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The Drow

Discussion in 'Dungeons & Dragons + Other RPGs' started by Beren, Apr 17, 2010.

  1. Beren

    Beren Lovesick and Lonely Wanderer Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Here's a thread for discussing one of the apparently more fascinating races in the D&D gaming system, the Drow elves.
     
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  2. LKD Gems: 31/31
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    Highly cool idea, some elements are a little mysogynistic, and the paranoid could see it as racist if they don't actually do the reading. Salvatore had a great creation, but he also spawned too many imitators.
     
  3. Caradhras

    Caradhras I may be bad... but I feel gooood! Veteran

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    I'm not sure whether or not you mean it that way but Salvatore didn't create the Drow. I have read some of the Drizzt novels and I can say that salvatore himself did imitate fantasy classics (starting with the Lord of the Rings indisputably). People say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and in that case it can't be denied that Salvatore wrote some fairly decent stories but I would certainly not go as far as saying that he did bring much to the genre (don't get me started on his main creation, the Drizzt character who is a perfect Gary Stu, something that BG1 represented very aptly). I understand that there are many fans and I don't want to offend them but IMO Salvatore can't be compared to Tolkien, Howard, Vance or Moorcock (to name but a few).

    Anyway regarding the Drow I must say that they are definitely the coolest race in the Forgotten Realms setting. Playing one is certainly not an easy feat but their badassness makes it a thrilling experience. As villains they're not your regular down the mill XP fodder either.

    What I find really fascinating about them is the language that was devised to reflect their society and their values. If you're interested you should definitely check this link.
     
  4. NOG (No Other Gods)

    NOG (No Other Gods) Going to church doesn't make you a Christian

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    Regarding Salvatore, he's a great writer. Not so creative, but great writing. To some degree, his issue is a case of 'there's nothing new under the Sun'. Even Tolkein wasn't 100% creative (or even close), but at least he had the decency to ressurect some long dead lore to call on. Salvatore took from pop culture, which is a big no-no. That said, what he did with it was wonderful. What everyone else then did with that was sickening.

    The Drow overall are like most D&D races: shallow, flat, and cliche. It truely sickens me that they have become the standard by which all else is measured.
     
  5. Caradhras

    Caradhras I may be bad... but I feel gooood! Veteran

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    I wouldn't call Salvatore a "great" writer because I'd run out of adjectives for many other better writers (some I've listed in my previous post).

    Really I don't see what you mean by "100% creative" there is a fine line between literary creation and what could be almost considered to be plagiarism (like the thinly disguised reference to the Moria in The Crystal Shard).

    No offence, but it's very naive to expect any writer to be "100% creative" really... Nor is it a valid way to assess the quality of a literary work.

    There is only so much "new" stuff a writer can come up with. A writer is by definition the inheritor and a participant in a literary tradition. The words that a writer puts on the page are borrowed words that have been used for centuries, what the writer does is just assembling these words to create something new out of something ancient and borrowed. Getting some inspiration from ancient traditions and paying them the respect that they are due is what Tolkien did. You seriously can't compare Salvatore to Tolkien (or you can but don't expect me to take you seriously if you do). I'm pretty sure that Salvatore is a huge Tolkien fan and that he would have the honesty to recognize the fact that without Tolkien's writings he would probably never have written all his books.

    I don't want to further hijack this thread but regarding Salvatore I think that he made a decent job writing about the Forgotten Realms and becoming a fixture in the D&D franchise but I'm convinced that sadly for him being forever associated to D&D and popular culture (I agree with you on that point) will ultimately prevent him from rising above the status of a D&D based fantasy writer and accomplish true greatness on his own terms.

    It's only become a cliché because D&D is the most popular RPG and the common denominator for all RPG players and fantasy enthusiasts everywhere.

    It seems to me that you hate the Drow for the wrong reasons. The Drizzt cliché has been abused over the years by players and game developers alike (Remember HotU? Have a look at what Nale says at the bottom of this strip). It doesn't mean that Dark Elves are more limited than any other race or that they are necessarily "shallow" (it's quite the opposite actually, just ignore the unimaginative lot who struggles to imitate Salvatore and fail miserably).
     
  6. Rawgrim Gems: 21/31
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    They have become even more cliche now, with the 4th edition. Their favored class is now Ranger (Drizzt *cough*). I liked the race bigtime in the earlier editions though. They were great badguys, really.
     
  7. NOG (No Other Gods)

    NOG (No Other Gods) Going to church doesn't make you a Christian

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    Caradhras, the natural limits of creativity were actually my point in the last post. I think it's safe to divide writing fiction into a few categories. Things like description of events, character development, plot, etc. Originality of the above and more is one of those criteria. I'll agree Salvatore iss much less original than Tolkein, but only somewhat less skilled in the other areas, and he's still heads and shoulders above a lot of other writers I've read.

