Follow TV Tropes


Follow the Chaos

Go To
Dragon Tracking 101: follow the trail of burning destruction.
"Quick. What is the absolute worst place in this Valley one could go? The most insanely suicidal place to be found? The place where only a great fool would venture — and only an insane fool would follow?"
How the final battle of Codex Alera is located

Alice can't find Bob, where could he have gone?


Oh, there he is.

This trope centers on finding a character by the fact that they have a tendency to cause destruction wherever they go. So if you can't find them, just look for the nearest explosion. Or, if no explosions are imminent, do as the quote above and think of the place where the most potential trouble could occur and you'll end up with much the same result.

Such characters tend to be Chaotic in nature. They may be heroes who frequently use plans that are Crazy Enough to Work, or just have the plain rotten luck to always cause collateral damage wherever they go no matter what they do to avoid it. Alternatively, you may have a Mad Scientist or Bungling Inventor whose creations always blow up, letting you know if they're in their lab or not. At best, they're simply inclined or compelled to find the chaos themselves. A danger zone may also be indicated by a Foreboding Fleeing Flock.

The intent behind this trope is that the chaos they cause will give you an almost immediate idea of where to locate them. Finding a site of destruction and knowing that they've been there is a separate idea which involves a more protracted hunt.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In the Red Riding Hood chapters of Skip Beat!, Kyouko ends up alone with a stalker in the forest, and Fuwa Sho runs around trying to figure out where she could be. He figures it out when part of the forest explodes with her psychic energy/inner demons/hatred.
  • One Piece:
    • When Luffy rushes away from the group in Alabasta, Sanji figures that they can find him by looking for the noisiest part of town.
    • During the Enies Lobby arc, the crew is trying to locate Luffy, who charged in ahead of them. When a building nowhere near them suddenly starts to collapse, they know exactly which direction to head in.
    • Later, Smoker tries to use this technique to catch Luffy when the Straw Hat Pirates enter the New World, figuring that it's in Luffy's nature to go to the most dangerous of the three islands on the Log Pose. He fails to anticipate that Luffy will do something even crazier, and go to an island that's not on the Log Pose
    • In Totto Land, Luffy and Chopper run off and get lost in a Level Ate city made of chocolate. Nami doesn't panic, as she knows that all they have to do is wait for a commotion to start. Cue some guy screaming about a building being eaten. Sure enough, Luffy and Chopper are there.
  • Variant: In Lost Universe, the characters know that dinner is done when they hear an explosion coming from the kitchen.
  • Inuyasha: Naraku not only has a distinctive demonic aura (that the titular Inu Yasha calls a "stink"), he also tends to leave behind trails of dead bodies everywhere he goes.
  • In Red River (1995), there comes a time when Yuri runs off to solve a problem herself, leaving Kail behind her and in a political situation that forces him to stay in Hattusa. When he gets leave to follow her, he asks the mayor of the town if there he asks "Where are you in this town having trouble right now?" When citizens burst in on the meeting shouting about how townspeople are breaking into the jail, Kail knows exactly where Yuri is.
  • Invoked by Finn in Special A, when Finn and Hikari have been captured by Finn's parents because they learned that Hikari has found out about Finn's Sweet Polly Oliver ruse. Finn knows that Kei and Ryu will be looking for them, so Finn gets Hikari to a kitchen, knowing that Hikari's Lethal Chef tendencies will create an explosion large enough for Kei and Ryu to find them. As a bonus, Hikari's cooking is useful as a weapon against guards that try to recapture them.

    Comic Books 
  • Lampshaded in X-Men. Sort of a running gag, except they don't find it funny.
  • In Marvel Comics' short-lived series The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones, Marion finds Indy in the middle of a foreign city. When he asks how she found him, she responds "Simple. I just followed the trail of cops and unconscious bodies."
  • In The Death of Superman, this is how Supes and the other heroes keep finding Doomsday - he just destroys whatever is in front of him.
  • In the Scooby-Doo! Team-Up issue "Truth, Justice, and Scooby Snacks", after Superman is mutated into a monster by Red Kryptonite, Krypto and Scooby track him down by following the trail of holes in buildings that he left.
  • Judge Dredd: Whenever the Dark Judges show up in Mega City One, Justice Department tends to find them rather easy to track down on account of the number of corpses they leave behind them. As Batman put it in one crossover, "Just follow the trail of death".
  • In the Donald Duck story "The Crocodile Collector", Donald gets separated from his nephews in Cairo and gets into a fight with a crocodile at a petting zoo. The nephews go out to look, saying, "Where did Unca Donald—* Never mind— I hear the commotion!"

