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Other Elementals
Wandering Monsters
By James Wyatt

I talked about elementals and genies way back in December, but I never got to their other kin. Let's take a look this week at a couple of the other kinds of elementals: salamanders and xorn.


Salamander

Medium Elemental
Alignment: Chaotic evil
Level: Medium
Environment: Elemental Plane of Fire

Mike talked a couple of weeks ago about a new vision of the Elemental Planes, and salamanders are a good example of that philosophy in action. Instead of just saying salamanders are native to the Plane of Fire and imagining them swimming through endless expanses of fire with no fuel or substance, we can now say they live in the Sea of Ash—a vast (but not infinite) expanse of hot gray dust and cinders where the air swelters and smoke billows up from the ground. Where their tails sweep the ground, they leave trails of gleaming embers and rising sparks behind them.

Salamanders are cruel, nasty elemental creatures that respect only power. They have muscular humanoid arms and torsos set atop serpentine bodies covered in red and black scales. The entire body is covered with wisps of flame rising from their skin like spines. Their bodies radiate intense heat, enough to harm creatures that get too close.

Salamanders are master smiths—much like the azer, whom they hate. They are particularly adept at crafting metal weapons that can transmit the heat of their bodies into their foes. Wizards sometimes summon them to the Material Plane and compel them to craft a metal implement, usually for a sinister purpose. They also sometimes come to the Material Plane for reasons known only to them, and they can be encountered in the heart of forest fires, lava flows, fire pits, and other areas of extreme heat. They can function for only a few hours in temperatures below water's boiling point.

Salamanders are effectively immortal, since only cold or violence can kill them. They continue to grow (albeit slowly) throughout their long lives, and the largest and strongest of them tend to dominate their lesser kin, ruling wandering bands that move across the Sea of Ash like desert nomads. These bands seek out chunks of volcanic rock that contain minerals useful for smelting, and they raid azer communities to obtain metals as well.

The efreet send out patrols to capture young salamanders and compel them into service as guards, miners, and artisans. Salamanders resent this servitude and hate their efreeti masters, but they actually enjoy the work. They rarely rise up in rebellion as long as they can work in comfort or enjoy plenty of opportunities to raid and pillage.

Salamanders have a taste for violence and chaos, making them easy allies for the forces of Imix, the Prince of Evil Fire Elementals. The efreet fear and hate cultists of elemental evil, though, and kill salamander devotees rather than enslaving them.

A salamander wields a metal spear in combat, transmitting the heat of its body to sear its foes. It can also lash out and coil around an opponent with its tail, constricting to deal both bludgeoning and fire damage from the heat of its body. When encountered near lava or roaring fire, it likes to grab opponents and throw them into such hazards.

Naturally, salamanders are immune to fire damage. They resist damage from nonmagical weapons.

The rulers of salamander bands have magical abilities related to fire, and they can hurl fireballs at enemies, grasp foes burning hands, and create fiery walls in battle. They can also summon other fire elementals to aid them.

Xorn

Medium Elemental
Alignment: Neutral
Level: Medium
Environment: Elemental Plane of Earth and any underground

Unlike salamanders, xorn pretty much spend their existence swimming (burrowing) through endless expanses of their native element. They burrow beneath every region of the mountainous Plane of Earth, following veins of precious metals and minerals, which they eat. Their burrowing results in the creation of tunnels and caverns beneath the surface, which are favored as residences for many other denizens of the plane, particularly the dao. Sometimes these caverns collapse, leaving depressions on the surface that range in size from small valleys to enormous chasms.

A xorn is a bizarre-looking creature with three eyes, three arms, and three legs in radial symmetry. At the top of its rocklike body is a huge mouth lined with jagged teeth. They burrow mouth first, a little like purple worms.

Although they typically burrow through stone in hopes of finding tasty minerals to consume, they can also pass through it like a fish through water, momentarily displacing it around their bodies but leaving no sign of passage. They use this ability to escape danger—and sometimes to lay an ambush for an enemy creature. Like wraiths, they phase into stone to avoid attacks and reemerge in a different place to catch opponents unawares.

Xorn are simple creatures, reasonably intelligent but hardly civilized. They travel in packs, and they regard each member of the pack as something akin to family. In general, they are placid, concerned primarily with finding food. They can get aggressive when they encounter other creatures carrying large amounts of precious metals or gems, such as adventurers—particularly on the Material Plane where food is scarcer than in their home plane.

Xorn are also masters at shaping stone, which they do as easily as a potter molds clay. This talent makes them valuable to the dao, who enslave them and use them to build homes and defenses, as well as to guard their domains. Similar to salamanders, mortal spellcasters sometimes summon xorn to the Material Plane to construct a stone edifice.

A cavern that serves as home to xorn is decorated with elaborate statues and finely detailed stonework. They shape minerals that they don't find tasty but they do find beautiful, including marble and jade, so this stonework can be valuable even to non-xorn. They sometimes store "food" in these caverns, which other creatures of course consider great treasures.

Xorn are not generally drawn to the worship of Ogremoch, the Prince of Evil Earth Elementals, but they are easily coerced into his service. Many of Ogremoch's temples, both in the Plane of Earth and in the world, are shaped by xorn hands.

A xorn is immune to fire and cold, and it has resistance to lightning and slashing damage. Various spells that affect stone can harm a xorn: stone to flesh or rock to mud reduces its Armor Class, move earth flings it back and stuns it, passwall deals damage, and phase door cast upon the rock where a xorn is phasing can kill it instantly (or perhaps send it hurtling into the Ethereal Plane).

What do you Think?

How do you like these depictions of classic elemental monsters? We have a really simple poll this week.

Previous Poll Results

How do you think this description of myconids squares with their history in the game?
1—It’s growing mold—throw it away! 29 2%
2—Dude, are you hallucinating? 21 2%
3—OK, I recognize the myconid, but it needs work. 143 11%
4—Hey, this is pretty cool for a mushroom-person. 634 50%
5—I love it—I’m adding myconids to my game now! 420 33%
Total 1247 100.0%

Fourth Edition made myconids more hostile and expansionist, more clearly monsters to be fought and killed. Do you prefer that kind of myconid?
Yes, I know exactly what to do with them that way. 47 4%
Sure, but it’s easy enough to stipulate that some myconid communities go crazy and become a threat. 287 23%
No, I like the idea of mystic mushroom-people in the Underdark who are alien but not automatically hostile. 915 72%
Total 1249 100.0%

How do you think this description of shambling mounds squares with their history in the game?
1—It’s rotting—throw it away! 16 1%
2—Not working for me at all. 42 3%
3—OK, I recognize the shambler, but it needs work. 235 18%
4—Hey, this is pretty cool for a shambling plant-monster. 668 53%
5—I love it—I’m adding shambling mounds to my game now! 286 22%
Total 1247 100.0%

How do you think this description of treants squares with their history in the game?
1—Sudden oak death. Very sad. 12 1%
2—Not working for me at all. 15 1%
3—OK, I recognize the treant, but it needs work. 168 13%
—Hey, this is pretty cool for a walking tree. 642 50%
5—I love it—I’m adding treants to my game now! 411 32%
Total 1248 100.0%

Do you think treants should be chaotic good?
Yes, and much more friendly with fey and elves. 94 7%
Yes, and easier to persuade to help in good causes. 51 4%
Some are good, some are outright evil—like rotten trees in evil forests. 500 39%
No, I think the neutral, disinterested treant is right on. 610 48%
Total 1255 100.0%

James Wyatt
James Wyatt is the Creative Manager for Dungeons & Dragons R&D at Wizards of the Coast. He was one of the lead designers for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and the primary author of the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. He also contributed to the Eberron Campaign Setting, and is the author of several Dungeons & Dragons novels set in the world of Eberron.
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