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Playing a Drow Without Being a Drizzt Clone

Written by Krystal - Published on February 17, 2010

Something I’ve seen a lot of people struggle with is playing a Drow after they read R.A Salvatore’s The Drow Trilogy or any other assortment of books by or supported by him, written by various other authors. (Such as The war of the Spider Queen.) I first read these books when I was just a wee one and have grown to watch so many other Drow characters utterly fail and annoy the rest of the party. If you are a ranger wielding duel scimitars with a panther companion, maybe you need to rethink your originality. It’s not cool, it’s annoying. It’s like a 12 year old writing a fan fiction about a video game where all the male characters seem to forget about T&A and go for each other annoying. No offense friends, but let’s think about something new, shall we?

How can I be original with a set amount of classes and races? Or How can I play the same classes, and make a more exciting character?

Anyone can drip creativity from the maw of mediocrity, but the drips come from a shining personality. It’s just like real life, when you meet a total stranger, which ones stick out to you? Is it the charming wise guy? Or the quiet, slinky guy with the weird eye you saw at the supermarket? Think of these traits and apply them into a fantasy world situation. Now, I’d love to go more into detail, but this time I’d like to talk specifically about the Drow.

Now the name Drow is derived from Orcadian and Shetlandic word “Trow” (meaning ‘troll’! Go figure!) Evil sprites were often refered to as Drow or Trow, though Gary Gygax swooped in with all his glory and invented the lovable dark skinned creatures we now know today as The Drow, dwellers of the Underdark. These malicious creatures go back to First Edition AD&D Monster manual under the guise of “Elf” and Black Elves being simply that of a legend we now know them as possible player characters as the spawned like hell bats through out 3rd edition campaign settings, monster manuals, and other various books such as Drow of the Underdark. Forgotten Realms 3rd Edition The Underdark states the Drow as being in an age of chaos as Lotlh the Spider Queen, their Diety, has fallen silent. In this Matriarchal society, (women being dominant leaders) clans of Drow are separated into ‘Houses’ where they war among each other, biding for Lolths favor, with such treachery, one can imagine the hysteria going on in the Underdark. Within opposition we seek opportunity, for any DM’s this is the perfect excuse for Drow to be surfacing above land (thus giving a more realistic reason to integrate Drow into parties without being the new Drizzt.).

4e Forgotten Realms mentions “Play a drow if you want…” and goes on to list three different aspects such as skulking, striking quickly, employing variety of dirty tactics, playing a hero in search of redemption, or on who struggles to rise above the wickedness of his or her people — and lastly ‘to be a member of a race that favors the ranger, rogue, and warlock classes.’ They also have special racial abilities such as Lolthtouched. These such abilities provide little extras to help build onto the feel of your Drow character, as well as describing a few characteristic guidelines; Arrogant, cold, haunted, pragmatic, rebellious, ruthless, skeptical, sophisticate, urbane. When playing your new Drow character keep a few of these in mind, as well as discarding or adding whatever characteristics according to the personality of your choice.

With all this in mind, you now get the chance to choose a class. Any will do, whatever suits you best. Playing your Drow doesn’t mean you have to constantly back stab the party or be a “lone wolf”, there are ways to play a group-friendly Drow and still be cold and collected. For example, lets say the party is going on an adventure, you know if you go with them you can seek out treasure, glory, fame, etc. in ways you couldn’t have on your own. Perhaps after you finally get an amount of fame, you are all traveling in a dungeon and you attempt to off the party or leave them somewhere trapped and take all their goods…now this isn’t group friendly and you do have a chance of dieing, but you get to feel like a Drow. Maybe it’s too beneficial to lose this group, and you become accustomed to them. You don’t have to hate them forever, if you are stuck in a group with a ton of people you hate and they are your battling buddies you learn to give an amount of respect or tolerance, people do it daily- Ask the army!

Take into account other personalities, and interact with each other PC differently, perhaps your favorite thing is to Darkness the annoying guy every time he bothers you, or one of the characters is more intelligent then the rest so you would rather ‘suffer their company’ than someone else’s. When coming up with a character past, think about the Underdark, what drove you up from it, or were your parents already above land since they were driven up? In that case, you’d be more accustomed to the light and it wouldn’t bother you as much as it would if you came up from the Underdark, remember to take things like that into account. Being Drow doesn’t mean you can see all the time, it means you are sensitive to light but are a god when nothing is lit. The character builder for 4e gives a small debriefing on Drow and their character, before playing a Drow I suggest reading such things.

