Breakers are those who alter their physical (and sometimes mental) state to something alien and power-generated. While all powers have some small element of breaker to them, the breaker-centric powers are the ones where the individual switches over to a completely different state. The state can have a singular benefit that breaks the defined rules of reality (as any power does, but centered around the parahuman’s capabilities) or a state they enter that contains a suite of powers, but which may have costs to enter, maintain, or costs and complications in other forms.
Breaker triggers are perhaps the hardest to define lay out in clear terms. Breakers sometimes come from abstract stressors or those things that are the very odd fits for other classifications. For a mover, this might include things like wanting to escape on a physical level while mentally feeling that the situation is safe, the inverse, or something more abstract, like wanting to escape reality on a spiritual level and finding oneself unable, or wanting to escape a concept or wanting to escape something that cannot be avoided on a fundamental level. Other Breakers arise from cases where the lines are so blurred and/or intermingled between the physical and the mental that usual classifications don’t neatly fit. Drugs, poisons, medical conditions and mental illness very frequently create the unusual scenarios that make Breaker triggers possible.
The trick, and where things get hard to discern, is that it can be hard to say if the trigger is a breaker trigger that has (as an example) Striker and Changer interlinked in one element, or if A and B are simply separate factors of the same trigger. The former might lead to a breaker with elements of Striker and Changer, while the latter might lead to a cape with a Striker primary power and a Changer secondary, or vice versa. With this in mind, key questions to ask are:
Could the elements feeding into one aspect of the trigger be removed, with the trigger event still making some degree of sense? In the above hypothetical, could you remove the parts that make it a changer trigger and leave it as striker only, with a rewrite? If the combination of the two are so interlinked as to be irreconcilable, it could be a breaker trigger.
Is it a trigger classification that is normally mental being expressed in a very physical way, or vice versa?
Are drugs, poisons, disease, other medical conditions or mental conditions at play? If so, that might create the conditional factor that makes it more ‘Breaker’.
Does, for lack of a better way of putting it, the trigger sit on the outside bounds of the usual ‘box’ that the classification fits in? Strikers trigger from in-your-face hostile threats. Is the threat hard to define or explain, either in the character’s perceptions or in reality? Changers trigger from identity issues and cases where the outside world impugns the character’s set identity. Is that identity hard to define or explain, even for the character? Similar questions can be asked for other classifications. Is the damage a Brute takes hard to explain or frame? The long-term problem a tinker faces?
At the risk of sounding facetious, the GM or group might simply decide edge cases one way or the other based on whether they haven’t done enough or have done too many Breakers in recent memory.
All powers have some element of breaker; this is generally the element that blurs the line between physical and mental, allows access to the powers (with power sources & codification elsewhere) & makes their case unique. This small breakerness is typically spent with the establishment of Manton protections (a pyrokinetic being fireproof or proof against their own flames) and simply making the power possible in the first place.
Key Points on Breakers
Breakers enter another state with a snap or explosive shift, with the changes typically being more non-physical or power-driven. When physical changes are there, they often coincide with a heavy shift away from normal human operation and functioning. In game terms, this is a shift away from standard mechanics.
To compare: a changer might grow praying mantis arms, but they would still lean heavily on standard game mechanics, with attack rolls, wounds, normal movement and the like. They might take a round or two to actually alter their arms into these giant scythes, and would generally have physical benefits complimentary to these arms, or alternate options they could switch to instead of the scythe arms.
By contrast, a breaker with the same mutation would change immediately, and while they might have the altered arms, it would be in parallel with ongoing effects on the parahuman and a complete divorce from normal functioning; this could be the inability to walk, but they float slowly, they could lose the ability to talk while their vision mode becomes pure heat vision, they could gain the ability to have their scythes pass through armor, or distorted scythe arms that always strike the target if the breaker can get in range.
In short, they are as energy, abstract, or power-driven as changers are physical.
Aesthetically, breakers tend to feature one or more of the following:
Flickering, frayed, distorted, burning, crackling, or ghostly silhouettes
The power leeches in and through them, causing body parts to glow, their veins literally glow or are outlined with their power.
Power bleeds out into their immediate surroundings.
Some cosmetic or non-cosmetic mutations that are breaker state only. Not having a face but still being able to function, limbs changing, mouth yawning open until it sinks to their pelvis while their chest opens up into a well of power, etc.
Breakers generally lose access to their equipment when in their breaker form, or their ability to use it is limited. Pockets, hand-held weapons and belt items like grenades or pepper spray are generally not accessible. Items picked up after breaking might be hard to wield, damaged by the breaker pattern, or only be able to be used for a short time before problems arise.
