What do Drow look like?

What do Drow look like?


Yaarel

He Mage
DROW HEIGHT

Drow are 5 feet 4 inches tall on average, but can reach 6 feet tall. Females are slightly taller on average.

Average Height: 5 feet 4 inches
Range: 4 feet 7 inches to 6 feet 1 inch

Random Height: Base height 4 feet 5 inches + 2d10 inches
Female: +1 inch
Male: −1 inch



DERIVATION

about 4½ to 5½ feet (12 votes)
about 5½ to 6½ feet (7 votes)

Average height of Drow
= [(5 feet × 12 votes) + (6 feet × 7 votes)] ÷ 19 votes
= [(60 inches × 12 votes) + (72 inches × 7 votes)] ÷ 19 votes
= [(720 inches × votes) + (504 inches × votes)] ÷ 19 votes
= [1224 inches × votes] ÷ 19 votes
≈ 64 inches
≈ 5 feet 4 inches

≈ 164 cm

@(Psi). Gender adjustments are easy to modify per region or setting. The adjustments here allow both genders to be 6 feet at the upper limits.



Many features of the Drow are still blurry. Your votes help bring the Drow more clearly into view.
 
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Yaarel

He Mage
DROW HANDS AND FEET

The hands of the Drow are about the same size as Human hands. However, the palm of the Drow tends to be smaller, making the fingers seem longer - and more delicate - giving the Drow hand a more ‘spidery’ appearance in comparison. Similarly for Drow feet, the sole tends to be smaller while the toes seem longer and more delicate.



Compare an X-ray of a Human hand. The bone structure of the Drow hand is similar, but the knuckles are closer to the wrist, allowing the finger segments to be longer though the overall hand is the same size. Moreover, the smaller palm starts below the knuckles. So the Drow knuckle joints are separate from each other, adding knuckle joint to length of the finger, and making finger seem extra long.

Drow Hand.png
 
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Yaarel

He Mage
DROW SKIN

When artists represent a dark surface, it is imperative to define the facial features by the luminous reflections (the highlights and the gleams) - NOT by the shadows.

3978460402_48e26fc9d5.jpg
 
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Yaarel

He Mage
DROW VARIATION

The precise appearance of the Drow differs depending on the setting. Some settings portray the Drow with a diversity of appearances depending on region, while other settings portray all Drow as homogenous without regional variations.

Among the different official settings - such as Eberron, Forgotten Realms, Nerath, Planescape, Greyhawk, and Dragonlance - the Dark Elf exhibits a diversity of physical appearances. For example, in Forgotten Realms, the Drow generally have human-like eyes with iris and pupil. By contrast, in the Nerath setting, Drow have eyes of a solid color without iris or pupil, a trait that derives from their otherworldy origin, the magical plane of Feywild.

According to some settings, the Drow exhibit different characteristics depending on the ethnicity and region where they are from. For example, in the Forgotten Realms setting, the Dark Elf includes three subraces: Drow, Miyetari, and Ilythiiri. The Drow dwell in the region of the subterranean Underdark and have glossy black skin and pale hair. The other two subraces live in separate regions on the surface. The Miyetari have matte brownish (dark orangish) skin and black hair, while the Ilythiiri have gray bluish skin and pale hair. In the Dragonlance setting, the Dark Elf comprises the outcasts from any of the Elf subraces, thus can appear as any of these, yet as persons who have been ‘cast from the light’ seems to typically appear with pale sunless skin and black hair.

According to other settings, the Drow are homogenous without regional variations. In the Greyhawk setting, all Drow have black skin and white or lustrous silver hair. In the Mystara setting, the comparable Shadow Elf, all, have albino-like pale bluish skin and white hair.

Generally among the settings, those ‘Dark Elf’ variations that lack black skin also tend to avoid or downplay the name ‘Drow’. Thus the term Drow seems to persistently emphasize black skin, at least primarily. The term Dark Elf seems more inclusive.



DERIVATION

Drow appearances can vary by setting (12/24 votes).
Drow appearances can vary by region (6/24 votes).
Drow always look the same (6/24 votes).



What do you feel Drow *should* look like?



Check out my picture of a Drow hand with ‘long and delicate’ fingers, in Post #12.
 
