Advanced Search

S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (1e)Click to magnify
Full‑size Preview

S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (1e)


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!

This adventure was the official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Tournament scenario at Origins II. This version has been carefully revised and updated to conform to AD&D games system rules. Included herein are background information for players, statistics for a party substantially the same as that used for the tournament, DM notes, six level maps with encounter matrices, and numerous full color illustration of scenes from the adventure in order to enhance the enjoyment of participants. There are also many new and special monsters designed for this scenario, and they appear nowhere else.

For characters level 8 to 12.

Product History

S3: "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks" (1980), by Gary Gygax, is the third "Special" adventure for AD&D. It was published in February 1980.

About the Cover. On the cover by Erol Otus, a fighter fires a raygun, giving away the premise of the adventure.

Origins (I): A Ship Called Warden. The story of "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks", begins with Metamorphosis Alpha (1976), a science-fantasy game that James Ward was designing in early 1976. When Gary Gygax saw some of Ward's "rough notes", he decided to "introduce the concept" through a tournament scenario: "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks".

"Barrier Peaks" is about a spaceship crashing into the world of Greyhawk. Gygax was very clear is saying that the ship was not the Warden from Metamorphosis Alpha: "The size and the technology in this vehicle should make such speculation quite misplaced, in fact. The downed space ship is far too small, and its science quite different from that of the famed starship Warden." The connection between "Barrier Peaks" and Metamorphosis Alpha is thus more of a thematic one.

Origins (II): A Level of Machines. When Gary Gygax sat down to write "Barrier Peaks" he sought help and inspiration from another source: Greyhawk co-GM Rob Kuntz and his "Machine Level". Kuntz originally created the Machine Level for his own Castle El Raja Key, to challenge Gary Gygax's characters. He later moved it to Castle Greyhawk when he became a co-GM of Gygax's campaign. This allowed players like James Ward to explore the legendary level; Ward wrote about the experience in Dragon #17 (August 1978) when he spoke of the conveyer belts, cellophane machines, die press, slot machines and levers found in the original level.

Besides contributing machinery to "Barrier Peaks", Kuntz also provided content for the garden level of the spaceship.

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!

Origins (IV): A Convention Called Origins. After Gygax completed "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks" it became the tournament module for Origins II (1976). This was a simple one-round tournament, unlike the multi-round tournaments that would follow. The winning group was GMed by Tim Kask and led by a cleric. The goal of the tournament was to find the plans for the ship, and though the winning group didn't manage to do so, they apparently did well enough.

The manuscript for the tournament was apparently quite mature, including references to the world of Greyhawk, drawings to show to the players, and impressive plans of the ships. Very few copies of it still exist; one sold for $1,436.12 in 2010.

At the time that "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks was run, TSR wasn't yet producing standalone adventure modules, so that manuscript was filed away … for the future.

Origins (V): Adventures in the Warden. That wasn't the end of Gary Gygax's crossovers between Metamorphosis Alpha and D&D. The next one occurred at the Winter Fantasy 2 convention (1978) in January 1978, where Gygax was continually running Castle Greyhawk adventures for a variety of players. By Sunday, the group included several Greyhawk regulars: Mark Ratner, Ernie Gygax, and James Ward. When the players read a curse scroll recovered from gnolls, a tired Gygax suggested that there was a 1 in 10 chance that the PCs would end up on the Warden … and rolled a 1! When the adventure continued in March, it was James Ward running for Gary Gygax, Luke Gygax, Ernie Gygax, and Brian Blume. That adventure is detailed in "Faceless Men & Clockwork Monsters", also in Dragon #17 (August 1978).

Origins (VI): Finally, An Adventure. Two years later, in 1980, Gygax returned to "Barrier Peaks" one more time. Just as the original tournament adventure was a prelude to Metamorphosis Alpha, now "Barrier Peaks" was able to support a new science-fantasy game: Gamma World (1978). In fact, the charts for figuring out how to use technological items in "Barrier Peaks" would have looked pretty familiar to Gamma World fans.

"Barrier Peaks" was also the third of the "Special" adventures. Because it wasn't put into the "C" line (1979+) of tournament adventures, Gygax clearly felt it had changed considerably from its competitive origins. Its placement in the "S" series also revealed that it was a one-off, unlike the "G" (1978), "D" (1978), or "T" (1979+) series.

About the Book. "Barrier Peaks" also shares another characteristic with some of the "S" series: like S1: "Tomb of Horrors" (1978), it includes a book of illustrations, meant to be used as player handouts. In fact, it has an extremely impressive 32-page book of handouts, with 63 total handouts, four of which are printed in full-color. It was altogether an unprecedented publication, showing how quickly D&D was expanding in the early '80s.

Genre Tropes: Science Fantasy. "The Temple of the Frog" adventure from Supplement II: Blackmoor (1975) hinted at science fantasy themes, but "Barrier Peaks" was the first full-length adventure to embrace the genre.

That doesn't meant that the science-fantasy genre was a weird inclusion. Early adventures like Rob Kuntz's Machine Level, Dave Arneson's City of the Gods, and Gary Gygax's journey to Barsoom all show that the use of science fantasy was pretty common among D&D's creators and early adopters. Gygax said that he played with the genre because "the quasi-medieval fantasy milieu becomes staid without some variety". He also said that science fiction "is really no more than future fantasy". Kuntz takes a different tack saying "It was all fantasy to us". In other words, the fantasy and science fiction genres of the '70s were less differentiated, and so crossing between them was less taboo.

