Drowtales: Moonless Age is a fantasy manga-style webcomic that has been running since 2001.
Drowtales (woo-ooo!) has had many iterations, from it's original shitty MSPaint-tier art to dozens of artists collaborating on what is now unarguably one of the best looking webcomics on the internet. Whether the story has likewise improved at all is open to debate. Drowtales is a skub topic on /tg/ that causes massive levels of autism from both it's fans and anti-fans. /tg/ has had several raids of the site's roleplaying forums, with neckbeards attempting to fight the drow Mary Sues with their own dwarf Mary Sues. The only thing most anons agree on is about the art, which, admittedly, is pretty fucking badass.
The simplest way to describe what's wrong with Drowtales is thusly: Take Drizzt Syndrome, infect an entire planet's worth of elves with it and replace any self-awareness moments of characters with cognitive dissonance. Oh, and add in heaps of obnoxious T&A in the middle of all the wangst, and crank up the Grimdark up to eleven. So it's more Grimderp than Grimdark.
A long time ago there were two elven nations at war. They used a magic spell to break the fucking moon apart and opened a giant portal to the netherworld so that demons flooded the surface of the planet and ate everyone.
What few elves survived this clusterfuck of a war went underground and turned into the drow. They built a giant city and then started fighting each other, preying on completely underpowered humans and slaughtering entire surface towns to drag women and children to slavery (while philosophizing about how their savior Jesus-archetype sorceress Sharess was a good goddess...)
The empress's daughters betrayed her and locked her in her throne to starve to death while they took over the city, some people began tainting themselves with demons intentionally, the daughter of one of the clan leaders went to a magic school where she pretended to be a boy and then killed a bunch of her friends, a cult tried to summon a demon god into the underworld, and one of the empress's daughters made a magic flower bioweapon and rode around on a magic airship with mana cannon batteries. Blah blah blah. Cue slavery, its awkward confrontation and incredibly edgy Drow butchering each other with swords, crossbows, artillery, particle rifles and mana powered mecha and submarines (I wish I made that shit up) while arguing that slavery is crucial for them to survive for its food and textile yield. (Said houses have armies of golems, submarines and mecha operated by single Drow pilots who would render manual labor obsolete anyway, but then who'd have eye candy consisting of naked light elves in chains, depressed and ruined, sitting in the marketplace...?)
tl;dr story writer occasionally shocks with completely illogical edgy points just to leave a minty Skub taste in mouth.
- Sarghress: The clan the main character belongs to and thus the default "heroic" or "reasonable" one. They are a clan of mercenary commoners with a musclegirl matriarch who somehow ride wolves around in the dark underworld. Yeah... In a last few chapters, they started to liberate (Drow) slaves (honestly for pragmatic purposes to stop the Sharen from using a slave army) and acting good...hopefully they'll extend the same courtesy to non-Drow in the future rather than becoming status quo humping, racist and xenophobic angsty elven sluts, so far we make do with them accepting any runaway non-Drow slave under a mercenary brigade called War Meat to fight daemons, since non-mana bearing races seem to be immune to Daemons.
- Sharen: The aristocrats of the city who all wear beautiful outfits and act haughty. Their clan is split into multiple bloodlines who constantly plot against each other. These are the most D&D-like drow in the setting. Also they ride dragons around and their males are mostly nether tainted automatons who wear special armor to keep them from being transformed into demonic horrors.
- Sullisin'rune: Essentially the Brave New World society in drow form. They wear a lot of blue, use empath abilities and have regular orgies in their glowing dome fortress (it's implied for intelligence gathering reasons). Main character's lover seems to origin from there and quips about that they treat their slaves well, apparently being an empath works for once. One of the more interesting factions in the story.
- Vloz'ress: Anarchist demon worshipers. Like anarchists IRL, they are generally useless and self-defeating. Their leader is a figurehead woman with hair like Washu and brain damage making her equal to a 4 year-old child who turns the clan's slaves and captives into eternally tortured dolls, accompanied by a reality busting, 4th wall leaning LOLRANDOM orange haired kid, because self inserts with modern 1337-5P33K adds class to a story...Right?
- Beldrobbaen: Emo goths who live in an inverted castle built on the cavern ceiling. They dress in all black and mope around. Needless to say, they are by far the most popular clan among the fanbase.
- Nal'sarkoth: Surface merchants who dress in all green. They barely show up in the story running a surface trading post treating their human workers as equals, and nobody gives a flying fuck about them.
- Illhar'dro: The other merchant clan. Slightly more interesting in that they have a form of magic based on singing (and mana powered rock concerts). Biggest exporter of drow pop stars in the underworld.
- Kyorl'solenurn: Fanatic crusader assholes, who, aside from torturing tainted Drow to death, are the exact same Mary Sue bastards, with a twist: most are descendants of former light elf slaves, so their hatred of tainted Drow might be an outlet for their passive-aggressive grudge...Kinda like an entire society of half-black KKK in New York trying to hunt down Ashkenazim...
- Jaal'darya: Female-only clan who use biotechnology. They create artificial life forms and transform their bodies into all kinds of weird shit. Regularly seen snatching babies to make bio-golems, as if the setting wasn't any more edgy.
