Cool Things in Shadow World

I’ve blogged about the various, unique aspects of Shadow World as a setting, but today I thought I would note some very specific things that differentiate Shadow World and are great additions to the game.

Favorite Familiar:

Tameki. Introducted in the Cloudlords of Tanara, Tameki are small animals resembling black Terran housecats. Tameki have short, silky blue-black fur, large blue or violet eyes, and upstanding
triangular ears. They differ from cats in that their paws have longer, dexterous ‘fingers’ and their torsos are slightly shorter. Very acrobatic, these small creatures are able to leap amazing distances.

Obviously cats are featured a lot as Wizards and Witches pets, but Tameki are just enough that they feel familiar and different enough to add flavor.

Favorite Material:

Keron. A black, very shiny alloy. The substance is strong but flexible and holds a keen edge. When polished it has such a high luster that it looks wet or oiled. It does not corrode, and should be treated as

I don’t use alchemy spells in Shadow World to enchant item bonuses. Instead I rely on Kulthea’s naturally occurring metals and alloys that can be forged by smiths. (Thus, I don’t need to have groups of 30th level Alchemists working in sweat shops batching out Laen or Eog items). Keron is Shadow World’s “Mithril”–a cool material that is intrinsically tied to the setting.


Bloodstone. A soft, sandy stone dark red in color, this material can stop a would bleeding up to 5 hits per round! In seconds. This is often overlooked, but what an incredibly valuable stone. Better than a herb or a spell, portably and rugged.

Baddie Critter:

Gogor. Not unlike gargoyles or huge bats in form, Gogor are black as
midnight, with tough hides and leathery wings. They stand about
7 feet tall. Their heads are elongated with a certain reptilian appearance.
Huge, protruding green glowing eyes see in complete darkness.

I’m a fan of all the artificial and specific “monsters” in Shadow World, but Gogor are a good foe for a capable group. My players have some remorse from opening stone jars found in an ancient facility. What they hoped was treasure….

Special Weapon:

Kalta. A Loari Dart Pistol with a 10rnd clip. Very cool, practical, and not game changing. I’m a fan of small projectile weapons and thrown weapons. They add a coolness factor to combat, are a unique skill for players and they don’t impact game balance.

Riding Animal:

Kith. A giant six legged panther? Sign me up for that!!!

Cool Item:

Rod of Tanys. Not magic, but a tech remnant, this grey metal cylinder is 2″ diameter and 1 foot long. No it’s not a light saber, it’s a “power whip”!!! There A LOT of cool magic items that Terry has created, but I like the cinematic nature of this weapon.

Favorite Practical Spell:

Warning Portal. Found on the Warding Power list in EMER and SWMA, this simple spells allows the caster to set a magical trip wire across a portal. If someone crossed the barrier, the caster is alerted. This is a 1st level spell. It’s practical, reliable and needed in an adventuring group. I’ve been working on BASiL warding spell lists, and this good spell design.

Those are just a few of my favorite things. I found that on each re-read of the SW books I found something new, something I forgot or a new idea is sparked. Are there any particular things in Shadow World that appeal to you?

Slipped through the cracks?

It never fails that I when I go through the various SW books I find something that “slipped through the cracks”. Sometimes it’s a reference to a Loremaster that is never listed anywhere else, or a herb that is brought up once and was never included with the master list of herbs and poisons.

I’ve been going through the original Emer: The Great Continent boxed set as part of a review and I found these two critters:

I’m a firm believer that the Shadow World setting needs to lean into specific creatures, races and “monsters” and not rely on generic fantasy creatures like skeletons, vampires, orcs etc. So I rather liked both of the creatures and especially the Boerks “azure ivory” which is a great addition to the list of valuable trade goods and special material to be included in alchemy and magic item creation.

I checked for these creatures in Emer I, II and III, Master Atlas 3 & 4 but can’t find them. Did I miss it? Were they renamed and I skipped over it?

Shadow World Questions.

Today I thought I would throw out some broad questions relating to Shadow World content and the timeline. It’s understandable that after 30 years and a dozen books you can find some discrepancies in Terry’s work, but sometimes there is more of a “Mandela Effect” where broadly held assumptions don’t match the text. Case in point, “Demons” are often depicted as being creatures of the Unlife, but is that accurate?

