Vhaeraun, also known as the Masked Lord, is the drow god of thievery, drow males, and evil activity on the surface world. His worshipers include assassins, male drow and half-drow, poisoners, rogues, and thieves.
Vhaeraun is Lolth's son, but he chafes under his mother's dominance and despises her favoritism towards the females of the race. He has become the patron of male drow and has taught many of them the arts of the rogue so that they are not helpless against the great power of Lolth's chosen females. Many of his followers teach rebellion against the ingrained matriarchy. Others preach that the drow should increase their influence and power above the ground.
Like most drow deities, Vhaeraun is arrogant (often vain) and vindictive, championing the superiority of the drow over all other races and encouraging his followers to unite across the gender lines in the name of better conquering the other races. Scheming and underhanded, he bears a hypocritical fury at being deceived and will not tolerate the use of underhanded tactics against himself or the drow.
Despite these traits, he's also a pragmatist, and believes in the importance of cooperation - especially when it comes to undermining or otherwise battling the influence of his mother, Lolth; he is known to try and unite the other members of the Dark Seldarine against her.
Vhaerun's pragmatism also makes him a realist. He knows that Lolth far outclasses him in terms of divine power, so he takes the subtle approach, focusing on moving against her in secretive ways. His primary concerns focus on increasing the power of himself, his worshippers, and the drow as a whole, and decreasing the power of his enemies. He preaches the importance of passive resistance to his people, especially when this builds up momentum to become open action. He supports teaching the ideas that contradict Lolth's dogma. When he has the chance to act directly against another god, he's known to be willing to enter the front line himself.
Vhaeraun has the second largest drow following, next to Lolth, and the largest drow following on the surface—among those non-drow aware of the activities of his followers in the surface world, the Masked Lord is often confused with the human god of thieves, Mask. The church of Vhaeraun primarily consists of drow and half-drow males who seek a better life than slavery under Lolth's matriarchy, and who oppose it. The promise of a gender-fair society in which empathy, cooperation, and growth is possible appeal to them.
To priests of Lolth, priests of Vhaeraun are the enemy, to be hunted down by any means possible-torture of suspected drow is a favorite tactic-and eradicated on the altars of Lolth to earn the maximum glory of the goddess and derive the most personal enjoyment out of one's efforts.
The followers of Vhaeraun believe that they must free themselves from the tyranny of the Lolth and take their rightful place in the Night Above by force. This would involve the destruction of the drow matriarchy and the infighting of Lolth's followers, resulting in the unification of the drow people, as opposed to a squabbling collection of rival Houses with conflicting aims. They believe that Vhaeraun will lead them in a society where the drow rule over all the other, inferior races and where male and female are equals.
The church of Vhaeraun is loosely organized, mainly due to persecution from the priestesses of Lolth who rule over the majority of the drow race. Vhaeraun's clergy is almost entirely male, and they practice a passive opposition to Lolth. Aside from that, Vhaeraun strives to reclaim the surface world from which he was forced to flee. This leads to frequent conflicts with the clerics of Eilistraee, benevolent dark elves who strive to live in peace with the surface folk and gain redemption for the evil ways of their kind.
Some priests of Vhaeraun advocate unity of the elven races in order to more easily dominate the surface world. Most, however, view this as heresy.
VestmentsVhaeraun's clergy garb themselves in half-masks, loose silk shirts, form-fitting pants, and leather boots, all of which are jet black. They are never without at least one black-edged bladed weapon on their persons, and most are bedecked with half a dozen or more such weapons. The god's holy symbol is a black half-mask that can, of course, be worn and used like any mask. Priests of Vhaeraun need only be within a mile of their holy symbol to use it in working spells given to them by the Masked Lord. It need not ever be on their persons (except when they first wear it to become attuned or linked to it) or brandished in spellcasting or dealing with undead.
When adventuring, no priest of Vhaeraun can wear any type of armor except leather armor, and dark garb is always preferred. Vhaeraun's clergy favor daggers, short swords, and long swords, but they always select the most appropriate weapon for the task at hand. The Masked Lord's priests are well versed in the use of poisons, and typically prepare several varieties of widely varying onset times, methods of application, and strengths before embarking on a dangerous undertaking.
HierarchyVhaeraun's clergy are known collectively as the Masked. Novices of Vhaeraun are known as the Uncloaked. All other members of the clergy are known as Nightshadows. Titles used by Vhaeraunan priests vary widely across temple hierarchies, but typical titles (in no particular order) include Ascendant Darkness, Black Moon, Dark Mantle, Deep Rogue, Enveloping Night, Raven's Caw, Shadow Hunter, Silent Sable, and Twilight's Herald. High-ranking priests of the Masked Lord have unique individual titles. Specialty priests are known as Darkmasks, and traitorous priests of Lolth are known as masked traitors. The clergy of Vhaeraun includes only dark elves, over 99% of whom are male. Females of the faith are extremely rare, as women are often suspected as being a spy for Lolth, which makes them a threat to the entire order.
