To Chance with Hell (Planescape)
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Centuries ago, a group of powerful druids from a world named Verdorth decided to take it upon themselves to transform the Plane of Earth into a garden paradise unequaled among the planes. As the Beastlands is to animals, this haven would be for plant life. They managed to carve out massive caverns within portions of the Elemental Plane of Earth, where they opened portals to the Planes of Water and Radiance, and soon plant life unlike anything else on the planes began to grow. Trees grew to fantastic proportions; fruit the size of cattle gained magical properties. All was well and glorious for generations of the Verdorth druids. Then, at some point, some unknown assailants killed every last one of the druids. Without their constant care, the paradise rotted and crumbled. Unbeknownst to even the druids, among the trees a new race had been spawned. These humanoid beings, which called themselves the shad, descended from the falling trees that had been their home. Short-lived yet very fertile, they started to spread out in groups of extended families to search for new homes within the Plane of Earth, and eventually numerous other planes as well.
Gameplay Note: For the purposes of playing Shad characters, treat them as Kobolds.
Personality: The shad seek merely to survive. After the tragedy of their ancestral home dying away, and the fact that many races consider them little more than vermin, the shad have learned to tolerate a great deal. They appear blissfully oblivious as they shrug off insult and injury and continue on with the urge to survive just one more day. An important factor in helping the shad survive is the signs and messages left by past generations. For the short-lived race to thrive, they learned to always leave markings, tell tales, and convey other messages for future generations to help them learn what to make use of and what to avoid. Therefore, the shad have developed a rich tradition of stories and folklore, each with a specific warning or information on helpful resources (such as hidden oases in the caverns of the Plane of Earth).
Physical Description: Shad are lean, gray-skinned humanoids, who are also able to contort their bodies to extreme degrees. Though they are not overly graceful, that flexibility is still evident in their awkward, wobbly gait. Their hair is nearly always short and dark. Oversized eyes dominate much of their faces, and are most often colored various earth tones, from golden yellow to ruddy brown to drab green. Clothing varies greatly from clan to clan, but is most commonly simple clothing or armor with precious stones sewn in. Shad also adorn their large ears with multiple earrings; the number and placement of earrings always carries a meaning, but the meaning is not at all consistent between families. One clan may use earrings to indicate status, in another clan they would signify important past deeds, and in yet another they would represent lineage (with each earring possibly being either a family member, or even a generation since the tribe was formed).
Relations: Shad are distrustful of most other races with good reason. Most view the newcomers as nuisances at best, and vermin to be exterminated at worst. Yet, once past their initial distrust, shad are extremely friendly to most races, unless of course an ancestor left some message about specifically not trusting them.
Alignment: Having been created on the Plane of Earth, shad have a strong tendency towards neutrality, though shad of all alignments have been encountered. With the racial emphasis on helping future generations survive and keeping the race as an entirety thriving, there is a slight tendency towards lawful and neutral good.
Shad Lands: There are numerous small shad settlements throughout the Plane of Earth. The longest-lasting ones tend to be hidden, with a few large central caverns used as gathering places, and the shad themselves living in smaller caverns that are only accessible through extremely small openings. In the case of invaders, the central caverns are abandoned and the shad scatter into their smaller abodes, hoping their enemies either cannot follow or cannot get to them all. In other planes, the shad tend to settle in very small groups, with the exception of a village in the Outlands where up to a thousand of them have settled. Recently, however, a tribe of giants boasted that they “dealt with” that little infestation.
Beliefs: As a whole, shad tend to revere nature itself rather than any specific deities. Those few who do follow a deity typically worship deities of nature, knowledge, protection, and travel. It is also not surprising that more than a few shad clerics of IIlmater (FRCS) exist. As for factions, a few Revolutionary League cells have found them useful for breaking into buildings, and the exploratory nature of the [[Mind’s Eye]] appeals to many shad. The Free League and Xaositects, with their rather open membership, also boast a number of shad members. Few other factions tolerate them beyond a few particular individuals.
Language: The shad lack any language of their own, but through observing the Verdorth druids, they managed to learn their secret language. A number of families use the druidic language as their primary language. However, they are just as secretive about the language as druids are. They have also developed an unspoken language of simple symbols and markings, called Shad Graffiti by other races that can convey surprisingly complex amounts of information. It is also quite common for shad to speak Terran.
Names: Shad typically only use a given name, often a name common in the family ancestry. In shad settlements, however, it is often necessary to differentiate shad further. In this case, they often use second names that signify their role within the settlement or some noticeable aspect of the individual. Furthermore, there is no discernable difference between male and female names – all are used for both sexes.
First Names: Loppdil, Nebneb, Oebi, Plilp, Sedjed, Tasperoo
Second Names: Green Gardens, Dark Eyes, Pale Eyes, Swordsmith, Leader’s Son, No Hair
Adventurers: Most shad seek to settle down and live out the rest of their lives in peace. Unfortunately, they do not often get this chance, making a great number of shad wanderers, and adventurers by necessity. A very small number look to take a more active role in defeating the enemies of their race, and will search out those who would harm their families.
Roleplaying a Shad: No one likes you. On good days, you are not even noticed, and on bad days you rely on your sturdiness of body and spirit to endure. Always be sure to inform future generations of dangers and safe havens, both with secret markings and with stories to be passed down. After all, while individuals of other longer-lived races might still be breathing, your grandchildren and their children may come and go. Endure and your race may one day find gardens as majestic as those of which your ancestor’s stories speak. Within each shad is a small spark of that tranquility, and from that draw strength until your race finds peace again.