What are the most important features of the Drow?

What are the most important features of the Drow?


He Mage
What are the most important features of the Drow? Choose all that you feel define the essence.

Post comments or suggestions.
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He Mage
* Note: If it is possible to edit the poll, I would add or modify the following options.

Dexterity: Rogue, light armor, ambidexterity, or stealth.

Charisma: Sorcerer, Warlock, social skill, or sexiness.

Darkvision: see in total darkness.

Magic Resistance: resist certain kinds of magic.

Mithral Shirt: proficient with armor resembling a mithral chain shirt, of a black alloy.

Buckler: proficient with a buckler, a small punching shield.

Handbows: proficient with handgun-like crossbow.

Finesse Swords: proficient with shortsword, rapier, or other finesse sword.

Long Daggers: proficient with dagger.

Sleep Poison: proficient with tools to make and handle sleep poison.

Drow Silent: know a silent language of subtle gestures.

Moon: revere the moon and the moonlit night, or the dark phases of the moon.

Dance and Song: revere dance and song.

Swordfighting: revere fighting with finesse swords.
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Dark/Black skin? White hair?

Mostly because dark elves in Krynn (Dalamar) were still light-skinned, more renegade elves than a separate subrace.


He Mage
Dark/Black skin? White hair?

Mostly because dark elves in Krynn (Dalamar) were still light-skinned, more renegade elves than a separate subrace.
I took Black skin / White hair for granted. But you are right, appearance is an important question. Unfortunately, appearance seems to be a complicated question.

Skin color: pure black.
Skin color: dark, grayish, brownish, bluish, or purplish.
Skin color: pale, such as sunless or corpselike.

Skin: glossy, lustrous, gleaming.
Skin: matte, dull, soft.

Hair: pure white or silver.
Hair: pale, such as light blond or pinkish white.
Hair: pure black.

Male Facial Hair: none.
Male Facial Hair: sideburns.
Male Facial Hair: thin mustache.
Male Facial Hair: thin goatee.
Male Facial Hair: full beard.

Eye color: white or pale.
Eye color: black or dark.
Eye color: reddish, orangish, or yellowish.
Eye color: purplish, bluish, or greenish.

Eyes: humanlike, with iris and pupil.
Eyes: solid, no iris, no pupil.
Eyes: glowing.

Ears: pointed but subtle, leaf-shaped, wolf-shaped, compare Lord of the Rings.
Ears: pointed and long, compare World of Warcraft.
Ears: humanlike.

Size: about 3½ to 4½ feet
Size: about 4½ to 5½ feet
Size: about 5½ to 6½ feet
Size: about 6½ to 7½ feet
Size: females taller than males

Digits: the fingers and toes are long and delicate.

Pronunciation: Drow rhymes with ‘cow’.
Pronunciation: Drow rhymes with ‘crow’.
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I just picked up an old copy of Dragonstar ... their description of Drow seems very right to me for what I expect out of the name.

'Dark Elf', ala Kyrnn, can have a few different meanings. If your campaign manages some world hopping you can have some interesting discussions with N/PC's at the inn.

The dark elves (druchhi) of Warhammer look just like high elves, as they're only a cultural offshoot. With a change of accent, they can easily pose as high elves.

Most of them are of an ethnic group with pale skin and black hair, but some high elves have such coloration, and besides there's makeup and hair dye.

The drucchi generally worship either Caine, an evil elf god (who is not at all like Lolth) or Slaanesh, a Chaos god (who is a bit like Lolth). The rival religions are a major theme in their culture. The emperor worships Khaine but his mother worships Slaanesh, and only at her urgings has he allowed the religion of Slaanesh to survive. A common practice of drucchi is to create pleasure cults devoted to Slaanesh among the high elves. (Since there's no real ethnic difference, you can effectively turn a high elf into a drucchi that way.)

Despite not having drow-like abilities, I think they're still pretty similar to drow. Their history is similar but with less time (there are drucchi who were literally high elves in their youth). They have a bunch of drow-like traits, such as using crossbows and generally being untrustworthy and murderous. Also, they hate high elves, seemingly far more than drow (who, despite their hatred, only strike when an opportunity presents itself).

What are the most important features of the Drow?

Elf: Drow are a kind of Elf
Fey: Drow have otherworldy origin
Spiders: Drow venerate spiders
Demons: Drow venerate demons
Evil: Drow align with Evil (predatory, no compassion)
Chaotic: Drow align with Chaos (treacherous, no loyalty)
Matriarchy: Females lead each Drow house
Dexterity: Rogue or light-armor Fighter or ambidexterity
Spells: Drow can instinctively cast Darkness and Faerie Fire

These, which is most of the list.

