The Let's Play Archive

Ultima 1

by ManxomeBromide

Part 3: The Rabbit-Hole

Last time, we burned a dozen or so units of food figuring out the controls.

Heading west towards the castle, we see there is also a town near it. Let's start out by going to the town.

The town of "Britian" apparently was not completely translated out of the mirror-text. Alice is there in the bottom center, wearing blue, and most of the people we see here are shopkeepers or guards, except for the two guys throwing their hands up. Britain has a complete set of shops: Food, Weapons, Armor, Magic, Transportation, and a Pub. We use food at a steady rate while in the overworld and running out of food causes you to die. Dying is bad, so food is good:

Also notice that our Intelligence score of 30 means that we start out with a 20% discount on food. As for "Li'l Karelia", the back of the manual includes a message from Lord British with credits and acknowledgements. Let us pass over the part where Lord British thanks Richard Garriott for his brilliant programming efforts () and move on to the end, where he closes with the sentence And to all those persons found within this game, I extend warm greetings. I'm pretty sure that everyone we meet in this game in any town or castle is one of Garriott's friends or SCA companions. He wasn't really alone in this either, but I do like to think that we are here looking at a prototypical version of demosceners putting their long lists of greetings into their intros.

Breaking News: It's possible that "Li'l Karelia" is a more humble edition of something like "Lord British":

Rappaport posted:

I don't know how this relates to Mr. Garriott's circle of friends in the 80's, but Karelia is a place in Finland and Russia. I won't go into the history of the division (even though this could be seen as trolling the Soviets during the Cold War), but there's also the Karelian pirogi, which might be what this shop is selling!

One of the guys with his hands up is Iolo.

Alice pondered her situation. "Well," she thought, "I am apparently to defeat the evil wizard Mondain, and yet I have no idea where he is or how to do this, or, indeed, what to do first. Perhaps I should first get a cup of tea." She saw a building with a picture of a drink on the door, walked in, and gave the rabbity looking fellow there a copper coin, asking, "Pardon me, sir, but might I have a hot cup of tea?"

The proprietor looked her over, pocketed the coin, checked a watch from his waistcoat, and said, not unkindly, "You're late."

Alice sipped her cold tea and was about to ask when she should have arrived when she realized that this Mr. Varg was not yet done talking.

I have to give Mondain credit here. If you're worried about pesky heroes, having already been indestructible for a thousand years is a pretty solid plan for dealing with that. It also helps if you do not exist on the world map at all, since that way they can't get at your hit point total. The fabled Evil Overlord List included as item 12 "One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation." I'm inclined to say that this "already have been invulnerable for the past 1000 years, from a source that is itself immortal, and will continue to be so forever into the future" plan probably passes this test.

Unfortunately for Mondain, Alice is a bit older than five:

He neglected to make himself immortal an infinite amount of time into the past. We have a plan. That plan appears to be "wander around and kill stuff until a MacGuffin solves all our problems," but that's kind of par for the course in 1980, even in tabletop roleplaying.

And yes, you can just get this hint dropped on you right out of the gate, in the first town, with the first ale you buy. When you buy a drink, there's a chance of getting a hint (drawn from a small set of possible hints) and there is also a chance of being "seduced", which costs you half your gold. I think the chance of that increases with number of drinks in a location, and maybe also the proximity of Mr. Creepazoid (see Fig. 1) there hanging out in the pub and not being the bartender.

Fig. 1: Mr. Creepazoid in his natural habitat, as illustrated in the manual

Several of the other hints are just bits of the Big Hint:

and some are just completely useless.

The shops are pretty traditional. We've got armor:



Notice that the weapons and magic options are clearly missing entries. That's because any given town only sells half the catalogue. Notice also the "Rope and Hooks" weapon. While it would have been totally in-character for this to be some kind of kusarigama-like weapon, you actually can't attack with it. Instead, having it makes you immune to pit traps, or such was the plan, according to the articles I've read.

Ultima 1 does not have pit traps. Apparently earlier versions of it did, but they removed the pits without removing the item.

Then there's transport, which is a lot more interesting:

Horses and carts let you go overland while using a bit less food per distance traveled. Rafts and Frigates let you travel over water. Of these, Frigates are clearly the superior option because they have cannons.

For now, Alice is reasonably well-equipped, so she just replenishes her food supplies a bit and moves on to the castle...

... which is of course Lord British's. Mostly guards, and some stores that store stuff instead of sell it, a prisoner that seems to have a throne and crown just like the King does and... is that Chuckles?

Nope, that's "Gwino", which I am guessing is Gwenno.

We go to the king and "Transact":

We can offer pence or service. We're still a bit short on money, so we'll offer service instead:

Lord British wants us to go find the Grave of the Lost Soul and return. At the moment, we have no idea where that is, so we'll just keep that in mind as we go about our business.

On the way out, Alice took a wrong turn, and found herself in some kind of wardrobe. There she found a curious suit of very thick fabric, with a helmet made of very hard glass, an emblem that read "Space Adventures", and, of all things, the Union Jack.

Even more curious, it seems to be in her size. "It seems very strong, and that would be nice if I were attacked by monsters outside of town. Nobody seems to have objected to me picking it up, though, and it's already my size. Furthermore, I am the only person I have met so far that is my size, and I am also the only person here that is really from England, and there is the flag right on it. Perhaps I am intended to borrow it!"

