The Let's Play Archive

Ultima VII: The Black Gate

by Nakar

Part 14: The Black Gate - Teach Me, Steve! - Magic in Britannia

"Hey, hey Steve!"
"What do you want, Short Round?"
"You never actually taught me about magic."
"Did I ever actually say I was going to?"
"As far as you know, yes."
"Well shit then."

Teach Me, Steve! - Magic in Britannia

"You're just doing this as filler, aren't you?"
"What? Noooooo."
"No, she's doing this because she forgot to the last two games."
"You guys can be real jerks."
"We take the few opportunities we're given."
"Alright so, uh, magic. Magic is a lame superpower I have gradually been cornering the market on ever since five out of eight classes could cast it back in Ultima IV. Magic is the ability to, three to five times per day, do something that could have been done for less effort in a mundane manner, and now and then to kill somebody who really has it coming."
"That doesn't sound very-"
"But wait! Magic also gives you the option to do these things using expensive reagents that are consumed whenever you cast a spell!"

Also you need words of power. The good news is that Ultima VII doesn't actually make you memorize them.

"I have to memorize them."

Yes well the rest of us don't. Much like the runic alphabet, there is a surprisingly coherent system in place for words of power despite coming from the frothing insanity that is Richard Garriott's brain.

Syllable Meaning AN............. Negate/Dispel BET............ Small CORP.......... Death DES............ Lower/Down EX............. Freedom FLAM........... Flame FRIO........... Cold GRAV........... Energy/Field HUR............ Wind IN............. Make/Create/Cause/Invoke JUX............ Danger/Trap/Harm KAL............ Summon/Invoke LOR............ Light MANI........... Life/Healing NOX............ Poison ORT............ Magic POR............ Move/Movement QUAS........... Illusion REL............ Change SANCT.......... Protect/Protection TYM............ Time UUS............ Raise/Up VAS............ Great WIS............ Know/Knowledge XEN............ Creature YLEM........... Matter ZU............. Sleep
"Why is FRIO in there when no spell in The Black Gate uses it?"
"Because some smartass copied this out of a .pdf of Serpent Isle's manual. Not pointing fingers."

Alright already. Let's look at those damn spells.

The first circle is technically not the "lowest" level of spells; there's also cantrips, or Linear spells, which require no magic points or reagents and are largely pretty worthless. But what do you want for free?

In Serpent Isle this will suddenly be named the First Circle with each circle receiving a promotion accordingly. I have no idea why they did this because it was always eight levels before. Maybe they use the metric system in Serpent Isle.

Awaken (An Zu - "Dispel Sleep")

Orange potions suck by virtue of not being blue, green, or black potions. Also there's this spell which does the same thing for free.

Weather (Rel Hur - "Change Wind")

Makes some black sprites crawl over the game window as you turn the weather overcast or something. Exactly as useful as it sounds.

Douse (An Flam - "Dispel Fire")

I can't think of a reason you would ever want to douse anything, especially since you can turn off lamps, candles, and torches by double-clicking them.

Fireworks (Bet Ort - "Small Magic")

Summons some sparklies. Does nothing. Supposedly can make Headless run away or something, because I'm so scared of Headless.

Glimmer (Bet Lor - "Small Light")

The weakest Light spell. Not bad though.

Help (Kal Lor - "Invoke Light")

Teleports you to Lord British's castle, like it did in Ultima VI. Kind of useful if you're screwed otherwise.

Ignite (In Flam - "Create Fire")

Again, just fucking double click, it takes less work than casting this spell.

Thunder (Vas Kal - "Great Summon")

Causes a thunderclap. Note, thunder, not lightning. So yeah, it doesn't do anything.

Create Food (In Mani Ylem - "Create Life Matter") Reagents: Garlic, Ginseng, Mandrake Root

Supposedly creates enough food for the entire party to have one meal, but it usually creates crappy food like bananas and fruitcake, with the occasional turkey or stack of pancakes. Creates them on the ground too, which is kind of gross.

