D&D 5e: Shadow Dragon 5e Guide

The Shadowfell is a mirror dimension where negative energies, especially from the Necrotic school, are everywhere.

Even a Dragon can’t stop it from corrupting them, and after just a few years on the Plane of Shadows, they turn into the scary Shadow Dragon. Ever wonder why they are so important to D&D?

Don’t worry, I’ve thought a lot about this! During this manic muse’s research, I’ve learned a few facts and ideas that make me excited to one day have my own Shadow dragon.

Shadow Dragons belong to an unwritten category of monsters that, depending on the level of your party, can act as your Big Bad eater.

After all, the Underdark is a very cruel place. Even Mindflayers can’t stay safe around a Fell-infused Dragon on the loose.

So… Then, what in the Fell is a Shadow Dragon? Welcome to a guide for Shadow Dragon 5e.

Shadow Dragons; Entropic Draconic, Necrotic Department

A Shadow Dragon is formed from any other type of dragon, excluding a Dracolich, spending a prolonged period in the Shadowfell. This corruption places a template on the preexisting dragon’s stat block. 

This template adds advantages surrounding dark terrain. Unfortunately, it also adds disadvantages in lit terrain. This is made up for by getting to replace their breath weapon with one that deals Necrotic Damage while threatening to transform the corpse into an Undead Shadow. 

Once corrupted, the template stays on the dragon even if they leave the Shadowfell. This leads to their personality shifting. Their instincts adjust to slinking in shadows and favoring the underground. All the while, the dragon will feel unnaturally drawn back to the Shadowfell. 

  • Shadow Dragons are not a breed but a template that any species of Dragon, excluding Dracolich, can become.
  • A large amount of Shadow Dragons go on to become Dracoliches thanks to their obsession with sorcery.
  • Shadow Dragons have been around since the first edition of DnD.
  • The corruption that creates Shadow Dragons is native to the Shadowfell.
  • While most are native to the Shadowfell, Shadow Dragons can be found in dark places across the Material. They quite like the Underdark.
  • Dragons will often get larger with age, but the average adult Dragon reaches 30 feet in size.
  • Dying to a Shadow Dragon’s breath weapon will spawn an Undead Shadow for the dragon.
  • Shadow Dragons prefer to fight from the shadows at a range; their Undead Shadow summoned from shadow breath fatalities should be handling the toe-to-toe. 
  • Shadow Dragons will only fight in close combat as a last resort.
  • Shadow Dragons target spellcasters first, strong fighters second.
  • They are not the most physically intimidating dragons but some of the most cunning.
  • Shadow Dragons prefer a carrion diet.

Shadow Dragon Template

Shadow Dragons are not like most monsters because they are actually templates for monsters. In the monster manual, there is a stat block for a Young Red Shadow Dragon.

Shadow Dragons can only be changed into or born as real dragons. Dracholich have given up their draconic heritage, so they are not welcome. Other than that, this template can be used on any real Chromatic, Metallic, or Gem dragon.

If nothing else is said below, a Shadow dragon that has changed won’t change its stats.

  • Damage resistance to necrotic damage is gained. 
  • If in sunlight, a disadvantage is taken on attack rolls and sight perception checks.
  • The dragon’s skill proficiency check for stealth is doubled.
  • Living Shadow Only while in dim light or darkness does the dragon gain damage resistance to all forms of damage except force, radiant, or psychic. 
  • Shadow Stealth Dim-light or darkness allows the dragon to Hide using a bonus action.
  • Bite  If the dragon’s bite causes additional damage, such as fire or poison, this damage type is changed to necrotic. 
  • Shadow Breath: Damage dealing breath weapons have their damage type changed to necrotic.

Shadow Breath kills the enemy if it brings its Hit Points down to 0. Then, a shadow of the dead enemy rises from its body, which is controlled by the dragon. This shadow acts as soon as the dragon’s turn is over.

The following is the stat block for an Undead Shadow.

Undead Shadow Statblock

Medium Undead, Chaotic Evil

  • CR 1/2
  • Passive Perception 10
  • AC: 12   Hit Points: 16 (3d8+3)
  • Speed 40 ft
  • Str 6 (-2)  Dex 14 (+2)  Con 13 (+1)
  • Int  6 (-2)  Wis 10 (+0)  Cha   8 (-1)
  • Skills: Stealth +4
  • Dmg Vulnerabilities: Radiant
  • Dmg Resist: Acid, Cold, Fire, Lightning, Thunder; nonmagical Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing
  • Dmg Immunities: Necrotic, Poison
  • Condition Immunities: Exhaustion, Frightened, Grapple, Paralyze, Petrify, Poison, Prone, Restrained
  • Senses: Dark-Vision 60 Feet
  • Languages: None
  • Amorphous: That humanoid figure of theirs is merely a memory of their former selves. Shadows can move through a space as narrow as one inch wide without squeezing.
  • Shadow Stealth: Lighting conditions considered dim or lower allows the shadow to use the Hide skill as a bonus action.
  • Sunlight Weakness: Sunlight disadvantages the shadow on saves, ability checks, and attack rolls. 
  • Strength Drain
    • Roll to Hit: +4
    • Range: Five Feet, Single Creature
    • Hit: 9 (2d6+2) necrotic, 1d4 reduction to target’s Strength Score.
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If the target’s strength is reduced to zero, they die immediately. This reduction will be removed upon finishing a short rest.

