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Drow (pronounced: /drdrow[10][11][12]), also known as dark elves[5] or night elves,[12] were a dark-skinned sub-race of elves that predominantly lived in the Underdark. They earned their reputation as evil people, with all justification,[13] though some members with more neutral disposition did exist, as did an even smaller number of actually good members.[14][15] On the surface, the drow were sometimes referred to as "The Ones Who Went Below".[16]

DescriptionEdit

In many ways, drow resembled eladrin.[17]

Height and WeightEdit

They were shorter than many other sub-races of elves.[9] It was believed that females on average were bigger and stronger than males.[18] The former claim did not hold water when numbers were taken into account, though. Drow varied in height from 4′7″ (1.39 m) to 5′5″ (1.65 m), and both sexes averaged at 5′ (1.52m). Men weighed somewhere from 87 to 157 pounds (39.46-71.21 kg)— averaging 109.5 pounds (49.67kg), while women were a bit lighter varying between 82 to 152 pounds (37.19-68.95 kg)— averaging 104.5 pounds (47.4kg).[9][19]

Overall, drow had similar builds to elves.[18]

ColorationEdit

Drow had skin of dark grey to obsidian color and white or yellow hair.[20][19] Rare hair colors included copper and silver,[17] the latter believed to be a sign of a mentally handicapped person (a superstition spawned by the celebration known as "the Run", held by the followers of Eilistraee, in which they dye their hair silver before traveling on the surface in the attempt to create friendships with Humans and elves).[21]

Female drow with blonde hues indicated the drow in question was of an older age.[17] Elder male drow had naturally silvering or greying hair. Both sexes' hair thinned with advancing age, meaning 600 or more years.[22] This hair was carefully groomed, 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.[17]

Drow eyes were usually bright red, but some had different colored like green, brown or black,[18] but they had often much paler eyes such as blue, lilac, pink or silver[19] - these pale eyes were often so pale that they appeared to be white - [20] in fact, their eye color could be of practically any color.[23] Purple or blue meant that the particular drow had some surface elven blood in his or her veins.[18]

Characteristic about drow were their mouths. Their teeth had a natural coloration of white, black or purple and their gums, tongues, and throats were pink, red or purple.[18]

Attractive LooksEdit

Drow looked attractive,[17] especially their nobles.[20] This wasn't a coincidence but the result of selective breeding over several generations.[19] Their alluring appearance, which could be used for seduction, was more likely used as a tool of fear.[17] 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.[24]

IntelligenceEdit

Drow were intelligent creatures even when compared to other sentient creatures.[18] This was not a coincidence but the result of selective breeding over several generations[19]

ReproductionEdit

Drow had a reputation - even among themselves - to be more fertile than other elves,[25] 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.[26] For example, in the evil Lolthite society, female drow, who already had an active career under their belt, gave birth to about ten children before she lost the ability to birth more.[27] Their constant strife kept their numbers low.[25]

An interesting thing about birth was that, when different subraces of elves intermarried, there was an equal chance for the child to inherit either of the parents' traits.[28] The resulting child had usually both a psychological quirk to favor the drow parent over the other one[29] and a genetic quirk to be more likely to parent a drow, when there was a chance for it.[30] It was a trait the dark elves shared too.[31]

They were also capable of parenting half-drow with humans.[32] 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.[33][34] Regarding reproduction, like any other sort of half-elves, the "2-generation-rule" applied to half-drow too.[35]

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.[17] Generally, a drow's natural lifespan was up to 750 years,[9] and about 94% of natural deaths occurred before 800 years of age. Signs of age were seen past their 600 year of life, and drow could live more than 1000 years, when they could afford a lifestyle that spared them hardships, like the ones enjoyed by matron mothers, though by that point, the drow in question was very withered by age. Lolth's magic could maintain a matron's life for literal thousands of years. This was a clear sign of favor from the goddess.[36]

PersonalityEdit

Drow by reputation were almost entirely evil-aligned with very few exceptions.[37][13][38][23]

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.[39]

It was important to recognize that the drow race's evil wasn't of inherent nature.[40] Unlike orcs, for example, who suffered from an inherent drive towards evil, elves like drow chose by themselves to turn their culture into what it became.[41] Leading to a race of emotionally stunted people,[26] with a tenuous grasp on sanity and scarred mentalities among which relatively undamaged minds were considered abnormal.[40] 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)

ArroganceEdit

Drow believed themselves to be the apex creature. Their treatment towards members of other races ran the entire gamut from pets,[42] slave to grudgingly respected partners when they proved themselves a military match for them, though never equals in their minds.[23] This went to the point that contracts with those they deemed "lesser races" were not viewed as binding. They were readily broken when the contract ceased being beneficial to the drow party. Other races learnt to anticipate betrayal and always had counters to the treachery prepared.[43]

While most drow shared a hatred of all other races, especially surface races, the object of true hatred was the Seldarine and the surface elves,[20] "Darthiir" in Drow, which meant also traitors.[44] Their entire culture had the set goal of the surface elves' annihilation.[43]

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.[23]

Children who showed kindness or love were brutally punished, so as to beat the instinct for cruelty into them.[39]

HedonismEdit

Drow were hedonists. They loved beautiful things, 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.[23]

They often partook of lavish revels, indulging in the most pleasurable of activities, including long nights of dinner and massages.[45] Some drow were fond of dances, including the frenzied nedeirra competition[46] or the illiyitrii, a formal dance sometimes involving costumes.[47]

