• Tyler Gamba

A Bit About the Elements

The Redsky 5e Conversion Book is launching on Kickstarter May 18th!

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Elemental Dualism, or the Elements, form a central part of Redsky. The system is equal parts of the Hogwarts Houses, the Myers-Briggs Test, and the political compass. It can be applied to personalities, ideas, and organizations across pop-culture, and the philosophy behind it can be broken down into just three spectrums: Fire and Water, Air and Earth, and Aether and Void.


If you want a much more detailed breakdown from its main creator, there is this post by Alex. What follows here are the need-to-know basics.


Fire and Water

Fire and Water represent "The Emotional" spectrum. Should your emotions go unrestrained or be moderated? Those that lean toward Fire would say life is too short to do anything but what your heart desires. Take every advantage, love recklessly, measure things in laughs laughed and ambitious goals surpassed. An extremely Fire lifestyle would be to stop when the fun stops or you die, whichever happens first. The stereotypical Viking looting his way across the world is heavily Fire. A gambler, a gladiator, a mercenary, an ambitious politician, or a devilish rogue for hire all fit the mold to varying degrees.


You can contrast this to Water, which emphasizes self-control and self-mastery for its own sake. Seeking balance is the only path to inner peace and self-sufficiency, not chasing endlessly after the next new thing. Think monks meditating, knights training their whole lives to uphold the chivalric code, Tolkien’s Elves living in seclusion and restraint. The Sith are the Fire to the Jedi’s Water. Every step Frodo took carrying The Ring to Mount Doom was a battle between his Water nature and the Fiery impulse to put it on.


Individual actions can be either, but they add up to fall somewhere on the Emotional line. It is perfectly possible to have a righteous mildly-Fire character and an evil heavily-Water character, and vice versa – the question is what motivates them.

Air and Earth

Air and Earth are "The Intellectual" spectrum. Air is spontaneous to Earth’s calculating. Those that identify with Air trust in intuition and common sense, leaning away from group opinions to explore different points of view on the fly. Air draws artists, philosophers, and trailblazing reformers. Earth is about caution and certainty. One should collect evidence of the ‘right’ way of doing things slowly, recording and following it with big plans that rely on a community of like-minded peers. Earth tends to attract scientists, scholarly orders, clerics, and engineers.


Aang from The Last Airbender flies around his world searching for ways to master the four styles of bending, accepting help from anyone and anything. It’s no surprise he is Air, like Tyrion Lannister, Jack Sparrow, or Captain Kirk. Hermione’s countless hours with her head in a book tackling magic systematically is a great example of a positive Earth character, along with Spock and Tolkien’s Dwarves.

Aether and Void

Last comes Aether and Void, "The Social" spectrum. These deal with stances people may hold about groups and their relations to them. Do you think a good society should value the good of the collective over any one individual citizen? If so, you are Aether. Aether puts the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the few. This could be as noble as parents working all their lives to support large families, or as treacherous as suspending rights to a specific group of people deemed hostile to the common good or purpose. On one hand, the Roman Empire, America during World War II, and the Seven Kingdoms under the Baratheons and Starks are all Aether, but so are the dictatorships of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao.

Void prioritizes rights and freedom of choice above all. When freedom-loving Void people or societies come together, they do so as equals with their own individual skills to bring to the table. If given the choice to stay in a group they’ve come to disagree with and try to reform it, or leave, a Void character would likely leave unless given excellent reasons not to. This also means Void characters run the risk of being less effective on their own, or not sacrificing enough of their self-interest to make a situation better. Examples of Void range from the Wildings in Game of Thrones, Rohan in The Lord of The Rings, and The Rebel Alliance in Star Wars.


What This Means

Now, you can put them all together to identify characters and societies in three dimensions. Gandalf the Wizard? Water-Air-Void. Daenerys Targaryen? Fire-Air-Aether. The Terminator is Water-Earth-Void. Geralt of Rivia of The Witcher is Fire-Air-Void. Noble Samwise Gamgee is as Water-Earth-Aether as despicable Nazi Germany.


Feel free to disagree about any of these characterizations. The nuances of these three spectrums can be debated with friends and fellow fans, with as many interpretations as there are universes, characters, and groups. Our conversations with friends have been known to last for hours once this framework is established. Subverting the spectrums can be as fun as learning them. For instance, a few dynamic characters may walk a middle path by the end of their arcs, balancing the positives and discarding the negatives of all six elements.


In-universe, Elemental Dualism is taught everywhere in The Redsky Cycle. Each of the six species of Dema identifies strongly with one element, with a mix of the other elements in their cities and sub-factions. Characters of the polar opposite affinities live and work together as a team, or duel an identical affinity to the death for good or evil. The elements of a character you’re role playing in the RPG can affect skill levels and attributes, with many game mechanics interacting with them. Jayne Erindera, the main protagonist of the novels, begins her story as Fire-Air-Void. She goes on to interact with people and groups across the spectrums, and reevaluates her own elements over the course of the novels.


What are the Elements of your favorite characters? What about the societies they live in?


What are yours?


For more about Elemental Dualism, and how each of the Elements were designed, you should check out Alex's post here.


All artwork by Matt DeMino Illustrations.

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