The Feywild is an interesting place. Filled with all kinds of odd fairytale creatures, locations that don't adhere to the rules of the rest of the mortal plane, and even interesting rules for magic. If you're used to adventure in one of the common story settings like the Forgotten Realms then The Wild Beyond the Witchlight and its weird offerings might be just the level of spice you need to shake up your D&D. But remember DM's eyes only!
The Wild Beyond the Witchlight - The Adventure Begins
The adventure of The Wild Beyond the Witchlight runs from Lv 1 to approximately Lv 8. From the moment you open the book, you'll notice that there are a few things different from some of the other Adventure Books you might be used to, first of all, is the plot hooks. That's right, The Wild Beyond the Witchlight doesn't just come with one plot hook but two. You can decide with your party whether they want to have an extremely character-driven story, one where hags stole an aspect of their characters eight years ago forcing them to adventure to reclaim what was lost or heed the call to adventure of an elderly mage who wants to make sure his friend and archfey patron Zybilna is safe. The forcing together of a party for some quest from some person can be some of the more hamfisted parts of creating a D&D party, this idea that characters might have lost their ability to smile or sense of fashion and are all planning on working together to get it back immediately creates the glue that keeps them together. You'll just have to hope that whoever finds theirs first wants to keep adventuring.
The second thing you'll notice is how frontloaded and clear the adventure book is about what's important information, where certain objects can be found, and a more concise way of gathering roleplaying information about each of the major characters. It can be tough going into an adventure knowing what is and isn't important but with the Story Tracker at the end of the book, and plenty of reminders during the course of the adventure of what you should be jotting down it really makes this adventure user friends and limits how much flipping between pages as different characters show up that you need to do as locations are visited. Having just gone through the very "hot and loose" chapter 2 of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist with so many factions and vague quests this kind of direct handholding is extremely refreshing.
Regardless of which storybook you take, your party will make their way through the Witchlight Carnival discovering an entrance to Prismeer, a fey domain that has been overtaken by hags that call themselves the Hourglass coven. If your party is looking to reclaim what was taken they'll find them scattered amongst the Hags possessions, but if you're looking to free the world and rescue Zyblina you'll continue on through each Hag's domain to the Palace of Heart's desire. The party will likely end up rescuing Zyblina regardless searching for a way home so it's probably worth seeding parts of the mage storyline in early anyway.
The Wild Beyond the Witchlight - A different angle on adventuring
Chapter 2 onwards, once the party is in the Feywild, run like a normal D&D adventure putting players in a strange land where they need to gather information and continue towards their main goal. It's the character's time in the Witchlight carnival that doesn't just make the intro to the game unique but also fun for new and returning players. There are all kinds of fun and games to be had from visiting the miniaturized Pixie Kingdom, to taking a ride on the Mystery Mine. The fun and games found across the Carnival will not only give players stress-free environments to flex their level 1 character's stats but can also affect experiences later in the game.
The Story Tracker comes up a lot here to tell you if a character does well in regards to the Dragonfly Rides that when needing to fly later on in the campaign will reward the player with additional options or loot. Weaving in practicing a skill and a reward some 10 sessions later in the form of a reward is an excellent way to give party members non-combat-related big story points. For players who get these kinds of rewards and understand why they're receiving them understand that the character that they were at the beginning of the adventure is now a more experienced person. There are a number of these moments sprinkled through the story that use a variety of skills that should allow most players to have a chance for these moments.
The Wild Beyond the Witchlight - Fight or flight...
What's really unique about this campaign is that it's possible to get through it without engaging in combat. There are a few ways that the story goes about this such as introducing enemies that might appear, steal a character hat, and then run away like the Darkmantle, or encountering enemies where they might have a chance to antagonize them as a dormant wasps nest. If the players want to fight there's nothing stopping them but there are safeguards in place to protect the players. Below is the list of rules of the Fey Domain, by being a guest as long as you are polite no one will attack you.
Rule of Hospitality. When a friend, an enemy, or a stranger enters your home, you are expected to be gracious and accommodating to them until such time as they prove, by their words or actions, undeserving of such hospitality.
Rule of Ownership. You must not steal from a friend, an enemy, or a stranger. To take something that doesn’t belong to you without the rightful owner’s permission is a crime and an unforgivable breach of etiquette.
