The continuing adventurers of our old-school 1st Edition AD&D game through module S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. You maybe want to familiarize yourself with Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and also most importantly, The Characters.
PREFACE: This was the end of this particular game/adventure, and to be honest, it wasn’t quite the end I had hoped for. I’ve owned this particular module since way back in 1983 or maybe 1984 and I’ve never had the chance to either play through it, or to run it myself. So, when the opportunity came up to run the group through it, I quickly jumped on it. It’s the opportunity I’ve been looking for since I was a young teenager all those years ago.
However, at the end of the day, I’ll just say that some people in the group didn’t really ever get into it and were more concerned about how quickly we finished so we could move onto do something else. This left them skipping by huge sections of the module in order to “skip to the end”, and although I could have introduced plot elements like more wandering monsters or announce that they didn’t have the correct colored key-card to move into the new sections, I eventually gave in. A good DM needs to realize when his players just aren’t into it, and move on.
RECAP: Although the normally quiet Dougal pushed very strongly to simply leave the level and move on, the group’s actual leader, Sir Innes-Kerr decided that he wanted to figure out how the wheeled platforms worked. He assigned Prince Lanliss to the task, as Innes-Kerr recognized that the elf noble had a much greater understanding of this… “magic” than the rest of the adventurers.
Prince Lanliss readily accepted the challenge, partly no doubt to prove the superiority of his elven intelligence. While Dougal constantly complained that it was taking much too long, Prince Lanliss examined the device over the course of several minutes. A few times the item hummed to life, but then immediately stopped. Eventually, Lanliss was able to get the wheeled platforms to work and announced that they were a form of transport. However, he was the only one capable of guiding it properly. After all of this time spent figuring out how to make the platforms work, Innes-Kerr eventually ordered Dougal to enter the odd metallic shaft again and attempt to move to the next level.
Lanliss stopped Innes-Kerr and suggested that they had not actually searched the entire area, and there may perhaps be items here worthy of study or research. The Prince also pointed out that they had found the rectangular shapes of pressed colored glass to be useful in opening doors and controlling the various “golems” they had encountered, and that perhaps there were more of the glass “keys” on this level.
Innes-Kerr was forced to agree, and in order to save time, the group of adventurers decided to split up [which was accompanied by the old faithful Ghostbuster’s line, “Good idea. We can do more damage that way.” ]. Lanliss suggested that Dougal accompany Innes-Kerr, while he, Li Mu Bai’s Cousin, and Wulfgar Stonegut searched another area. Lyria teamed up with Eldrim “Paunchshaker”, and Altman Maximandius paired off with Arwain.
Whilst searching for items, the team of Lanliss, Li Mu Bai’s Cousin, and Wulfgar stumbled into an area that seemed to make them sick. It was as though the very air itself were filled with contaminants spilling from the uncared-for artifacts found in the dungeon. Lanliss and Wulfgar easily shook off the pain and were soon able to breathe soundly again, secure in the knowledge that they had not been permanently damaged. Li Mu Bai’s Cousin, unfortunately, was not so lucky. He breathed heavily of the contaminated air and could feel his very strength being sapped. Lanliss and Wulfgar were left to wonder just how long Li Mu Bai’s Cousin would be able to stay with them. The poisonous air seemed deadly and they had no items or magic with which to combat it.
Meanwhile, as the other groups searched the haunting, echoing corridors, Dougal was able to maneuver Innes-Kerr into a dead-end hallway on the opposite end of the level, where he made a surprise announcement. He was not, in fact, Dougal Caimbeul, human scout from the County of Ulek. He is, in fact, Ausk Torak, half-orc Assassin of the Jagged Fang tribe from the Pomarj. During Innes-Kerr’s “famous” massacre of the Jagged Fang Orcs, the arrogant and boastful paladin ended up beheading Torak’s (aka “Dougal’s”) mother, a witch-doctor of the tribe, who was unarmed at the time. Torak was but a child at the time, but he saw how the humans treated his orcish relatives and vowed revenge on Innes-Kerr. He took up the study of assassination to be ready to kill Innes-Kerr when he was close enough.
With that, Ausk Torak yelled a short two-syllable expletive at Innes-Kerr in his native oricsh tongue, which must have been some sort of comment on Innes-Kerr’s questionable heritage, and then with complete surprise he performed a deadly assassination attack with his broadsword. A second later, Innes-Kerr fell to the ground, dead. Barely stopping to clean his sword, Torak jogged back to join the rest of his adventuring companions. His work, as he saw it, was done.
