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How would you re-do the Elements if you could?

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The conversation from this thread shifted into the topic of rearranging and changing the elements that exist within Bionicle, since we thought many of the less-common elements are obscure and almost don't make sense as elements. If I were to recreate Bionicle from scratch, these are the elements I would make:

- Fire, Water, Ice, Light, Shadow, and The Green remain the same.

- Stone and Earth (and Sand on Spherus Magna) are combined into a single Earth element. (Colors brown, tan, and black.) On Spherus Magna, the Vorox remain in the "Sand Tribe" but there is no Element Lord of Sand.

- Iron, or Metal, will be the new sixth primary element. (Colors Black and grey.)

- Lightning, Magnetism, and Gravity are combined into an "Aether" element (colors purple and gold), since electricity and magnetism are technically the same force, and electromagnetism and gravity are both fundamental forces. Taking a look at the BS01 wiki also shows that the common uses of Magnetism and Gravity elements are very similar. The two nuclear forces can be left out, as I don't see any practical way to use them as powers without it being totally overpowered.

- The powers of Sonics exist as sub-powers within Earth and Air (since sound is just vibrations through any medium)

- Plasma and Psionics don't need to exist at all. Plasma is just an extra-strong version of Fire, and Psionics powers are used by so many other miscellaneous beings and masks in the first place, that I don't see a point in it being an element. Mental manipulation is not a tangible thing like all the other elements.

What do you think of these ideas? Or how would you re-do the elements?

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My ideal arrangement would look something like the hypothetical system put forth in this webpage:https://www.friesian.com/elements.htm#seven

Basically it is a hypothetical syncretic system combining the classical Greek and classical Chinese elements. Both systems acknowledged Fire, Earth and Water as Elements, but the only the Greeks included Air and Aether, and only the Chinese included Metal and Wood.

In BIONICLE terms, I would probably make the the six primary elements into Fire, Water, Stone, Metal, Wood, and Air. On Mata Nui, Fire, Water and Stone would be largely unchanged, though though Fire and Stone would incorporate some aspects of Earth, and Water would incorporate most of the powers under Ice. Metal would take the place of Earth, as there is already a lot of overlap between Earth and Iron in canon, and it seems appropriate to me that most mining and engineering would be done by those associated with the Metal element. Kopaka would become the toa of Air, with limited control over the atmosphere and weather patterns. This seems intuitive to me, given that he lives on a mountain. Lewa, since he lives in a forest, would be a toa of Wood.

Light and Shadow would stay as they are; very rare powers with metaphysical traits. Aether would be another rare element, used to cover powers based on invisible forces, especially things like sound and (non-telekinetic) psionics. Most of the other elements from canon,  like Gravity and Magnetism, would probably be non-elemental 'powers' reserved for things like bohrok or rahi, or included under one of the main elements. I can see a toa of air having lightning powers, for example, given their association with the sky, or a toa of metal having magnetic powers. There would be a few other elements, but they would mostly be redundant or overlap with existing elements, like Ice or Sand. I also like the idea of Plasma as an element to represent the idea of "outer heat" originating from the sun, as opposed to "inner heat" originating underground, represented by fire. I could also see Electromagnetism being its own element, encompassing electromagnetic energy of all kinds, not just lightning from the sky.

There would probably still be 42 kraata powers, each corresponding to an element. They would each be the equal and opposite of that element, sort of like how the Rahkshi in 2003 had powers corresponding to the cardinal virtues of each village. They would all be very destructive powers, with no defensive powers like Dodge or neutral powers like Adaption. Those would be either Kanohi powers or more miscellaneous non-elemental powers.

 

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9 hours ago, Biological Chronicler said:

Metal would take the place of Earth, as there is already a lot of overlap between Earth and Iron in canon, and it seems appropriate to me that most mining and engineering would be done by those associated with the Metal element.

That's pretty similar to what I thought, although my original thought was that my Earth element would be similar to original Earth with the night vision and mining while Metal was more like the Stone element, but now that I think about it, it does make more sense for the miners to be the ones who use metal and engineer the necessary tools, while Earth would be more like original Stone. Either way, I imagine both of them helping each other out often.

