Where do Devas Fit in Your Campaign?

There are a few D&D races that, while mechanically sound, I do not feel comfortable with as player races.  Deva is one of them.  It’s not that I dislike the idea of a Deva; quite the contrary, I think it’s very cool.  It’s just that I don’t see the race, as described in the PHB II as appropriate for players.  Put another way, it’s not the crunch that bothers me, it’s the fluff.

The fluff text that accompanies Devas frames them as immortal beings tied to the service of a good god.  They cannot die, per se, they are simply reincarnated.  They exist solely to eradicate evil.  Reading a bit between the lines, we can also assume that good and evil are not concepts, but rather concrete things, and there is no moral gray area to a Deva.  They are perfectly obedient to the god they have chosen to serve. 

To me, this seems more like a being that is an angel or an avatar, and not a playable race. But there it is, you can play one.  Unless you are the type of DM to limit player choices. Of course, limiting options for your players and limiting options for yourself are two completely different things.  And without hesitation, I can say that I think Devas are appropriate as NPCs.  As a matter of fact, they could make for quite a memorable NPC, and might even drive an entire campaign.  What are some ways you could use them in your campaign?  Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.

There is only one

It seems to me that Devas, more than any other race, would benefit from the “there is only one” treatment.  Devas seem too special and rare to be commonplace.  An immortal servant of a deity? And they’re everywhere? Please.  Plus, apparently, they don’t procreate.  If there were only one Deva, what would this NPC’s story be?  This being could be the servant of a long-dead god, stuck forever on this plane, unable to escape despite the fact that they no longer have a god to obey or crusade for. Perhaps they plead with the PCs to retrieve an artifact that would allow them to die and escape their now meaningless existence. Or perhaps they have turned to evil, driven mad by the death of their god, and without that god to punish their newfound wickedness. 

Alternately, this Deva’s god could be very much alive.  In this scenario the Deva is a creature of myth and legend, formed by the god’s own hands to do the god’s bidding.  From here, the choice of “which god?” becomes important.  The god of war? The Deva is a fearsome warrior.  The god of wisdom, and the Deva is widely sought out for advice and is perhaps even an oracle.  Think “sage on a mountaintop.”  This NPC could live either in a cavernous white marble mountaintop temple or a simple unassuming mountainside hut.

The high council

In this scenario, there is a council of devas who guide world events from afar.  While they are not above personally acting, they prefer to hire adventurers and others to fulfill the will of the gods. When a Deva of the High Council does feel moved to act, such action should be swift and powerful, should leave the PCs in awe, and also leave a greasy stain on the floor where the instigator used to be.  Using Devas in this way could give the PCs a window into the inner workings and conflicts that are taking place among the deities, as these conflicts are mirrored in the Devas that serve them.  Give the PCs opportunities to interact with each council member individually, let the Devas whisper in their ears, take them into their confidence, and see if they align themselves with one over the others.  This scenario would work best in a nation or world where there is a theocracy in place.

Finally, if neither of these ideas appeals to you, there is an option 2(b).  Allow Devas as a playable race only if the entire party is made up of Devas.  Make them “The Hands of the High Council.” In this scenario, each of the Devas that make up the High Council have an enforcer (or “hand”) who acts according to the will of that council member.  To put it bluntly, your players will be the council’s “muscle.”  Of course, there are [number of players] councilors, so each of the players serves a different member of the council.  Not only would this leave plenty of room for the PCs to adventure and influence world events, it could also create some interesting party dynamics when members of the council disagree on courses of action and give conflicting orders.

In keeping with the maxim “If it has a stat block, the PCs will kill it,” I’ve deliberately left out any potential stat blocks for the NPCs mentioned in this article. Of course, if you want your Deva(s) statted out, you can steal one from the monster builder, or reskin any of the angels presented in various D&D resources.

How would you use a Deva in your campaign? Are you ok with Devas as a playable race?

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10 Responses to Where do Devas Fit in Your Campaign?

  1. Clearly a Dirty Deva-Lover says:

    I’ve been playing a deva in an off-and-on campaign since 4E came out, and I can see your issue with them, but my only feedback on this would be to make sure you’ve read “Ecology of the Deva” in Dragon 374.

