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Tales of the Multiverse

My tale of the original MMORPG, at the dawn of time. If folks like it, I might even start collecting other stories based around MMORPGs for inclusion in an e-book.

Author: GrumpyOldGuy

The Great PK War part II

Posted by GrumpyOldGuy Tuesday May 17 2011 at 6:02PM
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(This is Part II of a long story.  Please read Part I first so that it makes sense.

Together both parts are pretty long (about the equivalent of 50 pages in a book),  which I'm starting to think is just too long for a blog format.  If you're not up for reading for a while, you may as well not bother.  Just trying to not waste your time.  But if you feel like reading a medium-length short story, put up as a blog post, you may find it worth a read.)


I came back as a ghost. I didn’t talk. There was no reason to say boo to them.

Pua sent me a message over ICQ. That was the app we used for external comms.

“Sorry man,” he said. “I didn’t mean for them to do that.”

I knew he was telling the truth.

“That’s ok,” I messaged him back. “Not your fault.”

I sat there in my chair and watched the PK gang swoop down on my body like a flock of ravens, picking me clean. They got my full suit of mithril armor, my bag of magic reagents, the Boots of Speed and the Halberd of Destruction. My entire suite of premium equipment that I had kept intact from the first day, gone in one shot. All of my best stuff.

Lord Og had fallen.

So much for going undefeated.


The forces of Blue called ourselves the Antis, for Anti-PKs. I don’t know who came up with that, it wasn’t the greatest of labels, the catchiest of monikers. Though it did the job.

But it wasn’t Ryan. Marketing wasn’t his thing. Hacking was.

Ryan’s character was Simkin. You might have seen him on the net back then, it was the name he used for all his early exploits in the shooters. Nowadays he’s married and has a kid, but he still plays, he just doesn’t hack anymore. Mostly runs as Foo now. Say hi to him if you see him, he’s still out there, he’s a good dude.

Simkin was the best of us at fighting, and the first to go to disposable armor.

It wasn’t that hard to get, there was one room at the bottom of Hate where it spawned all the time. You just had to Recall down there and get in line, kill skeletons for an hour or so to get a full suit of Bone. It was nearly as good as plate, weighed a lot less and it was worthless to the PKs. It was like the body armor that the storm troopers wear in Star Wars, the white plastic stuff, total crap but pretty durable.

The PKs, of course, kept wearing mithril.

Ryan and I played together in his computer room whenever we could, smoking Marlboro Lights and drinking beer. Because we could talk directly to each other in real life it gave us a big advantage in fights, we were better coordinated. We didn’t always get to play together but it helped when we did, it was loads of fun and I spent a lot of time over there.

Ryan was the first to recognize that war in UO couldn’t be fought fair if we were to have any chance at all. He started using the glitches and bugs to his advantage, treating it as all one thing, a single struggle to be fought with whatever weapons were available. It didn’t matter if it was part of the official game or not, if it could be made to happen then it was acceptable.

It was like using real magic. If he could figure out the spell then he would cast it.

Exploiting all possibilities became the game. The boundaries were anything we could pull off using legal weapons, game glitches, third party add-on software, and custom hacks. All was fair as far as he was concerned, the end justified the means.

I disagreed at first, but he won me over in the end. All is fair in love and war.

Simkin is actually world-class talent, I think. He still works at the very center of it all, at one of the great network hubs that run the guts of the internet. I cannot grade his early hacking, I did not see it, but he could have done almost anything in the early days, before the security apparatus really got started.

He’s a pain in the ass but he’s awfully smart.

He’s a gifted player tactically too. I watched him once when two PKs jumped him, as he hunted alone in the Wyrm caverns. They went into their casting motions to attack and he immediately hotkeyed Hide. Remember I told you about it, the skill called Hide, that form of ridiculous invisibility. If you Hid successfully then you disappeared from view of other players, even if they had been watching you, even if you were in the middle of combat with them. It could be done anywhere at all, regardless of common sense, right out in the open with not a spot of cover in sight.

The only caveat being that if you moved you became visible again.

You weren’t supposed to be able to move or cast spells if you were hidden. You had to stay still. But Ryan knew that there was one spell he could cast while he was Hidden and he wouldn’t reappear until after it fired on the server.

