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Chain Lightning

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"Shocking, ain't it?"
Lord Clyde, Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense

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. Is not necessarily the same as Lightning Lash but can overlap.


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    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Ark generates a sort of concentrated spectral fire that jumps from person to person upon being opened. It's essentially a fire-based version of this trope.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Highlander loves this. The lightning of a powerful Quickening will often jump from the immortal it’s going into and chain-jump to surrounding objects, blowing them up. Duncan used it in “Finale” by getting Kalas to battle on the Eiffel Tower so the chain would fry half the electronics in Paris and render Kalas’s information disk useless.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Iron Kingdoms: This is Cygnar's shtick aside from being shooty, from warcaster to infantry level.
  • 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.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: A miracle of Tor, God of Thunder, calls a lightning bolt that jumps to a new enemy nearby for as long as it kills its target.
  • 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.
  • The hero Tempest in Sentinels of the Multiverse has a card called Chain Lightning (no relation to the Magic: The Gathering card of the same name) the art of which features Tempest blasting three guys with lightning. Mechanically speaking, it allows you to hit three targets with lightning damage with the damage decreasing with each target you hit.

    Video Games 
  • Beacon (2018): The "chaining Tesla Coil" melee attack effect of the Jolted Veins mutation.
  • Nuclear Throne: The various lightning weapons have electricity that arcs throughout multiple enemies.
  • 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.
  • Brütal Legend features an axe modification named Chain Lightning that has this effect. The Drowning Doom's Lightning Rod unit has a double-team ability that does this too.
  • The Lightning spell in Fable hits an extra enemy for each level beyond the first.
  • This shows up several times in the Diablo series.
    • The Sorceress in Diablo II gets a Chain Lightning spell, which jumps between enemies in this manner. Its crowd-clearing potential makes it a staple of lightning-focused builds.
    • The Wizard's Electrocute ability in Diablo III has a similar effect to Diablo 2's Chain Lightning, and can be upgraded with one of its runes to target more monsters.
  • Some of the pins in The World Ends with You allow you to make lightning bolts that hit multiple targets.
  • 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.
  • First Encounter Assault Recon'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.
  • in Magic and Mayhem you gain the ability to cast Chain Lightning at a fairly early stage. The non-chained Lightning spell can deliver a vastly more powerful attack to its single target, so shows up later.
  • 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 Majesty: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim, specifically The Northern Expansion, building the Sorcerers Abode will give the player access to the spell "chain lightening," which launches a ball of electricity that will bounce from one enemy to the next, and then the next, doing more damage the more enemies are in range.
  • One of the best weapons in Rapid Reload is a gun which fires powerful blue bolts of electricity which automatically homes in on enemy mooks, frying one enemy after another in blasts which spreads out from the weapon's barrel. It's also very useful in battling the boss of the jungle level, a Chameleon mech who can turn invisible and attack the player from literally anywhere - with this weapon the player can instantly damage the boss without even needing to aim.
  • 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 Arc Projector Heavy weapon in Mass Effect 2 shoots beams of lightning. You have to charge it up, and while it's charging you need to sweep the sights across different enemies to get it to arc between them (the in-universe justification is that it's ionizing the air between targets to create a path of least resistance for the bolt. It's really effective against geth enemies, but kind of irritating to use.
  • Gizonde in Phantasy Star Online chains to nearby enemies.
  • 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.
  • Borderlands 2: In the Tiny Tina DLC, Chain Lightning is a Legendary Grenade Mod that functions more like a magic spell (including shouting the name as you cast it) than an actual grenade. The player "throws" a lightning bolt that can explode on surfaces, targets, or in mid-air, arcing another bolt to a nearby target.
  • 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.
  • Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense: Lord Clyde's special weapon is literally called Chain Lightning. It shoots a bolt of lightning at the nearest car, and if multiple cars are within range, the lightning will arc from one to another and deal equal damage to each vehicle.
  • 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.
  • Bioshock 2 gives the player the potential to upgrade the Electrify Plasmid, letting its user hold to charge the bolt for both a stronger stun and for chain lightning. Curiously, potential targets don’t have to be in the immediate area of the first victim when Electrify 2 was used: if they wander in while the target is convulsing, then the electricity will arc towards them. This upgrade works amazingly well with Melee / Drill builds, which allow the player to take their sweet time smashing Splicers away as the whole room is stunned helpless.
  • Destroy All Humans! has chain lightning as a potential upgrade to be purchased for the Zap-O-Matic across all games. There are stronger guns to use to more dramatic effect, but many of them lack the convenience and ease of use that just simply shocking a group of humans to death brings, with no worries to ammo thanks to the weapons rechargeable battery.
  • The Amprex from Warframe is a Corpus-produced Lightning Gun whose beam of electricity chains between enemies if it hits one, making it a very effective crowd control weapon. Even if doesn't kill them in seconds, it's guaranteed to paralyse them. Also, Volt's Shock ability can launch a bolt of lightning that can arc through multiple enemies if they're close enough to each other for a combo chain of damage as well as temporarily stunning them if the damage is not lethal.
  • The Banner Saga: Eyvind has a chain lightning spell that does more damage the more enemies (or allies) it goes through.
  • Into the Breach: The lightning mech has a chain lightning weapon that damages enemies and allies alike, and with an upgrade can also travel through buildings, thankfully leaving them unharmed. Its entire team is built around getting enemies in place to be electrocuted, and making extra links for the chain.
  • Chain Lightning is a spell in War Dragons. A dragon using this spell when attacking a base will still target a single tower, but the lightning will spread out and chain to hit surrounding towers as well.
  • In the Bloons Tower Defense series, some towers (The Monkey Apprentice in the fifth game, and the Druid in the sixth) can have chain lightning as an upgrade, causing every few attacks to zap several bloons at the same time with arcing electricity.
  • Infinitode: Tesla towers fire a lightning which bounces off to hit other targets, with upgradable damage dealt by the chain effect and length that goes up when the tower levels up.
  • In Armies of Exigo, the Fallen faction are physically the weakest of the 3. However trying to invade their land is a death sentence, unless you have artillery. The Fallen's powerful Chain Lightning Spires are defence towers that will fire streams of lightning that'll jump from enemy to enemy, killing many foes in an extremely short time.
  • If you serve Stratos, the god of air, in Sacrifice, you can learn several spells that involve lightning, including Chain Lightning which jumps from enemy to enemy.
  • Hades: Some of the boons you get from Zeus give your attacks this effect
  • Worms WMD has the "cell phone battery" weapon, which electrocutes a worm and spreads to nearby worms.
  • X-Men Legends: Storm can level up her lighting attack to develop into a chain attack. Once the first target is hit, the lighting will travel through the nearby enemies. As later levels have hordes of enemies attacking, it is an effective strategy.
  • Genshin Impact: Using Electro attacks on a group of Hydro-afflicted enemies (either due to environmental conditions or your Hydro units) will result in the lightning traveling between enemies, rapidly gnawing through their HP.
  • Toontown: Corporate Clash: Zap gags are powerful attacks that can jump twice to hit up to three cogs, as long as they have been soaked with Squirt gags beforehand.
  • Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night: The Teps Oceus shard allows Miriam to hit multiple enemies one after the other. The more you upgrade the shard, the more the "chain" extendsd, hitting more enemies.

    Web Comics 
  • Girl Genius: The Corbettite Monks have a chain lightning gun that hits several airships at once.
  • The Order of the Stick: As a high-level Wizard who believes firmly in the law of superior firepower, Vaarsuvius makes sure to add this spell to their arsenal. Best demonstrated when Vaarsuvius changes the tide of a battle with a few spells, including electrocuting a full squad of pteranodons.
    Haley: Elan, I'll drop you on one of their backs. You take out the rider while I start shooting— [ZZZZAAAPPP!!] Oh yeah. Wizard.


Video Example(s):


The Wrath of the Ark

This depiction of the Ark generates an electrical effect that jumps from person to person and even the Nazis' electronic equipment.

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Example of:

Main / ChainLightning

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