Wandering Monsters: Scum of the (Under) Earth

Wandering Monsters
Scum of the (Under) Earth

By James Wyatt

Strolling through the Underdark with no cares in the world is nigh impossible thanks to drow, drider, duergar, and grimlock inhabitants. See what James has to say about each of these, and weigh in with your opinion on them.

Talk about this column here.

Fairest of Them All
I thought the Drow, Drider, Duergar and Grimlock were spot on! Drow matched R.A Salvatore well enought, may be less the GDQ serie one though. I also liked the compromise in the Drider's and Duergar's description about their origins.


I liked most everything mentioned, sounded about right to me. Only problem I really had was drow having a Know Alignment ability. Mechanics like that need to die in a fire, in my opinion.
I liked most everything mentioned, sounded about right to me. Only problem I really had was drow having a Know Alignment ability. Mechanics like that need to die in a fire, in my opinion.




this was pretty much my only problem too.

Happy to be back on the best D&D forum on the internet!

Classic Drow had that ability. Overall a good effort but I would like to see Drow weapons falling apart in daylight again.

 Fear is the Mind Killer

 

Can I hire grimlocks to hunt or kill monsters with gaze attacks?

* What if I wish drow or duergars PCs? Will we see racial classes like from "Complete Psionic"?

* I imagine shadar-kai like cousins of drows and elves (and oriental shens), with a dark background but without  links with the plane of shadow.

* About the duergar power of enlarge himself.. is it anything like the shapeshifting of the increible Hulk? what about armour and enlarging power?

* I know we rebember the "syndrome of Drizzt D´ourden", when lots of players want a wannabe Drizzt´s clone PCs.

* Duergars and mindflayers should have got monster stats with psionics powers since the first corebook. We don´t need the psionic class in the first corebook, but only some psionic powers in the corebook. 

* Are duzargons tielfings with beard?



Sometimes I imagine D&D half-fiends with a little touch of splatterpunk look, like cenobites from Hellraiser saga or dark eldars from Warhammer 40.000. 

What if half-fiendfish template is added to a infernal character like a tielfing or hellbreed (from Fiendish Codex 2: Tyrants of the Nine Hells)?

"Say me what you're showing off for, and I'll say you what you lack!" (Spanish saying)

 

Book 13 Anaclet 23 Confucius said: "The Superior Man is in harmony but does not follow the crowd. The inferior man follows the crowd, but is not in harmony"

 

"In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of." - Confucius 

Me Grimlock no bozo, me king!

I don't like Drow and Duergar having too many spells.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

I don't like Drow and Duergar having too many spells.

Yeah, I never liked that even the fighters got spells, and pretty good ones too. Considering that the duerger should be psionic-based, they should have powers not spells (granted, that is semantics, but it is important to many).

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Classic Drow had that ability. Overall a good effort but I would like to see Drow weapons falling apart in daylight again.



You're right that was missing.      


I suposse we might wish a "level 0" for humanoid monsters, like equivalent to a PC of first level, and the stantad one would be the "level zero" with the added racial class.

Example:

Drow (level 0).

- Ability Scores: +2 Dexterity, +2 Wisdom or Charisma


-  Fey Origin: Your ancestors were native to the Feywild, so you are considered a fey creature for the purpose of effects that relate to creature origin.


-  Trance: Rather than sleep, drow enter a meditative state known as trance. You need to spend 4 hours in this state to gain the same benefits other races gain from taking a 6-hour extended rest. While in a trance, you are fully aware of your surroundings and notice approaching enemies and other events as normal.


-   Lolth touched: You have your choice of either the Cloud of Darkness or Darkfire power.

- Light Blindness: Abrupt exposure to bright light (such as sunlight or a daylight spell) blinds drow for 1 round. On subsequent rounds, they are dazzled as long as they remain in the affected area.

Drow Standard:

- Same stats and:

-  +2 Int 

-  Immunity to sleep spells and effects, and a +2 racial saving throw bonus against enchantment spells or effects.

-  Spell-Like Abilities: Drow can use the following spell-like abilities once per day: dancing lights, darkness, faerie fire. Caster level equals the drow’s class levels.



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Other option is some drow traits are got by means of racial traits (for example a feat where spending a spell slot drow can use spontaneous magic for dancing lights, darkness and a faerie fire).

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I have thought about a demiplane where all is like for full moon night and when it is discovered drows and shadar-kais start a war to conquest it..

"Say me what you're showing off for, and I'll say you what you lack!" (Spanish saying)

 

Book 13 Anaclet 23 Confucius said: "The Superior Man is in harmony but does not follow the crowd. The inferior man follows the crowd, but is not in harmony"

 

"In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of." - Confucius 

I'm a little tired of the DnD evil = dark skin trope in addiiton to the living underground = dark skin trope.  I can and do change that in my games but it still seems weird.  Also the whole drow evil matriarchy in dominatrix leather is tiresome.  It's like all the stereotypes of nerd fears condensed into one little package.  Again it's not even close to a dealbreaker for me as I will just reskin them in my games but it still seems a little weird, especially to new players.  My gf for instance thought the evil black-skin drow matriarchy might be a little telling.    
I never played the older editions, but did drow really always have all those abilities?  Levitate, faerie fire, darkness, etc?  If EVERY drow can do that, on top of whatever other fighter or cleric or wizard or whatever abilities they have, that seems a bit...  much?
I never played the older editions, but did drow really always have all those abilities?  Levitate, faerie fire, darkness, etc?  If EVERY drow can do that, on top of whatever other fighter or cleric or wizard or whatever abilities they have, that seems a bit...  much?



