The four elder elementals in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes have a lot in common. To me, the most striking commonality is that they’re exceptional, if not extraordinary, in every single ability score but one: Intelligence. Each of them has Intelligence 2, indicating bare-minimum sentience.
Once again, we see the combination of low Intelligence and high Wisdom, only this time it’s dialed up to an extreme. What does it mean to have Intelligence 2 and Wisdom 18 or 21? It means intuition without thinking, awareness without adaptability, judgment without reason. It means a creature that acts according to its nature and can’t be compelled to do otherwise. It means a creature that senses the degree of threat that a party of player characters poses but can’t really distinguish any one of those PCs from any other.
These are the other traits shared by all elder elementals:
- At least two physical ability scores that are higher than all their mental ability scores.
- Proficiency in Wisdom and Charisma saving throws, making them extremely difficult to manipulate or to banish.
- Resistance to physical damage from nonmagical attacks.
- Immunity to poison damage, exhaustion, paralysis, petrifaction, and being poisoned or stunned.
- Darkvision out to a radius of 60 feet, which in this case I interpret to indicate not a preference for fighting in dim light or darkness but an indifference to lighting conditions in general.
- A lack of language. Elder elementals aren’t here to chat.
- Legendary Resistance, which they’ll use primarily to avoid debilitating conditions and only secondarily to avoid damage.
- The Siege Monster feature, which means they’ll destroy your cover before they destroy you.
- A Multiattack comprising two different attack actions, one attack with each.
- A selection of legendary actions that includes one turn’s worth of additional movement.
- Neutral alignment. The default attitude of an elder elemental toward other creatures is indifference. It’s not going to attack—intentionally—unless it’s provoked. But who knows who or what might provoke it?