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General The Gygaxian Origins of Drow and Some Thought on their Depiction As Villians

dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
I mean, I guess that separates you from me. I'm someone who won't even say "Merry Christmas" to a stranger, because for all I know they're Jewish. If I did it probably wouldn't offend them anyway, but why say it when "Happy Holidays," captures the same well wishes?
Shrug

Sure, and to some people I say one thing and to others another. To me, it is all the same. Maybe I shouldn't treat people like I would hope the same from them? I am certainly not going to be offended if someone wishes me a "Happy Hanuka!" I would smile and wish them one in return. I suppose to me that is one of the big problems-- other than if I am describing someone ("So, what does he look like?") I try not to see people as any different. A person is a person. Like many here I have friends from all walks of life and work with an even greater variety. I mean, If I did wish someone a "Merry Christmas" and they replied "Happy Hanuka" I would be just as happy. They are wishing me well for their holiday--and I think that is awesome! :) And I would respond "Thanks! Happy Hanuka!" back.

Anyway, I see too often when someone takes offense, and frankly, it seems like they are taking offense simply because they can, not because they are really offended, and in a sense abusing the consideration they now demand from others; it also weakens my response when some is truly offended when they do that. It is unfortunate as well because I am sure something really does drive that anger, but by using "being offended" that way I feel less for them then if they addressed the real issue if there is one.

Maybe I am just a bit bitter because I see it a lot? I don't know, but it has taken me to the point where I just about don't care anymore--and from someone who used to care a lot, it saddens me to realize that. I see too much going on in the world today that just makes me ask, "Are you serious?" and shake my head...
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I am not going to stop using words in a perfectly normal meaning of the word simply because someone I am talking to might have been hurt by it. If I use a word in a descriptive sense to describe one person to the other, and I learn that word is offensive, I'll certainly apologize, but I am not going to walk on eggshells for the rest of the world just in case the person I am speaking to or about might be offended.
Let’s be real here. We’re not talking about perfectly innocent descriptive terms here, we’re talking about reclaimed slurs. The notion that you have to walk on eggshells to avoid accidentaly hurting someone’s feelings is completely at odds with the notion that what you are upset about is not being allowed to use words that you are aware some people to whom they are offensive use among themselves.

And if a word is offensive to someone, even if they are using it "in a new context", they are giving me license to use it "in a new context" just as they are.
You can’t use a derogatory term self-descriptively if you’re not a member of the group it derides. Therefore, if you are using a reclaimed slur that refers to a group to which you do not belong, you are not using it in the context they are.

To refuse that, is to differentiate themselves on purpose and deny my rights.
Deny you your rights? What right do you think is being denied? You’re not facing legal consequences.

Things don't have to be unfair for one side to be fair for the other. I feel if I am not allowed to use a perfectly good word in a non-derogatory manner, neither should they. I see it as perpetuating the problem, not helping resolve it.
What “perfectly good word” are you not allowed to use in a “non-derogatory manor” that people it denigrates are?

It reminds me, years ago, when people started saying someone was "40 years young" instead of "40 years old" because some people didn't like to be reminded they are getting older. I still don't say people are "years young" even if they are 5 years old.
Old isn’t a reclaimed slur, so this example fails to illustrate the stance you are taking.

If you don't like my view, please don't bother replying to my posts about it. I doubt either of us will lose any sleep over it.
If you don’t want to see my replies to your posts, put me on your ignore list.
 

dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
Let’s be real here. We’re not talking about perfectly innocent descriptive terms here, we’re talking about reclaimed slurs. The notion that you have to walk on eggshells to avoid accidentaly hurting someone’s feelings is completely at odds with the notion that what you are upset about is not being allowed to use words that you are aware some people to whom they are offensive use among themselves.


You can’t use a derogatory term self-descriptively if you’re not a member of the group it derides. Therefore, if you are using a reclaimed slur that refers to a group to which you do not belong, you are not using it in the context they are.


