Dungeons & Dragons Sets Up Big Changes to the Drow

Dungeons & Dragons seems to be poised to make major changes to one of its iconic creatures, likely in response to their problematic depiction in various novels and other canonical lore. Earlier today, Dungeons & Dragons released a new website celebrating the iconic drow ranger Drizzt Do'Urden as part of the brand's summer-long celebration of all things Drizzt. The website contains plenty of detail about Drizzt's origins, but it also notes one major change to D&D canon that relates to the drow culture that Drizzt ultimately abandoned. The website points out that while Drizzt grew up in a "cult of Lolth" (a well-known evil spider goddess tied to drow culture), there are two other entire cultures of drow who have no ties to Lolth whatsoever. These groups are known as the Lorendrow and the Aevendrow, both of whom live in remote cities far from Drizzt's home city of Menzoberranzan.

The reveal of the Lorendrow and Aevendrow seem to suggest that Dungeons & Dragons is officially moving past some long-held canon about the drow. The "dark elves" were originally depicted as being wholly evil due to the corrupting nature of Lolth, the goddess at the heart of drow culture. While the drow have been popular villains in many Dungeons & Dragons novels and adventures, many fans have pointed out the problematic nature of depicting the dark-skinned elven subrace as being innately evil.

While Drizzt himself is proof that all drow aren't inherently evil, many fans still think that Dungeons & Dragons lore needs major updates when it comes to the drow. The main issue is that the drow (like other "evil" races) are presented as a large monolithic society dedicated to evil instead of a group with multiple competing interests and beliefs. It's not that some drow, or even a city or country of drow, are seen as evil -- it's that Dungeons & Dragons lore has traditionally considered evil drow to be the default. This trend continues even into the current Player's Handbook, which mentions that Drizzt and other "good" drow are a rarity. By bringing in two entirely new cultures of drow that have rejected Lolth, it seems that the lore will show that drow are just as complex and multi-faceted as the many other elven subraces in the game.

These changes to the drow are in line with other changes made to Dungeons & Dragons to address the game's historically problematic depiction of race and cultures. Instead of depicting non-human cultures are sharing similar traits and values, Dungeons & Dragons has attempted to show that their personalities, values, and beliefs can vary just as widely as humans do. The game has also made mechanical changes related to racial rules, providing an alternate ruleset that does away with many non-physical racial traits tied to a monolithic culture, as well as allowing players to choose their own Ability Score Increases instead of using default score increases tied to the lore about how some races are more intelligent or stronger than others.

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This doesn't mean that we still won't see some drow serve as villains. The Legend of Drizzt website notes that Menzoberranzan is the stronghold of the cult of Lolth and suggests that the beliefs and evil practices once seen as common to all drow are specifically related to the "Unadrow," the culture of drow who have become corrupted by the evil spider goddess. The influence of the Unadrow and their frequent raids on the surface explain the biases many have towards drow in the Forgotten Realms, while also providing players and designers with a potential source for future villains and storylines.

We'll likely learn more about the Lorendrow and Aevendrow in the coming months. Given that R.A. Salvatore has a new Drizzt novel called Starlight Enclave coming out later this summer and the Aevendrow are known as "Starlight Elves," it seems we'll get more information about these newly discovered drow cultures when that book comes out on August 3rd. Given that Dungeons & Dragons is teasing a Drizzt television show, we could see more insight into drow culture very soon.