Forgotten Realms: The Drow & Drizzt Do’Urden | Explore the Lore

 In General Geekiness

Last time we looked at the dark world of Innistrad from Magic the Gathering. This week I will take you to another dark place, the Underdark of Faerûn. Faerûn is part of the Dungeons & Dragons worlds. This is the main place for stories in the Forgotten Realms series.

The Underdark is the scariest place adventurers can go. It is a vast network of tunnels that runs under the entirety of the world.  In the darkness of these tunnels you will find many denizens that will give you nightmares.  Among them are the Illithid, a race of psychic beings with heads like octopi that can suck the brains from unaware adventurers. There are also Umber Hulks, which are giant insect-like beasts that can confuse you with blasts of psychic energy or run you over and tear you to shreds with their immense size.

Umber HulkUmber Hulk | Photo Credit: forgottenrealms.wikia
Bioluminescent FungusBioluminescent Fungus | Photo Credit: critical-hits

 But among all the dangers, you can also find beauty. There are caverns full of bioluminescent mushrooms creating glowing forests in the deep.  You may also come across underground rivers, full of fish and other creatures. But be wary, water is scarce in the Underdark and many creatures may be attracted to it.

I could go on and on about the vast Underdark, but for this post I want to focus more specifically on the Drow, a cruel and evil race.  They are the top dog of the Underdark and if you cross them you most likely will never live to tell about it.  I will also cover the exception to the evil of the Drow in the story of Drizzt Do’Urden; a Drow who forsake his evil race to follow his heart to what he knew to be right.

The Drow

 The Drow are a race of dark elves. They are dark skinned with red, infrared eyes allowing them to see in the dark places they live.  They have the innate magical ability to produce globes of darkness at will, several times a day.  They can also produce faerie fire several times a day.  This covers their target in a harmless purple glowing fire that makes them easier to see.

The Drow live in a matriarchal society were men are subservient to females.  This is due to their worship of the demon spider goddess, Lolth. The Drow society is very much linked to their family but not in a traditional sense.  The families of Drow are known as houses. The head of a house is the matron mother; a high priestess of Lolth who controls everything that goes on in her house.  Next in line would be her daughters, who are also high priestesses of Lolth. The hierarchy of daughters is determined by who was born first.  Next comes the matron’s sons in rank (only 2 are allowed).

The UnderdarkLakes in the Underdark | Photo credit: tinypic
Do'Urden Drow FamilyPhoto credit: baldursgate
Due to being male, the top ranks they can hope to achieve are to be house weapon master, in charge of training all the house soldiers, or house mage, in charge of all arcane spell casting. The matron will also have a mate, known as the patron of the house. The patron can also hold one of the male positions in the house.  The male hierarchy is more about whom is more powerful than whom. They are not above killing one another if it is advantageous to gaining them more power, as long as it does not hurt the house and cannot be proven -for this would bring down the wrath of the females on them.  Any children of the matron mother are known as nobles.  Nobles of a house make up most of the power structure and will become more important as we learn more about how Drow society works.  The Drow houses reside inside compounds in the larger cities.  Generally, a compound will have training grounds for the soldiers, a worship area for worshiping Lolth, a throne room for the matron and living quarters for all the members of the family.  The larger and more predominate the house, the better their ability to have more grand compounds.

Members of a house will carry an emblem of their house that grants the additional power of levitation. At the bottom of the house hierarchy are the slaves. They are members of many different races captured in Drow raids (examples: goblins, bugbears, minotaur, and ogres). They are in charge of all the menial tasks of the Drow. They also are used as fodder in times of war.

The largest Drow city in the Underdark is Menzoberranzan.  The city is made up of many houses ranked by number.  The city is ruled by a council of the top 8 houses. The council members are the matron mothers from each house on the council. The head of the council is the matron of the first house, Baenre. In order to ascend higher in the ranks of Menzoberranzan you need to eliminate the house above you.  There is a system to how this must be done. To fail in your attempt means the ruling council will come down on you, wiping your house from existence. To even say the name of a house that has been wiped out is a crime; for they ‘never existed.’

To succeed in an attempt, first the house must conduct the attack in secrecy, blocking all others’ view with globes of darkness.  Even though others will know what is going on it, is just important to make sure they can’t see it happening.  Next the house must wipe out all nobles of the house they’re attacking.  If even one noble survives, they can accuse the attacking house of what has happened, bringing down the wraith of the council.  Once the attack is successful the wining house is able to absorb all surviving non-noble members of the house and all slaves into their house.

