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

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Mercurius

Legend
My first impression is: Wow, the quality of art really fell with Tasha's. All of the pictures are comparative amateurish to the earlier ones posted, or at least of greatly diminished technical proficiency. I don't own Tasha's so I don't know if this goes beyond these pictures, though, and of course all books have included sub-par art, but it is striking how all of the pictures in the OP from Tasha's are in this vein (imo, of course, given that art is subjective, blah blah blah, but...). It makes me wonder if it was a last minute change requiring a lot of quickly commissioned art.

My second impression is: Why must all artists depict drow the same way? Isn't a major aspect of art (and D&D, for that matter) to come up with your own version of something? To make it your own, whether you're an artist or DM or player?

I'd much rather see WotC take a more varied approach, to emphasize that drow can look however you want them to look, and represent this through the art. Maybe the drow of your world have a wide range of skin colors, or maybe you like the way the obsidian ones look, or the silver-gray, or the pastel violet... it is up to you, as the creator of your own D&D world (and up to you, the artist, to depict them in a way that inspires you).

In terms of realism, it would seem the most logical approach would be to customize skin color to the climate. A general book like the PHB can and should depict a variety of skin types, but if it is a book set in, say, a desert climate, then most (not necessarily all) of the skin colors should reflect that with shades of tan, brown, copper, etc. Generally speaking, the more tropical, the darker the skin; likewise, the more polar, the lighter the skin.

In that regard, drow as dark-skinned has never made sense unless, of course, they were originally tropical, and I can't remember any lore suggesting that. And of course we used to have the very disturbing idea that they were cursed and turned dark, which is, thankfully, written out of the lore.

From a purely realistic standpoint, the new skin tone makes far more sense, drow being underworld dwelling and thus pale skinned. So it makes sense, with the caveat that I still like the idea of more of a range and variability of depiction.

D&D is fantasy, after all, so if a worldbuilder wants a dark-skinned people to live in a colder climate (or underground), why not? It wouldn't hurt the depth and verisimilitude of the world-building to include a reason for it (e.g. they left their homeland a few hundred years before), but fantasy is fantasy and creativity and fun trumps realism for most.

All that said, I would love to see WotC take an approach where there's more range within individual worlds, that while they all share the same basic lore, each world has a different take on it. To some degree they already do this, especially with worlds like Dark Sun and Eberron. But I'd like to see them take it a step further, perhaps saying in some way in an revised MM and PHB that drow (for instance) have been depicted in various ways in different D&D worlds. As with anything in D&D, it is up to you to customize as you see fit. They could then go on to offer options as they might appear in different campaign worlds: "Drow classic" for Greyhawk, Greenwood's take for the Realms, Melnibonean-esque elves, etc.
 

All drow art should be based on "geriatric Drizzt with sideburns and hoop earrings".
Drizzt-Do-Urden-First-Edition-Spellfire-CCG.jpg
 

Blame Pathfinder. Or anime. Whichever you prefer. I for one like this stylistic choice as it helps to better differentiate elves from humans and half-elves.
I think World of Warcraft is the primary offender here in terms of "influencing depictions of ears towards the excessive" - the two elves who look like they're maybe Bladesingers even have ear jewellery that is like that of one of the groups of elves in WoW (though this is likely just an obvious artistic way to go when you have ears that big).
 

Keefe the Thief

Adventurer
All drow art should be based on "geriatric Drizzt with sideburns and hoop earrings".
Drizzt-Do-Urden-First-Edition-Spellfire-CCG.jpg
That would work as well in my group as it did when I tried to tell the players that, yes, those gnobbly-eared monstrosities on the front of the Dark Sun box are your player characters. Some artwork simply didn`t age well - no pun intended.

Also, I love the Record of Lodoss war elf ears these days. You wouldn`t believe how it expands your player interest circle when your elves look like Deedlit.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
Black or grey, that doesn't really make a difference to me. Its not as if it looks bad. And if you want to bring biology into it, something living all their live underground would be pale anyway.

But the ears....
Those are anime level proportions.
Why?
 

Keefe the Thief

Adventurer
Why not? The look was taken from popular media. Just like 99% of all D&D content was. If there were elves with those ears as plastic figures in Kellogs Frisbees (TM) in the 80s, our books would be full of them.

