Nightshades are monstrous undead composed of shadow and evil.
Nightshades have the following traits:
- Low-light vision
- Desecrating Aura (Su): All nightshades have a 30-foot- radius emanation equivalent to a desecrate spell centered on a shrine of evil power. Undead within this radius (including the nightshade): gain a +2 profane bonus on attack and damage rolls and saving throws, as well as +2 hit points per die, and the save DC of channeled negative energy is increased by +6 (these adjustments are included for the nightshades in their entries). This aura can be negated by dispel evil, but a nightshade can reactivate it on its turn as a free action. A desecrating aura suppresses and is suppressed by consecrate or hallow; both effects are negated within any overlapping area of effect.
- Channel Energy (Su): A nightshade can channel negative energy as cleric of a level equal to its base CR. It can use this ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + its Charisma modifier.
- Darksense (Ex): Nightshades gain true seeing in dim light and darkness. Regardless of light conditions, they can detect living creatures and their health within 60 feet, as blindsense with deathwatch continuously active. Mind blank and nondetection prevent the latter effect but not the nightshade’s true seeing.
- Light Aversion (Ex): A nightshade in bright light becomes sickened—the penalties from this condition are doubled when the nightshade is in natural sunlight.
- Summon (Sp): Nightshades can summon undead creatures. They can be summoned only within areas of darkness, and summoned undead cannot create spawn. The exact type and number of undead they can summon vary according to the nightshade in question, as detailed in each nightshade’s entry.
The malevolent nightshades are a mysterious form of necrotic abominations composed of equal parts darkness and ineffable evil. They are living wells of hatred and death, their mere presence sapping the light, heat, and life from all around them, leaving nothing but the heavy, hanging pallor of an open grave in their passing. To nightshades, life is a corruption and a blight. Creation must be purged of this disruption, so that all existence can be welcomed into the sweet embrace of darkness and death. To this end, nightshades seek nothing less than the annihilation of all that is, that was, and that will be. Nightshades call to themselves legions of undead and shadow-spirits —those who hate the burning sun and the sweet spark of life as much as they themselves do. They rarely ally with living beings who share their vision of extinguishing the sun and exterminating all who stand before them, though such alliances do, at times, occur. Adapting the forms of their kind to pursue the cause of death in every environment and situation, upon the land, in the sky and the sea, and even in the deep places of the world beneath, nightshades marshal their unliving armies. Yet for all their singleness of purpose, they are no mindless beasts. They are clever and patient planners, willing to grant favors to allies or minions as long as they prove themselves useful, and equally willing to turn on them and destroy them the moment their usefulness has been exhausted, rendering their tortured and murdered spirits into deathless slaves.
Nightshades originate in the deepest voids at the planar juncture of the Plane of Shadow and the Negative Energy Plane, where reality itself ends. Here lies a vast umbral gulf where the weight of infinite existence compresses the null-stuff of unlife and the tenebrous webs of shadow-reality into matte, crystalline plates and shards of condensed entropy. Many fiends seeking the power of ultimate destruction have sought this place, hoping to harness its power for their own ends, but the majority discover the power of distilled entropy is far greater than they bargained for. Their petty designs are washed away as they become one with the nothing, with first their minds and then their bodies being remade, forged no longer of living flesh but of the lifeless, deathless matter of pure darkness incarnate. Recast into one of a handful of perfected entropic forms (some whisper, forged by a dark being long imprisoned at the uttermost end of reality), these immortal fiendish spirits still burn with the freezing fire of insensate evil, but are now distilled and refined through the turning of ages to serve entropy alone. To say that nightshades form from the necrotic flesh and transformed souls of powerful fiends is technically correct, but the transformation that these foolish paragons of evil undergo is even more hideous than such words might suggest.
