Shadar-Kai Playable Race Guide in D&D 5e

Learn about the Shadar-Kai

Much like many other elven sub-species like the Eladrin or the Astral Elves, the Shadar-Kai are also descended from Elves, taking on many of their basic traits. Ages ago however, the Shadar-Kai were transported to the Shadowfell, a grim mirror plane of the mortal plane. Their lives in the Shadowfell has transformed them, taking of their emotions and turning their bodies more hardy.

It’s in the Shadowfell that most Shadar-Kai live, worshipping their minor deity, the extremely powerful Raven Queen. Most Shadar-Kai perform the Raven Queen’s bidding, gathering memories, souls and information though some do leave the Shadowfell and forsake the Raven Queen.

The Shadar-Kai are a playable race in D&D 5e, introduced in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes and republished in Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse (the guy just can’t leave them alone). Below we’ve detailed everything you need to know about the Shadar-Kai and how to play as one.

What are the Shadar-Kai?

The Shadar-Kai are elves that have lived in the Shadowfell for many centuries and have taken on attributes of this dismal mirror plane of the mortal plane. They have lighter skin than their elven cousins, a hardier constitution and have had much of their emotions sucked from them.

The Shadar-Kai were first born back when the Raven Queen sought to ascend to godhood. She took her followers whose souls she was going to use to ascend before a cabal of wizards stopped the spell in attempt to siphon these souls for themselves. This caused the spell to go wild, banishing the Raven Queen to the Shadowfell along with her followers who were transformed and became the Shadar-Kai.

The Shadar-Kai now live a strange existence part way between life and death. A full reflection of the vivacious Eladrin that continue to call the Feywild their home, the Shadar-Kai despise all fey, including their elven cousins. For most Shadar-Kai, they are cursed to always serve the Raven Queen, developing old, withered appearances. Death for them is but a temporary inconvenience as the power of the Raven Queen forever brings them back to life. While immortality may feel like a blessing to some, to others, it means that they are never proffered the escape they desire.

Other elven subraces

Playing D&D as a Shadar-Kai

Just like with any of the playable races in D&D 5e, there’s a huge amount of variety in the personalities and capabilities of the Shadar-Kai. This means that although most Shadar-Kai lean towards evil alignment and tend to be servants of the Raven Queen, that many others demonstrate very different personalities and points of view.

While you can choose to be any kind of Shadar-Kai you wish, your race will still impact aspects of your personality and abilities. When playing a Shadar-Kai, you should consider the following:

  • The Raven Queen: Most Shadar-Kai serve the Raven Queen. Do you serve her too and do you do so willingly? If not, why not and are there consequences to you not adhering to her?
  • Denizen of the Shadowfell: The Shadowfell is a grim place that has sucked the positivity and joy out of the Shadar-Kai over the centuries. How has your heritage affected how you display emotions? Do you react differently to things other creatures would find upsetting or joyful?
  • Hatred of fey: As a Shadar-Kai, you will have grown with a distinct hatred of all fey creatures, especially other elves. Do you share the hatred of your people? If not, why not? If you do, how do you display this anger towards those others and how will you find a way of working amicably with elves in your party (if there are any)?

Shadar-kai features in 5e

Ability Scores+2 to one ability score and +1 to another or +1 to 3 different ability scores
Creature TypeHumanoid
LanguagesCommon and 1 other language
TraitsBlessing of the Raven Queen, Darkvision, Fey Ancestry, Keen Senses, Necrotic Resistance, Trance
Book found inMordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the MultiverseMordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

If you want to play as a Shadar-Kai, your character will have the following traits and abilities:

Shadar-kai traits

Blessing of the Raven Queen – As a bonus action, you can magically teleport up to 30 feet to an unoccupied space you can see. You can use this trait a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

Starting at 3rd level, you also gain resistance to all damage when you teleport using this trait. The resistance lasts until the start of your next turn. During that time, you appear ghostly and translucent.

Darkvision – You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You discern colors in that darkness only as shades of gray.

Fey Ancestry – You have advantage on saving throws you make to avoid or end the charmed condition on yourself.

Keen Senses – You have proficiency in the Perception skill.

Necrotic Resistance – You have resistance to necrotic damage.

Trance – You don’t need to sleep, and magic can’t put you to sleep. You can finish a long rest in 4 hours if you spend those hours in a trance-like meditation, during which you retain consciousness.

Whenever you finish this trance, you can gain two proficiencies that you don’t have, each one with a weapon or a tool of your choice selected from the Player’s Handbook. You mystically acquire these proficiencies by drawing them from shared elven memory, and you retain them until you finish your next long rest.

Published by DM Ben

Ben is an experienced dungeon master and player who's been immersed in the D&D universe since he was a teenager over 20 years ago. When he's not writing for Dungeon Mister, Ben loves creating fiendish puzzles and devious dungeons for his players. He's an especially big fan of the Ravenloft and Dragonlance settings.

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