A Review of the Role Playing Game Supplement Hex Crawl Chronicles 3 – Beyond the Black Water – Pathfinder Edition

Hex Crawl Chronicles 3 – Beyond the Black Water – Pathfinder Edition by John Stater is a role playing game supplement published by Frog God Games for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Games. As such, it is covered by the Open Game License, although, according to the license, none of the included material is considered to be Open Game Content. It is also available for Swords & Wizardry.

This is the third in the series of Hex Crawl Chronicles wilderness sandboxes. It references the Northmen from the Valley of the Hawks and the Black Arks and Beyonders who captain them that appear in The Winter Woods are covered in more detail in this. The region covered is an area of permanent twilight that lies between the land of the living and the dead and the souls of the dead wash up in the region and inhabit unliving bodies, such as zombies, or travel as spirits, such as shadows. The land is primarily ruled by the Nine Petty Deaths, powerful beings that each has a portfolio covering a certain type of deceased spirit.

Hex Crawl Chronicles 3 - Beyond the Black Water - Pathfinder EditionThe supplement is available as a PDF from RPGNow for $4.99 but was purchased at the reduced price of $3.74. This is a 48 page bookmarked PDF with one page being the standard Hex Crawl Chronicles front cover, one page the front matter, one page the Table of Contents, one page the Open Game License and three pages being ads for other supplements.

The supplement starts with a brief overview of the region before going on to Adventures in the Wilderness. There is a set of d8 encounter tables with different results depending on the region; Black Water, Badlands, Gray Steppe, Noisome Moor or White Wood.

The Land Beyond the Black Water gives some more brief details and is followed by a section on the Black Arks seen in The Winter Wood. Next is Ochre Rains, which cause damage and give life to short-lived and nasty Toadstool Men. Then comes The Nine Petty Deaths, which lists these godlings, their stronghold locations and what they do. Men covers the four primary cultures of men found in the region; Beyonders (who only barely qualify), Embalmers, Necrophages and Swampers.

There is a half page colour hex map of the region along with a d20 list of rumours, some true, some false and all linked to specific hexes.

The Encounter Key covers the various locations. The hex map is 36 hexes across by 22 down, giving 792 hexes in total (less hexes than in the previous two supplements, but that doesn’t mean less encounters). 82 of the hexes are described in detail. These range from a simple paragraph to a more detailed description. One small crypt has been mapped out, but this is the only map other than the hex map. Amongst the locations are a few new magic items including some minor artefacts. The encounters range from odd to dangerous potentially deadly to out and out lethal, especially the petty deaths who are all quite powerful, usually in the region of CR 20. There is still plenty of room to expand the various encounters. Many hexes are connected in one way or another to other hexes.

Hex Crawl Chronicles 3 – Beyond the Black Water – Pathfinder Edition in Review

The PDF is reasonably well bookmarked with the various portions of the introduction and every described hex linked. It could have been a bit better if the various sidebars, such as the magic items, were bookmarked as well. The Table of Contents is to a similar level of detail. Navigation is therefore okay.

The text maintains a two column format and a few minor errors were noticed. There are two colour maps, the hex map of the region and the one of the sole mapped location. There are also a handful of black and white illustrations which appear to be appropriate to the relevant text.

The hex map could really have done with being a full page, as in the first two supplements; at half a page, and especially when the hex numbers are grey print on a grey background, it’s a bit trickier to read.

This region is really well and evocatively described and there is a rather weird feel to it, in some ways resembling that of H. P. Lovecraft‘s Dreamlands, but perhaps a darker version. The Beyonders seem to evoke the Men of Leng and their ships. The petty deaths are all very different with very different abilities. Players who go up against them have a good chance of coming out second best. The land is also full of odd and different creatures, not to mention all the different undead things wandering around. The dead spirits, whatever form they have, trying to get to the afterlife are frequently preyed upon by the other inhabitants, as they have value.

The land can be used as either an adventuring location in itself, with characters wandering around and exploring – which can prove deadly for lower level parties once they stray out of the ‘safer’ regions, or it can be used as a place to locate several adventures or a series of them, connected together by a living land. Many of the places can be expanded; such as villages, toms and cities are given an overview but can certainly be described in more detail. Coupled with the previous supplement, this will make an extensive adventuring area. Adding it to a different campaign setting may be tricky, but will likely be worth it. The whole region is just full of adventure seeds.

Hex Crawl Chronicles 3 – Beyond the Black Water – Pathfinder Edition is a truly wonderful and evocative sandbox and it can be found by clicking here.


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