(For maximum effect, listen to this while reading this article)
Living easy, living free. Beneath the city of Baldur’s Gate, on the outermost edge of the Nine Hells of Baator, there are no stop signs, no speed limits. Only war. War between the devils and the demons, an eternity of death in the shadow of the Bronze Citadel. It has raged so long that the Pillar of Bones, the massed collection of demonic skull kept as trophies by the plane’s infernal masters, rises over a mile high. Amid the chaos, mercenaries and madmen from across the planescape have come to participate in the infinite battlefields between Hell and the Abyss.
The red sky turns the waters of Styx a bloody crimson, broken only by the flash of fireballs that fall from the sky and burst upon the cursed soil wherever they will. Smells of sulfur and death fill the air, and your ears ring with the clash of steel on steel and the roar of the Infernal War Machines. The currency of the land is souls, and any mortal who steps onto the battlefield is legal tender. It is ruled by a Fallen Angel, and warlords in cobbled together rigs fight for supremacy over a world of corpses. This is the Blood War. This is the world of Avernus. This is the world that you will enter in Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus, the upcoming storyline from Dungeons & Dragons.
Yesterday was the beginning of D&D Live, a star-studded, three-day extravaganza of music, cosplay, and gaming that celebrates all things Dungeons & Dragons. But it’s not all fun, games, and admiring Matt Mercer’s hair. It’s also where we find out the upcoming releases from the Dungeons & Dragons team, as well as all of the related comics, games, and accessories that complement the world’s oldest role-playing game. But if you missed the stream last night, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered, with a complete rundown of the day’s announcements, plus details on the newest D&D storyline.
Fast Cars, Fallen Angels, and Abyssal Chickens
The big focus of the weekend is Descent Into Avernus, the storyline that follows last year’s Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and this summer’s Ghosts of Saltmarsh. Described by Senior Story Designer Chris Perkins as “D&D meets Mad Max,” (a concept fans of The Adventure Zone are quite familiar with) Descent leads adventurers first into the seedy streets of Baldur’s Gate, the iconic setting for Bioware’s hit RPG’s. Described by the team as the Gotham to Waterdeep’s Metropolis, the city has not benefited from its placement atop a portal to hell. But the shady alleys and suspicious citizens are the least of the party’s worries, as they will eventually go through the portal and enter the realm of Avernus, the outermost of the Nine Hells of Baator.
The rest of the story will take your merry band of heroes through the war-torn fields of the Blood War, the eternal grudge match between the Lawful Evil denizens of Avernus (the devils) and the Chaotic Evil demons assaulting them from across the River Styx. At the center of it all is Zariel, an angel who once hungered for peace but now lives for war. The new ruler of the plane, she has turned the once prosperous realm into a blasted wasteland fought over by petty warlords atop their crude war machines. This is where the Mad Max element comes in, with players able to become warlords and build their own infernal war rig, leading their gang into vehicular combat. The new rules for these rigs, as well as combat between them, are a central feature of this story. You will eventually face Zariel herself, and you’ll have a hand in deciding her fate. Do you show her how far she’s fallen and help her become the force for good she once was? Or do you win her favor on the battlefield, gaining boons and loot from the powerful Archduchess of Avernus?
Morality is a key part of Descent, with plenty of moral quandaries for good characters and evil characters alike. A new “dark secret” mechanic will be introduced in the adventure, each being some dark deed that threatens to tear the party apart even at a time when they must stick together. The devils of Avernus are happy to prey on any and all weaknesses your characters might show, and if you’re not careful, you may see your shining paladin corrupted right before your very eyes.
The world of Avernus is a playground, a “heavy metal wonderland of goofiness” with infinite options for enterprising DM’s who wish to tell their own story. And although the planes are traditionally viewed as complex even for the most experienced DM’s, the D&D team has worked to make an adventure that is perfect for new DM’s to learn the ropes. The open world and myriad options presented within are laid out in a very straightforward and digestible way, meaning this is the perfect gateway drug to DM’s who might want to expand beyond the confines of Faerûn.
Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus will release worldwide on September 17th, with a special alternate cover available at your FLGS. There will also be a special dice set released that comes with a map of Avernus and a set of full-color cards detailing the infernal inhabitants of the plane.