“In Jux Hur Ylem,” appeared on the screen above where Simkin’s head would have been if he had been visible, which he was not. It was a known bug, you were officially not supposed to do it, it was a banishable offense.

So what? A Blade Spirit appeared and started chasing one of the PKs around the cavern.

Simkin appeared when the spell fired on the server. He ran about five feet and Hid again before the other PK could get a bead on him.

“In Jux Hur Ylem,” appeared in the air again. A second Blade Spirit appeared and started working on the second PK. Blade Spirits were really annoying, once they locked in on you they would chase you for a long time, slowly chipping you down until either you wore out or they did.

“You’re cheating!” said one of the PKs as he ran by, Blade Spirit in tow. He tried a hack with his axe at Simkin, who took two steps away and Hid again. Both of the PKs ran around in frustration, the Blade Spirits like free wheeling blender blades slowly turning them into slushy pink frozen margaritas.

“In Jux Hur Ylem,” said Simkin again, invisibly. He became visible but it didn’t matter by that point. A third Blade Spirit appeared and latched onto the first PK, who was already looking rather poorly and trying to Recall away without success. One of the few rules about casting in UO was that you could be disrupted if you took damage during the cast, and though Blade Spirits didn’t do a lot of damage per hit they were pretty constant about it, whittling you slowly down to zero.

Simkin didn’t have a lot of mana left by then but that didn’t matter either. The first PK went down in a heap in front of the Blade Spirits, trying to cast Recall right up until the end.

“You’re a fucking cheater!” shouted the second PK. The two extra Blade Spirits converged on him and he bought the farm too.

The two PK ghosts ran around.

“Booooo,” they ranted. “Booooo booooo booooo booooooooooo.”

Ryan leaned back in his chair and took a long drag on his cigarette before he looted their bodies.

“That was awesome,” I said. I had watched the whole thing over his shoulder.

“Fucking PKs,” said Ryan. “Wanna complain about cheating. Gimme a break.”

Grandmaster Hacker. He was quite an asset.


After the going got tough, a lot of the Beta testers went over to the PKs, not a crushing majority but more than we had. But we still had the great bulk of the population with us, vast swarms of newbies, PK cattle mainly, but not all of them completely incompetent anymore.

I knew where the PK castle was, Vile Blades. It was obviously their chief hideout.

I told everyone about it and we hashed over what to do.

We decided to lay siege, to surround them in their castle. We were hoping whoever owned it might be so cocky as to leave the door unlocked when he was home, because that was the only way we’d be able to get in. Or maybe the PKs would be so overcome by how cool the idea of a siege was that they would come out and fight us for fun.

Simkin was skeptical, but no one had a better plan.

We assembled in the great city of Britain itself, as exciting a place as any backwater provincial capital in the middle of nowhere during the dark ages, only cleaner because it was virtual. No smell and no disease either, no black death, which was too bad. It would have been cool, because they did have AI rats, which were exactly as smart as everything else, i.e. dumb as rocks. We had quite an army, maybe fifty of us in all, with eight former Beta players on horses as our tanks, myself, Rand and Simkin included. We gaggled gloriously down to the swamp outside Trinsic, in amorphous blob formation.

As our leading elements came up to the castle there were a few shots exchanged. Psycho the Idiot was on the upper battlements. He saw how many of us were there.

“Go fuck yourselves,” he said and hopped back inside the castle.

We stood outside the gates of Vile Blades and shook our fists.

Because the damn door was locked.

Now, true to the idiosyncratic brilliance that was the hallmark of UO, there was no way whatsoever to breach the walls of a castle or any other building. If it was locked the smallest mud hut was just as invulnerable as a gigantic fortress, i.e. completely. They hadn’t had the time to build in anything about demolition, if you had the key you could open the front door and walk in, and if you didn’t you simply couldn’t. Never in a million years.

No siege engines, no trebuchets or catapults or battering rams, no explosives, no tunneling. No boiling oil poured on us from above, either, but I’d rather have had the whole siege, that would have been awesome and we might have actually busted in and taken some heads.

That would have been the tits.

They probably do it nowadays, I’ll have to check with my kids.

But back then Psycho the Idiot had the only key and the door was locked.

