Oct 11, 2006 4:21:54
Someone any advice for running a gothic version of bluetspur?

I run Ravenloft campaigns for many years now, but I'm still not warm with that realm.
I mean: horror should be more subtle than that.

My idea was to combine it with the nightmare lands and only use it as a repository for some nightmarish visions or some Ctulhu flavor.

BUt it's in every sense not quite fitting. Partially because you need very powerfull players and partially because of the style.
Imagine why wouldn't hordes of Illithids infiltrate every Domain around them? (now it's an island of terror I know, but still mindflayers a quite expansive and they are criminal geniouses)

In my opinion it's a lousy place invented as gamemechanic to bully around players that grew to powerful.

Any opinions on that?


Oct 11, 2006 9:36:19
I seem to recall that John W. Mangrum wrote a great article about psionics in Ravenloft and how they relate to the God-Brain in the Book of Souls, and a companion adventure, The Man who lost his Mind in The Forgotten Children. You might find them interesting.

Both netbooks are available at the Kargatane website.


Oct 11, 2006 10:23:35
It's a great place to visit but I wouldn't want to centre a campaign there.

Bluetspur isn't swarming with hordes of mind flayers. Maybe only a hundred to several dozen. But they likely have three or four times their number in slaves. Invasion is not an option as they're too few and would be outnumbered if they moved in force.
Subtle invasions... what's to say they're not?

It's likely not just illithids. There could be aboleths or worse lurky in the tunnels and holes of the land.

It was built as a place of insanity and horror as your mind is pushed to its limits and you're faced with creatures alien to man. Lovecraftian to say the least.
The heroes stumble onto a bleak and barren landscape and struggle for food to to find the border. Meanwhile, their minds are harrassed by a alien intelligence beyond limits. They are plagued by illusions and nightmarish dreams, haunted by emotions and thoughts not their own.


Oct 11, 2006 10:25:13
I seem to recall that John W. Mangrum wrote a great article about psionics in Ravenloft and how they relate to the God-Brain in the Book of Souls, and a companion adventure, The Man who lost his Mind in The Forgotten Children. You might find them interesting.

Both netbooks are available at the Kargatane website.

Thanks, for the tipp.
Will look at it.

But my main problem isn't the psionic power of the mind flayers, it's just the flavor of their appearance and the way their minds work. (as described f. e. in Lords of Madness) They don't fit as a race.

Besides, there are very fitting psionic villains in the setting. Aubrecker for example. Also a single Illithid would be a good villain with the right story and moody background, but a whole city?


Oct 11, 2006 10:33:50
It was built as a place of insanity and horror as your mind is pushed to its limits and you're faced with creatures alien to man. Lovecraftian to say the least.

That's my opinion too, as quoted above.

But the intention of it is far worse, I think.
The adventure 'Thoughts of Darkness' is the perfect example of handling such a Domain wrong, and thats waht I wanted to say.
Also it can be dangerous to the balance of the whole world.
Given the mind flayer hive houses only a handful of the beasts, you have to think about what would happen in a Domain lead by Experts and Aristocrats if only three of them showed up.

It's unbalanced in some way, and I miss the feeling for subtlety which is showed in many other domains and adventures.

But I think you are right. In the end it's up to you what u make of it.


Oct 11, 2006 10:42:04
In Bluetspur they're not the main villian, they're all slaved to the Godbrain and every waking thought of theirs is in service to it. They cannot have their own plans, schemes or ambitions that are not the Godbrains.
And not all of them may be happy about this.

I always pictured the Mind Flayers of Bluetspur as being factioned. There are the loyal illithids who live but to serve their master, almost clerical in their devotion. Then there are those who look at the dwindiling food reserves and want to invade other realms and be more proactive with slaves and food.
There are those who oppose the Godbrain, viewing it as corrupt and selfish and silently try to oppose it and its goals, possibly using human/adventurer agents. These may parralel the intelligent flayers who seek knowledge and wonder if they have reached the limits of what they can learn in a closed realm and must find new ideas.

That's not even mentioning the slaves. Are all subservient and obedient or, over the years, have a few broken free and looking for the chance to escap?

If I were to send players to Bluetsprur I'd have them deal with the alien environment for a while. The lightning strikes and plains of obsidian, the lack of food and easy light sources. Taunted by nightmares and worse, they flail around for a while.
Then they're surrounded and taken below, perhaps driven into a cave.
I wouldn't describe the creatures, simply have them in shadows or use vague, alien descriptors to paint a picture of inhuman and monsterous beings that do not talk and do not move or even think like humans. Just shadowy monsters beyond understanding.
Have adventurers caught between factions. Some what to gleam what knowledge they can from the newcomers while others want to make them Mind Flayers. Some just want food while others seem them as instruments against their overlord.


