ith the recent release of Heroes of the Elemental Chaos, we once again have a chance to delve into the plane below, make a deal with the Princes of Elemental Evil, and sow the seeds of chaos.
For me, referencing the classical elements—air, earth, fire, and water—automatically brings to mind a number of myths and legends from around the world, and with good reason. Many of the world's religions and cultures identify these elements to understand the forces that shape the world, as well as use them as symbols for various parts of the human condition. Thus, it's not surprising that they appear repeatedly in our stories, old and new.
These stories, in turn, provide great fodder for the DM or player looking for ways to approach a plane as large and varied as the Elemental Chaos. Let's explore some here.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
If I had to name just one resource to use in creating an Elemental Chaos campaign, it would be the cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender produced by Nickelodeon. The series starts with the discovery of Aang, a boy who serves as the Avatar: the force that unites the four elements and brings order and balance to the world. He had gone missing a century earlier, disappearing beneath the frigid waves in the lands of the Southern Water Nation. During his absence, the fierce Fire Nation has waged war against the other kingdoms, decimating much of their populations. The series follows the Avatar, Aang, and his companions as they seek to vanquish the Fire Nation and restore order and balance.
The original series ran from 2005 to 2008, but it's still available to watch on Netflix. A new Avatar series, The Legend of Korra, premieres on April 14th (at least here in the States). A trailer for the show can be found here.
The Death Gate Cycle
(Suggested by @Tom_Schenerman) A seven-part fantasy novel series by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis, The Death Gate Cycle focuses on the conflict between two fantasy races, the Sartan and the Patryn. Centuries before the start of the novel, the Sartan divided the world into four elemental worlds, water, air, fire, and stone, as well as a prison world called the Labyrinth where they imprisoned the Patyrn. The novels chronicles the life of a Patyrn agent, named Haplo, as he sows seeds of chaos throughout the worlds.
The Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher
(Suggested by @Abstruse) Written by Jim Butcher, author of the Dresden Files, The Codex Alera series of novels follows a young Aleran man named Tavi. The Alerans share their world with elemental spirits, called furies, and all known Alerans have the ability to command certain types of these creatures... except for Tavi. With the First Lord's only heir dead, the other nobility strive to position themselves to take power while Tavi searches for a way to save his world using nothing more than his brains.
(Suggested by Scott Fitzgerald Gray) One of the neat quirks of the Elemental Chaos is it doesn't have to obey the laws of physics, something it shares in common with the world of TRON. Whatever you can imagine, can exist in this plane. Flying islands, waterfalls that flow up instead of down—all these and much more are possible. The landscape can change at will, selectively applying physical laws as desired.
D&D Resources (for Elemental Chaos Campaigns)
These are just a few of the stories and resources I would recommend for elemental inspiration. Add your favorites to the comments below.
Stuffer Shack has a continuing series on designing fantasy cities, this time focusing on location, and how geography and closeness to other populations affect a city's development.
Mike Shea and Steve Townshend share tips in this podcast about adventure design, drawing players into the story, how to make great NPCs, and improvisation tips.
- In Art: Epic Inspiration, Obsidian Crane on the Daily Encounter blog looks at pieces of art that might inspire an epic level encounter. Speaking of art, Jon Schindehette (D&D's Creative Director) has a great post about the purpose of art in D&D books, generalized into three goals: consume, engage, and cherish.
Troll in the Corner has an ongoing series, Reality Makes the Best Fantasy, in which they provide cues and ideas from the mundane world that can be brought into our fantasy ones. A recent post covers street food.
- Ever wonder what inspires some of the more outlandish monsters? In "every book has monsters in it, if you read metaphors literally," Blog of Holding gives some insight.
- Need more inspiration for your game? Phil "Chatty DM" Menard explores how to get around our inner judge, the part of us that dismisses ideas before we've had a chance to explore them, and use "what if" questions to get the ideas flowing.
Lords of Waterdeep launched! If you haven't yet seen it and are curious about the latest D&D board game, Wizards of the Coast's Rodney Thompson created a video with an overview on how to play.
Alphastream explores basic damage through the editions.
Dungeon's Master has some tips for making encounters more interesting, with everything from waves of monsters, to retreat, and understanding how surprise works.
Geek Ken explores monster templates and themes.
- A game can sometimes get bogged down. Mike Shea explores ways to keep the game moving.
- On the Game Knight Reviews website, Creighton discusses the importance of knowing your players, in particular where exactly they fall on the challenge and roleplaying matrix. Do they prefer to be challenged? To roleplay? Or do they enjoy both?
In Life Goes On – Three Tips to Make Your Campaign World Seem to Live, Andy gives ideas on making the game world seem dynamic.
- Mark Meredith and the Id DM discuss the concept of the Generalized Other and how it applies to the expectations players have at the table.
The Welsh Piper gives a tutorial on the tools he's using for his map project.
- Dyson Logos shows how he creates maps on the A Character for Every Game blog.
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