Devas were a race of angelic souls contained within mortal bodies. These souls were reborn again and again, meaning that devas had access to the experiences of several lifetimes in their subconscious and sometimes waking mind as well. These souls were obliged to fight in the cosmic war against evil, though some strayed from this path and were reincarnated in their next life as rakshasas. Devas were called "aasimar" in the Mulhorandi language.[note 1]
Devas bore the mark of their celestial touch through many different physical features that often varied from individual to individual. Nearly all devas were uncommonly beautiful and still, and often significantly taller than humans as well. When a deva's features were unshapely it was often the result of extreme circumstances, such as grave injury or severe illness. Even then, a deva was more than likely to regain their comely appearance after a time through their regenerative properties, though in some cases a deva deliberately chose to enter the world in a less-than-beautiful body, and even the most healthy deva could not regenerate lost body parts.
Although their appearanced varied widely, all devas were marked by patterns of light and dark on their skin. These patterns varied from more mundane hues like chalk-white or black to otherworldly shades like gray, blue, or purple. Either the light or the dark color might be dominant, meaning that a deva might appear as white on blue or blue on white, with neither being particularly more common. Whatever the case, the dominant color mades up the regular color of skin, while the lesser shade appeared in patterns across the face, chest, and shoulders. The hair of a deva was often the same color as either of the two.
Devas, like gods' avatars, couldn't be permanently killed. Just as an avatar would return to the home plane of the god it was a manifestation of to be reabsorbed and perhaps sent to the Prime again, so too did devas' souls inevitably return to the mortal world in new bodies as reincarnations of their old selves. However, devas didn't typically remember their past lives and were born as new individuals, and were therefore subject to the same dangers of mortality as other races, while being prevented from passing on into the afterlife permanently. Some devas were born as infants, while others were born into fully formed adult bodies. Each deva could be reincarnated countless times over the period of four millennia in which devas were known to have existed.
Devas were mentally very capable individuals, with both unusually high perceptive ability and an impressive intellect compared with other humanoids. Devas were also, in part due to their immortal nature, difficult to attack, particularly for weakened creatures, and they had an innate resistance to both intense radiant and necrotic energies. Devas also had the ability to call on hidden memories of their past lives with the memory of a thousand lifetimes ability, in order to increase their competence.
Some devas had a number of other abilities as well. For instance, some devas had a special resistance to the effects of cold or fire or had an enhanced resistance to positive energy. Others regained the use of their wings for flight or relearned innately the Supernal language. Some also gained the ability to call their past selves out as incorporeal servants or advisors, informing and aiding the devas.
Devas were eternal creatures, never truly dying except in very rare circumstances and never truly being born. Devas sprang into the world as fully formed adults, with no memory of where they came from. Likewise, devas did not age, although occasionally devas would actually "drop" their body after reaching a considerable age, drifting out of their current body and into a new one. The bodies devas left behind were often the same as any other mortal's, though some were said to dissolve into light upon the soul's departure.
Unlike most races, however, when a deva died it did not go to the Fugue Plane to be judged and sentenced. Instead, a deva's soul simply found its way to another body; this took at least a year, and typically seven years or longer. Occasionally, devas did not reincarnate for over a century, often the result of an unusually horrid death. During this time, devas were thought to experience an esoteric state known as "bodiless dreaming", in which they regained all the memories of all their past lives and acted as spiritual guardians and guides for mortals. These disembodied souls could be resurrected, if they were willing, just like any mortal humanoid.
Although there was no direct evidence for this state, as devas were unable to actually recall it, druids and shamans were a reliable source of many of the stories surrounding it. Furthermore, a handful of living devas experienced a similar state known as "bodiless walking", "waking dreaming", or "disincarnate", wherein devas experienced an out-of-body experience that allowed them to interact with the spirits of the dead and other incorporeal beings. Devas who returned from this experience often recalled memories of past lives more clearly, a gift that some used to serve a greater purpose while other more malign devas hoped to use the knowledge gained to evade reincarnation as a rakshasa.
When a deva was born again, it reappeared suddenly in a blast of light in a place sacred to the gods or primal spirits, forming a body from the local elements surrounding them. This new body was not guaranteed to resemble the one the deva had in a previous life, and might even be of a different sex. Invariably, however, devas were unable to contain the memories of their past lives within their new bodies, memories that slipped away, leaving only partial remnants in the form of subconscious insights or dreams.
