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Wandering Monsters
By James Wyatt

W hile we're on a tour of the planes, let's take a look at the denizens of the elemental planes, including the creatures simply called elementals as well as the genies.

First, a little digression on the planes of existence, since I haven't really touched on them except in discussing the Far Realm and the Feywild. Once again, I'm working from a principle of inclusion-it's not the game's job to tell you that the cosmology you prefer is right or wrong.

With the planes in particular, I think this is really easy. Whether you use the Great Wheel or the 4th Edition cosmology or something entirely different, a diagram of the relationship among the planes is purely speculative. There is no point in the multiverse where you or any creature could stand and look at the whole arrangement of planes and how they fit together. You can't look down at the Great Wheel and see it just like it appears in the diagrams.

What's more, even the notion that Celestia is adjacent to Bytopia, as it is in the Great Wheel, is speculative. There's no border you can cross to get from one infinite plane to the next one on the wheel. If you travel directly from Celestia to Bytopia, it's through a portal, so there's no way to know whether those planes are connected as part of a Great Wheel or isolated as islands in an Astral Sea.

It's not quite so easy to explain away the differences between the circular (or spherical) arrangement of the Inner Planes and the 4th Edition notion of a single, churning Elemental Chaos where all the elements mingle. With the City of Brass, though, we have proof of the idea that the Elemental Plane of Fire as presented in earlier cosmologies is not simply an uninterrupted expanse containing nothing but fire. There's lava and molten metal, and air to breathe, even in the midst of a plane that's theoretically distinct from neighboring Elemental Planes of Air and Earth. Assuming that no mortal sage or even genie has explored the entirety of the supposed Elemental Plane of Fire, can one say definitively that it's a wholly separate plane from Air and Earth (not to mention the Paraelemental Planes of Smoke and Magma, or the Quasi-Elemental Planes of Steam and Ash)? Or do multiple fiery regions exist within a larger Elemental Chaos?

Maybe there's a definitive answer in your campaign, but I believe the core rules of the game can live with the ambiguity.

So with that out of the way, let's talk about the creatures that live in these notoriously inhospitable places.


Type: Elemental
Level: Low–High
Environment: Elemental planes

Elementals are the most basic incarnations of the elements that compose the physical universe-air, earth, fire, and water. They are as wild and dangerous as the forces that birthed them. A variety of spells and magic items can conjure an elemental from the inner planes to the Material Plane. The more powerful the spell or effect, the more powerful the summoned elemental is. Conjured elementals range from relatively weak creatures the size of a halfling (low level) up to Huge, much stronger forms (medium level). On the elemental planes themselves, even larger terrors of tremendous age and strength (high level) can be found.

Elementals are stupid (Intelligence score 2–6) and resent being summoned, so mortals who summon them to the Material Plane must carefully exert and maintain control. For short-term spells, concentrating to maintain the binding is essential. For longer-term summonings, the elemental must be bound in a magic circle until a lasting binding spell is placed upon the creature.

All elementals are immune to disease and cannot be paralyzed or put to sleep. They are also resistant to weapon damage unless it is dealt by a magic weapon.

Air Elemental. An air elemental looks like an amorphous mass of cloud surrounded by currents of air. Darker bits of twirling vapor create the suggestion of two eyes and a mouth. It has the special ability to form a whirlwind that can trap a creature of its size or smaller. The elemental deals ongoing damage to a creature caught in its whirlwind and can move the creature around with it.

Earth Elemental. An earth elemental looks like a mass of earth and stone lumbering on two legs with clublike arms swinging at its sides. It has no discernable facial features. Aside from its powerful slam attack, it has the ability to move through earth and stone without burrowing or leaving any trace of its passage.

Fire Elemental. A fire elemental looks like a mass of ambulatory flame, with the barest hint of a humanoid shape at its center. Its attack can set a target on fire. Moving through water is harmful and quite painful to a fire elemental, and it will not willingly cross a body of water that is more than 10 feet wide.

Water Elemental. A water elemental looks like a cresting wave that rolls across the ground, never losing its shape. It lashes out with pseudopods formed from its substance and pulls creatures into its own body to engulf and drown them. (Note that this engulf ability doesn't appear in the latest playtest packet, but it will in the next-that's an example of the interplay between story work and game design going on in our process right now.)


Type: Large Elemental

Dao-neutral evil
Djinni-chaotic good
Efreeti-lawful evil
Marid-chaotic neutral
Level: High (marid > efreeti > dao > djinni)
Environment: Elemental Planes (dao earth, djinni air, efreeti fire, marid water)

Genies in general are powerful giant-like elementals with organized societies and ancient cultures. They are famous for their strength and guile, and feared for their powerful magic.

Genies can travel freely among the elemental planes and to the Material Plane, and they sometimes use the Material Plane as a neutral ground for meeting (or fighting) others of their kind. They are also cunning merchants, and they purvey goods (and slaves, in the case of the dao) from across the multiverse in the crowded bazaars of their magnificent cities.

