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Drow, also known as dark elves,[5] were a dark-skinned sub-race of elves that predominantly lived in the Underdark. They earned their reputation as evil people, with all justification,[8] though some members with more neutral disposition did exist, as did an even smaller number of actually good members.[9][10] On the surface, the drow were sometimes referred to as "The Ones Who Went Below".[11]

DescriptionEdit

In many ways, drow resembled eladrin.[12]

Height and WeightEdit

They were shorter than many other sub-races of elves, and while there was no average height difference between male and female drow, males were on average a bit heavier. They usually varied in height from four feet seven inches to five feet five inches and weighed from 80 to 155 pounds on average.[7][13]

ColorationEdit

Drow had skin of dark grey to obsidian color and white or yellow hair.[14][13] Rare hair colors included copper and silver,[12] the latter believed to be a sign of a mentally handicapped person, a superstition.[15]

Female drow with blonde hues indicated the drow in question was of an older age. Elder male drow had naturally silvering hair. This hair was carefully groomed and cared for by most drow and worn long with jewelry and other accessories decorating it. Like all elves, drow were incapable of growing beards, though many males were fond of long sideburns.[12]

Drow eyes were usually bright red, but some had different colored, often much paler eyes such as blue, lilac, pink and silver[13] - these pale eyes were often so pale that they appeared to be white - [14] in fact, their eye color could be of practically any color.[16] Sometimes a drow's eyes could even be green or blue, which meant that that particular drow had some surface elven blood in their veins.[citation needed]

Attractive LooksEdit

Drow looked attractive,[12] especially their nobles.[14] This wasn't a coincidence but the result of selective breeding over several generations.[13] Meeting beauty standards of surface races was surmised to be the most important reason, that surface dwellers were prone to turn a blind eye on the drow race's deeds and allow inclusion in surface communities.[17]

ReproductionEdit

Drow had a reputation - even among themselves - to be more fertile than other elves,[18] their bodies' actual fertility was no different than other elves', but they owned a higher readiness to birth as many children as possible during their lives.[19] Their constant strife kept their numbers low.[18]

An interesting thing about birth was that, when different subraces of elves intermarried, there was an equal chance for the child to inherent either of the parents' traits.[20] The resulting child had usually both a psychological quirk to favor the drow parent over the other one[21] and a genetic quirk to be more likely to parent a drow, when there was a chance for it.[22] It was a trait the dark elves shared too.[23]

They were also capable of parenting half-drow with humans.[24] This parentage gave these half-elves no different powers than other half-elves as a general rule, exceptions existed who did gain some powers through their parentage.[25][26] Regarding reproduction, like any other sort of half-elves, the "2-generation-rule" applied to half-drow too.[27]

LifespanEdit

Drow had lifespans far beyond those of humans and comparable with the rest of the elven race, although usually somewhat longer. This was, of course, presuming the drow didn't meet a premature and violent end, as many often did, but those that survived the trials of their society and the horrors of the Underdark could live for centuries,[12] with a natural lifespan of up to 750 years.[7]

AbilitiesEdit

Drow ranger

A drow ranger.

Drow had many other special abilities that differentiated them from other races, including other Tel-quessir.

Physical AbilitiesEdit

Drow were more agile and alluring than most humanoid races.[12]

Like all elves, drow required no sleep but instead entered a meditative trance throughout which they retained full awareness of their surroundings. This state was half-again more efficient than the way in which most races gained rest.[12][28]

Magical AbilitiesEdit

Drow had a tremendous resistance to magic[13][29] and owned a number of abilities unique to them.

LolthtouchedEdit

Whether Lolth ever blessed the drow with anything wasn't very clear, the most distinctive feature of drow, however, was what was called the touch of Lolth.[12] It manifested itself in a number of abilities. For example in the cloud of darkness, that enshrouded the drow in darkness that was impossible to see through but the user and darkfire, that made creatures an easier target, encasing them in something that looked like purple fire, though causing no harm.[12]

Using these two abilities tired a drow slightly and they seemed to be charged from the same source and only more experienced and well-trained drow, could cast both abilities separately.[30]

Yet others, particularly drow who were well-favored by Lolth, manifested another ability that both slowed and impeded a foe, while also making it more difficult for them to see. Some individuals learned to awaken these powers further, becoming known as the curseborn and possessing abilities that allowed them to further master the shadow power granted by the Spider Queen, for whatever ends. Other drow struggled to rid themselves of Lolth's touch and instead sought Corellon's aid, eventually becoming crusaders of the fey god within the dark realms of their race, gaining blessings of healing and light from the patron of the elves. Either path led to great power and granted even more unique abilities to an individual drow.[31]

Dancing LightsEdit

Drow owned the ability to naturally cast dancing lights.[13][29][28] Apart from its obvious use as light source, it was used to divert attention, shock others with the sudden appearance of a glowing figure, or shocking them with the sudden appearance of will-o'-wisp-like light balls. Teaming up with actual will-o'-wisps to make this more effective was also known.[32]

DarknessEdit

Drow owned the ability to naturally cast darkness.[13][29][28] Apart from its obvious use to cancel others' light sources. This ability was an integral part of drow combat. While the ability itself couldn't cause damage, it was used to limit sight or otherwise hamper enemies,[33] creative uses revolved around the fact that darkness looked like black stone. For example, drow could be hiding behind the "black stone" and ambush enemies out of it or the "black stone" could turn out to be a covered-up pit fall.[32] An entire branch of martial arts of the drow concerned itself with the use of darkness, the kyone veldrin style.[33]

