D&D Ideas — Shadow

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Hello! Each week in the Nerdarchy Newsletter, we send updates and announcements along with some ideas that didn’t make it into a video. Signing up for the newsletter gives you access to the Nerdarchy ringtone, instructions on how to get a chance to game with us, and makes you a 1st-level Nerdarchist. So that’s cool. For those who aren’t interested in the newsletter, but still curious about some of these off camera ideas, enjoy.

D&D shadow
The fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide describes “The Shadowfell, also called the Plane of Shadow, is a dimension of black, gray, and white where most other color has been leached from everything. It is a place of darkness that hates the light, where the sky is a black vault with neither sun nor stars.” [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]

Well met travelers of the internet. This week’s theme for your D&D game is shadow, from inspiration to magical flower to monster we’ve got you covered.

From Nerdarchist Dave’s Desk

There are places where the planes of Dungeons & Dragons meet and create infusions of the two planes. In the case of the demiplane of shadow and the prime material can cause animals, plants, soil, and other things to be empowered with the power of shadow.

Here is an example for your D&D game:

Shadow lily, a beautiful flower of pale white, ghostly grays, and blacks, and reaches a height of 3 to 5 feet tall. The flower, which only blooms at night, can be as large in diameter as it is tall. It’s uncommon to find more than a single flower growing in a place. On rare occasions as many a half dozen flowers have been reported.

Legend tells of those who have learned to harvest shadow-enriched soil. With this soil, golden shears, and the proper knowledge one could continue growing shadow lilies. Taking clippings can only be done with golden shears.

If you harvest the flower during the witching hour and then properly dry it out, the shadow lilly becomes a powerful spell component. There are several advantages to using shadow lily when casting necromancy spells.

  1. It replaces any costly spell casting components, but is consumed in the casting.
  2. When casting a damaging spell roll two sets of dice and keep the one you want.
  3. Anyone brought back from the dead using shadow lily come back temporarily infused with necrotic energy. They are revived with full hit points and under the effect of an aid spell cast at the same level of the resurrection magic used.
The flowers are very valuable and difficult to harvest. Make an Intelligence (Arcana, Nature, or herbalism kit) check with a DC 25 using one skill, DC 20 using two skills, and DC 15 using all three skills.

From Nerdarchist Ted’s Desk

There are lots of great ways to use shadow, the monster in D&D, but I wanted to look at using shadows to improve your game.  Now I know it is silly to actually look up the definition of a word that we have known practically our whole lives, but it was kind of cool and inspiring to see what it said:
1. partial darkness or obscurity within a part of space from which rays from a source of light are cut off by an interposed opaque body;  2. an imitation of something; 3. a reflected image.
These offer some interesting ideas to me of how I might use it in a game I run, beyond the simple “there are shadows.”  So let’s look at each one and break it down.
  1. Shadows get to hide objects or creatures from sight. So if you describe in detail what your party is seeing and gloss over the obscured part, the ambush in waiting has a better chance of not being seen. It would rely on their passive Perception or the choice to examine further to find the hidden mystery that might be in the room. Thus, the players who are buying into the game and willing to explore are rewarded
  2. An imitation or a copy, might not fully be referring to our typical definition of shadow, but what if a magical effect or a crazy wizard had an effect that made duplicates of the player characters and the PCs were being accused of something they did not do. But in fact they did not do it but it was a the copy.  Let the craziness and roleplaying ensue.
  3. All right here is a fun one. There are not enough puzzle resources out there for Game Masters and not all of us GMs are the best at making puzzles that are properly challenging to veteran players out there. But what if you made a puzzle that involved candles and make it look like the light is supposed to shine on an object when in fact the solution is to cast the shadow. If you are doing an arcane puzzle you could use a particular hand gesture of an iconic spell. Maybe even have clues in pictures about a wizard using that spell. Make sure you select one the player character with access to the spell. If it is a religious puzzle have a cleric presenting his holy symbol. These clues would make it look like they had to cast the spell or use Channel Divinity when all that had to do was light the candle and present the right image to make the shadow.
Anyway, there is some thoughts on the subject. I hope I sparked some inspiration in you.

From the Nerditor’s Desk

The topic for this week is “shadow” and all I can think about is the creature in the Monster Manual.
D&D monster
A shadow as seen in the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]
Sure, there’s lots of other shadows in the corners of Dungeons & Dragons. The Shadow Magic Sorcerous Origin, lots of creatures with the qualifier, the Shadowfell, and perhaps one of my favorite spell names — shadow of Moil — to name just a few.
No shortage of ways to incorporate shadow into your D&D game besides, they help set a tone and mood in your descriptions for both players and Dungeon Masters to paint a scene.
But for my 2 cp, the lil’ CR ½ medium, chaotic evil undead creature throws shade at them all through all the delicious implications it brings to the table.
For starters, the challenge rating suggests one shadow should be an easy challenge for a party of four 1st-level characters. Just two adventurers are an even match for this gloomy foe. But the shadow punches above its weight with a whole bunch of traits — resistances, immunities, speed, and Stealth. A shadow can attack from just about anywhere and get away, but even if it stays toe to toe (and it would be remiss as a shadow if it didn’t) it can hang tough. And it should, because everytime it hits a creature they lose Strength without a saving throw. If a shadow drains all the Strength, the creature dies and a new shadow is created if the creature was a non-evil humanoid.
It behooves all non-evil humanoids to eradicate shadows as a top priority.
A shadow apocalypse is lurking just on the edges of all that’s bright and good, you’d better believe it. Shadows aren’t even mindless undead horrors seeking the life force of goodly people either. They’ve got just enough Intelligence to have some form of conscious thought. Heck, they’re as smart as Grog from Vox Machina, if that helps make a comparison for you.
But that’s not all the shadow has to offer. For roleplaying juice, the Monster Manual delivers in the Dark Disposition section of the shadow entry.
“If a creature from which a shadow has been created somehow returns to life, its undead shadow senses the return. The shadow might seek its “parent” to vex or slay. Whether the shadow pursues its living counterpart, the creature that birthed the shadow no longer casts one until the monster is destroyed.”
How about that for your next character’s background? You could certainly add your own Shadow Magic sorcerer quirk: My shadow is out there somewhere, and until it is destroyed I no longer cast one. Add the same quirk to any character, and it’ll be a fun aspect of your character for you and the DM. Is your character seeking out the shadow created when they were themselves killed in the past? That would be pretty neat for a Haunted One or revenant character, a soldier killed in a military assault against a necromancer’s lair, or a Light Domain cleric who finds courage against their dread of the dark through their faith.
In my Spelljammer campaign at home, one of the potential quests for the party was a derelict ship out in the phlogiston. A single shadow on board resulted in the entire crew being killed and becoming shadows. The players never went in that direction, and over time in the campaign that ship found its way to a small planetoid. All humanoids there were killed by the mass of shadows, becoming a planet of shadows. Scary stuff.
Shadows, y’all. Take no umbrage in their humble challenge rating, shadows can bedim adventurers at any tier, given enough of them. And with their low CR it’s easy to slap on other traits to beef them up. Something like the death knight’s Marshal Undead trait for a shadow leader ups the ante, especially if a bunch of 5th-level clerics go questing to destroy shadow infestations.
So that’s my pitch to you for the shadow. Hopefully I shed some light on these creatures and you’re excited to cast a shroud of shadow over your next D&D game.
Until next time, stay nerdy!
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