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Drow with Class: Part I

Drow with Class: Part I - Barbarian to Druid

This is a lowdown of how the current classes available for D&D players and DMs would suit a drow character in the standard "evil" game - that is a drow character living in a Lolth-dominated city of the Underdark of Faerûn. Based on the history as told in sourcebooks and novels alike, the whole undertaking remains my personal view on this matter and Wizards of the Coast may have quite different opinions on this topic.


We will first deal with the core classes, the non-player classes, and classes of the Complete as well as Heroes series. Later on, notes on PHB II classes, PrC from Core and FR sources may follow.


For further reference on the topic about how "classed" drow might be played, Green Ronin's publication Plot & Poison also features a description regarding the drow in relation to the core classes, while e.g. Races of Faerûn and Underdark lists a number of favored PrC options for drow players and NPCs alike.


Let me stress again that this is my view on the drow of the Forgotten Realms setting and the latter follows some peculiar rules and features not encountered in all settings of WotC. The lowdown will give some general and some technical remarks on each class as well as either a statblock of or a link to a detailed NPC for reference.

Most of the "linked" NPCs have been created by Warlockco in his conversion of the drow NPCs of Menzoberranzan. Unless otherwise stated, these statblocks already include penalties (armor) or bonuses gained from feats (e.g. Blooded), synergy effects, or special class features (Wild Empathy). For convenience, each class description is supported by starting scores created by the point-buy system according to the following criteria:


Character levels 1 to 4 - 25 point buy

Character levels 5 to 9 - 28 point buy

Character leves 10 plus - 32 point buy


These "character levels" do not include a drow's LA nor do abilities include bonus points due to level advancement.


Part I - Barbarians, Bards, Clerics, and Druids


Few drow would be expected to follow the ways of life and fighting as the average barbarian type of character. They usually lack the strength and constitution required to survive the fighting style preferred by barbarians, usually relying on agility, precise strikes, and less straight forward tactics. Renegades aside, the only ones willing to take up levels as a barbarian may be worshippers of Selvetarm, the drow god of warriors. So far, no drow city in any publication has seen drow barbarian in their descriptions though.

Most drow barbarians will lack the physical power of other races, much like elven barbarians. They will thus most likely follow a more dexterous approach to combat, either by wielding one-handed weapons suited for their enhanced strength, or two weapons in a combination preferred by Selvetarm, i.e. sword and mace, or sword and axe. It should be kept in mind that no drow warrior will have any great ability with two-handed or large weapons, as in most cases, fighting in the Underdark (or drow houses) is severely restricted - see Underdark for special rules on fighting in confined spaces. Furthermore, followers of Selvetarm eschew the use of missile weapons like bows and crossbows. Skill-wise, one would expect that drow barbarians focus on speed and agility too (Balance, Jump, Tumble), while trying to show off with their rather drow-atypical style to intimidate opponents as well.

On the technical side, drow characters gain good skill points (INT racial bonus), speed and the Uncanny Dodge / Improved Uncanny Dodge abilities (DEX). High HP would suit the loss due to lower CON scores while the loss on AC when raging is taken care of by higher DEX scores. Given the bonuses on Will saves and better than average Ref saves due to higher DEX, a drow barbarian may have its advantages, despite their relative cultural non-existence.

Barbarians might most likely be encountered as multi-class characters following Selvetarm, either as barbarian / fighter, barbarian / hexblade, or barbarian / cleric.


Optional class:

Green Ronin's add-on to Plot & Poison, the adventure Dezzavold, introduces a class called the Black Heart. Devotees of Nyarleth, a goddess War, Rage, and Conquest in Green Ronin's setting, the class presents a mixture of barbarian and paladin and would be equally perfect for either followers of Selvetarm or Lolth. Another option would be the Paladin of Slaughter, as presented in Unearthed Arcana, which would substitute the paladin class as well.


