Lord British

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Lord British
Ultima character
First game Ultima I
Created by Richard Garriott
Voiced by Richard Garriott (Ultima VI FM-Towns version, Serpent Isle)
Ev Lunning (Ultima IX)

Lord British, whose full name is Lord Cantabrigian British,[1] is the name of the fictional ruler of Britannia, a kingdom in the fictional world of Sosaria, created by Richard Garriott for his computer game series Ultima. Garriott is also known to his fans as Lord British.[2]

Origin of the name[edit]

Ultima series creator Richard Garriott acquired the nickname "British" as a teenager from friends at computer camp who claimed his greeting to them, "hello", was distinct from the usual American "hi". The Lord title was later added when he played the dungeon master in Dungeons & Dragons games.[3]

When his first published game Akalabeth was released, the president of the publishing company suggested he use the name in the game, since it was more memorable than his real name.[4]

Garriott released Akalabeth: World of Doom and all other Ultima games under the pseudonym, and occasionally appeared in Ultima Online playing as Lord British and meting out justice to his players.[5] He is still known as Lord British. Garriott retained the trademark rights to the name Lord British with its associated symbols, and the character appears in his new game, Tabula Rasa as General British.

Origins of the character in the Ultima games[edit]

Neither the Avatar nor Lord British were born in Sosaria, but came from Earth via the moongates. The name Cantabrigian British is taken from his birthplace's name, Cambridge in the United Kingdom, given to him by his friend, Shamino, and British abandoned his old name in favor of the new one.

When British came to Sosaria, the evil wizard named Mondain was still young. They had an epic battle deep within the labyrinth of dungeons, where British, the "Champion of the White Light", was victorious, driving Mondain away from the kingdom, and receiving the title of "Lord British, Protector of Akalabeth". Mondain was seeking revenge in Ultima I. The stranger (who would become the Avatar) dealt with Mondain this time, but three-fourths of the world mysteriously disappeared for causes unknown.

Numerous plotlines and side-quests in the Ultima games revolve around one of Lord British's adventures or public works projects. He had a key role in founding the Museum, Conservatory and other institutions of the Britannian society.

In the Ultima series[edit]

In the Ultima series, Lord British rules from his throne inside Castle Britannia, and continuously provides healing, resurrection and other miscellaneous help for the Avatar (the main character) and his adventuring party. In the first three Ultima games, British charged a significant sum of money for his services, but would provide them for free from Ultima IV onwards.

Throughout the Ultima series, Lord British never leaves his castle, except for Ultima V, where his absence constitutes the main storyline, and at the end of Ultima VI, when he uses a red moongate to travel to the Isle of the Avatar. Instead, he relies on heroes like the Avatar to go forth and correct the various crises that crop up in Britannia. In Ultima IX, the Guardian comments on this behavior, accusing Lord British of always hiding in his castle while his land suffers. In the climax of the same game, Lord British finally ventures outside the confines of his castle to help the Avatar in a final showdown with Lord Blackthorn.

Assassination of Lord British[edit]

The famous incident where Lord British is assassinated in Ultima Online

One of the most famous attributes of Lord British is that he is almost invincible. In every Ultima game in which he has appeared, he is designed to be almost impervious to a player's character predations. However, there are ways for a player thinking outside the box to assassinate him.[6]

This phenomenon is the origin of the Lord British Postulate which states: "If it exists as a living creature in an MMORPG, someone, somewhere, will try to kill it."[7] Virtually every MMO game displays numerous instances of this, with players attempting to kill (or, in the case of friendly NPCs, cause the death of) virtually every NPC or monster, howsoever powerful, meek, friendly, or ethereal.

  • Lord British was killed during an in-game appearance on Ultima Online's beta test on August 8, 1997. A royal visit was conducted as a part of server population stress test. A player character known as Rainz cast a spell called "fire field" on Lord British that, surprisingly, killed him. According to Starr Long, the whole thing was just a human error: Lord British's character, like others, had been made invulnerable, but by design the invulnerability did not persist over several game sessions. Shortly before the incident, the server had crashed, and Richard Garriott had forgotten to set his invulnerability flag on when logging on again.[8] Shortly afterwards, Rainz's account was banned from the beta test for previously exploiting bugs rather than reporting them (frequently used by his character Aquaman to kill many player characters, a purported griefing incident). According to Origin, he was not banned for the assassination but rather for previous complaints against his account that were brought to light as a result of this attention.[9] After Lord British was killed, fellow Ultima Online developer Starr Long (also known in game as Lord Blackthorn) summoned some demons, who attacked innocent bystanders. This led to beta testers protesting both the indiscriminate killing, and the banning of the assassin. MMOCrunch calls it the most memorable event in MMORPG History.[10] According to Wired magazine:[11]

The event reverberated through the gaming world, giving players an unprecedented ability to change and influence the game. Scads of protests brought the phenomenon of player killing -- whereby experienced players prey on new gamers, killing them to collect points in the game and keep them from progressing to new levels -- to the attention of game designers.

