The nine circles of questing: The second circle.

We continue our plunge into the depths of the questing conflagration; beware adventurer for we leave the first circle and move into areas where such horrors that torment the soul abound!

Second Circle.

The second circle of questing is the one where many adventurers find themselves when starting a new character, especially if it is one that resides in an area of the game that has yet to be explored. Everything is new. Everything is easily achievable. Everything is new, achievable and progress is swift and satisfying.

The quests are still abundant, and the objectives for the quests are close by and can be carried out solo with relative ease. The item rewards are not epic, as one would expect, but the experience rewards are. At no other time does your character grow so quickly and painlessly (unless you’re in the first circle, when each quest provides enough XP for you to hit the level cap three times over, with enough left over to get each of your alternative characters to mid-level).

Not only are the experience rewards good, but the death penalties are minimal; it is therefore possible in the second circle to fling your un-armoured, naked-as-the-day-you-were-born self into the midst of a whole host of foes, swing your starter weapon – usually a bit of string with a knot tied in the end – and slaughter them all, but if not, never fret, it’s only a few seconds to get back to your corpse.

Life isn’t all golden in the second circle, otherwise it would be the first circle and then life wouldn’t have much meaning, because you’d already be an immortal deity who has merged with the game world and become one with it. Anyway, I digress. In the second circle the fresh-faced adventurer faces a new enemy: other fresh-faced adventurers. All those lovely, squeaky clean, easily achievable quests are now being undertaken by others. The nerve of some people! So even though the local wolf population is each entirely covered in ears (and yet somehow can’t manage to hear a bumbling adventurer’s approach, as he charges in swinging his mighty frayed-string flail of wolf filleting), finding an actual wolf to smite with extreme prejudice is somewhat of a challenge. Quite simply, new adventurers are like locusts; they’re like a plague of locusts on methamphetamine and they’ve had a dodgy stomach for a couple of days and they’ve been starving themselves; so they’re a little bit peckish.

‘Ravenous’ is to new adventurers as ‘a bit ambitious’ is to Ghengis Khan.

And so you leave the small hamlet that you started life in, and make your way out towards the Moderately Dank Forest of Not Much Challenge to start your quest for wolf ears. ‘An easy quest!’, you think. ‘Everyone knows that the wolves around here have hundreds of ears each, and although they are fierce fighters when confronted, they have a strange and yet convenient weakness to string with knots tied in it! I shall do well on this quest!’. On rounding the first corner out of your home village, you see… a wasteland. As you wander further on, you can identify where the Moderately Dank Forest used to be, but now there’s just nothing. No wolves; no conveniently placed aggressive mobs that always jump you when you think the area is clear to begin your attack on the wolves; no NPC’s with bottomless bags and infinite gold that you can sell all your leftover wolf parts to; no trees, in fact. Nothing.

Eventually, after an hour or so of wandering, you do stumble across an NPC, stripped naked and huddled behind a boulder against the cold. As you approach the NPC to ask what has happened, a fellow adventurer – we shall call him Norom the Confounding – appears as if by magic, grabs the boulder out from underneath the NPC, shoves it into his Backpack of Convenient Size and Depth, and dashes off. Just as you recover from your utter astonishment at such behaviour, Norom darts back into view, pulls out a pair of scissors and lops the NPC’s beard off in one fell ‘snip!’. And then, just as quickly, vanishes into the distance.

In the end, the Moderately Dank Forest of Not Much Challenge is renamed by the local populace to The Barren Wasteland of Not Much At All, and your quest for wolf ears continues for many hours more than it should have, were it not for Norom and company. You still get your fine reward at the end, and lots of experience, sure, but as Magistrate Von Lotsakasch sings your praises and explains the wonderful and myriad uses he has for a third of a ton of wolf ears, you can’t help but notice that he has a very fine beard; a very fine beard indeed. And there’s an NPC in the next village who will reward any adventurer who can bring her enough beards to thatch the roof of her house.