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Creatures of the Iron Council, Pt. 2

Part two of the monsters that didn't quite fit in Dragon 352, here's my personal favorite of the Miéville races: the Hotchi and their Gallus mounts.


Small Humanoid
Hit Dice: 3d8+3 (16 hp)
Initiative: +0
Speed: 30 ft.
AC: 12 (+2 natural) or 18 (rolled-up), touch 12, flat-footed 12
Base Attack/Grapple: +5/+3
Attacks: Spine slam +5 melee or +5 light lance or +3 composite short bow
Damage: Spine slam 1d6+1 or 1d8+1 light lance (x3) or 1d8+1 arrow (x3)
Face/Reach: 5 ft. by 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Quillgun
Special Qualities: Rollup
Saves: Fort +4, Ref +2, Will +1
Abilities: Str 15, Dex 10, Con 12, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 10
Skills: Climb +3, Move Silently +1, Ride +2, Spot +3, Survival +2, Tumble +4
Feats: Mounted Combat, Point-Blank Shot
Climate/Terrain: Any forest
Organization: Solitary, pair, burrow (1d4+1), or band (2d6+1)
Challenge Rating: 1
Treasure: Standard
Alignment: Neutral
Advancement: 4-9 HD (Small); 10-12 HD (Medium-size) By character class (see comments)

The hotchi are stout, muscular humanoid hedgehogs, much more aggressive and much wilier than normal hedgehogs. They have snouts and wriggling noses, and their hair consists of quills – in fact, the spined backs of their arms are often visible through their clothes, and some forms of hotchi armor have special holes that allow a hotchi to gather his or her spikes together into a larger spike that sticks out through the armor itself.

Hotchi live in bands in the forest of Rudewood and the floating city of Armada, though a few families have settled in New Crobuzon as well. They build earthen burrows beneath ancient trees and in riverbanks. These homes are partially decorated and kept dry through clever use of dry leaf floors and wooden supports. The rustling leaves also make excellent alarms.

In the forests and plains, the hotchi breed and ride a species of aggressive war-cockerels called gallus (see sidebar). The Rudewood bands have savage cockfighting fights, and they ride their gallus in these matches. Some hotchi live in mixed cities such as New Crobuzon; many there clip or file down their spines to avoid intimidating their neighbors.

Hotchi are strong for their size, pugnacious, and quite physically adept at climbing both trees and rigging. They make good sailors and excellent scouts.

The hotchi use various weapons suited to their homes, though the Rudewood ones prefer quiet weapons such as the quillgun and the bow. In most combat, they strike with their spikes, using their arms and whole body slams to lleave a foe stuck full of quills.
Quillgun (Ex): Common only among the southern forest tribes, the hotchi quillgun is a simple tube that fires thin metal darts or the hotchi’s own quills, often treated with venom. It is equivalent to the standard blowgun, but is not an exotic weapon for the hotchi.
Rollup (Ex): When a fight goes against them, the hotchi can also roll up in to a ball and roll away, well defended. This rollup grants a hotchi a +6 natural armor bonus, and still permits the hotchi a normal move without penalty, as it can roll quickly in this form. It cannot double-move or run while rolled up, but can still move using its Tumble skill. Skills: All hotchi gain a +4 racial bonus to Tumble skill.


The gallus are cockerels bred by the Rudewood hotchi and fitted with ornate saddles and wicked fighting spurs. Their feathers vary from black and green to russet and gold, and their legs are a dusky yellow or pale brown. Larger than an ostrich, they are aggressive and warlike, and their kicks are often fatal to their foes.

Large Beast
Hit Dice: 4d10 (21 hp)
Initiative: +1
Speed: 50 ft., fly 20 ft. (clumsy)
AC: 12 (+1 natural, +1 Dexterity), touch 12, flat-footed 12
Base Attack/Grapple: +3/+11
Attacks: Kick +7 melee or warspike +7 melee
Damage: Kick 1d8+4 or warspike 2d6+4 (x3)
Face/Reach: 10 ft. by 10 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Spur jump
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60 ft.
Saves: Fort +4, Ref +5, Will -1
Abilities: Str 18, Dex 12, Con 11, Int 6, Wis 7, Cha 12
Skills: Jump +8, Move Silently +2, Tumble +4
Feats: Acrobatic, Run
Climate/Terrain: Hot or temperate forest or plains
Organization: Solitary, pair, flock (1d4+1), or band (2d6+1)
Challenge Rating: 2
Treasure: Standard
Alignment: Neutral
Advancement: 5-8 HD

Able to outrun a horse, a gallus is a fast form of transport and a ferocious fighter, but only the hotchi have been able to tame them. They are exceptionally maneuverable in combat, able to slip through difficult terrain or over crowds of foes with their limited flight.

Some hotchi use leather barding that grants their mounts an additional +2 AC bonus. Any heavier armor prevents their Spur Jump attacks.

Gallus are fighting birds as big as a pony, just a little too small for a human to ride effectively. They fight largely from the ground, leaping and striking from the air as it suits them. The hotchi always attach fighting spurs, also called warspikes, to the natural spurs of their gallus before combat.

Gallus are weak fliers. A gallus can fly for a number of rounds equal to its Strength bonus. If it is encumbered, flight time is cut in half and it cannot make spur jump attacks.

Spur Jump (Ex): A gallus is an expert at striking from above, using both spike claws at once in a jumping spur attack. This attack counts as a charge, but because the gallus uses its wings to strike from the air, no running, double move, or other special movement is required. The gallus must have at least 20 feet of airspace above the target, and makes the jump as a free action. The gallus’s Armor Class suffers a -2 penalty, but it makes two warspike attacks rather than just one, and gains an +1 damage bonus during a jumping spur attack. If both strikes hit, the gallus can use them as leverage to grind both blades apart.

