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U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh (1e)

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$4.99

Desolate and abandoned, the evil alchemist's mansion stands alone on the cliff, looking out towards the sea. Mysterious lights and ghostly hauntings have kept away the people of Saltmarsh, despite rumors of a fabulous forgotten treasure. What is it's sinister secret?

The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh is the first installment in a series of three modules designed and developed in the United Kingdom, for beginning adventures with the AD&D rules. The adventure can be played by 5-10 characters of levels 1-3. This module contains large-scale maps, full background information, and detailed encounter descriptions for the players and DM.

Product History

U1: "The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh" (1981), by Dave J. Browne with development by Don Turnbull, was the first adventure in the "U" series. It was probably released in the fall of 1981, since it postdated TSR UK's premiere release, Fiend Folio (1981), by several months.

About TSR UK. The TSR UK office opened on March 31, 1980, following TSR's failed attempt to merge with Games Workshop. Its initial publication was the Fiend Folio, but in the epilogue to that sourcebook, TSR UK head Don Turnbull said "You will be hearing from us again," for TSR UK had more plans. To be precise, TSR UK planned to start producing adventures authored in the UK to offer a unique British take on D&D: "The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh" was the first. There would eventually be over a dozen, spanning from 1981-1986, most in the U- and UK-series products.

What's The "U" Stand For? According to TSR's official codes, the "U" coding on "Secret of Saltmarsh" stands for "underwater." It's unlikely that was the original intent, though, as the adventure doesn't actually feature any underwater elements. At a guess, the "U" most likely stood for UK, but that was abandoned when the later "UK" adventure series appeared.

Recurring Tropes. U1 uses a number of tropes that had appeared in other adventures from the late 70s. First, it features the increasingly familiar trope of a town homebase with a nearby adventure. However, unlike predecessors T1: "The Village of Hommlet" (1979) and L1: "The Secret of Bone Hill" (1981), this module gives the town of Saltmarsh almost no description.

Second, the first half of U1 is set within a haunted house - an alternate to the dungeon crawl that was probably kicked off by Judges Guild's first adventure, "Tegel Manor" (1977).

Third, U1 presents a relatively self-contained adventure - with a haunted house and smugglers - but then throws in a few lizard men at the end, which can lead characters on to the next adventure in the series, much as players went down the adventure path from the classic G-series ("Giant") adventures (1978) to the D-series ("Descent") adventures (1978) by following the drow.

Though "Secret of Saltmarsh" synthesizes a lot of tropes from earlier RPG releases, it still manages to be very much its own adventure.

A Thinking Adventure. It's hard to define what the essence of the TSR UK adventures is, though they all tended to be pretty high in quality. It's a little easier to identify the essential essence of Dave J. Browne's adventures: they all tended to be thinking adventures. In particular, U1 requires players to investigate to figure out what's going on in Saltmarsh's haunted house.

Future History. The town of Saltmarsh is described in Dungeon Master's Guide II (2005) for 3.5e - though that Saltmarsh is presumably much higher-powered than the Saltmarsh of this adventure would have been.

About the Creators. Dave J. Browne wrote the first four adventures for TSR UK: U1-U3 and UK1. Don Turnbull is credited with development; he of course had previously written Fiend Folio and was now the head of TSR UK. Graeme Morris, who did cartography, editing, and production for the entire U-series, would go on to greater fame as the author of the majority of TSR UK's adventures.

About the Product Historian

This history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, 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 shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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Reviews
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May 6th, 2013
Great module for a low-level introduction to a larger campaign. I would give it 5 stars but some of the pages were cropped on the scan. They really need to fix this. [...]
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April 20th, 2013
As mentioned above, some pages are cropped in the scan. Also, after WotC recently reversed their block on PDF sales of old products, I read that these scans were re-done and OCRed. That did turn out to be true in the case of The Temple of the Frog, which [...]
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February 26th, 2013
The scan quality is very good EXCEPT for several pages which are cropped on their left margin. All of the odd pages starting with page 21 share this fault, although it doesn't impact the maps or handouts in the appendix. [...]
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March 10th, 2012
The start of one of the best known TSR series. The scan is very good compared to many of the TSR scans and the adventure has 2 parts with a good combination of sneak, think and fight to occupy most if not all players. [...]
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November 7th, 2007
Both the Danger at Dunwater and the Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh are flat-out classics to many D&D players. While they aren't as pretty or developed as modern DM's might be used to, they're still a fascinating read and a good insight into some of the [...]
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Product Information
Electrum seller
Pages
32
Edition
1.0
ISBN
0-935696-80-6
Publisher Stock #
TSR 9062
File Size:
12.99 MB
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Scanned image
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File Last Updated:
November 01, 2013
This title was added to our catalog on January 22, 2013.
Publisher Info
Wizards of the Coast
Wizards of the Coast
Publisher Average Rating