In the Elemental Power Source article, I proposed a number of ways to approach creating new, fully-realized elemental classes that can stand on their own, without being associated with another power source. In the previous Elemental Heroes articles 1, 2, 3, and 4, I proposed a one new elemental class of each role along with an extremely rough level 1 Encounters-style character sheet example for each. Since I wrote those articles, I’ve had some great feedback and a lot of vocal support, and I’d like you to know how much I appreciate it. Additionally, Gencon has recently concluded for the year, bringing with it some new information on the upcoming Player’s Option: Power of the Plane Below… which appears to have no elemental classes whatsoever (though the builds themselves sound promising enough). Suffice it to say, while I will keep my fingers crossed that a future book will have a nice collection of true elemental classes, I am deeply disappointed. That said, it gives me all the more reason to further develop the argument for true elemental classes, and that can only be done by not just saying, but showing.
While I was looking back on the Chaos Bringer and working on the Director, it struck me that I had been focusing too much on what the characters can do and not enough on what the characters were. The Xaosmith was a defender with a short-ranged pet, the Exulter was an armored close blaster controller, and the Chaos Bringer was a polymorphing element-hurler. While fighters can get away with “defender that hits things with weapons,” most other classes really need to have the nature and origin of their abilities explained. Moreover, their power source itself needs a story that makes it distinct from the others beyond just “it comes from this other place.” With the Director, I decided to think in more story-oriented terms, and determined that rather than just being a leader with an elemental aura, a Director was a person whose soul contained a rupture that leads to the Elemental Chaos, granting lots of potential power but little real control, and then expanded on how that could come about. Since then, I have looked over the classes again, and have begun weaving a story that binds the classes with each other, their power source, and the setting at large. These are my preliminary ideas, and I would love any feedback you might have on them.
Xaosmiths are warrior-craftsfolk who can manipulate elemental chaos matter - a chaos node - with exceptional precision, using it as an all-purpose tool both in and out of combat. They lack the explosive and pervasive force of other elemental classes, but have far better control. Xaosmithing is said to be one of the most ancient forms of mortal magic, passed down by the primordials to their servants, predating more complex formula- or rune-based magic. Most xaosmiths are happiest in the act of creation, using their magic to forge the tools needed to make their community prosper, but it is a lucky few who live such simple lives. Xaosmiths usually find themselves on the front lines, forging and repairing armor and weapons while battles rage around them. When forced to act directly, they are terrifying and versatile warriors with an intimate knowledge of the tools of war and the magic to exploit that knowledge. Many xaosmiths are as direct and brutal as an avalanche, but others are cunning tricksters who can unbalance a charging foe with a gust of wind. Their chaos nodes can be used as barriers or as weapons, such as becoming a wall of wind to scatter arrows, or a shard of ice so cold that flesh freezes at its touch. With some effort, chaos nodes can become more complex shapes such as ladders, lock picks, or even crude vehicles, making xaosmiths invaluable in a siege. Though fairly plentiful during the reign of the primordials, xaosmiths are a dying breed; their skills require rare talent and extensive, dangerous training, but are most readily utilized where they are most likely to die. Moreover, xaosmiths are reminders of the primordials’ reign, and many zealous followers of the divine seek to erase their legacy altogether. Today, most xaosmiths are recluses who toil away at great works far away from the safety and comfort of a community, where they can use their powers without scrutiny. Rarely, such a hermit may take on an apprentice out of some need to pass out their ancient art, and the unwise of these may become great heroes.
Those who delight in channeling the raw, explosive power of the Elemental Chaos source are known as exulters. Exulters are warriors who fight with eruptions of elemental power as their weapon, wading into combat to deliver thundering blasts and to shatter the very earth beneath their enemies’ feet. Exulters delight in making fire fall like rain and water cut like knives, and even those with noble intentions are ever-tempted to wreak chaos. Legend holds that the first exulters were priest-generals of primordial cults, acting as living examples of their patron’s wrath. As the Dawn War raged, the exultant power was passed on to primordial champions, and once the war ended, began to appear outside of the elemental cults. The unbridled use of elemental power, however, invites arrogance, recklessness, and madness, and even those exulters with good intentions and no connection to the primordial cults often proved wild and destructive, and most were eventually hunted down by the combined efforts of more civilized forces, reducing their numbers into obscurity, but never with complete success. Despite persecution and the low survival rate of apprentices, new exulters continue to devastate remote corners of the world, usually as the heart of new elemental cults. Some few exulters have sought to better control their power through rigorous exercise, dance, and other forms of exhaustive self-discipline, though even they can find themselves laughing amid the flames of battle. Such exulters often dwell in monasteries and live alongside monks, sharing their meditations but training where they are less likely to set their fellows ablaze.
