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    Canonfire :: View topic - “The last mighty bastion of the drow race on Oerth”
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    “The last mighty bastion of the drow race on Oerth”
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    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Tue Aug 01, 2023 5:07 am  
    “The last mighty bastion of the drow race on Oerth”

    That is the first descriptive of the Vaukt in GDQ1-7. I’ve always read this as exaggeration for effect. I could imagine in a later module Gygax adding after it, “or so you thought!” After all, Gygax made a point of not overly detailing his campaign world - staying flexible. Plus, the description of Deepearth in the DSG has a drow realm with 12000 drow in it - significantly more than in the Vault. (Not necessarily Greyhawk canon…)

    But I have been wondering. Iuz obtained his drow all the way from the Vault (both in Iuz the Evil and the Gord books). And Lolth apparently hangs out in the Vault per D3 - I wouldn’t expect that to be the case in every drow city if there were many. Her presence might be explainable as a temporary measure while she (a) monitored Eclavdra’s faction and (b) prepared for the invasion of Sterich, though neither of those activities would seem to require the physical presence of a lesser goddess. Also, drow activity on the Pomarj (in the A series) came from the Vault (a substantial distance, particularly I would imagine, through the Underdark).

    How have you handled the drow population in and around the Flanaess?

    And if you’ve thought about the above quote from GDQ, have you decided what happened to the other “mighty bastions of the drow”? The Vault wouldn’t be the “last” if there had never been others.
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    Tue Aug 01, 2023 5:35 am  

    http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=261
    article from CruelSummerLord
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    Thu Aug 03, 2023 9:29 am  

    I've always kept the drow population low and rare. Not even coming up to raid the surface that often. The initial appearance was as a clue to an even greater plot at the end of giant series. To maintain that I really don't use them much.

    Honestly, I really glanced over and never paid attention to that initial description as the last stronghold before. In fact, I've tended to treat Erelhei-Cinlu just the opposite. I keep imagining it as the very first great drow settlement after their banishment from the surface. Erelhei-Cinlu is just a surface city, that happens to be plopped underground in a large enough space. It's as if the drow didn't have time think about the environment they found themselves in. Why is it a walled city that can be approached from so many directions, including from above? Shouldn't it be carved into the sides of the Vault? In depictions the buildings have roofs - is it going to rain? It all makes so little sense underground.

    So for me, it is not the only, last surviving drow city - instead, it is the very first, the eldest, and most wicked and corrupt. It is the drow city where glimpses of their ancestors' previous life on the surface are still seen in its very layout and other innumerable ways. All these reminders help fuel the drow hatred, rage, and rejection of the surface elves.
    Adept Greytalker

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    Thu Aug 03, 2023 10:43 am  

    Here's a related question I've wondered about for a long time:

    How much can we glean of the culture of SURFACE elves by the description of the dark elves in Vault of the Drow?

    (it being a curiosity of Greyhawk lore that the drow in D3 and Drow of the Underdark book are given a much more detailed and canonical culture than the vastly more common surface elves of established realms such as Celene.)

    For instance, is it possible surface elves are matriachal in some way? Celene is ruled by a Queen after all.

    Do surface elves have fighting societies?

    What about political rivalries?

    Elites living on estates in the country with lower classes in towns or cities?

    Of course, the easy but boring answer is that all of these characteristics of the dark elves are indicative of their CE nature—but what if that's not the case and we can learn a lot about Greyhawk elves by studying the drow?
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    Thu Aug 03, 2023 11:12 am  

    I think looking at the drow to help flesh out the elves is a great idea.

    I recall in 3rd. ed., Dragon Magazine 315 had regional feats for Greyhawk, and one for Celene was "Companion Guard Style" perhaps reminiscent of drow fighting societies.
    GreySage

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    Thu Aug 03, 2023 6:41 pm  

    A-Baneful-Backfire wrote:
    So for me, it is not the only, last surviving drow city - instead, it is the very first, the eldest, and most wicked and corrupt. It is the drow city where glimpses of their ancestors' previous life on the surface are still seen in its very layout and other innumerable ways. All these reminders help fuel the drow hatred, rage, and rejection of the surface elves.


    I think this is a fantastic explanation for the surface-like buildings of Erelhei-Cinlu!

    I'm thinking that it could be both the first, and the "last mighty bastion of the drow race on Oerth." Perhaps the drow spread out into Deep Oerth, but most of their expansion attempts were eventually destroyed, or reduced to a small number of drow attempting to survive against overwhelming odds in other parts of Deep Oerth. Erelhei-Cinlu remained the most powerful drow stronghold because the most powerful drow stayed there and the greatest number of drow remained there. It was also fortunate to be located in a place of relative safety and near sufficient resources for the population to survive. That, thanks to the blessings of Lolth through her clergy.

