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The following is the only Amia-applicable Shadow Elf lore you will find. Information from outside sources concerns Shadow Elves of other campaign settings, not Amia.
In times before human civilizations, Faerûn was ruled and protected by mighty nations of elves. This period of prosperity was known as the First Flowering. But greed lurked even in the hearts of Tel’Quessir, and the nations were eventually cast into the turmoils of the Crown Wars. These five violent conflicts ended the golden age of elves on Toril and resulted in the birth of drow.
It was the sun elven Vyshaan clan of Aryvandaar that started the first war, but history doesn’t remember them as the worst culprits. During the Second Crown War, dark elves of Ilythiir unleashed their vengeance upon the weaker nations. The bloodshed was much more than simple retaliation for Aryvandaar’s actions against the dark elves of Myeritar. During this period, the fallen Seldarine Araushnee, now known as Lolth, seduced the Ilythiiri with promises of power. Some Ilythiiri families had also found other demonic deities – such as Ghaunadaur - to venerate. It was these malicious entities that granted cruel powers of war to the dark elves and played a part in their corruption.
While most elves destroyed and dominated by the Ilythiiri were horrified of their deeds, some became curious. The powers the dark elves wielded appeared to be stronger than Aryvandaar itself, and it was obvious that the Seldarine were not going to help the nations in distress. These few opportunistic elves allied with the Ilythiiri in hopes of getting a share of their power. Even a handful of lesser nobles in Aryvandaar heard of Ilythiir’s secret, and began worship of the dark deities.
When these sun elves were discovered, house Vyshaan threw them out of Aryvandaar. Bitter and vengeful, the outcasts sought out cults of Lolth to join, and the Spider Queen was more than happy to have them. For the following centuries the outcast Aryvandaarans along with many wood and moon elves from fallen nations waged war on Ilythiir’s side, against the people that had let them down. It must be said, however, that this had no major impact on the course of the wars. At best, there were no more than some 300 of them, out of which only approximately 70 were Aryvandaaran sun elves.
Towards the end of the Fourth Crown War, after Ilythiir’s atrocities, the remaining elven nations gathered together, pleading for divine intervention. The Seldarine heard their call and by Corellon Larethian’s decree the Ilythiiri were cursed; And possibly by mistake, so were all the dark elves on Toril. Now known as drow, the corrupted dark elves were cast into the Underdark where Lolth would later come to them.
The High Magic used to damn the drow did not touch other elvenkind, not even those allied with Ilythiir. However, their crimes were deemed unforgiveable and they were driven underground by the united elven nations. The outcasts scattered in seperate directions, losing contact with eachother and avoiding the drow. As they were untouched by the curse, the drow had become hostile towards them and Lolth had turned her back on them.
As millenia passed these elves slowly adjusted to their new hostile enviroment and evolved into their own subrace. They adopted some ways from other Underdark races but never quite learned to tame the Night Below or to harness its mystical qualities. To this day, no Shadow elf cities exist and the largest communities are villages of less than a hundred inhabitants. Shadow elves regard themselves as the last proper elves, having stayed true to their original purpose when both the drow and surface elves were mislead by weak gods. They’re extremely haughty, arrogant and xenophobic; They’ve always been wronged by the ignorant majority of elves, and must uphold the strong elven ideals in their lightless realm. Or so they think.
Description and outlook
Shadow elves resemble their surface kin in many aspects. They are short and slim, very agile yet somewhat frail. Their body type is quite compact, like that of predators. There distinct differences to any other elves, as well: Generations underground, away from the light of day, has caused their hair and skin to lose all colour, making them extremely pale. They have developed means to see in the dark, even moreso than the drow who often illuminate their cities with fungi and Faerie Fire. In fact, they hate sun more than anything, as it burns their eyes and mocks their fate. Shadow elves have adjusted to the role of hunters in the Underdark, which has also shortened their lifespan. Too old members of the community can no longer pull their weight, which means few Shadow elves ever live past 500 years. They either get killed by their prey or are left behind when the tribe moves on.
Shadow elves are quite secluded and xenophobic. This isn’t particularily unusual in the Night Below, where a stranger on the road is more likely to eat you than to greet you. The reason of these elves’ secretive and hostile nature traces back to the days of the Crown Wars however, and other elven subraces are treated with suspicion at best and killed without questions in most cases.
Shadow elves are haughty and arrogant. They see themselves as the only true elves and consider few other races worth their attention. Most prefer to outright ignore and avoid the outside world. This is why Shadow elves know very little of life on Toril’s surface, and contacts with other Underdark races are either hostile or temporary arrangements of trade or security.
Shadow elf communities, culture and religion
After the Descent, the outcast elves scattered in opposite directions in small groups. Like the drow, they survived by eating the alien flora and fauna of the lightless realm, and learning from their mistakes. Unlike the drow, however, they never united and no real Shadow elf city was ever built. Nowadays, there is a population of approximately 2000 Shadow elves on Toril, with only some dozens living outside of Underdark. There are no Shadow elf communities on the surface.
