The Gloamhold Look

A subtle and ancient curse of great potency and malignancy lurks within Gloamhold’s gloomy, dust-shrouded halls. Curiously, it seems only those who dwell in the world of men—humans, elves, dwarves and the like—fall prey to its malign influence. Those accustomed to living underground in the permanent dark of the ancient fortress’s ebon reaches appear immune to its effect.

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)

 

Thus, few explorers escape Gloamhold unscathed for the dungeon itself infuses its malignity upon all who tarry too long within its doom-drenched halls. Many who delve its depths emerge…changed. In the surrounding area those bearing a certain haggard, prematurely aged appearance or who appear distracted by things no one else can see are often referred to as having the “Gloamhold Look”.

Some explorers resist Gloamhold’s insidious influence longer than others, keeping it at bay for years while the unlucky ones quickly succumb to its subtle influence. To begin with, the Gloamhold Look is a subtle thing—manifesting itself perhaps as slightly greying hair or deep bags under the afflicted individual’s eyes. However, as the curse takes hold, these changes deepen and become more severe.

Most healers are powerless to slow, hinder or reverse the progression of their patient’s Gloamhold Look. Only powerful magic beyond the reach of all but the richest or most powerful folk, or time spent away from Gloamhold’s gloomy precincts, can loosen the curse’s persistent grasp.

Generally, Gloamhold’s curse may fall upon an unfortunate explorer, when one of the following occurs while the character is in Gloamhold:

  • When the character is knocked unconscious.
  • When the character is slain (but subsequently returned to life).
  • When the character is charmed, dominated or otherwise magically compelled to carry out someone else’s wishes.
  • When the character fails to resist a magical effect that renders them frightened, scared, panicked or the like.

Additionally, certain places are so steeped in ancient evil, that the curse is particularly virulent in such locations. Simply entering such areas could be enough to trigger the onset—or the worsening—of the curse. Such locations—and their effects—are at the GM’s discretion, but should include any place dedicated to Dagon’s worship.

Creighton’s Note

Designing this facet of Gloamhold has proven particularly tricky. Given that Gloamhold is being written as a system neutral product, designing the mechanical aspect of how characters suffer the taint of the dungeon was difficult to achieve. I’ve realised that any talk of saving throws or the like would be impossible to deal with in all but the vaguest terms—thus rendering the process basically pointless. Instead, I think it makes more sense to have certain events trigger its onset. The GM shouldn’t immediately describe the curse attacking the PC—it’s a more subtle effect than that which will take a day or two to manifest.

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.

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9 thoughts on “The Gloamhold Look

  1. Yikes! I went here for some info on Gloamhold and was faced by a guy needing a facial.
    I suspect this effect is not something the players get told, but they might find out about it if they do research in the surroundings?

  2. I like it.
    A save isn’t required, just a condition met. You could scale it like the exhaustion mechanics in 5e. Maybe a d2 or d3 roll for the effect/affect per tier to represent how it affect some folks differently. Some folks hiding the “invisible rot within” better than others.

    • Thank you. Designing some kind of save mechanic for all three versions of D&D (5e, 1st and Pathfinder) seemed like a nightmare waiting to happen. Assuming the changes are mainly cosmetic I think this is a good system. If more severe effects have game mechanic affects on the PC I might require a saving throw butsI’m still pondering that.

  3. I thought you were going to release system specific companions to the campaign book? Seems like that would be a natural place to put those rules.

  4. Usually, I don’t even make the rules part of the game. I just have them describe “how” they do something. “Here’s your chest.” and I wait. If I don’t get the interaction I need, I prod, “How would you approach it, can you just demonstrate it, show me what you’re doing?”

    And the curse is the same way, If they wouldn’t apply some cremes or solvents after a nasty zombie attack, or describe their process for a ritual for what they are doing, and trying to instead, put a die roll in place of this, I’m pretty much thinking, “You failed your saving throw or your check to ascend through this challenge.”

  5. Creighton, have you given any thought to the system-neutral mechanics of the Catalyst Series by Flying Buffalo (the CityBooks, Grimtooth’s Traps, and the Treasure Vault)?