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Origins

More than thirteen thousand years ago, the Crown Wars raged among the Fair Folk, and for three thousand years the elven nations of Aryvandaar, Miyeritar, Shantel Othreier, Keltormir, Ilythiir, and others battled one another in a series of five great conflicts. At the end of the fourth Crown War, circa -10,000 DR, the corrupt dark elven Ilythiiri and others were transformed by Corellon's magic into drow as directed through the Protector's priests and high mages, and banished to the lightless depths of the Underdark.

The first drow civilizations arose in the Underdark of southern Faerun circa -9600 DR. The first great kingdom of the drow was Telantiwar, with its capital in the great cavern of Bhaerynden, the conquered heart of the first great kingdom of the Stout Folk (dwarves), which was seized by the drow in -9000 DR. The drow fought among themselves, noble against noble, priest against priest, for rule of their new realm. This war ended amid great magical explosions that brought down the roof of Bhaerynden. The ceiling collapsed entirely, burying many drow and the shattered dwarven cities they have seized. The cavern, now open to the sky, became known as the Great Rift. Gold dwaf ancestors later resettled the chasm and surrounding caverns to form the Deep Realm.

In the following diaspora known as the Scattering, the surviving drow nobles and priests gathered what people, slaves, and equipment they could seize and fled into the wilds of the Underdark. Since that time, countless cities and smaller settlements have risen and fallen in an increasing radius around the territory held by the empire of Telantiwar


Physiology

Weight and Height: Females are usually bigger and stronger, averaging height from 4'11" to 5'7" and weigh from 103 - 140 lbs. Males range from 4'2" to 5'5" and weigh from 100 to 130. It's not unknown of for their to be unusually taller and broader Drow.

Eye Color: Most have different shades of red. Green, black, brown, gray, and amber are not unknown of. Shades of blue or purple shows surface elf, or human blood.

Hair Color: Snow-white for a majority. Females hair yellow with age. Male's hair grays. Silver and copper colored are rare.

Skin Color: Jet black for full blooded Drow. Dark gray to brownish gray for half-drow. There are rare cases of bone white albinos.

Mouth Etc. Colors: Teeth may be black, white, or purple, and their gums, tongues, and throats pink, red, or purple.

Automatic Feats: Drow sign language. Locate secret compartments and doors. Prowl. Recognize precious metals and stones. Blind fighting. Stalking. Concealment. Stealth. Listen.

Drow are also very alert an inquisitive, simply as survival traits in their twisted society. This mental readiness gives them an intellectual advantage over most creatures.... Note that while drow intelligence is augmented, drow wisdom is not -- the all-pervasive teachings of Lolth, and the limited exposure to other societies, beings, and surroundings, are not conducive to a wide and reasoned experience of the world.

Drow are rarely surprised... This is because drow always expect attack, whether in the “wild” Underdark or surface world. In their own cities - where rival drow may strike with a dagger, dart, or spell at any time - or even at home where rival family members may seize an unguarded moment to “prune the family tree.”

Typical drow tactics include arranging ambushes where known dangers can be used, such as loose rocks that can be knocked down atop intruders. Anti-personnel traps, such as strategically-placed phycomids, and glass bulbs filled with ascomoid spores, are also not uncommon in the Underdark. Drow who fall in combat are customarily animated as zombies (so long as their lower limbs are usable) by drow clerics, not left for others to plunder. Such zombies are often commanded to carry less-mobile dead and wounded, and are also useful as “shock troops."

Drow eyes can see heat patterns in air and rock thanks to their 120’ range infravision. Against a dim gray “cold” stone backdrop, progressively warmer hues show as subtle blue, purple, red, and warm yellow. The warmth comes from hot springs, magma, seeping water, and fissure-breezes.

Drow learn to use the “shadows” of these varying hues for concealment when stalking, in much the same way as a surface creature uses the shadows produced by the sun, moon, and other light sources. Like surface dwellers, drow must learn to “read” heat-hues; the meanings of various shades and patterns become known to drow only through teachings or experience “in the field.”

