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Hex Crawl Chronicles 2: The Winter Woods (PFRPG)

***** (based on 1 rating)
PZOPDFFGGHC02PFE
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The Winter Woods are situated in the northern climes where the snow falls from late Autumn to early Spring. The map can be roughly divided into fi ve geographical regions. The extreme west is a land of thickly wooded canyons, mesas and buttes divided by rushing streams that fl ow into the Great River, visible in the southwest corner of the map. The north central portion of the map is a rolling prairie of tall grasses, wildfl owers, leaping gazelles, browsing wisent and mammoth and prowling smilodons. The prairie and canyon lands are bordered on the east by a land of forested hills, gentle compared to the western lands, and very fertile. The extreme east of the map contains what the native folk call the “Black Water”, a vast sea of viscous, black water that gives off an acrid smell and is said to harbor things better left unseen. The shores of the Black Water are a moor of black, spongy ground and perverse fungal growths, some growing as tall as trees. The natives of the Winter Woods believe they know what lies beyond the Black Water, but are hesitant ever to speak of it lest “they” prick up their ears and take an interest in the teller of tales.

Hex Crawl Chronicles

When the game was invented and sold in a little woodgrain box, the author told us a required supplement was an Avalon Hill game called Outdoor Survival. This was a wilderness survival game that consisted of a hexagonal map system that players would travel around, trying to find their way back to civilization, all the while trying not to die of thirst or get eaten by bears. This game map was used as the first wilderness “hex-crawl” for what eventually became D&D. Later, Judges Guild took this to a whole new level with the Wilderlands series. For many years, hex crawling was just the way the game was played. This series brings that back, or supplements existing games that use that system of travel.

What a hex crawl is, literally, is a wilderness sandbox of areas, encounters and villages that players travel around in. It provides no story line, just hundreds of story hooks and possibilities. An example of what this looks like that I published a few years ago can be found at:
http://www.necromancergames.com/pdf/lenap/lenap.pdf

These books provide a sub-setting in your own campaign world. They populate the world, and allow you to let your players explore that world, rather than just “travel 20 days” to the dungeon. Written by John Stater of NOD fame, each of these supplements details an area with a specific theme. Monster and NPC statistics are provided for each encounter area detailed.

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Product Reviews (1)

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***** (based on 1 rating)

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Excellent Hex Crawl in a wintry setting

*****

This pdf is 48 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 3 pages of advertisements, leaving 41 pages of content for this installment of Hex Crawl Chronicles and this time, Frog God Games sends us off to the Winter Woods.

If you don't know about Hex Crawls, I wrote a short introduction to the kind of adventure in my review of the first Hex Crawl Chronicles.

The first Hex Crawl Chronicle was great due to the wonder and cultural specifics being similar yet, different to our world and this one goes the same route - Northmen are dusky-skinned and a new ethnicity is introduced via the Hivernians. In the east of the Winter Woods, there's the black water, an ocean over which dread infernal slavers come on black arks, bringing a threat of strangeness into this particular region. Indeed, the mood is rather interesting hearkening somewhat back to a combination of the Malazan Book of the Fallen and Song of Ice and Fire sagas, by providing far-out ideas like dread intelligent spider sorcerors as well as reclusive witches, holy warriors seeking to reclaim old holds and a detailed political landscape of humanoid tribes and political factions.
There also are hidden artifacts, a valley of people cursed to stay shadows and perish once they come into contact with sunlight, intelligent northwinds, a dread labyrinthine cursed maze, dark cults, serpent-people to a settlement of fungus-addicted dwarves that slowly turn into fanatical plant-creatures. We also get a map of a mini-dungeon and even a monument that could be considered a puzzle-mini-dungeon - awesome!
And then there's the impeding rise of the Queen of the Winter Wind that serves as a backdrop/looming threat the DM can easily expand upon - whether she's a living glacier, a Song of Ice and Fire-like climatic catastrophe, a servant/avatar of Boreas or a dread fey queen depends on the DM and your plans.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any severe glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly b/w-standard and the sparse artworks are nice. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks. John M. Stater has created an compelling environment, that via mentioning the Valley of the hawks might be combined with it and helps grant the impression of a complete world in the making - ambitious and cool. While no hilarious easter-eggs like in its predecessor are present, the atmosphere of the Winter Woods is more concise and special than in the Valley of Hawks - the feeling of entering and exploring a foreign world is very present in every encounter and the looming threat helps evoke a sense of chill wonder. If you combine this pdf with the content from Open Design's Northlands, this pdf gets even better. While not all statblocks are full-length and we only get one additional map to the hex-map. Nevertheless, for the very low price you get enough content for up until half a year or even longer of gaming. My final verdict for this great module and the vast amount of imaginative content herein will be 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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