As the rest of the adventurers met back up, the vile illness that was consuming Li Mu Bai’s Cousin was explained. Amid his wracking cough, the adventurers looked around for their leader, Innes-Kerr. Dougal replied that while they were off searching, he learned that Innes-Kerr planned to betray and murder them all, so he was forced to kill him. Oddly, Dougal hadn’t had the foresight to bring any of Innes-Kerr’s items to split up amongst the party members.
Altman Maximandius seemed curious at this turn of events. He knew Innes-Kerr’s grandfather, and although the paladin could be arrogant and bossy at times, he did seem to have a good heart and the possibility that he was planning to betray and murder the group seemed preposterous. As a paladin, he would clearly lose all of his abilities for such an act of turning against his deity. This seemed very strange indeed. As he looked over toward Prince Lanliss, he could tell that the Prince was also having trouble reconciling these actions.
The group asked Dougal where Innes-Kerr’s body was, and Dougal replied that he had left it where it had fallen, directly opposite of their current position. Altman, in secret, quietly spoke to Wulfgar and Paunchshaker”, asking of either of them had the ability to speak with dead. Paunchshaker announced that he had prayed for that very spell from Lydia, the goddess of Knowledge, Music, and Light just that very morning. Altman suggested using the spell to question Innes-Kerr.
Meanwhile, Arwain, Innes-Kerr squire and herald, proclaimed his innocence and staunchly defended his master, saying that he would never betray his companions. Prince Lanliss softly began to mutter to himself, and slyly pulled a few spell components out of his pouch. He was ready to cast a powerful web spell on either Arwain or Dougal, depending on the outcome of the speak-with-dead conversation.
Dougal accompanied the seven remaining adventurers over to Innes-Kerr’s body rather than try to sneak away, and Eldgrim Paunchshaker began to chant in a lyrical, but lusty, singing voice, calling upon the power of Lyria to enable him to speak with their dead leader, Innes-Kerr.
After the spell was cast, a hush fell over the adventurers as they leaned toward Innes-Kerr. His mouth opened and he groaned, and Paunchshaker knew that he could ask the dead paladin four questions.
“Why were you killed?”
Innes-Kerr’s grating highlander brogue cut through the air, as he explained, “Well, me lads, it seems that old Dougal there is not what he seems. Years ago, on one of my first, glorious campaigns, I led a group of cavalry and men-at-arms to lay waste to an evil orc village in the Pomarj, which of course is a den of evil, don’t you know? I rushed forth on me study steed Silverheart, or it might have been Silverheart the Second at that point. I don’t quite remember. With our banners blowing gloriously in the breeze, I raised high me favorite claymore, Argent Death the Second. Or, it might have been the Third by that time. As the thundering hooves of our mounts sounded loudly throughout the countryside, I brought down me blade and beheaded an evil orc witch before she could cast a spell on me. And that vile orc woman, me lads, was this traitor’s MOTHER! He’s a half-orc swine and he’s killed me!”
[I will interject here that this was probably my single favorite moment of this session. The guy playing Innes-Kerr, Jeff, really went all-out to deliver Innes-Kerr’s last speech, and really made Innes-Kerr’s pride in his accomplishments come through. I didn’t capture what he said above word-for-word, but it was pretty close, and all delivered in a very thick Scottish accent which just cracked me up.]
Shortly after this, the adventurers looked at one another in shock and surprise, and asked Dougal if this was true.
“It is true. He murdered my mother, so I have sought vengeance on him, as I’m entitled to.”
Prince Lanliss then immediately cast his web spell on the half-orc assassin, who failed to leap out of the way. He was caught in a very thick covering of webs, and the other adventurers could hear him struggling for breath. The webs were suffocating him. They began to debate what to do.
“You know, Eldrim, I believe that you can ask Innes-Kerr three more questions,” Altman helpfully suggested.
“Oh, I know. I’m actually considering asking him to re-tell the story about how he and his band of knights slaughtered the orc tribe again, just so this half-orc has to hear it all over again!” laughed Paunchshaker. “Seriously, though, I believed we’ve learned all that we needed to.”
As the adventurers tried to figure out what to do with the half-orc murderer, Prince Lanliss offered that since all orcs are evil, then Torak’s mother, the orc witch, was evil. And all orcs should be killed. And since Torak is half-orc, he is at least half-evil. Therefore, since he is at least half-evil, he should also be killed.
“So I can clearly not drink the potion in front of me!” shouted Arwain, trying, and failing, to add to the conversation.
