[Let's Read] Drow of the Underdark


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Edit: Previously, The Complete Book of Elves

This is the first RPG book I ever bought, and surprisingly, it's still in pretty good condition. My first character ever, for AD&D 1st edition, was a dark elf illusionist, and I didn't really understand how hated dark elves were in wider society, but I did the whole "keep the cloak up, use illusion spells well" thing and it mostly went okay once I realized that, for example, surface elves would attack me on sight. Plus I got +1 Intelligence, which was pretty nice.

Anyway, here we go.

Note that the cover continues the long line of art depictions of drow having nothing to do with their description. Every mention of them says their skin is jet black, but for whatever reason, the art usually has them with dark grey, dusky purple, brownish, or some other color, and this one is no exception. "Light brown" is not the skin color of any drow ever. Maybe it's Drizzt with a sunburn? On the other hand, at least it's not one of the pictures that shows drow as fantasy African people...

I remember spending a long time when I was young wondering how he got that gold thing on his forehead to stay in place.

Wikipedia tells me that the word "drow" is cognate with "trow," which is another way of saying "troll." It also spends a paragraph going over Gygax misremembering where he got the idea of the drow from. Apparently they first showed up in G3: Hall of the Fire Giant King, which I haven't played, which then leads to D1: Descent into the Depths of the Earth, through the rest of the D series, into Q1, etc., etc., and ends with the party killing the demon queen Lolth after whittling away her bloated 66 (!) HP.

Those were simpler times.

Table of Contents
  • Introduction: Drow In The Realms
  • The Nature of Dark Elves
  • Dark Elven Society
  • Drow Religion
  • The High History of the Drow
  • Drow Spells
  • Drow Magical Items
  • Drow Craftwork
  • Drow Language
  • Drow Nomenclature
  • A Selected Glossary of Deep Drow
  • Dark Elven Runes
  • The Spider And The Axe: War In The Depths
  • The Underdark
  • Monsters of the Underdark
If I remember right, by far the best chapters are the ones with the spells and magic items. There were some seriously awesome ideas in there even if you hate the very idea of the drow.
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Unka Josh

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Drow were always a source for great munchkin-ness; the fact that they were created as a challenge for high level PCs ensured that they'd always be a bit broken.


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Introduction: Drow in the Realms

Drow. The Dark Elves. Those Who Have Turned to Evil. In elven tongues, they are referred to by several names: "tirl aukhbhet-ess," "tuer lothnil," and "duiss aszbhar." All of these translate to "The Accursed." The elegant, dark and deadly drow are a hated and feared race.
Further evidence that elves are dicks--look at all the different ways they have of insulting people.

The intro here is mostly talking up how terrible the drow are. They mostly (well, okay, only) come out at night, raid villages and caravans, are totally untrustworthy even by other drow, etc. There's a random quote, attributed to "a dozen hire-swords and caravan-guards," that's pretty funny.
Were they not divided into warring factions, they'd no doubt have overcome a realm or two before this--and mayhap (quietly, now; they've spies everywhere) even have already, on the sly, here on the very sunlit surface of Faerun! Eh--smile not! Have ye not heard of strange magic and doings, and this an' that going short, that never ran out before? Well--'tis going below, mark ye--to them.
I can totally imagine drow conspiracy theorists ranting that any unpopular decision from their local lord or the king is actually caused by drow mind control magic or being replaced by drow agents. Drow are apparently the Illuminati of the Forgotten Realms, at least when the Red Wizards aren't the Illuminati. Or the Zhentarim. Or the Cult of Bane. Or...

No wonder good managed to survive--all the evil groups probably spend most of their time trying to out-scheme each other.

Anyway, since the conceit here is that it's actually Ed Greenwood in the Forgotten Realms, the next bit is him going to seek out Elminster to ask him what's up with the drow. He heads to the mage's tower, hears a sound from the direction of a pool on the side, walks off that way, and finds Elminster sitting on a rock and smoking a pipe while a drow woman skinny-dips in the pool. Apparently, his old apprentice, "Susprina Arkhenneld." He's never heard of professional detachment, it seems. Or ethics.


And, they both tell him about the dark elves, leading to this book, though it does say that dark elves of other worlds, "may vary in customs and details from the information given herein." I don't actually know if the dark elves are played up in any other worlds. I guess the original drow were Greyhawk drow, but they still worship Lolth, have an affinity with spiders, etc.

That's it. It's pretty much just the framing device.

Next up: Chapter 1: the Nature of Dark Elves
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Emo hair power!
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The Greyhawk drow were generally just less extreme. They seemed to be matriarchal, but I don't think there was any evidence that man hating was religious doctrine. They didn't have any of the BDSM overtones and while spiders were definitely their thing, they weren't quite to the level of 'we know you liked spiders so we put spiders in your spider' that Forgotten Realms took them too.



Social Justice Galliard
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Annnnnnnnnnnnnd tagged.

This is one of the best/worst books of second edition.


Shadow Mage
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I vaguely remember reading through a copy of this book. Drow are one of my favorite races. I've had more than a couple D&D characters who were Drow. (None modeled after D'rizzle though.)

Rachel Cartacos

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Oh this should be fun!

I wonder if the drow in this book will do anything as evil as some of the elves from the complete book did.


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I don't actually know if the dark elves are played up in any other worlds.
They are fairly important in Eberron, where there are three kinds of drow, all fairly different from the baseline Loth worshiping drow.

There are also some in the Points of Light setting, who are fairly similar, just more willing to work with and trade with non-drow. I mean, they'll still be condescending as the Nine Hells and probably stab you in the back, and they are at least going to cheat you on the price, but they aren't going to kill you on sight and you can even get citizenship.
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