Lore: Everything about Sshamath

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DM Ioulaum
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Lore: Everything about Sshamath

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Sshamath is unique among drow cities: a city ruled by wizards where the priestesses of Lolth are relegated to lesser roles.

Once a traditional city of the Spider Queen ruled by matron mothers in accordance with the Way of Lolth, Sshamath evolved into the preeminent market in all of Faerûn for enchanted artifacts, spell tomes, and other magical workings. Despite tales of artifacts and relics piled high to be sold for a relative penance, only an elite roster of surface-dwelling wizards or merchants even knows of Sshamath's general location deep beneath the Far Hills some thirty miles south of Darkhold. Even fewer have wandered amid the stalls of the fabled Dark Weavings Bazaar.

S'shamath is inhabited primarily by drow and their slaves (dwarves, goblins, orcs, magical constructs, and extraplanar summoned creatures), although small groups of emissaries from the city's numerous trading partners comprise a permanent, if rotating, minority. Occasional humans roam, whether members of the Arcane Brotherhood, Red Wizards of Thay, Halruuan merchant mages, or free-willed liches. But most visiting wizards are Underdark dwellers, including savant aboleth, beholder mages and elder orbs, drow wizards from other cities, derro savants, illithiliches, sharn sorcerers, svirfneblin illusionists and artificers, even the rare phaerimm. Spellcasters from other environments, including morkoth mages and chromatic wyrms, come here too.

S'shamath is the most cosmopolitan Underdark settlement, a well-regarded trading partner with strong ties everywhere. Residents welcome all who come to trade, regardless of race, creed, or school of thought. Well-traveled tunnels wind east through the caverns of fallen Oghrann to Sschindylryn and beyond, northeast to the Buried Realms, north and northwest to the cluster of cities in the North, west to Karsoluthiyl, southwest to Guallidurth, Malydren, Rringlor Noroth, and Sloopdilmonpolop, south to Oryndoll, Iltkazar, and Zokir, and southeast to Underspires and Undraeth any many points between.

It is common for inhabitants of S'shamath to refer to it simply as 'the City', a habit which is also understood in other Drow enclaves given the vast size of S'shamath. For example 'the City' is more than a third larger than the second largest Drow settlement, Menzoberanzan.

S'shamath's prominence among the Drow enclaves is also reflected in the way it tracks time. Time keeping is always a difficult endevour in the Underdark, and in S'shamath a unqiuely magical approach was taken which reflects the Cities' independent history. A system of levitating skulls is used to keep track of time. These skulls came into common use around two-hundred years ago, first fashioned by the deserted Menzoberanzan mage Kal'falius Pharn, as a gift to his new home city S'shamath.

The skulls are fashioned from the remains of a mature Umberhulk while the teeth are collected from deceased slaves. They are magically linked to the earthnode beneath S'shamath and tracks time in 'Cycles'. The system of cycles replaced the previous method of tracking time through magical sandglasses. Kal'falius joined the School of Enchantment and is rumoured to have become a Lich after serving two terms as the First Artificer's Mindscalder. Today citizens refer to getting the time as: "Asking the skull". It is public knowledge that whenever official envoys from Menzoberanzan are admitted to the City their route is plotted along three skulls which loudly proclaim Kal'falius of Pharn's full name, while giving the time with a leering gesture.

The S'shamathan calendar (SC) is equivalent in duration to Dalelands reckoning (DR) though days are known as Cycles, months as turnings, and years as progressions. It is tradition in S'shamath to mark the passage of time from the establishment of the Conclave onwards. As of 1350 DR (2014) S'shamath was liberated from the rule of the Spider Queen 4222 progressions earlier. The year 1350 DR (2014) is for example referred to as 'progression 4222 since the founding of the Conclave'.

Some of the following content was taken from here. However: any futher information on that website is not necessarily accurate.

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The City of Dark Weavings is the product of six thousand years of history, an accident of geography, and a dose of luck. Sshamath was established in -4973 DR by the Lolth-worshiping drow of House Sshamath. For nearly two thousand years after the city's founding, the drow of Sshamath dwelt in accordance with the Way of Lolth.

The defining event in Sshamath's history was the collapse of its most precious resource: the Underdark radiation known as faerzress. Localized appearances and disappearances of faerzress are not unheard of. These unexplained fluctuations typically mean the collapse of nearby drow city-states or the establishment of new ones, as the dark elves migrate to new sources of the radiation. By -2872 DR, five years after the problem was initially detected, Sshamath's defenders were bereft of drow magic. The city was on the brink of anarchy.
Yet fate had already twisted Sshamath's future.

In the three centuries before the faerzress collapse, Sshamath's matron mothers gave birth to an unusually large number of males. This imbalance led to the sizable expansion of the city's corps of skilled wizards and a decrease in the number of Lolth priestesses. Coupled with it's relative geographic isolation from hostile rivals, the abundance of wizards left Sshamath uniquely positioned to survive.

As the scope of the disaster became apparent, Sshamath's wizards initiated wave after wave of expeditions to plunder Netheril, Oghrann, and other lost realms. Lesser mages repaired or duplicated every artifact acquired, and more senior sorcerers delved into research and fabrication, initiating a burst of creative output that led to countless new magical creations and incantations. After a time, the balance of power shifted completely as the events led to a quick, bloody civil war that left all the House Matriarchs dead and the House Wizards in control.

As time continued to pass, the wizards' influence on society ushered schools of magic into prominence and the House system into irrelevance. Sshamath's Houses still exist today, but a drow's House is no more meaningful than his tailor -- perhaps noteworthy, but essentially unimportant.
Ways In and Out
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Despite its role as an Underdark trading center, Sshamath is surprisingly hard to reach from the surface. While a few routes shorter than hundreds of miles connect Sshamath to the surface, the most common way to reach the city from the surface is teleportation magic, a consequence of the complete absence of faerzress near Sshamath. However, teleport requires the wizard to either visit the target location or scry it first. The first restraint is self-limiting, while the second is made difficult by the near total lack on the surface as to even the general location of the city. In addition, S'shamath is located on an earth node which has been enchanted with spells that prevent long-range scrying and teleportation into the city. Licences for Teleportation can be acquired from the master of Aportation, meaning that visiting S'shamath itself is something of a commodity. Finally, teleportation restricts the volume of trade goods that can be ferried into or out of the city. As a result, Sshamath has very little contact and commerce with the Realms above.

The most important and direct route from the surface is Varalla's Passage. Completed by the Lich Queen at the behest of the Conclave of Sshamath, this route promises to one day open the legendary markets of Sshamath to the Realms Above. Sememmon discovered Varalla's Passage in the Year of the Griffon (1312 DR), but kept it secret from all but his most trusted apprentices. Within days of the destruction of Zhentil Keep, Sememmon dispatched emissaries to negotiate a trade accord between the drow wizards of Sshamath and the Zhentarim of Darkhold. Negotiations continue slowly; Sememmon's fears tipped his hand to Manshoon, and the conservative elements of Sshamath's ruling council feared revealing themselves to hordes of surface dwellers.

Sshamath can also be reached through the tunnels of the fallen dwarven realm Oghrann. The most direct route from the surface begins within the dwarven mines of the Far Hills, and eventually winds down into the middle Underdark via a circuitous and treacherous route. This route is unlikely to ever rival Varalla's Passage, due both to the hostile shield dwarves of Oghranni descent at the beginning of the route and the small hive of beholder-kin that dominates the Gauth Grottoes (see below) along the way.
Architectures and Layout
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The City of Dark Weavings has been strangely compared to the interior of a massive pumpkin. A vast central cavern, bedecked with thousands of slender stalactites, stalagmites, and columns that stretch from floor to ceiling, creates a three-dimensional web of rock navigable only by those capable of flight or levitation or by those undeterred by passage across delicate stone bridges barely the width of a drow's foot. Magically altered speleothems are packed so closely that few sight lines exist across the city. As a result, it is difficult to find a vantage point from which even a fraction of the city's artistry can be admired.

