Tuesday, April 7, 2015

D&D: Conceptions of the Drow (Part 2)

Last week, we talked a bit about the origins of the drow in D&D and about their place in classic mythology.  We noted that the drow were first introduced in 1979 in the classic adventure module Hall of the Fire Giant King, and that they then got their first major treatment in the following adventure series, Descent into the Depths of the Earth.  As promised, this week we start developing a new theory of the drow--in fact, we’ll call them the trowe from here on out in order to differentiate them from what’s come before.  With any luck , this new theory will be based a little more concretely on the classic mythos but will still work in context with the extant mythos of my homebrew campaign world of Wanderhaven.

Potential Conceptions of the Trowe
The way I see it, there are basically three ways to develop the trowe given our starting point.  
Statue of Luna.
First, there is the Greco-Roman model, using HadesDionysus & Proserpina, and Luna as the primary gods, with a cult of Nyx adding some intrigue. This view pays homage to the legendary origins of the trowe in that it acknowledges their love of music, their origins in the Underworld (the terrestrial Underworld, not the Plane of the Dead), and the fact that they are reputed only to come out at night.  But it views these origins through a Greek lens, and since all of the gods listed above have secondary domains in addition to the ones listed, it gives us a bit more information on would-be trowe society.  For example, Hades is not only the lord of the Underworld, he is also the god of the dead.  Similarly, Dionysus and Proserpina are not only associated with music, they also hold dominion over wine, sensuality, and pleasure.  Finally, Luna is not merely the goddess of the moon, she is also the mistress of fate.  Adding these things together gives us a kind of lighthearted yet fatalistic view of the world: "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die."  This is somewhat similar to the Forgotten Realms conception of the shadar-kai but without all the tattoos and piercings.  
The second potential theory is the Norse (Norglander) conception.  In the universe of Wanderhaven, Norglanders occupy a distinctly Scandinavian niche, though I’ve not done much yet to support their backstory.  Still, there’s enough to at least give us a start.  Where most Norglanders revere OdinThor, and the rest of the Asgardian gods, thetrowe would revere Loki, his daughter Hel, and the goddess Nótt, the Norse conception of Nyx.  The rationale for this is similar to what we saw above, but with a slightly more sinister outlook.  For example, we know that the trowe were reputed to be mischievous, so Loki is an acceptable primary deity, especially given his connection to Hel, who is also appropriate given that she is the goddess of the Underworld.  The same is true of Nótt.  What’s different is that in the Norse mythos, Loki, Hel, and Nótt are dread gods of doom.  Loki is directly tied to Ragnarök, and the others are, if anything, even worse.  As a result, the Norglander trowe are decidedly sinister if not necessarily evil.  That said, this is not the conception of a warrior-people.  In Norse myth, Hel is ruler of that portion of the Underworld where spirits go who've died of old age or disease.  Thesetrowe could therefore be expected to revere long life--probably by manipulating others to do their fighting for them.  These trowe are probably also fiercely independent, and they can maybe turn invisible instead of casting Darkness and Faerie Fire as racial spells.
Hecate, the triune goddess.
Finally, there is a variation of the trowe where they worship Hecate, the triune goddess of necromancy, magic, and the crossroads.  I doubt that this potential version of thetrowe is native to the prime material plane, making them very rare. It works, though, primarily because it leads in interesting directions.  It’s also worth noting that I've got a story outlined in my notebook called "Elaina Emboo and the Daughters of Hecate."  However, I don't actually have "daughters" for Hecate just yet.  The trowe could fill this niche in my outline.

I put all of this to my gaming group and got the following response:
“It really depends on how you want trowe viewed in this world. Your first concept makes them more "social" in that they aren't this crazy matriarchal society, but just an underground culture. I kind of like that culture, but mostly because of the Descent into the Depths of the Earth modules that followed the G-series. That module had the greatest name for a pre-generated character: Fokkin Hoddypeak!
If you want something similar to a "worshipping Lloth" version, I would go with Hecate followers...because that fits pretty perfectly. You might even do a "split"trowe culture where most of the surface-dwelling trowe are followers of Hades, but the deeper you go, the more corrupt they become, until necromancy seems like a viable societal option. There may have literally been a ‘crossroads’ at some point where resources were scarce and the trowe had to make a choice. Some choose to follow necromancy and this led them into Hecate's clutches.  It’s been that way ever since.
"Hermod before Hela" (1909) by John Charles Dollman.

Trowe in Wanderhaven
In doing research for these articles, my favorite bits were the parts about Hel, the Norse realm of the dead.  According to legend, Niflheim is the Realm of Frost whileMuspelheim is the Realm of Fire, and Hel is somewhere between, a realm of mist or fog.  I find this idea really appealing, that the trowe come from some kind of in-between place.  It works because it makes the trowe mysterious and rare--but also potentially very shy around mundane humans.  However, this view is appropriate for both the Norse and the Hecate versions of the trowe, and I have to admit that I’ve not yet decided exactly how to play it.  I’ll probably wind up using a combination of ideas, perhaps with the orthodox trowe worshipping the Norse gods, through various degrees of evil and/or ill-intent, while the truly horrifying trowe follow Hecate, their so-called Mistress of the Crossroads.  Granted, this makes the trowe quite a bit less friendly than I’d originally intended, but it maintains the basically monstrous conception that’s common to core D&D, and that’s worth something.  It’s also worth noting that just because a character worships Nótt and Loki, that doesn’t necessarily make them evil.  Instead, one could argue that it simply makes them independent and little willing to leave themselves beholden to the authority of others.  That by itself gives us quite a bit on which to build.

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