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The Wild Beyond the Witchlight Review Round-Up – What the Critics Say

The reviews for The Wild Beyond the Witchlight, D&D's first official adventure set in the Feywild, are out. Since TWBtW is also the first official adventure designed so that it can be resolved without any combat if desired, making it something new for the game, you might be wondering how other reviews stack up next to my assessment.
Witchlight cover.png

The Good​

Tribality compared TWBtW to a cross between Changeling the Lost and D&D. Like me, Tribality liked the flexibility of the adventure, how it can be added to any setting, and how pieces of the campaign can be repurposed in your own homebrew. We also agreed that the art was beautiful and evocative of the setting. Tribality ranked TWBtW a 10 out of 10, which is an A+ on our scale.

GeekDad doesn't make you wait to know what they think – the headline indicates that the book “HAS to be” reviewer Simon Yule's next adventure. GeekDad also points out that an adventure designed for heavy role-play with an option to skip combat isn't for every group. While Yule does think TWBtW is great for DMs ith limited experience, he doesn't think it's a good fit as the first adventure to DM. Otherwise GeekDad is effusive in its praise, calling out DM tools like the roleplaying cards, story tracker, etc. as well as saying that TWBtW has “the best opening chapters of any official campaign” encountered. Like me, Yule also likes the fact that minor interactions early on can change things later. While a letter grade isn't provided after all of the compliments and only a minor complaint (not liking hags as villains) it's clear GeekDad would give an A+.

Polygon's review starts by pointing how far D&D has evolved from its wargaming roots and that today a large portion of its base came to the game from watching live streams and actual play videos that emphasize the narrative aspects of the game, correctly noting that TWBtW was made with audience (and anyone who loves role-playing) in mind. The designers are praised for going “above and beyond” to create a new style of adventure that focuses on choices, collaboration, and role-play instead of combat. The review also praises TWBtW for empowering players and helping DMs think bigger. TWBtW is praised for its “big swings,” meaning huge chances taken that worked. One cited is a segment where the party is encouraged to split into two groups – long a no-no in RPGs – so one half can investigate while the other half does an improv performance to distract an audience, with the latter facilitated by random lines removed from a hat. The combination of making TWBtW an advanced class in role-playing and storytelling while providing advice and tools for a new DM is also praised. Polygon doesn't give a rating but since the review calls TWBtW “one of the very best products released for D&D's 5th edition” I'm confident assigning it an A+.

Geeks of Doom praised the same things I did – a fresh setting vibrantly depicted, a new approach to adventure resolution, the new races and backgrounds, Easter eggs, and new versions of old villains. The only caution is advice for DMs to get a good grasp on the material to create smooth sessions. Otherwise, TWBtW is praised for its 'bold moves” and “a spectacularly entertaining world.” Though a rating isn't assigned, the totally positive review equates to an A.

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The Slightly Less Good​

Strange Assembly praises TWBtW a lot while also providing disclaimers to ensure that people with the right interests select the adventure. As other reviews, including my own, noted, choices and character actions have long-reaching consequences and the fact that NPCs can reappear later, making things more appealingly complicated than the average adventure. Praise is also given to how it creates the wicked whimsy the creators mentioned in so many interviews. The only real criticism, which is more of an opinion and one I disagree with, is that the two new backgrounds in the book are better for other adventures because they eliminate some of the player's wonder in the Feywild. This review would also equal an A, A- at the worst.

Bell of Lost Souls takes a broad view of how D&D has evolved since 5th Edition launched in 2014, specifically the impact of live streams and how that audience is bringing new players in the game. BoLS praises TWBtW for facilitating a new play style (no combat) if desired, even though writer J.R. Zambrano feels the adventure works best with a little combat. TWBtW is also praised for how it teaches a new DM not only how to run a game but more subtle points, like presenting multiple options, that can take awhile to learn. As I indicated, BoLS admits that it's not an adventure for everyone – the whimsy and fairy tale touches are a specific taste, but overall enjoyed the fact that WotC is stretching beyond the typical adventure style. The review was a “recommended” that falls somewhere between a B+ to an A, leaning toward an A.

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The Final Grade​

While Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft received a tiny bit more praise, the reviews for this first Feywild adventure was consistently, and often overwhelmingly, positive. Combining my A rating with the ratings above, The Wild Beyond the Witchlight continues the trend of the last few D&D books by being an A-rated release.
 