    As for the Drow, they're one of the most original D&D races, but that's not saying much. Kind of like most appealing pile of horse manure. The idea of a cruel, evil, sadistic, matriarchal society has been around at least since the oldest myths of the amazons. D&D just gave them dark skin, pointy ears, and made them live in caves. That's more effort than they put into most of their races, though.
     
  8. Caradhras

    Caradhras I may be bad... but I feel gooood! Veteran

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    FYI it's Tolkien, not Tolkein.

    IMO you're really wrong to try and assess literature according to categories. To establish a grid system to evaluate a product may be a good idea but I don't think that you can apply that principle to literary works. Even if it's easy to tell bad, uninspired writing from good writing, what you propose is nevertheless entirely subjective. It's impossible to establish an objective set of criteria, style is a very personal and subjective thing that you can only rate on a personal basis (whether or not an author works for you depends on your literary taste). I can think of literary masterpieces which would rank very low on your chart but still be fantastic examples of literary artistry. I don't believe that you can put art into boxes. That's such a reductive take on literature.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to literary criticism and analysis on an academic level since it may help understand a literary work better (although sometimes they are just off the mark, for instance a Marxist analysis of Bilbo the Hobbit or a Freudian analysis of The Lord of The Rings may be interesting to read but they have to be considered with some reservations). Rating a literary work is another thing altogether. To appreciate great writing is not about marking papers and when it comes to creative writing classes there is a lot of subjectivity involved for the teacher.

    Of course when it comes to things like rating gaming modules then I'd agree that it's more about a product than it is about art and your grid system would have its merits. D&D based novels are in between game modules and novels as they (most of the time) don't pretend to be more than what they are whereas literature goes well beyond mere storytelling.

    There is nothing wrong with the depiction of the Drow race as a template. Bear in mind that D&D is by definition a generic template for playing in a fantasy universe. When we talk about the Drow, we are referring to the Forgotten Realms which is probably the more fleshed out of the D&D worlds. Still, the Forgotten Realms is your most basic and generic dwarf and elf fantasy setting. If you're familiar with the Dark Sun setting or even Ravenloft or Planescape, you know that some campaign settings provide much more variety. Criticizing the Forgotten Realms for being unoriginal is a bit beside the point since it has never been meant to be that original. In that context the Drow are indeed interesting because they bring some originality to the Forgotten Realms.

    You stress similarities but you fail to take into account the differences. It's rather easy to take any fantasy creation and find elements in myths and elsewhere that could have been great influences to make a point about how unoriginal the idea was in the first place.

    If I were to play the reference game I wouldn't refer to the Amazons but to the Melnibonéans. Apart from the matriarchal society and their subterranean habitat, the Dark Elves look a lot like the Melnibonéans.

    The "horse manure" comment doesn't bring much to the discussion. It does show your contempt though.

    I didn't know that they made Ranger the favoured class. It's really silly and it seems to me that 4E doesn't live up to previous editions.

    Anyway, I've done a quick google search and found this for 2E (it's from the good old days, 1991). I like the part about the language. ;)
     
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  9. Blades of Vanatar

    Blades of Vanatar Vanatar will rise again Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    There is no comparison between Salvatore and Tolkien. Tolkien created a world filled with lots of wonderful characters. Salvatore just added a small part to an already created world, the Forgotten Realms, of which the origins and fleshing out were of Ed Greenwood's doing and added on by many others prior to Salvatore stepping in. Just the chracters from his book are truely his. The world his books exist in are only his interpretation of anothers work.

    As for Salvatore's writing, I find it halfway-decent to subpar. I like a few of his characters, but they could be so much better. Especially Drizzt. The background he is given by Salvatore and his internal conflicts make for an interesting character, but I think Salvatore fails to deliver the knockout punch. It is too easy to see where he is going when reading his novels. They are entertaining enough, but not great.

    As for the Drow. They are awesome. A mostly Matriarchal race, as a large number of their followers worship or at least greatly fear Lloth. They wish to enslave all other races and have dominance over all, with an eons-long hatred of other Elves. In the history of fantasy, Elves in themselves have a special part, as in lot's of fantasy settings, they are the mystical race that humans look up to. A little bit more refined in the understanding of magic and the world they live in. To me, an excellent race. For the Drow to be a fallen sect of Elves, it makes them arch-villians. Terrible to encounter for the inexperienced adventurer. Goblins and Orcs are standard fare as far as monsters go, but the Drow are several steps above. A truly awesome race and a great additon to the ranks for the badguys!:)
     
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    Its easy to see where his books are going, true. Usually its a badguy stirring up trouble. Drizzt finds out about it during a fight vs low level enemies, then joins up with the rest of his group, they fight some other beasties, and then end up facing the badguy. A 2 chapter long fight ensues, with Drizzt and the main guy being satisfied with a draw.
     
