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Acid and Earth - should they break up?


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I noticed that there is a loose association with Acid and Earth in Pathfinder (Earth domain clerics get Acid Dart, Stone Oracles can get acid resistance, earth school elementalist wizards get acid cloud, the Oread race gets acid resistance). But this is not always the case (deep earth sorcerers and geokineticists have no association with acid, AFAICT, and earth elementals are not particularly associated with acid).

Now I can see the Pathfinder urge for symmetry (4 cardinal elements, 4 energy types to go with them) but maybe that symmetry is not necessary. I mean going the other way I don't think there is a Sonic elemental, nor a plane of Sound. And Pathfinder has an acid quasi-elemental, so it doesn't need to ground an energy type in Earth. And Earth is not, to my mind, associated with energy. More like solidity, really. Black dragons, that breath acid, are associated with water, not earth, for an example of another break between earth and acid.

What do you think? Should there be a strong (or weak) tie between acid and earth? Or is such a tie unnecessary?


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First Earth, Wind, and Fire break up, now this?!


Blame D&D continuity. The energy damage types existed before the whole cosmological background came into it and PF inherited it.
Would it be simpler to have "Earth" as an energy type? Yes, but for the sake of backwards compatibility, we´ll never get it.


Yeah, the lore's a bit sketchy when it comes to acid. Sometimes it's considered to be part of the border between the planes of earth and water, other times it's a plane of its own right.

Trouble is, earth is one of the more static and stable classical elements. Aside from flinging rocks, it's not all that imaginative for what kind of energy damage it would deliver. Fire is easy, water's typically cold damage, and air is electricity. Process of elimination gives earth the acid damage type.


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I dunno, I might have gone with sonic (the tremors of an earthquake, the cracking noise of rocks hitting each other, etc.). But I think sonic is the embarrassing relative of the energy types, and Pathfinder tries to sideline it when possible.

Sovereign Court

Probably will never change, it's stuff from Gygax era.

Shadow Lodge

I really don't understand it myself, and I'd actually see Sonic as being much more related to earth than acid.

The only thing I can really see is the similarity between earth crushing things to dust and acid burning them away, but even them,. . . um, not really.

JDLPF wrote:
Trouble is, earth is one of the more static and stable classical elements. Aside from flinging rocks, it's not all that imaginative for what kind of energy damage it would deliver. Fire is easy, water's typically cold damage, and air is electricity. Process of elimination gives earth the acid damage type.

Why is water associated with cold? Wouldn't Earth be much better for that? Granted, that doesn't really help too much with either Water or Earth, but there really doesn't seem to be any sort of logic behind it.

Some games have additional energy types, like poison, which might even make more sense with earth than I find acid does.


I'd say Sonic fits better for the air-related energy damage myself, what with it being related to vibrating air.


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The entire Four Element System is deeply flawed. Water is a molecule. Air is, at any given moment, a mixture of several elements and molecules, as is Earth. And Fire is just the visible sign of a chemical reaction. What were those Greeks thinking?


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I personally prefer simply separating energies and elements with fire being the only overlap. You can do it with creative use of archetypes and sub-domains and such. In that case earth, air, and water affects usually deal magical physical damage like the actual elemental bestiary entries.


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Earth is Acid because it's alkaline. The Alkali flask is specifically just a flask of acid against anything that's not acidic. "Acid" the damage type doesn't mean an acid is involved, just that it causes chemical burns. Lots of stuff does that, and many of them would probably fall under "Earth".


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Eltacolibre wrote:
Probably will never change, it's stuff from Gygax era.

IIRC, that stuff is dated back to 3.xx, not AD&D, Gygax would probably have stuck to flinging rocks stone giant style. Even if the association goes back to 2nd ed, it's post Gygax.


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Scientific Scrutiny wrote:
The entire Four Element System is deeply flawed. Water is a molecule. Air is, at any given moment, a mixture of several elements and molecules, as is Earth. And Fire is just the visible sign of a chemical reaction. What were those Greeks thinking?

They represent the states of matter. Solid = earth, liquid = water, gas = air, plasma = fire.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Campaign Setting, Card Game, Cards, Class Deck, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber

@OP : and PF team tends to agree that they should not be related:
the "new" class Kineticist, earth element, has nothing acid-related.