Should a target die to Strength Drain either by attack damage or strength reaching zero, a new shadow will rise in 1d4 hours.

Young Red Shadow Dragon Statblock

Large Dragon, Chaotic Evil

  • CR 13 (10,000 XP)
  • Passive Perception 18
  • AC: 18 (natural armorHit Points: 178 (17d10+85)
  • Speed 40 ft, climb 40 ft, fly 80 ft,
  • Str 23 (+6)  Dex 10 (+0)  Con 21(+5)
  • Int 14 (+2) Wis 11(+0)   Cha 19(+4)  
  • Saving Throws: Dex +4, Con +9, Wis +4, Cha +8
  • Skills: Perception +8, Stealth +8
  • Senses: blindsight 30 ft, dark-vision 120 ft, 
  • Languages: Common, Draconic
  • Living Shadow: The darkness protects a dragon. So long as the light is dim or lower, the dragon gains resistance to all damage. This excludes force, psionic, or radiant damage.
  • Shadow Stealth: In dim or lower light, Hide can be used by a shadow dragon as a bonus action.
  • Sunlight Sensitivity: Sunlight messes with the Shadow Dragon’s sight; it causes it to have a disadvantage on sight-related Perception (Wis) checks. It also takes a disadvantage on attack rolls.
  • Multiattack: Three Attacks; One Bite and Two Claw
  • Bite
    • Roll to Hit: +10
    • Range: Ten Feet, Single Target
    • Hit: 17 (2d10+6) piercings + 3 (1d6) necrotic
  • Claw
    • Roll to Hit: +10
    • Range: Five feet, single target
    • Hit: 13 (2d6+6) slashing
  • Shadow Breath
    • Range: 30-ft cone
    • Save: DC 18 Dex
    • Hit: 56 (16d6) necrotic on fail, half on success.

Dropping to zero by this damage will cause immediate death. From the victim’s corpse, an undead shadow under the Shadow Dragon’s control will rise. Concerning initiative, the Undead Shadow will act immediately after the dragon.  

Shadow Dragon Biology

Shadow Dragons are strongest in the dark because they are filled with the Planar energies of the Shadowfell. Their scales look like charcoal, but they have a slight metallic shine.

Their wings are clear and their edges blend into the shadows. Their eyes are a gray-white colour. Any colour from their old species has long since faded away.

A Shadow Dragon looks like a ghostly shadow when it is in the dark.

Even though they can eat fresh food, they don’t prefer it. Since they eat dead animals, it’s not strange to find a ditch or pit full of bodies in their lair. Many adventurers have found this to be a good thing.

Instead of losing their friend right away to the acid in a dragon’s stomach, the party can go on a rescue mission to get the body back so that it can be resurrected. It takes a while for the dragon to like the corpse, which is a good thing.

Breath Weapon

Their link to the weave has been broken. So bad is this corruption that the dragon’s breath is now a new way for it to spread. It is no longer the element that the True Dragon used to give off. Instead, it is now a plume of acidic necrosis.

The Shadow Dragon’s breath drains people of their strength. The 5e stats DMs can show this by making it so that every time a Shadow dragon fails to use its breath weapon, it gets one more point of exhaustion.

Transformation

It takes years for a True Dragon to change into a Shadow Dragon. But because a dragon’s average power nap is also several years long, a dragon can wake up and be surprised to find that they have completely changed.

Portals between the Realm and the Shadowfell can appear in places with enough sad energy or in the deepest parts of dungeons and caverns where many lost adventurers have been hurt. Sometimes, a dragon’s lair.

Shadowfell seems to want dragons because their magical power is a powerful thing to drain. Even as the dragon sees its scales lose their colour, the Shadowfell’s very nature will force the creature to accept its mood. They will see themselves get weaker and weaker, but they won’t care.

The longer they stay in the Shadowfell, the more despair will creep in and make them lean even more into the darkness. Once the change is done, the corruption won’t go away no matter how long you spend on the Material.

Aging

Dragons don’t lose track of time like people do. Even though humans think they are immortal, they do have a limited amount of time on Earth. It’s hard to know for sure, but most people think it’s somewhere around 1500 years before the body starts to break down.

