Shadow Magic

Shadow Magic, also known as Nethermancy, is a form of magic that combines elements of both Illusion magic and darkness elementalism, allowing for its practitioners to cloud, envelop and shroud their foes both literally and metaphorically.

Nethermancy is uncommon in /tg/ circles, as it does not directly stem from Classical Elementalism, and it is seen by many as being more of a video-game phenomena than a tabletop game one. Still, there are some examples.


In Dungeons & Dragons, shadow magic has made sporadic appearances throughout the editions.

In Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, the Player's Option: Spells & Magic sourcebook featured, amongst other kits like the Elementalist, Dimensionalist, Alchemist, Artificer and Wild Mage, the Shadow Mage. This philosophical specialist wizard combines elements of necromancy, illusion, and conjuration, drawing its power from then-theoretical Plane of Shadow to produce eerie phantasms and shadow-stuff constructs. Whilst lacking in direct confrontational firepower, they excel at infiltration and spy-work. This kit, restricted to human wizards only, required Intelligence 15 and Wisdom 16 to enter. Its Opposition Schools are Evocation and Abjuration.

A shadow mage gains most of the standard boons of a specialist wizard:

  • May memorize one additional spell of their specialty school per level.
  • +15% bonus to learning checks for spells of their speciality school.
  • -15% penalty to learning checks for spells from any other school.
  • Gain an automatic spell of their speciality school whenever they gain a level.
  • When inventing spells, if the spell belongs to their specialty school, it is treated as one level lower.

Unlike a standard specialist, though, shadow mages have no resistance to spells of their specialty school. Additionally, the penalty their shadow magic spells inflict to their targets' saving throws depends on the ambient lighting; +2 for bright daylight or a continual light spell; no penalty for weak daylight, dusk or a light spell; -1 for twilight, moonlight or lantern light; -2 weak moonlight or torchlight; -3 for candlelight or starlight; and finally a whopping -4 penalty for total darkness.

Shadow mages do gain one unique ability; an increased nightvision. At 4th level, they can see with total clarity by moonlight, reducing darkness-related combat penalties by 1 point. At 7th level, they can see by starlight, reducing the penalties by 2 points. Finally, at 10th level, they can see in total darkness, negating all combat penalties. This only works on low light; magical blindness, fog, etcetera can still blind them.

Kits for AD&D shadow mages appear in issue #261 of Dragon Magazine; the three consist of the Shadow Caller, a conjurer variant specialized in summoning monsters from the Plane of Shadow, the Shadow Seeker, who pursues immortality through transformation into an undead shadow, and the Shadow Hunter, who combines magical and practical stealth to become a masterful wizard/rogue hybrid.

In 3rd edition, the Tome of Magic sourcebook brought back the idea of Shadow Magic, featuring new classes and prestige classes based around its use. The most iconic of these, the heir to the obscure Shadow Mage of AD&D, is the Shadowcaster.

In the Forgotten Realms, the Goddess of Darkness Shar created shadow magic through her own dark mirror of the Weave, as part of a plan to usurp the power of her hated foe Mystra.

In 4th edition, Nethermancy appeared alongside Necromancy as one of the possible Schools that can be selected by the Mage, an Essentials variant of the Wizard. Being a Nethermancer was handled as a set of three features gained by choosing that specific magical school, and which were acquired at levels 1, 5 and 10. A Mage could also dabble in Nethermancy by taking the 1st and 5th level Nethermancy school benefits at levels 4 and 8.

  • Nethermancy Apprentice: Creatures hit by your arcane nethermancy attack powers treat enemies more than 2 squares away from them as having partial concealment until the end of your next turn.
  • Nethermancy Expert: You gain a +2 bonus to Intimidate checks and Stealth checks.
  • Nethermancy Master: While you have any concealment against a creature, you have combat advantage against it.


In the World of Darkness, the Lasombra clan of vampires possess the unique ability of shadow magic through their Clan-unique Discipline of Obtenebration in Vampire: The Masquerade. Their spiritual successors in Vampire: The Requiem possess this same ability.