Rule of Reciprocity. When a friend, an enemy, or a stranger offers you a gift, you are obliged to accept it and offer something of comparable value (be it a gift or a service) in return. Such reciprocation need not happen immediately.
- The Wild Beyond the Witchlight, Ch. 2
While the Hags might bend the second rule, believing all in Prismeer to belong to them, they follow the first rule quite closely. Confronting a hag you can go ahead and attack, or you might try to bargain with them for passage to the next subdomain or for one of your missing treasures. If you're a party that enjoys combat then you'll have an entertaining battle ahead of you, if you prefer to settle things without bloodshed your reward might be learning more about the world and the denizens of it. While nothing has ever really stopped a DM from running a combat-less campaign in the past with set outlines to stop unprovoked attacks from enemies, and detailed outlines for how the party can still achieve their goal it certainly makes it easier.
The Wild Beyond the Witchlight - New ways to play the game
Outside of the campaign itself, there's a number of fun character options that The Wild Beyond The Witchlight introduces. There are two new backgrounds, the Feylost, and the Witchlight Hand. Going over the Witchlight Hand first, this is a character who has already been working at the Witchlight Carnival for some time. Fantastic for a more experienced player to use so they can be supplied with prior knowledge (maybe they're the tour guide for the rest of them?) but even in the description the Witchlight Hand isn't able to know how to get to Prismeer so past Chapter 1 they're just as unaware of the Fey domain as the rest of the party. You likely won't get too much use out of this in a campaign that DOESN'T revolve around the Witchlight Carnival like this one.
The Feylost is much more interesting, denoting a character who got lost in the Feywild for a time before re-emerging once again into the Material Plane. How much might you be able to do if the "strange new world" that your character is going to is the plane that the rest of the party is from? Customs can be shared and miscommunications can be had. If you happen to return to the Feywild you're already well informed of the customs. The potential for homebrewed games is limitless.
The new races are also a lot of fun expanding the list to a Harengon, a rabbit person, and a Fairy. The Fairy has some interesting traits like being small but always being able to fly, and on top of that learns a variety of fairy-themed spells during their development. Being able to get a free cast of Faerie Fire per long rest could really help in a pinch or if someone's trying to flee from you. In a non-combat world Enlarge/Reduce could also be used in a lot of situations, especially combined with growing.
The Harengon is just as fun as you'd expect too. These characters have added benefits of the feet of a rabbit. You're able to use a bonus action to jump a number of feet five times your proficiency, even at level 1 that's a bonus action for an extra third of your movement. Jumping isn't the only thing your feet can do either as you can call on the powers of superstition and add a d4 to a dexterity saving throw that you failed.
Unlike other books you're not going to see much in the way of large brutes and buff beasts when looking through the creatures section. With such creatures as a Boggle, Bullywug, and Campestris you'll almost feel like you're reading C. S. Lewis which is why it's important to know that this book also contains a stat block for a Jabberwock. There are some really unique ideas in here that even if players aren't planning on fighting anything fill the world with interesting creatures. A fantastic example of this is the Brigganocks, small mouse-like creatures that are natural miners by nature. They seek out non-magical wishes in their stone forms in the Feywild that can be used to scry on creatures or traded for favors. The Brigganock also keeps its soul external to its body, it can move it around at will and even lights up the area immediately around the creature. On the scarier side the Living Doll will remain motionless until it can launch a surprise attach dealing psychic damage to the party. The Living Doll also has a unique mechanic that it will always regain its health one per turn unless it's hit with fire or psychic damage, might be time to find somewhere to hide it in the walls...
The Bottom Line:
At the end of the day, it's another Dungeons & Dragons adventure to add to your collection. There are new things to try implementing into your current game, or if you're ready to start a new campaign it's hot off the press. For new players this is an excellent adventure giving players specific character plot hooks, take them to a strange and wonderful land, and let players be really free to explore as many violent or non-violent options. It's a neat and tight storyline so players can't get too distracted, and the game does a lot to assist the DM too. While some of the new character options in The Wild Beyond the Witchlight might not be too useful in the Material Plane anyone interested in a fairytale campaign should have a lot to pick from in our first Feywild 5e outing.
Get this game if:
- You want a fun adventure for new or returning players
- You're interested in trying a D&D campaign with plenty of non-combat options
- You want to fight the Jabberwock (no, seriously…)
Avoid this game if:
- You're not into the weirder fairytale side of D&D
- You prefer a more open-ended adventure