The Let's Play Archive

Ultima VII Part 2: Serpent Isle

by Nakar

Part 55: SPECIAL SESSION - Serpent Isle's Spellbook

Special Session - Serpent Isle's Spellbook

This was requested, and I'm a little busy today, so it's as good a time as any for an informative mini-update. Not much need be said about weapons and armor in Serpent Isle, as they're largely the same as in The Black Gate. Magic, however, has received a minor overhaul.

First, of course, the Words of Power, which are familiar enough:

Syllable Meaning AN Negate/Dispel NOX Poison BET Small ORT Magic CORP Death POR Move/Movement DES Lower/Down QUAS Illusion EX Freedom REL Change FLAM Flame SANCT Protect/Protection FRIO Cold TYM Time GRAV Energy/Field UUS Raise/Up HUR Wind VAS Great IN Make/Create/Cause WIS Know/Knowledge JUX Danger/Trap/Harm XEN Creature KAL Summon/Invoke YLEM Matter LOR Light ZU Sleep MANI Life/Healing

And now, the spells!

First Circle

Create Food (IN MANI YLEM, "Create Healing Matter")
Reagents: Garlic, Ginseng, Mandrake Root

Makes some food. Largely useless because you can get a ton before you get your spellbook, and once you do have it, the Everflowing Goblet isn't far away, which completely negates this spell's usefulness.

Cure (AN NOX, "Negate Poison")
Reagents: Garlic, Ginseng

Cures poison. Nothing fancy, but it does what it's gotta do. Easier than carting around red potions in most cases, especially with the Ring of Reagents to reduce the already meager cost.

Detect Trap (WIS JUX, "Know Danger")
Reagents: Nightshade, Spider's Silk

I'm not sure how useful this is. I cast it once in Spinebreaker thinking it might actually help but it only faintly outlined the traps for a second or so and then I forgot where they were and walked into them anyway. Thanks a lot, Detect Trap.

Great Douse (VAS AN FLAM, "Great Negate Flame")
Reagents: Garlic, Spider's Silk

Puts out all light sources on the screen. Only slightly more useless than...

Great Ignite (VAS IN FLAM, "Great Cause Flame")
Reagents: Sulfurous Ash, Spider's Silk

Turns on all light sources on screen. This sometimes applies to things other than torches and candles. Useful in one or two places if you're lazy.

Light (IN LOR, "Create Light")
Reagent: Sulfurous Ash

Pointless because of Great Light, and even more pointless because of the Helm of Light.

Locate (IN WIS, "Create Knowledge")
Reagent: Nightshade

Useless. If I needed to know where I was, I'd be more inclined to use a sextant and map (or F3).

Telekinesis (ORT POR YLEM, "Magic[ally] Move Matter")
Reagents: Black Pearl, Blood Moss, Mandrake Root

Super awesome. Manipulate things you're not supposed to! Turn winches and cranks you aren't meant to access! Flip switches, open secret doors! Plus you need it in several places to even beat the game. No complaints here.

Second Circle

Awaken (AN ZU, "Negate Sleep")
Reagents: Garlic, Ginseng

I mostly use this to wake up NPCs with odd sleeping hours. It does decently at that, I suppose.

Destroy Trap (AN JUX, "Negate Trap")
Reagents: Blood Moss, Sulfurous Ash

This largely assumes you know where traps are and care enough to destroy them. I don't think it clears caltrops, which would be its best use.

False Coin (REL YLEM, "Change Matter")
Reagents: Nightshade, Sulfurous Ash

Awesome to the max even before the Ring of Reagents. The manual suggests the coins are duped temporarily. They aren't, and as I've shown, they can be exchanged for permanent currency anyway. Throw in the Ring of Reagents and this spell is literally infinite money. And it's second circle so it barely costs any mana! What were they thinking? This is way worse than the lead-into-gold spell from Black Gate.

Cold Blast (VAS FRIO, "Great Cold")
Reagents: Black Pearl, Sulfurous Ash, Worm's Heart

Fire Blast with a new name (literally, it's the same thing), also it's blue and costs a rare reagent. Sucks as a result, but that's pre-Ring of Reagents. Once you've got that, this is a cheap fire spell. Yes, fire spell. Despite the "cold" theme in Serpent Isle, there is no such thing as cold damage in the Ultima VII engine. All cold spells are actually blue flame, basically.

