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Saturday, May 20, 2023

D&D Risks, Evolution and Witchlight - Chris Perkins

I am continuing my somewhat exhaustive research of all things related to The Wild Beyond the Witchlight, as I've finished the guide to it (will be posted soon). 

This article contains some spoilers for the adventure, so please skip it if you are planning on being a player.

Watching these youtube videos has been extremely helpful in helping me understand the tone of the book and the mindset of the DM preparing to run the adventure.

How has designing adventures evolved? Chris says that he is learning as he goes. He says that he has designed/edited 5,000 adventures.

Chris talks about how they did a little more hand-holding for the DM in the beginning of this adventure. "Some adventures need flow charts."

Flow charts never worked for me. I just don't process information in that way. I need to know the broad outline, really, and then have the option of zooming in on smaller details.

With this adventure, he first started with the image of the cauldron with 8 eyes, 8 bats, 8 cats, 8 snakes, 8 feet, and 8 toes. This is Iggwilv's cauldron and a very cool idea. Being a big Iggwilv fan, I am really happy that they added to the lore.

I'm a bit torn on what they did with Iggwilv. While I love that they added another name/persona/guise to her list, I am not 100% on board with her as a fairy godmother type. 

I do love that they have moved her to middle age, complete with white hair, and have shown that she may become a hag-like entity in the future. I should read up on how hags become hags. Maybe we could cook up a story on how Iggwilv becomes a hag, and whether or not the other hags are on board with her joining their ranks.

Chris says that this adventure plays with the theme of time. Not time travel, he thinks it is a nightmare to run. I've tried it. We've probably all tried it, right? I've never made it work, but I feel like it could be done in a fun way.

Chris feels like he's getting to the end of his professional tenure, and time is more important to him. He tried to make the theme subtle. The code name for this adventure was "Hourglass."

He wanted to pull things from the past of D&D, and also look to the future. There are things in this adventure that foreshadows events to come. Honestly all of that went right over my head. Very little stuck out to me. Except, I guess, the inclusion of Ellywick Tumblestrum, a planeswalker from Magic: The Gathering. But that's not something I am into.

Grazz't's agents were creeping around. Maybe we're getting a Grazz't adventure in the future?

Chris is taking more risks. We're deep into the line of 5th edition. They can explore some elements of the D&D multiverse that they haven't been able to get around to.

Chris says that this adventure easily imports into your campaign world. The carnival links to another realm. Chris says that, generally, players don't know anything about the Feywild so the DM is free to indulge their wackiest instincts.

Almost everything in this adventure can be handled without combat. It's true! I think you'd need to tell the players this in some fashion, though, as many groups are in combat-default mode.

This adventure plays to Chris's predilictions. Chris is a big fan of Halloween, and this is the most Halloween-y thing he's ever made.

I guess it is halloween-y. I do love the idea of a horror-based D&D adventure, though. Zombies, especially. A D&D zombie apocalypse, from outbreak to 'cure', is definitely on my bucket list of campaigns to run.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 13, 2023

The Wild Beyond the Witchlight for D&D Dungeon Masters

Today we are going to go through another video about The Wild Beyond the Witchlight. This one involves Chris Perkins giving advice to DMs who plan on running this adventure.

Setting Up Your Campaign: Chris talks about how the book has a section on what type of information the DM shares with players, and what type you don't. 

Chris says that he realized that the DM's Guide doesn't really cover this topic, so the team decided to put some guidance in the beginning of this book.

"Do I tell the players how many hit points the monster has?"

Flipping through the Wild Beyond the Witchlight, I see that Chris is referring to the 'Tips for New Dungeon Masters' section on pages 6-7. There, they write a bit about whether or not to roll dice in front of the players, and what information the monsters know. 

Also, there is a large section on whether or not you tell the players what a creature's AC is, how many hit points it has, that kind of thing.

Here's the thing about all of this. Chris seems to indicate that not including this info in the DMG was an oversight. But the truth is... I think there are a lot of DMs who don't read the DMG cover to cover. And even if they do, they're not going to remember everything. Every time I flip through the DMG, there are things in there that I either never realized were in there, or that I forgot existed.

The DMG is a great book. But it's huge. And this is a hobby for a lot of people who may simply not have the time to truly study the Dungeon Master's Guide.

Adventure Structure: Chris says that the Witchlight Carnival (the first section of The Wild Beyond the Witchlight) is a sort of romper room before the adventure really starts. 

I think that the most important part of each of these adventures is the first chapter. The first sessions. Because everyone is going to play them. The beginning needs to be really good to propel the group's interest, to motivate them to play the whole thing through.

I still feel like most campaigns don't make it to the end. Maybe that's changed in the past few years, but that is something I observed during my time as a game store DM. Most campaigns fizzle out, and it is almost always due to an interpersonal issue - usually a problem player, or a DM who isn't in tune with what the players want.

Location-based Scenarios: Chris says that there is more to D&D than the one pillar of combat. There's three pillars: Exploration, role-playing, and combat. 

In this adventure, the group can solve almost every problem without getting into a combat. That used to be something of a bragging point for D&D groups - "We played a whole session without ever rolling a die."

That's actually really fun, and in my opinion the sign of a group that is firing on all cylinders. 