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Matthew Downie wrote:
Scientific Scrutiny wrote:
The entire Four Element System is deeply flawed. Water is a molecule. Air is, at any given moment, a mixture of several elements and molecules, as is Earth. And Fire is just the visible sign of a chemical reaction. What were those Greeks thinking?
They represent the states of matter. Solid = earth, liquid = water, gas = air, plasma = fire.

Gonna have to quibble with you there. I'm pretty sure the ancient Greeks didn't know about phase states--especially plasma. I mean, we're talking about people who were initially appalled by the idea that the sun might be an enormous very hot chunk of rock or iron...

Also, the texts are pretty clear that they believed things were actually made of these elements, as opposed to the 'elements' being the form which they took. The theory was not metaphorical.

Of course, Democritus and Epicurus sorted it out (partly), but once they got labeled filthy heretics by monotheists, their ideas got lost for quite a while.

FUN FACT: The Mishnah uses the word "apikoros" (derived from Epicurus) to refer to heretics and unbelievers.

Don't even get me started on the inconsistent lack of vampires for the other three bodily humours...

NOTE: The use of my 'Scientific Scrutiny' alias means I'm just goofing around.


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So are you going to stat up a Bile Vampire? It sucks the juices from your gall bladder...probably with a straw.

Dark Archive

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

As Bob Bob Bob said, switch your views on "acid" from actual liquids with a very low pH to instead corrosive basic salts with a very high pH. Same (general) type of effects, but perfectly in keeping with the Earth theme.


I mean, for example, sulfuric acid can be created through the oxidation of iron sulfide (which is a solid mineral, a rock if anything), so if you're going to put acid anywhere why not put it with earth?


Ventnor wrote:
I'd say Sonic fits better for the air-related energy damage myself, what with it being related to vibrating air.

Given that sounds travel faster in denser mediums, I'd argue that Earth is perfect for Sonic energy. Metal would be even better.

I know a friend of mine also gets tired of the element-energy associations. For myself I'd do something homebrewed.


Mudfoot wrote:
So are you going to stat up a Bile Vampire? It sucks the juices from your gall bladder...probably with a straw.

And of course the Phlegmpire has pointy lower canines, to reach up the nostrils...

Shadow Lodge

Indagare wrote:
Ventnor wrote:
I'd say Sonic fits better for the air-related energy damage myself, what with it being related to vibrating air.

Given that sounds travel faster in denser mediums, I'd argue that Earth is perfect for Sonic energy. Metal would be even better.

I know a friend of mine also gets tired of the element-energy associations. For myself I'd do something homebrewed.

I was also thinking more about vibrations, (from hitting something really hard and stable with a metal baseball bat) and also earthquakes and sink holes, the two sort of big natural disasters related most to the element, beyond just blunt force. I can also see cold to a lesser extent considering things like the cold heart of stone and deep underground.

I'd almost rather attribute acid to water, in the sense that water tends to dissolve or tear down just about everything over time.

The main issue I have with Water covering cold is that it almost always depicts that water as ice, essentially utilizing only one state as the whole for it's energy damage. This creates an issue because what about steam and boiling water?


Particle_Man wrote:

And Earth is not, to my mind, associated with energy. More like solidity, really. Black dragons, that breath acid, are associated with water, not earth, for an example of another break between earth and acid.

What do you think? Should there be a strong (or weak) tie between acid and earth? Or is such a tie unnecessary?

Earth is actually a form of energy (at least in the real world) it's matter. All that acid does is create a chemical reaction between two forms of matter that convert the one or both of the materials to another form of energy (Heat, Light, Electricty and/or Matter). So it makes sense to me that acid is under the Earth domain. I can understand on the surface why it might not appear to be so though.


I doubt it does jack squat if you change what kind of energy damage an element deals so long as you're consistent. The energy types don't have anything like special effects on their own: cold, fire, electricity, acid, and sonic are all just keywords for "generic damage resisted by Defense Type X".

I doubt it would matter if you made Earth deal "earth energy" damage (and I, personally, would find it more flavorful), so long as you realize it's going to decrease the utility of energy resistances for having to cover 1-to-whatever new types.


SilvercatMoonpaw wrote:
I doubt it would matter if you made Earth deal "earth energy" damage (and I, personally, would find it more flavorful), so long as you realize it's going to decrease the utility of energy resistances for having to cover 1-to-whatever new types.