Sshamath retains many traditional drow architectural elements, but with a greater emphasis on personal towers as opposed to noble families' compounds. Individual dwellings are carved into the heart of massive stalactites and stalagmites alike, every aspect of which has been transformed by Stone Shape spells into twisted spires of magical artistry. Of particular note is the fact that Sshamath is alive with the faint, flickering light of continual faerie fire spells and their sorcerous equivalents. In an unending effort to outdo one another in magical artistry, Sshamath's sorcerers have created an oasis of vibrant color to rival the most brilliant sunset. While Sshamath's inhabitants are adapted to the relatively bright ambient light, representatives of other Underdark settlements are rarely so acclimated and thus are at somewhat of a disadvantage during trade negotiations.

At the heart of Sshamath stands the great column known as Z'orr'bauth. A wide, steep ramp spirals around the outside of this great rock tower, winding past thousands of slim stone bridges that extend from Z'orr'bauth to the surrounding forest speleothems. Visitors to Sshamath are expected to arrive in the entrance cavern at the top of Z'orr'bauth and make their way into the city down the ramp. Teleporting directly into the city is officially prohibited, although secretly tolerated for well-known visitors and the city's elite. Tunnels into the city from anywhere else are blocked by wards woven millennia ago by Sshamath's most powerful wizards. Nevertheless, rumors persist of ancient, secret passageways, which were constructed before the barriers, leading into the hearts of the city's greatest towers.
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Sshamath is home to more than thirty-two thousand drow, and often another one thousand or so dark elves trade in the city's markets. Slaves, constructs, conjured creatures, undead, and emissaries of other races bring the total population to over one hundred thousand, although that number fluctuates significantly depending on the availability of goods in Sshamath and strife levels throughout the Realms Below.

Sshamathan society esteems the Art above all else and is ruled by a magocracy. Aside from Lolth's clergy, the populace pays only token homage to the gods. Sshamathans are both welcoming of outsiders and xenophobic. The city's culture is steeped in fear of conquest, yet Sshamath's continued existence depends on the steady flow of Underdark traders bringing in goods for its inhabitants' artifice. This conflict enables all races to visit Sshamath, even traditional drow foes, yet ensures that such visitors are only superficially welcomed and always under great, unspoken suspicion.

The slaves of Sshamath are largely resigned to their fate. In addition to the liberal use of charm magic, the conclave permits visitors to bring in small groups of their own slaves and to occasionally purchase slaves from other cities. These practices ensure that Sshamath slaves are aware that their life here is not nearly as bad as elsewhere.

Inter-gender relations, rank, and power in Sshamath
Female Drow are normally bigger, more powerful physically and more domineering by nature. Men are trained from an early age to subject themselves to women, taking constant physical punishment from them with aplomb and jumping at their orders. By the time they reach adulthood this behaviour is hardwired into most male drow. Sshamath is an exception to this practice. In the City males rule (for the most part).

In Menzoberranzan all males show extreme deference to all females of equivalent rank. However, in Sshamath when passing a priestess of Lolth in the street a male does not bow and scrape, or avert their eyes. Instead a quick nod or or no response at all is normal behavior.

As a race Drow are obsessed with rank because of it's connection to power. Every fiber of a Drow is aimed at quickly diving another's relative ranking in society to their own, and they put a lot of effort into displaying rank through what they wear, who they associate with, how they talk to one another and how they carry themselves publicly.

In a traditional Lolthian society rank translates into power, and the female gender outranks males of equivalent rank:

1). Female Priestess Noble.
2). Female Noble.
3). Female Priestess non-noble.
4). Male Noble Wizard.
5). Male Noble.
6). Female non-noble.
7). Male non-noble.

Overlaid on all of this are the ranks an individual attains within a quellar (house). A seperate hierarchy exists within each house between Drow of otherwise equivalent rank. In Menzoberranzan non-noble men are hunted for sport with impunity by the nobles.

In Sshamath things are different but the general principles remain the same. Instead of nobility membership and rank within a schools of magic matter, while the distinction between male and female Drow has vanished. Priests of all faiths have been relegated down, being replaced by Wizards at the top. Arcane casters such as Bards, Sorcerers, and Warlocks rank equivalent to priests. Contrary to priests they may enroll in a school of magic and thus elevate themselves, though remaining inferior to Wizards. The dark elves of Sshamath view power that occurs naturally or because of service to another creature as inferior to power won through personal achievement.
Non-citizens: Inhabitants and Slaves
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While the drow of Sshamath hold themselves above all other races, they do cede a modicum of respect to races capable of true wizardry. As such, slaves include only those races deemed incapable of manipulating wizardly magic, such as chitines, goblins, grimlocks, minotaurs, and ogres. Members of these and similar races who can use arcane magic are seen as anomalies or trick ponies rather than indications of wizardly ability for the race. Notable races excluded from slavery (except as slaves of visitors) include elves, humans, svirfneblin, and deep Imaskari. Constructs, conjured creatures, and controlled undead are considered objects, even when capable of wizardry, and have no rights.

Races capable of wizardry who reach Sshamath of their own accord as free-willed beings have the right to remain within the city for as long as they obey its laws and conduct ongoing business with residents. Actual citizenship is never granted to nondrow, though permanent residency is allowed so long as business is conducted as mentioned above. This second-class 'ghetto' of humans and Deep Imaskari is never allowed to grow large, but the city recognizes the value of these noncitizens as scapegoats or sacrificial lambs.

Duergar in Sshamath
Most Duergar are to be found in the Darkspires area of town where the metal-work and smithing occurs although some Duergar have trading relationships with the Conclave that permit them to maintain premises in the Dark Weavings Bazaar. Whereas all other non-citizen races are confined to the Darkwoods ghetto the Duergar live where they work for the most part, in the Darkspires.

Drow are inherently racist so they look down their noses at every other race. The Duergar would not be tolerated in a Lolthian city as they are often even more racist than a Drow population. The Duergar (and all other races) will never garner full citizenship in the city, however this is not necessarily a setback as they would make their own alliances both within their race, between other races (svirf etc) and to whichever school of magic holds the most power. Being evil and insanely avaricious, Duergar keep working for Sshamath to make more money than they could at home. A large percentage of the Duergar in Sshamath have been sold into indentured service by their own families, such is the avaricious nature of the grey dwarves.

The Conclave could one Cycle decide "we want the Darkspires back all, Duergar must leave the city" but in practice as long as the Duergar remain neutral (i.e. not ally themselves to a single school of magic) the Conclave will keep them around for the benefits they bring.

Svirneblin in Sshamath
Svirfnbelin (or deep gnomes) are traditionally very shy and secretive as a race, and mortal enemies of the Drow. At first glance it is odd that they would have a presence in the city. However, their natural propensity for Illusion magic confers the status of "free" if not "citizen" upon them. The Drow population views them less favorably than the resident Duergar, going out of their way to belittle, put-down and generally demean them at every turn. Despite this some Svirneblin willingly choose to live in Sshamath for the opportunity it brings to trade in some of the rarest gems and minerals in Faeraun. Not to mention to study at the schools of magic.

