The drow of Golarion are a class-oriented, patronage-based, matriarchal society that dominates large reaches of the sprawling Darklands. The greatest concentration of dark elves dwell deep beneath Avistan in the underground metropolis of Zirnakaynin. In this collection of interlocked caverns, the drow seethe and scheme, readying their revenge on their brethren above. Beyond this deplorable vault, though, there are other communities, ranging from vaulted metropolises to small family outposts throughout the Darklands’ central reaches of Sekamina.
The basis of drow society is the family, with each being by a matriarch who is typically the most powerful female. In the dark times of the Abandonment (as the drow refer to the centuries immediately following Earthfall), many of their number fell to battles with dwarves, orcs, derro, and fouler subterranean creatures. The greatest damage was inflicted early in their migration below, with males suffering the greatest losses. As a result, women came to control more and more of drow social life, and it was they who came to dominate the great nobles houses and bargained away their families’ services to the princes of the Abyss.
In the years that followed, the gender split continued, such that today an individual male drow may be prized for his intelligence, battle prowess, or comeliness, but is still considered secondary to females in social class. Drow women are decision-makers and rulers within the family and society at large. They are treated with respect, and drow males are expected to carry out orders for the good of the family.
The concept of marriage or long-term relationships broke down over the long years of wandering the Darklands, such that descent and inheritance are determined only through the female line. Drow women take lovers regularly and are restricted only by their own desires, which may vary from a lengthy affair with a confidante to a quick succession of relationships. Drow men are allowed the same supposed freedom, but there is societal disapproval of a male that takes multiple simultaneous lovers, as his ultimate loyalty may be called into question.
The more powerful and successful drow families maintain harems of males who serve as bodyguards, escorts, and chambermates for the ruling females. Such groups may vary from a council of advisors, to a troupe of youthful entertainers, to a unit of elite protectors, but it is generally accepted that such groups are used as available resources for the idylls of the matriarchs.
As a result of this, along with the long lifespans of elves, drow genealogy is a complete and utter tangle, and best ignored. One’s mother is known, and one’s father is generally assumed. Children are raised by the entire extended family. Even children of the same mother refer to each other as “cousin” as a term of endearment and fact. Young female drow are taught how to rule and control by their aunts. Male drow are taught how to follow orders. Both genders are taught how to fight and protect their people.
Among her offspring, a matron chooses the most promising, bestowing upon them the titles of “first daughter,” “second daughter,” “first son,” and so on. Such titles are usually granted at the matriarch’s whim and create an obvious hierarchy within a drow house. The first daughter is the assumed heir to a matron’s throne should the leader not choose another, with other daughters serving as their mother’s lieutenants and emissaries. In the case of males, it’s not unusual for a house to have no titled sons, as many matrons look down upon the gender. When the title first son is granted, though, it’s typically to a male of exceptional talent, though no son—regardless of his rank—may ever command one of his sisters.