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. Unlike other cultures, there were no rules for what the "expense of others" had to look like, acceptable forms included treachery and even outright murder.[48][23]

While drow did understand the value of forging bonds,[38] they didn’t see a value in the virtue of honesty.[23] 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 engagements of this sort with the expectation for the worst[38] . Alliances were generally formed when one considered the ally weak enough to be not too dangerous of a threat, be susceptible to blackmail or when cooperation was forced by the existence of a common enemy. Even formed alliances were under scrutiny for signs of treachery and often ended violently.[37] In fact, simple inconvenience to maintain the bond was a reason to end their loyalty.[23]

They were generally expecting attacks, including physical ones, and thus were rarely surprised when it happened, depriving the attacker of the moment of surprise.[18]

Even drow who escaped the cruelties of the Underdark found it more difficult to form long-term friendships than most races did.[17]

CombatEdit

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.[17] This was not a coincidence but the result of selective breeding over several generations[19]

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.[17][49]

SensesEdit

Sight
Drow had infravision to a range of 120′ (36.58 m) and learned to discern information from heat patterns and shades.[50]
They also had darkvision to the same range.[19]
Hearing
A drow's hearing was very good. this trait of theirs was developed over necessity. In the Underdark, the sense of hearing was paramount in foreseeing rock shifts, collapses and other hazards and was also the primary means by which necessary water was found; the dripping of it was timed to discern its location.[50]
Smell
A drow's sense of smell was bad compared to its other senses. The background for it was that the environment they lived in, was one that continuously dulled it. The natural Underdark environment with its damp, rock-smell, and fungi-riddled air made developing strong olfactory senses difficult and the city environment of the drow's own making in the form of exposure to strong incenses, and their own as well as the slaves' body scents all helped to worsen their sense of smell.[50]
Touch
Drow had long fingers and acute tactile senses, so much so that they could read subtle markings in the stone like someone would read braille.[50]
Stone Sense
The drow race's specialty was to sculpt stone (see here). This went to the point that about 70% of the drow had an intuitive feel about how fortifications or waterworks were constructed and worked, but also how to circumvent those and how the control over such things were found. The dangerous matter about it was that this intuitive knowledge was also applied on non-drow-made things.[51]
Drow were generally capable of identifying metal and rock. They could be given a piece of Underdark-metal or cut or worn gem and they could identify what kind of alloy or gem it was.[52]
When a drow found a metal or gem vein, the drow gained the intuitive knowledge that concerned the direction, richness—, and the dimensions of said vein.[52]
They could also distinguish between drowcraft items and those which were not if they could hold it.[51]

Magical AbilitiesEdit

Drow owned a number of inborn unique magical abilities.

Resistance against magicEdit

Drow had a tremendous resistance to magic.[19][7] During infancy, this resistance fluctuated between almost non-existent and youth-level, which stabilized when they grew up to be youths. It increased again when they grew into full adults and could be trained even further.[53]

The fluctuations of the drow infants' resistance against magic was a lethal danger for the child, which was why an alchemical potion called potion of magic resistance was invented to stabilize it.[53]

Even when this magic resistance was overcome, drow could handle magical attacks quite well and had a better chance at coming out of magical attacks unscathed than other races.[53]

Lolthtouched AbilitiesEdit

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.[17] It manifested itself in a number of abilities including the cloud of darkness (which enshrouded the drow in darkness that was impossible for anyone but the caster to see through), and darkfire (which made creatures an easier target, encasing them in something that looked like purple fire, though causing no harm).[17] 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.[54]

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.[55]

Base PowersEdit

Drow owned a number of abilities called base powers. The name "base power" came from the fact that these abilities could be cast without any schooling but simple practice. They were a bit different from person to person. These differences could came from different reasons; genetics, personal talent, divine favor, etc.. Drow magical abilities were somehow tied to faerzress, the radiation of the Underdark, and the intensity of it in the place a drow was born varied it too.[56]

These powers could temporarily vary in the same person depending on the personal (mental and physical) health situation, aging effects, degree of training, and so on. A dying drow could double the effectiveness of the own innate powers and more by super-charging these with her or his own life force.[57]

All these powers were usable once every day and once employed, could be ended and moved around at the drow's whim. They could also downsize their abilities as they wanted.[57]

Dancing Lights

Drow owned the ability to naturally cast dancing lights.[19][7][49] Unlike the normal spell, the drow's innate dancing lights could create more light balls and gave them better control in range than normal with increasing strength of the drow in question.[57]

Apart from its obvious use as a light source, it was used to divert attention, shock others with the sudden appearance of a glowing figure, or shock them with the sudden appearance of will-o'-the-wisp-like light balls. Teaming up with actual will-o'-wisps to make this more effective was also known.[58]

Darkness

Drow owned the ability to naturally cast darkness.[19][7][49] Unlike the normal spell, the drow's innate darkness could create a globe that grew by 2 feet with increasing strength of the drow in question.[57]

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.[59] Creative uses revolved around the fact that darkness looked like black stone when looked at with darkvision. 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 pitfall.[58] An entire branch of martial arts of the drow concerned itself with the use of darkness, the kyone veldrin style.[59]

Faerie Fire

Drow owned the ability to naturally cast faerie fire.[19][7][49] Unlike the normal spell, the drow's innate faerie fire could create a glowing field that grew by 10 feet with increasing strength of the drow in question.[57]

Apart from its obvious use, it was used to force enemies to pay attention or divert it. The color changing property of the spell was exploited as handy color signals to convey information over long distances.[58]

