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Guide: How to play drow

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1 Guide: How to play drow on Mon Oct 25, 2010 2:23 pm

Allow me to start out with saying this will be a long Guide! I do not expect all of you to read it, but if you intent to play a drow I will encourage you to read at the least the following sections:
The perspective of the drow
Gender roles
Psychological characteristics
The Houses

This is just a Guide, a place where you can sit down and read about these subtle beings that prowl under the surface of Faerûn and feast upon the weak. The Guide itself has been divided in three sections. The first chapter details the drow and their history. The second chapter focuses on their society and how to interact in it. Lastly the third chapter has RP pointers and that little extra detail that allows you to differentiate your little drow from the surface races.

These are my interpretation of these malicious creatures. It is your imagination that sets the limits for your character, overruled only by the DMs. So come now, I invite you to take a step further down in the Underdark for an unique tale of the infamous drow.

Index:
What are the drow
- History of the drow
- The perspective of the drow
- Physical characteristics
- Psychological characteristics
Hierarchy and economy
- Gender roles
- How to determine station and power
- The Church
- The Houses
- The Military
- Currency in society
Life style and habits
- Clothing and grooming
- Food and drinks
- Slaves
- Language


What are the drow?

All have heard of the dhaerow, or in short drow. From the smallest gnome to the tallest giant they’ve all heard the tales of these malicious creatures. Regardless of what surfacers might think they know of these creatures however, they have nothing but the incomplete folktales of adventurers or heavily distorted propaganda of the surface elves to base this knowledge on. There’s one thing the majority of the surfacers know which hold true however: They are unadulterated evil.

But before we start with the more interesting in depth perspective of the drow and their culture, let’s start out with something much more simple. If you will indulge me here’s a little bit of history I’d like to share with you.

History of the drow
In -30,000 DR the goddess Araushnee betrayed her fellow Seldarine, the pantheon of elven deities, leading an attack upon their sacred grounds of Arvandor. Araushnee hoped to fell Corellon Larethian her former consort and lover, who was and still is the leader of the Seldarine. Ultimately Araushnee failed and was cast down in the Abyss stripped of her divinity. Here she would struggle for thousands of years as she reclaimed some of the power of which she was now bereft, taking upon her the name of Lolth. She would wait in silence and watch from her lair.

Looking back to -12,000 DR we enter the era of the Crown War, a series of wars lasting no less than three millennia. During this war one of the strongest elven nations known as Ilythiir marched forward and conquered most of Faerûn. Before the fall of Araushnee they openly worshipped her but now their prayers was performed discreetly so as not to incur the wrath of the Seldarine. Having remained true to her, they called to Lolth for guidance to win the strife. Many speculate that if not for the direct intervention of Corellon Larethian the ilythiiri would’ve been successful in their conquest of Faerûn. During this war they fought with a merciless abandonment of the civilities of war and recklessly exploited all resources at their disposal. Demons, undead and enslaved dragons were hardly uncommon weopons used in their warfare, albeit they attempted to hide these horrendous acts during the initial phases of the war. Later it became more overt and was inevitably discovered by the other elven nations. Many of the conquered or rather decimated nations left behind by the Ilythiiri were nothing but barren wastelands after the fires of magic had wrought destruction upon the lands.

In the end it was Corellon Larethian who through his priests and High Mages placed a curse upon the ilythiiri that forced them underground as the rays of the sun scorched their eyes. Around -10,000 DR each and every ilythiiri had gone below ground. And it was here that Lolth had lain in wait for her children to return to the fold. From here the ilythiiri would carve a path of violence and blood throughout the Underdark establishing dominion and their own strongholds with no need for a veiling guise over the atrocious nature that lurked in their very soul under that sometimes irresitable exterior.

Source: The Crown War




The perspective of the drow
Now we as the players know their history and we know why they were sent underground but indulge me yet again and hold to this thought for just one moment. Today we write 1376 DR, which means this occurrence happened more than eleven millennia ago. Despite that, the drow has never forgotten their hatred for the elves even though there isn’t a single one of them alive who can remember what occurred that day. We, the players, with all our fancy rule- and sourcebooks can say without a doubt in mind this is what happened that day. Now try to think yourself into their mind and ask yourself, can they?

According to Drow of the Underdark, a book published by the Wizards Coast and the sourcebook we follow on this server, there’s three predominant perspectives on how the drow see their own history. These stores are false, they are indoctrinated from birth and forced into each and every drow’s mind with the ruthless whip of the priesthood of Lolth. So despite the fact this is not accurate then role playing your character as knowing the true story would also be considered wrong from a lore perspective.
Expulsion of the drow
The drow Exodus
First among Elves
How to role play this
Expulsion of the drow
In the primeval days of the world, the elves watched curiously as the lesser races started springing to life and exploring the world at an alarming rate. The humans adapted rapidly to all challenges and environments, whereas the orcs were savage beasts but tremendous warriors who conquered all before them. In her wisdom Lolth foresaw the turmoil this would cause if the elves did not turn from their weak ways and sought strength and skill at arms. Lolth brought this troublesome news to Corellon's attention but he was vain, refusing to see flaws in the elves he had created. He deceived Lolth by promising to speak to all of the Seldarine. When Corellon did speak to the Seldarine he played on their vanity as well, saying that they had created perfection. Lolth was furious but could do nothing against the pathetic Gods that refused to see wisdom, so she visited her children in secret picking only the strongest and taught them the secrets of war, deceit and Her tenets of strength above all. Lolth named Her children “Duaral”.

But some of the weaker elves grew frightened of the coming battle Lolth had foreseen. They fled to the Seldarine telling them of the secrets Lolth had taught in the cover of darkness. It was now in a twist of sheer irony that when the threat came from the inside Corellon was the first to teach his own the secrets of the blade and bow so that they might be used against the duaral. But the weak elves asked their Gods: “How might we know them from our own, for they look and act as us and Lolth has blessed them with deceit”. It was now that Hanali Celanil the weakest and most pathetic of the Seldarine would step forth and suggest that albeit Lolth was too strong for them to kill her and her kind, they would mark their skin as the night so they might tell them apart.

