The Gloomward is an echo of the world, but a bleak, desolate place full of decay and death. It lacks color and light—no sun, moon, or stars adorned the inky black sky, and all things are dull and dreary. Light sources are less effective but can be seen from much further away, like a star in the night sky.

The landscape is a dark, twisted echo of what exists in the material world. Upon entering the Gloomward, the local features are usually similar. But from that starting point, the landscape diverges rapidly away from the familiar, and on subsequent visits from the same starting point it will diverge in different ways, making mapping the Gloomward a useless endeavor (Intelligence (Arcane) DC 15). Landmarks are usually recognizable but altered in some bizarre way: buildings might be constructed in a different style, built with different materials, at a different location, or in any condition from dilapidated ruins to its normal appearance, or otherwise strange and distorted. Similar sites are sometimes called "shadow-analogues" by scholars (Intelligence (Arcane) DC 20).

The material world holds a number of portals which lead to and from the Gloomward. Though these are generally mysterious, the deeper one travels into the underworld, the more common portals to the Gloomward become (Intelligence (Arcane) DC 20). Shadowmist may erupt to drag evil men and hapless adventurers into the Gloomward (Intelligence (Arcane) DC 20).

Unsettling echoes occur in areas analogous to towns and cities in the material world. They are nothing more than mirages, but familiar faces and places seen through the macabre mirror of the Gloomward can be very disturbing. Structures might appear altered, dislocated, destroyed, or replaced entirely by something else. Mirages of the living have visages of distorted nightmares but are still recognizable enough to give travelers a jolt of fear and revulsion (Intelligence (Arcane) DC 18).

Air, water, and food exist on this plane, supporting plants, animals, and some humanoids adapted to the shadow environment. Visitors can survive indefinitely if they are willing to endure thick, foul-smelling water, food that oozed dark blood, and a pervasive nip of cold in the air (Intelligence (Arcane) DC 20). Visitors never feel warm, can often hear or sense the presence of things that aren't there, and can not shake the feeling of being watched. It is a constantly unsettling place. Over time, exposure to the Gloomward alters living things, increasing various traits and abilities but also some vulnerabilities (Intelligence (Arcane) DC 25). Emotions and the ability to experience them seem to fade over time for those imbued with shadowstuff (Intelligence (Arcane) DC 25).

The morphic nature of the Gloomward could produce strange effects. A pile of bodies might cause more skeletons to appear until there are thousands (Intelligence (Arcane) DC 20). Stalactites in a cave might drip ephemeral shadowstuff, which was reabsorbed into the plane rather than form a puddle (Intelligence (Arcane) DC 20). Forests might sprout grasping tendrils from some surfaces that reach for passersby, similar to the black tentacles spell (Intelligence (Arcane) DC 20).


  • A light source only illuminates half the distance it normally would (Intelligence (Arcane) DC 18).
  • Flames and fires put out less heat (Intelligence (Arcane) DC 20).
  • Spells that deal with light or fire are less predictable and prone to failure (Intelligence (Arcane) DC 15).
  • Shadow spells are enhanced (Intelligence (Arcane) DC 15).
  • A light source can be spotted at a distance of up to ten times its normal range (Intelligence (Arcane) DC 22).

Everchanging Landscape. Due to the ever-changing landscape, the Gloomward suffers from small, frequent shadow quakes that resembled an earthquake spell in an area about two hundred feet in diameter. Shadow quakes can disrupt natural and artificial portals, stranding travelers in the Gloomward (Intelligence (Arcane) DC 22).

Darklands. Some regions on the Gloomward have an affinity to life-draining undead such as shadows, ghosts, and vampires. These darklands have a minor negative-dominant trait and unprotected visitors immediately feel the life force being drained from their bodies. Unless they exit the darkland swiftly, all that was left of them was a pile of ash (Intelligence (Arcane) DC 25). Material locations such as desecrated burial mounds, haunted battlefields, and necromantic foci frequently have a darkland echoes on the Gloomward. No known natural gateways open into darklands regions.

  • Darkland Feature: A traveler must make a Wisdom saving throw DC 15 each minute or suffer 3 (1d6) necrotic damage and the target’s Strength score is reduced by 1. The target dies if this reduces its Strength to 0. Otherwise, the reduction lasts until the target leaves the area and finishes a short or long rest. If a non-evil humanoid dies from this attack, a shadow rises from the corpse 1d4 hours later (Intelligence (Arcane) DC 25).

Shadowstuff. The material of the Gloomward (known as "shadowstuff") can be manipulated by wizards to form semi-real monsters and quasi-real evocations that are still effective (to a lesser degree) even if the target successfully disbelieved the illusion (Intelligence (Arcane) DC 18).

Another tool of wizards was the shadow well spell, which could turn a creature's shadow into a temporary gateway into the Gloomward. If successful, the victim was sucked into the Gloomward through his or her shadow and spent a few moments in a pocket realm (a very tiny demiplane attached to the Gloomward) being terrorized by dark phantasms. No physical harm resulted from this spell, but mental and emotional trauma was possible (Intelligence (Arcane) DC 20).

A century ago, an unsuccessful attempt to build a permanent portal to the Gloomward in Alaria resulted in the Shadow Curse Gate. A creature that steps through it is taken momentarily to the Gloomward, but in that moment a "seed of shadow" is implanted in its flesh. Most often, its flesh is subsumed by shadow, misting away into darkness, and a bare skeleton is returned to the material world. However, those who survive become a powerful, intelligent undead (Intelligence (Arcane or History) DC 20).

Shadow cities often have temples of the Skeleton King erected in places where churches and temples stand in the material world.

Ruins of ancient cities long ruled by shadow dragons and absorbed into the Gloomward, dismal reflection of the cities of the material world, cursed cities in which travel between the Gloomward and the material world is possible in certain places at certain times of day.

The Direwood of Alaria, the caverns of Angaar, and the Dreadmoor south-east of Dargaul are known to have particularly dangerous reflections in the Gloomward.


The Gloomward is home to a form of undead called shadows, other "shadow" creatures such as the shadow mastiff and shadow dragon, and a race of humanoids known as shades. In addition to those, there are numerous other inhabitants, such as undead and aberrations. There are numerous other creature with ancestral ties to the Gloomward.

Occasionally, animals and monsters wander into the Gloomward and become trapped there. Those that survived eventually take on shadowy traits and carve out a niche in the ecosystem preying on whatever attracts their attention. Such creatures procreate shadowy counterparts of natural creatures.

Skeleton King. The Skeleton King is a member of the Dark Consortium and holds vast power over the undead denizens of the Gloomward and elsewhere. He was trapped hear by Sothis (Intelligence (Arcane or History) DC 20).

Raven King. The Raven Queen, a being of ancient power, dwells in the Gloomward, and might be a help to those trapped there.

Ghost King. The Ghost King is a sad apparition who cares nothing for anyone or anything. He dwells in the Lonely Castle, a vast palace filled with shadows and other undead.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License