We no longer have the option of “Ask Andraax”, but most answers can be found with a quick search of the Master Atlas. I’ve explored some of these questions in depth before and I’ve provided my own solutions but I’m seeing increased activity and new participants in SW threads (probably due to RMU) so it might be a fun exercise for readers that haven’t had much exposure to Shadow World!

Can you answer these without referring to the books?

Are Demons of the Unlife? and When were Demons introduced to Kulthea?

When did the Unlife appear?

When did Elves appear and where did they come from?

When did the Essaence split into the three realms?

When did the Lords of Orhan appear?

When did the Dark Gods appear on Charon?

Where did the Dragonlords come from?

What do you think? What’s the right answer or what would be a better answer if Canon isn’t definitive? What other questions do you have about Shadow World?

Have fun and while you ponder these I’m working on my comprehensive Shadow World Trivia Test that I will publish next week!

Shadow World: Master Atlas 3rd Ed. and Master Atlas 4th Ed.

It’s quite often that I see an online comment from a new Shadow World player about what books to buy. More specifically what Master Atlas might be appropriate putting aside the availability of each edition.

When I’m working on new material and always keep both the 3rd Ed. and 4th Ed. opened up as reference. For the most part, they are identical, barring the inclusion of “Character Creation” and “Bay of Izar” material in the 4th Edition. Generally I prefer the layout, typeset and organization in the 3rd Ed.

One small detail that strikes me the most is the interior title of the book. In the 3rd Ed. we see this:


I believe this is the first time we see the term “Encylopedia” to describe the volume. I wonder if Terry wanted to differentiate between “Atlas” material that covers maps and places and the broader information that’s best described as “Encyclopedia”. By the 4th Edition, however, it’s back to this inner title:

Master Atlas 4th Edition

I’ve always been a proponent of expanding the Atlas substantially, and 3rd Ed. seemed like a start to that. Assuming people have access to multiple editions, what is your preference, 3rd or 4th Ed. and why??

Encyclopedia Kulthea

It’s been 5-6 years since I blogged about a new encompassing Shadow World “Master Atlas”. Since Terry’s passing it’s unlikely that we might see it, but most of the material is there, ready to be collated and reorganized, and new material fills in gaps without altering Canon.

I thought it was worth revisiting now that RMU is being rolled out. I don’t think it would difficult to move RM stats and rules to a support supplement and make the setting rule agnostic.

Shadow World: Dawn of the Xiosians.

I had a few messages regarding my most recent post on Earthwardens & Dragonlords, so I thought I would revisit another of my SW topics: the Xiosians. I’m reposting this from a Feb 2018 entry with some changes.

One of the more dense and information rich sections of the Shadow World Master Atlas is the timeline. By the 3rd Edition of the Master Atlas, the timeline has reached 25 pages and would be much longer if it incorporated all the local and regional timeline material found in other SW books. In any event, the timeline is a rich resource for a GM, not only offering unlimited adventure hooks but providing endless opportunities to explore Kulthea in different times. Sprinkled throughout the time though are many unanswered questions, cool hints and vague references that Terry has yet to explain or explore in detail. One of my favorite:  the Xiosians.

Xio (I. Shield) Cadre

def. A monastic warrior cult formed in the First Era by the Ka’Ta’Viir ruling families to use as loyal household guards and special forces.  The Xio combat techniques became the foundation for most other martial forms that followed.

(P. Xiosians  a.k.a. Xo, Xso, Xsosians)

The Xiosians were first mentioned in the original Master Atlas: Warrior-Priests that were servants of the Masters of Emer and rode flying magical chariots. In Emer I we got a few more pieces of the puzzle with several mentions:

Warrior-mages on huge steeds begin purging the wilds in central Emer, driving out the ubiquitous Gark and Lugrôki hordes. These knights are harbingers of the coming of the Masters.

They rule through an order of warrior-mages (the Xiosians)

It is believed that the Changramai are disenchanted Xiosians who left
the service of the Titans
(In fact, some are

I thought this sounded like another group of mysterious warriors that fly on magical steeds and purge the wilderness: The Cloudlords of Tanara.