Base character starting scores:

CL 1 - 4: STR 16 DEX 16 CON 13 INT 10 WIS 10 CHA 9

CL 5 - 9: STR 16 DEX 16 CON 13 INT 10 WIS 12 CHA 10

CL 10+ : STR 16 DEX 16 CON 14 INT 12 WIS 12 CHA 10


V'alandyra is one of the more traditional barbarian style fighters. As a devotee of Selvetarm, the drow deity of warriors, she loves to wade into a fight straight away and cause as much havoc with axe and sword as possible. With a bit of training, she might become a decent Tempest (Complete Adventurer, PrC).


V'alandyra: Drow female Barbarian 8; CR 9; Medium-size Humanoid (Drow); HD 8d12+16; HP 79; Init +3 (+3 Dex); Spd 40 ft.; AC 21 (+3 Dex, +8 armor) (Touch 15, flat-footed 18); Base Atk: +8; Grp: +11; Atk +14/+9 melee (1d8+6/x3, +1 drowcraft battleaxe) or +12/+7 melee (1d8+6/x3, +1 drowcraft battleaxe) and +10/+8 melee (1d8+2/19-20/x2, +1 longsword) or +12/+7 ranged (1d6+3/19-20/x2, mw throwing axe);

SA Rage (3/day, 7 rounds), spell-like abilities.

SQ Damage reduction 1/-, Drow racial traits, Fast Movement, Improved Uncanny Dodge, SR 19, Trapsense +2, Uncanny Dodge;

AL CE; Patron Deity: Selvetarm

SV Fort +8, Ref +5, Will +5 (+7 Drow bonus; +9 while raging)

Str 16, Dex 17, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 10

Skills (SP - 44): Balance +2, Climb +5, Escape Artist +0, Handle Animal (lizard) +2, Hide +2, Intimidate +5, Jump +5, Knowledge (Nature) +2, Listen +8, Move Silently +2, Ride +6, Search +2, Speak Language (Drow Sign Language), Spot +3, Survival +6, Swim +5, Tumble +7;

Languages: Elven (Drow dialect, read & write), Common, Undercommon; Drow Sign Language.

Feats (3) - Improved Two Weapon Fighting, Oversized Two-Weapon Fighting (CAdv), Two-Weapon Fighting;

Spell-Like Abilities: 1/day - dancing lights, darkness, faerie fire. CL 8; save DC 10 + spell level.


Gear (GP 16,000): +1 longsword, +1 drowcraft battleaxe, +1 drowcraft breastplate (camouflaged & muffled), masterwork throwing axes (2).


While raging:

HP 95; AC 19 (Touch 13, flat-footed 16); Base Atk: +8; Grp: +13; Atk +16/+11 melee (1d8+10/x3, +1 drowcraft battleaxe, wielded two-handed) or +14/+9 melee (1d8+8/x3, +1 drowcraft battleaxe) and +10/+8 melee (1d8+3/19-20/x2, +1 longsword)

SV Fort +10, Ref +5, Will +7 (+9 Drow bonus)


These statblocks assume that the character stays in the Underdark and under the influence of faerzress. Hence the bonuses of her drowcraft items are always included.

Note that the deflection bonus of her armor do not go away with regard to touch attacks.

Drowcraft, camouflaged, and muffled are magical and mundane enhancements to equipment, described in Underdark.




Up to recent publications, bards were as "common" in drow society as barbarians. You had the odd entertainer here and there, but no great tradition. Enter War of the Spider Queen and Halisstra Melarn of fallen Ched Nasad. We are being told that there actually is a tradition of bards ... or more likely an Ilythiiri art of song magic called the "Whisperers of the Dark Queen". Essentially, one can now expect that bards will appear more often in publications, but most likely carrying a more sinister edge than standard bards. Such an example can also be found in the Liriel Baenre series, a so called Deathsinger. Most drow bards will focus on espionage and information gathering, keeping a lower profile than priestesses and wizards while trying to survive by their great force of personality and glibness. They will more often than not rely on their tongues rather than weapons to get themselves out of trouble. A more martially minded bard will most likely use Weapon Finesse and a rapier than any other weapon.

