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] or 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]



In many ways, the drow resembled eladrin[22] and elves.[23] Their bodies were wiry and athletic,[23] while their faces were chiseled and attractive.[22]

Height and Weight

Drow were shorter and thinner than other sub-races of elves.[9][24][10] It was believed that females were generally bigger and stronger than males,[23] but both sexes varied in height from 4 feet and ​7 inches​ to ​5 feet and ​5 inches (140​ to ​170 centimeters), averaging 5 feet (150 centimeters). Males weighed between 87​ to ​157 pounds (39​ to ​71.2 kilograms), averaging 109.5 pounds (49.67 kilograms); females were a bit lighter and weighed between 82​ to ​152 pounds (37​ to ​68.9 kilograms), averaging 104.5 pounds (47.4 kilograms).[10]


The skin of the drow was dark grey[25], jet-black[23] or obsidian[15] (with shades of blue).[9][24][22] An exception were the albino drow, the Szarkai.[23]
Generally, the drow kept their hair long, and decorated it with pins and webbing made of precious metals.[22] Drow hair could be stark white,[23][15] pale yellow[9][24] and, more rarely, silver or copper in color.[23][25] Due to the Eilistraeen ritual of The Run, drow of other faiths would often say that silver hair was a sign of mental handicap.[26]
Drow hair thinned and changed color with age, turning pale yellow in women, and silver or grey in men.[23]
Drow were incapable of having beards, but some males managed to grow long sideburns or even tufts of wispy hair on the cheek or chin.[27]
Drow eyes could be of any color,[25] 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][24] 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]
It was possible to read some information in the eye color of a drow. For example, drow eyes reddened when they were angry, and turned yellow when they were sick, poisoned, or under some negative magical influence.[23]
Drow had white, black, or purple teeth, while their gums, tongues, and throats were pink, red or purple.[23]

Attractive Looks

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

Due to a process of selective breeding that lasted for several generations,[9] the drow (especially nobles)[24] looked attractive[22] even when compared to other elves[28] Their alluring appearance, which could be used for seduction, was more often used to instill fear.[22] According to Nojheim, meeting the beauty standards of the surface races made them prone to turn a blind eye on the deeds of the drow, and to be lenient to them.[29]


Drow were intelligent even when compared to other sentient creatures.[23] This was due to selective breeding over several generations[9] and to the necessity of being analytical and observant at all times to survive in their society.[23]

However, the drow were not wiser than other races. Their upbringing in secluded societies, with little contact with the outside, as well as the indoctrination of Lolth's dogma, made them close-minded.[23]


The drow were believed to be more fecund than the rest of the elves.[30] In truth, their fecundity was the same as that of other elves, but they had a higher readiness to birth as many children as possible during their lifespan.[31] For example, in the evil Lolthite society, on average, a female drow with an active career under her belt gave birth to about ten children before she lost the ability to birth more.[32] However, the constant strife kept their numbers low,[30] dropping their actual rate of population growth to dwarf-like levels.[33]

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.

Drow were a subrace of the elves. Their ancestors, the Ilythiiri, or dark elves,[34] were an offshoot of the green elves,[35] also known as wild elves.[36]
When different sub-races of elves intermarried, there was an equal chance for the child to inherit either of the parents' traits.[37] However, children born of the union between a drow and elf were far more likely to inherit the drow traits,[38] and were more likely to parent a drow themselves.[39] Dark elves possessed this traits too.[40]
The half-elf born from a drow-human couple was a half-drow.[41]
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.[42][43] Regarding reproduction, the "2-generation-rule" applied to half-drow just like it did to all half-elves.[44]
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.[45]
The Draegloth were a type of half-fiend that was born as a product of a ritualistic coupling between a drow and a glabrezu.[46]
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.[47]
The Zekyl were a winged type of half-shadow dragons drow with a predisposition for thievery, stealth, and assassination.[48]
A Zar'ithra was a type of shadow draconic drow with a talent for sorcery.[49]

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 originated from drow who failed one of Lolth's tests.[50]
Driders were created from drow who failed the Test of Lolth.[51][31][15]
A shunned originated from a female drow who failed Lolth, losing her favor.[52]
A vhaerath was a type of drow petitioner of Vhaeraun.[53]


The drow had lifespans far beyond those of humans, and comparable with the rest of the elven race. Provided they did not meet a premature and violent end, they could live for centuries.[22] Generally, a drow's natural lifespan ran up to 750 years,[10] and about 94% of natural deaths occurred before 800 years of age. However, drow who could afford a lifestyle that spared them hardships, like the matron mothers, could live more than 1000 years (though, by that point, they became withered by age). Lolth's magic could maintain a matron's life for thousands of years. This was considered a clear sign of favor from the goddess.[54]

Aging Signs
The drow started to show signs of aging when their age neared 600. One of those signs consisted of their hair growing thin, and turning yellow in females, and silver or grey in males.[55]


Drow, by reputation, were almost entirely evil.[56][20][27][25] The teachings of Lolth represented the standard moral code for most of the race. They were overall decadent but managed to hide it under a veneer of sophistication.[22]

Drow were arrogant, ambitious, sadistic, treacherous, and hedonistic. From birth, the drow were taught they were superior to other races, and that they should crush those beneath them.[57]

Unlike inherently evil creatures like orcs,[58] the evil of the drow wasn't of inherent nature:[59][60] They enforced the Way of Lolth,[61] leading to a race of emotionally stunted people,[31] with a tenuous grasp on sanity and scarred mentalities, among which relatively undamaged minds were considered abnormal.[59] However, as mentioned above, the drow had no innate drive towards evil and their morality was colored by the society they lived in.[60]


Most drow's personal goal was about increasing their station in life,[62] as they desired the power on others that a higher station would provide.[63] The scarcity of resources in the Underdark and the limited chances for advancement within the society forced most drow to aggressively compete with each other.[64] However, as mentioned above, they managed to hide their traits behind of veneer of sophistication. For example, while they liked to assassinate their competiton, doing so and being exposed would bring punishment for being too overt about it, as would open murder.[62]

Rising through the ranks too quickly was dangerous for any drow. The usual reaction was the formation of temporary alliances among those who were wronged by the quickly ascending drow to take the latter down. Such alliances were often successful.[64]


Drow were a violent race, and violence was their favorite, if not instinctive, method for conflict resolution. The drow managed to fight this urge when waiting for a more propitious time to strike.[65]


See also Relationships

Drow believed themselves to be the apex creature. They were arrogant to the point of being incapable of viewing other creatures as their equal,[27] including their own kind. Every single drow believed themsleves to be the best example of their superior species.[65] This attitude was condoned by some of their gods: Vhaeraun, the god of arrogance.[66] The treatment reserved by the drow to members of other races ran the entire gamut from pets,[67] to slaves, to grudgingly respected partners when they proved themselves a military match for them, though never equals.[25]


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.[27] Their environment turned them into distrustful sadists with a constant readiness to backstab people, both in the figurative and literal sense.[25] Drow had a tendency to prefer emotional cruelty over physical one.[68]

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

Cruelty was also seen as a mean of self-validation. The drow believed that any person that could not defend themselves deserved to be inflicted cruelty, and by delivering cruelty on a weaker creature the drow could prove their superiority.[68]


The constant strife of their society led the drow to be paranoid and fear everyone and everything. They feared the potential loss of their station, the loss of Lolth's favor, the loss of loyalty or outright rebellion of their underlings, and the potential of punishment from their superiors.[65]


Drow were hedonists. They loved and surrounded themselves with what they considered beautiful, generally without paying attention to the cost. They generally believed to be entitled to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted to do it.[25] This also extended to partners: for example, they took and discarded lovers at their leisure and had a tendency to be lecherous.[63]


Drow were incapable of trusting other creatures, no matter their race.[69] They were taught from an early age to be distrustful, as the drow culture expected individuals to advance at the expenses of others by any means, included treachery and even outright murder.[70][25]

While the drow understood the value of forging bonds,[27] they did not see a value in the virtue of honesty.[25] Forming bonds was thus a dangerous endeavor and mostly of temporary nature. Since any alliance or cordial relationship could end in treachery, the drow went into engagements of this sort expecting the worst.[27] Alliances were generally formed when the 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. Alliances were always under scrutiny for signs of treachery and often ended violently.[56] In fact, the mere inconvenience of maintaining the bond could be a reason to end it.[25]

Even in moments of safety or relaxation, the drow were always alert and constantly expecting attacks of any kind. Therefore, they were rarely surprised when those actually happened, depriving the attacker of the advantage of surprise.[23]


Drow were vengeful people by necessity. 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.[63] For this reason, Kiaransalee, goddess of vengeance, had a significant appeal among the drow.[71]

Good Drow

"Good drow" amounted to about 15% of the entire race. However, most of them weren't actually of good alignment, but merely chaotic neutral or lawful neutral. Within the Lolthite society, even actually good drow generally had problems to form a sense of moral for themselves. They generally acted in the same way as evil drow due to social pressure and risks. As mentioned above, being soft in any way was lethal in drow society and therefore these people often died.[72]

It was believed that the "good drow" collectively worshipped Eilistraee,[72] goddess of freedom,[73] but the actual breakdown was that the good-aligned drow did indeed worship the kind goddess, while the morally neutral drow's worship was split among Ghaunadaur, Lolth, Selvetarm, and Vhaeraun.[74]

Only truly exceptional good drow like Drizzt Do'Urden were capable of freeing themselves from Lolth's society.[60] The majority was found out and sacrificed to Lolth. Those who managed to leave Lolthite settlements would often die to the dangerous wilderness of the Underdark.[75] Among the actually good drow, some followers of Eilistraee lived within Lolthite settlements, either looking for an escape with their families (if any),[76] or as infiltrators helping the other drow escape.[77] They were known as "Secret Moondancers".[76] However, no good drow managed to cause meaningful, lasting, or any change for the matter in a drow city.[60]

Furthermore, even those who escaped the cruelties of the Underdark found it more difficult to form long-term friendships than most races did[22] and had to constantly be on the lookout for pursuers who could kill them.[78]


Drow had a set of unique abilities.

Physical Abilities

Drow were more agile and alluring than most humanoid races.[22] This was not a coincidence but the result of selective breeding over several generations[9]

Like all elves, drow required no sleep. They instead entered a meditative trance while retaining full awareness of their surroundings. This state was half-again as efficient as the way most races gained rest.[22][79] However, while the elves relived parts of their memories, including those of past lives, during the trance, drow normally experienced nothing save for the occasional dream (which they tried to interpret 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.[80]


Drow eyes were sensitive to heat. They had infravision up to a range of 120′ (36.58 m) and learned to discern information from heat patterns and shades. Cold objects appeared grey, while heat was seen, in ascending order of intensity, as blue, purple, red, and warm yellow. The training in stealth received by the drow included blending in with the heat patterns of their surroundings, much like hiding in the shadows. Likewise, formal education or a lot of practice was needed to read heat hues, as the drow couldn't discern the meaning of the various patterns since birth.[81]
They also had darkvision up to the same range, but not the low-light vision characteristic of other elves.[9]
Drow had excellent hearing, a trait developed by necessity. In the Underdark, the sense of hearing was paramount in foreseeing rock shifts, collapses, and other hazards, and was also the primary mean to find water through the dripping sound that it made.[81]
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: the ubiquitous smell of damp rocks and the fungi-riddled air of the natural environments, and the strong incenses and the scent of slaves in the drow cities, made it difficult to develop a keen olfactory sense.[81]
Stone Sense
The drow race's specialty was to sculpt stone (see here). About 70% of the drow had an intuitive understanding of how fortifications or waterworks were constructed and worked, and of how to circumvent and control them. Such an intuitive knowledge extended to works that were made by other races.[82]
Drow were generally capable of identifying metal and rock. If given a piece of Underdark-metal, or a cut or worn gem, they could identify it.[83]
When a drow found a metal or gem vein, they gained the intuitive knowledge about the direction, richness, and dimensions of said vein.[83]
They could also recognize drowcraft items by holding them.[82]
Drow 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. This was used to leave secret messages.[81]

Magical Abilities

Drow had a number of inborn unique abilities.

