Carrion Crown: Kyle's
Welcome to a larger world. While there are many worlds in many different campaign settings, there is only one Plane of Shadows – and it crosses all settings. It may seem infinite in size, but it is only because so much has been forgotten by other realms that Shadowsfall is so expansive.
So what exactly are the Plane of Shadows and Shadowsfall? The Plane of Shadows is the dark and twisted reflection of the Material Plane. All things lost or forgotten eventually find their way here. Everything from missing keys to great tomes and powerful weapons can be found scattered across the darkened landscape. Small items that simply disappear on the Material Plane reappear on Shadowsfall when no one remembers them anymore. Larger things, such as buildings and forests, decay over time and show up piece by piece on the plane. Rarely, events on the Material Plane, like earthquakes and tornadoes shallow or otherwise decimate entire sections of lands and cities. When this happens, this decimated land appears almost instantly on the Plane of Shadows, taking any people and buildings once situated there with them. The people living on the Plane of Shadows call it Shadowsfall, just as those that live on the Material Plane have a name for their own realm.
On Shadowsfall, you will find ancient tombs and ruins of cities built hundreds or even thousands of years ago, their crafters hailing from different planes and long since forgotten by time. That does not mean that these places are empty. Some of these tombs are still sealed and contain powerful magic items ready for you to plunder. Others, monsters have taken over, making the ruins into lairs and vaults for their ill-gotten treasure. In a rare few of these ruins, the various races have fixed them up and made them their homes. The larger and more densely populated of these restored ruins are called strongholds. They provide shelter from the monsters that stalk the eternal night.
A number of themes are central to Shadowsfall. Among these is life versus death. In many ways Shadowsfall is more akin to a zombie apocalypse game than any other Pathfinder setting. With large numbers of roving zombies versus the few pockets of civilization scattered across an enormous gulf of wasteland, fans of zombie movies and games will feel at home in this setting. Another theme revolves around how much you will compromise your principles to stay alive and have security. Bloodchain keeps the majority of its population in constant pain and torture as the price they pay for not being overrun by the undead. Vole’s Deep does not suffer many attacks, but your character might have to murder someone just to be able to eat. Even Bastion, the stronghold of the faithful, requires significant compromise to maneuver the ever shifting alliances that rule there.
In my own opinion, the most important theme is about discovering what your character lost. Shadowsfall is a land that absorbs things that are lost and forgotten in other worlds and incorporates them into itself. This is not limited to items; it can also include memories, loved ones, knowledge, honor, powerful artifacts, fame and dark power. Some are seeking answers to the question, “Why?” If there are two constants in Shadowsfall, they are that everyone is seeking something, and everyone has a story to tell. What stories will you tell, and what stories will others tell of you?
The Plane of Shadows
The Shadow Plane is a coexistent with the Material Plane and Ethereal Plane. It is a plane where the things born here have their colors, sounds, tastes, and all other forms of perception lessened. Connected to the Material Plane through the Ethereal Plane, much of the Shadow Plane has similar, but distorted, features that can be found in the corresponding place within the Material Plane. Where on the Material where a city might exist, on the Plane of Shadow in it’s place may be ruins or some twisted representation of that city’s populous.
In many peoples minds the Plane of Shadow has very strong ties with undead and for good reason. At the core of the Plane of Shadow resides the Negative Energy Plane which causes the creation of many undead that exist with in the Shadow.
As well, it is noted that the plane has largely been tainted by Zon-Kuthon’s imprisonment here long ago. Portions of the plane show his influence more strongly than others. While he is no longer imprisoned, Zon-Kuthon still makes his home on the Plane of Shadow.
With so many different kinds of dangers on the Plane of Shadows to threaten the living, many find strength in numbers to be their best defense. Strongholds, expanses of land boasting a city and standing army, are the best defense against the undead forces that seek to end all life and powerful monsters looking for their next meal. These strongholds are protected with a varied array of mundane and magical defenses, lookout and signal towers, and fortresses. However, the walled city at the center of the stronghold possesses the best defense in that area. The quality of these defenses ranges from those of Gear’s Gate and Vole’s Deep, which are well protected and seldom suffer serious casualties, to Bastion, which is spread so thin that the city is frequently attacked, and Blackbat, where few defenses beyond the city itself are in place, leaving the city vulnerable to large scale sieges. Adventurers have also been known to bring word of an impending attack after a chance encounter with a horde of undead outside the strongholds proper.
Outside every city lies a series of farming villages, mining towns and lumber camps that gather resources to keep the city alive. Even when undead hordes fail to reach the city, they can still cause serious damage to the stronghold. The more farms a horde destroys, the less food the people
have to eat. When something similar happens in a kingdom on the Material Plane, the ruler can negotiate a treaty with a neighboring country to import food. On Shadowsfall, however, the nearest stronghold typically sits across an immense, unprotected gulf. As such, trade is seldom a
realistic option. Other solutions exist, such as making deals with the fey. However, these other avenues are typically dangerous and risky. But to prevent starvation of thousands of people, the boldest heroes will go to great length to help. Beyond the edge of the strongholds are the Outlands.
The Outlands is the name for the vast, largely undefended region between strongholds. Here, the undead and screamers alike roam free. Those that live here are accustomed to a random zombie or skeleton wandering into their town and having to kill it before it causes any serious damage. Many
live in ruins not far away from where the undead wander. Those denizens fortify whatever ruin in which they live and leave only when they need to search for food. They end up being exceptionally good at stealth and striking from hidden locations.
With so much less security and ready access to food, many that live in strongholds wonder why those that live in the Outlands choose to do so. There are many such reasons. Chief among these reasons is the lack of laws. Those that do not like having to obey law or would rather be the king of their domain can find such freedom in the Outlands. Bastion, by contrast, requires veneration of certain deities. Those that fail to do so to an inquisitor’s standards are punished via impressment and sent to staff the watch towers and fortifications throughout the stronghold, which is largely considered a death sentence. Gear’s Gate requires its citizens to be a part of a guild or house in order to be afforded greater opportunities. Some Outlanders live away from a stronghold because they do not want to be pressed into military service to defend the city when they feel leaving is an equally viable option.
Yet the reason most often given by those living in the strongholds is that the Outlands offer more opportunities for adventure. When adventurers come into a stronghold to trade goods earned on their quests, they also tell stories of great heroism and triumph. This tend to skew the point of view of those living in the strongholds that it is easy to survive in the Outlands and every day there brings new excitement. More than a few wide-eyed city dwellers have left the security of the stronghold in search of action and adventure, finding instead only death.
A stronghold typically arises when settlers in the Outlands find an easily defensible group of ruins, fix them up, and hold them against raiders, monsters and undead hordes. Blackbat, the newest stronghold, was founded when a group of fetchlings and hobgoblins agreed not to fight each other over the land but instead ally in its defense. Gear’s Gate, the oldest of the strongholds, claims its founding occurred when one of the ruin dwellers figured out how to operate the Eldritch Projector, enabling the use of the giant mechanized machines scattered throughout the ruins and empowering those hiding there to defend themselves against the formidable monsters who sought to invade the settlement.
Adventurers tend to play a key role in the defense of young strongholds. While the people of the strongholds can hold off the average skeleton or zombie, adventurers and stronghold leaders concentrate on those who control and command the undead forces. There are numerous small towns that may one day become a stronghold in their own right, as long as some brave adventurers can ensure that its citizens do not perish under an overwhelming force.
The following pages contain more in-depth descriptions of each stronghold as well as the Outlands. The top part details the stronghold’s name, population, races and languages commonly found there (listed in order of frequency).