Wild Hairs: A Plaything of the Mind

Elevator Pitch: Individuals gain superpowers that are based on the wellings of their subconscious.

Key Components: As superhuman abilities are at the heart of the setting concept, GURPS Powers is not just important as it usually is, but integral to its very conceptual core; GURPS Supers is also a key component as an extension.

Tech Level: TL8 (modern day setting).

Point Buy: 100 to 200 points for unpowered characters; 150 to 500 points for powered characters.

General Ideas

Everyone knows about Spontaneous Human Empowerment and Deviation these days. There have been documentaries, news articles, scientific papers, and even school textbooks on the subject long enough that it’s just part of the norm. It’s sometimes hard to imagine that before the first cases of the condition manifested in 1973, people would never have believed such a thing was possible. Pre-SHED society would not have expected that human beings with self-powered flight, matter manipulation, extreme durability, and other superhuman abilities wold become well-known phenomena in their future. And yet it happened.

The past four decades of research have conclusively shown that SHED affects around 1 in 900 people, leading to over 770,000 SHED-affected individuals the world over, with no direct correlation to genetic traits, individual backgrounds, or other factors that indicate an underlying cause. It is also known that SHED is a permanent condition, and while some SHED-affected can temporarily siphon or dampen others’ powers, nothing can “cure” it. Those affected by SHED have their abilities first manifest when they go through the exertion of an extreme and atypical emotional period. Near death experiences are a recurring trend in SHED “awakening” stories, as are traumatic experiences, new feelings of unexpected elation, and intensive personal reflection. The powers that manifest are always related to some portion of the psyche – desires, fears, hopes and dreams, etc. – and are in a vast majority of cases minor abilities with little to no readily apparent physical changes made to the user or moderate abilities with physical alteration that is obvious but not overpowering enough to make the individual unrecognizable.

When SHED powers do “go big”, though, they tend to go all the way, with the most powerful SHED-affected also being those that look the most different from their original forms. The original six cases found in the summer of ’73 act as a microcosm of this principle, having been a minor ice manipulator, minor metal manipulator, and weak telekinetic with no apparent physical changes, a minor air manipulator whose hair became white and unkempt, an individual with moderate super-strength that grew to 7’10” in height and manifested thicker body hair and short bull-like horns, and an extremely powerful SHED-affected with super-strength, flight, armored skin, and major fire manipulation who resembled fantasy artwork depictions of dragons from the time far more than a human being. While not an official term in the record books of any scientific or government agency, the term “zenith” became popular slang in the late ’80s and early ’90s for describing these very atypical SHED cases.

In terms of game mechanics, only powers that can be affected by Leech, Neutralize, and Static get the Super power modifier. For instance, someone with a Strength bonus from being more muscular than before their SHED manifestation would not take 10% off the price for the Super power modifier, but someone who has extra Strength from telekinetic “hydraulics” would.

Example Setting Character: Lyra Hawkins [200 Points]

Damage 1d-2/1d; BL 20 lb.; HP 10 [0]; Will 11 [-10]; Per 13 [0]; FP 10 [0]; Basic Speed 5.25 [0]; Basic Move 5 [0]; Dodge 8.

Social Background

Tech Level: 8 [0].

Cultural Familiarity: Anglo (Native) [0].

Languages: English (Native) [0].


Ambidexterity [5], Compartmentalized Mind 2 (No mental separation*, -20%) [80], Extra Arms (Four extra arms) [40], High Manual Dexterity 3 [15].

Perks: Dabbler (Computer Operation +2, Expert Skill [Political Science] +2, Law [United States Contract] +1, Literature +2, Sociology +1) [1].

*Source: GURPS Psionic Powers, pg. 14.


Loner (12 or less) [-5], Low Self-Image [-10], Pacifism (Reluctant killer) [-5], Shyness (Mild) [-5], Workaholic [-5].

Quirks: Tries to hide her extra arms whenever in public [-1].


Accounting 12 (IQ-1) [2], Administration 13 (IQ) [2], Economics 13 (IQ) [4], Finance 12 (IQ-1) [2], Mathematics/TL8 (Applied) 11 (IQ-2) [1], Mathematics/TL8 (Statistics) 14 (IQ+1) [8], Observation 12 (Per-1) [1].


Standard Equipment: Ordinary clothes and jacket, cellphone, laptop computer, notebook and pen, various textbooks and literature.

A 23 year old business student in Wichita, Kansas, Lyra Hawkins doesn’t stand out in the crowd (beyond one particular feature). She is 5’7″ and has a mostly average build that leans toward the thicker side, mussy ear-length black hair, hazel eyes, and typically wears a simple combination of jeans, tee shirt, and jacket…oh, and she has six arms. In her first year of college, Lyra suffered from a compulsive need to prove herself capable to her peers, driving herself to mental exhaustion trying to process more data than humanly possible. This sparked her latent SHED, resulting in her already existent keen intellect being augmented by a brain capable of processing more information at once and a triple dose of hands with particularly fine motor control.

While initially terrified about her sudden change, Lyra has tried to see her SHED as a benefit for her love of mathematical sciences and economic functions. Nonetheless, it was a major hit to her self-esteem, as she worries students, teachers, and prospective employers will see her SHED powers as a crutch and ignore her previously existing intelligence and skill. It would have been impossible to keep her status as SHED-affected a complete secret, and Wichita is not a city known for individuals prejudiced against those with SHED, but the student has become more shy and withdrawn ever since the incident, usually hiding her four lower arms in her jacket the best she can even when on campus or in other locales that already know her status as an affected individual.


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