Elemental Planes: What do you do with them?

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Havard
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Elemental Planes: What do you do with them?

Post by Havard » Sun Apr 21, 2019 10:24 am

What are some cool ideas for involving the elemental planes more?

The Elemental Planes can be a source of elemental monsters and a place to visit (although not a very interesting one?), but can they be more?

1) Artifacts: A sword forged by elements from the plane of earth, a crystal ball from the plane of water or a hammer forged in the fires of the elemental plane of fire.
2) Components: In order to complete a quest, you must obtain a piece of a rare item only found in an elemental plane.
3) Elemental Plane politics spilling into the Prime Plane: A bittter war between a Djinn and an Efreeti Duke takes a new turn when an Efreeti spy escapes the Djinn's palace with secret scrolls, fleeing to the Prime Plane with Djinni in hot pursuit!

What are other ideas for how to involve the Elemental Planes more in your campaign?

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Re: Elemental Planes: What do you do with them?

Post by timemrick » Mon Apr 22, 2019 3:17 pm

A couple of years or so ago, visiting the elemental planes was a major theme of that season's Pathfinder Society scenarios. Some of those adventures involved:
  • Disgraced genie nobles (one fire, one earth) made bargains with the Pathfinder Society, aiding scholars studying their home planes in exchange for help regaining their lost status.
  • A notorious jann thief stole an item the Society wanted and fled to the Elemental Plane of Air, where she had to be hunted down to retrieve the object.
  • A Society contact on the Elemental Plane of Water needed help investigating an expedition's disappearance.
  • In the Pathfinder/Golarion cosmology, the benevolent elemental lords were imprisoned by the the evil elemental lords long ago. The Society uncovered leads to finding the prison of one of these captive demigods (who would hopefully feel some obligation toward their rescuers if released).
In addition, there was at least one earlier scenario that took place in a Darklands [Underdark] cavern that had a strong connection to the Elemental Plane of Earth magic. This vault contained both a library of arcane and elemental lore, and dangerous earth elemental creatures. The mission was to find a Pathfinder spellcaster who had disappeared in the area--and who, when found, had been in the vault long enough that she had been transmuted into an oread [earth genie-kin]. (IIRC, this scenario introduced the earth genie noble mentioned above.)
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Re: Elemental Planes: What do you do with them?

Post by timemrick » Mon Apr 22, 2019 3:28 pm

The efreeti scenario I mentioned above was interesting in that the Society had made a bargain with an evil creature, but one who negotiated in good faith, and who was more palatable as an ally than most of her enemies were. The author made sure that paladins, good clerics, etc., could be reconciled to taking the mission as upholding an honorable agreement made by their employers. And the mission briefing stressed the fact that while evil creatures were numerous on the plane (particularly in the efreet-controlled city they would be visiting!), attacking them without a VERY good reason would be undiplomatic in the extreme and very likely suicidal.
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Re: Elemental Planes: What do you do with them?

Post by Seethyr » Tue Apr 23, 2019 6:40 am

I’ve always thought the elemental princes of evil (and good) were some of the coolest monsters in the game. Getting involved in their wars over the nature of the elements, the supremacy of one over the other, and good vs evil nature of the elements is a long term dream of mine.

I also remember a prince of elemental minerals way back in an old Dragon magazine named Crystalle who had some really awesome Ioun Stones. I think a hunt for those rare stones would be quite a bit of fun.
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Re: Elemental Planes: What do you do with them?

Post by willpell » Tue Apr 23, 2019 11:08 pm

Seethyr wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 6:40 am
I’ve always thought the elemental princes of evil (and good) were some of the coolest monsters in the game.
This.

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Re: Elemental Planes: What do you do with them?

Post by Digitalelf » Fri Apr 26, 2019 1:06 am

Havard wrote:
Sun Apr 21, 2019 10:24 am
a place to visit (although not a very interesting one?)
It's been my experience in using the Elemental Planes, that they are very interesting places to visit/Adventure. Especially when using the material for them from Al-Qadim and Planescape (in that order).

I've ran a few adventures within the City of Brass (ALQ4 Secrets of the Lamp) and it's environs for example. I've also run adventures within the Elemental Plane of Air's "wilderness" with great success.

So, they don't have to be uninteresting places of adventure. :cool:
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Re: Elemental Planes: What do you do with them?

Post by Khedrac » Sat Apr 27, 2019 8:41 am

I have never really used the elemental planes, but...

