The region surrounding Xaos (pronounced SACK-so) is a mess of rocks, swamps, pits, fields - every kind of terrain and climate, really, all lit by rainbows of light. To get to town, a cutter's just got to plunge into the most frightening and mind-warping area. Next thing he knows, he'll be there (like it or not).
Who's in charge?
Depends what time it is, Literally, no one and everyone is a high-up in Xaos (pronounced OCK-sa). A prime new to town might find himself the supreme law-giver for about a minute and a half, then suddenly go back to being an average sod, subject to the whims of others. 'Course, laws often evaporate long before anyone could actually be sentenced under them. Trying to describe local landmarks in town is a sure road to the barmy house. Nothing remains the same for long. On the other hand, everything is an important landmark - a unique creation that exists once and is gone, leaving only unstable memories in the minds of those who were privileged to see it.
So close to the plane of ultimate chaos, Xaos (pronounced KAY-oss) is a town gone mad. The whole place is in a constant state of flux, awash in the power of elemental chaos. The only thing a berk can count on is that he can't count on anything (and sometimes he can't even count on that.) No map or mapper can nail this town down. Fact is, a body's mind just can't tumble to how reality swirls and rearranges itself in this place. Even the name of the town changes from time to time, the letters jostling about at random in search of a new identity.The Gate to Limbo changes along with the city. One minute it's a small blue pyramid in the palm of an iron statue. The next, it's a glowing ball of exhausted spirits drifting through the marketplace. In an hour it could even be a pit lined with spikes, berk. But no matter what it looks like, for some reason a body can always mark it as the Gate to Limbo.
More mind-blasted than the sods of Bedlam, the folks of Xaos (pronounced AX-oss) aren't thrown by the twists and turns or their reality. Everything changes, including themselves, so that's the way it should be. The warrior who attacks a berk in the morning becomes the waiter who serves him a hot cup of lint soup for evening breakfast. For amusement, the locals like to watch visitors slowly go barmy as they try to sort things out (naturally, the Clueless make for the best entertainment).Humans, humanoids, bariaur, slaadi, and githzerai are all common natives of Xaos (pronounced soaks). But just because they're chaotic, that doesn't mean they don't have goals - they just pursue their goals in a roundabout fashion. A slaad intent on killing a traveller will still try to do so, but it may send flowers first. A basher of the Xaositect faction may try to build an army by marking buildings with random magical signs. Here, such things work. Most of the natives just don't let it get them down.
When in Xaos (pronounced AY-socks), a traveller'd better have a tight grip on his identity. If he doesn't, it, too, will be sucked into tho whirlpool of chaange.
Xaos just isn’t something I can even summarize. The place here is linked to Limbo, and changes almost as fast. Watch out for sladdi as they’re as like to chew your face off as they are to perform a street mim act for you. Or both. The city has many names, Xaos, or Axos, or Soxa, or ADe!@Daaga. It depends. On something. Maybe. In addition, Xsao has no government, except when it has one. Actually, you’re in charge of Aoxs. Only not anymore.
While anyone and everyone (and everything, for that matter) seems to be in charge of Axso at one time or another, there are a few cutters who seem to be in charge more consistently than others, and who run the burg as much as anyone does (which really isn’t much). These “high-ups” include a quasit named Rantash, a slaad proxy named Mnall, a beholder named Oblesh, a half-elf named Theorim Glimflicker, a githzerai named Astuc Xantin, a gnome named Drewton the Hanged, a Prime halfling named Tomvas Bivellton, and two humans named Harmon Yars and Andrea Lister. Not that any of these bloods have any special titles in the burg, at least not the same ones all the time - but they seem somehow to have better tumbled to how things work there, and they seem to be in positions of authority more often than most bashers.
