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Drow of the Underdark,

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1 Drow of the Underdark, on Mon Oct 25, 2010 3:16 am

Of the various elven subraces, none are more notorious than the drow. Descended from the original dark-skinned elven subrace called the Ssri'tel'quessir, the drow were cursed into their present appearance by the good elven deities for following the goddess Lolth down the path to evil and corruption.
Also called dark elves, the drow have black skin that resembles polished obsidian, hair of stark-white hue, and eyes the shade of blood. While they tend to be smaller and slimmer than the rest of the elven subraces, they are most certainly no less dangerous; moreso, even, by most accounts. Drow are, on the whole, sadistic, destructive, and treacherous. They view themselves as the rightful heirs to Faerun, and their hatred of all others is only outshined by their hatred of themselves.

Though divided by endless feuds and schisms, not to mention diverse religious doctrines, the drow are united in one terrible desire: they seethe with hatred for the surface elves. By their way of reckoning, they proved themselves the superior race in the Fourth Crown War, and the fact that the Seldarine punished them for their success is a poison that churns in their hearts and minds eternally. They burn with hatred for the Seldarine and their coddled children, and want nothing more than to return to the surface and bring to the elves there suffering a thousand times greater than that which the drow have been forced to endure over the past ten thousand years.

Drow are, on the whole, sadistic, arrogant, cruel, destructive, hedonistic, and treacherous. Their eternal game of advancement at the expense of others, which is encouraged by the spider goddess herself, has transformed the dark elves into a race of scheming backstabbers eager to increase their own stations by pulling down those ahead of them and crushing their inferiors underfoot. Drow trust no one and nothing, and most are incapable of compassion, kindness, or love (or at the very least, because of the aforementioned rampant distrust, incapable of bringing themselves to express such emotions). In a drow’s mindset, there is little room for friendship, for while they may secretly value other family members or acquaintances, their overly suspicious (paranoid, by some standards) natures taint any strong relations they may otherwise form. Many dark elves go so far as to be actively murderous and delight in the giving of pain.

While most dark elves neither honor their promises nor maintain personal loyalties once it becomes inconvenient to do so, their pride lends them a certain sense of style and an appreciation of subtlety. Drow can be courteous and urbane, even to deadly rivals. They enjoy surrounding themselves with things of beauty, giving hardly a thought to the cost. This fascination with beauty extends to the physical body as well, with drow of both sexes often displaying their physiques to degrees that other societies may find vulgar. Such is the strength of this fascination, that most drow children who exhibit physical deformities or deficiencies are slain.

The above personality traits categorize the majority of drow as evil, where outlook (alignment) is concerned. In addition, most drow tend to lean towards the chaotic end of the lawful-chaotic spectrum. In general, drow believe in doing what they want to do, when they want to do it--so long as they are capable of doing so in present company and conditions.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. A rare few learn to look and grow beyond the above strictures that drow society has ingrained into the race as a whole. Some even go so far as to atone for any evils they may have committed, most often fleeing for a society that may be more nurturing or accepting of such personal “weaknesses” , or simply leaving their cities to eek out what sort of solitary existence they may. These rare drow are often still overly suspicious of other folk, but with the proper encouragement can eventually become trusted (and trusting) allies and friends, as well as stalwart champions for good.


Most of the surface world knows little about the society of the dark elves except for a few stereotypes: Dominated by the female clerics of Lolth the Spider Queen, males are subservient, and slaves and magic are everywhere. For most of the surface world, that information is more than sufficient, but while these stereotypes are based in fact, they only scratch the surface of what life is like among the dark elves. Drow, like humans and other civilized beings, eat, fall in love, marry, raise children, and have families. In fact, because dark elves have long lifespans and drow society is frequented by upheavals, relations among the drow are usually more complex than a typical human family

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2 Re: Drow of the Underdark, on Mon Oct 25, 2010 3:16 am

