7 corpse parts hidden in different locations across America = the most epic grave-robbing adventure ever.
Professor: Obviously, I'll also leave that here with y... Leave... It's only logical, so that the device... So I'll leave it... Lea... I'll leav...
Professor: NO!!! I'm sorry, but the urge is too strong! I'll separate the punchcard into seven pieces and hide them deep within seven monster-infested dungeons distributed all over the country!!! Tell that to any group of people who might come asking for it...
A common way to produce Plot Coupons of the 'Gotta Catch 'Em All' variety is for the Precursors to split a powerful Ancient Artifact that was used to defeat the bad guy into three or more parts and, yes, distribute them across the world on a vague premise of it being "too dangerous to ever use again". Then, when the bad guy raises its head Exty Years Later (and it always does), the heroes must set out to reassemble said artifact.
More generally, someone has split an important object into pieces, and stored those pieces in different locations. Anyone who wants to possess the object must recover and recombine all the pieces.
If the said artifact was disassembled because it possesses an evil will of its own, this overlaps with Sealed Evil in a Can. If it was disassembled because there was a good chance that evil would get their hands on it in the present, this overlaps with Fling a Light into the Future. If the assembled artifact has far stronger (and useful!) properties, it's due to the Set Bonus. If the pieces end up in the hands of different characters as they search for it, it can lead to a case of Two Halves Make A Plot.
Despite the trope name, the dismantled object might or might not be a MacGuffin. If the object does something after being reassembled, it's not a MacGuffin. If the plot is about reassembling the artifact but not about using its powers, then it can be a MacGuffin.
See also Accidentally Broke the MacGuffin.
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Anime and Manga
Pictured above, in the seventh part of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Steel Ball Run, the corpse parts are scattered across America, which grant mysterious powers to those who hold them.
The corpse wasn't really sealed away or split on purpose though. They just scattered across the continent by (super)natural means after Jesus died and his corpse was mummified.
Inuyasha: The Shikon Jewel was broken into shards at the beginning of the story. The rest of the story was essentially a quest by almost everyone alive (with the sole exception of Sesshoumaru) trying to collect the shards in an attempt to either gain great power or to prevent others from gaining great power. In the end, the Dismantled MacGuffin turned out to be an Artefact of Doom that not only unleashed the Ultimate Evil against Sesshoumaru and Inuyasha but was also The Man Behind the Man that could only be defeated by Kagome.
In Sailor Moon the Silver Crystal split into the the seven Rainbow Crystals after Queen Serenity used it to send her daughter and the Sailor Senshi and Prince Endymion's souls to Earth for reincarnation. The Rainbow Crystals had to be found by those wishing to reassemble them into the Silver Crystal — with the Sailor Senshi, Tuxedo Mask, and the villainous Dark Kingdom all after it. Each crystal was contained within the body of a normal human who (unbeknownst to them) was a really a reincarnation of the "Seven Great Youma".
Done in the second season of Sonic X by Super Sonic to prevent the Chaos Emeralds from being used for evil.
Inverted in Voltron: Defender of the Universe: it is the bad guys who originally dismantle Voltron because he/it is too powerful for them, and the pilot is spent trying to get the robot to reassemble.
Mostly subverted in Neon Genesis Evangelion. The whole series is essentially the protagonists trying to keep the Angels from reuniting with Lilith. Partial in that a few of the "protagonists" secretly WANT an Angel to reunite with Lilith, only on their timetable.
Inverted and then played straight on all sides in Ronin Warriors. Originally, the Ancient defeated Talpa, and divided his armor into 9 parts, which were then separated. However, Talpa managed to survive and recover 4 of them. The Ronin Warriors were given the other 5, which they had to recover. Eventually, the Ronin Warriors gain all 5 armors and combine them into the Inferno armor, however this is where the trope gets averted (or played straight on the other side) as this merely puts all 5 armors in one place for Talpa to get ahold of. Finally played straight when the Ronin Warriors AND Talpa's evil henchmen give him exactly what he wants, and overpowers him with the rejuvenated force of all 9 armors, thus defeating him permanently.
