Ambitious, ruthless, and paranoid, shades are mortals who have traded part of their souls for a sliver of dark essence from another plane. No matter what race, nation, or land one was first born into, each shade undergoes a dark ritual of rebirth that transforms them into a creature of stealth and secrecy who is caught between life and death. In taking on the twilight powers granted to shades, they also take on dark thoughts from worlds beyond, creating an even darker disposition.
  This arduous ritual is as likely to slay its practitioner outright—obliterating body and soul—as it is to transform the subject into a shade. The first shades in the Realms were citizens of the Netherese flying city of Thultanthar, later known as the City of Shade. Their High Prince spirited away the entire city and its population into the Shadowfell for 2,000 years. He also discovered the ritual known today in scholarly circles as the Trail of Five Darknesses, and used it to transform only his most loyal subjects into shades.
  During Thultanthar's absence, a rare few mortals back in the Realms deciphered the knowledge of how to become a shade on their own. Many members of the Eshowe tribe of Chult became shades, particularly < mages and clerics of Eshowdow, the Shadow Giant. To most of the world, however, even the existence of shades was unknown until the 14th century, when Thultanthar returned to Faerun. The flying city soared above the deserts of Anauroch for over a century before falling in a climactic battle. During that time, shades became more common in the Realms.
  Sentient mortals of any ancestry can become shades, though the majority began their lives as humans. The ritual draws upon ambient shadow magic, and is most survivable when performed at places where the boundaries between the Forgotten Realms and darker realms are the thinnest, such as crossings to the Shadowfell.
  Shades resemble their original mortal selves, though they sacrifice their native vitality to
  become slender creatures of shadow. Their eyes are orbs of dull black, dark gray, or purple. Their coloring takes on subdued hues, with most shades having pale or ashy skin and lank, black hair. They prefer dark, somber clothing of silk, suede, or supple leather, decorated with metal.
  Usually, the pact that fuels a shade's transformating ritual is made with dark powers in the Shadowfell, but some negotiate with beings in the darkest depths of the Far Realm (known as “the Far Shadow”) or even with deities connectied to darkness or the Underdark (such as Lolth or Shar).
  Only adult mortals can survive the rite. There are no such things as young shades, and shades produce offspring as normal for a member of their original race. The ritual also doubles a shade's normal life span.
  Most who become shades do so due to their own unbridled ambition and utter desperation. A few shades deny these self-serving drives, striving to ensure that the true nature of their souls overcomes the shadowy taint of their chosen path. These shades reject their own kind and seek other company.
  Almost always drawn to the life of an adventurer, such shades try to earn the trust of a close circle of friends. defending those comrades with the ruthlessness for which their kind is known. However, some decry this behavior as just another facet of the shades' characteristic avarice, treating friends as personal possessions that must be kept safe at all costs. Shade adventurers are highly versatile, excelling in any calling where stealth and ties to dark otherworldly magic are advantages.
  Many have noted the similarity between the shade race and the elves known as the shadar¬kai. The transformation is believed to be similar, and in the past, it is believed many who have been called shadar-kai were actually shades. This accounts for much of the confusion between those who believe shadar-kai to have formerly been human and those who know them as elves.
  Patient Ambition
  The transformation Shades undergo creates a consistent sense of ambition for which their kind is known. No matter the justification, the conscious act of embracing the power of shadow changes that person. For many shades, having given up a portion of their own soul in the name of power means that no sacrifice is too great.
  Shades value restraint, poise, and patience. They bide their time in all things, keeping a low profile as they manipulate events to their advantage. Just as the Shadowfell's malaise can smother the spirits of mortal adventurers who venture into that dread plane, the sliver of shadow within each shade subdues emotion. They still fees love, hate, pride, despair, and the like, but bury these feelings deep inside. A shade's smirk or frown carries as much weight as a halfling's laughter or an orc's frenzied roar.
  A Path of Their Own
  Unlike members of most other races, shades choose to become what they are. For each shade character, it is important to determine whether this was a path they chose to follow freely, or if they see the shadow as a curse and a burden they must bear.
  Shades stand between life and death. A part of each shade's soul has already moved on. Although shades still live, the shadow that fills subdues their mortal emotions. They are not given to rash action or sudden changes of plan, and do not rush into any situation where they have the option to first analyze the potential dangers. The strength of shadow is its ability to conceal, and shades take full advantage of their opponents' lack of awareness to read their weaknesses.
  If shades have a unifying ethic, it is the notion of protecting what is theirs. The things each shade calls their own—their possessions, their knowledge, even their friends—are precious to them, and those who attempt to harm or steal what is theirs suffer harsh retribution. They defend their goals and their allies with the same extreme prejudice, and woe to any creature that underestimates their wrath.
