The Elemental Type is actually quite clear, which is surprising given WotC's track record. It was really created for one specific monster entry, and has absolutely no problems as long as it is confined to things sufficiently close to that monster entry. The D&D designers extended it semi-humanoid things like magmins, which leads to a bit of confusion. But, we're going to run with the literal wording of the type here. Magmins and similar creatures aren't actually really humanoid at all except in the most basic shape, and their eyes aren't limited to only seeing in front of them. They don't even actually need their eyes. Like all other elementals, the inside of a magmin is pretty much undifferentiated elemental matter; in a magmin's case, they simply bleed lava. They are completely different from Azers, which are outsiders and so actually made of something not entirely unlike flesh and blood.
Critical Hits and Sneak AttacksEdit
Giving immunity to critical hits to entire monster types is vaguely maybe justifyable. Giving immunity to sneak attack (that is, immunity to several entire classes) is not. Realizing they made a mistake and patching it by adding spells that rogues can Use Magic Device up to get their sneak attack class feature back is a terrible solution. So, here's a better fix: Any substance baneful or antithetical to the type of creature can be used to make sneak attacks on it. The weapon must either be coated with or made of the baneful substance. This only overcomes sneak attack immunity granted by the listed source; other sources still screw you over, sorry. Some of these are:
- Constructs: Acid damage
- Elementals: Depending on type (Air: Stone weapons. Earth: Adamantine weapons. Fire: Cold damage or water. Water, Cold, Wood: Fire damage. Shadow: Light damage)
- Ooze: Light damage
- Plants: Fire damage
- Undead: Holy Water and similar sources of divine energy (e.g., Searing Light)
This also means that a rogue needs to carry a lot of contingency equipment if they don't know what they're facing, but most of it is cheap. A few flasks of holy water to put down undead, some acid and alchemist's fire for constructs and plants, a freeze ray and laser, a stone dagger and an adamantine dagger for elementals.
Completing the Monster ManualEdit
The Monster Manual lacks many of the important creatures of the Elemental Planes. Some of them were published in previous editions and never officially updated, some are new to this edition and released in expansion books, whatever.
Due to the lack of publisher attention that the Inner Planes have suffered through, there aren't always enough monsters to make an inner plane interesting. Seriously, the random encounter tables in the DMG for them are five to eight entries long. So, in the interests of expanding the bestiary of the inner planes as much as possible with as little work as possible, here are a bunch of templates to use. The fauna of the elemental planes don't have to be that different from those of the material plane: the plane of fire has wolves on it, but the wolves are made of fire. The plane of air has hawks on it, which are made of hard air.
Anyway, this rounds out the list of monsters you need, or that are referenced here, with as few new things to read as possible:
Psuedoelementals are similar to standard elementals, but with a few changes.
Ice Elementals are based on Water Elementals. Change the (Water) subtype to (Cold). Their land and swim speeds are both 50' (60' if Huge). They lose Water Mastery, Drench, and Vortex. Instead, they gain the Icy Fists ability:
Icy Fists (ex): An Ice Elemental's attacks inflict 1d6 bonus Cold damage. Living creatures that are damaged by this cold must make a Fortitude save (DC 10 + 1/2 hit dice + constitution modifier) or be fatigued until they recieve magical healing (use the Frostbite rules from It's Cold Outside instead, if you want). If a creature hit by this ability is already exhausted and fails its save, it is slowed for one round.
Shadow Elementals can use the stats in the Tome of Magic. If those aren't available, building them as PCs is also viable (Elemental Bodied, Psuedoelemental Being (Shadow) feat, and levels in Elemental Brute); they can also be made as incorporeal air elementals without the Air Mastery and Vortex abilities or the (Air) subtype, but with the Shadowcaster's Vague Dimness power.
Wood Elementals are also based on Earth Elementals. Remove the (Earth) subtype, and give them a Climb speed equal to their land speed. Remove their Earth Mastery, Earth Glide, and Push abilities. They instead gain the ability to be counted as a Plant instead of an Elemental for purposes of targeting whenever it would be advantageous to them, the ability to sense any creature within 60' in contact with vegetation, and Fast Healing equal to 1/4 of their hit dice.
How Stuff Works: How Elementals WorkEdit
Elementals suffer from a similar problem to Fiends. Everyone has a good definition of what an Elemental is (a being from the elemental planes obviously made up of its home element), but nobody has a good idea of what an elemental does when it hasn't been summoned to the material plane. They don't even have the thing Fiends have where they try to corrupt mortals or conquer the Prime in their spare time. Mostly, they're just happy to live on their Inner Planes. But what do they do? Elementals, although not bright, are in the human level of intelligence at all sizes except (arguably) Small and Medium elementals, which share an intelligence score with griffins, and those aren't usually played as sapient.
