Tag Archives: races

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?

Where Do Water Genasi Fit In Your Campaign?

Image Copyright Wizards of the Coast

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition has brought us a host of new races to choose from.  Bladelings, Devas, Shardminds, and yes, Genasi.  All of these races, and more, are brand new to the D&D universe, and many DMs struggle with how to fit these races into their campaigns. 

Some DMs take the kitchen sink approach, while others opt to limit the races allowed in their campaign.  Both approaches are valid, and both work.

Now, I am not going to talk about limiting choices for your players because I feel as though many bloggers more able than I have already fully covered this topic.  Needless to say, this is a decision best made by the DM and agreed to by the players.  Instead, what I’d like to do is approach this subject from the NPC angle.  After all, even if players are limited in their choices of race, that doesn’t mean the DM has the same restrictions (Drow, anyone?).  Assuming you agree, we ask ourselves: where would a typical PC find one of these new races in their campaign?

I first started thinking about this because we have very set ideas as to the environment in which one is likely to find the classic D&D races – dwarves, for example (underground) or elves (forest).  What about Devas?  Where would you be most likely to encounter a Deva?  Or (cue the title music) Water Genasi?

Let’s think about the Genasi in general and the Water Genasi specifically.  The obvious thing that jumps out about this race, and I mean really obvious, is the elemental tie that each of the Genasi types has.  In light of these special “affinities,” wouldn’t it stand to reason  that a Water Genasi would be found near, well, water?  And…boats?  (Let it sink in for a minute)  That’s right kids, Water Genasi make perfect pirates.  Which is great because there wasn’t really a “sailor” race in D&D before now.  But it makes perfect sense for your PCs to encounter, for example, a shipping company (legitimate or otherwise) run and staffed by Water Genasi, or a boat whose entire crew was the same.  And, of course, the aforementioned pirates.  It wouldn’t even have to be one random ship of pirates, either.  The PCs could be tasked with taking down a whole pirate cartel.

This also fits very well with the recent adventures I ran for my group because they’d been traveling aboard a ship.  I decided to spring my large scale naval combat on them, and once the battle was more or less over, one of the players expressed the desire to do “a boarding action.”  Not wanting to be the type of DM who says “no,” I went home that night and planned out a fun skirmish in which the PCs boarded the ship and captured the pirate captain they were after.  And the crew was entirely Water Genasi.

Now, I don’t know if the players cared about it at all, but for me, using the Water Genasi just felt right.  Who better to spend their lives on the open water?  Below are the stats for the pirates I used, if you need a starting point to crew a ship of your own.  The Monster Builder has a few Water Genasi to choose from as well.

Let me know what you think of this article in the comments.  I’m willing to turn this into a series if there’s enough interest.