In my previous article about Summoned Creatures in 5e D&D I talked about how you might want to create custom summoning tables for specific adventure locales in order to push the areas themes.
Of course as someone currently creating extra content for Descent into Avernus I couldn’t resist the opportunity to do so for Avernus!
In some ways this is no different than creating random encounter tables. They exist to give you the DM a toolbox of what could be found in the area should you need some immediate inspiration to pull into the game.
Yet spells which summon monsters follow specific rules, which means we can’t simply just list off a whole bunch of creatures and be done with it. So let’s first look at the summoning spells available and their rules.
However you might want to further twist the creatures (summoned or not) in Avernus, so at the end of this article there are random tables for making them more appropriately Hellish.
Summon beasts/elementals/fey from one of the following options;
- One [type] of challenge rating 2 or lower
- Two [type] of challenge rating 1 or lower
- Four [type] of challenge rating 1/2 or lower
- Eight [type] of challenge rating 1/4 or lower
As mentioned in the previous article, Sage Advice Compendium states that the player picks the option but the DM picks the specifics of what is summoned.
It is interesting that the options say “of challenge rating X or lower” which means it is totally possible to choose lower CR creatures if there are no adequate creatures available.
Looking at our list below it means you could for example not allow CR 1 creatures as an option. I wouldn’t recommend it though, just give them some ‘fiendish’ variants of the normal choices.
This does mean however that we only need to care about creatures of CR 2, 1, 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8.
Perhaps the easiest option is simply cosmetically reflavour, rather than having actual unique statblocks for new creatures. A Saber-Toother Tiger could have massive spines, a Polar Bear could have blood red fur to match the blasted Hellscape, or a wolf could appear as a blazing canine.
I’ve created some tables of features at the bottom of this article which you may find useful for the process of reflavouring to match an Avernus aesthetic.
However, it’s important to consider whether it might be confusing or counter to the narrative if these cosmetic effects seem like they should have mechanical effects. Our blazing canine not being resistant or immune to fire damage is a bit wonky, but I’ve found most players are happy if you just let them know upfront “This stuff is purely cosmetic, like a DLC skin in a video game.”
If you wanted to make mechanical changes be sure to consider how this might influence the CR of the creature. Giving our blazing canines fire immunity and converting half their damage to fire is probably okay but try not to change too much unless you want to homebrew a completely new creature!
The other option is to actually look at creatures which would count as beasts within Avernus… there’s a few in the book already, which while not technically Beasts they kind of are if you are already in Hell. You could either use their proper statblocks and accept they aren’t quite following the rules, or you could use typical beast statblocks and again just cosmetically change them.
After going through the book here’s all the creatures I could find mentioned in Avernus (with a few from other books). I won’t bother including animals you could cosmetically change to fit which aren’t mentioned, because that’s basically anything.
- Hell Hounds (CR 3 fiends): Saber-Toothed Tigers (CR 2) are a good fit in terms of power and vague flavour, just without the ‘fire stuff’.
- None specifically mentioned in the book. Check the random tables below to turn normal animals into twisted Avernus versions.
- Hellwasps (CR 5 fiends): Obviously too high CR, but Giant Wasps (CR 1/2) make an obvious substitute choice and could be juveniles.
- Giant Fly (CR 0 beasts): Found in the DMG on page 169 these things have no attacks, but you could easily use a Stirge (CR 1/4) or even the Giant Fly (CR 1/2) from the Tome of Horrors.
- Abyssal Chickens (CR 1/4 fiends): Summoning 8 crazy demon chickens is pretty amazing, at least visually. Velociraptors are the same CR and pretty similar.
- Fiendish Scorpion (CR 3 beasts): Unfortunately too high CR and the regular scorpion is just too weak. While a weird choice visually, the stats for the Giant Poisonous Snake (CR 1/4) is somewhat close, including blindsight and is medium size, or the Giant Centipede (CR 1/4) which is small.
- Achaierai (beasts): Large flightless birds similar in appearance to quails, from the adjacent plane of Acheron. Could easily be represented by Axe Beaks which speak Infernal. (CR 1/4)
- Stench Kow (CR 1/4 beasts): From Volo’s Guide to Monsters and native to the Lower Planes. Basically a big smelly bison which is pretty amusing and quite strong.
- Devil Crabs (CR 1/8 beasts): These are just giant crabs with “spines protruding from their shells and the vile brimstone smell they exude”
- Stirges (CR 1/8 beasts): Surprisingly flocks of these creatures patrol the airs of Avernus, along with ‘biting flies and hellwasps’.
Avernus Creature Generators
An additional creature type can give you a basic framework, allowing you to push another animal type on top of your base creature.
Giant Hyenas on Avernus might also be Skeletal (01), allowing you to describe them as carrion themselves, with loose flesh hanging from their blood-stained bones.
Pixies summoned on Avernus might be Ram-like (19) with great twisting horns, cloven feet and shaggy fur.
Smoke Mephits conjured to Avernus might be Fly-like (16) and take the form of giant flies, fat and bloated that drone with an incessant buzzing.
There are of course a lot of overlap between Type and Features. Squid-like implies tentacles, wet smooth skin in strange hues and a beak. As such these features will focus on non-animal specific features or more generic features.
You may want to roll for multiple Features, but try not to overload a single creature with so many it becomes hard to visualise. You are often better off describing a single prominent element and letting the players imaginations fill in the finer details.
|01||Bleeds from open sores|
|03||Barbed / Spiked|
|04||Bound with chains|
|05||Bound with armour|
|07||Swarmed by flies/wasps/mosquitoes|
|09||Noxious (brimstone, smoke, spores)|
|11||Exposed flesh and muscles|
|12||Glows with an evil light|