Angels are a race of celestials, beings who live on the good-aligned outer planes.
Angels can be of any good alignment. Lawful angels hail from Heaven, neutral angels from Nirvana, and chaotic angels from Elysium, though the majority serve one good deity or another and call their patron's realm their home. Most mortals assume that angels never lie, cheat, or steal, are impeccably honorable in all their dealings, and are the most trustworthy and diplomatic of all the celestials; while this is generally true, there are exceptions, especially as some angels serve good-aligned trickster gods and other chaotic entities.
The original and most powerful angels predate the mortal races. They were among the first creations of the gods of good, and those that survive to this day are among the more powerful non-divine beings in the multiverse. While new angels are still periodically created by the gods, most modern angels were once good mortals, their souls transforming into something greater upon reaching their destination in the planes. Often an angel's true form is reminiscent of its mortal self, only taller, brighter, and more powerful. The relationship between good mortal soul and angel is common knowledge, and many mortal religions assume that all members of the faith in good standing become angels of some type in the afterlife. Others confuse the issue by conflating famous mortals (such as saints and martyrs) with preexisting angels that have similar names, or suggesting that angels take human form to perform great deeds as mortals, returning to the heavens when their duties are over.
All angels are blessed with extraordinary beauty, though their actual appearances vary widely. Their natural shapechanging ability means they may appear to mortals as male or female, depending on their personal preference or the will of their deity. As they are spiritual creatures given a physical form rather than creatures of flesh born of other creatures, their gender is mutable; some angels always use a male form, some strictly a female one, and others use either or both, or prefer an androgynous or sexless shape.
Technically, the word "angel" refers to several types of humanoid angels—solars, planetars, and devas (of which the astral deva is the most common; other types exist as well)—though many mortals use the term loosely and apply it to any celestial, whether an angel, one of the guardian archons, fey-like azatas, beast-like agathions, or any other creature of the good planes. The angels do not take affront at this, as they have more important things to deal with than mortal nomenclature.
Angels speak Celestial, Draconic, and Infernal, though they can communicate with almost any creature because of their truespeech ability. All angels possess a number of similar traits. Most angels also have additional powers beyond these traits, depending on the role their deity assigns them. For example, an angelic guardian of volcanoes might have the fire subtype, or the protector of a sunken city might be aquatic, amphibious, and able to use her wings to swim.
Many religions include stories of angels rebelling against a creator or becoming corrupt and evil. Sadly, this is indeed possible, though thankfully rare, and only the proudest or weakest-willed angels succumb to this fate. Fallen angels are exiles of the good realms, hunted by their former brethren and easy targets for fiends as well. The fallen lose some of the grace and light of their untainted kin, though many are said to still be tragically beautiful. Rarer still are those fallen angels strong and clever enough to join the legions of Hell, and who are often transformed into some type of devil, or those who become demons of the Abyss and carve out a niche in that horrible realm or come to serve a greater demon.
Whereas there are evil and cruel counterparts for all the other good races, the legions of fiends do not possess a clear analogue for the race of angels. Many scholars have debated the reasons for this strange lack of symmetry among the good and evil outsiders, and while most have come to believe that this is simply an example of good's inherent willingness to rise above specific alignments for everyone's benefit, the exact reason may never be known.
Since angels can be of any good alignment, they represent the needs and desires of all three major good outsider races. While some angels devote their energies to all three, most have a particular favorite among the races in keeping with that angel's particular alignment. While their true forms never vary between alignments, angels will often use their change shape ability to appear more like an archon, agathion, or azata as the situation and the angel's personality demands.
Angels are further subdivided into their own specific hierarchy known as the Triad of Choirs. The bulk of the angel race consists of the devas—these are the most common angels, and numerous different specialties exist, with the astral deva presented here merely the best known. Devas of the third choir have two wings. The second choir consists solely of the four-winged planetars, while the rulers of the angelic race are the six-winged solars. These are the mightiest of all angels, and the most powerful of them can directly oppose even the will of a demigod if the situation calls for it.