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The phoenix is a large flame-wreathed bird, known for its unique ability to immolate itself, only to be reborn again from its ashes. It is revered in some cultures as a deity.

"Phoenix" is pronounced "FEE-niks".[1] Other names for the creature include the firebird, bennu, feng, ho, hwang, and o.[2]

Description

Appearance

A phoenix is a large, rarely seen great bird, bearing a resemblance to a peacock. Its plumage is brightly colored, having bright violet, scarlet, crimson and orange feathers. It has a long beak, blue-violet claws, and deep, glowing ruby colored eyes.[3]

A phoenix measures between 10 to 15 feet long from beak to tail.[4] Its wingspan can reach over 40 feet.[5]

Personality and alignment

Phoenixes are of genius-level intelligence.[3] They are highly reclusive, and display a godlike detachment from the world. They are free-willed and benevolent, and do not enjoy combat, but are swift and deadly when the time comes to fight. They are highly courageous.[5]

Phoenixes are neutral good in alignment.[3] They do not usually attack good-aligned beings except in extenuating circumstances, and will readily risk their own life for a good cause.[6] However, the much larger elder elemental phoenixes native to the Plane of Fire are of true neutral] alignment, and less benevolent than the ones known to planar explorers of the Great Wheel.

The elder elemental phoenix described in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes (2018) is neutral in alignment. It appears to be a different variety than the good-aligned creature described in AD&D 1e, AD&D 2e, and D&D 3e. The phoenix as described in the Immortals Rules (BECMI) (1986) is also less intelligent than its AD&D counterpart.

Abilities and traits

The phoenix is known for its whistling, piercing call, which can startle opponents. It is practically impossible to surprise it in combat. It fights with its long, sharp beak and diamond-hard talons.[3]

The phoenix has numerous magical abilities. By spreading its wings, it can dispel magic. Its dance can exorcise evil, and is effective against all but artifact-level magic. A touch of its wing cures injury, while touching its comb cures disease. Drops of its spilled blood can be ignited with efficacy similar to fire seeds. It is also capable of invoking numerous magical powers, primarily to affect or create flame or light. They can also travel ethereally and astrally.[3]

The phoenix's ultimate ability is to immolate itself in an enormous fire cloud, which is exceptionally deadly to all those in the area. Using this power kills the phoenix, but leaves behind a gem-like egg from which a new phoenix will arise. It uses this power only in emergencies.[3]

A phoenix can see in the dark, and can innately sense magic.[3]

Ecology

Environment

Phoenixes are native to the Plane of Fire.[7]

Phoenixes are comfortable in both forest and rocky wastes. They are capable of surviving in even extreme environments of heat, cold, or even airless void. They are found natively in the plane of Elysium, rarely in the Astral Plane (although they do not normally lair here, and are commonly just passing through), and very rarely in the Ethereal plane. They are occasionally found in beautiful and peaceful sylvan locations in the Material plane.[8][3][9][10]

Lair

Phoenixes are known to make nests in the legendary mountain peaks of Azor'alq.[11] They are known in Kara-Tur,[12] and in Egypt in the world of Earth.[13][14]

Some prefer to form their nest in cinnamon trees.[15]

Life cycle

All phoenixes are male. They reproduce by self-immolating, where a new phoenix is reborn from the ashes.[5]

A phoenix lives over 1,000 years, with some scholars believing they may live as long as 12,000 years. At the end of its life, it heads for a high mountain where it can overlook the world one last time before it dies. It constructs a nest of straw and herbs, then immmolates itself in a great flash of fire and light.[5]

A new phoenix is found among the flames. It is variously described as producing a ruby-like egg, which hatches within a few weeks; or a young phoenix, born alive among the flames. The new phoenix has none of its parent's memories or wisdom.[5]

A legend says that the phoenix must fly away to the temple of the sun, where it buries the mummified corpse of its parent.[5]

It is possible to permanently kill a phoenix, but it is difficult. Killing the phoenix several times in quick succession can drain it of all its power.[7] A wish spell may also have this effect.[16]

Diet

Phoenixes are omnivorous. Although they have the power to be reborn, they are still mortal creatures. [5]

As described in the Monster Manual (4e) (2008), the phoenix is rather an elemental which does not need to eat, but is driven to use fire.

