Long time ago, I used to make a weekly 2 hour drive to the city just to dress in black, smoke clove cigarettes and sway on the dance floor to the likes of Sisters of Mercy, Depeche Mode and other bands of the same vein. One of my friends had asked me if I liked a particular band, forgot which one, but I remember my response being “Oh dear god, I can’t stand that emo crap.”
He was totally baffled how someone who dyed his hair black and played a lot of Vampire: The Masquerade could bash Emo. I replied “Emos are like the kids that the old-school Goths shake their heads at; taking drags off their rank cigarettes, kicking back a shot of Absynthe and saying `Jesus Christ, you guys need to lighten the fuck up’.
It would feel weird for me to refer to the Shadar-Kai as the Goths to the Emo Drow; especially since the Drow have a lot more lore and backstory and aren’t necessarily what we would call a cheerful or forgiving bunch. Really, it boils down to I’m really sick of Drizzt clones and I’m dying to see another “Dark and Brooding Badass” race. Shadar-Kai have really fit the pallete for my search for a dark race to use as possible hired killers, sent to disrupt the player’s progress without a care or concern for things like living or dying. Not to mention, they’re a race that even the experienced D&D players at my table know hardly anything about, and something that the others haven’t even heard mentioned in “gamer pop culture.”
The Killers at Night
Running the second half of the Festival adventure I had planned for my players, I decided to Shadar-Kai would have
made formidable foes that could have easily infiltrated the event. They awoke at night to the sound of panic; the refugees and fleeing into the town from the surrounding campsites outsdie the city as reporst of a band of people began killing and burning anything in their path.
The first combat really got the players on edge; as the Gloomblades dissappeared and would strike the players and inflict their blindness. It was also the perfect time to demonstrate the Chainfighter’s Dance of Death ability. These were obviously not just regular NPC henchmen; these were warriors of a different style they had never faced. They managed to slay most of the primary attackers and captured one of them.
This was me playing evil DM: I had another party of them on the prowl, along with a Wraith, but wanted to see if the players would even consider the idea of more of them being present. Instead, they focussed all of their attention on their prisoner, whom they took back to the town to interrogate. Considering the amounts of chaos these attackers did, including taking the lives of some refugees and harming more during an event that was supposed to be a “unity” festival, they had decided to perform a public execution that night.
As they rallied the people at town square to witness the Warlord delivering a death blow to the captor in an effort to raise morale back, I became a real asshole and decided that was a prime moment to demonstrate the Shadar-Kai teleportation and insubstantial abilities. This was also about the time the rest of his comrades arrived, along with a Wraith that successfully assaulted and disrupted the gathering crowds.
By the Way, Wraiths are Nasty too.
Mad Wraith’s especially. Let’s see, they create new Wraiths with any humanoids they slay, they have an attack that delivers a Will penalty in addition to damage, and another attack that not only hurts a lot but also causes the target to attack an Ally. I think it’s satisfying telling the Warlord that he not only takes so much points of damage, but also moves within range of the Gnome Wizard, and then I order the player to roll to attack. Sure, I should probably roll it, but it’s really more fun to make the players cringe in those situations I think. Really gives the emphasis of that character attacking a friend.
Back to the Shadar-Kai
The Shadar-Kai that was captive had made mention to the party under interrogation that he was hired by a member of the Cult they had been dealing with. No big surprise. But this was also sort of an introduction to the Shadar-Kai mentality to the players (at least the Shadar-Kai of my setting.) They had no fear of death, no honor to anyone except themselves. To the point where when it was obvious death was near, they had no problems selling out their employers.
In my world specifically, since most of the ties to the Shadowfell have been closed off, the Shadar-Kai who roam the Empire and its neighboring lands are more or less marauding clans of exiles. Cut off from their home world, they travel in the shadows and dwell in the underbellies of the great cities working as assassins and mercenaries in service of their goddess, The Raven Queen.
The Wizard of the group was the only one to recognize who they were (thanks to a damn good Arcana roll). After doing some research and realizing that they are merely just zealous servants of the Raven Queen, whom she has no real problems with, she decided to compose a letter to share amongst the party to possibly negotiate with persuading the rest of the Shadar-Kai’s clan to instead seek employment under their cause.
This should be interesting to see how it’s played out…