A seething powerhouse of malevolent drow, each striving tirelessly for supremacy in the eyes of their fell goddess, Menzoberranzan is the pinnacle of conceited depravity. Nevertheless, peer deep through the strata of selfishness, debauchery, and vice and one can behold a grand civilization rich in history, culture, and artistry. It’s this tantalizing dichotomy between the beautiful and the profane that draws great interest toward drow society. Presented in this book is the fabled Underdark city of Menzoberranzan, birthplace of famed drow ranger Drizzt Do’Urden. But this isn’t his story—it’s many stories, yours chief among them.
Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue
is designed for maximum utility. No matter what edition of the Dungeons & Dragons rules you’re using, you’ll find almost all of the material in this book usable in your game. You can use this book to run a campaign set during the years before the birth of Drizzt, in the midst of the War of the Spider Queen, or during the current era of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. Menzoberranzan is a whole environment waiting for you and your players to explore, in whatever way you want to use it.
In today's excerpt for Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue, we look at the chapter contents for Chapter 5: The Northdark.
Artwork by Ralph Horsley
A Menzoberranzan Campaign
Running a group of evil drow characters through adventures rife with intrigue and treachery can be quite a different experience from most Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. These six characteristics best encapsulate the spirit of a Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue campaign.
1. You’re a Drow
In this campaign setting, you’re no goody two-shoes surface dweller visiting the City of Spiders on holiday. No, you’re a resident. Whether drow or slave, noble scion or commoner, you call Menzoberranzan home. This is your opportunity to disregard the spiteful propaganda of the surface elves and step into the role of one of D&D’s most iconic and insidious races.
2. Evil Reigns
Menzoberranzan is a nasty place. In drow culture, treachery and murder are commonplace, as are acts of debauchery. Drow in this setting routinely have orgies with demons and engage in despicable acts of bloodletting. Although the tenets of drow society are presented tactfully, players should be under no illusions; Menzoberranzan is populated by vile and capricious sadists, who seek to improve their personal standing through the suffering and misery of others.
3. Lolth Is Supreme
No other force in drow society is as pervasive as the Church of Lolth. Although other divine entities have appeared in drow religious rites over the millennia, all are secondary to Lolth and are barely visible in the shadow of the Spider Queen. Beings such as Vhaeraun and Ghaunadaur have adherents in some eras, but few are worshiped with the same devotion—and fear—as Lolth. It is she, and she alone, who stands at the heart of drow religion.
4. Station Is Everything
Despite its members being born of chaos, drow society is governed by a deeply entrenched hierarchy. Each drow divides everyone else—including other drow—into three categories.
- Those with more power, who must be appeased and placated (at least until they can be replaced).
- Those who are useful to one’s own advancement, who must be exploited in all ways possible.
- The weak, who are worthless except as labor or disposable troops.
As drow see it, each day is a new chance to improve your station or to eliminate those in your way.
5. Secrets Are Currency
Drow are not mindless brutes who charge headlong into the unknown. In fact, the residents of Menzoberranzan, called Menzobarranyr, are meticulous and calculating in their endeavors. Although wealth and might are certainly respected, the true currency of the drow lies in secrets. Information is power, and with it an individual can wield influence far beyond his or her station. The machinations of the drow are legendary, and these sorts of long-term schemes should be part of any Menzoberranzan campaign.
6. The Underdark
High adventure isn’t confined to the city alone. The myriad intrigues of the drow can send the player characters deep into the gloom of the Underdark. Although drow are renowned for their ruthlessness and villainy, there are creatures in the deep places of the world that give even them pause. Despite the dangers, few Menzoberranyr shy from an opportunity to exploit the myriad riches of the Deep Realms. From the neighboring Dark Dominion to the Shadowed Ways and beyond, adventure in the Underdark awaits.
Bart Carroll has been a part of Wizards of the Coast since 2004, and a D&D player since 1980 (and has fond memories of coloring the illustrations in his 1st Edition Monster Manual). He currently works as producer for the D&D website. You can find him on Twitter (@bart_carroll) and at bartjcarroll.com.