Elementals, at first glance, seem to have no common reference with you. They don't breathe, they don't sleep, they don't eat, and they don't even reproduce sexually. They don't need to worry about where their next meal is coming from, they don't have to worry about having a roof over their head, they don't need to protect their belongings while they sleep, becaue they don't need either, and they don't even need to look for mates. That takes off the motivations that drive most people in a D&D world right off the bat. They only thing they actually have to worry about from the outside world is other people trying to enslave them. Elementals aren't even particularly good at using equipment, so they don't have much of an incentive, beyond compulsive behavior, to even care about stuff that isn't attached to their body, barring a few things that they can use to ward off summoning and binding.
Elementals, though, aren't living creatures with evolutionary rules to guide their behaviors. They're incarnations of the elemental forces. This means that they have a lot of behaviors that are uncommon in mortals and that present no survival advantages at all for them. In fact, they all have a compulsion of some kind to behave in a way stereotypical of their element. Air elementals have a compulsive need to move, whether to wander and explore, or even simply to pace. Earth elementals spend most of their time asleep, awakening to make their sleeping positions less awkward, or when disturbed, and rarely for longer periods. They are disturbed, however, by digging even near them, and will rectify such disturbances violently as often as not. Like other elementals, they have no need of sleep, instead merely sleeping for the enjoyment of it. Fire elementals, although they don't have to eat, really like to eat things and burn them, simply for the joy of doing so. Water elementals are hoarders; they gather things and hide them in the deeps, and are reluctant to let anything go. Unlike dragons, however, water elementals care nothing for the value of what they hoard; a water elemental is as likely to hoard trash as gold.
Psuedoelementals have similar compulsions. Ice elementals travel to find things, and occasionally change them, or move them, or leave them preserved, but always eventually abandon them for something else. They also have unimaginable patience in their searches, or when trying to change something they are holding on to. Magma elementals go through a cycle of emotions, sleeping most of their time, but occasionally rising in a manic spurt of destructiveness. Shadow elementals always have a target of an obsession, and hate whatever it is with their entire being. They might have other emotions as a reason for that hate, such as jealousy or anger at some perceived slight, but their primary emotion is almost always hatred. Wood elementals behave quite similarly to Earth elementals; they look for an opportune place, with the proper soil, water, and sunlight, and sleep there, although, if it becomes less useful, they will move.
A lot of the older edition material, and very little of the 3rd edition material, has elementals also chasing down people who steal planar material from the plane. For some reason, though, you don't see earth elementals going to the material plane to grab dirt there to hoard on the Plane of Earth. This is another possible motivation for elementals, although it leaves them with an incredible amount of downtime to fill their other motivations with unless they spend all their time travelling across the plane to catch thefts in progress. Also, some of the archomentals reverse that pattern. The archomental of ice, for instance, is plotting to cover the multiverse in eternal winter; that is, he wants to export his plane everywhere. If the elemental planes are the origins of matter for the other planes, though, this puts elementals almost universally into the black hat camp, since they believe that the world shouldn't have been created in the first place and have been fighting from day one (literally) to keep it from happening. If elementals are supposed to be something a mage can invite to the material plane in good conscience, then either elementals don't care about theft, or the material plane isn't made of former elemental matter. Likewise, if casting most spells involves theft of planar material (Fireball being a theft from the Plane of Fire, or Wall of Stone from the Plane of Earth for example), then Elementals would, by definition, be extremely antagonistic toward mages, which is actually fine as long as you don't plan to actually visit the elemental planes to talk to elementals. It also means that actually visiting to steal elemental material isn't a problem, since they'll attack you if you visit for anything, since you're travelling with a mage.
Elemental Birth and LifecyclesEdit
For something that shows up in so many rulebooks, Elementals have remarkably little written about where they come from. The most consistent theory is that they come about through spontaneous generation. Sometimes this is just windstorms or whirlpools or rock formations or fires transforming into elementals, but more commonly there are sites scattered across the elemental planes that produce elementals of the appropriate type out of the planar medium. These are not the normal sources of planar material; instead, planar material is drawn in and elementals come out.
These birthing sites are seldom in one place for long; they are storms or quakes of activity, then vanish, only for another to erupt somewhere else. They are examples of the chaos inherent to the elemental planes, even the stable ones like Earth, and their appearances are hard to predict. It's far easier to predict where a birthing site won't be, as birthing sites are rare enough that it's a near 100% chance that one is not going to erupt without warning in front of your eyes in any given period of time.
