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I have a world where a sort of magical 'mutagen' was accidentally created in the backstory that can cause children to be born stillborn or 'mutated', in a way that usually leads to disability. The exact format and severity of mutation varies with each child. These mutated children are rare now, though common in the recent past.

I want a way that people can tell the difference between a child born with a mutation due to magical pollution and a 'natural' birth defect, some common trait that generally only shows when mutated by magic.

However, I have one hero who has been 'mutated' by magic, but was lucky enough to not be disabled or leave any visible signs and in fact is slightly stronger as the only apparent result of the mutagen. I want his companions to not realize he was a 'mutant' for some time, but eventually discover it. Ideally I would prefer for the hero in question to not know he is a mutant either, or if he does know to not be actively trying to hide the fact. This means I need a 'tell' that, if checked, can help to confirm mutation by magic, but also subtle enough to be missed in this one hero.

Ideally I would like a 'tell' that is usually easily identified in adult mutants, but which is easily justified as being very subtle or nearly impossible to tell in the case of this one hero who won the mutation lottery.

Failing that I would not be opposed to a 'tell' which is either very subtle in adults or is only identifiable when a child is first born, in which case most people identifying mutants by the obvious deformity they usually have and simply presuming it is caused by magic until proven otherwise by the lack of the 'tell'. However, in the latter case I'd need a good reason to cause the protagonists (including the ignorant mutated human himself) to be suspicious enough of mutation for them to check and/or ask the mother of the hero about it.

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    $\begingroup$ As you are already using a lot of magic I must ask: what is preventing you from just saying "All my mutants start with normal eyes and during puberty one eye changes to a blood red color while the other one stays the same." to identify all mutants? $\endgroup$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Aug 16 '17 at 13:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Secespitus only that it would be too easy to identify the (adult) hero in quesiton as a mutant in this case. Actually changing the apperance of the eye was the very first thing I had thought of before deciding it was too obvious to be missed. $\endgroup$ – dsollen Aug 16 '17 at 13:42
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    $\begingroup$ Does your worls know of "contact lenses"? :D Perfect way to hide it and later they can just see how he changes the contact lens and realize he's not what they think he is. $\endgroup$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Aug 16 '17 at 13:45
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    $\begingroup$ @T.Sar I appreciate why you would be concerned from my description, but I this particular character is practically the opposite of a Mary Sue, The extra stength exists only to handwave why he is as competent in battle as his allies despite his refusal to use magic as they do. He is the least dynamic of my char, tending towards simple strightforward wisdom and strong loyalty, but definatly a follower not a leader or a plot mover. His biggest importance is to play simple foil to more interesting character's (one in particular) growth, and offer some minor comedy relief. $\endgroup$ – dsollen Aug 17 '17 at 13:21
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    $\begingroup$ I would suspect the answer is, you don't. Prejudice trumps logic, historically. Probably a lot of natural mutations get classed magical and reverse, based on visibility and social consensus. Slight or nonvisible ones assumed natural, visible or extreme ones assumed magical - so blue skin may seem magical even if natural, learning languages quickly may be magical but seem natural aptitude. For your hero, strength already varies quite a lot - nonvisible mutations may vary it more - so he might not know he's a mutant vs human-strong until he does something impossible, instead of almost so. $\endgroup$ – Megha Aug 18 '17 at 2:25

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It depends on how you want your magic radiation to work, but here is one standpoint:

Radiation of any kind causes cellular damage by (among other things) breaking apart nucleotide sequences so they cannot be easily repaired (consequently, our cells are amazing at DNA repair, repairing as many as 1 million individual genetic lesions per cell ). Now, a normal level of damage is caused by all sorts of things, from environmental factors to regular oxidation due to metabolic activity, but each repair made to the nucleotides can introduce an imperfection or an error, the compounding of these errors eventually leads to diseases (such as cancer).

Large doses of radiation lead to extreme illness and death, and all sorts of screwy things happen to the body post-radiation exposure. There are stories of Hiroshima victims who had rapidly growing fingernails that had blood vessels in them, so when cut would bleed extensively. Typically the damage is most severe around bone marrow, GI tracts, immune system, and hair follicles. Given data on effects of radiation exposure to fetuses the easiest way to cause the effects in the world that you want is to have people dosed with 1-2 GY of radiation, which will impact fetuses (by miscarriage, or genetic malformation) but not cause mass deaths among the adults.

As to how your hero became superman, it was random chance. The DNA damage that occurred to him was minor enough to not cause him to be miscarried, and early enough to impact stem cells that would become his muscles. A random repair to his genes increased his strength, and was replicated through his whole body by the fact that this damage was done to his progenitor stem cells when he was an early fetus. (Note: low-doses of radiation are the best scenario here, as higher doses would likely just kill the fetus or deform him).