Most of the deep gnome population resides in the Darkwoods ghetto along with the rest of the majority of free non-citizens of the city although some do reside elsewhere either as retainers to one of the schools of magic or as the occasional merchant in the Dark Weavings bazaar.

Sshamath is as close to a free city as you will get from the drow, designed to encourage trade so the Conclave can accumulate as much magical might as possible. A large variety of races live and work together as free people than do in Menzoberanzan or Ched Nasad. Slavery is critical to the functioning of any drow city. Compared to other humanoids Drow are not numerous, they reproduce slower, and require more resources to raise to adulthood.

That being said Sshamath treats slavery differently than other drow cities. Whereas in other cities anyone who is weak enough will undoubtedly become a slave, in Sshamath races considered capable of wizardry such as humans, elves, svirfneblin and deep imaskari are never kept as slaves. However they are permitted as the slaves of temporary visitors. The slaves of Sshamath are largely resigned to their fate because compared with slaves in other cities their lot in life is not bad. It is for example considered poor form to casually starve, injure or kill a slave, unless he is rebellious. In addition to the liberal use of charm magic, the conclave permits visitors to bring in small groups of their own slaves and to occasionally purchase slaves from other cities. These practices ensure that Sshamath's slaves are aware that their life here is not nearly as bad as elsewhere.

Creatures who demonstrate an aptitude for wizardry are considered free in the eyes of Sshamath law and are allowed to live, albeit in a ghetto: the Darkwoods. The ghetto is populated by a host of shebali (commoner) drow, rivvil (humans), svirfneblin and many other non-citizens of Sshamath. The Duergar are the exception as they forged a direct relationship with the Conclave, maintaining their own quarters in the Darkspires.

Free Races: approximately 50,000 total
Drow: 75%
Duergar: 10%
Svirfneblin: 5%
Darthiir (all surface elves): 1%
Human: 6%
Deep Imaskari: 1%
Other: 2% (all other races combined)

Slave Races: approximately 50,000 total
Goblin 39%
Grimlock 19%
Orc 12%
Ogre 10%
Minotaur 9%
Outsider 5%
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In S'shamath around 8% of the citizenry (Drow) are devoted worshipers of Lolth, while another 10% is a regular worshiper, and then about 65% of the population pays her token lip service along with other deities.

Since the Illithilich War of 1348 / 49 DR or 4220 / 21 SC there has been a marked increase in the amount of devoted worshipers and regular worshipers of Lolth. At the same time there was also a very slight rise in those who pay her lipservice. This means that overall the Spider Queen has gained a modest amount worshipers, compared with the total population, and that her worship is the largest in the City by a wide margin. However, the worship of Lolth does not dominate the city, though the majority of people are certainly ill at ease ignoring or angering her. The worship of other deities hasn't been severely affected.

Other popular deities among the citizenry (Drow) are in order of popularity:
  • (0. Lolth (18% of the population are regular or devoted worshipers) )
  • 1. Vhaeraun (12%)
  • 2. Mystra (11%)
  • 3. Gaunadaur (9%)
  • 4. Selvetarm (7%)
  • 5. Azuth (6%)
  • 6. Zinzerena (6%)
  • 7. Erevan Ilesere / Ghollhyr (under demi-deity guise, 5%)
  • 8. ‎Eilistraee (4%)
  • 9. Hanali Celanil / Euotet (in demi-deity guise, 3%),
  • 10. Savras (3%)
  • 11. Labelas Enoreth / Solzhaun (under demi-deity guise, 3%)
  • 12. Correllon Larethian / Vhaid Ih'ara (in demi-deity guise, 2%)
  • 13. Fenmarel Mestarine / Do'gareth (under demi-deity guise, 2%)
  • 14. Kiaransalee (1%)
  • 15. Other, or regular or devoted atheist (8%)‎ ‎

Among the other deities can be found Shar, Grumbar, and others, including the mentioned atheists. Atheism is more common in S'shamath than elsewhere because of the Netherese influence on its culture. A sizable number of citizens are nihilistic or consider the deities to be abstract ideas, or spirits, which are not 'real' deities.

Notable is the fact that several Seldarine deities are present in S'shamath disguised as Drow Demi-deities. These deities name themselves after their porfolios and defining traits in the Drow language, and are not known or recognized by their regular clergy or churches. Their identity as Seldarine deities is unknown to all.

Seldarine deities in S'shamath:
  • Correllon Larethian = Vhaid Ih'ara (The proud protector)
  • Erevan Ilesere = Ghollhyr (Of the lucky tricks)
  • Fenmarel Mestarine = Do'gareth (the strong outcast)
  • Hanali Celanil = Euotet (As lovely as a Gem)
  • Labelas Enoreth = Solzhaun (the knowing eye)

Small shrines to the deities of S'shamaths non-citizen inhabitants and even slaves can also be found. These include the Gnome, Halfling, Human, Dwarven, Goblin, Kobold, and Orc pantheons. The amount of worshippers to these deities changes with the composition of S'shamaths inhabitants and slaves every so many years.
Rulers: the hierarchy of the City's institutions
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Sshamath is ruled by the Conclave of Sshamath, an oligarchy composed of masters of the ten recognized schools of wizardry. The Conclave convenes only to debate issues that do not clearly fall within one individual master's area and to resolve disputes between schools of wizardry that cannot be resolved privately.

Except in rare times of danger to the whole city, Sshamath's ruling council is a roiling mosaic of alliances. As a result, the day-to-day governance of the city is left to the absolute authority of the individual masters, according to his or her school's acknowledged spheres of influence. As one might expect, the various schools are thus engaged in a subtle, ongoing struggle to extend the authority of their representatives on the Conclave of Sshamath. For example, while interment of the dead and the healing of the injured clearly fall within the purview of the master of Necromancy, control of the sale of body parts for material components is contested by most schools.

Only the Conclave can officially sanction new schools of wizardry, a form of recognition it is loath to grant because doing so would diminish the power of existing schools. Originally Sshamath's Conclave sanctioned only eight schools: Abjuration, Conjuration and Summoning, Divination, Enchantment and Charm, Illusion and Phantasm, Invocation and Evocation, Necromancy, and Transmutation. The first addition was the school of Mages, for wizards whose research could not be clearly assigned to any one school. In the centuries since, the school of Mages has been severely hamstrung by those who fear it could easily grow to dominate.

The tenth and most recent addition to the Conclave is the school of Elemental Magic, a four-way factionalized institution admitted mainly to undermine the power of the growing number of elementalists and to check the increasing influence of the school of Invocation and Evocation. The masters of elemental magic had hoped to be admitted as four separate schools--Air, Earth, Fire, Water--but the Conclave's maneuvering has locked them in a power struggle within the school of Elemental Magic, thus weakening them in the Conclave.
Proponents of other schools continue to seek sanction, but are largely stymied by the established schools.

