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Drow (sing & pl; pronounced: /drdrow[12][13][14] or: /drdro[12][note 1]), also known as dark elves,[6][15] deep elves,[16] night elves,[14], sometimes "The Ones Who Went Below" on the surface,[17] and the Dark Ones among orcs,[18] were a dark-skinned sub-race of elves that predominantly lived in the Underdark.[19] They were hated and feared due to their cruelty,[20] though some non-evil and an even smaller number of good drow existed.[19][21]

Station: In all the world of the drow, there is no more important word. It is the calling of their—of our—religion, the incessant pulling of hungering heartstrings. Ambition overrides good sense and compassion is thrown away in its face, all in the name of Lloth, the Spider Queen.

Description

Comparison of heights; from left to right: a human, sun elf, wood elf, moon elf, drow, and wild elf.

In many ways, the drow resembled other elves[23] or eladrin.[24] Their bodies were wiry and athletic,[23] while their faces were chiseled and attractive,[24] though they were shorter and thinner than other elven sub-races.[9][25][10] Due to a process of selective breeding that lasted for several generations,[9] the drow (especially nobles)[25] looked attractive[24] even in comparison to other elven subraces.[26] Though their alluring appearance could be used for seduction, it was more often utilized to instill fear.[24] According to the goblin Nojheim, the beauty standards of the surface races made them prone to turn a blind eye to the deeds of the drow, showing them greater leniency and acceptance.[27]

Reports varied on the physical differences between the drow sexes. Some purported that females were generally bigger and stronger than males,[23] while others claimed the males had superior strength.[28] Both sexes varied in height from 4 feet and ​7 inches​ to ​5 feet and ​5 inches (140​ to ​170 centimeters), averaging at 5 feet (150 centimeters). Males weighed between 87​ to ​157 pounds (39​ to ​71.2 kilograms), averaging 109.5 pounds (49.67 kilograms), while females were a bit lighter, weighing between 82​ to ​152 pounds (37​ to ​68.9 kilograms) and averaging 104.5 pounds (47.4 kilograms).[10]

Coloration

Drow skin tones ranged from dark grey,[29] jet-black,[23] and obsidian,[15] (with various shades of blue),[9][25][24] the albino drow known as the Szarkai being an exception.[23] Drow had white, black, or purple teeth, while their gums, tongues, and throats could be red, pink, or purple.[23]

Drow eyes could be of any color,[29] with bright red being the most common.[23] Pale shades[15] that appeared nearly white of blue, lilac, pink, or silver were also frequent.[9][25] Drow with green, brown, black, amber, or rose-hued eyes existed, but they were rare. Purple or blue eyes indicated surface elves and/or human ancestry.[23] The color of a drow's eyes could also be indicative of their current mental or physical state; drow eyes reddened when they were angry, and turned yellow when they were sick, poisoned, or under some negative magical influence.[23]

Hair

Drow hair could be stark white,[23][15] pale yellow[9][25] and, more rarely, silver or copper in color.[23][29] It thinned and changed color with age, turning pale yellow for women, and silver or grey for men.[23] Due to the Eilistraeen ritual of The Run, drow of other faiths would often say that silver hair was a sign of mental handicap.[30]

Drow generally kept their hair long, and decorated it with pins and webbing made of precious metals.[24] They were incapable of growing proper beards, but some males managed to grow long sideburns or even tufts of wispy hair on the cheek or chin.[31]

Clothing

The majority of drow wore a piwafwi, a fire-resistant, protective cloak, footwear that functioned as boots of elvenkind, and a drow house insignia. The latter showed the House or merchant clan to which a drow belonged, be it as a member or servant. However, with the exception of the First House, insignias weren't openly displayed except when inside the House territory or the clan's base.[32][32]

Noble drow wore clothes and equipment of superior quality (except, of course, when they didn't want to attract attention).[33] For example, a noble's house insignia didn't just show house allegiance but also carried magic that could be used on command.[32] Web chokers' were considered fashionable by drow priestesses,[34] who also often used powdered Ormu, an Underdark-moss, as eye shadow.[35]

Personality

Compared to other sentient beings, drow were notably intelligent, as having an analytical mindset and being observant at all times was needed to survive in their society.[23] Intellect, along with force of personality, were mental traits that had been ruthlessly selected for in their socially darwinian civilization over several generations.[9] However, a lifetime of being indoctrinated with Lolth's dogma, combined with their upbringing giving them limited contact with other beings, surroundings, and alternative ways of life, made them close-minded, and left them with little wordly experience.[23]

Drow - Dan Scott.jpg

The drow (fittingly for the dark perversions of the elves they were) were decadent[24] and hedonistic beings with a love for what they considered beautiful and a desire to surround themselves with it, generally without paying attention to the cost of acquiring it.[29] For example, they were often lecherous, with a tendency to take lovers at their leisure and discard them at their whim.[36] However, the drow were able to (or at least tried to) hide some of their more heinous traits behind a veneer of sophistication.[37][24]

Morality

The moral code of the average drow was informed by the teachings of Lolth.[24] From birth, the drow were taught that they were superior to other races, and as such they believed themselves to be the ultimate beings.[38][31] This mindset created an arrogance so strong that drow could be incapable of viewing other creatures as their equals,[31] including members of their own kind; almost every drow believed themselves to be the epitome of their superior species.[39] The treatment reserved for non-drow ran the entire gamut from pets,[40] to slaves, to grudgingly respected partners if they proved themselves a military match for them, though never equals.[29]

As one might expect, this atmosphere of utter condescension meant that most drow generally felt entitled to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted to do it.[29] If a drow was not where they believed they should be, their pride demanded they blame someone else (sometimes everyone else) for their incorrect position.[41] They were also taught that they should crush those beneath them,[38] for cruelty was seen as a method of self-validation. If someone could not defend themselves, as the logic went, they deserved to have cruelty inflicted on them, which would prove the superiority of the drow performing the torment.[42] They were a vengeful people by necessity, as not answering to slights with punishment was easily perceived as weakness by other drow, and was essentially the same as inviting exploitation, abuse, or even death.[36]

Most drow sought to rise in rank,[37] desiring the power over others that a higher station would provide.[36] Ironically for a race that put such a focus on individual merit, personal achievement and ability carried so little weight in their minds they had almost no notion of its worth. Military genius, battle prowess, magical capability, the ability to create, and all other skills had no intrinsic value to the dark elves. The idea of passion for one's career, and of an activity having worth in and of itself was alien; abilities and resources, whether obtained by training or granted by birth, only mattered insofar as it increased a drow's ability to advance in station, thus granting them more power over others.[22][43]

Given the scarcity of resources in the Underdark and the limited chances for advancement within their society, most drow had to be aggressively competitive.[44] They had a propensity for violence, which was their favorite, even instinctive, form of conflict resolution, and they managed to fight this urge when waiting for a more propitious time to strike.[39]

Mistrust

As a general rule, drow living within a Lolthite society couldn't afford to show emotions like compassion or love, for they were easy to exploit[31] and drow often preferred emotional cruelty over causing physical harm.[42] The strife they constantly endured led them to be paranoid, with a fear of everyone and everything, from the potential loss of personal position, Lolth's favor, the loyalty (or even the threat of outright rebellion) of their inferiors, to punishment by their own superiors' hands.[39]

The end result of being raised in this environment was that the drow were untrusting sadists with a constant readiness to stab others in the back, both in the figurative and literal sense.[29] They were an emotionally stunted people[33] with a tenuous grasp on sanity (a trait they placed less importance on than cunning and deviousness) and scarred minds, among which relatively undamaged individuals were considered abnormal.[45][46] Most were incapable of trusting other creatures, no matter their race,[47] and were taught from an early age not to do so, as they were expected to advance at the expenses of others by any means, including treachery and even outright murder (although not overtly).[48][29] Even in moments of safety or relaxation, they were always alert and constantly expecting attacks of any kind, and were rarely surprised when such attacks did come.[23]

While the drow understood the advantage of forging bonds with others,[31] they did not see the value in honesty.[29] Forming relations with others was therefore a dangerous endeavor, and mostly temporary, since any alliance or cordial relationship could end in treachery. Drow normally went into engagements of this sort expecting the worst,[31] and alliances were always under scrutiny for signs of treachery, often ending violently. They were generally formed when the supposed ally was susceptible to blackmail, considered weak enough to not be a serious threat, or when cooperation was forced by the existence of a common enemy.[49] In fact, the mere inconvenience of maintaining the bond could be a reason to end it.[29]

Alignment

For a race so chaotic in a society focused on individual advancement at the expense of others, the majority of drow strangely leant towards being neutral evil in alignment. The drow were, in many way, contradictory in outlook, cooperating to some degree almost in spite of their very nature. They simultaneously encouraged personal ambition and innovative problem solving (creativity being needed to get ahead of the older elites) while paradoxically placing the good of the many over the good of the individual and reinforcing staunch traditionalism.[43]

To achieve their individual desires required their society to retain at least some level of stability, and they were held tightly to tradition even if that code wasn't actually codified into law. In fact, the drow responded poorly to social norms being turned into written rules, obeying them primarily out of fear and social pressure (but obeying them nonetheless). This lead to the phenomenon where a lone drow would drift towards chaos, whereas a drow community would be forced to work together against one another, setting up rules to stabilize the power each individual wanted for themselves and allowing for cooperation beyond what chaos could typically create.[43]

Good Drow

Unlike creatures such as orcs,[50] drow had no innate inclination towards evil, with their morality having been colored by their society.[46][51] "Good drow" made up about 15% of the entire race, although most of them weren't actually of the good alignment, being merely chaotic neutral or lawful neutral. Within Lolthite societies, even drow with a disposition towards what was considered good generally had problems developing a strong personal sense of morality. They generally behaved the same way as evil drow due to social pressure, as being soft in any way was lethal in drow society and often resulted in the death of such drow.[51]

Only truly exceptional "good drow", such as Drizzt Do'Urden, were capable of freeing themselves from a Lolthite society.[51] The majority were found out and sacrificed to Lolth, and those who managed to leave their settlements would often die in the dangerous wilderness of the Underdark.[52] Furthermore, even those who escaped the cruelties of the Underdark found it more difficult to form long-term friendships than most races did[24] and had to constantly be on the lookout for pursuers who could kill them.[53]

Abilities

Drow were more agile than most humanoid races,[24] which, much like their higher intellects and force of personality, was a result of selective breeding over several generations.[9] Similarly, drow had a higher than normal tolerance for poison due to exposure over the course of countless generations. They had lesser resistance, in descending order, to the following kinds of toxins: non-drow sleep poisons, drugs, insect venom, and injected poisons. They had no special tolerance for contact poisons or to poison gases.[54]

Drow had tremendous resistance to magic, with adults overcoming magic around half the time.[9][8] During infancy it fluctuated between almost non-existent and youth-level (resisting around two fifths of the time), stabilizing as they grew up.[55] It increased again when they reached adulthood, and could be trained even further,[55] but even if a drow's magic resistance was overcome, they could handle magical attacks quite well and had a better chance than other races at resisting them,[55] especially spells that attempted to bend their will.[9]

Drow also had a natural aptitude for audible mimicry, the entire race possessing the capacity to easily imitate the sound and tone of another person in a believable manner, especially if frequently exposed to the language they were using.[56].

Base Powers

Base powers were abilities that the drow could cast without any schooling, needing only simple practice. They varied slightly from person to person due to various reasons, including but not limited to genetics, personal talent, and divine favor. Drow magical abilities[57] were somehow tied to the faerzress,[58] the radiation of the Underdark, and its intensity in the birthplace of a drow could influence their base powers.[59] These abilities could also vary in the same person temporarily, depending on theie personal (mental and physical) health situation, age, and degree of training. For example, a dying drow could double the effectiveness of the own innate powers by super-charging them with her or his own life force.[59]

The drow could use their base powers once every day and, once employed, they could end the spell, move it around at their whim, or downsize it. Spells like dispel magic could end a base power's effect. Normally, a drow could not continue using these abilities when they started using another one, or started to cast a spell.[59] A common or untrained drow could neither use nor maintain their innate abilities under the effect of light that was as bright as, or brighter than, sunlight, as it impeded their concentration.[55]

A drow's innate dancing lights spell-like ability [9][8][60][15] could create a larger number of light motes than the normal spell, and provided better control as the power of the caster increased; for example, the light spheres could be moved be further away from each other than normal.[59] Reports varied if it could also be cast once per day, as with the other base powers, or at will.[59][60]

In addition to the normal effects of a darkness spell,[9][8][60][15] which created an area that was impervious to normal sight and infravision, a drow's spell-like variant could also create a globe that could be moved around and grew in radius with the strength of the caster.[59] They could further enhance the spell-like ability to cast it more often, and learn to deepen it so that a daylight spell could not overpower it any more.[61]

Unlike the normal version of faerie fire, a drow's spell-like version could create a glowing field that grew wider with the strength of the caster.[9][8][60][15][59] It could come in blue, green, or violet,[62] but while a drow could change these colors, they always manifested a certain one if they made no choice.[63] According to Seldszar Elpragh, a drow's faerie fire worked by channeling faerzress.[63]

Mature Powers

Upon reaching a sufficient degree of expertise, the drow gained their so called "mature powers". These included the spell-like abilities detect magic, know alignment, and levitate.[59][15] Particularly intelligent and powerful drow could maintain two inborn abilities, or one inborn ability and one normal spell, simultaneously, using levitate and darkness at the same time for example.[55] Like with base powers, it was normally impossible to cast mature powers in the presence of intense light.[55]

Noble Powers

Some drow were born with more magical power than normal, allowing them early access to their mature powers.[64][65] Such drow made up the noble class of their society, and among them this was a dominant trait.[33] Not only could nobles use both base and mature powers more than once per day, but every decade they gained another daily use, with centuries old nobility having virtually unlimited uses. Unlike commoners, they could attempt to cast their inborn abilities even in the presence of light, but they could only maintain one of their spells in this condition even when normally able to do more.[55]

Light Weakness

Before the 1360s DR, the drow would gradually lose their base and mature powers, as well as their defenses against magic, if exposed to sunlight.[66] However, during the 1360s DR, Liriel Baenre, guided by Eilistraee,[67] carved her rune in the Child of the Yggdrasil with the intent of preserving her own drow magic away from the Underdark,[68] but the act ended up allowing all drow to keep their powers on the surface.[69] Despite Eilistraee guiding Liriel, speculations were that Lolth also had a hand in the matter.[69]

Lolthtouched

Lolthtouched powers, the result of Lolth's blessing, were perhaps the most distinctive abilities of the drow.[24][70] Lolth's touch gave her a hold over the entire drow race, and overcoming it was only possible by becoming a redeemed drow who also managed to judged worthy by Corellon.[71]

An image of a Lolth-touched bebilith, drow, and giant spider.