Gender Roles
Lolth is the patron goddess of the drow, and they owe their existence in (or, to be precise, their banishment to) the Underdark to her. Given such an involvement in the origin of the dark elves, it is unsurprising that the majority of drow cities, and thus the majority of all drow, pay homage to the Spider Queen. With her patronage comes her rigid dogma of female superiority and male inferiority. In these societies, females control almost all of the power, leaving males to pick at the scraps. Traditionally, females enter the clergy and serve Lolth as her priestesses, while males enter the military or (rarely) study wizardry. Priestesses are trained in the arts of war, and often squadrons and armies are led directly by the foul clerics of the Spider Queen, but normally they keep themselves out of harm's way and give orders to experienced male officers, some of which are kept in check by physical or magical threats or even outright magical domination.
Wizardry is the only real way a male in a Lolthian society can gain any true power. Even the most experienced male general and veteran of many conflicts might be killed for an accidental insult to a spider-priestess, but a wizard of equal status is far more valuable simply because they are rarer and more useful. Still, even the most talented male wizard is technically a social inferior to the lowest female cleric -- a fact that the male wizards resent greatly. In a world where they are doomed to servitude because of an accident of their gender, a male wizard who can transcend space and time and who must bow and scrape to female clerics who can barely muster the power to mend a scraped knee leads a frustrated existence.

The above describes the majority of dark elf cities, but a not insignificant number of drow cities have an entirely different societal structure. For example, the city of Sshamath is ruled by male wizards, with female clerics of Lolth shunted into lesser roles. (Sshamath's nature came about due to a larger number of males born in the past few centuries, coupled with increased research into old magic sites and a temporary disruption in clerical magic.) Given that Sshamath has survived despite being a thorn in the side of Lolth's official view on drow society means that other unusual drow societies may exist, such as those ruled by the military or hereditary nobles regardless of faith.

However, most drow societies reflect the deity they venerate. Some may be built around the philosophy of Kiaransalee, a minor drow goddess of undeath and vengeance. In such a place, the drow in power may be those with the ability to command and create undead, or are undead themselves. Vhaeraun, a rising power of drow males, thievery, and life on the world's surface, has a more balanced view of the sexes, seeking equality but requiring the downfall of Lolth's existing matriarchy. The settlements his followers have been creating on the surface world have a much more equal distribution of power between males and females, although it is slightly skewed in favor of males because of old grudges against females and because there are fewer females among the Vhaeraunian faithful. Ghaunadaur, an old and bizarre deity of slimes and oozes that resents Lolth's usurpation of Underdark territory, cares little for whether his followers are male or female as long as they serve his interests. While no actual drow cities are known to officially endorse Ghaunadaur, small settlements and cults do exist and have hierarchies based entirely on power and loyalty. Most unusual of all of the drow cultures are those tied to Eilistraee, Lolth's benevolent daughter (and Vhaeraun's sister), who is the patron of all good drow and especially those who wish to live peacefully with the other beings on the surface world. Eilistraee's followers usually must hide within the cities of the Spider Queen, but those fortunate to live in a place where their faith can be expressed enjoy a gender-equal society like those of the Vhaeraunian drow, except without the taint of evil, vengeance, and conquest that her family's followers carry with them. But the majority follow Lolth's teachings, and the remainder of this report assumes a Lolthian city.

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3 Re: Drow of the Underdark, on Mon Oct 25, 2010 3:17 am

Social Rankings
Most drow societies have some sort of noble class, as social station is the most important thing in the world of the drow. In a Lolth-dominated society, the nobility consists of powerful, matriarchal Houses, with females holding all positions of power and responsibility in government, the military, and in the home.
Such Houses are led by a Matron Mother, who is most often the senior female priestess. The Matron's rule is absolute within the House, enforced by the priestesses beneath her (usually her daughters). All females of the mother's blood, in order of their age, follow in rank, although they wield no authority until they are trained and of age. The Matron's position only changes upon her death--often at the hands of her eldest daughter.
Below the daughters come the male officers of the House: the Weapons Master (leader of the fighters), (chief) House Wizard, and the Patron (current consort of the Matron Mother). These ranks may be combined, and even held by the traditional next rank down in the heirarchy: the male heirs of the House.
Male heirs are also ranked by age: Elderboy, Secondboy, Thirdboy, and so on (though the title of Thirdboy would technically fall to the fourth male born, as the third son is always sacrificed to Lolth upon birth; the one exception to this rule is if one of the elder males is killed before the third male child is born). They are not allowed to look at the faces of other drow, or speak unless spoken to or bidden. This treatment teaches them their subordinate place in drow society.
The next tier within the House heirarchy are the "war-leaders" of the House (veteran warriors, who lead House patrols, attack squads, and guards, under the command of the Weapons Master), and the House mages (under the command of the House Wizard).
Beneath these "blood" members and officials of the House rank is common warriors, its craftspeople, its servants, and its slaves. All ranks are decreed by, and can be changed at the whim of, the Matron Mother.
Unlike in human and other societies, drow nobles are significantly different than commoners, at least in terms of magical ability. For example, most drow nobles develop the ability to detect magic, levitate, or sense the nature of other beings through sheer force of will. This difference probably stems from the origins of most drow cities, which are founded by exceptional dark elf individuals or families, who then pass on their exceptional traits to their offspring, which become the noble class of the growing city. These abilities usually breed true, so commoners taken into the noble families to improve the bloodlines or expand the familiy can be parents to nobles with powers even though they themselves lack those abilities. Those rare nobles whose bloodlines are so thin as to not manifest the noble traits often carry magical tokens to make up for this lack; more common among the nobles are magic items that expand their abilities, such as in frequency, power, or versatility.