If I recal correctly in 2e drow powers depended on the creatures class and level.   In addition, most drow powers would be lost if they remained on the surface world for too long.   So PC's typically wouldn't get to use them.


I'm a little tired of the DnD evil = dark skin trope in addiiton to the living underground = dark skin trope.  I can and do change that in my games but it still seems weird.  Also the whole drow evil matriarchy in dominatrix leather is tiresome.  It's like all the stereotypes of nerd fears condensed into one little package.  Again it's not even close to a dealbreaker for me as I will just reskin them in my games but it still seems a little weird, especially to new players.  My gf for instance thought the evil black-skin drow matriarchy might be a little telling.    



This is why I think the traditional Drow belong in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting cause they are really unique to Salvator's novels.
Classic Drow had that ability. Overall a good effort but I would like to see Drow weapons falling apart in daylight again.



Yes... and a form of magic resistance that is strong. Advantage on saves is fine assuming every non-passive spell actually calls for a save, else they are still vulnerable.

Basically I'd like drow to have all their classic abilities back (good or bad) and I don't care about balance. Yes some players will want to play drow and that is understandable but I think the lore should come before the mechanics and for the mechanics to reflect that lore... additional rules (and DM aids/guidelines) can be provided to help integrate this powerful race into a campaign.
There are two humanoid entries this week – Drow and Duergar. Both of these in their classic presentation form whole societies which means they are an easy target for wide ranging variations (possibly by applying class levels). It does not make much sense in that context to peg their level to medium. This also relates to the fact that many people like to play these monstrous humanoids as PCs. These entries have to be designed with this in mind. How do you reconcile base Drow having abilities that outstrip first level PCs?

As for alignment, again there are whole societies of these critters; it is not reasonable to assume they are all the same alignment. Given the reduced mechanical weight of alignment for Next, it might be better to say something like “Drow tend towards evil, but can run from lawful to chaotic. There are also rare individuals that can break from the inherent evilness of Drow society.” This accomplishes several things; it helps bridge the dichotomy of serving a chaotic goddess while having a highly structured society, it emphasizes that the society itself is evil and is not an inborn trait of the species, and explicitly makes room for everyone’s favorite against-type hero.

Also, I don’t like the “goddess/demon queen Lolth” reference. Pick one and stick with it. It is not that hard for those who prefer the other to tweak it to suit.

The Drider is pretty good, but I would like to see some extra detail about how Driders are made.

The Duergar split with the demonic version is fine, but the durzagon back story lacks punch.

Drow get "Know alignment" after 4th level....Ugh. I never understood why that was a Drow power back in the day in the first place--what does a Drow care about someone else's alignment? if they're good, the Drow is going to kill, capture or manipulate them. If they're evil, the Drow is gonna attempt to kill, capture or manipulate them. Like, a lot of Drow spells seem there to help them screw with PCs. Like, Levitate+Darkness has obvious ambush applications. But neither the Drow's role in the game, nor their society, really provide any justification for them having no alignment. 99% of the beings the Drow will interact will be evil, and if they aren't the Drow don't care, they're gonna screw them over anyway.

It does look like they're going back to "Drow are explicitly a race designed to mess with players." They get all these cool powers! But if you play one all those powers disappear in the sun. Most of your magic doesn't work on them and every single one of them can screw with you via levitation and darkness shenanigans. Oh, and they have badass equipment, but if you try to take it dissolves in the sun too.

I'm mostly ok with that--depending on implementation it can make it harder to integrate Drow Player Characters into the game without balance headaches (or else the flip side, you can play a Drow but you don't actually get any of the special stuff Drow get)...and frankly I'm all for that. I don't think there should be any more system support for a Drow PC than there is for a Mind Flayer PC--if you and your DM want to work out how you play a Drow, thats fine, but the basic assumption should be that Drow are monsters like Beholders or Dragons, not a player race like surface Elves.

Also the whole "Driders are Drow who failed Lolth in some way" makes no sense to me whatsoever. Drow worship spiders. Lolth is a spider, at least partially. Isn't remaking Drow in the image of spiders and Lolth, and in a way that provides additional combat power, more of a boon than a curse? Why isn't becoming a Drider something that Drow warriors aspire to?
also, that "does this remind you of RA Salvatore's books" question is sort of pointless and pathetic.

TBH, I don't really get the point of this...
Some monsters change a lot from edition to edition. For those, it makes sense to see which interpretation is most popular, or if there's a way to design them so that all of the different versions are incorporated. "Is this your preferred interpretation of this monster?" is a reasonable thing to ask.

But...many of the monsters they've done these polls for aren't like that. Drow definitely aren't. With minor variations, the standard Drow has been more or less the same from edition to edition. Maybe one or two of their powers would change, but really, if you've fought or interacted with Drow in any edition, you know what to expect from Drow in any other edition (excluding campaigns like Eberron that explicitly try to reimagine them). "The Drow that appear in RA Salvatore's novels" are the Drow that appear everywhere. Its not like even 4e did something groundbreaking and new with them--which is fine, some classic monsters should stay classic, and I'm totally ok with Drow being one of those.

But what the hell is the point of this column and polls? Its literally just "Hey you know that monster that was the exact same in every single edition? Well here's that exact same interpretation again. Does this seem familiar?"

Its...bizarre. Like, I'm not even opposed to the first Monster Manual being about delivering the most "iconic" interpretations of classic D&D monsters. But you don't need a poll to check on monsters that never change anyway.

