I am but a Simple Merchant: The Drau.

I am but a Simple Merchant: The Drau.

As a follow up to my alternate Lolth, here is a write-up of the drow. I am tweaking the spelling of the name here as drau to simply note the difference between what I’m doing here and more canonical representations of the race. Pronunciation is the same, but if you are writing it, using drau will make it easy to denote If you like drow as they are, I encourage you to keep enjoying them as you will and simply pass this by. If you are interested in a different look, take a peek and see what you like and what you might incorporate into your games! I recommend that you read about Lolth before delving into this.

Also, thanks to Brian Cooksey for suggesting the nickname “silk elves”. It fits perfectly and I love it. Thanks again!

Most who live on the surface rarely encounter a drau (also known as “silk elves”). But those who have met a silk elf know the phrase “I am but a simple merchant”, a common phrase spoken by drau silk merchants plying their trade far from their subterranean homes. The arrival of drau merchants in a place is anything but simple. The arrival of a silk caravan brings the opportunity for cultural enrichment and is a platform for intrigue. No drau merchant is simply what she appears, but what she is and what she wants is a mystery, sometimes even to the merchant herself. Lolth’s will is impossible for even her faithful to contemplate. Many locales have been irrevocably altered by the passage of these simple merchants, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.

Even with the possibility for mayhem, most cannot resist the incredible properties of drau silk nor the enchanting music and poetry of the drau. The somber tones of drau-silk cellos can make even the gods weep, the silk merchants lie (but not by much).

Physical Characteristics

The drau appear as other elves do, with elongated, pointed ears and fine, pointed features. Drau bodies are long and lithe, though they can hold deceptive amounts of strength. Their skin is bone white, adapted after milennia spent underground. The most common eye colors for drau are a vivid pink and a cold steel blue. Wide variance in eye colors exist for drau, though the colors are always either exceptionally bright or muted.

Their pale skin means that the exposure to sunlight can quickly harm their skin. When on the surface, drau don multi-layered garments known as sun-robes. The first layer is a wrapping of drau silk to cover the flesh, while the outer layer is a brightly colored robe embroidered with stories and histories from that drau’s brood. To protect their eyes in the sun, the drau don crystal googles to filter light. When the weather is too hot, the outer layers of clothing can be stripped and the drau’s skin will still stay protected.

A drau garbed this way is what most surface dwellers see; few have ever seen the bare flesh of a drau unless visiting the drau in their own underground cities, where sun-robes are not needed.

Drau are creatures deeply attuned to magic like other types of elves. Whereas other elves are connected to the lands of fey, the Drau are connected with Lolth to the Lifeweb. The Lifeweb (other elves call it the Demonweb) grants silk elves with the ability to communicate with Lolth (when she deems it necessary) and to receive power and blessings from her. The Lifeweb possesses ambient power of its own, and all drau gain the access to create life loam, a living clay that can be sculpted and animated to perform the will of its maker. Drau with deeper connections to the Lifeweb can weave together the fabrics of organic things through intense concentration. When people imply that drau cities are full of life, they mean so literally, as loam guardian statues and servitors can be found everywhere within drau civilizations, as can incredible structure built from silk, moss, and lichen.

Drau Culture

I’m used to (and you probably are as well) supplying a long narrative about a culture to give you a picture of who they are. What I’m going to do in this article is I will try to use another format I’ve built for what I refer to as ‘gameable culture’. This format sacrifices narrative thoroughness for a more emergent, easier to play experience. It is told from the perspective of a drau and details elements of culture and belief. If I’m doing this right, you should be able to take the above overview and the below information and let characters quickly step into playing a drau or encountering and interacting with drau. I hope you try this format and let me how it does or does not work for you! Just be aware that I know I haven’t supplied you with a long list of detail. This is purposeful, so you can integrate the silk elves into your games more easily.

Where I’m From

(What are things the drau do?)

  • We gather in extended familial organizations called broods, each ruled by a matriarch “Broodmother”.
  • Each drau has her own private connection to Lolth, but one’s status determines how much weight we place on that relationship.
  • We will go to great lengths to get elves to forsake their gods.
  • We travel above ground rarely, and never just to trade silk.
  • We expect others not to trust us. We use their distrust to further our own purposes.

Heroic Archetypes

(what are common heroic archetypes for the drau?)

Simple Silk Merchant
Loam Artiste
Sage of the Lifeweb
Fey Infiltrator

A Drau is…

(how do drau see themselves? What characteristics seem virtuous to them?)

  • enigmatic
  • creative
  • reverent
  • soft-spoken
  • clever
  • faithful
  • independent
  • sly
  • sarcastic
  • multi-faceted

Drau History

(important events -evocatively named but left purposely blank- how did these events occur in your setting?)

  • Banished from the High Court
  • Abyssal Invasion of the Lifeweb
  • The Silent Year when Lolth Refused to Speak

So now comes the fun part. Given this material, can you stat up drau in your favorite system of choice? If the drau interest you, I’d love to see what you come up with. If you draw them up in D&D, Pathfinder, 13th Age, Fate, Savage Worlds, et al. please post a link on this article. If we get a good response I’ll make a page for the Drau that links to your write-up!

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4 Responses

  1. This is fantastic. I’d been thinking about creating an alternative to the drow for 13th Age, because the “underground elves with jet black skin” concept just never made sense to me. Your writeup gives me the same feeling I had when I first laid hands on Trollpak – here are a people with the potential to be far more than mere sword-fodder, with their own complex motivations and interactions with the rest of the game world. I’d really enjoy seeing the drau get further fleshed out.

  2. Pingback: » Naming our Narrators Doubleplus Fun

  3. Awesome ideas here. If I get to play a fantasy game any time soon, I’m giving this a spin.

  4. This is by far the most interesting treatment of the Drow I’ve ever seen. I’d be more than happy to introduce the Drau into a future game, which is fantastic since I’ve never really been sold on them as just “evil cave-dwellers”.

    Seriously, excellent work on this.