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Britannia is a virtual world which exists in the Ultima Online MMORPG and is based on the original Britannia from the main Ultima series. Many copies of Britannia, called shards, exist simultaneously to support many players without overcrowding.
Shards were created at the end of Ultima I, during the time of Sosaria, when the Stranger destroyed Mondain's Gem of Immortality. Mondain's power over Sosaria stemmed from it being magically "held" inside, the gem. When the gem was shattered, the Stranger noticed that inside each broken shard was a smaller, self-contained Sosaria.
As each shard evolved over time, each took the appearance of later Britannia, without the influence of an Avatar. This created a land of lawlessness, where bandits would frequently roam the land outside of protected towns. Each Brittania grew up with its own heroes, villains, buildings and inhabitants. This serves to explain Ultima Online's many gameplay servers, each with their own subset of players.
Shards could be argued to technically "exist" in Britannia proper as tiny gem shards, housing an alternate reality of Britannia in each. The shards are never mentioned in the main Ultima games, but there are countless gems found throughout the series that could possibly be remnants of the Gem of Immortality. Regardless, Ultima Online is mostly ignored in Ultima canon, due to having no true impact on the series itself.
The explanation of the shards creation has several inconsistencies with the Ultima storyline. First, Mondain was defeated by the Stranger, who was not yet the Avatar. The opening movie portrays the Stranger as wearing an Ankh, but the concept of virtues and spirituality would not be established until Ultima IV.
The Stranger appears roughly the same as in Ultima IX. In the early Ultimas, the starting character could be a different race, sex, or (starting with Ultima VI) facial appearance than the blonde male typically shown as the Avatar. The Avatar was not established as actually being the Stranger until around Ultima VI and Ultima VII.
The lands of Sosaria were also divided into four main lands, and did not resemble Britannia until after the gem was shattered. These lands were known as the Lands of Lord British, the Lands of Danger and Despair, the Lands of the Dark Unknown, and the Lands of the Feudal Lords. Unless Britannian land was created the moment the gem was shattered, each shard should mirror the appearance of Sosaria.
The time period in which the Ultima Online series starts to take place seems to indicate a future version of Ultima VII, due to the established cities and dungeons, bestiary, and friendly relation with Gargoyles. If time had evolved roughly the same as it would have from Ultima I to Ultima VII, then the following would have occurred within that time:
- No threat from Minax, Exodus, or the Shadowlords.
- Little influence from the Virtues (the shrines still exist, but little heed is given to them).
- A possible discovery and peacemaking with the Gargoyles
- No earthquakes caused from Exodus, the Isle of the Avatar, the Isle of Fire, or the Stygian Abyss, which would cause certain land masses to not appear.
- No attack from the Guardian, preventing the major changes in Ultima IX
- No discovery of the original lands of Sosaria (including Serpent Isle and Ambrosia), the Time of Legends, some parts of the Stygian Abyss, Earth, or the worlds in Ultima Underworld II.
- No knowledge of the Avatar whatsoever. If asked, NPCs will respond accordingly, for example "I have never heard of this 'tar' person".
There are several books in Ultima Online that explain the Time Lord visiting each shard's version of Lord British. The Time Lord, presumably from the main series, is aware of the existence of the shards as alternate versions of Britannia. This is never mentioned in the main series, though the event having happened some time in the series is a possibility.
Expansions add to the evolution of the shards, but largely ignore the Ultima canon. New lands are said to have "always existed," but this would not be consistent with the concept of a perfectly mirrored Britannia. For example:
- Ultima Online: The Second Age: the Lost Lands are inhabited by strange creatures that have never existed in previous Ultimas. Also, the Ophidian cutlure does not exist, but serpent creatures here are called Ophidians. What relationship this has to the original Ophidian culture, if any, is unknown.
- Ultima Online: Lord Blackthorn's Revenge: Lord Blackthorn's cybernetic appearance does not fit with the low level of technology found in Britannia. The exception is in Ultima I, where many sci-fi elements were present.
- Ultima Online: Age of Shadows: The Northern continent of Malas is introduced, but no such land mass has existed previously in Britannia. The land mass is polar, suggesting it was formed from ice over a long period of time.
- Ultima Online: Samurai Empire: The Tokuno Islands are explained as always existing in Britannia, but "hidden" until now. This is not consistent with the Ultima series.
Other inconsistencies include names or references to Earth, such as "French bread" or "katana." There has been mention of characters coming from other dimensions, including Earth, in past Ultimas (particularly Ultima VI), but whether this applies to shards as well is unknown.
Some shards have particular properties that separate them from the majority of other shards, such as Siege Perilous.
Player-operated shards are privately run shards that can still exist due to the shard creation backstory.
The Shadowlords: Three shards that split from the Gem of Immortality caused the three Shadowlords to be created. There is no official alternate version of Britannia in these shards, though a fan made shard used one of the Shadowlord shards as its backstory.
Ultima Worlds Online: Origins
The planned setting of Ultima Worlds Online: Origins (formerly Ultima Online 2) was two hundred years after a magical cataclysm which occurred in multiple shards as Lord British aimed to rebind the fragmented Britannia as a single world. The cataclysm echoed with two other cataclysms through time, one in the distant prehistoric past of Britannia (when the entire life was wiped out by the spell of Armageddon) and one in the distant future when Jukarans warriors battled with the original form of Exodus. The cataclysm merged all three eras together, creating a new world dubbed New Britannia which would have introduced steampunk technology in the traditional medieval world of Britannia.
The story was further developed in a trilogy of novels:
- The Technocrat War 1: Machinations
- The Technocrat War 2: Masquerade
- The Technocrat War 3: Maelstrom
A preview of Ultima Online 2 is found on the Avatar's computer in Ultima IX. The Ultima series was first seen as a computer game in Ultima VII, though its impact on the story, if any, has never been brought up.
Ultima X: Odyssey
The setting of Ultima X: Odyssey (which could be seen as an Ultima Online 3, being the third planned Ultima MMORPG) takes place after the events of Ultima IX, where a new world is created and overseen by the Avatar. The setting was based on the original Britannia, with no given connection to Ultima Online or the shards.
|Worlds of Ultima Online|
|The Worlds||Britannia ☥ Trammel ☥ Felucca ☥ The Lost Lands ☥ Ilshenar ☥ Malas ☥ Tokuno Islands ☥ Ter Mur|