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1st ed Ravenloft Realms Revisited

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  • #16
    What about Mask of the Red Death and Gothic Earth, was any crossover ever intended?

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    • #17
      Originally posted by 2ptTakrill View Post
      What about Mask of the Red Death and Gothic Earth, was any crossover ever intended?
      Not only was, it happened a couple times. A few Masque charcaters are from Ravenloft, and a few Ravenloft characters are from Masque, including two Darklords, Peter van Riese (he's Swedish, I think) and Maligno (he's Italian).


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      • #18
        BLUETSPUR (Realm of Terror page 65; Domains of Dread page 84)

        One of the odder (if not oddest) corners of the pre-Conjunction Core, Bluetspur is a desolate area of cyclopian mountains, often with geometric elements which defy logic and/or geology. Next to nothing lives or grows in the Domain, and it has no known native populous. Any who spend the night here are subject to terrible nightmares and ... wait, why does this sound familiar?

        Yes, Bluetspur is essentially a more developed version of Arak. A mountainous domain with no populous or ecology, a dark reputation for travelers, and the real stuff happening deep under the earth. In this case, instead of Drow/shadow fey, they are Illithiads/mind-flayers and we actually get a slim bit of details about them. Namely, that they exist, which is more than one can say for the "Drow" of Arak. Beyond that, we get very little.
        But unlike Arak, Bluetspur was the setting for an adventure module, Thoughts of Darkness, which detailed the Domain and who/what was there, including its Darklord, the God-Brain. As the choice for a Darklord, this is ... odd. Gothic villains tend to have something, some trace of humanity or flicker of desire we can sympathize with, to possibly identify with or say, "there but by the grace of God ...." But it's hard to find such a thing in a totally alien creature that neither has nor had any trace of humanity in it ever. And just what would make the powers of Ravenloft notice this particular elder brain among all its peers? There have apparently been unofficial efforts to answer this question over the years, but I'm not really sure they satisfy. (YMMV)

        The other oddity about the Domain is that apparently it is never really day here. You get a sort of perpetual twilight and then a few hours of night. This detail is in Domains of Dread, but not Realm of Terror. I presume it was introduced in Thoughts of Darkness.

        Bluetspur was another Domain slated for removal during the Conjunction. In this case, it was simply rent loose from the southeastern corner of the Core and cast out into the Mists as a lone Island of Terror. And honestly, given how much Bluetspur seems to draw from Lovecraft's "Call of Cthulhu" short story and its haunted corpse-city of R'lyeh (as well as the mind-flayers bearing certain traits akin to the Mi-Go and other Lovecraftian beings), this is very fitting. This is the sort of Cosmic Horror realm of insanity that should be off in a hidden corner somewhere and not sitting right on the border of Dracula's Transylvania.
        This sort of isolation might potentially tie into some of the above issues about the Domain, if the GM wishes. This Domain could be the subject of some sort of experiment by the Powers of Ravenloft, or worse, might be the result of a terrible accident in which an inhuman evil has intruded upon the Demiplane and is now a potential threat to it.

        As Bluetspur has no non-mind flayer population, there are no potential PCs from here. However, if one wanted to incorporate certain Lovecraftian/Cosmic Horror elements into people from the Core, its entirely possible that people who've sailed the Sea of Sorrows or the Nocturnal Sea have stumbled upon the island and, having survived, brought back its psychic taint in the form of dark cults, puppets of the God-Brain, or the sort of influence which leads to various Sorcerer bloodlines and their equivalents. (Pathfinder has about 50 or so Sorcerer bloodlines, including Aberrant, Dreamspun, and Starsoul, each of which would fit here. Likewise various Witch patrons, certain Oracle mysteries and Cleric domains. And of course the Psychics from Occult Adventures.)

        Next, the poisonous land of Borca.


        What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
        Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

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        • #19
          One thing that always irked me a bit about Bluetspur is that Illithids require large populations of humanoids. Humanoids are a necessity, both for food and to produce more Illithids. If Bluetspur doesn't have any native humanoids, then the Illithids would have to launch frequently raids into other Domains in order to get the humanoids that they require for their basic, night-to-night survival.

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          • #20
            Yeah. Bluetsput's entire ecology is kind of wonky. I guess maybe if there'd been these Brain-God cults spread around the Core who kidnapped people and shipped them off to the Domain, it might have worked, but being a lone island just makes the issues more apparent. Even if they are still actively going out to other domains and snatching people without anyone noticing, kind of like alien abductions, I'm not sure the math works for their population.


            What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
            Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

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            • #21
              Actually Bluetspur isn't described as without inhabitants. Although the exact number is never given and their role is very minor in Thoughts of Darkness, it does have the slaves/cattle of the Illithids, but indeed there's so little reference to them that their numbers do not seem nearly enough. We also don't have citations to where they get their food.