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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels

This Effin’ GM

Adventurer
I feel like the criticisms I have of the game (read the book front to back last week) put my on an island by myself.

The blatant railroading attempts (not story, railroad), the day 1 DLC, the shorter content, etc. it’s not a bad adventure there are a ton of fun elements but it’s weird to me how many people can’t see the flaws, people I generally trusted to see those things.

Which lets be real, means only one thing: I’m the insane one :D
 


whimsychris123

Adventurer
Sometimes I think reviewing an adventure right after publication is a bit like reading the instructions to Monopoly and then reviewing it without ever having played it. Okay, adventures are different as one can appreciate the imagination brought to the page, but still, you don’t know the worth of a product until you’ve actually used it!
 

Retreater

Legend
Sometimes I think reviewing an adventure right after publication is a bit like reading the instructions to Monopoly and then reviewing it without ever having played it. Okay, adventures are different as one can appreciate the imagination brought to the page, but still, you don’t know the worth of a product until you’ve actually used it!
Except that it takes 6 months - 1 year (or more!) to play through it. And that each group will probably have wildly different experiences.
A more accurate comparison is test-driving a car, seeing how it fits your style, if you notice rattling at high speeds, taking it to a mechanic to look under the hood.
If you're waiting for actual play reviews, you're counting on everyone else purchasing the product, running the game for their group, and then disseminating that information in a way that is valuable for your personal gaming group. And that's asking a lot.
I value getting these read-through reviews by experienced gamers, who can predict trouble areas, give you a feel of the adventure, etc.
 


This Effin’ GM

Adventurer
All the reviews we see from the big sites are almost always positive because no one wants to bite the hand that feeds them.

The true test is two years from now are people still running it and recommending it?

How adventures read and how they play are often very different.
Yeah I keep thinking about how everyone was super pumped about Avernus and now it’s like it doesn’t exist. And a lot of what came later were sharp criticisms of the illusion of choice.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
but it’s weird to me how many people can’t see the flaws

"Flaw" in this case is a bit subjective. One person's bug is another's feature.

A more accurate comparison is test-driving a car, seeing how it fits your style, if you notice rattling at high speeds, taking it to a mechanic to look under the hood.

Except that... it hasn't been run at high speeds - reading the module is not like stress testing some aspects of it. A more accurate comparison would be looking at the design specs, engineering blueprints, and sitting behind the wheel without actually starting the car. You can learn a lot about how a machine will perform that way, if you know the engineering. But much of the review will be speculative.
 

Retreater

Legend
Yeah I keep thinking about how everyone was super pumped about Avernus and now it’s like it doesn’t exist. And a lot of what came later were sharp criticisms of the illusion of choice.
Yes. You have to be careful about hype. For the most part, every official adventure has been met with glowing praise by reviewers.
For me, I think the most valuable facet is theme. As genres, I like jungle survival (so Tomb of Annihilation was a hit) and gothic horror (same with Curse of Strahd). Not big on evil PCs having to make bargains with devils (so Avernus wasn't appealing); big boring dungeons also don't appeal to me (so Undermountain was disappointing - one of the lowest tier I've run).
This is why I can get value with read-through reviews. That can detect the "heist-less" Dragon Heist. That can detect the adorable, combat-scarce cuddle fest of Witchlight.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
that’s why I qualified my entire statement by saying i might be the insane one. It’s all very subjective. I didn’t mean to imply there is any one true way to game nor that my opinion is fact, sorry if that’s how it came off.

Well, except that it isn't about being insane. It is just about being different.

Like, let us say you have a really strong aversion to railroading. Then, any module that isn't basically a sandbox will be an issue for you, and that's okay. But, to someone else, a length of railroad in a well-chosen spot may well be a useful way to instill certain forms of urgency or consequences that are hard to get otherwise.
 
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Mort

Legend
Except that it takes 6 months - 1 year (or more!) to play through it. And that each group will probably have wildly different experiences.
A more accurate comparison is test-driving a car, seeing how it fits your style, if you notice rattling at high speeds, taking it to a mechanic to look under the hood.
If you're waiting for actual play reviews, you're counting on everyone else purchasing the product, running the game for their group, and then disseminating that information in a way that is valuable for your personal gaming group. And that's asking a lot.
I value getting these read-through reviews by experienced gamers, who can predict trouble areas, give you a feel of the adventure, etc.