Faerie FireEdit

Drow owned the ability to naturally cast faerie fire.[13][29][28] Apart from its obvious use, it was used to force enemies to pay attention or divert it and the color changing property was exploited as handy color signals to convey information over long distances.[32]

OthersEdit

The observation was that some drow had more abilities, like those of getting an idea about a person's mental inclination, as detect good, detecting magic detect magic or to levitate.[34][35] Holders of these abilities formed the noble class of drow society. These abilities seemed to be a dominant trait.[19]

PsychologyEdit

Drow had reputation to consist entirely of evil people. This reputation mostly matched reality with a few exceptions few and far between.[36][8][37][16]

Drow were arrogant, ambitious, sadistic, treacherous and hedonistic. From birth, drow were taught they were superior to other races and should crush those beneath them. Children who resisted and showed kindness or love were brutally punished, so as to beat the instinct for cruelty into them.[38]

It was important to recognize that the drow race's evil wasn't of inherent nature.[39] Unlike for example orcs, who suffered from an inherent drive towards evil, elves like drow chose by themselves to turn their culture into what it became.[40] Leading to a race of emotionally stunted people,[19] with a tenuous grasp on sanity and scarred mentalities among which relatively undamaged minds were considered abnormal.[39] Luckily for them, them meeting the surface's beauty standards gave them a comparatively easy time to be accepted into communities there. (see Attractive Looks)

CrueltyEdit

As a general rule, drow didn’t feel emotions like compassion or love. They were distrustful sadists with a constant readiness to backstab people, both in the figurative and actual sense.[16]

Children who showed kindness or love were brutally punished, so as to beat the instinct for cruelty into them.[38]

HedonismEdit

Drow were hedonists. They loved beautiful things and surrounded themselves with what they considered beautiful and generally didn’t pay attention at how much it’d cost them. This also extended to their behavior. Drow generally believed they were entitled to do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted to do it.[16]

They often partook of lavish revels, indulging in the most pleasurable of activities, including long nights of dinner and massages.[41] Some drow were fond of dances, including the frenzied nedeirra competition[42] or the illiyitrii, a formal dance sometimes involving costumes.[43]

On TrustEdit

Drow were taught from an early age to be distrustful of others. Like in any other culture, drow culture expected one to advance at the expenses of others. The difference was that unlike other cultures, there were no rules for how the "expenses of others" have to look like, acceptable forms included treachery and even outright murder.[44][16]

While drow did understand the value of forging bonds,[37] they didn’t see a value in the virtue of honesty.[16] Forming bonds was thus a dangerous endeavor and mostly of temporary nature. Because any alliance or cordial relationship could end in treachery, drow went into with the expectation for the worst,[37] and this attitude showed itself. Alliances were generally formed when one considered the ally weak enough to be not a too dangerous threat, be susceptible to blackmail or there was a common enemy that forced into cooperation. Even formed alliances were under scrutiny for signs of treachery and often ended violently.[36] In fact, simple inconvenience to maintain the bond was a reason to end their loyalty.[16]

Even drow who escaped the cruelties of the Underdark found it more difficult to form long-term friendships than most races do.[12]

Superiority ComplexEdit

Drow believed themselves to be the apex creature. Their treatment towards members of other races ran the entire gamut from pets,[45] slave to grudgingly respected partners when they proved themselves a military match for them, though never equals in their minds.[16]

Most drow shared a hatred of all other races, especially surface races, the object of true hatred was the Seldarine and the surface elves,[14] "Darthiir" in Drow.[citation needed] It was the only thing that united them as a species, leading them to yearn for a return to the surface that would defeat the surface elves.[citation needed]

OtherEdit

Drow had an admiration for stealth and guile, and works of great skill. They were encouraged to become warriors or arcane spellcasters, if male, and wielders of divine powers, if female. Drow scouts were also valuable for the early warnings of threats they could provide in the tunnels of the Underdark.[36] An assassin was prestigious in drow culture.[46] Drow were also known for their alluring appearance, which could be used for seduction but was more likely used as a tool of fear.[12]

Culture/SocietyEdit

Drow

A typical female drow.

Drow lived in city-states with an aristocracy within a theocratic, matriarchal and militaristic society.

City-StatesEdit

Drow lived in city-states formed in huge caverns in the Underdark,[16] and had trade relationships but were mostly at war with one another. While called “city-states“, drow didn’t form states. These cities were badly organized, in fact they weren’t cities but more clusters of drow, with the most powerful family groups taking the best lands and resources for themselves,[46] who then formed the “city’s“ nobility.[16] These cities were ruled by the most powerful of the families (or houses) and although the power of the many families changed often, the top few usually remained stable. Desperation, oppression and poverty, were the general rule in such a city.[46] The standard drow city paralyzed its own growth through infighting.[47]

These noble Houses were in close physical vicinity to each other within these families’, more precisely the within the strongest’s, territory was usually a public temple to Lolth.[46]

