Part 38: In Which Ultima VI is Most Thoroughly Broken
In Which Ultima VI is Most Thoroughly Broken
Now, I assure you, I enjoy grinding as much as anyone here. But Ultima games really aren't about grinding up levels and money and if anything, that's inconvenient and annoying and counterproductive to enjoying the game. Anyone who grew up with this game or The Black Gate is familiar with what I like to call "fucking around to get incredibly rich," and that is what I shall now do.
Oh, there are many ways to make money. You can mine, you can go looking for loot, you can pull a cute trick I'll save for later, but that's kid stuff compared to what you can do to get cash in this game. I don't just want to get rich in Ultima VI. I want to break Ultima VI. So let's do that!
As you may recall, I took a Red Moongate somewhere. I'll just go ahead and say it now: I'm in Trinsic. Why am I in Trinsic?
Well, it's not to rob houses, although that's not a bad plan either.
There are a few things here in Trinsic of interest. The first is the Rune of Honor. I take it, because I will need it, and besides which it does technically belong to me. The game agrees, as it doesn't count as stealing.
This is Shamino's gimmick. He can detect monsters and give you an idea of the direction. Of course, he also detects rats and seagulls, so he's kind of useless.
This is what we're here for. Check out that sweet loot. Magic armor, giant two-handed weapons. Yeah man, if I could break in here... but why do that? Why not just legitimately buy this stuff?
Because I don't have any money, right. Well.
Let's take a Moongate to Yew and meet an individual who just might be able to help me with that.
You see a strange, glowing ball of energy.
"Again, 'you' of this plane address 'I' of the Xorinite dimension. By what name shall 'I' address 'you' this time?"
"This time? Oh, I'm Steve, I guess."
"Very well, 'Steve.' Do 'you' have memory of previous discussions with 'myself?'"
"Avatar, do you know this extradimensional entity?"
"I've met a lot of those but I don't think so."
"So be it. 'I' must often repeat information when conversing with the life of Britannia, it seems. 'I' do not see how each unit of life here can have different memories, different desires, but again 'I' inform Britannia that it is not so in 'my' realm. Those which 'you' know as 'wisp' in Britannia are projections of the life of Xorinia. 'I' extend into many planes besides this one. Britannia communicates with 'me' very seldom, and is known by those of very few other planes. Every time 'I' speak with Britannia, it seems 'I' must explain 'my' nature again, as 'I' have just done. That is very strange."
"Well, that all sounds perfectly reasonable."
"Xorinia serves as a conduit for information between different planes. In exchange, these planes provide information that can be used to improve Xorinia. Occasionally payment is accepted in the form of substance, but this is not preferred."
"So you're an information broker... in space."
"Britannia has never participated in the interplanar exchange of information."
"You're not missing much."
"'I' have presented a sample known in Britannian terms as a 'secret', but no further interest has been shown."
"Because of the nature of Britannian memory, 'I' now present the sample information to 'you' again." The wisp pulsates, fading from blue to white, then back to blue again. As it does so, a scroll materializes in your hand. "This is a simple invocation of the magic energy to bring about the cessation of all life."
"Well, this should be very wait what!?"
"What did he mean 'again?'"
"It is not a very useful or powerful form of magic, as it will only affect beings in the same plane where it is invoked. Inform any 'wisp' unit if 'you' have interest in further exchange."
"I'm almost afraid to ask what you'd give me."
"If 'you' present a reasonably dense information source to a 'wisp' unit, arrangements will be made to transfer some suitably valuable commodity into Britannian possession."
"Dense information, huh? I think I have an idea. Wait here."
"'I' find it unusual that 'you' find it so important to inform 'me' of the imminent cessation of proximity between one unit of Britannian life and one of Xorinite. Nonetheless, in accordance with 'your' custom: Goodbye, 'Steve.'"
I should probably be careful with this.
And now it's off to Moonglow!
Along the way we stop to camp, then hit the densest source of information on any planet: The library!
In this case, the Lyceum. But what books would a wisp like?
You see a busy man wearing a blue robe.
"So many books to keep organized, it's a wonder I have any time for my own studies... Can I help you with something?"
"What's with the dumb star on your head?"
"I am Thariand, of the blue star. All the students of Nicodemus bear this sign."
"Who is Nicodemus?"
"He lives southeast of Yew. Somebody there should be able to give you directions."
"I'll keep that in mind if I ever want to look like a complete tool. What is it you do in here?"
"I'm the librarian. I prefer to spend my time studying magic, but I'll help you find some books if you keep it quick."
"You also study magic?"
"Were I to master all the arcane lore contained within these volumes, I'd be the greatest sorcerer of all time! Of course, finding all the right books is no small task..."
