Recently, one of my players (a barbarian) had to make a pact with Lady Fierna of the 4th to avoid losing one of his friends. He agreed to offer his soul to the disposal of Lady Fierna after he dies in exchange for his friend's life. That friend happens to be a paladin of Bahamut.

After the session ended, I heard the players talk about what happened and what a mistake the barbarian made. The players decided that they want to find a way to delve deep into the nine layers of Hell and find a way to make sure the Barbarian's soul won't be a part of Hell after he dies. They plan to either make a new deal with Fierna or kill her.

However... how can I have Hell accommodate these characters over the long term without them needing to go in and out of Hell on a daily basis? They'll need to find food and water, to buy arrows and other items, and I think they'll need to find rest and lodging and be able to do other generic stuff they'd be able to do in town. But how can they do that?

My party consists of level 2 characters and they are: Barbarian of Thor (now of Fierna), Paladin of Bahamut, Ranger of Artemis, and Rogue of Lolth. We're playing in the Forgotten Realms setting of 5e.

I have a lot of supplements but they're all for D&D 3e and 3.5e. This is my first time running D&D 5e.

  • The discussion attached to this question has been moved to chat. (There were some fair points brought up, but it was beginning to prompt people to answer in comments.) – doppelspooker Apr 16 at 19:31
up vote 33 down vote accepted

The Ranger can take care of the food

The goodberry spell, cast once per day, will provide at least enough food for your party. That means that the Ranger has to have chosen that spell, and burns one each day to keep the party fed. There is an opportunity cost to this: at second level, that's one of two spell slots per day that a Ranger has to use for that purpose. Even as the adventurers gain levels, it's a resource.

Eating a berry restores 1 hit point, and the berry provides enough nourishment to sustain a creature for one day. The berries lose their potency if they have not been consumed within 24 hours of the casting of this spell. (PHB, p. 246)

You could instead make part of this adventure a challenge to their survival skills, and apply the foraging rules ...

Water can be via your DM adjudicated foraging rulings

Part of the challenge in the Out of the Abyss published adventure is the party's ability to forage in a difficult area. If you don't want to create entire levels of Hell, all you have to do as a DM is to choose a Foraging DC, and allow the players to try and forage for the water (A Wisdom (Survival) ability check). Those characters with the Survival skill proficiency will have better chances to find water than the others. Using the "help" action should give one of the characters advantage in finding water. There is a related question about foraging in such a setting, and another question about foraging challenges for the Tomb of Annihilation adventure that you may find useful.

The guidance for foraging is in the DMG, p. 111.

\begin{array}{ll} \textbf{DC} & \textbf{Food and Water Availability}\\ 10 & \text{Abundant food and water sources}\\ 15 & \text{Limited food and water sources}\\ 20 & \text{Very little food and water sources}\\ \end{array}

Camping out for rest; do they really need lodging?

The rest requirements don't by default require lodging; the game does not assume that each night an adventuring party rests in "lodging." They are just as likely to "camp out" in the outdoors. You can provide lodging options in the various layers of the hells if you like, and since they are infernal a given lodging area can be a small adventure in itself.

Combat Resources

This is in your hands, and it may not be that big of a problem unless you want it to be one. The party needs to do some planning if they intend to take an adventure into Hell.

  1. Arrows. Typically, after shooting arrows, the ranger can try to collect or retrieve some of the ones he shot.

    • The ruling I have seen most often is "you can recover half of the ones you shot during this combat."
    • You can also make a quiver of arrows a treasure/thing to find as part of an encounter.
    • The party needs to pack a few extra quivers full. Have the barbarian carry an extra quiver full as part of his burden.
    • The mend cantrip can be useful in conserving and repairing arrows and other items used. (thank you @PhilBoncer for the comment)
  2. Torches: foraging for the materials can provide for torches or perhaps they aren't available.

    • Hell can be lit by infernal fires, so torches may not even be necessary.
    • Various animals/creatures have glowing glands to harvest. You can place some giant fire beetles in various layers of the hells.

      • A giant fire beetle is a nocturnal creature that takes its name from a pair of glowing glands that give off light. Miners and adventurers prize these creatures, for a giant fire beetle’s glands continue to shed light for 1d6 days after the beetle dies. Giant fire beetles are most commonly found underground and in dark forests. (MM p. 325)

    • Some mushrooms/fungi in the Underdark glow; various glowing flora like this can be found in the hells (via foraging) if you choose to place them in specific parts of, or all, layers of the hells.


      You decide.

The DM's tactical use of a Bag of Holding

One last point: you, the DM, decide when magic items are awarded. As a precursor to this adventure, you may wish to run an adventure that gets them to the River Styx (DMG p. 64, the normal way to get into the hells). Along the way they find (after an encounter) a Bag of Holding. That will allow them to pack any number of mundane items for this trip.

Depending upon how long this adventure lasts ....

Currently you have four 2d level characters:

  • Barbarian of Thor (now of Fierna); Paladin of Bahamut; Ranger of Artemis; Rogue of Lolth.

  • When the Paladin reaches 9th level, the spell create food and water becomes available and solves the food and water problem, at the cost of a daily use of a 3rd level spell. It creates:

    ... enough to sustain up to fifteen humanoids or five steeds for 24 hours. (PHB, p. 229)

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – mxyzplk May 11 at 3:30

Detail in 5e on this sort of thing is scant and left up to the Dungeon Master.

The 5e Dungeon Masters Guide has the following text on page 64:

The Nine Hells has nine layers.

...

