Culture of the Drow

One of the first things that I shall explain is the one that a lot of races do not understand. The Drow Hierarchy. The Drow society is Matriarchal. Drow females are stronger and more powerful than the males. Drow males are treated more as servants than people and are there to do the bidding of the females. The highest-ranking male is still lower than the lowest ranked female. Marriage as such does not exist. Matron Mothers often have more than one patron. Only one is the current patron. When they are no longer needed they are either sacrificed to Lolth or put to work within the house. Other females may take, then discard, males when they please. Females treat males with contempt. This is how they are taught to treat them from birth, (all drow children can understand their own language from birth) and this tutoring carries on within Arach Tinilith, the drow school of Lolth.

Social Structure

  Social Standing and the favour of Lolth are the most important things to understand when dealing with the Drow. In every city there are Drow noble houses and it is the goal to become first house. This is done in many ways. However, the most common one is through murder. The drow have laws to punish these murders but the legal system has enough holes in it to get round the problem of prosecution. To give you an example: - House A is ranked 22. House B is ranked 23. House B want the position of House A so plan to dispose of them. To do this they must kill every noble in House A. If one noble survives then they have the right of accusation. If a noble of House A survived then they could name the house that tried to destroy them, in this case House B. House B would then be killed off completely, leaving no surviving nobles, as punishment for their crime. If House B managed to wipe out House A completely then they would move up in the house rankings to 22 and all those houses beneath them would move up accordingly. House A would then be considered to have never existed at all. Nice eh? I know it sounds a little complicated but its simple really. J

  The favour of Lolth is one of the most important things in the lives of the drow. Her favour is gained in many ways. Houses in the favour of Lolth progress through the house rankings and their priestessís are able to call upon certain powers of their goddess. Most of these involve spiders and very nasty spells!!

  Priestessís of Lolth carry snake headed whips that move freely and bite, inflicting great pain on the recipient. The snakes will also instantly attack anyone who is not a believer in Lolth. The more heads on whip, the nastier the priestess in general. They can also summon yochlols. Yochlols are the handmaidens of Lolth and appear in her place. They are usually summoned to aid the house in some way but they have their price.

Matron Mothers

Of all the Drow you may meet these are the ones you must show the greatest respect to. They must always be referred to as Matron Mother. Unless you are given permission then you must not look her in the eyes either. Matron Mothers rule their Houses with an iron fist and know all that happens within them. They are the closest to Lolth as well. Matron Mothers from the top 8 houses form a council that meets secretly to make decisions on the running of the city. They are the ones who have the most influence and can turn events in a favourable manner. The most important thing to remember is that these women should not be crossed. They are dangerous, even to themselves and the members of their house. One example of this is the fact that every third male child is sacrificed to Lolth. The females of the house carry on the family name and only the children of the Matron Mother are nobles.

Drow have a strong affinity for arachnids. Most of them worship the spider goddess, Lloth, whose priestesses dominate drow society - and whose ritual Test is forced on many drow at graduation. The Test, is an examination of loyalty and skills, and is thought to be infallible. Failure carries its own horrible price.

 Those who pass are rewarded with increased status in their community, usually with immediate promotion within the priesthood. Others are sent on a quest set by the goddess. This usually involves a dangerous mission against specific targets in the surface world.

 Even among drow who do not worship Lolth, an affinity for arachnids is strong. Spiders and similar creatures often dwell among drow communities, and are prominent in drow sculpture, art, and fashion. Drow door-carvings and frames, for example, are apt to sport a pattern of repeating crawling spiders. Translucent, draped grey hangings that emulate spiderwebs often decorate Drow homes.

 Even games of tag, especially the courting games of hide-and-seek played at festival times by young drow, are known as "spider hunts", and any battle or endeavour in which a drow dies fighting is known as his "last bite".

Drow society is strongly matriarchal, with females holding all positions of power and responsibility in government, the military, and in the home.

 Males are effective fighters, and can become priests and wizards of minor power. Outside drow communities, they are rarely encountered without female commanders.

 Male-commanded drow groups are generally either streeakh, "suicide squads", or are dobluth (outcasts) who have rejected the traditional authority-structure of the drow.

 Social station is the most important thing in the world of the drow. Ascension to greater power is the ultimate goal in drow society. Assassination is the preferred tool in this job. It must be used discreetly in the city setting, for to openly murder or wage war (on a rival House) brings down the merciless might of drow justice (not because of the act itself, simply as punishment for the boorish act of fighting in public).

 Outside the patrol-range of cities, however, might is right, and Houses and merchant clans often battle each other openly in the wild Underdark.

 Among Lolth-worshipping drow nobles, females can choose and discard mates freely (sometimes merely leaving them, but usually slaying them). Among drow commoners and drow of other faiths, marriage is still a transient thing. Marriages usually last from summer to summer, or for a decade, always with possibility for renewal.

 In drow merchant clans, security demands that mates be of the same clan, or that an outsider be taken into the clan, if a relationship develops. This clan induction is forever; death usually comes if the outsider decides to leave. In noble families, the honour of the House demands the family name be given (if only temporarily) to mates of other families, or of common blood.

Child-rearing is the responsibility of the whole family (House, or clan), not merely of the direct parents. A long-lived female drow, choosing to have children only after an active career, normally gives birth to ten children before her fertility wanes.