Drow cities tended to provide a chaotic and messy sight because they didn’t care to have a uniform architecture style.[46] Still, their architecture was considered something to marvel at[16] and more wealthy holdings got faerie fire decoration.[46]

These cities had farm land, where slaves worked to get meat and crops.[46] As a rule of thumb, half to two-third of a given drow settlement’s population consisted of slaves or non-drow without rights.[16]

DefensesEdit

Drow chose places with strong faerzress for their cities.[48]

It provided them from magical spying via divination and also made it difficult, or even dangerous, to teleport into their cities[49]

Furthermore, the faerzress allowed them cheap and easy creation of magic items called drowcraft items,[50] as well as other ways to use the radiation for defensive purposes.[47]

TheocracyEdit

Drow cities were ruled by the priestesses.[16] Drow priestesses saw their meaning of life in pleasing a goddess. They hoped to gain the favor of their goddess and enforced by violence others into compliance with their goddess' dogma,[51] it resulted into a society where "might makes right" was the only "law".[52]

The priestesses fulfilled the function of judges and other judicial functions, this may sound bizarre or even idiotic given the aforementioned lawless state of drow society.[51] In practice, something that was called "laws" did exist in drow society. Priestesses saw it as their right to arrest and punish people in ways she made up on the spot for some offense, when they got caught. Concepts such as presumption of innocence didn't exist and not good lawyers and defense but believable clarification by the suspected criminals about their connections that could lead to retribution against the punishing priestess was the basis of lessened or no punishment.[52]

Male ClergyEdit

Male clerics did exist. In Lolth-dominated cities, they were the targets of their female fellows and Lolth barred them from strong powers. They served in low-ranking positions under lethal risks.[22] While they could even become divine champions or divine disciples, becoming this, made it acceptable for priestesses to kill them.[53]

Other drow religions, Eilistraee,[54] Ghaunadaur[19] and Vhaeraun didn't have a gender barrier.[55]

MatriarchyEdit

Lolth’s dogma mandated to recognize female drow as more valuable than male ones, in fact they were considered worthless. This gave female drow practically all power in the theocratic society of drow and were also less likely to be sacrificed than males.[19] Males who hoped to find any place of power in society often resorted to ends as treacherous as the women that ruled the drow, hoping to perhaps win a coveted place as the mate of a powerful matron mother.[38]

Arcane magic was a route for power for male drow, though it was a route allowed only to a few. While they were still socially inferior to every female drow, they weren’t in real danger of being killed by a priestess, while even accomplished male war commanders were in danger of being executed for perceived insults.[19]

It would be easy to imagine that drow females, by comparison, had it much easier, but this was an illusion, and their prestigious position within society came at a high cost. In fact, the teachings of Lolth and the drive to gain more power over others made competition between female drow, particularly those who belonged to powerful houses, violently competitive in a way that males did not have to cope with. Matters were even worse for those who sought power through venues outside of Lolth's church, where the females had to compete not only with one another but with resentful and oppressed males.[56]

Courting and LoveEdit

Courting was the domain of drow women in drow society, trying to initiate a relationship was a reason for execution by torture and then sacrifice for a male drow. The standards applied for selection purpose by the females were reminiscent to those of selection of breeding animals.[19]

Furthermore once a relationship started, the male partner was in no way an equal partner. He had no say in how long a relationship should last or whether it should even start. The woman on the other hand could switch between partners as she desired.[19]

When the drow man was desired by more than one female, the women were in competition to one another over the man, who normally wasn’t safe from damage. A sign to clarify for a female drow in this situation that she lost interest in the rivalry was to skin the male one and drop the corpse before the room of the other rival.[19]

The secret of a working long term relationship between drow wasn’t love but tangible reasons like a history of fathering many female offsprings and the likes. The best normal romantic relationship between two drow was one between a spoiled brat and her well trained obedient dog with the owner having all right to put the dog down for any reason.[19]

AristocracyEdit

Drow were ruled by their aristocracy. The nobles were family groups who had the violence to take the Normally, a noble House was ruled by a priestess of Lolth called Matron Mother.[46] They were generally founded by powerful drow individuals with special powers, who gave their traits to their offspring (see Others under Abilities) Nobles also augmented or substituted these abilities further with magic items.[19]

They were not only fighting each other,[29] with rankings shifting on a daily basis with the top few being more or less stable,[46] but also within a given family, where it was actually expected.[16]

These took the best lands and resources for themselves, and the rest was forced to care for themselves.[46] The Houses owned a standing army of drow soldiers, priestesses and wizards. What was special about these armies of noble Houses was the existence of contingents consisting solely of non-drow slaves, usually bugbears, ogres and minotaurs.[16]

Noble drow families were groups who primarily banded together for mutual protection and not out of affection. Drow were generally raised by elder siblings and private caretakers but not by their parents whom they only rarely saw, resulting into thin bonds between parents and children. Moreover drow parents were likely to sacrifice their children for some gain and infighting in a noble family was common and encouraged. Children remained at the side of their families because they were the one thing that kept them safe from the violence that didn’t originate from the parents and as adults because a family proved a good tool for societal advancement.[19]

CommonerEdit

Most members of drow society lived in perpetual desperation and poverty under oppression.[46] Noble drow valued commoner drow more than slaves and commonly sacrificed them only when a slave wasn’t at hand.[19]

