03 October 2018

Kellri's 18 Module Challenge - Day 5: S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks by Gary Gygax

Day 5 - A Module that Needs to be Played by a BIG Party: _S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks_ by Gary Gygax

Like its predecessor S1 Tomb of Horrors (TSR, 1978), S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks was first published to support TSR's "D&D for Prizes" tourney at Origins II in 1976.  The module we know and love wasn't formally printed until 1980:

S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks: 1976 Origins II tournament version, above a copy of TSR's 1980 first printing module.
S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks:
1976 Origins II tournament version,
above a copy of TSR's 1980 first printing module.

Why I Love S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

  • S3 is one of the most highly-lethal adventures I've run, and probably surpasses S1 Tomb of Horrors for the droves of PCs sent to early graves beneath its chromium lights
  • High-tech lasers, grenades, power armor, robots, and androids abound that will (appropriately) perplex and befuddle the players while folding-spindling-and-mutilating their PCs with with efficiency!
  • Introduces oodles of new and unique monsters (both flora, fauna, fungi, and more!), including some personal favorites---aurumvorax, froghemoth, gas bats, russet mold---as well as rarely-encountered iconic monsters like the eye of the deep, intellect devourer, and the iconic illustration-booklet-cover mind flayer!
  • Features some of Rob Kuntz's best design work:  Expedition to the Barrier Peaks builds upon materials from the Expanded Castle Greyhawk, including from Kuntz's Garden of the Plant Master/Garden of Tharizdun level, as well as the infamous Machine Level 
  • The 1980 publication of S3 was TSR's only adventure to include color interior artwork all rendered by the incomparable Erol Otus, who's fabulous pieces feature throughout the art-heavy book as well:

    Cover art of S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, TSR 1980, by Erol Otus
    S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, TSR 1980

Three Runners Up

The lethality-factor isn't the only criteria that requires a large party of PCs to tackle an adventure---extended forays without the ability to reprovision require more redundancy in a party as well as a higher-reliance on clerics and druids to create/purify food and water, too.  Many classic adventures feature such extended expeditions, including the G-D modules, X1 and WG6 for their rapacious and dinosaur-infested wilds, and the unforgiving deserts of X4-X5-X10, but in the end, I settled on the following three:
  • "The Dancing Hut" by Roger E. Moore (TSR, March 1984 in Dragon Magazine #83):  what's not to love about the scariest witch in the world and her multi-planar tesseractian, self-defending, and senient mansion-turned-death trap?  If you want to add some further twists to the adventure, you can leverage David Nalle's "The Bogatyrs of Old Kiev" article from Dragon #53 and/or Lisa Smedman's 1995 Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga (TSR, 1985), in addition to its original artifact entries in Eldritch Wizardry and the Dungeon Masters Guide.
  •  S1 Tomb of Horrors by Gary Gygax (TSR, 1975, 1978, 1981):  the classic PC shredder---its provides 20 pregens for a reason!
  • WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure by Rob Kuntz (TSR, 1985):  Kuntz's classic 3-level dungeon, later expanded through the Maure Castle series of levels via Dungeon Magazine


My other posts in Kellri's 18 Day Module Challenge:

  1. Day 4: "Deep Shit" by Jeff Barber
  2. Day 3: A Fabled City of Brass by Anthony Huso
  3. Day 2: Masks of Nyarlathotep by Larry DiTillio
  4. Day 1: Empire of the Ghouls by Wolfgang Baur
  5. Day 0: These are a Few of My Favorite Things...

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