If don’t care about any of that, just override the template programatically as explained here How to override component templates programatically?
It’s still useful though because it means you can potentially reskin an existing plugin for a new client without changing the plugin.
I don’t think this is always the case. For example the Pricemate Theme will not work if you install TLP or the Events plugin presently, all of which override the Topic List Item raw file.
Whoops haha. Seems that it was a bug!