Wandering Monsters: Elementary

Wandering Monsters
Elementary

By James Wyatt

Elementals and genies have their own charms, which James discusses this week in Wandering Monsters. Take a look at a brief discussion of cosmology, then dive right into the creature descriptions.

Talk about this column here.

Fairest of Them All
I can't find this article. The link you have here goes to "Fairest of Them All".

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I think James was spot on for Elementals and Genies. Oh and Distant Land = Zakhara :P

For the Planes its better from a principle of inclusion so it works for all.


PS Link fixed.
Ctrl+F phenomenal cosmic power



Most of it seems right otherwise.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

Does he even bother reading Jon Schindehette's articles, and the responses they recieve? This is the second time this has happened, first with the dryads-as-nymph-subtype thing a few weeks ago, and now him completely ignoring the feedback saying to change the poll questions for being misleading, which got over 20 Likes - the most I've ever seen on any comment on any of these articles!

What's more, he utterly failed to capitalise on the poll results from last week, and mention did not mention the elemental archons at all.
The planar setup is good. I've seen few games where the actual organization of the elemental planes mattered, and if it did matter in a game I was running I would rather decide what the setup is. No matter what version your running, it takes some creativity and additions to the game to make the elemental planes interesting.

As for the basic elemetal creatures, not a bad start, though some of the more interesting 4e elemental creatures should be brought over also. 4e's "throw two random elemental words together" strategy didn't make better elementals in general. However, some of them are decent monsters and mixing some of them in will help to give groups of elementals more options and differing creatures.


Good article. I agree on almost everything. The only thing I really didn't understand is where he's aiming in terms of cosmology. It would be good to have an article presenting one Upper Plane to really understand what he means.

I see that all the previous poll results are in line with my thinking.  

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/23.jpg)

I'm all in favor of not having a default cosmology, but I'd still really like to see the options codified somewhere in a Next book.  It's one thing to say, "choose your own flavor" it's another to say "there is no flavor here, make up your own.  If you want to, you could buy some of our old books to figure out what the flavor used to be, but if you're new you're pretty much screwed."  Heck, I'd prefer a baked in option that I could change (because let's face it, I can change it regardless of what you say) than leaving it utterly blank.  

Also, genasi as almost indistinguishable from humans?  Maybe this is just innate conservatism talking, but why?  More different is more unique, and I rather liked genasi.  Obviously when you've got more than a sentence on them they might have plenty of cool, but I'm not really sure why you're throwing out the old fluff.  Anyone want to explain it?
Also, genasi as almost indistinguishable from humans?  Maybe this is just innate conservatism talking, but why?  More different is more unique, and I rather liked genasi.  Obviously when you've got more than a sentence on them they might have plenty of cool, but I'm not really sure why you're throwing out the old fluff.  Anyone want to explain it?

I like the genasi, and I definately prefer the "ZOMG a monster!" appearance over the "almost human" version, but the last part of the section did mention those with stronger ties to the elemental plane(s) might share more otherworldly qualities. I think the overall point is that different people want a different level of "wierd", and I am fine with allowing both extremes to exist as core.

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I like "planar ambiguity" as a theme for Next's Manual of the Planes.

I find the poll responses from last week fascinating.  A lot less consensus than we've seen in the past.
I find the poll responses from last week fascinating.  A lot less consensus than we've seen in the past.



I noticed this too.  Very interesting.

There's obviously a lot more about "elementals" that could be said and wasn't covered, and that's fine.  This was just an overview of where they're going, and I'm cool with it.  Genies, pretty much what I'd expect.  Elementals, fine, and there's room for development, i.e. 4e's elemental archons, and my personal favorite from 2e, "weirds".

As far as genasi go, 4e was really the only edition where they were morphologically distinct from humans.  Every other edition was just as described here - human looking with some trait that suggested elemental ancestry.  Often it was fairly minor, like earth geansi being somewhat squat and stout maybe with a grainy texture to their skin, or a waater genasi having just a it of webbing between their fingers.  And different genasi might have different traits, no two are alike, and it might take you most of a conversation with them before you even realize something was "off" about them.  It wasn't until 4e where the colored skin, glowing lines, crystal hair, etc was introduced.  I'm cool with it going either way, but personally I prefer the more subtle approach.

