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Involuntary Group Split

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The characters are in a cave, or occasionally a building, and after a cataclysmic event, the falling pieces of the structure separate them into smaller groups. They must either find their way out alone, or if some of them have no way to escape, they must be rescued, often with a race against time.

Very common in video games, as a plot device for separating the player character from its party, because in single-player games, too much help from friendly NPCs would take away the meat of the game. Briefer examples are simply an Inescapable Ambush. More extreme examples fall under Party Scattering.

Contrast with Let's Split Up, Gang!, where they do it voluntarily, and Never Split the Party, where they're at least trying to avoid it. Compare Locked Out of the Fight. See Split and Reunion.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Arachnid: When a bunch of assassins invade Alice's school to kill her, all she wants is to get her friends out of there, but they keep getting separated for some reason or another. It is then subverted in that the splits weren't involuntary at all. Kuramoto and Yoriko were responsible for the Arachnid Hunt and wanted Alice trapped inside the school.
  • Digimon:
    • Repeatedly used in Digimon Adventure. First Devimon splits File Island, then everyone has drifted apart by the time Taichi finds his way back to the Digital World after Etemon, then they choose to separate during the Dark Masters arc (during which one of the split groups was briefly split even further when Mugendramon blew up a skyscraper on them, casting them into different parts of the city's sewers) and don't completely regroup until the absolute last minute.
    • The Digital World arc of Digimon Tamers had this as something of an environmental mechanic: the data streams of the lowest plane of the Digital World would drag those caught to a completely different plane of the World; on the other hand, they eventually used a data stream to regroup.
    • Digimon Frontier literally has the party split because rocks fell. When part of the mountain they're on is eaten by Gigasmon to increase his power, the team falls...and winds up in different parts of the digital world instead of splattered.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Stardust Crusaders: Terence D'Arby splits the group in half by taking Jotaro, Joseph and Kakyoin into the basement of DIO's mansion, leaving Avdol, Polnareff, and Iggy to explore the upper area.
    • Stone Ocean: Pucci's C-Moon gravity powers make Ermes fall away from the group before their arrival at the space center, until Jotaro's return allows her to make it back.
  • Mega Man NT Warrior - Stream: A laser wall cause the group to split into three teams against a few Asteroid Navis. Mayl, Jasmine, and Miyabi for Lark Man. Fyre Fox and Dingo for Cloud Man. Lan and Charlie for Cosmo Man.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi:
    • The Big Bad used a falling stone spell to smash a teleporter, the chaotic magic from this scattering them all across the magical world.
    • This also happens later on during the attack by Cosmo Entelecheia during a formal party held by Godel, as a collapsing structure causes Nodoka and Asakura to be separated from Negi, Chisame, and Ku Fei just as Nodoka is about to tell Negi the final secret to the Magic World.
  • One Piece: The party was forcibly split twice during the Skypeia arc — once by a giant lobster, then after reuniting, again by a giant snake. It arguably happened again in Thriller Bark (though the party split on its own, the metaphorical falling rocks prevented the two teams from reuniting), and the most notable happened at the end of the Sabaody arc, courtesy of Bartholomew Kuma, and lasted a grand total of two years in-universe. Of course, the very day the party got back together, they were split (into larger groups, at least) by powerful ocean currents.
  • It happens in Pokémon: The Series every once in a while. Though it's more of a party mismatch, since generally, Rockets, trainers, and even their individual Pokémon can form their own groups depending on how they're split.
  • Sailor Moon Super S: This happens to the Sailor Guardians after they wander into a labyrinth of mirrors created by Zirconia where their reflections are used to break their spirits.

    Comic Books 
  • Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 has Kenzie, Saxon and Sadie fall into an underground cavern, forcing Liam and Celanawe to continue without them.
  • Uncanny X-Men:
    • During a fight with Magneto in his underground volcano lair, the X-Men accidentally cause a lava-slide, separating Jean and Beast from everyone else. She presumes they're dead, but actually they all got to safety and wind up in the Savage Land. Circumstances mean they're unable to get in contact with Professor X, who assumes they're dead and leaves Earth.
    • World Tour: The X-Men are together, each imprisoned in a ball, and then separated through Arcade’s pinball machine, forcing them in different places.

