OSR: What does the Elemental Want?

Elementalist Wizards can meditate for one hour to gain Elemental Vision. This allows them to see elementals as anthropomorphized representations, and to get their attention more easily. A frogling wizard might see a campfire as a ravenous frogling head. Stones are dour froglings packed tightly together, mostly asleep and slow to react. Powerful elementals can appear in any shape they please. Almost everything is made of elementals. Most people are not aware of this, just as most elementals are not aware people are sentient. If you asked a thoughtful spirit to describe a properly attuned elementalist, they might say "a meat elemental". Life in general is strange and mysterious to them, just as the motives of a snowstorm or the grievances of a tornado are unknown to us.

You can make deals with them, if you can get their attention. This is not always a good idea. Elementalist Wizards are widely feared and hated for causing forest fires, earthquakes, and floods. Sometimes it's actually the wizard's fault.

Water Elementals

Ponyo, Studio Ghibli

Also known as river spirits or rain sprites. They often refuse to anthropomorphize neatly, and are instead interpreted by the wizard's brain as fat fish made of water. The ocean is like a drained lake; it's entirely made of fish, stacked one on top of the other and wriggling around. Rivers can have one spirit (often dragon-shaped, because rivers are vain and petty) or be packed with spirits. Just like a Biomancer can talk to your gallbladder directly, an Elementalist can talk to part of a river.

Rivers and lakes aren't very bright, as a rule, but they are lively. A rainstorm is extremely lethargic and moody, because it's melting away and changing form and it's vaguely depressed about the whole affair. The ocean is nearly impossible to talk to (too noisy). Water spirits share information easily but have terrible memories. A bucket of water might remember it was taken from a pond, but most of it's information will be bucket-related. Water spirits can change course on a whim, erode some stone, spit up sunken treasure, carry you and your boat, or drown your enemies. A rainstorm knows secrets about everything it's touched.

Water elementals like putting out fire because it tickles, and it lets them go become clouds for a bit, which is like going to heaven and reincarnating as rain later. Calm, fluffy clouds don't want anything to do with you. They have an extremely complicated and sexually charged relationship with lightning elementals. They are like one-night stands with amazing skills, but who also wreck your house and steal all the food from your cupboards. Like I said, it's complicated.

A Rain Spirit Wants:
1. Depressing Poetry. You have to read it at least an hour's worth of poetry (of any quality) or ten minutes of excellent poetry. If it doesn't like your poetry, it will call in a favour with a lightning elemental and give you a solid zap.

2. Nice Textures. Bring it beautiful naked people, extremely ugly people, rare treasures, carved objects, or other things the rain doesn't usually get a chance to examine.
3. A Bucket. And quickly! Catch as much of the rain as you can.
4. Hot Objects. The rain isn't done being a cloud. Get some fire together and start evaporating the rain. The fire elementals won't like you for this.

5. Insults. Validate it's feelings.
6. A Priest. Failing that, a religious ceremony of death and rebirth. You can make one up, but you'll need some costumes and at least 3 participants.

A River Spirit Wants:

1. Dredging. Something is stuck in the river, something large or magical enough that the river can't move it alone. An anchor, a sword, or an ex-husband/boulder (stone elemental).
2. Treats. Throw valuables or food into the river, or invite it to a feast in its honour.
3. Complements. Rivers are vain. The famous song "Oh, the Wonderful River Sbong" was written to save a village from a flood. The compliments must be elaborate and expensive.
4. Bridges. Build a bridge over the river in a specific location, or smash a bridge that already exists.

5. A Creature Removed. A really awful murder log (crocodile), wizard, or sludge monster is living in the river. Make it go away.
6. Renovations. The river wants to go around the other side of a hill. It wants some rapids improved or removed entirely. It wants a water mill to be moved to a new location.