The common way to rise up in society for commoners was to become the consort of a noble. These bonds were generally of temporary nature due to the noble getting tired with the individual, the commoner causing some kind of accident or being used as a figure of the noble. The outcome was either a painful death or expulsion - usually the former.[19]

A rarer way was to become skilled enough in a certain area and get adopted into a noble family for that skill. Zaknafein Do'Urden was such an example.[19]

As a general rule, commoners’ families didn’t have the resources to afford caretakers and thus childcare was done with inclusion of the entire extended family. Talented individuals could have a chance to enter one of the magic schools and others learned normal craft or entered military training.[19]

An interesting thing about commoners was, that they had a higher chance to live a long life than nobles resulting into families who have many living generations of members. This was because, unlike nobles, there wasn’t much to gain from killing an elder and the elders were a valuable source of historical and general knowledge with realistic accessibility.[19]

RelationshipsEdit

As mentioned before, drow expected betrayal from each other and acted according to it.[16]

The drow view on other races ran the entire gamut from potential slaves or the target of extermination as vermin.[16] While drow were capable of holding some respect towards races that were capable of repelling their military aggression, like the duergars or the illithids, none was considered an equal.[16] Drow often allied themselves with beholders or deep dragons or other powerful races found in the Underdark for extra protection.[46]

While drow did feel hatred against all other surface races for their supposed weakness, this hatred couldn’t match the one they felt towards surface elves, out of whom moon and sun elves held an even more special position of hatred. Traditional drow culture called for blind hatred towards them.[16] which was based on the idea, that they were unjustly cursed by the Seldarine, especially by Corellon Larethian. Although many drow thought this way, some had become so used to life in the Underdark that they would prefer to make the best of this realm and had no interest in the surface.[9][36]

This view resulted in an extreme thought process regarding other races. The drow race’s first idea on making new encounters was to rage war to subjugate or eradicate the others. Prisoners of such violent activities were the source of slaves in their cities with orcs, hobgoblins, ogres and other humanoids considered savage being the majority.[57]

However, some groups of drow worked to build better relationships with other races and claim back their place in Faerun. The followers of Vhaeraun were open to interaction and mutually beneficial agreements (for example involving trade) with races like humans,[58] meeting more success with more pragmatic groups that weren't on good terms with the elves (like Sembia[59]). They also didn't hesitate to cooperate with other races when it was favorable (as shown by the Dark Dagger[60] Some groups of Vhaeraunites even worked to re-establish a mutually beneficial cooperation between drow and elves (usually by intermarrying with elves of similar beliefs), as they believed that the only way to reclaim their birthright was to unify all the Tel'Quessir under the same banner.[61][62]

The followers of Eilistraee strove for the drow to live in harmony with other surface races, and to gain the friendship of those people by offering their help[62] (which gained them good relationships with the Harpers).[63] They managed to build their place within some elven communties like Elventree[64], while their attempts to rebuild the bridge with larger elven settlements like Evermeet were suffocated by the deep rift between the two races.[65] They also worked to be accepted within human communities, like Ravens Bluff [66] or Waterdeep (as of the 1490s DR, following Eilistraee's return[67][68] and personal appearance under the walls of the metropolis, gaining the backing of the Harpers in building a temple and community there[68]).

MilitaryEdit

Drow had a reputation to be good clerics, fighters, rogues and wizards.[36]

Clerical magic was the territory of drow women, arcane one of drow men.[36] This clear division was due to the favoritism of Lolth towards female drow,[46] and to drow women’s inferior compatibility with arcane magic.[69] Regarding divine magic, blackguards, divine champions, divine disciples and divine seekers were common because tying one’s power to Lolth made one’s life in drow society easier. Priestesses also became runecasters and wrote the protective runes for drow cities.[46]

They had a fascination with stealth and subtlety,[16] despite this bard magic wasn’t very common but it was appreciated, and schools that trained them alongside those for rogues did exist.[70] Rangers were valued scouts.[36]

This fascination with stealth had an interesting effect, while normally a known assassin was the equivalent of one with bad skill, drow society’s fascination was one which made the existence of (in)famous assassin schools that doubled as assassins’ guilds possible.[46]

Interestingly, even psionic schools, especially for psions and psychic warriors could exist in some cities.[46]

Combat StylesEdit

Drow favored mithral for their armor when it was affordable, but would always wear non-restrictive armors that would not hamper their natural dexterity. They also favored fast weapons like rapiers, and would choose hand crossbows when possible, to deliver their poisons from a distance. The most popular poison on the drow hand crossbow was the drow knockout potion that put the target to sleep.[57] Drow had a number of combat styles, they taught among their own:

  • Draa Velve: was a two-sword style, mastering it was only possible for those with talent and luxury to enjoy formal education. It was used by Drizzt Do'Urden.[33]
  • Jivvin Golhyrr: was a style used to force enemies into humiliating positions, was favored by priestesses of Lolth.[33]
  • Kyorlin Plynn: was a style to capture opponents alive, was favored by conservative fighters and priestesses of Lolth but for completely different reasons.[33]
  • Orb Alur: was about striking many opponents with one strike, users were valued and partial to special privileges.[33]
  • Phindar Streeaka: wasn't a style at all, but a catch-all term for mindless violence used for battle, was "used" by drow berserkers and followers of Ghaunadaur.[33]
  • Sargh'elgg: was about making use of the drow race's natural agility and focused on the use of one single light weapon, the only style open for the poor who lacked education options, used by clerics of Kiaransalee, Lolth and Vhaeraun.[33]
  • Ust Sreen: was about reacting fast at the opening of combat.[33]

