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    The Plane of Shadow, Balefire and Veralos, shadows of Oerth
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    Joined: Aug 03, 2001
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    Fri Jan 23, 2015 5:13 pm  
    The Plane of Shadow, Balefire and Veralos, shadows of Oerth

    The Plane of Shadow is supposed to be a twisted reflection of the Prime Material Plane, but not much has been done with developing exact correspondences between sites on the Plane of Shadow and Oerth.

    From the third edition Manual of the Planes:

    "One of the most distressing features of the Plane of Shadow is that it is a warped reflection of the Material Plane. A shadow traveler who enters the Plane of Shadow from her hometown may find herself in a dark, abandoned version of that town. The parallels are not exact, so her home may be on a different street, be built in a different style, or (most likely) be in ruins... Most troubling of all are the shadowy echoes of people the traveler knows, shadow creatures with the twisted but still recognizable features of loved ones..."

    Balefire is a town on the Plane of Shadow mainly described in Dragon Magazine #322 and referenced in third edition's Tome of Magic. Known as the City of Lanterns for its distinctive, sometimes magical sources of light, Balefire's other main distinction is sitting on the edge of a vast rift in the earth known as Nightcrawler Canyon. The immediate parallel that came to mind was, of course, Rift Canyon, which suggested that Balefire might somehow be the Plane of Shadow parallel of an Oerthly town located near there. It could be a parallel of Riftcrag or even the giant city of Kongen-Thulnir, but an idea I found more compelling was Veralos.

    Veralos, described in Dragon #293/Living Greyhawk Journal #9, was an ancient Flan citadel located on the very edge of Rift Canyon. It was established as a retreat for Ur-Flan scholars and artisans, a place of learning and lore. During the Great Migrations, with the Oeridian hordes conquering the former Flan lands, a mysterious prophet is said to have approached the panicked scholars of Veralos and offered them salvation if they would ally with some enigmatic dark power. Veralos was destroyed, consumed by the darkness it awoke, its inhabitants transformed into greater shadows.

    Balefire, meanwhile, was established as a college of magic and learning by Acora-Shiin, a drow fleeing the ruins of Xanathalon, a drow city destroyed in some terrible war. Xanathalon isn't mentioned in any other source, but perhaps it was in Oerth's underdark, reachable from the underdark tunnels in Rift Canyon (and its ruins are still there, now inhabited by some other race). Perhaps he tried to flee to Veralos but, rejected by the still-living Ur-Flan sages because of his race, ended up fleeing to Veralos's shadowy equivalent on the neighboring plane.

    After hundreds of years as a thriving community of shadow mages and lantern artisans, the lights of the city awoke the vast army of nightcrawlers sleeping at the bottom of the canyon, worm-like undead fiends made of darkness with the ability to summon greater shadows. They devastated the town of Balefire and slew its founder before finally being turned back by a powerful wizard (eventually a lich) who became the town's new protector.

    Perhaps, then, Balefire is in some sense a reflection of Veralos, a new community built on shadows cast by the old. Perhaps the attack on Balefire by nightcrawlers coincided with Veralos's destruction, the two disasters somehow linked. Perhaps Veralos was visited by a prophet of the Nightshade Covenant, an organization in third edition's Tome of Magic (also mentioned in Dragon #322) that seeks to bring darkness to all worlds, a group with an outpost in Nightcrawler Canyon below the town of Balefire.

    The Slayer's Guide to Undead by Gary Gygax and John Creffield connects nightcrawlers and other nightshades to Tharizdun, who is said to have created them from the darkness of his own being and a portion of Orcus's power over undeath. So perhaps Veralos was destroyed by the power of Tharizdun, who in his distant prison stirred in his sleep because of the Veralosian sages crying for deliverance from the Oeridians, his restlessness awakening his nightshade children who poured over the living on both Oerth and the Plane of Shadow, devouring and destroying. They might have gathered on the Plane of Shadow first, using it as a staging area before crossing over to the Prime.

