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by Mike on 19 December 2022
I had the distinct pleasure of running the Wizards of the Coast hardcover adventure Wild Beyond the Witchlight for my home group and I loved it. I don't think I really understand what an adventure brings to the table until I run it and wanted to share these experiences and offer a few tips for making the most of it.
If you prefer videos, here's a YouTube playlist with a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of Wild Beyond the Witchlight.
Note, this article contains spoilers for Wild Beyond the Witchlight.
Moreso than other hardcover adventures, I didn't feel like I needed to modify much of Wild Beyond the Witchlight. I changed it plenty, but the changes I made were ones I wanted to make; not ones I felt like I had to make. This, to me, is the difference between a good adventure and a bad one — how much do I have to change an adventure to make it playable instead of changing what I want to change just to customize it for my group.
The only exception to this might be chapter 5: Palace of Heart's Desire which I describe later.
From the first session zero of our campaign, my Wild Beyond the Witchlight game focused on the characters. I changed NPCs. I shifted plots around. I wanted the story to focus on the characters, their drives, their motivations, and their lost things. This carried through the whole adventure and paid big dividends in the end.
For example, in chapter 1, the characters met a bunch of kids who wanted to get into the carnival but didn't have tickets. The characters gave their tickets to the kids who later also got pulled into Prismeer and replaced the Getaway Gang. This gave strong NPC connections from the first session that paid off to the end.
The story of Witchlight is loose enough to give you lots of opportunities to build it around the backgrounds, drives, and motivations of the characters.
As written, every combat encounter in Witchlight is optional. This might be a fun change of pace from other combat-heavy adventures but you and your players may miss it. One option, which worked well in my game, is the inclusion of "Dreadful Incursions". I talk about these in my Dreadful Incursions article but the gist is that the domains of dread from Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft are leaking into Prismeer due to Zybilna's absence. These domains bleed in as either an encounter, a dungeon, or maybe whole realms through the mists between the lands of Prismeer. Twisted horrors from these domains cause havoc in the land of whimsy and wonder. As a DM, you get to decide how much or how little to use these dreadful incursions and can use them to add another layer to the story along with some combat encounters without moral consequence.
Witchlight is packed with NPCs. You don't have to use them all. Choose the NPCs you like and focus on those. Drop a few NPCs in front of the characters and see which ones the players enjoy. Keep those in mind, bringing them back into the story as it evolves instead of introducing tons of new NPCs. Regularly ask your players which NPCs they're digging and which they'd like to see more of so you know which ones to focus on.
Reading this Reddit thread clued me in to some strange organization of the Palace of Heart's Desire. Instead of what's written in the adventure, I skipped 90% of the palace when my characters arrived. I was ready to get to the big conclusion so I had the characters fight the jabberwock out in the gardens, see the main villain of my campaign kill the other main villain in area 31, and then fight the main villain (the Dark Lord Vladeska Drakov of Falkovnia in my campaign) in area 22. While I ended up skipping a huge amount of this chapter, I didn't feel robbed and the conclusion was a fun one for my players.
Don't be afraid to make huge cuts to your published material for the fun of your game.
I loved Wild Beyond the Witchlight. The feeling of high fantasy with a good deal of humor was a perfect break from Rime of the Frostmaiden and Descent into Avernus. Though I added in a dark streak with Dreadful Incursions, the overall theme of the adventure still brought a smile to my face and those of my players.
I highly recommend Wild Beyond the Witchlight.
This week I posted a couple of YouTube videos on Jaquays-Style Design for D&D Dungeons and Overland Travel and Scarlet Citadel Session 9 – Lazy D&D DM Prep.
Each week I record an episode of the Lazy D&D Talk Show in which I talk about all things D&D. Here are last week's topics with timestamped links to the YouTube video:
Also on the Talk Show, I answer questions from Sly Flourish Patreons. Here are last week's questions and answers:
Each week I think about what I learned in my last D&D game and write them up as D&D tips. Here are this week's D&D tips:
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