Unless wishing to be incognito, most drow nobles dress appropriately to their station, with fine clothing, superior equipment (even for dark elves, of which the lowest soldier usually has at least a masterwork weapon), and an almost-palpable aura of superiority, menace, and power. Commoners learn quickly to recognize an approaching noble and to stay out of their way when they are in a bad mood. In traditional drow society, commoners are only slightly less expendable than slaves; if given a choice of sacrificing a slave or a drow commoner to further a goal, a dark elf noble will choose the slave, but if the only way to succeed is to eliminate a drow commoner, that commoner is as good as dead.

Those with unusual talent in war or magic can attain status similar to that of a noble, and such individuals are often adopted into a noble's household to increase the prestige and power of that house. Weapon Master Zaknafein, father of Drizzt Do'Urden, was such an individual. He was born a commoner but permanently attached to House Do'Urden because of his fantastic skill with weapons; he was even allowed to bear the Do'Urden name, and because of his time as the consort of Matron Do'Urden, his children are full noble members of the house.

In most cases, the best a commoner can aspire to is to be the consort of an influential noble. Such a position brings great privilege and the opportunity to live in luxury without need to work. Unfortunately such appointments don't last long since the noble may grow tired of the consort, or other members of the household may use the consort as a pawn in their sick and deadly games against each other. The uplifted commoner, lacking the depth of experience in intrigue that the true nobles have, may insult their mate or another member of the house, which usually results in torture and death or, if the noble is lenient, expulsion from the house and a return to a commoner's life in shame.
Barring the possibility of becoming an actual consort, commoners still compete ruthlessly to place their daughters and sons into some kind of service to a noble family, for any ties to a noble family equate to some form of status or power, at least where the feuds between commoner families are concerned. Even the lowliest drow commoner is always plotting some way to grab a little more wealth, a little more respect, and a little more power. Jealousy, avarice, and long-nurtured grudges poison a drow commoner's every waking thought.

There is another major social group within every drow society that offers those who were born male--or of other lesser social standing--hope and something to strive towards: The Merchant Clans. Though the ruling priestesses within Lolthian society outwardly repudiate the worth of such Clans, no one can truly deny that they are vital to the survival of the drow.
Merchant clans vary in organization. They are usually headed by an "inner ring" or council of the most experienced and/or wealthy merchant members, and hence are usually led by males (the "demeaning" and dangerous occupation of trading with outsiders is an almost exclusively male one). The membership of the inner ring of a given merchant clan consists primarily of male wizards who have either passed or evaded The Test. Removed as they are from drow society at large, the merchant clans have no compunction about dealing with the surface world and other Underdark societies. In fact, a great number of the "second ring", or managers, are non-drow of various races.
The lowest rank in the merchant clan, the "assets", are nearly all non-drow. These are the laborers and soldiery of the merchant house. Together, the merchant clans form the trade links with the outside world that enables the Noble Houses to survive.

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4 Re: Drow of the Underdark, on Mon Oct 25, 2010 3:17 am

Work
Like the people on the surface, most dark elves have some sort of work that keeps them busy, whether farming, crafting items, working in a shop, or other similarly mundane tasks. Most go about their work day in a similar fashion to surface folk, maintaining old feuds, engaging in gossip, and trying to support themselves and their families. Hovering above this mundane façade are the shadows of the Spider Queen's clerics, who nominally are expected to compensate merchants for their goods, but are fully within their rights to claim whatever they want in the name of the Spider Queen. Many times has a jeweler or gemsmith been reduced to poverty because his works are so greatly desired by clerics unwilling to pay; after mortgaging their homes and selling off their possessions to stay in business, these poor souls are often consigned to work in the temples or noble houses as little more than talented slaves to pay off their debts. Such cruel irony is a delicious form of humor to the spider-priestesses.
Unlike surface communities, drow cities never have a problem with unemployment or homelessness. Those drow put into such a situation quickly become victims, whether of slavery, murder sport by bored nobles, sacrifices to Lolth, or indiscriminate violence practiced against those who have no house, church, or family to protect them. Because of this grim spectre looming near all poor drow, most choose to sign on with the military forces of the city or a noble house, since they can always use more soldiers, no matter how poorly trained. After all, life as a soldier at least provides meals and shelter, and, despite the occasional risk of death in combat, it is a far safer choice than living homeless in the streets where the spider-clerics walk.

