Tactics and Tips07/19/2005

Winning Tactics Against Drow

Player characters often face many types of creatures in their adventuring, so let's take another look at how they can enhance their odds of defeating specific foes. This time, learn some things about facing down those devious drow. If your Dungeon Master brings you down into the depths of the earth, you'd do well to perfect your techniques against these dusky denizens.


Dark, devious, and deadly: Drow are some of the most attractive and difficult humanoid foes to combat. They have poison, spell-like abilities, and spell resistance. They're simultaneously very evil and depraved as well as highly cultured. An encounter with drow is a very memorable experience.

They tend to be encountered in groups. A small squad contains 2-4 warriors, and a patrol has more plus some leaders. Often, these higher-level characters are spellcasters.

Special Attacks

The drow have a number of advantages.

Spell-Like Abilities: All of their spell-like abilities focus on controlling the light and visibility. Dancing lights is a functional cantrip and easily dismissed. However their other spell-like abilities merit a deeper look. Darkness creates an area of shadowy illumination, impenetrable to darkvision or low-light vision. By itself, it's an interesting option and most useful when the drow are encountered in an area familiar to them, but foreign to their opponents. The final spell-like ability drow have pairs superbly with darkness. Drow are clever enough to place their faerie fire spells to good advantage, outlining the player characters and making them easy targets. (Though DMs should note that darkness will affect faerie fire's ability to work if it's a 2nd-level or higher effect; a drow's spell-like abilities have a caster level equal to the drow's class levels.)

Special Qualities

Drow have one weakness and one strength as their primary special qualities.

Light Blindness: This quality is an exploitable weakness. Drow function best in the dark. Abrupt exposure to bright light (such as sunlight or a daylight spell) blinds drow for 1 round and dazzles them for as long as they remain in the affected area. This no-save/no-SR blindness for a round is a very significant weakness. Prepared parties can devastate a drow patrol.

Spell Resistance: For tips on how to get through SR, see a recent article on the topic.


One of the greatest assets you can acquire in your efforts against drow are other drow. The society is matriarchal, but hardly a group of unified women. Drow culture is highly political and if your campaign style includes intrigue, it's easy to play one side against the other. Of course, this requires knowledge, patience, and a willingness to devote time to political and interpersonal intrigue. Females of different drow houses (family/political structures) compete both with other houses and with each other for power and prestige. The lesser status of men proves irksome to many male drow.

In addition, driders (see page 89 of the Monster Manual) are spiderlike creatures that had once been drow themselves. They hate drow and will gleefully pursue opportunities to kill them.

Drow are most fragile in straight-up melee combat. Their physical statistics are their weak point. They have a penalty to their Constitution score, no penalty or bonus to Strength, and a bonus to Dexterity. Their better Dexterity helps their ranged attacks, but does little for their melee. (Even if a drow selects Weapon Finesse as a feat, it won't be dealing out large amounts of damage.)

Drow have appeared in nearly every expansion of D&D Minis. Here is a handy listing of the drow available as of this writing:

  • Aberrations: Ryld Argith (24)
  • Archfiends: Drizzt, Drow Ranger (14), Aspect of Lolth (46), Drow Sergeant (50)
  • Dragoneye: Drow Warrior (49), Drow Wizard (50)
  • Giants of Legend: Drider Sorcerer (44), Drow Fighter (45), Drow Rogue (46)
  • Harbinger: Drow Cleric of Lolth (61), Drow Fighter (62)

Must-Haves: Drow warriors can be defeated by force of arms and there aren't any absolute must-have magics against them. When facing a drow cleric, however, it's imperative to have dispel magic to negate her abilities. Like all clerics, she's apt to use several spells to enhance herself, and dispel magic is a great way to get rid of her bear's endurance, bull's strength, protection from good, shield of faith, or other buffing spell. More offense-minded clerics tend to made good use of offensive spells, many with lingering effects, and dispel magic can often be the perfect foil for them.

Best Buys for Lower-Level Spells: Melf's acid arrow and stinking cloud avoid spell resistance. Daylight can blind the drow for 1 round and keep them dazzled.

Wish List:Sunbeam and sunburst both deal double damage to drow, since drow are "creatures to which sunlight is harmful or unnatural" because of their light blindness. Although they're high-level spells, sunbeam and sunburst are very effective if the caster can penetrate the drow's spell resistance.

Game Resources: To use the material in this article to its fullest, check out the following resources: Dungeon Master's Guide, Monster Manual, Player's Handbook.

About the Author

Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel works full-time as a game designer for Wizards of the Coast. Recent and upcoming books include d20 Past, Races of Eberron, and Planar Handbook. She simultaneously leads the lives of an avid gamer, Ph.D. student, trio of birds of prey, and a hedonistic cat.

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