Part V: Murkendraw (Welcome to the Swamp)

The Wild Beyond the Witchlight: Reimagined

Welcome to part five 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!

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Introduction

Welcome to Murkendraw

Art by tzlynart

As per the Adventure Outline, Hither has been replaced by Murkendraw for WBtW: Reimagined. The two are very similar – both are vast swamps and, for the most part, the core content and story beats of Hither have been migrated over for our purposes. So why the name change?

  • Given we are using the broader Feywild over the domain of Prismeer, there is little reason for Hither (or Thither) to exist in our world. I’ve kept Yon as it still works to describe a far off icy land, and there isn’t a great name for Queen Mab’s unseelie kingdom otherwise from my perspective
  • Murkendraw is the home of Baba Yaga, Tasha’s adoptive mother, and thus also likely where Tasha was raised when under the care of the “Mother of all Witches.” While we won’t have Baba Yaga in our campaign, it still provides a strong evocative fit given Tasha is our BBEG. It also makes sense that Tasha would run “home” when fleeing her enemies in the pre-campaign period

Given the parallels though I will primarily be referencing the sections within the Hither chapter of the book. While this will sort of be the case in the future (referencing Thither for the Fields of Spring, Yon for Yon / The Winter Court), there will be a lot more homebrew within those sections than here in Murkendraw.

Travel through Murkendraw

While Murkendraw appears to be rather open-ended, the player’s path is likely to be much more linear than the Witchlight Carnival and will probably look something like the following:

  • Queen’s Way: The players descend from the causeway and encounter Agdon Longscarf’s brigands
  • Slanty Tower: Having gotten a glimpse of Sir Talavar’s balloon crash they will likely head to the tower
  • Telemy Hill: At Sir Talavar’s behest, the party will seek a key to his bird cage from Jingle Jangle
  • Brigand’s Tollway: In order to provide a key, Jingle Jangle would like his truffles back from Agdon
  • Downfall: With Sir Talavar freed, the party will head to the soggy court in search of their lost things
  • Bavlorna’s Cottage: The party’s search will lead them to the hag Bavlorna Blightstraw
  • Passage Away: Once the party is done in Murkendraw they will leave for the Fields of Spring (Thither)

As the players travel through Murkendraw there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Rather than just describe landmarks, I placed markers on the map to demonstrate the locations the players could go (and removed location names until they learned them) as well as where they currently were (see image below)
  • Additionally, tzlynart created the wonderful Painting Hither series which depicts each of the major locations within Murkendraw. I would highly recommend to show these as handouts to your players as they arrive to each area
  • Given that the reimagining does not use Prismeer, you can ignore the Prismeer Overview and A Domain Divided sections of the book. As per the Adventure Outline though, Murkendraw (but no other lands) is indeed walled in by an impassable mist of Bavlorna Blightstraw’s creation. This was done 10 years ago after the War of Seasons as a way for her to set herself up as the greatest power in the region
  • In terms of “Foraging in Prismeer” – this isn’t really a survival based campaign. It can be fun to sprinkle in the wacky treats, but I likely wouldn’t go too crazy with it unless you’ve designed your campaign for survival from the start
  • Make sure to remember all of the rules of the Feywild that were shared with the players during the Interlude. As per the books, the hags are not beholden to the Rules of Conduct.
I used markers to demonstrate where players could go (green) and where they currently were (red)

Murkendraw

Arrival in Murkendraw (Hither)

Once the players arrive from the carnival, read the following adjusted introduction text below. This helps to directly segway from the carnival and also show that, while Luca was indeed also transported to the Feywild, (the party would not know this though) that he is not with them. For your knowledge, Luca was instead taken to Yon.

When the mists finally clear you stand at the edge of a raised and broken causeway under a hazy, twilight sky. You look around at each of your groupmates but Luca Oxley is notably absent.

The causeway, which is built from pale stones that glow faintly from within, towers over the surrounding landscape, but large sections of it have crumbled away. The parts that remain in place are separated by large gaps where portions have collapsed.