Great Light (VAS LOR, "Great Light")
Reagents: Mandrake Root, Sulfurous Ash

Would be awesome if the Helm of Light didn't do its job and more.

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

Basic healing. Pretty useless once you have the Ring of Reagents because Great Heal and Restoration only cost more mana.

Mass Cure (VAS AN NOX, "Great Negate Poison")
Reagents: Garlic, Ginseng, Mandrake Root

Cures everyone of poison. You'll use this a lot in Gorlab if you forget to bring Swamp Boots for everyone. Not so great otherwise, as poison fields are fairly rare and enemies don't poison you much.

Protection (UUS SANCT, "Raise Protection")
Reagents: Garlic, Ginseng, Sulfurous Ash

Raises the armor rating of a single target. This would almost be worth casting if it were multi-target... oh wait, there is a spell that does that, and it's still not any good.

Third Circle

Chill (REL FRIO MANI, "Change Cold [to] Life")
Reagents: Uhhhhhh

Plot spell. Useful only to keep you from baking to death in Furnace. Never used again, and you arguably could get through Furnace without it.

Curse (DES SANCT, "Lower Protection")
Reagents: Garlic, Nightshade, Sulfurous Ash

Makes a creature easier to hit, which would be handy if it weren't quite easy to hit anyway. A Halberd or Magic Axe alone is going to hit and damage things badly most of the time.

Enchant Missiles (ORT YLEM, "Magic Matter")
Reagents: Black Pearl, Mandrake Root

Turns bundles of normal ammunition (crossbow bolts, arrows) into the magic version of the same. This is a huge damage increase, and combined with Create Ammunition and the Ring of Reagents, it's free magic ammo. I kind of prefer farming the spider people in the Silver Seed area since they drop 50 magic arrows apiece, but this is a good way to get bolts.

Columna's Intuition (WIS JUX YLEM, "Know Trap Matter")
Reagents: Black Pearl, Garlic

Something akin to Detect Trap, but it doesn't seem any more helpful. Columna's a shallow asshole anyway.

Protect All (VAS UUS SANCT, "Great Raise Protection")
Reagents: Garlic, Ginseng, Mandrake Root, Sulfurous Ash

Makes everyone in the party harder to hit. Too bad most enemies can't hit your party anyway with plate/magic armor, which you will generally have access to. The enemies in Serpent Isle are on the whole weaker than any in The Black Gate. Not many liches or dragons, for example, who can actually kill you if they hurt you.

Paralyze (AN POR, "Negate Movement")
Reagents: Nightshade, Spider's Silk

Causes an enemy to stop moving and attacking, but for such a short period of time that it doesn't help much. It could be useful if it were being chain-cast, but why waste mana when you could Death Bolt?

Sleep (IN ZU, "Invoke Sleep")
Reagents: Black Pearl, Nightshade, Spider's Silk

Puts somebody to sleep. Actually slightly more reliable than Paralyze for disabling someone, but still not for long.

Translation (REL WIS, "Change Knowledge")
Reagents: Black Pearl, Mandrake Root, Spider's Silk, Sulfurous Ash

Useful if you don't abuse the Read flag, as Ophidian books are nothing but serpentine garbage otherwise and you do not want to read that nonsense manually.

Fourth Circle

Blink (REL POR, "Change Movement")
Reagents: Blood Moss, Mandrake Root

Does nothing. Again: does nothing.

Deter (AN XEN JUX, "Negate Creature Danger")
Reagents: Garlic, Spider's Silk

Supposed to make wild animals like wolves and stuff not attack you. Unfortunately wild animals are so weak that it's faster to kill them.

Flash (IN VAS LOR, "Invoke Great Light")
Reagents: Mandrake Root, Sulfurous Ash

Supposed to blind things to make them less efficient attackers. It kinda does that, but not really any more effectively than a damage spell.

Create Soul Prism (AN MANI EX, "Negate Life Freedom")
Reagents: Hell if I remember

Plot spell. Used only three times to create the Soul Prisms needed to trap the Banes. Waste the scroll and you lose the game. Congratulations!

Mass Curse (VAS DES SANCT, "Great Lower Protection")
Reagents: Garlic, Mandrake Root, Nightshade, Sulfurous Ash

Makes all enemies in the surrounding area less likely to hit. Swarms of enemies are the only place to use this, and swarms of enemies tend to be weak and have low hit rates anyway.

