Drow, Alignment, and Lolth

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Kylun
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Drow, Alignment, and Lolth

Post by Kylun » Thu Dec 01, 2016 6:57 pm

After years of being away from the table, my friends and I have finally decided that it's time to gather up and play again. In doing this we had some people that were familiar with the Realms, some that think fondly of Krynn, and a few that weren't familiar with any of the major established campaign worlds (god I miss Athas). So, being DM, I said screw it and started throwing together a home brew campaign world to get us all started on the same foot, using the established location of Thunder Rift (outside of the Mystara setting) as the jump-off point. It has everything I need to start a campaign without having to start completely from scratch, but is vague enough to build upon as the campaign goes on.

One of the major differences I put in place was for my brother. We have both always had Oriental Adventures in whatever format it existed, but have never had the opportunity to use it. This especially disappoints my brother who has been wanting to play a samurai since the 80's. So, to help him out, and to mix things up a little from the get-go, I took the entire oriental culture, myth, social structure, everything, and applied it to the elves. My brother and I (both veterans of D&D) sat around and really talked about it before deciding to follow through on it, and interestingly enough, the more we talked about it, the more of a natural transition it became. It actually works really well. But more on that later.

What I didn't intend on happening, and I didn't discuss this with my brother, is that it directly effects the structure of the drow as well. It's not something that has to be address right away, but the drow are going to come into play eventually (and not just because i want to say "oooooh drow!" but they are going to play into a campaign point). Traditionally, the drow were CE, with the coming of 3E they were shifted to NE. When they were first introduced in the 70's/80's they were pretty much portrayed as insane kill monkeys. Demonic elves the stuff that nightmares were made of and the constant monster that lurks under a child's bed.

But then they were brought into the Realms, and books were written, and we were introduced to the rigid caste system in place, and a system of houses, hierarchy, and discipline. Chaotic? If anything, the drow of the novels, and even the drow of The Drow of the Underdark supplement, said Lawful Evil with leanings to Neutral to me. But I was a kid so what the hell did I know?

Now, with dropping the Oriental Adventures setting into elven society, and my own bias towards the drow ideal, I find myself once again leaning the drow towards LE. To me not only does this make more sense for reasons I stated (the strict caste system, etc.), but with the in-game rules for an oriental setting, this in itself tends to lead to a lawful society (samurai, monks, sohei, and numerous other classes require lawful alignments). A lawful evil presence of drow seems more menacing to me as well. Drow tended to be cartoonishly evil as chaotic evil villains, like every writer wanted to out do the other about how evil the drow are (I'm reminded of one section I read that made me totally believe the drow jumped the shark when it said something about drow females actually became pregnant with multiple babies, but they fought and killed each other off in the womb until there was only the strongest, and the mother go off on this...really? We get it, they're evil!). As LE evil though they form a unified front, a military force to be reckoned with, one that would be more than capable of marching on, and ruling, the Underdark.

This also changes Lolth. A LE society wouldn't worship a demon goddess, and likewise a demon would not tolerate LE followers. So Lolth has to shift to LE as well, and no longer is the demon queen, but a devil. Goddess of the Infernal Web Pits (which level of the Nine Hells would this be?). Likewise, all her demon underlings would be shifted to devils as well (also, picture drow samurai in black armor wearing the devil masks!).

Not sure what I'm looking for on feedback here. Thoughts, perhaps? Does this somehow diminish the drow? Diminish Lolth? Or will it be an "Oh shit!" moment when the PCs eventually encounter them and throw them a curve ball that even the veteran players at the table won't be ready for?
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Re: Drow, Alignment, and Lolth

Post by ripvanwormer » Thu Dec 01, 2016 9:37 pm

One possibility: instead of using Lolth, you could use one of the canon female archdevils. Lilith (Moloch's consort), Lilis (Dispater's consort), Glasya, Glwa, Baalphegor, the Hag Countess, Zariel, or one of the exiled female archdevils would all be appropriate. If you're changing drow culture around anyway, you could also consider giving them a male devil as a patron.

