Elemental Clerics

Greetings All,

My first post here, although I’ve been aware of the site for some time. Recently returned to gaming and thought I’d drop a discussion point.

I’ve been listening to ‘Bone, Stone and Obsidian’…to the gents in charge, I’m looking forward to more content. I was inspired to look through my copy of ‘Earth, Air, Fire and Water’ again after listening to the podcast.

Is anyone else of the opinion that the accessory diverted from what Denning and Brown wrote in the novels and core books?

I’ll explain: within the Prism Pentad it seems clear to me that Caelum and Rkard, Sun Clerics, were representations of priests that worshipped Elemental Fire and that Magnus the Windsinger, represented Air. The paraelemental priests presented in ‘EAF&W’ were antithetical to my understanding of the original boxed set and Denning’s novels so I discarded them as a concept, keeping only the four core elements.

IIRC, ‘The Crimson Legion’ (where there are hints of the rituals to bring about a sun cleric’s birth) was released before ‘EAF&W’ so I’d have to assume the designer, Shane Lacy Hensley, either didn’t read the novel or ignored it in favour of a different path. There were parts of the accessory that I liked, and incorporated into my campaign, and parts I discarded. Either way, I’d be curious to know what Denning or Brown’s original thoughts were on elemental priests.

In my early campaigns I took my lead from the novels and decided that PC elemental priests were born, burdened by fate, following rituals during the mother’s pregnancy; rituals unique to each of the four elements. Before the introduction of Genasi in Planescape I had my own version of plane-touched for Athas. Each elemental priest was essentially a form of Genasi, infused with elemental energy of the appropriate type in the womb and born with signifiers of the element’s favour: ostensibly the colour of their eyes and a birthmark, if not more [e.g. the sun birthmark on the forehead and ‘fire-eyes’ for Sun Clerics mentioned by Denning and the Water Cleric’s blue tear-marks mentioned in Lisa Smedman’s short story ‘Ashes To Ashes’ in Dragon 197 / I created my own eye and birthmark signifiers for the other elements].

Anyone else have an opinion on this?

1 Like

From what I’ve heard Troy Denning in the Prism Pentad diverged from the game as much as vice versa. Personally I prefer the Paraelemental paradigm in EAFW and use it in my campaign.
If you’d rather go with the Prism Pentad’s version then go for it - it’s your campaign so do as you want! :grinning:


I also favor the EAFW approach though I think the fire cleric explanation is a bit of a stretch. I do love para-elemental clerics though. A wandering cleric who heals the wounded and generally tends to people around the silt sea, but who teaches improper farming techniques that will eventually cause erosion and increase the size of the silt sea is just an awesome villain.


As a long time Planescape player the idea of paraelements came very naturally to me. I never went further than the first Prism Pentad book so I can’t judge Denning’s interpretation very well, but I will say I’ve had a lot of fun with paraelemental clerics as alternative antagonists to the SKs. I even had an entire cult of silt witches that attempted to control the Tyr Regions’ coast in an evil conspiracy.

1 Like

I prefer what is in the novels - sun is the archetype of fire, and thus sun clerics are fire clerics. There is no difference.

I can see that some things where added in later supplements without much connection with original ideas. Also I see the need to add OPTIONS for DMs to use. Now I’m running the original first five modules, so no elemental clerics. In MY idea of Athas they are what efaw says but they are also very rare (rarer than normal elemental clerics). So they could show up if I need them as villian or weird wanderer.
But, for Asticlian Gambit my players changed their characters for more selfish ones and now I have one paraelemental cleric. But he is the only one that showed up on my game so far (one year campaign)

As a fan of Planescape, I like the paraelemental planes and paraelemental clerics. It gives good villian options outaide of the SKs.
I view silt clerics as the worst, with magma clerics second. They both want their element to cover athas. Sun clerics pretty much want the status quo. Rain clerics want more rain, which can be seen as good, but they don’t care about flooding and that sort of thing, so they can be good or evil.

This is the thing though, although all the works tend to treat Paraelemental Clerics as a group thats nasty, allied with defilers etc, that simply doesn’t work for Rain Clerics. They’re no more destructive than Fire Clerics for example.

Maybe Water and Air feel pressured enough by Silt and Sun that they combine forces to keep Rain under their boot as a resurgent Rain Paraelemental Plane would likely expand at their expense.

I’ve been thinking about another factor with the Paraelemental Planes generally and will stick that up in a separate post to avoid hijacking this one.

Fire clerics aren’t destructive. They seek to return Athas to the green age so that fire can run rampant through great spanses of wilderness. Remember, even after a forest burns, it regrows, often stronger than before. In that way fire seeks Athas’s rebirth more than the others.

Meanwhile, while rain would generally be a good thing for Athas, remember that rain does not come gently to Athas, the cerulean storm is vicious and even normal storms can cause flooding or areas of good land to be washed away. Mostly, though rain is just too weak, currently, to do a lot of wide spread damage. It would if it could though.

1 Like

Interesting points of view. Ultimately, we have our options as presented by ‘The Prism Pentad’/‘Dragon Kings’ on one hand and ‘EAF&W’ on the other. Both valid, both worthy of use. Incorporating some of the ideas in ‘EAF&W’ definitely sparked a few memorable stories and character ideas. However, @redking it seems we’re in the minority with our view of sun clerics. :wink:

Nice idea re the Silt Priest @ShadowcatX

@Star-Sage I recommend the Pentad. I consider it, along with the original boxed set and ‘Dragon Kings’ to be the foundation of the setting. I have a few issues with the final book in the series but you can’t get any closer to the setting’s original vision than reading the work of one of it’s co-creators.

Thanks, I’ll have to look into the Pentad once I finish reading Dune.

Also I may as well mention that although I take the approach of paraelementals being inherently more destructive I don’t depict them as objectively evil as much as they are forces of nature. This applies to their clerics as well. To go back to my silt cleric example I also had a silt witch that used her abilities to better serve her home, warding away Grey Death and making it easier to navigate the sea of silt as well as hunt the beasts within it. On the flip side I also depict an organization of rain clerics known as the Cult of the Morrigan as violent avengers that believe in killing every defiler and all of their agents by any means necessary, anything less in their eyes consigns the world to a slow death.

I stick with the game books. I chased novels for a long time, and it never improved my dming experience. From dark sun’s confusing novel errors, and extreme setting changes, to my rabid dragonlance players that demanded novels dictate campaign direction, I finally divorced novels from my games.

The novels represent someone else’s campaign world, and I love reading them. But I won’t let them be a burden, and they were! Trying to keep up with events, characters, and the details from hundreds of novels I had read, actually made me quit d&d in 3rd edition, returning later near the end of 4th.

I’m a much happier dm now that I ignore the novels, and have an athas full of terrible tyrants, and the coolest dragon in all of d$d. Borys. :beer::dash:


The second coolest dragon in all of DnD being that juvenile Blue Dragon in the moathouse of the Temple of Elemental Evil that TPK’d countless PCs.

1 Like

Everytime I think of “Temple of Elemental Evil” I’m annoyed that such a perfect Dark Sun title was already taken by Greyhawk.