The Pallid Fields

By Todd Leback
Third Kingdom Games
Level ?

The world of Absalom is one of constant change, where Law and Chaos are more than abstract philo sophical ideas but are instead metaphysical realities that shape the very world itself. Absalom is dominated by Cycles, each lasting between two to four hundred years. Each Cycle is divided into an Apex – when Law holds sway – and a Nadir – when Chaos sweeps over the lands, driving back the light of Civilization Cycles are marked in the beginning by the Apex and ascent of Law, and the end by the Nadir. During each Apex the civilizations of Man do their best to expand their domains and bring law to the land; these civilizations often shrink, or even crumble, during the Nadirs as barbarians, beastmen, and worse fall upon the kingdoms of Man

This 52 page adventure presents four hexes in the land of Faery. As in old school/Narnia-ish faery. I get where dude wants to go, but, I ain’t on board for this entry in to his hex crawl series.

Dude has a series of hex crawls, it looks like. Maybe two regions out and a magazine/zine with some more in it? Looks like, in the existing crawls, there are two locations that can teleport you to Faery, so this thing details that: The Pallid Fields. You have to think of a kind Narnia, including the snow. So, folklore fey. 

I’m not sure this was the correct first thing from this dude for me to review. It being a pocket dimension sort of thing, it might, perhaps, not represent the bulk of his work. But, it’s what I’ve got, so let’s use this to generalize the fuck out of everything else instead of merely checking it out!

The designer does a couple of interesting things for a hex crawl. First, he explicitly notes which features in the hex (6 mile hex) can be seen from a distance. Not bad. As I’ve mentioned many times before, seeing something far away gives the players a goal to work towards. “Whats the glowing red in the distance at night?” It’s accomplished here by a second, players, map. I’m not sure I’m down with all that, but, at least letting the DM know what you can see is a good idea. Secondly, he lists resources in a hex. “(Rare woods, 1) and (ore, 2)” A little flavourless, but, I get the intent in a hex crawl game as you dig around for resources. 

And that’s about it for the good. 

There’s an overall lack of cross-reference in this. Folks names and interactions in hexes are tossed around pretty freely, but the DM is left to themselves to find the person to get more information about them/the situation. Not cool. I’m down with a living breathing world with lots of interactions away from their homes, but that needs to be supported. And, then, in an opposite way, things that can show up everywhere are noted … in their own hex. The chief example is the wise owl. At the end of his description, in his own hex entry, it notes that there is a 1-2 chance that the owl comes to visit you, no matter the hex you are in, if you are a newcomer. Absolutely not! We put that shit on the wanderer table, or as a note or something. We dont’ fucking bury information about other hexes in some rando hex. Let us imagine a megadungeon. A thousand rooms. Room 876 has a minotaur in it. The description notes that if anyone enters room one of the dungeon then the minotaur teleports there immediately. Well, how the fuck am I supposed to know that while running room one?

There’s other things. You can run in to lots of random fey, knights, or nibbles. There’s an in-depth generator but no real handy list to run to. The wanderer table is frustratingly confusing. “12 guards.” Uh … more info please? What the fuck is a guard? 

But, by far, the main attraction for a hexcrawl, and main issue, are the hexes proper. They kind of suck balls. And not in a good way. If you like a bitter acrid taste, then they are sweet and lavender. Make up your own description of sucking balls that you don’t like. Go with that.

I covered this in depth in my Wilderlands/Isle of the Unknown review. You need a situation in a hex. You need to describe that well, in such a way that the DM can riff on it. More than any other type of writing, the hex crawl description MUST be riffable well. You can’t describe an entire hex, an entire situation, in one short paragraph. That’s what adventures, proper, are trying to do. But, in a hex crawl, you are essentially describing (potentially) dozens and dozens of adventures. Little summaries of the,, anyway. SO, you need to give the DM enough information so they can spin something up from the description. Something that the players are gonna get involved in (or, that is going to get involved with the characters) and also something that inspires the DM to expand it. And, maybe, links in to other hexes, potentially. And you need to do that over and over again. 

This don’t do that. One hex has a tree. You can use the wood to create better magic wands. Yeah. Here’s a hot springs. Sometimes people show up to camp there. Here’s the stone circle you teleported in to. Here’s the salt lick that elk sometimes hang out at. Here’s a spring. If you drink from it you might lose your memory. 

These are not situations. At best, these are little diversions. There’s no real interactivity here, and you can almost entirely count of cross-hex situations or possabilities. One hex has te owl, who has a berry that lets you in to the fey dukes palace and another has an ent that has the fey dukes heart hidden in a box. 

There are really no situations to speak of in this. And, thus, no adventure to speak of.

This is $7 at DriveThru. You get no preview, Bill. Use your Standard Oil money on that!

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6 Responses to The Pallid Fields

  1. Sevenbastard says:

    Hexes that have Ore or Wood. I think I have played that game. ?

    • Knutz Deep says:

      That reminds me, I haven’t played Age of Empires in a while. I think I’ll fire that one up

    • The Heretic says:

      Where are the bricks, they are always the hardest to get.

      Scanning over some of Third Kingdom Games’ other titles, it looks like this is a Kingmaker style game. The resources in the hexes are meant to be utilized by the PCs with their domains. With that in mind, a campaign based here wouldn’t be a standard hex crawl.

  2. Bryce, you make an excellent point about how each hex needs a situation. It’s not just (place + time); there has to be action as well.

    Describing hexes as mini-adventures is outstanding, so thank you.

    So far on my hex map, I have each hex with
    1) an evocative name
    2) its own (short) random encounter table
    3) possible factions, based on nearby power centers.

    Now I will add
    4) a short OSR challenge that will pop up, if the several players decide to stop traveling and start exploring.

  3. Bucaramanga says:

    No way is ‘Chad Dickhaut’ a real name

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