Full Painting for Balder's Gate Descent to Avernus Books Cover

New D&D Campaign – Descent into Avernus

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No Spoilers

This post contains no spoilers – only that info which Wizards of the Coast (WotC) has made publically available about the campaign.

Introduction

Ok, so this post will not be as in depth as my previous posts on our previous campaign, because I have been really busy and a bit scatterbrained. Plus, we are already 2 sessions into Descent into Avernus. I will update this a little bit once I get some info from the DM.

Here are the 3 posts about our previous Waterdeep focused campaign:

We finished Dragon Heist/Dungeon of the Mad Mage 6 weeks ago (3 sessions ago because we play every 2 weeks) and we excitedly moved on to Balder’s Gate: Descent into Avernus. Currently, we just finished our second session of Descent into Avernus and our party makeup seems just a little weird to me, but that will be fun… I think! =)

Finished Dungeon of the Mad Mage

So, we were about 7th level and were about 7 levels in to Undermountain if remember correctly, and the DM was wondering about dungeon fatigue, and I was like yea, that is me. So, he pulled us out for a few faction missions that had to deal with saving the realms from the potential return of the liches imprisoned below the ruins of Zhentil Keep, and a few that had to deal with the Ethereal Plane and Githyanki. I am sure there was something else in there too.

We tackled a little more of Undermountain then he leveled us to level 15. We took on Halaster which was a very tough a fight, but we won and nobody died, not even me!

Part of the reason we rushed to the end was dungeon fatigue, but also the excitement for Descent into Avernus which was just about to come out, and how can you not be excited for Mad Max in Hell?. We had already started talking about our new characters and… my character was already done by that point and I had her history basically already set.

Descent into Avernus?

The Adventure Book Covers

Adventure Overview

So, what is Balder’s Gate: Descent into Avernus? It is WotC’s new adventure path which takes you from level 1 to level 13 which starts you out in the city of Balder’s Gate and then thrusts you into the Blood War with all of its fiendish politics and violence by throwing your party in the Avernus, the first layer of Nine Hells. Sounds like crazy and deadly fun! What could possibly go wrong!!

The campaign starts you out in Balder’s Gate which has been described as the Gotham City of the Forgotten Realms – crime ridden and corrupt, and which is now being flooded with refugees from the nearby City of Elturel which has gone completely missing including its famed Companion, its magical undead repelling second sun.

At some point in the investigation it leads you to the hells. I have no idea how, but it does. And then… all Hell breaks loose… See what I did there? Yea, I know. I am bad. =( =)

Here are some links to get you started:

It was really those 9 videos from WotC that really got me and the DM excited for this game. Watch them if you are really curious.

Balder’s Gate: Descent into Avernus Dice Set

Balder's Gate - Descent into Avernus Dice Set
Balder’s Gate – Descent into Avernus Dice Set

I don’t really buy dice anymore because I have plenty of them from playing role playing games for over 25 years, but I saw a review of the set on YouTube which piqued my interest: Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus – Dice and Miscellany Opening (YouTube). Honestly, I had no idea the Descent into Avernus Dice Set was even a thing until that video popped up as a recommended video on YouTube. It was the extras that came with the dice that had me say “Yes, lets buy that!”. Here is what the set contains:

  • Eleven dice (two d20s, one d12, two d10s, one d8, four d6s, one d4).
  • A durable, lined dice tray, which also works as part of a two-piece dice box.
  • Twenty double-sided cards with encounter tables and story content for the devils and demons of the Blood War, featuring exclusive art from Max Dunbar.
  • Exclusive content card for Strange Encounters and Trinkets One Finds in Avernus.
  • Foldout map of Avernus for player use.
  • Sizing chart for Blood War demons and devils.

Quick Notes on the Adventure So Far

We have played 2 adventures so far:

The first major combat from the first section was almost a TPK – everyone went down at least once! =O We leveled after that adventure and I rolled max HP which is great because I am tanking as a Hexblade. So far, my character is working well. My character technically died on the last round of combat, but the DM, who kindly bought my mini for $20, said “Ummm… not in the first adventure and not after I paid $20 for the mini!”. “You shall die, but it shall not be today!” Now, so you also know, my characters have died before. =) My character died in the last encounter with Demogorgon in Out of the Abyss, so it could still happen. Although, my character did barely survive Undermountain, so we shall see.