Cure (An Nox - "Dispel Poison") Reagents: Ginseng, Garlic

Cures poison. Not terrible, but poison is not the threat it was in Ultima IV and V.

Detect Trap (Wis Jux - "Know Danger") Reagents: Spider's Silk, Nightshade

Detects all traps around you. Except you'll never have traps around you any time you actually think to use this spell, because all traps in Ultima VII are pretty much completely invisible and just randomly spring on you in the middle of a hallway or something. Thanks a lot, Origin!

Great Douse (Vas An Flam - "Great Dispel Fire") Reagents: Garlic, Spider's Silk

Turns off all lights around you. I'm trying to think of something good to say about this spell and failing. Now I'm trying to think of something funny to say about this spell and failing again.

Great Ignite (Vas In Flam - "Great Create Fire") Reagents: Sulfurous Ash, Spider's Silk

Turns on all lights around you, except most lights will already be on, because other people in Britannia aren't retarded and like having lights on at night.

Light (In Lor - "Create Light") Reagent: Sulfurous Ash

Makes the area brighter. Again, not bad.

Locate (In Wis - "Create Knowledge") Reagent: Nightshade

Copies the effect of a Sextant, except it requires a reagent and can't be hotkeyed like a sextant! Totally worthless!

Awaken All (Vas An Zu - "Great Dispel Sleep") Reagents: Ginseng, Garlic

Wakes up everyone around you. Do this in the poorhouse in Paws at midnight to be a real asshole.

Destroy Trap (An Jux - "Dispel Danger") Reagents: Sulfurous Ash, Blood Moss

Destroys all those traps you never see because you never cast Detect Trap. Meaning you will never cast this. Probably doesn't work anyway, I've never cast it in the 15 years I've owned this game.

Enchant (Ort Ylem - "Magic Matter") Reagents: Black Pearl, Mandrake Root

Turns stacks of arrows and bolts into magic arrows and bolts. Super handy, as magic arrows/bolts are a decent upgrade in damage from the regular variety and you can buy the regular kind rather cheaply. Less useful in Serpent Isle when there are lots of different kinds of magical ammo, especially Serpent Arrows, although it's still handy for making bolts for Iolo.

Fire Blast (Vas Flam - "Great Fire") Reagents: Sulfurous Ash, Black Pearl

A cheap, low-end damage spell. It's actually pretty good. You can leave the page mark on this spell with the spellbook in hand and the Avatar will attack with it until running out of reagents or magic power, which will be a while.

Great Light (Vas Lor - "Great Light") Reagents: Sulfurous Ash, Mandrake Root

The best light spell. I try to leave it up at all times in dungeons, especially since I need the light up to take good screenshots. The Infravision cheat basically gives you this spell all the time.

Mass Cure (Vas An Nox - "Great Dispel Poison") Reagents: Mandrake Root, Garlic, Ginseng

Cures poison for the entire party. Generally when poison actually strikes, multiple party members will get hit. Good way to clean everybody up at once.

Protection (Uus Sanct - "Raise Protection") Reagents: Sulfurous Ash, Ginseng, Garlic

Increases a single thing's defense. I almost never use this because good armor is easy to find and the effect is not as great as you might think, especially given its duration.

Telekinesis (Ort Por Ylem - "Magic[ally] Move Matter") Reagents: Blood Moss, Mandrake Root, Black Pearl

Sort of pointless if you have the Hack Mover, which lets you manipulate distant objects much as this spell does. Has a few plot uses in Serpent Isle though.

Wizard Eye (Por Ort Wis - "Move Magic Knowledge") Reagents: Blood Moss, Nightshade, Mandrake Root, Sulfurous Ash, Black Pearl, Spider's Silk

Conjures up a roving camera for about 20 seconds that you can scroll around with. You might be able to screw with the game in a few places by casting this and scrolling past an area you're "supposed" to see. I think this is more common in Serpent Isle, where I'm not even sure this spell exists.

