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How convenient should elementals be?

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  • How convenient should elementals be?

    When a sorcerer casts summon elemental they "call an elemental into being". I'm trying to calibrate how much control it would be most fun for my PC's to exsert over this process.

    The example elementals we have all have interesting stories to tell about them and it appears that this was the primary goal of their writers. But having a story hook isn't inherently incompatible with having useful powers, and I don't always want to wrap a play session around a spell that someone cast. If I make them sufficiently cool,. I'm tempted to let the PC's create earth elementals that can assist with road construction, wood elemental gardeners and air elementals who blow on the sails of ships.

    How much of a toolbox to solve a broad array of problems is going to be best? Where do you go from engaging with a story in a cool way to circumventing a story with BS?

    How would you go about it?


    I want to play this as a starting character, I don't even care what game.

  • #2
    Overall moderately convenient, with the massive potential utility tempered by having to deal with the thing when it's less useful.

    I feel the important thing is that a summoned creature should introduce fewer problems than it solves, but not no problems unless it also solves nothing. Demons lean pretty heavily on their alien mindsets, and I prefer to characterize summoned elementals as blank slates which introduce different but comparable issues. And I lean pretty heavily on the binding imposing a tie of Loyalty, not obedience. A bound creature will prioritize its master's wellbeing and goals over what they instructed it to do, if properly incited or convinced.
    It also shouldn't shove into other PC's niches, which means certain things should be off-limits based on the campaign.

    My question wouldn't be if the PC could create "earth elementals that can assist with road construction, wood elemental gardeners and air elementals who blow on the sails of ships", because those sound absolutely appropriate. My question would be what side effects and complications they expected to occur in the process of those roads and gardens being made or those ships being blown to their destination.


    For designing elementals/demons, my rule of thumb is:
    - One thing it's good at in combat, one thing it's good at out of combat. Skip the combat bit if desired.
    - One thing it's bad at in combat, one thing it's bad at out of combat.
    - One way it's sometimes a problem due to its (in)capabilities, one way it's sometimes a problem due to its personality.

    For a canon example, a tidemare is:
    - Good at naval combat, good at being a living submarine.
    - But it's fragile, penalizes those inside it in a fight, and not a useful conversationalist or reliable if exposed to social influence.
    - If it's carrying someone its social incompetence makes it horribly vulnerable to being talked at. Personality-wise, it seems vapid and shallow and likely to get into petty drama and drag the summoner in too.

    For a homebrew example, a shelled mudflower is:
    - Very durable to the point of being able to win off defense and you-didn't-hurt-me-so Charms, and can carry a lot of stuff and keep it safe.
    - But it's helpless against anything that can get through its sky-high defense, and it has no mobility or social competence at all.
    - It's a slow heavy thing that has problems going anywhere fragile or enclosed, and it isn't a good idea to leave it alone do to anything but wait since it's of animalistic intelligence and poorly understands language.

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    • #3
      Well, they are a toolbox much like 1st circle demons, but one with its own ups and downs in that you can theoretically craft one's own tools.

      The obvious positive is that, unlike with demons, if there's no race of creature capable of doing what a sorcerer requires, it might still shape a brand new elemental whole cloth to cover that role in some as long as it somehow fits within the nature/themes of at least one of the five elements that form Creation.

      The obvious negative is that, well, having to shape one's brand new tools. With guidelines that are literally arcane and esoteric (duh) to the user to boot, meaning every time a sorcerer tries something new, he or she might get unexpected surprises, good or bad.

      If demons can be somewhat unpredictable to the unexperienced or inattentive summoner, i'd say elementals can be even more so, exactly because their calling into being can be so open-ended.
      The powers - and personality - of an individual elemental will flow from the sorcerer's intent/desire - and how well (or not) do these fit in the themes of any one element during the act of crafting.

      What if a sorcerer wants to make a roaring warrior champion of a fiery lionman, but also happens to have a burning unconfessed desire for another circle member - and passion being resonant with fire, a connection is made and one ends up with the radiant battle waifu/husbando that bears an embarasingly more than passing resemblance to one's circlemate or a major NPC? Oops.

      Elements have themes but they are not always clear cut - things both physical, emotional or other are associated with each of them and certain affinities sometimes cross lines with either more abstract/celestial forces (fire & solar, air & sidereal, water or wood & abyssal, for some quick examples) or even between the elements themselves (clouds and storms resonate with air & water, magma & volcanism with earth, fire, maybe somewhat with air depending on how one looks into it and so on).


      So i'd guess, it all depends on what you as ST have in mind to make of it.
      Last edited by Baaldam; 12-15-2021, 04:35 PM.

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      • #4
        Speaking from a practical perspective, "summon-type" elementals are all within the Essence 1-3, what on itself defines something of a clear power ceiling* on what one might expectof their capabilites overall. Maybe Ess+1, if some spirit charm evocation or other supernatural power has a "feel" that really resonates with a particular element and the summoner's interests.

        - *(at least at the time of shaping - who's to say a elemental might not evolve into more than its original role/powerset if it outlives the period of bound service)


        Those things associated with an element can also help setting limits or pointing possible directions a summon's powerset may take, like a fire elemental may simply burn things, while another a radiant visage or sensuous smoky voice that inflames the passions of those near it and a thrid one is living, breathing crucible of sorts, transforming, changing, combining or unmaking all kinds of substances, for examples.

        Or the enthralling visage & voice gimmick could be used for a wood (seduction & reproduction or attraction as bait) or earth (serenity, stability, peace of mind, harmony) elementals instead for sample alternatives. How much player and/or ST want to tinker with that kind of detail is key.

