Map of Menzoberranzan (one square=200 yards)
|Religion||Lolth (overwhelming), Selvetarm, other faiths outlawed|
|Population||11,439 free, 20,460 slaves|
|Exports||poisons, tasty mushrooms, riding lizards, slaves, spell scrolls, wine, and water|
|Government||Council of drow houses|
|Ruler||House Baenre (Council of eight most powerful houses)|
|Inhabitants of Menzoberranzan|
|Locations in Menzoberranzan|
|Organizations in Menzoberranzan|
Menzoberranzan, or the City of Spiders, was a gigantic underground drow city-state. It was located in the Upper Northdark, about 3.2km (2 miles) below the Surbrin Valley, between the Moonwood and the Frost Hills.
Menzoberranzan was possibly the most well known drow city in Faerûn. It was the home of Drizzt Do'Urden, and many of his early adventures dealt with the political intrigue and characters of the city.
Menzoberra the Kinless, a powerful priestess of Lolth, founded the city that bears her name in -3917 DR. By the wishes of Lady Lolth, she led seven drow families into the Northdark from the city of Golothaer, one of the southerly drow holdings of Great Bhaerynden.
Their goal was to escape from the constant cycle of violence and death that so plagued that city. Lolth aided them on their journey directly, but only when it seemed like all hope was lost. After battling several of the Underdark's natives, they slew a bindip in -3917 DR that claimed a huge natural cave as its lair. The surviving drow took up residence in this cave, naming it after their leader.
The drow families, having no immediate external enemy, fell to attacking and undermining one another, exactly what they had hoped to escape, to the greater glory of their evil goddess, who loved chaos. Only fifty years after the city's founding, in -3864 DR, a great and terrible battle between the two most powerful Houses, House Nasadra and House S'sril, occurred. This battle led to the exile of House Nasadra (which later founded the city of Ched Nasad, and was the First House until the city's recent destruction) and to the rise of House Baenre as the First House of Menzoberranzan.
The city's internal machinations continued unabated for millennia. The Houses that grow weak were destroyed, and newer Houses rose up to find Lolth's favor. The full history of each House would constitute a nearly endless logbook of treachery, spite, and unceasing ambition.
Within the last century,[as of when?] this pattern seemed to have accelerated. House Do'Urden ascended from the Tenth House to the Ninth House by destroying the Fourth House, House DeVir. It then ascended to the Eighth House with the much-needed help of Jarlaxle's mercenary band Bregan D'aerthe by destroying the Fifth House, House Hun'ett.
House Do'Urden lost the favor of Lolth, however, when Matron Malice Do'Urden turned Zaknafein Do'Urden into a spirit-wraith by using Lolth's dread Zin-Carla ritual and failed to kill Drizzt Do'Urden with him. This resulted in House Baenre utterly destroying House Do'Urden.
In 1359 DR, during the Time of Troubles, House Oblodra, the Third House, aspired to be the First House of Menzoberranzan. Menzoberranzan was caught in a magic-dead zone, so magic did not work there. House Oblodra, however, was gifted in the rare art of psionics and seized upon this opportunity to strike at the other Houses.
The matron of House Oblodra nearly reached her goal, but an avatar of Lolth answered Matron Baenre's pleas for help and came to Menzoberranzan after the Time of Troubles had ended. Although she loved chaos, she did not wish to see a House that did not whisper prayer to her to rule the city. Foreseeing her temporary loss of power due to the Time of Troubles, Lolth had asked the demon Errtu to protect her worshipers, should she herself fail to do it. She opened a portal for Errtu and his host of demons to lay siege to House Oblodra.
By the time the Time of Troubles had passed, Lolth was restored to full power and single-handedly crushed House Oblodra, the remains of their stronghold being pushed into a deep chasm known as the Clawrift, and Matron Oblodra's spirit went to Errtu for eternal torment. Thus the ranks of the ruling Houses changed once again. All this she said was done for her greatest high priestess (although it was really done for herself), the two thousand-year-old Matron Baenre. All Houses in the city witnessed this great miracle and knew that House Baenre was the most favored House of the goddess.