Faerie fire could come in blue, green, or violet color.[60] A drow could change these colors but always manifested one certain color when they were casting this spell without setting a specific color.[61]

As mentioned above, innate drow powers were affected by faerzress. According to Seldszar Elpragh, a drow's faerie fire worked by a drow channeling faerzress.[61]

Mature PowersEdit

Once reaching a sufficient degree of power, drow gained a number of abilities called mature powers. These powers were detect magic, know alignment, and levitate.[57]

From a certain degree of power onwards, particularly intelligent drow had such control over their powers that they could maintain two inborn abilities or one inborn ability and one normal spell simultaneously.[53]

Priestly PowersEdit

Members of the clergy of a drow deity gained other powers through divine favor. These powers always included clairvoyance, detect lie, dispel magic, and suggestion. Depending on divine favor a cleric could gain additional powers like casting detect undead, ESP, albeit only against drow within 20 ft. (6.1 m), and invisibility to undead but also additional usages of their abilities.[62]

Noble PowersEdit

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.[63][64] Holders of these abilities formed the noble class of drow society. These abilities seemed to be a dominant trait.[26] Nobles also could additionally use their base and mature powers once per decade of their lives instead of once per day. Nobles had a chance to cast their inborn abilities in the presence of light contrary to commoners, although they could only deploy one of their abilities even when they could normally do otherwise.[53]

Learned AbilitiesEdit

Drow had a reputation to be good clerics, fighters, rogues, and wizards.[37]

ClericEdit

Clerical magic was the territory of drow women.[37] This clear division was due to the favoritism of Lolth towards female drow.[65]

Drow clerics were special among elven clerics. Elven clerics' bodies could only handle a certain amount of magical strength, which limited their growth. Drow clerics' limits was determined by the favor of the god they served. They could theoretically grow infinitely strong. In practice, there was a certain limit at which point the god in question either killed or elevated the drow to demigod status.[66]

Male Clergy

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.[30] While they could even become divine disciples, becoming this, made it acceptable for priestesses to kill them.[67]

The faith of Ghaunadaur didn't have a gender barriers.[26] Vhaeraun's faith had a gender barrier that made it harder for women to become his clerics.[68] Eilistraee accepted clergy of all genders and races (but before the 1370s DR) her clerics had used to be only female,[69] because, due to the goddess' nature, "One could not truly feel the Divine Dance of Eilistraee PROPERLY except as a female". However, during the 1370s DR, Eilistraee started working towards opening up to male priesthood: for a time, males still had a harder time becoming clerics (see also here),[70] but after the Second Sundering, Eilistraee's clergy could be accessed by people of any gender with equal ease.[71]

Martial and Stealthy AbilitiesEdit

Male drow became strong fighters.[72] Drow fighters often tied their powers to Lolth for an easier life in the form of becoming blackguards and/or divine champions.[65] The latter route was technically open for male drow but actually becoming divine champions bought them the ire of the priestesses and with it death.[67]

They had a fascination with stealth and subtlety,[23] despite this bard magic wasn’t very common but it was appreciated, and schools that trained them alongside those for rogues did exist.[73] Rangers were valued scouts.[37]

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. Another route for rogues was to tie their powers to Lolth and become divine seekers.[65]

Martial ArtEdit

Drow favored fast weapons like rapiers, and would choose hand crossbows when possible, to deliver their poisons from a distance.[74] 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.[59]
  • Jivvin golhyrr: was a style used to force enemies into humiliating positions, was favored by priestesses of Lolth.[59]
  • Kyorlin plynn: was a style to capture opponents alive, was favored by conservative fighters and priestesses of Lolth but for completely different reasons.[59]
  • Orb alur: was about striking many opponents with one strike, users were valued and partial to special privileges.[59]
  • 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.[59]
  • 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.[59]
  • Ust sreen: was about reacting fast at the opening of combat.[59]

Psionic AbilitiesEdit

Drow owned no inherent psionic abilities but psionic schools, especially for the arts of psions and psychic warriors existed in some cities.[65]

WizardEdit

Arcane magic was the province of drow men.[37] This was due to drow women’s inferior compatibility with arcane magic.[75]

Drow wizards were special among elven wizards. Elven wizards' bodies could only handle a certain amount of magical strength, which limited their growth. Drow wizards had no such limit. They could theoretically grow infinitely strong.[66]

The most powerful drow were the arcane casters among them. Male wizards in particular were often exiles due to persecution by the priestesses or other Houses. They were often merchants or employees of such. They were the ones who provided the means of protection and disguise for those who dealt with the denizens of the surface.[76]

As mentioned above, drow wizards had no hard limit at how powerful they could become. Fact was their magic was limited by being confined within a certain city. Drow wizards with the desire for more magic ventured out as adventurers.[76]

They were under general suspicion to be dissatisfied with drow society and having a desire to change it. Thus, they were abducted to undergo the Test, once they reached a certain degree of power.[66]

The most sought after familiar was an azmyth, but watchspiders and hunting spiders were held in high regard too. Nevertheless, it was common for drow wizards to have a snake, spitting crawler, pedipalp, solifugid, or other spiders[66] like the hairy spider as a familiar.[77]

