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5E Fallen Celestials and (the lack of) Ascended Fiends

dave2008

Legend
I think it comes down to the role or purpose of angels. The nature of celestials and fiends are vague and leave it up to DMs.

Are they servants of gods? Do they fall when they stop serving? What about evil gods, do they serve them? Or do evil gods have devil's or demons or something else? Would chaotic gods use reclaimed devils?

D&D doesn't focus that much on the combination of polytheistic and monotheistic aspects it has. It makes most powerful celestials and fiends into alignment robots.
Except for 4e of course.
 

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MechaTarrasque

Adventurer
I figure that evil likes to keep fallen celestials as celestials for advertisement purposes ("see good isn't really all that good") or for deceptive purposes (in my setting, a cleric of Asmodeus who casts planar ally is likely to get a deathpact angel, since the Church of A likes to be socially respectable [while of course, making evil respectable]).

Good has less reason to keep ascended fiends as fiends, so they get turned into celestials pretty quickly (as soon as it is clear this isn't a ruse--which I got from Pathfinder's Redemption Engine novel--I highly recommend it). Since there is a lack of Guardianal stats in 5e, I occasionally play with the notion that they are all ascended fiends (and use fiend stat blocks for them).
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Basically, my question is this: Why are there so few Ascended Fiends in D&D lore compared to Fallen Celestials? Is it just not as interesting of a story? Is there something about Good and Evil as forces that prevent ascended fiends? Did the writers just never think of it?
The issue is a very basic one: in real-world human experience, it is harder to be good than it is to be bad.

For an angelic being to fall generally just requires them to give up, become lax, abandon discipline. That's easy. To enforce enough self-control to make oneself better, however, is not easy for humans, much less for something so steeped in evil as a devil or demon.
 

jgsugden

Hero
I am toying with the idea of a Tiefling PC, Glasya, who believes that anyone can be redeemed, including Glasya and Asmodeus.

However, when I DM, this is not a possibility. The souls that become devils are bound by unbreakable contracts. They are not even in the devil bodies. Demons are Devils that were corrupted by the Far Realms eons ago, making them equally impossible to redeem.

They fill an important role in my ecosystem of gaming - enemies with no moral grey zone. There is no question - they are evil and seek evil things - Demons seek destructon and Devils seek domination. I do have a few nuances (Glabrezu play a special role as corrupters, for example, that wish to destroy the by leading good people astray with hard choices - which often manifests in near lawful activities), but it is the core truth of the Fiends in my game.
 


Except for 4e of course.
That is one thing that 4e did well.

In the Pact Primeval universes, devils could not ascend in numbers and in forms as they were still bound to the pact.

In Seed of Evil universe, devils are the "angels" of Asmodeus or his dead former master. All they need to truly ascend is for a another deity to somehow reclaim them from Asmodeus. Difficult but not impossible.

I don't know how it would work in the Ahriman version.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
But there's another thing about that isn't there? If a devil that ascended becomes just an angel, then why do angels that have fallen become known as fallen angels?

I don't really find a devil becoming a demon much like a fiend becoming a celestial. Mainly because well, despite the ideological differences of how Evil should be, they are still ultimately on the same side of Evil. Basically, Lawful to Chaotic or Chaotic to Lawful doesn't seem as big or extreme of a jump as going from Good to Evil or Evil to Good.

although, on that train of thought, what happens to a Slaad that stops being chaotic? There's a small set of fiction and space within the D&D world of Modrons going rogue and ceasing to be Lawful (while still being a Modron, mind), what about Slaads not being chaotic? Hell, they don't even have to be Lawful, considering Rogue Modrons can be any alignment other than Lawful Neutral.


Well that's a lot more chipper and funny than my idea of Good essentially being an aberration on the multiverse that goes against the natural order of things.

I do kinda prefer my idea, but your idea certainly has merit and could be a pretty good Epic Level plot hook, busting Evil's monopoly on souls and allow everything a chance at redemption is the perfect combo of silly and epic that I think all good stories need.
True, they're called fallen angels. However I believe in the case of Zariel, that although she is a fallen angel she is also a devil (in fact an archdevil). So it's quite possible that "redeemed devils" truly are a thing, but celestials (being the nice lads they are) just don't call them that, preferring to focus on the present rather than the past.

I largely don't agree on the Lawful to Chaotic jump being easier than a jump from Good to Evil (or the reverses). I'm one who believes that if the D&D multiverse is truly as balanced as Mordenkainen believes it is, than these alignment shifts are quite possible, perhaps even equally possible to each other.

So we have examples of celestials falling to evil, and of devils falling to chaos. Perhaps we could think of alignment as a sort of "degeneration," that Lawful Good is the most pure at the top, Lawful Evil and Chaotic Good are the next rung down, and Chaotic Evil are at the bottom. And that it is harder to move down a rung than to climb back up. However, this might be just the kind of propaganda that Lawful Good types would spread, that they're the "most pure."

