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In games as well as the reality they are based on, many weapons have Splash Damage or Area of Effect. Using one of these Herd Hitting Attacks is fairly straightforward.

However, a clever player can abuse these mechanics to get improved performance out of an ability. These usually fall under the following categories:

  • Hitting the Target: The target is normally too difficult to directly hit by the game's mechanics. However, hitting something near the target and doing damage with Splash Damage or Area of Effect has a much higher chance of hitting. This includes hitting an "invisible" target that can't normally be targeted at all.
  • Doing More Damage: The target will, for whatever reason, take more damage from Splash Damage than a direct hit.
  • Stealth Bypass: The target cannot be normally hit because they are under cover or out of line of sight. An Area of Effect or Splash Damage ability, however, can still reach them. An example would be hitting a target that is inside a building by using a grenade near an open doorway.
  • Other: In some game mechanics, splash damage may not accrue aggro, not cause an opponent to take notice of the attack, or have some other real advantage over a direct hit.

This can arise from Good Bad Bugs. See also Splash Damage, Area of Effect, Herd-Hitting Attack, and Ground Pound. It should be noted, however, that all these tactics, with the exception of those listed under "other," are possible in Real Life.

Examples of Splash Damage Abuse include:

First Person Shooter

  • In Telepath RPG, all Area of Effect attacks deal the same amount of damage to everything they hit, and some of them can have significantly longer range than your normal attacks, making for easy range extension.
  • This is a common strategy in First Person Shooters when using rocket launchers and similar weapons. These usually have lots of splash damage and a relatively slow travel speed; it's entirely possible to dodge a rocket and have it travel harmlessly on by, which is why good players aim just behind the feet.
    • Rockets in Doom have reasonable horizontal splash range upon detonation but do damage in an infinitely tall vertical cylinder due to a bug. An enemy which is close to an explosion but very far beneath or above it will still take damage. Demonstrated in this video.
      • iD Software were aware of this - they designed the final boss of Doom 2 so that it could only be damaged by rockets because of this behaviour. (Well, noclipping can work to allow anything to damage, but... rockets are the only non-cheat way.)
  • In Team Fortress 2, the Demoman's grenade launcher fires grenades that travel in a small arc and bounce along the ground or off walls for the purposes of shooting around a corner. You can achieve a similar effect by shooting the Soldier's rockets near a corner. Since there's a game setting that plays a sound whenever you damage someone, it can be quite useful.

4X Games

  • Weapons with an Area of Effect in the X-Universe games do extra damage to a target based on how many damage "squares" match up with the target's hitbox. Larger targets take exponentially more damage from such weapons. This means that capital ships often take absurd amounts of damage from Plasma Burst Generators and Phased Shockwave Generators.


  • In Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones, the sequel to Dark Lord of Derkholm, a mage fights off griffins that are immune to direct magical attack by heating the air around them.
  • In Counselors and Kings, all Jordaini (and Tzigone) are completely immune to most magical effects, though particularly powerful ones can still affect them (albeit weaker than they would normally). As Tzigone finds out in her mage duel against Procopio in The Wizardwar, however, their environments are still fair game.
  • Prince of Nothing: chorae-bearers are immune to magic? No problem! Just drop a building on them or blow the ground out from beneath their feet.
  • The Dresden Files: In White Night, Warden Ramirez is faced with an attacking White Court vampire wearing Anti-Magic bracers. So he blows a hole in the ground beneath his feet and cuts them off him with a sword as he jumps out.

