Adapting the 4e Shadowdancer

November 2nd, 2008

Back when third edition was first published, one of the things I liked most about it was the shadowdancer prestige class.  This roguish class was a sort of sneaky swashbuckler, and at the time my favorite classes were rogue and bard (despite their general underpoweredness).  It was a perfect match for my then-current character, in fact.

In fourth edition, paragon paths are more or less the new prestige classes — they’re there to allow further customization of a character, but without the possibility of stacking multiple ones in ways which caused them to become broken, as they could in 3e.  So I suppose it’s only natural that I’d end up wanting to convert the shadowdancer.

I’m fairly certain an official conversion is in the works, perhaps even in Martial Power, due out in a couple of weeks.  But I think this still serves as a good example of converting a 3e prestige class to a 4e paragon path.

Here’s how the shadowdancer is defined in 3e:

Level Base
Attack Bonus
1st +0 +0 +2 +0 Hide in plain sight
2nd +1 +0 +3 +0 Evasion, darkvision, uncanny dodge
3rd +2 +1 +3 +1 Shadow illusion, summon shadow
4th +3 +1 +4 +1 Shadow jump 20 ft.
5th +3 +1 +4 +1 Defensive roll, improved uncanny dodge
6th +4 +2 +5 +2 Shadow jump 40 ft., summon shadow
7th +5 +2 +5 +2 Slippery mind
8th +6 +2 +6 +2 Shadow jump 80 ft.
9th +6 +3 +6 +3 Summon shadow
10th +7 +3 +7 +3 Shadow jump 160 ft., improved evasion

(Further information is available from the d20 SRD.)

A paragon path spans ten levels, like many prestige classes.  It provides a set series of benefits:  one class feature each at 11th and 16th level, one action point option at 11th level, one encounter power at 11th level, one daily power of greater-than-average impact at 20th level, and one utility power at 12th level.

Looking at the shadowdancer, it’s clear that the shadow jump power is class-defining.  Their other abilities are mostly defensive in nature.  Things such as evasion and uncanny dodge are now available as feats, so need not be given as class features.  4e also plays down the availability of summoned allies, so the summon shadow ability probably should not be present.  (In fact, the shadow isn’t even in the 4e Monster Manual, although I’ve written up a version of my own.)

Since the shadowdancer is rogue-oriented, I made it a rogue paragon path.  It would also be appropriate to allow a monk or bard to choose the path without multiclassing, if you use a version of those classes.

The Shadow power source might be more appropriate to the shadowdancer’s powers, but since no information on that power source is yet available, I’ve stuck to the three in the Player’s Handbook.


“Scared of the dark?  You will be.”

Prerequisite: Rogue class, trained in Acrobatics

You’ve learned to tap the arcane through your dances and acrobatics.  Enhancing your performances with a touch of magic, you are empowered by the shadow, able to bend reality around you in small ways.  You become as fleeting as a shadow, slipping away from your enemies’ strikes safely, only to reappear in an advantageous position to execute your own counterstrike.  The darkness is your ally, serving as cloak, shield, and, at times, sword.

Shadowdancer Path Features

Shadowdancer’s Action (11th level): When you spend an action point to take an extra action, you also become invisible until the start of your next turn.

Shadows Hold No Secrets (11th level): You gain darkvision.

Shifting Shadows (16th level): When you start your turn in an area of darkness or dim light, you gain a +2 square bonus to your speed that round, and you can shift 2 squares as a move action.

Shadowdancer Exploits

Shadowdancer’s Strike (Shadowdancer Attack 11)
You stab the foe, and swiftly fade into the shadows.
Encounter * Arcane, Weapon
Standard Action * Melee weapon
Requirement: You must be wielding a light blade, and you must be in an area of dim light or darkness.
Target: One creature
Attack: Dexterity vs. AC
Hit: 2[W] + Dexterity modifier damage.
Effect: You are invisible until the start of your next turn, and you can shift up to 2 squares.

Shadow Jump (Shadowdancer Utility 12)
Stepping into one shadow, you instantly emerge from another.
Encounter * Arcane
Move Action * Personal
Requirement: You must be in an area of dim light or darkness.
Effect: You teleport up to 10 squares.  You must end your movement in an area of dim light or darkness.  You can make a Stealth check to hide in your new location, even if you are in line of sight.

Shadow Duplication (Shadowdancer Attack 20)
You manipulate the stuff of shadows, creating a mirror image of yourself.  Taking advantage of your opponent’s confusion, you strike.
Daily * Arcane, Weapon
Standard Action * Melee weapon
Requirement: You must be wielding a light blade, and you must be in an area of dim light or darkness.
Target: One creature
Special: You gain combat advantage for this attack.
Attack: Dexterity vs. AC
Hit: 4[W] + Dexterity modifier damage, and you can shift to any square adjacent to the target.
Effect: The next time an attack would hit you, it instead destroys your duplicate, and you take no damage.  While your duplicate is not destroyed, you can shift one square each round as a free action.  Your duplicate lasts until destroyed, until the end of the encounter, or for five minutes.

The shadowdancer’s action, shadowdancer’s strike, and shadow jump approximate the old Hide In Plain Sight ability — the shadowdancer has the capability to be invisible or stealthed much of the time.  The key ability of darkvision is also available early on, and allows the shadowdancer to fight from the shadows without penalty.  A good thing, since his powers require that.