Oct 11, 2006 14:52:11
I agree that Bluetspur doesn't quite fit the gothic feel of the rest of the setting. As noted above it’s more Lovecraftian cosmic horror (though Lovecraft’s work is aesthetically quite gothic so maybe it is gothic?). The Mind Flayers seem too alien and too blatant -- but being different is not necessarily a bad thing.

Ravenloft adventures don’t have to involve direct contact with the dark lord, nor its minions. If it were me, I’d use the setting as background and drive the conflict with more human protagonists (though maybe influenced by the Mind Flayers). Maybe .....

Bluetspur appears on the far side of the Sea of Sorrows, storms wrack the Core’s coast, sensitive individuals dream dark dreams, and lunatics howl and gibber.

An expedition is mounted to this newly arrived land by some authority or institution. An antiquities collector (searching for rare artefacts), a small group of academics – biologist/geologist/historian/metaphysician/etc (looking to make a name for themselves – and all with conflicting agendas), an artist (following her dreams), a Falkovnian arms dealer (looking for military applications), and a dangerous escaped mad-man (or maybe a lycanthrope) masquerading as someone else. The PCs are either aligned with one/some of the others, acting as guards, or following their own agenda (seeded in a previous session).

On Bluetspur they find a cave complex, but before they can investigate fully the ship is lost/scuppered/flees (stranding them there), the NPCs (and maybe even the PC if carefully done) begin to be influenced by the god-brain and/or other rebel mind flayer factions (splitting them up and playing inscrutable games with them).

Tempers flair, and the group splits up into different factions (sow the seeds of conflict earlier). Alien artefacts are found and coveted by all, mind controlled sailors attack the group, and a mysterious hooded stranger is glimpsed (a mind flayer outcast or maybe something even stranger). People disappear (maybe PCs closest allies); the arms dealer strikes a deal with the hooded stranger and tries to betray the others, then mad-man strikes (for his own or no reasons) …. The PCs fight to survive in the hostile environment, investigate the cave complex (if appropriate to their hook), discover grisly remains of previous victims/meals, and try to keep the NPCs -who are trying to back-stab the PCs- in check (via politics/diplomacy/threats).

Behind the scenes the mind-flayers pull the strings and watch their experiment/game. Eventually the PCs escape (maybe with what they came for and/or other survivors) but the mind flayers never come to the foreground -- instead remaining an eerie presence of the place. The obvious villain is one of the group so beating him/her give the players a sense of completion (maybe the arms dealer or mad-man).

For inspiration try Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu”, Dr. Who’s (second doctor) “Tomb of the Cybermen”, Night of the Walking Dead, or Pitch black.


Oct 12, 2006 7:58:41
The question of Bluetspur and/or a possible "VRGtAberrations" came up on the FoS boards once, IIRC. One of the ideas that John Mangrum (I think) said they'd been considering for such a topic, when Arthaus still thought they'd be publishing RL long enough to get to those, was that the flayers' biggest menace would be their capacity to impose a "paradigm shift" on the Land of Mists itself. How they'd achieve this in practical terms wasn't addressed, but the illithids would've threatened to change the setting's underlying themes, from the Dark Powers' "Gothic horror" -- which, after all, still acknowledges there ARE such things as Good and Evil, as we human beings understand those terms -- to Lovecraft's "cosmic horror", in which the universe is fundamentally unsympathetic and alien to humans and their conceits, and will squish us like bugs if it's convenient ... quite possibly without noticing.


Oct 12, 2006 8:46:49
I think bluetspur is a great domain.

Personnally I've thought that Ravenloft is not simply gothic horror but HORROR. Every domain holds it's own unique horror and appeal.

Bluetspur: Lovecraftian Cosmic horror
Barovia: Traditional Gothic Horror
Darkon: Dark Fantasy Horror
Tepest- ShadowRift: subtle faery tale horror

Each domain can fill a role that can be used for the purpose of the campaign. Ravenloft is about themes. Dm chooses his theme and uses what he wants.

I'm getting sick of the limited imagination some players seem to display toward Ravenloft. It has always seemed to me like Ravenloft is a world of endless possibilities.

Hell, seems to me like those illithids are some of the best possible end campaign villains available.

By the way The_Jester, your idea about factions is great, I'm going to use it...

Thanks:D :D !!!


Oct 12, 2006 12:10:58
I would suggest the "Time Machine" approach. A small settlement of humans living on the surface and every now and then the Mindflayers venture forth to take a few below. Or something like "The Village" where there really is something in the wilderness!