And thus it was, the Seldarine marched upon Lolth and the duaral, and although Lolth and her children were the strongest they were greatly outnumbered and ultimately had to flee underground where their spineless cousins dared not go. And here they thrived and one day they will return to the surface to claim what is rightfully theirs.

The drow Exodus
This myth parallels the first up until the point where Lolth teaches the duaral. Here it was Lolth who did not see the other elves as worthy of her teachings and thus she whispered in the night to those that she found worthy. Slowly the stream of a dozen became a river of thousands of elves and here, Lolth wrought a change upon her people so that they might hunt in the shadow of the night and differentiate them from the weak surface elves. Lolth led her own underground to forge their new empire built upon her teachings and tenets.

First among Elves
This tale is rare, but the younger generations of the drow have taken it to heart fast and it spreads like wildfire in their minds. It mirrors the Exodus with one fundamental difference. Here all the elves lived underground and it was Lolth whom saw the weakness in the elves and cast out the weak, cursing their skin so it became as weak and pale as their skills.

How to Roleplay this
There’s two ways I see that can justify your character knowing the true story. The first would be through a very high lore skill and secondly through RP with surfacers that are actually willing to sit down and explain their story on the server. I did start out by saying the true story and perhaps I should have reconsidered that phrasing because it doesn’t mean your character instantly knows which story is true or false; it means that your character knows more than these three stories, you know a fourth story exists. I can only emphasis that with all RP but perhaps particularly with the drow you shouldn’t be afraid to RP some knowledge that’s wrong according to how the Lore states it. You’ve been raised in a society where the Church of Lolth attempts to filter all knowledge you come by. If it doesn’t serve to make your race and Goddess look infallible or serve to prove a point, then it doesn’t deserve a place in history. In fact the history of the drow is generally not something that interests them at all, unless it influences their present and future. History for history's sake has absolutely no value in their society.

One extremely important thing to observe in all three creation myths:
Lolth was and always is Lolth, the strongest and wisest of all the Gods. The name Araushnee means nothing to them.
Stating otherwise than the three creation myths above or that Lolth wasn’t always who she is might very well get any Priestess of Lolth within 900 feet to explode in an hitherto unseen cascade of violence, even by the standards of their own race. Lolth is not viewed as infallible as there exist a few records of her blunders and failures, but all of those are only allowed to be in the history books due to them serving a higher purpose. Do not expect any of the drow to ever respond to the creation myth of the surface with anything but denial or violence. This is a story that has been forced into your mind through generations of indoctrination and even if you suspect it to be incorrect then you know full well that the priesthood of Lolth will not look favourably on your view should you try to make it public known.

Physical characteristics
So, how to describe the drow? They’re exotic in their own right, at the very least. There’s little need to try and add anything special to them if you ask me. Like all elves they are blessed with a beautiful and handsome look, always appearing graceful and naturally attractive. Their white hair is often allowed to grow long, some of them carrying a more exotic hair colour such as a pale golden or silvery tint. The smooth skin can vary from obsidian dark to a slategray colour. Their eyes are often blood red; it’s not uncommon to be in a much paler variety, or even different colours such as blue, lilac, pink or silver and green; the last being a colour rumoured to hint the blood of a surface elf in their lineage.

Unlike their surface cousins, they are quite small varying in height between 5'4 and 6', and weigh between 130 to 175 lbs. They maintain that almost otherworldly elven agility and exotic allure, along with the fragile frames of the elves. They share the pointy ears of their cousins, along with the longevity although it is very rare a drow dies of old age so it is hard to say with accuracy if they can reach the same age as the elves or grow even older.

Psychological characteristics
Like spiders they leap at their unsuspecting foes and ambush them with all the mercy of a driven and obsessive predator. To understand how their mind work, because they are far from the mindless insects they seek to emulate, we need to gain privy to the most warded part of the drow: “Their mind”. This is where all their secrets and fears dwells, things that they will never allow others to gain a true insight to and quite possibly, not even themselves.
Black and white, the dichotomies of an drow
A motivated and driven race
The trinity of emotions:
* Pride
* Anger
* Fear
Love
Last edited by Celina; 10-15-2009 at 01:46 AM.


Black and white, the dichotomies of a drow
The drow mind works just like their darkvision, in black and white. A good example of how this work is simply how they interact with one and other. Either the one present is White (below your station) or Black (above your station). You have to understand this is not a written law, nor an active thought that makes this differentiation. It’s how you think as a drow and it comes just as natural to you as blinking. If someone is above your station and rank then you will be the submissive part in the conversation, if you are above them then you will be the dominant part in the conversation, you can never talk as an equal to a drow. If you don’t know whether the other is above your rank or not it comes natural that you of course are the dominant part. It is not uncommon for you to shift between submissive and dominant on a regular basis on the same day depending on whom you meet. This is just how life is in the Underdark and there’s nothing unusual about it. It might be hard for us as players but please try to remember: ”There is no colour in between black and white”. As such “dichotomies” is a very good tool to interpret the drow mind and it is part of the fun with playing drow.

Quote:
Like many other sentient beings, the drow think in terms of dichotomies: If something is not good, it must be bad; if it is not strong, it must be weak.
Source: Drow of the Underdark, Page 9



A motivated and driven race
You have to understand that most drow do not strive to be at the top of a official dictated hierarchy that governs all the drow as a race, as this simply does not exist. Due to their chaotic and selfish nature all of them have the urge to be the one with the most power and authority, but this is not achieved through any official body of government but through ones station and influence (this will be discussed in detail under “How to determine station and power “). As such the drow adheres to the individual community’s social dictated hierarchy which is seen as concentric ring of circles with a big fat spider in the centre pulling the strings to shape the community as a whole as she desires. Everyone strives to be that spider, the one who can pull the most strings and effectively dominate the society is the one who wields the most authority. It should be noted that any two societies social hierarchy will not necessarily be alike, they can vary to great extent and as such every newcomer should tread lightly till they understand the prevailing flow and eddies of power.