9 hours ago, Biological Chronicler said:

Kopaka would become the toa of Air, with limited control over the atmosphere and weather patterns. This seems intuitive to me, given that he lives on a mountain. Lewa, since he lives in a forest, would be a toa of Wood.

To think of Kopaka as the Toa of Air would be strange but interesting. I just imagine a green recolor of Mata Kopaka in my head, lol. As for a Wood element, I suppose it would be similar to Jungle but just in the aspect of plants that have wood?

10 hours ago, Biological Chronicler said:

I also like the idea of Plasma as an element to represent the idea of "outer heat" originating from the sun, as opposed to "inner heat" originating underground, represented by fire.

Interesting way to look at it. If I were to keep Plasma in a scientific manner (which was kind of my theme), plasma in real life is a state of matter, CAUSED by intense amounts of thermal energy but not DEFINED by it, so perhaps the element could involve that. I don't really know if original lore Plasma involved the state of matter instead of just super hot temperatures, they don't use it enough to make it clear, but I figured there only needs to be one element about actual heat energy, Fire, while Plasma, if it exists, just involves the matter. So it's sort of related to the way you put it, because plasma is naturally generated at the cores of stars, but that's how I would define it using technical terms. I hope that makes sense. To put it simply: Fire = thermal energy, Plasma = ionized gas. I just feel that it doesn't need to exist separately because the Fire element already has control of thermal energy while Plasma is actual matter that is much rarer, so it could perhaps be a sub-power of Fire when a Fire user superheats gas.

10 hours ago, Biological Chronicler said:

They would all be very destructive powers, with no defensive powers like Dodge or neutral powers like Adaption. Those would be either Kanohi powers or more miscellaneous non-elemental powers.

I like this idea. I agree that a lot of Kraata powers are kind of a stretch, and in my personal opinion having 42 of them is also a stretch since we only ever see 7 of them being used in the story, but I agree that regardless of the number they should all involve powers that are actually negative and destructive in nature to symbolize the nature of the Shadow element.

Also side note, you may be wondering why I would combine Earth and Stone but not Water and Ice, well my justification for that is similar to how Light and Shadow are the antithesis of one another, and also to how Fire and Plasma are different in the paragraph above. Water involves the actual liquid form, which includes moisture, while I like to think that Ice involves thermal energy itself, but REMOVING thermal energy rather than RELEASING it, which is Fire. I did state my theme was to keep the elements defined under scientific terms, but for the sake of keeping Ice as its own element, I would say that what gives Ice their ability to move Ice itself, as in frozen liquids, is if the substance is sufficiently cooled enough. This means it doesn't have to be water ice, but any substance that is normally a liquid at habitable temperatures. Touching back to what I said about Plasma being a Fire sub-power, if a Fire user heats gas sufficiently enough to become Plasma, they can then take control of the gas, it doesn't have to be air.

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Hmm. If I were to do a redo, probably just limit it to the six original elements, plus light/shadow. The big change I would want is to have all of the elements get 50/50 gender representation. 
 

it would be tempting to have a Toa of Plasma or Electricity/Lightning just to be totally cool, but I would have those Matoran/Toa be like super rare. Psionics and Gravity are already covered by the Mask powers, so no need for those.

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I like the idea of keeping the elements to a multiple of 6 and having that number be important to the Matoran, recurring in their folklore like 3 and 9 recur in Norse mythology. I'm gonna focus on cutting down on the elements and restricting them to 12, each of which has a corresponding ethnic group on Mata Nui; there are still 6 regions, but there are also some smaller tribes and dispersed groups, such as the Av-Matoran.