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Written by Krystal

At a young age, my mother opened up her own gaming store. We had two game rooms, an office, and the front area which had a ton of miniatures and books. I helped manage that store for several years, my mother teaching me the ropes and treating me like an adult so I could learn. Even beyond that she played games at stores like Haster Hobbies and several other places. In fact, my parents met gaming! DnD kind of runs in my blood, as well as any other gaming you can think of. I’m simply a gamer at heart, an artist, and a jack of all trades. I love to write and that’s why I’m here at Dungeon Mastering! I’m going to be going to school for Video Game Design, and my bf is going to school so he can publish Core Rule Sets. In the short few years I’ve been with him I’ve learned all about how to create my own rule system and create a game from the ground up! But my expertise is not limited to DnD alone. I’ve ventured far into Call of Cthullu, and beyond to games like Shadowrun and some White Wolf games..though I’m not a big fan of dice pools. :)

Anyways! Gaming is my passion and my life. I game constantly, go to conventions, and so much more! Maybe I’ll see you there! Happy Gaming!

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11 Responses to “Playing a Drow Without Being a Drizzt Clone”
  1. anarkeith says:

    “It’s like a 12 year old writing a fan fiction about a video game where all the male characters seem to forget about T&A and go for each other annoying.”

    While I agree with your main point, that it’s worth exploring other aspects of role-playing Drow than slavishly following the Drizzt template, I think your rhetoric was inflammatory. The remark I quoted could be interpreted as a bit of gay-bashing. Not saying it is, but you might find another way to phrase it next time.

    People seem to either hate the Drow, or love them. Role-playing can sometimes mean you choose a role you’d love to play, and for some, Drizzt is a fascinating role. Not everyone is willing or able to create a brilliant character of their own. Using the sources you’ve suggested will help some people be more creative, but you’ll still run into the clones now and then. In that case, I’d advocate tolerance.

  2. Hi Krystal. I’m not quite sure that this article gave any solid advice on how to make a drow character that’s not a Drizzt clone.

    Anarkeith has a great point – some people are going to want to use a character concept that’s already been done. And they’re going to LOVE playing that character. What matters most here is whether or not you’re having fun at the table.

    I had a blast playing a drow in my old Eberron game. Mar’Kessa was driven away from her family after being betrayed and attacked by her own brother. She was saved from death by a half-giant, and although she hated him for being half-giant, she felt a debt to him for saving her and joined his adventuring party. For the first few weeks, she was bitter and distant from the party, but as she got to know them, she began to see them as a new family (but she was still unsure of how to show them that). She is still a favorite character of mine and I may bring her back if I am a player in an Eberron game in the future. At the moment, I run a campaign in Eberron. No drow PCs (at the moment), though. :-)

  3. Krystal says:

    Hmm..interesting comment anarkeith. To clear up the idea of this not being “Solid advice”, you’re right, E. Foley. :) It’s not a solid concept of playing a Drow, rather it’s a reference guide with several other options to opening the diversity of the Drow culture. I wouldn’t want to write an article saying “This is what you need to do to play a Drow.” because well..imagine the response one would get if I told you how to play your character. I like to stress creativity and sometimes that can leave me in a pickle due to the fact that everything then becomes vague ideas, rough sketches if you will rather than definitive answers.

    I left a few source guides hoping those could be a direction to more “direct” answers, though if you are looking for more sources or more answers you are always welcome to ask. I’ve read a majority of the Drow sourcebooks and other such things and would be more than willing to answer any specific question.

  4. Mark H - Anlath says:

    Oh Drow! XD

    It’s an interesting article and I think the commenter s above have made some good points. I just wanted to chip in with a personal experience as a DM.

    I’ve just got my girlfriend into D&D, she’s only played one game but she really enjoyed herself and totally loves her character. What surprised me is what she chose to play, a drow.

    She’s never played RPGs or read any Drizzt books. She isn’t a big fantasy fan either. She’s a very visual person though and loves white and black, so when I told her about Drow she just said “I want to play one of them. They sound pretty”.