 Drow rarely live past their seventh century, and 94% of them die of natural causes before age 800. Rare individuals (usually those who are subjected to the least hardship, such as the matron mothers of powerful Houses) may live more than a thousand years, becoming withered and worn. Drow do not show their age until after their six hundredth year.

 Limited space prohibits any outline of the long, twisted High History of the Drow here, from the Dawning Days (that long ago time before the Descent, when drow dwelt in The Lands of Terrible Light) to their present widespread control of the Underdark, great wealth, and mastery of magic.

 Instead, a handful of useful customs are given here. For instance, a drow gesture of surrender is dropping to one knee, letting fall any weapons, before the being one submits to (usually performed by male drow, to female drow).

 Drow like to give and receive massages - long, skilled massages involving scented oils, hot water and steam. This is close to ultimate luxury for them.

 Drow enjoy magic, and exult in wielding its unleashed power. New spells and effects fascinate them.

 Drow love beauty - the beauty of sculpture and made items (especially weapons) and the beauty of the body. Drow of both sexes are proud of displaying their physiques - and all children exhibiting any physical deficiency are slain.

 Drow communities celebrate several annual festivals. There is always a wild feast when wizards, fighters, and priestesses graduate from their decade-long training (during which they taste all three branches of drow expertise: wizardry, clerical teachings, and weapons training), involving the worship of Lolth and the summoning of denizens who serve her.

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

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

 It should be noted that drow can, through training, experience, and repeated exposure, become accustomed to light, and use both normal sight and infravision. This process takes about ten years. The only encountered drow likely to be immune to the detrimental effects of light are veteran surface-raiders and wizards (who traditionally study by candlelight).

 There are two major social groupings among the drow. These are the relatively unimportant (according to the priestesses of Lloth) merchant clans, and the staid, monolithic noble houses. In truth, both establishments are vital to the survival of the drow.

 Merchants

Merchant clans vary in organisation. They are usually headed by an "inner ring" or council of the most experienced and/or wealthy merchant members, and hence are usually led by males (the "demeaning" and dangerous occupation of trading with outsiders is an almost exclusively male one).

 The membership of an inner ring of a given merchant clan consists primarily of male wizards who have either passed or evaded The Test. Removed as they are from drow society at large, the merchant clans have no compunction about dealing with the surface world. In fact, a great number of the "second ring", or managers, are non-drow of various races.

  The lowest ranks in the merchant clan, the ďassetsĒ, are nearly all non-drow. These are the labourers and soldiery of the merchant house. Together, the merchant clans form the trade links with the outside world that enables the Noble Houses to survive.

 Noble Houses

A matron mother, the senior female priestess, leads noble Houses. In Lolth-worshipping drow communities, her rule is absolute, enforced by the priestesses beneath her (usually her daughters). All females of the mother's blood, in order of their age, follow in rank, although they wield no authority until they are trained and of age (past puberty).

 Below the daughters come the male officers of the House; the weapons master (leader of the fighters), (chief) House wizard, and the patron (current consort of the matron mother). These ranks may be combined, and even held by the traditional next rank down in the hierarchy: the male heirs of the House.

 Male heirs are also ranked by age: elderboy, secondboy, thirdboy, and so on. They are not allowed to look at the faces of other drow, or speak unless spoken to or bidden. This treatment teaches them their subordinate place in drow society.

 Below them are the "war-leaders" of the House (veteran warriors, who lead House patrols, attack squads, and guards, under the command of the weapons master), and the House mages (under the command of the House wizard).

  Beneath these "blood" members and officials of the House rank its common warriors, its craftspeople, its servants, and its slaves. All ranks are decreed, and can be changed at the whim of, the matron mother. Her position changes at death - often at the hands of her eldest daughter.

 Assassination And War

In a Lolth-worshipping drow community, it is a deadly thing to slay a matron mother who holds Lolth's favor, so mothers may reign for hundreds of years, kept alive by the magic of Lolth and the diligent service they perform to get and keep it. The assassination of a matron mother is often a punishment for losing Lolth's good will, and marks either a new direction for the House, or - if it is weak, and has strong rivals - the beginning of its extinction.

 If one House in the city openly wars on another, and fails to eradicate it entirely in a single attack, the survivors of the ruined House can call down the city's justice on the attacking House. When this occurs, all Houses combine forces to wipe out the offending House. Houses who send assassins and saboteurs against each other for years will be forced into an open battle by the city's ruling council, with the same results as above.

 This type of no-win scenario allows the internal strife of drow to be strictly controlled, so that drow communities are not torn apart by continual, bloody warfare. Most internal combat therefore takes the form of eternal manoeuvring for small advantages. Underhanded intrigue, poisoned knives in dark alleys, vicious trade rivalries, and dirty dealings are all a part of normal drow life.

 Most drow wear a magical, shielding cloak, called a "piwafwi". Under its collar, most drow wear a neck-purse. In it, noble drow carry their house insignia. Commoners will carry a black medal medallion denoting the house they serve, of the merchant clan they belong to.

 In the streets of a drow city, house insignia are usually displayed openly (as adornments) only by the members and servants of the "First House" (most dominant family) of the city. Insignia of lesser houses can be seen on the walls or gates of their strongholds, and are often worn openly inside such strongholds.

 The house insignia if nobles that the form of distinctive sculpted images, often equipped for use as brooches. All carry several magical powers - minor abilities known in detail only to members of the House.