Battle the dangerous Knob Goblins of the Nearby Plains! Hoard meat, or participate in the thriving player economy! Craft a Bitchin' Meatcar and take a vacation!

If Zork was the mother of computer role-playing games, KoL is her bastard son.

Kingdom of Loathing is a free browser-based MMORPG found at It was opened for business in February 2003. KoL's creator and patron deity is Jick. The game is in open beta until the end of the Naughty Sorceress quest is written, which is slated to happen whenever Jick gets around to it.

***UPDATE 8 June 2005***
That'll be tonight, actually.

Like most other MMORPG's, in KoL the goal is to kill things and take their stuff. However, as you may have guessed, the whole affair is gone about with tongue firmly in cheek. Graphics, for instance, are exactly perfect to the subject matter, being primarily stick-figures. Instead of using Gold or whatever as a currency, KoL uses meat. As in, "I'll give you 10,000 meat for two Scrumptious Reagents".

That's not to say that the game is all just ha-ha. Adventures, such as the Zork-inspired Strange Leaflet, or the quest to clean out the Bat Cave, require wit, logic, and plenty of out-of-game knowledge. How do you defeat a giant fly? What do you call a fish with no eyes? Where do Leprechauns come from?

New players may select from a staggering six classes, such as the muscular Seal Clubber or the arcane Sauceror. Each class has widely varying abilities. The Seal Clubber deals huge amounts of damage to monsters by hitting them with large blunt objects, the Disco Bandit relies on his Moxie to avoid damage and to backstab, the Accordion Thief casts a range of buffs to strengthen other players (usually in return for meat), etc.

In game, each character has three major Attributes- Muscle, Mysticality, and Moxie. Muscle deals with hitting, damage, and hit points. Mysticality deals primarily with mojo points (mana). Moxie deals with avoiding being hit. Some classes, such as the Disco Bandit, have abilities, such as the Moxious Manoeuver, that also take the attributes into account. Each class favors a certain attribute; Disco Bandits favor Moxie, for instance. Attributes go up when the sub-attributes (such as Mysteriousness and Wizardliness for Mysticality or Smarm for Moxie) get high enough; killing monsters raises your stats. Gain enough in your favored attribute and you'll gain a level, making you more powerful, more efficient at gaining stats, and better able to kill things and take their stuff, ad infinitum.

Also, everyone has two other important numbers: Hit Points and Mojo Points. They work pretty much like in any other RPG. Hit Points is how much damage you can take before you're too beat up to continue (in which case you have to go rest; no one ever 'dies'). Mojo Points are used to cast spells and use special abilities. Both refill completely once per day. (edit: as of November 2004, both refill a set amount, depending on what you have in your campsite)

To actually go out and do things you have 'Adventures' that may be spent killing things and taking their stuff, crafting, gambling, or exploring today's Daily Dungeon. Each day, each character gets at least 40 adventures- more with certain items, such as the Meat Maid who cleans up your campsite, saving you some time.

A secondary way to get more adventures is by eating and drinking. Foods, such as Papaya Tacos and Trollhouse Cookies, give you adventures (and sometimes add some stats) when eaten, but make you more full, so the only downside is that you can only eat so much each day.

Drinking is similar to eating, except that, instead of getting more full, you get more drunk. Drink too much and you'll be less effective in combat. Drink until you're falling-down drunk and you'll be totally ineffective until the next day, although you might score with some twins from the Knob Warrens Harem (thankfully, though, there is no hangover mechanic). Fullness and Drunkeness reset each day.

Most foods and drinks can be crafted from other ingredients (which must be found or bought). For instance, a Bottle of Gin + Olive = Martini, which gives more adventures and sells for more than the ingredients would. The drawback to crafting is that it takes adventures, unless you've made or bought a Chef-in-a-Box or the like. The making and selling of Hell Ramen is currently the most powerful force in the economy, although the recent introduction (and subsequent mysterious disappearance) of the mysterious Spectral Pickle Factory is sending shockwaves.