TemplesIn the Underdark, Vhaeraun is worshiped in deep caverns cloaked in multiple, overlapping darkness spells. Such temples are typically natural amphitheaters, with soaring ceilings studded with sparkling beljurils spaced to resemble stars. In the Night Above, the Masked Lord is venerated in shallow woodland caves cloaked by layers of leaves of deep forest canopies that allow little light to reach the forest floor. Such shrines are typically located near or in small communities of surface-dwelling drow who seek the return of the drow to the Night Above as the Masked Lord has called for. One such temple and community may be found in the western fringes of the High Forest, just two days south of the River Dessarin's headwaters near the Lost Peaks.
RitualsThe most important attacks, negotiations, and other activities of the clergy must occur at night. Priests of Vhaeraun utter prayers to the Masked God of Night whenever they accomplish something to further his aims. Offerings of the wealth and weapons of those they vanquish (enemies of the drow, or regalia of female drow priests) are to be melted in black, bowl-shaped altars. Offerings of magic and wealth are made regularly. The more and the more value, the more Vhaeraun is pleased, though he favors daily diligence more than rare, huge hauls.
Midwinter Night, known to Vhaeraun's followers as the Masked Lord's Embrace, is the most sacred time of the year to the followers of the Masked Lord. This annual holy day is celebrated by the Masked Lord's followers with daylong introspective rituals of total sensory deprivation. Each worshiper is expected to cloak himself in a region of magical darkness and levitate at the middle of the effect for a full 24 hours while contemplating Vhaeraun's teachings and dreaming up schemes to advance the Masked Lord's goals in the coming year. All followers of Vhaeraun who wish to perform this ritual are granted the ability to employ both spell-like effects on this day, with the necessary extended duration, by a special boon of the Masked Lord.
In the Night Above, nights of the new moon are considered sacred to the followers of the Masked Lord. Such occasions are observed with midnight stag hunts that range over miles of shadowy woodlands, such as the Forest of Lethyr, the Forest of Mir, the Frozen Forest, the Lurkwood, Rawl-inswood, the Trollbark Forest, and the Winterwood. Packs of Vhaeraun worshipers, mounted on riding lizards brought up from the Underdark, run down a noble hart and then sacrifice its rack of antlers and still-beating heart to the Masked Lord in dark rites that pervert the ancient ways of the surface elves.
OrdersThe Dark Dagger, composed of drow who venerate Vhaeraun, is a whispered name of growing weight in the dark alleys around the Inner Sea lands. Individually powerful, but few in number, Dagger agents habitually use poison (which they are largely immune to, thanks to lifelong incremental dosage procedures). Active in Skullport (in Undermountain, beneath Waterdeep), in Turmish and the Vilhon Reach, and to a lesser extent in Amn and Calimshan, the various Points of the Dagger are now beginning to infiltrate coast cities all around the Sea of Fallen Stars. They like to take control of local thieving guilds and fellowships behind the scenes, hire skilled human and humanoid agents, and establish hidden temples to Vhaeraun. They recruit disaffected half-elves and humans to worship the Masked Lord, whose symbol is identical to that of Mask, the Lord of Shadows.
The shadows of the Masked Lord must cast off the tyranny of the Spider Queen and forcibly reclaim their birthright and rightful place in the Night Above. The existing drow matriarchy must be smashed, and the warring practices of twisted Lolth done away with, so that the drow are welded into a united people, not a squabbling gaggle of rival Houses, clans and aims. Vhaeraun will lead his followers into a society where drow once again reign supreme over the other, lesser races, and there is equality between males and females.
When appearing to mortal eyes, Vhaeraun appears as a handsome male drow with long red hair. He has a gold mask covering the top part of his face, his eyes visible through slits in the mask. He is covered by a protective cloak of shadow, which he can use to become invisible and to teleport. Stories claim his eyes change color to indicate his mood; red for rage, blue for happiness, green for puzzlement. To try and counter the effectiveness of his seditious preaching, Lolthite-spawned myths claim variously that either his iconic mask hides scars left on his face as punishment by his mother, or that his mother cut out his tongue.
Vhaeraun is a member of the Dark Seldarine (the Drow, Dark Elf Pantheon) that actively seeks to rebel against his mother, Lolth, although unlike Eilistraee and Zinzerena he is mostly malevolent in nature.