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.

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.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Gathox Monsters: Zhezhn, Lesser: Contrail Antenna

The last monster I highlighted on this blog was the Flat Earther. Now I present to you the psychic entity which creates Flat Earthers. Behold the Contrail Antenna:

Zhezhn, Lesser – Contrail Antenna
Armor Class: 3[16]
Hit Dice: 5+2
Attacks: 2 laser eyes
Special: Confusion
Move: 24
HDE/XP: 8/800

As Big As: A monolith.
Smells Like: Jet engines, burnt foil.
Sounds Like: A raving lunatic.
Favorite Pastime: Spreading conspiracy theories to increase psychic stress.
Turnoffs: Reason.

The Contrail Antenna is a Zhezhn specifically designed to feed off paranoia and distrust. It takes the form of a massive head, adorned with tin foil and a channeling antenna, propelled by two jet engines which leave thick, stinking, long-lasting contrails wherever it goes. It can shoot a laser from each eye every round, and perpetually spouts conspiracy theories about the individuals it attacks, directly relating the paranoid delusions to the private details of their lives. 3 rounds of listening to this drivel requires victims to make a 3d6 vs. WIS check, or succumb to Confusion, which causes the victim to wander aimlessly in a paranoid haze for 1d4 turns. Confusion can be broken by the destruction of the Zhezhn or by magical or medical means.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Gathox Neighborhoods: Berchan Favela

This week I wanted to share the oldest neighborhood in Gathox: the Berchan Favela.

Berchan Favela

Although The Kettle houses the largest population out of any of Gathox’s neighborhoods, it wasn’t the first. The oldest neighborhood, Berchan Favela, bears the marks of untold millennia of construction and dissolution. Ascending the 750 Steps of Reason from the east end of The Kettle, one finds that the steps change from finely hewn granite blocks to cobblestone to mud and rock. From The Craw in the west, one must cross the Great Arboretum at Saplander’s Crossing, an impossibly old and decrepit network of wooden bridges made of oiled branches which have partly petrified. The longest standing tradition in Gathox is the Assertion of Persistence, an annual ritual dedicated to maintaining Saplander’s Crossing and the trees of the Great Arboretum.

Upon entering Berchan, affectionately referred to by locals as ‘Jimtown,’ visitors are first struck by the colorful geometric patterns painted on the crooked buildings climbing the hillside. Next, they note the pervasive scent of pork and frying dough, followed by shock at the abundance of street performers ranging from cornerside puppetry to ad-hoc marching bands. Visitors also register the pervasive presence of men dressed as elves who call themselves ‘Elven Kings,’ augmented with ceramic or rubber pointed ears and half-starved to maintain appearances. As one travels across the modest breadth of the neighborhood from east to west, one will begin to enter and exit numerous tiny gardens, crossing bridges over diminutive streams whose contents range from seemingly fresh water to raw sewage and colorful, dubious chemical flows.

In the mornings, the Hermitsa Avenue Market erupts into bright flame with the striking of the Corner Fires, and callers begin to shout advertisements from their man baskets atop four story poles. Many citizens of Berchan will practice their yoga and other morning exercises in the tiny gardens scattering the neighborhood. In ritual fashion, butchers slaughter their pigs at the front doors of their shops for good luck, the blood running in streams down the hilly streets.

In the afternoons, hungover brigades of Elven Kings march the streets, gruffly making certain that residents and merchants alike erect their great street fans to block out most of the sunlight. A stink likened to fermented cabbage rises from the chimneys of shacks where indentured servants process the raw ingredients for the Sho-Maht drug available so cheaply in Berchan. The distant roar of crocodactyls taking flight occasionally pierces the air, the beasts bearing speculative merchants into the dangerous and seldom explored lands of strange worlds beyond the walls of the city.

Come nightfall, the street fans are lowered and mobile stages erected. Impoverished alley theater performances begin amidst roving drum competitions. The eldest race of Gathox, called The Bloody People by humans and mutants but Sluurgal by their own tongue, emerge from their ground holes to begin the endless process of repainting dilapidated buildings throughout the neighborhood. The flapping of boil bunny ears can be heard beating around the upper branches of the Jimmelune trees, where they feast on the ever-growing Jimmelune fruit which is used to create the cheap drink Jimmy wine. By midnight, the Corner Fires are extinguished and private parties begin behind closed shack doors.

