JOURNEYMAN: To go where a lot of people have gone before…

We took a break and tried something different today. I ran Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, an old AD&D module from 1980. I’ve run it several times over the years, and every time I run it, it is different, and tonight was no exception. One thing that makes it fun is that I never use the map that comes with it. Instead, I substitute the STOS Enterprise blueprints. They give me a huge set of maps with a lot of character.

The players rolled up characters for the Journeyman system, and both took characters with a lot of magic skills. Chester and Serena each awoke in a glass coffin in a small room with flashing red lights. As they woke up, a voice said, “System failure. Massive brain damage from excessive time in freezer units has been dictated emergency RNA injection. Please exit your shells.” 8 other glass coffins were filled with corpsicles who didn’t make it. Neither Chester nor Serena could remember their past but Chester awoke with the skills of a Necromancer, and hoped to revive the corpsicles and put them into service. Instead, failed efforts to figure out how the coffins worked ended with the flash incineration of one of them. 

Chester did a random summoning, and brought a Rat Boy who was most displeased with being added to the trap the players were in. He was told that one of the coffins had whiskey in it, but he managed to flash incinerate that one as well. He swore most of the time.

Outside the ship was a room with a lot of dead plants in it, and a bit of dirt. Another door led to a small room, and that led to another small room, but they could go no further. Serena found a small door under one of the seats in the last room, and opened it. The passage was filled with vines so Chester tried chewing through them. There was a flash of light and Chester’s tooth was broken in half as he flew backwards and twitched into unconsciousness. A brief fire enveloped the vines and there was a smell of burnt something (not vines!).

Retreating to the first small room, they found another door and beyond it, two skeletons in chairs facing a window into the garden room. On the skeletons they found two brown cards of a hard material. Chester broke one of them trying to open one of the glass coffins. When they went back outside, they found that Serena could now talk to a voice in the very last small room. It didn’t understand English though, and just kept saying “boop bup plop loop.” Chester imitated it for a long time, slowing the automatic translator significantly.  Ultimately he got tired of it and went back in, where he briefly talked to “Control” until it ran out of power and went silent. He then fumbled his next summoning, and was assaulted by a Wixie for the next eight minutes, who froze first his head and then his privates before leaving in indignation.

They tried Spirit Travel and Object Reading and Shaping, but nothing worked. Chester managed to open another small door, this time on one of the coffins, and Serena was able to Shape a pipe out of it, but that only released a lot of freezing gas.

During the time that Chester was distracted, Serena taught the computer to talk, and began interrogating it. She learned that the small room was a “turbolift,” whatever that was. She and Chester then traveled to deck 17, where they explored a bedroom of some type. They were attacked by Vegepygmies (aka. Little Green Men) and their vegedogs, who had weapons while the heroes did not. Chester ordered the Rat Boy (who never did give his name) to go fight the greenies and protect his master, but the Rat Boy objected to dying so much that he managed to fight off the binding and escape back to Faerie. Serena boxed the greenies back and then stole one of their hatchets and began maiming and killing them. Chester caused one of them to fall in love with him (Control Emotions) and while it was “hugging” him, he took its axe and tried to cut its neck. He failed, and the next round three of the creatures were beating on him. Eventually Serena managed to drive them off.

Chester did another summoning and this time brought forth a Dikdak, who both of the heroes fell in love with immediately. A Dikdak is a cross between a giant spider and a golden retriever. Chester tried once more, and this time got a Yellow Man, who began spewing his disease filled yellow mucus everywhere. Chester couldn’t banish him, but he did bind him, but the thing kept spewing and eventually Chester asked him if he would leave if Chester freed him. The demon agreed and as soon as he was free, rushed to the attack. Chester, Serena, and the Dikdak fled to the lift and ordered it to deck 17, forgetting that’s where they were already. The door opened, the Yellow Man spewed, and this time they ordered it to deck 16, which turned out to be where the medical bay was. A lovely android healed both of them, and they relaxed there for the night. Serena questioned the turbolift and learned that they might find weapons at Security. To get there, the computer suggested they go to the dorsal turbolift, go to the top, then go to the forward turbolift and go up to deck 4.