Magic Resistance

Drow had tremendous resistance to magic.[9][8] During infancy, it fluctuated between almost non-existent and youth-level, and stabilized as they grew up. It increased again when they reached adulthood, and could be trained even further.[84]

The fluctuations of resistance against magic in drow infants was a lethal danger, leading to the development of the potion of magic resistance to stabilize it.[84]

Even when 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,[84] especially spells that attempted to bend their will.[9]

Lolthtouched Abilities

Lolthtouched powers, the result of Lolth's blessing, were the most distinctive feature of the drow.[22][85] They manifested as the abilities cloud of darkness, which enshrouded the drow in darkness that was impossible for anyone but the caster to see through, and darkfire, which made creatures an easier target, encasing them in (harmless) purple flames. The use of such abilities was tiring for the drow. They seemed to be powered by the same source, and only more experienced and well-trained drow could cast both abilities separately.[86]

Through training, drow could manifest the so-called webs of darkness that both slowed and impeded a foe, while also limiting their vision. Those who became curseborn could unlock even more power, including improvements of the aforementioned cloud of darkness and darkfire. 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. More mundane methods included slipping in the cover of darkness,[87] or learning to hit the target of darkfire not just more accurately but also harder, like the drow wanderers did.[88]

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.[89]

Base Powers

Base powers were abilities that the drow could cast without any schooling but simple practice. They varied slightly from person to person due to different reasons: genetics, personal talent, divine favor, etc.. Drow magical abilities[90] were somehow tied to the faerzress,[91] the radiation of the Underdark, and its intensity in the birthplace of a drow could influence their base powers.[92]

These abilities could temporarily vary in the same person depending on the personal (mental and physical) health situation, aging effects, degree of training, and so on. A dying drow could double the effectiveness of the own innate powers by super-charging them with her or his own life force.[92]

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.[92]

Strong light (like sunlight) hampered the drow's concentration, rendering them unable to use their innate abilities, with few exceptions, namely the nobles.[84]

Dancing Lights
Drow could naturally cast the dancing lights spell.[9][8][79][15] The drow's innate dancing lights 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.[92]
Apart from its obvious use as a light source, it was used to divert attention, or create a surprise factor 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.[93]
Drow had the ability to naturally cast darkness,[9][8][79][15] creating an area that was impervious to normal sight and infravision. Unlike the normal spell, the drow's innate darkness could also create a globe that could be moved around and grew in radius with the strength of the caster.[92]
Apart from its obvious use to cancel light sources, this ability was an integral part of drow combat due to its use to limit sight or otherwise hamper enemies.[94] Darkness looked like black stone when looked at with darkvision, allowing creative uses of the spell. For example, a drow could hide behind the "black stone" and ambush enemies from their cover, or the "black stone" could turn out to be a covered-up pitfall.[93] An entire school of drow martial arts concerned itself with the use of darkness, the kyone veldrin style.[94]
Drow could further enhance their darkness to cast it more often, but they could also learn to deepen it so that a daylight spell could not cancel it any more.[95]
Faerie Fire
Drow had the ability to naturally cast faerie fire.[9][8][79][15] Unlike the normal spell, the drow's innate faerie fire could create a glowing field that grew wider with the strength of the caster.[92]
Faerie fire could come in blue, green, or violet color.[96] A drow could change these colors but always manifested one certain color when they were casting this spell without choosing one.[97]
It was used to force enemies to pay attention to an area, or as a diversion. The possibility to change the color of the light provided by the spell was used as a handy system of color signals to convey information over long distances.[93]
As mentioned above, base powers were affected by faerzress. According to Seldszar Elpragh, a drow's faerie fire worked by channeling faerzress.[97]

Mature Powers

Upon reaching a sufficient degree of expertise, the drow gained their so called mature powers: the ability to innately cast the detect magic, know alignment, and levitate spells.[92][15]

Particularly intelligent and powerful drow could maintain two inborn abilities, or one inborn ability and one normal spell, simultaneously. For example, they could levitate while casting darkness.[84]

Casting mature powers was impossible in the presence of intense light, like for base powers.[84]

Priestly Powers

Members of the clergy of a drow deity gained powers[15] through divine favor. These abilities always included the clairvoyance, detect lie, dispel magic, and suggestion spells. Depending on divine favor, a cleric could gain additional powers, like the ability to cast detect undead, ESP—albeit only against other drow within 20 ft. (6.1 m)—and invisibility to undead, but also additional daily uses of their priestly powers.[98]

Noble Powers

Some drow were born with more powers than usual, like the ability to divine a person's mental inclination, as the detect good spell, to detect magic, as detect magic, and to levitate.[99][100] Such drow made up the noble class of their society. These abilities seemed to be a dominant trait.[31]

Nobles could use their base and mature powers up to once per decade of their lives per day, instead of merely once per day. Unlike commoners, nobles could attempt to cast their inborn abilities in the presence of light, but they could only maintain one of their spells at a time in presence of light, even when they could normally do otherwise.[84]

Learned Abilities

Drow trained in magic often became good clerics and wizards.[56]


Clerical magic was the domain of drow women.[56] This clear division was due to the favoritism of Lolth towards female drow.[101]

Drow clerics were special among their elven peers. Elven clerics' bodies could only handle a certain amount of magical energy, which limited their growth. The limits of a drow cleric was determined by the favor of the god they served. They could theoretically grow infinitely strong. In practice, however, there was a certain limit at which point the deity either killed or elevated the drow to demigod status.[102]

Psionic Abilities

Drow owned no inherent psionic abilities but psionic schools, especially for the arts of psions and psychic warriors, existed in some cities.[101]


Out of all drow, the wizards were the most dangerous.

Every drow with access to civilization received education in arcane magic, but not every drow was a wizard—far from it. This training had the purpose of scouting talent for magic in young drow, and of teaching all drow to maintain their innate abilities.[81]

Wizards were the most dangerous among their people, and the most likely to be found alone in the Underdark.[84] Unlike elves, the drow body could handle any amount of arcane magic, allowing drow wizards to theoretically grow infinitely strong in power. Drow who were somehow confined in their cities had a harder time to become exceedingly strong due to lack of training opportunities. Drow wizards with the desire for more magic ventured out as adventurers or hired explorers.[103]

Due to the inferior compatibility with arcane magic in drow women, the Art was the province of men.[56][104] Male wizards, in particular, were often exiles due to persecution by the priestesses or other Houses. They were under general suspicion of being dissatisfied with drow society and having a desire to change it. Thus, they were abducted to undergo the Test once they reached a certain degree of power.[102] They were often merchants (or their employees). Wizards often provided the means of protection and disguise for those who dealt with the denizens of the surface.[103]

Among drow wizards, azmyth were the most prized familiars, but watchspiders and hunting spiders were held in high regard too. Drow also liked to choose fiendish, more precisely abyssal, familiars. Nevertheless, it was common for drow wizards to have a snake, spitting crawler, pedipalp, solifugid, or other spiders[105]—like the hairy spider—as a familiar. Night hunters were rarely kept as familiars[106] or aggressive pets.[67] despite its intelligence.[107]

Martial and Stealthy Abilities

Zedarr, a drow blackguard of Kiaransalee.

Male drow were competent fighters.[62] Drow fighters often devoted themselves to Lolth for an easier life by becoming blackguards and/or divine champions.[101] Even though males could become divine champions, such an achievement would bring the ire of the priestesses on them, and therefore death.[108]

The drow had a fascination with stealth and subtlety, and specific training was available for their rogues.[25] Bardic magic wasn’t very common, but it was appreciated and taught in bardic colleges.[109] Rangers were valued scouts.[56]

Due to the drow's fascination with stealth, (in)famous assassin schools that doubled as assassins' guilds existed. Another route for rogues was to devote themselves to Lolth and become divine seekers.[101]

Martial Arts

Drow were frail like any other elf. They had a tendency to ambush their enemies with ranged weaponry, and retreated when melee combat was the sole other option.[93] They favored light and quick weapons like rapiers, and would choose hand crossbows when possible, to deliver their poisons from afar.[110] 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.[94]
  • 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.[94]
  • Jivvin golhyrr: A style used to force enemies into humiliating positions, favored by priestesses of Lolth.[94]
  • Kyorlin plynn: Used to capture opponents alive, this style was favored by conservative fighters and priestesses of Lolth alike, but for completely different reasons.[94]
  • Orb alur: This style focused on striking many opponents with one strike. Its users were valued and granted special privileges.[94]
  • 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.[94]
  • 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.[94]
  • Ust sreen: A style about striking first and quickly reacting at the opening of a fight.[94]

Strength and Weaknesses

As mentioned above, the drow had a very unique appearance. Combined with their reputation, this appearance made it impossible for them to replenish their resources on the surface in effective ways.[93]
The whole drow race had a natural aptitude for audible mimicry. They could rather easily mimic the sound and tone of a different person in a believable manner, especially when often exposed to the language that they had to replicate.[111]
Drow had a high tolerance to poison, for two reasons. First, they were exposed to poisons over countless generations, allowing later generations to build up resistance. Second, every drow put some individual effort in strengthening their tolerance as part of their training. This was done by ingesting ever-larger doses of drow sleep poison and of spider venom, becoming more and more tolerant to such substances. The drow had a lesser resistance, in descending order, to the following kinds of toxins: non-drow sleep poisons, drugs, insect venom, and injected poisons. The drow had no special resistance against poisons delivered by contact or to poisonous gases.[112]

Sunbathing; the result of years-long training.

Drow had a weakness against light in general. For example, 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. Noble drow could use up to one innate ability in bright light. However, the drow developed a method to defend themselves against light through the use of the hand of darkness spell.[84] Before the 1360s DR, the drow had used to gradually lose their base and mature powers as well as their defenses against magic, if exposed to sunlight.[113] However, during the 1360s DR, Liriel Baenre, guided by Eilistraee,[114] carved her rune in the Child of the Yggdrasil with the intent of preserving her own drow magic away from the Underdark,[115] but the act ended up allowing all drow to keep their powers on the surface.[116] Despite Eilistraee guiding Liriel, speculations were that Lolth also had a hand in the matter.[116]
It took a drow about ten years of exposure to get used to the sunlight and to use their infravision and normal vision simultaneously. 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.[117]
Besides physical effects, bright light also limited drow activity, for they could not do anything effectively during daytime.[93]


Drow slavers marching prisoners.

Drow lived in city-states characterized by a theocratic, matriarchal, and militaristic society.