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5 Re: Drow of the Underdark, on Mon Oct 25, 2010 3:18 am

Love
Among the cruel and self-centered dark elves, love is practically unheard of. Long-standing mates live together for practical reasons, not romantic ones, such as complementary careers, physical attractiveness, a legacy of producing many female heirs, political influence, and so on. Families remain together only because it provides a shield against enemies from outside the family (even though intra-family rivalries can be just as deadly as outside threats). Parents see children as a means to more power and are willing to sacrifice those children (males moreso than females) if it proves the key to greater power. Children quickly lose their innocent naivety and learn the horrible truths of drow society, thereafter seeing their parents as strict tormenters who nonetheless keep the world's predators at bay until the children can fend for themselves. In the rare cases where mated drow develop some affection for each other, it is usually when the male is an excellent physical specimen, has provided excellent service, and has never caused embarrassment to the female. In these cases, the bond is more like that of a spoiled or insensitive human matron and her pampered lapdog; the male is a cherished pet that will still be put down if it misbehaves too much. Even rarer is an honest bond of love between a parent and child, which is usually only possible if the parent is somehow resistant to the pressures of drow society and passes this trait on to the child. Zaknafein and his son Drizzt shared such a bond; the father's disdain of his own cruel race and wishes for a different life both existed in the son as well, and once they recognized their shared secret, they became close like human families are wont to do. Unfortunately for this famous pair, their aversion to the drow way of life was discovered (all too common, as living in secrecy is extremely taxing) and Zaknafein was sacrificed to Lolth.

Courting
Lolthian drow have a matriarchal society where inheritance of property, titles, and birthright pass from mother to daughter. Bearing children is a sign of the power of femininity and an ability that men can never have. Because of these factors, drow women normally want to have as many children as their slow elven birthrate allows. Because the females have all the control, relationships between men and women have few protocols, and it is the women who decide who their lovers are and how long the relationship lasts. The concept of courting as understood by humans and other surface races is almost unknown to the drow; in a society where males are valueless and life is worth little, having a lengthy process of becoming involved with another person is inefficient. Furthermore, the concept of a male pursuing a coy or disinterested female is an aberration, for it puts the male in a position of power and the female in a subservient role. Any male that practiced such a tactic would quickly be tortured and sacrificed to the Spider Queen for his impertinence. Instead, "courting" is the responsibility of the females, who pick their mates like selecting a good breeding animal, and the males are expected to comply. Many times the selection of a mate is the start of a deadly rivalry between different females as they fight over the choicest specimens. These males usually end up the worse for wear in the deadly games of the female, and more than once has a female "given up" on a male only to leave him skinned and dead in her rival's bedchamber.

Marriage
In a culture where females rule and males are little more than slaves, the idea of a female legally attaching herself to a single male for the rest of her life is an absurd concept. Marriage does not exist in Lolth's cities. Females take whatever consorts they wish and choose a new one when they grow bored with the old. If the dark elves could more easily fall in love, things might be different, but such concepts are ground out of the drow very early in life by the teachings of the Spider Queen.

Family
Dark elves live for several hundred years, and females have the capability to bear children at least every hundred years. Because of this, drow families tend to be larger than those of surface elves, who breed more slowly (either as a function of their greater lifespan as compared to the drow or in some interest in not overpopulating their lands). For example, Drizzt Do'Urden had five siblings, although one brother was killed on the night he was born (by Drizzt's other brother, oddly enough). These large families help relieve the parents of the responsibility of raising the younger children (which is put upon the elder siblings). Rivalries between siblings can be competitive and deadly (as Drizzt's brothers prove), for just as females are superior to males, firstborn children are superior to those born later.

