Earl: How come we haven't been seen in so long?Can't be bothered to remember everyone in a show with Loads and Loads of Characters? Neither can some writers. The best solution is to split the cast into distinct groups. This allows for enough characterization, because we always see them together and that's enough net personality for characters whose physical descriptions are probably longer than those of their personalities. This can be really obvious when you notice that with the exception of perhaps the main Cast Herd, all the other Herd Leaders only talk to their own herd, or other Herd Leaders; a huge number of the people are never given casual conversation. If you can't quite tell who the spokesman of a Cast Herd is, imagine it in terms of screentime value. Only a Cast Herd's spokesman would probably appear in the Non-Serial Movie or OAV. Shows which allow for the format of a literal team will always use this trope. See also Geodesic Cast which repeats the structure of the main character's group and Planet of Hats when this is done with entire worlds/species. No relation to Alfred Hitchcock's comment that "actors should be treated like cattle".
Larry: Because the story follows more than one group of people. We're like the "B" Party.
Detestai: No, I think that's the soldier and the elf girl. We're more like the "C" Party.
Larry: See? No respect!
Larry: Because the story follows more than one group of people. We're like the "B" Party.
Detestai: No, I think that's the soldier and the elf girl. We're more like the "C" Party.
Larry: See? No respect!
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Anime and Manga
- Even though Soul Eater has a cast of Loads and Loads of Characters, it's relatively easy to remember everyone, even name all seventy or so main protagonists and antagonists that have shown up throughout the series. For example, Squad A is led by Maka, whose squad consists of herself, Blackstar, and the Kid. If you add in their weapons, that's seven right off the bat. Nine if you count Crona and Ragnarok. Then add Squad B, the adults and their weapons, and repeat with every side in this horribly complicated war.
- Axis Powers Hetalia has this. Since all the characters are the embodiments of countries, each Cast Herd is usually built around or named after a shared geographical, historical or cultural element, which often vary based upon what time period is being shown and/or what topic is being discussed. Some examples:
- Axis: Italy, Germany and Japan
- Allies: Russia, France, China, England and America note
- Germanics: Germany, Austria, Prussia, Liechtenstein and Switzerland
- Nordics: Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland. Sometimes extends to include Sealand
- Baltics: Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia
- Former USSR: The Baltics + Ukraine and Belarus
- Micronations: Sealand, Wy, and Seborga. Recently extended to Kugelmugel, Molossia, Hutt River, and Ladonia.
- Mediterranean: Greece, Egypt, and Turkey. Sometimes Cyprus and Northern Cyprus.
- Benelux: Belgium and Netherlands, but Luxembourg gets mentioned a lot but never really appears.
- Far East: Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Macau.
- Oceania: Australia and New Zealand, but also includes Tonga, Wy, and Hutt River.
- Baccano! does this due to having nearly 2 dozen 'main' characters in addition to the countless other Mooks and crooks. So you get groups such as the Lemeurs, the Martillo, Russo and Runorata Family, Jaccuzzi's gang, and more featured in the light novels.
- Durarara!!, (set in the same universe as the above Baccano! although only loosely connected) has a similarly large cast that can be broken down into a number of 'groups' who have a few satellite members, with the exception of Orihara Izaya and Celty, who tend to find themselves involved in just about everything for various reasons. Somewhat differently than many other cast herds, as the story goes on, one finds there are more and more connections and relationships between groups than one could ever guess, to the point that you could circle any random couple of characters and find a way to group them. Distinct groups include:
- Current Raira Students: Mikado, Anri and Masaomi, Satellites Include Seiji, Mika, Aoba and the Orihara Twins.
- Older Generation Raira Students: Shinra, Shizuo, Izaya and Kadota (though Kadota has his own gang too) Satellites Include Namie, Tom, Celty and Kasuka and Ruri. Also Kadota's own gang, of Walker, Erica and Togasa, and later, Chikage.
- Asakura-Kai Yakuza: Akabayashi, Aozaki, Dougen and Akane.
- Russia Sushi: Simon and Denis. Later Igor, Slon, and Vorona, and Lingerin and Dracon.
- Shady Businesses: Namie, Shingen, Emilia, Seitaruo, Yodogiri. Satellites include Shinra, Celty, Mika and Seiji, and Igor.
- Lampshaded in Kare Kano, where aside from Asaba, Yukino and Arima have mostly exclusive friends to themselves. Miyazawa's tomboy friend and Arima's friend are left over after everyone else leaves and fall into awkward conversation because they are explained to be "the characters who never talk to each other".
- With more than thirty girls in the class taught by the protagonist, Negima makes the most of this, though there is less shifting as the popularity of characters has solidified. Most of the class is divided into reasonably logical Cast Herds based on interests: the jocks, the cheerleaders, and dormmates. Some shift around into the other herds. Naturally, Negi's group is made of the most popular characters. This is lampshaded in a filler chapter involving the quirky but rarely seen 'leftovers', who according to Evangeline are boring and lack sex appeal.
- In addition, the series takes the concept to the max with the soundtracks for the anime adaptations. Image Songs are done by groups rather than just individuals, and the second series' opening theme has multiple versions of its theme song: one lyrical, one each with spoken lines from each herd, and on final version of the lyrical verse with all the girls singing it at once.
