Never Split the Party
Don't you know? You never split the party!The reverse of Let's Split Up, Gang, this is when the whole party decides that they aren't going to split up under any circumstances. Sometimes it can be taken to indicate at least a minimal level of genre savvyness, for example, in situations where splitting up means that one group will later have to go find the other group. It's also a clear win in horror films where the monster/killer will pick off each member one by one. At other times, it's clear proof of Genre Blindness; if there's only one Big Bad, and the group is running from it, staying together means that the whole scene becomes the punchline of a joke: "I don't have to outrun the bear, I only have to outrun you." Additionally, staying in a group in that case makes it much more likely that when The Chick trips and falls, she'll wipe out at least one other person as well. This trope is extremely common in Tabletop Games and related media, where splitting up the party can make the game a headache to run. Almost always, a split of any length will result in some players sitting around doing nothing because their characters are not present, not to mention an overworked gamemaster trying to track and manage different locations at once. For this reason, tabletop groups often won't split up even when it would be tactically advisable to do so from an in-setting standpoint — or, indeed, when they have no logical reason to continue sticking together whatsoever. It may involve telling Commander Contrarian or The So-Called Coward, "Fine, You Can Just Wait Here Alone."
Clerics in the back to keep those fighters hale and hearty,
The wizard in the middle, where he can shed some light,
And you never let that damn thief out of sight...
Clerics in the back to keep those fighters hale and hearty,
The wizard in the middle, where he can shed some light,
And you never let that damn thief out of sight...
— Emerald Rose, Never Split the Party
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Anime & Manga
- During the Axis Powers Hetalia Bloodbath 2010, Iceland had a feeling that something bad was going to happen and pleaded with Turkey to stay with them as it would be the safest. Of course, in the background, the rest of the Nordics got kidnapped while Iceland was talking.
- In Bleach, the heroes infiltrate Hueco Mundo to try to rescue Orihime. When they come across a series of corridors and have no idea where any of them lead to, Ichigo of all people tells everybody to stick together to increase their chances of survival and success. Unfortunately, Renji and Rukia call him out on his "whining" and say "A true warrior doesn't fear death." The team splits up, and this blunder nearly gets them all killed.
- Fairy Tail: During the S-Class Trial arc, Levy suggests that she, Lisanna, Elfman, and Evergreen stick together, in light of the circumstances. Meanwhile, Natsu, Gray, and Cana have all run off by themselves.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!: Capsule Monsters, the heroes are forcibly separated by monsters in the first two episodes and recognize the danger of being alone.
- The Dungeons & Dragons comic published by IDW states it word-for-word at one point.
- One of the early DC Comics for Scooby-Doo has a fictional story about aliens transforming into humans. This causes tension within the Mystery Inc. when Fred orders a split up. For once, they don't split up. As usual for Scooby-Doo and his friends, the aliens are fake.
- In one X-Men story, Colossus and Kitty Pryde are looking after the younger mutants at the Xavier school while Cyclops takes a team into the field. Kitty tries to contact Cyclops at one point, but can't raise him on the mansion's communication system. When Colossus suggests that he should reconnoiter with Cyclops' team, Kitty answers, "You mean split up? Someday I've got to sit you down in front of some good horror movies, babe."
- Not that it matters in that instance, because Scott's team has been taken out by the Marauders, and seconds later the Acolytes attack the mansion.
- One Thorgal story has him lost in an underground maze with a few other prisoners. Ar a junction, one suggests they'd cover more more ground if they split up, to which Thorgal responds that it's also the best way to get lost.
- In Blood Promise, when Rose leads her own group of Strigoi hunters in Novosibirsk, this is the tactic she employs. When Denis, one of the group, protests that they usually split up, she answers: "which is why you get killed...".
- The book How to Survive a Horror Movie gives you this very advice — never separate from the group.
You'll say "We'll cover more ground if we split up," but you may as well change "more" to "the," and put the words "with more blood" after "ground."
- In IT:
- When Bill and Richie make their first trip to 29 Niebolt Street, Bill starts to suggest splitting up to cover more ground. Richie says "Fuck that. I'm staying with you Big Bill."
- When the cop finds Ben, Bill, Eddie, Richie, and Stan playing in the Barrens, he says that he can understand them wanting to play there, but they should only do so if they stay together as a group the entire time and don't go off to play hide-and-seek or something in ones or twos.
- When the Losers face off against IT, both in the house on Niebolt Street and in the sewers, they have to stay together because the magic that's allowing them to fight IT only works if all seven of them are together.
Films — Live-Action
- In Horror Express the two British scientists (Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee) on a Trans-Siberian Express train tell everyone to stay in pairs for protection against whoever the film's monster has possessed.