Society and culture

Relationships and family

Phoenixes are solitary creatures.[5]

Organization

Phoenixes are of near-mythical rarity. A single phoenix may exist in an entire forest, or an entire world.[17]

Enemies

The phoenix is the mortal enemy of the pyrolisk, an evil cockatrice-like creature with an immolating gaze.[18]

Phoenixes have a particular hatred of undead.[19]

Allies and minions

A phoenix can be summoned by a solar, and occasionally a hollyphant.[20] They can be summoned with the spell call phoenix, but will only heed the call of good-aligned clerics and druids.[6] The elven high magic celestial army can summon one or multiple phoenixes.[21]

The Priest-King of Eshu bears a phoenix servant.[22]

In the Nentir Vale, phoenixes have been known to serve alongside fire archons.[19]

Religion

The phoenix is worshiped as a deity in the Egyptian pantheon.

In Faerûn, the phoenix is associated with the deities Corellon Larethian, Marthammor, and Aerdrie Faenya.[23] The goddess Ayailla often takes the form of a phoenix, and uses a phoenix as her holy symbol.[24]

Language

The phoenix is capable of telepathic communication.[3] Their voice has been described of godlike.[25] It is also capable of speaking the language of birds.[5]

Treasure

Harvesting

Phoenix feathers are highly valued, often commanding prices of around 40 to 50 gp. They can be used to aid a caster in remembering spells. They are used as a spell component in the spells phoenix fire and thornbush arrows,[3][26], to adorn the dart of the phoenix,[27] in constructing a wand of fire,[28] and to adorn a staff of healing.[5][29] They can also be used as a component in a ritual to return the dead to life,[19] or to craft the prized elixir of life.[30] They also be used like a holy symbol to turn water elementals, or as a quill to scribe scrolls of fire magic.[31]

Their gem-like beak, talons, and eyes are even more highly valued, while other body parts are in demand with alchemists who seek to craft certain potions,[3][32] particularly healing potions[5] and potions of fire resistance.[33]

Drops of phoenix blood can be used to craft the candle of fireballs[34], the oil of fiery burning,[30] and the red dragon tooth.[35] Ashes remaining from a phoenix's self-immolation are used in the spells proofing versus combustion[36] and transcend life force.[37]

Phoenix eggshell is reputedly a valuable component in several powerful forms of magic.[38]

Phoenix remains can fetch thousands of gold pieces on the open market. However, finding a buyer is often difficult, as many cultures consider it bad luck or forbidden to kill a phoenix.[5]

Captures

Capturing a phoenix is said to be virtually impossible. The only recorded successful attempts have been by beings of deific power, and even then only with carefully planned strategies.[7]

Cultural significance

The phoenix has significant symbolic importance, and is interpreted in various ways across many cultures. It commonly represents the ideals of freedom and rebirth, of self-sacrifice for the cause of good, and of creation by destruction. Some cultures consider it symbolic of rage and destruction, or of beneficial aid, or as a natural force of death.[5]

The phoenix is often used as a symbol of organizations which re-formed themselves after destruction. In heraldry, it signifies magnificence or rebirth.[39] It appears in the arms of Solara's Elite,[40] and House Dlardrageth of Faerûn.[41] It is considered one of the most prestigious heraldic servants, along with the unicorn and dragon.[22]

The double-edged axe of the emperors is formed in the shape of a rising phoenix.[42] The Nithan Standard of the phoenix protects troops from fatal blows.[43]

The artifact known as the Egg of the Phoenix is not really a phoenix egg, but rather a massive black egg-shaped object.[44][45]

A phoenix appears in the Talis card deck in Krynn.[46] The deity Habbakuk is nicknamed the Blue Phoenix.[47]

In Faerûn, the Morningdown Hall of the sun deity Lathander is built in the form of a phoenix.[48] The year 519 DR is known as the Year of the Phoenix.[49] The Disciples of the Phoenix are monks who worship Kossuth.

The phoenix is well known in Kara-Tur, where it is the namesake of the Imperial Phoenix restaurant, the Grey Phoenix dojo,[50] the Phoenix ninja clan,[51] and the hot Season of the Phoenix.[52]

It is the namesake of the ancient Lost City of Phoenix,[53], the Golden Phoenix inn of the Free City of Greyhawk, The Phoenix inn of Hardby,[54] the Thrice-Born Phoenix in of Sasserine, the Golden Phoenix tavern of Stormreach in Eberron,[55] a guild of Earth known as The Phoenix,[56] the gladiator team Final Phoenix,[57] the Masters of the Jade Phoenix guild of swordsages,[58] the Cult of the Phoenix,[59] and the poisonous phoenix powder (made in fact from a desert plant root).[60]

The deity Shu of the Egyptian pantheon wears armor made of phoenix feathers.[61] The spells fire wings and reanimation require an amulet shaped like a phoenix.[12]

