The first glimmers of Ashlar and the megadungeon Gloamhold came to me while I was watching a Scooby Doo cartoon.
Sadly, I can’t remember the exact film but it involved the gang fleeing through a ruined underground city (I think) studded with massive statues and riven by canals. I’d been thinking for some time about the possibilities of a megadungeon campaign, and this seemed like an amazing setting.
Sadly, I didn’t really leave a spot on the Lonely Coast for a megadungeon. I could have co-opted the Twisted Gorge, but it just did feel “right” to me. I envisioned the Twisted Gorge as a Caves of Chaos style dungeon which while cool is not a megadungeon. (Note to self, design the Twisted Gorge).
Clearly, I needed a new campaign area because megadungeons can’t—or at least shouldn’t—exist in a vacuum. The adventurers need somewhere to rest between adventures and a “proper” megadungeon is such a significant locale that it needs a decent backstory. I like the idea of a small, self-contained campaign area-that was one of my design criteria for the Lonely Coast—because it is easy to insert into a larger home campaign.
Thus was born the idea of Ashlar and Gloamhold. I noodled about with the idea for several months before finally putting pen to paper (as it were). If you know me, you’ll know I do love a plan. Thus it was important to me to get at decide the general themes and scope of the campaign area before hurling myself into design.
As I’ve blogged previously, Ashlar was (and remains) destined to be built piece by piece. I’m loving the fact that the campaign setting continues to slowly grow and gain detail. I also love that my players are also adding to the setting. For example, one of my group wanted to play a gnome (no, I don’t know why) and so invented the tiny gnomish settlement of Goldentree on the Ost river as his home. Similarly, other players really got into the fallen hold of Vongyth storyline/plot and so that has informed by redesign of Shadowed keep on the Borderland and the design of other locales, objects and NPCs in the duchy.
As play progresses, Ashlar is becoming less “mine” and more “ours”. And that feels great.