I wanted to tie together a number of loose ends: the origins of the Changramai martial culture, ancient militant orders with ties to the Althans/Ka’ta’viir, mysterious warrior cults and the genetic origins of special warriors like the Cal-chah and Guarlu. I had an idea that tied them all back to the 1st Era.

The Althans and the Ka’ta’viir are primarily an advanced intergalactic imperial society. But there is also a strong oligarchy element of immensely wealthy merchant families. It’s not a leap to assume that both leaders and powerful “Houses” would have their own security force to provide defense, corporate espionage and personal protection. This is not an original idea. The Romans had their “Praetorian Guards“, the Emperor had his Royal Guard, and in Dune every Major House had it’s own army, formally independent from the Emperor‘s own military forces. (the Dune setting fit’s well with the Althan/Spacemaster/Kulthea dynamic).


Few organizations in the Shadow World’s early history have had a greater impact on the development of Kulthean martial culture.  The Xio Cadre were the personal bodyguards of the Ka’Ta’Viir during the First Era.  Originally Althans, the Xiosans pursued aggressive eugenics programs and genetic and physical modifications to create the most adept warriors in the Althan Empire.  Too few in number to be an effective military force, the Xiosans became an extension of ruling Ka’Ta’Viir political power.  While serving primarily as bodyguards, Xiosan Cadres later became a symbol of personal wealth, extravagance and power among the ruling families.

Initially one central organization, the Xio Cadre grew into several dozen Cadre “Temples” each under the patronage of a particular Ka’Ta’Viir family.  Over time the temples reinforced patron loyalties and developed distinctive styles of dress and appearance.  While Xio warriors were adept in modern combat systems, the Ka’Ta’Viir would have their Xiosan guards attend public ceremonies in distinctive cultural garb: shining armor, swords and flying mounts that played upon Althan classical mythology and heroic memes. Xiosans warriors performed in elaborate athletic and martial performances during Ka’Ta’Viir social events and were used to mediate family or business disputes in proxy combats.  A few individual Xios became celebrities in their own right, either through martial or athletic prowess.

The Legacy of the Xiosans:

Scattered remnants of the Xio Cadre survived the First Era: either with their Ka’Ta’Viir patrons in cryogenic hibernation, or were off planet during the worst of the conflicts.  During the Interregnum, refugee Xiosans merged with indigenous cultures or established new settlements, slowly diluting their singular genetic traits. Still, interbreeding passed along many beneficial aspects of the Xio physical traits: the Zedrahin, Zor, Udahir and Shay all possess some of the size, physical characteristics and strength of the Xio warriors.  It is believed that pure Xiosans still survive in the Eastern hemisphere with their Ka’Ta’Viir Lords, but out of a dozen Cadre Temples in the West only a handful of facilities and warriors survived:

  1. Vale of the Merisia.  The abandoned Sunlords Temple in Tanara still held armor, weapons and the offspring of their Steardan mounts when it was discovered and occupied by a Rhakaan expeditionary force during the Second Era.  Using the equipment they found, the Zorians assumed the role of the mythical “Cloudlords”, emulating their Xiosan predecessors.
  2. Changramai Monastery. The Changramai monastic order was a rebirth of the Xio discipline.  The monastery was built upon the bones of a ruined Cadre temple.  The Halls are intact, but the knowledge to access the security door has been lost.  (The key is interred with Master Changramai). 
  3. Votania. Sun Cadre.  The Masters of Emer built their palaces alongside an abandoned Xiosan Cadre Temple.   The Masters repopulated the temple with their own servants. Adopting the flying chariots and weapons of the Sun Cadre.
  4. Western Thuul.  The Temple was reoccupied in early second era by a splinter group of Xiosans.  They attempted to build a new settlement on Barzu-chaa (South Eastern Thuul) but the City-State was destroyed after conflict with surrounding cultures.  The surviving Xiosans fled: some moved permanently to the Cadre Temple located in the Sullen Mountains while others fled east to the Gufu Rainforest where they are believed to be an offspring of a lost giant race.  While still large of stature, most of the surviving Xiosans are a product of mixed heritage and have lost many of their defining physical attributes.
  5. Mur Fostisur.  The Mountain Enclave of the Udahir was originally a Xio Temple. Now the Udahir and their flying mounts occupy the vast hold.

