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Fiction Date 2013-11-24
Last Updated 2020-10-03 17:32:56 - Update

Episode #4: ... of Shades

The Iron Guard Campaign

NPCs mentioned in this Episode:




Shades in the Forgotten Realms

In the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, many Shadovar (citizens of the City of Shade) are shades. They are a group of Netherese wizards who fled Faer n for the Plane of Shadow before Karsus's Folly. The City of Shade was one of five cities to survive the cataclysm.

The famous assassin Artemis Entreri absorbed the life force of a Shadovar shade using his vampiric dagger. Due to this absorption, Entreri's skin has taken on a grayish hue and his aging has slowed if not stopped altogether.

Erevis Cale, the butler of the Uskrevan family, was transformed into a shade in the Erevis Cale Trilogy. Drasek Riven also became a shade in The Twilight War trilogy after obtaining a piece of Mask's divine essence of shadow


Seekers of power willing to trade their souls to the darkness.

In the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game, shades are humanoids who have merged with the essence of the Plane of Shadow. In Third Edition, a shade is created by applying a template to a humanoid creature.

Shades grow more powerful in areas of darkness or shadows, including the ability to leap from shadow to shadow, to create shadowy duplicates of themselves, and even become entirely invisible. They can also decrease the amount of light in an area, and can see through darkness, even of the magical variety.


Average Height: 5'6" - 6'2"

Average Weight: 100 - 160

Ability scores: +2 Charisma, +2 Dexterity or +2 Intelligence

Size: Medium

Speed: 6 squares.

Vision: Darkvision

Languages: Common, choice of one other

Skill Bonuses: +2 Arcana, +2 Stealth.

Fragile Mortality: You have one fewer healing surge than normal.

Master of Shadows: When your class grants you a utility power after 1st level, you can forgo taking that power. Instead, you can take a shade utility power of the same level or lower.

One with Shadow: You have the one with shadow power.

Practiced Sneak: You have training in Stealth.

Shadow Origin: The Shadowfell has left its mark on you, so you are considered a shadow creature for the purpose of effects that relate to creature origin.


Shades resemble their original human selves, though they sacrifice their native vitality to the ritual that turns them into slender creatures of shadow. Their darkness-piercing eyes become orbs of dull black, dark gray, or purple. Their coloring takes on subdued hues, with most shades having pale skin and lank, black hair. Shades prefer dark, somber clothing of silk, suede, or supple leather, decorated with brass and iron. Their metal weapons and tools are coated with special oils that dull any sheen or reflection.

The Trail of Five Darknesses has a dramatic effect on longevity; rumors abound of shades who eventually attain a level of power that allows them to stop aging altogether.


Ambitious, ruthless, and paranoid, shades are humans who trade part of their souls for a sliver of the Shadowfell's dark essence. Even more so than the shadowborn--natives of the Shadowfell descended from the common races--shades are gloom incarnate. No matter what nations or land one was first born into, each shade undergoes a dark rebirth that transforms him or her into a creature of stealth and secrecy who is caught between life and death. In exchange for the twilight powers granted to shades, the Shadowfell taints their souls with dark thoughts and a darker disposition.

A human who chooses to become a shade is reborn into shadow through a transformative ritual that draws on the ambient magic present at shadow crossings--places where the veil between the world and its dark echo is thinnest. Known in scholarly circles as the Trail of Five Darknesses, this arduous ritual is as likely to slay its practitioner outright--obliterating body and soul--as it is to grant the ability to wield shadow magic.

Unbridled ambition and utter desperation are common reasons for a human to undertake the Trail of Five Darknesses, since the taint of the Shadowfell marks a shade as an outcast forever. Shades maintain a determined self-reliance when among their own kind, because they know all too well the greed and duplicity their race is capable of. However, shades also believe in strength in numbers, and as such they congregate in settlements close to shadow crossings, both in the world and the Shadowfell.

A few shades deny the self-serving nature of their kind, striving to ensure that the true nature of their souls overcomes the shadowy nature of their chosen path. Rejecting their own kind, these shades seek the company of the common races. Drawn to the life of an adventurer, such shades try to earn the trust of a close circle of friends, defending those comrades with the ruthlessness for which their kind is known. However, some decry this behavior as just another facet of the shades' characteristic avarice--treating friends as personal possessions that must be kept safe at all costs.


Shades exist among all cultures, but the transformation they undergo creates a consistent sense of ambition for which their kind is known. No matter what justification inspires an individual to undertake the Trail of Five Darknesses, the conscious act of embracing the power of shadow changes that person. For many shades, having given up a portion of their own soul in the name of power means that no sacrifice is too great.

Shades value restraint, poise, and patience. They bid their time in all things, keeping a low profile as they manipulate events to their advantage. Just as the Shadowfell's malaise can smother the spirits of mortal adventurers who venture into that dread plane, the sliver of shadow within each shade subdues emotion. A shade still feels love, hate, pride, despair and the like, but he or she buries these feelings deep inside. A shade's smirk or frown carries as much weight as a halfling's laughter or an orc's frenzied roar.

Shades hold little love for the gods. Having made the ultimate sacrifice for power, they have no patience for those who beg deities for their favour. Those few shades who dedicate themselves to a faith worship Sehanine, god of trickery, or Vecna, god of secrets.

For all their fierce independence and self-reliance, some shades feel a hunger for companionship driven by the emptiness of their fractured souls. Although such shades rarely become social creatures, they gravitate to strong allies alongside whom they can prove themselves in battle. Such long-term companies are typically the only ones who ever see a shade's true emotions, even as the shade demonstrates the full strength of his or her driven ruthlessness in those allies' defense.

The shades' independence puts them in direct opposition to the intense shadar-kai and their devotion to the Raven Queen. These two races of shadow demonstrate an animosity that rivals that of elves and drow, or dwarves and orcs. However, shades are civil to the vampiric vryloka, understanding too well the effect of living under the weight of shadow.


The dark nature of their transformation places shades firmly outside the societies they arise from. The most social of their kind distrust all except their closest companions. Truly misanthropic shades embrace their darkness fully, seeing others as pawns to be exploited in the quest for power.

In the mortal realm, a shade often takes up a life of wandering or lives as a social outcast on the fringes of humanoid society. It is common for shades to mask their true nature with magic or clever disguises, using their shadow powers as a screen against watchful eyes. In many cases, shades reject family or clan names from their past lives to take on the name of the shadow crossing where they undertook the Trail of Five Darknesses ritual.

In the Shadowfell, and around shadow crossings, shades form communities that reflect the avaricious and brutal nature of their residents. Shades who settle in the Shadowfell are typically those who have strongly embraced the darkness in their souls. Their enclaves are built on a rigid caste structure in which shade nobles plot against each other in bloodthristy political machinations that would tear other societies apart. In such communities, shades unattached to a noble house are treated as outcasts or used as pawns in attacks against rival nobles.

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Compensating the Dark Elves

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... of The Shadowfell