Friday, September 1, 2017

The City That Walks And Is A God Has Arrived!

It has finally landed!

The first Gathox book (GVS1) is done, and I am completely pumped. This is a complete setting for Swords & Wizardry White Box, with tons of monsters, NPCs, new classes, rules for domain-level play starting at level 1, a starter adventure, maps galore, and more. This is muh baby, and it exists now, in the real world!

You can buy it here or you can click the link in the sidebar to the right.

I first dreamed up Gathox shortly after I released Grandpappy Cromdar's Whizbang Zoo!, while I was living with my friend and comics illustrator Tony Gregori in a crappy apartment in Missoula, MT. We had a big whiteboard where we'd draw dicks, tape up notes, track jobs, and so forth - it was like a real studio, ya see? Anyhow, I started writing ideas on the board every few days about a setting that I'd like to run. Slowly but surely, I started writing house rules for the game and putting out feelers for local friends who might want to play, and eventually it led to this book.

I'd like to say thank you to a lot of folks! My partner Ally Guldborg has spent countless hours playing, reading, editing, and encouraging this whole Gathox thing, and she's the best person ever. Her fingerprints are all over Gathox. I'd like to thank Mike Evans for putting in the elbow grease to help get this book across the finish line and for believing in the project. I'd like to thank Josh Wagner for letting Gathox be his first and for writing all of the amazing, intertwined chapter fiction in the book. I'd like to thank Robert Parker and Trey Causey for their intitial, crucial, game-changing edits on Gathox, and I'd like to thank Humza Kazmi, Chris Kutalik, Jason Sholtis, and all the dudes at Hydra for their initial interest and encouragement to pursue the book to it's end. I'd like to thank all the players from the home game and from one-off Gathox tournaments I've run.

VITAL STATS

Number of Seasons: 1 season of 50 sessions, 1 current season of 20+ sessions; various one-shots

Rounds of Rules Revisions: 6

Number of Dead PCs: 19 that I can find in my files

Number of Dead Hirelings: 42 that I can find in my files

Number of Hours Played: 290 +

The home game folks: Ally Guldborg, Tony Gregori, Spencer Bryant, William Saylor, Josh Wagner, Alexsa Prince, Paul Stephens, Greg Ransons, Erika Fredrickson, Evan Guldborg, Jenn Johnson, David Melvin, and Alyssa Calabrese.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Bevy of Hirelings That Have Already Died Once

I'd like to take a slightly different tack today and offer up as many of the old hirelings from previous campaigns of Gathox as I was able to muster out of the old files. Feel free to deploy these in your home game as you see fit - I mean, you could just go use a generator on donjon or abulafia, but why not use some hirelings with a bit of original flair? Additionally, all the hirelings listed here are adventure tested by previous players and have died wonderful, hilarious, and useful deaths before. Make them live again!

Porters

Pavel Flipperhand - porter/alcoholic newsie kid with a mutated penguin flipper - HP 3/3, To-Hit 20, AC 8 [11]; Karate Headband, Girdle, backpack, 1 burlap sack. Wages: Booze and housing.

Duncan "Coconut" Green - tropical tourist and enthusiastic porter - HP 6/6, To-Hit 20, AC 9 [10]; rope, pole, 4 large sacks. Wages: 3gp/week.

"Vulzari Joe" - reticent and spiteful Vulzari chickenman porter - HP 1/1, To-Hit 20, AC 7[12]; arm pouches, leg pouches, ossified shell doubling as a backpack. Wages: 10gp/month.

Vaclav - the archetypal, nondescript porter - HP 3/3, To-Hit 20, AC 9[10]; backpack, 10 ft, rope, newsie cap, stogie. Wages: 6gp/month.

Helga Mega-Olga - cherubic, ebullient Teutonic porter - HP 4/4, To-Hit 20, AC 8[11]; backpack, 2 large sacks, alpine cap, knee-high socks, grappling hook, 50' rope. Wages: 15gp/month.