    Perhaps other named features of the Plane of Shadow are parallels of parts of Oerth, too. The third edition Tome of Magic mentions the Bleak Sea, a body made up of not water but a foul black ichor (also described as "liquid rot") formed from negative energy and filled with writhing corpse parts. In the center of the sea is an island from which the crooked, twisted Bleak Spire rises, a tower once inhabited by Acererak and currently inhabited by refugees of Skull City, a community of necromancers built near the Tomb of Horrors in Return to the Tomb of Horrors. There's definitely a Greyhawk connection already, but what if the Bleak Sea was a shadowy reflection of the Nyr Dyv? Perhaps, then, the Bleak Spire is a still-standing parallel of the Tower of Alcanix, which was long ago lost with the Isles of Woe, as detailed in the Living Greyhawk adventure CORS2-02 Isles of Woe.

    The third edition Tome of Magic also mentions the City of Onyx, capital of the khayal genies. Maybe it's a shadow of Ekbir or Zeif, or even of the lost capital of the Baklunish Empire which once stood near Tovag Baragu. Or perhaps the fires of the elemental planes cast their own flickering shadows, and the City of Onyx is somehow a twisted reflection of the City of Brass of the efreet. One quality of shadows is that they can overlap.

    High in a range of shadow-drenched mountains, in absolute darkness, is a the Citadel of the Nightshade Covenant (again, according to third edition's Tome of Magic). Change its name to the Citadel of Night and maybe it's a parallel of the Citadel of Dawn in the Mounds of Dawn. Maybe somewhere there's a Citadel of Day, too—the third edition Manual of the Planes describes a "Shining Citadel" at the heart of the Plane of Shadow, so perhaps the Citadels of Night and Day have somehow ended up on the same plane, all three citadels connected via portals in the Citadel of Dawn.

    4th edition's Manual of the Planes introduced a city called Gloomwrought as the primary urban destination for adventurers in the Shadowfell. While 4th edition rarely touched Greyhawk except to steal from it, it did steal from it often, so perhaps there's a Gloomwrought on the Plane of Shadow built on the twisted shadows of some Oerthly city. Gloomwrought is found in a peat bog on a barren shore. So it's a city near both a swamp and the sea: maybe Saltmarsh, Dullstrand, Nessermouth, Port Torvin, Blackmoor Town, maybe even Elmshire. If you reinterpret the "Stormy Sea" as a river, or assume the borders of the sea are radically different on the Plane of Shadow, it could perhaps be a parallel of Westkeep, Shiboleth, or Greyhawk. Greyhawk makes a certain amount of sense if you want to pair the Flanaess's premier city with the Plane of Shadow's premier city, but Gloomwrought may be too alien to bind too closely to Greyhawk without altering it. It might be better to make the reflection of a city as detailed as Greyhawk just twisted ruins populated by eerily familiar shadows so that it doesn't come to dominate the setting. Westkeep and Shiboleth, important enough in their own regions but unfamiliar enough that a thriving shadow-partner might be something you just haven't heard about, might be better choices.

    Or, of course, Gloomwrought might not have a parallel city at all, and instead lie in the equivalent of the Pelisso Swamp or some other place where no Oerthly city stands. Perhaps only scattered, half-sunken ruins of some forgotten Olman metropolis mark the spot on the Material Plane.
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Fri Jan 23, 2015 7:49 pm  

    Nice! I'm also noticing a theme in that some of these places whose prime versions are ruins are active and inhabited in the Plane of Shadow. That's an interesting idea.
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Sat Jan 24, 2015 5:35 pm  

    Dragon #322 also has an article that describes Erebus, the lord of darkness who rules the plane of shadow. In the Oerth pantheon, he is likened to Nerull or Vecna but I prefer to see him as Tharizdun - or at least that aspect that embraces darkness and oblivion. Taken a step further, Erebus could merely be a shadow of Tharizdun himself, a twisted reflection much like many of the sites and locations on the plane of shadow that correspond to the Prime Material.

    rasgon wrote:
    Veralos was destroyed, consumed by the darkness it awoke, its inhabitants transformed into greater shadows.

    I like the correlation between Veralos and Balefire, it makes sense. Another idea would introduce the city of Lacc (Dungeon #136, "Gates of Oblivion") as a reason for Veralos' destruction. Lacc is a city on the plane of shadow that expands its borders by opening a gate to other realms and consuming them. Its run by a doomsday cult, which also fits with Tharizdun.

