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A caravan passes through Nidal.


Land of Shadows
Militaristic theocracy
Source: Nidal, Land of Shadows, pg(s). 1–63 (1E)
World Guide, pg(s). 102–103 (2E)

Nidal (pronounced NYE-dohl)1 is one of the oldest surviving nations of Avistan, having been founded during the early years of the Age of Darkness nearly 10,000 years ago. Due to an ancient pact made out of desperate necessity, it has been controlled throughout its entire recorded history by the followers of a single deity: Zon-Kuthon. It is a shadowy land of furtive whispers ruled by the immortal Black Triune whose populace is closely watched by the clergy of the Dark Prince, lest they stray from his heinous teachings.2



Nidal is one of the oldest civilizations in Avistan and its citizens are able to trace their recorded history all the way back to the opening years of the Age of Darkness, something which no other human culture can claim. Little is known of the people who inhabited the lands between the Menador and Mindspin Mountains before Earthfall. Known simply as the horselords, they were Kellid humans with tanned skin and dark hair who lived a semi-nomadic life following their herds in the waning years of the Age of Legend. Shamans advised them on spiritual matters while warlords ruled the tribes, and they buried their dead beneath great stone cairns. Many of their gods have long since been forgotten, although some gave homage to Gozreh as the master of the verdant plains that were their home, or Desna as the protector of travelers and dreamers.234

The ancient Nidalese had few permanent settlements, preferring to travel between well-stocked outposts where they bred their horses. Their horse-breeding traditions were an envy to their neighbors, and they regarded their mounts more like family members than livestock.4


Earthfall brought death, catastrophe, and calamity to everyone on Golarion, and in the chaos that followed, the chieftains of the horselords sought desperately to save what was left of their people. While others fled underground to live off roots and grubs, three chieftains knew that this would mean leaving their precious horses behind; this they would not tolerate.45 Left with no other options, they gathered on the Weeping Fields of what is now southeastern Nidal and prayed to their now forgotten gods. They begged to be saved from the terrible darkness that had spread across the planet, but received no answer. Instead, Zon-Kuthon, freshly released from his age-long imprisonment on the Plane of Shadow, offered them a simple deal: their survival in exchange for their people's eternal obedience. In desperation, the chiefs agreed and were transformed into the immortal Black Triune, while their followers and their descendants ever since have been yoked to the will of the dark god.23 As the only stable human realm, Nidal received refugees from Azlant and Thassilon in the years that followed, and all who pledged their loyalty to Zon-Kuthon were welcome.4

A new government

Nidal's society changed radically during the early part of the Age of Darkness as Kuthite worship became its central focus. The Black Triune gave rise to a new elite known as the Umbral Court, who became the Triune's eyes and ears. Increasingly obsessed with their own byzantine pursuits and disinterested in the troubles of others, the government and people of Nidal became insular and cut themselves off from the outside world.4

Failed invasion of Jol

In 4100 AR, worshipers of Zon-Kuthon arrived in Jol in the Lands of the Linnorm Kings in an attempt to put the locals under the Zon-Kuthon's control. This ultimately failed, leading to the torture and death of the Kuthites.6

The Everwar

Nidal's 9,000 years of insularity came to an abrupt halt when it was invaded in 4305 AR by Imperial Cheliax during their campaign of colonial expansion known as the Everwar. Despite their perceived decadence, the Nidalese proved capable of defending their homeland, earning a fearsome reputation when they would send the surviving invaders home in pieces. The fighting dragged out for 30 years, but Cheliax under the leadership of Emperor Haliad III was able to bring the Black Triune to the negotiating table in 4338 AR, even though Zon-Kuthon seemed to be withholding his most terrifying forces from the battles.24

The Shadowbreak

Once firmly under Cheliax's boot, a most-unusual flowering of trade and culture (given Nidal's otherwise extremely insular nature) occurred between the two nations, incrementally pulling Cheliax closer to the outlook and ideals of the Midnight Lord. This increase of Nidalese values in Cheliax was so great that some wondered if the invasion itself was just a cunning trap laid by Zon-Kuthon to lead Cheliax to darkness and evil.275