A dragon’s life has twelve stages, which are similar to the stages a person goes through from childhood to old age. Since then, the number of steps has been cut down to five, but the beginning and end are still the same.

A dragon is born as a Wyrmling and stays that way for five years. Greatwyrm, a dragon who is over 1200 years old, is in the last stage of life.

As a dragon grows up, it gets stronger. Their size often grows along with them, with the longest one being over 100 feet long.

How to Fight a Shadow Dragon?

The first thing you should do if you find yourself facing a Shadow Dragon is probably to run. Any sort of unexpected fight or encounter with a Shadow Dragon for which you aren’t prepared is likely to end in disaster. 

Shadow Dragons are virtually undetectable in darkness or dim light, not to mention invulnerable to all damage other than force, psychic, or radiant when cloaked in shadows. As such, taking one down is going to require some careful preparation. 

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Sunlight would obviously be the best option, as it imposes disadvantage on the dragon’s attacks and perception checks.

However, Shadow Dragons tend to live in places where sunlight is a hard thing to come by – either deep underground or in the Shadowfell itself. The next best thing, then, is bright light.

If you can illuminate an area and prevent the dragon from fleeing – which it will almost certainly do when it realizes what you’re doing – then you might stand a chance. 

Also, any humanoid that dies to the Shadow Dragon’s breath attack is going to rise as a Shadow. These undead aren’t especially hard to kill (they’re only CR1/2) but their attacks can drain your Strength, which is only going to make killing the dragon that created them all the harder. 

Species of Dragon

Dragons don’t lose track of time like people do. Even though humans think they are immortal, they do have a limited amount of time on Earth.

It’s hard to know for sure, but most people think it’s somewhere around 1500 years before the body starts to break down.

A dragon’s life has twelve stages, which are similar to the stages a person goes through from childhood to old age. Since then, the number of steps has been cut down to five, but the beginning and end are still the same.

A dragon is born as a Wyrmling and stays that way for five years. Greatwyrm, a dragon who is over 1200 years old, is in the last stage of life.

As a dragon grows up, it gets stronger. Their size often grows along with them, with the longest one being over 100 feet long.

Drow Dragons

Drow Shadow Dragons were said to be born from a drow city where Shadow dragons had enslaved their populace.

A race of Half-Shadow Dragon and Half-Drow was born. Seeking to rise from their station, they sought the power to separate yet fuse their halves into a far greater whole. 

Drow Shadow dragons can indefinitely switch between a Shadow Dragon form and a Drow form. They have the benefits and weaknesses of both races. Half-Shadow Dragons born from Drow are noted as one of the few Half-Dragon unions with functional wings.

Inspired by their species’ most powerful known member, the first generation of Half Drow-Half Shadow Dragons are called Zekyl.

However, dilution of the gene leads to further offspring losing their Half-Dragon classification. This species goes by the name Zar’ithra. 

Shadow Dragon Behavior

Shadow dragons can’t handle bright places, so they collect a lot of treasures that shady people all over the Forgotten Realms dream about.

Most of the time, anyone who kills a Shadow Dragon will find items that cast darkness spells, potions that make them invisible, and charms that do a lot of crazy things with shadows.

Shouldn’t the dragon use it on itself before you do?

In addition to making magical items, darkness will also make the Shadow Dragon collect dark-colored gems, with the ones that aren’t clear being the most important.

Some of these stones might not be valuable, though, because they also collect dark-colored rocks and lava rocks that they think look cool.

Manzzkyl Jaezred

One of the few dragons with a CR of 40, and the only one without a stat block. He is called a Great Wyrm Drow-Dragon in the records.

He is one of the most powerful dragons still alive and one of the most powerful things known to the gods.

According to the lore of 3.5, he is alive and has a sorcerer level of 13 and an assassin level of 5. He is a Drow Shadow Dragon, and people think that he used to be a Black Dragon before he changed himself.

The Jaezred Chaulssin

Manzzkyl started an order of assassins made up of the first slaved Drow and the shadow dragons who controlled them. Since then, more than 800 people have joined this group.

There are eight Ancient Drow Shadow Dragons that are known about. These are thought to be his strongest. A Cr 30 shadow dragon is one of the few known leaders of this group.

The Jaezred Chaulssin is a huge force of chaos, but luckily it is only after Lolth and those who follow her.

The Jaezred Chaulssin challenged Lolth’s rule over the Drow because the agreement was mostly unfair to the Drow. This group is based in the city of Chaulssin, which is known for being one city in both the Shadowfell and the Underdark.

Manzzkyl and his followers use their assassins guild to try to get into Drow cities. Then, just like a rival religion might have done in the past, they will start killing Lolth’s religious orders and causing general chaos to gain support for him.