    Good topic, some great ideas here. I've always wanted to build a campaign that uses more of the shadow plane, there's lots of potential. I think Gygax was working on a module called Shadowlands just before he left TSR, so it was never published. Too bad.

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    Sat Jan 24, 2015 5:44 pm  

    smillan_31 wrote:
    Nice! I'm also noticing a theme in that some of these places whose prime versions are ruins are active and inhabited in the Plane of Shadow. That's an interesting idea.

    Yes, and vice versa. Putting ruins on one plane means less worry about questions like "do the two cities know about each other? Do their respective governments communicate?" It's especially relevant considering all the wizards in Greyhawk.

    "Twilight's Last Gleaming" in Dungeon #35 only requires a mountain pass with a city on each end. The pass through the Yatils between Krestible and Molvar would work fine. Anna's map calls this Wyrm Tail Pass; "Twilight Mansion" in the adventure would be the same as "Don Craggen Keep" on Anna's map. Or maybe Twilight Mansion is "Hoch Dunglorin" between Tringlee and Anyanes. Almost any mountain pass will do, but those two have convenient maps that match the Dungeon map closely. On the Plane of Shadow, this keep corresponds to the fortress of the rakshasa maharaja Loliadac.

    I'm still thinking about Gloomwrought. As a base for explorations of the Plane of Shadow, the central Flanaess might be awfully convenient in many campaigns. Obviously if someone has a campaign in the Lordship of the Isles or the Forbidden City, the Pelisso Swamp would be closer, but the central Flanaess still has access to a wider variety of Flanaess locations. Plus a central Flanaess location makes sense as a hub for trade on the plane. Nessermouth is almost ideally situated as a hub of trade between the Sea of Gearnat and Relmor Bay and the Azure Sea beyond; it isn't much of a trader in the Flanaess since the fall of Onnwal, but the Plane of Shadow surely has a very different political situation. And it looks right; one could easily imagine the Gnatmarsh as the Skins and Relmor Bay as the Stormy Sea. The Marklands says that Nessermouth is administered by an unnamed bailiff; what if the presence of Gloomwrought on the other side of the shadows is common knowledge, and everyone in town swears secret allegiance to Prince Rolan the Deathless? Just a thought.

    The 4th edition Manual of the Planes also mentions the Plain of Sighing Stones, a desiccated land ruled by a mercurial, violent nomadic people called the Zamar-Sha. It'd be convenient to link this to the Bright Desert.

    Gary Gygax's ideas for the Plane of Shadow appeared in City of Hawks, part of the Gord the Rogue series. If you were going to use that, you might decide a Flanaess correspondence with the Chiaroscuro Palace of the Shadowking and the village of Dunswych.

    "Gord learned more of Dunswych. The community was one of only a score or so that existed on the Plane of Shadow. All of them were populated by the phantom folk. There were decayed towns and vast, ruined cities too, but gloams and their servants, the shadow-kin, inhabited these desolate places. While phantoms sought to dwell in peace, the gloams were baneful and destructive parasites."

    The Chiaroscuro Palace moves around throughout the plane, passing by Dunswych "perhaps four times in a hundred sleeps." So I suppose it doesn't correspond to anything on Oerth. I suppose you could decide it was the same thing as Lacc, though the Shadowking's personality is nothing like Tenaris Xin.

    Lacc sounds insane. It sounds like it can open portals wherever it wants, so correspondance is irrelevant. Perhaps it could correspond to the Isle of Lost Souls, the Forgotten City of the Suel, or somewhere else ancient and spooky. I notice "Gates of Oblivion" also has an NPC from Balefire.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Sat Jan 24, 2015 8:26 pm  
    Darkbridge Temple

    I have an adventure set in Darkbridge Temple (Bright Lands). In it, the name of the location is based upon the fact that it is an actual bridge to the Plane of Shadow. Hoping to get it into Canonfire Chronicles this year.
    CF Admin

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    Sun Jan 25, 2015 8:26 pm  

    Some additional shadowy reading inspiration, culled from my unpublished part 2 article detailing the Shadow Master NPC class (part 1 appeared in Knockspell #6):

    Inspirational Reading

    Roger Zelazny – Shadow Jack, and The Illustrated Roger Zelazny (for SJ story)
    Gary Gygax – City of Hawks, Dance of Demons, “Dragon 100” and the other Gord stories in passing + Chris Siren’s web site

    Wizards (Role Aids) + NSFA prequel too (cite that one specifically)

    Manual of the Planes (1e, 3e)

    Shadow Monsters: shadows, slow shadows, shades, shadow mastiff, shadow dragon, shadow demon, etc.

