UK5: Eye of the Serpent (1984)

UK5: Eye of the Serpent (1984) is an unusual module, in that it is designed to be one-on-one between a DM and a single player. This is doubly unusual, because there is a product code for one-on-one adventures, the O-series, which also contains a UK-produced module, O2: Blade of Vengeance (1984). Why did this adventure get filed to the UK-series? Unlike the other O-series modules, this one is arranged around a PC in a party with three NPCs (which means it is pretty easy to convert this to a regular module). Further, the other O-series PCs were tied to specific classes, O1 the thief, O2 the elf, but UK5 was open to rangers, druids and…monks? Weird. [also, I’m an idiot — when I originally wrote this, I forgot that the O-series was for Basic D&D, and the UK-series for AD&D. Good to know that distinction is still confusing nearly 40 years later.]

Anyway. Rather than a hex crawl, this wilderness adventure is arranged as a flowchart, with different routes usable by different character types (which allows for, say, ranger-specific encounters). That’s neat, and anticipates some modern designs, like the forest navigation of Into the Wyrd & Wild. This makes sense, because the thrust of the adventure is to get off a mountain top after being flown there by a roc, so the exploration of hexes feels inappropriate. On the descent are a series of interesting encounter locations. It’s pretty straightforward, really.

It is also the most British-feeling of the UK modules so far. Bold graphic design, illustrated section headers at the top of most pages, big boxless illustrations integrated into the text (I don’t think you really start seeing that in US D&D until the 90s). Tim Sell is the artist (SELL not SALE). I don’t know his work really outside of a couple Fighting Fantasy books, but I love it. It is really right on the tip of the UK balance between gritty and cartoonish, which Games Workshop would shortly encode (and sadly abandon) for Warhammer.

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