Discussion over at only-war.com got me thinking about RP realms and the potential for successful RP in modern MMOs. Way back in the early Ultima Online days, we had some pretty successful RP communities despite the lack of RP-specific servers or rule sets. By comparison, today's RP communities seem notably weak.
It strikes me that one of the reasons that RP groups did so well in early UO was the open (FFA, or Free For ALL) PvP. In most modern MMOs some jerk can walk up, dance around and mock you happily secure in the knowledge that your only resort is to ignore him or move, while in UO - if I'd tried to walk up and disrupt a group of RPers - I would have ended up trying to find a healer to res me pretty fast.
That raises an interesting question - I personally haven't seen successful, regular RP on a community scale like that in any modern MMO. How often have you seen consistently successful RP in other games? Not just with a good guild, but on a community-wide scale? Is it really possible for an online game to develop an atmosphere of consistent, open RP without giving the players the ability to police (eg, kill disruptive people) their community themselves?