Shadow elves generally live as hunters and gatherers, and only a couple of settlements in history have had systematical mushroom farming. In their unpredictable enviroment large groups of people would attract unwanted attention and be hard to feed. Consequently, Shadow elves live in nomadic tribes of ten to thirty individuals, moving their camp every few years when the area becomes too hostile or the prey moves elsewhere. Shadow elf villages are not unheard of, but they never grow larger than a hundred inhabitants, and finding more than 60 Shadow elves in one place is extremely rare. Permanent villages are often ruled by two or three clans with loose internal hierarchy and one leader.
Hunting is the most important way to gather food, and Shadow elves have developed their technique to match most native Underdark monsters. Their skills by far surpass those of the drow when it comes to locating and catching edible creatures. Crossbows and short bows, short spears and traditional blades are common among Shadow elf hunters, and they don armor made of various available Underdark materials, such as rothe-skin or giant crab shells. There’s also more to their elven heritage than just pointy ears; Shadow elves are strong spellcasters, even if they don’t harness the faerzress like the drow. Shadow elf spells are generally very practical in purpose, including illusions and transmutations, but also deadly combat magic of evocation. For Shadow elves magic is not high-brow art or the passion of rambling madmen. Every member of a shadow elf community is taught magic by the elders if only they show the potential to learn it. The elves respect their dead, and necromantic studies are rarely accepted. Arcane lore is passed forward through word of mouth and practice rather than libraries. Shadow elves are intelligent but their enviroment simply doesn’t support the birth of high culture. They’re quick to learn from other races when they get the chance though.
After being betrayed by their demonic patrons such as Lolth and Ghaunadaur and being abandoned by the Seldarine the Shadow elves swore never again to serve the treacherous and weak deities. In the first decades and even centuries after the Descent they did not have the time or social structure to practice any religion and thus stayed true to their oath. Shadow elves have no written history and it’s no wonder the original reasons of their fall were forgotten, as was the oath. Isolated Shadow elf tribes and clans picked up different traditions from the world around them, mixing their ideologies with the religions of other races.
It’s impossible to describe Shadow elven religious traditions in any complete manner since every tribe is unique. Of the Faerûnian pantheon, Malar and Shar are the most popular objects of worship. Garagos, Talona and Tempus are venerated in a few communities, as is Mask. Their history forgotten, some Shadow elves have even begun worshipping elven deities like Corellon Larethian, Shevarash, Solonor Thelandira and Fenmarel Mestarine. Their knowledge of the Seldarine is twisted by age-old lies, however, and the worship is fruitless. Those tribes with closer relations to rebellious outcast drow might turn to serve Vhaeraun or Ghaunadaur. Most Shadow elves abhor Kiaransalee’s affection for undead and she has practically no Shadow elf followers. In addition to actual deities, small and primitive tribes may worship some powerful Underdark inhabitants, such as deep dragons or elder brains, or individual alhoons and beholders. Such beliefs are usually adopted from grimlocks or other neighbouring communities, and are never wide-spread or long-lasting.
Shadow Elf Characters
Shadow elves are unlikely adventurers in the surface world. They shun the sun more than drow or duergar, and know nothing of the Realms Above. They are strong survivors though, and can occasionally be found alone or in small groups in the Upperdark and Middledark. Many tales of “fierce albino drow hunters” among svirfneblin, duergar and slightly too bold human explorers trace their roots back to encounters with Shadow elves.
Shadow elves are haughty and secluded. They don’t make friends or form bonds of trust easily, and they loathe other elves more than anything. They’re relatively friendly with duergar, svirfneblin and grimlocks, and might easily mistake surface gnomes and dwarves for the same creatures. Outcasts from tribes end up wandering the dark alone and won’t turn down help from other races when it’s necessary.
Virtually all Shadow elves are trained in combat and other skills essential to survival. Fighters, rangers and rogues are the most common classes, with a good 25% as either multiclassed wizards or pure arcanists. Sorceres are as common as among drow, but they’re only appreciated if they learn to control their powers. In Malar-worshipping tribes druids are respected advisors but elsewhere they’re unheard of. Paladin or monk traditions are unknown to Shadow elves. If a tribe has advanced practice of religion there may be clerics, but they’re generally limited to priests and priestesses of Shar, Malar or Vhaeraun. Males and females are equal in most tribes, as long as they are useful.
Shadow Elves are most often either True Neutral, Chaotic Neutral, Neutral Evil and on rare occasions Chaotic Good. Their society and surroundings do not encourage lawful principles or selflessness. On the other hand, Chaotic Evil individuals are often too unpredictable and ruthless, and are killed or thrown out of their clan. Those who think of nothing but themselves do not live long in their society, and neither do those who can’t hold their own.
The rogue is the most natural choice for a Shadow elf. They are stealthy hunters, and the wide range of skills available to rogues is essential to survival in the unpredictable enviroment of the Underdark. Flexibility is key when you don’t know what you’ll encounter next.
Shadow elves have no Prestige Classes unique to the subrace. They’re most likely to adopt the ways of the Assassin, as they have little use for other Prestige Classes:s in their home realm. Dragon Disciples generally don’t exist because tainted blood is shameful, and there’s no need for Shadowdancers when most Underdark beasts can either smell you, sense tremors in the rock or see heat radiation. This is why more conventional ways of camoflauge are favored.
- +2 INT, +2 DEX, -2 CON, -2 CHA
- Light Sensitivity
- +4 Hide/Move Silently
- Permanent Ultravision
- Favored Class: Rogue