Dungeons & Dragons has clarified to ComicBook.com that the "upcoming tabletop prequel" to the upcoming Baldur's Gate III is Descent Into Avernus. Earlier this month, Larian Studios announced Baldur's Gate III, a long-awaited sequel to a pair of popular D&D video games set in the Forgotten Realms. The announcement of the new game was timed shortly after Dungeons & Dragons announced Baldur's Gate: Descent Into Avernus, a new adventure storyline that was initially set in the city of Baldur's Gate before descending into the first level of Hell. Larian CEO Swen Vincke described Descent Into Avernus as a prequel to Baldur's Gate III "in a certain way" in a recent interview with GamesBeat, noting that Descent Into Avernus is complimentary to the story of Baldur's Gate III but that the game is very much its own story. Larian Studios also noted they worked with Adam Lee, one of the lead writers of Descent Into Avernus, when crafting the story of Baldur's Gate III.
While the relationship between Baldur's Gate III and Descent Into Avernus seemed pretty clear at the outset, several news outlets referenced a "pen and paper prequel" to Baldur's Gate III when writing up Larian Studios' presentation at the PC Gaming Show at E3. Although a few outlets correctly named the "prequel" as Descent Into Avernus, others seemed to believe that this pen and paper prequel would be an entirely new product. Due to the dearth of write-ups about the Baldur's Gate III prequel, we reached out to Wizards of the Coast and was able to confirm that the "pen and paper prequel" referenced at the PC Gaming Show was Descent Into Avernus and not a new product.
Baldur's Gate III will pick up immediately after Descent Into Avernus, and the Descent Into Avernus publication will serve as a primer for fans interested in what has happened in the 100 years between Baldur's Gate II and Baldur's Gate III. Fans familiar with the original Baldur's Gate games may be surprised to learn that the city has survived two cataclysmic events - the Spellplague and the Sundering - both of which were used to explained D&D's gradual transition from 2nd Edition (the rules that Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II use) and the Fifth Edition rules that will serve as the foundation of Baldur's Gate III. As the story is initially set in Baldur's Gate, Descent Into Avernus should also provide details about the city and may explain what has happened to some of the many characters of the original Baldur's Gate games (many of whom are surprisingly still alive after 100 years.)
Baldur's Gate: Descent Into Avernus will be released on September 17, 2019. No release date has been announced for Baldur's Gate III.