The trigger event is usually a very traumatic experience. The way in which people gain powers might hint at why the villains outnumber the heroes two to one, why more women than men have powers, and why third world countries have the highest densities of people with powers (if not 'capes', exactly). Not everyone who triggers is given an immediate solution to their problems, further some are killed as they trigger.
Although experts understood many of the nuances of trigger events, they aren't known to the general public. It was commonly believed that powers were genetic, even though this had been thoroughly disproved. Governments would downplay the details of trigger events to prevent people from self-harming in attempt to gain powers. It was widely believed that the strongest powers resulted from athletes, great minds, etc, who broke past some fundamental limit. There was a popular myth that younger triggers were more powerful.
A natural trigger event is accomplished through a traumatic experience. Researchers theorize that for every person with powers, there’s one to five people with the potential for powers, who haven’t met the conditions necessary for a trigger event. An individual needs to be pushed to the edge, their fight or flight responses pushed to their limits, before the powers start to emerge. Parahumans with a normal brain and neurological makeup develop a Corona Pollentia within their hind brain.
The circumstances leading up to the trigger event influence the power granted. Psychological stress often leads to mentally driven powers - tinkers, thinkers, masters, shakers. The more physical violence that is involved, the higher the bias towards physically driven powers.
If one individual in a family has powers, it is far more likely that others will as well. Powers can be "inherited" from siblings or adopted parents, but it's very rare for them to pass "upward" from child to parent. People who have parents with powers don’t need nearly as intense an event to make their powers manifest. These are known as Nth-generation powers (second-generation, third-generation etc.)
A genetic relationship isn't necessary to inherit powers. Powers inherited from someone other than a relative were initially known as "serial powers" before it became clear that they were the same phenomenon.
No third or later generation capes are shown triggering in the story, although they do exist; Theo is a third-generation parahuman, as is an unnamed child in Toronto, along with Fleece III.
Second-generation capes gain powers influenced by both the powers of those related to them and their trigger event. Similar to grab-bag capes, the children of parahumans tend to manifest multiple lesser powers related to those around them.
If multiple hosts undergo a Trigger Event at the same time, then a multiple trigger will occur. In such an event, several people will get powers at once. Most often, this will result in multiple parahumans who have an array of minor powers that share a concurrent theme. The powers most often complement one another, or at least work in similar ways. These are known by the colloquialism of "grab bag capes".
Multiple triggers are meant for the end-game of the Cycle, serving to stress-test powers as well as compare and contrast the smaller powers.
Multi-triggers tend to have higher rates of PTSD, more difficulty recovering from their triggers, and lower long-term survival rates. This may be because it takes a more dramatic event to cause multiple people to trigger.
With the second trigger, the agent reaches out, makes contact with others, networks and draws on collective information to refine the restrictions and save its host... Circumstances tend to mirror the original trigger event. The resulting power ignores restrictions that were previously set.” Doctor Mother Explaining Second Triggers to Weaver.
It's possible for a parahuman to experience a second trigger event, that removes limits to their abilities, or enhances or evolves some secondary aspect of their power. To experience a second trigger, a parahuman has to experience a situation highly similar to their original trigger.
Second triggers are exceedingly rare, and generally do more harm than good due to the level of trauma involved.
The Shard draws from context and explores and/or conceptualizes new uses for its powers. The Shard begins splitting off to find a new, but similar host - piggybacking off the original Shard's context and experience - but then a major event prompts to catalyze and consolidate in the current host instead.
Cauldron capes cannot experience a second trigger, because the Shards harvested from Eden's corpse are 'dead'. Completely cut off and unable to interact with other shards, baring exceptional circumstances. Similarly it is unknown if the such shards are able to bud.
Third and further Trigger events are impossible, according to Doctor Mother, but the explanation isn't provided.
Due to second triggers requiring a situation that mirrors the first trigger event, a common type of second trigger is the "double trigger". Due to the triggers occurring back-to-back, the need to experience a new event that mirrors the original one is removed, and they're largely indistinguishable from a single trigger. This frustrates some Capes when thinking they could have a second trigger event when they have already had one. Although they would likely have certain limits to their power stretched or removed.
Cauldron capes gain their powers after drinking a Cauldron vial. They are much more likely to gain physical mutations than natural triggers. Their powers are primarily based on what vial they took, although their personality also influences it. Cauldron capes are much less likely to be villains, and are generally more mentally stable. Given how a subject triggered their power can become less reliable when in a stressful situation.
