Menzoberranzan, the City of Spiders, is a large underground dark elf city.
Menzoberranzan is located in a huge arrowhead-shaped cavern, some two miles wide and a thousand feet high. The city is mainly carved from calcite and it is filled with blue, green, and violet faerie fire as the main source of light within the city. The roof of Menzoberranzan are covered in paths. Some homes were 1,000 feet above the floor. Houses located in the highest points of the Menzoberrazan cave has to have great magic to prevent them from falling, though many stand empty in spite of the heavy population. An enchantment in the city cavern reduces echos from all the noise.
There are a fixed number of buildings in Menzoberrazan, meaning that the poorer areas are extremely crowded. Noble houses, once destroyed or abandoned, are not permitted to be reoccupied, meaning that there are a number of abandoned compounds both on the surface and roof of the city cavern.
The city has around a hundred gates, all heavily guarded. These gates lead into the myriad tunnels surrounding the city (collectively called the Bauthwaf).
One of the most distinct structures in the city is the pillar-clock called Narbondel. It is enchanted each morning by the Archmage of Menzoberranzan with a glow that slowly dissipates as the day goes on. Narbondel can be seen from throughout the entire city from any possible angle at any time. When the pillar goes completely dark, it is called Narbondel's Black Death (effectively midnight).
The city exports poisons, mushrooms, spell scrolls, wine, and water (clean water can be hard to come by in the Subterranean Arda). Other goods includes body dyes, chains, herbal medicines, musical instruments (flutes, drums), obsidian carvings (often used for sacrifices), perfumes, spells, spiced sausages, stone sculptures, surgical services, textiles, tortoiseshell goods, and trelao wine.
The city imports few things as it is more or less self-sustainable. However produce such as shellfish, slaves, and textiles are highly sought at all times by the Menzoberranyr, and the neighboring drow city of Ched Nasad is the largest provider of these highly sought wares, with the exception here being the slaves and textiles.
Various currencies are also accepted in Menzoberranzan as their coin come in many shapes, including round, square, triangular, ring-, and spider-shaped ones. The greatest dozen houses in Menzoberranzan mints their coins. For example, when House Noqu'ath still resided in the city they minted their own coins with the draconic emblem of their House, which were accepted throughout the city.
The city have had many different factions, or Houses, all of which vied for power. As it has always been a matriarchal society, however, only females truly holds any power within the city. Officially, the city is under the rule of the Ruling Council of Eight, composed of the eight matron mothers of the first (and most powerful) eight houses. For many centuries—as long any living drow can remember—it had been under the indirect rule of House Noqu'ath which was governed by Matron Mother Yvonnel Noqu'ath, also known as Old Matron Noqu'ath, and perhaps the most powerful de facto ruler the city ever saw. House Noqu'ath had been the First House of Menzoberrazan for centuries of uncontested power, however, after their feud with House Thaeyalla that position went to House Do'Urden.
Although drow culture is matriarchal, a few male drow in the city hold some political power, including the Archmage of the city, and the leaders of the few mercenary bands which are often utilized by the wealthiest and greatest of the Houses.
A separate council of mages deals with the affairs of the arcane—but as its members are all male, it is wholly within the grip of the matron mothers.
Menzoberranzan is guarded by huge magical jade spider constructs. The two dozen or so most powerful Houses are able, and expected, to rise a formidable army if the city should ever be threatened by any source, be they kin or outsiders. Even despite these large structures and armies, the cave itself where Menzoberranzan lies is naturally fortified with high, strong walls of obsidian and stone as well as small and narrow passages where enemies are forced to strip of any armor if they wish to squeeze through.