The Ocean Wants:
1. Who knows? The bit of the ocean you're talking to can't make up its mind.
2. People. The ocean isn't sadistic but it does like to eat people. One sacrifice might do, or an entire city could be needed.
3. Treasure. Cast your shiny valuables into the sea.
4. Destruction. Destroy something that has offended the sea. This could be the fisherman next to you on the dock or a stone a thousand miles away. The ocean has no sense of scale.
5. A Temple. Depending on the request and the mood of the ocean, this could be as small as a roadside shrine or as large as the Grand Mausoleum of Thaubilger. It must be built within sight of the ocean.
6. Examination. The ocean wants to get a good look at you. You must jump in and survive. The ocean is extremely fickle. It might claim you as a lover, devour you, freeze you, or let you leave unharmed.

Ice Elementals

Icebergs, Frederic Edwin Church

Take away the playfulness of a water spirit and replace it with cold hard murderous rage. Ice elementals are hateful, bitter things. A light dusting of snow is still plotting to kill you. Ice elementals appear as tiny anthropomorphized figures with spiked hair and pointed teeth. They loathe fire elementals with all the bitterness of an atheist invited to a maudlin heaven. They loathe living creatures because they are warm. They are mercenary spirits who happily break deals.

Snowstorms are ice elemental armies on the march. Blizzards are their grand armadas. Snowbanks are fortresses. Glaciers are ancient mother-generals who send their iceberg children on scouting missions, or sulk in their mountain homes, remembering the days when they scoured the land clean. Snow has a short memory, but glaciers remember everything they have ever seen. In areas where the snow never melts you can learn almost anything or be lead almost anywhere.

Ice elementals that melt lose their cruel nature and remember their past hostility with a patient smile, like an adult remembering the strident assertions of his youth. Water elementals that freeze become bitter, like an old man cursing the weakness and follies of his past.

A Snow Spirit Wants:

1. Nothing. The snow, after leading you on, rejects you and scours your flesh with ice.
2. A Sacrifice. Bring it something helpless. You must sit and watch it freeze to death. Ice is familiar with all forms of suffering.
3. Cold. Extinguish all the fires in a village. Shed your furs and your boots.
4. Worship. Build a temple from it's body. Snow only packs when it's near to melting, so good luck. You may be able to stamp out a massive outline or runic figure to appease it instead.

5. Abasement. The snow wants to mock you for at least an hour.
6. Conquest. Kill or maim something for it. The snow will pick an arbitrary target.

A Glacier (or Snowpack) Wants:
1. Nothing. The glacier will try to convince you to walk across treacherous sections of ice or into a cave where it can crush you, very slowly, to death.
2. Maps. When the reconquest of the world begins, the glacier would like to know which areas should die first.
3. Sacrifices. Slaughter warm-blooded creatures at the foot of the glacier or on it's broad back.
4. Transport. You must carry a large piece of the glacier, without melting it, to a distant location and return it unharmed.
5. A Lover. Unlike air elementals, who are kind to their lovers, and the ocean, who is fickle but not hateful, the glacier only wants a thing to torment. Luckily, glaciers aren't too good at recognizing individuals. You could probably get away with a goat in a dress.

6.  An Offense Repaid. Some foolish travelers once built a camp on the glacier and lit a fire. Kill them, or their descendants, or people who look like them. The glacier will offer general details "A black-haired man with green boots and a silver sword." You must bring the bodies to the glacier.

Fire Elementals

Forest Fire, CBC
Most of them live for a few hours. They know very little beyond their immediate surroundings. They are joyful and manic and insatiably hungry. You don't need to convince a fire elemental to burn something. The real trick is getting them to stop, or do something selectively and carefully. They are like children and have a child's subtlety.

If you put a magic item into a fire, the fire can tell you things about it. They are great at identifying cursed or malicious items, but they might not tell you right away. You can usually figure it out when the elemental keeps chuckling and waiting to see if you'll put on the item.  

Fire spirits are terrified of water sprits, and can sometimes be coerced. They die peacefully if they run out of fuel, slowly falling asleep and fading to nothingness. Mighty forest fires slumber in an ancient ashen logs, ready to spring up once again when the forest is dry. The greatest fires can form lasting relationships with lightning elementals, but they live apart.

