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Alignment is an essential part of the nature of celestials and fiends. A devil does not choose to be lawful evil, and it doesn’t tend toward lawful evil, but rather it is lawful evil in its essence. If it somehow ceased to be lawful evil, it would cease to be a devil.

Angels can fall. the Monster Manual has a note explicitly on situations where this can happen, and upon doing so, they retain their powers, but are free to make their own path. If a devil or demon were to choose to do something inherently against its nature through accident or intention, are there any similar rules on what would happen? Are there specific in-game cases where this has happened? This is based on the information available in 5e, but lore or rules from any D&D edition would be helpful.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ this answer is related. \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Mar 9 '16 at 20:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Where is that quote from? It seems radically inconsistent with the 5e rules as well as the 5e game paradigm in general. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Nov 15 '17 at 7:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Would it be reasonable to tag this question also as "lore"? I couldn't really decide. \$\endgroup\$ – ZwiQ Nov 16 '17 at 9:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer: Chapter 4 of the Basic Rules or PHB p. 122, under "Alignment in the Multiverse". \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 18 '18 at 3:51
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In the case of demons, the monster description (MM p. 50) argues against the reverse of falling that the angels are susceptible to.

Possessing no compassion, empathy, or mercy, they exist only to destroy.

Angel: pride can lead to a mistake that leads to a fall. (MM p. 15)

Demon: opposite of angel ~ the opposite of pride is humility.

Humility doesn't fit the profile of lacking empathy, mercy, and compassion. From that starting point, the DM needs to establish a motive that outweighs this fundamental characteristic of a demon. Something, some experience, someone, or some event induces a demon to act in an other than selfish and destructive manner.

The DM then must resolve how a creature spawned as an extension of the Abyss (MM p. 50, Spawn of Chaos) breaks free of that influence sufficiently to change its nature. In the case of demons formed from mortal souls (since in 5e souls exist) the memory of being something other than a demon could provide the leverage needed to initiate change. In that case, the specific follow-on effects will vary as with the motive for change.

Two simple and opposed potential outcomes:

  1. The demon leaves the Abyss forever, never to return
  2. The demon enlists allies to return to the abyss and avenge --- something.

    (And many points between). Without a story hook on the why of a demon's change, the what of the aftermath of the change is too varied to nail down.

MM p. 7 (RAW boils down to "You can if you want to.")

"Feel free to depart from it and change a monster's alignment to suit the needs of your campaign. If you want a good-aligned green dragon, or an evil storm giant, there's nothing stopping you.

The only thing stopping the DM is the crafting of an in-world reason that fits the larger narrative of the campaign and the story. The only constraint is the imagination of the DM, not a rule.

What makes for a good change is a decision to create the exception to the general rule of the MM default description for demons - the general case is that a demon isn't motivated to change. Establishing motivation is step zero to this change occurring in, or fitting the narrative of, a campaign.

If lore extends beyond 5e, something from 2e Planescape or FR novels may offer a concrete example.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 2 '17 at 8:36
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Since you asked for past lore, here are some examples of redemption or positive behaviour from past editions of D&D.

  • In the 2e Planescape (PS) adventure book "The Well of Worlds", there is a cornugon-succubus (baatezu-tanar'ri) love affair.
  • In the 2e PS adventure "The Deva Spark", a bebilith receives the spark of a monadic deva and turns away from evil.
  • "The Chant of the War" book from the 2e PS accessory "Hellbound: The Blood War" describes a babau (tanar'ri), osyluth (baatezu) pair named Bb'bray and Antralius (page 31). They still hold on to their normal alignments, but have overcome their racial hatred and are trying to stop the Blood War together to save fiend lives. It is claimed that they have managed to convince some.
  • 2e PS sourcebook "Faces of Evil: Fiends" has a section titled "The Rogues and the Risen" about baatezu who give up their evil ways (page 33). One example given in the section is an hamatula named K'rand Vahlix. He is rumoured to have killed his cornugon superior and fled to Bytopia. He is described as "a do-gooder who organizes other reformed fiends into the celestial armies".
  • In the PS:Torment computer game, there is a LN succubus named Fall-From-Grace. She was later incorporated into written D&D lore as well. For example, she was mentioned in an article about Malcanthet in Dragon magazine #353 (March 2007, during 3.5e period).
  • There is a 3.5e succubus paladin named Eludecia. Her story is that she falls in love with an angel and with his help, she achieves redemption. She was initially introduced as part of a D&D Fight Club feature in 2006. After she won, she even got her own small adventure, named "Legend of the Silver Skeleton". It can be freely downloaded from the WotC archives.
  • Falling in love with an angel backstory was also present in the 2e PS accessory "Planes of Conflict" (page 26 of Liber Benevolentiae). The erinyes Nalura tries to corrupt Janaar, an agathinon aasimon, but they end up falling for each other and later settle in the Beastlands (N(C)G plane).
  • The 3-3.5e sourcebook "The Book of Exalted Deeds" has an interesting picture right next to a couple of paragraphs describing mercy. It shows a paladin with a couple of succubi/incubi. The caption reads "A paladin must choose between destroying evil and honoring love", implying that some tanar'ri are capable of love. On the other hand, couple pages later, under the title "Redeeming Evil", it states: "Most creatures described in the Monster Manual as 'always evil' are either completely irredeemable or so intimately tied to evil that they are almost entirely hopeless. Certainly demons and devils are best slain, or at least banished, and only a naive fool would try to convert them."
  • "The Book of Exalted Deeds" also introduces a 9th-level spell (page 106), Sanctify the Wicked, which can be used by a good spellcaster to redeem any evil creature (including fiends), at the cost of a character level. The spell entraps the target in a diamond for a year, during which its "soul reflects on past evils and slowly finds within itself a spark of goodness". The moral implications of the use of this spell by good-aligned characters within the Forgotten Realms setting was debated on Candlekeep forums, and was declared to be acceptable by Ed Greenwood, in particular for followers of Lathander, who "bring about a “new beginning” for the demon".
  • Speaking of magic that changes creatures, Dragon Annual 2 (1997, AD&D 2e), describes Xengahra (page 106), an ultraloth that has been transformed by the night hags to look like a solar. The transformation seems to have changed his alignment as well: neutral (though still with evil tendencies).
  • According to an article in Dragon #351 (January 2007), the town of Ecstasy, the gatetown between the Outlands and Elysium is ruled by a NG ultroloth named Felthis ap Jerran the Philosopher King (page 51). This character's background is further detailed in a couple of paragraphs attributed to the author, Todd Stewart, on the planewalker.com website. It is speculated that he is "an abomination to his own kind who turned away from evil because of a single flaw, a single fragment of good that survived intact".
  • There is a 4e article titled "Fallen Angels: Ecology of the Succubus" in Dragon #417 (November 2012). It describes "Succubus Companion"s, who become companions of mortal heroes gently trying to corrupt them. Their alignment is not simply listed as just "evil", but as "varies", and it is stated that an influential hero might persuade a succubus to walk the path to redemption. There is even a 4-paragraph short subsection that describes what that path must involve: "find a way to leave the Nine Hells + chaste and virtuous life + seven good deeds for each deed committed against the gods".
  • Pathfinder adventure series "Wrath of the Righteous" features a risen fiend, whose reasons for rising is explained in the third book, "Demon's Heresy". Without spoiling the game, the backstory of the fiend involves being reminded of its mortal life. The series also provides rules of gradual change in the alignment from CE to CN and then to CG.

