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Avernus welcomes all.
  — Geryon, repeating an old saying[7]

Avernus was the first layer of the Nine Hells of Baator.[8][9][10] The most likely beachhead for any attack by demon-kind,[11] 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.[9][10]

GeographyEdit

The layer was a charred wasteland of vast ashen plains covered in rubble and the occasional line of foothills and basalt mountains heaped with broken rocks of obsidian and quartz. 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.[9][12][13]

A blood-red light suffused the very air and huge fireballs flew at random through the sky, occasionally impacting and exploding wherever they hit. There was no sun or stars in the Avernus sky.[9][12][14][13] Travelers needed to get to shelter like a building or cave, lest they inevitably be struck.[9]

As with all the lower planes, the River Styx ran through Avernus, with a number of offshoots and falls.[15][12] Rivulets, lakes, and streams flowed across Avernus's plains and fed the Styx. The source of this blood was not known; devils claimed it probably came from all who had died on Avernus.[9][13]

The layer's territory was also in a constant state of expansion by military conquest. 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.[13]

GovernmentEdit

Zariel in Avernus-5e

Zariel flying across the wastelands of Avernus.

The ruler of Avernus was titled the Lord of the First.[9] This position was held by Zariel, who had been betrayed by Bel,[9] and then supplanted him again by the late 15th century DR. Bel, a pit fiend general from Dis,[16] was demoted by Asmodeus and made her advisor. She resided in a soaring basalt citadel.[17] When he ruled, Bel dwelled in his own fortress at the center of the Bronze Citadel.[9]

HistoryEdit

Bloodwar

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,[18][19] who served Asmodeus faithfully.[20][16] 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.[21][18][2] This state of affairs lasted until 1346 DR when Tiamat was elevated to status of demigoddess.[22]

Blood war-5e

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

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.[9][2][19]

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,[21] effectively making her a prisoner in Avernus.[23]

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.[21]

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[17][19] and remained one of her chief lieutenants, waiting for her reckless tactics to lead to a mistake, so he could claim his title back.[24]

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.[24]

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.[12]

Notable LocationsEdit

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 MephistarAvernus map-5e

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.[11][9][14] The Lord of the First reigned from here.[9]
  • The Great Avernus Road: A massive road leading from Bel's fortress for the purpose of transporting large armies of devils swiftly to battle.[25]
  • 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.[9]

Divine RealmsEdit

ConnectionsEdit

FortKnucklebone

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

An especially high metal spire of Dis, the plane below, skewered trough 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.[9]

A portal to Avernus was erected 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.[28][29] Although the portal was closed by the Knights of Myth Drannor, the devils it had already unleashed continued to infest the ruins until the Elven Crusade led by Seiveril Miritar.[30]

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.[31][32]

InhabitantsEdit

Fires of the pit!
— Common interjection among inhabitants of Avernus[33]

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.[9]

AppendixEdit

BackgroundEdit

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

AppearancesEdit

Adventures
Well of WorldsThe Rise of TiamatBaldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus

Further ReadingEdit

ReferencesEdit

  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. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Chris Pramas (1999). Guide to Hell. (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. 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. Ed Greenwood (May 2002). Elminster in Hell. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 317. ISBN 0-7869-2746-1.
  8. Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, Skip Williams (July 2003). Dungeon Master's Guide 3.5 edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 162. ISBN 0-7869-2889-1.
  9. 9.00 9.01 9.02 9.03 9.04 9.05 9.06 9.07 9.08 9.09 9.10 9.11 9.12 9.13 9.14 9.15 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.
  10. 10.0 10.1 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.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, Skip Williams (July 2003). Dungeon Master's Guide 3.5 edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 163. ISBN 0-7869-2889-1.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Wizards RPG Team (2014). The Rise of Tiamat. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 10. ISBN 978-0786965657.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Colin McComb (February 1995). “Baator”. In Michele Carter ed. Planes of Law (TSR, Inc), pp. 14–17. ISBN 0-7869-0093-8.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Robin D. Laws, Robert J. Schwalb (December 2006). Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 35–39. ISBN 0-7869-3940-0.
  15. 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.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Ed Greenwood (July 1983). “The Nine Hells, Part I”. In Kim Mohan ed. Dragon #75 (TSR, Inc.), pp. 18–21.
  17. 17.0 17.1 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.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Colin McComb (1996). On Hallowed Ground. Edited by Ray Vallese. (TSR, Inc), p. 137. ISBN 0-7869-0430-5.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Wizards RPG Team (2014). Monster Manual 5th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 68. ISBN 978-0786965614.
  20. Jeff Grubb (July 1987). Manual of the Planes 1st edition. (TSR), pp. 109, 111. ISBN 0880383992.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 Ed Greenwood (2015-02-12). Questions for Ed Greenwood (2015). Candlekeep Forum. Retrieved on 2019-02-18.
  22. Eric L. Boyd, Eytan Bernstein (August 2006). Dragons of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 9. ISBN 0-7869-3923-0.
  23. Wizards RPG Team (2014). Hoard of the Dragon Queen. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 5. ISBN 978-0786965649.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 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.
  25. Colin McComb (1994). Well of Worlds. Edited by Jon PickensSue Weinlein. (TSR, Inc). ISBN 1560768932.
  26. 26.0 26.1 Colin McComb (1996). On Hallowed Ground. Edited by Ray Vallese. (TSR, Inc), p. 176. ISBN 0-7869-0430-5.
  27. 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.
  28. 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.
  29. 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.
  30. Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Chris Sims (August 2008). Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 156. ISBN 978-0-7869-4924-3.
  31. Tim Beach (October 1995). “The High Moor”. In Julia Martin ed. Elminster's Ecologies Appendix II (TSR, Inc), p. 10. ISBN 0786901713.
  32. Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 132. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
  33. Ed Greenwood (May 2002). Elminster in Hell. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 332. ISBN 0-7869-2746-1.

ConnectionsEdit

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