All drow are driven not only by the cultural pressure but more than anything by their own emotions. If you don’t have influence and station, you’re a failure even in your own eyes. This unpleasant fact motivates even the lowest stationed drow to be all that it can be. To say that these creatures of the dark is without emotions is to demonstrate plain ignorance, but a sentiment that is perfectly understandable to any who has been under their ruthless treatment. However, more than anything else the drow are driven by their own emotions and how they compel them to act. A certain trinity of emotions are more dominant than the others, though the strength varies in degree on an individual basis.

The trinity of emotions: Pride, Anger and Fear
My comparison of the drow's emotional side would be like that of a stunted child. From the day they leave their mother’s womb they’re plunged into a world of violence where the strong rule with an iron fist. There is no caring mum or dad to explain you the turmoil of emotions that rages on inside your heart. As such, you’re left to learn for yourself how to keep yourself in check. They might slowly come to understand that there are words for these feelings, but that doesn’t mean they can separate the meaning of them or even care about such trivial things. Let’s start by looking into the trinity of emotions which is the three most dominant feelings that governs the drow: Pride, Anger and Fear.



- Pride
Each drow has the perception that she/he is a superior specimen of a superior race. This pride compels them to act arrogantly towards others whenever possible, and when it’s not they lash out at others to compensate for their own flaws; never willing to admit it might be possible something could be their fault. Of course, such a lash will only be targeted at those of a lower station than themselves, and as such the sentiment “pooh rolls downhill” holds very true for the drow race. Remember to cast blame aside as quickly as possible, be creative and blame it on the rocky terrain or you were given inadequate resources; while the opposite holds true for your successes where you try to portray it as if you did it singlehandedly, even if you never did as much as lift a finger. Don’t be afraid to lie to such a degree that your character believe in it themselves, of course every success is your doing and every failure is someone else’s fault! They’re all incompetent and you are perfection destined to rule the drow. You have to find the exact balance point between being an arrogant adult and acting as a snotty five year-old kid that’s being told off and think it’s unfair; try not to overdo either of the parts, you are not so calm that you can just admit to it being your fault but neither are you a five year old kid.

- Anger
This particular emotion is closely intertwined with their pride and probably one of the most dominant feelings that resides in all of the drow. They are quick to resort to physically communication to get their point across, through whip or steel if needed. If you grow angry at someone of a higher station, then take your anger out on the first opportunity that presents itself (houseless commoners or slaves are perfectly suited candidates for this). You don’t have to kill them, emote a punch or even better do something creative. Take advantage of your allure, make the victim-to-be comfortable and then end up chewing off their lower lip in what at first seemed to be a passionate kiss. Anger is a constant friend you walk hand in hand with down the pathway to the Underdark, others might not even notice it’s there till they make your façade crack and you explode in violence. Whether you only take out your frustrations in private or make a public mess out of it is entirely up to you.



First of all let’s just get one thing straight: Remember the PvP policy! RPing an angry drow is not an excuse to PvP everything within sight even if it’s only kept to Ardulriia. When that is said, if someone starts acting so disrespectful that you feel you can justify your character resorting to extreme lengths, then put them on Hostile and make it unambiguously clear through your RP that if the other person doesn’t detest then they’ll be in for a thumping of the other world. I have found that putting people on Hostile without attacking suddenly makes them a lot more receptive to the threats your character makes.



Example 1:
----------------------------------------------------------------------
[Ilharess]: “Greetings newcomer”

[Newcomer]: “*points and laughs* Look at your hair, hehe it’s all silly!”

{[Ilharess] puts [Newcomer] on Hostile and the same second presses enter for this emote/conversation}

[Ilharess]: “*with a fluid movement of her hand she pulls out her weapon, pointing it at [Newcomer]s throat, her dark red eyes shooting daggers at you* Get on your knees and grovel for your life, or I shall end it right here!”

----------------------------------------------------------------------

If the person continues laughing, attack. If the person starts running, then consider your intimidation check a sound success. And if you’re lucky, you’ll actually get some exceedingly good RP out of this, the person realising that they’re now in deep trouble might try to appease the offended part and indeed start grovelling. But a very good bit of advice to avoid OOC drama is to always give the opponent the IC or OOC opportunity to escape PvP as a first warning, don’t just attack or put the victim-to-be in an unavoidable collision course, but make it perfectly clear that you are going to get aggressive if the person doesn’t either comply or flee.

- Fear
Okay, let’s keep this between us as the mature players we are and never ever tell this fact to our characters, because they’d likely peel the skin from our bones for even insinuating this. The drow live each and every day in mortal terror, scared for their very lives. They fear the Priestesses, treachery from all sides, Lolth and perhaps more than all the rest they fear for however small and worthless a position they have to be usurped. To loose that leaves them without either station nor power. This fear is not shown by the drow running around with their arms thrown into the air as they enter a wild panicked state. No, they have lived with this fear ever since they were born and as such it’s a natural element of their everyday life. They have adapted far better to it than most of us ever will, they can face death and gamble everything they own for just that one extra bit of power without as much as blinking. Instead the fear manifests through paranoia and distrust to others, never letting anyone come close enough to actually grow fond of them.

I find the best way to display this emotion is to have your character set up certain routines. How do you make sure the food and drink isn’t poisoned? Do you rely on magic, intimidation or do make use of a taster. Remember, being creative with your RP is the key to success here and the more routines and precautions you can invent the more RP you can get from it!


Love
Now that the trinity is over and done with, let’s go on to another emotion that tend to cause a bit of confusion, Love. In drow society love and sex is very closely related as the word love more often than not just translates to lust. I am going to keep them very separate because in our society they mean something very different.