The next day they watched a worker robot going down the hallway and decided to follow it. Too late they realized that it was replacing their functioning turbolift with a nonfunctioning one. Unhappy, they decided to explore Engineering. There they were attacked by an Intellect Devourer and were forced to flee. They retreated to med bay where the Android kept knocking them unconscious and feeding them through intravenous drip for three days, until they finally sought their attacker. Chester was knocked unconscious again, but Serena found it and pursued it to Engineering, where she chopped it to bits with her stolen hatchet.

The heroes then searched Engineering, and found a gray card and what proved to be a laser pistol. They then took another turbolift up to deck 14, which turned out to be a lounge.


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Another MERP Campaign

I found another MERP campaign being reported on a blog. Aspire2hopegm has been Rediscovering the Joys of MERP ( in Bree and Rhudaur since 2016. Give it a read if you have time!

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COC: The Peaslee Formula

So, I’m not going to summarize the adventure, because it is best used as a surprise, but we completed it in two nights of playing and it was a sanity sucker. Several characters are now ready for forced retirement. I’m not sure they will, but it would be better for the world and for them if they did.

The Peaslee Formula was an RPGA Network competition scenario. It was used at Winter Fantasy 2000, according to La Biblioteca de Pnakotos. It was written by Gregory W. Detwiler, who may have been the nom de plume for Greg Stolze ( and Dennis Detwiller (, at least that was the suggestion from Syrinx at They both wrote for Pagan Publishing, so it seems highly likely. I loved their work in Unspeakable Oath. Gregory W. Detwiler was a co-author for “The Land That Time Ignored” in Blood Brothers 1 for “Songs of Fantari” in Fatal Experiments. He (they?) also authored at least one other RPGA scenario, “A Dead Whale or a Stove Boat.” I remember liking that one too. 

Anyway, it was a good adventure. There were unbalanced elements in there that I had to modify as we played, but it was a wild romp that everyone enjoyed. If anyone knows where folks can get it, let me know and I’ll post it here.

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MERP: Tol Sulereb, at Last

After equipping themselves at Randar’s, the party travelled to the Nabal Mazry to recruit Drogo for their assault on Tol Sulereb. Drogo enjoyed a bit of pickpocketing, stealing the new sea travelling eyewear that Bertram had custom made by Randar. Drogo stole them and then teleported off to Winton Coldfoot, Mayor of Nabal Island. Bertram had to buy a second pair but Randar also augmented the spell on him so that he could generate items that were more deadly, and therefore useful.

Pallando explained that a ring of power would be needed to use a palantir, which would be needed to penetrate the Maelstrom. But the correct palantir had to be used, one that had the least blood in its history. Drogo first cast Otterlungs and then teleported to the sea bottom where he had stored the four palantiri. He used the dwarvish ring of power provided by Tanukkodol to gaze into the palantiri and discern their past, looking for the one that is most given in freedom. He did not gaze into the one from Shrel Kain, as it was damaged by Elentari’s blood. The palantir from Fayoul was stolen from the Balrog’s ghost by Delcaran, who used a variety of small children to feed the ghost as he dived. The palantir stolen from Lest was freely given to Elentari by Tulric, because he feared that Demetrios might recover it. And the palantir from Dilgul was won by Lord Winston from Jackelsprat in a card game. Drogo brings the Lest palantir, but after talking with the rest of the party, returned it and brought up the Dilgul palantir.

Drogo used the palantir they stole from Lest to guide them through the Maelstrom, with the aid of Tanukkodol’s dwarvish ring of power, and the spiritual aid of Grafarlig, Bertram, and Tanukkodol. Tulric served as a captain and the crew followed the great hero with joy initially, but in fear later.

They arrived offshore and anchored on the north end of the island, three miles from the pyramid in the center of the island. Drogo flew inland past the werewolves and landed near the tower. The werewolves would not come within a mile of the tower. He flew up to the first level and then up to the top, looking for an entrance. He spotted a gate on the east side, down on the ground.  After resting, he teleported Tanukkodol, Grafarlig, and Bertram to the first level above the gate. Then he joined them (after some pipeweed), and used Portal to carve out a stone ring in the top of the tower, to which they attached their ropes.

