Posted by : David Guyll December 05, 2012

3rd Edition's angels were summed up as a "race of celestials, beings who live on the good-aligned Outer Planes". They could be of any good alignment, hailing from similarly aligned planes. It was said that they were blessed with comely looks, though their appearances "vary widely" (which was odd considering that they all basically looked like winged people).

The standard rollout of angel traits included darkvision and low-light vision, immunity to acid, cold and petrification, resistance to electricity and fire, a bonus on poison saves, an aura that--among other things--helped shield both themselves and allies in the form of an AC and save bonus, and an always active tongues effect. Individual angels stacked on additional abilities, which included a laundry list of spell-like abilities.

4th Edition angels were not much different appearance-wise--having a wispy trail instead of feet and almost no facial features--but looked pretty similar to each other. Each embodied a characteristic, I guess, resulting in entries like the angel of valor, angel of protection, and angel of battle. A major difference was that they served any god, good or evil, thereby making them easier to drop into encounters.

Maybe that is why the angels that Wyatt describes bore me; they have already been done twice, and are basically a collection of winged humanoids with different skin colors. I would much prefer the bizarre (and terrifying) variety found in the Christian angelic hierarchy, in particular the cherubim and throne. I am not saying that they should cut and paste directly--they certainly did not with other mythologies--but at the least use it for inspiration and go nuts because, after all, D&D already has some bizarre and confusing contestants.

I both like and dislike angels being unable to be summoned. On one hand it makes sense--especially if they want to avoid angels being conjured and bossed around; kind of downplays the whole awe-inspiring bit--but on the other I really like playing summoners in games where it does not suck. Maybe some kind of ritual that lets you petition a god (or servant of a god) for aid? On a related note, I dig that rather than summon reinforcements, good-aligned critters are drawn to them.

I do not mind angels having abilities that mimic spells (or are spells mimicking them?), so long as they do not have to constantly cast and re-cast them. Rather than have tongues at will, the angel should just be able to inherently understand other creatures, even in an anti-magic field. I think in this regard--and many others--4th Edition handled it better with its Supernal language.

I am not sure how I feel about all the energy resistances and immunities. Are they necessary? I think I would almost prefer them just having flat-out resistance to most anything that was not specifically made to harm an angel; magic, weapons, you name it. It would not only be easier to remember, but would help hammer home that these things are not of the mortal world (and you should probably not be trying to fight them). Maybe not all, but certainly the higher level ones.

Evil angels should not be hard, especially if you go the route of the corrupted or fallen angel. You could even try to have good angels embody virtues, while evil angels embrace sins (or vices). It could link up in some way with paladins. Of course, you could just say that devils are evil angels and be done with it. Personally I like the idea of evil clerics being able to call in celestial support.

Though I rarely saw anyone in my group play a deva, conceptually it was a pretty awesome race and I am happy to see it stick around (though I am iffy on the whole bound/incarnate prefix).

As for archons and guardinals, I think that they need to be consolidated along with angels (though guardinals might work better with other fey). Just how many varieties of celestial good-guys do we need, especially when one archon looks like an angel, and another looks like it could be a guardinal? Parsing archons into two different categories seems kind of cheap; I would just rename one or the other to something else (or just shift archons to angels and call it good).

4th Edition's eladrin race really does not provide any conflicts with prior material; just slot them at the bottom of the hierarchy and call it a day (which, as Wyatt says, was kind of the idea at the time). The greater issue is the lack of depth concerning the fey and their society, such as it is. As I mentioned the last time I wrote about the fey, I think WotC could stand to elaborate a great deal more about them.

{ 2 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. I especially dislike the "humanlike" descriptor for angels in D&D a lot. Ok, maybe it wasn't so bad before 4E when the standard playable races could all be described as "humanlike", but in the first PHB of 4E we've got races that drastically differ in appearance from humans, long before we get to such things as Wilden, Shardminds, and Minotaurs in the later PHBs (granted these are still humanoid, despite Wilden and Shardminds having no reason to be so).

    Personally, I run them as altering perceptions rather than actually shapeshifting. This has the added benefit of being able to appear differently to separate individuals simultaneously (everyone sees a representative of their race, one person is struck by awe while the rest just perceive a normal human, no one can remember what they looked like, everyone hears them speak in their own language, etc.). I've toyed with the idea that this ability may not be perception altering, but simply them breaking physics and actually manifesting in multiple forms simultaneously.

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  2. I get the reasons for humanoid races specifically designed for player-usage; easier to empathize with, and also avoids lots of can/how does this race use magic items and the like (though I do think it was kind of silly for "female" shardminds to have boobs). There is also probably something to be said for heavy social role-playing.

    I still think that there is a demand for non-humanoid stuff, and have played a blink dog, earth elemental, and umber hulk before (blame Savage Species).

    Angels are a different case: they are really not intended for players, and if an intention is to portray them as enigmatic and somewhat alien, I see no reason to give them easily comprehended, humanoid shapes. Having individuals perceive them in different ways reminds me of Mage: The Ascension in a good way.

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