At present the roster of Sshamath's ruling Conclave includes the following, listed by the order in which a delegate may occupy a seat in council (e.a. Who may enter and sit first, is at the top, then the second, etc.).
  • 1. Master of Abjuration Masoj Dhuunyl (NE male drow)
  • 2. Master of Conjuration and Summoning Urlryn Khalazza (CE male drow)
  • 3. Master of Divination Seldszar Elpragh (LE male drow)
  • 4. Master of Enchantment and Charm Malaggar Xarann (CE male drow)
  • 5. Master of Illusion and Phantasm Felyndiira T'orgh (CE female drow)
  • 6. Master of Invocation and Evocation Krondorl Waeglossz (CE male drow)
  • 7. Master of Necromancy Tsabrak of the Blood (CE male drow vampire)
  • 8. Master of Transmutation Shurdriira Helviiryn (CE female drow)
  • 9. Master of Mages Guldor Zauviir (CE male drow, the School of Mages)
  • 10. Master of Elemental Magic Antalab of the Shaking Stones (NE male drow)
  • 11. House S'shamath, Ilharess Bel'iira Sshamath (CE female drow)
  • 12. The Web of the Spider Queen, Ilharess Laele Zauvirr (CE female drow)
  • 13. Master of the 7th Circle, Ilphryssin Arkentlar (N male drow)
The ruling structure of each school of wizardry varies according to school traditions, although each school must name a single master to represent it on the Conclave of Sshamath. Some schools replicate the city's government structure, with a ruling council selecting a master from within it's own ranks to speak for the school. Other schools are ruled by autocrats who delegate authority only when it pleases them and brook no dissent. Themes common to all such governmental structures include the relentless, intraschool struggle for supremacy in both mastery of the Art and in assembling loyal factions who seek to elevate their leader to the position of Conclave representative.

Ranked below the Conclave is the City's Magistrature. The Magistrature is composed of magisters appointed by the Conclave. A magister is always a wizard who has been trained to interrogate others and come to the truth in a matter. Normally via magical and invasive means. The Magistrature creates edicts, which it posts publically outside the Stonestave, and enforces them. If the City Guard apprehends a Citizen or inhabitant they can make an appeal to a magister to examine their case. This process usually involves bribes, especially if the accused has no social standing in the City.

Found below the Magistrature are the Bureaucracy, the City Guard, the Charnag Maelthra intelligence organization, and the City Milita. These organizations are formally independent from one another but are entwined in practice. One Drow may both a City Guard commander and an officer in the Charnag Maelthra, for example, while another serves in the Militia and Bureaucracy. Although all these organisations are outranked by the Magistrature they do report and directly to the Conclave, which determines their policies and objectives in a given Cycle, Turning, or Progression. The bureaucracy is used to administrate the activities of all these organisations, which has led some Conclave delegates to mockingly call it the 14th Conclave member.
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Sshamath's defenders reflect the city's unique strengths and weaknesses. Like drow settlements elsewhere, Sshamath is defended by competent patrols of drow warriors. However, typical Sshamathan patrols are led by wizards and fighter/wizards, with accompanying clergy of either sex, although the members of such companies are predominately male. All told, Sshamath's standing army includes roughly five thousand drow warriors, plus an additional one thousand fighter/wizards and five hundred wizards, although threefold that number can be mustered for war, not counting the slave races who receive some militia instruction.

A natural consequence of the lack of faerzress in the area is the complete lack of drow quasi-enchanted armor, garments, and weapons [ for Version 3.5 purposes, this means no Drowcraft items ]. Instead, Sshamathan patrols employ true magical items, albeit in far more limited quantities, and other nonmagical weapons to great effect.

A typical Sshamath warrior on patrol is armored in drow chain mail and a buckler and wields a steel long dagger and short sword dipped in weaponblack. Hand crossbows or darts, with bolts or tips dipped in drow sleep poison, are common. Most warriors carry one or two magical liquids and powders, including Oil of Impact, Potions of Healing, Potions of Invisibility, Potions of Underground Awareness, Powder of the Black Veil, and Powder of Coagulation. Elite warriors (4th level and higher) have a 25% chance of carrying 1d4 permanent magical items.

For every ten warriors in a Sshamath patrol, there is a fighter/wizard of at least 3rd level in each class who serves as a sergeant. If twenty drow are encountered, then, in addition to the two sergeants, the group has a fighter/wizard captain of at least 6th level in both classes. If there are more than thirty drow, at least one-third will be single-classed wizards or fighter/wizards, and the leader will be at least a 9th level wizard with a fighter/wizard of at least 5th level in each class as an assistant.

City patrols have similar composition, but individual drow are more likely to carry magical items capable of disarming rogue wizards, including Wands of Magic Missiles, Wands of Negation, and Scrolls of Feeblemind.
Defenses and Wards
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Like all drow enclaves, Sshamath is well defended by both arms and Art, though perhaps less so than some other cities, as there are no nearby enemies to pose a threat to the city. Only the crafting of the priesthood of Lolth found in many other cities are largely absent.

On a citywide scale, each recognized school of magic contributes to Sshamath's defenses, each overseeing a particular aspect or aspects. The continuing struggle between wizards and their schools to outdo one another has created an increasing layer of wards and other arcane defenses, which already makes the city nigh-impregnable to outside attack.

The most formidable of these defenses consist of epic spells that harden the stone, lock down the city in a continual Dimensional Anchor, redirect Teleport spells cast by strangers, and cause paralyzing pain to anyone within a 1 mile radius who seriously thinks about attacking the city or its citizens. There are many other examples of the city's arcane defenses, too numerous to list here. The overall effect is not unlike a mythal in many regards, though the overlapping effects are not woven together as with a true mythal, and sometimes these wards and spells may combine or counteract each other unexpectedly.

The near-mythal is essentially a web or spells and wards which is partly tied with the Earth-node beneath the City. In many ways it resembles or surpasses a mythal as a very complex piece of spellcraft. But in other ways it is unlike a mythal, for example because it has no centralized control spell to which the web of spells is attached. Instead its entirely decentralized with layers of spells tacked onto each other, which occasionally results in the mentioned unpredictable magical effects. The near-mythal like effect is collectively referred to as 'the wards', most of the inhabitants of S'shamath either do not know what a mythal is, or do not consider the wards similar enough to call them a near-mythal. Outsiders who have heard a thing or two about mythals do sometimes make the comparison.

The city guard of S'shamath possess wands imprinted with their identity which are capable of paralyzing and inflicting debilitating pain on anyone who ignores their commands. The wards of the City inflict the same on anyone in S'shamath who attempts to injure / injures another inhabitant. The automatic enforcement and protection by the wards does not extend to the sewers, tombs, and darkwoods district.

The wards automatically protect against physical injury, though not against poison or force that is used without causing harm. Force can for example be used to restrain an individual making a scene in a Festhall or Tavern. This effect has given rise to several popular drinking games, a few of which focus on introducing new visitors to debilitating pain and paralysis by colourfully insulting them. Particularly visiting Drow are considered good sport, and are often mugged while the wards paralyze them. Similarly the Spider's Kiss 'Festhall' is renowned for the maidens who are or pretend to be passionate conservative adherents of the Spider Queen. Among other services these maidens sell and apply non-lethal doses of poison, for paying clients. Occasional overdoses are not unheard of, but rare, and not prevented by the wards.

The schools of magic make and maintain portions of the wards that shield S'shamath. So they can also design spells which are exempted from the wards they made. Either through spell design or by designating a spell that shouldn't be stopped by the wards they control. All the schools of magic therefore possesses self-made spells which are which are not stopped by the wards. Among these spells are methods to hurt students who annoy their teachers. These methods are carefully guarded to avoid other schools or foreigners from being able to use such magic.

It should be clear in any case that fights and violence and disobedience are unlikely to happen in S'shamath. Even in absence of the guards the wards would protect the City's inhabitants. But the tombs, sewers, and Darkwoods district are another matter. Those areas are mostly exempt from the wards, although they can be extended there if the Conclave desires. This means that duels often taken place in the Darkwoods, and assassinations during secret parties or congregations in the sewers and tombs.
Production and Trade
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Sshamathan's research and fabricate new spells and magical items. As in any city, a sizable fraction of the population attends to basic necessities, although most goods are brought in by merchants.