Near areas of drow habitation in the Underdark, the varying heat-hues of the natural Underdark are blurred by the higher ambient heat of many gathered, living beings and their activities.

Drow cities also sport magical glows, a few actual lights (notably the sharp, foreign-to-most-drow radiances of the candles of studying wizards and important rituals to Lolth), and the far more common continual faerie fire glows that highlight drow sculpture. Drow are proud of the beauty of their designs, and usually outline the most impressive works with this spell.

Drow hearing is highly developed, more than surface elves. In the Underdark, one learns to find water by timing the echoes of dripping or running water, and to detect coming rock shifts or collapses by listening for the natural grating and groaning sounds of unshaped rock.

Drow have long, slender, sensitive fingers, and a highly-developed tactile sense. In addition to their silent language of gestures, stances, and expressions, they are able to read subtle, braille-like “secret signs” left on rock walls, message stones, and other places by fellow drow. The drow sense of smell, however, is not so acute. The all-pervasive smell of the rock and damp air all around, tainted by ever-present mold and fungus spores and the scent of drow and slave bodies, is a strong background. Most drow have been exposed to strong incense and offering-burnings since infancy, which further serves to dull the olfactory sense. Drow still enjoy perfume, incense, and the like, but their smell is only about as acute as that of most humans -- far less than that of many native inhabitants of the Underdark.


Social Relationships

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 Lloth 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.

Drow Life

From very young drow are brought up learning new ways to hate. These incarnations of hate range from jealousy to betrayal. In a world where you can't even trust your own blood what else is left. Male drow, when they are born, have the chance not living at all. This is due to every third boy-child is given to Lolth via sacrifice. If they are chosen to live, they are forced down one of two roads. The first, they can become a fighter and are trained from the moment they can hold a weapon. The second, they can become a mage and then again they are trained as soon as they can make coherent speech. Either road drow male go down is not of there choosing. The choosing is left up to the ruling matron mother of the house in which they belong.

Female children on the other hand are given at least a little choice. Since drow are a truly matriarchal society this only seems fit. They are destined from birth into the service of Lolth and are sent learn how to communicated her will. If the child is not seen fit to serve the Lolth, the Spider Queen, then she is given some, although not much, choice in what she is to become. These women unually rare in that most anybody can do the treacherous work of the Spider Queen.

There are two different social classes in drow life. First are the merchants. These clans, according to the priestesses of Lolth, are relatively overlooked although these clans actually keep the other social group alive. How could one survive without valuable supplies needed from places other than the underdark. Dealing with the surface world are considered demeaning and are beneath the noble houses, which are the second group. The noble houses are by far the best deal out of the two social groupings. Noble houses support more power, which is the lifeblood of drow life. Life in the underdark almost completely revolves around what the noble houses seek to accomplish. Station is the most important aspect of the drow noble houses.

Station is the most impotant thing in drow life. It is the heirarchy in which power is distributed. Each person from the matron mother of the first house to the lowly asset in the last merchant house has a certain amount of station. We would call it in our world authority. The main goal in drow life is to achieve more station. The primary tool to gain station is assassination. Brothers will try to kill each other as long as a higher station is achieved in the process. The main cause of this is Lolth, the goddess of chaos. What better way to cause chaos than to kill a superior? And justice? Justice is just a pretense to avoid open warfare.

Gender Roles

Lloth 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 Llothian 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 Lloth 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 Lloth'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 Lloth'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, Lloth'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 Lloth's teachings, and the remainder of this report assumes a Lolthian city.

Nobility

Most drow societies have some sort of noble class. 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.

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 Lloth, 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.

Courting

Llothian 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.

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 Lloth.

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 Lloth'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.

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.

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.

