Wonderful art, decent story, but its best read if you don't consider some things
As far as webcomics go, Drowtales has a good few things going for it. It has spectacular art, the best of any webcomic out there, and a fairly complicated and multi-layered story with numerous characters who are almost always deeper then initial characterizations would have you believe. It really can be quite enjoyable… provided you don’t think too deeply on a few details regarding the world of Drow Tales
One of the first things that becomes apparent in Drowtales is that the writer has a severe adoration for the titular Drow. Drow have magic (‘mana), drow live forever (thanks to feeding off mana from eachother), Drow have the best stuff, Drow are super successful, Drow are the strongest, the fastest, the prettiest… about the only major problem they have (beyond infighting) is that their mana leaves them open to demonic possession, and even that doesn’t seem to be as much of a big deal as it once was. A lot of this is nothing particularly special in any setting with elves of any kind, but Drowtales takes it to the most ludicrous degree possible. Other races exist in this setting, but given how much better these particular Drow seem to be compared to them, one has to ask why?
Humans, orcs, dwarves… these creatures exist only to make the Drow look better (and be their slaves), and if ever they get brought up, expect them to fail miserably compared to said drow. Such examples include a dwarf sneak attack not so much as causing a dent to a caravan and ending up slaughtered, and an entire human kingdom ending up curb stomped by a small group of very young drow followed up by a small raiding party. When the story focuses upon the Drow alone it’s pretty good, but whenever anything that isn’t Drow comes into the picture it starts to show off the very worst excesses in fantasy literature. Seriously, James Cameron didn’t love the Na’vi as much as the writers of Drowtales love their drow.
So in short, provided you don’t think too deeply on these things (as well as the implications of copyright infringement), this is an okay webcomic storywise, one that at least goes the extra mile when describing the society and world that the characters inhabit. Basically if you can ignore the serious hard-on the writers have for the drow in this setting, you’ll be fine.
20th Sep 10
This review seems to have several misconceptions:
-Drow do have mana, but so does every other Fae creature. The Drow are simply the most prominent kind shown in the story.
-Drow do not necessarily live forever, even barring disease and injury. The older a Drow becomes, the more mana they require to sustain themselves. The oldest are practically incapable of going anywhere because if they leave an area of high population they'll begin to age rapidly. In theory if they get to old, they may simply lack the required concentration of mana to stay alive. They generally die well before that though, considering how violent the era is.
-Drow do not have the "best stuff." The higher echelons of their society are well off, but everyone else is pretty much SOL. They live in near slum-like conditions, especially with the food shortages that result from trying to sustain a civilization on a hunter/gatherer model in such a cramped space.
-They're not that successful. Anyone can (and does) die. And the population issue mentioned before.
-They're not the strongest (kotorcs just for one). Some are fast, some aren't. Depends on whether or not they were trained, and most of them wouldn't have been since they couldn't afford it.
-Demonic possession is a huge deal. Are we reading the same story?
-Dwarf ambush: 1) They did leave a dent, they actually left several rather large holes in the caravan if you go back and check. 2) The Highland Raiders are an elite fighting force. They're supposed to be good at what they do.
-Ariel's group did not curb stomp an entire kingdom, they briefly raided a single city with superior weapons and with surprise on their side, and while essentially the entire army was gone. "Children" is subjective as well, since Drow age slower. Ariel is several decades and not even out of being a teenager yet.
-There is absolutely no copyright issue. Dark elves existed in literature well before D&D. Even the word "drow" is simply an alternate spelling of the word "trow," which is a word in folklore that's centuries old. The only way there would be an issue is if the setting were too similar, and it's not.
29th May 11
(edited by: Sebiale)
Man, I wish there was an alert system for these things, otherwise I'd have responded to this a long while back. You call them ‘misconceptions’, I call them ‘observations squeezed down in a review required to be 400 words or so’. I could go on for much, much, much longer about what this comic does wrong and precisely how, but instead I’ll just defend my points and be done with it.
-Oh ,“all the other fae”? You mean the surface elves? Who we only see once? And the ones we see are portrayed as being worse than the already horrid drow, somehow? Wait, surely you mean the dragons whom the elves are kin to… except the only ones we’ve seen are inbred animals and susceptible to possession, without any mana manipulating abilities whatsoever. Hmm, well, perhaps you mean the fairies… oh wait, pretty sure they were retconned out of existence. I’d wager you mean the naga, but we only see one of those… any others escape my mind at the moment, and quite frankly all the others are such non-entities in the story that without the supplemental materials or the very basic knowledge behind ‘typical’ drow origins you’d never know much about the others being able to do anything around those lines, and even if it does come up I’m gonna take a wild guess and say they’ll suck hard compared to the drow anyway.
