Darkland Moors

By Jeff Dee
Levels 3-5

A huge, monstrous presence rampages through the farms and villages of Darkland Moors, throwing the locals’ formerly peaceful lives into turmoil. What manner of giant is responsible, where is it taking its captives, and what is their fate? To restore peace, our heroes must scour the misty Moors and track the beast to its lair!

This ten page adventure fits 21 encounters in to four pages. A hexcrawl in search of a marauding giant, it does a decent job with hex rules. The encounters are more of a setup for the DM to fill in with a writing style that is not always consistent in how it conveys information, especially where enemies are involved. I respect the hex crawl stuff and think the format for the hex crawl has possabilities, but the details need work to make it worth something to check out.

This is a hex crawl, searching for a marauding giant in some fog-covered moors. Dee does a good job of summarizing some basic hexcrawl rules.  Movement is covered: 2 per day on foot or 4 by horse. Likewise he covers getting lost in a very simple manner, as well as basic “what you can see in the next hex” landmark details. Concise hexcrawl guidelines have always been lacking, IMO, but this is one of the best summaries of basic hex crawl rules I’ve seen. It’s not worth it just for this but it does show that Dee has pretty good understanding of how things are supposed to work, and the need to transfer that to the audience.

The encounters are presented as general situations which the DM is then left to expand upon. Recall the 21 encounters in four pages? That includes several ruins and village/towns. The ONLY way to do that is to present the general situation to the DM and let the DM fill in the details. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact it’s the general manner of all hex crawls. 

The encounters, though, feel flat. The detail is, again, abstracted to a degree that it removes the life from the encounter. I think I can understand the why of this; you can’t fill in the details of these largish locations and still have a decently-sized product. Some of the hexes would easily be their own adventures if expanded upon in this way. 

I would suggest, though, that there is another path. Rather than writing a very generalized and generic abstracted description the encounter/situation could instead be imbued with brief bursts of color. “A local farmer blinded the giant before being eaten.” is one of the sentences. Better, I think, would be some local color for this farmer, his family, or something else. Picking out one thing per encounter, maybe the most significant part of the place, and adding/changing the wording for some better adjectives and adverbs or more color. I’m not arguing for a significant increase in word count but rather a better use of those words, targeting some aspect of the encounter. 

As always I’m looking for something that inspires the DM while they are running the encounter. Something that the DM’s own imagination can build upon and be leveraged by the designer to add more the encounter than what’s written. In this adventure, in particular, the page count could be about the same with some trimming. The map and hex crawl rules note what can be seen from each hex … and then each encounter ALSO notes what can be seen from this hex. Doubling down on the information is quite necessary and the word count could have been used to add some color, some building blocks, to the actual encounters.

The writing also, at times, feels tacked on, especially where enemies are concerned. You’ll get a paragraph description of a place and and then another paragraph description of enemies which can totally change the vibe and what’s going on in the first paragraph. This happens multiple times but the first encounter is a good example. A ruined farmhouse, as if a mighty blow had been dealt to an upper corner. All valuables looted. Just some broken simple furniture inside. And then the next paragraph tells us how 11 large spiders live inside, it’s got a web-festooned interior, and there’s treasure. All of which kind of contradicts a bunch of info in that first paragraph. Or, at a minimum, the first paragraph totally leads you down one path when the second one yanks you back a different direction. It’s almost as if they were written by different people who only knew “ruined farmhouse” and one write an empty farmhouse and one wrote a monster farmhouse and an editor just slapped them together. There’s no cohesiveness at all. 

The hex crawl summary is great. The terseness/length of the situations is about right, I think. The descriptions though are too generic and too disjointed. It needs work.

I also note that this is listed as being for “Advanced rpg games.” Man, T$R really did a number on the old employees. From the Eldritch ENterprises use of generic stats to the dancing around “1e” stuff. These people have WOUNDS.

This is $2.50 at DriveThru. The preview is three pages. Good news, it shows the hexcrawl summary rules! Bad news, it doesn’t show you any of the encounters. A preview really needs to show you a few of the encounters so a potential purchaser can see what they are getting … or not.


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2 Responses to Darkland Moors

  1. SolCannibal says:

    Bryce, I’m usually not one to nitpick too much into the typos, but this time i’m reposting a section where i think what you actually meant gets messed up without a correction (already inserted):

    “The map and hex crawl rules note what can be seen from each hex … and then each encounter ALSO notes what can be seen from this hex. Doubling down on the information is quite UNnecessary and the word count could have been used to add some color, some building blocks, to the actual encounters.”

  2. Shuffling Wombat says:

    A good review: it seems to be a workmanlike hex crawl where the referee will need to sprinkle a little magic to make it come alive. It would benefit from having the bandits and goblins of the random encounters doing something (e.g. skinning a deer, counting loot), and the refugees could have names and a (possibly exaggerated) tale to tell. It seems odd for the cyclops’ captives to be unnamed, as there is reward money for their return.
    Regarding format, one could take a tip from the likes of Malrex and put further details for certain encounter areas in appendices; however, the old TSR format can be made to work: see the Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom.

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