  • In Ultima III: Exodus, according to interviewer Shay Addams, "Garriott was less than pleased" that some players had found a way to kill Lord British.[12] He had taken steps to safeguard his character from being attacked in the game. While no weapon a player had on them could harm him, you could get him to chase you to the docks, and use a cannon to kill him.[13]
  • In Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar, a player could cast a spell to create a lava field that damaged Lord British slightly. With enough patience and shuffling back and forth, Lord British could be killed. It was also possible to damage him enough with the 'Tremor' spell that he would flee, although this required some luck (depending upon, among other things, what random number of hit points he was assigned when battle began). Lord British, unlike every other town character, was impervious to the destructive use of the Skull of Mondain.
  • In Ultima VI: The False Prophet, there were at least three ways in which Lord British could be killed: (a) if a player dragged a poison trap to British's throne and detonated it, British was poisoned and slowly lost health until he eventually died; (b) while asleep, he could be killed with a glass sword; or (c) filling Lord British's throne room with powder kegs, igniting one, and standing clear of the blasts was sufficient to kill him.
  • In Ultima VII, an Easter egg allows British to be killed. If the player double-clicks the gold plaque above the castle gate when British is standing directly underneath (which he invariably does at exactly noon each day), the plaque will fall on his head. The player can arrange several chairs or crates around him in such a way as to trap him underneath the plaque. This was inspired by an incident at the Origin building; a metal bar, where the magnet on the door attached to it, fell on Garriott's head, warranting a visit to the hospital. One of the characters says "Yancey-Hausman will pay!", which is a reference to the owner and landlord of the building. British could also be killed by The Black Sword[14] found in the game's expansion pack, Forge of Virtue.
  • In Ultima VII Part Two: Serpent Isle, Lord British can only be encountered in the dream world in Gorlab Swamp, surveying the ruins of his destroyed castle. While death in the dream world does not actually kill the individual, the player may "kill" British using the armor and Infinity Bow found in the castle. He will make a saddened comment and disappear.
  • Lord British does not appear in Ultima VIII.
  • Another Easter egg enables the player to kill British in Ultima IX: Ascension. When the game begins in the Avatar's house, it is possible for the player to cook a loaf of poison bread. If this bread is brought to Britannia and switched with Lord British's regular meal, Lord British will eventually eat it and die.[15]

The death of Lord British in the Ultima games is something people remember and are affected by. Professor Megan Winget of the University of Texas is the coordinator of a project to study the best way to preserve video game history. A BBC interview with her revealed:[16]

During preliminary work many people mentioned the importance of the murder of Lord British — actually the avatar of Richard Garriott, co-creator of Ultima Online. "A lot of people have mentioned that to me as a pivotal moment in their lives," she said. "I would like to talk to people who experienced that, saw it happen or where they were when they heard about it."

References[edit]

  1. ^ Chuckles reveals Lord British's name as "Lord Cantabrigian British" in Ultima V when he welcomes the Avatar at the entrance of Castle Britannia.
  2. ^ EL33TONLINE: News - Richard Garriott in space! Retrieved 2008-10-15
  3. ^ Inside Ultima IV, Computer Gaming World, March 1986: 18–21 
  4. ^ Richard Garriott's Facebook page
  5. ^ Greg Lastowka (2010), "The Law of Lord British", Virtual Justice: The New Laws of Online Worlds, Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0-300-14120-7 
  6. ^ The Many Deaths of Lord British, Computer and Video Games, 10 Feb 2008 
  7. ^ Schramm, Mike (March 28th, 2007) WoW Moviewatch: A'dal downed, wow.com.
  8. ^ Long, Starr. "Tabula Rasa Team Bios: Starr Long". NCSoft. Retrieved 2006-08-17. 
  9. ^ Hawkeye Pike. "Ultima Online Travelogues: Ultima Online Beta". Retrieved 2006-08-17. 
  10. ^ "Top 5 Most Memorable Events in MMORPG History". Mmocrunch.com. 2008-08-26. Retrieved 2012-02-16. 
  11. ^ Brad King (2002-06-08). "Make Love, Not War Games". Wired.com. Retrieved 2012-02-16. 
  12. ^ The Official Book of Ultima page 30
  13. ^ The Official Book of Ultima page 31
  14. ^ Youtube.com
  15. ^ DynamicCast. "Ultima IX — Killing Lord British". Retrieved 2008-05-13. 
  16. ^ "Technology | Writing the history of virtual worlds". BBC News. 2008-08-15. Retrieved 2012-02-16. 

External links[edit]