The Wild Beyond the Witchlight Review
Table of Contents:
Welcome to the Feywild! We’ve Got Fun and Games!
The latest official D&D adventure takes us to the feywild by way of a magic carnival, a fantastical place that feels like it was pulled out of a Disney fairy tale. The right and proper queen of these fey lands has been deposed by a trio of wicked hags whose gnarled emotions have been slowly infecting the otherwise beautiful landscapes. Our heroes step through the looking glass first seeking things stolen from them when they were young, but to save this land and it’s curious denizens they’ll have to trick the coven of hags and restore the fey queen to her rightful throne. Is it worth the upset stomachs from all these sweets? Hold your golden ticket tight and get practicing those carnival games as we go through everything you need to know.
What’s in the Book?
The Wild Beyond the Witchlight clocks in at 256 pages, which is a bit longer than our last adventure release (candlekeep mysteries) but significantly shorter than a lot of other 5e adventure and setting books. However, it seems to be selling at their “lower price” and most places are offering it at around $29.99. This is a proper adventure path as opposed to a setting book, which means the overwhelming bulk of the book is devoted to the adventure itself though we do get the notable inclusion of two new backgrounds and two new playable races. It technically also has a couple new magic items, but they’re largely either campaign specific plot items or minor reskins of existing items (more on those later). We also get an assortment of very fanciful fairy tale style monsters and NPCs encountered throughout the adventure. Tallied up all together it includes:
- 31 new monsters/NPCs with lore and stat blocks.
The Wild Beyond the Witchlight Adventure Path
The Wild Beyond the Witchlight starts our adventurers at a charming fey carnival before sending them off into a feywild sandbox, or more accurately a series of 3 feywild sandboxes each revolving around a different hag and finding a guide to the next area. The story then culminates in a fun dungeon crawl and some revelations and some rewards. I feel that they took a lot of the freeform adventure style from Icewind Dale but chopped it up as a way of keeping the players a bit more focused and less likely to wander into the really dangerous stuff.
Speaking of dangerous stuff, I should address the combat because this adventure is VERY roleplay heavy and light on combat and you can even find in their promotional material that you can get through the entire adventure path without killing anything. That’s right, I couldn’t find a single combat encounter that couldn’t be somehow circumvented or worked out peacefully. That isn’t to say these combats aren’t interesting though, they’re just seen through the lens of a fairytale. Accosted by a living suit of armor? Pop off his helmet and let the body fall to the ground. Or make the witch go into a sneezing fit by running in a circle, since you learned previously that she’s “allergic to widdershins”. It is the most lighthearted and child-friendly 5e adventure path I’ve ever seen, and it all seems intentionally designed to be just that, child friendly.
If I were to try and introduce children to 5e or to tabletop RPGs in general, this is now the go-to best option. It’s fun, and light, and there’s nothing in here I’d feel weird about DMing for a group of 10-year-olds. That fairy tale feeling permeates the entire adventure and there’re no long stretched out combats for kids to get bored in, or dull stretches at all. Around every corner there’s something fantastical, a cute character to introduce, or a pie to throw in someone’s face. The adventure seems intentionally designed with kids in mind.
My biggest complaints are with the initial setup, player motivations, and advancement. The adventure asks you to pick from two potential “introductions”:
- The first seems more like the intended path, all the players snuck into the carnival 8 years ago and had “something” stolen from them like their handwriting or their fashion sense. Mechanically they can’t gain inspiration (an already woefully underutilized mechanic so I’m sad to see it “turned off” here) and have some other minor curse relating to the hag that stole it from them.
- The second feels a bit slapdash but actually gets to the point. An old warlock of the fey queen lost his connection to his patron and promises the party a bunch of stuff if they go figure out what happened to her in the feywild.
I’m torn on these, since as introductions they both work, sort of. The first one is very personalized and interesting but doesn’t actually tie them into the final adventure thread and counts on the players gaining interest in that final plot with the queen over time.
The second one is bland and boring (guy promises you stuff to do the quest is just so forgettable) but actually acts as a working motivation for the entire adventure.
If you end up running this, I’d advise you to blend these two hooks together. Do the entire stolen thing hook, but also have the warlock bring them together, maybe citing that he, “chose you all since you have business in the feywild anyway”.
The other issue at the start is the advancement track, which tells you that the adventure starts at 1st level, but also says you can start the players off at 3rd level with no changes, wait what?
This ties into the “non-combat” aspect of the book, as while the combats are all avoidable or cleverly solvable in some way, if your party actually fights, they’ll find these combats extremely tough. By my estimates, almost every combat encounter you can run into is balanced for a party 2 levels higher than the party’s actual level.
Suddenly that optional “starting at 3rd level” thing makes more sense. If you were balancing this adventure like the party was going to slaughter its way through each problem, then starting at 3rd level is just about right. Starting at 1st level makes these combats just a bit too risky and tough, encouraging players to look for creative solutions.
I actually love this concept, but DMs need to be aware of the gimmick here. Most of the monsters in the first couple chapters don’t even attempt to kill the party (going for knockouts instead to take their stuff). If you want to run the adventure as intended, start the party at 1st level. If you expect your party to be a bunch of murder hobos regardless of the situation, just start them off at 3rd level.
