[RPG] How to encourage Drow players to not make Drizzt clones


Every once in a while, I have a player wants to create a Drow character. The problem is, virtually every one of them winds up looking suspiciously like Drizzt Do'Urden: they are some variation of Good alignment and usually a melee fighter (or even dual-wielder), and I've seen one of them jungle cat as a familiar.

My biggest complaint is that the Drow are supposed to be evil as a whole, and Drizzt was atypical in that he wasn't. And yet every Drow character I've seen has been a Good alignment also, which bothers me because it makes it appear that all Drow are special snowflakes. Order of the Stick #44 captures the ridiculousness of this pretty well.

First panel: Haley says "Hey, wait a minute. Aren't dark elves evil?". Elan responds "Oh, my, no. Not since they became a player race". Second panel: Elan says "Now the whole species consists of nothing but Chaotic Good rebels, yearning to throw off the reputation of their evil kin". Haley responds "Evil kin? Didn't you just say they were all Chaotic Good?". Elan responds, in small text, "Details". Third panel: Haley asks "What are the scimitars for?" to a dark elf. The dark elf responds "They're standard issue." in lighter-colored font.

Basically, I want to respect player choice in wanting to play a Drow, but want them to show some originality instead of being a copy of a particular character. How do I respect the players' desire to play a Drow, but encourage their characters to not be Drizzt clones?

I've tagged this with the general instead of a specific edition because it is a problem I've seen with multiple editions, and I'm looking for reasons beyond mechanical ones.

Best Answer

I feel your pain. Having your players come up with a character concept you yourself consider trite and overused and then just having to deal with it can be really annoying. However, it is important to remember that a PC first and foremost belongs to their player. And said player first and foremost wants to have fun – and not to be told his kind of fun is “wrong” for being unoriginal.

However, there are a few things you could try.

1) Bring up the topic directly at character creation

Just be honest with your group. Tell them exactly what you told us and just … ask politely.

Hey guys, playing Drow is fine by me. Though I would really appreciate it if it wasn't another Drizzt clone. I DMed for five of those already! Just give me something new to work with.

Say it with a wink or a smile. Make it a request, not an order. A lot of players will work with their DM when it comes to character creation. This might solve the problem right from the start.

2) Lead by example

Despite ubiquity on the internet, inside the actual game world the dual-wielding chaotic good drow ranger is an abnormality. Toss in some Drow NPCs and have them act like the real deal for contrast. Don't make them stupid evil, but make then utterly ruthless and alien. Maybe they are recurring villains. Maybe they are unlikely allies that your PCs were forced to work with and by whom they will be double-crossed as soon as they are no longer useful.

Another idea: A good friend once made a PC that essentially looked like a female Drizzt from the outside. She told everybody she had fled the cruelty of the underdark, she wasn't like those other evil Drow, she was persecuted for her good heart down there and all that jazz. In reality, she was an utterly ruthless assassin with a special knack for poison. But since the “Good Drow”-Stereotype was so well established, everybody bought her lies without question.

Maybe make an NPC like that? Have him/her show up. Have the two “Good Drow” bond over apparent shared trauma. Earn the PCs trust. And then flat out betray that trust. Or maybe “just” show the NPCs utter ruthlessness in action and have everybody go “What the...?!”

Make them all remember what Drow are supposed to be.

But what if your resident Drizzt clone just looks at all those evil Drow and is all the more determined to be the “chaotic good rebel yearning to throw off the reputation of their evil kin”? Well...

3) Embrace the Drizzt

Let's be honest. Drizzt is cheesy and overused, but he wasn't a break-out character for nothing. The concept is just FUN. It's pure emo-teen wish fullfillment1, being the morally-superior badass tortured rebel with plenty of reasons to angst! Let them have their fun. Heck, indulge them!

Play up the racism and the distrust that they face from NPCs. Make overcoming that distrust part of their character arc. Have other Drow brand them a filthy coward and traitor. Break out the philosophies of “What is good?” and “Nature vs Nurture”. Maybe throw in some worshippers of Eilistraee to spice things up. (Optional twist: They're evil.) Remember, even though to us the PC is Drizzt #23415, in the world of the game itself he is the only one and something special.

Let them have it. Heck, you might end up enjoying it despite yourself. In my eyes, this is the narrative equivalent of forgoing a healthy, balanced meal and having an enormous pint of ice cream for lunch. It may not meet most standards of being “good for you”, but sometimes it's just intensely satisfying.

4) Really embrace the Drizzt

Just have the real Drizzt Do'Urden show up and accuse them of stealing his style.

(Okay, that one's a joke. But they actually did something like this in Baldur’s Gate II. You can encounter Drizzt in-game. And if you are playing as an elf named Drizzt and have a low reputation, he will call you an imposter and attack you.)

(1) Please forgive me, Drizzt fans.