The drow society nominally had two purposes, 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.[69]

Lolth claimed that, in order to achieve such goals, the drow needed to be forced into perpetual infighting and violent competition, so that the constant training would make them stronger and smarter. However, the extreme, self-destructive degree to which this was taken prevented the drow from achieving either of their purposes, barring possibilities for significant growth.[118] In fact, despite her rhetoric, Lolth merely enjoyed the infighting that she promoted and put no effort into reaching the supposed goal.[119]

On a personal level, each drow tried to gain and maintain the favor of Lolth, as well as to amass material goods, like wealth and slaves, and to gain status inside their society, in which the concept of inherent value of life did not exist.[27] 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.[69]


Drow lived in city-states in the Underdark, built in places that had to meet sevaral criteria. For example, the caverns were huge,[25] allowing a horizontal layout of the city;[120] a lot of iron, adamantite, and gems needed to be nearby; the magnetic force and the faerzress needed to be particularly intense,[121] both for practical reasons (see here) and, according to Qilué Veladorn, because the drow had a mental compulsion to be near the radiation and were drawn to it.[122] When the faerzress collapsed for some reason, the drow-city usually collapsed too.[120]

Drow cities could have trade agreements between each other, but were mostly at war. While called "city-states", they didn't have the organization of an actual state: they were mostly clusters of drow, with the most powerful family groups taking the best lands and resources for themselves,[101] and forming the aristocratic class.[25] These cities were ruled by the most powerful among the families (or Houses), and the leaders of the various Houses held the greatest influence within the community.[22] The second power group inside a given drow city were the merchant clans.[123] Desperation, oppression, and poverty were the general rule in such a city for anyone other than those belonging to power groups.[101]

A drow stronghold.

The noble Houses were located in the close proximity to each other, and a public temple to Lolth was often built within the strongest family's territory.[101] Commoners lived either in caves or in walled houses with cellars, mostly made of adobe-like materials. A good indicator of the residents' power was the grandeur of the house; the bigger the more powerful.[124]

Drow cities usually included farmlands, where slaves worked to produce and harvest meat and crops.[101] Those lands were usually found inside the main cavern but sometimes, usually due to space limits, they could be found outside the main cavern of the city.[125] As a rule of thumb, half to two-thirds of a given drow settlement's population consisted of slaves or non-drow without rights.[25] The borders and landmarks of a given city-state, as well as the working places for slaves outside of the city, were marked with continual faerie fire.[126]

When faced with overpopulation, drow ate their elders to combat the problem.[69]

Lighting within a drow city was created both through magic and mundane means, with the former being far more common.[81]


The gates of a city, as well as its important buildings, were usually protected by jade spider guardians.[127]

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.[128] Furthermore, the faerzress allowed cheap and easy creation of magic, drowcraft items,[129] as well as other ways to use the radiation for defensive purposes.[118] The over-reliance on faerzress meant that drow settlements were often stationary, and therefore relatively easy to locate and attack.[130] Drow often used shriekers, a type of fungi that grew in faerzress-rich places, to warn them of incoming danger.[121]

The radiation had the unique capability to cause mutations in creatures. For example, a flying roper could be born in a faerzress-rich environment. If the product of such mutations was powerful, drow tried to avoid fighting it and tried to contain it in a certain area so that would-be-intruders had to face it instead. If the creature had a spider-like appearance, the drow's reaction was to praise it as the work of Lolth and sometimes fed it with their captives, or with intruders whom they lured into the monster's lair.[121]

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.[118]

Power Groups within a City

There were two power groups within a drow city; the noble houses and the merchant clans.[62]

Noble Houses

A matron of the drow.

See also: List of drow houses

Drow were ruled by their aristocracy, made up by the families that had the strength to violently occupy the best lands. Such Houses were founded by powerful drow individuals with special powers, who then passed their traits to their offspring (see under Noble Powers). Nobles also further augmented their abilities with magic items.[31]

Noble Houses constantly fought each other[8] but were also characterized by internal strife,[120] as it was actually expected in a society that followed the Way of Lolth.[25] Even though the power of the many Houses changed often, the few at the top usually remained stable.[101]

Within a family, noble drow parents viewed their children as vehicles for their own advancement, including sacrificing them for some potential gain. Noble drow stayed with their family as children as a protection from outside violence, and as adults because Houses proved to be good tools for societal advancement.[31] Noble drow families banded together for mutual protection and not out of affection.[31]

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—also priestesses, ranked according to age—[120]the male officers (weapon master, House wizard, and patron—the matron's consort), and the other male members of the House (war-leaders, who answered to the weapon master, and House mages, subservient to the House wizard), who were also ranked according to age.[132] Below the non-officer males were servants and slaves.[132]

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, and none of their ranks, nor those of non-blood-related members, had any job security, for all it took was the matron's whim for their position to be changed. In most cases, a matron only lost her position if murdered by her eldest daughter. This usually marked a new direction for the House, sometimes even its destruction, because the murder of a matron was seen as a sign of disfavor from Lolth.[62][132]

While the nobles took the best lands and resources for themselves, the rest of the population was forced to care for themselves. Priestesses were bad rulers who tossed their cities into a haphazard organization.[101] Not only did their infighting paralyze the growth of their own cities,[118] 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).[133]

Merchant Clans

The success of the merchant clans was important for the survival of the drow race.[132] The clans were among the primary mercantile organizations in the Underdark, and their presence was common along the trade routes.[125] Contrary to the Houses, merchant clans were run by male drow, because females considered interaction with outsiders to be too demeaning and dangerous for them.[123]

The organization of a merchant clan varied, but some general statements could be made. They were run by a council of male wizards, called "inner ring". Male drow had no inhibition when it came to interaction 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. The lowest ranking members, almost exclusively non-drow, called "assets", made up the labor and military force of the organization. Outside the environment of the drow cities, merchant clans and noble Houses openly fought each other.[123]

Within the drow society, merchants with a particularly rich experience and worldly mindset were the only individuals capable of forming genuine friendships with the so-called lesser races, like mind flayers or duergars.[134]


Within the Lolthite drow society, "might makes right" was the only "law".[135] In fact, the priestesses of the Spider Queen—the rulers of the various cities—violently forced others to comply with Lolth's dogma, which in turn became the main law.[136]

In practice, however, something akin to an actual body of laws existed within the drow society, and the priestesses fulfilled the judicial functions.[136] They saw it as their right to arrest and punish people for assumed offenses in ways made up on the spot. Concepts such as the presumption of innocence didn't exist, and the only possibility to lessen a punishment was for the presumed criminal to have connections that the punishing priestesses considered a threat.[135]

Way of Lolth

The Way of Lolth was the basis for the drow laws.[120] The most important points were the following.


See also Relationship with Eilistraee

Only Lolth was considered a true deity and worship of others was forbidden.[137] This included her servant deities, like Kiaransalee, who was prayed to in secret, and Selvetarm, who could be socially acceptably invoked as a non-divine servant of Lolth.[138]
An exception was the faith of Vhaeraun. The church of Lolth considered the church of Vhaeraun as a serious enemy.[139] The followers of the Masked Lord outright called for the destruction of Lolth's established order,[39], therefore, people were apprehended when suspected of that god's worship.[137]
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.[140]
According to the Way of Lolth, the violation of a given hierarchy could be met with various punishments. Anyone who killed a spider had to be killed, a slave was to be killed for disobedience, commoners could be punished in any way if they objected to a high priestess, students who refused the "courting" of a matron or female teacher could be punished in any way (including death), and so on.[141]
The drow society 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 killed, as was a non-drow who tried to pass as a drow.[141]
See Internal Wars

Gender Roles

A leashed male drow protects a female drow.

Lolth’s dogma mandated to recognize female drow as more valuable than males, who were considered worthless. This gave female drow absolute power,[120] and they were also less likely to be sacrificed than males.[31] Males who hoped to find any place of power often resorted to ends as treacherous as the women that ruled the drow, hoping to perhaps win a coveted place as the mate of a powerful matron mother.[57]

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.[31] Generally, men tried currying favors with women and advance their station by attaching themselves to them (for example, by gaining high officer positions, or becoming consorts).[64] 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.[108]

It would be easy to imagine that drow females, by comparison, had it much easier. However, this was an illusion, and their prestigious position came at a high cost. In fact, the teachings of Lolth and the drive to gain more power made the competition between female drow, particularly those who belonged to powerful houses, 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, where they had to compete not only with other females, but with resentful and oppressed males as well.[142]

Male Clergy

Male clerics existed among the drow. In Lolth-dominated cities, however, 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.[39] While they could even become divine disciples, it often caused the priestesses to kill them.[108]

The faith of Ghaunadaur didn't have a gender barriers.[31] Vhaeraun's faith had a gender barrier that made it harder for women to become his clerics.[143] Eilistraee accepted clergy of all genders and races but, before the 1370s DR, her clerics had used to be only female,[144] because, due to the goddess' nature, "One could not truly feel the Divine Dance of Eilistraee PROPERLY except as a female". However, during the 1370s DR, Eilistraee started working towards opening up to male priesthood: for a time, males still had a harder time becoming clerics (see also here),[145] but after the Second Sundering, Eilistraee's clergy could be accessed by people of any gender with equal ease.[146]

Courting and Love

Courting was the domain of women in drow society. Trying to initiate a relationship was a reason for execution by torture and sacrifice for a male drow. In general, drow women chose their partners as animals would be chosen for breeding purposes.[31]

Furthermore, once a relationship started, the male partner had no say on how long the relationship would last, or whether it should even start. The woman, on the other hand, could change partners as she desired.[31]

When a drow man was desired by more than one female, the latter competed over him. The male wasn’t safe from damage: in fact, for drow women, as a sign to clarify the loss of interest in the rivalry was to skin the male and drop the corpse before the room of her rival.[31] The death of a male drow was the usual way in which a relationship ended. In non-Lolthite culture and among commoners, matters weren't that extreme. The concept of marriage existed but it was not for eternity. The contract lasted for a decade or so at longest, but renewal was possible. One exception were the merchant clans: marriage wasn't everlasting, but marrying someone from a merchant clan meant becoming part of it for life. Trying to leave could be the same as inviting death.[32]

The secret of a working long-term relationship between drow was not love but tangible reasons, like the male having a history of fathering many female offspring. 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.[31]


In drow society, the priestesses formally occupied the positions of leadership among the military. However, in practice, male commanders led the military forces because the priestesses commonly hid away in the face of danger, while resorting to the use of corporal threats and magical domination to ensure loyalty.[31]

When a military squad was formally led by a male drow, it was either a streeakh, a suicide squad, or a dobluth, a group of outcasts.[62] Patrols were outfitted with protection from earth and stone against cave-ins, while surface raiders or underground furtive attackers used an orb of duo-dimension to allow stealthy attacks.[147]


Internal Wars

When nobles warred against each other, the attacking side had to eradicate the entire enemy family within one single attack. If even one member of the defending family survived, they could apply for "justice", and the entire city would turn on the attackers. Alliances were not allowed in this kind of attacks, and there was a minimum interim time between two assaults against a house that had already been attacked.[141] Prolonged covert warfare between two houses, by means like assassination, was not exactly forbidden. However, it was only tolerated for a time counted in years. After that, the drow city's ruling council forced the two houses to enter open war.[132] 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.[148]

War against external Threats

War in the Underdark was far different from conflicts fought on the surface. 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. This kind of conflict, with the enlistment of slaves and allies, could drag on for years. Furthermore, the cramped space of the Underdark made it hard or ineffectual to amass giant armies, and most battles were actually skirmishes between small units or patrols.[149]

In war situations, the drow schemed against each other so that their rivals would take the heaviest losses, or carry the responsibility for any failure. They were literally incapable of forming a united front against their enemies-[150]

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, for some typical traits existed.