With their long lifespan, dark elves have the possibility of having several generations within one family alive at the same time. Although this is reduced somewhat because of violence in drow society and the plots of various family members against each other, most commoner families have grandparents and great-grandparents still alive and living with the youngest members of the household. As dark elves remain viable until the last few years (and once they grow feeble they are usually killed), these great-elders are not a burden upon the family and act as their guides, teachers, lorekeepers, and rememberers of old grudges. A very old member of a family is someone to be respected and feared, for they have survived Lolth's games for centuries, having grown and adapted to thrive in an environment of treachery and chaos.

Drow nobles are slightly different. With more to gain from the elimination of rivals and superiors, there are fewer incidents of multi-generation households among the nobles, and those in power usually keep their own siblings on a tight leash or kill them off. For example, nothing is known of Matron Malice Do'Urden's aunts or her sisters, all of whom reasonably ought to have been priestesses of significant power. In a family of six siblings, Drizzt knew no other family members except his own father, and only after he had become an adult.


Child-Rearing
The drow are hardly doting parents. Among the noble class, a young drow is raised by tutors and elder siblings, and he or she normally sees his or her parents only a few times a year. Noble males are sent to the city's military or wizard academy depending upon their talents, while noble females enter the church and study the teachings of the Spider Queen, in each case seeing less and less of their families. (Because of the long lifespan of the drow and the number of years needed to reach maturity, these academies are like boarding schools and train the children for ten years or more, usually only letting them come home once a year for important family or religious meetings.) This practice only reinforces the drow's lack of affection for their own blood kin, for strong parent-child bonds cannot form when the parents are nearly absent from the child's life.
Among the commoners, it is a similar setup, although the parents usually don't have the resources to afford private tutors and so the responsibility for raising the child falls primarily upon the extended family. Talented commoners are recruited into the wizard or cleric academies, and the rest learn their parents' trades or are sent to military schooling. As with the nobles, the parents are always emotionally distant and often physically distant, too. If the children were permitted a more normal (by surface standards) home environment, they might have a chance to grow up without being emotionally stunted, and drow society might change for the better.

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6 Re: Drow of the Underdark, on Mon Oct 25, 2010 3:18 am

Religion

By Corellon Larethian's decree, the destiny of the dark elves was placed long ago in the hands of his consort, Araushnee the Weaver. At that time she was a minor, but secretly ambitious, elven power and member of the Seldarine. After a series of betrayals of her fellow gods, Araushnee was banished to the Abyss by Corellon for plotting against her lover and for secretly assembling a host of evil deities -- the anti-Seldarine -- to assault Arvandor, home of the Seldarine, in a bid to replace Corellon as Coronal of Arvandor. After her banishment, Araushnee assumed the name Lolth, Demon Queen of Spiders. She set about establishing her new realm in the Abyss and driving off or subjugating rivals like Ghaunadaur, Kiaransalee, and Zanassu. Araushnee was not the only elven power to be cast out of Arvandorand the Seldarine, however, for her webs ensnared her two children as well. When his mother's perfidy was exposed, Vhaeraun, son of Araushnee and Corellon, was banished to Abeir-Toril for his complicity in the Weaver's plots to replace Corellon as head of the Seldarine. Vhaeraun's sister, Eilistraee the Dark Maiden, agreed to exile as well, although she was only an unwitting participant in her mother's plots.

Lolth dominates all the other powers and brooks (or at least admits) no challenge to her ultimate authority. Only Kiaransalee and Selvetarm acknowledge the Spider Queen as head of the pantheon--an unavoidable acknowledgment of Lolth's great power. Eilistraee, Vhaeraun, and Ghaunadaur remain independent of the Spider Queen's control, but none of them is strong enough to challenge her directly, and their mutual enmity precludes any possibility of alliance against her. Kiaransalee only recently fought free of Lolth's shadow, but she has little influence (and few worshipers) in the Realms. Selvetarm is still firmly enmeshed in his grandmother's webs, despite the efforts of his followers to break away from the Spider Queen's cult. Eilistraee and Vhaeraun are brother and sister, children of Araushnee (Lolth) and Corellon Larethian. Selvetarm is the offspring of an ill-fated tryst between Vhaeraun and Zandilar the Dancer (Sharess), a goddess of the Yuir elves. Ghaunadaur is a primordial evil who joined the other members of the anti-Seldarine in the assault on Arvandor. Kiaransalee is a once-mortal dark elf of another world who achieved divinity and was named drow before the fall of Araushnee.