-Oh dear, how thoughtless of me to not mention the intricacies behind their lives of eternal sexiness so long as they stick close to one another. Perhaps instead I should have mentioned the full list of biological benefits they get for the grace of being fae and the idealized physiology they enjoy because of it.
-Which is still somehow better then the plague ridden human villages up above or the horrifically cultish and isolationist surface elves we’ve encountered so far, and while life might be violent and harsh for commoners amongst the drow, the only major human society we see is even worse, as are the surface elves (for reasons already mentioned). And considering how they make casual use of metals that’d be insanely valuable on the surface and even have access to enough adamantine to make it the norm for even the lowliest grunt to wear as armor, I can pretty safely say that yes, they do have the best stuff even on average.
-Yep, which is why despite arriving in the underground as refugees in the aftermath of a horrific war they were able to easily displace the local, numerically superior dwarven population and put them on the brink of extinction, effortlessly defeat and enslave the various other races that live in this world, and even manage to reduce demons to accessories for their own power. And as mentioned before, despite the numerous things that are plain old screwed up with this society, they’re STILL somehow better off than everyone else we’ve seen thus far.
-Indeed, which is why Kyo’nne was able to survive 12 pounds of steel cannonball falling atop her head with little more than an owie, or that a single demon possessed drow was able to effortlessly cut her way through an a whole lotta orcs and other assorted nasties, or that Ariel and co were able to easily breach an entire kingdom’s defenses and slay the ruler without much trouble to themselves (except to their human bodyguard who suffered the most injury throughout all that). These would all be impressive feats, if there was any kind of indication beforehand that these things might be dangerous at all to drow on any level.
-Oooh no, there’s no ‘maybe’ about it. Mana-perfected physiology by the grace of being fae, remember? No obesity, no skin problems, no less than ideal facial features. Except for those eyeless, monstrous drow… who rarely, rarely ever appear and even then aren’t much compared to their prettier cousins even though they can trump the mana that every drow ever can use. Mind you, they’re not the PRETTY kind of drow, so I guess they deserve the ‘we are worthless mooks’ treatment just like everything else that isn’t a drow in this setting.
-Oh, we are, and guess what? It really isn’t. Know why? Demons are accessories, like I said. We see only in flashbacks the full threat they pose, and it took years before Naal’s own demon was able to erupt and consume her. Otherwise, we get to see exactly ONE incident of demon outbreak. The fact that the drow who are demon seeded won’t be around anymore within fifty years isn’t widely known, and demons remain menacing only in the past context… and in that one gladiator who was swiftly recaptured. And no, her killing the half dragon rapist doesn’t count as an example of how lethal they can be, he was never as tough as he or Ariel thought to begin with.
-Which were utterly, utterly inconsequential; at best they were shaken up for a few moments before the curbstomp began. And while the Highland Raiders may be considered badasses in universe, that particular example seemed more due to the dwarves stupidity in fighting them than any particular amount of skill or expertise shown by the Raiders. Seriously, for years the dwarves have been fighting the drow, and it would seem have learnt absolutely nothing with regards of how to deal with them.
-Oh, it was a curbstomp, and it will forever be a curbstomp. They wouldn’t have even needed the Raiders intervention to get out without any problem, the way that went. The troops remaining were incompetent, superstitious and really, really friggen easy to defeat. And quite frankly even if you want to argue the semantics of what ‘child’ means, they still busted up a place they knew nothing about and overtook the defenders with a pathetic degree of ease despite any information they could possibly get coming from an unreliable source. Awful kind of the guards, to just kinda hold still and let themselves get cut down.
