D&D 5E Dragon's Eye View: Celestials

What do people think about the WotC article about angels in NEXT? http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4dreye/20130109

I think they're defining the physical features of angels the wrong way.

1. In a multiverse of many species, angels should be able to look all sorts of ways -- different skin colors, facial features, sexes, and ages. When an angel appears to orcs, it might look orcish, muscular and tusked. To elves, it could choose to be svelte and androgynous. To the 60% of Americans who aren't white, it could choose to appear as something other than a European.

2. How then to differentiate angels of different ranks? FANTASY! Magic: the Gathering has had some fantastic angels, with different sorts of halos and designs. Movanic devas might have simple glowing silver or gold ring halos. Honestly, humanoid with feathered wings is impressive enough; the halo might not even be necessary.


Planetars might have large disk halos with ornate patterns in them (as well as patterns on their wings) that hint at what deity they serve.


Solars would have brilliantly glowing fiery halos, shining eyes, as well as an aureola (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aureola).



Perhaps angels that serve no god have no mouth. They can still create a booming voice that sounds from all directions, but it is a visual cue that they are either rebellious or fallen.

3. Supernatural weapons are great. Oversized spears and swords, whips of white fire, ridiculous scythes for the angel of death.

4. All this stuff is just how they choose to appear, how our mortal minds conceive them. They're beings of otherworldly grandeur and mystery, and if you were to peel away these veils they wear for our sakes, you would see crazy stuff. Orbs of energy surrounded by wheels of gems, pulsing as they talk. Flashing vertical planes of multicolored lights that appear 2-dimensional from any angle. A hollow presence that blocks everything behind it but cannot actually be seen. Undulating columns of mercury-like mirrors that reflect everything except for living creatures.

But hey, in general, I'm fine with the classic stuff:


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First Post
For angels, I like the idea that angels don't have one particular appearance, but appear how they need/want to be at any given moment. In D&D-speak, they would have some sort of Alter Self ability. I think giving them static forms takes away some of their other-worldliness.


New Publisher
That was my thought also, why would the servant of a god for aquatic beings look like one for humans? Why would an orc Angel look like an elvish angel? RW has some great ideas.....oh, and Magic has great art, why not use some of it?

Argyle King

I prefer the way angels were handled in 4th Edition for reasons mentioned by the OP. It made more sense to me that -in a world where different gods existed- angels of different faiths would look different. I also liked that angels did have something of a humanoid form, but that form was also vague enough so as to appear not too much like any one particular race. Though, in the case of gods which are tied to a particular race, a cosmology in which angelic appearance is somewhat tied to the themes and attitudes of the god served, it would make sense to me for a divine servitor to look like the race the god is tied to.


I tend to hew more towards preserving the classic AD&D aasimon/angel types, while also mixing in unique features for any given angel based on what deity it happens to be in the service of (which isn't all that far off from the PF handling of it). I didn't much care for the 4e take which homogenized them all as faceless things that rather ingloriously tossed out prior D&D traditions on the topic.

In the end however, I like my aasimon/angels to be customized in appearance for their deity, and while easily known as what type of angel they are, they shouldn't have a locked down single appearance. I'm perfectly fine for them being viewed differently by different races (looking orcish or elven or human etc to those races even if viewed by them at the same time).


Well, that was fun
Staff member
Yeah, there's that whole Babylon 5 thing - when Kosh left his encounter suit, everybody who saw him saw something different. They saw their own perception of what an angel looks like.

I'm A Banana

I'm not a fan of the "subjective viewpoint" angel. I mean, you can make that argument for any metaphysical being. Why don't elves all look ethereally beautiful to different people because of a glamour? Why don't demons all look like a subjective worst nightmare? For certain creatures (ie: succubi, ghaele) that can work fine, but as a general trait I'm not fond of it.

I do think that the angel should kind of combine a certain "alien" aesthetic with the more iconic "winged person" image, and I think the skin colors and such do that pretty OK.