The harder part becomes testing for this. In this scenario, the fact that he was born healthy (and above average) was probably taken as a blessing, and since "all babies exposed to magic radiation die" nobody bothered testing him (if they even bothered developing a test). Likely the test of exposure was more a test of overall health than a scientific test to determine exposure. It is possible at some point in the future, some test is developed that can determine if someone was ever exposed to radiation, or determine that some part of his genetics was altered by exposure to radiation, but given he had been an adventurer/hero his whole life, it is likely he had exposure at some point anyway.

Now, to get to your point of magic causing some sign that it was a magical radiation exposure and not a "natural" genetic malformation, I think we can go into CRISPR territory. Perhaps, instead of being generic radiation, the magical radiation is "smart" radiation. Based on the kind of spell that created it, it does specific things to cells. Most of the time, the level of exposure causes so many changes to fetal tissue that the fetus is changed to become incompatible with life, and terminated by the mother's body, or the changes are so severe they cause rampant birth defects. As above, perhaps your hero was lucky and only got exposed a little, or perhaps the magic that hit him did so at a perfect time, where most of the effects were compatible with one another and did not deform him (save for his improved abilities). In any case, these changes can leave a certain genetic tagging in place, perhaps some sequence all magic imprints on genes that are changed (rewriting the largely useless junk sequences that are present in all DNA sequences left over from evolution). The reason it was never discovered is as above, your hero was never sick as a child so nobody thought it was possible he was magically afflicted (which raises the question of how many others there might be). When he finally gets around to getting tested, the truth is revealed.

This could also explain any other changes you want him to have (a lessened or inability to perform magic). Since this is magic radiation, there's no reason it can't be smart enough to make specific changes and leave tags in the genetics.

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    $\begingroup$ If we're going by semi-scientific variants of magic radiation and mutation, a plausible mutation would be one or both (depending on how much stronger he is) of the MSTN genes that regulate myostatin production, which inhibits muscle growth, or alternatively a gene that regulates myostatin receptors. Cases of such mutations have been known to exist in reality, it's not too implausible that a mild case of magical radiation could cause them as well. $\endgroup$ – Pahlavan Aug 17 '17 at 6:18
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Your mutagen tends to cause localised gigantism of body parts, having a huge head, hand, or foot for example.

In your hero's case the part of his body affected by this was only noticed when he, ahem, became an adult but is otherwise relatively easily concealed.

You did say he'd won the mutation lottery.

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    $\begingroup$ hmm, and how do I have the heros discover this while keeping my PG-13 rateing ? :P $\endgroup$ – dsollen Aug 16 '17 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ Shouldn't gigantism be too extreme for his heroes? $\endgroup$ – Lunar Heretic Aug 16 '17 at 13:53
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    $\begingroup$ Amazing. I don't even care whether this actually properly answers the question or not. +1 $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Aug 16 '17 at 13:54
  • $\begingroup$ @AngelPray, it ticks all the boxes, partial gigantism can be a severe disability and varies greatly in all cases, but is so rare that it being common would imply some external factor (the mutagen). Neither the hero nor anyone else would be aware of his situation until it was pointed out by a second person with greater experience of such things. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Aug 16 '17 at 18:45
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    $\begingroup$ For discovery, he doesn't necessarily need to be naked in front of anyone else; he just needs to eventually learn what is "average" or "typical" in that area. That could be by reading a book, or because athletes in this world follow the ancient Greek dress code, or whatever. It would mean that he would have an incentive, once he figures this out, to only be seen naked by highly trusted individuals (assuming he wants to keep it a secret). $\endgroup$ – 1006a Aug 16 '17 at 20:31
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The 'tell' is obvious if it is checked for, but no one thought to check him because he didn't have defects. Most of the time, a child born with a disability is checked by the delivering physician (or healer or alchemist, whatever your world has) or midwife, or a physician later in life when the disability becomes apparent. But as your hero was healthy throughout his life, and as the more 'obvious' effects of his mutation were still subtle, he never had the test.

Storywise, it would make sense if it could be accidentally discovered. I'm thinking something like a blood test: maybe a mutant's blood turns a different color when mixed with sulfur and heated. Maybe he trips in a bat-infested cave and wounds himself, then cauterizes the wound, and the sulfur from the guano reacts with the blood from the wound as he heats it, thus revealing his mutation. Something like that.

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Assuming this is the same world as your previous question, or at least similar, the "mutagen" is broadly present in small quantities, with some rare and remote locations which have much higher concentrations. If your story ever has a need for the characters to travel to these locations then...