    Eastern Animation 
  • In the Chinese Lilo & Stitch adaptation Stitch & Ai, Lilo and Stitch are separated against their will in the first few minutes, setting Stitch on the path to meeting Ai.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Godzilla): Team Mauzer suffers one during the first joint operation with the G-Team, when the floor collapsing under Krupin separates him from the rest of the team, in Chapter 7.
  • Jaune Arc, Lord of Hunger (RWBY/Star Wars): At the end of chapter 18, the heroes are separated after an airship crashes into Beacon Academy. Ruby and Pyrrha are knocked unconscious and wake up in the ruins of the fairgrounds, Nora and Ren are sent flying into the Great War Memorial, Qrow is Buried Alive beneath the remains of the airship, and Blake and Weiss go MIA.
  • A variant in With Strings Attached. When the four are in New Zork, they walk along unconcerned that they might be recognized, since it's 1954 and in Real Life they didn't show up in America until 1964. Unfortunately, this Earth is hardly an exact parallel with theirs. They round a corner and come upon a line of kids waiting to enter a contest to win "Beagles" tickets. "The mob broke the sound barrier as they thundered into the road, and the four said 'Christ!' and fled in four different directions." The remainder of the chapter consists of their attempts to get back together.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Conan the Destroyer, Bombaata causes one of these to get rid of Conan temporarily. Big Mistake.
  • Hellboy (2004): When the agents enter Rasputin's Elaborate Underground Base, they're split into two groups by rising walls, literally seconds after stressing the importance of sticking together.
  • A variant occurs in the Rollercoaster Mine in Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008). The handcart and the two mine cars break off at a track intersection, sending Trevor down one track (nearly crashing him into a wall), Hannah down another (that abruptly ends and almost plunges her into a ravine), and Sean down yet another (he comes out just fine).
  • This happens in Star Trek Beyond after the Enterprise is destroyed. Uhura, Sulu, Keenser, and numerous Red Shirts are captured by Krall; Kirk and Chekov end up in the forest with Kalara (who turns out to be The Mole for Krall); Spock and McCoy crash a stolen fighter near a river; and Scotty ends up by himself until he meets Jaylah.

  • In the Isaac Asimov short story "Catch That Rabbit", the heroes decide to create a fake rockslide, to test whether a robot is malfunctioning or not, but then get caught in it and have to get the robot to dig them out.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets : When the tunnel leading to the Chamber of Secrets collapses, Ron Weasley and Gilderoy Lockhart are trapped. Harry must now face Voldemort alone.
    • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: While the heroes are infiltrating the Ministry of Magic disguised as employees, their "supervisors" find them and order them to different locations.
  • The Heroes of Olympus: At the end of The Mark of Athena, as the floor of the cavern where the Athena Parthenos was hidden falls away as the statue is safely tethered to the Argo II, Annabeth is discovered to be caught in a loop of Arachne's loose thread, which is pulling her down into Tartarus, and they can't cut her loose. Percy chooses to let himself fall alongside her, leaving the other heroes in a state of shock. The House of Hades thus involves the other heroes travelling to the titular location on Earth, while Percy and Annabeth journey through Tartarus to the location of the Doors of Death, their only way back home.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: In "The Doctor's Daughter", Martha Jones is separated from the Doctor and Donna by a tunnel collapse near the beginning of the episode and meets up with them again near the end.
  • Happens to an extreme in season 1 of Stargate Universe. A small group are split off from the main cast and stranded on an alien planet when a cave-in traps them in an underground complex. Then, next episode, another cave-in splits them up, leaving one stranded unconscious whilst the others try to use the stargate network to make their way back to the Destiny. Possibly the first time a cave-in has left the party split up across the breadth of a galaxy.
  • Star Trek:

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game features a mechanic by which the Game Master can essentially force a group of player characters to split up — or conversely put them back together — via spending an appropriately-sized die from the doom pool and narrating just how it happens. This is meaningful not just for the usual dramatic reasons, but also because a hero's actual performance in this game is affected by whether they're currently alone, have a single "buddy" for backup, or are working as part of a greater team.
  • Star Frontiers adventure SF0 Crash on Volturnus. While the PCs are in the Forbidden Caverns with the Ul-Mor, a cave-in will separate the two groups and leave the PCs on their own.