It is also worth noting that there are a few other examples of serious alignment change amongst fiends. Not counting the many LE->CE transitions in the 4e products, an example is Zem'Jil, 3.5e succubus described in Dragon #350 (page 33, December 2006). She agreed to be transformed by the diety Wee Jas and became LE.


Beyond the earlier edition lore, you might also find the following 25.08.2017 twitter exchange partially relevant, as Mike Mearls, one of the co-creators of D&D 5e, likens a fiend's rising to the reverse of a paladin's corruption:

Question: Is there a way to make a succubus feel normal "human" feelings. To rid of their fiendish desires? If so, could I get an example?

Answer by M. Mearls: Would require finding sliver of human emotion in a fiend, building on it. Think of it as the reverse of corrupting a paladin or other hero

As a personal note: Planescape products had more diverse and deeper philosophy than most of the material that came afterwards. The more recent D&D material is arguably more simplistic, with a lot of the grey zones erased. So if you want to find redemption paths for fiends as a DM, I would suggest reading some PS. There are fan-authored PS sourcebooks for the 5e.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I find it somewhat telling of dnd that almost all of these examples are succubi \$\endgroup\$ – Nemenia Aug 21 '17 at 16:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nemenia : Agreed. Actually your comment reminded me of a 4e article about succubus ecology and I added an extra item in the answer. \$\endgroup\$ – ZwiQ Aug 24 '17 at 8:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ There is a LG bodak in "Uncaged, Faces of Sigil". It is not a redeemed fiend, but a paladin who died and rose back up in the Abyss. \$\endgroup\$ – ZwiQ Mar 14 '18 at 1:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: Cambions according to 3.5e Expedition to the Demonweb Pits - "usually chaotic evil, but about one in ten is neutral or even good because its tiefling mother was not evil". \$\endgroup\$ – ZwiQ Jun 20 '18 at 6:28
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Here is another answer, providing an in-game + meta-game (by writing this I am contributing to its in-game premise) perspective:

So you ask whether a fiend can be redeemed. The answer is affirmative: yes, as long as you believe that it can happen. You see, the Outer Planes, are all about belief. Why do you think the Gray Waste is gloomy and Carceri is all deception? Why is the Beastlands so wild and beautiful? Because of you, of course, because of you, me, and millions of other clueless beings living their lives in pain, fear, desolation, hate, but also in love, hope, curiosity and awe. So all the Outer Planes are a reflection of the good things and bad things in our collective conscious, our total mental presence in this multiverse.

Beings like fiends and celestials, modrons and slaadi, are all reflections of the "belief matter" of their respective native planes. Archons are these law-abiding pillars of good, why? Because they are Celestia personified. Why are yugoloths those selfish schemers that they are? Thanks to your selfishness empowering the Gray Waste. So you might conclude that they can never become something else. With pure good or pure evil personified, you would think that a deva is incorruptible, or a cornugon irredeemable, yeah? Wrong!

It is still all about belief. Do you like stories of fallen angels? Do you find them interesting, but more importantly do you find them believable? Pride, or jealousy, or the plain old feeling of boredom causes the powerful planetar to let go - you find that intriguing, don't you? If your answer is yes, congrats, you have allowed some celestials to loose their paths.

Likewise, if you give credence to stories of risen ultraloths, some will surely rise. If enough people believed that there could be succubus paladins, in this vast multiverse, there will be some. Sadly redeemed fiends are a lot fewer in number than fallen celestials, mainly because people like stories of falls more than stories of redemption.

Before I conclude, let me give you tip. If you fall in love with a particular succubus and expect it to return your love, or if you are asking for mercy from a molydeus, you are a hopeless fool. But when enough of us keep in our hearts a path for seeking atonement, a way to forgiveness and a belief that love and compassion can overwhelm evil, there will be risen fiends of all kinds in the vast expanse of the multiverse.

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protected by Oblivious Sage Aug 24 '17 at 13:16

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