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Drow Society

Cognisant

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This came from a dream oddly enough, a hypothetical scenario in which the Drow from D&D were in the setting of the anime "Gate: Thus the Japanese Self-Defense Force Fought There" which I haven't actually seen much of apart from a few clips Youtube and people reviewing it. In this scenario I was some sort of forward operating diplomat, like a scout but for conducting interviews and gathering intel, not a spy as such, more like a paid tourist, assessing the situation so the actual diplomats wouldn't be going in blind. Yes I have incredibly detailed dreams.

I'm talking to this Drow lady that's wearing armor and has an air of authority about her, but I don't know what her rank is so I'm avoiding asking lest I offend her. As we're discussing how our respective societies work the conversation turns to the topic of slavery and I say that in my homeland slavery is extremely taboo, which she finds very hard to believe. So she beings asking me a series of very pointed questions, first about how we define "slavery" and it turns out the Drow definition differs slightly, in their society slaves can own things it's just that everything a slave owns is by extension owned by their master.

Anyway I'll stop storytelling so this is easier to write and let me say now this is not how Drow society officially works in D&D although I think this makes a lot of sense. Basically since slaves can own things slaves can own slaves so as it turns out Drow civilization is more or less a giant hierarchy of slaves, which to our sensibilities seems like it should be rife with exploitation and inefficiency. But as the Drow lady explained you can control a slave through whips and chains and fear but that's the most difficult way to do it, without loyalty you have to spend a lot of time overseeing them and if you have a few slaves that's what you'll spend all your time doing.

So instead slaves are treated fairly well and those that do well are awarded slaves of their own and thus those who are higher up the hierarchy are ever more invested in supporting it and those at the bottom are always looking for opportunities to prove their loyalty and earn their own slaves. Say for example you don't like your master and conspire with your fellow slaves to kill him (or more likely her) this is perfectly acceptable in Drow society but there's a risk that your co-conspirators will betray you and if they can do so without killing you then your master will most likely award you, to them, as their slave. By which I mean one of them, Drow can own multiple slaves but a slave can only serve one master.

Or let's say this master is really hated and the plan to kill them goes through, this isn't a crime as such but it's still a bad look so you're expected to dispose of the body discreetly and with a modicum of respect, or at very least in an entertaining fashion. Then it's customary to surrender yourself to your master's master who depending upon how they feel about the loss may kill you, reassign you, sell you or keep you (a promotion!) or set you free. You could flee of your own accord but if you're caught your master can still claim you (with a finder's fee) because you're still technically their property and making them pay that fee will usually result in punishment.

A free slave is like free beer, not free speech, and thus they seldom remain free for long and nor do they want to be as a free slave could be captured and claimed by anyone (even the lowliest shit-kicker) instead they tend to seek out desirable masters, those with a reputation for treating their slaves well.

One of the Drow lady's most pointed questions was how we deal with exploitation and I admitted that our society is really bad at it, we vote and protest but the voting is largely meaningless and the protests are usually ignored as they seldom have a basis in a credible threat of violence. By contrast in Drow society excessive disparity is something each master is very keen to avoid, every slave believes their master ought to be better off than they are, as they themselves aspire to be further up the hierarchy one day, but a master with too many slaves answering to them directly is likely to end up dead.

Children are by default slaves of their mother and separating a child from its mother too early isn't frowned upon exactly but if isn't for the sake of someone else caring for the child (e.g. a woman further up the hierarchy that's feeling broody) then it's considered a sign of stupidity, like harvesting crops before they're full grown. Usually what happens is that the mother sells the child to someone* who has a trade or whose trade is the raising and training of slaves (like an apprenticeship) who then on-sells the teenager, this can be extremely profitable as slaves who are young and highly trained are especially valuable.

But money isn't the measure of wealth in Drow society it's merely a medium of exchange, true wealth is in the number and quality of your slaves and the number and quality of the slaves beneath them, so on and so forth.* The political leaders of Drow society are those at the top of the hierarchy and although they may have a pecking order there's no one Drow that is the leader of all Drow. The problem being that you couldn't get everyone in the same hierarchy without creating a massive class of middle managers and aristocracy, who with nothing better to do are just going to scheme and kill each other as they vie for power. Sound familiar?

*: The reason money is merely a medium of exchange is that if you have a lot money and few slaves those that have a lot of slaves aren't going to trade fairly with you, there's no standardized pricing so sellers will adjust the cost of their wares based on how much they think the buyer can pay, and how important it is to be in the buyer's good graces. If you own few slaves you lack prominence which means there's little penalty to mistreating you, whereas someone who has a great many slaves may get special discounts because there's inherent value in being in favor with someone so influential.

The Drow high enough in the hierarchy that nobody owns them (although they still have a pecking order) are what define the houses, your house name is the name of your ultimate master, so if there's a Drow named Bob who owns you, your master, your master's master and so forth, then you are in the House of Bob.

This wasn't all explained to me at length rather the person explaining it to me in the dream was part of my own psyche so after a bit of chitchat it I just intuitively understood, but it was quite a confronting experience to be on the losing side of a sociopolitical debate over the merits of slavery, with a slaver who's trying to deduce whether I'm already owned or not.

Any thoughts or questions?
 

Glaerhaidh

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The Drow matriarchy in DnD is a creation of sexist perverts who envisioned a society ruled by slutty domineering females with whips. It's a product of male sexual fantasies about femdom similar to powerful succubi or immoral geishas. I can guarantee that not a single woman was involved in the process of designing and codifying the rules of drow society and the nerdy boys went too far with their hot new 80s fetish.

DnD 5e seems to be trying to distance itself from the early creations of the giga-nerds.

Funnily enough "Gate: Thus the Japanese Self-Defense Force Fought There" is another typical male fantasy. This anime is 50% power fantasy and 50% weapon fetishism. There is enough helpless females to base my views that it's made to appeal to the same kind of sexual fantasies that spawned the forgotten realms drows.

Do slaves own other slaves in DnD or was it something from your dream? I haven't come across that stuff. Not sure if it's worth philosophizing a dream or worse yet a society without depth that exists to justify a pathetic sexual fantasy.
 

Cognisant

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Nothing of what I've been talking about has been sexual.

What I found interesting was how something so seemingly indefensible could be defended and how doing so gives insight into the failings of our own system.

Not that I'm advocating slavery, well playing devil's advocate, I'm sure a society based on slavery is going to have its own problems and sexual abuse and the consequences thereof will likely be one of them, but that wasn't something I was thinking about.

Funnily enough "Gate: Thus the Japanese Self-Defense Force Fought There" is another typical male fantasy. This anime is 50% power fantasy and 50% weapon fetishism.
Yeah and junk food is bad for you, like I said I haven't watched the show but I've seen clips of it and reviews because I found the concept interesting, how would technology fare against mythical monsters and magic, how would modern diplomats deal with feudal nations?

I mentioned D&D because I find the court intrigue aspect of it really interesting, there's no other game that really gives the player enough freedom to do that and the Drow are, aside from being fetish fuel, the go-to race for running a court intrigue game because they're a race of conniving backstabbers.

If you assassinate nobles in a human kingdom people will take offense but to the Drow that's just fair play, you still don't want to get caught red handed but if someone rises to power after a series of unfortunate "accidents" to the Drow this reassurance that their leader is competent.

Granted how much of this is actual D&D canon, how much is my own ideas, and how much of that is coming from reading the Dark Eldar codex is hard for me to say. The Drow of D&D could be 90% perverted fantasy and 10% court intrigue and I'm willing to admit I don't know enough to say they aren't, and I don't really care because it's only that 10% I'm really interested in.
 
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