This core class is most likely the best option - technically-wise - for a drow character. You gain much from increased INT and CHA scores, and DEX always comes in handy for AC and saves. Lots of skill points and class skills as well as two good saves will make a drow bard a decent support character in a group, or a devious intruder. The spells have the drawback of having a somatic component, which is kind of unsuitable for Underdark campaigning. Drow opponents tend to be resistant to the enchantment effects and spells too, so a drow bard is required to develop tactics and strategies in this respect, most likely based on "social skills". The expert and rogue classes aside, a drow bard could become a decent trader or leader of a merchant house - with almost no focus on showing his artistic talents to earn his living. Of course, there is more than singing and performing to the bard class than what meets the eye.

The bard as such is a very adaptable class that can survive on its own without taking levels in other classes. They would profit most from multi-classing as clerics (spells, domain abilities (drow), and saves) or hexblades (same spellcasting ability with lots of gains) though.


Optional class:

The Battledancer of the Dragon Compendium (a collection of Dragon articles) might be useful for drow, though they lack the espionage and infiltration part. Bards following the artistic route of development may find the Spelldancer (Magic of Faerûn) as a useful PrC option later in their careers.


Base character starting scores: (focussing on force of personality)

CL 1 - 4: STR 10 DEX 14 CON 10 INT 12 WIS 12 CHA 18

CL 5 - 9: STR 10 DEX 14 CON 12 INT 13 WIS 12 CHA 18

CL 10+ : STR 12 DEX 14 CON 12 INT 14 WIS 12 CHA 19


This drow bard is working as a trader, spy, and assassin for her house, travelling between various marketplaces of the Underdark, e.g. Karsoluthiyl, Mantol-Derith, and Skullport. She works openly as an information dealer and uses her cunning to get information about ongoing trade deals between the various races of the Realms Below. She then sets up ambushes by utilizing mercenaries or her own House's (i.e., Shobalar) troops. Anival is quite adapt in the use of poison and an able fighter in melee combat too, should the need arise.


Anival Aalar: Drow female Bard 6 / Hexblade 4; CR 11; Medium-size Humanoid (Drow); HD 6d6+12 plus 4d10+8; HP 69; Init +6 (+2 Dex, +4 feat); Spd 30 ft.; AC 20 (+2 Dex, +8 armor) (Touch 14, flat-footed 18); Base Atk: +8; Grp: +9; Atk +13/+8 melee (1d6+4/18-20/x2, +1 drowcraft rapier) or +11 ranged (1d4/19-20/x2 plus poison (Fort DC 13), mw hand crossbow);

SA Hexblade's Curse (Will DC 16, -2 penalty, 1/day, free action), spell-like abilities, spells, suggestion (fascinated creature, Will DC 16).

SQ Arcane Resistance (+4 on saves vs. spells and spell-like abilities), Bardic Knowledge (+8), Bardic Music (Countersong, Fascinate: Perform check +12), Damage Reduction 1/-, Drow racial traits, Inspire Competence (+2), Inspire Courage (+1), Mettle (no effects if successfull Fort or Will save is made ("Fort or Will partial" spells only)), SR 21;

AL NE; Patron Deity: Lolth

SV Fort +5, Ref +8, Will +9 (+11 Drow bonus) (Arcane Resistance: +4 on all spells and spell-like abilities, not included)

Str 12, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 15, Wis 12, Cha 19

Skills (SP - 72 & 12): Appraise +4, Balance +2, Bluff +10, Concentration +7, Decipher Script +8, Diplomacy +15, Disguise +6, Gather Information +11, Hide +4, Intimidate +10, Knowledge (Arcana) +7, Knowledge (Dungeoneering) +6, Knowledge (Geography) +6, Knowledge (Local) +7, Knowledge (religion) +4, Listen +5, Move Silently +4, Perform +13, Ride +3, Search +4, Sense Motive +8, Sleight of Hand +5, Speak Language 2, Spellcraft +9 (+11 scrolls), Spot +3, Survival +1, Use Magic Device +9 (+13 scrolls);

Languages: Elven (Drow dialect), Common, Undercommon; Draconic, Drow Sign Language, Illithid, Kuo-toa.