Massively Multiplayer Online Games

  • City of Heroes: Certain powers are used by targeting a patch of ground rather than an enemy. The game does not check for line of sight when such powers are fired, so it's possible to raise an earthquake, summon a pet, or fire a rain of arrows into the middle of an enemy group while you're comfortably hidden around the nearest corner.
    • In addition, such attacks (as well as PB Ao Es that target an area around your own feet) can be used to hit invisible or otherwise untargettable enemies by aiming them at other targets nearby.
  • In World of Warcraft aoe spells can be used to hit stealthed rogues, breaking their stealth and allowing them to be attacked normally. Until the mana costs of low-level spells were increased, it was common for mages and other classes to use very low-level aoe's to test for rogues in PvP situations. Mages especially, as even a low-level Blizzard spell would still slow down any enemy targets in the area, with proper talent point allocation.
  • In Ragnarok Online, equipping a Beelzebub card to any weapon automatically makes their regular attack splash 9 cells around the character with each hit. But wait, there's more! A bow or gun user whose weapon is equipped with this card, get's that splash damage around, not their sprite, but around the target the single arrow/bullet hits across the screen. And there's even more! Not only can they hit as many monsters as can overlap in nine cells at once (saving a lot of arrows/bullets and money), but when you hit fast enough (different depending on the monster but at max attack speed it works on just about anything, even MVPs, unless they use the endure skill), the amount of time it takes to recover from the hit and cycle through the 'flinch' animation becomes longer than the time it takes for your next attack to come, thus locking the monster in perpetual flinching as you hit them, practically eliminating the possibility of being attacked yourself, discounting server lag. This works for every class and every weapon, but it works especially well with bows and guns because you can lock as many monsters as you can round up in one spot in to the flinch animation as you shoot a stream of arrows or bullets at them from a nice, safe distance where they can't hit you.
  • In Rift, different rogue souls can combine their powers to abuse splash damage. The Bard soul has a seemingly-useless ability that makes critters follow you. The Saboteur soul can load up explosive charges with splash damage on a target, and they do no damage until the Sab detonates them all at once, which can be done from range. And, of course, there are rogue souls that can stealth. If you see a squirrel inexplicably coming your way, RUN.
  • Wakfu is a grid-based strategy MMO, so at times Splash Damage Abuse can be the only way to hit an enemy that's out of range; target your buddy standing next to him instead, he'll understand. It also lends itself to variants given the nature of some of the attacks; for example, anything which involves damaging an enemy by moving the attacker around (the Pandawa's Blisskrieg or the Sacrier's Assault, for example) can be turned on an ally with HP to spare for a quick retreat as well. On top of that, Sadidas have a spell which links a voodoo doll to a particular enemy; if the doll is next to its target, not only does it take damage twice (once for getting hit and once for the poppet getting hit), but if the spell is the right element the poppet-damage gets a bonus.

Platform Game

  • In Mega Man 4, to defeat Dr. Wily you have to use Drill Bombs. However the bombs themselves bounce off his ship. To win you must detonate the bomb before it hits so that the Splash Damage of the explosion hits his weak spot.

Real Time Strategy

  • DEFCON: If you hit near a city, it's possible to damage it. In fact, this trope is invoked in the easiest way to get a certain achievement: To kill Santa Claus, start a game with only yourself as a player, then detonate nukes near whichever city Santa is visiting, since you can't actually target your own cities directly.
  • Command and Conquer: Tiberian Sun - GDI Grenadiers have limited targeting range, but their projectile continues onward.
  • Dune 2, one of the very first games in the genre, already had this. The Rocket Turret and the Rocket Tank have the same range. Tell the rocket tank to fire at exactly one square in front of the turret, and sometimes it will miss slightly and damage it without the turret being able to fire back.
  • The Rapid Fire Long Range Artillery structures in Total Annihilation are hampered by their short range. However, their shells scatter randomly around the targeted area so if you point one at something just outside its maximum range and force-fire, a few shells may land on what you want to kill.
  • This can be done in Starcraft by cleverly targeting one of your own high-hitpoint or expendable units near an invisible enemy unit, and opening fire on your own unit, using splash damage to destroy the cloaked unit. Or simply sending a small unit in the middle of a formation of tanks, making them kill each other with the splash damage. Two words: Spawn Broodlings.
    • The Defiler ability Dark Swarm makes any unit under it immune to all direct ranged attacks. Terran units usually have ranged attacks. The only one that doesn't is the Firebat. However, you can still use AoE effects. The Science Vessel's Irradiate is a good choice. Siege Tank splash is interesting as well; Dark Swarm will negate the damage to the target of the Siege Tank attack. And since the direct target doesn't take splash damage, if the Zerg have a single unit under Dark Swarm, Siege Tanks can do nothing to hurt it.
  • Siege weapons in Dawn of War and Warcraft have an "attack ground" ability, in which they will continuously attack a wide area instead of other units. This can be used to attack invisible units if you don't have detectors available (particularly useful in Dawn of War Dark Crusade, as invisible units can attack without breaking invisibility, and are only visible via Muzzle Flashlight). It can also be used to attack from out of sight-range on targets that can't run such as buildings.
    • The Frozen Throne had an interesting take in the form of Cleaving Attack, a skill that causes units next to the main target to take a percentage (up to 70) of the damage dealt to the target. As the splash damage was not affected by armor, you could actually do more damage to a heavily armored unit by targeting the weaker ones first.
  • While most X-COM units have significantly weaker under armour and are highly vulnerable to explosions directly under their feet, ground-based vehicles in Apocalypse are instantly destroyed if the road is damaged. This includes the otherwise impressive-looking Griffon tank.
  • In Red Alert 2, buildings hit by splash weapons take damage multiplied by the amount of blueprint area the weapon covers.
  • A strategy for Gangplank in League of Legends. His gameplay revolves around the Parrrley ability, a single powerful pistol shot on a lengthy cooldown. This delivers a large amount of damage to the target quickly, but can only hit one target at a time. Until you discover the Tiamat item, which adds a splash damage radius to your auto attacks and your Parrley shot, carrying 30% of the attack's regular damage. Then you learn the item in fact stacks with itself. Cue 1 pair of boots and 5 Tiamats, adding up to regular Parrrley damage to your target and 150% of that damage to all surrounding enemies.
  • In Starcraft, nukes bypass stealth. In real life, too.
  • In Starcraft II, a deadly tactic known as the "Archon toilet" involves putting your enemy's army and all your archons together into a vortex created by a mothership. When they exit the vortex they'll be all clustered in one point, causing the splash damage from the archons to kill everything. Blizzard has since removed this by having units that emerge from a Vortex be temporarily invulnerable.