The bulk of the populace, including most slaves, works to procure spell components and the raw materials for creating magical items, particularly potions and scrolls. Many farm, raise esoteric beasts, and grow exotic plants whose components are in demand by wizards. Others mine far afield for metals, gems, and materials with unusual magical properties. Skilled craftsmen transform base materials into armor, clothing, jewelry, parchment, wands, weapons, and more for enchantment. The ruling wizard caste creates the spells and magical items to be sold in the bazaar.

Few merchants are native to Sshamath, as the city's culture encourages traders from outside to bring their goods in. To the wizards of Sshamath, this arrangement increases personal security and decreases overall risk, albeit at the cost of ceding some of their profits to outside merchants. Merchants based in the City of Dark Weavings typically serve the wizard caste by obtaining raw materials that, for security reasons, the conclave does not wish to acknowledge are in short supply.
Guild Halls
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Sshamath's artificers and craftsmen are affiliated with numerous guilds. While many wizards may be affiliated with or members of one of them, the guilds are dominated by skilled laborers who create the basic components on which the wizard's spells are laid. Most guilds associate with multiple schools of wizardry, a practice that is discreetly encouraged by the Conclave to ensure that wizards from rival schools are forced to work together and learn from each other. The halls of the three most prominent guilds are noted below.

The Darkfire Pillars
This guild is a sprawling complex of stalagmites and caves at the southern edge of the city's great cavern. Here the city’s greatest smiths forge blades, bracers, bucklers, chain mail, rings, and other metal suitable for enchantment. This guild hall gains its name for the pillars of ever-burning darkfire that billow from the hollow stalagmite chimneys. Many duergar smiths are indentured servants, sold by their kin for enchanted tools and arms.

The Quillspires
This guild is a large cluster of hollowed stalactites on the roof of the great cavern, northwest of Z'orr'bauth. Herein the city's scribes and lesser magelings labor at recording the minutiae of magical research, as well as inscribing the occasional wizard scroll for sale in the bazaar.

The Cage
The Cage is a cluster of columns on the western edge of the city located in a low-roofed side cavern. Permanent Walls of Force imprison a colony of captive Deepspawn. The Breeder's Guild sells rare, often magical creatures whose component parts are used as spell components or for magical item creation.
Shops and Bazaars
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Despite Sshamath's reputation as a city that sells magic, the vast majority of commerce in the city involves spell components and raw materials used to fashion magical items. Prices are not cheap, and merchants are more likely to deal their wares in exchange for a herd of prime deep rothe than the equivalent value in gold. Given difficulty in ferrying necessities to the city, few surface dwellers who reach the City of Dark Weavings are likely to walk away with more than one or two magical items in trade, and then only after an arduous journey to and from the city.

The Fountain of Endless Elixirs
This shop sells all sorts of nonmagical and magical liquids. Virtually any potion or oil a buyer could want is available here for a price.

The Genie's Wish
This shop caters to visitors in search of a particular item, but who lack the wherewithal to do their own business in Sshamath. For a significant, non-refundable handler's fee, the proprietors of the Genie's Wish will endeavor to locate any item the customer desires. If such an item is located, the markup beyond the initial fee doubles the true price at minimum. Gullible customers are often duped into buying cursed or otherwise limited artifacts. Visitors so naive as to ask for help in finding a particular type of shop are almost always directed to this establishment, easily recognizable by its distinctive stalactite home -- sculpted in the form of a Calishite minaret.

The Jacinth Rose
This shop, located at the heart of the Dark Weavings Bazaar, sells cut gems, mostly inset in silver banding. Its proprietors, nobles of the once-powerful House Arabani, specialize in stones particularly prized by the drow, including amaratha, Kara-Turan amethysts, beljurils, balck opals, rich blue diamonds, emeralds, jacinth, jasmal, opals, red orls, ravenar, dark red tears, rudibe, and sapphires. Most jewels have smooth or cabochon cuts, as the drow generally eschew faceted work. Magical items fashioned wholly from gems, such as Gems of Seeing and Ioun Stones, are available on occasion, but the owners are loath to sell such treasures to nondrow.

The Dark Weavings Bazaar
This massive marketplace sits on the cavern floor in eastern Sshamath amid a cluster of small, widely spaced stalagmites. Few stalactites dangle from the ceiling above, creating a relatively open region of the great cavern. Legendary for the magical wares available for sale, Sshamath's Dark Weavings Bazaar is a crowded, noisy marketplace much like those found in the Realms Above. Most of the stalagmites have been hollowed out to serve as market stalls, and nearly anything a wizard could want is available. If it isn't, one or two high-end shops specialize in locating any given object. For an enormous fee, the locators can also send someone out to get it. They sometimes like to hire nondrow adventuring parties for such missions. Other merchants have cultivated towering mushroom groves in the open regions between stalagmites, fashioning living booths of fungi.
Inns and Taverns
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The Great Elixir [Excellent Quality/Moderate Prices]
This is the city's most infamous drinking establishment. Its bartenders are said to be able to make any alcoholic drink served in the Realms Above or Below. Located in a sheared-off stalagmite of Sshamath's great cavern, this tavern is named for the legendary magical drink sought by potion brewers. A pool in the open-air central court is filled by the slow drip of water from a stalactite, and regular patrons often try to convince gullible visitors that the cloudy liquid has magical properties. The guano-tainted brew actually just contains nauseating properties.

The Lukhorn's Gullet [Excellent Quality/Expensive Prices]
This is by far the city's largest dining establishment. Located in a massive, hollow column on the southern periphery of the Dark Weaving Bazaar, this tavern and eatery prides itself on catering to any sentient being, regardless of plaate or origin. Diners are seated on ringlike platforms, one atop the next, while drow servers levitate up and down the central shaft delivering food and drink. At least one platform is home to a permanent conflagration catering to flame-dwelling creatures. Two other rings are sealed off by Walls of Force and flooded with water -- saltwater in one, freshwater in the other -- allowing aquatic customers the comfort of their home environment.

The Shattered Scepter [Fair Quality/Cheap Prices]
This is an inn of low repute that nonetheless provides reasonable accommodations. Located in western Sshamath, far from the hub of activity, this establishment is fashioned from a massive stalactite that broke loose long ago, fracturing into two massive chunks on impact. The smaller chunk serves as a stable, while the larger holds more than two dozen chambers for paying guests.

The Vengeful Weave Inn
[Excellent Quality/Moderate Prices]
(undescribed at this time)
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The Gloura's Wings [Good Quality/Expensive Prices]
This small festhall is located on the western edge of the Bazaar. Unlike Sshamath's more luxurious and decadent houses, this hall achieved some fame in the Lands of Light thanks to a ballad penned by the legendary Mintiper Moonsilver after his one and only visit more than a decade ago. The Gloura's Lament is a soulful hymn inspired by the constant droning song created by the wings of a gloura, described by some adventurers as more beautiful than even siren songs. Mintiper's composition is now widely sung by bards north of Amn and west of the Great Sand Sea. The festhall itself is run by a trio of Underdark faeries who call themselves the Deep Queens. The three glouras are attended by a troupe of beautiful, skilled minstrels and dancers.

The Spider's Kiss [Good Quality/Moderate Prices]
This large festhall, located northwest of Z'orr'bauth, caters to drow males, particularly wizards. This establishment is suggestively named for the sport in which drow females kill their lovers after mating (such practices are rare in male-dominated Sshamath). The Spider's Kiss is also known for selling a variety of poisons, including drow sleep poison and the house specialty, a slow-acting lethal contact poison that can be safely smeared on any part of one's own body if the antidote is first ingested.
Other Places of Interest
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The Stonestave
This massive stalactite dangles from the cavern roof in southern Sshamath all the way to cavern floor. Shaped to resemble a well-worn wizard's staff, this massive speleothem is hollow, serving as the seat of the city's ruling Conclave. Guarded and warded, the seat of government sees less activity than one might expect. Sshamath's ruler's prefer to communicate with Sending spells rather than leave their personal abodes.

