Svirfneblin Culture and the Underdark
Svirfneblin Culture and the Underdark
Deep Gnome Society Summary
Svirfneblin are a materialistic race whose society is built around both the preparation and trade of the gemstones they mine from the deep caverns of the Underdark. Perennial underdogs in the power struggles between more powerful factions, they have evolved into frightfully pragmatic negotiators who work to make themselves indispensable to their neighbors through trade in both raw materials and slave labor.
Svirfneblin society consists of matriarchal clans that have hierarchical structures based on a mix of bloodline nobility and meritocracy. Clan leaders, known as Czizak-Yngna (Gem Sniffers), are chosen based on their success in finding new sources of gemstones – thereby increasing their clan’s relative wealth and prestige in the wider deep gnome community.
Many svirfneblin live in transient clan communities that roam the Underdark looking for new gemstone deposits, setting up temporary warrens just long enough to deplete any finds before moving on. There is one major settlement, though, where the highest-ranking families in the most successful clans have more permanent warrens. This is the subterranean city of Vilsnarg, which is also the home of the hereditary deep gnome royal family (historically the most wealthy and successful clan).
Among the svirfneblin, ostentatious displays of wealth are the norm: the highest-ranking members of a clan tend to be fabulously obese, bedecked in gemstones both permanent and temporary, anointed in fragrant oils, and tended continuously by indentured servants (both gnomes from lesser castes and human slaves). Only the very poorest and low-ranking deep gnomes cannot muster up a little paunch or a few fat rolls.
How Deep Gnomes Fit into Underdark Society
Svirfneblin coexist with their more powerful neighbors by maintaining trade relations with everyone in the Underdark, providing both the Shadow Elves and Silence with the raw materials and slaves they need to build their cities and conduct their wars. Vilsnarg, for instance, is a neutral marketplace where trade delegations from all the “civilized” peoples of the Underdark gather to cut deals and keep the flow of trade moving. This neutrality is not complete protection against predation, especially for smaller clan groups looking for gems in regions that one of the other factions claim.
- Clan Karst was the group the party previously encountered; their Czizak-Yngna (Gem Sniffer) was Villams (which was also the name of their temporary settlement)
- Villams claimed that her group was the heirs to The Lost Colony of Blinded Eyes, another itinerant deep gnome colony that disappeared a few generations ago
Recent Rumors & News of the Underdark
- The Shadow Elves live in an area known as the Ruined Mine of Those from Below, closer to their Lords in the Necropolis. They are deadly fighters and powerful wizards that the svirfneblin both fear dreadfully but also admire in a twisted way
- The Shadow Elves have recently brought down many slaves from the surface from a new town on the surface; they kept a good number for themselves but also sent some on as tribute to the Lords of the Silver Thrones.
- The Shadow Elves worship spiders generally and a monstrous hybrid spider lady; this spider goddess is the object of their cruel religion and the Lords of the Silver Thrones’ appointed ruler for the elves.
The Silent Ones
- The Weeping Cracks of the Slave Lords are far less populated tunnels then their neighbors, but greatly feared because of the Silent Ones – alien creatures with strange powers that never speak except via telepathy.
- These Slave Lords are served by reptilian brutes and the many slaves they keep, both for labor and food (the Silent Ones eat both thought and the brains that contain it).
- The Silent Ones are dangerous and easily angered; however, they can be bargained with if one is willing to trade items infused with trans-spatial energy. It doesn’t even matter what the items are, which has led to some wild speculation about the reason for this one bit of sociability. The most sensible theory is that they are stockpiling weapons and armor to either attack or defend against the Hidden Ones in the Necropolis; one more fanciful theory, though, is that they worship trans-spatial energy itself and see these items as holy relics.
The Necropolis / Silent City
- The Silent City, or Necropolis, is the domain of the Lords of the Silver Thrones. These are powerful Hidden Ones who live in a city of the dead where they are guarded by their Shadow Elf followers and attended to by slaves (most provided by those same followers).
- The Necropolis had become a hive of industry within the last few years following some mysterious disagreement among the twelve Lords (which may or may not have left one of their number dead or exiled); however, something disastrous happened recently there (much death and destruction)
- The Shadow Elves have insinuated to the Svirfneblin that the Hidden Ones time to reveal themselves grows near and will coincide with the conquest (or destruction) of the surface world. From their perspective, the gnomes would not be sad to see this powerful faction go (leaving the Necropolis and its environs open for scavenging operations).
- In any event, it does seem like the Necropolis had been preparing for war against someone before their disaster – common sense would suggest the Silent Ones, their old rivals, but those rumors about the surface and influx of new slaves suggest something else.
- A human slave who escaped from the Necropolis has been hiding in the Weeping Cracks of the Slave Lords and organizing a surprisingly successful resistance. He is known as the Righteous Halberd after the ridiculous weapon he insists on using despite the cramped quarters – somehow, he makes it work wonders.