In these waning days of winter, the promise of the coming of spring and a return of warmth and sunshine seems unrelentingly far away. In the here and now, it's dark and stormy outside. Rain drums against the window sill, and a chill wind finds its way inside. The shadows are deep, and the imagination turns to those pockets of gloom and mystery. At least, mine does. And it certainly puts me in the mood for our upcoming foray into all things Shadowfell. Let me give you a tour. And don't worry about a light. It probably won't do much good where we're going anyway.
The Shadowfell is a dark reflection of the natural world and the source of Shadow magic. Undead overrun the plane of Shadow, along with darker, deadlier creatures. Step into the corner here, where the shadows are deepest, and you suddenly find yourself in a place much like the one you just left. The differences are subtle, but you begin to notice them shortly after you arrive. Where light should exist, there is only shadow, and a dark pall of melancholy covers the land. Things move in the darkness around you, flitting from view before you can get a good look at them. But they never totally disappear. They seem drawn to your warmth, the tiny spark of light that glows within you. They circle like moths around a flame—or, more aptly, like sharks around a swimmer.
Let's keep moving. In a place like this, that's always the best course of action …
Heroes of Shadow
Our first stop along the way brings us to next month's release of Player's Option: Heroes of Shadow. This Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game player's resource provides options for all character classes and races who want to add a touch of Shadow to their game. With new schools of magic, new cleric domains, new racial options, and new Shadow feats, there's a lot for existing characters to make use of. If you're ready to start a new character, we have four new class options (including a new assassin build, a new paladin build, a new warlock build, and the vampire class) and three new races. Check out the previews we've been posting.
All of this is just in time for the next Dungeons & Dragons Encounters season—"Dark Legacy of Evard." Create a character to play in this Encounters season using Player's Option: Heroes of Shadow and you'll be ready for whatever slithers out of the oppressive darkness—as well as whatever drags you in!
Dark Legacy of Evard
It's not too late to get in on the action of the current Dungeons & Dragons Encounters season, "March of the Phantom Brigade." The mysteries of the Ghost Tower continue to plague adventurers, and there's plenty of action and adventure still to come before the grand conclusion of the season.
Then, on May 11, create a character using Player's Option: Heroes of Shadow and get ready for an even wilder ride. "Dark Legacy of Evard" is our next stop on this tour of all things Shadow. This Encounters season will change the way you imagine things that go bump in the dark. You'll never look at deepening shadows the same way again.
"Dark Legacy of Evard" brings the legendary wizard and master of Shadow magic out of the game's past and firmly establishes his heritage for the current age. Someone disturbs the tomb of the creator of shadow spells such as Evard's black tentacles, and suddenly an entire town begins to slide out of the natural world and into the Shadowfell. Can you unravel the mystery and fend off the dangers of Shadow before it's too late? This is a D&D Encounters season that you won't want to miss!
The Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond
Now we're almost to the end of our tour of Shadow, but we still have one more place to visit before we can return to the world of light and hope. The Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond is a boxed set releasing in May that provides Dungeon Masters with everything they need to set adventures in the Plane of Shadow. It features a 128-page Campaign Guide that details the city of Gloomwrought and other locations within the Shadowfell, a 32-page book of encounters, a double-sided poster map detailing Gloomwrought as well as encounter locations, two sheets of monster and character tokens, and the Despair Deck—a deck of cards designed to translate the effects of the Shadowfell into game mechanics. The cards work great in any D&D campaign that wants to add a touch of gloom and doom to a specific series of adventures. Here are a few examples:
This boxed set provides a great way to bring the excitement of the "Dark Legacy of Evard" Encounters season home so that you can create and play other adventures in the Plane of Shadow. Check out this excerpt from the Campaign Guide!
"A bleak network of caves cuts into the gray mountain pass, the sounds of ringing steel and angry shouts rising from below. Two grim shadar-kai warriors clenching spiked chains stand guard over the cave entrance, like specters of death in their bone-carved armor."
—A Codex of the Planes by Corwin Aterly
The shadar-kai came to the Shadowfell before any of the other civilized races that dwell there, and they long ago became one with the place. Many choose to dwell inside the walls of Gloomwrought, but others continue to live as all shadar-kai did when they first arrived. These shadar-kai are organized into war tribes that compete fiercely for meager resources and take refuge inside heavily defended enclaves.
Thyrin Gol is one such enclave, a network of mountain caves that can hold out against an invading force ten times greater than the number of its residents. Two hundred or so shadar-kai dwell here, along with another hundred slaves. Thyrin Gol has never faced a full-scale invasion, but it continually fends off roving bands of nightwalkers and other undead, as well as the concerted efforts of rival shadar-kai looking for supplies and slaves.
History of Thyrin Gol
The Thyrin tribe has survived because the Gol Mountains are uniquely suited to its needs. Not only are the caves defensible, they connect to natural springs that provide more than enough water to support the inhabitants. Over the last few decades, the shadarkai have begun to raise livestock in the caverns and cultivate edible fungi. If necessary, the enclave could withstand a siege for several years.
Because they need constant action to keep from fading into nothingness, shadar-kai often fight among themselves and thus grow naturally paranoid. Those of the Thyrin tribe are no exception, and it is a tribute to the strength of their leader, Yxir, that they didn't destroy themselves long ago. Each shadar-kai must take care to elude the tricks and traps set by his or her fellows, and no two in the enclave fully trust one another. However, the caverns beneath the enclave lead to the Shadowdark, whose horrific underground dwellers are a constant threat. Battles against Shadowdark monsters help to keep the shadar-kai from succumbing to shadow, and growing external threats have united them against common enemies, thus keeping the tribe's infighting to a minimum.