Lolthtouched drow manifested abilities like cloud of darkness, which would enshroud the given the drow in shadow that was impossible for anyone but the caster to see through, and darkfire, which made other creatures an easier target by surrounding them in harmless purple flames. Lolthtouched powers were seemingly fueled by the same source, and the use of such abilities were tiring for the drow, with only more experienced and well-trained drow able to cast both abilities separately.[72] Through training, drow could manifest the so-called webs of darkness that both slowed and impeded a foe, while also limiting their vision.

Curseborn drow could unlock even more Lolthtouched powers, including improvements of the aforementioned cloud of darkness and darkfire abilities. Other ways to improve these abilities included training to cast the cloud of darkness faster in response to harm, or to turn the darkfire into a flickering protective shroud that made the beneficiary harder to hit.[73]

Combat

Drow were as frail as any other elves,[74] and had a fascination with stealth and subtlety.[29] They had a tendency to ambush their enemies with ranged weaponry, choosing hand crossbows when possible, to deliver their poisons from afar. They also favored light and quick weapons like rapiers in melee but normally retreated if close combat was the only remaining option.[74][75]

Specific training was available for their rogues,[29] which included lessons on how to blend in with the heat hues and patterns of their surroundings, similarly to how other races could hide in the shadows of light sources.[76] Their famous (or infamous) assassin schools doubled as assassins' guilds.[77] Male drow were normally competent fighters,[37] and rangers were also valued as scouts.[49]

Apart from its obvious use as a light source, drow used their ability to create dancing lights to surprise the enemy with the sudden appearance of a glowing figure or will-o'-wisp-like light balls. Teaming up with actual will-o'-wisps to make this more effective was a known technique, however, this was viewed as corrupted behavior.[74]

Besides the obvious utility of cancelling light sources, the drow ability to creaste darkness was an integral part of their combat strategy, as it could be used to limit sight or otherwise hamper their enemies.[78] Since magical darkness looked like black stone when looked at with darkvision, there were many creative uses of the spell form a tactical standpoint. For example, a drow could hide behind the "black stone" and ambush their enemies from behind the cover, or use it to cover up a pitfall.[74]

Like dancing lights, faerie fire could be used as a diversion, but the ability to change the colors of the lights allowed for the creation of color signals for the purpose of long distance communication.[74]

Lolthtouched Combat

Lolthtouched drow sometimes trained to slip into the cover of their created darkness,[73] or learnt to hit the targets of darkfire not just more accurately, but also harder, similarly to how drow wanderers did.[79]

Fighting Styles

The drow had a number of combat styles:

Drizzt Do'Urden; a master of the draa velve style.

  • Bautha z'hin: A style based on evasion, and on flanking and surrounding a single enemy (usually a monster) with superior numbers and agility, favored by rogues and clerics of Eilistraee and Vhaeraun.[78]
  • Draa velve: Involving the use of two swords, this style could only be mastered by those with talent and luxury to enjoy formal education. It was used by Drizzt Do'Urden.[78]
  • Jivvin golhyrr: A style used to force enemies into humiliating positions, favored by priestesses of Lolth.[78]
  • Kyorlin plynn: Used to capture opponents alive, this style was favored by conservative fighters and priestesses of Lolth alike, but for completely different reasons.[78]
  • Orb alur: This style focused on striking many opponents with one strike. Its users were valued and granted special privileges.[78]
  • Phindar streeaka: This wasn't a style at all, but a catch-all term for mindless violence used for battle. It was "used" by drow berserkers and followers of Ghaunadaur.[78]
  • Sargh'elgg: A style that focused on making use of the drow race's natural agility, and on the use of one single light weapon. This was the only style open for the poor who lacked education options, but was also used by clerics of Kiaransalee, Lolth and Vhaeraun.[78]
  • Ust sreen: A style about striking first and quickly reacting at the opening of a fight.[78]
Armors and Weapons

Drow with weapons drawn.

Drow weapons and armor were made out of a substance called adamantine, an alloy of adamantite, and then turned into drowcraft items. Such equipment could not withstand sunlight,[80] but was cheap and easy to produce.[81] Before the 1370s DR, every drow warrior, down to the lowest rank, was equipped with a drowcraft chain mail and (in most cases) buckler as well.[82] At some point during the early 1370s, these items fell out of favor[83] and the drow started to wear mithral armor when it was affordable, but they kept using armor that wouldn't hamper their natural dexterity.[75]

Famous weapons included the bolts of power, death lance, whip of fangs,[84] drow mission blade, hand spinneret, and the queen's scourge. A well-known drow-made piece of gear was the death armor, legendary in the Underdark.[85] The drow created some weapons with the specific purpose to fight their own kind, namely the flash globes and light pellets.[86]

Poison

A drow falling victim to the calling, a magical poison.

Among the Underdark races, the drow were the most skilled in the use of poisons and toxins.[75][87] Especially famous was the powerful drow knockout poison, made from a slippery black fungus that grew in certain Underdark caverns, and commonly applied to crossbow bolts to easily put enemies to sleep.[75] Other popular poisons were those extracted from purple worms, scorpions, and spiders,[75] the so-called calling, the eyeburn paste, and the skullrot.

Almost every drow put some individual effort into strengthening their tolerance to poisons as part of their training. This was done by ingesting ever-larger doses of drow sleep poison and of spider venom, granting them further resistance to such toxins.[54]

Their massive use of poisons led the drow to developed the virulent weapon enchantment to enhance the effects of any toxin applied to their weapons.[88] Naturally, the drow had some countermeasures against poison, like the ring of antivenom.[89]

Military

The priestesses of drow socieities formally occupied the positions of military leadership, but in practice it was the male commanders that actually led such forces. The priestesses often hid away in the face of danger, while resorting to the use of corporal threats and magical domination to ensure loyalty.[33] A military squad formally led by a male drow, was either a streeakh, a suicide squad, or a dobluth, a group of outcasts.[37]

Warfare

When drow nobles warred against each other, the attacking side had to eradicate the entire enemy family in a single attack. If even one member of the defending family survived, they could apply for "justice", and the entire city would turn on the attackers. Alliances were not allowed in these kinds of attacks, and there was a minimum interim time (one year) between attacks on an individual house, giving them time to recuperate.[90] Prolonged covert warfare between two houses, by means like assassination, were not exactly forbidden, but it was only tolerated for a time counted in years, after which the drow city's ruling council forced the two houses to enter open war.[91]

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.[92] Making matters worse for the drow, in war situations, the noble Houses schemed against each other so that their rivals would take the heaviest losses, or carry the responsibility for any failure, meaning that they were incapable of forming a truly united front against their enemies.[93]

War in the Underdark was far different from conflicts fought on the surface. The cramped space of the subterranean environemnt made it hard or ineffectual to amass giant armies, and most battles were actually skirmishes between small units or patrols.[94] The drow avoided large sieges and pitched battles, in favor of focusing on skirmishes, as well as hit-and-run tactics and harrying strikes.[95]

Underground warfare heavily involved the use of natural environment as a weapon through the creation of tunnels to flank enemies, cause cave-ins, change the flow of magma, and so on.[94] The drow used ambush tactics that exploited existing dangers like loose rocks, and were skilled in using traps, such as deliberately placed phycomids or glasses full of ascomoid-spores, to gain an advantage in combat.[96]

The drow also had a knack for responding to their enemies' actions, including spellcasting.[96] The members of a patrol coordinated by using infravision and counting what they called "handfades", a unit of time based on how long it took a rock to lose all heat after being touched by a hand.[35] However, they were aggressive, if not outright impatient, and one way to gain an advantage on them was to taunt their warriors long enough for them to make a fatal mistake.[95] Their method of warfare, especially considering their enlistment of slaves and allies, could drag on for years.[94]

Military Composition

A drow assailing a group of devils.

While the exact equipment and size of drow warbands varied from place to place, it was possible to make some general assumptions about the composition.

A drow patrol usually consisted of seven to twelve soldiers headed by a patrol leader and overseen by a commander, the latter of which normally had a maximum of three other individuals, either acolytes and apprentices or bodyguards, in tow. Ordinary drow patrols contained a maximum of around six individuals with basic training, the rest being elite warriors. These warbands normally included a mix of both male and female drow, with a homogenous patrol likely indicating that the tension between the sexes in their city was reaching a critical point.[97]

Patrol leaders were normally male drow with superior fighting skills or clerics trained in the use of weapons.[94] Larger patrols were generally led by female drow, who normally had one or two powerful warriors as lieutenants.[95] An elite patrol was usually led by a female cleric with female bodyguards, and her "acolytes" were also female clerics of the same church. These patrols were special, for they had an additional cleric with healing duties who also worked as a spy for the church of Lolth.[95]

A "pincer" was the name for a collection of several patrols (two to four) led by one commander, usually some kind of spellcaster called an "overleader" or "battle-captain", who had up to four lieutenants called "webmasters".[95] Ranking higher than battle-captains were "battle-lords" or "warmistresses" which had an entire patrol force as their bodyguards and to carry their magic items. Each House had a standing army of drow soldiers, priestesses, and wizards, which included contingents consisting solely of non-drow slaves, usually bugbears, ogres, and minotaurs.[29]

Around three out of every ten drow patrols included somewhere between one to eight non-drow, such as bugbears, goblins, or orcs as "allied forces". Mind flayers were never a part of such groups, except when being escorted to a destination.[97] When a drow died in battle, they were sometimes reanimated as a zombie if the lower half of the body was still functional. This was done to prevent the corpse from getting plundered, to provide the corpses a method of self-transportation, to provide the injured and immobile dead bodies with transportation, and to gain useful shock troops to use in battle.[76]

Equipment

All warriors in a patrol usually equipped with short swords, daggers, up to three javelins (with an atlatl to extend their reach), a hand crossbow with ten poisoned darts, and a buckler for protection.[94] Patrol leaders were equipped with a hand crossbow, javelins with an atlatl, and a moderately enchanted mace to indicate their authority.[94]:During wartime, the patrols doubled their numbers of poisoned darts, and every warrior was equipped with up to three potions of healing in steel vials that didn't rust.[95]

Patrols were outfitted with a scroll of protection from earth and stone to guard against cave-ins, while surface raiders or underground furtive attackers used an orb of duo-dimension to allow stealthy attacks.[98]

Society

Lolthite, drow society had had two nominal goals, called "the First and Second Part of the Destiny of the People". The former was about forcing all other races of the Underdark into subservience, while the latter was about driving the entire elven population into extinction, seizing their lands and holdings in the process.[47] Lolth claimed that, in order to achieve such goals, the drow had to be in a state of perpetual infighting and violent competition, the constant training serving to make them stronger and smarter while breeding out indolence and other weaknesses.

However, the extreme, self-destructive degree to which the Darwinian attitude of the drow was taken prevented them from achieving either of their purposes, barring possibilities for significant growth.[99] In truth, despite her rhetoric, Lolth had no intention of having the drow devote themselves to reaching their supposed goal. She found their in-fighting far too enjoyable to focus their attention of taking the surface.[100]

On a personal level, each drow tried to gain and maintain the favor of Lolth, amass material goods (like wealth and slaves), and gain status inside their society.[31] Depending on the station of a drow, there was a difference in the kind of plans they supported and executed. Drow of higher standing supported endeavors to boost their own prestige by increasing their own people's power and influence. Drow of lower station supported plans that dragged everybody down, for example by causing strife and violence within their communities.[47]

Drow communities were known as city-states, although they weren't actually organized as "states", as much as clusters of drow lead by oppressive, theocratic nobility. Cities were normally independent and not part of a larger drow nation, and though some had trade agreements, most frequently fell to war with one another.[77] Cities usually included farmlands, where slaves worked to produce and harvest meat and crops.[77] Those lands were usually found inside the main cavern but sometimes, usually due to space limits, they could be found outside as well.[101]

Architecture

A drow stronghold.