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    Fri Aug 04, 2023 12:13 pm  

    edmundscott wrote:
    Here's a related question I've wondered about for a long time:

    How much can we glean of the culture of SURFACE elves by the description of the dark elves in Vault of the Drow?

    (it being a curiosity of Greyhawk lore that the drow in D3 and Drow of the Underdark book are given a much more detailed and canonical culture than the vastly more common surface elves of established realms such as Celene.)

    For instance, is it possible surface elves are matriachal in some way? Celene is ruled by a Queen after all.

    Do surface elves have fighting societies?

    What about political rivalries?

    Elites living on estates in the country with lower classes in towns or cities?

    Of course, the easy but boring answer is that all of these characteristics of the dark elves are indicative of their CE nature—but what if that's not the case and we can learn a lot about Greyhawk elves by studying the drow?





    An elven point of vue by Roger Moore for the Dragon n°60.

    For instance, is it possible surface elves are matriachal in some way? Celene is ruled by a Queen after all.
    "Elven males and females, though they are aware of their differences in physical strength, see each other as equals. Elven queens are as common as elven kings. Corellon Larethian is regarded by some elves as male, by some as female, by some as neither or both."

    What about political rivalries?

    "Leaders, to elves, are to be obeyed in matters only where the leader is knowledgeable, and they may be freely dis-obeyed if their rulings seem unreasonable. Individual elves follow their own leaders because they want to, not because “society” says they have to. This makes, of course, for a pretty chaotic state of political affairs, but this is greatly moderated in elven society by the elves’ strong sense of identity as a race and their separateness from the rest of the social world. Thus, elven government, as disordered and confusing as it seems to an outsider, is quite stable."

    These writings are heavily influenced by Tolkien's Elves.
    Elves are very close to humans, but their very long lifespans make them a race apart (more than their alignment).
    They don't hate any people or race except the dark elves.

    Jacques
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    Fri Aug 04, 2023 9:07 pm  

    edmundscott wrote:
    How much can we glean of the culture of SURFACE elves by the description of the dark elves in Vault of the Drow? . . .

    For instance, is it possible surface elves are matriachal in some way? Celene is ruled by a Queen after all.

    Do surface elves have fighting societies?

    What about political rivalries?

    Elites living on estates in the country with lower classes in towns or cities?

    First, I love this question!

    Like Docjacques, I follow the original articulation of Corellon Larethian as "alternately male or female, both or neither." James M. Ward with Robert J. Kuntz, Deities & Demigods Cyclopedia (1980), p.106. Thus, IMC, olven society is not gendered in the same way as the human societies of the Flanaess but instead features radical sex / gender equality.

    For example, in my current (D&D 5e) campaign, one of the PCs is a Dreadwood wood elf, who trained in the Kingdom of Celine as a monk (think of the wood elf wardancers from Warhammer Fantasy Battle / Roleplay). As the campaign is based in the Hold of the Sea Princes, we've only lightly touched on elven culture / society in terms of this character's background, but the player has established that the elven societies of the Dreadwood and Celene both feature radical sex / gender equality in terms of social roles, and, inspired by Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), he recently suggested that elven sexual orientation is less rigid than the familiar human binary between hetero- and homo-sexuality.

    While we've yet to explore this aspect in depth, we like how it builds on the original, distinctive, description of the elven creator (greater) god and think that later editions dropping it (e.g., styling a lunar female deity, Sehanine Moonbow, as Corellon's consort) dropped something interesting and different about D&D's articulation of elves.

    IIRC, Carl Sargent developed several olven societies—grey olves of the Timeless Tree in the Vesve Forest, high elves of the Vale of Highfolk, the Coldwood, etc., and of course, many fans have built on Steve Wilson's Olven Calendar part of the "History of Oerth (Oerik)," Oerth Journal 1 (May 12, 1995), pp. 9–10, and its interaction with Lenard Lakofka's Seul Dominion in that same article, pp. 5–8, later revised by Lakofka and Wilson as "A History & Timeline of Suloise," Oerth Journal 11 (May 8, 2000), pp. 53–60.

    Finally (for this post), responding to the original query, I encourage folks to review (or read) Russell Bird, Erelhei-Cinlu: The Drow “City of Pleasure”, Oerth Journal 14 (Apr. 2002), and Frederick Weining, The Vault of the Drow, Living Greyhawk Journal, vol. 2, no. 14 (Aug. 2002), included in Dragon 298, for two thoughtful elaborations from the original modules and their compilation. See also Joe Bloch's D4 City of Spiders (2020).
    Master Greytalker

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    Sat Aug 05, 2023 8:58 am  

    edmundscott wrote:
    For instance, is it possible surface elves are matriachal in some way? Celene is ruled by a Queen after all.

    Do surface elves have fighting societies?

    What about political rivalries?

