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Consider the air elemental. It is made from air, or clouds, or smoke, or something like it. Any attempt to grab hold of such materials with your bare hands would fail, realistically speaking. Thus, barring the use of some very specific magic, one might presume that it is impossible to grapple an air elemental. Similar arguments would hold for fire and water elementals, for both fire and water cannot be gripped.

In D&D 5e, this is handled simply and directly by granting air, fire and water elementals immunity to the grappled condition.

In Pathfinder, however, I can find nothing indicating that these creatures are immune to being grappled. They usually have a solid bonus to Escape Artist checks, representing their slippery nature, but RAW anyone can grapple an air elemental as easily as a solid creature.

I note that the Pathfinder rules for grappling give both the grappler and the grapplee the grappled condition, so straight-up immunity to the grappled condition would complicate matters if the elemental were to attempt to grapple another creature (which is something these elementals could reasonably do). But hypothetically they could have been granted an ability similar to the freedom of movement spell, yet they were not.

Am I missing something? Is being able to grapple an air elemental a correct reading of Pathfinder's rules? Obviously, the DM has the freedom to rule as they deem fit, but if they decide to follow RAW how would one rationalise grappling something made of air?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras I've adjusted some of the phrasing based on your feedback. Rather than asking does it make sense I now ask is this intended, which is slightly more objective and a lot less personal. \$\endgroup\$ – BBeast Oct 6 '18 at 22:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ On the contrary, design intent questions are a bugbear, too. It sounds like the question wants a reasonable explanation for these rules, and I don't think there is a reasonable explanation—one that makes sense based on, for instance, real-life scientific principles—for how one can grapple an air, fire, or water elemental. You may want to pose this question on a forum where folks can discuss it, spitball, and offer straight-up unsupported but interesting opinions. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 6 '18 at 22:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ (That's not me picking on your question nor my downvote! I think this is a fine question to have, and one that I've wondered about myself. I just don't think the site's equipped to handle it!) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 6 '18 at 22:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan, noted. I am indeed asking for a reasonable explanation of the rule. This, I concede, is probably too opinion based, although blurry's answer has done a good job addressing the issue with a comparison to other creatures in Pathfinder. \$\endgroup\$ – BBeast Oct 6 '18 at 22:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't see how this is opinion based... Sure, it's asked because of an opinion, but it's asking for rules to substantiate or disprove that opinion. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Oct 7 '18 at 18:11
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Grappling Elementals works as Normal

Fire, Water, and Air Elementals (as a creature type) in Pathfinder have no rules that prevent grapple. Additionally, Elementals don't have rules that prevent grappling either.

To show that this is where you'd expect to see such a rule; note that Swarms have the following rule:

Swarms are never staggered or reduced to a dying state by damage. Also, they cannot be tripped, grappled, or bull rushed, and they cannot grapple an opponent.

I'd point out that the three linked (CR 7) huge elementals have CMD 34; which is pretty good for their CR (nearly 10 higher than many other CR 7 monsters) making them rather difficult to grapple relative to the other creatures in their CR rating. This seems to hold for the elementals of other size; but I haven't performed an exhaustive check.

Conceptualizing it

Let's start by mentioning they're already solid enough to hit you with melee attacks, trip you, be stabbed by swords and shot by arrows; so if those don't bother you, you can probably stop reading.

I think given the above; if the DM doesn't want you to grapple and doesn't make Elementals Incorporeal I'd find it odd. I'd note that Oozes can often be grappled too; so simply slipping out of your grasp as you grapple them seems inconsistent. I honestly can't see this coming up.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I just wanna point out, you can grapple any liquid or gas IRL with a tight enough bag. Presumably it involves pushing a fluid with your body enough that its center of mass can't escape. \$\endgroup\$ – Erin B Oct 8 '18 at 15:36

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