Who Rules

As a smaller community than The Kettle, there are only three gangs in control of the Favela. Although they make gestures toward peace, their interactions are less stable than those of Kettle gangs. The Elven Kings arguably hold the most land and wealth, and certainly maintain the most visible presence in Berchan. In contrast to the Elven Kings, the Headlong Hurlers maintain a minimal profile, alternately policing and plundering the streets from their stories-high perch poles. The Bloody People maintain a quiet underground presence, emerging to maintain bits of the neighborhood in a centuries-old habit of fighting entropy.

The Elven Kings - The Elven Kings come from all walks of humanity, united in their obsessive worship of what they call “Fey Literature.” They grow their hair long and starve themselves in an attempt to appear more elf-like, often going so far as to adorn themselves with striated goldleaf jewelry and custom body modifications, like prosthetic ears. The most fanatic of The Elven Kings will seek out extensive cosmetic surgery, a life-threatening process under the best of circumstances in Gathox.

Elven Kings control most of the southern and central portions of Berchan, patrolling the streets armed with shotguns and lungblades. They control the production and sale of Sho-Maht, a deeply euphoric and hallucinogenic sedative popular amongst both the poor and the leisure class, and derive much of their power from this industry.

The HeadlongHurlers - 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 launchpads 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.

The Bloody People- 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.

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 extend well beyond the confines of the Favela, although no one claims to have thoroughly explored them.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Gathox monsters: The Flat Earther


Flat Earther
Armor Class: 7[12]
Hit Dice: 3
Attacks: Bodyslam
Special: Ground shake
Move: 6
HDE/XP: 4/120

As Big As: A wrecking ball on stilts.
Smells Like: Molding cheese, halitosis.
Sounds Like: Dullness given breath.
Favorite Pastime: Mashing things into puree.
Turnoffs: Elocution.

Flat Earthers are the farming experiment of a rogue Contrail Antenna (see pp.xx) long ago, which have since become their own self-perpetuating species. They can speak, although reasoning with them is notoriously difficult. They are generally solitary, but deep in the bowels of Gathox adventurers have reported bearing witness to large, slavering, orgiastic conventions of the creatures. They can swing their bodies from the pillars they carry, inflicting 1d6 damage with a 1 in 6 chance of requiring a save against being knocked unconscious for 1d4 rounds. Additionally, they can slam their pillars on the ground, requiring a 3d6 vs. DEX check or everyone in a 10' radius is knocked to the ground for a round.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Gathox Classes: The Mutant

Today we take a look at the Mutant class for Gathox, with the attendant art:


Mutants are a special breed of bizarre creature - a human born corrupted from the psychic radiation of Gathox itself. There are as many variations of viable adult mutants as there are humans. Gathoxan Mutants are scorned and maligned by the elites, abused and taken advantage of by merchants and gangs, and often forced into the most impoverished places in society.

For all these endless abuses, Mutants have incredible potential. They are natural psychic talents, and they continue to mutate as they progress in level. The harsh reality of their day to day lives forces them to become quick learners, acquiring Wheelhouses (if the optional rules are used; see pp.xx) at a pace which far outstrips any of their adventuring comrades. Many mutants eventually form their own gangs or establish their prowess as traders and power brokers.

Each mutant starts with 1d3 random beneficial mutations, and 1 random negative mutation. Mutants will gain an additional beneficial mutation at levels two, four, and six. They are the only beings to possess genuine psychic powers (i.e. not based in magic). Mutants use the level and hit die advancement of Clerics. They may use any armor, at a cost penalty of double the normal price, and may use any single-handed melee or ranged weapon at full effectiveness. Two-handed weapon damage is reduced to 1d4.

Mutants accrue additional psychic powers as they increase in level, and these are rolled randomly on the table below. Rolling randomly for psychic powers may result in a double-up; in this case the mutant may double their use of the power. Mutants start off with a psychic power, and gain an additional random psychic power at levels three, five, seven, nine, and eleven.

Psychic Powers

1) Nerve Cluster Stimulation - The Mutant may, once per day, accelerate the production of electrons in their body, allowing the emission of psychic bolts. These bolts have a range of 60’ and do 1d6+1 damage on a successful attack roll. Creatures weak to electrical attacks must save or suffer double damage. This power lasts for 3 turns and allows the mutant to discharge one bolt per round.

2) Liminal Materiality - The Mutant may spend a round in psychic meditation and partially dematerialize their body and possessions for up to a turn. They appear sufficiently translucent as to be effectively invisible in dim light. Additionally, normal weapons only inflict one point of damage - only lasers or magic can do full damage. They cannot inflict more than one point of damage in this state or pass through other objects. The mutant may use this power once per day for every four levels (1/day at 1st, 2/day at 5th, etc.).