Command StructureEdit

In drow society, priestesses were formally the military leaders. In practice male commanders led the military forces because the priestesses commonly hid away in the face of danger while resorting to the use of corporal threats and magical domination to ensure their loyalty.[19]

ReligionEdit

See also: Dark Seldarine

The vast majority of drow worshipped Lolth, the majority of drow on the surface followed Vhaeraun.[13][14] The latter was also the prime choice for those drow who wanted to look for a means for freedom from the tyranny of Lolth.[29]

The other deities were of minor note but clearly existent.[46] For example, while also a choice for drow seeking freedom from slavery to Lolth like Vhaeraun, Ghaunadaur[29] didn’t manage to increase the number of his followers due to not caring enough for matters on Toril, while other deities were in a subservient position to the Spider Queen like Kiaransalee or Selvetarm.[46]

As mentioned before, while good drow were an extreme rarity, they existed,[36][8][37][16] the majority of these worshipped Eilistraee[46][29] or other deities of other pantheons.[14]

Though religion played a large part in drow society, the caste system and other seemingly lawful aspects of the culture clashed with Lolth's intent and directives as a chaotic evil goddess. As a result, much of the tension between the clergy of Lolth and more secular drow came from this very different perspective.[71]

LanguagesEdit

Drow spoke Undercommon and Elven.[13] Their version of Elven was a dialect with many words and constructions from other Underdark races.[29]

A unique language of theirs was the Drow Sign language. As the name suggested, it was a sign language and was communicated via hand signs and allowed silent communication within sight range between those proficient in it.[13] The language wasn’t part of drow compulsory education[29] and had no written form.[46]

Other languages they learnt were those of nearby creatures, such as Abyssal, Common, Draconic, or Goblin, and the one spoken in the nearest surface area.[46]

Drow names often have double letters and were designed to be pleasant to the ear.[29]

Barring the most primitive, drow were generally literate.[46]

Variant culturesEdit

Not all drow became a part of the violent mainstream culture that most of the race were forced to endure. Those few who escaped the life of the Underdark might break away entirely from their dark past, while some fortunate drow were actually born and raised outside of the world below. Some drow found a hint of virtue within themselves in spite of all the terrors they witnessed, or perhaps because of it. Others turned late to better ways, either out of guilt or out of the simple fact they were no longer obliged to do so. Yet others were dangerously insane, broken by the horrors that shook their psyches.[39]

The drow who did choose to live on the surface did not form any kind of organized society and instead lived as hermits and outcasts. They would interact with other societies when they needed to, but not through choice.[46]

EconomyEdit

Drow had craftsmen, farmers and so on like any other culture and they engaged life and business mostly in the same manner as in any other culture. Unlike other cultures, these businesses had to face an additional economic risk, that doubled as the society’s chronic economic liability of the worst sort, the priestesses of Lolth. The concept of give and take, of buying and paying, did exist in drow culture, priestesses were just exempt from this duty in practice. They just took stuff and did it from time to time so often until a business went bankrupt. The destitute owners or craftsman were then forced into a contract of adhesion and were that point onwards practically slaves.[19]

Drow society in general didn’t have an unemployment or homeless issue, those who fell in either or both categories were killed. As a general rule, drow signed up into one of their cities’ military because the risk of a violent death there was lower than as an unemployed homeless, the big demand for soldiers, no matter the level of skill, allowed such course of action.[19]

The reason, why the priestesses were an economic risk on the macro level, was that they purposefully undermined opportunities and chances for any form of growth, in order to ensure that those below them didn't gain power and with it the option to turn away from Lolth.[72]

SlaveryEdit

Slavery played a large part in drow society, and drow households usually had two or more slaves for each member. All unskilled labor in drow cities was carried out by slaves, this caused the slave trade to become a booming business. Slaves weren’t only captured but also bred.[57]

CraftsEdit

Drowsleep

A drow slumber potion.

Poisons and toxins were favored by the drow, especially a powerful drow knockout poison made from a slippery black fungus growing in certain Underdark caverns, but other poisons could be made from purple worms, scorpions, and spiders.[57] Another poison, actually a drug, was ziran, highly addictive the tablet temporarily augmented the agility of their users.[73]

DressEdit

Noble drow wore in clothes and equipment of superior quality compared to those of commoners, except of course when they wanted to be incognito.[19]

A web choker was considered fashionable by drow priestesses.[74]

MagicEdit

The drow created a number of specialized spells.[75] Practicioners of path magic organized them to what was variously called the Path of the Drow, Lolth's Road, or the Spider Road. It was considered a lost path, i.e. generally unknown to other races.[76]

It was common for drow to place magical symbols or glyphs outside their houses that could ward against intrusion. These house defense glyphs were only one of three types of glyphs; the others were way-marker runes and sacred glyphs, the former to guard places with drow traffic but no permanent population, the latter special runes for sacred sights of Lolth.[46]

