Thursday, December 25, 2014

Philosopher's Stone

Season's Greetings!

Remember Jeff Swycaffer's article, 'Elementals and the Philosopher's Stone', in Dragon magazine #27 from thirty-five years ago?

Y-you don't?  Well, no matter.  Presented below is your humble host's gift to you – an example of Swycaffer's “Philosopher's Stone” die that you can assemble yourself!  (Please use scissors only with adult supervision.)  Those familiar with with Swycaffer's original die may notice that the color scheme has been updated for 21st Century sensibilities.

Swycaffer identifies four properties:  dry, moist, heat, and cold.  Each of the classical elements shares two of these properties.  For example, water shares cold with air and moist with earth.  “This is reasonable,” Swycaffer informs us, “as the alchemists of the 1200s depicted the elements in this fashion.”  He then adds a good/evil axis perpendicular to this elemental circle.  'Good' and 'evil' are each joined to the aforementioned properties by four qualities.  The four qualities linked to good are light, pleasure, fertility, and begin.  The four qualities associated with evil are dark, pain, barren, and end.

In his article, Swycaffer introduces eight new elementals based on the properties and qualities.  He reminds us that the 'standard' elementals are described in Dungeons & Dragons – volume 2, Monsters & Treasure. Swycaffer treats “the demons of Eldritch Wizardry, D&D Supplement III” as 'elementals' of evil.  For 'elementals' of good, he recommends “the Angels of Stephen H. Domeman that appeared in The Dragon #17.”

A 'pleasure elemental' has 3 hit dice and an armor class of 9.  According to Swycaffer, such an elemental...
...Appears as a normal human.  It can cause, pleasure, peace, and happiness by its touch.  It can heal wounds for 7 points daily, and diseases once per day.  It has virtually no attacks.  This Elemental stays in the material world when conjured.
I think I would have given it a tickle attack.  An 'ending' elemental “[c]loses doors (as a wizard lock), dispels good magic, and curses as an Evil High Priest.”

With regard to using the die, Swycaffer suggests “an unusual party game.”  Just ask a question, roll the die, and interpret the result.
If any one of the triangular faces with the astrological symbols lands face up (a rare occurrence) Do not ask that question again!  The answer is far beyond the power of the stone's divination.
Personally, I think the die could be used to answer that age old question, “What does your character feel when he puts him arm into the hole in the cavern wall?”  In any event, you can impress your friends by owning a die where 'moist' is a possible result.

Peace and goodwill towards all!

UPDATE:  As indicated in the comments below, Jeff “Warsprite” Swycaffer let us all down in a big way.  The least I can do is supply a version of the Philosopher's Stone die where the arrangement of faces conforms to Aristotle's notions of the elements.


  1. Hm, if that's the way that Swycaffer did it, then he made a mistake. Earth is cold and dry, air is warm and moist.