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D&D 5E Tasha's Drow Art and the Future of Their Depictions in D&D

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It's not like this is a completely new design, the Drow in the 2nd ed. monster manual has light gray skin.
elfdrow.gif
 

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So, let's discuss. Do you think that this is likely to be a change that we'll see in the future, and if so, what are your thoughts on it?
So my first thought is a big one:

WotC finally managed to get artists to follow a consistent direction re: Drow skin colour and appearance!?!?!?!?!?

For real?!?!?!?

That's what's truly astonishing here. That's what's mind-blowing. For like, 20 years, WotC have been trying to tell artists to draw Drow in various ways, and artists have not been listening. Some even had a quote from a WotC dude complaining about it (I can't find it but it was in a thread on the drow/orc/etc. changes a few months back). Apparently they somehow finally fixed that?

My second thought is, is this the most heroic Drow we've ever seen in one product? And they're in fairly diverse roles too, not just the usual Drow ones.

Third off, I think it's a smart change. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we can all waffle about "WELL MAKING THEM NOT ALL EVIL IS JOB #1!!!", but like, duh, obviously, whatever. This is something semi-independent of that. This is a smart change for two reasons. Firstly, it makes them hella easier to draw, and easier to draw consistently. We'd previously seen artists using dark grey, purple, or in ye olde dayes, dark human skin tones to try and get around the fact that it's bloody hard to draw someone who is obsidian-coloured, especially if you don't want to look like a comic book. Plus, frankly, whilst I'd have gone for a different grey, it looks good. Secondly, it gives them more room to manuever on Drow, and helps signal that they're changing things here more broadly.

How long before they appropriate the Shadow Elves, from Mystara, I wonder?
Sooner rather than later, I hope. Shadow Elves rocked.
 

Dausuul

Legend
I also would like to get rid of the "evil culture," but thanks to a certain extremely popular writer whose drow originated in the 2E era, they're sorta stuck with it. They can say it's just the Lolth drow who are evil, and I approve of that--all fantasy racism concerns aside, it makes the drow more interesting and varied--but the Drizzt stories are* firmly centered on the Lolth drow and Drizzt as the lone rebel against their wicked ways.

On top of that, as others have pointed out, it never made much sense for the subterranean elves to have dark skin rather than pale. And artists have been "cheating" on drow skin tone since the beginning, because it's really hard to make literal jet black skin look like anything but a silhouette, so we end up with gray skin anyway.

I kind of hate the giant dog ears, but that's a different issue.
At least they aren't foot-long spikes sticking out sideways.

*Or at least they were, the last time I read any, which admittedly was many years ago.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
Charcoal-black skinned drows was a messy subject and a hard one to defend, or at the very least, one that constantly needs defending. And as someone pointed out earlier, black drows brought their own set of issues (or at least modern sensibilities) for cosplay and LARP due to real-life parallels.

I really think this new artistic direction was deliberate and for good reasons. Absense of pigmentation does make sense for an underground-living race. Besides, like @Ruin Explorer said before, an actual clear and strong set of artistic guidelines can only do good, and truely black-skinned beings (not black human skin colour) is challenging to represent artistically.

That all being said, I miss the aesthetics of ebony-black skinned dark elves.
 

Necrozius

Explorer
I've always said that it would make more sense for a subterranean race to have pale, if not translucent white skin.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I am happy to have all the peoples available to play in my games have as wide a range of pigments and features as humans have. Something apparent both within and across different ethnic groups in the real world.

I am playing with the "elves are going away" trope in my current setting and thinking about having them have all gone underground in a return to a "fey under the hill" understanding of elves and just making them all be drow.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
Anything is better than the clear African American depictions used back in the day like this (in)famous cover: Yeesh...

1618496204593.png


In my own game, this is how I describe them:

The history behind deep elves is still largely a mystery. Some believe they were surface elves that eons ago fled to the deep underground caverns for many rumored reasons, such as plague, or having made a pact with evil deities and were driven underground. Others think they were normal elves who were victims of dark and alien forces that evolved them into what they are now. And others believe they were just groups of elves who got lost or trapped deep underground and formed their new life there.

Regardless of their history, current deep elves make their homes in cities deep underground in huge caverns, most never seeing the surface world for their entire lives. Their cities are heavily influenced by magic and alien influences, and thus reflect that to any outsider visiting them. Due to their isolation and environment where they are surrounded by deadly creatures, many deep elves tend to be xenophobic and mistrusting of other ancestries.

Having generations live deep underground, deep elves have taken on several evolutionary traits. Their natural skin color ranges from porcelain white to a shades of blue or pale purple, and they have extra large almond shaped eyes and traditional elven ears to enhance their senses. Many who have encountered deep elves underground assume they have dark skin, almost black, because they have a natural ability to shift the pigment in their skin to reflect basic colors of the terrain around them, which being underground is almost always dark stone. This grants a bonus +2 to all stealth checks.
 