The ShadowFell

Shadowland, The Shadow Deep, and The Plane of Shadows.

Legends say that at the start of creation, the engineers of the Material made two mirror planes that mirrored the Prime Material. Everything that was in the Prime Material has a reflection in these two planes.

Pieces of the plane that people thought were too bright were put in the Fey Wylds. All of the places that were too dark and dirty were sent to the Shadowfell.

Whereas the Fey Wylds will blind you with their strange beauty, like a tapestry leading to dangerous and wonderful things, the Shadowfell is a monument to everything that is bleak, barren, and broken. It will corrupt you either through the depressing emptiness or the native necrotic energies that were used to make it.

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The Shadowfell and the people who live there feed on negative emotions. Unlike the Fey Wylds, the conditions needed to cross into the Shadowfell leave far fewer portals to this sad place in the Material.

Its skies are dark because all of the echoes of the Stars in the Material have died. Even the Black Holes that group together like galaxies with their own personal space eat their less powerful dead brothers and sisters, the negative energies of the weave, and even cosmic terrors that can only be scared by the Astral Behemouths.

One of the most famous parts of the Shadowfell is in one of the many pockets of mist that the Dark Powers of the Shadowfell have made.

In this case, it is the home of the notorious Strahd Von Zarovich and a possible prison for him. It is also where the Ravenloft Campaign takes place, in Barovia.

This is where the evil that turns a True Dragon into a Shadow Dragon comes from.

The Underdark

The huge network of tunnels and caverns that run through the whole planet of Toril is called “The Underdark” by the people who live there.

Under every central “World Above” location on this planet is a tangled map of Mindflayer Colonies, Drow Civilizations, Disgraced Demons, and, of course, Shadow Dragon Dens.

Not all places could be reached from each other. There are many different areas in the Underdark. In a way, it works a lot like the continents above.

It is also split by the geography of the communities and cavern clusters inside the Underdark, which may be the same but are not always connected.

The first three miles of the underground are in the Upperdark. The Middledark is seven miles below the Upperdark. This is where most of the cities and civilizations are.

The worst creatures lived in the Lowerdark, which was 10 miles below the surface and went on from there. People who live on higher levels hate coming down here.

There are Rifts to the Abyss, demons sent away from the Era of Demons, and a mythical horde that is thought to be one of the richest in the realm. It is buried in the Tomb Tapper Tomb, which is also heavily guarded.

FAQs

What Type of DnD Dragon Would Make the Most Potent Species of Shadow Dragon?

There are two ways to deal with this. Both answers leave out dragons with special names because their CR rating takes into account that they are gods or monsters from stories. Only Dragon Types are taken into account here. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

Everyone agrees that the Greatwyrm Gold dragon is the most common dragon species with the highest CR. This is because they are thought to be the strongest metallic dragons and are respected by their kind.

But let’s say you want something that is more rare but stronger. In that case, only a small number of named dragons can beat a species.

Prismatic Dragons are a rare breed of Gem Dragon that can split the magic weave into a scary prismatic breath made up of different colours that each have their own power.

This would, of course, be taken out. A Prismatic would also lose its other powerful parts, like its huge 30 strength. This would make it a strong candidate for the strongest shadow dragon species possible.

Let’s compare stat blocks to see what it means. Only the Ancient Gold Dragon has a stat block in 5e, and it has a CR of 25. It is hard to find an official stat block for an Ancient Prismatic Dragon.

They are part of the Canon Lore, but everyone agrees that they are too hard to use. But the ones I’ve found put an Ancient Prismatic Dragon’s age between 30 and 36, depending on where I got the information.

What Should My Party Do if Facing a Shadow Dragon in 5e DnD?

You probably won’t fight a Shadow Dragon when the weather is good, like when it’s sunny. Unless you are one of the few champions who can actively use force, radiant, or psionic damage, you will need to raise the light level as soon as possible.

As a Shadow Dragon is always moving through the shadows, it will also move out of the light spell’s range.

Focus on getting rid of any Undead Shadows. They aren’t very strong, but they can be a nightmare because they can drain players’ strength. Next, protect your Spellcasters, because the dragon’s first goal will be to kill them.

Cut off the Shadow Dragon as much as possible. Use multiple spells that cast light to stop him from running away or setting up choke points.

What’s a Silly Way I Can Use Shadow Dragons in DnD 5e?

Google’s insistence was the only source of ideas. I was thinking of a certain group from Dragon Ball GT. Seven dragons of seven different Chromatic species have been changed by something the party or one of its members has done during your campaigns.

Because they were rude, they did the Taboo. They let themselves turn into Shadow Dragons and run around the Material Planes doing whatever they wanted. This is now your problem, since they tell everyone who upset them. Full villainous monologues.