In celebration, the city marched upon Mithral Hall, viciously attacking the Dwarfhold in what would be known as the Battle of Keeper's Dale. The drow lost the battle and the retreat was sounded after Matron Baenre herself was felled by Bruenor Battlehammer's Axe.
Yvonnel's eldest daughter Triel took her mother's place as leader of the city but faced many hardships during her time in power. Despite an early victory against Blingdenstone the constant infighting between the noble houses resulted in a rapid depopulation of the drow citizens of the city. Lolth herself expressed her displeasure and imposed a forced peace among the city's populace until Menzoberranzan's numbers had been restored.
Not long after the peace was lifted, the city was beset by a slave revolt and the infamous Silence of Lolth where the city was invaded by the duergar army of Gracklstugh and the Scoured Legion with the aid of traitorous drow from House Agrach Dyrr. The invasion was costly but as soon as The Silence of Lolth ended, Menzoberranzan's defenders turned the tide of the battle and drew victory from defeat.
Menzoberranzan returned to form quickly. Quenthel killed her older sister Triel, taking her place as leader of House Baenre and eventually the city returned to the kind of life it had seen for the 5,000 years before the failed invasion of Mithral Hall, the only change perhaps would be the solidification of Lolth's worship after the deaths of her deific rivals in the years following her Silence.
The city had 32,000 inhabitants[as of when?] — one third drow and the rest humanoid slaves. The city traded poisons, tasty mushrooms, riding lizards, spell scrolls, wine, and water (clean water could be hard to come by in the Underdark). The worship of Lolth was prevalent, and the worship of any other deity was forbidden.
The city had different factions, or houses, all of which vied for power. It was[as of when?] under the indirect rule of House Baenre which is governed by Matron Mother Quenthel Baenre, daughter of Yvonnel Baenre, also known as Old Matron Baenre, perhaps the most powerful de facto ruler the city ever saw.
The city's priestesses were trained in the spider-shaped clerical academy Arach-Tinilith. One of the branches of the city's triune academies of Tier Brieche, Arach-Tinilith was neighbored by the warrior school Melee Magthere, and Sorcere, the school in which wizardly magic was taught.
The most powerful clerics, fighters and mages of Menzoberranzan passed through the academies, and the title of master/mistress of an academy was coveted. The master/mistress of an academy in Menzoberranzan was often the most powerful drow in that particular discipline.
A separate council of mages dealt with affairs of the arcane — but as its members were all male, it is wholly within the grip of the matron mothers. The most powerful male in the city was Gromph Baenre, archmage of Menzoberranzan and the eldest son of Yvonnel Baenre.
Areas of interestEdit
- The Braeryn ("Stenchstreets")
Sick and outlaw drow lived here, along with the many non-drow inhabitants of the city. This was definitely the slum of Menzoberranzan. Drunken drow sometimes hunted in this area, killing any and all who couldn't hide themselves.
A rocky outcropping shaped like a claw on the end of a long arm situated between the Bazaar and Eastmyr. The ancient tunnels and walkways dug into the rock were used by House Oblodra to house their hundreds of kobold slaves, but was later infested by the undead.
Donigarten was the source of almost all of Menzoberranzan's food. Rich fungi farms, beds of moss and giant mushrooms were tended to by slaves. A small amount of fishing was done in Lake Donigarten and, on an islet in the middle of said lake, the city's supply of Deep Rothe were kept, looked after by orcs and goblins.
- Duthcloim ("Manyfolk")
Home of the commoners of the city. Tradesfolk and their shops/businesses were mostly found here. Most Menzoberranyr came from this area and it was the most varied and tolerant district in the entire city.
A permanent trade fair located in Duthcloim. The Bazaar of Menzoberranzan attracted merchants and buyers from across the multiverse. Most races were welcome (with the exception of beholders, neogi and githyanki), and as long as the peace was kept and proper respect was shown to Matron Mothers, someone (or thing) could buy whatever they might have desired here, though non-drow were often spied upon. No permanent structures were allowed within the accepted limits of the Bazaar by order of the council.
Places of business were to move each day, so as to prevent monopolies on space and promote browsing, making finding a particular stall very difficult. Trainee wizards, clerics and warriors were paid to patrol the Bazaar, providing firm, yet unobtrusive law-enforcement. Several permanent enchantments and buffers which suppressed sounds, vibrations and noises were also a part of the Bazaar, the limits of which extended to everything from boot steps to merchant shouts.