I think it would matter, since I can imagine what an acid attack does, how to represent that, how to describe it, etc. whereas I have no idea what "earth energy" looks like or does. If they refluffed it as "earth energy" I'd probably still just think of it in terms of chemical burns and dissolving stuff.


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Particle_Man wrote:
I dunno, I might have gone with sonic (the tremors of an earthquake, the cracking noise of rocks hitting each other, etc.). But I think sonic is the embarrassing relative of the energy types, and Pathfinder tries to sideline it when possible.

Personally, I would just have earth deal B/P/S damage instead of energy damage.


Snowlilly wrote:
Personally, I would just have earth deal B/P/S damage instead of energy damage.

Honestly, it makes sense to do this. Then make the environmental hazards in the elemental plane of earth much more likely to be radiation (Uranium is 500 times more common in the earth's crust than gold) than acid. We just didn't have radiation rules back when the CRB was printed.


Not personally a fan of having to have everything make Real-World-sense.


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SilvercatMoonpaw wrote:
Not personally a fan of having to have everything make Real-World-sense.

Agreed. I'm not even convinced the Real World entirely makes Real-World-sense.


Snowlilly wrote:
Personally, I would just have earth deal B/P/S damage instead of energy damage.

That is what the geokineticist (a type of kineticist in Occult Adventures) does with the Earth Blast (and later, with the Metal Blast). But it is physical damage, not energy damage so it requires a regular ranged attack, not a ranged touch attack, to hit.


I think Acid and Earth should be divorced. It makes no sense to me. It's a result of forced symmetry, putting square pegs in round holes.

'Earth Damage' should be bludgeoning or piercing damage (blunt or pointy stones). For that matter, 'Water Damage' should also be bludgeoning, like getting hit with a fire hose. Air damage could be slashing or bludgeoning. Fire damage, well, okay, fire damage is fire damage.

The first three would be affected by Damage Resistance rather than Energy Resistance for obvious reasons.


SilvercatMoonpaw wrote:
Not personally a fan of having to have everything make Real-World-sense.

Not everything, no, but one's suspenders of disbelief can only stretch so far before they snap.


Pokenerding time!

Having a physical and energy variant for each energy type is a viable goal, and it's perfectly fine to consolidate types so that it functions as such (example: Light is the energy form of the Steel type). In fact, more than Earth having a strange energy type, I'm wondering where Fire's physical type is.

That said, when I was considering rebuilding the elemental system, Earth went with Sonic rather than Acid (5 elemental variant, Acid was under Wood).


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber Subscriber
Scientific Scrutiny wrote:
Of course, Democritus and Epicurus sorted it out (partly), but once they got labeled filthy heretics by monotheists, their ideas got lost for quite a while.

eh... wasn't just the monotheists that had a problem with the atomists.


Yakman wrote:
Scientific Scrutiny wrote:
Of course, Democritus and Epicurus sorted it out (partly), but once they got labeled filthy heretics by monotheists, their ideas got lost for quite a while.
eh... wasn't just the monotheists that had a problem with the atomists.

No, but they did so for by far the longest and as far as I know were the only ones that didn't try to form a counterargument.


The Sideromancer wrote:

Pokenerding time!

Having a physical and energy variant for each energy type is a viable goal, and it's perfectly fine to consolidate types so that it functions as such (example: Light is the energy form of the Steel type). In fact, more than Earth having a strange energy type, I'm wondering where Fire's physical type is.

That said, when I was considering rebuilding the elemental system, Earth went with Sonic rather than Acid (5 elemental variant, Acid was under Wood).

I'd been hoping for a while they'd just add Light and Sound as types, but that's just me. ;)


Zhayne wrote:
The Sideromancer wrote:

Pokenerding time!

Having a physical and energy variant for each energy type is a viable goal, and it's perfectly fine to consolidate types so that it functions as such (example: Light is the energy form of the Steel type). In fact, more than Earth having a strange energy type, I'm wondering where Fire's physical type is.

That said, when I was considering rebuilding the elemental system, Earth went with Sonic rather than Acid (5 elemental variant, Acid was under Wood).

I'd been hoping for a while they'd just add Light and Sound as types, but that's just me. ;)

I had a similar discussion with somebosy wanting to separate wind/air and birds. You'd need to make a decent chunk of physical air/light moves, and then think of replacement special bird/steel moves. You might be able to run Sound without replacement (since Normal at least still has Tri Attack), but with Soundproof and Arialate/Pixilate Hyper Voice going around, it'd probably be a bigger change than adding Fairy.