A drow patrol usually consisted of seven to a dozen soldiers led by a commander, who could have up to three bodyguards and apprentices, or acolytes. These warbands normally included a mix of both male and female drow and, while this was a good rule of thumb rather than a certainty, a patrol that was all-male or all-female denoted that the tension between the sexes in their city was reaching a critical point.[33] Less than a third of drow patrols included one to eight non-drow like bugbears, goblins, or orcs as allied forces. Mind flayers were never a part of such groups, except when being escorted to a destination.[33]
Drow warbands were the field of trained personnel, and included only up to six drow with normal training, while the rest were elites. These warriors were usually equipped with short swords, daggers, up to three javelins and an atlatl to extend their reach, a hand crossbow with ten poisoned darts, and a buckler for protection.[149] As a from cave-ins, each group was provided with a scroll of protection from earth and stone.[151]
Patrol leaders were normally male drow with superior fighting skills or clerics trained in the use of weapons. They were equipped with a hand crossbow, javelins with an atlatl, and with at least a +3 mace to clarify their claim as authority holders.[149] Larger patrols were generally led by female drow, who and normally had one or two powerful warriors as lieutenants.[152]
The members of a patrol coordinated themselves by using the drow 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.[153]
Elite patrols
An elite patrol was usually led by a female cleric with female bodyguards, and her "acolytes" were also female clerics from the same church.[152]
These patrols were special for they had a further cleric with healing duties, who also worked as a spy for the church of Lolth.[152]
"Pincer" was the name given to a collection of several patrols (two to four) led by one commander, usually some kind of spellcaster, called an "overleader" or "battlecaptain", who had up to four lieutenants, called "webmasters".[152]
Battle-lord or warmistress ranked higher than battlecaptains in the chain of command, and had an entire patrol force as their bodyguards and carriers of magic items.[152]
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.[152]
The drow avoided large sieges and pitched battles, and focused on skirmishes, hit-and-run tactics, and harrying strikes. 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.[152]
Drow used ambush tactics that took advantage of existing dangers like loose rocks. They had a knack for responding to their enemies' actions, including spellcasting, and for using traps, like deliberately placed phycomids or glasses full of ascomoid-spores, to gain an advantage in combat.[154]
When a drow died in battle, they were reanimated as a zombie if the lower half of the body was still functional. It was done to prevent the corpse from getting plundered, to provide the corpses a mean of self-transportation, provide the injured and immobile dead bodies with a means of transportation, and to gain useful shock troops to use in battle.[81]
House Armies
Each House had a standing army of drow soldiers, priestesses, and wizards. They included contingents consisting solely of non-drow slaves, usually bugbears, ogres, and minotaurs.[25]

Drow with weapons drawn.


As mentioned above, the drow had to compete for limited resources and chances for advancement in society. For this reason, they tried to instill tenacity, cruelty, ambition,[64] self-reliance, and independence in their children. Physical imperfection wasn't tolerated (due to the obsession with physical beauty), and children born with physical malformations were killed shortly after birth.[32] Traits like kindness or compassion were dangerous in the Lolthite society, as they made an individual prone to exploitation,[27] and children who showed such weakness were punished. The punishment ranged from beatings to neglect, like ceasing to provide food to the kid, and could prove lethal.[64] This abusive treatment was supposed to prepare the children for the cruelty of their future lives,[27] and eventual child deaths due to punishment were justified with the assumption that they had been "saved" from an even worse end as adults. Drow children learned cruelty and bloodthirst both as a survival mechanism and as a defensive mechanism to escape punishment. As a general rule, these lessons scarred a drow and stuck with them for their entire life.[64]

Noble drow weren't raised by their parents, whom they only rarely saw, but by elder siblings and private caretakers, resulting in thin bonds between parents and children.[31] Merchant clans[32] and commoners (who lacked the resources to hire tutors) considered raising their children as the entire family's duty.[31]


Most members of the Lolthite drow society lived under oppression, in perpetual desperation and poverty.[101] Normally, commoners learned a craft or entered military training, while talented individuals could hope to enter one of the magic schools.[31] Commoners who gained enough expertise in a certain area, like Zaknafein Do'Urden as a warrior, could be adopted into a noble family.[31] From time to time, artists were adopted by one of the Houses for their skill.[82]

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.[32] These bonds were generally of temporary nature, however, due to accidents, or to the noble growing tired of the commoner, or using the latter merely as a figure. The outcome was either a painful death or expulsion—usually the former.[31] Nonetheless, noble drow valued drow commoners more than slaves, and usually sacrificed them only when a slave was not at hand.[31]

In general, commoners had a higher chance to live a long life than nobles, resulting in families who had many living generations of members. This was because there wasn't much to gain from killing an elder, who actually represented a valuable source of historical and general knowledge with realistic accessibility.[31]


Due to the drow's love of beautiful things, the demand for art and skilled craft (especially exquisitely forged weapons) was high.[32] Good artisans, especially innovative artists (about 0,1 to 0,4% of the population), were highly sought after by the noble Houses, and families that didn't produce artistic talent on their own acquired it from the outside (be it by adoption into the family, a rare occurrence, simple hiring, or forceful coercion). 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, body weapons like gas-powered needle-throwers, extensile mechanical hands, wire-saws, and more to break out of cages and prisons, but also as weapons against people.[155]


As mentioned before, drow expected betrayal from each other and acted accordingly.[25]

The drow's view on other races ran the entire gamut from potential slaves or the targets of extermination. They held some respect towards races capable of resisting their aggressions, [25] and could perceive certain races as possible equals with whom they had mutual gain or non-aggression pacts. However, contracts with "lesser races" were not seen as actually binding: they 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.[69]

The drow believed that all "lesser races" had to be subjugated, or driven to extinction when representing a threat. This view resulted in an extreme thought process regarding other races. The drow's first idea on making new encounters generally was to wage war to subjugate or eradicate the others. Prisoners of such violent activities were the source of slaves in their cities.[110]

Beholders were often sought out by the drow as allies for the extra protection these aberrations could offer to their communities.[101]
Chitines were created by the drow of Ched Nasad as part of breeding experiments[156] led on dwarves[28] and elves. Drow and chitines fought against each other just as Lolth wanted.[157]
Deep Dragons
Deep dragons were often sought out by the drow as allies for protection.[101]
On one hand, demons were feared by the drow, on the other hand, they felt no anxiety towards the Tanar'ri due to Lolth being a denizen of the Abyss.[158] For example, drow regularly formed contracts with summoned demons, benefiting both the drow and the demons and usually fulfilled without any problems to the two parties. Having a demon as a guest at an event increased its prestige and that of the host.[158] Drow also mated with, and produced offspring from, demons. The other races considered it one of their most perverse fetish.[68]
The drow were a potential threat to the survival of the disir: if the drow had reached unity, the resulting power gap would have been such that the disir society would have had no chance of survival.[69]
Drow feared driders, physically changed drow who failed Lolth or the Test, and drove them out of their cities. Another way to deal with driders was to confine them in certain areas where they could serve as a line of defense against intruders.[159]
Duergars were a military match to the drow, and therefore somewhat respected and considered potential allies and trade partners (when it came to weapon trade).[25][20]
Drow and dwarves had a comparable effective birth rate, and both were quite wealthy as a whole. They competed for the same resources, which frequently led to the Underdark equivalent of open wars between the two races.[33]
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),[24] "Darthiir" in Drow language, which also meant traitors.[160] Their mainstream culture had the annihilation of the surface elves' as one of its goals, based on the idea, that the drow were unjustly punished by the elven gods, especially by Corellon Larethian (even though many drow thought 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 the surface).[19][69] The hatred was reciprocated, to the point that, for an elf, tolerating an objectively good drow whose goodness could be objectively proven by magic, was a very high bar.[20]
Humans were among the drow's traditional enemies.[134]
The drow were potential threat to the survival of the Jermlaine.[69]
For unclear reasons, the relationship between the drow and the kuo-toa was peaceful and friendly, allowing for close trade agreements and even the existence of mixed communities.[161] At some point around 1372 DR, however, the drow started viewing the kuo-toa as inferior creatures and their alliance ended,[110] making the drow a potential threat to the survival of the amphibious race.[69]
Illithids were a military match to the drow, and therefore respected (to a degree)[25] and feared for their abilities to enslave and eat brains.[28] The drow often allied with illithids, and sought their service to read the minds of enemies.[20]
Night Hunters
Night hunters were used as aggressive pets but also as familiars.[67]
Drow found killing deep gnomes a fun activity, while deep gnomes harbored a visceral hatred for the drow,[69] and put a lot of effort into hiding their settlements from their sworn enemies.[162] The deep gnomes ally with drow under no circumstances.[20]


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. 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.[64] That said, surface cities didn't generally allow drow into their cities because of their reputation,[93] even though followers of Eilistraee sometimes managed to gain a place within surface communities.[163][164]


See also: Dark Seldarine

Composition of the faiths

The drow mainly worshiped a pantheon of gods called the Dark Seldarine (a name intended as a mockery of the original Seldarine),[80] even though, as said above, within Lolthite settlements, continued worship of any deity but Lolth (and, under certain conditions, Vhaeraun) was punishable by death.[137] Some drow living in Waterdeep, however, followed the gods of the Seldarine.[84]

Differently from the elves, who venerated one member of their pantheon above the rest while still paying homage to each of their deities,[165] the drow chose one god or goddess (or sometimes two) from their pantheon and ignored the rest[166] (even though exceptions, like praying to Vhaeraun—the god of thieves—when embarking on raids, existed).[66] For this reason, while deities like Bane, Cyric, and Shar had millions of worshipers[167] but only 135,000, 250,000, and 100,000 dedicated church members respectively,[168] in the case of the Dark Seldarine, the number of worshipers of a certain deity was mostly equal to the size of their church.[166] Aside from Eilistraee, whose worship wasn't far in nature and choice of sacred places from that practiced by surface elves,[26] the drow gods weren't venerated out of true piety, but out of fear, respect, or ambition.[166]

Major Faiths

There were two major faiths among the drow:[110]

Church of Lolth
The church of Lolth was the primary drow faith.[80] 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.[169]
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.[170]
Church of Vhaeraun
See also Relationship between Vhaeraun and Lolth
See also Relationship between the churches of Vhaeraun and Lolth
The faith of Vhaeraun was the biggest among surface drow,[171][9] and the second biggest overall among the whole race.[110] 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.[39] The Masked Lord was primarily worshiped by surface drow,[171][9] male drow, because of his goal of gender equality,[172] and by those people who dealt in the acquisition of wealth by illegal means, because he approved of greed as the god of thieves.[173]
To the church of Lolth, the followers of Vhaeraun represented a serious enemy, and the two faiths clearly had no common ground.[139] That said, openly invoking him was tolerated as long as it respected certain boundaries (see above)[140] There were also clerics of Lolth who were in fact specialty priests of Vhaeraun called masked traitors, spies whom Lolth believed to be her clerics.[174]

Minor Faiths

The following faiths were of minor importance:[110]

