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We first looked at Drow during our Let’s Read of the Monster Manual and Vault, and you can read that post by clicking the link. The basic lore of the drow remains the same, and this entry adds a bit more alongside some epic-tier drow enemies.
Mainstream Lolth-worshipping drow society is a nightmare of intrigue and backstabbing, as we have already seen. Every drow is plotting to backstab their superiors while keeping an eye out for similar plots coming from their subordinates and peers. The higher they rise, the more favor they have in the eyes of Lolth. Where does it end, though? What reward awaits those followers who become such tracherous vermin they become one of Lolth’s favorite children?
Why, they get to go live in the Demonweb and do it all over again!
Abyssal drow make up the bulk of the non-demon population of the Demonweb. The broad outlines of their society are largely the same as those in the world - they organize themselves into a number of factions that struggle for dominance and Lolth’s personal favor. There are three important differences, however.
The first is that these abyssal factions are centered around powerful and charismatic individuals rather than around a city-state or noble house. The second is that they’re made up of a mix of abyssal drows and demons of various kinds. The third and most surprising difference is that there is almost no internal intrigue within these factions. The stakes in the Abyss are too high - Abyssal drow form stable alliances because they can’t afford to backstab their allies down here.
The leaders of these factions are usually Lolth’s Exarchs, and they occupy the highest position any mortal worshiper of Lolth can aspire to. When in the Abyss, they spend their time managing their faction and its intrigues against the others. When outside the Demonweb, they tend to infiltrate other sapient cultures or even act as overt ambassadors of Lolth within them. Examples of such culture includes the giants and efreets of the Elemental Chaos or the devils of Hell.
Abyssal drow are still drow: Medium Fey Humanoids with a Speed of 7 and Darkvision. Everything else about them is a function of training and varies per stat block. Not even the classic Darkfire power is a constant, though it still shows up in some individuals.
Zealots are terrifying epic level warriors, but among the drow of the Abyss they’re considered the rank and file, the lowest of the low. Most arrived from the world not too long ago, their minds filled with dreams of glorious purpose. Some are instead long-term residents of the Abyss who have been busted down to zealot from some loftier rank due to some mistake or act of disobedience.
In either case, the first thing Lolth does to a drow who attains this rank is to curse them with a demonic spider infestation. The constant pain and suffering this causes serves as a powerful incentive for zealots to strive for promotion. The spiders that crawl out of their orifices and wounds also provide some occasional help in combat, as they attack the drow’s enemies.
Zealots are Level 23 Brutes with 265 HP. They have Resist 10 poison and the usual drow traits. They fight with a Fullblade, a huge two-handed sword that appeared in one of the Adventurer’s Vault supplements.
While bloodied they project a Spider Host aura (1), which causes any enemy in the aura that becomes bloodied to take 20 ongoing poison damage (save ends) as the demon spiders crawl from the zealot’s bloodstream to the enemy’s.
Their fullblades do the heavy damage you’d expect from an epic brute, and if the zealot misses with the attack it gains a +2 to attacks and a +5 to damage against the same target until the end of its next turn.
Zealots have the traditional Darkfire ability, a minor-action encounter power that targets Reflex. It makes the target grant combat advantage and nullifies any invisibility or concealment for a turn.
When the zealot reaches 0 HP, it explodes in a Spider Burst, creating a Close Burst 1 zone that lasts until the end of the encounter and causes 10 poison damage to anyone that starts their turn inside.
Other zealots are immune to the zone’s damage due to their poison resistance, so they have no trouble stepping over the ruptured corpses of their allies. They’ll charge the PCs and hack away without much care for their own wounds, since their auras kick in when they’re bloodied. They pair well with Leader enemies that grant extra attacks, since those could allow them to benefit from the damage bonus given by a missed attack more than once.
Abyssal drow often summon, bind, and otherwise ally with demons, but some priestesses go further and make their own. Draegloths are created by abyssal magic from a mix of demon and drider DNA.
Draegloths are pretty much impossible to control, which isn’t usually a very desired trait in lab-bred monsters. Because of this their creation is usually done as an act of devotion to Lolth, and they’re gifted directly to the goddess, to whom they are quite loyal. They can be found patrolling the Demonweb alongside other Lolth-favored demons.
Draegloth Abominations are Huge Elemental Magical Beasts with the Demon tag. They look like elephant-sized driders, or like the dapper fellow here in the illustration. They’re Level 24 Lurkers with 174 HP, ground and climb speeds of 8, Darkvision, and Tremorsense 10.