As for John's specific Q's:

Sex: I don't think they necessarily need overt gender any more than succubi or vrock or pit fiends need gender, so I'm very cool with eerie androgyny. I'm also cool with a diversity. I'm not cool with an all-male line up.

Face: Yes, give it a mouth. Yes, it speaks in all tongues at once. No, they don't NEED a mouth to speak, but why can't they also have a mouth to speak with?

Anatomy: Sure, legs. The legs don't need to be exactly physical though.

Weapons: I'm basically cool with very stylized weapons on the celestials, made more of light and numinous awesome than of mortal metals.

Appearance: Actually, the skin color change idea is cool. But I would perhaps try to see what you can do to distinguish opalescent from milky white visually, first. A quick Google search of opalescent shows tones of blue and violet, so see what bringing those colors out a bit might show.



I like diversity. "Angels" from different deities and pantheons should look different, racial-specific deities should have "angels" that are more appropriate to that race, be they very perfect versions of that race's members, or in the form of some creature that race revers.

I love MTG's angels, and they're great for human-centric/themed gods, but I support the inclusion of everything from the faceless creepy angels to the "perfect representations of an ideal of this race" angels.


Steeliest of the dragons
I think a step back needs to be taken to look at..."Who has angels?!" before we start worrying about "subjective/malleable appearance" or "how does an orc angel look different from an elf angel?"

Are angels celestials for ANY good deity?! Right there you can forget about worrying about "orc angels" as, I don't believe they have any good deities. f an angel were appearing before an orc, I would think they would take on the most formidable and frightful appearance (thus, as beautiful as humans can imagine) an orc could stand.

Are they only for LAWFUL good deities?! Seems elf deities wouldn't really need them then, either (if 5e continues with the traditional view of elves societal alignment as "chaotic good" or tending towards neutrality more than "lawful"). (Wasn't that what "eladrin" were originally for? Chaotic Good celestial archon type guys?) Are they only for Neutral Good deities, a.k.a. the "pure good" alignment and they are beings composed of "Pure Good"?
Are there "Neutral" angels?! If so, do we have to get rid of all of the glowy/shiny/light then? They're just...solid one-shade-of-grey?

As for the specific things listed in the article:

1) Males and/or females and/or androgynous appearance all work for me. I would think that is something the angel just switches to and fro as they need/ desire...since the whole "what gender is more appealing/imposing/commanding to mortals" thing probably has absolutely no emotional resonance for them. A group of three (though I imagine that's a fairly high level campaign to encounter multiple angels at once) might choose/each prefers to appear as one male, one female and one indiscernible, angels of a female-identified deity might have all-female looking angels, a deity of war/strength/mountains/similarly "hard" or physically-related domain might have heavily muscled [body-builder type frames] and thus "masculine-appearing" angels without being/having anything specifically "male" about them, etc...

However they appear, the mortals viewing them should be stunned with awe.

2) What Kamikaze Midget says above, give them mouths! No, they don't need them. Yes, they can communicate with anyone/thing. Sure, they could do it telepathically is they feel like. Or could take on a form without a mouth, if they feel like. But no reason they shouldn't, as "the messengers", have the most obvious (to mortals) communicative device.

3) Yes, let them have legs. <rolls eyes> I know Jon was being "devil's advocate" in this article...but come on.

4) See KM above, again. Luminous/light formed shapes that resemble the shapes of mortal weapons and do whatever kind of damage they need to against whatever they're striking seems to make the most sense.
--Monavic would, perhaps, be the most "physical looking" and have some kind of silver-blue celestial adamantite or what have you that cannot be found on the Prime...but is, most definitely, a physical object recognizable as sword/mace/spear/whatever type of weapon.
--Planetars might appear with some unimpressive looking blade (as they are manifesting a "sword" for the mortal's understanding) or completely average looking spear. But when they move into battle, it turns into an amazing glowing (or "flaming" appearing) weapon of awe-inspiring devastation.
--Solars, then, would just have "light swords" and "light bows" that shoot "slaying star bolts". They keep everything in its plain looking scabbard and quiver (so as not to damage mortal eyes with the weapons' innate radiance). Not to mention they are not really "looking for a fight" kinda guys. They're just kick-butt at it if they need to be. But those [mortal creatures] who are not of "good" alignment can do nothing but cower at the blinding sight of a Solar fully prepared to enter battle with unsheathed weapons blazing, burning with light even behind closed eyes.

