The Wild Beyond the Witchlight: Reimagined
Welcome to part two of The Wild Beyond the Witchlight: Reimagined, an expansion and alternative take on the The Wild Beyond the Witchlight campaign. Please check out the previous entries in the series before diving in here!
Last Updated: 8/11/22 (Added Luca Oxley portrait)
As mentioned in Part 1, we will start our adventure with the Lost Things prologue found at this link. In the prologue, the players travel to the Witchlight Carnival as children and then are summarily robbed of something precious to them. Before starting, make sure your players have created kid versions of their characters following the instructions in Lost Things or using the character primer hand-out I developed.
Without further ado – let’s dive in to Lost Things!
Part 0: The Carnival Arrives
As written, the introduction is very brief, a simple trip through an idyllic childhood summer and the party’s rendezvous with an owlbear cub. Firstly, I recommend preparing a handout for Juniper (especially if you’re using a virtual tabletop like Roll20) to help build an emotional connection with their new friend. I used this picture by the talented Sarah Lindstrom to represent Juniper.
As per the “School’s Out” section of Part 1 of WBtW: Reimagined your players should all be students together from a school of your choice. As I used Blackstaff Tower, you will see it or other Waterdeep specific items mentioned throughout the series, but just replace the names if you’re using something else (I’ll highlight them in yellow so you don’t forget).
Given the student background of the PCs, I would add a call-out to this effect to the intro by changing “Together, you’ve slid down haystacks…” to “During the break from your first year of studies at Blackstaff Tower, you’ve all slid down haystacks…”
The next portion, “The Carnival Arrives” heralds the carnival’s descent and the escape of our dear Juniper. However, we’re going to break this up to provide a bit more breathing room to get to know everyone’s characters, introduce a few NPCs, and provide a reason for Juniper’s escape. Replace the first paragraph with the following and then stop reading there (we will use the rest of the content later). You may need to adjust this if any of your players are using backgrounds that connect to the carnival.
As the weeks wheel by, days turn shorter, and rain forces many of your games indoors. Just when the leaves begin to turn and school is set to restart, there’s the most exciting news – the Witchlight Carnival is coming to visit Waterdeep to offer a final breath of summer. You’ve only heard of it of course as the Witchlight Carnival only visits every 8 years, but on the scheduled day you’ve gathered by a clearing just outside of town where it’s set to arrive in anticipation.
With the party gathered at the clearing I used this as an opportunity to have everyone describe their characters and have some idle chit chat about the impending carnival. Take part in the fun by playing out some of Juniper’s antics – perhaps she’s rolling around or nibbling on a treat.
The League of Malevolence
Before we continue, a quick discussion about a certain ragtag group of villains. The League of Malevolence, while admittedly a cool call-back, seems to almost have been thrown into the campaign for nostalgia’s sake. They have very little in the way of motivation, direct tie-in to the plot, and for the most part don’t even show up until the conclusion at the Palace of Heart’s Desire. But there’s no question we need to keep them – just look at Warduke’s helmet!
So how do we make the league more meaningful? We’ll need to change a lot. But first, let’s bring them into the story earlier. Much earlier. As in now!
Meeting the League
Once your party has settled in waiting for the carnival, it’s time for it’s long awaited arrival. Kick things back off with the following:
As you wait in the clearing, the carnival’s colorful wagons suddenly soar down from the sky, pulled by horses wearing butterfly wings. As you watch in amazement, the carnival quickly begins to set up nearby. The fairground is stood up so incredibly fast it must be magic! You’re not far and you all share the same tense excitement. Even Juniper seems caught up in it – her eyes shining eagerly.
You’re so taken in by the arrival of the carnival that you’re caught unawares when a group of five other children approach. One of them pushes past Juniper, knocking her to the ground. She shuffles behind you all quivering. When you tear your attention away from the lights of the Witchlight Carnival you recognize them immediately. It’s the so-called “The League” – a group of bullies, delinquents, and tormentors from school.
That’s right, I’ve temporarily shifted Warduke and company into the “The League”, a group no-good kids to trouble your players. Through some Feywild shenanigans we’ll still have The League of Malevolence later though, don’t you worry!
For now, introduce the five miscreants as kids of a similar age to your players. Keep the descriptions to their physical characteristics like Zarak being a goblin, and Warduke being larger and more muscled than others his age, while removing things like Warduke’s helmet. They are kids after all! Speaking of Warduke, while the other members of The League have decent enough names for our purposes – Warduke sticks out like a sore thumb. I renamed him to Mell for now.
Spice things up by providing The League with some theme music to use for this scene and whenever they show up in the future. I used “Dishonorable Fight” from the Bully video game. Check out the “Resources” section below for all of the music I used during Lost Things.
