The Evil Eye
Author: Steve Kurtz
It's difficult to review this adventure because it's just so good. It's pretty much the textbook for how modules should be written. It has compelling NPCs, detailed environments, lots of room for tangents and improvisation, ideas for future adventures, and a major impact on the game world that doesn't rely on tearing the world apart. What more could a DM ask for?
The city of Karina, Invidia is presented in incredible detail. Nearly every number in the map key holds a potential spin-off adventure. I got particular mileage out of the Engineer, and letting Mallocchio use his powers to manipulate the town guard at the Citadel. Gabrielle Aderre's curse is finally manifested in her little demon-child Mallochio, and her story is both tragic and frightening.
The scares are there as well, although some need to be tweaked out by the DM for maximum effectiveness. Mallocchio's powers of teleportation and animal/human control can be very scary, as in the runaway cart scene on the docks, but a few more similar encounters can really torment the players, and give them a personal stake in taking him down. The module suggests this, but the DM will have to flesh out the encounters himself.
The vistani ghost mother Leyla, needs no such tweaking. She's about as creepy and tragic as they come. The horrific dogfights need a steady hand to avoid a gorefest (as the module notes) but provide a thrilling and memorable mini-climax. Mallocchio himself presents a refreshing change of pace, being something other than the usual undead, golem, necromancer, or lycanthrope. Eye is a great model for using a fiend as a manipulator behind the scenes and not a pile of hp and special attacks.
There are only two minor problems that I can see with The Evil Eye. Firstly, the huge number of NPCs running around can get confusing to player and DM alike. I recommend making some notes on each NPCs motivation and methods to avoid DM confusion. (e.g., Why did Matton want to go to the dogfights again?) To help the players keep things straight, I recommend copying the pictures of all the NPCs and displaying them when that person is around.
Secondly, there is a bit of a danger that the PC's will feel like spectators to all these NPC happenings. Finding adventure hooks to keep them feeling personally involved is difficult, but will keep them from just leaving and letting the Vistani sort things out themselves.
Aside from these quibbles, The Evil Eye is a masterpiece, fun for both DM and player, and a must-have for those interested in the history of the demiplane. Rating: 5/5
Summary: The PCs find themselves in Invidia where they have a chance encounter with a Vistani man haunted by his dead wife and whom serves as a guide through a nightmarish plot by the Gentleman Caller to incarnate the Dukkar into the world. Mallochio Aderre has been born by his seduction of Gabrielle Aderre and is wrecking havoc in the capital as she lays insane. Will the PCs help the Vistani bind him or allow him to free all the Dark Lords from their prisons?
The Evil Eye and Bleak House are together the two best adventures in Ravenloft. The Evil Eye may have an edge over Bleak House because the PCs aren't distracted by the sheer oddity of their surroundings but can just proceed through the domain of Invidia with very few "unnecessary" side plots into the story. There's no random encounters really or off the wall elements. The story is a straight forward "There's a Half-Fiend being born in Ravenloft" and "he's going to do very bad things unless he's stopped."
I'll honestly tell you how much I enjoyed the adventure simply by the fact that I didn't have to modify it at all, save for a few connections to the PC's main campaign being made.
The first benefit is the fact that Mallochio Aderre is a lot more effective darklord than Gabrielle Aderre herself and she herself is a great darklord (certainly much better than the almost parody of her in Inza over in Sithicus). The whole "Omen" vibe is almost completely untouched in Ravenloft and like "Van Ritchen's Guide to Fiends" helps fill out the role of demons in the world of Ravenloft that had been almost completely untouched to this point but are a powerful element of horror. Mallochio makes some early appearances to help establish a personal connection to the players but like Damien, operates through accidents and knows well enough to stay the hell away from their blades.
The Midnight Slasher's appearance in the story along with Nathan Timothy and Matton are perfectly appropriate to the story. Nothing is gratuitous and it's perfectly understandable if the Midnight Slasher murders Gabrielle at the end of the story as a climax. Matton's love actually makes the wolfwere to be a sympathetic character and his feelings all the more tragic because Gabrielle will never be able to return them. On a related note, Gabrielle herself is someone the players will have to have hearts of stone not to sympathize with given the subtext of what was done with her (it was no erotic lovemaking if her memories drove her insane).
I also love the "Werewolf Bar" and I think it's a great idea to have the 'monsters' have some place to basically sit back and cool down with the dogfights being a fun moment in the context of the story that is a favorite of every player whose ever played the story honestly. In my current RL game, I'm having fun with the fact that the player is dating the blonde waitress and they routinel visit without knowing it's 'true clientale' (the player characters love dogfights)
I will admit, that the Vistani Ghost Story at the start of the story honestly interrupts the flow of the story really and I've never included it in the game but instead run it as another adventure entirely. I even liked the Vistani camp's games.
Great sourcebook for Ravenloft's invidia, awesome art with genuine beauty for the characters, and a great plot.
5 drops of blood out of 5.
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