What do Drow look like?

What do Drow look like?



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S

Sunseeker

Guest
Drow can vary with the settings. I've made wild, amazonian, tribal drow, I've made civilized, cultured (if kinda creepy) drow, I've made all sorts of drow. I generally try to keep them in line with the usual tropes, dark skin colors (with the player and very rare NPC being able to break from this), usually violent (though not always directly) and always holding to elvish traits (slender, fit but not ripped, pointy ears, etc.).

I totally support drow variation, but I think there's some necessary common core needed for the average player to be able to say "yes I accept this as a valid type of drow". If that means worship evil spider-goddes, dark skin, live in darkness, violent or whatever, as long as we're not using "drow" to cover "black skinned dwarves", I think I'm okay with whatever you do with them.
 



Yaarel

He Mage
DROW HEIGHT

Regarding height in 3e Pathfinder, in the Golarion setting, the Drow is squarely the option of 5½ to 6½ feet.

Average Height: 6 feet.
Female: +1 inch.
Male: −1 inch.

Range, Female: 5 feet 6 inches to 6 feet 8 inches. (Average 6 feet 1 inch.)
Range, Male: 5 feet 6 inches to 6 feet 4 inches. (Average 5 feet 11 inches.)

Random Height: base 5 feet 4 inches + 2d8 (female) or 2d6 (male).

Note, the Drow (6 feet) is taller than the Pathfinder Human (about 5 feet 7 inches) on average.



Compare the average height deriving from this poll, 5 feet 4 inches on average. This Drow is significantly shorter than the Pathfinder Drow. But with a wider bell-curve, 2d10, the random height can cover both the traditions of shorter Drow as well as the traditions of taller Drow, which reach 6 feet.

The poll leans toward the shorter side of the traditions, so the shortest around 4 feet 7 inches and the tallest around 6 feet 1 inch seems satisfactory. If for some reason even taller Drow are in demand, an even wider bell-curve 2d12 might be necessary. But so far the current 2d10 represents the D&D traditions well.
 

Yaarel

He Mage
Drow can vary with the settings. I've made wild, amazonian, tribal drow, I've made civilized, cultured (if kinda creepy) drow, I've made all sorts of drow. I generally try to keep them in line with the usual tropes, dark skin colors (with the player and very rare NPC being able to break from this), usually violent (though not always directly) and always holding to elvish traits (slender, fit but not ripped, pointy ears, etc.).

I totally support drow variation, but I think there's some necessary common core needed for the average player to be able to say "yes I accept this as a valid type of drow". If that means worship evil spider-goddes, dark skin, live in darkness, violent or whatever, as long as we're not using "drow" to cover "black skinned dwarves", I think I'm okay with whatever you do with them.
Yeah, according to poll, the Drow has certain essential characteristics.
• Blackish skin
• Whitish hair
• Pointed but subtle ears
• No facial hair

Heh, the Drow is so necessarily slim in my mind, it didnt even occur to me to question it in the poll.
• Slim physique

To go against any of the four or five essential features is to play against type.

For example, Drow with light skin and-or dark hair are known, but are in contrast to the more typical expectations, usually an individual within the diversity of a community, or else a special group in a diversity of separate communities. The Eberron setting has generally dark skin and light hair, however one of the three tribes, has a greater variation of skin color and individuals can even be pale purplish. In the Forgotten Realms, one of the Dark Elf subraces is dark brown with black hair.

A ‘drowish’ way to handle a variant is to link it to a particular house. For example, in Forgotten Realms, the House Baenre is known for its strange amber eyes that occasionally shows up among its family members.



In the other poll, it turns out the Spider theme is essential, but the Demon theme is nonessential. So Lolth is unnecessary, but the spiders need to stay. Eberron has the Scorpion but I am unsure if this works as a substitute.

It turns out, Matriarchy is essential. So even ‘Good’ Drow must remain matriarchal.
 

The first real description (beyond the hints in 1E MM1) that I saw was this:

"Drow are black skinned and pale haired. They are
slight of build and have delicate fingers and toes. Their features
are somewhat sharp and ears are pointed and large, but this
does not make them unhandsome. Their eyes are very large,
being all iris and pupil. Male drow are of thin build, about 5’ tall,
have dead black skin and dead white hair, and the irises of their
eyes are orange to orange-yellow. Females are slender and
shapely, about 5.5' tall, and have glossy black skin and shining
silvery hair. The eyes of female Drow are amber, though a few
are said to possess irises of lambent violet."

From Descent into the Depths module. I am pretty sure that is the first full description given? So that is how they are to me.

