I've been thinking a lot about inhabitants of the Outer Planes recently. Having finished a very long Wrath of the Righteous (the CRPG) campaign and being about to start up a 2e-converted Hell's Vengeance tabletop campaign, it's hard not to think about demons and devils and azatas, and such.
When I was noodling around, attempting to build my Knight Commander in 2e for S&Gs, I noticed a few spells from the Arcane list at 6th level that hadn't immediately caught my attention when I first flipped through Secrets of Magic: Demon Form, Daemon Form, and Devil Form. "Neat," I thought. "Wonder if the Divine list has the celestials as battle forms." Look at the Divine list, 6th level, and... nothing.
Now, in reality, I'm not too surprised. The creatures of the lower planes have always had a bit more of a spotlight on them, mostly due in part to the fact that adventurers that are on grand quests that involve Outer Planes tend towards the Good spectrum, thus they're often trying to fight Evil, and so Evil needs to be more fleshed out and interesting. But then, of course, flipping over to 7th level Divine list, I find one celestial form that irks me probably more than it should: Angel Form.
Now, don't get me wrong - I have nothing against angels as creatures. I do like the fact that there is a type of celestial that represents the willingness of "good" outsiders to work with each other, even if their planes represent different core beliefs. What does frustrate me is that angels tend to be used in substitute of ALL the good outsiders, rather than being a separate interconnected group, much like in this instance.
For those not in-the-know, much like how the three Lower Planes each have fiends unique to them - Devils from Hell, Daemons from Abaddon, Demons from the Abyss - each Upper Plane also has its own set of unique inhabitants that represent the different facets of their homes: Heaven has Archons, Nirvana has Agathions, and Elysium has Azatas.
So why, then, do we only get Angel Form? Archons, Agathions, and Azatas are all about as diverse, both mechanically AND flavorfully, as Devils, Daemons, and Demons, and yet we end up with another example of the long list of making all the Upper Planes seem like one blob. If the argument was to save space, then why didn't we get, say, a Fiend Form instead of all three spells?
If you were to create a Battle Form spell for these three outsiders, how would you do it? Which members would you choose for these forms and what abilities would they get?
Probably because treating Celestials as one group gets the job done fine for most people. They don't show up as much, and there are about three times as many fiends published for PF2 as celestials. Fiends are just a lot more popular.
It's still open for those spells to be added. I don't know if we will get Agathion Form, since angels are specifically NG in PF2. When we get a book focusing on celestials, though, I'd expect the other two spells to show up.
As for "Why not just do Fiend Form?", probably because that wouldn't be equivalent. Angels are prominent celestials, in the middle of the good alignments, and work with the others. For evil, daemons are the middle alignment but the least prominent of the big three fiends, and famously. It'd mean having a generic Celestial Form instead of leaving expansion open.
What I find strange is the difference in level.
Why is it more difficult to take on the form of an Angel than the form of a Devil?
I guess it makes sense from a balance perspective under the assumption that adventurers tend towards good alignment and are battling evil creatures. Having a form spell that gives bonus Evil damage is going to be less useful.
But that isn't always an assumption that holds.
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I just don't buy that popularity plays much of a factor. We *did* get Daemon Form, after all, and Paizo's got a reputation for having spells that are very targeted towards niche audiences.
CLEARLY there's a conspiracy going on here. Big Angel and Big Fiend are working together to make people forget about the other celestials [end sarcasm].
But honestly I feel like Angel Form would feel fine as a 7th level spell if there were ALSO equivalent 6th level spells to mirror the fiends. There'd still be asymmetry, but since there's no "generic fiend" it'd at least be justified.
There's also the small irritation of Battle Forms in general being the only spells in the game with a clear "upgrade ladder" instead of having reasonable heightened effects like most spells. Really kills the flavor vibe.
I don't think it's popularity per se, but I do think it's symptomatic of how Paizo writes adventures.
Evil creatures are the main villains, and as a result more effort gets put into highlighting evil outsiders as monsters and creatures within the setting. We have daemons and demons and velstracs and qlippoths and devils and these creatures, including the differences between them, are explored a lot more in storytelling space than the good outsiders are.
And I think that sort of momentum is also why we see those differences matter more to spells and other abilities.
Pure speculation of course.