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Background

I recently started DMing a group of players for Pathfinder. They are completely new to the game (and roleplaying in general) and I'm rather new to Pathfinder and completely new to DMing.

Actual Question

We started with the beginner's box adventure with the prebuilt characters. Then the players created their own characters and we started on the bonus adventure contained in the Beginner Box GM Kit. In the first round, the players saved the two dwarven prospectors but avoided all fights (they are a quite peaceful and careful group so far). They did see the earth elemental but did not go near it or attack it but instead returned to the mayor to report. After returning to the mayor they were told to clean out the mine from all dangers and this is where we left off.

One of my players is playing a druid and she likes to solve things peacefully. Her druid actually speaks Terran and she knows that's the language of the earth elemental. I fully expect her to try to talk to the earth elemental and try to find a solution that lets the city use the mine and avoid a fight with the earth elemental.

How realistic is that? I checked the bestiary but it doesn't talk a lot about the motivation and behavior of earth elementals, so I'm wondering how an earth elemental would talk and what it actually wants from life. According to it's stats it has an intelligence of 4. How intelligent/dumb is that? How aggressive are earth elementals? Would it attack if the players aren't really convincing?

How should I handle this situation as a whole? The GM Kit only describes the fight. I don't mind the peaceful solution of convincing the earth elemental to go somewhere else, but it seems a lot easier than fighting it if I would let them role just once for diplomacy. How can I enable a peaceful solution that requires as much effort as the actual fight would? Or would I just award them fewer EP if they don't fight it but take an easier way out?

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Looking over the various Earth Elementals, there is very little information on what they want and do. However, we can maybe piece together a few things from the various keywords and statblocks.

For one, they seem to get bigger and also eventually smarter over time. I don't know how big the elemental in question is, but given it's Int is 4 that means it's probably a small child. I don't know how it got into the mine, but they are usually either alone, or in a pair or gang. That suggests some kind of family going on. Which means these are social creatures.

So if this one is a child and it's been alone in the mine for a long time, and assuming it has not gone crazy (an easy out if you don't want them to talk to it, I guess) then it will probably be incredibly lonely. It might simply enjoy having a good conversation with people.

In addition to that, while Elementals do not need to eat, breathe, or sleep, they grow from 80 to 60.000 pounds as they advance from Small to Elder, so they must be taking sustenance from something.

However, not eating, breathing or sleeping means their mindset will be pretty alien from that of humans. They can probably feel, but since they are rocky and usually live under the earth, they probably enjoy rough and sharp things, so the players might have to adapt.

So piecing that all together, here's some suggestions on what the Earth Elemental might be interested in talking about:

  • Some way to return to its family on the Plane of Earth
  • Alternatively, something to befriend here on the Material Plane
  • Things that it will enjoy playing with, looking at, or otherwise interacting with. I'm thinking gemstones, but also interesting layers of rock and such
  • Whatever it needs to grow; whether that's a specific type of stone, gems, or just magical energy, or a magical connection back to the Plane of Earth

And for how it would talk and how smart/dumb it is, start by assuming it's a small child, so bad on metaphors, not knowledgable at all about fleshy life, likely very easy to convince once you gain its trust (although that itself might be hard) and more likely to be scared than aggressive. But of course quite capable of lashing out, especially if it's larger than the players or has learned since it's arrival that the local wildlife is much squishier than it is.

Also, low on empathy, unaware of its own strength, not capable of grasping complex thoughts. Will not understand many human concepts like "I enjoy this talk but I really need to get some rest" or "I'm not strong enough to play catch with 20lbs rocks".

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It's the medium earth elemental with 800 EXP \$\endgroup\$ – Joachim Kurz Dec 20 '15 at 14:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks a lot for all these ideas! Regarding the "get back to the plane of earth": do you have a link to something explaining how elementals usually get to "our" plane? Is there a way level 1 characters could help it get back? \$\endgroup\$ – Joachim Kurz Dec 20 '15 at 16:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ You should probably ask those as two other, seperate questions. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Dec 20 '15 at 16:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Doesn't eat/sleep/breathe" only means it is not required to, but does not mean it is incapable of those things. Perhaps there is something that elementals do consume which causes them to grow, and that this elemental has found some of that in the mine. Thus it might perceive people as attempting to take away its sustenance and be hostile. The DM would have to decide if the material it consumes is valuable to the miners; this will determine if they are competing for it, or would be happy to let the elemental have their "garbage". \$\endgroup\$ – tzxAzrael Jul 21 '16 at 14:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @tzxAzrael: that sounds like a separate answer to me. You could always add it if you want. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Jul 21 '16 at 14:57
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INT 3 is the Minimum needed to be able to Speak a language. A "smart" animal would be INT 2. 10-11 being an average human. So, 4 is one point smarter than drooling on yourself and only able to recognize your name and respond with "yes" and "no", it would be able to communicate but not engage in any abstract ideas or promises of future conditions. What an elemental wants could be anything really. My best guess would be that it wants to go someplace familiar like its home plane or to remain in the mine. With intelligence 4 it may be easy to confuse or cause it to feel threatened and that would most certainly result in an attack. This should be enough of a framework to set the scene and make a believable and consistent encounter. if they solve the problem with one roll there should be little reward. But, this is a great opertunity to practice some rollplaying for both you and the group. if the encounter makes a good story, then it should be worth a good reward. Have fun.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You can speak a language with less than 3 int; int doesn't have much impact on Intelligence as an abstract concept, especially since there is so much overlap between the descriptions of the mental stats. Consider that the elemental's resistance to social confusion is, in fact, about as far away from the Int stat description of intelligence as one can get, and rather solidly in the Wis/Cha part of the fluff. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Dec 20 '15 at 8:50

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