Slavery is integral to the culture of the drow. While it is rarely practiced upon other drow, the dark elves consider almost every other race above or below the surface of the earth to be fair game. As the drow are the pinnacle of life, the race eventually destined to rule, it is only fitting that other races be made to serve them.
Usually, a surface elf so unfortunate as to fall into the hands of the drow is doomed to a relatively short existence of such horror the elf will be glad for death when it comes, most likely on an altar. Dwarves too are seldom kept as slaves. Though the drow do not bear the same loathing for dwarves they do for their surface, there is certainly no love lost on either side. Dwarves, however, tend to be too stubborn and unyielding to be broken to slavery in any reasonable length of time. Further, the dwarves as a people have no tolerance for one of their own being kept in servitude and wars between the dwarves and drow have broken out in the past over the discovery that the dark elves were keeping a meagre handful of dwarves in chains. However, the dwarven skill in stonework and smithing is such that some drow cities will willingly risk it.
Slavery is a part of almost every aspect of drow society. Slaves are used for labour, for mining, for cleaning the streets, for tending fungus pits, for sacrifice to the ancestors, for gladiator matches, for war and for pleasure. Even the smallest drow settlement will likely have some kind of slave market and in the larger cities there is often a building dedicated to that single purpose, thronged on auction days by buyers and by proxies.
Though training slaves is a well-regarded and prominent business in drow cities, most slaves sold at market are sold untrained. Drow who desire training for their newly-acquired slave, for example, if the slave is intended to be used as a house servant, will have to seek out a trainer after making the purchase.
The slaves at market might be sold untrained, but they are not sold unbroken. From the moment of capture until the moment the hammer falls on the auction block, the drow slavers engage in a thorough and time-honoured campaign of humiliation, degradation and punishment to break the new slave of thoughts of rebellion. This is also when new slaves begin to learn the drow tongue, as the slavers bark orders at the slaves and whip them mercilessly for not obeying. The lash provides a driving motivation for the new slave to learn to understand as quickly as possible. Before going on the block for the first time, the slave is stripped naked, blindfolded and all but hobbled by a heavy weight attached to the slave collar. He is then ordered to perform various tasks made all but impossible by the blindfold and the weight and whipped vigorously if his performance is deemed unsatisfactory.
Once a slave is bought, his troubles are only beginning. The drow see no worth or value in a slave beyond the money invested in his purchase. Specially trained slaves, particularly those who excel in their new capacity as gladiators, soldiers or concubines, are considered more valuable and sometimes even earn the fondness of their owners, but a slave straight from the auction block can expect no such considerations from his new master or mistress.
Drow abuse their slaves at will, often taking pleasure in the act. A slave is punished for the slightest infraction, real or imagined, and a new slave who is imperfectly obedient will quickly begin to accumulate an inventory of his failings in the form of scars all over his body. More serious transgressions are likely to cost the slave toes, fingers, ears, eyes, the nose or even genitalia. Of course, any true act of rebellion is almost certain to result in the slaveâs death. If he is fortunate, his master or mistress will be angry enough to act rashly and kill him quickly. If not, he is probably doomed to a slow death of the most agonising torture his master can devise, possibly ending his days as a sacrifice on the altar. In most cities, any drow can punish any slave, even those belonging to another drow, in any way he sees fit â including death. If he does maim or kill the slave, however, he is expected to pay the slaveâs owner half again the cost of the slave to make up for the inconvenience.
Breeding slaves is uncommon among the drow. When it is done, it is only in the case of truly exceptional physical and mental specimens and even then is a rarity. Though the drow may value the gifts of an extremely useful slave, the breeding process and the following cost of caring for and feeding the offspring until it reaches maturity is simply too much trouble to bother with. It is far easier and cheaper to simply buy another slave, particularly for the wealthy drow who can afford such exceptional slaves, as they have much more important things to do with their time. There have been several attempts to breed slaves for profit, but the troubles involved, combined with the long childhood of most races used as slaves by the drow, make this all but impossible. The one major exception to the drow reluctance to engage in slave breeding comes from the mages of drow society, who sometimes breed slaves for the purposes of study and experimentation.
Humans and goblinoids of all stripes are among the drowâs favoured races to keep as slaves, but are by no means the only ones commonly kept. Ogres, ettins, trolls and hill giants, though sometimes difficult to break to the collar of a slave (or collars, in the case of an ettin), are highly prized for their great strength, frequently making up the front ranks of a drow army or fighting in the arena for the pleasure of the drow. Trolls usually prove particularly hard to train due to their general disregard for pain of any kind other than fire and acid but are in turn greatly valued for their resilience.
The vast majority of slaves are untrained, save for whatever bare minimum is needed to accomplish the tasks they are given. They spend their short, miserable lives with the drow in capacities for which little training is needed, serving their masters as miners, labourers or fungus tenders before death finally comes on the floor of the gladiatorial arena or on the altar of one of the drow ancestors.
For other tasks and labours, however, the drow find it useful to have their new slaves trained. This is not some mere matter of teaching the slave to fear the lash; that is easily accomplished and, indeed, is done to all slaves. Rather, slave training among the drow is a complex task that is highly lucrative for the drow who have mastered it.
Properly trained slaves serve their masters not out of fear of the lash or any other punishment, but because the trainer has broken them of the will or desire to do anything else. A properly trained slave views his master as the central point of his world and obedience as his reason for being. Such a slave can be trusted to watch over and protect his master at all times, even when his master is resting and could be killed with a single stroke. A well-trained slave would not consider such a betrayal of his master.
Every species has its own psychology, its own weak points to be exploited and used by a skilled slave trainer. As complex as the process is, however, it is uncommon for a slave trainer to specialize in more than two different species. Drow with a slave of another species will have to find an alternate trainer, if one is available.
There are far more uses for trained slaves than for untrained, obviously. A trained slave can be trusted with money, weapons, even with his masterâs life. They are used as bodyguards, personal servants, concubines, skilled gladiators and soldiers to make up the front ranks of a drow army.