Weekly Beastie: The Clinging Shade

clinging-shadeWe’ve all had those moments where we felt like we’re being watched. For most of us, the feeling passes and amounts to nothing. The silly paranoia of idle minds. What if they were more than that though? What if you didn’t really lose that thing you can’t find? What if that chill running up your spine was more than a feeling. What there actually was someone -or something- watching you?

What you do when you realized the truth? What would happen if you realized the truth too late?

That, in a nutshell, is the idea that drives the Clinging Shade. It’s not an immediate threat. It could follow your character for the entirety of a campaign and you might never know. It’s content just to watch you. Until it isn’t.

We hope you enjoy it.

A pay-what-you-want, OGL compatible PDF of the Clinging Shade can be found at DriveThruRPG. You can also support our Weekly Beasties by giving to our Patreon page. The Beastie itself can be found below:

Medium undead, unaligned

Armor Class 10

Hit Points 50 (6d10)

Speed 50 ft fly

STR 8(-1) DEX 14(+2) CON 10(+0) INT 10(0) WIS 14(+2) CHA 18(+4)

Senses Passive Perception 12, Darkvision 60ft.

Condition Immunities Charmed, Exhaustion, Frightened, Grappled, Paralyzed, Petrified, Poisoned, Prone, Restrained

Proficiency Bonus +3

Challenge 4 (1,100 XP)

Enhanced Invisibility. The Clinging Shade is permanently invisible and can shift in and out of sight at will. Spells like See Invisibility will only reveal a hazy outline of the Shade’s form.

Obsessed Advantage. The Clinging Shade gains Advantage on all saving throws when within 15 feet of its obsession target.

Incorporeal Movement. The Clinging Shade can move through objects and other creatures as if they’re difficult terrain. It takes 1D4 damage if it ends its turn inside of something else.

Actions

Wasting Touch. Melee Weapon Attack

Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to Hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 3d8+2 necrotic damage.

Soul Suck. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 2d4+2 necrotic damage. The Clinging Shade is healed a number of hit points equal to what was drained from its target. If a PC is killed by Soul Suck, they cannot be resurrected. Soul Suck can only be used on sleeping targets.

The Clinging Shade becomes becomes visible and corporeal for a minimum of one hour after attempting Soul Suck.

Group Sleep. Enchantment. Only accessible in the creature’s fourth stage, Group Sleep can be used to put groups up to 10, to sleep. When the spell is cast, targeted characters make a DC 17 Wisdom saving throw. Anyone who fails the throw will fall asleep as though under the effect of a Sleep spell. If any loud noises or disturbances occur after the spell is successfully cast, effected characters should roll a DC 12 Wisdom (Perception) to automatically wake up. Otherwise, they’ll wake up after one hour.

Sometimes, when a person has their life unjustly taken from them, their spirit refuses to pass on to their next plane of existence and they become a Clinging Shade. Struggling endlessly to sate a yearning that can’t be fulfilled, they becomes obsessed with someone among the living.  

Once a person has been chosen as the object of its fixation, the Clinging Shade will pursue them relentlessly. Oftentimes, months will pass before it ever reveals itself. As time presses on however, the Shade will only grow bolder and its actions more extreme.

Where does a Clinging Shade come from?

The happy bride killed on her wedding day. The soldier who dies after the war is won. The long-waiting mother who succumbs in the childbirth bed. These are the soil from which the Clinging Shade springs. Whenever players brush against an ironic tragedy, they should be wary. There’s always a chance that the victim will linger to haunt them and bring about their own terrible demise.

How to run a Clinging Shade.

When players first encounter a Clinging Shade, the GM should perform a dice roll. Assign a party member to each number on the selected die. The Clinging Shade will attach itself to whatever player the die lands on. It could also attach itself to an important or particularly beloved NPC. Sensing their holy powers, the Clinging Shade will instinctively avoid attachments to Clerics. If the die lands on a Cleric PC, the GM should roll again.

Afterward, the Shade will progress through four stages of obsession. These stages can proceed at a different pace depending on the needs of the game. Some Clinging Shades might string out their obsession over the course of months while others will speed from Stage One to Stage Four in a matter of days.

Stage One

The Clinging Shade will start following the object of its obsession. It will maintain its distance and not interact directly with its target or their companions. Upon achieving a DC 16 Wisdom (Perception) check, characters close to the target may spot a dark figure off in the distance. They’ll lose sight of it before they can investigate.

