Do you hear that? That is flames and fire on the horizon. The war drums and the changing of the old guard, corrupt, treasonous and incompetent, its final hour come round at last. And behold the rise of the new guard, terrible, vibrant and magnificent. We pray to gods we no longer believe in it will be greater then it will be cruel.
That is the sound of history awakening from a 60 year old slumber to wag its dissaproving finger at children who deemed themselves wise. But not just yet. Not yet. We examine elfgames so we may remember, and more importantly, we examine elfgames so we may forget. Forget about not having fun with the awesome LOFTP that is!
Weird New World by James Raggi is the thing I read for a review and now I had better write it, since otherwise it feels like I wasted my time. There is nothing wrong with it but despite it being an interesting idea for a hexcrawl (Fantasy Northpole), there is no way anyone will ever do more then give it a courtesy nip on the cheek before a quick rough an’ tumble with no callbacks.
It is a sandbox outline that was supposed to have been put in the Loftp boxed set along with Tower of the Stargazer but ah las, t’was not to be and it was never finished. You get a giant empty hexmap with 38 encounters and 2 tiny dungeon maps instead. 6 bucks please. It has like 4.5 stars by 11 people on Drivethru. Why?
It is not all bad. Hexes are divided in different climate zones with different environmental effects. Roll 2d6 for what type of weather you will get THAT YEAR?!?!?!? How long am I expected to wander the weird north pole? Exploring a Sandbox takes a while but its only for levels 4-7. If you make the map desolate and large and empty I guess i could see you burn a year or 3 following up on vague hints. Anyway. The weather effects are nice, affect movement speed, the worst weather means you can’t even directly touch metal, hunting chances are affected and icebreaking speeds are given. Solid point for Raggs; versmilitude and utility in one go, even some rivers and rules for outlets. During the summer there is no night and during the winter there is no day. I hope you like bookkeeping, but this is arguably one of the strongest sections of the book, despite being wholly mundane. 10 pages.
The Random encounters are also pretty decent, if generic. Arctic wolves, caribou and deranged killer whales will be encountered alongside more fantastical creatures like weird crab-sirens, living aurorae, those polar worm things from Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser and elves that are different. Information gathering and adventure location finding is to be done with stinking tribes of Eskimaux, who will also trade and function as a source of henchmen. So far the expedition vibe is actually kind of neat. Some of the encounters are just weather. Also included, 12 HD polar bears and a 1% chance of meeting an angry sperm whale that will stop at nothing to destroy your ship. Should have been an albino spermwhale. First reference. Solid but for the most part boring/unexceptional.
The encounters proper are best summarized thusly, since they are for the most part either very generic or clear homages;
1. Trading post.
2. Different Trading post.
3. Eskimo village.
4. John Carpenter’s the Thing.
5. Strange obelisk that may function as magic jar on any person the gazer has ever met.
6. Star trek TNG “Where No One Has Gone Before”
7. Evil witch that charms people.
9. A Dragon.
10. Insane elves wearing cold weather cloathing of human skin and weapons of human bone led by insane cult leader (10 points for griffindor).
11. Ymir statue (nothing interesting)
12. Empty church in far north of cleric faith grants double the spellpower (nice).
13. Shuttered village filled with vampires (neat).
14. Larger white worm.
15. Nice hook to Du’vanku temple.
16. Ice (go figure)
17. Palace made of crystal, no further description.
18. That thing from Dan Simmon’s The Terror which may have been based on something else since I don’t think Raggi reads Dan Simmons. Failing that, giant polarbear that is not a polar bear.
19. Graveyard (atmosphere)
20. Bird men (always nice to discover a colony of bird men
21. Dwarven oil fields that can potentially kill you.
22. Strange Caribou man that uses Caribou as a weapon (nice).
23. Assorted shipwrecks and a survivor.
24. Wizard pirate caverns with esqimaux fertility godess shrine that can make you a tranny and halluciogenic fungi that can make you fat. Lacklustre puzzles and some reptilemen tech to qualify for weird.
25. Excalibur (1 in 10.000 chance to get it out. How about you give us some other hex location that allows us to qualify for it instead to generate gameplay).
26. Volcano related shit. Eggggh.
27. Polar stonehenge with cursed summoning ritual. Monsters not described properly. Missed opportunity.
28. Pyramids (2), generic.
29. Stone spire that may be used to make the land green and fertile and clear of ice for 3d6 weeks. Mode of operation may be found in pyramids. Interesting and well done and generates gameplay.
30. Within this pyramid is the tomb of a great god-made-man, protected by the howling furies of all the anger man has expressed at being mortal.
31. Valhalla with Ice giants.
32. Proper attempt at shipwreck dungeon with spinefish men, possessed eskimo’s, a squid, coral spires and other neat shit. Feels a little disjointed but otherwise very well done.
33. Neat polar ooze field.
34. Frozen field of mammoths, atmosphere without interaction.
35. At the mountains of madness.
Very ho hum. Some nice ideas and encounters in between the drivel but given a plethora of available and very excellent OSR hexcrawls I cannot recommend a purchase, even if you have already burned through your Hexcrawl classics. As an idea mine it is lacking. While it is not useless, I find the idea you could spend a dozen sessions exploring this place to be kind of a stretch.
Final Verdict: Lackluster. There are tens of better hexcrawls readily available. 4 out of 10.