Shadar-kai were once humans, native to the world. They were all members of an extended tribe who called themselves Shadar-Kai.
These early humans had seen the abuses Nerull, once god of death, perpetrated on the souls who passed into his power. They also feared the unknowable reaches of death into which most souls pass even now. When the Raven Queen slew Nerull and ascended to godhood, in an age now largely forgotten, the Shadar-Kai struck a deal with her. They promised to serve as her mortal agents, and in exchange, she gave them incredibly long life and freedom from frailty. The shadar-kai believe that, through their pact, they became the chosen people of death and winter.

The Shadar-Kai moved to the Shadowfell, setting up their communities on the borders of Letherna, the Raven Queen’s domain. Life in shadow changed the humans, reshaping them and altering their appearance. Eventually, they were so different from humans that they became a distinct species. As they expanded their territory in the Shadowfell and began interacting again with the mortal world, the tribal name became the name for their race.

Shadar-kai Traits

The weight of existence in the Shadowfell has shaped the physical qualities of the Shadar-kai, granting them traits unique to their native realm.

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2, and your Intelligence score increases by 1.
  • Age. The Shadar-kai reach physical maturity at the same rate as humans, but they generally live far longer. A shadar-kai may live up to 800 years.
  • Alignment. Shadar-kai society is often seen as cruel and apathetic. The shadar-kai generally strive to create chaos and death, bringing death for both purposes of evil as well as good.
  • Size. Shadar-kai are generally a tad below 6 feet in height and they weigh between 110 and 170 pounds. Your size is medium.
  • Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
  • Superior Darkvision. Accustomed to the black skies and eternal shadow of the Shadowfell, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 120 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of grey.
  • Doomspeaker You gain proficiency in the Intimidation skill.
  • Shadow Jaunt. On your turn, when you reduce a creature to 0 hit points, you can use your bonus action to teleport up to 15 feet.
  • Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and one other language of your choice

Ashen and Scarred

Shadar-kai are humanlike, but the weight of existence in the Shadowfell has shaped them to be slightly shorter and much thinner than their human counterparts. A shadar-kai has a colorless complexion that varies from alabaster to dark gray. Shadar-kai hair is similarly drab or raven black. Pale hair might have a hint of color within the range of human norms. The eyes are lustrous and black, lacking any white or clear pupil. Shadows near a shadar-kai sometimes seem to reach out or deepen, especially when the shadar-kai is angry. Although drab in natural appearance, shadar-kai are quite elaborate and idiosyncratic in personal adornment. They like dark and exotic clothing, jewelry, and weapons, often decorated with swatches of bright color. Hair is similarly ornate and often dyed, and many embellish their skin with tattoos, scars, and piercings. The tattoos, scars, and piercings a shadar-kai wears have more than one purpose. They exist as a testament to the wearer’s ability to withstand pain as well as a means of personal expression and decoration. Each decoration can also be a record of a deed done, an honor gained, or a misdeed declared.

The Raven Queen

The Raven Queen
Goddess of Death, Fate, and Winter
Alignment: Unaligned
Suggested Domains: Death, Nature
Symbol: Head of a black raven

The Raven Queen was once a powerful mortal sorcerer-queen. When she died, she came to Pluton, the domain of the evil death god Nerull. Nerull, impressed with her will and ambition, gave her form and made her his consort, naming her Nera. She stole Nerull's power over mortal shades, and by freeing most of them she managed to destroy Nerull and become the god of death.

After overthrowing Nerull, she abandoned Pluton and created her own realm in the Shadowfell. She is the spinner of fate and the patron of winter. She marks the end of each mortal life, and mourners call upon her during funeral rites, in the hope that she will guard the departed from the curse of undeath. She expects her followers to abide by these commandments:

  1. Hold no pity for those who suffer and die, for death is the natural end of life.
  2. Bring down the proud who try to cast off the chains of fate; you must punish hubris where you find it.
  3. Destroy the cults of Orcus, for the Demon Prince of the Undead seeks to claim the Raven Queen's throne.

Through their pact with the Raven Queen, each shadar-kai is an instrument of death and fate. The Raven Queen doesn’t demand worship from the shadar-kai, although she receives it in abundance. She demands only that they observe the pact by keeping her commandments regardless of other beliefs. So most shadar-kai hold no pity for the dying and try to punish those who defy fate. But shadar-kai also believe that nobody truly knows what fate holds.

The Raven Queen is a fair mother, if not a loving one. When the shadar-kai called upon her in ancient times, she answered. She still does. While she spares little love, she also never demands the love of her children. Almost all shadar-kai revere the Raven Queen, but each shadar-kai is free to choose his or her destiny and way of life, including religion.

Strong Emotions

The Shadowfell saps living creatures of creativity and the will to live. When shadar-kai moved to the Shadowfell ages ago, they were not immune to this depression. Numerous members of their early society gave in to ennui and simply slipped out of existence, driving the shadar-kai to change their lifestyle, embracing strong emotions and peak experiences. These practices, born out of necessity, became traditions over countless generations.

The current culture of the shadar-kai is a study in pushing boundaries. Shadar-kai welcome difficult tasks, as well as physical and emotional extremes, as a way of life. They learn to channel the darkness of the Shadowfell rather than allowing that darkness to consume them. And they accept death as the inevitable end for those who fail to attain the right amount of power or fame.

Shadar-kai embrace living with gusto. The limits of pleasure and pain distract them from the wearying melancholy of the Shadowfell. They also strive for personal greatness, so that if they fail to gain the actual ability to live forever, stories of their great deeds will grant a sort of immortality. In this search for personal glory, most shadar-kai ignore banalities such as comfort, morality, and safety.

Call of the Shadowfell

Although shadar-kai leave the Shadowfell to seek fortune in the world and among the planes, a few needs and wants drive a shadar-kai to return home from time to time. Most shadar-kai feel a basic need to visit the enveloping dimness of the Shadowfell at least intermittently. The plane is unlike even the darkest reaches of other planes. Obtaining new adornments and equipment in the proper style often requires a return to the Shadowfell. Shadar-kai also return to their gloomy settlements to spend time among those who see extreme, weird, or even deviant as normal. And they come home to brag.

Shadar-kai Names

Shadar-kai have similar names to their human counterparts, though they did change slightly due to their isolation in the Shadowfell, with the only real influencing force being the will of the Raven Queen. Their names are often merely the inventions of their parents, though some common names do exist.

Male names: Albrek, Baden, Codren, Emul, Horiam, Hutahn, Ioan, Lucyan, Mahahn, Niku, ovid, Petru, Razvahn, Serbahn, Shathys, Teodahr, Vasylay, Zahar.

Female names: Afyn, Anka, Bahnka, Codruta, Doru, Dyon, Floahr, Ghita, Helayna, Ioana, Jenit, Katryn, Lucya, Markella, Nadya, Roduka, Sahyeh, Tabita, Yalda, Zyna

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