[RPG] Can a demon or devil be redeemed


In Chapter 4 of the Basic Rules or PHB p. 122, under "Alignment in the Multiverse", it says:

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 (p. 15) 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.

Best Answer

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.

There were a few risen fiends in 2e Planescape - Fall-From-Grace the succubus, and Morte the floating skull whose provenance is something of a spoiler ~ {Thank you @nick012000}

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