It’s time to talk monsters again! As we continue to work our way through the 5th Edition D&D Monster Manual, we reach our first monster that is part of a larger category–in this case, the category is Angels while the specific monster is the Deva. I debated a bit on how to handle this; should I do one post for the whole category, or individual posts for each unique creature? Ultimately, I’ve settled on the latter, as there’s enough difference in flavor and power between different kinds of angels that I think I should address them each separately.
With all that said, then, let’s dig into the deva!
Angels in D&D are representations of pure lawful goodness. They rigidly obey the edicts of the gods they serve; the Monster Manual notes that even angels that serve chaotic gods are still lawful. In many ways, this makes them the opposite number of devils, which are always lawful evil. Makes sense, right?
Angels are manifestations of divine power, created by the gods. They often act as celestial go-betweens–a paladin or cleric is a lot more likely to meet an angel than to get a face-to-face with their actual deity. Our topic for today, devas, are specifically built for this role (rather than the more, ah, military pursuits of the other types of angel that we’ll cover in future posts). They are the messengers of the gods, descending to the mortal realm to pass along instructions or lend aid to their god’s followers.
That said, there’s a definite hierarchy to keep in mind. Just because a deva is sent to help you out, that doesn’t mean you command it; the deva is literally divine essence in humanoid form–it’s going to be the one in charge, regardless of how pious you are. It’s also smart to keep in mind that just because the deva is good doesn’t mean it has to be nice. You know the phrase ‘holier than thou?’ Well, a deva literally is, so it’ll probably act like it!
I like this aspect of angels because it lets the DM use them as allies without turning them into straight-up deus ex machinas who swoop in and fix everything for the player. It might make perfect sense for, say, a high-level paladin to get help in the form of a visit from a deva, but if the deva is arrogant or stubborn, it can still be a fun (and even tense) interaction. Of course, if you do want the deva to be a gentle, loving character who imparts some divine knowledge or healing and moves on, that’s fine too!
Speaking of healing, let’s check out the deva’s stat block and see what it can do. Like all angels, it has inherently magical weapons, letting it pack quite a wallop in combat. It can also cast raise dead (and a few other, less impressive spells) and has a healing touch–very handy skills for an ally to have!
The most interesting thing in the deva’s stat block, though, is its ability to change shape. As holy messengers, devas often disguise themselves as mortals to avoid drawing undue attention; this is the perfect way to introduce a deva to your game without your players even knowing it! Imagine that your party’s paladin begins frequenting a particular temple, only to discover many sessions later–in a pivotal, dramatic moment–that the priest of said temple has been a disguised deva all along!
Of course, just because they’re lawful good doesn’t mean a deva has to be an ally. There’s plenty of room for devas as foes, too. First of all, of course, not every adventurer is good–if you’re playing with an evil (or even neutral) party, a deva could certainly come to hunt the players down.
Even with a predominantly good party, though, devas could end up as your enemy; as I alluded to earlier, they tend to be pretty arrogant, and they aren’t likely to react well to players questioning them or their plans. Perhaps a deva is certain that the only way to stop some catastrophe is to wipe a town off the map (for the greater good, of course), and the players want to find another way–that could easily set a deva against the group. Or perhaps the deva is no longer good at all; after all, the term ‘fallen angel’ exists for a reason!
Overall, devas may not be the most exciting or powerful type of angel (they clock in at CR10, compared to the CR16 planetars and CR21 solars), but they’re still plenty interesting. They’re the angel your party is most likely to meet, especially if you’ve got a cleric or paladin in need of some guidance, and I love the possibility of hiding one in plain sight as a seemingly-normal NPC. Plus, a fallen deva could make a fascinating villain for a mid-level game–what made them fall? Are they interested in redemption? What is their goal now that they aren’t enforcing the will of their god? There are lots of ways to use them as friends or foes!