Shadar-kai were humanoid and usually slender and slightly taller than humans on average, exhibiting graceful movements well suited to stealth. They had dusky gray skin, black hair, and dark eyes. Shadows on their bodies or clothing always seemed to be deeper and darker than shadows elsewhere, and shadow seemed to follow them. They were easily lost from view. Many shadar-kai displayed all kinds of iron body piercings in nose, ears, eyebrows, shoulders, and other parts of the body, and purple-inked tattoos on body, limbs, and face.
All shadar-kai were subject to the "shadow curse", doomed to lose their souls into the dark depths of the Plane of Shadow. Their souls were only loosely bound to their bodies, so, when shadar-kai were dazed, stunned, knocked unconscious, or otherwise close to death, a part of their soul risked being sent to the Plane of Shadow. It took great strength of will to resist the tremendous and inexorable pull the Plane of Shadow had on their souls.
A shadar-kai missing parts of his or her soul was weakened, and thus less able to resist the next time their soul was drawn away. A shadar-kai so afflicted could be raised from the dead or resurrected, and could not advance.
Going to the Plane of Shadow and staying there mitigated the effects of the shadow curse, but did not cure it. An afflicted shadar-kai who returned to the Material Plane would be weakened once more. The only way to fully restore their soul was with a greater restoration spell cast on the Plane of Shadow itself; on the Material Plane, they needed no less than a wish or miracle.
Shadar-kai had supernatural skill at stealth, especially while in shadow. They could hide even while in plain sight with nothing to hide behind. Only full natural daylight, a daylight spell, or the equivalent, could chase away the shadows and reveal them.
Shadar-kai preferred to use their speed, grace, and agility in combat. Therefore, they typically wielded light weapons and were particularly known for fighting with spiked chains. Spellcasters typically favored shadow magic and illusion spells. Shadar-kai were skilled at sneak attacks and were often able to hide in plain sight, so they favored ambushes.
Every shadar-kai was affected by the shadow curse, forced to struggle all their lives to avoid it or fend it off, just to stay on the Material Plane. It defined them as a people and influenced every aspect of their culture. Shadar-kai were known to be bitter, grim-natured, troubled, and driven, with souls tainted by darkness. What fixes they'd found, like the gal-ralan, caused constant pain, which in turn made shadar-kai cruel to others, and their propensity toward cruelty and violence increased with every generation. Shadar-kai who'd already lost a chunk of their souls felt their hearts grow cold and empty and were disturbed. Inevitably, they surrendered and departed for the Shadow Plane.
Thanks to their strong affinity with the Plane of Shadow, shadar-kai were a deceptive and subtle people. They preferred to attack from ambush and steal without being seen.
They generally detested other fey, and would hunt down and destroy those who had the misfortune to encounter them. Nevertheless, sometimes, they would ally themselves with other wicked fey beings, often so they could trick or infiltrate a good humanoid society.
In the 14th century DR, the majority of shadar-kai realms were magocracies. These were ruled by puissant illusionists. Their societies were described as predatory. Leaders among them were titled "kithlord" while lesser commanders were titled "kithguard".
Once upon a time, the shadar-kai were a fey race who desired to preserve the world against the growing power of humanoid races. With their shadow magic, they made a pact with a dark power in the Plane of Shadow to throw the world into eternal twilight where they would be the supreme race. They failed, however, but became cursed and inextricably connected to the Plane of Shadow.[note 1]
In the century before 1373 DR, many shadar-kai migrated to Chaulssin, an Underdark drow city lying half in the Plane of Shadow. They willingly gave up their freedom and served the Jaezred Chaulssin, in exchange for magical aid in fending off the curse and to seek respite in the city's Shadow Fringe.
In the early 1370s DR, the shadar-kai kithlord Thieraven came into contact with the Sharran priestess Esvele Greycastle, seeking aid in breaking the shadow curse. She claimed that Shar, goddess of the dark, could not break the bargain that led to the curse. However, she promised that if he and his shadar-kai aided in her scheme, then they would have a secret realm where they would be immune to the curse, with other sites planned in the future. She urged him to recruit other shadar-kai to the effort. Thus, by the Year of Lightning Storms, 1374 DR, Thieraven and a band of shadar-kai had been sent by Esvele to the Lost Refuge in the Vast Swamp to help the black dragon Despayr in his plot to tear apart the Weave of magic. Thieraven reopened the Dusk Lord's Passage to the Shadow Swamp in the Plane of Shadow, where the scheme was enacted. Commanded by Kithlord Thieraven, Kithguard Maurran and other shadar-kai guarded the swamp fort, while the ferrymaster Sithierel led the cultists to the Monastery of the Ebon Dome and ferried the victims of the cult to their dooms. Eventually, the plot was uncovered and the shadar-kai were likely defeated in early Eleint when an adventuring party in service to Mystra assaulted the fort.
