A couple of months ago, we went over the drow pantheon of Faerun – a collection of gods worshipped by those elves who dwell deep beneath the earth, struggling for survival against the terrors of the Underdark, the horrors of the monsters that live therein, and even the machinations of their own gods.
The drow are an iconic (if sometimes controversial) sub-species, with enough unique history and abilities to ensure that they have received entire novels and sourcebooks all to themselves. And to go with those novels and sourcebooks are no small number of species-specific rules and mechanics. We’ve gathered 4 awesome prestige classes from 3e and 3.5e that can be used with drow who follow different gods of their pantheon.
Prestige classes were previous editions’ version of subclasses, which characters could be given levels in after meeting certain prerequisites. They typically maxed out at 5 or 10 levels in each, and a character could level into more than one if they managed to gather all the necessary requirements.
The mightiest of the drow gods, and all of the Underdark gods, is Lolth the Spider Queen. Her worshippers, like her, are cruel and chaotic, and give due reverence to the symbols of their goddess. And arachnomancers – mages who focus on communing, commanding, and imitating arachnids – bring that reverence to an almost disturbing level. Not all such casters serve Lolth, but the ritual scarification necessary requires the kind of fanatical mind that her followers are known to possess.
Arachnomancers begin with the ability to speak with spiders, resist their poison, and magically summon them. As they grow more powerful, they gain the ability to transform into those beasts that they emulate, poison with a single touch, and command any spiders that they might encounter. High level arachnomancers can create webs and walk across them, and finally blast their enemies with a massive cone of spiders, summoned from seemingly nowhere.
In a 5e game, an arachnomancer best fits as a wizard, sorcerer, or druid. While they often serve Lolth, their magic is not divine, so it’s unlike to find a cleric among their ranks.
As the son of Lolth, and the patron of the male drow that she oppresses, Vhaeraun uses guile and darkness to oppose his mother, and lead his followers to the surface land. Some of the highest among his clergy are darkmasks – divine spellcasters who specialize in stealth and the manipulation of shadows – who gain the rank by surviving combat with Lolth’s clerics.
Low-level darkmasks train abilities to help them move stealthily and see through illusions. But soon they gain the ability to craft with shadows themselves, making masks which can carry their spells unseen and cloaks that keep them away from prying eyes. Ultimately, their ability comes to a head with bladebending, causing their opponents’ weapons to strike back against their wielders.
In a 5e game, a darkmask best fits as a cleric or ranger. Divine connection is essential for these casters, no matter how rogue-like they seem to outsiders. And their aims are always in service to their lord Vhaeraun.
Selvetarm is both proud champion and chafing servant to Lolth, a militaristic sub-god whose followers are known for military tactics and command. And few of those followers are so feared and so revered (and so near in rank to the clerics of Lolth) as drow judicators – unholy knights who have command spiders in the name of their god.
If a drow can survive the trails necessary to become a drow judicator, they gain the ability to strike with the wrath of their god and channel his favor into physical protection. Since Selvetarm serves Lolth, he also grants them some ability to control, summon, and imitate arachnids. Finally, fulfilling their name, a drow judicator can pass divine judgement over those that he surveys, gauging to a standard of his own devising and inflicting those found lacking with a horrible withering.
In a 5e game, a drow judicator best fits as a paladin, warlock, or fighter. Barbarians are slightly too wild to fit with Selvetarm’s more measured approach to warfare. Militaristic clerics might also work since these are divine spellcasters.
The kindest and most moral of the drow pantheon, Eilistraee is a beacon of hope for those in the Underdark who long for more than the crawling fight for power in the dark. She also acts as patroness for those drow who manage to leave and make their home on the surface. And she expects that patronage to be carried out by her sword dancers – guides and protectors of surface-dwelling drow who nurture music, kindness, and harmony.
To fulfill their charge, sword dancers are granted grace and speed in combat, the ability to summon motes of moonlight, and a swordsong that protects their allies from danger and enchantment. With more training, they can cast divine spells through song and movement while they fight and create their own magical armaments. A fully realized sword dancer can even command their sword to act as a defender of themselves or someone else.
In a 5e game, a sword dancer best fits as a bard, cleric, or monk. Fighters and paladins also work, but their mechanics tend to emphasize higher defense and less magic than sword dancers need, since armor and shields impede their abilities. But no matter what, they must be kind, joyful, and passionate about doing good in the world.
Have you ever played a character with any of the above prestige classes? Would you be interested in seeing them brought into 5e or OneD&D? Have you seen them adapted as subclasses? Let us know your answers, and your thoughts, in the comments below!