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Gazetteer 13 – The Shadow Elves

Basic Dungeons and Dragons

  • Publisher: TSR
  • Rules: Dungeons & Dragons BECMI
  • Developer:
  • Reference: gaz13 9287
0e-gaz-13 Shadowlands
0e-gaz-13 gaz13 D&D BECMI Shadowlands

Dark is the underworld. Darker are the lands of the Shadow Elves. Far underneath the rugged broken lands, even deeper than the deepest caverns of the trolls, live these pale faced warriors. Their law is that of their Immortal Rafiel, and their mystical strength that of their Soul Crystals. Together, they will guide the people of the shadows to the lands under the sun.

Product History

GAZ13: “The Shadow Elves” (1990), by Carl Sargent and Gary Thomas, is the thirteenth book in the “GAZ” series of Gazetteers for the Known World. It was published in May 1990.

Continuing the “GAZ” Sourcebooks. Like its immediate predecessors, “The Shadow Elves” is broken into two books. A player’s guide gives considerable background on the Shadow Elves and also details some new character classes, while the GM’s Book describes their history and the geography, flora, fauna, and NPCs of the area. Like two of the immediately previous Gazetteers, GAZ10: “The Orcs of Thar” (1988) and GAZ12: “The Golden Khan of Ethengar” (1989), “The Shadow Elves” once more described a more antagonistic and villainous land.

Unfortunately, “The Shadow Elves” was the last racial sourcebook in the “GAZ” series and also the last sourcebook in this classic format, as the “GAZ” series was on the verge of ending. That’s because higher numbered supplements tended to sell less for TSR, and “The Shadow Elves” bore the number 13. Beyond that, the “GAZ” supplements had now detailed the entire square of land which had been the line’s focus for the last year or two; in fact, “The Shadow Elves” had to dig below one of the previous realms to detail something new!

Only one more “GAZ” supplement would follow, GAZ14: “The Atruaghin Clans” (1991), which appeared over a year later. However, TSR wasn’t yet done with the Known World. They simultaneously were beginning a new series of sourcebooks, starting with Hollow World Campaign Set (1990), which detailed new realms far below the Known World.

Expanding Basic D&D. Like all of the later “GAZ” modules, “The Shadow Elves” provided considerable expansions to the Basic D&D rules, including skills and new classes. The skills were somewhat increased in power from the early Basic D&D skills, as they included options like “Disguise” and “Tracking”, which effectively provided shadow elves with new class skills — a trend that had begun in “The Orcs of Thar”. The character classes included a shadow elf class and a shadow elf shaman — but unlike the shaman in “The Golden Khan of Ethengar” this one was just a spell-caster, not a spirit magician.

Love It or Hate It? GAZ1: “The Grand Duchy of Karameikos” (1987) and GAZ3: “The Principalities of Glantri” (1987) are fairly universally recognized as the best books in the “GAZ” series, but “The Shadow Elves” may have gotten the most positive attention of the later books.

Expanding the Known World. The land of the shadow elves lies below the Broken Lands of “The Orcs of Thar”. Besides detailing that land, this Gazetteer also describes the culture of the Shadow Elves, who had been briefly introduced in GAZ5: “The Elves of Alfheim” (1988). Fans of the Known World like to make it very clear that the shadow elves aren’t drow; though they’re an underground elf race that’s antagonistic to surface elves, they’re not necessarily evil like drow are (usually). The shadow elves were the fourth major elf culture detailed for the Known World, following the elves of Alfheim, Glantri, and Minrothad.

“The Shadow Elves” also provides the first major reference to the new Hollow World setting through an extensive description of the shadow elves’ interactions with “the land of the red sun”. a one-sentence aside in DDA1: “Arena of Thyatis” (1990) had preceded it in the previous month, while it would be followed by the release of the Hollow World boxed set itself, just two months later in July.

Like the nearby regions of the “Golden Khan”, the lands of the Shadow Elves also have deep connections to the ancient past of Blackmoor. The elves even follow an immortal named Rafiel, who was once a nuclear physicist in Blcakmoor.

About the Creators. “The Shadow Elves” was written by two authors who are better known for their work in other settings. Sargent had burst onto the D&D scene in 1989 with contributions to four different books, but he’d earn his reputation with the From the Ashes books (1992-1993) for Greyhawk. Thomas similarly began writing for D&D in 1989, but had already gained attention for his work on Traveller through Digest Group Publications.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons – a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

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Content Updates

  • 2020-12-18 – Title changed from gaz13 to 0e-gaz-13.
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D&D BECMI (0e)

D&D 3rd Edition (3rd Party Products)

D&D 5th Edition (5e)

d20 OGL (3eogl)

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By thedarkelf007

I am a long term gamer, I run 6 RPG's a fortnight, host board game, card game and LANs each about once a quarter and have an addiction to buying more games. Games I am currently running are Pathfinder (1st and 2nd Edition) and Dungeons and Dragons (5th Edition).

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