To reach the deepest layer of the Nine Hells, one must descend through all eight of the layers above it, in order. The most expeditious means of doing so is the River Styx, which plunges ever deeper as it flows from one layer to the next. Only the most courageous adventurers can withstand the torment and horror of that journey.

Avernus.

No planar portals connect directly to the lower layers of the Nine Hells, by Asmodeus's orders. As such, the first layer of Avernus is the arrival point for visitors to the plane.

As a result the designers clearly intended there to be visitors to at least some of the layers of the hells, and those visitors would presumably require some form of sustenance. As such I would expect there to be some infrastructure in place to sustain non-demonic creatures who visit hell.

The last sentence before the start of the Avernus description though suggests your party will end up very dead very quickly given that level 2 characters are generally little better than commoners (and certainly not classified as the most courageous adventurers)

Page 58 of the DMG has this text which is relevant to your question:

Distance is a virtually meaningless concept on the Outer Planes. The perceptible regions of the planes can seem quite small, but they can also stretch on to what seems like infinity. Adventurers could take a guided tour of the Nine Hells, from the first layer to the ninth, in a single day- if the powers of the Hells desire it. Or it could take weeks for travelers to make a grueling trek across a single layer.

This suggests that individual Archdukes or Archduchesses can make a journey that a party is making as survivable or gruelling as they desire on the various layers (if the party has garnered their attention during the party’s stay).

So to a certain extent the ultimate answer is “it depends on what you want the rules to be for your version of the Nine Hells”.

There is some detailed descriptive text on each layer of the Nine Hells in the DMG, but none of it really gives a suggestion either way as to survivability.

It should also be noted that the 5e DMG specifies some optional rules for saving throws that non-native creatures to any of the Outer Planes need to make.

When it comes out in May Mordankeinen’s Tome of Foes is due to have Stat Blocks for all of the rulers of Hell.

I would suggest that you rule that such mortal needs as food and water are unnecessary in hell. The denizens of hell don't need them. Maybe the characters won't need to eat, or drink down there. Maybe they won't age on the trip either.

If you need a solution for the arrow problem, just have them encounter some type of infernal archers in an early battle. The archers could possess a large number of some magic arrows made of some cursed or magical material which allow them to infinitely reused.

The rest of the normal services of town will have to wait till they crawl back out of The Pit. But you can allow them to find items and such that they critically need either on the corpses of their enemies or in the possession of the unfortunate victims they encounter.

  • 1
    Also a great answer, but I'll stick with the green mark on the answer above as it's more detailed. However thank you for answering! – Drunken Commoner Apr 16 at 16:42
  • 5
    Not needing food in Hell could make for interesting storytelling - your players, as denizens of hell (wilful though they are) suffer increasing levels of hunger without being killed by it. – Vanguard3000 Apr 16 at 21:37

Another problem some users noted in the (now deleted) comments for this question is that a 2nd level party is not suitable to an adventure in a hellish plane, since, besides the hardness of obtain the basics of food and water in Hell, there are high level monsters and dangerous environmental hazards.

So, taking into account that you party has a goal to delve into hell in order to save the Barbarian's soul, a possibility to solve both the low level and the daily needs problems is to "time-skip" the adventures needed for the players to obtain the levels needed to survive this lower plane.

Basically, you can ask the players to improve the levels of their characters until a certain point (for example, the 9th level which allows your Paladin to cast create food and water, as KorvinStarmast answer says). Equipment/gold should be improved as well, according to the appropriated for their new levels.

In-game, this could be justified by the characters realizing that Hell is not for beginner adventures as them, and so they spend a time training to improve their abilities and adventuring to get the needed resources (money, magic items, NPC contacts etc) to their hellish journey.

Obviously for many parties this approach can remove the fun of the process of leveling your characters gradually, through "on-screen" adventures, but it has two advantages: firstly, it helps your players to achieve their goal now (in RL time, instead of weeks or even months of adventures); and secondly, specially if your players never played a high-level adventure, they can experience how is to have powerful characters (note that this can be a problem for the GM, since it's usually harder to manage higher than lower level PCs).


Another possibility to both problems: give them some artifacts or powerful magic items to compensate their lower level AND help to satisfy their daily needs, which only works during this specific quest.

The ingame reasoning for that can be the following: the Barbarian sacrificed his soul to save his friend, a paladin of Bahamut, a Lawful Good god. According to that Forgotten Realms wikia,

Bahamut was stern and very disapproving of evil, always arguing with Asgorath about his crusade against it. He accepted no excuses for evil acts, and didn't tolerate even minor offenses by evil creatures.

and

In spite of his stance, he was also considered one of the most compassionate beings in the multiverse. He had limitless empathy for the downtrodden, the dispossessed, and the helpless.

So, Bahamut would not want to see a devil obtaining another soul to "play", after all he could not tolerate a victory for Evil. And, while he would censor the Barbarian deal with a devil, he could be empathetic toward his sacrifice for a comrade. Consequently, Bahamut offers, maybe toward their clerics of even by his avatar, some powerful items, but these will be removed from them after the journey ends, and can only be used in this quest (so the players can't cheat by receiving the items and engaging in unrelated adventures to get XP and treasure).

Two possible problems of this approach: firstly, it could be hard to balance or manage these artifacts, and secondly, the players can become very attached to the powers of such powerful items, and so they can resent the moment Bahamut recall them.

(as a bonus note: I remember to have read in an old RPG magazine that the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon characters are very low level, coming from RL non-fantasy Earth, but they compensate that by their powerful magic items).

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