Menzoberranzan, the City of Spiders, is a fictional city-state in the world of the Forgotten Realms, a Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting. It is located in the Upper Northdark, about two miles below the Surbrin Vale, between the Moonwood and the Frost Hills. It is famed as the birthplace of Drizzt Do'Urden.

Menzoberranzan had its own PC game (see: Menzoberranzan (video game)) and was also a boxed gaming supplement for AD&D, with three books.

The city has 32,000 inhabitants—one-third drow and the rest humanoid slaves. The city trades poisons, tasty mushrooms, riding lizards, spell scrolls, wine, and water. The worship of Lolth is prevalent, and the city has the clerical academy Arach-Tinilith, a spidershaped building where priestesses are trained. One of the branches of the city's triune academies of Tier Brieche, Arach-Tinilith is neighboured by the warrior school Melee Magthere, and Sorcere tower where arcane spellcasters are sent to study. These academies are the quarters of some of the most powerful clerics, fighters and wizards, respectively, and the title of master of an academy is coveted, since being the master of Sorcere or Melee Magthere is as high as the power ladder goes for some houseless drow or even noble males.

Menzoberranzan was founded by a priestess of Lolth named Menzoberra the Kinless. It is ruled by a council of matrons from the eight greatest noble houses; the most powerful House in the city is House Baenre, until recently led by Matron Yvonnel Baenre—a drow cleric who was the single most powerful political figure in Menzoberranzan for about two thousand years. She has been succeeded by her daughter Triel. A separate council of mages deals with affairs of the arcane—but as its members are all male, it is wholly within the grip of the matrons.


Menzoberra the Kinless, a powerful priestess of Lolth, founded the city that bears her name in −3917 DR. By the wishes of Lady Lolth, she led seven drow families into the Northdark from the southerly drow holdings of Great Bhaerynden. The drow families, having no immediate external enemy, fell to attacking and undermining one another, as was drow nature, to the greater glory of their evil goddess, who so loved chaos. Only fifty years after the city's founding, in −3864 DR, a great and terrible battle between the two most powerful Houses, House Nasadra and House S'sril, occurred. This battle led to the exile of House Nasadra (which later founded the city of Ched Nasad, and was the First House until the city's recent destruction) and to the rise of House Baenre as the First House of Menzoberranzan.

The city's internal machinations have continued unabated for millennia. The Houses that grow weak are destroyed, and newer Houses rise up to find Lolth's favor. The full history of each House would constitute a nearly endless logbook of treachery, spite, and unceasing ambition. Within the last century, this pattern seems to have accelerated. House Do'Urden ascended from the Tenth House to the Ninth House by destroying the Fourth House, House DeVir. It then ascended to the Eighth House with the much-needed help of Jarlaxle's mercenary band Bregan D'aerthe by destroying the Fifth House, House Hun'ett. House Do'Urden lost the favor of Lolth, however, when Matron Malice Do'Urden turned Zaknafein into a spirit-wraith by using Lolth's dread Zin-Carla ritual and failed to kill Drizzt Do'Urden with him. This resulted in House Baenre utterly destroying House Do'Urden.

In 1359 DR, during the Time of Troubles, House Oblodra, the Third House, aspired to be the First House of Menzoberranzan. Menzoberranzan was caught in a magic-dead zone, so magic currently did not work there. House Oblodra, however, was gifted in the rare art of psionics and seized upon this opportunity to strike at the other Houses. The matron of House Oblodra nearly reached her goal, but an avatar of Lolth answered Matron Baenre's pleas for help and came to Menzoberranzan after the Time of Troubles had ended. (The drow thought that she herself had restored all magic, but that is not true.) Although she loved chaos, she did not wish to see a House that did not whisper prayer to her to rule the city. Foreseeing her temporary loss of power due to the Time of Troubles, Lolth had asked the demon Errtu to protect her worshippers, should she herself fail to do it. In return, Lolth gave Wulfgar over to Errtu as a prisoner, means by which the mighty demon could gain his revenge on Drizzt. She then opened a portal for Errtu and his host of demons to lay siege to House Oblodra. By the time the Time of Troubles had passed, Lolth was restored to full power and single-handedly crushed House Oblodra, the remains of their stronghold being pushed into a deep chasm known as the Clawrift, and Matron Oblodra's spirit went to Errtu for eternal torment. Thus the ranks of the ruling Houses changed once again. All this she said was done for her greatest high priestess (although it was really done for herself), the two thousand-year-old Matron Baenre. All Houses in the city witnessed this great miracle and knew that House Baenre was the most favored House of the goddess.

Houses of Menzoberranzan[]

The following are the topmost houses of Menzoberranzan:

  1. Baenre
  2. Barrison Del'Armgo
  3. Oblodra (destroyed by Lolth in DR1358, described in Siege of Darkness)
  4. DeVir (destroyed by Do'Urden in DR1297, described in Homeland)
  5. Hun'ett (destroyed by Do'Urden in DR1328, described in Exile)
  6. Faen Tlabbar
  7. Xorlarrin
  8. Agrach Dyrr (became a vassal of House Baenre in DR1372 in the outcome of the War of the Spider Queen)
  9. Mizzrym
  10. Do'Urden (destroyed by Baenre in DR1340, described in Exile)
  11. Fey-Branche
  12. Tuin'Tarl
  13. Duskryn
  14. Srune'Lett
  15. Horlbar
  16. Kenafin
  17. Druu'giir
  18. Hunzrin
  19. Shobalar
  20. Vandree
  21. Symryvvin
Menzoberranzan Houses hierarchy

Menzoberranzan Houses hierarchy timeline

Development and portrayal[]

While existing in the Forgotten Realms setting beforehand, Menzoberranzan was first popularized in 1990 in R. A. Salvatore's The Dark Elf Trilogy, where it prominently featured in the setting of the first and second books. Its portrayal of treacherous houses feuding for power considerably influenced later ideas of Dark Elf society in Dungeons & Dragons. Menzoberranzan itself was returned to by several other novels in the Forgotten Realms line, as well as a variety of other sources such as video games.


  • Cordell, Bruce R.; Kestrel, Gwendolyn F. M.; Quick, Jeff (2003). Underdark. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0786930535. 
  • Cordell, Bruce R.; Kestrel, Gwendolyn F. M.; Quick, Jeff (2003). Menzoberranzan: The Famed City of the Drow, Revealed At Last!. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 1560764600. 

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