Deva

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Neither angel nor mortal, but something torn between the two.

Devas are a Dungeons & Dragons race of Immortal origins, native to the World Axis cosmology of 4th edition. Formally angels, during the ancient past of the Dawn War, they became enamored with the mortal world and the creatures that lived upon it. So much so that they chose to petition the Primal Spirits, the powers that reigned over the world proper, for the right to become more like mortal beings and live upon the world. The Primal Spirits agreed, but at a price; now, devas reincarnate over and over as strange, half-mortal creatures, possessing chains of memories reaching deep into their past, but cursed never to return to their angelic glory of old. Worse still, if they fall from the high standards expected of their race, then their reincarnations may go sour, transforming them into twisted fiends whose sins are manifested through bestial features.

Devas were introduced in the 2nd Player's Handbook for D&D 4e; they subsequently received an "Ecology of the Deva" article in Dragon Magazine #374, whilst #393 introduced fluff and mechanics for Veilwalkers and Redeemed Devas.

If you're looking the "classically shaped angels" of Planescape who originally bore this name, see Aasimon.

History[edit]

Devas are one of the oldest races in the Nentir Vale setting, hearkening back to the youth of the world itself. Though never numerous enough to erect their own empires, their influence has been a constant presence throughout history, as they strive to uphold both their ancient desire to protect and nurture the world they love so much and their original calling to battle the agents of annihilation; archons, aberrations, devils and so forth.

It goes without saying that devas have accomplished great things - sometimes terrible things, but always great. Because of the knowledge that damnation to a probable-eternity as a rakshasa awaits a deva who falls too far, those devas who slide into evil usually embrace it with eagerness to make a demon blink, giving rise to villains as awful as the more conventional heroes of their lineage.

Biology[edit]

Devas are tall, imperious-looking, eerily beautiful and still humanoids most easily distinguished by their two-toned skin. A deva always bears two-toned skin, patterned in dark (blue, purple, dark-gray, black) and light (chalk-white, pale-gray), with the patterning always being unique to that individual deva, both in terms of whether dark or light is the "primary" color and the precise shape, number and arrangement of the patches of the secondary color. Their eyes are a solid pale gray or white color, whilst their hair is usually one (or both) of the colors as their skin - exceptions do exist.

Created from angels through the powers of the Primal Spirits, devas defy the normal life cycle. A deva is "born" as a fully-grown adult, and from that point is unaging, living until either violence strikes it down or time wearies it enough that it chooses to "drop the body" and start afresh. The bodiless essence of a dead deva exists in the same shadowy spirit-realm as the primal spirits, and many believe they can interact with the living world in much the same way. This state typically lasts for 1 to 7 years, but has been known to last longer - up to a century or more, in the cases of particularly horrible deaths or prolonged experiences spent manifest in a single identity.

Reincarnation happens randomly at various spots sacred to the Primal Spirits, and often to benevolent gods as well. Their spiritual essence keeps these locales safe, ensuring that nothing shows up to harm the youthful deva newborn. That said, there is no discernable rhyme or reason to where a deva will reincarnate; they may show up on the other side of the planet. Normally, only one deva manifests in a given spot at a time, but on rare occasions deep bonds between deceased devas causes two or more to manifest in a single spot, something referred to as either "twinning" (when only two show up), or "bonded incarnation". A reincarnated deva is a near-complete tabula rasa; born fully mature physically, and with a strong enough connection to the memories of its past selves to understand the basics of speech and looking after itself, but with its old personality swept away. Events from the last incarnation subtly influence the development of physical and mental traits, but the newborn deva is just that; newborn. Even a complete sex-change is far from unheard of.

Talking of sex, despite being incapable of breeding with each other, devas are not only sexually active beings, but can procreate with members of other races. These offspring inherit the species of their non-deva parent, but their souls are suffused with the stuff of the Astral Sea, making them inherently stronger and more awe-inspiring than normal.

Crunch[edit]

+2 Wisdom, +2 Intelligence OR Charisma
Medium
6 squares speed
Normal vision
Skill Bonuses: +2 History, +2 Religion
Astral Majesty: +1 to all defenses from attacks by creatures that are Bloodied.
Astral Resistance: Necrotic Resistance and Radiant Resistance of 5 + 1/2 character level.
Immortal Origin: Considered an Immortal for all effects keying off of origins.
Memory of A Thousand Lifetimes: 1/encounter, add +1d6 to the result of an attack roll, saving throw, skill check, or ability check.

Because of their bonuses, Devas make a great choice for any caster-focused class; the Cleric or Invoker most obviously, but they're also very adept at Arcane and Psionic classes too. In fact, they're honestly rather pushed towards the spellcaster niche; they're conspicuously lacking in feat support for the martial classes, while they can have Radiant Power feat, basically an implement-based Power Attack which allows them to add-on Radiant damage. This means they can, at a minimum, layer on Radiant damage while using implements that change the damage type (for example, if they want to simultaneously exploit Radiant and Cold effects).