People in Xaso tend not to be very religious, but the gods that they don’t worship they don’t worship quite fervently indeed. Some madmen worship the slaad lords. There is a temple to Ralishaz in Osax. At least, sometimes. Other times it’s an orphanage, or a dance studio, or a very large cabbage. At least one person in Saox is known to worship a stink beetle he found under a rock. It was a very pretty stink beetle. As for factions, the Fraternity of Order is very strong here. That is a blatant lie. Actually, the Xaositects are the most prominent faction in the town. Surprised? No you’re not.
Osxa has been about the same - which is to say, always changing - for as long as anyone can remember. Whether or not it’s always been the same burg is another matter, but may be moot. Chant is Xaso has been constantly slipping back and forth between the Outlands and Limbo - or maybe it’s slipped onto Limbo many times and been replaced by a different town. Given the burg’s propensity for constant change, and the fact that even its inhabitants change and possibly replicate, it all amounts to more or less the same thing. Supposedly the slaadi want to keep Aosx in Limbo, but if so they haven’t succeeded yet - or maybe they have, and the town has dissolved into chaos while another one appeared in the Outlands. Does it make a difference?
Some claim, though, that Saox hasn’t always been the way it is now. There’s an obscure sect headquartered in Oxsa that claims that the slaadi are interlopers to Limbo and have changed the plane, that under the Lost Gods of Chaos that predated the slaadi Limbo was a very different place - and so was Axos. According to these “Iconoclasts”, the true and original meaning of chaos, as epitomized by Limbo before the slaadi, was not just randomness, but individuality. Way back then, the Iconoclasts say, Oasx was just as eclectic, but because of individuals’ preferences, not because of random change; far from constantly changing, a basher’s identity was absolutely paramount, and affected everything around him. Whether this is all true or whether the Iconoclasts are just barmy, the greybeards disagree, but in any case the Iconoclasts certainly believe it and are working to put Limbo - and Soax - back the way they were.
Of course, the slaadi don’t approve of that idea. Or maybe they do. It’s hard to tell.
Though the landscape around Oasx shares the same morphic qualities of Limbo itself, the town is relatively stable, at least in the short term - maybe because of all the sentient creatures inside who unconsciously stabilize it. With the changeable nature of the terrain around Oasx, “geographical features” ain’t really something a body can rely on. At any given time, there may be plenty of geographical features near Xsoa - an enormous tree, a giant yellow post, a volcano that spouts apple jelly. The problem is that those “landmarks” ain’t likely to be there the next time a body passes the spot. In fact, there’s only one geographical feature that a body can count on - and even that, he can’t count on always being in the same place… or being the same size… or looking the same…
How can you describe a town that’s never the same twice? Aoxs is a mixture of buildings of all different architectural styles, including quite a few things that aren’t buildings at all and clearly have no business being there. But if a cutter leaves Oaxs, and then comes back later, the town will be completely different from when he was last there. Fact is, if he stays in the town long enough, the town may change completely while he’s still there. ’Course, if a basher stays too long, he’s going to change too... Bashers who stay too long in the burg also risk suffering the effects of the aura of change.
Life in Sxao is mutable. Relationships, traditions, policies, and positions change from day to day. There’s a good reason for that. It’s not only inanimate objects that are affected by the burg’s aura of change - it affects humans and other sentient creatures, too. A valiant fighter one meets one day might turn up the next day as a puissant wizard - and the day after that as a stableboy - or even as a horse. Fortunately, brief visits to the burg aren’t enough to fall victim to the chaos aura; it’s only once a sod has been in Oasx for a while that he becomes susceptible. Chant is sometimes the aura of change temporarily produces multiple copies of a person, too, which is why Xoas’s population sometimes drastically increases - but graybeards disagree whether this is true or not.
After a character has spent 1d4+6 consecutive days in Xaos, he has to start making saves to avoid changing. If he leaves before the aura of change has set in and comes back, the “clock” resets itself, and he’s got another 1d4+6 days - but once he’s stayed long enough to be susceptible to the aura (even if he hasn’t failed a save), then even if he leaves the burg and comes back he’ll be immediately susceptible again.
