All About D&D Carnival Games

Now that The Wild Beyond the Witchlight has been released, DMs finally have formal rules of various carnival games. D&D carnivals and fairs are a great way to give your players constructive downtime and let them let loose between adventures.

You can build those encounters yourself or work with the new module to create a beautiful and exciting experience.

The Wild Beyond the Witchlight Summed Up

The Wild Beyond the Witchlight is a massive module book and is a great introduction module. It is designed for players at levels one through eight, but you can adapt the games and content to a higher-level table as well.

This module brings so many fantastic features to the table, so let’s highlight some of the biggest ones.

You Don’t Need Combat to Win

While it might sound counterintuitive to D&D, this is a module where combat only makes things harder for the players. You don’t need to fight anyone to complete the experience and solve the mystery.

Throughout the game, there is a timer, and metric your DM will follow. This will keep track of the mood in the carnival based on player choices and actions.

As the mood changes, the carnival will become harder or easier. The happier the NPCs are, the easier it will be to win them over, win games, and you could win better prizes.

However, if the players get violent or rude with characters, they can expect to see a coarser and more menacing side to the carnival. They will lose more and make enemies easier. You have to work with the NPCs to complete the carnival, and they won’t want to work with your party if you’re all rude.

This is great for new players who need to learn the ropes of improv and character building in a setting that isn’t too aggressive.

It’s A Perfect Tutorial

Since this module is designed for levels one through eight, you can bring in completely new players! The Witchlight Carnival is a perfect place for people new to the game to explore and learn.

This is one of the most newbie-friendly modules out there and helps ease players into the game while also giving them a chance to have a lot of fun. You can learn the ins and outs of playing in a group and working together on storytelling.

The collaborative storytelling aspect is crucial, and the Witchlight Carnival is a perfect place to hone those skills. You have to learn how to talk to NPCs and work together in the long run.

Improv and communication skills can be challenging for even long-time players to master, but this module is the perfect place to start. You don’t have to worry about missing out because you are trying to figure out how damage dice and attacks work.

You Get to See the Feywild

The Wild Beyond the Witchlight is the first D&D module to feature the Feywild heavily. This realm has excited and enticed DMs and players for years but never gotten the spotlight. The Feywild is an excellent setting to work with, and this module is a perfect taste of it.

The Feywild is one of the many planes outside of the Material Plane where most D&D action happens. It is full of potent magic and is the home of the fey and where elves first came from.

What makes the Feywild so interesting is that while it is breathtakingly beautiful, it is also full of dangers. This is the home of the Will o’the Wisp and plants that will enchant you like the lotuses from the Odyssey. Once you get a taste, you won’t want to leave.

The Wild Beyond the Witchlight is a perfect taste of this plane, but not enough to be overwhelming. With the carnival as an intro setting before going to the Feywild, that means you can take the time and appreciate it.

While it is geared for levels one through eight, there is so much you can enjoy from this module. Even if your party has been around for a while, you can update this experience and design your dnd carnival.

Homebrew D&D Carnival Game Tips

There are some mechanics you should think about before you start building an intricate carnival. Carnival worldbuilding is crucial to make it feel fully integrated and mesh with your party. 

Building a homebrew carnival isn’t that hard if you know how to go about it. Experienced and inexperienced DMs alike can learn a lot from our easy guide to building a carnival from the ground up.

Setting

The setting is a perfect way to keep the storytelling going. If the world you are working in has a specific theme, let the color scheme and game names reflect that.

Your carnival can also show the way that other countries and regions in your world look. While the players might live in a cold desert region, a carnival that’s traveled from a tropical rainforest island will be exotic and unique and tell the players more about the world.

Your carnival might be another moving piece in the larger setting. Does the carnival move around with a circus or other traveling group, or are they settled and consistent?

NPCs

NPCs can affect the aesthetic, the rules, and the overall feel of the carnival more than any other set device. It’s crucial to make them memorable and exciting.

For example, if you have a crooked carny running this carnival or perhaps an evil pixie, the rules for each of the games might be rigged in the DMs favor and seem unfair to the players. They might be rude and treat the party poorly as well, making the energy worse.

Alternatively, if a fun-loving and fair clown runs a carnival, the games might be goofier and fair, even skewed to give the players an edge. Families might go to this carnival, and there might be magical prizes to entice the players to participate more.

NPCs are the heart and soul of a carnival, and the connections between them are just as meaningful. These connections are so essential to show how characters interact with each other. Each NPC isn’t a monolith; they are a member of a community.