The Test

On the fringes of the Spider Queen's cities are abandoned caves and old monster lairs. Some of these are inhabited by horrible creatures that are half-drow and half-spider. These tortured things, known as driders, are the outcasts of drow society, for they have failed the test of the Spider Queen. All promising drow who reach a certain level of power are tested by Lolth. She tests their loyalty, their wits, and their power. Those who succeed in the tests are allowed to continue living in drow society. Those who fail are cursed to grow spider legs from their lower half and also become bloated and unrecognizable in their upper half. No longer beautiful, but still feeling the need to be near other drow, these hateful evil creatures lurk in the fringes of drow civilizations, hunting lost drow and any other creature that crosses their path. The Test of Lloth, as it is known (the only test described as such in drow society), is whispered of among the common folk and used as a threat by the priestesses against the more willful nobles. The existence of driders is more evidence that the Spider Queen is absolutely evil, cruel, and possibly insane, for while other deities are known to test their followers from time to time, even among the evil ones, Lolth is the only one who deliberately disfigures them in such a horrible way and leaves them alive (most evil deities are content to simply blast those who fail into oblivion).


Craft, Artistry, And Entertainment

Dark elves see the artistic spirit and entertainment as tools. They don’t create art or entertain an audience for its own sake or for personal satisfaction. Making simple, useful items is a task left to slaves, but drow take great pride in crafting exquisite and deadly things. Are always has a purpose beyond mere enjoyment, but dark elves find many reasons to create and to entertain, and skilled artisans, crafters, and performers are highly prized.

Alchemy

Along with items common to the surface world, dark elves use the ingredients they find in the Underdark to create unique alchemical tools. The pursuit of the alchemist has always had less prestige than that of the poisoner, but the relatively new skill of creating verminous items has diminished the alchemist’s value even more. Fortunately, a knowledgeable alchemist often finds it easy to take up that craft.

Arenas

Combat is an art, and drow find deadly battle entertaining to watch. Thus, most drow cities have several arenas. Arenas come in all shapes and sizes. Some are the standard fighting pits or coliseums familiar to the surface-world gladiators. Others are formed of great stalactites or stalagmites, to make huge “lord of the pillar” battles. Open-ceiling, dungeon like mazes are common, as are magical enclosures in the air outside of cities. Hundreds to thousands of drow come to watch battles and place bets on the competitors.

Arena combatants might be unruly slaves, career gladiators, captured monsters, or summoned beings. Troublesome surface-world “adventurers” often find themselves in a gladiatorial arena, forced to fight unwholesome creatures, or even their own party members, to the death. Arenas sate the bloodlust innate to all drow to help keep them from turning on one another during times of relative peace.

Cooking

Good cooking is appreciated by all drow, but few understand the heights of culinary delight that surface dwellers enjoy. Living in the depths relegates drow to using the meats of other Underdark dwellers for main courses and various lichens and fungi as spices. Salt is often available, but sugar, pepper, flour, and other cooking ingredients common on the surface are nearly unknown to the drow. Spice and foodstuffs from the surface are highly prized, but only the most wealthy and decadent can afford such commodities. Most drow dishes are meaty, musky, and hot to the tongue because of certain fungi ingredients.

Dance

Dark elves excel at dance. They dance in battle, in worship, in coupling, and at times even in death. Dance expresses the dark elven gift of natural grace, and drow often subconsciously fall into its motions. Those who are particularly good dancers are envied for their artistry but for a talent greater than the norm. Dance is most appreciated when it tantalizes the libido or slays enemies, and drow believe the best dances do both.

Glass

It seems odd to surface dwellers, but drow have little use for glass and less knowledge of how to craft anything from it. Temperatures in the Underdark remain fairly constant, and wind or other air flow is common only near swiftly moving water: Even if drow put windows in their buildings, glass panes wouldn’t be needed to keep out the elements. Glass finery, like bottles or vials are viewed as impractical. What others keep in glass, drow store in pottery or metal. In any event, drow have little access to the kind of sand needed for glassblowing.