- There is also a truly staggering number of herds outside the class, as well. There's the staff of Mahora, there's Chamo and Chachazero, there's the inhabitants of Mundus Magicus (who are themselves divided into innumerable herds, such as Fate's group, the Government, the Gladiators, the Royal Knights, the Bounty Hunters, Mama Bear, and a random group of adventurers), there's the Welsh mages, there's the non-3A students of Mahora, there's the Kyoto villains, there's Ala Rubra... the list goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on....
- The Baka Rangers! More of a plot point than a herd really, but still.
- One Piece has about a kajillion characters by now. Luckily, the show's premise allows them to be easily split off into various different ship crews. The captain usually serves as both herd leader and spokesman.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS has Riot Force Six divided as Forward Stars, Forward Lightning, and the Long Arch crew. After the group gets split up, they got grouped by TSAB branches, such as Combat Instructors (Nanoha, Vita), Enforcers (Fate, Teana), Investigators (Hayate, Reinforce Zwei), Air Force (Signum, Agito), Disaster Relief (Subaru), and Nature Conservation (Erio, Caro). Also, when the Numbers get a Heel–Face Turn, they got split between those that went to the Saint Church and those adopted by the Nakajima family (and those that didn't turn and are currently incarcerated).
- Bleach after the trip to Soul Society, and especially after the first Rescue Arc. The show already has core protagonist group, plus a Captain and a Lieutenant from all thirteen squads, plus at least a few dozen other characters who are at least tangentially important to the plot, and this whole cast can be split into almost any combination at any given time, and almost always is.
- Infinite Ryvius splits its huge cast of teenage space refugees into various social cliques. These are helpfully emphasized in the opening sequence, which arranges everyone by their group. Of course, the groups quickly begin to fluctuate, mix and change once the plot gets rolling.
- Saki easily divides each of its four five-person mahjong teams (not counting side characters like Fujita or Touka's butler) by school. Even then, the more distinct a character design someone has, the more likely they are to be an important character. Kiyosumi (the main characters) and Ryuumonbuchi (the rivals) have the highest amount of important characters.
- Naruto has this, with the different four-member squads. Occasionally the groups do get mixed around to form temporary task forces, but most of the time they work in their original squads. The herding doesn't stop there:
- Some individuals, usually never in the same squad, belong to certain clans, sharing skills and talents inherited through blood or tradition.
- A whole community of ninjas, including several entire clans, live in villages. Each has its own unique set of clans, institutions, culture, history and style of governance.
- Then there are formally and purposefully gathered groups that are bigger than squads, have a mix of talents like squads, but because the members all tend to be of elite calibre, do not necessarily operate like squads. Examples: "The Seven Swordsmen of the Mist", "The Twelve Guardians of Fire Country", "Akatsuki".
- The various Gundam series are quite fond of doing this. In particular, three of the five Gundam pilots in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing (Quatre, Trowa, and Duo) had their own herds (Wu Fei being an Ineffectual Loner and it's a matter of perspective whether Heero was part of Releena's herd or she was a part of his)
- Ikki Tousen, being based off of Romance Of The Three Kingdoms, has the characters divided into schools that usually parallel their alliance in the novel it was based off.
- Detective Conan has its story arcs select from one of the following herds: the Mouri family itself, the folks in the Metropolitan Police Department, the Junior Detective League, the Osakans, the Eagleland law enforcement, and so on.
- Legend of Galactic Heroes does this quite effectively: The cast of hundreds is divided neatly in two, Imperial and Alliance. Within the Alliance, the most important Herd is that of Yang Wen-Li, likewise in the Empire with Reinhard Von Lohengramm. This is emphasized when the Alliance is reduced pretty much to just Yang's Herd, and the Empire is taken over by Reinhard.
- Sailor Moon is a lesser example. The main narrative focus is pretty much always on the title character, but there are two groups of protagonists who more or less remain apart from one another. The Inner Guardians (Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus) form a team centered around Sailor Moon, later adding Sailor Chibi Moon; the Outer Guardians, who play a semi-antagonistic role in the Infinity arc and the '90s anime's corresponding S season, end up forming a family unit and pretty much doing their own thing in the Dream arc / SuperS season and after, mostly only interacting occasionally with Sailor Moon.
- Although interaction between the herds is common, Hayate the Combat Butler has a few herds. '13s', '16s', outside of school...
- Even the 'bad guys' segmented themselves into a herd, though there's little interaction between them anymore, and one of them hasn't even appeared in the manga yet.
- The opening theme of Angel Beats! pulls the characters into herds, though the ones in the show are a bit different and constantly interact.
- A Certain Magical Index has so many characters and so many organizations present that it is inevitable that the cast has been split into multiple groups. And even then, the character sheet only lists sixteen out of an unknown number of groups present in the plot.
- By the end of Dragon Ball the main herds were the Son Family, The Briefs, Kami's lookout. Crane School, the Kais, the Kame House and Mr. Satan and Buu. Between the Sons and the Briefs each even had an equivalent in the other herd note
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Roy Mustang and Maes Hughes are close friends, but their subordinates operate largely separate from each other, which is Truth in Television for many military units.
