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Randomly Gifted

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Storm: All of us here are mutants, like yourself.
Jubilee: Well, tell me this: what is a mutant?
Storm: No one knows who will be a mutant at birth. We discover our extraordinary powers at about your age.

Characters who are Randomly Gifted have developed Magic and Powers pretty much out of the blue. Specifically, even the children of Muggles have a chance of randomly developing powers without the need for any kind of Superpowerful Genetics or other power granting trope having to come into play. Usually this is a setting-wide feature, allowing anyone anywhere to spontaneously develop abilities, and as such it can be used as a form of time delayed Mass Super-Empowering Event.

These characters may develop their powers immediately at birth, in their childhood, in their adolescence, or later in life, and there may or may not be means of detecting these powers before/after birth. The children of Randomly Gifted characters face an interesting situation; in some settings the randomness is such that these children are no more likely to develop abilities and may become a Muggle Born of Mages, while in others they have a much higher odds of getting powers.

Society at large may be completely fine with this, see it as an honor to have a family member with special gifts, or consider it blasphemous and dangerous. Though these characters are not necessarily a new race or Mage Species they will usually be called some form of Differently Powered Individual; sadly, it can devolve into Fantastic Racism or Muggle Power and lead to calling these powered characters witches, mutants, or demons.

Finally, the reason for children being Randomly Gifted can vary: it could be a spiritual agent, very complex genetics, or a never explained source.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Just who becomes a Doll or Contractor in Darker than Black appears to be random. Just what powers and Remuneration they receive, however, are less so, as Hell's Gate seems to have a sense of irony or thematic appropriateness in its selection of Remuneration (Hate smoking? Guess what you have to do every time you use your powers!) or power type (Super-Scream, naturally, goes to the former opera singer).
  • Magic in Lyrical Nanoha apparently has at least some tie to genetics (since there are cases of super soldiers that were specifically engineered to be powerful mages) but for the most part it appears to be more or less random. Nanoha herself is a prime example of this, as she had an incredible amount of power even before she started training and her entire biological family is made up of Muggles, as is the overwhelming majority of Earth's population.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury: In the prologue, four-year-old Ericht Samaya is discovered to have perfect compatibility with GUND-Arms technology, an experimental form of Brain/Computer Interface that normally places an extreme, sometimes fatal strain on the body of its pilot. She doesn't even seem to notice anything different when the system activates (something which a pilot in a later episode likens to feeling a hand reach into his brain). She is the only character in the show with such compatibility, and by its end the reasons for it are never revealed. Even her clone Suletta Mercury only inherited most of her immunity (she can endure higher settings for longer than anyone else, and it's still an agonizing experience), meaning it can't be fully explained by genetics.
  • In Tiger & Bunny, most of the NEXTs seem to have gotten their powers despite having Muggle parents. That said, there seems to be some heredity involved: we know of two NEXTs who had kids, and in each case, the child eventually developed powers too (albeit ones completely different than their parents'). We also see three sisters who are all NEXTs with similar, though not identical, powers.
  • In Touhou Suzunaan ~ Forbidden Scrollery, a young bookseller tells the main franchise characters that she just suddenly gained Omniglot powers one day. The two just nod and say yeah, that happens.

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel Universe:
    • A look in the backstory reveals that all humans have the potential to develop superpowers thanks to the Celestials' experiments on their ancestors. The only reason why most never do in their lifetimes is because they never encounter the specific circumstances needed to activate their powers. For some people (such as Bruce Banner), gamma radiation activates their superpower, whereas most people would simply die horribly (either on the spot or years later from cancer depending on the degree of exposure) — and there's no way to know in advance if your powers would be activated this way.
    • In X-Men, mutants are born randomly among the population, though active mutants are almost always guaranteed to have mutant children regardless of if their partner is a human. In a notable exception, Graydon Creed is the son of Sabretooth and Mystique, who are both mutants... and he's completely human and poster-boy for hating mutants. Luna, the daughter of the mutant Quicksilver and the Inhuman Crystal, was another exception — until her father exposed her to incredibly high amounts of Terrigen Mist (a very dangerous thing to do since the Mists tend to do bad things to anyone who isn't a pure Inhuman, and they're outright lethal to mutants) to activate her latent powers.