    Shadow articles in dragon:

    Shade: Ecology of "Ecology of the Shade, The" Dan Salas 126(40) D&D1

    SHADOWBANE: New PC races from "Shadowbane: Two New PC Races" Clifford Horowitz 307(64) D&D3

    Shadow-based creature templates:
    3.5 updates "Shady Characters" Jonathan Drain 322(44) D&D3

    Shadowdark House: FORGOTTEN REALMS "Shadowdark House" Ed Greenwood 287(70) D&D3

    Shadow Elves: EBERRON "Umbragen, The" Keith Baker 330(42) D&D3

    Shadow, Plane/Demiplane of "Demiplane of Shadow, The" Edward Bonny 213(22) D&D2
    Balefire, City of "Shadow's City" Phillip Larwood 322(14) D&D3
    Shadar-kai: Ecology of "Ecology of the Shadar-kai, The" Jesse Decker 337(72) D&D3

    Shadow Mages "Wizards of Dusk & Gloom" Tony Nixon 261(28) D&D2

    Primordial Colossus "Shadow of the Colossus" Eric Haddock 336(88) D&D3

    Penumbral Pentagon (and Scarred Lands setting in passing; perhaps the planar book?)

    WW 8, WW11, Relics & Rituals

    Moorcock – Shade Gate (and Hawkwind :D )

    RJK – Tower of Blood

    Lance’s module for NG

    Wyre – Afightan (sp?) = cited in earlier article on planar stuff?

    WG7 Shadowland by Skip Williams (relates to the Greyhawk campaign, and M2 Vengeance of Alphaks?? = see letter!)

    Against the Giants – Liberation of Geoff

    Shadow, Demi-Plane of {Shadowrealm}{Shadowland}{Land of Shadow}[PLN]
    ATG - 46-49
    CED - 73,74,163,371,374
    COH - 258,259,260,261,266,267,269,274,276,282,284,285
    DOD - 19,53,329,331,381,383,384,386,387,397,424
    DRG#37 - 10
    DRG#230 - 10
    DRG#249 - 43
    DRG#294 - 97
    DRG#295 - 92
    DUN#70 - 61,64,69
    DUN#72 - 84
    GA - 43
    LGG - 128
    WGR5 – 22

    Wolfgang Baur – Castle Shadowcrag, Courts of the Shadow Fey

    Allan Grohe (

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    Mon Jan 26, 2015 7:20 am  

    grodog wrote:
    Wizards (Role Aids) + NSFA prequel too (cite that one specifically)

    I see that Wizards included statistics for Roger Zelazny's Shadow Jack, but what is the NSFA prequel?

    (and Scarred Lands setting in passing; perhaps the planar book?)

    The Plane of Shadow is detailed on pages 41-43 of Edge of Infinity: The Scarred Planes, albeit mostly centered around the Scarred Lands goddess Drendari, who lives there. Conceivably, in a Greyhawk campaign one might substitute Xan Yae. The slarecians, a now-vanished race whose creations are detailed in the Creature Collection, Creature Collection II, and Creature Collection III were associated with the Plane of Shadow as well. They tried to kidnap Drendari and steal her power, and two of their creations, the slarecian shadowman (CC) and slarecian shadowspawn (CCII), are pretty obviously of shadowy ilk.

    Lance’s module for NG

    I'm curious about this.

    WG7 Shadowland by Skip Williams (relates to the Greyhawk campaign, and M2 Vengeance of Alphaks?? = see letter!)

    This is something I'm really curious about. I don't see anything obviously related to the Plane of Shadow in M2, but perhaps the flying castle with the lich was intended to be in WG7? In City of Hawks, the gloam Imprimus is a lich. "The Prime of evil shadows, the Lich of Liches..."

