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In games, sometimes you may be hesitant to use all the amazing powers at your disposal. You have a power, spell or weapon which reduces your foe to small shards, constituent atoms, or even nothing at all. Alternatively, there could be Literally Shattered Lives. It's a deadly ability; and one you have to be careful using, as you can't recover whatever your victim opponent was carrying. If you'd just whacked them with a sword, you'd have been able to take those nice boots they were wearing, or that shiny magical chainmail.

This trope covers those effects which are not used as much as they could be because of the wider economic disadvantage that they place upon the player; sure you've won this fight, but you could have gained more. Often the resistance to use such powers is representative of a psychological barrier against unnecessary waste of resources; and the over-use on important enemies can result in a Pyrrhic Victory.

This is often a One-Hit Kill, which makes it Awesome but Impractical - very useful, but you're still hesitant to use it because of the wider impact.

Examples of Disadvantageous Disintegration include:


Tabletop Games

  • Spells like Disintegrate, fireball and acidic blast in 2nd edition Dungeons & Dragons may do amazing damage or even be a One-Hit Kill if a save is failed, but they have a chance to destroys most or all of the target's equipment; equipment that is potentially useful or valuable.
    • The Game Master is supposed to roll for each item on the item saving throw table to determine if it survives. The same is true when your character is hit by a fireball: not only do you have to roll a saving throw for your character, but all your items and even any familiars you might have (which is why familiars get Evasion abilities so early). Of course, most GMs don't bother with this too often (or enforce it strictly) but it is in the rules.
    • But Averted Trope in 3rd Edition, where the Disintegrate spell explicitly states that the target's gear is conveniently unaffected.
    • We still have Mordenkainen's disjunction, which destroys the magic on a character's equipment. Permanently. Players don't use it because it robs them of valuable loot after the battle finishes. Pathfinder makes it suppress the powers instead.
      • Clarification: Most players don't use the spell because it takes forever to recalculate your stats (most characters use magic items to boost ability scores and such, and there are a lot of numbers in DnD). Optimizers won't use it because it ruins gear. DMs who use it are often berated as being jerkasses. It wouldn't be used at all if it weren't for Wizards of the Coast putting it on certain villains (of note, a CR 9 encounter is capable of using the spell a full eight levels before the spell is even available to the party).
    • Older editions noted certain monsters, especially those which prized looting dead PCs, tended to hold back those powers which might destroy valuable goods. A red dragon might be very hesitant to destroy all that wonderful treasure PC's carry with his fiery breath if he can help it. Fridge Logic dictates other creatures should consider the possible collateral damage of their powers as well.
    • Also the reason why the Improved Sunder feat is so disliked. Every weapon destroyed puts you one step further behind the Wealth-by-Level guidelines.
  • Paranoia. An attack that does "Vaporized" damage destroys the target's gear as well as the target.