Whereas the clery rules most drow enclaves, Sshamath reduces clerics to marginal roles. In many ways, clerics emulate the practices and concerns of the ruling wizard caste. In addition to the faiths discussed below, small sects of Azuth, Mystra, Savras, Velsharoon, and even various members of the Seldarine are known to exist. Seldarine deities appear in the guise of previously unknown drow demipowers, without the benefit of true clerics unless the worshipper learns and accepts the deities' true identity.

Tower of the Masked Mage
The Tower of the Masked Mage dangles from the roof in the Darkwoods district in the southeastern section of the city of Sshamath. Cloaked in a shifting web of shadows, this structure houses the only openly acknowledged temple of the Masked Lord in the city. In the city, Vhaeraun is venerated as the Masked Mage and the Lord of Shadow, the divine patron of Shadow Magic and Spellfilchers. Despite his obvious appeal to resentful male drow elsewhere in the Underdark, Vhaeraun has little regard in Sshamath. Here, sorcery is paramount, clerical magic is scorned, and no divine power is widely venerated.

Vhaeraun's cult consists primarily of Spellfilchers, Arcane Tricksters, and rogues, as well as a small group of drow mages who seek to found a school of Shadow Magic. The wizards of the Tower of the Masked Mage are known to fashion magical items and research spells that relate to concealment, shadow manipulation, and defeating magical wards. Examples include Boots of Balance, Chimes of Opening, Essence of Darkness, and Short Swords of Backstabbing.

Shadow Sorcerer Pharaun Lhalabar, 12 additional clergy, and ninety six lay worshipers serve at the Masked Mage's temple.

Web of the Spider Queen
The Web of the Spider Queen consists of a densely packed cluster of small stalactites and stalagmites enmeshed in a vast nest of spider webbing. The preeminent temple of Lolth in Sshamath, the Web was once the seat of true power when the matron mothers of the noble houses reigned supreme. Although all priestesses of Lolth are still educated within the sprawling temple complex, the Conclave of Sshamath is the true power in the city. While the drow of Sshamath have never formally repudiated Lolth's worship, her faith inspires only token obeisance among the population, and even less deference among the wizard caste. There has been a modest increase of worship since the Illithilich war in 1348 DR / 4220 SC, which also saw the Temple of Lolth formally awarded a seat in Conclave.

Like most Sshamath institutions, the temple's residents fabricate a wide range of magical items. Lolth-worshiping wizards create spells and magical items that fall within the Spider Queen's sphere of influence, particularly those that relate to arachnids, such as Cloaks of Arachnidia, Rings of Arachnid Control, Spider Fang daggers, Spider Harnesses, and Spider Keys. The Spider Queen's clergy--restricted to females in Sshamath--have established a lucrative market for their services, assisting wizards in fabricating enchanted items when a clerical component is required.

Ilharess Laele Zauviir, seventy five additional priestesses, and one hundred twelve lay worshipers serve at the Spider Queen's temple.

The Augur Court
The Augur Court is responsible for Divining auguries for any newborn child, and Drow wishing to attain Citizenship. Originally the Augur Council was staffed by Priestesses of the Spider Queen. Since the liberation it has become as the Augur Court, a seperate and indepdendent entity which is nominally affiliated with the school of Divination.

Roughly five hundred years ago a council of representatives from the Conclave was instituted to monitor the Augur Court for corruption, a move motivated by the events of the first trade war with Ched Nasad. During this conflict several mages from the Arcane Conservatory infiltrated S'shamath in an attempt to subvert its wards, using a ritual to be performed by a priestess of Lolth. One of the mages had attained a declaration of Aquisence, as required for Citizenship, by bribing the Augur Court. Further incident was avoided when one of the participating mages betrayed the others in exchange for Citizenship and protection.

While staffed by the College of Divination most of the Augurs are actually priests of Mystra, Azuth, and Savras, religions somewhat popular amongst S'shamath's mages. These priest-mages use their divine and arcane talents to perform ritual auguries and Divinations, determining the aptitude and talents of new born children for their further education. This allows those with Arcane talent to be discovered early in life, and brought into the high strata of the City's Arcane society. The accuracy and reliablity of the Auguries has been a controversial and heated topic since the liberation. Traditionally the school of Divination defends the policy, joining forces in an unusual Alliance with the Temple of Lolth. The traditional outspoken critic of the policy is the school of Illusion, although the school of Necromancy has begun question its validity since the recent Illithilich Conflict. The Necromancers are especially divided on the Augurs apparant failure to predict the treachery from within accompanying the conflict.

The Darkwoods
The Darkwoods, located in the southeastern section of the city where the great cavern roof is at its lowest, could almost be considered a side cavern. It is undoubtedly Sshamath's most dangerous district. The worst drow scum dwell amid the tangle of columns, stalactites, and stalagmites that make up this petrified forest.

In addition to holding Sshamath's unwanted citizenry, the Darkwoods is also home to several small communities of dark creepers. Introduced long ago by a renegade wizard, the Conclave has been unable (or unwilling) to eliminate this scourge. Although no dark stalkers leaders are believed resident in the city, their lesser kin have long dwelt amid the drow, living off the magical castoffs and stealing magical items whenever the opportunity arises.
This district is also home to the Tower of the Masked Mage, the center of Vhaeraun's power within the city.

DM Ioulaum
Posts: 1607
Joined: Fri Aug 22, 2014 11:12 am

Re: Lore: Everything about Sshamath

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S'shamathan Politics
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The schools of Magic are not solid blocks of power. Instead they are institutions which pursue in their vested interests through their representation in the Conclave. S'shamathan politics is very opportunistic, cut-throat in the sense that you will often be sold out if someone offers a better deal. Yet despite this fluid and fast paced political arena a studied observer can discern four more closely aligned groups which work to counter the other's influence, and advance their agenda(s) jointly.

One closely aligned faction are the Abjurers, Transmuters, and Diviners. The School of Abjuration, the former Sorcere, is the oldest school of magic in S'shamath. It was historically charged with the magical defense of the City and the protection of its armies. The schools of Transmutation and Divination are off-shoots from the older school of Abjuration but remain closely aligned because of their roots, similar organisation(s), overlapping curricula, ongoing exchanges of knowledge and joint projects, and because of their continuing dominance over the City's magical defenses. Large parts of the wards are maintained by these schools and the Abjurers elect the master of Aportation from their ranks, an individual who is responsible for the granting of teleportation licences in the City.

There is a habitual alliance between the Schools of Conjuration, Evocation and Elemental magic because their interests usually align with one another. This is reflected in the research they pursue, the spells and enchantments they produce, and the sort of magic they teach. It is reasonable to assume that hey can usually manage to arrive on a compromise, on contentious issues, thereby presenting a united block. The school of Conjuration is the most influential institution in this alliance, being the second oldest school in S'shamath. The School of Elemental Magic is internally divided between the four elements and practically always consents with whatever the Schools of Conjuration and Evocation previously agreed on.

The remaining aligned schools are the School of Necromancy, Illusion, and Enchantment. The schools of Necromancy, Illusion and Enchantment are loosely aligned because of the similarity between the forms of magic they teach, the spells they develop, and the research they pursue. Unlike the other factions these schools are not solidly aligned with each other, and there is an internal rivalry between the Enchanters and Illusionists on one side, and the Necromancers on the other. Over the last centuries the school of Necromancy has grown in prominence and fortune while the older and more prestigious Enchanters and Illusionists saw a relative decline because of efforts to found a new school of Shadow Magic by Nurissa Vyllshan.

