Beginner's Guide to Aasimar
I. Love. Angels.
Favorite boss in video games? Kingdom Hearts’ original battle with Sephiroth, the one-winged angel. Favorite Magic the Gathering color? White, because angels. First phone ringtone? ‘One-Winged Angel’ by Nobou Unematsu. Favorite bible stories? The ones with angels. Favorite Diablo character? Tyrael, the arch-angel. Favorite X-Men character?
Well, it’s actually Nightcrawler… but Angel is still really cool.
It should come as no surprise then, that my favorite race in DnD is the one that comes from a divine heritage and can take on an angelic form. The D&D aasimar 5e has given us are easily my favorite ancestry from any RPG I’ve played so far, And today, we’re going to look at why maybe, just maybe, they should be yours!
Despite their angelic appearance and the assumptions that might come with it, the aasimar race is actually one of the most lore-neutral races in the game! Unlike the dragonborn (the subject of my previous article), aasimar have no long history that has shaped their entire race, no predisposition toward any alignments, no strong, unified culture, no list of social mores that apply to all of their kind. When you sit down to make a 5e aasimar, you start with a blank slate! They can be from any location, from any socio-economic background, followers of any religion, and of virtually any parentage (although they are classically of human descent).
While DnD aasimar (not “aasimars”- it's one of those words where the plural and singular are the same) may look like especially-beautiful, flawless humans, something about their appearance often suggests something foreign. Their hair, eyes, or skin will frequently bear hints of their heritage, based upon which celestial being they are descended from. Your aasimar’s tan might take on a golden or silver hue, or their hair glisten with an unnatural cerulean, lavender, or silvery sheen. Their faces may be accented by a few feathers or scales, or their eyes will shine with a glimmer of blue or golden light. But never forget that the vast majority of your aasimar’s ancestors were human! Leaning on this, they can also have any normal human skin shade, too.
What other race would encourage you to design your character this way? Iconic.
So when we say that aasimar are descended from celestials, what exactly do we mean? In brief, a long time ago, the world of Toril was in trouble. The ravages of the spellplague took a catastrophic toll upon the population, making it difficult for the economy to function. A particularly-enterprising group of wizards sought to solve the problem by stealing people from other planes to use as slaves. These slaves cried out for deliverance, and their prayers were eventually delivered to the gods of their home plane. But those gods could not cross over into the other plane in their true forms for fear of damaging the boundary between the planes, so an alternative solution was required. The loophole they found was to each permanently divest some of their divine strength, manifesting this portion of their near-infinite might as a finitely-powerful avatar. These avatars were still terrifying divine warriors, but were limited just enough that they could still safely cross over the border to another plane. After crossing over, winning the war, and liberating the slaves, the angelic avatars (celestial beings now known as ‘devas’) sought new purpose. Finding themselves bound to the plane they’d been created to fight upon, they became permanent additions to Toril’s celestial pantheon. Unable to leave, they instead stayed to care for those they had liberated, intermingling and even reproducing with them. The families they started would carry a recessive gene throughout the coming millennia, one which remembered its angelic origin. And when someone carrying this gene encounters another celestial, an aasimar is manifested.
Because this trait is recessive, there are no “aasimar children”. Future aasimar are born, raised, and treated as members of their parents’ race their entire lives until they have their first encounter with a deva. Thus, this trait can lie dormant in a family for generations, centuries, or even millennia. Some families might be proud bearers of the trait, and undergo a rite of passage when a child comes of age to force an angelic encounter to see if a child has been blessed with it. Others might go so many generations without having it appear that it passes out of mind until a chance encounter awakens it later in life. Once it does awaken, however, the aasimar is forever changed. They will manifest physical traits that are indicative of their true nature, and forge an immediate, innate lasting bond with the deva that awakened them. So significant is this bond that they manifest powers based on the nature of the deva they meet, becoming either a protector of all that is good or a scourge upon all that is evil. The deva will, in turn, act as a guide and lead them toward a grand destiny for the good of the world. Aasimar are creatures with free will, however, and may choose to spurn this celestial guidance, falling from the guidance of grace.
Low-level celestial entities bound to the mortal plane and offering guidance to those of particular heritages? Remind you of anyone? Gandalf makes for a great deva analog.
While this is not the first time Wizards of the Coast has given us a race called aasimar 5e DnD (the latest and greatest edition) has made some significant changes to those seen in prior editions. Instead of emphasizing the race’s Wisdom like they did in 4e, the aasimar 5e introduced now emphasizes Charisma, arguably the best stat in the game! They also now get access to innate spellcasting, innate healing, resistance to certain damage types… Well, let’s just review the list of aasimar traits 5e has blessed us with, and discover why they are some of my favorite ones in the game!
All aasimar gain the following benefits:
Ability Score Increase. Your Charisma score increases by 2.
Age. Aasimar mature at the same rate as humans, but can live up to 160 years.
Size. Aasimar have the same height and weight range as humans.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Darkvision. Blessed with a radiant soul, your vision can easily cut through darkness. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
Celestial Resistance. You have resistance to necrotic damage and radiant damage.
