Chain Lightning

A Sub-Trope and combination of Shock and Awe and Herd-Hitting Attack, basically an electric attack hits a target, then it jumps towards other nearby targets (may hit allies, depending on the setting).

A Lightning Gun may have this ability. Not to be confused with the song by Steely Dan, or the other song by Rush.


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    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The Chain Lightning spell. 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. In 3rd edition this was simplified to the spell having a fixed number of secondary targets who all take half damage. 3rd edition also added the Chain Spell metamagic feat, allowing any ranged single-target spell to be imbued with similar properties... though the reduced damage tends to make it Awesome, but Impractical on anything other than Status Buffs.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • The card Chain Lightning is an interesting example in that the spell's first target (or the target's owner) gets to choose the next target. As long as each player is willing and able to spend red mana on the spell, the process repeats itself.
    • Arc Lightning allows the caster to spread a set amount of damage to multiple targets. The card art shows a lightning bolt arcing from one target to the next.
  • Warhammer: A Heavens spell actually called Chain Lightning has a chance to jump to a second target after the first, then a third after the second and so on until it fails to jump.
  • World of Warcraft card game (and its short-lived miniature game) faithfully recreates the video-game-version's Chain Lightning and Chain Healing spells (the page picture is from the WoW card game, not the MMORPG). This trope is so prevalent in the card game in that many Shamans or Shaman abilities/equipments can cast Chain Lightning, dealing or healing 3 damage to the first target, 2 to the next and 1 to the last.

