From Wizards of the Coast's Underdark D&D Rules Supplement (4e edition) by Rob Heinsoo and Andy Collins, based on Gary Gygax's original Vault of the Drow houses.

Drow Nobles


The real power in Erelhei-Cinlu (and by extension, in the entire Vault) resides in the matriarchs of the noble houses. All the ruling houses are webbed in intrigue so thick that no one drow matron or spymaster knows all the ruses and conspiracies in play at any one time.

By tradition, eight noble houses oversee Erelhei-Cinlu. Members of these great clans refer to themselves as if they were extended families, related by blood. In fact, they're symbolic alliances connected by ceremonies of adoption. Blood families belong to the same house. They watch each other's backs in the house's constant internal struggle. However, the houses' membership rolls are so large that females need not look outside their clans to find unrelated mates.

House leaders are called matron mothers. Like the priestesses, their power is said to derive from Lolth. Of course, when they punish the weak and elevate the strong, they're more likely to mention the pragmatic concerns of the house than to invoke theology.

Each house is known by an emblem, which not only signifies the wearer's affiliation but also supposedly recalls (to historians) some significant detail of the house's past glory.

The houses are eight in number, ranked below in descending order of influence.


The upstart House Xaniqos, the youngest and most impetuous of the ruling houses, has secretly laid metaphorical eggs of malice, treachery, and violence beneath the foundations of all the lesser houses. The other houses have doubtless planned similar deceits, but none have done so with the determination and success of Xaniqos. Indeed, the house has so many active schemes in play that its leader, Lady Thandysha, is in danger of losing track of one or more threads. On the day she does so, the entire edifice of her power could well unravel.

The House's emblem is a jet crossbow bolt.


Politics is Aleval's game. Though its spies, scouts, and poisoners number among the best, House Aleval is the most "diplomatic" of the ruling houses. Aleval maintains relations with non-drow (including adventurers from the surface). Of course, when Aleval's politicking fails, other houses know to be on watch for poisoners. Its matron mother, Ana'Shrinarrean, never leaves her estate. Those seeking audience with her must prostrate themselves at the foot of her perfumed bed. Rumor has it that a degenerative transformation keeps her bedridden.

Aleval's symbol is a golden wand.


This house of warriors, gladiators, and generals is famed for its raiding parties and its school of demon summoners. The matron mother, Ilmirinza, dotes on her familiar, Weley, a loathsome, squeaking demon, halfcat and half frog. Other houses complain that she grants too much influence to her consort, the fiery raider Lualisin.

Despana's emblem is an adamantine mace.


Godeep's power rests in its skill at spider-breeding and its deep collection of powerful enchanted items. Over recent years it has enveloped several families of up-and-coming traders, forging a new identity as the city's preeminent mercantile concern. Its matron mother, Shie, drills her underlings to calculate sums in their head, sending those who fail to come up to speed to the Fane of Lolth for sacrifice.

Members of Godeep wear a platinum crossbow emblem.


House Shi'quos is feared for its necromantic tradition and cadre of undead servitors. It is said that every structure commanded by Shi'quos is staffed by an elite force of deathless knights. It suffered a recent setback when the unliving occupants of the Ghetto of the Dead drove the house's sheriffs and tax collectors from the catacombs. Every day that Matron Mother Laelao Tlumir delays a reprisal raid against them, the house's reputation suffers.

Shi'quos is symbolized by a bat carved in amethyst.


The drow of House Vae control the slave trade. In its effort to keep its pens stocked with fresh product, the house sponsors raids throughout the Underdark and to the surface world. Though the slaves Vae procures are a valuable commodity the city of Erelhei-Cinlu could hardly do without, the activity of slave-gathering itself draws the attention of enemies to the Vault. Matron Mother Triue Ulvnay inspects all slaves her people bring into the city, in case she wants to add a creature to her personal collection. Her forehead bears a luminous tattoo of the house emblem, an iron chain.


A rich and troubled history attaches to this notoriously tenacious clan. Every time the other houses bring it to the brink of destruction, Eilservs claws its way back to power. Its famous and storied matron mother, Lady Eclavdra, recently perished of apparent poisoning. No one can believe that such a tenacious matron could be brought low by such a base stratagem, nor does anyone know what to make ofher surprisingly youthful replacement, Na' Dhaunxutal.

The Eilservs ceremonial object is a bronze staff.


Paladins of Lolth dominate this odd ruling house, which came to prominence as a result of their ruthless dedication to wiping out cultists of the Elemental Eye. More explicitly religious than other houses, it rivals with the jealousy of Lolth's priesthood. The Zhiq'nah hierarchy resents the implication that its members show a less pure devotion to the spider goddess than the priestesses do. Wagging tongues have it that the priestesses of Lolth are planning an attack on Zhiq'nah's matron mother, Pharloth Vaedra.

The Zhiq'nah mark their house allegiance by carrying lapis lazuli daggers.


It wasn't so long ago that House Tormtor was the chief house in Erelhei-Cinlu. House Despana made itself useful to Tormtor, taking over many of its military responsibilities while Tormtor's matron mother pursued magical research that was supposed to lead to a method of reclaiming Erenira from Torog (see "City of Anathema," page 87).

Instead, Mistress Verdaeth's rituals fell publicly and spectacularly into the control of Tharizdun. House Despana and House Xaniqos organized to destroy the threat immediately. The few survivors of House Tormtor are scattered in other drow cities, working covertly for other houses, or in one notable case, working for the cult of Tharizdun (see the "Cult of the Elder Elemental Eye" sidebar, page 72).

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