Mutants are immune to subsequent exposure

The mutagen may not be able to cause mutation or even long-term damage after birth, but I doubt it's completely inert and whatever effects it has are likely not beneficial. Perhaps exposure to higher concentrations will cause minor conditions such as headaches and fatigue, with prolonged exposure bringing more substantial and noticeable effects such as vomiting or something like a sunburn (which could have any number of flavorful names). In extreme cases with very high concentration and very long exposure it could even lead to things such as temporary blindness, hair loss, maybe look at symptoms of Radiation Sickness for more inspiration. The point is, at levels present in respectable regions it's harmless and unnoticeable, but in dangerous wilderness everyone will feel the effects and eventually need to leave.

Everyone, that is, except your hero. Mutants have bodies that are already adapted to the mutagen (often including other, more visible effects as well) and thus will be completely unaffected even in conditions that would leave any other human unable to continue. This would likely not be visible day-to-day, but it possibly could be checked intentionally if it was necessary and it is also something that might be noticed accidentally during regular travel or adventuring.

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  • $\begingroup$ I quite like this suggestion, as well as the fact that you payed enough attention to questions to relate the two I asked. Thank you. $\endgroup$ – dsollen Aug 16 '17 at 19:43
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A birthmark

Your mutants could all have a certain birthmark at a certain place. Maybe this could even identify certain categories of mutants. Imagine all mutants with a similar mutation to the hero to have a birthmark in the form of a sword at their lower back. You wouldn't necessarily check there all too often. It is also easily hidden from everyones view by just wearing normal clothes. And people can easily identify it once he has to take his clothes off and turns his back to someone.

Other mutants might have birthmarks in a more common place, like the forehead or on their hands. Birthmarks could also in your magical universe vary in coloration if you want to be sure that it's a magical birthmark. So the sword is surrounded by a little red circle. Something that makes people say: "This pattern is so rare and unlikely that it simply has to be magical mutation!"

Other locations might be even harder to see. Imagine a certain little birthmark under your foot or in your arm pit. There are many places to easily hide this and you needn't necessarily be aware of it yourself. Only someone who is actively looking for it would find it.

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1) Something at birth: mom knows, the midwife knows, and they both kept quiet. An extra placenta? Green hair that sparkles away upon exposure to air? A quickly-fading glyph of power on the baby's forehead.

2) An herb that works like asparagus, but that only makes your pee smell funny if you've got a certain something. Something dietary. With farting, if you're inclined to tell a joke? Sparkly poop!

-- After sleeping on it, I'm really happy with the placenta idea-- midwives are witchy to begin with, and then you have a scene where they're examining the baby for hidden stinger tentacles, but no, it's just a baby, a normal, gory, eerie, dreamy, writhing, staring, secretive blob.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71cAJvQX_ck

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Magical-mutated blood glows with octarine color when exposed to magic fields.

Huge mutations caused by magic require weak magic fields to cause mutant blood to glow but if mutation is barely noticeable an intense magic field will be required in order to make mutant blood to glow.

So, if someone is interested in checking the origin of a mutation, a "blood analysis under magic conditions" would be enough. But the trick is that small mutations require huge magic fields to make blood glow and people is afraid of intense magic fields because... well, can cause mutations so: what's the point of checking if this strong, fit and healthy-looking dude is a magic-mutant?


So, under your requirements:

A way that people can tell the difference between a child born with a mutation due to magical pollution and a 'natural' birth defect, some common trait that generally only shows when mutated by magic.

If someone wants to know the origin of the mutation, just get a sample of fresh blood and expose it to a magic field (a dark place would be better, to make the glow easier to spot) but if you're afraid of the effects of the magic field on your body it would be better if the magic field used is weak.

I want his companions to not realize he was a 'mutant' for some time, but eventually discover it.

Because exposure to magic could cause mutation, the hero and his companions would not get close to magic fields unless they don't have another option.

Because bleeding isn't (or shouldn't be) a common thing in a healthy person, hero's blood wouldn't be freely exposed to his companions scrutiny unless something happened.

If eventually the hero and his companions are forced to go to a place with an intense magic field and they by chance get into a fight and some of them (including the hero) oh, by chance get injured with a bleeding wound... and his blood starts to glow... well, they will realize.

Ideally I would prefer for the hero in question to not know he is a mutant either. [...] This means I need a 'tell' that, if checked, can help to confirm mutation by magic, but also subtle enough to be missed in this one hero.

How will he know his condition if he looks normal and he usually isn't bleeding near magic fields :)

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Ah, the curious case of loupsgarousism. You see, usually when a child is born with this mark it's born with a fangs, or hair on their back, or tails. Some don't show sings for a few months, even years. But it shows, their feet's are more like that one of a dog. With a black pad on their soil. Or their nails are more like a claw.

Some people don't show a physical sign but they speak in certain way. For example they say "how dooooooo youuuuuu doooooooo".