@fear4 - a couple things.  First, these articles are occasionally written in advance, and the poll results might not have been available when this was written.  Second, even if they were, the whole topic of elemental archons was presented LAST week as a "something we want to look at" - which means they might not have done any work on it in the meantime.  Just because he didn't mention them HERE doesn't mean they are ignoring it or that those monsters won't show up in the future.
First: the 4th Edition Cosmology is called the World Axis Cosmology.
Now to the creatures and Cosmology: I think that generic entrances is fine. It's ok to present things like City of Brass or the Blood War, but maybe you could go with generic concepts of planes, instead of specific planes.
Now, to the pools. Just like the pool about the Feywild, I think that the result of the eladrin pool showed that people care about the World Axis Cosmology and the flavor of 4th Edition. Remember that the flavor always have changed between editions.
I like "planar ambiguity" as a theme for Next's Manual of the Planes.

I find the poll responses from last week fascinating.  A lot less consensus than we've seen in the past.



I actually found it the most interesting part of the whole thing.  As both elementals and genies are pretty much as they have always been in all editions.  Anyways I'm guessing that is why we are seeing him talk about the cosmology of the whole thing in this article.
For the elementals, I often use the stats for elementals from the monster manual whenever I use them, but their purpose, origin, appearance, and relationship to each other is completely my own. That's fine, as long as nothing about the monster's statistics reflect or require those things. My elementals are all humanoid in shape, and are a part of the world's natural balancing mechanism. Air elementals are shepherds of the wind, water elementals guide the streams and conduct the ocean's waves. Fire elementals give flame its power, and earth elementals build mountains and dig valleys.

I couldn't care less about genies. I don't use them, and if I did, they would be stat-less on account of being made out of pure plot device.

I just hope that elementals aren't tied too closely (mechanically) to the planes in Next, because my setting doesn't use planes in the same way, and I would rather not have to do much reworking to make elementals fit.

Standard Answer to all 5E rules questions: "Ask your DM."

Also, genasi as almost indistinguishable from humans?  Maybe this is just innate conservatism talking, but why?  More different is more unique, and I rather liked genasi.  Obviously when you've got more than a sentence on them they might have plenty of cool, but I'm not really sure why you're throwing out the old fluff.  Anyone want to explain it?

Nearly indistinguishable from humans, with just a hint of their elemental ancestry, fits well in with the old fluff from Planescape.  Personally, I really like the mostly-human-but-slightly-different feel, because I find it really hard to properly roleplay a humanoid elemental; it's just too alien to me (and I'm talking starfish aliens, not rubber-forehead aliens).

The metagame is not the game.

Not bad article.  Seeing celestial eladrin make me vanish makes me sad (as I hate the PoL version, which feel like redundant high elves), but oh well.  I'm still shouting for generic/vague planar core.  I don't want Great Wheel (even though I loooove Planescape) or World Axis!  Save that stuff for setting/MotP type of things.  Also, in reference to genasi, I'd want something in between the touch of ancestry creature and humanoid elemental. 

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I imagine genasi like humans with genies ancestors.

Genies could be excelent potential antagonist to fay faction.

I miss the rock pokemons.... I mean I miss the paraelementals from Manual of planes.





Why are we going to deny it? Summoning elemental digimons is one of coolest things of D&D wizards. 


* One of my crazy ideas for my settins was a "religious schism" in the earth plane, metal vs crystal/salt (no metalic elements).

* Will we see the return of sha´ir?

* Could a winemaker genie (al-Quadim) be a wizard´s familiar?...

* Khayal (shadow genie, from Tome of Magic) could be interesting





"Say me what you're showing off for, and I'll say you what you lack!" (Spanish saying)

 

Book 13 Anaclet 23 Confucius said: "The Superior Man is in harmony but does not follow the crowd. The inferior man follows the crowd, but is not in harmony"

 

"In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of." - Confucius 

Really digging it, love the mention of Sha'irs, the genie powers are spot on (Efreet having a diminution power), but surprised while they mentioned The City of Brass and The Dismal Delve they didn't also mention The Citadel of Ice and Steel, and, damn, I forget, what's the Marid one (City of Ten Thousand Pearls or something)? 

I like tying Genasi to Genies more. 
I like the idea that the elemental planes are a place you could have adventures rather than just places where you can die. The way I see it, if a efreet is a being made of pure fire or whatever but which doesn't look just like a walking blaze, you could also have buildings and landscapes that are made of fire but which aren't just a never-ending expanse of roiling flame.

I like pretty much everything in the article, but I don't like the characterization of elementals as "stupid". I generally think of them as not having minds comparable to a mortal's. They might not be capable of any creativity at all, but they're not easy to fool or slow-thinking or incapable of following orders.
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I like the idea that the elemental planes are a place you could have adventures rather than just places where you can die.




