Monday, May 9, 2016

Freebie Time: Three Gathoxan Spells for your table

Today, I'd like to share some Gathoxan spells with you. There's a bit of simple reskinning, which gives you a a good nose-full for the game, and also some genuine invention. I don't fret about components and the like, but if you do, feel free to change these spells around as you see fit. Enjoy!

Cantrip: Filkenpfahler’s Flaming Finger  

Yeah, this is a thing.

This spell ignites a small (2”), hot flame on the end of the middle finger of the caster, which can only be used to start fires or flash a more potent version of the universal hand gesture. Lasts 1 round.

Level 1 - Arimena’s Deflector  

 It works like this . . . see . . .

This spell conjures a rotating half-globe of thin, crackling magical energy which can quickly move around the caster to intercept up to 3 +1/lvl attacks per round. The Deflector requires an incoming attack to first pass its own AC of 5 before rerolling the caster’s AC. Lasts 3 rounds.

Level 1 - Fur and Burdens  

 Step 1: magic. Step 2: put things on rabbit's head. Step 3: Worry for nothing.

This spell summons a spectral rabbit, 2’ in length, whose ears are folded upward to create a support platform. This rabbit will bear up to 100 lbs. /lvl of the caster, stacked one atop another in a seemingly precarious fashion yet never spilling an item. The rabbit can successfully leap gaps of up to 10’, and will always remain within 20’ of the caster. Lasts 3 turns +1 turn/lvl. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sonandra Massone and the Fine Art of Jumping from Buildings to Steal Stuff

Today, I'm spotlighting another NPC for your literary and brainstorming pleasure: Sonandra Massone - Gathoxan transplant, quasi-famous resident of the Berchan Favela, and stoic leader of the Headlong Hurlers. You can find a first-hand account of her arrival in Gathox here. Below you'll find her profile, a brief on the Hurlers and their Friendship Hall, and stats for the Gathoxan Wingsuit.

Sonandra Massone: Pirate, Cult Leader, Extreme Sports Enthusiast.

Sonandra Massone - (Martial Master 5 and leader of the Headlong Hurlers)

    Cues: Speaks with a drawl at a slow, deliberate pace; noticeably bereft of extraneous adornments; her eyes are wide and unblinking, affecting a thousand-yard stare.

    Sonandra arrived with her brother Mokul from a cold, barren world which she never mentions by name. Several years of simultaneously toiling and indulging her worst impulses drove her into a deep depression, amplified by the subsequent death of her brother at the hands of Sha-Benyu cultists in the Kettle. Alone and stripped of all the trappings of her past, she sought salvation in fanatical devotion to The Goddess Who Balances On Narrow Precipices. First training with Pankratz at Kamma Tower, then betraying his trust during the Night of Sighing Clowns and turning the tide in favor of the Powertruthers, she finally committed herself to pursuing empire in the name of Ji’Gin’Jir.

    Sonandra only accepts women into the Headlong Hurlers, her fanatical gang of wingsuited, scraperdiving cultists. She lives, trains, and raids with them in their Neighborhood Friendship Hall, which she received from the Wind Merchants in exchange for the lives of dozens of trade competitors. Sonandra deeply dislikes the Elven Kings and only occasionally preys upon the lesser residents of Berchan. When the whim strikes her, she will deem fit to act upon requests from the poorest denizens of the Favela, although she typically takes liberties when interpreting their desires.

The early years: Kill all night, drink all day.

    The Headlong Hurlers - Originally a skydiving cult dedicated to the worship of the Goddess Who Balances On Narrow Precipices, the Hurlers became an aggressive militant street gang after the arrival of their current leader, Sonandra Massone. Massone armed and organized the cult, emphasizing the shock potential of wingsuiting into the streets to seize whatever they want. Their subsequent successes have led to rapid growth in the Favela.

    The Hurlers have taken control of the multi-story perch poles scattered across Berchan, using them as recon posts and launching sites to dive into the streets. They wear colorful, high-tech wingsuits and brandish two-handed swords, and their bravado matches their skill. They only allow women into their ranks and hope to become the dominant force in Berchan, harboring a deep hatred for the Elven Kings. Protection rackets and targeted raids feed their enterprise.

First concept sketch of the Hurlers.

    Headlong Hurlers Neighborhood Friendship Hall - A single elevator sits at the base of a 22-story windowless tower in the northeastern corner of Berchan, with only a line of odd, abstracted facial expressions carved into granite to indicate any significance about the location. A ride up the elevator takes visitors to the 18th floor, a cold, dim atrium guarded by six of the Hurlers. Those lucky enough to proceed further find spartan dormitories on the 19th floor, common living and working facilities on the 20th, a grand and artless meeting hall on the 21st, followed by an intense training facility on the 22nd. The roof of the tower features retractable climbing poles, which allow scraperdiving access from up to 35 stories.

    Sonandra Massone lives in the common dorms along with the rest of the Hurlers, eschewing the excesses of gang leadership in a show of solidarity with her sisters. The monastic life of the Headlong Hurlers breeds fanaticism, and their dedication to The Goddess Who Balances On Narrow Precipices never wavers. Here the Hurlers plot their forays into the city, and the only reaches of Gathox denied them are those of higher altitude in the Craw. Excess wealth is stored in a grand vault, from which regular tithes to lesser shrines of the Goddess are extracted and delivered in the most athletic fashion.