Deny you your rights? What right do you think is being denied? You’re not facing legal consequences.


What “perfectly good word” are you not allowed to use in a “non-derogatory manor” that people it denigrates are?


Old isn’t a reclaimed slur, so this example fails to illustrate the stance you are taking.

If you don’t want to see my replies to your posts, put me on your ignore list.
Yeah, I'd love to give you examples, but jeez I might offend someone here so I can't. And believe it or not there are legal consequences nowadays.

Anyway, you won't hear from me again.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Yeah, I'd love to give you examples, but jeez I might offend someone here so I can't.
Cute.

And believe it or not there are legal consequences nowadays.
For using perfectly good descriptive words? No. There are legal consequences for hate speech. If that’s what you’re trying to defend your “right” to use, then... Well, I don’t think you’ll get much sympathy from most people.

Anyway, you won't hear from me again.
Ok, see ya.
 

Mercurius

Legend
Good job, @Snarf Zagyg . I think the problematic elements--to whatever degree they exist--are relatively easily rectified without doing away with traditional drow. Just like orcs. Here's how I'd do it:

  • Erase the whole idea that drow are dark-skinned because they were cursed by Corellon Larethian. This has pretty much been done, I believe. It is a rare case in which I think an actual bit of lore should be negated. Perhaps it can be incorporated as an erroneous prejudice that some haughty surface elves hold.
  • Clarify that the drow are obsidian black, not brown.
  • Expand the origin story so that drow are the descendants of a black-skinned race of matriarchal non-evil elves. Maybe Lolth was a priestess who dabbled in demononolgy and attained immortality, leaving the original race with her followers, who thrived in the Underdark. Perhaps Corellon cast her and the drow out, cursing them to fear the sun. The original dark elves still exist, but left the central region (e.g. Faerun) as the drow became more powerful (that's one take; others are possible, and maybe the rulebooks could leave it vague enough to customize).
  • An alternate to the non-evil dark elves, re-work the wood elves as matriarchial.
 

Haldrik

Adventurer
Good job, @Snarf Zagyg . I think the problematic elements--to whatever degree they exist--are relatively easily rectified without doing away with traditional drow. Just like orcs. Here's how I'd do it:

  • Erase the whole idea that drow are dark-skinned because they were cursed by Corellon Larethian. This has pretty much been done, I believe. It is a rare case in which I think an actual bit of lore should be negated. Perhaps it can be incorporated as an erroneous prejudice that some haughty surface elves hold.
  • Clarify that the drow are obsidian black, not brown.
  • Expand the origin story so that drow are the descendants of a black-skinned race of matriarchal non-evil elves. Maybe Lolth was a priestess who dabbled in demononolgy and attained immortality, leaving the original race with her followers, who thrived in the Underdark. Perhaps Corellon cast her and the drow out, cursing them to fear the sun. The original dark elves still exist, but left the central region (e.g. Faerun) as the drow became more powerful (that's one take; others are possible, and maybe the rulebooks could leave it vague enough to customize).
  • An alternate to the non-evil dark elves, re-work the wood elves as matriarchial.
I take it the Drow are black-skinned in the sense of fertile soil, thus a fey eartlhly source of life and technology, that was always subterranean. Lolth worship is a spider-demon cult that corrupted this. But Drow who preserve earlier animistic traditions or explore other religious traditions are mainly Good. They tend to revere the earth as an all-mother.

There is no color coding, but conspicuous symbols of spiders usually display a membership in the spider-demon cult.

The Drow in the Feywild tend to be Good.

The Drow in the Material tend to be spider cult, who fled from the Feywild.

Incidentally, I view Wood Elves as a faction of Drow who initially belonged to Lolth and fled to the Material, but then realized how Evil she was, and split away, but remained in the Material.
 