Sick Boy - weak and allergic dying porter - HP 2/2, To-Hit 20, AC 9[10]; backpack, limb pouches, dust mask. Wages:8gp/month.

Link-folk

M-Pops - prim and proper linklass - HP 3/3, To-Hit 20, AC9[10]; 3 torches, lantern, 2 oils, wirebrush. Wages:10gp/month.

Muchimbal - flame-kissed arson enthusiast linkboy - HP 3/3, To-Hit 20, AC9[10]; 10 oils, flint and steel, crumpled paper, crumpled leaves, 1 torch. Must be allowed to commit arson once per day or leaves party. Wages: 3gp/month.

Zolo - linklass extraordinaire - HP 4/4, To-Hit 20, AC 8[11]; fire resistant gloves, tinderbox, flint and steel, pole torch, 3 oils, fire extinguisher. Wages: 20gp/month.

Jonesy - guy off the street with a torch - HP 1/1, To-Hit 20, AC 9[10]; 2 rations, torch, bic lighter. Wages: 5 gp/month.

Folk-At-Arms

Mister Tee - bodybuilding golfer-at-arms - HP 5/5, To-Hit 20, AC 7[12]; 9-iron (as club), fancy shield, reinforced knee breeches, gold bling, mohawk. Wages:20gp/month.

Wilhelmina Screamo - brooding and stylish woman-at-arms - HP 6/6, To-Hit 19, AC 5[14]; bondage armor, elbow pads, horned helm, guisaxeflamberd (polearm), megaphone. Wages: 25gp/month.

The Thin Green Duke - gaunt and ostentatious man-at-arms - HP 5/5, To-Hit 20, AC 5[14]; glittery shoulderpads, rhinestone girdle, reinforced green spandex jumpsuit, armored makeup, glamorous battle axe, polearm. Wages: 30gp/month.

T-Bone and Rex - dog man with two heads/watchdog-at-arms - HP 9/9, To-Hit 18, AC 7[12]; hatchet, shortbow (20 shots), thick hide, nose for trouble. Wages:40gp/month.

Terence Yancy/DJ T - plattermaster-at-arms - HP 5/5, To-Hit 20, AC 6[13]; morning star, dagger, elbow pads, knee pads, rockin' shades, eight 7" singles. Wages:20gp/month.

Hektor the Booty Inspektor - assistant-to-the-plattermaster - HP 4/4, To-Hit 20, AC 6[13]; morningstar, dagger, elbow&kneepads, rockin' shades, magnifying glass, air horn. Wages: 20gp/month.

Rad Rhonda - neon street-preacher-at-arms - HP 7/7, To-Hit 19, AC 3[16]; hot pink karate headband, neon green punching shield, electric blue chestplate, sunshine yellow kneepads, magenta elbowpads, laser pistol (9 charges), blackjack, megaphone. Wages:50gp/month.












Wednesday, August 23, 2017

I came fer the dyin': Healing, Death and Reincarnation in Gathox

Because the hit point economy is significantly altered in Gathox by the lack of clerics and the presence of quasi-modern medicine, and also because of the deadliness of numbers deflation in Gathox, I devised my own set of rules about death and reincarnation. These rules, accompanied by a description of the healing system, are just below the illustration of a common Gathoxan demise, Death by Zhezhn:

Health, Healing and Hospitalization


There are no clerics in Gathox, and magical healing is a rarity. Thus, the ‘healing economy’ of Gathox operates somewhat differently than in other game settings.

A freshly generated character is allowed to start with the maximum possible hit points according to their class and ability scores. Each level acquired afterward requires the character to roll their normal hit dice, keeping a running total for hit points. This gives starting characters a slight but important advantage in terms of survivability.

In combat, tightly focused exploration, or other situations where time is measured in rounds and turns, the party may choose to rest for 1 turn per hour, allowing each character to recuperate 1 lost hit point on a successful 3d6 vs. CON check. Additionally, a character may choose to rest for an entire hour, healing 1d3+1 hit points with a successful 3d6 vs. CON check. In either of these cases, the opportunity to heal only applies to characters that have not reached zero or fewer hit points.