Flying Wombat Armor/ Gathoxan Wingsuit - This suit of ultra-light armor features a woven mix of kevlar and carbon fibers, sewn into the form of a 'onesy' jumpsuit. The most incredible feature of this new, cutting edge technology is the wings and tailflap sewn between the limbs, allowing for high speed controlled falls. Basejumping parachute included. +2 AC, 1 enc, 800gp. Armorless versions are available for Mentalists for the same price.

*Operation: Without training, the wingsuit requires a 5d6 vs. DEX check to operate successfully; with verbal instruction, 4d6 vs. DEX; with 5 or more successful jumps, 3d6 vs. DEX. The check must be made when first jumping and when significantly altering course. If jump and course-change checks have been made successfully, there is no need to make a check for pulling the parachute cord; however, failing either of the jump or course checks will necessitate an exploding 2d6 vs. DEX check to deploy the parachute.

*Death from falling is the number one killer in Gathox. Flying Wombat Manufacturing assumes no liability for accidental, incidental, coincidental, ironic, karmic, or purposeful injury or death due to the use of Flying Wombat Products.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Gathox Sessions #13 - 17: Binge and Purge!

In the spirit of catching play reports up to speed with our current Gathox game, I'm compressing the next ten or so play reports into a few posts. For those that enjoy session recaps, this'll be like binge-watching, only it won't eat up your whole day.

Session #13: Lucky Dungeon Day

After a pared down team of Firestarters took out the Fisherman, the team returned the following week in hopes of mapping the rest of level 1 of Ce-C'el. The group decided to tackle the northwest quadrant.

First crossing a railless bridge over a wildly windy chasm, the team met encountered the Birdman, his eyes and mouth sewn mostly shut, tending an innocuous flock of rare birds. Emboldened by this relatively safe room, the team proceeded into a museum-like room, complete with a pristine Hemicuda:

 Do you know where this is going?

a ponytailed ice cream man in stasis:

Yes, yes you do. 

 and various accoutrements of 80's badassery: leather jacket, leather gloves, chains, and sweet shades. The team liberated much of the goodies from their preservation cases while leaving the ice cream man behind, and proceeded north.

Unfortunately, they encountered The Lanky Gent:


Accompanied by his murderballs:

Oh yeah!

And gravidwarves:


A heated battle ensued, and the Lanky Gent was driven from his room into other corridors. The hell-like arena of the room faded:

Cramming the entire Phantasm series into one room . . .

It was apparently nothing more than a cheap projector deceit. Facing the end of the session, and unable to locate the Lanky Gent, the Firestarters stole a chandelier and the projectors and returned topside.

The Take:

485 xp each; wingmen 230
285 gp each; wingmen 140

Session #14: Save Tents and the Curmudgeon

Returning to Ce-C'el in hopes of mapping a southern section of the dungeon, the players crossed a series of short but dangerous chasm-spanning catwalks. The team mused on how to best find The Gardener (rumored to live down in these parts), and proceeded to the most likely room of the map. unfortunately, the doorway was guarded by a deadly, 15-foot tall Crystal Goblet:

Badly injured but triumphant, the team continued into the southeast quadrant, killing off man-sized sunflower plants and generally pissing off The Gardener, who refused them succor. Passing compost heaps and stealing expensive-looking portraits of old-timey mutants, the team mistakenly ran into the Mi-Chiw turtle cultists. Here, the party nearly experienced a TPK, as Steve the Manglefaced Psychic died by throat-slit, Goron the Eater of Duck died by skull-smashing, and the hireling Mutant Freak known as T-Bone and Rex (two-headed dogboy), died in terrible magic fire.

It was like this, more like this than you would think.

Upon escape, Steve's body was taken to the Catwalk of Private Vicissitudes, where the remaining team performed the ritual of reincarnation. An hour after completion, Steve reincarnated as Neve, bursting forth naked (and opposite gender) from the mud.

Not pictured: anger, sadness, resentment.

Neve was very confused as to why he had been wrenched from the just and equitable land of the Anti-Gathox and, ". . . into this godforsaken hellhole. Neve hates it here. You people suck." The team was happy for the gift which Providence had provided, and went home to lick their wounds at Needle Point.

The Take:

771 xp
308 gp

Session # 15: A Level In Full (or not)

Our protagonists returned, yet again, to Ce-C'el, grim in their determination to map this first level and claim their reward from the Dohjaks. Retreading some old territory, the team cleaned up the remnants of the Fishermen, stole their carbon fiber throne, and proceeded to defuse a shadow lamp trap which had imprisoned Thla the Heedless. The trap ate up most of the session, leading to a paltry haul but also a markedly less deadly foray.

The Take:

190 xp
160 gp

Session #16: Takin' it to the Edge!

As the team continued to explore the perimeter of the first level, they found need in returning to the northwestern quadrant, former home of The Lanky Gent (by this time referred to by the party as The Curmudgeon). Knowing what they were in store for, the team girded their loins for battle against more gravidwarves and murderballs.

The Firestarters located the Gravidwarf chamber and managed to save a shrunken Dohjak from full conversion into evil servant of The Lanky Gent.
They then severed the hands of a number of others, stole mutagen and other chemicals, and proceeded east. They were once again taken by surprise at a reverse gravity room, although they fared better than their previous experience with it's like. The next room featured tanks storing gravidwarves in stasis, with a strange control panel in the middle. Brother Saget first deciphered the controls backwards, releasing a number of the little beasts before getting the controls right.