Is your carnival run by an extensive, loud family of halflings who is dedicated to the art of entertainment? Or is your carnival run by a loosely tied-together, adversarial group who all owe the head of the circus a debt? Is your carnival run by a greedy carny who only has their eye on the bottom line, without regard to the staff?

These three types all have very different tones and will make the world feel lived in. History and connections will give characters form.

These set the tone and can work beautifully to bring a carnival into your setting.

Larger Plots

Carnivals can be a great way to move the plot along without bringing your antagonists into melee range.

There are often clowns and live performances at carnivals and fairs. Many of these performances draw on current events for the material. You can use these performers to show your players all kinds of things about the setting and the political environment.

You could also have people who know other important characters or plot hooks at the fair. These could pass on gossip and news from the rest of the world. They could also spy on the players as they move around the carnival.

Types of D&D Carnival Games

When you start building your D&D carnival games, you should keep the games varied and enticing. 5e carnival games don’t have to be too complicated, but there is work to build them.

There are two main types of carnival games: games of chance and games of skill. There are also attractions that players can compete in for other prizes or pure entertainment.

Games of Chance

Games of chance are entirely random (or may seem that way if rigged). These are your Pick a Duck and raffles. Players pay and then pick their chance to win.

Some of these games may seem like games of skill, like a Goldfish Bowl game, but they are games of chance. You don’t know what you’re going to get until it is too late and your money has already been spent.

If you win, you get a specific prize. These can be small trinkets or even larger gifts. Sometimes, you can even win vouchers to redeem for a larger prize. Players could turn this in for a more powerful magical item or specialty gear.

You can build a D&D carnival with a little bit of time, elbow grease, and some exhilarating games.

Games of Skill

Games of skill are won by the player doing something and earning the prize. Like most other D&D content, these D&D carnival games are won by rolling die for the specific stat and seeing how your character does.

These are most commonly accuracy or strength. You have to hit a certain number of targets or reach a certain level of proficiency. For example, a player has to hit three milk bottle pyramids to get the giant stuffed animal.

You could assign specific games to a particular skill, like a shooting game to a ranged weapon proficiency. A strength game could be linked to athletics or melee attacks, depending on the type.

Players could roll multiple times for target games and only once for proficiency games. You can adjust the ranking so that players can earn larger prizes throughout their time at the carnival.

Competitive attractions can actively pit the players against each other too. These can be games of skill, but they can also be for entertainment with no prizes attached.

Go-karts, laser tag, and racing slides are examples of attractions that some fairs might have that are competitive but often not for prizes.

Entertainment Attractions

These are attractions that don’t have stakes for prizes. These are your fun rides like the Ferris wheel or the Tilt-a-Whirl. They can cost real money to participate in, but they can also cost fair cash or tokens.

These are just designed for pure fun. They’ll give your players a nice break from the stakes games and let them relax. These could make great character moments and give your players a chance to know each other’s characters.

You can change them to fit whatever setting you need. For example, a mechanical bull can become a mechanical griffin for fantasy settings.

You could include fun houses, a Tunnel of Love, or even a haunted house. These are great things for your characters to experience and are fun for you to DM too! It takes the stress off a DM and makes sure that they can have fun without worrying about too many stats.

Like the competitive attractions, these can cost actual money, or they can cost tokens. A token system is another great tool when building a carnival.

Setting Up a Token System

Tokens or tickets are one of the main ways that fairs and carnivals handle currency. These can be custom for the fair and flavored however you need them to be. They are cheap and practical tools to keep a fair running.

Instead of paying a single stand with real dollars, you pay one cashier and get fake money you can then use to enjoy the fair. This lowers the risk for carnies and makes sure no one can steal valid, local currency from them.

In practice, this is another way to make sure your players are paying attention and keeping an eye on their spending. This is also a way your players can avoid losing real money at specific games.

These can operate as clues for your players too. If something seems fishy with the fair currency, it will encourage the characters to investigate and see what’s up.

To implement a token system, you need to give your players a direct way to collect and earn tokens. These could be by completing quests for NPCs, winning games, or purchasing from a cashier.

These terms should be clear and as explicit as possible. Set a firm money-to-token exchange your players can refer to. Prizes that players can redeem tokens for should also have transparent and fair exchange rates.

DnD Carnival Games Explained

Pulling together a carnival, either in the new Witchlight module or in a homebrew setting, is easy when you put the time into worldbuilding. There are so many great games you can make to entertain your players and set up other world content for the future.

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Written By Jake Morley

D&D Enthusiest and RPG Nerd

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