While the majority of nightshades are the product of such fiendish arrogance, this is by no means the only source for these powerful undead creatures. Many nightshades commit themselves to the harvesting of immortal souls of every race and loyalty, casting their broken and shattered bodies into the negative voidspace, where the residue of their divine essence slowly precipitates and congeals in the nighted gulf. Whatever their origin, in this heart of darkness all souls embrace destruction. When a critical mass of immortal soul energy is reached, a new nightshade is spawned. The souls of mortals lost to the negative plane are drawn up and reborn as undead long before becoming co-opted within the gulf; mortal spirits are the servants of the nightshades, but only the essence of immortality can provide the spiritual fuel to ignite the fire of their unlife.
Not a single class of creature but a multitude, nightshades encompass four distinct subtypes: the Nightwalker, Nightcrawler, Nightwave, and Nightwing. Each form fits a distinct ecological niche within its own inhospitable plane of origin, granting it virtual mastery of that domain, with each type uniquely adapted for conquest, and the race as a whole capable of ravaging worlds and leaving nothing intact. The nightwalkers stride across the land at the head of armies of undead, nightcrawlers burrow beneath the earth to rot it from below, and nightwings prowl the clouds and spread both shriek and shadow across the land. The greatest of nightshades, the nightwaves, reign as undead leviathans in the sea’s crushing depths, and should they choose to leave their favored domain, they swim through air just as well as any liquid.
In many ways, the nightshades stand at the apex of undeath, yet they are not conventional undead creatures. Whereas most undead began as living beings that were animated after death, arose again spontaneously after death because of some great emotion or unfinished business, or, while still living, willingly embraced undeath to stave off the looming hand of oblivion, nightshades deviate from this rubric in a major way. More akin to outsiders, they are composed of a warped mixture of shadow and evil, empowered by negative energy in the same way as normal undead. They form from the twisted souls of those fiends and outsiders who, seeking greater mastery over negative energy and the dreaming gulfs of darkness where the Shadow Plane and Negative Energy Plane meet, are themselves overcome and twisted beyond recognition, turned into servants of the planes’ own nihilistic ends.
From their bizarre composition arises the nightshades’ greatest and perhaps only true weakness: a gross aversion to bright light, and an even more severe reaction to natural sunlight. While this vulnerability is not as severe as the death sentence that sunlight pronounces upon vampires, a Nightshade’s shadowy essence causes it to retreat from offending light. Such is their painful aversion that during the day they hide below ground, sheltered in any structure they can find, or in the ocean’s deepest chasms below the sun’s reach.
Beyond their personal abilities for destruction, each variety of Nightshade channels negative energy with a ferocious power, and each can summon specific types of undead. As a result, nightshades gather undead servitors like moths to a flame; these thralls act almost like heralds to the Nightshade’s presence, encountered well prior to their masters. In addition to those undead under the Nightshade’s control, intelligent undead often willingly follow nightshades’ commands, either for their own shared aims, or simply to scavenge off of the spoils of the Nightshade’s conquests.
Given their nature, the nightshades’ urges and disposition come not from a hunger borne of negative energy—mindless and unwilling like the hunger of zombies—or from a hatred of the living resulting from agonizing loss during life or the painful transition into undeath. Their antipathy toward the living, other undead creatures, and even the natives of the planes of Shadow and Negative Energy derives from something more callous and less prone to rationalization: they despise and destroy because they are physical embodiments of darkness and entropy. For all the evil of liches and vampires, these undead creatures still retain desires, needs, and motivations understandable by mortals, while nightshades in many ways hew closer to their fiendish roots, being as much abstracts as creatures. Thankfully, most nightshades remain in the depths of the Negative Energy Plane and its borders with the Shadow Plane, hunting and scheming in the dark trenches that spawned them, but they’re not confined there by any means. Nightshades possess an innate ability to plane shift, though thankfully most of their kind are so repulsed by the light of other planes that they’re more often encountered as a result of being summoned than because they were crusading far from their native shores.
