The Feadiel clan's Tree of Life is dying. As the bravest and strongest elves in the clan, you must undertake the challenage of the elders: seek out the source of the disease and destroy it.
If you fail, the Tree of Life will surely perish, and all your family with it. The quest is great and you may die on the journey, never to find the cause of the disease. The journey will take you to the deepest part of ancient Selinar, Elvenhome, to find the guarded grave of the first Treekeeper....
For characters 8th level and above.
CM7: "The Tree of Life" (1986), by Bruce Heard, is the seventh companion-level module for Basic D&D. It was published in February 1986.
Origins (I): The New Coordinator. French D&D translator Bruce Heard joined TSR's Game Division in July 1985 where he became the company's Acquisitions Editor. This was a relatively new trend at TSR, of assigning projects to out-of-house freelancers instead of writing them entirely in-house. The process was largely used for the game lines that in-house designers were less interested in.
The Basic D&D line had been Frank Mentzer's baby from 1983 onward, but was less popular among the rest of the staff. This was particularly true following Frank Mentzer's departure for New Infinities Productions in 1986. So as Acquisitions Editor, Heard effectively became the line editor for Basic D&D. He'd write two supplements himself, M1: "Into the Maelstrom" (1985) and CM7: "The Tree of Life" (1986). After that he'd work as a line editor to completely reinvigorate the line, creating one of TSR's first fully-developed worlds.
Origins (II): More Companions. "The Tree of Life" was the seventh book in the line of supplements for the Basic D&D Companion Rules (1984). It builds directly on the Companion rules for "demihuman clan relics", which detail a "tree of life" as an elven relic.
Adventure Tropes: Companion Play. The Companion adventures tended to focus on the rulership of domains and warfare between them, and they tended to be set in Norwold. Although "The Tree of Life" features a large-scale problem for a clan, it's otherwise pretty far afield from the "standard" Companion-level adventure.
In fact, it contains everything else, including: a tower crawl and a sanctuary crawl (more typical of Basic-level play), two somewhat sparse hex crawls (more typical of Expert-level play), and a visit to "parallel words" full of colors (more typical of Master-level play).
There is a War Machine combat at the end, so at least this Companion-level trope is touched upon.
Expanding D&D. "The Tree of Life" demonstrates one of the severe limitations of old-school D&D play: the level limitations for demihumans. In this case, despite being a Companion-level adventure, "The Tree of Life" claims that it's for characters level 8 or higher — even though Companion-level play runs from levels 15-25! That was probably due to the elves at the core of the adventure, who max out at level 10. (In fact, all of the pregenerated elves in this adventure are actually level 10, and have improved fighting ability above that, as was allowed in the later rules sets.)
Resurrected Races: The Elves. The mid '80s was a great time to be playing an elf in D&D, because TSR was giving them lots of attention. They'd previously published two elf solo adventures: O2: "Blade of Vengeance" (1985) and CM5: "Mystery of the Snow Pearls" (1985). However, "The Tree of Life" marked TSR's first multiplayer adventure centered around a party of elves; in fact, it was their first racially segregated adventure for any of D&D's races — marking another instance of the increased focus on storytelling that ran across D&D's adventures in the mid '80s.
Exploring the Known World. Unsurprisingly, "The Tree of Life" offers a lot of background on the Known World's elves. However, it's somewhat scattered.
To start with, this was the first adventure set in Alfheim. It's focused on a part of Alfheim called Selinar, which appears to be in the southeastern corner of the forest, near Selenica. There's isn't a lot of detail, just some overview of geography and politics.
"The Tree of Life" also details a lot of elven history, revealing that some or all of the elves from Alfheim came from a faraway Elven Land called the Sylvan Realm. This appears to be set on the continent of Brun, and it's the only exploration ever of that part of the world of Mystara … but once more there's isn't a lot of detail.
Finally, "The Tree of Life" also offers a nice look at elven astronomy through a star map of constellations. This is a fairly unique look at the stars of the Known World.
NPCs of Note. The druid Cucurbita Pepo perhaps returns in "The Voyage of the Princess Ark Part 24" in Dragon #177 (January 1992). And the name is a fun easter egg: it's a latin name for plants that grow squashes and pumpkin.
The Feadol clan that's at the heart of this adventure also appears in X11: "Saga of the Shadow Lord" (1986) in the person of Mirdior Feadiel.
About the Creators. Heard would turn more fully to line editing the Known World following the publication of his second adventure. This would soon yield the Blackmoor adventures (1986-1987) and the well-beloved Gazetteers (1987-1991).
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and 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.