3) Psionic Summons - The Mutant may focus her desire on one non-living object of up to 40 lbs. in a 100’ radius, causing it to dematerialize at its current location and re-materialize within 20’ of the Mutant, so long as nothing occupies the space at which the Mutant intends it to materialize. This is usable once per day.

4) Auratic Pattern Recognition - This power allows the Mutant to visualize the subtle shifts in the aura of a humanoid creature within a 40’ radius, giving the Mutant a basic read on the surface level intentions of the target. Lasts 1 turn and gives a +1 to the Mutant’s reaction rolls, as well as initiative if the Mutant is alone. Usable once per day.

5) Field of Atonia - The Mutant may emit a 50’ radius psychic blast of crippling energy, causing all specified targets to experience a withering of their musculature and nervous system which lasts 1 turn. This inflicts a -1 penalty to initiative and attacks, and halves movement. Usable once per day.

6) Psychic Guillotine - The Mutant channels her feelings of rage and oppression into a psychic hatchet which strikes at the base of a target’s neck, inflicting 1d6+1 damage automatically. Usable twice per day.

7) Self-Reconstructive Meditation - The Mutant may enter into a mantra-led trance lasting an hour and allowing her to psychically force her cells to regenerate. The Mutant then rolls a Saving Throw. If successful, she regains half her total hit points; if a failure, she regains one quarter of her total hit points. Either way the Mutant must consume twice as much food for the next 24 hours. Usable once per day.

8) Ectoplasmic Arm - The Mutant vomits a stream of ectoplasm from her mouth, nose, tear ducts, and ears, which then can be remotely operated as an arm with the full functionality and equivalent STR of the Mutant. This arm has a range of 60’ and lasts 1 turn. Usable twice per day.

9) Telepathic Tranception - The Mutant may target any creature within 200’ for the purposes of reading its mind. A successful 3d6 vs. WIS roll allows the Mutant to read said mind for up to 1 turn, and can still move at half speed while doing so. A failure simply means that the Mutant spams the target’s mind with psychic effluvia, causing wild and unpredictable reactions instead (subject to GM discretion). The Mutant may choose to fail this roll. Usable twice per day.

10) Paralytic Communion - The Mutant can target up to 1d6 creatures in a 30’ radius, forcing them to make a Saving Throw or be paralyzed. This lasts for as long as the Mutant remains motionless or 1 turn, whichever is shorter. Usable once per day.

11) Bleeding Heart Syndrome - The Mutant channels the totality of her hate into an entropic field of vengeance. Every targeted creature of ½ the Mutant’s hit dice or less in a 50’ radius must make a Saving Throw or instantly have their heart violently explode from both the front and back of their torso in a firehose spray. Usable once per day.

12) Terminal Communique - The Mutant may construct a message of up to 60 words in length, which she then transmits toward an intended target. If the target is within a 1 mile radius of the Mutant, said target will instantly receive the message. For each ¼ mile beyond that, subtract ten words from the back end of the message. Usable once per day.

Beneficial Mutations (1d20)

Claws or teeth do 1d6 dmg, appearance changes to reflect the growth.
Mutant sprouts oily fur which resists most liquids, but not acids.
A nimble tail, 4’ in length, grows from the tailbone. Usable as a 3rd limb.
Elongated tongue, retractable; can reach 1d3 feet in length.
A fully functional third arm grows from the chest of the Mutant.
6 holes appear instead of nose; can detect poisons by smell within 10’.
Extra pair of eyes above normal eyes, allowing for infravision up to 30’.
Calcium deposits on skull create heavy dome; 1-point bonus to Saves against mental attacks..
Skin becomes random mix of fur and scales, +1 AC bonus.
Quick regeneration, allows Mutant to recover 3 hp per rest turn instead of 1.
Mutant can secrete mild paralytic venom from glands in throat, two doses per day.
Pockets form just below eyes, can shoot spines up to 20’ 3/day, 1d4 dmg.
Mutant becomes barrel-chested and grows super-sized lungs. Can survive underwater twice as long as normal.
Can eat almost anything non-poisonous and nonmetallic, never needs rations.
Natural skin webbing appears between digits and limbs. Good for swimming at twice the normal rate and gliding and reducing fall damage by 10’.
Translucent skin with shifting pigmentation allows Mutant to blend into environment from 20’ or further. Reduces chance to spot the Mutant by 1 in 6.
Giant bat ears allow echolocation within 15’. Need ear-pro for loud sounds.
Bulbous cancers (3 daily) grow from body; can detach and move, following simple commands (including listening, carry up to 5 lbs., and spying). 2 hp each, up to 5 at once under command.
Marsupial pouch grows on torso, allowing Mutant to carry an extra 30 lbs.
1d6 limbs become tentacles. 1-4 for arms/legs, 5 is head, 6 means body is amorphous and flexible. Sensory organs and fine motor skills remain intact. Head tentacle can also grasp objects.