"Actually, I am looking for a book... sort of."
"Were you interested in A. Fiction, B. Non-fiction, or C. Reference?"
"Which one is densest?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Which one would hurt most if I hit you with it?"
"Oh, definitely Reference."
"Is that speaking from experience?"
"Alright then, Reference."
"In that category I can recommend: 665.556 Dlz Dilzal's Almanac of Good Advice; a001.3 bfb Priliwig's Universal Compendium of Knowledge; 998.99 ZWX The Lost Book of Mantras. Is there anything else you wanted to find?"
"No thanks. One of those will do."
"Fine. You should have no trouble finding what you want once you have the call number. You do understand how our books are organized, don't you?"
"Oh, uh, yeah, sure."
"Good. I have more important things to do than explain it to you. Remember, any books you take out of here are due back before the next bipolar lunar conjunction!"
"Sentences like that are why people hit you with books."
"Hey, I have an idea, let's hit him with a book!"
"Right in the star! Ha ha! Dork."
Oh dear. It seems there's more security in this library than I had expected. Who blocks off a library with magical force fields? Fortunately, someone else who lives around here has the solution.
You see a wise, scholarly woman.
"Good morning, Avatar. For what purpose hast thou come?"
"How come everybody knows me around here when nobody did last time? And who are you?"
"I am Xiao. I think you were supposed to talk to me in the last game, but you were too lazy, which is why I know you - because I'm assuming you weren't - and you don't."
"Oh, right. So you... uh..."
"I serve on the Council of Wizards. I also teach spells and sell magical reagents."
"So you were on the Great Council, suddenly it makes slightly more sense."
"'Tis our task to keep the forces of magic in balance throughout the land. Not an easy task."
"I wonder if that will ever be used against you, like say in the next game."
"Just mumbling to myself. Sooooooo, let's buy us some spells!"
And that's exactly what we do. For 75 gold, the only investment necessary for this plot, I grab a scroll of Dispel Field, stick it in Steve's spellbook, and motor on back to the library.
Well, not quite. Before that, let's advance the plot a little.
You see a freckled young lady with an enchanting smile. (if you say so, Ultima VI)
"I'm sorry to put you to the trouble, but I'm only supposed to help those who know the ways of magic. So I have to ask you a question to test you..."
"Is this more copy protection?"
"Yes. What does the magic syllable 'Hur' mean?"
"Are you kidding me? It's wind. I didn't even have to look that one up."
"Well aren't you just a fancy little bitch."
"Shut up, Iolo."
"That's right! Now then, what can I help you with? They call me Mariah."
"Of course I know who you are, we've been friends for two games already."
"I'm the newest member of the Council of Wizards. Somebody has to keep things running smoothly. They get so caught up in their work sometimes that they forget even to eat and sleep! Such things matter little to them. They often dwell apart from the realm of the senses."
"I know. I know who you are."
"In my spare time I use the library to pursue my own studies."
"Just show her the book or this will never end."
"Yeah, I forgot we came here for that."
"I'd be glad to look at it for thee." She examines the book. "Oh! I've seen this script before! I have part of an ancient silver tablet in my study with writing both in our language and this. I have learned only a little from studying it, but I can make out a few words. The title is 'The Book of Prophecies,' and it says something about 'the end of our world.'"
"If only I had the other half of the tablet, perhaps I'd be able to decipher the rest of the book."
"Where'd you get the tablet piece you do have?'
"From some gypsies whom I met at a pub."
"That sounds reputable."
"Mayhap they can tell thee where to look for the other piece. Bring both pieces of the tablet here and I will tell thee what I can."
The tablet piece is here in the Lyceum. Our quest is of course now to grab the other one somehow.
However, we've got some shit to throw down first.
Here's the Lost Book of Mantras. It's not terribly interesting, but it is rather dense (1.0 stones, in fact! Or is that its mass?). Now that we have it, let's go back to Britain and, ahem, unload a little weight.
Steve dumps pretty much all the loot she's got on the ground in city hall, mostly for the space.
So does the rest of the party.
Now, let's coincidentally go back to Mr. Wisp.
"The volume 'you' bear with the symbol pattern representing the sounds 'The Book of Lost Mantras' is a prime source of high density information. Do 'you' wish 'me' to locate a client who is willing to make an exchange for it at this time?"
For a few moments, the wisp pulses, saying nothing. "It is done," the wisp says at last. "Rklbwm have expressed desire to possess this information. Hoping, no doubt, for a bargain, Rklbwm have offered a small quantity of the substance 'gold' in lieu of the customary useful information. But surely 'you' wish 'me' to arrange for Rklbwm to provide information of value to 'you.' Am 'I' correct to assume this?"
