As a Dungeon Master running Dungeons & Dragons’ Fifth Edition, I don’t have a great track record with premade campaigns. My players were almost all eradicated early into the very first chapter of Hoard of the Dragon Queen, and I’ve mostly stuck to homemade material since then. That streak is about to change, however, with The Wild Beyond the Witchlight, the latest campaign book.
The Wild Beyond the Witchlight is a complete Dungeons & Dragons adventure centred upon the interdimensional Witchlight Carnival. Players will progress from the whimsical fair into the very Feywild to restore a mystical figure from the game’s past. It’s designed to take players through levels 1-8 (though it does advise DMs to start their parties at level 3 for an easier experience). If you’ve been around 5E for some time, you know what you can expect from adventure books like these—a couple of chapters detailing the meat of your sessions, and some bonus character options thrown in.
In this case, the new options include two playable races—fairies and harengon, a sort of anthropomorphic rabbit-folk—a smattering of new enemy builds, and some new magic items in the appendices. My personal favourite of these new items is the legendary greatsword Snicker-Snack, a perfect reference to Lewis Carrol’s poem “Jabberwocky,” which also added the term “Vorpal Blade” to the RPG lexicon.
That being said, it is a wasted opportunity that there aren’t some class features or spells in the mix as well. This is the current edition’s first foray into the Feywild, the iconic sylvan plane where fairies, satyrs, druids, and other fairy tale beings dwell. As various existing classes and subclasses already draw upon Feywild references, this was a great place to introduce new subclasses or features to really lean into the setting, especially since there isn’t a dedicated sourcebook to the realm’s present incarnation yet.
“… it was clear that the team at Wizards of the Coast had put a lot of thought into the variables at play.”
That is where the omissions mostly end, however, as The Wild Beyond the Witchlight is a very comprehensive adventure book. From the Introduction chapter, it was clear that the team at Wizards of the Coast had put a lot of thought into the variables at play. There are two background options suggested, as well as two story hooks DMs can use to kick things off, which provide an excellent way to invest players in the adventure’s stakes immediately. These two hooks are referenced throughout in a more consistent way than other official adventures I’ve read.
At the back of the book is a handy Story Tracker chart, which DMs are encouraged to fill out as the adventure plays out—tracking variables like the location of a main MacGuffin, potentially vital knowledge about characters’ backstories, which of 3 possible guides the party has enlisted, and so on. Maybe it’s just me, but this is a fantastic addition. I’m the type of DM who over-organizes, spending as much time organizing and pre-agonizing as I do planning my sessions or running them. When running “The Lost Mine of Phandelver” I marked up the guidebook and made exhaustive notes in a notebook, so something like this is right up my alley.
There is a lot to track here, however, even compared to the usual mental gymnastics DMs need to perform. On the included poster map of the carnival are several trackers for the time and the mood of the carnival-goers, which become important factors to progressing through the initial stage of the adventure. Beyond that, there are a plethora of other variables that arise throughout, from the locations of items and NPCs to those NPCs’ attitudes, and the bonus objectives asked of the party. If you’re the kind of DM who flies by the seat of their pants, you’ll still want to take some notes if you run The Wild Beyond the Witchlight.
Ultimately, however, these variables and open progressions make for a pretty interesting adventure—if not an entire campaign. There is a lot for players to do here, from the full-fledged carnival at the start, to the diverse encounters in Prismeer, to dungeons and other places to explore. There’s almost enough content here that a DM could run the adventure a couple of times and have a different experience each time.
“If you’re the kind of DM who flies by the seat of their pants, you’ll still want to take some notes if you run The Wild Beyond the Witchlight.”
The Wild Beyond the Witchlight is advertised in its introduction as an adventure where characters can accomplish their goals without violence, using their wits instead. I’d like to see it happen, but I think the chances of a group playing through something of this size without fighting are pretty slim, without some creative intervention by the DM. However, it does seem like this book’s campaign could be accomplished with less battle than usual, most of the time.
The unique NPCs are a varied cast which should be a lot of fun to play, from smaller roles like a legendary rabbit thief and a goblin Thespian, to more important figures like the three hags at the heart of the adventure, and the two mysterious figures who run the Witchlight Carnival. In another brilliant addition, the book includes an appendix for easy reference to all these characters’ role-playing notes.
Throughout, the book is beautifully laid out, as long term 5E players can expect from Wizards of the Coast by now. A team of illustrators has brought the Feywild to life with the sort of whimsical variety the setting demands. If you’re picking up the physical edition, I highly recommend visiting your Friendly Local Game Store for the alternate cover designed by Hydro74. As usual, this edition has a beautiful cover, this time with a slight foil effect that really pops when you pick it up.
It’s hard to say how a D&D campaign will play out, given all the myriad ways each adventuring group could reinterpret or change it with their actions. As it’s written, The Wild Beyond the Witchlight is one of the most interesting and diverse premade materials D&D 5E has seen yet. There might be some extra work for DMs, but the experience will likely be totally unique for players as they navigate a whimsical new side of the Feywild