Descent into Avernus

Summoned Creatures in Avernus

Tables of Contents

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.

Summoning Spells

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.

Avernus Beasts

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.

CR 2

  • 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’.

CR 1

  • None specifically mentioned in the book. Check the random tables below to turn normal animals into twisted Avernus versions.

CR 1/2

  • 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.

CR 1/4

  • 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.

CR 1/8

  • 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.

Add an additional Type to your existing creature to give it an Avernus feel


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.

01Bleeds from open sores
03Barbed / Spiked
04Bound with chains
05Bound with armour
06Extra eye(s)
07Swarmed by flies/wasps/mosquitoes
08Extra limbs
09Noxious (brimstone, smoke, spores)
10Profanely symbolled
11Exposed flesh and muscles
12Glows with an evil light
Add these features either in combination with or instead of Type as you see fit.
D&D 5e

Summoned Creatures in 5e D&D

Summoning spells in D&D 5e are quite a complicated topic. There are a few main issues that often come up, either narrative or mechanical in nature;

  • Do certain summoning spells not work in unusual places such as Avernus?
  • Who gets to pick the creatures and how do you pick what is summoned?
  • How can you prevent summons from slowing down combat?

The last two points are perhaps the most important for most players and DMs, yet the thematic nature of what is summoned can have some rather interesting implications which shouldn’t be overlooked.

Can I summon pixies to Avernus?

I’ve seen some DMs say that Conjure Woodland Beings and similar spells make no sense in the middle of Hell… but saying “No, you can’t summon fey to Avernus” just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. If you do that I hope the player has a way to choose a different spell instead.

I really like how D&D 5e has taken to cosmetically changing spells to match the location. I’ve not read all the modules but both Descent into Avernus and Curse of Strahd do this for a handful of spells, giving them little nudges to fit the theme.

Find Steed in Ravenloft gives you a skeletal horse and in Avernus a nightmare. Only cosmetically of course. Yet there’s no mention of changes to the main conjure/summon spells.

We could assume this is because these spells don’t care – you are literally conjuring them from nothing, or from a different Plane. Yet, another option would be to reflavour these creatures too, cosmetically at least. I think that’s the more interesting option!

Give them horns, spikes, dripping bloody wounds, or anything that reinforces the themes of the adventure location. Tokens which match the visual you are going for will ensure these changes are kept front and centre.

You may want to either change the choices to only match the theme, or create entirely new options specific to the theme. This extra work can really make a big difference in helping push the thematic tones of your campaign.

I choose to summon 8 pixies!

The discussion that sparked this article was whether a player could choose to summon 8 pixies and have them carry the characters safely down from a great height.

This goes against the Sage Advice Compendium’s ruling (although obviously the DM may choose to ignore the ruling).

Sage Advice Compendium, v2.6 page 16

So maybe you find the inventiveness of having a player conjure some pixies to solve the problem really fun and creative so you say “Sure, pixies show up and carry you down.” (I would have spined devils come and make things even more fun!)

Yet, maybe the choice isn’t inventive or fun to you. Maybe the player read a guide which told them to pick 8 wolves because they clog up the battlefield, have great attacks thanks to Pack Tactics and Trip and maximise action economy… to me that isn’t inventive or fun at all to do every single combat.

Okay so Pixie#1 casts entangle… Pixie#2 casts…

One of the single biggest complaints you will read from DMs about summoning spells, animate dead and paying for loads of henchmen in 5e is that they massively slow down combat – and it’s true.

Back in older editions such as Basic/Expert, it was expected for the party to actually be quite large, with players sometimes hiring a whole bunch of NPCs to fight alongside them.

However, as the complexity of the game increased, so did the length of combats. There’s pages to be written about the issue, but essentially when you compare a single human NPC making a crossbow attack to 8 pixies each of which is casting spells that require multiple saving throws (entangle, confusion, sleep) you can tell it’s going to take much longer.

How best to handle it? Well you have a number of options…

First of all, just avoid giving the players multiple NPCs with complex abilities and spells. If one player already takes 5 minutes to choose which spell to use on their turn, maybe avoid giving them 8 pixies to manage as well. Choose more straightforward creatures with just plain attacks such as needle blights or giant badgers.

Or, rather than just flat out never giving the player mechanically complex creatures, try giving them a mix of creatures. 6 badgers and 2 wolves is a lot quicker to play, with less knockdowns and pack tactics to worry about.

Another option to speed things up is to always use average damage for any summons or henchmen. These are included on the statblocks for a reason! This can save a lot of time.

Finally one often forgotten (or never read) rule lies hidden away in the 5e Dungeon Master’s Guide.

Keeping combat moving along at a brisk pace can be difficult when there are dozens of monsters involved in a battle. When handling a crowded battlefield, you can speed up play by forgoing attack rolls in favor of approximating the average number of hits a large group of monsters can inflict on a target.

Handling Mobs, page 250 of the 5e Dungeon Master’s Guide

The idea is that you subtract the creatures attack bonus from the AC of the target and figure out the minimum roll needed for the target to hit. You then compare this to a table which states how many monsters have to be attacking the target to score a single hit – you never actually roll dice and instead just take the average number who are likely to hit.

So rather than worry if the 8 wolves hit the bearded devils, you simply take their attack bonus (+4) and remove it from the devils AC (13) leaving us with a 9+ on a d20 to hit. The table lists that if the d20 roll required is between 6 to 12 then you need 2 attackers per successful hit.

As such we know that 4 wolves hit and 4 miss. No rolls required!

But what about Pack Tactics or other sources of advantage? Well, Advantage is mechanically interchanged in other rules for +5, so in our example above now every wolf with pack tactics in effect hits.

Sure it’s not for every group, and it’s not for every fight. I would only implement the Mob Rules if people are unhappy about how slow combat is becoming due to summoned creatures, but it’s a good rule to keep in mind.


  • Don’t limit player choices for narrative reasons, change the narrative to make sense of the choice!

    If you think pixies in Avernus are weird, maybe make them fiendish counterparts who are neutral evil due to the pervasive evil of Avernus. You could really sell this by finding tokens with a more fiendish appearance, or showing art to your players as you describe the fiendish twists.
  • The player chooses the number and CR of what they want to summon, but the DM picks the specific creatures.

    You could make up random tables to roll on or just fiat pick things that best fit the narrative and seem fun. Don’t let a min-maxer dominate the table by picking the Most Optimum Choice, unless that’s the kind of game you want to run.
  • There are various methods to speed up summoned creatures in combat;
    • Use less mechanically complex creatures (or only a few)
    • Use average damage for summoned creatures
    • Use Mob Rules to automate how many creatures hit if people are unhappy with how much time summoned creature attacks take to resolve

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