Dungeons and dugouts

Pro athlete by day, dwarven berserker by night ... Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's case of split personality disorder is one for the record books. But before having the man committed, consider the facts: he's a self-avowed dork with a well-publicized addiction to massively multiplayer online role-player EverQuest. A lifelong gamer who cites Wizardry and Baldur's Gate as all-time favorites, the MLB icon hardly finds moonlighting as a magic-user farfetched. Reconciling his duties as a guildmaster and full-time father of four, on the other hand? Now that's a challenge, explains the noteworthy nerd in an exclusive -- and amusingly candid -- interview session:

Q: Alright, slugger ... let's talk turkey. Just how long have you been fiddling with joysticks for?

A: Almost as long as I can remember. If it gives you a hint, Atari was all the rage back then.

Q: Current system of choice?

A: Macintosh and PC ... they're just easier to travel with.

Q: Shouldn't a baseball celebrity be sticking with sports simulations for PlayStation 2 or Xbox?

A: Please -- that's like asking me to play catch the day after the season ends. I don't know how some of these guys do it. I've played Madden and all, but really, what's the attraction if you're a professional football star who deals with the real thing day in and day out?

Q: Rumor has it you've been clocking time in with EverQuest for a minute now ...

A: Yep. It's probably the first rumor you've heard about me that's actually true. I've been playing the game on and off for something like five or six years.

Q: Impressive attention span there, champ. Mind sharing the secret to staying so committed?

A: I enjoy the anonymity and the ability to interact on a personal level with people I wouldn't normally meet or know. That, and the game is a riot. There's no real end to it, the world is enormous, the possibilities are endless, and above all else, it's a place to go and relax amongst friends.

Q: What type of character do you have going? We figure a tough guy like you for a nubile young elven sorceress.

A: My current character of choice is an Ogre Shaman. Big, ugly, and slow, but fun to play. I've actually got a bunch of them in the works at the moment. That's one of the biggest appeals of the game. You can play with many different personas, and it's always a different experience.

Q: Are these individuals affiliated with any guilds or factions?

A: Actually, I run my own. It's basically a collective of like-minded people. Forming a guild gives you the option of playing when you want, and with folks whose company you enjoy. Most of the people I go on quests with know who I am in real life and couldn't care less ... that's what makes it fun.

Q: So the title's overall appeal has nothing to do with a personal fetish for the fantasy genre?

A: Nope. What I can't get enough of is your ability to interactive with real live people. The game's about teamwork, and knowing the right way to pick and play your class properly in such a way that it complements a group. That's why EverQuest has stayed so popular.

Q: How much time would you say you clock into it each week?

A: I'm going to take the fifth on this one. I'm a huge geek ... mostly, I play the game while on the road, and you wouldn't believe how much time I spend with it. My day job pays alright, so I've been able to put together a couple of nice little laptops for this sole purpose. Now that hotels have high-speed Internet connections in the rooms, I can't pull away from the title. It's a different story at home, though; I've got a wife and kids who keep my gaming habits in check.

Q: Sounds like a committed relationship ... you and the game, we mean. Any particular moments you've spent with the product that you're look back the most fondly on?

A: I was part of the first group to take down own of the dragons on the Macintosh server, which is a big accomplishment. Doing so demands that like 35 or 45 people act in tandem. Then there's the quests which took me weeks to complete… those have provided many fond memories as well.

Q: On the flip side, any career lowlights you wish had never happened?

A: When I let people know my character's name during a website interview. Hundreds of people put me on their friends list. The next time I logged in I felt like a Sony Online employee must - I was swamped with so many incoming messages, I couldn't move.

Q: Are you as good of a sportsman in the virtual world as the real one?

A: Absolutely. Sometimes you see a different side of people behind the keyboard, though. I know friends that don't talk anymore, marriages that have been split up over the experience… it's serious out there, so you've always got to be on your best behavior.

Q: Tell us something fans would never guess about you as a gamer ...

A: Hmm… how about the fact I'm a big geek? My wife could probably dish up more dirt in this regard than I'd feel comfortable sharing. She likes EverQuest about as much as any other woman who's husband is a hardcore gamer. It's the type of title that you can't just log in and out of. It takes time to get to a stopping point and shut down the computer. That doesn't always work out so well when you're living in a home with four kids.

Q: Mind sharing some useful advice for newcomers who might be interested in checking out the title?

A: Don't beg or ask for favors and items ... players hate that. And be certain you always know what you're getting into - just like in life, there are good people and bad people online. You should also know it's kind of like high-school on some of these game servers. Reputations spread quickly, whether for better or worse.

Q: Why should audiences seek out the upcoming EverQuest II when it ships in September?

A: Because the experience will be so far ahead of anything today's games offer. I've played 'em all ... Ultima Online, Star Wars: Galaxies, Shadowbane. I've never found a community that's as loyal, dedicated or passionate as the one that's formed around the EverQuest series.

Q: The most promising features it boasts that you're looking forward to?

A: The fact I'm in on the beta. Just kidding. The graphics and gameplay from what I have seen are simply astounding. The folks at Sony Online are so cutting-edge, every massively multiplayer online game that's come out since the original EverQuest owes them a thank you. I [suspect] EverQuest II will blow everything that's come before out of the water.

Q: Doing anything special to prepare for the product's eventual launch?

A: I recently had the folks at Voodoo PC build me a home system to facilitate running the game as smooth as if it were on TV. I'm also getting ready to do the same with them for a laptop, since most of my gaming time occurs now when I travel.

Q: Finally, for sake of those who plan on eventually getting in on the experience, what should you avoid saying to a pissed off barbarian at all costs?

A: That's a subjective question -- it depends entirely on the difference between your character levels. Assuming you've got the advantage? Well then, I suppose you can say whatever you want.