    Fan Works 
  • All For Luz: As one of the first people in her world to gain a Quirk in the Mass Super-Empowering Event, Luz is this by necessity. It is especially notable as she has All For One, arguably the greatest Quirk to ever exist, able to take, use and give any superpower that she wants at will. She is a premier example of a winner of the Superpower Lottery, just like her predecessor with the only catch is that she gains his spirit squatting in her Mental World as a package deal.
  • In Farce of the Three Kingdoms, a few characters have superpowers for no explicable reason. Most notably, Sun Qian has apparently both Flashy and Stealthy, and Xu Chu has Eye Beams and a prehensile penis. No one thinks anything of this.
  • In One Punch Deku, Izuku's older sister was born with prodigious levels of psychic power, having been born with an unusual brain. What makes this stand out further was that her parents had weak Quirks and her brother was born without one.
  • This applies to the unicorns of the Triptych Continuum. Every other sapient race in the continuum has a specific racial powerset: Diamond dogs can dig through earth, minotaurs have strength and resolve, griffons have flight and the dominari, pegasi can fly and manipulate the weather, and so on. Some races have broader powersets than others, and not every member of a given race can always access the full breadth of the race's powers, but there is still a high level of predicability. And then there are the unicorns. While every unicorn has light and telekinesis, beyond that a unicorn's spells might be able to do virtually anything. But most unicorns can learn at most a double hoof-count or so of spells, and so while unicorns as a race can do almost anything, any given unicorn is going to have a very limited range of powers.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Frozen (2013), no explanation is given for Elsa's ice powers, though Word of God says that she was born 1000 years after "Saturn is in such-and-such alignment". No word on why she of all the children in the world was the one to get the magic (Significant Birth Date aside), though nobody else in the movie has any powers to speak of. This is later subverted in Frozen II, which explains that her powers are a gift from nature spirits due her mother's compassion and the loving relationship between her parents, whose different nations were at war. Their relationship inspired the spirits to give them two daughters, one with magic and one without, who would act as a bridge between magic and humanity.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Highlander, Connor asks Ramírez why they're immortal and he replies that you might as well asks why the sun comes up. Highlander II: The Quickening infamously said immortals were alien criminals reincarnated on Earth as a punishment with the director's cut changing them to Advanced Ancient Humans. Later installments ignored this and left it unexplained.
  • In Jumper, random people can be born with the ability to teleport, which is why the Paladins can't just track down bloodlines and have to instead look for unusual reports — though they usually kill all of a Jumper's family as well, both to draw the Jumper out and just to be sure. The protagonist's mother is revealed in the end to be a Paladin, who was horrified to find out that her own son was a teleporter, so she left him at the age of 5, knowing that he'll be killed otherwise. Slightly different in the novels, where the ability can be obtained by simply being teleported enough times.

