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Roleplay / Shadow Quest

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Shadow Quest is a Play-by-Post game that was started on /tg/ in April 2013. It quickly became one of the most popular Quest Threads on the imageboard, mainly due to well thought out setting and characters.

It details the journey of a shadowy, unknown being (nicknamed both in universe and out as Shadow) as it attempts to discover both its identity and purpose.

This roleplay provides examples of the following tropes:

  • And Man Grew Proud: Somewhat. Though the Elementomachy is centuries in the past and has become a thing of legend for much of the population, the angels were all created prior to or during the war and still remember it. Centuries of propaganda have turned it into a cautionary tale about the evils of the "lesser" elements that were on the losing side of the war. In the case of Erebus at least, the tales of evil are totally justified, and in fact barely even scratch the surface of just how bloodthirsty he was.
  • Action Girl: Auriel goes toe to toe with a Demon Lord. Even if she needs Flint's and shadow's help to actually take it down, that's still a commendable feat. Ila also qualifies, being an ex-assassin. Abigail as an adult, as is shown both in the Archonium and on Xile.
  • Adorable Abomination: Abigail thinks of Shadow this way. Then again, she was raising zombies at age eight, so she's not exactly what you might call normal.
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  • After the End: The story takes place 700 years after the Elementomachy, an apocalyptic war between all eight of the Elemental Lords that devastated the world of Venia. It also takes place millions of years after a galactic war between humanity and Chaos.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: While most of the robots of City 001 are generally levelheaded and reasonable, Steward 002 released a sort of virus forcibly making the other consciousnesses of the robots think his way, which had some Omnicidal Maniac tendencies.
  • Ambiguous Gender: An intentional aspect of Shadow's first human form, because at that point he is too distant from humanity to really care about picking a gender. His later forms tend to be male.
  • Anti-Magic: One of Shadow's favorite spells.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Steward and the other robots the dwarves made are magical constructs, capable of independent thought.
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  • Apocalypse How: What Erebus had planned on doing to Venia.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Several:
    • Duke Vellik of Kelvere is a powerful lightning mage, and leads his soldiers into the battlefield himself.
    • Yi Fang, archmage of Archon, is stated to be roughly the second most powerful person in the world.
    • The Black Lady, Sandalphon, and all of the Highest in general have been known to perform great feats of power. Sandalphon is considered to be the most powerful mage on Venia.
  • Badass Abnormal: The angels, back during the Elementomachy: Basically humans with a Light soul, supercharged and given wings by Hyperion.
  • Badass Adorable: Abigail, capable of impressive magical feats despite being an eight-year-old child.
  • Badass Automaton: The robots of City 001, possessing some of the most advanced technology in Venia, living in one of the most hostile parts of the world, and ultimately fielding gargantuan war machines when they finally commit to open battle against Kan-Abar.
  • Badass Army: The angels again, and the robots of City 001, for the reasons mentioned above.
  • Badass Family: The Flints are a family of powerful wind mages known for a very dangerous (and potentially self-destructive) signature attack, the Wind Burn. The only exception to this is Donovan Flint who is actually an immensely powerful light mage being restrained by a parasite stuck to his soul that drains his magic.
    • The Fangs are a line of powerful spirit mages. Yi Fang, the current leader of Archon, is considered to be the second most powerful mage in the world after the angel Sandalphon. His niece, Abigail, is also quite powerful, being able to create undead minions at the age of eight. Yi Fang's father was apparently a fearsome mage as well, which is a requirement for the post of Archmage. Until Yi Fang killed him, that is.
  • Bag of Holding: Shadow eventually acquires an extra-dimensional pocket. It uses this for storing items, kidnapping people, and eventually stealing airships.
  • Becoming the Mask: Yi Fang. He spends so long pretending to be a ruthless, inhuman monstrosity that he effectively becomes one. This drives away the woman he loves, turns his own family against him out of fear, and leaves him with nothing left to live for other than his singleminded pursuit of even more power.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: The main character is at times a bit of a bumbling buffoon due to its lack of awareness regarding human customs and even basic biology. That does not stop it from eating lots and lots of people.
  • Big Bad: Initially Sandalphon and the demons of Kan-Abar.
    • It is theorized that Sandalphon engineered the demon takeover of Kan-Abar in order to resurrect Hyperion.
    • As Erebus, Shadow himself was this during the Elementomachy.
      • When Erebus retakes control, he (and thus the main character) becomes the Big Bad again.