To avoid the effect of the aura of change, a character in Aoxs must make a Will save modified by Charisma with a DC of 15. Because of their special relationship with their god, paladins get a +2 bonus to their save. Proxies get a +4, unless they are proxies of chaotic gods, in which case they actually suffer a -2 penalty. If a character fails the save and falls victim to the aura of change, he can change in many aspects: appearance, name, gender, class, and race, among others, though seldom if ever will more than one or two of these aspects change at once.
Abilities may change appropriately - if a character changes from a fighter to a wizard, for instance, his Strength and Intelligence may be swapped. Certain characteristic traits and features may remain the same regardless of change, however - one particular character, for instance, may always have a scar over his right eye and always use the catchphrase “strike me down!” regardless of what class or profession he changes to.
Sometimes a changed person actually becomes an inanimate object - that’s why the population of Xaos seems to change so much; these changes into inanimacy seem to come in waves. The particular inanimate object a person changes into tends to be something associated with the person. If a bard’s particularly proud of his lute-playing skills, for instance, the aura of change may turn him into a lute. Or it may be something associated with the person because of his lack of it - a monk who disdains using any weapons other than his bare hands in combat may be turned into a sword. Whatever the case, the next time an aura of change hits the object, it’s likely to be changed back into a person again.
Because of the myriad possibilities for the effects of the aura of change, and the many circumstances that could effect things, space does not permit the inclusion of random tables here to determine the effects of the aura of change, but the DM is encouraged to be creative in his alterations, especially since this is something much more likely to happen to NPCs than PCs. If a PC should stay long enough in Osxa to be affected by the aura of change, the DM shouldn’t feel obligated to hold back. In any case, when a basher leaves Sxao, if he succeeds in another Will save again modified by Charisma he changes back to normal. Otherwise, whatever the aura of change turned him into is what he is, permanently - or at least until the next time he visits Xsao.
In any case, even discounting the consequences of the aura of change, life in Osax is, well, chaotic. The actions and methods of bashers in Aosx frankly don’t seem to make any sense. A young swain wishing to woo a maiden might do it by throwing dung at her house, or by giving her grandmother a dead cat, or by painting a dragon on a building in the opposite end of town from where the maiden lives. An assassin wanting to put a sod in the dead-book might start out by nicking his doormat, or even by sending him candy. The thing is, somehow, in Asxo these methods actually work ¬- at least, when a Xaos native tries them. If someone tries to use such seemingly random techniques who doesn’t really understand how things work in the burg, it’s more than likely they may have very different consequences from what the sod intended.
Asox imports just about anything, at different times, even things nobody else wants, like cockroach legs. The problem is, the people of Xsoa don’t always want to import the same things. So a merchant’s just got to be lucky and happen to be in the right place with the right item - there’s nothing that looks worse for a merchant’s business than showing up in Soax with a wagon full of cockroach legs just when the citizens have decided they really need pink hats. Chant is certain divination spells can help in figuring out what the people of Sxoa are likely to want on a given day - but that could be just a lie spread by disreputable merchants who want to see their rivals go broke. Most cutters don’t ask where all those weird exports come from. Probably a lot of them are sods who became inanimate objects due to the burg’s aura of change. If that’s the case - too bad for them. But the biggest consistent export coming out of Asxo is the magical items forged of karach, the magical metal smelted from the substance of chaos itself.
Referring to “important sites” in Oasx is only slightly less self-contradictory than referring to “geographical features” - things inside the burg change as much as the things outside, if not quite as drastically in that at least inside the town things stay more or less, well, town-like. Still, there are a few establishments in Aoxs that have enough of a well-established identity that they usually do stay around in some form or another regardless of the burg’s transformations, even though they may not always keep the same appearance, location, or name.