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Yaarel

He Mage
DROW VARIATION

I tracked down some of the descriptions of Drow from the conflictive D&D traditions.



1e Monster Manual
Elf, Drow, Black Elf


Drow Average Height: Over 5 feet. Same as Elf, ‘5 feet + tall’.
Drow Appearance: Unspecified. They are called ‘Black’ Elf and ‘dark’. But the ‘Faerie’ is called ‘Gray’ Elf and ‘bright’ yet apparently is neither the color of gray nor the luminosity of bright. Originally these descriptions might refer to their regions, in the dark subterranean or the bright daylight of meadowlands, respectively. The name ‘Gray’ is perplexing yet lacks explanation. (Note: The Forgotten Realms term ‘Sun Elf’ makes more sense for a ‘bright’ Faerie, and the term ‘Moon Elf’ makes more sense for a ‘bright’ Elf. The Bright Elves are opposite the Dark Elf.)

Even so, precisely this description of the Drow in the Monster Manual appears to be the jumping off point for a brainstorm of free associations that coalesce to inspire the concepts of the Drow for the adventure, Vault of the Drow. These concepts continue to change, evolve, radiate, regroup, and change again, into the multivalent traditions of the Drow in D&D today.



1e Fiend Folio
Elf, Drow, Dark Elf


Drow Skin: Black. Luster: Unspecified. But stylized illustration might be glossy. ‘Drow are black-skinned’.
Drow Eyes: Unspecified. But stylized illustration might be solid white without iris or pupils.
Drow Hair: Pale. ‘And pale-haired’.
Note: The adventure, Hall of the Fire Giant King, which first introduces the Drow, says the male has ‘white’ hair while female has ‘silver’ hair. However these variations become nongendered and summarize as ‘pale’.
Drow Physique: Slim. Fingers: Long. ‘They are slight of build and have long delicate fingers and toes.’
Drow Average Height: 5 feet.



1e Unearthed Arcana
Character Races, Elves, Dark Elves, Drow


Drow Skin: Black. Luster: Matte. ‘Their skin color is the inky black of a moonless night.’
Drow Eyes: Unspecified.
Drow Hair: White. Pale Gray (silver). ‘Their hair is normally pure white or silver.’
Drow Average Height: Unspecified. But description mentions Fiend Folio, implying 5 feet.
Drow Physique: Unspecified. But mention of Fiend Folio implies ‘slight of build with long fingers’.



2e Complete Book of Elves
Variations on a Theme, Dark Elves, Drow


Drow Skin: Dark. ‘Their skin darkened’.
Drow Eyes: Bright Red. Glowing in the dark. ‘Their eyes glowed red further evidencing the fires burning within their breasts’.
Drow Hair: White. ‘And their hair turned white’.
Drow Height: Female is taller. Same height as High Elf, except the female is the one who is the taller.
Drow Average Height: 5 feet.
Drow Height Range: 4 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 5 inches.
Drow Random Height: 55 inches + 1d10.
Note, male-centeredness: Despite the fact Drow and High Elf are the exact same height, both averaging 60.5 inches, the Drow is called ‘shorter’ because the male is shorter than the males of other Elf subraces. For these other races the male is taller. Nevertheless, the female Drow is just as tall as the males of the other Elf subraces. This is erroneous male-centeredness *causes* the misunderstanding of Drow ‘smallness’. ‘Drow [males] are typically shorter than [the males of] other elves’.



2e Monstrous Manual
(Not to be confused with 1e Monster Manual or 2e Planescape Monstrous Compendium)
Elf, Drow, Dark Elf

Drow Skin: Black. Luster: Unspecified. But stylized illustration looks Matte Pale Gray. ‘Drow have black skin’.
Drow Eyes: Unspecified. But stylized illustration looks Pale Color, possibly Reddish (pink).
Drow Eye Shape: Unspecified. But stylized illustration has human-like iris and pupil.
Drow Hair: White, Pale Color. ‘Drow have ... pale, usually white, hair.’
Drow Physique: Slim. Fingers: Long. ‘They are ... more slender than humans. ... They have finely chiseled features, and their fingers and toes are long and delicate.’
Drow Average Height: ‘5 feet’. ‘Shorter ... than humans, seldom reaching more than 5 feet in height’.
Contrast the misrepresentation of High Elf as taller, ‘5 feet +’, despite the male High Elf is the same height as the female Drow.