Curse (Des Sanct - "Lower Protection") Reagents: Sulfurous Ash, Nightshade, Garlic

Lowers an enemy's defense. When you're rolling with the kind of hardware I've got, it's just rubbing it in.

Heal (Mani - "Heal") Reagents: Ginseng, Garlic, Spider's Silk

Heals somebody for about 10 health or so. Probably the most useful spell in the first couple of levels.

Swarm (Kal Bet Xen - "Summon Small Creature") Reagents: Nightshade, Mandrake Root, Blood Moss

Summons bees, which buzz around and do nothing whatsoever. What the hell did you think it would do? Attack your enemies? Hah!

Protect All (Vas Uus Sanct - "Great Raise Protection") Reagents: Sulfurous Ash, Ginseng, Garlic, Mandrake Root

Protects the entire party. More useful than the regular Protect, and I guess I should cast it more often, but it's sometimes hard to know when you're going into a big fight.

Paralyze (An Por - "Dispel Movement") Reagents: Spider's Silk, Nightshade

Prevents something from moving, when it actually sticks, which it seems to do maybe half the time. The other half of the time, the thing dies before it makes any difference. I believe this one too can be rapid-fired by leaving the page marker on it.

Peer (Vas Wis - "Great Knowledge") Reagents: Nightshade, Mandrake Root

Brings up the world map for the cost of two rarish reagents, thus proving even more wasteful than both the map of Britannia you start the game with and the F3 cheat!

Poison (In Nox - "Invoke Poison") Reagents: Nightshade, Blood Moss, Black Pearl

Poisons something. Useless as hell unless you're trying to covertly murder, and if you're doing that you need to use green potions anyway because this spell often gets traced back to you and people go hostile.

Sleep (In Zu - "Invoke Sleep") Reagents: Nightshade, Spider's Silk, Black Pearl

Puts something to sleep. Basically the same as a blue potion but I think Sleep can be resisted where the blue potion cannot.

Conjure (Kal Xen - "Summon Creature") Reagents: Spider's Silk, Mandrake Root

Summons weak creatures to fight for you, except it summons nothing with any combat skill and also it won't usually fight anyway. Two chickens and a fox, look out dragons!

Lightning (Ort Grav - "Magic Energy") Reagents: Black Pearl, Sulfurous Ash, Mandrake Root

Shoots a lightning bolt that does damage. Not as sexy as the one in Baldur's Gate that bounces off walls. Can also be pagemarked, but is kind of reagent-hungry.

Mark (Kal Por Ylem - "Summon Movement Matter") Reagents: Mandrake Root, Black Pearl, Blood Moss

If you don't cheat, and even kind of if you do, this is the way to set teleport locations. Also known as "this spell will get your house picked clean in about 30 minutes" in Ultima Online.

Mass Curse (Vas Des Sanct - "Great Lower Protection") Reagents: Sulfurous Ash, Nightshade, Garlic, Mandrake Root

Turns all your enemies, most wild animals, and possibly innocent townspeople into bumbling retards, which would be pretty awesome if they weren't weak dorks who die in one hit from Arcadion anyway.

Recall (Kal Ort Por - "Summon Magic Movement") Reagents: Mandrake Root, Black Pearl, Blood Moss

Mark's better half. Try not to confuse Recall for Mark and accidentally bind yourself to the place you meant to leave, not that I've ever done this all the time.

Reveal (Wis Quas - "Know Illusion") Reagents: Sulfurous Ash, Blood Moss

Turns invisible things nearby visible. Most invisible things in Ultima VII have a faint outline anyway, and there are exhaustive guides on the internet that tell you where most hidden stuff is these days, but it could be useful once or twice.