-I was wondering when this one would come up, and you’re quite right, Dark Elves have existed long before D&D came into the picture… too bad for Drowtales, they’re still a ripoff. History lesson time! The earliest dark elves were the Dökkálfar; mentioned in old norse tales as being dark skinned (some versions having them with pitch black skin) and living in the earth while they’re cousins were light skinned and lived in the heavens. A later version of the Dark Elves were the Svartálfar, who may or may not be the one and same Dökkálfar, and these creatures were pretty much the same as dwarves; short, bearded folk with tremendous skills in metalwork and able to create enchanted weaponry. And while “Drow” might be an alternate spelling for “Trow”, a historical Trow was a small, mischievous and troll-like imp from Shetland and Orkney in the British Isles. In short, Dark Elves are pretty much dwarves according to ancient mythology, and Trow are trolls… neither of which describes the drow of Drowtales. Gary Gygax would use these sources to create the Drow most known; a dark skinned, light haired race of malicious elves whose beautiful exterior belied a wretched evil interior. Most notable about these Drow was the fact that they were matriarchal, had numerous innate magical abilities, lived underground thanks to losing a war with their ‘light’ cousins, had a thing for spiders, and were the servants and insane and depraved goddess. And what do you know, Drowtales drow are dark skinned, light haired elves who live underground after losing a war with their ‘light’ cousins, are matriarchal, place a good deal of emphasis on spiders, and have numerous innate magical abilities, all the while having a deeply depraved society! I mean gee, who could have done THAT before?! In short though, Drowtales takes an uncomfortable amount of its stuff from D&D’s interpretation of Dark Elves, and to add insult to injury even have the audacity to utilize the very-specific-to-Dungeons-And-Dragons concept of Driders, drow with the lower halves of spiders, even using the very same name. It gets even worse that there’s stuff to pay money for connected to all this. I’m aware that this whole thing started off as being based off a dungeons and dragons campaign (Faerun, I believe), and I’m aware that much fantasy (and literature in general) is pretty derivative, but a lot of this goes above and beyond ‘derivative’.
14th Jun 11
(edited by: stutebaker)
I agree with the Troper above in almost everything (s)he said.
— In fact, why hasn't D&D demanded Drowtales? I mean, while at first it was a direct rippoff, it was simply an nonprofit parody/session made webcomic. Now they are actually making money with this idea
. As in selling merchandize, months subscriptions, the entire enchilada. They are not derivative, it’s word for word Drows from D&D workshop with different names and maybe a somewhat different society but Faerun Drows nonetheless
. It would be as if I did a movie about the last member of a monk society who must found his destiny in a Galaxy Far, far way; use lightsabers (photon swords), manipulated the one (force) aided by the last remnant of said monk society with a bounty hunter and his beast companion, a princess, droids, join a rebel army, fight his father android, the Emperor and a planetoid size weapon and call it derivative of Star Wars
. That is a copyright infrigment if a ever see one.
- Two... yeah, they are the prettiest to the point of absurdity. D&D elves from where "Our Elves Are Better
" came off where more willowy, beautiful, soft elves with very aesthetics figure. Attractive but not overly so. This drows are what you would get if you combine Hollywood amazons with Pornstars. They are tall, flat hard stomach, A+ ass, DD to E cup breast, long lustrous hair and so on. This is a fetish of a fantasy race to almost obscene levels. There is a reason why Daydreams is so popular. R.A. Salvatore version of the Drows is tame and humble compared to this. Paolini's version is more restrained than Drowtales
- Yeah, they are FanWanked
to death. Really, you would never found a race/culture so venerated as the Drow in Drowtales. Not The Culture
, not The Draka
, hell not even Andy Rand protagonists are so over loved as this Drows. There is lack of balance and then there is this... shrine to the Drow.
Not a bad comic by any means , it takes time to swallow and enjoy and kind sometimes get a little heavy. MST 3 K Mantra
to the roof my friend.
6th Jul 11
8th Aug 12
It's been a good many years since I saw anything of this comic, so take note I've no clue if things have changed since then. That being said, I feel compelled to adress the points made.
"Infighting is not a little problem. The culture is insane. Such things as owning slaves, enjoying torturing people, and even killing innocents aren't even bad enough to make characters morally neutral, when in any other work they'd be moral event horizons. Admittedly, what little we've seen of other cultures isn't much better."
That's just it though; what else we've seen is somehow implied to be worse than what the drow have. The humans we've seen thus far have a culture so toxic that being slaves to the Drow is an improvement, and the surface elves live a warped, isolationist existence that's far more detrimetal to thier own existence than what the drow go through. And despite the absurd civil conflict and a culture that realistically should not be able to function, these guys remain the only real power in this entire world. That is when things become problematic.
"They're clearly prettier than the orcs, but it's hard to say how much they're pretty and how much it's just the art style. In any case, elves being pretty is hardly unique to them."
