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Area of Effect

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Who needs to aim when you can just hit everything?

Some effects, rather than having a single target, affect everything within a given area. This area is the "area of effect", and attacks/buffs that work this way are called area of effect attacks/buffs. Popular in Tabletop Games and Strategy Games, area of effect attacks are very useful for taking out large numbers of weak enemies simultaneously. However, they'll usually avert Friendly Fireproof, adding another layer of strategy to their use. They aren't necessarily offensive in nature, either — healing or protection abilities often work in an area of effect as well.

Common forms taken by these attacks include powerful explosions, waves of fire, storms and blizzards, and other elemental phenomena that can cover a wide area. Abilities that call down rains of damaging projectiles, such as a Rain of Arrows, Storm of Blades, or multi-bolide variant of Meteor-Summoning Attack, also tend to take this form. Less orthodox variants can also include the summoning of large swarms of biting or stinging creatures.

Super-Trope to Splash Damage, but while splash damage falls off the farther away you get from the center of the attack, area of effect attacks affect everything in its area equally. Supertrope to Herd-Hitting Attack. See also Splash Damage Abuse, when an Area of Effect is abused to get enhanced performance out of the ability. If the "effect" within the area of effect is "instant, horrible death," then you're looking at an attack with an "Instant Death" Radius. Compare Smart Bomb, which involves the entire screen.

For more permanent areas of effect, see Place of Power, Field Power Effect and Geo Effects.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Bleach, this tends to be the go-to technique for dealing with an opponent who can use illusions or mess up sensory information. After all, it doesn't matter if they can disguise where they are if the character can just hit everywhere at once.
  • In Kill la Kill, this is how Ryuuko defeats Inumuta in Episode 10. Can't see your enemy due to his optical camouflage? Why, attack the entire arena at once!
  • Area-of-Effect is a distinct subcategory of Attack magic in the Lyrical Nanoha universe. It mainly consists of elemental spells that freeze/burn/etc. everything within a certain radius and massive shooting spells that produce so many projectiles, they are impossible to dodge.

    Comic Books 
  • Robin (1993): While fighting Dodge's crew Tim uses a "wide burst attack" that sends an electrical charge out of his suit into the area around him to deal with Macro and Micro. The attack seems tailored to Micro and is able to knock him out without killing him while Tim couldn't pin down his location during the fight, for the others it mostly hurt their eyes and stung a little.

  • The Dresden Files: Discussed in the short story "Day Off", where Harry complains about the arbitrary diameter of a fireball spell while gaming with the Alphas.

    Tabletop Games 
  • These are ubiquitous in wargames, where area of effect determines what pieces are hit by artillery shells, spells, and similar attacks. Sometimes, the distance from a certain point on the table is measured instead to see if something is affected. Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 have several round plastic templates and two "flame blast" templates (dragon breath, flamethrowers, "napalm," etc). Flames of War uses a similar plastic piece for representing bombardment.
  • Big Eyes, Small Mouth has "area" as a standard variable to enhance the effects of attributes. In most cases this goes hand-in-hand with the "target" variable to identify how many individuals within the area that an attribute can affect at one time. However, the "Weapon" attribute (which covers all forms of attack) automatically affects everything in range to begin with. Instead, for the low, low cost of 1 character point, the "selective" variable lets the user choose who is and isn't harmed when using the weapon.
  • In Castlevania: Nocturne of the Tabletop, Eric Lecarde’s Mirror of Truth hits all enemies, no matter how far away or who they are engaged with.
  • Champions has Area Of Effect as a Power Advantage. It's used to turn regular single target attacks into this.
  • Dungeons & Dragons is the Trope Maker, having included areas of effect (typically in the form of dragons' breath and certain magic spells) since its very first edition.
  • Paranoia sees fit to warn about these in the "Tips for Traitors" section: "Never let the guy with the area-of-effect weapon take far left or right flank. The temptation to turn and wipe out the rest of the team in one go is just too much."
  • In the Star Fleet Battles Tabletop Game, the ISC's Plasmatic Pulsar Device divides its damage over several shield sections, affecting each equally.