Drow architecture, like typical elven works of construction,[102] put an emphasis on beauty and was considered a marvel to behold.[103][29] The drow were the best architects when it came to shaping and hollowing out stalactites, stalagmites, and cave columns. They were also known for their stone bridge, balcony, and buttress designs, as well as their intricate spiral tunnels. Suspension bridges were the norm, for they could withstand earthquakes, and cave fishers were trained for the purpose of slinging their lines.[104]

The drow used the very environment of the Underdark as material for their architecture, and could make use of growing sedimentary structures to shape their buildings.[105] They were particularly interested in the magimorphic clear black stone, because creatures with darkvision could see through it.[106] In some cities, clay was used by the poor, similarly to how to was used in Kara-Tur and the Shaar, to create dwellings. The same craft was used by the rich to create temporary furniture and sculptures for their parties, which were then decorated with gems, glowing fungi, and similar material.[107] As far as dwellings went, noble drow usually lived in their mansions while the commoners lived in either small caves or walled, circular houses with dug-out cellars and adobe-like construction, both designed to be as beautiful as possible.[32]

Despite their excellent craftsmanship, drow cities tended to be a chaotic and messy sight because of the lack of a uniform architectural style.[77] Common features in drow cities were the presence of spider webs in passages and layouts of buildings,[32] and frequent obsidian-cast spider motifs as decorations.[106] Lighting was created both through magic and mundane means, with the former being far more common,[76] and the continual faerie fire spell commonly adorned particularly impressive structures, the borders and landmarks of a given city-state, buildings belonging to the wealthy, as well as the working places for slaves outside of the city.[76][108][77]

Magic in general was a key element in drow architecture, with crucial structures often supported by spells rather than being carefully built to stand on their own (which could cause them to collapse when the magic wore off). In the event of collapse, rubble was cleaned out by slaves, only for the drow to use magic like stone shape and the barest minimum amount of handiwork for reconstruction. It was this slapdash approach to their architecture that meant that instability issues in drow cities had a tendency to persist.[103]

Defenses

The drow were mostly met in the Upperdark, but the majority of their cities were found in the Middledark as a protection against aggressions from the surface. In fact, traveling all the distance down to the Middledark with an army from the surface wasn't a feasible undertaking.[99] The gates of a drow city, as well as its important buildings, usually had jade spider guardians.[109]

The places in the Underdark where drow built their city-states had to meet sevaral criteria. The caverns had to be huge,[29] allowing a horizontal layout of the city,[110] great amounts of iron, adamantite, and gems needed to be nearby, and the magnetic force and the faerzress needed to be particularly intense,[111] both for practical reasons and, according to Qilué Veladorn, because the drow had a mental compulsion to be near the radiation and were drawn to it.[112] Whatever the reason, when the faerzress disappeared, the drow-city usually collapsed too.[110]

The faerzress radiation near most drow cities provided protection from magical spying via divination, and also made it difficult, or even dangerous, to teleport within the area.[113] Furthermore, the faerzress allowed cheap and easy creation of magic, drowcraft items,[81] and the radiation had several defensive purposes.[99] For example, drow often used shriekers, a type of fungi that grew in faerzress-rich places, to warn them of incoming danger.[111]

However, the drow's relationship with faerazress could be as much a weakness as it was a strength. Their over-reliance on it meant that drow settlements were often stationary, leaving them relatively easy to locate and vulnerable to attack by various the forces of the Underdark.[80] The radiation was also uniquely capable of causing mutations in other creatures; a flying roper, for example, could be born in a faerazress-rich environment. If the product of such mutations was powerful, drow tried to avoid fighting it and keep it within a certain area so that would-be invaders would have to face it instead, turning it into an unwitting sentry. If the creature had a spider-like appearance, the drow would praise it as the work of Lolth and occasionally feed it with captives or lured adventurers.[111]

Waterworks

A specialty of the drow was their ability to cut and shape stone, both with magical and mundane methods, to produce smooth-flowing buildings, and waterworks were a product of drow craftsmanship that received universal acclaim. Systems of intricately curved pipes that bore through solid rock, fitted with shut-off valves, side-channels, and pumps, collected and diverted water for various purposes, from dietary, to industrial, to waste disposal.[114]

The valves were big, hollow stone spheres with two opposed holes, closely fitted into a basin, which had both inlet and outlet channels. They were attached to a large, counter-weighted lever that, when turned, lined up the inlet and outlet channels with the holes of the valve to let water come through. The flow was regulated by opening a sliding panel, which turned the sphere in such a direction that only the volume of water that filled it could pass through and be diverted towards a side-channel. The aforementioned pumps had two varieties: a corkscrew-type, that worked by water pressure, and a piston type, worked by slaves. Constant application of magic was needed to make the water seals function perfectly.[114]

Classism

Commoners

Most members of a Lolthite drow society lived under oppression, in a state of perpetual desperation and poverty.[77] Commoners normally learned a craft or entered military training, while talented individuals could hope to enter one of the magic schools. Ironically, commoners had a greater number of multi-generation households, since their relatives had less to gain from their death, resulting in families who had many living generations of members. There also wasn't much to be gained from killing an elder (at least one that wasn't feeble), as they represented a valuable source of historical and general knowledge with realistic accessibility,[33] although they elderly would be eaten if the city was faced with overpopulation.[47]

Commoners who gained enough expertise in a certain area, like Zaknafein Do'Urden as a warrior, might be adopted into a noble family.[33] From time to time, artists were adopted by one of the Houses for their skill.[115] Commoners could also rise to a higher social station by becoming the consort of a noble, gaining the latter's last name for the duration of the marriage.[116]

Consort bonds were generally of temporary nature, however, due to accidental breeches of etiquette, the noble's disinterest, or because they were simply being used as a pawn in the political games of Lolthite society. The outcome was either a painful death or expulsion—usually the former.[33] In general, rising through the ranks too quickly was dangerous for any drow, as the usual reaction was the formation of temporary alliances among those who believed they wronged to take the upstart down and such alliances were often successful.[44] Nonetheless, noble drow valued commoners more than slaves, and usually sacrificed them only if a slave was not at hand.[33]

Nobles

A matron of the drow.

See also: List of drow houses

Drow were ruled by their aristocracy, the drow Houses, made up by the families that had the strength and incredible influence to occupy the best lands,[33][24] with most Houses often being located in close proximity to each other. While the nobles hoarded the best territory and resources, the rest of the population was forced to fend for themselves. These priestesses of Lolth that normally reigned over drow societies were poor rulers who tossed their cities into a haphazard organization.[77]

Noble Houses constantly fought each other[8] but were also characterized by internal strife,[110] as expected in a society that followed the Way of Lolth.[29] Though the power of the many Houses changed often, the few at the top usually remained stable.[77] A good indicator of a drow House's power was the grandeur of their domain, with the biggest, grandest villas belonging the the greatest Houses,[102] and a public temple to Lolth often being built within the strongest family's territory.[77] Not only did the infighting of drow Houses paralyze the growth of their own cities,[99] but they actively undermined opportunities and chances for any form of development in order to ensure that those below them didn't gain power (and with it, the option to turn away from Lolth).[117]

Drow Houses were founded by powerful drow individuals with special powers, whose traits would be passed to their offspring (see under Noble Powers), and further augmented with magic items. Within a family, noble drow parents viewed their children as vehicles for their own advancement, a mindset which included sacrificing them for some potential gain. Noble drow families banded together for mutual protection and not out of affection. Noble drow stayed with their family as children to protect themselves from outside violence, and as adults because Houses proved to be good tools for societal advancement.[33]

Matron mother is a strange title for a cruel tyrant, but given what drow consider to be a goddess, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised.

The head of a noble House was a matron mother, a powerful priestess of Lolth. Below her, in descending order of influence, were the female members of the House, who were also priestesses.[110] After them came male officers, including the weapon master, House wizard, and patron (the matron's consort), although these positions could be combined. Then came the other male members of the House (war-leaders, who answered to the weapon master, and House mages, subservient to the House wizard). Below the non-officer males (who were normally of the House's bloodline) were servants and slaves. Positions were normally sorted by age but were ultimately not set in stone, and could be changed at the matron mother's whims[91]

Females had absolute power within their household, and owned all the governmental and militaristic power within the city, although they held no authority until after puberty. Males never held any authority unless they managed to become an officer. In most cases, a matron only lost her position if murdered by her eldest daughter. This usually marked a new direction for the House, and sometimes even its destruction, because the murder of a matron was seen as a sign of disfavor from Lolth.[37][91]

Justice

Of course, there are rules of behavior; every society must boast of these. To openly commit murder or wage war invites the pretense of justice, and penalties exacted in the name of drow justice are merciless. To stick a dagger in the back of a rival during the chaos of a larger battle or in the quiet shadows of an alley, however, is quite acceptable—even applauded. Investigation is not the forte of drow justice. No one cares enough to bother.
— Drizzt Do'Urden explaining drow justice.[119]

A Lolthite drow society was a theocracy with ultimate, absolute power invested in the ruling priestesses, particularly the matron mothers. Technically the only rule was "might makes right",[120] and the priestesses were judge, jury, and executioner (or whatever other punishment they saw fit to enact). There were no concepts like "guilt until proven innocent" or "proven beyond a reasonable doubt".[121][120] The priestesses saw it as their right to arrest and punish people for assumed offenses via methods they made up on the spot, and the only way to lessen a punishment was for the presumed criminal to have connections to those that the punishing priestess or priestesses considered a threat.[121][120]

However, as the priestesses had power invested in them by the Spider Queen, the actual basis of drow society law was the Way of Lolth.[110] The priestesses of the Spider Queen forced others to comply with Lolth's dogma, which in turn became the main law.[121] Fittingly, one of the main tenets (the first one, in fact) was that Lolth was the only true goddess, and that anyone worshiping another deity or practicing a different faith was to be sacrificed to Lolth. Ritual worship by non-drow was punished with a heavy fine and temporary exile from the city with second offenses carrying the death penalty, along with first-time offenses by drow. To even utter another god's name was frowned upon, although not a real cause for punishment.[120][90]

Justice? Justice had never been more than a facade and a means of keeping the pretense of order in chaotic Menzoberranzan.
— Matron SiNafay Hun'ett, admitting as much.[122]

While violence and property crime was punished in drow society, it wasn't because such acts were believed to be morally wrong. A drow vandal, petty thief, or burglar would face charges, but the stolen goods would not be hunted down since, in drow eyes, the fact that the previous owner couldn't defend it meant that they didn't deserve to keep it. Similarly street patrols violently punished anyone fighting, but the victim of the assault was expected to defend themselves against their assailants. Even drow Houses were punished for the open murder of their enemies, just as they would if their assassination was exposed, but this was because public fighting was considered boorish.[120][90]

In truth, drow law was nothing more than a formal excuse for cruelty, an ironic parody of order made only to disguise the chaotic, ruthless, murderous ambition of the drow and their infighting. For the most part, there was no prescribed criteria for how justice was to be performed, and punishments could very easily be wildly disproportionate to the crime. "Justice" was a senseless and arbitrary institution with no due process or appeals system (unless one counted leveraging their connections) capriciously enforced at the cruel whims of the ruling tyrants. Though certain acts did carry penalties, the only actual crime (the part they were truly being punished for) was getting caught.[120][90]

Violations

It was considered a violation of the Way of Lolth to defy the hierarchy of their society in any way. This included but was not limited to killing spiders (which was possibly not an actual rule, but could be considered taboo), a slave disobeying their owners in any way, a commoner refusing the orders of a priestess (an exception being if the commoner belonged to another house, although even then the offended priestess was often allowed to flog them), and a student refusing the "courting" of a matron or female teacher.[120][90]

Drow society also had a strict fashion code (which included rules about hairstyles) meant to allow easy identification of a drow's social station and House (if any). Any drow who committed identification litigations by wearing the wrong hair style, clothes, and/or drow house insignia was considered a criminal unless the House authorized the use of their color or insignia or if the matron mother expressedly permitted a drow to change their hair and attire to appear as a different rank. It was also illegal for non-drow to disguise themselves as a specific drow, a noble drow, or a member of a House outside of the one they belonged to.[120][90]

Failing to completely exterminate the drow noble line of another House in a single attack, more than one House teaming up to attack another (one of the few offenses that had to be proven) or attacking a drow House within a year of the last attack against them were all offenses.[120][90]

Punishment

Given the wickedly whimsical nature of drow law, punishment for many of the above offenses (especially refusing one's superiors) could range from immediate execution, death by torture, torture without death, mutilation, castration, imprisonment, exile, forced labor, whipping, and exorbitant fines (which the priestess could keep). Whipping and torture were the most common penalties since the priestesses enjoyed punishments that could be inflicted multiple times. Violation of the fashion code, disregarding exceptions due to authorization by the appropriate individuals, was always punished by death.[120][90]

Failing to fully obliterate another House or allying with another to do so was a crime punished by all other Houses destroying the offenders. While attacking a House in short succession wasn't technically punished by law, the offending Houses's priestesses would lose Lolth's favor and be unable to cast spells until they performed a great deed to regain it. This practically assured a House's destruction as they were forced to fall back on diplomatic and physical methods of defense, with all other Houses able to attack them with impunity.[120][90]

Gender Roles and Family

A leashed male drow protects a female drow.