They've always been that way (though the Plane of Vacuum is rough).
I love the vagueness for the planes.  It does exactly what they say: allows for everyone's favorite cosmology.

As classic as the 4 elementals are, I also really like the mixed elementals from 4E.  I felt they did a great job representing the totally chaotic nature of the elements, and I hope they find a place in D&D Next.

The descriptions of the genies were good, but I don't think they need to fixate on specific spells like were used in the past.  I feel it cheapens such mighty creatures to say things like, "Efreet can produce flame", implying that it works just like the spell.  Instead, simply say, "Efreet can blast foes with fire." 

I also prefer genasi looking like the 4E version, rather than pretty much just like a human.  I find it much more interesting.
Hmm, the Plane of Void. Where nothing but nothing exists...Not sure if anyone bothered with the concept, but it kinda hurts my head.

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Hmm, the Plane of Void. Where nothing but nothing exists...Not sure if anyone bothered with the concept, but it kinda hurts my head.



Yes, it's a quasi-elemental plane.

Did not Vecna have a pad on The Plane of Ash? 
(though the Plane of Vacuum is rough).



Yeah, that place really sucks.



(though the Plane of Vacuum is rough).



Yeah, that place really sucks.








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The planes are great. Their existence provides an easy backstory to certain monsters and spells, while their vagueness leaves plenty of room for GMs to make up their own elements, design their own planes, or cut them out and reduce the campaign world to a single plane.


Elementals are excellent. I particularly like the ominous hints of elementals even larger than Huge.


Again, I'll raise a complaint against the weakness to magical weapons. Magic items in Next are designed to break the game in certain controlled ways. Adding the weakness to magic removes an element of control from magic item designers. Unless a creature's existence is based on a lack of magic, it shouldn't have a weakness to magic.


The genies... I'm not sure what to make of them. Each of them has a lot of stuff about cities, politics, alignment, and attitude that only apply to one campaign world, and one genie within that campaign world. Meanwhile, they lack a simple physical description, leaving me wondering why we need four palette-swapped versions of the same thing. And what's this stuff about not granting wishes, but using magic to fulfill requests? Isn't that what granting a wish is? Or are they referring to an actual spell called Wish that doesn't appear in Next and will no doubt cause an uproar if and when it does?


On the plus side, the ties to the elements are a good source of distinguishing flavor.


Genasi end the article on a high note. The article doesn't say what they do, and I don't care; half-genie is a great character race.

(though the Plane of Vacuum is rough).



Yeah, that place really sucks.






Very nicely done!
Meanwhile, they lack a simple physical description, leaving me wondering why we need four palette-swapped versions of the same thing.

More than likely, they'll end up like the dragons, with obvious tiers defined via HD and such.

Thoughts:

- No one right cosmology. As long as the DMG writes this down clearly and future product reflects non one true cosmology, I am okay with that. Acknowledge Planescape, without acknowledging it as the "true" cosmology.    

- Elementals: Sounds good. Hopefully, this open cosmology means we can get stuff like paralementals.

- Genies: 4ed did much the same as what's shown here, but didn't stamp alignments on the genies. It feels like too much emphasis is being placed on "the genies who has opposing alignments hate each other." Forget for a second what alignment they have, then create interesting stories for them. 

- Janns and Genasi: Huh. So, the 5ed Janns will be like the 4ed Genasi, and the 5ed Genasi will be Genie Juniors. It's different from what I'm used to, but it does give me both a "Genieborn" and an "Elementalborn", so that's good. 

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I liked the article. I don't have a problem with the elementals being kind of dumb as long as there is room for more intelligence in advanced elementals. The part about the Genasi was my favorite. I like Genasi to be humanoid with something off about them.
Thoughts:

- No one right cosmology. As long as the DMG writes this down clearly and future product reflects non one true cosmology, I am okay with that. Acknowledge Planescape, without acknowledging it as the "true" cosmology.    

- Elementals: Sounds good. Hopefully, this open cosmology means we can get stuff like paralementals.

- Genies: 4ed did much the same as what's shown here, but didn't stamp alignments on the genies. It feels like too much emphasis is being placed on "the genies who has opposing alignments hate each other." Forget for a second what alignment they have, then create interesting stories for them. 