Elements are decided by what kind of mana inhabits a given material or phenomenon. Mana is a concept in Hawaiian culture which refers to a sort of "life force" which can inhabit anyone or anything; here, it is used to refer to a kind of spiritual "signature" which exists within stuff and can transform into other stuff. For instance, water has Ga-mana, but when it freezes, it then has Ko-mana. Toa are attuned to a certain kind of mana such that they can control it as though it were part of their bodies, but at the cost of their physical stamina. Toa of physical elements can all control the same amount of mass with the same amount of energy; that is, Onua needs to use the same amount of effort to move 20kg of rock that Kopaka needs to move 20kg of ice. The same rule applies to energy-based elements, except with the quantity of energy rather than the physical mass.

The goal of this elemental roster is to cover as much of the natural world as possible with the most distinct categories I could manage.

Fire--literal fire, as well as magma and plasma, as these all have the same kind of mana. The Matoran refer to magma in their tongue as "thick fire," and as far as they're concerned, it's all different forms of the same stuff. Fire is associated with the color red.

Water--liquid water and the moisture in the air. Water is associated with blue.

Air--basically the entirety of the atmosphere. Air is associated with cyan because focus groups are apparently unable to accept green for this element and I'd rather keep Lewa's power set the same.

Ice--solid water in all of its forms. Ice is associated with white.

Earth--rocks and the sediments that form them, excepting magma. Earth is associated with black. The Earth/Stone divide has proven so...well, divisive that I've elected to just clean up the system and lump them together. Pohatu can't just be left elementless, so now he gets...

Kinesis--kinetic and potential energy. Matoran understand that all things contain energy based on their state of motion, and so there is an element based around this. Toa of Kinesis can add/subtract kinetic/potential energy to objects to stop objects mid-motion or load them up with energy so they go flying at the slightest touch. Kinesis is associated with brown.

Light--light on any wavelength, from ELF to gamma rays. Av-Matoran can be any color paired with glow-in-the-dark white.

Iron--any kind of metal, including rust and patina. This element is usually associated with orange, but can also be linked to a pairing of a metallic color and the color that metal would rust into; that is, gunmetal (iron) and burnt orange or copper and verdigris.

Aether--this is how the Matoran understand "spacetime." It corresponds to gravity manipulation, creating wormholes, and very weak time manipulation (i.e. experiencing time faster or slower for a few seconds at a time). Aether is associated with violet.

Lightning--electricity and magnetic fields. Lightning is associated with magenta and purple.

Flora--organisms analogous to plants and fungi within Mata Nui's ecosystem. Flora is associated with green (duh), usually paired with brown.

Uh...come back to me on number 12, I'm tryna figure it out. Push comes to shove, I can split up Earth and Stone again and just define it more clearly. I was gonna make this element associated with yellow.

Shadow--not a true element, but a sort of "anti-element." There are no true Matoran or Toa of Shadow, only Makuta cultists and beings mutated by the Makuta.

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Posted (edited)

I kinda wish when the Toa Nuva transformed that their elemental powers were affected as well. Instead of just supercharged, they would tap into another "version" of their power.
Tahu = Lightning, Onua = Metal, Lewa = Plantlife, etc.

Edited by chuckschwa
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I have several lines of thought on this topic:

 

1) Have each element have an opposite; Fire to Ice, Water to Stone, Earth to Air, Light to Dark. Beyond these major elements I would probably add Electricity paired with Metal (metal conducts electricity but toa of electricity can create magnetic fields) and Acid/Poison vs Jungle/Plant (acid is destructive and limits the eternal growth of Jungle, both for good and ill, while jungle is constructive and repairing the damage done by acid). Other elements would not exist.

 

2) Same elements as canon, except no Psionics, that would be taken by some other element or just leave a void. And explain the difference between Stone and Earth.

 

3) Only have the six original elements, but have sub-elements, like in Avatar the Last Airbender. So lightning for fire, gravity for earth, sonics for water, metal for stone, air for ice and poison for jungle. However some toa instead develop their element in a spiritual/philosophical manner, basically the principles. So a Toa of fire who follows this second path develops the power of courage, able to light the flames of bravery in their allies and burning the minds of their enemies to fill them with fear. Light and shadow are not elemental powers; but fusions of the elemental essences. Light is when the elements are in harmony and balance, and require moral strength and disciplined control to use, but is the stronger than shadow. Shadow is a chaotic fusion of the elements; twisting them and abusing their nature for a cheap and easy source of sorcerous power, but it corrupts the user both in the body (by twisting of the elements in the user's body) and in mind (by how easy it is the use, encouraging apathy, cruelty or sloth).