A fog-shrouded swamp spreads out below you in all directions, and up from its murk wafts the smell of rotting plants. Also rising from the swamp is the music of nature—a discordant symphony of croaking frogs and singing birds. Despite the gloomy view, the air feels thicker and more alive than you’re used to and the scents and aroma hit your nose like nothing has ever before. This is assuredly not where you had been standing moments before…

From here the party needs to find a way down from the causeway through one of the options presented by the book (or one of their own devising). Keep in mind that it is 100 feet up here, which would be 10d6 bludgeoning damage if anyone were to fall, and certain death for our Level 2 players. I softened this to 3d6 by explaining their fall was broken by the muck of the swamp.

As the players descend and they spot Sir Talavar’s balloon I would add in that they are seeing this to the east, and perhaps even describe a hint of a tower through the fog. This will help point them in the right direction.

The Brigands

I made a few adjustments to this encounter:

  • Removed the reference to Prismeer in the marching song
  • I removed the giant crane that alerts the brigands. Let your players listen in and decide how to approach – perhaps they’ll even get a surprise round in? Keep in mind the harengons have a 14 passive perception for stealth rolls. That said, if your players are dallying, feel free to throw in a noisy crane or two
  • Don’t be afraid to let a fight break out here if the party is combat starved. However, it is a bit boring to fight six of the same statblock. As a result I mixed up the group into 2 harengon brigands, 2 harengon snipers, and Jebbek (a harengon brawler – a new stat block, see below). I would appropriately set-up the snipers in the back as they are more focused on ranged attacks, while Jebbek and the brigands man the front-lines
  • I used this map by Rich Robinson for the fight
  • Once the combat is complete there’s a chance the players will explore a bit
    • If they search for loot they should find Jebbek’s gourd (I’ve created a description below) and some knick-knacks (buttons, lint, spools of thread, etc.), but no money. As the giant snail is a pack animal I gave it a pack bag filled with 3 rations, a waterskin, and a tent
    • Speaking of the giant snail, if the party has anyone that can cast speak with animals or something similar they may try to bring the snail into their service. There’s no reason not to allow this and you can ask for a DC 12 Persuasion or Animal Handling check if desired. I named the snail Shelly

With brigands dealt with (or memories surrendered), it’s time for the party to head on out to their next destination!

Jebbek’s Delightful Gourd
Wondrous item, rare (requires attunement)

This gourd is sealed with a golden knob and can store up to 6 memories at a time. If a creature voluntarily touches the knob while you are holding the gourd, you can spend an action to siphon a happy memory of your choice from the creature. They lose the memory entirely as it becomes trapped.

As a bonus action you can expend one memory from the gourd, destroying the memory from existence. When doing so, roll a d4 and add the number rolled to one ability check of your choice within the next minute. You cannot repeat this ability until the die is used or expires.

As an action you can remove the stopper to release all of the memories trapped inside, whereupon they return to their original owners.

Random Encounters

I am going to say something that might be controversial (no, not that players should appreciate their DMs more) – I do not like random encounters in narrative campaigns. When I ran Tomb of Annihilation, a hex crawl, I used zero random encounters. This doesn’t mean I threw the content out, but just that I placed it in an order that makes sense, fleshed out the scenarios a bit, and cut ones that aren’t as interesting. The same will be true here.

I have numbered each random encounter. Every time the players go from one location to the next (e.g., from the Queen’s Tollway to Slanty Tower), play out the next random encounter in numeral order. In addition to the above, this will also make sure events that need to happen (like the Abandoned Raft) actually take place. If you think your players like the idea (but not necessarily the execution) of random events – you can be a bit naughty and still roll a die (but it doesn’t have any impact). On the other hand, if your players are seemingly done with these events you can stop after #4

1) Marsh Gas

I like to start off with this one as it’s a simple encounter with no plot impact and helps the players feel immersed in the swamp. Also, it means there might be some fun roleplaying opportunities at their upcoming destination (i.e. trying to sneak into Slanty Tower with a hiccuping player). Read the following to set the stage:

Stepping through the swamp your feet are wet and caked with mud. The water in front of you is brown and murky and you’re taken aback as a small bubble pops in the water in front of you and exhales a gaseous smell that reminds you of old cheese. You look ahead and see bubbles popping all over the path forward – probably best to be avoided.