Oct 15, 2006 0:06:13
Here's what I wrote, for the record:

As a note, had we been able to write Van Richten's Guide to Eldritch Horrors (which would have been about illithids and their fleshcrafted spawn), the "hook" would have been presenting this Lovecraftian horror in a Gothic context. (There was little to no point in doing a simple rehash of the Illithiad or Lords of Madness.) [...] beyond the surface conventions Gothic and Lovecraftian horror is inherently thematically incompatible.

Each of Van Richten's foes presented a different thematic/moral threat -- a different take on evil. Werebeasts represented our darkest natures unleashed; Created was about the hubristic need to control our surroundings. Shadow Fey morality was skewed by their lack of mortality. Fiends were ultimate evil, interested in nothing more and nothing less than spiritual destruction for its own sake.

The underlying thematic threat of Bluetspur's inhabitants would be the threat of transforming the cosmos from Gothic Horror to Lovecraftian Horror. In other words, that the true threat of the illithids was the destruction of morality itself -- that, in a cosmos where the illithid way of life rules supreme, all that we know as Good and Evil would be stripped away, replaced by an utterly alien morality -- one into which mankind may not even figure. A cosmic paradigm shift, if you will.

In other words, better the devil you know than the thing you can never understand.



Oct 25, 2006 12:36:43
Hello folks,

Mr. Mangrum has the idea down that was tickling the back of my skull for years concerning Bluetspur. The problem is that many do not grasp that "Evil" is not always the opposite of "Good," sometimes it's the complete lack of any such concepts in the first place. An complete amorality of a alien nature with no room for human feeling, even murderous rage and hatred. Evil they may be, but at least these are human motivations. Lovecraft understood there was a horror beyond human evil, a evil that denied any human motivation, truly alien and uncaring of us at all. True, absolute madness is the closest we come to it. That is another brand of horror, and Bluetspur is its center.
Ravenloft can be, and is, more than just traditional Gothic horror: it's horror in all the ways it touches humanity, even when that touch is from someplace completely outside our understanding. It explores ALL of our darkest fears.

I won't even stat the Flayers as you don't stat something you can't get close enough to touch. At least for a while. Rather the Flayers will be like the Alien Threat in "X-Files:" distant, unknown, powerful, unfathomable and all the more terrifying for all this. They are always one step ahead even when you're winning as you never seem to catch them. They are seemingly near omniscient in your eyes and you hate them all that much more. Even more frighting is the Lords seem willing to help you (indirectly anyway), as if these beings were a threat to even them. If that's not terrifying I don't know what is!


Oct 26, 2006 4:39:15
A menace whose inhumanity makes it incalculable is perhaps the most striking way of handling Bluetspur.
The alien nature of the mind flayers makes them very adaptable for such a plot, didn't think of it that way before.



Oct 27, 2006 10:20:34
A don't forget the most primal fear in existence is of being prey instead of predator...

Now imagine how scary it can be when you meet something so beyond you that in it's eyes, you're nothing more then a tool, food or a coccoon to allow it's kind to reproduce. Something that barely even recongnizes your sentience...


Oct 28, 2006 4:40:28
Hello Folks,

Its the last that makes all the difference. Vampires, werewolves and such all consider you pray, but at least they aknowledges you as a sentient being on some level. Or at least the equivelent of a house pet or valued live stock to be taken care of. The Things Men Were Not Meant To Know truly see you as one sees a bug, or even less. Bugs do cause fear in alot of us and even affection in some so likely less. A tool, an inanimate object of use, or just in the way. I can live with being prey, at least I have vulue and recognition (and I can understand a predator), but to be treated as part of the landscape?


Oct 28, 2006 7:33:00
I quite like Bluetspur. Granted, it's a bit of an oddball domain, but it perfectly captures the alien and inhospitable landscape genre. Here, the standard human cycles of day and night do not apply (throwing spellcasters off kilter) and a psychic drone carries on constantly like background radiation from a dying star. With no vegetation, no water, and little light, it's a domain where your PCs will be forced to fight for survival in a deeply wrenching and unfamiliar setting. For once, they are the outsiders, the interlopers - trying to understand the basic physics of a strange and deadly land.

You wouldn't want to use this domain often, but only in specialized adventures. In that respect it's similar to Necropolis or the Shadow Rift. It doesn't fit in well with the surrounding feudal/monarchic politics of the demiplane, and key players like Van Richten or Alanik Ray would be hard pressed even with their formidable experience to survive here.

I would also argue that Bluetspur is not particularly Lovecraftian, beyond the "big unkillable alien badguy" similarities. Lovecraft's stories are like latterday Gothic - still a struggle between human knowledge and growing science of the early 1920s, and the unknowable forces of nature and un-nature at play in the wilderness beyond. Everything a Lovecraft hero does is set with the basis of rationality and society as its starting point... and the monstrous encounters serve to crack and craze that illusion of normalcy.

