The Elemental Planetouched: Using Genasi in Your Campaign

by Sean K Reynolds (Dragon #293)

Genasi are beings that are descended from elemental-related outsiders from other planes - such as efreet, djinn, and marids - who have had children with humans. The outsiders extraplanar abilities get passed down to their children, but over time the bloodline dilutes until it is no longer apparent in most descendants. Every few generations however, a child may be born who displays some of the special qualities of her ancestor.

There are four types of genasi, one for each element - air, earth, fire, and water. This article discusses each type, explaining their traits, personalities, and abilities, and offers advice for using them as NPCs or player characters in your campaign.

If you are going to play a genasi character in a FORGOTTEN REALMS campaign, the race has some basic traits you should be aware of. Genasi possess the unusual characteristic of being an outsider native to Faerûn, not a humanoid. This has three principal effects:

First, spells or effects that affect only humanoids, such as a charm person or a dominate person spell, do not affect planetouched characters.

Second, spells and effects that target extraplanar creatures might affect planetouched characters. For example, the mace of smiting and the sword of the planes are more effective against outsiders, and are correspondingly more dangerous to a planetouched character. A spell that drives outsiders back to their home planes does not affect planetouched characters, but banishment - a spell that removes an outsider from the caster's plane without specifying a return to the outsider's native plane - would work just fine.

Finally, Faerûn's planetouched have lived on Toril long enough for Toril to become, in effect, their native plane. This means that planetouched characters can be raised or resurrected normally, whereas most outsiders cannot be brought back from the dead without the use of a miracle or wish spell.

Air Genasi

Air genasi are fast and free-willed. Because the traits that identify an air genasi are subtle, many go unrecognized for what they are for many years and are sometimes mistaken for sorcerers, although their inherent arrogance and disregard for their appearance fools people into believing that they are charlatans at natural magic. Those that are overtly different learn quickly to disguise their nature from common folk, at least until they are able to protect themselves and strike out on their own.

Most air genasi are descended from outsiders native to the Elemental Plane of Air and humans. In Faerûn, most air genasi come from bloodlines established over 9,000 years ago by the djinn that founded what is now Calimshan. A few rare air genasi derive from djinn summoned in other parts of the world, and even fewer are said to be born of a line founded by a powerful air mephit sorcerer that lived on the Great Glacier hundreds of years ago. The numbers descended from the servants of air deities such as Akadi, Auril, and Shaundakul are unknown but likely very small. Legends also tell of elves similar to air genasi, possibly descended from followers of the elven goddess Aerdrie Faenya, but it is likely that these legends are just mistaken reports of the avariel (winged elves).

Air genasi look generally human except for one or two distinguishing features related to their elemental ancestor. Some examples of these features are:

Air genasi revel in their unusual nature, although few ever try to locate the being that founded their bloodline (as most are long dead or banished back to the Elemental Plane of Air). Because the Calimshan djinn bloodlines are so old and have suffered many cross-breedings, it is almost impossible to tell by normal means if two air genasi are from the same bloodline. As a result, all air genasi tend to treat each other as "cousins," although in an arrogant and competitive way.

Air genasi have the same life expectancy and age categories as humans.

History: With only a few exceptions, air genasi native to Faerûn are descended from the djinn that once ruled Calimshan. The djinn and djinn nobles often had human concubines, and from these unions were born half-elementals. The half-elementals gained status by serving in the djinn's armies, and their on children inherited some of their elemental nature. When the djinn masters were overthrown, many djinn, half-djinn, and air genasi were slain, driven to another plane, or bound in a magic item such as an iron flask. The surviving air genasi that were able to escape went into hiding or moved to nearby lands. Now air genasi are most common in the Lands of Intrigue, Sword Coast, and the Western Heartlands, and they have mixed enough with the local populations that at least half of them no longer resemble the people of Calimshan.

