What should a non-evil drow culture look like?


Homebrew and House Rules


*Lights Mikaze Signal*

I never do always or usually evil races. I prefer races with no natural inclination to be good or bad. Races are collections of people, and people vary from each other immensely. Drow are a race in this setting, because I like the whole dark skinned, pale haired elf thing they have going on. This is what is said of the history of the drow, but it cannot necessarily be fully vouched for, given that these are long past historic events drenched in blood and politics:

The world has many pantheons of divine being that compete, rather than a pantheon of gods that rules over the world. In the region elves and drow hail from (based heavily on Scandinavian and Central European culture), the dominant divine powers were once the Aesir and the Jotunn. It should be noted that neither faction could be considered good. They both saw power, and both wanted to take it. The Aesir created elves as warriors, but a faction was wooed over to the Jotunn for reasons lost to history. These became the drow. The Jotunn were beaten back, and the drow were punished with darkened skin and light hair, so that all would know of their treason for eternity. At this point in time, elves preferred to live in elegantly crafted tree homes, so the drow avoided their cruelties by urbanizing away from elven settlements or living in the mountains. Relations with dwarves and magni (you'd call them humans) are neither particularly bad nor amazingly good. Drow lived relatively close to a lot of dwarven settlements, and formed alliances or got into fights with them about as much as dwarven clans did with each other. Drow were closer with magni, as they tended to both settle in the same areas. It's not that relations were totally peaceful so much as it was that drow and magni got very used to being neighbors. Granted, this war and whatever cruelties the elves perpetrated on the drow (or vice versa) happened over a thousand years ago, and the guilty and victims are many, many generations dead (neither elves or drow commonly live past 100). Immigration to the New World didn't change this equation too much, except that elves came to this new land (think Eastern Canada) in proportionately larger numbers than magni, drow, and dwarves, because the elves wanted those forests. No once race has a majority of the population, but magni have the highest, then elves, then drow, then dwarves. Now that industrialization has taken hold, the elven tree cities are showing themselves to be very poor at handling the population explosion, causing the once wealthy and sophisticated civilization to start experiencing serious problems with violence and hunger, and prompting an elven diaspora to cities.

Now, here is the question. If elves are the magical artistic sophisticated nature race, dwarves are craftsmen, miners, engineers, and inventors, and magni are scholars and bards, what are the drow known for? If they aren't cruel, manevolent, bloodthirsty beings, what should they be, in broad terms?


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Dwarfs. If you're following Scandinavian mythology, the dark elves are dwarfs.


Ipslore the Red wrote:
Dwarfs. If you're following Scandinavian mythology, the dark elves are dwarfs.

I'm not following the myths, I just used them as a jumping off point. The Aesir aren't even around anymore, and the Jotunn are fairly weakened.


Since the Drow were originally elves, they should probably mirror them in some way. What if you had elves favor "elegant" magic such as enchantments and illusions, while Drow favor more "brutish" ways of using magic such as evocation and transmutation. Since they've settled next to dwarven territory, they've probably also picked up some dwarven culture too.

Perhaps drow in you setting are just beginning to experiment with magitech? Since they're uniquely caught between elvish magic and dwarven engineering, that could be a direction to go in.


Drow, in mythology, were actually known as miners. In fact, there's some confusion between them and dwarves due to the number of similarities the two had (except, the drow were evil).

If you want a non-evil society? Look at Eberron. They managed it perfectly.

Silver Crusade

well, with possible outcomes of certain books... there is the setup for CN drow.


Why keep the color scheme as punishment?
Maybe the gods that created them just liked different palettes. Maybe the jotun who recruited them needed a contrasting look to avoid stomping on their allies by accident. Maybe the stark black and white to human eyes is off-spectrum scintillation to giant eyes.

Otherwise, big +1 to magitech specialists and/or blasty (or maybe shape changing) magic. Influenced by the innovation and hastiness of humans, the crafty dwarf skills, and the overwhelming force of giants.


Like the idea of Magitech Elves. Alternatively you could have the split be Divine vs Arcane magic. The Elves ask the powers that be (gods, spirits, nature, what have you) to grant them powers and allow them to do magic. When the Drow sided with the Jotunn the Aesir stripped them of this ability (not wanting it available to their enemies) in response the Drow turned to (or discovered) Arcane magic where they instead imposed their will upon reality rather than ask it to fold to their benefit.

Everything else would be much the same, retaining the artistry and sophistication of their cousins (though materials and mediums change from organic to mineral), they just have a different attitude toward their relationship with the world/universe. The intelligent races of the world aren't its children they're its master.

Scarab Sages

My answer to OP's thesis question:

Play Might & Magic VIII: Day of the Destroyer, wherein the Dark Elves constitute a mercantile folk, somewhat cutthroat but not without conscience or a sense of responsibility, with a faintly LaVeyan Satanic philosophy. Their temples do sport a spider motif or two, but it's not overemphasized.


Kelsey Arwen MacAilbert wrote:

*Lights Mikaze Signal*

I never do always or usually evil races. I prefer races with no natural inclination to be good or bad. Races are collections of people, and people vary from each other immensely. Drow are a race in this setting, because I like the whole dark skinned, pale haired elf thing they have going on.

Can they interbreed with regular elves? What about magni and dwarves?

Quote:

This is what is said of the history of the drow, but it cannot necessarily be fully vouched for, given that these are long past historic events drenched in blood and politics:

The world has many pantheons of divine being that compete, rather than a pantheon of gods that rules over the world. In the region elves and drow hail from (based heavily on Scandinavian and Central European culture), the dominant divine powers were once the Aesir and the Jotunn. It should be noted that neither faction could be considered good. They both saw power, and both wanted to take it. The Aesir created elves as warriors, but a faction was wooed over to the Jotunn for reasons lost to history. These became the drow. The Jotunn were beaten back, and the drow were punished with darkened skin and light hair, so that all would know of their treason for eternity.

