DM NOTE: Though everything contained in this wiki remains fluid and may change in response to the needs of the story/campaigns, the Shadowlands and its history in particular may change. If the timings below seems inconsistent, they very well may be. I’m still hammering this out to make sure the history accomdates both player and NPC backgrounds, as well as future story arcs and adventures. Further, if something seems different from the last time you read this (i.e., devils changed to demons) it’s because it probably is. If a change will prove to be an issue with your backstory, etc., please let me know right away.
|Coordinates:||P-7 to R-9|
|Geography:||Eastern edge is forested (mushrooms), western edge mountainous. Hills and rocks in between.|
|Population:||Consists primarily of Drow (at least 75%); there are also large communities of half-elves, and humans, and a few small Orc clans. Population is generally arranged into stationary communities in the centre of the region. There is a lot of undeveloped space, but the borders are fiercely defended.|
|Government:||Local – each community has its own leader(s), generally selected through its own traditions and ceremonies.
NOTE: Jekkiel’s Watch is present throughout the Shadowlands and governs itself.
|Major Religions:||Widely varied representation of almost all major gods, and no few of the minor/aspects.
MAIN RELIGIONS: Ben; Deceit (KA moreso than Zabrahk); Margulis; Tristram; Veldrin. In addition, there are several cults dedicated to the worship of Asmodeus and Orcus, as well as other fiends. These are not tolerated by the population at large and are forced to operate in secret.
|Major Cities:||One at the base of the mountains, close to at least three exit/entrances to the Underdark; the Capital City in the southern-central part; Valiant City, a large city of Half-elves ruled by a Lord in western forests.|
|Major Sites:||Angelus Errare; exit/entrances to the Underdark|
|Major NPCs:||Leader of Jekkiel’s Watch; High Priestess of Ben; Commander of the Paladins; The Lord Valiant|
Far enough back in their history that none can remember when, the Drow lived solely in the Underdark and did not venture to the surface. They banded together in small groups, lead by whoever was perceived to be the strongest and/or smartest among them, and pitted themselves against their environment for millennia.
Legend has it that Asmodeus took an interest in the Drow as potential soldiers and material-plane operatives, and tasked his newly minted Minor God Orcus with obtaining them. Through a series of deals, brokered primarily with a mage named Josam (who was supposedly embittered by long decades of unsuccessful challenges for the right to lead his community), the hordes of Orcus were able to invade the Underdark and attack the Drow people.
The Drow suffered several terrible defeats due to their sequestered lifestyles – they had never been subjected to an organized, global assault, and they wasted precious time adapting. Finally they were forced to join forces as a single community or lose the unexpected war entirely; unfortunately, there is no way to win a war against fiends. Their goal had never been the complete subjugation or decimation of the Drow as a whole. The demons maintained the war as long as it took to enslave approximately a third of the Drow race, then withdrew, leaving the rest to treat their wounded and bury their dead.
Whether the legend of this war (simply referred to as “The War”) is true or not, something occurred at this point in the Drow’s history that caused it to split in two – those that remained in the Underdark (the Under-Drow1), and those that moved to the surface (the Surface-Drow2).
One of her first acts as Goddess of Peace was to task Jekkiel, the Solar seated at her right-hand, with working secretly against the fiends in the material plane, with specific attention to Orcus and his followers. Jekkiel and a select host of her subordinate angels began to operate covertly in the world, playing an intricate game of chess with the demons who were displeased with the heavenly interference. Despite her fear of fiendish spies, Jekkiel enlisted the help of the newly minted Church of Ben in her mission of protecting the material plane from the fiends.
At the same time as Jekkiel began to establish her operations in the Shadowlands and beyond, Ben set to work building her church. She chose a Drow woman as her first High Priestess; in response to this honour, and in recognition of the fact that building a religion and performing the duties of a High Priestess were a lifelong commitment, the woman voluntarily swore a vow of chastity. Ben, though not requiring the vow, accepted it as a gesture of the woman’s loyalty.
Although she never regretted the vow, the High Priestess did, on occasion, mourn for the children she’d never had. After centuries of working with the woman, and wishing to thank her for her dedication to Ben’s cause, and her strong support of Jekkiel’s mission, the solar, with Ben’s permission, arranged a gift for the High Priestess, who found herself pregnant with Jekkiel’s daughter, conceived immaculately. Though Jekkiel was not directly involved with the child, stories of the Solar and her celestial host inspired the girl as she grew.