- The initial plan of the cast in StageFright -Aquarius- is to stick together in a locked room, for they are locked up in a theatre with a killer. But then Mark remembers that there's a skeleton key in the caretaker's room, but they are unable to go there together, as it turns out that Alicia's ankle (which had sprained earlier in the film) is acting up again. Then they split up.
- Subverted in The Cabin in the Woods, after things have gone to shit, Curt says they shouldn't split up under any circumstances. The puppeteers behind the situation then releases a stupidity-inducing gas into the room, causing him to turn around and say they should all split up and go into their own rooms. Marty's response to all of this is a confused "Really?"
- Are You Afraid of the Dark?: The kids in the horror stories always deliberately try to stick together, which is understandable since, while they might not be Genre Savvy, the Midnight Society member telling the story is. A good example is when two movie theater employees find their boss collapsed in his office (from a vampire bite, as they'll find out shortly), and the phones are, naturally, dead.
Boy: We gotta get help.
Girl: Well, I'll stay with him.
Boy: No, we're staying together. Now come on.
- Red Dwarf:
Lister: Okay, look, let's split up.
Rimmer: Why? Why should we split up?
Lister: Well, we'll do the search quicker.
Rimmer: What's the hurry? Have you got some major luncheon appointment you have to rush off to?
- Lampshaded in Power Rangers Operation Overdrive, where Dax warns about how they're going to get picked off one by one, but the rest of the team ignores him and splits up anyway.
- Dice Funk: Anne confronts the headmaster alone, much to Rinaldo's frustration.
- French Humorist Jean-Marie Bigard had a skit on how Slasher Movie protagonists are Too Dumb to Live. At some point the four survivors decide to split up, prompting a rant on how stupid it is, how there are plenty of situations where splitting up is a good ideanote and how being hunted by a slasher is not one of them.
- The trope appears in a joke amongst tabletop role-players:
- In more dungeon-crawly games, splitting the party screws with the Game Master's balance (i.e. two Player Characters stumbling into a fight tuned for five). Plus nothing spells headaches like a GM trying to run two games at the same time, one on each half of the table. The inverse, Let's Split Up, Gang, is lampshaded in many RPG groups as "... we can take more damage that way."
- Wizards of the Coast (the publishers of Dungeons & Dragons) used this phrase in an advertisement for Dungeons & Dragons products.
- Can be averted in certain settings of TORG, but usually isn't. In Orrorsh, in order to overcome the Power of Fear there is a game mechanic called Perseverance which can be obtained in a variety of ways. One of them is having someone (a party member, for example) die horribly — but only if it happens offstage. Of course, gamers being what they are, no one wants to be the one that dies horribly so they'll try to arrange that it happens to an NPC.
- Most White Wolf STs in any kind of hacky-slashy situation will cackle with glee if the party is split up simply because they know that they will be eating character sheets for dinner when the PCs split up in a combat situation.
- The exception is those running Adventure! who love it when the party splits up, because dramatic editing rules assure that the split party will rejoin up at exactly the right moment. Chase scene? A car with the rest of the party comes flying out of a side street, sideswipes one of the pursuing cars, and open up tommy-guns on the others. Fight scene? They swing in on a chandelier with sabres! Shoot out? One of the masked gun-men is the absent member of the party, and the moment the major villain unmasks himself, so too will the "henchman".
- Mutant City Blues, a low-powered sleuth game, presents an interesting technical reason to keep the party together. When everyone are playing uniformed detectives it's not very easy to conceive of 4+ detectives all working on the same case in the same scene. But the system says that clues on the scene are automatically (or semi-automatically) available only to those with the right skill off the long long list, which is only feasible to 100% cover with the whole party. Therefore, if 2 detectives go one way and 2 other go the other (which would, in real life, make perfect sense), the first group on their scene will automatically miss all the clues tied to the skills of 2 other detectives, and vice versa, possibly rendering even a relatively straightforward case unsolvable.
- Played with, together with its opposite number, in Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. Here, how well a character does alone, with a single partner, or as part of a larger group respectively is part of the game's mechanics and listed on their character sheet — which can make for interesting group dynamics between characters with a high rating in "Solo" and those with higher dice in "Buddy" and/or "Team" in particularnote . And one of the canonical uses for "doom dice" (the GM's all-purpose "trouble" dice pool) is in fact to split up or rejoin the party whether they like it or not...
- In video games, where the reason to not split is because one or more members of the party need protection, this is the Escort Mission or Reverse Escort Mission trope depending on who needs protecting.
