The new Dungeons & Dragons adventure, Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus, is an upcoming story campaign for Fifth Edition where tabletop gamers roam Avernus, the hellish wasteland of the underworld. A crucial element to Avernus are rolling armored tanks called “Infernal War Machines,” driven by devils and demons that players can commandeer for themselves.
If that all sounds a little bit like Mad Max Fury Road, well that’s exactly what Wizards of the Coast wanted. D&D Creative Writer and Game Designer Adam Lee tells Inverse that a specific scene from the acclaimed 2015 action movie directly inspired the premise of Descent Into Avernus. Witness!
“That scene when they’re in the War Rig going into the sandstorm, that’s what stuck out in my head,” Lee says. “That’s when I said to the team, it’s like Mad Max Fury Road in hell. These war machines you have to build. That’s when everyone’s like, that’s cool, let’s do it.”
That scene (among others) in Mad Max Fury Road is hard to ignore. A continuation of George Miller’s post-apocalypse series, the Oscar-nominated Fury Road follows Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), an ex-cop turned survivor who assists a rogue general, Furiosa (Charlize Theron) in liberating five women held as slaves under the tyrannical Immortan Joe.
Aside from its story exploring themes like freedom and control, Fury Road remains celebrated for its death-defying action sequences, where pale bodies fling over spiked cars to make balloons of fire. Approximately 26 minutes into the film’s two-hour running time, a chase sequence enters a wild thunderstorm, creating a cinematic image that almost feels as hellish as it looks.
Descent Into Avernus is basically the tabletop version of that iconic sequence.
Work on Descent Into Avernus, out in stores on September 17, began roughly around the time the film was released. “So it was in my mind,” recalls Lee, “and as soon as we [Wizards of the Coast] were like, ‘We’re gonna go to hell,’ I started doing research into Avernus, basically this giant, blasted battlefield and this eternal war between demons and devils.”
Avernus, the first layer in the Nine Hells within the Forgotten Realms, has “wreckage everywhere, there’s piles of bones and corpses, and this sulfuric cloud atmosphere,” describes Lee. “It’s hellish.”
As Lee and the team at Wizards fleshed out Avernus, it was decided that players need a functional (and fun) way to get across the wide open landscape. “I was like, how do players go from point A to point B in this vast plane? They gotta travel. And that’s when I was like, oh, Fury Road.”
At D&D Live 2019, when Descent Into Avernus was first unveiled to the public, Wizards of the Coast employees further contextualized the idea of “Mad Max in hell” and how that will manifest for players of D&D.
“It is a scary environment,” Chris Perkins, Principal Story Designer, told Inverse. “You come upon these great forces colliding and you see the carnage going on. It would take a brave party of adventurers to want to step foot into that, but they can. And it’s a case where we want the characters to have discussion among themselves: If we involve ourselves, are we going to change anything? Or are we just throwing ourselves into needless danger?”
“It sets up really interesting conversation for the table,” he added. “You’re down there to save a city. But there’s all kinds of temptations in hell.”
Oh, what a lovely day.
Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus is available at book retailers on September 17.