A Small Fire Spirit Wants:
1. More Fuel! Obviously. Keep bringing the logs. The spirit wants to grow fat and happy.

2. More Wind! While wind spirits can kill a fire elemental, they can also embolden it.
3. A Permanent Home. Maybe a local forge or a natural source of flammable gas, or someone to keep it fed all the time.
4. Something Delicious. Food, carved wood objects, soft metals, or glass.
5. A Lover. Fire spirits don't really understand love, but they try to imitate it. You can make a "bride" out of almost anything, provided you can convince the fire to accept it and perform a ceremony. The fire spirit will try not to burn their new lover but may fail miserably.

6. Smoke. Smelly smoke, coloured smoke, or just lots and lots of smoke. There's no reason for this. The fire just likes to make it.

A Large Fire Spirit Wants:

1. A Shrine. Honour the great forest fire, or build a tower to attract a lightning elemental lover.
2. A Place in the World. It's not enough to live in the local forge. The flame wants to help create a mighty sword, burn an irreplaceable treasure, destroy a library, or send a martyr to heaven.
3. Rare Salts. The fire wants to burn green, red, silver, and octarine. Dry and powder the lens of a manticore, the hard stones of Kvent, or the bones of an angel.
4. A Lover. A large fire has learned more about the world. They want someone to give themselves willingly to the flame and be consumed.
5. Adventure. The fire, or a piece of it, wants to be carried with you.
6. Heat. Just for a few moments, the fire wants to experience true heat. You will need bellows, strong fuel, and the advice of a wise blacksmith or alchemist.

Lightning Elementals

Grand Canyon Lightning Storm, Dan Ransom
Wizards are taught to never attract the attention of a lightning elemental if they can help it. Lightning elementals are rarely directly observed, but the afterimages appear to be lithe purple figures with crazed eyes. They can appear anywhere the sky is visible, not just from clouds. Thunderstorms are water elementals and lightning elementals making love or fighting or both. Massive storms are battlefield orgies.

They are transitory things. No one is certain if lightning is their true form, the wake from their passage through the air, or if they cast it off like smoke from a fire. They are incredibly promiscuous. They fall in love instantly and love almost everything. Most Wizards cannot survive their presence, let alone their love.

If you want to find a lighting elemental, find a storm, or build a great tower of glass and metal. Or just shout at the sky and hope. If you want to carry on a conversation, you'll need to build a resonator out of metal (so the lighting elemental can shake it to make sounds), build a body the spirit can inhabit, or spread some sand around so the elemental can blast
fulgurite patterns. Stuff cotton in your ears. Lightning spirits don't communicate very well. Some wizards claim that they can summon lightning elementals using acid and metal or giant wheels covered in cats and amber, but they are generally regarded as madmen.

Will-o'-the-wisps are lightning elementals as well, and are much easier to deal with. They are also much less powerful. Some wizards think they are like children or eggs. Some think they are the ghosts of people killed by lightning. They are silent, illiterate, and easily distracted, but they understand speech perfectly. For some reason, they often appear in bogs or at sea during storms.

A Lightning Spirit Wants:
1. To Touch You. This usually means death. The lightning elemental will be confused and saddened by this. It may possess your corpse to see if you're still there somewhere, or if you jumped out and are hiding.
2. To Taste Something. You will need to put a specific object or sacrifice in a very high place and let the lighting elemental examine it.

3. Music. Loud music, and lots of it.
4. Dancing. You will need at least 3 people, and possibly several hundred. Keep dancing. The motion is pleasing to lightning spirits.
5. Purest Metal. An ordinary forge won't do. You need to make an offering of purest gold, silver, platinum, or iron. You can keep the metal after the lightning elemental is done with it, provided you can find it.
6. Your Love. The lightning elemental desires you, and wants to be desired. It will follow you around for the rest of your life (no time at all to an elemental). It will wait outside the dungeon and vaporize a tree occasionally. If you return its love, it will want to touch you, and you will probably die.