The Firestarters scavenged magnets from the bases of the tanks, and headed north beyond some double doors. There, they found a passage from Ce-C'el far across the city and into the basement of a strange but eerily familiar temple to the Goddess Who Balances On Narrow Precipices. Tired, low on supplies, and eager to see the light of day, the team only managed to find a few meager jeweled sex toys during their mad dash to the surface. Lo and behold, they emerged from a trap door in the Dohjak's new Herbarium, recently refurbished after the fire at Kamma Tower . . . caused by the Firestarters! The team had stumbled upon an underground connection between Ce-C'el and the very first dungeon they encountered at Kamma Tower, a.k.a. the Mudling Mansions.

'Tis sweet, after so long in dungeon pent . . .

The Take:

565 xp
387 gp

Session #17: The Big ToDo

Before entering Ce-C'el, the Firestarters learned by way of the weekly paper that the Kermen, their long-hated alien foes, had issued a formal bounty on their heads. Conflicted, they still chose to enter Ce-C'el, the smell of impending success goading them onward.

Having mapped their way into certainty that only a few rooms remained, the team headed northeast to take on the remnants of the Lanky Gent's minions and claim full victory over level 1. First, they wiped out an entrenched pack of Vulzari chicken-men and their thralls, celebrating by cooking and eating their unhatched eggs.

 Delicious and nutritious!

Next, they crossed a bridge to the north, entering a mausoleum where the Cryptkeepers clearly stored bodies for later consumption. The Firestarters defeated the gravidwarves and lead murderball guarding the place, although at the cost of Mike the Handy Mutant's alien hireling Goobooboo.

With one last room to investigate, the team found corrugated metal stairs leading up to the door. The stairs were clearly marked with yellow hazard stripes. Thinking nothing of the obviously marked trap, Thla the Heedless lived up to his name and dashed up the steps, which immediately collapsed into a chute which shot him out the side of the dungeon and into the chasm, 10 stories below.


Thla miraculously made his saving throw to cut 10d6 worth of falling damage in half, and rolled sufficiently high on the Death and Dismemberment table so as to experience a few more moments of life. At negative seven hit points and bleeding out, things didn't look good for the Heedless One.

However, Mike and Brother Saget managed to use a combination of the Falling Leaves spell and some rope and ladder to get to the bottom of the chasm. They bound Thla's wounds just in time (end of the round at -9 HP) as huge forms lumbered toward them in the darkness. Using the strength of the topside team to haul up Thla's broken body, the group managed to get up to the first level before meeting the massive, slavering beasts of the pit. The final room contained, much to the joy of Brother Saget, a substantial arcane library with some choice tomes for the pillaging.

Dodging as many random encounters as possible, the team eeked their way through the level toward the exit, dealing death to a Surdite bug colony who wanted to eat Thla's body. Exiting to the Dohjak Neighborhood Friendship Hall, the Firestarters had finally mapped level 1 of Ce-C'el.

Now, they merely have to deal with that bounty on their heads . . .

The Take:

703 xp; wingmen 312
308 gp; wingmen 137

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Gathox Session #12 Play Report

A pared-down crack team of Firestarter die-hards entered Ce-C'el with goldlust and murderous intent. They reentered the dungeon through the retractable statue in the first room, following bloodstains from some apparent attempt at dungeon corpse removal. After briefly checking in with the gimps at the forge, the Firestarters proceeded to the northwestern section of the main blue halls, finding a chokepoint access to the back end of the Gongwarped Fishermen's encampment.

Like this, but with extra horror.

The team ambushed a large contingent of Fishermen and managed to keep them divided  between two rooms. After picking them off one at a time, they finally defeated the monstrous and now-headless leader of the beasts and made friends with one of the remaining mutant freaks. Hauling a large cache of goodies proved slow and dangerous, leading to a hard scrabble out of the dungeon and into fresh air.


*Amadeus "Elf Boy" Marmaduke: splitting heads and finding any excuse to write anti-Kermen graffitti.

*Brother Saget: casting a 'Huygen's Barrier' spell and overloading, which summoned a bouncing Filth Elemental to roam the heated battle, randomly smashing things.

*Mutant Thla: teleporting a laser pistol from the hands of the Fish Boss, thereby saving the party from a volley of deadly (and armor ignoring) laser fire.

*Mike the Mutant: rolling more natural 20's and hits than anyone else,  even causing a Vulzari to die in a cartoonish poof of feathers. Also, for collecting teeth. Also for recruiting a two-headed dog man named Rex & T-Bone as his hireling.

The Take:

4 Gongwarped Fishermen
1 Fish Boss
3 mutant freaks
4 Vulzari
9 Retch Flies
1 Pinko Cultist
*Tapestries worth 750 gp
*3 mysterious beakers
*Scroll of 'Falling Leaves'
*Gold stashes worth 760 gp
*1 Stretch-O-Matic brand (TM) (R) Torture Dungeon Couples Play Rack, worth 1,400 gp
*1 mutant freak hireling, a two-headed dog-man named T-Bone and Rex

Each player receives 1,265 xp and 722 gp.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Gathox Sessions #10 & #11 Play Report, In Brief

The Firestarters  were contracted by the Dohjaks to clean out the long abandoned and shifting ruins of Ce-C'el beneath their base. Providing a variety of paid targets, the Dohjaks were most hopeful that some of their soldiers would be returned to them.