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Kobold Avenger

Adventurer
I think Mystara's Shadow Elves were sort of Drow except that they were pale skin. But I think 5e just stated that they're Shadar-Kai after the retcon of what the Shadar-Kai to an Elven subrace.
 


Haldrik

Adventurer
It works a bit better in 4e.



Original Elves are indigenous to the Feywild: Sun Elf (Cha Int) and Moon Elf (Cha Wis).

The original Drow are the Moon Elf, because they are subterranean, avoid sunlight, and only venture to the surface during moonlight.

The Sun Elf and the Moon Elf are only mages: Wizard, Bard, Druid, Psion. (No martial classes.)



Lolth Spider Cult Drow (Dex Cha and Dex Wis) split from Moon Elf then fled to the Material plane, where they transmuted themselves to master the physical Dexterity for martial classes, especially as material Dexterity Fighter and Rogue. Also Lolth Cleric and Lolth Dexterity Paladin and male Lolth Warlock.

Wood Elf (Dex Wis) split away from Lolth Drow but remained in the Material plane, revering the plants of the Material, especially as Druid and Ranger.



Some Wood Elf (Dex Wis) intermingling some Sun Elf (Cha Int) who occasionally explore the Material in search of magic, formed the High Elf (Dex Int) civilization, who are especially Dex-Int Eldritch Knights.



That said, the above only represents cultural values and tendencies. I prefer the WotC announcement that any Humanoid race is customizable. Thus there are many individuals who disresemble the above cultural tendency and have alternative ability score adjustments.
 
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I take it the Drow are black-skinned in the sense of fertile soil, thus a fey eartlhly source of life and technology, that was always subterranean. Lolth worship is a spider-demon cult that corrupted this. But Drow who preserve earlier animistic traditions or explore other religious traditions are mainly Good. They tend to revere the earth as an all-mother.

There is no color coding, but conspicuous symbols of spiders usually display a membership in the spider-demon cult.

The Drow in the Feywild tend to be Good.

The Drow in the Material tend to be spider cult, who fled from the Feywild.

Incidentally, I view Wood Elves as a faction of Drow who initially belonged to Lolth and fled to the Material, but then realized how Evil she was, and split away, but remained in the Material.
One thing I'm trying to do, and I haven't had a lot of success so far, but I also haven't had a good chance to focus on it, is to make spiders more important to all elves, as well as just reunify the elven cultures. Mostly just to do something different.

Problem is, I haven't figured a decent way to make spiders more generic and less evil. So, I'm still mulling it over and trying to do some minor research for ideas
 

Haldrik

Adventurer
One thing I'm trying to do, and I haven't had a lot of success so far, but I also haven't had a good chance to focus on it, is to make spiders more important to all elves, as well as just reunify the elven cultures. Mostly just to do something different.

Problem is, I haven't figured a decent way to make spiders more generic and less evil. So, I'm still mulling it over and trying to do some minor research for ideas
For a more benign spider, consider them "weavers" and connect them with "fate". Weaving the web of the strands of fate. This would be very "fey" (faie), and relate to oracles, divination, prescience, and D&D Wisdom. Personally, I dislike Elf Cleric, but love Wood Elf Druid inclining toward Wisdom and Cosmic Fate. A Swarm Druid could be spiders.

Moreover, spiders with eight legs (very loosely) associates with Elf Dexterity and ambidexterity. Drow take Dexterity to an extreme, but other elves are famous for Dex.

Personally, I prefer non-Dex Elf. My favorite elf is the Cha-Int Sun Elf. Even so, I see the Wood Elf archer and the High Elf sword-dancer as celebrating Dexterity.
 
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ninjayeti

Explorer
So to be clear when you said "many illustrations" you mean just the two from G3? Weren't you just pointing out how we shouldn't "single source" arguments about the origin of drow?