Negative Mutations (1d20)

Skin dry and brittle, takes double damage from fire.
Diseased skin, flaking and red, possibly pustulent. -1 CHA.
Stress can cause paralysis - 3d6 vs. WIS check in stressful situation (GM fiat), failure forces Mutant to curl up in a ball for 1d4 rounds.
Enlarged facial features, creating slurred speech and breathing. -1 CHA and -1 to reaction rolls.
Water dependent - needs to immerse in water for 10 minutes every 6 hours or suffer 1d4 dmg/hour.
Misshapen limbs and twisted bone growth, add 1 die of difficulty to DEX checks.
Direct sunlight causes Mutant to suffer a -1 penalty to attack, damage, and Saves.
Brittle bones and weak ligaments. When making a STR check, roll twice and take the lower number.
Arthritis - swollen joints make it difficult to haul gear. -2 Encumbrance slots.
Fused spine - makes checks for climbing, crawling in confined spaces, and gymnastic movements 1 die more difficult.
Black and white vision, unable to see color.
Body temperature can’t regulate - double the negative effects of cold and heat.
Taste and smell senses are totally absent.
Shrunken or missing arm (1-2) or leg (3-4).
Weak skin - physical attacks inflict an extra point of damage.
Tumors cover body, reducing movement by half and encumbrance by -20 lbs.
Single eye - two eyes have merged into one. Depth perception off, leading to a -1 attack penalty.
Insatiable appetite requires the additional consumption of 1d4 rations per day.
Inhuman voice, -1 to reaction rolls.
Roll 2 negative traits from above.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Gathox Deities: The Grand Stultified Energon

So the weekly home group has been encountering more and Surdites, which are insect swarms which animate the dead in Gathox, I thought I would post about their deity. I present to you the Grand Stultified Energon, as well as the description of one of his priests, Vol-Mak-Dron!

The God Which Pulses, Quivers, and Collects, or The Grand Stultified Energon – Few sane beings willingly worship The Grand Stultified Energon, as few who breathe would dedicate themselves to death and accumulation. The X’Xul pay grudging obeisance to the Energon, and he reportedly bestows upon them luck in the accumulation of other sentient beings. The Surdites (see pp.xx), sentient insect swarms which animate the dead, serve him absolutely. The Energon’s wrath is known by the choke of drowning, and his boon by indifference to suffering. His image is that of an imperious and calcified skull fossil, and his passage is known by the burn of ozone.

Favor/ Disfavor: Praying to the Energon allows the supplicant a once per week, 5% chance to improve their saving throw by one point for one task. Should the 5% check fail, the supplicant immediately suffers a -1 to their saving throw for the rest of the day.

Vol-Mak-Dron, Ascendent Resplendent - (Surdite Guardian of the Sennarit Descala)

Cues: Hissing speech, easily bored with the idle chatter of humans, laments his restraint in the consumption of the dead he guards.

Vol-Mak-Dron shares that essential trait of all Surdites of referring to itself with the royal “We.” Unlike its Surdite brethren, Vol-Mak-Dron avoids the consumption of dead flesh and instead stands vigil over the entombed corpses at Sennarit Descala. On the orders of the Grand Stultified Energon, Vol-Mak-Dron remains largely dispersed, existing on a starvation diet while monitoring the entrance to the Cheery Orchard Necropolis for the purposes of forward intel. The Energon favors the tomb-statues of the Descala as well, and commands his steward to protect them with violence if necessary.

Individuals aware of Vol-Mak-Dron’s presence often attempt to converse with it. If the Surdite condescends to engage them, it will usually take the form of a cloaked humanoid male with a buttery, chorused voice, remaining largely in shadow. Vol-Mak-Dron quickly bores of interactions with humans, and will express it with indirect displays of casual violence and vandalism. Its favorite game is to pretend to be a poltergeist haunting the area, pranking the horrified elites with all manner of teasing, taunting, and minor mayhem. Vol-Mak-Dron possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of the Necropolis, although it is reticent to share the terrible secret fate of all Gathoxan life with visitors.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Chapter Fiction by Josh Wagner: Jackie Zhao, A Case Study

Today I'd like to take a different tack and share with you one of the five interrelated pieces of chapter fiction written by my friend, travel-seasoned author, and Gathox guinea pig, Josh Wagner.

