Nature of Elemental Magic
Throughout the Realms people found it difficult to come to any concrete consensus as to what elemental magic was. This was partially because the practitioners of this form of magic had widely varied opinions in views, even among those who specialized in the same element. Elemental magic also resisted easy categorization because it manifested itself within all other traditions of magic. Some people would even go so far as theorize that elemental magic didn't exist in its own right as a magical power because it was a product of so many other systems of magic. That being said, there were some aspects of its nature that practitioners of elemental magic could generally agree upon.
Elemental magic differed from other systems of magic in that the spells of this tradition were driven by elemental power, while other systems of magic merely employed arcane processes to access and manipulate said power.
Only elemental creatures could wield this form of magic in its purest state, who were believed to draw its power from within themselves. Chromatic and metallic dragons were also imbued with elemental magic, which was reflected by their breath weapon. Some even used the blood of dragons to enhance magic of the corresponding element, such as using the blood of a red dragon to enhance fire magic. This was also the case with dragonborn, some of whom believed that the deity Io had gifted them that elemental power as a sign of his favor.
Defining the Elements
Throughout much of Toril, as well as the planets of Krynn and Oerth, elemental magic was traditionally based around the four primary elements — air, earth, fire, and water. This was also the case within the Domains of Dread. On Toril's continent of Zakhara, these elements were respectively referred to as the provinces of wind, sand, flame, and sea. On Toril's continent of Kara-Tur, these four elements retained their names but were joined by a fifth, that of wood.
In addition to the four basic elements, some practitioners of elemental magic espoused the merit of studying the energy “elements” of spells. Such as acid, cold, electricity, and sonic. A few even elected to include force as being among these energies.
Practice of Elemental Magic
Wizards who specialized in one or all four of the classic primary elements were typically known as elementalists. Beyond the Prime Material, such wizards could also be found in the Domains of Dread. In the land of Zakhara there existed similar wizards, known as elemental mages; elementalists in Zakhara were considered ajami.
Those who specialized in only a single element typically avoided the use of spells from their opposing element, proclaiming their own to be superior to others. They also typically dressed in colors appropriate to their element.
Specialized elementalists often tended towards certain schools of magic due to the amount of spells they offered related to that element. Air elementalists tended towards conjuration, earth elementalists tended towards transmutation, and fire elementalists tended towards evocation. Water elementalists tended not to specialize in a school, but they typically favored abjuration, divination, and some forms of enchantment.
Specialized elementalists also tended to relate more strongly to certain elemental energies. Air elementalists tended to relate towards cold, earth elementalists towards acid, and water elementalists tended to favor electrical energy.
Elementalists, as well as sorcerers (not the Zakharan kind) and warmages who were drawn to spells of a particular elemental energy type, were capable of eventually transcending their mortal forms and becoming elemental beings in their own right — what was known as an elemental savant. Divine spellcasters of the fire, sun, or water domains were also capable of becoming elemental savants. Some claimed that such a process strengthened one's ties to the Elemental Chaos and could potentially attract the attention of powerful creatures residing there.
Over the centuries, scholars struggled with the cosmological problems posed by elemental magic, relegating the matter to philosophical debates. But one day, the famed Oerthian wizard Mordenkainen was determined to settle the dispute. He posited within a lecture to his students a radical interpretation of elemental power, proposing that it was possibly the root and foundation of all magic that existed. And that the different traditions of magic — such as arcane magic, divine magic, and primal magic — were just elemental magic segregated by different methods of wielding it.
His theory was met with very mixed opinions. And the members of a group he was part of, the Circle of Eight, would go on to greatly argue about the nature and origin of elemental magic. One such member, a high priest by the name of Riggby, understandably refused to believe that it could be the foundation of divine magic.
Another colleague of Mordenkainen, a wizard by the name of Emirikol the Chaotic, had long studied the Elemental Chaos. He believed Mordenkainen's theory to be delusional and put forth his own. He proposed that elemental power existed separately from other systems of magic, with the Elemental Chaos being proof of his idea. He also realized that people unknowingly accessed the energy of that plane, observing that many spells, disciplines, evocations, and prayers either created or manipulated elemental energy — rather than being driven by that power as Mordenkainen proposed.
Eventually, after years of studying the mysterious energies of the Elemental Chaos, Emirikol came to the conclusion that harnessing elemental power in its purest form required becoming an elemental savant.
History on Toril
Some time in the 1st millenium DR[note 1] the empire of Kadar was formed and ruled by the Geomancers, practitioners of earth magic and followers of Grumbar, until their fall before the forces of Enlightenment. Zakharan sages speculated that many of the spells from the provinces of flame, sand and wind were invented by the Geomancers, and assumed that sea magic was developed in the Corsair Domains.
Notable Practitioners of Elemental Magic
- The devotees of the Elder Elemental Eye often possessed some of the most important lore regarding elemental magic. For instance, they were capable of making devastation orbs through use of elemental magic.
- Within the land of Zakhara there existed elemental brotherhoods, groups of elemental mages devoted to a particular elemental, with the largest being the Brotherhood of the True Flame. Other such groups included the Cult of Sand, the Sea's Children, and the Servitors of the Zephyr.
- The geomancers of ancient Kadar within Zakhara and their ruling Nine Council wielded the element of earth.
- Lords of the Tempest
- The Red Wizards of Thay were known to have long concentrated on the study of fire magic.
- Beyond Toril, elemental cults could be found on the planet Athas.
- Antatlab of the Shaking Stones
- Azeraak, an earth elementalist who maintained a fortress on the Elemental Plane of Air.
- Bastian Termandar
- Brack'thal Xorlarrin
- Daltim Flamefist, a Halruaan fire elementalist.
- Guldor Melarn, a drow master of elemental magic at the school of Sorcere in 1372 DR.
- Imvaernarhro, an ancient red dragon who mastered fire magic.
- Jhesrhi Coldcreek
- Maarika, a frost giant shaman in the Great Glacier
- Miraj Vizann, a specialist in earth and water magic.
- The Sensei, a mysterious wu-jen who specialized in elemental earth.
- Tisan Balshareska, the Arch-Geomancer
- Vanifer, leader of the Cult of the Eternal Flame in the late 15th century DR.
Races & Intelligent Creatures
- In Udadrow societies, the disenfranchised and oppressed sometimes turned to elemental magic. Lolth and her priestesses regarded this as a threat to her authority.
- All genasi felt drawn to elemental magic. For them this form of magic was less a process of study and learning, but rather an awakening of their natural abilities. Because of this, they typically specialized in the element that reflected their particular heritage.
- Noble eladrin were more attuned to the elemental magic inherent in the Feywild than the eladrin of Toril.
- Pahari had a natural affinity for water magic.
- The city of Qadib was home to more elemental mages than anywhere else in north Zakhara.
- Water elementalists were quite common in the lands around the Sea of Fallen Stars.
- The land of Halruaa had a great deal of air elementalists. Some speculated that this was due to their skyships or their connection to the ancient civilization of Netheril.
- Wizards in the land of Calimshan were generally specialized in elemental air. However, because of its history, Calimshan society had general concerns over both genies and the elemental planes, thus making it that those who tried to learn elemental magic were rather limited.
- The valley of the Nogaro River was once dominated by the Geomancers, and their geoglyphs could still be found in the 14th century DR.[note 1]
- Some locations were greatly imbued with elemental power, such as the Altar of the Air and the earth node known as Nuur Throth.
- In Ossa, which had a strong link to the element of water, elemental magic required a sacrifice to the opposite element proportional to the effect of the spell, for instance a bucket of water for burning hands or lighting a small forest fire to balance out a minor flood.
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