Nightshades see themselves as the enemies of all light and life, and they seek to destroy the living and their worlds at every opportunity. Each Nightshade harbors in its heart the desire to snuff out the sun and all that bear the spark of life, turning the Material Plane into a cold land of ash and ice. Eventually even their undead servitors and onetime allies fall into the eternal silence of death, leaving them alone. Understandably this outlook leaves nightshades in an isolated position even with respect to many intelligent undead and the other inhabitants of their native planes. As such, they seek few allies and no friends, believing that all other creatures are merely tools to be commanded, destroyed, or flung screaming into the same pits that spawned the nightshades, in the hope that they will eventually be reborn as more of the Nightshade kind.
Nightshades are born when one or more outsiders—typically fiends—are lost or cast down into the adumbral depths where the Shadow Plane and Negative Energy Plane become a void like the darkest ocean trench, one of the places where reality ends. The death of the immortal becomes a catalyst for a reaction in which the planes seem not to twist the original creature so much as birth a new entity in its place. The newborn Nightshade is complete from the moment of its awakening, retaining none of the memories of the creature that spawned it—only a full knowledge of its abilities and an inescapable desire to destroy all things that are touched by positive energy, from mortal souls to the stars themselves, and to send more outsiders to the dark reaches of the nightshades’ birth. Though nightshades often cast mortal souls into the depths as well, these weaker souls merely form new minor undead—the creation of something as powerful and dire as a Nightshade requires the spirit of an immortal being.
Although four primary types of nightshades are known to exist, some sages speculate that they might all be the same species of creature in different life stages. Other scholars instead hold that they are distinct subtypes of the same creature, formed in the same manner but differing according to the specific component fiends from which they were created. According to this theory, the older and more powerful the fiend or fiends were—their exact species or alignment does not appear to matter—the more powerful the form of Nightshade produced, though the combined deaths of multiple fiends produce a Nightshade of a type otherwise reserved for the death of a much more powerful one on its own. Even the proponents of this theory, however, have no idea of the exact formulae involved, and the few casters capable of controlling a Nightshade are generally more concerned with maintaining their tenuous hold over the undead juggernauts than with such unpragmatic musings.
HABITAT & SOCIETY
Nightshades most commonly dwell on the planes of Shadow and Negative Energy, and are found in the highest concentrations along those two planes’ night-black border. Nightshades encountered on the Material Plane seek out lairs protected from sunlight during the day, emerging only at night. Ruins, mine shafts, deepwater trenches, conquered strongholds, and natural caves and caverns suffice for most nightshades, and at especially high or low latitudes, the long polar night allows them to hunt with impunity for months on end. Cold, pitch black, and often disorganized, Nightshade lairs fill with a mixture of rubble, bizarre accumulations of treasure, and half-rotting remains. These remains may spontaneously animate for brief periods, exhibiting ref lexive, unthinking movement due to their long-term perfusion by the Nightshade’s negative-tainted aura. Though these lairs are often disconcerting to any living masters or followers the nightshades may have garnered, such aesthetic questions are of little concern to the nightshades, and if their skull-cluttered lairs make necromancers who would impose upon them think twice about disturbing the nightshades, so much the better.
Despite nightshades’ origins as any number or type of outsiders, they all speak the same languages by default: Abyssal, Infernal, and Common. Scholars suspect that in some unknown, morbid fashion, the first nightshades’ creation set down certain rules for all subsequent ones. Speaking the major fiendish tongues only further distinguishes them from other undead and natives of the Negative Energy Plane.
No true kinship exists between nightshades and other undead, only the dynamic of the powerful and the weak. The sole grace that nightshades grant to other undead is that they don’t immediately destroy their lesser cousins like they do the living. Rather, nightshades view undead with uncaring pragmatism, and by virtue of their own ability to channel negative energy, utilize them as servitors, from valued advisors and lieutenants to the lowest form of disposable chattel and shock troops. Only in the presence of the most powerful liches, elder vampires, and devourers does this dynamic reverse itself. Often nightshades simply avoid such creatures rather than obey a more powerful (but in their conception lesser) being.
