Dismantled MacGuffin

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
7 corpse parts hidden in different locations across America = the most epic grave-robbing adventure ever.

Professor: Obviously, I'll also leave that here with y... Leave... It's only logical, so that the device... So I'll leave it... Lea... I'll leav...

Professor: NO!!! I'm sorry, but the urge is too strong! I'll separate the punchcard into seven pieces and hide them deep within seven monster-infested dungeons distributed all over the country!!! Tell that to any group of people who might come asking for it...

A common way to produce Plot Coupons of the 'Gotta Catch Em All' variety is for the Precursors to split a powerful MacGuffin that was used to defeat the bad guy into three or more parts and, yes, distribute them across the world on a vague premise of it being "too dangerous to ever use again". Then, when the bad guy raises its head Exty Years Later (and it always does), the heroes must set out to reassemble said MacGuffin.

If the said artifact was disassembled because it possesses an evil will of its own, this overlaps with Sealed Evil in a Can. If the assembled MacGuffin has far stronger (and useful!) properties, it's due to the Full Set Bonus.

If said artifact was disassembled because there was a good chance that evil would get their hands on it in the present, this overlaps with Fling a Light Into the Future.

Examples of Dismantled MacGuffin include:

Anime and Manga

  • The corpse parts in Steel Ball Run scattered across America, which grant mysterious powers to those who hold them.
    • The corpse wasn't really sealed away or split on purpose though. They just scattered across the continent by (super)natural means after Jesus died and his corpse was mummified.
  • In Dragon Ball, there is a rumor that the seven Dragon Balls used to be one big 28-star ball. Turns out that Kami, the creator of the Dragon Balls, made them as seven separate MacGuffins in the first place.
  • Same goes for the shards of the Shikon Jewel in Inuyasha.
  • In Sailor Moon the Silver Crystal split into the the seven Rainbow Crystals after Queen Serenity used it to send her daughter and the Sailor Senshi and Prince Endymion's souls to Earth for reincarnation. The Rainbow Crystals had to be found by those wishing to reassemble them into the Silver Crystal—with the Sailor Senshi, Tuxedo Mask, and the villainous Dark Kingdom all after it. Each crystal was contained within the body of a normal human who (unbeknownst to them) was a really a reincarnation of the "Seven Great Youma".
  • Done in the second season of Sonic X by Super Sonic to prevent the Chaos Emeralds from being used for evil.
  • Inverted in Voltron: Defender of the Universe: it is the bad guys who originally dismantle Voltron because he/it is too powerful for them, and the pilot is spent trying to get the robot to reassemble.
  • Mostly subverted in Neon Genesis Evangelion. The whole series is essentially the protagonists trying to keep the Angels from reuniting with Lilith. Partial in that a few of the "protagonists" secretly actually WANT an Angel to reunite with Lilith, only on their timetable.
  • Inverted and then played straight on all sides in Ronin Warriors. Originally, the Ancient defeated Talpa, and divided his armor into 9 parts, which were then separated. However, Talpa managed to survive and recover 4 of them. The Ronin Warriors were given the other 5, which they had to recover. Eventually, the Ronin Warriors gain all 5 armors and combine them into the Inferno armor, however this is where the trope gets averted (or played straight on the other side) as this merely puts all 5 armors in one place for Talpa to get ahold of. Finally played straight when the Ronin Warriors AND Talpa's evil henchmen give him exactly what he wants, and overpowers him with the rejuvenated force of all 9 armors, thus defeating him permanently.
  • Subverted / Played for Laughs in the book/manga version of Van Von Hunter, when Van Von Hunter accidentally tricks The Flaming Prince into crushing the Ebon Eye ("Or as I like to call it, 'The Blarble'!"). Van then wonders aloud if they're going to have 'to spend the next half of a century searching for the dark shards of that thing' (which could be a possible Shout-Out/Take That at Inuyasha), but The Flaming Prince tells him no, all of the (broken) Ebon Eye is here.
  • in D.Gray-man, all the innocence were originally one giant powerul innocence that was split after the earl was defeated for the first time.
  • In Naruto, we eventually find out the tailed beast were split apart from The Ten-Tailed Jubi, one giant Eldritch Abomination.
  • Princess Sakura herself in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, who was actually disassembled by the Big Bad, intending for Clone!Syaoran (it's complicated) to reassemble these pieces together, dragging Sakura's memory-less body through countless dimensions to, in a sense, map the universe. Of course, this is just the cliff-notes version...