For their first delve into unexplored ruins, the party survived largely unscathed. They befriended dungeon gimps, found a save tent, met the curry-obsessed Lumigoy, captured and tortured some Kermen, avoided turtle cultists, and fought dearly with the Gongwarped Fishermen. Succeeding in returning a badly injured Dohjak to his brethren, the Firestarters emerged from the yeast-choked ruins with no worse than moderate hospitalization awaiting them.

The Take:

6 gimps
1 Baaligir
8 mutant freaks
4 Kermen
4 Fishermen
6 Scavengers
a modest pile of gold
1 purple vial

Per Party Member:

Sidekick Cheetah gets 121 xp
78.5 gp
32 gp for Cheetah

The Analysis: 

This was my first chance to play around with the notion of a megadungeon in Gathox. I took note of the work Keith Davies did with his node-based megadungeon design and Jaquay'ed the living hell out of it. The resulting mix provided all sorts of revealing interconnections and, ultimately, surprising and delightful play for the entire table. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Gathox Session #9 Play Report: Loose Ends and Brain Hacking

Leveraging their knowledge of Jiang Bao's circumstances as well as their possession of the Trepanator, the team managed to negotiate the restoration of Mua's mind for greater gold and top-notch future discounts on antiques.

The team entered the bent and shattered mind of Bao's son and began their search for a cure. Apparently, all minds are puzzle dungeons!

Go! Go! Go!

Puzzles solved:

*The Fear Room, where reckless abandon teaches you to run straight at walls.

*The Hope Room, where watering plants causes verdant jungles to grow throughout the mind.

*The Language and Pain Rooms, where linguistic abilities were temporarily suspended. Also, pain is a parlor, full of tricks and deceit.

*The Memory Room, a vast and disorganized library with ladders reaching upward for miles.

*The illusion of the Awe Room, the silent-film conflict against the Father in the Misery Room, and the shattered portraits of the Hate Room.

The Take:

200gp per player and 300xp. Also, the Trepanator remained property of the Firestarters, and the gang has access to one business quarter's time in which to access discounted antiques.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Gathox Session #8 Play Report - A Truly Epic Session

 Our hobos began the session by scoping out the flow of traffic into the back rooms of the casino. Eventually, mutant Thla made psychic contact with the floor boss's mind, gleaning some information and then accidentally spamming his brain with psychic effluvia, causing him to convulse on the ground. Additional guards rushed into the office to investigate the commotion, which provided the excuse for cosmic doctor Sergio to enter the room under the pretense of aiding the screaming boss. Casting a sleep spell which overloaded, Sergio silently dropped all the guards in the room and caused the floor boss to disappear from this plane of existence.

The team ransacked the office, finding complete floor plans for the casino (including the location of an ominous pit), and subsequently finding a secret safe room. Sergio cracked the safe, only to be crippled by a poison arrow trap. Brother Saget, the spider-headed faith healer, began to set a fire trap on the main office door while the rest of the party split between guarding the room and exploring the dormitories of the employees.

 Pictured: A common tactic, but add fire.

Fake elf and blood crusted martial master Amadeus began exploration with Mangleface Steve and newcomer stink-mutant BullChevy Picklefarts, raiding footlockers and kicking over bunkbeds. Two guards met their end at Amadeus's hand, and a third was smothered in his sleep by Steve.

Coming to the boss's suite, the three teammates found the door barricaded by three elite smokeroom attendants. Steve muscled the barricade open, only to have an attendant hurl a deadly accurate dagger which severed her left arm and left her bleeding out. BullChevy was subsequently knocked out by a well-placed blow to the chin, leaving Amadeus to duke it out in a desperate bid for survival. Three dead attendants and a brainpunch later, Amadeus exited the room rich with additional plunder.

Regrouping and waking up unconscious teammates, the gang made a plan to arm the fire trap barricade at the office door and enter the sub-halls of the casino in a fast and furtive push to locate Jiang Mua. Diverting guards in the dark halls with a clever ruse vis a vis Sergio's silver tongue, the team made it to a rough hewn pit where the casino dumped bodies. Mutant Thla felt the psychic call of something immense and terrible below and volunteered for the spelunking.

Pictured: A good idea. For reals.

Making his way down 80' to a dank cavern floor, he found the place overgrown with a carpet of moss and bioluminescent fungus. In the distance, a great glowing winged entity, pulsating with psychadelic colors, hovered over the body of Mua, tendrils of energy engulfing the young man as well as extending into the casino floor above. Thla retrieved Mua, hefting the man's body while waging a dire psychic battle. The mutant finally escaped, but not before feeling the long term effects of mental contact with one of the Zhezhn of Gathox.

With the boy and the Trepanator retrieved, the gang needed to make a quick and dirty exit. The guards and employees finally burst down the office door, only to fall prey to Saget's fire trap, while the team detonated a stick of dynamite to enhance the confusion of the scene. They escaped through the cashier's door, where stink-mutant BullChevy hocked a paralytic loogie directly into the cashier's mouth, silencing her.

With the casino burning and half in ruins, the team escaped into the free air of Kermen territory and returned to Bao's antique shop. Bao paid in a timely fashion and with deep thanks, but desperate to wake his son from his psychic torpor. The team surreptitiously kept the Trepanator for the time being, returning to Dohjak territory to settle in for hospitalizations and carousing.

The Highlights:

*Amadeus brain punching attendants to death' covering himself in their blood, and writing the team's new gang name, Firestarters, in blood everywhere.

