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SHADE – a race for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition

[Shades have  a long history in D&D, having first appeared in 1983’s D&D Monster Manual II. They have since been developed in various ways, as a type of monster, as an NPC race, and as a playable race for players. This alternate shade write-up is based on my decades-old first impression of the illustration below, which accompanied the shade entry in the aforementioned MMII. To the best of my knowledge, this illustration was done by Harry Quinn.]


Born to the Darkness

Shades are descended from one of the earliest deities who loved the darkness of the primordial cosmos. When light was cast upon the worlds, this god fled to explore the darkest reaches of the planes.

Infused with the very nature of shadows, Shade culture is full of mythology, mysteries, and whispers. Often secretive and suspicious, when Shades form personal bonds they are tested and true.

The Stuff of Shadows

Shades are humanoid in size and shape, but their bodies are made partly from the essence of darkness itself. They weigh somewhat less than normal creatures their size, and their skin and all their features are a barely reflective black. Any items they wear or carry soon take on the same appearance. The longer an item has been in close contact with a Shade’s body, the longer it will take to regain its normal color when removed from their presence.

Shades have little sense of taste or smell, and as a result they have developed a fiery and pungent cuisine. Members of other races often find shade food and drink noxious, and in turn the fare of other races can seem incredibly bland to shades.

Attuned to the gloom of the shadow realms, shades are effectively color-blind, however their sight can penetrate even supernatural darkness.

Wisdom of Eternal Night

Because they are at home in the dark, shades accept the unknown as part of the natural order. While some Shades seek to explore and understand, others see the pervasiveness of the dark as proof that existence is inherently meaningless. Still others see darkness as the truest state of being and may worship those who would rule it or may seek to rule it themselves. Regardless, the pervasive and eternal darkness of the cosmos is part and parcel of shade philosophy.

Most Shades see death not as an ending or as a passage to reward or punishment, but as simply rejoining the essence from which their people were born. Shade religion and culture are rife with stories about the pursuit of mysteries and exposing what is hidden. Knowledge and insight are highly valued.

The Night Holds No New Terrors

The challenges of life in the darkest realms of the cosmos range from seemingly endless drudgery to the mad aspirations of dark lords. Although these regions can breed apathy and hopelessness, there are those who work to keep these domains of dread from spreading, or to keep the extremes of other realms from encroaching. They avoid bright light and broad daylight, and are especially uncomfortable under a noon-day sun.

Shade society values caution, preparedness and courage in the face of harsh unknowns. They tend to respect those who hail from subterranean realms, such as dwarves and drow elves, and any who show bravery even in the face of hopelessness. Relations tend to be poor with high elves, Eladrin, Aasimar, and any who shun the darkness or are suspicious of those who call it home.

Shadows In The Light

Shades are comfortable in the darkest realms and recesses of the worlds, with their inhabitants, and with all secrets mundane and arcane. They venture forth with curiosity, fascination, sometimes foolhardiness, and even single-minded obsession. Acknowledging the dark side within all people, shades can be unusually forgiving of failures of character if such deeds are followed with self-reflection. When they form social bonds, it is with an acceptance of the shadows we all cast.

Shade names

Shades use names common to wherever they are living at the time, but they also have a shade name which is a closely guarded secret. Shade outcasts are formally stripped of their shade name and all shades are then forbidden to use that name.

Female Shade names often end with -el, -em, -en, -eth, and -ith,: Gillel, Kivem, Velen, Seseth, Lillith.
Male Shade names tend to end in -ef, -ek, -en, -eng, -ev, and -ik: Gillef, Kivek, Velen, Seseng, Lillev, Villik.

Shade traits

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2, and your Wisdom score increases by 1.
Age. Shades mature slowly, reaching maturity by 30 years of age and living for hundreds of years
Alignment. Shades lean toward neutral alignments.
Size. Other than their coloration and despite their lesser weight, Shades are built much like elves, humans, and the like. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Shadowsight. You can see normally in dim light and even total darkness, both normal and magical.
At Home in the Shadows. You have proficiency with all Stealth checks made to hide in shadows.
Deadened. Because Shades hail from a dark realm of hopelessness and apathy, you have advantage on saves against fear effects.
Shade Trance. Shades engage in a waking sleep, during which they retain their passive perception, but gain the same benefit that a human does from the same amount of time spent in normal sleep.
Shadow Magic. You know one of the following cantrips: Chill Touch, Message, or True Strike. When you reach 3rd level, choose one of the following spells: Arms of Hadar, False Life, Inflict Wounds, or Sleep. You can cast this spell once per day using this trait, and you regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. When you reach 5th level, choose one of the following spells: Blindness, Darkness, Darkvision, Misty Step, or Shadow Blade. You can cast this spell once per day using this trait, and you regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. Wisdom is the spellcasting ability for these spells.
Light Aversion. You are not able to cast spells with the ‘radiant’ descriptor, and have disadvantage on saves against spells with the ‘radiant’ descriptor.
Languages. You can read, write, and speak Common, Shadic, and Undercommon.


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