Comic Books

  • Several early issues of Justice League of America featured three vaguely Lovecraftian ancient giant demons who are imprisoned at three separate locations under the Earth's surface. The demons' power was dependent upon three magical artifacts — a bell, a wheel and a jar — which are separately useless but of great magical power when used together.
  • The Infinity Gauntlet in the Marvel Universe is a device that grants the wielder control over... everything. It requires six gems plus the gauntlet itself. The Illuminati (a secret council of the six most powerful figures in the world) have each taken and hidden a gem to prevent the Gauntlet from being reassembled.
  • The Adventures of Tintin story, "The Secret of the Unicorn," had the parts of the coordinates of the location of the sunken ship, The Unicorn, copied on three pieces of paper and each hidden in the mast of a model of the sailing ship. It's only at the end did Tintin realize that you have to hold the papers together against a strong light to see the numbers properly.

Fan Works

  • The Vasyn in With Strings Attached. It's a 30-foot-tall vaguely DNA-ish pink granite statue that was broken into three pieces that were scattered across different universes. Restoring it will remove the curse on Ketafa that prevents the gods from seeing that continent. Guess what the four have to do in order to get home?


  • The three-piece crown in Hellboy II, which has very sophisticated re-mantling technology. It unleashes the Golden Army.
  • The eponymous Dark Crystal needs to be reunited with its missing shard to restore the UrRu and Skeksis to their natural state and make the world safe again.
  • The Treasure Map in Cutthroat Island is one of those disassembled treasure maps that must be reassembled.
  • In Underworld Evolution, the vampire lord Viktor kept half the key to Wiliam's tomb sealed to his sternum; the other half is in Selene's pendant.
  • In The Ninth Gate the main character is tasked with determining which of three versions of a Tome of Eldritch Lore is authentic, i.e. capable of summoning the devil, as it's widely believed at least one is a forgery. It turns out the 'correct' material is divided equally among all three books.
  • In Lara Croft Tomb Raider, Lara Croft must find the two halves of the pyramid of light which will allow the user to time travel so that she may reunite with her dead father.
  • Josh Kirby Time Warrior had a disassembled superweapon that could destroy all of creation when assembled.


