Pathfinder Retcons Drow Out of Game Lore Due to Move Away From OGL

Pathfinder is dropping the drow as part of a wider re-work of the game and lore necessitated by Paizo's move away from the OGL. During PaizoCon 2023's "Into the Darklands" panel, Paizo creative director James Jacobs revealed that the drow would no longer appear in Pathfinder books due to Paizo's move away from the Open Game License (OGL), which allowed them to freely use and adapt the lore and characteristics of drow from other OGL books. The drow will effectively be replaced by serpentfolk in Pathfinder lore as the villains of the Darklands, with most drow cities in Golarion maps now becoming serpentfolk strongholds. One exception to this is Zirnakaynin, which was previously the largest city populated by the drow and is now a mysterious ruin built by unknown parties. The official "retcon" for the drow (and other major changes coming to Darklands lore) is that they were made up by an unreliable Pathfinder agent. 

Although the word "drow" is an alternate word of the Scottish word "trow," which is a kind of evil spirit or fairy, the drow as we know them are a modern creation of Gary Gygax made for Dungeons & Dragons. The race was created to be the main power of the Underdark and were meant to be a rigidly evil matriarchal culture of demon-worshipping elves. Notably, the drow were the villains of the first Dungeons & Dragons adventure and D&D's most popular character Drizzt Do'Urden is a drow who has broken away from his race's culture. Paizo brought the drow into their Pathfinder lore as more sadistic and wantonly evil versions of their D&D counterparts, although more recent adventures sought to re-contextualize the drow in more nuanced terms.

While the drow are usable to other parties under the guidelines of the Open Gaming License, a free-to-use license created by Wizards of the Coast that allows for third-party publishers to use both mechanics and some monsters from Dungeons & Dragons in their book, Paizo announced earlier this year that they are moving away from the OGL because of Wizards' attempt to forcibly de-authorize the current version. While Wizards abandoned that attempt after immense fan outcry, Paizo announced the Pathfinder Remaster project to totally break away from the OGL. While many other OGL-originated creatures (such as chromatic dragons or the duergar) could be salvaged in the Pathfinder Remaster project by simply giving them new names and lore, it was determined that the drow were too tied to the OGL to be used in the game. 

Paizo's decision to remove the drow from Pathfinder's lore won't necessarily have any immediate impact on players. Existing player creation rules for the drow can still be found in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook and will still be available online for free once the Pathfinder Remaster project releases the new set of core rulebooks. However, those who closely follow Golarion's lore will have to decide which "canon" to follow and acknowledge that there won't be any new drow material coming from Paizo in the near future.