Stage Two

The Clinging Shade will advance closer to the party, settling into a new position that’s never more than a few feet from the haunted character. When the target sleeps, it will stand at the end of their bed and watch. If woken suddenly the players may catch a glimpse of the Shade before it flickers out of sight.

Occasionally, the Clinging Shade may get the urge to speak with the person it’s haunting. When it does this the GM can tell them they hear a whispered voice but can’t make out any words. Stage Two will culminate with the Clinging Shade starting to interact with the physical world. The haunted player will find nearby objects inexplicably moved or tampered with.

Stage Three

The Clinging Shade’s obsession is becoming dangerous. No longer content with indirect contact, it will seek a physical relationship. This will first manifest with the Shade removing items from its targets belongings, leaving no visible trace that they were ever there. As the third stage progresses, they will advance into physically touching the character. The haunted player might feel the hairs on their neck stand up or experience a sensation akin to a gentle caress.

Becoming frustrated with its inability to truly be with its target, the Shade will climb onto the player character’s back and ride on their shoulders. The haunted PC will feel as though they’re being weighed down. Their movement speed will be reduced by five feet per round and they’ll suffer Disadvantage on all Athletics and Acrobatics rolls.

Stage Four

No longer unable to contain itself, the Clinging Shade will wait for nightfall and cast Group Sleep. If the spell successfully disables the entire party, it will materialize in a corporeal form and use its Soul Suck action to drain the haunted player’s life force.

The whole party should perform a Perception DC. Anyone who rolls above a 12 will wake up and witness what’s happening. Anyone who fails will stay asleep until they succeed in a follow-up DC. Each time the party fails to awaken, the haunted player will be subjected to another Soul Suck attack.

If the Clinging Shade manages to kill its target, it will absorb their soul and render them permanently dead without any chance for resurrection. If the party  is able to intervene, the Shade will mercilessly try to kill them so it can complete its grim task.

Detecting a Clinging Shade

While the haunted player will be the only one who feels or hears the Clinging Shade, their allies will have ways to spot and detect it.

In Stage One, DC 16 Wisdom (Perception) will give them opportunities to briefly spot it.

In Stage Two and Three, the Clinging Shade will move closer to the party. After it does this, it will exert more effort to conceal itself, bumping the required DC Wisdom (Perception) result up to a 20. Its close proximity to the party in these middle stages will, however, also make it susceptible to spells like Detect Magic and See Invisibility.

See Invisible spells will only work partially, revealing a dark vaguely humanoid shape near the haunted player. Detect Magic, in turn, will only confirm that something magical is near.

When the Shade reaches Stage Four, the players won’t need any special means to detect it. The ghost will handle that on its own

Revealing a Clinging Shade

While the PCs  might be able to detect the presence of a Clinging Shade, they’ll need to take additional steps to force it out into the open prior to Stage Four.

If a player suspects something is following them, they should visit a high-level Cleric for advice. While many may not have dealt with one directly, most will recognize the signs of a Clinging Shade and know what to do. If the party has a Cleric of its own, they should perform a History DC.

  • If they roll a 10 or higher the GM can tell them that they remember stories about certain ghosts behaving this way and suggest that they seek out more qualified help.
  • If they roll a 15 they recognize it as a Clinging Shade, though they have no personal experience in removing its presence.
  • If they roll 20, they remember that, as a young Cleric, they attended an exorcism of a Clinging Shade that may or may not have been successful at the GM’s prerogative.

The Cleric that assists the party should tell the PCs to purchase enough Holy Water to create a large ring (40’ or larger) that the haunted player should stand inside. If the Clinging Shade has entered Stage Two or Three, it will find this uncomfortable but will not be willing to abandon its target.

After the player characters have entered the ring of Holy Water, the Cleric should cast True Seeing. The Clinging Shade will become visible and, enraged by the interference, will immediately jump ahead to Stage Four and attempt to kill the party and Soul Suck the haunted player. The Holy Water will trap it inside the circle with the players so they can destroy it.

A word of warning.

If the players cast True Seeing without creating the ring of Holy Water, the Clinging Shade will realize what they’re doing and flee from the player party. This won’t end its obsession, however. Recognizing the haunted player’s allies as a threat, it will attempt to dispatch them before it continues. If the players hired an NPC Cleric to help them, they should shortly receive word that that NPC has been killed in their sleep.

In the nights following, the Clinging Shade will attack another member of the player party. If they have a Cleric, it will target them first. The GM should treat this like the attack that plays out in Stage Four. If the party fails to defeat the Shade during this attack, it will repeat this process until the haunted player is alone, isolated and defenseless.

 

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