Plane of Shadow
Aka Shadow Plane
It is the toxic plane of darkness and power.
It is the hidden place that hates the light.
It is the frontier of worlds unknown.
The Shadow Plane is a coexistent with the Material Plane and Ethereal Plane. It is a plane where the things born here have their colors, sounds, tastes, and all other forms of perception lessened. Connected to the Material Plane through the Ethereal Plane, much of the Shadow Plane has similar, but distorted, features that can be found in the corresponding place within the Material Plane. Where on the Material where a city might exist, on the Plane of Shadow in it’s place may be ruins or some twisted representation of that city’s populous.
In many peoples minds the Plane of Shadow has very strong ties with undead and for good reason. Within the the Plane of Shadow resides the Shadowfell an area connected to the Negative Energy Plane wrapped within the Plane of Shadow itself which causes the creation many of undead that exist with in the Plane of Shadow.
Connected to the Material Plane through the Ethereal Plane, much of the Shadow Plane has similar, but distorted, features that can be found in the corresponding place within the Material Plane. Where on the Material where a city might exist, on the Plane of Shadow in its place may be ruins or some twisted representation of that city’s populous. Distances do not correlate between the planes, however, so that a person who takes a short walk on the Shadow Plane might find herself transported leagues away after returning to the Material Plane.
The most striking and immediate impression a visitor to the Plane of Shadow experienced was the lack of color and light; no sun, moon, or stars adorned the vault of the inky black sky, and all things looked as if the color had leeched out, leaving nothing but black and white, which in the dimness were more like “dark black” and “light black”. A light source only illuminated half the distance it normally would, flames and fires put out less heat, and spells that dealt with light or fire were less predictable and prone to failure, whereas shadow spells were enhanced. On the other hand, although it would not illuminate as far, any light source on the plane could be spotted at a distance of up to ten times its normal range of illumination, such was the contrast to the constant gloom, similar to a star in the night sky. Even a light source that only put out shadowy illumination, like a darkness spell or a lantern burning shadowlight oil, could be seen up to five times its range of illumination.
Gravity and time were the same on the Shadow Plane as on the Prime, but because the Shadow Plane was magically morphic (and divinely morphic in the realms of Shar and Norgorber)the landscape was a dark, twisted echo of what existed on the Prime. Upon entering the Plane of Shadow, the local features were usually quite similar: casting shadow walk in a forest put you in a shadow forest; casting it under water dropped you in a similar body of water, etc. But from that starting point, the landscape diverged rapidly away from the familiar, and on subsequent visits from the same starting point it diverged in different ways, making mapping the Shadow Plane a useless endeavor. Landmarks were usually recognizable but altered in some bizarre way: buildings might be constructed in a different style, built with different materials, at a different location, and/or in any condition from dilapidated ruins to its normal appearance, for example, or otherwise strange and distorted. Similar sites were sometimes called “shadow-analogues”.
Due to the ever-changing landscape, the Plane of Shadow was subject to relatively frequent but very small earthquakes (called shadow quakes) that resembled an earthquake spell in an area about two hundred feet (sixty meters) in diameter. For those on the ground, damage was equivalent to a Prime earthquake, but shadow quakes could also disrupt the shadow walk spell and dump unfortunate travelers onto the Shadow Plane in the middle of the disturbance at a place very likely unknown and far from their destination.
Some areas on the Plane of Shadow seemed to have an affinity with the Negative Energy Plane and life-draining undead such as shadows, ghosts, and vampires. These “darklands” referred to as the Shadowfell had a minor negative-dominant trait and unprotected visitors immediately felt the life force being sucked from their bodies—unless they exited the darkland quickly, all that was left of them was a pile of ash. Someone with protection from negative energy could stop and admire the utter desolation in an otherwise forlorn landscape, and perhaps make the acquaintance of the truly inimical undead. Thankfully, no natural vortices opened into darklands regions, preventing the unwary from stepping through into almost certain death, and keeping the creatures that thrived there from having easy access to other planes. Material Plane locations such as desecrated burial mounds, haunted battlefields, and necromantic foci frequently had a darkland echo on the Shadow Plane.
Other less dangerous but quite unsettling echoes occurred in areas analogous to towns and cities in the Prime Material Plane. They were nothing more than mirages, but familiar faces and places seen through the macabre mirror of the Shadow Plane could be very demoralizing. Structures might appear altered, dislocated, destroyed, or replaced entirely by something else. Mirages of the living had visages of distorted nightmares, but were still recognizable enough to give travelers a jolt of fear and revulsion.
Air, water, and food existed on this plane, supporting plants, animals, and some humanoids adapted to the shadow environment. Visitors could survive indefinitely if they were willing to endure thick, foul-smelling water, food that oozed dark blood, and a pervasive nip of cold in the air. A visitor could never feel warm, would often hear or sense the presence of things that weren’t there, and could never shake the feeling of being watched. It was a constantly unsettling place. Over time, exposure to the Plane of Shadow altered living things, increasing various traits and abilities but also some vulnerabilities. Emotions and the ability to experience them seemed to fade over time for those imbued with shadowstuff.
