U1: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh is a well kept artistic secret!
I feel like I should be toasting or something as this will be my very first post concerning classic TSR modules. Sure, this one is a bit remote, being a UK production, but still U1: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh has a very special place in my heart.
Back in late 1989 I’d gone away to university and decided that I would leave all the trappings of my youth behind. That meant I was going to completely remake myself in a place where no one knew me. It might have worked too, except that as I studied one night in the first month of the first semester I heard dice rolling in the dorm room next to me. People were making characters, and low and behold they were going to run in a module, that being U1, and before I knew it I’d signed on as the groups fighter.
Thus, I tried to get away, but they kept pulling me back in!
So, as I look over U1 today, I’m pleasantly impressed with just what a lovely little module it is. Written by Dave J. Browne and Don Turnbull, this 31 page module is the first in a trilogy that really has a very nice run time and balance for play.
The cover art, beautifully rendered by European import Dave de Leuw, paints a perfect picture of the lonely bluff estate battered by wind and the screech of bats. Dave also gets credit for the back cover as well, which is another nice piece. My only complaint is that on both, all characters are turned away from the viewer which makes me wonder as to the artist’s mastery of the human face.
Inside, I was surprised to find reference to Stephen D Sullivan as an artist, although I can’t find a signed piece I’d attribute to him, as well as TSR alum Harry Quinn of Monster Manual II fame. The bulk of the interiors, however, are drafted by artist Jim Holloway, who in 1981 might have been working on one of his first D&D projects. He does an astounding eleven pieces for this project, and I had to wonder as to his speed of production, which must be amazing to watch.
In all, U1 holds its own again other classic modules of the day.
Artistic Rating: 3.5 [out of 5]