3e Monster Manual
Elf, Drow, Dark Elves


Drow Skin: Black. Luster: Unspecified. But realistic illustration looks Glossy Grayish Purple. ‘Jet black skin.’
Drow Eyes: Bright Red. Uncommon Unspecified. But realistic illustration looks White. ‘Their eyes are often a vivid red’.
Drow Eye Shape: Unspecified. But realistic illustration looks Solid White without iris or pupil.
Drow Hair: White, Pale Color. ‘White is the most common color of hair, but almost any pale color is possible.’
Drow Physique: Slim. ‘Drow tend to be ... thinner than other sorts of elves’.
Contrast High Elf that is already ‘slender’ compared to Human.
Note: Abilities now include Charisma bonus, since 1e Fiend Folio has high Charisma, but increasingly connotes the sexual themes of Drow culture, whence beauty.
Drow Average Height: Seemingly less than 5 feet, but unclear because of male-centeredness. ‘Drow tend to be smaller ... than other sorts of elves’.
Contrast High Elf that is already ‘slightly shorter than a human’.
Note: The 3e Players Handbook lists the High Elf with an average height of 5 feet, ranging 4 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 6 inches. Possibly, the female Drow is this same size, averaging 5 feet, while the male is 5 inches ‘smaller’, averaging 4 feet 7 inches. If so, all Elf subraces are the same size, except the Gray Elf is ‘taller and grander in physical appearance’ and ‘nearly as tall as a human’. Yet the impression is, all Drow, both male and female, are ‘smaller’.



4e Monster Manual
Drow


Drow Appearance: Unspecified. But the entry reuses the realistic illustration from the 3e Monster Manual, that looks like Glossy Grayish Purple Skin, White Eyes with Eye Shape being Solid without iris or pupil, plus White Hair.



4e Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms
Races, Drow
(Nerath Setting)
(Same as 4e Forgotten Realms Setting Guide, Races, Drow)



3e Forgotten Realms Setting Guide
Characters, Races of Faerun, Elves, Drow


Drow Skin: Black. Luster: Glossy. ‘Black skin that resembles polished obsidian’.
Drow Eyes: White, Pale Color of Reddish (pink), Purplish (lilac), Bluish (pale blue), Gray (silver). Uncommon colors are Unspecified. ‘They commonly have very pale color eyes, so pale as to be mistaken for white, in shades of pale lilac, silver, pink, and blue’.
Drow Hair: White, Pale Yellowish. ‘Stark white hair or pale yellow hair’.
Drow Physique: Slim. ‘They tend to be thinner than most elves’.
Drow Height: Unspecified. ‘Tend to be smaller than most elves’.



3e Races of Faerun
Elves, Drow, Dark Elves
(Same as Forgotten Realms Setting Guide but elaborates, also specifies height)


Drow Height: Both female and male are the same height.
Drow Average Height: 5 feet.
Drow Height Range: 4 feet 7 inches to 5 feet 5 inches.
Drow Random Height: 4 feet 5 inches + 2d6. Same as 3e Players Handbook High Elf. However, in Forgotten Realms, the High Elf corresponds instead to the Moon Elf that is the same height as a Human. Thus in comparison, the Drow is smaller than the other subraces. Even so, the Drow is the same height as a female Human. ‘Tend to be smaller than most elves’.



3e Forgotten Realms Novels

Drow Skin: Black. Dark Orangish (brown). Bluish.
Note: The ancestral Dark Elf subrace is called the Ssri-tel-quessir, who exhibits brown skin, dark eyes, and black hair. Two of these Dark Elf factions are the ancient Ilythiiri and the Miyetari. In the Forgotten Realms setting, all Ilythiiri corrupted themselves with demonic blood, apparently becoming bluish. Miyetari did not. But both factions were ‘cursed’ with obsidian black skin when they descendend into the Underdark. Later, about a fifth of the Drow population had this curse removed. Thus many Drow reverted to their ancestral traits. Thus the Drow split into three ‘Dark Elf’ subraces: Drow, Ilythiiri, and Miyetari. The Drow retain their black-skin curse. The Ilythiiri revert to a demonic grayish blue skin. The Miyetari revert to the untainted purity of the ancestral Dark Elf, the Ssri-tel-quessir, namely brown skin, dark eyes, and black hair.