    Robert Kuntz, in "Maure Castle: The Greater Halls" in Dungeon #139, named the Lord of Shadows as Shad-Duan. In City of Hawks, the ruler of the plane is simply the Shadowking.

    Other sources for the Plane of Shadow include:

    Tome of Magic (3e)

    Dark Roads and Golden Hells from Open Design (Pathfinder rules). The description of the Shadow Realm in this book is very short, covering less than two pages, and the new locations are described too briefly to be of much use. Still, they might be of some inspiration.

    Classic Play: Book of the Planes (d20/3e). This is a very good, very fun to read planar sourcebook from Mongoose Publishing. Its section on the Plane of Shadow, from pages 82-88, is very atmospheric, complete with adventure seeds, hazards, new sites, and even a paragraph on the language of shadows.

    The Great Beyond (OGL/3.5). This was a sourcebook from Paizo detailing the multiverse of their Golarion setting (published before the Pathfinder RPG was a thing). The section on the Plane of Shadow is well done but brief, and interested readers will find much more information on the d'ziriaks and fetchlings in the Pathfinder Bestiary 2.

    Pathfinder Bestiary 2 also includes the umbral dragon, gloomwing, dark slayer, nightcrawler, nightwalker, nightwave, and nightwing.

    Pathfinder Bestiary 3 includes new castes of kyton, which are inhabitants of the Plane of Shadow (though not originally native to it) in the Pathfinder multiverse. The book also includes shadow mastiffs and shae.

    Other Pathfinder creatures of shadow include the nihiloi, shadow giant, owb, and wayang, as well as the various kinds of dark folk in the Bestiary and Bestiary 4.

    For 2nd edition I'd look at the Monstrous Compendium Annual, Volume One, which contains the greelox and shadeling (originally from Dungeon #35). The Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix Two has the darkweaver.

    For 4th edition, the Manual of the Planes and The Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond boxed set.

    For 3rd edition, I don't know if this list is complete anymore, but here are some shadow creatures:

    Bat (MM)
    Beacon Moth (Dragon #322)
    Canomorph, Shadarakul (FF)
    Cloaker (MM)
    Dark Creature (Tome of Magic)
    Dark Ones (FF)
    Darkness Pseudo-Elemental (Dragon #322)
    Darkness Spawn (Creatures of Rokugan)
    Darkweaver (FF)
    Demon, Shadow (BoVD)
    Dragon, Shadow (Draconomicon)
    Elemental, Shadow (Tome of Magic)
    Ephemera, Duskbeast (MotP)
    Ephemera, Ecalypse (MotP)
    Ephemera, Umbral Banyan (MotP)
    Ephemeral Hangman (Tome of Magic)
    Genie, Khayal (Tome of Magic)
    Ghirrash (Miniatures Handbook)
    Gloaming (Underdark)
    Gloom (ELH)
    Giant, Shadow (FF)
    Golem, Shadesteel (MMIII)
    Half-Shadow Dragon (Dragon #322)
    Illumian (Races of Destiny)
    Khumat (Minatures Handbook)
    Krinth (Champions of Ruin)
    Kukanchi no Kansen (Creatures of Rokugan)
    Nightshade, Nightwing (MM)
    Nightshade, Nightwalker (MM)
    Nightshade, Nightcrawler (MM)
    Raven (MM)
    Shade (Dragon #322)
    Shadow (MM)
    Shadow Asp (FF)
    Shadow Beast (Creatures of Rokugan)
    Shadow Creature (MotP, Dragon #322)
    Shadow Elemental (Tome of Magic)
    Shadow Jelly (Planar Handbook)
    Shadow Mastiff (MM)
    Shadow Spider (MMII)
    Shadow Wight (Bestiary of Krynn)
    Shadowswyft (Planar Handbook)
    Shifting Horror (Aasimar & Tiefling: A Guidebook to the Planetouched)
    Skiurid (MMIV)
    Slow Shadow (Dungeon #112)
    Swarm, Murder of Crows (Tome of Magic)
    Thaskor (Miniatures Handbook)
    Umbral Creature (Dragon #322, Libris Mortis)
    Veserab (Dragon #299)
    Vitreous Drinker (MMIV)
    CF Admin

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    Wed Jan 28, 2015 11:04 pm  

    rasgon wrote:
    grodog wrote:
    Wizards (Role Aids) + NSFA prequel too (cite that one specifically)

    I see that Wizards included statistics for Roger Zelazny's Shadow Jack, but what is the NSFA prequel?

