Welcome my friends, as part of Witcher Week we will be looking at a few key ideas that you can incorporate into your campaign to hopefully help give it that very distinct Witcher feel. Come join us as we take a quick dive into the world of Witcher.
As a note I have seen the Witcher show, I am currently playing the game Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for the first time, and I am listening to an audio version of the first book. However, for this article I will be focusing on the game Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Slight spoilers for the Witcher 3 side quest “Where the wolf and the cat play” and I will avoid any major main story quest spoilers. With that out of the way let us begin.
Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a game that I picked up after watching the new show on Netflix. I enjoyed the show, but I was a bit confused about a lot of the things that were introduced, so I figured I would give the game a try; a few friends told me it was an amazing game and frankly I knew I would like it as well, I simply didn’t have the time to invest into it. Two months later, I am entirely on board with everything Witcher. From monsters, quests, weapons, potions, crafting system, and most of all to the difficult decisions to make; this game has so much to offer. So naturally I thought ‘how can I incorporate this into D&D’. Luckily for us Witcher is a world that can very easily be incorporated into our games; it already has different races like halflings, elves, dwarfs, humans, and more. However, The Witcher game has a very distinct feel to it which gives it its own atmosphere that others might find difficult to replicate in their games. How can we try to capture that feeling in our own campaigns?
Now, there are many more concepts in the Witcher that give it its atmosphere, and I am sure I will be missing a few of those but for the purposes of this article I am going to focus on just a few distinct elements that it has to offer. In my mind there are 5 topics that make the world of Witcher stand out: crafting, monsters, lore, exploration, and sidequests with choice. Let us have a look at each of these and see if we can incorporate some of them into our games.
First, are the multiple crafting systems that Witcher uses. There are tons of different resources online that have systems for collecting herbs and monster parts, any of those can be helpful. In Witcher, Geralt uses different plants and monster parts to make oils and potions; some oils are used to make attacks more effective against specific monster types while potions can cause a variety of helpful outcomes. If you don’t want to use these systems then screw it, make your own. Maybe just pick two types of ingredients that the group has to find and those two can make an oil that can be applied to a weapon and all attacks for the next minute against a specific enemy type make them vulnerable to the damage. You can make concoctions that give temporary darkvision, temporary effects of potion of giant strength, or increases to a stat for an hour. Whatever you think up can become possible.
Second, let us have a look at the monsters. In the world of Witcher Geralt of Rivia, and other Witchers, are known as monster hunters. If there is a monster causing some kind of trouble then a Witcher is hired to deal with it and using their extensive knowledge of monsters they find a way to handle the creature. The first obvious things to mention are resistances and vulnerabilities; you can take any monster and give it several resistances and one vulnerability, which can be researched to discover. Another idea is to have variations of the same kind of monster. You can have; snow zombies, ash zombies (affected by volcanic ash), burning skeletons, and acid spewing skeletons. Having variations of a monster makes it feel like there is an expansive ecology; trolls in D&D are a good representation of this. There is also the idea of having lore for monster types in your world. Whereas goblins are known for being little bandits maybe in your world there is a story as to why; maybe they were once a great kingdom of creatures that were tricked until their kingdoms collapsed and now they seek vengeance against all peoples by waylaying them on the side of the road. Any amount of work put into a monster’s lore in your world makes a great deal of a difference; even a tiny factoid such as “sirens were once a race of beautiful women who were cursed for all eternity” is enough to make your world feel like it has a beating heart. And frankly one of the most important elements, in Witcher, is non-violent or non-evil creatures. Commonfolk often see a monster and cry out in fear, begging for a savior. When a Witcher is called in they know information on monsters, or they research the creatures in some format (maybe you can include a bestiary in your world or a library they can research at). Geralt comes in to a mission expecting a savage creature and often simply finds a harmless creature that just needs to be talked to. Explore this concept from time to time, not all creatures have to be monsters.