Unaligned factions are the School of Mages, the 7th Circle, the Temple, and House S'shamath. The Temple and House S'shamath usually vote alike and are seen as intertwined. The School of Mages is opportunistic but internally divided because it harbors members practicing all schools of magic, and then some. The 7th Circle calls itself a merchant organisation and so votes based on its bourgeois-capitalist interests.

Historically the Temple faction is isolated but willing and able to form alliances of convenience. The Temple faction bears a particular dislike for the Abjurer-Transmuter-Diviner faction, which it still holds responsible for the revolt of the Mages and the subsequent overthrow of Lolth's primacy. Moreover, the College of Augurs was originally a Temple institution but after the revolt (or liberation) it was confiscated and is currently an autonomous part of the School of Divination, led by priests of Mystra, Azuth, and Savras.
Drow Houses
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Sshamath's rulers, the Conclave, have superseded and displaced the typical drow house (quellar) ranking system with a new one; the individual's relationship to one or another of the recognized schools of magic that have a seat on the Conclave. This doesn't mean that Drow quellars no longer exist but that their influence has been marginalized. In contemporary S'shamath a Drow's house is remarkable but carries no weight and has no effect on social standing. A notable exception is Quellar S'shamath, which possesses a seat on the Conclave as the founding family of the City.

Given this atmosphere drow quellars are smaller, poorer and less important than in other settings. While in Menzoberranzan there is a small noble-by-birth population and a much more numerous retinue of house retainers in Sshamath this is not the case. The poorer, less important houses in Sshamath are much smaller than typical drow quellars and have much fewer retainers.

Some Drow quellars respond by becoming a trade house focused on the flow of goods and services across the underdark. These trading quellars retain little or no political power except for their wealth and alliances. As a result they often become adept at procuring valuable specialty goods, and posses a cadre of house guards and / or contacts with mercenaries.

Non-S'shamathan quellar occasionally set up an outpost in Sshamath to look after their interests in the city. These houses are normally governed by a locally appointed leader with a small retinue of retainers and perhaps some other nobles seconded to the city. In all likelihood this would be viewed as punishment because Drow stationed in S'shamath would be cut off from most of the machinations of the quellar back in the home city.

It is possible for for small, well organized quellars to infiltrate several different schools of magic and attempt to work the system such that they into prime spots in multiple schools. This has undoubtedly been done many times, and the heads of these schools of magic are adept at spotting such maneuverings to prevent quellar-mates from achieving positions of power across multiple schools. Some Drow quellars respond to this by aligning themselves with a single school. For mages whose speciality does not conform to the quellar's chosen school you may end up leaving your quellar to follow your own path. In a normal drow setting leaving a quellar is a death sentence (see Drizz't) and would never happen unless you were going to die anyway. In Sshamath things would be different. Once a school of magic has been joined the student is committed to them for life.

House Badges & Piwafis
In normal Drow cities every member of a quellar carries a house insignia or badge, and almost every noble drow wears a piwafi.

The house badge or insignia serves multiple purposes:
1). They confer the power of levitation. (not in the Neverwinter Nights games)
2). They allow the matron of the quellar to track the owner if she uses a scrying device or other tool found in the quellar.
3). They afford its owner access to the areas of the quellar determined by his or her rank (i.e. bypassing whichever magical wards are in place).

House badges are never given out to non-drow retainers. Of course you could always kill the owner of an insignia, take it from them and use it until it's owner is discovered to be missing. The Schools of Magic hand out their own insignia to enrolled students, which are handed back and upgraded when the student advances to become an apprentice, and so on.

Without a house insignia it is very difficult if not impossible to enter a drow quellar that is not one's own. As noted Sshamathan quellars are smaller, not as rich, nor as powerful as quellars in other Drow cities. A Sshamath house would likely not have the resources to powerfully ward it's structure, nor the ability to turn out powerfully enchanted insignia. A house with an outpost in Sshamath is another matter as the full resources of the house would be located elsewhere, so they would issue insignia to house members abroad in case the matron decides she wants to find out where they are.

The Piwafi is a very small cloak garment that cinches at the neck and covers the shoulders and upper arms of the wearer. They are almost always enchanted and serve as a very distinct and obvious mark of noble status. Almost all nobles wear them as a routine, sometimes donning different ones for ceremonial occasions, infiltration attempts, patrols etc. Being the most obvious badge of rank that a drow can display any non-noble drow seen wearing a Piwafi would be subject to summary execution (or worse) for the transgression.

In S'shamath Piwafi's are rare due to the loss of significance of the Drow Houses. Instead permanent magical items are used to display power and status. Items emanating powerful enchantments indicate high station and / or supreme magical competence. Wearing a Piwafi in S'shamath normally marks the wearer as a naive visitor who believes the garment will somehow inspire authority and obedience.
Miscellaneous Prominent Figures
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Calimar Arkhenneld
Calimar (CE male drow lich ), Master Emeritus of the School of Enchantment and Charm, is the premier creator of magical items in Sshamath. Well over thirteen hundred years of age, the Spellbinder has created literally hundreds of unique magical items, many copied from artifacts brought back from the ruins of ancient Netheril. Calimar Arkhenneld cares little for the day-to-day politics of Sshamath, having long ago given his undying heart to serving the will of the Lady of Mysteries (Mystra).

Alak Faerzhind
The Master of Apportation Alak (NE male drow ) is a senior member of the school of Alteration who serves Shurdriira Helviiryn, the Master of Alteration, directly. As Master of Apportation, Alak oversees all forms of magical and nonmagical entry into the city, a position of great influence in the city's power structure. As such, Alak serves as the Conclave's primary emissary to Sememmon and the Zhentarim, allowing him to forge a strong relationship with both the Master of Darkhold and his chief apprentice, Ashemmi. {UPDATE: Sememmon has left Darkhold behind, so this 'relationship' may have changed greatly as of 1350 DR }

Nurissa Vyllshan
The leading proponent of the School of Shadow Magic, Nurissa (CE female drow Ill ) fights tirelessly and ruthlessly for the new School's membership on the Conclave.

Nym Mlezziir
Nym (CE male drow ) is the Battlemaster of the Eastern Grottoes, the senior commander of the caverns and tunnels that include both the ruins fo Oghrann and the Gauth Grottoes. Nym is well known for his skill in battling both nighteyes and dwarves, and he is said to have slain at least two gauth single-handeldy.

As Arcane Envoy of Olleth, Arxhadk (CE male morkoth ) represents the interest of the arcanum of Olleth. The Arcanum is a magocratic realm of Seros, known to surface dwellers as the Sea of Fallen Stars. Arxhadk survives among air breathers by dwelling inside a golem-like construct under his direct mental control with the appearance and powers of a massive (24 HD) water elemental. Unknown to the Sshamath drow, the Arcane Envoy's familiar is a slithering tracker. It hides within the bulk of the watery golem or emerges to serve its master as a silent, unseen assassin.

Zikthann of the Six Scepters
One of the Old Ones of the Arcane Brotherhood, Zikthann (LE male human lich ) now serves as the chief trade representative of the wizards of the Host Tower of the Arcane in Luskan. After the fall of Illusk circa 1244 DR, Zikthann wandered western Faerun for many years. During a foray into the Netherese Caverns, he encountered a Sshamathan drow patrol and followed it home undetected.
Zikthann has never revealed the exact location of Sshamath to his purported allies, keeping a stranglehold on the flow of new spells and magical items into the Arcane Brotherhood.