I changed this from a group check to individual DC 10 Survival checks as the players pass through the field of bubbles. On a failure they pop one of the bubbles (no Constitution saving throw or otherwise it’s highly unlikely anyone will be impacted) and they should roll on the Marsh Gas table to determine the impact for themselves only.

This raises the stakes and also removes the awkward question of who is within 10 feet of the person who just popped a bubble. If an hour seems harsh, let your players make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw to end the gas effects at a point of your choosing.

2) Stream of Visions

As you continue through the swamp you chance upon a 10-foot-wide stream of surprisingly clear water. Finally, a chance to fill your waterskins.

Your players may naturally be suspicious of you stopping the action at an innocuous stream. I’d try to make it clear there’s nothing harmful here if you can. For example, if the party has Shelly with them, perhaps the giant snail is happily drinking the water.

I wanted to keep this encounter to only foreshadow events within Murkendraw, as otherwise it’s unlikely the party will remember these brief visions long enough for them to have any meaning. As a result I reduced the table to a d6 and only kept items #1, 2, 3, and 8 (as 1, 2, 3, and 4 on the new table). For #8 I recommend adding in some of the chatter from section D5 in Eventyr Game’s Hither supplement if you have it.

For a roll of 5 or 6 use the new vision below to provide a bit of new background lore on how Bavlorna secured power after putting up the mist wall (inspired by u/MLfan64’s take on the battlefield and thanks to Spork for bringing this to my attention). If the players have met Bavlorna before you can call her out by name.

A ragtag army of bullywugs, harengon, and red skinned creatures on stilts has gathered at the very stream you stand at, but by your estimation the vision seems to be from years in the past. They have makeshift weapons and scraps of armor and seem ready to engage with another group across the water. This opposing faction is headed by a hag with toad-like features who floats in the air menacingly on a giant lily pad. At her back are hundreds of small one-foot tall creatures that strongly resemble her as well as terrifying animated taxidermy creatures. As the vision fades you hear the faint sound of cackling as the two forces rush into battle.

As a last point, you could also potentially add in something from the Domain Transformation table in the book as a side event to liven things up (e.g., the croaking frog).

3) Stilt Walkers and Waterlogged Battlefield

I’ve combined these events as they each felt too inconsequential on their own. Certain parts also didn’t seem to be particularly interesting (such as dealing with the animated armor, a simple task for a Level 2 party, and also something that has no reason to actually happen).

We will begin with the following:

As the day passes you enter into a mist-veiled field of tall swamp grass dotted with clusters of cattails. Despite the limited visibility you spot the occasional remains of rusted weapons and armor and even the bones of the long dead. You can’t help but think this might have been the site of some sort of past battle.

If a player chooses to look into the remains further have them make an Investigation or History check with different outcomes based on the roll. Whereas the book has this battlefield be the result of a melee with Fomorians, I changed it to be a clash between the Summer and Winter Courts from the War of the Seasons 10 years past (see the Adventure Outline for more details). This will help to start set-up the background for events to come.

  • 1 – 9: Given the state of the remains you can’t discern much other than that they appear to be years old
  • 10 – 13: The armor is clearly elven-like in design, but not from any sort of kingdom you recognize. You estimate that they’ve likely been here for 10 years or so
  • 14 or higher: You recognize the armor and weapons from your studies as clearly belonging to the Eladrin. Eladrin of course are people of the Feywild closely related to elves and typically aligned to one of the four seasons. Not only would you say the remains are around 10 years old, but they seem to belong to two different factions of Eladrin

As you continue to make your way through the field and the mist, it’s not long before you think you hear something rustle in the vegetation ahead of you.

The sound is that of the stilt walkers making their way through the swamp with a fresh batch of eggs. If you’d like to use a map for this, I recommend this one by Rich Robinson. You can allow your players to make a DC 12 Perception check to spot them and/or a DC 10 Stealth check to stay hidden out of sight. If they do spot them, read the next paragraph:

Through the mist you see six humanoid creatures dressed in patchwork rags and furs. Strapped on their backs are wire cages filled with straw and eggs of various sizes and colors. Instead of trudging through the swamp as you have, they have propped themselves onto stilts. As you watch you see they have surrounded a well of hewn stone and appear to be filling their waterskins.

