A Shade in mythology is a spirit or a ghost that resides in the underworld, has a tendency to moan about their fate and generally be sorry miserable bastards. They are called shades because they are literally the shadows of their former selves in this existence (hence why they are sometimes referred to as death-shades).
Shades are used in some fantasy and RPG settings as their grimdark fate makes them interesting to the nerdy mind.
Magic: The Gathering
In Magic: The Gathering Shades are an uncommon creature type. Almost always Black, Shades are often expensive to cast with low stats, but they can pump themselves up to significant power by paying a single point of mana (though often one B) for each +1/+1 they get.
Dungeons & Dragons
In the Forgotten Realms, shades descend from the Shadovar, a branch of the ancient Netheril empire which escaped the destruction of their cousins by fleeing into the Plane of Shadow, where they ultimately mutated to gain innate Shadow Magic abilities. Faerun shades were presented as a PC races in the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition splatbook "Races of Faerun". In Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, stats for true shades would not appear until the release of the Essentials splatbook "Heroes of Shadow", but the article "A Legacy in Shadow" in Dragon Magazine #391 would state that shades after the Spellplague sometimes give birth to shadar-kai offspring, with the unique feat "Shade Heritage" to represent this distinct subrace.
Races of Faerun Fluff
Over two thousand years ago, the ruler of a Netherese flying city transported his entire city onto the Plane of Shadow in order to explore that dim and perilous plane. For thousands of years, the City of Shade was lost to human knowledge, but in 1372 DR it abruptly returned to Faerûn above the Dire Wood. Today it soars above the deserts of Anauroch, land that was once a fertile part of the Empire of Netheril. Why the Netherese - now known as the Shadovars - returned, and what they are planning, are two mysteries that trouble the rulers of every nation in Faerûn. Most fear that solving these vital riddles will provide them with answers they will not care to hear. Until then, the Shadovars scheme in secret, their true goals a mystery to all but their ruler, the High Prince Telamont, and his twelve sons, the Princes of Shade.
Not all Shadovars are shades. The Princes of Shade decide who is to be given such a blessing, and they are stingy with their favors, careful to only empower those who are sure to be loyal to them and their causes. Prospective candidates are stringently tested for ability, loyalty, and resourcefulness.
Shades look just like normal humanoids, although their skin is gray to inky black, as are their eyes. They are thinner than most humans, and they prefer to dress in dark-hued clothes or armor.
Human Shadovars are never made into shades until after they have reached the age of majority. There are no such things as young shades, and shades who marry produce normal offspring.
Shades have extraordinarily long lifespans. By trading some portion of their souls for the stuff of shadow, they extend their lifespans tenfold.
Shades live to serve the High Prince and their fellow Shadovars. Most have grown up in the City of Shade as loyal champions of the High Prince's regime. While individual shades may have personal agendas, few conflict with the purposes of Shade's rulers, since disobedient or disloyal Shadovars are not likely to have been transformed into shades in the first place.
Shades consider themselves superior to all nonshades around them. After all, that's what they've been raised to believe from birth. Only the most worthy Shadovars are chosen to become shades. Most shades go adventuring only at the behest of their superiors. They are normally given specific orders about what they are to do on such missions. Shades rarely share their true reasons for adventuring with any non-Shadovar allies they may temporarily make. They do not trust those outside Shade, and any relationships they strike up with strangers are sure to be temporary.
Life in the City of Shade fits into a strictly controlled hierarchy. The High Prince sits at the top of the hierarchy's pyramid, with his sons - the Twelve Princes of Shade - right below him. Beneath them, the arcanists (Shadovar sorcerers and wizards) stand, with the military next down in importance. At the base of the pyramid, there are four levels of commoners. In descending order, these are the crafters (skilled laborers), the merchants (those who distribute necessary goods throughout the City of Shade and import and export needed materials), the servants (those who work as personal servants to people above them), and the slaves (who do the worst of the society's grunt work).
At the age of ascension (13 years old), every citizen is tutored in basic spellcraft and subjected to a battery of tests to determine how his skills can best serve the City of Shade. Then, at the age of majority (18 years old) each person embarks upon the job for which he was trained. Unless the person suddenly displays a new aptitude, he works at his designated career until the day he dies. Those citizens who prove to be especially important and loyal are transformed into shades. This is one of the greatest honors a Shadovar can receive. Only a small percentage of Shadovars are transformed, and commoners and low-ranking military officers are never chosen for transformation.
Outside the City of Shade, most shades keep to themselves. They may travel singly or in small groups, but any alliances they make with non-Shadovars - which are rare - are sure to be alliances of convenience. Only a Prince of Shade or a Shadovar officer of captain's rank or higher can leave the City of Shade without an escort, and such a person had better have a defensible reason for doing so.
