Disclaimer: I don't have the monster manual entry (or Monstrous Compendium entry, or the like) right in front of me, so I'll likely get something about the TSR standard Drow marginally wrong. I don't really care, it's not my purpose to dissect every little nitpicking aspect of that version of the "evil elf."
First and foremost, Drow are elves, biologically speaking (and in terms of rules mechanics) and do not have a small swathe of special powers and spell like abilities at their disposal. A Drow is, from the perspective of the rules, just an elf out of the player's handbook/monster manual. And, while we're here, might as well get this out too: there are no biological divisions between high elves, sylvan elves, wild elves, gray elves, Kheebler elves, shoe making elves, or elves with purple polka dots. An elf, is an elf, is an elf. Any such differences are socio-cultural, not biological or genetic.
Many generations ago (that's elf generations for those keeping score) the elf race was united and ruled from great cities that stood as beacons of civilization in the wilderness. At the time, the elves were the pinnacle of sentient life and, via various paths, began to explore not only the physical world around them, but the multiverse itself. Despite the popular view of elves as an inherently magical race, these early individuals eschewed magic in most forms, finding the reliance on outside sources of power and of easily lost or removed tools dangerous and demeaning. Instead, they preferred the innate power of the mind, of psionics, a tool that relied upon and enhanced the personal power of each.
At some point, the elves made contact with the Illithids - likely via Probability Travel or some similar means - and were horrified by what they found. The Mind Flayers proved a frighteningly accurate mirror to the elves' own ambitions and values, and to their credit, many elves turned away in revulsion and retreated from their cities to lead more ascetic lives. However, a small minority saw in the Mind Flayers not the terrifying prospect of what the elves were becoming, but an admirable role model. They argued in the public forums that these entities were to be revered as a realization of true potential rather than reviled.
For their crimes, these individuals were hunted and slain wherever they were found, but what remained of elven authorities were unable to locate the core faction of these Drow as they were termed. In reality, the Drow used their powerful psionics to pull a portion of the material world into a pocket dimension which their incensed bretheren (having long ago abandoned entirely the practice of psionics) were entirely unable to locate and enter. Whatever safety the Drow had created for themselves, however, was barbed in that each of them bears the mark of that realm standing a full foot taller than most of their more normal bretheren with pale, nearly white skin and preternaturally blue eyes. Occasionally, there have been those displaying faintly reptilian features and habits.
Their motives are mysterious, but assumed to be nefarious and hostile by most civilized persons who know of the Drow's existance. Typically a Drow within the Prime Material World can be found at the center of a web of intrigue and influence, rarely acting on their own or in the open for they are unwelcome in all places.
Professionaly, the Drow overwhelmingly pursue a career in psionics, finding that they have a natural aptitude for it, especially telepathy and clairsentience: they are masters at the art of gathering and using information and controlling those around them. Infrequently, they combine such power with theivery or martial combat. Only occasionally will a Drow take up the study of arcane magic and will never take up the worship of deities or divine, faith based abilities. Truly, the only thing that the Drow worship is themselves.
And now, just because I can, I include this picture, which is the quintessential Drow.
More Little Treasures
10 months ago