A Review of the Role Playing Game Supplement Hex Crawl Chronicles 4 – The Shattered Empire – Pathfinder Edition

Hex Crawl Chronicles 4 – The Shattered Empire – Pathfinder Edition by John Stater is a role playing game supplement published by Frog God Games for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. As such, it is covered by the Open Game License but, according to the license, none of it is considered to be Open Game Content. It is also available in a Swords & Wizardry version.

This is the fourth entry in the Hex Crawl Chronicles series. In the previous three entries the Northmen have appeared and there have been mentions of their former empire. This supplement covers the region of their empire, which is currently being fought over by the former emperor’s three daughters, following his death (or murder as it actually is). This is a far more urbanised setting than the others, with many settlements from villages to substantial cities. There are also armies and other armed forces of different sizes travelling through the region.

The supplement is available as a PDF from RPGNow for $4.99 but was purchased at the reduced price of $3.74. This is a 52 page bookmarked PDF. One page is the standard Hex Crawl Chronicles colour front cover, one the front matter, one the Table of Contents and two and a half pages are the Open Game License.

The supplements begins with a brief history of the empire, its founding and current shattered state as the three princesses fight over the remains.

Hex Crawl Chronicles 4 - The Shattered Empire - Pathfinder EditionAdventures in the Wilderness gives an overview of the hexes and rolling for random encounters. There is a d10 table of random encounters, with different results for Farmland, Highlands, Swamp and Wooded Hills.

The Imperial Regalia gives details of the three items required to rule the empire, their magical properties and the current hex that each is in.

The Princesses Imperial gives an overview of the personalities of the three princesses.

The Armies is an extensive section giving details and stats for mounted and foot soldiers of different types.

Armies in the Field gives the hex locations of the armed forces of each princess.

The Northmen provides a description of the Northmen themselves.

Two pages are the black and white map of the region.

There is a d20 table of rumours. Many, but not all, of these are linked to hexes. The table does say that the rumours are marked as being true or false, but none are marked as such. This is a bit inconvenient; it should be possible to determine which are true or false by carefully reading through the supplement but it would have been easier if this had already been done, as it was in previous entries.

The Encounter Key describes the various hexes the region map is 38 by 23 hexes, making 874 hexes in total. Of these, 83 hexes are described. Two of the locations are mapped out but the vast majority are not. There are also a couple of new magic items scattered throughout the text. With this being the empire’s heartland, there are far more urban areas than seen in previous entries, but there are still evocative and odd entries, such as Dancing Demon Gorge, a gorge filled with statues of demons.

With the area being under conflict, there are plenty of marauding armies around that are dangerous if tangled with directly. Not all are connected to the princesses either; there are armies from other regions – including another world – that are taking advantage of the confusion. This also provides a link to the next in the series, The Pirate Coast.

Hex Crawl Chronicles 4 – The Shattered Empire – Pathfinder Edition in Review

The PDF is fairly well bookmarked, with the various introductory sections and each hex linked. The Table of Contents is slightly less thorough. It would have been nice to have the sidebars bookmarked as well, but navigation as a whole is decent.

The text maintains a two column format and there were errors of quite a few types noted. This were minor text errors, characters being described as male or female depending on where it was read and some missing stats. The various magic items (including the imperial regalia) seemed fairly low powered for some of the characters who owned them, especially the high level NPCs.. There are a few black and white illustrations that appear to be appropriate for the text, as well as the two battlemaps and the region map. The maps, for this instalment, are in black and white not colour, which does make the region map harder to read.

There would appear to be a lot more stat blocks in this edition than in previous ones, and there is a whole host of creatures used (which is why the OGL is so long – creature references).

This is a wilderness sandbox where players can go from location to location, and quite easily end up out of their depth if they aren’t careful (such as accidentally stumbling across a CR 20 nalfeshnee demon; not healthy for a low level party). The various armies and the consequences of the war also add to the danger.

The setting can be used to site other adventures in, putting them into a living world, and also combined with other entries in the series for a larger expanse. It can also be developed more thoroughly; many of the locations are adventure seeds and hooks rather than full encounters, and most can be expanded on. Although there are still examples of the wonderfully evocative writing seen in the series so far, this entry just doesn’t seem quite up to the same standard. Perhaps it’s because of the armies wandering around that make much of the region seem rather similar.

Having said that, this is still a great wilderness area to expand, develop and place adventures on. One problem, and one that’s common to the series, is that it might not be as easy as might be liked to place the region in another setting. Of course, the various encounters could quite easily be removed and dropped into another campaign. Hex Crawl Chronicles 4 – The Shattered Empire – Pathfinder Edition, despite not being the best entry, is still a nice, inexpensive supplement and it can be found by clicking here.

 

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