October 5th, 2015

Alex Riggs

Exotic Encounters Archive

                Welcome to Shadespawn Week! This week, we’re unveiling a new race for player characters, called the shadespawn. Later in the week you can expect an archetype designed specifically for shadespawn, as well as spells and magic items themed for them, but right now, let’s just focus on meeting the race themselves.



                Shadespawn are not a race in the traditional sense of the word, and could more accurately be referred to as a condition. Some scholars have even gone so far as to refer to them as undead, although the vast preponderance of the evidence indicates to the contrary. Born of tragedy, the dark origins from which most shadespawn come tend to haunt them through their entire lives, both from internal doubts and anguish, and external hostilities by those who are unable or unwilling to accept the shadespawn in their communities.

                A shadespawn is created when a humanoid child dies at a particularly young age (generally within the first year or two of life, always before the child has learned to speak), and the parents turn to resurrection magic to restore their lost child to life. Because the soul of the child is undeveloped and formless, it is battered and damaged by the ordeal of dying and being brought back, even more than other souls would be. Often, this results in the child’s body returning to life without a mind, but sometimes the magic is able to draw upon the spiritual essence of a wandering spirit that is either close to the location where the spell is performed, or is metaphysically significant to the child (such as one of the child’s ancestors), in order to “fill in the gaps” in the child’s spirit. Typically, the spell’s caster isn’t even aware that he is using another spirit as a resource, although some do deliberately set out to create shadespawn.


                Physical Description: The spirit of the child merges with the restless soul, and together they form a single entity that inhabits the body. It is all but impossible to tell at first whether the resurrection was completely successful or has resulted in a shadespawn, but as time goes by, signs begin to show themselves. Due to their patchwork spirit, shadespawn have stunted growth, and remain childlike for the remainder of their lives, ceasing to mature physically past pre-adolescence. Further, their skin slowly shifts over time to a dull, lifeless grey color, their hair darkens and eventually becomes coal-black, and their eyes slowly change as well, taking on a wholly unnatural appearance: their pupils are bright white, with irises of a steely grey color, and black sclera, with the entire effect appearing to be inverted colors from the eyes of most humanoid races.

                Other than these coloration changes, and the fact that they do not advance physically into puberty, a shadespawn largely resembles the race from which it came. Elven shadespawn are thin and willowy, dwarven shadespawn thick and stout, and so on. Many shadespawn speak in slow, measured tones, but whether this is a racial feature or merely a learned trait in a world where many are hostile towards them is difficult to say.


                Society: Shadespawn are far too rare to have a society of their own. Despite their childish bodies, they still grow old and die just as other members of the race to which they were born, and the circumstances required to make a shadespawn simply don’t occur often enough for a community to develop. Most shadespawn go their entire lives without meeting another of their kind, and are forced to get by in a world that doesn’t understand them (a task made more difficult by the fact that the shadespawn are unlikely to truly understand their condition, themselves).

                Shadespawn tend to be shunned by their communities, and often even by their immediate family. Though most do not understand the exact details of how the shadespawn’s soul is a combination of that of the resurrected child and another, different spirit, it doesn’t take much imagination to get a rough idea that something has gone wrong, when the child has died and come back to life, and now resembles a child-like corpse. Even those that do know the details behind how a shadespawn is created tend not to treat them any better, and often proclaim the shadespawn is possessed by a malevolent spirit (the fact that sometimes the spirit that melded with the child’s was, in fact, malevolent and predatory does not help such situations). While some shadespawn are able to find acceptance, most are forced to leave their homes at a young age, and quickly learn to lie about their race, usually claiming to be an exotic species of subterranean gnome or halfling.


                Relations: For whatever reason, shadespawn tend not to suffer as much direct prejudice in other societies as they do in their own, perhaps because their neighbors simply think of them as being a member of an “exotic race” rather than some sort of half-dead abomination. Even those that identify them as shadespawn tend to be less bothered by that fact if they didn’t have any connection to the shadespawn before she was born. Gnomes tend to be the most accepting of shadespawn, regardless of their race, whether due to their shared status as outsiders to most other races, their own race’s unusual relationship with souls, or their general friendly attitude. Many orcish and elven societies, particularly those that participate in forms of ancestor worship, can also come around to the idea of shadespawn. Dwarves and humans tend to be the most distrustful of shadespawn.


                Alignment and Religion: Shadespawn have no particular tendency towards any alignment, other than whatever influence is provided by the spirit that makes up a significant portion of their soul. These spirits can be of any alignment, and while some good spirits see joining with a child’s soul as a sacrifice that allow the child to live on at the cost of oblivion for the spirit, evil spirits can just as easily see the act as a chance to return to life, taking over the body and spirit of the child. In truth, it’s impossible to say for sure which of these interpretations is true, or if perhaps both are, for the spirit and the child cease to be separately discernible entities, and cannot truly be separated once this occurs.

