Celestials are one of the more uncommon creature types to encounter in D&D campaigns. Denizens of the Upper Planes, celestials are mostly good-aligned and include creatures ranging from angels to unicorns.
Many more celestials appeared in past editions of D&D but this guide focuses on the celestials currently in D&D 5E.
The Upper Planes
The cosmology of the Forgotten Realms is based around planes of existence. Most D&D adventures take place on the material plane but there are many others.
These planes are divided into several categories – the elemental planes, for example, are the planes of Fire, Earth, Water, and Air.
One major group of planes is the Outer Planes. These seventeen planes correspond to the moral alignments of D&D and include planes ranging from the Seven Heavens of Mount Celestia to the Nine Hells of Baator.
Of the Outer Planes, the good-aligned planes are considered the Upper Planes. These planes are the Seven Heavens of Mount Celestia, the Twin Paradises of Bytopia, the Blessed Fields of Elysium, the Wilderness of the Beastlands, the Olympian Glades of Arborea, the Heroic Domains of Ysgard, and the Peaceable Kingdoms of Arcadia.
These seven planes, and especially Mount Celestia, are where the vast majority of celestials can be found.
Celestials by CR
Below you can see our chart with a quick description and CR (Challenge Rating). I find these helpful to anyone trying to understand the power levels of the creatures we are talking about.
|Deva||10||Devas are angels who act as the gods’ messengers in the material plane.|
|Planetar||16||Plantetars are angels who act and fight on behalf of the gods.|
|Solar||21||Solars are powerful angels who sometimes act as commanders over other angels.|
|Empyrean||23||Empyreans are the colossal children of gods.|
|Pegasus||2||Pegasi are white horses with angelic wings.|
|Unicorn||5||Unicorns are horned horses with powerful magic and an affinity for forests.|
|Couatl||4||Couatls are ancient winged serpents.|
|Hollyphant||5||Hollyphants are tiny winged elephants.|
|Ki-rin||12||Ki-rin are gold-scaled stag-like creatures who act as good omens.|
Angels are lawful-good celestials. They’re agents for the will of good-aligned gods. Angels carry out their gods’ wills in the planes with unfailing judgment and total ruthlessness towards evil-aligned creatures.
Angels’ unerring judgment and moral superiority often mean they’re prone to pridefulness.
Angels look like physically flawless and perfect humans with radiantly glowing eyes and enormous, white, feathered wings.
In combat, angels primarily deal damage through their weapon attacks. These attacks deal extra radiant damage through their Angelic Weapons ability.
Angels supplement their weapon attacks with an array of spells which they can cast through their Innate Spellcasting ability.
Devas are the messengers of the gods. They are shapeshifters who walk the material plane as humanoids and animals, delivering their gods’ messages to mortals. In their angelic form, devas have silvery grey skin and their eyes have a blue radiance.
In combat, devas are the weakest angels. They’re still formidable opponents though, with a challenge rating of 10. Devas’ defining ability, amongst angels, is Change Shape.
This allows them to magically transform into any beast or humanoid with a lower challenge rating than their own.
Where devas are the gods’ messengers, planetars are the gods’ weapons. Rather than carrying divine messages to mortals, planetars act in the world themselves.
Planetars can often be found fighting against the forces of evil, alongside their gods’ followers.
Planetars are completely hairless and have blue-green skin. They can the weather and spread plagues of insects to enact their gods’ wills.
Solars are, by far, the most powerful angels. Very few solars are known and it’s believed that only 24 exist in total. Solars are fantastically powerful in combat, with a challenge rating of 21 and the ability to use Legendary Actions.
Each solar has major significance to the world – the majority of the Forgotten Realms’ gods aren’t served by any solars. Gods who do retain the service of solars are generally only served by one or two.
Solars have orange-red skin and red-brown hair but their uniqueness and importance may mean that individual solars’ appearances deviate from the norm more than other creatures.
Solars are known for their commanding presence and, in times of war, they may take up the role of general over other angels.
Solars’ signature combat ability is their ability to kill with a single arrow using Slaying Longbow.
Angels’ often prideful nature can lead them to commit evil actions. These angels are forever tarnished and cast out from the Upper Planes. Some fallen angels live out an uneventful existence on the Material plane.
Most, though, turn entirely to evil and align themselves with the Lower Planes.
The most notable fallen angel is the fallen solar, Zariel, who rules over Avernus as an archdevil.
Empyreans are D&D’s most powerful celestials. They’re the children of good-aligned gods and one of three creatures in D&D with the “titan” classification (the other two being Krakens and Tarrasques).
Empyreans are awe-inspiring colossi whose abrupt mood changes cause changes in the weather and local ecosystem. Most Empyreans are chaotic-good in alignment but some become corrupted or cursed, either intentionally or by accident, and become evil.
Pegasi are white horses with feathered, angelic wings. They originate from the Olympian Glades of Arborea and are often servants of Corellon’s elven pantheon.
Pegasi are notoriously shy creatures and have humanoid-level intelligence. They can sometimes be persuaded to serve as lifelong mounts for good-aligned creatures but this may prove difficult.
