"The Grand Duchy of Geoff has recently been plagued by a rash of unusually weird and terrible monsters of an unknown sort. This western area, particularly the mountain fastness which separates the Grand Duchy from the Dry Steppes, has long been renowned for the generation of the most fearsome beasts, and it has been shunned accordingly -- save a handful of hardy souls with exceptional abilities. Within the last few months, however, a walled town not far distant from the area, and four small fortresses as well, have been destroyed by mysterious attacks!"
So the last few months the Grand Duchy of Geoff has experienced a rash of attacks and its been concentrated on a walled town & four small fortresses along the mountain fastness which separates the Grand Duchy from the Dry Steppes. Wait a minute there's an entire campaign's worth of mini adventures right there. No seriously here folks there is a an entire prequel of sword & sorcery action with alien beasties happening in either Greyhawk or if I was doing this in Hyperborea. Specifically this would be happening along the edges of the mountain possibly near the edges of Keltic/Pict holdings. The Grand Duchy of Geoff would be some little back water court with a mix of Picts & Kelts who have been hit by invasive invaders from beyond the stars. There are a few reasons to go this route and one of these is the foreshadowing of S3 and the fact that the PC levels for the adventure are high because this was a competition module for the 1976 Origins II gaming convention in Baltimore, Maryland. This situation would introduce science fantasy concepts to D&D players. Eventually this whole hot mess of a stew would become Metamorphosis Alpha first edition after James M. Ward had shown TSR his notes & gamers would be dying by the score forever after. But back to the campaign idea here.
The PC's might be adventurers who are drafted or warriors who have had their villages burned & families destroyed. This 'invasive mysterious invaders' situation could take PC's from first level all of the way to seventh or eighth depending upon how its played. The PC's might be encountering veggie pygmies way before making it to the crash site of the Warden. So are there various tribes & monsters running around the campaign setting causing all kinds of havoc? I not only think so but this could well be the situation leading up to the module. So are there tribes of monsters who have settled in the area that need to be cleaned up??!
I was reading the Drivethrurpg story about S3's origins & something from the past jumped out at me;"Origins (III): A City of the Gods. There may have been one other inspiration for "Barrier Peaks". In 1976, Rob Kuntz and Gary Gygax explored Blackmoor's "City of the Gods" when Dave Arneson ran a session for them at TSR's Dungeon Hobby Shop. Gygax's Mordenkainen and Kuntz's Robilar rather famously wreaked havoc on the City, got in way over the heads, and barely escaped with their lives.
As it happens, that City of the Gods was actually a crashed spaceship!" Right how many times has this happened to dungeon masters where players have crashed into areas and caused all kinds of weirdness but this also inspired a question. Who else has reached the Warden before the PC's & have they managed to recover artifacts & technology? In fact S3 could be used as the centerpiece for an entire campaign build in either Greyhawk or Hyperborea.
Photo by Gun Powder Ma
Getting back to the prequel idea here, PC's might have to deal with several of the events leading up to S3 & this could present seers, scribes, druids, shamans, etc. with dire prophetic dreams & more. In fact all of this could be taken in a completely different direction. Take the entire above plot and drop it into Dark Albion or Lamentations of the Flame Princess!? Now S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks entire adventure's plot becomes the center lynch pin for Dark Albion's Rose War! If we add in Dark Albion Cults of Chaos then suddenly those star gazer cults make a whole lot of sense. There might be far more sinister factions at work here exploiting the downing of the Warden. But where to place the Warden in Dark Albion?
After some careful thought, I'd actually go with the jungles of Dark Albion's Africa where it can have all kinds of influence and perhaps become the basis for a campaign setting expansion. This could also be an opportunity to use World of the Lost by Rafael Chandler.
But tread very carefully with the Warden in Dark Albion because it could potentially completely unbalance the campaign unless the DM decides to destroy it after the PC's explore and exploit it. This might not be a bad option at all. Because once its gone then the star gazer cults might be the only source of knowledge that the PC's have for certain trinkets and artifacts leading to all kinds of DM exploitable situations. There's also the cargo cult aspect of the Warden as well in which rulers, kings, etc. might be depending upon the star gazers for 'another bringer of treasure from the sky'.
Ten Ways To Exploit S3 Expedition To The Barrier Peaks
- Monsters everywhere?! Where are all these horrors coming from its the end of the world. Sprinkle monsters from the Fiend Folio or Monster Manual that are not normally seen in the region!
- A pack of Land Sharks destroys an entire village and the PC's have to destroy them.
- Cults of chaos have gotten a hold of a Warden artifact or two and wrecking violence on the countryside.
- The fortresses have been destroyed by the Elemental Evil cult who is taking advantage of the chaos caused by the Wardens appearance.
- Several minor nobles are using artifacts from the Warden to take advantage and make war on their neighbors
- Some very dark and dangerous has awoken from the Warden and has been attacking the fortresses along the borderlands. Could it be the dreaded brain lashers?
- Your party isn't the only ones to have seen the monsters? Several bandit gangs have some of the artifacts and need to be taken down.
- Orcs have never been seen in this part of the country why are they hear now.
- A minor escape pod is actually a mini dungeon location and must be dealt with.
- Several nobles from far lands are actually crewmen from the ship who have begun to cause local trouble and might challenge the PC's rulers. They could have access to dangerous artifacts and magicks and its up to the PC's to stop them.