Anyone experiencing a trigger event sees a vision of a vast multidimensional entity, but quickly forgets it. These visions are due to the neurological linkage between the shard and the host, the amnesia tied into preprogrammed measures. Any parahuman nearby experiences a similar vision and is briefly incapacitated.
After Gold Morning, content of visions changed to more recent recollections of The Warrior's memories. Also visions became more fragmented and remained in the memory.
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Skitter was shut in a locker with piles of used tampons and pads. This alone might not have been enough, but time passed and she realized that of everyone who had seen the event happen, nobody was helping her. She had a panic attack, and her powers emerged. She likely had a double-trigger, based on the tests performed by Number Man.
Grue came face to face with the man who had been abusing his sister, and had previously abused him.
Tattletale triggered days after her brother committed suicide and she couldn't process it.
Miss Militia was in Eastern Turkey/Kurdistan, which was in the middle of an ongoing conflict, when Turkish soldiers gathered up the kids of a small village and used them as living subjects to clear the path of traps laid by the guerrilla fighters. She grew convinced she was about to die, either by walking into a trap or being shot, and her powers activated.
Bitch's pet Rollo was being drowned by her foster mother causing Rachel's trigger.
Scrub gains his powers during a free-for-all brawl that Skidmark instigates among his own followers, after being beaten and/or in a moment of panic.
Jack Slash was kept in a basement by his parents and told the world had ended.
"I won't spoil the conclusion if you're eager to see this through."
This article contains MAJOR SPOILERS relating to
some of the most pivotal parts of Worm. Although all articles may contain spoilers, this article will reveal major plot twists and should almost certainly be avoided unless you have finished the story.
After an Entity has finished preparing a Shard, it will let the Shard loose, plot for the Shard's arrival, as well as plotting the location it will arrive in and its future host. The Shard will lock on to the host, get a grasp on the host's personality and summarily allow that portion of itself to die and burn out to form the Corona Pollentia. It will then sit dormant for a time, unless the time of the Shard's arrival coincided with the host's trigger event.
When a trigger event happens, the Shard recognizes the event from the state of the host, from context and from the flood of stress responses. It then reads the host to find out who they are and how they respond to situations before reading the situation for itself and assessing what form the danger takes.
The Shard then discards everything it doesn't need, distilling itself down to one efficient, case-specific task, suited to the host. Where the Shard isn't already programmed with inherent safeties and limitations it will use the host's stored knowledge to generate a grasp of what it needs to do.
If there are additional hosts present during the host's Trigger Event, and they are actively using their powers, then the Shard can "ping" off the others and exchange information. This generally allows the host to gain some kind of additional ability that they would not have had otherwise.
Though it may seem like trigger events generally involve the cape automatically manifesting their new power, this is not always the case.
↑ 1.01.1“If I said ‘crisis points’, would that mean anything to you?” I asked.
“It’s been a long time since I heard that. Yes, it means something. Do you work with capes?”
“You’d want to identify the key patients, check with any parents, if they’re under eighteen, and they often are. Then with me, you’d want to check with legal, you can call my references, which I do have on hand…”
Crisis points. More a PRT thing than a New Wave thing, but we’d done a small share. Looking out for the recent triggers, putting our faces and names out there, staying in touch with the public. - Excerpt from Flare 2.2
↑ 2.02.12.2The way I spelled it out elsewhere is that they're known about, but it's more... 'One of the three big theories is that powers manifest in moments of extreme emotion or pivotal moments. Sometimes these are negative emotions, but sometimes they're positive. Positive emotions and moments of triumph and excellence lead to stronger, better powers with less drawbacks. Moments of negativity lead to flawed powers with complicating factors. Legend, Alexandria and those guys? They must have done something major.'
And so you do your best to nudge the masses to really strive for excellence and not to self-harm or throw themselves into negative situations. Capes trigger in moments of negativity and they tell themselves they got unlucky, until someone in the know informs them that no, the people at the top didn't really get the paragon, excellence, positive emotion triggers. - Wildbow on Reddit (again)
↑ 3.03.13.2Q: The Crisis Points procedure. Are the kids she's visiting just sick kids, or are they recently triggered? A: Kids who've had bad days who could have triggered from it. - Wildbow on Reddit
↑"Trigger events are a crucial element for study, because the timing, nature and spread of these emerging powers may provide a clue as to where these parahuman abilities come from. More women than men have powers, for example, and there are more powers in undeveloped countries than there are in industrialized ones – Some of you may remember me mentioning this fact in the 101 class, when I was talking about the witch burnings in The People's Republic of Uganda." - Sentinel 9.3
↑Of course. Stands to reason, given the situations that can arise. Some just don’t figure out their powers fast enough to act, others don’t get powers that serve to fix their immediate situation (Taylor doesn’t get out of the locker, for example – her situation gets worse) and yet others are just unlucky (getting shot seconds after manifesting – imagine the situation in Brandish’s interlude if Brandish had been targeted by the gunfire before Little Miss Photon erected a forcefield). - Excerpt from Monarch 16.4
↑ 8.08.18.28.3"Throughout the course, we're going to be looking at correlations and patterns, both in relation to trigger events and other things. For example, how does the nature of the trigger event shape the power? A study by Garth and Rogers suggests that psychological stress leads to a higher prevalence of mentally driven powers. Tinkers, thinkers, masters, shakers. The more physical violence that is involved, the higher the bias towards physically driven powers. Garth and Rogers suggest a sliding scale, but it may not be that cut and dry.