The shadow duplicate is a replacement for the shadow illusion and summon shadow powers.  While its damage is a little low for a level 20 daily, that’s made up for by its free combat advantage and free attack avoidance.

Between shadowdancer’s strike, shadow duplicate, and the shifting shadows class ability, the shadowdancer is also very shfity.  Add in shadow jump, and it’s an extremely mobile prestige class.  I think this is appropriate to its concept, especially since it lacks the sheer offensive power of the daggermaster or shadow assassin.

It’s a little odd to have Arcane Weapon powers, but Martial doesn’t seem to fit.  If the Spiral Tower mage can have them, I think it’s fine for the Shadowdancer — especially since it’s mostly a flavor difference.  The only thing I can think of offhand to watch out for is the Archmage’s epic class features, since Shadowdancer features are technically not really exploits, but spells.  Given what the Archmage can already do, though, I think that’s probably a moot point.

This hasn’t been playtested yet.  I expect to do some of that shortly, in my ongoing game.  If anyone would care to use it, I’d love to hear any feedback.

(Edited 11/3/08 for formatting.)


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  4. Zero Level
  5. Fox Magic: Arcane Feats

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  1. Scott M, Nov. 3, 2008, 7:54 pm:

    I like the class as presented. I also liked the idea of the Shadowdancer in 3e, but never got a chance to play one. I’m interested in hearing how fun it is to play… and whether your powers work out. So far, just looking, I don’t see any huge flags.

  2. Scott, Nov. 4, 2008, 1:06 am:

    Thanks. If there’s a problem, I expect it’ll be in the combination of mobility and combat advantage options. Rogues in general are good at both, but this paragon path offers a couple of freebies beyond what the vanilla rogue is capable of.

  3. Brian, Nov. 25, 2008, 11:20 pm:

    Huge fan of the shadowdancer, I played one in 3.5 and was heartbroken to see that it didn’t come with Martial Powers.

    My group is about to restart our old 3.5 campaign with 4e rules. Starting at level 12, so I’ve been getting my character together. I’m torn between the Master Infiltrator prestige and the Cloaked sniper prestige. Because prior to becoming a Shadow Dancer I just hid and snuck around, popping off crossbow shots when appropriate.

    And Master Infiltrator seems to be the closest to sneaking around like a shadow dancer.

    Now, if only I could get my DM to accept this shadowdancer build…

  4. Scott, Nov. 26, 2008, 6:21 am:

    It’s worth a try, right?

    For what it’s worth, it seems to work out okay in play. And of course he could always make modifications.

  5. Joel McMonagle, Nov. 11, 2009, 5:20 pm:

    What do you think of the following alternative? It closely mimics a slight deviation from the standard 3.5e shadowdancer that I came up with a few years ago.

    Paragon Path
    “Your shadow is my advantage.”
    Prerequisites: Rogue, trained in stealth and acrobatics


    Shadowsight (Lvl 11) You gain darkvision.
    Shadowmeld (Lvl 11) When you use an action point to take an
    extra action, you become incorporeal until the end of your
    next turn.
    Shadowtrekker (Lvl 11) Add your dexterity modifier to your movement
    speed for the purposes of determining overland movement rate.
    Shadowwalk (Lvl 16) Whenever you are within dim light or less,
    you can gain phasing until the end of your turn as a minor


    Lunge through shadow Lvl 11 Shadowdancer Attack
    “You suddenly melt away, only to emerge from within your enemy’s
    shadow in a flash of steel.”
    Encounter * Weapon, Teleportation Melee attack
    Target: One creature
    Special: You may teleport up to 5 squares
    before the attack. The target of this attack grants
    combat advantage to you for this attack.
    Attack: Dexterity vs. AC
    Hit: 3[W] + Dexterity modifier damage.

    Hide in plain sight Lvl 12 Shadowdancer Utility
    “You weave and twist the shadows about you, allowing you to seemingly
    Daily * Stance
    While in this stance, you can become or remain hidden
    (by use of the stealth skill) even if you don’t have
    any cover or concealment, and even if your enemies are
    fully aware of you.

    Shadow Flurry Lvl 20 Shadowdancer Attack
    “You are everywhere at once, laying waste to your enemies.”
    Daily * Weapon, Teleportation Close Burst 5
    Target: Up to five enemies within burst
    Attack: Dexterity vs Reflex, up to five attacks
    Special: No two consecutive attacks may target the same creature.
    Hit: 2[W] + Dexterity modifier damage
    Effect: Before each attack, you teleport to a square of your
    choice adjacent to the target within range. You may attack
    your targets in any order you choose. After the final attack,
    you may then teleport 5 squares.

  6. Astrolounge, Oct. 31, 2010, 12:57 am:

    There sort of is a Shadowdancer in 4e. Its a basic class from the Wizard’s website called the Assassin, except it in no way feels like an assassin. It has the “shadow” power source and is described as being someone who sold part of their soul to the shadowfell, and had it replaced with a shard of darkness that grants them powers over shadows. They have the ability to turn into a shade form that allows them to hide very well, they get several powers that relate to manipulating shadow magic, and they even get an At Will power at first level that lets them teleport from being adjacent to one creature, to being adjacent to another creature that’s a fixed number of squares away by warping through the creature’s shadows called Shadow Step. It’s literally the Shadowdancer in everything but name, and I can’t imagine why they didn’t just call it what it clearly is.

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