Welcome to Hellweek here on the Bell of Lost Souls, where we’re talking all things Avernus. Today: the fiendish vehicles known as the Infernal Warmachines.
Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus does a whole lot of things for D&D. It gives players a chance to dip their toe into the cosmic conflict waters, allows powerful characters (that is to say, higher than 10th level) to make some plays that could have extraplanar ramifications, and even thrusts parties into conflict with foes way above their pay grade. Foes like Demon Lords and Archdevils abound in the pages of this hellishly fun adventure–but in order to survive against such foes, adventurers will have to use all their resources. They’ll have to be clever, make deals with powerful allies (hopefully not getting betrayed or damned in the process) or they can rely on the awesome, hell-traversing power of the new vehicles introduced in the game.
Because one of the real stars of Descent into Avernus is the Infernal Warmachines. These are Mad Max inspired hell-wagons that have personality, heart, and a whole lot of weaponry. And that’s what we’re going to be taking a look at today as part of the Bell of Lost Souls’ own version of Hellweek. Only instead of pledging to a bunch of greek letters, we’ll be learning how you can ride, shiny and chrome, through a blasted hellscape/wasteland, and use absurd weaponry to devastate your foes in awesome ways that combine both CGI and practical effects. Let’s take a look.
First things first, here are the basics for Infernal Warmachines. They are vehicles built in the Nine Hells and fueled by souls of the damned. They come in four varieties (at least four are in the book, as always, there can always be more): the Devil’s Ride, a two-wheeled, spiked motorcycle that screams across Avernus at breakneck speeds; the Tormentor, which is basically an infernal dune buggy primarily used for raiding and scouting, covered in blades and crushing wheels and raking scythes; the Demon Grinder, which is the biggest war machine and bristles with the heaviest weaponry (and the most hit points); and finally there’s the Scavenger, which is a harvesting junker type vehicle that uses a massive grappling claw to pick through wreckage or enemy vehicles.
These vehicles use a modified version of the naval combat rules found in Ghosts of Saltmarsh: they have their own armor class and hit points and damage threshold (the minimum amount of damage an attack must do in order to actually subtract from the war-machine’s hit point pool), but Infernal Warmachines also have a Mishap Threshold, which is similar to the damage threshold, but if you manage to exceed the mishap threshold, you roll on a special table which might flip your vehicle over, reduce your speed, have one of your weapons malfunction, or set your whole war-machine on fire.
Each of the Warmachines (except for the Devil’s Ride) has its own list of action stations, each of which requires a minimum number of crew to run it, providing cover or half-cover to the squishy fleshbag targets riding atop the warmachines. During a fight, the party will crew the station and can take special actions based on what station they’re at. People at the Helm can use their action to drive the vehicle, but if anything happens to them the vehicle just keeps going until it crashes or flips over. They can use a bonus action to dash or add some demon ichor (aka turbo juice) to the fuel. People at weapon stations can use the weapons, which are tuned to damage vehicles.
There are a list of weapons you can pick from that range in creativity from more traditional things like Harpoon launchers to weird weapons like the Infernal Screamer, which is a writhing humanoid torso made of melting wax, operated by a barbed hand crank between the shoulder blades that, when turned, causes a terrible telepathic shriek that basically works like a psychic laser. And, because we’re still talking about an RPG, of course, there are numerous upgrades you can acquire to kit out your War Machine. Just don’t push your war-machine too hard or your vehicle might suffer exhaustion and you’ll operate at increasing penalties (per normal exhaustion) until you take some time to repair your vehicle–at the rate of about one hour per point of exhaustion.
But Avernus does much more than just give you these toys–it puts them to use, pretty much right from the point they’re introduced. Characters will find themselves at odds with a cast of roving warlords that are larger than life. Each one has a distinctive theme and retinue that compliments it. You’ll be able to run combats with devilish biker gangs, roving marauders, even the undead legions of a necromancer–bullet town, gas town, barter town…everything has a theme.
Even if you want nothing to do with the hellish tale of souls and swords that permeates Descent into Avernus, the Infernal Warmachine rules are a great addition to any campaign looking for high octane action.