From Tabletop to Desktop


While gamers have been rolling dice in basements and bedrooms for well over twenty years now, on a relative scale, online role-playing is still many years behind. MUDs and other text based role-playing options began the internet phenomena which has branched out into full fledged 3D games that have years of planning and thousands (sometimes millions) of dollars invested.

While gamers have been rolling dice in basements and bedrooms for well over twenty years now, on a relative scale, online role-playing is still many years behind. MUDs and other text based role-playing options began the internet phenomena which has branched out into full fledged 3D games that have years of planning and thousands (sometimes millions) of dollars invested.

Some argue the introduction of predefined images and avatars takes away from the creative side of role-playing. While traditional table top gaming allows both the GM and the players themselves to use their unlimited imagination, MUDs, and to a greater extent MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games), offer a vivid depiction of the fantasy world. Some will never leave the tabletop for any number of reasons, but there are still those who are enticed by the eye candy and much larger community of online gaming.

For those of you out there interested in getting into online gaming, there are several choices to make. Take into consideration the fact that MMORPGs require more than a Player's Guide and some paper to play. A computer capable of running 3D programs and an internet connection are a minimum. Monthly fees, expansion updates, and hardware upgrades are common place in the computer realm. But if you consider yourself brave enough to venture into the next frontier of role-playing, here is a short list, broken down by genre, to help you take your next step.

Fantasy, for one reason or another, continues to dominate role-playing even in the ethereal realm that we call the internet.

As the first MMORPG to offer 3D gaming as an option, Sony's Everquest has been around for years and has taken a foothold as the most popular online role-playing video game. Play as one of fourteen races including Human, High Elf, Gnome, and Dwarf and choose from one of fifteen classes including Warrior, Wizard, Druid, and Paladin. Along with the original release of the game, Everquest has four expansions out and one due to release in late February. Since the game is one of the originating MMORPGs, the graphics engine is extremely outdated. Even with an expansion that tried to overhaul the system, if you decide on Everquest, it will be for the immense community and endless span of quests, raids, and trade skills, not for the graphics. With every pro there is a con however. Everquest is notorious for poor customer support and game bugs that take sometimes weeks to fix. Death is handled by taking away experience points and although you can get resurrected the process can be expensive if you don't have a Cleric as a friend. Everquest official webpage.

Asheron's Call 2
Riding on a wave of popular support from the first version, Asheron's Call 2 is Microsoft's second edition of the fantasy title. Released only a few weeks ago, the game is relatively fresh in both graphics and game play. Guides for quests do exist but unlike the fully tamed Everquest, large portions of the world remain shrouded in mystery. Unlike the traditional levels associated with most RPGs, AC2 uses a skill tree system that allows more customization for your character. The set of skills available to you is partially shaped by which one of the three races you choose: Human, Lugian, or Tumerok. The lack of numerous races and a skill set that reminds many of Diablo 2, makes some players skeptical of Asheron's Call 2. But with over 500 skills to choose from and customization that includes height, build, skin tone, and tattoos, AC2 already has a strong following. Death is handled by putting an experience point tax on your character. Asheron's Call 2 official webpage.

Science Fiction MMORPGs are the latest trend in online gaming. Offering laser rifles and light speed travel instead of fireballs and broadswords, sci-fi gaming is gathering an audience all its own.

Earth & Beyond
Take on the role of a space pilot in Electronics Arts' first online role-playing game. Three races - the Terrans, the Progen, and the Jenquai - are battling for control of the solar system. Gain experience through combat, exploration, and trade. Dock with a mother ship to gain access to missions and up grade your ship to be faster and stronger. As one of the first space RPGs, Earth & Beyond had a strong initial following but the vast emptiness of space and a leveling system that too strongly resembles traditional gaming has pushed players to seek another sci-fi alternative. Death is handled by putting a debt on your character for the cost of your ship. Earth and Beyond official webpage.

Star Wars Galaxies
Despite not releasing until April 15th, Sony's Star Wars Galaxies already has one of the largest online followings of any MMORPG. Combining eight playable species and thirty-five professions based on a skill/level system combination, SWG attempts to place a character in the midst of the Star Wars Universe. Roam through nine planets and with the release of the Space Expansion, traverse between them. Pushing for a completely player run economy, SWG allows players to own shops and craft items that won't be found falling off of any monster. Mining, politics, and bounty hunting are all options for how to shape your character. Oh, and of course there are the Jedi. Death is still being debated by the developers and is in constant discussion on the forum boards. Since the game is being developed by Sony, the creators of Everquest, some people are worried the same things that plague EQ will reoccur in SWG. Star Wars Galaxies official webpage.

Miscellaneous MMORPGs are starting to take shape on the horizon as well. For those less interested in character devolvement, there are other options.

Sims Online
Selling over seven million copies, Maxis' The Sims is the best selling video game of all time. Taking the next step, Maxis has released Sims Online where you can build a home on the internet and chat with other players. If you like the original then Sims Online is the next logical step, but for those who grew tired of getting home from work only to tell your game character to go there, the online version doesn't offer much more. The Sims Online official webpage.

Another MMO from the minds at Sony, Planetside is the first ever MMOFPS (Massively Multiplayer Online First Person Shooter). Still in development but due for release in the first quarter of this year, Planetside is a favorite for FPS fans that wish to see the battle last past one round. Choose one of three sides and play for The Terran Republic, New Conglomerate or the Vanu Sovereignty to gain control of one of the many command stations spread through out the series of islands. Gain rank for your side to access better weapons and vehicles. Play as an aggressive fighter, a tactical commander, or a stealthy spy to help your side defeat the enemy. Planetside official webpage.

Other MMORPGs exist online as well but this article hardly has time to cover all of them. Be it fantasy, sci-fi, or even FPS role-playing you are fond of, online gaming has come to include every genre possible. So if you like, take a break from rolling dice and only visioning that +20 broadsword in your head and let the computer do it for you.

A decent summary. My only problem with these games is they're about anything but role-playing. They turn into little more than big multi-player bleeders, as you log on and endlessly hack and slash and gather gold and experience so you can hack and slash some more. There's little role-playing involved. A better term for these might be Massively Multiplayer Fantasy Adventure Games or somesuch.

Ironically enough, Everquest is now a series of D20 campaign supplements. Does anyone have any reviews or comments on them?

GURPS online!!! Can't wait...:-)

Informative, but I must agree greatly with what was listed there. As for Everquest- you just have to know where to look. For one, I can say that the Fennin Ro server is good overall, and my guild of choice, even if my opinion is skewed (Keepers of Kithicor can be found at I feel that there IS a good deal of roleplaying. It's found in the game and on the site.

Also, you left off (although this ranks low, it was out before EQ) Ultima Online. A basic kind of hack and slash also, it was just one of the first out there. If you want a GOOD game, have them convert The Fantasy Trip or RIFTS to the computer.

Rifts? Good game? Give me a break