If you'd rather use Lolth as a devil, I'd place her Demonweb Pits in Malbolge, since "Malebolge" literally means "evil pits," and that layer's kind of boring as it is anyway. Put a gigantic pit in the ground leading down to the next layer, and have Lolth stretch her webs across it. Alternately, Nessus is known for its chasms and pits.

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Re: Drow, Alignment, and Lolth

Post by Big Mac » Thu Dec 01, 2016 9:54 pm

Welcome to The Piazza Kylun. You might want to pop over to the Introduce yourself here topic, saying "hi" and tellig people a bit about yourself and the stuff you like.

I've never really thought about drow with an Asian-style culture, but it sounds like you are onto something there.

You might like this Drow Girl art I found on Elfwood.com.

Maztica has drow in it and you might want to have a look at them, to see how far they are away from the sort of drow you get in Faerûn.

One thing you might want to think about doing is taking the (major) Clans used in Rokugan (The Crab, The Crane, The Dragon, The Lion, The Mantis, The Phoenix, The Scorpion and The Unicorn) and use them as inspiration for drow Clans. You could, for example, have a Spider Clan. That could be an interesting alternative to the Drow Houses you see elsewhere. (It would probably work in a similar way, but you could also raid material from Rokugan, if you created a one-to-one relationship between the human clans in that setting and the drow clans in your homebrew world.)
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Kylun
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Re: Drow, Alignment, and Lolth

Post by Kylun » Thu Dec 01, 2016 11:30 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:One possibility: instead of using Lolth, you could use one of the canon female archdevils. Lilith (Moloch's consort), Lilis (Dispater's consort), Glasya, Glwa, Baalphegor, the Hag Countess, Zariel, or one of the exiled female archdevils would all be appropriate. If you're changing drow culture around anyway, you could also consider giving them a male devil as a patron.

If you'd rather use Lolth as a devil, I'd place her Demonweb Pits in Malbolge, since "Malebolge" literally means "evil pits," and that layer's kind of boring as it is anyway. Put a gigantic pit in the ground leading down to the next layer, and have Lolth stretch her webs across it. Alternately, Nessus is known for its chasms and pits.
I actually did think about using Lilith, if for no other reason the names are so similar. But I didn't like the idea of using someone that was still another devil's consort. I like the idea that Lolth stands out on her own, is the supreme deity of the dark elf pantheon (if you use the whole pantheon).

I didn't want to change the drow culture over to a patriarchy. We tried it once in the way-back and it was just, well, kinda boring. One of the things that made the drow stand out was their matriarchal society, something that is a rarity in fantasy.

I do however love the idea of putting the Web Pit in Malbolge though! You're right, Malbolge is totally boring and this would spice it up a little. The thought of the Infernal Web Pits being suspended between Malbolge and Maladomini, that travelers have to pass/fall through her realm to pass on is very, very intriguing! I think you may have just placed her for me! So thanks for that! :twisted:
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Re: Drow, Alignment, and Lolth

Post by willpell » Fri Dec 02, 2016 2:28 am

I agree that the society of the Drow feels Lawful if you discount the influence of Lolth (or change her nature to diabolic, as you have done). To me, the monolithic Church's constant preaching on the "virtues" of Evil has always been the force that keeps things Chaotic in the Underdark (although, having been steeped in that atmosphere for so long, the race as a whole defaults to a Chaotic mindset, and Lolth actually has to rein them in a bit through the Church's dominance, else they'd kill each other off entirely and she'd have no servants). Humanoids in general, I feel, if they're intelligent and not overwhelmed with berserker rage, will always tend to drift toward Law automatically, just out of self-preservation instinct; the influence of a thoroughly deranged religion would thus be the main force counteracting this and enforcing the milieu.

Basically, to me, the three main factions in Drow society each represent a different alignment - the church is Chaotic Evil, the Houses are Neutral Evil, and the military is Lawful Evil for obvious reasons. Also works well with Lolth's femininity, versus the fact that the military is about the only place that male drow can hope to achieve real success; Houses all have Matron Mothers and Lolth has only Priestesses, but a sufficiently talented warrior or an Artillery Corps wizard could potentially achieve superlative rank, without having to worry that he is ceremonially and/or familially banned from achieving more than "favored consort" status.

