A Review of the Role Playing Game Supplement Hex Crawl Chronicles – Valley of the Hawks – Pathfinder Edition

Hex Crawl Chronicles – Valley of the Hawks – 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 the content is considered to be Open Game Content. It is also available for Swords & Wizardry. This is the first in the Hex Crawl Chronicles series.

The supplement is available from RPGNow as a PDF for $4.99, a print on demand softcover for $9.99 or both softcover and PDF for $9.99. The PDF is the version reviewed although it was purchased at the reduced price of $3.74.

Hex Crawl Chronicles - Valley of the Hawks - Pathfinder EditionThis is a 42 page bookmarked PDF. One page is the colour front cover, one page the front matter, one page the Table of Contents, one page the Open Game License and there are two pages of ads for other products.

The supplement starts with a brief history of the titular valley and then goes on to Adventures in the Wilderness. There is a d12 random encounter table, with different results for badlands, grassland and woodland. There are then details on the three primary races in the area, Dwarves, Elves and Men, the latter having three different ethnicities. Also in this section are details, including stats, of merchant caravans, with a d6 table of random caravan goods.

There is a d20 table of rumours, some true, some false, two both, and all bar two connected to different hexes. Finally, there is the Encounter Key, which covers the different locations. There is a full page colour hex map of the valley. Each hex is six miles across, which the players should be able to see across in open country. The map is 40 hexes across by 25 down, for 1,000 hexes in total. Naturally, not every hex has an encounter listed; only 59 are, which is still quite a lot.

The hex descriptions differ in size, with some only have a brief description and a couple having a map of the location. Stats and descriptions of various creatures and people are provided where needed and there are two new races, the Owl-Folk and the Kill-Bunny (!). And space vampires.

Some of the larger encounters are covered in detail, with maps, but many are not and would really need expanding on.

Hex Crawl Chronicles – Valley of the Hawks – Pathfinder Edition in Review

The PDF is reasonably well bookmarked, with each hex linked and a couple of the tables, but the bookmarks could have been more thorough. The Table of Contents is about the same level of detail. Navigation is on the whole okay but it could have been better.

The text maintains a two column format and a few errors were noted. These were generally grammatical in nature, with an incorrect used; usually short words which were missing a letter and so became another word. There are a couple of black and white illustrations and, as well as the full colour map, there are maps of two encounter locations that are more sepia-toned than anything else. Most of the supplement is text.

This is, as it states, a hex crawl. Although this is explained on the sales page, it isn’t explained in as much detail in the book itself. A hex crawl is an open ended sandbox, usually wilderness (although the old AD&D adventures D1-2 – Descent Into the Depths, later incorporated into the super module GDQ1-7, featured what could be considered to be an underground hex crawl), with various encounters. There is not necessarily a plot; the players just travel the wilderness having encounters. With it being a sandbox, characters can easily wander into an area that is far more dangerous than they can handle.

Hex crawls were common in early D&D games – in fact the concept actually predates the system; the original edition of Dungeons & Dragons referenced Outdoor Survival from Avalon Hill, which was essentially the original wilderness hex map (more can be read on this in Gygax Magazine #6).

The Valley is really quite well detailed. Many of the encounters intersect with others; meeting someone or doing something in one hex can then influence something in another. There is enough background on gods and histories that integrating the Valley into another world is actually more difficult than it could be. It can still be done, with some tweaking. There is also plenty of room for further development, expanding some of the locations with more detail. Ideally, the Valley could be paired up with some other adventures, giving players a wilderness location to wonder whilst doing other quests.

Whether or not this supplement will appeal can basically be settled by answering one question – “Do you like hex crawls?” If the answer is yes, this is a fantastic supplement. If the answer is no, you’ll probably hate it. As is not uncommon – and is really the aim of Frog God Games and its predecessor, Necromancer Games – this is a very old school supplement type, even if the new rules are used. Hex Crawl Chronicles – Valley of the Hawks – Pathfinder Edition can be found by clicking here.

 

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