Some Lakshu and Reigar take the phoenix as totem animals.[62] A prophecy of the Baklunish peoples of Oerth is called the Prophecy of the Phoenix, while the Oeridian scholar deity Delleb used a phoenix-feather quill to defeat Hextor.[63]

Magic items inspired by or named for the phoenix include the phoenix helm,[64] phoenix ash threat crystal,[65], the phoenix sash,[66] and the legendary regalia of the phoenix.[67]

Phoenix is a popular female given name in the land of Darokin.[68] It is also the name of male accountant Phoenix Anvil.[69]

In the theory planetary correspondences, the phoenix represents the sun.[70]

History

Origins

Legends surrounding the phoenix are numerous. They were initially created by Phoebus, an immortal being who wields power over energy.[7]

Ancient history

A phoenix once appeared before the archomental prince Zaman Rul following his crushing defeat at the hands of Imix. The phoenix restored Zaaman Rul's health and inspired him to continue his fight against elemental evil.[71]

Notable phoenixes

For a full list of phoenixes, see Category:Phoenixes.

  • The unnamed ruler of the Nest of the Phoenix in Elysium[38]

Related creatures

Variations

The term "phoenix" appears to describe a variety of creatures.

Hailing from the Plane of Fire, the "lesser phoenix" stands 5 feet tall and has a wingspan of 10 feet, while the "greater phoenix" stands 10 feet tall and has a wingspan of around 20 feet. Both are of limited intelligence and neutral alignment.[16] Even larger elder elemental species are known.

In the plane of Elysium and many worlds connected to the Great Wheel, the phoenix there is known as a highly intelligent, magically adept, brave and good creature, with a wingspan which can reach 40 feet or more.

Similar creatures

The firebird is often called the "lesser phoenix".[72] The term "firebird" is sometimes used for the phoenix itself.[4]

The humanoid phoelarchs are said to be related to the phoenix. When slain, they are reincarnated as the phoera, a phoenixlike flaming bird creature.[73]

The steelwing is sometimes named the "Acheron phoenix".[74]

The phoenix spider is a flaming arachnid created by the demon goddess Lolth.[75]

Publication history

Basic D&D

The lesser and greater phoenixes appear in the Master Rules (BECMI), DM's Book (1985), p.41 and the Immortals Rules (BECMI), DM's Guide to Immortals (1986), p.46.

AD&D 1st edition

The phoenix first appeared in D&D in Creatures from Elsewhere, Dungeon #47 (May/Jun 1994), p.14, by Patrick Amory, which established its plane of origin as Elysium, perhaps owing to its origin in Greek myth. This was followed up by Gary Gygax's own take of the creature in Featured Creatures, Dungeon #65 (Nov/Dec 1997), p.26, which later appeared in Monster Manual II (1e) (1983), p.100-101. It is initially Medium size.

Sage Advice, Dragon #76 (Aug 1983), p.64, addressed the issue of two separate versions of the phoenix's statistics appearing in Dragon.

AD&D 2nd edition

The phoenix appears in the Monstrous Manual (1993), p.288.

D&D 3rd edition

The phoenix appears in the Monster Manual II (3e) (2002), p.168-169. It is a challenge rating 24 magical beast, making it one of the most powerful creatures. It is now also Large size.

D&D 4th edition

The phoenix appears in the Monster Manual (4e) (2008), p.220-221, under the roc entry. It is a level 19 elite brute with the elemental beast (fire) type. It has to the phoenix's 4e lore is that its body is composed of flame and not flesh. It is now Huge size.

D&D 5th edition

The phoenix did not appear in the initial Monster Manual (5e) (2014), with the monster modification guidelines in Dungeon Master's Guide (5e) (2014), p.273 suggesting to make one by giving fire damage and fire immunity to a giant eagle or roc.

The phoenix eventually appeared in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes (2018), p.199, where it is a challenge rating 16 elder elemental which hails from the Inner Planes. Like its D&D 4th edition version, it is a creature of elemental fire, a change from its AD&D lore but more in line with its 4e and Basic lore. It is now Gargantuan in size, having grown fully three size classes since its original appearance.

Creative origins

The phoenix is a creature of real-world mythlogy. According to Creatures from Elsewhere, Dungeon #47 (May/Jun 1994), p.14, it is found in Greek, Arabian, and Egyption mythology.

Reception and influence

The phoenix has been popular throughout Dungeons & Dragons sourcebooks and in later properties inspired by D&D. It appears in the D&D-inspired Final Fantasy series of computer roleplaying games, where the Phoenix is a summoned ally and occasionally an enemy. However, it is perhaps best known as the namesake of the Phoenix Down, an item which returns a downed party member to life.

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