The morphic nature of the Shadow Plane could produce strange effects, mainly in areas like the Black Rift that were especially morphic, and with events that had a particular affinity with the plane, like death. For example, in the Black Rift alone, a pile of bodies caused more skeletons to appear, until there were thousands. More bizarre were the strange biers upon which dead bodies spontaneously appeared, apparently drawn from wherever they rested, anywhere in existence, only to disappear after a few seconds, presumably to wherever they’d come from. Stalactites in a cave dripped ephemeral shadowstuff, which was reabsorbed into the plane rather than form a puddle. Even common mushrooms bore realistic humanoid faces, capable of twitching or blinking. More significantly, forests of grasping tendrils sprouted from some surfaces and reached for passersby, similar to the black tentacles spell.
Plane of Shadow also has ties to the Fey Wylde. It is believed that Nightmare Courts including the Court of Ether keep these conection strong.
The Shadow Plane was home to a mysterious form of undead called shadows,12 other “shadow” creatures such as the shadow mastiff and shadow dragon, and a race of humanoids known as shades.
Probably the most dominant race of beings on the Plane of Shadow were the shades—ancestors of ancient Netherese humans who resided on the plane in their floating city for centuries and acquired many abilities from immersion in shadow essence. Malaugryms may have been superior to shades, having the advantage of being shapeshifters and practically immortal unless killed in some fashion; but their small numbers, fierce independence, and difficulty in mastering interplanar travel made them much less organized and effective.
Other creatures that were either native to the plane or attracted to it included bodaks, cloakers, darkweavers, ephemera of all kinds, veserabs, liches, nightshades, shadar-kai, shadurakul, spectres,and wraiths. Occasionally, animals and monsters would wander or fall into a vortex to the Shadow Plane and become trapped there. Those that survived eventually took on shadow-given abilities, carved out a niche in the ecosystem, and preyed on whatever attracted their attention. Examples included apes, basilisks, bears, owlbears, rats, umber hulks, and wolves. Such creatures could give rise to dark creatures, shadowy counterparts of natural creatures.
Shadow demons also inhabited this plane. These fiends were responsible for the creation of the race known as krinth, having interbred with Netherese slaves.
Shadow sea serpents were not native to the Plane of Shadow but were bred there by the Shadovar, crossing warm-blooded carnivorous orcas with vile shadow creatures. These serpents hunted in packs both in the sea and on land.
Just as the lands of Golarion have a twisted reflection on the Shadow Plane, the people do as well. The fetchlings are descended of humans who became trapped on Plane of Shadow long ago. They have become infused with its essence, and have yellow eyes, and no pigmentation in their skin. Fetchlings often serve as middlemen for planar travelers, and are the most populous race in their realm.
Only two deities were known to have claimed the Plane of Shadow as their home:
Norgorber, the Master of all Thieves and Lord of Shadows has a realm on this plane called Shadow Keep. It was made out of shadowstuff and was extremely difficult to see even when standing right next to it.
Shar, Mistress of the Night and Lady of Loss, resides in a high tower called the Palace of Loss. It has no apparent means of entry or exit, but her followers had no trouble gaining access. She sometimes keeps prisoners there so she could enjoy their suffering. After Earthfall, she moved her abode to the Towers of Night and left behind a deep dark hole guarded by evil creatures. This Foundation of Loss exuded palpable grief and was reported to contain a portal to her home in the Towers of Night.
The Black Horde attacked Faerûn. The Horde defeated Eldrith the Betrayer, who would go on to betray Baldur’s Gate. They killed her and she was reborn out of hatred. In her soul of hatred, the Onyx Tower was created and tied to her life. The Onyx Heart was located in the Plane of Shadow and only with its destruction could the Onyx Tower be destroyed.
Although the souls of the dead did not begin to be drawn to the Shadow Plane until after the Shadowfell, it was possible to trap a soul there. Notably, this happened to a king of Damara, Gareth Dragonsbane, by a cabal of wizards allied to the Whisering Tyrant. King Gareth’s soul was rescued in the following year by a phalanx of paladins.
Sharran and Norgorber cultists based in the Shadow Swamp on the Plane of Shadow, plotted to tear apart the Weave from the Black Rift. Adventurers pursued them through the Dusk Lord’s Passage to the Shadow Swamp and disrupted their efforts, and found the Black Chronology among their detritus. That same year, a rift to the Shadow Plane was opened in the skies over Sembia and the city of Ordulin was destroyed when a shadowy tract of land fell on it.
Across the entire Plane of Shadow, no city is larger than Gloomwrought. Prince Rolan, the Deathless, a somber human nobleman, is lord of the city. Power resides in the hands of decadent and disinterested merchant nobles, secret societies, and the mysterious beings known as the Keepers. Gloomwrought has became a major trading post for goods between the the prime material and the shadow plane.
Located almost ten miles (sixteen kilometers) below the surface of northwest Golarian, this was originally a drow city that was captured by shadow dragons. Under the influence of shadow dragons for hundreds of years, the city was slowly absorbed by the Plane of Shadow until their overthrow. Abandoned, the fringe of the Shadow Plane continued to ebb and flow through streets and buildings filled with dangerous Shadow creatures. Chaulssin was reestablished by House Jaezred as a base for the shadow dragon–blooded drow assassins.