JACKIE ZHAO (A Case Study)

His cough won't go away. It started eleven weeks ago with a tickle at the base of the throat, a dry palate, and a scratchiness under the tongue. Only mild coughing, no other symptoms. But it wouldn’t go away. Two weeks later he stopped by Kin's clinic on the sixth floor, sat for twenty minutes with a big view of the Kettle out her waiting room window. She called him in and blasted flood lights down his throat and told him everything looked normal. “You feel a fever you come back,” she said.

Jackie’s family lives at 349H on level 8, Quarter East. By coincidence he was born at 3:49am, which his mother always corrects his brother when he uses that word--coincidence. “It's a miracle,” she insists. “Jamie's little miracle.” But Jackie can no longer afford to believe in synchronicity. First he lost his last job over a misunderstanding. Now his health. What next?

He doesn't actually feel all that bad. Coughs like the devil first thing in the morning, but during the day his energy is high and his throat is fine. Jackie doesn’t drag himself out of bed until he gets so hungry he can't stand it. But once he's up and moving everything is back to normal.

A month after his visit to Kin, Jackie has a fit so intense it literally throws him out of bed. He runs to the bathroom sink and hacks until something comes up. A little thing he catches in his hand before it can vanish down the drain, just to look, just a need to see what's coming out of the body. Blood and phlegm, spotty and thick--but something else in there, too. Something black. Old blood from deep down maybe?

He drops it in a glass. A loud, clinking sound. He fills it a quarter with water and swishes and strains it and what's left over is like a flat, black plastic ring with a tab at one end. He's just wondering what the actual fuck when another fit takes him to his knees. His eyes are watering. He can't keep steady enough to get back to the sink so it all comes out on the peeling tile. A thick, yellow wad. And then more blood. It sprays forth from way back like his throat's a high pressure valve and someone just cracked it with a spike. When the stream stops there's a puddle big enough to make a handprint.

Jackie sifts through the bile and finds a dozen tiny machine parts: a metal pinion, a cog, and a rubber seal. The next day there's more of the same, along with plastic valves, sockets and wee springs. He washes them all off and puts them on a little shelf in the sunlight.

The coughing gets worse every day from then on. Hurts like hell. What’s nice is the fifteen minutes or so after things come up and out, when Jackie can feel a warmish kind of glow in his stomach. In these moments his breath comes easy and slow, like pure spring water filling his body with light, and always follows this sketchy vision in the head of some giant, writhing, interconnected structure of spiraling machinery far out in the desert. It makes him understand the whole city of Gathox is but a fragment in some vast and tangled system whose purpose, Jackie can tell, is to bind a bridge from the core of the planet to the power of the sun.

Jackie trades in a few old things he inherited from his mother for a small space in the Dregs. Here he sets up his table and covers it with the tiny machine parts hacked up over the previous three weeks, some too small to see without a magnifying lens. At first people buy them for the novelty. What adorable little trinkets, so precisely made, will you take five silver for this one? It doesn't cost Jackie anything but discomfort, so he lets them name their price. By the time they come back the following week to complain, he's already spent it all on shitty anti-starvation noodle machines.

“I put it under glass, the little spring,” a customer says. “Now it's gone. And my neighbor bought one of the pinions and she says that vanished too.”

Jackie explains he's not responsible for what's lost or stolen, but the old man tells him nothing's lost or stolen—he'd kept it safe and now it's gone. Besides, he's asked around and it's happened to everyone. Like these things are just evaporating into thin air.

There's a mob around Jackie now, mostly folks who didn't make a purchase but who want to make trouble. Then a girl rushes in screaming hallelujah. “It's a miracle,” she says, how their boiler started working again after being deemed hopelessly kaput by every mechanic in Huttimer territory, and her pops thinks it had to be the little cog he bought from Jackie. Set it on the old boiler because there was nowhere else to put it. Then it vanished. Then the AC coughed to life.

Of course everyone's skeptical at first, but Jamie clears out his stock to replace the parts that vanished for his customers. When they get home naturally they figure what could it hurt and they put them on some busted machine or other. And in no time at all every dead device is back up and running; Jackie's little miracles, they're saying. And business booms.