Costume may still be important to a limited degree, as breaker powers that override equipment often take on traits from the costume or use the costume to inspire the breaker form (something we see in the ‘ghosts’ that Glaistig Uaine summons). A mask with horns might lead to a breaker form where the head looks like a skull with horns that burns with blue fire. When costume traits are overridden, some breaker forms may take armor traits that are deleterious in normal form on as beneficial ones; wearing a costume with armor heavy enough it impedes movement might be an inconvenience in normal form, but in the breaker form it becomes a part of the form, with some natural armor. This generally requires doubling down on the same element (armor, flowing cape, etc), adding a detriment, with only half of that doubled-down costume element carrying over. In typical terms it does mean that the breaker can influence their own look to a degree. On another level, heavier costume coverage or customized costumes may be better at hiding or exaggerating parts of the breaker’s state that bystanders might find horrific or intimidating. (Think of Shadow Stalker’s metal mask hiding her face, which is distorted and skull-like in breaker state)
The degree of intensity varies, and some breakers (particularly Death breakers, see Types below, after they’re added) are far less affected, cosmetically and in terms of their ability to use items.
Breakers enjoy or endure a stronger connection to their power and their shard than most capes, and where many capes will experience an ebb and flow to their power as they find more or less connection to their passengers, breakers will frequently feel this to a greater degree.
Breakers in Worm include… Acidbath, Annex, Night Hag, Purity, Shadow Stalker, Velocity, and Wanton.
Quick generation of breakers means covering three bases:
The actual effect while in the state. There are three sub-tracks that can be encouraged here, and a given subtype of breaker might encourage one of the following:
The parahuman gains access to powers while in the breaker state. This is typically better than flat-out having access to the power all the time, and comes with benefits stated in the prefix, below.
The parahuman essentially becomes an ongoing power effect. Make a power as per usual, the parahuman is a walking personification of that power.
The parahuman gains a flat, general benefit that alters how they interact with the world, ‘breaking’ ties with reality. Best ignored if no idea springs to mind.
The beneficial or ‘pro’ aspect of the state, hereafter referred to as the prefix, which plays into the general structure or nature of the breaker state. The pages below on the twelve types can help narrow this down.
The detrimental or ‘con’ aspect of the state, hereafter referred to as the suffix. This plays more into the cost/benefit decisions, and explains why the parahuman isn’t typically in the breaker state all the time. The pages below on the twelve types can help point a play group toward a particular type of suffix.
‘Can enter a breaker state. While in this form, they can [Prefix], gaining the ability to [Power/State particulars]. However, they [Suffix].’
Can enter a breaker state, wherein they gain the [powers of two classifications], and one of them is on autopilot, acting like a turret attached to the parahuman. (Prefix) The powers are a striker blade that turns material it stabs into glass (active use), and a constant cone-shaped spray of glass shards that inflict blindness and bleeding while firing in a direction of the shard’s choice (typically where it can do the most damage). (Powers) This comes at a cost, however, as the breaker form is easily disrupted. Any time they take damage, there’s a chance of being shunted explosively out of the form, with the chance increasing as more damage is taken. On being removed from the form they become a localized explosion, which flings them & their opponent in opposite direction, but the breaker is often sent sprawling. 1d3+1 rounds to recover use of their form. (Suffix; drawback)
Death breakers are effectively parahumans of another stripe with a full powerset, who have added benefits in exchange for the fact that they have to actively enter their breaker form, with the associated costs, penalties, or factors. Powers are often drawn from one or more classifications, inspired by the trigger event, or are secondaries inspired by the trigger in a similar vein. Unless otherwise noted, death-prefixed breakers can access their costume and gear, at least partially, and death-suffixed breakers may have limited or partial access.
Hades – Gain breaker state, often a complete powerset, with added puissance, efficiency, veracity, domain, prerogative, or integrity, or some combination therein, accessible only after entering the breaker state. Maintain more human form, often with minor or cosmetic mutations. However…
Grasp – Gain breaker state, manifesting much as a multi-trigger might, with a variety of secondary powers. While almost indistinguishable from a normal multitrigger parahuman, they need to deliberately access their breaker state (and will appear ‘on’ in a mildly breaker way) and the secondary powers are parceled out over subsequent rounds of confrontation, with one secondary power chosen at the outset, the next appearing shortly after, and so on. After all powers are manifested, after a pause, gains a bonus (often first secondary chosen becomes non-secondary in power, or one secondary starts operating on autopilot, without need for actions). However…
Atropos – Enters a breaker state, transforming to an idealized, attractive alternate self, gaining a different appearance, proportions, improved stats and access to a powerset/general breaker benefit. Outside of breaker form, suffers detriments that offset bonuses, with ongoing drawback (mutation or personality flaw). If civilian:powered life balance isn’t maintained, may see things crumble around the idealized form with breaker form becoming long term or permanent as well as perverse in interpretation, with the ongoing drawback from the civilian form bleeding into it and ultimately taking it over. In addition…
Condemnation – …the breaker must declare an oath on entering the form, a target they will defeat, a task they will accomplish, with meaning and challenge to it. Time to complete the objective is abstract & not nailed down, but may be very strict if the parahuman is setting easier objectives. If the shard believes the individual has failed, it lashes out and/or the power misfires. Initially random, repeated failures see more targeted destruction, dismantling the parahuman’s life, or relaxation of manton protections for the breaker. Some negotiation may be possible, depending on relationship with passenger (ie. “I need a little more time, I can do this” – with 2x the penalty if asking for this and failing).