It’s a common misconception both amongst surfacers and the drow themselves that they’re incapable of this emotion as we, the players, understand it. This is not true. Each and every drow is capable of love, in the end it’s nothing but a chemical reaction in the brain that arouses a certain attention towards someone specific. There are however certain aspects of the drow life that separates the vast majority of them from ever being able to apprehend or embrace this emotion in full. Parents and children are separated from birth, that bond of affection will never grow as it does amongst us. Love as we understand it is a feeling that springs between two people and is nourished by affection, trust and devotion to the one and another. Try to say the following four words: “Drow, Affection, Trust and Devotion.” For cultural reasons the drow are exceedingly unlikely to ever nurture this emotion when you consider the emotionally unformed life they lead. Most of them will not even grasp the concept of love as anything else but lust and desire. I will make use of a little example to try and clarify my meaning in the following paragraphs.

Imagine a high ranked Priestess of Lolth who suddenly get this inexplicable but extremely powerful emotion welling up in her that she simply cannot grasp. No one has ever taken the time to sit down and explain the Priestess of Lolth what this emotion is and why it affects her thus. Try to imagine how she would react when even the most loving drow sees little difference between intimacy and possession. When you take into consideration the prevailing societal norms and limited emotions of the drow then there’s a set of different occurrences that might take place.
She would kill the subject of her fascination before it corrupts her further
Depending on the loved ones station:

- if it’s a low ranking individual she will strive to dominate or enslave the loved one
- if it’s a high ranking individual she will strive fervently to attain more influence and power
In extraordinarily exceptional rare cases, a bond will develop

*A shiver runs up the priestess spine as she walks past him, it takes all her effort to not spin around and send a dreamy look after him. It tears at her very heart for the rest of the day, an emotion she has no possible chance to comprehend or push aside dominates every waken hour of her existence. She feels powerless for a moment, unable to control her own actions and even less that of others she can’t help but feel the rising horror develop into panic. It is as if her own web closes in around her, trying to suffocate her and she knows that the time has come to act if she wants to survive.*

A likely outcome of an emotion as this, is that she would kill you outright for nothing more than the fact she’s in love with you and that this emotion can bring her to her knees. It might not be by her hand depending on how deeply affected she is by you, but you will die whether it is by her directly or that of an random assassin hoping to gain a favour with the Priestess.

*she wants to have him around her, to be with him, to see how he moves and speaks, to be alone with him. Alone with him. Naked together, even, in the passionate embrace. The vulnerability of the position strikes through her like lightening and she wonders at this strange illness, this life-threatening obsession. Is it a new spell? It is a threat, that is for sure. She wants him; but he must be captive, her prisoner and slave and his life must depend utterly on hers continuing. Then she can have it all*

Of course another very likely situation is that she will be far above your station and simply mistake the love for greed and lust, she’d claim you as her own and perhaps even put you in the insufferable position of a slave to ensure you will never attain anything that is not granted by her. It’s the concept of their utterly selfish upbringing, if they want something they’ll try to dominate it completely with little to no faith in that the subject would stay out of their free will. Against all odds and possibilities if you have somehow managed to gain a position so high even a Priestess has to realise you can’t just be removed without severe repercussions, she will strive with all the fever in her black heart to rise in position until either you notice her and give her the attention she craves or she rises to a position where she can do the aforementioned. Imagine the Priestess as that little spoiled brat down in the supermarket that keeps screaming at her parents till she gets the Barbie doll.

If a bond does evolve, this does not mean you suddenly forget all the cruelty and hatred in your heart. You will still feel anger, resort to violence and strive for domination over others so that you might advance your station. It does however mean that you two will work together willingly, striving for the joint effort of rising in the community together. Such genuine relationship has throughout the entire drow history been below half a dozen couples. If you have any respect for the lore I can only urge you to think it through thoroughly before you initiate something like this. If done well and built up through months and months if not years of RP between the two of you on the server then it can be fantastic RP. You have to take into consideration that the chance of just one drow falling in love is rare at best, the possibility for your partner to sincerely return the love is near none existent. On top of that this is the best way for a male to gain hidden influence by manipulating a female he’s ensnared and convinced her the feeling is mutual, so chances are very high that if you do fall in love you’ll simply be abused if you try to develop a bond. This can also be fantastic RP as long as it’s done well and completely in character.

Even though marriage does exist in drow society, then it is not in any way the interpretation of marriage as we understand it; it is nothing but a financial and/or political manoeuvre to ensure loyalty between two Houses cementing their alliance. These marriages are often monogamous though this has nothing to do with an ethical or moral sense of obligations, more so it is because only a few drow would dare keeping more than one individual so close to them on a daily basis. Polygamy is not unusual however, mostly represented by a single female taking several males though the other way around is not unheard of, although it's rare.

Hierarchy and economy

Gender roles

To understand the more complex aspect of the drow hierarchy one must look at a very essential constant in their society: Females are viewed as stronger, smarter, more controlled and above all more favoured by Lolth. This is a simple fact that holds true through all the echelons of society, although drow males are seen as superior to all other races they are inferior even to female drow of a lower status. Being a member of a House does not guarantee a male is above a female, it simply guarantees he won’t be killed by anyone outside the House without repercussions and as such doesn’t need fear about low ranking or Houseless females killing him at a whim.

Males are good for physical and skilled labour, as well as breeding stock. But only the females are strong enough to carry a child, and thus superior to all others as pregnancy is seen as a sign of strength and being favoured by Lolth. Only they can carry and withstand the physical strenuous occasion. Some might ask if it is true? My only answer to that is, it doesn’t matter. Truth has little meaning in the Underdark. Currently all the Matrons and High Priestess positions are held by female, and they have no inclination to double the pool of potential rivals, thus the tradition of a matriarchal society continues to live on at the behest of the females and with little doubt, Lolth.



Even though males hold little power or influence, at least from the perspective of the females, in truth many males are some of the most skilled crafters, warriors and arcane casters. Perhaps exactly due to the mentality of the drow combined with their low status, males are always driven into seeking more influence and hone their skills to perfection to gain the attention of the females. Remember the keyword here, be creative. You will never be able to attain the station of a Lolth Priestess, but if you play your cards right as a male you can gain the same influence and power behind the scene, playing on the vanity, pride and possibly even lust of the females. Of course it leaves them in the vulnerable position that if anything better drops by the female then they will be discarded in favour of the better model. This is the internal power struggle between the males, to gain unique skills, besmirch each other or gain the attention of powerful females.