Under Lolth's dogma, female drow were recognized as being more valuable than males, who were considered worthless. This gave female drow absolute power over males,[110] and meant they were less likely to be sacrificed.[33] It would be easy to imagine, therefore, that drow females, had it much easier compared to males, but this was merely an illusion. In drow society, where rank was power and power was everything, a prestigious position came at a high cost. Drow ambition combined with the other teachings of Lolth meant that the competition between female drow, particularly those who belonged to powerful houses, was violent, aggressive, and lethal in a way that males didn't have to deal with. It was even worse for those women who sought power outside of Lolth's church, for they had to compete both with other females and oppressed and resentful men.[123]

Still, males who hoped to find any place of power often resorted to ends as treacherous as the women that ruled the drow. Men generally tried currying favors with women, attempting to advance their station by attaching themselves to them. For example, some tried to gain high officer positions or win a coveted place as the consort of a powerful matron mother.[38] Drow "courting" was the domain of women in Lolthite society, and for a male to try initiate a relationship was a form of insubordination and a reason for execution by torture and sacrifice. In general, drow women chose their partners as animals would be chosen for breeding purposes, with males expected not to resist the other's affections. Males had no chance on when the relationship would start or end, while females could do so at their leisure, at least in theory.[33]

When a drow male was desired by more than one female, the latter would compete over him. This was by no means a positive circumstance for the male, as a female who lost might decide that if she couldn't have them then no one would. More than once a female would "give up" on a male before flaying him and leaving his corpse in a rival's bedchambers,[33] and a discarded male would more likely end up dead than left alone. Among commoner drow and in non-Lolthite socieites, matters weren't so extreme. The concept of marriage existed, but was not as permanent, with contracts lasting for a decade or so at longest with the potential for renewal. Merchant clans followed similar rules, but marrying into a clan meant being part of it for life, and trying to leave could be the same as inviting death.[116]

A working long-term relationship between drow was likely not the result of love, but due to tangible reasons, like complementary careers, political influence, attractiveness, or the male having a history of fathering many female offspring. Any actual affection was usually the result of the male being attractive, servile, and never embarrassing the female. 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 the right to put the dog down for any reason.[33]

Magic

Arcane magic was a route for power for male drow, though open only to a few. While they were still socially inferior to 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.[33] Other ways of gaining station as a male were to become an arcane devotee (but it didn't grant any additional safety), or an arachnomancer, taking advantage of the reverence of spiders that came with the worship of Lolth.[124]

Male clerics existed among the drow, but in Lolth-dominated cities, they were targets of her female followers, and Lolth barred them from achieving power beyond a certain threshold. They served in low-ranking positions under lethal risks,[125] and though capable of becoming divine disciples, it often caused the priestesses to kill them.[124] Other drow deities had different approaches to gender. Ghaunadaur had no gender restrictions,[33] while Vhaeraun's faith had a gender barrier that made it harder for women to become his clerics.[126]

Eilistraee accepted clergy of all genders and races, although before the 1370s DR, her actual clerics could only be female.[127] This was less due to any supposed inferiority of males, but because becoming one required a greater understanding and sensitivity of the "life of the other gender”. For lack of better terminology, one simply couldn't truly feel the Divine Dance of Eilistraee "properly" except as a female, and so her rare and secretive male priests had to spend some time as a female, not just for the duration of a ritual called the Changedance, but in everyday ways. 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),[28] but after the Second Sundering, Eilistraee's clergy could be accessed by people of any gender with equal ease.[128]

Children

Given the need to compete for limited resources and advancement opportunities in their society, drow had an interesting relationship with children. On some level drow recognized that the children were the future of their race, the vulnerability of young drow to magic for example having led to the development of the potion of magic resistance.[55][47] However, an honest bond of love between parent and child in drow society was even rarer than one between lovers. Instead, the relationship between drow and their children was frequently one of mutual exploitation, each using the other as a tool only so long as they still needed them.[33] A child born with physical malformations or imperfections, due to the drow obsession with beauty, was killed shortly after birth.[116]

Due to their competitive society, drow tried to instill the ideals of tenacity, cruelty, ambition,[44] self-reliance, and independence in their children.[116] Since traits like kindness or compassion were considered dangerous and exploitable,[31] children who showed such weakness were punished. Punishment ranged from beatings to neglect, such as withholding food, with the goal of the abusive treatment being to prepare the child for the cruelty of their future lives. These punishments could prove lethal, and the inevitable child deaths were justified as "saving" the child from an even worse fate as an adult. Drow children learned cruelty and bloodthirst both as a survival mechanism, and as a defensive mechanism to escape punishment, and these lessons generally scarred a drow and stuck with them for life.[44][31]

This was when a drow's parents were actually in the drow's life. Noble drow weren't raised by their parents, whom they only rarely saw a few times a year, but by elder siblings and private caretakers before being sent to the city's priesthood, military, or wizard academy depending on gender and inclination. In effect, each was a kind of boarding school for children over ten years old, which normally only allowed them to return home once per year for important family or religious meetings.[33] Merchant clans[116] and commoners (who lacked the resources to hire tutors) considered raising children the entire family's duty, before they learned the parent's craft, enrolled in the military, or joined a wizard or cleric academy. Whether noble or commoner, children generally lacked any strong parental bonds, being both physically and emotionally distant to their absentee parents, thus limiting the emotional growth they could achieve in a more normal (by surface standards) home environment.[33]

Relationships

The drow held some respect towards races capable of resisting their aggressions,[29] and could perceive certain races as at least possible equals (though never superiors) with whom they had mutual gain or non-aggression pacts. However, contracts with "lesser races" were not seen as actually binding, and were readily broken as soon as they stopped being beneficial to the drow party. As a result, the other races learned to anticipate betrayal and always had counters to the treachery prepared.[47] Normally the drow had poor opinions of even their erstwhile allies, and viewed other races, at best, as merely laughable or contemptible.[75]

Two drow watch over a gladiator match as one of them eats grapes.

The drow's ultimately viewed other races as somewhere between targets of extermination and potential slaves,[29] foes to be either dominated or, if they were a threat driven to extinction. As such, drow had an extremist mentality when meeting with them, their first thought being to wage war on the new neighbors in order to subjugate or eradicate them. Prisoners of such violent activities were the source of slaves in their cities.[75] Normally somewhere between half and two-thirds of a given drow settlement's population consisted of slaves or other non-drow without rights,[29] although only Houses possessed significant amounts of slaves. In some cases the number was rarely above the House's drow population[129] and in others the slaves outnumbered them either two or three to one.[75]

As a general rule, the inhabitants of Toril's surface knew very little about the drow. To the average person, the drow were such a distant problem that they were considered more like myth than reality.[44] Given that they couldn't do anything effectively in bright light, drow were inactive on the surface during the day.[74] As a rule of thumb, only 5% of surface inhabitants had the superficial knowledge that the drow were "inhabitants of the Underdark who conducted raids on the surface", not including elves and eladrin, who had close historical connections. This made it easier for individual drow to enter surface communities without meeting hostility as long as they didn't do or say something that could catch attention and lead people who had real knowledge about the drow to cleanse their community of the threat the drow represented.[44]

Even so, surface cities generally didn't allow drow into their cities because of their reputation,[74] though followers of Eilistraee sometimes managed to gain a place within surface communities.[130][131] Their unique appearance combined with their negative public image made it practically impossible for them to effectively replenish their resources on the surface.[74] Intelligent creatures on nearly every plane in existence knew of, and maintained at least a respect for, the drow.[122]R.A. Salvatore (March 2006). Exile. (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 0-7869-3983-4.