In addition, drow were a strange type of creature when first presented. I had read an inaccurate battle report of the first meeting of the drow in that adventure I won't name to avoid spoiling.

The PCs knew nothing of drow, and had been fighting some other kind of monster. Now all of a sudden they were showered with poisoned bolts from the darkness, paralyzing some. Then they were set upon by "thieves" using Backstab and chanting priestesses with spell-like abilities such as levitating out of your reach (into the darkness). But inaccurate, as the very first encounter with the drow wasn't a complete surprise (even though their nature was).

My understanding are those initial drow were lower level than the PCs (who were pretty up there at the time) but still a challenge due to the surprising nature of their attacks, their ability to communicate silently just by blinking their eyes (while PCs had to talk and use light), and the general combined-arms nature of creatures that use classes much like the PCs. Making matters worse, they were hard to target, laughed at spells, and while you could kill them and take their stuff, you couldn't keep it for long. as a D&D designer said of them, "neener neener".

One of these days I'll use these guys. (They were such wimps in 3e... especially their clerics.)

Drow are stealthy and treacherous in combat. They will work together only because it gives an advantage. The moment a drow looks distracted, he's probably getting stabbed by a "comrade". Or maybe he's just trying to provoke a sneak attack so he can claim self defense...

Pretty much every drow is sexy, scheming, and insane. Drow aren't so much smarter than their opponents but so steeped in conspiracy and paranoia that they already have a plan for your inevitable betrayal. Even if said "betrayal" is accidentally stumbling at the dinner table.

Oddly enough, mind flayers share many of their properties. They're also supremely adapted to the dark and can mind control you. It's hard to fool something that can read your mind, and it's hard to adapt to them because they're accompanied by grimlocks (demihumans who are also very well adapted to the dark). Also, they have those ... dietary habits.

For drow, I voted against slaves. I don't know when that became a drow feature; I think it's RAS's work. A typical battle with drow shouldn't involve tangling with a thin screen of goblins first, IMO, but I will admit this is gamist talk. (It makes sense from the drow PoV. I just wonder where they can find all these slaves.)


Second Most Angelic Devil Ever
Other: the fact that they are "monsters." So if the annoying person at your table is playing a "take hit points from the party to do more damage" drow warlock (4E) or a "Get out of my way or I'll stab you/nobody understands me" chaotic-neutral drow jerk (every other version), your PC has every right to kill them.

They make good, intelligent enemies for PC's, but I think they're overdone as PC's themselves.


He Mage
The current poll results are telling. Possibly design the 5e Drow as follows.

The main abilities of a Drow are:
Dexterity, Charisma.

The essential features of the Drow are as follows, in decreasing order of importance.
Elf, Evil, Matriarchy, Spiders, Darkvision.

The following features might be useful for an optional setting or region, but are less essential to the Drow themselves:
Slavery, Subterranean, Nocturnal.

The following features are nonessential but might be useful for a certain individual:
Instinctive Spells, Chaotic, Demons.


The Dark Elf ‘Drow’ is a kind of Elf, alongside the sylvan Wood Elf, High Elf, and Wild Elf ‘Grugach’.

Elf ability score adjustment: Dexterity score +1.

Drow gain ambidexterity as race feature.

Drow ability score adjustment: Charisma score +1.

Drow are highly social and utilize sexiness, deception, and persuasion.

Darkvision 50 feet as a race feature. See in total darkness as if dim black-and-white.

(See the optional Dark-Touched feat to extend the distance of Darkvision.)

Alignment: any, usually evil (75%).

(1e Monster Manual lists Drow as ‘Evil’, 1e Fiend Folio as ‘Chaotic Evil’. 2e Monstrous Compendium 2 has ‘Chaotic Evil’, but 2e also has Drizzt who is Chaotic Good. 3e Monster Manual lists ‘usually Neutral Evil’. 4e Monster Manual lists ‘Evil’. 4e Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms offers Drow as a core player race with any alignment but typically ‘wicked’.)


Because of Charisma:

The Drow celebrate sacred ‘revelries’, when all of the Drow dynastic houses commingle. Then a Drow woman usually chooses multiple sexual partners, thus conceives. Later she gives birth to a child without regard to a biological father. Drow have no fathers. There are only mothers. All children are loyal to their own mother only. Alliances among mothers determine the collective decisions.

To give birth to a Drow girl enjoys higher prestige than a boy because she will, in turn, grow up to have more daughters, thus increase the size and influence of her mothers house. Many generations of mothers and daughters unite to form a dynastic house. Members of a house tend to live close to each other in surrounding estates or in a neighborhood of a city. The matriarch is the ‘mother’ of the entire dynastic house. If there are two sisters, and one becomes the matriarch, then the matriarch adopts her sister as her ‘daughter’. It is rare for a woman to divorce her house to found a new house, but the Drow remember such painful moments in their history. A mother personifies all that exists.