    Comic Strips 
  • In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles newspaper comic, the turtles have several (mis)adventures end on a space bus station after closing hour. In the darkness Raphael gets separated from the others, and Leonardo think they should better search for him:
    Leonardo: Since it's Raph, we should head in the direction of trouble.
    Donatello or Michelangelo: Which way is that?
    Sound from the left: Urk! Ugh! Grumph!
    Leonardo: Next question...

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm has it repeatedly observed that Harry can usually be found in the middle of trouble, by following a trail of destruction visible from space. Or as Carol remarks regarding Harry and mayhem...
    "Like peanut butter and jelly. If one's around, the other isn't far behind, and if it isn't, something is very wrong with the universe."
  • Firefly fanfic Prodigal: After dealing with a bunch of drama with Jayne's semi-estranged family on top of the fallout from the events of The Big Damn Movie (or at least this story's version of them) both Jayne and River are nowhere to be found and Simon is becoming increasingly worried. Kaylee reassures him that if anything had happened to River then the local news would be full of reports of "gunfire an' explosions an' car chases" because there's no way in hell Jayne would let his new girlfriend get kidnapped without raising several kinds of hell. Instead, she's able to pinpoint exactly what Jayne (and probably River) were up to last night because there was a truly massive Bar Brawl, and Jayne's got an extensive history of starting those whenever he's in a bad mood and needs to blow off some steam. It's a testimony to the amount of character development (or possibly desensitisation) he's gone through up to this point that Simon accepts this without much comment.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Lost World: Jurassic Park. A T. rex is rampaging through San Diego and the protagonists have to capture it. Ian Malcolm's advice? "Follow the screams."
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark: After he has seen Indy buried alive in the Well of Souls, Belloq looks around at the burning airfield and destroyed plane.
    Belloq: Jones!
  • In RoboCop 3, after Robocop has left resistance headquarters on a personal vendetta, it's suggested that they might track him down by driving around and listening for explosions.
  • Men in Black:
    K: With the bug in town, we'll watch the morgues.
  • In the climax of The Mummy, Rick O'Connell shoots a flesh-eating scarab. The gunshot alerts the titular mummy, but also Evelyn, who (correctly) surmises that her allies have survived the earlier plane crash and says "O'Connell" with a smile.

