"Your average infantryman does not give a rat's ass about the design function of a weapon. He is concerned about staying alive and about getting his job done with the least risk taken." - Murgen
- Glen Cook, She Is The Darkness
That's one of my favorite quotes. It's directly about magic items (the "bamboo doohickeys" as Murgen describes them a sentence or so later), but it's about any tool you put in the hands of combatants. That quote sprang to mind - or at least the gist of it - while I was thinking about gaming.
Over the years, I've had players turn all sorts of things into a very different tool than may be intended. Sometimes it's from min-maxing. Sometimes it is from the everything is a nail because I have this hammer syndrome. Sometimes it is just flat-out misunderstanding what the intended purpose of the tool is - or flat-out not caring.
One example is GURPS 3rd edition healing potions. They healed 1d HP or 2d FP - and FP only if you weren't down HP. These were verboten for non-wizards to drink. If a wizard popped it back, he'd get back 2d FP. Major Healing is 1 energy per 2 HP healed. So Having the wizard throw a maximum healing spell on you (4 energy, for 8 HP healed, probably real cost 2-3 because of high skill), you'd get a 4-to-1 ratio of healing back. Drinking it was a total waste.
Another example is the portable hole. I'm sure the original intention was a mobile trap. The Gary Gygax story about deploying the first one made it sound like a trap. But did anyone make its primary purpose anything but storage? We had one or two in my games, and people just filled it with stuff.
Still further is Entombment. That spell was used for utility storage more than offense in my games.
That's leaving aside stuff I never let work (lanterns as grenades, for example). Even so, when it comes to "intended use" and "use" I find players like to drive a really big wedge in between them. I'm not any different.