D&D 5th Baldur’s Gate: Descent into the Avernus
The road to hell is twisty and difficult, but the pre-set D&D adventure Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus promises an incredible adventure.
2019 saw the release of a unique module for Dungeons & Dragons. Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus leads players down the road to hell in the form of an emotionally charged story with an expanded lore on D&D‘s take on the hellish underworld. This pre-written Fifth edition campaign not only serves as its own adventure, but the spiritual predecessor for The gate of Baldur III.
Descent into Avernus is divided into five chapters. One of the two main objectives is to redeem, kill or join Zariel, a fallen angel who has become archidiable. Zariel rules over Avernus, the first layer of the Nine Hells and the main theater of the Bloody War between devils and demons. The other objective is to secure the lost holy city of Elturel, which Zariel dragged into the depths of Avernus. Without intervention, the ruins and survivors still huddled inside will sink and drown in the Styx.
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Who will appreciate Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus?
Descent into Avernus is best appreciated by the experienced D&D players. Those who have already explored prefabricated adventures will recognize the world of Faerûn and the places in it. These players will likely appreciate references scattered throughout the campaign like the statue of Minsc and Boo or the possession of a duke by an illithid. Additionally, if the dungeon master and players are looking for a challenge, Descent into Avernus offers intense battles at the start of the game and offers room for difficult moral situations.
At the level of the plot, Descent into Avernus can appeal to a variety of players. DMs can work with their group to tell a more compelling story and lead them to glory or ruin. Righteous crusaders who seek to strike down evil may seek to thwart the twisted machinations of unspeakable evil. Vile personalities serving under the orders of evil masters can gain favor and power for their own benefit. Adventurers keen on a challenge may find the wasteland of the underworld compelling enough to be conquered. No matter what their lifestyle, Avernus finds use for every soul.
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The start is needlessly difficult
The most glaring problem with Descent into Avernus is that “Chapter 1: A Tale of Two Cities” contains a host of difficult situations capable of killing an entire group of low-level characters. Before the adventurers reach Avernus, they must first pass through Baldur’s Gate. Here they face threats as big as a party of 11 pirates and a sprawling dungeon. While not deadly on their own, bandits and cultists in overwhelming numbers can outperform characters on their first or second level. Players discouraged by the pace can quickly fall for the chore and abandon the mod altogether.
The story would be deeper if the players’ own descent into Avernus was done more quickly. One way to do this is to avoid Elturel altogether. Due to its familiarity with returning fans, Baldur’s Gate as a sinking city would have hit harder emotionally, and starting here would cut down on the lengthy quest that leads to obtaining the hellish puzzle box needed to enter. the underworld. Another option is to bypass Baldur’s Gate and Candlekeep. A DM willing to work on the scaling can place the party in Elturel as it falls, which would immediately set the tone and urgency for the adventure.
United the Party Stands, Divided They Are Damned
Role play is an important part of Descent into Avernus thanks to an interesting mechanic in which adventurers must choose a “Dark Secret” in which to get involved. The book provides many examples of scenarios ranging from murder to theft, but the DM should encourage the group to be creative. The whole group must agree on the nature of the secret and the role of each. From there, the DM should use the secrecy – and the character stories – to create greater threats and personalize the horrors unfolding in Avernus.
While infighting is an interesting role-playing experience, party unity is important. Communication and respect are essential in this adventure, and the characters must work together. The stakes for Avernus are high and innocent souls are at stake. The devils are bringing useful and deceptive deals around every corner. When half of the characters are good and the other half are neutral or bad, the market can divide the group and impact important decisions. If fighting devils and demons wasn’t enough of a challenge, a group at odds with each other is likely to fall apart.
As a pre-written adventure, Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus has its flaws. Overly tough fights in a long intro make a slow start which can slow players down before they reach the pinnacle of their journey. Despite that, it’s an excellent module overall that leaves plenty of room for a DM to make changes as they see fit. Descent into Avernus promotes role play and allows for meaningful character development. The story itself is compelling and offers several endings depending on what the players are doing. The road to hell is twisty and the path is tough, but it’s an adventure worth taking for veteran DMs and dedicated gamers.
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