The drow loved magical items of all kinds and all powerful families gave some enchanted items to those who served them. The piwafwi was a particularly special drow item, although drow house insignias were also important to the drow houses and granted special powers, sometimes levitation. Many drow items were crafted in such a way that they could only be used by the drow.[46]

Drow were the only ones who could create drowcraft weapons and armors. These were weapons and armors whose magical properties only worked in areas of faerzress.[77] Famous weapons included the drow mission blade, hand spinneret, queen's scourge.[78] A famous armor was the death armor, that obtained legendary status in the Underdark.[79]

AnimalsEdit

Drow generally didn't keep animals as pets, as animals could not fully comprehend their dependence on their owners. Instead, many drow took a favored slave as a personal servant or thrall, and treated these people as little more than pets.[57] Rich children were given, easy to replace, physically small creatures with perceived low intelligence like goblins or kobolds as pets. The common causes of death of these were either tortured to death by the children after losing interest in them or due to neglect after the children forgot about them.[33]

The animal most associated with the drow was the spider, since it was the symbol of the deity Lolth. Spiders roamed the streets in drow cities, acting as pest controllers, and larger ones were used to guard houses or as mounts for transportation. These spiders were often specially bred for the purpose and were more intelligent than their regular counterparts, especially the sword spider.[57]

Other types of working creatures included riding lizards, bats, and cavvekans, and also spider-like outsiders such as bebiliths, myrlochar, and retrievers. They also used molds, fungi ioe shriekers and oozes for traps of sanitation.[57]

Drow liked to eat animals that were still living because they believed the meat had a better flavor.[80]

HistoryEdit

Drow descended from dark elves,[13] (’’Ssri-tel-quessir in old Elven) and their nations were Ilythiir and Miyeritar. Ilythiir was one of the most powerful elven realms.[36]

Dawn AgeEdit

The first connection between Lolth and the drow, at that time dark elves, started with Corellon Larethian decreeing that Araushnee, his wife and later known as Lolth, should call the fate of the dark elves her own.[81] This was clearly done without the consent of the dark elves themselves. The first elves, among them tribe ilythiiri, who came to Toril didn't have any idea, that something like an elven pantheon even existed.[82]

Time of DragonsEdit

Elves came to Toril around -27000 DR. Among these elves, the Ilythiiri tribe differed from all others in that they had higher ambitions than living in small tribes, they founded the first elven state Ilythiir,[83] and the faith of Vhaeraun became the main religion there.[84] The church of Vhaeraun, and to some extent the minority following Ghaunadaur, were the driving forces behind ensuring power and safety as well as their territorial expansion throughout southern Faerûn.[85] An even smaller minority of the worshippers ofEilistraee opposed her brother's.[86]

The moon elf Kethryllia Amarillis, a devout follower of Corellon Larethian,[87] drew Lolth’s interest to Toril in -24400 DR, which led to the subsequent introduction of her faith in Ilythiir.[88] This was the first contact between Lolth and the dark elves.

First FloweringEdit

After the Time of Dragons, a period of time called the First Flowering, the golden time of the elves started.

First Flowering - IlythiirEdit

After the Time of Dragons, several elven states were founded. While exceptions with skirmishes existed,[88] overall the relationships between Ilythiir and the newer states were of peaceful nature.[36]

This changed when Seldarine-following elves came up with the idea to create a dark elf-free haven.[89] They decided to ignore historical warnings and cast the First Sundering in -17600 DR,[88] the intervention of their gods[90]managed to drop the scope of collateral damage to “ripping apart the continent“.[88] These casualties destroyed most of the church of Vhaeraun’s membership,[91] Vhaeraun’s salvage efforts to bring Ilythiir’s citizens into his church were undermined by Eilistraee’s. This had the effect, that the field was left open for Lolth and Ghaunadaur to take.[92] This was how Lolth became the major deity of the dark elves in Ilythiir and the start of her machinations that led to the Crown Wars.[85]

First Flowering - MiyeritarEdit

Miyeritar, a dark elf-wood elf realm was founded in -18800 DR.[88] Dark elves supported and wanted a part in the casting of the First Sundering but weren’t seen as equals by the others, especially by sun elves, and the other subraces joined in barring them from the casting the magic.[89]

Crown WarsEdit

The Crown Wars were a series of wars between elven nations and resulted in the end of the golden time of the elves.

First Crown War - MiyeritarEdit

The First Crown War was between Aryvandaar and Miyeritar. The start was a peaceful attempt by Aryvandaar to annex Miyeritar by using their royalty’s claim based on their ancestry.[93] This degenerated into a violent invasion in -12000 DR which ended with Miyeritar’s defeat in -11800 DR.[94] By -11300 DR, any resistance movements against the occupants were pacified[93] and the nation of Miyeritar was no more.[94] While it wasn’t clear, whether these happened during the actual war or during the resistance movement, factions from Illefarn joined forces with Aryvandaar to subjugate Miyeritar and factions in Miyeritar accepted aid from those from Ilythiir under the pretense of "dark elf kinship".[95]

Second Crown War - IlythiirEdit

The Second Crown War was kickstarted by Ilythiir. The nation was enraged over the occupation of Miyeritar started retaliatory attacks against Aryvandaar's allies,starting with Orishaar, an ally and major trade partner of Aryvandaar, then Syòrpiir.[94]

