Are there any more shameful words in the English language than 'Dungeons & Dragons'? Possibly only Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach, the last bastion of ultra nerd-dom finally set free across the intergalactic superhighway. This is a low. Nevertheless, I'm going in deep, joined only by PC Zone's Steve Hogarty. It's debatable what's more tragic: that he gave up university for this, or that I graduated. Anyway, it's probably only a matter of time before this becomes 'Steve Hogarty's NeverQuest', so he might as well get the practice in.
A meeting time is agreed, so I hastily select my character, opting for the bard in tribute to the staggeringly unhinged Reality Check feature of a few years ago in which I ran round a series of caves wearing a smock and playing a recorder at grown men dressed as monsters. Note to self: start writing the book.
In time-honoured fashion, I decide to call my character Steve Hill in order to attract any passing readers. However, it appears that the name has already been taken, which is either a harmless coincidence or deeply sinister. Given that I was recently accosted by a NeverQuest fan while at a urinal, I worryingly suspect the latter.
As an alternative, I attempt to call myself The Real Steve Hill, which comes out as Therealsteve Hill. Appropriately, this makes me sound a bit ethereal. With a fetching shade of purple hair, and armed with my trusty lute - which can apparently twist the minds of the most dangerous foes - I'm under way.
Encouragingly I find myself in a pub, where I attempt to meet up with Hogarty, aka Fargloss McIrish. However, there's no sign of him, despite the fact that we can chat to each other. Finally resorting to mobile phone, we establish that we're in different pubs, so I jump on the nearest boat and set sail for Stormreach Harbour.
Pulling into dock, I see him waiting silently for me, a hulking green Warforged, whatever that is.
"I can see you," I yell.
"You took your time," replies Fargloss, somewhat insolently. Fair enough, he's young, he's nervous and he's playing Dungeons & Dragons with his hero, but there's no need to be rude.
"You ugly f***er," I greet him, accurately, and we head straight for The Wavecrest Tavern.
"Check out that twat on the bar," says Fargloss, showing no kinship with his fellow Warforged who's performing an elaborate moondance.
Ignoring the sideshow, I try to get a drink, but the barman promises me a square meal if I can bring up a cask of Old Sully's Grog from the cellar. It sounds like the kind of Real Ale swill quaffed by my fellow lower division football fans, but I put my prejudices aside and agree to the task. I've scarcely got my bearings when I'm attacked by a kobold. No idea what it is, but a couple of swipes from my sword and the beast is felled.
Back upstairs, Fargloss is mooching around the bar on his own, so I foolishly suggest that he comes up with a quest for us. He promptly takes me to the Ominous Sewer to seek the alchemists' healing elixir, where we come under attack from a pair of robot dogs. I hate dogs of all kinds, and have no qualms about putting these metallic curs to the sword, but not before one of them spews on my fighting buddy. As Fargloss pitifully points out: "He got sick on me."
There's no sign of the elusive elixir, but after wading neck-high through a river of shit, we somehow find ourselves in a rudimentary library, where we're informed 'a battered Warforged stares directly ahead, its eyes devoid of intelligence'. Said moronic Warforged then delivers a nonsensical riddle and suggests that we pull one of four levers.