              The God-Brain is this sore point. 3rd edition cited that it is somehow more obsessed with total immortality than others of its kind, for some reason that is kind of a sin among them. Its desire for experiencing life through a human body is somehow also thrown there. A net-book by the same authors, but non-canon for Wizards, said it could be actually a human mind, a powerful Psion that somehow possessed the God-Brain from inside, becoming the absolute dominant mind in the amalgam. 5th's VRGTR elaborates more in the 3rd's idea and made it a cannibal (preying on other Elder-Brains) and afflicted by a degenerating disease brought by this cannibalism (and the others exiled it for fear of the disease and nothing else).

              I guess this last iteration is somewhat better, an afflicted villain trying to stave off their own death. But it is still less than good enough.

              Oh, they also made it more clearly common for the Illithids to seek and capture victims in other domains, precisely through a combination of abduction tropes and a broader application of the 2nd ed interposition rule.


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              • #22
                Originally posted by monteparnas View Post
                Actually Bluetspur isn't described as without inhabitants. Although the exact number is never given and their role is very minor in Thoughts of Darkness, it does have the slaves/cattle of the Illithids, but indeed there's so little reference to them that their numbers do not seem nearly enough. We also don't have citations to where they get their food.
                I sort of suspect the diet of Illithid slaves would be heavily based on fungi and insect larva, if just for the lack of other viable options.

                I suppose "escaped slave from Bluetspur" would make an interesting PC character background, (especially, from a Pathfinder perspective, for certain types of Psychics and Kineticists, or things like Oracles or Barbarians) but I'm not sure such a thing would fit smoothly into a Gothic setting, even if most of their memories of captivity were blocked away by amnesia or the like. Maybe Gothic-with-Lovecraftian Overtones, perhaps?


                What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

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                • #23
                  It's been a long time but if I remember correctly there is a town in Barovia that is populated by Psionic survivors from Illithid enslavement. It was in one of the supplements.

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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by 2ptTakrill View Post
                    It's been a long time but if I remember correctly there is a town in Barovia that is populated by Psionic survivors from Illithid enslavement. It was in one of the supplements.
                    I vaguely remember something like that, but Barovia has about two or three communities of immigrants from other domains.

                    On the Mind Flayer part, I remember that Lords of Madness gave proper attention to describe what the Illithid diet actually looks like, and it is interesting. I just re-read it and was right there.

                    With a fresh brain every week an Illithid needs otherwise the common diet of its stock body, which in Bluetspur would mean human most of the time. If they have less than that in brains they can supplement with animal viscera, but still have the other nutritious requirement to meet with normal food, and they can't go lower than one brain a month. That book goes itself through a calculation that each Illithid would need 250 slaves for food purposes alone to be able to survive in minimal conditions.

                    So if we go with that book, Bluetspur is probably three things: full of slaves, possibly meeting its minimal requirement and some, extremely aggressive against other domains, and generally miserable for everyone living there, as even the Illithids are most of the time living with little more than the minimal food rations to survive and with dubious quality for their standards.

                    Usually most Illithids in settings like Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms are from Drow stock, which makes a fungus-based subterranean diet actually ideal for them. But with such scorched surface Bluetspur has to rely on the same strategy without having the same dietary needs. It's ironic that they probably dislike their food as much as their slaves do.

                    Now, Lords of Madness is a far newer book than even the latest descriptions of Bluetspur in 3rd edition, but using this information is actually an interesting way to color and work deeper into developing the domain.

                    All puns in this text were unintentional, but noticed and approved before posting.


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                    • #25
                      Well, I was thinking that the human slaves would be subsisting on mushrooms and bugs, as they'd all be underground. That or some very strange aberrant "animal" flesh. Or soylent green.

                      I keep pondering the idea of Bluetspur's Illithids doing something similar to the Yithians where they swap minds with or possess humanoids around Ravenloft in order to manage the procurement of new slaves and to gather intelligence/research.




                      What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                      Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

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                      • #26
                        I've been extremely ill the past week and a half, hence no Borca yet. Hope to have that rectified by the end of the week.

                        Meanwhile, please enjoy the Ravenloft Travel Agent channel on YouTube, and their fun video overviews of several of the (apparently 3rd ed) domains.


                        What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                        Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

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                        • #27
                          This is fantastic! Thanks for doing this.


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                          • #28
                            BORCA (Realm of Terror page 66; Domains of Dread page 55)

                            (finally)

                            Borca is an interesting Domain, but sadly doesn't really get much in the way of a description in the original book. We get the description of its Darklord (which I'll get to in a moment) which clearly sets something of the tone for the place, and a very barebones description of Borca itself. Namely, that it has two settlements (towns/cities) of note, and that most of the populace is really poor because everyone is just rending from the Darklord. By the time DoD rolled around, we get the added detail that anything with a purple tint to it has the reputation for being poisonous. (Given the color purple's associations with nobility and the nature of the Darklord, this makes for an interesting bit of subtext with the idea that the Domain's entire nobility are in a sense toxic.)