We milled around and wished we could get inside somehow. Every now and then one of the PKs would appear on the battlements and toss down a defiant fireball, Vas Flam, or Por Ort Grav a lightning bolt at us, but they always ducked back inside before we could blast them to smithereens in return. None of them showed any inclination to come out and face us outside on the field of honor, and inside the castle we couldn’t touch them.

They couldn’t touch us either, but that wasn’t the point.

They got us all the time, all over the world.

But in the face of our fearsome horde they showed regrettably little tendency to suicide.

We did manage to bag two unlucky ones early, because Recall rules didn’t let you Recall directly into a building, you had to Recall outside. The two of them Recalled into existence just outside the front door while we happened to be there. They were planning on a visit to their clubhouse, didn’t suspect a thing, and we swarmed them into screen freeze. Same tactic they used on us, it was great to be on the other side of it for once.

But then they spread the word via ICQ and the rest of the rats knew not to come over to the castle. We couldn’t starve them out, not even the ones we had caught at home. All they had to do was teleport away, to anywhere on the whole damn map they had a Rune for. You could Recall out of a building just fine. They could go anywhere they wanted, anytime, we couldn’t keep them there. We stood outside in our assembled host of fifty, unable to do a damn thing.

Fifty real people running one avatar apiece, quite a crowd, really. At least it seemed so then. But we couldn’t stay there forever. We were real people, with real lives. As much as a bunch of people freaked totally out over a video game can be said to have lives, anyway.

And we couldn’t exactly macro standing guard in front of Vile Blades. Eventually we had to give up and go away.

So much for laying siege.


The war ground on.

In the Antis all of the remaining Beta testers supported each other however we could. Everyone had died at least once, even Simkin, and we had lost our best magical weapons and armor. But we remained equal to the strongest PKs in our ability to cast spells as Grandmasters, because even though we had died, some of us many times, when we died we took only a small experience hit, enough to notice but we could recover from it. Our equipment was gone and we were no longer the tanks they were, but we remained Grandmaster Mages.

It was our only equalizer.

We used our mule characters to mass produce the highest quality non-magical swords possible, huge quantities of potions and poisons to coat our swords and axes. It took mining a lot of ore, collecting a lot of ingredients. We handed it out to anyone who was willing to fight along with us, but our equipment was a pale shadow compared to PK regalia, all the best magic items on the server concentrated in their hands, harvested and stolen from the rest of us.

And it was not only happening on Chesapeake, it was happening on all the server sets, every single Shard was undergoing the same convulsive transformation, as the PKs became ascendant. They were a small percentage of the total population and yet they dominated the servers with dungeon wipeouts and wild killing sprees. They went anywhere they wanted to go, except only the magically guarded cities, and all of us died at their hands more than once, if we stood and fought.

For stand and fight we often did, calling over ICQ for help, knowing that even if we died our Bone armor and steel swords would do the PKs no service. And we took little experience penalty, as I have mentioned. So we fought many times to the death, help coming sometimes before the end as we began to react more quickly. But the arrival of the cavalry only caused the PKs to Recall away, we could never hold them in our grasp.

I suppose I cannot blame the PKs that they never stuck around for their executions.

We tried the Paralysis spell, An Ex Por, to hold them fast.

It didn’t work on players.

UO again. Nothing worked the way it was supposed to.


We played all the time, it was a war.

What percentage of our lives? I don’t know exactly, there are so many slices to a life. But a lot. It would have been more but I had to go to work sometimes, chase paper around the building, though that was all just busy work and I didn’t really pay it any mind. I spent half my time at work reading the message boards in fact, ripping up the PKs in long diatribes.

I was quite the online debater, quite the ranting scribe.

UO eventually even trumped my love of sleep, and that is saying a lot.

Sleep? What was that? I got up at three in the morning every night to scour the magic shops of Britannia for reagents so that we could cast our spells. The PKs didn’t have to worry about that, they got reagents in neatly packed bags from their victims, but we Antis had to go to the shops. There was no way to macro it, you had to catch the spawn. I had a route, Rune to Rune to Rune to Rune, teleporting around the world, checking every shop in turn, looking to score. Three AM was good because anyone vaguely normal was in bed, visions of sugarplums, etc.

