Wandering Monsters: Binding Elementals

I am already not a very big fan of elementals in Next, because last I heard for some reason the air elemental has eyes—two at that—and a mouth, and earth and fire elementals have humanoid shapes. Now I guess they change their names and shape when they are bound into service, as if there is some kind of bondage protection program.

Why? Why does summoning an air elemental keep it as an air elemental, but when you tell it to do something it becomes an invisible stalker? Why are not all air elementals normally invisible, except when moving and attacking? That actually sounds like a really cool. Characters would want to ready actions to attack it when it moves or attacks, and while they
could use dust and debris to make it easier to spot, it could use it to
make ranged and area-effect attacks.

Give us a base elemental template, with elemental traits and some general shapes that we can use. Basically let us build our own elementals based on our needs. This would also make it easier to add new elemental traits and shapes later on, so that we do not end up with a bunch of stat blocks for the basic elementals in one monster manual, then a bunch more in another one: all you need to do is just add a block of traits and let us figure it out. Also, make it possible to just summon and bind whatever elementals we want. Bonus points if it is more interesting and engaging than a suite of specific summoning spells.

Equally confusing is the elemental myrmidon. So, someone summons an elemental spirit and...binds it into plate armor? Okay. Again, why? Why does it have to be plate armor? Why does it have to be armor at all? I thought golems were fueled by elemental spirits. This just sounds like they wanted to make sure that we still had use for our archon minis. Admirable, except that it is not particularly compelling, nor does it make sense.

I envision archons as the primordial's first attempt at creating life. They are rough, vaguely human-like. They would not necessarily be wearing armor or wield weapons. In this case genasi would be the improved version. I could see them as cursed genasi, or even incredibly old genasi. Maybe elementals got trapped on the material world for centuries and are simply trying to emulate life. If you want them to be soldiers, why not just make them similar to Eberron's warforged, just with an elemental theme?


  1. You seem to like the toolkit approach, based on a different post on the subject of insect monsters. Is there any particular system that you're thinking of?

  2. My understanding (or perhaps my assumed understanding) isn't that giving it a task makes it an invisible stalker... it's that you are summoning an air spirit to be an invisible stalker. It's not the same... ritual/spell thing and then the order of a task that separates them. It's effectively a separate ritual, that while similar is ultimately different.
    And the elemental myrmidon. I guess to me, I think of it as not that an EM requires plate armor, but that if you use plate armor you get an EM. Thus, using other things would yield other results. And maybe those other things arm't common because it doesn't tend to work as well... *shrug*

  3. @Anon: I love the toolkit approach, which I think 4th Edition pushed the most with its power structure and how you make monsters, but did not push far enough. I think that Next would greatly benefit from giving you all the pieces and letting you build your own race, class, monster, magic item, etc.

    The closest system that comes to mind is 5th Edition's Shadowrun, but chargen is pretty complex. Dungeon World starts you out with sets of moves, but lets you mostly pick anything from a list AND takes you step by step through building monsters.

    I prefer stuff like that then a book with stuff like the wolf, dire wolf (Large wolf) and worg (smart Large wolf). I can make a monster bigger and/or smarter on my own. Same with bugs: I do not need six or more stat blocks on spiders and scorpions, or a monster that is a spider with a scorpion tail, or a scorpion that shoots lightning.

  4. @instantapathy: My interpretation of changing the air elemental into an invisible stalker comes from the tail end of the first sentence where it says, "you call an air elemental from the Plane of Air and bind it into the form of an invisible stalker".

    I do not see the reason why you need to bind it into the form of, well, anything. Why not just use an air elemental, orwhatever elemental you need? Want to deliver a message oversea? Water elemental. Want to protect something underground? Earth elemental.

    As for myrmidons, golems are described as being powered by an elemental spirit. So besides appearance how do they differ? Why do they not go berserk? That being said the more I think about it, the more I think of the Golden Army from Hellboy 2, which is actually kind of cool.

  5. I think that with the toolkit, a few 'basic' versions would be necessary, so that if you need something simple you don't need to do the work, while the kit would give you the tools to easily make variations.

    Just my thoughts.

  6. Agreed. Give us the generic stuff, and the tools to make ice lizards and water bears.


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