    Video Games 
  • Avencast: Rise of the Mage only has a handful of such moves across the two skill trees, but they're indispensable in large-scale fights and vexing when used against you.
  • Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King has several attacks that deal damage to any enemy within a certain distance of the heroine: the basic Spin Attack, the Quake Spell, the Fire Spell, and the Thunder Spell.
  • Cosmic Star Heroine features several abilities that deal damage to both the target and any allies within a certain radius. Since both the player party and enemies take arbitrary positions which they don't change for the entire battle, these skills tend to be very situational.
  • Diablo (1997) and Diablo II feature lots of spells and effects with a circular hit radius, like Nova and its counterparts of other elements (including Diablo's Fire Nova), the Sorceress's Static Field (drops every nearby enemy's HP by a direct percentage), the Necromancer's Corpse Explosion and curses, the Barbarian's Warcries (both the buffing and de-buffing ones), and the Paladin's auras.
  • Mages in Dragon Age: Origins have access to massive AOE spells, which are pretty much a necessity late in the game, when crowd control becomes essential.
  • Dragon Quest has two forms of Area of Effect: spells that hit all monsters in a group (which consists of monsters of the same type, though some may still be in their own groups), and spells that hit all monsters in battle. The latter is typically reserved for explosive magic and high-level ice spells; most status magic, wind magic, and a certain line of fire magic typically only strike groups. (Your party, naturally, counts as one group.)
    • Most Dragon Quest Monsters games forgo the distinction, due to the smaller monster groups - each side can typically field three to four monsters at once.
  • Throughout The Elder Scrolls series, spells are available with an area of effect in addition to the single-target variety. Typically, these area of effect spells cost more Magicka to cast than single-target spells of the same type and level of damage. Many powerful magical enemy types like to spam these sorts of spells, including lesser Daedra, Liches, and Hagravens. Some of these spells also cross over with Splash Damage, as a target hit directly takes more damage than those around him in the area of effect.
  • In the classic turn-based Final Fantasy games from Final Fantasy II to Final Fantasy IX, most spells can be set to target either all enemies or all allies. Final Fantasy instead had a large amount of offensive spells and upgraded support spells hit all enemies by default. In Final Fantasy X only a small handful spells can hit all enemies.
    • Beginning Final Fantasy XI, the main series entries shifted to real time combat where herd-hitting attacks became dependent on positioning rather than a simple toggle. Final Fantasy XIV in particular loves this trope to bits. Enemies and bosses alike have a wide range of attacks that have varying degrees of AoEs. The maximum is what are called room-wide AoEs which are mostly exclusive to bosses, and completely fill the arena so they can't be avoided.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics and its sequels are strategy RPGs with grid-based combat, wherein many abilities have areas of effect using the grid with different effective ranges and shapes.
  • In Granblue Fantasy, some characters are able to hit all three enemies on the right side of the screen for every attack, the in-game descriptions label them as "all-foe attacks".
  • Also many of the spells in the Grandia games.
  • Hoshigami: Ruining Blue Earth: You could even increase the area of effect of your spells by crafting the Coinfeigms together.
  • Minecraft Dungeons: Some enchantments, like Burning, provide you with a damaging aura around yourself.
  • All spell types in Nexus War games have variants or modifications to target everyone in the room who isn't somehow immune. These edged into Game-Breaker territory in the original game, in which factions prepared some of their spellcasters to be deployable nukes, and has been considerably toned down in the current iteration of the game.
  • In Nippon Ichi tile-based Turn-Based Strategy games, the more you level up your spells, the larger and more complex the area of effects you can access are.
  • Nobody Saves the World: Ghost's basic attack damages every enemy in a certain radius around you. One of Monk's skills damages every enemy on the entire screen.
  • While Pokémon started out with strictly one-on-one duels, latter games added Double and Triple Battles and introduced area-effect moves (or changed existing moves to be such, such as Earthquake and Explosion) of pretty much every kind imaginable.
  • Grenades in Resonance of Fate do the same amount of damage to anything within the blast radius rather than using Splash Damage.
  • MAP attacks in the Super Robot Wars hit all tiles in the targeted area, most commonly a (near) circle around the user, though other patterns appear from time to time. Some are Friendly Fireproof, most are not.
  • Flamethrowers in Valkyria Chronicles and Valkyria Chronicles II hit everything in a large conical shape in front of the unit, ignoring cover.
  • Many hero spells in Warcraft III are this. Some are "friendly fire" spells that hurt friend and foe alike (such as the Archmage's Blizzard, Blood Mage's Flame Strike, and Pit Lord's Rain of Fire) and some are enemy-only targeted (such as the POTM's Starfall) or ally-only (Keeper of the Grove's Ultimate).
  • The X-Universe games has the Phased Shockwave Generator, an area of effect weapon that damages ships based on how many "squares" of splash damage touch the ship. What this essentially means is that capital ships will take absurd amounts of damage because they're so huge. Terran Conflict introduced the Plasma Burst Generator, which is basically a space flamethrower that shoots fusion exhaust at the enemies, dealing AOE damage. It works pretty much like the Shockwave Generator, but it is more focused (Shockwave Generators spread out at about 70 degrees, whereas Plasma Generators spread only 5-10 degrees), and mounted on smaller ships.
  • Molotov cocktails in Yo! Joe! Beat the Ghosts create pools of burning liquid which damage every enemy in their range. This is especially useful against bosses.
  • Yo Kai Watch Blasters works with this trope in the same way as online role playing games, namely Final Fantasy XIV.


    Real Life 
  • Most heavier ordnance, from grenades and conventional bombs through most artillery up to nuclear weapons, are more accurately thought of as attacking areas, rather than individual targets.
  • All but the most accurate guns in any but the most accurate hands will land their bullets somewhere in a certain area. It is best to make sure that as much of that area as possible is filled by things you want to destroy, and that nothing you wish to preserve is in that area.
    • This is why using a Human Shield works, at least briefly: those being shielded against believe the hostage occupies too much of the area their bullets might land in, so a shot would probably hit the hostage. Better aim or other ways to exclude the hostage from the Area of Effect negate the problem.



Icefall can hit multiple enemies at once.

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