Gloamhold: 95% Core

Gloamhold is a place of lurking shadow, danger, madness and death. It is a huge complex and during play players will (hopefully) explore large parts of the dungeon between rests.

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Large dungeons are cool – I love the idea of a megadungeon, but running such a campaign setting creates a lot of pressure on the GM. If the PCs can essentially go wherever they want, the GM needs to be ready for almost anything.

Consequently, as you explore Gloamhold you’ll notice the vast majority of the material within comes from the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook. That’s a deliberate design decision on my part and I wanted to explain it.

Keeping almost exclusively to core material has seven main advantages:

  1. Everyone Gets It: Pretty much every player knows what bless or magic missile does. Likewise feats such as Improved Initiative, Power Attack and Silent Spell are well known quantities. Everyone knows what a fighter does or what role a cleric normally fills in the party. This leads to less confusion.
  2. Fast Play: Because everyone gets it, play (particularly combat) is faster. You spend less time time looking up new spells or class abilities and instead immerse yourself in exploring the dungeon.  More options in a game inevitably slow down game play and I want play in Gloamhold to be quick and easy. In short, you should be playing the game and not reading about it.
  3. Fast Prep: Keeping material to the core rulebook speeds up a GM’s prep time immensely. Given that the PCs will be covering a fair amount of ground every session, this can only be a good thing.
  4. Space: Gloamhold is vast, and any book I eventually release will likely also be pretty large. The tyranny of page count and print cost means space is finite. One of the basic premises of Raging Swan Press products is that we provide everything you need to run the encounter or adventure in an easily understood and referenced format. If an encounter includes NPCs with odd classes or feats I need to include much more information in the text so the GM can easily run that NPC. In many cases, this massively impacts the available space for other material. Compare and contrast, for example, the amount of space required for the stat block of a 5th-level fighter to that of a 5th-level samurai.
  5. The PCs Are Special: If you decide to allow players to use non-core material, it marks them out as truly special individuals. That’s cool. After all, when everyone is special, no one is special.
  6. It’s Easier To Add Than Take Away: It’s far easier to add options than to take them away. For example, if you don’t use gunslingers in your campaign the presence of such a NPC forces you to redesign the NPC and the encounter in which it appears to make it fit with your take on Gloamhold. I don’t want to force you to do that. On the flip side, if you want to include such a fellow you can choose to rework the encounter to suit your tastes.
  7. Edition Neutral: At some point, a new edition of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is going to appear. Given that Gloamhold is (hopefully) going to feature in Raging Swan’s release schedule for many years it makes sense to make it as edition neutral as possible. Pretty much any edition of the game, for example, will have humans, fighters and clerics. They might not have (at least initially) rules for oracles and ninjas.  It also means, Gloamhold is easily backwards compatible with version 3.5 of the world’s most popular roleplaying game.

The Exception To The Rule

There is one notable exception to the 95% core rule. The history of the game is rich and deep. Many classic monsters have appeared over the years and not all of them made it into the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary. Some of these monsters will inevitably appear in Gloamhold.

I’m also a huge H.P. Lovecraft fan. I love his writing and the mood he evokes in such classic tales as Shadow Over Innsmouth and the Mountains of Madness is exactly the mood I’d like to conjure in and around Gloamhold. His monsters and mythos are a necessary component of that mood.

What Do You Think?

So what do you think of restricting more of the material in Gloamhold to the core rulebook? Do you think I’m mad for not using most of the other books out there or do you think a simpler, more stripped back style of gaming is a good thing? Let me know, in comments below!

Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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8 thoughts on “Gloamhold: 95% Core

  1. As much as I like to see people use All The Stuff, and I’d like to see more not-core material in the wild, for a product like this ease of use is critical. Limiting yourself mostly to core material increases ease of use.

  2. In my games I only use the core rules, largely because I’ve not been playing for long and I haven’t run out of exciting things to do with them. In a year or so if I think I want to spice things up I might introduce some extra stuff but aside from creatures at the moment I’m happy with what I have.

    Really excited by Gloamhold, if it was out now I’d be getting it for a game I’ve got coming up.

  3. I love the stripped down idea. Too many supplements out there have to be edited before use. I run a pathfinder home brew campaignthat uses source material from many areas. The world is a mix of my design with drop-ins from Golarion, palladium and of course Raging Swan. I can definitely see adding Gloamhold.

  4. Rarely do I start a game with anything more than, Core, available. If the players want to have stuff from other books that I allow, they have to find a way to make it happen. Find a trainer, or marry someone who is established as a type of class or race. I appreciate the Core Rulebook in it’s vastness, and I also like to work with the players when something just doesn’t work for my game. My game, meaning, “No, that shit is overpowered.”

    And the players understand it. They can’t use a Zen Archer, I won’t open up the mythic monsters tome…
    /mutters something about using a 20 megaton warhead to smack a mosquito.

  5. Well, I’m using it for Fantasy Age ( With some Advanced Fighting Fantasy, Cadwallon, and WHFR setting material, along with old 1st Ed D&D stuff), and I find the SN version of the setting best for me.
    The Core PF ( I ran PF for 4 yrs…) stuff is all relatable, so even the few things that I have purchased that were PF are easily convertible.