Of the various elven subraces, none are more notorious than the drow. Descended from the original dark-skinned elven subrace called the Ssri-tel-quessir, the drow were cursed into the present appearance by the good elven deities for following the goddess Lolth down the path to evil and corruption.
Also called dark elves, the skin of a drow can be any shade from dark gray to polished obsidian. Their hair is usually in shades from pale yellow, silver, or stark white. Their eyes can be of any color but they commonly have blood-red eyes, although pale eyes (so pale as to be often mistaken for white) in shades of pale lilac, silver, pink, and blue are not unknown. They also tend to be smaller and thinner than most Faerûnian elves. Most drow on the surface are evil and worship Vhaeraun, but some outcasts and renegades have a more neutral attitude, and there are even groups of good drow who worship Eilistraee or other deities not of the traditional drow pantheon.
Though divided by endless feuds and schisms, the drow are united in one terrible desire: they seethe with hatred for the surface elves. By their way of reckoning, they proved themselves the superior race in the Fourth Crown War, and the fact that the Seldarine (and Corellon in particular) punished them for their success is a poison that churns in their hearts and minds eternally. They burn with hatred for the Seldarine and their coddled children, and want nothing more than to return to the surface and bring to the elves there suffering a thousand times greater than that which the drow have been forced to endure over the past ten thousand years.
In the beginning, the Ssri-tel-quessir were the most successful of the elven colonists to the new world of Faerûn. The nation of Ilythiir quickly became one of the most poweful of the early elven nations. But the Ssri-tel-quessir were not only the most successful of the elves of their time, they were also the most cruel and jealous. Despite their own accomplishments, they envied those of their neighbors all the same. While the First Crown War raged to the north, the dark elves waged their own war against their neighbors, seeking to dominate the elven realms of southern Faerûn.
Unsuccessful in three attempts to subjugate the neighboring realms, the dark elves of Ilythiir turned to a new and secret patron at the opening of the Fourth Crown War. The dark elves pledged their loyalties to the outcast Seldarine of the Demonweb Pits, and to Lolth in particular. The Spider Queen and her fellow exiles (with the notable exception of Eilistraee) granted the drak elves of Ilythiir great magical powers, fiendish allies, and support in return for their allegiance, and the Ilyhtiiri wreaked great havoc among the other elven realms.
But their success and victory were short lived, for Corellon was shocked and deeply enraged by the traitorous acts of the dark elves. By his decree, the Ilythiiri elves were cursed, transformed into drow and banished from the surface world into the Underdark. They became known as the dhaeraow (the elven word for traitor), and over the centuries this word has since given them the name by which they are known: drow.
After their exile below ground, the drow lived as nomads, scavengers, and feral beasts. Eventually, through the guidance of Lolth, they drew themselves together as a race and began to make the best of their situation, colonizing large portions of the Underdark. The first underground drow civilizations were established in southern Faerûn around -9600 DR. In -9000 DR, the drow seized the great cavern of Bhaerynden from the gold dwarves and established the first great drow kingdom, Telantiwar. Unfortunately, the drow of Telantiwar quickly fell into terrible civil wars, the eventual result of which were several massive magical explosions that collapsed the caverns of their nation and formed the Great Rift in southern Faerûn.
The few drow survivors of this cataclysm scattered throughout the Underdark, slowly settling regions farther and farther away from their original homelands in the South. In time, the drow built dozens of magnificent, terrifying cities deep underground, quite an achievement for a people so predisposed toward treachery, infighting, and civil war. Sshamath, the City of Dark Weavings, was founded beneath the Far Hills in -4973 DR. Menzoberra the Kinless, a high priestess of Lolth, established the city of Menzoberranzan in -3917 DR. House Nasadra, exiled from Menzoberranzan, founded Ched Nasad in -3843 DR. Many other cities lie beneath other parts of Faerûn, sometimes exerting their baleful influence on the lands above, such as the conquest of the human realm of Dambrath by the drow of T'lindhet in 804 DR, or the centuries-long rule of Maerimydra over Shadowdale hundreds of years ago.
Recently, the drow have begun to extend their influence to the surface in greater numbers than ever before, moving into abandoned elven cities and homes. They have begun training and conditioning to allow them to function in the brilliant surface world. Much to their surprise and delight, they have found that due to the Elven Retreat the presence of surface elves is much smaller and more poorly organized than they anticipated. Small bands of drow opposed to this return to the surface have made efforts to alert the surface world of this new threat, but so far no organized resistance to the drow invasion of the surface world has appeared.
Drow are, on the whole, sadistic, destructive, and treacherous. They view themselves as the rightful heirs to Faerûn and still remember the perceived injustice of their exile to the Underdark. They hate other races and either wish to make war upon them or view those others with contempt and tolerate them only as necessary for trade or temporary military alliance. Even among their own kind, drow are cruel and suspicious. There is little room for love and friendship in drow society. They may value alliances with other family members or acquaintances, but no drow truly trusts another. Drow forge alliances only when they are more powerful than an "ally", possess blackmail-worthy knowledge, or have a common enemy that overrides their mutual hatred. Even then, they keep their eyes and ears primed for the slightest hint of treachery. The motto for the drow may well be, "Do unto others first so they cannot do unto you."