Aboleths
The drow regularly came into contact with the aboleths and their allies, meetings that normally resulted in war between the two groups.[132] Unlike other races, which the dark elves could at least intuit the desires and determine the utility of, the aboleths thoughts followed alien patterns, and their environment was one the dark elves had no ability or interest in inhabiting. The drow would simply ignore the aboleths if not for the fact that the aquatic aberrations took their slaves and minions from both dark elves and their victims.[133]
Moreover, the drow were somewhat terrified of the aboleths, who had the power to strip free will and turn them into mindless slaves, and whose minions were immune to the intimidation the drow were accustomed to using. As such, the drow normally used brutal hit-and-run tactics against the aboleths, but only if they couldn't agree to stay out of each other's way.[133] However, an increasing number of both aboleths and drow found a strangely comfortable commonality in their veneration of Ghaunadaur. The majority of both races considered his worship heretical at best and treasonous at worst, so the two outcasts of the incredibly different species frequently joined to create cities difficult to assail by land or sea.[132]
Araneas
Araneas were viewed by the drow as traitors to Lolth according to their mythology. Some stories portrayed them as drider-like beings, punished with arachnid shape for failing Lolth, while others held them to be Lolth's first attempt at creating life before she perfected it with the drow, although either way they were seen as feeble-minded for not following the Spider Queen. Powerful drow sought to use them as slaves while others swallowed their pride and either hired or cooperated with them to achieve a specific goal (frequently harboring plans to betray them later).[133]
Unusually for beings of regular passivity, the aranea had a burning hatred for the drow, resenting their narcissism and tendency to enslave or slaughter them, normally when the former option proved ineffective. Still, if offered fair enough gains, araneas would cooperate with drow as readily as any other race.[133]
Beholders
Beholders were often sought out by the drow as allies for the extra protection these aberrations could offer to their communities, encouraging them to make their lairs outside their settlements.[77]
Bi-nou
Bi-nou were said to have been created by the dark elves, and had been known to ally with them when drow numbers could prove a threat to their clan. They acted as sentries for outposts and communities, devouring even drow that did not belong to the area they protected, and some even acted as bodyguards for specific drow, moving through the caverns and attacking any threats.[134]
Chitines
Chitines were created by the drow of Ched Nasad as part of their breeding experiments[135] using elven and/or dwarven stock through a combination of arcane, divine, and pact magic, rituals.[26][136] A population of chitines managed to escape into the Underdark, and though the drow still created chitines if needed (since they could still be useful servants),[136] but most independent chitines absolutely refused to work with the drow unless planning a nasty surprise for their former slavemasters.[137] The two groups often killed each other on sight,[138] and though Lolth still favored the drow, she sometimes actively pitted both groups against each other to punish the dark elves for their past insubordination.[136]
Choldrith
Choldriths were occasionally created by the chitine transformation ritual, although originally perceived as a positive (since they could lay eggs to increase the chitine population) they were actually spawned due to Lolth's displeasure. The choldriths were fully devoted to Lolth in body and soul and convinced the chitines to rebel against their would-be drow masters. If the chitine creation ritual resulted in a choldrith, it would be killed immediately.[136]
Deep dragons
Deep dragons, like beholders, were often sought out by drow as allies,[77] but the dark elves were just as easily their greatest enemies.[139] They were usually encountered in the Upperdark and Middledark, particularly near drow cities, and frequently worked with the drow as guardians in exchange for regular food (which normally took the form of captives, criminals, and slaves).[140] At the dragons' whims however, they could just as easily maintain an arrogant and malicious distance.[139]
The deep dragons ultimately saw the drow as useful tools, as well as excellent providers of "trinkets" (magic items), but recognized they could prove dangerous. Though it would disrupt their food and magic supply, the deep dragons were generally pleased when the drow were faced with heavy infighting, as by weakening themselves, they ensured they would not dominate the Underdark, freeing the deep dragons of fears about a dark elf hedgemony.[139]
Demons
Demons had an odd relationship with the drow. The drow didn't fear demons the same way most mortals did (as their own goddess was a denizen of the Abyss), respecting their power and reveling in their god's link to their home. Drow called demons from the Abyss when they wanted something, and demons answered their call when they wanted something in return. Drow sought the demon's service to increase their prestige or gain leverage against their foes while the demon either wanted to spread death, enact a devious scheme, or curry the favor of Lolth. As long as both sides got what they wanted, these arrangements concluded without incident.[141]
Demons were the greatest kind of slave a noble House could possess, and there were few things more effective for displaying the owner's powers and terrifying their enemies than to see one in shackles. Demons were also desired as house guests, their attendance at a major sacrifice, lavish banquet, or dedication of a newborn daughter to Lolth giving the event greater significance. In addition, a "peaceful" gathering of drow and demons had the potential to become a riot of degenerate debauchery. Aside from hedonistic and relatively routine orgies, one of the most perverse drow fetishes was the ritualized mating of demons and dark elves, usually as part of Lolthite ceremony or other important event (such as graduation from the Academy in Menzoberranzan), which could sometimes result in such horrific demonic half-breeds as the draegloths.[141][42]
Despite relatively benign relations, one could not forget that the demons of the Abyss were not to be casually toyed with, and every so often, a drow's demon summoning attempt went wrong. Whether due to inadequate precautions, a clever fiendish ploy, or simply because the demon managed to overpower the summoner, the end result was a demon on the lose. To fail to control one's summoned demon was a captial offense in drow society, as it often doomed not only the caster, but the entire house along with them.[141]
Disir
Disir, a race of subterranean, corpse-like scavengers, had a fanatical hatred of anything that could be considered their neighbors and, rather than create their own, more often appropriated the homes of others, making them a scourge among tunneling races.[142] The drow were a potential threat to the survival of the disir, for if they ever reached unity, the resulting power gap would ensure their extinction.[47]
Driders
Driders were feared and shunned by drow as outcasts even lower than slaves. After failing of defying the Spider Queen in some way, drow were transformed into drider and stripped of all status, relationships, and worldly possessions. Though initially driven from their cities, their presence was tolerated if they ever came back as a living example of what happens to thse that failed Lolth. Drow were also known to confine them in certain areas where they could serve as a line of defense against intruders.[143][144][145]
Driders hated the drow and their greatest joy came in slaying them. Sometimes outcast drow or whole communities would come to a drider or two, giving them a task in exchange for some reward, but the drow were infamously treacherous and could have impossible expectations, and under normal circumstances the drider would usually end up dead. An unexpected number of drider prepared for this and had contingencies to take as many drow down with them.[143][145]
Duergars
Duergar were dark reflections of the dwarves just as the drow were to the elves. Their domains were just as strong, wealthy, and cruel, as those of the drow and they were almost as widespread and numerous as them, yet just like the dwarves and elves, the two were opposites in many ways. The duergar were grim and sullen, showing an adamant industriousness and pragmatic harshness unseen in the drow. The decadent dark elves used their cities to glorify the nobility, using slaves in spectacles or torment and horror, whereas the foundry-fortresses of the gray dwarves existed only to for ceaseless work and production. While the gray dwarves would enslave anything they got their hands on, they were more insular and relatively better neighbors, less likely to actively seek out slaves or victims and instead simply working the captives they did have to death.[8]
As with many of their relationships, the duergar were simultaneously one of the drow's biggest allies and most frequent rivals.[20] The duergar had a "might makes right" attitude,[8][146] just as the drow did, and received their grudging respect for being able to build powerful cities and withstand their repeated attacks.[29] As one of the races regarded by dark elves as being close to their equals, they were dealt with through a combination of armed truces, subtle threats, hard bargaining, mutually beneficial deals, and magic.[47] The duergar were particularly good allies since they created excellent weapons and sold them from their caravans all throughout the Underdark.[29][20]
That said, the duergar were almost never trusted by the drow, and for good reason.[147] Though willing to trade with them, the gray dwarves harbored a longstanding hatred of their underground neighbors, regularly pitting them against each other and willing to raid their caravans for slaves and treasure (like the dark elves, lacking pity for those incapable of protecting their own property).[148][149] War between the two was relatively common since they frequently competed for the same territory, and both sides were relatively equal in military endeavors (the drow pulling ahead by only the slimmest of margins).[133]
Personally, the duergar couldn't stand the drow, likely because they could detect the mockery behind their condescending courtesy.[8][146] They viewed them as intrusive, undisciplined, and mercurial just as the drow thought of them as slow, unimaginative, and weak-willed, and the gray dwarves would sooner kill the uncontrollable creatures than take them as slaves.[133]
Dwarves
Dwarves were among the traditional enemies of the drow,[47] the shared enmity between the two having begun as soon as the drow descended below the surface. To establish Underdark territories, they immediately launched a series of wars to seize dwarven magic items before using them against their previous owners.[150] Drow craftwork paled in comparison to dwarven constructions, not due to any inherently inferior ability to create, but rather because of the style-over-substance, short-sightedness of the dark elves. When presented with similar situations, dwarves would create a reliable structure able to last for eons where the drow would create something aesthetically pleasing but vulnerable and potentially dangerous to the occupants.[103]
Both drow and dwarves were similar in that neither had high birthrates, both were often rich, and both were territorial, but their similarities were more a source of conflict and competition that common ground. Both competed for the same riches, veins and lodes of pure metallic ore and gemstones, and each party was willing to steal from the other. Drow preferred to leave the difficult and dirty mining to the dwarves (including duergar) before arriving on the scene taking the land, while dwarven raiding parties were known to "liberate" mineral deposits unearthed by drow magic. Persistent drow attacks met against the stubborn fury of the Stout Folk, with armed skirmishes being frequent and all-out wars going on for years. Both sides enlisted various allies (including mercenaries using their vast wealth), developed new magic, and tried to manipulate the earth to best defeat the ancient foe.[97]
Elves
While most drow shared a hatred of all other races, especially surface races, the object of their deepest hatred was the Seldarine and the surface elves, (especially moon and sun elves)[25][29] referred to as the "faeries" or the "Darthiir" in Drow language, which also meant "traitors".[151] From the very day a drow child could understand words, they were taught that whatever problems or injustices they faced, the elves of the surface world were ultimately to blame. Hatred for their surface-kin was not simply a taught lesson, but a conditioned response, their name instinctively cursed and used as a litany when a dark elf was faced with pain and hardship.[22]
Drow legends varied on how exactly it happened, but the drow believed themselves to have been unjustly punished by the elven gods, especially by Corellon Larethian, banished to the Underdark unfairly.[19][29][22][47] In some of the most brutal retellings of these events, the surface elves were portrayed as living embodiments of deception and malice, merciless killers that responded to the requests for peace of their innocent and naieve kin with ceaseless violence, and that massacred children and the elderly alike in an insane quest to take a horrid and painful surface world for themselves. Vile beyond even the imaginings of the drow, these fabricated surface elves were told to be utterly worthless wretches, hateful in the extreme, even towards each other.[22]
Most drow had a personal preference for versions of the story that had them willingly descend into the Underdark and had their transformation come as a gift from Lolth, as it went to satisfy their pride. Ironically however, as the only sensible theory went, the Church of Lolth had a tendency to suppress myths of the drow's descent that cast them as the superior party in the engagement. By doing so, they maintained the populace's hatred of the surface elves, fueling their sense of persecution and giving them a vile ambition to strive for in finally besting them.[152] Even in tales where they were winning the conflict, they were subject to the punishment of the Seldarine, who coddled the losing surface elves and exiled the drow for their success.[25]
The existence of surface elves united the drow in mutual hate,[25] and their mainstream culture had the annihilation of the surface elves' as one of its goals. Despite many drow thinking this way, some had become so used to life in the Underdark that they would prefer to make the best of it, and had no interest in returning to the surface.[19][47] Still, the drow quickly seized upon any chance to bring pain and death to all elves (even those that shared a similar view with them) with blind passion, and they conducted some surface raids for the expressed purpose of killing and enslaving them.[75][29][101]
For the elves part, they reciprocated the hatred of their deep-dwelling cousins with a loathing bordering on obsession. The elven stories of Lolth's betrayal and the horrid raids of her children were their own centuries' worth of indoctrination, and perhaps no race hated the drow more than the elves of the surface. Even the most open-minded elf would have trouble tolerating a drow, even one whose goodness could be objectively proven by magic, since even that could be cheated.[20] This applied especially to the sun elves, for if there was one race they held in absolute contempt, it would be their dark cousins. They commonly saw them as abominations, the very existence of their hated enemies an insult to the Seldarine, and they often attacked them on sight.[153]
Gloamings
Gloamings, a planetouched race of the Shadowfell, were incredibly individualstic, but nearly all had a similar opinion of the drow. They almost all harbored a deep racial hatred towards them, with one legend claiming that the drow cloak of dark power spell[154] commonly used by all drow faiths,[155] was learned only through the capture, experimentation, and torture of many gloamings.[154]
Grimlock
Grimlocks were intensely distrustful and incredibly xenophobic, a somewhat justified outlook given the depravities they had suffered at the hands of other races of the Underdark. One of those atrocities was enslavement by the drow's hand,[156] and their raiding parties favored targets with large slave populations, the drow being a prime example.[157]
Half-drow
Half-drow were mostly spurned by their arrogant, full-blooded kin, dismissed as inferior due to their diluted heritage.[158] The half-blooded drow held a bitter-resentment towards normal dark elves because of this, knowing that they were considered to be second-class citizens.[159]
Humans
Humans were among the drow's traditional enemies,[147] but one the drow lacked a unified stance on, finding them the only species as unpredictable as themselves. While their short lifespans and lack of innate abilities would incline the drow to view them as weak, the drow also had to recognize that they had greater adaptability to other environments and circumstances compared to other humanoids. Their dedication to their causes and gods (perhaps due to their short lives) could rival that of the most fervent Lolthite, but some could be easily swayed by wealth and power (the drow naturally preferring to work with the latter).[133]
Humans could be dangerous when they possessed martial or magical skill,[147] and the drow considered them a young race, which meant the potential to become old. They feared what humans could accomplish if given the time and experience of longer-lived races, and their solution to this problem was to destroy or enslave them before such a future could come upon them.[133]
Jermlaine
Jermlaine, a race of subterranean gremlins, had a hateful need to hurt "normal" sized humanoids rooted in a deep dense of inferiority. They carefully avoided direct conflict with beings such as the drow,[160] (if the drow race were to unify they would be too weak to survive)[47] and the drow had little desire to enslave the pesky creatures, although the jermlaine would happily prey on the victims of their neighbors and scavenge from their battles.[160]
Kuo-toa
Kuo-toa were once wholly enemies of the drow, their first meeting resulting in the dark elves killing the gogglers on sight.[161] This seemingly changed long ago after a drow-hating ruled faction in Sorath-Nu-Sum, a center of kuo-toa politics, overthrew the ruling council and slaughtered every drow trader in its streets. This resulted in quick and deadly retribution when drow mercenaries and aquatic spiders completely rid the city of all kuo-toa, staying there only to ensure they never came back.[162]
Sometime after this event, the various kuo-toa clergies declared all drow to be honorary kuo-toa, and welcomed them into their settlements, the only forbidden areas being their churches and spawning pools. Servitors, slaves, and allies of the kuo-toa had the same access, and since then the drow and kuo-toa established mutually beneficial trading agreements and relatively friendly relations with mixed settlements not being uncommon.[47] Drow were virtually the only people the kuo-toa didn't attack on sight with neither they or their servants being sacrificed to Blibdoolpoolp, and the drow avoided openly enslaving the kuo-toa, or at least taking too many of them captive.[163][164]
Despite these practices, relations between the kuo-toa and drow were strictly professional. The fish-men feared and hated the drow, working with them because they produced useful goods and services,[165] and the drow looked down on the kuo-toa,[75] viewing their weeding out of the weak as something that helped them to avoid the decadence and laziness that plagued the gogglers.[47] Blibdoolpoolp herself punished those non-kuo-toa that came to her realm without proper tribute by making them either bring a desired amount or having them kill a number of drow.[166] A lone member of either race had to be wary amongst the company of other, particularly if their disappearance was unlikely to be noticed.[164]
The only reason that many kuo-toa communities were intact was because the drow rarely put their all into their attacks due to their infighting.[47] However, this wasn't to say the kuo-toa weren't a threat to the drow. The cautious peace covered a sinister animosity between the two races, a cold war fueled by mutual enmity leading to many minor skirmishes, subtle undermining, frequent kidnappings, and attempts to outcolonize ancient sites on both sides that had gone on for centuries.[164][165] Astute scholars speculated that a three-way conflict existed between the drow, kuo-toa, and mind flayers, and that this was part of the reason why none of them could dominate the surface realm.[167]
Mind flayers
Illithids and drow were both powerful forces in the Underdark, and though neither race would ever admit the other was superior, both regarded the other as a threat. The drow viewed illithids as an inferior race, although one, like the duergar, to be respected for their powerful cities and military might,[29] and they acknowledged the threat an illithid community could pose. This respect was colored by fear that matched that the drow felt towards the aboleths, for the humanoid aberrations were almost as alien,[133] consumed brains,[26] and could threaten the drow with the most horrific of fate: the loss of self. Even an enslaved drow could advance their station through guile, but a drow thrall was little more than a shell, likely an inevitable meal, that could do nothing to save itself, and most drow would prefer to die before entering such a position.[133]
For their part, the mind flayers were willing to treat the drow respectfully (never deferentially) if needed,[168] and news of the dark elves' schemes was among the topics they were most interested in.[169] Illithids weren't afraid of the drow,[168] but were aware that they weren't invincible and,[170] like the drow themselves, didn't desire an all-out war. The drow were heavily resistant to the illithid's mental powers,[133] and even if they didn't succeed in destroying the elder brain, a drow raiding party (or an unleashed horde of demons) could decimate a colony.[170]
The mind flayers, again like the duergar, were simultaneously one the drow's biggest rivals and best allies,[20] and they worked with them much the same way.[47] On various occasions, the illithids and drow managed to find reasons and methods to cooperate. While the illithids sometimes gave the drow advice, read enemy minds, and used their powers to keep unruly drow slaves under control, the drow crafted the illithids items and gave the mind flayers slave they no longer needed for them to feed upon.[133][20] Some drow Houses had established close ties with illithids, using them to promote their causes both in the Underdark and on the surface.[171]
However, the arrangements between drow and illithids were shaky, as both had an intense distrust for the other[133] and alliances could prove dangerous (House Noquar for example, suffered for its cooperation with illithids).[171] The drow came into contact with the mind flayers more so than the aboleths because the two competed for territory, resulting in a rivalry that resulted in raids and skirmishes. Both sides ultimately saw the other as a stepping stone to greater power. The drow saw all other Underdark dwellers as nuisances that competed for power and resources with them, and the mind flayers didn't see the drow as that much more valuable than any non-illithid; they would be enslaved and consumed in the end, but were prepared to leave them for last.[133]
Svirfneblin
Deep gnomes, out of all their varied and horrible foes in the Underdark, were considered by the drow to be their most worst enemies, coming only before the surface elves in terms of hated status and perceived wickedness. In drow teachings, the svirfnebli were portrayed with personalities similar to the common perceptions of beings like kobolds or goblins, as vicious slavers that captured their enemies and tortured them for their own malevolent amusement. The drow didn't take them lightly either, believing them to be stupid but powerful (the latter opinion not being unjustified given their ability to summon earth elementals).[22]
Well—get on with it. I'm a deep gnome, you're a drow. You helped me, now you plan to enslave me.
— Barcus Wroot[172]
In all the Underdark, no being was as satisfyingly to slay for the drow as a deep gnome.[47] It was a hatred they shared with the kuo-toa, leading the two of them to band together to hunt the sverfnebli, and the drow offered the captured gnomes to the kuo-toa for sacrifices.[173] Conversely, deep gnomes feared and despised the murderous, demon-worshiping drow more than any other foe in the Underdark,[47][174] and never truly allied with them.[20] They considered them, along with the duergar, to be thorns in their side whose unrepentant evil had led those of the surface to draw similar conclusions about the deep-dwelling cousins of the gnomes.[175]
Even so, both deep gnomes and drow were willing to trade with one another despite their moral differences (drow offered not only information but had extensive trade routes which the deep gnomes found particularly valuable). The drow would destroy any trading partner if needed without compunction[101][176] and the deep gnomes had no trust in the dark elves, putting a lot of effort into hiding their settlements from all their sworn enemies.[177] Unlike the more stalwart dwarves, deep gnomes would withdraw when faced with persistent and powerful drow attacks.[97]

Animals

The drow didn't often keep animals as pets, preferring to keep creatures that could completely comprehend their dependence on their owners. Instead, many drow took a favored slave as a personal servant or thrall, slaves that were treated as little more than pets. They did however, domesticate a number of animals for various purposes, and were known to take advanage of molds, fungi, and oozes by using them as traps and for sanitation.[75]