If a male acts out of turn and you play a female, try to roleplay through your emotion instead of just saying “aha, but I’m female!”. This is not the reaction to expect, instead show hostility, question him as to what authority he dares address you such. As a female character you are expected to act condescending towards males and lower stationed females, it’s a game of politics and influence.

Likewise if you do want to play a male in Ardulriia do it because you like the RP of having to be creative and subtle in your conquest of power, playing the females against each other while you cunningly pull the strings. You should never expect to come up to the authority of a female in their system but that doesn’t mean you won’t hold the same influence. Be creative.

How to determine station and power
I’ve been rather vague on this point so far but allow me to remedy this little oversight by making a indecisive interpretation of how this function. I say indecisive because it is undoubtedly going to vary from House to House or person to person on how they will implement and interpret this concept. I will try to give you a few pointers and facts from the Sourcebook I’ve been using so far, and after that it will be up to you as a player to decide how your character will interpret this most vital aspect of your character. How does your character determine station and power? This is a crucial question for your character concept in the Underdark.

Quote:
The culture does not reward skill for skill’s sake, or celebrate individual success or ability. It’s not that the drow choose to downplay these factors; rather, they literally have no notion that they should matter. It is as foreign an idea to them as judging a person’s worth based on shoe size would be to most surface-dwelling races.
Source: Drow of the Underdark, Page 9

What shoe size do you use? Ahm, to get back on track: the drow are a wonder of paradoxes. Despite their selfish ambitions as an individual, then as a race they have absolutely no notion of the individual and their prowess. The individual sees itself as the epitome of perfection but view and judge others by what is good for the community over what is good for the individual. A person isn’t important because of past events or displays of strength, the true value is based on how an individual can direct (read dominate), shape and change the community as a whole. Or if you prefer, how much authority this person have over other drow and the essential resources needed by the community.

Of course personal ability and/or birth into a powerful noble bloodline often brings such influence, then it is the influence in itself that’s important and noteworthy through the individual, not the individual that is noteworthy. Through your ability to shape the community, others will have to bend the knees for you which is for the best of the community as a whole.

The Church
If there is one power that surpass all others, it is the Church of Lolth. The drow believe that Lolth's hand is present in every aspect of their life, and for quite a lot of occurrences this might even hold true in their society. The one thing that keeps the drow from tearing each other apart is Lolth, through her Church. This is to a small degree done through subtlety of intrigues but for the most part it’s with a whip in hand as the Priesthood of Lolth encourage its own population to pay heed to the tenets.

The ultimate influence of society lies within the Church and the Priestess, they interpret and enforce the will of Lolth upon others. Only the Priestess of the Church may force others to attend public rites often involving a living sacrifice in some cases even a drow and rarest yet a Priestess. That is to say, if an individual has the strength and influence to hold public rites and force the community to attend then that individual has the right to do so, Priestess or not. Technically a Priestess can demand anything in Lolth's name, however the reality always differs from theory and this is no exception. They might be the spiritual and social leaders of society but a single Priestess does not hold all the resources of the Church. The church is made up of several Priestesses whom all serve Lolth, but also their own personal agenda and perhaps even another House. As such a Priestess can easily demand anything she wants from a houseless drow or a small House, however she cannot directly interfere with a Noble House High Ranking members, despite holding a higher station. As such there’s a delicate power system keeping the various parts in check. A Priestess cannot just lash out at an entire House, but nor can a House afford to make enemies of the Church less they be declared faithless, having turned from Lolth. In some rare cases a House even grow stronger than the Church, either controlling the Priestess behind the scene or in the open.

The Priestess of Lolth is remarkably different from normal Priest. They are not the spiritual leaders of the people as Priests are on the surface; they do not offer comfort or condolence to those in doubt, they do not offer guidance to those who stray. What they do is enforce the will of Lolth, they ensure that their own people venerate her whether they want to or not, censoring all knowledge that they deem harmful to Lolth's image. Even Lolth's own Priestess does not venerate her more than everyone else in their society, being a Priestess is merely the most certain shortcut to power. Being a Priestess means you have to perform rites and rituals to appease the Spider, suffer her Tests with frequency and most importantly of all they have to serve the community as a whole by setting aside their own ambitions and goals. This does not mean the Priestess does not scheme, in fact the Church has more internal schemes and power struggle than any three Houses put together. The Priestess understands that it is Lolth's will that the community prospers and as such they’re charged with supervising the city, removing any internal threats that could bring the community to collapse.

More often than not a drow has more to fear from a Priestess of Lolth than a surfacer does, which is one of the reasons they are held in so high regard, least you incur their wrath. Should you meet a Priestess of the Church then you have all the reason to be worried, least she drags you off and torture you out of spite under the guise of ensuring your loyalty. Even though the highest ranked within a Noble House do not have to fear this, they would do well not to test their luck. The entire races is twisted around the will of Lolth, their communities abiding completely by her tenets, or do they? In this respect the priesthood of Lolth can be considered the community’s Guard force. They enforce Lolths will upon the Houses and lone drow alike. Like vultures they circle around their community and ensure the drow stay within their Queen’s border. Should you give a Priestess the faintest excuse she will tear you apart and will be right to do so if she can. They are not respected because they are the spiritual leaders of the people they are respected because they are strong. They are not feared because of what horrors they perform onto the other races, they are feared because they are the cannibals amongst spiders, feasting upon their own if they are too weak or too rebellious for the Queen of Spider’s liking. Whether through killing, coercion or torture they will ensure a community stays true to the Spider Queen and her ways, enforcing the traditional rules of a matriarchal society dedicated to the tenets of Lolth.