Jewelry

Jewelry is one of the few areas of craft and art in which drow come close to appreciating beautify for its own sake. Most dark elves value and item’s monetary worth, or recognize the power and prestige a beautiful piece of jewelry represents, but this appreciation is something more. In any event, when not interested in stealth, dark elves of both sexes often adorn themselves with necklaces, rings, earrings, nose rings, lip rings, bracelets, bangles, pins, headbands, and even crowns. Most of these pieces are intricately designed, contain many gems, or both; dark elves see no reason to wear plain jewelry. Such intricate and well-crafted items often fetch a fine price on the surface world.

Not surprisingly, jewelry made by dark elves often has a spider theme. Other religious themes also regularly appear, but weblike abstract designs are by far the most common.

Music

Few drow would admit to having much feeling for music, but it is a part of even the darkest elven soul. All drow music has an alien quality to it. Over the ages, drow have come to understand the acoustics of caverns and cavern formations better than most Underdark creatures, and they have allowed the unique musical elements and instruments of slaver races and of other Underdark dwellers, such as mind flayers, to influence their style. Their music frequently takes advantage of the vibrations of stone and the echoing quality of caverns.

Most dark elven composers create music for religious purposes. These compositions are often powerful, haunting pieces meant to be performed by a great number of trained slaves. Some religious works are long, ululating calls sung by a single drow during day-to-day services. Dark elves make this music both to honor their gods and to impress and intimate those who do not pay regular respect to their deities.

Drow create music for other reasons, but they do so infrequently. Music that mocks a foe is fairly common, as is that created to impress a potential ally. Music is compose for dances and balls, but just as often the songs at these events are hundreds or thousands of years old.

Painting

Painting or other flat representations of color as an art form has little significance to drow. Unable to see color with darkvision, they perceive all paintings as tableaus as grays. Although drow are able to appreciate such works of art, most prefer sculpture. Thus, few bother to paint anything unless it will achieve some goal. Every few hundred years or so, they concept of color comes into vague, and there is a resurgence of interest in painting, but the few dark elves who have mastered the art or gained any real proficiency do not have skill with colors. Pigments are extremely rare in the Underdark, and during the times when color is favored, these and other colorful objects from the surface would fetch a high price.

Poison

Poisoners have had a niche in drow civilization since its founding millennia ago. Drow admire and fear a skilled poisoner with good reason: The best of them can craft toxins that magic cannot fend off or cure.

Drow poisoners have cataloged hundreds of thousands of poisonous agents, and they create new ones every year. A good poison see wide usage, and sometimes enjoys a popularity similar to that of a catchy song on the surface. Many poisoners keep their skills a secret, but others become famous for a particularly ingenious creation. Famous poisoners inevitably die in some tragic “accident” of poison mishandling; this was the fate of the now-forgotten creator of drow sleep poison.

Prostitution

Prostitution is inevitable in most cultures, but its role in drow society has evolved over centuries into its current bizarre form: Prostitutes are also bodyguards. Drow engaging in sexual act6ivity must let their guards down, by both relaxing their wariness and removing protections, such as armor, that might otherwise limit their enjoyment. Ages ago, drow brothels promised protection and privacy, and individual prostitutes trained in both self-defense and the defense of their clients to preserve a whorehouse’s reputation for safety. Now prostitutes, male and female, can be hired as actual guards. They serve as ornaments on their clients’ arms, pleasure toys for dalliance, and loyal protectors. Houses often hire them for children they send away to academies; the prostitutes protects the child from harm and is there when she becomes curious about sex and the needs a different kind of education.

Of course, classic house of ill repute still exists, often staffed by nondrow slaves. Drow come to these places to rape, molest, torture, and even kill, if the price is right. Most half-drow are the result of such amusements.

Scars

Tattoos are known to the drow, but the dark elve's obsidian skin and lack of color vision without light make them impractical. Instead, drow create designs of beauty on their flesh with scars. Drow save brands for slaves. They make scar designs by cutting the flesh with delicate scalpels and they applying a mix of Underdark fungus to the wounds to help form raised scar tissue.

Scar “tattoo” designs are often intricate and wildly imaginative. By varying the depth of the cut, the width of the blade, and the fungi used, drow can vary with width, height, and even the texture of the scarring. A master scarcutter can even depict a raised texture likeness of a person’s features, making a familiar face protrude from an arm, breast, or thigh. Drow often go to scarcutters after a battle wound has healed improperly. Under their painful ministrations, even the ugliest mark can become a scar of enviable beauty.