A Will-o'-the-Wisp Wants:
1. To Touch You. It's painful, but not deadly. It just wants to see what you are made of.
2. To Lead You. The spirit wants you to look at something. It doesn't necessarily want you to do anything about it, but it's very important you see this frog or this stone and spend at least 10 minutes staring at it. The items are often underwater or in really strange places.

3. To Lead You Into Danger. The spirit is not really malicious, but it will lead you to a deep pit or a dangerous enemy to see what happens.
4. Dry Fur. For some reason, will-o'-the-wisps really love dry fur. It has to be bone dry and in dry air, but they will happily roll around in it, probably setting things on fire in the process.
5. An Item. It could be something you own or something the spirit has seen recently, but it wants you to take it and put it somewhere inconvenient, usually a bog or the ocean. The local water elementals have no idea why.
6. Something Moved. A stone, a town, a river, a stick; the spirit does not like it's current position and wants you to move it somewhere else. This is usually arbitrary, like moving an old broken cart wheel into the top of a tree.

Air Elementals

Lone Tree in the Wind, turst67

Also known as winds. Based on this post, which kind of inspired this article. Winds are capricious but helpful. They are always moving. A wind that is not moving dies. You can trap them in bottles or in rooms, and if they can't turn around, they slowly fade. They appear as anthropomorphized figures made of glass, visible only by their edges. Most of the time they are completely invisible.

Small winds can do very little, and can be offered very little in return. They might help you for a compliment, a kiss, or just because they want to. Alternatively they might fly off and vanish. Thousands of new winds are born every hour. Very few live to maturity. Winds are intelligent and curious. They are always looking at storms, poking fires, carving rocks, splashing water about, and looking in windows. They know many secrets. The greatest winds are as old as Creation.

A wind gone mad might become a tornado. It's the equivalent to a human going on a murder spree or being possessed. Hurricanes are ancient winds and are treated like lich-lords by lesser winds; a thing to be avoided or abominated. Winds are happy to help turn a windmill or sow seeds, but they are curious, and want to peel the roof off your house or creep in under the door to see what you're doing. You can ask a mighty wind to call up and army of lesser winds and create a fierce storm. They can also carry you for enormous distances (but not short ones), provided you have a sail of some kind and are prepared for a rough landing.

A Lesser Wind Wants (list blatantly stolen from
1. An Object Punished. A stone elemental has offended the wind. A local statue has an unpleasant taste. A tree has been making a very strange whistling noise. Take it to the sea or deep underground and tell it the wind's grievances.
2. A Lover. The Church will bless the marriage, but you need to find a priest, a willing bride, and a suitable location. The wind is so well versed in human affairs that any cheats or deceptions will be turned on the party's heads. Winds aren't picky about gender, but they do understand beauty, kindness, and humour. They are kind and, to the astonishment of most, reasonably skillful lovers.
3. Less Smoke. Fire spirits love to make smoke, but the wind hates carrying it around. It's like having a pebble in their shoe. Something is making a lot of smoke and the wind wants it to stop.
4. Adventure. The wind wants to follow you. Expect to have a very difficult time lighting fires, entering buildings, or hitting anything with arrows. Winds can't go underground or into confined spaces, so they will wait outside a dungeon or try to find a way into a building.
5. A Creature Removed. A wizard using the capture wind spell, a roc, a rude person, or a foul-smelling beast. Make it go away.
6. A Vacation. You will have to do the work the wind normally does, like turning a few windmills or sowing grain or rattling chimes. Other winds might try and move in, so you have to scare them off. The wind will bring you a souvenir. They have good taste but no sense of scale. Expect a huge pile of annoyed snow spirits, rare silks, half a book, or a tent.