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Posted (edited)

What's being missed here is that the original six elements correspond nicely with six distinct biomes. Stone and Earth are almost interchangeable, but desert and underground are not. You could replace Stone with Sand, but you're left with the problem of Sand technically being really small Stone, and Earth technically being one really big Stone. "Element" as defined in a fantasy setting is going to be different from hard scientific element (imagine a Toa of Iodine). For that reason, I would be in favor of leaving the original six elements unchanged.

The secondary elements are where it gets tricky. Lightning, Magnetism, Sonics, and Gravity get to stay because they're at least visually interesting. Plasma was fine as a one-time power for Pahrak-Kal but adds nothing as an element. If anything, it's functionally a sub-power of Fire like Vacuum is to Air. The Green, Iron, and Psionics I also find distinct enough to warrant inclusion (plus, of course, Light and Shadow with their moral connotations). So really, Plasma is the only criticism I 100% agree with. It's ultimately pretty arbitrary, and I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt if it at least looks cool being shot at a bad guy.

Edited by Master Inika
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On 4/17/2020 at 4:23 AM, Master Inika said:

What's being missed here is that the original six elements correspond nicely with six distinct biomes. Stone and Earth are almost interchangeable, but desert and underground are not. You could replace Stone with Sand, but you're left with the problem of Sand technically being really small Stone, and Earth technically being one really big Stone. "Element" as defined in a fantasy setting is going to be different from hard scientific element (imagine a Toa of Iodine). For that reason, I would be in favor of leaving the original six elements unchanged.

The secondary elements are where it gets tricky. Lightning, Magnetism, Sonics, and Gravity get to stay because they're at least visually interesting. Plasma was fine as a one-time power for Pahrak-Kal but adds nothing as an element. If anything, it's functionally a sub-power of Fire like Vacuum is to Air. The Green, Iron, and Psionics I also find distinct enough to warrant inclusion (plus, of course, Light and Shadow with their moral connotations). So really, Plasma is the only criticism I 100% agree with. It's ultimately pretty arbitrary, and I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt if it at least looks cool being shot at a bad guy.

It really depends on if you judge the Elements based on science or based on aesthetic design. The 2001 Bionicle story was more of a fantasy story (or at least, it appeared to be a fantasy story, with tribal mysticism, etc). The later years, especially 2007 onward, were much more sci-fi oriented. So it depends on whether you use fantasy or sci-fi "rules" to classify the elements. 

Another thing that I just thought up was that the Great Beings designed these elements and people, and their reasons may not have been scientific. They were trying to keep their giant robot running, not follow a scientific paradigm. So if they need a group of Matoran with keen hearing to run Mata Nui's ears, they are not going to ask if Matoran of Air can do that. They are going to make Matoran of Sonics. And since they didn't tell the Matoran that they were operating a giant robot, the Matoran called the categories that they fell into "Elements". 

The elements of Bionicle don't make sense if you're using science, but if you consider that they are operating a giant robot, it does make sense. For the most part, until you consider that no Psionics Matoran live in Metru Nui, which is supposed to be Mata Nui's brain. But I guess the GBs had to run their illusion somehow...

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I would pull an Avatar: The Last Airbender and omit rock and ice, and instead have  the 4 core elements that have more variation among them:

  • Fire
    • Magma
    • Iron/Artifice/Steam
  • Air
    • Sky
    • Plant-life
  • Water
    • Lakes
    • Sea
    • Ice
  • Earth
    • Rock
    • Desert

Outside of those core 4 I'd have all others like light, dark, psionics, gravity, poison, etc. be one-off for titans. I have nostalgia for the sets of 6 from classic bonk, but ice and rock always seemed like arbitrary additions to the classical elements.


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