Yes, who really wants dark skin anyway? Surely it must always be a cursed to have dark skin. I mean it couldn't possibly be a reward or even something natural about the elves. It must be a curse, because all dark-skinned folks are cursed, right? Please consider getting rid of the 'dark skin is a curse' thing. It is a very tiresome trope. If this is what other races say, at least consider writing something from the drow's perspective on this.

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Granted, this war and whatever cruelties the elves perpetrated on the drow (or vice versa) happened over a thousand years ago, and the guilty and victims are many, many generations dead (neither elves or drow commonly live past 100). Immigration to the New World didn't change this equation too much, except that elves came to this new land (think Eastern Canada) in proportionately larger numbers than magni, drow, and dwarves, because the elves wanted those forests. No once race has a majority of the population, but magni have the highest, then elves, then drow, then dwarves. Now that industrialization has taken hold, the elven tree cities are showing themselves to be very poor at handling the population explosion, causing the once wealthy and sophisticated civilization to start experiencing serious problems with violence and hunger, and prompting an elven diaspora to cities.

New World? If there are areas of divine holdings around the world, I can't imagine that any deities in this new land would appreciate the invasion, unless they didn't have any races of their own. Of course, that could mean reshaping those that come under their jurisdiction. You also mention industrialization, but there's obviously more history here.

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At this point in time, elves preferred to live in elegantly crafted tree homes, so the drow avoided their cruelties by urbanizing away from elven settlements or living in the mountains. Relations with dwarves and magni (you'd call them humans) are neither particularly bad nor amazingly good. Drow lived relatively close to a lot of dwarven settlements, and formed alliances or got into fights with them about as much as dwarven clans did with each other. Drow were closer with magni, as they tended to both settle in the same areas. It's not that relations were totally peaceful so much as it was that drow and magni got very used to being neighbors.

If that's the case, it's likely there are a lot of half-drow kids running around if the magni and drow can interbreed. Of course, familiarity can breed resentment too. Competition for resources could be fierce unless they tend to work together for some reason.

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Now, here is the question. If elves are the magical artistic sophisticated nature race, dwarves are craftsmen, miners, engineers, and inventors, and magni are scholars and bards, what are the drow known for? If they aren't cruel, manevolent, bloodthirsty beings, what should they be, in broad terms?

The magitech thing seems to be the best answer. If there's an industrial revolution going on, the drow could take magic, crafting and inventing and put them together in a way others won't. There's also the farming thing. Drow work with nature through agriculture and aquiculture. They are also famous mariners and explorers.

So, drows are known for their innovations in agriculture and magitech, they are spurred by curiosity to explore and they make excellent mariners. Though the elves rushed to the New World, it was the drow who first discovered it.


Regular elves are sophisticated, and elegant, they see themselves as beyond (and in the case of tree cities, literally) above the petty concerns of life.

The drow are practical. They're resourceful. They use what's at hand because that's what's available. Perhaps draw inspiration in part from the Rom. The drow association with dwarves allowed them to learn crafting technique, but the drow spare neither time nor effort for artistry. If you want something beautiful, commission an elf. If you want something that will outlast your family, hire a dwarf. If it just has to work, and you need it now, find a drow.

Being practical types, it's likely they would take advantage of science and magic both, but master neither. They would be tinkers, dabblers, and jacks of all trades. Given their war scarred history, perhaps they're known as fearsome enemies to have, and never forgive slights. They could have a reputation as skilled,but always temporary, mercenaries or bodyguards. They could be known to always honour their word, but that their word always comes with a limit (of time or acceptable service).

They could live in kumpania style groups (a group consists of a small number of families, all living in a semi-communal area, and working for the benefit of the group), but mostly settled. They live among other races, your magni and the dwarves, but they live apart from them, keeping always their own culture and beliefs. "It's fine to do business with outsiders, even befriend them, but always remember that you are drow, and they are not." This makes the drow seem exotic, and sometimes feared.

They marry either from another family in the kumpania, or they send for a marriageable partner from a kumpania in another city/region. Marrying outsiders is uncommon. "If every drow were to be with an outsider, there would be no more drow." say the eldest. Dalliances are tolerated, prior to marriage, so long as they are forsaken in favour of the marriage arranged by the family. Also, children from such non approved unions are not recognized. They are always seen as half other, never half drow.

Feel free to use all or none of these ideas. :)


Drow could be the ultra refined and decadent elves. While not evil they are typically immoral. Regular elves are more wild and woodsy.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

If you want to keep conflict between Drow and Elves, without going the evil vs good route, what about having the conflict stem over use of technology/magic? Elves use their magic to manipulate nature and harmonize with it. In contrast, Drow are more mechanical oriented, and are more focused on the idea of "conquering nature" and rebuilding it in their image.


The D'ni. Long-lived, masters of their domain, generally good, use great magical constructs that keep their beautiful and amazing underworld going.

I mean you could change it up, do other things, but a lot of tropes you might end up stealing are there.

The Dwemer had glorious magic and under-empires, they were also artificers.

Other options might include having their society be evil but them NOT be evil. Plenty of human nations that are dead-set evil, and THEY don't have the excuse of being beset on all sides by limited resources, competing tribes, and horrors from below. The only difference between them and the drow is whether or not they have a lot of exiles, would-be revolutionaries, and outsiders who reject the evil social dogma and live their own lives.

Or simply being elves. Instead of elk they ride spiders, instead of trees they tend mushrooms, instead of constantly killing goblins and orcs they are constantly killing aberrations...and orcs (huh.).

For me, at least, the biggest challenge isn't society, it's acceptable ecology. An ecosystem needs energy input, water cycling, and some amount of variety (for interest if nothing else). None of those things can actually exist in the real world*, so the inevitable solution becomes "a wizard did it." The question my Simcity: Pathfinder brain chokes a bit on is, "how did the wizard did it?" To be sure, there are answers, but whatever those answers ARE will, and should, affect the world you build. If there is an artificial sun, or this one magical/extraordinary plant that grows the food or a single river that comes from a clean source and goes on to parts unknown then it's going to affect where the drow build, what they do, and what they protect. There is a reason cultures worshipped sun gods.

