So Hark’s been reading about drow, and now she wants to negotiate the problems of ‘evil races’ in a world where everyone’s pretty vile to everyone else, and matriarchy, and diaspora, and religious competition. Basically she wants to play a game set in the Underdark, for reasons which I think are interesting, so I’ve been thinking about drow and what I can do with them vis-a-vis integrating them into the world I’m building for D&D purposes.
What I don’t want is the Tolkenian baggage of Regular Elves to go with my Dark Elves, so I’m rolling with an idea I had some years ago (before I went off on this NO FUCKING ELVES, DWARVES OR HOBBITS kick) and modifying it. The original idea was this: elves are extinct.
Elves can interbreed with humans, and as societies (mainly human) have expanded into their traditional holdings, the elves have discovered that there are other kinds of incorporation too. They have moved in, bred in and otherwise gotten in with humans to the point that there is no-one left with pure elvish ancestry, and that elvish culture largely consists of selling elaborately hand-crafted silver-and-feather gew-gaws to rustics and easily confused travellers (plus a few ruined, abandoned cities in the deep forests, inhabited by ghosts and bad memories). There are such things as half-elves, individuals where the elvish blood runs truer than elsewhere, but aside from excellent night vision, pointy ears and a greater than natural aptitude for magic (perhaps the Illusionist could be made available to them as a class?), there is little difference.
That was the original idea. Now, the revision.
Elves are extinct – on the surface. As other societies expanded, the ancient domains of the elves were subsumed. The elves who did not integrate with humans and eventually reduce down to half-breeds (perhaps because there were none to integrate with – I’m starting to get a feel for different continents and regions here) struggled to adapt, and were driven further and further into the barely-habitable wildernesses. Eventually, some of the larger tribes who’d been driven to the right parts of the world moved underground, to scratch a bare and bitter existence that they still found preferable to their surface-dwelling years, largely because they had chosen it.
They delved deep. They were forgotten. They awoke strange, ancient powers and bargained with them. They were changed.
And that’s where drow come from in whatever-the-hell-I’m-calling-this-world. They consider themselves the noble and pure survivors of the true elven race – they detest surface-dwellers, particularly the blood-traitors who bred in with humans rather than stay pure – they are a bunch of arrogant, xenophobic, isolationist survivalists, whose culture is preoccupied with living up to its own legacy, staying pure. Of course, from their point of view, they were driven into becoming what they are because it was that or dwindle away into a polluted mockery of their former selves. The irony of their current situation is lost on most of them.
Perhaps they are trying to reconquer the surface world. Perhaps they just want it to leave them alone. Perhaps their new gods drive them to do strange and terrible things, or perhaps they do them out of spite. Perhaps they can be bargained with – perhaps not. They are a capricious lot anyway, and there are different houses, in different parts of the world, and different, competing monotheist cults among them. What one house wants may not be what another wants.
That’s… interesting enough to warrant their presence, I feel. I still don’t want to put bloody dwarves in it though.