The Shadar-kai are elves from the Shadowfell in 5th edition. Shadowfelves, if you will. Read on to find out why.
Jeremy Crawford is back with more lore about the Elves and their place in the Cosmos of Dungeons and Dragons. As we talked about last time, Elves were once these divine fey beings who hung out in Arvandor until Lolth promised them power and a place in the mortal world and fixed bodies–which came at the cost of their divinity. But in the midst of Lolth’s maneuvering, as Elven society fractured, a powerful Queen began searching for another option for her people. I’ll bet you can guess where this is going.
This is a pretty cool chunk of lore here. We get more of the Elven background, and the story of how the Shadar-kai came to be. Their very being is tied to the existence of the Raven Queen who has an origin story now. Because that unnamed Elven Queen was destroyed in an epic magical catastrophe that caused her essence to be reborn in the Shadowfell as the Raven Queen, and when she took shape there, her people joined her.
So that’s where the Shadowfelves came from. But there’s so much more lore tied to this event–which is really cool, because from the surface of it, it seemed like the Elven chapter of Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes would deal with the conflict between, say, Drow and Elves. Or Elves and Orcs. And that’s it–but now, it looks like each of these chapters is really going to do some digging. I’m very excited to see what shapes up in the other chapters.
BUT! Even this segment on the Raven Queen isn’t done there. So–as you might have heard in the video, there are some evil wizards who scheme to try and steal power from the woman who would become the Raven Queen. It doesn’t end well for anyone. But especially for these guys, who are cursed to become Nagpa by the Raven Queen, making them all evil and birdlike and cursed.
It’s details like that story and the accompanying ties to the game–things like the Nagpa monsters, or the Shadar-kai race, or the myriad other possibilities that come from this one slice of D&D Lore that get me excited for Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes. With Volo’s Guide, WotC hit a good template for making books. You blend story with rules. Lay out the seeds for adventure. Give players and GMs something that they can latch onto and be inspired by. Whether it’s cool narrative tricks, neat mechanics (the Shadar-Kai, we learn, have spectral teleportation powers, and get damage resistance), or even fun monsters to fight–there’s a lot for players to glom on to.
This is twice now we’ve talked about the Elves of Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, and each one feels differently. It’s interesting to see how one event can inform so much. I’m interested to see how the other races fare in the book as well. What stories and legends will bleed over into their game, and how will it inspire you? May is not far off now, but we still have a while to wait to find out.