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Don't you know? You never split the party!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,
—Emerald Rose, "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 may be achieved by telling Commander Contrarian or The So-Called Coward, "Fine, you can just wait here alone."
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.
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.
Comics -- Books
- Knights of the Dinner Table has used this exact phrase occasionally, the most memorable being when they discussed The Lord of the Rings movies.
- One of the early DC Comics for Scooby Doo had 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 the Scooby Doo and his friends, the aliens are fake.
- This occurs for an extremely brief time in a Halloween Episode of Script Fic Calvin and Hobbes The Series.
- 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."
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.
- 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: "What the rush? You got some urgent dinner appointment you have to get to?"
Don't you know? You never split the party!
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...
- The trope gets its name from 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 and Dragons) used this phrase in an advertisement for Dungeons & Dragons products.
- 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.
- 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.
- Used in Beyond Good and 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 2 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- The perils of this are a major theme of a recent story arc in Rich Burlew's Order of the Stick, to the point where Don't Split the Party is the title of the book compiling that arc.
- In strip #436 of Darths and Droids, 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.
- 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.
- Referenced in Spoony's riffing of the Dungeons and Dragons-spinoff board game Dragonstrike: "Seriously, split the party and I'll wring your fucking necks."
- 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.
- 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 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.
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!
- 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 sugests spliting 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.
- 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 favour.
- Sun Tzu mention this on the sixth chapter of his book The Art of War. In the moment of ignorence, the enemy force will likely split his army into several units in hopes that they'll cover more ground, but this'll just bring the opportunity for the other side to use his whole army to crush these units one by one.
- And, of course, there's the Older Than Feudalism military credo, Divide and Conquer.