Spoof it may be, yet after playing out my first day in the game, this little web-based, turn-based MMORPG has really grown on me. KoL is pure genius. The art may be bad, but it's intentionally so. The interface may be clunky, but you can navigate around well enough. The wit and wordplay of the item descriptions alone pulled this one ahead of many other MMORPGs out there. Jick (the creator) is hilarious. He's successfully created a game that mocks all other RPGs while still being completely engrossing.
The first thing that KoL reminded me of was a goofy card game I discovered at GenCon back in 2000 called Munchkin. I'm not sure if Jick got his original inspiration from Munchkin, but KoL certainly feels a lot like an pre-pubescent game of D&D.
The Kingdom of Loathing isn't just laughs though. This game has some rather interesting features. Every character level up to level 13 has its own quest associated with it. After you've finished your level 13 quest, you can continue to level up and go about your business. With levels comes more powerful spells and the ability to fight more powerful monsters. However, many players choose to Ascend, allowing them to save one of their skills from that life and start over again with a new class at lvl 1. Ascending also allows you to up the difficulty of the game, giving you better rewards upon finishing that Ascension. A typical ascension takes about 2 weeks of game play, but many people have it down to a science and have ascended within 2 days. It's all a pretty nifty system that keeps the game interesting.
KoL is completely free to play. It operates on donations and, yes, donors do get in-game benefits. For every $10 you donate, you get a "Mr. Accessory". This is a fairly powerful item in itself, but you can also use Mr. Accessories at Mr. Store to buy various items, including familiars and special items that change every month. As in many games that run on donations, you can get some really cool stuff as a donating member. However, Jick has made sure that items gained from donating will never unbalance the game. I've never felt like I'm at a disadvantage because I don't have the most current item of the month, yet I still drool over them and can't wait to see what's in store (Mr. Store, that is) for next month.
I'm just finishing my first Ascension in the Kingdom. It's been a good run and I think I'll be playing this game for a while. I've added a widget (or whatsit or whatchamacallit... fascomis?) to the side of this page with in-game contact info for various MMORPGs that I'm playing. If you'd like to chat, message me in game. I'll be happy to explain the ropes to you.
No beggars though. Beggar.
Why play it? KoL is free to play and is an engaging romp through a fantasy setting...that's full of stick-figures. Happiness.