I have a mental plan for someday running a full BECM D&D 1-36 campaign, and I got thinking about the advice in the Companion rulebook that at these levels the party should more and more be adventuring in other planes (partially I think to stop the monsters in the characters' world becoming so tough you wonder how the low-levels survive).
Anyway, this has given rise to a goal of having four mini-campaigns once the party establishes their dominions in the "nearby" sections of the elemental planes.
  • The first campaign (probably air but could be water) will have the characters make contact with a friendly society who need help dealing with hostile monsters/brigands.
  • The second camapign (water or air) will be another established society as allies, but facing a much more powerful (probably organised) threat.
  • Followed by the third (probably fire) pushing the characters into a conflict between two fairly equal forces but without either being the established power.
  • Finally earth (because I think that is the most dangerous elemental plane) the players will be helping the rebels overthrow a hostile state.
The end result should be four allied stable polities - one in each plane. These should then be useful when in later levels the players have to deal with much worse (i.e. immortal organised) threats to their homelands. (The final - leads to immortality - threat will have the plotting immortal carefully deal with anyone on the prime plane who can help the PCs, but not check - or not successfully check - if the PCs have been active on the elemental planes.)
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Re: Elemental Planes: What do you do with them?

Post by willpell » Tue Apr 30, 2019 8:15 pm

How do you figure Earth is deadlier than Fire (or even Water if you're not amphibious)?

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Re: Elemental Planes: What do you do with them?

Post by Khedrac » Tue Apr 30, 2019 9:20 pm

willpell wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 8:15 pm
How do you figure Earth is deadlier than Fire (or even Water if you're not amphibious)?
Fire is generaly reckoned to have breathable "air" so all you need if fire-resistance and/or the ability to out-heal the damage
Water basically just needs water breathing unless the PCs are in an unusual part of the plane.
Earth however,...
Actually I need a slight (un)reality check here - I was thinking more of AD&D plane of earth - i.e. solid earth with a few voids that might contain air and no easy way to move between them; but the Mystara/Companion plane of earth is a world made of solid and liquid earth surrounded by gaseous earth - a very different environment.
I still think that most of the civilization of the plane of earth will be underground so moving and breathing is a lot harder than for the other planes - and what atmosphere there is may well be poisonous.

Perhaps it is less a case of "is deadlier" and more a case of "can be deadlier - which the players won't expect". Good catch, I will have to spend a lot more time looking at this if I ever get to run the campaign.
Also, I should look at the elemental creatures' descriptions to see which plane's inhabitants are most likely to be hostile and perhaps things up accordingly - something I have not done yet.
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Re: Elemental Planes: What do you do with them?

Post by willpell » Wed May 01, 2019 7:22 pm

Khedrac wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 9:20 pm
gaseous earth
:shock: :facepalm: :roll:
Perhaps it is less a case of "is deadlier" and more a case of "can be deadlier - which the players won't expect".
This is pretty much exactly how it's described in the 3E Manual of the Planes; I don't have the quote handy, but it's something like "though not as hostile as Fire, Earth is a completely *uncaring* plane, utterly indifferent to the lives of visiting creatures". The idea is that you can generally find a cave full of air that you can "safely" exist in, except that this cave could collapse on your head any moment for any reason or no reason, so you're never completely secure.
Also, I should look at the elemental creatures' descriptions to see which plane's inhabitants are most likely to be hostile and perhaps things up accordingly - something I have not done yet.
The first creatures I think of in terms of the elemental planes, besides the normal elementals and the genies, are the four three-stage entities that are found in the 3E monster manuals: the Arrowhawk, Salamander, Tojanida and Xorn. Of these, the Xorn is by far the least dangerous; it will almost certainly not try to eat you, though it might want to eat your treasure. The Tojanida is also relatively unaggressive, whereas the Arrowhawk is an attack dog, and the Salamanders are the only ones that have a culture of any sort. While these creatures are by no means synonymous with their planes, I find them a good indicator. They also parallel the genies a little bit - the Dao are greedy and villainous, while the Xorn are relatively benign but still greedy, and the Efreet definitely matches up with the Salamander, as the Marid and the Tojanida are both just kind of weird and could go either way. Only the Djinni and the Arrowhawk have nothing in common as far as I can tell.

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Re: Elemental Planes: What do you do with them?

Post by Khedrac » Wed May 01, 2019 10:28 pm

willpell wrote:
Wed May 01, 2019 7:22 pm
The first creatures I think of in terms of the elemental planes, besides the normal elementals and the genies, are the four three-stage entities that are found in the 3E monster manuals: the Arrowhawk, Salamander, Tojanida and Xorn. Of these, the Xorn is by far the least dangerous; it will almost certainly not try to eat you, though it might want to eat your treasure. The Tojanida is also relatively unaggressive, whereas the Arrowhawk is an attack dog, and the Salamanders are the only ones that have a culture of any sort. While these creatures are by no means synonymous with their planes, I find them a good indicator. They also parallel the genies a little bit - the Dao are greedy and villainous, while the Xorn are relatively benign but still greedy, and the Efreet definitely matches up with the Salamander, as the Marid and the Tojanida are both just kind of weird and could go either way. Only the Djinni and the Arrowhawk have nothing in common as far as I can tell.
Yes well, I am specifically thinking BECMI here so less those and more:

All:
Elemental
Plasm

Air:
Aerial Servant (Haoou)
Djinn and Pasha
Invisible Stalker (Sshai)

Earth:
Basilisk
Cockatrice
Gorgon
Horde
Kryst
Medusa

Fire:
Efreeti and Amir
Helion (the only "usually good" things on this list)
Salamander

Water:
Hydrax
Undine

And those are just from the Expert and Companion sets! Earth is the real "winner" in terms of variety of inhabitants - and even if they are comparitively "low-level" threats, having large numbers of "save or be turned to stone" critters wandering the landscape will make life "interesting" for even high level parties. Add a a single Horde with up to 10,000 hit dice of bodies wandering around (yes, that is hit dice - individual bodies are 3 to 21 hit dice and it can replace them at 1 HD/turn) and most parties will already be in trouble.

Air looks the safest, except most inhabitants are invisible, and fire has the only really friendly folk (helions) so it really comes down to the attitudes of the local elementals. Perhaps the Earth section should be saving them from a hostile Horde or 2...

[off topic]Wow - looking at the Horde stats - 10,000 HD - is more than a standard megalith (probably) - megalith HD is given as "unknown, believed to be about 1/mile diameter" which for Urth is just under 8,000 HD, so while a larger megalith probably has more HD I think that makes a Horde the highest HD monster in any version of D&D (yes I know some creatues with infinite hit points have more hp, and one can construct 3.5 characters with 10,001 levels and therefore HD, but that's not a printed creature).[/off topic]
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Re: Elemental Planes: What do you do with them?

Post by willpell » Thu May 02, 2019 10:15 pm

Welp, evidently I have no knowledge of the version of the game you're talking about. Perhaps this thread should have had a Mystara tag or something.

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Re: Elemental Planes: What do you do with them?

Post by Khedrac » Fri May 03, 2019 7:58 am

willpell wrote:
Thu May 02, 2019 10:15 pm
Welp, evidently I have no knowledge of the version of the game you're talking about. Perhaps this thread should have had a Mystara tag or something.
The thread is for anyone and everywhere, but I did specify BECMI D&D in my original post about my ideas.

Despite your knowning very little about the Companion rules' near unique take on the elemental planes your comments have been helpful and pointed out several holes in my ideas.

What you got caught by, is that no-one who didn't have the rules realises just how much Companion (and Master) D&D went in a completely different direction to AD&D/3+D&D. People realise that the systems were diverging at those points, but they have no way of knowing how different the monster lists were. In some ways it is made worse by the incorporation of some of those monsters into later editions - you don't see the full horror of their C/M forms.

[going futher off topic]
Take the Nightshade undead - who made it from the D&D Masters rules into core 3.5 D&D. They are the same thing yes? Well not really, I would much prefer to face them in 3.5 than Master D&D.
In 3.5 they have a "desecrating aura" which boosts them for being in the presence of a shrine to an evil god. The also have Intelligence 20 (or 18 for the nightwing) - good for a non-int class, but at the levels you reach them low for an int-based class.
In Master D&D the desecrating aura automatically spoiled all consumables (several other undead got this too) - so all potions carried not in planar storage just became bad-tasting liquid, and any food carried just became inedible. Make sure you have food and water creating spells and magic items. Their intelligence was 19 - but human cap was 18 so they were smarter than the brightest wizards. And then, they got to save vs turn undead to ignore it if they got turned (OK turn undead wasn't limited in uses per day, but still, save to turn a destroy result to a turn result and save again to ignore the turn result bascially means why bother turning?)
Also, the rest of their specific abilities are more easily negated in 3.5 D&D with all the extra books of players options.

I don't expect players who never went near C&M D&D to know this, so I should remember to stress that I am talking about a different system when I talk about BECMI D&D - and that's on me not you.[/going further off topic]

Going back to conventional Elemental Planes: in addition to the Elemental Princes of Evil you should somewhere have relics from the empire of the Dukes of Aaqa - Law's power was concentrated in the elemental planes (not just Air where the Windlords came from) so perhaps those await discovery, and perhaps the Elemental Pricnes are a legacy of that war...
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Re: Elemental Planes: What do you do with them?

Post by willpell » Fri May 03, 2019 10:45 pm

I may not know the details of what you're saying there, Khedrac, but I definitely get the principle. My version of that comparison would be the 5E Shadow Demon versus its original 3E version. They are overwhelmingly different in terms of how they actually function, though both fit the same general niche. This is probably because they were countering players who had access to vastly different capabilities (noticeably stronger fighter-types and MUCH weaker wizards, who no longer have 500 books of spells to draw upon).

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