Your hand touches the cold slate that lines the portal. In a disorienting flash, you stumble through to the other side. A pallid landscape is all that greets you, almost as if color has been drained from every last detail. A mysterious sultry voice appears in your mind, “Hello traveler, welcome to the Realm of Shadows. Care to join me for a meal?”
Scent development is an incredible and fulfilling artform, especially when it comes to composing a fragrance that evokes a fantasy location. After designing Forest of Fae a couple of years ago, our mind immediately started planeshifting to the Shadowfell. What does that even smell like? A popular setting for many campaigns, these “Planes of Dread” are often characterized as devoid of life and unsettling.
We took inspiration for Realm of Shadows from many sources, but kept coming back to a couple of images for my main scent palette: Count Strahd in his castle, and Persephone’s journey into the Underworld. When designing a scent for a fantasy setting, we like to find some realistic touchstones to begin with, and then add other fragrance oils for vibes.From the very beginning we knew we wanted pomegranate in this scent; it’s tart, juicy, and seductive. It evokes a bright red color, representing danger and passion. We then wanted to bring in a grounding scent, much like the loamy soil smell in Forest of Fae. Wet slate was the perfect amount of clean and desolate that we needed. The combo of these two fragrances was already good, but it needed more depth and character.
Oud, a warm and inviting wood smell, provided a luxury/old world vibe that really elevated the scent. I could imagine Strahd sitting in his dining room at a massive ornate wooden table set with delectable foods and the best wines. Rich textiles and decorations adorn the space. The picture was almost complete. At this point, it felt like we needed something else to bring more darkness and unease to the scent. Enter the star… Anise! While it’s an arguably divisive flavor (not everyone loves black licorice) it added the perfect note to the overall blend. The sweet/spicy vibe from the star anise, balances against the juicy/tart notes of the pomegranate beautifully, while the warm oud and wet slate stabilize the entire scent. This is the point where we knew we had finally arrived in the Realm of Shadows.
In the end, Realm of Shadows is a luxurious scent made from a symphony of olfactory delights. It’s a true meal for the senses, and adds the perfect amount of tantalizing danger to your campaign. We had a blast designing a scent for this setting, and look forward to the next adventure! Where will it take us this time?