Every birthing site is different; some produce Elementals quickly, others slowly. Some sites vanish after a few minutes, other birthing sites last for hours or even days. No matter what else they do, though, they mostly produce small Elementals; medium Elementals, Elemental-bodied, and Mephits are rare (the huge population of Mephits comes from their ability to also reproduce themselves, not from the forges of the elements), and large Elementals are even rarer. Instead, the small elementals grow larger over time; as they pass the eons, they become bigger and more powerful elemental.
The oldest of elementals are called Primal Elementals or Elder Elementals. Primal and Elder elementals are not actually different in age: there are elementals of both types that date back to the creation of the cosmos, and younger members of both types born from sources in recent memory. Instead, the difference is that a Primal Elemental is larger because they were able to fuse more planar matter; some Primal Elementals are even fusions of multiple elementals. The defining factor of Elder and Primal elementals is their ability to form birthing sites on themselves, budding off small elementals. They are only able to do this rarely, and it is barely under their control, but it does happen and does not harm the source elemental.
As an aside, Primal Elementals, although found in the D&D Joke Book, are really not that powerful. They still have all of the same weaknesses other elementals have. For example, their weak will saves make them vulnerable to banishment, and they're still stupid melee brutes. Further, their damage is not that great, and, except for the air elemental and oddly enough, the earth elemental, are all vulnerable to the pegasus kite.
There are a number of rituals to create elementals. Some of them are guaranteed and fast-acting, while others only have a chance of working, or delay their action by a week, a month, or a season after the ritualist leaves. These rituals all cost something, usually planar currencies of some kinds, with souls and raw chaos being the most common ingredients, although rituals exist for all of the outer-planar currencies. A rock can be endowed with mind by infusing it with materialized ideas, and a windstorm can be inspired to ensoul itself through sheer hope. These rites don't get detailed rules; assume someone with the appropriate planar currency use feat can make an elemental by spending the value of its soul in planar currency. These rituals can cause elementals to spawn randomly, and also cause growth spurts (up a rank of elemental or more) in existing elementals, although such growth spurts are risky or outright fatal to the elementals involved; if a ritual takes six small elementals and creates one huge, participating is death at worst and russian roulette at best for the original elementals. Even a ritual that turns a large elemental huge has a risk of killing it and replacing it with a huge elemental.
Large-scale magic item projects often involve bound elementals. A giant forge or steam engine works best with a bound fire elemental, ships are driven by water elementals, and golems by earth elementals. There's even an old major artifact of a giant pipe-organ powered by bound air elementals. Every elemental has some use as a power source bound to something.
Binding an elemental to something to power it doesn't take a very large elemental, and it doesn't vary with the size of the item. The elemental needn't fit into the item, either; it's fully possible to have, say, a bound-elemental powered longsword or even dagger even though there isn't an elemental small enough to fit into it.
Most elemental bindings use small or medium elementals, since they're sufficiently powerful to operate pretty much any item. Particularly powerful things, such as certain advanced kinds of golem, might need to use as much as a large elemental. Huge elementals are pretty much only necessary when making things the size of buildings or airships with magical power to match. Binding an elemental to something that doesn't usually involve a bound elemental takes the Element-Binding Craft feat. Bound elementals are usually shrunk down, or discorporeated, or whatever so that they fit inside the item, and are usually unconcious. That's actually why golems are mindless, by the by. A golem is not a powered battle suit worn by an enslaved elemental; it's a nonsapient lump of earthy matter that has an unconcious earth elemental stuck into it that it slowly steals the powers of so that it can move. There are a few items that don't follow this model. For instance, if you're using air elementals as a bellows system, odds are that they're concious. Most of those items just use an elemental's powers to make mechanical devices more efficient; others use elementals for direct energy.
Note, though, that golems aren't the only constructs. Effigies, Clockwork Horrors, Animated Objects, and so on exist, and none of them involve a bound elemental of any kind in them. The main difference is that the bound elemental in the golem provides the mechanical differences that make it a golem and not something else, notably immunity to magic and berserking, while the other creations don't involve enslaving a sapient being.
The Elemental Planes are home to a number of creatures other than standard elementals, and many of them are actually simple animals. Most of these are animated fragments of their appropriate element in the shape of a material plane animal, which are constructed using the Elemental Creature template. There are also a lot of material creatures present on the elemental planes, that just gravitate to planes that they can live with the environment on. So fire giants and red dragons move to the Plane of Fire, remorhaz on the Plane of Cold, beholders on the Plane of Earth (not air; they like tight spaces), along with purple worms, and so on. Plus there are all sorts of normal animals, with the generic elemental templates, provide a good deal of the fauna on the elemental planes.
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