I agree those illustrations are questionable. But they are also inconsistent with the descriptions of drow in the text of G3 which say drow have "dead white" or "shining silvery" hair. So either the the text or the art has it wrong. Given these are the first pics of drow in D&D and every subsequent depiction goes with white (usually long and straight) hair it is pretty clearly a mistake on the part of the artist (or art department) rather than the smoking gun you make it out to be.

anytime there is a fictional depiction that is made, it reflects the mindset of the times and person who made it.
By the same token I think our tendency to see drow as a racist depiction based on the thinnest of evidence has more do to with the mindset of our time than it does with the intent of Gygax et al. I'm glad we are more sensitive to issues of racial justice today then in the past, but I think we also need to be careful no to lose objectivity either.
 

For a more benign spider, consider them "weavers" and connect them with "fate". Weaving the web of the strands of fate. This would be very "fey" (faie), and relate to oracles, divination, prescience, and D&D Wisdom. Personally, I dislike Elf Cleric, but love Wood Elf Druid inclining toward Wisdom and Cosmic Fate. A Swarm Druid could be spiders.

Moreover, spiders with eight legs (very loosely) associates with Elf Dexterity and ambidexterity. Drow take Dexterity to an extreme, but other elves are famous for Dex.

Personally, I prefer non-Dex Elf. My favorite elf is the Cha-Int Sun Elf. Even so, I see the Wood Elf archer and the High Elf Dexterity Fighter as celebrating Dexterity.
The oracular angle is a good one.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Aleena died for your sins.
So to be clear when you said "many illustrations" you mean just the two from G3? Weren't you just pointing out how we shouldn't "single source" arguments about the origin of drow?
To be clear, I don't think you have any idea why I wrote the OP, and I find your response argumentative and tendentious. This is my sole response to you, as I find your words and your characterizations of what I said (and incredible nitpicking that did indicated you did not know the first depiction of the Drow, and when your error was pointed out, you doubled down on the nitpicking) to be indicative of the type of person I do not enjoy speaking with.

But to conclude-

Yes, as I wrote, the images of the Drow that were incorrect had erroer that were "not in the written descriptions." The first visual representations were notable for their short, curly hair. But there issues (as I also noted) continued on, such as "There's the problem with how Drow have been depicted in art, from the notoriously bad Keith Parkison painting to the occasionally 'off' Drizzt covers."

There are numerous poor depictions of Drow, from the very first ones (the aforementioned G3 Drow) to later ones that substitute in Africanized imagery and body-types.

That's not really where that post was going but feel free to google more images.
 
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Mecheon

Adventurer
Also do note that spiders are very protective of their children in real life, with wolf spiders going into full-blown panic attacks and anxiety if their eggcase is stolen from them

Some sort of prototypical spider goddess that was eventually corrupted into the Lolth nowerdays could still have aspects respected in other elven communities
 


Voadam

Adventurer
One thing I'm trying to do, and I haven't had a lot of success so far, but I also haven't had a good chance to focus on it, is to make spiders more important to all elves, as well as just reunify the elven cultures. Mostly just to do something different.

Problem is, I haven't figured a decent way to make spiders more generic and less evil. So, I'm still mulling it over and trying to do some minor research for ideas
Just go with the 4e Lolth story of her original Fate Goddess weaver form before she sacrifices herself to become the Spider Queen of Demons and contain the Abyss.
 

MGibster

Hero
I like pale-skinned drow, personally. Black just doesn’t make sense to me. A range of cool, dark colors is fine, if a little silly in my opinion.
We all have a different threshold for silliness I think. I find the idea of a thriving civilization existing beneath the ground to be rather silly myself. But it's easy enough to shrug and move on. It isn't any sillier than a lot of other things in D&D.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
We all have a different threshold for silliness I think. I find the idea of a thriving civilization existing beneath the ground to be rather silly myself. But it's easy enough to shrug and move on. It isn't any sillier than a lot of other things in D&D.
Indeed. For the record, I’m not opposed to silliness in D&D. In fact, I think a certain amount of it is important. As you say, we all have different thresholds for it.
 

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