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U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh (1e)
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U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh (1e)

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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

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (13)
Discussions (15)
Customer avatar
Dominic L November 25, 2021 7:34 pm UTC
The POD copy I just received is excellent. Beautiful cover and clear and readable text and maps throughout.
Customer avatar
Stephane H May 19, 2021 4:22 pm UTC
This is my all time favorite module. I would purchase a POD in a heartbeat....
Customer avatar
Grognard O May 03, 2021 11:58 am UTC
Where's the POD gone?
Customer avatar
Simon W April 05, 2021 4:23 pm UTC
Please make a Print On Demand option for this book. :)
Customer avatar
Alexander L March 24, 2021 9:26 am UTC
PoD please.
Customer avatar
Jeffrey P March 10, 2021 12:59 am UTC
A high quality scan of this module should be offered for POD, and it would sell well.
Customer avatar
Steve D December 01, 2020 12:42 am UTC
POD please!
Customer avatar
Eugene S July 10, 2020 7:10 pm UTC
Why in the world would you make the other two in this series POD but not this one???
Customer avatar
George F May 18, 2020 6:19 pm UTC
Please, make this available as a PoD again.
Customer avatar
Bruce B June 09, 2019 1:04 am UTC
I have the ORIGINAL Modules (all three) and as a player I loved that's why I bought them to DM I loved having them figure it out and face the consequences when they did not.
Customer avatar
Casper K May 19, 2019 9:03 pm UTC
What is the expected playtime for this module?
Customer avatar
Sam M June 02, 2019 10:30 pm UTC
took me three sessions to run the first half of the module (of course first session was also making all of the AD&D characters, so probably closer to 4 or 5 hours total). My players ended up making decisions that let them skip the second adventure of this module (as well as U2) so I can’t speak for that one.
Customer avatar
Vernon M November 17, 2018 9:41 pm UTC
Does the PoD include all three modules?
Customer avatar
Keith H October 18, 2018 2:34 am UTC
I have a PoD copy, and pages 2, 6, 8, and 25 all show cropping at the spine edge. Is there any chance of seeing a corrected scan that fixes these issues?
Customer avatar
Eugene S April 19, 2018 11:45 pm UTC
Could someone please tell me which pages are cropped off? I just bought it and I'm already pissed off that it doesn't have bookmarks.
Customer avatar
Keith H October 18, 2018 2:33 am UTC
I have a PoD copy, and pages 2, 6, 8, and 25 all show cropping at the spine edge.
Customer avatar
Emiliano M February 18, 2018 10:28 am UTC
What is the difference between the 3 files that are included in the download?
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TSR 9062
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File Last Updated:
December 12, 2016
This title was added to our catalog on January 22, 2013.