"Beholders are flying spherical eyeballs with teeth and magic eyestalks. They're total dicks and hang out in dungeons and the underdark for the most part, although not always. Does this sound like a Beholder? Yes or no"
"Fire elementals are firey dudes from a magic fire place who are made of fire who burn you with fire. Is this interpretation too zany and out of the box? Yes or no"

why are they wasting their time with this? Everyone knows what Drow are. If they're not changing anything (which, again, I'm totally fine with), why waste time on columns reiterating that its the same damn monster its always been?
also, one thing I've always thought is strange...

Driders are the cursed Drow who failed an important test, right? I mean, doesn't make a ton of sense to me given that its basically "now you look more like your goddess/that animal you all worship, plus you get cool new powers", but there it is and thats what they're going with.

well...what happens to the Drow who pass the test? if failing turns you into a badass spider hybrid, shouldn't passing the test get you something hella awesome? Why are the two options either bog standard Drow, or Drider? Shouldn't there be some sort of ascended form which demonstrates Lolth's favor?
also, one thing I've always thought is strange...

Driders are the cursed Drow who failed an important test, right? I mean, doesn't make a ton of sense to me given that its basically "now you look more like your goddess/that animal you all worship, plus you get cool new powers", but there it is and thats what they're going with.

well...what happens to the Drow who pass the test? if failing turns you into a badass spider hybrid, shouldn't passing the test get you something hella awesome? Why are the two options either bog standard Drow, or Drider? Shouldn't there be some sort of ascended form which demonstrates Lolth's favor?



Looks like they took that right out of the monster entry for 2e. 

"...  Driders are created by the drow’s dark goddess. When a dark elf of above-average ability reaches 6th level, the goddess may put him or her through a special test. Failures become driders... Because they have failed their goddess’s test, driders are outcasts from their own communities."

The problem is that much of the lore that the drider is based on in lost in the pages of 2e.   
FOR2 Drow of the Underdark answers a lot of these questions.
 


I never played the older editions, but did drow really always have all those abilities?  Levitate, faerie fire, darkness, etc?  If EVERY drow can do that, on top of whatever other fighter or cleric or wizard or whatever abilities they have, that seems a bit...  much?



In 2nd edition, drows had faerie fire and globe of darkness. But more importantly, they had a 50% spell resistance + 2% per level. Just in case you were wondering, when a monster with spell resistance is the target of the spell, the DM (secretly) rolls 1d100 and if he rolls under the spell is ignored.

If I remember correctly my book of drows from 2nd edition, only the nobles had levitate and other spells.

Drows weren't a PC race back then. They were one of the bad guys just like vampires, liches and red dragons. Some players somehow managed to nag a DM into allowing them in their campaign because they read a cool book about a drow ranger that can be a nice guy. Drows were nerfed badly in 4th edition to make it a player race.
I suposse a PC drow with only first level and +0 LA would a cadet, and the standard drow would be the graduate, with levels of hexblade or drow racial parangon classes (Unearthed Arcana, 35. Ed).

Can drows use sunglasses made with mica? For example for helms to be used for raids to surfaces.

I imagine male drows like hexblades (class from complete warrior) or warblade (Tome of Batle: book of nine swords) because always only fighters is boring.

* I like the idea of a drow scorpion god..like Eberron, or other totem beast, for example the praying mantis (empulsa pennata, with darker colour). (what others do you suggest?)



 * The monsters with psionic powers, like duergars, should have got monster stats with psionic powers since the principle. I don´t want use the (no-psionic) mindslayer from MM and after look for the psionic version in the Psionic Powers Handbook.

* Don´t you miss the draegloth?

 

I like the idea of template to add a humanoid shape to some monsters. Let´s imagine PCs are going to interrogate a suspected and he change to a monster shape..(like some alien from "Men in Black" movies or cartoon serie). PCs could be surprised and DM could use it to create stories about monsters living among humans..

* When duergars change to bigger shape I imagine a feral apperance, like a druid wildshape to look a prehistoric Gigantopithecus with viking clothes..

"Say me what you're showing off for, and I'll say you what you lack!" (Spanish saying)

 

Book 13 Anaclet 23 Confucius said: "The Superior Man is in harmony but does not follow the crowd. The inferior man follows the crowd, but is not in harmony"

 

"In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of." - Confucius 

I never played the older editions, but did drow really always have all those abilities?  Levitate, faerie fire, darkness, etc?  If EVERY drow can do that, on top of whatever other fighter or cleric or wizard or whatever abilities they have, that seems a bit...  much?



In 2nd edition, drows had faerie fire and globe of darkness. But more importantly, they had a 50% spell resistance + 2% per level. Just in case you were wondering, when a monster with spell resistance is the target of the spell, the DM (secretly) rolls 1d100 and if he rolls under the spell is ignored.

If I remember correctly my book of drows from 2nd edition, only the nobles had levitate and other spells.

Drows weren't a PC race back then. They were one of the bad guys just like vampires, liches and red dragons. Some players somehow managed to nag a DM into allowing them in their campaign because they read a cool book about a drow ranger that can be a nice guy. Drows were nerfed badly in 4th edition to make it a player race.



Actually, Drow were also a player race, but the rules were different for players.      

Here is the combat block for the drow 'monster ' in 2e.

I totally forgot about the 120' infravision

Show


Combat: The drow’s world is one in which violent conflict is part of everyday life. It should not be surprising then, that most drow encountered, whether alone or in a group, are ready to fight. Drow encountered outside of a drow city are at least 2nd-level fighters. (See Society note below.)


