If you look at my Raptr or Steam stats it looks like I haven’t been playing any games recently. In actual fact, I have been playing hours and hours and hours of a game but it just happens to be the untracked browser-based Kingdom of Loathing.
KoL has been around for just over 10 years, and probably most gamer enthusiasts have poked at it at least once by now. But for the uninitiated, KoL is a RPG that is infamous for combining clever, sassy writing and extremely deep gameplay. Each day players get a limited number of turns to play, although that number can be increased through consumables. There are very few graphics in KoL, and those that do exist are all done in a minimal black-on-white style. (That stick figure over to the left is probably one of the more in-depth graphical moments, it being my character Laplume in a goblin costume. Obvs.)
KoL has many of the familiar trappings of RPGs, although mostly with delightfully silly names. There are classes (like Accordion Thief and Seal Clubber), a myriad of main and secondary stats, gear drops, familiars, consumables, and quests. On a micro scale, the goal of KoL is to level up your character from 1 to 13 or so, beat the final big boss (the Naughty Sorceress), and then sacrifice yourself for the good of the world. Yes, that’s right: you die.
Or at least that incarnation does. Unlike most RPGs, character development in KoL mostly comes from repeatedly leveling up (and then dying). The run from level 1 to death is known as an ascension, and as ascensions stack up you will accumulate special skills and gear and familiars and just know-how that will make your character more powerful even at level 1.
Running the level 1-13 quests over and over again, even if you change your class around, sounds a little dull right? Oh hell no. For each ascension you can pick a number of different variables to shake things up. Try choosing a different difficulty, and pick one of a number of special ascension “paths” like oxycore (no extra turns from food or booze), or Bad Moon (limited familiar options and unlucky adventures), or Zombie (be a zombie with special skills but no access to stores and stuff because, um, you’re a zombie). Currently, new paths are added about every 3 months.
One of the neatest things about KoL is the flexibility in content. You can farm for rare items, you can play the notoriously unstable marketplace, you can work on collections and trophies, you can take on the clan (guild) raid dungeons. If you hate spare time and love numbers, you can focus on speed ascensions and nerd out over math and strategy to come up with the most optimal way to go from start to ascension with your particular set of skills and familiars. Try to hit a new personal best in either days or turns spent!
The strategy rabbit hole goes extremely deep if you like that sort of thing, and boy do I. I started playing KoL in 2009, and I usually can play it for about 3 months before I have to stop because all my friends have forgotten who I am and my dishes have become a sentient life form. (It is entirely possible to play the game without obsessing over turns, but just not something I’m good at.)
Although there aren’t any synchronous multiplayer activities, there are plenty of asynchronous interactions and global chat channels. Clan raids require group participation but are organized by turns (“you open X gate later, then in a few days I’ll go kill Y and send you half the loot”), which is nice for people with limited playtime.
KoL is a game that benefits from research. If you want to play, I advise checking out the wiki. The game is free, and if you play now or in the future say hey to Laplume.