Most struggling merchants lived in this neighbourhood. While better than the Braeryn, Eastmyr was still where you would find many poor and outlaw drow and non-drow of no discernable means. Despite the lack of wealthy residents, House Hunzrin and House Kenafin were based here.
A few passages and side caverns accessible from the main cavern could be found in the Mantle, actually part of the Dark Dominion but close enough to the city proper for residents to build homes.
Narbondel was the only unshaped piece of stone within the boundaries of the cavern. The people of the city used it as a clock. Each morning, around midnight, the Archmage of city cast a fire spell at the base of the rock pillar. The heat from the spell formed a band around it and moved up, taking twelve hours to reach the peak, before travelling down it again, going out once it reached the base.
- Narbondellyn ("Broad Streets")
This was the home of the wealthy up-and-coming drow houses. No fewer than seven existing powerful noble houses and several of the most luxurious and profitable of businesses were located in this neighbourhood. The best gems and perfumes could be found here, as well as the city's moneylenders.
- Qu'ellarz'orl ("the House loft")
This plateau was screened from the view of the rest of the cavern by its forest of giant mushrooms. Contrary to the rest of the city, Qu'ellarz'orl was spacious and bare, no crowds were found here, nor any businesses. The space that was taken up was dominated by the four most powerful noble houses. The chamber of the ruling council could also be found here.
The West Wall was covered in the fortresses of more minor noble houses and the proudest of the non-noble drow families. Elstearn's Escorts provided attractive drow of either sex to escort those who desired them or to act as tour guides to visitors.
One of the major marvels of the city, akin in its awe inspiring majesty to Narbondel slowly marking time in the center of the city, the castle of Xorlarrin was a sight to behold. Although the family that occupied it were only fifth in the Menzoberranyr hierarchy, you would be challenged to find any other locale in all the Underdark (or the world above for that matter) that boasted such magnificence. The walls were striped in permanent and ever shifting faerie fire, with floating battlements set atop its high walls. It could be argued that the entire palace was a gigantic magical artifact in that marvels abound and magic was built into the most mundane of attributes both functional and decorative.
The fortress loomed into the sky dwarfing the buildings around it, and was composed of a deceptive profile. The deceptively narrow facade terminated at a modest 55m (60 yards). Once a corner was rounded, however, the lateral faces of the citadel stretched for hundreds and hundreds of yards, stretching back to blend with the gloom and becoming lost to sight. This gave the citadel a top-down view of an exaggeratedly thin rectangle. Legend held that this bizarre architecture was purposefully planned in order to facilitate some eldritch power forgotten or lost by the current[as of when?] inhabitants.
All of the tunnels within an 8km (5 mile) radius of the city were known as the Dark Dominion. Drow patrols were a constant presence of the region. They searched for banned creatures, monsters and surface elves and challenged them once spotted. A few guard outposts could also be found in these tunnels. At least ten of the tunnels that started here led to the surface. One that led straight past Blingdenstone and into Mithral Hall and one that led to the High Forest were the two most commonly used.
About six days' travel on foot from Menzoberranzan was a large faerzress-free cavern. Most people who wanted to teleport to the city aimed for this cave and a few keyed two-way portals could be found here along with a waterfall that provided free fresh water. Several noble houses had permanent scrying sensors here though they made pains to seem like they didn't care about the place.
- ↑ R.A. Salvatore (March 2004). Homeland. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-3123-X.
- ↑ Bruce R. Cordell, Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel, Jeff Quick (October 2003). Underdark, p. 163. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-3053-5.
- ↑ Richard Lee Byers (July 2002). Dissolution, p. Chapter 4. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 07-8692-683-8.
- ↑ Eric L. Boyd (1999). Drizzt Do'Urden's Guide to the Underdark, p. 66. TSR, Inc. ISBN 0-7869-1509-9.
- ↑ Eric L. Boyd (1999). Drizzt Do'Urden's Guide to the Underdark, p. 66-67. TSR, Inc. ISBN 0-7869-1509-9.
- Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Chris Sims (August 2008). Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide, p. 228-231. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 978-0-7869-4924-3.