Excerpts Archive | 1/23/2012
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Heroes of the Elemental Chaos Excerpts
Bart Carroll

M asters of fire and earth. Lords of air and water. Heroes of the Elemental Chaos is the definitive sourcebook for creating and playing characters with ties to the Elemental Chaos and the primordial beings that dwell there. It shows how the elements can influence heroes of the natural world and presents elemental-themed character options for players.


The ancient disciplines that monks practice require harmony of body and mind. Those who achieve this state—detailed in Heroes of the Elemental Chaos—can translate thought into action, pushing past what is possible for normal mortals.

An unconventional warrior, a monk has no need for weighty armor or military weaponry. Hands, feet, elbows, and head serve a monk just as well as a sword or an axe, while speed and agility help monks evade their enemies' attacks.

Neither introspective study nor physical training makes monks what they are. Their secret lies in a reservoir of mental power known as psionic energy. By practicing combat techniques and spending long periods in meditation, a monk learns to channel this energy, whether to empower an unarmed strike or to leap through the air as if he or she were flying. Psionic power magnifies a monk's strength and quickness until they reach superhuman levels. Monks think nothing of racing across a still pool or balancing on a sword's point. And they don't balk when confronted with a heavily armored foe, since they know their strikes are effective against even the stoutest armor.

Monks do not learn their fighting arts through trial and error. Each one must seek out a master to learn how to find the psionic energy within the mind and then harness it. Many masters are hermits, free from the distractions of the civilized world. Others are found in monasteries where potential students can learn techniques from a variety of instructors to develop a style that fits each one's tastes and talents.

Some of these monasteries stand on mist-shrouded mountaintops reachable only by a thousand-step climb up a staircase fraught with danger. Others rise from tiny islands rendered nearly imperceptible by an ever-present fog. A few schools operate within civilization, sometimes even inside a city, so anyone who aspires to become a monk has a good chance of finding a place to study.

Most initiates who enter a monastery find little reason to leave. For such individuals, training is a never-ending endeavor—there is always something to learn from the venerable masters. Many monks therefore content themselves with a simple life spent exploring the mind's power, perfecting their bodies, and studying the philosophy that underpins their disciplines.

Each discipline a monk learns originates from a philosophical understanding about the world and expresses that philosophy through a movement technique and an attack. Most students cleave to one philosophy or combat style to start, but some gradually incorporate disciplines from other philosophies as they widen their experience and hone their fighting abilities.

These more accomplished students, possessed of a broad range of disciplines, are capable of meeting the equally wide variety of challenges that the outside world presents. The monks in this latter group are the ones who decide to leave the monastery and find themselves well suited to the adventurer's life. Gold and glory are not motivations for most adventuring monks; they are driven by other goals that they share with heroes of all sorts: seeking out worthy opponents, finding new masters to learn from, and fighting the darkness that would ruin the world.

The Sublime Way

Some monks subscribe to an elemental-based philosophy that its adherents call the Sublime Way. These monks discern the world beyond perception by harnessing elemental magic with the power of their minds.

Students of the Sublime Way seek to attain enlightenment by unifying thought and action, just as all monks do, but these individuals strive to transcend their mortal existence and achieve a state in the world as it truly is—a universe of pure energy and endless possibility.

If the Sublime Way represents a destination, the monastic traditions within this philosophy are roads leading to it. Followers of the Sublime Way regard one's internal energy as the fundamental force in reality—an energy that is bound into discrete forms, yet at the same time unified. This energy is, of course, elemental power, the residual forces of chaos left behind from creation.

New Monastic Traditions

Each route to the Sublime Way is rooted in ancient mysticism, meditation, and spiritual awakening. A monastic tradition embodies a path to personal discovery, and following that path focuses your psionic reserves so you can sense the world beyond perception and harness the elemental energy coruscating all around you. A monastic tradition provides more than a philosophical understanding of the world—it shapes the way you engage the world, whether by opening doors to new possibilities or by offering you the foundational techniques you can use to protect yourself.

This book introduces two monastic traditions that have ties to the Sublime Way. When you create a monk, Desert Wind and Eternal Tide are among your choices for the Monastic Tradition class feature.

Eternal Tide

History tells how the githzerai fled from their corrupted cousins, the githyanki, and of their own struggles to come to terms with the conflict shaping their thoughts. They sought refuge in the Elemental Chaos, thinking their estranged kin would not follow, not realizing that the tumultuous landscape was like a mirror of their souls. As the githzerai became acclimated to their new environment, they discovered that by concentrating on their surroundings, they could control the swirling chaos. And then they realized that if they could control the chaos without, they could do the same for the chaos in their hearts.

Since the githzerai established the Eternal Tide tradition, its methods have spread beyond the Elemental Chaos, and its disciplines are now taught in some academies.

As with any monk, Dexterity should be your highest ability score. Many disciplines require you to respond to force with equal force, so Strength should be your next highest ability score. Wisdom is a good choice for your third-highest ability score, to improve your awareness and resist mental assaults.

If you choose the Eternal Tide monastic tradition, you gain the following class features.

Eternal Tide Flurry of Blows
When you strike a foe, you can compel another to face you. The stronger you become, the greater the number of enemies that find themselves drawn toward you.

Mental Balance
You interact with the world differently from how others do. You see cosmic forces in all things, and you perceive elemental energy emanating from your environment, fighting to escape the hold of order. Your understanding of balance helps you to thwart your enemies' attacks and also to turn any motion used against you to your advantage.

Benefit: Whenever an enemy would pull, push, or slide you, you can reduce the forced movement by 1 square. After the forced movement is resolved, you can shift 1 square as a free action.

New Monk Powers

These powers are among your options when you choose monk powers of the given levels. The powers are particularly suitable for monks who choose Desert Wind or Eternal Tide for their monastic tradition.

Salamander Charge
Students of the Desert Wind can call upon elemental fire with a simple gesture or maneuver. Salamander charge represents your growing control over flame and your ability to direct it where it can be most effective.

Breath of the Storm Lord
This discipline helps you strike with great effect, and also move more quickly than an ordinary mortal. This abrupt movement disturbs your environment, causing winds to pick up and batter the enemies you strike.

Everywhere at Once
Distance and time are concoctions the mind creates to make sense of the world outside. You can free your consciousness from such limitations, so you can be in one place and all places at the same time.

Enduring Boulder
When you use this discipline, you manifest all the might of elemental earth without sacrificing speed or agility. Your rocky hide protects you from attacks, but each time an attack lands, some of your exterior breaks away to reveal your true form underneath.

Bart Carroll
Bart Carroll has been a part of Wizards of the Coast since 2004, and a D&D player since 1980 (and has fond memories of coloring the illustrations in his 1st Edition Monster Manual). He currently works as producer for the D&D website. You can find him on Twitter (@bart_carroll) and at bartjcarroll.com.
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