This question was inspired by an Arqade question: How do I save a Destiny warp drive?.

The premise is this:

  • In order to progress to mission 3 (or 4 etc.) you must complete the second mission. The item you acquired in mission one ( a derelict space ship) led you to mission two wherein you had to find a second item, the warp drive, in order to "leave orbit". This warp drive must be handed over at the end of your second mission, but it's no longer needed because your reward, a new shipcraft, has already one fitted.

The person asking the question on Arqade wondered how to save this item, to avoid losing it, but this is pointless, the fact that the mission was completed is what will give you the ability to progress forward, not that you picked up this item.

Thus, this warp drive is sort of orthogonal to the game. It is an item like any other dummy item added to the end of a mission which in turn you can turn in when you get back to The Tower for some kind of reward. In this regard it is currency, nothing else. "You give me that wrap drive, I give you this ship":

The subsequent ability of the player to "leave orbit" and play on other planets comes from eventually completing enough missions so that missions on the moon becomes available. Even if this warp drive was removed from the game completely the player would be able to do this, once this mission (to recover the warp drive) was completed.

Is there a term for these kind of items?

  • Items that seem to drive the story forward but are sort of unnecessary, added more like a plot prop to hold in your hands than anything else?

  • Items given to the player to bring them somewhere, when the real goal was to get the player to that location; the item was just to give them purpose.

Perhaps that is my word; purpose. Or is there a better one?

  • There's not a word that you can safely assume the player on Arqade will understand. :) Just explain the drive is an objective of that mission and that you have to turn it in. – R Mac Nov 12 '14 at 17:15
  • I want to know for myself :) – Lasse V. Karlsen Nov 12 '14 at 17:16
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    In that case, you would call the drive a plot device. It's used to drive the story forward and has absolutely no practical or superficial benefit to the player in any other way than as being used to drive the story. – R Mac Nov 12 '14 at 17:19
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    Pledges/initiates/rookies are sent out to search for hard/impossible to find items (snipe/wild geese/left-handed condoms), the finding of which is supposedly “required” to advance to the next level of initiation/acceptance, whereas it is merely the earnest acceptance to undertake the mission itself that is required to advance. Your case, of course, is different because the item does exist, is obtainable, and is required to advance (and that’s why this is not an answer); but I found the idea similar enough to offer it as a comment. – Papa Poule Nov 12 '14 at 19:00
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    I see now that someone replaced the word mission with level in the game. Please don't do that if you don't understand that there is a difference. Destiny (the game in question) has both levels and missions and maps. Many games use the word "level" for map, but Destiny does not. A mission is that you're given a specific task to complete, on a map (that you will visit many times during the game). In reward you get items, and "level up". Level thus is related to the character, mission is what you do, and map is where you do it. – Lasse V. Karlsen Nov 13 '14 at 8:56

The term you are looking for in gamer parlance is "Key Item".

Key items are special items that players can only obtain once, and either aid the progression of the storyline or allow access to new areas. - Bulbapedia

The reference is specific to the Pokemon franchise, but the term is valid in any video game. Another accepted term is "Quest Item", and this would be particularly true for your case since the item is part of a series of quests.

Quest items are objects needed to complete a specific quest. Usually they have to be given up when the quest has been completed - Skyrim Wiki

There are many examples of these types of items in video games, but the general thread between them is that they all progress the story or allow access to another location in the game.

Note that these are both specific to gaming and would probably be considered gaming-specific jargon. While they might be understood by those who understand the context, they are not likely to be recognized as commonly accepted expressions in the english language.

The specific premise that you have offered as an example suggests that the item in question is not necessary to advance in the game. The implication being that a Warp Drive is not actually necessary to travel to another planet.

If it is not, you would simply modify it as a False Key Item or False Quest Item, though this depends on whether the game is intentionally trying to decieve you, or if it is simply a normal item that is given as a reward for your quest (which you might call a "reward item").

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    I'd describe them as jargon, rather than slang, myself. – user867 Nov 13 '14 at 3:26
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    @COTO "Key Item"s are not always useful in a sense that they have an apparent impact in gameplay. Most key items are useless for gameplay and are nothing but plot device to give you a reason to move forward. The name itself, "key item", is descriptive of this: just about every "key" in a game is used automatically without any user input other than activating the contraption to which the key is paired. – Raestloz Nov 13 '14 at 8:13
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    @COTO no, the "warp drive" has a function, it allows you to complete the mission. Where you get it, how you get it and why you get it don't matter. The moment it's needed by a quest or a plot, it's a key item. – Raestloz Nov 13 '14 at 9:13
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    @COTO in many games you can sell or lose key items, causing you to get stuck. It's a known problem in quite a few games, and indicative of poor game design. Of course the reverse is also true and in many games your inventory gets so cluttered with now useless junk that you needed to progress 10 levels ago that you get stuck for lack of inventory space because there's no proper system to remove them in games that protect you from accidentally deleting or selling plot items. – jwenting Nov 13 '14 at 14:30
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    If the item used to be a quest item, but is no longer required, I would probably refer to it as a deprecated quest item. – Chris Nov 14 '14 at 8:44