Bats
The drow were fond of bats of all kinds (including both carnivore or herbivore varieties), and commonly kept them as pets.[75] Drow enjoy the company of bats of all kinds, whether carnivorous or herbivorous. The carnivorous bats would eat insects and the small, flying creatures of the Underdark (but spider-eating species would be exterminated) while the herbivorous bats either had adapted to subsist on Underdark fungi or had to have fruit imported from the surface, meaning they were limited to only the richest and influential drow.[40]
Bats of all sizes and breeds were used by the drow for various purposes, including as spies, scouts, alarms, fighting animals, and messengers (like carrier pigeons).[75][40] Their ability to navigate using sound meant they functioned extremely well in the Underdark, although most drow owners still used faerie fire to call their trained backs home. They were also used as pets, with the smallest varieties often kept in cages by small drow children. They were capable of forming genuine attachments to their bats, and therefore these pets were often killed by relatives or rivals, with reasoning ranging from teaching children that this was a foolish flaw, to simply being cruel.[40] Drow wizards often used various bat verities (including giant, deep, and mobats) as familiars.[178]
Larger bats were kept in small rooms within drow mansions and frequently cleaned by slaves to remove the smell. Dire bats were sometimes bred to battle each other (either in the air or in crude arenas after being crippled) in horrid dogfights that were the source of many drow wagers. A few communities used them as flying mounts, although doing so was dangerous and normally it was commoners (even commoner children) who were forced to do so, ensuring that it would be no great loss if either rider or steed died. The dire bats were trained in how to be steered using a bit and bridle while the rider was trained how to hold onto the harness and not fall off. Normally these riders only scouted or harassed enemies with poisoned crossbow bolts.[40]
While they didn't serve as familiars, the whimsical azmyth could befriend drow and serve them as companions as easily as they could bedevil them.[179][180][181]
Cavvekans
Cavvekans, also known as cavedogs, had learned to coexist with beings like the drow.[182] They were rare near dangerous drow cities, and thus were rarely taken as pets, instead being used as work animals Because their senses were superior to dark elves, the drow used them as guards[75][40] (which could be done if they were captured as pups)[182] or as hunting dogs, their ability to track by scent reaching the level of bloodhounds.[40]
Lizards
Subterranean lizards of various types had uses among the drow, and such creatures were the animals they most often domesticated. Some were even bred for specific purposes; the sticky pads of those used as mounts or pack animals were selected traits.[178][75] The larger and slower breeds were used as beasts of burden, pack lizards being a key example.[75][40]
The steady gait, balance, and wall-walking abilities of riding lizards made them ideal mounts for drow patrols.[75][40] Notable individuals, like particularly capable warriors or nobles, as well as mercenaries, used them as steeds.[183][178] Most Houses had at least a handful and the larger ones had entire squadrons of lizard cavalry, although unlike human knights, they crept unnoticed across the ceilings of caves to pepper the enemy with crossbow bolts rather than valiantly charge into battle. By the time the enemy realized what was happenening, most had been rendered unconscious. They also had a keen sense of smell and were trained to follow silent directions, mitigating their inability to see in the dark,[40] and could move without leaving obvious and readable heat prints.[178]
The slimy, skink-like spitting crawlers were favorites among male drow living in a typical Lolthite society, highly prized and commonly used by wizards as familiars and otherwise used as pets. Given that their acid was incredibly potent and extremely irritating even if only slightly exposed, they were unsuitable for children or very vain drow.[183][181][40]
Night hunters
Night hunters, evil creatures able to see even further into the dark than the drow, were sometimes domesticated by the dark elves and used as aggressive pets or familiars.[40]
Rothe
Rothe, more precisely the smaller deep rothe, were also commonly domesticated by the drow. They were a common food source[184] and a beast of burden for merchants and farmers wherever they were found.[185]
Shriekers
Shriekers, despite being fungi rather than animals,[186] were kept as pets by unusual drow communities that worshiped demons or strange gods. They were also used as a warning system for certain areas within noble Houses. There were a plethora of shrieker varieties, each giving off different sounds, and they were both easy to care for and could be trained to recognize certain creatures. They could also be eaten if they grew too big or became too unruly, and some drow delighted in eating them live, savoring the screams like they were those of a surface elf.[40]
Slaves
Like shriekers, slaves were not technically animals, but it was not uncommon for young nobles to adopt them as "pets".[40] It was also common for drow in general to pick a favored slave that was nothing short of a pet.[75] Trolls were examples of creatures treated as such,[187] and children were particularly likely to pick a pet if the being was physically small or perceived to be stupid (such as most goblins and kobolds).[40]
Though their lives of child slaves were comparatively pampered compared to ordinary servitors, they were still treated as little more than animals, their lives always forfeit. They were often chained in small rooms when the child didn't want to play, and many were neglected and forgotten for weeks on end (perhaps if they misbehaved in some way) or just tortured to death when the child tired of them. Such pets were easily replaceable.[40]
Snakes
Snakes were common drow companions, including both constrictors and venomous serpents. Drow torturers enjoyed extracting the venom of their pets to increase the agony of their victims. Younger drow, particularly priestesses-in-training, sometimes had small consrictors as pets, and often fed them flesh carved from living slaves to "train" them. Spitting snakes were placed in cages on high shelves so that they could spew venom at intruders.[40] Both poisonous and spitting snakes were also used as familiars by drow wizards.[178]
Snakes, being generally venemous, were favored creautres to Lolthites, occupying a clear second-place position in sanctity next to arcachnids, and individuals that died in Lolth's disfavor were said to reincarnate as either. Favored ones that died while protecting a temple to Lolth were used to create the whips of fangs.[40][188]
Spiders
Spiders, being the symbol of Lolth, were the animals most closely associated with the drow, and they had a variety of roles in a drow community depending on their size. Very small ones were kept as pets by children in lairs made of metal and glass, while those big enough to kill mice served as familiars or roamed the streets acting as pest controllers. Those of dog-size sometimes served as temple guards (and were occassionally resurrected and bound to spider-demon upon their death), while those of horse-size were used as steeds.[40]
Due to the difficulty of training unintelligent vermin, spiders in drow communities were often specifically bred for their purpose. The sword spider, was an excellent example[75] brought to the Underdark from the surface and often commanded by the priestesses of Lolth.[189] Spider-like outsiders such as bebiliths, myrlochar, and retrievers were also a common sight in Lolth's temples.[75]
Drow cities weren't full of spiders solely because of the faith. The drow had an affinity for spiders and they in turn were attracted to the drow, leading to large concentrations of spiders even in communities that didn't worship Lolth.[37] Lolthite dogma forbade the act of hurting spiders, and such an act was punished with torture[40] and death.[190]
However, other sources claimed that rather than revering spiders, it would be more accurate to say that the drow emulated them, meaning they ruthlessly preyed upon even their own kin. Hurting spiders was still somewhat taboo, as the act could be used against a drow by their superiors, but it was possible their attitude was less reverence and more indifference until it became inconvenient. Some drow families even ceremoniously ate spiders before a meal to give thanks to the Spider Queen.[120]

Language

Main article: Drow language

Barring the most primitive among them, the drow were a literate race.[77] As was common for elves, drow speech was quite eloquent and their speech was almost musical.[56] Most drow only knew two languages, namely Deep Drow and the Sign language, since they usually stayed in their cities and therefore had limited exposure to or need to learn other tongues. However, drow adventurers, outcasts, and slave-traders often learned more languages,[56] as did their warriors.[77] Drow were known to use their ability to read subtle markings in stone to leave secret messages.[76]

Drow names often included double letters and were designed to be pleasant to the ear.[8] They believed that having first names similar to those of the Dark Seldarine guaranteed misfortune, and names similar to that of their patron was considered blasphemy.[191] Nobles had a strong tendency to avoid giving names that were similar in sound to the common tongue of Deep Drow.[191] Drow last names never started with the "L"-sound like that of "Lolth", "Lloth", or "Loethe", as this was reserved for the Spider Queen's avatar. Holding a last name, in general, meant that the holder was either born into a noble family, or had a rank and role (like weapon master) in a household. Drow that didn't meet those criteria weren't allowed to have a surname.[192]

Drow house glyph

Deep Drow
The everyday language of the drow was commonly called "Deep Drow", as well as "Low Drow" or "Drowic".[56] It was an elven dialect[8] similar in structure to Common and Undercommon, with a lot of borrowed words from other languages like the orcish, dwarven, and human tongues.[56]
Drow Sign language
The Sign language was also commonly known among drow. It could convey information as well as any spoken language[56] within range[9] of 120 feet (37 meters) and had no written form.[77] The language was not part of the drow's compulsory education,[8] but they had an easy time learning it.[9]
High Drow
High Drow was an archaic dialect which priestesses of Lolth learned in order to be able to speak without fear of others understanding them. It conveyed information through both spoken word and certain gestures.[56]
Undercommon
It was quite common for drow to be proficient in the trade language of Undercommon.[77]
Other languages
Drow with the time or inclination, such as warriors, had a tendency to learn the languages of creatures that lived physically close to their communities, such as Abyssal, Common, Draconic, and Goblin, as well as those languages that were spoken in the nearest surface area.[77]

Culture

The drow had a number of customs and gestures. For example, it was a commonly accepted gesture to drop held weapons and fall on a knee as a sign of surrender. There were many rituals as well, like the graduation ceremony for the graduates of the mage, priest, and warrior schools.[193] When participating in a meeting, due to their weakness to light, the creation of an intense light source was seen as a hostile act by the drow, that led them to attack.[55]

Some known drow rituals and customs included:

  • The Blooding: A coming of age event that consisted of killing a dangerous or sentient surface creature.[116]
  • Illiyitrii: A formal dance, which sometimes served as a platform for displaying wealth and power, for example, through costumes.[194]
  • Nedeirra: A dancing competition where those who mistepped were marked with harmless faerie fire.[195]
  • The Running: 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.[116][196]
  • The Test and the Test of Lolth: Rites of passage and tests of loyalty for those Lolthite drow (especially wizards) who reached a certain degree of power and knowledge. When a priestess passed, she gained a promotion. Those who failed were turned into driders.[197]
  • Spider Hunting: A game of hide-and-seek played by young drow as a kind of courting ritual during festivals.[37]
Art

Due to the dark elf love of beauty, the demand for art and skilled craft, particularly exquisitely forged weapons, was high.[116] Good artisans, especially innovative ones (which made up about 0.1-0.4% of the population), were highly sought after by the noble Houses. Families that didn't produce artistic talent on their own acquired it from the outside (be it by simple hiring, forceful coercion, or the rare adoption into the family).[198] Noble households often had their own exclusive sculptors and gemcutters.[199]

About a fifth of the entire drow race was capable of complex works, while only about one-tenth could create items fine enough to be enchanted or turned into drowcraft through the absorption of faerzress. Even though capable artisans weren't few among the drow, there was a great shortage of such talents compared to the demand, and both nobles and merchant clans tried to have at least six on their payroll. Overall, artisans were among the most intrigant and paranoid drow. They used tricky devices like clothes with built-in items, gas-powered needle-throwers, extensile mechanical hands, wire-saws, and similar devices to defend themselves and break out of cages and prisons.[198]

Artwork and craftwork of the drow were often made out of materials like metal and cloth. They frequently included spider motifs, such as the curtains positioned to emulate spider webs that often adorned noble Houses. [199] An art form unique to the drow was the use of continual faerie fire to create murals or to highlight temples.[108]

Variant Drow Cultures

Almost all drow were born into typical drow culture, and were known as Udadrow. These were by far the most common type of drow, and the only type known to most.[200][201] Drow that remained loyal to Lolth were known as Lolth-sworn drow.[202]

Not all Udadrow 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 could break away entirely from their dark past, while some fortunate drow were actually born and raised outside of the world below. Some drow found virtue within themselves in spite of all the terrors they witnessed (or perhaps because of it). Others turned to better ways either out of guilt or simply because they were no longer forced to obey Lolth's dogma. Still others were dangerously insane, broken by the horrors that shook their psyches.[46]

The drow who chose to live on the surface, outside of the churches of Eilistraee and Vhaeraun, did not form any kind of organized society and instead lived as hermits and outcasts. They would interact with other societies when needed, but not out of choice.[77] Drow who wandered the surface in an attempt to settle their conflict with Lolth and each other were known as Seldarine drow.[202]

Though many drow followed the way of Lolth and became Udadrow, some rejected her. A mysterious band of drow headed to the far north and were seemingly never heard of again. This offshoot of drow became starlight elves, Aevendrow, who were skilled mages and lived in a much more free society. They were incredibly secretive in nature and virtually unknown, even by the oldest elves of Toril, living in their icy home of Callidae.[200][201]

Similarly to the Aevendrow, the greenshadow elves, or Lorendrow, were a practically unheard of group of drow that rejected Lolth's teachings. This group headed south to a tropical jungle environment and drew power from the environment itself. Such drow were very wise and sought to live harmoniously with nature in their forest city of Saekolath.[200][201]

Religion

Main article: Dark Seldarine

The majority of all drow worshiped a group of divine entities they collectively referred to as the Dark Seldarine, a name intended to mock the original Seldarine.[203] Though having a group name might suggest some sort of alliance, the Dark Seldarine was a pantheon only in name, as with few exceptions, every entity within it demanded absolute fealty from its adherents. The only thing that technically united them all, outside of a few short-lived alliances, was that each was a deity revered by a fraction of the drow.[204] For example, the Way of Lolth made clear that Lolth was the only true divine being, and to follow any other faith would bring down a series of awful punishments on the perpetrator including death.[205]

Unlike the elves, who often venerated one member of their pantheon above the others while still paying homage to each of their deities,[206] the drow would choose one, sometimes two, gods or goddesses from their pantheon and ignore the rest.[204][207] As a result, while deities like Bane, Cyric, and Shar had millions of worshipers[208] but only 135,000, 250,000, and 100,000 dedicated church members respectively,[209] the number of worshipers of a Dark Seladrine member was nearly equal to the size of their church.[204]

The relationship between the drow and their gods was one of mutual exploitation (with the exception of the one good-aligned member, Eilistraee). Most were not worshiped out of any sense of true piety or devotion, but out of fear, respect, and/or personal ambition. Conversely, most drow gods were intimately involved in the lives of their followers, but not because they genuinely cared about them; each demanding total, exclsuive obedience, and did not care what happened to them outside of how it affected their personal power.[204]

Major Faiths

There were two major faiths among the drow:[75]

Malice Do'Urden sacrificing Zaknafein Do'Urden to appease Lolth.