- Ico flat out requires you to be paired with Yorda, because any length of time separate from her allows the shadows to take her away more easily if you don't fight them, if they take her completely, the game ends.
- Also particularly useful in RTS games, where in some cases splitting your army will lead to certain defeat as you can't concentrate enough firepower in one area.
- This even applies to formations. Units should be arrayed such that they all begin firing at roughly the same time (in an optimal circumstance) or as close to it as possible. The worst thing that can be done is to feed them in gradually, even if they are going in one after another with no delay. If the broad side of one rectangular formation approaches the narrow side of another, the one approaching with the broad side will win (assuming same quantities of the same units in each formation).
- Used in Beyond Good & Evil:
"D.B.U.T.T! Don't break up the team!"
- Subverted later. "Sometimes you have to, er, break up the team."
- One mini-game in the Hundred Acre Wood section Kingdom Hearts II has you going into the depths of a spooky and potentially dangerous cave. Sora and the Winnie-the-Pooh gang insist on sticking together through the cave. You have to ensure that you and your friends stick together, or else you'll waste valuable time—and you'll have to go hunting your buddies down in order to move forward.
- In Left 4 Dead, break up the team and you will die, no exceptions. So it's better to never break up. Because if you do, the Director spawns Hunters. Just for you. Smokers (and Chargers and Jockeys, in the second game) also tend to be used for this purpose, as all three require a teammate to rescue the pounced/constricted/grabbed Survivor. Additionally, trying to do everything alone, such as setting off panic events to get ahead, may actually bring harm to the rest of your team, which they will gladly yell at you about if you decide to run ahead. More angry players may shoot you to death or boot you from the game. Naturally, a Griefer thrives on this kind of deviant behavior before being booted off the team. If you get people who are really spiteful, they will actually let people who run ahead to keep going and if they get pounced on, the rest of the team will just take their time as the Rambo player is being killed.
- In Dead Rising, if you leave a survivor in a different area, their health will slowly sap away until they die. The sequel makes the survivors wave for attention if you get too far away when you tell them to stop following you. They can't stop waving so they won't kill nearby zombies until they're attacked.
- Knights of the Old Republic averts this in most cases, only allowing you to have between one and three of your party members (your party can reach nine or ten characters in the first game and eleven in the second) in play at a time, but it doesn't let you transition to the next area unless your three party members are close enough to the transition point.
- Baldur's Gate: You must gather your party before venturing forth.
- The most common reason for this announcement, which becomes really annoying really quickly, is not a deliberate attempt to split the party, but the fact that the pathing in this game is not the world's greatest and one or more of your idiot party members decided to go the long way around an obstacle (or got stuck behind it). By the time the quickest party member reaches the edge of the screen the stragglers likely won't bequite close enough to travel to the next area yet.
- Most multi-player Beat 'em Up games rigidly enforce this trope. Ultimate Alliance and X-Men Legends, and some similar games, do it by teleporting any character who wanders too far from the majority of the players back to the group (or if there's only one player, the NPCs will be always appear right behind them wherever they go, even if they couldn't make it there on their own). This can be merciful, like when the only non-flyer of the group can't find a way up to the ledge the others have landed on; and it can be frustrating, like when the only flyer in the group is trying to reach a high ledge to collect a power-up. Other Beat Em Ups will simply disallow any character moving too far from the group, as if an invisible bubble surrounded them at all times. Both types may have the "camera" pull back, expanding the field of view to allow the players a bit more distance before their countermeasure kicks in.
- In the first Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles game, no matter where the players go, the camera stays with the party's chalice, a magical device that dispels the miasma that covers the world. There's nothing preventing any of the players from wandering offscreen, but they will die within a few seconds without the chalice's protection, forcing the party to stay together. If your character dies and becomes a ghost, however, being already dead, you can wander wherever you damn well please. Not that you'll be able to see where you're going if you're not the one with the map, though.
- After awhile, this becomes key in League of Legends (and by extension, most MOBA games). Late in the games, the key damage dealers can either insta-gib one champion or unleash massive sustained damage on the entire team if allowed to live. However, they also crumple like paper if caught alone. Being down that champion is a major blow, such that one mistake caused by splitting the party can decide the game.
- Kha'Zix has this as a mechanic. If his target is alone, his Q ability will deal more damage to them. Splitting up when there's a 'Zix lurking about is a great way to get yourself killed.
- While it doesn't enforce it, in Metal Gear Online it's a bad idea to split up from a group if you are going to enter combat. If you don't have coordination with the group, then you are a lot more likely to die because the enemy will most likely come in a group when you face them. Unless you are going for a stealth attack, you will always benefit from a team mate or a couple of team mates in combat. In certain areas it lends its self better to split up and sneak rather than stick around for an outright assault.
