This year's main Dungeons & Dragons adventure path, The Wild Beyond the Witchlight, is (according to its designers) a wicked and whimsical adventure through the fantastical plane known as the Feywild. It seems fitting, then, that the adventure would open with a carnival, which – depending on how you feel about clowns and fried dough – is about as whimsical an event as we can conjure in the mortal plane.
What's a faire without carnival games, though? Witchlight introduces a series of midway activities that Dungeon Masters can present to their players before their adventure begins in earnest. "The carnival games help familiarize new players with the rules of D&D and how dice rolls can affect outcomes," said Chris Perkins, D&D's Game Design Architect, in a recent interview with IGN. "The games also spur fun roleplaying opportunities, allowing players to settle into their new roles before having to face the adventure’s more serious challenges."
Players who choose to play can win prizes such as Witchlight wine, a stuffed pixie plush or a wizard hand puppet, a replica unicorn horn filled with candy, and even a packet of pixie dust that temporarily grants them the ability to fly. We recently got a look at the rules for two of these carnival games, which are classic fair(e) fare, along with some additional info from Perkins about how the players actions can affect the carnival at large.
"The actions and antics of the characters can affect the overall mood of the carnival," he says, "which the DM tracks with the help of the Mood Tracker on the Witchlight Carnival poster map. As the carnival’s mood improves, the characters have an easier time of getting what they need. If the mood sours too much, the staff becomes a little harder to deal with, and the characters will miss out on the chance to be crowned as the evening’s Witchlight Monarch."
Almiraj Ring Toss is a magical take on the grandfather of all carnival games. Instead of having to get rings around stationary posts, the players' target is now this statue of what might be D&D's cutest beast, the Almiraj, as it teleports around a table. It's one of six carnival games that are included in the adventure, each one aimed at challenging a specific character ability. Ring Toss is geared towards Dexterity, while others are focused on things like Strength, Intelligence, etc. Perkins assures us they're not designed to be particularly dangerous to players (at least not as-written), saying that the Pie-Eating Contest – which I assume requires a series of Constitution saves – deals "Custard Damage".
While real-life carnivals may feature pig races (if you're lucky), the Witchlight offers a slimier alternative – Giant Snails. They appear to be a new monster stat block included with the adventure and are described as "unusually fast." Unlike pig races, however, the Witchlight's snail races aren't simply a specatator sport – players can opt to spend ride tickets (because even in a whimsical fantasy realm all carnival rides still need tickets) to become snail jockeys.
Of course, parties aren't limited to just the games and challenges included in the book. "We tried to keep most of the carnival games simple so that DMs could emulate them and create their own," Perkins says. "Most of the games can be resolved with a single die roll."
The Wild Beyond the Witchlight will be available starting on September 21, 2021. The standard version can be purchased in-store or at online retailers like Amazon, or you can order the limited edition alternate cover from your friendly neighborhood game store! For more on this year's D&D releases, check out the new sourcebook adapting another MTG setting, or the new bestiary deep-dive Fizban's Treasury of Dragons.