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The Valormr Campaign

Dungeon Sense

Continued from “Lava Caves, Clacking Mandibles, and Red Glowing Glands,” the story of my first adventure begins in “Scroll of the Dead” in the category Anecdotes and Old Games.

It turned out that, whereas the torch cast light out to a 30-foot radius, the red glow of the fire beetle’s glands only went to ten feet. I wiped the goo from the sword and proceeded farther into the lava caves.

For a while I wandered down tunnels, turning this way and that at intersections. Garth pointed out that I had entered the cave headed north, which was the direction of the volcano. From that, I guessed I should go north at every opportunity.

That’s when I realized that this game was a lot like real life. I didn’t know all the rules that filled the pages of the pale blue book. But I knew that most of what I needed to know, I could learn from the real world. And that much of what I learned in the game, like striking flint on steel to make a spark, would apply to the real world as well.

Finally, I came into a large chamber.

“The air is warmer here,” said Garth. “There are a few large rocks in the chamber. Beyond one rock, you see an opening with an orange light from the chamber beyond.”

“I go toward the light.”

“As you pass a rock, an arrow whizzes by your ear.”

“I duck back behind the rock. Can I see where the arrow came from?”

“About forty feet away, a dark figure is silhouetted by the orange light, crouching on a rock. It’s a troll with a bow.”

“I take out my bow and I shoot it.”

I rolled the dice.

“With your bonus to missile fire, that’s a fourteen. You hit! Make a tick mark beside your arrows to keep track of how many you have left.”

I made the mark, while Garth rolled the dice. “Another arrow bounces off your shield.”

“Where does it land?”

“At your feet.”

“I pick up the arrow and fire it back,” I said, rolling the dice.

“You hit it again.”

While the troll and I exchanged volleys, Garth informed me that a troll is a vicious monster. “It regenerates hit points,” he said, “which means it can heal its wounds. To kill it for good, you have to chop it up and throw it in a fire.”

I retrieved another arrow from the floor and shot it back at the troll. Then I got hit.

“An arrow is stuck in the crook of your arm. Subtract three from your hit points.”

“I only have one left.” Now I understood why they were called hit points. “Can I still fire a bow?”

“Yeah, the description of damage is just for flair.”

I pulled the arrow out of my arm and sent it back at the troll. I wondered if the troll might be doing the same thing and it was the same arrow we shot back and forth.

Garth said, “You hit the troll in the chest. It drops its bow and runs away.” A wide grin spread across his face. “Man, I never heard of anybody picking up shot arrows before. You’ve got good dungeon sense.”

In the next chamber, I found the lava pit. It was a lake of bubbling magma. I read the Scroll of the Dead and threw it into the pit.

Garth said, “As the scroll bursts into flame, the magma stops bubbling. The town is safe, and you’re a hero.”

In the summer of 1982, I was 13 years old. That was my first D&D adventure, and I remember saying, “This is the game I’ve been waiting for all my life!”

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