N.B.: Historical records indicate at least three female half-celestials were born in the Shadowlands during this era (it is interesting to note that all descendants of any of Ben’s celestials are female). The three knew of each other, but were never involved with each other until after the Battle of Sszark.
Approximately 1000 years after Jekkiel had arrived on the material plane she reached turning point in her campaign against Orcus; the Battle of Sszark. The long series of covert and overt action between the angels and the demons finally exploded in a physical confrontation in the Valley of Sszark. Drow infiltrators from the Fiendish ranks arranged a trap for Jekkiel and her host. Believing a warlock cult was preparing to open a large gate to the Abyss and summon an invasion group, the angels and their Drow allies (including the High Priestess) ventured into the Shadowlands mountains intending to put a stop to it. By the time they arrived at the Valley and realized it was too late – that the gate had been opened long before they had arrived – they were surrounded and ambushed. The details of the battle are lost with its combatants, but there was little question as to the outcome. A week after the host had left, the battlefield was discovered by scouts, littered with the corpses of angels, demons, and Drow alike. Once the dead were tallied, all who had left were accounted for. The entirety of Jekkiel’s celestial host, and those Drow who traveled with the Solar, were dead. The Valley was renamed “Angelus Errare” in honour of the fallen.
In response to the slaughter, the three children of Jekkiel’s host founded Jekkiel’s Watch3 to continue their parents’ mission. The Watch remains a dominant military force in the Shadowlands.
Both the Church of Ben and Jekkiel’s Watch continued to grow and evolve as time went on, and every year, on the anniversary of the Battle of Sszark, both organizations arrange a pilgrimage and memorial service at Angelus Errare. For the last 3000 years this event took place without incident, however five years ago the Drow finally decided to open the ceremony to a small contingent of human representatives from the Janosian Alliance, to the south of the Shadowlands, in the interests of improving the peaceful, but often tense relations between the two regions.
During the ceremony, however, the Cult of Orcus, seeking to gain support and send a message to their enemies, attacked the gathering, hoping to defile the graves of the celestials and their allies. Caught off-guard, the Drow and their Human guests were forced back into the valley before they were able to regroup and organize against the assault. Though the battle was long and costly, it helped strengthen, if only for those present, the bonds between the Shadowlands and the Humans.
PEOPLES & CULTURE:
Life in the caverns and tunnels beneath Shui’s surface was hard, and helped to shape the Drow into a rough collection of chaotic communities adhering to a survival-of-the-fittest philosophy. Though there are many differences between the three groups, especially as you move forward in their history, largely the phrase “Drow is Drow is Drow” applies. The most common alignment among the Drow is Chaotic Neutral, though any alignment is possible.
The legend of The War is a defining one for the Drow as a race, bordering on religious belief. Though too much time has passed to verify how much, if any, of the legend and its associated stories are true, many a young Drow fancies him or herself the saviour of the Lost, and countless Bards sing of The War and the Lost and the hope for a happy ending. In fact, the Drow word for “Adventurer” literally translates into “Seeker of the Lost”.
The name Josam has become synonymous with the most terrible kind of traitor and is often used as a slur along these lines. He is vilified and despised by the race as a whole.
Personality-wise, even those Drow who left the Underdark generally keep to those of their own race, or at least show a decided preference for Drow over non-Drow. The survival-of-the-fittest mentality that shaped so much of their ancient history remains with them, and they are not above using their cunning and quickness to the advantage of themselves and their loved ones. They tend to take the position that if you can’t defend something it was never really yours in the first place.
Class-wise, the Drow are usually mages or rogues, but there is no shortage of fighters, bards, and rangers as well.
1 The Under-Drow:
The Under-Drow live in largely the same manner as they did before the Surface-Drow split off. Though they remain separated into their individual communities and clans, they maintain as a group the City of Refuge, which is a shelter in the event of an attack on their race as a whole. Though the city remains largely empty, it is maintained by the Drow as a fallback position, and has been designed to be as defensible as possible.
They have the same legends of the War and the Lost as the Surface-Drow do, but the Under-Drow are generally more likely to consider the stories fairy tales, and have long considered the Surface-Drow to be idealistic at best and fools at worst. They consider the moral of the legend of The War and the Lost to be a warning of the dangers of trusting those outside the Drow community.
Though they maintain positive relations with the Surface-Drow (if not with any other surface-peoples), they have retreated from other Underdark races over the millennia. The one exception are the Deep Gnomes, who are said to have aided the Drow against the demons and helped them build and maintain the City of Refuge. The Under-Drow remain protective of the odd race, if not directly involved with them.