But once I've a met a boy who didn't show anything. The only thing that was different in him was that he could run for hours without even breaking a sweat. Some say it was because he had very low pressure of 25 heartbeat a minute. But that's just nonsense! He was a werewolf. He later joined the couriers and delivered mail from capitol to most distant villages in a matter of days. You may heard of him, his nickname was "yahoooo".

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A patterned skin aberration (like a tattoo) that only appears under certain situations... such as while angry, during a battle/fight, after getting wet or hot, or some event like a full moon.

This could be on the neck, shoulders or the face, and the hero would have no idea it was there until someone sees it and tells him.

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The mutation could be visible on "ordinary mutants" (if we can tell that). I like the idea of partial gigantism because it creates monsters that will be immediately noticeable and outcast. And for the hero, its mutation could just have happened on one or more internal organs -something that doesn't show at all from the outside. "Big dick" joke apart (I liked this one to be honest), the hero could have a third kidney, bigger lungs than usual, or why not a thousands of micro-muscles all under his skin that makes him stronger, faster, harder, better. All of them are not visible but could be detected at any moment by a doctor, or if he's injured and suddenly someone discovers his heart on the wrong side "I always though everybody was like that", etc.

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A simple way could be to identify it by the concentration of magic in a body. If magic is concentrated in just a single body part, a wizard using any form of astral vision would conclude that this must be a magic mutation. If a magical mutation however spreads through the entire body - like all muscle tissue - a wizard might conclude that this person just has a latent magical talent or has simply been enchanted.

In your story the boy could have been magically checked and the wizard (falsely) determined that the boy was under a spell. After he used an appropriate disenchant spell the magic was gone from that body and the case was closed. As there were no further irregularities, no one noticed that the magic returned slowly over time and granted that person a higher than usual strength.

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We take for granted that birth defects are physical anomalies, but in the past, children born with teeth or fused digits or vestigial tails were considered supernaturally affected. It was in a mother's best interest to keep it secret. But in an actually magical world, you'd have true impossibilities (as far as we're concerned.)

What about a child that just forgets to breathe for long spells, to no ill effect? Or never casts a shadow? Or could speak at birth? Maybe their body temperatures have a much wider "normal" so he's almost dead cold when asleep and burning up when he's angry. Or how about retinas that flash iridescent blue instead of red? That last one sounds the most "physical", and the shimmery blue of peacock feathers and butterfly wings isn't a "real" color, but a trick of light, which makes it more mysterious. All of them could be explained away pretty easily.

Most people think their quirks are normal until some rude kid at school points it out. That's how my half-sister discovered having her adult eye-tooth grow in the center of the roof of her mouth was unusual. Also, past that age of childhood bluntness, people don't pay attention at all. A lover would notice if he stopped breathing but kept on talking or felt scalding hot after a swim, but maybe he's a loner. Or maybe his mom raised him to behave in a way that would minimize his risk of being discovered. Anyway, I like your premise. Good luck.

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  1. Magical mutations are hereditary from magic users

Janna, a champion from League of Legends, was a human but eventually the magical pollution made her look like an elf

enter image description here

So a magical mutation can be differentiated from a normal mutation if the parents of the child are magic users.

  1. While biological mutations are almost random, the practice of centain magic increase the probability of specific mutations. Maybe the children of blood mages develope sharp fangs, or the healing mages would have children with sharped ears, etc.
  2. As a result of the magical mutations, this children have higher affinity with magic and the spiritual world compared to other children (like the indigo children thing).
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  • $\begingroup$ actually in this case the hero has a lower affinity for magic and is the only one to not use it as a result of his mutation lol. but you wouldn't have any way to have known that ;) and before you ask the loewr affinity for magic is suppose to be too subtle to be a give away, as the heros are just now rediscovering magic and thus don't know that mutation would affect how one interacts with magic. $\endgroup$ – dsollen Aug 16 '17 at 13:41
  • $\begingroup$ @dsollen it would be a good explanation of with he has lower magical affinity, since he has not big mutations, but as the child of a mage probably he's still better than the common human $\endgroup$ – Lunar Heretic Aug 16 '17 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ I smell use of T&A to attract readers $\endgroup$ – Aric Aug 16 '17 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ @AricFowler T&A? What's that? $\endgroup$ – Lunar Heretic Aug 16 '17 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ @LunarHeretic, tits and arse, images of semi-naked women for no good reason. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Aug 18 '17 at 7:09
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In the same way that a person can be screened for diabetes, cystic fibrosis or many other "genetic mutations", perhaps there's a simple blood test that will identify your hero as a mutant. As most mutations are physically obvious this test is rarely done.

However during a routine doctors visit or perhaps when first donating blood, your character's blood is tested and it comes up positive.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding Kashyyk! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Aug 16 '17 at 14:24

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