The Mayhem Expands
Dungeon Mayhem, the family-friendly card game based on D&D, will be receiving its first expansion this year in Battle for Baldur’s Gate. In addition to new art from Jake Parker and lots of new cards, it will also bring in two iconic characters from the Baldur’s Gate video games: the shapeshifting druid Jaheria and everyone’s favorite ranger, Minsc, with his Miniature Giant Space Hamster, Boo, along for the ride. Watch your eyes!
Bring Just The Essentials
A follow up to the wildly successful D&D Starter Set that brought so many into the world of tabletop games, the Essentials Kit will provide everything a budding adventurer needs to keep their adventure going as well as start all new ones. The focal point for the kit is “Dragon of Icespire Peak,” a brand new adventure that can stand alone or run as a continuation of “Lost Mines of Phandelver.” The adventure can be played normally OR with the brand new one-on-one rules, meaning that all you need to play is a DM and a player. To accomplish this, it adds in a bevy of sidekicks that can help shore up some of your character’s weak points, like a squishy wizard getting a tough warrior or expert to handle the up-close fighting while they toss spells from the rear. Like the Starter Set, the new box will have character sheets, dice, maps, and all the other accouterments needed to get your game going.
The D&D Essentials Kit is set for release as a Target exclusive on June 24th, with a worldwide release coming on September 3rd, and will retail for $24.99
Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody’s going to die, come play D&D
The team also announced a second collaboration between Wizards of the Coast, IDW Publishing, and Adult Swim with Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons Chapter II: Painscape. Following the successful first volume, the new chapter will continue to follow Morty, Summer, and their family as they play through more of Rick’s twisted and extremely homebrewed version of Dungeons & Dragons. It’ll be fun, it’ll be weird, and, most importantly, that one guy in your dorm won’t shut up about it.
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL
For the masses clamoring for more Richard and Mortimer, Wizards has announced a brand new playable adventure based on Rick’s version of D&D. Centered on a heavily annotated and edited version of the Player’s Handbook, this boxed set will contain everything a DM needs to channel their inner mad scientist in an adventure that will no doubt be as exciting and hilarious as any of Rick & Morty’s adventures.
Dungeons & Dragons vs. Rick and Morty: Tabletop Roleplaying Adventure will be for up to 5 players level 1-3.
Corrupting The Youth
Remember in the 80’s, when the greatest fear among the mother’s of America was that their poor sweet children, and Tom Hanks, will be corrupted by the evil of D&D? Well, the process has now been streamlined thanks to the upcoming release of two new Young Adventurer’s Guides from Ten Speed Press. Essentially much more user-friendly versions of the Player’s Handbook and Monster Manual, the new books are a fantastic way for parents and kids to get involved in the hobby. Warriors & Weapons has everything aspiring murder-hobos need to make a character, including weapons, armor, brainstorming activities, even flowcharts that help them decide what kind of warrior they want to be. Monsters & Creatures contains some of the most iconic baddies from D&D history like the Red Dragon and Beholder, laid out in a way that helps adventurers young and old learn (or remember) how best to approach each of them. It even features special “Encounters,” stories that help kids develop the problem solving and critical thinking skills needed in D&D games (and which many adult players still lack)
Created by comics professionals Jim Zub (Dungeons & Dragons), Stacy King (Manga Classics, Dracula (graphic novel), and Andrew Wheeler (Another Castle, Shout Out), the two books are just the first in the series. They will both be available on July 12th, and will retail for $12.99
That about wraps up the big news from D&D Live, but don’t forget to tune in all day May 18th and 19th for livestreams of Avernus featuring Matthew Mercer, Deborah Ann Woll, Matt Lillard, and more, as well as streams from around the world of gaming including Rivals of Waterdeep , The Sirens, the d20 dames, and Girls Guts Glory. And keep an eye on The Fandomentals for all the latest on D&D and all things tabletop, including our behind-the-scenes series on Beadle & Grimm’s Pandemonium Warehouse as they work on their newest projects.
Are you excited for what’s in store for Dungeons & Dragons? Are you already itching to roll up a character and enter Avernus? Sound off in the comments!
All Images via Wizards of the Coast, Dungeons & Dragons, and Penguin Publishing