Gazing down form the pinnacle of Hardway Mountain, who would not be drawn by the far-off glint of the Serpent's Eye? The descent will be hard, the mountains know neither mercy nor compassion. Many are the lessons to be learned, but fate has left you little choice - are you equal to the challenge?
"Eye of the Serpent" is a one-on-one wilderness adventure module for one player and one Dungeon Master, and has been designed to develop the specialist skills of a 1st-level druid, ranger, or monk character. It can also be used for a normal party of four to six 1st-level player characters.
The perils of Hardway Mountain are unchanging, but the routes between them are not. This module includes a unique route planning system with different of routes linking the encounters to challenge the abilities of druids, rangers, or monks. Alternately, Dungeon Masters can change the routings to create their own original and exciting adventures.
UK5: "Eye of the Serpent" (1984), by Graeme Morris, is the fifth UK-series adventure. The Acaeum reports that its original name was "Learning the Hard Way." It was published in 1984.
One-on-One Adventures. The idea of a one-on-one dungeon, with one GM and one player, dates back at least to "Quest for the Fazzlewood" (1978), a tournament run at Wintercon VII (1978). TSR revised and updated that adventure as O1: "The Gem and the Staff" in 1983. In 1984, TSR UK tried their hand at the format, publishing first UK5: "Eye of the Serpent" (1984), then O2: "Blade of Vengeance" (1984). TSR would later revisit the idea of one-on-one adventures in their eight-book "HHQ" series (1992-1995).
"Eye of the Serpent" is actually a somewhat unusual one-on-one adventure, for a few different reasons. First, it includes three more party members who are run as NPCs - which means that the adventure can be run for multiple players if desired. Second, it can be run for either for either druids, rangers, or monks (thanks to a very clever wilderness system), whereas all the other one-on-one adventures require a single specific class.
A Different Sort of Wilderness. Prior to "Eye of the Serpent," wilderness adventures fit into three broad categories. They appeared extensively in Expert Set (1981) adventures, where they were hex crawls, just as Gary Gygax had suggested back in the original D&D (1974). In other product lines, adventures like B5: "Horror on the Hill" (1983) offered a hint of the wilderness by letting adventurers move through above-ground ruins, but they were really just a different sort of dungeon-like environment. More notably, adventures like N2: "The Forest Oracle" (1984) let players move through railroaded encounters in a wilderness environment.
UK5, though, does something quite different: It lays out its wilderness as a route-based flowchart, showing different ways to get from one encounter to another. (Cleverly, different routes are available for different classes, so that each of the three possible classes gets to meet up with some class-appropriate encounters.) The result is a lot more open than a railroaded wilderness, yet more constrained than a hex crawl. It's a beautiful compromise that surprisingly wasn't used more.
It should be noted that "Eye of the Serpent" does also include a hex map, to back up the route chart. Apparently the designers just couldn't get away from some things.
Sort of the UK Feel. Overall, "Eye of the Serpent" is the most atypical of Graeme Morris's UK adventures because it's not heavily plotted, not is it particularly fantastical. In fact, the whole goal of the adventure is just to get off a dangerous mountainside after you've been kidnapped by a roc.
As usual, there are numerous Fiend Folio (1981) monsters in this UK adventure, including several al-mi'raj, blood hawks, bullywugs, a denzelian, a gambado, giant bats, a needleman, a necrophidius, and the ever-popular poltergeist.
New Monsters. Ice and mist mephits appear for the first time, supplementing the fire, lava, smoke, and steam mephits seen in the Fiend Folio. All six mephits would reappear in Monstrous Compendium Fiend Folio Appendix (1992) and would be supplemented by numerous additional mephits in the Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix (1994). They've more recently been featured in 3e, but didn't appear as monsters in 4e.
About the Creators. This was Graeme Morris's last adventure in the UK series. However, it was far from his last work for TSR UK. The rest was instead mostly for Basic D&D, beginning with X8: "Drums on Fire Mountain" (1984).
As with some of Morris's early works, Tom Kirby helped on the storyline of this one. Meanwhile, the other star members of the TSR UK creative team, Phil Gallagher and Jim Bambra, both assisted in the production of the adventure. (They'd move up to authorship of the UK series with UK6 and UK7.)
About the Product Historian
The 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.