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Drow, also known as dark elves, were a dark-skinned subrace of elves that predominantly lived in the Underdark. They were generally evil, with exceptions including Drizzt Do'Urden, Zaknafein Do'Urden, Jalynfein, Solaufein, Tos'un Armgo, Liriel Baenre, Jarlaxle, and Qilué Veladorn and other followers of Eilistraee. They were shorter than many other subraces of elves and, in common with most Underdark-dwelling creatures, had a tremendous resistance to magic. They also had a much higher birthrate than most other elves, but strife tended to keep their numbers down.
On the surface, the drow were sometimes referred to as "The Ones Who Went Below".
In many ways, drow resembled eladrin. Drow had obsidian-colored skin and pale yellow (or pale golden), silver or white hair, the latter being by far the most common. This hair was carefully groomed and cared for by most drow and worn long with jewelry and other accessories decorating it. Like all elves, drow were incapable of growing beards, though many males were fond of long sideburns.
Drow eyes were usually bright red, but some had different colored, often much paler eyes such as blue, lilac, pink, or silver. Sometimes a drow's eyes could even be green, which meant that that particular drow had some surface elven blood in their veins. They usually varied in height between 5' 4" and 6' (1.6 to 1.8 meters), and weighed between 130 to 175 lbs (59 to 80 kg) on average.
Drow had lifespans far beyond those of humans and comparable with the rest of the elven race, although usually somewhat longer. This was, of course, presuming the drow didn't meet a premature and violent end, as many often did, but those that survived the trials of their society and the horrors of the Underdark could live for centuries, sometimes as long as 1000 years or more.
Drow were more agile and alluring than most humanoid races and also had many other special abilities that differentiated them from other races, including other Tel-quessir. Like all elves, drow required no sleep but instead entered a meditative trance throughout which they retained full awareness of their surroundings. This state was half-again more efficient than the way in which most races gained rest. However, many drow appeared to actually sleep because they could not find the peace in themselves to enter this reverie.
The most distinctive feature of drow, however, was the touch of Lolth upon them. Just as Corellon cursed them and made them vulnerable to light, the Spider Queen gave the drow a blessing to counteract this, giving the drow a power over darkness that other races lacked. This power could manifest in several ways. The most common was the ability to shroud enemies in magical, impenetrable darkness, usually called a Globe of Darkness. The other was debilitating charm called faerie fire or darkfire that made a creature an easier target, encasing them in something that looked like purple fire, though causing no harm.
Most drow could only use these abilities every so often, and the power tired them slightly. More experienced and well-trained drow, however, could learn to cast both abilities separately. Yet others, particularly drow who were well-favored by Lolth, manifested another ability that both slowed and impeded a foe, while also making it more difficult for them to see. Some individuals learned to awaken these powers further, becoming known as the curseborn and possessing abilities that allowed them to further master the shadow power granted by the Spider Queen, for whatever ends. Other drow struggled to rid themselves of Lolth's touch and instead sought Corellon's aid, eventually becoming crusaders of the fey god within the dark realms of their race, gaining blessings of healing and light from the patron of the elves. Either path led to great power and granted even more unique abilities to an individual drow.
Drow were taught from an early age to trust no one, forging alliances only when they were confident that they could outmatch their ally if he/she decided to turn on them. The inherent pride in their own abilities quite often led to such alliances being forged, though they almost always ended badly when one party decided said alliance was no longer convenient. Even drow who escaped the cruelties of the Underdark found it more difficult to form long-term friendships than most races do.
Most drow shared a hatred of all other races, especially surface races, but hated most of all the Seldarine and the surface elves, "Darthiir" in Drow. It was the only thing that united them as a species, leading them to yearn for a return to the surface that would defeat the surface elves.
Drow had an admiration for stealth and guile, and works of great skill. They were encouraged to become warriors or arcane spellcasters, if male, and wielders of divine powers, if female. Drow scouts were also valuable for the early warnings of threats they could provide in the tunnels of the Underdark. An assassin was prestigious in drow culture. Drow were also known for their alluring appearance, which could be used for seduction but was more likely used as a tool of fear.
All drow enjoyed surrounding themselves with things of beauty—drow cities were always spectacles of breathtaking architecture—and often partook of lavish revels, indulging in the most pleasurable of activities, including long nights of dinner and massages. Some drow were fond of dances, including the frenzied nedeirra competition or the illiyitrii, a formal dance sometimes involving costumes.
It was important to recognize that though drow were untrusting and devious, they were not necessarily evil any more than gnolls or tieflings, and drow could become forces of good given the right conditions. However, the mental scars of drow culture were not easily removed from the minds of an individual and the terrors of the Underdark and drow society could leave those who rejected its evil with fractured minds and even a loose hold on their sanity. Others might escape the Underdark relatively unscarred, but these individuals were rare and considered, by and large, anomalies.