Does the job for what they're supposed to be, no problems here (Even if the first Drow I ever saw were just, blue)
 


Imaro

Hero
Now if only there was an actual dark skinned subrace of elves... or better yet take a page out of the Earthdawn book and give elves the full gamut of skin colors.
 

Now if only there was an actual dark skinned subrace of elves... or better yet take a page out of the Earthdawn book and give elves the full gamut of skin colors.
I just made basic elves dark skinned because unlike drow, they actually do spend time in the sunlight and aren't a clumsy reskin of the Mark of Hamm.
 

Coroc

Hero
Okay, I'm sorry if the name is a bit vague. In case you hadn't noticed, the art for depicting drow in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything is very different in a significant way from all other 5e art of Drow. Take a look and see if you can spot the difference. For reference, I will start with some Drow art from the PHB, MM, and Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes.
View attachment 135532
Drizzt Do'Urden
View attachment 135534
(Yes, I know this is a Drider, but it is still a drow.)
View attachment 135535

View attachment 135527
(Drider on the left, Drow on the top center and in the bottom right corner.)
View attachment 135529
View attachment 135530
View attachment 135531
(Two Drow on the far left, and one on the far right.)

Now, let's look at the art from Tasha's that depicts drow (which there are actually a surprising amount of). You should be able to easily spot the difference (and keep in mind, this is all of the Drow art in Tasha's. I'm not hiding any outliers of this example. The fact that it's so prevalent leads me to believe that this was a coordinated decision instead of just artists doing their own take on the race.)
View attachment 135536
View attachment 135537
Drow on the left, running towards Vi (the gnome).
View attachment 135538
Drow on the left (though I think that's pretty obvious).
View attachment 135539View attachment 135540
Drow on the left.


So, in case you need me to spell it out for you, the skin color appears to have changed. The clearest depictions of this are the 1st, 3rd, and 4th images here, where their skin is a silvery-gray color (the fourth one looks white from the lighting). The 2nd image has poor lighting that makes the drow (the figure on the left running towards Vi) look blue, along with part of Vi's (the gnome) face and body. The 5th image has a shiny light gray skin tone that is noticeably darker than most of the other depictions in TCoE, but is still much lighter in skin tone than any official 5e pre-Tasha's depiction of Drow.

And before people say it, yes, I know that Drow had varieties of skin tones in previous editions. However, this is new to 5e. The 5e PHB even describes drow as having "skin that resembles charcoal or obsidian". I don't know about you, but none of these Tasha's Drow have a skin tone anywhere near charcoal or obsidian. Drizzt does have charcoal-colored skin, as do the other Drow from the MM and MToF. The last 5 Drow don't.

So, this has led me to believe that the Drow from Tasha's Cauldron of Everything are likely the way we will see Drow depicted in official 5e art in the future. Silvery-Gray skin. And I'm not complaining. I think that this art looks quite cool, and silvery-gray races are easier to draw than charcoal/obsidian-black ones. I know that a lot of people will complain about this change, but I think that this is overall a positive change to the hobby, detaching the previous connection of "dark skin" with "inherently evil" (also, I am not saying if this connection was intended and am not accusing anyone of racism. Whether or not it is intentional, it is negative to have the perception of having dark skinned races be the bad ones).

So, let's discuss. Do you think that this is likely to be a change that we'll see in the future, and if so, what are your thoughts on it?

IMPORTANT: I will also point you to the site rules in order for you to refresh what is and what isn't proper behavior on this site. This is a sensitive topic, and I want this thread to be as constructive and inclusive as possible. No whining about the direction of D&D, "cancel culture", or the like. It will not be tolerated and will be reported as off topic, as such posting is non-constructive and bait. You have been warned.

Well some of them look really bleak don't they? :p

And yes it might be a permanent condition, we cannot tell for sure, can we?
 

Tasha's also the same book that has a Wood Elf of African appearance, as the Aristocratic Patron. Though I think they've often stated that Wood Elves have brown skin.

I think Mystara's Shadow Elves were often equated as Drow, but they never had the dark grey skin. Though in 5e they might be equated to Shadar-kai.

Drow art has varied over the ages, I for one am glad that Drow males no longer have Porno Mustaches.
 
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Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
Judge: Tell me Mr. Biko why do they call you black? You look more chocolate brown to me?
Steve Biko: I don’t know your honor, why do they call you white? You look pink.


Let's just let every humanoid species be represented with as much diversity as humans.
 


Keefe the Thief

Adventurer
Another reason for the change: Potential for cosplay.
I hope to see lots of cosplay of that and hopefullly never a cosplay of Drizzt do Urden from the cover of Drizzt do Urdens Guide to the Underdark shudders. Or every single person on the NPC cards in the Menzoberranzan Boxed set. shudders even more
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Now if only there was an actual dark skinned subrace of elves... or better yet take a page out of the Earthdawn book and give elves the full gamut of skin colors.
I’m pretty sure D&D elves do canonically range the full gamut of human skin colors. It’s just that, when you only say that, you still end up with a bunch of art of super white elves and not much else. If you want diverse skin tones, you need to be specific in your art direction.
 

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