The Wild Beyond the Witchlight: Reimagined
Welcome to part three of The Wild Beyond the Witchlight: Reimagined, an expansion and alternative take on the The Wild Beyond the Witchlight campaign. Are you wondering, “There’s been how many of these things? What even is this?” then please check out the previous entries in the series before diving in here:
- Intro: Reimagining The Wild Beyond the Witchlight
- Part 0: Adventure Outline
- Part I: Preparation
- Part II: Lost Things
Last Updated: 8/11/22 (Added Luca Oxley portrait)
When going strictly by the book, the way the campaign is laid out is that your party visits the Witchlight Carnival in the Lost Things prologue and then immediately goes there again eight years later in Chapter 1 of the main campaign. From my perspective, the players need a bit of breathing room between visits or they might suffer from carnival exhaustion. To help with this I’ve developed the content we’re about to jump into to kick things off after the time skip.
Keep in mind before you begin that your players should now switch to their Level 1 characters. If they don’t have them ready, consider having them use the “Final Character Creation” section of the character primer I put together at this link to do so now.
Back to School
As you’ll remember all of the PCs should be students of a magical school. While this is certainly not a full on school campaign like Strixhaven, it will still be a fun time to take a quick trip to the classroom.
Read the following to set the stage. As a reminder I’ll be highlighting references to Waterdeep in yellow so you can adjust for your campaign if desired.
It’s been eight years since that day at the Witchlight Carnival and you all find yourselves in the courtyard in front of Blackstaff Tower. Compared to the events surrounding the carnival – the intervening years have been relatively quiet beyond your studies.
[Note: Use this time to speak to any tidbits about the past eight years you want to call out, such as things the players mentioned at the end of Lost Things]
From the outside, Blackstaff Tower is made of smooth black stone with no windows or doors. While tall it doesn’t look particularly large, but you know of course that it is significantly bigger than it appears – a simple matter of magic. This has been your second home for so long, but now it’s the first day of your last year. It’s a bittersweet feeling.
At this point I would provide some time for your party to gather together and have some idle chat in the courtyard. How was everyone’s summer? What are you looking forward to this year? Oh boy, I wish I hadn’t lost my best friend at the carnival eight years ago (as happened to one of my players)!
From there it’s time to have The League, our homebrewed younger versions of the The League of Malevolence, make their grand return. While The League are eight years older as well, they’re arguably not any more mature. A potential way to “kick” things off, is to have Mell (Warduke) suddenly try to trip one of your players with a requisite “Watch where you’re going loser” tossed in. Feel free to allow a DC 12 Dexterity saving throw for the unfortunate target from your party to get the dice moving.
The party will then see that Mell, as well as the rest of the group of ragtag bullies – Kelek, Skylla, Zargash, and Zarak, have arrived in the courtyard. If Mell is successful in his tripping attempt, they’ll likely laugh in unison at the prank. This is intended to just keep the party’s hatred of The League burning hot, so keep things short and try to avoid an all out fight. That said, if you’d like a little bit of a tussle I’d recommend keeping it to one or two rounds. You can use the following stat blocks to represent The League at this point in time.
- Mell – Guard (Basic Rules)
- Kelek – Apprentice Wizard (Volo’s Guide to Monsters / Monsters of the Multiverse) or Acolyte (Basic Rules)
- Skylla – Cultist (Basic Rules)
- Zargash – Acolyte (Basic Rules)
- Zarak – Goblin (Basic Rules) or Bandit (Basic Rules)
I had the party notice a teacher coming to interrupt, and The League slink off to orientation in the meantime. If a fight did break out the teacher would also heal up anyone who may have gotten knocked unconscious (not to mention a harsh talking to!). Speaking of which, this is a good moment to have teachers and staff usher students out of the courtyard and into the school for their last year orientation.
