Anyhow, with all that long blabbity blah out of the way, here's this first Monday's entry:
The Kingdom of Loathing
Game type: Web-based, no download, signup required
Time demand: However much you want to put into it, although oddly for many web-games this one has a limit of "turns" you can play per day. This can be extended with things like eating and drinking, but there's a limit to how much of that you can do per day, as well.
Cost: Free, with donations possible but not begged for overtly. Donations can however give you some pretty sweet items that aren't picked up in the normal game, but at the same time those items don't break any sort of balance.
What it is: Awesome. Well, okay, that's a bit succint. It's a web-based game illustrated with stick figures and simple sketches, in which you create a character then start to explore the world. It seems very simplistic at first, with only one or two locations you can visit, fight in, etc., plus markets and such. But as you explore and gain levels, more and more locations open up - some automatically as you gain quests, and some as you find new items and use old ones in interesting ways.
This game has a warped and intricate sense of humor, and while some quests and so on are fairly straightforward and blatant as to the solutions, others can be really damn subtle at times. If you need help you can hit the forums where they try to give less spoilery nudges in the right direction, or do websearches for more blatant assistance if you Just Don't Get It. And once you go through the game as one of the six classes and beat one of the higher-level quests, you have the option to Ascend, and start your character over (with some form of access to old money, items, etc), possibly keeping one of your old skills permanently to slowly build your character into quite a powerhouse.
All in all, the subtleties, the humor, and the ton of stuff to do (eventually) make this one a keeper, and you don't have the worry of spending all day playing it and burning out, since there is that turn limit. There are even clans and opt-in PvP if that's your type of thing, though I haven't done anything with either so I can't really review them.
Enjoy! And let me know what you think of this Monday links idea in general - lame? Cool? Whatever...