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Avernus was the first layer of the Nine Hells of Baator.[7][8][9] The most likely beachhead for any attack by demon-kind,[10] it was the primary battleground of the Blood War: legions of devils marched across its plains in continual readiness to repel the hordes of demon invaders that sailed the River Styx into the layer.[8][9]

Avernus welcomes all.
— Geryon, repeating an old saying[11]


Avernus was the largest layer of Baator and one of the most traditionally infernal—a blasted hellscape in the most literal sense filled with rivers of lava, barren hills, and low, rocky mountains as far as the eye could see.[2][5] To scale the mountains or move too quickly was unwise at best, since obsidian, quartz, and other crystals jutted from the jagged land, cutting clothes and slicing flesh.[2][12] The ubiquitous presence of rocks and boulders, some of which seemed to resemble tormented faces and shapes of creatures, rendered the terrain extremely treacherous and difficult to cross at any pace quicker than a fast walk. Rubble covered the vast, ashen plains of Avernus's charred wastes.[8][13][14]

Zariel flying across the wastelands of Avernus.

Fireballs raced across the dark sky of Avernus, seemingly at random (but on closer inspection actively targeted motion), and fell to the scorched earth, leaving smoking impact craters and burnt corpses in their wake.[12][15] Travelers would need to find shelter, such as a building or cave, lest they inevitably be struck.[8] The acrid air was clouded with pumice and volcanic ash from the foul fumaroles and blighted with swarms of flies.[5][15] Roiling clouds of red and black flickered with orange flames[5] but the atmosphere had neither sun nor stars, only a constant, blood-red light that suffused the air.[2][8][13][12][14]

Blood, as it would happen, was the leitmotif of Avernus; it was where the River of Blood ran through Baator, collecting rivulets from every gulch, stream, and pool, from the victims of millions of battles.[2][12] Practically all of the plane was bathed in a coat of blood and covered with bones and gore, whether devilish, demonic, or otherwise, acting as a grim reminder of the regular bloodshed that marked an average day in Avernus.[2][12][15]


As with all the lower planes, the River Styx ran through Avernus, with a number of offshoots and falls.[16][13] Rivulets, lakes, and streams flowed across Avernus's plains and fed the Styx.[8][14] The Styx, which at one point flowed at the edge of the layer, was later located at its center thanks to a relentless baatezu campaigning and conquering of gate-towns along the layer's edges.[14]


A legion of barbazu (right) faces a horde of dretches (left) in Avernus, the battlefield of the Blood War.

Whether for the living or the dead, Avernus was the entry point to Baator and the most commonly visited of the Nine Hells, since Asmodeus forbade any portals opening to other regions.[2][12][15] Because of this, damned souls had to come through Avernus before reaching other layers of the Nine Hells and so the layer was frequently inhabited by the servants of other archdevils, such as the barbazus that gathered the forsaken, or imp and spinagon messengers. The primary reason for the magical restriction was that, for a demonic invasion force to access the lower layers of Hell, they would be forced to conquer and claim the layer directly above it.[12]

As the buffer between the Nine Hells and the Abyss, Avernus was incredibly dangerous even without its natural hazards, as baatezu armies trained for future battles.[2][8] While the layer was once bustling with cities and citadels, centuries of fighting the Blood War ravaged it so that only perpetually rebuilt strongholds and fearsome fortresses remained.[17] It was in a state of constant expansion by military conquest.[14]

The ruler of Avernus was titled the Lord of the First.[8] This position was held by Zariel, who had been betrayed by Bel,[8] before she then supplanted him by the late 15th century DR. Bel, a pit fiend general from Dis,[18] was demoted by Asmodeus and made her advisor. She resided in a soaring basalt citadel.[19] When he ruled, Bel dwelled in his own fortress at the center of the Bronze Citadel.[8]


The Blood War in full swing on Avernus. Click on the image to get the full effect.

Avernus was once ruled by then-archfiend Tiamat,[20][21] who served Asmodeus faithfully.[22][18] Her job was to prevent outcast devils on the layer from becoming a threat, but she performed so poorly that Asmodeus demoted her. Knowing her failure was not deliberate by reading her thoughts, Asmodeus deigned to allow Tiamat to remain in Avernus unpunished, and even gave her a chance to regain her position if she impressed him in her new role as the guardian of the main gate to Dis.[23][20][2] This state of affairs lasted until 1346 DR when Tiamat was elevated to status of demigoddess.[24]

Avernus was then ruled by Zariel, until she was inevitably betrayed by Bel, a pit fiend general waging the Blood War and not one of the Dark Eight. He was Lord of the First by 1372 DR. Bel's minions whispered that he kept Zariel prisoner deep within the Bronze Citadel and drained her of her hellish power, slowly turning her into a soul shell while he enhanced his might. Lacking the support of the other Lords of the Nine, bar maybe Asmodeus, Bel could advance no further, at least for the time being.[8][2][21]

