The Slayer's Guide to Elementals



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The Slayer's Guide to Elementals

Author: Ian Sturrock
Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Publish Date: 2003
ISBN: 1-904577-79-2
Pages: 96
Rating: 3 out of 10
Retail Price: $19.95

 

I’m a big fan of elementals. I don’t take elementals to the degree of seriousness that I would with undead, but I’ve had a massive 1st-20th level adventure series centering around elementals in my head for years now. I’m also a big fan of Mongoose Publishing’s Slayer's Guide series, since the majority of them that I have read have been fairly well-written. Thus, it was with no small amount of glee that I picked up a copy of The Slayer’s Guide to Elementals, on of the three or four large books in the series.

The book begins with a look at elements and elemental creatures from the perspective of several different real-world cultures and religions. The standard elemental lineup of earth, wind, fire and water comes from the Greeks, but the Chinese had other, different elemental beliefs. The Aztecs believed that elementals had destroyed the world before, and would do so again. Medieval alchemists and philosophers actually went so far as to propose human-like creatures that are entirely made up for one of the four elements. This was an especially welcome opening to the book.

Afterwards, the book moves on to a look at the life and lifecycle of the typical elemental. While the book lays this out with the assumption that a society and culture exists among these creatures, it conspicuously left out any mention of home and hearth. A few new types of elemental creature were detailed, such as the earth jaguar, the Chinese metal elemental and the higher elemental.

Next, the book moved into elementals of tiny, diminutive and fine size, as well as quasi-elementals (what other books sometimes call paraelementals). This is where the book choked up for me. The next forty of this books ninety-six total pages were filled with charts of statistics for these creatures for each possible size, including the aforementioned tiny, diminutive and fine sizes. I can certainly see a desire for statistics of tiny-sized elementals, but in all honesty, who really needs statistics on a single fine-sized elemental of any type? The most odd thing was that despite their miniscule sizes, diminutive and even fine elementals of almost every type could drop the average human commoner in two attacks (forgetting for a moment the fire elemental’s Burn ability). It seems strange to me that a non-poisonous creature the size of a gnat could incapacitate or even kill a healthy human at all, much less in the span of a few seconds. Forgetting this for a moment, this was an exceptionally dry and repetitious area of the book, much akin to reading a telephone book.

After this, the book moved on to a discussion about the actual elemental planes themselves, including the paraelemental planes (the areas where elemental planes intersect one another) and quasielemental planes (the areas where elemental planes intersect the positive and negative energy planes). This part of the book was fairly interesting, though it left something to be desired, since each plane was given so few pages to detail the hazards it contains for unwary visitors. Still, there was enough to give even the most unimaginative of dungeon masters a few unexpected surprises for his players.

The next section of the book dealt with elemental society. This section might as well have been left out entirely. For eighteen different groups of elementals having been contained in this book, only three pages was taken up here. Frankly, that’s sad. Afterwards, the section moved on to discuss the various methods in which the specific elemental creatures mentioned in the book conduct warfare. Each creature was given a single paragraph to detail how it fights. Afterwards, a tiny handful of feats was included, most of which did nothing more than give a slight increase to an elemental’s special attack form (such as increasing a fire elemental’s Burn damage by 1 HD). Lastly, a few hooks for introducing an elemental theme to the game were included.

Given the quality of Mongoose Publishing’s earliest Slayer’s Guide books, I had some pretty high hopes for this book. Unfortunately, these hopes were not realized. The first section or two of this book was a good read, but after that, the book took an extremely dry, clinical turn before ending with a few token sections that could (and should) have been left out to make room for more useful material. It’s a real shame.