Dungeons & Dragons’ next adventure book will take players into the mystical, delightful, and dangerous world of the Feywild — a place of dreams where fairy-folk dwell. However, SYFY WIRE can reveal that the first place players will visit once they enter the realm is a dreary swamp.
The Wild Beyond the Witchlight, out on Sept. 21, begins by inviting players to visit the Witchlight Carnival, a fantastical, plane-hopping festival. The carnival is their entry into the Feywild, specifically the shattered domain of Prismeer, a region in the Feywild that was once overseen by a now-absent archfey. Once there, they’ll begin their journey in Hither, a swamp that has had better days.
“Hither is the first place the characters stumble upon in the Feywild, and hopefully it’s not at all what they were expecting,” Chris Perkins, Game Design Architect at D&D, tells SYFY WIRE. Full of brigands and bullywugs (a frog-like race), Hither is ruled by one of the hags who helped tear the domain of Prismeer asunder.
“It serves to illustrate how ‘sunk’ Prismeer has become since the hags of the Hourglass Coven moved in,” Perkins says. “Hither is also the place where the characters learn that not all denizens of the Feywild are out to get them; there are lots of nice folk in Hither, many of whom would like to see the hags shove off.”
While exactly what the hags of the Hourglass Coven did or what they want remains for players to find out as they go on their adventure, but Perkins did share some details on Bavlorna, the hag who lords over the bullywugs of the Soggy Court.
“Bavlorna is a toadish hag who spits out tiny versions of herself. These ‘lornlings’ do the hag’s bidding and occasionally serve as her spies,” Perkins says. “Bavlorna lives in a monstrous, decrepit cottage on stilts, where she performs all sorts of grisly experiments to pass the time. She keeps mostly to herself but collects all sorts of junk. She’s a real packrat. As one-third of the Hourglass Coven, she’s concerned mostly with the past. She believes that knowing the secrets of the past gives her power over others in the present.”
Bavlorna sounds like bad news, but Hither isn’t a totally hostile place. There’s a village (more of a shantytown) called Downfall at the heart of the swamp. Players can take a rest at Hither’s only inn, the somewhat misnamed Inn at the End of the Road. The squat, three-story building meanders around the swamp on fleshy legs, lowering itself regularly for people to step in or out. There’s also a shop that promises “wondrous wares & fair fares!" The store is located in a basket hanging under a giant balloon, though rather than hot air, it’s held up by a dark stormcloud that seems to be contained, magically, with netting and rope.
“Ari Levitch was the lead writer on Hither and tried very hard to make the swamp both scary and strange. Having the waters swell and recede makes the swamp feel like a living, breathing place. The goal was to make sure the characters never get too comfortable there,” Perkins says, before adding a caveat. “As scary as some parts of Hither can be, there’s a lot of charm in the creatures who make the swamp their home. We wanted characters to feel a bit sorry for them, in the hopes they care enough to help set things right.”
Perkins says Hither, particularly the village of Downfall, could easily be plucked out of The Wild Beyond the Witchlight and put into any homebrew campaign setting.
Upon being prodded, Perkins admits that there was a temptation to put Shrek Easter eggs into Hither, because it is, after all, a fairy-tale swamp.
“There’s no donkey in Hither, however,” he says. “That seems like an oversight.”
The Wild Beyond the Witchlight comes out on Sept. 21.