EDIT: Forgot the mention about "over-sized" or oddly shaped weapons (which I can only imagine is the kind of "anime" looking oversized or ridiculously shaped with unnecessary pointy edges and angles everywhere) being ok or making sense for angel weapons.

I can only hope this was, also, a "devil's advocate" position on his part. But whether it was or not, I forgot to include my response to the idea in my original posting. To whit...NO! Just. No. Don't defend it. Don't explain it. Don't think its justifiable. Just no. Don't do it. [/EDIT]

5) Skin colors, again, are one of those rather malleable and completely irrelevant things. "These angels are milky white. But GODS HELP YOU IF THEY LOOK CREAMY white!!! Is that EGG white I see?!? HEADS WILL ROLL!!! BONE white??!! What is this, a devil?!" They should be able to appear however they want.

If you need (as it seems you do) to give them a "default skin tone", just keep it simple and not weirdy for no reason, i.e. "Oo look! Hound archons are red, but trumpet archons are emerald green! Ain't that so strange and alien and kewl? I can barely comprehend their celestial nature!" Uhhh...huh. What we do with dragons seems like would work just fine (not to mention offer some kind of corresponding internal consistency):

--Monavic get Bronze skin and brassy/blond looking hair...simple golden or silver ring-style halo (if you must). Eyes can be whatever color they fancy and get all glowy when they reveal themselves or use any of their powers. Seems to me, when on the Prime plane, like often portrayed in the movies (and the judeo-christian Bible at least once I can think of), they would not be wearing their "angel-ness" on their sleeve. No visible wings, no visible halo or shiny metal skin. They need to go about their business (if they are remaining on the Prime for any length of time). When they reveal their true nature then, "Oooo. Aaaah. Bronze skin, glowy eyes, shiny floaty ring halo, unearthly weapon...with wings?! No way! This guy/gal who's been [helping/hindering/following/healing/warning/annoying/sleeping with] us is an angel?!"

--Planetars get silver and/or white (make 'em milky or opalescent or pewter or platinum or whatever silvery-whiteness you like). They don't have hair, right? So silver skin with opal eyes...a silver white corona seems perfect. More than a "halo" but less then a full "aureola." That is, emanating around their whole head (not just a ring of shiny) or their head and shoulders...a "mantle" if you would.

--Solars are GOLD (why would they have "copper" skin?!) and, if you like, make the eyes glowy amber/copper...or make the eyes platinum?...They are "SOL-ar" angels. Why would they be anything BUT gold? Garbed (if necessary) in glimmering glittering yellow/golden light that flows like robes or "solidifies" into armor (immediately changeable at will) with a constant (unless willed away/dimmed) full body potentially blinding/damaging aura.

All of this should be tempered with the fact that I have never (that I recall) used any angels in my games, ever. But if I were, this is likely how I would portray/play them, regardless of what the MM says/shows.
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There are many things I hate about the visual direction of 4e angels, some people I know advocated them not looking like the Renaissance-inspired human-like forms, but they ended up with the mouthless-legless form for all of them which wasn't anything of interest for all those varieties of angels which never stood out.

It was just another 4e problem, of making things different from what they were in D&D before just because they felt they had a badly decided better idea, which was another thing that made the edition unappealing.

I'm glad they're considering dropping those ideas, in my opinion when most people think of angels, they think of something that has a mouth and legs.

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