    • The demon lords of Kan-Abar are ultimately an extension of Chaos, which serves as the final villain of the story.
  • Blind Seer: Hemmelus, the sage of Arland. In addition to being very knowledgable on a wide variety of subjects, he compensates for his blindness through the ability to perceive magic.
  • Blob Monster: Shadow, sort of. He's an amorphous mass a sapient shadow that can take on a variety of forms.
  • Blood Knight: Erebus craved warfare. When he was still human, he hated that human society had become relatively peaceful. When Chaos was discovered and war broke out, he leapt at the chance to risk his life fighting to the death against an enemy. After the war ended and Chaos was imprisoned, he sank into a stupor. The rest of humanity eventually ascended to a higher plane of existence, but Erebus stayed behind because he didn't care about that. All he wanted was war.
  • Brought Down to Badass: Auriel, an angel, loses her powers during the battle with the demon lord. Also counts as...
  • Brought Down to Normal
  • Butt-Monkey: Sir Donovan Flint. However, he would be extremely powerful if not for a magical parasite on his soul. He shows a glimpse of his true power while fighting the demon lord at Kelvere.
  • Cassandra Truth: Taremtis, a sage capable of seeing the future and dispensing prophecies, answers a question for each of the characters that meet him. Practically all of them refuse to believe him on some level.
    • In a fight with Shadow, Legion lets slip that Shadow is in fact Erebus. This might have created a problem with Auriel, who had fought against Erebus' forces in the Elementomachy, but instead Auriel simply broke down laughing and dismissed the entire idea as pure nonsense.
  • Child Prodigy: Abigail's skill with spirit magic, enough to create a corpse-ghoul from the bodies of her parents at the age of eight, is noted by Adavan.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Abigail, once she is aged up through the Archonium, toward Shadow. Inside the Archonium, she even manages to be jealous of herself.
  • Cool Airship: The primary means of air transport in the setting.
    • Shadow and company find the Cirrus, an old airship carrier from the time of the Elementomachy, on Xile.
  • Court Mage: Hemmelus is this for the Flints. They are also powerful mages, but Hemmelus is even more so. He is also renowned throughout Venia for his mastery of four elements, rather than the usual one, a feat not seen in generations.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Yi Fang vs. Magnock. When Magnock is introduced he's considered a very high threat. It takes Yi Fang about 5 seconds to wipe the floor with him.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: One of the game's central themes, as Shadow strives to prove this to both itself and to those around it.
    • Though it might be more accurate to say that dark is not necessarily evil. Erebus, the Elemental Lord of Shadow, turns out to be the most evil of all the Elemental Lords.
  • December–December Romance: Yi Fang and Melody, the Black Lady. Both are undead (a lich and a vampire respectively) and have been alive for well over a century.
  • Did You Just Romance Cthulu: Shadow being what it is, its relationship with Abigail certainly qualifies. Even the normally unflappable Yi Fang has to take a moment for it to really sink in that his niece is in a relationship with an Elemental Lord.
  • Disability Superpower: Hemmelus' blindness led him to develop a unique ability to perceive magic.
  • Doomed Hometown: Jacob's Field, which is ravaged by a Zombie Apocalypse and then burned to the ground by the Kanian army.
  • Drama-Preserving Handicap: Donovan is initially a clumsy Failure Knight who Cannot Spit It Out when in the spotlight. This is due to a parasite latched on to his soul that siphons away everything from his magic to his ability to speak under pressure. The parasite intentionally prevents him from doing or saying things that might resolve a conflict peacefully in order to feed off of the resulting chaos, making it essentially a drama producing handicap.
  • Dress-Up Episode: The summit in Arland.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Shadow, although he's a friendly one. His old self, Erebus, definitely counts as an unfriendly one.
    • Chaos, the driving force behind all demons, is also one of these. Its anarchic nature makes it both vital to all life on Venia and extremely dangerous to said life if not properly contained.
  • Elemental Embodiment: Eight in total for each of the elements.
  • Elemental Powers: A major recurring theme, as the eight primal elements together make up much of the game's universe and lore. As it turns out, Shadow is actually the element of Order, and the other seven together compose the element of Chaos.
  • Enemy Within: The Shards of Order, especially Temerity. Later Erebus himself.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Shadow helping the elf queen battle the black dragon, and after being teleported to Jacob's Field, saving Abigail from a group of zombies.