Roleplay the group as the bullies they are. Play Mell as a schoolyard tough with little in the way of booksmarts, who demands the little pocket change the PCs have (“Empty your pockets losers!”). Meanwhile Zarak can be the gleeful cheerleader to Mell’s antics. Liberal use of PG rated insults here, especially ones tailored to your players, will really help to cement The League as enemies to your party. I’ll share a few examples, but keep in mind The League are the bad guys and this is definitely groan worthy stuff. For reference, the party in the campaign I’m running are three orphans, one deaf character, and one outcast Lizardfolk.
- “Admiring the carnival? Ha! Fat chance you lot can afford tickets. Bunch of orphans, cripples, and nobodies.”
- “You smell like you came from a donation drive.”
- “Are you going to cry? Maybe you can ask your patents for help? Oh wait – they’re dead!”
Introducing the Boy Wizard
While we definitely want to avoid a fight at this point given the players are Level 0 and children, they still may be able to defuse the situation (such as with Persuasion or Intimidation checks).
If tensions between The League and your party heighten to the point where punches are about to be thrown it’s time to interfere with the following. If the party does manage to handle The League on their own though, you can simply have Luca arrive as The League depart and skip the sparks.
A shower of rainbow sparks burst in the air between you and The League. An eloquent voice cuts through the air. “Away with you! I am Luca Oxley, the boy wizard, and I command you to leave.”
The League turn to each other in confusion. After a moment Mell shrugs. “Fine – didn’t ask for a fight with no real wizard. See you losers later.” With that The League stomps off.
Luca is a boy around your age with tussled blonde hair and bright blue eyes. “A job well done I think.” With the matter resolved he extends a hand. “Luca Oxley, boy wizard – at your service!”
Firstly, let me say that the “boy wizard” was intended as a reference to Harry Potter. However, soon after I planned this, the (amazing) Not Another D&D Podcast also used the term for a character. I decided to keep it, but it’s up to you if don’t like the overlap. In any case – don’t be surprised if your party makes fun of Luca for his self-made moniker.
WHO IS LUCA OXLEY
Luca is your classic academic and gifted student – a Hermione Granger type if you will. This is subtly hinted at as he casts a spell to interrupt the conflict, whereas none of your PCs likely have any spells at this point. He should be played as very friendly and amiable even if not everyone appreciates his smarts.
Your players should likely recognize him from school, but if you’d prefer you could have them roll History checks to determine if they remember the boy wizard. Whereas The League provides the players with clear rivals, Luca provides a more friendly classmate for the PCs to interact with.
As a hint of things to come – Luca and The League are going to be sucked into the Feywild along with the party in the Hall of Illusions at the Witchlight Carnival. By introducing them early it will hopefully foster a stronger connection between the party and these NPCs when they reconnect later on in the Feywild.
After providing the PCs some time to get acquainted with Luca, he will excuse himself stating that he must be going to meet his parents at the carnival. With that it is finally time to finish up this first part of Lost Things. Read the following or adjust as needed if a player asks about Juniper.
Distracted by the commotion you almost entirely missed that Juniper has run away, scrambling excitedly through the fields in the direction of the carnival!
You give chase at once, and before you know it, you’ve darted through the bushes and trespassed into the carnival site…without a ticket! A sign nearby has a stark warning: entry without a ticket is strictly forbidden. Juniper must be somewhere close though, and you must rescue her before the carnival whisks her away on its magical journey. Eight years is a long time!
Alternatively, you might choose to let your players break-in on their own as opposed to narrating it for them (thanks to u/mediacontender for the suggestion). If you choose to play out the break-in:
- You’ll likely want to have them sneak past patrolling Witchlight Hands or other carnival staff with Stealth checks. The “Witchlight Carnival” chapter of the book suggests a DC 15, but given the players are Level 0 at this point I suggest a lower DC around 12
- I might also allow players a “second chance” if they fail. For example if a player is spotted by a Witchlight Hand, perhaps they can then make a Dexterity check to quickly dash behind a tent
- There’s also the opportunity for your players to get creative here too (i.e., perhaps they cause a distraction that gives them all advantage on their Stealth checks)
Keep in mind that the prologue is predicated on the players heading directly to the carnival and not paying for tickets. If you feel your players might go off course I would recommend to stick with the narration approach.
Part 1: Carnival Games
At the outset Juniper is described as running to the clown Candlefoot. As a result it’s almost a certainty that your players will make a direct beeline for his caravan. Candlefoot’s story makes for the perfect wrap-up after some games though, so I’d consider requiring a DC10 Perception check (what the book describes as “Challenging”) to spot this happening. Additionally, Candlefoot should be adamant to not let the players in until they’ve acquired the three carnival prize entry fee.
From there the games themselves are generally fine as is. They’re simple skill checks or random rolls for the most part, but it will make the party’s return trip to the Witchlight Carnival that much more exciting when they realize they were essentially in the little kid section of the fairground the first time around.