If the players don’t interrupt, the stilt walkers will eventually leave peacefully. If the party does decide to greet them, events should play out as written with a few additions:

  • The stilt walkers will explain that the o’ wells in Murkendraw were once a place of gathering and merriment. Unfortunately, Bavlorna corrupted them and now they go through a cycle of sucking in and spitting out swamp water. They were luckily able to cleanse this particular one and use it as a waypoint on their egg hunting excursions
  • While they’re on their way to trade their eggs in Downfall, they would be happy to trade them to the players for something of equal value (they will have no interest in money)
  • [Optional] The Feyphant
    • This twist on the event provides the party with a friendly companion – the adorable feyphant (a twist on the hollyphant). This is completely optional but can be particularly fun if you have a small party in need of combat help or players who you know will enjoy a pet (or perhaps were very distraught when they lost Juniper). If you like the idea of a pet but not any additional help in combat, just remove all of the actions from its stat block
    • When a player trades for an egg have them roll a d6. Normally the egg will be a simple Swamp Bird Egg (see below), but on a 6 the egg shakes indicating there is a creature inside. This is because it is actually a rare Feyphant Egg and contains an unborn Feyphant (see below). Unless the players cast a spell like identify, they will simply know the egg is occupied. If the players successfully trade for a Feyphant Egg then the remaining Stilt Walker eggs will all be Swamp Bird Eggs (so no more d6 rolls!)

Swamp Bird Egg
Wondrous item, common

This colorful egg can be fried or boiled to provide as much nourishment as 1 day of rations. If eaten raw, you must make a successful DC 10 Constitution saving throw or take 1d6 poison damage.

Feyphant Egg
Wondrous item, rare (requires attunement)

This light green egg is about 6 inches long and will hatch after 1d12 + 6 days of being attuned to a creature, destroying the egg itself. The hatched creature is a Young Feyphant, which looks like a miniature elephant with overgrown green fur and small, rapidly fluttering wings that not only hold it aloft but also propel it at great speed. The Young Feyphant will be bonded to the creature the egg was attuned to (referred to as it’s “partner”). The Young Feyphant will be friendly to its partner and their companions, and will obey its partner’s commands.

In combat, the Young Feyphant shares its partner’s initiative count, but it takes its turn immediately after theirs. It can move and use its reaction on its own, but the only action it takes on its turn is the Dodge action, unless its Partner takes a bonus action on their turn to command the Young Feyphant to take another action. That action can be one in its stat block or some other action. If its partner is incapacitated, the Young Feyphant can take any action of its choice, not just Dodge.

4) Abandoned Raft

While there’s not much to this event as written, it’s an essential one as otherwise there’s a not a clear way for the players to get to Downfall given it’s surrounded by high water levels. One way to spice it up is to have the acquisition of the raft be more a social interaction.

The Watcher’s Pool supplement by Daniel Kahn provides the bullywug character of Ufgunk who can serve as a way to acquire a raft if they befriend him or impress him with fishing. While I didn’t choose to add the Watcher’s Pool myself, you can also utilize that location as well if desired. If you’d prefer to not have this be an event at all though, you could place a raft at Brigand’s Tollway – a perfect pick-up for once the players deal with Agdon Longscarf.

5) Gushing O’ Well

This event should play out as per the book with one adjustment. If the players got the purification vial from Slanty Tower they can use this to cleanse the o’ well (more on this later). In this case the will-o’-wisps will be very grateful and as per the Rule of Reciprocation will be more than happy to let the players take a few trinkets.

6) Marsh Gas Redux (Starring Mud Mephits)

In this encounter, simply have your players run into another field of marsh gas bubbles (with the same effects). The twist here is as they attempt to make their way across, have the five mud mephits from the Mud Mephits random event make an appearance and threaten to shove the party into the expanding bubbles around them. If combat breaks out, both the PCs and the mephits have to deal with avoiding getting hit by the marsh gas.

Resources

I have highlighted some of the resources I used for this portion of the campaign below. Some of these are for locations within Murkendraw not covered in this article.

Art

Music

What’s Next?

Next time we’ll dive in the core locations of Murkendraw starting with Slanty Tower. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out with any comments, questions, or suggestions and… see you in the Feywild!

7 thoughts on “Part V: Murkendraw (Welcome to the Swamp)

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