It's pretty much acknowledged that the drow (and fae in general) are biologically incapable of being ugly, save for those sightless drow mutants (which was one of the better concepts this comic had going for it. Shame they ain't used much). In all frankness, I was being a little sarcastic with that one since... well, they're elves. When are they NOT pretty (excluding Harry Potter)? But when taken in with all the other stuff they have over all the other races in this comic, it just seems to be that little extra dash of 'remember, these guys are INATELY BETTER than everything else'. And in this case the pretiness is a fetishized and very human take on beauty; Elves in general are described as being 'lithe' or 'otherworldly' in thier beauty. These guys? Not so much. It's a society of pinup posters.
"Elves, dragons, locust queens, certain plants, etc. The issue here is that elves are the only ones that have both mana and intelligence."
Not really; from what we saw of the surface elves it's clear that only Drow are permitted intelligence in any meaningful sense, or would that be competance? Either way, the only other Fae races we see are pretty much non-entities, and the non-fae amount to even less than that if possible. Even in book series that utilize 'mook races' (oh how I hate that), there is at least the acknowledgement that they are dangerous in some capacity or the other, and that civilizations beyond the protagonists own have something going on for them that they themselves don't be it in terms of science, magic, or what have you. This is not the case here; the Drow are the only ones permitted to have anything meaningful. If this has changed since I last reviewed please, PLEASE show me, if only for the chance to see something new.
"You can only sue people for ripping you off if you haven't ripped anyone else off. Most of D&D comes from Lord of the Rings. Most of what didn't came from the same sort of folk lore that Lord of the Rings did. Drowtales just has a setting based on D&D, with a few major changes of their own."
I kinda went on a tirade about this, so I'll repeat it short; the folkorlic inspirations for the D&D drow come from several sources; those sources basically being dwarves and a kind of troll from the british isles. Then, so many years later, Gary Gygax fuses those sources with the Lot R
elves to create the Drow, a matriarchal race of dark skinned, light haired elves who dwell underground and have a thing for spiders. "Drow" in that capacity are a very, very specific take on the concept of 'Dark Elves', and if this had been called 'Dark Elf Tales' it would not really be an issue; but that word, D Row
, used to describe such creatures? That is where things become eyebrow raising, as conceptually it's very, VERY specific to Dungeons and Dragons and the worlds based off of it. I am well aware that this comic started out as an adaptation of a Dn D
campaign (forgotten realms to be precise). Given the changes, it no longer even vaguely resembles the source material and even back then the claim was dubious given how utterly nerfed every other race became when compared to the drow. Wanting to make something original out of what began as a Dungeons and Dragons campaign is fine; using concepts that are utterly specific to Dungeons and Dragons (drow and especially Driders) and trying to make money off of it? 'Fraid not.
"You're saying that that culture is supposed to be good?"
'Good'? Hardly. As I've mentioned, it's very clear that this civilization is very fucked up and is shown as that, and in the earlier version of this comic it was even worse. However, my argument was never about it being 'good', but about it being 'better'; that somehow, despite all that is wrong with it, the alternatives are even worse somehow, that despite everything the Drow way of doing things is the best option available in this screwball world. That is when the drow go from being 'protagonists' to being 'venerated'. It is particularly galling given that from what we've seen, there is no realistic reason for Drow society as presented here to really function or thrive, especially as this is meant to be more 'realistic' than the source material. The source material in question presents the Drow as having a psychotic, depraved civilization, but that at least has the excuse of being watched over by a very real, very evil goddess who does everything in her power to make the sadistic joke of a civilization she's constructed remain standing. The institutional madhouse she's erected only continues to exist because she WILLS it so. In Drowtales, there is no such excuse, and yet it is meant to be the more 'realistic' setting.
As I said, it's been years since I read this; what I wrote down those years ago may no longer hold, and I hope so. As it stood then, the comic was at it's best when it focused on the Drow working against eachother, even if it did have some rather severe pacing problems. In that capacity we see individuals taking eachother on with all the risks that entail and are provided insight into how things work and where things are going, and everybody gets a chance to shine in some capacity or the other. Against other races though, all this goes out the window; external threats are diminished and dealt with easily, and without even the token level of danger that similar works provide. In this setting the Drow are functionally invinsible against anything that isn't themselves or demons, and the demons are pretty much accessories. It makes me question why the writers would go through the trouble of establishing that there are other, nonfae races when all that it amounts to is 'Loser Race To Showcase the Badassery of My Drow', espeically since this whole thing is meant to escape Dn D
cliches and the like. I mean for craps sake if you want to subvert the usual stereotypes of fantasy species fine, that's all well and good, more power to you; but doing so at the expense of the other races you bothered to include? That's just wasteful.