Lost Things suggests to “create opportunities to steal from the characters as much as possible.” I believe it’s much more impactful to have the Thieves of Coven strike after Candlefoot’s Story Hour, and all at once, for maximum impact and to create a shift in narrative tone (from light and fun when playing games to much darker as the player’s hear about the hags, are robbed, and then kicked out of the carnival). It also has the benefit of avoiding the problem of the PCs somehow continuing to enjoy the carnival even though their precious things keep being lifted.
Speaking of which, make sure to liven up the atmosphere. The book provides a table of scenes you can work in between games, and you should also plan to describe some of the key players wandering the grounds. The most critical are:
- Hurly the bugbear. This will provide a key connection when the party learns he has disappeared in Chapter 1
- Dirlagraun and her cub Star. Similarly, to provide context when Star later goes missing in Chapter 1
- I would recommend avoiding introducing Mr. Witch and Mr. Light until events are wrapping up in “Farewell to Childhood” to the make the moment more impactful
You may also want to show very small glimpses of the thieves to hint at things to come (thank you to u/yaniism for the suggestion). Just little things like a glance at Sowpig’s mask in a crowd giving the PCs a weird sense of unease can go a long way to hint that things are not all what they seem.
When the party has gone through all of the games (or is tired of them), they should head to Candlefoot’s caravan where they are reunited with Juniper and listen to Candlefoot’s story. When telling the story, be careful not to mention any of the names of The Hourglass Coven, and especially not Tasha. If your players are very familiar with Forgotten Realms lore, even the story as is might be too much of a clue and may require cutting back or replacement on your part.
Be prepared for the players to be adamant about wanting to take Juniper back with them. Candlefoot should be able to talk them down by explaining about “sharing” and how he would be sad to lose her. On this note, neither Lost Things nor The Wild Beyond the Witchlight state who Juniper’s owner actually is. To simplify things I just made Candlefoot be her owner and removed the bits about Juniper’s daddy and the bell.
The Thieves of the Coven Strike
After leaving the story hour, or exhausting the carnival of games, the PCs, who trespassed without tickets, should be accosted by the Thieves of the Coven and have their Lost Things stolen. As I mentioned previously, have this happen all at once for the most impact and to avoid the PCs having time to react or leave the carnival. While the thieves have stat blocks, just have the theft occur as something that is unpreventable. This is the core hook of the plot and shouldn’t be circumvented.
Feel free to use the following to describe the thefts. If you have more than three players then have the same thief go after more than one player at once. I also would recommend sharing pictures of each thief as they attack (but without the names included).
Moving quicker than your eye can see, you only for a moment can spot the small creature rushing towards you. It remind you of a toad but is humanoid in shape. It grins and you can’t help but cover your ears as it screeches and blurs in your direction.
As bubbles glisten and float by in the air, you spot a grey-skinned girl in the distance watching you. Her face is covered by an unsettling pig mask and she’s holding an oversized lollipop. You turn away from the sight and then she is somehow in front of you. Her lollipop swings down before you can react.
A group of performers strolls by. Unlike the others, dressed in a rainbow of color, the one is back is all in black and wears a crescent moon mask. You know something seems off and it takes you a moment – the figure has no shadow! Before you can tell your friends, the shadow is in front of you and lashes up at your body…
After things wrap up I would describe how the players feel light-headed and their vision cloudy, but that it quickly passes. But something doesn’t feel quite right – it’s as if they’ve lost something….
Give the players a moment to realize what’s happened, but the commotion caused by the theft should quickly lead to Hurly and/or Dirlagraun to escorting the party to meet the carnival owners for being troublemakers.
Part 2: Farewell to Childhood
I don’t have much to add to the last section of Lost Things. The Witchlight Carnival owners should play coy about the thefts and then summarily kick the PCs out of the carnival.
I would follow the advice of the book and get a sense from your players of what they think they’ll be getting up in the years to come as well as their thoughts about the carnival. Make sure to note these things down. As the players create their now adult Level 1 characters, feel free to refer them to “Final Character Creation” section of the character primer I put together at this link.
As you wrap things up it’s now time for the eight year interlude between the prologue and main adventure which will be the focus of my next entry. Looking forward to talking to you again soon.
I have highlighted some of the resources I used for this portion of the campaign below:
- Juniper Handout | “Owlbear Cub” by Sarah Lindstrom
- Introduction Music | “Bright Beginnings” by Travis Savoie
- Waiting for the Carnival | “Adventurers Day Off” by Travis Savoie
- The League Theme | “Dishonorable Fight” from Bully (extended version by kendowater)
- Carnival Music
- The Hourglass Coven Thieves Attack | “Bavlorna’s Cottage” by Travis Savoie
- Meeting the Owners | “Misgivings” from Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask
As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out with any comments, questions, or suggestions. As this is the first entry with actual gameplay, I’d definitely appreciate any feedback on the format and/or things you’d like to see in the future. Thanks for reading and… see you in the Feywild!