One morning, after a fit so severe it wipes him out for the rest of the day, Jackie has a dream. In the dream he's still coughing. Sitting on a couch on the rooftop sixteen flights above his apartment. Surrounded by pigeons and antennas, flora outgrowing their pots, raw materials for a bridge someone intends to build between this roof and the one next door. He's on the couch hacking away, in his dream, and he can feel something lodged in his throat, loosening with each gasp. Takes a deep breath and slams those lungs like a bellows and out comes a long nylon rope, whipping up into the clouds. Seems no end to it, but he can feel it unraveling somewhere in his chest. Now he's in the desert and the great structure from his vision is nearly complete. The people building it are like little turtle men, no higher than Jackie's knee, each one hunched under their hardshell backpacks. The rope still uncoils from within, flying toward the sun. The turtle men watch and sing, keeping the whole system in motion. Their song sounds like a choir of sneezes, hiccups, and wheezes. The rope has latched in some outer orbit and it’s pulling the planet up and into the sun. He panics and opens his eyes.

A few weeks later, Jackie's got the most popular shop in the Dregs. He can't cough shit out fast enough to keep up with the demand. Which on the one hand is great because it drives prices up and now Jackie's rolling in it, but of course he can't exactly force himself to produce any faster or train other people to do what he does, so every day is basically angry mobs all the time fighting for their place in line. He stops going down to the market at all, takes cash up front, and has pieces delivered to clients by bicycle until one of his kids gets bikejacked and Jackie upgrades to some muscle and an armored rickshaw.

He avoids doctors and medicine. Requires bodyguards of his own after threats from the local mechanics guild. Jackie’s sure they’re the ones that sent him anonymous envelopes dusted with dextromethorphan and various antihistamines. He's starting to get word from the top, or somewhere near the top, or the mystery that may or may not be something like a top at all, that a man with his skills could be useful in a starship reclamation project. But he's not interested. “I'm too sick to travel,” he says. “Half the day now I'm in bed.”

He’s still dreaming all the time. Now the planet hurtles toward the sun with Jackie at the helm; feels like his intestines ripping out through his face. He bites down on the rope to relieve the ache in his chest. The earth flies headlong into searing heat. The desert's mechanical gyro whirls and grinds. He sees Gathox way down under a tower of milling flywheels and pressurized valves and a complex network of coiling cable and pipework. The clans of turtle people rejoice. Jackie can't fathom it. What's to rejoice about when it’s all moments away from crisping up like Tol Zhanda’s secret recipe for fried spiders? He can feel the heat sucking moisture out of his skin. It's all over, he thinks. Wakey wakey. Time to shine. But he doesn't. He starts slipping between consciousnesses, either to wake up or never wake again in any form but ash. He feels the rope tighten and his legs leap of their own volition. Bounding as high as a wish, but doesn't come down. Dislodged from the surface of the earth. The centripetal force thrusts the planet outward far, far past the pull of the sun. Jackie floats in the void, watching the blue sphere soar away like a marble from a sling or an interstellar cruiser aimed for forever.

Jackie no longer leaves his home. Every morning the cough brings pain, then a flowering light.

His apartment is empty and dark. He keeps no machinery here. One rug, a small couch for clients and visitors, and an open window for his entertainment.

At night the wild shouts and flickering shadows from the Kettle lull him to sleep. But he startles himself awake whenever he can manage it. He no longer finds pleasure in dreams.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Gathox Deities: The God Who Dreams In Pillars And Is A Boy

I thought it would be nice to highlight another deity this week: Dzak Molu, also called The God Who Dreams In Pillars And Is A Boy.

The God Who Dreams In Pillars And Is A Boy, or Dzak Molu - Many believe the young boy braced between two pillars in their dreams to be their spirit guide. Others who breathlessly wake with their bodies frozen, staring into the pupil-less eyes of a boy crouched on their chest, call him a demon. The Mi-Chiw believe he hides in the heart of stars and wish to build a ladder to him in the sky. Dzak-Molu fosters the trips of junkies and the dreams of amphibians. His favor is found in revelatory dreams and his scorn is felt in all deprivations. His image is that of a fiery child between two columns, and his passage is known by an acrid drip at the back of the throat.