- Fairy Tail. There are many wizard "guilds", although it could be considered a subversion, since the guilds are comprised of numerous people, especially the titular one, which more and more characters are joining.
- Because Anpanman holds the world record for most characters in an animated series, the characters are commonly clumped together into groups. Most of the groups are trio-based, but this wasn't always the case. Back when the show got its start, characters could work out on their own easily. One of the most obvious changes comes from the Donburiman Trio. Tendonman was introduced in the first episode, so he had multiple episodes where he was by himself, until the first movie introduced Katsudonman and Kamameshidon. Even after they were introduced as the Donburiman Trio, they still had episodes focusing on only one character for a while. Now, when one of the members of the group gets an episode focusing on them, the other two will still appear in the episode in some way.
- InuYasha has four of them, including the Big Bad, likely since the creator has no idea how to create an Evil Empire for him.
- The Holy Grail Wars in the Nasuverse fit this trope nicely: seven teams in a fight to the death, each consisting of a Master/Servant pair and often additional supporting characters. Fate/stay night is mostly told from the point-of-view of one Master, while Fate/Zero generally shares the focus among many teams.
- Bungou Stray Dogs has a group-centric format. The simplest way to split up the cast is "Armed Detective Agency", "Port Mafia", "Guild", and "others", but if you include the Gaiden series there's enough members of the Special Ability Department to group them together too. There's also the Buraiha trio (Dazai, Odasaku, and Ango), the leader trio (Fukuzawa, Mori, and Fitzgerald), and the foreign leader trio (Fitzgerald, Fyodor, and Agatha), among others.
- Love Live! and its spin-off sequel Love Live! Sunshine!! are pretty good about characters interacting with characters from different herds, since the idol groups they focus on are True Companions, but both still tend to group their characters into herds, mostly by what grade the girls are in (first years, second years, and third years). The mobile game also sometimes instead uses the mini groups (Printemps, Lily White, and BiBi for Muse, and CYaRon!, Azalea, and Guilty Kiss for Aqours) as herds for its story segments. The rival groups A-RISE and Saint Snow are their own herds.
- Most comic book super hero universes have GIGANTIC casts with thousands of characters. These get split along various lines, including what team they tend to belong to (X-Men vs The Avengers, for example) what sort of crime they fight (a street-level hero like Batman vs a world-saving hero like Superman) and their ages (young heroes like the Teen Titans, old hands like the Justice Society, and so forth.)
- Continuing villains tend to be foiled by the same hero every time. This makes more sense for DC, in which each hero tends to be based on a different fictional city (Gotham, Metropolis ...), than for Marvel, which has most of them in New York; why doesn't Doc Ock attract the Fantastic Four's attention?
- When Brian Michael Bendis left Ultimate X-Men, incoming writer Brian K. Vaughan was left with a team of thirteen people, and spent much of his time Cast Herding. Throughout his run, various characters would pair off and leave, but continue to make appearances in their own storylines. The remaining characters were constantly split up based on plot demands.
- Gotham Central divided its characters, which are all cops of the same unit, into two shifts, each with their own supervisors and in-house drama. The shifts often had to interact with each other or share information, but the focus tended to be put on one shift at a time.
- Legion of Super-Heroes, whenever written by Paul Levitz or anyone following his style - which most people seem to do, since the title team usually has at least fifteen to twenty characters to keep track of. This is not including various police officers, civilians, important supporting cast members, government officials, family members, other superheroes, villains, villain teams (sometimes as large as the title team), and about three major problems at once. Sometimes more. They are protecting a whole galaxy, after all (and a few times, the entire universe and/or mulitverse).
- There have been certain periods where the Legion was publishing two books and they'd have the cast of one of the titles separated in some way (e.g. trapped in the 20th/21st century, flung to the far end of the galaxy).
- Lampshaded in Terry Moore's run on Runaways, where a miscast spell by Nico caused the team to become unable to work together, resulting in them going off on different errands.
- ElfQuest used this trope occasionally, typically dividing the elves up by tribe. Especially during wartime situations, a number of elves will always choose to stay behind to ensure the species' survival.
- Albedo: Erma Felna EDF, for obvious reasons, has its enormous cast divided by their respective country, organization, or species. Sometimes, some of those herds has their own sub-herds, mostly splitted by families, clans or alliances.
Films - Live Action
- Avengers: Infinity War divides its main cast into several groups, and justifiably, given the large roster.
- A Song of Ice and Fire has a plot that spans across several regions and continents, and often divides groups of characters by where their story takes place (Jon and the Night's Watch in the North, Dany and her royal party in the Free Cities, etc.) Since most of the plot deals with politics and warfare between dynastic houses, characters are also divided further by their family alliance (The Starks, The Lannisters, The Baratheons, etc.)
- Discworld does this between books - most can be classified as Witches, Wizards, City (of which the Watch is the most frequently recurring), Death or Other. There is a lot of overlap though: Death appears in all the books except The Wee Free Men; any novel with a scene in Ankh-Morpork is likely to have either the wizards or the Watch show up; Lords and Ladies is basically a Witches/Wizards crossover; Unseen Academicals is a Wizards novel that continues the themes of the City books, and so on.