Not me.

I used to clean those shops out from top to bottom when the spawn hit, buying every single thing they had, every last scrap, like the Grinch cleaning out the last can of Who Hash, trying to keep us in the fight. It was like picking up ammo cans, we all pitched in, we all helped each other out if anyone was short.

Ryan began studying the UO code, the packets sent back and forth between our computers and the servers. He disassembled the packets into their component parts and studied them, looking for weaknesses. I concentrated on keeping my swords smeared with deadly poison at all times, and tried to stay alive. I still had Sparky, and he was now the fastest horse on the server, the last of the originals.

I rode him through the forests alone, wrathful.

I sought vengeance, like Oromë the Hunter with his horn, only there was no horn, no warning that I was coming. Even in Bone armor I was still more than a match for anyone that had not been a Beta tester. I was bad fucking news for any little PKs I found hunting in the woods, I slew them without quarter or mercy. I knew every inch of the world, knew all the tricks, had been there a long, long time. I never hesitated to attack one or two, and even three broke and fled before me, Recalling away rather than face an actual fight. My only worry at those times was whether I could finish one before they got away.

Many times I did. They hated me as much as I hated them.

I took the loot from their bodies to the city, leaving it on the ground for anyone to take. I had no use for it. If I found myself outnumbered too heavily in the forest I fled, on the fastest horse in the world.

I got away with so much that I became overconfident, like Ryan in the Japanese banks.


I found the four PKs near the entrance to Shame, the very place we had first watched Psycho killing the newbies, the first PKing we had ever seen. I was alone and I moused them as I came through the woods and they were all Red and I knew none of their names, they were just Murderers. I charged them and hit with my first swing and the deadly poison started dropping the first one’s life bar slowly but steadily and I ran past them and Hid.

I cast a Blade Spirit from my Hide, “In Jux Hur Ylem,” then ran to cast another.

But the tactic was known by then and there were four of them. One got off a Blade Spirit on me when I was visible and I had to run in and out of the screen to keep away from it, slashing at them as I went by fast on my horse. Lightning struck me and I hit the first PK again and he went down in a heap, and I saw the curling line of an energy bolt fly in from the side and impact on my avatar.

My health bar was barely half and I healed myself and switched swords for fresh poison. I got the blade into one of the PKs that I had not touched yet and the poison started on him, and I ran and Hid.

But one of them had Search and I was revealed before I finished the Blade Spirit this time and it was disrupted and the mana wasted. They sprang at me with their swords and I used the speed of my horse to keep the three of them from being able to strike me at once, dodging and twisting through the forest.

I concentrated on the one my Blade Spirits were grinding and hacked him down as I took punishment from the other two. The Blade Spirits time was over and they vanished, no more help from them. I ran Sparky to the edge of the screen and healed myself again and I was out of mana. I turned back and fought them sword to sword then, advancing and retreating in the trees, trying to finish one of the last two. If I could just take one more down I felt sure that I would win and I gambled, I hit the weaker one and hit him again and then I did not run when the other was on me as well but stayed, needing just one more hit to finish the dying PK, trusting to speed to save me from his companion long enough to catch my breath, return, and kill him as well.

But I did not get that hit I needed until too late, and the PK did not die fast enough. He stayed standing for one round too long before he died, and he hit me as well, my weak Bone armor betraying me then. The fourth and last PK was next to me, still swinging. My health was the tiniest sliver of blue.

My screen went black. I came back as a ghost.

The final PK was still dropping hit points from the poison I had put in him. I might get him yet. He walked to riderless Sparky, who stood motionless next to my body, which was what horses did when you died, they waited around for you to come back. The PK couldn’t take Sparky because that wasn’t how it worked, a horse would only carry his master, he couldn’t be stolen, he would only carry me.

The PK swung his sword instead.

Sparky neighed and made futile kicking motions as the PK attacked.

Sparky could have run for the stable, escaped a hundred times over without a scratch, but instead he stood there next to my red-cloaked body while the PK hacked him to death. It took a little while, he wasn’t a particularly tough PK. UO Artificial Intelligence in all its glory didn’t give Sparky enough sense to trot away from his own murder.

There were new horses for sale, but there would never be another of the originals.