The party lowered themselves down by ropes, Drogo reasoning that if he was killed, they could still climb up to the first level. On the door was the directions in Black Speech to “speak hate and enter.” Tanukkodol was the only one who could read it, but he didn’t want that responsibility, so he whispered the word into Bertram’s ear. Bertram failed to say it correctly, and instead there was a rumbling deep below them. Tanukkodol said it correctly and the gates swung open.

On the first level was a giant statue of a beautiful man, surrounded by a hundred sleeping werewolves, which were not statues. The stairs that led up were sealed by great steel doors and padlocked. Drogo teleported the party past them to the stairs to the stairs, teleporting Bertram last because he could only teleport two others at a time.

On the next level, 2 huge matrons were taking care of 16 elven babies in cribs. They told the babies they would be very strong one day. Grafarlig’s armor wakes them as the party continues up, and Bertram tried to use his harp to quiet the babies, but a Matron struck him a heavy blow. Luckily, he was using the dagger of invisibility, or she would have crushed him like an eggshell.

On the next level, eight men in robes with heads bowed over circular containers, probably for the palantiri, now missing. They watched the party but did not interfere. On the wall, engraved in black speech, were the words, “This is a place of peace and no mercy.”

The next level had multiple passages going to a multitude of locations, obviously a central location for the Ways. Continuing up, the party came to a small room with the master palantir. They settled down, because Drogo would have to stay there for a week to be able to reliably teleport back. Bertram is seduced by the palantir during the night and begins to fear that Drogo will misuse the palantir and should be stopped.

After several days, Bertram started questioning Drogo, which makes Drogo suspect some sort of corruption. Drogo sent all three of the others to the ship, then moved down to the next level down where he slept.

Back on the ship, the others learned that there were elves who had escaped from Torlumen who lived in a beautiful sanctuary carved by Ways magic at the western end of the island. Those people had saved Tulric and Solia fifty years ago, and the couple had lived with them for thirty years. The people there never had any children. There were lots of families, and every ten years 16-20 women would get pregnant but every baby was lost through miscarriage, or so they said. Solia died in childbirth and Tulric left the island. Now Tulric realized that the elves had given up their children so they could live in peace. There are forty people in the village, and the party calculated that 80-100 babies had been taken in fifty years.

At the end of the week, Drogo covered the palantir with his blanket and tied the ends, then teleported it back to the ship. The Maelstrom disappeared and the werewolves went berserk, attacking each other, the tower, and the village. Pallando took the master palantir downstairs and Tanukkodol accompanied him to keep watch.

Drogo teleported Tulric, Bertram, and Grafarlig back to the tower to rescue the children. They helped the Matrons fighting the werewolves, who were attacking up the stairs. Drogo teleported in and out several times, taking 3-4 babies with him each time, back to the ship.

Tulric shot his bow three times per round, but the werewolves were healing every round. Grafarlig tore into them as well, after bonging Bertram on the head. Ughthug also fought the werewolves.

As he teleported in, Drogo voiced his worries regarding what the babies grow up into. Grafarlig asked the matrons and they replied that they would grow up big and strong, except for the weak ones, which would become werewolves.

Drogo teleported Ughthug and Grafarlig out and then came back for Tulric. They also made the jump and reached the ship, but Tulric immediately slipped over the side and used the ship’s boat to slip away, saying to Drogo that it would be best if Tulric died that day. And that’s what Drogo said ever after.

Meanwhile, Pallando fell prey to depression and came close to using the master palantir. Tanukkodol talked him out of it, though he was also ready to shoot his mentor if it came to that.

The matrons were killed, as were the villagers, and then the ravenous beasts ripped each other apart.

Grafarlig, Bertram, and Drogo took the elven children to the elves of Mirkwood. From there, Drogo returned to the Nabal Mazry, where he continued supporting the rangers, transporting them and their goods when necessary through teleportation, and communicating with Oldar through his birdspeech. And at the bottom of the Sea of Rhun lays a chest with 4 palantiri and 2 rings of power (one dwarvish, one an elvish ring of cold). Only Drogo knows where it lays.