Use the following to set the stage for orientation:
As you enter through the teleportation circle, enchanted marble steps lead up to a set of open double doors with handles carved in the likeness of robed scholars. This leads directly into the main hall where students of all ages are seated awaiting orientation. A sense of welcome familiarity washes over you as you step inside.
Before long a speech breaks out and interrupts your revelry. “Students,” says a rich voice radiating from the podium at the back of the grand hall. “Your attention, please.” The source is unmistakable – it’s the headmaster Vajra Safrah, “The Blackstaff,” clutching her namesake – the majestic black staff of Waterdeep.
She continues. “Blackstaff tower will be your home for research and studies over the next year. But tomfoolery and misbehavior will not be tolerated. The open lord, Laeral Silverhand has requested all students be made aware of the city’s laws and that your studies not break any – whether purposeful or not.”
Almost as if timed, one of the professors passes by and hands you a piece of parchment with a list of rules. Ah yes and one more thing – the Witchlight Carnival.” The students gasp in excitement. “Yes it’s true, it’s returning tonight after 8 years. And despite my concerns we’ve decided to give you the evening off to attend. Have a great time.” She doesn’t seem to be very authentic about it. “Now… let’s get into some of the other details.”
The orientation can be an opportunity to work in a bit of flavor. Perhaps a professor is linked to one of the PC’s backstories? Maybe The League makes a few disruptions and blames them on your party? If you’re using Waterdeep as your initial setting, the Code Legal from Waterdeep: Dragon Heist can be a nice touch as the handout for the rules. Or you can just run it as is. From here though you can simply describe that the rest of the orientation proceeds as usual.
At this point I decided to give my players a little boon. A somewhat common homebrew rule is to allow players to choose a free feat at Level 1. While not as powerful, I decided to let my players to select what they’ve been up to at school outside of their studies for a bonus and as a way to further flesh out their characters. Many of the activities are inspired by Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos. This is entirely optional but it went over well at my table!
[Optional] “School Boon” Handout
Instructions: In addition to your studies, you’ve all kept busy. As a result of your time at school, choose one of the following boons:
- Art Club: You were a member of the society of fine arts and drama
- Select a charisma based ability you are not already proficient in. You gain proficiency in that ability.
- Avid Reader: You spent most of your time with your nose between books
- Select an intelligence or wisdom based ability you are not already proficient in. You gain proficiency in that ability.
- Intramural Athlete: You played on an intramural sports team
- Select a dexterity based ability you are not already proficient in. You gain proficiency in that ability.
- Iron Lifter: You were a member of the iron-lifters club
- Select a strength based ability you are not already proficient in. You gain proficiency in that ability.
- Handy Tinkerer: You were a member of the shop club
- You gain proficiency in an additional tool of your choice (you do not receive the tool though)
- Hard at Work: You spent most of your time working odd jobs to earn some extra coin
- You gain 100 gold and a +2 bonus to persuasion and deception checks involving money (e.g., to broker a deal, to value an item)
- LARPer: You were a member of the live-action roleplaying club
- You gain a +1 bonus to initiative rolls
- Polygot: You were a member of the language society
- You learn an additional language
- Sprinter: You were a member of the running club
- Your walking speed is increased by 5 feet and once per day you can take a dash action as a bonus action
Saved by the Bell
Following orientation the players head to their first class of the day – history! I recommend using a map here to really capture the classroom feeling (I used “The Wizarding School Classroom Battle Map” by 2minutetabletop but any will do). Given the Waterdeep backdrop of my campaign, I used Linden Tallowick, a half-elf wizard from the Waterdeep City Encounters supplement, as the professor here, but anyone will do (even potentially a direct connection a PC’s background).
Once everyone is settled, you can use the following to get class started:
“Ahem!” Linden Tallowick, a thin half-elf with a disheveled look about him clears his throat to quiet the class. You all know him of course as he’s the headmaster’s assistant, but also a professor at the tower. “Just because it’s the first day doesn’t mean we can’t do some learning. How about some history?” A few students groan.
