©2006 commissoned art by Azrael
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Selvetarm (SELL-veh-TARM) is the Champion of Lolth and the patron of drow warriors. Seen as the embodiment of unequaled fighting prowess, Selvetarm is worshiped by a few drow in the northern and western reaches of the Underdark beneath Faerun, particularly in the city of Eryndlyn beneath the High Moor and in the dungeons of Undermountain beneath Waterdeep. The Spider Demon is also venerated by many of the aranea of the Spider Swamp in southern Calimshan where he is known as Zanassu, the Spider That Waits. A few drow in the Forest of Mir as well as a handful of Volothanni seeking any advantage to advance themselves politically in the Gem City of Calimshan round out the ranks of Selvetarm's faithful.
Selvetarm is the offspring of an ill-fated tryst between Vhaeraun and Zandilar the Dancer, a demipower once venerated by the elves of the Yuirwood. When the Dancer's elven followers began to falter in the face of relentless assaults by Lolth's minions, Zandilar sought out the Masked Lord and seduced him in an attempt to either gain information or elicit his direct assistance in battling the Spider Queen. The Masked Lord betrayed Zandilar and imprisoned her, and only the timely assistance of Bast, an errant Mulhorandi demipower, allowed the Dancer to escape. Selvetarm was birthed shortly thereafter when the weakened Zandilar voluntarily merged her essence with that of Bast, creating the goddess now known as Sharess.

Selvetarm walked a solitary way for many centuries, spurning both of his parents, for he was not wholly given over to evil but neither was he aligned with the forces of light. Eventually his path crossed that of his aunt, Eilistraee, and he began to appreciate the goodness of the Dark Maiden, as exhibited in her teachings and deeds. By way of Selvetarm's redemption, Eilistraee hoped to begin to heal the breach between the majority of dark elves and the Seldarine. The Dark Maiden's hopes were dashed, however, by the insidious plotting of Lolth.

The Queen of Spiders had long resented the existence of Zanassu, a minor Abyssal Lord with pretensions of suzerainty over spiders, nearly as much as she disliked the possibility of Eilistraee winning an ally-Selvetarm-among the pantheon of the drow. When the Spider Demon lost much of his power after a conflict on the Prime (against Qysara Shoon V of the Shoon Empire), Lolth convinced Selvetarm to destroy Zanassu and seize the Spider Demon's burgeoning divine power. She did so by suggesting to Selvetarm that a victory would increase his personal power and win him favor in the eyes of Eilistraee, whom he greatly admired. While Selvetarm prevailed in battle over the Spider Demon, the absorption of Zanassu's wholly evil and chaotic nature overwhelmed Selvetarm's nascent beneficial aspects and weakened him sufficiently that he could not escape the traps by which the Spider Queen bound his will tightly to her own.

Cruel and malicious by nature, Selvetarm cares only for battle and destruction. The Champion of Lolth harbors a deep hatred for all living things, including his dominating mistress, and the only beauty he can appreciate is a well-honed and deadly fighting style. Selvetarm can exhibit a great deal of patience while waiting for prey to fall into an ambush he has set, but he prefers the wild abandon of battle frenzy to a careful and deliberate attack.

(Champion of Lolth, Thane of Lolth, the Spider That Waits, the Spider Demon, Prince of the Aranea, Lord of the Venomire)

©2007 commissoned art by Gáliczki Tímea
DO NOT TAKE, permission NOT granted!


ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Evil

PORTFOLIO: Drow warriors

ALIASES: Zanassu

HOME PLANE: Demonweb Pits


ALLIES: Garagos, Lolth

FOES: Deep Duerra, Eilistraee, Ghaunadaur, Laduguer, the Seldarine, Sharess, Vhaeraun, Blibdoolpoolp, the Blood Queen, Diinkarazan, Diirinka, Great Mother, Gzemnid, Ilsensine, Ilxendren, Laogzed, Maanzecorian (dead), Psilofyr

SYMBOL: Crossed sword and mace overlaid with spider image



DOMAINS: Chaos, Drow, Evil, Spider, War

FAVORED WEAPON: "Venommace" (heavy mace)

War is the ultimate expression of individual power, and only through battle and death can one realize the respect of one's comrades. Hone your fighting skills constantly and teach those who will follow into the fray. Never give or receive quarter, and die amidst the bloodlust of battle against overwhelming odds. Cultivate as many different weapon tricks and combat maneuvers as a spider has arms, and never fear that hidden venom, like a secret vengeance waiting to strike, will serve you ill.