Drow society was matriarchal, militaristic, and heavily influenced by religion. Their city-states were formed in huge underground caverns but frequently at war with one another. These cities were ruled by the most powerful of the families (or houses) and although the power of the many families changed often, the top few usually remained stable. Males who hoped to find any place of power in society often resorted to ends as treacherous as the women that ruled the drow, hoping to perhaps win a coveted place as the mate of a powerful matron mother.
It would be easy to imagine that drow females, by comparison, had it much easier but this was an illusion and their prestigious position within society came at a high cost. In fact, the teachings of Lolth and the drive to gain more power over others made competition between female drow, particularly those who belonged to powerful houses, violently competitive in a way that males did not have to cope with. Matters were even worse for those who sought power through venues outside of Lolth's church, where the females had to compete not only with one another but with resentful and oppressed males.
Drow were arrogant, ambitious, sadistic, treacherous and hedonistic. From birth, drow were taught they were superior to other races and should crush those beneath them. Children who resisted and showed kindness or love were brutally punished, so as to drive the instinct for cruelty into them. They valued advancement over their peers more than anything else, pulling down their superiors and crushing their inferiors. This didn't mean they treated all of their peers with disdain, however. Drow were not barbaric and appreciated a sense of subtlety and thus drow were typically courteous and urbane, even to their most hated rivals.
Cities were structured around the most powerful families taking the best areas, leaving the other drow to take whatever land they could. The focus of a city was often the temple of Lolth and this was often in the grounds of the ruling family. Magical items that emitted faerie fire adorning buildings were a sign of prosperity. The garrison and some of the slaves, as well as rothé farms, were kept outside the city.
Although many drow sought to regain the surface world that they felt was taken from them unjustly, some had become so used to life in the Underdark that they would prefer to make the best of this realm and had no interest in the surface.
The drow who did choose to live on the surface did not form any kind of organized society and instead lived as hermits and outcasts. They would interact with other societies when they needed to, but not through choice.
Drow liked to eat animals that were still living because they believed the meat had a better flavor.
Poisons and toxins were favored by the drow, especially a powerful knockout poison made from a slippery black fungus growing in certain Underdark caverns, but other poisons could be made from purple worms, scorpions, and spiders.
Drow favored mithral chain armor when it was available, but would always wear non-restrictive armors that would not hamper their natural dexterity. They also favored fast weapons like rapiers, and would choose hand crossbows when possible, to deliver their poisons from a distance. The most popular poison on the drow hand crossbow was the drow slumber potion that put the target to sleep.
It was common for drow to place magical symbols or glyphs outside their houses that could ward against intrusion. These house defense glyphs were only one of three types of glyphs; the others were way-marker runes and sacred glyphs.
The drow loved magical items of all kinds and all powerful families gave some enchanted items to those who served them. The piwafwi was a particularly special drow item, although drow house insignias were also important to the drow houses and granted special powers, sometimes levitation. Many drow items were crafted in such a way that they could only be used by the drow.
Drow primarily worshiped the Dark Seldarine—that is, those deities cast out of the Seldarine and exiled to the Demonweb Pits. They generally worshiped the goddess Lolth, although those on the surface often worshiped Vhaeraun or Shar. A small number of good drow on the surface worshiped Eilistraee or other non–drow pantheon deities and were led by Qilue Veladorn. Generally, an entire city worshiped a single deity. Even more of a minority were the drow who worshiped Kiaransalee and Ghaunadaur. Also, because drow males were banned from the priesthood, males who became adept in divine magic tended to worship Selvetarm, Lolth's champion.
Though religion played a large part in drow society, the caste system and other seemingly lawful aspects of the culture clashed with Lolth's intent and directives as a chaotic evil goddess. As a result, much of the tension between the clergy of Lolth and more secular drow came from this very different perspective.
Pets and slaveryEdit
Slavery played a large part in drow society and drow households usually had two or more slaves for each member. All unskilled labor in drow cities was carried out by slaves.
Drow did not keep animals as pets, as animals could not fully comprehend their dependence on their owners. Instead, many drow took a favored slave as a personal servant or thrall, and treated these people as little more than pets.
The animal most associated with the drow was the spider, since it was the symbol of the deity Lolth. Spiders roamed the streets in drow cities, acting as pest controllers, and larger ones were used to guard houses or as mounts for transportation. These spiders were often specially bred for the purpose and were more intelligent than their regular counterparts, especially the sword spider.
Other types of working creatures included riding lizards, bats, and cavvekans, and also spider-like creatures such as bebiliths, myrlochar, and retrievers.
