Dungeons & Dragons' New "Big Bad" Isn't Like Other Fantasy Villains

Dungeons & Dragons will be pitting players against a literal ruler of hell in its upcoming adventure. Earlier this month, Dungeons & Dragons announced Descent Into Avernus, a new storyline adventure book that involves the city of Baldur Gate getting dragged into the first level of the Nine Hells. Players will face many threats in Avernus, but one of the biggest is Zariel, a fallen angel turned archdevil who now rules over Avernus and leads the forces of hell in the Blood War against a never-ending incursion of demons from the Abyss.

ComicBook.com spoke to Kate Welch, one of D&D's game designers who was responsible for bringing Zariel to life in Descent Into Avernus. One of the chapters [in Descent Into Avernus] was my responsibility and I became very invested in it," Welch told ComicBook.com when asked about her involvement with Descent Into Avernus. "There's an archdevil who rules Avernus. Her name is Zariel and she is a fallen angel. "The player group ends up traveling through Avernus, intending to eventually encounter her in a way. So for me, it was sort of like writing what it would be like to meet Zariel and to experience her as a fallen angel, as an archdevil, but someone whose motivation you suddenly you just understand exactly why she did what she did."

"That's my favorite kind of villain," Welch continued. "Ones like Killmonger [from Black Panther], where you understand that the method is maybe not something that you would necessarily agree with, but the inspiration for it, you're like, 'Well, they're right about that. That that does suck.'"

Zariel originally descended into Avernus because she was frustrated with her fellow angels' refusal to intervene in the Blood War between the demons and devils. "She is not impressed with the fact that the angels refuse to involve themselves," Welch said. "She believes that without angel involvement, the demons will win the Blood War and conquer the material plane as well. So she decides to get involved herself, and that leads to her becoming an archdevil in a super interesting way."

While neither Welch nor the other D&D designers ComicBook.com spoke to would describe specific plot details about Descent Into Avernus, Welch did confirm that she was the book's "big bad." "There are so many characters and antagonists in this products, but she's the big bad, I suppose," Welch said. "She's the one who is looming over everything. But of course, because she's an archdevil, she's not someone you want to encounter early on in this adventure."

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While Zariel is an archdevil, she's not like other recent D&D villains like Acererak or Halaster Blackcloak. So ComicBook.com asked Welch if she though Zariel could be redeemed in Descent Into Avernus. "I do, and, in fact, there is the possibility of doing so," Welch replied. "Assuming you do a very particular set of things in this adventure, it's possible to redeem her. It's difficult. It's not going to be easy for you, because she's an archdevil, but it is possible."

Players will get to face Zariel when Descent Into Avernus comes out on September 17th.