This pdf is 48 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 3 pages of advertisements, leaving 41 pages of content for this installment of Hex Crawl Chronicles and this time, Frog God Games sends us off to the Winter Woods.
If you don't know about Hex Crawls, I wrote a short introduction to the kind of adventure in my review of the first Hex Crawl Chronicles.
The first Hex Crawl Chronicle was great due to the wonder and cultural specifics being similar yet, different to our world and this one goes the same route - Northmen are dusky-skinned and a new ethnicity is introduced via the Hivernians. In the east of the Winter Woods, there's the black water, an ocean over which dread infernal slavers come on black arks, bringing a threat of strangeness into this particular region. Indeed, the mood is rather interesting hearkening somewhat back to a combination of the Malazan Book of the Fallen and Song of Ice and Fire sagas, by providing far-out ideas like dread intelligent spider sorcerors as well as reclusive witches, holy warriors seeking to reclaim old holds and a detailed political landscape of humanoid tribes and political factions.
There also are hidden artifacts, a valley of people cursed to stay shadows and perish once they come into contact with sunlight, intelligent northwinds, a dread labyrinthine cursed maze, dark cults, serpent-people to a settlement of fungus-addicted dwarves that slowly turn into fanatical plant-creatures. We also get a map of a mini-dungeon and even a monument that could be considered a puzzle-mini-dungeon - awesome!
And then there's the impeding rise of the Queen of the Winter Wind that serves as a backdrop/looming threat the DM can easily expand upon - whether she's a living glacier, a Song of Ice and Fire-like climatic catastrophe, a servant/avatar of Boreas or a dread fey queen depends on the DM and your plans.
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any severe glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly b/w-standard and the sparse artworks are nice. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks. John M. Stater has created an compelling environment, that via mentioning the Valley of the hawks might be combined with it and helps grant the impression of a complete world in the making - ambitious and cool. While no hilarious easter-eggs like in its predecessor are present, the atmosphere of the Winter Woods is more concise and special than in the Valley of Hawks - the feeling of entering and exploring a foreign world is very present in every encounter and the looming threat helps evoke a sense of chill wonder. If you combine this pdf with the content from Open Design's Northlands, this pdf gets even better. While not all statblocks are full-length and we only get one additional map to the hex-map. Nevertheless, for the very low price you get enough content for up until half a year or even longer of gaming. My final verdict for this great module and the vast amount of imaginative content herein will be 5 stars.
[5 of 5 Stars!]