Genies can also be summoned and bound to service by mortal wizards, though such efforts are fraught with peril. They are often bound into magic items such as a lamp or bottle, from which they can be summoned and commanded to perform specific tasks, making full use of their range of magical abilities on their masters' behalf. Most genies resent being forced into servitude, though a kind and good master will receive better service from a djinni than a harsh and evil one.

All genies can fly, detect magic, turn invisible, and assume gaseous form. They can also travel freely among the Inner Planes and the Material Plane.

Dao. Dao (singular and plural) are the most malicious and cruel of the genies, and they are the most resentful and treacherous when forced into service. They are as hard and unfeeling as the earth of their home plane, and they come to the Material Plane only to work evil-usually to capture slaves for their thriving slave markets. They enjoy melee combat, using their magic to arrange the battlefield to suit them and then wading into the fray with their mighty fists.

As creatures of earth, dao have magical abilities related to earth and stone. They can phase through earth and unworked stone without leaving a tunnel behind them. They can transmute rock to mud, move earth, and create a wall of stone. In addition to these elemental abilities, dao have powers of illusion and deception like other genies: change self, misdirection, and spectral force. And they can grant a limited wish when compelled to, but they always seek to twist the wording of the wish to cause the most possible torment to their masters.

The greatest city of the dao is the Great Dismal Delve, a vast excavated expanse of mazeworks said to be larger than some continents on the Material Plane. The khan of the dao rules from the center of this labyrinth. Smaller mazeworks are found in deep caves, caverns, or cysts on the Material Plane, led by an ataman (or hetman), who is both a governor and a military commander and often has designs on the khanate. Each ataman is advised by a seneschal, whose loyalty to the khan is absolute.

Dao hate marids and djinn, but they often trade with the efreet.

Djinni. The genies of the Plane of Air, djinn (the singular form is djinni) are haughty but generally beneficent. They resent being treated like slaves, but when commanded by a kind master they can serve well and willingly. Only the very rare noble djinn can actually grant wishes, but every djinni can use its magic to fulfill a wide variety of requests, conjuring great feasts of food and wine, crafting long-lasting illusions, or creating objects from thin air (permanent cloth or wooden objects, or short-lived metal objects, with harder metals vanishing faster than softer ones).

As elemental creatures of air, djinni have magical abilities related to air and wind. They can fly faster than other genies or wind walk. A djinni can also create a great whirlwind to use as a weapon, using it to catch, buffet, and move its foes. It can also use wind as a vehicle, which allows the djinni and up to six Medium passengers to journey through the air at great speed. Most djinn prefer to let their whirlwinds handle foes while remaining at a safe distance, but they are capable of fearsome attacks with their fists or great falchions.

Djinn live on floating islands of earth and rock within the Plane of Air. Each island or landhold is covered with buildings, courtyards, gardens, fountains, and sculptures made from elemental flame-for the djinn believe that the four elements should exist in harmony and beauty. Thanks perhaps to their chaotic nature, they have no single ruler as the dao and efreet have, but each island is ruled by a local sheik who in turn is governed by a caliph. A caliph's authority extends to perhaps a half-dozen islands within two days' travel of a central palace, and the caliph governs with the aid of about six viziers.

Djinn recognize that both dao and efreet despise them, but they return that hatred with pity. Djinn do not wish the extermination of the other genies or even to rule over them, but they long for the ability to live in harmony and beauty-just like the elements in their landholds.

Efreet. Efreet (singular efreeti) are the genies of fire, massive creatures said to be made of basalt, bronze, and solid flames. They are infamous for their hatred of servitude, desire for revenge, cruel nature, and ability to beguile and mislead. They rarely travel willingly to the Material Plane, and when summoned or bound they will serve for a maximum of 1,001 days or until they have granted three wishes to their masters.

Efreet love to mislead, befuddle, and confuse their foes in combat, using their innate magical abilities to create illusions, conjure walls of fire, and change form. They can also cause themselves or their enemies to change in size. As genies of fire, they have resistance to fire and a selection of fire-related magical abilities: scorching ray (a single ray of heat or fire), pyrotechnics (causing blinding fireworks or choking smoke), and produce flame (a fistful of flame they can hurl or use to light things on fire). Their bodies are also searing hot, making their fists still more dangerous than their size and strength would suggest. They can grant wishes to their masters, but not to themselves or to other genies.

The fabled City of Brass is the center of efreet life and culture, though it is by no means their only city. Larger than any city in the Material Plane, the City of Brass is a huge citadel surrounded by a sea of fire, home to many thousands of efreets and perhaps the grandest marketplaces in all the multiverse. The soaring towers of the efreet sultan rise high above the city. Smaller outposts, more like fortresses than cities, are found throughout the Plane of Fire, commanded by either a malik (king) or a vali (governor). These outposts allow the efreet to watch or harass other creatures on the plane or guard against incursions from other planes.

Efreet hate the djinn and utterly reject the notion of peace and balance among the elements. They tolerate the dao, but ultimately scheme to bring all of geniekind-and all of the elemental planes-under their domination.

Marid. The genies of the Plane of Water are said to have currents for muscles and pearls for teeth. They are by far the most individualistic and chaotic of the elemental races, and they rarely deign to serve others. Their great power makes forcing them into service a significant challenge as well. They seldom choose to leave their own plane.