  Shadows on Society's Edge
  The dark nature of their transformation places shades firmly outside the societies they arise from. They distrust all except their closest companions. Truly misanthropic shades embrace their darkness fully, seeing others as pawns to be exploited in the quest for power.
  In the mortal realm, a shade often takes up a life of wandering or lives as a social outcast on the fringes of humanoid society. It is common for shades to mask their true nature with magic or clever disguises, using their shadow powers as a screen against watchful eyes. In many cases, shades reject family or clan names from their past lives to take on the name of the shadow crossing or other place where they transformed.
  For all their fierce independence and self¬reliance, some shades feel a hunger for companionship driven by the emptiness of their fractured souls. Although such shades rarely become social creatures, they gravitate to strong allies, alongside whom they can prove themselves in battle. Such long-term companions are typically the only ones who ever see a shade's true emotions, even as the shade demonstrates the full strength of his or her driven ruthlessness in those allies' defense.
  Around crossings from Faerun to the Shadowfell, shades form small communities that reflect the avaricious and brutal nature of their residents. Shades who choose to settle in the planes beyond are typically those who have strongly embraced the darkness in their souls. In their enclaves, rigid caste structures prevail, shade nobles plot against each other viciously, and shades unattached to a noble house are treated as outcasts or used as pawns in attacks against rival nobles.
  Your shade character has a number of traits in common with all other shades.
  Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2.
  Age. A shade ages at half the speed a normal member of their previous race would.
  Alignment. Most shades are Lawful Neutral, Neutral, or Lawful Evil, having sought this path for power or ambition. Even good-aligned shades must fight to retain their compassion for others against the cold taint of shadow.
  Size. Shades are usually a bit taller and slimmer than they were in their previous lives. Your size is Medium.
  Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
  Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
  Fragile Mortality. Whenever you regain Hit Dice at the end of a long rest, you must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. If you fail, you lose a number of Hit Dice equal to half your proficiency bonus (rounded down).
  Blessing of the Raven Queen. As a bonus action, you can magically teleport up to 30 feet to an unoccupied space you can see. Once you use this trait, you can't do so again until you finish a long rest. Starting at 3rd level, you also gain resistance to all damage when you teleport using this trait. The resistance lasts until the start of your next turn. During that time, you appear ghostly and translucent.
  Necrotic Resistance. You have resistance to necrotic damage.
  Practiced Sneak. You are proficient with the Stealth skill.
  Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and one other language of your choice.
  Subrace. Netherese shades share certain traits that independent shades do not. Choose one of the described types as your subrace.
  Independent Shade
  Having become a shade on your own, you know the selfish ambition that drives most of those make the transformation, so maintain a determined self-reliance when among your own kind. Yet you also know there is strength in numbers. Many shades congregate in settlements close to shadow crossings, whether in Faerun or worlds beyond. Whether you are part of such a community or walk among the common races, you sharpen your natural gift for stealth to a preternatural level, allowing you to walk unseen nearly whenever you wish.
  Ability Score Increase. Your Charisma score increases by 1.
  Shade Skill. You gain proficiency in your choice of one of the following skills: Deception, Investigation, or Sleight of Hand.
  Swift as Shadows. You learn the shifting shadow* cantrip. Charisma is your spellcasting ability score for it. If the space you end up in after casting shifting shadow* is not in direct sunlight, that space is blurred and concealed by shadow magic, making it heavily obscured until the end of your next turn.
  Twilight Cantrip. Whenever you cast a cantrip during your turn, you can take the Hide action as a bonus action that turn.
  Netherese Shade
  Now that the City of Shade has fallen, those Netherese shades who survived that final battle are set free in the world. Some scheme to reclaim their nation's greatness, but others take the loss of their masters as an opportunity to walk their own path instead of shackling their deep ambitions to others' commands.
  Netherese shades tend to be arrogant, having been raised to believe status as a shade was a reward for the most worthy. They find it difficult to trust others, but necessity forces them to make new alliances. Faerunians find the attire, customs, speech, and equipment of most Shadovars oddly dated, since their culture was cut off from the rest of the world for over two thousand years. Shadovar adventurers often wear ornate robes or intricately filligreed breastplates, and for weapons they favor similarly-styled staves or halberds.
  Ability Score Increase. Your Intelligence score increases by 1.
  Netherese Cantrip. You know one Evocation, Illusion, or Necromancy cantrip of your choice from the wizard spell list. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for it.
  Shadovar Education. You are proficient in Arcana.
  Shar's Bargain. When you cast a cantrip that has a casting time of 1 action, you can choose to inflict necrotic damage on yourself equal to your proficiency bonus to change the casting time to 1 bonus action for this casting. This damage cannot be reduced or prevented by any means. Once you use this trait, you cannot do so again until you finish a short or long rest.

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