Seance (Kal Wis Corp - "Summon Knowledge [of] Death") Reagents: Blood Moss, Mandrake Root, Nightshade, Spider's Silk, Sulfurous Ash

Plot-related spell used to talk to ghosts. Why would we need to talk to ghosts? Because there are some ghosts we need to talk to. Can't just talk to ANY old dead person, oh no, that would make this spell clever.

Unlock Magic (Ex Por - "Free Movement") Reagents: Sulfurous Ash, Blood Moss

I never got what's so great about magical locks when one spell opens everything so locked.

Charm (An Xen Ex - "Negate Creature Freedom") Reagents: Black Pearl, Nightshade, Spider's Silk

Make a worthless creature your ally, except you already have three worthless creatures as your permanent allies, and like it or not they fight better than your average Headless. Also, this spell never sticks.

Dance (Por Xen - "Move Creature") Reagents: Mandrake Root, Garlic, Blood Moss

Move creature's ass is more like it. Makes everybody dance. This doesn't upset anyone (except Lord British, enemy of Funk everywhere), as well it should not, and is a great way to entertain in the Blue Boar.

Dispel Field (An Grav - "Dispel Energy") Reagents: Garlic, Black Pearl, Sulfurous Ash, Spider's Silk

Dispels a poison, sleep, fire, or force field. The first three don't matter much, the last one is kind of a pain. This spell is nearly impossible to find for 2/3 of Serpent Isle because the designers couldn't come up with a more clever way to make plot-critical areas inaccessible until later than with force fields.

Explosion (Vas Flam Hur - "Great Fire Wind") Reagents: Mandrake Root, Sulfurous Ash, Black Pearl, Blood Moss

Blows up an area, kinda like a powder keg. Except it costs reagents, and powder kegs can be stolen acquired from mines and provisioners.

Great Heal (Vas Mani - "Great Heal") Reagents: Ginseng, Spider's Silk, Mandrake Root, Garlic

Heals somebody 100%. Great spell. Don't worry, we'll get to ones worth a damn eventually.

Invisibility (Sanct Lor - "Protection [from] Light") Reagents: Nightshade, Blood Moss

Like black potions but annoying, but if you're short on one you can use the other. I'm not sure just how useful being invisible actually is, but if nothing else you can use it as an extra layer of security when stealing.

Fire Field (In Flam Grav - "Invoke Fire Energy") Reagents: Black Pearl, Sulfurous Ash, Spider's Silk

Creates a field of fire that burns anything that walks through it. Sadly, about the only thing that will walk through it is Shamino, because monster pathfinding is slightly more clever than your allies.

Mass Sleep (Vas Zu - "Great Sleep") Reagents: Ginseng, Nightshade, Spider's Silk

Slightly more unique than blue potions because it can drop a lot of people in one shot. Doesn't always stick, but when it does it's nice. Despite what you might think, sleep is actually a good way to break up groups of enemies, and monsters don't always wake up in time to fight back.

Cause Fear (Quas Wis - "Illusion Knowledge") Reagents: Nightshade, Mandrake Root, Garlic

Inferior to diapers. I never thought I'd type that, but there you go.

Clone (In Quas Xen - "Create Illusion Creature") Reagents: Sulfurous Ash, Spider's Silk, Blood Moss, Ginseng, Nightshade, Mandrake Root

Nerfed heavily from its glory days in Ultima VI, it now only clones creatures, and the clone doesn't last long. Decent if you clone a dragon, probably a waste of time otherwise.

Fire Ring (Kal Flam Grav - "Summon Fire Energy") Reagents: Sulfurous Ash, Black Pearl, Mandrake Root, Spider's Silk

Creates a ring of fire fields around the target. If you were, say, standing still and shooting a bow, casting this on the Avatar would create a ring of fields around his feet that would burn up enemies or, more likely, his allies once they're done beating up stuff.

Flame Strike (Vas In Flam Grav - "Great Invoke Fire Energy") Reagents: Sulfurous Ash, Black Pearl, Blood Moss

Similar to Arcadion's "Fire" ability, sort of a combination of Fire Field, Fire Blast, and Explosion. Does very good damage.

