Excerpts Archive | 4/28/2008
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Excerpts: Angels
4th Edition Monster Manual

We've introduced devils; this time, we wanted to take a look at angels. We asked R&D's Jennifer Clarke Wilkes how 4th Edition angels are different from any ever seen before--in both appearance and backstory.

Her response:


When was the last time your party took on an angel? For most players, the answer is probably “never”. Even the least of them, the astral deva, is a very powerful opponent—and, of course, there’s that sticky problem of their being good-with-a-capital-G creatures. D&D characters are supposed to be heroes, and heroes don’t fight the good guys, right?

Not only angels, but a variety of other good divine servants populated the Great Wheel of earlier editions. An urge toward symmetry produced an Outer Plane for every shade of alignment, and that meant planar denizens of matching alignment. Thus, archons were lawful good, guardinals were neutral good, and eladrins were chaotic good. (In fact, until the 3.5 version of the Monster Manual, the word “angel” did not appear in the game.)

Meanwhile, evil gods were served by . . . nobody. Sure, there were demons and devils, but they had their own agendas and paid little attention to what the gods were up to—whether good or evil. This left the evil gods with assorted minions and cultists, unless they made alliances with fiends. What would stand against adventurers who dared Hextor or Vecna on his home turf? Evil creatures might live in Pandemonium, but they had nothing to do with Erythnul. In a strange way, this arrangement meant that a demon lord such as Orcus or an archdevil such as Asmodeus could muster an army of servants and actually present a greater challenge to high-level characters than gods. Something was wrong with that picture.

Reconcepting some of the iconic monsters of the D&D game went hand in glove with our intent to revamp the setting, in addition to the game mechanics, so as to maximize playability and fun. One of the goals of monster development for the new edition was to better distinguish monster groups. All those shades of niceness didn’t do much to clearly identify the various servants of good, nor did those creatures embody specific principles in the way that different sorts of fiends often did. We decided that every god needed to have servants, and making angels those servants seemed the logical step. (Demons and devils might still work with evil gods, but they do not serve them.)

Removing alignment restrictions from angels also meant that they could embody new ideas. The word “angel” means “messenger”—why couldn’t one bring a message of war, or pain, or vengeance, as well as those of hope or protection? (And, of course, snuggles.) A god of generally good alignment might still have need of an angel to bring death to enemies; an evil god could require an envoy to inspire loyalty and bravery. Now an angel can lead any deity’s armies, whether of lesser angels, immortal creatures or powerful mortal champions, and can project its divine will into other realms. The weaker angels are heroic-tier monsters, suitable as temple guardians and mortal commanders. The more powerful are effective challenges at the paragon and epic tiers, standing by the side of their deities. (Along the way, some things that were once angel-like changed their natures, most notably the eladrin, who now are the lords of the Feywild.)

The change in angels’ nature paved the way to a change in appearance as well. Angels became less humanoid in appearance, more like impartial embodiments of immortal power. They are faceless, sometimes metallic or stonelike in form, trailing into Astral essence. No halos here—these are beings created for a purpose, rather than anthropomorphic images of comfort and purity. They are uncaring and relentless, and their new look reinforces that aspect.
--Jennifer Clarke Wilkes






Most deities have angel servants. Although their appearances can vary, all angels are vaguely humanoid in form, with masculine or feminine features and lower bodies that trail off into flowing energy.

Angels exist as expressions of the Astral Sea, sentient energy in humanoid form. They most often serve the gods, so some believe that the gods created them. In reality, angels are powerful astral beings who appeared during the first moments of the creation of the Astral Sea. Different types of angels have different callings; they are literally manifestations of celestial vocations. Perhaps it was the needs of the gods that caused the astral stuff to spew them forth, but it was not a conscious act of creation. During the great war between the gods and the primordials, angels offered themselves as warriors to the gods that best encompassed their callings, and today they continue to act as mercenary forces for anyone willing to meet their price—be it wealth, or power, or a cause worthy of their attention.

Angels are more involved in the world and other planes than deities and exarchs. They act both openly and secretly, often acting as emissaries, generals, and even assassins.

Angel of Valor

Angels of valor, though courageous and fierce, are the weakest and the most numerous of angels called to serve a given deity.