The Under-Drow have a larger proportion of Evil aligned members in their community than the other Drow do, as a result of the lack of structured society and consistent definitions and punishments for criminal activity. The harsh environment and survival-of-the-fittest philosophy often lends itself to an evil mindset when there’s no defining philosophy or societal pressure tempering them.
2 The Surface-Drow
The Surface-Drow are those who, supposedly, vowed to track down the demons and free their enslaved brethren after The War. They are said to have traveled to the surface of Shui and claimed the Shadowlands as their own. Unfortunately, the demons had long since removed the Lost from the Material Plane entirely. Though The War and the Lost are only legends, many still believe that some day they will rescue the Lost.
The Surface-Drow tend to have more variety in their alignments than other Drow, due to their increased exposure to other cultures. In addition, their environment is less harsh that that of the other Drow, and so exerts less pressure on their cultural development, allowing more room for alignment variation. They remain, however, mostly Chaotic Neutral.
Both Aasimar and Tieflings are common among the Surface-Drow thanks to Jekkiel and her host of celestials.
There are a large number of half-elves in the Shadowlands, and in fact several large half-elven communities in the western areas, near the borders with the Tyrealis Confederation, Ophelion, the Lawless Lands and the Janosian Alliance.
On an individual basis, no two half-elves are alike, much as no two humans are alike.
Their communities tend toward diplomatic, middle-of-the-road stands when issues arise amongst their neighbours. Right smack-dab in the middle of the High Elves, Sun Elves, Drow and humans, their settlements are often used for diplomatic meetings, and are generally seen as neutral ground for all parties. THe Half-elves are careful to cultivate their relationships with all of these people, and to broker relationships between others when possible. They are a big driver behind the recent push by the Drow to open the Shadowlands to more trade.
The largest Half-Elven community is Valiant City4, located in the western Shadowlands.
3 Unexpectedly orphaned, and enraged at the betrayal and slaughter of her heroes, Jekkiel’s daughter contacted the other half-celestials in the Shadowlands. Both were grief-stricken, having lost their celestial parents, and eagerly agreed to help Jekkiel’s daughter found an organization dedicated to continuing the mission of Jekkiel’s celestial host. They scoured the Shadowlands for any other descendents of these angels and offered those old enough the opportunity to join their ranks. Though many turned them down, many agreed, and Jekkiel’s Watch was born (named for a favorite expression of Jekkiel’s: “Not on my watch!”).
The Watch remains as a dominant military force – consisting entirely of descendents of the original celestial legion (all female of course). The organization’s goal is the protection of the Shadowlands and Drow primarily, and all others secondarily, from fiendish exploitation or attack; as well as the eradication of any demons or devils known to be operating in the material plane.
Like her mother, Jekkiel’s daughter took a vow of chastity in light of her dedication to her angelic sire’s mission; Ben, as a final gift to her High Priestess and her right-hand Solar, promised Jekkiel’s daughter that as long as she remained true to her mission she would not have to worry about her line dying out. To this day, the leader of Jekkiel’s Watch is a direct descendent of Jekkiel, conceived immaculately by the current leader of the Watch at an appropriate time.
Though there are no alignment restrictions on the organization, the members of Jekkiel’s Watch are largely Good aligned, due to their celestial heritage. Exceptions, naturally, exist.
The Watch has come under criticism over the centuries for its refusal to allow non-aasimar to join their organization. Though there are no plans to open the membership to others at this point in time, the pressure is increasing as a result of the slow opening of the Shadowlands to other races and cultures.
The Church of Ben
4 Established centuries ago by the Valiant family, and ruled by them ever since, Valiant City was the first Half-Elven community in Shui. Created originally as a sanctuary for those Half-elves who found themselves persecuted or exiled for their heritage, it grew into a thriving, succesful metropolis. The half-elves found unexpected allies in the Surface-Drow – themselves short on luck and friends – and slowly but surely convinced the often xenophobic dark elves to do trade and other business with them.
Jekkiel’s Watch has a chapter in Valiant City, and the City Militia have offered valuable assistance to the organization several times.
By the time of the Crown of Min campaign, the Felstalkers are headquartered in Valiant City, and co-headed by Gav’axi, the youngest son of the Lord Valiant.
The current ruler of the city is Lord Ren’oo Valiant. The heir to his throne is his first born son, La’hz. He has two other sons, Yaz’oo and Gav’axi.