  • Tavi, the protagonist of Codex Alera, has such a tendency for plans that are Crazy Enough to Work that the question asking where the single most insane place in the area to go is located is enough for two people to simultaneously work out where he's gone less than a second after the question is asked.
  • Discworld:
    • In Sourcery, minor character Nijel is once described as the kind of person who, if he was lost in a trackless desert, could be located by leaving out some valuable old heirloom and then hurrying back as soon as you heard it smash.
    • Towards the end of The Fifth Elephant, Sam Vimes is in hot pursuit of Wolfgang, a mad werewolf who is the last remaining antagonist. Vimes keeps on the trail by locating people Wolfgang has attacked during his escape and simply asking the witnesses "which way?"
  • Matthew Reilly's Shane Schofield is a variation—he isn't tracked by the chaos, but a few allies come by the area afterwards and conclude that he's been there from all the horribly destroyed vehicles, bridges, and chunks of road.
  • Even early on in The 39 Clues, Nellie is able to locate Amy and Dan by turning on the news, seeing where's there been some suspicious-sounding trouble, and heading directly to that location.
  • Animorphs: In Megamorphs #3: Elfangor's Secret:
    "See Ax? Told you it was Rachel. Any time you hear screaming and see people running, you're going to find our girl Rachel somewhere close by."
  • In the The Dresden Files novel Cold Days, Murphy immediately realizes Harry has come back to life and quickly locates him just from hearing about some of the shenanigans he inevitably causes within a few hours of his arrival.
  • In Ethan of Athos, Elli Quinn proposes this to Dr. Urquhart, as a way to meet up, if and when:
    "If you change your mind later, you can still look us up, you know. Look for a heap of trouble with a squiggly-minded little man on top of it, and tell him Quinn sent you. He'll take you in."
  • Subverted in Relativity, when the main characters are trying to locate a serial bomber. First they hear an explosion, but aren't certain which direction the sound came from, so they decide to look for smoke from the resulting fire, but there isn't any. They end up waiting until they hear the sirens of emergency vehicles and then follow those.
  • In The Paper Bag Princess, Elizabeth is able to follow the dragon that trashed her castle because of the trail of burnt forests and horses' bones he leaves behind him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Castle, Alexis lets Ashley's rat escape. After she apologizes to him for losing his beloved pet and he forgives her, Martha's shriek is heard offscreen. Alexis and Ashley look alarmed, but Castle merely says, "Found him!"
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Seventh Doctor had a companion named Ace who was fond of incendiaries. Upon being captured, a large explosion rocked the building the villain had him in. "That sounds like my friend Ace. It has all of her subtle undertones."
    • This is one reliable method of finding the Doctor in a hurry, as Martha points out in "The Lazarus Experiment".
    • Donna Noble eventually tracks down the Doctor by following strange and bizarre occurrences, figuring the Doctor will inevitably become involved. She's proven right in "Partners in Crime".
    • While tracking down River Song in "Let's Kill Hitler", Rory and Amy argue about what possible clues they could use to find her when a crowd of panicked people come running out of a restaurant, all in various states of undress.
    • When asked how a character will locate the Doctor in "The Crimson Horror":
      Vastra: To find him, she needs only ignore all keep-out signs. Go through every locked door and run towards any form of danger that presents itself.
      Strax: Business as usual, then?
      Vastra: Business as usual.
      • Incidentally, the Doctor is found very quickly with this method.
  • MythBusters: After a massive explosion for testing the "30,000-Foot Fall" myth, Jamie joked that one way to tell the MythBusters had been somewhere was to look for shrapnel in the trees.
  • In Stargate Atlantis, Beckett and Ford have to find Sheppard among a mess of Genii soldiers occupying Atlantis, but the life-signs detector doesn't distinguish between humans. Ford confidently states that the dot representing Sheppard will be the one causing other dots to vanish.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Implied in the "Scotland The Brave" level in TimeSplitters Future Perfect. When you get to a lift, Captain Ash looks down from the top and invokes this trope before winching you up.
    Captain Ash: Hello down there? Oh, I heard gunfire and knew it had to be you.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • A quest chain in the Western Plaguelands has you helping to train a new druid. When you speak to the quest giver for the second quest in the chain, she mentions that the student's spells were so out of control she not only could see them from where she was, but she was using them as a marker to track your progress. To illustrate: said student was so incompetent that in moonkin form, he was spamming Moonfire on himself.
    • Shadowlands
      • You regularly infiltrate the tower of Torghast in order to locate powerful items as well as powerful allies. In one instance, you're traveling through the tower to rescue Jaina Proudmoore, a master of ice magic who has been struggling against her captors almost non-stop. As you near her location, you start seeing walls of ice scattered around the scenery, demonstrating how much she's been fighting.
      • Early in the Ardenweald campaign, you're sent to locate Tyrande Whisperwind from the Maw, the Warcraft universe's Fire and Brimstone Hell. Upon doing so you locate several corpses that your companion, Shandris Feathermoon, recognizes as Tyrande's handiwork. She outright says that the path of carnage created from the corpses will lead you to her.
  • A few characters have offhandedly mentioned that this happens to Shepard from time to time. A memorable quote by Joker in the Mass Effect 3 Citadel DLC...
    "Approaching your position, Commander. Just following the gunfire."
  • Meta example in co-operative games where one player is more skilled/familiar with the game than another. "Follow the dead bodies." is common advice to help the other player find his way to catch up with the first.
    • Also present in most other games. If you get lost, avoid the trail of bodies. Find more chaos and you'll get back on track.
  • If you fell behind and lost track of your teammates in City of Heroes, all you had to do to was follow the sounds of explosions, gunfire, and Kinetic Melee.
  • Used as a dialogue option in Neverwinter Nights to an NPC that you rescue and are telling him how to get out.
    "Just follow the trail of dead bodies."
  • Similarly, in Saints Row IV, Kinzie is about to offer directions on where to locate a friend in need of rescue only for the boss to tell her he's simply following the trail of dead bodies.
  • Done literally in Justice League Heroes. Toward the end of the game, Darkseid invades Earth and starts trying to turn it into Apokalips. Superman, naturally, gets pissed off, and the next level is you, playing as one of the other members of the Justice League, following him as he stomps his way through a ruined Metropolis.
  • Inverted in Dawn of War II: Retribution, where Kyras is hiding out on the only place in the system that isn't contested by orks, Chaos, Tyranids, or all three; the already-Exterminatus'ed world of Cyrene.
  • A (not so) joking suggestion in Deep Rock Galactic: are you playing Scout and got separated from the team kiting a Praetorian? No worries! Just follow the trail of bullet holes, blast craters, pickaxe-gouged walls, and spent flares. You will eventually find your team of walking OSHA violations.