Church of Lolth
The church of Lolth was the primary drow faith.[203] Its goal was to strengthen Lolth and her authority by bringing all drow under the church's wing, while killing those who were in any way a challenge to the authority of the Spider Queen and her clergy.[190] 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.[210]
Church of Vhaeraun
The faith of Vhaeraun was the biggest among surface drow,[211][9] and the second biggest overall among the whole race.[75] Its goal was to re-elevate the Ilythiiri to the position of power they once held, in a society where equality between the sexes reigned. They intended to gain a foothold on the surface, crush Lolth's version of society, stop the infighting, and unify their people for dominion.[125]
The Masked Lord was primarily worshiped by[211][9] male drow, because of his goal of gender equality,[212] and by those people who dealt in the acquisition of wealth by illegal means, because as the god of thieves, he approved of greed.[213] Vhaeraun was also a god of arrogance, and reinforced the race's sense of superiority.[207]
Vhaeraun's faith was exempt from the ordinary rules regarding drow religion. Lolth's clergy considered the Vhaerun's to be a serious enemy,[214] and the followers of the Masked Lord were outright called to be destroyed by Lolth's established order.[125] Those suspected to be worshiping the god were to be apprehended and questioned with magic (this being a crime that actually needed proof before punishment) and those found guilty were immediately executed.[205] There were also specialty priests of Vhaeraun called masked traitors, spies whom Lolth believed to be her clerics.[215]
However, since the Second Sundering, there were three ways to openly pray Vhaeraun in a Lolthite society. First, invoking the god of thieves when embarking on raids was a normal, accepted practice. Second, in the 1490s DR, the majority of the church of Vhaeraun were not revolutionaries, but simply people who wanted to improve their lot in life and worked towards that end. This was tacitly tolerated by the matriarchy but such people still hid their identities, for they passively resisted the established order and that remained dangerous. Third, there were true Lolth-loyalists who believed a legend that painted the Masked God of Night as a god who hid the scars that his mother inflicted him under a mask, and who lost his tongue to her. These loyalists scarred and silenced themselves, and acted as bodyguards for the matron mothers.[216]
Minor Faiths

The drow as a whole held to many different religions outside of those accepted by most of their society. It was believed that the "good drow" collectively worshiped Eilistraee,[150] drow goddess of freedom,[217] although in truth the more morally neutral of the "good drow" were split between the worship of Ghaunadaur, Selvetarm, Lolth, and Vhaeraun.[218] Some drow living in Waterdeep also followed the gods of the Seldarine.[55] The following faiths were of minor importance:[75]

Church of Eilistraee
The church of Eilistraee, drow goddess of beauty, song, and freedom,[217] strove to release the drow from Lolth's web and build a place for their people on the surface world. In the Underdark they tried to reach their kin, while on the surface they offered help to the needy and nurtured arts, working to build peaceful relationships with the other races.[30]
Most drow weren't aware of Eilistraee, as the matron mothers suppressed all records about her,[217] and what little information existed painted her as a surface elf deity aiming to drive the drow into extinction.[127] Due to the nature of their goal, except when performing missions to bring other drow away from the Lolthite society,[219][220][221] the faith was mainly active on the surface and had little presence in the Underdark.[110]
Some followers of Eilistraee lived within Lolthite settlements, either because they were trapped, in which case they looked to escape with their families (presuming they had any),[222] or because they were infiltrators helping the other drow escape.[219] These drow were known as "Secret Moondancers",[222] but no good drow had ever managed to create even minor change in a drow city's policies or customs.[51]
Church of Ghaunadaur
The church of Ghaunadaur believed that everybody capable of strength was allowed to wield power,[223] an idea that actually devolved into an extreme form of "might makes right".[33] The Ghaunadans' goal was to promote the faith of their deity and to ensure that he was fed with sacrifices, by killing followers of other deities and pillaging their temples.[223]
Every drow had used to be more or less aware of That Which Lurks,[224] but after the Spellplague, knowledge about the Elder Eye was forgotten by the drow due to suppression from Lolth's clergy.[225] Even so, worship of Ghaundadaur was widespread in the Underdark after the Second Sundering.[226]
Church of Kiaransalee
The church of Kiaransalee was a fatalistic cult that concerned itself with vengeance and necromancy. They believed that, through loyal service to the Revenancer, they would be reborn as undead and live forever. Said service consisted of killing and re-animating people, while at the same time avenging every slight.[227] Given the cultural weight of taking revenge in drow society, Kiaransalee had significant appeal.[226]

Zedarr, a drow blackguard of Kiaransalee.

Kiaransalee was a rather unknown goddess, and most of those who knew about her thought her to be a delusional lich who saw herself as a deity.[227] However, during the Silence of Lolth, the church grew enough in size to allow the deity to become a lesser power, rather than a demigoddess.[228]
Church of Selvetarm
The church of Selvetarm, god of drow warriors, consisted mostly of guards and others who constantly honed their fighting skills and reveled in battle. Due to its emphasis on individual battle prowess rather than strategy, adhering to this faith blocked a drow from obtaining high positions in the military.[229] Calling out to the Spider That Waits was mostly done by lower-class drow.[207]
Selvetarm wasn't recognized as a god by most of his followers, who worshiped him as a powerful servant of Lolth (the only form of veneration of this deity that was accepted in the mainstream drow society). Venerating him as an individual deity wasn't tolerated within Lolthite settlements.[230]

Magic

The magic of the drow was on par with that found on the surface.[231]

Spells

There was a number of spells associated with the drow, but not all had been developed by them. While they were known for the ability to create spells, and some of the magic known on the surface had also independently been developed by the drow, they also stole quite a lot of arcane knowledge from the surface by kidnapping casters during their raids.[232] For example, the vipergout spell was originally developed by the scalykind,[233] but was still considered drow.[234] The drow had also created a number of spells that summoned or imitated spiders and their webs, like giant spider, spidereyes, summon spider, passweb, spellweb, death spider, spider bite, and spider climb.[235]

A drow wizard casts ball lightning.

Magic items

Drow were not just avid inventors of magic items,[231] but also the main crafters of magic items in the Underdark.[236] Similarly to spells, while some items were associated with the drow, not all had been developed by them, as they were known to steal magic items and related knowledge from the surface during their raids. Nonetheless, certain items had been developed by the drow, or based on magic from before the Descent,[231] and most of those items were created to be only usable by drow, due to their paranoia.[77]

The drow loved magical items of any kind, and all powerful families gave some enchanted items to those who served them. The piwafwi was a notorious example, although insignias were also important to the drow houses and granted special powers like, sometimes, levitation.[77]

Drow runes

Drow had an aptitude for rune magic,[77] elegantly limning runes in black paste, ink, or inlay. There were three categories of drow runes and glyphs: the house defense glyphs, used by the most powerful drow to defend their houses and treasures, the way-marker runes, used to guard places with drow traffic but no permanent population, and the sacred glyphs, only found in sacred sites of Lolth.[77] Runes could be enchanted with a glyph of warding spell,[237] and drow runecasters could create unique ones for locations of importance.[77]

Scrolls

Drow priestesses and wizards often created magical scrolls to give their warriors an edge during their patrols. Overall, the drow used scrolls more often than surface races and were also known to create unique ones.[89]

Path magic

Drow practitioners of path magic organized their spells in the so-called Path of the Drow, also known as Lolth's Road, or the Spider Road. It was considered a lost path, i.e. generally unknown to other races.[238]

Psionics

While the drow misunderstood psionics and distrusted its practioners, as in most societies, the dark elves were different in that their extensive dealings with duergar and illithids made them more familiar and somewhat more excepting of it. Though their leaders were skeptical of it, working to ensure it didn't threaten them, they often saw it as a useful and unexpected tool in their arsenal.[239];

Economy

Like any other civilization, the drow had craftsmen, farmers, and businesses but these were undercut by the priestesses of Lolth and the nature of their society. Not only did Lolth's chosen purposefully undermine opportunities for growth to retain their grip on power (too much change too quickly risked giving the lower class a dangerous taste of freedom), but while supposedly expected to do so, they had the authority to take items from businesses without paying. If a priestess particularly liked the products, this could cause a business to go bankrupt despite the owners' efforts, leaving the destitute workers with no choice but to enter a contract that essentially made them slaves to the priestess.[117][33]

In general, drow society didn’t have unemployment or homelessness issues, as those who fell in either or both categories were naturally dealt with. This could mean that they suffered indiscriminate violence, were used in murderous sport by drow nobles, or were simply put to work as slaves. Many drow signed up into the military because the risk of a violent death there was lower than as an unemployed or homeless individual. The constant demand for soldiers, no matter the level of skill, allowed such course of action.[33]

A member of Bregan D'aerthe, a drow mercenary and mercantile group.

Merchant Clans

The second greatest power group inside a given drow city were the merchant clans,[240] whose success was important for the survival of the drow race.[91] The clans were among the primary mercantile organizations in the Underdark, and their presence was common along its trade routes.[101] Contrary to the Houses, merchant clans were run by male drow, since females considered interaction with outsiders to be too demeaning and dangerous for them. Outside the environment of the drow cities, merchant clans and noble Houses openly fought each other.[240]

Merchant clans had some variation, but often had a few rules in common. The lowest ranking members, almost exclusively non-drow, were called "assets", and made up the labor and military force of the organization. Male drow of merchant clans generally had no inhibitions when it came to interacting with other races, including surface-dwellers, because they knew that there was no chance of advancement within their society for them. In fact, many of the "second ring", as the managers of a merchant clans were called, were non-drow. A council of male wizards, called an "inner ring", ruled over the clan.[240]

Only the most experienced and worldly drow of the merchant clans were capable of forming genuine friendships with the so-called lesser races, including mind flayers or duergars.[147]

Slavery

In typical drow society, where the the concept of inherent value of life did not exist, slavery was an important practice.[29] ,[31] All unskilled labor in drow cities was carried out by slaves, and for that reason the slave trade was a booming business. Slaves were not only captured but also bred,[75] or bought from sellers like the humans of Calimshan, Thay, and the Plain of Horses, and the orcs from the North.[147]

The drow didn't see slaves as a valuable commodity, but as a cheaply and easily replaceable tool that they were allowed to treat cruelly and exploit at will.[147] Slaves, in general, were not allowed to look into the eyes of a drow or to carry weapons without permission (a rule that was mostly enforced when the slave was a gladiator of some kind).[147]

Given that all unskilled labor in drow cities was carried out by slaves, and that surface dwellers were considered to be the best for that role, surface raids were vital for the maintenance of the economy.[129] No matter the size, these attacks had the primary objective to capture people, with looting considered a matter of secondary importance.[129]

Large raid parties, consisting of hundreds of members that sacked entire cities, were rare. Most raids only involved small bands, and started with scouting operations, followed by either open bloodshed or by infiltration to kidnap potential slaves. Sometimes both methods were combined; one drow group could catch the attention of the residents, for example through arson, while another force fulfilled the actual objective of kidnapping people undisturbed. Due to the drow's weakness to sunlight, the attacks usually happened at night and ended before dawn.[129] To take advantage of even the smallest cracks that constituted an opening to the surface, orbs of duo-dimension were used in these assaults.[241]

Drow slavers marching prisoners.

