The howling winds arrive suddenly, blasting you with debris as a towering funnel cloud materializes. Its misshapen face glares down as you ready your spells and weapons. You've encountered one of Dungeons & Dragons' most iconic elemental creatures – the air elemental.
From harmless dust devils to building-sized elder tempests, air elementals invoke the wrath of storms. They appear throughout D&D's history, originating in the Elemental Plane of Air yet often summoned or encountered on the material plane.
In this extensive guide, we'll delve into everything you need to know about air elementals in D&D's 5th edition – from their origins and abilities to tactics for using them as foes or allies. You'll gain a thorough understanding of these creatures of wind, from ancient lore to practical applications at the game table.
So batten down the hatches and prepare for gale force winds as we conjure forth the ultimate guide to air elementals in D&D 5th edition!
Origins of Air Elementals
Air elementals hail from the Elemental Plane of Air – an endless skyrealm filled with floating earthmotes and the realms of aerial denizens like djinn. Here, the element of air exists in its purest primordial form.
Elementals are living incarnations of their native elemental essences. The core rulebooks describe them as spirits seeping in from the elemental planes, given physical form by magic. Yet in some D&D cosmologies, they manifest naturally from coalescing elemental energies.
Scholars have catalogued air elementals across the history of D&D's multiverse:
- Ancient myths speak of mysterious air spirits later identified as elementals.
- Hermetic magicians classified four types of elementals, including slyphs of air.
- The Ring of Five created elementals infused with Para-Elemental forces like Ice.
- Vecna's cults produced shadow elementals, tainted mockeries of natural elementals.
Whatever their origin, air elementals fully embody the power, danger, and whimsy of the aerial plane. Now let's examine them in detail!
Anatomy of an Air Elemental
Air elementals appear as whirling clouds of wind, mist, and debris. Their “bodies” constantly shift, forming ephemeral faces and limbs. Despite their insubstantial look, air elementals have tangibility – otherwise, they couldn't pummel enemies or be damaged in return.
Their anatomy is malleable, allowing compression into tiny gaps and even occupying creatures' spaces. When destroyed, their bodies harmlessly dissipate into natural air. They don't require sustenance and cannot truly die, simply reforming anew on their home plane.
Air elementals come in a wide range of sizes and ages. The smallest, like Dust Devils, may be only a few feet across. Myths tell of ancient elder tempests so vast they blanked out the skies of entire nations, appearing as continent-spanning thunderheads.
Types of Air Elementals
Air elements manifest across many shapes and power levels. Let's survey some major types encountered in D&D 5th edition:
- Dust Devils: Tiny air elementals (CR 1/4) resembling small dust storms. They lack intelligence but pack a surprising punch.
- Standard Elemental: The iconic CR 5 air elemental looks like a tornado, battering foes with gale-force winds.
- Invisible Stalker: A sneaky Huge elemental (CR 6) on par with assassins. They turn invisible at will to ambush targets.
- Myrmidon: Also known as aerial servants, these Huge elder air elementals (CR 7) serve djinn and other genies.
- Djinn: Noble genies (CR 11) associated with air. They have potent spellcasting and can grant wishes.
- Elder Tempest: Gargantuan legendary air elementals (CR 23) that epitomize catastrophic storms.
Air Elemental Abilities
Now let's examine some signature abilities that give air elementals their surging power:
- Air Form: This intrinsic ability lets air elementals squeeze through gaps as narrow as 1 inch without slowing or becoming stuck. They can also enter other creatures' spaces, essentially engulfing them in gale-force winds.
- Air Mastery: Air elementals gain a bonus to attack rolls against other airborne creatures thanks to their mastery of their home element.
- Whirlwind: The air elemental's signature move transforms it into a churning vortex up to 50 feet tall. This whips up debris and flings enemies violently away, dealing major damage.
- Invisibility: Invisible stalkers can turn completely invisible at will, fading away like the wind. This stealth makes them ideal assassins.
- Spellcasting: More intelligent air elementals like djinn and elder tempests wield spells to blast foes with chain lightning or control winds.
In addition, variants like dust devils, myrmidons and elder tempests have their own unique traits and powers. An air elemental's abilities grow more formidable as it ages, making ancient specimens god-like in power.
Now let's see how air elementals apply their powers in combat!
Air Elemental Combat Tactics
When air elementals engage in combat, they act as living storms intent on pummeling and tossing foes about with little self-preservation. Here are tactics used by different varieties:
- Standard elementals switching between wind blasts and Whirlwind attacks to scatter enemies. They focus on grabbing victims with Whirlwind and dropping them from lethal heights.
- Invisible stalkers use their invisibility, flight and silence to infiltrate locations and assassinate targets undetected.
- Myrmidons and elder tempests utilize air magics like gust of wind while hammering apart foes with raw power.
- Highly intelligent djinn and tempests exploit spells strategically – using wall of fire to block areas, then attacking with chain lightning and wind spells.