The shadar-kai did not build many permanent cities of their own, preferring instead to lurk in the settlements of other races like humans. They could infiltrate these with ease, thanks to their many dark alleys. In cities all around Faerûn, there were small shadar-kai clans working to stave off their curse.
By 1373 DR, shadar-kai made up 39% of the slaves in Chaulssin. The majority served the velves of the Jaezred Chaulssin, carrying out their missions in teams of three or more. A high-ranking few were spies who monitored the works of Lolth-worshiping drow in the Northdark. Otherwise, small bands of shadar-kai claimed the abandoned parts of the city and the Galleries of Shadow.
What few shadar-kai cities there were on the Material Plane were well-hidden, shrouded by illusions and shadow magic and defended by squads of shadar-kai scouts and their shadow mastiff pets. However, they were bleak, almost abandoned places, as the majority of the shadar-kai had already been subsumed into the Plane of Shadow.
Shadar-kai who'd succumbed to the shadow curse and gone to the Plane of Shadow could become bandits, preying on travelers there. They roamed singly or in bands of up to a dozen members.
The shadow curse could be better resisted with a gal-ralan, a cold iron armband with needles piercing the skin. It kept the shadar-kai's soul and body connected but also caused constant pain. Despite this, many shadar-kai wore them.
Shadar-kai often carried blackstone runes, which allowed the bearer to plane shift to and from the Plane of Shadow and the Prime Material Plane. Shadar-kai weakened by the shadow curse used these to take respite in the Plane of Shadow.
- ↑ Fiend Folio (3rd edition) only says "a dark power of the Plane of Shadow" for the core setting of D&D, so it is unknown who or what this could be. In the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, one candidate is Shar, goddess of darkness, who dwells on the Plane of Shadow, but this is unconfirmed. In Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave, page 56, the letter from Esvele Graycastle says "My Mistress [Shar] cannot break the bargain that tied your people's souls to Her holy realm". The wording leaves the question open as to whether Shar is the dark power and she cannot or will not break the pact, or if is she simply unable to break the pact of another deity.
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 1.25 1.26 1.27 1.28 1.29 Eric Cagle, Jesse Decker, James Jacobs, Erik Mona, Matthew Sernett, Chris Thomasson, and James Wyatt (April 2003). Fiend Folio. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 150–152. ISBN 0-7869-2780-1.
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 Richard Baker, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan, Matthew Sernett, James Wyatt (2007). Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 60–61,68–69. ISBN 07-8694-119-7.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Richard Baker, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan, Matthew Sernett, James Wyatt (2007). Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 51,53,54,55,56,57. ISBN 07-8694-119-7.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Eric L. Boyd (2007-04-25). Dragons of Faerûn, Part 3: City of Wyrmshadows (Zipped PDF). Wizards of the Coast. p. 5. Archived from the original on 2016-11-01. Retrieved on 2009-10-07.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Richard Baker, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan, Matthew Sernett, James Wyatt (2007). Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 50,56,112,119,157–158. ISBN 07-8694-119-7.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Eric L. Boyd (2007-04-25). Dragons of Faerûn, Part 3: City of Wyrmshadows (Zipped PDF). Wizards of the Coast. pp. 1,4. Archived from the original on 2016-11-01. Retrieved on 2009-10-07.
- ↑ Eric L. Boyd (2007-04-25). Dragons of Faerûn, Part 3: City of Wyrmshadows (Zipped PDF). Wizards of the Coast. p. 11. Archived from the original on 2016-11-01. Retrieved on 2009-10-07.
- ↑ Richard Baker, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan, Matthew Sernett, James Wyatt (2007). Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 155. ISBN 07-8694-119-7.
- "Ecology of the Shadar-kai" in Dragon #337