Outlook: Air genasi, like all of the elemental planetouched, are proud of their heritage, regardless of others' opinion of them. They know they are descended from powerful beings, some of them even nobles of that type, and outside of Calimshan most people look upon such things with awe instead of fear. The air genasi are used to being flamboyant with their abilities and expect a certain amount of deference from normal folk. Air genasi view air elementals as dumb brutes, but see djinn and other intelligent air-outsiders as potential rivals for attention and power.

Because they can be of any alignment, air genasi have entered all walks of life, from paladin to necromancer to cleric to rogue, and because they consider themselves children of the sky, they tend to move about a lot over the course of their lives. Air genasi want to see and taste the air in radically different places and consider settling in one place for any length of time confining.

An air genasi's favored class is fighter. Rather than wielding a battleaxe and sporting full plate armor, air genasi tend to become agile, rapier-wielding fighters because of their excellent Dexterity and Intelligence scores. Many develop skills as rogues or wizards, balancing their weaknesses with spells or special skills. By their nature, air genasi make poor bards, divine spellcasters, and sorcerers. Those that do practice magic favor spells involving air and electricity.

Society: Rarely is more than one air genasi born to any particular couple, however, these planetouched see each other as an extended family, and their tendency to wander means that they are more likely than not to find another of their kind at some point in their travels. Air genasi use these times to exchange news of other air genasi, usually in the form of bragging about their own deeds. Air genasi feel no need to defend other air genasi and, in fact, see another air genasi's weakness as an affirmation of their own strength.

In a few rare cases, particularly charismatic air genasi have gathered a few dozen of their own kind to form a mercenary company, cabal of mages, or mercantile group. These individuals sometimes take air genasi children away from human parents so that they can be raised by their own kind. However, air genasi rarely stay together in groups for longer than a year, so these fosterlings usually end up being raised by one or two air genasi that stick together after the group dissolves. Still, these young genasi gain some sense of community and often go on to start their own temporary groups.

Language: Air genasi have no common language, although most learn Auran if only to feel elitist and to share secrets with each other when within earshot of non-genasi. Air genasi also usually learn the language of their parents and may pick up other languages appropriate to their region.

Relations With Other Races: Although they are arrogant about their own abilities, air genasi are smart enough to recognize the talents of the elven race (including half-elves), and they share a similar enjoyment of open, natural spaces. They consider dwarves homebound and narrow-minded, enjoying far too much the stony comfort of a cavern roof above their heads. Gnomes are often regarded little better than dwarves, but the air genasi know that some gnomes love the open sky as much as the elves do, and these are tolerated.

Halflings wander as much as air genasi do, and they are welcome traveling companions to the planetouched. Half-orcs are considered clumsy and brutish but valuable allies in a fight, and so even the haughty air genasi choose their words carefully around these large halfbreeds. Humans are generally accepted, although air genasi consider a typical human's readiness to settle on an unclaimed plot of land annoying and pointless.

Air genasi consider aasimar, tieflings, and other kinds of genasi as similar in many respects to themselves. Both are touched by something out of this world, however, their "taint" isn't as truly awesome and inspiring as the element of air. As a result, air genasi tend to treat these beings as limited but interesting distant relations.

Equipment/Exotic Weapons: Air genasi have no weapon or piece of equipment that is common to their race, because they usually lack a common background or training. However, because each has the innate ability to levitate, they are less likely to carry rope or similar climbing equipment, and most would pass over a ring of feather falling for a different piece of treasure.

Animals and Pets: Air genasi prefer birds and other flying creatures as animal companions or pets. Some air genasi acquire unusual animals such as flying squirrels, gliding snakes, or over-sized insects for this purpose.

Racial Abilities: Air Genasi have the following traits:

Earth Genasi

Earth genasi are patient, stubborn, and contemplative in their decision-making. Marked at birth with obvious traits reflecting their heritage, earth genasi are often shunned by others their age, but their physical gifts make them able to defend themselves against most cruel attackers. Their strength and girth mean that they sometimes become bullies, attracting sycophants out of fear and respect for their power.

