Saturday, July 15, 2017

Dungeons and Dragons, "Celestials"

Standard Introduction
            I have been writing about Dungeons and Dragons semi-regularly this year and in the course of writing those I found a 30-day blog challenge.  As I have done those a couple times before it seemed remiss not to jump on this one.
            If you want here is a link to my 30-day challenge on Disney Movies, here is a link to my 30-day challenge on Video Games, and here is a comically out of date 30-day challenge on Movies (it is old and the writing is rubbish).

Day 15- My Favorite Celestials
            There are 10,000 monsters in this gods damned game.  Expect several top 5 lists this week as there are not too many specific “favorites” more like “preferred”.  Today is Celestials, such as Angels and Archons (not the weird elemental Archons of 4e, that was one of their stranger decisions).
            This is a harder category than yesterday.  As demons are the bad guys meant to be flattened by the heroism of protagonists (or just pragmatism, even if you are an evil PC demons and devils are often rivals and rarely allies) the need for diversity among bad guys makes sense, you fight them the most often so you need the most variety.  Good guys tend to be rather same-same.  How is that expression, all happy families are alike in their happiness, but unhappy families are all unique in their misery.
            There are fewer varieties of Good Guys in the multiverse because you rarely have to fight angels.  You rarely see angels. No joke, I was able to pick the 6 Good Outsider groups from the 3rd edition monster manual and present them all here without much to comment on.  Even picking a favorite was more about pointing to the least boring group and saying, “that”.
            Let’s go.
Inspired by the only god in Aztec Myth that wasn't a complete bastard.

#6: Couatl
            It is a feathered serpent that doesn’t demand blood sacrifice from its worshipers.  I strangely feel like these guys should be cooler and more interesting than they are.  I don’t even think they got a bigger role in 4th edition and that book had a whole section on magical snakes including a flaming cobra.
            Maybe it is just that the artwork, while colorful and well done, is too small and inactive to entice people to write about it.  Maybe if they had it fighting some other monster on the page, but it is alphabetically wedged between a Cockatrice and a Darkmantle, two low level monsters that would have no business around the angelic snake monster.
            The Couatl was screwed by the alphabet.
This is the 4e version of these guys.  The third edition had stranger armor.
#5: Eladrins
            These guys became a player race in 4e, replacing High Elves to be a teleporting, dead-eyed society of weirdos (I did not really care for them).  In 3rd edition, they were knights errant, traveling around the multiverse helping the forces of good in random instances, that is admittedly a lot more interesting albeit harder to identify with.

This is their 3e presentation.  It is not just me right?  The armor is a little strange.
A little too nipple oriented.
            I don’t know why, but even by the standards of boring good guys these dudes were always the most boring.  4e helped by making them a society with their own business to attend to, but as monsters in 3rd edition they mostly just seem like a story element more easily filled by a Paladin or Cleric of 5th-8th level, or better yet a Hound Archon who just flat out looked cooler.
Though emphasis on nipples is not uncommon in good guy armor I suppose.
#4: Lillend
            These are snake, wing, Valkyries?  They are apparently the celestial creature of Isgard, the Greyhawk stand in for Asgard.  I don’t get why the creatives chose to make the celestials of Ysgard so strange, but I kind of appreciate that they are.  It would be easy to just have Valkyries in their traditional form, but they chose to add wings and a snake-mermaid-esc tail, take away the battle elements traditional for a Valkyrie, and make them musical.  Lillends are strange.
            That strangeness though, it makes them hard to fit in.  What monster is a logical pairing with this thing?  It is also a grappling spell caster, which in 3e was ALWAYS a contradiction.  They also had nobody else from Ysgard to contextualize them with.

These guys look cool.  Especially because they seem to be super into core exercises.
Shredded, and not just with talons/claws.

#3: Guardinals
            Does anyone recall these guys?  They are kind of badass looking.  Animal people, a trait I think is underutilized.  I think they look like the missing members of a larger group, like there was going to be bears, boars, deer, and others (there probably was now that I let my mind wander to the “Book of Exalted Deeds”).  The Guardinals are also boring.  Or at least the two in the main book are.
            The lion one roars, the bird guy has a… Fear Aura?  I guess that is unique for a good guy, especially for a bird person.  I would have thought the lion would be the fear inspiring guy, he instead has a protective aura.  This is another issue I have with 3e, they spent so much time on creating a massive and ultra-detailed spellbook that they often just gave out a list of spells as “abilities”.  Even though the lists would differ and that is where much of the variation came from, having to look up their abilities in another book made them a pain in the butt.
            I think that these guys should have been merged with my guys at number 1, the Archons.  As their own group, they seem vestigial.

Speaking of exercising your core.
#2: Angels
            Angels are boring looking and pretty much to the man, they just have high stats and are diamond hard to kill.  They can take and ole out lots of damage in very straightforward ways, I kind of liked that trait in the Horned Devil from yesterday, but here it is so standard issue for the Angels they just seems less interesting. They all look like physically perfect beings and act like perfect beings.  So, I am going to be the contrarian and say that I preferred angels in 4th edition.

4e Angels turn down the sexy knob and crank up the mysterious and ominous.
            In 4th edition Angels were not really thinking beings, they were kind of like celestial constructs, created by the gods (of any alignment) to do the bidding of that god.  They looked like they were made of divine energy and existed to do something, and since they could be doing something evil they occasionally would fight players.  THAT IS AN INTERESTING BREAK WITH PRIOR CANON AND EXPECTATIONS.
            Angels in Western religions were (and this is my assessment) not nice.  They could wipe out armies, deliver edicts, and were not a comforting presence.  The Book of Ezekiel shows them as Lovecraftian monsters rather than anything like what we picture now.  Having Angels be a tool of a higher being is more interesting than having them be pure good.

This is the more dynamic shot of them together, but there were other good ones.
 #1: Archons
            My enjoyment of these guys is mostly inspired by the image of them in the 3.5 edition Monster Manual.  The ball of light, the dogman, and the trumpet player look like they are going on an adventure.  This is fun artwork.  I wish we could see what they are about to go up against, but whatever, there is only so much space on the page.
            While most of their abilities (much like the Eladrins) could be filled in by a Paladin or Cleric of appropriate level I at the very least think this group is diverse enough LOOKING that I do have some affection for them.
            If the Guardinals and Lillend had been rolled into the Archons to create a group of exotic looking alternatives to the angels, to serve as the go-to good guy outsiders I think they would still be around as a group in 5th.  As is, they were the more interesting looking, but were not numerous or profound enough in the game to measure up.  If the Archons had hung around they could have left the angels as their 4e versions, as manifestations of a god’s will rather than the objective good guys.
The term "Archon" in 4th edition was a term for races of intelligent elementals.
I have no idea why they thought they needed another race of elemental inspired monsters.
The ones we already had were boring, these are just boring and more anthropomorphized.
Coming Tomorrow
            Tomorrow I am going to talk about Humanoids and Giants.


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