Gloamhold’s Feel & the Challenge of it All

Turns out, designing a megadungeon is a lot of work. Who knew? I mean, how do you ever finish designing a megadungeon? (Answer: you don’t). Of course, for a megadungeon—or even a dungeon—finishing it isn’t the main challenge. Getting the feel of the place right—that’s the trick.

By Tommi Salama

I’m a huge fan of H.P.Lovecraft and his writings of cosmic doom and of elder terrors lurking in the mysterious, unexplored places of the world. Obviously, Gloamhold had to have tentacles. After all, Everything is Better with Tentacles.

Everything’s Better With Tentacles (for the GM) by Matt Morrow

I’m also a huge fan of verisimilitude and Gygaxian Naturalism and—of course—Gloamhold would have to include both in vast quantities. I want Gloamhold to seem like a living, breathing dungeon (perhaps in all senses of the word…)

An Old-school Megadungeon

Designing Gloamhold took my thoughts in unexpected directions.

One of my design goals was to write an old-school megadungeon. This necessitated me thinking about what I actually meant by old-school. Around this time, I realised “old-school” means different things to different people. My old-school might actually be someone else’s ancient-school (or even new-fangled-school). Without codifying exactly what old-school meant to me, how could I design an old-school dungeon?

I also spent a lot of time thinking about megadungeon design. If you know me at all, you’ll know I’m much better working to a plan. Before designing Gloamhold, it thus seemed a good idea to distil and decide exactly what a megadungeon was and what elements a successful design should include.

Unexpected Sprawl

I’ve found designing Gloamhold not only rewarding but also immensely challenging. Of course, I knew it would take ages. I also knew occasionally writer’s block would strike and sometimes other things would be more important. That’s life, after all.

But, would you believe I underestimated the extent of the work? It quickly became obvious you can’t simply design a megadungeon in isolation from its surrounds. Such a complex can’t stand on its own.

You need a surrounding area and a nearby settlement for the PCs to retreat to rest and resupply. In short, I needed a mini-campaign area. And thus was born the Duchy of Ashlar, and its various villages, towns and capital city, Languard.

This unexpected design direction diverted me for at least six months!

The Final Word

In any event, I hope you agree that Gloamhold is an old-school megadungeon. Did I get it right? Does it need more tentacles? Is Gloamhold in no way old-school? Let me know what you think, in the comments below.

Gloamhold Campaign Guide

The Gloamhold Campaign Guide is now available from Raging Swan Press at all the normal places. Want to watch the Gloamhold video? Head over to Raging Swan Press’s Youtube channel and check it out.

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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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