There are three honorific titles a female with a divine class can attain:
Revered/Priestess
Reverend Daughter
Reverend Mother


Before I’ll explain the three titles above, I’ll just establish one thing with certainty: Being a Cleric/Favoured Soul does not automatically make you a Priestess. There is a big difference on simply being a Cleric or a Favoured Soul, compared to being a Priestess. With the current lack of the Church as a Player Organisation everyone can technically claim to be a Priestess, however you might want to consider if your character truly wishes this title. If you do claim yourself to be a Priestess then you belong first and foremost to the Church not your House. If your House ever does the slightest thing that can be interpreted as turning from Lolth's ways, you will have to report this to the Church and investigate further with a fever superseding any orders your Matron Mother might give you. For this reason as a Matron Mother you might also want to reconsider if you want a Priestess in your House. Do you really think your House upholds the virtues of Lolth to perfection? Strength through force, there are no excuses that can appease either the Queen of Spiders or her Priesthood for any blunders you make. It’s merely a thought for you to ponder, claiming to be a Priestess grants great power but it also gives you a great responsibility that your House is not necessarily going to like. Just to make it unambiguously clear: “You can easily be a level 20 cleric/Favoured Soul of Lolth, without being a Priestess.”

Revered/Priestess is the term for any Cleric or Favoured Soul that have passed the tests of Lolth and been granted admission to the church. With the title comes a high Station and status, along with the responsibility to interpret and enforce Lolth's will. These are also called Yathrin which is the Drow terminology for Priestess.

The title Reverend Daughter is used for moderately experienced or ranked Priestess. Her title will put her above that of other Priestess. But with the increased station and status she is also expected to contribute to the community as a whole, perform public rites and sacrifices to the Spider Queen regularly. She will often be leading investigations regarding other Houses and their loyalty to Lolth.

The Reverend Mother is given to the big fat spider in the web that is called the Church of Lolth, the title is used to represent a High Ranking, elder or very experienced Priestess of Lolth. Should you either gain privy to epic levels, or attain the highest possible rank within the Church (if this ever becomes a player organisation that is) you can expect to gain this honorific title. Do not use this Title lightly, the person who gains this will undoubtedly be the head of the Church, directing all the other Priestess and ensuring each and every House is properly investigated and confirmed Lolth worshippers. Furthermore, if a drow or even Priestess is to be sacrificed this is likely the person who will perform the rite.

One thing that is ultimately important to note, according to Faerûn's lore Lolth only accepts female drow Priestess into her clergy hood. If you respect the Lore please keep to this, if you don’t… well you can be a sun elf cleric of Lolth. Don’t expect the drow to accept you for this reason.

The Houses
Aaah, the Noble Houses of drow society. Now we’re getting somewhere. The Church might in theory be the leader of the drow, but the true power lies within each of the three highest Noble Houses. Here the Matron Mother sits as the Spider in her web, pulling all the strings that is the House resources and treaties. They hold the true power of brute force, through sheer numbers or the most skilled warriors they dominate the society they live in. If you think the lines of the royal lines on Faerûns surface seems intricate then it is nothing compared to the webs of the Underdark.

A House is almost always structured with only one powerful female at the very centre of the hierarchy. I say the centre because in drow terminology the hierarchy isn’t defined by who is at the top, it’s defined by who is at the centre of the Spider Web. The most powerful and influential female is referred to as the Matron Mother, just Matron or Ilharess. It is not uncommon, albeit not a standard by far, for a Matron Mother to also be a Priestess of Lolth making it even harder to differentiate the Church and the House influence. Even though the majority of Matron Mothers are not Priestess, then nearly each and every one of them are Clerics or at the very least have a few levels in a divine class. The Matron Mother rules supreme over the House, her word is the law. At the centre of the Spider Web is the core family unit, almost always made up of direct relatives to the Matron Mother such as her daughters and sons. These makes out the very top of the House, its Teachers, Military Leaders and Merchants. Each individual House might have its own hierarchy but it would most likely look something along the lines of this illustration:





Where the above illustration clearly depicts how drow social ranking entwines and forms a hierarchy to them, then it’s not very clear for us and as such I’ve taken the liberty to make the below interpretation but do remember this is my interpretation:
Matron Mother
Patron
First Daughter
High Priestess
Second Daughter
Third Daughter
Priestess
First Son
Second Son
Fourth Son
High Wizard
Wizards
Leader of assassins
Weapon Master
Assassin
Warrior
Slaves

I hope this list make sense to you, but I would like to pull out a select few titles and explain here why they’ve been given the position they have.
The Patron is in and by himself not necessarily worth anything, however he has the ear and protection of his Matron Mother as long as she finds him interesting. Due to this simple fact, no one neither female nor male can compete with the influence he has behind the scenes. This does not mean he can act disrespectful, simply that he can enjoy the protection of his Matron.
The First Daughter is the next in line to become Matron Mother, as such it would be most unwise to get on her bad side and all should pay her the proper respect.
The High Priestess of Lolth, if a Reverend Daughter is allowed to join a House this will most likely be the title she claims inside the House her title from the Church alone commands respect that rivals most in the House.
As you might have noticed I skipped the third son, it is custom that if the Matron Mother has three living Sons then the third is sacrificed to Lolth shortly after birth.

It is important to note that despite some males might be placed in a higher station than females, this does not make them viewed as superior. It does however illustrate that all females below his position can’t expect to have full disposal of him. That being said, a male who acts arrogantly or speaks out of turn to a female should not expect to be immune from reprisal due to his station. In very rare cases where a male posses a unique talent that cannot easily be replaced, he might even manage to hold some authority over female drow or even be awarded a female drow as a slave to ensure he will remain loyal to the House, but reaching this position is extremely difficult.

So what makes a House powerful? The Matron in her own right will have to be powerful and influential indeed to keep this position. But the true power is not the Matron in and by herself, it’s the fact that all who falls under her House can be considered resources that she can use, abuse and drain as she see fit, along with whatever resources or powers fall under her individual servants command. From the lowliest slave to the elite of the House, all must bend their knee to the Ilharess and give whatever she asks. The requests does not have to be fair, it does not have to be to the others liking; in fact most of the time it’s going to be bloody unreasonable and you’ll have to find a creative solution on how to get out of the demand and remain within the favour of your Matron.