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. A fair number of drow have come to value their position in the Underdark and now think of themselves as true natives of their dark realm. They have little desire to return to the surface and would rather rule in the depths than struggle to regain a realm they no longer hold any interest in ruling. Even more rare are those few drow who have atoned for their evil ways and think of their fellows as monsters that need to be stopped. These drow are either surface dwellers who are struggling to become accepted into new societies, or fugitives dwelling in out-of-the-way caverns deep underground. With the new expansion into the surface, more drow than ever before are being exposed to the truth on the surface, and more are realizing that life on the surface is much nicer than they were led to believe by the agents of Lolth and her kin. It is possible, with proper acceptance and encouragement, that the numbers of neutral or even good drow on the surface of Faerûn could skyrocket in the coming years. The priesthood of Eilistraee is in the forefront of this movement, desperately trying to divert the drow war on the surface into a mass conversion from the dark elves' dreadful ways.
Drow live in militaristic societies with strong religious foundations. They are a matriarchal society, ruled by the most powerful drow priestesses. Drow do not form nations, but congregate in vastly powerful city-states located in massive caverns deep underground. Drow cities trade with each other but frequently fall into open warfare.
A typical drow city is ruled by a large group of powerful drow families, the strongest of which rule the city itself. Each family is in turn ruled by a Matron Mother, typically (though not always) a powerful cleric of Lolth. Infighting is common, even expected, among the ruling families of a drow city. The power ranking of the families shifts almost daily, although the top five or ten families are relatively stable.
Drow cities tend toward a haphazard organization, as the strong families seize the best territory for themselves and leave the common drow to build their warrens and feed themselves in whatever fashion they can manage. The various family estates are often grouped close together in the most defensible part of the cavern, but this is not always the case. Typically, a large public temple dedicated to Lolth is located in the same area, often as part of the ruling family's estate. The city itself is usually a tangled, chaotic mess of hundreds of architectural styles. Magic items emitting faerie fire adorn the more prosperous buildings, as well as most of the family estates. For the most part, poverty, oppression, and desperation are the rule in the heart of a drow city.
Beyond the city proper are vast farms where slaves raise deep rothé, edible fungus, and other necessities for the survival of the city. Garrisons of the city's standing army (segregated by gender) are located nearby, along with academies that cater to wizards, bards, rogues, assassins, and experts of various fields. Often, a drow city enters an alliance with a powerful denizen of the Underdark such as a beholder or a deep dragon, encouraging the creature to keep a lair on the outskirts of the city.
Surface drow have yet to form anything resembling a society of their own. For the most part, surface drow live as outcasts and hermits, interacting with established societies only when necessary.
Language and Literacy
Most drow speak Elven, Undercommon, and a language appropriate to their native region. Those with the time or inclination learn Drow Sign Language or languages commonly spoken by beings that settle nearby, including Abyssal, Common, Draconic, and Goblin. Drow also common languages spoken on the surface near the entrances to their particular corner of the Underdark, such as the Illuskan language.
Drow have developed a unique sign language, Drow Sign Language, which allows silent communication with hand gestures up to 120 feet away as long as both parties can see each other. Drow Sign Language has no alphabet or written form.
All drow characters are literate except for barbarians.
Abilities and Racial Features
- +2 Dexterity, -2 Constitution, +2 Intelligence, +2 Charisma. The drow have ruthlessly selected for agility, intelligence, and force of personality over generations.
- Spell-Like Abilities: 1/day - dancing lights, darkness, and faerie fire. These abilities are as the spells cast by a sorcerer of the drow's character level.
- Darkvision up to 120 feet. This replaces elven low-light vision. Darkvision is black and white only but otherwise like normal sight.
- Proficient with either rapier or shortsword; proficient with hand crossbow and light crossbow. This replaces the standard elven weapon proficiencies.
- Light Blindness (Ex): Abrupt exposure to bright light (such as sunlight or a daylight spell) blinds a drow for 1 round. In addition, drow suffer a -1 circumstance penalty on all attack rolls, saves, and checks while operating in bright light.
- Spell resistance of 11 + character level.
- +2 racial bonus on Will saves against spells and spell-like abilities.
- Medium: As Medium creatures, elves have no special bonuses or penalties to their size.
- Elf base land speed is 30 feet.
- Immunity to magic sleep effects, and a +2 racial saving throw bonus against enchantment spells or effects.
- +2 racial bonus on Listen, Spot and Search checks. An elf who passes within 5 feet of a secret or concealed door is entitled to a search check to notice it as if they were actively looking for it. An elf's senses are so keen that they practically have a sixth sense about hidden portals.
- Drow males and females range in height from 4'5" to 5'5". The males weigh anywhere from 85 lbs to 157 lbs, and females weigh from 80 lbs to 152 lbs.
- Drows reach adulthood at 110 years and can reach a maximum of about 750 years.
- Level Adjustment: +2. Drow are more powerful and gain levels more slowly than most of the other common races of Faerûn.
Elves Aquatic Elf Avariel Moon Elf Star Elf Sun Elf Wild Elf Wood Elf