Med kits may also be applied to injured characters once per day for the purposes of healing; a successful 3d6 vs. WIS check by a character with a med kit to an injured party members allows for the healing of 1d3+1 hp. A med kit may be used three times before it must be replaced. Spells, abilities, and various sundry and magical supplies may allow for additional healing. Finally, a 6 hour shift of sleep allows for the full recovery of hit points. PCs who reach zero or fewer hit points immediately fall unconscious, and bleed out 1 hp/round until healed, medkitted, or they reach ½ CON in negative hit points and die.

If a PC is reduced to zero or fewer hit points, they will require a week of hospitalization at the rate of 50 gp/level. The cost increases with level because higher level PCs have more Hit Dice and tend to suffer more grievous and complicated wounds. The players may need to cut that hospital time short or save cash, which plays out as follows:

    1) For each day less than 7 that a PC leaves the hospital early, they incur a 10% chance of infection. Infection consequences are left to GM fiat, with a nod toward creative results.

    2) For every 10 gp less that a character pays for hospitalization, they suffer a 1 point penalty to all attack rolls and Saving Throws for the following week.

    3) If a player wants to pay top dollar for intense restorative services and make it out of the hospital in a day, they can pay 100 gp/ level for the luxury of personalized care.

If players need on-the-spot healing while in the city but have not reached zero hit points, they have a 50% chance of finding someone to perform the service within a three block radius, and each character must spend 10 gp/ hp healed.

Character Death


If a PC should perish in the course of adventuring, the following protocols may ensue:

1) Surviving party members split the character’s gear as they see fit, and the player rolls up a new character at level 1. Party members cannot confer the dead character’s possessions to the newly rolled character.

2) The player of the deceased character may choose to instead play as the deceased’s hireling, if such a character exists. This 0-level character need only accrue 500XP to reach level 1, at which time the player may choose an appropriate class and reroll HP. The hireling may inherit some of the deceased character’s gear at the party’s discretion. Leveled hirelings or henchmen may be substituted.
3) The deceased may opt to Reincarnate if the party follows the following procedure:
    A) Bring the body and possessions of the deceased to one of the dozens of funeral pyres installed at the Catwalk of Private Vicissitudes.
    B) Douse the body and possessions on the pyre with Dew-on-Iron alcohol (100 gp worth).
    C) Light the pyre and watch it burn completely.

If the procedure is followed precisely, within 1d4 hours the reincarnated body of the deceased character will erupt from the ground wherever the party stands, naked and covered in mud, ready for action. A reincarnated character will have the following properties:
    A) Same age and different gender.
    B) A name that rhymes with the name of the deceased.
    C) Will remember living life in a parallel, utopian version of Gathox; an Ur-Gathox, if you will.
    D) Will have one ability score the same as the deceased, at the player’s pleasure.
    E) Will possess 1 negative mutation, rolled randomly.
    F) Will possess 1/2 the experience points of the deceased.
    G) Will be of a class of the player’s choosing after ability scores have been rolled.
    H) Will find a chicken skin pouch of coins in their left hand worth 1d6x10 gp.
    I) May possess a hireling who appears, also naked and covered in mud, 10% cumulative chance per level of the deceased.

A character may reincarnate twice; the negative mutations of previous reincarnations carry over, so that a re-reincarnated character will have two negative mutations. After a third death, the character may be interred in the walls of the Tunnel of Punctuated Peace, splitting 5% of the experience points of the deceased between each of the remaining party members as well as a freshly generated character.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Gathoxan Monsters: Zhezhn, Greater - Fear of Falling

Today I'd like to highlight a monster/trap known as the Fear of Falling.

