The following are the topmost houses in Menzoberranzan. In Menzoberranzan if you do not belong to a noble house or a merchant house you mean nothing. Bregan D’Aerthe is an exception.
Menzoberranzan currently has 73 noble houses, though usually it has only 50-60. The upper 18 noble houses are the most stable and influential (they are traditionally known as the “Upper Third” since they composed about 1/3 of the city’s noble houses), those who have not managed to rise this high (known as the “Lower Two-Thirds”) simply cannot get the same respect in the city (though any non-noble will always give a healthy amount of respect to a member of any noble house). Menzoberranzan’s nobles are estimated at about 1000 while the troops of the noble houses number approximately 12,000. However, their distribution is not equal with about 1/2 the city’s population of nobles and 2/3 of house troops in the upper 1/3 of houses (in this case, the upper 25 houses). The eight first ranked houses (ranks 1-8) are the Ruling Houses, i.e., those houses that comprise the city’s Ruling Council.
1. House Baenre
The most powerful noble house in the city, House Baenre dominates its trade, politics, military (its forces are reputed to be able to match any other 5 nobles houses combined), and even the schools (with the heads of both Sorcere and Arach Tinilith members of the house).
2. House Barrison Del’Armgo
The second house of Menzoberranzan is also the strongest in magic and and mages, or so it is said.
3. House Oblodra
The city’s third house is known for its strange mental powers, such as those born by duergar and illithids. Whispers often link them with one or both. They are also the principle overseer of patrol groups.
4. House Faen Tlabbar
The fourth ranked house of the city’s power is based on trade and its innumerable trade contacts in the city. They even seem to beat out House Baenre in this regard.
5. House Xorlarrin
The members of the 5th house of Menzoberranzan are known as paranoid recluses. They always travel wearing a veil and concealing robe that hides both identity and gender. Several of the masters of Sorcere are members of this house and they can be hired to arbitrate business and house disputes.
6. House Agrach Dyrr
The 6th house is known for both its magical power and its warlike stance.
7. House Mizzrym
The 7th house is known for its double-dealing ways but also maintains power through trade (an unusual combination). They are one of the largest employers of mercenaries in the city, proving they have great wealth as well as making them much more dangerous than their rank and house forces would indicate.
8. House Fey-Branche
The 8th house is also the primary founder of the Brown Mushroom merchant company. The house has a long history, including numerous rises and falls in the city’s hierarchy, while surviving the entire time. Common wisdom is that they will suffer some mishap and drop in status again soon (within the next few decades), making room for another house to join the council.
9. House Tuin’Tarl
The 9th house of Menzoberranzan is a great success story: a merchant clan that made the leap to nobility and became a very powerful house all in a relatively short period of time. Their power is still based on trade.
10. House Duskryn
The 10th house is militarily powerful and many wonder how they can be ranked so low with so many more finely trained troops than some higher placed houses.
11. House Srune’lett
The 11th house’s position is considered extremely precarious as they are weak in both arms and magic and the trustworthiness of their troops is open speculation even among commoners.
12. House Horlbar
The 12th house is known for its long memory as well as its unique rule by two matron mothers. Since the death of one means the death of the other, however, this unusual situation does seem to work (from the outside, at least). They have numerous prosperous farms in the mantle and run regular caravans into the underdark.
13. House Kenafin
The 13th house of the city is known for its involvement in trade, though this almost all occurs within the city and never beyond the mantle. Their priestesses have been working on a giant sculpture of Lloth for years, apparently in an effort to gain the Spider Queen’s favor. Whisperings in the city alternately say this is a good house to find employment with or an extremely harsh one, even by drow standards.
14. House Druu’giir
The 14th house’s influence is spread by its domination of almost all money lending in the city. This also makes it extremely wealthy, and able to hire any mercenaries it requires on a moment’s notice. The house is feared for its powerful magic, especially spells that open portals between two places or planes, bypassing all defenses.
15. House Hunzrin
The current 15th house is in charge of the city’s farms and answers to House Baenre and the ruling council in this. They have long held this duty and most drow suspect it has distracted them to such an extent that they have not been able to focus properly on military growth.
16. House Shobalar
The 16th house has a reputation for double dealing as well as magical might, though its wizards are almost exclusively female! The members of the house are very reclusive but are always obvious when traveling as they use specially bred spider mounts rather than riding lizards.
17. House Vandree
The members of the 17th house are known for their surface world trade (many say raids) which has given them riches and unusual magical might beyond the expectation of such a weak house.
18. House Symrivvin
Symryvvin has been 18th house of Menzoberranzan since its founding, or so it is said. Despite its ranking, even Matron Baenre calls on Matron Mother Symryvvin for advice. Some whisper that Matron Symryvvin is the true power in Menzoberranzan, not Matron Baenre or the council. To date, such whispers have not been punished. The house is referred to as “the eyes of Lloth”.
Drow Merchant Houses are an important part of drow society alongside independent traders. They are run mostly by male drow, though a few merchants contradict this standard. The trade is a dangerous one, even more so for non-drow, and many die quickly due to “accidents” from Houses that disliked them or from rival traders. Some are sponsored by noble Houses, ensuring their survival in some cases.
Bregan D’aerthe is a drow mercenary band in Menzoberranzan. Founded by Jarlaxle Baenre as a means for houseless rogues to survive in Menzoberranzan, the group has thrived and expanded greatly since its inception. Due to its array of skilled soldiers and its many connections with the outside world, Bregan D’aerthe is a valued ally of many powerful drow houses. It has been remarked that Jarlaxle is one of the most protected drow in the Underdark due to the competent soldiers he surrounds himself with. This band of societal malcontents consists of approximately 150 members…though at times known to employ many more including nobles from fallen houses. Their exact numbers would be foolish to assume.