One question I have when it comes to the Wild Beyond the Witchlight is whether groups will want to play it. If you tell players 'This is an adventure where combat is optional," will take that as a good thing? 

When I look on reddit, all I see are posts about builds and stats and what subclasses are "broken." It seems like a lot of players are still very into the combat side of things.

New Tables for DM's: Ari Levitch talks about the Fey Trinkets table. That's on pages 8-9 of the book. 

New Monsters: The book has a few new monsters, which are briefly discussed in this video.

  • Brigganocks: Fey miners whose souls live outside their bodies as balls of light. They have an interesting role in this adventure, being rivals to a clan of korreds.
  • Glasswork Golem: A very cool addition to 5e, reminding me of the 'stained glass' golems of past editions.
  • Campestris: This is a Dungeon Magazine deep cut, a favorite of mine solely due to the art of Tony DiTerlizzi from way back when.
  • The Jabberwock: While I'm not a fan of just pulling fairy tale creatures out and plopping them into a D&D adventure without a re-skinning, the art of the Jabberwock in this book sold me on it completely.

Role Playing Cards: In the back of the adventure book are cards containing cards with roleplaying info for many NPCs. Chris says that the cards are meant to be cut out and assembled, to help reduce page-flipping.

Two thoughts spring to mind. The first is that I very much appreciate the effort to reduce page-flipping. The second is.. who is going to actually cut these things out of the book?

There has to be a pdf of these out there right? Let me look. Apparently, the Domains of Delight pdf has a printable version of the cards, and a few other things from the book.

Story Tracker: We are told that you shouldn't feel like you have to rush through the carnival. It is meant to be a playground.

I can see the carnival being very fun, but for some reason I just feel very wary about running it. There are so many little bits in all these different places. Info on certain things, especially Mr. Witch and Mr. Light, are scattered throughout the chapter. 

If I ran the carnival, I'm not sure I could keep everything cohesive, even with a map and a tracker in front of me. Right now, I could not tell you the effects of the carnival's mood when it is at its peak or at its lowest.

Similarly, I was almost shocked when I was flipping through the book after completing the guide when I saw that, in Prismeer, when you die, you roll on a special chart. I completely forgot about that. That's a major thing. But there's so many little details that you have to carry with you when running this adventure, it kills me to think I'd forget something that would have added a lot to the fun of the campaign.

Lots more Witchlight stuff to come. Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 12, 2023

The Wild Beyond the Witchlight - Everything You Need to Know

This is just a quick post wherein I attempt to familiarize myself with everything Witchlight.

I have spent the last few months putting together a guide to The Wild Beyond the Witchlight, a 5e adventure that came out fairly recently.

Usually I post these guides piecemeal, adding and updating the guide until it is complete. But I felt like this time, I should just wait until the whole guide was done before presenting it to the D&D public at large.

I finished the guide a few days ago, and now I want to see what other Witchlight content is out there (videos, Dragon+ content, DMs Guild, etc) before posting it.

I decided to start off by looking for videos and... wow. There are a lot. D&D youtube has kind of blown up in the past few years, huh?

Let's start with The Wild Beyond the Witchlight: Everything You Need to Know by Todd Kenreck.

Things we learn:

Chris Perkins has wanted to do a Feywild adventure for 11 years.

Todd discusses the premise of the owners of a Feywild carnival and a Shadowfell carnival deciding to switch ownership. It's funny, I knew this, but I never really thought about it. Mister Witch and Mister Light are from the Shadowfell, and this is why they're a bit creepy.

Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes has a character named Mr. Dark, who apparently is quite like Mr. Witch in this adventure. The phrase "Something Wicked This Way Comes" is actually on the back cover of this adventure. I should probably watch the movie based on this book.

I found it. It's on youtube. It looks really good, so I'll probably watch it and write about it.

Todd points out the art of Little Oak, the treant with the house on its back, which I never really stopped to appreciate. 

I'm already glad I watched this video, because I was so busy grinding out the guide that I didn't really stop to think about or appreciate the concepts.

Todd speculates that, because the roller coaster from the D&D cartoon is in this carnival, that this may be how the characters from the cartoon got to "The Realm." I don't know if that is true, but it's fun to think about and it's really cool that the roller coaster is here at all.

Todd actually has a Kelek action figure mint on card. Amazing. I have a friend who always used to say, "The unicorn horn is mine!" just like Kelek did.

Quick video, really helped me step back and digest the adventure and see it in a clear light. I got so lost in the page numbers and all that stuff that I feel like I never had sight of the tone of the adventure. But now I am starting to get it.

My over-riding feeling about this book so far is that it would be impossible for me to run at a level that is satisfactory. There is no way at all I could juggle all of the things going on. 

The carnival in particular feels impossible, but each hag realm is also difficult for me because you have no idea going in exactly how it is going to play out. I just don't feel like I could possibly be ready to roll with all of the things the heroes might do.

I guess my feeling right now is, even though I went through every single page of this adventure and sorted it to the best of my ability, I still don't have a grasp on even the basics. The motivation of the heroes in particular is a sticking point.

I'll get into that more when I write a review of this adventure. It is possible that all of these videos and articles that I'll be going through will help me to better digest the story.

Thanks for reading!