- Happens in the second and third volumes of The Lord of the Rings - you've got Pippin/Merry, Aragorn/Legolas/Gimli, and Frodo/Sam in The Two Towers, and it's even further split in Return of the King into Aragorn/Legolas/Gimli, Gandalf/Pippin, Théoden/Éowyn/Merry and Frodo/Sam, and the chapters alternate between each group.
- After a couple of books, The Wheel of Time series splits its Farm Boy Power Trio onto their own paths and gives each their own supporting cast. The main female leads also get their own herds.
- Book one: one plotline, one cast.
- Books two and three: the boys' herd and the girls' herd.
- Books four and five: Rand's herd, Perrin's herd, Elayne and Nynaeve's herd.
- Books six to thirteen: Four Lines, All Waiting.
- Malevil features a few, while the cast merges together at the titular castle, they tend to stick with their original members while in the background. You have the original Malevil survivors, the "troglodytes" of L'Étang, the oppressed La Roque citizens, and the oppressing La Roque parish.
- Unda Vosari actually started with a small cast of characters, then grew to over several dozen characters (both main and secondary). Some were Put on a Bus (the "Silent Vigil" ship) while others are still on a Long Bus Trip (as the sequel novels are still being written.
- House of Leaves has three separate areas of story. The part about the movie concerning Navidson and his family. Then there is the book itself, which is written by Zampano and commented on by various one-shot academics. Lastly there is Johnny's part, which contains the adventures of the author's author (Or however the hell you describe anything in the book), as he goes absolutely insane. The only interaction comes in the beginning before and just after Zampano dies, and that barely constitutes interaction.
- In Dragons in Our Midst, we start with the main True Companions, Billy, Bonnie, and Walter, and the professor. From there, we have each of their families, the other anthrozils, the dragons in Sheol, the dragons in Dragon's Rest, the slayers, Morgana and her henchmen, the Watchers, all of those who were at Doctor Conner's lab, and several different factions within Sheol.
- Then we have the sequel series, Oracles of Fire. Cast members added include all of the Nephlim, the characters from the Arc time period, which somewhat overlaps with the characters from the Tower of Babel time period, more anthrozils, the ten men from Sheol, characters in Heaven... the list goes on and on and on.
- Warrior Cats starts off book one with ThunderClan, WindClan, ShadowClan, RiverClan, StarClan and the Twolegplace kittypets. The story has since grown to include the normal Clans at different time periods, SkyClan, BloodClan, The Dark Forest, The Tribe of Rushing Water, The Tribe of Endless Hunting, The Ancients, the cats that founded the Clans, and many, many side groups such as Daisy's barn, Jingo's group, the traveling rogues, the mountain rogues, Stick and Dodge's groups, and Darktail's rogues. Now to take a breath.
- Gone, especially in later books. There's the Sam's group, Caine's group, the Human Crew, and the Island kids, plus whoever the Gaiaphage is using at the moment. People do occasionally switch from one group to another, though, like Diana and Quinn at the end of Plague, and the Island kids have now kind of merged with Sam's group.
- Song at Dawn: Alienor's Ladies-In-Waiting are referred to 'the Ladies' as if they were a single identity. A Running Gag is Estela and/or Dragonetz failing to tell them apart. For instance '(blah blah) from Mary or Candance'.
- As the Honor Harrington universe grew, this had to happen (not counting the assorted spin-off series). Towards the end of the war with Haven it wasn't unusual to have the Royal Manticoran Navy section of the book (usually, but not always, featuring Harrington herself), the Manticoran political section, the Havenite navy section (usually starring the honorable officers who were starting to conspire against the People's Republic), and the Havenite political section with Pierre and Saint-Just. The end of the war moved the posts: the Havenite cast joined with the Manticorans, and now the books tend to be divided between the Solarians, the Grand Alliance, and the Mesan Alignment. Note that this doesn't include the Torch and Talbott sub-series; the former follow the "Spook Duo" of Victor Cachat and Anton Zilwicki, and the latter follow events in the Talbott Quadrant near the Lynx Terminus of the Junction.note
- Legacy of the Dragokin: The goblins have their quirks but they have more identity as a group than individuals and they're always together. Likewise, Rufus calls for them in every scene he's in.
Live Action TV
- The 100: After the first few minutes of the pilot episode, there has yet to be a point where all the main characters are in the same geographic location.
- Season 1 had the cast split between the delinquents on the ground and the adults up in space.
- Season 2 splits the cast between those inside Mount Weather, those gathered together on the outside (though those two herds combine in the season finale), and Jaha, who spends most of the season off doing his own thing.
- Season 3 had one group of characters living in Polis and another living in Arkadia, though which characters make up which group changes drastically about halfway through the season.
- Babylon 5: Had this to varying degrees during its run. While there was always some overlap, all the major parties would split up into subgroups as events heated up. During the revolution to overthrow President Clark, they were separated into the space war with the main Earth military officers, the ground war on Mars, and everyone else back at the station (primarily the non-human characters). There was also the Narn/Centauri issues which usually led to Londo and G'Kar doing stuff separate from the rest of the cast.
- Battlestar Galactica (2003):
- Had its share of this; it wasn't until halfway through the second season that all the characters were actually in the same place, with other significant splits since then like the group left on New Caprica, or Starbuck's crew while she's finding the way to Earth.