With the exception of Eilistraee, the dark powers of the drow pantheon are intimately involved in the lives of their followers, demanding absolute obedience and exclusive veneration in exchange for great power. Aside from the Dark Maiden, the gods of the drow pantheon care nothing for the fate of their followers except as it advances their own personal power. All but one dwell in the Abyss or other dark realms, embodying the banishment of the drow from the Lands of Light. Eilistraee seeks to redeem the fallen dark elves and lead them back to the great forests of the surface world that their ancestors forsook many millennia ago. However, the Dark Maiden is quite constrained in her actions by the power of Lolth and the other gods of the pantheon, and she acknowledges the need for individual drow to find their own path to redemption that heavy-handed interference on her part would preclude.

Drow culture is distinguished by a curious mixture of monotheism and polytheism uncharacteristic of most human and demihuman cultures of the Realms. Most drow cities--such as Guallidurth, Menzoberranzan, and Ched Nasad--are ruled in the name of Lolth by priests of the Spider Queen and even the mention, let alone the worship, of other gods is forbidden. A few drow cities--such as Llurth Dreier (Ghaunadaur) and V'elddrinnsshar (Kiaransalee)--are ruled by the clergy of other drow powers in similar fashion, but they too forbid the worship or mention of all other gods. The few drow cities that exhibit the open worship of two or more deities--such as beleaguered Eryndlyn, located beneath the High Moor, or Lolothaer, from whence the founders of Menzoberranzan and Ched Nasad fled--are riven by strife and are usually destroyed by civil war within a generation of such a split appearing. Nevertheless, most of the drow gods have a few secretive worshipers in every drow enclave, as such devotions afford dissidents the opportunity for additional weapons in their endless quest for increasing personal station. Aside from the faithful of Eilistraee, who venerate the Dark Maiden in a fashion resembling the veneration of the Seldarine by elves of other races, most drow venerate on (or in some cases two) deities out of fear, respect, and a desire for additional power of their own, not out of any sense of true piety.

The web of chaos and cruelty that enmeshes the drow is embodied in the constant strife between the gods they venerate. Likewise, the hatred they hold for all other races, particularly the Fair Folk of the surface world, is played out as well in the never-ending conflict between the Seldarine and those they banished long ago.

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7 Re: Drow of the Underdark, on Mon Oct 25, 2010 3:19 am

Attitudes Toward Other Races

The drow do not interact well with the various other races of Faerun. At best, the drow think of other races as merely laughable or contemptible. They hold low opinions of even their erstwhile allies, such as the kuo-toa. Drow maintain a grudging respect for duergar and mind flayers, since the gray dwarves and illithids also build powerful cities and have demonstrated the strength to stand up to repeated assaults from the dark elves, but all the same, they are not considered equals.

Against most other races, the only way the drow know how to act is with hatred and outright war. They have built up powerful city-states based on the notion that the path to power lies in the subjugation of lesser races and the eradication of those who pose a threat to their homes.
The true focus of drow hatred, though, is reserved for the surface elves. They act quickly and cruelly to seize any chance to bring pain, suffering, and death to other elves they encounter. Even evil-aligned surface elves that they come across are seen as enemies.

Prisoners captured in drow raids and battles are usually brought back to the cities to serve out the remainder of their lives as slaves. Orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, ogres, and other savage humanoids are common slaves. Most drow households have two to three such slaves for every drow in the house. The breeding and selling of slaves is a thriving business in drow cities, because these hapless thralls perform all menial and unskilled labor in a drow city.

Prisoners of certain merit, namely those such as surface elves (who are usually killed rather than captured) sometimes receive a special place upon the altars of deities such as Lolth. Such sacrifices are reserved only for these higher status prisoners in most cases.

Despite all this, drow do keep trade open with various other races, mostly due to the necessity of such ventures in a land like the Underdark where resources are oft times hard to come by. Drow sometimes even enter into truces and military alliegances with other races when the need arises, but these affairs are by nature temporary, as it's only a matter of time until the drow turn on their allies.

Drow on the surface, as a whole, have yet to form anything resembling a true society, for the most part living in small semi-nomadic bands or as singular outcasts and hermits. There are those who are well on their way to forming such, however, notably in areas such as Cormanthor where followers of Vhaeraun are carving themselves homes in the old elven haunts and ruins.

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8 Re: Drow of the Underdark, on Mon Oct 25, 2010 3:19 am

Drow Fighting Styles

Bautha Z'hin
The bautha z'hin style, which means "dodge and walk," relies on the natural agility and light armor the dark elves favor. The drow surround their foes and attack foes from all sides, and they use this style particularly against strange monsters with many attacks and a long reach. The style emphasizes dodging blows and high maneuverability, and practitioners of this style often learn the early elements of the orb alur style, bragging that they never are touched in a fight. Warriors of this style are usually paired with those using the z'ress a'thalak style, especially since the latter act as an anchor and the former position themselves to flank the enemy. This style is favored by drow rogues and fighter/rogues, as well as clerics of Eilistraee and Vhaeraun.