Sculpture

Like music, most drow sculpture is religious in nature, and the temples certainly hold the best work of their sculptors. In temples and when making any representations of their gods, drow prefer to work in very dark stone. Sculptors go to great lengths to procure black marble and other stone that can be carved into smooth skin and shapely forms.

Of course, spiders are a sculptural theme throughout most drow work. Temples of the various deities use this theme to varying degrees but even when carving for a more secular purpose, sculptors usually include a small spider in some out-of-the-way location as a tribute to the Spider Queen.

Textiles

Dark slaves have slaves weave cloth from the silk of spiders and other vermin. This fabric is very similar to the silk found in some places on the surface world. Drow favor this light, strong material and are always bemused by the coarse clothing worn by other races. Drow make all manner or garments from silk, with the noted exception of clothing intended for warmth. Deep in the Underdark, they are ignorant of the passage of seasons. When raiding parties come to the surface in winter, they often turn back unless they can quickly find enough surface dwellers to provide them with warm clothing. Some dark elves have made an effort to keep such equipment, to craft similar garments from silk, or to create magic items that provide warmth and protection from the cold, but it is usually easier to simply wait and raid at a more congenial time.

Torture

Although it is not commonly viewed by most races as an art, dark elves highly prize torture as an important element of their culture. Master torturers command high fees to view their sessions, and they attract many would-be students. To the drow, torture isn’t just about causing pain: It is an intimate physical and psychological act of domination. To break a victim’s will and control their every action through fear is an experience that rivals the most hedonistic orgies.

Weapons and Armor

All weapons and armor made by dark elves are masterwork items; they leave the creation of mundane equipment to slaves. Drow battle artisans commonly work in adamntine and mithral, materials that are relatively common in the Underdark. Every piece of dark elven metalwork is a masterpiece. Weapons are light, keen, and perfectly balanced. Armor is quiet, limber, and strong.

Drow typically wear light, strong armor that lest them make maximum use of their natural grace. Leather and studded leather are fairly common, but most drow prefer to wear mithral chain shirts. They rarely wear heavier armor unless if is for religious purposes or is ensorcelled to make it less cumbersome. The buckler is the preferred shield; allowing its wearer to wield a melee weapon or repeating hand crossbow in the off hand.

Drow prefer the hand crossbow and thrown weapons to weapons with longer range. The oftimes close confines of the Underdark tunnels male longbows impractical, and most drow find normal crossbows take too long to load. Shortbows are prized when dark elves know they can fight from a greater range.

In melee, drow prefer light weapons with the potential to deal great damage. They arm slave warriors with larger, heavier weapons. There are always some drow who prefer to use heavy weapons, such as they greatsword or the spiked chain, but most dark elves mock such ungainly tools.

The Written Word

Poetry, story, novel, play—dark elves see little value in these works. Histories are prized for the information they impart, and drow commonly record the dogma of a deity in religious texts, but most other written work is neglected. Sometimes dark elves find it amusing to read the works of surface dwellers. They have few chances to really understand the world above, and a particularly curious intriguing text might be copied and circulated widely.


Drow Psyche

The dark elven psyche is both similar to and vastly different from that of other intelligent beings. Adrift in darkness and treachery, drow have developed a tortured psychology as a survival mechanism. Before you can understand their culture and history, you must understand the strange forces and emotions that drive drow.

Constant striving is a cornerstone of drow culture and shows itself in nearly every aspect of their life. Servants try to outdo their fellows in the services they provide, students learn to subtly undermine the work and understanding of other pupils, and merchants struggle to undercut their competition while maintaining the highest possible profits. This aspect of drow psyche explains a great deal about how their society is structured and about how they advance in their chosen role.