  • In the Black Trillium novel and its sequels, the Neglectful Precursors left behind the disassembled Scepter of Power which the three heroines have to reassemble to beat the Big Bad.
  • CIRCE from Timothy Zahn's Conqueror trilogy. Subverted in that CIRCE never actually existed.
  • Forgotten Realms novel Thornhold features Kezefbane—artifact used to win second Trollwar. Three activation tokens were split between three brothers who last used it and then their respective successors, separated far from each other and thing itself. Hilarity Ensues, of course.
  • The Krikkit Key in Life, The Universe and Everything
  • In a sense, Orannis the Destroyer in Garth Nix's Old Kingdom trilogy. "Broken in two and buried under hill, forever to lie there, wishing us ill."
    • Note that the only way to get that verse to scan properly requires you to talk like you're walking across a bed of nails or something: 'buried un-der hill...'
    • It also separated a splinter of itself at some point, which it gave to Hedge with the plan of possessing Prince Sameth of the Old Kingdom, presumably for the poetry's sake, since his family was the executor of the will of its imprisoners. It got the Ancelstierrian Prime Minister's nephew instead, but that worked too. It needed the splinter back at the end.
  • In Garth Nix's other series Keys to the Kingdom, Arthur Penhaligon must find and reunite the seven parts of the Will of the Architect. However in order to do this he first has to collect the seven keys to the seven kingdoms.
  • The golden capstone of the great pyramid of Giza in Matthew Reilly's Seven Ancient Wonders. It is the key to stopping the end of the world, but also gives it's possessor invincibility in battle. Alexander The Great got bored with it's power and split it into 7 pieces, hiding each in one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the Ancient World.
  • In the last Well World series, the villains are attempting to find all the pieces of the dismantled Straight Gate. As it was an artifact of the Markovians, it was indestructible, so it had to be split up, scattered, and removed from the history books to keep it from being misused.
  • The Doctor Who Expanded Universe novel Shining Darkness has the antagonists (and kidnapped Donna) on a quest to reassemble their superweapon.
  • The main plot of Bridge of Birds: A Tale of China that Never Was, involves finding all the pieces of a seven part MacGuffin, with three bonus Plot Coupons to get the last one
  • Septimus Heap:
    • The Paired Codes, the main MacGuffin in Darke, don't work at all if they're split. Finding the Manuscriptorium part of the Code is a main plot point.
    • The Shadow-Safe in Flyte will only work as a Shadow-Safe and as a Death Trap engineered by DomDaniel when it is complete, and it gaining completeness is the prelude of the climax of Flyte.

Live Action TV

  • Inversion seen on Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes "Surprise" and "Innocence", where the split MacGuffin is the ultimate evil and the bad guys have to assemble it. The good guys take it out with a single shot.
  • In the Doctor Who serial The Keys of Marinus, the Doctor and companions are sent to collect the Keys (scattered throughout the planet Marinus) that control the Conscience Machine, which made everyone peaceful on the planet till it malfunctioned.
    • "Last of the Time Lords" parodies the trope by revealing Martha's search for the four pieces of an anti-regeneration gun to be just a smokescreen for her real mission. She laughs at the Master for actually buying it. Apparently, the Doctor had never brought up...
    • ...the Key to Time arc, in which the titular device could stop time throughout the universe once its six parts were transmuted back into their original forms and reassembled.
    • Inverted in "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End." The twenty-seven planets the Daleks needed weren't pieces in and of themselves; they stole those planets and formed an intricate superweapon with them.
  • In the third season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, they broke the Zeo Crystal into five pieces, and threw them into unstable time portals, so the five pieces were literally scattered throughout space and time, their locations unknown even to the Rangers. Not such a good idea, as they ended up needing it again less than a year later.
  • The Cup Of Ankh in House of Anubis. According to Fabian's book on Egyptian mythology, Amneris took the Cup and hid it inside the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen. Anubis was angered by this and split the Cup into seven pieces, preventing it's use. Rufus later explains that Anubis and Amneris reached an agreement whereby the Cup could be put together once every twenty five years at a certain hour, but only by a member of Amneris's bloodline.
  • A number of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes revolved around re-assembling some piece of phlebotinum scattered throughout the galaxy. The most notable are Gambit, which involves finding the components for an ancient Vulcan weapon, and The Chase, revolving around a search for a secret message hidden within the genomes of life forms from dozens of different planets.

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons & Dragons has the "Rod of Seven Parts" (originally known as the "Rod of Law", which shattered when used). Each piece has powers on its own, and can point in the direction of the next-longest piece. The more parts are combined, the more powers they grant. Oh, and once more than a couple parts are fitted together, the owner/user can't let go of it.

