Shadow magic has an understandably sinister reputation, and those who study and master its power bear a stain on their souls that can never be clean. There are great risks to dabbling in darkness, and no one knows those risks more intimately than the races of shadow. These peoples stand apart from other denizens of the planes because shadow magic is an intrinsic part of their souls, a darkness within that shapes their identities and also eases the processes by which they call upon shadow to scourge their foes.
Heroes of Shadow
presents three races particularly suited to players who want to build characters infused with shadow’s power. The shadow darkening their souls might drive these people toward wicked ends, turning them into nocturnal predators or unhinged deviants who indulge in every heinous impulse. Others resist the evil pull of shadow and might become heroes even though their dark heritage and clear connection to shadow magic makes them outcasts and pariahs. These lonely souls often wander the world, doing what good they can in the hope of redeeming their tainted souls.
Revenant: Everything a character accomplished in life serves as a mere precursor of his or her true purpose—a purpose that becomes apparent only after he or she returns from death as a revenant to inhabit the world once more.
Shade: Shades are mortals who have willingly embraced the darkness by engaging in secret rituals that infuse their souls with shadow.
Vryloka: The vampirism that infects the ancient human race of the vryloka is a fell curse that darkens their ancient bloodline.
Elegant aristocrat whose beauty conceals a secret thirst.
Average Height: 5´ 4˝–6´ 2˝
Average Weight: 110–200 lb.
Ability Scores: +2 Charisma; +2 Strength or +2 Dexterity
Speed: 7 squares
Languages: Common, choice of one other
Skill Bonuses: +2 Perception, +2 Stealth
Blood Dependency: When you are bloodied, your healing surge value drops by 2.
Human Heritage: You gain a +5 racial bonus to Bluff checks made to pass as a human.
Living Dead: Because your soul is tainted by undeath, you are both living and undead. If a power has different effects on living creatures and undead creatures, you choose which effect applies to you.
Necrotic Resistance: You have necrotic resistance equal to 5 + one-half your level.
Vampiric Heritage: When your class grants you a utility power after 1st level, you can forgo taking that power. Instead, you gain a vryloka utility power of the same level or lower.
Lifeblood: You have the lifeblood power.
Vryloka Racial Utility
An enemy’s ebbing life grants you a surge of vitality.
Free Action Personal
Trigger: You kill or bloody an enemy.
Unnatural Vitality: The trait that gives your race its greatness is built on the power of life and blood. Like the true vampires you resemble, you can channel the life force of your enemies, stealing their vitality to grant yourself inhuman resilience.
Vryloka Utility 2
You draw forth the life force of a fallen foe to gain sustenance and power.
Effect: You gain a +2 power bonus to death saving throws and to saving throws against ongoing damage. In addition, you don’t need to eat, drink, or breathe, making you immune to starvation and suffocation. These effects last until the end of your next extended rest.
Bloodwolf Form: The bloodwolf, a rare beast native to the forests of your ancestral homeland, embodies the strength and power that is your birthright. This fell creature possesses magic that you can draw on through your bloodbond, channeling the bloodwolves’ mastery of the hunt.
Vryloka Utility 6
As you are cloaked in shadow, you take on the form of a wolf with glowing red eyes.
Minor Action Personal
Effect: You assume the form of a bloodwolf until the end of the encounter. While in this form, you cannot attack, but you have darkvision, you ignore difficult terrain, and you gain a +5 power bonus to Athletics checks, Perception checks, and Stealth checks. As a minor action, you can switch between your normal form and your bloodwolf form.
Uncounted centuries ago, in a land of mists and dark forests, the noble families of a now-forgotten kingdom sought a way to increase their life span beyond the meager years allotted to them by their human heritage. One evening, their elders were approached by a mysterious entity known only as the Red Witch—a scarlet-clad figure who held the key to their dreams. She offered to them a powerful blood-bonding ritual that would grant them the vitality of vampires without subjecting them to the taint of undeath. These human nobles became the first living vampires—blessed with great power gained at the price of their own vitality. In later centuries, these creatures became known by the name of the noble family that first forged the pact, the Vrylokas.
By carefully concealing their true nature, the first vrylokas quickly rose to power, becoming the rulers of their realm. In time, others learned of the dark accord that was the source of their power. An uprising of the vrylokas’ human subjects soon followed, and their former kingdom was cast down and lost to the mists of time. However, the living vampires endured.
Over long generations, these deposed nobles managed to insinuate themselves into the upper classes of other nations, reestablishing their power and prestige. Paying attention to the lessons of their history, vrylokas go to great lengths to keep their true nature secret, living elaborately crafted double lives.
To the world at large, vrylokas are known as human nobles who were displaced from distant ancestral homelands. But even as they are welcomed into the upper circles of their adopted cultures, the vrylokas maintain their true society in the shadows—a dark court of living vampires constantly plotting for power against each other and the mortal races.
In addition to the races of shadow introduced here, Heroes of Shadow also explores the legends of shadow that appear in the cultures of other races such as dwarves, eladrin, halflings, and humans in the Dungeons & Dragons world.
Most dwarves spend at least a part of their lives underground. Some toil in ancient mines. Others guard the endless tunnels that extend down into the Underdark, ready to warn of approaching enemies.
The folk of the isolated dwarven realms consider sun, sea, and sky the stuff of legend. Even when they dwell among the other races, dwarves feel more comfortable within their living quarters and treasure vaults in the cellars of their workshops and businesses.
One might expect that those accustomed to living underground would have little to fear from the darkness. Familiarity with shadow, however, has only made dwarves more wary of it. Dwarven mythology abounds with tales of caverns that devour all light, strange creatures that leap from shadow to shadow, and skeletal dwarf lords whose greed keeps them forever bound to the darkness.
The eladrin have long held a fascination with shadow magic. Their mastery of arcane forces stokes their curiosity when it comes to exploring new sources of power. To the eladrin, shadow magic is just another means of channeling arcane power, and they ignore the tales of horror and corruption that other races ascribe to it. As a result, individual eladrin sometimes fail to see the threat implicit in shadow magic until it is too late.
To the far-ranging elves, the Shadowfell is yet another vista to explore. History teaches elves that ignorance is dangerous. Elven wisdom dictates that mysteries should be investigated and secrets plucked from hiding, in case the unknown conceals a perilous truth. The world of shadow contains countless such enigmas, as does the magic rooted in the Shadowfell.
Halflings have never been renowned for their skill with magic, but much of that reputation is due to their low profile. Halflings like the fact that bigger folks consistently underestimate them, and they go to great lengths to keep their knowledge of magic a secret. Among the halflings, fewer secrets are better kept than mastery of the magic of the Shadowfell.
Halflings are no more likely to master shadow magic than any other race is. However, when a halfling does learn to command the power of shadow, it is typically not for the personal gain that others seek, but for the good of the tribe that is the center of halfling society. The leaders of halfling wagon and raft caravans have learned that the best way to deal with a threat is sometimes to simply step around it.
A halfling clan that is ambushed by brigands or that stumbles into a war zone can seek sanctuary in the Shadowfell, slipping across the planar boundaries to bypass the conflict. Such forays into shadow carry their own risks, which is why halflings learn to recognize the ebb and flow of shadow’s power. Only by the precise plotting of a safe course can the safety of the clan be assured.
No border is too daunting for bold humans, no unexplored land too distant. Passion and ambition, of both light and dark varieties, push humans into new places, sometimes against their better judgment. A willingness to take great risks for a number of reasons leads humans across boundaries that others might hesitate to cross. Shadow magic is far from uncommon among humans, who put such power to any number of purposes.