Feats (4) - Improved Initiative, Negotiator, Practised Spellcaster (CArc, bard), Weapon Finesse;

Spell-Like Abilities: 1/day - dancing lights, darkness, faerie fire. CL 10; save DC 14 + spell level.


Bard Spells: (3/4/3); base DC = 14 + spell level; CL 10; spells known: 0 dancing lights, detect magic, ghost sound, mage hand, percussion (SoSi), read magic ; 1st ambient song (SoSi), critical strike (BoVD), cure light wounds, identify; 2nd blindness, cat's grace, invisibility.


Hexblade Spells: (1); base DC = 14 + spell level, CL 1; spells known: 1st entropic shield, phantom threat (CWar)


Gear (GP 27k): wand of hold person (23 ch), wand of know protections (MoF, Brd 1, 17 ch.), +1 drowcraft rapier, +2 drowcraft adamantine chain shirt, Potion of Cure Light Wounds (3), masterwork hand-crossbow, 17 bolts, 6 doses of drow poison, 2 doses of dark reaver powder.


These statblocks assume that the character stays in the Underdark and under the influence of faerzress. Hence the bonuses of her drowcraft items are always included.

Note that the deflection bonus of her armor do not go away with regard to touch attacks.




Hardly anything needs to be said about the role of this class in a city dominated by Lolth's clergy. They rule the Noble Houses which in turn rule the city in almost every aspect of life. When people think of drow, they think of scourge- or whip-wielding females casting powerful and sinister magic against friend and foe alike and without any mercy. You will find clerics in Houses, temples and shrines, as well as practicing in guilds, mercenary gangs, or in private - depending on the social status of the individual. Lolthite clerics usually go straight for spell-power without multi-classing (PrC aside), or pursue a more martial way taking up levels as a fighter. Non-noble priestesses may take up classes which suit their lifestyle, e.g. levels as a bard, rogue or expert in a merchant clans.

Lolth's clergy (including any divine casters) is solely made up of female characters, so male drow either chose other ways of advancing, join the faith of Selvetarm (to work alongside the Lolthites) openly, or the faiths of Ghaunadaur and Vhaeraun not that openly. The clergies of Kiaransalee and Eilistraee are, as far as I am concerned, made up of females only as well - usually working undercover too.

While the dagger is Lolth's (and Kiaransalee's) favored weapon, the priestesses usually revert to adamantine maces, short swords or long daggers on the field of battle. Senior clergy may have access to the dreaded whip (now scourge) of fangs, spider rods, or sometimes tentacle rods.

Skill-wise, clerics will go for spellcasting-related skills (Concentration, relevant Knowledge skills, Spellcraft) as well as those of the diplomatic kind - to handle and subdue their subordinates.

Due to their higher INT scores, drow clerics have a little advantage over their human colleagues, given the rare skill points and class skills of this class. The racial CHA bonus is a welcome addition for rebuking undead, but may - much like DEX - be sacrificed to free points for the WIS score. The lower CON ability can easily be countered by spells, while DEX may counter the low Ref saves. Obviously, the Drow Domain ability comes in handy here as well - Lolth's domains offer a wide range of choice anyway. Players of drow clerics should try to get their hands on sourcebooks of the more sinister kind, such as Libris Mortis or The Book of Vile Darkness, as they usually feature spells more "useful" for an evil character.


Going by canon lore, divine spellcasters of the Forgotten Realms have to chose a patron and have to follow the one-step alignment rule. This holds true for clerics, druids, rangers, blackguards, archivists, favored souls and the like. My suggestion to DMs would be to go back to the more detailed alignment rules for FR deities as given (for drow deities) in Demihuman Deities. This would allow for more freedom of choice with regard to other, more restricted classes and PrC. The classes discussed here will follow the normal rules though.

Furthermore, given training for up to 7 class levels in an academy, most (NPC) drow clerics of Lolth should get the Exotic Weapon Proficiency in either whip or scourge for free.