Drow wear finely crafted, non-encumbering, black mesh armor. This extremely strong mail is made with a special alloy of steel containing adamantite. The special alloy, when worked by a drow armorer, yields mail that has the same properties of chain mail +1 to +5, although it does not radiate magic. Even the lowliest drow fighters have, in effect, chain mail +1, while higher level drow have more finely crafted, more powerful, mail. (The armor usually has a +1 for every four levels of experience of the drow wearing it.)


Dark elves also carry small shields (bucklers) fashioned of adamantite. Like drow armor, these special shields may be +1,+2, or even +3, though only the most important drow fighters have +3 bucklers.


Most drow carry a long dagger and a short sword of adamantite alloy. These daggers and swords can have a +1 to +3 bonus, and drow nobles may have daggers and swords of +4 bonus. Some drow (50%) also carry small crossbows that can be held in one hand and will shoot darts up to 60 yards. The darts only inflict 1-3 points of damage, but dark elves commonly coat them with poison that renders a victim unconscious, unless he rolls a successful saving throw vs. poison, with a -4 penalty. The effects last 2d4 hours.


A few drow carry adamantite maces (+1 to +5 bonus) instead of blades. Others carry small javelins coated with the same poison as the darts. They have a range of 90 yards with a short range bonus of +3, a +2 at medium, and a +1 at long.


Drow move silently and have superior infravision (120 feet). They also have the same intuitive sense about their underground world as dwarves do, and can detect secret doors with the same chance of success as other elves. A dark elf can only be surprised by an opponent on a roll of 1 on 1dl0.


All dark elves receive training in magic, and are able to use the following spells once per day: dancing lightsfaerie fire, and darkness. Drow above 4th level can use levitateknow alignment, and detect magic once per day. Drow priests can also use detect lieclairvoyancesuggestion, and dispel magic once per day. (See also Wizard Spells, Player’s Handbook)


Perhaps it is the common use of magic in drow society that has given the dark elves their incredible resistance. Drow have a base resistance to magic of 50%, which increases by 2% for each level of experience. (Multi-classed drow gain the bonus from only the class in which they have the highest level.) All dark elves save vs. all forms of magical attack (including devices) with a +2 bonus. Thus, a 5th-level drow has a 60% base magic resistance and a +2 bonus to her saving throws vs. spells that get past her magic resistance.


Drow encountered in a group always have a leader of a higher level than the rest of the party. If 10 or more drow are encountered, a fighter/mage of at least 3rd level in each class is leading them. If 20 drow are encountered, then, in addition to the higher level fighter/mage, there is a fighter/priest of at least the 6th level in both classes. If there are more than 30, up to 50% are priests and the leader is at least a 7th-level fighter/8th-level priest, with a 5th-level fighter/4th-level mage for an assistant, in addition to the other high level leaders.


Dark elves do have one great weakness – bright light. Because the drow have lived so long in the earth, rarely venturing to the surface, they are no longer able to tolerate bright light of any kind. Drow within the radius of a light or continual light spell are 90% likely to be seen. In addition, they lose 2 points from their Dexterity and attack with a -2 penalty inside the area of these spells. Characters subject to spells cast by drow affected by a light or continual light spell add a +2 bonus to their saving throws. If drow are attacking a target that is in the area of effect of a light or continual light spell, they suffer an additional -1 penalty to their attack rolls, and targets of drow magical attacks save at an additional +1. These penalties are cumulative (i.e., if both the drow and their targets are in the area of effect of a light spell, the drow suffer a -3 penalty to their attack rolls and the targets gain a +3).


Because of the serious negative effects of strong light on the drow, they are 75% likely to leave an area of bright light, unless they are in battle. Light sources like torches, lanterns, magical weapons, or faerie fire spells, do not affect drow.






"The fundamental tragedy of drow society is the tension between a drive toward a strict social order with ranked noble houses and rigid social class distinctions, on the one hand, and on the other hand Lolth's chaotic and whimsical nature."

The "fundamental tragedy" feels a lot more like a "fundamental thematic incoherence". Of literally every society described in the PHB and the monster manual, Drow are perhaps most defined by their relationship with their deity. Pretty much everything about them (short of a bunch of thematic incoherence) revolves around her -- and yet they're given a society that's strongly lawful in a cool way and then babblespeaked into trying to justify them as chaotic despite the fact that they supposedly have a "strict social order". That's frankly stupid. If you replace every instance of "chaotic" with "lawful" in the description of Drow it makes so much more sense.

Serously, why are Drow chaotic evil? Dunno, Lolth is? Why is Lolth chaotic evil? Because it sounds MORE EVIL? Why does this group of people who are supposedly chaotic evil run what's basically the poster child for a lawful evil society? Dunno. No reason. Alignments along the LE-CE spectrum were assigned essentially at random early on and we've doggedly stuck with them regardless of how godawful of a fit they are. Can't rock the boat!

Drow are just chock full of thematic misses so obvious that it hurts. Drow's random spells include a level 2 mobility spell that helps them reach high places and cross gaps. I'm pretty sure I can guess what spell the spider-themed race what worships the spider goddess uses to get up to high places or across gaps. Wait? What? It's levitate? What the actual heck? (Also: Why do Drow build their cities such that some places are accessible only through levitation? Do they just accept that when they go to the bank they'd better hurry if they don't want to be stuck there all day? Levitation doesn't last forever.)

