Like my vampirism article, we can also examine what else fits in the shadow’s space.
For clarity, call the monster manual shadow the “enfeebling shadow”, and my improvement the “exhausting shadow”. My personal decision to rewrite the shadow (strength saving throw instead of attack rolls; levels of exhaustion instead of damage to the strength stat) is still, I think, a good one, so I don’t think I’ll use the as-written enfeebling shadow, but naming things helps.
There are (of course) others; a partial list:
- Ruinous Shadow. Save vs Dexterity for its touch, which deals necrotic damage and then includes the rust monster’s Antennae property. It also has the rust monster’s Rust Metal trait. I’d be inclined to let both work on leather and wood as well.
- Withering Shadow. Save vs Constitution for its touch, which deals necrotic damage and the target is cursed; they must repeat the save each time they would regain hit points (and on a failure, they do not regain those hit points). Ends at the end of a short or long rest.
- Bleeding Shadow. Attacks against AC dealing necrotic damage. If the creature is already bleeding, it takes +1d6 damage; if it is not, it makes a save vs Constitution; on a failure it begins bleeding, taking 1d6 damage at the start of each of its turns. An action to make a wisdom (medicine) check against this DC ends the bleeding, as does any amount of magical healing. Its “shadow stealth” instead grants it invisibility while it is adjacent to a creature not at full hit points.
- Burning Shadow. Attacks against AC dealing fire damage. Gives off light as a torch, sets its hit targets on fire (1d6 damage), and deals 1d6 damage to those who touch it or hit it in melee. Its “shadow stealth” instead grants it invisibility while adjacent to a source of at least 10 feet of bright light which is not invisible, and its “sunlight weakness” actually applies to areas where the temperature is below freezing. Fire immunity, cold vulnerability.
- Frost Shadow. As Burning Shadow, but cold and fire are swapped, and it uses shadow stealth and sunlight weakness as per normal rather than as the Burning Shadow overrides.
- Corpse Shadow. Has no special rider on its attacks, but also has the possess corpse action instead of shadow stealth; if it is adjacent to a medium corpse it may use its action to enter its space and become a medium zombie with 1 hit point (and the Undead Fortitude trait), using the zombie’s stats for all purposes except as noted. If the zombie is destroyed or turned, the corpse shadow reappears in the space the zombie had occupied. While inside the zombie, it may use its touch attack instead of the zombie’s slam if it prefers.
- Darkening Shadow. Per the Sight Rot disease; its touch forces a Savs vs Constitution, dealing necrotic damage and imposing a -1 penalty to attacks and checks which involve sight. At -5, the victim is blinded instead. Effects end at the end of a short or long rest.
- Entombing Shadow. Save vs Strength for its touch, which also sinks the target 1 foot into the ground. Each foot sunk into the ground is the number of feet their space is considered difficult terrain (2 feet into the ground means each foot of movement costs 3 feet of movement through their space); a creature which leaves their space while sunk into the ground is no longer sunk into the ground, a creature buried half its height is restrained (escape DC equal to save DC), and a creature buried at or beyond its total height begins to suffocate.
- Despairing Shadow. Save vs Wisdom for its touch as though against fear, which also forces the victim to choose one of the following (they cannot select a choice if it would have no effect): reduce speed to half, cannot move except via dash, lose reactions, lose bonus actions, lose actions, lose speech, or become stunned, die. The choice(s) persist until the end of a short or long rest if the target is not dead, and any effect which can remove fear or paralysis removes all afflictions chosen so far.
- Treacherous Shadow. Save vs Wisdom for its touch as though against charm, which deals psychic damage and removes its victim’s reaction. The victim may then choose; take 3d6 psychic damage, or make a melee attack against an adjacent creature of the shadow’s choice (not the target themselves).
- Mind Shadow. Save vs Intelligence for its touch, which deals psychic damage. The target is then cursed; losing one precious memory and one skill, tool, language, weapon, or armor proficiency to the shadow; a creature unable to sacrifice both is slain. A target who is a spellcaster additionally loses access to a spell known or prepared. Both losses last until the end of their next short or long rest.
- Arcane Shadow. Save vs Charisma for its touch, which deals force damage. The target is then cursed; each time that creature tries to cast a spell with a slot of at least 1st level before the end of their next short or long rest, they must repeat the saving throw or lose the spell, ending the curse on a success. The shadow can also dispel magic by touch, as though the spell were cast at the 0th spell level.
Whence come these different shadows? They’re the forces of entropy made manifest. As many ways as there are for entropy to enter the world, these beings creep, bringing misery with them.