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Drow craftwork is not what it could be--and certainly pales before the work of say, for example, dwarven artisans. As you will see, it is not due to inferior construction; rather, the short-sightedness of the drow is the undoing of their works.
For example, faced with a strategically-located cavern that will see heavy traffic and use, but which has an unstable, crumbling roof, a dwarf would create a system of massive, overstrong, reliable-for-aeons stone buttresses. Drow, on the other hand, would rather fashion beautifully carved vaulting, and hold the ceiling up with spells. If the spells fail and the ceiling falls, the artisans would be tortured or executed (depending on how useful they are otherwise at the time), and slaves put to work to clear away the rubble. New vaulting would be sculpted, often with Stone Shape spells and a minimum of hand-work, so that it could happen all over again.

This is not to say that drow do not have skilled engineers and artisans, though unlike svirfneblin, dwarves, and other races native to the Underdark, drow do not have the deep-rooted connections to, and perception of, their environment. It is to these other races, in the form of slaves, that the "grunt work" goes. Dark elves are more a races of skilled dilettantes and overseers, who utilize their competent slaves to do the actual mining and hauling. Drow engineers lack the feel for the rock that dwarves, duergar, and svirfneblin possess, and are fewer in number than individual swith comparable skills in those races, yet the drow often succeed on sheer bold brilliance where they cannot match deep understanding of stone, subterranean water movements, and other conditions.
Dark elven architects and engineers often create intricate spiral tunnels, as well as boldly-flying stone bridges (that are formed in such a way as to be able to stretch to some degree, enabling them to survive minor earth tremors), balconies, and buttresses. The complex shaping and hollowing-out for habitation of stalactites, stalagmites, and cave columns ranks the drow among the creators of Toril's most impressive works.
Even more impressive are drow waterworks. Drow are skilled at collecting and diverting underground waters to serve them--providing for their dietary and industrial needs, and to carry away their wastes. Fluted, intricately-curved pipes are bored through solid rock, and are often fit with shut-off valves and alternative side channels, pumps (both of the piston sort, worked by slave power as needed, and the corkscrew type, worked by water force and pressure), and catch-basins.

Moving to other creative venues, the longest-lived and most learned of drow have developed sophisticated technology on par with, and occasionally surpassing, many human communities on the surface Realms. The most brilliant drow artisans and innovators have devised weird, yet practical contraptions that would make many gnome inventors green with envy. These items typically include, but are not limited to, gas-powered needle throwers, extensile mechanical hands for reaching up to 20' away, climbing-wire, strangling wires, and wire saws.
(DMs are encouraged to indulge their wildest creativity in devising strange and/or cruel new drow items. A few ideas are presented below, collected from the pages of The Quintessential Drow™, a drow sourcebook by Mongoose Publishing®. You may also wish to peruse various Gnome references or sourcebooks.)

  • Essence Injectors
    These flat metal vials are generally positioned between the shoulder blades and fastened into place with a pair of leather straps that wrap around the shoulders. A thin needle runs from the vial and under the skin of the wearer, while a thinner wire runs up over a shoulder to dangle over the chest. When the wire is pulled (a free action), the contents of the injector are forced into the body. An essence injector is normally worn as a way for someone to quickly consume an emergency potion.
    Cost: 300 gp; Weight: 2 lbs.

  • Instrument Gloves
    Instrument gloves are among the height of drow expertise. These specially crafted gloves contain tiny lenses, screw drivers, cutting blades, scissors, and even small hammers, all integrated into the design of the glove. The wearer can then use any of the tools without needing to switch hands and each tool can be very finely controlled due to their placement on the glove. A single instrument glove provides its bonus to a single type of trade skill only, as the tools must be customized for not only the wearer, but the Craft skill he chooses to practice. The gloves come in +1, +2, and +3 Circumstance bonus varieties.
    Cost: 200 gp (+1), 400 gp (+2), 800 gp (+3); Weight: 1 lb.

  • Blood Spigots
    These ingenious and devilish devices are used by ramming them into the flesh of a target and standing back. Their clever design forms a vacuum which sucks the blood and other fluids from the body of the target at an alarming rate. The spigot can be removed with a successful Strength check (DC 20). If the victim wishes to remove the spigot himself, he must make a successful Will save (DC 20) in order to build up the nerve to tear it out, but no such roll is necessary if the subject is willing to let someone else tear the weapon from his flesh. Removing the spigot causes 1d6 points of damage.
    A blood spigot is a Small Martial Melee weapon that causes 1d4 points of piercing damage on a successful strike. If it scores maximum damage or a critical hit (x3 multiplier), it is stuck in the body of the victim and begins siphoning his blood out at a rate of 1d4 hit points of additional damage per round. Note that this does not work on undead, plants, constructs, or other creatures without a circulatory system.
    Cost: 100 gp; Weight: 1 lb.