Drow Eyes: Reddish (red, pink, rose), Orangish (amber, brown), Yellowish (amber), Greenish (green), Bluish (pale blue), Purplish (lavender, lilac), White. Black. Gray (silver).
Note: In various Forgotten Realms novels, the Drow commonly have Bright Red eyes. Pale eyes are less common. In the House of Baenre, Gromph, Dantrag, and Lirial Vandree have Yellowish Orangish (amber) eyes. In the House Do’urden, Malice has Green eyes, and Drizzt has Pale Purplish (lavender, lilac) eyes that, however, are said to be unique among the Drow, despite the Setting Guide seeming as if Pale Purplish is common. The Ssri-tel-quessir and Miyetari have dark eyes including black and brown.
In sum: Forgotten Realms exemplifies every color of the spectrum for eye colors: Reddish, Orangish, Yellowish, Greenish, Bluish, and Purplish.

Drow Hair: White, Pale Color of Yellowish, Orangish, Reddish, Gray. Black.
Generally, Drow hair is white, occasionally silver. With aging, male hair is sometimes said to gray, while female hair to yellow. Meanwhile, other pale colors are mentioned on occasion, including hints of coppery grayish reddish orangish. The Ssri-tel-quessir and Miyetari have black hair.



4e Forgotten Realms Setting Guide
Races, Drow


Drow Skin. Bluish Black. Luster: Unspecified. ‘Midnight black skin with a blue cast’.
Drow Eyes. Bright Red, Pale Purplish (lavender), Blue. ‘Their eyes are fiery red, lavender,or blue.’
Drow Eye Shape: Unspecifed.
Note: Illustrations for the 4e Nerath setting tend to depict Drow with Solid eyes without iris or pupil, thus the same as the Eladrin that is specified as Solid, and unlike the Elf specified as human-like with iris and pupil. However, illustrations for the 4e Forgotten Realms setting tend to depict Drow with human-like eyes. There is some confusion.
Drow Hair: White. ‘All Drow have white hair.’
Drow Facial Hair, Male: None, Sideburns, Thin Mustache, Goatee. ‘Drow have little facial hair, although sometimes grow long sideburns or tufts of wispy hair on their cheeks and chins’.
Drow Physique: Slim, Fit, Sexy. ‘Slender athletic builds, ... with wiry builds, pleasing features’.
Drow Average Height: 5 feet 8 inches.
Drow Height Range: 5 feet 4 inches to 6 feet. ‘Drow stand just shy of human height’. Same height as Elf. But Eladrin is slightly taller.



3e Eberron Novels

Drow Skin: Black (Vulkoori tribe). Dark Gray, Pale Grayish Purple (Sulatar tribe). Grayish Black (Umbragen tribe).
Drow Eyes: Dark Purple (Vulkoori). Bright, Reddish, Yellowish (Sulatar). Bluish Black (Umbragen).
Drow Hair: Grayish White (Vulkoori). Grayish (Sulatar). White (Umbragen).



3e Pathfinder Reference Document
Featured Races, Drow
(Golarion Setting)


Drow Skin: Grayish Black, Grayish Purple. Luster: Matte. ‘Drow skin ranges from coal black to a dusky purple’.
Note, Paizo creative director, James Jacob, confirms in Paizo forum, Drow Skin: Black, Purple, plus Dark Blue.
Drow Eyes: White, Red. Uncommon colors Unspecified. ‘Their eyes ... are often solid white or red’.
Drow Eye Shape: Solid Color without iris or pupil. ‘Their eyes lack pupils and are ... solid’.
Drow Hair: White, Gray (silver). Uncommon colors Unspecified. ‘Their hair is typically white or silver, though some variation is not unknown.’
Drow Ears: Pointed and Prominent. ‘Distinctive long, pointed ears’. Same as Elf.
Drow Physique: Slim. ‘Drow ... share the slender build and features of elves’. Same as Elf with ‘graceful, slender physique’.
Drow Height: Same as Human. But Elf is slightly taller than Human. ‘Drow are similar in stature to humans’.
 