    Video Games 
  • Warcraft 3: The Far Seer hero has this as one of his abilities. It launches a lightning bolt that deals damage to the initial target, then bounces to several others for reduced damage.
  • World of Warcraft :
    • The Shaman class has chain lightning. After hitting its initial target, it will jump to the nearest enemy, but each jump reduces the damage it does. Shaman players also have access to a Glyph that causes their Chain Lightning attacks to jump through five targets rather than the usual three, but do 10% less initial damage.
    • Some of the mobs and bosses have lightning abiltiesi in which each jump does more damage to encourage players to spread out. In particular, C'thun, one of the Old Gods, is infamous for his beam attack. If the entire group is standing together, the last unlucky sap to get hit by the beam can sustain up to seven million damagenote . Watch the carnage here.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim's Adept-level Destruction spell Chain Lightning arcs between enemies on a direct hit, and can also arc off the environment on a miss, making it easier to hit with than other similar spells.
  • Resistance: Fall of Man has the Arc Charger, a gun that shoots a bolt of energy that jumps from enemy to enemy, and gets stronger with each body it passes through.
  • Numerous weapons in the Ratchet & Clank series have an arcing electricity effect, or can be enhanced with such. The ones that really spring to mind include:
    • The Plasma Coil/Plasma Storm (a small electric shot that arcs on impact, and upgrades to fire a bouncing lightning ball that zaps everything in range).
    • The Spitting Hydra/Tempest produces powerful lightning arcs that coarses through multiple targets it locks on.
  • In Champions Online, this a basic power from the Electricity set. Many/most of the Electricity powers have this chaining-to-another-target as a possible effect actually, but the Chain Lightning power itself can leap every time and to multiple targets if possible. This power is not so great on single enemies, but can bounce back and forth within a small group for some NICE damage by the time it actually finishes.
  • F.E.A.R.'s second expansion pack Perseus Mandate adds the LP4 Lightning Arc Weapon, a BFG that will fire an enemy-seeking stroke of lightning strong enough to kill any normal or supernatural enemy with one shot, and will damage nearby enemies around the primary target as an added bonus.
  • Metroid Prime has a number of "beam combos" which combine a Charged Attack from one of your elemental beams with missiles. The beam combo for the Wave Beam is the Wavebuster, a stroke of lightning which arcs between multiple enemies and can be fired continuously.
  • In Mega Man ZX Advent, Ashe's secondary shot in Model A form shoots one stream of electricity that arcs between every enemy you lock onto.
  • In Mabinogi, one of the three basic attack spells is lightning bolt. While at one charge it will only hit one enemy, each additional charge added allows the player to hit one more enemy near it, though it will do less damage each time it jumps. While a player can only charge a spell up to five times, it can work in combination with up to 2 other players' lightning bolts, allowing one to hit up to fifteen monsters.
  • Zapper in Purple looks like a joke, until you get at least two enemies of the same type, then it will shoot lightning that connects enemies for massive damage.
  • Subverted Trope in Total War: Warhammer - the Empire's Celestial Wizards can use a spell actually called Chain Lightning, but it really doesn't work in the expected "jumps to other people" manner. The spell is of the "vortex" category, which basically means it summons a ball (in this case of course, an electric one) onto a location that then roams around for a bit, hitting anyone that's close enough to it during the time it persists.
  • In Star Wars: Battlefront II, the primary weapon of the Empire's jetpack-equipped Dark Trooper is a lightning cannon which, to make up for its short range, can charge its shots in order to chain up to two additional nearby targets.
  • The electric beam weapon in Hellgate: London. The beam spreads to nearby enemies, and it can also shock them, so they stop or move more slowly.
  • The Deus Ex promo for Team Fortress 2 came with the Short Circuit secondary for the Engineer, which fires electricity and hits targets in front of Engineer, AND targets near those, even teammates. In a twist, it's extremely weak (it only does 5 damage), and its main purpose is instead to destroy enemy projectiles such as rockets, grenades, and Sticky Bombs.
  • Lightning spells in Magicka can hit several nearby enemies at once.
  • In Age of Wonders, there's a spell called Chain Lightning that arcs between enemies, limited to four units attacked in chain and they must be at a certain distance from node to node.
  • Transformers: Fall of Cybertron has the E.D.K. Techvolt, a Lightning Gun that will gladly jump from one enemy to another or even seek them around corners if you're near enough to them. Sadly, while its accuracy is high, its damage is extremely low, and as a result it is a fairly niche weapon in both the singleplayer and multiplayer communities.
  • The Ion Disruptor in the X-Universe is an energy-hog and has very short range, but has the ability to arc between dozens of targets to deal continuous shield damage to them all, provided they're relatively close to each other. It's the best way for dealing with the copious amounts of missile spam from Missile Frigates and Bombers, as it can arc between the multi-warhead missiles. But beware its tendency to hit friendly ships, as it cannot distinguish between friendly or enemy targets.
  • The Lightning Reed in Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time can fire a weak electric shock (1/2 damage) that can target adjacent rows, and will chain to nearby zombies for 1/4 damage. Extremely useful against Zombie chickens, which attack in huge numbers and take one hit to die from anything (even the chained lightning will kill them instantly).
  • Several units in Endless Legend have chain lightning attacks. The Ended, ghosts of the Virtual Endless, augment their BFS strikes with chain lightning arcs, allowing them to damage entire enemy armies.
  • The Elder Kraken in Evolve replaces Aftershock with a chain lighting attack. Unusually for this trope, the bolt increases in damage with every jump. The result is a potentially devastating attack that needs to be carefully maneuvered to get the best results.
  • A number of lightning-elemental skills in Path of Exile behave like this, such as Arc (an electric arc that chains between enemies up to 7 times at max level) and Lightning Arrow (empowered arrows that each zap the enemy they hit and 3 other nearby foes), and they can be made to chain even more times with a Chain Support gem.
  • Blaster Master Zero has the Blaster Rifle's level-6 mode, Striker. It fires a single slow-moving lightning bullet, which on impact chains an electric beam to every nearby enemy even on opposite sides of the screen.
  • Dota 2: The Maelstrom and Mjollnir items give the holder's attacks a chance to unleash a bolt of lightning that bounces between multiple enemies.
    • Zeus's Arc Lightning spell, which deals relatively low damage but arcs between a lot of enemies, does not lose damage on each jump, and has a ridiculously short cooldown, letting him spam it for as long as he has mana to mow down groups of enemies.

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