All house matriarchs in a city gather to form the ruling council. The council rules by majority, but powerful houses often force the votes of weak houses and ally with other powerful houses.

The Drow ‘priestesses’ are typically the Warlock class with the Priest background. The matriarch, ‘matron mother’, of each dynastic house is a Warlock female elder. She is the head of a sacred line of ‘matrons’, who administer the decisions of the matriarch and perform the priestly duties of the house. The Warlock pact is a rite of initiation for those among her daughters and her daughters daughters that she chooses to install as matrons. Only a daughter that is a matron can inherit the matriarchy. The Warlock pact benefits from Charisma and Dexterity. The nature of the pact depends on each house, but typically it involves spider spirits that safeguard the fates of the members of the house. As leaders of the house, these women master their warlockry as well as their diplomatic arts of persuasion, deception, and intimidation. The fearsome aspects of a spider serve well to intimidate. Some houses have matrons of the Bard class or other class, instead of the Warlock class.

The Drow ‘magic users’ are typically the Sorcerer class. The Sorcerer bloodline is ‘Drow’ and benefits from both Charisma and Dexterity. Rarely, a Drow might inherit an other bloodline from elsewhere. Typically as youths, talented individuals go to a boarding-school, an academy of sorcery. The graduates return home to serve their own mothers, but powerful individuals might serve the matriarch on behalf of the mother. These house sorcerers of the matriarch enjoy high social status, whether female or male. Sorcery is one of the few areas of Drow life where individuals are respected for their abilities regardless of gender.

Because of Dexterity:

Drow ‘warriors’ are typically the Rogue class, known for stealth and skirmishing. Each house has its own army, but allied houses often cooperate in joint military exercises. The males of allied houses tend to fraternize with each other, but they only remain loyal to their own mother. The ranks of males depend on the influence of their mother. Military officers are always females. Drow warriors are ‘weak fighters’ but deadly Rogues.

In some Drow houses, the army of Rogues is specifically an army of Assassins. These houses rarely go to war, instead they kill those enemies who want to go to war. Enemies lose the wars before they even start, when waves of assassins overwhelm and systematically eliminate their leadership. Leaders hestitate personally before deciding to go to war against the Drow.

Typical weapons include finesse swords and handbows, in each hand. Drow are famous for their metalsmithing techniques to fashion special mithral shirts of a black metal alloy.


In the Greyhawk Setting, the Planescape Setting, and the Forgotten Realms Setting, certain Drow communities are known for leading houses that worship ‘Lolth’, a spider demon, who ‘weaves’ social conspiracies and treacheries.

However, it is necessary to describe Drow culture without Lolth. These three settings also feature Drow houses known for other sacred traditions that are unrelated to Lolth. Drow who belong to these other sacred traditions are any alignment, including Good.

Typical alignment for Lolth worshipers is Chaotic Evil. They tentatively cooperate out of self-interest, while seeking to betray each other for great gain if with total impunity. They admire survival of the fittest. Mothers encourage their children to compete and prey on each other. They severely punish any show of compassion that proves to be genuine. Lolth worshipers live deep underground and seek to capture and enslave other races.

In houses that worship the spider demon Lolth, the matrons of the house are typically the Cleric class, instead of the Warlock class. These Clerics tend toward fanaticism. Matrons with Warlock pacts with Lolth or other demons in her dominion are known, but less prestigious in the eyes of the Clerics.

It seems helpful to treat Drow ‘cultists’ similar to Human ‘cultists’. The Drow are any alignment. But a regional setting might feature an evil ‘cult’, especially as one of the Warlock pacts.


Cleric - Spider Domain:
The Spider Cleric gains insight for social intrigue. Spider Domain: L1 Find Familiar (Spider), Sleep. L3 Spider Climb, Web. L5 Hold Person, Slow. L7 Freedom of Movement, Stoneskin (Chiton). L9 Hold Monster, Insect Plague (Spiders).

Cleric, Drow - Stillness of the Web: A Drow ‘priestess’ can be a Spider-domain Cleric. One can swap the Elf race bonus to Dexterity for a bonus to Wisdom instead. Thus such a Drow female magically transforms into an effective Wisdom Charisma leader. ‘A spider waits motionlessly to perceive any prey that entangles and vibrates the web.’

Feat, Drow - Dark-Touched: One is a product of magical life in a realm of darkness, deep in the earth. Level 1, one gains the Dancing Lights cantrip. One can cast the following spells, once per long rest: L3 Faerie Fire, L5 Darkness. Charisma is ones magic ability for these spells. Ones Drow Darkvision extends from 50 feet to 100 feet. But one suffers a disadvantage to perception checks when in bright light.
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