- Then of course later on there were splits between Cylon-centric scenes and human-centric scenes. This started with the Cylon-centric second season episode "Downloaded," which was the first time we really got a look at how Cylon society functioned, but it became a lot more frequent after that. To complicate things further, there were plenty of Cast Herds in human society as well (Baltar's harem being one of the most obvious ones).
- Boardwalk Empire: Focuses primarily on Atlantic City, but also features recurring characters based in Chicago (Al Capone, Johnny Torrio and, as of the third season, Nelson van Alden) and New York (Arnold Rothstein, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky); for the first two seasons, neither herd's home turf has much bearing on the plot and their relevance usually results from their business in Atlantic City, but as of the third season, both the New York and Chicago arcs are much more self-contained.
- Brazilian primetime soaps: These shows, which always have Loads and Loads of Characters, tend to cluster the cast like this, even using an official term: nuclei. There may be the "protagonist nucleus", the "comedic nucleus", the "suburban nucleus", the "favela nucleus" etc.
- Community often split up its cast between "young" (Annie, Troy, and Abed), "old" (Shirley and Pierce), and "in-between" (Jeff and Britta). Although there were frequent overlaps, by the time that Troy left Greendale, Donald Glover and Yvette Nicole Brown observed in the DVD commentary that they had never actually had a significant, one-on-one on-screen conversation.
- Downton Abbey:
- Happens with the Earl's family ("upstairs") and the servants ("downstairs").
- However, one character, Series 1-2 chauffeur Tom Branson, was always half-here, half-there, as being the chauffeur he had less occasion to spend time with the other servants and a great deal of occasion to cart the Crawleys around; by Series 3 he's more "upstairs"—having married Sibyl—but has occasional "downstairs" storylines.
- This was becoming a problem at one point, the solution of which was to clone the main character and send one of each off with roughly half the cast and then alternate between the groups until enough characters had died to recombine them.
- If that was the case, then it didn't work - only one of the Crichtons died, and of the other characters only Stark left the show. Zhaan died at the start of the season, and Crais and Talyn died at the end of it - long (respectively) before and after the split-up)
- Heroes: Happens a lot, with the cast being split up almost constantly (the Petrellis; the Bennets; Nikki, DL and Micah; Hiro and Ando; etc).
- Game of Thrones: The cast is divided into several herds. In the seventh season, after the deaths of almost half the cast and new alliances in the last season, the herds are:
- The King's Landing herd (including Jaime, Cersei, Euron, Bronn, the Mountain, and Qyburn).
- The Wall herd (including Dolourous Edd, Meera and Bran).
- Daenerys's herd (including Dany, Missandei, Grey Worm, Tyrion, Olenna, Yara, Theon, Varys, Ellaria and the sand snakes).
- The Winterfell herd (including Jon, Sansa, Davos, Petyr, Lyanna, Tormund, Brienne, Podrick, Lord Royce, Lord Manderly).
- The Brotherhood (the Hound, Beric and Thoros)
- The Citadel herd (Jorah, Sam, Gilly, Little Sam, Archmaester Marwyn)
- And Arya and Melisandre, each traveling alone.
- Gotham splits it pretty evenly between Gordon and the GCPD solving crimes, Oswald Cobblepot moving up through the ranks of the Mob, and young Bruce Wayne training/on the run with Selina/combating the corruption in his father's company. The three herds do tend to converge on significantly large threats, though.
- Makes use of distinct character groups, though they tend to merge by the end. Season 2 split them into the Tailies (with Ana-Lucia as spokesman and most important, and most appearing character) and the fuselage survivors; season 3 had the herds of the people in the camp and people captured by the Others (and it changed regularly as it went on); and season 4 featured Jack's group, Locke's group, the people on the boat, and the people from the boat. Notably, the latter two were prone to vanishing from the plot often. Season 5 continues the trend: on the one hand, we have the on-island characters, and on the other, the off-island characters. Then shifts to 1977 characters and 2007 characters, which in turn splits into the 316 survivors (lead by Ilana) and the people on the main Island. The off-Island plot (AKA Desmond's) vanishes here, outside of a flashback and a few brief scenes in "The Variable". Season 6 eventually comes down to Jacob's people and The Man In Black's people.
- Averted Trope by season 1: A big deal is made initially about who is on the beach and who is in the caves, but this distinction quickly became meaningless as characters go from camp to camp so often that it's hard to remember who chose to go where. This split is ultimately forgotten and the survivors all move back to the beach in early season 2.
- Also early on there was a core group of characters who did everything. If something was going on, it included some combination of Jack, Kate, Locke, Sawyer and Sayid. Fan Nickname for them was the 'A-Team'. This was because at the beginning Lost's Myth Arc was just forming. We were treated to a lot of 'life on the beach' subplots with characters like Boone, Shannon, Charlie, Claire, Hugo, Jin, Sun, etc. The writers gave several instances of Lampshade Hanging to this. Characters would drift in and out of the two groups, but it was removed completely later on. Arguably by the fourth or fifth season all the characters were directly involved in the mythology of the island.
- This was also lampshaded repeatedly after the on-screen introduction of the Others, with characters using the phrase(s) "my/your/their people."
- Modern Family is about one large extended family, but often split into the three households that compose it.