Greater – Fear Of Falling
Armor Class: 2[17]
Hit Dice: 6
Attacks: special
Special: falling
Move: 10
HDE/XP: 8/800

As Big As: Two 10' floor traps spaced 10' apart.
Smells Like: A dash of ozone, a whiff of chlorine.
Sounds Like: Nothing.
Favorite Pastime: Perpetually dropping creatures to harvest their fear.
Turnoffs: Unknown.

The Fear Of Falling is a particularly nasty Zhezhn whose sole purpose is to inflict perpetual falling on a creature, harvesting their fear as they go. The Zhezhn consists of two 10' square pits, each of which acts as a portal to the other, which allows the Zhezhen to cause a creature to fall between itself for an indefinite period of time. The Zhezhn will remain stationary until someone approachesit, at which time it will quickly surprise (1-3 on a 1d6) its victim and move directly under it. Once the victim has fallen the equivalent of 100', the Zhezhn will spit them back out where they entered, incurring 10d6 falling damage. The Fear Of Falling can be detected with magic, psychic abilities, and blacklights, and can only be harmed by magic, psychic powers, or lasers.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Gathoxan Monster: Surdite, Lesser - Cryptkeeper


Lesser – Cryptkeeper
Armor Class: 6[13]
Hit Dice: 3
Attacks: 1
Special: Hidden escapes
Move: 12
HDE/XP: 4/120

As Big As: A skinny dead janitor.
Smells Like: Windex, rot.
Sounds Like: A carnival caller.
Favorite Pastime: Why, cleaning, of course!
Turnoffs: Messy corpses.

Cryptkeepers are the official janitors of the underbelly of Gathox, cleaning out the dead from dungeon corridors. Many a sunken ruin features a hidden room with 1d4 Cryptkeepers, who play their shoddy instruments through the wee hours and feast upon the dead. They aren't necessarily inimical to the living, and are animated by a curious and intrepid tapeworm. They instinctively know where hidden doors are, and use them to quickly move through dungeons or escape danger.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Gathox Alien Race: The X'Xul

Today I'd like to showcase the insipid alien race known as the X'Xul, including some stats, base information, and a couple of NPCs.


The X’Xul (“ZICK-sool”) are a species of bipedal locust wizards who stumbled into Gathox from their home world a thousand years ago. They have built a considerable slave empire in the city while they wait for Gathox to return to their home world. 

The X’Xul are a tight clade of phenotypically plastic, bipedal locust wizards from a planet called Tchk’Lektk (‘Chick LECK-tick-uh’), which Gathox has crossed only once. Stranded in the city after a brief visit, the X’Xul began the hard work of building an empire for themselves. While they trust one another due to their instinct-level psychic bonds, the X’Xul have no qualms with deceiving and destroying any sentient beings with endoskeletons.

While they might be most known among commoners for the miraculous magical tchotchke they manufacture, their reputation among The Craw is very different. First, they maintain great vats of mutagenic, semi-sentient flesh, which they use to disguise themselves as humans when in public and occasionally sell to individuals interested in extensive body modification or controlled mutation. Second, the X’Xul are responsible for the extensive slavery found throughout Gathox, due in no small part to their implementation of press gangs, which they call “Dedicated Volunteerism.”

Cerulean Municipal Conference Hall - This magnificent blue marble palace, built upon the wreckage of a fascist theatre complex, houses the majority of the X’Xul population in Gathox. The Cerulean Municipal Conference Hall features lush bamboo garden dormitories, ritual summoning chambers lined with the husks of powerful dead X’Xul wizards, and a stellar observatory, along with the usual bevy of functionary chambers. From here the locusts plot their machinations for the city, pursue arcane tangents, and greet those Gathoxans who might serve their ends. Few humans have seen the X’Xul unmasked, and those who do generally receive an invitation to the Conference Hall, never to be seen again.


K’x’rizxsa – (Spiritualist 11, X’Xul Overlord)

Cues: Often only dons the upper half of his human skinsuit, spits black bug juice when entertained, leaves a trail of bamboo shoots wherever he goes.