With the first session done, second level under our belt, and no cleric in the group the second session still went well. Being second level seemed to make a huge difference. A group cohesion of sorts seemed form as we fell into our group roles. We leveled after this session too, and again I rolled max HP and I cannot imagine that this will happen again. As a note – all HP roles are witnessed. I am tied with the Goblin Paladin for highest HP (30) at 3rd level which is great for my ability to tank.

Our Party

Introduction

OK, so this party composition is quite different than our others, mostly due to people knowing what the campaign is going to entail – going to hell, infernal machines, deals with devils, and so on.

Also, for the first time we are using the Standard Array (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8) for our stats. Normally we will roll stats in some way or we will have a several set of stats rolled up that we can pick from (my preferred method – the Everyone Sucks Equally method). The Standard Array results in lower stats and bonuses than we are used to having, so this is going to be a change and a bit more challenging than normal.

Dark Secret

As a part of the game it has you pick a Dark Secret to which everyone in the party is apart of in some way, which will most likely be used against us in some way. Our Dark Secret is something like this:

Something about a botched recovery of an artifact of Selune which actually ended up being in the hands of the Cult of the Dead Three and which happened to be cursed.

Character List

namerace background classsignificant skills/features
Crescent Seacloud Neutral Good
Male
Human
Acolyte of Seulne Wizard (Illusionist) 3 Arcana, Peformance, Religion
Key Neutral (chaotic)
Androgynous
Warforged
Criminal (Spy) Rogue (Thief) 3 Acrobatics, Invesitgation, Perception, Stealth, Sleight of Hand
Renaldo Re’egan ??
Male
Tiefling (Levistus)
Courtier Bard 3 Deception, Intimidation, Performance, Persuasion
Tarsire Lawful Good
Male
Goblin
Acolyte of Torm Paladin of Devotion 3 Persuasion
Ranged Paladin
Venar Lawful Neutral
Male
Fallen Aasimar
Acolyte of Kelemvor Paladin of Vengeance 3 Athletics, Intimidation
Two-handed Paladin
Vincent Nagumo Chaotic Neutral
Male
Human
Izzet Engineer Artificer 1
Fighter 2
Arcana, History, Investigation, Sleight of Hand
Ranged, Gunslinger
Zazzu Calamnus Lawful Neutral
Female
Tiefling (Zariel)
Inheritor Warlock (Hexblade) 3 Deception, Intimidation, Persuasion
Melee Tank

Group Commentary

For me, here are the unusual parts of our group’s makeup that was undoubtedly heavily influenced by the campaign’s themes and eventual locations:

  • 2 paladins – one of which is Lawful good
  • a lot of neutral characters (5 of 6, although one is Neural Good)
  • 3 acolytes
  • 2 tieflings
  • 4 of 6 characters have social skills

I have never seen so many acolytes in a group! Typically there will be just one. I have never really seen Tieflings played in our groups – just the 1 from way back in 3rd Edition. Mostly Neutral characters? Probably because of the descent into the Hells. Of course, a Lawful Good goblin Paladin is quite the sight, too. There has to be at least one Lawful Good Paladin in any Hell-bound campaign, right!

Normally we will have a person or 2 who have social skills in the group, but not half of the group. Perhaps, some are worried about dealing with the fiends, because the devil is in the details? Actually, I think that this is just happenstance, just a byproduct of character creation. I know mine is. =)

Here are some comments on how the group roles are forming from these first 2 sessions:

  • Hammer and Anvil
    Venar, the two-handed sword paladin and Zazzu, the Hexblade tank, form the hammer and anvil of the group. Venar has been cutting people in half. Zazzu had taken only 1 HP of damage in the second session. She has also used Lighting Lure to decent effect to help shape the flow of combat in the first session, although in the second session, all the saves were made vs it. =(
  • Flexible Melee Combatants
    Key, the melee rogue, and Tasire, the goblin Paladin, are great and flexible melee combatants. Both have the ability to disengage as a bonus action and both have ranged weapons. Tasire, also provides emergency healing, without which the group in the first session would have been TPK’ed. Key has a moderate case of kleptomania and steals random skulls and puts them where they don’t belong! =)
  • Ranged Tactical Support
    Vincent, the gunslinger Artificer, Renauldo, the Bard, and Crescent, the Illusionist provide great ranged support. Renauldo took down a cultist with Tasha’s Hideous Laughter, Vincent’s gun packs a crazy punch and his tinkering was used to great effect to advance the story. Crescent uses his spells creatively, but has suffered from the mercurial cruelty of the Dice Gods. Typically, players who are new to our group suffer from that. Normally I am the one who historically rolls horribly, but Crescent’s player has joined us for the first time, so I guess the dice gods require him to pay his dues to placate them. =(