Selvetarm rarely bothers to simply manifest in the Realms when entreated by his followers, as he prefers to either dispatch his avatar directly or ignore the supplication. He occasionally manifests when his avatar is otherwise occupied and the outcome of the fray is of great interest to him. In such situations, Selvetarm manifests as a tiny sphere of absolute blackness that slowly grows in size over the course of 3 rounds from about 1 inch in diameter to about 1 foot in diameter and then explodes in a shower of blades equivalent in effect to the cleric spell blade barrier, though it grants its victims no saving throw vs. spell against its effects.
Selvetarm commonly acts through the appearance or presence of myrlochar (soul spiders), retrievers, and spiders of all sorts. The Spider Demon shows his favor through the discovery of rogue stones, pieces of dried silver-bark, and webstone, and his displeasure by causing steel weapons and armor to shatter in combat even after a glancing blow.

Outside of the Spider Swamp, the city of Volothamp, and the dungeons beneath Waterdeep, Selvetarm is little known on the surface world. He does appear in a few Calishite tales as the Demon of the Swamp in which he is depicted as a lurking evil capable of insidious charms and unchecked battle fury. Aside from the drow city of Eryndlyn, where Selvetarm's name is synonymous with the nigh-unstoppable battle prowess of drow male warriors in the service of Lolth, the Spider Demon is known in the Underdark in only a few drow cities that follow the Way of Lolth. Few drow are aware that he is divine being, as most tales depict him simply as a powerful tanar'ri and a minion of Lolth.
The few temples of Selvetarm that exist are typically large subterranean chambers dominated a huge black stone spider idol. The Chapel of the Sericeous Sargh, a small shrine on the first level of Undermountain (Room #12) beneath the streets of Waterdeep, is fairly representative of the style. The idol appears to merge with the center of the room's eastern wall. A darkly stained altar sits before the idol, and two of the spider's legs are outstretched in front of the altar. Another two legs are raised up high, above the altar, suspending an unlit brazier from each leg. The spider's other legs bend up and set down close to its sides, forming large arches along the sides of the idol. An eerie, purplish-blue radiance emanates from the statue's eyes, providing the chapel's only illumination when the braziers are not lit.
Selvetarm's clergy are known collectively as the Selvetargtlin, which is drow for warriors of Selvetarm. Titles used by Selvetarm's clergy vary widely across temple hierarchies, but those used in the city of Eryndlyn include Edge of the Axe, Crush of the Mace, Steel of the Blade, Tusk of the Boar, Hunger of the Swarm, Claw of the Cave Bear, Talon of the Wyrm, and Bloodlust of the Berserker. High-ranking priests of the Spider Demon have unique individual titles. Specialty priests are known as spiderswords. The clergy of Selvetarm includes both male (70%) and female dark elves (8%) as well as male (15%) and female aranea (7%).

Day-to-Day Activities:
Selvetarm's faithful spend most of their days guarding fortifications, honing their fighting skills, participating in patrols, guarding slave caravans, and getting into fights over status and petty slights. Many spend much of their time training other warriors in the art of war. While the Selvetargtlin are rightly known for their skill in battle, the teachings of the faith place little emphasis on tactics or strategy and thus few members of Selvetarm's clergy achieve a high military rank.

Holy Days/Important Ceremonies:
Selvetarm's faithful are expected to observe the rituals of Lolth, as directed by her priests. (Those who have recently emigrated from Eryndlyn have abandoned this practice, so far without divine retribution, and are said to be praying for guidance in new ways of honoring the Spider Demon.) Selvetarm does expect all who take up arms in his name to cry out his name in the bloodlust of battle as they deliver the killing blow to a foe. Since there is always the chance that any attack will be a fatal one, the Selvetargtlin tend to constantly scream out their god's name during a battle.
The aranea of the Spider Swamp venerate Zanassu with a totally different set of rituals, notable in comparison for their emphasis on patience, craftiness, and subtlety. Such ceremonies involve animal sacrifices to the Spider That Waits-typically a boar or lizard-and repeating litanies beseeching him to return. The holiest day of the year is the 6th of Kythorn, the day on which Zanassu returned after his millennial exile. On this day all of the aranea celebrate their deliverance through fasting and ritual combat.

