ot too long ago, James wrote about celestials in his "Fairest of Them All" article for Wandering Monsters. Since James took on the task of trying to clean up the lore and naming conventions of some of the celestials, I thought it might be fun to take on the visual components before we move into the next phase of world development. If you are a 4th Edition purist, I suggest reading James's article before you dive into this one—chances are you might get a little confused, because I'll be following James's nomenclature.
James described the three distinctions of angels as (edited for visual cues only):
Movanic Deva. A movanic deva is a human-sized angel most commonly sent as a messenger or agent to the Material Plane and its mirror planes. It appears as a slender humanlike being with milky white skin and silvery hair and eyes, and large feathered wings sprout from its shoulder blades. It is primarily a melee combatant, wielding a flaming greatsword in combat, though it's also somewhat clericlike in its ability to support its allies with bolstering and healing effects. It has high Dexterity, Wisdom, and Charisma scores, though its other ability scores are nothing to sneeze at.
Planetar Deva. A planetar is a Large (8–9 feet tall) humanlike angel that serves as a general of celestial armies, though it is sometimes sent to aid powerful mortals on important missions of good—particularly missions that involve battling fiends. It appears as a massively muscular, hairless humanoid with opalescent skin and white-feathered wings. It is primarily a melee combatant, wielding a magic greatsword (traditionally defending, wounding, and/or vorpal, but not necessarily any of those things), though, like the movanic deva, it has clericlike abilities to bolster and heal its allies. It also has perfect senses, enabling it to see invisible creatures, see through illusions, detect traps, discern lies, and even note the presence of evil creatures at all times. It has very high Strength, Wisdom, and Charisma scores.
Solar Deva. A solar is a Large (9–10 feet tall) humanlike angel that is comparable in power to a demon prince, yet willingly subservient to a good deity. It appears as a powerful, beautiful humanoid with copper skin, bronze hair, and glowing topaz eyes, and its deep, resonant voice is commanding. It has four coppery-gold wings. It can function equally well in melee, wielding a dancing greatsword, or at range, using a magic longbow that creates slaying arrows at the solar's command. It has clericlike abilities similar to the lesser angels, as well as the planetar's perfect senses. It can also make a miracle, duplicating the effect of any spell or creating a unique effect specific to its mission. Its ability scores are all high, and few creatures in the multiverse have a higher Charisma score.
And for no particular reason, I've snapped a shot of the 3rd Edition devas to kick off this party.
And just to be a little playful with the subject matter, I think I'll be playing devil's advocate a bit in this article.
I'm not one of those guys who likes to cling to Judaic visions of male angels. I like the idea of having devas in distinct sexes. I have no problem with a planetar deva acting as the hand of a god and being the most kick-ass female to have ever walked the planes. How about you? Do you think there is room for two sexes in the realm of devas?
I never really got into the no-mouth image of angels that we have sometimes depicted. I mean, a deva is a messenger of a deity. How do you act as a messenger without a mouth? I'm having a terrible vision of a deva miming the coming of the wrath of its god. Not a pretty scene. What do you think? Should a deva have a mouth? Should it be able to speak in a normal fashion, or do you think that the ability to be understood by everyone with a language means that they are speaking by some magical means that precludes the need for a mundane mouth?
Legs or no legs—that is often the question. I had some folks tell me that the depictions that showed angels without legs looked more like ghosts, and I can't fault them for that statement, but I just don't have any firm commitments one way or the other. Do you have any strong feelings on this front?
The descriptions from James's article spell out their weapons pretty well. I have just one question in this realm. Is a sword just a sword, or does the sword of a deva live in a class of its own? In other words, I'm not a big fan of massively oversized weapons. I think a short sword should look like a short sword. But should a sword being wielded by an emissary of a god be bigger and badder than some mundane sword you would find on the physical planes? For me, this is the one of those places where I feel that an oversized weapon actually fits with the story of the beings. So a greatsword being wielded by a solar deva should be just that—GREAT! What do you think? Too over the top?
Okay, this is the time to shout out about the physical descriptions of the deva. If you have feedback and want to try to convince James to change his direction to me, get on it. The clock is ticking. As for me, I'm a little concerned about the issue of making movanic and planetar skin colors look distinctive from each other. I mean, movanic is milky white, and planetar is opalescent. Have you ever seen an opal from a distance? Yep, they look milky white unless you are close enough to see the play of color in the white base. Would you be adverse to me pitching a change in the skin color? I was thinking a golden skin color to be distinct from the milky white of the movanic and the copper of the solar. Let me know your thoughts on this item.
All right, that hits the high points as I get ready to head into concept world. If there are images out there that you feel really capture the essence (not necessarily "likeness") of the deva, upload the image and tell me what it is about the image that captures the essence of the deva for you.
And now for an exciting announcement! We are in the process of creating a premium collection of the AD&D A-series adventures, but we don't want to do it alone. We know D&D adventures are unique to the individuals playing them, and we want to tap into the imaginations of our community. So keep checking the website for news about an art-themed contest and how you can turn your doodles, drawings, and depictions into published art. It's going to be fun!
Jon Schindehette joined Wizards of the Coast in 1997 as the website art director. In the intervening years he has worked as the marketing art director, novels art director, and creative manager. In January of 2009 he moved into the role of senior creative director for D&D. Jon is a long time D&D player (started in 1978), and currently plays in a Tuesday night game and DMs a random pick-up game for younger players. He can be found on Twitter (@ArtOrder) and at theartorder.com.