Review by C.J. Bunce
The latest from Dungeons & Dragons following Candlekeep Mysteries and Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft takes players back to Feywild and an adventure about a carnival that appears every 8 years. The Wild Beyond the Witchlight is D&D’s next big adventure storyline that “brings the wicked whimsy of the Feywild” to the 5th Edition for the first time. Wizards of the Coast promised and delivered new characters, monsters, mechanics, and story hooks suitable for players of all ages and experience levels. It also allows a game without combat where you can use your wits to get to the end. It’s layered and complex with several tie-in components, and you can pre-order The Wild Beyond the Witchlight with the standard cover here at Amazon now, or order the alternate “soft-touch” edition from your local game shop.
The Wild Beyond the Witchlight provides not so much a theme park–nothing really like Disneyland–but more like a combination of a big state fair and carnival, without the circus freaks found among most of the trope–no bearded lady, two-headed person, etc. That’s not to say there aren’t great new fantasy creatures here, like the bogey men Boggles, crafty Brigganocks, Wonka-esque Campestris, and the best of the tale, those rabbit-folk called Harengons.
It would be a great feature to incorporate the appendix of character stat cards as two-sided punch-out cards, but instead players/DMs will find a very grand, giant, full-color carnival map will sufficiently set the mood for play. Unlike previous recent adventures, the use of figurine miniatures are encouraged, to be used to keep track of the journey on the carnival grounds map (see below for new related tie-in figures). The game complexity–several decisions throughout the game will have a direct effect on later options–prompted the writers to include Story Tracker pages for well-advised note-taking.
If you’re afraid of clowns, you’ll probably want to walk away, although this volume is great about letting players choose again if they don’t like the way options progress or dice rolls land, which should make for a friendlier game and conversational roleplay.
High points include special rules that control action in the carnival, including a few great secrets that guide the adventure, a selection of 100 useful, clever trinkets, the two character races to choose from (each with its own varied nuances, abilities, and flaws), a pronunciation guide, bringing characters’ youth into the mix, and introducing some intriguing carnival owners. The carnival has many expected features, not the least of which is a “lost and found” for realism, and even a ring toss.
Timing of the adventure will be important for Dungeon Masters. Note that it’s not all about the carnival, as the story leans heavily into more traditional fae realms, too. All in, players can move from level one to level eight.
In addition to the above-mentioned creature appendix, look for an appendix of magic items, an appendix of factions, and 84 random “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”-styled pull-out lines.
Don’t forget the Dice and Miscellany set for this adventure, The Witchlight Carnival (available here), including 11 premium dice, 19 double-sided reference cards with descriptions and illustrations of characters, creatures, games, and other features of the Witchlight Carnival.
Plus, it includes a double-sided player-friendly foldout map, and a durable felt-lined box that doubles as two dice trays.
Each set of tie-in Icons of the Realms figures contain premium sculpted, pre-painted miniature figures:
The Starter Set 1 is Valor’s Call and includes figures of Strongheart, Elkhorn, Ringlerun, Molliver, and Mercion. Starter Set 2 is League of Malevolence and includes Kelek, Skylla, Warduke, Zargash, and Zarak.
Once more for those in the back of the Big Top: You can pre-order The Wild Beyond the Witchlight with the standard cover here from Wizards of the Coast at Amazon now (or order the alternate shimmering, soft-touch edition from your local game shop). It arrives in just one week, next Tuesday, September 21, 2021. Anyone who has ever been to a carnival will appreciate all the levels of fun put into this adventure. And don’t forget, you can pre-order Strixhaven: Curriculum of Chaos here–it’s expected to arrive November 16, 2021.