Subverted / Played for Laughs in the book/manga version of Van Von Hunter, when Van Von Hunter accidentally tricks The Flaming Prince into crushing the Ebon Eye ("Or as I like to call it, 'The Blarble'!"). Van then wonders aloud if they're going to have 'to spend the next half of a century searching for the dark shards of that thing' (which could be a possible Shout-Out / Take That at InuYasha), but The Flaming Prince tells him no, all of the (broken) Ebon Eye is here.
In D.Gray-Man, all the innocence were originally one giant powerful innocence that was split after the earl was defeated for the first time.
Princess Sakura herself in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, who was actually disassembled by the Big Bad, intending for Clone!Syaoran (it's complicated) to reassemble her soul feathers back together, dragging poor Sakura's unconscious (and memory-less) body through countless dimensions to, in a sense, map the whole universe. Of course, this is just the cliff-notes version...
Several early issues of Justice League of America featured the Demons Three, three vaguely Lovecraftian ancient giant demons who are imprisoned at three separate locations under the Earth's surface. The demons' power was dependent upon three magical artifacts — a bell, a wheel and a jar — which are separately useless but of great magical power when used together.
The Infinity Gauntlet in the Marvel Universe is a device that grants the wielder control over... everything. It requires six gems plus the gauntlet itself. Thanos at one point gained it, but it was wrested from him by Adam Warlock. However, the Living Tribunal deemed that he was unworthy of wielding it, so Warlock formed the Infinity Watch, and gave five of the six gems to each of the other five members, keeping the Soul Gem for himself. Later, even this proves ineffective, and the Tribunal forbids the six gems from ever being used together. Most recently, the Illuminati (a secret council of the six most powerful figures in the world) have each taken and hidden a gem to prevent the Gauntlet from being reassembled.
The Adventures of Tintin story "The Secret of the Unicorn," had the parts of the coordinates of the location of the sunken ship, The Unicorn, copied on three pieces of paper and each hidden in the mast of a model of the sailing ship. It's only at the end did Tintin realize that you have to hold the papers together against a strong light to see the numbers properly.
Part of JLA-Avengers revolves around the two superhero teams competing to find magical artifacts from their two universes. This turns out to be a trick by the Grandmaster; once all the artifacts are in one place, he uses them to imprison the evil Krona.
The Vasyn in With Strings Attached. It's a 30-foot-tall vaguely DNA-ish pink granite statue that was broken into three pieces that were scattered across different universes. Restoring it will remove the curse on Ketafa that prevents the gods from seeing that continent. Guess what the four have to do in order to get home?
The Pony POV Series side-series 7 Dreams/Nightmares makes use of this in Patch's story. The backstory reveals that the Paradise Estate ponies allowed the Rainbow of Light to be split up so that the separate pieces could be used to power a world-wide wish-granting spell meant to start a golden age, only for the draconnequi to sabotage it in order to avert the G3 world, with the resulting disaster sending the world back into The Dung Ages. In the aftermath, Patch is tasked the quest of tracking the fragments down in order to restore the Rainbow. Unfortunately, all seven (there were originally seven, Discord later destroyed the Element of Trust) have their own individual powers and most fell into the hooves of Evil Overlords she has to take out.
In Underworld Evolution, the vampire lord Viktor kept half the key to Wiliam's tomb sealed to his sternum; the other half is in Selene's pendant.
In The Ninth Gate the main character is tasked with determining which of three versions of a Tome of Eldritch Lore is authentic, i.e. capable of summoning the devil, as it's widely believed at least one is a forgery. It turns out the 'correct' material is divided equally among all three books.
In Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Lara Croft must find the two halves of the pyramid of light which will allow the user to time travel so that she may reunite with her dead father.
Josh Kirby Time Warrior had a disassembled superweapon that could destroy all of creation when assembled. Technically it was the disassembled countermeasure to the superweapon that could destroy all creation but that's revealed at the end.
The Staff of Jericho in R.I.P.D. was destroyed in 1500 BC. In the present, the deados are collecting the pieces to reassemble it and bring the dead back to Earth.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is heading in this route with the Infinity Stones, which are needed to form the Infinity Gauntlet.
Forgotten Realms novel Thornhold features Kezefbane — artifact used to win second Trollwar. Three activation tokens were split between three brothers who last used it and then their respective successors, separated far from each other and thing itself. Hilarity Ensues, of course.