  11. Blades of Vanatar

    Blades of Vanatar Vanatar will rise again Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    That's about right on. How many times has he met Artemis and neither has died. Crap!

    I did like reading the War of the spider Queen series, as Salvatore only oversaw the series development and didn't write the actual content. But with 6 different authors, the take on the characters shifted from writer to writer. I especially liek Phauran and Ryld. Jeggred the Draegloth was pretty unique. Nothing like traveling with demon-drow off-spring.
     
  12. Caradhras

    Caradhras I may be bad... but I feel gooood! Veteran

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    It's because of an obvious melodramatic bias on the writer's part. I can't help thinking that some of Salvatore's stories are a bit like a soap opera in that respect. The thing Rawgrim pointed out is significant. It may be repetitive in the end but it's all part of the hero vs villain tradition, the nemesis here being Artemis Entreri. The formula is a bit tired and gets old rather quickly but it still works.

    I haven't read enough of Salvatore's novels (to be honest the ones I've read felt like a competent novelization of a pnp campaign to me, which isn't bad for sheer entertainment value) to be familiar with the names Blades referred to in his post but I do agree that Dark Elves make really badass villains. I find Jarlaxle to be a very interesting character in that respect and I like him a lot more than Drizzt.

    I like Dark Elves, I didn't pick that avatar for no reason. ;)
     
  13. Blades of Vanatar

    Blades of Vanatar Vanatar will rise again Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Carad - If you like Dark Elves in general, I highly recommend reading the War of the Spider Queen series. It's a 6 book set. High powered Dark Elves adventuring together. It's very entertaining.
     
  14. Caradhras

    Caradhras I may be bad... but I feel gooood! Veteran

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    Thanks for the tip Blades. The different authors may be a pain but I'll put it on my list of fantasy books for the summer. ;)
     
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    I hate Halisstra Melarn. She reminds me of Philip Athan's Abdel, a character who should be dead but is somehow up, alive and walking not by luck/skill/intelligence/a unique chain of incidents but apparently by fate (aka because the WotC said so) alone.

    Salvatore's books lack a certain "oomph". Content is great, but delivery and character/story development is so-so. Overall not terrible.

    It might be worth mentioning that Salvatore originally wanted Wulfgar to be the main hero of his books, not Drizzt. He has a gift for creating amazing supporting characters, like Jarlaxle and Montolio.
     
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    I know that Salvatore didn't invent drow -- I was referring to Drizzt and the resulting phenomenon -- he really brought the race to prominence in the D&D sense, and the imitators he spawned kinda sucked (the whole race consisting of Chaotic Good drow yearning to be free of their oppressive kin, that sort of thing. Was that the link from OOTS posted earlier?
     
  17. T2Bruno

    T2Bruno The only source of knowledge is experience Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    The Drow were were around long before the creation of The Forgotton Realms ... they were created by Gary Gygax in the 70's. The drow were the main villians in "Vault of the Drow (D3)" released in 1977 (although I believe there were a few in the the first two modules of the series). Lloth was first introduced in the follow-on module "Queen of the Demonweb Pits (Q1)" which was written by David Sutherland and Gary Gygax.
     
  18. Blades of Vanatar

    Blades of Vanatar Vanatar will rise again Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Both were great modules too. Unfortunately, they never expanded on the great info that was created. At least, not until the FR - Menzobarranzan Boxed set came out.
     
  19. Caradhras

    Caradhras I may be bad... but I feel gooood! Veteran

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    Yes, the whole CG thing. This strip really hit the nail on the head.

    Good point. I know Gygax created the Drow, I just don't remember the old D&D modules that well (I was really too young). I still have a French copy of The Keep on the Borderlands (B2) and The Lost City (B4). I have fond memories of playing these modules in the late 80s. The Lost City was just incredible. Zargon was a fantastic opponent. I remember spending hours looking at the subterranean city map and writing stories about adventurers trapped in the city. :)
     
  20. LKD Gems: 31/31
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    I am no Tolkien expert, but IIRC his Orcs were elves who had been corrupted by evil. This would make them "dark" elves in a good/evil sense.

    I like the subterranean element to the drow, although the tendency to make "deep" or "dark" versions for nearly every race quickly became wearisome. I mean, it works for dwarves, but that's about the extent of my ability to buy the idea. The idea that the women are horribly evil and domineering is something that I think should see a lot more focus, as it is a true reflection of many of the women I have had in my life ;)

    Lolth is a fine opponent at any level, and the expansionistic drow causing havoc both in the Underdark and aboveground is a great hook for any number of adventures. I especially like foes who are not sub-par in terms of intellect.
     
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