"A followup study by Garth touches on what we know about cape ‘families'. If one individual in a family has powers, it is far more likely that others will as well. Almost always, this trend is either descending or lateral, it seems to transition from parent to child, or one sibling to another, but not from child to parent. We'll talk about the theories on why. For those of you wanting to read ahead, take a look at Garth's notes on the Dallon and Pelham families in chapter nine. We can surmise that the different scenarios leading to trigger events may be directly related to the differences in powers, even among closely related members of a cape family. Similar trigger events and related individuals, similar powers. The more distant the relation and the more varied the trigger events, the more drastically different the powers they possess in the end." - Sentinel 9.3
↑The genetics theory is popular, but has been thoroughly debunked. We’re going to talk about how it was debunked… - Excerpt from Sentinel 9.3
↑Wildbow: So there are theories and sentiments and overall people will hear of trigger events as a concept, but it gets muddled intentionally by some outside parties, especially gov't forces who are eager to keep people from doing horrible things to themselves and each other to create triggers.
Wildbow: So it depends where you are geographically, but by and large, the running, underlying idea is that it ties into you reaching your 'limit', and the strongest powers have resulted from athletes, great minds, etc, who broke past a wall.
Wildbow: The Triumvirate lying about their trigger events did a lot to sell this
Wildbow Trigger events get mucked up and included as a tertiary thing. The narrative being that some people go through bad things and get troublesome or broken powers.
↑Brian continued, “The third heavy hitter on the Wards is Vista. You know that myth about how the capes that get their powers young are exponentially more powerful? Vista’s one of the kids who keeps the myth alive. Clockblocker is sort of a one trick pony, his trick involves screwing with one of the key forces of our universe, but it’s just one thing. Vista also messes with physics on a fundamental level, but she’s versatile. - Excerpt from Agitation 3.3
↑My first thought was trigger event. The second was, maybe that idea about people being stronger if they get their powers at a younger age is true after all. - Excerpt from Snare 13.5
↑foxtail-lavender @the third gen child, that's definitely not enough information to base this "third gens are stronger than everyone!" theory off of. Literally all we know is that a toddler triggered and a family died. was outed. Third gens definitely don't trigger easily, seeing as it took a lot for Theo and Aster never did. Even second-gens don't trigger "easily." Bonesaw, Skitter, and Glaistig Ulaine are first gens; they're incredibly powerful. Allfather is a first gen; he's pretty powerful. Kaiser is a second gen; he's a lot stronger than his father. Golem is a third gen; he's so much weaker than his father, it's not even funny. Also, all of those powerful second and first gens like Panacea and Bonesaw and Glaistig Ulaine? They all triggered pretty young, so that also could have been a contributor in how powerful they were.
Wildbow: ^ Third gens being strong is fanon, really. Fox is more or less on the mark. - Comment by Wildbow on Reddit
↑ 15.015.115.2"It's called the trigger event," Lisa answered me, "Researchers theorize that for every person with powers out there, there's one to five people with the potential for powers, who haven't met the conditions necessary for a trigger event. You need to be pushed to the edge. Fight or flight responses pushed to their limits, further than the limits, even. Then your powers start to emerge."
"Basically," Alec said, "For your powers to manifest, you're going to have to have something really shitty happen to you."
"Which may help to explain why the villains outnumber the heroes two to one," Lisa pointed out, "Or why third world countries have the highest densities of people with powers. Not capes, but a lot of people with powers."
"But people who have parents with powers?"
"They don't need nearly as intense an event to make their powers show up. Glory Girl got her powers by getting fouled while playing basketball in gym class. She mentioned it in a few interviews she gave." - Excerpt from Shell 4.3
↑randomsoul2 So….I was reading the Weaver Dice rules, and something occurred.