Draa Velve
Only a few dark elves in each city practice the draa velve style because the natural ability needed for this style is very rare. The name means "two sword," and it involves an amazing balance of control between the two hands. Followers of this style fight with a weapon in each hand and use one of the weapons to parry as well as attack, which means the parrying weapon also acts much like a shield. Some dark elves without perfect balance in both hands study the basics of this style, hoping to eventually master it through intense training or magic. Drizzt Do'Urden is a master of this style since he has the natural talent and also because he received training by a house weapon master.

Jivvin Golhyrr
Similar in some ways to the kyorlin plynn style, the jivvin golhyrr style is a defensive style that relies on weaknesses in the enemy's performance to cause them to stumble and fall, making them more vulnerable to later attacks and emulating a position of weakness. The name means "amusing trick" and comes from the cruel drow's appreciation for placing another in the humiliating position of a slave or other subservient being. Very skilled drow like to humble their enemies before making the killing stroke, and clerics of Lolth are fond of this style for that reason. Students of the jivvin golhyrr often study the kyorlin plynn, and vice versa.

Kyone Veldrin
All dark elves have the ability to create darkness as a spell-like ability, and while all of them learn how to use it to surprise, annoy, and separate foes, as few of them study the style kyone veldrin, which means "alert in the shadows." Students of this style can pinpoint the location of enemies in the middle of absolute darkness and strike them with amazing accuracy despite their effective blindness. Normally teams of specialists from this style and the luth alur style group together to form special attack teams, with the kyone veldrin fighting within the globes of darkness and the luth alur shooting to death any enemies that leave the darkness.

Kyorlin Plynn
Conservative dark elf fighters and those who either need to capture opponents alive (usually for interrogation) or just enjoy humiliating their opponents use the kyorlin plynn style, which means "watch and take." The style uses defensive tactics and efficient methods of disarming to delay opponents and negate their ability to fight effectively. Many drow fighting groups have at least one kyorlin plynn practitioner on hand to deal with the most powerful member of an enemy team; that drow keeps the tough opponent busy until his allies have dealt with the rest of the enemy forces and can then team up to defeat the difficult opponent. Many priestesses of Lolth learn this style because they like taking captives for torture and sacrifice.

Luth Alur
Dark elves are as frail as surface elves, and some prefer to stay out of immediate danger when there is fighting. The luth alur style, which means "superior shooting," is perfect for them since it allows them to strike down foes with deadly accuracy without ever being in harm's way themselves. This style requires a sharp eye and steady hands. The rare drow that use a conventional bow sometimes even learn to fire more rapidly than normal, but since such a trick is very difficult with the standard dark elf ranged weapon (a hand crossbow) that such feats are rarely seen. Most dark elf war parties have at least two luth alur warriors, and in full-scale wars there are entire squadrons of warriors using this style. These warriors usually attack enemy forces from ambush.

Orb Alur
The orb alur style combines the best elements of bautha z'hin and kyorlin plynn, and it takes a long time to master. Called the "superior spider," the style emphasizes great sweeping maneuvers that allow its practitioners to strike many opponents with minimal effort. Normally they tumble or leap their way into the middle of a group of enemies and (if successful) cut them all down with a single stroke. This has a debilitating effect on enemy morale and often leads to retreats by enemy forces; as such, practitioners of the orb alur are greatly valued by drow noble houses and receive many privileges.

Phindar Streeaka
The phindar streeaka style is not technically a combat style, but it's more of a mindset when entering combat. It means "mindless recklessness," and it is the name that dark elves give to the rare drow berserkers. Because it lacks finesse and exposes the underlying chaos in drow society for all to see, it is an unpopular style. Normally only smaller and more primitive colonies of drow or those who worship the strange dark elf god Ghaunadaur, master of oozes and slimes, use it. The phindar streeaka cannot use abilities that require intellect over brute force, and so many of them use the techniques common in the z'ress a'thalak style, although to say they study that style is a misnomer.

