Support my work via Patreon.
Published by: Oliver Clegg
Ravenloft provides the perfect D&D setting for Gothic and eldritch horror, and Curse of Strahd is (correctly) considered one of the best published Fifth Edition adventures to date. Any DMs Guild adventure that artfully blends classic horror tropes with intriguing storytelling in a Ravenloft setting quickly gets my attention. But I was unprepared for the sheer breadth of content and attention to detail with “The City of Eyes.”
“The City of Eyes” is a 15th level (!) adventure that takes place entirely within a dark dimensional noir city, under constant rain fall and stalked by terrors of the night. The adventure plays out like a tense, cooperative Arkham Horror-style board game as players work to unravel the mystery and escape from the mystical city before they’re driven mad, or worse.
At over 100 pages long, the adventure is easily one of the biggest and most robust I’ve ever reviewed on the DMs Guild. That length is richly justified thanks to all the fun places and encounters within Elysium – any one of which would almost be enough for its own DMs Guild mini-adventure!
The players wake up in a bar with no idea how they got there. Their main goal is to escape from this dimensional urban nightmare. The immediate overarching quest is to follow the path of a young woman, Cecilia, who also desired to leave and journeyed to each of the important locations and people around the city.
The adventure strikes a nice balance between an open world within a limited area – the city. Players can journey into a Crooked House to begin the search for Cecilia and battle through the myriad of threats, including mimics, cloakers, and rugs of smothering.
From there they can meet an Ulitharid named Dr. Brains who runs the insane asylum (along with an Elder Brain hilariously referred to as the Disciplinary Board), solve the riddles in a ruined prison to learn the proper rules to speak to a spider-god, peruse a library run by an insane beholder (don’t call him by the wrong name!), see the newspaper get delivered by skeletons in trench coats, and sit in for some magical item auctions by a pair of disguised rakshasas (who don’t exactly take gold as payment).
Each area is a detailed dungeon crawl on its own, while just walking down the shifting streets of Elysium can result in a variety of thematically appropriate random encounters, like a bunch of octopi just hanging out in an alleyway, or a gray render who wants to play fetch with a red ball.
There’s so much well-written content here, but there are a few stumbles toward the end. The main story of Cecelia’s journey ultimately peters out, ending in a randomly generated death depending on the tarot reading.
Yes, “City of Eyes” uses a very similar tarot card mechanic as Curse of Strahd to place the location of important treasures and story elements in random locations. I didn’t like that concept there and I don’t like it here. Cecilia ends up being little more than a buff to the heroes during the climax.
The real story comes to a close when the heroes journey beneath the central lake to discover the evil heart of the city, trapped by the old gods of Elysium. The Undercity is a neat, evil mirror world of Elysium, but it’s vastly underdeveloped compared to its counterpart. The final battle certainly feels climactic, though it requires the players to work with the aforementioned spider-god to ultimately set things right.
Creating a Tier 3/4 adventure is a daunting task, but spiriting the party away to a horror-filled city with a ticking clock of doom provides the perfect mix of challenge and delightful role-playing opportunities.
- Over 100 pages of excellent world building and story telling in the gothic horror world of Elysium.
- The city provides an open-world flavor set within a structured environment full of flavorful random encounters and detailed locations.
- Detailed notes on everything a DM could want, from possible books in the library, to rumors about Elysium, and every single magical item up for bid at the auction house.
- Custom trinket table, wild magic table, player race and backgrounds to be used specifically for the adventure.
- Borrows an awkward storytelling element of Curse of Strahd: leaving the location of important characters and magical items up to a random chance tarot reading.
- The underwater mirror-town of Undercity serves as the climactic final act, but it’s disappointingly bare and limited in scope.
- No separate player maps for dungeons.
The Verdict: Featuring an absolutely staggering amount of content and phenomenal world-building, “The City of Eyes” weaves a memorable high-level urban-horror adventure.
Support my work via Patreon.