*Sergio's incredible luck in overloading the sleep spell, which teleported the floor boss to destinations unknown. Also, his charm with guards and elderly casino regulars alike.

*Mangleface Steve's epic accidental quest to roll more times on the Death and Dismemberment table and lose the most body parts out of any gang member.

*Saget's prudence, both in hanging back from battles and in strategic trap construction.

*BullChevy's magnificent powers of stench overwhelming guards, and his incredible aim when spitting.

*Thla's investigation of the psychic and psychadelic, leading him into contact with entities from beyond the physical plane. Also, his dangerous gambit to rescue Mua.

*Finally, FOUR Death and Dismemberment rolls, miraculously without a single PC death!

The Take:

*11 dead or defeated guards
*3 butchered casino attendants
*1 plane-banished floor boss
*1 missing person rescued: Jiang Mua
*1 artifact recovered: the Trepanator

GP per PC: 640
XP per PC: 719
RP per PC: 1

The Firestarters have expressed their desire for more serious dungeon delving, but would first like to solve the issue of Jiang Mua's psychic torpor. We'll deal with Mua next, which will allow me time to develop the next dungeon (a megadungeon, perhaps?).

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Gathox Session #7 Play Report

Our team, deciding to make a missing person un-missing for money,  met with Berling the Pusher for a quick round of funfetti cake, lengthy paperwork, and some investigative Q&A.

Interviews and some good old fashioned gumshoeing ensued at Jiang Bao's place, where our hobos acquired a cypher, a burnt key, and some eyeball tokens. Bao needs his son, Mua, to return so he can enjoy a fat cat retirement with the family antiques business intact.

Jiang Mua's childhood bestie, Laddy Birkenauer, copped some attitude and received a talking to, but ultimately managed to recall some key facts concerning the final known whereabouts of Mua.

The team made their way back into Kermen territory, where they encountered some Kermen street thugs who soon became street detritus.


In the Den of Dreamers, PCs played blackjack and craps, courted elderly gambling addicts, had crazy trips on Sho-Maht, and scoped the place out.


*Amadeus tagged the casino's outer wall with Kermen blood, ensuring the notorious future of the team's upstart gang.

*Mutant Thla became a seasoned psychonaut after swimming into the depths of a Sho-Maht hallucination and finding strange presences there.

*Sergio gathered intel by catering to the impulsiveness of an old gambler from the Craw.

*Brother Saget made like Sherlock with the clues - his self-banter getting closer to the heart of the mystery than even he realized.

The Take:

*4 Kermen Street Thugs

*30 gp

*Each player receives 15 xp, 7 gp, 5 sp.

The Analysis:

This is where the players really began to ramp up their hate for the Kermen, making overtures of war against the one-eyed aliens. Also, given that these players were still quite new to gaming, they were of course testing the borders of acceptability in play. I managed to accommodate most of those impulses in a fair manner, providing natural consequences for most of it. Those kinds of understandings between players and referees are another emergent property of play, concurrent with narrative.

Will the players solve the mystery and return Jiang Mua to his home? Find out next week!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Gathox Session #6 Play Report: Kill All Kermen!!!!!!

Having regrouped at the Bar With No Name, the team decided to make a surgical strike on the Kermen safehouse where the Huttimer holy book was purported to be located.

Making a cautious approach, the team scouted the area. Guards and watchmen abounded, and with no obvious entrance, the party took to the sewers. Locating a sub-floor entrance and avoiding traps, the team entered the basement of the safehouse.

Just in time, too, as the Kermen were reenacting a perilous sex magic ritual from the book. Defeating the Screaming Bog-Hazz guardian, they snatched the book and made for the tunnel exit.

A dozen or more Kermen swarmed them, chasing them into a tight, compact tunnel. With Steve the Psychic near death, Brother Saget made the only play he could and cast "Summons From Beyond The Seven Pillars of Earth."

A lake of blood erupted from the earth below, shattering the bedrock and rending reality. A great firebreathing beast burst forth, destroying the safehouse and leveling a city block in its attempt to locate the caster. Luckily, the team was already moving through the sewers and across the city.

The PCs managed to return the book and collect their hard-earned reward with 3.5 hours to spare. The Kermen have vowed vengeance, although they likely don't know the identities of the perpetrators.


*Steve  "The Manglefaced Psychic" and Brother Saget continuing a long-standing tradition of improvised arson.

*Amadeus Marmaduke's stealthy recon resulting in solid intel.

*Mutant Thla's teleportation of the book mid-ritual, halting the dangerous and sexy magic in progress.

*Brother Saget's Hail Mary spellcasting resulting in both the destruction of a block of Kermen territory as well as the replacement of his head with a giant black widow.

The Defeated:

1 Screaming Bog-Hazz
10 Kermen mooks
1 Kermen Lieutenant

The Take:

520 gp each
675 xp each

*Congratulations! Everyone except Brother Sagett has reached 2nd level!

The Analysis:

Here we begin to see the players choose sides in the inherent conflict of the city. They'll work for the conservative Huttimer when the price is right, and they begin to show a bias toward the one-eyed Kermen. This is really the first seed of an ongoing war between the PCs and the Kermen, which reaches a devastating peak around Session #18 (no spoilers, but there are car-sized piles of burning human waste). Of course, being that the Kermen were merely standing between the players and their goal was sufficient cause for animosity. What surprised me was the extent to which that animosity expressed itself - spectacular public displays of violence and degradation.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Gathox Sessions #4 & #5 Play Report: Beer and Butter Edition

Riding high on the ensuing success from their Mudling Mansions contract with the Dohjaks, the party made their pick of the broad employment opportunities before them. Property retention for the Huttimer struck their fancy and off they went!

