Fellow blogger Erdrique has recently posted a series of articles on backstory insights of races and alliances in various adventures that are often illuminating and sometimes puzzling.
A stray thought came to mind regarding the Drow. Erdrique has touched on the ones we find in the Searing Heights.
The Xen’drik Drow, commonly aligned with the god Vulkoor, can sometimes be mild allies, as with the peaceful Raveneye Drow in the Red Fens, whose backstory (if you bother to speak with one NPC) tells of their self-isolation after giantish enslavement.
But when they or any other Drow have their Vulkoor cheerleader mode on, they are ferocious, as we see in the Demon Sands adventures, especially “An Offering of Blood” where it seems that every desert Drow on Xen’drik shows up to kill you.
And then, it gets worse–not for you yet, but for them. The Xen’drik Drow get one-upped by another better-known Drow race from another realm–the Faerun Drow, the dark elves of the Underdark of Abeir-Toril.
These Drow enter into the world of Xen’drik by manipulating the Xen’drik Drow to free a senior drider priestess, the Spinner of Shadows, who contacts the goddess Lolth (who makes Vulkoor seem like an orange-named boss). Lolth’s mere “Hello!” when her aspect appears in the plane of Khyber causes an inter-planar rift in Xen’drik that threatens to destroy the planet. It’s a metaphysical attack so intense that it might be like being a grandson and getting slapped so hard by a bully that your grandfather feels it, decades before you were born.
Rather than Vulkoor’s scarrow (scorpion/drow fusions), we see the driders: Spider Drow borne from the stuff of nightmares. It’s not my first time handling driders, being a Neverwinter Nights player. (When I saw the scarrow for the first time, I laughed at their oddness.)
The Drow of the Underdark are more sinister, more battle ready than the Xen’drik Drow. While the Underdark Drow have houses that often fight among themselves, the Xen’drik Drow are often seen in various alliances, most not with your interests and, interestingly, not with other Drow factions. As a result, they seem rather spread out in effectiveness, like the Sulatar Drow of the Searing Heights. The Vulkoor Drow in Menechtarun are arguably the most potent of the Drow on Xen’drik up to level 16.
From there, the nastiest ones are found in Khyber. They appear to be Drow who have been influenced by the Spinner of Shadows to gather dragonshards for her. As a result of their alliance, these Drow spellcasters are superior in firepower than any other Xen’drik Drow, if Sabriz Rinzyn Kho is any indication.
The contrasts between the Faerun and Xen’Drik Drow made me think of the Klingons, the warrior race in Star Trek lore. At first, these characters were written up as placeholders for Communist rulers of the Cold War, since the Original Series was produced during that time. They were humanoid in appearance then, resembling Asian/Slavic peoples you might find in the former Soviet Union, with a heavy “Fu Manchu” look.
By the early 1980’s, the Klingons took on a different appearance, still humanoid but with a more…crustacean appearance, for lack of a better term. These were first seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The Klingon commander at the start of the film was played by the late Mark Lenard, one of the first actors to play a role in all of the non-human major races in the series and films as well as appear in more Star Trek projects than most other actors (The unnamed Romulan commander in “Balance of Terror,” the unnamed Klingon commander in The Motion Picture, and, of course, Sarek of Vulcan, Spock’s father, in the Original Series, Next Generation, and the movies Star Trek III and IV).
These “new” Klingons quickly gained a far grandiose warrior-race posture not unlike races we see in the Dungeons & Dragons universes. An artificial language was created for them for use with The Motion Picture by Marc Okrand. It’s now the most commonly spoken artificial language in the world. (Sheldon Cooper tries to use it at any opportunity.) SF conventions always have a contingent of attendees that are in full Klingon apparel–well, the armor from the Next Generation appearance, anyway. They speak of honor and war and battle. They aren’t necessarily evil, but are fearless, continually ready for battle to show their worth.
By their reappearance in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Klingons had a love/hate alliance with the Federation. Like the Vulkoor Drow, when the Klingons are miffed at you, you’ll have to fight for your honor or be destroyed. If Star Fleet shared the Klingon’s distaste for a common enemy, a Klingon/Federation war party is an awesome force to be reckoned with. The race also gained a substantially greater historical backstory and ethics that showed how a dangerous Klingon isn’t particularly evil–just Klingon.
The writers of Star Trek lampshaded why the appearance of the Klingons changed from Kirk’s time to Picard’s time in the very humorous and technically-beautiful return to Kirk’s time of tribble trouble, using clever CGI to meld 24th Century characters into the Original Series episode “The Trouble with Tribbles” to interact with events in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode, “Trials and Tribble-ations.”
So, when “New Klingons” showed up, it seemed to me (an old guy that’s watched The Original Series when it first aired) that the Original Series Klingons have become jokes to viewers and fans, spoken of only in passing. So it may be also true for the Xen’drik Drow, threatened with perceiving itself as the “New Coke” of the Drow race.
It would interesting to have a new adventure in DDO where players get to explore the history of the Drow, specifically how the Xen’drik Drow are handling the revelation that other Drow in the universe not only exist, but are tougher, badder and have a MUCH bigger god than they do. I mean, Vulkoor isn’t quite up to planet-killing prowess, to my knowledge.
Where did these new dark elves come from?, the Xen’drik Drow would ask. Why are they more powerful? What is the fate of the Xen’drik Drow with this revelation of both religious, political and ontological import? What does Lolth have in mind? Is she going to sacrifice the Drow of Eberron to the Demonweb?
Given that some Xen’drik Drow aren’t so much evil as they boast superiority (a common Drow trait), it would fascinating to see a Xen’drik Drow show up their Faerun counterparts in some way. Imagine that the Drow of the Underdark have their eyes set on invading Stormreach.
Do you think our Eberron Drow would have any of that?
With this line of thinking, I’m surprised that the devs haven’t created an adventure where the Xen’drik Drow then ask, “How can we help your kind in killing that overgrown false spider-god?”
Our Drow wouldn’t fight so much for Xen’drik, but just because they need to save face. They’d go out to prove that they are Drow too, dammit, not some knockoff copies that the Underdark used for slaves once upon a time.
The developer’s concentration in focusing on creating more Forgotten Realms adventures and less of Eberron quests make the probability of exploring this new plight to the Xen’drik Drow unlikely.
A Little Role-Play on My Part
My newest character, the star-thrower Szyncletica, is a House Dun’Robar Drow. So, with some practice, I’m going to play her as an outsider amidst outsiders with some inside understanding of her Xen’drik brethren. She’s going to get annoyed at the relative equality of Xen’Drik Drow men in the quests she’ll encounter (women are the leaders with the Faerun Drow), especially since her backstory is that she was a daughter of a Matron Mother and thus, heir to the throne–if she were able to kill off her sibling competition.
I plan to march Szyn into the Demon Sands shortly. I’ll likely choose dialog options that reflect her nature as a Drow. I’m hoping that the developers added a little NPC dialog changes that might make Drow-to-Drow talks a bit interesting. However, it’s not probable given the age of the modules, and my adventures in the Red Fens don’t show any change.
I do know one thing. I think Szyn has the cojones to take down the Demon Queen solo, at Heroic level. Her throwing attack can hit fast and hard, her reflexes will save easily against Queen Lailat’s blade-barrier like attacks, the gnolls will not survive and Szyn should be able to kite her way to victory.