A Greater Wind Wants:

1. Something to Knock Over. Greater winds rarely get a chance to exercise their power without feeling guilty afterwards. Build a tall structure of sticks and canvas in an isolated place and let the wind scatter the pieces.
2. Music. Chimes are fine for lesser winds, but you will need to build a greater harp, an organ powered by a windmill, or a huge flute. Winds love music but have no sense of rhythm.
3. A Fugitive. Someone has offended the wind and, to escape punishment, hidden where it cannot reach. This could be a rival wizard hiding in a dungeon or a boulder carved into a flagstone in a castle's hall.
4. An Ally. The wind is going to war against another wind, the sea, some stones, or some clouds. You must help. The cause of the conflict is esoteric and the result is difficult to determine.
5. A Lover. The wind requires a prince or princess, or someone from a great dynasty. The wind might have someone in mind. You need to convince them and deal with the political fallout. The Church will be well-meaning but unhelpful.

6. Stories. You will probably need a team of people to tell the required number of stories. The wind will ask questions and try to flip the pages to read ahead. It may also correct historical details it actually observed or heard about through other winds.

Stone Elementals

Lava Flow, Chrissy's World

Also known as boulder folk or the bones of the earth. They appear as compressed anthropomorphized figures, like clay sculptures squished into cubes. Heads, faces, and limbs are distorted. They are always frowning, even while asleep. They sleep most of the time, and in their dreams, they mutter to each other. Even while awake they mutter, asking endless meaningless questions, debating circular problems, and telling lies. Stones will never admit ignorance. They form parliaments and conspiracies. They have vast networks of favours, debts, and loyalties. Rocks polished by the water or wind are less miserable than their deep-buried counterparts. Stones polished by ice or deposited by ancient glaciers are harsh and bitter. Stone spirits can and do fall in love with other spirits, though their relationships often fade.

They are reluctant to help anyone. A stone carved into a block will still have a dour nature, but statues of living things will have a strange, often insane spirit. It might believe it is a horse despite knowing nothing about horses. If you somehow earn the trust and respect of a stone spirit they will be a loyal but lethargic ally. You can call on the stones to collapse a city, build a tower, dam a river, or crush your enemies. Stones remember everything they have ever seen or touched. Some clearly remember Creation, and agree that it's been getting worse ever since.

Most people think stones cannot move on their own. This is a lie. Stones can move if they want to but they are proverbially lazy. Even threats of destruction can't get a stone to budge. If you ever see a boulder rolling uphill after a terrified Elementalist Wizard, give thought to the act that angered the stone so completely.

Lava, or molten stone, is joyful like fire but ignorant like an infant. Volcanoes are vast stone nurseries, where ancient stones slowly drift to forget their past and newborn stones emerge lively and excited, but rapidly harden into sullen contemplation. Sand is made of tiny stone elementals who can each mutter a single word: "why", "saw", "trust", "old", and so on, in an infinite murmuring chorus.

A Stone Spirit Wants:
1. To Be Left Alone. The stone rolls over (in your vision; the actual stone does not move) and refuses to speak to you any more. If you persist, it might eventually be annoyed enough to act.
2. To Be Touched. Stones are rarely handled. It's like a massage. You have to touch the stone everywhere, which might be very difficult if it's buried or embedded in something.
3. Gossip. The more vicious the better. Stories of fools losing everything, lovers killing each other by accident, buildings collapsing, or the misconduct of the virtuous might amuse a stone.
4. Respect. The stone wants to be carried to a place where everyone will have to look at it. Put it in the centre of town. Turn it into an altar. Make it the keystone of an arch.
5. Politics. The spirit has disagreed with its neighbor. Take the offending stone away, far away. The further you can take it from other stones the better.

6. Travel. The destination will be inconvenient. The stone will complain the entire way there, and may demand to be taken back after arriving.