Optional Classes:

For low-born or adventurous drow, the Archivist (Heroes of Horror) could be a suitable choice. They will be analyzed later on, as will be the Favored Souls (Complete Divine). The latter would be a better option for more martial characters, though both classes will probably work best in connection with the cleric, as they lack the valuable domain powers and spells.


Base character starting scores:


Scores focussing on martial clerics:

CL 1 - 4: STR 12 DEX 13 CON 12 INT 12 WIS 15 CHA 12

CL 5 - 9: STR 14 DEX 14 CON 12 INT 12 WIS 15 CHA 12

CL 10+ : STR 14 DEX 14 CON 13 INT 14 WIS 15 CHA 12


Scores focussing on spell-/ power oriented clerics:

CL 1 - 4: STR 10 DEX 11 CON 10 INT 16 WIS 16 CHA 12

CL 5 - 9: STR 10 DEX 12 CON 12 INT 16 WIS 16 CHA 12

CL 10+ : STR 12 DEX 12 CON 12 INT 16 WIS 16 CHA 14


Sample NPCs (Matrons of Menzoberranzan): Link zum Gate




Drow druids will be very rarely met within the Underdark - if you take the PHB version of this class. FR lore has almost no reference to this class amongst the drow, even though Lolth is said to have taken up the role of patron of some Underdark druids of Ibrandul after the latter had been slain by Shar. Usually, druids have to chose Nature deities as patron and Lolth - or any other drow deity - hardly springs to mind immediately when thinking of Nature. Then again, her portfolio and domain of Spiders is quite "natural", while we have deities featuring on the druid list which have near to nothing to do with Nature. Be that as it may, the druid class would suit non-evil drow characters following a life outside the cities, either as renegades, hermits, explorers, or Underdark guides - and by canon lore, Chaotic Neutral and Neutral Evil are the only alignment options for drow druids. Thus, players of "non-evil" but not "good" drow of the Underdark will here find a class that offers a lot of features for survival in the Night Below. Druids might be poison (e.g. fungi, spiders) or spider traders, accompany caravans or mercenary gangs as guides and scouts, or join up with other "adventurers" to explore reaches of the Underdark yet untouched. Given the dearth of sustenance in the Realms Below, one would expect that most druids will either be nomads or live in more or less defined places which feature fungi forests and the like.

Much like the other creatures living in the wilds of the Realms Below, drow druids will show a more aggressive and martial streak than their druidic counterparts on the surface. Thus, while they will eschew the use of large weapons (due to restrictions for fighting in confined spaces - see Underdark for details), it is quite likely to find more druids wielding daggers, short swords and scimitars, spell-enhanced clubs or poisoned darts than anywhere else. Given the ferocity of many Underdark creatures, it is even more likely though that druids will withdraw from a confrontation long before anyone notices their presence - by using spells to hamper vision or block passages - rather than make a stand or fight to death. Skill-wise, Underdark druids may focus their abilities on the Nature "at hand", e.g. on the keeping of fungi forests, spider-breeding, and poison-making. Others may become survival experts and scouts rather than staying in one location and watching over the natural state of things.

Not dissimilar to the bard, the druid is a class that corresponds favorably with the ability adjustments of the drow. Low scores can easily be rectified with spells, while INT and CHA bonuses enhance many of the skills and features of the class for naught. One would be inclined to alter the animal companion feature and wild shape ability to a more Underdarkish look, maybe adopt the vermin alternative provided by the Vermin Keeper (Underdark) straight away. As the druid already has a good number of features, they hardly need to multi-class. Possible options may include either the ranger (more martially oriented druids) or the scout (the adventurer type, Complete Adventurer), the cleric (domain powers and spells), or the wizard (on the way to e.g. the Arachnomancer (Underdark).


Optional Classes:

Given the good features of this base class, there are not that many classes around who could act as substitutes. DMs may want to turn drow druids into Adepts or Witches (full class available from Mongoose), but have to balance flair, CR, and (spell-)power. After all, surviving in the Underdark alone does need some stamina in all aspects of life.