SilvercatMoonpaw wrote:
Not personally a fan of having to have everything make Real-World-sense.

Everything in games like this should make some sense to someone (at the very least, the person who writes it). One of the most accessible lenses through which to view something in a fantasy game is "how would this work in the real world?" as everybody has access to that reference point.

If the reason that acid is with earth is "a lot of acids come from dissolving mineral salts in water, and something called *mineral salts* belongs in earth" I can buy that, and it probably makes more sense than putting it anywhere else.

So the question I have is- why would it make more sense to put "Acid" anywhere else?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber Subscriber
The Sideromancer wrote:
Yakman wrote:
Scientific Scrutiny wrote:
Of course, Democritus and Epicurus sorted it out (partly), but once they got labeled filthy heretics by monotheists, their ideas got lost for quite a while.
eh... wasn't just the monotheists that had a problem with the atomists.
No, but they did so for by far the longest and as far as I know were the only ones that didn't try to form a counterargument.

christians used the same (meta)physics as pagans at the time.

and they used the same counter argument, which was "if everything is atoms, and they behave the way you say they do, then there's no place for the gods. but clearly there are gods, therefore, your theories are wrong."

that applies to Zeus, Jehovah, Isis, Mithras, Thor, whoever.


I recall that there was a 5th used for celestial bodies that could allow for Divine action. As well, I remember a counterargument based on nature abhoring vacuums about the empty space formed by atoms that cannot completely fill (I think Earth was the cubic, all the other platonic solids wouldn't)


PossibleCabbage wrote:
SilvercatMoonpaw wrote:
Not personally a fan of having to have everything make Real-World-sense.

Everything in games like this should make some sense to someone (at the very least, the person who writes it). One of the most accessible lenses through which to view something in a fantasy game is "how would this work in the real world?" as everybody has access to that reference point.

If the reason that acid is with earth is "a lot of acids come from dissolving mineral salts in water, and something called *mineral salts* belongs in earth" I can buy that, and it probably makes more sense than putting it anywhere else.

So the question I have is- why would it make more sense to put "Acid" anywhere else?

By that logic, shouldn't Acid be associated with the element of water instead? After all, those mineral salts can't do anything on their own. They need water to actually hurt people.


Ventnor wrote:
By that logic, shouldn't Acid be associated with the element of water instead? After all, those mineral salts can't do anything on their own. They need water to actually hurt people.

In theory, if you were to dump some of those salts on them the water in their skin (Which would be drawn out by the presence of salt over time) would be sufficient.

But the reason I wouldn't put it in water is that you don't find things that react strongly with water in rivers, lakes, oceans, on glaciers, or other places where there's a lot of water that would just dilute them. You find them in caves or just buried underground where there is hardly any water.


PossibleCabbage wrote:
Everything in games like this should make some sense to someone (at the very least, the person who writes it). One of the most accessible lenses through which to view something in a fantasy game is "how would this work in the real world?" as everybody has access to that reference point.

The problem I have with introducing Real World logic into this situation is that in the Real World cold is not a thing: it's an absence of a thing (heat). By that logic we can't have "cold energy".

I don't like dealing with that arbitrary "some things that aren't real get to be real, but others do not". I prefer to go by the logic that any concept can be a "real" thing in the game world.

PossibleCabbage wrote:
If the reason that acid is with earth is "a lot of acids come from dissolving mineral salts in water, and something called *mineral salts* belongs in earth" I can buy that, and it probably makes more sense than putting it anywhere else.

Sonic still makes more sense: lots of "earth" isn't mineral salts, and in fact is vulnerable to acids (limestone, for instance).

PossibleCabbage wrote:
So the question I have is- why would it make more sense to put "Acid" anywhere else?

Wood/Flesh. Because creatures spit acid (in fiction).


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SilvercatMoonpaw wrote:


PossibleCabbage wrote:
So the question I have is- why would it make more sense to put "Acid" anywhere else?
Wood/Flesh. Because creatures spit acid (in fiction).

Also, RNA/DNA.


The Sideromancer wrote:
Also, RNA/DNA.

Who are you who are so wise in the ways of science?