In Nidal, this period was known as the Shadowbreak, and was marked by a moderation of the Kuthite's cruelest excesses, the exchange of ideas between scholars in both countries, and the opening of the House of Lies.4


Nidal nevertheless bristled under Chelish dominance for approximately the next 300 years. It was not until the death of Cheliax's patron god, Aroden, in 4606 AR and the subsequent Chelish Civil War, that Nidal regained its independence. Having never strayed from the worship of Zon-Kuthon, Nidal did not suffer the same social turmoil caused by the death of Aroden as its neighbors and soon the Umbral Court made a deal to support the Hell-backed House of Thrune. In exchange, the leaders of House Thrune promised to withdraw all Chelish agents from Nidal should they win the conflict. With Nidal's support (and that of countless bound devils and velstracs), House Thrune finally put down all other comers and ascended to the throne of Cheliax in 4640 AR. Abrogail Thrune (now Queen Abrogail I) honored their agreement, and Nidal has been independent ever since.28

The Shadowbreak came to an abrupt end at the same time, and more moderate Kuthites were purged from the clergy and the Umbral Court. The Black Triune once again took direct control of the government and established the Adamant Guard to protect the nation from foreign threats.4


Shadowy perils of the Uskwood.
See also: Category:Nidal/Geography

Nidal has never prioritized expanding its territory. Its borders are considered divinely mandated and have remained unchanged since the days of the Black Triune's pact with the Midnight Lord.5 The nation sits on the western coast of Avistan, with Nisroch Bay and Conqueror's Bay forming its coastline, and beyond that by vast Arcadian Ocean. To the south lies Cheliax, Nidal's former infernal master, and to the north across the Mindspin Mountains lie the frontier lands of Varisia. Finally, to the east lies the newly founded hobgoblin nation of Oprak and beyond it the warring kingdoms of Molthune and Nirmathas. Nidal is largely cut off from its neighbours by the Mindspin Mountains to the north and east and the Menador Mountains to the south.910

A deep gloom pervades all of Nidal thanks to the Midnight Lord's presence, and colors seem to fade as one moves inland from the nation's borders, giving everything a monochromatic appearance.5 The northern plains of Nidal are known as the Atteran Ranches, rolling hills inhabited by horse ranchers and farmers whose families have lived there since the Age of Darkness.8 Its main route to the outside world is via the sea, with most of Nidal's sea traffic coming through the heavily policed port of Nisroch. The main geographical feature dominating inland Nidal is the Uskwood: a vast, shady forest and the subject of many dark rumours. Beneath the Uskwood's shady boughs lies Nidal's capital city of Pangolais, where it is said the trees grow so dense that it is nearly impossible to tell day from night.2118


Pangolais, the Nidalese capital city.

The Umbral Court

Nidal is run by the sinister Umbral Court, the shadow-touched aristocracy who have ruled the nation on behalf of the Black Triune since the Age of Darkness. Ever since the current Umbral Court's distant ancestors made their binding pact with the Midnight Lord, they have lived only to strictly enforce and promote the sadistic values of Zon-Kuthon. Any disagreement or questioning of these edicts is harshly punished by the Umbral Court or its agents, as is the worship of any other deity (particularly Zon-Kuthon's main rival, Desna). Few have the courage to stand against the whims of even the most minor member of the Umbral Court for to do so normally means death in the most horrific manner.285

The Umbral Court is closely connected with Nidal's other primary sources of authority, including Zon-Kuthon's church, the pale druids of the Uskwood, and the magical academies that train Nidalese shadowcallers and shadowbinders. Although these organizations are separate, they do overlap, and their objectives sometimes clash. The Shades of the Uskwood druids, in particular, hold little regard for the Chelish alliance and would rather see the government's full focus return entirely to Nidal.5