My Character – Zazzu Calamnus

The Basics

As you can tell from the above table my character is a:

  • Female Tiefling (Zariel) Warlock (Hexblade) with the background of Inheritor who is working to be the group’s tank

Here is the DND Beyond Full Character Sheet for Zazzu.

I used some of the neat character creation tools from the new The Expanse RPG which I backed as a Kickstarter. Specifically I used the:

  • Social Class
  • Background
  • Profession
  • Drive

… tables to help drive my character creation history and personae. If you have not checked out that RPG give it a glance just for that section.

I am also using FATE based aspects too to help drive filling out the character too. If you have not check out the FATE Core system which is an amazing storytelling system. It is even free to check out.

Long Term Character Notes

Over the course of the campaign I am looking at making a shift from Lawful Neutral to Lawful Good and, being a Tiefling of the Zariel lineage and whose Inheritance from my background is a feather from Zariel’s wing which was before her fall, I am looking to:

  • redeem Zariel
  • redeem myself
  • set my family free from their indenturement

Also, Zazzu is setup (by accident) as a reverse mirror of Zariel and her potential redemption arc. Zariel was an angel, holy and just, and then fell to become a devil. Zazzu was a devil (Tiefling) and a tortured and brutal thug, a slave, to hopefully make the rise to be redeemed.

The Table of Background Notes

Home LandCalimshan – 1000 miles away
Social ClassLower-Middle
BackgroundIndentured Servant/Slave
ProfessionCriminal
DrivePenitent (Humility/Guilt)
High ConceptA Tiefling Hexblade with Penitent Holy Crusade
TroubleInfernal Lineage within the Lands of the Normal
TroubleYou can take the girl out of thuggery but you cannot take the thuggery out of the girl
Unresolved IssueHunted by Pasha’s Agents
AspectFormer muscle for a Calishite Pasha
AspectServant of Zariel, the Angel of Conquest
AlignLN
mottoZariel’s judgement be upon them.
3 likesThe Quite of the Desert; haunting melodies, Djinn memorobilia
3 dislikesThe hustle and bustle of large cities. Political intrigues. Those who use laws and traditions to harm others.
hobbiesLute – composing and playing hauting melodies of conquest, retribution, and redemption which bear horrible ends for the wicked and redemption for those who really work for it.
hobbiesBlood War History- She has studied the lore for the Blod War, Zariel, and Avernus through her dreams, but does not know so much about it.
ProfessionMuscle for a Crime Lord
Languages:Common @ work – spoke with a Calishite accent
Languages:Infernal @ home – no accent
Languages:Celestial spoken with NO accent having learned it from her dreams of Zariel
Lifestyle:modest 1/day

Her Character History

1. Basic Familiy History

Zazzu’s family traces their lineage to the families that made a pact with Zariel to help to give them power to help overthrow the Djinn that once ruled over the lands of Calimshan over 7 thousand of years ago. At some point her family ended up as indentured servants to Pasha Killil whose sentence was passed on down from parent to child for as long as Zariel has cursed their lineage.

Her family is well off enough through working as indentured muscle for Pashsa Killil and has quietly spent as much of their limited money, influence, and time seeking how to rid themselves of their ancestral infernal pact with Zariel, and therefore to free themselves from their indenturement.

2. Zazzu’s Childhood

Zazzu was a lithe little girl growing up in the streets of a large city in Calimshan, but with her family’s very unusual look they were not treated the best by the locals, even though her family faithfully served Pasha Killil. Perhaps they were NOT treated well because they were servants of the Pasha, but also because their visages reminded them of the cruel djinn who once ruled over the lands of the Calimshan. In order to survive the rough childhood of bullies and interpolitical subterfuge, her toughness and her glibness helped to give her a chance to survive when she was not smarter nor stronger than her antagonists.

