Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

With all the recent posts on fantasy and sci-fi gaming inspired by works of fiction, let's take a look a classic D&D module, S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. The premise of the adventure was that the fantasy heroes explore what turns out to be a large chunk of an alien ship embedded in a mountain. The module makes the assumption that the characters are not familiar with concepts of beings from other worlds or space travel (beings from other planes of existence is a different matter). It encourages the gamemaster to describe the technological items (space suits, energy weapons, robots) with terminology of a medieval fantasy mindset. A really nice booklet of illustrations accompanied the adventure; if used well, it could set up an interesting dichotomy between the spoken description and the actual image. 

The spaceship had apparently been the source of monsters that troubled the local kingdoms; I believe a lot of the creatures had escaped or been ejected by the robotic janitors. The characters had to navigate security clearance doors, elevator shafts, and maybe radiation. There's all kinds of plant creatures and bizarre monsters. Of course, there's a mind flayer or two - can't remember, but I think they were dressed as normal space crewmen.

Does the adventure work? Well, for starters, it is massive. I think there's about six levels with plenty of rooms. I can't recall if there was anything driving an informed exploration of the ship. 
I think one thing the adventure has going for it in this sense is that the players might be willing to go through every single room on the off chance that they might find a treasured blaster or the like.

I haven't run this module since the early 80s, but I think I would have to make some changes to help keep the pace moving along.  It might be worth spreading the different levels around to form a decentralized complex that allowed partial exploration. Something like this would definitely fit in with fantasy worlds that emerged from a forgotten technological society. Alternately, I kind of like the idea that the characters are not ignorant of a lost technologically advanced past - and may even interact with its legacy from time to time.

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