- Janns and Genasi: Huh. So, the 5ed Janns will be like the 4ed Genasi, and the 5ed Genasi will be Genie Juniors. It's different from what I'm used to, but it does give me both a "Genieborn" and an "Elementalborn", so that's good. 


Jann and genasi are only reverting to their old selves, which I like. 
As a minor thing, I really like that Earth Elementals aren't actually Acid Elememtals (so far). I much prefer them meleeing, throwing rocks, burrowing and causing tremors-- rather than shooting "beams" (or whatever) of acid.
* I would like elemental demiplanes could be visited by low level characters.

* Madrids or water genies aren´t interesting for me but they are sea traders who doesn´t fear pirates. If madrids can´t be like Sinbad the sailor with magic superpowers I don´t want them. 

* I imagine genies with a relation love-hate, rivalry and antagonism with lord fays (+ fiends, giants and dragons). In the past daos and efretees tried conquer the faywild and fighted fair folk. Later giants, fays and some genies discovered some hollow worlds, demiplanes and they tried colonize them (or expel the colonists of other factions).  

And don´t forget planar dragons, other "pain in the neck" (or valluable allies).

* The good monsters should be like PCs controlled by the DM. They can´t be only nPJs and hook of adventures, but interesting antagonists, with a background like potential PCs. One of good thinks by the rpg World of Darkness was the factions. 

* I know genies are elemental outsiders, but we shouldn´t forget a possible link with fays, for example like ancient enemies in the past. 

* Could orisha (spirit or deity from real world Yoruba religion) be the name of a D&D creature? (would it be politically incorrect?). I imagine possible D&D orishas like "cousins" of genies.

"Say me what you're showing off for, and I'll say you what you lack!" (Spanish saying)

 

Book 13 Anaclet 23 Confucius said: "The Superior Man is in harmony but does not follow the crowd. The inferior man follows the crowd, but is not in harmony"

 

"In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of." - Confucius 

was looking at the archon poll at the bottom of the page and noticed that 86% of voters wanted to keep the 4e archons in some form yet there is no mention of them, maybe there is planning for including archons as a playable race and that they did not want to give anything away.
More likely, this article was written before the poll results came i, so he left the archons out until he had the results of the polls and spent some time figuring out how to accommodate them,.
I hope that they don't leave pre-4th eladrin. While I like the 4th fey eladrin, I think that James Wyatt proposal for eladrin was not so good as the proposal for archons and devas, and that could have be the reason to this results.
I hope that they don't leave pre-4th eladrin. While I like the 4th fey eladrin, I think that James Wyatt proposal for eladrin was not so good as the proposal for archons and devas, and that could have be the reason to this results.


Yeah, I really like the old-school version of eladrin better and hope they don't taken behind the shed and shot.
I hope that they don't leave pre-4th eladrin. While I like the 4th fey eladrin, I think that James Wyatt proposal for eladrin was not so good as the proposal for archons and devas, and that could have be the reason to this results.


Yeah, I really like the old-school version of eladrin better and hope they don't taken behind the shed and shot.



Maybe they'll come back in a Planescape book if worst comes to worst.  All I know is the 4th-era fey eladrin will be shot on sight if pre-4th eladrin are given the boot...

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I hope that they don't leave pre-4th eladrin. While I like the 4th fey eladrin, I think that James Wyatt proposal for eladrin was not so good as the proposal for archons and devas, and that could have be the reason to this results.


Yeah, I really like the old-school version of eladrin better and hope they don't taken behind the shed and shot.



Maybe they'll come back in a Planescape book if worst comes to worst.  All I know is the 4th-era fey eladrin will be shot on sight if pre-4th eladrin are given the boot...



+1.

Also, "human-plus" genasi for win. Cool 
I hope that they don't leave pre-4th eladrin. While I like the 4th fey eladrin, I think that James Wyatt proposal for eladrin was not so good as the proposal for archons and devas, and that could have be the reason to this results.


Yeah, I really like the old-school version of eladrin better and hope they don't taken behind the shed and shot.



These are Great Wheel Eladrin. 




These are World Axis Eladrin.



Am I the only one who doesn't see much of a difference?
   


  

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No fixed cosmology makes me hopeful.

While I can appreciate the Great Wheel style of Elements, I like playing around with other sorts of elements as well. No need to shove Acid into Earth or Water, let it be it's own "element". 

The alignment focus of the returned Genie I could do without.  I would rather them be less alignment driven (an outer plane trait in my mind) and more inherent nature driven (an inner plane trait). Seems almost like inclusion for pure legacy value without evaluation.
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