Alice knew that she was convincing herself that it was all right to steal something, and that she shouldn't really do it, but at the moment the logic seemed sound and she hoped she could explain herself if anyone asked. As it is, not only did nobody object, they did not seem to notice that she was leaving dressed differently than she had entered. Perhaps it really
was okay.

Stealing from the castle stores is, I think, an agility check that grants you a random item on success, including, as we see here, items not available in shops. (When Richard Garriott did his flight into space, he did in fact bear the Union Jack, and apparently was only the second person to do so.) Failing the check causes all the guards to aggro on you, and right now, that will ruin us.

This is a great find, though; not only did we totally just steal Richard Garriott's spacesuit, that's better armor than plate mail and we can't afford plate yet anyway. Yes, wizards can wear plate without restrictions, but just because they can doesn't mean they want to.

As Alice left the castle, she found herself in need of a plan. "Mr. Varg said I need to traverse the lands in search of a time machine. It's not best to just wander about. I think I shall search this continent from one end to the other, and perhaps then find passage to other continents. I might find the Grave of the Lost Soul while I'm at it, and then that King might be grateful. I suppose I should ask his permission for borrowing his suit, too, but I can't do that until I find this Grave."

Heading north to begin her search in earnest, she found another town:

... which is Paws. Paws seems to be in most every Ultima game, and I swear it's in a different place in each game. It's interesting to us because it sells the other half of the weapons and magic lists:

Alice purchased an Axe to supplement her daggers, and continued north.

Off to the west, she saw a knight moving towards her. She decided it would be best to keep moving; she didn't know his intentions and wasn't confident fighting a full knight with just what she had now.

Finally, she reached the north end of the continent, where a large hole opened into the underground.

"Goodness," thought Alice. "It is like a giant rabbit hole. I wonder if it leads to the looking-glass Wonderland? If it does, perhaps everything in looking-glass Wonderland makes sense. Perhaps they can tell me where to find a time machine!"

Instead, it was just a dungeon. Welcome to Ultima 1 dungeons, which bring us back to the at-the-time more traditional first-person dungeon view. Dungeons are very dangerous, and we can't save while in them, but we also don't use food while in them.

The display is at least mostly self-explanatory; we're in a hallway, in front of a ladder up, and there are some doors to our left. We are facing south. But what's that pink blob?

It's a force field, is what it is. The "Destroy" spell will get rid of these, and the "Create" spell will create them, but if we leave the dungeon floor they'll snap back. That said, I'm pretty sure the only purpose of the Create spell is to lock you into a single-tile where you would starve to death, except for that little detail where you do not use food in dungeons. So that just means you're stuck and have to power off your computer!

Note also that only Wizards can purchase Destroy spells, but anyone can purchase Create.

Alice feels something rustle her suit and whirls around. A miscreant had snuck up on her while she was studying the force field!

Thieves are weak, but they steal items you don't have equipped. I've only ever seen them steal weapons, but I have no intention of giving them the opportunity to steal quest-critical items. I have no faith that they won't.

Behind the thief, a skeleton walked forward.

These fights were not taking much out of her, but she found herself wanting to be somewhere else. On the way past a door, though, she was attacked again!

Skeletons and theives hit for 2-3 damage each. Damage from giant rats starts at 10. They can be a bit of a shock if it's your first delve.

After defeating the rat, Alice high-tails it out of the dungeon, and...

As she stepped back into the sunshine, Alice sat down to rest. As she did, who should burst over the hill but the very knight she saw earlier! It reared up as if to strike, and Alice made for her Axe, but suddenly he turned aside and called in a friendly voice:

"What ho, little pawn! I have seen white pawns and red pawns, but never before a
blue pawn. I do not think as a White Knight that I should be capturing you! Are you all right? These caverns are dangerous."

Alice managed as much of a curtsey as she could in her vaccuum suit and tried to think of how best to be polite. "Thank you, good sir, but I think I am all right. In fact, I think I am somehow better than I was when I went underground."

The Knight laughed loud and long. "Oh, that is very good! We'll make a fine warrior of you yet."

Alice was still puzzled though. "The curious thing, though, is that I was not hurt to begin with. Back home healing stopped once you reached your maximum health."

The Knight was unimpressed. "A queer sort of country! It would seem it would take all the running you could do, just to stay in the same place. Here, when you grow stronger, you
actually grow stronger. How else could you meet the foes in the countryside?"

"Usually, the enemies near where I'd start would be much weaker, and only in further lands, or after I had trained and become stronger, would the stronger enemies begin to appear."

The Knight snorted, so loudly that Alice thought at first it was his horse. "Next you'll be telling me that in your home country the entire world revolves around you."

Alice was a bit flustered. "Well..."

"That aside, I do detect a bit of the air of destiny about you. Are you indeed a blue pawn? Or perhaps you are a card? You're small, but you fight quite well. Perhaps a seven, or an eight? It's hard to tell."

"Oh, I am exactly seven and a half today! Perhaps that it is why it is hard to tell. I don't know if I'm a pawn
or a card, though; I'm just Alice, usually. If I should be a chess piece or a card, though, either way I should think that I would like to be a Queen."

The Knight got down from his horse and offered Alice his hand to shake. "Alice, is it? I think we
shall make of you a Queen. And then, after that, we shall make you an Ace."