Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Reconsidering S3 Expediation To The Barrier Peaks By Gary Gygax As Campaign Fodder

Well last night I was speaking with Steve & we began speaking about our trial by fire through the 'S' series of modules for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. The 'S' series stands for special and these were some of the most memorable of the adventures we played;"other adventures in the S series include S1 Tomb of Horrors, S2 White Plume Mountain, and S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth." But it was 'Expedition To The Barrier Peaks' that slaughtered us time in and out back in the Eighties. For those of you who don't know;"Expedition to the Barrier Peaks was first played at the Origins II convention in 1976, where it was used to introduce Dungeons & Dragons players to the science fiction game Metamorphosis Alpha. In 1980, TSR published the adventure, updated for first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules."

I've got a long & storied history with this module; it took our AD&D party over to Gamma World through a matter transporter accident (that was Steve's Gamma World campaign so he added in that element). Plus there were a few forays back again not part of the original folks.

But last night he sent me this video & it brought back some of the distinct memories of this module. So the basic plot of S3 goes something like this;" It takes place on a downed spaceship; the ship's crew has died of an unspecified disease, but functioning robots and strange creatures still inhabit the ship. The player characters fight monsters and robots, and gather the futuristic weapons and colored access cards that are necessary for advancing the story."

"Expedition to the Barrier Peaks's 32-page adventure guide is divided into six sections. These describe the crew's quarters, the lounge area, the gardens and menagerie, and the activity deck. Along the way, the characters find colored access cards and futuristic devices such as blaster rifles and suits of powered armor that they can use to aid their journey. The first two sections involve various monsters, vegepygmys—short humanoid plant creatures—who have commandeered the crew's quarters, and a repair robot that follows instructions before its batteries run out. There is also a medical robot trying in vain to find a cure for the virus that killed the ship's crew. In the lounge area, a "Dining Servo Robot" still works, although the "food" it serves is now moldy poison.
The gardens and menagerie area includes an encounter with a "cute little bunnyoid on the stump".[5]:15 It looks like a horned rabbit on a tree stump, but when approached, the stump develops fangs and its roots become tentacles, which it then uses to attack the characters. The next encounter involves a froghemoth, a large alien frog-like creature with tentacles and three eyes on an eyestalk. In the sixth and final section, the activity deck, the players' characters must contend with various sports robots, including a "boxing and wrestling trainer" and a "karate master".[5]:18 If the characters can communicate with the karate master and tell it that boxing is superior to karate, it will attack the boxing robot until both are destroyed, else they will both attack the characters. The last area of the activity deck is the loading area, where the characters can leave the spaceship."

  The Expedition to the Barrier Peaks takes place around  the Grand Duchy of Geoff  (which seems to be a happening place in EG's home campaign) which is under constant attack by a succession of monsters that have been emerging from a cave in the mountains.
This module can also be used to introduce lots of traditional AD&D elements and bring on the post apocalyptic vibe in spades while turning up the players onto the Metamorphosis Alpha background music.

Adapting S3 To OSR games
So this morning about four A.M. or so, I was on the phone with Steve and we're talking about hashing out details about using S3. Both he & I have been toying around with a conversion of the module for the Adventurer, Conqueror, King rpg. This came about because of the following conversation. I said, 'Its too bad that we don't know who or what caused the plague on board the star ship.'
Steve says to me,'Of course we do! It was the black goo from the movie Prometheus' 'The star gods reappeared with Vulcan near Mercury.' 'An expedition was sent, they collected some biological specimens & the black goo caused a plague on board' 

"The hyperspace engines created a dimensional rift in time & space bring it to Hyperborea. There the ship crashes into a remote kingdom and the trouble begins'
'Here's the catch a group of Hyperborean space god engineers are on their way to claim their prize.'

'So the clock is ticking & they're breathen on Vulcan in their living suits are waiting in Hyperborean space aren't they?'Yeah because it all about claiming their Clark Aston Smith legacy of the star ship & its goodies.'
'I suppose your going to want to have me stick a Dlukus tribesmen in there as well?' 'Well I think we're going to have to get across the dangerous nature of the Hyperboreans.'

Dlukus by Spearhafoc from
'The Immortals of Mercury' By Clark Aston Smith

But Steve wasn't through yet by a long chalk,"So you know how the ship crashed into Greyhawk' 'Yeah?'  'Well what if it crashed into Dark Albion!' 'Imagine this thing coming down like some wormwood comet of doom into Black Forest of Germany!'
'The thing's coming might have been foretold by the various cults of chaos!' Its a joyous event for them!'
'That's going to cause all kinds of chaos in Europe especially during the events of the Rose War.'

'Dark Albion has lots of interesting variations to use with Expedition to the Barrier Peaks & you've used classic AD&D modules with it before.' 'Yeah but the gonzo factor would have to be toned down & there could be a Cults of Chaos connection'
This is an idea that I want to develop further & might mean a much deeper blog entry down the road.

'The best option might actually be Apes Victorious especially given the Star Ships & Spacemen second edition having a much heavier Mutant Future connection'  'Given the connections of the world of Apekind in the game setting the fit is far easier but the PC's would have to have a much heavier hand to succeed in this one.' 'The former upper state of New York might be the ideal location for this!'

'Yeah it fits but it would take some doing!'

Basically S3 is one of the more adaptable of the 'S' series of classic TSR era modules & one of my all time favorites. With a bit of creativity and some willing players it can easily be used as a diverse & deadly module of incredibly epic proporations in your OSR games!

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