Elementals are sentient beings that can possess bodies made of one of the four basic elements that make up the Prime Material plane - air, earth, fire, or water. They normally reside on an elemental Inner Plane and will only be encountered on the Prime Material plane if they are summoned by magical means. (See the Manual of the Planes for more information on the nature of the various elemental planes.) Each elemental must adopt a shell in the Prime Material composed of the basic element it represents. and once this shell is destroyed, the elemental will return to its native plane. While there are many more powerful and more intelligent residents of the elemental planes, the common elemental is the easiest to contact, and therefore the most frequently summoned.
Their magical nature gives elementals great protection from attacks on the Prime Material plane. Elementals are not harmed by any nonmagical weapons or magical weapons of less than +2 bonus. Creatures with under four Hit Dice and without any magical abilities cannot harm an elemental either. (Magical abilities include such characteristics as breath weapons, poisons, paralysis, or even being immune to normal weapon attacks.) Orcs, for example, are powerless against a conjured elemental unless one happens to possess a weapon with +2 or better bonus to hit.
Though elementals do enjoy protection from many nonmagical attacks in the Prime Material plane, like all extraplanar and conjured creatures, elementals are affected by protection from evil spells. An elemental cannot strike a creature protected by this spell and must recoil from the spell's boundaries. However, the elemental can attack creatures protected by the spell as long as it doesn't touch them. For example, a fire elemental could set the ground on fire around the creature and wait for the blaze to spread.
Each of the four types of common elemental has its own particular strengths and weaknesses, attack modes and method of movement, depending on its plane of origin. These will be covered individually, by elemental type, in the next few pages. All common elementals share one major characteristic, however. They are basically stupid. This low intelligence makes it difficult for the elemental to resist a magical summons. But even the common elemental is bright enough to know it does not like being taken off of its home plane and held in the Prime Material plane.
Summoning an Elemental: There are three basic ways to call an elemental to this plane, and the strength of the conjured elemental depends on the method used to summon it:
|Conjured by spell
|8, 12, 16, or 21-24 Hit Dice
|Conjured by staff
|16 Hit Dice
|Conjured by summoning device
|12 Hit Dice
Obviously, the type of wizard or priest spell used to contact an elemental will greatly effect the size of the creature on this plane. (See the Player's Handbook for specifics.) Also, a conjured elemental's height (in feet) is equal to its Hit Dice, so the method of summoning an elemental to the Prime Material Plane will also determine its size.
Each individual's use of any spell, staff, or device in contacting the elemental planes produces a unique call. This unique summons will only be answered by the inhabitants of a particular plane once per day. Therefore, each of the methods of summoning elementals - spell, device, and staff - can be used by one person to call only one of any specific type of common elemental per day. If a staff is used four times in one day, for example, all four types of elementals must be called once.
The only exception to this is a character using more than one method to call elementals. Then, the conjurer can call a number of elementals of the same type equal to the number of methods he or she uses. This means a person with a device and a staff can summon two earth elementals. However, a person with two staffs can still summon only one elemental of any specific type in one day.
Controlling an Elemental: Because the elemental will be furious at being summoned to this plane, concentration in conjuring the creature is vital. In calling an elemental, a person must remain perfectly still and focus all of his attention on controlling the being. Any distraction to the summoner, either mental or physical, will result in a failure to control the elemental when it arrives on the Prime Material Plane. Elementals that are uncontrolled and acting upon their own desires are called free-willed. If the party is lucky, a free-willed elemental will immediately return to its plane. However, this occurs only 25% of the time.
In most cases (75% of the time), an uncontrolled elemental will immediately attack the person or party who conjured it, also destroying anything that stands between it and its enemies. There is no way to gain control of the elemental once it is lost, and there is nothing the objects of the elemental's wrath can do but defend themselves. The elemental's intense dislike of being away from its home plane is the only safeguard those conjuring an elemental can rely upon if the elemental runs wild. Because remaining on the Prime Material Plane is painful to any common elemental, the uncontrolled elemental will always return to its plane of origin three turns after control is lost, whether it has destroyed the creatures responsible for calling it away from its elemental abode or not.
There is always a 5% chance per round that an elemental is in the Prime Material (beginning with the second round) that the creature will break control and attack the person who summoned it. Also, if a person is wounded, killed, or loses concentration while controlling an elemental, the creature will become free-willed. The elemental will first attack the person who summoned it and then destroy any living thing it can find during the three turns after control is lost. The creature will then return to its home in the Inner Planes. A free-willed elemental can be sent to its home plane if a dismissal spell is cast upon it, but there is only a 50% chance of success for the spell in this situation.
A successfully controlled elemental will stay on the Prime Material only for the duration of the spell that summoned it, and it can be controlled from a distance up to 30 yards per level of the person who summoned it. If under control, an elemental can be dismissed by the summoner when its task is complete.
Stealing Control of an Elemental: Control of a conjured elemental can be stolen from the person who summoned it by casting dispel magic specifically at the magical control over the creature (not the elemental itself or the person controlling it). Most of the normal rules for dispelling magic apply (see the Player's Handbook p. 148). However, when dealing with control over an elemental, a roll of 20 by the person attempting the spell means that all control has been dispelled and the creature is now free-willed.
If control of the elemental is stolen, the creature will follow the wishes of the new person controlling it as if he or she summoned it in the first place. If the dispel magic fails, the elemental will immediately be strengthened to its maximum 8 hit points per die and the conjurer's ability to control the elemental will be greatly enhanced, making any new attempts to steal control of the creature impossible. Also, the elemental will recognize the person who sought to take control of its will as a threat. If the person currently guiding the creature loses control, the elemental will immediately attack the person who attempted to steal control of its will - even before attacking the person who first summoned it.