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Yaarel

He Mage
DROW HEIGHT

Even while more votes continue to come in, this Drow Average Height remains precise and robust.

The Drow are 5 feet 4 inches tall on average.

Collectively - at the aggregate - the ENWorld community seems to have this height in mind when thinking about the Drow.



The female (average + 1 inch) is slightly taller than the male (average − 1 inch).

This acknowledges both the D&D traditions where the female is taller, and the D&D traditions where both are about the same height by keeping the difference small.



The Drow have a wide bell-curve of heights, and individuals can be significantly shorter or taller than the average. (Base 4 feet 5 inches + 2d10.)

This distribution covers both the D&D traditions where the Drow is as short as 4 feet 7 inches, and the D&D traditions where Drow are as tall as 6 feet.

Because of the small difference in female and male height on average, both genders can include individuals who reach 6 feet tall.



Finally, this average height of 5 feet 4 inches squeezes in within the voting option that receives the majority of votes: 4½ to 5½.



In sum, the following height and formula cover the entire spectrum of D&D traditions comprehensively, and represents well the desires of the voters.



Drow Average Height: 5 feet 4 inches
Range: 4 feet 7 inches to 6 feet 1 inch

Drow Random Height: Base height 4 feet 5 inches + 2d10 inches
Female: +1 inch
Male: −1 inch





Below is the determination of average height from the most recent poll results, followed by one from the earlier results for comparison. In both cases, the average Drow height is 64 inches, equivalent to 5 feet 4 inches. (164 cm.)

Average height of Drow
= [(5 feet × 21 votes) + (6 feet × 11 votes)] ÷ 32 votes
= [(60 inches × 21 votes) + (72 inches × 11 votes)] ÷ 32 votes
= [(1260 inches × votes) + (792 inches × votes)] ÷ 32 votes
= [2052 inches × votes] ÷ 32 votes
= 64.125 inches
≈ 64 inches
≈ 5 feet 4 inches

≈ 164 cm

DROW HEIGHT

Drow are 5 feet 4 inches tall on average, but can reach 6 feet tall. Females are slightly taller on average.

Average Height: 5 feet 4 inches
Range: 4 feet 7 inches to 6 feet 1 inch

Random Height: Base height 4 feet 5 inches + 2d10 inches
Female: +1 inch
Male: −1 inch



DERIVATION

about 4½ to 5½ feet (12 votes)
about 5½ to 6½ feet (7 votes)

Average height of Drow
= [(5 feet × 12 votes) + (6 feet × 7 votes)] ÷ 19 votes
= [(60 inches × 12 votes) + (72 inches × 7 votes)] ÷ 19 votes
= [(720 inches × votes) + (504 inches × votes)] ÷ 19 votes
= [1224 inches × votes] ÷ 19 votes
≈ 64 inches
≈ 5 feet 4 inches

≈ 164 cm
 
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I always picture purple skin instead of black, and describe my drow as such...

When I want to paint drow minis I paint them black, then put a purple coat over it, and a wash of dark red.
 

Yaarel

He Mage
DROW EYE SHAPE: SAY YES TO PUPILS



The poll has a certain option that enjoys strong official support - and yet there seems little support for this option from the community.

A surprising result is the weak enthusiasm for Drow eyes that are solid without iris or pupil.

The result surprises me because both WotC and their ‘rival’ Paizo feature Drow with solid eyes.

Why doesnt the ENWorld community find these eyes interesting for the Drow?



I suspect the answer is simple:

The solid eyes connote an otherworldy origin. But the Drow are part of this world.



The Drow might have had an otherworldy origin. However the archetype of the Drow is a ‘fallen’ creature. The Drow have fallen into this world. The Drow have flesh and blood, and are deeply part of the earth that the Human walks on.

In settings where the Faerie, Alfheimr, Feywild, or so on, are a significant spirit world, the Drow no longer have a strong connection to it. There is still a hint of the magic of that otherworld among the Drow. But it is like the poem by Wordsworth, the Drow are ‘trailing clouds of glory’. The Drow have become part of the physicality of Nature, of the Prime Material Plane. But there is still a feeling of the marvel from where they came.



