more dangerous threat. Interesingly this is the last episode we see him in the series, because would he get too good at swinging his hammer, he would become total Game Breaker.
    • Captain Planet and the Planeteers may be the Trope Namer for What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?, but as Linkara pointed out in a comic review, it was by far the most versatile of the powers. Wheeler mocks Ma-Ti for his abilities, but when all is said and done, all Wheeler could do was set stuff on fire (or make it melt). It was, in fact, the least useful of the Planeteers' powers, especially in a series where Thou Shalt Not Kill. He didn't even use it very creatively. Heart, on the other hand, combined aspects of Speaks Fluent Animal, Care Bear Stare, and More Than Mind Control. Heart Is an Awesome Power, indeed.

    Real Life

    • Hitler and Napoleon (odd bedfellows, indeed) fell victim to this; both became so used to achieving foreign policy victories through war that they became reliant on warfare to secure all their successes. This culminated in disastrous invasions of Russia.
    • Before them, the imperial administrations of Germany and the Habsburg Empire. The policy of the German High Command is a particularly egregious example of this; they developed and presented precisely one grand strategy of mobilisation and deployment to the other heads of government, the 'Schlieffen Plan'; an invasion of France through Belgium. We may never know how much shorter and less bloody the war could have been if it weren't for the German invasion of Belgium, and Britain and America's great likelihood of staying out of it in the light of that fact. Why, in a potential conflict with Russia alone, would Germany want to force France into fighting and risk getting Britain involved to boot? There are a couple of theories...
      • Arguably it comes down to Germany's diplomacy wonks and defense wonks not talking to each other enough. The army came up with what it thought the optimal plan while looking at a Europe where everyone was roughly comparable in land power and therefore subconsciously assumed all of them would be ganging up on Germany. Effectively they were in the position of someone walking through a strange neighborhood at night in fear not thinking of the fact that most of the people there were about their own business.
        • Also everyone depended on being the first to mobilize which meant keeping the railways at optimal performance to get their army to the front first. In essence they thought of it like a Quick Draw duel. Add to that that Germany did not have Russia's miserable wilderness or Britain's ocean or Switzerland's Alps (except in a Southern corner) and keeping someone from crossing the Rhine was not all that easy, Germany was panting like a race horse to be the first off lest someone get the jump on them.
    • A lot of kenjutsu/iaijutsu techniques come down to executing shomen-uchi (straight downward cut to the top of the head) as the killing strike.
      • Krav Maga is similar except in that case the killing blows usually involve breaking the attacker's jaw, frequently after hitting him in the nuts.
    • In Shaolin Kung Fu, it is often skill and physical capability rather than technique that decides a fight. Among masters who have near-perfect technique, they will put considerable effort into refining one or two particular techniques. The great Wong Fei Hung of Hoong Ka fame was renowned for his No-shadow Kicks.
      • True of most martial arts masters. Famed Taiji master Yang Lu Chan used to beat everyone with the same move - Grasp the birds tail.
        • That sounds suspiciously like a euphemism for a Groin Attack. You know, like "Monkey steals the peach".
      • True of pretty much any fight. The reason amateur boxers and kickboxers, and even just manual laborers, can often beat Karate and Tae Kwon Do black belts comes down a greater focus on simpler, more reliable techniques.
        • the reason for this would be that there are enough schools where it is possible to obtain a black belt without actually being able to use techniques in a fight. You can't learn how to fight by only doing kata or punching the air.
          • Very true. Just having a black belt doesn't automatically mean you know how to fight.
          • There's also a broad gulf between "fight a duel with specific rules where both parties are expected to be able to walk away afterward", and "brawl in the street with someone who wants to murder the spit out of you, while his buddy is sneaking up behind you with a brick-bat". The "prison-rush" (a body-check with a knife concealed against your abdomen) has thrown off both unarmed martial artists and artists from knife-wielding styles because its against the rules. There's no "cheating" in real fights.
        • Of course, as the quote above demonstrates, the masters of any martial art are very aware of this. To provide another example: one of the best American karateka used only three techniques in his fights - jab, cross, and front kick. He was just really good at them.

    Bruce Lee: "I fear not the man who has practiced ten thousand kicks once. But I fear the man who has practiced one kick ten thousand times."

        • Which is true considering the more you practice,understand and master the bare basics the more those basics can be tweaked for various purposes and situations. E.g: Anyone can throw a punch. Few can use that punch for more than just hurting a guy.
    • One FIRST robotics team adopted the motto "Nothing's impossible with a rubber mallet and enough strength of heart!" when trying to properly adjust the timing belt on their mecanum wheels (a difficult and delicate task involving much rubber mallet use).
      • Another has the unofficial motto, "Life would be meaningless without 7/16-inch wrenches."
    • All The Tropes - Let's face it, not everything on this site really lends itself to a wiki format, but I have to give the admins credit for making it happen.
    • When all you have is a hammer, make sure it's the right one and not a broken link.
    • The increasing need to defeat body armor has lead to the development of personal defense weapons, firing new cartridges sized between pistol/SMG and assault rifle caliber rounds. The Russians, meanwhile, just made an overpressure version of the existing 9x19mm.
      • The Russians embody this trope. They've built jet fighters that use tubes for crying out loud. As for defeating armor, why not just use a harder metal in your bullet? It's called a steel core and goes back to WWI at least.
    • Duct tape. If it can't be fixed with duct tape, you're clearly just not using enough.
      • A new rule, invented by some Aberdeen University Engineers: Any problem in the world can be solved with a brick, duct tape, WD-40 and ice-cream.
        • Alternatively, money and sex.
    • The Perl programming language relies heavily on regular expressions, a language for super-precise text searching. Unfortunately, it makes Perl programs super-hard to read.
    • In the late 1980s, the number one tool for the first generation of business computing on PCs was the spreadsheet Lotus 1-2-3. The executives making use of Lotus were not generally computer literate, and were not always comfortable leaving Lotus to run other programs like word processors. The software market responded to this by creating plug-ins for Lotus that performed all these functions inside a spreadsheet, turning Lotus into a crude multifunction "suite".
    • European chivalry in the Middle Ages had one big hammer -- a heavy knight on a heavy horse with a heavy lance. It sounds stupid but it actually did work on several occasions and knights always had other specialists from somewhere else to do backup (for instance in the Middle East light cavalry was provided by "Turkopoles" -- Middle Eastern cavalry on their side often from some local Christian tribes). Nonetheless there was more then a bit of this mentality and knights could get themselves scrubbed by non-knightly foes on several notable occasions.
    • When a government has in the past carried out a policy of reasonable success (reasonable meaning enough to go a decade or so without a disaster) it will more and more attract a collection of specialists who spend their whole lives gathering skills associated with that policy. Careers will start depending on the continuance of said policy whatever its reflection of the true interest of the state enacting it. It might gain a sort of romance about it. Examples are long-standing empires, military organization based on familiar tactic and others.