A smart guy I was talking D&D with once told me that a good Dungeon Masters Guild creator should ultimately have one goal. A Guild creator’s goal should be to make a dungeon master’s job easier. I should note that we were discussing adventures and other DM-centric products, so I don’t mean we were dismissing the players. But his point is that it doesn’t matter how flowery your prose or whether you have mastered misplaced modifiers. Can you create something useful for—as well as usable by—DMs? Since that conversation these are the questions I keep in the back of my mind when I’m reading any guild product. Is it useful? Is it usable? And the answers were easily forthcoming when I was reading Attack on Avernus: The Wrath of Tiamat by Blaise Wigglesworth and Craig Sutherland.
Attack on Avernus: The Wrath of Tiamat!
Creators: Blaise Wigglesworth and Craig Sutherland
Publisher: DMs Guild
Product Length: 78 pages
Attack on Avernus is a product whose sell page promises an intense, ruthless, epic-level campaign in Hell for characters between levels 17 through 20. It is combat-intensive and is especially flexible. If your players don’t have 4th tier characters of their own they can quickly choose one of the pregenerated characters from the appendix. With seven options, there’s sure to be at least one that any given player will favor. Players are provided ample opportunity to prove themselves against harsh elements, vicious demons, and the nuances of three-dimensional aerial combat.
Adventure Background & Early Stages
When this adventure gets started, it wastes no time throwing the players directly into the action. Azyldain, one of Tiamat’s chief lieutenants, is scheming to rival her in power and influence. The Clerics of the Triad, Valtaya, Voridon, and Barritar IV bring news that Azyldain is in the early stages of the ritual that will complete his insurgent plan. [Side note: I don’t know if it was intentional on their part, but barritar is a Spanish word meaning “to trumpet”. Interesting that one of the clerics sounding this alarm has such a name. I love it.] Anyway, all the characters have to do is enter a mysterious demiplane, find their way to The Adamant Hourglass, beat the hell out of some nasty demons for 9 levels of…Hell, and defeat the pit fiend, Azyldain. As if that weren’t challenging enough, the portal to the demiplane (The Ebon Corridor) can only be held open for eight hours and the ritual is about three hours away by shedugryph, essentially a beefed up hippogriff in scale mail.
Later Stages & Wrap-up
The adventurers must negotiate through 9 layers in The Adamant Hourglass dodging meteor swarms, dragons, devils, and the effects of The River Styx. Sometimes the nexus between one layer to the next involves a puzzle but this is largely all about the combat and avoiding getting dead! Depending on whether the adventurers do silly things like dallying with a short rest, it’s possible they make it to Azyldain before he transitions into a female blue dragon. It’ll be easier on them if they do. But it could be fun if they went in thinking they’d slay a male pit fiend only to find out they have to face off with an ancient female blue dragon with several Legendary Actions.
If they are successful then the characters have a few options which are great for hooks for further adventures but beyond the scope of this one. Personally, I would accept the reward to serve Bahamut in Mount Celestia. Unless that character happened to owe someone a favor…
In my introduction, I supported the argument that a Guild product should make a DM’s job easier. Does Attack on Avernus do that? Yes. For me, high-level adventures can be intimidating. Where this adventure is helpful is that it’s mostly devoid of superfluous information. It’s a complex adventure, but pleasantly so. The authors don’t complicate things for its own sake. The usefulness of the simple difficulty adjustments are great and this is great escape into some down and dirty 5E combat. By the time a player is 20th level, he or she may be more than ready to let heavy roleplaying take a backseat for a session or two and just clobber some baddies. This is that opportunity.
I said this adventure makes the DM’s job easier and it does. However, there are a couple of things that could have probably been done better. For one, the cover art could be better. We can always pretend otherwise with trite motivational quotes, but people do judge a book by its cover. It’s not bad art in and of itself. But it’s not on the same level as the rest of the product. Some internal art is better than others but the cover art belies the quality product itself. Another way to say it is the adventure is much better than the art. Additionally, the maps were sometimes tricky to get my bearings with. Working in three dimensions is tough and the authors were competent in their handling of it. But at a glance, the maps are unclear at times.
Yet, all in all, Attack on Avernus is a great test of your players’ skills and tactics. Because that’s what it will take for them to survive. It’s an adventure that plays well as a standalone, a sequel to Tyranny of Dragons or Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus, or to slide it into your pre-existing campaign. You can run it in infernal mode for an extra tough challenge for your players or you can scale back the difficulty easily.
When a foreword opens with a Shakespeare quote it’s encouraging. It suggests you’re about to read something meticulous and thoughtful and perhaps a bit highbrow. Though I would’ve bet on The Tempest (“Hell is empty, and all the devils are here!”) rather than Henry V (“Come thou no more for ransom, gentle herald: They shall have none, I swear but these my joints.”) I suppose, in retrospect, it makes sense to not borrow from the former. After all, this adventure sends the adventurers to the devils rather than having devils spilling out of Hell. Your players’ job is to keep them there. Especially a particular pit fiend with an inflated ego.
- comes with seven great pregenerated characters
- all encounters are adjustable for lethality on the fly, at the DM’s discretion
- delivers the promise of a fun but deadly gauntlet for adventurers
- the cover art and some interior art is incongruous with the professionalism of the content itself
- the maps were also just okay