    So, we went through the traits of a Drow and she told me; “Eh, they sound boring. I want my way one to be happy and sparkly and nice”.

    She’s playing the anti-drow. I told her we would need to think of a reason why she is so different and decided that she had been abandoned as a baby and found by a human family, a noble family. She grew up through several generations and each generation treated her like a spoiled princess, she’s grown up watching her family grow old and die several times now so she has developed a “focus on the bright side” attitude.

    She also has pink hair and loves unicorns.

    It was nice to see somebody so fresh to the game approach such an over-typecast race differently. Sure, she is a bit of comic relief and a bit silly but then in my party that’s definitely needed! (The others are all grumpy buggers)

    It’s always nice for people to break out of the shells, sometimes you get the complete anti-character, whether that’s the sparkly Drow or the distinguished and charming Orc.

    But then, as E and Anarkeith pointed out. Sometimes there is nothing wrong with sticking to the classics. They are popular for a reason after all and as D&D is about fun, what’s the harm?

    I totally encourage creative thinking, as you do, but then if somebody wants to play a stereotype I don’t see any harm in it. :)

    Although I draw the line at anybody who plays a Drow Ranger called “Rizzt” or “Kizzt” or anything that ends with “izzit”.


  5. AlphaDean says:

    Hey guys love the article to say the least… makes me think of the last campaign I ran. We as a collective gaming group ended creating the “Society of Outcasts” This group was made because everyone playing decided to have some kind of Bad race gone good type of character. The Orc Shaman, the Drow Sorcerer, the Half Orgre Warrior, and the oh so Hot Tiefling Twins one a rougue the other a Paladin.
    This group broke all the rules and were played very uniquely. BrenBadd the Orc Shaman was extremely intellectual, and curious. Then there was Corvyn the wild almost babaric sorcerer. Next came Slage the huanted and hunted Half Orge. An orgre with heart. After killing a village of humans he left his people and began his attonement, they didin’t like that too much. Selena and Syra the teifling twins Selena the Black as she became known in the street would cut you as soon as pick pocket you and Syra went to the convent to become a nun, only to be chosen a warrior.

    Cool group

  6. Elderon Analas says:

    I am sad to say that I have no idea what a Drow is. I read the explination as with it being a playable class and really just now figured out it is a 4th Edition character. Which really explains alot to me. I am in no way familiar with 4E. Mainly because I DM with a mixture of 1st and 3rd Edition combined taking the best (and worst) of both worlds. But, i’m really just blowing off some steam here. I needed to talk to something or someone about anything at all. I’m in a talkitive mood today as most Brass Dragons are all the time. I mean I could just ramble on and on talking about nothing of any particular importance all day if I wanted to, sometimes even if I don’t want to. I mean this articles about Drows and I might just go off and start talking about all the new gold I got today, or how one of my good friends just left to go adventuring, or how my half-dragon son who has come back from his years of adventuring only to leave again. It’s sad but I know him he’ll be fine, I taught him well. He’s an adventurer it’s what he does. I hope to see my friend back and that he got my gift before he left to parts unknown. Well if he ever reads this I just want him to know I wish him the best of luck and that the Great Morten watch over him on his travels. Oh now look at me rambling, I really must stop doing that in public it is rude. I’m sorry I took so much of your time my human friends. I will let you get back to your days work or play or whatever it is you may be doing now.

    Your friendly (and talkitive) brass dragon,
    Elderon Analas

  7. Krystal says:

    @Elderon Drow aren’t really mainly 4E, they are in 4E but I play them constantly in 3rd edition. As it says in the article they go back to ADnD. It’s my favorite class to play and Salvatore wrote a series of stories on them that date back to…well I have no idea to be perfectly honest I know its just amazing though haha..

  8. Gay Drow says:

    Wow. Blatantly homophobic beginning aside…

    I am a player of Drows, and I actually hate the Gary Stu-esque Drizzt books. I’m all for Greenwood’s concepts, but Salvatore wrote Drow society as a vapid, slightly different flavored barbarian clone. He managed to make a culture that’s all about the women for once… all about the dudes again.

    This article isn’t so much a guide as a rant and history lesson. How about showing how these evil SOBs can be interesting (even if they’re gay)? The Drow houses were the Game of Thrones before there *was* a Game of Thrones.

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