The Red Box Blog

Ramblings about D&D.

How You Can Use Chinese Elements in D&D

A couple of years ago I was planning a campaign in which the number five had a great significance. While doing some research online I came to learn about the Chinese elements (as opposed to the Greek elements which are commonly used in D&D). It didn’t quite work for what I needed, so I don’t have all the answers here you might want, but I think that D&D could be readily adapted to using the Chinese elements.

The Interactions of Wu Xing: The creation cycle (black, circle shaped arrows) and the overcoming cycle (white, star shaped arrows).

The common memory jogs, which help to remind in what order the phases are:

  • Wood feeds Fire;
  • Fire creates Earth (ash);
  • Earth bears Metal;
  • Metal carries Water;
  • Water nourishes Wood.


  • Wood absorbs Water;
  • Water rusts Metal;
  • Metal breaks up Earth;
  • Earth smothers Fire;
  • Fire burns Wood.

Rule Changes

It is not a lot of work to add wood and metal as elements, because there already are many spells and monsters that rely on them; its just a matter of acknowledging said spells and monsters as being elemental.

Then you need is to determine the importance of the different types of reactions that occur between elements. I suggest that elemental attacks do double damage to the element they have an overcoming interaction with (ie water overcomes fire), and that they grant temporary hit points to the element they have a generating interaction with (ie water generates wood). Elemental effects would work normally against the other two elements.

The last thing you need to decide is what to do with the air spells and monsters that are no longer elemental. Do they still work as listed? Do they even exist?

Regardless of how this shakeup plays out I could see it as being a refreshing change to veteran players who have been used to the same list of elements for a long time. It could bring a greatly renewed interest in that aspect of the game.

Bonus Idea

Notice how there are five elements, and there are five evil dragons. The existing dragons don’t map well onto these elements, but that’s the point; you could really throw players for a loop by changing up the powers of four of the five dragons.


October 15, 2010 - Posted by | Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | ,

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