With the Netflix bringing the series The Witcher for our canvases, it's a good time to – in case you don't already know everything – get to know a little more about this fantastic universe. But let me tell you that there is an intimidating amount of “Witcher” out there to meet – the eight original books (plus a spin-off), three main games, and other spin-offs. And that's not all: there are comics, audiobooks and the Polish movies and TV series. Who is Geralt, and why is he in a bathtub? Who is Ciri? What stories take place and when?
If you want to know more about The Witcher but don't know where to start, here's our map. You will know who and what you need to know and what to read and play first. Remembering that there will definitely be spoilers during this guide. Even so, nothing to compromise your journey.
The most important characters
There's an extensive cast of characters throughout The Witcher series, but we'll just explain a few that you really should know for the series.
Geralt – A mutant monster hunter who is hated by the world he protects, except for his beautiful sorceresses who uniformly worship him. Present in: Everything, after all The Witcher is about him.
Ciri - A princess whose fate is linked to Geralt's and becomes his adopted daughter. Present in: The books, the series and the third game.
Yennefer - A feisty witch who is the love of Geralt's life, despite being apart as often as together. Present in: The books, the series and the third game.
Triss - Another sorceress in love with Geralt, Triss helps create Ciri and is something of a sister to her. Present in: Everything.
dandelion - A poet, bard and always on the go, he is Geralt's traveling companion and often the reason the Witcher gets into trouble. Called Jaskier in the Polish original and in the Netflix series. Present in: Everything.
Zoltan – Several chatty dwarves and drinkers serve temporarily as Geralt's companions, including Zoltan Chivay, a Mohawk veteran of war. Featured in: All three games, the Baptism of Fire and The Lady of the Lake novels.
Nations and key terms
The TV series Witcher will take place in a huge fantasy world, and the books and games focus on different countries and regions. Here is a basic map (although wars that unfold over time shift political boundaries). The inset on the right shows the southern territory owned by Nilfgaard's empire, while the main map shows the Northern Kingdoms, where most of the stories take place. The Skellige Islands are off the coast to the west.
Cintra - One of the northern kingdoms, invaded by Nilfgaard during the first northern war.
Rivia - A small northern kingdom, best known for the "Rivia" that appears after Geralt's name. Geralt isn't actually from Rivia, but he took the name as an easy reference for skeptics of wizards. Rivia formed a union with neighboring Lyria to become the kingdom of Lyria and Rivia.
Nilfgaard - The south is controlled by the immense Nilfgaard Empire, and ruled by Emhyr var Emreis, an important figure in some of the Witcher stories. They are known as the bad guys, although it's never that simple.
Skellige - Basically the Ireland of the Witcher world, an island kingdom off the coast of the Northern Kingdoms. Frighteningly independent, but allied with Cintra.
Witcher - A professional monster slayer. Wizards are subjected to intensive (and cruel) training from childhood and exposed to mutagens that change their bodies, making them stronger, living long lives and with cat eyes. They are also sterile. There are few wizards in the world, and they are often seen as insane.
The Law of Surprise – A benefit bestowed for a life saved. Often, this benefit is someone's first child (think of the fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin, and you're on the right track).
The Conjunction of the Spheres – A cosmic cataclysm from 1,500 years in the past that caused a fusion of worlds, and is supposedly the reason why some ghost-like creatures exist in the world of The Witcher. According to the elves, this is also how humans arrived in the world and when they learned to use magic.
The Witcher Books
Why read: Understanding the politics, Geralt and Yennefer's love story, watching Ciri grow up.
For starters, Andrzej Sapkowski's books on a “Wiedźmin”, as wizards are called in the Polish original, are the source of the 'OG' for everything that comes after. Sapkowski created Geralt and his world for a series of short stories, collected in two books called The Last Wish and The Sword of Destiny, and then expanded from a five-part saga. novels, followed by a prequel called Season of Storms.
If you're thinking the prequel might be a good place to start, think again. Stormtime takes place in the middle of Geralt's story period, not the absolute beginning, and ends with an epilogue long after them. It's a confusing place to start. You should definitely save it for last.
If you start with the tales or the saga, it's a matter of taste. The tales feature characters like Dandelion and Yennefer, and they occur first, but these episodic adventures - many of which are essentially dark parodies of fairy tales - can be an acquired taste. If you choose to start here, choose The Last Wish.