Grafarlig returned to her people and became a famous, glorious Dwarven hero.

Bertram/Ughthug were reconciled and Bertram took up residence in Dilgul. Bertram and Ughthug left each other notes and eventually learned more about each other. Bertram found out more about the fight between Randar and his brother. Bertram still sometimes finds himself in strange new lands, as Ughthug retains his wanderlust.

The Syndicate took over much of the merchant traffic on the Rhunaer, with Feldenaith (or someone quite like him) at its head.

Pallando and Tanukkodol travelled to the Grey Havens, where Pallando set sail for the western lands with the master palantir, but not until he charged Tanukkodol with fighting the second blue mage. Tanukkodol accepted that charge and returned to the Far East.

And thus ended the Campaign of Rhun.

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MERP: The Capture of Tulric Hammrammr

As the party fled, Feldenaith and five Dorwinian guards accompanied them. Tannukkodol put some carpet moss on Feldenaith’s wounds. Bertram and Tanuukkodol failed to do first aid on Feldenaith, but Grafarlig was successful. It became clear that some of the Dorwinians were planning to betray Feldenaith, now that he was injured. Crennel and Crispin were loyal to him, while Amauro, Jubbar, and Rialgo were not.

Watches were set in an effort to reduce the problem.

  • First watch: Tannukodol, Bertram, Amauro, & Jubbar
  • Second watch: Grafarlig, Crennel, Rialgo & Crispin

In the morning however, Rialgo killed Crispin and Crennel silently while Grafarlig failed her Notice rolls.  Feldenaith remained alive. Jubbar, Amauro, and Rialgo then launched a general assault on the party. Big mistake.

Tannukkodol stunned Amauro for two rounds. Bertram scared Jubbar with his Axe of Dread, and then hit him in the head. They then fought ineffectively for a while. Jubbar begged for survival. Bertram gave it to him, so Jubbar hit him in treachery and slashed his side, breaking Bertram’s rib.

Tannukkodol killed Amauro, then killed Rialgo because Grafarlig was taking too long. And finally, Jubbar.

There was little loot. There was a gem, 90 gp., 20 sp., 6.5 sp.  Bertram found a dagger of invisibility and used it for a short period (15 seconds) but then it ran out of a charge. The party later discovered it could charge 2-3 times more and could be invisible for up to 5 minutes.

Bertram told Feldenaith that they found 10 gp. on the dead bodies (a lie). Tannukkodol told Feldenaith that in his language (Old Wo-Man), Bertram would be known as Caluwon (“Truth Teller”). In fact, Caluwon means “Sack of Cow Poop.”

The party again gave Pallando the palantir recovered. Then they headed to the Elgear, to seek Tulric Hammrammr in a town called Frazzle, in an inn called The Bastard’s Knife. Everyone there was on drugs.

They next went to the Smoky Duck, where Elias was said to be staying. Two of his rangers, Boeri (a big Odreag) and Anna (his sister), were also there.  The party learned that Gren, a traitor to Elias, was at the Bastard’s Knife and that Elias was off searching for more information on Delcaran. Tannukkodol hit it off with Boeri and Anna, or so he thought. They told him that Elias was either at the town of Snobblebar or the Caverns of Light, which was in the opposite direction.

The party went to the Caverns of Light, a tourist attraction apparently, while Boeri and Anna went the other way to warn Elias, though the party didn’t realize that. At the caverns, the party rousted three goblins (Snork, Gork, Plork) out. They claimed that Elias had rousted them out of the Eastern caverns, which lay to the north. Actually they were lying. They were supposed to take the party to Harribel. And the goblins kept lying, saying he was at Snarkletark.

The party let the goblins live and sent them on their way. Probably shouldn’t have.

They then woke up Gren with a slimy Gerkin at the Bastard’s Knife. He told them that Elias was in the forest at the Hillsides. The party found him surrounded by Mahala Redmane and her family and attacked. Tannukkodol hit Bertram upside the head with his frying pan (despite the protestations of his player) and Bertram became Ughthug once more. He attacked first, killing one, and his player started enjoying playing him again. Tannukkodol went next, killing two and wounding one. Grafarlig killed another, impaling her axe in his head and having to take a round to pull her axe free. Then Gren, who accomplished nothing.