Church of Eilistraee
The church of Eilistraee, followers of the goddess of beauty, song, and freedom,[73] strove to free the drow from Lolth's web and build a place for their people on the surface world. They reached to the drow in the Underdark, while on the surface they offered help to the needy and nurtured arts, working to build peaceful relationships with the other races.[26] Most drow weren't aware of Eilistraee, as the matron mothers suppressed all records about her,[73] and what little information existed painted her as a surface elf deity aiming to drive the drow into extinction.[144] Due to the nature of their goal, except when performing missions to bring other drow away from the Lolthite society,[77][175][176] the faith was mainly active on the surface and had little presence in the Underdark.[120]
Church of Ghaunadaur
The church of Ghaunadaur believed that everybody capable of strength was allowed to wield power,[177] an idea that actually devolved into an extreme form of "might makes right".[31] 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.[177]
Every drow had used to be more or less aware of That Which Lurks,[178] but after the Spellplague, knowledge about the Elder Eye was forgotten by the drow due to suppression from Lolth's clergy.[179]
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.[180]
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.[180] 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.[181]
Church of Selvetarm
The church of Selvetarm, followers of the drow god of drow warriors, were mostly warriors or guards who constantly honed their fighting skills and reveled in battle. Due to its emphasis on individual battle prowess instead of strategy, adhering to this faith blocked a drow from obtaining high positions in the military.[182] Calling out to the Spider That Waits was mostly done by lower-class drow.[66] 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.[183]


The drow had a number of customs, gestures, and rituals. For example, it was custom to kill all children with physical deficiencies; a commonly accepted gesture was dropping a knee and held weapons as a sign of surrender. There were many rituals as well, like the graduation ceremony for the graduates of the mage, priest, and warrior schools.[184] Some known drow rituals and customs were the following:

The Blooding
A coming of age event that consisted of killing a dangerous or sentient surface creature.[32]
A formal dance, which sometimes served as a platform for displaying wealth and power, for example through costumes.[185]
A dancing competiton where people had did the wrong steps were marked with harmless faerie fire.[186]
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.[32][187]
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 succeeded at it, she gained a promotion. Those who failed were turned into driders.[188]
Spider Hunting
A game of hide-and-seek played by young drow as a kind of courting ritual during festivals.[62]
Meeting Customs
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.[84]


When the drow spoke, they were quite eloquent and their speech was musical, as was common among elves.[111] Barring the most primitive, drow were generally literate.[101] Most drow only knew two languages (Deep Drow and the Sign language) because they usually stayed in their cities and therefore exposure to other languages and the need to learn them was limited. However, drow adventurers, outcasts, and slave-traders learned more languages,[111] as did their warriors.[101]

Deep Drow
The spoken everyday language, commonly called "Deep Drow", but also "Low Drow" or "Drowic", was similar in structure to Common and Undercommon, with a lot of borrowed words from other languages like the orcish, dwarven, and human languages.[111] Simply put, it was an elven dialect.[8]
Drow Sign language
The Sign language was also commonly known among drow. It could convey information as well as any spoken language[111] within sight range[9] of 120 ft (36 m), and had no written form.[101] 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 was not only spoken but conveyed information by certain gestures too.[111]
It was quite common for drow to be proficient in this trade language.[101]
Other languages
Drow warriors had a tendency to learn the languages of creatures that lived physically close to the drow like Abyssal, Common, Draconic, and Goblin, as well as those languages that were spoken in the nearest surface area.[101]


Drow names often included double letters and were designed to be pleasant to the ear.[8]

First names
The drow believed that having first names that were similar to one of their gods was a guarantee for misfortune, when it came to names resembling their own patron, it was considered blasphemy.[189] Nobles had a strong tendency to not choose names that were similar in sound to the common tongue of Deep Drow.[189]
Last names
Drow last names never started with a "L"-sound that was similar to the one in the name "Lolth" or one of its variations, like "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.[190]

Variant cultures

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

Not all drow became a part of the violent mainstream culture that most of the race were forced to endure. Those few who escaped the life of the Underdark might break away entirely from their dark past, while some fortunate drow were actually born and raised outside of the world below. Some drow found 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 no longer under obligation of adhering to Lolth's dogma, while yet others were dangerously insane, broken by the horrors that shook their psyches.[59]

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 because of choice.[101]


The drow had craftsmen, farmers, and businesses like any other culture, but the priestesses of Lolth represented a further risk for their economy. Not only did they purposefully undermine opportunities and chances for any form of growth, in order to ensure that those below them didn't gain the option to turn away from Lolth,[133] but they had the authority to take items from businesses without paying, which at times could cause a business to go bankrupt. The destitute owners or craftsman were then forced into a contract that essentially made them slaves to the priestess.[31]

Drow society in general didn’t have unemployment or homeless issues, as those who fell in either or both categories were killed. Many drow signed up into the military because the risk of a violent death there was lower than as an unemployed or homeless. The constant demand for soldiers, no matter the level of skill, allowed such course of action.[31]


Slavery played an important role in drow society, and many households had two or more slaves for each member.[110] Half to two-third of a normal drow city's population consisted of slaves.[25] All unskilled labor in drow cities was carried out by slaves, and for that reason slave trade was a booming business. Slaves were not only captured but also bred,[110] or bought from sellers like the humans of Calimshan, Thay, and the Plain of Horses, and the orcs from the North.[134]

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.[134] 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).[134]

Bugbears were common slavestock in drow cities[110] and common part of noble families' slave soldiers.[25]
Having demonic slaves was a sign of prestige for the drow. It served both as a demonstration of a house's power and to intimidate its enemies.[158]

Drow could become slaves either because of an unsolved debt, or as nobles who were captured in battle, but whose ransom wasn't paid. In some cities, such people were executed rather than enslaved.[134]

Dwarves were among the most desired slaves by the drow.[191]
Elves were the most desired slaves by the drow.[191]
Giants, like trolls, were not considered good slaves due to their large bodies and strength.[134] However, ogres were common slaves[110] and often part of noble families' slave soldiers.[25]
Gloamings hated the drow. According to a legend, the cloak of dark power spell[192], commonly used by all drow faiths,[193] was developed after torturing and experimenting on the gloamings.[192]
One of the races from which the drow commonly acquired their slaves.[134]
One of the races from which the drow commonly acquired their slaves.[134]
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.[134]
Kobolds were not considered good slaves due to their agility and independence.[134]
Jermlaine were not considered good slaves due to their agility and independence.[134]
Minotaurs were common among the noble families' slave soldiers,[25] but they were not particularly numerous.[194]
Orcs were one of the races from which the drow commonly acquired their slaves.[134]
Quaggoths were often slaves in drow cities.[194]
Sinisters were sometimes magically enslaved by the drow to serve as a kind of alarm mechanism due to their telepathic abilities. Their protective and offensive abilities, including that to replicate the effects of a hold person spell, made them particularly desired as bodyguards by fearful drow spellcasters.[67]

Surface Raids

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.[191] No matter the size, these attacks had the primary objective to capture people, while looting was considered of secondary importance.[191]

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 sneaky infiltration activities to kidnap the potential slaves. Sometimes, both modi operandi 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.[191] To take advantage of even the smallest cracks that constituted an opening to the surface, orbs of duo-dimension were used in these assaults.[195]

Drow usually prayed to Vhaeraun,[196] the god of surface raids[197] before participating in a raid.[66]


The technological level of drow craftwork was at least the equal to, and in certain areas greater than, that of humans, but it was far inferior to that of dwarves. The reason was the general shortsightedness of the drow: they generally relied on magic and slavery to get things done, and put an emphasis on beauty over steadiness and efficiency. When said choice led to collapsing buildings or frail items, the creators—the detainers of crafting knowledge—were often killed, only for their work to be replaced by something with similar problems. Overall, the drow race's strength didn't lie in being skilled artisans and engineers, which they were to some degree, but in their ability to oversee slaves and to be jack-of-all-trades.[198]

Drow architecture, reminiscent of the elven one,[120] put an emphasis on beauty and was considered a marvel to behold.[199][25] 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 designs for stone bridges, balconies, and buttresses, as well as their intricate spiral tunnels. Suspension bridges were the norm, for those could withstand earthquakes, and cave fishers were trained for the purpose of slinging their lines.[200] As far as dwellings went, nobles usually lived in their mansions; commoners lived either in walled houses with cellars or in small caves.[124] Drow cities tended to be a chaotic and messy sight because of the lack of a uniform architecture style,[101] but some common traits were the presence of spider webs in passages and layouts of buildings,[124] the frequent obsidian-cast spider motifs as decorations,[201] and the continual faerie fire spell adorning particularly impressive structures or buildings belonging to the wealthy.[81][101]
Magic was a key element in drow architecture. Crucial structures were often supported by spells, rather than being carefully built to stand on their own, and therefore collapsed when the magic wore off. The rubble was cleaned out by slaves, only for the drow to use magic like stone shape and the barest minimum of handiwork for reconstruction, therefore causing the instability problem to persist.[199]
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.[202] They were particularly interested in the clear black stone, because creatures with darkvision could see through it.[201] In some cities, clay was used by the poor in a similar fashion to 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, etc..[203]
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.[204]
The drow generally didn't engage in mining: they lacked the same insight and connection to stone that dwarves or gnomes enjoyed, and had a distaste for dirty work. Instead, they took by force mines already built by other races, like duergars or dwarves. While deep gnomes usually fled in the face of such attacks, dwarvenkind fought back, leading to years-long wars (which could well have an effect on the surface in terms of shortage of goods made by dwarves, and on the Underdark economy in terms of increased demand and prices for food, weapons, and other goods of war).[205] However, sometimes the drow employed magic, like the dig and skyhook spells, to mine resources. In those cases, the situation could be reversed, in that the dwarves could assault the drow under the pretense of "liberating treasure".[206]
A specialty of the drow was their ability to cut and shape stone, both with magical and mundane methods, which produced smooth-flowing buildings. Another field where this ability saw use was the construction of waterworks (see below).[82]
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 and side-channels and pumps, collected and diverted water for various purposes, be it for dietary or industrial needs, and for waste disposal. 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. These were not entirely wonders of the mundane, though, for constant application of magic was needed to make the water seals perfectly work.[207]
Armors and Weapons
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,[130] but was cheap and easy to produce.[129] 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.[208] At some point during the early 1370s, these items fell out of favor[209] and the drow started to wear mithral armor when it was affordable, but they kept using armor that wouldn't hamper their natural dexterity.[110]
Famous weapons included the bolts of power, death lance, whip of fangs,[210] 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.[211] The drow created some weapons with the specific purpose to fight their own kind, namely the flash globes and light pellets.[212]
Among the Underdark races, the drow were the most skilled in the use of poisons and toxins.[110][213] 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.[110] Other popular poisons were those extracted from purple worms, scorpions, and spiders,[110] the so-called calling, the eyeburn paste, and the skullrot. 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.[214] Naturally, the drow had some countermeasures against poison, like the ring of antivenom.[151]
Artwork and craftwork of the drow often included spider motifs, and were made out of materials like metal and cloth. For example, houses were usually adorned with curtains positioned to emulate spider webs. Noble households often had their own exclusive sculptors and gemcutters.[215] An art form unique to the drow was the use of continual faerie fire to create murals or to highlight temples.[126]
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. 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.[216] Other kinds of gems were often used as currency for trade with non-drow.[83]
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.[203] The drow also developed magic items that helped transportation of both people and goods, like the driftdisc, the floatchest, and the walking chest.[217]


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.[218] However, with the exception of the First House, insignias weren't openly displayed except when inside the House territory or the clan's base.[124]

Noble drow wore clothes and equipment of superior quality (except, of course, when they didn't want to attract attention).[31] For example, a noble's house insignia didn't just show house allegiance but also carried magic that could be used on command.[124] Web chokers' were considered fashionable by drow priestesses,[219] who also often used powdered Ormu, an Underdark-moss, as eye shadow.[153]


The magic of the drow was on par with that found on the surface.[220]

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.[221] For example, the vipergout spell was originally developed by the scalykind,[222] but was still considered drow.[223] 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.[224]
Path magic
Practicioners of this 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.[225]
Drow runes
Drow had an aptitude for runes,[101] which they elegantly limned in black paste, ink, or inlay. There were three categories of 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.[101] Runes could be enchanted with a glyph of warding spell,[226] and drow runecasters could create unique ones for locations of importance.[101]
Magic items
Drow were not just avid inventors of magic items,[220] but also the main crafters of magic items in the Underdark.[227] 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,[220] and most of those items were created to be only usable by drow, due to their paranoia.[101]
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.[101]
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.[151]


The drow didn't often keep animals as pets, as they couldn't fully comprehend their dependence on their owners. Instead, many drow took a favored slave as a personal servant or thrall, and treated these people as little more than pets.[110] Drow liked to eat live animals because they believed the meat had a better flavor.[228] They domesticated a number of animals for various purposes.