Major Centers of Worship:
In the northern reaches of the Spider Swamp of Calimshan lies a ruined city known as Lost Ajhuutal, rumored to have been the capital of the Maridlands millennia ago. The ruins have been inhabited by a race of werespiders for centuries. The aranea are large, intelligent spiders capable of assuming a single humanoid form. Originally all could assume drow form, but increasing numbers assume a human or half-elven form identical in all ways to Calishites of the same racial mix. In the center of oft-rebuilt Lost Ajhuutal stands the Apostolaeum of the Spider That Waits, one of the city's few buildings that is still relatively intact. The temple has a massive stone spider as its central dome, with stone webs spreading out to the four minarets flanking it at the corners. Less than one hundred priests and followers of Zanassu dwell within the temple, impatiently awaiting opportunities for hunting or wars, but content to serve The Spider Who Waits and the community by defending the temple. Recent expansions of the aranea's territory into the southern reaches of the Forest of Mir have given Zanassu's clergy the opportunity to war with the community of wereboars who are resisting the incursions, but the primary worry of the Spider Demon's priests is the concern that they may lose their fullblood status as fewer and fewer of the aranea keep only drow changeforms.
According to legend, the aranea were created by Calishite wizards during the Night Wars to infiltrate the ranks of the drow and destroy them from within. With the defeat of the dark elves and the end of 260 years of warfare in -530 DR, the aranea were cast off by the Calishites and either killed or driven into the Spider Swamp. Among the dank fens of the Venomire, as the Spider Swamp is also known, the aranea developed a relatively pacifistic, neutral culture, trading in silk, herbs, and poisons with the coastal city of Volothamp. During this time some aranea began to manifest humanoid forms other than that of dark elves, facilitating their ability to move unhindered through Calishite cities and towns. When Qysara Shoon V cast the spider-people as scapegoats for a plague that ravished Almraiven in the Year of Full Cribs (290 DR), the aranea were nearly destroyed by the resultant backlash from Volothamp's military and populace. In response, some of the aranea turned to Zanassu, then a minor Abyssal Lord, to defend them against the Shoon Empire. Zanassu was banished back to the Abyss by the qysara in the Year of Frostfires (292 DR), but by that time the Spider Demon's cult had taken root among a large fraction of the once peaceful aranea. Since early in the 4th century Dalereckoning, the aranea have dwelt relatively peacefully in the City of Maridsorrows, their safety secured by the militant followers of Zanassu.
For ten centuries, Zanassu's aranea priests foretold the triumphant return of their deity after his ignominious defeat by Qysara Shoon V. While the Spider Demon was rumored to have stalked the Spider Swamp on multiple occasions during his millennial absence, his avatar did not actually return to the Apostolaeum until the Year of the Wandering Waves (1292 DR), 1,000 years to the day after his banishment. For 66 years (a baleful portent given the Spider Demon's lair in the 66th level of the Abyss), Zanassu-or a powerful tanar'ri claiming to be him-dwelt within the heart of the Apostolaeum. Zanassu did not emerge from his temple until the Fall of the Gods in the Year of Shadows (1358 DR), at which time the Lord of the Venomire stalked northward toward the Forest of Mir and did not return. During the nearly seven decades of his rule, Zanassu's minions infiltrated the corridors of power in Volothamp and the surrounding region so thoroughly that the then-reigning vizier, Ramslett N'door and a number of his senior advisers fell victim to Zanassu's charms. During the Time of Troubles, however, Zanassu's hold over the government of Volothamp swiftly dissipated in the magical chaos of the time. With the strife of the Darkstalker Wars of the Year of the Serpent (1359 DR) following on the heels of the Avatar Crisis, 66 years of unseen tyranny vanished with barely a trace.

