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

Dire Bare

Legend
Aside from living arrangements, shadow elves and drow have nothing in common. Shadow elves have no real special rules aside from a boost to dark vision below ground, they don't even suffer from being above ground and certainly don't get bonus spells. The biggest difference between them is that most people don't even know the shadow elves exist because they are isolated. And for the ones that do find out about them, they don't care. They were given a line of balderdash by their leaders to make them hate the surface elves, and the threat of that lie being exposed is a major plot point to their background.

Nerdsplaining the difference between shadow elves and drow does not answer my question to @Kobold Avenger. He says that he thinks shadow elves were subsumed into the shadar-kai elves in 5E, and I was asking where that reference was from. From my own post, I hope it's clear I have a grasp of the shadow elves of Mystara.
 

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The Glen

Hero
I was just tossing that out for general information. As far as I can tell from official 5E products, the Mystaran subraces haven't even been mentioned once. Its lack of half races and the redundancy of dragonborn or the setting's aversion to extraplanar races like tieflings runs counter to a lot of 5E lore.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Im not sure how this is an issue for the game - every race in DnD is given a definitive morality. Why is Drow evil bad but Githyanki evil is okay?

I wouldn't say Githyanki are okay to be universally evil... but there are some pretty major differences.

1) There is no biological component to the difference between the Gith. The Githzerai and the Githyanki are identical in appearance. It is only by their weapons, armor and clothes that you can tell the difference.

2) Githyanki are canonically basically immortal. They live in the Astral Sea where they do not age. Some of the Githyanki are considered to have been the same people who fought against the Githzerai in the big civil war they had.

3) Githyanki are more understandably wrong. They aren't evil because they are evil, they are a culture of raiders who broke free from enslavement and chose to conquer instead of make peace... a choice that not all of them made, and the Githzerai are those who chose the other path. It is much easier to see the Githyanki as "choosing vengeance over peace" rather than just being "the evil ones".

The one time I have used Drow I imagined them as insectoid elfs with a black chitinous exoskeleton (I used 3.5s insectoid template a lot)

In my more recent attempt to rewrite the elves, the "shadow elves" are descended from Fey Spider beings (probably the Aranea) who chose to leave with the elves and live with them. Their dark skin is implied to be because of the exoskeletons of the spiders, as the originals were exoskeletons.

I've been trying to make spiders a big thing for all elven culture, which has led to a lot of thought of weaving, which is an interesting way to take them, putting a bit of Inca history into it (rope boats and bridges)
 

Casimir Liber

Explorer
That black skin always bothered me for the same reason. Underground and deep sea creatures are quite often pale or even translucent skinned. Hmm, translucent skinned Drow, that's got some appeal actually, I always loved the Newhon Ghoul.
Or imagining them as simultaneously black and silver-skinned - like a black and white photo with contrast escalated to 100%, so their highlights are silver and shadows are black...in an unearthly eldritch way....
 

MrMcQ

Villager
Haven't read entire thread so someone might have already mentioned. The Drow if I remember correctly were 'cursed' with black skin and banished to the Underdark. So not only are they portrayed as evil by skin colour but also 'cursed' with being dark skinned instead of white.
Ironically they should really be albino after the generations of no sunlight, but no they are cursed to be black skinned and have an inherently evil culture.
I always found the ideas of entire races being inherently evil lacked any real world logical basis.
The Drow do need to change and be updated to the 21st century.
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Haven't read entire thread so someone might have already mentioned. The Drow if I remember correctly were 'cursed' with black skin and banished to the Underdark. So not only are they portrayed as evil by skin colour but also 'cursed' with being dark skinned instead of white.
Ironically they should really be albino after the generations of no sunlight, but no they are cursed to be black skinned and have an inherently evil culture.
I always found the ideas of entire races being inherently evil lacked any real world logical basis.
The Drow do need to change and be updated to the 21st century.

I changed that lore in my home campaign - drow have dark grey skin because of the radiation of the underdark. Same with svirfneblin and duergar. They did reject Corellon and the other elven deities to become followers of Lollth. Drow that break their ties to Lollth or the other evil gods almost universally leave the underdark because of it's negative impact and become gray elves. Their skin color slowly lightens over time without the radiation to become virtually indistinguishable from other elves other than their silvery white hair. Still not a perfect solution, but felt better to me.

In any case, I think the current lore in the books of being cursed with black skin is one of the reasons I only use drow rarely.
 

Im not sure how this is an issue for the game - every race in DnD is given a definitive morality. Why is Drow evil bad but Githyanki evil is okay?
Are they all given a definitive morality? Is there just one elven morality?

And the Githyanki are IMO not OK - they are yet another Planet of the Hats and racially evil. Honestly my biggest problem with Githyanki is that they are a race at all rather than a culture. I'd sooner mind flayers didn't have a Favourite Slave Race, and I'd find the Githyanki both much more interesting and much better to interact with if as a culture they were physically a mixed group, some humans, some elves, some dwarfs, some halflings, some tieflings, some dragonborn, etc. It's far easier both to justify and for adventuring parties to play shenanigans on a group of slavers like that who are determined that they shall never again be on the bottom of the pile.
 

Haven't read entire thread so someone might have already mentioned. The Drow if I remember correctly were 'cursed' with black skin and banished to the Underdark. So not only are they portrayed as evil by skin colour but also 'cursed' with being dark skinned instead of white.
And if anyone's not aware why that's a yikes as far as real world racism is concerned we're looking at something uncomfortably close to the Curse of Ham (in addition to all the other problematic elements of the Drow)
 

Faolyn

Hero
My take on elves and skin color is that they take on the coloration of their surroundings. Forest elves would be mostly shades of green and brown, with occasional other colors due to the influence of flowers. Water elves would be shades of blue and green, with occasional other colors due to the influence of coral. Snowy elves would be whites and very light pastels. Subterranean elves would be shades of gray and black due to the stone and lack of light to produce other colors. Elves that lived with humans would have human-normal skin tones. An elf from one location that lives long enough in another one would change coloration to match that area. (Hey, if elves can switch sex after a long rest, including their entire entire reproductive system if they want it to, then skin tone should be a snap.)
 

Casimir Liber

Explorer
As I mentioned elsewhere - the take in my universes has been inverse tanning (compared with humans) - so no light = dark skin, bronzed and greenish wood and wild elves in shaded forest environments and pale-skinned high elves living in sunlight plains and/or cloud kingdoms.

Yeah I recall right from first edition reading the "cursed with black skin" bit and ditched it right then and there. Nonstarter even in 1980.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
Are they all given a definitive morality? Is there just one elven morality?

And the Githyanki are IMO not OK - they are yet another Planet of the Hats and racially evil. Honestly my biggest problem with Githyanki is that they are a race at all rather than a culture. I'd sooner mind flayers didn't have a Favourite Slave Race, and I'd find the Githyanki both much more interesting and much better to interact with if as a culture they were physically a mixed group, some humans, some elves, some dwarfs, some halflings, some tieflings, some dragonborn, etc. It's far easier both to justify and for adventuring parties to play shenanigans on a group of slavers like that who are determined that they shall never again be on the bottom of the pile.
My biggest problem with the gith are their elbow testicles. First time I saw fiend folio, that's what I saw. Will forever stick.
 


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