Now let's see...from your specific setting the Drow should be Gypsy Cossacks. Their history is one of battle. From being crafted as warriors to having to fight for new homes to having to fight over a generations-old (and casually cruel) blood-curse to fighting their neighbors to fighting everything else the drow are fighters. THey never went up into trees or found places they could hide away and they are constantly having to relocate so they live vaguely nomadic lives and are constantly fighting other people's wars for good pay. At least, that's how everyone knows them. What is NOT known, because no one ever bothers to find out, is that they do have permanent homes. These places are always hidden and always underground, they are linked through certain trade routes and through the occasional magical gateway and the perambulating mercenary companies provide a "front" for trading. Remembering the dual betrayal of both the Jotunn (for being losers) and the Aesir (for cursing innocent children) they are slow to trust outsiders or their gods. It is unclear if they HAVE a religion to outsiders, but they definitely have some brand of philosophy.

They have a weird Bro-fondness for dwarves, constantly fighting them but never truly hating them (football hooligans). They find humans annoying, and in the way. They don't so much *hate* the high elves as think they should all go climb trees and never come back down, ever, even if the tree falls over. Their underground settlements use linking books to get a lot of their food and fresh water, they train spiders, and they tend to wear their hair short so it can be covered with a hat during nighttime raids. They'll always honor a contract, but they can lawyer a poorly-worded demand better than an efreeti and if you try to betray them or call them to do things they don't like they WILL find a way to ruin you, even if it means selling their services cheap to your enemy once they have a contractual "out" from working for you.

*further explanation, the darklands are supposed to be REALLY deep. And while real-world caverns can have life in them the energy and water cycle are inevitably tied to the sun and the surface. Mushrooms grow on dead things, bioluminescent life glows by burning food, that food comes ultimately from the sun.


boring7 wrote:
The Dwemer had glorious magic and under-empires, they were also artificers.

The Dwemer would be Lawful Evil under Pathfinder's alignment system (with heavy emphasis on the Evil). The Falmer you see in Skyrim? That's what resulted from the Dwemer taking another race of elves as slaves.

Pretty much, by the time you're done with the Dawn Guard expansion and the Thieve's Guild quest, you've come to see that most races who mention interacting with the Dwemer utterly hated them for very good reasons.

Pretty much, being a slave to the Dwemer was worse than being a halfling in Cheliax.

Sovereign Court

There was a race of non-evil underground living elves in "The Night Below" 2e module; Can't remember their name now, though.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

If they're not evil, then why are they Drow? You need to establish if your society is drow, or just elves with a different hue of skin. And if they are drow, the question is why? And what is their niche? Drow dominate the Underdark in most worlds because of their strength and ruthlessness, take away the latter and you need to redress the balance of power.

World of Warcraft does an interesting reversal, the purple skinned Night Elves, for all their faults generally are closer to a "good" ideal, then their pale skinned cousins, the Sindorei.


The Drow should be the "magitech" race, they combine magic and machine flawlessly in a way neither elf nor dwarf can comprehend. The dwarves may have invented gunpowder but it was Drow mechamagic that allowed guns and cannons to arrive centuries ahead of schedule.

The Drow are the supreme masters of mechamagic and beat out their "cousins" in several areas, most notably golemancy (Drow have an exceptional fondness for constructs, makes up for lower numbers during wars).

Drow culturally should be noted for three things they are stubborn, cunning and resourceful. Chances are dwarves while exceptional engineers and inventors won't be able to build a gun without a workshop or at the very least tools...much less a thundercycle or steamwagon.

Drow by contrast are capable of putting together even complex vehicles from surprisingly primitive resources, if a dwarf looks at a scrap heap and dismisses it as "rubbish" a Drow will assemble a working (barely) thunder cycle in a day or two.

Thoughts? I would also note the Thunderscape: World of Aden campaign setting as an excellent source of steampunk content and material.

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Shadow elves of Mystara *drops the mic*


MagusJanus wrote:
boring7 wrote:
The Dwemer had glorious magic and under-empires, they were also artificers.

The Dwemer would be Lawful Evil under Pathfinder's alignment system (with heavy emphasis on the Evil). The Falmer you see in Skyrim? That's what resulted from the Dwemer taking another race of elves as slaves.

Pretty much, by the time you're done with the Dawn Guard expansion and the Thieve's Guild quest, you've come to see that most races who mention interacting with the Dwemer utterly hated them for very good reasons.

Pretty much, being a slave to the Dwemer was worse than being a halfling in Cheliax.

EVERYBODY was evil by that standard. Tales from the past were basically one endless competition to see who could be the biggest jerkface to other races in war and cruelty. The Dwemer took in refugees and enslaved them, the Altmer alliance literally eats babies, Argonians and khajit have a good long history of being nothing but brigands and thieves.

Stereofm wrote:
There was a race of non-evil underground living elves in "The Night Below" 2e module; Can't remember their name now, though.

According to wikipedia:

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"Rockseer elves are the rarest of all elvenkind. They are far taller than most of their kin, with a few reaching almost to eight feet in height. An average weight for a Rockseer is between 120 and 140 pounds, with little gender difference. Rockseers are very pale skinned, and they have no body hair. Head hair is extraordinarily fine, always worn long, with the appearance and texture of exquisitely fine silk. The hair is silver, and eye color is a pale, almost ice-blue. They are androgynous in appearance, making it difficult for outsiders to tell males and females apart.

"Rockseers have been separated from the rest of elvenkind since mythic times. Their own history tells that they were cowards at the great battle of Corellon Larethian and Lolth, fleeing the combat and taking refuge far below ground. They have no knowledge of surface elves. They know of the Drow and hate them, avoiding them whenever possible. They are extremely seclusive and shun the company of all other races, including the Svirfneblin. The only exception to this are pech, with whom Rockseers sometimes form friendships."

The deep elves are found in 1996's Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume Three, but originated in the Night Below boxed set campaign published in 1995. In a subplot of Night Below, the player characters can reintroduce the exiled Rockseers to the rest of elvenkind and reconcile them with their god, Corellon Larethian.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16

I always pictured drow as a highly dignified LN.

