Jim Moreno's "RoleCraft" MMO Column

RoleCraft: A Look at Ultima Online RP


Prior to September of 1997, roleplayers spent their time in games like Dungeons and Dragons and Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs). AOL really had it going on with Neverwinter Nights, and along with two other games, The Realm Online and Meridian 59, had deftly created a new realm for roleplayers to interact in and with. However, it was in September of 1997 when the new computer gaming genre now known as MMORPGs hit the world stage with a game called Ultima Online.

As the year 2009 kicks off, MMORPGs are now perhaps the most popular computer gaming genre available. Possibly hundreds of MMORPGs are on the market, and probably a like number have come and gone since 1997. There is one that remains from that early era, one that still holds a wealth of roleplaying fun and potential among the plethora of vastly more popular MMORPGs, and one that will soon be getting a new expansion – Ultima Online.

So, what could possibly entice today’s roleplayers to care anything about a game that’s over ten years old? I’m glad you asked. Yes, WoW and Lotro and others do make for some excellent roleplaying fields upon which to play, but they also currently hinder roleplaying to some degree. As an ambassador for roleplaying, I feel it is a duty to show that MMORPG roleplaying did not start with WoW, which seems to be a major point of knowledge missed by a vast amount of roleplayers and roleplaying computer game makers today. In order to do that, I want to help expand minds by looking at history and future, and Ultima Online is just one of those games that has and still offers great roleplaying. If that’s not enough, take these bullet points into account:

You can quickly travel anywhere you wish from the moment your character first goes live.
Roleplay an alchemist, lumberjack, healer, and other non-combat professions without ever once having to know anything about swinging a sword or casting a spell.
You can own your own business, complete with a building and NPC assistants.
Hair, clothes, armor, and weapons may all be dyed or crafted in the colors of your choosing.
Boats and ships!
Roleplay in an ancient Japanese-styled atmosphere available.
Actual roleplaying towns, inhabited by actual roleplayers. No smacktards allowed!

Elizabethan language is actually an acceptable manner of speech!
Gargoyles, coming soon. How cool is that?

Did you happen to set any New Years’ resolutions in regards to your roleplaying game time? If not, here’s one I suggest: try out Ultima Online, even if it’s only the 14-day trial period. If you don’t like it, hopefully you’ll learn some new aspects of RP that you can take back to the game you do roleplay in.

Say you do like your time with UO, or are coming back to it, and want to know where to find current rolelpaying information. Where do you go? Again, glad you asked, that’s why I’m here. I have just the websites you’re looking for, so read on.

My first recommendation is to start with the lore of UO. Like WoW, UO first came to be known via a series of single-player computer games, which set down the lore and history for the MMORPG. Unlike WoW, which only had three major games before becoming a MMORPG, UO’s history is spread through nine games. I would certainly wish that you would play all nine, since they are some of the best computer games ever made. Well, with maybe the exception of Ascension, but I’ll not get into that here. Also note that they are much older games than Warcraft, and if you can find and acquire them all, count yourself fortunate. However, do not fret if none of that is possible or desired.

Auric’s Ultima Moongates has the history of all nine games in an easily read and short form. Fans of the Ultima series may spend some fond moments reading the walkthroughs and looking at the maps of those early games, as well. Sirideain’s History of Sosaria is a much more detailed account, for those lorehounds who need it. Sadly, though, it’s an unfinished account, yet well written and worth the read.

Underworld Dragon’s Notable Ultima is another worthy site to bookmark, in particular the concise CHRONOLOGY of Britannia section. The Ultima Encyclopedia is not exactly a lore site, but many of the listings are lore-related. Alas, it too is in dire need of attention and updating, so if anyone knows Guru Dragon, have him get on that, will you?

So now you’ve read through the lore, are in game and have your character ready to begin roleplaying. What to do? Well, to help facilitate RP, you should learn how to use emotes, which here is done simply by typing (without quotes) “:[spacebar]<your text>”. Your character’s speech will be a different color than normal and have an * on both ends. Macros are available for things like bowing and saluting, but the colon method is still the way to go.

Need a quicker way still to hit those emotes on the fly? Then you’ll want the mod UO Curse Tool. Only one of few mods officially endorsed by Origin for use with UO, it is THE one to use if you’re a roleplayer. Its’ primary focus is as an Elizabethian random curse generator, which is a hoot to use own its’ own. It also has 24 slots where you may type in text to Say, Yell, Emote, Whisper, and Gesture. Additionally, UO Curse Tool can be programmed for use with 30 characters, or you may use all 30 profiles for one character if you wish, increasing the number of slots available to 720. Either way, it is a very handy mod for UO roleplayers.

On the topic of language, I earlier mentioned that Elizabethan speech is an acceptable form in UO. The NPCs use it often, albeit in a mild way, so players not used to reading Shakespeare may still understand them. If you’d like your character to speak in line with the spirit of the game, then check out this Elizabethan Language website that includes an online dictionary and an Elizabethan Era Index. Also found here is my favorite Elizabethan Insults Dictionary, with phrases taken directly from the works of Shakespeare, and can be easily copied and pasted right into the UO Curse Tool. Huzzah!

The Ultima Web Archive is another language source I use. For one, it has an easy graph of the Druidic Runes that can be found throughout the entire series of Ultima games. Secondly, it has a primer on Gargish, the language of the gargoyles, which is sure to become of much greater importance hopefully in the near future.

Meeting fellow roleplayers may be of importance to you, and for that, the Ultimate Online Forums is one place to go. Here you’ll find helpful sections for UO Events, UO Roleplaying, and UO Guilds & Player Run Towns.

Another premier website that has long been associated with Ultima Online is UO Stratics. Containing an unmatched quantity of UO related information, UO Stratics may well become your most visited site for everything UO. It’s particularly useful for keeping tabs on specific events upcoming for whatever shard you decide to play on. Aside from the forums for each individual shard, the UO White Stag Inn forum is where to go to find more of UO’s RP community.

With an eye toward the future of UO roleplaying, I am anxiously awaiting the release of Ultima Online – Stygian Abyss, which will open the race of gargoyles to players. If you know the part gargoyles have played in UO lore, then you may be as excited as I am to see and take on the challenge of roleplaying them in game. As far as I am aware, no other MMORPG has gargoyles, and that alone is worth a look to me.

Before signing off, here are a few other notable websites I want to share:
Atlantic Roleplay Community Boards
UO Auto-Map
UO Magic Tool
Whispering Rose Radio

Ultima Online is where I began to manipulate all the RP skills acquired from years of tabletop gaming into computer gaming. Why do I still play UO after all these years, when I’m surrounded by MMORPGs that are widely considered to be more mainstream and current with today’s technology? Because there is still an element of roleplaying in UO that I have yet to find in any other MMORPG. I play no other game that has in game towns created and maintained by solid roleplayers. Call it nostalgia, call it faithfulness, or what you will. I know I have fun, and that’s what it’s all about. Join me, and I bet you’d have fun as well. Role on!

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