According to the various sources, shades are either the true form of a demon when appearing outside of the Fade without a host or the soul of the dead who have come back from the Fade into the mortal world.
Additionally some scholars believe their confusion with the waking world leaves them unable to possess the living or dead. It has also been speculated that shades believe that they are still in the Fade. Some shades however are content to float as shadows assaulting the minds of those they encounter; living beings are thus weakened when a shade is within close proximity.
"It has often been suggested that the only way for a demon to affect the world of the living is by possessing a living (or once living) body, but this is not always true. Indeed, a shade is one such creature: a demon in its true form that has adapted to affect the world around it.
My hypothesis is this: we already know that many demons become confused when they pass through the Veil into our world. They are unable to tell the living from the dead, the very static nature of our universe being confusing to a creature that is accustomed to a physicality defined entirely by emotion and memory. Most demons seek to immediately seize upon anything they perceive as life, jealously attempting to possess it—but what of those that do not? What of those that encounter no life, or fail to possess a body? What of those that are more cautious by their nature?
These demons watch. They lurk. They envy.
In time, such a demon will learn to drain energy from the psyche of those it encounters, just as it did in the Fade. Once it has drained enough, it has the power to manifest and will forever after be known as a shade. Such a creature spurns possession. It instead floats as a shadow across its piece of land, preying upon the psyche of any who cross its path. Perhaps it believes itself still in the Fade? There is evidence to believe that is so.
A shade will weaken the living by its very proximity. If it focuses its will, it can drain a single target very quickly. Some have even been known to assault the minds of a living victim, causing confusion or horror and making the target ripe for the kill. The tragedy of a shade is perhaps that, once it has drained a target whole, its appetite is only heightened rather than slaked."
Shades are divided into two types: lesser and greater. The latter are more powerful and have several additional abilities. Both types have 50% Fire resistance and 5% Spirit resistance, and are immune to stun and sleep effects. Finally, they rely on mana and are thus vulnerable to templar abilities, Mana Drain, Mana Clash and Magebane Poison.
While on their way toward the final piece of the Juggernaut armor set, the Warden will encounter some uncommon shades. During the Elven Ritual, two ghostly shades will appear if the ritual is performed incorrectly, or if it is performed without the tablet. These ghostly shades use AI packages of Arcane Horrors, and thus can cast some dangerous spells unavailable to regular shades. On the other hand, they do not have any elemental resistances regular shades have. Another shade guards the sarcophagus containing the Juggernaut Plate Armor, and appears as the ghost of a female elf. Interestingly, the female elf shade has Captivating Song as one available abilities (though she does not use it), and both undead and demon resistances - meaning she has 75% Cold resistance, 5% Spirit resistance, and 50% Fire resistance from the "demon" part, but -25% Fire resistance from the "undead" part. She also uses an Arcane Horror AI package.
Abilities & Skills
Greater shades also use in addition to the above:
- Lesser shades
- Greater shades
- Ancient tomb guardian
- Ash wraiths
- Enraged spirits
- Forgotten spirits
- Gangue Shades
- Indignant spirits
- Legion spirits
- Phantasmal crossbowman
- Phantasmal shadow
- Phantasmal warrior
- Primal phantasm
- Treacherous Shades
- Shadow warrior
- Codex entry: Shade
- Codex entry: Cautionary Tales for the Adventurous
- Codex entry: Demonic Possession
- Codex entry: The Gangue Shade
- Three boss-ranked greater shades can be fought throughout the game: one in the Korcari Wilds during A Pinch of Ashes quest, the Gangue Shade in the Dead Trenches, and the other during the Treacherous Path random encounter.
- Although Misdirection Hex is one of greater shades' available spells, the target of this spell in their AI package is set to "self", rather than a hostile target. Furthermore, they actually cannot do the cast animation of Misdirection Hex, and so the spell would never go off, and would not be put on cooldown. This means they would attempt to cast the spell several times in quick succession, resulting in several feedback messages appearing at the same time (as well as wasting several times the actual activation cost).
- The greater shade in the abandoned campsite in the West Brecilian Forest does not have any of a typical shade's spells. It also uses the AI package of an Ash Wraith, and its creature file specifies that it is of boss rank, rather than lieutenant. It has a minimum level of 10.
- Like rage demons, shades will often rise up from the ground. However, instead of sinking back down with a black outline, they dissipate into a cloud of grayish-black substance, which disappears in seconds.
A Shade in Dragon Age II
A Shade in Dragon Age: Inquisition
A Greater Shade in Dragon Age: Inquisition
Concept artwork of a Shade
A Shade in Heroes of Dragon Age