Video Games

  • Nox had the player reassemble the Staff of Oblivion, a Game Breaker weapon that was story-wise wielded by a single man to defeat an entire army of necromancers. The said man later disassembled the staff to prevent anyone from using it for evil deeds. It is a perfectly usable weapon (mostly for warrior, because two other classes are Squishy Wizards) on every step of assembly, but in complete form it can clean entire screens of mooks. And you do right after obtaining it.
  • The original The Elder Scrolls game, Arena, similarly had the Staff of Chaos, which was split and its parts spread across eight provinces of Tamriel.
  • Inverted in Grandia II: the evil god Valmar was split into several parts and the heroes travel the world to destroy his parts. However, it turns out that by "killing" the parts, they were actually manipulated to collect them within Millenia/Elena, whom the Big Bad than uses to fully resurrect Valmar.
  • The original Tomb Raider had Lara search for and reassemble the three pieces of the Scion.
    • A variation appears in Tomb Raider: Legend, where Lara must find the different pieces of Excalibur and reassemble them; the twist is that the fragments were not all from the same version of Excalibur, as there was more than one such sword.
  • The Trident of Ankohl in Golden Sun needs to be assembled in order to defeat Poseidon.
  • Devil May Cry: after having sealed off the underworld from the mortal realm, Sparda split the key (an amulet) in half and handed both down to his sons (along with two swords he owned) and made sure only his own blood and the maiden whose blood he sacrificed could re-open it. Down in the deepest pits of hell was the sword he sealed all his power away in (he was frightened of the terrible degree and scale of his own strength). The sword could only be grasped and fully wielded by (yes, you guessed it) either of the two sons he left behind (the ones who owned the two sides of the amulet). Naturally, Dante gained the blade in the end, and when the ultimate evil rose again (Demon Emperor Mundus himself), Dante defeated and re-sealed him, warning, "Give my regards to my son."
  • The Pandora Directive, the most ambitious entry in the Tex Murphy series, featured one of these. The titular directive had to track down the pieces.
  • Zelda employs this trope in practically every game. The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess does this twice by itself!
    • Three times, actually. The boss key of the second dungeon is split up as well, and when assembled, it gives you access to another piece of a bigger and even more dismantled MacGuffin. Not to mention the ludicrous number of pieces of heart in the game.
    • There's even one with a song where one character only remembers the first few notes, and the rest must be learned from someone else.
    • The second half of The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time and the entirety of The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker revolve around Ganondorf's attempts to reassemble the Triforce after he unintentionally split it (leaving him with the Triforce of Power) when he first tried to claim it.
  • Knuckles' storyline in Sonic Adventure, as well as the main reason for the plot's existance, is because the Master Emerald shattered due to heavily implied interference by Robotnik. He proceeds to collect the shards to restore it, which somehow scattered from the island into a casino, an underground temple, and one of Robotnik's bases.
    • This plot point returns with less influence in Sonic Adventure 2. But now there's two characters collecting the pieces.
  • Piles of Final Fantasy games rely on this trope. Orbs, Crystals, Espers, Materia, if there's a Big Bad out there, it's virtually a guarantee that whatever MacGuffin you need to defeat it will be scattered across the entire planet (and sometimes more than one).
    • The example that pulled this trope in the grandest scale was Final Fantasy V, wherein the dismantled MacGuffin happened to be the entire planet, which was split into two to prevent the Cleft of Dimensions from reforming. The villain seeks to merge the two planets back into one, and inevitably succeeds
  • Many of the newer games in the Castlevania series use some variant of this trope.
  • Most Kirby games feature this.
  • Most of the plot (such as it is) in the original Xbox game Blood Wake involves you locating and assembling the pieces of the "Shield of Four Souls". Possibly partially averted/subverted in that you find the first piece or two without really knowing what they are, let alone what the assembled thing does.
  • Likewise, the Excuse Plot of Borderlands has the Vault Hunters assembling the four actually, three pieces of the Vault Key before the Vault is closed off for another 200 years.