I watched it all as a ghost. I didn’t say boo. It was shitty of the PK to do it.

It made me feel really bad.

Sparky was a good horse. He didn’t deserve to die like that.


We were losing.

Despite all of our efforts, all our cooperation and the fact that we were the good guys, the PKs were in control. They went anywhere they wanted, anytime, killed anyone they came across.

Ryan finished hacking the packets and built us a weapon. He set up a program so that we could triple cast spells, unload all of our mana in a single shot, usually three energy bolts chained into a single blast, a crafted packet. He couldn’t get us extra mana or hit points, that was all server-side, but we could unload a huge first strike in the time it took to cast one spell. It was like hitting someone with a bazooka, it would blow a huge hole right through them. We were trying everything we could think of by then, no one even considered fighting by the rules any more.

The hack was an advantage, but not enough. Even cheating we were losing.

They held a party one day, the PKs, outside the bridge into Trinsic. On one side of the bridge were the invulnerable, Murderer-executing guards inside the town limit. On the other side were the PKs, just where the road into the wilderness began.

They set up shop on the far side. They had brought all sorts of stuff, virtual tables and chairs, virtual food, virtual beer, wine and liquor. They all sat down in the chairs around the table and chatted and had a picnic right there on the main road out of town.

In fact the only road. It was a great choice of location, brilliant even.

The bridge at Trinsic was the only way in or out of town. Newbies without the skill to Recall yet began to pile up on the town side of the bridge in a mob, terrified to venture beyond the range of the city guards. A few people put their toes a little too far over the bridge and the PKs shot them down without getting up from the party table. They didn’t bother to loot the bodies, but they killed anyone who came out to pick things up.

All the newbies who logged in to Trinsic that day were stuck there until the PKs left.

It was quite the coup.

I watched the PKs from the bridge, on foot, in my Bone armor and red cape, with my steel sword. I knew a couple of them, most I did not. I didn’t dare leave the protection of the guards myself, the PKs would waste me just like anyone else, it would only take a round or two longer. Of course I could have Recalled away and done something else, but this was the most interesting thing I had seen in a long time.

I had to admit, it was a stylish maneuver. They were rubbing our noses in it.

They sat there for hours, about twenty of them. It looked like they were having a grand time.

There was nothing we could do.

We were beaten.


And then Hong returned.

The Great Lord Hong, Grandmaster Mage, Grandmaster Warrior, Grandmaster Baker and Brewer.

If I thought of myself as Clint Eastwood – and I was at best a poor man’s version – then Hong was Kwai Chang Caine, Man of Peace, the mysterious Shaolin monk from Kung Fu, American child raised by Chinese monks, possessed of inscrutable oriental wisdom and the secrets of the human soul, master of an ancient fighting style that allowed him to rip the still-beating heart from your chest with one clawed hand, if he so chose.


He said he was a stockbroker in New York in real life. He was a badass in UO.

Some people are just like that. He had what it takes, whatever it is.

I don’t know where Hong had been while we were losing the war. He had been a legend in the Beta, the first tester to achieve Grandmaster status in any skill, the first to make Great Lord. But he’d disappeared; we hadn’t seen him in months. I hadn’t known he even had a character on Chesapeake, much less Great Lord Hong, Grandmaster Mage, which was what came onscreen when I moused him. He showed up out of the blue, wearing all his super shiny mithril gear, his perfect rep and flawless stats and skills totally intact, not beat to pieces like the rest of us.

Though he was still only one soldier, no matter how superb. No one player could change the outcome of the war. But he brought us more than himself. He brought an idea, a plan.

We had numbers, we still had the will to fight and our mule characters, we were not utterly crushed. We could still muster an army if there were reason. We lacked only the means to overcome the vast disparity in equipment, the unbreakable castle, the PK’s ability to Recall away from danger whenever we managed to threaten them.

Hong gave us that means. He broke the code, he figured it out. Who knows how it came to him? I’m not bad myself, I’m a professional officer, I know what I’m doing, but he smoked me like an old cigar. The man was a tactical genius, I felt like I was with Jackson in the Shenandoah.

And his plan wasn’t even all that complicated. Good plans often aren’t.


Hong formed us into three teams.