In the end, as there was no leader left to direct them, the adventurers decided upon a simple vote. Prince Lanliss, Wulfgar Stonegut, and Lyria all immediately voted to let the half-orc suffocate, as centuries of racial intolerance between these races became evident. Altman felt a responsibility to Innes-Kerr’s grandfather, who had treated him well, and also decided to vote to let the half-orc die. At this point, this was the majority, although Arwain and Eldgrim Paunchshaker also voted for death.
As they came to this decision, Torak’s last shallow breaths could be heard from behind the thick covering of webs. He was dead.
This also marked the time when Li Mu Bai’s Cousin became too weak to travel with them, so they left the monk on this level, as comfortable as they could make him, and decided to continue onward. Four members of their adventuring company were dead.
Prince Lanliss took over the job of leading the adventuring company, although Arwain felt the job should have fallen to him, as Innes-Kerr’s second. Lyria, the halfling thief, was ordered to scout up into the shaft again and find the entrance to the next level. After falling, she recovered her strength and eventually was able to open the sphincter door onto a level of overgrown trees and other vegetation. The rest of the remaining adventurers joined her, and they made their way slowly out of the door.
Lyria, who seemed to now be following in the footsteps of Dougal, began to complaining loudly and wondered outloud just how much more of this structure there could be. Prince Lanliss suggested that they would find “nothing of value” on this level, and opted to continue to the next level. Preparations were made, the door was shut, and Lyria again began to climb, and fall, before reaching the next level.
Here as the door was opened, a sound of calling animals and birds could be heard. The area was teeming with all sorts of life – the adventurers could see skittering little animals similar to rabbits and other rodents all around. Once again, Prince Lanliss proclaimed that they should not stop and dally, but rather continue onward to the next level.
This time, Lyria did not fall as she climbed to the next sphincter door, which she opened onto an area that looked almost identical to the level where they had found the wheeled platforms. Oddly, the adventurers also decided to skip this level, and closed the door and climbed to the next level. At this point, the shaft did not seem to go anywhere else, so they determined that they must be at the “last level.”
Moving cautiously onto the level, the adventurers saw six golems like they had encountered before. They were completely inanimate, but as the adventurers moved into the room, they hummed to life and began to move toward the adventurers in what appeared to be a threatening manner. Prince Lanliss quickly cast a wall of force, sectioning off the golems from the rest of the party. However, they were now left with only one choice in which to explore – counter-clockwise.
As the adventurers began a sweep of the level, they found huge empty areas that looked like they were designed for storage. However, most of the contents had been picked over or completely moved away. They seemed to walk for quite a while before moving into a room that seemed full of dozens of bloated bat-like creatures that were emitting a strange vapor. Prince Lanliss quickly shut the door and announced that they should not go that way.
Backtracking their steps, the adventurers eventually entered an area that was full of steam, making it nearly impossible to see. Uncharacteristically, the team moved into the room anyway, and got separated.
Screams were heard, and the adventurers were never seen again.
[Post-Script: The six adventurers entered a former bath/spa of the spaceship, which was full of steam and also four doppelgangers. The module indicated that the doppelgangers would pummel the characters and hit automatically. Rather than use the very cumbersome and time-consuming pummeling rules from the DMG, and also since it was nearly 11 o’clock and getting close to the time when the group leaves, I used DM-fiat and declared that four of the characters (Prince Lanliss, Eldgrim Paunchshaker, Altman Maximandius, and Arwain) had been slain, and copied, by the doppelgangers. I mentioned this to the players, and said that Wulgar and Lyria were, for now, unaffected, and that we could continue playing later to see if the doppelgangers would win the day, or if Wulgar and Lyria could hold out long enough to defeat them and escape from the “dungeon” alive. However, most of the group opted to call it quits at this point, and even before I had closed my module, the DM for the next campaign was already announcing plans for the next game.]
Module: S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks
No. of Players: Five
Casualties: 100% (10 characters)
1 death by exploding grenade
1 death by assassination
1 death by radiation poisoning
1 death by suffocation in a web spell
4 deaths by doppelgangers
2 deaths “unexplained”
Artifacts Recovered: One laser gun, three “wheely-sleds”, a violet key-card, an orange key-card
# of Sessions: Four
Total Playing Time: Probably about 9-10 hours, total, once you take out all of the chit-chat time
Food: Pizza all four times, plus ice cream bars three times and homemade chocolate cake once
Drinks: Smithwick’s Ale, Tap Room Amber Ale, Newcastle, various other beers I forgot, North Shore Distiller’s Gin No. 6, North Shore Distiller’s Gin No. 11, some great single malt Scotch but I don’t remember the name
Hanging: Home office desk
Drinking: Tap water (I’m sick… AGAIN!)
Listening: “Talkin’ Baseball (Forever Dodger Blue)” by Terry Cashman