This city was established on the Plane of Shadow by the inhabitants of Chaulssin after fleeing an advancing army from Menzoberranzan. The Chaulssinyr hastily traveled through dangerous caverns until they found the abandoned lairs of their shadow dragon progenitors and claimed them, eking out an existence. Eventually the city thrived and became a power that demanded respect.
Travel between the Shadow Plane and the Prime Material Plane was possible in certain places in Mulsantir at certain times of day. Shadow Mulsantir contained a Temple of Pharasma, in the place where a Shrine to Kelemvor stood on the Prime. Within this temple was found a portal leading to Pharasma’s domain, the Boneyard.
Thultanthar (City of Shade)
This floating enclave of Netherese origin entered the Plane of Shadow just before Karsus’s Folly brought down the empire. Over the centuries, its population acclimated to the new environment and became known as shades. Thultanthar was brought back to the Material Plane and became known as the City of Shade.The inhabitants then began the rebuilding of the Netherese empire.
Created by Shar when she killed Amaznen during the Calamity of Earthfall
Court of Ether
When the Great Wheel cosmology was in vogue, the Plane of Shadow was considered only a demiplane. Demiplanes formed out of the proto-matter that ebbed and flowed about the Ethereal Plane, creating a finite plane with its own Border Ethereal whenever a critical mass was achieved. The largest of these was called the Demiplane of Shadow, and was made up of both positive and negative energy in equal measure. For those traveling through the Ethereal Plane, the curtain of vaporous color for the Demiplane of Shadow was the color silver. Wizards could shadow walk directly to the edge of the Shadow Plane and travelers could use this plane as a transitive plane to traverse many Prime Material miles/kilometers very quickly. Clerics could use the plane shift spell to travel to this plane. If any were brave enough to cross the Demiplane of Shadow, it was possible to find the borders of other planes of reality. Very little was known about the Demiplane of Shadow other than it was a dim and dismal place.
When the World Tree cosmology model was introduced, the Plane of Shadow was upgraded to an infinite plane that coexisted with the Prime Material Plane—touching it at all points and having the same basic geography —but only accessible at night or from shady areas using the shadow walk spell. Naturally occurring intermittent portals called vortices appeared between this plane and the Material Plane in seemingly random areas of heavy shade or darkness. The entry and exit point of a vortex were unpredictable as was their duration, lasting a few days at most. The Plane of Shadow was no longer connected to the Ethereal Plane, even though it was coexistent with it. Rapid movement between points of the Prime were still possible by stepping into the Shadow Plane and skirting the edge before stepping back into the Prime, but arriving at a particular destination was much less precise than before. Intrepid travelers could still reach other universes by traversing the Shadow Plane and locating the border with an alien world such as Oerth for example.
Known as “shadowstuff”,the material of the Shadow Plane could be manipulated by illusionists to form semi-real monsters and quasi-real evocations that were still effective (to a lesser degree) even if the target successfully disbelieved the illusion.
Another tool of illusionists was the shadow well spell, which could turn a creature’s shadow into a temporary gateway into the Shadow Plane. If successful, the victim was sucked into the Shadow Plane through his or her shadow and spent a few moments in a pocket realm (a very tiny demiplane attached to the Shadow Plane) being terrorized by dark phantasms. No physical harm resulted from this spell, but mental and emotional trauma resulting in a fear response was possible.
An unsuccessful attempt to build a gate to the Shadow Plane could result in what was termed a failed Shadow Gate. A being that stepped through one was taken only momentarily to the Plane of Shadow, but in that moment a “seed of shadow” was implanted in their flesh. This could cause their flesh to be subsumed by shadow, and they would see it mist away into darkness. Many died, reduced to bare skeletons, but those who survived acquired the powers of a dark creature.
Rumors and Legends
The special and unique nature of this plane caused not only cosmologists to speculate about its origins, but visitors and planar travelers as well. Some believed the Plane of Shadow had spontaneously formed as a demiplane out of the Ethereal Plane. Others believed that it was created by the primordials as an echo of the Prime Material Plane.
However, most cosmologists and planeswalkers with a sense of adventure liked to talk about the legend of the Shining Citadel. Briefly, the legend postulated that the Plane of Shadow was once bright and colorful like the Material Plane, but at some point in the distant past a mysterious group who worshiped the plane’s creator took all of the light, color, and most of the life-force from the rest of the plane and concentrated it into a mighty citadel. One would think that a structure containing most of the energy from an entire plane of existence would be hard to miss, but no one has ever found the Shining Citadel, except perhaps, as the legend states, those who venture into the deepest parts of the Plane of Shadows and never return.
A theory bandied about among sages stated that the Darklands was bottomless because it eventually became the Plane of Shadow. The only evidence supporting this hypothesis was that permanent portals to the Shadow Plane were increasingly common the deeper one delved.
The Plane of Shadow was one of the planes of existence in various cosmological models. Its purpose and characteristics evolved as new cosmologies were formulated. Other names for this plane included Shadowland, the Demi-Plane of Shadow, the Shadowfell, and simply Shadow.