Somehow to lack pupils is to lack physicality. Whether Greek statues or bogeys whose eyes glow in the forest night, these solid eyes belong to spirits, who are alien to this world. These spirits can see without needing physical eyes to see. But the Drow have pupils. They see physically. It is a fantasy version of infrared radiation. It isnt a psychic clairvoyance. The Drow see body heat, or whatever, not souls.



Really, any color or shape for Drow eyes seems possible, and the community seems comfortable with any possibility. The majority dont seem to have strong feelings one way or an other. That said, among those that do voice feelings about the shape of Drow eyes, most see the eyes as human-like, with iris and pupil. Physical.

EYE SHAPE:
• iris and pupil are human-like (16/24 votes)
• solid without iris or pupil (3/24 votes)
• solid with large iris-sized pupil (5/24 votes)

A defining majority of two thirds (16/24) pictures human-like eyes as making sense for the Drow archetype. Only an eighth (3/24) pictures the Drow with otherworldly solid eyes.

The lesser support for Drow solid eyes seems noteworthy because both WotC and Paizo support it. It seems to go beyond the artifact of an edition war and to ‘cross party lines’. The Drow in both the Nerath setting and the Golarion setting have solid eyes. Additionally the Nerath setting attributes to the Drow otherworldliness via ‘Fey’ origin, with similar anemic response. The ‘fallen’ Drow might have been Fey spirits once, but they are in this world now.



Notice the third option: Drow eyes are solid with a large iris-sized pupil. It achieves roughly a fifth of how voters picture the Drow. Now I must thank everyone for voting for this option. I created this look for the Drow for one of my settings. I am sure there are others who have done the eyes this way too. But as far as know, I dont know of anyone else that does, nor do I recall anything in the D&D tradition that does the eyes this way. I appreciate your support.

It is telling. This relatively obscure option (iris-sized pupils) is gaining slightly more traction than the option (solid eyes) that has full-on official support.

I suspect a reason for the relative appeal is: physicality. Drow can see in the dark because their eyes are somehow more sensitive to tiny amounts of light. So, big pupils make sense because they let more light in. Moreover, with big pupils like that, bright light seems like it would blind or even hurt. Perfect. The big pupils cohere to some degree with the archetype of Drow physicality.

I like the big pupils because they look ‘normal’ but have an exotic feel. The pupils look like a dark-color iris, so when drawing Drow eyes, they ‘look right’. But when the rest of the eye is some iris-like color, instead of white sclera, it is the telltale that says, ‘Not Human’. Like the pointy ears are a telltale. These ‘strange’ eyes say, ‘all the better to see you’. Living in utter darkness except for a Faerie Fire here or there? Bigger pupils. ‘Makes sense’. Of course, ‘fantasy sense’, but still.



Ultimately, the Drow archetype seems to have room for various kinds of eyes, including these three possibilities.

The human-like eyes make sense to Drow communities who interact with the surface world and its humans.

The big pupils make sense for deep hard-core Drow who adapted to the Underdark to the point of dependence.

Using the standard distances in the Playtest, maybe some Drow communities have normal darkvision upto 50 feet without penalty in bright light, while others have darkvision upto 100 feet but suffer the penalty. Pupil size can signify the difference.



The solid eyes have nothing to do with seeing in the dark. Theres no pupil. They cant see at all. The solid eyes depict spiritual vision. Drow with solid eyes are otherworldly. There are contexts where this might make sense.

Some Drow might be ‘redeemed’ and now inhabit the Feywild alongside their Bright Elf companions. These Drow dont return to the surface to live alongside the physicality of the Human. They return to the otherworld whence they came. The ‘restored’ Drow are fully Fey.

Some Drow might be demonologists, whose eyes see into the realm of spiritual darkness and see out from such darkness.

Note, Drow with solid eyes that are understood as dark semi-reflective spider eyes of myriad microscopic lenses - seem ‘naturalistic’ enough to work with the archetype. (Naturalistic in the dreamy sense of a fantasy trope, of course.) It would be creepily nonhuman and physical. Drow are too human for this to work. But a couple of freaks in the mix might sense.

All in all, one can imagine certain Drow individuals who have solid eyes - whether eyes of spirit or eyes of spider - in a way that might work.



For the sake of the typical Drow - the type - the archetype - say yes to pupils.
 
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