Posts Tagged ‘angel’

Solar; so then…so what?

April 27, 2010

Finally continuing on with the commentary on the Pathfinder Bestiary.


The solars sit at the top of the angelic hierarchy, and indeed, almost at the top of the hierarchy of monsters in the Bestiary, standing at CR 23. Back in 3.5, these guys were the toughest characters in the Monster Manual; here, they’re eclipsed only by the Tarrasque.

The solar is also the first monster to get a two-page spread, giving ample room not only for its stat block and the illustration seen at left, but also for quite a bit of flavor text. And I have to admit, I’m quite impressed with the way Paizo has written these heavenly do-gooders. The text about them being responsible for mortals with celestial bloodlines or powers is a nice backstory just waiting to happen.

Of course, the Theosophic roots of the angels is maintained with the solar, as it was with the previous angels, but doesn’t serve to define what solars are all about. The flavor text maintains that some solars patrol the sun for attempts to darken it, for example (how they do this I don’t know, since they have no innate immunity to fire), while others may perform any number of other tasks.

Personally, I like to see the nomenclature behind the different strata of angels as being indicative of the area they protect. While astral devas are hard to define under this system (perhaps it’s exclusively astral travelers?), planetars are the protectors of entire planets (e.g. just one is responsible for an entire world), while a single solar is tasked with watching over an entire solar system.

That strikes me as a rather cool way of looking at angels in Pathfinder, particularly since it alludes back to the idea that angels are tasked with protecting mortals, if not on an individual scale (there are no “guardian angels” who watch over an individual their entire life, for instance) then at least on grand one. Of course, planetars being mere CR 14 creatures hardly makes them able to handle truly world-threatening events, but the solar seems tough enough that, if you’re not venturing into the realm of epic levels, it really could stand against truly apocalyptic threats.

Of course, if you are playing at epic levels, you’ll need a much tougher solar.

Beyond that though, it seems like you’ll rarely get to use a solar in your game. Even beyond the standard problems that come from using a good monster, the sheer power of a solar makes it too much of a game-changer in a game where the PCs are supposed to be the stars of the show. One way I didn’t mention before of using a good monster in game is, if they’re weaker than the PCs, they can be the person who needs to be rescued…but it’s hard to see that with a solar, since it’s stronger than even the top-tier demons and devils.

The best-case scenario for using a solar in-game is that the PCs use a gate spell, or similarĀ  ability, to bring one in to fight for them. Even this can get tiresome, since it’s essentially them calling in a ringer (not that they really need it by the time they’re that level).

Ultimately, the solar works best as a backdrop that helps drive the narrative, rather than taking part in it. Having one be the great-great-great-grandfather of your sorcerer with the celestial bloodline, or single-handedly holding off a horde of demons while the PCs race to slay the demon king, is what they’re best used for. The solar exemplifies why angels are best used as window dressing for the larger universe, letting the PCs be the movers and shakers.

The planetar – Heaven’s own General McClellan

April 22, 2010

Continuing with the review of the monsters from the Pathfinder Bestiary.


Appropriate to being the “middle child” of the angels, the planetar has the least development. It receives only a single paragraph of expository text, which talks about how planetars are the generals of the angelic armies, focusing on destroying fiends.

Right…let’s recap the major effects of planetar-led armies attacking the planes of evil:

  • The Abyss: The realm of the demons is infinite, and contains an infinite number of demons in turn. The best that the forces of good have ever done here was to overthrow a weakened hegemony of demons, which accomplished absolutely nothing since all that happened was that another one rose up to take its place (and even this was done by the eladrin; Pathfinder’s azata. See WotC’s Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss). So yeah, any planetar general who wants to take his army here is pretty clearly stupid, suicidal, or one some sort of “death and glory” bender and as such should be mutinied against at the first available opportunity.
  • Hell: Asmodeus is the only being in the cosmos who rules over an entire plane of existence, and there’s absolutely no indication that anything about that is going to change any time soon. The other players in Hell may go through an upheaval every so often, but that seems to be more due to Asmodeus’ whims than anything else. So yeah, I fail to see what a few companies of angels attacking HellĀ  has accomplished.
  • Fiendish Incursions: And this is the biggest reason of all why I personally can’t help but roll my eyes at the idea of an army of angels: because they seem to do absolutely nothing to stave off the worst disasters. Where were they when the forces of Orcus invaded? What about when Demogorgon tried to unleash a savage tide across the world? How about when Asmodeus’ servants dragged a good god’s temple into Hell? It was a freakin’ holy place – going in to rescue it was all but required, and yet there’s not one celestial in the entire adventure! Clearly, the angels must have had trouble getting the pearly gates open or something.

So yeah, it’s hard to respect the generals of the angelic armies when they seem to have accomplished jack and squat, and yet still want to go back out there for more. Personally, I think that they’re overcompensating for something.

Send me an angel

April 20, 2010

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.


The lowest ranks of the angels are devas, and already the gremlin of groan-worthy monster names is rearing its ugly head again.

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.