Affiliated Orders:
The city of Eryndlyn, located in hidden caves beneath the High Moor, is characterized by barely contained hostilities between the worshipers of Lolth, Ghaunadaur, and Vhaeraun. During the Time of Troubles, the avatar of Selvetarm rampaged through the drow city, attacking strongholds of the followers of Ghaunadaur and Vhaeraun. Priests of Lolth hailed the monster as the sword arm of Lolth, sent to demonstrate her absolute rule. The avatar of Selvetarm was finally driven into the wild Underdark by an alliance between the victimized cults, but not without great losses. It is unknown whether Selvetarm's avatar still remains in the Underdark or if he has returned to the Abyss.
As a result of Selvetarm's rampage through Eryndlyn, droves of drow worshipers in that strife-torn city have allied themselves with the priests of Lolth. A new military order called the Selvetargtlin-a name also associated with the clergy at large-has shifted the balance of power in the cult of Lolth's favor and consequently driven the worshipers of Ghaunadaur and Vhaeraun into an uneasy alliance. It is uncertain how this will affect the long term balance of power in the city.
A few drow in Eryndlyn began to worship Selvetarm in his own right. This displeased Lolth's clergy immensely, and the blasphemers were quickly driven from the city and into exile. These drow are believed to have recently settled in the Underdark beneath Waterdeep in the hopes of building their own city. Patrols of Selvetarm's faithful have been encountered exploring the dungeons of Undermountain-where they recently constructed the Chapel of the Sericeous Sargh, detailed above- and searching for new magic with which to defend the exiled cult. Priestly Vestments: Priests of Selvetarm wear long, rich, scarlet robes lined in chain mail. They wear their long hair in thick braids, the tips of which are soaked in blood and allowed to harden into rock-hard clumps. (In desperation, a priest can employ his braids in close quarters as a flail by whipping his head to and fro. Such attacks are made at at a -2 attack penalty and inflict ld4 total points of damage.) Steel gauntlets are worn on the hands, each of which sports a sharp blade-equivalent to a dagger-on the back of the hand emerging from the knuckles at the base of the fingers. The holy symbol of the faith is a platinum disk at least 3 inches in diameter with an embossed depiction on both its obverse and reverse in jet black enamel of a crossed sword and mace overlaid with the image of a spider.

Adventuring Garb:
Selvetarm's faithful employ the best armor and weapons available, although they eschew the use of shields-with the notable exception of spiked bucklers-and missile weapons such as bows and crossbows. Most dark elves who venerate the Spider Demon employ drow boots, a drow cloak, and drow chain mail inscribed with Selvetarm's symbol on the breast. Most Selvetargtlin are trained in the use of two melee weapons. Favorite combinations include sword and dagger, sword and mace, and sword and axe.

Selvetarm's Avatar
(Fighter 24, Cleric 16)

[ WEBMASTER'S NOTE: This information is in 2nd Edition format, as they have not bothered to stat out Selvetarm in 3.X D&D. We're including it here just in case anyone does want to reference the older information to try and create statistics of their own. ]

Selvetarm appears as a large black spider, sometimes with the head of a drow male. He wields a long sword and mace in his front appendages. He prefers spells from the spheres of all, animal, chaos, charm, combat, elemental, guardian, healing, protection, sun (reversed only), travelers, and war, though he can cast spells from any sphere.

AC -2; MV 15, Wb 21; HP 180; THACO -3; #AT 7/2 and 1 bite Dmg 2d8+poison (bite) and ld8+15 (long sword +5, +8 STR, +2 spec. bonus in long sword) and ld6+12+special (footman's mace +3, +8 STR) MR 70%; SZ L (15 feet across, 6 feet high) STR 22, DEX 20, CON 20, INT 15, Wis 18, CHA 16 Spells P: 9/9/8/7/4/3/1 Saves PPDM 3, RSW 5, PP 4, BW 4, Sp 6

Special Att/Defc In his right hand Selvetarm wields Venomace, a footman's mace +3 that continuously oozes a noxious sludge of acid and venom that inflicts an additional ld4 points of poison damage (if a saving throw vs. poison is not made) and ld4 points of acid damage every round for 3 rounds after a successful hit. In his left hand, the Spider Demon wields Thalack'velve, a long sword +5, defender.

Victims bitten by Selvetarm must succeed at a saving throw vs. poison at a -4 penalty. A failed saving throw results in death in 1 round, but even if the saving throw succeeds, the poison inflicts 3d6 points of damage. Selvetarm is immune to poison and sustains only half damage from cold, electricity, and lightning attacks. He is only affected by +1 or better magical weapons. Magical cold iron weapons get a +2 damage bonus when striking him.

Selvetarm can at will, one at a time, use any of the following spell-like powers once per day instead of casting a spell: charm monster, charm person, command, darkness 15' radius, detect good, detect invisible, dimension door, dispel magic, fly, infravision, invisibility, know alignment, protection from good 10' radius, speak with monsters, telekinesis (up to 5,000 gp), teleport without error, unholy word, and web. The Spider Demon can summon spiders (01-20%; 1d6+6 large spiders, 21-50%: 1d4+4 huge spiders, 51-90%: 1d6 giant spiders, 91-00%: 1d2 phase spiders) at will, once per round, instead of casting a spell.

Drow Religion

Page Last Updated June 14th, 2007