Last Updated on January 26, 2023
The guards were tense. This wasn’t their first time making the trip into the Underdark, but each time was dangerous.
It was a simple job that paid well. All they needed to do was escort the noble to the city and be on their way. Supposedly they were a guest of some Matriarch, but that doesn’t really offer any protection in the Underdark. If anything, it put targets on their backs.
Just before they reached the entrance to the cavern city a cry went out. Silent crossbow bolts shot out from all directions. About half their number simply slumped over as they succumbed to the poison. Shadowy figures seemed to melt out of the walls and cut down the remaining guards.
The noble ran into the darkness. They didn’t see the Drow mounted on giant spiders, crawling across the ceiling.
Within minutes the cavern passage was empty. There was no sign that anyone had ever been there.
What are Drow 5e?
Drow are essentially Dark Elves. Drow are one of the most popular versions of Elves in fantasy lore and their image and name have leaked through to other franchises outside of DnD as well.
They were created by Gary Gygax in the first edition of DnD and since then, this variant of Elves has become an accepted part of fantasy popular culture. When most people refer to Dark Elves, they are referring to the Drow.
Drow are dark-skinned elves that live across various areas of the DnD world. They are similar-looking to other Elves but are the shortest of the Elf subspecies. Many times, they are depicted with long platinum blonde or white hair and light-colored eyes.
Drow have the same lifespan as other Elves. They can live up to 700 years or longer.
Typically, the Drow reach maturity at around 80 years old.
The Udadrow in particular rarely live past 200 years. This is due to their society’s violent nature.
Drow Average Height
Drow are shorter than their Elven counterparts. The typical Drow ranges in size between 5ft 4in and 5ft 7in.
Drow culture was typically personified as an evil race of subterranean Elves. Wizards of the Coast recently introduced two new Drow cultures and societies into their lore.
Traditionally, the Drow were known as a violent, sadistic, and malevolent species. They were prone to infighting and not to be trusted. This sparked real-world conversations about cultural insensitivity and comparisons to real-world bigotry.
This prompted Wizard of the Coast to add two new subcultures to Drow society, Loredrow and Aevendrow, and to rename the original Drow society as the Udadrow.
This update comes in a series of novels featuring Drizzt, the most popular Drow character, in the Way of the Drow novel series.
Drow are a matriarchal society that worships the spider god Lolth. Their society is characterized in the Monster Manual on pages 126-127.
They are depicted as a violent and self-serving race that worships the goddess Lolth. They live in the Underdark in cities built into massive caverns. Noble houses of the Udadrow are constantly fighting amongst each other for power and influence.
They are generally considered to be sadistic and evil.
The Lorendrow were one of two groups of Drow that rejected the worship of Lolth. They moved south, deep into the forests, and were also known as the Greenshadow Elves.
They lived and attuned themselves to the forests around them and became extremely reclusive. Not much is known about them. Few even know they exist.
The Aevendrow rejected the worship of Lolth and moved north. Culturally, they are the exact opposite of the Udadrow.
They moved to the northern reaches and are also known as the Starlight Elves. They are extremely secretive and not much is known about them.
Since there is no other information about Lorendrow or Aevendrow, from this point forward, any time we refer to Drow, we are referring to Udadrow.
The Drow have no specific language associated with them. They all know Elvish and many of the Drow also know Undercommon, the language of trade in the Underdark.
The Drow worship the goddess Lolth, also known as the Queen of Spiders. Lolth is a chaotic evil goddess that is motivated by her malice and narcissism. She demands the fealty of the Drow and simultaneously casts their lives aside on a whim.
Lolth considers the male half of the Drow to be unclean, and this manifests itself in a variety of ways in Drow society. Although she scorns male Drow, she is also known to terrorize the female priestesses if they displease her, which is not hard to do since her wishes are chaotic and shift constantly.
Lolth is also one of the main reasons Drow are so prone to infighting. She promotes competition and backstabbing among the Drow so that all that remains are hardened warriors, assassins, or priestesses.
She manifests in the material plane more regularly than other deities and terrorizes the other species and races as well as her own worshippers.
Drow live underground in the Underdark, a vast network of tunnels that connect to massive underground caverns. They build their cities in the largest of these caverns.
Drow nobles and priestesses hollow out massic stalactites and fashion them into temples, palaces, and lairs.
Few outside of the Drow aristocracy ever see the inside of these massive cities and those that are permitted to enter are only ever allowed in the outskirts. Sneaking and breaking into the home of the Drow is typically a one-way journey for most adventurers.
As mentioned earlier, the Drow are matriarchal. Because of Lolth’s influence, the male gender of the Drow is considered unclean and inferior. They typically will never hold any political power within the Underdark and are trained from birth to be assassins and soldiers.
Those male Drow that are not as physically strong as their counterparts commonly turn to dark magics to ensure their survival.
