Shadows, Strength Drain, and Wraiths


Rules Questions


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

I was looking through the information on Wraiths in Pathfinder and found that Wraiths have a Constitution Drain that allows a savings throw, while the Strength Drain of Shadows do not. Is this a typo? I mean, the Shadow is a lower-combat-rating monster than the Wraith, yet its attack is exceedingly dangerous for even higher-level characters (seeing that they ignore most armor and do 1d6 Strength Drain, meaning two lucky Shadows could kill the average non-frontline character in one round), while Wraiths end up being less and less powerful due to the greater capability of higher level characters to make their save.

While I can understand why Energy Drain doesn't gain a savings throw, I must wonder at the stat-draining Undead, which for a party not expecting undead can prove extremely detrimental even at higher levels. (Seriously. A swarm of 6 Shadows could overwhelm a higher-level party with a few lucky rolls and yet would only be worth a pittance of experience to them.)


Not sure where you are looking. What I see is a lesser shadow (CR 1/2) with a STR damage of only 1. That same creature also has a pitiable AC of 14 and only 6 hit points. Granted it is incorporeal, but a well placed magic missile or two will drop that thing like a bad habit.

The Greater Shadow is a CR 8 which means average party level should be right around that same level. Which means they'll have access to restoration spells, so the 1d8 STR damage there isn't so terrifying.

Can incorporeal undead with ability damage attacks TPK a party if the dice roll poorly? Heck yes. That's part of the challenge and the fun.


While this does little to mitigate theie deadliness in combat, be advised that shadows inflict Strength damage, rather than drain.

@MendedWall12: Actually, the normal 'vanilla' shadow inflicts 1d6 Str damage, has enough hp to withstand the occasional Magic Missile (19, to be precise), and clocks in at a mere CR3.

Shadows are considered extremely dangerous for their CR for a reason, after all...


Midnight_Angel wrote:

While this does little to mitigate theie deadliness in combat, be advised that shadows inflict Strength damage, rather than drain.

@MendedWall12: Actually, the normal 'vanilla' shadow inflicts 1d6 Str damage, has enough hp to withstand the occasional Magic Missile (19, to be precise), and clocks in at a mere CR3.

Shadows are considered extremely dangerous for their CR for a reason, after all...

Yeah that was a botch on my part. I looked at the lesser and greater and skipped right over the "normal." Thanks for the clarification on both parts. It is important to remember ability damage heals on its own over time, whereas drain requires magical assistance to heal.


Wraiths have drain, Shadows do damage. Damage heals naturally, drain does not.

That's the crux of the issue, yes?


I think the OP's complaint, if I'm understanding it right, is that Shadows seem as deadly or deadlier than Wraiths even though they have a lower CR.

That's how I read it anyway.


That is not a typo. Shadows don't drain strength. They do strength damage. The wraiths drain strength, but you get a save.

Ability damage heals on its own over time, but ability drain requires magical healing.

A wraith's con drain can also kill you via hit point damage if you lose enough constitution depending on the situation so I would not say they are less dangerous, and on top of that every save you fail makes it easier to fail to the next save. They also have more hp than shadows so they get to hand around longer. Having used both as a GM, the shadows have always been easier to deal with.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

I'd say the GM wasn't using them effectively. Given the environment that Shadows exist in, I'd have the Shadow lurk in a dark area. Depending on the circumstances I might even allow the Shadow to Take 20, having taken minutes to find the best hiding spot (or having existed in the area long enough that it knows where best to hide). Unless a PC has a lucky roll of Perception, the Shadow is likely to attack from Surprise.

First round, attacks with no dex bonus, in all likelihood hitting AC 10. On average the Shadow hits and does 3 damage. Next round would see the Shadow being attacked in turn, but if the GM described it as a "dark shadowy shape" and the Strength drain as "a chill that cuts straight to your bone and saps your strength" then the players might not equate it as being undead. The Shadow would thus have a chance to escape... and then hide and wait to attack from unawares again.

Now let's multiply that by six. Six shadows, attacking on the Surprise round, focusing their attacks on a couple of players... would likely kill at least one person. That PC will be raising as a Shadow in 1d4 rounds and cannot be brought back from the dead without a high level spell due to the fact he or she was undead. If the shadows, sensing a hated aura of someone with bonds to the Positive Material Plane (ie, a Paladin or Cleric), were to attack that person with multiple Shadows... then the one character best able to handle the undead ends up dead and becoming undead in turn in just a couple of rounds.

Don't forget. These aren't unintelligent beings. Yes, their intelligence is 6, but that still allows for a basic understanding that if you swarm an enemy it will go down quickly... and that if you take out the people with the Auras quickly then they can't easily eliminate you.

(Personally I'm considering switching the damage of Shadows to 2 points of Strength drain for the normal Shadow, and 3 for the Greater Shadow. This would make Shadow swarm into a threat, but not overwhelmingly so.)

Rob H.


Worse.
Wraiths drain Constitution, not Strength.
While Str 0 means you're powerless but alive, Con 0 means death. So, a save for Con drain is due, but for just some Str damage, it can pass.

Dark Archive

Shadows have no method of identifying clerics and paladins, they lack detect good which would allow them to see the auras of Paladins, good clerics or clerics of a good deity.

In general shadows are a moderate annoyance as they hit quite frequently but as long as you havent dumped Strength its usually fine, (although I have seen some 5 St gnomes get 1 hit by shadows).

Dark Archive

Str 0 means your powerless, Except if your hit by shadows then taking damage equal to or above your Strength score means you die and rise as a shadow which bypasses the normal St0 isnt dead rule


Shadows are lethal if you don't see them coming, certainly at or around 3rd-4th level.


1d6 damage to an ability score is too much. Seasoning an attack with stat damage on the side is one thing, but Whack-a-stat is one of the worst inventions of 3E. Direct Attribute damage was one of the ways heroes were little better off than commoners and encouraged cheese ball spells aimed at ability scores. A huge monster has a crappy dex to represent plodding movement, not so it can be oneshot-able by Sum-Dumass’s Dagger of Dexterity Damage.

In 2e the shadow did 1d4+1 damage and one point of Strength {sort of damage that came back about an hour later]. HP went up significantly in 3E, though honestly STR scores came down at early levels since folks no longer needed to have 17-18(%) STR as in 2E to even have an attack / damage bonus.

IMHO 2d4, 1d10 or maybe even 1d12 damage + 2 STR damage would have been FAR better for CR3 shadows to deal on a hit. The main problem with 1d6 STR damage is it is only slightly less dangerous to a high level character than the low level character since stats go up nowhere near as fast as HP. {and then we have the problem of only a few ways to improve touch AC’s].


So what happens if a shadow puts a character at negative strength and they are turned into a shadow, under the control of a shadow. Here's my two scenario's recently with a party.

1. One was reduced and turned into a shadow but the controlling shadow was later destroyed. Character still stay a shadow and have his own free will at that point or does he start to regain strength and become human again?

2. Another was turned into a shadow and controlling still alive. Remaining party hurt and ran since there was no obvious way to restore the other two characters.

If they both stay shadows is there a way to bring them back other than a wish? Greater restoration?

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