Scholars whisper of a darker chapter in the Xiosan history. It is rumored that some Xiosans were ultimately bent to the will of the Unlife and became its most feared warriors: Heralds of Night.  More chilling stories are spoken among the Loremasters: that Kadeana performed experiments on her own Imperial Cadre.  Six and sixty Xio warriors she used for her most terrifying creation: Shards.

{Note: Terry actually establishes that Kadaena created the Shards via “Elor’s Text. MA 4th Ed. p.192. It’s logical to me that she would use her “super soldier” Imperial guards in that horrifying experiment!}

The Ka’Ta’Viir were not naïve to the physical threat of the Xiosans.  Their proximity to the inner sanctums of the Ka’Ta’Viir and the Lords’ own paranoia made them cautious. Part of the genetic modifications included behavioral conditioning: Xiosans cannot attack a Ka’Ta”Viir and indeed had to submit to their will.  Additionally the Xiosans were made more susceptible to the Essence (which only the Ka’Ta’Viir controlled at that time) and they themselves were not able to tap the powers of Essence.

Xio Cadre Summary

CADRE:  Imperial (Xio-And)

PATRON:  House Kaedeana

LOCATION:  ???? 

FOCUS:  Modern Minimalist/Technology.

PHYSICAL TYPE:  Tall, muscular, black hair, dark eyes.

MOUNTS:  Lesser Black Dragons

ARMOR:  Dark red poly-steel armor and seamless visor less black helms.

WEAPONS:  Laser Pistols, Energy Swords

NOTES: Less ostentatious than the Cadres of the lesser ruling caste, the Imperial Cadre were the personal guard of the Empress Kadeana.  Their training center was a closely guarded secret and the Cadre rarely participated in ceremonial displays.  Despite Kaedenas defeat by Doenku and the Soulsword, the Imperial Cadre had already made a pact with their mistress.  In a lengthy process, the Imperial Cadre volunteers became immortal servants in a new incarnation: that of the Shards.  The Cadre Commander, Shar-Bu is now lord of the I-Lat.

CADRE:  SunLords (Xio-Kygar)

PATRON:  House Tessananta

LOCATION:  Vale of Merisia, Tanara Jaiman

FOCUS:  Althan Classic Mythology

PHYSICAL TYPE:  Tall, muscular, blond, blue-eyed.

MOUNTS:  Steardan.

ARMOR:  Golden Plate & Greaves

WEAPONS:  Hand Axes, Sunswords

NOTES: This abandoned facility still held armor, weapons and wild Steardan when it was discovered and occupied by a Rhakaan expeditionary force during the Second Era.  Using the equipment they found, the Zorians assumed the role of the mystical “Cloudlords”, emulating their Xiosan predecessors

CADRE:  Lightning (Xio-Pizik)

PATRON:  House Terra

LOCATION:  Changramai Monastarey, Choak Mnts, Emer

FOCUS:  Martial Arts, Athleticism, Adrenal Focus


MOUNTS:  Anti Grav Bracers

ARMOR:  Black cloaks, Black Masks w/yellow bolts.

WEAPONS:  Changa,

NOTES: The Lightning Cadre were perhaps the most dedicated to the physical arts.  Athletic ability, acrobatics and unarmed combat were the focus.  The cadre put on elaborate displays of martial prowess combined with amazing ariel feats using their anti-grav arm and leg bracers.  They could seemingly “fly” through the air.

CADRE:  Claw (Xio-Raax)

PATRON:  House Centarus (still exists as a powerful trade and banking conglomerate…)

LOCATION:  Mur Fostisyr

FOCUS:  Berserker Troops.

PHYSICAL TYPE: Large, dark-haired, and heavily muscled. Claw Cadre was feared for their combat prowess and mercurial nature.

MOUNTS:  Fire and Ice Dragons.

ARMOR:  Spiked Plate and Force Armor.

WEAPONS:  Over-sized battleswords. In modern combat they wielded heavy laser cannons and disentagrators.

NOTES: The Temple was discovered and settled by the Udahir but had been looted long before. 