- Oz: In the second season, the Unit Manager of Emerald City begins to identify his inmates as being in one of ten groups: Muslims, Homeboys, Italians, Latinos, Aryans, Bikers, Irish, Gays, Christians, and Others.
- Revolution: It's easier to look at the characters in terms of groups: Mathesons, Nevilles, Thompsons, Blackmores, Pittmans, O'Hallorans, Claytons, The Monroe Republic, The Tower Clan/Dwellers, The Georgia Federation, The Plains Nation, and so on.
- Soap Opera: In fact, this is pretty much a staple of all instances of this type of show. They're usually separated into multiple plot lines, and scenes are shot in blocks.
- Stranger Things had several casts, most strongly emphasized in the first season, and each with their own genre. The Spielberg-movie herd consists of Mike, Lucas, Dustin, and Eleven (and Max, Will and Steve in Season 2). The Paranormal/Conspiracy Thriller herd has Joyce and Hopper. The Teen Horror Flick herd has Nancy, Barb, and Jonathan, while the Teen Romantic Comedy has Steve, Nancy, and Steve's friends (and Billy in Season 2), although Steve does stumble his way into the Horror herd near the end of Season 1. By the end of Season 1 and into Season 2, the herds begin to blur more as Steve joins up with the Party, Hopper takes Eleven in, and Nancy and Jonathan take on more of the Conspiracy Thriller slack to get justice for Barb's death.
- Upstairs Downstairs: With more than 20 recurring characters, this period drama has its two distinct Cast Herds conveniently marked in the title. Upstairs is the well-off Bellamy family; Downstairs is their staff of servants, a sort of family of its own.
- Westworld has several ongoing storylines at once. In the first season, there is the herd of the people in command, Maeve's herd, Dolores, Billy, and Logan, and whoever the Man in Black is dragging around at the time (first Lawrence and later Teddy). Justified because the Dolores/Billy/Logan storyline is taking place years in the past; eventually, Billy grows up to become the Man in Black.
- Veep does this in Season 6, as the end of the Meyer administration sends the cast all off on their different ways: Selina starts a foundation, supported by Gary, Richard, Catherine, Marjorie and Mike. Amy gets engaged to her minor love interest from Season 5, who's now running for Governor of Nevada though when he drops out, she leaves him and rejoins Selina. Ben and Kent are working for Jonah in Congress. Dan is now working at CBS.
- Gilmore Girls basically has three main storylines: Friday Night Dinners at the Gilmore house, the going ons of Stars Hollow and Rory's school life. There's a lot of overlap with major characters, of course, but Rory is really the only character who is involved in all three stories.
- The Defenders (2017): With the exceptions really of Colleen Wing and Misty Knight, most of the supporting cast members brought in from the standalone shows primarily spend their time interacting with their home show's main character. Karen Page and Foggy Nelson, coming from Daredevil (2015), primarily only interact with Matt, aside from some small interactions with other characters (like Karen and Trish's interaction). Likewise, Trish Walker and Malcolm Ducasse, coming from Jessica Jones (2015), only really interact with Jessica.
- The Punisher (2017) has several different groups of casts for the four different storylines: Frank and David are working together to kill the plotters of Operation Cerberus, Dinah Madani and Sam Stein are hunting for the same people to get justice for Ahmed Zubair, Billy Russo and William Rawlins are working to destroy anything linking them to Operation Cerberus, and Lewis Wilson is going on a downward spiral due to his PTSD. Lewis's storyline intertwines with the A plot thanks to Lewis and Frank being both acquaintances of Curtis Hoyle, while intertwining with the Russo storyline when Curtis has to tell Russo to reject Lewis from being hired at Anvil.
- Super Robot Wars can, of course, split characters among their own series (but they may need their usual herds anyway), and occasionally mixes characters into new herds depending on the story. In the Original Generation games, they're usually divided by their military units (ATX Team, SRX team, Octo Squad, Aggressors, etc...), couples (and there are a lot of them), and sometimes by ship (whether they usually travel with the Hagane or Hiryu Custom).
- Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn involves three separate armies. Only the army leaders wind up talking to each other. When they team up to fight the Big Bad, only the leaders and mandatory characters say anything. Justified because of the game's Anyone Can Die nature - if a character was to say something, and they had died earlier on, there would have to be a different conversation involving a different character, and if that one had died.... It just keeps going on. Using the characters that would net you a Game Over if they died was really the only solution.
- Granblue Fantasy: Considering the Loads and Loads of Characters this game has, Cygames eventually organized playable characters into these, with the story characters as the main one, Society members in another, the Holy Knights of Lumiel as one, the ten Eternals, etc...
- The Subspace Emmissary of Super Smash Bros. Brawl has several groups of characters that intersect, divide, and ultimately all converge for the finale.
- The ever-growing Touhou cast is often divided by where they live (most endgame bosses work with that principle), their race (the fairies), their occupation (Team Magic), their status (most demo bosses, Team ⑨), pairing (again, Team Magic) or even all or most of these at once (The protagonists).
- The cast is somewhat of a Geodesic Cast, where all the final bosses tend to have similar sets of servants that form cast herds, as well. It's only the characters outside of those cast herds (like the low-level bosses that make up the ⑨ squad) that form cast herds elsewhere.
