The Wild Beyond the Witchlight: Reimagined
Welcome to part one of The Wild Beyond the Witchlight: Reimagined (also to be referred to as WBtW: Reimagined)! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I highly recommend you check out my write-up explaining the series. Also, it should hopefully be obvious, but there will be spoilers for the campaign, so turn back now if you’re a player (or at least don’t tell your DM – not that I would ever approve of such things)!
One last thing before we begin. This is a supplement, and not a replacement, for the campaign book. I strongly encourage you to the read the book cover to cover as a first step.
Lost Things and Adventure Hooks
You may or may not have heard about Lost Things, an official prequel released for free online (the PDF of which you can find at this link). WBtW: Reimagined will be utilizing Lost Things, so definitely go ahead and give it a download and a read if you haven’t. In this prequel, the players start out as kids taking a trip to the Witchlight Carnival eight years before the events of the campaign. We’ll dive more into this later.
In the campaign itself, you’re presented with two potential hooks for your players to kick things off: “Lost Things” (confusingly the same name as the prequel I mentioned) and “Warlock’s Quest.” I’m going to start with the latter as — *spoiler alert* — I’m going to toss it and Madryck Roslof directly in the bin. In this hook you’re summoned by a warlock living on a pumpkin farm, of all places, to free his archfey patron for a vague promise of treasure. So what’s the problem with this hook?
- You’re forced to create a connection between the players and Madryck, a NPC they will likely never see again as the entire campaign is set in the Feywild
- Similarly, the players are promised the reward of treasure, but even if they make their way back at the end of the campaign — what good is treasure when the adventure is over?
- The entire interaction comes across as an explain-a-thon and isn’t the most exciting campaign opening
- Lastly, and this is specific to the reimagining, but the goal of WBtW: Reimagined is no longer to free Zyblina and thus it simply doesn’t work for our purposes
So let’s turn around and examine the “Lost Things” hook. Why do I prefer it?
- Personal stakes. If I’m a player and someone steals something from me, I’m immediately invested. Whoever stole it not only needs to give it back, but they need to pay dearly for the crime. Even better, we’re going to run the Lost Things prequel adventure as well – which means the theft will actually *happen* to the player and not just be a line of backstory
- There are more opportunities for roleplaying as players deal with their individual losses
- Unlike the “reward” from Madyrick, there’s a clear payoff when the players finally retrieve their lost things later on in (but not at the very end of) the campaign
- Events are much more interesting when they unfold naturally through the carnival and the adventures of the players in the Feywild
- To my point above, as we’re removing freeing Zyblina as a goal, personal stakes are critical to engage your players in venturing into the Feywild
So what’s the bottom line? Lost Things > The Farming Warlock
The Unicorn Horn
In the book, you are told there is a story-critical unicorn horn whose location you should roll to determine. When it comes to items like this that are important to the narrative (see Curse of Strahd for another prime example), my inclination is to disregard these instructions and instead place them in the area that best serves the adventure. For the purposes of the WBtW: Reimagined, we will ignore this part. The unicorn horn topic will return later.
Creating characters for this campaign is actually more complicated than it first looks for a number of reasons. Firstly, as we’re going to be running the Lost Things prologue, it is actually necessary for the players to create two versions of their characters: one as children, for the prologue, and one as adults, for the main campaign. As a result, you’ll need to make sure they’re in the know about the planned eight-year time skip between the introduction and the main story. The prologue provides the rules for creating the younger character versions, but I wanted to add a few thoughts:
- The rules present different set of stats depending on whether you are a younger or older child. I did away with this and simply used the “Younger Kids” rules for simplicity given the short length of the prologue. Plus, it’s fun to get the Lucky feat!
- For humans and similar races I would suggest your players choose characters aged 10 to 14. After the time skip, this ensures the characters are at least 18 years old and essentially adults. It also means you won’t have PCs who are too young to understand what’s happening or too old to fit in with the others
- Lost Things suggests that each player create a connection to Juniper. Given the “School’s Out” section below, I don’t believe this is necessary. The fact that the party found and have been caring for Juniper together should be enough
- Keep in mind, if the player has a physical Lost Thing planned (such as a previous piece of jewelry), that they should have this on their person as well
The Wild Beyond the Witchlight is also clearly a fish-out-of-water story (such as the classic 1995 film A Kid in King Arthur’s Court). However, the campaign offers a number of character options that seem opposed to this concept as they all provide you with insider Feywild knowledge.
