From PathfinderWiki

Small town
18% hryngars,2 16% morlocks, 14% drathnelars,3 12% drow,4 11% zombies, 7% deros, 22% others
Source: Lord of the Black Sands, pg(s). 63

Shraen, originally called Xul-Varathun, is a vast city in the Vault known as the Black Desert, in Orv, deepest layer of the Darklands, home to the undead drow of House Shraen, who are immune to the blightburn radiation that suffuses the Black Desert.5


Shraen is divided into three sections. The Central District, where trade takes place, is the only section open to visitors. The drow and their slaves reside in the Forbidden District to the east. The monster-haunted ruins in the north and west are collectively called the Lost District; the drow sometimes send slaves there to scavenge materials, but otherwise avoid it.6

Shraen's architecture is similar to that of Ancient Osirion, consisting of pyramids and tall towers with spires. The very tallest of these towers reach up to the radioactive blightburn-caked vault ceiling, 3,000 feet above.78

The city is home to or near the Black Desert's many natural hazards, including burning blightburn crystals in the vault ceiling above, pools of quickdeath gas that surround the city, and the Cradle of Purple Worms.9


The drow of House Shraen are divided into five factions: the Bone Lilies, the Dream Spinners, the Order of the Scales, the Sunscar Oath, and the White Shrouds.10 The sisters Zyra and Nyrinda Shraen are officially Shraen's absolute rulers, but have neither the time nor the interest to be involved in everything, so the city's factions are allowed significant autonomy to conduct activities without their approval. Nevertheless, Zyra and Nyrinda always weigh in matters that affect the whole city, and retain the option to call a vote when deciding on controversial issues. After the faction leaders cast their votes, the sisters decide the outcome.6

The faction leaders only meet when necessary, which might be once in several years or even decades. Since 4710 AR, due to increasing urdefhan activity, the leaders have been forced to spend more time and resources to deal with the problem.6


More than ten millennia ago, the xulgaths first spread from Deep Tolguth to the Black Desert (then called Vask) and built the town of Xul-Varathun beneath a blazing orb that shone like a beacon, which served as a foothold for their expansion into Vask. In 1 AR, Aroden removed the orb from Xul-Varathun and four others across Vask; without the orbs' protection, the city's population was devastated by blightburn radiation. The survivors fled to other vaults and black sands encroached upon Xul-Varathun, but the city was too large for the desert to entirely reclaim.5

In 820 AR, after being exiled from Zirnakaynin, the undead drow of House Shraen discovered the ruins of Xul-Varathun, settled there and renamed the city after their family name. Apart from the construction of a few buildings and fortifications, the city has seen few changes since then.5 Initially, the drow were divided into six factions under the uneasy leadership of Shariza Shraen, the highest-ranking cleric of Urgathoa and leader of the White Shrouds. When the Shraens realised that they were no longer vulnerable to outside threats, the Sisters of Oblivion assassinated Shariza and proclaimed themselves Shraen's new leaders, before they themselves were destroyed by an alliance between the five other factions.6

In the aftermath of the coup, many nobles wanted to take control of Shraen, and the city was on the brink of civil war when Zyra and Nyrinda Shraen tricked the faction leaders into meeting in the Central Pyramid, then captured them and forced them to sign a pact that ensured equal rights between all factions, under the sisters' leadership. A few nobles opposed the pact but lacked support to take action, and Zyra and Nyrinda have proven to be shrewd leaders, so the political landscape has been relatively stable for millennia.6


The vast majority of Shraen's population are slaves of the ruling drow, who number only around 200. The drow recognise that they need to be able to adapt to threats to survive, and welcome traders and performers from other Darklands communities, with the exception of urdefhans and ghouls, who are forbidden from entering Shraen due to the drow's long-standing feuds with nearby urdefhan cults and the ghouls of Nemret Noktoria.58 In recent years, in order to respond to the urdefhan threat, Shraen's leaders have been forced to recruit more soldiers for their armies, almost tripling the city's slave population and bringing an influx of traders and entertainers to the city. In order to maintain their control, the government exercises control over healing magic, which mitigates the harmful effects of blightburn radiation on the living.6

The undead drow of House Shraen have tamed and domesticated the purple worms, enclosing them in stalls of stalagmites and walls of force and training them as mounts. Zyra and Nyrinda Shraen fetch these worms for other drow to ride above and below the Black Desert's surface.8

About 100 covetous skaveling-mounted urdefhans, led by War Champion Urserf, inhabit fortified camps near Shraen. The urdefhans want Shraen as a base, and their increasingly large assaults have killed a number of drow slaves.8

The revenant Weylin Shraen, once part of House Shraen, inhabits the Renegade Tower west of the city.8


Paizo published a gazetteer of Shraen in Lord of the Black Sands.

  1. The city's population grew from 700 in Into the Darklands to this number in Lord of the Black Sands; the reason is assumed to be because 'Within the last decade [...] Shraen's slave population has nearly tripled' (Lord of the Black Sands p. 63)
  2. Paizo referred to hryngars as duergar until the publication of Highhelm and the Sky King's Tomb Pathfinder Adventure Path.
  3. Paizo referred to drathnelars (umbral gnomes) as svirfneblin (deep gnomes) until the publication of Mantle of Gold.
  4. Paizo retroactively removed drow from the Pathfinder campaign setting as part of the Pathfinder Second Edition Remaster Project. A canon replacement for drow in this context might not exist. See Meta:Drow.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Mikko Kallio. Shraen Gazetteer” in Lord of the Black Sands, 61. Paizo Inc., 2020
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Mikko Kallio. Shraen Gazetteer” in Lord of the Black Sands, 63. Paizo Inc., 2020
  7. James Jacobs & Greg A. Vaughan. Orv” in Into the Darklands, 47. Paizo Inc., 2008
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Benjamin Bruck, et al. “Chapter 2: Places of Myth” in Mythic Realms, 22. Paizo Inc., 2013
  9. Benjamin Bruck, et al. “Chapter 2: Places of Myth” in Mythic Realms, 21. Paizo Inc., 2013
  10. Mikko Kallio. Shraen Gazetteer” in Lord of the Black Sands, 65. Paizo Inc., 2020