Greed
Drow hunger for wealth and power, but this hunger is greater than simple avarice. They see wealth as a means to power, and power as a means of control. Dark elves need control. They need to feel like they are the manipulators rather than the manipulated. Throughout their lives, dark elves are trapped in a web of falsehood and treachery where each step could be their last. The strong rule over the weak and use to kill them at a whim. In such a turbulent and abusive environment, drow see power and control as security. This is illusion, though, perpetuated by the fact that even those who have gained some measure of control are insecure but are not admit it—and with good reason: Fear is viewed as weakness, and showing it turns erstwhile allies into deadly foes and loyal servants into power-hungry murderers. Security is forever out of reach so long as drow culture does not change.


Hate
All drow hate all other drow. This hatred stems in many cases from envy. A drow who sees someone more powerful, more intelligent, or more secure sees an enemy. Each believes that he should be the most important and powerful--in effect, every drow desires godhood. But each fears that others with prove to be better. A drow's level of insecurity is roughly related to his place in society. When a drow's sefl-hatred and self-doubt outweigh his hatred of others, he fails to take risks and can no longer seize what should be his.


Gluttony
There are very few obese drow (though note that some do exist). This is not to say that drow do not engage in binge eating. They do so with great frequency, often holding or being privvy to grand parties (at least the nobles). But being overweight or too obsessed with food is a weakness, and weakness is deadly. The same is true of alcohol consumption: It's simply too dangerous. This problem is skirted around by practices such as vomitoriums, various drugs or herbs to waylay the effects of alcohol consumption and liquid clarity. Vomitoriums are exactly what they sound like, places to regurgitate food and liquids. They are as common in drow settlements as privies, and often slaves are tasked to clean both and collect wastes to be food for other slaves. Liquid clarity is an alchemical draught that reduces the effects of inebriation. Those few drow who blatantly live life as obese are in positions of great authority and power, which manages to keep most predators at bay, at least for a time.


Sloth
Drow must constantly struggle and forever be on their guard. Laziness often results in defeat. At the same time, they tire of always being watchful. The desire for power is also a desire for the opportunity to rest. Although all drow meditate and most participate in leisure pursuits, few understand what it means to truly relax. Even so, some do become slothful and listless. These drow usually fall by the wayside as their fellows gain power.


Wrath
Anger is a drow's constant companion. The emotion is considered both normal and inevitable, but a drow's reaction to it falls in one of two camps. Some believe that anger itself is a tool: red-hot rage gives you strength to persevere over your foes. Others believe that anger should be cool and calculating: Hiding it will give you more opportunities to take vengeance. Most drow borrow from both schools of thought as the situation demands, but none would argue about the outcome: revenge.

Revenge is an art form among drow. It comes quickly or takes centuries. It can be long and excruciatingly painful, or painless and deadly swift. All drow appreciate a well-executed vengeance, even when they are the targets. There are as many flavors of revenge as there are drow. Each drow establishes a preferred style at an early age, using this as a kind of signature and warning to others. Some prefer to use the techniques of their enemies in order to place the blame on others, but this in turn becomes their own style, and drow learn to look through such deceits to find the responsible party.


Pride
Pride is the same as self-confidence among the drow. A truly humble drow is destined to remain on the lowest rungs of the social ladder. Most drow are like bullies. They put up a haughty front, intimidating and degrading all whom they can to hide their own doubts and fears. Anything that shakes a drow's sense of pride is likely to result in a fit of pique. Pique breeds petty paybacks, small actions meant to harm without giving cause for full-blown, deadly revenge.


Deceit
Deceit is integral to the nature of drow. They deceive others to protect themselves, and they deceive themselves to protect their egos. Lying is second nature to most drow, and telling lies well is a skill fostered from childhood.


Betrayal
Once, not long ago, the drow were on the verge of extinction by their own self-destructive actions. Their god, the Spider Queen, was a mad monarch who held betrayal as the highest ideal. This period of history is known to the drow as the Fractious Wars, because infighting nearly destroyed their race. City fought city, House fought House, family fought family, and the dark elves were drowning in betrayal. They managed to survive, but the drow have not forgotten that dark time. Although they live by stricter laws and have nominally devoted themselves to the goals of conquest and domination, all drow are on the lookout for a return to those terrible days, and some secretly hope for them to return. Betrayal is no longer the virtue it once was, but many drow admire it as they do a brilliant act of revenge.