- Two new races (Fairies and Harengon), both of which originate from the Feywild
- The Feylost background, which focuses on your character having taken a wrong left turn into another plane
- The Witchlight Hand background, where your character is actually working (minimum wage?) at the Witchlight Carnival
This isn’t to say, by any means, that you should disallow these options, but you should be thoughtful in how they’re used to maximize the campaign’s focus on the unknown. In terms of the races, there are a lot of ways to get around a player being a Fairy or Harengon and knowing all the nooks and crannies of Plane of Faerie. For one, perhaps they were born in the Feywild, left for the material plane when they were young, and have little memory of their first home. Maybe they’ve never been to the Feywild at all, and are part of an enclave of ex-Feyfolk on the Sword Coast that only whisper of their past in the Summer Court. Just partner with your players on something that works for everyone.
The Feylost background essentially solves itself by stating that “your memories of the Feywild grow fainter with each passing day.” This provides the perfect out to avoid providing your player with the Wikipedia article on the Feywild. Instead just share some interesting nuggets of knowledge and perhaps even sprinkle in some moments of sudden remembrance across the adventure. There are even some clear parallels you could work in with the Fairy and Harengon races if needed. One thing to be careful of, since we’ll be running the Lost Things prequel, is that a childhood disappearance into the Feywild might cross over. Just something to keep an eye out for.
Lastly, there’s the Witchlight Hand background. This one is a bit more troublesome. It has the same drawbacks as the “Warlock’s Quest” hook, in that the player will know too much about the carnival (instead of naturally learning and exploring alongside everyone else). It also means you’ll need to somehow work in during the prologue that the player attended the carnival as a child, lost something dear to them, and then has been working there but never discovered its true secrets. This is all not to mention having to deal with the tag-along Carnival Companion the player gets. As a result I’d recommend you avoid it — but if not, it may just take a bit more work to integrate.
Lost Things (Again) and Other Thoughts
Given that a player’s lost thing is so crucial to the plot, I highly recommend avoiding rolling, and instead encouraging your players to choose something important to them so they feel the loss. I’ve seen some DMs worry about getting into the topic of lost things upfront, and instead try to hide it until the actual theft occurs. Do not do this! This is will not only likely result in a poor choice of lost thing, but the “twist” probably won’t go over well at your table. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised how players will make very narratively interesting choices for their lost things.
Another consideration to keep in mind is that the vast majority of the campaign takes place in the Feywild. As a result, certain class features and backgrounds might be unsatisfying (e.g., a criminal background with no criminal underbelly to interact with), and players might choose to avoid certain options given this. I think it is important to share this fact with your players to avoid issues down the line.
Your players may also have potentially heard that The Wild Beyond the Witchlight is a campaign that offers non-combat solutions for all encounters. Given that this is not necessarily the case within WBtW: Reimagined, I would highly recommend you let your players know this so they don’t create a character that is helpless in combat (unless that’s their goal, of course). Similarly, while The Wild Beyond the Witchlight is generally kid-friendly, I wouldn’t necessarily say that WBtW: Reimagined will be. Use your own discretion!
The Lost Things prologue uses Juniper, an owlbear cub, as a way to explain why your party of children travels to the carnival together. If your players are anything like mine they will go crazy for Juniper. However, I couldn’t help but think that it was a thin reason on its own and wouldn’t really explain why the players were still together eight years later for the main adventure.
The release of Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos gave me the answer. How do kids usually make friends? School. What better way to force a bunch of kids together than bonding over the joys of learning?
Given my players were familiar with the city of Waterdeep from our last campaign together, I decided that their characters should all be students at Blackstaff Tower. However there are plenty of options for you to choose from, such as the aptly-named Neverwinter Academy in Neverwinter or even Strixhaven itself. Keep in mind this doesn’t mean your players need to all be wizards and sorcerers. Just like with Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos, I’d make your school be a place for learning for all classes – even if they’re barbarians who can’t read.
As a result, the prologue will take place while the players are on break from their first year at school, while after the time skip they’ll now instead be in their last year.
I will just say up front that I always use milestone leveling. I find that it reduces the burden of tracking XP, ensures the whole party is on an even playing field, and makes for rewarding moments when players level up after a big encounter. That’s not to say that XP leveling is wrong by any means, but I will be providing recommendations on when to level up your players and not balancing encounters in terms of XP earned. That said, if you want to use XP leveling you should feel free — it just may mean some work on your part.
When I complete the series I will come back here and summarize the specific points I recommend for level-ups (and feel free to bug me if I forget!).
Character Creation Primer
To wrap things up for today, I want to share with you a handout I created to aid with character creation. You can provide this to your players, either before or during Session 0, to help guide them in their efforts if you so choose. You can find it at this link and I hope it’s helpful! Just download it or make a copy and then delete the notes I left for you.
Firstly, I want to thank you for taking the time to read through and I hope it’s helpful in your planning efforts. I also want to give thanks to all of the wonderful content creators out there who have already done so much to add to this module.
In terms of Part II – we’ll be covering the Lost Things prologue, as well as some of my own additions to begin spicing things up. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out with any comments, questions, or suggestions and… see you in the Feywild!
16 thoughts on “Part I: Preparation”