A Lava Spirit Wants:
1. To Touch. Run. Run quickly.
2. To Taste. Give it food. Probably a cartload or two.
3. Shiny Things. Give it valuables. All you can carry and more.
4. Sacrifice. Nobody knows why molten stone wants to consume living beings, particularly the young, beautiful, and virtuous. Death is inevitable but the pain and fear can be dulled by drugs.
5. Water. The young stone spirits want to toss water elementals into the air. You'll need more than a bucket. You might need a lake.
6. A Shrine. The larger the request, the larger the shrine. Stones are not vain, as a rule, but they do like obedience and silence. Consider founding a monastery.

The Sand Spirits Want:
1. Who knows? The sand is busy arguing.
2. Sacrifice. Send out a creature the sand can consume or desiccate.
3. More Sand. The sand will designate a larger stone. Grind it into dust. The larger the request, the larger the stone.
4. Peace and Quiet. Something is bothering the sand. It might be an amorous water elemental, a noisy crab, a campfire, or a lost caravan. Make it go away.
5. To Become Glass. The invention of glass was how people earned the grudging respect of sand, and why caravans can sometimes cross deserts without being consumed. Previously, sand could only become glass by lightning, and lightning finds sand a boring and tedious lover. Coloured glass, or glass used for art, is most respected.
6. Change. Sand in the desert wants to be soaked in seawater. Sand on the beach wants to be dried far from the ocean.

Note: Metal is not stone. Metal is in stone, just like water is in people, but people are not water. Alchemists believe metal is fossilized magic left over from Creation. Astrologers believe metal is bits of other planets fallen to earth. Stone elementals can tell you where metal is, just like you could tell a stranger where the fattest man in the village lived, but they don't know why you'd want the stuff. Once they know you want it, they will obviously refuse to help you get it. Earth is not stone either. It's sand carrying organic matter around for some reason.

Acid Elementals

Acid Level, Doom. (the green stuff in the pits)

Also called pain sprites, caustic spirits, or vitriol. Acid elementals are rarely found in nature. They are the children of stone spirits and water spirits, but have a disposition all of their own. Many living creatures produce them. No one is entirely sure why. Acid elementals are phenomenally ignorant. The appear as tiny figures with swords, spears, and axes. A vast lake of acid will appear as an army of spirits chipping at the rocks.

The strongest acid elementals, produced by alchemists by methods that kill many and cripple the survivors, are like ravening beasts or berserkers. Acid spirits attack anything they can reach, chipping at flesh, stone, and glass with wild abandon until they fade.
Some Elementalists believe that there are two genders of acid elementals - caustic and vitriolic - and that when they meet they produce water elemental children and sometimes fire. Much like fire spirits, acid elementals will attack anything they can reach. The difficulty is getting them to attack selectively or stop attacking. They are like a horde of frenzied children playing at being warriors, but with very real swords.

The Acid Spirits Want:
1. War! They are not complicated creatures. They have chosen a target (a bird, a stone, a rock) that is just out of reach. Give it to them.
2. More Acid! You will need the right ingredients, an alchemist, and some water.
3. Strange Minerals! Even the alchemists aren't sure what use platinum, copper, limestone, sulphur, and potash are to an acid elemental swarm.
4. Water! They want to convert a water elemental to their cause. Put a bucket near to them and mediate the resulting argument, or just dump the water in and let them solve their problems with violence.
5. That Thing! The elementals will demand a pebble, your belt, your friend, your spellbook, or that castle. Acid elementals don't understand that things can be both small and far away, so a model of the object might work.
6. Adventure! The acid spirits want to go with you and fight in your battles. Depending on the request this may merely inconvenient or outright impossible. Do you really want to roll a barrel of acid with you everywhere you go? You may have to invent an "adventure" for them.


  1. I just found your blog in one of the /osrg/ thread. I really dig what I've read so far. Keep up the neato spells guy.

    1. Thanks! Hope you find something useful or interesting around here.

  2. Because some people have been asking, there's no such thing as "ordinary" fire. All fires, all snowflakes, all rivers, all stones, all lighting bolt, etc. are elementals. You can talk to all of them (in theory).