Third, in a similar vein to monsters, lore is key, your world needs to have a history. I find a timeline often helps with this, even if you never bring it out in your campaign it helps to have it on hand for yourself. In Witcher there have been years of nations warring against one another endlessly; regions have risen and fallen continuously as time went on. Do you know how to express history in your world without simply telling your players everything? Ruins, my friend, ruins are how. Place random ruins in your world for your players to come across, fill those ruins with random little things that represent who lived there and watch the curiosity in their eyes fill as they start asking questions and try figuring out what happened and who lived there. These ruins don’t even have to be full dungeons, they can just be locations the group comes across which they can either rest at or just pass on by in their travels. The same rule applies to abandoned temples of deities and civilizations that no longer exist. Don’t tell that your world has a history, show it.
Fourth, is one of the pillars of D&D that most dms struggle with (including myself), exploration. Some people consider Witchers to be cooler Rangers, a phrase I dislike since Rangers are already really cool! But an important part of any ranger is exploration, so to give your campaign that Witcher-esque feel it might be important to add some elements of it. Lucky for us we have already discussed elements that can help with this, ruins! While traveling your players can come across ancient ruins hidden in deep, dark, and dense jungles. They might come across, something that I like calling, mini dungeons; where a small cave system or old ruin is inhabited by a group of creatures. Throw in some treasure and dead bodies with items in their pockets and you have yourself a juicy exploratory world. You can also take a page out of the Witcher game and have guarded treasures in which a strong monster guards a treasure chest; this also allows your players the choice of attacking that creature or not. You can just sit back and relax as your party bickers over whether or not they should risk their lives for a treasure box that they have no idea what it contains. Another idea is having little villages and homesteads that have been utterly decimated by other rogue monsters or bandits; villages devoid of life because everyone ran scared or have the road littered with the corpses of the poor people that were killed in the process. This gives your world the feeling that things are always happening and moving, even when they are not around.
Finally, Witcher is the master of one thing above all others, sidequests & choice. The Witcher treats many of their sidequests as main ones, in that the stories told in them matter and often require difficult choices. A good side mission is meant to give a break from the main quest. You can have a sidequest wrap up in one small adventure or you can have it be one part of a series of continuous quests which can conclude later; although I suggest not using to many of the latter. In order to capture that Witcher-esque feeling I suggest you take great care with some of these side missions. Some can be as simple as “someone or someones are in danger from a scary monster, save them” but others can feel like a short story that your player’s stepped into. One example from the game (spoiler ahead for a sidequest in the game) has you decide the fate of another Witcher after they committed a heinous act. Witchers are essentially endangered because they no longer have a way of creating more of them, and in this side mission you have to decide if you will let this Witcher live or die for the act they committed. By the end, no matter which you decide it feels like the world is barely any better off. After that mission I found myself just standing there in awe, wondering if I made the right choice; many of the sidequests in Witcher leave you feeling that way. But a mission like this shouldn’t have a clear right or wrong answer; in fact many choices in the Witcher games, books, and show made by Geralt often were just a matter of having to choose the lesser evil. But there is also always the option of simply walking away and choosing neither side, leaving the outcome up to fate and creating possible consequences for later; because not making a choice is still making one.
There you have it friends, a few tips to make your world feel more Witcher-esque. Just using one or two of these elements can help to give your world more depth and feel more alive. Give your world plenty of lore with areas, reflecting that history, for your players to explore. Fill it with monsters that have some legends and add some crafting to help deal with some of those monsters. But most of all add sidequests that matter by giving the players some difficult choices to make. Good luck my friends and I hope this article helped you pinpoint some of the elements from Witcher that can be brought into your own world. Go out there, slay some monsters and don’t forget to toss a coin to your Witcher
Did you enjoy our last article for Witcher Week? Which of our articles as your favorite? Why not head over to our social media and make sure you’re following us there? We post new content every week and would love to hear your thoughts on it.