Bats and dire bats
The drow were fond of bats (of both carnivore or herbivore varieties), and commonly kept them as pets[110]. They were capable of forming genuine affection to their bats, and therefore these pets were often killed. The reasons ranged from teaching children how bad affection was to simple cruelty towards relatives or rivals.[67] Larger bats were given an entire room of space, which slaves regularly cleaned up, while smaller ones were kept in cages.[67] They were fully capable of navigating underground terrain by themselves, but drow could still call them back from flight with their innate faerie fire.[67] Frugivore bats were only affordable for rich drow with the necessary connections to the surface, while carnivorous varieties were limited to those that ate insects and other smaller animals (except spiders; spider-eating bats were wiped out by Lolth-worshipping communities).[67]
Dire bats were mostly used for entertainment, forced into fights (like chickens or dogs were on the surface) that the drow could gamble on.[67] They could also be used as steeds, but it was rare due to the danger that it represented. Commoners, including children, were therefore often forced to be riders and act as scouts or harry the enemies with poisoned darts. Training for the bat consisted of learning how to be reigned with bit and bridle, while the rider primarily had to learn how not to fall.[67]
Cavvekans' senses, with the exception of sight, were superior to the drow's.[67] While they were quite happy to live near drow communities,[229] due to their small numbers, they were seldom pets and more often (but still rarely) used as guard and hunting animals instead.[67][110]
Subterranean lizards were a type of animal domesticated by the drow.[230] Pack lizards were used as beasts of burden, while riding lizards[110] were used as steeds[231] by notable people, like particularly good warriors or nobles, and by mercenaries. They could climb and walk on walls without leaving obvious and readable heat prints.[230] Spitting crawlers were popular familiars among drow wizards[231][67]
Another domesticated animal was the rothe, to be more precise the deep rothe, which was a common food source,[232] a beast of burden for merchants, or used in agriculture for activities like ploughing or hauling.[233]
To be precise, shriekers were fungi rather than animals,[234] but they were kept as pets by unusual drow communities that worshiped demons instead of a divine figure.[67] They were also used as a warning system for certain areas within the noble Houses, because of their ability to recognize certain types of creatures and to emit sounds on perceiving them.[67] There were a plethora of varieties of shriekers, each giving off different sounds, and the drow chose a given variety according to the kind of information that they needed. They could also be eaten, and this happened to those too unruly or big.[67] Some drow delighted in eating these fungi live, for it produced a sound similar to the shrieking of a tortured surface elf.[67]
Rich children were given easily replaceable, physically small creatures with perceived low intelligence, like goblins or kobolds, as pets. They often died due to torture performed by their child owner, or due to neglect.[67] It was also common for drow to choose a slave as a favored one, nothing short of a pet.[110]
Drow had a fondness for both the constrictor and venomous varieties of snakes. Torturers used the latter's venom to make their sessions more painful, while the former were often the pets of priestesses in training, and were fed flesh carved from living slaves. Venomous snakes were a favorite among Lolthites, because they could produce venom like spiders. Favored ones that died while protecting a temple to Lolth were used to create the whips of fangs.[67]
Being Lolth's symbol, the spider was the animal most closely associated with the drow. Spiders 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, those big enough to kill mice served as familiars or roamed the streets acting as pest controllers, those of dog-size were temple guards (and sometimes resurrected and bound to spider-demon upon their death), while those of horse-size were used as steeds.[67] These spiders were often specifically bred for the purpose and were more intelligent than their regular counterparts, especially the sword spider,[110] brought to the Underdark from the surface and often commanded by the priestesses of Lolth.[235] Spider-like outsiders such as bebiliths, myrlochar, and retrievers were also a common sight in Lolth's temples.[110]
Drow cities weren't full of spiders solely because of the faith: the drow had an affinity for them and they were, in turn, attracted to the drow, leading to large concentrations of spiders in their communities, including those that didn't worship Lolth.[62] In drow society, Lolth's dogma forbade to hurt spiders, and such an act was punished with torture[67] and death.[169] Despite this taboo, some drow families ate spiders believing that it was proof of their devotion to the Spider Queen.[236]
Other creatures
The drow also used molds, fungi, and oozes for traps and sanitation.[110]


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.[237]

At times, pieces of history were entirely deleted from the records. It happened to fallen noble Houses, as all information about them was erased,[237] to deities, as the matron mothers tried to hide all records of Eilistraee's existence,[140] 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,[238] and by four generations the fabrication was accepted as "fact".[237]

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][239][35][56][240] 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.[239] An exception was the church of Vhaeraun, whose goal was to elevate the Ilythiiri to their former glory.[39]

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]


The Beginning

According to the drow and elves of Toril, the first connection between Lolth and the drow started with Corellon Larethian naming Araushnee, his wife and later known as Lolth, keeper of the fate of the dark elves.[241] However, unsatisfied with her position, counting on the help of her son, Vhaeraun, and devising a plan to frame her daughter, Eilistraee,[242] for her actions, Araushnee would attempt to overthrow Corellon, starting what was known as the War of the Seldarine.[243] The conflict ended with Araushnee being banished into the Abyss and her name changing into Lolth: from there, it would take her millennia in order to regain influence on the dark elves.[244] Vhaeraun was exiled from Arvandor, and he would deeply shape the future of the dark elves,[245] while Eilistraee chose exile to bring her light to them in the time of need.[246]

The wizard Mordenkainen recorded a different version of this story. The elves who later became drow chose Lolth on their own. Elves were an accidental product that emerged from the blood that Corellon lost in a fight against Gruumsh. Like their god, the first elves had shape-changing powers, and, with them, freedom. The Protector took some favorites, who were made deities: among them, Lolth was the most privileged. She saw that other races made something out of their lives, and made the argument that the elves should do the same by casting off their shape-changing powers in exchange for a fixed form that would allow them to gain dominion over everything. Every single elf agreed and chose such a form, but Corellon was revolted by their decision and railed against Lolth. The god was stopped with the argument that nobody of his blood should be attacked, and, while he was thinking about it, Lolth used the opportunity to attempt to murder him. Realizing the extent of Lolth's betrayal, many elves intervened to stop her, but some remained loyal to the Spider Queen: the latter became the dark elves, and Lolth became a demon lord of the Abyss.[247]

Time of Dragons

The first elves came to Toril around −27,000 DR, in three racially distinct immigration waves, through portals opened by the fey with the declared goal to erode the power of the dragons who ruled the world at the time.[35][248] During that era, the dragons acted like tyrants who viewed other races as inferior,[249] and even the metallic ones couldn't be called good back then.[250] However, the dark elves, or tribe Ilythiiri, part of the second wave and the most successful,[35][36] differed from the others in that they wanted to found a nation rather than to fight the dragons. The Ilithyiiri negotiated with them and gained a piece of land where they would build Ilythiir.[36]

According to Mordenkainen, some branches of elves had forgotten about Corellon and the Seldarine.[251] The elves who entered Toril worshiped fey gods instead.[35] In this environment, most Ilythiiri picked up the faith of Vhaeraun,[252] the god of territory,[253] and under the careful leadership of his church, Ilythiir grew in size and power,[254] managing to keep its independence and the dragons at bay.[252] It became a bastion of elven civilization[35] but not of good (for example, the nation institutionalized slavery).[255] The faith of Ghaunadaur, the god of oozes, also gained influence, to a lesser extent, and fulfilled a smaller but similar role to the church of Vhaeraun's. An even smaller faith was that of Eilistraee, the goddess of dance. Her church opposed the evil machinations of her brother's church.[256]

Despite being founded by dark elves, in −25,400 DR,[35] Ilythiir was a dark elf-moon elf-nation.[257][40] According to Ka'Narlist, the proportion of dark elves was increasing due to the genetic dominance of their traits.[40] The moon elf Kethryllia Amarillis, a devout follower of Corellon Larethian,[258] accidentally drew Lolth’s attention to Toril in −24,400 DR, which led to the subsequent introduction of her faith in Ilythiir.[259]

First Flowering

After the Time of Dragons, the First Flowering, the golden age of the elves, began.

First Flowering - Ilythiir

After the Time of Dragons, several elven states were founded. Ilythiir expanded its territory towards east and south,[259] and the relationships between the dark elves and the newer states were of peaceful nature.[56] This would however change due to influence of the church of Lolth,[260] and by −20,000 DR, the first skirmishes between Orishaar, a moon elf nation, and Ilythiir started.[259]

Due to Ilythiir's expansionism, the Seldarine-following elves opted to create a dark elf-free haven.[261] They decided to ignore historical warnings and cast the ritual known as the First Sundering in −17,600 DR.[259] The intervention of their gods[262] managed to reduce the collateral damage, but despite their efforts, the spell still had the disastrous effect of "ripping apart the continent" of Faerûn.[259] The ensuing casualties destroyed most of the church of Vhaeraun's membership.[263] Vhaeraun's efforts to bring Ilythiir's citizens into his church once again were thwarted by the church of Eilistraee.[139] Szorak Auzkovyn, a priest of Vhaeraun, claimed that Eilistraee expelled males and favored females, thus making herself more attractive to Vhaeraun's female followers.[264][note 2] This struggle granted Lolth and Ghaunadaur the opportunity to rise to prominence in Ilythiir.[139]

Around −17,500 DR, Eiellûr, Syòrpiir, and Thearnytaar, three different wild elf-realms, opened a series of negotiations to unify all the elves of Satyrwood. Ilythiir, however, poisoned the three nations' relationship by assassinating their leaders and framing their heirs for the crime. This was the cause of the War of Three Leaves between −17,100 DR and −16,800 DR. By the end of the conflict, the Ilythiiri had reached their goal, and the three nations remained separate and so hostile to each other that they skirmished often. However, Ilythiiri's plot was also eventually uncovered, and the three nations opened hostilities against the dark elves as well.[16]

First Flowering - Miyeritar

Miyeritar was a dark and wood elven realm founded by those who didn't agree with the sun elves from Aryvandaar in −18,800 DR, covering the areas that became later known as the High Moor and Misty Forest.[259] Eilistraee's faith took a strong hold in the nation,[265] which would grow into a flourishing center of art and magic,[16] reaching its peak in −13,900 DR.[266] The dark elven followers of Eilistraee wanted a part in the casting of the First Sundering, but weren't seen as equals by the others, especially by sun elves, and the other subraces joined in barring them from participating in the ritual.[261]

Crown Wars

Main article: Crown Wars

The Crown Wars were a series of conflicts fought by the elven nations that resulted in the end of the golden age of the Tel'Quessir.

