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One of the players in my campaign has created a Half-Elf Ranger and picked The Underdark as his preferred terrain. We are busy fleshing out his background and he is an escaped slave of the Drow. Can he be the bastard child of a human slave and a Drow master? Or should we rather decide he is a captured half-elf?

The campaign is set in the Sword Coast region of the Forgotten Realms and I am interested in whether there is anything in the Players Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide or other published 5th edition material that makes reference to Half-Drow characters and if it does whether there is any game affect to this ancestry.

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Yes, a half-elf could be half-drow.

Drow and humans can have children, and the resulting children are half-drow. In previous editions, half-drow were a bit mechanically different to normal half-elves, as they had a different set of racial traits based on their drow parentage; in 5e, however, they seem to be much closer. The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide says of half-elf parentage:

HALF-ELF VARIANTS

Some half-elves in Faerun have a racial trait in place of the Skill Versatility trait. If your DM allows it, your half-elf character can forgo Skill Versatility and instead take the elf trait Keen Senses or a trait based on your elf parentage:

From this list, you can pick to be a descendent of wood elves, sun elves, of "aquatic heritage", or of drow, with the choice determining which alternative racial trait you might take.

This is an optional choice and thus your half-elf can be of drow heritage without any mechanical differences from the standard half-elf. Strictly, this is specific to the setting of the Forgotten Realms as it's in the SCAG, but there's no compelling reason it would differ in most settings.

You would expect a half-drow to look noticeably different, however, given the black skin/white hair/funky eyes combination that drow have going on - so if this hasn't come up before it might be a bit of a retcon to the character's appearance. NPCs who met a half-drow would usually react quite differently to meeting a normal elf or half-elf as the drow are widely feared and reviled on the surface.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, if he is clearly a descendant of black human, drow blood might be much less noticeable. Also, looking at children of real-life black+white couples, results can be anything from "pretty much normal black" to "pretty much normal white". Maybe retcon isn't really necessity? \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Dec 18 '17 at 9:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Molot mixed-race ancestry when it comes to humans is pretty complicated in a way that fantasy generally glazes over when it comes to inter-species breeding - half-whatevers do typically look like they're about half-way between each of their parents. Certainly the 3e Races of Faerun sourcebook makes it clear you can easily tell when a half-elf is half-drow. A fair point about the skin colour of the human parent, though - it may be much less noticeable in some areas than others. \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Dec 18 '17 at 12:54

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