There are many worlds on which adventures can take place in D&D. Many campaigns start on the Material Plane, which usually is analogous to the “real world” (albeit with magic with wondrous creatures). But there is a host of additional planes of existence, many of which with their own distinct theme and features, and a group of player characters can easily be transported there by their own volition or the DM’s whim with the aid of spells, magic items, natural portals, or other means. Some of these planes are fairly harmless and easy to travel while others are filled with dangers and make journeying complicated. However, to a creative DM, they all offer opportunities for exciting adventures, and they can also be handy to give an adventuring party a break from the home of an ongoing campaign.
In these articles, I’m going to present ideas for how to run adventures effectively – or at least with a little extra oomph – on these planes. Two of the planes, the whimsical Feywild and its moody sibling Shadowfell, are two planes that are located especially close to the Material Plane, and I’ll start with the Feywild! It’s important to note that much of what follows here is based on my interpretation of this fey-themed realm, so nothing should be taken as canon or general truth. With that out of the way, saddle your giant bumblebee, mount up, and join me as we zip into the storm or dazzling wonders!
It’s the Material Plane gone wild
In a sentence, the Feywild is a turbulent, wondrous reflection of the Material Plane that’s filled with life, colour, and whimsical surprises. There are plenty of things and locations that echo those found on the Material Plane, from simple dwellings to entire forests and landscapes, but usually with striking dissimilarities. Where there might be a grand castle with proud banners and robust towers on the Material Plane, a similar hilltop might be found in the corresponding location in the Feywild, but here the castle might be differently shaped, have a dissimilar layout and colour, and be populated by completely strange creatures – or there might not be a castle at all, but an oddly formed mountain covered by purple grass. A vast pie forest on the Material Plane might appear as a field of yellow fern in the Feywild, and a bustling town might be represented by a festival – or a gigantic, humming beehive with enormous bees. You get the idea!
I’d suggest that you play with this notion but keep a fairly tight hold on the reins. Too much whimsy can quickly become confusing, numbing, and eventually unsurprising. And if there’s one thing you want the Feywild to be, it’s startling!
Most of the planes beyond the “normal” world are permeated by magic, but the Feywild might be more so than any other. Here, the forests and the land itself are naturally enchanted – and often enchanting! – and some new kind of startling wonder might await around the next bend at every step of the characters’ journey. Moreover, the weaves of magic on this plane are also unpredictable and unusually palpable, which the adventurers might notice in subtle effects (changing eye colours, light behaving strangely, curious sounds and hints of movement in the woods, and so on). Spellcasters and creatures with innate magic abilities are likely to sense this particularly keenly, as if the air was charged with an electrical current.
It’s all about the feelings
Importantly, the Feywild is characterised not only by more magic – that would be simplistic and dull. What makes this realm unique is a number of particularly prominent aspects of its fantastic nature, namely its effects on the emotions of all creatures that dwell on the plane, temporarily or permanently. Some may become slightly unhinged, others might experience that some of their emotions become amplified, and a few might even slip into delirium. Exactly how this influence manifests is up to you, but I’d propose the characters that spend more than just a few minutes in the Feywild risk having their moods altered – usually for the better, or at least for the more intense.
This map is useless!
Another aspect of the Feywild that’s likely to give characters and players alike a headache is the land’s proneness to change. Being a strongly magic domain of untamed emotions and weird quirks, it should come as no surprise to any seasoned adventurer that the land itself has a tendency to shift and alter in the most bizarre ways. Paths can appear and disappear seemingly at random, doors may open in tree trunks and exit in cliffsides, rivers can being to flow backwards and villages can change location overnight. As with the general whimsy mentioned above, it’s wise not to go overboard with this feature of the Feywild as it’s likely to drive the poor players around the bend – but it’s always fun to redraw the map out of the blue now and then!
Factions and alliances
There is typically a host of different creatures in the Feywild who are engaged in games, conflicts, schemes, disputes, and general rivalry. After all, this is a plane where emotions run riot and temperamental outbursts are as common as birdsong in an elven nature reserve. Consequently, a DM has great freedom to sprinkle in as many squabbling fey as desired and fill the whole realm with various agendas and plots. However, there is a pair of factions that reoccur in many interpretations of the Feywild, traditional as well as those found in Dungeons & Dragons: the Seelie Court and the Unseelie Court.
These two Courts are home to prominent fey – typically powerful archfey with great influence – who rule certain parts of the Feywild. Seelie is an old Scots word that once meant “happy”, and as you might’ve guessed, Unseelie can be interpreted as meaning the opposite. Indeed, these two Courts are each other’s counterparts: the Seelie Court is a gathering of fey who revel in lively colours, grand spectacle and positive cheerfulness, who safeguard the forest and write fantastic songs while doing so. Meanwhile, the Unseelie Court is a group with a far darker outlook and whose members reside in the shadows, far from the general glitter and glamour of the Feywild. This is the home of nightmares and hags, of murky thoughts and forbidden lore, of wild hunts and savagery.
The two Courts are often embroiled in one or more struggles and conflicts of interest, and it happens that their quarrels spill over into the Material Plane where they might entangle other creatures. This serves as a perfect way for DMs to create plot hooks that might lure characters over to the Feywild for a few quests!
A hint of menace
There’s no light without the dark, and this is particularly true for the Feywild – so DMs who want to portray the full range of sensations and impressions on offer in this realm do well to add a touch of darkness to the carnival of sounds and sights. An easy way to do this is simply to make use of the Unseelie Court mentioned above, and have its brooding members make an appearance to remind the characters that there is evil in the shadows even in a place like this. However, in the hands of a skilful DM, the sheer innate intensity of the Feywild alone can become threatening, especially if it’s relayed in certain ways. For example, a swarm of harmless giant bumblebees might appear seriously threatening if they swoop down to fly just over the characters’ heads. A colossal animated oak that can crush the adventurers with a swipe of its branches can be quite intimidating, and a butterfly the size of a dragon…you see where I’m getting with this.
It’s worth noting that this feature is equally true for a realm which, by and large, is the other side of the Feywild: a domain filled with gloom and doom widely known as the Shadowfell. We won’t dive too deep into this place here as it’ll have its own article in the future. Suffice to say that in most – although not all – respects, it’s the opposite of the Feywild, and similarly, it benefits from occasional flashes of brightness to break up the oppressive darkness.
These were a few ideas for how you can use the Feywildwhen running a D&D adventure! But given the plane’s natural malleability, this is the perfect realm to shape as you please so that it fits your group and the quest that you have in mind. So fire up the coffee machine, sharpen your pencil, and turn your imagination loose – the Feywild has no limits!