- The witches trio actually has a member, Magic Librarian Patchouli, that belongs to two separate cast herds - she's a live-in member of the Scarlet Devil Mansion, and a partially-willing inductee of "Team Marisa's Harem".
- Kingdom Hearts' Cast Herding is the only thing stopping it from being unfollowable as a series; there's at least 200 unique characters from Disney, Final Fantasy, and original characters that are thankfully separated into worlds with only a few characters in each one, and only about half of the characters in each world are important. Still, there's at least 25 worlds so far since Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, and there's at least 30 characters who can go between worlds.
- The King of Fighters is also notable for this. Although already has team separation; more and more teams came later on. Considering the unstoppable climax of sequels flowing and flowing all time, the entire list of teams is too long to specify here: if you're a KoF fan, you already must know 'em all by heart.
- The Sonic series from Sonic Adventure to Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) generally herded its characters into groups of three. Sonic Heroes took this and made it the game's central mechanic.
- In Fantasy Life, each job makes the player better acquainted with a handful of characters with the same job. The groups associated with each job don't interact with each other for the most part, despite sometimes being close neighbors. Exceptions include a Paladin that used to be a blacksmith and crafting jobs that need materials from other jobs (e.g. carpenters in regards to tailors and woodcutters and blacksmiths in regards to miners). Given the game has 12 jobs, thats still makes about 50 people who only speak to their colleagues.
- Schlock Mercenary slowly evolved into this, though the focus remains mostly on Tagon and the Special Ops team.
- Homestuck certainly Loads and Loads of Characters arranged as a Geodesic Cast, the result being that the groups have been (mostly) subdivided into the four 'Kids', the twelve Trolls, the four Exiles, the Midnight Crew of four, the four Sprites, the four Guardians, the four post-scratch kids, the two Cherubim... The list goes on.
- It's interesting to note that while Homestuck certainly has long list of characters, the defining events of the story mean that about two-thirds of the cast account for the entire surviving population of two universes, the other half being dead themselves. Not many stories can claim to feature literally everyone in the world.
- TRU-Life Adventures brings us the morning shift (Darby, Edith, Dan), the closing shift (Bob, Jack, Bert, Stephanie), the overnight crew (Brick, Derek), the group working against Big Bad Leonard Zachary (Bob, Jack, Darby, Neal, Hatch, Alex, Kate), and the groups trying to work against Bad Boss Simon DeVere and/or deal with the time travel situation (various members of the morning and closing shifts). Loads and Loads of Characters indeed.
- Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic has the various factions within Black Mountain, plus the various surrounding kingdoms.
- Something*Positive evolved into this, once Davan and Pee-Jee moved to Texas. There's the Davan/PeeJee-centric Texas cast, the Aubrey/Jason-centric Boston cast, the Monette-centric Hollywood cast and Kharisma (at-large in parts unknown), with assorted characters Commuting on a Bus (most notably Davan's ex, Branwen) and several outlying characters checking during the "Old Familiar Faces" arcs.
- The Loads and Loads of Characters in Drowtales can be divided first by peer group, since the younger character tend to stick with one group of friends, and outside of that can be split up among the different clans they swear fealty to, which on its own tells you a lot about a character's particular ideals as to how the world should work. In particularly large clans like the Sharen they can then be further divided by which member of the family or bloodline they claim descent from.
- Most of the main and supporting characters of El Goonish Shive can be divided into: the students and staff of Moperville North high school, the students and staff of Moperville South high school, the cast of the Fourth-Wall Mail Slot, and the local FBI agents. Outside of the main cast few of the characters belonging to different schools are shown together. Also, the FBI agents are almost never seen with anyone outside their group other than a few of the main cast and those of the Fourth-Wall Mail Slot by their very nature never interact with any other characters canonically and even those non-canon meetings are rare.
- The cast of Rhapsodies can be divided between neighbors, Paul, Kate and Brian. Starting with Paul, and the working Jazz/Rock Fusion band he's a member of, Kate and her employees at Lysistrata Books, and finally Brian's family and minions at his financial consulting firm.
- Leif & Thorn: The cast page has bloomed into a multi-page wiki, spreading them across 8+ separate group pages (plus individual pages for the 2 title characters), some of them further divided into subheadings.
- At Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe, people get split off by their 'team'. Team Kimba has the core protagonists. Outcast Corner has four more main characters who mostly appear together. Carmilla has split off from Team Kimba and has her own team now: The Pack. Aquerna mainly appears with the Underdogs. The Whitman Literary Girls have their own stories. And even the school villains usually stick to their own teams.
- In The Gungan Council, the factions group like minded characters (Lightside characters joining Jedi, darkside character joining Sith) together and instill a sense of galactic conflict, due to hundreds of characters being written at once.
- Protectors of the Plot Continuum usually work in pairs or trios.
- RWBY is built around this trope. All the characters are grouped off into teams of four. The protagonists form one set of four, the deuteragonists form a second set of four, the teachers are grouped into four, and it goes on from there. It's to the point where an entire team was created just to put the resident Ensemble Darkhorse into her own group of four.
- As of the end of volume 3, it looks like this pattern has been shaken up at least temporarily; the main team has Broken Up for the time being, and the protagonist is now traveling with the remaining members of the deuteragonist team after the death of one of their number.