First Crown War - Miyeritar

The basis for the First Crown War was laid during the First Flowering era, in −14,700 DR, when the rulers of Aryvandaar, the Vyshaan, learned about their blood relationship with the Miyeritari ruling family, the Olrythii. Using this as a pretext, they tried to annex and gain control over Miyeritar through the use of diplomacy.[267] Miyeritar refused to give up on its independence, and by −13,200 DR, skirmishes and disruption of trade,[16] between the two nations, started by the sun elves,[266] became commonplace.[16]

In −12,000 DR, tired of the lack of results, the Aryvandaari organized a violent invasion of Miyeritar[257], which ended with the defeat of the latter in −11,800 DR. Resistance movements persisted for centuries,[16] but were eventually quelled in −11,300 DR, when Aryvandaar occupied the entirety of Miyeritar,[268] and the nation was no more.[16]

While Illefarn, a moon-wild elf nation, declared neutrality regarding the conflict, many of its inhabitants accepted refugees from Miyeritar, and eventually came to openly condemn Aryvandaar's actions. Meanwhile, factions from Ilythiir sent help to the Miyeritari in the name of their "dark elf kinship". The help was initially unrequested, but accepted and further built up.[269]

Second Crown War - Ilythiir

The Second Crown War started in −11,700 DR, when the Ilythiiri, enraged for the occupation of Miyeritar and the violence against the only other dark elven nation,[270] opened hostilities against Aryvandaar's allies in retaliation. They began with Orishaar, a major trade partner[16] and ally of Aryvandaar,[270] and continued with Syòrpiir. Against the latter, the Ilythiiri military made extensive use of fire, separating the region from its allies and burning down houses and forests alike.[271][16]

At some point around −11,500 DR,[272] fearing an attack or even a genocidal campaign from Aryvandaar, Geirildin Sethomiir, the coronal of Ilythiir, summoned Wendonai,[273] a balor under Lolth’s control, and bought power from the demon (and therefore from Lolth). The nation’s nobility followed their royalty’s example and bought power from other demonic patrons, coming to revel in torture and war.[274] By the Fourth Crown War, the whole future Dark Seldarine (minus Eilistraee) had been providing the dark elves similar help in the form of fiendish magic and servants.[56]

With their newfound power, in −11,450 DR, led by twisted and cruel individuals, Ilythiir launched an attack against Thearnytaar and Eiellûr, who had allied with each other and tried to invade Ilythiir and stop its advancements (with help, if minimal, from Keltomir and Shantel Othreier).[16]

By −11,400 DR, Eiellûr was destroyed by fire and through treachery. In an act of appeasement, a number of wild elves joined forces with the Ilythiiri against their own nation, believing that could help to restore peace.[16] The survivors of Eiellûr were enslaved and, due to the genetic dominance of the dark elves, their descendants became dark elves over one or two generations. The wild elves who had supported the Ilythiir were given the land of the Misty Vale, an untamed and dangerous jungle where the living products of Ilythiiri magical experiments were let loose. The jungle became a hiding spot for those elves who managed to escape Ilythiir's slave farms.[275]

By −11,200 DR, Thearnytaar was destroyed by Ilythiir's enslaved monsters and undead.[240] Witnessing the increasing corruption and cruelty of the Ilythiiri army, even the generally peaceful Keltomir equipped themselves for war,[274] and the two nations started to skirmish along their eastern and southern borders.[240]

During this time, peace with other nations wasn't achievable due to the warmongering activities of the adherents of Ghaunadaur and Lolth.[237] In fact, even internal peace in Ilythiir was not fully achievable, for the Ghaunadans were constantly at war with the other faiths.[276] Ilythiir's course of action earned the dark elves the title dhaerow, traitor in elven,[274] a word that would eventually become "drow", the term commonly used to describe the descendants of the dark elves.[56]

During these days, the Ilythiiri were refining their worship of their gods. The early Ilythiiri temples were often decorated with grossly wrong depictions of the Dark Seldarine, portraying them as spider deities subservient to Lolth.[277] For example, in one of such temples, Eilistraee, goddess of song,[278] was depicted as spider singing praises to Lolth;[279] Ghaunadaur, god of slime,[280] as a spider with an oozy face;[279] Kiaransalee, goddess of undeath,[281] as an undead spider,[279] and Vhaeraun, whose titles included the Masked Lord,[253] as a masked spider.[279] With the exception of Eilistraee, it was known for sure that the offended gods killed their high priests who depicted them in such a way.[277]

Third Crown War and Dark Disaster - Miyeritar

Kraanfhaor's Door; the last remnant of Miyeritar.

The Third Crown War, involving Aryvandaar and Shantel Othreier, was fought between −10,900 DR and −10,600 DR, and ended with the victory of the former.

A century after the war ended, the Dark Disaster struck Miyeritar], destroying it and killing all citizens who had remained there. After the disaster only a barren place, known as the High Moor, remained.[282] Miyeritar had already been conquered by Aryvandaar at that time, and many citizens had already fled towards Illefarn during the First Crown War for safety, although countless innocent dark elven lives were still lost to the cataclysm.[283] Among them were the vast majority of the followers of Eilistraee: their death in the Dark Disaster, alongside the rise of Lolth and Ghaundadur, reduced [Eilistraee into virtual powerlessness for millennia.[265][278]Kraanfhaor's Door, a ruined, ancient magic college, was the last remnant of Miyeritar.[284]

The Dark Disaster was caused by Aryvandaar,[283] but the sun elves were careful to not leave evidence of any kind.[285] According to the spirits in House Melarn's lorestone, the Aryvandaari's genocidal intentions towards the dark elves were the reason behind the Killing Storms.[286] However, the Vyshaan pointed at the Miyeritari high mages as the real culprits, accusing them of having tried to harness corrupt magic for resistance sake, accidentally destroying their country in the process.[287] The reality was that most of those elven high mages had been murdered months before during an assassination campaign of the sun elves.[284]

Fourth Crown War - Ilythiir

The Fourth Crown War started as an Ilythiiri retaliatory assault on Aryvandaar in −10,450 DR,[283] supported by House Aelryth of Miyeritar.[240] By −10,100 DR, riding enslaved dragons, they destroyed Shantel Othreier,[283] which had been conquered by Aryvandaar. For the first time, the elves could see the corrupt power of entities like Ghaunadaur openly in action, and, overwhelmed, they prayed to their own gods for salvation.[288]

As a result, the Seldarine's (or, to be more precise,[289] Corellon Larethian's) magic, channeled through their clerics, turned all dark elves, including innocents, into drow, changing their bodies and causing them to be harmed by sunlight. [288][289][15] By that point some dark elves had modified their bodies, and were thus not further changed.[290] According to Wendonai, a balor fiend of corruption, Corellon let his clerics channel his magic because he considered the dark elves too dangerous.[291] The elves believed that the unjust punishment was collateral damage originated by their lack of a proper understanding of elven high magic.[290] In truth, it was all Aryvandaar's plan: the ritual itself had the goal to tie the dark elves of Ilythiir and Miyeritar to the faerzress without discrimination, and to create a mental compulsion to enter the Underdark and remain there.[286]

After their transformation, over two months, the drow were forcefully exiled in the Underdark by a coalition of elven armies, an event called "Descent of the drow".[288] After that the drow lived as nomads and scavengers for a time but, through the call of Lolth, they eventually managed to gather themselves and to found the cities Telantiwar and Guallidurth in −9600 DR.[56] Over the following five centuries, the drow kept attacking the Aryvandaari forces, preventing them from conquering Keltomir.[292]

Founding Time

The drow in Telantiwar seized the gold dwarf cavern of Bhaerynden for themselves around −9000 DR;[15] Guallidurth destroyed the dwarven nation of Alatorin in the First Spider War between −8170 DR and −8150 DR. The Second Spider War took place only five years later, between −8145 DR and −8137 DR, when the forces of Guallidurth were driven back from Alatorin by the other eight nations of Shanatar.[293] The region would be retaken by the drow between −6150 DR and −6120 DR, in the Third Spider War.[294]

Around {{Yearlink|-7600||, the infighting among the drow of Telantiwar reached a critical level, leading to the destruction of their own cavern in a great magical explosion and forming the Great Rift. The homeless drow then scattered,[295] a time called the Scattering,[120] in every direction but the south, spreading around in the Underdark and founding most drow cities in the process[56] (like Llurth Dreier in -7,600 DR,[295] Sshamath beneath the Far Hills in −4973 DR, Menzoberranzan, in −3917 DR, and Ched Nasad, in −3843 DR).[56]

Between −5112 DR and −4835 DR, the Webfire War saw the followers of Ghaunadaur clash with the worshipers of Lolth in Llurth Dreier.[294] In −4400 DR.[294] an alliance of Lolthite drow and duergar massacred the participants in a gathering of elven and dwarven leaders in the Elven Court, an event known as the Dark Court Slaughter.[296] In a fit of rage, one of the survivors, Shevarash, vowed to drive the drow into extinction. He ultimately died in −4070 DR while acting on it, but ascended to godhood and started to hunt the mightiest deities of the drow: Lolth and Vhaeraun[297] (despite the latter's promotion of cooperation between drow and various elven subraces).[253] However, by that time, he diluted his initial vow and excluded Eilistraee and her followers from his list of enemies.[298]

Age of Humanity

The Age of Humanity saw many important events involving all drow factions and many of their cities.


