Basic Information

An Elemental is a creature formed entirely of one of the classical elements in mysticism, alchemy, mythology and modern fantasy fiction. An elemental is believed to be a being of un-told power. Whether it be made of fire or water or some other substance, it is always made of purely the named element. Either it embodies the concept of the element (see Anthropomorphic Personification), or it's literally constructed of that element (such as by animation (magic)).

While the idea of the Four Elements goes back to Ancient Greece, the concept of lifeforms made purely of a single element wasn't really codified until the writings of Paracelsus, an Alchemist of the 16th Century. Paracelsus assigned certain words to the creatures of these elements…

In Alchemy and Sorcery alike, Elementals are usually "called" by summoning. However, given the coded myth status of a lot of the old alchemical works, it's possible that alchemists meant the elementals as a metaphor, and less than literally alive. Alchemy (and the alchemists themselves) kinda blur the line between science and magic.

Confusingly, some forms of mysticism use the term "elemental" to refer to a type of spirit, especially particularly primal ones or those specifically associated with the natural world.



Game and Story Use

  • All i think of at the moment is it's a perfect thing for your mage to be summoning in a time of need.
  • A treasure horde may include a grimoire or tome that includes a ritual for summoning a particular form of elemental.
    • Or for creating an elemental of any type from a large collection of the corresponding element.
      • This could be why your heroes' town is dealing with a mad arsonist. Or why the river suddenly dried up.
  • Depictions of elementals vary quite a bit. Some are presented as mindless guardians to be conjured or created. Others are sentient lifeforms that have personalities and higher mental functions. Sometimes both exist side-by-side in the same setting.
  • You need not be constrained to the classical elements, if it fits your campaign. There's other possibilities for elementals.

Building This Character

There's a few questions to ask yourself when inventing / concepting elementals for your setting:

  1. Are they clever and intelligent, or possess an animal-cunning, or are they completely mindless and subservient to the person who conjured them?
  2. Do they exist on their own and just sometimes summoned by spellcasters, or are they created instead of called? Can you stumble across them in the wild?
  3. Which elemental are possible? Just the classical 4 or 5? The periodic table? Crazy stuff?
  4. What powers do elementals in general have? Can they create, manipulate, or incorporate their element?
  5. What powers are implied by the specific element this elemental is made of? Even if you decide elementals in general can't create more of their element, it would make sense for a Fire Elemental to be able to ignite things it touches. If that's the case, does any sort of "fairness" or niche protection necessitate granting comparable powers to the other elements?
  6. What weaknesses are implied by the specific element, and do they hold true? Will turning a fire hose against a Fire Elemental accomplish anything? In some systems an ice monster is immune to fire, in others it takes extra damage from it. How does this work in your game?
  7. What holds the elemental together? Is an earth elemental a pile of dirt or a single block of stone? Is the air element made of gas, or made of wind? What does this imply about it's resilience, stamina, coherence, etc? Should it count as being armored? Can critical hits affect it, and if so, what do such wounds represent? Is the elemental immune to damage modes that wouldn't obliterate the element it's made of? Is a sword of any use against a water elemental?
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