Sargh'elgg
The sargh'elgg style has simple elements but requires extensive training to master. It is used with light weapons or the traditional drow rapier, and it is designed to get the most out of these weapons and the naturally superior dark elf dexterity. The name means "valor in slaying," which is an overly-inflated title created to give some measure of confidence to those whose poor skills leave this as their only choice. Some martially-minded sorcerers and wizards learn the basics of this style, and because Kiaransalee, Lolth, and Vhaeraun all have favored weapons suitable for the sargh'elgg, it is practiced by many clerics as well. This is the most common fighting style used by a typical low-rank drow guard. (Essentially, that's anyone with no more than the standard amount of training given to a dark elf common soldier.)

Ust Sreen
The simple combat style called ust sreen, which means "first danger," emphasizes fast reactions to the appearance of enemies. Because vigilance is a constant state in drow society, this is normally a basic series of lessons taught at drow academies and is usually combined with another style, since fast reflexes aren't terribly useful when not backed up by other skills. Normally at least one drow trained in this style is present in any scouting group and carries a hand crossbow loaded with sleep poison to eliminate one opponent early before the drow's allies can react.

Z'har Thalack
The z'har thalack style, which means "riding war," was developed for the mounted dark elf patrols and deals with the difficulties and opportunities of fighting while mounted. As drow normally ride wall-crawling lizards, special tricks available to those who can maneuver in a three-dimensional manner through the Underdark put the mounted soldiers at an advantage compared to grounded troops. Berg'inyon Baenre, head of the lizard riders of house Baenre, fights with this style, which makes his death lance (a long lance crafted with powerful death magic) even more lethal.

Z'ress A'thalak
The z'ress a'thalak style, which means "force of war," is uncommon among dark elves because few have the physical strength needed to learn all of the necessary maneuvers. Students of this style sacrifice accuracy for power and learn how to cut through the body of a falling foe to strike another enemy, or even shatter enemy weapons with a single blow. Menzoberranzan's Uthegental Del'Armgo, weapon master of house Del'Armgo, was a practitioner of this style. Drow that fight this way normally prefer heavier weapons such as longswords, hammers, and axes to the lighter weapons (such as rapiers) used by most drow. Devout worshipers of Selvetarm (a male drow deity of combat worshipped only in cities that worship Lolth; he is completely overshadowed by the Spider Queen) commonly use this style.

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9 Re: Drow of the Underdark, on Mon Oct 25, 2010 3:20 am

MISC


Test of Lloth: Lloth is a fickle and cruel goddess, believing that the drow race is best served by constantly struggling against each other. To this end, she tests some of her more exceptional followers to determine if they are worthy of her patronage -- and worthy of their lives. This test, known as the Test of Lloth, is given to any Lolth-worshiping drow.

Part of the test is about Loyalty. Usually Lloth plants thoughts in the mind of a friend, family member, or ally of the subject, leading him to believe he has been chosen for a special favor from the Spider Queen. (If the subject of the Test has no suitable friend, family member, or ally, Lolth chooses a cleric that has shown insufficient zeal.) In return, he must destroy one of "Lloth's enemies" (the drow actually being tested). Lloth instructs the dupe to ambush the target, slaying the enemy of the Spider Queen. When the target is attacked, she hears whispers from Lloth that she is being tested and the outcome of the battle determines whether she succeeds or fails. It is a test of loyalty whether or not the subject is willing to kill an ally if the Spider Queen tells her to do so.

If the test subject fails to defeat her opponent, refuses to fight, or is defeated but left alive, she is turned into a Drider and usually departs her home in shame. Other drow are used to these disappearances and those that fail are rarely spoken of again.

If the dupe of the test wins, Lloth may reward him (with the moral bonus for passing the test), wipe his mind of the events, or even expose him for his attack on another drow (while drow society is used to these interpersonal conflicts, the rule is to not get caught, so someone discovered in this manner is usually executed for incompetence).

The Blooding: A rite of passage into adulthood for both sexes, during which the young participants must kill an intelligent or dangerous surface creature of some sort (ex. warrior or wizard). If the community is not near the surface, merchant clans provide captives (for high fees) who are let loose with weapons for the young drow to hunt.

The Running: Drow communities near the surface world usually hold The Running, a hunt and revel on the surface in which all who walk participate, once a year. (Understand that what the drow call a "hunt and revel" the surface dwellers refer to as "looting and killing".) The blades of many drow rivals seem to accidentally find each other during the raids on surface communities. Young drow participating in their first Running are expected to carry out The Blooding (as described above). Drow communities tend to vary the timing of this annual event slightly, to prevent surface communities from hiring and readying strong guard contingents to await them

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