Favor/ Disfavor: Favor can only be incidentally gained, through intense bouts of intoxication. A player has a 3% chance to gain favor during an altered state, which will allow a bonus of 1 point on both initiative and reaction rolls until they sober up. Disfavor is gained when that 3% chance is failed, in which the bonuses are reversed to penalties.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

ART POST: Approaching the city

Today, I'd like to share the first three illos for Gathox Vertical Slum, which are a series which involve approaching the city on the planet RED DEATH, which is the de facto setting for a Gathox game.

From a distance, as seen through the binoculars of a desert wanderer:

 And next, that same wanderer flanking the city as it slowly churns it's way across the sands:

And finally, our wanderer (on the left) enters through the Gate of Exploding Benevolence and into the vertical slum:

I hope you enjoy these, let me know what think!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Gathox Classes: Mentalists

This week I'd like to share the Mentalist class and subclasses in Gathox, including a light and quick wild magic table. The Mentalist follows the Magic-User tables from Swords & Wizardry: Whitebox, and features a couple of points of departure.


Mentalists spend their lives in study and ritualistic practice, learning to harness psychic gravity wells and astral confluences for the purposes of invoking magic. In Gathox, they find themselves in the service of elite families, advising gang leaders, or carving out pieces of the city for their own weird devices. Some ply their trade ministering to the masses, forming cults to extant godlings or dreaming up their own. Yet others plumb the depths of reality to expand their consciousness or see beyond the veil of the cosmos.

Mentalists use the advancement tables and abilities listed for the Magic-User in Whitebox. A Mentalist can choose to be a Spiritualist, a Faith Healer, or a Cosmic Doctor at the beginning of play. Each possesses a unique ability to aid in distinguishing themselves from their cohort. Unlike Whitebox, a Mentalist may use any weapon; however, any weapon that is not a dagger or a staff does 1d4 points of damage instead. This allows the Mentalist to deploy in combat with ranged weapons or polearms at second rank, but diminishes their effectiveness.

The Spiritualist

Mankind’s adventures into the world of the self have culminated in the studies of the Spiritualist. Tapping into magical reserves within themselves, Spiritualists have learned to see beyond seeing, and often sell these skills for exorbitant prices. Although occasionally derided as ‘table knockers,’ Spiritualists genuinely possess powers which yield results.

The Spiritualist may use Psychometry, which allows her to glean a piece of information from touching an object with bare hands. This requires one turn of focused, uninterrupted attention, and the information sought must be posed in the form of a question to the GM. At levels one through four, this power can be used once per day; at levels five through nine, twice per day; at levels 10 and above, 3 times per day.

The Faith Healer

This Mentalist has been touched by the mystic forces of Gathox - not the city built by hands, but the God That Walks Forever. The Faith Healer preaches from soap boxes, climbs the esoteric ranks of cults, and treats the sick for sums of gold. Although despised by many as bilkers or spiritual tyrants, Faith Healers possess magic as strong as any other Mentalist.

The Faith Healer may use Lay On Hands to heal the injured. He must touch his bare hands to a prone subject, and at the end of a round heal them of 1d4 hit points of damage, plus one point per level. At levels one through four, the Faith Healer may do this once per day; at levels five through nine, twice per day; at levels 10 and above, three times per day.

The Cosmic Doctor

Cosmic Doctors consider themselves the true purveyors of the arcane, the final arbiters of the divide between the worldly and supernal, the ordained masters of reality. Their studies have taken them so deeply down the rabbit holes of paradox that they become eccentric and bizarre, often with appearances to match. Cosmic Doctors find work in Gathox as advisors to elite families and traders in rarities of all sorts.

Cosmic Doctors may listen to the Echoes of the Future, gaining crucial clues as to an intended path of action. Requires 1d4 rounds of unbroken silence, and the GM arbitrates the results as she sees fit. Usable once per day at levels one through four, twice per day at levels five through nine, and three times per day at levels 10 and above.

Wild Magic

Given that Mentalists are constantly invoking magic in the midst of city-wide psychic fluctuations while riding on the back of a world-hopping godling, strange side effects can occur while casting a spell. When a spell is successfully cast, there is a 1-in-8 chance of wild magic effects; on a roll of 8, consult the chart below.