During Bel's rule, Asmodeus asked Tiamat to offer covert aid to Zariel in order to prevent Bel from becoming too powerful, in a ploy orchestrated with Bel to keep Tiamat herself in check,[23] effectively making her a prisoner in Avernus.[25]

Some time after the Spellplague, Asmodeus offered Tiamat the rulership of Avernus once more. However, to avoid disappointing Asmodeus again and to prevent a conflict with Bel, Tiamat refused, instead offering to be Asmodeus' champion and devouring all who opposed him.[23]

Some time later, Bel fell out of favor with Asmodeus for his inability to successfully repel a demonic invasion of Avernus. Zariel reclaimed her title as Lord of Avernus following Bel's demotion. He was forced to serve as Zariel's advisor[19][21] and remained one of her chief lieutenants, waiting for her reckless tactics to lead to a mistake, so he could claim his title back.[17]

Before Zariel's second rule, Avernus was known to be a rich and civilized realm of cities and commerce. The Blood War reduced the entire layer to a blasted and abandoned wasteland, whose only functioning structures were military citadels to muster the devilish forces.[17] Upon her return to power, Zariel, still enraged from having been at Tiamat's mercy, assisted Severin Silrajin and a group of Red Wizards of Thay to free her from Avernus, if only to rid the layer of Tiamat's presence.[13]

Notable Locations[]

Pit of ShummrathStygian dockHaruman's HillStyxDemon ZapperArches of UllochCrypt of the HellridersUldrak's GraveBone BramblesBel's ForgeKostchtchie's MawSpawning TreesArkhan's TowerTiamat's LairTower of UrmMirror of Mephistar

Map of a region of Avernus. Distances are approximate. Hovering over the map will reveal main features. Clicking will link to the article for that location.

  • The Bronze Citadel: A huge fortress-city dozens of square miles in extent and ringed by twelve heavily defended walls. It housed hundreds of thousands of lesser devil troops and war machines. It was constantly being added to in the form of new fortifications against attacks.[10][8][12] The Lord of the First reigned from here.[8]
  • The Great Avernus Road: A massive road leading from Bel's fortress for the purpose of transporting large armies of devils swiftly to battle.[26]
  • The Pillar of Skulls: A hideous landmark of trophy-skulls of those killed in the Blood War. It reached a height of more than 1 mile (1.6 kilometers). It was very close to the entrance to the second layer, Dis.[8]

Divine Realms[]


The settlement of Fort Knucklebone, run by the infamous Mad Maggie.

An especially high metal spire of Dis, the plane below, skewered through the haze between layers and emerged in Avernus near the Pillar of Skulls. Its spiral stairwell let devils and petitioners cross on foot between the layers, with many falls, by chance of otherwise.[8]

A portal to Avernus was erected in the spring of the Year of the Bloodbird, 1346 DR in the Burial Glen of Myth Drannor by Banites loyal to the High Imperceptor of Mulmaster, but under the influence of Zhentarim agents and, by proxy, a cabal of alhoon living in the ruins. The alhoon had it erected so that the devils it spawned would prevent the local phaerimms from attacking the liches while they searched the city for magic.[29][30] Although intended to only remain open a short time, interference from Malkizid caused it to become permanent. The portal was eventually closed by the Knights of Myth Drannor in 1357 DR, though the devils it had already unleashed over the previous 11 years continued to infest the ruins until the Elven Crusade led by Seiveril Miritar in 1374 DR.[31]

Another portal to Avernus was erected in Dragonspear Castle by a Calishite mage after Daeros Dragonspear, the castle's builder, was tricked into sacrificing himself.[32][33]


Fires of the pit!
— Common interjection among inhabitants of Avernus[34]

The layer was inhabited primarily by abishai, lemures, nupperibos, and spinagons. Imps were also common, as well as dragons, goblins, and kobolds.[2]

Legions of devils dressed in mail stood an eternal watch on Avernus, in readiness for a sortie in the Blood War.[8]



Avernus was an ancient name for a volcanic crater located near Cumae, Italy which the Romans believed was the entrance to the underworld.