Video Games

  • In Arcanum, the Disintegrate power destroys all loot the unfortunate target was carrying.
    • On the other hand, by the time you are able to use it regularly, loot is not a major problem. Plus the dozens of enemies that don't carry anything (and in fact may damage your weapon if you attack them with it).
  • In the Baldurs Gate series and Icewind Dale there are several spells which are a One-Hit Kill if a save is failed, but remove the possibility of recovering enemy equipment if used:
    • Disintegrate Burning the enemy to a husk with multiple fireballs and acidic blasts happily leaves everything intact.
    • Flesh to Stone, or another Petrification power will turn your enemy and all their equipment into a statue, which can then be shattered.
    • The 'Imprisonment' spell removes a single enemy from the game indefinitely with no save (except that bosses are immune) until the 'Freedom' spell is cast on the area. Since 'Freedom' is a level 9 spell and most players will, at best, be reluctant to spend 9th level spell slots on it, it makes 'Imprisonment' a classic example of this trope.
  • In Crusader: No Remorse/No Regret, your favorite weapon would probably be the auto shotgun or the laser rifle instead of the UV gun or Cryo gun for this reason alone.
  • The manner you defeat enemies in Final Fantasy VI doesn't matter, even if it's X-Zone, which sends the target to another dimension. The only exception is Doomgaze: Vanish+Doom/X-Zone will kill him fine, but using X-Zone breaks the script that awards the Bahamut magicite.
    • There is another boss where the method matters. Wrexsoul, the boss of Cyan's sidequest, can be easily killed by casting X-Zone on both of his assistants. But if you do this, Wrexsoul himself isn't considered defeated, and thus you miss out on the rather powerful item he would otherwise leave behind.
  • That said, in most Final Fantasy games, the use of the "banish" spell gives you no rewards, or at the very least, no experience.
  • The Winter Blast plasmid in Bioshock 1 & 2. Along with other 'cold' based effects, it freezes an enemy in place... but a killing blow will shatter them, leaving no body to loot.
    • In Bioshock 2, upgrading to Winter Blast 2's Charged Attack and Winter Blast 3 in general avoids this disadvantage.
  • Magic weapons and spells with the 'disintegrate' power in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion could be used to break down an opponents' weapon and/or armour, greatly weakening them. However, if you wanted to use their items or sell them for a reasonable amount, you'd have to pay quite a lot of money (or have a high Armorer skill) to repair them. Also, whilst not destroying the item, it's possible that you perform a move that knocks an enemy's weapon out of their hand and into an area that is hard to get to (like a demora's mace falling from the top of a sigil tower to the ground far below it) or into lava or similar hazard.
    • While disintegration is available via one perk in Skyrim, since it shares the same "sift through the ashes" mechanic of Fallout 3, that's not your main concern. What you really need to be careful about is that the direct offensive dragon shouts you get in the game will probably cause anything in or near your target area flying away, which makes searching for smaller loot like potions, money, all manner of gems, and keys much harder if you've hurled it under furniture, into small unreachable crevices, or off the side of a cliff hundreds of feet over the next level surface below it. These shouts will also set off traps (although you can use that to hilarious effect against opponents), and of course carry the same subtlety as a magical airhorn that actually causes echoing sonic booms, which makes it much less useful when you are forced to or need to hit one person and you're trying not to get the attention of many heavily armed others several rooms over.
  • Diablo 2 Freezing your enemies and then shattering them is nice unless you are a necromancer, who needs intact corpses to fuel some of his spells.
  • Red Faction: Guerrilla: The nanorifle is an extremely fast and effective weapon, great for killing EDF soldiers. However, the nanites often digest their guns as well. On occasion, this can lead to running out of ammo.
  • In Deus Ex, heavy weapons such as a GEP gun will gib your opposition... along with everything they are carrying. Others such as the Plasma Rifle or the flamer can also cause fires. Which can be very inconvenient if you're near anything flammable.
    • Averted in The Nameless Mod; the equipment of people that get blown up is merely blown to random corners of the room as opposed to being destroyed.
  • Klingon Honor Guard has weapons that disintegrate on alt-fire, killing the target but preventing you looting their ammo clips. However, disintegration can sometimes be advantageous; sometimes enemies play dead, but playing dead after being hit by something that disintegrates you if it's deadly is not convincing.
  • Marathon: A particular enemy type drops its gun when killed. Sometimes. Killing it with grenades or the flamethrower (or the alien weapon in the sequels) results in a "hard death", and leaves you with a pool of useless yellow giblets.
  • Blood Omen has the Flame Sword, which incinerates enemies, leaving Kain unable to drink their blood. Similarly, the Soul Reaver sword and Flay item dismember the enemy, the Implode item pulps them, and the Font of Putrescence melts them, all of which makes them useless for feeding.
  • Sometimes occurs as a bug in Fallout 2; if you kill an enemy with a pulse rifle, he disintegrates into a pile of dust and his equipment is dropped, but the equipment sprites are hidden behind the pile of dust sprite, and thus you cannot click them to pick the equipment up.
    • Blatantly ignored in Fallout 3. There are a host of weapons that will pulverize, incinerate, vaporize, or otherwise reduce your targets to very small particles (such as energy weapons, explosives, and the Bloody Mess perk), and yet you can still search the ash or goo pile and find all of their items intact. Even Organ Drops can be retrieved this way, creating the odd scenario of reaching into a pile of fine ash and pulling out a perfectly edible steak (not even a cooked one...) If the foe was gibbed into thousands of pieces, simply find one of the gibs (no matter how small) and search it. It'll all be there. Also inverted, however, in the fact that the enemies' weapons have hitboxes of their own, and can be damaged intentionally or accidentally. This can be a blessing (for disarming powerful foes) or a curse (when a pricey salvage piece gets ruined).