Role Playing Games

  • Pokémon Black and White versions introduce moves that cause damage to one target, and a small amount of collateral damage to adjacent opponents in double and triple battles. This collateral damage is applied even if the pokemon taking it would be immune to the move if targeted normally.
  • Pokémon games, once they started offering double battles, just beg for ways to abuse area of effect abilities.
    • From Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire and onward, there are moves in double battles that deal incredible damage, but will hit all Pokemon on the field, including your partner, such as Earthquake, Discharge, and Explosion. A popular technique for getting around this downside is to have the parter's Pokemon either be immune to these moves or use Protect or Detect, which will negate all damage for that one turn.
    • Another popular tactic, which caught on in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl and onward, is to do such an attack and have the partner have an Ability (special trait; all Pokemon have at least one) that will negate and heal from the attack rather than be hurt by it. A popular one is the Water-type Surf, which hits everyone else on the field, with a Pokemon who knows Dry Skin, who heals from all Water attacks.
    • Another technique is to start the Hail weather condition with all of your Pokemon knowing Blizzard--this move does not harm the partner but has a low accuracy. Hail increases the accuracy to 100%, meaning all of the opponent's Pokemon must get hit twice with the strongest Ice-type move in the game each turn.
    • Pokémon Black and White introduced triple battles, where position determines range. One way to abuse splash damage in this environment is to do any move from the central position, which hits all three of the opponent's Pokemon, then swap places with one on the left or right to prevent damage. The move Struggle Bug hits all three opponents regardless of where Struggle Bug's user is located, but the damage output is low. All of the previous techniques also work in triple battles. Splash damage has become such a big part of battling under non-singles environments that this generation created a new move, Wide Guard, that blocks all moves that do splash damage (and also protects the partners), but no other moves. This same game also nerfed Explosion and Self-destruct, effectively halving the damage they do, because of how horribly overused they were in double battles previously.

Strategy RPGs

  • In Nippon Ichi games with tiles (La Pucelle and the Disgaea games), the area of effect for magic can be abused to extend the range of your spells by a couple tiles. The 7-tile checker array is especially good. In titles like Phantom Brave and Makai Kingdom, the trope still applies, though targeting can be a bit trickier.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics makes use of this trope.
    • Crossbows: Fly in a straight line, so you can target in that line.
    • Spells: If you absorb an element, you can just stand next to the enemy you targeted for a quick heal. You can also move toward enemies that don't absorb the element if you're targeted with a spell.
  • Tactics Ogre.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy Tactics a 2:
    • In an Aversion, invisible units cannot be targeted even when inside the an attack's area of effect without the special ability to target them by any means.
    • Played straight otherwise, though, since a necessary tactic to learn is targeting the space next to the guy you want to hit to protect allies also wailing on them from splash damage from your spells.
  • Shotguns in Doom the Roguelike automatically hit everything in the shotgun spread... even if it's outside your field of vision. Since monsters make pain noises when shot(golly), this can be used to scout rooms that are too large to initially see, or around corners.