Magic Storm (Vas Ort Hur - "Great Magic Wind") Reagents: Mandrake Root, Nightshade, Sulfurous Ash, Blood Moss

Conjures up a storm. Unlike Weather and Thunder, this storm actually causes magical lightning to strike, and it can actually kill things provided you're willing to stand around while the storm gathers.

Poison Field (In Nox Grav - "Invoke Poison Energy") Reagents: Nightshade, Spider's Silk, Black Pearl

Creates a stationary poison field that, well, poisons whatever walks into it. Less useful than a green potion or the Poison spell multiple spell levels below this one!

Sleep Field (In Zu Grav - "Invoke Sleep Energy") Reagents: Ginseng, Spider's Silk, Black Pearl

Creates a stationary sleep field. See Poison Field for why this sucks.

Tremor (Vas Por Ylem - "Great Movement [of] Matter") Reagents: Blood Moss, Sulfurous Ash, Mandrake Root

Causes your parents' 386 to hardlock.

Create Gold (Rel Ylem - "Change Matter") Reagents: Mandrake Root, Spider's Silk

Misleading spell name; the words of power are more accurate. This changes lead nuggets into gold nuggets. Gold nuggets can be sold at the mint. Lead nuggets can be mined in near-infinite supplies using mining machines in certain dungeons/mines/caves. Can give you a steady supply of gold, minus the reagent cost. Spider silk is cheap though.

Death Bolt (Corp Por - "Death Movement") Reagents: Black Pearl, Nightshade, Sulfurous Ash

The last thing you ever see in UO. Probably the best spell that can be pagemarked.

Delayed Blast (Tym Vas Flam - "Time Great Fire") Reagents: Mandrake Root, Sulfurous Ash, Black Pearl, Blood Moss, Spider's Silk

Like Explosion or a powder keg, except things can move away from it! Great!

Energy Field (In Sanct Grav - "Invoke Protection Energy") Reagents: Mandrake Root, Spider's Silk, Black Pearl, Sulfurous Ash

Creates an impassible barrier that can only be dispelled by Dispel Field. Monsters can't dispel fields, but then again, you'll just have to do it yourself at some point.

Energy Mist (In Hur Grav Ylem - "Invoke Wind [of] Energy Matter") Reagents: Mandrake Root, Nightshade, Sulfurous Ash, Blood Moss

Creates a sparkley field around the target that damages stuff that gets close to it. Not bad on melee characters but there are better spells, like the Eighth Circle ones.

Mass Charm (Vas An Xen Ex - "Great Negate Creature Freedom") Reagents: Black Pearl, Nightshade, Spider's Silk, Mandrake Root

Totally stupid, much like regular Charm. Half the enemies join your side, or maybe none of them! You usually can't tell what they are! Then it wears off and you have to kill them anyway!

Mass Might (In Vas Por - "Invoke Great Movement") Reagents: Black Pearl, Mandrake Root, Ginseng

Boosts everybody's combat stats. Not that Steve's can get any better, but everybody else can.

Restoration (Vas Mani - "Great Healing") Reagents: Ginseng, Garlic, Sulfurous Ash, Mandrake Root

Fully heals all party members and cures poison. The obvious "best" heal spell.

Armageddon (Vas Kal An Mani In Corp Hur Tym - "Great Summon Negate Life Invoke Death Wind Time") Reagents: Black Pearl, Blood Moss, Garlic, Ginseng, Mandrake Root, Nightshade, Spider's Silk, Sulfurous Ash

Kills the entire planet except for four people, one of them you. Do not use when deer hunting.

This spell is not in Serpent Isle, although destroying the world in SI  is part of the plot . It's replaced by the lame Imbalance spell that sucks.