Strength and WeaknessesEdit

Mimicry
The whole drow race had a natural aptitude for audible mimicry. They could rather easily mimic the sound and tone of a different person in a believable manner. They were better at it when the language to mimic was in a language they were exposed to very often.[78]
Poison
Drow had a high tolerance against poison. This had two reasons. First, drow were exposed to poisons over countless generations and as the generations passed, built up a resistance against it. Second, drow put some individual effort to strengthen their tolerance as part of their training. This was done by intaking ever bigger doses of drow sleep poison and the venom of spiders. The result was a general high tolerance for poison especially for drow sleep poison and spider venom. Their tolerance against other poisons was slightly lower in decreasing order were other sleep poisons, drugs, the venom of insects, and injected poisons. Interestingly, drow had no special resistance against poisons delivered by contact or poisonous gases.[79]
Sunlight
Drow had a weakness against sunlight. Under sunlight, they gradually lost their base and mature powers as well as their defenses against magic.[80] Added to this came a general discomfort that hampered their ability to use these magic powers though nobles could circumvent it a bit. It took a drow about ten years of training to get used to the sunlight and use the own infravision and normal vision simultaneously. Initial exposure to sunlight was dangerous for a drow. They got heavy sunburns. Even after getting used to the sunlight, drow had a strong tendency to cover their skin and head.[81]

Culture/SocietyEdit

Drow

A typical female drow.

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

PurposeEdit

Drow society had nominally two purposes. Each was called "the First Part of the Destiny of the People" and the Second Part of it respectively. The former was about forcing all other races of the Underdark into subservience. The latter was about driving the entire elven population save the drow into extinction. Their infighting prevented them from achieving the First Part despite them having the power to destroy cultures like those of the disir or kuo-toa, if they could reach unity.[43] In fact, it was all a scam of Lolth. She enjoyed the infighting of the drow, which prevented them from achieving the first goal, and did not put any cohesive effort into achieving the goal of the annihilation of the elves.[82]

City-StatesEdit

Drow lived in city-states formed in huge caverns in the Underdark,[23] and had trade relationships but were mostly at war with one another. While called "city-states", drow didn’t form states. 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,[65] who then formed the "city’s" nobility.[23] 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.[65] The second power group inside a given drow city were the merchant clans.[83]

These noble Houses were in close physical vicinity to each other and within the strongest family's territory was usually a public temple to Lolth.[65] Commoners lived either in caves or walled houses with cellars. The houses were most often made of adobe-like substances. A good indicator indicator of the residents' power was the grandeur of the house; the bigger the more powerful.[84]

These cities had farm land, where slaves worked to get meat and crops.[65] As a rule of thumb, half to two-third of a given drow settlement’s population consisted of slaves or non-drow without rights.[23]

When faced with over population, drow ate their elders to combat the problem.[43]

DefensesEdit

Drow chose places with strong faerzress for their cities.[85] According to Qilué Veladorn, drow had a mental compulsion to be near the radiation and were drawn to it.[86]

It provided them with protection from magical spying via divination and also made it difficult, or even dangerous, to teleport into their cities[87] Furthermore, the faerzress allowed them cheap and easy creation of magic items called drowcraft items,[88] as well as other ways to use the radiation for defensive purposes.[89] This had the effect that their settlements were of stationary nature and therefore relatively easy to locate and attack.[90]

JusticeEdit

Drow cities were ruled by the priestesses.[23] 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,[91] it resulted into a society where "might makes right" was the only "law".[92]

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.[91] 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, which could lead to retribution against the punishing priestess was the basis of lessened or no punishment.[92]

When nobles warred against each other, the attacking side had to eradicate the entire enemy family within one single attack. If even one member of the defending family survived, that member could apply for "justice". This led to the entire city killing the attacking family for its attack. Trying to prevent an open war through sabotage and similar action led to the two parties being forced into open war by the ruling body of the city. This was the reason why drow society was in a perpetual state of very small-scale battle of underhandedness instead of a series of bloody frontal battles.[93]

Gender RolesEdit

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 they were also less likely to be sacrificed than males.[26] 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.[39]

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.[26]

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.[94]

MilitaryEdit

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.[26]

When a military squad was led by a male drow it was either a streeakh, a suicide squad, or a dobluth, a group of outcasts.[72] Patrols were outfitted with protection from earth and stone against cave-ins, while surface raiders or underground snaek attackers used an orb of duo-dimension to allow stealthy attacks.[95]

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.[26]

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.[26]

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.[26] Killing the man was in general the usual way in which a relationship ended. In non-Lolthite culture and among commoners, matters weren't that extreme. The concept of marriage existed but it was not for eternity— at longest for a decade or so but with possible renewal. One exception were the merchant clans. Even there, marriage was not for eternity but marrying someone from a merchant clan meant signing up for that merchant clan for life. Trying to leave was a viewed as a reason to get killed.[27]

The secret of a working long term relationship between drow was not love but tangible reasons like a history of fathering many female offspring and the likes. The best normal romantic relationship between two drow was similar to the 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.[26]

Noble HousesEdit

Drow were ruled by their aristocracy. The nobles were family groups who had the violence to take the best lands. Normally, a noble House was ruled by a priestess of Lolth called Matron Mother.[65] They were generally founded by powerful drow individuals with special powers, who gave their traits to their offspring (see Noble Abilities) Nobles also augmented or substituted these abilities further with magic items.[26]

They were not only fighting each other,[7] with rankings shifting on a daily basis with the top few being more or less stable,[65] but also within a given family, where it was actually expected.[23] The standard drow city paralyzed its own growth through infighting.[89]

These took the best lands and resources for themselves, and the rest was forced to care for themselves.[65] 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.[23]

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.[26]