The rider during the spur jump attack is entitled to charging bonuses to attack and damage rolls with a lance or other weapon.

At the end of a jumping spur attack, the gallus may land in any square adjacent to the target creature. If ridden, the rider chooses the square.

Naturally, if you like these I urge you to take a look at the issue of Dragon that contains the ones that were published: they're very fine monsters, edited and lavishly illustrated. Or check out the adventure and monster work over at Open Design.


( 15 sutras — Your wisdom )
Jan. 22nd, 2007 09:07 pm (UTC)
I'm surprised a humanoid type with a 12 Int doesn't advance by character class. But its not like I'm familiar with the source material.
Jan. 22nd, 2007 10:28 pm (UTC)
Oh, they definitely should advance by class rather than HD, but there's just so little about them in the books that it's impossible to pick a favored class and so on.

I'm tempted to offer them as a PC race in my home campaign, likely as rangers, bandits, and rogues.
Jan. 22nd, 2007 10:34 pm (UTC)
Do you have a bandit class you use from a particular source, or is that more of a flavour title.
Jan. 23rd, 2007 01:01 am (UTC)
It's the bandit class from Book of Roguish Luck; I think it may be the most successful of the core classes there, and fills a need for a non-urban rogue rather nicely.
Jan. 30th, 2007 04:05 pm (UTC)
I love playing monsters and weird things, myself.
Jan. 23rd, 2007 01:01 am (UTC)
These are very cool! I like the hotchi a lot. Iron Council was particularly full of concepts just tossed out left and right (like the proasme earlier today). But all three books are very good.

Say, is the Afanc statted up?
Jan. 23rd, 2007 01:18 am (UTC)
Yes, Iron Council is loaded with great stuff. The inchmen abominations are another monster I considered, but there just wasn't room for everything. I've got a drawing of them by Mr. Mieville, though, and it's pretty damn creepy.

Thought about doing the Afanc as an Epic-level monster, but I think that's just not as useful as a CR 1 to 10 creature. So, alas no.

Glad you like them: Tell your playtesters or folks on the boards to come say hi!
Jan. 28th, 2007 12:05 am (UTC)
Any chance you could post a (low-res) copy of that inchmen drawing? For some reason, I've had a lot of trouble picturing them, and a Mieville drawing would be terrific.

Thanks for the extra monsters! I loved the Dragon articles, esp. the maps of Bas-Lag.

Jan. 28th, 2007 01:21 am (UTC)
Hate to disappoint, but I don't have permission to post it, and worse, I've recently moved so the drawing is somewhere in one of 40 boxes of papers.

They're human torsos on caterpillar lower bodies, but with a lot more attitude. As in, twice as tall as you and can tear you in half.
Jan. 23rd, 2007 01:12 am (UTC)
What do you think the LA for the Hotchi would be?
Jan. 23rd, 2007 01:27 am (UTC)
Hotchi As Player Characters
Good question. To answer it, I need to work out their set of racial abilities. At a first guess, I'd say:
    a +2 Str and -2 Wis racial trait,
  • a +1 natural armor bonus
  • SQ such as low-light vision and the rollup ability.
  • Small size gives them +1 to AC, +1 attack, +4 Hide, -4 grapple.
  • Racial Skills: Tumble +4
  • Spine slam for 1d6-1 as natural weapons.
  • Weapon familiarity: treat quillguns as martial rather than exotic weapons.
  • Favored Class = bandit

I'd say all that adds up to a LA around +1 (compared to Poison Dusk Lizardfolk, one might even argue for +0).
Jan. 24th, 2007 12:24 pm (UTC)
What kind of action is rolling into a ball for the hotchi? And am I right to assume that the gallus' kick attack does slashing damage? Should the hotchi's quills give an armor spike-like damaging ability in grapples and the like?

Were there any unused Mieville illustrations? Any chance the public will get to see them, as a web supplement or otherwise? The freer the better, you understand. Long live!
Jan. 24th, 2007 06:11 pm (UTC)
See, this is why editors are so important.

  • I think it should be a swift action, probably.
  • Yes, the kick is slashing damage.
  • Yes, they should act as armor spike.
  • I doubt such illos exist. Paizo doesn't commission art they don't plan on using — but you'd have to ask them.
Feb. 28th, 2007 02:10 am (UTC)
Yay for you
Thanks for the article, and these additions. I think you did a great job, so snaps for you. I'm interested, did you even begin to think about spells and magic? You made a reference to thaumaturges being broadly like sorcerers but with a radically different spell selection (and, I inferred, magic system). Did you do any work on that, or have you any thoughts?
Feb. 28th, 2007 04:01 am (UTC)
Re: Yay for you
There was some serious thought about whether it would be possible to do spells and magic, but after a while, Erik Mona and I agreed it just wasn't possible in the space available. As it was, Mr. Mieville and I pretty much took over the magazine for a month.

Doing a decent treatment of biothaumaturgy, golem magic, etc would have required writing a sourcebook, not magazine articles. However....

I think it is possible to graft the D&D system to the Bas Lag setting. The use of some forms of elementalism (watercraefting by the vodyanoi), golem conjuring (a variant school of summoning), alchemy, and a more refined necromancy (biothaumaturgy) could work. Chaos magic seems available to non-humans and those willing to build torque bombs.

I didn't see a lot of divinations and evocations, but maybe I just wasn't watching carefully enough. It would be lots of fun to build all this; I do hope the setting gets a proper d20 treatment someday.

You running a New Crobuzon-type game?
( 15 sutras — Your wisdom )

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