I've been writing and playtesting my new old school setting, Gathox Vertical Slum, for 8 months now, and I've decided to start sharing the setting with folks online. I'll be including play reports from the home game, fiction, art, and gameable pieces here. I'll be posting at least once a week and often more here. If you like what you see please let me know, I'll be happy to respond here or elsewhere. I hope you enjoy.
This first post features the flavor text I hand out to each new player that comes to the table. It's comprised of firsthand accounts of the city of Gathox, as well as a Chamber of Commerce-styled welcome text at the end. Here it is:
"It was in the second month of Creshanne, the Season of Nettles, that my brother Mokul and I came to reside in the Great Spire of Gathox. For weeks we had hunted in the forests beyond our crumbling village, desperate for a rare bit of winter-worn meat. The ground was still frozen, and we could not till the earth, and in that window between snow and growth our ailing father had succumbed to famine and disease. The skin hung loosely from our frames, our very bones still trembling in the icy breeze which invaded our long coats like the searching hands of a robber.
"We silently descended through a branch-choked ravine whose hunting paths had faded some years ago. Upon the trunk of a gnarled tree some beast had rubbed off a bit of its fur – a small but measurable thread of hope. After an hour the brush broke before us into a strange, low valley. The temperature rose to that of a late summer day, quickly sweating us like onions frying in a pan. At the nearest the ground was bare rock and dust. Toward the center of the valley fey greenery twisted and conjoined, growing more dense toward the east. The squall and tick of ungainly raptors flying overhead pierced the silence of our hunt. A musky scent, as of cardamom and boiling fish, wafted gamely toward us from that far eastern crest.
"Attaining the valley floor and turning eastward, Mokul and I nearly dropped our muskets in sheer stupefaction at what towered before us. Less than a half mile from our position hovered an improbable architecture, a displaced city, vertical in the extreme, thrust upward like a dagger piercing the heart of the sky. Merchantmen herded rank beasts into columns which bore cartloads of goods, their activity mirroring that of the featherless terror birds and their purple-clothed riders above.
"Approaching the base of the city, we found access to the first floor by means of a metallic ramp, corrugated in such a way as to suggest it had been unfurled from a bale to reach the ground. No one gave us the slightest acknowledgement as we mounted the walkway, following our noses to the undeniable scent of boiling broth and searing meat beyond the entry. Once inside, it took a moment for our eyes to adjust to the dimness of long, crowded halls that spread in every direction.
"Pipes dripping with condensation spurt forth jets of steam just above our heads. Bits of refuse and sodden filth covered the concrete floor and obscured the baseboards of the walls about us. Water dripped onto our heads from some unseen height far above. Throngs of threadbare workers ambled between shops and eateries illuminated by queer greenish-yellow lights. Some residents slept on piles of blankets lining the walls, while others turned locks to disappear into cluttered apartments beyond. Scaled beasts, walking upright and brandishing the most crude and cruel arms elbowed past rows of foppishly uniformed soldiers and sleekly-attired businessmen as smaller humanoids darted between their legs. Heavy groans as of earth and metal upheaving in some deep chasm punctuated the sounds of hidden musicians, cruel laughter, slurping mouths, and clinking coins.
"Mokul and I were hungry. Our people diminished every year, and every year our peonage grew more insufferable. How could we not have seen salvation within these walls of bustling commerce, of strange beings from far off lands? How could we have known the perils and yes, even the riches, which were to try us time and again within the walled city of Gathox? I had yet to breathe deep the narcosis of the Bakra root, taste the tongue of a devilishly handsome brothelman, or wrest my limbs from the clutches of the Vad-ash vines in the Great Arboretum. Mokul could not have known then that he would be enslaved by the Cult of Sha-Benyu, eventually to die in a gangland turf war in the upper compartments of the city.
"All we knew was hunger; what little we knew of death!"
-from the Memoirs of Sonandra Massone, Year of Gathox 347
“The first thing that struck me about the place was its immense proportions – no decent architect would dare construct something so impossibly tall, so dangerously narrow.
“The second thing about Gathox was that it teemed with life – if it weren't for the occasional necessity of stripping interior structures to their bare metal frames, I would have sworn the entire place was made of the living and the breathing and the dying and shitting that played out across its floors. The seams of Gathox leak the soiling fluids of its 50,000 tenants. You'd swear the walls were held together by the stuff.
“If you're convinced that Gathox is just a construct, and I'm not at all certain of that, be aware that when fog comes creeping down the halls and alleys that it is nearly always followed by indoor rain. Be aware that when a floor gets demolished, and they sometimes do, that the entire city groans and heaves for days after. Be aware that when Gathox shifts between worlds, the entire city heats up and the walls literally sweat warm saltwater!”
-Mirez “The Smirk” Bolan, night bouncer at The Heat of the Kill, 3rd floor dance hall
“But cities aren’t like people; they live on and on, even though their reason for being where they are has gone downriver and out to sea.”
-Slaanya Yuptyke, urban philosopher and metropolitan alchemist
“Life’s a motherfucker. Give me your coin.”
-The big mutant bastard who has his tentacle wrapped around your throat
Welcome, players, to Gathox Vertical Slum! The Great Spire is truly a guiding light for all road-weary travelers, a grand cauldron boiling the future brew of all sentient beings, and a place of liberation and independence for those willing to work for it! May you find your place in its steaming bosom.
Here in Gathox you’ll find all the amenities of modern life - from noodle slingers to tooth-workers, smithies to aerialists, solemn temples to houses of respite. No need is so great that it cannot be met here in the lower reaches of the city, called The Kettle, or on the upper floors, lovingly referred to by residents as The Craw.
There’s a place for everyone in Gathox, and there’s always work to be done! Are you a farmer looking for fertile soil? Try your luck clearing out some abandoned neighborhood for your urban crops or converting empty chambers into a hanging garden! Are you a hardened soldier of fortune? Sign up for patrol duty with one of our many Neighborhood Friendship Societies! Perhaps you’re an entrepreneur looking for new customers? Gathox has no government or restrictions, so you’re free to start your new business literally anywhere you can afford and defend space! The possibilities are endless!