Descent into Avernus is the newest adventure for fifth edition. In this campaign, players will traverse the first plane of Hell in an attempt to save a fallen city from the brink of destruction. During this adventure they will deal with devils, fight with demons, and helm metallic war machines, among others. The adventure’s tone aims for Dante’s Inferno meets Mad Max. Is Descent into Avernus as awesome as it sounds? Let’s take a closer look into the book and find out.
The book opens with a nice little primer of the adventure. In this primer you’ll find some backstory leading up to the adventure, a general outline of what will happen, and a guide on the tone of the adventure. From there we move on to the first chapter of the story. This section of the adventure takes place in the infamous Baldur’s Gate, the Gotham of D&D. During this part of the story, players will learn more about the city, as well as its fallen neighbor, Elturel. For being mundane in tone, this section is far from boring. There are a few threats to deal with, each of which can be dealt with in a variety of ways. Players with a predisposition towards politics and subterfuge will be pleased by this part. Eventually the story leads them to saving Elturel, which requires them to descend into Avernus in the next chapter.
The next chapter opens with the players arriving in Elturel. There they must find an important figure, helping citizens along the way. This provides a nice landscape to introduce the players to a new realm of wonder and horror. The city and its encounters are set up so that you can push as hard or as little as you like. The encounters introduce some key aspects to the adventure, and do well to set a tone moving forward. Once the players find a way down, they move to the next chapter.
In the next chapter, players will finally get to explore Avernus. Now this is where the adventure really opens up. There are so many features in this chapter it’s hard to name them all. It basically turns into one big open sandbox. You’ll most likely visit a certain fort first, and I can tell this fort is going to be a favorite for a lot of players. From there the players explore the wastes of Avernus, encountering warlords, deathknights, and many other challenges. Seriously, there’s so much to do in this chapter you literally will not get to see it all on your first playthrough. It’s insane.
Once the players make a headway in the adventure, they move on to the next chapter. In here, they will recover an artifact that will help them finally free the fallen city. Here they will infiltrate a fallen citadel and claim the artifact, leading to one of my favorite encounters of the whole adventure. Once claimed, they must bring it to a key figure of the story. This is where the adventure wraps up, but the possible ways to do so are great. Easily the most comprehensive list of outcomes I’ve seen in a module, which is long overdue considering the nature of the game.
After that chapter you get some reference materials. The first of which is a huge insight into the city of Baldur’s Gate. This section makes the section of Saltmarsh, which I had considered the best in terms of campaign setting information, look like a tourist’s guide. The book also includes background options tailored to characters that hail from Baldur’s Gate. This includes a shared background: a dark secret that the entire party took part in. This can manifest in a variety of ways, so I’m eager to hear what groups come up with.
After that there is a section detailing devil deals. It goes over what the devils want, what they can offer, and what they’ll do to make that deal. The next section covers the infernal war machines. It gives you the stats for some vehicles, as well as rules for running and upgrading them. The book then moves on to magic items and monsters. There’s no real surprises here, but I did find it odd that they include some of the monsters from the Monster Manual, but not all of them. Then we see a section of concept art. While the art is fantastic and adds a little more visual clarity, I can’t help bu think this space could’ve been used for more information instead. The last two pages are great for showing players. There is a page of translations between English and Infernal script. You can bet I’m going to make some sweet handouts with this. The last page is a tear out map of Elturel and Avernus, great for helping your players get a bearing on their surroundings.
So having pored over this book, what’s the verdict? Well Wizards has certainly nailed their tone with this adventure. The bombastic nature of it might turn away some, for for those who love pure fantasy this adventure is a home run. There’s so much packed into this book; more than any other adventure to my knowledge. The fact that you’ll have to play through this twice at least to see everything it has to offer means you’ll get your value out of this. There seems to be a few missed opportunities, but those are more tied to sections outside the adventure. I was kind of hoping we’d see more integration with D&D Beyond given that this is the first adventure since the Essentials Kit, but I can also understand why they didn’t. In conclusion, this adventure is a hell of a good time, and well worth the purchase. Overall score: 9.5/10
So what do you think? Have you picked up Descent into Avernus? Are you planning to? Let me know your experiences with the adventure down below!