At least three-quarters of the earth genasi in Faerûn are the descendants of outsiders native to the Elemental Plane of Earth and humans. The rest are descended from earth deities or servants of earth deities. Most of the elemental bloodlines originate in the North, particularly near the Spine of the World, as natural portals to the Elemental Plane of Earth form there, allowing meetings between natives of both planes. The bloodlines spring up wherever worship of earth deities is common. It is thought that the Ludwakazar clan of shield dwarves deep in the Earthspurs in Impiltur and the Tobarin family of rock gnomes in the Great Dale have elemental blood, but both are mute on the question.

Earth genasi have mostly human features except for one or two distinguishing traits related to their elemental ancestor. Some examples of these features are:

Earth genasi, like all elemental planetouched, are proud of their nature and abilities, but unlike air genasi who are boastful, their pride is quiet and noble. Earth genasi are pragmatic about their parentage, usually not going out of their way to learn their ancestry but not avoiding the topic either. Earth genasi have no special relationship with others of their kind, although they seem to prefer others that share their physical differences.

Earth genasi have the same life expectancy and age categories as humans.

History: Earth genasi have no common history. Most of their bloodlines derive from chance meetings between humans and earth outsiders, and even those descended from agents of earth deities are spread across the world with no common purpose. Because the outsider features often skip a generation or two, bloodlines seem to disappear for decades only to pop up again unexpectedly in a family that had forgotten its ancestry. Because earth genasi are slightly less fertile than humans, some bloodlines disappear altogether. Because of their varied origins, both planar and geographical, earth genasi can be from any human racial group.

Outlook: Proud of their heritage despite the opinions of others, earth genasi know they are born of beings touched by the might of the essence of earth. They feel a strong kinship to the earth, and as a result, they feel best when their feet are on the ground. They even prefer to go barefoot if appropriate for the weather and environment (earth genasi develop thick callouses easily and can even walk on gravel without discomfort). Earth genasi respect their earth elemental cousins for their strength but are usually indifferent to other earth elemental creatures.

Earth genasi tend to stake out a piece of land as their own and defend it stubbornly. This makes them particularly valuable homesteaders in frontier regions like the Silver Marches. A few unusual earth genasi exhibit a strange form of wanderlust; these rare earth genasi wish to plant their feet on every nation's soil before they die. Such a journey might take thirty years, but with methodical determination, certain genasi have become famous for their long-distance travels.

Most earth genasi are fighters of some sort, whether fighter, ranger, or barbarian. They usually learn styles of combat that rely on their gifts, so an earth genasi armsman is either capable of incredible bloodshed or of enduring devastating attacks and remaining unshaken. Earth genasi wizards are uncommon, but not unknown. Those that do become wizards often learn spells to enhance their fighting skills or become masters of earth magic.

Society: Earth genasi are among the most isolated of all of the elemental planetouched. They are indifferent to others of their kind, believing that each should rely on her own strength to persevere. The only time this emotional barrier is breached is when two or more genasi with the same physical traits meet. The superficial resemblance awakens an echo of sympathy and kinship in the earth genasi, and these similarities often lead to deep friendships and even marriages.

It is among these groups that small clans of earth genasi form, usually military-based groups such as a mercenary company, a squadron of rangers, or a gang of barbarian thugs. The bonds between these individuals can grow very strong; bards tell of entire bands of earth genasi meeting to punish a cruel lover or person responsible for the death of one of the band. Because the genasi are patient, sometimes this revenge comes about months or even years after the event, usually in a surprising and painful encounter.

Because of their strength, earth genasi are often the dominant person in their relationships. They are known to collect like-minded warriors about them, genasi or not, and carve out small baronies for themselves in isolated lands. Several leaders in the history of the Border Kingdoms have been earth genasi.

Language: There is no common language among earth genasi, and they feel no urge to learn Terran unless they are spellcasters and need to communicate with summoned elementals. An earth genasi usually learns the language of her parents and sometimes other languages spoken in her native region.

Relations With Other Races: Earth genasi get along well with gnomes and dwarves, but they find elves and half-elves too weak and puny to be taken seriously. Halflings would almost be in the same category as elves except that they show a remarkable talent for survival, which the genasi respect. Oddly, most elves and half-elves appreciate an earth genasi's ties to the land, even though the feeling is not reciprocated.