However, I feel really funny about it. With all the changes one makes to drow, I feel like you might as well create your own race.


Some neat ideas here I'll have to plunder for my own campaign.

I agree with those that get annoyed at attempts to make an entire intelligent species completely evil, and prefer a more moderate take. At the same time, races do have particular expectations in people's minds, and just going against them doesn't serve to add anything. As an example, if I made orcs in a world peaceful vegetarian hippies that love jazz music, most people will wonder what the hell. Taking the expected sterotypes, but running with then in a different way (As many note, Eberron's orcs still being barbaric, but also inheritors of an ancient druidic tradition dedicated to fighting extraplanar threats.)

Also, I have no issue with the race's society being mostly evil. It's when they try to dictate that every member of the species must follow the societal trends that I get annoyed. And even then, a society shouldn't be tear itself apart from the inside evil, because then one wonders how they got anywhere.

I had an initial idea for the drow in my perpetually-in-development world, but looking at some of the ideas here, I may think it over. Especially like the idea of making them some sort of 'dark' (But not evil) counterpart to Elves. Especially as the High Elves in my setting I've decided are fascist jerks. (Why, yes, I have heard of the Book of the Master Race... err, Complete Book of Elves.)


If you want a non-evil subterranean race that has thought put into it you want Discworld Dwarves but taller and with less facial hair.


Cyrad wrote:

I always pictured drow as a highly dignified LN.

However, I feel really funny about it. With all the changes one makes to drow, I feel like you might as well create your own race.

Yes, but drow are hot. Aryan features, exotic coloration, pointy ears (always a plus...ALWAYS) and just a hint of exotic mystery in the deeps make for a well-above-average hotness score, and thanks to Salvatore there's enough engendered wangst to fill an entire vampire LARP convention, which is also a plus for certain audiences.

Anyway, for a non-evil race I'm liking the D'ni culture with a bit more desperate pragmatism as a result of the darklands/underdark/scarytown being full of nasties. It combined the elven sense of preservation/sustainability with rather amazing technology/power and a healthy moral position of being generally decent folk but with plenty of mixed in failings and foibles to make them "human" (for lack of a better word).

Speaking of, is there a word for "humanity" when humans aren't the only ones with it?


Kelsey Arwen MacAilbert wrote:
Now, here is the question. If elves are the magical artistic sophisticated nature race, dwarves are craftsmen, miners, engineers, and inventors, and magni are scholars and bards, what are the drow known for? If they aren't cruel, manevolent, bloodthirsty beings, what should they be, in broad terms?

They don't have to be that culturally different than the surface elves, unless you want them to be for the sake of diversity.

So other than their history being written from the side of the defeated, the drow could simply be the magical artistic sophisticated underground race. They could cater to their caves the way surface elves cater to their garden and orchards, growing stalagmites and stalactites over the course of centuries the same way elves grow their millennia-old trees.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

If we took the sadistic jerk part of the drow out, they could still be awfully decadent (CN or N mostly?). Perhaps like those threads talking about N priests of Urgathoa, something like that, that focus on the hedonism aspects.


Thanks for all the advice, guys!

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Can they interbreed with regular elves? What about magni and dwarves?

The reason I call the magni race by that name is because all the playable races belong to the same species: humanity. As such, drow can and do breed with any other race. Mixed race marriages and children are fairly common, especially since drow and elves don't outlive other races.

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Yes, who really wants dark skin anyway? Surely it must always be a cursed to have dark skin. I mean it couldn't possibly be a reward or even something natural about the elves. It must be a curse, because all dark-skinned folks are cursed, right? Please consider getting rid of the 'dark skin is a curse' thing. It is a very tiresome trope. If this is what other races say, at least consider writing something from the drow's perspective on this.

Point taken. Now that I think about it that way, the implications of dark skin as a curse are very unfortunate.

It would probably be way cooler for elves to be the children of the sun and drow to be the children of the moon. That's why elves are light skinned and drow are dark skinned. Aesir should not have created either race. It just happens that the elves sided with the Aesir and the drow with the Jotunn, and the Jotunn lost, leaving the drow were at the mercy of the victor.

As children of the sun, elves are open and energetic. They are sociable and full of ideas, and their art is characterized by bold, broad strokes, brand new ideas, and bright colors. If you look at their treetop cities, they show little planning or subtlety. Elves throw up what looks cool and what is nice to live in, and have a thing for bold architecture. Elven social interactions are pretty direct, and elves can be considered somewhat flighty. As a race with magic in their veins, they are more likely have the blood of a sorcerer than any other race except the drow, and sorcerers make up the majority of their arcane spellcasters. Their stat modifiers are +2 Cha and +2 Con, to represent their brightness, exuberance, and energy. For something so thinly built, they can take a surprising amount of damage.

As children of the moon, drow are more methodical about things. They have the same artistic bent as elves, but spend more time on small details. Their artwork uses fewer strokes and colors, focusing more on high levels of detail, relationships between all the elements, and deeper meanings. As a race that is largely urban, they are known for helping produce a lot of fine, meticulously planned architecture, but don't work with big and bold unless they are decorating something the dwarves built. They like things moderate and functional, but elegantly attractive. They aren't so direct in conversation as elves, but aren't horribly secretive, either. They have the same slant towards sorcerous blood as elves, but their more meticulous brains tend to lend them to the path of the arcanist. Their stat modifiers are +2 Dex, +2 Int, as they prefer quiet study and very fine, carefully placed details that require a steady wrist.

I also love the idea everyone is floating around of magitech drow, and think it works pretty well. Elves have the forest treetop cities held together by lots of Druids (Like I said, not the best planned cities. Without magic, they wouldn't be functional at all.), and drow have the better planned urban areas (though usually shared with dwarves or magni), finer architecture, and magitech. They have magical blood and meticulous minds, so combining magic and technology would totally be something they could be good at.

( As for those stat modifiers, no race has a stat penalty. I wanted to make it easier to take a race outside its normal cultural zone by not penalizing an important ability score for a cool character concept, and I don't have a race that can choose its stat modifiers, so I wanted to leave each race customizeable enough for any role.)