Reveal (WIS QUAS, "Know Illusion")
Reagents: Blood Moss, Sulfurous Ash

Turns invisible stuff visible. Not too many things that are like this, and most "invisible" containers are in fact conspicuously visible. Still, if you can't find something, cast this and see if anything turns up. Also helps against invisible caltrops.

Transcribe (REL ORT WIS, "Change Magic Knowledge")
Reagents: Black Pearl, Spider's Silk

Superb! Turns scrolls into spellbook entries. Scrolls have their uses, but there's rarely a case where a spell cast from the spellbook is that much less convenient than a mana-free scroll casting. Plus, you have to transcribe the plot spells or screw yourself over.

Unlock Magic (EX POR, "Freedom Movement")
Reagents: Blood Moss, Sulfurous Ash

Unlocks magical doors. Nothing else does this, so you uhhhhhhh pretty much need this spell. Unlike The Black Gate, there aren't a whole lot of secret treasure coves magically locked, so it's less sexy.

Fifth Circle

Conjure (KAL XEN, "Summon Creature")
Reagents: Mandrake Root, Spider's Silk

Summons a weak, useless creature who will do less damage in its entire lifetime than you could have done swinging the Avatar's weapon once or twice.

Dispel Field (AN GRAV, "Dispel Field")
Reagents: Plot spell, who cares

Once just an ordinary spell, now a plot spell. Dispels energy fields, as well as sleep and poison fields, except the game almost never uses sleep and poison fields. Other than that, energy fields are used to hamfistedly herd you through the main plot.

Explosion (VAS FRIO HUR, "Great Cold Wind")
Reagents: Blood Moss, Black Pearl, Mandrake Root, Sulfurous Ash

Despite its name, this is exactly the same as Explosion from The Black Gate. Blows something up like a powder keg going off. I always disliked this spell because the damage range of explosions is very inconsistent.

Great Heal (VAS MANI, "Great Heal")
Reagents: Garlic, Ginseng, Mandrake Root, Spider's Silk

Heals a lot more than Heal does, but I still prefer to wait for everyone to take some damage and cast Restoration.

Invisibility (SANCT LOR, "Protection [from] Light")
Reagents: Blood Moss, Nightshade

Turns you invisible, which is good for avoiding things, except sometimes they attack you anyway and your companions will get attacked too.

Mass Sleep (VAS ZU, "Great Sleep")
Reagents: Ginseng, Nightshade, Spider's Silk

Actually not that bad. Puts a bunch of stuff to sleep right away, and is cheaper than Mass Death with the same outcome (and it doesn't hurt your guys).

Summon Shade (KAL WIS CORP, "Invoke Knowledge [of] Death")
Reagents: Whatever Mortegro said, presumably

Plot spell. Used to seance with a couple critical NPCs.

Erstam's Surprise (UUS VAS GRAV, "Raise Great Energy")
Reagents: Black Pearl, Garlic, Mandrake Root, Sulfurous Ash

Erstam is a cool dude, but his spell's pretty useless. Creates a variety of random effects, but most of them can be duplicated with a Mass spell more predictably. It's not as good to put a couple enemies to sleep and poison the others when you could Mass Sleep them all.

Sixth Circle of Magic

Betray (AN XEN EX, "Negate Creature Freedom")
Reagents: Black Pearl, Nightshade, Spider's Silk

Causes a single enemy to turn on its buddies and fight for you. That's not so handy, what with the weaker enemies in Serpent Isle.

Dispel Illusion (AN QUAS, "Dispel Illusion")
Reagents: Garlic, Mandrake Root, Nightshade

Somewhat similar to Reveal, but I think it reveals invisible pathways. Sometimes. When it works. I never cast this.

Cause Fear (QUAS WIS, "Illusion Knowledge")
Reagents: Garlic, Mandrake Root, Nightshade

Stuff runs away from you. Mass Sleep is better because you really don't want things running off where you can't locate them.

Fire Field (IN FRIO GRAV, "Invoke Cold Energy")
Reagents: Black Pearl, Worm's Heart, Spider's Silk, Sulfurous Ash

Creates a burning square on the ground which most enemies will avoid/be unaffected by but which will harm your allies when they walk over it. Whoops!