    Video Games 
  • ANNO: Mutationem: Moments after passing the Point of No Return, Ann loses contact with Ayane after agents from The Consortium arrived to capture and use her as a bargaining chip to force Ann into an co-operation until all matters regarding C has been dealt with.
  • In Black Sigil, not long after entering the House of Black Stone, your party of three will be broken down, with Kairu alone and Asi with Aurora. It only takes a few minutes before you're together again, though.
  • In Destroy All Humans! 2, Natalya and Crypto are split up by falling rocks in a secret volcano base in a cheap expy of Japan.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: At one point in the Driftwood Caverns, a scripted event causes giant Voidwoken to grab the Player Party and deposit them in different regions of the caves, forcing them to find their way back to each other through a dangerous enemy lair. Of course, by then they've had a chance to find teleportation devices that can trivialize the task.
  • In Double Homework, after the class escapes from an avalanche, they all end up in slightly different locations, and they have to find each other. Nor are they without casualties: the protagonist goes to find Morgan, and discovers her with a sprained ankle.
  • Happens in Eternal Sonata when a boss villain destroys the bridge on which you're standing. Half of the party is rescued by a passing ship and the other half washes ashore in a swamp. Conveniently, the villain doesn't end up with either group and is never heard from again.
  • In Exile/Avernum III, this happens a few times, most notably when defeating the Slime and Cockroach plagues.
  • Fallout: New Vegas:
    • At the end of the Honest Hearts DLC, if you side with Joshua Graham to crush the White Legs, the immediate path through the canyon will be blocked by a rockslide halfway, separating you from Joshua and forcing you to detour through the caves.
    • A subversion occurs in Lonesome Road when a cave-in blocks your path through the Divide, but ED-E doesn't get taken from you until after circumventing the impasse.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Subverted in Final Fantasy V. The party falls down a hole, with three of them waking up in a large room and the fourth in a small closed-off chamber nearby. After some brief discussion the majority decide to carry on by themselves and assume their missing party member will catch up with them later on. Cue the man himself popping out of an underground passage to berate the party for planning to leave without him.
    • Final Fantasy VI: This happens to Sabin on the raft early on in the game, and then the entire party when their airship literally splits in half at the climactic midpoint.
  • In Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, the Morph Kisuna ensnares the player's party and uses his magic to divide them into two groups.
  • The Guild Wars Factions mission Arborstone has a cathedral begin collapsing once the Urn of Saint Viktor is removed. Mhenlo gets out before the front door is blocked off, but all the others have to work their way to the back exit.
  • In Half-Life 2, Gordon is separated from Alyx this way, when Black Mesa East is attacked.
  • In Head over Heels, after spending some time getting the two characters together, the game continues to come up with inventive ways of splitting them up again.
  • In Ib, Garry gets separated from the girls by large vines suddenly springing up from the ground. Ib and Mary press forward to try to find something to take care of the vines...only for a statue to block their way back to Garry. Garry finds another way out after he realizes they aren't coming back, and you spend the next section of the game switching back and forth between playing as Ib and playing as Garry.
  • Happens all the time in the Kingdom Hearts games, usually to force you to fight bosses alone. (Usually without explanation too - a forcefield just zips up when the boss appears. Though sometimes there are better reasons.) In at least one instance, Donald and Goofy run right into a barrier as it activates and separates them from Sora.
  • The frequency with which this happens in The Last Story is laughable; generally at least once per major dungeon. Bonus points for the rubble often being barely above waist height or easily traversable.
  • There's one in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in the level "Gap of Rohan". After the player character (either Aragorn, Legolas or Gimli) passes through the remains of a burning building, what's left of the roof collapses, meaning the other two can't follow them.
  • Medal of Honor:
    • In Medal of Honor: Vanguard, Keegan is split from the rest of the squad when the glider crashes at start of Operation Neptune.
    • In Medal of Honor: Airborne', a German ambush forces Travers to split off from his squadmates Setzer and Wirth during the final part of the assault on Der Flakturm. This turns out to be a Lifesaving Misfortune, as the other two men are mortally wounded and killed by another German ambush just outside the tower.
  • Mega Man:
    • Mega Man X: Command Mission has this happen at the very beginning. An explosion separates X from Zero and Shadow, but they can still communicate with each other.
