The king is dead. And the queen is in trouble. She has chosen you to find the fabled heartstone, which is buried somewhere deep in the Mountains of Ice.
Is the gem in the hands of the corrupt Master Thief? Has he harnessed its powers for his own vile purposes? Or does it lie unguarded in the frozen ranges to the north, which teem with horrible creatures?
This is your kind of quest! Will the heartstone be the key to peace in the kingdom? By Her Majesty's request... it's up to you to find out!
"Quest for the Heartstone" is a combined wilderness/dungeon adventure designed to be compatible with the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Action Toys form LJN Toys, Ltd. and the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Adventure Figures. The adventure also includes complete maps, new monsters, and players' illustrations.
XL1: "Quest for the Heartstone" (1984), by Michael L. Gray, was the first and only adventure in the "XL" series for Expert D&D. It was published in 1984.
A New X Series. Following the Mentzer-led revisions of the Basic D&D game (1983), TSR experimented with a variety of Basic D&D lines other than the traditional B- and X-series adventures. Among them were the "AC" accessories, the "M" (magic marker) adventures, and the "O" (one-one-one) adventures. Thus, the XL series - an abbreviation for "Expert Licensed" - was just another series among many now available for the Basic D&D game.
In fact, it was probably less distant from the norm than many of the other Basic D&D series, since it offered up an expert adventure with just one minor twist...
The Licensed Toys. And that twist was the fact that "Heartstone" was based on a series of D&D toys licensed for production by toy & video game company, LJN. The line centered on human and humanoid action figures released in 1983-84. The figures were released in two series, with most of them at very popular 3.75" scale, though a few were also released as "Battle Masters" at 5" scale.
Series 1 included Elkhorn the Good Dwarf Fighter, Kelek the Evil Sorcerer, Mercion the Good Female Cleric, Melf the Good Fighter Mage Elf (also released as Peralay), Northlord the Great Barbarian, Ogre King the Evil Ogre Leader, Ringlerun the Good Wizard, Strongheart the Good Paladin, Warduke the Evil Fighter, Young Male Titan the Good Titan, and Zarak the Evil Half-Orc Asssassin.
Series 2 included Bowmarc the Good Crusader, Deeth the Good Fighter, Drex the Evil Fighter, Grimsword the Evil Knight, Hawkler the Good Ranger, Mandoom the Good Warrior, Mettaflame the Evil Fire Giant, and Zorgar the Evil Barbarian. Series 2 also revamped some series 1 figures at the "Battle Masters" size and others with "Shield Shooting" action.
In 1983, LJN also produced three mounts (Strongheart's bronze dragon, Strongheart's destrier, and Warduke's nightmare) and two monsters (a dragonne and a hook horror). In 1984, they finished their monster line with Tiamat. A "Fortress of Fangs" playset closed out LJN's main action figure releases, though LJN also produced a few wind-up monsters and reproduced some of the character miniatures at a 1" scale.
Integrating the Licenses. "Heartstone" integrated these toys mainly by using the licensed characters as pregenerated characters for this adventure. Most of the characters appear, but Mandoom, Mettaflame, Northlord, Ogre King, and Young Male Titan are all left out - presumably because they don't line up well with Basic D&D classes. The absence of the monstrous characters isn't surprising, but the reason for Mandoom's and Northlord's neglect is unknown.
The adventure also includes a few characters for which LJN toys didn't exist: Figgen the Halfling, Molliver the Lawful Thief, Skylla the Evil Magic-User, Valkeer the Good Norseman, and Zargash the Evil Cleric. (Skyla and Valkeer, at least, were intended to be toys but were never made; the same may be true for some or all of the others.)
TSR was also sure to use both a dragonne and a hook horror in the adventure, to tie in with LJN's monster figures.
Even More Toys. Though LJN had the poseable action figure license, TSR was simultaneously releasing "bendy" toys and "PVC" toys of their own - most of them monsters. XL1: "Heartstone" thus suggests that GMs can buy TSR's bendable chimerae, carrion crawlers, five-headed hydras, and raging ropers to depict more monsters in the adventure!
Product Identity? The "Random Wizard" blog suggests that "Heartstone" was an early example of "product identity," where TSR would create notable people and places to expand their brand, rather than just depending on their rules. It could have been an intentional strategy, as TSR did use the LJN characters in two other supplements: the earlier AC1: "The Shady Dragon Inn" (1983) and the later X10: "Red Arrow, Black Shield" (1985).
Whether this was part of a purposeful strategy or not, the appearance of Strongheart, Warduke, and friends was definitely a prescient look at how the D&D brand would change in the late 80s with the introduction of characters like Drizzt Do'Urden and Elminster - and even moreso in the early 2000s when Wizards of the Coast protected 11 monsters as D&D product identity, among them the carrion crawler.
Which D&D? All of the LJN action figures and the TSR bendable figures were sold under the AD&D brand - probably indicating that game's increased importance relative to Basic D&D by the mid-80s. It's thus somewhat surprising that TSR decided to use them in an Expert D&D adventure. Doing so proved somewhat troublesome, as Basic D&D didn't actually have barbarians and assassins, let alone a "multiclass"; they all had to be converted to appropriate Basic D&D classes. Similarly, the dragonne, hook horror, and roper all had to be statted up for Basic D&D in "Heartstone."
The Actual Adventure. The "Heartstone" adventure itself features a wilderness trek followed by a dungeon crawl - a fairly standard format for Expert D&D. The dungeon is somewhat unusual because it's a attractively designed three-dimensional delve set in a cliffside. Other 3D dungeons of this sort appeared at the same time in adventures like I6: "Ravenloft" (1983) and DL1: "Dragons of Despair" (1984), but they were never common, and "Heartstone" took advantage of vertical interconnections better than most.
Expanding the Known World. "Heartstone" introduces the Kingdom of Ghyr. (AC1: "The Shady Dragon Inn" (1983) is probably located in the same locale, since it also uses the LJN characters.) Ghyr was never officially integrated into the Known World, although Bruce Heard said, in an internet Q&A, "Their kingdom eventually found its way into Mystara much in the same manner as other orphan projects did. They weren't originally conceived as Mystaran entities but became so by default since the toys were marketed for kids - thus the Basic D&D Game."
GAZ F4: "The Hidden Treasure of Ghyr" (2006), a fanmade supplement from the Vaults of Pandius, places Ghyr in the far north of the Known World.
Future History. Warduke received a 3.5e writeup as a "Critical Threat" in Dungeon #105 (December 2003). Erik Mona also used the editorial of that issue to write about how cool the LJN D&D toys were.
About the Creators. Michael Gray is largely a board game designer and developer. He also wrote a few TSR "Pick a Path to Adventure" books (1983-84) and contributed to DL16: "World of Krynn" (1988).
About the Product Historian
The 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.