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Nerdarchy > Dungeons & Dragons  > Explore the Darkest Shadows of D&D at Your Peril

Explore the Darkest Shadows of D&D at Your Peril

Zombies Ate My Brains And I Like It
Your Imagination is the Only Limit of RPG Stories

The other day I was lying in bed before falling asleep and an idea jumped into my brain. It is a weird concept but nothing groundbreaking — a dark elf riding a displacer beast. If you know me you know displacer beasts are my favorite D&D monster, so much so I think it will be my next tattoo. My imagination cascaded from there. I I jumped from a dark elf on a displacer beast to what can I do with shadows? Focusing on the “dark” in dark elf lead me to think about shadow powers, which lead to the shadow monster and the terror they can elicit.

Vanishing into the darkness

I jotted down the thought to explore. We have a Shadow Magic Sorcerous Origin and Way of Shadow Monastic Tradition already and any character can choose the Shadow Touched feat. You can of course combine all of these together for a wacky monk-sorcerer with additional shadow magic but I am not here to talk about a character build. I want to explore the shadow concepts and their dangerous possibilities.

Doing a further search of shadow I found some monsters as I expected like shadow demon, shadow mastiff and others. Some are NPCs while others are modified by what the shadow does. Looking closer at the shadow mastiff I noticed it had some incredible abilities, in particular Shadow Blend. While this monstrosity is in dim light or darkness it can use a bonus action turn invisible. The shadow mastiff remains invisible until it attacks, enters bright light or is incapacitated. This applies to anything it is wearing or carrying. If you were to make this creature Large size it could carry a Medium sized creature. See where I am going with this?

Now I need a rider. Sure, I can key on the neutral evilness of the shadow mastiff and use an Small evil creature but I want to create a fresh monster combo and cultivate a culture. I want a reason for having such a monstrosity. I reason how if I am starting with a shadow-themed creature then finding a similar existing creature fits the bill nicely. And in fact there is a perfect pairing for the shadow mastiff in D&D already.

“Shadar-kai are the elves of the Shadowfell, originally drawn to that dread realm by the Raven Queen. Over the centuries, some of them have continued to serve her, while others have ventured into the Material Plane to forge their own destinies.”

You will have to wait until a follow up post for specifics of the rider. In the meantime I will tease you with an image of the Shadar-kai Shadow Summoner I made over on Hero Forge.

Hero Forge is a premier service that allows you to fully customize your miniature, making it the size and scale you want. You can have it printed in a variety of materials as well as even being printed in color or professionally painted to your exact specifications. Even if you do not use miniatures in your games, or only play online these miniature make awesome keepsakes of your favorite characters. At this point I pretty much get a new mini in color for each long term campaign in which I play. My Hero Forge collection just continues to grow. If you have access to a 3D printer you can even just purchase the STL file and begin printing right at home. Click the image to check out Hero Forge and make your own custom minis today.

Dire Shadow Mastiff

The Shadar-kai, living in the Shadowfell, have long used and kept Shadow Mastiffs for a variety of reasons. Using magic to increase their size so they can be employed as mounts is a recent development. Not only are they boosted in size but they are also imbued with a telepathic connection to their rider so they can give commands without the need to talk.

The Dire Shadow Mastiff are loyal to the Shadar-kai and whoever can claim one as a mount, but are more aggressive than their smaller breed. Training one as a mount outside of the Shadar-kai in the Shadowfell is a long process of aggression, dominance and hard-earned trust.

Dire Shadow Mastiff

Large monstrosity, typically neutral evil

Armor Class 14 (natural armor)

Hit Points 78 (8d10 + 8)

Speed 40 ft.

  • STR: 18 (+4)
  • DEX: 14 (+2)
  • CON: 15 (+2)
  • INT: 5 (-3)
  • WIS: 12 (+1)
  • CHA: 5 (-3)

Skills Perception +5, Stealth +6

Damage Resistances Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing from Nonmagical Attacks while in Dim Light or Darkness

Senses Darkvision 60 ft., Passive Perception 15

Languages Limited Telepathy

Challenge 3 (600 XP)

Proficiency Bonus +2

Ethereal Awareness. The shadow mastiff can see ethereal creatures and objects.

Limited Telepathy. The Dire Shadow Mastiff can communicate telepathically with any creature riding it

Sunlight Weakness. While in bright light created by sunlight, the shadow mastiff has disadvantage on attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws.


Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (2d6 + 3) piercing damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 13 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.

Bonus Actions

Shadow Blend. While in dim light or darkness, the shadow mastiff becomes invisible, along with anything it is wearing or carrying, including mounted creatures. The invisibility lasts until the shadow mastiff uses a bonus action to end it or until the shadow mastiff or rider attacks, is in bright light, or is incapacitated.

For more ways to incorporate shadows into your D&D games check out this post from Nerdarchy the Website.

Thanks for reading. Until next time, stay nerdy!

*Featured image — The Dreadhound from Magic: The Gathering’s Innistrad: Midnight Hunt expansion looks suitably terrifying and its flavor text evokes exactly the vibe we’re going for with this Shadar-kai/Shadow Mastiff pairing. “It herds souls toward eternal torment.” [Art by
Joe Slucher]

New videos all the time at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel

Ted Adams

The nerd is strong in this one. I received my bachelors degree in communication with a specialization in Radio/TV/Film. I have been a table op role player for about 20 years 17 of which with the current group. I have played several itterations of D&D, Mutants and Masterminds 2nd and 3rd editions, Star wars RPG, Shadowrun and World of Darkness. I am an avid fan of books and follow a few authors reading all they write. Favorite author is Jim Butcher I have been an on/off larper for around 15 years even doing a stretch of running my own for a while. I have played a number of Miniature games including Warhammer 40K, Warhammer Fantasy, Heroscape, Mage Knight, Dreamblade and D&D Miniatures. I have practiced with the art of the German long sword with an ARMA group for over 7 years studying the German long sword, sword and buckler, dagger, axe and polearm. By no strecth of the imagination am I an expert but good enough to last longer than the average person if the Zombie apocalypse ever happens. I am an avid fan of board games and dice games with my current favorite being Quarrios.