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?