The golden capstone of the great pyramid of Giza in Matthew Reilly's Seven Ancient Wonders. It is the key to stopping the end of the world, but also gives its possessor invincibility in battle. Alexander The Great got bored with its power and split it into 7 pieces, hiding each in one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
In the last Well World series, the villains are attempting to find all the pieces of the dismantled Straight Gate. As it was an artifact of the Markovians, it was indestructible, so it had to be split up, scattered, and removed from the history books to keep it from being misused.
The Doctor Who Expanded Universe novel Shining Darkness has the antagonists (and kidnapped Donna) on a quest to reassemble their superweapon.
The Paired Codes, the main MacGuffin in Darke, don't work at all if they're split. Finding the Manuscriptorium part of the Code is a main plot point.
The Shadow-Safe in Flyte will only work as a Shadow-Safe and as a Death Trap engineered by DomDaniel when it is complete, and it gaining completeness is the prelude of the climax of Flyte.
The self-lighting lantern that figures in the Penford family legend is disassembled and hidden in the finial of a birdcage arbour in the garden by Grayson's grandmother for safekeeping. Derek spends a portion of the novel searching for it, thereby stumbling on evidence that Grayson was involved in the career and "death" of rock star Lex Rex. Despite being in pieces, it lights by itself during the climactic storm in Aunt Dimity and the Duke.
The Otherworld Series has the Spirit Seal, an artifact with the power to open portals between Earth, the Otherworld, and the Subterranean Realms. It was split into nine separate pendants, which were given to the Elemental Lords for safekeeping.
The first Noob novel has a powerful artifact that exploded a long time ago, but whose fragments still hold a piece of its power. Getting enough pieces to actually do something with them is difficult, but not impossible.
In the Rainbow Magic series, some of the magic items are shattered, such as the Ocean Fairies' conch shell.
Live Action TV
Inversion seen on Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes "Surprise" and "Innocence", where the split MacGuffin is the ultimate evil and the bad guys have to assemble it.
In the Doctor Who serial The Keys of Marinus, the Doctor and companions are sent to collect the Keys (scattered throughout the planet Marinus) that control the Conscience Machine, which made everyone peaceful on the planet till it malfunctioned.
"Last of the Time Lords" subverts the trope by revealing Martha's search for the four pieces of an anti-regeneration gun to be just a smokescreen for her real mission. She laughs at the Master for actually buying that the Doctor would send her to find a weapon to kill him.
The Key to Time arc, in which the titular device could stop time throughout the universe once its six parts were transmuted back into their original forms and reassembled.
In the third season of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, they broke the Zeo Crystal into five pieces, and threw them into unstable time portals, so the five pieces were literally scattered throughout space and time, their locations unknown even to the Rangers. Not such a good idea, as they ended up needing it again less than a year later.
The Cup Of Ankh in House of Anubis. According to Fabian's book on Egyptian mythology, Amneris took the Cup and hid it inside the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen. Anubis was angered by this and split the Cup into seven pieces, preventing it's use. Rufus later explains that Anubis and Amneris reached an agreement whereby the Cup could be put together once every twenty five years at a certain hour, but only by a member of Amneris's bloodline.
A number of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes revolved around re-assembling some piece of phlebotinum scattered throughout the galaxy. The most notable are Gambit, which involves finding the components for an ancient Vulcan weapon, and The Chase, revolving around a search for a secret message hidden within the genomes of life forms from dozens of different planets.
Andromeda had the Engine of Creation, an artifact that supposedly created the entire universe, and was supposedly split into five pieces. Oddly, only one piece is found during the shows run, it is only mentioned in passing in a few other episodes.
Variation on Knight Rider, combined with Secret Keeper: KITT's super-strong armor was made from a secret formula that had three ingredients. Three trusted men were each told two parts of the formula. That way, no one man could make more, but any two of them could.
Dungeons & Dragons has the "Rod of Seven Parts" (originally known as the "Rod of Law", which shattered when used). Each piece has powers on its own, and can point in the direction of the next-longest piece. The more parts are combined, the more powers they grant. This artifact is even the subject of a module that is named after it.
Nox had the player reassemble the Staff of Oblivion, a Game Breaker weapon that was story-wise wielded by a single man to defeat an entire army of necromancers. The said man later disassembled the staff to prevent anyone from using it for evil deeds. It is a perfectly usable weapon (mostly for warrior, because two other classes are Squishy Wizards) on every step of assembly, but in complete form it can clean entire screens of mooks. And youdoright after obtaining it.
