The last thing I explored in my Damage Types series were the three generalized and conventional ways of dishing out damage with melee weapons. This time I'd like to look at elemental effects for a bit. Weaknesses and vulnerability have cropped up from time to time but for the most part in games systems this translates into nothing more than a flat damage bonus or damage multiplier and that's boring.
Occasionally you might find neat little effects in a monster entry, like frost will slow down a reptiles movements on account of their cold blood. Other times you might find out that electricity will super charge a golem or shambling mound. These are all interesting effects but what they really are quirks. Something specific to that monster type. Let's work on how weaknesses will work by nature of the element rather than making something specific to the creature.
Let's take a look at Aerokinesis. More often than not you're going to be throwing gusts of winds at people. With enough power you could generate hurricane force winds. With enough hidden knowledge perhaps you can create a Kamaitachi effect. But let's think for a moment what wind is good at, blowing at things and doing it at varying levels and directions. Now let's brainstorm a few ideas for weaknesses wind could exploit. Shifting wind directions would obviously mess up the trajectories of lighter projectiles, buffeting gales would also force flyers to land. A howling wind could tear apart anything put together of weaker material, anything from a totem of bone to a menacingly murderous marionette. Wind is also a very abrasive force, wearing down rocks over time and leaving sand in its place. Of course the most important bit of all would be carrying away important objects, wands, catalysts and scrolls are all easy targets for this.
As you can see there are a myriad of fun little effects even just looking at a single elemental force, even one as straightforward and seemingly limited as wind. I skipped over pressurized air (static and dynamic) and vacuums so we're only scratching the surface here. Ideally, when adjudicating elemental effects it would be relatively freeform in that the DM and player determine the logical course of events, but with decent enough guidelines to give a gauge for the strength of the effects. For example, your hydromancer may be trying to swallow a fully armored knight with a surging wave, the DM instead consults a relevant table and decides that is outside the scope of his power and instead has the wave an order of magnitude smaller. Instead of swallowing up and carrying away the knight it instead bowls him over, seems into the cracks in the armor and forces the knight to walk around leadened gushing water with every step.
Of course the hard part will be coming up with actual guidelines with enough foresight to handle a wide variety of applications. I imagine this will be the most difficult system I work on so I'll be keeping it on my shortlist for a while.
Also if you have any suggestions for X I'm all ears. My mind is blanking and I haven't been able to think of anything besides Xylophone.