Hex Crawl Chronicles: The Golden Meadows
This installment of the HCC-series clocks in at 51 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 46 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This being a Hex Crawl Chronicle-installment, this module represents a combination of supplement and adventure hooks for a massive toolbox a given DM can develop – a massive sandbox in the truest sense. Thus, the following review cannot hope to contain all of the various things going on within these pages and thus, I will endeavor to instead provide a broad overview of what can be found herein.
Thus, the following review contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.
All right, still here?
The Golden Meadows are a vast swath of land that covers, map-wise alone, two-pages of hexes, with mountains, rivers and a huge lake – oh, and the meadows are actually just a few hexes in a vast desert. Yeah, didn’t see that one coming did you? The population of the lands herein are marked by a cataclysm in days long past, with goblinmen, mutated unfortunates and Vegans (no relation to the dietary choice) constituting the main populace – the latter saw their empire perish, yes, and nowadays, grey travelers, (yep, the iconic aliens) with their tame ankhegs roam the plains. The primary populace of humans belong to the ethnicity of golden men, which I already covered in reviews of earlier HCC-installments.
But what can be experienced, you ask? What about caravans using translucent century worm? Clashing giant eagles? Predatory, intelligent sand? Perhaps the PCs even stumble into the Death Valley like domain of dread ogre magus Lord Zkott or find a mini-dungeon, wherein knowledge of tarot may provide crucial hints…or perhaps they succumb to greed, thus freeing an ancient evil.
Statues of those vanquished, forever crying alchemical tears and weird mazes of red bricks below the surface provide a sense of continuity, of recurrence. Black pyramids rise from the plains and vampires await fresh blood in order to hatch their eggs and swarms of killer prawns and vampiric squirrels add a nice sense of the funny and odd to the fray – the later btw. with a stunning b/w-artwork commemorating its attack pose. Damn cool! Amazons far away from home, unique spirits of mischief and even a planar/interstellar brothel beckon on these plains…though the latter risks evoking the ire of one particular nasty demi-goddess.
You may have noticed the sheer amount of odd creatures I mentioned – yes, there is a massive appendix herein and yes, the focus in this installment lies far less on humanoids -and I like that in this case. The humanoid builds tend to be a bit linear, but seeing how much ingenuity is herein, this should not be considered a detriment.
Editing and formatting, while not perfect, are very good – I noticed no truly grievous glitches. Layout adheres to FGG’s two-column b/w standard and artworks and cartography are indeed nice, though I wished we had key-less versions of the cartography. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.
John M. Stater knows how to evoke an absolutely unique and compelling sense of old-school wonder; I’ve stated time and again how much this awesome series of modules has to offer and what excellent bang for buck you get here. Now, while some installments have fallen slightly behind this level of sheer imaginative creativity and joy, this one is right on par with the best in the series – with subdued nods to our own world, a lot of hints that *can* be used to develop certain interpretations, but need not be used thusly, this HCC offers a glorious blend of the common and the weird, a sense of a world somewhere between Rober E. Howard-style Sword & Sorcery and the post-apocalyptic, a world that has moved on. Here and there, high magic and boundless wonders await in the golden meadows and should suffice to entertain a group of players for at least a couple of months – there’s simply so much going on, so much spirit. It’s not always about the mechanics, it is about catching that spark, that sense of wonder. This one achieves just that. I love it. It’s one of the best in the series and whether to expand Numeria or run it on its own, it’s a glorious cornucopia of ideas well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.