Dungeons & Dragons: The Wild Beyond the Witchlight is the latest adventure book from Wizards of the Coast, which utilizes the D&D 5e (fifth edition) rulesets. Described as a “wickedly whimsical” Feywild adventure, players start off by gaining entry to the Witchlight carnival – a magical carnival that is only accessible once every eight years. Whilst away from the material plane, players will find new monsters and Feywild possible character backgrounds/races. However, should this be the next dungeon for your adventurers to master? Let’s find out.
The Wild Beyond the Witchlight is an adventure like no other, set primarily in Feywild on the Plane of Faerie. What would be weird and wonderful in other places, such as rabbit folk or a wand to force smiles, is almost commonplace. Leading adventurers from level 1 – 8, players will start their journey somehow discovering the Witchlight Carnival. This is the players’ first glimpses into the peculiar but incredible domain that is now at Dungeon Master’s fingertips. Of course not everything is wonderfully good, and this is the Alice In Wonderland like rabbithole that players get to experience.
From the very beginning there are intriguing sub plots, some of which may or may not come to be important. Even the carnival owners Mister Witch and Mister Light harbour a secret or three, even down to how they came to be the owners in the first place. Unlike most adventure books Witchlight doesn’t have a fixed start, nor is the ending for that matter – let alone the path taken by players.
Included are two potential hooks to start the journey off, though Dungeon masters could of course get creative. When reading it’s easy to be swayed towards one or the other. Both have consequences, with the Lost Things plot line even temporarily removing inspiration from the experience. Warlock’s Quest is the more typical stumble upon a quest giver approach to kick off the experience. This will suit adventurers whose backgrounds clearly wouldn’t have let them have known about the carnival before.
To fill out the magical lands of Feywild there are a range of monsters detailed and stat blocked in the back of the book. Some of these aren’t overly new like the Giant Snail, or are variants of previously seen creatures, such as the Bullywug Knight and Royal. Others are going to be completely new to a lot of adventures. An example of this are the “happy-go-lucky” talking mushroom-like Campestris, which fit the setting perfectly. These innocent little creatures can even swarm to cause a lot of potential problems to a low level party.
If the setting wasn’t enough of a shift, The Wild Beyond the Witchlight is a very non-combat focused adventure. Much of the adventure is combat free and where there is the potential for combat there are ways around it. Any D&D combat could always be circumvented in some way with the right ingenuity, persuading the DM and perhaps a lucky dice roll, but the writers have gone above that to give options.
This does mean that those that shy away from, or simply don’t enjoy, the role playing aspect of Dungeons & Dragons, as much as the thrill of combat, may prefer different adventures. Rime of the Frostmaiden for example has plenty more combat opportunities. There’s also the issue of XP and leveling which is milestone focused, and therefore is determined by the DM. Milestones are listed in the book, and it’s just a different way (rather than a better or worse way) to level characters up. In some ways it feels better having achieved something cool to level up, and is one less thing to get players to keep a record of.
Putting the adventure itself aside, the book included two new races. Adventurers can now choose to be a fairy or a harengon, who are effectively humanoid rabbits. Slightly larger than pixies fairies can come with some awesome sounding characteristics – from smelling like brownies to a glittery mist. The Harengon, as rabbits, are extremely mobile and could turn problematic quests from other adventures into simple hop and jumps. There’s no need to misty step as a wizard if you can hop five times your proficiency bonus or use lucky footwork to add a d4 to an otherwise failing dexterity check! To accompany these new races, extra backgrounds have been introduced, potentially seeing an adventurer be part of the carnival in a minor way.
Every Dungeons & Dragons book is full of incredible artwork and The Wild Beyond the Witchlight is no different. It’s top notch regardless of if it’s bringing the carnival or its acts to life, or being that visual representation of the more creepy, puppet dangling, locations. A nice touch is that each chapter in the book is represented by a colour along the page edge, so flicking to the right sections is made easier – especially helpful for finding the appendix quickly. Another nice inclusion, alongside the tear out map, are role play suggestion cards, which could be photocopied for when they are met throughout the different chapters of the adventure. These just take some of the pressure off the DM, with quick details and traits.
For those that don’t like to stick to the script and only use the adventure books as inspiration, The Wild Beyond the Witchlight certainly offers something different. Yet, it might not be for you. Most of the content would be shoehorned in at best into a non-Feywild setting. There’s simply not normally such lighthearted events taking place in the likes of Waterdeep or Ten-Towns. When it comes to the wondrous items found throughout the book / appendix some are definitely going to be player favourites, able to create new and interesting events. The Pipe of Smoke Monsters is just one example of when a player thinking out of the box could craft a memorable turn of events: forming a creature out of smoke which perhaps is enough to scare that rowdy tavern. Finding these outside Feywild could work but it might not feel right.
The Wild Beyond the Witchlight is the first D&D book to be predominately set in Feywild and will introduce many to an Alice like Wonderland. The carnival itself, which has special events triggering throughout the in-game day, will capture players and then there are the two possible adventure hooks to have got adventurers invested past the spectacle. With Fey marks, lost things to find and more, there’s plenty to explore past the new races and environments too. Those that look for combat after combat, slaying foes in their wake, would do better with other adventures. The Wild Beyond the Witchlight offers something different and will be a joy for many to play through as a result!
(Editor’s Note: The Wild Beyond the Witchlight was provided to us by Asmodee for the review. It is currently available from local board game stores! Find your local store here.)