So although I voted "always the same" because there is gender difference I had to vote for two different things in some sections.

(EDIT Guess I should have voted varies by campaign setting)

However I am more than happy in other campaign worlds (ie not Greyhawk and not one I have created) for them to look as the author of that world says. Except for stupid WoW ears, that never flies with me :hmm:
 
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Yaarel

He Mage
Heh, to be fair, this particular description of the ears seems somewhat ‘WoW-ish’, ‘pointed and large’.

Dont forget, ENWorld lets voters ‘Unvote’, and then revote to change their vote if they want to.



I appreciate you posting this seminal description. It contains a number of significant elements. Especially cool is, the eyes that are ‘all iris and pupil’. Thus the option, ‘solid with large iris-sized pupil’, seems to be part of the pioneering concept, and enjoys some canon in the Greyhawk setting.

"Drow are black skinned and pale haired. They are
slight of build and have delicate fingers and toes. Their features
are somewhat sharp and ears are pointed and large, but this
does not make them unhandsome. Their eyes are very large,
being all iris and pupil. Male drow are of thin build, about 5’ tall,
have dead black skin and dead white hair, and the irises of their
eyes are orange to orange-yellow. Females are slender and
shapely, about 5.5' tall, and have glossy black skin and shining
silvery hair. The eyes of female Drow are amber, though a few
are said to possess irises of lambent violet."
This description entails the following polling options.

Drow, Female
Skin: black, glossy.
Eyes: yellowish orangish (amber), purplish (violent) color. Shape as solid with large iris-sized pupil.
Hair: pale gray (silver).
Height: 5½ feet on average. Therefore both options apply, ‘4½ to 5½ feet’ and ‘5½ to 5½ feet’. (Since the Drow will be on the tall-side almost half of the time.)
Ears: pointed and prominent.
Physique: slim, fit, and sexy. Fingers and toes are long and delicate.

Male
Skin: black, matte.
Eyes: yellowish orangish color. Shape as solid with large iris-sized pupil.
Hair: white.
Height: 5 feet on average. Therefore ‘4½ to 5½ feet’.
Physique: slim, fit, and sexy. ‘Slight of build’, ‘not unhandsome’. Fingers and toes are long and delicate.

Note the phrase ‘lambent violet’. ‘Lambent’ (great word!) means effortlessly glowing and softly flickering. Like soft ambient candlelight or a gentle campfire. In context, it describes the ‘irridescent’ quality of the dark but deeply intense purple. However, it could reinterpret to have purple eyes that actually glow in the dark.



In later 1e publications, these features become nongendered moreorless immediately. So males might have silver hair, females white hair, males might have purple eyes, and so on.

So, there is a conflict in the texts that the Greyhawk setting would treat as canon. Some Drow have gender-divided hair color, but other Drow have variations in hair color regardless of gender. So the Greyhawk has a choice. The setting might be forced to rejects certain descriptions. Or else it can accept both descriptions as true, but then treat them as separate Drow communities that ‘vary by region’.

This seminal Drow is the same size as the Greyhawk High Elf, who is also 5½ feet on average.



All in all, much of this seminal description seems to shine thru the many settings. Very tall Drow exist, but the average leans toward the shorter side in about the same proportion that the poll suggests.
 
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Yaarel

He Mage
THE ESSENCE OF THE APPEARANCE OF THE DROW

Currently the poll has over 50 votes, so the results are probably stabilizing and representative. The essential characteristics of Drow appearance are:

SKIN: pure black or dark color.
HAIR: pure white or pale color.
MALE FACIAL HAIR: none.
EARS: pointed but subtle (compare Tolkien).



Absent from the poll but probably essential:

PHYSIQUE: slim, physically fit, and sexy.



Alongside these four or five physical characteristics, the Drow allow a wide variety of possible appearances. Even the essential characteristics allow for some leeway.




VARIATION

Drow appearances can vary depending on the setting. (24/51). In some settings, appearances vary depending on the region. (15/51). But in other settings, Drow are homogenous regardless of location. (12/51). Variations of Drow characteristics might correspond to individuals, family houses, subcultures, ethnicity, regions, planar contacts, or separate subraces.






SKIN

Drow overwhelmingly exhibit skin that is blackish, pure black or a dark color. (45/68). Even so, as much as one third of the Drow in a particular setting might exhibit paler shades of colors. But even a lighter Drow tends to approximate a darker Human.


