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    What is an alt?

    An alt, short for alternate character, is a secondary or additional character created by a player in a roleplaying game, particularly a multiplayer game.

    Unlike a player’s main character, an alt often explores different aspects of the game, such as storylines, skills, or perspectives. Alts allow players to experience the game from multiple viewpoints without affecting the progress and storyline of their primary character.

    A brief history of the term

    The concept of an alternate character originated in the early days of text-based roleplaying games. Players seeking new experiences or strategies would create additional characters separate from their primary one.

    This practice became more common as online gaming communities grew, especially in multi-user dungeons (MUDs) and later massively multiplayer online roleplaying games (MMORPGs).

    Early text-based games offered limited character progression, leading players to explore different roles and narratives through alternate characters. As games became more complex, the role of alternates expanded to include spying in PvP environments or managing in-game resources.

    Over time, the use of alternate characters has evolved. In some gaming communities, having an alternate character has become a standard practice, while in others, it’s seen as unnecessary or even frowned upon.

    The perception and utility of alternate characters vary widely, reflecting the diverse objectives and cultures of different gaming communities.

    Modern usage

    Alternate characters are still common in various gaming communities, especially where roleplaying and character development are key elements. They allow players to experience different facets of the game without starting over or abandoning their main character’s progress.

    Types of games that use the term “alt” include but are not limited to:

    MUD, MUSH, MMORPG, RPG, Chat RPG, Social media RPG, and their respective communities.

    Myths about alts

    A common misconception is that creating alts is primarily for avoiding consequences or starting anew after a setback.

    However, alts are often used to enhance the gaming experience by exploring different storylines, roles, and strategies without impacting the main character’s journey. They’re not about escaping gameplay challenges but about embracing the game’s full spectrum.

    Alt examples

    • A player’s main character is a warrior; their alt might be a mage to explore magical aspects of the game.
    • In a play-by-post forum, a player might create an alt with a different background and personality to engage in separate storylines.
    • A player might use an alt to safely test a new strategy or game update without risking their main character’s resources or status.
    • In a MUSH, a player might create alts to participate in different factions or story arcs simultaneously.

    Alt FAQs

    What is the purpose of having an alt?

    Alts provide players with the opportunity to explore different game mechanics, roles, and narrative paths. They allow for a richer, more varied gaming experience and can serve as a backup when the player needs a break from playing their main character.

    They’re also convenient if a player prefers a little more variety than one character alone typically allows. Many players get bored playing the same character for long periods of time.

    Can alts interact with the main character?

    In non-roleplaying games, alts can usually interact with the player’s main character. In roleplaying games, interaction is often discouraged or restricted by game rules to prevent unfair advantages or conflicts of interest.

    Interaction policies vary widely between different games. In some roleplay-heavy games, alts may be completely forbidden from even being in the same room, let alone being involved in the same storylines – or even having close relationships with the same player characters.

    1. You may only have two active characters at most. 2. Only one of your characters may be from a Grand Duchy House.
    Example alt policy used by Concordia MU.

    How many alts can a player have?

    The number of alts a player can have varies greatly depending on the game’s rules and server capacity. Some games allow unlimited alts, while others restrict players to a handful to ensure fair play and server stability.

    In World of Warcraft, for example, players can have up to 60 characters on their account, either all on the same server or spread across different servers.

    Are alts considered cheating?

    Alts themselves are not considered cheating as long as they adhere to the game’s rules and policies. However, using alts to circumvent rules, harass players, or gain unfair advantages can be considered cheating.

    In serious roleplaying games, like RPIs, sharing information, items, or money between two characters you play is usually considered a pretty serious offense. It doesn’t matter whether the character who benefits is considered an alt or a main, in these contexts.

    How can I avoid claims of metagaming while having alts?

    This may sound tedious, but if you decide to play multiple characters, the best way to avoid claims of metagaming or crossover is to log everything and take good notes on your game account.

    If one character finds out about something the other character heard or saw, make a note about how it happened and attach a log. That way, if an issue arises, a staffer can check your notes and confirm that no metagaming occurred.

    Many serious RP games that allow alts provide some sort of note-taking system for this purpose, with notes that are only visible by the player and staff.

    Can you play multiple alts at the same time?

    Some games, usually PvE games, allow players to play multiple characters at the same time, either on one or across multiple accounts. Players usually do this because they enjoy the challenge of coordinating actions and abilities across multiple characters simultaneously.

    In text-based games, this is known as multiplaying. In MMORPGs, such as World of Warcraft, this is known as multiboxing.

    What are some terms similar to “alt” used in RPGs?

    Similar terms include “mule” (a character used for storing items), “secondary” (another character a player might use less frequently than their main), “smurf” (an experienced player’s lower-ranked account), and “twink” (a character given advanced items or resources from higher-level characters).

    These terms, like “alt,” describe different types of alternative characters players might create.

    Related terms

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    About the author

    Andruid is a writer, roleplayer, storyteller, and nerd who tries to live by Bill and Ted wisdom, i.e. "Be excellent to each other."