Gary Gygax took the word 'drow' from a Scots cognate of troll, with one of the meanings being 'dark elf'.

David Sutherland III introduced the 'drider' in module Q1, as a drow that has been transformed by Lolth into a creature with the upper body of a drow and the lower body of a spider.

Is there any explicit statement of Sutherland's etymology for the term drider?

The name certainly suggests a portmanteau of drow-spider. But Gygax stated that his conception of the drider was that it would be a human whose soul was drained by Lolth, so drow-spider may be spurious, or may have been deliberate on the part of Sutherland.

Without speculation, is there reference that can confirm the actual etymology?

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ "Is there any explicit statement of Sutherland's etymology for the term drider?" Doesn't seem to fall foul of the issues with designer intent, it's not guesswork as to why or who made a decision? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 21, 2021 at 15:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov I am not asking why he chose the name. I am asking whether a source exists stating the derivation of the name. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Nov 21, 2021 at 16:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Here is some more evidence that drider was definitely a name Sutherland created. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 21, 2021 at 16:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AncientSwordRage That's where the link on the word "drider" in the Question already links to. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 21, 2021 at 17:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Willem strange... I thought that link went here: enworld.org/threads/monster-encyclopedia-drider.662437 but I think I'm mistaken now. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 21, 2021 at 18:14

1 Answer 1


You are confusing etymology with history

The etymology of drider is clear.

It was first used in Q1, published in 1980, although no doubt there were manuscripts and proofs before that that we don't have access to and may no longer exist. It was almost certainly used verbally in the TSR offices as well. Unlike most neologisms, where the definition has to be inferred, we are explicitly given one on page 26:

The drider is a special creation of Lolth's magic. When Drow of promising ability reach 6th level or slightly higher, Lolth will summon them and put them through a specially-devised test. The Drow that fail become driders.

A drider appears to be a cross between a giant spider and a Drow.

So does the word. A lexicologist, given this evidence, would have no hesitation concluding that drider is a portmanteau of drow and spider. Gary's 2007 comments don't change that and, even if that had been his intention in 1980, drow spider still fits the concept.


Historians rank sources.

We have a contemporaneous primary source document from 1980. We have what is effectively an oral history from 27 years later; also a primary source.

It is possible, possibly even likely, that the origin story of the drider was discussed in the TSR offices. All we can say with certainty is that Gary's position didn't win. It is also possible that Gary is remembering things that didn't happen - that's how memory works.


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