The Wild Beyond The Witchlight is the next book for Dungeons & Dragons. This time around, players will be transported to the magical realm known as the Feywild, a place seldom explored in official materials. We sat down with lead story designer Chris Perkins to learn more about bridging the gap between the Forgotten Realms and the land of the Fey. Along the way, he introduced us to two of the game’s newest options for character generation — the Fairies and harengons.
When players think of the Feywild, images of bright pastoral scenes and lithe magical creatures come to mind. But the realm itself behaves differently than any other part of the D&D multiverse. The land there is amorphous, and it responds to much more than the application of a shovel or a pick.
“The plane itself has almost a transformative quality,” Perkins said. “It responds to emotions. If you’re feeling sad and you sit next to a rock in the Feywild, an expression of sadness might actually form in the rock; or the clouds overhead might start to take the shape of a sad face. But if you’re feeling happy and joyous, and you’re dancing around in the glade, you might find that the flowers in the glade seem to sway or dance with you; that you can exert as a creature of the Feywild some influence over your environment.”
The Feywild is ruled by powerful creatures known as the Arch Fey, entities that have used the elasticity of the realm to carve out their own personal domains. Their temperament and demeanor will help to give color and nuance to player-generated campaigns, and provide freedom and flexibility for Dungeon Masters.
“It’s not all whimsy, but it’s not all dark, Brothers Grimm,” Perkins said. “It sort of blends it all together, but gives the DM license to kind of lean one way or the other, to sort of give it the atmosphere that they know their players will respond to most.”
One of the most eagerly anticipated new features in The Wild Beyond The Witchlight are the new options for character creation. For the first time in 5th edition D&D, players can choose to be fairies — humanoid flying creatures that float in the air like Tinkerbell. But don’t expect to be wriggling through a keyhole any time soon. Perkins’ flitting Fey are far more fit.
“We wanted to give you a fairy option, but we wanted to get it closer in size to our gnomes and our halflings for practical game considerations,” he said. “They’re size small, but no smaller than say a gnome who’s about two-and-a-half, three-feet tall. And beyond that, and the fact that you can fly, what kind of fairy you are is customizable. If you want to call yourself a brownie, go right ahead. If you just want to call yourself a generic fairy, go right ahead.”
The more novel option being added to D&D is called the harengon, a race of humanoid rabbitfolk native to the Feywild. Perkins said he likes to think of their creation as a happy accident.
Years ago, while his team was poring through a collection of inspirational source material detailing fey creatures from other fictional universes, co-writer Ari Levitch stumbled upon a pen-and-ink illustration of a group of rabbit brigands.
“He liked that imagery so much, because the sort of aggressive bully and the gentle rabbit just do not go [together],” Perkins said. “He was sharing some of these images and talked about what if he could put a group of brigands in the adventure who were kind of like these little rabbit dickheads. And I thought, OK, yeah, they’ll be fun monsters.”
But when concept art of those furry brigands was shared with the wider team, all anyone at the Wizards office could talk about was getting the chance to play one in-game. Likewise, the Unearthed Arcana playtest materials detailing an early version of harengons were a big hit.
“It turns out, actually, that any creature with an animal head is a pretty easy sell to our fans,” Perkins said. “But there’s something about rabbits that I guess is just too much to pass up. And so that’s how the harengons came to be.”