    It's been awhile since I wrote the draft notes, but my assumption is that I was referring to the "ShadowJack" story in _The Illustrated Roger Zelazny_ (Baronet, 1978), but NSFA is a typo for NESFA, so I may have been referring to the posthumous "Shadowland" story in _The Road to Amber: Volume 6: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny_ (NESFA Press, 2009). Some details @

    rasgon wrote:
    grodog wrote:
    Lance’s module for NG

    I'm curious about this.

    This refers to Lance Hawvermale's _G2 What Evil Lurks_ d20 adventure, published in 2002 by Necromancer Games: There were some shadow connections in the adventure, but I don't recall the details offhand.

    rasgon wrote:
    grodog wrote:
    WG7 Shadowland by Skip Williams (relates to the Greyhawk campaign, and M2 Vengeance of Alphaks?? = see letter!)

    This is something I'm really curious about. I don't see anything obviously related to the Plane of Shadow in M2, but perhaps the flying castle with the lich was intended to be in WG7?

    This refers back to the text of a letter between Skip Williams and Gary that I didn't win, auctioned by Paul Stormberg in 2011. There's an archive of the auction lot on Worthpoint @ (which I suppose I should point to @ now too ;) ).

    Basically the auction was for a copy of M2 provided by Skip to Gary, but the lot included a letter between them discussing WG7. I didn't save the auction, unfortunately, so I don't have a better version of the picture available, and Paul doesn't seem to have it posted to his Collectors Trove site, alas. If I remember to ask him about it at GaryCon, I'll see if he can send the details of the auction description.
    Allan Grohe (

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    Sat Feb 07, 2015 8:25 am  

    I've always been a fan of the Shadowcaster class and now you guys have driven me crazy with an unending story running through my mind.

    I've copied and pasted all of this to my laptop. CF will get the first story when it's ready. I've started several modules for other projects that have fallen through, so I'm not promising anything more than a short story, but damn, you guys can come up with some great ideas. Laughing

    Think I'll start with Balefire and Varelos. Blame Rasgon. Cool
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    Fri Apr 21, 2017 12:20 pm  

    Mountains of Loathing (Lortmils). The genocidal rage of the Hateful Wars affected the physical structure of the mountains. There are ruined reflections of dwarven and elven settlements that continue to thrive on the Material Plane, but on the Plane of Shadow show every evidence of being destroyed by war, filled with shadowy corpses of dwarves and elves. Orc and goblin settlements that were destroyed during the Hateful Wars are whole on the Plane of Shadow, busy with the shadows of humanoids. Shadow goblins and banderhobbs are the only sentient inhabitants, and these sometimes travel to the Prime to harry the demihumans. Like other mountain ranges on the Plane of Shadow, these mountains are low hills at noon and towering peaks at dawn and dusk. At night they are infinite columns of black rock rising into the sky.

    In Castle Shadowhawk there are no doors, so only incorporeal creatures can move from room to room without magic. Undead shadows and slow shadows infest the place, serving an unknown master. Where Castle Greyhawk is ruined, Castle Shadowhawk is a still-pristine ediface of black stone.

    The Forest of Whispers on the Plane of Shadow includes the Suss and Welkwood and sprawls almost to the ruins of Shadowhawk. Filled with umbral bayans, banderhobbs, susseri, and more. The whispers make coherent words. In the center is the City of Whispering Shadows, corresponding roughly to the Lost City of the Suel.
    CF Admin

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    Fri Apr 21, 2017 7:55 pm  

    grodog wrote:

    RJK – Tower of Blood

    I named some new (but otherwise undetailed) monsters in the closing text of ToB, as well, that I'll probably begin to define soon---I've been watching Babylon 5 again, which always re-piques my interest in shadow planar stuff!: eclipse dragons, black nixies, darkspawned orrex.


    PS - Rip: any chance we can lure you out to GaryCon or North Texas RPG Con sometime? :D
    Allan Grohe (
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