Saturday, November 28, 2015

Retro - Review and Commentary On U1 The Sinister Secret of Salt Marsh Adventure For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition

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 fabulous forgotten treasure. What is its sinister secret?
So reads the back sleeve of UK1 of the Sinister Secret of Saltmash, written by Dave J. Browne with Don Turnbull  this is the start of the U series of modules for its underwater adventure and one of the first  modules that I cut my teeth on in an AD&D adventure. "The module details a mysterious abandoned mansion at the edge of a town called Saltmarsh, and the secrets contained therein", I love how Wiki sort of details the plot of the module in a backhanded way but essentially its right. This is the first of the U1 series and they have a very different feel to the later Advanced Dungeons and Dragons  modules, some folks prefer the hands on style of the series because of weird atmosphere and different approach to its sorcerous elements. Magic is prevalent but not a replacement for the high fantasy setting. The adventure concerns the ghostly ship that has been terrorizing the town of Saltmarsh and haunted mansion of an evil alchemist.

Salt Mash is one of those adventures that folks either love or hate with a passion personally the 'U' series had a much more Earthly yet dream like horror movie feel to it. There have been many times I've run this bad boy and its always been interesting. The adventure elements of Saltmash are one part haunted mansion and one part fun house ride once again Wiki has a pretty good overview of the basic plot; "The first part is set in the town of Saltmarsh and deals with unraveling the secret of the haunted house that lies on the edge of town. The abandoned, dilapidated mansion of an evil alchemist has been the subject of rumors about hauntings and treasure."  Make no mistake this is a module that is intended to play around with the PC's perceptions and exceptions this is one of the reasons why its set out for five to ten players of first through third level.

This is one of those modules where the  PC's that were proved with the adventure came with magic items, this became a very entertaining way of making and expanding upon the fact that my players thought these PC's had been adventuring for quite sometime and there for had weapons. Shrugs, players often seem to fill in the details that they want in the back stories in a wide brush strokes for their PC's. All part of the charm of the old school. The Sinister Secret of Saltmash actually requires a good detail of investigation and for the PC's to keep their wits about them. There are several adventure details that can easily kill an inexperienced party of adventurers. PC's get to explore a damn dangerous haunted mansion and expand into several underwater locations.

U1 is the type of an adventure that they don't usual do any more. Part investigation and part adventuring with a large dash of sword and sorcery thrown into the mix of U1. But even today this adventure plays pretty damn well. Part of U1's strength is that it will handle both a smaller group of players or that includes a large number of 1st level players. There is very little that can break the sense of adventure in Sinister Secret of Saltmash. The town itself is easily
which the DM can design from the guidelines provided.

"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 AD&D rules" and according to Wiki this is one of those modules that can easily keep up with the demands of today's players. The module U1 is one of those adventures that can easily be translated over into a retroclone system like Astonishing Swordsmen and of Hyperborea in which the town of Saltmash was a casualty of the Green Death and its never quite recovered from the plague. The adventure is one that suits the over ridding feeling of dread in Lamentations of the Flame Princess. This module leaves the guidelines for the creation of the town up to the DM giving a bit more latitude to customize to create the adventure to the needs of their players.

Sinister Secret of Salt Marsh isn't perfect but it has a certain something with its haunted mansion that echoes another time bringing the PC's face to face with a variety of mysteries that require some thinking outside of the narrative to figure out what's going on, besides who could resist playing around in a haunted mansion that belonged to an alchemist for rumored treasure. Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh is an excellent introduction for low level adventurers and a module that deserves to be taken out once in a while for a spin. It has many of the classic elements of AD&D built into the back end of the adventure.

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