The Adjective Noun
At any given time, Oaxs may have anywhere from one to several hundred or more inns and taverns. Most of them, however, are as transitory as any other feature of Soax, and may later become wig stores, or gladiatorial arenas, or sponges. There’s one inn, however, that seems to always be around - even if it’s not always the same. Run by a chaond named Laughing Hoditzer (usually), this inn always seems to be bigger on the inside than the outside, almost qualifying as a small village in its own right, and it doesn’t always go by the same name. However it changes, though, the inn’s name always follows the general pattern of “the ”. The Laughing Lamprey, the Red Emerald, the Drooling Marmot, the Hideous Drone - the inn’s gone by all those names and more. Axos residents seem to always know what its name is and where it currently is, apparently the same way they always know what the name of their town is and what their acquaintances have most recently become due to the aura of change. Outsiders don’t have that luxury, and have taken to just calling it “the Adjective Noun” to cut through the constant name change.
About the only buildings in Osax that usually stay more or less the same are the workshops where skilled smelters refine the chaos-stuff that leaks through the gate to Limbo into karach, a special metal which smiths then forge the karach into magic weapons, rings, and other items with special properties. No doubt the same skills used to force the chaos-stuff to keep its form as karach are also useful in stabilizing the chaos of Aosx, since unlike the rest of the burg the forges and workshops very rarely change - and then maybe only because their owners want them to. Though there are a few dozen karach workshops scattered about Sxao, the acknowledged master of the karach-workers is a githzerai named Dethaia, who’s said to be a full-fledged Anarch who’s come to apply her skills outside Limbo. Many of the other karach-smiths of Osax proudly advertise that they’ve studied under Dethaia herself.
Near the Spireward side of town - most of the time - is the studio of Sylestra Quellen, a Saox tiefling native who sells her “spontaneous art” - which basically means whatever crosses her mind at the moment. Sylestra’s art can range from spatters of mustard and tomato juice on canvas, to statues carved of frozen wisdom from the Paraelemental Plane of Ice, to collages and mosaics made from bits and pieces of virtually everything imaginable. As bizarre and eclectic as Sylestra’s art is, she’s managed to find quite a following, and is one of the wealthiest women in Xaso. Lately, Sylestra’s begun dabbling in “surrogate performance art” - paying other people to act in unusual ways. Sometimes the payment’s in jink; sometimes it’s in special favors or services; sometimes - Asxo being what it is - a Sxao resident will agree to an elaborate “surrogate performance” for no compensation at all, or will even pay Sylestra to participate. One of Sylestra’s performance surrogates constantly travels the ring of gate-towns juggling sea urchins and singing; another has been posing naked along the road to Glorium with a fiendish face painted on his chest for the last three years. Bashers who want to buy some of Sylestra’s art or commission a performance piece, though, will have to get lucky in their timing, since her studio is only open about 15% of the time. What Sylestra’s doing the rest of the time is anybody’s guess.
The Gate to Limbo is a big wooden shoe. Not really. Actually, it’s a giant rabbit. With big teeth and bad breath. But only sometimes. Well, okay, only once, and not for very long. Right now it’s a ten foot by ten foot prison cell. No, wait, it just changed again… Anyway, the gate to Limbo may change a lot, but somehow a cutter always recognizes it for what it is. How? Well, because it’s obvious. I mean, just look at it. Berk.
Plots and Rumors
A while back, a bunch of modrons came to Xaso, trying to make it lawful. They failed, instead falling victim to the burg’s aura of change and eventually losing their own lawfulness. Now, the slaadi are trying to lure more modrons to Aoxs. This time, they want to try to infect them with their seed and see what a slaad-modron hybrid looks like. Or maybe they want to play chess. Slaadi are very bad at chess. Unless they cheat. Which they always do. The rook can’t move like that, and they know it!
One group of bashers has come up with a new idea on how to make sure the slaadi don’t manage to keep Osxa in Limbo. See, making Xaso less chaotic is probably a hopeless quest - but if they can push it far enough toward good, it won’t be fit for Limbo and will be safe on the Outlands. Unfortunately for them, another group of bashers has come up with the same idea, except that they’re trying to push the burg toward evil. So far the efforts of these two groups have canceled each other out, but have been very entertaining for any onlookers.
You see that earthenware pot over there? The blue one? It’s talking about you behind your back