The original The Elder Scrolls game, Arena, similarly had the Staff of Chaos, which was split and its parts spread across eight provinces of Tamriel.
Inverted in Grandia II: the evil god Valmar was split into several parts and the heroes travel the world to destroy his parts. However, it turns out that by "killing" the parts, they were actually manipulated to collect them within Millenia/Elena, whom the Big Bad than uses to fully resurrect Valmar.
In the E.T. video game for the Atari 2600, E.T.'s communication device is in 3 pieces scattered around the game board. When he finds them, he can call his spaceship. Then he has to be at the landing site when the ship arrives.
The original Tomb Raider had Lara search for and reassemble the three pieces of the Scion.
A variation appears in Tomb Raider Legend, where Lara must find the different pieces of Excalibur and reassemble them; the twist is that the fragments were not all from the same version of Excalibur, as there was more than one such sword.
The Trident of Ankohl in Golden Sun needs to be assembled in order to defeat Poseidon.
Devil May Cry: after having sealed off the underworld from the mortal realm, Sparda split the key (an amulet) in half and handed both down to his sons (along with two swords he owned) and made sure only his own blood and the maiden whose blood he sacrificed could re-open it. Down in the deepest pits of hell was the sword he sealed all his power away in (he was frightened of the terrible degree and scale of his own strength). The sword could only be grasped and fully wielded by (yes, you guessed it) his sons. Naturally, Dante gained the blade in the end, and when the ultimate evil rose again (Demon Emperor Mundus himself), Dante defeated and re-sealed him, warning, "Give my regards to my son."
The Pandora Directive, the most ambitious entry in the Tex Murphy series, featured one of these. The titular directive had to track down the pieces.
Three times, actually. The boss key of the second dungeon is split up as well, and when assembled, it gives you access to another piece of a bigger and even more dismantled MacGuffin. Not to mention the ludicrous number of pieces of heart in the game.
There's even one with a song where one character only remembers the first few notes, and the rest must be learned from someone else.
Heck, this trope is the start of the first game (and following that, the whole franchise). Princess Zelda breaks the Triforce of Wisdom into eight pieces to keep it out of Ganon's hands and sends Impa to find someone to recover the pieces before he does. She finds Link and that's where the game begins.
Knuckles' storyline in Sonic Adventure, as well as the main reason for the plot's existance, is because the Master Emerald shattered due to heavily implied interference by Robotnik. He proceeds to collect the shards to restore it, which somehow scattered from the island into a casino, an underground temple, and one of Robotnik's bases.
This plot point returns with less influence in Sonic Adventure 2. But now there's two characters collecting the pieces.
Piles of Final Fantasy games rely on this trope. Orbs, Crystals, Espers, Materia, if there's a Big Bad out there, it's virtually a guarantee that whatever MacGuffin you need to defeat it will be scattered across the entire planet (and sometimes more than one).
The example that pulled this trope in the grandest scale was Final Fantasy V, wherein the dismantled MacGuffin happened to be the entire planet, which was split into two to prevent the Cleft of Dimensions from reforming. The villain seeks to merge the two planets back into one, and inevitably succeeds
Many of the newer games in the Castlevania series use some variant of this trope.
Most of the plot (such as it is) in the original Xbox game Blood Wake involves you locating and assembling the pieces of the "Shield of Four Souls". Possibly partially averted/subverted in that you find the first piece or two without really knowing what they are, let alone what the assembled thing does.
Likewise, the Excuse Plot of Borderlands has the Vault Hunters assembling the four actually, three pieces of the Vault Key before the Vault is closed off for another 200 years.
Unreal II: The Awakening uses this. Oh, does Unreal 2 use this: you spend most of your game traipsing from planet to planet picking up pieces of an ancient artifact. When the artifact is finally assembled and used, it turns the least powerful creatures on the ship where it's used into the most powerful creatures, complete with guns that shoot black holes. Suffice to say, the artifact doesn't last long.
World of Warcraft loves this trope with regards to it's Legendary Weapons. You have to collect numerous pieces of the weapon from raid bosses, then complete additional quests (for example, doing something unusual during boss fights). Sometimes you would also need a big pile of cash for buyable materials. And in the end you get yourself a nice, flashy weapon that will last you for a couple of content patches at most and end as a Bragging Rights Reward later.
