With today’s entry, we come to the first in what will shortly become a parade of good-aligned monsters. Despite their benevolent nature, any Dungeon Master worth their dice knows that good creatures come with their own suite of problems.
The biggest problem with good monsters is, of course, how do you use them in your game? When your Player-Characters are all heroes, campaigning against the forces of darkness, it seems counter-intuitive to have full combat statistics for creatures of light – after all, if they’re doing their job right, the heroes shouldn’t ever find themselves fighting angels.
Worse, the stark nature of D&D’s alignment system totally eliminates the areas of moral ambiguity that would usually be called upon to tap dance around this particular problem. In Dungeons & Dragons – and Pathfinder – good is Good, and evil is Evil. The only shades of gray are explicitly Neutral. Hence, you won’t often run into situations where the angels are telling you to sacrifice an innocent person for the sake of thousands of others; it’s clearly spelled out that such a thing is evil (albeit not in the main books – but the Book of Exalted Deeds and Book of Vile Darkness, while fairly lackluster in venturing out of the “comfort zones” of alignment, are still pretty clear on what constitutes absolute good and evil in the D&D game).
Usually, the way this particular hurdle is overcome is just to make good creatures evil. For whatever reason – a personal failing, the result of a magical accident, or by some evil creature’s dark designs – a good monster has turned to the dark side, and needs to be put down. More rarely, the PCs will have decided to buck the established “let’s play heroes” convention, and will be playing neutral, or even evil, characters. It makes much more sense to have antagonistic good guys then.
Ultimately, though, most of these answers are unsatisfying, simply because they’re excuses to try and get around the problem of trying to set up a plausible heroes vs. good guys scenario. And really, there’s no good way to get around that issue (at least not with such absolute alignments). Without this “just in case” clause, the issue of good monsters with stats largely devolves into a bland statement of rationale about how there must be good creatures in the world, since there are evil ones (albeit a lot more evil ones), and it wouldn’t make sense not to stat them also.
But even so, your PCs are more likely to run into fallen angels than the run-of-the-mill ones. Be prepared.
It seems almost too fitting that the angels start off the roster of good outsiders in the Bestiary. I mean, it’s like they just deserve to be at the head of the line, and they know it, you know? Just like that kid at your high school graduation who never missed a day, always got straight A’s, and was student council president, you sort of take it for granted that he’s going to be the one giving the speech.
This is particularly funny considering how all of the good-aligned outsiders begin with the letter “A,” but the angels come first. Yes, it’s technically alphabetical – “angel” comes before “archon” and “azata” – but still, notice how the agathions (aka the guardinals, in v.3.5 terms) were conveniently left out of the Bestiary? Nobody upstages the angels, especially not some animal-headed freaks; agathions shy away from the law/chaos aspects of goodness, whereas angels bitch-slap them.
Fun fact: Back in the days of Second Edition (and maybe late First Edition, I’m not sure), having repudiated using the terms “demon” and “devil” in D&D, TSR also renamed the angels. Their new appellation was “aasimon”. Hence why their scions, aasimars, are called what they are today.
Yes, I know that devas are beings from Hindu and Buddhist theologies. I also know that the correct way to pronounce their name is “dey-vuh.” But I’m willing to bet that most people still take one look at this name and said it as “diva,” even if you knew better. It’s like one of those bad jokes you can’t stop yourself from making.
As such these angels tend to be taken less seriously, being the butt of comments like how they should really have bard class abilities, or how they must be filled with vain self-importance about being “messengers of the gods of good” and “sponsor powerful mortals.” It gets to the point where you’re sure that you can feel that celebrity smugness oozing off of them.
Moreover, the description for astral di-, er, devas in the Bestiary mentions that they carry scrolls with divine messages and prophecies, and that they never let anyone peruse them. I can just imagine what that scroll-envy sounds like among the gossipers in Heaven…
“Oh my gosh, I heard that Theliana was like, totally all over Barakiel the other day.”
“Seriously? That girl needs to get off her high cloud. He’s like, way too good-aligned for her.”
“Tell me about it. You just know she wants him for his scroll.”
“Oh for sure. But can you blame her? I caught a glimpse of it under his robes the other day and it had to be like, a foot thick. Just thinking about it makes my halo tingle.”
Let’s hope that the higher-tier angels are more respectable.