― Michael L. Gray. Now by no means is this a fantastic module or even a great module as its a licencing tie in between the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, the D&D cartoon action figures, several lost cartoon action figures that appear as NPC's & the grand game itself. I don't want to get lost too much in the history of Michael L. Gray..
I'd like to point out the fact that the vaults of Pandius website article 'Mystara Module and Placement' by Andrew Theisen has the following ; "XL-1: Quest for the Heartstone
Location Notes: The module takes place near the kingdom of Ghyr, located near the Mountains of Ice, which are not explicitly located on Mystara.
Time Period: Pre-1000 AC or 1001-1004 AC
Staging Suggestions: The module can pretty well be placed anywhere in a mountainous region. A likely location is somewhere near the Icereach Mountains of Norwold.
Continuity Problems: The module can pretty well take place at any time. If one assumes that the LJN Toy Characters are the NPCs who take part in it, it could create some continuity problems. Strongheart and Mercion are listed as King and Queen of Ierendi in module X10, and they (along with Figgen, Elkhorn, Ringlerun, and Peralay) are described as being retired from adventuring (as well as being Companion level characters). This would then mean that XL-1 must take place either before 1000 AC (when Palfrit and Marianne rule Ierendi), or between 1000 AC and 1005-1006 AC (when the Master of Hule invades the Known World). As Strongheart and Figgen are both mentioned in Gaz4, either of these choices would fit. From their histories, the LJN characters did take place in some kind of Heartstone Quest, though it need not necessarily be module XL-1 itself; the DM could assume they were part of an earlier quest, thus avoiding continuity problems and allowing his players to run the module as suits their campaign.
References: AC1, X10 (p.16), Gaz4 (p.23)"
So not only do Pureheart & Warduke appear within 'The Realms' or version of them but they also appear in Mystara. Was Mystara at some point going to take on 'The Realms' when the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon was on the airwaves?!
But the hearthstone itself is still out there in the planes spinning its web of destiny & weirdness. And this dear friends is where & when we might pick campaign events. Michael L. Gray isn't a fantastic module but its got several things going for it. The module has all of the heavy hitters of the D&D cartoon built right in. With the right group of players it has potential to be a blast. But what if the Heartstone is far more then it seems?!
The Heartstone itself & its properties remind me of several of the artifacts from a certain albino prince's adventures. Hear me out here. Michael Moorcock's Elric saga has any number of chaotic, lawful, & highly dangerous artifacts. What if the heartstone is 'The Realms' & Mystara's equivalent? The Heartstone is a heavy hitter artifact able to change the alignment, personality traits, and even the stats of NPC's. The heartstone is key to the creation of Warduke himself. In the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon every other episode there's literally an artifact level magic item that the 'young pupils' are delving for.
Since we've got all of the Stormbringer mythology from the Elric saga in Robert J. Kuntz & James M. Ward in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition Deities & Demigods.
It stands to reason that Elric could indeed theoretically cross swords with Warduke himself if the campaign need arises. The question is do these artifacts that the kids of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon are questing for have far more value then simply getting those kids home?!
Michael L. Gray answers this question quite nicely as the fate of a kingdom hangs quite literally in the balance. Again there's some weird parallels between the Elric saga & a tie in module for the D&D cartoon.
But could Michael L. Gray be used as the jump off point for an Eternal Champion Expert level D&D module campaign with Moorcock influences or darker?! In a word quite easily. Here are ten reasons why this would work:
- XL1 Quest For the Hearthstone by Michael L. Gray introduces all of the heavy hitters of an alternative D&D cartoon style campaign & with a simple DM push they can become all that much more Sword & Sorcery style.
- The PC's following in the foot steps of Elric is easily done & they don't even have to meet the albino prince for that matter! Or the young pupils for that matter.
- In a campaign back in the Nineties I had my players cross swords with Warduke & they didn't survive.
- This is where D&D Expert set, Mentzer/BECMI version of D&D shines crossed over with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition.
- There were a number of artifacts that the 'young pupils' umm destroyed that could still be out in 'The Realms' causing trouble.
- Venger is powerful enough to cross from 'The Realms' into Greyhawk, & Mystara especially if he's expanding his power base. Venger crossing swords with Elric is a frightening prospect. Yes Elric might wipe the floor with em. But the destruction wrought on a campaign world?!
- Elric might be questing for the heartstone for a client to restore the sanity of a person or cure some alignment curse.
- Then there's that pesky kingdom up for grabs at the end of XL1 Quest For the Hearthstone by Michael L. Gray. One of my players brought up the fact that the PC's might want to take it over. Adventurer,Conqueror, King rpg is perfect for this.
- If we push the D&D cartoon into a Sword & Sorcery light, it becomes quite dark, dangerous, and really deadly. It wouldn't take much at all to go all out in a Conan or Stormbringer style D&D cartoon campaign.
- XL1 Quest For the Hearthstone by Michael L. Gray is a solid campaign jump off point for a D&D cartoon style floor level campaign. Done right this could introduce a whole new Sword & Sorcery group of players to a very nice Eternal champion game.