The native language of the drow was called Drow, which was related to Elvish. Each isolated community had its own variant of the language with a distinct accent. Drow Sign Language was a silent language that consisted of hand signals and facial expressions, and it was commonly known. There was no equivalent written or spoken form of this language. Most drow spoke Drow as well as Undercommon, and a language suitable for the region in which they lived, such as Abyssal, Common, Draconic, or Goblin. It was common for the drow to learn the language spoken on the surface beneath which they lived. All drow are literate except for their barbarians.
ot all drow became a part of the violent mainstream culture that most of the race were forced to endure. Those few who escaped the life of the Underdark might break away entirely from their dark past, while some fortunate drow were actually born and raised outside of the world below. Some drow found a hint of virtue within themselves in spite of all the terrors they witnessed, or perhaps because of it. Others turned late to better ways, either out of guilt or out of the simple fact they were no longer obliged to do so. Yet others were dangerously insane, broken by the horrors that shook their psyches.
Drow saw all other races as inferior, even those to whom they were allied, and would attempt to enslave any enemies they captured, usually never willingly releasing them. Drow commonly enslaved hobgoblins, ogres, and orcs, but also other humanoids.
Above all else, drow saved their hostilities for surface elves. They were willing to forge temporary alliances with anyone that would help them inflict pain or suffering on the surface elves, for whom they know no mercy at all.
A common drow ally were the illithids, or mind flayers.
Drow were once known as Dark Elves (Ssri-tel-quessir in old Elven) and their nations were Ilythiir and Miyeritar. Ilythiir was one of the most powerful, but, circa -30000 DR, their goddess Araushnee betrayed her fellow Seldarine and, along with Ghaunadaur, Vhaeraun, Malar, and others, they tried to invade Arvandor. Afterwards, Araushnee was cast into the Abyss, where she took the name Lolth.
During the First Crown War, the Ilythiiri made several unsuccessful attempts to conquer Faerûn. They conquered southern Faerûn and north up to Shantel Othreier, and perhaps only the intervention of Corellon Larethian stopped them. At the time of the Fourth Crown War, they turned to Lolth and the other outcast Seldarine in the Demonweb Pits, who gave them powerful magic and fiendish allies, as a reward for allegiance. One of these was a balor named Wendonai. He bred with the Ilythiiri, giving them a taint. The taint of Wendonai allowed him to hear the thoughts of the tainted. It was only the Ilythiiri who carried it, and it influenced their cruel and arrogant behavior (even though they still had the ability to choose a non-evil lifestyle, as proven by the Ilythiiri who followed Eilistraee, or by Liriel Baenre, Drizzt Do'Urden, and others.
After many malicious acts and abuses of elven magic, Corellon Larethian banished the dhaerow (traitors) whom Lolth used to be responsible for (and most of whom still secretly worshiped her) to the Underdark. A horrid magical storm known as the Dark Disaster laid waste to Miyeritar. History (as written by the victors of the Third Crown War) said that Miyeritar's attempts to stop Aryvandaar's armies caused the Dark Disaster. In truth, the fell magic that produced it was called forth by Vyshaantar high mages and proceeded unopposed because a Vyshaantar assassination campaign had destroyed many of Miyeritar's high mages in the months before. The Dark Disaster hung over Miyeritar like a funeral shroud for months, and when its cloying mists and bloody rains finally dissipated, the once-proud forest had been reduced to a blasted, poisonous wasteland. Although many of Miyeritar's original inhabitants had fled long before the killing storm hit, innumerable innocents had died horribly.
The drow, as they were now named, always believed that they were punished for being "successful". Remembering this perceived slight, they vowed eternal revenge, still claiming the surface world as rightfully theirs.
After the so-called "Descent", the warlike drow immediately began violently trying to establish their own territories in the Underdark around -9600 DR. They stole dwarven magical items and used them against their former masters, creating a long-lasting enmity. They also seized the gold dwarf cavern of Bhaerynden, creating the kingdom of Telantiwar. The drow then began fighting amongst themselves, trying to establish a single ruler. The attempt failed, only resulting in a great magical explosion that destroyed this large cavern, forming the Great Rift.
The surviving nobles took what they could and left to establish their own realms elsewhere in the Underdark. This time was known as the Scattering and produced most of the cities in which the drow lived, such as Sshamath, founded beneath the Far Hills in -4973 DR, Menzoberranzan, founded in -3917 DR, and Ched Nasad, founded in -3843 DR.
The vast majority of drow lived in the Underdark, to which they were driven following the Crown Wars. Here, drow city-states were spread throughout the world, bastions of evil and demonic dealings sanctioned by the Spider Queen. Of all the Underdark races, drow were the most feared, owing to their widespread presence and immense power. The most famous Underdark bastion of all was Menzoberranzan, one of the dark centers of Lolth's worship.
Not all drow dwelt in the Underdark, however. While most of the race that fled the dark civilization they were born into died trying to reach the surface world, others escaped the dark recesses of the earth to see daylight. Most drow that didn't live in the Underdark dwelt within the lands of the Dragon Coast or the East Rift. Drow who headed for the Dragon Coast typically were less apologetic about their past and simply sought a place away from Lolth's corruption where few questions were asked and skill was the only quality that mattered. Many of those who dwelled in the East Rift were refugees of the catastrophe wrought on the neighboring regions of the Underdark by the Spellplague and the draining of the Sea of Fallen Stars.