Learn More about the Drow in D&D's Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes

Todd Kenreck: Today, we're talking with Jeremy Crawford about one of the most popular sub-races for the elves, the Drow, the dark elves.

Jeremy Crawford: So the Drow are the elves who in the ancient days listened to Lolth's call, as all elves did. But they were the elves who remained faithful to her. Right as Lolth's betrayal of Corellon, the creator of elves, right as that betrayal was almost complete, the other elves, listening to the call of the other elf gods, pulled back. They realized that even though Corellon was a distant god, still Corellon was their parents and they decided, "We will be faithful." So they then turned their back on Lolth. The Drow were the ones who stayed with her and they, along with their god, were cast even further away from the grace of Arvandor than the rest of the elves were. They were cast literally into darkness. They became a people wholly dedicated to Lolth and her scheming and for many, many centuries were viewed in the multi-verse as a people of evil. In fact, the society influenced by Lolth is indeed evil. I mean, it is a wretched thing filled with slavery and very dark magic involving demons.

It's highly gendered society where in contrast to some of the darkly gendered societies on the surface, which have often been patriarchal, there it's matriarchal and where the male Drow have a subservient role. That said, as we know from our most famous Drow, Drizzt, it is possible for one of the dark elves and even many of the dark elves to break free of Lolth's influence. They still have free will. Many of the Drow keep going because they have power, because within that society, a society that, in some ways, gathers together elven magic better than many other elven societies do, they're able to marshal great might and build these mighty houses with soldiers of various species, monsters at their beck and call. They're able to rule over vast portions of the Underdark and so like any mortal, many Drow are drawn by power and their god feeds it to them and many of them are tangled up in this web of deceit and betrayal where the whisper of Lolth is constantly encouraging them to back stab each other, to get just a bit more powerful.

I often think of one of the best portrayals I've ever seen of what I imagine Drow society to be like was the old mini series, I Claudius, showing a lot of the terrible scheming that went on in the Roman empire of all the people poisoning each other and lying to each other and committing adultery with each other. It's sort of like that series is sort of like a snapshot of what Drow society is like. But there are Drow like Drizzt who walk their own path, who, even if they don't know it intellectually, know that like all other elves, they are descended from Corellon and like other elves, have the opportunity to start getting hints that maybe Corellon isn't quite as mad at them all as it always seems. So some of them, they begin to respond to the call of the light within themselves and that often for me is one of the most interesting stories you can tell with the Drow is the story of a person who is raised up in a totally corrupt culture that proudly tramples the downtrodden, that enslaves other peoples.

Yet, you are a person who stands up against it, who says, "No more," and so I think the Drow actually have a lot of great storytelling potential when you start going down that path. I think that's also part of why Drizzt has so much appeal, that in a way, that it's far more heroic when a person stands up against their society that is doing so much that is wrong and says, "I will not be a part of this," and that's really his story and I think that could be the story of a lot of really interesting Drow player characters. Now Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes also introduces in its beastiary section a number of new Drow stat blocks. There are also Eladrin stat blocks. There are also Shadar-kai stat blocks so that the DM gets to have some new elf toys to play with just as the players get some new elf toys to play with. The new Drow stat blocks help flesh out the spectrum of Drow options that we introduced in the Monster Manual and specifically focusing on higher challenge ratings.

So we have the really powerful stat block for a Drow matron mother. Watch out if you go up against her. We have a Drow Arachnomancer. We have a Drow favored consort, which is a really powerful mage who is dedicated to a matron mother. We have Drow inquisitors. Not a whole lot more about driders. But the book goes into a lot of depth about the Drow pantheon, as well as going into greater depth about all of the other elf gods. It goes into detail on the fact that Drow society has this various houses that vy against each other. The book also talks about the fact that Drow society has developed differently in some D&D worlds. So we talk a little bit about the Drow in Eberron. There are mention of the fact that the dark elves of Ki-rin actually look different from Drow in other parts of the multiverse. They do not have the charcoal or purplish skin that many Drow have in other worlds.

Again, none of this should be a surprise once a person reads all of the elf storytelling in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes because a big part of the elf story is originally they were mutable. Originally, they were a people who could assume almost any form. That helps explain why there are so many different ways that elves look, from not only these variants among dark elves, but even think about variances among high elves. Some high elves in D&D worlds are very pale. Others, like the sun elves, can have a golden cast to their skin or moon elves can almost have a violet quality to it, yet, they're all high elves. Wood elves have a variety of different appearances and so again, even Drow can have various appearance and so the book touches on that a bit, that the elf story is a fascinating one and it extends through the D&D cosmos in a variety of really fascinating ways. We also talk a bit about the fact that on some worlds, the name of Lolth is not even known, just as the name Corellon is not known.

Yet, there are sort of, it's almost like echoes in the blood, where even if, and this is true in our world too, even if you don't know the name of your parents, you still bear your ancestry within your blood. So even those dark elves who might not know the name of Lolth, they still have been shaped by her influence and just as all elves, including Drow, are originally descended from Corellon. Now one of the neat twists too that we talk about in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes is going back to this notion of changeability is we talk a bit more about something that was discussed in the Player's Handbook and that is there are certain elves who are blessed by Corellon because one thing we also hint at is that even though Corellon was upset with the elves for turning on him, there is also some love in Corellon for his children and some of these children are seeming to be particularly blessed and one of the signs of this blessing is they are able to change their sex.

So when these elves awaken from their trance at the end of a long rest, they can decide whether they are male or female or neither, depending on the elf's choice. Now one thing we talk about in the book is this blessing is horrific to the Drow. It is viewed as a blessing of Corellon. If it appears in one of the Drow, it is considered to be extremely subversive because unlike other elves, their entire society is gendered. So the ability for a person each day to at will be male or female, to a Drow is considered to be an amazing form of resistance and of potential anarchy and so the elves who have this blessing are often ones who will then become heroes who will seek out peace with other types of elves and will, despite the animosity that other elves have for the Drow, these blessed Drow will often then be permitted to seek sanctuary in the temples of Corellon because the other elves cannot deny that if a Drow bears this blessing, they cannot deny that the blessing of Corellon is upon them.

So this is another neat storytelling twist that the book introduces that I think could lead to some really interesting storytelling in people's campaigns.




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