Imperious to a fault, K’x’rizxsa ("KICKS-uh-risks-uh") believes his position as Overlord of the X’Xul to be utterly secure. After all, who else could manage the Mokrons and Gorgontulas while maintaining a slave army and manufacturing the finest magical toys in the town? Certainly not his predecessor, who sat idle as the Dedicated Volunteers revolted and devoted his long mating cycles to the study of human morality. No, K’x’rizxsa is unique among his people in that he is completely incapable of interspecies empathy, which makes him the perfect defender of his race. Furthermore, the rest of the X’Xul know it.

K’x’rizxsa fears the day when humans come to fully understand who and what his people are, and would rather be the singular face of monstrosity when needed than have his entire clade face the prospect of genocide. He also believes himself perfectly competent to handle the issue, although recent Dohjak spy reports indicate that the Overlord’s mind has begun to slip ever so slightly.


Ch’laut’tk - (Cosmic Doctor 4, X’Xul Rebel)

Cues: Human skin wrinkles and bunches excessively, rapid speech filled with clicks, kicks the ground when nervous.

Ch’laut’tk ("Chuh-LOUT-tick") was born with a shrunken gland in his nervous system that kept him from psychic attachment to the rest of his X’Xul clade, resulting in his ability to understand and absorb the moral frameworks of other sentient beings. At an early age he exhibited a disturbing lack of cruelty, resulting, as it so often does, in exile.

These days Ch’laut’tk splits his time between haunting the Chemok Mine, searching for escaped slaves in hopes of leading them against their masters, and exploring the ruins beneath the Spire, often pairing up with other prospectors in the area to maximize his take. Ch’laut’tk currently owns and religiously studies a book called “Liberation Thaumaturgy And The Inner You,” and is quick to share his views on the modern self-improvement movement.


X'Xul
Armor Class: 0[19]
Hit Dice: 5
Attacks: 2 claws or spell
Special: Psychic link
Move: 18
HDE/XP: 8/800

As Big As: A horse-sized grasshopper.
Smells Like: Bug juice and grape soda.
Sounds Like: The clacking of chitin, the whir of a thousand gossamer wings.
Favorite Pastime: Genetic experimentation, slaving.
Turnoffs: Fleshbags, meatsacks, carnivals.

The X'xul are transdimensional wizards who've become trapped on Gathox. They deploy slaves to work Gathoxan mines, and are capable of reading the obscure signs of Gathox's movements. They often use human skinsuits, grown in vats deep within the Cerulean Municipal Conference Hall, to interact with other sentient species in public. Few in Gathox are aware of the true nature of the X'xul. Most operate alone or in pairs, although all X'xul within a one-mile radius share a basic psychic link with one another. X'xul prefer to use slave labor to fight for them when possible. They cast spells as a Mentalist of equivalent HD, and there are ancient X'xul who've shed their exoskeleton so many times that they've grown to 20 HD.












Thursday, June 22, 2017

Gathox Neighborhoods: The Kettle

Previously we took a look at the map for Berchan Favela, the oldest neighborhood in Gathox, but today I'd like to share with you the largest - a festering pit called The Kettle.

The Kettle


Much of the action and bustle of Gathox reveals itself in the daily thrum of the Kettle. Visitors enter through the low-lying Gate of Exploding Benevolence, first ascending a metal ramp supported by ten thousand muscular human legs grafted to the underside and then passing through the quintuple-arches of the Gate itself. Locals may pass into and out of Gathox through the Kettle by using the Tunnel of Punctuated Peace to the west or the Catwalk of Private Vicissitudes to the northeast.

Once inside, visitors are treated to a dizzying array of sights and spectacles in the central bazaar, The Dregs. In the mornings, the squealing of livestock in mid-slaughter mixes with the raspy calls of town criers as the scent of egg blood soup and Dew-on-Iron fill the air. Dead hangovers and the quiet aftermath of misbegotten nights render this the most peaceful time of day.