Map of MenzoberranzanMap of Menzoberranzan | Photo credit: gamehead
Within the city of Menzoberranzan There are several places of note when it comes to how the Drow society works.
Tier Breche:  This is the place were all young Drow go to train.  Here there are 3 schools of training for the students.

  • Arach-Tinilith- the school for priestesses and the main power of the school. The head of this school is a powerful position and gives the family that holds it much power.
  • Sorcere- the school for arcane magics. The archmage of the city, Gromph Baenre, has a residence here.
  • Melee-Magthere- were all the warriors come to train.
Narbondel: This is how Drow tell time. It is a pillar in the center of town that has a faerie fire enchantment placed on it every day by the Archmage Gromph.  It slowly ticks down every day and is reignited every day at the same time.
Lake Donigarten:  This lake is where most of the city’s food comes from. There are fish in the lake among other things. At the center of the lake is an island where the Drow raise their herd of rothe, an oxen-like animal.
The Claw Rift:  A rocky outcropping. This place is the main base of Bregan D’aerthe, a group of house-less rogues who act as mercenaries in the city.

Most Drow worship the demon goddess, Lolth.  She is evil and encourages chaos in her followers, as long as the chaos leads to her goals.  She can send messages to her followers through her handmaidens, the Yochlol.  These are amorphic blobs with tentacles and giant fanged mouths.  They have been known to consume a priestess that has summoned them without being in the favor of Lolth.  On occasion, Lolth will appear to her followers. She usually takes the form of an exceptionally beautiful Drow. Other times she takes the form of a spider.

Being that Lolth is known as the spider goddess, it is against the law for any Drow citizen to harm a spider. You can find many spiders of different size roaming freely in Drow cities.
She gifts many powers onto her priestesses; one of them being the ability to control their snake fanged whips. These many headed wipes have live snakes on them that can envenom their targets, making them go numb. The priestesses can also call on the favor of Lolth to gain many of the powers of clerics known throughout D&D. The most powerful ability they can use is to curse a fellow Drow; usually one who has lost the favor of Lolth and is deserving a horrible punishment. They turn them into a Drider, with the upper torso of a Drow and the body of a spider. They are formidable creatures that are then banished to the dark pits in Menzoberranzan.

Lolth, the Spider Queen
Lolth, the Spider Queen | Photo Credit: canonfire
Illithid Sorcerer
An Illithid Sorcerer | Photo Credit: en.wikipedia

The Drow do deal with other races, but those races tend to be the more evil ones. The Drow see other races as inferior and refer to them as Iblith. Examples of other races they deal with are the dark dwarves- the Duerger, the evil Illithid, and even deep dragons have been known to come looking to trade with them. The Drow absolutely despise surface elves (Darthiir) and take much glee in slaughtering them.

Drow hunting parties are one of the most feared encounter in the Underdark.  They usually consist of at least on priestess and a mage backed up by many fighters. The fighters will be fully equipped with a range of heavily enchanted weapons. They wear magically enchanted chainmail and move as silent as the night.  The wizards, while not well armed, are a force of their own to be reckoned with.  Even the weakest mages can wield powerful spells to decimate a party of adventurers. The most feared part of a Drow raiding party is the priestesses of Lolth. Their magics aside, they are usually the best fighters in the group and are by far the most dangerous. They use ambush tactics, often floating in the ceilings waiting for their prey to come.  They typically begin an ambush by firing off their hand crossbows. These unique weapons fire small darts that contain a sleeping poison, since they like to take prisoners as slaves. After the initial volley they will place globes of darkness on their enemies to confuse them and split them apart. Then they will slaughter what remains.  Some hunting parties may be found riding giant subterranean lizards as mounts. These lizards can move on ceilings as well as walls using their sticky feet.

Drow Elf with a CrossbowDrow Elf with a Crossbow | Photo credit: dungeons.wikia
Duergar (aka Gray Dwarves)Duergar (aka Gray Dwarves) | Phot credit: forgottenrealms.wikia