This adventure, in particular, is likely to have VERY varied play experiences. It seems to rely more than any I've seen prior (in 5e at least) to interactions wit the NPCs and getting what's necessary out of them - with the big focus being that combat is, usually, sub optimal as a resolution. That fact alone makes this adventure very different and more difficult to gauge.

Also, this adventure is REALLY packed with concepts and ideas. That's great, BUT they key is being able to convey those concepts and ideas to the players an I haven't seen yet how difficult or easy that will be.

I'm actually gearing up to run this for a group of 13 year olds, which should be an interesting additional challenge (This group has great imaginations but they're also a bunch of bloodthirsty hooligans so we'll see how that affects things!).
 

This Effin’ GM

Adventurer
This group has great imaginations but they're also a bunch of bloodthirsty hooligans so we'll see how that affects things!
It’s funny you say that, to me. My group has a lot of players who really like the idea of resolving encounters without combat, and they were really excited to try this adventure.

Reading through it, I highly suspect they will have a difficult time sticking to that 100%. Some of combat avoidance methods involve making a very, very questionable arrangement with a very very questionable individual and most of those “I want to avoid conflict” players I have are also very “we will not allow this sort of thing to pass”. Which would definitely be put to the test in certain interactions 🤣
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
All the reviews we see from the big sites are almost always positive because no one wants to bite the hand that feeds them. . .
I was about to ask: when did Tribality, Geek Dad, or Polygon give a WotC product a Bad or Ugly review? I'm sure it has happened. At some point...

But hey, D&D, combat-free? That's pretty awesome. And dragon-kin using hot air balloons to fly? That's grea...wait, what?
 

Corrosive

Adventurer
All the reviews we see from the big sites are almost always positive because no one wants to bite the hand that feeds them.

The true test is two years from now are people still running it and recommending it?

How adventures read and how they play are often very different.
That’s quite the allegation.

It can’t be that WotC generally puts out good quality material, and has to be … fraud?

Because big sites need a free book that badly?
 

Mort

Legend
It’s funny you say that, to me. My group has a lot of players who really like the idea of resolving encounters without combat, and they were really excited to try this adventure.

Reading through it, I highly suspect they will have a difficult time sticking to that 100%. Some of combat avoidance methods involve making a very, very questionable arrangement with a very very questionable individual and most of those “I want to avoid conflict” players I have are also very “we will not allow this sort of thing to pass”. Which would definitely be put to the test in certain interactions 🤣

Yeah, morally grey is putting it mildly!

I suspect my regular (old fart group all between 35 and 60) would have no problem with the morality issues, but the 13 year olds will be all "The big nasty hag wants to make a deal with us? Pass!!" (followed by a lot of attempted stabbing) definitely interesting to see how it will go.
 


Full disclosure, I personally could deal with every hag except that second one. When I got to her deal I was like “naw. Naw. That’s sword time right there.”
It's interesting that the third hag actually has a specific situation under which it is possible to kill her. So not all the choices presented in the book are there to avoid combat!
 

Yes. You have to be careful about hype. For the most part, every official adventure has been met with glowing praise by reviewers.
For me, I think the most valuable facet is theme. As genres, I like jungle survival (so Tomb of Annihilation was a hit) and gothic horror (same with Curse of Strahd). Not big on evil PCs having to make bargains with devils (so Avernus wasn't appealing); big boring dungeons also don't appeal to me (so Undermountain was disappointing - one of the lowest tier I've run).
This is why I can get value with read-through reviews. That can detect the "heist-less" Dragon Heist. That can detect the adorable, combat-scarce cuddle fest of Witchlight.
So apparently child slave labor is adorably cuddly? Or adult slaves being forced to perform for their mistress' amusement or be transformed into monsters or be killed in a particularly nasty (although still darkly whimsical) way?
 

Retreater

Legend
So apparently child slave labor is adorably cuddly? Or adult slaves being forced to perform for their mistress' amusement or be transformed into monsters or be killed in a particularly nasty (although still darkly whimsical) way?
They are promoting the adventure with adorable cuddle kittens & frolicking mushroom critters, and proudly state that the entire adventure can be won without combat (which is honestly the focus of the D&D rules).
Wizards certainly isn't broadly promoting those aspects of the adventure.
This is why I think read-through reviews are valuable - my concept of the adventure is completely from the corporate hype.
But for me, I don't find fey compelling thematically.
 

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