First team was Strike, the force that he would lead, the strongest group, that would assemble in a city and wait for the word from our spies, transmitted over ICQ outside the game, that a PK dungeon wipeout was in progress. It didn’t always happen, so we might have to be ready to wait for a night or two. The Strike team was all equipped with Runes for every dungeon, so they could Recall there together and confront the PKs in force when we located them.

A pitched battle was expected.

Second team was Siege, to be posted near Vile Blades, just out of sight of the castle. When they got word that the battle with the PKs had begun they were to move up to Vile Blades, to stand in a cluster on the front steps, blocking access to the door. We were sure that the PKs would flee from Hong and Strike, that they would reappear in the vicinity of Vile Blades. By the laws of UO, of course, they could not Recall inside the castle, but had to appear outside, where Siege would be waiting. The idea was that they would be easy pickings then, weakened by the dungeon battle with Strike.

Siege would lay in ambush and take them unawares, the anvil to Strike’s hammer.

Hong put Simkin in charge of Siege.

And there was more: a final touch that made it brilliant, a neutron bomb for PKs, like hitting them with a can of RAID. The last team, Shrine, that was mine.

For if you remember, a Murderer could only be resurrected at one Shrine, the Chaos Shrine, so every one of them could be counted on to go there if we managed to kill them, they had no other choice if they wanted to regain materiality and stop speaking in boos. When they did, we would kill them again. Whether the Murderer had been alive for one second at the Chaos Shrine or had never died before did not matter, any death would result in another Murderer death penalty, the skill drop cumulative. We hoped to make those losses catastrophic.

We were going to kill them as many times as we could at the Chaos Shrine, fair play and honor be damned. Slay them while they were naked and weak as babies in their loincloth underwear, easy to kill as newborn kittens. One death in an ambush at Vile Blades would do them damage, but if we could inflict multiple deaths on them we could harm them irreparably, get rid of them forever.

We would destroy their characters.

So simple, so elegant.

We had a chance to win after all. We would exterminate them.


It only took three nights.

The plan worked perfectly. The PKs never knew what hit them.

On the third night I watched on ICQ as the chatter told the story of the battle in Despair, of the PKs Recalling out as Hong and Strike won the field. Of how all but one appeared at Vile Blades, weakened and vulnerable, and how Siege tore them to shreds, their mithril armor and magic blades flying away into the crowd that killed them.

Simkin didn’t take any of the loot. He knew that he was done with the game.

We waited by the Chaos Shrine, Rand and me and ten foot soldiers, Hidden, as the ghosts of the Murderers arrived. We waited until all of them had resurrected. They stood at the Shrine in their loin cloth underwear in a group and complained of our dirty tactics, how they would take revenge.

Psycho the Idiot was there, and Pua, and many more.

And we came out of Hiding and killed them again as they stood on the steps of the Shrine, naked and helpless. Many of them were so angry at the unfairness of it that they resurrected again, and again, each time telling us to stop, they only wanted to talk.

But we did not stop. We killed them as long as they let us, until we stood at the Chaos Shrine amid the heaped, repetitive, bodies of the slain, with the crowd of Murderer’s ghosts around us, unable to touch their Shrine in our presence. I killed Pua myself for the fourth time and I knew that was enough, that his character was ended. For though they had gear aplenty to replace what they had lost, waiting in the castle that we could never break, their characters were nothing when we had finished, just mid-level management. They could never threaten us seriously again. They would never go to the trouble to rebuild the characters, it would have taken months, it was too much trouble, and we would hunt them wherever they went, chase them to ground like rabid curs.

We had broken them.

The newbies came forth from the cities and spilled onto the land.

And they did hack, and chop, and slay monsters with fireballs and shiny swords, with cheerful abandon, just as the gods of UO had said they should. All was right with the world.

Thanks Hong, whoever you are, wherever you are.

You’re the man.


We were the only Shard where the good guys won.

On all the others, the PKs ruled until the day the software company finally reset everything, rolled it all back to zero, declared a new beginning, version 2.0, with controls on PKing to stop the massacres, a switch so that players could turn off the ability of other players to hurt them. No one can be PKed now without turning the switch, choosing to be part, and that is all the difference.