Umbral Court agents

Very few Kuthites have been gifted by their god to be members of the ruling Umbral Court, but many more operate as Umbral Court agents on behalf of their government, both at home and abroad. These agents live quite openly in the cities of Ridwan and Pangolais, but can be found working in secret throughout the country. Some work as consuls or diplomats, while others are agitators, spies, or agent provocateurs who root out heresies and seek to purify the nation. Those who work outside of Nidal generally insinuate themselves into positions of power where they can subtly steer policies that favor their home country and glorify their patron god.12

Foreign relations

Nidal still has close ties with the nation of Cheliax. Rather than viewing itself as a vassal, Nidal sees its role as that of a trusted advisor to a like-minded friend, and believes that Cheliax could benefit from some encouragement to embrace even greater cruelty.13 It sends shadow magic-trained magic-users named shadowcasters to support the infernal regime.8 These loaned shadowcasters are known as the Midnight Guard.14


Nidal specializes in exporting silver jewelry, glasswork, and other exquisite luxuries. It imports slaves, wines, and gourmet delicacies, yet it maintains a significant level of self-sufficiency.15


A woman bearing Nidaelese shadow piercings.
See also: Category:Nidal/Inhabitants

The inhabitants of Nidal live beneath the shadow of a pact made in the dark days of ancient history. They are still fulfilling their part of that pact to this day, and from earliest childhood they are taught to regard pain as sacred and suffering as joy. Their most sacred duty is to continually refine and intensify these sensations into sacraments. Farmers, fisherfolk, and artisans follow Zon-Kuthon's teachings while raising their small, tightly-knit families under his influence. Despite their possible desire for a different way of life, they have long been under the Midnight Lord's rule and can envision no other existence. In this land, hope is perilous, and a somber but stable peace seems to be the safer choice.5

The nation's enduring stability has allowed families to refine their skills for generations, resulting in Nidalese glass, intricate jewelry, and ornamental metalwork that are unparalleled in Avistan. Furthermore, as the sole civilization in the Inner Sea region to survive Earthfall's destruction, Nidal serves as a repository for unique lore found nowhere else in the world. Presently, scholars of history and religion embark on pilgrimages to Nidal's dark cities, braving the Midnight Lord's regime in exchange for the opportunity to study one-of-a-kind archives exclusive to the Inner Sea region.5

People of the Atteran plains

In the gray-grassed Atteran plains, far from the cities, resides a resilient and proud people who are descendants of the original Nidalese horselords. They have preserved many of their ancestral traditions to this day. These clans are renowned for their swift and courageous horses, which are highly prized across the Inner Sea. Their strong cultural ties to ancient Nidal grant them a measure of freedom not experienced by others in the shadowbound land, but even they do not directly challenge the Umbral Court. Amidst the Atteran Ranches, there are also devotees of Desna who call themselves Dreamers. These idealists carry a guarded hope that one day they might find a way to break Zon-Kuthon's hold on their homeland.5


Empyreans are quite rare in Nidal, as they are seen by the government as natural focal points for insurrection. Families who give birth to such children either quickly learn to hide their unusual features, or else sell the children into slavery at a high price. The very few empyreans who reach adulthood in Nidal either become corrupted and turn evil, or become subversives hoping to bring down the tyrannical government.1617

Other peoples and creatures

Nidalese inmates.

In addition to its human inhabitants, Nidal is home to peoples and creatures originally from or influenced by Zon-Kuthon's home on the Plane of Shadow.118 These include nightshades, occasionally summoned by the spellcasting faithful of Zon-Kuthon,18 significant populations of caligni, kayal (also known as fetchlings), and velstracs. The caligni trace their origins back to an Azlanti settlement known as Old Calignos. They have created their unique traditions, drawing from ancient Azlant accounts, within the broader context of Nidalese culture. The kayal are descendants of humans stranded on the Shadow Plane long ago and transformed by its magic. They prefer to assimilate into human society to the best of their ability.5 Nidal is also home to one of the largest populations of shackleborn cambions,19 the result of carnal entanglements between mortals and the fiendish velstracs.20

In Nidal, velstracs and light-averse undead, like vampires, openly display their natures and often hold positions of privilege, leveraging their power and the fear they evoke in others.5

The Menador Mountains are particularly infamous for being the home of many fell creatures, including several umbral dragons.21 A number of shadow giant families have also made their home in some of the nation's wilder corners at the direct invitation of the Umbral Court. When not assigned tasks by the country's rulers, these giants generally keep to themselves and practice their unspeakable rites.22 Finally, Nidal is also home to undead raveners and wights.2324


Zon-Kuthon's unholy symbol.