        You may find a number of previous topics related to using elementals in the game here, for a bit of different perspectives on their creation and use, possible takes, tinkering both in mechanics or fluff aspects and so on. Hope you enjoy, even though not 100% related to your doubts.

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        • #5
          To me the significant difference now that elementals don't (normally) dematerialize making Summon Elemental more overt than Demon of the First Circle but the discretion that the demons offer can work against you.


          I’ve moved to Sword of Creation, thank you to everyone who helped made the Exalted community these past few years.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Lioness View Post
            To me the significant difference now that elementals don't (normally) dematerialize making Summon Elemental more overt than Demon of the First Circle but the discretion that the demons offer can work against you.

            So very true. With maybe only a few exceptions (probably mostly from the element of air) elementals as a rule are not invisible and/or intangible beings like gods, demons, ghosts or other sorts of spirits and overall look notihng like your average person or pet. Making regular use of them, even if not clearly from sorcerous binding - one might claim to have deals with an elemental court, tribe or any of a number of reasonably feasible excuses in Creation - should mark the user as an unusual person to watch out for, for good and for ill, for all people to see, what could result in a degree of notoriety among other things.

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            • #7
              It's a somewhat different kind of strange and powerful reputation than summoning demons. You're still someone who treats with spirits and gods in a rarefied and esoteric way that most mortals will never be capable of. I mean, I think there are gods who summon demons to prove their divinity (is this still a thing in 3e)? And honestly, it should provide somewhat less unintended disruptive influence than demons do: they're made of Creation's essence, not Malfeas'. I mean, what you create will probably not be covered in addictive drugs and attempt to kidnap babies?

              What I'm saying is that summoning elementals should not, the way summoning demons will, through rational and logical steps, create a baby-rotation system that is an unholy cross of crop management and something a human resources department might spit out.

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              • #8
                There was a quote from one of the past developers that refusing to use demon summoning should be a choice which has real drawbacks. I had considered making elemental summoning less straight forwardly useful and flexible in order to ensure that there was significant utility in demon of the first circle that wasn't replicated with summon elemental.


                I want to play this as a starting character, I don't even care what game.

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                • #9
                  They should be fairly convenient, but be quirky enough that a sorcerer who isn't mindful of the nature of the specific entities he's summoning could get himself into trouble.

                  Also, it's worth keeping in mind that most people aren't going to be able to tell elementals apart from demons or gods at a glance.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Apromor View Post
                    There was a quote from one of the past developers that refusing to use demon summoning should be a choice which has real drawbacks. I had considered making elemental summoning less straight forwardly useful and flexible in order to ensure that there was significant utility in demon of the first circle that wasn't replicated with summon elemental.

                    Themes go a long way towards that as, while the elements have a number of symbolic associations that give hearthstones and elementals breadth, there will be a number of things that are not within the five elements purview - and consequently feats beyond the elementals capacity to do or replicate.

                    And even when there is some common ground that might be covered by either, one might expect demons and elementals to cover them differently - where a demon summoner calls a blood ape, an elementalist trying to craft a similar bodyguard/attack grunt might end up shaping a fire lion, stone armadillo, frost bear, or brine otter nstead, each with its own little differences of stats, tactics & anatomy.


                    (Oh yeah, a vine ape should be possible too, but 1-in-5 for starters means you have to be very focused in getting a demon's expy through elemental shaping for it to work that way - and that speaking of a reasonably generic one. and if you konw so much about demons already, why not summon them instead of making knockoffs in the first place?)
                    Last edited by Baaldam; 01-05-2022, 12:19 AM.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Baaldam View Post


                      Themes go a long way towards that as, while the elements have a number of symbolic associations that give hearthstones and elementals breadth, there will be a number of things that are not within the five elements purview - and consequently feats beyond the elementals capacity to do or replicate.

                      And even when there is some common ground that might be covered by either, one might expect demons and elementals to cover them differently - where a demon summoner calls a blood ape, an elementalist trying to craft a similar bodyguard/attack grunt might end up shaping a fire lion, stone armadillo, frost bear, or brine otter nstead, each with its own little differences of stats, tactics & anatomy.


                      (Oh yeah, a vine ape should be possible too, but 1-in-5 for starters means you have to be very focused in getting a demon's expy through elemental shaping for it to work that way - and that speaking of a reasonably generic one. and if you konw so much about demons already, why not summon them instead of making knockoffs in the first place?)
                      Because you are playing a character who thinks it might be a bad idea to associate with demons on a moral and/or practical level?


                      Exalted Whose Name is Carved in Leaves of Jade

                      Senator of the Greater Chamber

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Mizu View Post

                        Because you are playing a character who thinks it might be a bad idea to associate with demons on a moral and/or practical level?
                        Bah, what's the worst that could happen!?


                        Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Mizu View Post

                          Because you are playing a character who thinks it might be a bad idea to associate with demons on a moral and/or practical level?

                          Then he or she wouldn't know so much about demons to try too hard in making facsimiles of demons in the first place, eh?

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Mizu View Post

                            Because you are playing a character who thinks it might be a bad idea to associate with demons on a moral and/or practical level?
                            Isn't it a bit... odd, to particpate in effigy in something you believe is immoral? Like being against the death penalty, but staging a mock firing squad to shoot a scarecrow.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Blackwell View Post
                              Isn't it a bit... odd, to particpate in effigy in something you believe is immoral? Like being against the death penalty, but staging a mock firing squad to shoot a scarecrow.
                              I believe killing in anything but defense of yourself or another is wrong, this hasn't stopped me from killing enough 'effigies'/characters in video games to fill Arlington cemetery. I see no reason someone couldn't be wary about if demons are really well controlled as we think and prefereing elementals as a result.


                              Exalted Whose Name is Carved in Leaves of Jade

                              Senator of the Greater Chamber

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