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FOR2 The Drow of the Underdark (2e)

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They are the favorite foes of many a party of adventurers. In these pages, the drow come to life, their culture and powers detailed fully for the first time. This guide presents new rules galore; new spells, new magical items, insight into the mysteries of Lolth, Monstrous Compendium entries for related monsters of the Underdark-and much, much more.
Learn all about the drow herein, from the words of the ancient elven sage Erlathan Greycloak ("Proud, graceful evil. Cruelty personified; talent wasted, beauty lost in darkness" ) to the lore of the great sage Elminster ("Did I ever tell thee how close I came to having a drow wife? No? Well, then").  
Product History
FOR2: The Drow of the Underdark (1991) was the second release in the new prestige Forgotten Realms series, and the first by setting creator Ed Greenwood. It was published in July 1991.
A Shared History. Drow follows on from the history of FOR1: Draconomicon (1990), as it was the second book in a series meant to expand upon "elements" of the Forgotten Realms that went beyond the geography of the "FR" series (1987-1993). It also has the same gloss-on-matte cover treatment. Like Draconomicon, this is a book about a singular monstrous culture - but it actually spends a lot more time on that culture than its predecessor because it doesn't include variant monster types nor adventures (as Draconomicon did).
About the Drow. By 1991, the drow already had a rich history, much of which Greenwood explicitly referenced when writing this new book about drow in the Forgotten Realms. The drow were first mentioned in the Monster Manual (1977), but they didn't actually appear until the famous GDQ adventure series (1978, 1980) by Gary Gygax & David C. Sutherland III. D3: "Vault of the Drow" (1978) was particularly important because it depicted a society of warring, Lolth-worshiping drow that later became the archetype for the species.
Other notable sources referenced by Greenwood are as follows: "Children Of the Spider Goddess," by Eric Oppen, in Dragon #129 (January 1988), the first "point of view" article for the drow; "Entering the Drider's Web," by C.E. Misso, in the same issue, which gives a bit more detail on the spider-drow; and of course R.A. Salvatore's Drizzt Do'Urden stories, beginning with The Crystal Shard (1988), which made drow important to the Realms.
Expanding the Drow & The Realms. Though technically a Forgotten Realms book, this volume, much like its predecessor, spends most of its attention on detailing the culture of the peoples headlining the book - here, the drow. Thus, there's material on the nature of the drow, their society, and their religion (plus lots of crunchy bits like spells and magic items). One of Greenwood's biggest goals in writing these sections was to suggest drow societies that did things other than worship Lolth, which had been the standard model to date. He wanted to make the drow into well-rounded people and to create a society for them that could actually survive - not just annihilate itself.
One of Greenwood's most important expansions in this direction (and one of the biggest expansions for both the drow and the Realms) was the creation of three new drow deities - something that Greenwood added at the behest of editor Newton Ewell: Eilistraee, or the "Dark Maiden" was thus a goddess for good drow (who had previously appeared in Greenwood's own campaign); while Vhaeraun was a god of drow living in the surface world.
Historically, the most interesting of the new drow deities is Ghaunadaur, who was a "Realmsified" version of Gary Gygax's Elder Elemental God (or EEG for short). The EEG was first introduced in the G-series adventures, in which a couple of his temples show up. He's mentioned again in the D-series adventures, where he's supposed to be a foe of Lolth. It's likely that he was intended to be the big bad guy at the end of the GD sequence - before Sutherland decided to use Lolth instead because of an attractive hand towel (see the history of Q1: "Queen of the Demonweb Pits").
Similarly, the EEG was supposed to be the big baddie at the bottom of T1-4: The Temple of Elemental Evil (1985), but eventually Zuggtmoy filled that slot. After those near misses, Ghaunadaur became the first real look at the EEG. He'd next appear in DMGR4: Monster Mythology (1992). More recent sources suggest that the EEG is the same entity as Tharizdun from WG4: "The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun" (1982), but in later interviews Gygax clearly stated this was not his intention.
Further Expanding the Realms. In his dedication, Greenwood thanks James Lowder for "finding drow in the Realms." This references the fact that Lowder was at the time the Forgotten Realms fiction line editor, and thus responsible for coordinating materials between the RPG and fiction lines. Among the things he did was figure out possible locations for drow settlements in the Realms.
Not a lot of this shows up in Drow, though, which spends just a single page talking about the Underdark, but it was surely the foundation of some of the material in the book. Later books about drow in the Forgotten Realms would offer much more detail on their underground cities.
Monsters of Note. Drow includes numerous new monsters - most of them spiders and bugs. Two monsters are worthy of a bit more note: the deep dragons - an Underdark-dwelling drake which has appeared in a few Forgotten Realms supplements over the years - made their first appearance here; and the yochlol, or handmaidens of Lolth, meanwhile make their first 2e appearance, following Q1: "Queen of the Demonweb Pits" (1980) and Monster Manual II (1983). They've appeared a few times since, both in the Forgotten Realms and in Planescape.
Future History. A short time after this publication, Ed Greenwood wrote "If You Need Help - Ask the Drow!" for Dragon #176 (December 1991), which crossed over some ideas from Drow with The Ruins of Undermountain (1991). Two related books also appeared in the 2e era: Greenwood's Menzoberranzan (1992) gave specific detail on one of the drow cities of the Underdark, while Eric L. Boyd's Drizzt Do'Urden's Guide to the Underdark (1999) detailed many cities and civilizations within the Forgotten Realms' Underdark.
More recently, Underdark (2003) covered the Forgotten Realms' Underdark for 3e, though it was about lots of races, not just the drow. Chapter 8 of that book is notable for laying out the various kingdoms, providing a real gazetteer for the underworld. Finally, Drow of the Underdark (2007) shared a name with this tome, but detailed drow generally, with no specific reference to the Realms.
About the Creators. By 1991, Greenwood was writing several Forgotten Realms books a year for TSR. One of his then recent works of note was FR11: "Dwarves Deep" (1990) - which he ties into Drow though a story of warfare between dwarves and drow, something that was originally inspired by Roger E. Moore.
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