At some point around -11500 DR,[96] Aryvandaar started what Ilythiir's leadership believed to be a genocidal campaign against Ilythiir's citizens. In their plight, Geirildin Sethomiir, llythiir’s coronal, made a decision. He summoned Wendonai,[97] a balor under Lolth’s employment, and bought power from the demon and with it from Lolth. The nation’s nobility followed their royalty’s example and bought power from other fiendish patrons.[98] Until the Fourth Crown War, apart from Lolth, Ghaunadaur, Kiaransalee and Vhaeraun provided the dark elves similar help, Eilistraee didn't.[36] This arrangement proved itself effective. Apart from surviving, Ilythiir had enough power to launch attacks against Aryvandaar’s supporters. Thearnytaar and Eiellûr, who allied themselves and invaded Ilythiir with help from Keltomir and Shantel Othreier, were destroyed in turn by the dark elves.[94]

Ilythiir’s course of action earned the dark elves the title dhaerow, traitor in elven, though it wasn’t very clear against what.[98] They never were on the side of the other elven realms’ and even less on the Seldarine’s. (see upper sections of History) This term dhaeraow became later the term drow to describe the subrace.[36]

Dark Disaster - MiyeritarEdit

The Third Crown War was a war between Aryvandaar and Shantel Othreier between -10900 DR and -10600 DR. 100 years after the war ended, the Dark Disaster struck Miyeritar, destroying the part that became the High Moor and killing the citizens there.[99] Miyeritar had already been annexed by Aryvandaar at that time, and many citizens of Miyeritar had already fled towards Illefarn beforehand for safety, although countless innocent lives were lost to the cataclysm.[100] Aryvandaar was accused to have destroyed an already conquered Miyeritar for an unknown reason. The victors were the one to write history, and the Vyshaan therefore pointed at the high mages on Miyeritar as the real culprits, accusing them of having tried to harness corrupt magic for resistance sake, accidentally destroying their country in the process.[100][101] Some believed that there was never any kind of evidence to frame Aryvandaar[102] but Malkizid, a fallen Solar, had already become the patron of the Vyshaan and started to manipulate their actions, and a camapaign of assassinations had decimated the High Mages of Miyeritar by the time of the Dark Disaster, therefore excluding the dark elves from having any responsibility of the tragic event.[100]

Among those who remained in Miyeritar was a large part of the church of Eilistraee. The Dark Disaster killed them, causing Eilistraee’s influence to virtually collapse for millennia.[103] Interestingly, Miyeritar was a dark elf-wood elf country located on the High Moor and Misty Forest.[88]

Ilythiir was enraged and accused Aryvandaar for the Dark Disaster and the Fourth Crown War started as a retaliatory assault on Aryvandaar.[100]

Fourth Crown War - IlythiirEdit

As mentioned above, the Fourth Crown War started as a retaliatory assault on Aryvandaar.[100] While the scope wasn’t clear, survivors from Miyeritar joined forces with Ilythiir.[95] They destroyed Shantel Othreier,[100] by that point conquered by Aryvandaar. They were so successful that the elves started to pray towards their gods for the destruction of Ilythiir, the prayers were answered.[104]

Corellon Larethian’s magic, channeled through his clerics, turned all dark elves into drow.[104] By that point some dark elves modified their bodies, and were thus not changed. The entire subrace of dark elves was turned into drow, including the survivors from Miyeritar. Elves believed it was done as collateral damage due to the elves not properly understanding elven high magic.[105]

The drow then were forced to leave the surface into the Underdark, the event was called the Descent of the drow.[104] “Being cursed for being successful“ was the drow’s sentiment and justification for their hatred on the surface elves and on the Seldarine, especially Corellon.[14]

After the DescentEdit

After the so-called "Descent",[106] drow lived for time as nomads and scavengers, more precisely like animals, but managed to gather themselves and founded in -9600 DR the cities Telantiwar and Guallidurth.[36] The drow in Telantiwar also seized the gold dwarf cavern of Bhaerynden for themselves around -9000 DR. The drow there, then began fighting amongst themselves, resulting in a great magical explosion that destroyed this large cavern, forming the Great Rift.[36]

Survivors left and spread around the Underdark. They founded most of the cities in which the drow lived, such as Sshamath, founded beneath the Far Hills in -4973 DR, Menzoberranzan, founded in -3917 DR, and Ched Nasad, founded in -3843 DR.[36]

Some drow cities like T'lindhet or Maerimydra managed to gain a foothold on the surface,[36] much to the chagrin of the Spider Queen who didn’t want the drow to even want to return to the surface.[98]

When the elves started to abandon their lands in the face of human expansion, over the course of their Retreat, to never return and left for Evermeet.[107] Drow, especially those who followed Vhaeraun, started to repopulate these lands.[108] Their success at settling and keeping these lands was one of the reasons elves of Evermeet considered a return to the continent.[109]

War of the Spider Queen - Silence of LolthEdit

In the Year of Wild Magic, 1372 DR, the goddess Lolth went into a state of hibernation, a period called the Silence of Lolth. She stopped granting spells to her followers and became effectively inactive.[110]