3. Hearing the Call of Zariel, The Angel of Conquest – Echoes of the Angel Past

As she grew into adolescence her nights were tormented by strange and vivid dreams filled with visions of fiendish and angelic creatures fighting and she usually ended up bolting up right in the middle of the night as she heard the screams of disappointment, victory, and rage of the lead female angel. She could feel how important the angel’s work was, but also how frustrated she was too.

One fateful night assassins had slipped into her house in order to kill her family due to some political intrigue in which their Pasha was involved and to which their family were now victims of. With tears in his eyes from his wife being slain in her sleep right in front of him, her father fought back as well as he could.

Zazzu and her sister who slept in the same room were also beset by an assassin and, in a fit of pure defiance spurred on by the nightmares of battle, conquest, victory, and frustration that she had just woken up from, she called to Zariel, that name she heard in her dreams and that angel that she seemed to know, for the strength and skill to save her and her sister from slaughter. She desperately tumbled out of bed as a golden nimbus surrounder her as a blade of pure light, rage, and victory formed in her hand. She then she proceeded to deflect the assassin’s blade and to plunge her glimmering blade deep within its chest saving them both.

From that day forward, she no longer felt that those nightmares were a curse, a nightly torment, but a way in which she was being communicated with, and she did all that she could to learn what she could from them. She dsperately tried to remeber names, places, and faces, but they quickly receeded from her mind – leaving incoherent and fuzzy remnents in their wake. She started to keep a scraps of paper to write all that she could remember – a scattered and disparate collection of notes, drawings, words, names, sounds, and thoughts.

It was from these dreams or visions that she was able to pick up the Celestial language from listening to the thoughts, words, and prayers of Zariel’s and her armies.

4. Adulthood

As an adult she came into her own as a warrior, calling upon the gifts granted to her by her near-nightly companion of Zariel, the Angel of Conquest. She became a valuable warrior and thug for Pasha Killil. She hated her work of beating up and intimidating innocent people, but she did relish the killing of the soldiers and spies of enemy factions, for she knew none of them were innocent. She saw how the Pasha used the rules, laws, and traditions to bend many to his will and to punish them for his pleasure as well as to advance his plans. She hated it, every moment of it, but she was a mere slave, a pawn in a game that she did not understand, and she could not do anything otherwise her family might suffer the consequences.

5. Zariel’s Gift – The Breaker of Chains

She, along with a small contingent of Pasha’s thugs, were tasked to escort a small caravan to a meeting a few days ride outside of town. The first day and night were uneventful. The second night she had a vivid dream of a feather that fell from one of Zariel’s wings. It fell from the heavens, through Avernus, to the Prime Material Plane, and then to a place called Balder’s Gate, and then an establishment which was named Kaz’s. Right as the feather landed near the sign bearing this name the piercing and mournful cry of Zariel startled her wide awake and readied for action as the caravan was beset by an orcish raid.

The orcs charged with flaming axes and flaming arrows. She fought as well as she could, but she could feel the strong pull Northward towards Balder’s Gate, towards the feather. The orcs were raging, growling, chopping, and were burning everything. In the fight the other few Tieflings that were there fell to the Orc’s blades and flames. This was her chance to escape and she took it. Whatever the Pasha was up to it was not a good thing, so perhaps justice will be served by the deaths here today suffered on both sides of the battle. Hopefully, if everyone in her caravan died or was taken captive, then no one would know she was gone. And perhaps even the tears of despair and sadness the fell from her father and sister would be worth it, because she had a greater mission here – to retrieve the feather of Zariel and to work towards Zariel’s redemption, and perhaps, even, to save herself and her family from slavery.

6. I Would Walk 1000 Miles…

Over the last month or so she has made the arduous trek from Calimshan to Balder’s Gate in order to follow her visions and to serve Zariel. She has served as a caravan guard, thug, and muscle for caravan and traveler after traveler during her arduous trek northward, asking for only what she needed to get from one leg of the trek to the next leg, because destiny awaits.

After arriving in Calimshan she was not greeted to the town with open arms. In fact, they found foreigners especially ones who bore demonic features to be not so welcome, but she did find out about Little Calimshan which is made of refugees from Calimshan, so she has made her home there as well as she can as she searches for this place called Kaz’s.

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