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Reviews (4)
Discussions (3)
Customer avatar
Maung Thaw H August 28, 2022 3:14 am UTC
The Drow of the Underdark with content warning: Not all Drows are evil and here are examples of various cultures that included non Lolth Worshippers with some of them actually nice to other people and open friendship with surface races.
Drow afterward: Lulz, everyone is cartoonishly evil and eat babies in the name of evil spider queen. Also Drizzt and other novel characters are few of good ones.
I mean they did bring upon themselves since 3E (even having Eilistraee priestess mutilating male worshipper for watching their dances even though it's open to all genders in canon).
Customer avatar
Tommaso S August 28, 2022 3:58 am UTC
Ah yes, the 'smear campaign' against Eilistraee in Smedman's and Athans' novels. It was just... *chef's kiss*: "see, the drow are so evil, that even good drow born outside Lolth's society, and who never once experienced it, STILL are basically self-righteous sickos despite having no reason for acting like that! It's true! Don't mind the decades of lore telling you otherwise, even Eilistraeans actually are just a lite version of the Lolthites!" Smh.

As for eating babies, I remember coming across that dragon mag article from 3e, about "chad-zak"--aka: "drow mothers are often pregnant with multiplets, and get orgasms when their children kill each other while in the womb". Lol. Premium quality clown material right there.

And now WotC are putting the blame for the ridiculous characterization of the drow on books like this, that actually tried to provide nuance to the drow, and introduced a whole faith/faction of good drow. It's all a huge joke
Customer avatar
Maung Thaw H January 27, 2023 3:18 am UTC
Yeah, kinda see that.
A rare moment where the new canon managed to somehow be more problematic than the old canon.
I think I remember a DnD cartoon crossover where El Minister told Presto not to judge evil races as evil after he had chit-chat with Qilue the Drow, so yeah 2E FR did try to avoid evil races to an extent.
Well, you can warn about nude dances, but it's minute compared to say..."doing graphic lewds with Demons as part of graduation ceremony at Drow wizard academy" or "having fun with traumatized captives just for kicks".
Customer avatar
Jason M July 09, 2020 3:50 pm UTC
I thought I better get this while I could. This is and important part of D&D history and I hop it remains for future enjoyment. I cant believe were even discussing racism regarding ELVES in a FANTASY world.
Customer avatar
Zach W July 26, 2020 9:13 pm UTC
No kidding, I just saw this tagline added as well. I can hear the REEEEEEing through my screen.
Customer avatar
Jon V March 09, 2021 12:12 am UTC
With all the cancel culture going on, I'm surprised it's still here. If I ever meet a Drow on the street, I'll make sure they know my Halfling privilege caused them to worship an evil goddess.
Customer avatar
Maung Thaw H August 07, 2022 7:19 am UTC
Well, ironically Wizards kinda contributed to it by sidelining Eilistraee for Drizzt.
Because having an edgy brooding ranger is a better selling point than a group of nice and friendly Dark Elves trying to befriend local surface cultures.
Customer avatar
Aaron L November 30, 2013 10:51 pm UTC
This book like the latr Codeof the Harpers, was one of my very favorite 2E books, which always puzzled me because I actually fairly intensely despised the way the Forgotten Realms was presented in 2nd Edition (the mandates of Good always winning, Evil being incompetent bunglers, etc.) But this book was just so well-written and the Drow were presented s o weel that it overcamemy dislike of the 2E era Realms.

However, there was ONE part of the book that I absolutely hated: Eilistraee, the Dark Maiden. Why a "Good Drow" goddess was needed just baffled me (and continues to do so.) The only reason for this goddess I could fathom was to provide a ready made religion for whole legions of Drizzt wannabee clones angstfully rebelling against their Evil culture while wallowing in stoic self-pity, a character type that is still unfortunately ubiquitous. Why would "Good" Drow not just worship the Seldarine, instead of the Demons that the majority of their culture worshipped (which was how...See more
Customer avatar
Tommaso S January 21, 2015 6:05 pm UTC
Eilistraee wasn't added just to have a ''good drow'' goddess, even if that was probably why Ed was ordered to include her in the published Realms.

Per Ed's words:

''Yes, Eilistraee is part of the "home" Realms campaign and has appeared "onstage" and by dream-vision and manifestation in Realmsplay. At the writing of (the first) DROW OF THE UNDERDARK, I was asked to create a deity for "good" drow for the game, and used the opportunity to make official the Dark Dancer female drow goddess I'd already created for my own use.
And, oh yes: Eilistraee lives!

She has been part of his original FR even before their becoming public, and he made them official when TSR asked for a good drow deity. Granted it was done because good drow were becoming popular, but she wasn't added as a mere excuse for Drizzt clones (who really don't need her to be played). She is integral part of the Realms with her definite story, role and concept,...See more
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