3e PC Stats
All shades have the following powers when within shadows or darkness. In well-lit surroundings (daylight or the radius of a daylight spell) none of these powers function.
- Ability Scores: A shade's Constitution and Charisma scores increase by +2.
- Speed: Increases by 20 ft. (or 15 ft., if the character wears medium or heavy armor).
- Armor Class: The shade gains a +4 deflection bonus to AC.
- Attacks and Damage: The shade gains a +2 competence bonus on attacks and damage.
- Saves: The shade gains a +4 luck bonus on all saving throws.
- Skills: The character gains a +4 racial bonus on Listen and Spot checks, and a +8 racial bonus on Hide and Move Silently checks. He does not suffer skill check penalties due to darkness.
- Control Light (Sp): The shade can decrease the levels of light within a 100-foot radius by a factor of 10% per level. For characters and creatures dependent on light to see, this decreases the effective range of vision for them by the same percentage. For each 25% decrease in light, anyone within the area gains a +1 circumstance bonus on Hide checks.
- Fast Healing 2.
- Invisibility (Sp): The shade can use this ability once per round as a sorcerer of his level.
- Shadesight (Sp): The shade has 60-foot darkvision. He can see normally through any darkness effects but not through fog, invisibility, obscurement, and so on.
- Shadow Image (Sp): Three times per day, the shade can use this spell-like ability (similar to the mirror image spell) as a sorcerer of his level. This creates 1d4 figments of the shade, +1 per three levels.
- Shadow Stride (Sp): As often as once every 2 rounds, a shade of 8th level or higher can vanish from his current location and reappear in any shadowy area within 300 feet. This is a move-equivalent action.
- Shadow Travel (Sp): If the shade is 12th level or higher, then he can use teleport without error to reach a shadowy locale on the same world or plane shift to access the Plane of Shadows. A shade can shadow travel once per day.
- Spell Resistance: 11 + character level.
- Level Adjustment: +4. Shades are more powerful and gain levels more slowly than the common races of Faerûn. Their many bonuses and powers are hindered only by the fact that they do not work in bright light. Shadovars do not create shades from characters who are less than 5th level.
Nentir Vale Shades
In the Nentir Vale setting, Shades are humans who have undergone a dangerous ritual known as the Trail of Five Darknesses that can only be performed either in the Shadowfell or at Shadow Crossings (those areas which house Shadowfell portals or planar bleed-through); those who survive are granted powerful innate Shadow Magic abilities, turning them into a kind of artificial planetouched. Because of this, shades are known for being ruthlessly ambitious and power-hungry, and they don't even like to hang around each other because they know full well just how dangerous they can be! Not helping is that sacrificing a sliver of one's soul for a shard of pure shadow has an emotional stifling affect, causing shades to be emotionally stifled and generally driven by their negative emotions. Shade-centric communities tend to be hellish places full of ruthless byzantine plotting, and most instead live as exiles or near-outcasts, pushed to the fringes of humanoid society.
Ironically, shades and shadar-kai despise each other, with an enmity that is compared to the classic hatred of elf vs. drow, or dwarf vs. orc. In contrast, they get on well with vryloka, whose history and origins they respect and see as forming a kinship with their own. They appeared in the Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition splatbook "Heroes of Shadow".
- Ability Score Modifier: +2 Charisma, +2 Dexterity or +2 Intelligence
- Size: Medium
- Speed: 6 squares
- Vision: Darkvision
- Skill Bonuses: +2 Arcana, +2 Stealth
- Fragile Mortality: Reduce your Healing Surges by -1.
- Practiced Sneak: You automatically have Training in Stealth.
- Shadow Origin: You count as a Shadow creature for any effects that key off of Origin.
- Racial Power: One with Shadow -- At-will, as a standard action gain both the ability to make Stealth checks to become hidden when in cover on concealment, and to gain cover from your allies (this stacks, allowing you to literally hide behind your allies), until the end of your next turn.
Shades can also choose to take any of five racial utility powers, scattered across levels 2, 6, 10, 16 and 22:
- Fleeting Shade: Level 2 Encounter. As a Move Action, become Invisible and gain +5 to Stealth checks until the end of your next turn.
- Twilight Torch: Level 6 At-Will. As a Minor Action, create a Close Burst 1 of Dim Light that lasts either until the end of your next turn or your use this power again, whichever comes first.
- Shadow Monsters: Level 10 Daily. As a Standard Action, summon 4 Shadow Monsters in 4 unoccupied squares in a close burst 3, which remain until the end of the encounter. You can use a Minor Action to move any/all of these shadow monsters up to 4 squares each. Enemies suffer a -2 penalty to attack rolls whilst adjacent to a shadow monster, and take 10 necrotic damage if they end their turn adjacent to or in the square of a shadow monster.
- Shadow Jump: Level 16 Encounter. Teleport up to your speed as a Move Action.