Priestesses were bad rulers who tossed their cities into a haphazard organization.[65] Not only did their infighting paralyze the growth of their own cities[89] but they actively 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.[96]

The head of a noble House was a matron mother. Below her were the priestesses. They were ranked according to age. Below them were the male officers. Below them were the male members of the House, who were also ranked according to age. The priestesses held no authority until after puberty and the male members never held any authority unless they managed to hold a officer title like weapon master, House wizard, or the patron— the term for the matron's consort. Under these members were the war-leaders and House mages who were subservient to the House wizard. These were the family members. Below them were the other servants and the slaves. None of these ranks had any security. All it took was the matron's whim to change these positions. The matron usually changed through murder of the current matron by the eldest daughter. This was usually marked a new direction for the House. For example, the destruction of it because the murder of a matron was also a sign of disfavor from Lolth.[97]

Merchant ClansEdit

The success of the merchant clans was important for the drow race's success. They were generally run by male drow. To be more precise they were generally run by a council, called "inner ring", of male wizards. The reason why trading was the male domain was that interaction with other people was demeaning as well as too dangerous for a drow woman's taste. The male drow had no inhibition when it came down to interaction with other races. In fact, many of the "second ring", as the managers of a merchant clan were called, were non-drow. The lowest ranking, almost exclusively non-drow, "assets" were the menial labor force and military force of a merchant clan. Merchant clans and noble Houses fought outside of a drow city in open fashion.[83]

In standard drow society, merchants with particulary rich experience and wordly mind set were the only ones capable of forming genuine trust and friendships with the so called lesser races like mind flayers or duergars.[98]

CommonerEdit

Most members of drow society lived in perpetual desperation and poverty under oppression.[65] Noble drow valued commoner drow more than slaves and commonly sacrificed them only when a slave wasn’t at hand.[26]

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.[26] However, the commoner in question obtained the noble's last name for the time he or she was married to.[27]

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.[26] From time to time, artists were adopted in noble families for their skill.[51]

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.[26]

An interesting thing about commoners was, that they had a higher chance to live a long life than nobles resulting into families who had many living generations of members. This was because, unlike nobles, there was not much to gain from killing an elder and the elders were a valuable source of historical and general knowledge with realistic accessibility.[26]

ArtisansEdit

Good artisans were highly sought after by the noble houses. If these noble houses did not produce good artists on their own, they acquired this talent from the outside. This was done by adoption into the family (a rare occurrence), simple hiring, but also forceful coercion. About a fifth of the entire drow race was capable of complicated works, while about half of them could create goods that could be enchanted or turned into drowcraft items by letting them absorb faerzress. Despite a tenth of their entire population being capable artisans, there was a great shortage of such talents. Both nobles and merchant clans, tried to have at least six on their pay roll, when it came to the demand after artists who had an innovative bent, the demand was especially high. Such talent existed in about 0.1-0.4% of those artists who produced goods of high equality that could be enchanted. Overall, drow artisans were among the most intrigant and paranoid among the entire race. They used tricky devices like building items in clothing or body weapons like gas-powered needle-throwers, extensile mechanical hands, and other items like wire-saws to break out of cages and prisons but also to be used against people.[99]

RelationshipsEdit

As mentioned before, drow expected betrayal from each other and acted according to it.[23]

The drow view on other races ran the entire gamut from potential slaves or the target of extermination as vermin.[23] 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.[23] In standard drow society, merchants with particulary rich experience and wordly mind set were the only ones capable of forming genuine trust and friendships with the so called lesser races like mind flayers or duergars.[98]

Drow often allied themselves with beholders or deep dragons or other powerful races found in the Underdark for extra protection.[65]

While drow did feel hatred against all other surface races for their supposed weakness.[23] Their traditional enemies were dwarves and humans,[98] but these enmities could not much the hatred 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.[23] 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.[14][37]

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.[74]

Drow feared driders, physically changed drow who failed Lolth, and confined or drove them out of their cities.[100]

ReligionEdit

See also: Dark Seldarine

The vast majority of drow worshipped Lolth, the majority of drow on the surface followed Vhaeraun.[19][20] The latter was also the prime choice for those drow who wanted to look for a means for freedom from the tyranny of Lolth.[7] The other deities were of minor note but clearly existent.[65] For example, while also a choice for drow seeking freedom from slavery to Lolth like Vhaeraun, Ghaunadaur[7] 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.[65]

As mentioned before, while good drow were an extreme rarity, they existed,[37][13][38][23] the majority of these worshipped Eilistraee[65][7] or other deities of other pantheons.[20]

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.[101]

CustomsEdit

Drow had a number of customs, gestures, and rituals. For example, it was custom among drow to kill all children with physical deficiencies; a commonly accepted gesture was dropping a knee and held weapons as a sign of surrender. There were a lot of rituals starting with a graduation ceremony for the graduates of the mage, priest, and warrior schools,[102] but also others like:

The Blooding
was a coming of age ritual that constituted of killing a dangerous or sentient surface creature.[27]
The Running
was an annual ritual where the drow went out to commit a massacre against a surface community. It was only held where the surface was easily accessible.[27]
The Test
was a rite of passage for drow wizards who reached a certain degree of strength.[66]
The Test of Lolth
was a rite of passage for any Lolthite drow who reached a certain degree of strength.[103]

LanguagesEdit

When drow spoke, they were quite eloquent and their speech was musical. This was a common trait among elves.[78] Barring the most primitive, drow were generally literate.[65]

