In a similar vein to the way the Uncaged Anthology freed women from the chauvinistic shackles of mythology and folklore, Unbreakable is a watershed moment for Asian representation in both content and creators. From the Khmer language of Cambodia, Chinese proverbs and places both lost and restored through societal forces, through reconnecting with cultural roots and familial tales from the Philippines that blur the line between reality and fantasy, to folklore, spiritualism and Chinese-American mythology, the inspiration for these adventures is as vast as the countries and cultures of Asia and Asian-Americans, beyond the East Asian Archetype and previous offensive depictions epitomized by the 'Oriental Adventures', still available on DMs Guild (with unwieldy notes on the history of its publication and disputes over ownership, though nothing addressing its problematic content).
As important as this is for representation, the quality of the writing and artwork of the anthology are equal to the moment; absolutely spellbinding with adventures rich in mythology, blending with and augmenting existing D&D lore. In Unbreakable you will help a talking carp prove itself to a maternal golden dragon; aid spirits of nature and face moral quandary and pollution; release the restless spirits of a village drowned by greed; reclaim a cultural artefact in a bamboo city heist during a festival; rescue monks trapped within crystal constructs and battle a spirit inside a silver chalice to keep a sacred flame alight; battle or placate undead and fiends with puppets in a bizarre, harrowing tale of lost children; trade emotions and traverse visions to find a legendary warrior to help rally the defense a city from monsoon and monster; enter a mahjong tournament rife with intrigue, tile mimics and a forest spirit in the form of an adorable mouse deer, with the chance to win a wish; deliver melons to a giant demon salamander's son...in hell (Diyu) to save a village from drowning in her tears, help the son get a job and the party out of hell with the power forgery and clerical work because few creatures are more litigious than fiends (or take a quick walking tour of the 18 hells in this Journey to the West inspired mythology), and ultimately end up rich or drowning in melons... and reunite a jade hermit with their 12 animal friends, each with their own flavourful realm, unique zodiac-inspired abilities, lair actions, and various involved and entertaining skill challenges to convince placate the, including a showdown with the tricksy Lord of Cats with multiple possible outcomes.
The lore and world-building are phenomenal with so many fantastic ideas, themes and seeds to act as inspiration for building your own Asian-inspired campaigns, with each adventure providing areas and concepts to use and expand upon in the form of everything from villages, towns, cities and regions to caves, forests, mountains and rivers, as well as people, creatures and mythology, all the way down to the 18 hells (Diyu). Taking the concepts and hooks provided, and expanding upon them could easily make for a quality campaign in which each adventure in the anthology could play an integral part.
Included within are new mechanics for reputation and adversity, a system for generating and emulating the changeable nature of high heat and humidity, running a mahjong tournament with rumours to be collected along with the winnings, as well as handling monsoons, organizing the defense of a city and measuring time as a resource. Also included are a cavalcade of new fascinating, adorable and terrifying creatures and magic items, as well as detailed settings and allusions to power structures and the world beyond and below.
I am absolutely captivated and moved by this release, which is as timely and momentous as it is entertaining and brilliant. Jacky Leung (@DeathByMage) has brought together a team truly worthy of the honour of being a part of this historic project.
Produced by Jacky Leung and Jazz Eisinger.
Layout & Graphics Design by Caroline Amaba.
Edited by Camielle Adams, Jazz Eisinger, Daniel Kwan, Steve Huynh, Lynn M. Meyer, Echo Roanoke
Cover Art by Joshua Mendenhall.
Original Artwork by Anthony Alipio, Caroline Amaba, Alison Huang, Kari Kawachi, Xyrystina Marcos, Tiona, Mouton, Jennifer Peig, Kathryne Wilson, Nicole Wilkinson, Reshma Zachariah
Adventures Written by Anthony Alipio, Steve Huynh, Kat Kruger, Daniel Kwan, Jacky Leung, Kevin Nguyen, Collette Quach, KC Shi, Russ Wilde, Ethan Yen
[5 of 5 Stars!]