UK1: Beyond the Crystal Cave (1983)

Let’s take a look at the UK-series of module this week, shall we? This is UK1: Beyond the Crystal Cave (1983).

There had already been some UK-produced D&D material at this point — Fiend Folio, the U-series modules — and there would be more to come intermittently in other modules series (usually indicated by a Union Jack up by the product code). This line was produced by TSR’s UK offices between 1983 and 1985. They all have that hard-to-describe British quality about them in the substance of the adventures (and usually in the art and layout, but this one features gorgeous but nevertheless American illustrations by Tim Truman).

This one is equal parts brilliant and, at least from the 21st century, a bit of a groaner. That’s not entirely the module’s fault though — you see, at its core, this is a riff on Romeo & Juliet. In the decades since, I think the number of videogame RPGs that have had a Romeo & Juliet riff in its sidequests approaches the ninetieth percentile. This might be patient zero or close to it, and points I guess for originating a long-running trend, but I am just not so interested in variations on that particular story any more or ever again.

Still! There is a lot to love here. At least for me — I love a minimal combat module. There are not many of them at this moment in time (I can’t actually think of any). There are a couple encounters that seem bound to lean toward combat, or at least flight (can’t really chat with an ochre jelly), but most of the adventure, which sees players exploring an enchanted garden, involves doing favors for the locals and solving puzzles. Jellies aside, the main storyline can be handled without a single sword being drawn, which is just unheard of in D&D in 1983. Good stuff!

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