Fire Ring (KAL FRIO GRAV, "Summon Cold Energy")
Reagents: Black Pearl, Worm's Heart, Mandrake Root, Spider's Silk, Sulfurous Ash

Explodes a bunch of squares surrounding the targeted area with fire. Slightly more useful than Fire Field because you actually get a degree of coverage that enemies can't easily avoid pathing through.

Cold Strike (VAS IN FRIO GRAV, "Great Invoke Cold Energy")
Reagents: Blood Moss, Black Pearl, Worm's Heart, Sulfurous Ash

Causes a Fire Field-like effect at the feet of all enemies, damaging them a bit. Not that bad, but there are better and less indiscriminate spells (and better indiscriminate spells, too!).

Create Ammunition (IN JUX YLEM, "Create Harm Matter")
Reagents: Blood Moss, Ginseng, Sulfurous Ash

Creates either arrows or crossbow bolts depending on which weapon type you have more of. Since there are no Triple Crossbows in the game, this is pretty much just Magic Bows, which means arrows. Combine with Enchant Missiles and you get a good combo.

Create Automaton (IN ORT XEN, "Create Magic Creature")
Reagents: Mandrake Root, Sulfurous Ash, Spider's Silk, Serpent Scales

Raises a broken automaton. In addition to giving you robo-allies in tight spots, it lets you resurrect your robotic compatriots. This is nice, because Resurrect has been taken out of the player spellbook, and the monks are assholes and won't revive automatons anyway.

Seventh Circle

Energy Field (IN SANCT GRAV, "Invoke Protection Energy")
Reagents: Black Pearl, Mandrake Root, Spider's Silk, Sulfurous Ash

Creates an impassible energy field. You can get this before you get Dispel Field, and could in theory block a vital area before you have the means to get through it.

Energy Mist (IN HUR GRAV YLEM, "Invoke Wind [of] Energy Matter")
Reagents: Blood Moss, Mandrake Root, Nightshade, Sulfurous Ash

A sort of mini-Death Vortex, with decent damage that's hard to mitigate. Slightly cheaper on the mana too.

Mass Awaken (VAS AN ZU, "Great Negate Sleep")
Reagents: Garlic, Ginseng

Wakes up everyone who is asleep. Not really any better than the regular Awaken since you rarely need to wake up more than two people at a time.

Mass Might (IN VAS POR, "Invoke Great Movement")
Reagents: Black Pearl, Ginseng, Mandrake Root

Boosts the party's combat abilities, helping them do more damage (unless their strength is capped) and hit more readily. Not too bad, but I still never remember to use it.

Poison Mist (IN HUR NOX, "Invoke Wind [of] Poison")
Reagents: Blood Moss, Nightshade, Sulfurous Ash

Creates a poison field, which, like most fields, is more harmful to your stupid party members than the enemy.

Restoration (VAS MANI, "Great Heal")
Reagents: Garlic, Ginseng, Mandrake Root, Spider's Silk

The ultimate healing spell, curing and healing the whole party of any ailments. You can't cast it too often without rest, though, so Great Heal might be more prudent if only one person is hurt.

Vibrate (AN GRAV EX, "Negate Energy Freedom")
Reagents: Black Pearl, Blood Moss, Mandrake Root, Spider's Silk

Game-breaking spell. The manual says it deals damage and causes them to drop "loose items." It doesn't deal damage (or at least the damage it deals does not make the affected individual hostile), and it causes the NPC to basically shit out their entire inventory, including things you aren't supposed to have seen dropped.

Lightning (ORT GRAV, "Magic Energy")
Reagents: Black Pearl, Mandrake Root, Sulfurous Ash

Does some lightning damage when it works, which it sometimes doesn't. A little expensive for a generally single-target spell at this spell level.

Eighth Circle

Create Ice (IN FRIO, "Create Cold")
Reagent: Worm's Heart, Spider's Silk

Freezes things in ice or creates a big block of ice. Actually not such a bad spell because the ice block is a good barrier without being impassible like an energy field is. Plus, you can use the Gwani Horn to blow up the ice.

Mind Blast (CORP POR, "Death Movement")
Reagents: Blood Spawn, Black Pearl, Nightshade, Sulfurous Ash

Death Bolt with a new name to reflect the fact that it does not, technically speaking, always cause death. Still usually kills most things in a single go. If you need something dead, this can do it. Usually.

Delayed Blast (TYM VAS FLAM, "Time[d] Great Flame")
Reagents: Blood Moss, Black Pearl, Mandrake Root, Spider's Silk, Sulfurous Ash

Imagine a powder keg that doesn't go off for a while. That's about as useful as this spell is.