The Huttimer's Purveyor, Smitty Gorman, greeted them with warm beer, butter, and a stout chin beard, coaxing the party into an NDA before revealing the theft of the Huttimer Friendship Society's holy texts. Negotiations and sleuthing ensued.

The party chased breadcrumbs: first visiting Berling the Pusher, who drove the party dangerously close to breaking their NDA; then meeting with a reputable seamstress, Greta Sanbusterrin, for cloth sample ID'ing; and then on to the great and curmudgeonly dollmaker, Li Zhao, who gave up the goods on one of his steadiest clients due to clever maneuvering by the PCs.

Some B&E, hostage taking, and property destruction later, the party discovered Jedo Waldgrave's torture dungeon.  The Thin Green Duke assaulted an innocent doll in that dank basement, bringing them all to life - thirsty for vengeance!

Dozens of dolls advanced on the party, flanking them in the 1st floor foyer. Stretched thin and with few resources remaining, the PCs resorted to a previously successful strategy: Arson and Demolitions!

Making their escape from the scene of the crime, the party found themselves in The Free People's Advancement territory, where mutant Thla had seedy underworld contacts. A visit to Belinda the Recindah provided players with a much-needed regroup, as well as affordable disguises.

Finally, the players got Skaggers (full-time amputee and overtime assistant fence) stinking drunk, uncovering crucial information on the whereabouts of the book.

The team currently has 7 whole hours to fulfill their contract!


*Brother Saget initiating the A&D procedure at the right time, for the right reasons, with perfect party consensus;

*Steve the Psychic, now Mangleface Steve, knocking back a few bottles of ancient wine while directing the Thin Green Duke to pick locks with a battleaxe;

*Amadeus Marmaduke, pretending to be rich and yelling at firefighters; and

*Thla, running naked through the night and tearing out the throat of a hopelessly outclassed street thug.

The Casualties:

*Mr. T, hopeless loser body guard, who succumbed to a taffeta horde of kill-dolls in the torture dungeon.

The Take:

*285 gp each in stolen and properly fenced wares; and

*348 xp each, for accumulated gold, smashed murder dolls, and dead street toughs.

*A stack of forged writs of passage, sufficiently devoid of identifying information as to be usable by the players.

The Analysis:

By this time I had finished the city map of the Kettle neighborhood, allowing the players to plan strategy regarding geography. Watching players plot their course through town, exploring new areas while investigating the mystery-mission at hand, definitely gave me ideas on how to run a city as exploration. After this session I considered an alternate build of Gathox-as-pointcrawl which I'm now pursuing.

Another reward: observing a team of new players come together with consistent investigation strategies and operational procedures is like watching your friend's band become your favorite band. That is a form of happiness.

Monday, January 25, 2016

NPC Spotlight: Bolsh Vect and The Bloody People

Today I'd like to share with you one of the alien species present in Gathox - The Sluurgal, also known as The Bloody People, who eek out a life of quiet ritual beneath the streets of Berchan Favela.

A Bloody person, not currently bleeding.

A People: The Sluurgal

The least gang-like of the Favela’s ruling social groups, the Bloody People are entirely organized around the fact that they’re a separate and ancient species, apart from the rest of the city. They call themselves Sluurgal and dwell below ground in colony apartments called Mujim. Other denizens of Gathox call them The Bloody People for their habit of bleeding on objects to claim them. A Sluurgal will go to great lengths to retrieve an item upon which they’ve bled, and rich Sluurgal are easily distinguishable by their preponderance of scars.

The staying power and economic success of the Bloody People relies on a complex mixture of ritual marriage and reproduction, ritual thievery, and ritual infrastructure repair. Most citizens of Gathox consider them a tolerable necessity, and so the Bloody People maintain steady and quiet lives below ground. Their greatest desire, and the one least likely to be expressed in mixed company, is to rid the city of all other sentient species. Some say their colonies reach far beyond the confines of the Favela, although no one claims to have extensively explored them.

A Place: Biria Mujim

This collection of ossified underground apartments comprises the largest community of the Bloody People anywhere in the Favela. The Sluurgal maintain a variety of public works, including a 70-bed hospital, temples to each of the five major godlings, a silent market, and periodic alcoves dedicated to bleeding on possessions (called Milking Stations). At the eastern end of Biria lies the Phlebotic Chambers of Communal Acquiescence to Time, where a petty prince named Bolsh Vect administers the countless rituals of his people.

A Boss: Bolsh Vect - (Sluurgal Prince and Tiresome Tyrant)

Quite the charmer.

Cues: Monotone speech patterns with an intolerable frog in the throat, covered head to toe in scars of wealth, mumbles phrases of ritual when daydreaming.

Biria Mujim always needs a leader; not for inspiration, not to advance the interests of the Bloody People, and not to maintain stability for the isolated community, but because rituals must be remembered properly to be executed properly. For the last 117 years, no Sluurgal could remember the rituals as thoroughly and categorically as Bolsh Vect.

Vect recalls a childhood of fastidious study and observation, back when the Sluurgal still shared a library (before a cunning X’Xul bled on every book and effectively stole their collective knowledge). Vect does not speak fondly of those times, for he speaks fondly of nothing. When every action requires a ritual, and his fellow Sluurgal grow lazy and forgetful, only the tyrannical application of his memories as manifested through imperious action can right the wrongs which grow before him.

Bolsh Vect anticipates and enjoys the enforcement of punishments for infractions against and amongst his people. His punishment is as swift as the Ritual of Confirmation of the Contents of the Governmental Hourglass, as certain as the Ritual of Confidence in the Certitude of Tri-Dimensionality, and as severe as the Ritual for the Cessation of Childlike Stubbornness in the Face of Reasonable Requests.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Gathox Session #3 Play Report

Having escaped the Mudling Mansions, our intrepid protagonists hocked their ill-begotten wares and made plans for leveling the property. They delivered Relka to the Dohjaks, but not before setting fire to the tower in an attempt to collapse it.

Being a volatile, oil-laden structure, the neighborhood caught fire.

What that looks like.

After considering quietly slipping away and retiring in the countryside, penniless, the team instead spent their efforts, and a great deal of cash, in rescuing slum tenants and collapsing the building.


*"Elf-man" Marmaduke got high with a group of furtive dock workers, rolled a casino, and bumped off a couple of Sinbad-costumed bouncers . . . . while everyone else tried to fight the fires.

*Steve the Psychic, resplendent with missing nose and cheek, held a gun to a child's head, and later confirmed the essential goodness of the idea.

*Sergio rescued a deaf gongfarmer with pantomime.

*Griff the Grunt managed to convince the mob of the entertainment value of battering rams in the midst of fire.

The Take:

*748 xp for hitting improvised goals and rescuing tenants

*500gp each for fulfillment of remaining terms of contract; initial funds blown on solving problems created by the attempt to solve problems.


 The endgame for this scenario changed drastically from what I had envisioned, because of course it did. A surprising non-surprise, one might say. My initial design for "Mudling Mansions" never fully accounted for demolition of the building, let alone the most obvious and logical choices available to players, which involved arson and wholesale property destruction. I suppose we playtest things for reasons, so there you go. The final written version of "Mudling Mansions" contains a variety of endgame options as a result. I call that a success.

The actual surprises included one character choosing to take a child hostage at gunpoint to get the attention of an apathetic crowd of rubberneckers, as well as one player simply slipping off to go screw around with nearby, less dangerous parts of the city. A damn lucky die roll saved the former, and the social relationships at the table corrected the latter, so it was truly enjoyable to watch the party simultaneously test and set boundaries through play.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

For The Table: A Militant, With Gear

Having previously posted this image to G+ to a very warm reception, I formally present to you "A Militant In Fine Form," with a full description of the highlighted gear to follow. This information will be published in Gathox Vertical Slum this spring. Feel free to use these bits at your table.

Specialty Gear

Chug Boots - These sturdy mechanical boots allow the wearer to bear larger loads, effectively increasing encumbrance slots by 3. While heavy, they provide little in the way of armor, and can be worn by any class. 250 gp.

Gutter Gills - This fish-like helmet provides air filtering for hostile environments, improving saving throws and CON checks against harmful airborne substances by 1 point. Swappable filters last 1 turn each. Additionally, the fish-like eye goggles built into the helmet provide a green filter that mitigates both bright and dark light, allowing 15’ vision in what would otherwise be blinding light or total darkness. 125 gp, 10 gp/filter; 1 encumbrance.

Karate Bandana - This mystic scrap of cloth provides 1 point of AC to the wearer and features a hard medallion in the center of the forehead, useful for headbutting. If the entire party wears Karate Bandanas, the resulting psychic communion allows the party +1 to group initiative. 40 gp each, ½ encumbrance.

Kneepads - these work-tough construction kneepads protect the wearer from a variety of patellar hazards, improving AC by 1 point and potentially mitigating some limb damage to the leg. 25 gp, 1 encumbrance.

Lungblade -
This powerful weapon consists of a pneumatic upper body suit with a large, flexible air bladder on the back. A tube runs down the back of the wearer’s preferred weapon arm and into the base of an unsettlingly large hatchet or meat cleaver. The wearer’s natural body movements build up pneumatic pressure in the bladder, allowing any attack with the blade to explode damage on a natural damage roll of 6. This effect is stackable. 1d6 dmg, range M, 225 gp; mechanical failure on a natural To-Hit roll of 1, requiring 30% of cost to repair.

Polearm - This 8’-12’ long two-handed weapon has been generalized for multiple purposes, featuring a variety of spikes, blades, ball peens and hooks on the killing end. With a successful attack roll, any militant using the polearm may choose to roll a 1d6 separate from their damage roll; a result of 1 indicates the militant may use one of the implements at the end of the weapon to perform a combat stunt of their choosing, subject to GM fiat. 8 gp, 2 encumbrance.

Revolver - A classic weapon for settling scores and missing glass bottles on fenceposts, the timeless revolver holds six rounds and fits snugly in a hip or leg holster for your quickdraw convenience. 1d8 dmg, 45' range, 1 encumbrance, 60 gp. Ammo: 25 gp for 20 bullets.

Skull Belt - An essential bit of kit, the Skull Belt marks the wearer as a magnificent bastard while providing easy access to a variety of pouches, weapons, and bullets. AC bonus of 1. 40 gp, 1 encumbrance.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Slum Life Part 1: Overview of the Living City

Dance halls.

Holy wars.

Ramshackle tenements.

Built upon the metastasizing cancer-body of a nameless godling, Gathox rose from huts and offal on some late blooming world into a pock-marked, teetering, thousand-legged metropolis which knows no architect. How many worlds have born its ambling weight? How many millions of lives brutally sacrificed in reverent offerings to the fecundity of its floors?

Perhaps there are a few who know; none openly proclaim that authority. Those who might offer such knowledge surely trade in wares both high and rare, and their apartments must by needs dwell deep or remote. For what it avails you, I might speak a little of city life.

Most citizens of our fair Spire toil and die in the Kettle, an immense basin neighborhood of metal pylons, sagging bazaars, and ad-hoc neighborhoods. While it's true that no government holds sway in Gathox, only a fool would mistake that fact for disorder. Neighborhood Friendship Societies represent bands of human residents organized by proximity or creed, hiring out militias and specialists to ministrate their problems. Street gangs form in dance halls and back alley fights, plying their bravado in defense of tenements and petty agendas. Old families form mafias to defend their vested interests and landed wealth with strict codes of behavior and all manner of racketeering, fronts, and embezzlement. Cults and strange ideological factions birth from the ooze of poverty and crowded isolation, sometimes forming broad alliances to further their political and spiritual goals and just as often being ground into dust by opposing forces.

All of these social structures serve to sustain and protect the masses and to occasionally nurture their overlapping interests. In the old days, it is said, when a prominent family rose to power and attempted to control the entirety of Gathox, the city itself ate them, crushing their public works and devouring their children wholesale. The space where their finest apartments occupied the highest tips of the Spire was flushed out, bit by bit, dumping strange goods and valuable obscenities into the wastewater reservoirs of the Kettle. 

It's possible to live a good life here. There's never a lack of tasks to be done, business to negotiate, or districts to rehabilitate, and so always the prospect of trading hours, sweat, and blood for the basics of life. Occasionally, when Gathox sleeps and dreams a new world to invade, the wind merchants will raise their sails and glide across the dreamlands of a new planet, returning with riches and resources. Old money will always pay for dependable services, orphans of dying cultures will always provide bodies for the city-grinder, and Gathox will always reconstitute itself into new realms to be explored.

But beware - this city is built on gristle and ghosts.

-Chimaux the Book-ender, sage to The Wolfies, Berchan Favela Street Gang

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Gathox Sessions #1 & #2 Play Report

Session #1:
The players receive a copy of the Kettle Daily Crier, a one-page print rag distributed amongst the ragtag populace of The Kettle neighborhood, which contains info on the weekly progress of gangs, known as Neighborhood Friendship Societies, as well as adverts for one-off jobs. The players choose to inquire with the Dohjak Neighborhood Friendship Society about a property they just won during an annual dance celebration.

The players visit the Dohjak Neighborhood Friendship Hall, having aligned with one another under dubious pretenses, and are contracted by the gummy, pin-eyed gang leader known as Mehlud the Splinter. The job requires the team to clear out a mud tower which has just erupted above the ruins of old Kamma Tower, which the Dohjaks now own. Various levels of reward are presented for goals.

The team conducted haphazard investigation about town, exploring the markets of The Dregs and generally staying out of excess trouble, before entering the Mudling Mansions. First, the team investigates the strange oil fountain in the foyer, planning to use it later to demolish the building. Then, sneaking around the corner, they manage to lose their Mentalist, the Cosmic Doctor and med school dropout known as Sergio, to a floor trap which lands him in the concrete industrial construct of the Blue Halls below.

The Take: Nothing.

Session #2:

Our intrepid entourage of entrepreneurs managed to rescue Sergio from the Blue Halls and begin their ascent of the Mudling Mansions. They battled through Vulzari chicken men and human thralls, ate glazed duck and fried gizzards, tumbled through antigravity, stole kitchen knives and surgical tools, and finally made their way to the top floor.
A grim shootout nearly took place between the Vulzari, led by foreman Relka, and the party, when newcomer Steve the Psychic reversed the tide of fate with a well placed 'Cao Ma's Holy Obedience' spell. The party captured Relka for return to the Dohjaks, only to face near destruction by a human thrall suicide bomber guarding a strange, spiky box. The remainder of the party managed to descend to the 2nd floor ladder window with their captive, attaining the street below and selling their wares.

The Casualties:

*Porter and hopeless loser, Duncan 'Coconut' Green, who died by Vulzari Revolver in the anti-gravity chamber.
*Vaclav the Newsie Porter, who died in the suicide bombing.
*The mutant known as Jeremiah "Two-Toes" Lopez, who also died in the suicide bombing after taking heat from the Vulzari.
*Graham the atheist Street Preacher, who nearly died falling upward in the anti-gravity room and who later valiantly sacrificed himself while football tackling the suicide bomber, increasing the chances of survival for the rest of the party.


*Goron the Street Tough, who became known variously as Goron the Chaser, Goron the Skull Smasher, Goron the Eater of Glazed Duck, and Goron the Dungeon-Napper.

*Steve the Psychic, who is now identified in dungeon graffiti by #stevethepsychic .

*Amadeus' constant love of slitting throats with daggers, and his formulation of plans including this strategem.

*Sergio's unraveling of Vulzari lore.

The Take:

Seals, baubles, kitchen knives, and surgical tools totaling 708 gp;
7 dead Vulzari, 3 dead thralls, and one captured Foreman, totaling 440xp;
and 1 Vulzari artifact worth 750 xp.

Splitting the loot and xp evenly amongst the remaining party members, each will get:
475 xp
177 gp