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New World? If there are areas of divine holdings around the world, I can't imagine that any deities in this new land would appreciate the invasion, unless they didn't have any races of their own. Of course, that could mean reshaping those that come under their jurisdiction. You also mention industrialization, but there's obviously more history here.

The Americas, aye. Colonization was not a pleasant thing. Not like genocide ever is, of course. The divine beings of the Americas did fight, but mass pandemic took its toll, and with their people dead in such numbers they lost a lot of their power. Several groups have managed to fight off colonization (the Iroqious and Seminole analogues, for a couple examples), but much of the continent fell to these settlers from afar.

It is currently an industialization era, because this setting is magitech Old West/Victoriana.

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If that's the case, it's likely there are a lot of half-drow kids running around if the magni and drow can interbreed. Of course, familiarity can breed resentment too. Competition for resources could be fierce unless they tend to work together for some reason.

There are plenty of half drow, half elves, and half dwarves. I imagine that violent infighting isn't really common nowadays, and for the most part being a Faux Vinlander is more important to community than being dwarven, magni, drow, or elven, but the past has some nasty patches, and some people feel the need to be a$+%+$%s to those who are different. If anything, though, elves get the worse treatment, because most city elves are internal refugees from the economic and housing crisis the treetop cities are in.


It isn't precisely answering the question, but one variant I've used ... The Drow are always evil ... Because Drow is what happens when an elf goes evil. It's an effect, not a cause. Elves are uniquely connected to the multiverse, and when they turn to evil, their essence corrupts and changes into 'Drow'. Drow don't breed true to other Drow ... But most babies born into Drow society either turn into Drow because, growing up, the influences around them make them evil or they don't turn evil, they don't "go Drow" and they are executed or exiled. The change can't happen until the elf hits puberty. Before that, all elves look basically the same and biologically are. So while it's technically possible to have a non evil Drow ... Very quickly on becoming non evil they will start to loose their "Drow-ness". It's more like a condition elves get than a separate race.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

If you're really hung up about a race being defined as evil and your player's expectations of it... the best answer is sto simply don't use them.

Be in mind that if you're going that way, you've got a lot of Bestiary material to go through and prune out.

I don't have issues with races being defined as innately evil. I do have some issue with the cryto-racism that went into the building of some of them, such as drow and orcs, but it's not something of the level where I can't just put it aside.

If I was going to eliminate drow, I'd substitute them with Night Elves, and bring them above ground. I'd just put them in an exotic locale and give them the inclination to shoot strangers that intrude.


Kelsey Arwen MacAilbert wrote:
It would probably be way cooler for elves to be the children of the sun and drow to be the children of the moon. That's why elves are light skinned and drow are dark skinned.

Sounds good. Though at this point I suspect the Jotunn/Aesir thing means that the only people likely to care are elves and drow fighting each other while everyone else looks at them and goes, "wait, why do you care? Isn't everyone who should have cared long dead?"

Another question is how much the Drow carve their own places out. If the "big projects" are Dwarven, the Alfheims are in the treetops, and the Drow are basically the specialists living in other people's cities (and making sure those big projects are done RIGHT) then they may not really HAVE their own nation-states or power bases, just a whole lotta extended families working kind of like the positive stereotypes of diaspora Jews.


I've posted this before, but I did this:

I had a campaign where they worshipped themselves, instead of Lolth.
They believed themsleves to be the epitome of Elven evolution, and for good reason:
They could survive without the sun, magical powers in their blood, with the highest (nobles) of them even more superior to their throwback above-ground cousins.

They raided surface elves for experimentation and extinction, feeling they were doing evolution's work.

You could re-work this to make them less evil, by removing that last bit...


Kelsey Arwen MacAilbert wrote:

Thanks for all the advice, guys!

The reason I call the magni race by that name is because all the playable races belong to the same species: humanity. As such, drow can and do breed with any other race. Mixed race marriages and children are fairly common, especially since drow and elves don't outlive other races.

Ah, okay. That makes sense. That's also going to be interesting for inherited traits later on.

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It would probably be way cooler for elves to be the children of the sun and drow to be the children of the moon. That's why elves are light skinned and drow are dark skinned. Aesir should not have created either race. It just happens that the elves sided with the Aesir and the drow with the Jotunn, and the Jotunn lost, leaving the drow were at the mercy of the victor.

This is definitely a unique take on things, and I really like it.

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As children of the sun, elves are open and energetic. They are sociable and full of ideas, and their art is characterized by bold, broad strokes, brand new ideas, and bright colors. If you look at their treetop cities, they show little planning or subtlety. Elves throw up what looks cool and what is nice to live in, and have a thing for bold architecture. Elven social interactions are pretty direct, and elves can be considered somewhat flighty. As a race with magic in their veins, they are more likely have the blood of a sorcerer than any other race except the drow, and sorcerers make up the majority of their arcane spellcasters. Their stat modifiers are +2 Cha and +2 Con, to represent their brightness, exuberance, and energy. For something so thinly built, they can take a surprising amount of damage.

That makes a lot of sense. It also explains a lot about the problems they're facing since their desire to do big, bold, cool things is coupled with a short-sightedness that creates a mess.

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As children of the moon, drow are more methodical about things. They have the same artistic bent as elves, but spend more time on small details. Their artwork uses fewer strokes and colors, focusing more on high levels of detail, relationships between all the elements, and deeper meanings. As a race that is largely urban, they are known for helping produce a lot of fine, meticulously planned architecture, but don't work with big and bold unless they are decorating something the dwarves built. They like things moderate and functional, but elegantly attractive. They aren't so direct in conversation as elves, but aren't horribly secretive, either. They have the same slant towards sorcerous blood as elves, but their more meticulous brains tend to lend them to the path of the arcanist. Their stat modifiers are +2 Dex, +2 Int, as they prefer quiet study and very fine, carefully placed details that require a steady wrist.

This answers your own question, but it fits in very well.