Is there only one possible power/powerset linked to any one trigger event? If someone came up to you [Wildbow] and suggested a trigger event, would the power you responded with be the correct one and all other interpretations be off? Or is it more flexible?
wildbow It’s more flexible. Just as cauldron capes can get variance from any dose, a regular trigger event is affected by the nature of the individual. The passenger watches, in the time between the individual becoming able to trigger and their actual trigger event. - Comment by Wildbow on Speck 30.5
↑“How’s the family?” She asked. “You adopted, if I remember right?”
“We did. Arthur was worried that a surrogate parent would give birth to a parahuman, and if that happened, he’d be out of the loop.”
“The odds are still high, even with an adopted child. It’s likely more to do with exposure to parahumans at formative ages than genetics.” - Excerpt from Interlude 13
↑[Definitions] • Cluster powers are defined as powers wherein multiple inciting incidents occur either simultaneously or within a minute of one another. Such parahumans will have a collection of smaller powers related to the others. • Serial powers are defined as cases where an individual or multiple individuals in longstanding proximity to a parahuman will develop powers… - Excerpt from Glow-worm P.4
↑Keep in mind that serial and Nth-Generation (2nd gen, 3rd gen) powers are now the same thing. - Excerpt from Glow-worm P.4
↑ 22.022.1Relatively rare - one in twenty or less are multiple-triggers. To be used when the case calls for a multiple trigger, or it’s suitably large-scale and otherwise boring, you could justify a trigger event as a multi-trigger. In such cases, multiple people trigger at the same time. This tends to produce a spread of lesser powers - often three or four powers, possibly with one major one, and often deviations. The powers are related between individuals, but the idea/power that gets emphasized or takes the lead in one individual will often be a minor power for others. Minor powers might not be emphasized at all. Powers tend to form a complementary theme.
Multiple-triggers are prone to animosity regarding the other triggerees in their ‘unit’, for lack of a better word. Though distinct and not simultaneous, siblings born to the same cape parents show the same trends, with biases in what powers manifest and more small powers.
Worm Spoilers: Multiple triggers are actually the endgame of the cycle, prior to the reabsorption and collapse. When virtually all individuals in the setting are parahumans, connected to shards, the introduction of multiple-triggers serves to stress-test powers and compare and contrast the smaller powers. - Weaver Dice Rulebook
↑ 23.023.1*Powers from multitriggers are from a mix of shards. The shards, instead of going all-in, give up a small to moderate portion of themselves, and then leave the rest of themselves to develop normally while taking in info from multiple sources, just like a shard would naturally gather info and eventually reach the point where it could bud. Except in this case, the shard will usually just go find another host, maybe with relation to one of the multi's, maybe not, and empower them.
*Not age restriction. The shards prefer younger people because they're generally going to last a little longer if they wind up finding some degree of success (by virtue of being younger), because they have faster reflexes, there's more room for breadth and depth to develop (see Bonesaw, Jack, Number Man), and because they're more emotionally volatile or face more dramatic situations in the day to day than your typical adult does (Taylor vs. Danny). - Comment on Reddit
↑Pt. 4: Greater effects & things to keep in mind – things touched on in homework reading:
Kill / Kiss – more on this in parahuman psychology class in a few weeks
Personality Bleed – personality traits bleed over from 1 individual to other? Messy
Higher incidences of paranoia, confrontation, aggression, PTSD. Less bounce back?
Higher rate of death post-trigger. Kill / kiss again. Graph
Prof Spinky stresses emotional states may play into the above. Triggers that are sufficient to draw in multiple individuals are worse than average. Can’t jump 2 conclusions. Correlation =/= causation. - Excerpt from Glow-worm P.4
↑"Months ago, we were talking about this subject, the Manton effect. You mentioned how it might be possible for someone like us to have a second trigger event. A radical change or improvement in their powers as a result of a life or death moment. Such might explain how one broke the Manton rule." - Excerpt from Interlude 5
↑As a general rule, the second trigger effectively breaks down walls or limits that were in place prior. - Wildbow on Spacebattles
↑Anchuinse: Second triggers modify the power, often lowering or getting rid of the Manton limit. However, they shouldn't just be a straight "power-up". Maybe a blaster's projectile moves slower, but is now explosive and slows time slightly, or maybe they get multiple projectiles at once that are smaller but 100% accurate, even dodging around cover. Though we don't see many in text, I like to think of it as leaving the "core" of the power the same (if it's a shaker that involves force fields it's always gonna involve force fields) but the exterior components change (speed, size, number) including secondary power effects (if the power had a light Trump effect before it may be more pronounced or gone entirely). Maybe even gaining a small secondary power. Remember though, it's not a straight power up, so while some exterior components increase in power, others should go down in about equal measure (sans the Manton limit).