It shouldn’t be surprising that, given this history, dark elves tend to be paranoid. A certain amount of suspicion is a survival mechanism; even though a foe might not be acting against you now, one is certain to d so in the near future. Yet drow who become too defensive lose their edge, becoming victims of their own fear.


Lust
Given their tense and deadly society, it is surprising that lust plays any part in drow's lives, but lust and sex (consensual or not) are huge factors in drow psychology. Sex plays many roles. It is a release of tension, a moment of closeness, and it staves off fear of inevitable death. Despite their long life spans, few drow can expect to die of old age, so procreation is a way to establish a kind of life beyond death. Sex is also one of the rare times when drow can express a minor degree of tenderness for one another. It is not always tender, of course, but it offers pleasure in being weak or strong, and drow involved in consensual sex often reverse their normal roles in society. Slaves can be masters, and masters, slaves. In this physical release, drow come as close to happiness as most of them will ever get. Drow have no real understanding of monogamy or marriage. They have children to further their bloodline and House, and sometimes parents make an effort to protect a child, but both parents will likely have many partners and form no lasting relationship as the child grows to maturity.


Law Without Morality

Most drow adhere to the laws of their settlement, breaking them only when certain they will not be caught. Laws vary from city to city, but all those devoted to the Spider Queen follow certain core concepts. These do not present a system of morals, but rather a code of conduct that the Spider Queen put in place to keep drow society from sliding into barbarism. These laws are absolutes that most drow adhere to, and all drow legal systems have them at their core regardless of technicalities.

Do Nothing That Harms The Drow Cause
This is the dark elve’s highest law. Any drow who puts personal gain above the success of efforts that advance the drow race will rightfully face the wrath of his fellows and the Spider Queen.

Serve The Drow Race As You Serve Yourself
More than a commandment, this is a general order to ensure that even the most selfish goals of a single drow promote the drow’s plots for dominion over all the world.

Avenge Yourself In Many Ways
To take revenge is at the heart of drow existence, but it is best to temper vengeance with creativity and wisdom. Deadly revenge is acceptable only if it serves the greater cause.

Destroy Or Dominate Weakness
This ideal causes the most variance in drow legal systems. In some cities, it has produced complicated processes of trail and punishment. Drow apprehended in their plotting suffer sentences—they are weak because they were caught and so must be eliminated. Other settlements have few laws other than survival of the fittest; the drow who rule make whatever laws they wish and enforce them as they see fit.


Roleplaying Drow

Drow, no matter what alignment, share certain qualities that should come across whether you roleplay them as a DM or a player.

Superiority
Drow know they are superior, especially to surface elves. Drow are born with abilities that other creatures would kill to have, so it only makes sense that the lesser races should be jealous and hateful toward them.
TIP: Whether openly derisive of other races or quitely condescending, a drow should make others understand that whatever power they may gain, they can never match what dark elves accomplish simply by being born.

Egotis
Drow believe in themselves because faith in others is foreign to them. They have always relied on their own wits and skills to survive, and they must continue to believe that they can, or they'll succumb to the depredations of other drow trying to scramble up the social ladder.
TIP If you're not the best at what you do, you will be. Let others take note when you act that you are destined for greatness.

Suspicio
Treachery and lies are expected in drow society, and a devastating betrayal is admired. Despite their sense of superiority, most drow fear that other creatures will get the better of them somehow, and they are always on their guards.
TIP Don't be openly suspicious; that can provoke attack. Be wary, and choose your words carefully.

Humilit
While not commonly associated with drow, humility is a necessary skill in their cutthroat culture. Confronted on equal or lesser footing with a being of greater power, dark elves will often abase themselves to survive. The dead don't get revenge.
TIP Switch from superiority to groveling if you have to. If you live, you can make them grovel before you later.

