Why do elementals attack people?


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion


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Elementals are popular enemies to throw at parties, but I'm curious why a true neutral creature that doesn't need to eat other creatures would choose to try and murder a flesh being. Is it just from being extremely territorial? Like they are so angry someone would enter their domain they will just destroy them on sight? The information on their motivation seems extremely sparse. And killing other creatures just cuz feels... Not so neutral.

I'm talking about "wild" elementals here, not those that have been bound to the will of a summoner or whatever. The question feels important to understand because it has implications for whether or not they fight to the death or flee when things look grim. Or whether a PC can potentially negotiate with them.


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On the material plane, elementals not under the control of a caster would have been magically called and then abandoned and left stranded. They are probably frightened and paranoid.

On their own plane, they may well be territorial and protecting an area that is plainly marked to them but not to extraplanar visitors.

In either case, it probably is possible to negotiate with them if you can speak their language. They do tend to have relatively low intelligences, but the only thing that should make negotiation impossible is current magical control.


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I suspect that the material plane is unpleasant to the elememntals. It may even be painful. Think of the poor fire elemental--it is bitterly cold and there humidity in the air--it may not do damage in the game sense (no hit points lost), but it can still be unpleasant.

They may regard organic life as an unnatural aberration, maybe akin to how the average humanoid would view something from the Far Realm. No one badmouths John Q. Dirtfarmer if he uses his shovel to smack some tentacle horror that pops out of a dimensional portal without waiting to see if it will suck out someone's brain.

In my games, I have the Elemental Liberation Front (ELF), a group of elementals trying to end the slave taking practices of the material plane's magic users. No reason to assume that elementals don't talk to each other, and stories of mistreatment by humanoids may be widespread.

If a PC found him/herself in an unpleasant environment and met some hideous monsters that were widely regarded as hostile in the PC's culture, what do you think he/she would do?

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I have the assumption that a small percentage of elementals willingly allow themselves to be summoned, or sign up for it or something. Either they don't really "get" the Material Plane and figure, "It's all fun, nobody really dies. See, I just get sent back home no matter what happens!"
Or they do it because they believe in their evil lords' propaganda of beating up Material people for funsies.
...Perhaps some of them rationalize that, if they were brought to this icky universe and told to smack that guy, it must have been for a good reason, right?
Or, in the case of called/bound elementals, they're probably really bored and willing to take it out on random passersby, just for something to do or the hope they get Dismissal'd back home.


I can't actually recall encountering truly wild elementals personally. Most instances I can remember involve the elementals being bound to the material plane, and either still being location-locked or else having escaped but not having a way home. The latter case veers closer to wild elementals and them being incredibly aggressive makes sense IMO. They were abducted and stranded on a strange alien world filled with meaty dopplegangers of the fauna they are used to, cannot communicate with most people or find any way home, and have only experienced sinister forces that tried to erode their will and weaponize them. They will be rather defensive, though a character with the right elemental language might be able to talk them down from a fight.


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In most cases when an elemental is on the material plane they are either A# Summoned for the purposes of being used as a soldier or guard (in which case, violence is the intended purpose of their presence) or B# they are there because there is some kind of elemental incursion into the material plane, in which case it is likely that the less peaceful elementals are the ones crossing over whatever rift there is, or that the incursion is actually an intentional invasion.


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In Eberron the answer was that elementals are thoroughly alien minds with desires that don't truly make sense to humans: The fire elemental just wishes to burn, not caring about who/what burns.


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I like Mechagamera's answer best: they are mainly just scared and uncomfortable in a really weird (to them) plane. I imagine you probably could reason with them if you speak their language though (especially if you offered to banish them home, they would probably jump at the chance).


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I think they're enthusiastic, not frightened. They are their element; they love it above all the other ones and want to share it.

"Hello, small meat thing! I'm a fire elemental. Do you like fire? I like fire. I have lots of fire do you want some? I think you'd like it if you tried it here have some I don't mind sharing!"


Perpdepog wrote:

I think they're enthusiastic, not frightened. They are their element; they love it above all the other ones and want to share it.

"Hello, small meat thing! I'm a fire elemental. Do you like fire? I like fire. I have lots of fire do you want some? I think you'd like it if you tried it here have some I don't mind sharing!"

You could be right. The 3.x Monster Manual has the magmin (fire elemental like creatures) which it describes as not realizing fire is dangerous to most creature and just wanting to play. Oddly, Pathfinder makes them less sympathetic and says they attack out of fear.


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They aren't using Slam attacks, but rather hugs--and not very many folks want to be hugged by elemental types?

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Mechagamera wrote:
They may regard organic life as an unnatural aberration, maybe akin to how the average humanoid would view something from the Far Realm.

Since they come from a world where their constituent element is generally free of 'impurity' and not bound up in various conjoined organic forms, they might consider other forms of life to be unnatural, the same way mortal life views the undead.

A fire elemental wants to 'liberate' the heat that is 'trapped' within you. If you weren't meant to burn, after all, you wouldn't be made of flammable matter...

A water elemental feels that all the water that is inside your cells should be free to flow, as nature intended, not trapped inside your disgusting meat-body.

An earth elemental wants to rip your bones free and let your flesh return to the 'soil from whence it came.'

An air elemental finds that thing you do with your mouth that turns once-vital air into worthless poison to be offensive and polluting, that you defile the air with every breath you take, and if you'd only stop breathing, it would be so much better...


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^I would have thought that Air Elementals would have been more incensed about the other end . . . then again, on the other hand, Fire Elementals should find that to be a small but renewable energy source . . . .

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