This is a prime opportunity for a tinsy bit of a knowledge dump, but you can adjust the topics to whatever you would like to best fit your campaign. I ran it as follows:
- The professor opens things up by stating that since the Witchlight Carnival is coming to town, it’s a great time for a discussion on the Feywild. Many of the carnival’s staff are from the land of the Fae after all
- The professor will then ask the class to share what they know about the Feywild and call upon students to answer
- The first question will be if anyone knows the three rules of conduct of the Feywild. From my perspective this is a nice way to introduce the rules to the players
- From there the professor will open it up to anything else the class knows about the Feywild
- Players can answer with knowledge they happen to already know, or you can feed them info with a successful DC 12 History check using the “Feywild Knowledge” section below or any other bits you want to add in
- If a player gets an answer correct, I recommend to award them with inspiration (which will come in handy for the carnival). Remember that a player can’t stack inspiration, so this helps encourage more players to get in on the fun
- If you want to make things more of a competition, you can have players roll Dexterity contests to see who gets their arm up first and limit the amount of times the professor will query the class
- Luca Oxley, who is likely sitting in the front row, will always shoot his arm up to try to answer
- As a know-it-all, Luca will always answer correctly if given the opportunity but it will likely elicit groans from the rest of the class
- You can use the Priest stat block (Basic Rules) to represent Luca at this point in time. He has a +0 to Dexterity checks
- I didn’t have The League in the same class as the PCs, but you definitely could (their recommended stat blocks are in the “Back to School” section above)
- Once everyone’s had a chance to answer a question, or things seem to be going overlong, you can have the professor share any pieces from the “Feywild Knowledge” section you want to share as a lecture (you don’t have to cover everything) and then wrap up the class
- The three rules of conduct (see “Rules of Conduct” from the campaign book)
- Rule of Hospitality: When a friend, an enemy, or a stranger enters your home, you are expected to be gracious and accommodating to them until such time as they prove, by their words or actions, undeserving of such hospitality.
- Rule of Ownership: You must not steal from a friend, an enemy, or a stranger. To take something that doesn’t belong to you without the rightful owner’s permission is a crime and an unforgivable breach of etiquette.
- Rule of Reciprocity: When a friend, an enemy, or a stranger offers you a gift, you are obliged to accept it and offer something of comparable value (be it a gift or a service) in return. Such reciprocation need not happen immediately.
- The Feywild is a parallel plane to the Material Plane. Because of this, the Feywild mirrors the Material Plane in some ways, though exact locations are hard to pin down
- Unlike the Material Plane, the Feywild is full of unpredictable magical energy that can sometimes be influenced by emotions
- Accessing the Feywild is done via Fey Crossings, magical portals that are often well hidden or require rituals to use
- It is accessible through ancient or untamed places – fey crossing; well guarded secrets
- Time flows strangely at times when compared to the Material Plane
- Making a pact or a promise with a fey is magically binding and should be done with caution
- Fey are especially vulnerable to weapons made of cold iron – a rare material only found in the Feywild (Note: This is not part of the core campaign, but is an addition that will be relevant later in the WBtW: Reimagined)
- That there is an inherent protection for children – they cannot be harmed in the Feywild
- I leave it to you to decide whether to keep the protection for children (see “Children of Prismeer” section from the book). On the one hand, kids play heavily in The Wild Beyond the Witchlight and it’s likely not a good fit to have children getting hurt at most tables
- That said, you may want to have an emotional scene where a child is in danger or hurt for a stronger narrative. If you do decide to not keep it I would recommend making sure your players are aligned with you
[Optional] Biology Bonanza
At this point it’s very likely your party has not yet had a full combat encounter. If you think your party would appreciate a chance to swing some swords and sling some spells then have your players move on to biology class after history wraps up. If not, you can simply narrate out the rest of the day and skip to the next section.
Use the following to set the scene. As with history class, feel free to use any character as the professor.
