Drow Elves

Drow Elves

Manipulators of Deceit, Darkness and Duplicity

An overview of the history, characteristics, and culture of drow elves—the mysterious and cunning race known for its command of deceit, deception, and the Underworld’s darkness. Discover some of their unique traits and abilities and strict societal structure.

Introduction to Drow

Over the millennia, Aventyr’s drow have made much of the Underworld their own. While exile from the surface was intended as a punishment, the subterranean darkness matched the color of their hearts and provided the shadows from which their cruel aims could be better achieved. Indeed, the Underworld drow now passionately believe their retreat from the light was the first great gift from Naraneus the Spider Goddess, and not something forced on them by their enemies. It opened their eyes to what they could achieve if nobody could see what they were doing. Rather than dismiss the base characteristics of many of the Underworld’s more ancient dwellers, the drow quickly integrated the depths of those creatures’ dark duplicity and cruel connivances into their own behaviors, combining them with drow intelligence, wisdom, and charisma to overwhelm and enslave many other societies. Now, drow cities such as Holoth are the greatest wonders of the Underworld.

History of the Drow

Ancient Origins

While elves are considered a venerable humanoid race on the surface, the displaced diaspora found itself a relative newcomer to the Underworld. However, the drow quickly labeled these races either aberrations or monstrosities—“degeneranti” being the dismissive term adopted—and were themselves considered a “young upstart” creature. However, they brought their brand of the most ancient of efficient societal structures and finessed command of magic and engineering to the realms where blunt methods achieved coarse aims and objectives. These “old ways” overwhelmed almost all the elder civilizations they encountered. 

And while the drow are still considered newcomers by some Underworlders, their deity, Naraneus, is more ancient than all those cultures. She ensured every one of her children was given the chance to look back and learn (not taking up this offer tended to lead to the individual’s disappearance). Over the tens of thousands of years they have existed and thrived beneath Aventyr’s surface, the drow carefully cultivated what they consider to be the best of Naraneus’ “old ways” and honed them into the sharpest of instruments, whether spell, sword, or tongue. Little of worth has been forgotten, much of value finely tuned to match Naraneus’ ambitions.

Exile and Underworld Society

While surface elves treat drow as a foul stain on their race, the dark elves themselves consider their actions and demeanor to be nothing more than pragmatic and boundary-setting. Not cruel, but clearly hierarchical; not callous, but rewarding of compliance; not calculating, but considered of all long-term possibilities. What many Upperworlders claimed to be chaotic and evil, the drow now declare to be a way of ensuring the growth and development of their race as a streamlined whole and the best individuals within it specifically. 

This societal structure exploded when the drow were first exiled. Previously, elven society worked toward compromise and consideration of everyone everywhere. But as soon as they were driven from the surface, driven beyond the realms occupied by the dwarves, and finally driven even deeper into the Underworld, it became clearer to the drow’s leaders that Naraneus would reward the strongest individuals who ensured the survival of those who best fitted the needs of dark elves from there on in. 

And so, enforced banishment became determined migration, and the first seeds of what we today consider the drow to be were planted in the cold hearts of the first matriarchs.

Character of Drow Elves

The most important individual to any drow is themself. Every one of their thoughts and deeds is designed to maximize their position in, and reward from, society as a whole. In fact, an individual dark elf effectively despises every other creature it comes across, either due to the fear that a superior might treat them with belittling cruelty or because they regard an inferior as a pathetic non-entity. There may be a wisp of temporary begrudging appreciation for a display of skill or acknowledged jealousy of a position or drow-enhancing action, but such thoughts are soon corrupted by a greater general feeling of resentment, covetousness, or spite. 

Generally speaking, one can judge the nuanced opinion a drow has of you by the length of time it takes for them to insult you. However, this is difficult to do for the vast majority of individuals because drow employ a complicated, near legendary system of stances, gestures, tones, and expressions to enhance and clarify the meaning of their words. The angle of their head, the sincerity of their smile, the pitch of their voice and the openness of their hands all add great weight to their words. A drow matriarch’s welcome may indicate you are allowed to live a year or a minute, yet the words will look and sound identical to all but her family and staff. 

Overall, a drow can be expected to be “honestly dishonest” in that nothing they say or do should be taken at face value, yet once an understanding has been reached, it is sacrosanct until circumstances change. 

Culture & Community

Worship of Naraneus and Matriarchy

For almost all drow, Naraneus was the only great deity who stood with them when they were expelled from the Upperworld. She alone led them along the dark path—literally and metaphorically—they were forced, then chose, to endure. While minor deities have come (and mostly gone) over the hundreds of generations since, Naraneus has always been there for her chosen. 

Worship is no small undertaking for a drow. It is a subtle blend of clear and obvious open celebration of the drow as an entire race, with all its structures and strictures, at the same time as a skillful understanding and actioning of the praise and commands an individual will receive directly. For Naraneus is not an aloof or distant deity; she talks constantly with her clergy and those individuals She has chosen to favor. She is ever eager to ensure the cream of drow individualism rises to senior positions so that it may lead all dark elves to Underworld dominance. 

This is best demonstrated in the strict matriarchy Naraneus maintains. Very few males are elevated to dominant positions, and those that do reach them are invariably found to have made some temporary pact with a different divine idol. Naraneus intends to distill the absolute best of Her essence into those females who will ensure the finest lines and most beneficial genes will continue long into the future. And while She can walk amongst Her children in any form, it is as a female that Naraneus looks her best. As such, it is the females of the race who will always command the highest ranks within drow society.

Unique Traits & Abilities

Perhaps the two most intriguing traits of Aventyr’s drow are the ability to turn any event into one that benefits them, at least in their mind, and the closeness an individual develops with its belongings. 

The former is demonstrated by the fact that a drow is almost never demoralized; what may appear to be so to an Upperworlder is invariably another example of dark elf pragmatism, in that events can always be used to an individual’s advantage somehow. 

The latter is best demonstrated by Upperworlders’ misunderstanding about the nature of drow weapons and armor. While it is certainly true that manufacturing methods mean sunlight is the anathema of such items, their decay also occurs because of the bond between owner and item, as a small amount of the drow’s soul becomes part of the sword they wield as time goes on, for example. Separation of the drow from their item means the efficacy of the item quickly fades.

1 thought on “Drow Elves”

  1. Brian Johnson

    Fabulous! As someone whom is just starting the ‘Rise of the Drow’, this is very helpful!!!

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