  • In Tim Buckley's spin off superhero comic, Analog & D-Pad Ethan/Analog asks how to find the Frag shortly before a building collapses behind him.
  • Looking for Group has Richard, who is easily tracked by a trail of "littered corpses" according to acquaintance Maikos.
  • Early on in El Goonish Shive, Elliot visits Tedd's house, and Tedd's dad answers the door. When Elliot asks where Tedd is, Mr. Verres admits that he's not entirely sure, and lists a number of possibilities. An explosion and scream follows. "Basement it is, then."
  • Girl Genius:
    • This is how Adam and Lilith locate Agatha aboard the Castle Wulfenbach.
    • Gilgamesh Wulfenbach knows Agatha is the real Heterodyne, but while in Mechanicsburg, he finds out that there is someone claiming to be a Heterodyne girl (who he hasn't met in person yet), attempting to enter "her" castle. Then another one shows up.
      Gil: A second—is she attempting to enter the castle?
      Vole: No, sir. She iz in a coffee shop.
      Gil: ...a coffee shop? What is she doing in a coffee shop?
      Vole: She iz making coffee, sir.
      Gil: Making coffee—
      Vole: Dere haff been three explosions so far, sir.
      Gil: [happily] Agatha!
  • Most of Megatokyo's cast falls under this. However with all the random property destruction going around by monsters of the day it could count as a subversion too.
    • Played straight, lampshaded and invoked with Largo. Dom and Ed try to find where he's living by showing around his picture, sure that someone will recoil in horror at the sight. Lately Erika is trying to make him tone down t3h d3struct10n a bit however.
  • In one Evil Diva comic, Michelle is wondering where Diva and Loki have gotten to when people come running by screaming "They're headed for the gym! Run for your lives!"
  • In Goblins, following his battle with Dellyn Goblinslayer, Thaco finds the rest of the party thanks to all the random magical carnage unleashed by Complains' Shield of Wonder.
  • When Elan uses Durkon to Send a call an ally for help in The Order of the Stick, he phrases the request with this in mind. In fact, Elan did this well before there was any hint of an explosion being imminent, but also understood there would be an explosion if they totally screwed up.
    Durkon: If'n ye wanna fight an evil villain bent on conquest, go ta Windy Canyon an' look fer tha big explosion.

    Web Videos 
  • Used in Freeman's Mind with Gordon singing a song to himself.
    "Follow the dead body road! Follow the dead body road! Follow, follow, foll— damn! Look at all that blood!"
  • When Soviet Womble goes on a rampage with highly explosive Doomsday shotgun rounds in ARMA, Cyanide snarks that they can track where Womble's been by following the trail of ruined houses.

    Western Animation 
  • Subverted in The Simpsons, where Homer tries to find Bart and his pet elephant via a train of destruction...only to discover that the trail of damaged houses he'd been following was caused by a twister (which have somehow caught Patty and Selma note ).
  • In Batman: The Animated Series, Batman and Robin are looking for The Creeper...
    Robin: Which way did he go?
    (Explosion goes off in the distance)
    Batman: That way.
  • In Megas XLR, this is just the natural result of Coop being a Destructive Savior turned up a notch.
    Goat: I wonder where Coop is? He's gonna miss the mecha bot ultimate battle.
    Random girl: A giant robot is wrecking the city!
    Goat: There he is.
  • Whenever Ben 10 goes missing, all his allies have to do is keep an eye and ear out.
  • In Wakfu Season 2 finale Eva is looking for her boyfriend during the battle. Cue a huge nuke like explosion going off on the other side of the island.
    Eva: (Deadpan look on her face) Never mind, I found him.
  • In Superman: The Animated Series, Lobo uses this as a method of finding Superman (or, more precisely, getting Superman to find him):
    Lobo: Hey, how's it goin', chief? Maybe you can help me, I'm new in town and I'm looking to find this geek here.
    Cop: Superman? We don't keep tabs on him. He only shows up if there's trouble.
    Lobo: (grins) I can do trouble. (charges his blaster gun)
  • G.I. Joe: Renegades: Cobra Commander notes in one episode they must be close to the Joes' current location, as they can see military helicopters nearby (the result of Flint's Stern Chase).

    Real Life 
  • Part of the reason Chicago's Great Fire got so badly out of hand is because the guy manning a fire watchtower misjudged which block the fire was on, due to the still-smoldering ruins from a smaller housefire the previous day. After he realized his mistake he requested a second alarm with the right location, but the guy actually sending the alarms thought the corrected directions would confuse the situation. The third alarm again sent all the remaining fire crews in the city to the wrong location, but by this point the fire was so big that it was visible from blocks away so the crews just followed the smoke.
  • During the Napoleonic Wars, in the lead-up to the Battle of Wavre, the French forces under command of Marshal Grouchy were debating how to position their forces. Several of Grouchy's subordinates suggested they "follow the sound of the guns" and join in the fighting happening nearby at Waterloo. Grouchy however had orders from Napoleon to deploy his forces near Wavre to block the Prussians from reinforcing the Duke of Wellington.


Video Example(s):


Doomsday Rounds

Womble discovers that the doomsday rounds are useless at ranges beyond 150 meters. Targets WITHIN 150 meters, on the other hand...

How well does it match the trope?

4.97 (29 votes)

Example of:

Main / GracefulInTheirElement

Media sources: