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