Oh, and I see that they can all also randomly cast a powerful low-level control spell. Well, that's a slam dunk. It's pretty awesome I guess that servants of the spider goddess can all cast W- wait, what? Faerie fire? Why????

Copy what other people have said about the incoherence of Drow having detect alignment and drider transformation being a "punishment".

Look, I know that there's a zero percent chance of drow improving even a tiny tiny bit because random awful design decisions made a million years ago must never ever ever ever ever be touched even a little bit, because there's not even an iota of a chance that a modern professional could make any improvements whatsoever to the absolute perfection of design that was birthed by some dude way back when, but let's at least take a moment out to reflect on the loss of the coherent, cool Drow that might have been.

Also, these polls really need an option for "This is reasonably close to the classic D&D version of [Monstername], which isn't a good thing because the classic D&D version of [monstername] is not D&D's finest hour" instead of conflating "looks the same as the old guy" and "is good". I mean, can we at least acknowledge that it's a possibility that the classic designs are not perfect in every conceivable facet? Literally, is there anything silly enough that we'd even consider reworking it at least a hair?
Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
I'm a little tired of the DnD evil = dark skin trope in addiiton to the living underground = dark skin trope.  I can and do change that in my games but it still seems weird.  Also the whole drow evil matriarchy in dominatrix leather is tiresome.  It's like all the stereotypes of nerd fears condensed into one little package.  Again it's not even close to a dealbreaker for me as I will just reskin them in my games but it still seems a little weird, especially to new players.  My gf for instance thought the evil black-skin drow matriarchy might be a little telling.    



This is why I think the traditional Drow belong in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting cause they are really unique to Salvator's novels.



 

Nope Greyhawk. TheGreyhawk and FR Drow were more or less mechanically identical and culturally very similar.


3rd ed started to water them down while 4th ed Drow were kind of erm not a great version of the race. Drow were generally level 2+, and the weakest one had +1 weapons and armor along with drow cloak and boots that more or less made you invisible and silent. They also had 50% MR+2% per level and had those spell like abilities and picked up a few more at level 4 while priests got some more as well. A 4th level Drow priest had 10 spell like abilities and excellent ability scores. In 1st ed a PC Drow was introduced in Unearthed Arcana and they had all of the NPC abilities and had very generous level limits by 1st ed standards. The Drow first turned up in a series of early AD&D adventures and they were later included in the Fiend Folio AD&D book.


2nd ed Mechanically Drow were virtually identical but PC Drow lost most of their abilities if they lived on the surface. If you were in an underdark game or if the DM had no problem of you keeping all of the NPC abilities you could be a full powered Drow but advance at half the speed.


3rd ed watered them down a bit. They lost their classic equipment that disintegrated in the sun and magic resistance was changed. Still potent but not as good as AD&D MR.


I want full powered Drow back with all of their classic abilities + nasty weapons. For PC Drow the DM should make a higher powered game for them, use this strange concept know as "saying NO" or PC Drow lose most of their abilities on the surface.

 They were designed as powerful NPCs to challenge high level opponents.  

 Fear is the Mind Killer

 

"The fundamental tragedy of drow society is the tension between a drive toward a strict social order with ranked noble houses and rigid social class distinctions, on the one hand, and on the other hand Lolth's chaotic and whimsical nature."

The "fundamental tragedy" feels a lot more like a "fundamental thematic incoherence". Of literally every society described in the PHB and the monster manual, Drow are perhaps most defined by their relationship with their deity. Pretty much everything about them (short of a bunch of thematic incoherence) revolves around her -- and yet they're given a society that's strongly lawful in a cool way and then babblespeaked into trying to justify them as chaotic despite the fact that they supposedly have a "strict social order". That's frankly stupid. If you replace every instance of "chaotic" with "lawful" in the description of Drow it makes so much more sense.

Serously, why are Drow chaotic evil? Dunno, Lolth is? Why is Lolth chaotic evil? Because it sounds MORE EVIL? Why does this group of people who are supposedly chaotic evil run what's basically the poster child for a lawful evil society? Dunno. No reason. Alignments along the LE-CE spectrum were assigned essentially at random early on and we've doggedly stuck with them regardless of how godawful of a fit they are. Can't rock the boat!

Drow are just chock full of thematic misses so obvious that it hurts. Drow's random spells include a level 2 mobility spell that helps them reach high places and cross gaps. I'm pretty sure I can guess what spell the spider-themed race what worships the spider goddess uses to get up to high places or across gaps. Wait? What? It's levitate? What the actual heck? (Also: Why do Drow build their cities such that some places are accessible only through levitation? Do they just accept that when they go to the bank they'd better hurry if they don't want to be stuck there all day? Levitation doesn't last forever.)

Oh, and I see that they can all also randomly cast a powerful low-level control spell. Well, that's a slam dunk. It's pretty awesome I guess that servants of the spider goddess can all cast W- wait, what? Faerie fire? Why????

Copy what other people have said about the incoherence of Drow having detect alignment and drider transformation being a "punishment".

Look, I know that there's a zero percent chance of drow improving even a tiny tiny bit because random awful design decisions made a million years ago must never ever ever ever ever be touched even a little bit, because there's not even an iota of a chance that a modern professional could make any improvements whatsoever to the absolute perfection of design that was birthed by some dude way back when, but let's at least take a moment out to reflect on the loss of the coherent, cool Drow that might have been.