Tabletop Games

  • A common tactic in the Iron Kingdoms miniatures games is to target an Area of Effect attack at a model outside its normal range and hope for a lucky scatter roll.
  • In Warhammer 40000, one of the previous editions had a tyranid weapon which fired seeds as weapons - when one hit a living creature, it would sprout into a ball of living Razor Floss. The seed needed to hit and penetrate armor as normal but the explosion just randomly instant-killed people. So the easiest way to nail a powerful hero was to hit a mook next to him.
    • Different technique that is still effective today- do you have a single-shot heavy weapon and need to kill lots of infantry? Aim for the APC parked next to them and hope you make it explode.
    • In earlier editions, some weapons would force the player to "guess" the distance to the target, then fire. The player measured the distance he guessed from the gun, then rolled for scatter. Players were supposed to target near units and often had to test to target further ones. Likewise, at night, the player couldn't guarantee he could see the enemy with his artillery. Players could "guess very inaccurately" to hit targets they shouldn't be allowed to. This was changed in later editions to shut down this abuse. This overlaps with Stealth Bypass, since it let them hit units that were hiding, especially when line of sight wasn't based on "real line of sight."
  • In Dungeons and Dragons 4th Editions, there are several attacks that automatically damage anything adjacent to them even if they don't successfully hit anything (e.g., Flaming Sphere, which technically creates a ball of fire to attack something, but is far more popular for the fact that the ball sticks around and automatically does damage to anything that starts its turn next to it).
    • There are also some area spells that let the target try to save… unless said target is an unattended inanimate object. Most spellcasting opponents could easily resist a direct casting of the silence spell, but if they're confined to a small space, a save-less cast on the area will shut them down.
    • Then there's the next best thing to targeting the square next to your enemy: targeting the much weaker enemy next to him, with attacks like Cleave (requires a to-hit roll to damage your target, then does automatic damage to the guy standing next to him. Meaning that if the Big Bad who's so heavily armored you can't damage him makes the mistake of standing next to one of his minions, he suddenly becomes vulnerable to your follow-through).
    • The 3rd edition of DND has a trick called "Locate City Bomb" where you add splash damage to the Locate City spell and tack on the metamagic feat Explosive Spell that rejects all creatures that fail a save in in the radius of the modifier spell to the outside with extra damage based on the distance from the edge. Being meant for spells that measure in feet it adds insane massive damage for a spell that has a radius of miles.
    • Many spells have areas of effect which require the caster to select a point he has line of sight to as its origin. That doesn't mean every space which takes damage can be seen by the caster. Fireballing around corners is one classic use, as a caster who chooses the square of origin of his spell wisely can usually hit about twenty+ feet around the corner that is out of his line of sight.
  • Blast radii in Mekton. You want to get a big boom past an opponent with a huge rapid-fire antimissile turret? Just buy blast radius ammo for your biggest gun and aim at the scenery next to him.
  • Also seen in BattleTech on occasion. Area-effect weapons are generally targeted at a hex rather than the specific unit(s) inside it, and while not all of them are necessarily accurate in and of themselves (BT artillery in particular is somewhat notorious for having a hard time hitting the proverbial broad side of a barn), this can on occasion make them weapons of choice against targets that are normally difficult to hit due to speed, size, or stealth technology.
  • Intentionally built into the mechanics of Star Wars: Saga Edition. The Reflex defense of an empty square on the battle map is 10. When a target is in the blast zone of an area-effect weapon, including the autofire mode on a gun, an attack that misses the target's Reflex defense but hits Ref 10 does half damage; an attack that fails to hit Ref 10 does no damage because the attacker didn't even hit the squares he was aiming at.
    • In the earlier Star Wars D20 system, lobbing a grenade onto an Defense 5 square was a lot easier than shooting the Villain Sue antagonist the GM made, but not much easier thanks to numerous Game Breaker builds in the core rule book.