Way too many to list. There are dozens of them. The comic just floods you with characters, most of which are unimportant or are only there for background. The reason is that the characters are commissioned by donators who want to show off their horribly designed alter egos.
- The clan matriarchs are all expert mages who would kick your shit in if you fought them, yet can't even run their houses without fucking up half of the city in an enormous conflagration by magic and demons.
- One of them is a empath who can kill opponents with a glance. One of them uses shadow tentacles to rip opponents apart. One of them is a 9 foot tall warrior woman. One of them is straight out of Dragonball Z.
- Ariel is supposedly the main character but in the end amounts to fuck all. She goes to a magic school and then dicks around on the surface for a while, occasionally wrecking human towns and generally being a Mary Sue with a moral myopia. Before she was retconned, it was even worse: letting her light elf slave be a sacrifice to Sharess (who wasn't even supposed to be a Lolth expy but a sorcerer/turned savior goddess of her people for visions)
- The actual main characters are supposed to be Chrys'tel and Kiel'ndia.
- Chrys'tel is a Sharen petulant loli drow noble.
- Kiel'ndia is a Vloz'ress tomboy punk demon summoner girl who breaks the 4th wall and speaks in modern English vernacular.
- Kiel'ndia has a Beldrobbaen friend named Naal'suul. She has a giant spider that she wears as a backpack, which is totally adorable.
- There's 4-5 other characters from various clans that travel with Ariel, but they do nothing of any importance.
- The main villain of the story is Snadhya'rune. She is a purple haired Sharen summoner who wears fabulous fur coats and has smug levels that go into orbit. Though evil and cruel, at least she doesn't dick around or claim goodness or innocence. Perfect sociopath.
So What's Wrong With It?
The main complaint /tg/ has is that the characters are all either Mary Sues, or edgier than Coldsteel the Hedgeheg even at inappropriate moments.
/tg/ doesn't mind grimdark. It doesn't mind slavery, S&M, badass Drow, porn, PROMOTIONS, mutilation and torture and wars, a world after a horrible disaster or hopeless, overwhelming racism and powerful warrior races ruining everyone's day.
/tg/ minds logic and moral dissonance, PARTICULARLY in form of Villain Sues, weeaboo faggotry trying to show Dark Eldar level slave societies which act obliviously innocently, and the plot having more holes than swiss cheese with logic failures combined with bishie sparkles that outdo Twilight... THEN authors claiming all sides have a grey morality scale when their creator's pets surpass Caligula and Darth Vader in terms of fuckwittery and grimdark. At least the bad guys of Warhammer 40000 don't try to give themselves a pass with "all morality is relative", or if they are it's only before Exterminatus comes down on them from orbit.
Boy oh boy. Grimderp, fanboy masturbation and logic fails up the wazoo, until the most jaded Neckbeard will throw the table and say "fuck it" despite amazing artwork.
The series start with a illustration of how their poor race suffered a catastrophe and how "their story came to be"...right before we see a Drow war party happily slaughtering a human town and enslaving the women and children as the protagonist cheerfully tells her history of "kicking human asses" that grow like mushrooms around their cities. If you aren't getting a taste of edginess masquerading the massive Mary Sue complex, read on.
It's unreal how OP the drow are in this setting compared to everything else. Physically they can manipulate mana and as such, power amazing technologies, do not menstruate, can blow off limbs and reattach them with mana-magic, many have empathic abilities which feel every emotion (which flies in the face of their slaver-murderer-cannibal tradition. But fuck that, I'ma get my slaves and be a lesbian elf, and do whatever I want and get fan sympathy.) The sentient beings taken by them become immediately docile and obedient to the point that they can openly gloat about eating their own kind to its face (yes, human meat is a delicacy and in famines slaves (especially humans) are regularly slaughtered for food and there are many Drow client races of furries, and dragons, so there is a good chance some of the sponsors or artists are furry/guro/dolcett/vorefags, the lowest kind of online creatures) without as much as a spot of anger on the victim. Some have cat ears. All are bisexual. The main character pulls out any imaginary power out of her ass when cornered. There's faggotry like the drow getting high on chocolate (seriously). The drow are shown to be mostly cute, animesque and angsty nerdy teenagers who bitch to each other about their lives, before having an orgy on the settlement they just conquered from humans, which we will explain later.
Speaking of other races:
The humans, orcs and other "ferals"? Their failure to manipulate mana makes them on par with lowliest animals in Drow eyes. Regularly enslaved, massacred and even eaten even by the "good" characters. Whomever came up with this seriously must have some vore/cannibalism fetish somewhere...
Compared to these good old folks, the drow are so OP in this setting that a couple of children who are competent magic users defeat and destroy an entire human city with walled fortifications and a brigade of heavily armed adult human guards, kill the king and his entire court, and take the light elven prisoners to an elven village, knowing the light elves will be enslaved underground, because they feel like being moral for once before buying another light elf slave at their underground city to cook for them.