Also, these polls really need an option for "This is reasonably close to the classic D&D version of [Monstername], which isn't a good thing because the classic D&D version of [monstername] is not D&D's finest hour" instead of conflating "looks the same as the old guy" and "is good". I mean, can we at least acknowledge that it's a possibility that the classic designs are not perfect in every conceivable facet? Literally, is there anything silly enough that we'd even consider reworking it at least a hair?



What's missing is that the entire drow race is basically enslaved by Lolth.    There are those who have escaped and there are other drow gods who oppose Loth, but they are weak in power and few in number.   Of course the short blurb on drow in the 5e monster description just isn't enough to answer all your questions.

The thematic issues you are having are really the subject of suplimentary material .     Most people who have played D&D for a long time know all this lore and it isn't an issue for them.    Of course, much of the extended lore is FR specific (like FOR2) and not generic enough for other campaign settings. 


Now the 2e monster block did try to explain some of this. I just hope the 5e monster descriptions will be much more detailed then what we are seeing now. 


Show


Habitat/Society: Long ago, dark elves were part of the elven race that roamed the world’s forests. Not long after they were created, though, the elves found themselves torn into rival factions – one following the tenets of evil, the other owning the ideals of good (or at least neutrality). A great civil war between the elves followed, and the selfish elves who followed the paths of evil and chaos were driven into the depths of the earth, into the bleak, lightless caverns and deep tunnels of the underworld. These dark elves became the drow.


The drow no longer wish to live upon the surface of the earth. In fact, few who live on the surface ever see a drow. But the dark elves resent the elves and faeries who drove them away, and scheme against those that dwell in the sunlight.


Drow live in magnificently dark, gloomy cities in the underworld that few humans or demihumans ever see. They construct their buildings entirely out of stone and minerals, carved into weird, fantastic shapes. Those few surface creatures that have seen a dark elf city (and returned to tell the tale) report that it is the stuff of which nightmares are made.


Drow society is fragmented into many opposing noble houses and merchant families, all scrambling for power. In fact, all drow carry brooches inscribed with the symbol of the merchant or noble group they are allied with, though they hide these and do not show them often. The drow believe that the strongest should rule; their rigid class system, with a long and complicated list of titles and prerogatives, is based on the idea.


They worship a dark goddess, called Lolth by some, and her priestesses hold very high places in society. Since most drow priests are female, women tend to fill nearly all positions of great importance.


Drow fighters go through rigorous training while they are young. Those who fail the required tests are killed at the program’s conclusion. That is why dark elf fighters of less than 2nd level are rarely seen outside a drow city.


Drow often use giant lizards as pack animals, and frequently take  bugbears or troglodytes as servants. Drow cities are havens for evil beings, including mind flayers, and drow are allied with many of the underworld’s evil inhabitants. On the other hand, they are constantly at war with many of their neighbors beneath the earth, including dwarves or dark gnomes(svirfneblin) who settle to close to a drow city. Dark elves frequently keep slaves of all types, including past allies who have failed to live up to drow expectations.

 



What's missing is that the entire drow race is basically enslaved by Lolth.    There are those who have escaped and there are other drow gods who oppose Loth, but they are weak in power and few in number.   Of course the short blurb on drow in the 5e monster description just isn't enough to answer all your questions.

The thematic issues you are having are really the subject of suplimentary material .     Most people who have played D&D for a long time know all this lore and it isn't an issue for them.    Of course, much of the extended lore is FR specific (like FOR2) and not generic enough for other campaign settings. 


Now the 2e monster block did try to explain some of this. I just hope the 5e monster descriptions will be much more detailed then what we are seeing now. 


Show


Habitat/Society: Long ago, dark elves were part of the elven race that roamed the world’s forests. Not long after they were created, though, the elves found themselves torn into rival factions – one following the tenets of evil, the other owning the ideals of good (or at least neutrality). A great civil war between the elves followed, and the selfish elves who followed the paths of evil and chaos were driven into the depths of the earth, into the bleak, lightless caverns and deep tunnels of the underworld. These dark elves became the drow.


The drow no longer wish to live upon the surface of the earth. In fact, few who live on the surface ever see a drow. But the dark elves resent the elves and faeries who drove them away, and scheme against those that dwell in the sunlight.


Drow live in magnificently dark, gloomy cities in the underworld that few humans or demihumans ever see. They construct their buildings entirely out of stone and minerals, carved into weird, fantastic shapes. Those few surface creatures that have seen a dark elf city (and returned to tell the tale) report that it is the stuff of which nightmares are made.


Drow society is fragmented into many opposing noble houses and merchant families, all scrambling for power. In fact, all drow carry brooches inscribed with the symbol of the merchant or noble group they are allied with, though they hide these and do not show them often. The drow believe that the strongest should rule; their rigid class system, with a long and complicated list of titles and prerogatives, is based on the idea.


They worship a dark goddess, called Lolth by some, and her priestesses hold very high places in society. Since most drow priests are female, women tend to fill nearly all positions of great importance.


Drow fighters go through rigorous training while they are young. Those who fail the required tests are killed at the program’s conclusion. That is why dark elf fighters of less than 2nd level are rarely seen outside a drow city.


Drow often use giant lizards as pack animals, and frequently take  bugbears or troglodytes as servants. Drow cities are havens for evil beings, including mind flayers, and drow are allied with many of the underworld’s evil inhabitants. On the other hand, they are constantly at war with many of their neighbors beneath the earth, including dwarves or dark gnomes(svirfneblin) who settle to close to a drow city. Dark elves frequently keep slaves of all types, including past allies who have failed to live up to drow expectations.