  • Champions. Hitting a character can can be extremely difficult if he or she has a high DCV (Defensive Combat Value). Hitting a hex is much easier as it has a much lower DCV. If the character is within the area of effect of the attack they're hit automatically.
  • In GURPS explosive and area effect attacks can target a hex for a large bonus to hit, it also bypasses the target's ability to dodge (a successful dodge can cause you to miss with a bomb by several yards).
  • In Mutants and Masterminds, Area Attacks bypass the defense bonus and force a Reflex save. In 2E, for targets without Evasion, this guarantees a hit if perhaps with lesser damage. In 3E, damage is guaranteed even with Evasion.
  • In Magic: The Gathering creatures with Protection can't be targeted or dealt damage by spells of the type of whatever thing they have protection against (usually a color). However, spells that don't target but just hit everything, most notably Wrath of God, can still affect them so long as their effect isn't simply dealing damage.
  • Pathfinder features the Alchemist class, who lobs exploding vials that burst into fire, frost, acid, and similar effects. The Alchemist can intentionally hit the ground to create a weak area effect. Doing so is usually very easy, though since Alchemists do not have to beat their target's armor, they usually have little difficulty landing direct hits when they want to. Missed direct attacks often hit the helpless hex anyway for nominal damage to the enemy.
  • In the Iron Kingdoms miniatures games, models with stealth cannot be directly hit by attacks outside of a certain distance. A common tactic against such models is to target them with an Area of Effect attack and try to catch them in the blast.
  • Champions. It may be worth noting that this doesn't actually let you circumvent armor in the game as such, since the Hero System is one of those games where armor and similar defenses soak up damage rather than make one harder to hit. It does, however, make the attack (generally things like area effects or explosions) harder to avoid in the first place.
  • In Monsterpocalypse, a Metamorph that's just powered down will take huge amounts of damage if its component Morphers are hit with explosives. Also, Incinerus can Ground Pound and shoot explosives at the same time once he Turns Red, for easy Area of Effect exploiting.
  • Flamers in Warhammer 40000 disallow Cover Saves. And crossing over with "hitting the target", they also hit automatically.
    • In earlier editions, some weapons would force the player to "guess" the distance to the target, then fire. The player measured the distance he guessed from the gun, then rolled for scatter. Players couldn't shoot at targets they couldn't see, but could "guess very inaccurately" to hit targets they shouldn't be allowed to. Since line of sight had some curious rules back then, such as how many inches of jungle you could see through, this was one way to deal with pesky units hiding behind a tree-line. It could also help at night, when the enemy was so far away they might not be seen. It overlaps with Hitting the Target since the unit may be required to target a closer enemy.
  • In Hero Clix, if a legitimate target is adjacent to a character with stealth, the resulting Splash Damage can hit to an opponent that normally can't be targeted by ranged attacks.
  • In Mutants and Masterminds, invisible opponents can only be targeted if you know their approximate location and you beat the miss chance. Area attacks hit them normally.
  • Dungeons and Dragons area of effect attacks can be used in a similar fashion. The ubiquitous Fireball, for example, explodes from its point of impact. The caster has to be able to see and reach the point of impact, not the saps inside the blast area.
  • The Lord of the Rings Tabletop Battle Game sees this used to deal with one particular character. Grima Wormtongue has the power to double the Might costs of effects that opposing Heroes use within range of him, but until he openly acts against them, he cannot be harmed. He can, however, take splash damage, and he doesn't have too many wounds. It's common to see players launch a spell in his direction, "accidentally" catch him in the blast radius, and then spend all the Might they can to rack up the damage on him just to make sure he doesn't escape.

Turn Based Strategy

  • In Worms, the maximum damage from a direct hit with a Bazooka is 50, half a worm's standard initial HP. Shoot the ground next to him, and you can send him flying across the screen -- either onto a mine for extra damage or into the water for an instant kill. With care (or luck) one worm can even knock several others flying for a multiple kill.
  • Characters specializing in the Throwing skill in Jagged Alliance 2 can use grenades. Very useful on night maps: grenades don't give away your position.

