Free Role Playing Game Supplement Review: The Northern Tier

The Northern Tier by W R Beatty is a free role playing game supplement published by Rosethorne Publishing for use with Swords & Wizardry. As such, it is covered by the Open Game License, although it does not appear that any of it is considered to be Open Game Content. The Northern Tier is a small hex crawl with 1 hex equalling 1 mile.

This is a bookmarked 142 page PDF that is available for free from RPGNow. Two pages are the colour front and rear covers, one page is the front matter and around half a page is the Open Game License.

The Introduction is a couple of pages and includes the Table of Contents. This explains the Highlands, covers what the Highlands Locations are that are mentioned in a number of places and gives suggestions on using the book and how it came to be.

Navigating this Book is a single page and explains how the book is laid out.

The Northern TierNorthern Tier General Encounter Chart starts with a d20 table that has four different types of encounters. These are then detailed further in more tables. There is a d20 table of NPC Encounters, Mundane Encounters, which starts with a d10 that is used to determine the type of encounter, with further sub tables, a d20 table of mundane animals, with some results leading to a d6 table of dangerous animals, a d20 table of mundane people, a d10 table of mundane weather, a 4d12 table of mundane special encounters, 2 2d12 tables of Dangerous Encounters, one for forest, cleared and hill hexes and one for mountain hexes and finally a 3d10 table of Special Encounters which are covered in more detail.

The Hexcrawl Key is the encounters on the actual hexes themselves. There are 42 hexes in total covered, although some of the hexes have more than one encounter, with different encounters being in different parts of the hexes. The various encounters include adventure sites (some of which are mapped out and others are intended to be covered in more detail in later supplements), villages and other settlements, dangerous and friendly NPCs and various weird encounters.

Appendix: New Items has the various new magical items found in the text, some of which are useful and others dangerous.

Appendix: Weather in the Northern Tier has several tables for creating random weather.

Appendix: Adventures in the Northern Tier has 3 d10 tables for creating random adventure ideas, perhaps with things encountered.

Appendix: Rumours has a whole host of rumours. This is a base d100 table, with each result then having multiple options, and some of these having yet more options. A large range of different rumours can therefore be created.

Appendix: NPC Statistics has the statistics for monsters and NPCs in tables.

Maps of the Northern Tier finally has maps for the various detailed locations as well as a hex map for the entire region.

The Northern Tier in Review

The PDF is well bookmarked with major and minor sections linked. The Table of Contents is much less thorough, with only the major sections listed. Navigation is generally above average. The text maintains a two column format with a few generally minor errors noticed.

The illustrations are black and white and modified public domain; they do tend to be surprisingly relevant to the encounters, which suggests that the encounters might have been built around the images, rather than the other way around. The maps of the encounter locations are in black and white and have a hand drawn feel to them. The hex map of the region is in colour and is definitely hand drawn. The maps are decent enough.

Many of the different encounters have multiple tables for various different aspects of them, resulting in lots of different potential results for them. This should increase replayability. The various encounters themselves are often interesting and are pretty well detailed. There appears to be quite a heavy fey influence and some of the encounters are rather unusual in their nature.

There are references to other supplements, which will cover some of the encounters properly, but these do not appear to have been published at the time of writing. If these do become available, this will result in an entire small area full of quite a few things to explore.

The region could be dropped intact into another, or the supplement could simply used for the various different encounters which can be dropped into an existing campaign – this is something that is suggested by the author.

The Northern Tier is really quite an excellent product with a lot of content in it, especially as it’s free, and it can be downloaded by clicking here.


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