Drizzt Do’Urden -A Drow After My Own Heart

 Drizzt Do’Urden is an exception to the ‘all Drow are evil’ scenario.  He left his homeland, Menzoberranzen, wishing never to return.  He spent many years wandering the Underdark alone with his companion, the mystical panther, Guenhwyvar, until he came to the surface. There he learned to become a ranger from Montolio DeBrouchee, a blind ranger who could commune with the animals of the forest. From the ranger he would also learn about the goddess, Mielikki, from who Drizzt would find a new goddess more akin to his heart. From there he would travel north to The Spine of The World and live in seclusion for many years, protecting the towns of Icewind Dale from all sorts of creatures.
Drizzt Meeting Montolio
Drizzt Meeting Montolio | Photo credit: frpnet
I wish to give you a taste of what his life is like so I will step away from lore to become a story teller.  This will be an abridged story of the beginning of Drizzt. I highly recommend that you read All of R.A. Salvatore’s books about Drizzt! There are many of them and he is still writing. For this post I am going to take you through first book of The Dark elf Trilogy, Homeland. The other two books in this trilogy are Exile and Sojourn.
dark elf trilogy by R.A. Salvatore
Photo credit: amazon
Homeland Forgotten Realms Book
Photo credit:


We meet the House Do’Urden (Daermon N’a’shezbaernon in Drow) on the night of Drizzt’s birth.  They are planning an assault on the rival house, DeVir. Drizzt’s brother, Dinin, second boy of house Do’Urden, is meeting with an instructor, The Faceless One, at Sorcere.  Dinin is paying him to eliminate Alton DeVir, a son of house DeVir.

Meanwhile, Matron Malice Do’Urden is in the throes of child birth in the main chapel of house Do’Urden, readying to mentally attack the priestesses of house DeVir with her daughters. Leading the physical assault on the DeVir compound is patron of the house,-Rizzen, house weapon master- Zaknafien, first boy- Nalfien and second boy- Dinin, having returning from his deal at Sorcere.

house Do'Urden
Photo credit: wordofthenerdonline
The attack is successful. Matron Malice uses the pain of child birth to overpower the priestesses of DeVir.  To pay tribute to Lolth they plan to sacrifice the new born child to her, seeing as he will be her third born son and only two male heirs are allowed. Before Matron Malice’s daughter, Briza, could sacrifice the young child, her other daughter, Maya (who had been mentally linked with Nalfien at the time), informed them of his death, making Drizzt now the second boy and preventing his sacrifice.While all this is happening, The Faceless One has called Alton DeVir into his chambers to kill him. Things take an unexpected twist.  The Faceless One’s apprentic,e Masoj Hun’ett, whom is tired of the treatment of his master, shoots him in the back; killing him while he attempts to kill Alton.  The two young Drow then come up with a plan. They use acid to scar Alton’s face allowing him to take the place of The Faceless One in Sorcere. This gives Masoj an easier path to his goals and Alton a place to hide and plan his revenge.

Now, Drizzt from his birth was an unusual Drow.  Unlike most dark elves, his eyes were violet in hue and he could tolerate light better than most.  He was given over to his sister, Vierna, as she would be his ween mother.  She would spend the next 10 years teaching him everything he would need to know to become the page prince of house Do’Urden.

In those 10 years Drizzt would come to learn about the tenants of the dark goddess Lolth, He would learn proper respect for females, and most of all they would teach him to hate the surface elves because they were evil.

Drizzt Do'Urden and GuenDrizzt Do’Urden | Photo credit: rpgnoticias
Forgotten Realms DriderA Drider | Photo credit: baldursgate

 Finally, when his weening was completed, Drizzt was brought before Matron Malice as a page prince of house Do’Urden.  Now there was a choice to be made; would he pursue the arcane arts to replace his brother, Nalfien, who was killed in the assault, or would he become a fighter like Dinin and Zaknafien. Zaknafien argued that Drizzt should be a fighter. To prove his point he gave Drizzt 4 coins and had Drizzt stack them on each hand. Then Drizzt flipped them into the air and caught each pair with the same hands.  Zaknafien proclaimed “two hands” as Drizzt moved both hands with speed and accuracy. He repeated this again with 3 coins on each of Drizzt’s hands and again with 5 on each hand and Drizzt caught them all with the correct hands. This was enough to prove where Drizzt should be trained. He was to become a fighter.

Drizzt trained for many years with Zaknafien learning all weapons imaginable. He found himself favoring the two handed style with two scimitars. During this time he became unparalleled in skill. But soon came time for him to go to Tier Breche to gain the next stages of his training. His training began in Arach-Tinilith were he learned more about the other races and how evil they were and more about the chaotic faith of Lolth. Next he would spend many year in Melee-Magthere. He learned about fighting tactics and the Drow hand code. Besides his first year he was always the top ranked in his class, often defeating multiple students in fights. Next he would spend some time in Sorcere learning the basics of the arcane.