10th Aug 12
2nd Oct 12
Ok. This comic DOES require a little heavy thinking, and an open mind. People who go to Drowtales expecting mindless entertainment or cliche black and white morality are going to be rather disappointed (looks suspiciously at the reviewer.)
Some points that need to be addressed.
1.) As the troper above me commented, this is the world as seen through the eyes of the Drow. Of course, they're going to see themselves superior to other races, just like human-centrist fairy tales see the humans as superior (morally if in no other way) than the other creatures in their world. (The chapter where Ariel rescues Faen does have Ariel use superior tactics, subterfuge and infiltration as opposed to a drawn-out siege, and superior firepower, siege weapon magic vs normal swords and armor.)
2.) The reviewer bemoaned that the "tainting" aspect of the story is "no big deal." Really? Has he been jumping chapters? Because in the Drowtales world, tainting/ demon possession has ALWAYS been a huge deal. And "one time" the demon seed takes over? Unless he's only talking about main characters, that's far from accurate. Various chapters show drow being overcome by demon possession and becoming body horrors. The Chapter where the Sharen launch a full-scale attack on the Sargress while all the other clans are in a meeting? The main war-golem belonging to the Sharen was piloted by someone who was so corrupted by a demon seed that he BEGGED for death from the Sargress soldiers when they cut into the cockpit. The story where Ariel lets herself be captured to infiltrate a Sharen stronghold ALSO shows why piloting golems in a nether infested area is a bad idea. Demons pass right through the armor, infest the pilot, and after a Gory Discretion Shot, a few scenes later, we find the pilots DEAD, having been transformed into body horrors to mutated to live. Kharla'ggen (who is actually YOUNGER than Kiel, but had her growth artificially accelerated by the sheer amount of nether mana her seed holds)refers to herself as "we" not because she considers herself royalty, but because she sees her seed as an independent entity, and it has taken action on its own accord a few times. Perhaps the reviewer missed it, but we have the meeting between Kiel and Snadhya'rune in front of DEMON!Nassul. Kiel addresses not Snad, but Snad's demon seed, almost by name, and Snad responded by stating that THERE IS NO SAFE TAINTING, every single tainted elf WILL someday become a demon. Either the demon seed will slowly, but surely erode the host until nothing remains of the host's psyche, or like Kiel, the host openly engages the demon in psychic combat for dominance and wrestles it into submission. Note, only Kiel is shown actually having succeeded at this, and living to tell about it. Sharess, dead by origin story, did this as well in a Heroic Sacrifice to protect the rest of her species by dragging a large number of demons with her back into the nether from which they came. Snad then adds a chilling final note to her Breaking Speech. She calls Demon!Nassul, and Kiel "shining examples of the Drow's future." It becomes even harsher in hindsight when Sianne endures a labor so horrific she winds up lame, requiring a staff just to stand, let alone walk, only to deliver a child so deformed that its father orders the body BURNED, and Chrystel suffers a miscarriage with major hemorrhaging, leaving both unable to bear children. This makes Snad's claims even harsher in hindsight (if possible) because should Snad succeed in her plot to reach "utopia" by tainting all Drow, she will effectively destroy her entire race. Oh, and in case the reviewer only picked up the story in chapter 33, and ignored the prologue, the reason Drow are in Chel in the first place, is that OPENING NETHER GATES NEARLY DESTROYED THE SURFACE WORLD, and Chel was the refuge the Dark Elves fled to. Sure, nether summoning may not be AS dangerous as it used to be thanks to "sealers," but it's still damn serious. It's like sending people armed with riot shields into a mine-field. It does offer SOME protection, but one false step could blow off your limbs, and if you survive, you might become not just lame, but infected with The Virus! Oh, and Word Of God says that unless attempted immediately, before the seed takes root, exorcism ALWAYS fails, and results in... Laelle.
3.) The story takes place in a medieval setting. In real life, the value system we see in Chel WAS THE NORM prior to the time known as the "Renaissance." In fact, it still exists in several places around the world, Sudan and North Korea come to mind. If it wasn't for the fantastic races, this could have very well been a story about a child in 15th century England. (Read the Prince and the Pauper.)
In short, it's far better to focus on how the characters respond to their world, rather than trying to wrestle with the world itself.
28th Feb 14
28th Feb 14
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