                Many shadespawn develop a keen interest in the afterlife, and feel a connection with ghosts and other lost spirits. While not strictly religious in nature, this curiosity about souls, where they come from, and where they go, often leads shadespawn on spiritual and philosophical journeys.


                Adventurers: Many shadespawn turn to adventuring simply to get by, as adventurers are often an unusual lot in the first place, typically welcoming of even the strangest and most exotic races, and the wealth that can be earned as an adventurer goes a long way towards finding acceptance in society, as well. Other shadespawn turn to adventure as a means of learning more about who they are, about their condition, and about souls. Some seek to find a way to undo their shadespawn nature and uncouple the soul that was bound to them at their resurrection, while others seek to learn more about the past of the spirit that makes up half of their essence (they typically retain no memory of the spirit’s past, and at best receive only a few cryptic flashes).


                Shadespawn Names: Nearly all shadespawn possessed names prior to becoming shadespawn, and they generally keep those names.


Standard Racial Traits

                Ability Score Racial Traits: Shadespawn have lithe but weak frames, with a wisdom that belies their child-like bodies. They gain +2 Dexterity, +2 Wisdom, and -2 Strength.
                Type: Shadespawn are humanoids with the shadespawn subtype and the racial subtype of the race that they previously belonged to (chosen at character creation from among dwarf, elf, halfling, human, gnome, and orc).

                Size: Shadespawn are Small creatures and thus gain a +1 size bonus to their AC, a +1 size bonus on attack rolls, a –1 penalty to their Combat Maneuver Bonus and Combat Maneuver Defense, and a +4 size bonus on Stealth checks.

                Base Speed: Shadespawn have a base speed of 20 feet.

                Languages: Shadespawn begin play speaking Common. Shadespawn with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following languages:  Abyssal, Aklo, Celestial, or Infernal. In addition to this list, if the shadespawn has the dwarf, elf, halfling, gnome, or orc subtype, he can choose the language associated with that subtype.


Defensive Racial Traits

                Touched by Death: A shadespawn has been touched by death, and is somewhat protected from death magic as a result. The shadespawn gains a +4 racial bonus on saving throws made to resist negative energy, energy drain, and death effects.


Magical Racial Traits

                Spell-Like Abilities: A shadespawn can cast detect undead as a spell-like ability 3 times per day. If the shadespawn is at least 5th level, she can cast calm spirit as a spell-like ability once per day. If the shadespawn is at least 8th level, she can cast speak with dead once per day. Finally, if the shadespawn is at least 11th level, she can cast call spirit once per week. Her caster level for these effects is equal to her Hit Dice, and the saving throw DCs for these spells are Wisdom-based.


Senses Racial Traits

                Darkvision: Shadespawn can see perfectly in the dark up to 60 feet.

                Low-Light Vision: Shadespawn can see twice as far as humans in conditions of dim light.


Skill Racial Traits

                Occult Attunement: Shadespawn are treated as being psychic spellcasters for the purpose of their ability to use the automatic writing, prognostication, and read aura occult skill unlocks. The shadespawn must still be trained in the appropriate skill to use the skill unlocks. If the shadespawn gains levels in a psychic spellcasting class, or gains the Psychic Sensitivity feat, this ability instead grants a +1 bonus on all skill checks made for occult skill unlocks.

                Otherworldly Knowledge: Shadespawn have a deep connection to the afterlife, and a surprising knowledge of all things relating to it. Shadespawn gain a +2 racial bonus on Knowledge (planes) checks involving the outer planes and the creatures that live on them, and on Knowledge (religion) checks involving undead creatures, funereal rites, and other topics relating to death and the afterlife.


Other Racial Traits

                Fragmented Aura: A shadespawn’s aura is muddled and difficult to read. A shadespawn’s alignment aura is impossible to read, making it immune to spells such as detect evil, or other attempts to magically discern its alignment using its aura. Further, its emotion and health auras are more difficult to read than most creatures, and the DC of Perception checks made to read the shadespawn’s aura are increased by +5 (see Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Occult Adventures for more information about reading auras).

                Taboo: A shadespawn’s spirit is a mixture of the creature’s original soul, and that of a lost and wandering soul. As such, the shadespawn is subject to some unusual compulsions. Each shadespawn has a single taboo, chosen from the list below.

  • You eschew all faith in the divine, so you must not be the willing target of divine spells or abilities and you must attempt a Will saving throw against even harmless divine spells and abilities.
  • You must accept any challenge to prove your prowess in battle, including challenges to single combat—if you or an ally breaks the rules of the challenge, you break this taboo.
  • You must keep your body in fit physical condition, and you break this taboo every time you drop below half your maximum hit points.
  • You must follow a paladin or antipaladin code, as appropriate for the spirit's deity.
  • You may never leave an ally behind or allow yourself or your allies to sacrifice another ally, even a summoned creature.
  • You can never tell the truth.


                If the shadespawn fails to live up to the restrictions of that taboo, she suffers a -2 morale penalty on attack rolls, ability checks, saving throws, and skill checks for as long as she continues to fail to uphold the taboo, and for 12 hours thereafter.