 During the final stages of his training he would go on patrol with others, hunting the tunnels around Menzoberranzan to make sure there were no monsters close by.  During this time, Masoj would get himself placed in Drizzt’s group to plot a way to eliminate him. Luckily Matron Malice had seen to it that Drizzt’s group was led by Dinin so he could keep an eye on Drizzt.  Masoj came up with a plan though. He introduced Drizzt to a magical object he had; an onyx statue shaped like a panther. When the panthers name was called, it would summon the great beast to the plane of Faerûn.  The panthers name was Guenhwyvar. Drizzt and Guen developed a friendship of like-minded individuals and hunted the creatures of the Underdark together.

Drizzt knew that he was not like the rest of his brethren but it became abundantly clear to him on dark day when they came across a group of Svirfnebli (deep gnomes). During the fight he was captured by their commander Belwar Dissengulp. Belwar showed him mercy and said he would ensure that when they got back to his home city of Blingdenstone he would have a quick death.  But when his fellow Drow rescued him, they showed no such mercy to the gnome. They repaid the deep gnome’s kindness by cutting off his hands and sending him back as a warning. They then forced Guen to hunt down the rest of the gnomes wiping out their party.

Drow in the UnderdarkPhoto credit: baldursgate
drow raiding party
Drow Raiding Party | Photo credit: valmneira
 This would not be the first time Drizzt would witness these types of atrocities. He would get chosen to go on a Drow raiding party to the surface. While there they would attack a peaceful group of surface elves; slaughtering the men, women and children alike. Drizzt would save a young elf by hiding her under her mother’s corpse, for it was not in him to slaughter with such disregard. This would be the start to the end of Drizzt in Menzoberranzan.
By not killing the elf he put house Do’Urden in disgrace with Lolth. They were on the verge of war with house Hun’ett at this time. They summoned a Yochlol and it laughed at them telling them that they were not in Lolth’s favor and one of their own new why.Drizzt, seeing how evil Drow were, went to see Zachnafien, whom after hearing about Drizzt murdering the elves, had decided to kill him. They fought for many minutes, two expert weapons masters. When Zach had finally looked like he was about to win Drizzt confessed that he had not killed the elves. This lead to Zach confessing that he was Drizzt’s dad. They embraced but knew they both had to keep these facts secret. Unbeknownst to them Matron Malice had been magically spying in on them.
 Drizzt left the compound to contemplate on what to do about this new information.  It was at this moment when Masoj decided to kill Drizzt.  He tried to use Guen to kill Drizzt but her loyalty breaks the magic and Drizzt is able to kill Masoj. He retrieves the statue to gain his new companion permanently.
Drizzt returns to the compound to find his sisters and Matron Malice waiting for him.  They inform him that they know of his transgressions and he is forgiven but to never to do it again. They then tell him why he is forgiven. They have sacrificed Zachnafien to Lolth and Drizzt is now their weapon master. He speaks blasphemous words and defiance and uses a ceramic globe with an enchantment of sunlight to blind his family and escapes into the Underdark…This is where the first book ends. I hope you take the time to read the full books and enjoy Drizzt as much as I do.  The first three books can be dark at times, as they show what the Drow and Underdark are like. But the trilogy’s that follow show you the faithful friend and companion that Drizzt comes to be.
So until next time, when we return to WoW & Azeroth, have fun and explore whatever your heart desires!

Ron, author of Explore the Lore
Meet the Author: Ron
Hello, I’m Ron. I’m a passionate nerd who loves a good
back story. I look forward to sharing that love with you.






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Showing 8 comments
  • Dina

    My husband really enjoys the Forgotten Realm series. So much so that he named our dog Drizzt!

    • Jessica (aka The Nifty Nerd)

      That’s awesome Dina! I’ve spend more time than I probably should thinking about what to name a future pet I may have…because it of course has to be a nerdy reference somehow. Haha

    • Ron

      Thanks for reading. Naming your dog drizzt rocks now you need a cat named guen.

  • Denisse

    I LOVE R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt series! I have to say, my favorite characters are Jarlaxle and Artemis Entreri. Can’t wait for Maestro this week.

    • Jessica (aka The Nifty Nerd)

      Indeed! We already have it on pre-order 🙂

    • Ron

      Glad you enjoyed the article. If you go by books I own R.A Salvatore is my favorite author. Have you read The War of The Spider Queen series. It follow the bad guys and is a very great read.

  • Guven

    Hi from Turkey 🙂 Great article, realy enjoy:) i love salvatore’s work, not just books. I read all of them.
    by the way, we couldn’t found them for a while but publising again 🙂

    • Jessica (aka The Nifty Nerd)

      Hi Guven, greetings back to Turkey 🙂 Thanks for stopping back, glad you enjoy the article. Lots of great work by Salvatore out there!

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