Jungles of the K’naanothoa (OSR)
This hex-crawl clocks in at 16 pages, minus one page overview of relations with other hexcrawls in the series and a paragraph of editorial, leaving us with roughly 15 pages of content.
Okay, so I’m gonna slightly alter my format for this series: As many of my readers out there, I was duly impressed by Geoffrey McKinney’s Carcosa-book; it left me wanting more; more depth, more weirdness. Well, after a friendly hint by one of my patreons, I started searching the interwebs and found on the author’s lulu-page not one, but four different hexcrawls (or a planned series of 8) depicting the lands of Carcosa. Well, obviously, I got them asap.
As per the writing of this review, there only are saddle-stitched print versions of these modules, which means that I won’t be commenting on electronic features.
All of the Carcosa-hexcrawls in the series share a couple of peculiarities, which I’ll sum up right now (in case this is the first review you happen to find); after that, I’ll go into the details of the respective hexcrawl.
Okay, first of all, these hexcrawls employ AD&D rules, NOT the rules posited in LotFP’s hardcover. This has a couple of drawbacks, but also some benefits. On the plus-side, this means we won’t have to contend with the sucky, sucky classes or the asinine, extremely random HP rules that contributed nothing to the experience. This also means that the VAST amount of twisted rites to bind, enslave and banish Great Old Ones and similar entities has absolutely no place here. For some, this may constitute a plus, as the requirements for these rituals often were rather grisly; on the downside, this eliminates one of the best narrative tools the hardcover provided; the rituals, tied to exotic components and places, were a built-in reason for the PCs to explore this weird realm.
There is another aspect you should be aware of: See that cover image? It’s the only graphical element you’ll find in the whole module-series. There is no interior art, not even a pretense of a basic form of aesthetically-pleasing layout – the modules, basically, are blocks of text. While Hex-headers have thankfully consistently been bolded, and spells are italicized, you e.g. won’t find complex spell-lists – much like the hardcover setting by LotFP, this is basically an overview and toolbox for experienced GMs to expand. The back cover sports the respective hex-crawl map, with per se solid cartography by Dion Williams. There are two problems with the maps that extend to all the maps in one degree or another: Landmarks are noted with graphical elements and so are settlements; there is no redacted, player-friendly map to hand out to the PCs. There also is one annoying component: The hex-numbers and borders are WHITE. While this works with e.g. green swamps, as soon as you try to decipher white numbers on a light blue or yellow background, it becomes annoying.
In case you’re wondering: All of these components imho are significant detriments; if the like bothers you, then you may want to reconsider getting these. You should, depending on your priorities, detract at least 1 star from the final rating if you consider this to be an issue. However, if Carcosa calls and left you wanting more, then read on – personally, while I enjoy a beautiful book as much as the next guy or gal, I am, ultimately, here for content. Considering the niche-appeal of these adventures, my final verdict will assume that you can look past the pretty underwhelming aesthetic aspects of these modules.
All right, all of that out of the way, let’s start with the third of these, The Jungles of K’naanothoa! From here on out, the SPOILERS reign. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.
All right, only referees around? Great!
So, this would probably be the equivalent of the land that connects North America with South America – in rough structure and climate, at least; there are several islands depicted (including one that may coax its inhabitants into drowning themselves, degenerate Cthulhu-cultists, etc.) – in the ocean, there is even a raft to be found, etc.
The PCs can find a strange place that provides windows into the past of untold aeons…and indeed, there is knowledge to be found. There is, for example, a cave, where a potential sorcerous and horrific origin of man can be unearthed; there is a giant skeleton, which, when fed properly, regenerates into a living giant for a while, before turning into dormant bones once more; there is a gate into the abyss, frequently visited by none other than Jubilex…and there are settlements.
A difference and what sets this apart in comparison to other hex-crawls in the series, would be that the weird reward ratio and wondrous aspect is imho higher. It also has a very strong cultural leitmotif: beyond the carnivorous plants you’d expect and the apemen, you can find the dread island that is the home of Cthuga – the dread Great Old One is worshiped by the viler of the beings here – and breaking the truce during the regular mass sacrifices may be an amazing main goal for PCs that are on the good side of the spectrum. Speaking of which – here, being valiant does have a few perks…though, well, you may well incur the wrath of a nigh-unstoppable monstrosity…
Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect. I noted the formal shortcomings before, so I’m not going to reiterate them here.
Geoffrey McKinney’s excursion into the jungles is briefer than the previous two modules, but it is tighter; it feels more like a locale you can run rather smoothly; it has both local events and more global ones that influence the region…in short, it is a well-made hexcrawl and ranks among my favorites of the author’s work. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, though I can’t bring myself to rounding up for it.
You can get this neat hexcrawl here on lulu!