Shadow Magic Introduction
Before creation, darkness was all, and it waits even now beyond the edges of all worlds. In time, the greatest of lights and the brightest of suns must dim and gutter. Day might banish night for a while, but night always returns. On various planes of existence dwell those who follow this notion to its ultimate conclusion. Most frequently called the Doctrine of Eternal Night, it posits that darkness is the only truly eternal concept of the multiverse. As such, it must be the greatest. Symbolically and physically, darkness is the ultimate force — the final result of all efforts.
As with symbolism and physics, so too with magic. Wizards call down fire, druids channel the essence of nature, and clerics wield the powers of the gods themselves. Yet in time, the greatest of those magics fades, worlds crumble to dust, and even gods die. The magic of shadow is not flashy, beautiful, or divine, but it is eternal, and thus superior.
The Plane of Shadow
The Plane of Shadow neighbors and overlaps the Material Plane, and many of the others as well. It is a dark, twisted reflection of the real world, made all the more alien by its nagging similarities. Color is a faded memory, bleached from the world and replaced with shades of gray. The sky is an endless vault of black, with neither sun nor stars to break the gloom. Emotions are as muted as colors — love and hate, joy and sorrow, mirth and mourning are all less potent, less expressive. Only true needs — hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and pain — remain undiminished. Bring all the light you like; it will not shine half so brightly as it does in the darkest night of your own world. The Plane of Shadow is the literal shadow of the Material Plane, cast not by any light but by the mystical energies that hold creation together. The domain contains twisted reflections of everything that exists in the physical realm. Mountains rise from the earth, but they are perverse and foreboding. Structures stand clustered into communities, but they are warped and often worn.
The most twisted of all areas are the Darklands scattered throughout the Plane of Shadow. These stretches of land are infused with negative energy. They suck life from those who travel them. Desolate, bleak, and forlorn, the Darklands are the most inhospitable terrain in a harsh realm.
It is only natural to consider the Plane of Shadow lesser than the Material Plane. After all, it is merely a reflection of “true” existence, a shadow distorted by the angle of the light and the movements of the world. It is simple image without substance. A rare few understand a deeper truth, however. Shadow is sculpted in the endless darkness. Carved from the only force that is truly eternal, it has a greater meaning, and a greater existence, than the physical world itself. Rather than the Plane of Shadow poorly reflecting the Material Plane, the plane of light and substance is the ephemeral reflection of all-encompassing shadow.
THE METHODS OF SHADOW MAGIC
Shadow magic is subtle and indirect. It involves two fundamental principles of mysticism.
Like affects like. If a caster controls a thing similar to, or related to, a target, the mage controls the target itself. Spellcasters of certain cultures take advantage of this principle with dolls shaped like specific people, or by stealing a lock of hair or an item of clothing belonging to their intended targets. Shadow magic takes this concept much further by taking advantage of perhaps the greatest example of sympathy. By manipulating the shadows of individuals, the caster can control their minds, their souls, and even their physical forms.
For every action, an equal and opposite reaction exists. The reaction is not visible in most forms of magic. The wizard who casts a fireball into the midst of his enemies neither sees nor cares about the brief amount of flame that vanishes from the Elemental Plane of Fire to power that spell. The cleric who heals a dying friend knows that her god is a being of such might, he scarcely notices the energy she draws from him. Shadow magic does not hide these effects, but rather uses them, creating strength from weakness, substance from emptiness, and
dark from light.
LESSER SHADOW MAGIC
Shadow magic has its lesser but far more familiar cousins. Casters of shadow magic scoff at those who believe that these feeble magics represent the limits of shadow. In truth, they barely scratch the surface.
Darkness and Related Spells: All spellcasters tap into the Plane of Shadow when creating darkness. They draw extraplanar shadows to them, for no shadow of the Material Plane is strong enough to displace the light. Comparing these manipulations of shadow to those practiced by shadow magic users, however, is as comparing a child playing with rude clay to the skillful efforts of a master sculptor. Others can only force shadow through the planar boundaries in fixed amounts; the shadow master can manipulate ambient lighting as a bard manipulates sound.
Shadow-Based Illusions: Several spells of the illusion school draw on shadowstuff to add an element of reality to their images. Swords seem to cut, lightning to burn. Yet these are no more real than any other illusion. They are shadows of shadows, merely skimming the tiniest amount of substance from the dark plane. Shadow magic casters understand that they need not settle for semireal images. They can create true items, as solid as anything found on the Material Plane.
Negative Energy: The association of negative energy with shadow is in fact a false one, although many of the wisest scholars — and even some shadow magic users — continue to make it. The propensity of mortal minds to associate the symbolic with the real causes most people to think of positive energy as “light” and negative energy as “dark.” The reasoning proceeds — if negative energy is dark and shadow is dark, they must stem from the same source. In truth, shadow and negative energy are separate cosmic forces, although they attract many of the same entities and can be used to accomplish some of the same effects. When a shadow magic caster draws the life or strength out of a foe, however, she is funneling the foe’s essence into the Plane of Shadow, replacing it with less animate shadows. She need not manipulate negative energy, any more than evil clerics manipulate shadow to control undead.
LEARNING SHADOW MAGIC
The secrets of true shadow magic are difficult to learn, for only a rare and jealous minority possesses them. The majority of such lore can be found in the hands of a few specific organizations, such as the Tenebrous Cabal, and knowledge seekers must petition them for access. Although a few ancient libraries and lost ruins contain tomes of shadow lore, these are usually insufficient for readers to become shadow magic casters simply by perusing them. At best, they might point in the direction of other, more useful sources. Some religious sects and temples also possess writings and lore regarding shadow magic. The priesthoods of many dark gods study the Plane of Shadow, believing it to be an aspect of their deity’s power. As a matter of self-preservation, these groups seek out those who show both an aptitude for magic and a desire to delve into the mystic. With varying degrees of ritual, they share the secrets of the multiverse and shadow magic with a desirable applicant. Because it requires a devoted, disciplined mind to master shadow magic, for it is alien in ways that other magics are not, these groups approach potential recruits infrequently and accept petitioners even more rarely. Still, for those who prove themselves both capable and devoted, access to these organizations opens up an entirely new understanding of magic, of eternity, and of reality itself.
Doctrine of Eternal Night