Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Fresh Welcome to the Vertical Slum

For the last two and a half years I've been writing, designing, brainstorming, and running a home campaign called Gathox Vertical Slum. The first home campaign ran 48 sessions and featured a total of 17 different players. At first, I just wanted to run a cool sci-fi/fantasy mashup for my friends, but as time went on I realized that I wanted to publish the game. The pause on blog posts has been due largely to playing the game with friends, writing and rewriting parts of Gathox, and making art. Well, that and I moved across the country twice in a year . . .

This post is intended to introduce Gathox to folks that are new to the blog, to the community, or to me. If you haven't seen it, here's the first post I wrote about Gathox.

In Brief

Gathox is a wandering god with a city on it's back. The city is lousy with gangs and aliens, and it's where the players do their adventuring.

Gathox At A Glance

Gathox is a massive wandering godling, either mindless or inscrutable in motives, who travels across the wildernesses and wastelands of at least two dozen catalogued worlds. Sages of all stripes suspect that the godling may exist simultaneously on these worlds at different points in the universal timeline as well. Gathox finds sustenance on these worlds, sucking up dunes, woodlands, and small lakes into the half-kilometer wide maw at its rocky head, perpetually driven forward on more than a million humanoid legs. As the great beast moves, these legs regularly break off and decay where they rest, sprouting all manner of gourds and cucumbers within a fortnight.

Those who have approached Gathox from the front claim they can read the obscure lines of a face on the great rocky mound, its mouth agape in a perpetual wail, eyes turned upward. From a distance, Gathox appears to glide along the surface of the earth, lumbering forward at the pace of an elderly porter. Many who spy Gathox for the first time face difficulty believing that it lives, swearing it looks like nothing so much as a floating island hovering upside down.

A city, also called Gathox, grows on the sloped, mountainous back of the godling. This vast city is surrounded by a great, rocky wall like the rim of a caldera. Precarious stacks of tightly packed buildings sprout from the godling’s hind-quarters, increasing in size and sophistication as the city stretches toward the head of the god, ending in a massive spire which appears like a horn above the face of Gathox. Those who dwell within the city of Gathox often reverently refer to it as “The Great Spire,” although this can just as often refer to the actual Spire itself.

At first approach

Following in the wake of Gathox, wanderers encounter a variety of strange phenomena. Severed human legs in various states of decay adorn the ground, quickly spouting into fields of gourds regardless of the terrain. Piles of trash, exploded and often burning, punctuate the sides of a great concourse of footprints, as if a shoeless army had recently passed through the area. Travelers who follow the path of the city will eventually gain ground, spying first the Great Spire, then a protrusion of buildings, catapults, and lights.

As wanderers draw nearer, greenery can be seen to grow between buildings like weeds breaking through cracks in concrete. Numerous chimneys and industrial stacks spew acrid, oily clouds of pollution into the sky, leaving Gathox perpetually mired in a haze of particulates. Birds circle overhead, diving to the surface in turn, gradually growing more numerous as distant buzzards draw close to see what the fuss is about. Navigating near Gathox can be a chore, as the strength of the godling’s local magnetism causes compasses to point north toward its head. Those who wish to enter the city must do so from the low-sloping back end, which features an elongated metal ramp reaching to the earth which is also supported by human legs grafted to the underside.

What Gathox Does

Gathox uses Swords and Wizardry: White Box rules. There are subclasses of Fighters and Wizards, and no clerics - instead, players can opt to be Mutants as the third class. Players can engage in domain-level play from the first session by playing gangs. There's a ton of weird equipment, totally bizarre monsters, and plenty of debauchery and death to be found. Oh, and psychic powers. Because psychic powers are as rad as lasers. Did I mention there's lasers?

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