Five Stories of Murder and Theft That Prove Ultima Online Was One of the Best MMOs Ever

To help celebrate the game’s 19th anniversary this weekend, PC Gamer has wrangled up “five stories of murder and theft” that they feel are evidence enough that ORIGIN’s original Ultima Online is one of the greatest MMORPGs to ever grace our hard drives. I’m actually not sure what incarnation of the game lives on today, but I remember the game’s first year very fondly, thanks to its many grand, hilarious, and frustrating PvE and PvP moments. Many such moments are called out in PC Gamer’s article, and I’ll quote from their account of the most famous one:

Of course, not everyone in Ultima Online fancied prancing around the woods with their animal friends keeping them company. In fact, a large portion of the playerbase existed only for that fleeting moment of pleasure they felt sinking a blade into your back. While some areas like towns were relatively safe because of the presence of guards, Ultima Online players had a murderous streak that would make Ted Bundy wince.

For some, that meant hiding portals underneath bridges in cities, teleporting unsuspecting players into PVP zones where they would be slaughtered and robbed. And then there’s Jarett from Pure Pwnage, who got himself killed by thugs while on an isolated island. Courtesy dictated that players would revive those they killed so as not to leave them as stranded ghosts, but all these murderers did was cut up his body and urinate on it and Jarett needed a guild member to sail out to resurrect him. Oh yeah, and did I mention that, in the early days, players could dismember your corpse and parade your body parts around town?

But you can’t talk about murder in Ultima Online without mentioning its most famous one. Akin to a presidential assassination, the murder of Richard Garriott’s character, Lord British, would become one of the most famous stories ever told in an online game.

The year was 1997 and Ultima Online was early into its beta. In order to better test the servers, Origin Systems invited players to all log in at once, and to entice them, Lord British himself would make a royal appearance to speak a few words. For most, this was an opportunity to meet the fabled creator of the Ultima RPGs, but for Rainz, it was an opportunity to send a message.

“Without conflict and war there is only one side subjugating to another,” Rainz said in an interview weeks after the event. “Lord British has noble desires, but he is the ultimate wielder of tyrannical rule.” Apparently even Ultima Online had its own Che Guevaras.

“The servers had just been taken down to prepare for the huge influx of players for the speech Lord British and Lord Blackthorne (played by game director Starr Long) were giving throughout Britannia. When the servers came back up, I strolled through Britain with Helios, my fellow guild member. We headed to Blackthorne’s castle where the first speech was being given. [Lord British], Blackthorne, and their jesters were up on a bridge orating to the masses.” Out of range of melee weapons, Rainz couldn’t hope to take his shot at Lord British. He explained he wasn’t playing his mage character, but did have a high pickpocketing skill, and began setting about the crowd rifling through backpacks looking for a solution and “eventually came upon a fire field scroll.”

“I just cast the scroll on the bridge and waited to see what would happen. Either [Lord British] or Blackthorne made the comment ‘hehe nice try’—can’t recall exactly who. It was a humorous sight and I expected to be struck down by lightning or have some other evil fate befall me.”

But that’s not what happened at all. While everyone laughed at Rainz feeble attempt to bring down Lord British, Garriott’s avatar suddenly collapsed and died in the flames. As was later discovered, after the servers had been reset, Garriott had forgot to turn on the cheat that would grant him and his company invulnerability. As coincidence would have it, they had also despawned the guards in hopes of reducing lag—not only had Rainz killed Britannia’s most famed character, no one was around to avenge him.

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