Men-shen resembled large human males. They had gold skin and eyes that were usually black, blue, or red in color. Their hair styles varied: some men-shen were bald, some had long hair flowing past their shoulders, while others sported a topknot braided with flowers. Men-shen were always seen wearing the armor of a general. Their attire was immaculate, with clean, pressed clothes and their armor well maintained and any ornaments polished to a shine.
Men-shen were dedicated to the duties they were assigned to. They were stern and showed no compromise.
A men-shen's primary weapon was a large sword with a red blade. This sword was powerful, inflicting more damage than a regular sword. Only a men-shen was able to wield the sword. Men-shen were notorious for being difficult to strike.
Men-shen had the innate ability to duplicate the effects of become astral and invisibility spells at will, and polymorph self twice per day. They usually polymorphed into a terrifying creature such as an oni. They were immune to ambush or surprise attacks, owing to their innate ability of ESP, which was always in effect and detected any creature within 30 ft (9.1 m). Men-shen were immune to charm-, fear-, and hold-based spells but vulnerable to spells that inflicted physical damage.
Men-shen served as guardian spirits throughout Kara-Tur. They were most often summoned by humans to protect a location, such as a tomb or shrine, or an individual, but sometimes the Celestial Emperor assigned a men-shen a task. When assistance was requested by a human, men-shen held council to determine if such a request was worthy of their attention.
Men-shen were solitary creatures and did not have lairs nor collect treasure. When not in the Celestial Court, they were found in whatever location or with the individual they were assigned to guard.
Men-shen had to return to the Celestial Court daily to both maintain the potency of their swords' powers and to re-energize, which was the closest they came to taking in nourishment. When assigned to a guardianship, they did this during the daylight hours of that location.
The first men-shen were two generals who led the armies of a good and kind imperial ruler in Kara-Tur. The emperor was plagued by nightly visits by an evil dragon and subsequently became ill. The concerned generals voluntarily guarded the emperor's chambers at all hours, even refusing to rest or sleep.
When he discovered this, the emperor was touched by their dedication to duty and, anxious about their health, he ordered his servants to find an artist to paint the likenesses of the two generals on either side of his chamber door. So strong was their sense of duty and vigilance, the paintings were able to keep the evil dragon from further harming the emperor.
- Blood of the Yakuza