 




That addresses nothing at all. I'm perfectly aware of the extended lore surrounding Drow; I didn't just start thinking the design of the race is dropped-on-head stupid this morning. (If anything, the description in the column blessedly omits some of the stupidest stuff.) Drow are thematically incoherent at every level because arbitrary and shortsighted (bad, essentially) decisions regarding their special magic powers and alignment were made a long time ago and have calcified into gospel.
Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
In my opinion a D&D society can have got a strict hierarchy and be caothic..why? Becaus lawful accept sacrifices to obey the rules but caothics, if they don´t like any rules, only obey to avoid punishment or get a reward. Think about criminal gangs where punishment are...brutal and promises are kept to preserve the prestige for negotations. 

When I think about D&D caothic societies I rebember the Spanish taifas from book of History and the failed states when I read international news.

My house-rulle allow being caothic aligment behaving like lawful only for allegiance (religion or fatherland, for example). It allows in my homebreed settins "caothic" groups can survive menaces like a lawful conqueror army.

 

 
Dark elves from Lineage II



 Duk'zarist (Anima rpg)

 

Dark Elf (Sacred, videogame).

The dark elves can be pale skin.

"Say me what you're showing off for, and I'll say you what you lack!" (Spanish saying)

 

Book 13 Anaclet 23 Confucius said: "The Superior Man is in harmony but does not follow the crowd. The inferior man follows the crowd, but is not in harmony"

 

"In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of." - Confucius 

What's missing is that the entire drow race is basically enslaved by Lolth.    There are those who have escaped and there are other drow gods who oppose Loth, but they are weak in power and few in number.   Of course the short blurb on drow in the 5e monster description just isn't enough to answer all your questions.

The thematic issues you are having are really the subject of suplimentary material .     Most people who have played D&D for a long time know all this lore and it isn't an issue for them.    Of course, much of the extended lore is FR specific (like FOR2) and not generic enough for other campaign settings. 


Now the 2e monster block did try to explain some of this. I just hope the 5e monster descriptions will be much more detailed then what we are seeing now. 


Show


Habitat/Society: Long ago, dark elves were part of the elven race that roamed the world’s forests. Not long after they were created, though, the elves found themselves torn into rival factions – one following the tenets of evil, the other owning the ideals of good (or at least neutrality). A great civil war between the elves followed, and the selfish elves who followed the paths of evil and chaos were driven into the depths of the earth, into the bleak, lightless caverns and deep tunnels of the underworld. These dark elves became the drow.


The drow no longer wish to live upon the surface of the earth. In fact, few who live on the surface ever see a drow. But the dark elves resent the elves and faeries who drove them away, and scheme against those that dwell in the sunlight.


Drow live in magnificently dark, gloomy cities in the underworld that few humans or demihumans ever see. They construct their buildings entirely out of stone and minerals, carved into weird, fantastic shapes. Those few surface creatures that have seen a dark elf city (and returned to tell the tale) report that it is the stuff of which nightmares are made.


Drow society is fragmented into many opposing noble houses and merchant families, all scrambling for power. In fact, all drow carry brooches inscribed with the symbol of the merchant or noble group they are allied with, though they hide these and do not show them often. The drow believe that the strongest should rule; their rigid class system, with a long and complicated list of titles and prerogatives, is based on the idea.


They worship a dark goddess, called Lolth by some, and her priestesses hold very high places in society. Since most drow priests are female, women tend to fill nearly all positions of great importance.


Drow fighters go through rigorous training while they are young. Those who fail the required tests are killed at the program’s conclusion. That is why dark elf fighters of less than 2nd level are rarely seen outside a drow city.


Drow often use giant lizards as pack animals, and frequently take  bugbears or troglodytes as servants. Drow cities are havens for evil beings, including mind flayers, and drow are allied with many of the underworld’s evil inhabitants. On the other hand, they are constantly at war with many of their neighbors beneath the earth, including dwarves or dark gnomes(svirfneblin) who settle to close to a drow city. Dark elves frequently keep slaves of all types, including past allies who have failed to live up to drow expectations.

 




That addresses nothing at all. I'm perfectly aware of the extended lore surrounding Drow; I didn't just start thinking the design of the race is dropped-on-head stupid this morning. (If anything, the description in the column blessedly omits some of the stupidest stuff.) Drow are thematically incoherent at every level because arbitrary and shortsighted (bad, essentially) decisions regarding their special magic powers and alignment were made a long time ago and have calcified into gospel.



well I think D&D has a right to its own mythology.   If everything is just a bland empty template then D&D is providing nothing but mechanics.


The D&D lore/mythology is more important than the mechanics.

 Fear is the Mind Killer

 

Also the whole "Driders are Drow who failed Lolth in some way" makes no sense to me whatsoever. Drow worship spiders. Lolth is a spider, at least partially. Isn't remaking Drow in the image of spiders and Lolth, and in a way that provides additional combat power, more of a boon than a curse? Why isn't becoming a Drider something that Drow warriors aspire to?

1. Lolth is fickle and vain. She herself doesn't like her own spiderform but has to wear it as a curse of Corellon which she can not break. But anyone who dares to mention this is marked for death. Except if she herself "mentions" it by punishing drow with her own hated form. Again, anyone who dares to point that contradiction out is marked for death

2. Driders get better at combat, but lose most comforts that one aspires to enjoy as the spoils of one's combat progress. Yeah, I am the greatest warrior, but unfortunately I am also bereft of all my private parts I would need to properly enjoy my groupies.