Interpreting the votes, consider. The defining majority of Drow have black skin with gray red-purple highlights. This particular picture of the obsidian seems to represent the typical skin coloring and texture of a Drow.

obsidian.jpg

Now these softer reddish-purplish highlights can range into warmer hues or cooler hues, or colorless grays. This grayish red-purple obsidian is somewhere in the middle of the possibilities. The cooler highlights are bluer hues, such as grayish blue-purple shades of indigo. The warmer highlights are oranger hues, such as grayish red-orange shades of copper. The coloring can be less intense reaching into grays with fainter hints of red-purple, even colorless black-and-white.


As much as a 20% of the Drow in a setting may exhibit a lighter skin color, mostly like darker Human pigmentations, but also as much as 10% may be like lighter Human pigmentations, and rare albinos may exist. Together, these 30% with lighter shades can range from gray to a dusky red-purple, with cooler or warmer possibilities.


Settings might emphasize grayer and cooler Drow skins because these are Non-Human. But some settings might use the warmer coppery skin to emphasize the Human-like quality. For example, Forgotten Realms appears to assign the warmer Drow tones to the Drow ancestral subrace that is usually Good, in order to subvert the unintentional trope that dark skin equates to evil. In this case, the Human-like dark skin is inherently Good.


Interestingly, the luster of the Drow skin can range from glossy and gemmy to matte and soft. The range leans toward matte, 54% But for the sake of illustrations, the darker skin might tend to be glossier so soft highlights and sharp gleams can help articulate facial shapes. Lighter shades can be glossy as well, resembling ‘glowing’ dancers and perspiring athletes. Originally, skin luster appeared gender-divided, but came to be equally likely for either gender.

Note, the mythologically accurate ‘Dark Elf’ has pale sunless skin and black hair. A setting can describe a ‘Dark Elf’ (or ‘Black Elf’, ‘Night Elf’, etcetera) with almost any complexion and remain within recognizable tropes. However, a ‘Drow’ must have typically blackish skin and whitish hair, or else ceases to be recognizable as a ‘Drow’.


A setting can portray the Drow with a significant degree of skin variation. Nevertheless, the blackish skin needs to remain the majority even for groups that can have lighter shades.





HAIR


Drow hair is whitish, either pure white or a pale color, 62%. (49/79). Even so, as much as one fourth of the Drow in a setting might have somewhat darker shades of hair. Mostly these darker shades are paler shades of gray, such as silver, 18%. However hair can sometimes be very dark or even black, 9%.


Surprisingly, the essence of Drow hair is whitish, but also colorless. It is shades of gray. Despite strong official support for warm colors, including yellowish (blond) and reddish, the voter response to colorful hair is unenthusiastic. Currently the possibility of dark hair, which has little support, is only about 9% (6/73). But this appears more acceptable than either a cooler blue-purple color 6% (5/73) or a warmer red-orange color 5% (4/73).

In other words, Drow hair is commonly white, uncommonly gray, and rarely black. But the hair generally lacks color regardless of the shade of gray. Consider about 11% of hair can show some color. But even this tends toward paler hints of color. Drow is about 89% colorless.


The player expectations for white hair colorless hair is so strong, settings should probably always assume it. For example in the Forgotten Realms setting, the ancestral subrace has Human-like warm dark skin with black hair. Because of expectations, this subrace feels dissonant and is difficult to perceive it as relating to the Drow. Of course, this is the point, the ‘curse’ of the Drow has been removed. Nevertheless, the subrace as an ‘ancestor’ would be more recognizable as Drow, and perhaps more relevant and interesting, if more typically exhibiting whitish hair with the Human-like warm dark skin. If so, the warm dark skin of this ‘Good Drow’ might connote white-hair elders among darker skin. It is possible to have a separate Dark Elf subraces, where one has light skin and dark hair, but then it lacks a direct link to the ‘Drow’.

Relatedly, expectations for colorless hair suggest discontinuing official descriptions of Drow with blond or reddish hair. Such colors may exist among rare individuals, but they dont typify the Drow.


Since Drow hair tends toward colorless, the presence of any intense color might evidence a Non-Drow bloodline.


Likely, the luster of the whitish hair is glossy with a pearly or silvery sheen, or matte and dull. The probability leans slightly toward matte, like skin luster does. Descriptions imply glossy hair is more prestigious.


Drow males typically lack any facial hair, 71%. (40/59). As much as a third of males might grow some facial hair, ranging from pale peach fuzz to wisps of sideburns, a soft thin mustache, or goatee, with a full beard becoming increasingly impossible. It is unclear if facial hair might be prestigious or embarassing with Drow known to shave - or prestidigitate.


