RPG Review: Expedition to Barrier Peaks

Having just seen Prometheus this weekend science-fiction is a bit on my mind right now. This has me thinking about one of the odder 1st edition AD&D adventures, Expedition to Barrier Peaks.

Expedition to Barrier Peaks was, according to its preface, written for the Origins II convention as a way to introduce players to Metamorphosis Alpha, the 1970s TSR RPG about the inhabitants of a lost generation ship (who are no longer aware they are on a ship). In this adventure a space colonization expedition was struck by a plague. Attempting to stop the spread of the plague the components of the ship separated and went their separate ways. The one the adventure takes place on found its way through a black hole to the World of Greyhawk (obviously one could move it to another fantasy setting). Per the story worker robots cleared the cargo hatch and released various alien fauna, some of which prospered (providing an interesting explanation for some of the odder D&D monsters).

Of late local lords have been plagued by strange monsters - monsters discharged from this large alien ship at periodic intervals. Their source has been identified and the PCs dispatched to investigate.

The point of this adventure, if there is one, is to have a romp through a spaceship. There isn't much an overriding threat, though the local lords would surely appreciate it if the PCs could stop the monsters from  harrying them. The adventure consists of lots of memorable locations - for example there are crew quarters, control sections, 'tween decks, recreation areas, a huge park area, cargo areas, etc. There's all sorts of critters and gadgets. Some of the memorable encounters include a tribe of vegepygmies (plant-matter barbarians) and a mind flayer with a blaster.

As you can see, this adventure was also memorable for its illustrations, including an entire booklet of illustrations. It also had a "treasure" that every group I ran this through loved - high-tech gadgets! Blasters, lasers, needlers, powered armor. Tragically the PCs have no way to recharge these gadgets, so they get to play with them for a little while and then its back to "boring" magic weapons - though I can recall at least one player who used a wish to be able to recharge one of his gadgets.

How does this all work? In my experiences this was usually a neat adventure as a diversion. It is a huge "dungeon" so there is some risk of overdoing it, especially without a bigger purpose in the adventure and the inability to keep much of the treasure. There is one encounter where the ship's robots may give the PCs the boot and one time I ran this the players decided that that was enough for their expedition - they didn't try to batter their way back in (not that they didn't enjoy it). 

This does remind me a bit of the situation in Andre Norton's novel Witch World, where there were technological aspects that had found their way into a fantasy setting (indeed, Ms. Norton wrote the novel Quag Keep which featured role-players from our world finding themselves in a D&D world). Were I to use this today I think I would add a rival from the PCs world seeking to secure (or gain more of) the technology in the ship. This is an adventure whose concepts are easy to adapt and would fit in especially well in a Dungeon Crawl Classics game.

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