In this installment of Khayd’haik the Troll Mystic’s series on elementals, he discusses the shapes elementals often take. Check out the introductory installment on elementals if you missed it or any previous installments.
Elementals do not have a definitive shape, but can take on any three-dimensional form that suits their needs. Any three-dimensional form an elemental takes must occupy its given volume. Typically in its natural state an elemental will take a serpentine shape, sometimes with a face or limbs, but just as often without either. Some elementals, especially stone elementals, are said to prefer large humanoid shapes, giving them the appearance of giants or trolls, often confusing observers who are not particularly observant.
A summoned elemental will take whatever form the summoning wizard wishes, subject to the constraint that the form must occupy the elemental’s fixed volume.
Only shadow elementals can take two-dimensional forms. A two-dimensional form is achieved by the shadow elemental collapsing onto a surface. The shadow elemental loses its volume when it does this, and is defined only by its projection onto the surface. If the surface is uneven, the shadow elemental will follow the lay of the surface, but at any given point the elemental will have no thickness.
Note that other elementals can take what is nearly a two-dimensional form, by making themselves extremely thin. The difference is that a shadow elemental is a projection of its three-dimensional form onto a surface, which means the area covered by the shadow elemental can be relatively small, depending on what form the shadow elemental had when in three dimensions. Other elementals taking a nearly two-dimensional form will have to spread out and cover a large area, because they must maintain their given volumes.
Think of it like this: Suppose we have a shadow elemental and a water elemental of the same volume, say the size of a small ice cube. Take a small ice cube out of your freezer and set it on a large plate. The portion of the ice cube touching the plate is the size the shadow elemental would be if it took two-dimensional form.
Now let the ice cube melt. The water will spread out around the base of the ice cube. Depending on the size of the ice cube and the plate, it’s possible the melted ice cube will cover most or all of the surface of the plate once it is thoroughly melted, especially if you move the plate around some to break the tension between the water and the plate. The area covered by the water from the melted ice cube is the size our water elemental would be if it spread itself thin.
In the next installment, Khayd’haik discusses the appearances of elementals in more detail, according to elemental type.