Healing Hands. As an action, you can touch a creature and cause it to regain a number of hit points equal to your level. Once you use this trait, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.
Light Bearer. You know the light cantrip. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for it.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Celestial.
Subrace. Three subraces of aasimar exist: protector aasimar, scourge aasimar, and fallen aasimar. Choose one of them for your character.
There are multiple aasimar variants available in the game. If you didn’t guess from the paragraph above, the 3 types of aasimar you can select for your character are based on the disposition of the deva they are bonded to and the nature of their relationship with it.
- The aasimar protector 5e introduced increase their WISDOM scores by 1 and have the ability to fly for short periods of time. They’re my favorite!
- The scourge aasimar increases their CONSTITUTION scores by 1 and have the ability to immolate themselves in order to burn those around them (it’s not as bad as it sounds, all your enemies will take double the damage that you deal to yourself), and deal extra damage to one target per turn when you hit them while so immolated.
- Unlike its counterparts, the fallen aasimar DnD 5e gave us are not based on the deva they are bound to, but rather upon their departure from its guidance. When an aasimar spurns their deva guardian, their STRENGTH score increases by 1 as their angelic visage begins to fade, giving them a more frightening countenance. They can use this countenance to frighten nearby enemies, and then deal additional damage to a target they strike once per turn.
No matter which of the aasimar options you choose, however, the base aasimar traits are fantastic! Darkvision is always a good thing to see when you look down at your character sheet. The Light cantrip is my 4th favorite in the whole game (check out our podcast below to find out why!), and thanks to the Light Bearer feature you get it at level 1 regardless of which class you choose! You’re resistant by default to not one, but TWO damage types, which is more than any other race! And your innate Healing Hands feature is the perfect pick-me-up when a fellow party member goes down! Regardless of your playstyle, these features will come in Healing-Hand-y!
So, you’re convinced: the DnD aasimar 5e has bestowed upon us from on high will make the perfect choice for your next character! Next, let’s talk about some flavorful aasimar classes you might want to try out! From a lore perspective, I’m not sure you can beat aasimar clerics and paladins. Is there a better way to play than to be a holy avenger wholly avenging with a holy avenger? If so, I have not found it. Warlocks make another exceptional choice, as your patron can be the Deva assigned to you at birth, deepening the relationship implicit in your lore, either for good or for ill. Celestial Pact protectors and Fiend Pact fallen are opposite sides of a coin, both with incredible roleplay implications! Finally, what could possibly be more on-point than an aasimar divine-soul sorcerer? It’s so synergistic it hurts… while it fixes none of your weaknesses, it doubles down on everything you want to be good at, and the backstory practically writes itself.
When naming your aasimar, feel free to go traditional! Aasimar are traditionally born to human parents (though you could make an elf-descended aasimar or a Dwarf-descended one… follow your heart on this one), so just follow the naming conventions of your parents’ culture. Personally, I prefer to use Old-English names, Norse names, and Roman names, to give them a bit of an ancient and storied feel. But hey, oddly enough, if you want to play John Smith the aasimar, that would actually be fairly in keeping with their lore!
For a good time, try taking advantage of the fallen aasimar 5e has given us to make an Oath of Vengeance paladin with a 1-2 level multiclass into Hexblade warlock. For my money, angelic paladins are the best paladins… especially when they’re tainted by a little corruption as they turn to dark patrons in their blind pursuit of their oaths. While this will make for an awesome backstory, it makes for an even better build, one which will become very strong as early as level 7. Your Hexblade level will allow you to make all your attack and damage rolls, as well as buff all your saving throws using your CHA modifier. By taking the 1 warlock level, you’ve made CHA the only stat you’ll ever need for both offense and defense! Then, after just one or two rounds of setup (which you’ll easily survive thanks to your heavy armor and a shield), your other available class features will synergize to give you a frontline fighter capable of some INSANE damage. You’ll be making two attacks per round, dealing extra necrotic damage based on your level once per turn, extra damage equal to your proficiency bonus on every hit, and capable of making up to twenty attacks against a chosen enemy with advantage. Oh, and did we mention that your crit range is also doubled during that time? That will make your inevitable smites go nuclear even more often!
Aasimar hex-adins absolutely DRIP with flavor. Don’t knock it till you try it!
Dungeons and dragons aasimar shine as one of the game's best races. This newest incarnation of aasimar DnD has graced us with in this latest and greatest edition literally soars above the others, making for a positively divine choice for your next holy-roller. No other race comes with a built-in supernatural patron, offers such flexible options from a lore perspective, or gives you so many options for built-in self-discovery! What’s your favorite thing about D and d aasimar? What’s your favorite class to take? Do you prefer the newer bloodlines like Gem or Metallic, or are you a Chromatic through and through? Show your colors on our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or in our ever-growing Discord.
Steven Franklin is an avid RPG player and board game enthusiast who has played DND since the release of 5e. He is a cohost of the Bardic Twinspiration DND podcast and a frequent guest on the MistyMountainStreaming Twitch channel. You can find him as a player in many of the mini-campaigns on our Misty Mountain Gaming YouTube channel.
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