Crossed – …the breaker form requires a long-ish transformation sequence (up to a minute) to enter, which draws attention via. light/sound and is very easily disrupted.
Nocturnal – …the breaker form bears (more) minor mutations. Roll up 3 mutations using the standard mutation table, with all changes being minor by default, doubled-up mutations are more severe. While mutations may be aesthetically pleasing, spending more than 2 rounds in breaker state imposes growing chance (15% per subsequent round) that body has trouble adapting back – mutations disappear, but gains quality of life detriments tied to part/parts; mouth = insatiable or unusual appetite, eyes = light sensitivity, hands = visible tremor, etc. Chance can exceed 100%; if so, may lead to blackouts or exaggerated reactions if conditions are met/not met – violent lashing out if exposed to light, hand tremor becomes hand actively & independently taking action if not restrained, etc. If chance somehow reaches 200%, blackout encompasses several days span, with havoc left in wake & permanent flaw imposed.
Death breakers manifest from a crisis of self vs. abstract. Identity or self-perspective may be compromised as part of the breaker-inducing factor, be it drugs, a changer, stranger, or master crisis without the easily defined other party, or a more abstract question of self. The first example might be an individual who created a false online persona almost as real to them as their real self, investing a great portion of themselves into this catfish identity, only to have this elaborate other half publically called into question, dismantled, and attacked. A second example might be an individual taking off-market appetite suppression pills that give them vivid nightmares of being surgically dismantled, while an outside demand (modeling career) makes not taking the pills a seeming non-option. A third example might be someone who disconnects and feels their self fading away (a mental loss) in the face of a physical, outside factor (exposure).
Death breakers who try to game the system (not using powers, staying in breaker state indefinitely) may find the passenger attacks their Self. The self that isn’t tended to may seek to communicate or find outlets, speaking to the parahuman in mirrors or finding that one key moment to take pivotal action or say something devastating.
Time breakers enter their breaker state and though they no longer have a watch, their eyes are on the clock. The benefits of the breaker form may be time dependent, short lived or taking time to ramp up, and costs may be similarly dependent, where benefits can only be enjoyed for a set time, or the cumulative costs increase steeply with time spent in the form.
Fate breakers are especially timing dependent, given a strong emphasis on action and consequence. In action, the entering of the form may be profound or effective, with some special effect, utility function or boost on entering the state… but a consequence on exiting it. Very frequently the Fate breaker enjoys the highs of the powered life and endures heavy consequence in their civilian life. Many try never to go back, but this has its own consequences…
War breakers feel the influence of their shard as much or more than the vast majority of capes, but they primarily feel it in the drive toward conflict. The breaker form often has an offensive edge, but woe betide this breaker if they don’t shed sufficient blood or wreak enough destruction.
Nature breakers feed off of the environment and feed into it. Akin to a fire that needs fuel to stay lit, they may tap into some aspect of their environment to kindle themselves and acquire power, or they may play off of or interact with the environment in unique ways.
Hysteria breakers enter another state, but their minds and emotions are alien or askew in their other state, a reality that gets worse or bleeds into their normal state if not carefully managed. More than any other breaker, there are frequently thinker or master benefits to their state.
Morpheus breakers retain several defensive or peripheral benefits in their state as they utilize projections, manifestations and space or apparent reality warping as part of their form. This frequently comes at the cost of a fragile breaker state or one with critical weak points.
Tribulation breakers disconnect from reality. Their ability to interact with the world is limited, but so is their ability to be affected by that world. They may flicker in and out of existence, with a persistent effect bridging the gaps between flickerings, they may be intangible, or they may wade in a pocket dimension while an avatar persists in reality.
Desire breakers have a tie to people in the same way Nature breakers have a tie to environment. They may exist as parasites, with master, trump, or thinker effects, or they might use people or people’s emotions as fuel for the breaker state.