  • Evil Cripple: Michael.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Shadow is capable of eating just about anything, ranging from magical artifacts to people.
  • Fallen Hero: The angels. Best exemplified when it's revealed that they've bound the souls of hundreds of shadow and spirit mages into servitude.
  • Fantastic Racism: All of Venia except Vampiria and Archon is prejudiced against shadow mages and the shadow element. For very good reason, as it turns out.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Shadow and Flint.
  • Five-Man Band
    • Heroes:
    • The Highest, the senior most servants of Hyperion who have taken over in his absence. There are technically 14 of them, though for the vast majority of the story only a few are seen at a time.
      • Big Bad: Sandalphon. Most High, leader of the Empire of Light, and the most powerful mage in the world.
      • The Dragon: Lucifer. Second Highest, generally the one doing the dirty work that the others can't or won't do. May or may not harbor ambitions of his own.
      • Evil Genius: Michael. Seventh Highest, widely known as a great healer, actually a sadistic torturer, rapist, and murderer.
      • The Brute: Raziel. Eighth Highest, sits somewhere along the border between Blood Knight and Axe-Crazy. He becomes Shadow's first angel kill fairly early in the story. Later Metatron, the Third Highest. The fight against him is one of the longest in the entire story.
      • Dark Action Girl: Auriel. Fifth Highest, skilled airship captain, Only Sane Woman. Eventually defects and joins the heroes.
  • Forbidden Zone: The sky in general, thanks to the Sky-Sever. Also Xile, the heart of the Sky-Sever.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: Both sides during the Elementomachy.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Abigail, a crossbreed between a human and a banshee. Her father was weird like that.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Auriel is introduced as one of the Highest, the leaders of the Empire of Light, and is one of the angels hunting Shadow. They eventually team up to fight a demon lord, though it ultimately falls to Donovan to slay it. Afterward, Auriel decides to accompany the heroes to make sure nothing bad happens to Donovan. Eventually Shadow is able to convince her that it isn't as evil as she believed, and when Shadow escapes from the Ring City with the liberated shadow mages, Auriel decides to help them.
  • Horrifying Hero: Shadow eats people alive.
  • Humanity Is Infectious: The main character gradually reforges aspects of itself to make them less inhuman and more empathetic. The most inhuman of these aspects, Temerity, views this as a form of corruption. Ironically, Erebus himself shared this view despite technically being the only "human" in the setting.
  • I am a Humanitarian: It's complicated. The main character does eat people, however it is a living shadow.
    • Complication number 1: Shadow is not just an ordinary shadow elemental. He is actually Erebus, the Elemental Lord of Shadow, who was once a human being before he was heavily modified to guard the Core of Chaos.
    • Complication number 2: None of the other characters are actually human. They are wisps of energy leaking from the Core of Chaos, which Erebus compared to the smoke produced by a fire that happened to take on human shapes as it drifted away from the flames. So in a sense, Shadow is the only human being left in existence eating non-human chaos elementals, rather than a non-human shadow elemental eating humans.
  • Ignored Expert: The sage Hemmelus is renowned as a skilled mage, and is the only human capable of using four elements (most can only use one, some angels can use two). Despite this, his arguments that something magical was restraining Donovan were ignored for years. Donovan's father even claimed that Hemmelus' ability to "see" magic was a good reason to not believe him when he said there was something magical behind Donovan's condition.
  • I Hate Past Me: The result of Shadow becoming fully aware of its identity. Not only was it once Erebus, but it was a full on Omnicidal Maniac.
  • Jerkass Gods: Every single one of the Elemental Lords thus far introduced except Shadow. And even he counts if you consider that he used to be Erebus.
  • Large and in Charge: Sandalphon, the Most High.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: What was administered to Shadow, courtesy of an Elf mage at the beginning of the game.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Michael's nightmarish death, courtesy of an enraged Shadow.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Flint, whenever the soul parasite doesn't trip him up.
  • Light Is Not Good: Many of the angels in the series, such as Raziel, Sandalphon, and Michael firmly fit this trope. Auriel, however, is a welcome subversion. Donovan Flint is also a major exception, being one of the most moral characters in the setting and a powerful user of light magic.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Shadow and the robots.
  • Literal Split Personality: The Shards of Order and Chaos. On Chaos's side, we have Judgment (Shadow himself), Humanity, Ardor, Breeze, and Hammer. On Order's side, we have Temerity, Isolation, Silence, Wrath, and Maker. All of the Shards of Order are eventually converted into Shards of Chaos, or rather Balance.
