Sunday, May 27, 2007

Better Gaming Through Chemistry

One slogan the DuPont company used in the 60's was Better things for better living through chemistry, often shortened to "Better Living Through Chemistry". I think we can say the same thing for the Dungeons and Dragons gaming online comic "The Order of the Stick". Or perhaps we should say "Better Gaming Comics Through Chemistry"(tm).

Instead of the stodgy old Earth, Fire, Water, and Air elementals that are used in current fantasy gaming, Rich Burlew has a character that paid attention in chemistry class and suggests the use of element based elementals. In my comments on the titanium elemental he used in an earlier strip, I presciently wondered how scary a chlorine or plutonium elemental might be. In Friday's comic he has the goblin cleric use a chlorine elemental to clear the way during the epic battle that's in progress. Though I had seen the comic that day, Zak3056 kindly pointed out that I guessed right.

I like how the comic artist had a nice periodic table of the elements label on the elemental so we know which one it is. Chlorine's effects are well know, but there are some other nasty elements in pure form, like fluorine, that would kill even faster. Oxygen elementals would cause things to burn fast. Call up a sodium elemental and a water elemental and let them mix for a big boom. Mercury elementals would be cool to look at, all reflecting and liquid, like the Terminator in the second movie.

Some of the effects of elements depend on their valence state, a pure chromium elemental would be shiny or could be used to make your other metal elementals shiny, but chromium at +6 is a strong oxidant and is known to cause cancer, I guess in the gaming world it would have a Touch of Death or some such thing. Can the spellcaster also suggest the isotope of the element that is summoned? Depleted Uranium (low in U235 almost all U238) is good for bullets, but too big a U235 isotropically pure element would go critical and cause a nuclear explosion as soon as it was summoned (no uranium 235 elementals over 52kg). We all know what a polonium 210 elemental would do.

Can we do chemistry with the elementals? If I summon three chlorine, one hydrogen and a carbon elemental, does that make one chloroform elemental that can put everyone to sleep? Enough fluorine and carbon elementals (four F's to every C and some F's for the ends) strung together should give me an untouchable Teflon elemental.

Speaking of carbon elementals, which physical or crystal state do the elementals arrive in (allotropes)? Can I could have a slippery graphite carbon elemental, or a hard diamond carbon elemental? What special properties would a nanotube or fullerene carbon elemental have (everything you could think of according to the scientists that try to get funding for that type of research).

The possibilities for chemistry element based elementals seem to be endless. I guess it is whatever the Dungeon master can think of and the players will let them get away with. In the comic its all up to Rich Burlew.

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