Lord British
Ultima character
First appearanceUltima I: The First Age of Darkness (1981)
Last appearanceNox Archaist (2020)
Created byRichard Garriott
Voiced byRichard Garriott (Ultima VI FM-Towns version, Serpent Isle)
Ev Lunning (Ultima IX)

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

Origin of the name

Richard Garriott (left) in his "Lord British" persona, along with Starr Long at the 2018 Game Developers Conference.
Richard Garriott (left) in his "Lord British" persona, along with Starr Long at the 2018 Game Developers Conference.

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 as dungeon master in his 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 game Tabula Rasa as General British.

Origins of the character in the Ultima games

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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

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

"Rainz" redirects here. For the South Korean band, see Rainz (band).

The famous incident where Lord British is assassinated in Ultima Online
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.

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.

Professor Megan Winget of the University of Texas, coordinator of a project to study the best way to preserve video game history, stated in a BBC interview that the death of Lord British in the Ultima games is something people remember and are affected by:[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."

Reception

In a 2021 list published by PC Gamer staff, Lord British is ranked among the most iconic characters in PC gaming.[17]

References

  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, pp. 18–21, March 1986
  4. ^ "What is a Lord British "Ultimate" Role Playing Game?". www.facebook.com.
  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. Archived from the original on 2006-08-25. Retrieved 2006-08-17.
  9. ^ Hawkeye Pike. "Ultima Online Travelogues: Ultima Online Beta". Archived from the original on 2006-06-18. Retrieved 2006-08-17.
  10. ^ "Top 5 Most Memorable Events in MMORPG History". Mmocrunch.com. 2008-08-26. Archived from the original on 27 April 2011. 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. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: ascensionofwatchers (4 January 2008). "Ultima VII- Lord British defeated by the Black Sword" – via YouTube.
  15. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: 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.
  17. ^ Rick Lane (November 12, 2021). "The 50 most iconic characters in PC gaming". PC Gamer. Retrieved December 10, 2021.