Unicorns sit at the intersection between fey and celestials in fiction. D&D’s unicorns are classed as celestials but they have many characteristics that one might expect from fey creatures.
Unicorns are divine guardians of their magical forests. They bring a sense of calm to their woods and wild creatures from beasts to fickle fey may be uncharacteristically tame and loyal in a unicorn’s woodland.
Unicorns, like pegasi, may sometimes serve as mounts for good-aligned creatures. A unicorn will only serve as a mount in the darkest and most desperate of times, for a champion who unerringly serves the will of the unicorn’s god.
Couatls are good-aligned celestial serpents with radiant, feathered wings. They were created by ancient gods who have long since faded from memory. Couatls, while long-lived, aren’t immortal and eventually die from age or disease.
They only choose to reproduce if their divine duties remain unfulfilled. A couatl that senses its death will find a mate to reproduce with and then spend its remaining days instructing its offspring in those uncompleted divine duties.
Couatls are shape-shifters that can take on the form of any creature with a lower challenge rating than themselves. They cannot lie directly but they may try to deceive through omissions and incorrect implications.
Hollyphants are small elephantine celestials. They have tiny wings above their ears which are clad in the same brown fur that covers the rest of their bodies.
Hollyphants act as messengers for gods and angels. In battle, they might seem like weak opponents but they will happily deafen evil-doers with trumpeting sounds from their trunks.
Hollyphants of previous D&D editions could transform into formidable winged mastodons but Descent in Avernus makes no mention of this ability so it’s unlikely that 5E’s Hollyphants possess this power.
Ki-rin are, first and foremost, good omens. These beautiful gold-scaled stag-like creatures are said to bring all manner of blessings to those who see them flying overhead.
These sayings are largely true. The region surrounding a Ki-rin’s lair receives a range of blessings. Flora and fauna grow better there and the afflictions of pure-hearted mortals are cured.
Ki-rin also sometimes appear at the site of a battle to bring blessings to good-aligned combatants.
Aasimar aren’t celestials themselves but they’re very closely linked to celestials. Aasimar are, for most D&D parties, the closest option to playing an angel as a player character.
We talk all about them in our Aasimar Race Guide if you’re interested in rolling one up.
Aasimar are born to human parents but their souls are touched by the power of Mount Celestia. Aasimar are often linked with an angelic guide, usually a deva.
Aasimar have the power to unleash the divine energy from within themselves in one of three ways, depending on whether they’re a protector, scourge, or fallen aasimar.
Using celestials in your game
Celestials are a rare sight on the material plane, where most D&D campaigns take place. If celestials do venture to the material plane. It’s usually as divine messengers or agents.
A celestial might visit the material plane to deliver a message or complete a task and then return to the Upper Planes.
Your players might encounter these celestial agents on their travels. Clerics in particular are often the subjects of divine interest but player characters of any class might have a god or powerful celestial take an interest in them.
Players might receive messages or tasks from these celestial beings which advance the game’s story in some way. The advantage of using celestials to deliver plot hooks, from a DM perspective, is that D&D’s gods have a very broad knowledge about what’s happening in the world.
It makes sense that a god might send the party to do something in a distant land where they have no contacts, to complete a task that has very little relation to whatever they might previously have done.
Simultaneously, a god can also give more personal tasks based on a very detailed understanding of the player characters’ past or present.
Gods might use celestials to communicate with your party in a variety of ways. Angels might appear to your party in their angelic form to give straightforward and uncryptic tasks and information.
Some gods might choose to communicate in less overt ways though. A god might allow the party to glimpse a Ki-rin as an omen, to tell them that they’re on the right track.
Some gods might also take a much more direct approach. If a god needs the party to be at a specific location, that god might choose to send a contingent of pegasi to physically take the party members wherever they need to go.
Gods might also send celestials to aid a party, or specific party members, who are most stalwart in upholding and embodying that deity’s values. A god might choose to send a unicorn or pegasus to act as a mount for their champion.
They might even send a planetar to fight alongside the party in a particularly tough battle against the forces of evil. These can all be great ways for you, as DM, to reward the religious characters in the party.
Denizens of the Upper Planes
Celestials often visit the material plane but, conversely, it’s also possible that your party will call on celestials at home. Campaigns don’t often run through the Upper Planes but you may want your party to meet angels and pegasi in their own territory.
Presenting the Upper Planes in your game is a complicated affair. The celestial creatures described in 5E’s published materials all have one thing in common: they’re all celestials who at least occasionally visit the material plane.
Angels, for example, are relatively frequent visitors to the material plane and might make up the majority of the celestials that mortals interact with. This is only because they act as divine agents though.
In the Upper Planes, angels don’t make up the majority of creatures.
The Upper Planes are populated by celestial equivalents to many of the creatures of the material plane. These creatures all have their own celestial uniqueness that makes them different from their counterparts on the material plane.
For some DM’s, it may also prove difficult to create interesting conflict in a place where all creatures are good-aligned.