    I don’t know if they just wanted to flesh out the deva backstory, or if they had similar concerns about their flexibility as a player race, but the first myth given in that article for their origins explicitly puts it in terms of angels being independent beings whose desire to experience and protect the physical world led them to make their bargain with the primals to become physical beings instead of angels, and that some of them may not have even served a god. The second myth they give indicates that the devas did serve the good gods in the Dawn War, but chose to remain in our world and give up their angelic existence.

    In either case, if you accept that article as part of the official story for devas, then there’s no reason to believe that a PC deva has to be tied to the service of, or even to the worship of, any particular god. They’re a race of former angels who specifically cut off their ties to the Astral Sea and the gods in order to exist as mortal beings. Becoming a deva wasn’t part of their service to a god; it was the end of their direct service to that god.

    That said, I think you’d have to do some serious role play acrobatics to play a deva without strong religious leanings, and when I’m the DM I definitely enforce devas being rare, but I personally don’t have a problem with devas as a player race in light of the Dragon 374 fluff.

  2. Alexis Perez says:

    I’ve incorporated Devas into my homebrew world by having the Devas serve not a good god, but a collection of gods that tried to overthrow the god that created them. That ‘Cabal’ as their known by their followers. This collection of Gods crafted the Devas as their immortal army to storm the main god’s realm (his name was Iso). They were sort of immortal as they were crafted by lesser gods. They died but were instantly reincarnated. After that war came to a standstill, the Cabal abandoned the Devas. Some of them found their way to the mortal realm. Here they are seen as proof of the gods existence and of their fickle nature. The Devas themselves have to deal with the fact that their gods abandoned them so they tend to fall all over the map, good, evil and neutral. Most have found a way to hide themselves away from the mortals but there are those that for whatever reason feel that living among the mortals is what they were meant to do. They are rare creatures and viewed with awe by some and hatred by others. The main danger to Devas in my world is that Iso’s followers on Calanth (my world’s name) feel the Devas are objects of sacrilege and hate them. There is even rumored to be a special sect within the church of Iso that has found a way to destroy Devas and is hunting them down. But of course Devas are immortal…

  3. Best idea I’ve had so far (building on an idea someone – I forget who – posted on twitter) is that the Deva could serve as the living prison for some horrible ancient monstrosity. It requires tweaking the fluff a bit, but hey, that’s all in the game, right?

    I think this could work even if one of your players is playing the Deva, although YMMV.

    • Benoit says:

      Hmm, so each Deva has a little piece of this trapped god/monstrosity, and someone is systematically killing all the Devas to release it. Interesting. They’d need to no longer be immortal, but then, that’s probably the biggest problem I have with the race.

      • They could stay immortal, because that’s part of the draw of the living prison. The trapped entity can exert influence, creating rakshashas in some cases. You’d have to reflavor rakshashas slightly, but coolness factor wins in my opinion.

  4. I am fine with PC Devas, and especially enjoy the opportunity for backstory and roleplay. In the campaign I currently DM, while there are no Devas yet (PC or otherwise) I am introducing one next session. The dwarven capital is about to be wiped out by the Legions of Avernus, and Moradin is going to unleash a Dwarve/Goliath flavored Deva Avenger upon the hordes in retaliation. Because my roster of players tends to rotate, the Deva can function as an emergency toon in a pinch, and I hope that someone will take over the role permanently.

  5. Joe G Kushner says:

    Dungeon Siege III features Anjali, an Archon, a race of the Old Creator Gods, that has some similarities to those found by the Devas. I think the trick is to keep the number of player Devas very low and to have… strange things going on with the other Devas, like in Dungeon Siege III where the potential corruption is at the highest end of the food chain.

  6. I have never been much into many of the more fantastic of the PC races, Devas included. That said, I really like the idea of the “Hands of the High Council”. That sort of games sounds like it would be especially fun to run with two different groups. Your weekly game could be the Devas, and you could have a play-by-post game that controls the councilors. It would be a lot of work to run, but both groups would probably get a kick out of knowing that their actions influenced another party on a weekly basis.

  7. Artillery_MKV says:

    I have no issue with Deva PCs, per say, but the GM needs to lay out why they’re in the world. In cultures with reincarnation beliefs a person could perfect themselves to the point that they become a Deva-like being. That’s what I like to use in my game worlds, that these few individuals are close to perfection, but still have some flaw that binds them to the human world. Being so close to perfection allows them to draw on their past lives. I think it needs to be clear what the character is trying to improve to reach nirvana. The post lvl 21 game really opens up options for a Deva to reach their perfection.

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