There are no more Murderers, even if the reputation label remains, there on the PK-enabled servers. The company wants to run a profitable game, with a large customer base, and I cannot blame them for that. People did not enjoy being robbed and killed and were threatening to cancel accounts, though I don’t think many did. It was not a place you left easily once you were there.

I don’t know if the designers ever knew about our war, if they ever heard rumor of it, but I think they must have. And I don’t know about the struggle against PKs on other Shards, what their own sad stories must be, only that the boards reported that PKs held them all.

But there must have been resistance, of that much I am certain.

It was a swift process, our little demonstration, loss of control, degeneration into savagery. But on Chesapeake we beat them. We won control only of an imaginary world, with a lame interface and bad graphics, a ridiculous affair of slaying moronic monsters by means of dirty tricks, as thrilling and ludicrous as Pong.

But I am proud to have been there. Proud to have served. One of the few.

We fought until they beat us down and we stood like prisoners in the cities, cowering behind the guards. And a leader came to us and we rose from the dust like slaves casting aside shackles. We threw the PKs down, and broke their spines, and ground their bones into the dirt.

They deserved it and more.

The forces of good were triumphant on that one Shard, Chesapeake, and that one only. We didn’t have to wait for the reset, or for future games with more balance and smoother graphics, fewer quirks. A single iteration of the new dynamic held by Blue in the virgin megaverse where evil had taken root so quickly, sprouted, grown and flourished overnight. Some of us had faced it, had resisted with all our might, had gone beyond the game to fight them, broken every rule. We had fought with everything we had, real and virtual, given it our all.

And in the end we only beat them because of Hong’s plan and their own stupidity in resurrecting at the Shrine so many times. It was a close run thing.

One out of twelve. That is not much.

I believe a higher percentage of people than that are good, a much higher percentage than eight percent of us are decent folk. Just as most of the players on the server were with us and hated the PKs. But evil does not need numbers. Lunatic prophets and idiot madmen guide our destinies and our histories far out of proportion to their numbers, though most of us want nothing but to live in peace, to be left alone.

That year in UO was a time when I was free to choose any side, play any part, and I found to my surprise that I was good to my dying breath, from top to bottom, stem to stern. I would fight until the cause was lost and even after. They could have kept killing me forever and I would never have gone over to them, the PKs, I would have kept trying.

It was a moment of history for the whole world, virtual though it was.

It revealed something true. It was like a dream that way.

Given a choice, some of us will fight for right and justice every time.

Show me the dotted line.

I’ll sign.


Life is not a game. Choices are rarely so clear-cut as they were in UO.

Real life is a patchwork, shades of gray, smears of other colors, some bright, some dark, a multi-shaded jacket. In real life there are so many nuances.

UO then, Chesapeake, Rand and Hong and Simkin and Psycho and Pua and the rest. The low-rent ghosts and the bumbling ogres; all of us drunk at the races. And me too, Og, in my tattered Bone armor and blood red cape, bright steel sword in hand, on my fast horse in the forest, riding like the wind, like the wrath of God.

We were the first, the very first, never to be repeated, never to be replaced.

We started the whole thing. The multiverse began there, at that instant.

And for no good reason, no reward, some of us stood against the darkness.

We carried the fire.

One out of twelve.

We did good.




This is, I believe, one of the first of all the histories that will come out of the multiverse, out of virtual reality that is reality, that is nearby now. It is not so long before it is real all the time, it only feels distant because of the brevity of our lives in the scrolling lines of history, mere dots, points on the graph. The multiverse will make the world seem bigger again, there will be a lot of places to go.

There are going to be a million stories coming from our new electronic lives. As many as there are of us, because as they say, people make the story. It’s cliché but it’s true. It will become news, it will be reported, it will be followed by hundreds of millions or more, the things that we do to each other in virtual space.

And perhaps one day a thousand years from now we will all lie in drawers, wires running from our heads, living long lives of total fantasy, while alien intelligences use us as batteries. If an alien intelligence shows up, doesn’t have any decent battery technology, and crams us all into boxes. Just like in The Matrix.

Then again, maybe not.

hrastovnik writes:

This was an... awesome read... thank you, you made my day.

Wed May 25 2011 12:18PM Report writes:
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