Excerpts 05/01/2007

Drow of the Underdark

Those cursed by Corellon Larethian are condemned to spend their days languishing in a lightless world that contains terrible monsters and life-threatening dangers. These beings are the drow, and you can learn more about them in the D&D supplement Drow of the Underdark . . . and here in our excerpts, too. Read on for the Introduction, a list of new feats, the prestige class called the Demonbinder, the monster called the shunned, and the nonplayer character drow named Anybys.


To survive in the wilds of the Underdark, one must not delay when the Spider Queen bestows her gifts. For with even the slightest hesitation, the briefest moment of doubt, the Flesh-Carver will snatch back her blessing, depriving her chosen of the wonders of her favor. This was a fact not lost on Vorn.

He spent an entire century of his life looking for such chances, waiting for the moment that would propel him toward his destiny, to advance his status and free him from the drudgery of being a lowly common soldier. Thus far, Lolth had been silent -- to him at least. He had watched others rise to take their place as fangs or consorts, while he languished as a foot soldier, little better than a thug.

Now, of course, was not the time for such idle thoughts, but it was hard to rein in the mind after spending eight hours crouched in a dank cavern. He and a dozen other drow soldiers hid in positions throughout a large gallery in the depths of the shadows, behind draperies and stalagmites, waiting and watching for the first sign of their prey.

And then it came. Light shone forth from the mouth of the cavern, piercing the perfect blackness and plunging Vorn's vision into swollen, shifting spots. Vorn had known it would happen, had tried to ready himself, but he was not prepared for its intensity. He shook his head, rubbing the palms of his hands into his eyes to clear his sight, but even when the blindness abated he found it hard to focus. Through the painful glow, he looked for his commander, waiting for the gesture to attack. Soon. It would be very soon.

The intruders' fear was obvious, naked on their pale faces. They were of all shapes and sizes: a dwarf, some small figure that resembled a halfling, what Vorn guessed was a human, and an elf maiden. The interlopers fanned out from the entrance, their weapons drawn, casting about for the signs of the enemies they had to suspect were near.

A tense moment passed. And then, like fools, they relaxed. The dwarf uttered something. The intruders laughed, their vigilance dropping.

Vorn's commander made a sharp movement with his hands accompanied by a quick lift of his shoulders. The signal. The time was now.

Globes of darkness quenched the light. Ghostly flames of flickering reds and violets limned the forms of the surface dwellers. Crossbow bolts, laden with potent toxins, slashed through the air, and the cries of pain revealed the accuracy of the drow archers. Vorn aimed his hand crossbow, when he realized that his chance, his one opportunity, stood before him. His commander had his back to him, watching the combat unfold. Always careless, this commander.

To survive in the Underdark, one must not delay. . . . Vorn fired the bolt, knowing that the poison would make short work of the officer. With one smooth motion, he crossed the gap, pulling his sword from its sheath, to finish the job.

Such are the ways of the drow.

Bards sing of bold heroes who brave the depths of the earth, who plunder the vaults of ancient peoples, exploring and mapping the endless passages and corridors that honeycomb the Underdark. Although much of this lightless world is empty and devoid of life, it contains terrifying monsters, sprawling alien civilizations, swathes of molds, oozes, slimes, and countless other hazards. But no threat the Underdark conjures compares to the drow. Their name is a curse, their presence a cancer. They are the despised, the exiled, the shunned -- and yet they are powerful, and conquer nearly all who come before them. They are the dark elves, cursed by Corellon Larethian, condemned to spend their days languishing in their own corruption.

Using this Book

Drow of the Underdark is the definitive resource for dark elves in the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. Within these pages, you will find exhaustive detail on their culture and society, rules and options for building drow characters, new equipment including a broad selection of drow-themed magic items, new monsters, and a fully detailed drow city just waiting to be explored.

Just as Draconomicon presented extensive information on dragons and the Fiendish Codex supplements described demons and devils, Drow of the Underdark does the same with the drow, offering Dungeon Masters the tools to create memorable encounters with one of the game's most popular adversaries. But it also gives players the knowledge and tools to effectively fight this menacing race.

The material presented in Drow of the Underdark is spread throughout seven chapters, with their contents summarized here.

Chapter 1: All About the Drow . This chapter presents an unflinching look at the society of dark elves, exploring their history and myths, traditions and culture.

Chapter 2: Drow Options . Moving away from thematic descriptions, this chapter offers several new uses for skills, new feats, alternative class features, and spells to reflect the disturbing techniques employed by the drow.

Chapter 3: Prestige Classes . This chapter presents a selection of eight prestige classes that demonstrate the various interests of these evil elves.

Chapter 4: Equipment . This chapter offers a survey of useful tools: new alchemical items and poisons, new magic weapon and armor properties, and new rods and wondrous items.

Chapter 5: New Monsters . From the spiders they breed, to the brutes they enslave, to the wretched forms of those who have displeased the Spider Queen, this chapter presents a detailed look at the kind of servants the drow employ and the allies they make.

Chapter 6: Campaigns and Adventures . This chapter offers guidance and tools for using drow in adventures, as well as techniques for designing campaigns with a drow focus.

Chapter 7: Erelhei-Cinlu . The final chapter examines one of the most infamous cities of the Underdark: Erelhei-Cinlu, located in the subterranean cavern known as the Vault of the Drow.

Advice for DMs

Drow of the Underdark is designed with the Dungeon Master in mind. This book helps you create exciting and memorable encounters featuring drow antagonists, and to construct entire adventures or even campaigns with strong drow themes.

The cultural and setting information is of particular use, since it reveals important details about the drow -- how they think, what they do, why they do it, and so forth. More important, it portrays the Spider Queen as an active force for evil, and her priestesses as a terrible threat to the world. This book positively brims with adventure possibilities -- sparks of inspiration that will provide all you need to tell your own tales of the Underdark.

The supporting mechanics are designed for drow characters. The skill options, feats, alternative class features, and prestige classes give you the tools to surprise your players with unexpected strategies and tactics.

For Players

The drow might be an evil race -- and one that is permanently at odds with other races -- but many players are nonetheless attracted to playing drow characters. Drow of the Underdark discusses the underpinnings of drow societies and beliefs, their Lolth-dominated religion, and an example of an archetypal drow city -- all of which is vital information to players of drow characters. This material enables a player to flesh out his character's history, as well as providing guidance for conceptualizing personalities, goals, and mannerisms.

For players of other races, Drow of the Underdark can be equally effective as a reference for enemies of the drow. The study of drow society included in this book not only tells you how the drow operate, but why they do what they do -- and the best way to defeat a foe is to understand that foe's motivations.

New uses for skills, guidelines for creating new poisons and magical poisons, an expanded description of Drow Sign Language, and rules for training vermin all support the cultural considerations. Over 50 new feats help define the fighting techniques of this unusual race: Several new style feats are included, as well as a number of general and metamagic feats that improve drow racial talents but are equally useful for characters of any race.

As with any new game element, you should always consult your DM before you start using this material. The viability of these gameplay options depends on the role the drow will play in your DM's campaign, and by discussing your choices ahead of time, you give your DM the chance to help fit the character into her game.

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