    • Mega Man Battle Network: In the second game, Lan and a group of Net Agents are separated by a trap set by an agent of Gospel who places them in a labyrinth.
    • Mega Man Star Force 2: Geo is able to rescue Luna before witnessing Zack, Bud, and Sonia getting sent off to far lands, setting off the World Tour to find them.
  • Miitopia does this several times, courtesy of falling boulders. The party is split in half and both groups have to explore the dungeon separately until they are reunited.
  • This happens at the end of Chapter 5 of Mother 3, where Lucas and company are split up after falling from the Mother Porkship, because the Rope Snake proved to not be as useful as Duster thought for holding on. However, instead of having to play as all the different characters in their separate groups afterward, all the gameplay just focuses on Lucas trying to find the other party members.
  • In Owlboy, near the start of the game, in pursuit of the troublemaker, Otus is separated from Geddy by a cave-in.
  • Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction: The duo become separated after Tachyon unleashes the Cragmites and both get scattered around the planet's area.
  • Resident Evil:
    • Leon and Claire are split up by an exploding tanker truck in the beginning of Resident Evil 2 and each is forced to make their way to the Raccoon City police station alone.
    • Also happens a few times in Resident Evil 0. Since partnership is important in that game, it's all the more troubling when it occurs.
    • Resident Evil 5 has a thankfully brief case of this in chapter 4-1.
  • In Resistance, the ceiling collapses into a pile of rubble, separating the British soldiers from Nathan Hale.
  • In Silent Hill: Homecoming, this happens in the prison level almost immediately after meeting your companion.
  • After a Hopeless Boss Fight in Star Ocean: The Second Story, the heroes are kicked overboard. After washing up on the beach, Rena discovers Claude and Leon are missing, along with all of the NPCs that were on the ship, and struggles to keep calm. Meanwhile, Claude wakes up on a different part of the beach and has to deal with Leon crossing the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Mario & Luigi:
      • In Superstar Saga, Mario gets sick with Bean Fever, and Luigi ventures alone to find the cure. Once cured, Mario rejoins the party.
      • A few sections of Partners in Time, such as the beginning of the Vim Factory, separate the baby Bros. and their adult versions.
      • In Bowser's Inside Story, Dimble Woods has a section where Luigi is stuck alone inside a Sockhop enemy. Once he finds Mario, he rejoins the party.
      • In Paper Jam, Mario, Luigi, and Paper Mario are split up in Gloomy Woods. Starlow has to encourage Luigi to get him to progress.
    • In Super Paper Mario, Mario and company get separated after Dimentio blasts them all to the Underwhere.
  • In the prologue for Super Robot Wars BX, the 5 SD Gundams are scattered around BX's universe just as they were going to confront Sieg Zeon for the last time.
  • Warcraft III:
    • The Frozen Throne's undead campaign has a level where Arthas is separated from Anub-Arak by a convenient earthquake and must navigate the maze alone. At level 2. While the clock ticks down. Fortunately, Anub-Arak digs his way back to Arthas in time.
    • In the Night Elf campaign mission "The Tomb of Sargeras", Illidan causes a cave-in which effectively separates the Warden from the rest of her party because only she has the teleportation ability required to escape otherwise certain death. Notably, they aren't reunited, the rest of the mission consists of getting Maiev out of there alive.
    • In the very next level, it happens again, though to a lesser degree. Maiev has a few units accompanying her and can be joined by flying reinforcement, and can return to her base thanks to her abilities.
  • Happens briefly in Xenoblade Chronicles 1, after the destruction of Galahad Fortress causes the party to fall into the ocean.
  • XenoGears: Fei and Bart get dropped into an underground cavern separated from the others until they make their back to the surface.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has the Season 2 episode "The Cave of Two Lovers", in which a cave-in causes Aang and Katara to be separated from Sokka, leaving Sokka with the hippie musicians.
  • Code Lyoko had one or two examples happen. A notable example was in Season 3's Final Round where William and Aelita were separated by Sector 5's ever-changing appearance.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic does this in the first episode of Season 2, with the mane six getting separated by one of Discord's pranks.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender: In Episode 4, Keith and Allura are shut out of the castle after Sendak's group takes control, leaving Lance, Pidge and Shiro still inside.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Rocks Fall Party Splits, Separated By A Rockslide


The Cave of Norway

Zack and Ivy gets separated from Carmen and Shadowsan in a cave in Norway when looking for a viking burial site.

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5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / InvoluntaryGroupSplit

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