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Bedevere wrote:
The Sideromancer wrote:
Also, RNA/DNA.
Who are you who are so wise in the ways of science?

Some call him... Tim.

Dark Archive

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Particle_Man wrote:
What do you think? Should there be a strong (or weak) tie between acid and earth? Or is such a tie unnecessary?

The elemental / energy type association is indeed an artifact of 3.X compatibility, and doesn't necessarily make sense. (It would make as much sense to associate earth with cold and ice, because it's the only 'solid' energy type and acid with water, since acid breaks down solids and liquefies matter.)

Or just ignoring the entire elemental / energy type association entirely could also work. (A very different setup could have acid associated with duat, the river of the underworld, and entropy and decay, and therefore necromancy.)

But if you want a fanwank, acid could be associated with earth because earth represents stone and solidity, while acid removes solidity from other solids, taking away the properties derived from the element of earth (since this is a fantasy world) that make them solid. (Using this sort of fantasy logic would also explain why water, an element associated with fluidity and liquid motion, is associated with cold, which removes fluidity from liquids and makes them solid. If, in the fantasy world, the property of solidity comes from the element of earth, and the property of fluidity comes from the element of water, then this could be said to make some sort of fantasy-sense, at least, even if it has nothing to do with modern understandings of fire, earth, air and water, or solid, liquid, gas and plasma states.


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I like the argument I saw from one of Rogue Genius Games's books (I think) that was quoted on the d20 SRD, listed here:

Da SRD wrote:

Acidic Earth [Rogue Genius Games]

The connection between the element of earth and the alchemical damage type of acid is not immediately obvious to those unstudied in alchemy and arcane knowledge. A brief explanation of the connection may be useful to those seeking to master the magic of stone. What spellcasters and alchemists simply call “acid” is, in fact, a wide variety of caustic materials able to burn, dissolve, or corrode through chemical reaction.

While liquid acids are well known, and have ties to the elemental plane of water, there are also solid caustic materials with ties to the elemental plane of earth. These include items such as lye (also known as caustic soda, a dry white material used in soap-making) and caustic potash (also known as alkali salt). The exact process by which these caustic solids burn and corrode is not the same as many liquid acids, but the effect on material exposed to them is very similar.

Thus there are two elemental sources with which “acid” may be aligned. Black dragons, for example, are tied to the element of water and call forth a wet acidic breath that is also linked to that element. Sorcerers with an elemental earth bloodline, however, call upon the power of caustic salts and deal acid damage with a connection to elemental earth. Despite the two different elemental and alchemical sources of these caustic materials, for purposes of spells they both qualify as “acid” for game rule purposes.

Source: Adventurer’s Handbook: Genius Guide Volume 1

From here, under 'descriptors.'

In short, acid should be both water and earth since both are known for some nasty chemical reactions--which is what acid damage is from--and the specific source determines which kind of acid you're looking at.

And that's no lye!


Eltacolibre wrote:
Probably will never change, it's stuff from Gygax era.

I don't think that it goes back that far. I can't recall any association between Earth and acid in 1E AD&D. In fact acid-breathing dragons were more vulnerable to attack from both Earth and Water.


DM Beckett wrote:


Why is water associated with cold? Wouldn't Earth be much better for that? Granted, that doesn't really help too much with either Water or Earth, but there really doesn't seem to be any sort of logic behind it.

The association of Water with cold goes back to Aristotle (but he associated Earth with cold also).


Trinam wrote:
In short, acid should be both water and earth since both are known for some nasty chemical reactions--which is what acid damage is from--and the specific source determines which kind of acid you're looking at.
Corathonv2 wrote:
The association of Water with cold goes back to Aristotle (but he associated Earth with cold also).

Maybe what should be going on is not associating each element with only one energy.

What might we get if we gave each two? Or even more? (Not all of these have to be used at the same time, I'm just listing them):
Earth could be associated with Acid, Sonic, Cold, and/or Fire (magma)
Water could be associated with Cold, Sonic, Acid, and/or Electricity (storm clouds)
Fire could be associated with Fire, Cold (if you can control heat you can control its opposite, I know D&D usually opposes them), and/or Electricity
Air could be associated with Electricity, Sonic, and/or Cold

Example:
Earth: Acid, Sonic
Water: Cold, Acid
Fire: Fire, Electricity
Air: Electricity, Cold

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