This latter power dynamic reflects the way that nightshades behave with respect to one another: bearing mutual distrust, rivalry, and an innate inability to view another as an equal or greater. This rivalry arises because of their origins from so many different types of fiendish souls, and the varied, subtle influence that these beginnings impart upon a mature nightshades’ goals and habits. Nightshades inherently distrust one another, and cooperation is rare unless forced by a more powerful commander. Of the major Nightshade types, only the weaker Nightwings readily tolerate each other’s presence, sometimes acting like flocks of savage raptors, attacking in a dark cloud of undeath. Most nightshades see themselves as natural generals, leading their deadly pogroms against the living from the center of a shambling mass of lesser undead.
When nightshades do cooperate, the results are the stuff of nightmares. Refugees from the sites of such atrocities tell of entire worlds scoured clean of the living and awash in the undead, skies blanketed by ashes or magical darkness, and the barren earth gnawed through by Nightcrawlers to the long-cooled core like a worm-eaten rotten apple.
Nightshades sometimes appear as powerful servitors to even more powerful masters. Given their ability to summon, control, and significantly bolster lesser undead—acting like necromantic field marshals—nightshades are the servitors of choice for such beings as liches, evil clerics, necromancers, and more powerful planar beings. Nightshades serve such creatures as potent lieutenants, though the precise relationship between master and servitor varies depending on the nature of the particular master, its power over the Nightshade, and the manner in which it exercises that power. (And more than one fiend that thought itself the master of a Nightshade has found itself cast into the void of the Negative Energy Plane as soon as it let its guard down.)
Nightshades found in the service of such beings are an exception, however. More often nightshades exist on their own, prowling the dark places of the world as solitary menaces or the leaders of undead hosts, bringing about the end sought after by the forces responsible for their creation. Nightcrawlers and Nightwaves especially have spawned legends and terrified people for generations after they moved on. Many who come into contact with nightshades view them as manifestations of death—a label that doesn’t quite fit, as death and the progression of souls are a natural part of the life cycle that nightshades seek to annihilate. More accurate are those who see them as harbingers of doom and destruction. Some groups even worship nightshades as lesser divinities in the hope of propitiating them and keeping them but the stuff of legend rather than violent fact, yet in the end nightshades have little use for living worshipers, even the most devout.
Nightshades normally have little use for treasure, which makes sense given that those dwelling in the depths of the Negative Energy Plane live in an environment corrosive to normal material. As such, only powerful objects remain intact—those resistant or immune to the Nightshade’s callously destructive nature and the natural forces present in their lairs. While nightshades care little for the treasures’ monetary value—for trade is never a Nightshade’s concern—they are often fascinated by objects capable of withstanding their crusades, and may use their considerable intellects to employ magic items to their benefit. Many also keep trophies from their greatest conquests, or mementos of those hubristic creatures that sought to control them—many Nightwalkers, for instance, carry the skulls of mortal casters who attempted to summon and bind them.
Beyond the familiar quartet of Nightwing, Nightwalker, Nightcrawler, and Nightwave, other types of nightshades are believed to exist, but because of their dire nature and because their typical environment lies in the uncharted depths of inhospitable planes, the deadliness of such encounters rarely allows survivors to carry their tales and warnings far afield. One such variant, the powerful and spiderlike Nightskitter.
Also rumored to exist are entities even more powerful than the dreaded Nightwave—nightshades whose abilities and capacity for devastation may well rival the power wielded by some demigods. The possibility of Nightshade deities—or of some unimaginably vast Nightshade power akin to a god—is enough to bring nightmares to even the bravest of heroes, even if no one has yet encountered such a horror. Given the nightshades’ hunger and hatred for life, though, no one can say for certain that such powerful nightshades haven’t truly been encountered—there may simply have been no survivors of such a brush with anti-life.