Between −790 DR and −530 DR, Guallidurth started a series of surface raids against Calmishan on a large scale, collectively named Night Wars.[299] With exposure to the outer world and the surface, the faith of Vhaeraun,[300] the god of evil activity on the surface[253] and surface raids,[196][197] gained a strong presence in the temple-city. The Vhaeraunites then founded Allsihwann, Dallnothax, Holldaybim, Iskasshyoll, and the Vault of Cloaked Midnight.[300]


Planning to conquer what would later become Shadowdale, between −2600 DR[301] and −2549 DR the drow Maerimydra built a surface outpost, which would later become the Twisted Tower of Ashaba. After they caused the Spiderfire, the Twisted Tower became the target of many attacks. However, no assault managed to break the outpost's defenses; on the contrary, between −750 DR and −730 DR the fortress grew double in size. In −311 DR, Rystalwood and Cormanthyr, aided by the followers of Eilistraee, managed to defeat the Lolthites and drive them away. The Twisted Tower was left under the protection of the Eilistraeens,[302][303] who turned it into a temple called "Tower of the Dark Moon". It was taken once again by the Lolthite drow centuries later, in 190 DR, reassuming its original function.[265]


T'lindhet managed to gain a foothold on the surface [56] by conquering Dambrath between –802 DR and –831 DR. As a result, they installed the Hazm'cri Dynasty to rule the region.[304]

The followers of Eilistraee

See also: History of the church of Eilistraee After near collapsing, the church of Eilistraee started a slow process of recovery in which their influence would ebb and flow, only regaining some prominence in the late part of the Age of Humanity.[278] Within a century of its foundation, the Tower of the Dark Moon (see above) became Eilistraee's greatest temple in the Realms. As mentioned above, it eventually fell.[265] Overall, the Dark Maiden's church was in a state of obscurity and powerlessness. These dark times were ended by the efforts of Qilue Veladorn,[305] Chosen of Mystra and Eilistraee both.[306][278] The Promenade of the Dark Maiden was founded in 1357 DR; see here).[307]

Drow of Cormanthor

Interactions between surface elves and drow were especially frequent in Cormanthor (see Maerimydra above), leading the elves of the region to even open a diplomatic channel for all subraces, including the drow: the Tiru Tel-Quessir or the Tower of the People. None of the drow groups visited the tower,[308] but alliances would nonetheless happen. A long-lasting example was that between the drow of Eilistraee and Cormanthyr (mentioned above), while the Spider Truce, stipulated between Maerimydra's House Dhuurniv and Cormanthyr's forces in 712 DR, only lasted one year, ending in 713 DR.[309] When Cormanthyr finally fell in 714 DR, the elves started to abandon the main continent for Evermeet in the face of human expansion.[36][310] The drow, especially those who followed Vhaeraun, started to repopulate the abandoned territory.[311] Their success at settling in these lands was one of the reasons why the elves of Evermeet considered a return to the Faerûn.[312]


In −221 DR, the Lolthite city of Chaulssin was overtaken by the shadow dragons of Clan Jaezred, who enslaved the drow who lived there. Eventually, the drow succeeded at overthrowing their slavers, only to be assaulted by Lolth's forces in 734 DR for not worshiping the Spider Queen. The Chaulssinyr accepted the help of Vhaeraun and managed to flee into the Shadowfell where they founded Chaul'mur'ssin and House Jaezred in 792 DR, which would later become a Vhaeraunite assassins guild known as Jaezred Chaulssin, who eventually returned to Toril in 1136 DR. They then proceeded to infiltrate about fourteen drow cities.[313]

Era of Upheaval

The most important occurrences for the drow during the Era of Upheavel were the Silence of Lolth and the Reckoning. Aside from those events, in 1374 DR, the elven army of Seiveril Miritar, leading the return of the Tel'Quessir to Faerûn, recaptured Myth Drannor. Under coronal Ilsevele Miritar, the elven realm would later return to its former splendor; most drow were driven away from the surface of Cormanthor in the process.[314]

Silence of Lolth

Main article: Silence of Lolth

In the Year of Wild Magic, 1372 DR, the goddess Lolth went into a state of hibernation, a period called the Silence. She stopped granting spells to her followers and became effectively inactive.[315]

While it only lasted for one year, a lot happened during that time. To name a few examples, in Sshamath, Lolth’s clergy was demoted and the churches of Ghaunadaur and Vhaeraun took the official clerical positions.[316] In Eryndlyn, the church of Vhaeraun and of Ghaunadaur joined forces and destroyed Lolth's matriarchy. In cities like Dusklyngh, Jhachalkhyn and Karsoluthiyl, through a series of assassinations, the Jaezred Chaulssin shifted the power balance in favor of secular power holders like merchants,[317] while other cities, such as Maerimydra, suffered complete breakdowns.[318]

The Reckoning

See also: History of the Dark Seldarine: the Reckoning

The Reckoning includes the years following the Silence, between 1375 DR and 1385 DR, during which the church of Lolth destroyed all the other drow churches.[319] It began when Lolth invited Eilistraee to play a divine game of sava over the fate of the drow, and the Dark Maiden accepted seeing an opportunity to free her people once and for all.[320] The events concerning the fall of various faiths were:

Church of Selvetarm
Radical elements from the church of Selvetarm allied themselves with the church of Vhaeraun. Under the leadership of Dhairn, they duped various Lolth-worshiping groups into serving their ends. Their goal was to take over the Promenade of the Dark Maiden as their new headquarters. They almost succeeded, but failure came when their god was killed by Cavatina Xarann[321] with the help of the Lady Penitent Halisstra Melarn and the balor Wendonai, as planned by Lolth[322] The radical elements in the church of Selvetarm were then built into the church of Lolth.[323]
Church of Vhaeraun
The church of Vhaeraun organized an elven high magic ritual that was meant to allow their god to attempt to assassinate Eilistraee. The plan was noticed by Halisstra Melarn, who then relayed the intelligence to the church of Eilistraee. Being forewarned, the assassination failed and Vhaeraun was no more.[324][note 3] Parts of the church Vhaeraun joined Eilistraee's.[325] Others remained with their faith because either out of stubbornness or because they did not realize their god was dead and formed the skulkers of Vhaeraun.[326]
Church of Kiaransalee
While Kiaransalee worked to take down Eilistraee, her church tried to call an army of undead from Death Heart, a city on the Negative Energy Plane. To achieve that goal, they fed the faerzress with negative energy, enhancing it and increasing the drow's urge to go back to the Underdark. To prevent such an event, the church of Eilistraee sent assassins to the Acropolis of Thanatos, Kiaransalee's main temple and base of operations, to kill the Crones' leader.[327] Sages like Mordenkainen claimed that the churches of Lolth and Eilistraee teamed up to destroy the temple.[73] Lolth did indeed move in favor of Eilistraee, but there was no alliance between the two churches. Q'arlynd Melarn cast an elven high magic ritual that erased the name from everybody's memories, and the goddess was no more[328] (even though necromancers kept remembering her name and invoking her).[329] The defeated clerics of the Revenancer in the Acropolis died on the spot if undead, and became powerless if still mortal. The Eilistraeen wanted to offer them redemption, but Wendonai's influence led Qilué Veladorn to order their death.[330]
Church of Eilistraee
By 1378 DR, under the leadership of Kâras and Valdar Jaelre, Vhaeraunites organized the destruction of the Promenade of the Dark Maiden by manipulating an attack of Ghaunadaur's followers. They succeeded and the Promenade fell.[331] In 1379 DR Eilistraee inhabited the body of Qilué Veladorn to free Halisstra Melarn from her torment and convince her to turn against Lolth. However, Wendonai tricked her into killing Qilué and alongside her the Masked Lady.[332][note 4] Meanwhile, Q'arlynd Melarn cast a High Magic spell that he had been preparing alongside Qilué Veladorn, aimed to sever the link between the faerzress and the drow who didn't worship Lolth[333]. It turned a few hundred[334] among the followers of Dark Dancer (who, as a lesser power, had at least a few thousands of worshipers[335]) and those drow not tainted by Wendonai into dark elves, (albeit without their consent).[336] Corellon allowed the souls of those who had been changed into Arvandor[337] even though Eilistraee's realm, which continued existing,[338] already was in Arvandor, and so were the souls of her followers within it.[339] Corellon's servants Solars claimed that, with this act, the willing had been saved, while the unwilling had been cast down as a necessary sacrifice.[340]
Church of Ghaunadaur
After Lolth got rid of the other drow deities, she attacked Ghaunadaur, but he managed to escape. The church of Lolth then succeeded at making the drow forget about the ooze god.[179]

Post-Spellplague era

Around 1480 DR, every drow city was visited by Danifae Yauntyrr, the drow female who had been chosen as Chosen of Lolth at the end of the Silence. She informed the drow about Lolth's intention to create her own Demon Weave, to become the deity of magic, and to be served by both clerics and wizards equally.[341]

The drow started to gather artifacts sacred to Mystra and to attempt to control magical locations. After they collected the magical energy for Lolth, the Demon Weave was completed, and drow clerics and wizards grew stronger. They used their increase in power to darken the sky on the surface in order to remain operative.[341]

Wizards rising in status due to this new order was a reason of upheaval in the gendered Lolthite society, as it meant that female priestesses and male wizards would be equal.[341] Lolth intended to solve the problem by favoring females and excluding males not only from divine spellcasting, but also from arcane magic.[342] However, before anything could have any social implications, in the fall of 1485 DR, a party of adventurers from Luruar descended into the ruins of Eryndlyn, where they helped a resurgent Mystra to defeat Lolth and take command of the Demon Weave. She then began using it to strengthen her own Weave to restore it closer to the its pre-Spellplague conditions.[343]

While in the century after the Spellplague the drow were primarily ruled by the church of Lolth, small scale opposition movements in the form of the skulkers of Vhaeraun or followers of Ghaunadaur did exist.[344]

Most drow who didn't live in the Underdark dwelt within the lands of the Dragon Coast or the East Rift. Drow who headed for the Dragon Coast typically were less apologetic about their past and simply sought a place away from Lolth's corruption where few questions were asked and skill was the only quality that mattered. Many of those who dwelled in the East Rift were refugees of the catastrophe wrought on the neighboring regions of the Underdark by the [[Spellplague, and of the draining of the Sea of Fallen Stars.[345]

Post-Second Sundering era

See also: History of the Dark Seldarine: the Second Sundering

Over the course of the Second Sundering, all the drow deities who had died before the Spellplague managed to return to life, thus causing a renaissance of their cults. Despite Q'arlynd's spell, Eilistraee and most of her followers were still drow after the goddess' re-emergence.[346] Eilistraee and Vhaeraun were especially active in this time, and they personally manifested to their followers, especially along the Sword Coast.[347][348][164] In particular, Eilistraee's appearance near Waterdeep led many of her followers to travel to the city. While some worked to create a new forest-temple within Waterdeep itself, the Dancing Haven,[164][349][350] the Promenade was also stealthily restored under the (informal) leadership of priestess Trelasarra Zuin, using the above-mentioned surface temple as a base of operations.[350][349] However, part of the area formerly occupied by the Promenade had been refunctioned as a temple to Dumathoin and then settled by hobgoblins and the drow House Auvryndar.[351]



Drow were the most wide-spread and numerous among the Underdark races.[25] They lived in about forty city-state scattered around the Upperdark and Middledark,[120][352] 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.[353]

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.[120]

Some notable drow cities were:

While not particularly large, Menzoberranzan was the archetypal drow city.[124]
Chualssin stood out among the drow cities, as it primarily served as the headquarters for the Jaezred Chaulssin.[354]
Ched Nasad
Also called the City of Shimmering Webs, the city was built on magically calcified webs.[355]
Eryndlyn stood out among the drow cities because it was split among three faiths: Ghaunadaur, Lolth, and Vhaeraun.[356]
The drow of Maerimydra were responsible for the construction of the Twisted Tower.[301]
Sschindylryn was a city where merchant clans took over after the constant infighting caused the matriarchy to fall from power.[181]
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.[357]


The term "surface drow" referred to all individuals who spent less than four consecutive days below the surface in their regular life.[60]

As mentioned above, most surface drow were followers of Vhaeraun and not of Lolth. Infighting among the drow was not a huge problem like in the Underdark.[171] The vast majority of Eilistraee's followers were on the surface.[120]

Surface drow had no love for bright light, open sky, and loud noises, and a preference for darkness.[60] 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.[59]

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.[60] 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.[358]


Drow-run organizations

  • The Horizon Syndicate was merchant conglomerate that organized trade between Underdark communities and surface ones.[359]
  • 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.[360]

Organizations with strong drow membership

  • 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.[362]
  • 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.[363] An important part of its membership were chaotic and evil drow who used the organization as a platform for protest against the establishment.[364]

Notable Drow


See Also


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


Further Reading

Articles and Magazines

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.


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High elves
LlewyrrMoon elfStar elfSun elf
Aquatic: Aquatic elfMarel
Dark: Dark elfDrow
Sylvan elf: 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
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