In sum, Drow hair is white. Less than a fourth have non-white hair. Even the non-white hair tends to be pale gray silver, and is uncommon. Dark shades of gray hair are unusual. Black hair seems rare. Regardless of shade, Drow hair tends strongly toward colorless shades of gray. Generally, any coloring tends to appears as hints of color in the highlights of white or silvery gray.






EYE COLOR

The Drow has eyes, of course. But a setting has freedom to portray the eyes in a diversity of ways. Even so, Drow eyes are typically colorful.


Eye color can be any hue of the spectrum: the warm hues of red, orange, or yellow, and the cool hues of purple, blue, and green. Which hues are common and which ones are uncommon depend on the setting. For example, in old-school Greyhawk, yellow-orange eyes are typical. But in Forgotten Realms, yellow-orange eyes are rare. Even descriptions for the same setting can conflict, thus encouraging the interpretation of house or regional tendencies.


Drow eyes are twice as likely to be pure white (21%) as pure black (11%), while the defining majority somewhere in between. Eyes are unlikely to be grayish (6%). Thus Drow eyes tend strongly toward colorful. (62%). The color is vivid but less likely to be unnaturally bright. The color may be ‘exotic’ but feels natural, and tends to lean toward paler and softer (such as lavender), in contrast to the blackish skin. There is an interesting contrast between colorful eyes, colorless hair, and skin tending toward highlights somewhere in between.


The defining majority of Drow have colorful eyes. Some prominant official settings describe the eyes warm and fiery (red or yellow-orange) or else whitish (white or pale). If these two are the only options, player expectation leans toward the vivid warm color at about 58%. So this possibility too corroberates the presence of a strong color at roughly 62%.


In sum, the Drow features an impressive variety of possible eye colors. Which ones are common and which ones are rare depend on the setting, but even the rare possibilities are likely to exist. Typically, it is a vivid color that feels natural, probably leaning toward lighter shades. Less commonly the eye color can reach pure white, less often pure black, or even less often pure gray. The poll results allow flexibility in proportions because of the possibility of overlaps. Still, the player expectations seems to approximate something like the following in the aggregate.

Drow Eye Colors
• Vivid color - leaning toward lighter shades in contrast to blackish skin (62%)
• Whitish (21%)
• Blackish (11%)
• Grayish (6%)





EYE SHAPE


The defining majority pictures the shape of a Drow eye as Human-like with a pupil and an iris, 69%. (26/40). However, Drow eyes can also be ‘all pupil and iris’, according to their old-school seminal description, with a large iris-size pupil, and the remainder of the eye being the solid color of an iris, without any white sclera at all, 21%. (9/40).


These two options seem to coexist. The large pupil without sclera might be a recessive trait that shows up among individuals. (Compare the probability of Human blue eyes.) The trait might correlate to regional differences. Alternatively, the two traits are a continuum, ranging from Human-like eyes to larger pupils and less sclera, until very large pupils and no sclera at all in 23% of the population.


In any case, voters overwhelming expect the presence of pupils. The Drow are this-worldly, physical, and natural creatures. Even if they originate from a spirit world, they are ‘fallen’ creatures who are now part of this world.


At the same time, about 10% of Drow have unnatural eyes of a solid color, without any pupil or iris. These eyes suggest individuals, houses, regions, or ethnicities with strange ties to a spirit world. Possibilities include intimate ties with the Plane of Faerie or Ether, or an Infernal Plane.


Note, a similar percentage of the Drow has eyes that glow in the Dark. It may well be, these otherworldly solid eyes are the ones that glow in the dark.


Some of the Drow solid eyes, if grayish black and nonglowing, might be insectoid, imitating the eyes of a spider that are solid with a fuzzy semi-reflective highlight and a hint of color.


In sum, the Drow tends strongly to have a natural-looking eye shape with pupil and iris. However it may or may not have a white sclera. Any presence of a solid eye derives from magical causes, especially contact with a spirit world or spider-like alteration.






HEIGHT


In the conflictive D&D traditions, the averege height of the Drow can be shorter than the Human or taller than the Human.


The votes show the player expectations in the aggregate, tend to picture the Drow around 5 feet 4 inches on average. Females appear taller than the average by +1 inch, and males shorter than the average by −1 inch.

Short individuals can be about 4 feet 7 inches and tall individuals can reach about 6 feet 1 inch.