Devas could not reproduce with one another.
When reborn, a deva was a full-grown adult with a fully mature mind but no memories of their origins or past lives. Thus, almost all devas were born good. They had all the basic skills needed to survive and a personality informed by past lives, particularly the most recent one.
Devas were naturally refined and drawn towards virtue, rather than sin or neutrality. The typical deva was good, though few could be called meek. However, this was not guaranteed, and the danger of a deva falling to evil was far greater than that of most races. If a deva fell to evil, they risked becoming a rakshasa and found it uncommonly hard to find their way back to the path of good. As such, most devas, despite finding it easier to be virtuous than most races, were taught to fight against the temptation of evil within their own souls constantly.
Because of their past (albeit subconscious) lives, devas were driven to find new experiences and new lands. Devas, as a result, had visited all corners of Toril. But, despite this strong drive for fresh experiences, most devas had few ambitions beyond living, loving, and striving in whatever life they were born to. Similarly, since devas once served the gods as immortal warriors, most devas found a subconscious urging towards a religious life and were typically devout worshipers of the gods. However, for this very same reason, few devas felt the draw towards organized religion and mighty temples, rather seeking a connection to the divine through private worship.
Nearly all were driven by a purpose of some sort, either conscious or subconscious, be it personal, external, or moral, and though they might stray from this purpose, few devas diverted from it permanently. This singular drive, perhaps fueled by a deva's immortality as well as the memories of goals left unfinished from previous lives, gave a deva a sense of purpose and dedication unique to their race. More than other races, devas stuck to the goals they set and were direct and to the point, rarely waiting long before taking action. This drive became even more zealous for those aware that even death could not ultimately stop them, driving devas in a manner that could be either useful or dangerously obsessive. Fortunately, this zeal was often tempered by a deva's moral compass.
A deva's emotions were invariably very intense, a fact they were generally open about as they felt that deception was more often harmful than beneficial. However, devas were fairly good at hiding their emotions, not so much because they were intentionally deceptive but because they viewed their own thoughts and feelings rather nonchalantly, intuitively if not consciously aware that all of this had happened before and all of it would happen again. A deva's mental serenity was also in part the result of their true and fervent belief that even the worst of people were not irredeemable.
Devas had an innate yearning for perfection, which sought for both in themselves and others. Devas who were aware of their reincarnations believed that this was one of the purposes of the process, for each life brought them closer to perfection. However, all devas, whether they possessed this knowledge or not, believed it was unwise to shy away from suffering or unpleasant experiences and that such things helped smooth out imperfections and put them on the proper path, while enhancing their compassion for others who suffered similarly. However, this was something devas advised for themselves and few had the heart to watch with detachment while others suffered. To a deva, this led only to more strife, rather than harmony.
Devas who learned of their reincarnations knew all too well that they would lose any clear memories of the life they currently led when they were reborn. This was one of the few things devas truly dreaded, along with the possibility of becoming a rakshasa. However, few devas lacked the courage to face death for the sake of others, feeling that the temporary loss of their self was a price worth paying to render good.
Devas were, ultimately, servants of good more than any other force, though many felt an attraction to law as well, given their immortal heritage. This gave them a sense of tolerance and open-mindedness that others lacked, even in the face of evil. Generally speaking, devas were less inclined towards anger than they were shock or dismay. When confronted with obeying the law or obeying good, most devas chose the latter and even the most zealous devas tended to look for the best possible outcome in any situation, rather than the most convenient one.
Devas were exceedingly rare on Toril. However, despite this, there was a strange sense of cultural affinity amongst devas, a result sharing subconscious memories of a time when they were a united people. As such, dress habits, fashions, and cultural attitudes prevailed to a small extent amongst all devas, despite the often vast distances between each member of the race.
Generally, regardless of their unusual qualities, most cultures welcomed adult devas into their fold, in no small part due to their beauty and trustworthiness. Devas who settled in one place tendd to favor larger communities, where they could mix readily with others, though they never became just another in the crowd, as their heritage always gave them away. Few devas would want to hide in any case, since their natural talent for leadership and drive to do good often transformed them into exemplary figures wherever they lived. Some devas became forces for civil justice while others became adventuring heroes. More than a few became both.