A few years ago, a band of Doomguard (a planar faction of anarchists devoted to destroying tightly ordered societies) seeking one of the pieces of the Rod of Seven Parts wandered through the wrong portal and ended up in Thyrin Gol. After a long conflict, the shadar-kai and the nihilists settled into an uneasy peace based on mutual respect and the need to cooperate against an even greater threat: a seemingly endless undead horde.
Thyrin Gol Today
Thyrin Gol exists in a state of perpetual tension. Between the threats from above and below, the Doomguard in their midst, and their own natural inclination toward infighting, the shadar-kai of the Thyrin tribe remain constantly on guard. Winning the trust of these shadow warriors is no easy task, nor is keeping it.
The tribe survives on cultivation, mining, and trade. Slaves—mostly shadowborn humans, dwarves, and elves—farm the luminescent fungi that grow in the caves and raise animals to feed the tribe. Also relegated to slaves are such tedious assignments as construction and repair, extracting ore, and low-security guard duty. Occasionally, shadar-kai of the tribe must perform these tasks as punishment. Such monotonous activities invite the shadow that is part of every shadar-kai's life to grow.
By contrast, the shadar-kai's day-to-day activities are extremely violent. They use warfare to stimulate their senses and stave off apathy. Cadres of shadar-kai waylay travelers and raid caravans that pass into their territory, mount offensives against rival shadar-kai enclaves, and defend themselves against the horrors that dwell below. The adventurers might run into one of these groups in “Shadar-Kai Death Dealers," on page 22 of the Encounter Book.
Recently, the attacks from the Shadowdark have increased in scope, and for this reason the shadar-kai negotiated a treaty with the anarchists in their midst. In exchange for standing with the shadar-kai against the creatures of the Shadowdark, the Doomguard are free to remain as long as they wish in Thyrin Gol and share in the community's resources. This arrangement isn't a bad trade-off for the Doomguard; the alternative is to wander off into the Shadowfell with no supplies, allies, or directions—possibly with a vengeful tribe of shadar-kai in pursuit.
The twelve remaining Doomguard members cannot defeat the shadar-kai's superior numbers, so they bide their time until they see a chance to rebel against the founders of Thyrin Gol. Until then, they lend their steel and magic to aid the shadar-kai, silently learning the race's fighting skills as they fight beside their temporary allies.
Thyrin Gol is set in the Gol range of gray-black mountains, forbidding to outsiders but rich in deposits of death ore, a blackened form of iron. This metal is the key to producing deathsteel, which is used to craft weapons and armor used in battle against undead and other creatures of shadow. Traders out of Gloomwrought make the long journey into the Gol Mountains to acquire this mineral from the Thyrin tribe at considerable cost. Shadar-kai raiders often ambush approaching caravans and steal their supplies.
Level 2+ Common
This weapon was forged from death ore mined from the Gol Mountains in the Shadowfell. It allows the wielder to cut through an enemy's necromantic resistances.
Attack rolls and damage rolls Critical:
+1d6 damage per plus of the enhancement bonus Property:
When you deal damage with a weapon attack using this weapon, the damage ignores necrotic resistance.
Level 2+ Common
Crafted from death ore drawn from the Gol Mountains in the Shadowfell, this armor protects the wearer from the necromantic energy that suffuses that plane
|Lvl 2||+1||520 gp||Lvl 17||+4||65,000 gp|
|Lvl 7||+2||2,600 gp||Lvl 22||+5||325,000 gp|
|Lvl 12||+3||13,000 gp||Lvl 27||+6||1,625,000 gp|
Chainmail, scale, or plate Enhancement:
You gain resist 5 necrotic and a +2 item bonus to saving throws against effects that include ongoing necrotic damage. Level 12 or 17:
Resist 10 necrotic. Level 22 or 27:
Resist 15 necrotic.
And so, our tour of the dark places of the world and the reflection of the world comes to an end. We step out of the shadows and back into the gloom of another rainy day. Spring is just around the corner, but the darkness is never very far away. I encourage you to seek out the Shadowfell experiences we visited today, because sometimes D&D needs a little darkness to spice things up. I know I'm going to use some of this stuff on my Thursday night gaming group. And I'm sure one or more of my players is going to pull something special out of the Player's Option book. They always do.
Until next time, keep playing!
In Case You Don't Know Him
Bill Slavicsek's gaming life was forever changed when he discovered Dungeons & Dragons in 1976. He became a gaming professional in 1986 when he was hired by West End Games as an editor. He quickly added developer, designer, and creative manager to his resume, and his work helped shape the Paranoia, Ghostbusters, Star Wars, and Torg roleplaying games. He even found some time during that period to do freelance work for D&D 1st Edition. In 1993, Bill joined the staff of TSR, Inc. as a designer/editor. He worked on a bunch of 2nd Edition material, including products for Core D&D, Dark Sun, Ravenloft, and Planescape. In 1997, he was part of the TSR crowd that moved to Seattle to join Wizards of the Coast, and in that year he was promoted to R&D Director for D&D. In that position, Bill oversaw the creation of both the 3rd Edition and 4th Edition of the D&D Roleplaying Game. He was one of the driving forces behind the D&D Insider project, and he continues to oversee and lead the creative strategy and effort for Dungeons & Dragons.
Bill's enormous list of credits includes Alternity, d20 Star Wars, The Mark of Nerath Dungeons & Dragon novel, Eberron Campaign Setting, the D&D For Dummies books, and his monthly Ampersand (&) column for Dragon online.