Nidal is a monotheistic theocracy ruled by a hereditary aristocracy who receive a direct divine mandate from a single god: Zon-Kuthon. It is, therefore, not hard to imagine that all other religions are banned, although many are still practiced in secret.8 Of all of them, the worship of Desna is of particular note, and its followers even have their own name for themselves: the Whispered Song. The Whispered Song works in utter secrecy to give hope to Nidal's oppressed commoners, and are even believed to have infiltrated the Umbral Court itself.25

The church's direct connections to Zon-Kuthon grants them some powerful allies, including several umbral dragons who serve as advisors, guardians, mounts, and assassins.26


Paizo published an extensive guide to Nidal titled Nidal, Land of Shadows.

For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.

  1. Erik Mona, et al. “Appendices” in Campaign Setting, 247. Paizo Inc., 2008
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Erik Mona, et al. “Chapter 2: The Inner Sea” in Campaign Setting, 110. Paizo Inc., 2008
  3. 3.0 3.1 Liane Merciel, et al. “Living in Shadow” in Nidal, Land of Shadows, 11. Paizo Inc., 2018
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 Liane Merciel, et al. “Living in Shadow” in Nidal, Land of Shadows, 4–5. Paizo Inc., 2018
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 Erik Mona, et al. Old Cheliax” in World Guide, 102–103. Paizo Inc., 2019
  6. Matthew Goodall, et al. “The Linnorm Kingdoms” in Lands of the Linnorm Kings, 5. Paizo Inc., 2011
  7. Jonathan H. Keith, et al. Cheliax” in Cheliax, Empire of Devils, 4. Paizo Inc., 2009
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 134–135. Paizo Inc., 2011
  9. Erik Mona, et al. Campaign Setting, Poster Map. Paizo Inc., 2008
  10. Erik Mona, et al. “Overview” in World Guide, 11. Paizo Inc., 2019
  11. 11.0 11.1 Erik Mona, et al. “Chapter 2: The Inner Sea” in Campaign Setting, 111. Paizo Inc., 2008
  12. Benjamin Bruck, et al. Paths of Prestige, 58–59. Paizo Inc., 2012
  13. Erik Mona, et al. Old Cheliax” in World Guide, 98. Paizo Inc., 2019
  14. Liane Merciel. Nightglass, 172. Paizo Inc., 2012
  15. Erik Mona, et al. Old Cheliax” in World Guide, 105. Paizo Inc., 2019
  16. Amber E. Scott. “Blood of Angels” in Blood of Angels, 4. Paizo Inc., 2012
  17. Amber E. Scott. “Aasimar Heritages” in Blood of Angels, 22. Paizo Inc., 2012
  18. Amber Stewart, et al. Nightshade” in Undead Revisited, 37–38. Paizo Inc., 2011
  19. Paizo referred to cambion planar scions as tieflings until the publication of Player Core. These cambions are unrelated to the type of demon with the same name.
  20. Colin McComb & Hal Maclean. “Tiefling Heritages” in Blood of Fiends, 22. Paizo Inc., 2012
  21. Sean K Reynolds & Greg A. Vaughan. “Bestiary” in Skeletons of Scarwall, 88. Paizo Inc., 2008
  22. Jim Groves, et al. Inner Sea Bestiary, 15. Paizo Inc., 2012
  23. Amber Stewart, et al. Ravener” in Undead Revisited, 43. Paizo Inc., 2011
  24. Amber Stewart, et al. Wight” in Undead Revisited, 62. Paizo Inc., 2011
  25. Colin McComb. “Organizations” in Faiths of Purity, 23. Paizo Inc., 2011
  26. Greg A. Vaughan. “Skeletons of Scarwall” in Skeletons of Scarwall, 33. Paizo Inc., 2008