Dungeons & Dragons Expedition To The Barrier Peaks Preview - Stepping Directly Into Science Fiction

Last week we got invited to a session of Expedition To The Barrier Peaks, one of the remastered D&D adventures included in Quests From The Infinite Staircase, we also get to try out the latest of D&DBeyond's map features

Published: July 1, 2024 1:00 PM /

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Expedition To The Barrier Peaks D&D

Ahead of the July 16th release of D&D's new anthology book Quests From The Infinite Staircase I was invited along with a number of other D&D journalists to get an early preview of the level 11 adventure, Expedition To The Barrier Peaks to not only see the otherworldly entities that the adventure has to offer, but also to get hands-on with D&DBeyond's map features.

Expedition To The Barrier Peaks is an adventure that was originally written by Gary Gygax himself for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition in 1980. Our quickly thrown together party was DM'd by Makenzie De Armas, writer at Wizards of the Coast who recently worked on The Deck of Many Things and Critical Role: Call of the Netherdeep.

A fun note as we began our game was sentiments shared by other players, including Anton The Storyteller and Mike Dunn, who had spent time exploring Expedition To The Barrier Peaks in AD&D. It was exciting to be sitting at the table with those about to embark on the journey for the first time, as well as those who had at least a partial idea of what to expect.

Settling in De Armas delivered a quick plot hook, the party had been tasked by a nearby town's mayor to investigate the strange creatures destroying settlements and so we were off to the mountains to investigate. It was explained that each of the adventures in this Anthology Series could be played in a sequential order, using Nafas the Genie who lives in the Infinite Staircase as a plot giver, but that each adventure can also be dropped into existing campaigns.

Nafas on both covers of Quests From The Infinite Staircase
Nafas on both covers of Quests From The Infinite Staircase

Exploring the mountain the party encountered a cave, newly revealed by a landslide, and as we crossed the threshold the stone under our feet were replaced with cool metal.

De Armas took this moment to direct us towards the maps encounter, which until now had been sitting with the message "Your DM is not currently hosting a game session." The screen came to life as we saw one of the beautiful maps from Quests From The Infinite Staircase appear, mostly obstructed.

Having built our characters as part of a Campaign within D&DBeyond we could find our character tokens, add them to the map (already perfectly sized for the map) and begin combat as a Cloaker descended upon us.

After the quick battle we were met by a Robot who informed us that their leader wanted to speak with us. This wasn't an Auto-gnome, this wasn't an Automaton, Modron, or even a Warforged, but an honest to god Android. 

The Three Robot types that players will encounter across the spaceship
The top left robot is the one we met and our party named him Frederick

At this point, we had stepped out of high fantasy and even further past Science Fantasy, we were fully immersed in a Science Fiction world.

The Maps feature of D&DBeyond, while currently in Alpha, is one that I've been using as part of my home games as well as for adventures with other TechRaptor staff, including our recent four-part Vecna: Eve of Ruin series. Admittedly, this was the first time getting to be on the other end of the map. 

As De Armas revealed more of the map, erasing away the fog of war with a square erase tool, I was excited to hear my party mates reacting to the easy reveal of the world, and clicking sounds starting as De Armas let us know that you could move your tokens by selecting them and then using the arrow keys to direct them around the board like a video game. That was a new one for me too!

The DNDBeyond map tools showing a line of breath weapon damage
Another new feature I learned about (recreated here with my home game) is that you can create effect lines, circles, and squares and change their color and symbol

Throughout the rest of the adventure the party got to use tact to negotiate a deal between two warring groups of residents on the spaceship, two families of Vegepygmy, and learn about a number of interesting Tech Weapons available to find. One party member quickly picked up a Laser Pistol, while another got to donn a suit of Powered Armor.

Hearing about all that Expeditions To The Barrier Peak had to offer, including but not limited to malfunctioning combat robots and sections of the lower ship floor flooded with irradiation, De Armas also teased that there was a creature in the depths of the ship. 

Asking if we could fast forward to that encounter De Armas was able to quickly show us off the rest of the first floor (of which we'd only managed to see a quarter of in four hours of play), skip through the second floor, and arrive in a central lush garden and lake area on the third floor. Here we faced the Froghemoth Elder.

The Froghemoth Elder Battle Setting in Expedition To The Barrier Peaks
Plenty of space for a Froghemoth Elder to creep out of the water and leap on us...

Combat in the D&DBeyond map tools against the Froghemoth was quick and easy. As the new map was loaded we were able to pop out each of our tokens, the Froghemoth Elder was already in place on the map where De Armas had put it prior to the session.

In combat we were able to keep an eye on all characters, use rings to indicate what status we might be under (the status options were only color based, I would love to see some text on the rings in the future to better indicate that especially if it could be tied to the status on the character sheet), and when three of our party had been devoured by the Froghemoth I was able to draw a box on the map outside of the battle that indicated tokens inside had been eaten.

Getting invited to this session was a lot of fun, and being led through the world by De Armas and a variety of robotic impersonations was an absolute blast. I can definitely see how while it's part of an anthology book depending on how your party takes their time this could easily be 5+ sessions of time.

It was also a blast getting to see others experience the D&DBeyond map tools for the first time. There is still a lot of roughness around the edges, but if you're running a campaign inside D&DBeyond, with maps and monsters that aren't homebrew it's incredibly easy to hit the ground running. Even if you are importing maps you can scale them so all miniatures match easily, and homebrew creations can be imported just as easily.

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Andrew has written Video Game and Entertainment news, reviews, and guides for 10+ years. As Senior Content Manager, he assists in creating and editing… More about Andrew

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