Their basic attack is a Claw that does double damage against a dazed creature. The Slashing Claws ability allows them to make two claw attacks with the same action. Their other attack is a Tethering Web (ranged 5 vs. Reflex). A hit does a small bit of poison damage and tethers the target (save ends). Tethered targets are dazed, and the demon can pull them adjacent to itself with a free action.
Once per encounter they can use a power named Maddening Darkness. This attacks the Will of all enemies in a Close Burst 2. On a hit, it slows and dazes for a turn. This power also creates a zone of darkness that blocks line of sight and blinds those within (with the exception of the demon in both cases). The zone also lasts for a turn.
When damaged, the draegloth can use a Dark Leap as a reaction. This is another encounter power, and it recharges when it’s first bloodied. It allows the creature to immediately recharge and use Maddening Darkness, and then teleport 8 squares.
Finally, it has top-tier Variable Resistance (Resistance 20 switchable 3/encounter).
Draegloths want to strike from ambush and open up with Maddening Darkness. They’ll claw as many dazed PCs as they can, and use Dark Leap with the PCs begin counter-attacking. From what point on they’ll try to stay away and tether the squishies.
Lolth delights in treachery, even between her own followers. So when a drow assassin is skilled and resourceful enough to murder one of the priestesses that rule the drow city-states, that assassin gets invited to the Abyss and becomes a Shadowblade. These epic assassins have access to the best gear, the deadliest poisons, and to a special technique that lets them animate and control their own shadow.
Shadowblades are Level 24 Lurkers with 171 HP and the usual drow Darkvision. Their ground speed is 7 and they have phasing, which means they can walk through walls.
Their basic attack is a Short Sword. Instead of attacking, they can spend their action to cast Animated Shadow, creating an allied animated shadow within 10 squares. The shadow lasts until the end of the shadowblade’s next turn and counts as an ally for flanking purposes, but is immune to attacks. When the shadowblade moves on its turn, the shadow slides an equal number of squares.
When a target is flanked by both the shadowblade and its shadow, the assassin can use a Shadow Strike that deals the same damage as a basic attack plus 10 necrotic damage. This causes the shadow to burst into a zone of blinding darkness to which the drow itself is immune. It lasts for a turn.
As a minor action, the shadowblade can poison its weapon with Soulrot Venom, which adds a complicated rider to the next attack it hits before the end of the encounter. That hit will weaken the target (save ends). The first failed save also makes the target take 15 ongoing necrotic damage; the second strips it of all resistances and immunities! A successful save ends all those effects. The venom recharges once the shadowblade is first bloodied.
Finally, its mastery of the sword manifests as the Persistent Blade power (recharge 4+). This is a free action that triggers when the shadowblade misses with its sword, and it allows it to make a basic attack against a different enemy.
A shadowblade alpha strike is kinda scary. It summons the shadow and envenoms its weapon “off-screen”, and then flanks and stabs a PC through a wall. If this hits, the PC will take damage from the sword, bonus necrotic damage from the shadow, and will be subject to soulrot venom. If this misses, the shadowblade can still stab someone else and poison them as a consolation prize. As soon as it can move again, it will fade into the wall and get ready for another shadow strike.
A drow wizard powerful enough to be invited to live in the Demonweb, where they give themselves over to the Abyss and become rather warlock-like. Despite their demonic power, these spellcasters fear for their souls, which become fair game to their demon buddies if they die. They are quick to run away from a fight if it seems like they’re losing, abandoning their thralls and allies to their fate.
Archmages are Level 25 Artillery with 178 HP and the standard drow traits. They fight in melee with Daggers that do physical damage and inflict a -4 attack penalty for a turn; and at range with Abyssal Bolts (ranged 20 vs. Reflex) that do acid and poison damage. They can also use two encounter spells that target Fortitude.
Cruel Banishing (melee 1) does no damage, but teleports the target 7 squares and dazes them (save ends). This is a lot deadlier if there are draegloths on Team Monster!
Demonic Grasp (ranged 10) immobilizes the target and suspends them 1 square up. Immobilized targets can still fight, they just can’t move. However, while the target is affected by this spell, they take 10 poison damage every time they or their allies damage a demon, drow, or spider.
As a minor action, the archmage can perform an Unwholesome Sacrifice (recharge 5+), dealing 20 damage to an adjacent ally in order to either recharge an encounter power or get a +10 damage bonus to a ranged attack made before the end of its next turn. Finally, it also has the same Darkfire power as the zealot.
Drow Exalted Consort
Drow society is matriarchal, and though plenty of career paths are open to drow men the loftiest heights of power are usually denied to them. The only way for a male drow to be part of the real elite is to become consort to a powerful priestess.
