Elemental, My Dear Watson – GGG Reviews Heroes of the Elemental Chaos

A warrior draws the power of elemental earth into his body to protect himself. A warlock unleashes a bolt of pure elemental ice on his foe. A wizard sweeps away enemies with an icy wind. Gandalf hurls fire at the wolves in The Lord of the Rings. Elemental power has been a mainstay of heroic fantasy, and of Dungeons & Dragons in particular, since forever.

With the advent of 4E and its mythology of the Gods fighting the elementary powered Primordials at the dawn of time, a natural question has always lingered: If the Gods grant Divine magic to their clerics and the like, is anyone channeling the Elemental magic of the Primordials?

We need wait no longer, as the question is finally answered in Player Options: Heroes of the Elemental Chaos. Now the opportunity arises for players to create characters who’re more tied to the Plane Below and who wield magics of elemental power. Thanks to the good folks at Wizards of the Coast, I got a copy of this book and began perusing it, and I’m happy to offer my opinions of it now.

What This Book Isn’t

Before I really delve into this book, I want to point out that, like its predecessors in the Player Option books, this book doesn’t try to be a travel guide to the Elemental Chaos. The previously published Plane Below already does a fine job of this, and, other than offering some hints, this book doesn’t try to duplicate what can be found therein. This book is strictly concentrating on what characters can do when they ally themselves with the powers of the elements.

Foundations of Stone

The book begins with a chapter about the nature of Elemental power. Just as Heroes of Shadow had Evard as its poster child, Heroes of the Elemental Chaos sometimes features the wisdom of Emirikol. Not a familiar name? Get your hands on a 1st edition DM’s Guide and look in Appendix C in the section on city encounters. Through the ideas of Emirikol, we learn about Elemental power and how one can truly wield it. A hint: those who want to master Elemental power may find themselves with more in common with the Primordials than they might wish.

This chapter looks at how the different Power Sources interact with Elemental magic, rather than trying to make Elemental a Power Source of its own. It also is a great source of inspiration on Primordial Cults (including a look at the mysterious Elder Elemental Eye, which is the focus of the just starting D&D Encounters season), Planar Breaches, and the Primordials themselves, including the most comprehensive listing of these mysterious entities to date.

As a long-standing player of the game, the names in this section made me grin ear to ear. Cryonax, Castanamir, Eclavdra…these are names that resonate with me and my nostalgia factor. It’s always nice to see WotC nodding to that which has come before.

Give Me Theme!

By now, the concept of Character Themes is familiar (And something I truly hope they carry into D&D Next.) The 2nd major chapter in the book adds new themes tied to the powers of the Elements. This really runs the gamut from Demons Spawn (since the Abyss is part of the Elemental Chaos) to Elemental Initiate (a monastic initiate that follows an elemental theme), to Watershaper (which will more than resonate with fans of a certain recent animated series like yours truly.)

There are themes for those who are tied to the powers of Earth, Air, Water, and Fire, as well as Metal. There are also themes that suggest a character’s allegiances, such as serving genies, being a priest of a Primordial, and having been born in an elemental realm.

Keeping It Classy

As all the other Player Options books have, this book picks several classes that fit nicely with the Elemental concept and brings in new powers. This time, the classes that get love are primarily the Arcane power-source classes.

The Sorcerer gets the Elementalist sub-class. As might be obvious, the Elementalist specializes in drawing magic from the Elemental Chaos, and its spells do a great deal of damage. There are some very interesting class features for the Elementalist, but its powers are pretty straightforward and blasty.

The Warlock, predictably, gains the chance to forge a pact seemingly with the Chaos itself in exchange for power. The type of Element the Warlock is tied to varies from rest to rest and adds a random element to things, almost making a Wild Mage/Warlock. Beyond some rather beefy powers that draw on specific Primordials, there are also powers that let a Warlock summon Elemental Allies. A very spiffy idea.

The Wizard section brings back a classic subtype: the Sha’ir. Sha’ir get an auto-familiar in the form of their Gen servant. During extended rests, the Gen will go to the Elemental Chaos for their master and seek out magics the Master wishes. This grants a tremendous level of flexibility to what the Sha’ir can do with his Daily and Utility powers. We also get some great older spells returned to the fold, like Dig, Melf’s Minute Meteors, and Reverse Gravity!

In the non-Arcane class division, we have a new concentration on powers relating to the Elements, of course. Druids can now call Elemental Warriors, and they get all kinds of powers related to the untamed wastes. There are also some powers returning that put a smile on my face, like Chariot of Sustarre.

I was a little baffled by the decision to include powers for the Monk…until I remembered the animated show referenced above. If you’ve always wanted to play an Airbending Monk, good news! This section could actually be used to run a very decent Last Airbender campaign.

Options of All Sorts

No Player Options book would be complete without lots of new num-nums to consider. In Chapter 4, players can look at new Paragon Paths, Epic Destinies, Feats (including a robust chunk on Elemental Companions, a version of the Familiar rules), and Magic-Items.

Players can now consider Paragon Paths like the Speaker of Xaos, or the Prince of Genies, or an Epic Destiny like the Emergent Primordial or the Lord of Chaos. They can have a magmin companion, or carry an Earth-Splitter Axe! Good times!

In Summary

This book offers a lot of new material for existing campaigns, as well as some ideas that could be used to create a whole new campaign focusing on the Elementals and those they’re interacting with. If you have a character from one of the 5 classes above, or if you want to play a character tied to the Elemental Chaos, this book is clearly invaluable. Any of the Primordials described within would make an excellent Epic level confrontation for a campaign, and it might be interesting to play a game in which PCs use the powers of the Primordials against them.

While reading this book, I imagined a campaign in which 5 heroes, empowered with Air, Earth, Water, Fire, and Cold, have to defeat the five Princes of Elemental Evil and prevent them from unleashing the Elder Elemental Eye! And what if the PCs are meant to be the Champions of the Primordials, but choose instead to fight back against those that would Unmake the world? I think that’d be a very interesting campaign, especially if most ordinary people assumed they were allied to the Primordials and would not help them. This book inspires a lot of new ideas, and that makes it valuable to me.

Your Turn

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts about an Elemental bent to the campaign? Let us all know.

About GGG

Andy/GGG is a gay geek guy for sure. He's been playing D&D since he was 10, and he equates reading Tolkien with religion to some degree. He's a writer/developer for a Live Action RPG called The Isles, and he writes a comic called Circles, a gay, furry slice-of-life piece that comes out way too infrequently.

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