Deep Drow
Most drow knew only two languages for they usually stayed in their cities and therefore exposure to other languages and the need to learn those was limited. One of the two languages was a spoken everyday language commonly called "Deep Drow", but also "Low Drow" or "Drowic", was one similar in structure to Common and Undercommon with a lot of borrowed words from other languages like orcish, dwarven, human languages,[78] and other Underdark races, put simply it was an elven dialect.[7]
Drow Sign language
The other commonly known language was the Drow Sign language, which could convey information as well as any spoken language[78] within sight range[19] of 120 ft (36 m) between those proficient in it and had no written form.[65] The language was actually not part of drow compulsory education[7], but drow had an easy time learning it.[19]
High Drow
High Drow was an archaic dialect, which priestesses of Lolth learned to speak without fear of others understanding them. It was not only spoken but conveyed information by certain gestures too.[78]

Drow adventurers, outcasts, and slave-traders learned more languages,[78] as did their warriors.[65]

Undercommon
It was quite common for drow to be proficient in this trade language.[65]
Other languages
Drow warriors had a tendency to learn the languages of creatures that lived physically close to the drow like Abyssal, Common, Draconic, and Goblin as well as those languages that were spoken on the nearest surface area.[65]

NamesEdit

Drow names often have double letters and were designed to be pleasant to the ear.[7]

First names
They believed that having first names that were similar to one of their gods was a guarantee for misfortune, when it came to names resembling their own patron, it was considered blasphemy.[104]
Nobles had a strong tendency to not choose names that were similar in sound to the common tongue of Deep Drow.[104]
Last names
The last names of drow did not start with a "L"-sound that was similar to "Lolth" or one of its varieties like "Lloth", "Loethe", etc.. This was reserved for the avatar of Lolth. Holding a last name in general meant that the person in question was either born into a noble family or held a rank and role like weapon master inside a household. for others calling themselves with a surname was forbidden.[105]

Variant culturesEdit

See also: Church of Eilistraee
See also: Church of Vhaeraun

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.[40]

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.[65]

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.[26]

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.[26]

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.[96]

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 were not only captured but also bred.[74] Some slaves were also bought from humans from Calimshan, Thay, and the Plain of Horses. Others sellers were orcs from the North.[98]

Drow slavery was special in that it did not view slaves as something valuable. It was easy and cheap to find replacement. This led to cruel treatment of the slaves.[98]

Slaves in general were not allowed to look into the eyes of a drow. They were also not allowed to carry weapons without permission.[98]

Goblins, hobgoblins, and orcs were the common races from which drow took their slaves. Kobolds, jermlaine, trolls, and giants in general were not considered good slaves, the former two for their agility and independence, the latter two for their large bodies and strength. Humans were valuable and treasured slaves, unless the ones in question owned combat abilities, either mundane or magical, in which case they were viewed as dangerous.[98]

A drow in such servitude was usually either a debtor or noble whose ransom nobody paid, who were captured in battle. In some cities, such people were executed instead of enslaved.[98]

CraftsEdit

The drow's technological level regarding craftwork was at least the equal of and in certain areas surpassed that of humans, it was far inferior to that of dwarves. The reason for this was the drow race's collective short-sightedness. They generally relied on magic and slavery to get things done and put an emphasis on beauty over steadiness. Added to this came their tendency to kill the artisans, the ones with the know-how, when their work collapsed, only to do something similar again with the same problems. Overall, the drow race's strength did not lie in being skilled artisans and engineers, which they were to some degrees, but in their ability to oversee slaves and to be jack-of-all-trades.[106]

