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Choking Shade

A vague humanoid shape composed of whirling dust and shards of bone hovers menacingly in the air.

Choking Shade CR 5

Source Pathfinder #134: It Came from Hollow Mountain pg. 82
XP 1,600
NE Medium undead (incorporeal)
Init +8; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +12


AC 18, touch 18, flat-footed 13 (+3 deflection, +4 Dex, +1 dodge)
hp 52 (7d8+21)
Fort +5, Ref +8, Will +7
Defensive Abilities channel resistance +2, incorporeal; Immune undead traits


Speed fly 40 ft. (perfect)
Melee 2 incorporeal touches +9 touch (2d6 negative energy plus desperation)
Special Attacks create spawn, gravedust


Str —, Dex 19, Con —, Int 6, Wis 15, Cha 17
Base Atk +5; CMB +9; CMD 23
Feats Ability Focus (desperation), Dodge, Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes
Skills Fly +12, Perception +12, Stealth +14
Languages Common


Environment any
Organization solitary, pair, or haunting (3-6)
Treasure incidental

Special Abilities

Create Spawn (Su) A humanoid creature killed by suffocation resulting from a choking shade’s gravedust attack rises as a choking spirit in 1d4 rounds.

Desperation (Su) A choking shade exudes an aura of desperation associated with its suffocating death, causing all creatures within 30 feet to become shaken as long as they remain in this area. A creature struck by the shade’s incorporeal touch must also save against this effect. Once a creature is affected, it remains shaken as long as it remains within 30 feet of the choking shade. This fear effect does not stack with other fear effects. A successful DC 17 Will save negates the effect. This is a mind-affecting fear effect. The save DC is Charisma-based.

Gravedust (Su) As a standard action, a choking shade can enter the lungs of an adjacent living creature that is under the influence of a fear effect (such as the effect brought on by its desperation aura), bringing with it the dust of the grave. The victim can resist this attack with a successful DC 16 Fortitude save, and the choking shade is instantly expelled from a victim’s lungs as soon as the victim is no longer under the effect of a fear effect (for example, because the victim has left the radius of the choking shade’s aura or succeeded on the Will save). Until that point, the victim is prevented from breathing or speaking while the undead occupies its lungs. A creature can attempt to cough the shade out of its lungs on its turn as a standard action, but it must succeed at a DC 16 Fortitude save to do so. See the Environmental Rules for how long a victim can hold its breath and the consequences of eventual suffocation.

Susceptible to Wind (Ex) A choking shade is treated as a Tiny corporeal creature for the purposes of determining the effects high wind has upon it.


There is nothing quite like the desperation of a suffocating creature, frantic for one last, sweet breath of air to fill deprived, aching lungs; it is a terrible way to die. There are so many ways to die of suffocation: asphyxiation in a fire, being buried alive, crucifixion, disease, drowning, strangulation—the list seems endless. Sometimes, the terrible imminence filling a person as life ends in so cruel a manner is enough to cause the doomed soul to rise from death as a choking shade.

Choking shades animate into a swirling swarm of ashes, bone shards, dirt, and dust, assuming a facsimile of a humanoid form. They have a brutish intelligence and are drawn with envy to the breath of living creatures, attacking them on sight. In addition to the dust of the grave, these hateful spirits carry with them the overwhelming fear that accompanied them in their suffocating deaths, and this aura infects those who are near them with this same terror. Choking shades can take advantage of those affected by their fearful auras (or those already under the influence of a fear effect): they enter the victim’s lungs, carrying their dusty remains with them, threatening unwilling hosts with the same awful deaths that they endured. Anyone slain by the choking essence of these undead creatures rises as one of their number, seeking retribution for all who are still afforded the freedom to breathe, a luxury taken for granted by the living.

Though choking shades have some measure of intelligence and understand the languages they knew in life, their unreasoning hatred of the living makes communication with them impossible: these spirits would much rather make even a futile assault on the lungs of the living than engage in any form of communication.


Upon rising from death, a choking shade has a tendency to remain near either its grave or the site of its demise. It is not uncommon for these hateful spirits to manifest in a lethal, predatory pack, especially if they died together in the same tragic event. Choking shades who drowned and whose bodies remained in the water most often seek out dry land, but they tend to remain near that body of water, haunting the shoreline in search of potential victims.

The threat of choking shades has affected the safety of miners and builders for generations. When miners are killed in a cave-in or laborers crushed by a collapsing structure, wise city managers and foremen seek the aid of the clergy to ensure the bodies are excavated and given proper burials. Clerics are often posted to spend some nights at the place of such an unfortunate event as a precaution against an undead infestation at the work site. Laying to rest these desperate, hatefully aggressive spirits is in the service of all those who still draw breath. The most common ritual for this purpose ends by extinguishing a blessed candle, respectfully putting out a flame that feeds on the oxygen the dead were denied.

Variant Choking Shades

While these several variants of choking shades differ primarily by the nature of their suffocating deaths, the intensity of those deaths and the circumstances of their lives when the air was taken from their lungs make some shades even stronger and fiercer. At minimum, all variants have the advanced template as well as alterations to the gravedust special ability, modified by the circumstances of their deaths. Four are noted below.

Crushed Shade: Suffocation following a cave-in or the collapse of a structure creates these shades. When a crushed shade is expelled from a host’s lungs, the victim must succeed at a Will save against the gravedust’s DC or be cursed by a permanent form of claustrophobia: whenever the victim is about to enter a cramped space, crowded venue, or other place from which escape may be difficult, she becomes shaken. The victim can attempt a DC 14 Will save to negate this condition, but failure makes the condition persistent. Even if the victim endures the claustrophobic circumstances with the shaken, frightened, or panicked condition and the threat passes (the crowded disperses or flees, the obstacle is surmounted or avoided), the condition persists until she succeeds at the appropriate saves. This is a curse effect.

Drowned Shade: Those choking shades whose suffocating deaths occurred in water are even more dreadful. When they are driven from a victim, the muck of the grave remains within the lungs. Victims are nauseated for 1d4 rounds after a drowned shade exits their lungs.

Smoking Shade: Smoke inhalation within a fire caused the deaths of these choking shades. Each round a smoking shade occupies the lungs of a host, that host also takes 1d4 points of fire damage. After the choking shade is expelled, the victim is staggered from the pain for 1 round.

Strangled Shade: A strangled shade was asphyxiated by a murderer, and when it invades a victim’s lungs, hand-shaped bruises arise on the victim’s throat. Each round a strangled shade occupies a host, the victim takes 1d4 points of bludgeoning damage, and after the strangled shade is expelled from the lungs, the victim can’t speak until an hour passes or receiving any amount of magical healing (whichever comes first).