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The 5th level spell Conjure Elemental spell states (PHB, p. 225, bold added):

An elemental of challenge rating 5 or lower appropriate to the area you chose appears in an unoccupied space within 10 feet of it...

The DM has the elemental’s statistics.

So far, that's certainly true. The four main elementals in the Monster Manual are all CR 5 creatures, so the stats are certainly available. And as has been mentioned before, the "or lower" part isn't likely to come up (and will only be an issue for a DM if the DM wants it to). However, there is one additional rule on upcasting that gave me some pause:

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 6th level or higher, the challenge rating increases by 1 for each slot level above 5th.

Now I'm concerned because there are few published stats of Elementals (I'm aware of) of Challenge Rating (CR) 6, 8, or 9. Sdjz pointed out this list showing some that exist (and plenty of CR-7), but there are still several omissions (e.g., a fire elemental of CR 6, or any elementals of CR 8). I realized I often wouldn't be prepared to provide elementals with statistics that could be summoned by an upcast version of this spell.

The DMG gives suggestions for altering existing creatures (p. 273), but nothing about deliberately raising its CR. Of course, there are guidelines in the DMG for how powerful creatures of various CR should be (especially on page 274). But I'm hesitant to simply give them all the average recommended stats since the existing standard CR-5 elementals vary wildly in how they go about fitting (or violating) these guidelines to begin with, and they vary quite a bit in statistics from each other (both in simple stats like HP and AC, and in complicated ones like special means of movement or unique actions).

This made me realize that I didn't have any clear sense of how to adjust their existing statistics to fit with an upcast summoning. Especially since, as a DM, I won't always know what level a PC might cast this spell at on any given day.

If I'm running a group containing a spellcaster with access to 9th level spells who can cast Conjure Elemental, is there an accurate, fair, and ideally fast way of adjusting the Elemental's existing statistics to make them higher CR creatures? Or will I just have to speculatively meticulously create CR 6, 8, and 9 elementals in case it ever comes up?

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Following the monster creation guidelines in the DMG, you can quickly bump the HP and damage of your existing Elementals to make more powerful ones that should fall within the guidelines.

Every row in the table above Challenge 1 applies a pretty consistent difference in HP and damage to the creature, which means it doesn't really matter what kind of compensation the base creature has, or what the normal difference between its Offensive and Defensive CR is, because you're just sliding it a few rows up both sides of the table and the new creature should have roughly the right kind of Challenge.

This should work for essentially any creature, although the results are likely to be a bit wonky with lower level ones. Fortunately, Elementals start at Challenge 5 and at that point it all works out pretty well.

So, more specifically, each increase in Challenge adds to the creature an extra 15 HP, and increases its damage by about 6 per turn. Attack bonus, save DC and AC go up by one roughly every 4 levels.

So to rapidly bump an Earth Elemental from Challenge 5 to Challenge 8, you could just:

  • Increase its HP by 15 x (8-5) = 45
  • Increase its damage by 6 x (8-5) = 18 per round
  • Increase its AC, attack bonus and Save DC by 1

The easiest way to raise the Earth Elementals damage by 18 is by giving it a third Slam on its Multiattack and bumping the damage for each by 1, since each deals about 14 points of damage with each. You could also bump the existing ones by 9 damage each, by throwing in an extra 2d8 damage on them.

Following those steps shouldn't take more than a minute or so per creature, and gets you something with a Challenge roughly as reliable as the original creature.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is very helpful! Thanks a lot for this perspective. The one questionable thing for me is that you suggested that the average damage goes up by about 5 per level. It's a very minor thing, but it looks to me like it goes up pretty consistently by 6 per level. Would you agree? \$\endgroup\$ – Gandalfmeansme Feb 11 at 0:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Gandalfmeansme you are correct, I misread it. I'll update the answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Feb 11 at 6:40
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Galeb Duhrs and Invisible Stalkers are CR 6 elementals. You will need to create your own CR 8 or 9 elementals.

For CR 8 and 9 elementals, you will probably need to homebrew your own using the guidelines in the Dungeon Master's Guide or reskin an existing CR 8 or 9 monster as an elemental. You might be able to reskin a CR 9 Fire Giant as a fire elemental by changing the creature type to elemental and damage types of its attacks to Fire damage. A CR 8 Frost Giant could be reskinned as an ice elemental in a similar way, changing the creature type to elemental and having its attacks deal cold damage.

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Copying stats from another elemental and swapping the type is a very good way to handle this. I know that some abilities might not seem to line up perfectly, but the best method for doing this is taking a stat block with the CR you want and making it the right element, then saying its an elemental. There just isn't any margin in slaving over a "perfect" answer.

Its important to remember that as much fuss as WotC makes about CR, its really not an inviolate truth. The variable circumstances of a given encounter mean that some days a "hard" CR encounter goes easy, and an "easy" encounter gives the party a run for its money. Don't get hung up on having a perfect scaling of power. Even if you are running a game for the crunchiest bunch of hardcore rules lawyers ever, they don't have the stat block and wont be able to pull an elemental at the CR you made up from the MM to challenge you anyways, so you are home free!

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