- Five Darknesses: Level 22 Encounter. As a Minor Action, invoke the Five Darknesses; this power up lasts until the end of your next turn, and whilst it lasts you have a Fly speed equal to your speed, are Insubstantial, have Phasing, and inflict a -2 penalty to attack rolls on all creatures adjacent to you. Also, you gain 10 temporary hit points.
|Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Races|
|Player's Handbook 1:||Dragonborn - Dwarf - Eladrin - Elf |
Half-Elf - Halfling - Human - Tiefling
|Player's Handbook 2:||Deva - Gnome - Goliath - Half-Orc - Shifter|
|Player's Handbook 3:||Githzerai - Minotaur - Shardmind - Wilden|
|Monster Manual 1:||Bugbear - Doppelganger - Githyanki |
Goblin - Hobgoblin - Kobold - Orc
|Monster Manual 2:||Bullywug - Duergar - Kenku|
|Dragon Magazine:||Gnoll - Shadar-kai|
|Heroes of Shadow:||Revenant - Shade - Vryloka|
|Heroes of the Feywild||Hamadryad - Pixie - Satyr|
|Eberron's Player's Guide:||Changeling - Kalashtar - Warforged|
|The Manual of the Planes:||Bladeling|
|Dark Sun Campaign Setting:||Mul - Thri-kreen|
|Forgotten Realms Player's Guide:||Drow - Genasi|
Shadowbane Shades are another version of the Shade race that appeared in the Silicon Sorcery article for Dragon Magazine #307, which converted this videogame race to Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition. These shades are more akin to the Fetch race, with ties to undeath and the Ethereal Plane rather than the darkness powers of classic D&D shades.
Also known as Pale Ones, The Damned and The Stillborn, shades are death-touched humans born when a man is killed whilst a child of their blood remains unborn in its mother's womb. It doesn't matter if he's resurrected before the birth; so long as he died whilst mom was pregnant, there's a chance that the baby will be born a shade. This has, sadly, led to great deals of persecution over the years for shades; perhaps in part because they only began appearing in their native world a century ago, shades have been targeted with persecution, harsh cleansing rites, enslavement and even slaughter by their human progenitors.
Which, understandably, has made shades very suspicious and self-centered. They don't act rashly, having learned to think before they do in order to survive, and never trust others to look out for them. They can be passionate, when they feel it's safe, and they are fiercely loyal to those who prove worthy of their trust, but in general shades are best described as "muted" personalities. Having often been subjected to both religious and secular law being used as a weapon against them, shades tend towards more of an anarchist mentality; they typically dislike complex bureaucracy and layers of authority.
A shade resembles a human, save for a number of deathly traits. Firstly, they are completely hairless. Secondly, their coloration consists exclusively of gray-white, almost corpse-like skin, and solidly coal-black eyes. Thirdly, their voices are raspy and often faint, coming across as ghostly whispers. Fourthly, their touch carries a grave-like chill. Finally, in what should be of little surprise given how obviously death-touched they are, shades are sterile and cannot reproduce on their own - they depend on human parents and chance.
The exact lifespan of shades is currently unknown, but it definitely exceeds a century. Sages who've studied the race have speculated that, based on comparative aging signs, shades may have a lifespan equivalent to an elf, and be able to reach 700 years or more in age.
Human/shade relations are, obviously, complicated; shades are born to humans and mature at a human rate, but at the same time, they can't forget how humanity has long hated and abused them for the crime of being born different. In general, shades tend to be cautiously reserved towards humans, until they prove worthy of either fierce friendship, or icy hate.
With other races... things are more tentative. Half-Orcs and shades tend to avoid each other, since the brashness of the former doesn't mix well with the quiet caution of the latter. Still, they share an understanding of being rejected by human kinsfolk for the crime of being different, and thus can bond over that. Whilst shades often try to make friends with halflings and gnomes, the naturally sullen and dour attitudes of most shades tend to be perceived as off-putting by the smallfolk. As for elves and dwarves... both races don't get on well with shades initially - elves find the obvious death-touched nature of shades to be unsettling, whilst shades are suspicious of the dwarven subservience to law - but their mutual longevity allows for initially coolly cordial relationships to strengthen and grow over years and decades.
Many shades become adventurers, seeking freedom from the pressures of "normal" life, and acceptance amongst their fellow oddballs and outcasts.
Shadowbane Shades have the following PC stats for Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, having been created during 3.0:
- +2 Dexterity, +2 Intelligence, -2 Wisdom, -2 Charisma
- Medium size
- Base speed 30 feet
- See Ethereal: Shadowbane Shades can see ethereal beings and objects naturally and continually.
- Ghost Touch: A Shadowbane shade's melee attacks ignore the normal penalties or miss chances for attacking incorporeal targets.
- Favored Class: Rogue
- Level Adjustment: +2