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© 2003 by Pasi Viheriäinen

Drow vary in shape, features, and hair color as greatly as humans do, though the vast majority share similar traits, which gives birth to the misconception among surface folk and others ignorant of the truth that all drow are the same.
The skin of a drow can be any shade from dark gray to polished obsidian, with the rare bone-white albino being the exception. The majority of drow have snow-white hair from birth, yellowing (if female) or graying (if male) and thinning with great age. Rare drow have naturally silver or copper-hued hair, although there are those who deliberately dye their hair silver (namely those who venerate Eilistraee, the Dark Maiden).

©2006 commissioned art by Anna Rigby
Xull'rae Zauviir and Alya Frettlar
DO NOT TAKE, permission NOT granted!

Most drow have red eyes. Others have green, brown, or black. Various shades of gray, even amber and rose-hued eyes are not unknown. All drow eyes tend to grow redder when they are angry or upset. Yellow eyes usually denote illness, disease, poisoning, or the presence of certain detrimental magics. Blue and purple (and all the tints thereof) are the most unusual eye colors, and usually denote human or surface-elven blood somewhere in the drow's ancestry.
Drow teeth may be black, white, or purple, and their gums, tongues, and throats pink, red, or purple.
Compared to the other Faerunian elves, drow are shorter, but they are strong for their size nonetheless. Drow females tend to be bigger and stronger than the males (average male height being 4'6", while females average around 5' tall). Both sexes tend to be lithe, slim, and graceful in build, features, and movements, much as other elves appear to human eyes.

Also, much as their surface elven kin, drow tend towards highly developed senses. Millennia of living in the Underdark, where one learns to find water by timing the echoes of dripping or running water, and learns to detect incoming rock shifts or collapses by listening for the natural grating and groaning sounds of unshaped rock has given the drow a superior sense of hearing (reflected in game terms by a +2 racial bonus to Listen checks). A drow’s long, slender fingers are highly sensitive, granting them an enhanced tactile sense. This allows them, among other things, to read subtle, Braille-like “secret signs” left by fellow drow on rocks walls, message stones, and other places.
Dark elven eyesight is also far more actue than a humans (+2 racial bonus to Search and Spot checks). Where the elves of the surface have excellent low-light vision, drow have adapted to seeing in conditions of total darkness (reflected in games terms as Darkvision, with 120 foot range). This darkvision is both a blessing and a curse, for though they can maneuver perfectly in dark environs, conditions of bright light tend to blind them temporarily, and otherwise cause discomfort and a hampering of their skills during continued exposure. There are drow who learn to endure and even overcome the effects of bright light upon their sensitive eyes, notably those who spend long periods of time on the surface, and wizards who must use light on a regular basis in order to learn and study from their spellbooks.
The drow sense of smell, however, is not so acute. The all-pervasive smell of the rock and damp air all around, tainted by the ever-present mold and fungus spores and the scent of drow and slave bodies, is a strong background. Most drow have been exposed to strong incense and offering-burnings since infancy, which further serves to dull the olfactory sense. Drow still enjoy perfume, incense, and the like, but their smell is only about as acute as that of most humans--far less than that of many native inhabitants of the Underdark.

A drow’s physiology also includes an innate resistance to magic, presumably (though this is not necessarily an accurate accounting) from generations of exposure to the Underdark radiation known as Faerzress. This does not hamper them from reaping the rewards of beneficial spells and effects, however, as an individual drow may willingly lower this resistance on a temporary basis. (Some folk argue that this also leaves them temporarily defenseless against all magics.) As with all elves, they also have a naturally highly developed resistance to enchantment spells and effects, and complete immunity to any magic-based sleep effects (the latter most likely stemming from the fact that, like other elves, the drow do not need to sleep in the sense that humans do, entering a form of relaxation and meditation known as the Reverie instead, though exceptions do occur, with dark elves more likely to truly sleep than surface elves.) Being particularly willful as a race, combined with these innate resistances to various magics has granted the drow an enhanced ability to fend off those who would try to subvert or overcome their wills through magic.
The exposure to Faerzress has also ingrained a variety of “offensive” spell-like abilities to the drow as a race, though this is discussed further in the Drow Magic section of this site.

The lifespan of drow (and their appropriate age categories) has been a point of much consternation down the years. Various sources within the game throughout it's incarnations, and in the accompanying novels, have repeatedly contradicted each other, and I've yet to find a concrete answer to the problem. As of the latest product updates, drow were changed to have the same lifespan and age categories as defined for elves in the Players Handbook, though traditionally drow were shorter-lived and faster-breeding than the rest of their kin on the surface.
For purposes of our campaign, we use the following age chart compiled from previous sources:

  • Childhood: 1 - 49 years
  • Adolescence: 50 - 79 years
  • Adulthood: 80 - 139 years
  • Middle Age: 140 - 189 years
  • Old: 190 - 224 years
  • Venerable: 225+ years
  • Maximum Age +3d100 years

Page Last Updated April 14th, 2006


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