Valshar the necromancer, the vain, the dead
The mage Valshar arrived in S'shamath some cycle during the 4219'th progression. He rose to prominence during his tenure as the Eye of the 7th Circle, during which he established his reputation as an extraordinary spellflinger and unsurpassed duelist. He had a large influence in the success of the 7th Circle against the Illithilich's forces on the beaches of the Misty Lake, in 4220 SC. He currently serves as Mindscalder to Tsabrak of the Blood, the headmaster and Conclave delegate of the School of Necromancy. It is rumored his ties with the 7th Circle remain unbroken.
Environs of Sshamath
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The environs of Sshamath consist of a maze of tunnels and caverns crudely carved centuries ago when the faerzress first began to fade. Evidence remains of small scale mining activities, unbridled spell experimentation, and old trade routes. The outcast offspring of countless failed breeding experiments and magical transformations haunt the area in small bands, preying on travelers near the city. Most castoffs can be treated as mongrelmen or broken ones, although many exhibit unique powers reflecting their magical ancestry.

Sshamath is relatively isolated, with few immediate rivals. To the west of the city lie the Netherese Caverns, where only the most daring merchants and adventurers tread. To the north lie the expanding tunnels of the thaalud. To the east lie the Gauth Grottoes and the caverns of fallen Oghrann. To the south lie the placid waters of the Giant's Chalice.

Gauth Grottoes
Deep below the western section of the former dwarven kingdom of Oghrann lies a network of caverns known to the drow of Sshamath as the Gauth Grottoes. A small hive of gauth dwell in the played-out delvings of the Stout Folk. The Darkweave Hive consists of less than two hundred beholder-kin led by a gauth version of an elder orb, Xamag the Glamourvore (NE elder orb gauth). Members of the Darkweave Hive prey on merchants traveling to and from Sshamath, feasting on dweomered items and warm-blooded prey.

Despite centuries of repeated assaults by Sshamathan patrols, the gauth have never been dislodged. The gauth give way when the Sshamathan patrols come hunting, and then they return when the patrols leave. As a result, a great deal of eastern traffic to and from the City of Dark Weavings is forced to pass north beneath the Stonelands or south beneath the headwaters of the River Chionthar. Some believe the hive extended their hunting territories in response; their attacks continue unchecked.

Giant's Chalice
In the lower Underdark, miles beneath the Trader's Road, lies a great subterranean oxbow lake. This brackish water stretches from the southernmost tip of the Lake of Dragons near Pros to Asbravn and then back to the Bridge of Fallen Men. The infrequent appearance of sea elves in these waters lead many to suspect that a flooded passage connects the aquatic kingdom of Naramyr with the upper reaches of the Giant's Chalice. The Alu'Quessir are believed to have reestablished trade relations with the blue ring octopi who dwell within these waters; a handful of radiant coral carvings have been offered for sale in Myth Nantar by visiting elven merchants from Naramyr.

The sentient mollusks of Suswynfa (the blue ring octopi name for their aquatic realm) have long suffered from a large colony of vampire squids introduced into these waters by the illithids of Oryndoll seeking to extend their writ. Although the blue ring octopi have been greatly reduced in number, the introduction of elven magic has begun to tip the balance of power in their favor. The reasoning behind the lake's more common name has long been forgotten, but a few sages suspect that it is a Shanataran term referring to the giants that once dwelt above.

The Netherese Caverns
When Netheril fell in -339 DR, refugees streamed east, south, and west in a wave of humanity. They established smaller successor realms known as the Netherese survivor states, the most famous of which were Anauria, Asram, and Hlondath. At least one realm was established in the middle Underdark, beneath the plains east of the Wood of Sharp Teeth. The name and fate of this forgotten realm is unrecorded, but architectural remnants survive throughout the region known as the Netherese Caverns.

The human inhabitants carved cliffside homes into great chasms, fashioning a peaceful tribal culture reminiscent of the Azuposi in the lands to the north of Maztica. While the Netherese Caverns have been looted, rich, hidden tombs still exist. However, something evil haunts these ruins that has grown increasingly powerful in the centuries since its release. It preys upon all who dare to plunder the grottoes of the dead.

Oghrann was the first dwarven realm established in the North by shield dwarf emigrants from Shanatar. At its height, the core caverns of Oghrann encompassed the Tun Plain and the Great Shield, as the mountains encircling it were known. Although folk still find the Sign of the Realm-a curved hunting horn, open to the left, with a six-pointed star above and beneath it-in deep caverns in the Sunset Mountains, few suspect that the bulk of Oghrann lay in the Underdark with surface holdings reserved for livestock. Of the first king Thordbard Firebeard's realm, all that remains in dwarven hands are five ìwellsî in the eastern reaches of the Far Hills, as noted above.

At the heart of the Tunlands lies the Marsh of Tun, a great freshwater bog that envelops the Tun River downstream of where two major tributaries flow together. While bards spin fanciful tales of a city of glass at the heart of the swamp, none recall that the central cavern of Oghrann, the capital city of Araulurrin, lay directly beneath the Marsh of Tun.
Battle Captives in S'shamath
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With few exceptions, drow only enslave other drow captured in battle, particularly debtors and noble drow whose families do not pay ransoms for their return. Some drow communities don't enslave drow at all, sacrificing or merely killing captives and dangerous criminals. Other communities keep drow as slaves in all but name.

In S'shamath battle captives do not become slaves. They are instead considered to be indentured servants. If Drow battle captives were previously inhabitants of the City they can appeal to a magistrate to review their case. The outcome of that appeal depends on their social standing, the social standing of their friends and and allies, and what caused them to become captive. Some causes weigh more heavily than others, such as to avenge serious insults. Depending on the case the magistrate may also accept a bribe.

Drow who are not from City cannot appeal to a magistrate until they have stayed long enough to qualify as an inhabitant of the city. The terms of the servitude agreement would automatically extend to one hundred years of service under at least marginally livable conditions. Such captives would own anything they brought with them into the City, which at that point can no longer legally be looted. Longer terms of service are not possible, but after the initial hundred years the terms may be renewed. Usually battle captives are then offered a choice between death and continued servitude. Only rarely do they successfully appeal their fates with a magistrate because they usually lack the social standing and money to do so. They are commonly taken out of the City before their contract expires and given the mentioned choice. This avoids complications caused by the City's wards.

An exception occurs when S'shamath is at war with another City. In that case Drow war captives do not become indentured servants. Not unless terms are made with the enemy which settle this, or if the matter is left unsettled. Until that happens the prisoners are treated as captives, which is similar to slaves, but depends on their social station and value. Once peace is made any remaining captives are auctioned as indentured servants. Often to their own families as a form of ransom.

It is somewhat risky for non-Drow to own contracts which put Drow in servitude to them. If mistreated the magistrates are fairly quick to release the bond of servitude or auction it to another party. There are also a scarce number of cases in which a Drow servant usurps their masters' business and properties because of alleged mistreatment and crimes. Usually along with bribes to the magistrates, siphoned from that same property.

Most Drow who are in indentured service are therefore rented out to non-drow via Drow who own their servitude contract. Entire Drow merchant houses specialize in the acquisition and rent of such indentured Drow, who are often fairly skilled and valued workers from diverse professions. Some artisans and mages are allegedly kidnapped from other places and introduced to S'shamath in this fashion. After several decades many of those valued servants are able to purchase or appeal for their own freedom, though such requests are rarely successful before at least half a century has passed. The schools of magic themselves own servitude contracts of a number of their teachers and other staff.