Because of their generosity and kindness, devas typically became well-loved wherever they went, gathering a wide circle of friends, though they unavoidably also made enemies. To a deva, these friends became more than friends—they became the only family they knew. In some cases, devas started actual families, sometimes with other devas, but more often with mortals. In the latter case, devas might even have children, who inherited some of their qualities while losing others. Devas often made loving parents, but unfortunately they were all too often forced to watch their mortal family grow old and die before they themselves moved on. This inevitable gap between devas and mortals could sometimes put a strain on relationships, one of the few factors that could lead to a deva's fall from virtue to evil.
Art and leisure
Devas did not typically focus on art but nearly all partook in it as a hobby. Although devas rarely met one another, their art was had similarities such as angelic motifs. Most deva art was simple but elegant and cerebral, which reflected their motivation in making it: a further act of refinement that brought them closer to perfection. Artisans in particular tended to view their work as a form of creation and meditation on their unusual lifecycle. Devas rarely made art for profit and giving away their art was a very personal thing, often as a gift meant specifically for the receiver's possession.
Similarly, devas took great care of their appearance, making sure to be presentable at all times. Although devas rarely wore flashy jewelry, they enjoyed fine clothes and made sure their equipment was in prime condition. Deva homes were always tidy and clean, although in such way that seemed subtly evocative of the Astral Sea.
Because each life of a deva was meant to develop good and happy memories and experiences for themselves and others, each deva's leisure time was important to them and devas valued the emotional enjoyment more than what they accomplished during the time. In general, devas were a relaxed lot who felt they had all the time they desired to engage in any activity to its fullest. Fun-loving, deva were fond of art, celebrations, games, and any event that challenged them intellectually. They also might enjoy simply laying back and engaging in conversation with a friend, though the more philosophical the exchange the better.
Devas did not, on the other hand, enjoy many activities other races might find enjoyable. For instance, few devas were fond of gladiatorial matches or other activities that might result in intentional injury. Although strongly disapproving devas might sit quietly about this publicly, most worked within society to remove such activities. This in itself, ironically, might provide some of the ease of mind that the matches themselves provided for other, more martial races.
Devas were not reborn in any location at random. Most often, devas were drawn to specific locations, often those with a particular connection to the gods or primal spirits, particularly the latter. Some of these locations were known to various factions, such as the primal spirits themselves or their servants. In such cases, mortal guardians might be present to ward off dangers threatening the newborn devas, and locals might even expect deva incarnations as an omen of sorts. When one appeared, these individuals might take it upon themselves to care for the newly born deva.
However, even with this knowledge, no one could truly predict when or where a deva would be reborn. It was not entirely unheard of for evil creatures to come upon a deva's place of rebirth and claim it for themselves. In such cases, the taint prevented further devas from reincarnating until the location was purified.
A few oddities occasionally occurred in reincarnation that became part of a deva's mindset, not as an innate part of their nature but more as idiosyncrasies. For instance, from time to time, devas who were close in life might find themselves reincarnated in the same spot at the same time. As there were usually only two such devas, this was called "twinning". Another was that, despite losing all clear memory upon reincarnation, devas would sometimes reflexively remember people, places, or things that they'd been familiar with in past lives, particularly the most recent one. Devas called this "soul recognition" and it often proved useful for setting devas back on the path of their past life. Other devas and animals were among the most likely subjects of this soul recognition.
Because of their life cycle, devas had an odd relationship with death. While the thought of losing their memories frightened them, devas had no fear of death itself, which was, after all, something beyond their experience. Nevertheless, devas were generally respectful of the fact that other beings had to contend with death. When a deva tired of their current life and decided to drop their body, they might even hold a celebration for the purpose. Devas were almost entirely united in the belief that their deaths should not be mourned since it was only the beginning of a new life, though this was often lost on their loved ones.
Religion & Magic
The innately magical nature of devas, along with their powerful minds, made devas well suited to a life of magic, be it divine or arcane. For many devas, the pursuit of magic was a very personal thing, with more than a hint of spirituality. For those who become arcane spellcasters, the path of a wizard was ultimately the most satisfying and well-aligned with both a deva's natural talents and philosophy, avoiding the troublesome intermediaries warlocks worked through. Additionally, devas tended to have a dismissive attitude towards sorcerers, who they felt took the power of the arcane for granted rather than as a gift.