  • Love Redeems: A mild version, Auriel's decision to turn against the Empire of Light is set in motion by her love of Donovan. Not only does he favor helping Shadow, but the fact that Shadow helped her win over Donovan plays a major role in eroding her belief that Shadow is inherently evil.
  • Made of Iron: Shadow. He has an ability that allows him to enchant his skin to become harder than metal. Metatron, the Third Highest. The guy gets hit in the face so hard his eye pops out, and he's still able to get up and fight.
  • Mana: The main power source for mages and magic in the setting. Shadow's own magic doesn't work like theirs.
  • No Gender: Shadow itself, given that it's, well, a shadow. He chooses a male identity after entering the Archonium.
  • Old Master: Adavan, the lich found in the abandoned keep at Jacob's Field. He's a veteran of the Elementomachy seven hundred years ago and the only remaining expert on the mental branch of spirit magic.
    • Hemmelus, Sir Flint's magic teacher.
    • All of the Highest technically count, as they were all empowered more than 700 years before the story.
  • Older Is Better: Played with. The dynamos, relics of the dwarves' brilliance, can't be recreated by the peoples of modern Venia. On the other hand, Adavan notes that some of the stuff mages like Yi Fang pull are comparable to the elemental lords of old.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Erebus seeks to destroy all of Venia and kill everyone living there. He doesn't even consider its inhabitants people, instead believing them to be simple byproducts of the Core of Chaos, like the wisps of smoke created by a fire.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: A few high level mages and angels are capable of pulling this off. Adavan mentions that the mages of the present day are unusually numerous and the most powerful among them are far more powerful than the human mages of the past. This might also be contributing to the end of the world, as the immense power being thrown around could destabilize the Core of Chaos and thus rip Venia apart.
  • Prince Charming: Obis Vin, the deposed prince of Kan-Abar. His throne was usurped by his brother, who proceeded to hand Kan-Abar over to a group of demon lords. Obis, however, is an all-around decent fellow, and even people in the Kanian army fighting for his brother admit that his ouster was when everything went to hell. He is a skilled fighter, has a flair for poetry, dearly loves his wife and people, and generally wants for Kan-Abar to prosper alongside, rather than at the expense of, its neighbors. Also doubles as a Wise Prince, albeit with a noticeable blind spot when it comes to his "friend" Freja Blackwater. When the heroes meet him he is going by the name of Kirt.
  • Rape as Backstory: Auriel. The abuse she suffered when a prisoner of the Black Hand contributed to her distrust of shadow mages.
  • Redemption Equals Death: At the end, even after everything he did, David was a lonely kid who wanted to approval of the person who took him in when everyone else had abandoned him. Though he committed countless atrocities in his time, he ultimately sacrifices his life to help save the world. His amazement when Shadow, who he believes to be Erebus, actually uses his name is heartbreaking.
    • Shadow dies in order to save of the world that it had nearly destroyed when it was still Erebus. It sort of gets better in the epilogue, though.
  • Redemption Earns Life: Or rather, redemption earns something to live for. Shadow's sacrifice in the Core of Chaos keeps Venia safe, and by choosing to die to fix Erebus' mistakes it earns something that Erebus had lost. While Erebus was a burnt out sensation junkie who had lost his ability to actually appreciate life, by turning his back on who he was Shadow is able to enjoy love, friendship, and everything else that life has to offer.
    • The Highest that turn against the Empire of Light have a much higher survival rate as a result of not joining in Sandalphon's plan.
  • Second Love: Donovan and Auriel. His first love married another man. Her first love has almost certainly been dead for centuries.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Auriel says that this is a part of her attraction to Donovan. Another is that he can be a total badass when he isn't being restrained by the parasite stuck to his soul.
    • This initially creates a problem considering that Donovan is still in love with Megan, his First Love. And even though she eventually married another man, he's too upstanding to start a new relationship when his heart is elsewhere. This just makes Auriel want him even more.
  • Sneak Attack: Shadow is fond of these, assisted by the fact that he is able to compress his body down to a very small size, and then lash out with a super fast attack or outright magic.
  • Sorcerous Overlord: Pretty much every nation in Venia is ruled by a powerful mage.
  • Super Speed: Shadow, who can run faster than galloping horses and fly at supersonic speeds. Lucifer, the Second Highest, is known for his incredible speed.
  • Super Strength: Shadow singlehandedly keeps the airship Noiralev from crashing into the ground after the escape from Ring City.
  • Tagalong Kid: Joey. Although he is eventually is forced to part ways with the main characters, and ends up having a series of adventures that are only heard about later.
  • Team Mom: Auriel. The frequency with which she has to tell people to not touch strange things is remarkable.
  • Teleport Spam: An integral part of Shadow's fighting style.
  • The Cassandra: The sage Hemmelus spent years trying to tell the Flints that there was a curse on Donovan that was causing his weakness, clumsiness, and inability to speak. They refuse to believe him, despite the fact that he is one of the most skilled mages around, having mastered four elements when most mortals can only use one and even angels can only use two, and is capable of sensing magic. There are only a handful of characters more knowledgable than he is, but they simply dismiss the idea that Donovan is cursed out of hand.
    • Made somewhat worse by the fact that several of the Flints actually do know about the demon parasite that is attached to Donovan's soul. They agreed to put it there in the first place. They just refuse to believe that it is the cause of Donovan's problems, preferring to believe instead that he is just worthless on his own and that the demon parasite isn't causing him any harm.
  • The Empire: The Empire of Light, natch.
  • The Magocracy: Archon is ruled by the Archmage and a number of councilors, all of whom are powerful mages. In fact, much of Venia is like this, as nations tend to simply be ruled by those with the magical power to back up their demands.
  • To Serve Man: Played straight with the main character. Or at least it appears that way initially. In fact, it's an Inverted Trope. See the entry for I am a Humanitarian.
  • Token Mini-Moe: Abigail, an eight year old girl. Until she goes through the Archonium, aging up to her late teens or early twenties due to time dilation.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: In a someone twisted way, Shadow.
    • First, Shadow is actually Erebus, the Elemental Lord of Shadow.
    • Second, Erebus, and by extension Shadow, was actually an incredibly evil person.
    • Third, Erebus, and by extension Shadow, is technically the only human being left in existence.
  • Tom the Dark Lord: The Black Lady's real name is Melody. She has kept this a secret because no one would be afraid of someone named Melody.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Megan, Donovan's First Love. During a plague, she went out among the people to calm them and heal the sick. She ultimately died because of it.
  • Training from Hell: The Archonium is an especially brutal form of this, forcing a person to battle with aspects of their own personality until only the strongest part remains. The inhuman nature of this process is well known, and it is one of the reason why the world hates and fears the nation of Archon.
    • In a way, much of Donovan's life can be considered this. Having a demonic parasite draining away all of his magic, and generally interfering with anything he tried to do forced him to train twice as hard to be any good at anything. The result is that once the parasite is suppressed, he's one of the best martial combatants in the story. He is even able to soundly beat his eldest brother, who is using magic, is very skilled with said magic, and is an excellent swordsman to boot, using no magic at all.
  • Troll: Yi Fang, and how. At the summit in Arland, the man taunts Sandalphon, the most powerful of the angels, after he specifically warned Shadow against doing so.
  • Undying Loyalty: The shadow and spirit mages of Haven for Shadow, after it frees them from bondage in the Empire of Light by releasing their souls from a vault and then teleporting them to safety aboard the Noiralev.
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: Technically Shadow and Abigail. They first meet when Abigail is 8 years old and Shadow's current incarnation has only existed for a few days.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: David and the Black Hand, with Erebus as the distant parent. Their devotion to him and their desire to win his affection (or even attention) led them to commit horrible atrocities in his name. Erebus, in turn, never even saw them as people.
    • The conversation when Shadow meets David in the Core of Chaos hammers this home. David thinks that Shadow is Erebus, and is stunned for a moment when Shadow uses his name. David then happily goes to his death to save the world, thinking that he had finally earned Erebus' approval.
  • What Does This Button Do?: When Shadow is presented with a button that it does not know anything about, its immediate response is to press it.
    Auriel: Shadow! You think, maybe, we should have thought about that for 5 seconds?!
    Shadow: What's the worst that could happen?
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Initially this question focuses on Shadow, which though undeniably intelligent is also very inhuman at least at first. Later on, the exact opposite is revealed. Shadow is, in fact, the only human being in the entire story. The entire rest of the cast are technically creations of the Core of Chaos.
  • World in the Sky: Xile, a floating island at the heart of an immense magical storm.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: A small-scale one caused by Adavan. Flint and Shadow team up to stop it.


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