    Elites living on estates in the country with lower classes in towns or cities?


    There are several references to ruling males among the Olve that it is more they are just do not distinguish between sex for their rulers.

    I expect they have fighting societies, just not as vicious or for peacekeeping and stability as in the Vault.

    They absolutely have political rivalries, such as with Prince Brightflame (Melf) and Queen Yolande in From the Ashes and later on. I think they are too spread out and small for greater political rivalries with each other.

    I am certain they have obnoxious Grey Olve elites in their mountain estates with servants scurrying about. The High Olve are probably the town and city dwellers, while the lower-class Sylvan Olve would hang out in forests rather than urban slums.
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    Sat Aug 05, 2023 11:55 am  

    Two remarks:

    Their residence in Arvandor is called “The High Forest” and the Seldarine means “the fellowship of brothers and sisters of the wood.” They are intimately linked to the forest like the dwarves to the earth.

    IMHO, all elves feel equal: there is no such thing as low class or high class among them. This notion comes from Tolkien's Middle-earth elves, who still influence us.
    This difference in life expectancy is important in AD&D, it no longer exists in D&D5. They all have a life expectancy of 750 years. As with alignment becoming less important in D&D3 and then D&D 5, physical differences fade with humans. They are taller (1m50 and 1m80), have a soul...

    Of course, everyone can, in their world of Greyhawk, keep the initial distinctions as they wish.

    Jacques
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    Fri Aug 25, 2023 11:00 pm  
    Re: “The last mighty bastion of the drow race on Oerth”

    Califor wrote:
    That is the first descriptive of the Vaukt in GDQ1-7. I’ve always read this as exaggeration for effect. I could imagine in a later module Gygax adding after it, “or so you thought!” After all, Gygax made a point of not overly detailing his campaign world - staying flexible. Plus, the description of Deepearth in the DSG has a drow realm with 12000 drow in it - significantly more than in the Vault. (Not necessarily Greyhawk canon…)

    But I have been wondering. Iuz obtained his drow all the way from the Vault (both in Iuz the Evil and the Gord books). And Lolth apparently hangs out in the Vault per D3 - I wouldn’t expect that to be the case in every drow city if there were many. Her presence might be explainable as a temporary measure while she (a) monitored Eclavdra’s faction and (b) prepared for the invasion of Sterich, though neither of those activities would seem to require the physical presence of a lesser goddess. Also, drow activity on the Pomarj (in the A series) came from the Vault (a substantial distance, particularly I would imagine, through the Underdark).

    How have you handled the drow population in and around the Flanaess?

    And if you’ve thought about the above quote from GDQ, have you decided what happened to the other “mighty bastions of the drow”? The Vault wouldn’t be the “last” if there had never been others.


    I treat the claim that Erelhei-Cinlu is the last drow vault on Oerth the same way I treat all other canon, namely that it exists for me to use or toss as I see fit.

    Hence, as Docjacques kindly said, I made up a list of drow vaults, only one and a half of which are canonical. Erelhei-Cinlu is obviously canon, and I created Erelhei-Kinestan in response to the drow present in module A2. The other four vaults are entirely of my own creation.

    Regarding what Erelhei-Cinlu could teach us about surface elven culture, one thing that comes to mind is how cosmopolitan the drow are. D3 even comments on how unlikely a mix of peoples and monsters are likely to be found in its streets. I can easily see the same thing happening among surface elves-hence Celene's very large human and gnome populations in the 1983 gazetteer! Elves generally prefer to keep to their own kind in other races' lands, but in their own lands elves are perfectly happy to have humans and other races as fellow citizens.

    To build on what Samwise mentioned about political rivalries, I've always imagined surface elves as have extremely complicated, byzantine politics along the lines of Game of Thrones, albeit with less overt bloodshed. Non-elven races don't generally participate in politics, but at the same time it's considered extremely bad form to attack those non-elven citizens. That kind of racist demagoguery is more likely to hurt the elf attempting it than the humans or other non-elves he directs it at!

    We know the drow elves are very chaotic, with House Eilservs attempting to overthrow the Fane of Lolth but still being allowed to operate and live in Erelhei-Cinlu. The same goes for the surface elves, as many of them don't give a toss about Yolande's desire to keep Celene neutral and join other races in fighting the Pomarj, Iuz and other evils. The likes of Onselven and the People of the Testing obviously disapprove, and Queen Yolande keeps wondering if she's made the right choice, but the Knights of Luna and other militant elves suffer no sanctions for their actions.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Wed Sep 27, 2023 7:10 pm  

    In my 1e campaign Erelhi Cinlu is the only Drow city on the planet. I thought that 8,000 to 9,000 Drow and many more half-castes was plenty.

    I did follow the Gord novels and have the Eilservs Elder Elemental God anti-Lolth faction become worshippers of Graz’zt.
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