The next day, Garth’s neighbor came over. Jarrod was a tall, skinny kid. He wore glasses with a cloudy film that made it difficult to see his eyes. When he talked, it sounded like he was chewing a mouthful of rocks.
After our introduction, Jarrod pulled a folded sheet of ruled notebook paper from his back pocket. “This is my character,” he said around the rocks. He unfolded the paper and handed it to me. “He’s a sixth-level magic-user.”
At the top of the page, I saw “KAYTAR” written in block letters. There were penciled columns of words and numbers, which I didn’t understand, but “magic-user” was ringing in my ears. What a character is and what kind of magic one might use I did not know, but I would soon discover both.
We sat on the floor in Garth’s room. The pale-blue book lay next to the denim bag, from which spilled dice on a tight-knit polyester carpet, the color of fern.
Garth had a two-pocket folder, like the ones we used in school. It was blue, and he peeked inside it during the game, keeping the contents hidden from view. He said, “This is my dungeon folder. I’m the dungeon master, and I describe the dungeon to you as you explore it. You’ll see how it works. Just watch.”
After some discussion, Garth and Jarrod picked up where they left off the previous game. I gleaned that Kaytar was in a dungeon, which was dark and dangerous. He explored corridors with vaulted ceilings, navigated intersections, passed under archways, and opened doors.
As Kaytar went, Garth described what he saw, and Jarrod said what Kaytar would do. Jarrod talked about his character in the third person: “Kaytar lights a torch,” “Kaytar goes right,” “Kaytar opens the door.”
Behind the doors were rooms that might have rotting leather sacks full of coins or gems hidden in them, or they might have a monster, like a minotaur or a gargoyle. Kaytar might, by searching the room, find the coins or gems, or he might be viscerated by the gargoyle.
There were also traps and pitfalls. When the ceiling didn’t fall on him or a poison dart come flying from a hole in the wall, Kaytar might fall through a trapdoor in the floor. Kaytar avoided the flying dart, but he didn’t notice the trapdoor and, so, was deposited in a lower level of the dungeon.
“You enter a high chamber,” said Garth. “Stairs go up on one side to a balcony that overlooks the room. There’s a man standing there, wearing long dark robes. He’s surprised. What do you do?”
Jarrod looked through cloudy glasses at Kaytar’s sheet. “Hey, can Kaytar use that scroll he found?”
“Yes. It’s a sixth-level spell.”
“Kaytar unrolls the scroll and casts disintegrate.”
“Okay, the wizard gets a saving throw.”
Jarrod bit his lip. Garth threw a dice on the dungeon folder. The three of us watched it roll to a stop.
“A five!” Garth said. “The robed man crumbles into a thousand tiny pieces. He was a thirteenth-level wizard!”
Jarrod beamed. Chewing rocks, he said, “That should give Kaytar enough experience points for seventh level.”