"Nope, we'll take the gold."
"Very well. 'You' have not sent enough life units to transport much substance, but it is 'your' decision to make." The wisp glows just a trifle brighter for a moment, and suddenly everyone notices that their packs have grown heavier. "It was a pleasure doing business with you."
Heavier packs? I wonder if...
Oh my goodness.
You'll also note we still have the book. In fact, I can make the gold exchange all over again if I want. I guess it wasn't the only thing that's extremely dense.
Back in Britain, it seems some of our stuff is missing. Primarily anything that we borrowed or stole. Fortunately, if a container counted as stolen, the contents didn't, so critical items and gear we started with is still around.
"Do you have any gold nuggets you'd like to trade for crowns?"
And now we're rich. 14000 or so gold rich. Really, really fucking rich. So rich that just getting and storing this quantity of gold is almost impossible to imagine. But we're not gonna waste a single gold piece, because I have a plan.
I had to drop a few things to snag some containers, but since Britannia has the most incredibly efficient petty thieves imaginable, my gold would disappear if I took my eyes off it even for a second. So I'm punting several stacks of 2000 all the way to Efram the Provisioner's.
Where I can pick up some backpacks. They can store up to 6000 gold (60 stones' worth), but I only want to put 2000 in each backpack to keep the weight manageable.
Now, that's just a storage convenience. Because if you were to store a bunch of gold in a single container, it would all lump together. If it gets over 6000 in a single stack, it becomes impossible to ever pick up the container or the gold, since as far as I know you can't split a stack of gold that isn't in your inventory. We don't want that, so keeping our gold in chunks of 2000 will ensure that Steve and Dupre can carry about 8000 gold total, 10k if Shamino is also carrying. Iolo isn't trustworthy with money so he doesn't get shit.
Even so, actually storing all this money is a problem. I can't just leave backpacks lying around; if all they have in them is cash, those squirrely Britannian pickpockets swoop in and swipe it, backpack and all. I believe this is because the game cleans up "temporary" items every time you leave a game chunk, and discarded money counts. It may be possible to put one non-disappearing item in every money pack, like a potion or a lockpick, but I don't want to chance it because there is a much more reliable place to store my loot.
A chest. What, you thought it would be something weird? Items placed in a closed chest will never be removed from the game or decay.
But don't take my word for it.
"Mmmmmmm, fresh corpsey goodness."
This chest will come in handy as I juggle backpacks and gold stacks, shoving multiple backpacks into the chest for banking purposes.
Of course I can't risk letting the corpses rot, so I drag the chest from Lord British's bedroom into mine.
Check this out. Each one of those packs has about 2000 gold in it. I can't carry it all at once, but this is a pretty convenient place to leave stuff, and I happen to know that the chest in the Avatar's room is almost completely secure.
Still, there's no reason to be frugal. Let's go spend some of that money. To Trinsic!
You see a golden-haired young man.
"Hey! The Avatar! Good afternoon, milady! You've come to me to aid thee in thy quest! What an honor!"
"Well, I've heard you're the man to see."
"My name's Brandon, milady, and I'm honored to meet thee! Oh, I'm not important like you. I'm just a weaponsmith - and only a journeyman at that. Just a few years ago I was a simple apprentice. Now I supply arms to all Trinsic!"
"You seem to be doing pretty well for yourself, actually."
"I have to make weapons to help fight the gargoyles! Perhaps you'd like to buy some. I'd be honored to have thee as a customer."
"I have just one question: Do you make Magic Armor like I saw when I was contemplating robbing you?"
"Have a backpack full of money."
Brandon sells Magic Armor and Magic Helms, which are lightweight for armor and absorb an ungodly amount of damage. It basically would take a two-hander for a human opponent to even nick us. Everyone but Sherry, that is, who still can't wear any. But we'll have plenty of ways to get her a suit when the time comes.
The fun hardly stops with gear, though. Xiao has lots more spells to sell. Some will be usable (and useful) immediately...
Others... well, I can dream, can't I? They can't be used yet, but it's so very comforting to have them in the spellbook, don't you agree?
I contemplated also getting a Magic Bow, so I headed to Iolo's and it was only then that I realized I had less than the required 300 gold on Steve. Get this: Gwenneth gave me one on credit. I'm floored. Someone who actually trusts the Avatar!
It almost makes me feel bad not mentioning Dupre had 4000 on him.
Then it's back to Brandon to load up on badass weapons. There's actually a few better things I can buy, but I'll get around to it later.
And that's how I broke Ultima VI.