Stygian Shade

The River Styx winds through the Shadow Realm, full of mindless shades that live only to consume the memories of those they can drown. An unfortunate few of these shades bound to the plane retain their mental faculties yet suffer daily to recall who they once were. Shades from the Shadow Realm are different from those of the mortal realms because they specifically lack most of their memories, and the drive to find what was lost propels them. Newly born shades are difficult to distinguish from ghosts, but most settlements in the Shadow Realm are familiar enough with the phenomenon to recognize a new shade when they stumble into town with no recollection of where they came from.

Stygian shades are a subrace of shades.


Shades of the Shadow Realm awaken with little to no memory of who they were in life and rarely know their own names. Rediscovering one’s name is a huge piece of reclaiming identity, so shades that do learn their own names use them with pride. For shades who don’t yet remember, they often choose and discard different names for themselves as they attempt to find something that feels familiar.


You are a Stygian shade, your identity stripped by the waters of the Shadow Realm, which sets you apart from most other shades.

You exhibit a few different traits from the shades of the mortal lands. The following traits include those shared with the base shade’s traits, though replacing the Ability Score Increase, Size, Life Drain, and Living Origin traits with those listed.

Ability Score Increase. Your Constitution score increases by 2, and one other ability score of your choice increases by 1. (This trait replaces the base shade’s Ability Score Increase trait.)

Age. Shades appear as the age they were when they died. They potentially have no limit to their lifespan, but realistically, ancient shades grow weary and lose their will to hold onto reality, fading away near 750 years old or so.

Alignment. Stygian shades come from all walks of life but tend toward neutrality. Those that can’t recover their memories or grow to resent their condition often drift toward evil alignments.

Size. Choose whether you are Small or Medium sized. (This trait replaces the base shade’s Size trait.)

Speed. Your speed is 30 feet.

Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet as though it were bright light and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

Death Mask. As an action, you can strip away your veneer of life and expose your true spectral face. All non-undead creatures within 30 feet that can see you must succeed on a DC 13 Wisdom saving throw or be frightened for 1 minute. A frightened target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the frightened condition on itself on a success. If a target’s saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the target is immune to your Death Mask for the next 24 hours. You can use this ability a number of times per day equal to your Constitution modifier. (This trait replaces the base shade’s Life Drain trait.)

Ghostly Flesh. Starting at 3rd level, you can use your action to dissolve your physical body into the ephemeral stuff of spirits. You become translucent and devoid of color, and the air around you grows cold. Your transformation lasts for 1 minute or until you end it as a bonus action. During it, you have a flying speed of 30 feet with the ability to hover, and you have resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical attacks that aren’t made with silvered weapons. In addition, you have advantage on ability checks and saving throws made to escape a grapple or against being restrained, and you can move through creatures and solid objects as if they were difficult terrain. If you end your turn inside an object, you take 1d10 force damage. Once you use this trait, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.

Imperfect Undeath. You are a humanoid, but your partial transition into undeath makes you susceptible to effects that target undead. Though you can regain hit points from spells like cure wounds, you can also be affected by effects that specifically target undead, such as a cleric’s Turn Undead feature. Effects that raise a creature from the dead work on you as normal, but they return you to life as a shade. A true resurrection or wish spell can restore you to life as a fully living member of your original race.

Mysterious Origin. Stygian shades are born with almost no memory of their former lives but have an innate desire to remember who they are. When you create your stygian shade, decide which one of these questions you know the answer to. The rest are questions you seek to answer:

  • What is your name?
  • Where are you from?
  • Who were the people you loved most?
  • How did you die?
  • What unfinished business has caused you to rise as a shade? (This replaces the base shade’s Living Origin trait.)

Spectral Resilience. You have advantage on saving throws against poison and disease, and you have resistance to necrotic damage.

Languages. You can speak, read, and write Umbral and one other language of your choice.

Like other shades, stygian shades fade away as the remembrance of them becomes distant. But unlike those other shades, stygian shades, those shades that arise from the waters of the Shadow Realm, remember almost nothing of their previous lives, and they frequently strive to recover even the slightest detail of who they once were, collecting clues about their own past.

Stygian shades can still benefit from memento mori, and these can be one key in these characters regaining their memories.

Section 15: Copyright Notice

Book of Ebon Tides © 2022 Open Design LLC; Authors: Wolfgang Baur, Celeste Conowitch.

This is not the complete section 15 entry - see the full license for this page