Soon the Drow will be no more. That sounds ominous, but let me explain. For the next year, encompassing the Mechageddon AP and a whole season of SFS Adventures (not to mention Gifts Ungiven, an SFS Adventure by yours truly!) Starfinder 1E will continue under the OGL license. After that, once Starfinder 2E releases, it will be under the ORC license (like the just released Pathfinder Core books) and will no longer have access to Drow, Owlbears, and a few other bits and bobs of the D&D IP that they have squeaked by with so far. That’s not really a bad thing though.
The history of Drow in D&D goes all the way back to the classic adventure line Against the Giants (and a few random mentions before that). Like a lot of the old D&D lore, they are pretty problematic, and you are welcome to research just how cringe if you like. WoTC has been moving them away from a lot of those elements over the years, and Pathfinder/Starfinder Drow really only share a name with the Drow as imagined in those old adventures. Good or bad, they’ve been hiding in the shadow of their D&D cousins, despite having different culture, gods, origins, and more. That they are still called Drow is more inertia than anything else, and I’m glad to see them shed that name and tarnished past.
You see, Drow might be going away, but the dark elves of Apostae we love to hate (or just love, no judgement) aren’t going anywhere. The kleptocapitalists and arms dealers of the Pact Worlds are firmly entrenched in the lore. All indications made public so far hint they might get a rebrand, but aren’t going to just disappear in the new edition update. But how can you have dark elves without calling them the name D&D enthusiast have known them by for 40 years? Well, turns out a lot of other SciFi settings have done just that. Let’s take a look.
Star Trek, particularly the Original Series, had a lot of great ideas but wasn’t afraid to stand on the shoulders of giants or even outright steal a good idea from time to time. That’s particularly apparent when you look at the Vulcans and Kligons through the lens of Tolkien. Not hard to see the parallels to Elves and Orcs there. What, then, does that make the Romulans, Vulcans in biology who decided to lean into being jerks rather than logic? Space dark elves, that’s what. Warlike and manipulative, with advanced culture and tech coupled with a society that prizes conquest. Sounds familiar, and they were introduced a full 14 years before Drow.
How about a Sci-Fantasy example? Let’s look at the Galra from Voltron. Even back in the original 1984 series the Galra are long lived aliens with elfen features who wield strange magic and advanced technology in their conquests. In the 2016-2018 Legendary Defender series they become the foil to the very Elf-like Alteans, a dark reflection with a thirst for conquest.
Or there are the Eldar and Dark Eldar of the Warhammer 40k series. Based on my admittedly limited knowledge (there is a LOT of 40k lore y’all), there are many flavors of Aeldari, and the sadistic Drukhari are just one. They inhabit a city hidden within the Webway, revel in piracy, enslavement and torture, and are sadistic in the extreme. Looks an awful lot like somebody copied some else’s homework here.
Long before Stargate was a gleam in Roland Emmerich’s eye, there was a series of books about a galaxy spanning network of ancient alien gates that connected disparate worlds across the cosmos – The Gate of Ivrel series by C. J. Cherryh. Constructed by an ancient civilization, these gates warp time and space and are the tools of the cruel Qujal, a long lived race of pre-human humanoids (that bare a significant resemblance to the Melnibonéans from Michael Morcook’s Elric series.) Call them what you like, those are some space dark elves right there.
You don’t have to stop using Drow in your Starfinder games. No one is going to break into your game night and correct you. That said, I think it’s pretty clear a space dark elf by any other name is just as dastardly a villain, or tortured anti-hero, as the WoTC flavored variety. I don’t know what name they might go by in the next edition, but I’m sure they will still be dark elves from Apostae. I look forward to their further exploration in the Pact Worlds setting.
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