Trinkets are normally just little flavorful bits, but in a feywild campaign where mementos and feelings can be extremely important I love the attention to detail and creative flair we get through this big list of trinkets. It really sets the mood when you start with a tiny pixie-sized croquet set in your pocket.
Fairy and Harengon Races
Only these two fey races survived the editing process from their unearthed arcana start but I’m still happy to see them. They’re built with the lineages stuff from Tasha’s in mind so they’re more properly lineages, but the fairy and harengon are welcome additions to our growing set of player options.
The fairy isn’t an itty-bitty thing (sadly no tiny-sized races still) and is more like a small-sized elf with wings, yes, I said wings. Once again, we’ve been presented with a playable race that starts with a flying speed and we’ll see what playgroups find that acceptable or not (previous flying races get banned at a lot of tables). Mechanically other than their flight they get a cantrip and a respectable racial spell set and that’s about it. Flavorfully I love how open they left the doors on what a “fairy” looks like, and you can go from just a little elf with pretty butterfly wings all the way to weird bug limbs and fey craziness.
The Harengon race feels on point as well, and you’re allowed to take them as small or medium so you can be a cute little bunny or a big old jackrabbit. Flavorfully I felt they were a bit of an odd pick but I’m happy to have them. Mechanically they get proficiency with Perception (always welcome) and they get to add their proficiency to initiative rolls. And they get a special bonus to Dexterity saves and a huge rabbit jump that I think will make them very attractive for players looking to do martial battlefield maneuvering shenanigans.
Feylost and Witchlight Hand Backgrounds
We get two new backgrounds in this adventure obviously themed with this adventure in mind.
A feylost character got literally lost or abducted into the feywild when they were younger and came back a bit weird. Their main gimmick being is that other fey creatures “consider them fey” and they basically get some feywild street cred.
A witchlight hand character literally works at the Witchlight carnival and their friends and connections with the carnival are their main gimmicks. Sadly though, this makes the witchlight hand really campaign specific and not suitable for other adventures.
Both backgrounds are wonderfully flavorful, it’s just a shame that only the feylost background will really work for other adventures. Still, I fully expect a lot of feylost backgrounds cropping up on player’s character sheets.
31 New Monsters and NPC Stat Blocks
While the adventure dosen’t have a lot of combat, it does have a ton of unique and quirky creatures. This book will fill in the edges of any fairy tale themed adventures you may be planning, with things like boggles, bullywugs, and swarms if signing mushrooms. It also includes some (surprise) legendary characters from D&D’s history like Kelek, Warduke, and even Tasha of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is in the mix.
As a small aside, we don’t get her stat block (as she’s a noncombatant) but Ellywick Tumblestrum makes an appearance, a new character introduced in the recently released D&D Magic the Gathering set and she is referred to specifically as a “planeswalker”. So, it technically makes the MTG planeswalkers canon in D&D? And canonically makes the D&D setting another plane in the MTG multiverse? I’m not saying if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it is… Interesting.
21 New* Magic Items
There are technically 21 magic items in the book but I think only about 10 of them are really “new”. Most have appeared in previous adventures or supplements and a good chunk of what’s left are very campaign specific quest items or very minor tweaks on existing items. One notable standout for me was the scissors of shadow snipping that let you detach and control your shadow Peter Pan style.
What’s Good About the Book?
The Wild Beyond the Witchlight is charming, flavorful, and most importantly fun. It’s a joyously lighthearted adventure that keeps presenting new and interesting things without a dull moment. We get new races, monsters, and backgrounds to play around with. It allows the players to freely explore sandboxes without letting them go too far off track. It’s funny, quirky, and I expect most parties will be laughing their way through every session with smiles on their faces.
What’s Bad About the Book?
The setup and starting plot hooks are a little messy and with just a few bad choices a DM may end up with directionless players and a loss of the plot threads. The combats are few
and far between which will be a disappointment for a combat and strategy heavy play group, and the combats it does have are not weighted in the player’s favor. A cascade of bad decisions can easily lead to a TPK if the DM treats it as a normal campaign. And as a minor nitpick, I’m disappointed we didn’t see any fey themed spells or subclasses and I felt there was definitely room to include something.
I can’t shake the impression that this adventure was designed as an adventure path for children, and I mean that in the best possible way. If you’re a parent or are young yourself and you’re looking for an adventure that will work for young or new players, this is a home run, no contest.
If however you’re a more experienced playgroup, I expect at least a few players will feel that combat and dungeon delving itch amongst the purely roleplaying sessions. Old school D&D players may try to fight their way out of a lot of situations, and here it just simply isn’t the best course of action. This isn’t a serious or dark setting, and if you go into it thinking it’ll be a typical D&D experience then characters like “jingle jangle” and monsters like “brigganocks” may come as a shock. I absolutely loved this book, but you need to go into it with the right expectations. If you’re looking for an adventure that’s lighthearted, fun, roleplay heavy and combat light, then this is an almost perfect fit.
Final Score: 8.5 out of 10 (For Experienced Players)
Final Score: 9.5 out of 10 (For New or Young Players)
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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