Base character starting scores:

CL 1 - 4: STR 10 DEX 11 CON 10 INT 16 WIS 16 CHA 12

CL 5 - 9: STR 10 DEX 12 CON 12 INT 16 WIS 16 CHA 12

CL 10+ : STR 12 DEX 12 CON 12 INT 16 WIS 16 CHA 14


Sample NPC here is a nomadic mid-level druid called Innish, specialized in Underdark travel and poison-making (fungus and snake poison). She trades most often with duergar and kuo-toa, but stays away from larger settlements of any race.


Innish: Drow Female Druid 7; CR 8; Medium-size Humanoid (Drow); HD 7d8+7; HP 45; Init +3 (+1 Dex, +2 feat); Spd 30 ft.; AC 15 (+1 Dex, +4 armor) (Touch 11, flat-footed 14); Base Atk: +5; Grp: +5; Atk (full) +6 melee (1d4/19-20/x2, adamantine dagger) or +6 melee (1d4+2/19-20/x2, adamantine dagger*) and +6 melee (1d4+2/19-20/x2, masterwork dagger*) or ranged always hit (1d4+1 moonsilver shard);

*Using daggerspell stance spell.

SA Spells.

SQ Animal companion, drow racial traits, spell-like abilities, resist Nature's lure, SR 18, trackless step, wild shape (3/day), wild empathy, woodland stride;

AL CN; Patron Deity: Lolth.

SV Fort +6, Ref +3, Will +8 (+2 Drow bonus)

Str 10, Dex 12, Con 12, Int 16, Wis 17, Cha 14

Skills (SP - 70): Appraise +5 (poison), Concentration +6, Craft (Poisonmaking) +8, Diplomacy +4, Handle Animal +4, Heal +8, Hide +4, Knowledge (Dungeoneering) +4, Knowledge (Nature) +12, Listen +10, Move Silently +9, Ride (Lizard) +4, Search +5, Sense Motive +5, Spellcraft +6, Spot +11, Survival +12 (+14 surface), Swim +1; (Knowledge (Nature) and its bonus on Survival should be applied to Underdark surroundings rather than the surface.)

Languages: Elven (Drow dialect), Common, Undercommon; Drow Sign Language, Dwarven, Kuo-toa.

Feats (3) - Blooded (PGtF, Regional), Self-sufficient, Two-Weapon Fighting;

Spell-Like Abilities: 1/day dancing lights, darkness, faerie fire . Caster level 7; Save DC 13 + spell level.

Druid Spells (usual array): (6/5/4/3/1); base DC = 13 + spell level: 0 create water (2), detect magic, detect poison, flare, purify food and drink; 1st camouflage (UD), hawkeye (CAd), healthful rest (CAd), obscuring mist, shillelagh; 2nd blindsight (UD), daggerspell stance (CAd), listening lorecall (CAd), spider climb; 3rd entangling staff (CAd), swift fly (CAd), spiderskin (UD), 4th forestfold (CAd).


(CAd) - Complete Adventurer, (UD) - Underdark


Gear (GP 12,000; ECL 9): adamantine dagger, boots of elvenkind, wand of cure light wounds (32 charges), +2 leather armor, tiles of healing (cure serious wounds 2x; cure moderate wounds 2x; bear's endurance, bull's strength, delay poison), moonsilver shards (A&EG, 10x) club, mw dagger, tanglefoot bags (2), thunderstones (3), antitoxine (2), adventurer's outfit, rope, bedroll et al. 25 GP, 34 SP, 57 CP, 12 minor gems (70 GP each), 3 emeralds (120 GP each), 1 smaragd (350 GP).


Animal Companion: Medium Viper Snake (MM, p. 280 - to be adjusted according to the rules of this druid class feature), also used as a poison reservoir (one of the trained tricks)



D&D 3,5E - PHB, DMG, MM

A&EG - Arms and Equipment Guide

BoVD - Book of Vile Darkness

CAdv - Complete Adventurer

CWar - Complete Warrior

MoF - Magic of Faerûn

Players' Guide of Faerûn

SoSi - Song and Silence

UD - Underdark


Note that most spell can now also be found in the Spell Compendium.


© P. "Zanan" Basedau