                            Lady Ivana Boritsi is our Darklord, a noblewoman who came to power after poisoning her own mother, the original Darklord Lady Camille Dilisnya. (Camille is apparently originally from Mordent, which feels odd for some reason. Not sure why.) She apparently earned Darklord status by killing her husband and his lover. And then died when her daughter killed her for having an affair with her own lover. The circle of life in Ravenloft, I guess. It's probably a good thing for Ivana that she has no children. But seeing as how her entire body is poisonous, if she has a child it will likely be even worse than she is in multiple ways.
                            Ivana is an interesting character, the mix of her mother's twisted misandrious tutelage and her shattered romantic dreams of finding true love. (Which she found, only to have her mother deliberately destroy out of spite.) Ultimately, she decided she could trust no one. The exception was her cousin, Ivan, but after the upheaval and them being forced to be co-Darklords, she's lost even that. It's very tragic. Probably even more so by the fact that Ivana is, as a Darklord, irredeemably evil and corrupt.

                            Ivana is very clearly inspired by Lucrezia Borgia of the infamous Italian Borgia family. Lucrezia is an interesting historical figure, extremely well educated and intelligent, who was Governor of the city of Spoleto for a while. Sarah Bradford biography of her (Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love, and Death in Renaissance Italy) is a good overview of her life. C.W. Gortner's novel The Vatican Princess is a fairly entertaining fictionalization of her. While she did have numerous lovers, including some of her in-laws, stories involving incest are most likely slander from her family's political enemies augmented by lurid retellings. Similarly her reputation for being a serial poisoner. But this is Ravenloft, so we're going with the fictional legend.

                            Spoleto is part of the Umbria region of central Italy, and I confess that this sort of influences how I see Borca. It's a hilly land with mountains and two major valleys, with fertile farmland and a number of small towns and cities.

                            I have mixed feelings about the idea that Ivana literally owns the entire Domain and everyone - even Borca's nobility - are just renting from her. Beside's not really meshing with the Italian Renaissance style the Domain seems to be going for (it feels more like some sort of Tsarist Russia bit), I feel like it kind of undercuts the potential for Borca's aristocracy to be a reflection of their Darklord. And by that I mean a bunch of ruthless, back stabbing, manipulative Soap Opera characters who are constantly sleeping with, betraying, murdering, scheming with/against, and doing business with each other. But I guess if all of them are constantly on the edge of bankruptcy, it just makes them more desperate and ruthless.
                            By the same token, I feel like Borca's peasantry should also reflect Ivana's history and tragedy, with them being generally a fairly romantic lot (and by that I mean both in the emotional larger than life wear your heart on your sleeve sense and in the "the hills are alive with the sounds of love and passion" sense). The young people especially should have these big dreams of true love and romantic adventure. And then usually have it undermined by jealousy, betrayal, and the crushing machinations of the aristocracy or the dark forces of Ravenloft.

                            From a Pathfinder 1st ed perspective, there's a number of interesting bits to work with here. Italian Renaissance style Swashbucklers or Cavaliers, for example. And obviously Alchemists and Rogues who specialize in poisons. (Their Potions and Poisons book has a lot of interesting character options.) And for a real oddity, the Shifter class from Ultimate Wilderness has an archetype based on the idea of making ones body more and more poisonous.

                            (I haven't talked much about the Dorvinia half of post upheaval Borca, as I'm saving that for it's own post.)

                            Next will be the dark fantasy land of Darkon.



                            What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                            Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

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                            • #29
                              The renting scheme is kind of a common placeholder for "Feudalism" in Ravenloft. It seems like the authors have a sort of a hard time with pre-industrial notions of property and nobility, so anywhere aristocracy doesn't work as an outright tyranny they're some sort of land renters or something.

                              It is interesting because of how much they put an effort into describing those things, but in the end it feels fairly silly and repetitive.

                              Otherwise, Ivana is a fantastic character, but I do find her romantic streak to central to her being, it sounds like a repeated note for a number of Darklords, especially women. It isn't that this ain't a good aspect for them, but the focus it receives is frequently unnecessary. So much so that, while I still consider the romanticism as being there, I like VRGtR's take on shifting focus to her not being taken as seriously as she deserves.


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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by monteparnas View Post
                                Otherwise, Ivana is a fantastic character, but I do find her romantic streak to central to her being, it sounds like a repeated note for a number of Darklords, especially women. It isn't that this ain't a good aspect for them, but the focus it receives is frequently unnecessary. So much so that, while I still consider the romanticism as being there, I like VRGtR's take on shifting focus to her not being taken as seriously as she deserves.
                                I suspect if I got around to running a Ravenloft game again and had the characters meet Ivana, I'd end up playing her as incredibly competent and ruthless, and anyone who underestimates her - or worse, thinks "she just needs to be redeemed by True Love" - will very quickly find themselves one of her pawns or victims. I'm sort of torn between trying to change her alignment from Chaotic Evil to Neutral Evil.


                                What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                                Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

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