In Deepholm, you must find the missing Fragments of the World Pillar and reunite them to prevent Deepholm's collapse.
In the End Time dungeon, if you're sent to the Azure Dragonshrine, you must find all 16 pieces of Jaina's staff in an area patrolled by trash mobs before you can fight the Echo of Jaina and proceed onward after defeating her.
In Kingdom of Loathing, the Holy MacGuffin is hidden; in order to locate it, you have to first find the Staff of Ed, which is of course split into 3 pieces, located in entirely unrelated parts of the Kingdom.
In Darkstone, an artifact called the Time Orb was split into seven Crystals of Virtue, which must be collected by the Player Character in order to reassemble the Time Orb to save the world.
Every single item in the Dark Parables games, and other similar games from the same developer, is broken into fragments that must be assembled by solving hidden object puzzles.
Occurs in the Sega Genesis Ghostbusters game. Four Boss Ghosts hold the pieces of a stone tablet. The fifth holds a red gem that, when placed in the center of the tablet, causes a gigantic hole to open right in the middle of New York City. The final boss holds a blue gem that, when placed in the center of the tablet, undoes the damage.
Much of the first act of Diablo III has you seeking out the three pieces of a powerful sword that was wielded by the Stranger you found in the impact zone of the Fallen Star, while fighting off the efforts of an evil coven to do the same. The sword in question is El'druin, the sword of Tyrael, who has become mortal because he's had enough of the Angiris Council's inaction regarding the demons and wants to give humanity a chance.
Later on in the game, you have to recover the parts of the body of Zoltan Kulle, an Evil Sorcerer who was decapitated and dismembered by his fellow Horadrim, so that he can be resurrected to lead you to his creation, the Black Soulstone, which you need to seal Belial and Azmodan, the last Lords of Hell. Being that Zoltan Kulle is an evil and treacherous bastard, you ultimately have to kill him again.
The Mirror of Zeme in Ys: The Ark of Napishtim is broken into three pieces by Ernst's three Fairies in their plot to revive the Ark. Another variation is Sara's crystal in the first game, which initially allows you to use the teleportation statues in the Shrine, then you combine it with another object in Darm Tower, which allows you to use the warp mirrors. The second game has the Dreaming Stone Idol that you have to use to un-petrify the people in the underground hideout, which is initially missing an eye.
The Dragon Amulet in Jade Empire; reassembling it is the main goal for much of the game, and it is shared by the heroes and the villains. In Dirge, this also applies to the side quest for the Tome of Release, which you need to put to rest or banish the ghosts of the soldiers who died in the siege.
In Mass Effect 3, the Crucible can be considered a variation of this, with the plans discovered in the Prothean archives on Mars. It is later revealed that the device has been built and the plans improved upon by countless civilisations over millions of years, but was never actually finished until now...
Frogger's Adventure 2: The Lost Wand involved collecting all the pieces of the title object so that the balance of magic could be restored and random events like a remote turning into a bouquet of flowers would stop happening.
In Endstone, Kyri broke the Endstone in the Back Story, to deactivate them, and her friends split them up to avoid their falling in the wrong hands.
Occurs a few times in Kim Possible, usually in stories involving Lord Monkeyfist. One example is the Tempus Simia in "A Sitch in Time", which was split in three parts and distributed into monkey-themed temples all over the world. You could also say that the superpowers of Team Go are also treated that way in their first appearance, especially since they all originate from the same meteor.
In Gravity Falls there are three Journals that each hold secrets of the paranormal and supernatural. When brought together they prove the activation code for a mysterious machine whose true purpose is unknown.
Happens for almost no reason whatsoever in the five-episode series premiere of Filmation's Ghostbusters. The prop here is a uniquely-shaped stone tablet which reads: "Ghostbusters—the ones who find fathers and save the future." It turns out the shape of the thing's the key to defeating Prime Evil—lock him in the mine vault, just like they did in the first episode.
The Codex in Winx Club is split into four parts, hidden in Alfea, Red Fountain, Cloudtower, and Pixie Village. All four are necessary to open the portal to the Realix dimension.
Need to back up your passwords in case something happens to you? Don't want it to take just one person to betray you or have it stolen from them? This trope is for you.