Devas tended to favor specific types of magic in their casting, such as cold, electrical, psychic, radiant, or sonic power, which resonated well with the power of the Astral Sea and of angels. Deva magicians were deadly battle mages, composing their spells with studied precision, dealing the minimum amount of collateral damage. This control came naturally to devas, as did the inclination to hone it.
While many devas were religious, relatively few felt drawn to temples. Instead, many devas rejected organized religion and instead practiced a series of private rituals common to most devas, such as meditation or leaving an empty seat for the gods when eating a meal.
Devas felt that their entire lives were more or less a personal spiritual journey and thus most viewed religion as a private matter rather than a public one, a courtesy they returned to others. Devas rarely made good proselytizers, instead converting others to their faith through example and inspiration. Deva clerics who successfully converted another likewise encouraged them to find the answers they sought through private discovery rather than the teachings of an institution. Despite this, devas held no hostility toward organized religion and many prayed respectfully within temples and shrines. They felt that while such sacred places had meaning, faith had none if not backed by constant piety and action, and many carried out consistent rituals throughout their daily life, such as ritual offerings or meditation. Overall, devas sought personal revelation rather than an indirect connection through a priest or other minister. As a result, most were attracted to the path of an invoker, or a shaman if their religious path ultimately led them to the primal rather than the divine.
To religious devas, a revelation unique to them might be acquired through effort or intuition. Although devas as a whole were bound to the Prime Material Plane to be reincarnated again and again, it wasn't impossible for a deva to escape this cycle of rebirth. Over many reincarnations, the deva's drive for perfection could be fulfilled, with the deva reaching a state of transcendence that removed from the mortal world and freed them to take another path. Precisely what this path entailed differs from deva to deva. Some became exarchs. Some simply rose to become angels. Others embraced the fate of any mortal being, whatever that might be, while yet others remained behind on the Prime Material Plane to become spiritual guides for future generations.
- Rob Heinsoo, Stephen Schubert (May 19, 2009). Monster Manual 2 4th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 62–63. ISBN 0786995101.
- Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 8. ISBN 0-7869-5016-4.
- Rob Heinsoo, Logan Bonner, Robert J. Schwalb (September 2008). Forgotten Realms Player's Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 21. ISBN 978-0-7869-4929-8.
- Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 9. ISBN 0-7869-5016-4.
- Chris Sims (April 2009). “The Ecology of the Deva (aasimar)”. In Chris Youngs ed. Dragon #374 (Wizards of the Coast), p. 43.
- Chris Sims (April 2009). “The Ecology of the Deva (aasimar)”. In Chris Youngs ed. Dragon #374 (Wizards of the Coast), p. 50.
- Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 19. ISBN 0-7869-5016-4.
- Chris Sims (April 2009). “The Ecology of the Deva (aasimar)”. In Chris Youngs ed. Dragon #374 (Wizards of the Coast), p. 45.
- Chris Sims (April 2009). “The Ecology of the Deva (aasimar)”. In Chris Youngs ed. Dragon #374 (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 43–44.
- Chris Sims (April 2009). “The Ecology of the Deva (aasimar)”. In Chris Youngs ed. Dragon #374 (Wizards of the Coast), p. 44.
- Chris Sims (April 2009). “The Ecology of the Deva (aasimar)”. In Chris Youngs ed. Dragon #374 (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 44–45.
- Chris Sims (April 2009). “The Ecology of the Deva (aasimar)”. In Chris Youngs ed. Dragon #374 (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 45–46.
- Chris Sims (April 2009). “The Ecology of the Deva (aasimar)”. In Chris Youngs ed. Dragon #374 (Wizards of the Coast), p. 46.
- Chris Sims (April 2009). “The Ecology of the Deva (aasimar)”. In Chris Youngs ed. Dragon #374 (Wizards of the Coast), p. 47.
- Chris Sims (April 2009). “The Ecology of the Deva (aasimar)”. In Chris Youngs ed. Dragon #374 (Wizards of the Coast), p. 49.
- Chris Sims (April 2009). “The Ecology of the Deva (aasimar)”. In Chris Youngs ed. Dragon #374 (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 47–48.
- Chris Sims (April 2009). “The Ecology of the Deva (aasimar)”. In Chris Youngs ed. Dragon #374 (Wizards of the Coast), p. 48.
- Chris Sims (April 2009). “The Ecology of the Deva (aasimar)”. In Chris Youngs ed. Dragon #374 (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 48–49.
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