While it only lasted for one year, a lot happened during that time. To name a few examples, in Sshamath, Lolth’s clergy was demoted and the ones of Ghaunadaur and Vhaeraun took the official clerical positions,[111] in Eryndlyn, the church of Vhaeraun and of Ghaunadaur joined forces and destroyed the Lolth’s matriarchy in their city, in cities like Dusklyngh, Jhachalkhyn and Karsoluthiyl the assassins of the Jaezred Chaulssin shifted through a series of assassinations the power balance in favor of secular power holders like merchants,[112] and some cities like Maerimydra, suffered complete breakdowns.[113]

War of the Spider Queen - After the SilenceEdit

After the Silence of Lolth, Eilistraee and Lolth started a divine game of sava with the destiny of the drow as the wager.[114] Between the years 1375 DR[115] to 1378 DR,[116] Eilistraee and her followers successfully killed Lolth’s rival deities, Selvetarm, Vhaeraun[115][note 1] and Kiaransalee.[117] Eilistraee herself was apparently killed by Halisstra Melarn while inhabiting the body of Qilué Veladorn after the goddess failed at abetting Halisstra in murder against Lolth.[118][note 2] In 1379 DR, Ghaunadaur left the drow pantheon.[119]

Meanwhile, in 1379 DR, a High Magic ritual performed by Q'arlynd Melarn with the help of Eilistraee, transformed those drow not tainted by Wendonai's blood and the survivors of Eilistraee's worshippers (who had taken great losses), into their original dark elven form (although without their consent), and Corellon Larethian permitted the souls of Eilistraee's faithful and the newly transformed dark elves to enter Arvandor.[120]

This was how Lolth became the unopposed deity in drow society, albeit only for a century.

Post-Spellplague eraEdit

While drow were primarily ruled by the church of Lolth, small scale opposition movements in the form of the skulkers of Vhaeraun or the followers of Ghaunadaur did exist.[121]

Post-Second Sundering eraEdit

Over the course of the Second Sundering, all the drow deities who had died before the Spellplague returned to life, thus causing a renaissance of their cults.[67] (see here)

HomelandsEdit

The vast majority of drow lived in the Underdark, to which they were driven following the Crown Wars. Here, drow city-states were spread throughout the world, bastions of evil and demonic dealings sanctioned by the Spider Queen. Of all the Underdark races, drow were the most feared, owing to their widespread presence and immense power. The most famous Underdark bastion of all was Menzoberranzan, one of the dark centers of Lolth's worship.[122]

Known drow cities

Not all drow dwelt in the Underdark, however. While most of the race that fled the dark civilization they were born into died trying to reach the surface world, others escapeed the dark recesses of the earth to see daylight.[124] Most drow that didn't live in the Underdark dwelt within the lands of the Dragon Coast or the East Rift. Drow who headed for the Dragon Coast typically were less apologetic about their past and simply sought a place away from Lolth's corruption where few questions were asked and skill was the only quality that mattered. Many of those who dwelled in the East Rift were refugees of the catastrophe wrought on the neighboring regions of the Underdark by the Spellplague and the draining of the Sea of Fallen Stars.[125]

Notable MembersEdit

OrganizationsEdit

Drow-run organizationsEdit

  • Jaezred Chaulssin was an assassins' guild which made its objective to restructure drow society and free the drow from Lolth's tyranny. They believed that drow society was so far beyond help that only crushing it could allow restructuring.[126]

Organizations with strong drow membershipEdit

  • Guild of Underdark guides was, as the name suggested, a group of guides in the Underdark. Neutral and good drow with no interest in the surface made up a meaningful part of the membership.[128]
  • Underdark anarchists' fellowship was on the front a protest movement against general Underdark society. Its true objective was the abolishment of slavery in the Underdark.[129] An important part of its membership were chaotic and evil drow who used the organization as a platform for protest against the establishment.[130]

AppendixEdit

NotesEdit

  1. The Grand History of the Realms explicitly says that Vhaeraun's assassination attempt failed and Eilistraee killed him, though his continued existence suggests otherwise. In one of his answers, Ed Greenwood suggests that Eilistraee actually spared her brother's life. The Dark Maiden defeated Vhaeraun with the indirect help of her ally Mystra, as the Weave frustrated the Masked Lord's magic while enhancing Eilistraee's. The goddess temporarily took her brother's portfolio, and trapped his sentience in the Weave, where it was enfolded in a dream by Mystra. The Lady of Mysteries did that to ensure that the two drow siblings would survive the cataclysm that she knew was coming—the Spellplague—in which she would be "killed" to renew the Weave, and magic would go wild.
  2. In the same answer mentioned in the previous note, Ed Greenwood hints that Eilistraee actually managed to survive Halisstra's attempt to kill her, albeit much weakened. When Qilué Veladorn was killed, since the Masked Lady was inhabiting her body, a great part of her power was dragged into the Weave with the Chosen's soul (the souls of Mystra's chosen often become "Voices in the Weave" after their death, as explained in the novel Spellstorm, and their memories and experiences are shared by Mystra). After that, for about a century, Eilistraee could only manfest herself as a floating black mask surrounded by moonlight, capable of silently communicating with mortals, but not of answering prayers or granting spells (except by direct touch). After Mystra and the Weave were completely restored in 1487 DR, the goddess of magic could finally give Eilistraee her own lost power, and do the same with Vhaeraun, after having awakened him from his dream.

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