Air elementals are masters of hit-and-run tactics thanks to their incredible speed and maneuverability. They swoop in, deliver devastating slams, and withdraw before most foes can counterattack. Their ability to attack through the sky itself also makes aerial combat very risky against them.
Summoning Air Elementals
Now you may be wondering – how do we bring these epic creatures from the Plane of Air to the Material Plane? Powerful magic is required, but several common methods exist:
- Conjuration Spells: Conjure elemental and its higher levels can summon any air elemental. Other conjurations like planar ally can call powerful djinn and elder tempests.
- Magic Items: Items like the censer of controlling air elementals can bind and pull elementals across the planes. But ancient legends tell of even more powerful summoning artifacts…
- Rituals: Elemental cults enact rituals tapping directly into primordial essence to manifest elemental spirits, but at tremendous risk.
For player characters, conjuration spells offer the most flexibility in summoning. However, an air elemental compelled to appear may resent servitude – so beware! The Dungeon Master's Guide provides variant “hostile elemental” versions that fight back against summoners.
Air Elementals in Worldbuilding
Air elementals can serve many roles in a D&D world beyond just being summoned weapons. Here are some examples:
- Cultists dedicated to air deities like Akadi, goddess of the sky. They invoke elementals for protection or to strike enemies.
- Strange weather phenomena heralding the presence of an elder tempest. It may be drawn to magic items linked to air.
- Legendary heroes questing to bind an elder tempest to safeguard the kingdom, but will it obey once summoned?
- An invisible stalker carrying out a string of assassinations. But who sent it and why?
- Rumors of a mad djinn granting wishes in exchange for favors. But every wish gets fulfilled unpredictably.
- Rogue conjurers selling air elementals as “protection” to gullible townsfolk. Hilarity and destruction ensue when the elementals break free.
The possibilities are endless! Anywhere air flows, an air elemental may arise or be summoned. They can serve many roles in tales of daring adventure.
Legendary Air Elementals
Across the eons of D&D lore, certain titanic air elementals left trails of devastation that granted them legendary status. Let's profile two of the most infamous:
The so-called Prince of the Sky once laid waste to entire armies. This epic air elemental manifested during the apocalyptic Rain of Colorless Fire. Tales abound of Aerial's battles with the famed assassin Shadowbrand across the skies of the Unknown Yonder.
Said to be the offspring of the Akadi and the elder tempest N'asrithotep, the “Howling Hurricane” Shothragot rampaged freely for a century. He drowned civilizations beneath tidal waves and hurled men like leaves. Legends say Shothragot slumbers beneath the Sea of Fallen Stars, awaiting a time to wreak fury once more.
What ancient mysteries or treasures from fallen realms might Shothragot's wrath have buried beneath the waves? This legend could inspire amazing adventure hooks!
Other legendary air elementals likely await rediscovery in your own D&D multiverse. Their mighty abilities allow them to slumber for eons while their tales fade into myth. But their elemental fury still simmers below the surface, awaiting the chance for rebirth!
Air Elemental Tactics for DMs
If you're the Dungeon Master, let's explore tactics for using air elementals to challenge player characters:
- Summon an invisible stalker to counter a stealthy party. Its abilities allow it to track rogues easily. Or have it ambush arrogant PCs!
- Pit casters against a bound air elemental. Controlling it will require winning a spellcasting contest – a true test of power!
- Use Dust Devils as minions to harry melee fighters before the main battle against a summoned elder tempest. Contrasting their abilities and power levels keeps players on their toes.
- Exploit environmental destruction – have air elementals scatter terrain like trees or tent structures to limit cover and control battlefields.
- Make Lair Actions for an elder tempest's lair, like periodic lightning strikes or clouds that obscure vision. This adds drama to the final confrontation.
With their vast repertoire of powers, air elementals allow for many strategic possibilities beyond just hitting hard in basic combat. Tailor encounters to challenge specific classes and abilities for maximum effect!
Playing an Air Elemental Character
Few player character options exist for embodying an air elemental. But with the DM's permission, reflavoring provides possibilities:
- An air genasi storm sorcerer, with elemental heritage granting innate magic to control winds.
- An air-aspected aarakocra monk using Elemental Attunement instead of traditional monastic traditions.
- A druid embracing primal air energy, akin to a living dust devil or smoke mephit.
- A tempest cleric worshiping Akadi and channeling her sacred winds through divine power.
- A wizard permanently transformed by magic like shapechange or true polymorph into an air elemental form.
With the DM's help, an air-themed character can be built many ways to embody the magic of wind and sky in your party's adventures!
Elementals are quintessential to D&D, and the air elemental epitomizes the wonder and danger of these creatures. With their iconic abilities and strong aerial themes, they invoke the majesty of storms in the endless sky.
This guide only scratches the surface of air elementals and their possibilities within 5th edition and D&D lore. May it inspire you to unleash creative tempests both at your game table and within your worlds!
The winds rise and howl as another air elemental manifests somewhere in the D&D multiverse, eager to enact elemental fury. What unique ways might you introduce one of these magic personifications of wind and sky? Grab your spellbooks and let the adventure soar on swift wings!