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.