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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pellatarrum: Elementals

This post here, and the mental exercise it presents, is responsible for making the Pellatarrum: Spring post so late, and directly delaying Pellatarrum: Summer. Kudos go to Shawn Sage, who in a few minutes of brainstorming helped me solve a conundrum which has been bothering me for months. Go Shawn! Next time I have a problem I'll just bug you instead of trying to work it out on my own. ;)

So: Elementals. According to both the D&D Monster Manual and the Pathfinder Bestiary, Elementals come in a variety of sizes which range from wee to not-so-wee to fricking HUUUGE, they exist on a plane which is made out of the same stuff they are, and the larger they are the smarter they are. Which leads me to ask the following question:

Where the hell do Elementals come from, anyway? If there are small dumb ones and smart big ones, that clearly suggests some kind of life cycle, but it's not like Elementals are ever mentioned as having sex, and besides the entire idea is patently ludicrous because the entire point of an Elemental is to be a simple, pure embodiment of that element, in both a physical and a symbolic manner. Reproduction is for messy, complex organics, not entities of a single metaphysical concept.

In fact, I am surprised that no one has asked this question before. Maybe it's been answered somewhere in some book I've never read (and if so I'm sure one of my readers will point it out to me), but in my experience everyone just seems to go "Elementals are just there, you know?" and then carries on with their lives.

Well, maybe that's fine for regular D&D games, but not for Pellatarrum. And so tonight, I answer the burning question "Where do baby elementals come from?"

It's not an easy question to answer, because it relies on some complex metaphysics. Consider the following:
  • The Elemental Planes exist in a constant state of energetic change known as the Churn;
  • Every element is birthed from pure creation (Positive Energy Plane);
  • They get smarter as they increase in size;
  • They are made of the exact same stuff as their home plane.
All of these indicate to me that Elementals are actually gestalt entities -- a collection of "somethings" that reach a critical mass and gain self-awareness and mobility. This leads us to the very interesting conclusion that smaller elementals were somehow splintered off from larger ones, either through trauma or through asexual reproduction akin to fragmentation. Of course, elementals being homogeneous, this also means it can works backwards, with two smaller elementals merging to create a larger, stronger, smarter elemental being.

All of this leads to another question: if an elemental is just a conglomeration of similar material that has reached a critical size, why isn't every stream and boulder across Pellatarrum an elemental? Again, the answer goes back the Churn: the entire Elemental Plane is in a constant state of flux, of creation and destruction, whereas Pellatarrum -- the Material Plane -- is not. It was born of the fusion of 4 elements by 4 elder races; it is artificial. The Elemental Planes, however, are suffused with potent energies of creation and destruction.

What this boils down to is that summoning an elemental to Pellatarrum is like pulling a fish out of the water. Without constant exposure to the energies of its native plane, an elemental will slowly die, gradually losing its mind and motivation until it is just a brainless collection of rocks, volume of water, dying embers or dispersing gases. This quite handily explains why most elementals are in foul moods when summoned, hate serving their summoner, and are eager to leave -- how happily would you obey the commands of someone who kidnaps you and says "Do what I say, or slowly lose your mind before dying?"

There are several theories as to how exactly elementals are born. Some scholars believe that the kernel of elemental life, whatever that may be, is created from Positive Energies along with the rest of the plane. This is very tidy, metaphysically speaking, since every major race on Pellatarrum knows that all souls are created by Positive Energy (indeed, it is a major tenet of their religion), and therefore elementals can be shoehorned into the same framework as everyone else: a soul is created, lives its life, and then dies.

Another belief, popular among Gray Cabalists and regarded as heretical by everyone else, is that after death a soul is ushered into an afterlife as an elemental being, where it can live forever in a form perfectly suited to its environment and personality.

Others have taken a more controversial big-picture view, and posit that if every elemental is a conglomeration of smaller elementals, then it logically follows that every Elemental Plane is actually a single elemental entity of unfathomable size and intelligence. This idea makes many people very nervous, especially the Dwarves (who deny it vehemently), whose regular mining of the Planes with the Dayspire could be construed as parasitism upon an entity of nearly godlike power. Fortunately for them, if the theory is true, then the Elemental Intelligences seem to have taken neither notice nor offense at the mining. Perhaps it is beneath their attention, akin to how humans are unaware of the multitude of organisms which live upon their skin. Or perhaps the Planes are simply slow to act, and when they finally do, their revenge will be terrifying in its scope....


  1. Yea! New Pellatarrum!

    Would it also be possible that elementals are created by eddies in the Churn that, in essence, pinch of a discreet amount of material and compact it down to a critical point where consciousness is achieved? Or if the plane is conscious at some greater level, the eddies create independant consciousnesses?

  2. Sure, why not? Elementals should be alien. They're made of things which aren't alive, have no discernible biology, and are nearly identical to their ecosystem. Increasingly alien ideas on how they come about should be encouraged. :)

  3. Sure, why not? Elementals should be alien. They're made of things which aren't alive, have no discernible biology, and are nearly identical to their ecosystem. Increasingly alien ideas on how they come about should be encouraged. :)

  4. I sense the Saga of Seven Suns!


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