A few years later, Don Turnbull said that "Barrier Peaks" "was criticised by some purists when it was published". He makes the somewhat odd claim that it was because fans thought that science fiction belonged in Basic D&D, not Advanced D&D. Certainly, Basic D&D did more broadly embrace science fantasy in later years, particularly when it incorporated Dave Arneson's Blackmoor, but it's hard to understand how players could have made the distinction back in 1980, when Basic D&D had only seen two adventures (neither of them science fantasy).

Adventure Tropes. "Barrier Peaks" is a pretty classic dungeon crawl — or rather a spaceship crawl. It's a rather enormous one too. It also makes use of a trope more common in later computer games: plot coupons. Players must collect a rainbow of access cards to advance through the dungeon.

Exploring Greyhawk. "Barrier Peaks" is set in the world of Greyhawk, primarily thanks to its location in the Barrier Peaks, and the fact that fallout from the spaceship is menacing the Duchy of Geoff.

However, the majority of the adventure takes place in the actual spaceship, spewed forth from another universe.

Monsters of Note. A few weird monsters are introduced in "Barrier Peaks": the froghemoth and the vegepygmy. Robots and androids also make their first appearances in the D&D game. However, it may be the mind flayer that gets the most important spotlight. There's just one of them, and he's an escaped specimen, but the drawing on the cover of the art book, which shows the flayer fully kitted out in futuristic gear, apparently made an impression; it's likely what pushed the mind flayers toward a more futuristic role in Spelljammer (1989).

Future History. Some of "Barrier Peaks" was updated as part of a campaign arc found in S1-4: "Realm of Horrors" (1987). The whole module was reprinted much later in S1-4: "Dungeons of Dread" (2013). However, the adventure is not particularly horrific or dreadful.

An "Expedition to Barrier Peaks" novel was planned as part of the Greyhawk Classics line. It was to be written by Roland Green, and it must have gotten quite far along because web sites all over the world claim it exists (but it was never printed).

About the Creators. Gary Gygax was of course the co-creator of D&D. By 1980, he was working hard on The World of Greyhawk (1980), which would be published a few months later; the evidence of the increased focus on a well-detailed world is apparent here.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (11)
Discussions (9)
Customer avatar
Jimmy L January 15, 2024 4:00 pm UTC
A POD would be highly Appreciated.
Customer avatar
Rand H December 03, 2023 2:52 pm UTC
All of these OG modules need a POD option!
Customer avatar
Miguel L December 13, 2023 1:35 am UTC
It's baffling how such a classic and innovative scenario (even by today's standards) can't be printed.
Customer avatar
Bruce L August 28, 2023 9:28 pm UTC
Ran a Paladin, with a +5 Holy Avenger Long Sword, going into the 'dungeon.' Came out with a Needle Gun: on a successful To Hit, it dealt out 1-100 HP of damage! I threw my 'worthless' Holy Avenger into the dirt, and walked away, never looking back.

After that session, we all agreed, we would never mix SF with our fantasy gaming, again. It ruined us for AD&D play for more than a month... I've never mixed SF and fantasy gaming, since that time. Cheers!
Customer avatar
Christopher G December 10, 2022 4:04 pm UTC
Goodness sake get it on POD it's a classic for it's contents.
Customer avatar
Lucas M November 08, 2022 1:53 pm UTC
Please sell the POD.
Customer avatar
Daniel S September 27, 2022 7:04 am UTC
POD please!
Customer avatar
Brooks B October 17, 2022 12:47 am UTC
Goodman Games has re-released this .. it has tons of old content and revamped for 5e. It is excellent
Customer avatar
Neil H August 31, 2022 10:45 am UTC
can we get this as a print on demand book?
Customer avatar
Trampas W February 10, 2021 2:57 am UTC
Now reprinted by Goodman Games as part of their Original Adventures Reincarnated line. It's a pretty good book!
Customer avatar
George F November 06, 2017 7:29 pm UTC
I wonder if anyone has has done any 3d printer files for the robots in this.
Browse Categories
$ to $
 Follow Your Favorites!
NotificationsSign in to get custom notifications of new products!

Product Information
Platinum seller
Rules Edition(s)
Publisher Stock #
TSR 9033
File Size:
42.71 MB
Scanned image Click for more information
Scanned image
These products were created by scanning an original printed edition. Most older books are in scanned image format because original digital layout files never existed or were no longer available from the publisher.

For PDF download editions, each page has been run through Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to attempt to decipher the printed text. The result of this OCR process is placed invisibly behind the picture of each scanned page, to allow for text searching. However, any text in a given book set on a graphical background or in handwritten fonts would most likely not be picked up by the OCR software, and is therefore not searchable. Also, a few larger books may be resampled to fit into the system, and may not have this searchable text background.

For printed books, we have performed high-resolution scans of an original hardcopy of the book. We essentially digitally re-master the book. Unfortunately, the resulting quality of these books is not as high. It's the problem of making a copy of a copy. The text is fine for reading, but illustration work starts to run dark, pixellating and/or losing shades of grey. Moiré patterns may develop in photos. We mark clearly which print titles come from scanned image books so that you can make an informed purchase decision about the quality of what you will receive.
Original electronic format
These ebooks were created from the original electronic layout files, and therefore are fully text searchable. Also, their file size tends to be smaller than scanned image books. Most newer books are in the original electronic format. Both download and print editions of such books should be high quality.
File Last Updated:
May 14, 2016
This title was added to our catalog on May 24, 2016.