Welcome to the Descent. Whether you’re watching digitally on Twitch, reading news articles like this, or somehow managed to attend the event live, you’re in for a ride. This year, we’re kicking off the next storyline right with tons of star-studded streams, a massive storyline and product announcement, and an actual-play introduction to the next D&D story.
These four new books, games, and boxed sets are will be announced in full detail during the D&D Live 2019 opening ceremonies, starting at 4 PM Pacific at https://www.twitch.tv/dnd, following Relics & Rarities. Tune in at 4 PM for the full announcements! See the full D&D Live 2019 schedule, including The Descent games introducing the new storyline, on the D&D website.
Here’s what you have to look forward to in the year to come:
Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus
The biggest and most exciting announcement of the weekend is, of course, the next D&D storyline! Last year’s storyline was a saga set in the city of Waterdeep, comprised of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage. This year, D&D is taking a trip to Avernus, the first layer of the Nine Hells. The celestial-turned-archdevil Zariel is enacting her long-awaited vengeance upon the city of Elturel, and a group of unlikely adventurers have been pulled into the struggle!
This adventure spans levels 1 through 13, starting with low-level adventures in Baldur’s Gate, the dark and gritty metropolis which lead designer Adam Lee describes as “the Gotham [City] of the Sword Coast.” Starting a campaign in Baldur’s Gate is wildly different from starting a campaign in bright, shiny Waterdeep, and it perfectly suits a campaign that is destined to go straight to Hell. Introducing more than just the city of Baldur’s Gate, this adventure also opens up the massive sandbox environment of Avernus.
The adventure promises a deep story filled with unforgiveable betrayals, unspeakable evils, and a fallen angel. Those who dare venture into the Nine Hells can fight to bring redemption to Avernus, or give in to corruption themselves. Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus is available for pre-order on the D&D Beyond Marketplace now, and releases in stores on September 17th, 2019. A limited-edition, game store-exclusive cover by Hydro74 features the skull-shaped icon of Bhaal that is now inexorably linked with Baldur’s Gate.
Just like the Maps and Miscellany kits released for Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage and Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica, a set of dice, random encounter cards, maps, and more, will be released to enhance your travels through Avernus.
D&D Essentials Kit
This brand-new boxed set is more than just a second Starter Set—though it certainly is that, too. The D&D Essentials Kit is “A newly designed rulebook [which] on-boards players by teaching them how to make characters,” and will be the ideal resource for brand-new players and DMs. A full five years will have passed between the release of the original Starter Set and the release of the new D&D Essentials Kit, giving its creators five years of lessons learned to make the new player experience the best it can possibly be. These days, many new D&D players learn the basics of the game from watching streams like Critical Role; will this boxed set include video tutorials in addition to its starter rulebook?
The Essentials Kit also includes a condensed, 64-page rulebook that helps players create characters of levels 1 through 6, using the core four classes (cleric, fighter, rogue, wizard) and the bard. It also includes a new adventure written by Chris Perkins entitled Dragon of Icespire Peak, which contains enough adventure to bring a new D&D party from level 1 to 6. This adventure comes complete with a poster map of Phandalin (the adventure's setting) and the surrounding environs, as well as an entire deck of magic items, conditions, quests, creatures, and so forth that appear in the adventure, as well as combat cheat sheets. A DM screen with brand-new art, as well as a set of "cherry lozenge red" dice, complete with two d20s and four d6s for rolling stats (and casting guiding bolt and making sneak attacks).
Notably, the adventure also includes a new “1-on-1 rules variant,” which transforms D&D into a single-player adventure with just you and your DM. By using "Sidekick Rules" first introduced in Unearthed Arcana, a single player can control their own character, plus one or several sidekicks. This sort of single-player party play harkens back to classic D&D video games like, say, Baldur's Gate. This boxed set will cost $24.99 and releases in Target stores in North America on June 24th, 2019, and everywhere else on September 3rd.
Battle for Baldur’s Gate
The beloved party card game “Dungeon Mayhem” is getting its first expansion! “Battle for Baldur’s Gate” introduces two new decks featuring characters from the classic computer RPG Baldur’s Gate (1998). Expanding the Dungeon Mayhem roster from four to six characters are the ranger Minsc and his miniature giant space hamster Boo, and the druid Jaheira. A release date for this expansion was not given.
Dungeons & Dragons vs. Rick and Morty
Following up on the success of the “Rick and Morty vs. D&D” comic series illustrated by Jim Zub and written by Patrick Rothfuss, D&D has partnered with Adult Swim to create a new boxed set adventure that puts the characters and weirdness of Rick and Morty front and center. This adventure “[blends] the world of Dungeons & Dragons with the mad narcissistic genius of Rick Sanchez’s power-gaming sensibilities, and it includes everything a Dungeon Master needs to channel their inner mad scientist and run a rickrolling adventure for up to 5 players, levels 1-3.”
Rick and Morty creator Dan Harmon is no stranger to D&D, as evidenced by his “actual-play-meets-animated-special” series HarmonQuest. This boxed set also follows up on the warmly received Stranger Things D&D adventure boxed set that released earlier this year. A release date for this boxed set was not given.
And More to Come?
The Descent is far from over, and countless other D&D partners, including D&D Beyond, will have announcements to make throughout the weekend. More details will be added to this article as news is unveiled.
Which announcements have you the most hyped? Let us know in the comments!
James Haeck is the lead writer for D&D Beyond, the co-author of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and the Critical Role Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, the DM of Worlds Apart, and a freelance writer for Wizards of the Coast, the D&D Adventurers League, and Kobold Press. He lives in Seattle, Washington with his partner Hannah and their hellcats Mei and Marzipan. You can find him wasting time on Twitter at @jamesjhaeck.