You might refer to it as a MacGuffin:

a MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin or maguffin) is a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation. The specific nature of a MacGuffin is typically unimportant to the overall plot. (source: wikipedia)

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  • It's not exactly a McGuffin. The character is trying to get off the planet for other reasons, and the warp drive is a means to that end. The "end", whatever it is, is the McGuffin. You could call it a McGuffin if you look at this specific mission as a subplot. – R Mac Nov 12 '14 at 17:35
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    What makes a MacGuffin a MacGuffin is that its identity doesn't matter - you can swap out other objects without affecting the story. The only thing a MacGuffin has to do is be a goal. (Though not all goals are MacGuffins - only ones which have no narrative support. And MacGuffins are usually objects.) So if you want to highlight that the object is "orthogonal to the game", "like any other dummy item", and "it is currency, nothing else", "MacGuffin" does that. The warp drive is on the edge of having narrative support, but for the generalized sense being asked after, "MacGuffin" fits. – R.M. Nov 13 '14 at 0:20
  • -1, The warp drive has some pretty serious narrative support. You might not 'need' it in terms of the game, but you clearly need it in terms of the story. – DCShannon Nov 13 '14 at 4:57
  • "Items that seem to drive the story forward but are sort of unnecessary, added more like a plot prop to hold in your hands than anything else?" — I haven't played the game, but from that description by the OP it sounds like it's not particularly tied to the narrative & MacGuffin would be quite apt. – anotherdave Nov 13 '14 at 19:20
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    @DCShannon, I point you to (a) the stated premise in the question ("give someone the item and they give you a different ship") and (b) the final sentence of my answer ("the specific nature of a macguffin is ... unimportant to the overall plot"). The fact that it's a warp drive is irrelevant to the quest; They could have sent you out for a pile of freshly-mined geodes or 20,000 bars of Latinum or any old thing, and then when you give it to them you get a means of getting off-planet. (If you got the warp drive and then used it to travel instead of trading it, it would not be a macguffin.) – Hellion Nov 13 '14 at 19:37

In gaming, it is called a quest item (also known as a plot item or a key item). The term is usually used in MMO games.


Quest items are items that are, in one way or another, related to a quest. As a rule, quest items cannot be removed from the inventory through any means(see bugs), save for those involved in the quest.


Quest items are items used exclusively as a requirement for completing a quest. Its tooltip will say "Quest Item".


Quest items are an items that are only used during, only made for, or only obtained during the course of one or more quests.

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It's a

Plot Coupon

A thing that a character needs to obtain in order to cash it in later for a Plot resolution.

For example, let's say that our intrepid hero must steal a key, then find the Treasure Chest of Galumphry that the key will open, then remove the Orb of Power from the chest and use it to banish the Big Bad. The key, the chest, and the Orb are all plot coupons. Extremely common in video games, where collecting these coupons is known as a Fetch Quest, it is often presented as collecting several pieces of a lost artifact or gaining recognition from several factions.

A plot coupon might just as easily be one item in a series of MacGuffins, where the things themselves are not important, it is the seeking of them that moves the story along (indeed, the two terms often get used interchangably). See also Sword of Plot Advancement.

Source: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PlotCoupon

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"useless quest items" yields 4,900 results on Google using quotes. Either through a bug in the game or the player's own folly, quest items that may have been useful or have fulfilled their only purpose are now useless.

Some games like Monkey Island or Full Throttle will leave these in your inventory as red herrings for a while. Both of these games will at some point relieve you of the overburden of these things in your inventory. The OP's game is just poorly programed or annoying.

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    +1 for the only answer thus far that actually answers the question asked – COTO Nov 13 '14 at 6:19
  • @COTO That's what happens when you ( avoid red herrings ) cheat and fix the question first ;) – Mazura Nov 13 '14 at 6:41

Red herring

A MacGuffin fulfils some purpose in a [film] plot; but anyway it's a film-specific jargon term. A red herring doesn't necessarily have any intrinsic use whatsoever. Distraction was also a good suggestion. Or decoy, if it serves to distract you from something else that is actually important.

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Perhaps objective is the term.

One of the objectives is to frazzle the discombobulator. After achieving this objective, the discombobulator unlocks the ability to merconify the TwizzleSnarg.

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Perhaps something closer to subsumed is the best alternative:

This item is subsumed in creating the upgraded ship.

Noun form might be "subsumable" or "subsumed item".

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Any kind of task that diverts effort from your main goal is a distraction.


  1. A thing that prevents someone from concentrating on something else
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