Well of WorldsThe Rise of TiamatBaldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus
Elminster in Hell
Video games
Baldur's Gate III


Further Reading[]

External Links[]


  1. Jeff Grubb (April 1987). “Plane Speaking: Tuning in to the Outer Planes”. In Roger E. Moore ed. Dragon #120 (TSR, Inc.), pp. 42–43.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 Chris Pramas (November 1999). Guide to Hell. Edited by Kim Mohan. (TSR, Inc.), pp. 28–30. ISBN 978-0786914319.
  3. Colin McComb (February 1995). “Baator”. In Michele Carter ed. Planes of Law (TSR, Inc), pp. 14–17. ISBN 0-7869-0093-8.
  4. Jeff Grubb, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan (September 2001). Manual of the Planes 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 115. ISBN 0-7869-1850-8.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Richard Baker, John Rogers, Robert J. Schwalb, James Wyatt (December 2008). Manual of the Planes 4th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 97, 99. ISBN 978-0-7869-5002-7.
  6. Richard Baker, James Wyatt (March 2004). Player's Guide to Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 161. ISBN 0-7869-3134-5.
  7. Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, Skip Williams (July 2003). Dungeon Master's Guide v.3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 162. ISBN 0-7869-2889-1.
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 8.11 8.12 8.13 8.14 8.15 8.16 Jeff Grubb, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan (September 2001). Manual of the Planes 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 116–117. ISBN 0-7869-1850-8.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford (May 29, 2018). Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes. Edited by Kim Mohan, Michele Carter. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 5–8. ISBN 978-0786966240.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, Skip Williams (July 2003). Dungeon Master's Guide v.3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 163. ISBN 0-7869-2889-1.
  11. Ed Greenwood (May 2002). Elminster in Hell. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 317. ISBN 0-7869-2746-1.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 12.6 12.7 Robin D. Laws, Robert J. Schwalb (December 2006). Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells. Edited by Chris Thomasson, Gary Sarli, Penny Williams. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 35–39. ISBN 978-0-7869-3940-4.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Steve Winter, Alexander Winter, Wolfgang Baur (November 2014). The Rise of Tiamat. Edited by Scott Fitzgerald Gray. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 10. ISBN 978-0786965656.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 Colin McComb (February 1995). “Baator”. In Michele Carter ed. Planes of Law (TSR, Inc), pp. 14–17. ISBN 0-7869-0093-8.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford, Christopher Perkins, James Wyatt (2014). Dungeon Master's Guide 5th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 64. ISBN 978-0786965622.
  16. Jeff Grubb, Bruce R. Cordell, David Noonan (September 2001). Manual of the Planes 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 115. ISBN 0-7869-1850-8.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford (May 29, 2018). Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes. Edited by Kim Mohan, Michele Carter. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 10–11. ISBN 978-0786966240.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Ed Greenwood (July 1983). “The Nine Hells, Part I”. In Kim Mohan ed. Dragon #75 (TSR, Inc.), pp. 18–21.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford (May 29, 2018). Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes. Edited by Kim Mohan, Michele Carter. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 180–181. ISBN 978-0786966240.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Colin McComb (October 1996). On Hallowed Ground. Edited by Ray Vallese. (TSR, Inc.), p. 137. ISBN 0-7869-0430-5.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford, Christopher Perkins (2014-09-30). Monster Manual 5th edition. Edited by Scott Fitzgerald Gray. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 68. ISBN 978-0786965614.
  22. Jeff Grubb (July 1987). Manual of the Planes 1st edition. (TSR), pp. 109, 111. ISBN 0880383992.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 Ed Greenwood (2015-02-12). Questions for Ed Greenwood (2015). Candlekeep Forum. Retrieved on 2019-02-18.
  24. Eric L. Boyd, Eytan Bernstein (August 2006). Dragons of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 9. ISBN 0-7869-3923-0.
  25. Wolfgang Baur, Steve Winter (August 2014). Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Edited by Miranda Horner. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 5. ISBN 978-0786965649.
  26. Colin McComb (1994). Well of Worlds. Edited by Jon PickensSue Weinlein. (TSR, Inc). ISBN 1560768932.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Colin McComb (October 1996). On Hallowed Ground. Edited by Ray Vallese. (TSR, Inc.), p. 176. ISBN 0-7869-0430-5.
  28. Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 258. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
  29. Ed Greenwood (March 1993). “Campaign Guide to Myth Drannor”. In Newton H. Ewell ed. The Ruins of Myth Drannor (TSR, Inc.), p. 69. ISBN 1-5607-6569-0.
  30. Eric L. Boyd (September 2007). “Volo's Guide: Myth Drannor, City of Song”. In Erik Mona ed. Dragon #359 (Paizo Publishing, LLC), pp. 102–103.
  31. Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Chris Sims (August 2008). Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. Edited by Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 156. ISBN 978-0-7869-4924-3.
  32. Tim Beach (October 1995). “The High Moor”. In Julia Martin ed. Elminster's Ecologies Appendix II (TSR, Inc), p. 10. ISBN 0786901713.
  33. Brian R. James, Ed Greenwood (September 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. Edited by Kim Mohan, Penny Williams. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 132. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
  34. Ed Greenwood (May 2002). Elminster in Hell. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 332. ISBN 0-7869-2746-1.


The Nine Hells of Baator
Layers and their Realms