You’ll know at a glance whether Eyes Unclouded is a temptation for you, or not.
It certainly was for me.
Eyes Unclouded is an anthology of D&D adventures, 11 in total, inspired by classic anime. Not any anime, you won’t encounter Super Saiyans looking to test their strength here; instead, your players will enter worlds and scenes very much in the style of Studio Ghibli.
The Producer’s Notes begins with a quote from Hayao Miyazaki, and it makes me wonder why he’s not referenced more often in D&D adventures. It’s not a fluffy quote.
You must see with eyes unclouded by hate. See the good in that which is evil, and the evil in that which is good. Pledge yourself to neither side, but vow instead to preserve the balance that exists between the two.”
Eyes Unclouded hit the DMs Guild last night, but I’ve had a review copy for longer and did manage to playtest the second adventure in the anthology; An Unfamiliar Court.
I ran An Unfamiliar Court as a one-shot and with PCs designed to be receptive to the hook; do-gooders who want to help out. In this case, helping out means chasing a weasel through a busy marketplace.
I’m always conscious of spoilers when reviewing adventures, so won’t get into the details but will say that An Unfamiliar Court takes the PCs to what may be an unfamiliar realm.
The gotcha in the adventure is that things may not be what they seem, and it manages to be signposted and a gotcha at the same time, which is always rewarding for the players. The adventure design fully supports players working things out ahead of schedule too, because ultimately An Unfamiliar Court is about dealing with that twist, not only encountering it.
11 D&D adventures
The writers are an experienced team;
- Tineke Bolleman
- Bridie Dutton
- Brittney Hay
- C. Michael Chase
- Anthony Alipio
- Amber Litke
- Kat Kruger
- Sadie Lowry
- Toto Joe Sullivan
- Jacky Leung
- Collette Quach
The 11 adventures are split into three tiers; three in tier 1 (levels 1 to 4), four in tier 2 (levels 5 to 10) and three in tier 3 (levels 11 to 16). That feels right to me, there are occasionally dramatic and powerful magic or action scenes in classic Japanese animation. Still, I can’t imagine characters at level 17 or higher being a snug fit.
I’ve not playtested everything, just that one, but I’ve enjoyed reading through the remaining scenarios. It’s my expectation that each one is as robustly designed. If you have got rookie players, then I think they’ll probably follow the intended outline for each (yeah, I know, often unwise to predict what players will do). If your players are more experienced, then I think they’ll explore the boundaries of each adventure and perhaps go off on tangents. I believe each adventure will survive those tangents.
Each adventure is easy to read through and understand, as well. Following best practice for pre-written adventure design, each scenario in the download begins with a synopsis that describes the situation you’re about to drop your PCs into it. That makes it easier to envision what you need to do, as DM, to bring that to life.
Also, as you would expect, the anthology works hard to make sure you can actually use the adventures. The hooks to get your PCs engaged, luring them into the drama that is about to unfold without railroading them are thoughtful and commonplace.
That said, there are two catches.
The first is that by its very nature, Eyes Unclouded strongly leans towards spirits, intelligent animals and things that look like them. That often means otherwordly encounters. The Feywild is used, and at times it has to be used. If you don’t fancy going planar with your D&D yet, then it will be much harder and perhaps less satisfying using these adventures.
It’s not always the Feywild, one adventure best suits Eberron, for example, and contains notes on how to adapt if you don’t have Warforged Colossi from Crye stomping around.
The second catch is that despite the attention paid to adventure hooks, some of the scenarios are better suited to one-shot games. For example, one of my favourite reads is an adventure called “Delivery Witches Apply Within”, a nod to Kiki’s Delivery Service, perhaps, but how likely are your group of players to decide, as a whole, they want to become delivery witches?
This is not a show-stopper, there are adventures in Eyes Unclouded that I think you can weave into your regular D&D sessions.
Look and feel
You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I did say it would only take a glance at Eyes Unclouded to determine whether you were curious or not. Could that cover page by any more Ghibli?
Does that mean the adventures are all magical candy? No, that wouldn’t even be Ghibli.
Don’t forget the dog fights and invading army in Howl’s Moving Castle or dark danger in Princess Mononoke? There are fights in Eyes Unclouded.
But there are fewer (potential) melee encounters than in any set of D&D adventures I’ve ever bought.
I’m okay with that. It wouldn’t feel right if this was a hack and slash with cuteness.
Expect lots of cuteness in the artwork. Eyes Unclouded does not overboard with this, finding a balance between the charming visuals, encounter maps, weapons, NPCs and the occasional monster. Enjoy the diversity.
I can’t even hint at the picture with the Sahuagin in it, in case one of your players is reading this. But you’ll notice it.
The layout is professional too. It’s not a pure white background for the PDF, um, eggshell perhaps? It works for me. Headings use a font with curves but, thankfully, it is perfectly easy to read.
Stat blocks have a green background, and even when those dominate the page, it doesn’t hurt the eyes. Most of the time, it’s a standard two-column layout.
Food plays a role in classic Japanese animation. It’s a ritual. It’s a chance for the animators to show off.
In Eyes Unclouded you’ll find eight recipes.
Don’t worry, if you’re like me and struggle to microwave a curry, then you’ll be pleased to know these recipes don’t take up very much space. I can even imagine situations in the game where a player character might also ask a recipe or food-related question.
However, if you can cook then these eight little bonuses are excellent flavour text.
I’m very happy with Eyes Unclouded. It feels right. It reads right.
There’s not enough time to run every D&D adventure, not even with lockdown and Discord giving us the time to do so, but I knew I wanted to run at least one Eyes Unclouded scenario and it went as well as I could have hoped for. It plays right.
If you’re tempted, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Disclaimer: Geek Native was not paid to write this review. I received a free copy ahead of release to allow the site to publish on go-live day.
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