  • Bugbears: Bugbears were common slavestock in drow cities[75] and common part of noble families' slave soldiers.[29]
  • Demons: Having demonic slaves was a sign of prestige for the drow that demonstrated the master's power and intimidated their enemies.[141]
  • Drow: Drow could also become slaves in their society, either because of an unpaid debt, or due to being nobles who were captured in battle but whose ransom wasn't paid. In some cities, such people were executed rather than enslaved.[147]
  • Dwarves: Dwarves were among the most desired slaves by the drow,[129] but they were also considered stubborn and intractable, to be enslaved if possible, but with execution being preferred.[133]
  • Duergar: The rigid thinking and physical stamina as of the gray dwarves made them favored as slaves.[133]
  • Elves: Elves were among the most desired slaves by the drow.[129]
  • Giants: Giants, including trolls, were not considered good slaves due to their large bodies and fearsome strength.[147]
  • Goblins: Goblins were one of the races from which the drow commonly acquired their slaves.[147]
  • Hobgoblins: Like goblins, hobgoblins were a frequent source of slave labor.[147]
  • Humans: Humans were valuable and treasured slaves, unless they had combat abilities, be they mundane or magical, in which case they were considered dangerous. Human artisans were especially valued, but they couldn't survive long in the Underdark environment and under such cruel masters.[147]
  • Kobolds: Kobolds weren't valued as slaves as they were agile, independent,[147] and too physically weak to make decent workers, but they were sometimes taken as entertainers and messengers.[133]
  • Jermlaine: Like kobolds, Jermlaine were too quick and independent to make decent slaves.[147]
  • Minotaur: Minotaurs were common among the noble House slave soldiers,[29] but were not particularly numerous.[242]
  • Ogres: Ogres were common slaves among drow[75] and often part of noble families' slave soldiers.[29]
  • Orc: Orcs were one of the races from which the drow commonly acquired their slaves,[147] valuable soldiers and manual laborers due to their strength, relative stupidity, and capability to live underground.[133]
  • Sinisters: Sinisters were sometimes magically enslaved by the drow to serve as alarms due to their telepathic abilities. Their protective and offensive powers, including the hold person spell-like ability, made them particularly desired as bodyguards by fearful drow spellcasters.[40]
Medicine

It was common for injured drow to make use of a prosthesis, as craftsmanship in artificial limbs was advanced and easily available. They were made from adamantine, worked as well as the original limbs, and could also be situationally weaponized or equipped with parts functioning as specialized tools. For example, exchanging a hand with a claw or sword for combat was possible. From time to time, non-injured drow used this technology for their body-extensions, like toe-claws to kick-stab their enemies.[243]

Storage technology

The drow were particularly proficient in designing ways to move and store goods, from trade-containers to harnesses for beasts of burden and mounts. This technology was born out of a high demand for goods that had to be carried to drow cities from distant places, like crabs or fish found in the Underdark, which their patrols carried in so-called "wet basins" made of clay, or fruits and other surface-only goods, which they obtained by means of trade and raid.[107] The drow also developed magic items that helped transportation of both people and goods, like the driftdisc, the floatchest, and the walking chest.[244]

Gems

As a general rule, drow had a preference for smooth or cabochon cut gems over faceted ones, and preferred black, blue, and red to other colors. Gems of silvery hues were used as contrast when it couldn't be provided by metal. Gems were usually worked in rings, wristlets, gorgets, belts, pendants, or collars.[245]

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. Nobles, powerful wizards, officers, and priestesses wore other, more prized stones like 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. When it came to the priestesses, the amount, rarity, and variety of gems that they wore was on a higher level than all other drow. Other kinds of gems were often used as currency for trade with non-drow.[245]

Homelands

Underdark

Drow were the most wide-spread and numerous among the Underdark races.[29] They lived in about forty city-state scattered around the Upperdark and Middledark,[110][119] primarily in the latter. Drow were usually only sent in the Lowerdark as scouting parties, or as some kind of punishment for angering a matron.[246]

Drow preferred to live in areas that fulfilled certain criteria. As a result, most of their settlements were found under the Moonsea, north and west of Iltkazar, from the underground of Climshan to the one of Icewind Dale. Their sphere of influence, however, was much larger.[110]

Some notable drow cities were:

  • Chaulssin: Chualssin stood out among the drow cities, as it primarily served as the headquarters for the Jaezred Chaulssin.[247]
  • Ched Nasad: Also called the City of Shimmering Webs, the city was built on magically calcified webs.[248]
  • Eryndlyn: Eryndlyn stood out among the drow cities because it was split among three faiths: Ghaunadaur, Lolth, and Vhaeraun.[249]
  • Maerimydra: The drow of Maerimydra were responsible for the construction of the Twisted Tower.[250]
  • Menzoberranzan: While not particularly large, Menzoberranzan was the archetypal drow city.[102]
  • Sschindylryn: Sschindylryn was a city where merchant clans took over after the constant infighting caused the matriarchy to fall from power.[228]
  • Sshamath: In the city of Dark Weavings, wizards managed to wrestle power from the priestesses of Lolth. Various faiths could be found in Sshamath, both belonging to the Dark Seldarine and not.[251]
Surface

The term "surface drow" referred to all individuals who spent less than four consecutive days below the surface in their regular life.[51] Surface drow had no love for bright light, open sky, and loud noises, and a preference for darkness.[51] Most surface drow were followers of Vhaeraun, not Lolth,[211] and the vast majority of Eilistraee's followers were also on the surface.[110] Among the surface, drow was not a huge problem like in the Underdark.[211]

A number of them embraced a truly different morality than most of their brethren, either because born on the surface, or because of a decision to abandon the way of Lolth. Some of those who came to the surface from the Underdark had already formed a different morality before leaving, while others had used to live under the Lolthite dogma. Among the latter, certain individuals were haunted by their past deeds, sometimes to the point of being broken by the weight of their horrible actions (even becoming a danger due to their mental instability), while others were truly unapologetic about their behavior in the Underdark, and pushed all responsibility on the necessity of it.[46]

Many drow on the surface were actually spies still loyal to Lolth, sent to infiltrate the enemy and gather information for their matrons. However, the more time a drow spent among its enemies, the higher the risk that drow would defect in some way. In some cases this was to undermine a rival house by perpetuating false information, while others began sympathizing with their foes, even to the point of believing they were undeserving of the hate they received and the violence their kin would inflict on them.[252]

Surface drow, while ignored by others, were attractive to the merchant clans, for they represented a contact to the surface for trade. For example, some surface drow managed to become traders who traded with Calimshan, Chessenta, Mulhorand, Waterdeep, or Zhentil Keep.[51] That said, the majority of surface drow lived as hermits or found employment in rather unsavory areas of expertise where their heritage was an actual advantage, like adventurer companies or assassins' guilds.[253]

Organizations

Drow-run organizations
  • The Horizon Syndicate was merchant conglomerate that organized trade between Underdark communities and surface ones.[254]
  • The Jaezred Chaulssin was an assassins' guild with the objective to restructure drow society and free the drow from Lolth's tyranny. They believed that drow society was so far beyond help that it needed to be destroyed and rebuilt from the ground up.[255]
Organizations with strong drow membership
  • The Affiliated merchants of the Underdark were a protection racket that targeted merchants in the Underdark and demanded money for protection from harm that originated from them. It was run by the drow Sofra by 1372 DR.[256]
  • The 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.[257]
  • The Underdark anarchists' fellowship was on the front of a protest movement against general Underdark society. Its true objective was the abolition of slavery in the Underdark.[258] An important part of its membership were chaotic and evil drow who used the organization as a platform for protest against the establishment.[259]

Biology

Sunbathing; the result of years-long training.

Initial exposure to sunlight was dangerous for a drow and cause of heavy sunburns. Even after getting used to the sunlight, drow had a strong tendency to cover their skin and head when exposed.[260]

Senses

Drow eyes were sensitive to heat, possessing infravision up to a range of 120 feet (37 meters). Formal education or much practice was needed to "read" heat hues, as the drow had no innate ability to discern the meaning of the various patterns from birth. Cold objects appeared grey, while heat was seen, in ascending order of intensity, as blue, purple, red, and warm yellow.[76] They also had darkvision up to the same range, but not the low-light vision characteristic of other elves.[9] It took a drow about ten years of exposure for them to get used to the sunlight and to use their infravision and normal vision simultaneously.[260]

Drow had excellent hearing, a trait developed by necessity given the paramount importance of foreseeing rock shifts, collapses, and other hazards in the Underdark. It was also the primary means by which they found water, by listening to the dripping sound it made. They had long, slender fingers and a keen tactile sense, to the point of being able to read subtle markings on stone as if they were Braille. On the other hand, drow had a human-like sense of smell, far less keen than in the other Underdark races and than their other senses. Smells were dulled in the Underdark, and the ubiquitous smell of damp rocks and the fungi-riddled air of their natural environment, combined with the strong incenses and the scent of slaves in the drow cities, made it difficult to develop a keen olfactory sense.[76]

In contrast to creatures such as dwarves or deep gnomes, who had a deep, intutive sense of stone and subterranean conditions, the drow race's specialty laid in the sculpting of stone, the cutting and shaping of rock into smooth-flowing forms. About 70% of drow had an intuitive understanding of how fortifications or waterworks were constructed, operated, circumvented, and controlled, an innate "feeling" that extended to works made by other races.[115] They could recognize drowcraft items by holding them,[115] and if given a piece of Underdark-metal, or a cut or worn gem, drow could typically identify it. Upon finding a vein, like dwarves or deep gnomes, they had a sense of its direction, richness, and dimensions.[261]

Diet

Drow liked to eat live animals because they believed the meat had a better flavor.[262]

Sleep

Like all elves, drow required no sleep, instead entering a meditative trance while retaining full awareness of their surroundings. The trance lasted around four hours, and provided the same benefits as a member of any other race having a full period of rest.[24][60]

However, while elves relived parts of their memories, including those of past lives, during their trances, drow normally experienced nothing, save for the occasional dream (which they tried to interpret by looking for signs from Lolth). The fact that drow didn't relive memories of past lives during their trances was viewed as an indication that, unlike the elves, their souls didn't reincarnate.[203]

Reproduction

The drow were believed to be more fecund than other elves,[263] though in truth, they simply had a higher readiness to birth as many children as possible during their lifespan.[33] For example, in the average Lolthite society, a female drow with an active career under her belt gave birth to about ten children before she lost the ability to birth more.[116]

Lifespan

Drow lifespans were comparable to the rest of the elven race (and therefore far surpassed those of humans),[24] but the constant strife of their society kept their numbers low,[263] dropping their actual rate of population growth to dwarf-like levels.[97] Provided they did not meet a premature and violent end, a drow's natural lifespan was about 750 years.[10] They started to show signs of aging at around 600 years,[264] and rarely lived past their seventh century, with about 94% of natural deaths occurring before 800 years of age.[265]

Drow who could afford a lifestyle that spared them hardships, like matron mothers, could live more than 1000 years (though, by that point, they would be withered by age). Lolth's magic could maintain a matron's life for thousands of years, and this was considered a clear sign of favor from the goddess.[265]

Blood-Related Races

There were a number of races and creatures that were in some ways related to the drow.

Various elves; from left to right; Drow, wild elf, sun elf, wood elf, and moon elf.

Elves
Drow were a subrace of the elves. Their ancestors, the Ilythiiri, or dark elves,[266] were an offshoot of the green elves,[267] also known as wild elves.[268]
When different sub-races of elves intermarried, there was an equal chance for the child to inherit either of the parents' traits.[269] However, children born of the union between a drow and elf were far more likely to inherit the drow traits,[270] and were more likely to parent a drow themselves.[125] Dark elves possessed this traits too.[271]
Half-drow
The half-elf born from a drow-human couple was a half-drow.[272]
As a general rule, half-drow had no different abilities than other half-elves. However, some half-drow could gain certain powers through their parentage.[158][273] Regarding reproduction, the "2-generation-rule" applied to half-drow just like it did to all half-elves.[274]
Szarkai
The Szarkai were pale-skinned drow. They were called albino drow, but had no more weaknesses to the sun than the rest of their kin. This genetic anomaly was more often found among nobles than commoners.[275]
Draegloth
The Draegloth were a type of half-fiend that was born as a product of a ritualistic coupling between a drow and a glabrezu.[276]
Draa'zekyl
The Draa'zekyl, also called drow-dragon, were a type of half-shadow dragon drow that managed to split their heritage in two, and thus gained the ability to change their form from dragon to drow, and vice-versa.[277]
Zekyl
The Zekyl were a winged type of half-shadow dragons drow with a predisposition for thievery, stealth, and assassination.[278]
Zar'ithra
A Zar'ithra was a type of shadow draconic drow with a talent for sorcery.[279]
Related Races by Transformation

Some races were not related to the drow because they were born from them but because they were transformed from drow.

Chwidencha
Chwidencha originated from drow who failed one of Lolth's tests.[280]
Drider
Driders were created from drow who failed the Test of Lolth.[281][33][15]
Shunned
A shunned originated from a female drow who failed Lolth, losing her favor.[282]
Vhaerath
A vhaerath was a type of drow petitioner of Vhaeraun.[283]

History

Main article: History of the Drow
Drow manipulation of history

The history of the drow is filled with confusion and uncertainties. Many fanatical drow told lies and fabrications about their own history to serve the ends of the noble Houses and of the faiths.[284]

At times, pieces of history were entirely deleted from the records. It happened to fallen noble Houses, as all information about them was erased,[284] to deities, as the matron mothers tried to hide all records of Eilistraee's existence,[216] and even to individual drow. For example, when a masked traitor, a specialty priest of Vhaeraun who served as a spy in Lolth's church, was found out, any information about the traitor was literally extinguished from historical records, as if that person never existed in the first place,[285] and by four generations the fabrication was accepted as "fact".[284]

View on historical heritage

The drow descended from the dark elves of Ilythiir, the first and one of the most powerful elven nations, and, in minor part, from the survivors of Miyeritar.[9][286][267][49][287] One might imagine that the drow would constantly boast about this heritage, but the truth was that they didn't appreciate being reminded of their origins, for it also reminded them of their deep fall from power.[286] An exception was the church of Vhaeraun, whose goal was to elevate the Ilythiiri to their former glory.[125]

On the other hand, the drow remembered their origins because their feud with the elves was based on history. They believed to have been punished by the Seldarine for their triumph in the Fourth Crown War, and used this as a justification for their entitlement to exact vengeance on the other elves and their gods.[19]

Notable Drow

Appendix

See Also

Notes

  1. Although this alternative pronunciation given in Dragon 93 was never explicitly deemed incorrect, a later Official FAQ omits this particular pronunciation while leaving alternative forms of other words from the original article unaltered. This suggests that the second pronunciation of "drow" is no longer considered acceptable by Wizards of the Coast. In the afterword of the non-Realms novel Dark Warrior Rising: A Novel of Niflheim, Ed Greenwood additionally states that drow "rhymes with 'cow' and not 'show'."

Gallery

Further Reading

External Links

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the following links do not necessarily represent the views of the editors of this wiki, nor does any lore presented necessarily adhere to established canon.

References

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Connections

High elves: Grey elfLlewyrrMoon elfStar elfSun elf
Aquatic Elves: Aquatic elfMarel
Dark Elves: Dark elfDrow
Sylvan Elves: Wild elfWood elf
Miscellaneous: AvarielDusk elfLythariPoscadar elfSnow elf
Related races
Planetouched: CeladrinDraeglothEladrinFey'riShadar-kai
Humanblood: CrintiHalf-elfHalf-drowHalf-sea elf
Dragonblood: Drow-dragon (shadow)Drow-dragon (deep)ZekylZar'ithra
Miscellaneous: DriderMaraloi