There are some experiences you simply cannot emerge from unscathed. Things that, even if you survive, scar your soul and stain the fabric of your flesh. Those who have been lost to the light for too long, and fell through shadow, might find that it is now an indelible part of them. And just as shadow seeks to consume light, so too you will be lost to darkness if uncontrolled.
While the Shadowbound corruption (typically gained through exposure to the plane of shadow, shadow magic, or at the hands of creatures like kytons) may seem like one of the less-ideal corruption options, it can be potent in the right hands (as I demonstrated with my Night Lords space marine character conversion). If you've been considering trying this corruption yourself, here are the classes I'd recommend pairing with it!
Also, this is the second installment in my corruption exploration series. So check out 5 Classes to Pair With The Promethean Corruption if you'd like to see more, and make sure you check out my full Vocal archive for more gaming content!
A Note on The Shadowbound Corruption
The Shadowbound corruption is a unique option among the other corruptions. To avoid triggering it, you must spend 2 days per manifestation level away from light, and other life. This is easier to do at lower levels, especially with campaigns that have large breaks between the action. However, even if you trigger the corruption and fail the Will save, you have to destroy objects or people that are more precious to you as it goes along. So while destroying an object of beauty (the Stage 1 trigger) is fairly simple, the Stage 3 trigger (killing someone or destroying an object that has been a pillar of support in helping you maintain who you are) might not be possible to do within a single span of 24 hours that the corruption takes hold of you. It's a little on the cheap side, but keeping objects and people who fit that description away from the corrupted PC to maintain a character's long-term existence in the game is an option.
Additionally, the save against the Shadowbound corruption only has to be made once per month of in-game time, and that's only if the condition of isolation in darkness is not met. So if a game is fairly rapid-fire when it comes to plot and action, this corruption's progress might be less of an issue. Also, the wording implies that you might be able to repeat previous actions taken (destroying objects of beauty or terrorizing innocents), should a higher-level target not present itself. While this might garner negative repercussions among NPCs, it also won't progress your corruption to the next stage, which can be important to consider.
Class #1: Rogue
When it comes to classes that lurk in darkness and call on shadows, rogue is where a lot of us will go first. However, I would recommend that those who want to get the most out of manifestations like Frightful, consider the Thug archetype which allows you to turn the shaken condition into the frightened condition with enough success. This can be particularly useful if you're using feats like Enforcer, or the other tips detailed in How To Weaponize Your Intimidate Check in Pathfinder.
Perhaps the most deadly combination is, of course, using Touch of Ruin with your sneak attack. A touch attack that deals 1d10 per manifestation level, plus a small mountain of d6s, is a nova blast that's going to put a serious hurt on an enemy... especially since you can do it one time per manifestation level you currently possess.
Class #2: Sorcerer
Sorcerers are already touched by magic, and this corruption might be part and parcel to the force or circumstances that granted them their bloodline. They also receive a good Will save as part of their class advancement, though Wisdom is not their main casting stat. Additionally, sorcerers are less affected by several of the stains of this corruption (such as the withering that comes with Regretful Gaze, reducing your physical attributes, which this class doesn't really rely on), and they can use their magic to cast spells like protective penumbra to help mitigate exposure to bright light.
In addition to their ability to mitigate some of the corruption's negative effects, though, sorcerers can utilize several of the powers to their benefit. Regretful Gaze, for example, can leave foes around you shaken, providing a large benefit to you since this lowers their resistance to your spells. Insubstiantiality can make you difficult to hit, providing an extra bonus to your AC (which is difficult for many casters to really bulk up). Additionally, all your time spent in isolation doesn't have to be wasted if you have crafting feats, allowing you to make magic items for yourself or the rest of the party, catching up via magic if they were traveling to the next destination.
Also, for those who haven't checked it out yet, make sure you take a look at 50 Origins For a Sorcerer's Bloodline for additional inspiration!
Class #3: Monk
Monks are a complicated chassis to work with at the best of times, but adding on the Shadowbound corruption can make them even more ludicrous if one really wishes to. While the stains such as light sensitivity and the negatives to physical stats might be a drawback, monks have a good Will save progression, and Wisdom is a necessary stat for them.
The ability to move even more stealthily, to increase their defense to an even more absurd degree, and to inflict devastating attacks on foes (both with and without a flank) can make a Shadowbound monk a horrendous foe to contend with. And much like our next option, a monk stained by shadow might be attempting to fill themselves with the void as a philosophical achievement, or they might be attempting to harness the darkness inside of them in order to purge it... or, at least, to use it in the service of a just cause.
Class #4: Cleric
Perhaps one of two ideal combinations, mechanically speaking, clerics have Wisdom as a casting stat, and a good Will save progression. Additionally, this corruption could play into a cleric's faith in many ways. Do they serve a god of darkness and shadows, and thus this is seen as a blessing they need to learn to control? Are they a cleric of the light who was felled by a dark enemy, and this is something they are trying to purge from themselves, and to fight against while using the manifestations for good? There are a lot of possibilities there.
Just as with the sorcerer, the gaze effect that leaves enemies shaken can provide an edge for ensuring enemies fail as many saving throws against your spells as possible. Insubstiantiality may also be particularly useful for clerics trying to avoid being hit as often as possible, adding on a few extra AC bonuses in addition to their armor, shields, and other protective measures. While not all clerics are involved in melee combat, those who are may find abilities like Touch of Ruin, Wretched Pain, or even Refuge in Pain to be particularly useful abilities for making it through a combat alive.
Also like the sorcerer, clerics who spend time in isolation can use that time to craft fresh items for the party, in addition to spending the time in prayer and contemplation... whether to embrace the darkness, or to fight against it.
Class #5: Druid
Druids are no strangers to shadows and darkness, and they also have the unique abilities to really make use of the Shadowbound corruption. In many ways, druids might be the ideal class to pair with this particular option, given that Wisdom is their casting stat, and they have a high Wisdom saving throw.
Druids, much like clerics, gain serious advantage from potentially lowering the saving throws of enemies against their spells, boosting up their own armor class, and giving themselves some seriously damaging attacks to use when necessary. The major advantage of many of these manifestations is that they apply regardless of the form a druid is in, so a druid that's been transformed into an animal or an elemental form could still use these powers, likely changing their appearance to reflect the shadows that still lurk inside of them.
This corruption may also have special significance to the location of a druid. One that comes from the Uskwood in Nidal (a cursed forest in the Golarion setting) might see this as a blessing from Zon Kuthon. Another might have fought against creatures of shadow and been marked by the battle, attempting to uphold their stewardship of the land despite the corruption running through them. How that story plays out is up to you, and your Game Master!
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