Marids are terrors in melee, dealing tremendous damage with their fists. They prefer to fight in the water, of course, and are quite capable of capsizing ships and sucking swimmers into a whirling vortex. They breathe water and can lower it, part it, create it, propel it as a damaging and blinding jet, and walk on it. They can give other creatures the ability to breathe water for one day, and they can create a wall of fog. When forced to, a marid can grant a wish to another creature.

Marids live in a loose empire nominally ruled by a padishah ("king of kings"), but every marid claims a noble or royal title and asserts its own authority over every part of its life. They gather in large households of up to twenty marids, and they arrange themselves around pockets of air and earth that form within the Plane of Water. They are champion tale-tellers, although most of their tales are elaborate boasts that vaunt their own prowess and belittle that of others. Marids are easily offended, and they have few qualms about executing "lesser" beings who dare to insult them. They are simultaneously headstrong and flighty, hard to compel into action and easily distracted once they have begun a task.

Lesser Genies

Three creatures related to genies also bear mention, though not in as much detail.

Jann (singular janni) are the weakest of the genies, formed of all four elements and thus mostly confined to the Material Plane. They are strong humanoids of humanlike size, who favor chainmail armor and falchions rather than their own fists. Their magical abilities are significantly limited compared to those of true genies-they can alter their own size to become Large or Small, become invisible, create food and water, or become ethereal. They live in nomadic tribes ruled by sheiks.

Gens are tiny elemental creatures that sometimes serve as familiars to wizards. They are best known as the servitors to sha'irs, elementalist wizards from distant lands.

Genasi are humanoids who claim some trace of genie blood in their ancestry. Many genasi are barely distinguishable from humans, except for a strange feature that suggests their elemental heritage-the constant blowing of a breeze around an air genasi or a metallic sheen to the skin of an earth genasi. Those with closer ties to their elemental origin look more alien to human eyes, with veins of elemental substance flowing across their skin.

What Do You Think?

So, how do you like these elemental denizens?

  How do the elementals I described fit with your sense of the iconic D&D creatures?  
1-You put the "mental" in elemental.
2-Ugh. They don't work for me.
3-They're OK, I guess.
4-Yeah, I recognize them as elementals.

  And how about the genies?  
1-I don't know what they are, but they're not genies.
2-Ugh. They don't work for me.
3-They definitely need work.
4-Yeah, I recognize them as genies.
5-I dream of these genies.

  And lastly, do you like the approach to cosmology I've described here?  
1-No, there should be one Great Wheel to rule them all.
2-No, stick to your guns on the 4E cosmology.
3-No, I have no use for other planes at all.
4-Yes. I feel free to use either option or something of my own invention. Thank you for valuing me.

Previous Poll Results

First, what do you think about earlier-edition archons, guardinals, and eladrin?
1-They're essential to the game and should appear in the world at least as often as angels. 149 9.7%
2-They're important to the game and need to be part of the core. 407 26.6%
3-They're dispensable and best used as the peoples of the Upper Planes as described in this article. 802 52.4%
4-They don't belong in the game at all. 172 11.2%
Total 1530 100.0%

Now, how do the angels I described fit with your sense of the iconic D&D creatures?
1-They're practically blasphemous. 49 3.3%
2-They might be interesting creatures, but they're not angels (not even aasimons). 83 5.5%
3-They're OK, but needs some rethinking. 372 24.8%
4-Yeah, I recognize them as angels. 764 50.9%
5-They are the paragon of angelic awesomeness. 232 15.5%
Total 1500 100.0%

What do you think of the elemental archons?
1-Kill off the celestial archons and let the elemental archons reign supreme! 471 30.4%
2-Keep them in the game with a different name. 862 55.6%
3-Get rid of them. 217 14.0%
Total 1550 100.0%

How about the eladrin?
1-Get rid of the Feywild eladrin and keep the celestial eladrin. 321 20.2%
2-Your proposed solution sounds good. 629 39.5%
3-Get rid of the celestial eladrin and keep the 4E Feywild eladrin. 643 40.4%
Total 1593 100.0%

And devas?
1-Let the 4E deva die a final death so the angelic devas can fly. 541 34.9%
2-I like them as a fourth branch of deva. 657 42.4%
3-Forget the angelic devas. The 4E devas are much more interesting. 352 22.7%
Total 1550 100.0%

Evil angels?
1-Always! Bane needs his angels too. 551 33.7%
2-Sometimes. Fallen angels are good. 879 53.7%
3-Never! Angels = good. 206 12.6%
Total 1636 100.0%

And finally, angels of [noun]?
1-Each kind of 4E angels should be a separate kind of angels, alongside devas, planetars, and solars. 146 9.5%
2-All the 4E angels should become one family of angels, alongside devas, planetars, and solars. 233 15.2%
4-The angels described here should get a new name (aasimon?) while the 4E angels claim the angel name. 146 9.5%
5-I like them as a sort of template for angels on a mission. 732 47.8%
6-The 4E angels should just fade quietly away. 275 18.0%
Total 1532 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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