Our characters visit a surface colony (i.e a human village massacred and taken over). Typical of Drow, orgy ensues. Enjoying a blissful after-sex sleep with her lesbian empath drow Mary Sue, is woken up to a counterattack by desperate humans coming to save their kin... which are promptly murdered by the half-light half-dark elf paladin of Sharess (Yes, a typical mixed-blood Mary Sue worshipping a Goddess who is a total Baldur's Gate rip-off) who is all high and righteous when she is burning innocent humans who wanted to save their kin from slave traders who'd buy the survivors. The protagonist's lesbian empath Drow (yes, with a length of purple hair paint, straight out of Deviantart) friend berates the cornered humans with a lame excuse line of "I feel your pain, why don't you take your survivors and run?!" when the said humans scream in desperation to save their families from the town's locked buildings, die horribly.
And so, we have our heroes going "I'm glad my clan Sargress prevents slavery, let's shake hands and feast on the food we just plundered from humans whom we will sell later!" shake hands with the colony Drow. Mind you, they had talked about doing great things and ensuring peace in the world a couple of issues before.
At first you think that it is like an examination of the conflicts that arise from putting a bunch of Mary Sues in a cavern that is too small for them, but then you realize that it is about a bunch of Mary Sues with a developer possessing a plot memory and integrity of a goldfish.
Arguments with its fans about the plot dissonance reveal that they simply hand-wave any dissonance with the words that "they are a species with different morals" or "they see humans as bees disturbing them so they are morally justified to do so and if you disagree you aren't hardcore enough with your pink glass morality or understand my gothic ART". So typical, Nietzsche-on-crack ,"I'm so different than mankind and gothic and purple haired faggot and I reject your HUUMAN morals of good and evil wankity wank wank OMG" going on there.
Apparently in Drowtales' setting (in a very poorly explained page), Drow honor is based on the scale of a deed, not the justice of it (so basically it's moral to annihilate the surface and enslave everyone until somehow you feel bad, and immoral to fail destroying the fucking moon because you failed). However, this is contradicted by all the times where drow have normal, quite human morals (that they randomly choose to ignore, taking us back to step one, namely cognitive dissonance since writers without emotional maturity and experience are not the best prospect for authoring an artifical moral code, much less parade it as art).
Of course, the canon being the result of edgy roleplay sponsors to the series, immature bondage-curious kids might have a hand at continously smashing any drift in the Drow culture towards understanding and goodwill towards other races even when there is no motivation to continue being an asshole in a world in which Drow need a mana pool gathered by plants and cannot seperate from communities for a long time, and there is no Lolth to worship, and the majority of the surface races are fed up with their slavery and massacres and are poised in a crusade against them. No, we'll just whip up some magitech superpower and our Drow characters will reign supreme... So that we can fund our CYOA bondage porn at ehentai.com where we act with the "spoils of war".
How do we know this foregone conclusion? The Drow completely dominating the surface and driving the "animalistic" humans to reservations? Enter the Daydream, the epitome of faggotry since Folsom Street Fairs, explained below.
The amazing level of immature Villain Sue faggotry rises to new heights in a "Space Age" story arc about 10000 years later when Drow apparently are the sole rulers of their world and explore the space with mana powered spaceships and Earth of all places. In this arc Drow are somehow good people after 10000 years of slavery and genocide and help Earth humans with some civil war.
The humans in their own planet?
Herded to mud hut reservations next to high tech Mary Sue cities because the artists hate humanity with such vitriol that they have to kick the dog, which they cannot do in real life. Dorfs? Very likely extinct, along with orcs. Because it feels good to waste an amazing opportunity where humans and other non-Mana using races could be integrated as subjects amongst the Drow empire in modern times and could have their little stories of culture shock. Instead we'll just make magitek make-believe spaceships with god-tier AI's and sexy pink-purple realities in them for Drow to constantly fuck during spaceflights rather than training or even reading something which is needed for any decent modern vocation, because HOLY SHIT OHMIGOD I CAN'T GET ENOUGH FANWANK HERE. There is a cruel cosmic joke here when a webcomic with one of the worst plots in existence gets the best update rate and artists...
Some Things That Don't Suck About It
Now to render unto Caesar...
As stated, the art is outrageously above and beyond the usual webcomic fare. It really can't be stressed enough how much better this looks than almost everything else, though when your opponents are mostly teenagers on DeviantART and you employ the best artists with porn sponsor money, that's to be expected.
The artist also deserves some praise for actually keeping this thing going since 2001. With 50 chapters and over 2500 pages not including the spin-offs, it is one of the longest webcomics ever and runs at an insane daily update rate. The man works at a pace that makes Servitors look lazy. If only we could give some of his energy to GRRM... But then, they have a certain motivation called money, and NOT one artist...who actually employs lots of artists by the fuckton from the donations for retarded self-inserts and lines. The entire premise runs on the said faggots paying the developer for said self-inserts (when humans try to liberate their imprisoned kin, an out-of-place drow character uses a female high heel shoe to kill the desperate (and justified) attackers while shouting a cheesy retarded line...) and plot lines they want themselves, so the sheer commercial motivation should be a reason this series goes on.
- Goblins: A sort of inversion on Drowtales where instead of the main race being blatantly OP, the main race is constantly bullied by everyone else to show how sad they are.