Examples by author:
  • Iar Elterrus:
    • The Gifts, including magic, are mostly random among all species in the Aarn universe.
    • Magic is a random trait in the Nine Swords multiverse. This is little-known and a mage looking for gifted individuals has to be told to scan his city's slaves.
  • Magic occurs at random for humans in Valentin Ivashchenko's settings, although the benevolent kingdom/empire tends to accumulate mages in the nobility. In Warrior and Mage, the crown prince being a mage is noted as exceptional.
Examples by title:
  • In Akata Witch, Sunny is known as a "free agent" because neither of her parents can do magic or know anything about magic. It is revealed that Sunny's grandmother was magical.
  • In The Broken Earth Trilogy, orogenes can often be born from families with no history of orogeny, though their own children are more likely to inherit their powers.
  • The Transition event in Conclave of Immortals by Vitaliy Zykov randomly affected humans. The common powers are shapeshifting and dreamwalking. The rarer taming power seems to combine aspects of both. Other human factions within the survivors gain cleric-like powers, but this may be a case of magical Lost Technology or resurfacing religions, as some weird cults gain power after the Transition.
  • Happens to a healthy chunk of the global population in The Curse of M via a fever. Absolutely nobody was prepared for this, so it rapidly descends into chaos that results in a number of the newly-cursed being rounded up and shipped off to be studied/experimented on in a facility in the remote Alaskan wilderness.
  • The Dresden Files: Many practitioners inherit their gifts, but some of them gain them this way. Harry tells Michael that Molly is this so that he doesn't have to reveal that Charity was a practitioner — it's not his secret to tell.
  • In Elantris, the Shaod strikes nearly at random, potentially affecting anyone within a certain range of the city who is of the local Aonic nationality. By the time of the book, though, this gift has become a curse.
  • Throughout the Harry Potter franchise, a fair number of witches and wizards are born to muggle parents. Despite what pure-blood propaganda suggests, such mages (referred to unflatteringly as "mudbloods") can be just as powerful as any half- or even full-blooded mage, as Hermione Granger repeatedly demonstrates. According to J. K. Rowling, these witches and wizards are descended from Squibs.
  • The titular Heralds in the Heralds of Valdemar world all have at least one Gift (largely Psychic Powers). This is Because Destiny Says So and/or the Reincarnation of persons with the appropriate temperament. However, in many cases their powers are negligible and they serve the kingdom as ordinary messengers, spies, diplomats, etc., not as a legion of Magic Knights.
  • Due to the Background Magic Field of Echo, everybody in the eponymous city in Labyrinths of Echo can use magic. But the exceptionally talented are born seemingly at random, although living in Echo increases the chance to inherit magical skill.
  • Elemental Powers in My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! are most commonly found among the nobility of the Kingdom of Sorcier when compared to the lower class and the rest of the world, but who actually gets powers and what powers they get appears to be random. Their strength is also random, as the main protagonist, a full-blooded noble with no signs of Royal Inbreeding, is much weaker then her half-commoner cousin.
  • This is how Talents are handed out in Necroscope — you are just randomly born with powers (admittedly people whose parents had a Talent are more likely to get one, but like the X-men, Talents mostly come from random members of the population born with one).
  • Belonging to the Others is random in Night Watch (Series). Children of Others are almost always regular humans. Ensuring the birth of a Light Other from a carefully chosen couple of Light Others is a generations-long plot run by the Night Watch. The only exceptions are vampires and werewolves, who can turn regular humans into vampires and werewolves, respectively. However, vampires and werewolves are considered to be the lowest of Others (the Light ones despise them for preying on humans, while the Dark ones treat them as Cannon Fodder).
  • Downplayed in Percy Jackson and the Olympians. The Mist exists to prevent mortals from seeing mythological creatures and effects, but it is noted that some mortals (most notably Sally Jackson, Rachel Dare, and May Castellan) are immune to it without any divine help or heritage. According to Annabeth, no one knows the cause.
  • In Secret City, this trope distinguishes humans from other species. Humans can be born as regular mages or Healers, and the number of mages is increasing because of the millennia-long exposure to the Secret City's magic.
  • The fundamental unpredictability of magic being an important theme of the Shannara series, this trope holds true. People can seemingly get the gift out of nowhere for an inborn magical power of some kind (for instance, fortune-telling). Some magic is hereditary like the Wishsong, but even that will skip generations sometimes before emerging a hundred years down the bloodline.
  • In Two Percent Power, powers have been showing up randomly for decades for unexplained reasons, but seem to be happening more often in recent years. There is only one case in the book of someone inheriting powers and, as they're mentioned to be chi powers, they might have been trained.
  • This trope is in effect for the human factions in Way Home, including the protagonists kidnapped from Earth: Oleg becomes an Earth mage, while Yaroslav combines multiple theoretically mutually exclusive magic systems.
  • In Wearing the Cape and its sequels, the vast majority of superhumans are randomly gifted through the unpredictable survival mechanism of the Breakthrough. There are no publicly known exceptions. Children of breakthroughs are slightly more likely than the average person to also experience a breakthrough.
  • Anyone born (or conceived) in Xanth will either have a magic talent or be a magical creature (or in some cases, both); no ifs ands or buts. However, the nature of that magical talent is entirely unique, random and unpredictable. With the exception of one family line that (without their knowledge) the Demon X(A/N)th decided would all have top-tier talents, because their ancestor was the first mortal to ever impress him.
  • Magic runs at random in the Xenos series, which can take a turn for the worse should an unsuspecting child in an overly religious area suddenly demonstrate necromantic abilities.

    Live-Action Television 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Girls who have the potential to become slayers are born randomly without any apparent pattern or lineage. It is also completely random which of these girls will actually end up becoming slayers. The only known child of a slayer was born completely normal.
    • On Angel, Bethany Chalke had telekinesis, and Gwen Raiden had electrical powers, and neither of them had any sort of explanations for where their powers came from.

    Multiple Media 
  • This is true in Star Wars: Force-sensitive children can be born to Muggle parents. The reverse is also true, though it seems to have at least some hereditary component. Theron Shan, the protagonist of one The Old Republic book, is one such case, being a muggle despite being the son of the Jedi Grandmaster herself and a descendant of Revan.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is literally called "the Gift" in Ars Magica.
  • The Planeswalker Spark in Magic: The Gathering. No one knows why the Spark manifests in certain people across the Multiverse. It's not hereditary either. Some planeswalker characters also have inexplicable magic powers they were born with, like the mind mage Jace Beleren or the pyromancer Chandra Nalaar.

