A photo of a carnival mask, in gold and white, against a black background. The words "The Witchlight Carnival" are written next to it in font.

Recently, I’ve been running the prewritten campaign Wild Beyond the Witchlight (WBTW) for my family. It’s a roleplay-heavy, combat-light campaign taking place, for the most part, in the Feywild. We’ve encountered a couple of complications (most prominently the differences between 3e and 5e for a party of long-time players), but overall have been enjoying the whimsy and fun of the book.

It’s separated into 5 major sections – each occurring in a different area to which the players travel. It starts in the Witchlight Carnival, goes to the Hither, Thither, and Yon subdomains of the Feywild locale Prismeer, and ends in the Palace of Heart’s Desire, at the center of it all. Each section has a unique tone and appearance to the location, with different environments and areas to be explored.

So far, my party has completed the first of these chapters, and locations – the Witchlight Carnival. As a result, I’ve prepared a brief discussion on the Carnival as a location, both in the prewritten campaign and as a portable location, with a few ideas of how to include it in your own game.

 

The Witchlight Carnival

You first see the Witchlight Carnival through the grand entrance of flying carriages, led by butterfly-winged horses, as they arc across the landscape to settle in an empty knoll nearby to the town. Before long, a festival has sprung up where they have landed, ringed by a thin river, echoing with laughter and sparkling with fey magic.

An illustration of a map of the Witchlight Carnival

This is a magical place – one of excitement, populated with barkers and entertainers, where good cheer is immediately rewarded by the carnival itself. If you wander its tents and alleys for long, you’ll soon meet it’s colorful and magical employees, as well. Among them a singing mermaid, a cheerful dwarven tinkerer, a lonesome centaur, a legendary bard, and even a tame displacer beast. Many of these employees are from the Feywild themselves, of have joined the carnival sometime along it’s travels.

You might also meet its owners, Mister Witch and Mister Light.

An illustration of Misters Witch and Light from The Wild Beyond the Witchlight. It shows a robust grey skinned elf in a checked suit holding a pocketwatch, and a slim grey skinned elf in a red and white clowns costume holding a weathervane, both in a tent standing in front of a portal

Misters Witch and Light are two Shadar-Kai, who traded their original carnival in the Shadowfell for this much cheerier fey carnival some years ago. Mister Witch, a heavyset, serious elf in a checked suit, controls the business operations, including the set up and tear down, with his magical pocket watch. Mister Light, his much cheerier counterpart in colorful clown’s garb, entertains and engages the crowds, gauging the mood with his magical weathervane staff. They much prefer it to the dour gloom of their original home, and have been avoiding a return there, so that they don’t have to give it back.

 

The Witchlight Carnival as a part of Wild Beyond the Witchlight

The Witchlight Carnival, as the name suggests, is the setting stage for WBTW. As an introductory segment, this is particularly well written one. Not only does the Witchlight Carnival hook the players easily, much of the goings-on in the carnival directly relates to goings-on in Prismeer, where most of the campaign’s action takes place, and it prepares the party for the unusual rules and behavior of the Feywild.

As they go through the Carnival, searching for the entrance to the Feywild hidden somewhere within it (the proverbial ‘wild’ beyond the ‘witchlight’), they’re likely to pick up the various quests and plot hooks that they’ll need to get the most out of the adventure. Seriously – your players will want to take notes on the information they get here. It will prove necessary later on.

Plus, there’s enough going on that can be solved for your players not to feel as though they’re helpless in the early stages of the campaign. Helping out the Carnival workers, or deciding to make trouble for them, or just play the carnival games, are all viable options here.

 

The cover art for the Wild Beyond the Witchlight book. It shows the carnival owners' busts above a well lit carnival, and a displacer beast with butterfly wings next to them

 

Combat vs Roleplay

There isn’t much opportunity for combat here unless your party decide to pick fights. This works pretty well, since leveling is done by plot points, and not experience. Encouraging your players to try to ‘grind’ xp is a bad idea, since they’re likely to be disappointed by the lack of payoff.

And that, in turn, is a good precedent for the rest of the campaign. You can use this time to make sure that your players know to talk and plan their way around problems, rather than just hacking their way through.

 

The Witchlight Carnival as a Stand-Alone Location

Even if you don’t want to run the whole story of WBTW, the Witchlight Carnival works as a good, already laid out location for a whimsical carnival. You might want to rewrite the motivations or give NPCs slightly different information to better fit your story, but they’re fleshed out enough to be able to operate in other campaigns as well s their own.

Even if you want to re-name and re-skin the carnival, the idea of a magical, traveling carnival works well as an adventure hook in general. If you want a lighthearted break from your usual storyline, it has plenty of games and rides for your players to explore, and minor magical items to win. If you want a serious hook, there are time limits (the carnival will leave for new locales eventually), mysteries (memories, items, and patrons going missing), and memorable NPCs galore within its walls.

An illustration from The Wild Beyond the Witchlight. It shows a fantasy village with various people looking up at the sky, from which a carriage pulled by a butterfly winged horse is descending

Here are few ideas about how to introduce the Witchlight Carnival to other campaigns:

 

  • While traveling through the Shadowfell, your party finds a gloomy boardwalk carnival with an out-of-place fey owner. She tells the party that she traded her original, much more fun, carnival with the owners of this one. It was only supposed to be temporary, but they haven’t returned for over a decade now, and she’ll pay handsomely for some help getting her original carnival back.

 

  • The Witchlight Carnival comes to a small town, who are fearful and distrustful of the colorful newcomers. When a group of children sneaks out to visit, the townsfolk ask the party to go themselves and bring them back.

 

  • The party, clearing out a bandit camp, rescue a carnival worker. They ask the assistance of the party in tracking down the Carnival’s next location so that they can explain their absence and get their job back, since leaving the carnival for too long is assumed to be a worker quitting.

 

  • Tasked with finding a means of entering other planes of reality, the party find that something within the bounds of the Witchlight Carnival allows it to do so with ease. How hard can it be to take one measly little pocket watch from a carnival ringleader?

 

 

 

 

 

Have you played Wild Beyond the Witchlight? Have you used the location outside of the campaign? How did it go? Let us know in the comments below!

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