- In Sweet Home, you have five characters who can either operate independently or in groups of up to three. However, it's usually best to keep everyone in teams, as a character who is working solo can easily get caught in a trap that requires the help of an ally, or get cursed or poisoned by a monster and be left completely helpless as their health fades away (and characters who die in this game are gone for good).
- PAYDAY The Heist and the sequel heavily encourages players to never wander off alone. Cops and SWAT always attack in groups and it's very easy for a lone player to get overwhelmed by them, making it difficult for the rest of the the team to run in and save the downed player.
- The perils of this are a major theme of the fourth major story arc in Rich Burlew's The Order of the Stick, to the point where Don't Split the Party is the title of the book compiling that arc.
- Darths & Droids
- In strip #436, the players manage, somehow, to fail at this completely and get split into four groups, despite the fact that they only have three players present.
- This becomes a Running Gag; in the commentary for strip #832, it's noted that you can always split the party further. "If this involves independently moving disembodied body parts, all the better."
- In strip #921, when Episode V starts with the DM randomly assigning locations to the characters:
Pete: Wait a minute. You're starting the party split up?Annie: He's using reverse psychology.
- Penny Arcade highlights the concept in their Conflux arc, noting that game masters will often split the players' party. Tycho notes that they can instead force the players to split their own party. (This turns out to mean make them quit playing.)
- From MeatShield, Dhur might be an Idiot Hero, but if there's one adventuring lesson he knows, it's that you don't split the party.
- The Free Spirit comic "Bedbugs and Broomsticks" has Winnie enforce this by objecting to Robb's plan for their party to split up.
- The Spoony Experiment
Spoony: (to Linkara, after the latter suggests going to investigate the plot hook on his own) You're splitting the party. Never do that.
- Referenced in Spoony's riffing of the Dungeons & Dragons-spinoff board game ''Dragon Strike'': "Seriously, if you split the party, I'll wring your stupid neck."
- Also mentioned by him when reviewing Mazes and Monsters, when the party, surprisingly enough, decides to split, he repeatedly chants 'don't split the party.' Naturally, something bad happens to the characters shortly thereafter.
- In the D20 Live at Con-Bravo:
Big Mike: Well, I've only mentioned thieves about five times, what's the worst that could happen?
Spoony: He could get shanked in the kidneys and die.
- Spoony's now dedicated a whole Counter Monkey video to the trope, entitled Let's Split Up (We can destroy the campaign faster that way.)
- During said video, Spoony references his earlier Dethklok campaign and how splitting the party cost LordKat and Rollo T their original characters: when confronted with a mysterious portal, Jason and Chris jumped in while the rest of the team refused, which resulted in two PCs fighting a battle intended for all six heroes and getting slaughtered.
- Reinforced in a later Counter Monkey video, "BABOON!!!", where the party is split twice, both ending horribly. First, the team's Technical Pacifist gnome druid Fidget went to explore a secret underground area alone, while the rest of the group was asleep, and was promptly mauled by Goretusk while too far away for the team to hear her cries. Later, the team sent their elf rogue and cat-man ranger to scout several blocks ahead, and upon the Big Bad's Dragon learning about them, he sent swarms of insects after them before himself attacking. Avery (the rogue) was nearly killed, but Spoony improvised a story arc that saved her character.
- Several stories of the Whateley Universe have this, usually in Team Tactics class. Caitlin's biggest gripe with the other teams is splitting up, it gets to the point that when Team Kimba choose names for their tactics, splitting up and tackling tasks separately is deemed 'the anti-Caitlin'.
- Teen Titans
Beast Boy: Split up? Split up?! Did you not SEE the movie?! When you split up, the monster hunts you down one at a time, starting with the good-looking funny relief guy— ME!
- Beast Boy turns into an octopus and grabs everybody before they split up. He then explains the trope to the team, adding the bit where the funny guy (and strangely not the black guy) goes first. He's right.
- Not to mention that, being a kids show and trying to get kids to work together, many episodes rely mainly on the fact that, without all five members, the rest of the team can't beat the bad guy. A few of the many examples include "Final Exam" (Robin), "Divide and Conquer" (Cyborg) and "Every Dog Has His Day" (Beast Boy).
- Also a frequent issue in Captain Planet. By now the kids should know that they'll need the Captain eventually, and all five of them must be together to summon him. Doesn't stop them from splitting up to try to save the day with their individual powers.
- In Yin Yang Yo, the heroes were transported into an old horror movie. When Yo suggests splitting up, Yang points out why that's a bad idea by telling a random dude from the movie 'We have to split up!' The random dude agrees, runs off-screen, and is horribly killed, thus proving Yang's point.
