I'm reading through Descent into Avernus and my vision of it is a Mad Max-esque world. Red, desolate, almost like a desert but not classified as one. The mountains there have no vegetation... just more rocks.

For Ranger's Natural Explorer, and I play Adventurer's League so Rules as Written, would any terrain work in this environment? I feel like the most accurate description would be Tundra. But the closest option is Desert.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm unfamiliar with Descent into Avernus, is it the default forgotten realms setting? Is it some specific setting that you are asking about? \$\endgroup\$
    – GreySage
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 17:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GreySage its the Nine Hells, its Avernus. Its essentially Mad Max -- inverse.com/article/… -- you start in Baldur's Gate but then cross through a portal into the upper levels of the nine hells. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 17:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note: In physical geography, "Tundra" is cold with a short growing season that doesn't support trees. There usually is quite a lot of plant life. A "desert" is dry. Hot deserts are, um, hot; but there are also cold deserts. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 8:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MartinBonner I have found no temperature for Avernus only that its described as a wasteland with no sun and no stars. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 12:46

2 Answers 2


Avernus is a desert

The best descriptions of Avernus I've found are in the Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus adventure, under the "Paradise Lost" heading in the introduction (p. 9):

Before the Blood War reduced it to a blasted wasteland, Avernus was a honey trap created by Asmodeus, a paradise of infinite delights designed to lure and enrapture mortals.

And in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes, under the "Lady of Ruin" section about Zariel's realm (p. 11):

Once it was a bustling realm filled with cities, trade outposts, and other features, but recent activity in the Blood War has reduced it to a blasted wasteland.

It is only described as a wasteland, that used to be lush and beautiful. Combined with its tendency for spontaneous mirages and the direct comparison to Mad Max, it's a desert.


Natural Explorer does not apply to Avernus

Natural explorer works in a natural environment.

You are particularly familiar with one type of natural environment and are adept at traveling and surviving in such regions. Choose one type of favored terrain: arctic, coast, desert, forest, grassland, mountain, or swamp. (SRD, Ranger, p. 36)

(Emphasis added.)

Avernus is not a natural terrain — if anything it's supernatural

Geography warps at the whims of the Nine Hells

(locations' names spoiler ahead):

…characters might need to travel 6 miles to get from Fort Knucklebone to Haruman's Hill, and 60 miles to get from Haruman's hill to Fort Knucklebone (page 9 of the hardcover)

and there is an optional rule that affects travel (emphasis is mine):

Avernus's combination of oppressive heat and supernatural malevolence weighs on the bodies and the souls of those who are not evil. A non-evil creature treats normal travel through Avernus as a forced march (p. 79)

Affecting folks based on their alignment is definitely not a property of a natural terrain.

Day and night cycle is absent, so are celestial bodies in the sky (page 76) which I would expect to mess with the "not getting lost" thing.

Avernus features difficult terrain in form of «Bone fields, quicksand, bubbling tar pits, lakes of lava, canyons of wailing souls, and salt flats made from the tears of the damned» (p. 76). Interacting with those is not something to be learned from any single natural terrain. Maybe combining desert with mountains and swamp would cover these to some extent.

It is not natural in terms of foraging either. «Most of the wildlife on Avernus is not edible to mortals, and most sources of water are poisonous or otherwise tainted» (p. 9). Which mechanically translates to:

Wisdom (Survival) checks to forage in Avernus are made with disadvantage (p. 78)

While Avernus certainly had desert-like features it is still a wasteland located in a literal Hell. I think it would be a stretch to say that skills of surviving in a natural desert can be applied to Avernus any more than they can be applied to, say, arctic terrain.


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