Fetch (POR YLEM, "Move Matter")
Reagents: Blood Moss, Black Pearl, Mandrake Root

Actually a pretty good spell. The manual says it's a more powerful form of Telekinesis, but it actually functions differently. Fetch pulls objects to the Avatar's location, even through barriers, allowing you to jack treasure and keys and stuff through solid walls. You can break a few areas this way, but it's usually not too harmful.

Invoke Snow Serpent (KAL FRIO XEN, "Summon Cold Creature")
Reagents: Blood Moss, Garlic, Spider's Silk, Worm's Heart, Serpent Scales

The manual claims this will summon a "fearsome snow serpent." If by fearsome you mean not fearsome and serpent you mean snake, then yes, this is an exciting spell. Don't cast this.

Serpent Bond (KAL FRIO XEN EX, "Summon Cold Creature Freedom")
Reagents: Blood Moss, Black Pearl, Garlic, Spider's Silk, Worm's Heart, Serpent Scales

Turns you into a snake, immobilizes your party, and lets you skip trigger areas and save Mortegro from death. Despite the manual's claim you need a serpent around to exchange bodies (and thus need to cast Invoke Snow Serpent first), you don't. It just polymorphs you.

Firesnake (KAL VAS FRIO GRAV, "Summon Great Cold Energy")
Reagents: Garlic, Mandrake Root, Sulfurous Ash

Shoots a trail of fire fields ending in an explosion, like Arcadion's Fire ability in The Black Gate. Cool-looking, but way too expensive for its effective damage.

Swordstrike (IN JUX POR YLEM, "Invoke Harm[ful] Mov[ing] Matter")
Reagents: Black Pearl, Blood Spawn, Mandrake Root, Nightshade

A good damage spell marred by being on the same level as Mind Blast, which is almost always better. Its damage is physical though.

Ninth Circle

Death Vortex (VAS CORP HUR, "Great Death Wind")
Reagents: Blood Moss, Mandrake Root, Nightshade, Sulfurous Ash

The ultimate spell for killing any one enemy. Does unmitigatable damage for more than long enough to kill anything that can die (and the occasional thing that can't or isn't supposed to), and it's homing.

Mass Death (VAS CORP, "Great Death")
Reagents: Blood Moss, Blood Spawn, Garlic, Ginseng, Mandrake Root, Nightshade

Kills everything on screen and knocks you and your allies to a couple health points. Casting Restoration afterwards is prudent. Unlike The Black Gate, few things seem to actually be immune to this.

Invisible All (VAS SANCT LOR, "Great Protection [from] Light")
Reagents: Black Pearl, Blood Moss, Mandrake Root, Nightshade

Turns the whole party invisible. Would be great if it came earlier, like Seventh Circle, so it cost enough mana to be reasonable. At Ninth Circle, the cost is way too high.

Spiral Missile (UUS VAS JUX YLEM, "Raise Great Harm[ful] Matter")
Reagents: Blood Moss, Blood Spawn, Black Pearl, Nightshade, Sulfurous Ash

Shoots a large number of magic missiles at every enemy onscreen, dealing okay damage. Again, would be great at a lower spell level, but why damage everything onscreen (some of which may be immune to its damage) when you can kill everything?

Stop Storm (AN HUR, "Negate Wind")
Reagents: Black Pearl, Garlic, Mandrake Root, Spider's Silk, Sulfurous Ash


Summon (KAL VAS XEN, "Summon Great Creature")
Reagents: Blood Moss, Garlic, Mandrake Root, Spider's Silk

Do you really need a random-ass weak monster helping you? Death Vortex is the only summon you need.

Time Stop (AN TYM, "Negate Time")
Reagents: Blood Moss, Garlic, Mandrake Root

This seems to work in a very spotty manner. When it works, it lets you kill things unperturbed.

Imbalance (KAL VAS AN GRAV, "Summon Great Negat[ive] Energy")
Reagents: Nightshade, Sulfurous Ash, Worm's Heart, Serpent Scales

Armageddon's idiot cousin. Shoots up random blue and red flames, causes teleport-storm lightning strikes (which don't teleport enemies, unfortunately). You'd think hey, this could be cool if it lasts a while, but it seems to vanish entirely too soon. Doesn't kill the whole planet either, if that's what you're thinking.