Female Drow also are trained fighters and are possibly even more deadly than their male counterparts due to favorable training. Female Drow who show an aptitude for magic are generally put into the service of one of the noble houses and become Drow priestesses to serve Lolth.
Drow have both forenames and surnames. They are similar to typical Elvish names, but the Drow have adopted names with more harsh sounds.
In addition, many males in Drow society tend towards feminine names, due to their matriarchal society.
Examples of Drow Names
- Dronor Dinaen
- Sornonim Arabath
- Benaste Hunzrinn
- Pharius Beltaulur
- Tathlyn Zauviir
Drow Traits & Abilities
The Drow stats and ability modifiers for players can be found in the Player’s Handbook on page 24.
Drows gain the following racial abilities:
- Ability Score Modifier: Charisma +1
- Superior Darkvision
- Sunlight Sensitivity
- Drow Magic
- Drow Weapon Training
- Ability Score Increase: Your Dexterity score increases by 2 and Charisma +1.
- Age: Although elves reach physical maturity at about the same age as Humans, the elven understanding of Adulthood goes beyond physical growth to encompass worldly experience. An elf typically claims Adulthood and an adult name around the age of 100 and can live to be 750 years old.
- Alignment: Elves love freedom, variety, and self- expression, so they lean strongly toward the gentler aspects of chaos. They value and protect others’ freedom as well as their own, and they are more often good than not.
- Size: Elves range from under 5 to over 6 feet tall and have slender builds. Your size is Medium.
- Speed: Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
- Superior Darkvision: Accustomed to twilit Forests and the night sky, you have superior Vision in dark and dim Conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in Darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in Darkness, only Shades of Gray.
- Keen Senses: You have Proficiency in the Perception skill.
- Fey Ancestry: You have advantage on Saving Throws against being Charmed, and magic can’t put you to sleep.
- Trance: Elves don’t need to sleep. Instead, they meditate deeply, remaining semiconscious, for 4 hours a day. (The Common word for such meditation is “trance.”) While meditating, you can dream after a fashion; such dreams are actually mental exercises that have become reflexive through years of practice. After Resting in this way, you gain the same benefit that a human does from 8 hours of sleep.
- Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and Elvish. Elvish is fluid, with subtle intonations and intricate grammar. Elven literature is rich and varied, and their songs and poems are famous among Other Races. Many bards learn their language so they can add Elvish ballads to their repertoires.
This is a buffed version of Darkvision. Instead of the standard 60ft, Drows can see double that range with 120ft of Darkvision.
This is actually a pretty awful debuff. Drow have Disadvantage on attack rolls and Wisdom (Perception) checks related to sight when the target is in direct sunlight.
This means that a Drow fighting in direct sunlight will always have Disadvantage on their attack rolls.
Drow have 3 different spells that they learn naturally. They start with the Dancing Lights Cantrip. At level 3, they learn to cast Faerie Fire as a level 1 spell once per long rest. When they reach level 5, they can also cast Darkness as a level 2 spell once per long rest.
The Player’s Handbook is a little vague, but to clarify, at level 5+ you can cast both Faerie Fire and Darkness one time each per long rest.
|Drow Lvl||Spell Lvl||Spell|
|1||0 Evocation||Dancing Lights|
|3||1st Evocation||Faerie Fire|
Drow Weapon Training
The Drow start out as proficient with rapiers, shortswords, and crossbows. These weapons work particularly well underground and in the Underdark.
As denizens of the Underdark, the Drow tend to use weapons that are adapted to their way of life. Living underground in massive caverns they don’t have access to wood and some other natural elements that the other species tend to have.
This is why they have different weapon proficiencies than other Elven species.
This brings us to their iconic weapon, the crossbow.
It may seem odd that the Drow almost exclusively use crossbows. As the rules are written, a longbow or a shortbow can be used just as effectively underground as it is above ground.
It has more to do with their tactics and lore. Since they don’t have trees, they can fashion their weapons from rare metals like adamantium and use spiderweb silk for strings.
These weapons are also excellent for ambushes, especially when combined with Drow poisons. This makes sense since the Drow are constantly plotting and scheming amongst themselves for power.
A group of travelers walking through the Underdark can easily be shot at from multiple angles using Drow poison and crossbows. Those that remain conscious would quickly find themselves surrounded by Drow swordsman and cut down.
Playing DnD as a Drow
As of DnD 5e, Drow are one of the standard playable races in the Player’s Handbook. They can make excellent members of a party.
Before the introduction of the 2 new Drow cultures, players that wanted to include a Drow character typically were ones that turned away from Lolth and sought the world outside of the Underdark to make their way in life.
Because the Drow were portrayed as an inherently evil race, there needed to be a backstory as to how they left the Underdark — or the DM could simply alter the lore to fit the setting.