    • Used in one mission in Fallout: New Vegas: you are hired as a bounty hunter to hunt down three criminals and bring their heads as proof that they're dead. You're explicitly warned not to kill them with headshots; doing so results in an unrecognisable, mangled head, which earns you a smaller bounty.
  • The Disintegrator Ray and Ion Detonators in the first Destroy All Humans!, which were powerful but had the drawback of completely disintegrating humans, leaving you unable to harvest their brains.
  • Among Dwarf Fortress players this is generally regarded as the only possible disadvantage to killing invaders (or elves) with magma - any non-metallic objects they're carrying get destroyed.
    • This is sometimes seen as an advantage later in the game, to destroy Vendor Trash while leaving valuable metal weapons and armour (which can then be reclaimed at a smelter by melting them down). The Dwarven Atom Smasher, however, does this to all equipment, even the stuff you might actually want to keep.
  • In Breath of Fire 2, you can go hunting for meat with Katt, who gets a quick short-range attack, or Bow, who gets a slower long-range attack. Or Bleu, who immediately reduces all the animals on the screen to near-worthless Charcoal.
  • In Rome: Total War: Barbarian Invasion one could form a horde, essentially an ungodly huge, free army, but if one didn't time things just right one went immediately into debt upon conquering a new homeland.
  • In Nethack turning enemies to stone with a living or dead cockatrice is a powerful tactic. While the statues of petrified monsters can be destroyed in order to retrieve the items they were wearing or carrying, because the game is balanced around the idea of you eating the corpses of your fallen enemies, without them you may starve to death later in the dungeon.
  • In some Angband variants, there are spells that cause "disintegration," meaning they will vaporize any walls or non-artifact items on the floor within their area of effect (enemies will only be vaporized if they take lethal damage from it, but since corpses are generally a non-issue in Angband, this doesn't matter). So it may not be a good idea to use this spell multiple times against a cluster of enemies who drop good items, since all the items will vanish in the crossfire. Also, spells that do sound damage will explode any potions on the floor (and sometimes ones in your inventory) and cause their effects to spill out over a small area. This can include healing enemies who are close enough to a healing potion that explodes!
  • One of the 'power-ups' in the online game Alphabounce (also downloadable on D Si Ware) causes your drill balls to freeze any blocks they come into contact with, the next hit completely shattering them. Aside from certain circumstances, however, this is an example of Power-Up Letdown, in that any blocks destroyed in this way won't yield any power-ups, and minerals hit won't be added to your fund count.
  • In Spelunky, triggering a boulder trap is one the cheapest ways to kill the shopkeeper, but you won't get any gold from him as a punishment. Not that you need it anymore, since every future shopkeeper'll be gunning for you anyway....
  • Tactics Ogre contains a fairly obscure instance (obscure because it requires not one but two "secrets", getting a secret character with buffed stats and spells): the Nova+ spell which comes equipped with Deneb (buffed version) instakills any enemy unit, similar to the way Exorcism instantly destroys the undead. The downside is that like Exorcism it causes the enemy to give no loot or stat bonus card.
  • Gauntlet: Dark Legacy has magic. Although not without their usefulness, it is not recommended to launch a blast of magic or shoot a bottle of it on the field when nearby crates or chests, as in addition to destroying nearby monsters, they can also destroy whatever other loot is nearby, including food, treasure, dungeon keys and other valuable power ups. Doing so even has the game tell you outright what a bad move it was.
  • Minecraft has certain environmental features like cacti and lava that immediately damage any player or mob that comes into contact with them. They'll also destroy any dropped items they touch. As a result, they can be used to make crude traps, although if you want to collect loot, you'd be better off with a trap that's somewhat harder to pull off, killing your target with arrows, drowning them in water, or dropping them a really long distance.
  • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn has the Corruption ability that reduces the durability of enemy's weapon equal to the level of the player's unit. However this includes weapons that would be dropped.
  • Mega Man ZX had a milder variant: Bosses still always drop their weapon like in the other Mega Man games, but the more you hit a boss's weak spot during the battle, the more damaged the weapon will be when you get it and the less energy it will be able to store.
  • Subverted in Kingdom of Loathing with the He-Boulder's yellow ray, which disintegrates the enemy and causes it to drop all the normal items that it can. Played straight with the Fairy Worn Boots which squish the enemy into paste, preventing all item drops and experience gains. The paste is quite useful at least.
  • Much like in the Final Fantasy example, using the Banish skill in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep will not award you with any experience.
    • However, this is averted in Chain of Memories, where Lexaus's card will occasionally destroy enemies instantly on the combo finisher, but leave all of their delicious experience intact.

Western Animation

  • Hilariously averted in the classic Looney Tunes short Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century. Daffy attempts to take a shot from a disintegrating gun with his disintegration-proof vest. Daffy gets disintegrated; the vest, naturally, is just fine.

Real Life

  • They don't call atomic bombs weapons of mass destruction for nothing.
    • Though several militaries have taken this trope into account before, and there are several weapons (and tactics) that are designed to leave property intact while killing living things. Killing stuff is one thing, but killing things efficiently...
  • "Scorched Earth" is doing this to your own resources so the enemy can't use them. Doing it to your enemy's resources is one facet of total war.
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