Death Vortex (Vas Corp Hur - "Great Death Wind") Reagents: Mandrake Root, Nightshade, Sulfurous Ash, Blood Moss

The single best spell in the game, in my opinion. Creates a semi-swift vortex of swirling pain that chases something down and damages it constantly. Like the Terminator, it absolutely will not stop until the target is dead. It can also be cast on an area but this is a bit spotty, and it disappears eventually. Doesn't harm you if you get up close to it while it's chasing a target. Capable of killing some things that Death Bolt and Mass Death won't instantly kill.

Mass Death (Vas Corp - "Great Death") Reagents: Garlic, Ginseng, Mandrake Root, Nightshade, Blood Moss

Kills everything in a wide radius around the Avatar. Except, that is, the Avatar, companions, and (some, generally most, but not always) innocents. If you have more reagents than sense at high levels and don't want to deal with a dozen fucking Headless for the sixteenth time, this ends the battle right off.

Invisibile All (Vas Sanct Lor - "Great Protection [from] Light") Reagents: Mandrake Root, Nightshade, Blood Moss, Black Pearl

Turns the whole party invisible. Could be good for getting in an ambush, though I can't say it's spectacular given the cost.

Resurrect (In Mani Corp - "Invoke Life [from] Death") Reagents: Garlic, Ginseng, Spider's Silk, Sulfurous Ash

Like getting Lord British to do it, except expensive and you don't get to dump them on his dinner table. Mostly good for reviving Iolo when he gets himself killed so you don't have to drag back his body and all the stuff he was carrying.

Summon (Kal Vas Xen - "Summon Great Creature") Reagents: Mandrake Root, Garlic, Blood Moss

Summons a creature. Unlike Conjure and Swarm, this creature is sometimes useful. Except you could just summon a Death Vortex, which doesn't waste time wandering around, doesn't have pathing issues, and can't be attacked.

Swordstrike (In Jux Por Ylem - "Invoke Danger Movement Matter") Reagents: Black Pearl, Nightshade, Mandrake Root

The most powerful damage spell you can pagemark, it shoots some swords that explode into a circle of even more swords. Does almost as much damage on a successful hit as the Black Sword, and it has excellent range. Again though, a Death Bolt or Death Vortex will generally do the same thing faster.

Time Stop (An Tym - "Negate Time") Reagents: Mandrake Root, Garlic, Blood Moss

Stops time, what else were you expecting? Better than sleep and curse and paralyze and all those other spells for beating on things while they're helpless, although the duration strikes me as a bit short. It also stops certain fields and effects from taking place, which can be exploited in a few rare cases I can't even think of right now but will let you know about if I do remember.

Some people were maybe a bit curious about selling gems. Here's the guy that does it. You have to talk to him about his job, then about the materials he uses, and he'll finally bring up selling him gems. Doesn't matter what kind, he pays 30 gold for any of 'em.

Now that this cleverly-concealed filler post is done-

"I'm pretty sure everybody is realizing this post is just you stalling for time today."
"It's been three or four days since we got the Black Sword and you haven't murdered anyone."
"Yeah, stop holding out on me like this."

-I wanted to explain my plans for the rest of the updates. Now, Ultima VII is a pretty freeform game. There are lots of places we could visit by randomly wandering around. However, the game does have a plot, and as part of the plot we are often dispatched to visit places. My intention is to explore those places as we come to them; for example, we're sent to Vesper at one point and while we're there we can  investigate the drug smuggling, raid the blackrock mine, and look for the buried treasure . We could go do these things now, but I'd like to string content along while also actually making forward progress with the storyline. After all, this all has to conclude at some point.

Having said that, there's plenty of weird stuff in Britannia and while I know a lot, I don't know everything. If, as we're going along, there's someplace you want to see, go ahead and bring it up. If there's mechanics you want elaborated upon, say so. But I'll be working on the main structure of organization here because this game has a beginning and an end and I suspect fewer people have seen those than have found the secret cheat room in Trinsic.

Serpent Isle is comfortably linear, so this won't be an issue once we're into Part II. Just keeping you on the up and up!