Perhaps the most common drow advanced craftwork are the replacement limbs worn by injured drow (who have either chosen not to receive healing magics capable of replacing the limb, or were otherwise forbidden from receiving such). These wonders are almost all fashioned of adamantine alloy: assemblies of precise, intricate parts that are as agile and dexterous as living limbs, with many ball-swivel joints and tendon-like cables for control (not to mention the possibility, and likelihood, of various magics having some part in their functionality). The adamantine construction makes them both very hard and flexible--they are not prone to shatter or snap off under stress, but can punch or rake through many armors.
Such limbs may have specialized, removable "hands"--a drow lady whose everday limb-end is a delicate metal hand may substitute an armor-rending claw, or even a sword, axe, or long-spiked mace end, when expecting battle (use damage for weapon types as normal in the Player's Handbook). As these limbs are considered masterwork items, it is feasible that certain enchantments could be laid upon them (both offensive and defensive, as it would be feasible to treat them the same as bracers where armor abilities are concerned).
Able-bodied, whole drow may have similar weapon or specialized extensions which utilize the same technology, that strap onto limbs or fit over a hand or foot.
(Editor‘s note: Sorry that I cannot include any pertinent game info for the limbs. Apparently, this was part of Ed Greenwood’s extensive 2E drow info that WotC chose to simply ignore in the conversion to 3/3.5E. Easy enough to come up with something on your own, however, and Goodman Games® has rules for their own version of drow prosthetic limbs in their Complete Guide to Drow™)

Drow handiwork is not limited to the bizarre, however. As a race they are quite adept at fashioning and securing things such as trade containers; that is, methods of storing and moving goods about. They also fashion intricate harnesses for beasts of burden and mounts. These skills are largely due to the drow demands for goods (such as fruit) that can only be obtained from surface-world sources, through trade or raids, and by the need to harvest or gather needed goods (such as edible fungi, gems, and small edible animals, insects, and crustaceans) in the Underdark. Drow patrols often have folding racks fro carrying trussed prisoners or game, and special clay "wet basins" are used to bring back live Underdark crab and fish to drow tables.
Some drow communities also use clay to fashion temporary structures or the dwellings of the poor, in a manner akin to the adobe-like "baked mud" buildings of certain areas in the Shaar and in Kara-Tur of the surface Realms. Noble families may employ such techniques to creat temporary furniture or sculptures for a party, filling much of their rooms with sweeping, fantastically-curved constructions studded with gems (as most any drow work is), glowing fungi, and other adornments, fitted with benches, alcoves, tunnels and secluded bowers for wild revelry.

The drow also craft concoctions and compounds of the alchemical and herbal variety. Widely acknowledged as masters of the dark art of poisoning, drow continually experiment with and concoct a wide variety of poisons, the most infamous of which is their Drow Knockout Poison. Highly prized by surface and Underdark traders alike, this sleep poison is a black, heavy, gummy substance, rather like molasses, which reacts both to sunlight and air. It will remain potent for a year if kept in a sealed packet--but loses its efficacy 60 days after exposure to air (either aboveground or in the Underdark). It loses its potency instantly when exposed to sunlight.
A victim struck with a weapon coated with Drow Knockout Poison (thus it is an Injury poison) must succeed at a DC 17 Fortitude save or fall Unconscious for 1 minute. If the first save was failed a second save must be made, at the end of the initial first minute’s effects, at the same DC or the victim falls Unconscious for 2d4 hours. The typical price for a single dose on the market is 75 gp. Drow being drow, they are highly secretive about the formula for making Drow Knockout Poison, and as such it is difficult to find outside of drow realms and outposts.
On the whole, it is safe to say that any given poison one may come across is able to be manufactured by the drow.

While poisons may be the most common substances created by the drow, a few other items of note of an alchemical or herbal nature have been attributed to the race. Darkoil (mentioned elsewhere) is one such alchemical creation, utilized to protect drowcraft weapons and armor from the harsh light of the sun. Shrieker paste is another of the more notable concoctions. The shrieker, a common fungus found in the bowels of the Underdark, is sometimes cultivated by drow societies, creating a first line of defense against intrusion around their cities. In addition, drow alchemists harvest the fungus and render it down to a base substance capable of reproducing the shrieker's howl.
Shriek paste is an oily, smelly substance with a slightly purplish color. When smeared on a surface, it retains the same consistencey almost indefinitely. When the paste is exposed to a light source equivalent to torchlight or greater, it rapidly crystallizes. During this process, the paste emits a high-pitched screeching noise, making it a useful signaling device. The shriek is loud and easy to hear (Listen DC -10). This sound lasts for 1 round before the paste dries up entirely and is rendered inert.
As the drow are such accomplished alchemists on the whole, it would be feasible for a DM to utilize almost any alchemical concoction in print (sourcebooks) when running drow npcs, or for players to do likewise for their characters.

Page Last Updated March 1st, 2005


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