Western RPG

  • Area-effect spells in Baldur's Gate can be used to damage enemies beyond your range of sight. Since this means the enemies can't see you either, they generally stay perfectly still while you rain explosions down on them. This can be a Game Breaker.

Wide Open Sandbox

  • Scarface the World Is Yours. Instead of shooting your way through the inner offices of the third storage facility, just rocket-blast the top corner of the third story from the parking lot. Down goes the manager and the next part of the level happens.

Real Life

  • One can, of course, do this in Real Life: if one projects an explosive at a target just beyond the projector's maximum range, the target could very well still be within the explosive's blast radius in theory. Anyone familiar with modern artillery would roll their eyes at attempting to use this practically. Using a typical small infantry piece as an example, a man-portable 60 mm mortar has a maximum range of a bit over two miles. The kill radius is approximately 20 yards. This means that if the weapon fired its maximum range, its kill radius would extend that range about half of one percent at severe loss of accuracy. The effect becomes even more pronounced as the weapons get larger. Using the M101 as a representative small artillery gun (from the WWII era!), it has a range of approximately 11,000 meters and kill radius of approximately 40 meters. Variations in air pressure and wind are likely to have more effect on range than kill radius.
  • From a lone squad leader from conventional forces calling for support from company level, man portable mortars to special operations guiding guided missiles to their targets, directing indirect fire to the location of a valuable, out of range, or tough to crack target is an core role for infantry on the battlefield. Why move to engage enemies with rifles if you've spotted them a mile off and can have that location hit within seconds by a deadly barrage?
  • Have a heavily armored battleship you need to sink? Aim the torpedo under the ship. It's actually more effective to have torpedoes go off under the keel than on impact. On impact, it will blow a large hole in the ship. If it detonates under the keel, it creates a large cavity, which collapses and creates an upward thrusting jet of water which can core a battleship.
  • Basically the philosophy of thermobaric explosives. Drop the bomb anywhere, let the chemicals spread out then explode.
  • Certain real life armor piercing weapons do a variation of this. Some tank armor uses an explosive charge to detonate an incoming warhead just before it hits, to get around this missiles were developed that set off an explosion prior to hitting the tank that would set off the reactive armor, thus making the armor vulnerable to the main warhead.
  • Nuclear weapons use similar tactics in real life. The bomb would be exploded a couple miles above the city, causing much more widespread destruction than if it were detonated on the ground. This is termed an "airburst," and causes a pressure wave to smash everything beneath the bomb into the ground. As an added benefit, detonating the bomb in the air greatly reduces the amount of radioactive fallout because there is nothing but the bomb materials for radioactive particles to cling to.
    • In fact, several weapons are designed to explode above ground. The 'bouncing betty' type of antipersonel mine jumps up to about crotch height and kills or wounds pretty much everyone in a radius that's easily ten times larger then a mine that explodes while still in the ground. About at the same time (World War 2), artillery shells were developped that measure distance to ground and explode at a set height. However, this is more an inversion of the trope. Hitting the helpless hex (the ground near the target) makes the ground absorb some of the blast and directs the rest mostly upwards. This has nothing to do with the defenses the infantry or the city has or hasnt. Even if you take the ground as defense for the target, it was the attacker that put the explosive there, resulting in that basicly the attacker protects the target. Somebody figured that out and 'fixed' it. It's just a more efficient way of delivering the damage, indepedent of whatever protection the infantry is wearing.
    • Actually, any ordnance fuzed for airburst is more effective; groundburst may be blocked by cover and wastes power in the ground, while airburst bypasses cover and spreads the power over a wider area. Timed fuzes for that purpose were actually built and used during the American Civil War, if not earlier. The other Wiki
  • This is, again, possible in Real Life. Destroyers dropping depth charges against submarines, for example, or infantry throwing grenades to attack enemies behind cover.
    • One way to deal with a sniper is to call in artillery. There is also the tactic of recon by fire; shoot at anything suspicious to force the enemy to reveal themselves.
  • Various types of new and prototype munitions are used this way, especially for urban combat. Need to take out the guy hiding behind the wall who is popping up to shoot out a window? Find the distance to the wall using a built in laser, switch the round to delay, and fire through the window. The round will explode just after it enters the window.
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