The Military
And a thousand male drow rejoiced! Here is the one, the only, ladder to true authority within a drow society for you lot. Sure you can hold authority behind the scene by playing the females against each other but if you truly desire authority then the Military is your one and only chance. Due to the drow city having no official government as such, the military is made up of all the drow soldiers of the various House militias. All of these will be dependent on their own House, high ranking military officers are as a general rule always male as it is considered embarrassing for a female to waste her potential by taking up such a position though it is not unheard of.

All drow, male and female, are taught the basics of combat from an early age. But only a few study it to a professional degree. The drow's instinct for self-preservation does not make the prospect of becoming a career soldier pleasant, as soldiers are often sacrificed in diversions or at the whims of the officers. This however means that the few who do are greatly valued commodities. The military officers will train in standard warfare and siege but their main focus will lie in covert troop movement, ambush, counterintelligence and diversions (often involving a lot of slaves and a few of their own who can be sacrificed). The drow have a saying about war,

Quote:
“If you allow the enemy to strike back, the first battle is already lost.”
Source: Drow of the Underdark, Page 30

As such they will not wage war on a big open battlefield with two armies clashing against each other if they can avoid it. They specialise in small elite strike forces, who can infiltrate the enemy, assassinating key members and perform sabotage. This tactic often reduces or entirely eliminates the need for a large army; if they must wage open war, they focus all their might and resources on beheading the opposing armies leaders to render the bulk ineffective. If this is not possible they’ll target their food/water supply with poison or other far more creative means of destroying the opponents before it culminates to the direct confrontation itself. The drow prefer to be the aggressors in any battle, and all their tactics and strategies evolve around this.

However, let’s get to the part all the male drow characters have been waiting for. In the case of constant external threats from the other races the Matrons of the three noble Houses will sit down and elect their best military officer who will be in charge of the joint forces of all the Houses. This male will be invested an authority concerning the safety of the city that rivals even a Matron. Through him, all the soldiers in the Houses suddenly gain a far more prominent position. The lower ranked male officer will carry enough influence that neither the Matrons nor the Priesthood can afford to ignore. It should not surprise you to learn that the Generals of different Houses and even the Church sometimes work together behind the scene to orchestrate a long term threat severe enough to force this decision on the Matrons.

Needless to say, neither the Church of Lolth nor the Matrons favour this solution and it will only be taken in use in dire need. The General taking the mantle will have to be very careful with how much direct pressure he applies to the Church or Matrons least they execute and replace him.

Currency in society
You might wonder why I’ve placed hierarchy and currency in the same section, all trade is not done in physical currency but also through favours. I will try to keep this short, but allow me to list the three most common methods of commerce in drow society:
Exchange by Coin
Exchange by Goods
Exchange by Favours

Exchange by Coin
This is the most simple method and it needs little explanation. One thing you should note though, the drow do not make their own coins. They use the ones that've been stolen from other races during raids or the like.

Exchange by Goods
This should need little explanation as well, a smith might offer to craft a sword to a baker in return for a bread every day for the next three months. Some services will vary in quality and therefore a greater quantity might be required of the other part.

Exchange by Favours
The higher ranked the person you perform a favour for is, the higher value that favour holds in that society. It seems quite contradictory, but despite of their chaotic nature the drow they almost always pay the favours owed and preferably as fast as possible to prevent being strangled in their own web. Most importantly of all, favours can be bought and sold like any trade commodity. So a favour you owe to House X might belong to House Y the next day, even if you never intended to do business with them.

Be creative in your dealings as a drow and enjoy the very different play style they can offer you!


Life style and habits


Clothing and grooming
If the drow are known for anything else than their renowned malice, then it would be their sense of fashionable clothing. At best other races would find their dress provocatively revealing and at worst outright scandalous. We as players and other Faerûnian races would perceive them as near-naked at best, but to the drow it’s a display of dominance and strength. Clothing and armour serves as more than just a protection against the elements or physical attacks, it also serves to hide any imperfections or flaws that would be humiliating to show in public, unless the individual is so powerful/influential that none would dare ridicule them. This being so, low charisma drow will generally dress in less revealing garments than those with a high charisma who will proudly display their perfect body. The more scandalous clothing the more likely you’re standing in front of a high ranking drow, though this is not always a clear indication.

Their clothing is made of gossamer like materials such as spiderweb silk or fabrics composed of mushroom fibres and animal hair, with metal or bone buttons and buckles, and most commonly leather. Leather is the most readily available material as the drow don’t shy away from skinning anything be it humanoid or not, not to mention it offers modest protection and as such is used in almost all but the most expensive clothing. They do not wear provocative/scandalous clothing because they feel sexy in it. Instead it’s a sign of strength and power, proving their superiority to other more modest dressed by revealing they have no imperfections or flaws to hide and they are strong enough to not be dependent on heavy armour to cover them up. The same holds true for jewellery, they don’t spend their precious gold on it just because it looks pretty, it’s because of the signal it sends of wealth and thus power.

Be mindful that this odd habit does not make a drow foolish. You will not run naked into combat. Dress functionally first and foremost, take your surroundings into consideration and dress accordingly. And if you absolutely need an extra carrot: A sexy dress is often much more provocative or even scandalous than a naked butt.




They are scrupulous groomers, another trait to display their strength and dominance over one and another. As always they are creative and magic is but another tool for those capable of doing so, using magic to clean themselves is just as natural as tossing a fireball. The keyword to role play a drow is to think creative, make combs out of bones or teeth; soap out of mildly acidic fungi; brushes of spider leghair or thick animal hair. Usually there’s two ways they set their hair, either letting it hang freely or held back by a tiara or hairpins, the hairpins often being sharp and durable enough to make it out for a dagger in an emergency if needed. They’re not likely to lose focus in battle because their hair gets a little messed up, but the second you have a spare moment that doesn’t encourage a fatal result, start grooming yourself. Take an extra hot bath now and then, but only with trusted servants or someone who couldn’t immediately benefit from your death. While grooming and especially bathing you’re more vulnerable than usual, as much as they like looking their best then survival is far more important. If two Priestesses starts bathing and grooming together it’s likely that only one of them will survive to finish the bath. This is the reason drow males are often used for such, as they would often gain nothing by killing off a Priestess but Lolth's anger.