 

(Also: Why do Drow build their cities such that some places are accessible only through levitation?

Because it's a pain in the ### for the slave races and shows them their inferiority. It's also a good defense to delay invaders. 
well I think D&D has a right to its own mythology.   If everything is just a bland empty template then D&D is providing nothing but mechanics.


The D&D lore/mythology is more important than the mechanics.


I agree with both of these statements, which is why it's very important that the lore be coherent, thematic, consistent and cool. I'm NOT arguing that D&D should provide just a bland empty template that's nothing but mechanics. I'm arguing that D&D should provide a mythology/lore that's as good as possible, and which is carefully designed to be thematic and cool, rather than just arbitrarily slopped together. Nowhere in my post did I suggest that they should just chuck out lore and give me bland unflavored mechanics. I'm suggesting that they should adjust the lore to be MORE thematic and coherent. I don't hate lore; I think that the lore deserves better than what it's getting! I care so much about lore that I don't want it to suck.

If somebody doesn't really care about the lore, what it means or entails, and thinks of monsters as just piles of numbers that don't need to be thematically coherent, I'd expect they'd be just fine with the mess that Drow thematics are.

Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
Drow get "Know alignment" after 4th level....Ugh.

I've always been curious as to why (outside of BECMI or CoW) we don't have level-locked abilities on PC races.

Drow get "Know alignment" after 4th level....Ugh.

I've always been curious as to why (outside of BECMI or CoW) we don't have level-locked abilities on PC races.


Don't forget Races of the Wild!
Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
I just can't take Draw seriously. Their actions, society, and patron deity is backwards and contradictory. Yet game and story designers try to make their madness make sense enough for you to care.

Just evil elves with spider affinity and darkvison is fine for me.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!


I agree with both of these statements, which is why it's very important that the lore be coherent, thematic, consistent and cool. I'm NOT arguing that D&D should provide just a bland empty template that's nothing but mechanics. I'm arguing that D&D should provide a mythology/lore that's as good as possible, and which is carefully designed to be thematic and cool, rather than just arbitrarily slopped together. Nowhere in my post did I suggest that they should just chuck out lore and give me bland unflavored mechanics. I'm suggesting that they should adjust the lore to be MORE thematic and coherent. I don't hate lore; I think that the lore deserves better than what it's getting! I care so much about lore that I don't want it to suck.

If somebody doesn't really care about the lore, what it means or entails, and thinks of monsters as just piles of numbers that don't need to be thematically coherent, I'd expect they'd be just fine with the mess that Drow thematics are.




I guess people really like incoherent, inconsistent and not cool stories. Isn't most of the drow fluff from R.A. Salvatore's Drizzt series?
I guess people really like incoherent, inconsistent and not cool stories. Isn't most of the drow fluff from R.A. Salvatore's Drizzt series?

Inconsistent implies mutable.
"This is how they always are, in all worlds, all the time, no exceptions" is bad.

well I think D&D has a right to its own mythology.   If everything is just a bland empty template then D&D is providing nothing but mechanics.


The D&D lore/mythology is more important than the mechanics.


I agree with both of these statements, which is why it's very important that the lore be coherent, thematic, consistent and cool. I'm NOT arguing that D&D should provide just a bland empty template that's nothing but mechanics. I'm arguing that D&D should provide a mythology/lore that's as good as possible, and which is carefully designed to be thematic and cool, rather than just arbitrarily slopped together. Nowhere in my post did I suggest that they should just chuck out lore and give me bland unflavored mechanics. I'm suggesting that they should adjust the lore to be MORE thematic and coherent. I don't hate lore; I think that the lore deserves better than what it's getting! I care so much about lore that I don't want it to suck.

If somebody doesn't really care about the lore, what it means or entails, and thinks of monsters as just piles of numbers that don't need to be thematically coherent, I'd expect they'd be just fine with the mess that Drow thematics are.




I guess you would really have to explain what you don't like about the traditional D&D drow mythology.  I for one loved FOR2 and several of the RAS novels.   I really don't see anything about the drow lore that is uncool or non-coherent.   



I agree with both of these statements, which is why it's very important that the lore be coherent, thematic, consistent and cool. I'm NOT arguing that D&D should provide just a bland empty template that's nothing but mechanics. I'm arguing that D&D should provide a mythology/lore that's as good as possible, and which is carefully designed to be thematic and cool, rather than just arbitrarily slopped together. Nowhere in my post did I suggest that they should just chuck out lore and give me bland unflavored mechanics. I'm suggesting that they should adjust the lore to be MORE thematic and coherent. I don't hate lore; I think that the lore deserves better than what it's getting! I care so much about lore that I don't want it to suck.

If somebody doesn't really care about the lore, what it means or entails, and thinks of monsters as just piles of numbers that don't need to be thematically coherent, I'd expect they'd be just fine with the mess that Drow thematics are.




I guess people really like incoherent, inconsistent and not cool stories. Isn't most of the drow fluff from R.A. Salvatore's Drizzt series?



Not much, RAS was rather true to the D&D lore.    


I just can't take Draw seriously. Their actions, society, and patron deity is backwards and contradictory. Yet game and story designers try to make their madness make sense enough for you to care. Just evil elves with spider affinity and darkvison is fine for me.



What is backwards and contradictory about it?    


Essentially, they have a hodgepodge of random, unthematic abilities (in some cases when very thematic but similar abilities are available) and they're stuck being called chaotic evil despite running what's the poster child for a lawful evil society.
Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
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