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I also love the idea everyone is floating around of magitech drow, and think it works pretty well. Elves have the forest treetop cities held together by lots of Druids (Like I said, not the best planned cities. Without magic, they wouldn't be functional at all.), and drow have the better planned urban areas (though usually shared with dwarves or magni), finer architecture, and magitech. They have magical blood and meticulous minds, so combining magic and technology would totally be something they could be good at.

I could see the drows as adroit urban planners. They've probably tried more than once to suggest ways to fix the elven city but are probably not warmly received. On the other hand dwarves and magni probably appreciate their advice and help - particularly the magni. They likely also use parks in cities and could mastermind something like Central Park in New York.

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The Americas, aye. Colonization was not a pleasant thing. Not like genocide ever is, of course. The divine beings of the Americas did fight, but mass pandemic took its toll, and with their people dead in such numbers they lost a lot of their power. Several groups have managed to fight off colonization (the Iroqious and Seminole analogues, for a couple examples), but much of the continent fell to these settlers from afar.

It is currently an industialization era, because this setting is magitech Old West/Victoriana.

I'm curious now if the orcs and/or hobgoblins were the native races there. It would fit in with a lot of the 'enemy races' things with them without making them evil - just people desperately trying to defend or regain their lands. Of course, the problem is that those two groups tend to have a constitution bonus (and there are usually various healing and anti-disease spells) so a normal pandemic isn't likely to work. However, I could see the religious orders of the magni, elves, and dwarves declaring that they are souless or have 'lesser souls' due to their appearances. If they were provided weapons by the invaders, they could have wiped one another out - that was a favorite tactic of Europeans when dealing with Native tribes.

I do hope they can have a better ending than Natives here tend to face.

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There are plenty of half drow, half elves, and half dwarves. I imagine that violent infighting isn't really common nowadays, and for the most part being a Faux Vinlander is more important to community than being dwarven, magni, drow, or elven, but the past has some nasty patches, and some people feel the need to be a!!+%%~s to those who are different. If anything, though, elves get the worse treatment, because most city elves are internal refugees from the economic and housing crisis the treetop cities are in.

Okay. How much mixing gets involved before races are indistinguishable here?


Seelie vs unseelie.


I'd focus nonevil (likely CN or N) on night/moon/shadow magic, dark technology mixed with magic, such as bionics (artificial limbs, enhancements, etc.)


Elghinn Lightbringer wrote:
I'd focus nonevil (likely CN or N) on night/moon/shadow magic, dark technology mixed with magic, such as bionics (artificial limbs, enhancements, etc.)

Yeah the drow are really into Fleshcrafting, and from what I gather are pretty keen on engineering

They have a fixation with spiders and bats.

Whenever I think of Drow I think of a mixture of Modern Goth-J-punk blended with a bit of Polish and Medieval Gothic Culture...

As in, Cavalry crossbowmen on spiders, utilizing tight armor, and a strict but gruesome set of ethics as they stay agile.

Drow combat in my opinion would be akin to the cavern sniper or a ninja, Lay down a darkness bolt, rush in and lance someone or assassinate, and then get the heck out.

Though I usually depict drow as LE over CE because I feel it fits them a bit more.


I would be inclined toward recommending keeping the Drow matriarchal (with the Elves patriarchal). This can give you a cultural difference while maintaining a familiar aspect for your players.

One of the biggest factors in the "Drow are EVIL" trope is religion. It looks like you are addressing that point with the Aesir/Jotunn approach. Make sure that the religion side is properly fleshed out to convey this break from the trope.

Count me as another voice in favor of the Drow favoring magitech. Elves tend toward the natural and magic, Dwarves tend toward tech with minimal magic, and Drow toward the manufactured combined with magic (their niche being where tech and magic meet).

I noticed you haven't mentioned the niches of merchants and information brokers. While they may not fit too well, you may want to consider them as possibilities (or for future application to other races).


I have an update. Somebody was asking about worlds that are not planets, and I decided I want to make one. So I made a bowl. The outside is the Surface. The inside is the Underdark, and never sees daylight, but it does have stars, galaxies, and nebulai that are brighter than anything the Surface gets, and they light the Underdark during their day cycle (the stars, galaxies, and nebulai disappear at night in the Underdark). It still looks and feels like starlight, just somewhat brighter. Somebody from the Surface would call an Underdark day dark, and would be able to see about half as far as during a normal surface day. If you sail to the edge of the bowl, you will flip over to the other side. It is also possible to tunnel between the Surface and the Underdark (Be extremely careful, though. The crust between the Surface and the Underdark has underground rivers and magma chambers in between the areas of solid rock.).

The war between Aesir and Jotunn is retconned out, and the Drow are natives of the Underdark. Elves and Drow are still highly related races, and the cultural details I posted above remain the same, except that Drow live among Dwarves (Dwarves are Underdark natives.) and the Sun and Moon references are removed. The Surface is arctic at the edges, and the Underdark is coldest at the edges and the Nordic inspired peoples, such as Elves and Drow, live near these edges.

Should I be using the term Underdark, or is that specific to the Forgotten Realms only?

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Pretty sure Greyhawk used the term Underdark too. But well feel free to get creative with the names. In my world, I simply called it the Shadowlands.


Indagare wrote:
I could see the drows as adroit urban planners. They've probably tried more than once to suggest ways to fix the elven city but are probably not warmly received. On the other hand dwarves and magni probably appreciate their advice and help - particularly the magni. They likely also use parks in cities and could mastermind something like Central Park in New York.

Yea, and it could be that Drow on the Surface are often skilled professionals who came from the Underdark because they can make quite a bit of money doing such work. Darkvision also means they can work at night without light, making them valuable as police/watchmen, mercenaries, and workers on time sensitive projects (24 hour construction. Magni crews in the light, Drow crews in the dark.). So, you do see Drow on the Surface to some degree, despite them not being natives. Same with Dwarves. They also have a fair number of skilled professionals, such as Engineers, Scientists, and Alchemists.

