Menzoberranzan, or the City of Spiders, is a gigantic underground Drow city-state. It is located in the Upper Northdark, about two miles below the Surbrin Valley, between the Moonwood and the Frost Hills. Menzoberranzan is possibly the most well known drow city in Faerûn. It was the home of Drizzt Do’Urden, and many of his early adventures deal with the political intrigue and characters of the city.
The city has different factions, or houses, all of which vie for power. It is currently under the indirect rule of House Baenre which is governed by Matron Mother Quenthel, daughter of Yvonnel Baenre, also known as Old Matron Baenre, perhaps the most powerful de facto ruler the city has ever seen.
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 (clean water can be hard to come by in the Underdark). The worship of Lolth is prevalent, and the worship of any other deity is forbidden. The city’s priestesses are trained in the spider-shaped clerical academy Arach-Tinilith. One of the branches of the city’s triune academies of Tier Brieche, Arach-Tinilith is neighbored by the warrior school Melee Magthere, and Sorcere, the school in which wizardly magic is taught. The most powerful clerics, fighters and mages of Menzoberranzan pass through the academies, and the title of master/mistress of an academy is coveted. The master/mistress of an academy in Menzoberranzan is often the most powerful drow in that particular discipline.
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 which was, until shortly before the Spellplague, led by Matron Yvonnel Baenre — a drow priestess who was the single most powerful political figure in Menzoberranzan for more than a thousand years. She was killed by Bruenor Battlehammer during the failed assault on Mithral Hall, however, and was subsequently succeeded by her daughter Triel who in turn was later deposed by her younger sister Quenthel. 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 matron mothers. The most powerful male in the city is Gromph Baenre, archmage of Menzoberranzan and the eldest son of Yvonnel Baenre.