CADRE:  Steel (Xio-Tok)

PATRON:  House Letrati

LOCATION:  Votania, Emer

FOCUS:  Deception, misdirection, subterfuge

PHYSICAL TYPE:  Tall, dark hair, grey eyes, light skin

MOUNTS:  Anti-Grav Chariots

ARMOR:  Grey Armor, Chamelion Cloaks

WEAPONS:  Wide leaf bladed short swords

NOTES: The Masters of Emer built their palaces alongside a Xiosan Cadre Temple. It’s not known whether any original Xio pledged service to the Masters or the Temple was repopulated by others.

CADRE:  Onyx (Xio-Uxya)

PATRON:  House Thorenian

LOCATION:  Sullen Mountains, SW Argyla

FOCUS:  Tribal, Physical Form, Animalistic

PHYSICAL TYPE:  Dark skin, silver eyes, silver/white hair


ARMOR:  Silver metallic armor, Jewelry

WEAPONS:  Black Laen Longsword & Shortsword

NOTES: The Temple was reoccupied in early second era by a splinter group of Xiosans.  They attempted to build a new settlement on Barzu-chaa (South Eastern Thuul) but the City-State was destroyed.  While still large of stature, most of the surviving Xiosans are a product of mixed heritage and have lost most of their defining physical attributes.

PC’s as Xiosans

Obviously, playing a pure Xio warrior or even a partially full blooded Xio could be unbalancing. But I incorporated 2 significant drawbacks for Xio: behavioral inhibitors against Ka’ta’viir and the inability to use Essence and an increased susceptibility to Essence effects. Of course, a player with only a small amount of Xio ancestry would have less inhibitors but conversely would have less genetic benefits as well.


I like tying “current” Shadow World elements to the ancient past. Terry used the word “Legacy” a lot and much of the Shadow World story is tied to the Althans and Ka’ta’viir from the 1st Era. The Xiosians’ legacy can be found in the martial skills of the Changramai and the physical stature of many of the races found on Kulthea.

A Definitive Shadow World Master Atlas. What should it contain? Pt. 3

From the earliest days of the 1980 World of Greyhawk Folio, it’s been expected that comprehensive fantasy settings include a “Master Atlas” or a “Gazetteer” to set the tone and include fundamental information about the world. Nine years late, ICE introduced Shadow World: Master Atlas Boxed Set.

The first Master Atlas set the stage for the new Shadow World line–an expansion of the original Loremaster Series published between 1980-1984.  SW was now a professionally published product with a glossy presentation. The original boxed set included to books: the World Guide & Inhabitants Guide plus a poster size color map of the hemisphere. It was a great start to world building, but it never felt complete until combined with Jaiman: Land of Twilight and Emer: The Great Continent. Between those 3 products (all written by Terry Amthor) a GM could piece together a coherent and in depth profile of Shadow World augmented by the original Loremaster books (Iron Wind, Cloudlords of Tanara & Vog Mur). Since then, Terry has expanded SW Canon with 3 Emer regional books, Powers of Light and Darkness, 2 city books (Haalkitaine & Eidolon) plus Xa’ar in NW Jaiman. In the queue are Wurilis (NE Jaiman) the final Emer regional book and a re-write of Jaiman. Once those are completed, GM’s and gamers have an extremely robust overview of the two “main” continents: Jaiman and Emer.

It’s difficult to say if Terry will ever be able to tackle a third (or more) continent in such a comprehensive way with multiple books, but no one could argue that there isn’t enough material for years or even decades of game play with existing Shadow World material. And even with all the current SW books, both Emer and Jaiman have plenty of room for new material, short adventures, city books  and smaller regional supplements.

However, despite 4 editions of the SW Master Atlas, these books are hardly comprehensive. “World” level information is often found scattered throughout the other regional SW books, important cultural information is left unaddressed and various topics could use more campaign level information. In Pt. 2 and Pt. 3 I covered a number of these items that could be included, but I thought I would print off the Table of Contents for my own “Master Atlas” to show what could be in new version. I actually have 40-50 more pages that I haven’t incorporated into the master file, but this one is 281 pages.

Click below to download my own “Definitive Master Atlas Table of Contents” :