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I'm curious now if the orcs and/or hobgoblins were the native races there. It would fit in with a lot of the 'enemy races' things with them without making them evil - just people desperately trying to defend or regain their lands. Of course, the problem is that those two groups tend to have a constitution bonus (and there are usually various healing and anti-disease spells) so a normal pandemic isn't likely to work. However, I could see the religious orders of the magni, elves, and dwarves declaring that they are souless or have 'lesser souls' due to their appearances. If they were provided weapons by the invaders, they could have wiped one another out - that was a favorite tactic of Europeans when dealing with Native tribes.

I do hope they can have a better ending than Natives here tend to face.

Among Native American inspired peoples, you see Magni across the whole region, and in specific regions you see a close cousin of the Kitsune (based off the Coyote, but can't find a good name), Orcs (were once prized as slaves, before slavery became majorly taboo), Skinwalkers, and some others. Orcs were resistant to the pandemic, but that made it practical for a$#@+$*s to enslave them. There were a lot of groups that got pretty much wiped out, but those that defended their lands successfully are here to stay. The Iroquois and Seminole inspired peoples fought a lot of tough wars to protect their lands, but the colonial age is over now, and it is accepted that they are independent nations. They are reasonably well off.

It's worse on the Plains, because those that survived ethnic cleansing ended up living under a colonial government that didn't have any actual ability to enforce its decrees once it became an independent nation, creating a scenario where there is nothing to stop settlers claiming whatever they want and natives from retaliating, even with the stealing of native land being accepted by modern nations as a bad thing to do. It's basically a constant low level civil war combined with rampant economic exploitation of pretty much everybody not rich and "Law Enforcement" that is mostly handled by vigilantes and lynch mobs.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

I sometimes picture my drow as analogues to the nomadic roma (gypsies).

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Kelsey Arwen MacAilbert wrote:

I have an update. Somebody was asking about worlds that are not planets, and I decided I want to make one. So I made a bowl. The outside is the Surface. The inside is the Underdark, and never sees daylight, but it does have stars, galaxies, and nebulai that are brighter than anything the Surface gets, and they light the Underdark during their day cycle (the stars, galaxies, and nebulai disappear at night in the Underdark). It still looks and feels like starlight, just somewhat brighter. Somebody from the Surface would call an Underdark day dark, and would be able to see about half as far as during a normal surface day. If you sail to the edge of the bowl, you will flip over to the other side. It is also possible to tunnel between the Surface and the Underdark (Be extremely careful, though. The crust between the Surface and the Underdark has underground rivers and magma chambers in between the areas of solid rock.).

The war between Aesir and Jotunn is retconned out, and the Drow are natives of the Underdark. Elves and Drow are still highly related races, and the cultural details I posted above remain the same, except that Drow live among Dwarves (Dwarves are Underdark natives.) and the Sun and Moon references are removed. The Surface is arctic at the edges, and the Underdark is coldest at the edges and the Nordic inspired peoples, such as Elves and Drow, live near these edges.

Should I be using the term Underdark, or is that specific to the Forgotten Realms only?

Don't use UnderDark on anything you plan on publishing. It's pretty much WOTC's IP.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Some ideas based on what went on behind the scenes in my semi-homebrewed settings ...

My Dark elves were dark-skinned from the beginning (the elven deities each moulded their own sub-race of elves to suit a particular environment, and the Dark elves' divine patron was the goddess of night/stars/travel/love/war). The race originally lived in southern deserts, but later expanded to coastal areas everywhere. They were known as merchants, city-builders, sailors, and warriors. There was no innate hostility to other elven races. Magitech/technology was developed and co-existed with magic (divine and arcane).

Dark Archive

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Kelsey Arwen MacAilbert wrote:
Should I be using the term Underdark, or is that specific to the Forgotten Realms only?

The inhabitants of the 'bowl' might consider themselves the inhabitants of the original cradle of life, in an area sheltered from danger, sort of an 'Eden' analogue, and residents of the outer brighter-lit area to be kind of crazy, by comparison, living on the wild 'underside,' as they think of it. (The fact that you tunnel down to reach magma, and place a fire on the bottom of a bowl, would make their assumption that they are living on the 'top' of the bowl seem logical.)

They might call their own dark area 'the Cradle,' while thinking of those clinging to the sun-lit side as 'Outsiders' or 'Downsiders.'

The world being bowl-shaped would likely lead to great glacier-topped mountain ranges along the edges (from whose monster-haunted peaks all rivers flow), and a vast sea at the very center, around which the various nations, empires and lands of the world are arranged in a crude circle.


Yeah, the bowl creates other gravity and cosmology questions. Ends up having aspects of a hollow world and a ringworld, which isn't a BAD thing but requires some plotting and prepping. Questions like "where does gravity flip? come into play.


The bowl was the first thing that came to mind, but I had the problem of the horizon curving upwards. I just could not deal with it. I ended up adjusting the idea so the horizon can curve down on both sides. The world is a massive disk, slightly concave on both sides, as if one put two bowls together. One side is Thyressa. This side has a sun during the day and a moon at night. It is home to peoples such as the magni (think earth humans), elves, orcs, and many others. Thyressa is by far the better known side of the world. The other side is Thoros, which has a day characterized by a dark blue sky lit by bright stars, swirling galaxies, and wondrously colored nebulai and inky black nights. It is home of such peoples as the dwarves, the drow, and the nekomini. It should be noted that no race is more inherently good or evil than any other race. On both sides of the world, the outer rim is cold and icy, and the world gets warmer as you move closer to the center of the disk. If you sail off the edge of the disk, you will end up on the other side. It is not the easiest or most comfortable trip, but people do make it. In the area close to the center of Thyressa's surface, the wind always blows outwards and is powerful, and sailing ships could not get past this windwall to see what the center looked like. As a result, it was long unknown what was there. But now metal hulled ships propelled by powerful fuels concocted by Alchemists are available, and they can get through the winds to the other side. The first few (known) expeditions have been sent, and more will be going soon. What have they found so far? Strange, inhuman peoples and unfamiliar creatures, and lands filled with all sorts of never before seen terrain, like flying cities that people live in or islands made of fire (that people live on) or huge underwater cities and people that are part human and part fish (!). Most confusing, however, is the fact that this place in the center of Thyressa actually seems to be much larger in diameter than the wall of powerful winds that surrounds it. It should not be able to come anywhere close to fitting within the boundaries set by the windwall. In Thoros the area close to the center of the surface is ringed off by massive, jagged mountains rising from the ocean that are so dangerous they have yet to be crossed by any explorer (known). Presumably, there is a similar phenomenon to that past Thyressa's windwall on the other side of the mountains, but this is not known for sure.