In Bluetspur, there is no normalcy. From the word go, you're racing against the clock to survive against a foe that uses a fundamentally different combat form and has vastly different goals than any villain in any other "human" domain. This is more similar to movie standards like The Thing by John Carpenter or Alien(s) by Scott/Cameron than it is to Gothic horror.

The final note I wanted to make was that there was some speculation that Bluetspur was a moon of Ravenloft. This struck me as being an intriguing thought. Just imagine some benighted werewolf shaman in Verbrek howling to the moon in dirgeful prayer... unaware that the inhabitants of that moon are too busy pushing eggs into brains to care much.


Oct 29, 2006 6:25:22
In my opinion Lovecraftian Horror emphasizes the aspects of a lurking terror. A monstrosity or villain, that can't be grasped or explained in the tongue of humanity. Bluetspur needs to be treated very carefully regarding the essence of the inhumanity of horror in this domain. So I agree with most of the earlier statements but the most fascinating is this last one.

Bluetspur is a moon of ravenloft.
That's brilliant.

Thank you for this one!


Nov 02, 2006 7:03:33
Hello folks,

Yeup, Bluetspur the moon. Makin sense.


Nov 10, 2006 2:34:45
Bluetspur on the moon? I seem to remember this idea from the Ravenloft mailing list, and thought it was a great one then too. Almost impossible to access, except through the mistways.
Every once in a while, when the moon is properly aligned, some Illithids cross over in a starjamming-like vessel, or perhaps just through psionic transport. They come to do experiments, mutilate cows, probe denizens, and get some nice fresh brains. I had been using that device in my old campaign every new moon, but the players never caught on to what was happening.

An adventure idea had come up to set up a large cannon to shoot a manned device to the moon, much like an old silent film that I can't recall the name of right now. I also can't give credit who came up with the idea- sorry!


Nov 10, 2006 8:28:51
An adventure idea had come up to set up a large cannon to shoot a manned device to the moon, much like an old silent film that I can't recall the name of right now.

Le Voyage dans la lune or A Trip to the Moon, according to Wikipedia. And that is a wonderful idea... just imagine the adventures surrounding the construction of the cannon, and the acquisition of enough gunpowder. Not to mention the fact that the PCs are getting into a projectile that is about to be fired at bone-crushing speed directly at a solid lump of rock infested by mindflayers.


Nov 14, 2006 1:24:40
Hello Folks,

Shot at bonecrushing speeds at a mind-flayer infested moon. Yeup, sounds like I'll just return to Kartakass and play "fetch" with the wolfweres.

PC: "Yipee! We're here! Hey, look at those funny guys over there..."
PC Leader: "We come in peace fella, take me to your leader."
Mindflayer:" Yumme! Fresh brains..."
PCs: "Whadaya mean 'Fresh brai..hey...AAAAHHH!!! Run!!!" Crunch, slurp, UUURRRP!
Mindflayer: "Mm-m good!"

I'll take the freakin vampires.


Nov 21, 2006 20:59:26
I'll take the freakin vampires.

Of course, a few of the mindflayers in Bluetspur are vampires, which makes the above remark rather futile....

Last surviving PC: "Auuugh! I'd rather take the freakin' vampires!"
Illithid vampire: "Hrrrisssss...." Chomp, slurp, crack, gulp.


Nov 23, 2006 2:03:54
Hello Folks,

Okay, I'll take the freakin' human looking, non-tentacled vampires. You know, the good 'ol soul-sucking Barovian stereo-type.

Survivor of Bluetspur: I'm back! Whooho! Good 'ol misty Barovia!
Roving Vampire: Uumm, dinner!
Survivor: Oh #$%&, a vampire! Man am I glad to see, ur, terrified to see you. The devil you know and all...
Vampire: Huh? Never mind. Don't eat the insane. Good night.


Nov 23, 2006 17:49:57
One must not forget the short-lived Burning Peaks cluster. According to one of the modules (I forget which), Vecna's domain represented the concept ancient horror, as in the horror of old magic, when the rules were different. While similar to the cosmic horror concept, IMO, it still has a basis in human morality. It represents lost and forgotten concepts (an Atlantis-approach, if you will)

Nosos--technological horror, or more appropriately, the horror of what men can do to the environment.

I agree with a statement I saw concerning the domains (can't remember where I saw it). Each domain is based around a certain type of fear. To quote a short, green Jedi Master: "Fear leads to anger; Anger leads to hate; Hate leads to suffering."