I've decided I like the term "dark elves" better than "drow." Mostly because ever since RA Salvatore, the term "drow" has a whooooole bunch of baggage that I don't want to incorporate into my campaigns.
So my dark elves live above ground. If you checked out my post about dwarves, then you know that we already have a subterranean race. Two, actually, but that other race is yet to come.
I did a brainstorming session with my aforementioned friend, Max, who just set up his new movie review blog which you should all check out: Amateur Hour Film Reviews. Anyway, in said brain-typhoon, we hammered out some broad strokes to revamp other races, and the dark elves were on that list, so consider this post a dual-effort.
We know Eladrin despise decay, and Elves are generally okay with the balance of nature (life, death, the whole shebang), but Dark Elves idolize death. They believe that the material world is a sort of purgatory for unclean souls, which the Raven Queen is putting through a crucible so they might prove themselves. Death is an aspiration. When the Queen of death calls you, you should be thankful.
Dark Elves are not strictly evil, just as the Raven Queen is not evil, but their beliefs and credos make it nearly impossible for any other race to get along with them. To them, death is an everyday occurrence. They don't cry at the deaths of their own, they cry at near deaths. To survive a near-fatal accident or illness means the Raven Queen has rejected you, and you must continue your trials and tribulations here in the material plane before being allowed into the spirit world.
The only evils, in the eyes of the dark elves, are the undead. Undeath is the chiefest of sins. Dark elves are called by the Raven Queen to abolish all of the living dead, and torture those that create such abominations.
Physiologically, Dark Elves are very similar to Elves. They are lean and lithe, wear their hair long, and have pointed features. Their skin ranges from an ashy gray to an absolute ebony or obsidian. Their hair is generally a silver white, and their eyes run the same gamut of greens, blues, and oranges seen in their crepuscular cousins.
Dark Elves rise at night and hide during the day, not that they have much to hide from, but the harsh rays of the sun are annoying to them. Dark Elven woods are barren and feel haunted. The trees are gray, petrified. The plant life is dominated by black, thorny vines. This is the effect of dark elf magic. It is very akin to defiling magic from the oh-so-beloved Dark Sun setting in Dungeons and Dragons. It sucks the very life-force out of the sorcerer's surroundings for use as fuel.
Their magic is potent, and so is their poison. The petrified trees in their woods drop black leaves that never rot or decay. These leaves turn to a black powder upon being pressed, which can be mixed with water to make ink (thus dark elves are some of the most prolific writers in the world), OR, the powder can be mixed with saliva and kept in vials. After a few days away from fresh air, the powder and spit mixture turns into a deadly poison called Raven's Kiss.
Raven's Kiss first causes paralysis of the major muscles. Then, it causes paralysis of the muscles involved in breathing, causing the afflicted creature to suffocate unless cured or magically aided in some way.
Dark Elven funerals are large and time consuming. It may seem a lot like a human funeral, with family and friends of the deceased speaking words of endearment and telling fond stories and memories, but unlike human funerals, Dark Elven funerals are full of dry eyes and smiles. At the end, the Dark Elves often lament how fortunate their dead kin are, to have been chosen by the Raven Queen to enter her great kingdom in the true world.