Funny enough it is actually possible for Slaad to be lawful; they're called Gormeel. It isn't really clear if a chaotic slaad can become a gormeel, or if gormeel are just spawned accidentally from the Spawning Stone, but lawful slaad do exist.

Anyway, my larger POV is that just like for mortals, planar creatures can shift alignment. The difference is that when a planar creature shifts alignment, they're literally changing the very essence of what they are, and are evolving or changing into something else.

I'm of the opinion that yes, redeemed demons and devils do exist, but that celestials probably do their best to hide that info (or perhaps they just don't talk about it because a creature's past is irrelevant to them).
 

MechaTarrasque

Adventurer
One other thing to think of is that conjure celestial has the limitation that "It obeys any verbal commands that you issue to it (no action required by you), as long as they don’t violate its alignment." So if you are an evil cleric (or bard), it isn't very useful unless you have fallen celestials to fill the position.

Summon greater demon and summon lesser demon don't have as flexible rules. Therefore there is less need for ascended demons, because a good caster wouldn't get any advantage from summoning them.

Infernal calling is in between; it has "It obeys the command if the likely outcome is in accordance with its desires, especially if the result would draw you toward evil." Arguably an ascended devil could work with good PC's "in accordance with its desires", but you would also have to deal with "especially if the result would draw you toward evil." Besides, unless you specifically called an ascended devil, would you really trust a devil that acted "good"? It is probably a trick.....
 

I ran a Planescape adventure where a deva was teaching a group of lesser devils that their souls were not beyond redemption, and that through acts of sacrifice in the name of good, they could escape the Nine Hells. This involved the creation of a planar pathway called the Steep Ascent connecting the Nine Hells to Mount Celestia.

The devils struggled and were unable to grasp the essential concept of altruism – they could not conceive of a person being motivated by care for another's welfare and well-being. Basically, I leaned hard into exploring the philosophy of "enlightened self-interest" and the "tragedy of the commons." The question become if a devil thinks "I will not steal/kill/betray because if I steal/kill/betray then others may steal/kill/betray me and the creation of a thieving/murderous/treacherous society will likely hurt me", does that make the devil good?

I let my players answer. Their answer was "no, it doesn't, good demands more above and beyond fear of personal loss or maintaining the status quo." They confronted the deva, cast down the erinyes that was manipulating him, destroyed the Steep Ascent, and brought the deva back to Mount Celestia where he was tried and imprisoned. They were regaled as heroes, and there was no hope for devils to be redeemed (though the players would have said "there never was hope – they already baked their bread").
 

The issue is a very basic one: in real-world human experience, it is harder to be good than it is to be bad.

For an angelic being to fall generally just requires them to give up, become lax, abandon discipline. That's easy. To enforce enough self-control to make oneself better, however, is not easy for humans, much less for something so steeped in evil as a devil or demon.
I let my players answer. Their answer was "no, it doesn't, good demands more above and beyond fear of personal loss or maintaining the status quo." They confronted the deva, cast down the erinyes that was manipulating him, destroyed the Steep Ascent, and brought the deva back to Mount Celestia where he was tried and imprisoned. They were regaled as heroes, and there was no hope for devils to be redeemed (though the players would have said "there never was hope – they already baked their bread").

I think it is here that we find the answer to "why isn't this more common"

Right or wrong there is a bit of an.... oddity, in Western Morality, potentially due to the influence of Judeo-Christian ideas. See, you do good, you act good, because if you do not you get punished. You get sent to Hell for being Evil after all.

Devils are already in Hell, they are already Evil, they are already being punished. And, the mythos around morality doesn't allow second chances after you die. Once you are dead, you cannot repent, or to phrase it another way, after you go to Hell, you cannot get back out.

Meanwhile, like Umbran said, it is easy to see someone fall from grace. It happens all the time, it just requires you to lose focus on being good. It is easy to let pride, anger, or some other emotion overwhelm you and make you fall from grace, and so it is easy for us to see that, much like good people, the very embodiments of good are fallible. After all, the source of evil came from a fallen angel. The very conception of Hell comes with this idea of fallen angels as part of its lore.


And, how do you convince something inherently selfish and cruel to be "good", especially since a lot of people follow the logic of Quickleaf's group and say that doing good for selfish reasons isn't enough to be good. Now, I disagree with that, but it points to something. The bar for redemption is high, and it gets higher the more evil a person is perceived to have been. And since it is so easy to see selfish motivations, since it is so hard to convince someone to do good for the sake of good with no thought of a reward to set them on the path for a reward, then the bar for a Devil, which is evil and selfishness incarnate in many ways, would be so astronomically high, that very few people would even conceive of it as an option.

So, the literary logic creates a downward pressure. Everything falls to evil, but rising to good is exemplary even for nominally good individuals, so it is impossible for evil individuals.

Edit: To make a finer point, think of how hard it is for a mortal Paladin to be good enough to become a Celestial. Literal Saints, beyond the goodness of even other Paladins. Can a Devil ever achieve that same lifetime of devotion to the concept of good?
 

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