The Soul of the World Epic Destiny allows a deva to have had prior incarnations as mortals, reminiscent of the Moorcockian Eternal Champion. They can gain racial abilities and feats of two other races, gain another dose of +int and +wis, gain powers from another class (retraining included: hello Avenger with Power of Skill, Divine Bolts and Retributive Strike), and come back from the dead as a member of any race and class (only partially; gaining the racial encounter, plus a level 22 utility of that class).

But the best class for a Deva is bard. For the sole reason that if someone asks something along the likes of "Are we not men?" you IMMEDIATELY reply "We are Deva!". Make sure to bring a fitting hat.

Deva Corruption[edit]

Nobody is quite sure why devas risk being corrupted into rakshasa if they allow themselves to grow too evil. It may just be a natural result of introducing such a potent quantity of sin to a creature already made up of a precarious mixture of divine and primal energies. One popular theory is that it was a deliberate decision on the part of the Primal Spirits, one aimed both at preserving balance and at ensuring that devas remained thoroughly tied to the inherent dynamism and mutability of living creatures.

Regardless, becoming a rakshasa is not simple. A deva can live hundreds of lives as a repentant scoundrel or repentant villain and still be assured of coming back in its next life as a deva. It requires true depravity, or the deliberate and eager embrace of evil and selfish self-gratification, to damn a deva to become a rakshasa. This is why truly evil devas are so terrible; once they have come aware of what is going to happen to them, most willingly embrace their darkness - they can't save themselves anyway, so they might as well enjoy it.

Devas who have begun to succumb to corruption form a distinctive sub-species, handled mechanically as a unique racial paragon path, called Heavenly Deceiver. These individuals have gained corruption enough to begin manifesting some of the inherent illusory powers of the rakshasa, but not so much as to be damned to become one in their next life. Some of these Veilwalkers pursue redemption, others seek to preserve this "balance" as long as possible, and still others go over the edge and become the monster they know they can be.

That said... the path between deva and rakshasa isn't a one-way street. It's incredibly rare, of course, but sometimes a rakshasa manages to lift itself up from hedonism and pursue redemption, ultimately returning it to the ranks of the devas once more. These Redeemed Deva, as they're called, are likewise defined by a unique racial paragon path, the Dark Star, which revolves around using the "call up past lives" power of all devas to dredge up the horrors they committed as rakshasa to scare the shit out of people.

Devas vs. Aasimars[edit]

Devas were added to 4th edition by taking the place of the aasimar, introduced in Planescape so long ago. Their coming was foretold in the teaser-splatbook "Wizards Presences: Races & Classes". There, one of the game designers noted that whilst "inherently celestial race" was a good idea of itself, the actual execution of it in the form of the aasimar was... not so good. After all, when you get down to it, the aasimars are pretty much a carbon-copy of tieflings, just doing a find & replace of "fiend" with "celestial". With fluff that basically boils down to "I'm a super-special super-good cleric or paladin".

...What? You want to see it for yourself? Alright, fine:

CELESTIALS —Rob Heinsoo If you’re a long-time D&D fan, odds are that you’ve already noticed that the tieflings’ promotion to first-rank player character race has left another race behind: the race that was the tieflings’ light-side counterpart, a race of golden humans descended from angels—the aasimar.

Even now I struggle to type that word without spelling it like buttocks.

I’m one of the designers who argued that we should stop using the word “aasimar.” In the aasimar’s place, you’ll meet a race of celestials who have plunged through the same transforming fires as the tieflings.

I won’t lie: making Good-associated creatures as exciting as their Evil-curious counterparts is a challenge. I call the challenge the “Ave Maria” problem, a reference to Walt Disney’s original Fantasia, a wonderful animated film that ended with musical meditations on Evil and Good. Evil got Night on Bald Mountain, accompanied by an evil-storm orchestrated by a whip-wielding demon. Good followed up with barely animated candle-bearing keepers of the faith proceeding across the screen singing Ave Maria. It’s a sweet piece of music, and it certainly speaks to the possibilities of Good, but the animation just didn’t hold a candle to lightning storms on Bald Mountain.

So now you know our mission: celestials who sizzle bright enough to hold their own against Bald Mountain lightning storms. We’re working on it!

Gallery[edit]

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Races
Player's Handbook 1: Dragonborn - Dwarf - Eladrin - Elf
Half-Elf - Halfling - Human - Tiefling
Player's Handbook 2: Deva - Gnome - Goliath - Half-Orc - Shifter
Player's Handbook 3: Githzerai - Minotaur - Shardmind - Wilden
Monster Manual 1: Bugbear - Doppelganger - Githyanki
Goblin - Hobgoblin - Kobold - Orc
Monster Manual 2: Bullywug - Duergar - Kenku
Dragon Magazine: Gnoll - Shadar-kai
Heroes of Shadow: Revenant - Shade - Vryloka
Heroes of the Feywild Hamadryad - Pixie - Satyr
Eberron's Player's Guide: Changeling - Kalashtar - Warforged
The Manual of the Planes: Bladeling
Dark Sun Campaign Setting: Mul - Thri-kreen
Forgotten Realms Player's Guide: Drow - Genasi