As earth genasi usually have human parents, they get along fine with humans. They have no bias for or against other kinds of planetouched, even the air genasi, who they consider flighty but skilled. Half-orcs are intriguing to earth genasi, for they have the hot blood of a much stronger race tempered with human nature, much as earth genasi do. As a result, the earth genasi consider half-orcs lesser but similar kin.

Equipment/Exotic Weapons: Earth genasi have no traditional racial weapons or equipment, although an unusually high number of them prefer to carry weapons that they themselves forged. Common weapons are implements that are useful in practical situations as well as combat, such as hammers, axes, and picks.

Animals and Pets: When earth genasi take pets or animal companions, they usually are strong and squat creatures, such as mastiffs, badgers, and bears. A few have a fondness for snakes, preferring constrictors to venomous ones.

Racial Abilities: Earth genasi have the following racial traits:

Fire Genasi

The stereotypical fire genasi is hot-blooded and quick to anger, and they have earned that reputation. Mercurial, proud, and often fearless, they are not content to sit and watch the world pass them by. Fire genasi have obvious physical traits that mark them as different from humans, and they are often the target of cruel pranks in their childhood and adolescent years. Some fire genasi are able to use their quick wits to turn the tables on their tormentors, while others find that their barbed words only make their foes more angry. Many fire genasi are destroyed as infants by their own parents, who fear that they are demonspawn.

Most fire genasi in Faerûn are descended from the efreet that once ruled Calimshan. Planetouched of this derivation live all over the Lands of Intrigue, and some have traveled away from their ancestral homeland to escape the fear and prejudice that Calishites bear for genies. Chult, the Lake of Steam, and Unther also have a small number of fire genasi, for those lands bear volcanos that sometimes act as natural portals to the Elemental Plane of Fire, allowing efreet and other fiery outsiders to make contact with humans. A large family of fire-genasi-like halflings was known to live in Unther, but the war with Mulhorad has displaced them, and their current where-abouts are unknown.

Fire genasi have mostly human features except for one or two exceptional traits related to their elemental ancestor. Some examples of these features are:

Fire genasi are proud of their ancestry and consider themselves superior to normal humans, although the smarter ones don't make an issue of it. Because the efreet-descended genasi of Calimshan have almost no chance of finding their original elemental ancestor (who have long since been slain, banished, or imprisoned when their empire was overthrown), they make no effort to do so, simply enjoying the gifts their ancestor's blood has granted them. Fire genasi enjoy the company of their own kind and have been known to form elite groups of mages or fighters that hire themselves out on the basis of their skill and heritage. They also have been known to adopt the fire genasi children of human parents.

Fire genasi have the same life expectancy and age categories as humans.

History: Most fire genasi in Faerûn are the result of human-efreet unions that occurred thousands of years ago in Calimshan. These efreet rulers took human lovers, and their half-elemental offspring served their outsider parent as guards, advisors, or diplomats, eventually having children of their own, which as often as not were fire genasi. The overthrow of the genies resulted in a great slaughter and subsequent scattering of all of the planetouched in that land. Since that time, those who carry the bloodline of efreet have mixed with humans in other lands. Now fire genasi of these bloodlines might be from any human racial group and often don't resemble the people of Calimshan at all.

Fire genasi that originate in other lands have no common history, as their bloodlines are rare and non-associated occurrences.

Outlook: Fire genasi are a proud people, knowing that they are born of great genies. They prefer to dress elegantly and flamboyantly, reveling in their differences and advertising their superior taste and abilities. Fire genasi respect their pure elemental kin, and most treat efreet and other large fire outsiders with a great deal of courtesy and respect, both out of a sense of the creature's power and as a subtle thankfulness for their own bloodline-granted talents. Because they have such high opinions of themselves, fire genasi often elect themselves the leader and spokesperson of a group, even if they have no particular talents in those areas.

