Baldur’s Gate. Just hearing the name of this iconic fantasy locale conjures the allure of adventure for so many who have spent time with the Forgotten Realms over the years. It is certainly fitting that this sprawling tale begins in the famed city. Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus starts innocently enough with the players simply aiding the city in ridding itself of some typical bad actors, but by the time events come to a head they find themselves far from home, and more powerful than they could have dreamed. How will they fare against the denizens of the first layer of the Nine Hells itself!?
Descent into Avernus (DiA) really is sprawling, certainly a roll back to campaign style printings that launched the supplements stylings of 5e. The adventure paths your characters will take in this book start things off at level 1 and should take them all the way to 13 before things are said and done. Going from street level goons in Baldur’s Gate to the big bads of the Nine Hells. A very satisfying arc. Lots of interesting choices to be made as well because there’s more than one way to skin a Tressym.
The book is almost exclusively geared towards the Dungeon Master, as one would assume with a Campaign of this length. The adventure itself is contained in the first 154 pages of the book. I won’t spoil the story for you, but I find the progression from street level to literal pits of Hell to be natural and well executed. Sometimes adventures this grand can feel forced, but this plays out like one would expect one of the better book series written in Fearun to play out. Normal men and women pushed more and more into fantastic destinies.
Before running the story the DM will want to delve into the Baldur’s Gate Gazetteer chapter so they can freshen up their knowledge base on this dicey Sword Coast town. Here you have fifty pages of details on governance , economy, the citizenry, and all the dangers your players may face. The city is splayed out over the pages in as much detail as you will likely ever need for this campaign and beyond. Almost worth the price of admission for this piece of the book alone if you just wanted background on another Forgotten Realms locale.
Lastly for the DM we have the appendixes. These cover some of the standard fare like new creatures and magic items that play right into this campaign arc but there are a few unique ones. Appendix A highlights something spoken of often in D&D but rarely given any kind of rules, a deal with a devil. I had a lot of fun reading this section, there is some frightening imagery surrounding these nefarious pacts, I particularly liked the descriptions of how a contract my visually be formed, like kissing a lemur tattooed with infernal runes marking the contract for example! Other appendixes go into infernal war machines, a menu written in infernal, and even some infernal script to play around with.
Player Characters aren’t fully bereft of options in this book, despite the main focus being on how to help a Dungeon Master run the adventure. In the Baldur’s Gate Gazetteer section the players will find character backgrounds, old ones given a bit of flare specific to the city and a new one called “Faceless” which focuses on characters who might don a disguise to hide who they really are as they take on the scum of villainry in the city! Following backgrounds there is a section unique to this adventure where characters are encouraged to roll randomly for a Dark Secret to add to their character’s history. Also, remember those Infernal War machines I kindof glossed over above? Well, they are seriously awesome and I hope all PCs get a chance to muck about in them. Mad Max eat your heart out (or maybe a demon and or devil will, who knows).
The team at Wizards of the Coast, with story consultants Joe Manganiello and Jim Zub, have cobbled together an excellent campaign here. Dungeon Masters wanting to run an epic game will certainly find what they need to do so. From the adventure itself to ways to bring that adventure to life with details of Baldur’s Gate and other lore, WotC has made it easy for a DM to bring game night to life for their players. Admittedly players don’t get much here in the way of concrete additions to the character sheet, but there are plenty of details included in the lore to help flesh them out. I find myself easily recommending this book for your table.