Fast forward to the saga and you'll lose some details, but you'll also be able to enter a more developed version of the world and its characters. The novels often feature lengthy discussions told from the point of view of other characters, especially Geralt's adopted daughter Ciri, and delve into the warfare policies of the setting. Sometimes a little too deep if you don't like several chapters of kings and sorcerers fighting. If you don't mind playing catch up and want to see the wizard's world in the best possible way, start here with Blood of Elves.
Now if you're an audiobook listener, all eight Witcher books are available in narrated versions (in English) by Peter Kenny, who does an excellent job, even though he calls Dandelion "Dandilly-on" for the first one and gives Ciri has a Scottish accent that may take some getting used to. His style of voicing Geralt sounds a bit like Sean Bean, which is honestly a solid choice.
The Witcher Games
Best for: The experience of living in his world, leading Geralt to be a slightly less cynical hero as he matures.
Game order: The Witcher 3, its expansions and The Witcher 2 if you really need more.
Highlights: Bloody Baron's quest line, taking a ghost to a wedding in the Hearts of Stone expansion, waking up with a tattoo in The Witcher 2.
Essential Mods: The best mods for Witcher 1 | The best mods of Witcher 2 | The best mods for Witcher 3.
The games of CD Projekt Red are responsible for popularizing the series outside of Poland, and even if the Netflix series isn't based on them – exactly!, it's worth a look. However, massive improvements have been made with each new game and it's not the kind of series you need to start with the first one. the original game of The Witcher it was a mess, and although a director's cut has improved the clumsy translation and there are mods to tweak its miserable combat, it's still pretty much ignored.
The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings it's a definite improvement, and the way its plot branches off midway was impressive at the time, but it's still not an instant recommendation. Highlight quests – like the one where Geralt wakes up with a hangover and a tattoo and needs to sort out the events of the night before – are far away, and the combat is better. Conveniently, it has many mods worth trying.
Already The Witcher 3, it's certainly unanimous among all, that is, it's the place for you to start playing. Don't worry about what you're missing starting in game three - although there is a cutscene at the beginning where a character asks about the events of the previous game. The plot is inspired more by the novels. After two games and ignoring and ignoring central characters from books like Ciri and Yennefer, The Witcher 3 takes us to the main stage, which means a grounding in the books or the TV show is more useful. Here you can understand why the creator of the saga abhors games.
When Geralt bumps into an NPC from the books he hasn't met in previous games, he still responds like someone who knows them, so spending 70 hours trudging through previous RPGs won't help when Dijkstra shows up and Geralt reacts like they do. A pity they did that.
The three RPGs are not the end. There are also two spin-offs based on Gwent, the minigame Geralt plays in The Witcher 3. There's also a free online version called Gwent (the one on the PC will soon be taken down, leaving only the one on the Playstation), and a one-player narrative. The game is titled Thronebreaker, which lets you play as Queen Meve, ruler of Rivia and Lyria, during the wars that preceded The Witcher games. Or you can try Condottiere, the table game for two to six players.
Skip the Witcher adventure game. It is a digital adaptation of a Witcher board game and was not well received.
Polish film and comics
Why should I see this? if you liked the rest and still need more.
Reading line: start with the Dark Horse comics, then go to the CD Projekt Red comics and then don't watch the movie (without creating a drinking game).
Highlights: The Curse of Crows comic takes place after The Witcher 3.
The Netflix series isn't the first attempt to bring Geralt to the screen. In 2001, a Polish production company released a movie based on the books, and it's, let's say, a mess. Even so, some people like it. And others who prefer to forget. If you are interested, just look in the Youtube that the movie in miniseries format is complete.
To be fair, the main reason the film is incomprehensible is that it was edited in several episodes of a TV show (so in a miniseries format) that, despite a limited budget, actually told a story that was even sensible, this if you watched it all instead of two hours of viewing. The scenes are random, cut and stitched awkwardly. Unfortunately, only the film version is available in a legitimate English translation, while the other versions of the show were subtitled (also in Portuguese) by fans.
Geralt also had a good series of adventures in the comics. Some were published by CD Projekt Red and occur between games, while others were published by Dark Horse and some continue Geralt's adventures in The Witcher 3.
This is not a comprehensive guide. The Witcher universe is giant with many more characters, stories and concepts that fit this article. Even so, you can start your journey!