First off, I like the idea of short-term summonings requiring constant concentration to keep the elemental in line. Makes me think of how 4th Edition maintained the action economy by preventing you from summoning a small army of creatures, thereby allowing you to control your own party. This could also make for an interesting turn of events where the party disrupts the bad guy's concentration, causing his former minion to turn on him (though, this could also apply to the good guys).
Hopefully the mention of a "lasting binding spell" means that we will get rituals where you can summon elementals (and other things), and force them into prolonged servitude. In this case I am more in favor of allowing it to act independently, though ultimately it will depend on how frequently it can be used and how long it lasts.
I guess needing a magical weapon to hurt them normally is okay. I can better understand it for air and fire ones. I would prefer them to go 3rd Edition's route, with the weakest ones vulnerable to anything and the larger/older ones being gradually more resilient.
I am not a fan of the air and earth elementals' look (and to a lesser degree, the fire elemental). Why does the air elemental have eyes and a mouth? Does it need to eat? How come it is the only elemental with eyes (and two, at that)? Why does the earth elemental need to walk on legs and have two arms? Why does the fire elemental have a vaguely humanoid shape?
This is the same problem I had with angels. Elementals do not need a humanoid shape, and barring a compelling story reason, probably should not have one. Even if you do not count genies it sounds like we will still have "elemental" archons, which are also elemental-humanoids. Do we really need sometimes-humanoidish elementals, too?
I would have the base set of elementals have largely undefined shapes. For humanoid and animals, those could have been made by the primordials (or whatever elemental lords you go with) as a way to emulate what the gods made (or, again, whoever made mortals and the like). If you go with mirror planes like the Feywild, then many those are elemental echoes of the natural world/Prime Material plane.
I think that genies should have to cross between the planes at set focal points. Past editions made mention of elemental vortices--areas where the planar barrier or whatnot between the Prime Material and various elemental planes was thin--which makes more sense than simply popping in and out wherever/whenever they please. I think it also makes for better stories if, for example, they have to find a specific place to meet a genie, or if one is helping them escape from its native plane. (or maybe they are trying to escape to its native plane).
The bit about being summoned and bound into service makes me think of The Dying Earth...I think. I know the genie in the lamp is a common trope, but I thought there was mention of wizards using bound genies in order to get around their otherwise severely limited magic. So, anyway, that sounds cool so long as characters have the option of doing that at some point (including all the inherent risks).
As for genie specifics a lot of their magic I can get behind, but some of it confuses me. All genies can fly? Even the dao (earth genies) and marid (water genies)? Why can djinni create objects--even metal ones, albeit temporarily--from nothing, but none of the rest can? I am similarly confused about the whole genie society. They are all apparently "cunning merchants", which makes me think of elementally-themed Ferengi, but also raises the question of where they get their money and goods to stock up all their bazaars.
This is the kind of stuff that I would love to see elaboration on, if not in their Monster Manual entry, then at the least in a sourcebook. Some kind of origin story that might explain their sometimes universal access to magic and wishes would be nice.
I think that jann should have a bit of everything when it comes to magical powers. Creating food and water I can kind of get behind as something linked to earth and water, and turning invisible works for air, but changing size and going ethereal? The mention of gen is nice. I never got a chance to play Al-Qadim, but I liked the sha'ir from Heroes of the Elemental Chaos. If nothing else I felt that the story aspects of it provided an interesting way to learn magic.
It is also nice to see genasi get a shout out, though I prefer something more in the direction of 4th Edition. Perhaps without the crystalline hair, especially if they are based on genies that have hair.
|This works, though I could stand for more overt.|