Without this, Drow players have a tendency to disrupt the flow of the game by playing an evil character. This can also be dealt with by playing an evil party.
As more Drow lore is introduced, this will become less of a problem.
Best Classes for Drow
When choosing a class for your Drow character, it’s best to look at their abilities. They have a +2 to Dexterity and a +1 to Charisma. This adds synergy with the following classes.
The Rogue, in particular, is an excellent choice for a Drow character since they already make great assassins. Drow have an affinity for crafting poisons and have an improved version of Darkvision naturally.
Warlocks are a great spellcasting choice for the Drow, and thematically, it works extremely well. Whether your Drow Warlock embraces their evil nature or rebels against it, adding a Warlock Patron makes for an interesting character.
Finally, Drow make decent Rangers. This can, of course, be modeled after the most famous Drow in the setting, Drizzt Do’Urden.
There’s no wrong way to build a character in DnD, but here are some of my favorite Drow combinations.
Drow Rogue (Assassin)
A Drow Assassin is a classic combination. Their Dexterity will buff their sneak attacks and extra damage of the class, and their Charisma modifier will allow them to disguise, sneak, and persuade anyone that stops them while sneaking into secure areas.
It’s a class combination that works well with both the lore and their stats.
Drow Warlock (Hexblade)
The idea of a weak Drow skulking in the Underdark and coming across a Hexblade from Shadowfell that grants them the power they always dreamed of just writes itself when looking for a backstory.
It’s a thematic combination that’s interesting and aligns with their stat bonuses and abilities.
Drow Bard (College of Creation)
For a fun twist having your Drow pick a character class that’s a little more upbeat provides a stark contrast to the edgy Underdark dwelling Drow. Maybe your Drow got sick of worshipping a giant sadistic spider god and wanted to make music and create things rather than destroy them.
Bards of the Creation college are excellent support characters that can buff allies and solve a lot of their problems by animating objects around them or creating items from thin air.
Drow for DMs
If you’re planning a setting where your party is venturing underground, it’s very easy to introduce Drow into your setting.
They can be excellent enemies to test your party against and being ambushed underground can be devastating and add memorable fights and villains to your campaign.
Drow Enemy Stat Block
The Drow enemy stat block can be found in the Monster Manual on pages 127-129.
Drow as enemy NPCs come in four different varieties.
- Drow Elite Warrior
- Drow Mage
- Drow Priestess of Lolth
The standard Drow and Elite Warriors all carry crossbows equipped with Drow Poison and both of the Drow spellcasters have the ability to summon demons.
Drow tendency to constantly backstab and fight for power makes the Underdark a dangerous place. Travelers who traverse the Underdark often find themselves ambushed by groups of Drow troops.
Small encounters would include several Drow, possibly led by an Elite Drow.
Drow Mages are typically male and obsessed with gaining power for themselves. They would be shunned by Drow society since they did not have the physical prowess to become Elite Drow and are typically male which is considered lesser in Drow society.
Drow Mages can be found within the Underdark as well as throughout the world. Anyplace where someone can gain power for themselves through nefarious means can attract Drow Mages.
The Priestesses of Lolth commonly have a small entourage and can be found in temples or in a lair. They will almost certainly have access to guards or other lackeys to throw at the party.
Because of their worship of Lolth, the Drow also tame and raise Giant Spiders. They’re the Underdark’s equivalent of horses. It’s very common for Drow patrols and defenses to include tamed giant spiders. This can easily add to the stress of an encounter.
Is Drow a playable race?
DnD 5e has the Drow as a playable race in the Player’s Handbook (pg 24).
What class is best for a Drow 5e?
The best classes for Drow 5e are Rogue, Warlock, Sorcerer, and Bard.
Do Drow still have sunlight sensitivity?
According to the Player’s Handbook (pg 24.), the Drow race has Sunlight Sensitivity that forces Disadvantage on attack rolls and Wisdom (Perception) checks while targets are in direct sunlight.
Are all dark elves Drow?
Yes. The term “Drow” now refers to 3 separate cultures, Udadrow, Lorendrow, and Aevendrow, all of which are Dark Elves. Udadrow are the followers of Lolth, Lorendrow are Drow that fled into the deep woods, and Aevendrow are Drow that fled into the icy northlands.
What are Drow immune to?
According to the Monster Manual (pgs 128-129), Drow have immunity to magical sleep effects and Advantage against being charmed.
Can a Drow be neutral?
Yes. The new lore direction from Wizard of the Coast has introduced two new Drow societies that are not portrayed as strictly evil. Drow can now be found portrayed “just as morally and culturally complex as other peoples”.
Can Drow have blue skin?
One of the possible skin tones of the Drow is various shades of dark blue.
Are Drow beautiful?
Although beauty is subjective, the Drow are described as strong and wiry. They are considered beautiful and alluring, similar to other elven species, and they use it to their advantage in their society and when dealing with others.