As you enter the classroom you see the tables have been set up with a mixture of test tubes, beakers, and other glassware as well as sets of cutting tools. A number of large potted plants dot the room, each labeled as if a scientific experiment. More strangely, each table also has a squat fungus-like creature with large mushroom caps heads placed on it. The creatures seem completely motionless.
The professor speaks up as the class gets organized. “Now, now – get into groups class! There should be enough myconids per group, and don’t worry – they’re quite dead I promise you.”
- For our purposes, the “group” that your players organize into should be your party
- You can have your players roll a DC 10 History or Nature check to determine whether they are familiar with myconids. On a success, you can share that they are fungal creatures native to the Underdark with the ability to communicate telepathically
After a few moments, the professor announces that the myconid bodies were donated, and that the class will be conducting dissections for the purpose of learning more about them. However, before anyone can begin…
Suddenly chaos breaks out in the room as your fellow classmates yell out in surprise. Glass shatters and papers go shooting into the air as you see the creatures have come alive. Or at least in a way. The stench of undeath is unmistakable – these are clearly zombies! The one on the table closest to you lurches forward. It looks like there’s no choice but to defend yourselves. Hopefully you’ve been paying attention in your classes…
- Your players should now roll initiative to engage in combat with the undead myconids (two undead bolets and one undead shambler). As a note, combat encounters in The Wild Beyond the Witchlight: Reimagined are based on a party of four PCs
- The other groups and the professor are engaged with the rest of the myconids in the room and are unable to assist the party. However, if it looks like a party member might die, you may choose to have the professor interfere (Mage stat block from the Monster Manual)
If played correctly the myconids can give the party a run for their money. Remember that your PCs are only at Level 1 and thus typically have very low amounts of hit points, so be careful!
The two Undead Bolets can play off on another. If one lands a successful Noxious Bite on a target, it will make them especially susceptible to Slumber Spores from the other. Fungal Escape and Plant Camouflage can also be used in combination. If there are plants in the classroom for them to hide behind, they’ll have advantage on a Hide action via Fungal Escape. Once hidden they can potentially attack with advantage.
Meanwhile, the Undead Shambler’s Death Burst action makes it especially frightening if the party clusters. It can be a nasty surprise in particular at the end of the fight if the party is bunching up to kill it (given its Undead Fortitude) but then it explodes.
Once the creatures are defeated, read the following
As you look around you the class has defeated the other remaining creatures. The professor, clearly exhausted and covered in muck, limps slightly as he returns to the front of the class. “My apologies class. It looks like we got a bad batch there. However, you all did fantastic work and I think we can consider the rest of today’s course done.”
Myconids will play a key role later in the campaign. As per the Adventure Outline, Tasha will magically knock out all of the inhabitants of the Summer Palace. This will be done through the use of myconid spores.
School’s Out Forever
With classes complete, you can have the party dismissed from school to go and enjoy the carnival as per the headmaster’s promise.
I wanted to highlight some of the resources I used for this portion of the campaign in case they’re helpful! I’ve included the creator credits as well, but if you are a creator and would like your file removed just let me know.
- Classroom Map | “The Wizarding School Classroom Battle Map” by 2minutetabletop
- Introduction Music | “Let’s go on an adventures!” by Travis Savoie
- The League Theme | “Dishonorable Fight” from Bully (extended version by kendowater)
- Welcome to School | The Crystarium Theme #2 ( Knowledge Never Sleeps ) from Final Fantasy XIV
- School Background Music | “Books And Spellcrafting School” by Travis Savoie (requires Patreon subscription)
- Biology Bonanza Combat Music | “Location: The Swamp” from Shadow Fight 3 (extended version by Hờ` Vờ“)
Thank you for taking the time to read through, and I hope the interlude (being the first entirely homebrew section of the reimagining) is a good fit for your campaign.
In terms of Part IV – we’ll be returning back to the Witchlight Carnival. This will be a big one so hope you’re looking forward to it. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out with any comments, questions, or suggestions and… see you in the Feywild!