Being a consort is about more than looking pretty - they’re also expected to serve their ladies as bodyguards and knights. This practice continues in the Abyss, where Exalted Consorts are hand-picked by Lolth herself for their beauty and martial skill. She imbues them with divine power, and places them under the service of her priestesses in the Demonweb. This means Exalted Consorts are kinda like epic paladins or avengers of Lolth. I guess a gift of new consorts is a sign that Lolth particularly favors that priestess today.
Exalted Consorts are Level 25 Skirmishers with 224 HP. They wield paired longswords in combat with a graceful, mobile fighting style. Aside from basic attacks, they can use an at-will technique named Warding Blades that does nearly double the damage of a basic attack and gives them a +6 AC bonus against opportunity attacks for a turn. This allows them to move around the battlefield much more freely than most enemies.
They have another technique named Blurred Steel that allows them to make three basic attacks in the same action. Up to two of which can target the same creature, and the power recharges when the consort moves more than 3 squares in its turn. This is a good move to alternate with Warding Blades in order to spread damage around.
Lolth’s power turns the standard drow Darkfire into an attack named Darkfire Revelation, a minor action which targets Reflex and deals fire damage. A hit nullifies invisibility and concealment for a (save ends) duration, longer than the single turn of basic Darkfire. This is an encounter power.
Their last encounter power is Lolth’s Favor, which triggers when the consort becomes bloodied. As a reaction, they teleport 7 squares, and cause all enemies adjacent to them at the destination to grant combat advantage for a turn. This is not an escape power, but something used to press the attack.
Warding Blades should be the consort’s attack of choice even when it doesn’t plan on moving much, the extra damage is too good to pass up. Blurring Steel is a good alternative for when the consort manages to run or teleport past the PC front line and close in on the poorly-armored squishies at the back, followed by more Warding Blades in subsequent turns.
Drow Lady of Spiders
“Lady of Spiders” is the second-highest rank in Lolth’s priesthood. There are only sixty-six of these in all of existence, and the only way to ascend to their ranks is to kill one of the incumbents. The only drow who outranks them is Eclavdra, Lolth’s main exarch.
A Lady of Spiders will always be found commanding a sizable force of drow, demons and spiders of similar level. Her commands and her magic act as a big force multiplier for her lackeys. Her powers include a lot of poison- and mind-based magic, as well as the ability to heal allies and to summon demonic spiders.
Such a Lady is a Level 27 Elite Controller with 494 HP. She projects Lolth’s Blessing as an aura (2) that heals bloodied allies inside for 10 HP at the start of their turns. However, she’s Sensitive to Light, which causes the aura to shut down for a turn if the Lady takes radiant damage.
Her basic melee attack is a scourge that damages and slides enemies 2 squares on a hit, and her basic ranged attack Conjures Venom straight into a victim’s bloodstream to deal poison damage.
She can also cast an at-will spell to summon Coccooning Webs around a target, restraining them and dealing ongoing 25 poison damage (save ends both). I think we just broke the record for most ongoing poison damage in an MM so far, unless someone else reached 30 and I forgot. A target who makes the save is still slowed until they pass a second one.
The Lady’s mind magic is represented by Irrefutable Command (recharge 5+), a Close Burst 3 that targets up to 2 creatures in the burst. Targets must choose between charging another creature of the Lady’s choice or taking 50 psychic damage.
I’d say her signature ability is Bring Forth the Widows, though. It takes a standard action and summons a Medium demonic shadow spider to a space within 10 squares of the priestess. The Widow has 100 HP and the Lady’s defenses. It also has speed 8 (spider climb 8), and moves whenever the Lady takes a move action. It stays in the field for the rest of the fight or until destroyed, and if it’s destroyed this power recharges.
The Lady can order the Widow to attack with a minor action, and this deals physical and ongoing poison damage. The spider can also make opportunity attacks using the Lady’s opportunity action.
When the lady is hit in melee, her Fearsome Wrath attacks the Will of all enemies in a close burst 5. On a hit they’re pushed 5 squares and stunned for a turn. This fear effect recharges once the Lady is first bloodied.
With this and the Lolth entry that we’ll find a further into the book (spoilers!), you have everything you need to run a 4e rendition of the GDQ module series. Abyssal drow are the sort of enemy you’ll find in the Demonweb itself, and their unique abilities give you a spicier result than what you’d get if you just used leveled-up MV drow.
You don’t have to change much of their lore even if non-evil drow are common in your setting. These are the people who chose to dedicate themselves to Lolth, goddess of betrayal, mistress of the cycle of abuse, etc. etc.