Roll (1d10)
Wild Magic Effect
The air ionizes, creating a burnt oxygen smell in a 20’x20’ area.
The caster’s skin changes hue 10% warmer, toward red.
The caster’s skin changes hue 10% cooler, toward blue.
Light rapidly shifts from bright to dark, like a strobe, 10’ radius, for 1 round.
A thin sheet of ice materializes on everything in a 20’ radius.
The sounds of laughter in reverse fill a 20’ radius for 3 rounds.
The spell leaves a permanent holograph hovering in reality at the point of casting.
The caster’s face transmogrifies into an entirely different face for a day.
The skin melts off the caster’s hands, leaving exposed muscle and bone. No damage.
The caster’s eyes become two glowing orbs of purple light.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Gathox Deities: The Goddess Who Balances On Narrow Precipices

Given the progress of the new campaign I've been running, I thought it would be fun to make a quick post about one of the deities worshiped in Gathox. The players are all holed up, YMCA-style, at the Temple of Flex, which is dedicated to Ji'Gin'Jir.

The Goddess Who Balances On Narrow Precipices, or Ji'Gin'jir - Acrobats, bodybuilders, performers, and daredevils of many races worship The Goddess Who Balances On Narrow Precipices. She represents the power of the living body, the tenuousness of living amongst many deaths, and the triumph of will over inertia. Ji’Gin’Jir is said to preside over pageantry and games of risk, and to cast a hateful eye on sloth and indecision. Her grace is known by disasters averted and her wrath felt in the punishment of indebtedness. Her image is a mass of gymnasts intertwined, and her passage is known by the lingering stench of sweat.

Favor/ Disfavor: Prayer to Sha-Benyu before the performance of an extraordinary physical act may provide a 1% chance to improve the attempt by 1 die. Failure after the granting of this boon is punished by reduction of Dexterity by 1 point for the rest of the day.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Gathox Map Art: DONE!

So here's one of the largest pieces of art I've made in a long time, which is the culmination of numerous whiteboard drawings during game, spare time sketching, and quite a few hours of rendering.

It's divided into three neighborhoods: the large southern section is The Kettle, or the poorest neighborhood; the upper right hand section is the oldest neighborhood, Berchan Favela; and the upper left is where the richest gangs live, called The Craw.

I'll be breaking out the neighborhoods and keying them for the book. Meanwhile, check it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Gathox Classes: The Militants

Gathox uses the Swords and Wizardry WhiteBox Rules as its chassis, and today I'd like to share the classes and subclasses for fighting types, also known as Militants. The information listed here is in addition to the information for Fighters found in S&W:WB.


Militants are the bread and butter of street gangs, the might making right for the elite, and the most common PC occupation in Gathox. Rare is the street urchin who grows to adulthood without learning the sweet science, and rarer yet is the merchant who has no need of muscle to enforce the protection of her goods in a lawless city.

Militants use the advancement tables and abilities listed for the Fighter in Whitebox. A Militant can choose to be a Street Tough, Soldier, or Martial Master at the beginning of play. Each possesses a unique ability to aid in distinguishing themselves from their brethren.

The Street Tough

This Militant knows the pulse and rhythm of the city, living in tune with the nuances of bravado and eternally studying the art of the hustle. Barroom brawls and back alley beatdowns provided ample classroom instruction for the Street Tough, and now the Tough is ready for the big time.

The Street Tough enjoys a natural +1 to unarmed attack, and may attempt to Intimidate any humanoid, although only one at a time. The Intimidate forces the target to roll a saving throw: success means the humanoid has called the Tough’s bluff, and failure means that the humanoid must obey the next request made by the Tough, short of harming themselves or their allies.

The Soldier

Unlike the Street Tough, a soldier consciously chose a career path from an early age, signing on with a private defense company or entering into formal training with an established gang at a young age. The Soldier understands the chain of command and how to fight in groups, and never lets the chaos of the moment undermine their countless hours of drills and martial practice.

The Soldier has learned how to apply instantaneous discipline to even the most ragtag band of combatants, and may assert Discipline on their party up to 3 times per day. The use of Discipline inspires the Soldier and her fellow combatants to gird their loins for battle, granting a 1-point bonus to AC and saving throws for 3 rounds. This only applies to teammates within vocal range.

The Martial Master

A Martial Master is a Militant raised within an insular family tradition of fighting, often utterly idiosyncratic and divergent from common forms of fighting. The Martial Master spends virtually their entire adolescence and early adulthood training with family members to become a self-contained, one man army. Players are encouraged to be creative with their chosen martial path, whether it be kung-fu, gun-kata, or something even more wild.

The Martial Master enjoys a 1-point bonus to armed attack rolls, and may Brandish two weapons at once without penalty. The Brandish allows the Martial Master to roll damage twice and take the higher of the two rolls upon a successful attack – in the case of two weapons doing unequal damage, use the higher value damage roll.