[(34/53) × 5 feet] + [(19/53) ×6 feet]
= [3.21 feet] + [2.15 feet]
= 5.36 feet
= 5 feet 4.32 inches
≈ 5 feet 4 inches


With females +1 inch taller, the 5 feet 5 inches compares to the seminal description of the Drow female as 5½ feet.


At the same time, a wide bell-curve (+2d10) allows the average height to cover both the shortest and some of the tallest traditions. For random height, a base of 4 feet 5 inches + 2d10 reaches up to 6 feet 1 inch.




Even taller formulations are also possible. The Golarion setting of 3e Pathfinder, describes the Drow as typically taller than the Human, and upto 6 feet 8 inches tall. If player expectations feel it important to accommodate these taller Drow individuals, then an even wider bell-curve can help (+2d12). If the base is 4 feet 5 inches + 2d12, then the shortest is still 4 feet 7 inches. But the tallest can reach 6 feet 5 inches. Meanwhile the average height is a convenient 5 feet 6 inches, exactly 5½ feet.






EARS


Drow ears are pointy but subtle. This is one of the essential Drow characteristics.

Spock_Zachary_Quinto.jpg

An overwhelming 79% have subtly pointed ears. Compare Tolkien. Compare Spock. Not human but still human-like. From modern folklore such ears hint at wolf ears, and the concept ultimately derives from them to convey a nature spirit. Tolkien characterizes them as leaf-shaped connoting a vegetative nature spirit.


A minority 19% have prominant pointed ears. Compare goblinish exaggerated ears or WoW-ish ears. Such ears emphasize the animalistic quality more dramatically. Thus the nonhuman identity is more readily recognizable. The Goblin-like connotation might connote a more malevolent kind of ‘elf’. Any fully Human-like ears likely derive from Non-Drow origin.

Perhaps the ears reflect the overall concept of a Drow. The Drow are exotic, even malevolent, but still visually attractive to a Human. The Drow tends to express the ‘evil is sexy’ trope - or perhaps be a byproduct of the ‘sex is evil’ trope. Moreover, the Drow is an Elf and personifies the enchanting superhuman beauty and charm. The ears need be exotic, but remain Human enough for a Human to find appealing.




FINGERS

A slim majority picture the Drow with long delicate fingers and toes, 56%. (27/48). But more robust Human-like fingers and toes are almost as possible. These like represent a continuum, from Human-like to longer and more delicate. Note, the fingers are ‘longer’ in *proportion* to the hand. Actually, it is the size of the palm that is becoming smaller across the continuum. A smaller palm reaveals longer fingers.

Again, the Drow is exotic but appealing.



PHYSIQUE

The poll doesnt question the Drow physique. Official descriptions consistently describe the Drow as ‘slight of built’, ‘slender’, and so on, even when the Drow is taller than the Human. Similarly, the facial features tend to be ‘fine’ or ‘sharp’. Likewise the long delicate fingers correspond to overall slimness. At the same time, this leanness is described as appealing to Humans, ‘pleasant’, ‘shapely’, and so on. Especially, in the context of sexual tropes and high Charisma, the Drow is sexually appealing - to Humans.

The defining majority of the Drow appears to be slim, physically fit, and sexy.

Probability has a minority on each side of a bell-curve. The most robust Drow might resemble the physique of an average Human. The most gracile Drow might be skeletal, guant, and alien. The thin extreme may be more like an almond-eyed UFO alien and less like a grotesque goblin. Yet in between the Human versus skeletal extremes, the majority of the Drow exhibits a range of physiques that the Human considers attractive.
 
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S

Sunseeker

Guest
In the other poll, it turns out the Spider theme is essential, but the Demon theme is nonessential. So Lolth is unnecessary, but the spiders need to stay. Eberron has the Scorpion but I am unsure if this works as a substitute.

It turns out, Matriarchy is essential. So even ‘Good’ Drow must remain matriarchal.

Have to agree with matriarchy. Though honestly I see elves as more enlightened in general and thus less prone to worrying if there is an X or Y on the throne. Meaning non-Drow elves can be matriarchal, but that is non-essential; however a Drow society must have a woman on the throne, though there may be powerful men at her side, but they are still men, and thus, lacking the necessary Drow status to rule.

I like the scorpion theme, but I don't think it fits the traditional Drow concept. I've worked up a concept Drow-like race that is deserty fantasy-Persian themed that keeps some of the Drow tropes, but combines them with a more middle-eastern styling and replaced spiders with scorpions (and driders with scorpion-taurs of course). They're most certainly not Drow, and I think the use of the scorpion in my creation does a suitable job of helping to connect them to Drow, but also distinguish them from them.
 

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