Fire genasi are impatient and don't take well to pursuits that require a lot of time and study. They like to travel, if only to escape the presence of their enemies or of people that frustrate them. Fire genasi enjoy collecting treasure, preferring jewelry to bags of coins.

Fire genasi make smart fighters, but because of their heated bloodlust and quick tempers, most become barbarians. More fire genasi become sorcerers than wizards, even though their natural talents would indicate otherwise. Because they would much rather talk about themselves than other people, and because they have short tempers, fire genasi make poor bards. It is rare for fire genasi to become paladins, but it isn't unknown.

Society: Fire genasi are competitive among their own kin, but it is rarely intentionally lethal. Even two fire genasi of radically different alignments or philosophies are capable of putting down their swords for a talk on elemental nature and comparative histories, and should they come to blows they are more likely to ask for and grant mercy than slay each other outright. Although they have hot tempers, arguments between fire genasi quickly burn out, although their allies or minions might suffer the smoldering aftereffects.

Other than this friendly banter, fire genasi often go for years without seeing one of their own kind. Descended from beings that have a strong, close (if argumentative) society, fire genasi still have a tendency to collect in groups when circumstances allow. Children raised by two fire genasi parents see a wide range of emotions in their parents, from phenomenal passion and epic poetry to screaming matches and thrown furniture. This is accepted as normal, and they are taught that a life not lived vigorously is not worth living.

Language: Fire genasi share no racial language, although some learn Ignan for the sake of cultivating an exotic air. A fire genasi usually learns the language of her parents and other languages spoken in her native region.

Relations With Other Races: Fire genasi consider themselves above all other races except humans because of their own human blood. Dwarves, gnomes, and halflings are too short to be taken seriously, elves are too focused on the long-term consequences of every action, and half-orcs are too stupid. Earth genasi are too slow to act, water genasi are too dispassionate, air genasi are too flighty, and aasimar and tieflings are too morose. Fire genasi quickly become impatient with the "failings" of other races and rarely make friends with anyone but humans or other fire genasi.

Equipment/Exotic Weapons: Fire genasi prefer keen-edged weapons such as scimitars, falchions, and bladed polearms. They have no traditional equipment or armor.

Animals and Pets: Fire genasi prefer pets that are fast and heat tolerant, such as desert lizards. Some sorcerers that live in the wastelands near Calimshan have learned how to acquire a tiny monstrous centipede or tiny monstrous scorpion as a familiar. Such familiars are treated the same way as hairy spider familiars, as described on page 27 of the FORGOTTEN REALMS Campaign Setting

Racial Abilities: Fire genasi have the following traits:

Water Genasi

Water genasi are patient and independent, used to solving problems on their own and not afraid to take a lot of time doing so. At times they are like terrible storms, fierce and destructive, but most often they present a tranquil appearance despite whatever emotions run underneath their quiet surface. Water genasi are often abandoned by their human parents and raised by aquatic creatures such as sea elves, dolphins, locathah, merfolk, sahuagin, or even aboleth. Water genasi usually leave their parents upon reaching maturity, taking to the open sea in order to explore, learn, and develop their own personality and place in the world.

Most water genasi are descended from a water elemental outsider such as a marid (water genie) or triton. A rare few are born to outsider servants of the evil water goddess Umberlee (although it is not known why these matings eventually produce water genasi instead of tieflings). Sea elves tell of a lost line of sea elf planetouched descended from minions of Deep Sashelas, but they were thought to have been wiped out by an army of sahuagin over 500 years ago, and in any case are not true water genasi.

Water genasi look generally human except for one distinguishing feature related to their elemental ancestor. Some examples of these features are:

Water genasi feel that they are unique and superior to the humans that bore them, and they have little or no interest in others of their kind. Only in large communities of sea elves are more than one water genasi likely to spend much time together.

Water genasi have the same life expectancy and age categories as humans.

History: Nearly every water genasi can be traced back to a unique crossbreed between a water outsider and a human. Water genasi have no common history, and although most of them are born in or near the Sea of Fallen Stars, no known records exist of water genasi trying to build a community of their own kind, although from time to time an aquatic hero shows up in the history books, usually associated with rescuing drowning sailors or thwarting sahuagin attacks. Records also exist of water genasi villains. These villains range from pirates who love to drown their enemies to blue-haired leaders of merrow raiding parties.