  • Unreal 2 uses this. Oh, does Unreal 2 use this: you spend most of your game traipsing from planet to planet picking up pieces of an ancient artifact. When the artifact is finally assembled and used, it turns the least powerful creatures on the ship where it's used into the most powerful creatures, complete with guns that shoot black holes. Suffice to say, the artifact doesn't last long.
  • Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time does this with the Cobalt Star and crosses it with Sealed Evil in a Can.
    • Superstar Saga has the Beanstar Cackletta is looking for and Bowser's Inside Story has the Miracle Cure, which is the only thing that can cure the blorbs. They sure do love this trope.
  • Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 has Star Chips (used to form Launch Stars) and Silver Stars (used to form Power Stars).
  • Cap'n Hawk's treasure map in Ultima VI is split into nine parts. Somewhat subverted in that it's possible to skip the entire quest—possibly without realizing it.
  • Luigi's Mansion 3 combines this with Broken Bridge. The hotel has 15 floors, and most are only accessible via the elevator, but the ghosts have swiped all the elevator's buttons. Luigi thus has to hunt them all down; with each Boss defeated, Luigi gains a button, meaning each victory grants him access to a new floor.
  • The Xel'naga artifacts in Starcraft II count, since they form a Lost Superweapon when combined.
  • World of Warcraft loves this trope with regards to it's Legendary Weapons. You have to collect numerous pieces of the weapon from raid bosses, then complete additional quests (for example, doing something unusual during boss fights). Sometimes you would also need a big pile of cash for buyable materials. And in the end you get yourself a nice, flashy weapon that will last you for a couple of content patches at most and end as a Bragging Rights Reward later.
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, the Holy MacGuffin is hidden; in order to locate it, you have to first find the Staff of Ed, which is of course split into 3 pieces, located in entirely unrelated parts of the Kingdom.
  • In Darkstone, an artifact called the Time Orb was split into seven Crystals of Virtue, which must be collected by the Player Character in order to reassemble the Time Orb to save the world.
  • Every single item in the Dark Parables games, and other similar games from the same developer, is broken into fragments that must be assembled by solving hidden object puzzles.
  • Occurs in the Sega Genesis Ghostbusters game. Four Boss Ghosts hold the pieces of a stone tablet. The fifth holds a red gem that, when placed in the center of the tablet, causes a gigantic hole to open right in the middle of New York City. The final boss holds a blue gem that, when placed in the center of the tablet, undoes the damage.
  • Much of the first act of Diablo III has you seeking out the three pieces of a powerful sword that was wielded by the Stranger you found in the impact zone of the Fallen Star, while fighting off the efforts of an evil coven to do the same. The sword in question is Eldruin, the sword of Tyrael, who has become mortal because he's had enough of the Angiris Council's inaction regarding the demons and wants to give humanity a chance.
    • Later on in the game, you have to recover the parts of the body of Zoltan Kulle, an Evil Sorcerer who was decapitated and dismembered by his fellow Horadrim, so that he can be resurrected to lead you to his creation, the Black Soulstone, which you need to seal Belial and Azmodan, the last Lords of Hell. Being that Zoltan Kulle is an evil and treacherous bastard, you ultimately have to kill him again.


Western Animation

  • Occurs a few times in Kim Possible, usually in stories involving Lord Monkeyfist. One example is the Tempus Simia in "A Sitch in Time", which was split in three parts and distributed into monkey-themed temples all over the world. You could also say that the superpowers of Team Go are also treated that way in their first appearance, especially since they all originate from the same meteor.
  • Happens in Xiaolin Showdown, specifically the Shen Gong Wu used in conjuction to create Mala Mala Jong.
  • The Allspark fragments in Transformers Animated.
  • Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea: the entire series.
  • Happens for almost no reason whatsoever in the five-episode series premiere of Filmation's Ghostbusters. The prop here is a uniquely-shaped stone tablet which reads: "Ghostbusters--the ones who find fathers and save the future." It turns out the shape of the thing's the key to defeating Prime Evil--lock him in the mine vault, just like they did in the first episode.