Architecture
Drow architecture put an emphasis on beauty.[107] However, drow cities tended to provide a chaotic and messy sight because they did not care to have a uniform architecture style.[65] Still, their architecture had one common motif, that of spider webs,[84] and was considered something to marvel at[23] and more wealthy holdings got faerie fire decoration.[65] Crucial architecture was often supported by magic instead of mundane methods and therefore collapsed when the magic somehow wore off. Manpower provided by slavery cleaned the resulting mess, only for the drow to use magic like stone shape and only the barest minimum of handiwork for reconstruction, therefore causing the instability problem to persist. Nevertheless, when it came to shaping and hollowing out stalactites, stalagmites, and cave columns, the best architects for such endeavors were the drow. Their architects were also known for their designs for stone bridges, balconies, and buttresses as well as their intricate spiral tunnels. Suspension bridges were the norm, for those could withstand earthquakes. Cave fishers were trained for the purpose of slinging their lines.[106]
In some cities, clay was used by the poor in a similar fashion to Kara-Tur and the Shaar to create dwellings. The same technology was used by the rich to create temporary furniture and sculptures, which was then decorated with gems, glowing fungi, etc. for their parties.[108]
Medicine
It was common for injured drow to make use of a prothesis. Drow craftsmanship in artificial limbs was advanced and commonly available. They were made from adamantine and worked as good as the original limbs. They could also be weaponized and exchanging parts with specialized tools for a specific occasions was possible. For example, exchanging a hand with a claw or sword for combat was possible. Non-injured drow used from time to time similar technology for their body-extensions like toe-claws to kick-stab people.[109]
Mining
Drow did not own the same insight and connection to stone dwarves or gnomes enjoyed. Added to this came their distaste for dirty work. Combined with their still-existing desire for pure subterranean resources that were won through mining, the drow method of mining was to first let other races like duergars or dwarves build their mines and then take them over by force. In the case of deep gnomes, they fled in the face of such attacks, but dwarvenkind stayed and fought leading to year-long wars over these resources, wich could well have an effect on the surface on the form of shortage of goods made by dwarves and increased demand and prices for food, weapons, and other goods of war.[110]
Another drow method of mining was to use dig spells. In this case, dwarves assaulted the drow under the pretense of "liberating treasure".[111]
Stoneworks
A specialty of the drow was their ability to cut and shape stone. The results were smooth-flowing walls (magic was also used), gates, put simply fortification buildings. Another field where this ability was applied to was the construction of waterworks (see below).[51]
Waterworks
One part about drow craftmanship that received universal acclaim was their skill at constructing waterworks. The act of collecting and diverting water for their purposes, be it for dietary or industrial needs and for waste disposal, was done by pipes fitted with shut-off valves and these systems were outfitted with side-channels and pumps. The pipes were intricately curved and bored through solid rocks, their valves were big, hollow stone spheres closely fitted into a basin, which both had both inlet and outlet channels or holes, and were attached to a lever. Said lever was big and counterweighted, when it was turned, It worked by lining up the inlet and outlet channels and holes of the valve and basin so that water came through. The flow was regulated by turning the valve, by opening a sliding panel, which filled the hollow valve and allowed access to the water via side-channels it was diverted to. The aforementioned pumps had two varieties, one corkscrew-type worked by water pressure and one piston type worked by slave-work. These were not entirely wonders of the mundane though for constant application of magic was needed to make the water seals perfectly work.[112]
Armors and weapons
Weapons and armors of the drow were made of a substance called adamantine, an alloy of adamantite, and then turned into drowcraft items. These items could not withstand sunlight,[90] but were cheap and easy to make.[88] It used to be that every drow warrior down to the lowest level was equipped with a chain mail that was treated that way and most had also a drowcraft buckler with them.[113] However, at some point around 1372 DR, these items fell out of favor[114] and drow started to wear mithral armor when it was affordable, but would always wear non-restrictive armors that would not hamper their natural dexterity.[74]
Famous weapons included the bolts of power, death lance, whip of fangs,[115] drow mission blade, hand spinneret, queen's scourge. A famous armor was the death armor, that obtained legendary status in the Underdark.[116]
Drow created some weapons with the expressed purpose to fight their own kind in the form of flash globes and light pellets.[117]
Drowsleep

A drow slumber potion.

Poison
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.[74] Another poison, actually a drug, was ziran, highly addictive the tablet temporarily augmented the agility of their users.[118]The most popular poison on the drow hand crossbow was the aforementioned drow knockout poison that put the target to sleep.[74]
Art
Artwork and craftwork of the drow often had spider motifs. Houses had curtains that was put on to emulate spider webs. A noble house of the drow had exclusive sculpture artisans as they had their exclusive gemcutters. The material out of which drow crafted their garments, furniture, and beautiful decorative goods were metal, cloth, and other stuff.[119]
Gems
As a general rule, drow had a preference for smooth or cabochon cuts over faceted ones and black ones over those of other colors—blue and red hues were also preferred. Those of silver hues were used as contrast when said contrast could not be provided by metal settings. Gems were usually worked in rings, wristlets, gorgets, belts, pendants, or collars. Drow of average wealth wore banded agate, blue quartz, crown of silver, eye agate, hematite, malachite, obsidian, jasper, moonstone, onyx, rock crystal, smoky quartz, zircon, aquamarine, garnet, jade, jet, pearl, spinel, and tourmaline, while nobles, powerful wizards, officers, and priestesses wore other, more prized stones. When it came to the priestesses, the amount, rarity, and variety they wore was on a higher level than the others did. Prized gems included amethyst, beljuril, black opal, black sapphire, diamond, emerald, fire opal, jacinth, opal, oriental amethyst, orl, ravenar, red tear, ruby, sapphire, star ruby, star sapphire, water opal, and zendalure.[120]
Storage technology
A field of technology in which the drow were particularly good at was the one that concerned itself with storing and moving goods. This went from designing trade-containers to harnesses for beasts of burden and mounts. The reason for this was that drow demand for goods from afar was very high. This started with goods found in the Underdark like crabs or fish, which their patrols carried so-called "wet basins" made of clay to bring such food back to their cities, to fruits and other surface-only goods, which they obtained by means of trade and raid.[108]

DressEdit

The majority of drow wore a piwafwi, a fire-resistant protective cloak, boots that worked in a similar fashion to boots of elvenkind, and a drow house insignia. The latter showed to which noble House or merchant clan the drow in question was attached to— be it as a member or servant of that House or clan.[121]

An insignia was, with the exception of the First House's, not openly displayed but usually only inside or on their power bases.[84]

Noble drow wore in clothes and equipment of superior quality compared to those of commoners, except of course when they wanted to be incognito.[26] An example for superior quality was that the house insignia of a noble did not just show house allegiance but also carried magic, which could be used on command.[84]

A web choker was considered fashionable by drow priestesses.[122]

MagicEdit

Magic of the drow was on par with the one found on the surface.[123]