- Johnny Bravo of all people invokes this during a crossover with Scooby-Doo.
Johnny: (to Freddy) There's a monster out there and you want us to split up?!
- The crossover also references the old joke theory that Fred always went with Daphne because they were off making out while Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby did all the work.
- Actually used in Scooby-Doo, mostly by Shaggy and Scooby who know they will be the first to find the monster if they do split up. However this often falls on deaf ears.
- Attempted in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, when the main characters have to explore a giant scary hedge maze. Unfortunately, they get forcibly split up within seconds by the Big Bad.
- South Park: Taken Up to Eleven by Butters, both in the "Pray the gay away" camp (with his accountabili-buddy) and the class trip to an "Old West" museum.
Butters: (after slinging Cartman's unconscious body onto the first step of the bus) Teacher... my buddy is back on the bus.
- This is what the expression "defeat in detail" was invented for. Breaking your forces up into units spread out too far to support each other lets even a numerically inferior force attack your units separately with the advantage of numbers in each encounter.
- Custer's Last Stand is an example of the above. He split his group up at Little Big Horn and that battle did not go in his favor.
- The Battle of Midway was a US victory because Admiral Yamamoto had carefully split his fleet in a manner that would allow each successive element to come to the aid of the one before it...assuming that the US forces were as he believed them to be. Unfortunately for him, US Naval Intelligence had cracked the Japanese codes and the Americans knew what to expect, so they sent more and stronger forces. Meanwhile, the Japanese were completely in the dark about US movements. This allowed the American task force to destroy Admiral Nagumo's flotilla well before the flotillas of Admirals Yamamoto and Kondo could come to their rescue.
- Sun Tzu mentioned this in the sixth chapter of his book The Art of War. In the moment of ignorance, the enemy force will likely split his army into several units in hopes that they will cover more ground, but this will just bring the opportunity for the other side to use his whole army to crush these units one by one.
- He does flip-flop the trope by explaining exactly when one should divide one's forces (baiting a trap, for instance).
- And, of course, there's the Older Than Feudalism military credo, Divide and Conquer.
- Surprisingly, this trope was totally averted during The American Civil War at the Battle of Chancellorsville, wherein Robert E. Lee split his army in two versus a Union force that outnumbered his own two-to-one and gave the Union one of the most humiliating defeats of the war. Of course, the fact that Joe Hooker (the commander of the Union troops at that time) had a catastrophic crisis of confidence and started retreating before the battle even turned against him did a lot to aid Lee's victory, too.
- It happened on J.W. Powell's exploration of the Colorado River in 1869. After passing the dangerous Lava rapids by portage, they were on their way home when O.G. Howland, his brother Seneca, and William Dunn split from the main party - and were never heard of again.
- German's first three campaigns against the USSR during WWII. The Germany Army High Command (OKH), optimistic and impatient to get the war over with, ultimately split its force of 3 million men and 3000 tanks into three Army Groups. These were to pursue three initial goals 500km away and 300km apart (Riga, Smolensk, Kiev), three primary goals 1000km away and 600km apart (Leningrad, Moscow, Rostov-on-Don), and three final goals 1500km away and 1000km apart (Archangelsk, Samara/Kuiybyshev, Baku). Needless to say, by the time they reached the initial goals in July the problems with this approach had become apparent: all three Army Groups were too under-supplied and weak to advance without either stopping offensive operations for at least a month or redistributing forces to concentrate on taking just one or two of the primary goals. The OKH wanted to focus on Moscow alone, for questionable reasons note , arguing that it was possible to capture and hold it with a small force which could be reinforced later. Hitler overruled this hare-brained scheme and did something sensible instead, ordering a campaign to take raw resources necessary for the German economy at Kiev (July-September) and placating the Army with a questionable advance on Leningrad (August-September). Postwar evaluations of this strategic choice show that the German Army's scheme for taking Moscow was an incredibly bad idea as it would have entailed a force of just 200,000 men and 1000 tanks attacking a well-entrenched defensive force of more than 500,000 men. Even if they had succeeded, it would have left the German forces in/around Moscow extremely vulnerable to the Winter Counter-Offensive as they would have had at most 500,000 troops to hold a salient less than 200km wide and 500km long against an attacking force of as many as 1.5 million troops attacking from the north and south. Indeed, successfully taking Moscow in the face of heavy Soviet resistance could only have weakened these forces even further than in real life. Given that Soviet forces were able to advance up to 100km in a single operation in some of the actual winter offensives, an early advance on Moscow would likely have been nothing short of disastrous. Never split the party indeed.