Cautio
Drow take calculated risks. Only those with a death wish put themselves in situations that are likely to turn against them. Thus, drow rarely fight for anything but themselves. For a greater cause, like serving a deity or the survival of their House, some drow take greater risks, but only the most fanatic fight fearlessly.
TIP Always have a backup plan should things go sour. Flee to fight another day.

DrivE
Every action must have a purpose, and drow take steps toward some end with everything they do. The most driven are usually the most powerful.
TIP Always keep your goals in mind. There are things you want from life, and you're going to take them.


Playing Evil Characters

The standard fantasy game is heroic, but playing an evil character can be interesting and entertaining. Still, you should consider a few things when introducing an evil character to a campaign.

What is Evil?
Is theft, murder, defiling and robbing tombs, and killing innocents evil? Most people would say so, but good-aligned characters do this all the time in typical games. The actions of a player character exist in the morally gray area of vigilante justice--rarely do PCs take the evil lich or ogre bandit into town for trial. In addition, many creatures are inherently evil: even if a demon has never harmed anyone, players can rest assured that it will do terribly evil things when it has the opportunity. Disturbing these conventions can create interesting roleplaying opportunities, but it's most often best to leave the artificial morality of the game alone. People play to have fun, engage their minds, and socialize; moral arguments can ruin this and destroy the suspension of disbelief necessary for a good game.

How evil should PCs be?
If your evil PCs are robbing and killing other evil creatures, your game won't look that much different from anyone else's. It will be just as filled with epic adventure and tragedy as any good game. Things become less fun and more troubling when players have their characters attack good-aligned creatures or engage in more disturbing activities like slavery, torture, and rape. Although such elements are covered in various sources to offer scene-setting and scenario possibilities, they usually make for a bad game in the hands of PCs. Almost everyone (but unfortunately not everyone) finds these subjects uncomfortable, and roleplaying such activity will likely lead to some players leaving the game dissatisfied and upset. If you plan to allow evil PCs into your game as a DM, make it clear from the beginning just how far you will allow them to go during play, and let your players know that the session will stop if things get out of hand. There's evil aplenty in lies, murder, betrayal, robbery, assassination, treachery, poison, and plotting.

PC against PC
One of the most troubling issues when dealing with evil PCs is the tendency for them to turn against one another. Many players figure that since their characters are evil, there's nothing wrong with robbing and murdering other PCs. But not every evil creature is psychotic and bloodthirsty, or so greed-filled that it puts itself above all others. Were that true, evil races would not exist in the game world, and evil individuals would attract so much attention that tohers would bring them down as soon as they cropped up. Evil societies and groups exist for the same reason good people come together: mutual protection, division of duties, companionship, and so on. These are concepts that hold sway over thieves' guilds, pirate crews, and orc tribes, so there's no reason why your player's characters shouldn't abide by them.

Just as a DM should limit the evil activities of the PCs, set rules and guidelines for interaction. Make certain that the players understand and agree on how evil PCs will interact with one another or a party of non-evil PCs. Betraying the group might seem like a great roleplaying opportunity, but if often leads to bad feeling all around, and one or more players quitting the group.

The Means Justify The Ends
If players want to play evil PCs, but the above suggestions aren't workig in a particular campaign, propose this philosophy: The means justify the ends. The PCs, evil though they are, still want to be seen as heros. They take every opportunity to do good deeds and help others, but their eventual goals are wicked. Perhaps they want to enslave a whole kingdom or lead one nation in and effort to exterminate another. To do this, they must first gain the trust and admiration of many people--hence their desire to play the "hero".

Neutral In Lieu of Evil
An interesting option for Drow and Underdark campaigns is for players to use neutral-aligned characters in those dangerous realms. In this case the PCs must constantly be on their guard so that the surrounding evil society doesn't discover their "moral weakness". This can make for a tense and fun game, but make certain that the PCs don't stray too far down the path of evil. Set all the limits you would for evil PCs and make them known to the players if you are a DM.