In the last century of the Empire, a number of drow began appearing on the surface of the world. Initially believed to be scouts for a coming conflict, these drow were captured and questioned. Each prisoner spoke of escaping the Underdark and the oppression of the drow society. Disturbingly similar reports sent from all over the empire were compiled by the Emperor’s advisers and presented to him. These gathered reports presented a major decision for the Emperor. Were these drow to be taken at face value and accepted into the protection of the Empire? Or were they to be treated as the vanguard of a military force that was surely following?
After more than a week of public and private debate, the Emperor decreed that these escaped drow were to be welcomed into the empire, as should any who might follow. Though not fully trusted by the populace at large, these “dark elves,” as they began calling themselves, found places for themselves in the Empire. Magic Academies welcomed the new perspectives on the arcane. Many dark elves joined private or imperial military units, applying the drow skill with steel and magic to the defense of the realm. Many churches found a number of followers eagerly looking for an alternative to the cruelty of Lolth.
If any still harbored reservations about the dark elves’ loyalty, they would find the truth in the final days of the Empire, as the Primordials sent their last incursion from the Elemental Chaos to the Material Plane. The dark elves of the empire stood and fought with the rest of the empire against the seemingly endless ranks of the elemental forces. Some historians credit the military and magical prowess of the dark elves as the key to pushing back the elementals for the third time. Unfortunately, even though the dark elves tipped the balance in the mortals’ favor, they could not stop the destruction of the Empire at the hands of the primordials as they retreated.
Dark elves are not to be trusted. Or, at least, that is what some say. There is good reason for caution when dealing with dark elves. Many dark elves still maintain a sense of cruelty and ruthlessness, though this has been turned toward more lucrative pursuits. it is not at all uncommon to find dark elves and tieflings to be bitter business rivals in large cities, especially when said businesses are somewhat shady. There usually is no racial hatred there, but the two races often approach business in the same way, which inevitably leads them to butt heads.
The Underdark’s matriarchal society has largely been left behind, with the former drow fully embracing the cosmopolitan ideals of the empire. However, many male dark elves who were not born on the surface still seek counsel from females.
The dark elves have abandoned Lolth, and, as a result, many have found places in the religions of the races of the former Empire. Dark Elves tend to gravitate toward Unaligned deities, though some few have so completely turned away from their former lives that they have embraced Good deities. Dark elves will very rarely find much in common with Moradin, however.
Their time on the surface has changed the physical appearance of the dark elves somewhat. While first-generation dark elves retain the black skin, white hair and red/green eyes of the drow, the newer generations have had these features softened. Skin tones can range from black to a medium blue or purple. Hair color ranges from white to black, and many shades of grey in between. The eyes of surface born dark elves can be any normal color—some dark elves even have bright blue eyes reminiscent of eladrin.
When they can afford it (and most can), dark elves like to keep the same dress as drow high society, though without the arachnid ornamentation. Males dress in suits of fine silk and other materials, and often they grow their hair long, kept in a ponytail. Females enjoy tight-fitting, seductively cut dresses, blouses and leggings.
These factors make dark elves highly attractive to other races.
Creating a Dark Elf
Use the drow entry in the Forgotten Realms Players Guide for dark elf characters