The player economy is so smooth that big-time MMORPGS should take notes. Players can go off to strange areas (such as the Hole in the Sky, Haunted Pantry, and the Orcish Frat House), kill things and take their unique, exotic stuff, and come back to town and sell it, of course, but you could also put it in the Flea Market and try to have the lowest price, or buy your own store in The Mall and try to sell it there. Also, there's a trade channel in the chat panel, and an "offer item" option when sending a message to an individual.

Kingdom of Loathing might not be more than an underground niche time-waster, but, dangit, go try it out. The game never ends, but you still win if you get a chuckle.

Online role-playing game developed since 2003.

"Stupid, ridiculous game"
— Jick, the developer.

Think of a free-to-play computer game, run in your browser. Think of a game drawn by Randall Munroe (of xkcd fame), scripted by the Monty Python crew. Now throw in a generous scattering of the surreal, pop culture, obscure cultural references, somewhat politically incorrect and irreverent humour, terrible puns, and quirky inside jokes. The mobs are absurd (the Knob Goblins and Frat Orcs come to mind here) and the quests given by the lunatical Council of Loathing are equally hare-brained.

It's been going since February 2003, and its success has been put down to all the oddness already mentioned. It's primarily a single-player game, in that for the most part you don't see other player characters fighting along side you. That said, there has always been a strong social presence. There are clans to join, a thriving economy and a lot of discussion. Players can equip various of the items dropped by monsters in the game, or created from scratch. You can find and employ familiars that help you in various ways (from finding items, the in-game "meat" currency or assisting in other mechanics). It's a game that looks very simple, but is in fact, complex and rich; every playthrough is different and challenging, and with even a basic understanding of the mechanics, speed-running the game is also fun.

The player classes include magic users, rogues, tanks and more. Randomino has touched on this, but it's one of the quirky aspects of the game that keeps bringing me back time after time. It's marvellous fun to fight using a spaghetti spear or a sauce geyser, whilst protecting yourself with a white satin shield (obtained from a Knight in White Satin, of course).

The game was developed more or less as a joke, after Zack Johnson ("Jick") decided that "he was taking the games he created too seriously", and set himself the task of writing a game from scratch in a week. Once it had proven to be well received, he teamed up with an old friend, Josh Nite ("Mr Skullhead") and the game was a runaway success.

Amazingly, after almost twenty years, it's still being supported, both by the devs and the playerbase. Of course, like so many things on the internet from that time, it's past its heyday, but there is still money going to support Jick and his team, new material and items continue to be launched on a regular basis. One of the greatest features of the game is the "New Game Plus". As you complete the various quests, gathering materiel and gaining levels and skills, you are finally ready to kill the end boss, the aforementioned Naughty Sorceress. That done, you get to "ascend", gain permanent skills and powers and then…start again. Rinse, laugh, repeat. Much of the value in the game is the writing; even after playing for years, I can still get laughs out of the base game.

Most of the game is unchanged since Randomino wrote the above eighteen years ago. The classes are still there, the quests and bosses are largely the same, but the game has expanded enormously. Whilst the game is free to play, every month a new powerful item is made available for purchase. Spending $10 (US) gets you a thing that will not only help you in playing the game, but will entertain you, puzzle you and grant you the satisfaction of supporting a classic nearly twenty years in the making.

Three times a year, there's a new challenge path that remakes the standard game in some way. There have been world events that change some of the basic mechanics, there have been avatars of characters within the game, and all accompanied by good fun and (generally) great writing. Each Christmas ("Crimbo") there's a special world event that brings back many players year after year. The story arc is compelling and part of the gamelore, discussed and criticised continually.

It's hard to talk about the game in brief, simply due to the scale of it. Suffice to say that after playing for most of eighteen years, I still find it compelling enough to play almost daily. Addicted? Maybe, but it's great escapism for an hour or so and I am still thankful for it.

Addendum I'm reminded (thanks, Zephronias!) that there's a follow-up to the game, West of Loathing, released in 2017. I've never played it, but did follow the occasionally painful story of its development.

$ xclip -o | wc
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