By mid-day, the streets clog with marketeers, sly-men, pickpockets, dancehall crashers, and representatives of Neighborhood Friendship Societies. The sewer gases heat and rise, mingling with the aroma of fresh fried meats and body odor. Supplicants of Sha-Benyu, resplendent in their neon pink robes and body paint, preach and beg for the glory of the God That Grows and Grows.

In the evenings, scummers smoke the narcotic huckleberry-like paste of the bakra root in recessed doorways while street barbecues rage into the wee hours. Green neon fumes tepidly billow out of dance halls, and the light of a thousand precariously stacked lilliputian apartments spills out into the streets and delicately illuminates the misty spires of Gathox’s dizzying heights.

Who Rules


Four Neighborhood Friendship Societies maintain a relatively stable balance of power in the Kettle: the highly successful Dohjaks, the conservative Huttimer, alien beings who call themselves Kermen, and fresh upstarts known as The Free Peoples Advancement. Each faction controls roughly a quarter of the Kettle, and all have agreed to settle territorial disputes through public ritual. While the occasional spat of gangland warfare may erupt, these well-established factions agree that, “Peace equals profits.”

The Dohjaks - The Dohjaks (“DOY-ox”) are an ethnically homogenous gang heralding from a distant homeworld long-forgotten by all but the most wizened and historically steeped members of their community. They have thoroughly entrenched themselves in the politics of the Kettle, and while their numbers are dwindling, they nonetheless wield considerable influence and economic might.

Dohjaks distinguish themselves visually with red and purple togas, silver close-toed sandals, and golden touques on their heads. Their speech is generally rapid and overly friendly, often to the point of inspiring discomfort. Their skin tones range from light brown to coal, and their eyes are generally golden.

The Huttimer - The Huttimer people are a conservative, insular group of religious sectarians who follow the pronouncements and instructions of the Gorman clan, whose progenitors wrote the (un)holy Gormanian Edicts.

They fashion their surroundings in a sturdy and plain manner, eschewing graven images. On the legitimate end they sell beer, butter, furniture, and sturdy working tools. Beneath this veneer of honesty and hard work lies a heavy truth: these are sacrificial sex cultists who readily trade the boons of their black rituals for steep piles of hard coin.

The Huttimer wear plain leather clothing punctuated with paisley patterns on cotton. The men wear their hair short with muttonchops or chin beards, while the women wear their hair pinned up in beehives. Their leader, always the eldest male Gorman, is called a Purveyor, and his wife is called The Unburdened.

The Kermen - Kermen business leaders have a saying: “A noble bid for freedom always begins with the loosening of purse strings.” These one-eyed, hyper-capitalist aliens cloak their base greed with a steady drumbeat of individualist poetry and sentiment. Despite their natural selfishness, they regularly fund some of the most ostentatious (if lacking in utility) public works and high-end designs in the Kettle.

Kermen fund themselves through venture capital, investment in factory production at the Temple of Toil manufacturing complex, and slave labor. They often contract hits on rival producers and will occasionally fund ‘grassroots’ mobs to bust up uncooperative marketplaces. They reward selfishness and greed, but always pay humans and mutants less than Kermen operatives. 9-piece suits and overly dramatic capes are the uniform of the elites; their CEO is often required to sport three capes atop a number of stacked blazers.

The Free Peoples Advancement - The FPA started as a labor movement of former factory slaves and outcast mutants, seeking mutual economic protection through solidarity. On the surface this still appears to be true - members speak the language of solidarity and wear the orange armband of the FPA over their working clothes. Beneath the surface, however, a triumvirate of elite families have taken over as silent owners, funding worker revolts in the Kettle to create easy market opportunities for wealthy interests from the Craw neighborhood.

FPA agents specialize in disguise and infiltration, often developing sleeper cells within other Neighborhood Friendship Societies. FPA members pay dues, which afford them a certain amount of protection as well as discounts among fellow FPA merchants. The X’xul, Mokron, and Gorgontula families (see p.xx) run the FPA from the Craw.