Three bandits attacked Ughthug, and he took 31 damage, mostly from the archers.  Mahala failed her spellcasting roll. Ughthug then killed another with a blow to the head. Tannukkodol killed one archer, wounded another, and then unfortunately hit Gren, puncturing his shoulder. Grafarlig killed another, once again sticking her axe in his head.

Tannukkodol tells Mahala and her men to stand down, leave their weapons and leave. They do, after Mahala argues that they should kill Elias to prevent Demetrios and others from getting his knowledge.

Cornered, Elias agrees to work with the party. It is clear that the secret that Tulric Hammrammr (aka. Elias) is still alive is no longer a secret. If Demetrios learns that Tulric is alive, he will come out to kill Tulric with his army. Tulric explains that Lomeilinde betrayed them and stole all the palantiri except the master one. They took one back from her. Lomeilinde had an item of power that could control the palantir, an Elven ring of power. Sahalia (Demetrios’s daughter) bankrolled the operation and led them in.  The children stolen by Morlumen were experimented upon and turned into monsters, werewolves, shapeshifters. Sahalia guided Tulric out, and Tulric sailed the ship. There is a fortress in the middle of Tol Sulereb and the master palantir is in the middle of Tol Sulereb. No one controls the master palantir. Travelling to the island will be next to impossible because of the perpetual storm that surrounds it. However, the storm ends a few hundred meters off the beach.

The party then plans several methods of getting to the master palantir. Ultimately, the plan is to use a palantir (under the control of the dwarvish ring of power that Tannukodol has secreted) to get through the storm, and then have Drogo scout the island by teleportation and flight. Once he has determined a safe teleportation route, he will return to the ship, and transport the party there, avoiding most of the monsters.

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COC: The End of the Lodge

Lillian, Jonathan, & Alpine approached the tunnels of the lodge on June 14 at 5 am. Jonathan’s bodyguards — Johnny and Joanny McGlerigel – stumbled onto a hidden sinkhole, falling 140 feet to their death. “Aw, that’s too bad,” consoled the Keeper. “Any other NPCs you want to bring?” The party responded in the negative.

Descending, they found a key to a room, within which was a magic box and the spell that created it. They found a mummified lawyer and descending many more mummified bodies of various sizes. Those that were fairly intact all looked dramatically aged, including a small girl. Jonathan made an Elder Sign at the entrance to the pits, just past the altar.

They found a host of pits with monstrosities in them. Alpine fell into a pit in the dark and had to be rescued, much the worse for wear. Lillian’s first aid helped this time. Then they found lead bottles of dust and emptied a few experimentally into some of the pits. Nothing. Next they moved on and found a room with a Sodium Resurrection spell carved into the wall. Apparently the dust was some sort of sodium and could be reconstituted as a person, or something else. They reconstituted one on top of the lawyer’s mummified body and it tried to strangle Jonathan. Lillian pistol whipped it into unconsciousness and then returned it to dust. Alpine went insane and had to be under private care for a good month before he regained his wits.

Returning on July 25, the party tried the spell with only a third of the dust from another bottle, and ended up with a writhing third of a person. Back to dust. By this point, Lillian was temporarily insane and had to be restrained. Back upstairs, wait until sane, and then descending once more.

On July 26, they noticed that the lead bottles were arranged by age. If Ben Anna had been turned to dust, he would have been in the first bottle, which Alpine had tossed on top of a monstrosity in the pits. Back upstairs to fetch horse tranquilizer, some meat, and a broom and dustpan. Luckily the creature ate the meat and fell asleep, and they tried to sweep up all of the dust. Ben was indeed reconstituted, though he was covered with dirt, refuse, and hair. It was noted that Ben’s skin, like that of John Scott and the various guards, was pockmarked. A function of the spell? Perhaps.