Angel of Valor
Level 8 Soldier
Medium immortal humanoid (angel)
XP 350
Initiative +10 Senses Perception +6
Angelic Presence Attacks against the angel of valor take a –2 penalty until the angel is bloodied.
HP 88; Bloodied 44
AC 24; Fortitude 22, Reflex 20, Will 19
Immune fear; Resist 10 fire, 10 radiant
Speed 6, fly 9 (hover)
Melee Longsword (standard; at-will) Weapon
+13 vs. AC; 1d8 + 6 damage.
Melee Dagger (standard; at-will) Weapon
+13 vs. AC; 1d4 + 6 damage.
Melee Blade Fury (standard; at-will) Weapon
The angel of valor makes a longsword attack and a dagger attack.
Close Burst Lightning Strike (standard; encounter) Lightning
Close burst 1; targets enemies; +11 vs. Fortitude; 1d8 + 4 lightning damage, and the target is dazed until the end of the angel of valor’s next turn.
Fiery Blades (minor, usable only while bloodied; at-will) Fire
Until the start of the angel of valor’s next turn, the angel of valor’s weapons deal fire damage and attack the target’s Reflex defense instead of AC.
Alignment Any
Languages Supernal
Skills Intimidate +12
Str 23 (+10)
Dex 18 (+8)
Wis 14 (+6)
Con 16 (+7)
Int 11 (+4)
Cha 16 (+7)
Equipment chainmail, longsword, dagger

Angel of Vengeance

Angels of vengeance strike down those who wrong a deity. They also punish disloyalty and failure among the devout.

Angel of Vengeance
Level 19 Elite Brute
Large immortal humanoid (angel)
XP 4800
Initiative +13 Senses Perception +16
HP 446; Bloodied 223
AC 34; Fortitude 33, Reflex 29, Will 33; see also cloak of vengeance
Immune disease, fear; Resist 15 cold, 15 fire, 15 radiant; see also coldfire pillar
Saving Throws +2
Speed 8, fly 12 (hover); see also sign of vengeance
Action Points 1
Melee Longsword (standard; at-will) Cold, Fire, Weapon
Reach 2; +25 vs. AC; 1d10 + 9 damage plus 1d8 fire damage plus 1d8 cold damage.
Melee Double Attack (standard; at-will) Cold, Fire, Weapon
The angel of vengeance makes two longsword attacks.
Ranged Sign of Vengeance (minor; encounter) Teleportation
Ranged sight; the angel of vengeance places an invisible sign upon the target. Until the end of the encounter, as a move action, the angel can teleport adjacent to the target.
Close Burst Coldfire Pillar (free, when first bloodied; encounter) Cold, Fire, Polymorph
The angel transforms into a 30-foot-high pillar of blue flame. Close burst 2; +23 vs. Reflex; 1d8 + 9 cold damage plus 1d8 + 9 fire damage. The angel of vengeance is immune to all damage until the start of its next turn.
Cloak of Vengeance (until bloodied) Cold, Fire
Attacks against the angel of vengeance take a –2 penalty until the angel is bloodied. While cloak of vengeance is in effect, a creature that makes a successful melee attack against the angel takes 1d8 fire damage and 1d8 cold damage.
Alignment Any
Languages Supernal
Skills Insight +21, Intimidate +22
Str 27 (+17)
Dex 18 (+13)
Wis 25 (+16)
Con 23 (+15)
Int 19 (+13)
Cha 26 (+17)
Equipment plate armor, 2 longswords

Angel of Vengeance Tactics
An angel of vengeance focuses on a single target. It evokes its sign of vengeance at the start of battle, then teleports to the target and spends an action point to use double attack against the foe. The angel continues its relentless pursuit of the target, paying little heed to events around it.

Angel of Vengeance Lore
A character knows the following information with a successful Religion check.

DC 20: Deities send angels of vengeance to punish those who have defied or angered them. A god might also send an angel of vengeance to test one who is in danger of falling off the deity’s path, showing no mercy for failure.
DC 25: Influential members of a clergy use a ritual to call forth their deity’s wrath in the form of one of these angels.

Encounter Groups
Angels of vengeance appear alone or in pairs, sometimes aided by angels of valor or angels of battle.

Level 19 Encounter (XP 13,600)
  • 2 angels of vengeance (level 19 elite brute)
  • 5 angel of valor legionnaires (level 21 minion)

Be sure to return Wednesday for a look at multiclassing!
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