As for rules of physics, I'm not worrying about that from a geological scale. As a Geography student, I have too much impulse to try to attach actual physical rules to things and overanalyze them, and it kills my worldbuilding. I do so much analysis that I never get anything done, and every good idea I get I end up analyzing to death. That's why I'm going with a world that isn't even a planet. It makes it obvious that the rules aren't the same. That's why the rims of the disk have ice flows everywhere but are not solid ice, despite the rim being at a temperature where they should be, and it's why the dimensions of the center of the world straight up don't make sense at all. Hell, the shape of the world itself shouldn't be possible, and weather patterns can't be realistically calculated. Also, as you can see, I got rid of the term Underdark (and Surface). What I like about this world is that it gives my magitech Victoriana a more fantastic feeling, while providing lots of strange places for the pith helmeted explorer to go see (Back in Thyressa's developed countries, the majority of PC work is monster hunting for the government.).


Physics can bend however you want, but I'm just curious what happens when someone goes a-burrowing. "Can't dig that deep" is a viable answer, but a bit less interesting in my opinion since it means Thyressa and Thoros only interact by sailing over the edge of the world.


boring7 wrote:
Physics can bend however you want, but I'm just curious what happens when someone goes a-burrowing. "Can't dig that deep" is a viable answer, but a bit less interesting in my opinion since it means Thyressa and Thoros only interact by sailing over the edge of the world.

Hmm. Perhaps theoretically you can tunnel to the other side, it's just that this is an engineering project of epic, unprecedented scale. It's a lot of land to cut through, and while there is no magma core, there are plentiful magma chambers, underground lakes and rivers, pools of acid, fire, supernaturally cold water, and electricity, poisonous gas chambers, and other dangers. I can imagine a project to build such a tunnel being underway between an alliance of Thyressan and Thorosan nations (Trade in spell components, which are required for the fuels that run world industry, and luxury goods is quite lucrative, and there is demand for trained professionals to move in both directions. You already see Dwarves and Drow in Thyressa with some frequency as architects and engineers [and night workers], and Thyressan agricultural professionals and ship builders are in demand in Thoros.), but it's not complete yet because it takes a lot of effort to locate these dangers and dig through what is usually solid rock, and a straight line can't be done because of the need to evade hazards. It is also difficult because the the Druids say that gravity wants to pull things down the tunnel until it hits the boundary between Thyressa and Thoros, where the two regions have about a mile of zero gravity between them. The Druids would be the ones to know, so it is necessary to have a vertical railway that is safe both moving up and moving down and permanently affixed to the track so it doesn't fall off in zero gravity. Moving the train in zero gravity without friction shouldn't be a problem (It retains it's speed from when it was moving in regular gravity, I think.), but after it gets to the other side it needs enough grip and power to pull it vertically up the track against gravity. Not impossible because Wizards, but extremely difficult. So, currently you do have to sail between the two, but tunneling is not impossible, it is just taking a lot of time, money, and thought to get it done, and it is going to be a long wait. Not to mention the political factions opposed to the massive costs the project is currently racking up.

There is also a big ice floe in one part of the rim that goes between both sides of the world and has so many close together islands that a railroad may be feasible. If we do that (while not abandoning the tunnel, which will be faster but probably won't be operational for decades), we will have some option other than sailing, though it only goes from one area of the rim, and the rim is pretty big (It is bigger around than Earth would be if you cut the planet in half and laid one half flat on a table.) and not that densely populated (cold and icy, as well as geographically massive compared to the warmer interior areas). You know, I have been looking for an excuse to have a city of at least half a million in an arctic region, and this would give me one. People put up with the brutal arctic conditions because they are situated on the only railroad link to Thoros, and that means lots of trade moving through. They are also near a network of hot springs, so are marginally warmer than the surrounding terrain. Enough to be like living in a gigantic city version of Barrow, Alaska (though with significantly more winter snow, because Barrow doesn't get a lot but I want a snowy city and I stopped following the rules of realistic climate when I made a world cold at the edges and warm inland) instead of being cold like Antarctica (which a lot of the region surrounding them is).


I should probably consider the cardinal directions. Let us say North is towards the rim, South is towards the center, East is clockwise, and West is counter-clockwise. So, clockwise and towards the rim is Northeast, counter-clockwise and towards the center is Southwest, and so on. A compass needle will point towards the very center of Thyressa or Thoros, depending on which side of the world you are on, so a navigator will know precisely where South is.


I would go with several tunnels, previously-abandoned projects to either burrow to the other side or simply do major excavations, but that none of them go more than a third of the way down directly. Add in some Darklands/Scarytown where monsters scuttle and crawl, as well as some poorly-charted routes through the semi-natural caverns and maybe something to do with the center where gravity doesn't work right and monsters that take advantage of that.

"Many a merchant has made a fortune crossing the Underline and plying his trade in Thyressa or Thoros, but many more has met his end in the deep dark, as food for one the the beasts that live between the faces of the world."

Make all the monsters sub-sentient, or freaky monster aberrations that would never be player characters. Maybe dig out and modify some critters from the Astral Plane for big pockets of empty, null gravity space. Have an excuse for the cavern systems themselves, and perhaps a way they shift and change over the years so that a route that works for 50 years might collapse and/or be re-dug by giant Shai-hulud sized purple worms.


Stereofm wrote:
There was a race of non-evil underground living elves in "The Night Below" 2e module; Can't remember their name now, though.

Rockseer elves.

Edit:somebody got it already. Never mind.

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