Food and drinks
Ever wondered what they eat? Well let’s just establish one thing, they are ruthless and pragmatic and that’s apparent in every manner of their existence including their diet. Let’s try to get some of the regular surfaces dishes out of the way when we eat/drink at the inn, and try with more exotic things that’s actually some of the only materials they have at their disposal.
Numerous fungi and lichen
Spider meat
Lizard and other subterranean creatures
Humanoids/slaves
Water
Lichen wine

Fungi and lichen makes up the main course of most of their diet. For the atmosphere try and find a particular fungi that your character enjoys and remember to be creative when you order food at the inn, there’s no need to eat the exact same dish each and every time. So let’s make a list of edible (and perhaps even some slightly venomous) fungi and add a little description to them in case you want to specify what you’re eating:
The Bay Bolete - Chestnut coloured cap, the flesh is white and stains pale blue when cut/bruised
Chanterelle - It is orange or yellow, meaty and funnel-shaped, fruity smell, reminiscent of apricots and a mildly peppery taste
Giant puffball – Weighs up to 44lbs, solid white interior and exterior
Antler fungi - often brightly coloured, mostly oranges, yellows, or reds; and som have strong laxative effects
White truffle - The flesh is pale cream or brown with white marbling

Source for more edible fungi here or Lichen here or use the ones Neiska has added in the new grinding area!

Spider meat is eaten as a symbolic gesture to Lolth, though it almost never form the main course. Their lizard mounts and livestock makes up the majority of the meat they eat. Only rarely do they eat humanoid flesh, though this is not out of some moral or ethical question but more so the fact that slaves make better use as labour than dinner. Should a slave prove too rebellious to make use of as part of the workforce it’s not uncommon to have it executed and prepared for dinner the very same day. The expression “waste not” fits in very well with the drow culture, whereas the addendum “want not” has little belonging there.

Fresh water is not in ample supply, much of the water found is poisonous or otherwise contaminated to an unhealthy degree. As such the drow are used to not only being poisoned in an assassination attempt but also simply due to polluted water sources.

Slaves
The slaves of the Underdark are worth little more than livestock and treated as such. A slave is not valued for its worth or mind, they serve only to execute all the menial labour that is beneath the drow to do themselves. Usually there are no less than two slaves per drow in a town. When you view the ‘lesser’ races remember that to your character they are nothing but cattle and should be treated as such you do not value their words nor do you even enjoy looking at them. While the drow are perfect in their own eyes, so is every other race a horribly scared, disfigured and flawed version of what could have been perfection. If you need any help in trying to figure out how your character would react to a surfacer or slave, just picture a cow and act condescending.

A slave’s life is a pitiful one, often living in the basement under the House that owns them. They survive under the most horrendous living conditions; every day is a struggle for survival under their cruel masters. Most slaves are kept on the verge of starvation, feeding them just enough that they can still perform menial labour but enough that they won’t have energy for anything else than their duties. The dangers a slave face are numerous, from being worked to death, starvation, dehydration, the whims of an angry passerby or perhaps worst of all a Lolth Priestess looking for a sacrifice.

In desperate times with lack of slaves, the drow might consider breeding their own, in this case goblins and orcs are often the best suited as they both breed and mature fast. But for the most part it’s much easier to raid the surface to find an adult workforce.

In rare cases a special slave might be hand plucked from the workforce to be a body slave of a high ranking drow. A body slave’s main duty will be grooming its master/mistress, due to the slaves often being too weak to pose a real threat against a powerful drow. It is rare that the females degrade themselves to use a slave to slack their sexual appetites as they can always demand nearly any male to bed them. It is not unknown for males however to use the slaves to relieve some of the tension, and for once be the dominant part in bed, though this is usually kept discreet as not to encourage the scorn of the females for mating with lesser races.

But as a general rule of thumb, if the slave ICly is pleased to be where it is then you should consider underlining just how miserable conditions they’re forced to live under.

Language
What we know as drow language is technically just a different dialect of Elven which emphasises on different tones and nuances from the surface language Elven. In fact it’s very often a surprise to many foreigners that the drow do not have their own language. Whether this is because of their longevity that the language only develop slowly or if it’s simply due to their inability to cooperate not only in a large group but also as a race entirely an independent language for their race as a whole has yet to evolve.

Rather they speak two or more languages at once, the dominant ones being Undercommon and Elven as these are the two languages all drow speak. A conversation with a drow can be quite an undertaking in itself without having to worry about the backstabbing, as they frequently change language midsentence if they feel a word/sentence from another language seems more strong or tactful than a word from the main language they're using. When creating words for new objects, creatures or other items not covered by either of the two languages they create a new word which almost always is a mixture of Undercommon and Elvens grammatically and phonetic rules resulting in what might one day become a language of their own.

Whereas humans for instance often have meaningless names, the drow prides themselves with names of great importance or significant meaning. Of course most parents tend to be quite careless in naming their offspring, giving it improper or meaningless names. As a result it is customary for a drow to take up a new name upon reaching adulthood. To pick a name confer with the list here.

The drow sign language is properly the most famous of all languages and the envy of many players. It is complex language that can convey emotions, descriptions, and commands without speaking a word. The sign language consists of an equal amount of hand gestures, body position, and facial expressions which can convey a relatively large array of complex concepts or messages in a short time compared to other languages. Because of the complexity of the language it’s almost impossible to get the entire meaning of the message unless you’re looking directly at the messenger’s front and face. This is most often used for strike forces to communicate with each other silently over relatively long distances to coordinate an ambush, but due to the complexity of the language itself it can be used at various other circumstances. An interesting fact is that the hand gestures of the sign language is strikingly similar to that of the fundamental arcane somatic components, so a mage might mistake it for a clumsy practitioner of the Arcane. There’s a written form of the language as well, consisting of dots and lines positioned at angles equal to that of the hand gestures. This form of communication is however very limited and just sufficient enough to explain hazards or directions for a following column of soldiers.

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