Created By: Bossman on December 14, 2009

Party Punishment Power

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You're an adventurer, and you've joined up with other adventurers to take on a difficult challenge. The thing is, everyone's picked up the habit of standing around in a tight group. You're doing this to make it easier for healers to reach everyone and maybe pick up a Status Buff aura or two. But the enemy has noticed this and decided to do something about it.

A Party Punishment Power turns standing in a group from a benefit into a liability. This could involve:
  • an attack with an area of effect component.
  • an attack that "chains": after hitting the first party member, it will hit a second that's within a certain range of the first, and then a third in range of the second, and so on for a number of repetitions.
  • placing a status effect on one or more characters that causes damage or other debilitating effects to any other party members in a certain range, forcing the afflicted to run away from the party before they kill everyone. A particularly nasty variant has the status effect spread to anyone it hits.

In every case, spreading everyone out will reduce the potential damage of the attack, but make it harder to cover everyone. Note that not all area of effect attacks are Party Punishment Powers: if a point blank (centered on the user) or ground targeted area of effect attack is telegraphed, it's possible for the entire group to avoid the attack by moving out of the way without spreading out.

Commonly used by MMORPG bosses, though the occasional mook might have one. Also appears in RTS games, possibly as a deterrent to the Zerg Rush. If the attack is the status effect variant and causes the afflicted to explode, it's Why Am I Ticking?.


  • Starcraft's Science Vessel can use Irradiate on enemy units, causing damage to them and any nearby units until the afflicted unit dies.
  • Warcraft III's Farseer hero can cast Chain Lightning, a chain attack that hits up to five enemies.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • The Shaman's has Chain Lightning like the Farseer in Warcraft III. Watch out for it in PVP.
    • The infamus Corrupted Blood debuff from Hakkar the Soulflayer is a prime example of the spreading debuff variant. When players found a way to carry the infection through the Boss Fight, they spread it all over the world, making it nearly impossible for low level players to surive being in cities or towns. Inspired the Zombie Infestation event.
    • C'Thun's Eye Beam and Sir Zeliek's Holy Wrath are unusual chain attacks: they increase in power with every bounce and only stop when there are no more party members in range that have not been hit.
    • Thaddius's Polarity Shift randomly gives each party member a positive or negative charge. Standing near players with the same charge gives a damage buff, while players with the opposite charge (or no charge at all) causes damage, with both effects increasing in potency with the number of players in range.
  • Fallout 3's Broken Steel DLC includes a level 30 perk called "Nuclear Anomaly". A player with this perk has a chance of suddenly releasing massive amounts of radiation, affecting friend and foe alike, when their health drops below a certain point.
Community Feedback Replies: 15
  • December 8, 2009
    2 of the 3 new 'special infected' in Left 4 Dead 2, the spitter and the charger, were designed to scatter the survivors, after skilled teams in Left 4 Dead 1 would move and shelter in tight formation most of the time.
  • December 9, 2009
    Chain Attack example:

    Tabletop RPG
    • The Chain Lightning spell in Dungeons And Dragons. After hitting its primary target it arcs to the nearest target (losing 1d6 of damage), doing so again and again until it runs out of energy.
  • December 9, 2009
    These are typically Area of Effect abilities.
  • December 9, 2009
    Many more modern Role Playing Games have a tradeoff, in that if you keep your party together you can unleash more powerful attacks, but the enemy can also more easily hit you with Area of Effect attacks. Examples that come to mind include Shadow Hearts: Covenant, Wild ARMs 4, Wild ARMs 5 and Wild ARMs XF.
  • December 9, 2009
    Herd Hitting Attack

    Punnier and encapsulates the concept a little better.

    Also Loken from world of warcraft needs mention. He's the deadliest five man boss in the game because he has attacks the punish you for grouping up and other attacks that punish you for scattering.
  • December 10, 2009
    @Drac Monster: That's a good name, I'll use it if there's no objections.

    @Tezcat: I don't feel the charger would count as this. The trope is supposed to be about attacks intended to discourage bunching up. The charger's attack is intended to forcibly drag a survivor away from the group, with damage to other survivors as a bonus. The spitter's more of a toss-up: it could be "don't bunch up", it could be "don't stand here". I'm leaning towards the latter, but that's because I see most ground-targeted area of effect attacks that way.
  • December 11, 2009
    Chabal 2
  • December 11, 2009
    • Warhammer Online Has Gorak the Ancient, who fires lightning bolts that do extensive damage on their own but whose damage increases considerably for each freindly target within a certain radius of the target, hitting BOTH targets with the improved-strength lightning bolt.
  • December 14, 2009
    Bump. I've edited the description. I'm counting area of effect attacks except telegraphed point blank and ground targeted attacks, since it's possible to avoid those without spreading out. Those would be better as a separate trope such as Don't Stand In The Fire.
  • December 14, 2009
    Basically any Ao E ever.
  • December 14, 2009
    *facepalm* No, not every. Did you not read what I just wrote?
  • December 14, 2009
    Chabal 2
    Ground targeted I get, but "telegraphed point blank"? Wha?
  • December 14, 2009
    OK, let's take the previously mentioned Loken. One of his attacks, Lightning Nova, is a point blank area of effect with a five second cast time, an obvious casting pose, and Loken will say one of three lines when he starts casting it. If you watch the instructional video on that page, whenever he starts casting it, the whole group runs away together to another spot. Not really breaking up the group there.
  • December 14, 2009
    Chabal 2
    Ok, I understand now.
  • December 15, 2009
    Bossman, no, I didn't. Read posted examples aloud, please.