    Video Games 
  • This is how most of the main fighters in ARMS are given their titular powers. According to Spring Man, he suddenly woke up one day with his arms coiled up.
  • Bloody Roar: This is the reason Tylon and other organizations conduct experiments on zoanthropes, behind the scenes, as there are those who are born with the ability to transform into fighting beasts. While no one knows the reason for it, it was determined that it doesn't stem from genetics. Long, for example, was born with the ability while his sister was not.
  • Copy Kitty: Entama are random individuals who spontaneously gain Personality Powers. The main protagonist, Boki, idolized Entama heroes and wanted powers like theirs, and gained the ability to copy powers as a result.
  • Ellone from Final Fantasy VIII was born with the power to connect, sending an individual's consciousness into the past and into another person's host body. This power is coveted by the Big Bad who wants to use it to send herself to the beginning of time and where she will use her magic as a Sorceress to absorb everything that is and ever will be with a spell called Time Compression and thus become a living God.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: Why Sonic has Super-Speed has never been given an explanation. This applies to some other characters' abilities such as Tails's and Cream's ability to fly, Blaze's pyrokinesis and Silver's telekinesis. The most notable aversion of this trope is Shadow, whose chaos powers are explicitly stated to be a result of genetic manipulation by his creator.
  • Psionics in X-COM. Soldiers have a random psi-strength going from 1 to 100, that cannot be improved by any way. A soldier with 100 Psi Strength can mind-control anything after being tested in the PSI labs and given a psi amp. In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, a soldier has a random chance of getting the gift of psionic powers depending on his/her will, though it needs to be unlocked in the PSI lab.

  • Erfworld runs very strictly on an RPG Mechanics 'Verse where people are "units" that are "popped" into existence, fully formed, at their Side's behest. However, it's impossible to pop a Caster intentionally; instead, when popping Warlords, there is a small chance that a Caster will be created instead.
  • Girl Genius has The Spark of Genius. It can be inherited, but it is implied to be inconsistent: children of dynastic Sparks are carefully vetted by their parents to ensure that they inherit abilities equal to or greater than their own(with the implication that they'll be disowned or dissected should they fail to impress), but it's not unknown for Sparks to be born to normal parents. These unlucky bastards have to overcome numerous obstacles to reproduce (insufficient education to make use of their talents, insufficient talent to make use of, insufficient luck to not be killed by their first inventions, insufficient solitude to not be killed by angry mobs), so simple selection pressure tends to enforce rarity.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • People are born with the ability to bend pretty much at random, although bending ability does sometimes follow family lines. One notable instance of the curious nature of Bending is an Avatar: The Last Airbender episode with otherwise identical twins: one of whom can bend and the other cannot. Spirituality has something to do with it as well: as the most spiritual nation, the Air Nomads were 100% Airbenders, according to Word of God and later made canon by The Rise of Kyoshi . That said, which element a bender has is passed down genetically (from ancestors empowered with a specific element by the Lion Turtles) and until Korra was heavily sorted by Elemental Nation.
    • There also seems to be some benders who randomly possess bending abilities considerably different from anyone else. However, there are also cases where they just discovered abilities potentially any bender could do but hadn't before. As far as we can tell, Combustion Man's exploding fire bolts that he shoots out of his forehead are the former although the existence of P'li in The Legend of Korra, who has the same powers and the same tattoo, may indicate that it's teachable, Bloodbending and Metalbending are the latter, and it's uncertain which applies to Yakone bloodbending without a full moon in Legend of Korr. His children can also do this, but it's unknown if that's because it's genetic or because of his training. It could be that the inventor of Bloodbending was simply Weak, but Skilled, and more powerful Waterbenders (Yakone and his sons being demonstrably very powerful) don't need the full moon's assistance for it.
    • In Season 3 of The Legend of Korra, a side effect of Harmonic Convergence is that a small collection of non-benders have spontaneously gained Airbending. No reason is provided about why these particular people got the power; a popular Fanon idea is that they have some Air Nomad ancestry, particularly since they include Bumi, the one non-bender in the world who can definitively make that claim. The Rise of Kyoshi also contributed to this idea by revealing that Kyoshi's mother was an Air Nomad, and thus any non-benders in Kyoshi's line of descent could have become Airbenders by Harmonic Convergence.
  • There is an element of this to My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic in how cutiemarks work. Every pony has a special talent that they are extremely good at and which makes them happy to do, and they have the mark on their butt to prove it. That said, however, for most ponies this talent is not unique; Applejack is not the only pony who's good at farming, Rarity is not the only fashion designer, Twilight and Starlight both have special talents for magic, and even Pinkie's... pinkieness is shown to be shared by at least one other pony. The one major exception to this is Rainbow Dash. Her talent for flying is not unique, every wonderbolt shares it. Her ability to break the sound barrier and create a caleidoscopic wave of magic that can spread across the entire continent, on the other hand, is completely unique to her, as no other pony has ever been able to do it before or since.