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Since the drow worship a spider goddess, how would they react to:

  • a party accompanied by a giant spider (actually a druid in wildshape)
  • a party member wild shaping into a spider mid-combat
  • a party member having a pet (not giant) spider

Would the reaction be different from a drow priestess of Lolth, versus the regular rank and file drow warrior? Obviously not every drow will react in the same way -- I am asking about what one would typically expect.

The setting is Forgotten Realms.

Any specific references from the sourcebooks of any edition, or the Salvatore novels would be appreciated. I am looking for help in roleplaying drow in the face of a party containing a moon druid who thinks changing into a spider in front of drow will be fun -- I want to be sure to make it fun, but also stay reasonably true to the source material available (without having read all the Salvatore novels myself).

[I added the 5e tag since that's what we're playing, but I suspect that the answer would be the same for any edition of D&D. Also since this question arises from my preparation for running the new Out of the Abyss adventure, the context is most likely to be a party of drow familiar with the PCs]

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If you're looking for people to share impressions/suggestions, this might be a job for a discussion forum. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 8 '15 at 2:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there any way of editing this to make it work? I would like text-supported thoughts, not just opinions. \$\endgroup\$ – PurpleVermont Sep 8 '15 at 5:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure how much text support there can be for reactions of drow to people shapechanging into spiders in front of them. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 8 '15 at 6:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't know how much text support there really is but there certainly could be instances of such or similar things happening in prior editions' campaign materials or in the Salvatore novels. My assumption was that people who have read a ton of material set in the Underdark would have a very good idea how "typical" drow would react in such situations, and would hopefully be able to back it up with textual support showing where various attitudes and reactions are demonstrated. \$\endgroup\$ – PurpleVermont Sep 8 '15 at 18:17
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Drow are forbidden to harm a spider - unless they can get away with it.

Drow of Faerûn are hesistant to harm a spider, since that creature is sacred to their deity Lolth, and to kill a spider is punishable by death.

According to the AD&D 2e product Menzoberranzan (The City, p.14), which details the drow city of that name:

Anyone who mistreats an arachnid, or any creature (from slave to beast of burden) of a House, is fined and whipped by priestesses of the Spider Queen. Those who kill spiders must die.

This applies even in accident, such as in the novel Daughter of the Drow (p.4), where a soldier in Menzoberranzan is executed on the spot after a priestess spots him accidentally stepping on a spider:

Unfortunately for that soldier, the priestess happened to look over her shoulder just as the spider, a creature sacred to Lolth, simultaneously lost its dinner and its life.

"Sacrilege!" she declaimed in a voice resonant with power and magic. She swept a finger toward the offending soldier and demanded, "Administer the law of Lolth, now!"

However, this law is not necessarily absolute, according to Menzoberranzan (The City, p.15):

Drow law, as Drizzt Do'Urden so clearly saw, is but a cruel facade to cover the chaos of ruthlessly-striving, ambitious drow fighting each other: a mockingly ironic set of rules in which the only ones to be punished are those who get caught.

The D&D 4th edition Menzoberranzan, p.20, also questions how absolute the drow prohibition on harming spiders really is:

According to surface-world folktales, dawk elves venerate spiders so fervently that a drow will never harm one. That's a characteristically outsider misunderstanding of drow psychology ...

Drow make no special effort to harm their eight-legged cohorts, but aren't above destroying them if they get in the way (though not in the presence of a zealous priestess or a superior drow who might use the act against them). Some drow ceremonially eat a spider at the beginning of each meal as a way ot giving thanks to the arachnid goddess.

It's also questionable whether the taboo on killing spiders is an edict handed down by Lolth herself, or merely an interpretation of her dogma as given by her priestesses.

Faiths and Pantheons p.41 describes it as a religious dogma:

Revere arachnids of all kinds; those who kill or mistreat a spider must die.

That same page describes that Faerûn's Lolth is the same entity as the Lolth other other worlds, such as Greyhawk. This is important because in Flesh For Lolth: The Secret Life of Dark Elves, in Dragon #298, p.30, it's described that drow in general have absolutely no problem harming spiders:

The squishing and crunching sound of stepped-on spiders is a constant refrain. Drow do not bother to check for spiders before sitting. A matriarch might idly seize a fist-sized spider while negotiating a trade arrangement and proceed to casually rip its legs off, one by one. Drow breads and puddings are speckled with stray legs, mandibles, and eggs.

This suggests that the prohibition on killing spiders is not something required by Lolth, but merely a rule decided upon by her priestesses, meaning that it may vary between individual settlements and even time periods, depending which noble houses are in charge at the time.

In short: For a drow, killing a spider is punishable by death if the priestesses of your settlement decide it's illegal on the grounds of disrespecting spiders (as has historically been the case in Menzoberranzan), and they catch you doing it openly, and you're not sufficiently high-status to get away with it.

They won't suddenly bow down to worship the spider, or assume it's a messenger of Lolth or anything. Also, it's not illegal to kill a party of invaders, even if they do appear to own a spider.

Seeing someone transformed into a spider or spider-like creature has special connotations in drow society: Lolth transforms drow who fail her into spider-like abominations. However, most drow are also familiar with the existence of polymorph magic, and unlikely to mistake a human turning into a a spider for a drow turning into a drider.

They may, however, attack this "fake" spider more readily: it's not a real spider after all, and using magic to disguise yourself as someone of higher status is illegal in Menzoberranzan, giving the drow a possible pretext to attack the party if they needed one. However, this also carries risk, since if a priestess shows up to break up the fight, and sees low-status drow attacking what appears to be a real spider, their lives may well be forfeit.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The drow surely have druids of their own; they definitely have access to shape-changing magic. It seems a stretch to expect that they would be likely to misunderstand what it means to watch someone transform into a spider. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 9 '18 at 0:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Good point. Drow society has many magic users and they're likely to recognise a polymorph, and unlikely to assume that a non-drow invader worships Lolth, and probably wouldn't mistake a normal spider for one of Lolth's abominations. \$\endgroup\$ – Quadratic Wizard Jun 9 '18 at 0:26
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Don't be racist - drow are people too. :) They have many personalities and could have a wide range of responses from calling the party blasphemers and instantly attacking them to reverent awe that this power was possible.

Having a druid in spider shape would probably be met with curiosity - why is that spider not eating these vermin?

Having a player change into a spider and have that spider attack a drow would either provoke a laugh at the audacity followed by a bit of bravado (instantly attack the druid) or by a bout of rage for daring to mock the goddess. In all cases, the likely end is an attack on the druid (assuming the druid is not a drow).

A pet spider would probably be met with mirth, as if the character was discovered playing with dolls.

The priestess would definitely be more prickly about the subject than a soldier.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is there any edition specific "fluff" that can be referenced for the encounter reactions you mentioned? Adding documentation goes a long way here in Stack Exchange. \$\endgroup\$ – Ruut Sep 7 '15 at 16:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ PHB pg 24 "The Darkness of the Drow" mentions that they view surface races as inferior, only fit as slaves. \$\endgroup\$ – LeHill Sep 7 '15 at 16:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ 5e also references the literary work of Salvatore (Drizzt), so those novels would be good source material for how drow think. \$\endgroup\$ – LeHill Sep 7 '15 at 16:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, since I don't have time to read them all (Salvatore's Drizzt novels) before DMing Out of the Abyss, I asked the question hoping that those who have read them would share their impressions/suggestions. \$\endgroup\$ – PurpleVermont Sep 7 '15 at 20:27

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