E is for Earth Elemental, Disguised

So far this month has been all about monsters I created and ran as a DM, and most of the rest of the month will be too. But every once in a while I get the opportunity to develop a creature in somebody else’s campaign, and anybody foolish enough to give me some creative freedom, intentionally or through inaction, soon discovers their mistake. Nothing of this sort has contributed to our gaming meta more than our friend the earth elemental luchador.

Earth elementals are rocks that think and move. I wish I had more to say here, but that’s largely it. Elementals are creatures made of the building blocks of existence, and because actual philosophy is hard, D&D assumes (to varying degrees based on the context, edition, author, and needs of the game) that the building blocks of existence are the classical elements: earth, fire, wind, and water. Elementals are these elements given life, and they don’t want too much more than the elements themselves do. They often have no real personality, and they exist more as things for players to summon and as Inner Plane random encounters than as a deep and entertaining part of the setting.

Some years ago, we started a campaign in which my character in the party was fully convinced he was the hero of a shounen anime. He interpreted the world through episodes and arcs, he called people by their much more awesome shounen names (“Hey, Red Angel!” “My name is Linda.”), and he did the session writeup after each week in his own unnecessarily hyperbolic narrative style. One of my fellow players ran a much more down-to-earth elderly druid. Instead of a typical animal companion he had an elemental companion, a humanoid, human-sized earth elemental. In one of our early combats, the elemental popped out of the ground, did some fighting, and disappeared. My character, I imagine with stars in his eyes, assumed he was a super hero with a mysterious identity.

He dubbed the stranger “Señor Risco”, and to be honest I have no idea why. I vaguely recalled that “risco” was Portuguese for “rock”, and earth elementals spoke Portuguese because of some one-off gag from a previous session. A quick check now proves that’s nowhere near the correct translation, but whatever, the name stuck. We got Señor Risco a luchador’s mask, then realized he could not earth glide with the mask on, so he followed the party mostly hidden with only his head sticking out of the ground. From there the jokes kept piling on and he became something like a member of the party, perhaps even more than the cohort who was doing all of our healing. When the campaign ended he was thirty feet tell and he had taken the feats he needed to perform tag team maneuvers, which were mostly picking up the slowest members of the party and throwing them to (at) their enemies.

What I like most about this is that earth elementals are typically slow, lumbering, unimaginative, and phenomenally stupid. We didn’t care. The idea was good enough that we were willing to forget the specifics of what an earth elemental should be and replace them with what we wanted it to be. In combat he was still strong but slow, and he never really had any skills, but narratively he was a nimble, valiant athlete who survived longer than even the character who named him. “Earth elemental” wasn’t the end state of the creature, it was the template on which we built. That’s kind of what all creatures should be.

Señor Risco actually made an appearance in our current campaign settings, so he’s a canonical ally of the Eight Arms. Now he’s an actual luchador, who wrestles in a ring and cuts promos on his opponents and everything. He speaks Ukranian, and his name still makes no sense.

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