"As a member of a bold party of adventurers, you and your associates have trekked far into what seems to be a whole underworld of subterranean tunnels -- arteries connecting endless caves and caverns which honeycomb the foundations of the lands beneath the sun. Your expedition has dogged the heels of the Dark Elves who caused great woe and then fled underground"
Today I've been doing a lot of thinking about D3: "Vault of the Drow" from (1978), by Gary Gygax. My God I do love this module not so much because its an adventure but because its more of the Drow first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure location sourcebook.
The real show stopper here is Erelhei-Cinlu, & Gygax & co. go absolutely old school nuts in this Drow capital. This place is nadier of evil with a captial 'E' in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons giving the dungeon master unlimited acess to the backstage of the Drow & its here that we get a very interesting genisis of an idea;
"D3 Vault of the Drow is set in Erelhei-Cinlu, an underground stronghold of the drow, and the Fane of Lolth, their evil spider-goddess. After traveling for league after league into the Underdark, the adventurers come upon Erelhei-Cinlu, the vast subterranean city of the drow. The adventure is written in a very open-ended fashion, giving the Dungeon Master (DM) free rein to script any number of mini-campaigns or adventures taking place inside the drow capital. An extensive overview of the drow power structure is given for just this purpose. Eventually, the players may discover an astral gate leading to the plane of the Abyss, leading into the Q1 module"The Drow are a corrupt and decadent people ever the match for any of Michael Moorcock's Melniboné or Clark Ashton Smith's Hyperboreans. Yes I said Hyperboreans! The Drow in D3 Vault of The Drow make excellent enemies of the Hyperboreans. But how they are in completely different systems & it wouldn't make sense. Well, the worship of the Elder Elemental God may be threatening the drows' matriarchal goddess, Lolth & this gives way into maze like politics of Erelhei-Cinlu. The PC's could with some very careful bobbing & weaving make their way into the inner workings of the incredibly dangerous city of the module.
Classic Jeff Dee artwork
Ironically the way into the back door of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea's Underborea is by Gary Gygax from the Drivethrurpg entry on D3; "During his lifetime, Gygax offered a few different sources for his drow. Ultimately, they're probably derived from the Svartálfaheimr — the dark elves of Norse mythology. Ironically, when the drow were printed up in the Fiend Folio (1980), that book also contained the "xvart," which had been called the "svart" when published in White Dwarf #9 (October/November 1978) and which were thus another Svartálfaheimr derivative." Now if the Svartálfaheimr have been tunneling into the world of Underborea for centuries perhaps picking apart the corpses of the heroes & old gods killed during Ragnrok. Now I can see the Drow using these tunnels to make a series of lightning raids on the surface of Hyperborea. After all the Drow & the Svartálfaheimr share some common ancestry; ""In Norse mythology, svartálfar (O.N. "black elves", "swarthy elves", sing. svartálfr), also called myrkálfar ("dark elves", "dusky elves", "murky elves", sing. myrkálfr), are beings who dwell in Svartalfheim (Svartálf[a]heimr, "home of the black-elves"). Both the svartálfar and Svartálfaheimr are primarily attested in the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. Scholars have noted that the svartálfar appear to be synonymous with the dwarfs and potentially also the dökkálfar ("dark elves"). As dwarfs, the home of the svartálfar could possibly be another description for Niðavellir ("dark fields")." " This is long before the film 'Thor Dark World' & its proto Dark Elves using ancient science fantasy technology.
The Drow of Gary Gygax's D3 Vault of the Drow are not misunderstood EMO PC's, no these are the utterly & unremittingly evil alien bastards of the Fiend Folio. These Drow are more likely to enslave, corrupt, & debase any PC's they come across in the process. And no plane Prime is safe from them!
At the end of the module there's a gate that opens into the Abyss & yes that gate leads straight to the lair of the demon goddess Loloth. But what if this isn't the only gate in the deepest parts of Erelhei-Cinlu? What if before the religious split the Drow's fifth columist agents & forces were carrying out sabotage, intrigue, & corruption missions across the planes as we saw in the Against The Giants series of modules? What if those were only the tip of the iceberg! What if the forces the Drow of Erelhei-Cinlu are on the march again? I wrote about something like this all of the way back in July of this past year on this blog; "This could help to explain the dark & fast link between the giants of Hyperborea & their servant slaves the Dwarves. After the events of Ragnarok giants became complacent & were easy pray for the Hyperboreans. The Drow were seduced into worshiping a spider demon goddess instead of their rightful goddess of fate Atlach-Nacha. There are still 'true' Drow who worship their mother goddess as they see here but they have retreated into the darkness of Earth's Dreamlands. The PC's are hopelessly lost in the twisting churning tunnels that lead into the underworld of Gary Gygax's Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits. " Meaning that the tunnels of Erelhei-Cinlu connect to a wide variety of underworlds & underdarks across the planes perhaps even your own campaigns.
Ten thoughts On Using Gary Gygax's D3
Vault of the Drow For Your Old School Campaigns
- The Drow could pop up quite literally anywhere in the underworld of your own campaign setting.
- Drow spies are infeltrating royal courts, working as kingly assasins, spies, & mercenaries to gather information about their enemies by working within their midsts.
- The Drow are corrupting & using graft to bend various races to their wills for unknown reasons & their on the rise.
- Because they have the ability to plan hop there is no reason to use them as an option for PC & instead use them as the alien enemies of all that is good as they were intended.
- The split in Drow politics & religion might increase the number of Chaotic cults on the surface world as the Drow renew old hates & dangerous ancient alliances.
- Drow are some of the most dangerous foes that PC's can face ever.
- Ancient Drow liches from Erelhei-Cinlu may have been left on the surface world to help pave the way for future invasion.
- Mind Flayers & other ancient enemies may use the Drow invasion as an excuse to make their move on the surface.
- D3 Vault of the Drow is a tight & very dangerous adventure location & using it for old school play may result in some very deadly encounters & adventure.
- There is enough material within Gary Gygax's D3 Vault of the Drow for three or four campaigns.