Most elves in early D&D books look like humans with glued-on ears anyway. Might as well make them aerodynamic.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Why not? The look was taken from popular media. Just like 99% of all D&D content was. If there were elves with those ears as plastic figures in Kellogs Frisbees (TM) in the 80s, our books would be full of them.

Most elves in early D&D books look like humans with glued-on ears anyway. Might as well make them aerodynamic.
Hmm, I may have just figured out where the inspiration for the new ear style came from!
images (8).jpg
 

Keefe the Thief

Adventurer
Hmm, I may have just figured out where the inspiration for the new ear style came from!
View attachment 135625
We need more flying elf clerics who are also Drow with ecology-appropriate skin tone which was not ordained as a curse because they did something wrong is a result of the effects of Underground Drow Radiation on skin pigmentation combined with a lack of sunlight or sunlight-related light sources.

Winged elves should have Deedlit ears.
 

Voadam

Legend
Are the Tasha's drow pictures by the same or different artists?

The broad and round face of the mushroom crossbow guy (particularly the nose) struck me as one of the least typically elven drow faces I've seen in WotC art, I wonder if that is deliberate and he is supposed to be half-elven.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
I think it's really messed up that in the "You can be good drow, too, see?" artwork all of the good drow are pale-skinned to the point of being almost white.

Making the visual change happen right as they make it explicit that no race is wholly evil? It's very blatant "Dark = Evil, Light = Good" imagery.

As to the "Albinism makes more sense, anyhow" brigade: Drow didn't "Evolve" to be obsidian skinned. It's an ancient curse from Correllon which was laid upon Lolth and all who followed her, as well as Eilistraee.

Feel free to have albino elves in your games and settings, of course. Or Stone-Grey or anything in between. Should probably also make them Blind, honestly, if they evolved as cave-dwellers... But the default setting for 5e is FR and alllll of it's baggage! We can't ignore that when looking at new art from WoTC in a core rulebook.

Also worth noting: Even if a hundred different artists submitted work for the book, the Art Department had total editorial purview over what gets used. So this whole "Since drow can be good let's make them not black in our artwork, anymore" angle is something that hit a -lot- of desks and was approved by a whole bunch of people before release.
 



Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
IMO, the main problem with the drow is that they are boring.

You want cool underground elves? Check this out!

 


Keefe the Thief

Adventurer
Feel free to have albino elves in your games and settings, of course. Or Stone-Grey or anything in between. Should probably also make them Blind, honestly, if they evolved as cave-dwellers... But the default setting for 5e is FR and alllll of it's baggage! We can't ignore that when looking at new art from WoTC in a core rulebook.

I can.
I`ve become very good at ignoring the stupid ballast that D&D is carrying around because some yokel said "let`s curse the cellar fairies with dark skin" back in the day. I`ve had decades of experience of ignoring my memories of the Chronomancer cover, so ignoring insensitive naughty word from days of yore is child`s play.

Of course, posting in this thread means I actually DON`t ignore it, but logic schmogic.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
My second impression is: Why must all artists depict drow the same way? Isn't a major aspect of art (and D&D, for that matter) to come up with your own version of something? To make it your own, whether you're an artist or DM or player?
Artists have depicted dark elves in alllllll kinds of ways for a while now. A quick pinterest search shows this.

But until recently, dark elves in D&D, specifically, were the drows; evil looking, underground dwelling, black skin, white hair, matriarchal, spider-worshiping elves. So artists auditing for D&D art, or commissioned for D&D art, represented drows according to these artistic guidelines. This monolithic artistic representation was coherent with D&D's monolithic description of the drows. It looks like there was a recent and deliberate shift in this paradigm, so you should expect more variety from now on.

Nevertheless, D&D will always keep some kind of guidelines in their artistic direction. At least I hope they do. The trick is always to set the proper range in variance. For example, I'm not sure I'd be cool with something like dark elves having anywhere from 1 to 5 eyes, because diversity! 1-5 eyes dark elves can be cool, but let it be setting-specific. Exaggerated example is exaggerated, but it illustrates what I mean.

FWIW, I would have preffered that dark elves had kept their black skin, and evil Lolth-worshiping matriarchal drows were made a setting-specific drow nation among a few others, and were given a more neutral description in "core" D&D PHB and following supplements.
 
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