Returning to the magic box, they learned that the box was a gate. Jonathan was the only one who could fit through, so he pulled it over his head. In the darkness on the other side, his caving helmet and carbide lamp made it clear he was in a broom closet. It was locked. He shot the lock out and found himself face to face with two Arabs with some sort of advanced assault rifles. He dodged and then ran back through the box, complaining that he didn’t get to shoot them. He then rearranged the box in case they came through.

First he puts the box against the wall, so they are blocked. “No wait,” he says, and moves the box behind the curtain facing the hideous SAN-sucking bas relief carving. “No wait,” he repeats, and put the box at the top of the spiral staircase. “No, even better!” and he puts it facing into one of the pits.

Ultimately they left the tunnels with the box, which no longer worked, and put it in a vault in Jonathan’s house. They tried to convince various people to come with them and see the tunnels, but when they finally got a psychic to accompany them, they discovered that the tunnels had been either filled in or destroyed. Ben tried to explain that the tunnels had been there when he was turned to salt, but the psychic decided to retreat at that time.

The party each got 5% to add to two skills, and regained 2d6 SAN.

On Aug. 1, 1920, they were invited to a famous professor’s house to aid him. They went, but things went screwy from there. I won’t give spoilers but the adventure is a good interlude, and we enjoyed the start of it immensely. For other Keepers, go find “The Peaslee Formula.” You’ll enjoy it.

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COC: Invading the Lodge, Again

On Mar. 7, the players first explored the home of disappeared Ben Anna, but were discovered there by a police officer staking out the place. Jack played Father O’Donnell, since Ben had disappeared. Jonathan Putnam was caught with his shotgun, and Joey Lewis with his .45, but thanks to Jonathan’s fast talking, the cop let them go.

The party then resolved to investigate the Lodge that night. James found information on the history of the Lodge, and they shared their various clues, discovering that the Lodge was probably built on the site of an ancient warlock’s tunnels. Joey and James bicycled through the dark, managing to avoid all of the drunk Lodge members in cars, but then running smack into each other.

They entered the Lodge after hours thanks to Lillian’s crowbar, and searched the basement, again fruitlessly, for the secret button that Jonathan swore was there. They then headed upstairs to the 2nd floor, looking for a way to get to the 3rd, supposedly off limits. Jonathan spotted a secret door and James opened it and the party went up.

Cthulhu Mural

They found multiple insane murals and James fled the house as a result. Father O’Donnell grabbed a pile of books of forbidden lore, and the party fled again. Jonathan and James began to read the only book they got that was in English, Cthulhu in the Necronomicon. Meanwhile, O’Donnell planned to blow up the Lodge, which he believed was a base of evil. Unfortunately, he had no explosive skill and no one would help him, so on March 8, he emptied about 200 shotgun shells of their powder, put it in a paper bag, and then tried to form a Plaster of Paris shell around the bomb. The plaster overheated the powder and Father O’Donnell blew himself and the rectory straight to his blessed reward. Meanwhile, an unknown person burned the Lodge to the ground.

Weeks passed, and on Mar. 22, after Etta’s arm healed, she and Lillian returned to the burned ruins of the Lodge to dig out the basement, with the help of Alpine Appleton (Jack’s third character). They found the lost tunnel and descended, where they encountered two tall and thickly muscled guards. They killed the guards, but Alpine was shot and knocked unconscious. Etta and Lillian continued to explore for a time, but ultimately decided that they should wait to explore further. They failed several First Aid rolls until Lillian’s final attempt, which was a success. They brought Alpine up from the tunnels and (eventually) to a hospital, where he healed over the next twelve weeks.

On June 13, Jonathan and James finished their book and promptly went insane. Jonathan found himself buck naked in the middle of Boston Common the next day, and James was again beaten within an inch of his life by attackers unknown. We suspect he is disliked by a local crew of rowdies. Both learned several spells, including the useful Elder Sign, but James is now worried by the existence of Deep Ones and Jonathan is convinced that Cthulhu is trying to drive him insane through his dreams.

It is now June 14, Monday. Alpine is fully healed, but James has lost half his hit points. Will the party now descend into the caverns? Are the ruins of the Lodge still undisturbed?

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