- By the time we've reached Season 3 of The Most Popular Girls in School, it's evident that this trope is in place for our convenience (i.e. The Cheer Squad, The Hipsters, The Football players, etc.).
- Justice League Unlimited does this with the many superheroes it portrays, usually grouping them by sub-teams like the Seven Soldiers of Victory or by respective creators. This is visually explicit in the Grand Finale, which has the heroes moving out in their specific herds, finishing off with the seven founding members, and within that the trio of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman at the end.
- The Venture Bros. does this, but not for lack of characterization. If anything, it's because the ancillary characters become too well-rounded, so now we have to check in with 21 and 24, even if nothing's going on. Lesser villains like Phantom Limb and Underbeidht get less screen time. This is also by design: almost the entire recurring supporting cast is voiced by either Doc Hammer or Jackson Publick, and they try to avoid Talking to Himself.
- Thomas the Tank Engine has the standard gauge engines and the narrow gauge engines, who rarely interact. However, that didn't necessarily hold true in either the novels or the early seasons. Gordon and Sir Handel could often be found bitching about being underappreciated, Peter Sam and Henry did not much care for each other, and Skarloey and Edward were best friends.
- In the books and the episodes adapted from it (also a fair bit of those from Season 17 onwards), the characters were all grouped by where they worked, e.g, Thomas, Percy, Toby, Daisy and Mavis work at Thomas' branchline, the Main Line is staffed by Gordon, James and Henry, Duck and Oliver work on the Little Western, Cranky, Salty and Porter work in the docks, etc. In the newer seasons there are also herds in the form of the Steamworks and the Vicarstown Dieselworks.
- The original Transformers series has herds within herds, which is to be expected of a show that is trying to sell toys. The entire original G1 toyline, by one rather rough estimate, contained 314 toys.
- BIONICLE splits the cast into numerous different species and organizations. The Toa, Matoran, Turaga, Skakdi, Vortixx, Zyglak, Agori, Skrall, and Glatorian are the (named) species, and the Dark Hunters, Brotherhood of Makuta, and the Order of Mata Nui are the organizations. Some species have a tendency to join specific orders.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- The show does this with the Avatar group and the Zuko/Iroh group before they meet up.
- The second season also added Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee into the mix, and occasionally showed glimpses into what Suki and the Kyoshi Warriors were doing, as well.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In general, the show's very large cast of recurring characters there only being so much time in each episode and so many episodes per season mean that a certain "compartmentalizing" of the cast, and various characters appearing more often or always in conjunction with each other, proves inevitable. Many of the cast herds are centered on one or another of the six original central characters, who have formed associations with various supporting cast members over the show's run. Overlap between the various cast herds also becomes common, especially in the show's later seasons.
- First off, there's the main cast — the main six ponies and Spike, plus Starlight in later seasons. A loose "sub-herd" consisting Spike and Starlight exists centered around Twilight, as they interact with her noticeably more often than they do with the other main characters. The secondary characters Trixie, Ember and Thorax can also be considered part of this sub-herd, as their interactions with other characters are limited to Twilight, Spike, Starlight and each other.
- The Cutie Mark Crusaders — Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo — form a Power Trio and a smaller version of the main group, having an earth pony, pegasus, and unicorn. When other child-age characters appear, they interact almost exclusively with them, as does the schoolteacher Cheerilee.
- The Apple Family forms another herd centered on Applejack, consisting of her grandmother Granny Smith, her brother Big Macintosh and her younger sister Apple Bloom, as well as various incidental and one-off relatives. Most of their appearances, with the exception of Apple Bloom, are limited to Applejack's focus episodes, meaning that most of their character interactions are with her or each other.
- The Season 6 episode "Dungeons & Discords" introduces a new herd, seen again in "The Break Up Break Down", consisting of Discord, Big Macintosh and Spike. Their interactions with each other provide some of the only interactions they have with characters that aren't members of the core six or their original cast herds.
- While these groupings are not extremely common among the background ponies — a term used to refer to the minor characters used for bit parts and crowd shots — due to the fact that individual background ponies are not specified in episode scripts and animators thus often place whichever background ponies they want in a given role without much thought to continuity, a few cast herds are constant among them too. Most notably, the flower-themed mares Daisy, Lily and Roseluck are strongly associated with each other, and each one almost always appears alongside one or both of the other two.
- The almost overwhelming amount of characters on The Simpsons becomes a lot more manageable when categorized by what their specific role is in the town of Springfield: the Simpson family, the Flanders family, the elementary school childrennote , the elementary school staff, the celebrities of Channel 6, the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant employees (which go hand-in-hand with the regulars of Moe's), the Springfield Police Department, the Springfield mafia, etc.
- In Total Drama, there are 22 campers, plus host Chris and Chef Hatchet. In Season 1, they are divided into two teams, The Screaming Gophers, and the Killer Bass. In Season 2, they are the Screaming Gaffers and the Killer Grips. In Season 3, there are three teams, Team Amazon, Team Victory, and Team Chris Is Really Really Really Really Hot (No, he did not choose that name).
- Thanks to Mixels having three member tribes themed around a specific element, many episodes are based around only a couple tribes interacting with each other, with maybe a small moment of another tribe's member.