Harbinger (formerly Chaos Bringer)
In ages past, primordials remade elementals, dragons, and mortals into their own images, creating archons, catastrophic dragons, and races such as the azer and galeb duhr. Some of these transformations have been simplified and adapted into ceremonies, usually undertaken by elemental cultists, to turn a mortal into a harbinger, a destructive warrior fused with and empowered by the elements themselves, able to partly or completely transform themselves and their equipment into an elemental form. In these altered forms, they can add the strength of stone, the swiftness of the wind, or the power of the storm to their blows, and many mistake them for elementals or golems. Harbingers act as vanguard troops and bodyguards in elemental cults, and the strongest are treated as minor avatars of whichever being the cult follows. More recently, some have begun experimenting with new forms of these rituals, and whispers have begun to circulate about harbingers empowered by cacofiends or slaad larvae. Because the rituals required to create harbingers are often fatal and always excruciating, many cults force outsiders to undergo the rites, and then break the wills of those that survive. Though most can hide their elemental nature off the battlefield, few harbingers have the restraint to do so for long. Cults that harbor harbingers rarely bring them to civilized areas until they are ready to reveal themselves, and some cults announce their claim on a region by unleashing a transformed harbinger in the center of town. Harbingers that leave their cults, or survive them, face hostility and fear, and those who do not flee from them likely seek to control or destroy them. Still, there exist secret societies beyond the cults who have learned the rituals themselves, and use it to create powerful guardians and warriors who must be able to withstand otherwise deadly environments. Those harbingers who fail in such duties are sent out into the world to retrieve what was lost, to atone for their failure, or are simply exiled as a failed experiment.
Director (copied from the original Director blog post)
Most directors were once ordinary folk living day-by-day in whatever profession they found themselves in, but since birth, at the center of their being, the veil between the elemental chaos and the world was unusually thin. At some point in their life, as easily in an angry crowd as a lonely desert, the veil tore within them, and traces of the elemental chaos seeped from their bodies in a pulsing aura of matter and energy - a nascent Elemental Presence. Most who undergo this experience do not survive it, either destroyed by the tear itself or those fearful of their power. Those who survive learn to control the aura, and to draw strength and power from it to empower themselves and their allies. Because much of their will is devoted to simply keeping the tear in check, directors lack the sheer explosive power or precision of other elemental classes. However, because they must learn how to reconcile chaos and flesh to survive, they can mend and soothe their allies’ wounds and infuse them with the traits of the elements under their control. The exact nature of the directors’ connection to the elemental chaos is a subject of inconclusive study and wild rumor, but the ability of some directors to call upon the energies and denizens of the Abyss suggests unpleasant answers.
With that thought out of the way, I'd like to turn toward the future of this project. At the least, I plan to produce fully-functioning classes, with all choices, from level 1 to 3, the standard Encounters level spread. However, if things go well, I hope to continue beyond that - at least until better, official elemental classes are made. I'd like to invite you all into the process.
- Create one elemental class for each role
- Each fills an untapped archetype and has a unique conceptual and visual silhouette
- Each fits directly into the existing lore of major D&D settings, while adding to their richness
- Each can easily be of any alignment, culture, or race
- Each can easily accommodate elemental, primordial, demon, slaad, or genie influence
- Each accommodate hybrid and multiclassing rules
Things to be Considered
- Scaling Powers, such as with hybrid and certain essentials classes
- Whether or not to use rare or new power types such as full discipline, polymorphing, or power points
- How elements are chosen, such as by power choice, when activating the power, or by using a class ability
- Air, earth, and untyped damage – how to balance these and make them stand out against damage types
- Best ability scores and race choices – which ability scores, and thus which races that boost those scores, should be associated with which classes?
- Implements and weapons – which are most appropriate?
- Ability packages, such as skill choices, element choices, combat style, etc.
- Armor and shields – which are most appropriate for classes that can directly control matter?
These are the ideas and goals I’m currently working with, but I would like to produce something that the community as a whole can make use of and which can stand as a lasting example to the fine folks at Wizards that the elemental power source is worthy of the same treatment as martial, arcane, and primal. With that, I humbly request your thoughts and opinions:
- Do you agree with the direction I’m taking these classes? If not, what would you change?
- What story elements do you feel should to be included? What do you feel should be avoided?
- What mechanics would you like to see represented in an elemental class?
- Are there any major goals I should include that I have not listed?
- What are your thoughts on the list of “Things to be Considered?” Is anything missing?
- Do you have any other ideas that have been completed neglected by these articles?