The High Moors

Stephen J. Jones
Unsound Methods
Levels 1-9

The High Moors beckon… Little is known of the Ieldra – a race of cruel and depraved elves that once ruled the northern tableland called The High Moors – and no one has seen an elf in living memory. Their civilisation is dead, destroyed by an incursion from the Far Realm brought about by their hubris. The ruins of the High Moors have lain undisturbed for centuries. With news from a successful expedition, people have finally considered the treasures waiting to be discovered in the forgotten north.  A number of expeditions have now been dispatched to bring back magic and riches. Unfortunately, danger, horror and madness awaits most of them.

This 198 page “adventure” is actually a mini-campaign setting, taking characters from level one through about level nine by way of a hexcrawl with about seventy location of varying depth. It’s above average, as hex crawls go, in terms of the situations developed and the adventures support for it. For $10, you get an entire campaign … not a bad deal at all!

So, a campaign setting. This means gods, races, leveling, coin systems, and other details have been changed. This hex crawl makes sense in the world that it lives in and would be quite the challenge to move it, unless it’s a pocket dimension, etc. It is such a Of This Place that conversions are going to be difficult. It’s a Gold=XP system, for 5e (and easily enough older school D&D) that also has attached to it unique roles for dwarves, elves, goblins, halflings, demons, giants, and a myriad of other races. It’s going to hard to fit this in without some effort … but … it does contain enough adventure in it to handle levels one through nine. So, why fit it in at all? Just start a new campaign using this, make it the centerpiece, and off you go!

The core of the adventure are the hex locations, about sixty scattered across three maps, each of which is about 11 hexes by 15 hexes, with a 1 hex=12 mile scale. These tend to stretch out to a page or so, especially where stat blocks are involved. In spite of this, they entries are relatively well organized. Each one tends to starts with an overview, what you might see from a distance as you approach, and then additional detail as you get up closer. Finally, the individual elements of the “up close” view get their own little bolded section that describes what it going on with them in a format that is relatively easy to scan. These locations have SUBSTANTIAL mysteries to solve, things that are missing, NPC’s to interact with, and so on. There is definitely some potential energy in the vast majority of the encounters.These are not the static models of Isle of the Unknown, but rather something more akin  to the newer Wilderlands, that had more detail and the old Wilderlands. Interactive, lengthy, but generally easy to follow. There’s only so much you can do, though, via a pig-man village and the intrigue therein without running the words the top of the bowl. The same with the ruins, or mini-dungeons prevalent throughout the hex crawl. There’s just a degree of abstraction that you have to accept with a hex crawl. The hexes need to do a good job to inspire the DM because there’s just no word budget for detail. Nor should there be.

A substantial element to a hex crawl campaign is getting the players crawling and keeping them exploring. Numerous hooks are suggested, both more generic ones and then also more race-specific ones, which come off a little like secret society missions. Combined with the need to explore for coin purposes (you spend your coin, one GP to train for 1 xp) and magic then you get a nice little loop of coin, hooks, and missions you pick up out in the wilderness/hexes. It’s good. I think it more than adequately covers the pretext needed to play D&D tonight.

I’m pretty happy with this. The setting has a lot going on, factions and the like, along with some substantial “game world” mysteries to resolve. There are numerous opportunities to screw things up “Broodmother Skyfortress”/Rients style. There’s good cross-referencing, generally, and good imagery. The setup for the various sites seem interesting and more than throw-away sites. At one point there’s an invisible chain, going up in to the sky, that you can hear but not see. Climbing up it reveals a platform and a building to explore. It’s done very well. And almost everything is done well in this. There are significantly more highs than lows. 

It feels like this was done in word, or some such, with a 2-column format used. This FEELS off, in place, maybe a little amateurish? I appreciate the singular effort of a designer, but the product could have been better with good layout. Not that it’s bad. Maybe it just REMINDS me of the look of products that ARE bad?

This is $10 at DriveThru. The preview is eleven pages, but not very good. It’s just the first eleven pages, which cover a bit of the overview. A few of the hexes would have been a much better preview.

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9 Responses to The High Moors

  1. Brandon Hale says:

    I wish there were a version of that cover without the adventurers. It almost looks like they were done by a completely different artist than than the background.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I kinda like the cover figures. They have a weird, dreamy feel to them.

  3. Sunrider says:

    Cover art aside I am intrigued by the first paragraph. I will probably check this out because I have be looking for a good far realms connected setting.

  4. Kevin Flynn says:

    I recently purchased this and finished giving it a full read-through! While it’s very interesting, I did have a couple questions about its usability as written. In particular, the wandering monster tables seemed very limited, which seems like it could be repetitive in actual play, and while I like the general interconnectivity of ‘the only way to get to Item A is with the key in Location Z’, there’s a seeming lack of signposts to get players from A to Z. In particular, it seemed like a lot of the ‘keys’ are gated off behind DC 15-20 perception checks and so on, or the DM is instructed to ‘only allow the players to get the item if they explicitly say they do X’ which I generally assume is bad game design. Has anyone actually run this campaign? How did it work out in play?

  5. Just got done reviewing it. Its very good but the writing is bloated at times and I was suprised how long the encounters in each Hex were. If you sink in the time its probably amazing, but I imagine it’s fairly high prep. Good review.

  6. Olartheblue says:

    As a traditionalist I must confess I was slightly apprehensive before playing this (although intrigued) My first Hex crawl I didn’t feel part of the world at the start however, ‘dive in’ and you will not be disappointed. Fresh, interesting, new, terrifying, stomach churning, engaging, this game is jam packed with great new twists and turns on old ideas (the odd wonderful touch of eighties fantasy culture thrown in) and plenty of brand spanking new ideas to keep you interested at every stage of the journey. I was absolutely gutted when it ended. Love, love, loved it!

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