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Re: Drow, Alignment, and Lolth

Post by Tim Baker » Fri Dec 02, 2016 5:57 am

Kylun wrote:picture drow samurai in black armor wearing the devil masks!
Welcome to The Piazza, Kylun. I like the mental picture you provided. Very cool.

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Re: Drow, Alignment, and Lolth

Post by timemrick » Fri Dec 02, 2016 3:26 pm

Here are a few more ideas to consider if you're making Lolth and the drow LE:
  • Driders can remain CE (or at least NE) to better contrast them with the more lawful drow who pass Lolth's tests. Some might convert to demon worship after being punished by Lolth--which would give drow even more reasons to loathe them.
  • Drow originally appeared in D&D as the masterminds behind various giant tribes becoming more organized. In an Asian setting, they would likely use ogre mages (who are LE) and other oni as their pawns against the surface world.
  • Duergar, hobgoblins, and illithids are also LE, which might make possible some highly unlikely alliances--or at least truces. At the very least, a more lawful drow society would be better organized in its conflicts with those races, which could easily change the balance of power in the Underdark. Hobgoblins in particular would make good, cheap mercenaries for the drow--especially if you go with the pseudo-samurai look of their gear in the original 1e Monster Manual.
  • Making drow LE would give them a presence in the eternal battlegrounds of Acheron. Drow have a distinct edge in intelligence and magic over the most common armies found on the plane, so they may control a significant portion of it. (Picture several of the plane's cubes bound together with magical webs into a superfortress!)
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Kylun
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Re: Drow, Alignment, and Lolth

Post by Kylun » Fri Dec 02, 2016 5:46 pm

Tim Baker wrote:
Kylun wrote:picture drow samurai in black armor wearing the devil masks!
Welcome to The Piazza, Kylun. I like the mental picture you provided. Very cool.
And we didn't even get into the idea of drow ninja yet.
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Re: Drow, Alignment, and Lolth

Post by Kylun » Fri Dec 02, 2016 5:56 pm

Timemrick, some of the things you stated here were some that I had actually already considered, and some are new ideas that I'm really digging!
timemrick wrote:Here are a few more ideas to consider if you're making Lolth and the drow LE:
  • Driders can remain CE (or at least NE) to better contrast them with the more lawful drow who pass Lolth's tests. Some might convert to demon worship after being punished by Lolth--which would give drow even more reasons to loathe them.
This is fantastic. I hadn't even thought of this but it makes sense. Further separating the driders from drow society and making them something to really be feared and reviled even among the drow houses. I like this a lot!
timemrick wrote:
  • Drow originally appeared in D&D as the masterminds behind various giant tribes becoming more organized. In an Asian setting, they would likely use ogre mages (who are LE) and other oni as their pawns against the surface world.
  • Duergar, hobgoblins, and illithids are also LE, which might make possible some highly unlikely alliances--or at least truces. At the very least, a more lawful drow society would be better organized in its conflicts with those races, which could easily change the balance of power in the Underdark. Hobgoblins in particular would make good, cheap mercenaries for the drow--especially if you go with the pseudo-samurai look of their gear in the original 1e Monster Manual.
The idea of using ogre magi in this manner, along with the likes of the bakemono and yuan-ti, was one I had near the beginning of this idea. I had forgotten about the hobgoblins as i rarely use them (they always seemed like a second string orc to me), but in this instance they would work perfectly.

Also, the idea of them now being a unified, militant force that would drastically shift the balance of power in the Underdark seemed to me to be a more terrifying prospect than the cartoonish kill-monkeys they all seem to be portrayed as in the novels and game supplements.
timemrick wrote:
  • Making drow LE would give them a presence in the eternal battlegrounds of Acheron. Drow have a distinct edge in intelligence and magic over the most common armies found on the plane, so they may control a significant portion of it. (Picture several of the plane's cubes bound together with magical webs into a superfortress!)
Okay, never thought of this, but yeah...that's pretty awesome!
"All of my accomplishments have been by my own hand, my failures my own undoing. No one, not man nor god has dictated my fate."

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