A New Look at Infrequently Used Spells -- Shadow Spells
Did you ever notice just how many spells are in the Player's Handbook? Roughly a third of the book is dedicated to describing the hundreds of spells available for clerics, sorcerers, wizards, and other spellcasters. A couple of dozen spells, often blatantly offensive or defensive in nature, tend to fall into the "no-brainer" list for all but the most specialized of spellcasters, such as magic missile, fireball, mage armor, cure spells, and protection from energy (and for you power players out there, miracle and wish). Beyond this immediate list, however, are spells that may not always get the recognition that they deserve -- for both the player and the DM.
This series focuses on several spells that do not get frequent use in play, but are nonetheless interesting and effective when used in the proper manner. What's more, we'll be giving a nod to the DMs out there, hopefully inspiring them to use these spells as a way to keep the characters on their toes, or perhaps even start an entire campaign simply by the casting of one . . . little . . . spell.
Shadow spells are illusions that draw on the strange power of the Plane of Shadows. Although the effects produced are only a fraction of what the real spells can muster, shadow spells are extremely versatile since they can mimic certain conjuration or evocation spells of a specific level or below.
ShadowConjuration and Shadow Evocation
Other than the difference in level, shadow conjuration and shadow evocation work in much the same way. These types of spells require victims to make Will saves to disbelieve the effect. If you're considering becoming a master in the use of shadow spells, choosing the Spell Focus and Greater Spell Focus feats are a great way to maximize the impact of these spells.
- If you think about it, having these two spells in your spellbook is almost the equivalent of dozens of spells. If you like having options, shadow spells are a great way to pick the exact spell that you need for any given situation.
- Remember that effects that do not do damage, such as obscuring mist, mount, or unseen servant, can be replicated by this spell. It's extremely unlikely that these types of spells will even be the subject of a Will save to disbelieve them.
- The weakest aspect of shadow spells is the fact that summoned creatures have only 1/5 the amount of hit points and that damaging effects (when disbelieved) deal 20% less damage.
Shadow Conjuration and Shadow Evocation -- For the DM
If you want to create a wonderfully creepy villain, have him be a master of shadow spells. He can conjure vague shapes and summon energies from the Plane of Shadow to make eerie effects.
- If you're running an NPC that relies heavily on shadow conjuration and shadow evocation, it's advised that you pick four or five other spells ahead of time that she'll be mimicking with these two spells. That way, if your NPC summons a creature via shadow conjuration or casts a lightning bolt via shadow evocation, you'll have the hit points or damage ahead of time and limit the amount of time spent looking in books for the figures.
- For added flavor, have shadow spells that are disbelieved float away in a wisp of shadowy smoke or fade into the shadows around the target. That way, the PCs know that they are dealing with illusions that are outside the norm.
Shadow walk offers an interesting way for your character to travel from place to place. By taking a jaunt into the border of the Plane of Shadow your character can move at up to 50 miles per hour in relative safety. Here are some ideas on how to use this spell and things to keep in mind when you cast it.
- Even if you don't use this spell to travel any place, it's still useful for getting you and your party out of danger. By hopping onto the Plane of Shadow, you effectively disappear from the Material Plane, making it possible to wait out any dangerous situation you might find yourself in.
- Alternatively, you can use shadow walk "offensively" by touching an opponent and dragging it onto the Plane of Shadow. The creature does get to make a Will save to prevent this from happening. As described in the shadow spells above, if you plan on specializing in casting spells with the shadow descriptor, picking up the Spell Focus and Greater Spell Focus feats will make shadow walk more powerful and offensive in nature.
- Since this is a 6th-level spell, just remember that you can travel up to 550 miles (caster level 11 times 5o miles per hour) with a single casting of this spell. If you don't have access to teleport, shadow walk can get you across whole continents in a relatively little amount of time.
Shadow Walk -- For the DM
Shadow walk allows swift travel, but it has several built-in hazards that can make it an interesting spell to include in your campaign. Here are few ways to make use of shadow walk:
- Shadow walk doesn't say anything about potential dangers that a character could run into while traveling on the border of the Plane of Shadow. The default is to say that travel using this spell is perfectly safe for the caster and anyone that he brings along. But, if you want to create an interesting side adventure, roll on the Plane of Shadow encounters table on page 152 of the Dungeon Master's Guide. Don't do this too often, however, or your players may consider avoiding use of this spell!
- Shadow walk isn't a precise spell and characters that use it find themselves a distance away from their destination when they step back onto the Material Plane. This is another way to spur adventures by having characters appear in some place that they weren't quite expecting, including locations that they wouldn't normally be able to access.
About the Author
Eric Cagle cut his teeth at Wizards of the Coast, but now lives the extravagant freelancer lifestyle. Look for his name on D&D, d20 Modern, and Star Wars books. Recent credits include d20 Apocalypse, Monster Manual IV, and the Tome of Corruption from Green Ronin Publishing. He is also a contributor to the Game Mechanics, Dragon Magazine, and this lovely website. Eric lives in Seattle where the coffee is dark and bitter like his goddesses.