Wildbow:This is pretty accurate. Generally speaking, look for secondary aspects of the power or minor bonuses and then inflate them, or identify the 'walls' the shard set in place and remove them. - Wildbow commenting on Reddit (yet again)
↑I did some reading, and there's a pretty scary number of people who have their second trigger events and then have a bad ending shortly after. I think it has to do with the toll it takes on you, the event. - Excerpt from Interlude 15.y
↑Generally the trigger cause fits in the same general category. Brian had his second trigger for much the same reason he had his first. They can differ in nature. What's happening is that the entity is drawing from context and exploring/conceptualizing new uses for the powers (which are still in the metaphorical computer's memory, but not in the hardware that burned out in the trigger process). The entity begins splitting off, ready to find a generally young & similar host to target (piggybacking off the parent's context & experience for an easier triggering process/analysis) but then a major event prompts it to catalyze and consolidate in the current host instead.
If it's in an adult before finding its way to the child, it can begin this splitting-off process (generally requiring time or a degree of stress to allow for the maturation).
They are exceedingly rare (two noted in-story. Taylor didn't second-trigger in the last arc, to be clear), and generally speaking they do more harm than good. If it's a straight power-up, you're probably doing it wrong. - Wildbow on Spacebattles
↑"But I'm afraid that power you're digging for is out of your reach, Weaver."
I looked at him.
"Or it's already in your reach. You can't have a second trigger because you already had one," he said.
"Given the signature, it's very possible you had two trigger events in quick succession. Not uncommon. The horror of manifesting your power, it prompted another trigger."
"No," I said. "There's got to be something."
"If there is, a second trigger event isn't it," the Number Man said. - Excerpt from Venom 29.7
↑With the rise of the Endbringers and threats like the Slaughterhouse Nine, the world was in need of heroes. Cauldron produced more heroes than villains, because there was none of the trauma of a trigger event to throw them off. Even for those individuals who turned to crime, Cauldron was able to leverage the favors that were part of the contract in order to guide their path. More superheroes meant better chances for everyone when it came to fighting the Endbringers and dealing with the big threats. - Excerpt from Interlude 14.y
↑The deviations, the ones who didn’t take to the formula, tended to fall into certain categories. There were those who had some minor physical or mental changes; they were little different from the most extreme deviations that appeared in typical trigger cases. Such deviations occurred a mere eighth of a percent of the time. They weren’t what he was thinking of.
The formula wasn’t exact. Though they learned more every day, there were still unknowns regarding powers. Whatever connection the agents formed with individuals before or during a trigger event, it didn’t manifest as strongly through the formula. When the subject was stressed, their body engaged by that distress, the connection grew weaker. - Excerpt from Interlude 21.x
↑But the entity can still see fallout effects. There are parallels in memory storage. Not many, but there may be glimmers where the subject is capable of perceiving the information stored in the shard as the connections are formed.
For good measure, the entity breaks up one shard cluster, tunes it, then codes the effect into each and every shard. It studies the host species further, refines, attunes.
It takes time, but the entity forms a sufficient safeguard. The host species will forget any significant details.
The broken shard is cast off, joining countless others. It will bond to a host. The entity looks forward, checking.
After the target planet has revolved thirty-three times around its star, this shard will connect to a host.
This time, the shard settles in the male, then immediately shifts to the more distressed female.
Insinuation. The shard connects to the host’s neural network.
The bond is created.
The shard opens the connection as the stress peaks, and the host doubles over in pain, bewildered, stunned. The shard then forms tendrils that contact each individual in the area. It retains traces of the entity’s tampering, of the studies in psychology, awareness and memory, and is quick to adapt. It finds a manner in which it can operate, then alters itself, solidifying into a particular state. The remainder of the functions are discarded, the ones in the shard itself are rendered inert to conserve power, while the ones in the host fall away, are consumed by the shard. The host’s neural network changes once more.
The female disappears from the awareness of the hostile ones that surround it.
The entity looks to the future, to see if this is sustainable, efficient. - excerpt from Interlude 26
↑The elderly are hard to fit in, here. Trigger events tend to hit in the teens, so even the oldest parahuman’s liable to be only middle aged (a la Kaiser, Number Man). There’s some Cauldron users, but even they aren’t -old-.