Because of their varied origins, water genasi can be from any human racial group.

Outlook: Water genasi take pride in their special abilities and can be boastful of them at times. Tougher than humans and able to breathe water, these genasi sometimes view human sailors and naval merchants as vulnerable fools who are as likely to die at sea as they are to get seasick. The people of the Sea of Fallen Stars are familiar enough with the stories of water genasi to recognize them and ignore their rude behavior.

Water genasi have the best of both worlds. They can walk on land for an indefinite time (unlike sea elves, whom they secretly pity) and can always retreat to the tranquil depths of the ocean. Often loners, they sometimes establish a home in a remote underwater cave, going for years without encountering another intelligent being. They feel a kinship to other aquatic creatures, particularly tritons and water elementals, who can easily outswim the genasi.

Water genasi tend to be neutral and therefore avoid extremes in politics, opinion, or career. Some find a quiet spot to call home, others enjoy riding the currents for months, allowing the water to take them places hundreds of miles away.

Their favored class is fighter, but they often multiclass into another and shift their efforts between the two classes. In fighting, they prefer styles and weapons that unbalance, bind, or disarm their opponents.

Society: Water genasi have no society of their own, and they often adopt traits of the people who raised them. Thus, a water genasi raised by sea elves is likely to believe in personal freedoms and good behavior, while one raised by sahuagin will tend to be bloodthirsty and militaristic. Water genasi from different cultures are often as radically different from one another as a quiet spring is to a raging waterfall.

Water genasi do not prefer the company of other water genasi. If anything, it makes them feel less special and less unique in the context of the other beings they live near, and so they rarely live in the same communities, and none have been known to marry. This keeps the population of repeat-generation water genasi low, with new genasi coming from new bloodlines or from a line that skipped a generation.

The water genasi's nature makes them unlikely leaders. A water genasi is more likely to guard or support a person they respect and admire than be a person that attracts or welcomes subordinates.

Language: All water genasi born on the Sea of Fallen Stars (which is most of them) learn Common because of the heavy mercantile traffic. Many also learn Aquan in order to converse with other aquatic creatures, and water genasi that live with or near sea elves usually learn Elven as well. Those raised by sahuagin learn Sahuagin.

Spellcasting Traditions: Water genasi prefer spells that produce cold, ice, snow, and water. Water genasi spellcasters are usually clerics or druids, for they rarely have the talent for sorcery, and water ruins scrolls and spellbooks (although at least one water genasi wizard has developed a method for scribing "scrolls" made of carved shells).

Relations With Other Races: Water genasi feel closest to their adopted race and indifferent to all others. Aquatic creatures and those that can naturally breathe water are treated less coolly (unless such a creature is a natural enemy of the genasi's adopted race, such as a sahuagin-raised genasi confronted by a triton). They hold no special animosity toward fiery creatures or fire genasi, and they see a similarity between themselves and flying creatures, although they are quick to point out that natural fliers have to come to rest on land eventually while water genasi and other sea creatures can live in the water indefinitely. They laugh at and ridicule aquaphobic creatures, and dwarves are frequently the target of their jokes and pranks.

Equipment/Exotic Weapons: Water genasi that live in the water use items favored by other aquatic races - nets instead of pouches, stabbing weapons instead of slashing or bludgeoning weapons, and so on. Water genasi favor magical nets and items that can be used underwater, such as a trident of warning or a horn of the tritons. The first coral dolphin figurine of wondrous power was created by a water genasi mage.

Animals and Pets: Water genasi that live in the water prefer dolphins, octopi, sharks, and other aquatic animals as pets and animal companions. Those that live on the land and in the water prefer animals that can live in both environments, such as crocodiles, otters, and some snakes and birds.

Racial Abilities: Water genasi have the following traits:

Planetouched Races
Races of Faerûn
Character Creation