Spells
There were a number of spells that were associated with the drow. This did not necessarily mean that they were all developed by drow. While they were known for their ability to develop spells, and some spells known on the surface were independently developed by the drow, fact was that drow stole quite a lot of magical know-how from the surface by means of kidnapping during their raids.[124]
Path magic
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.[125]
Drow runes
Drow had an aptitude for runes,[65] which were elegant and always limned in black paste, ink, or inlay. The richest and most powerful of their race used them to defend their houses and treasures. When they were enchanted, they were done so with a glyph of warding spell[126] or their runecasters created unique ones for locations of importance.[65] There were a total of three categories of runes and glyphs. The aforementioned house defense glyphs, the way-marker runes. and the sacred glyphs, the former to guard places with drow traffic but no permanent population, the latter were special runes for sacred sites of Lolth.[65]
Magic items
Drow were avid inventors of magic items. There were a number of items that were associated with the drow. This did not necessarily mean that they were all developed by drow. Drow were known for stealing magic item and magical know-how like that of the creation of magic item by means of kidnapping during their surface raids. Some were self-made, others were stolen, and other items were based on magic from before the Descent.[123]
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.[65]
Scrolls
Drow priestesses and wizards often created magical scrolls. This was done to provide their minions an edge during their patrols. Overall, drow used scrolls more often than surface races and were also known to create unique ones.[127]

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.[74] 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.[59]

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,[74] which was specifically brought to the Underdark from the surface. Sword spiders were often commanded by priestesses of Lolth.[77] A drow city was not full of spiders because of the faith though. Drow simply had an affinity with them and they came of their own accord to them. This led communities to be abundant with spiders despite these communities holding other faiths than Lolth.[72]

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.[74]

Drow liked to eat animals that were still living because they believed the meat had a better flavor.[128]

HistoryEdit

Drow descended from dark elves,[19] (Ssri-tel-quessir in old Elven) and their nations were Ilythiir and Miyeritar. Ilythiir was one of the most powerful elven realms.[37]

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.[129] 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.[130]

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,[131] and the faith of Vhaeraun became the main religion there.[132] 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.[133] An even smaller minority of the worshippers of Eilistraee opposed her brother's.[134]

The moon elf Kethryllia Amarillis, a devout follower of Corellon Larethian,[135] drew Lolth’s interest to Toril in -24400 DR, which led to the subsequent introduction of her faith in Ilythiir.[136] 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,[136] overall the relationships between Ilythiir and the newer states were of peaceful nature.[37]

This changed when Seldarine-following elves came up with the idea to create a dark elf-free haven.[137] They decided to ignore historical warnings and cast the First Sundering in -17600 DR,[136] the intervention of their gods[138]managed to drop the scope of collateral damage to “ripping apart the continent“.[136] These casualties destroyed most of the church of Vhaeraun’s membership,[139] 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.[140] 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.[133]

First Flowering - MiyeritarEdit

Miyeritar, a dark elf-wood elf realm was founded in -18800 DR.[136] 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.[137]

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.[141] This degenerated into a violent invasion in -12000 DR which ended with Miyeritar’s defeat in -11800 DR.[142] By -11300 DR, any resistance movements against the occupants were pacified[141] and the nation of Miyeritar was no more.[142] 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".[143]

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.[142]

At some point around -11500 DR,[144] 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,[145] 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.[146] Until the Fourth Crown War, apart from Lolth, Ghaunadaur, Kiaransalee and Vhaeraun provided the dark elves similar help, Eilistraee didn't.[37] 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.[142]

Ilythiir’s course of action earned the dark elves the title dhaerow, traitor in elven, though it wasn’t very clear against what.[146] 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.[37]

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.[147] 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.[148] 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.[148][149] Some believed that there was never any kind of evidence to frame Aryvandaar[150] 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.[148]

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.[151] Interestingly, Miyeritar was a dark elf-wood elf country located on the High Moor and Misty Forest.[136]

Ilythiir was enraged and accused Aryvandaar for the Dark Disaster and the Fourth Crown War started as a retaliatory assault on Aryvandaar.[148]

Fourth Crown War - IlythiirEdit

As mentioned above, the Fourth Crown War started as a retaliatory assault on Aryvandaar.[148] While the scope wasn’t clear, survivors from Miyeritar joined forces with Ilythiir.[143] They destroyed Shantel Othreier,[148] 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.[152]

Corellon Larethian’s magic, channeled through his clerics, turned all dark elves into drow.[152] 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.[153]

The drow then were forced to leave the surface into the Underdark, the event was called the Descent of the drow.[152] “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.[20]

After the DescentEdit

After the so-called "Descent",[154] 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.[37] 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.[37]

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.[37]

Some drow cities like T'lindhet or Maerimydra managed to gain a foothold on the surface,[37] much to the chagrin of the Spider Queen who didn’t want the drow to even want to return to the surface.[146]

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.[155] Drow, especially those who followed Vhaeraun, started to repopulate these lands.[156] Their success at settling and keeping these lands was one of the reasons elves of Evermeet considered a return to the continent.[157]

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.[158]

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,[159] 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,[160] and some cities like Maerimydra, suffered complete breakdowns.[161]

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.[162] Between the years 1375 DR[163] to 1378 DR,[164] Eilistraee and her followers successfully killed Lolth’s rival deities, Selvetarm, Vhaeraun[163][note 1] and Kiaransalee.[165] 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.[166][note 2] In 1379 DR, Ghaunadaur left the drow pantheon.[167]

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 a few hundreds among 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 the newly transformed dark elves to enter Arvandor.[168]

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.[169]

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. Despite Q'arlynd's spell, Eilistraee and most of her followers were still drow after their re-emergence[170] (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.[171]

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.[173] 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.[174]

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.[175]

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.[177]
  • 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.[178] An important part of its membership were chaotic and evil drow who used the organization as a platform for protest against the establishment.[179]

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.

Further ReadingEdit

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

ReferencesEdit

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ConnectionsEdit