Monday, June 29, 2020

The Black Gate: Of Valor and Virginity

Surreptitiously awarding the Rune of Valor to Kliftin of Jhelom.
           
The more Gideon thinks about it, the more he doesn't really like having a death-dealing demon bound up in his sword. The question is what to do about it. Ideally, there would be some magic ritual that would simultaneously release the demon and send it to another plane, but I don't know how to do that, and Erethian--the person who bound the demon in the first place--is dead. I can't drop it in the deepest part of the ocean (which, let's face it, is only about 20 feet deep) because the interface doesn't let you drop things over water. I'll assume that for similar reasons, I can't drop it in a volcano--if I can even find one. No spells destroy it. 
     
I think about trying to ruin it in the forge, and it's in trying to put it on the hearth that I discover something unpleasant: I can't even remove it from my inventory. If I lay it down somewhere, it just leaps back into my hand the moment I close my inventory screen. This also means I can't try Plan F, which is to destroy it with Rudyom's wand. (Rudyom's wand doesn't work on it anyway, even if I try it with the sword still in my hands.) I can temporarily stow the sword in a container, like my backpack, but if I then set down the backpack, the sword jumps back into my hands again. If I've already replaced the sword in my hands, it jumps into whatever container I'm carrying in place of the backpack. If I'm not carrying any container, it tosses whatever I'm carrying to the ground and puts itself in my hands. It will not be parted from me.
            
You cannot unforge what has been forged.
             
The best I can do for now is commit to not using it, which means taking Magebane back from Jaana and giving her her old regular sword again. I don't need a sentient sword influencing my thoughts and actions, and that little confrontation with Dracothraxus was a bit too uncomfortable for me to trust that the sword isn't doing either. Maybe I'll figure out some other options along the way.

Before heading for Jhelom, the party returns briefly to Britain and cashes in nuggets and gems for gold. I spend nearly all my gold on new spells and reagents from Nystul. Now that the Avatar is maxed out in intelligence and magic, I want to get more out of my spells than usual, and I vow to find a reason to cast every spell and discuss them as I do. Before I get into this, it's important to remember that spells in Ultima VII come in nine levels: eight regular levels plus a set of 8 Level 0 "cantrips" that you can cast indefinitely. Except for cantrips, each spell requires an expenditure of mana equal to their level plus the associated reagents. The syllables from Ultima V still exist, theoretically, but the player no longer has to know them. The spellcaster just speaks them automatically.
     
We get to Jhelom by heading south to Trinsic and then west across the lower continent and then across the channel. I'm doing this from memory, so I'm happy when we see roads and houses on the first island we encounter. We land near the dock, which worryingly has cannons pointed outward, as if expecting hostile ships to arrive. It occurs to me that cannons in this game can be moved but not turned, which is odd for a game that allows so much interactivity otherwise. It amuses me that Britannians, when they go to buy cannons, have to specify whether they want an east-facing cannon or north-facing cannon or whatever.
         
If the invasion comes from an oblique angle, they're screwed no matter what.
         
We arrive at midnight, which I assume is going to give me a chance to use my first spell, "Awaken," on a sleeping NPC. Oddly, although the first building we come to--city hall--has a double bed, there's no one in it. There is, however, someone in bed in the hut across the way.

       
Awaken - AN ZU ("Negate Sleep"), Level 0 cantrip. A relatively useful spell that wakes up a sleeper. It doesn't have to be a magic slumber: it awakens normal sleepers, too, and is the most reliable way of doing so. Unlike in Ultima VI, regular sleepers in VII will sometimes awaken if you just make a ruckus around their bedrooms, but it's faster to cast the cantrip. I'm sure I've used it more times to wake up NPCs in the middle of the night so I could talk to them than I have on characters put magically to sleep.
 
Maybe the joke is there is no such cantrip, and the person really awakens from some idiot yelling "AN ZU!" in his room.
         
The sleeper turns out to be Master de Snel, head of the Library of Scars fighting school. (The name is a clear play on producer Dallas Snell.) He's also a trainer. Some experimentation shows that he only raises combat, not the associated attributes, so I think Inforlem is a better deal. (de Snel gives +2 combat for 2 points; Inforlem gives +2 combat, +1 strength, and +1 dexterity for 3 points). I try to have Gideon train with him anyway, but he remarks that Gideon is already his superior in skill. I guess the Avatar just isn't going to be able to spend those skill points. His statement that Jhelom is "devoted to the art of combat--not mere slavish military discipline, but pure violent confrontation" strikes me as a bit ominous. Jhelom used to be devoted to valor.

Back at city hall, the mayor, Joseph, has appeared, and he wakes up before I'm able to use the spell. He characterizes Jhelom as a rough place, and he's called upon to maintain order with his sword as often as his pen. He says that fighters gather in the town square to duel every day, but then clarifies that they mostly use training dummies. It's more like a mass workout than a battle. There are sometimes matches "to the blood," though, and people bet on them. So far, Joseph is beating de Snel in the contest for the Rune of Valor, but I'm not sure I like this place.
           
Is that because of its nature or because of people like you?
       
We take the opportunity to explore the empty Library of Scars. In addition to practice rooms, it has an actual library, which disappointingly has a "Britannian Purity League" flyer in a prominent place. The "Books of Britannia" entry is updated with The Accedens of Armoury. To make it easier to see, I cast the "Glimmer" spell, which I honestly forgot existed until I started reviewing the spells. I would have used it earlier in some of the dungeons.
           
Glimmer - IN BET LOR ("Create Small Light"), Level 0 cantrip. Creates a low-level light for a short duration--just long enough to check out a room. Still better than adventuring in the dark. Useful when you don't want to waste reagents or spell points on "Light" or "Great Light."
        
De Snel made me suspicious enough that I confess I swiped a key I found in his house. I justify it by saying I've been generally charged by Lord British with investigating what's wrong with Britannia, and I need a wide mandate to do that. The key opens a locked office in the Library of Scars which has a couple of chests. One has The Book of the Fellowship and a serpentine dagger. The other has three gold bars and a Fellowship medallion. A parrot in the corner says "I know where the treasure is" in between "Polly wanna cracker" and "pretty bird." But I can't make it say anything else, even when I try to give it some fish and chips.
    
At this point, it becomes weird to rouse people from their beds, so I set up my bedroll and get a few hours of sleep. I still don't know what the rest of the party does while I use the only bedroll. When I wake up, it's raining and thundering, which gives me a chance to use another cantrip.
        
Weather - REL HUR ("Change Wind"), Level 0 cantrip. Makes it stormy if it's sunny and vice versa. Not very "useful," but it's actually kind of unpleasant to adventure when it's raining, so I use it just for aesthetic purposes. There are lots of other games that I've wished had this option, particularly the two Assassin's Creed games where a storm seems to magically appear every time you engage in a sea battle. Note that the original spell of this title in Ultima V was necessary for sailing the direction that you want to go.
   
Kliftin, an ex-soldier, runs the town's armory, but for some reason the armory also has a spinning wheel and loom, and I catch Kliftin operating the loom as I enter. He claims to have "seen [his] share of death and destruction," which reminds me that the book talks about strife between regional leaders, but you really never have any sense of where these supposed wars happened. Britannia's not that big of a place, and Lord British seems to keep it pretty orderly. Unnamed wars and campaigns simply don't fit with the landscape. He's a little less charitable in his views of the town's duels, which he says are often fought to the death. He's worried about Sprellic, the mild-mannered innkeeper, who stole the Honor Flag from the wall of the Library of Scars and has refused to return it. (I would have stolen it, too; it's supposed to be the Valor flag. Doesn't this town know its own history?) He's therefore going to face three fighters from the Library in a duel to the death. He suggests I ask more at the pub. He sells equipment, but I need to save my money for spells and training, and I'm already doing a fine job finding equipment upgrades.
    
We cross a bridge to the west side of Jhelom, where we find nothing in a few houses. Then we find Sprellic hiding in his own house, where he begs Gideon not to hurt him "this time." He calms down as we talk and explains that he arrived from Minoc a few years ago to buy the Bunk and Stool pub. He employs two barmaids who together keep the unruly fighters under control through charm (Ophelia) or physical violence (Daphne). Recently, a stranger came to the tavern claiming to be the Avatar. A member of the Fellowship, the man consumed conspicuously then went to bed. Not long afterwards, he complained that it was too cold, and he kept complaining even after he had every blanket in the inn. In desperation, Sprellic went running around town and found an "old tapestry" hanging on a wall, so he took it, not knowing he was taking the standard of the Library of Scars. In the morning, the "Avatar" was gone, with the tapestry, and without paying his bill. Later, three members of the Library of Scars--Syria, Vokes, and Timmons challenged him to duels to the death. Before I've left his house, I've agreed to serve as his champion.
            
This is a bad sign.
          
The last place to visit in town, believe it or not, is the Bunk and Stool. Right in the front door, we run into Syria, an olive-skinned "fighter from the south"--gods know what that means in the confusing geography of Britannia. It's clear that Sprellic would have a crush on her if she didn't terrify him. She got 10 lashes for allowing Sprellic to escape with the flag, so she's determined to make him pay. I soon meet Vokes and Timmons, and they are similarly intractable when it comes to the subject. They refuse to believe it's a misunderstanding, or to show any mercy to someone who clearly isn't a fighter. Timmons isn't even a member of the Library of Scars yet, but de Snel won't let him join until he defeats someone who has challenged the school. I had started this quest by thinking that its solution would be finding the stolen banner, but now I'm thinking that these three deserve a good thrashing. 

Dupre is next. He's his usual self, recently knighted, in the midst of "conducting a survey of all the drinking establishments in Britannia." He confirms that Jhelom has gotten a lot more "bloodthirsty" and he summarizes what's happening with Sprellic. I have him join the party, of course, determined to kick out Sentri if things get unwieldy. Dupre comes with chain armor, a sword, a shield, and a mug of beer.
         
To be fair, that's what most RPGs are about.
           
It's 11:50 at this point, and the duel is supposed to be at noon, so I have just enough time to talk to the barmaids before I have to head out. They're taking bets on the duel, so I bet 100 gold pieces on myself--well, technically Sprellic, but I hope it will pay regardless. Daphne is heavy and unattractive and vocally resents Ophelia. Ophelia is both a bit mean, egging on Daphne, and a bit daft, claiming that Sprellic is the Avatar in secret and will easily defeat the three fighters before opening his own fighting school.
        
Remember this quote.
          
The dueling grounds are back on the first island, so we head there. I soon find that there's no good way to fight the three members of the Library of Scars solo. Going into combat mode engages everyone in the duel, which isn't as unfair as it sounds because all three of the Library fighters jump in together instead of individually. There's no way to tell my party to exercise restraint, so we actually kill all of them. De Snel is happy about the outcome and invites me to join the Library of Scars. Ophelia gives me 1,000 gold for the outcome (Sprellic was poorly favored by the odds). Later, it occurs me that there is a way to get the party not to fight--set them all to "retreat"--but slaughter seems like the wrong way to go about it. I try just knocking them out or putting them to sleep, but it just delays the inevitable end of the duel. They did insist it was "to the death," after all.
          
Technically, your buildings are both on the north side of the street.
        
Reloading, I try some other options. De Snel has nothing useful to say about the upcoming duel. Joseph, for all his claims that he often intervenes, refuses to do anything about this case. He claims that he and de Snel have an understanding and that if he upsets that, de Snel is likely to assassinate him and take over the town completely. It's Kliftin who has the answer. First, he figures that the false Avatar is Sullivan the Trickster, known to do this sort of thing. Second, he comes up with the solution: he can just weave a new Honor Flag. It will fool the fighters long enough to call off the duel, and if they ever do figure out it's a counterfeit, they won't be able to say so without looking foolish. Plus, they'd have to challenge Kliftin in that case, who's a lot tougher to beat. It's going to mean that I miss the appointed duel time, but I rationalize (correctly) that this game doesn't have any way of telling today's noon from tomorrow's noon.
   
While we wait, we explore the rest of the island. Outside of town to the west is a cave, where we're attacked by a single nameless fighter the moment we enter. The cave has a crate with a triple crossbow--supposedly a devastating weapon that costs a ton if you try to buy it in Iolo's shop. I hate micromanaging ammunition, though, so I don't bother with it. 
   
A cave system south of town is much more extensive, so much that I'm surprised it's not a named dungeon. We fight some bats and gremlins as we enter; I'm still not sure why gremlins turn into food in this game. We soon come across a trap that generates a field of fire across the floor. I think this might be a good opportunity for a spell, but it turns out I'm wrong.
    
Douse - AN FLAM ("Negate Flame"), Level 0 cantrip. Supposedly douses flames, but doesn't work on any flame that you'd really want doused, like ones blocking your passage in corridors. Only works on things like torches and campfires that you could douse by double-clicking on them. At least it doesn't cost anything, which is more than I can say for Great Douse, or VAS AN FLAM ("Great Negate Flame," Level 1), which supposedly douses everything in the area. While we're at it, I might also discuss Ignite (IN FLAM, "Create Flame," cantrip), which does the opposite. If you can think of a single use for these spells, even hypothetical, anywhere in the game, I beg you to comment.        
 
A wizard attacks us in a ruined structure in which two stone harpies flank a crystal ball. Trying to use the crystal ball prompts a voice that might be The Guardian to shout "go away!"
         
An interesting scene.
         
As we return to the entrance, the spontaneous flames are gone, so I use the occasion to try "Detect Traps" and "Destroy Traps." Neither works, but it's maybe the case that the flames' appearance isn't a "trap" as such. I'll have to experiment some more before declaring the spells worthless. The dungeon has a few minor finds--a few reagents, a set of swamp boots, a little food.
  
On an island east of town, the Shrine of Valor is in pretty good shape. There are some gremlins running around the area, but it's well-kept and has a sword on the altar, which I suppose is okay. It occurs to me that I didn't hear the word "valor" once in Jhelom, which is a bit depressing, but I suppose I can't expect cities to maintain their mission statements for over 200 years. It occurs to me that when the cities were created around the virtues in the backstory of Ultima IV, certain professions were naturally drawn to certain cities because of those virtues: fighters to valor, mages to truth, and so on. (Druids=justice and rangers=spirituality were always a bit of a stretch and should have been reversed in my opinion, and I guess tinkers=sacrifice never made much sense.) Two centuries later, the remnants of the professions are there, but not the virtues. Jhelom still attracts fighters and Moonglow still attracts mages, but they've become more about the realities of those professions than their aspirations.
        
The Shrine of Valor from above.
        
There's a small island northwest of Jhelom with another cave entrance. It's clear that someone's been living inside, but I can't figure out what they've been up to. There's a huge barrel of beer in a corner--and next to it a set of thumb screws. At the south end of the cavern, a curtain parts to reveal a sack with a single key. The key opens two chests in the main room, and inside we find a couple of bars of gold, reagents, and a magic helm. The best I can figure is that some bootleggers operate out of here. On a fun note, if you turn the spigot on a keg of liquor in this game, your party members absolutely freak out, alternately screaming "turn it off!' and "thou art wasting it!" Nothing brings them more distress, apparently.
        
It's not like you were going to get to drink it.
         
Our final adventure in the Valerian Isles occurs on the southeastern tip of the main island, where we find a pirate and the remains of a ship. The pirate is pacing back and forth but refuses to talk with us even though his garbage pile and arrangement of furnishing suggest he's been stranded here for a while. There are three barrels of gunpowder among the wreckage, and these are the first ones in the game that I feel comfortable (for role-playing reasons) grabbing for my own use. They generate explosions that can be useful on locked doors and in combat.
          
I like that graphics are advanced enough in this game to set up little "vignettes."
          
I return to Jhelom, where Kliftin has created the fake Honor Flag. I return it to Syria, who takes it grudgingly and calls off the duel. Sprellic is overjoyed at the result. Ophelia refuses my arguments of a "moral victory" and I'm left with ten worthless chits. As for the Rune of Valor, I always interpreted valor as a mandate to actively seek wrongs and right them. You can life an honorable, just, and compassionate life just dealing with things as they come to you, but only the truly valiant do something proactively about an injustice that isn't otherwise their duty. Thus, I give the rune to Kliftin, who came up with a solution to a problem that he could have ignored, taking some risk upon himself in doing so.
          
I was tempted not to, but the game didn't give me that option.
       
We cap this long entry with a visit to the Dungeon Destard, which has always struck me as the least literal of the original eight dungeons ("Wrong," "Deceit," "Despise," etc.), although as the opposite of valor, it's clearly meant to evoke "dastardliness" or thereabouts.

In an early room, I meet an unlikely trio consisting of a fighter, a ranger, and a winged gargoyle. The fighter introduces himself as Cosmo. He claims to be betrothed to Ophelia, the Jhelom barmaid (who didn't mention him once), but she's apparently decided to make him prove his virginity before they get married. That sounds like she gave him something to keep him busy, because she certainly didn't sound like a virgin. Anyway, he thinks there's a unicorn in the area that only virgins can touch. This tickles a memory, but I seem to recall that the unicorn is in a different dungeon. His companions are the ranger Cairbre and the gargoyle Kallibrus. Kallibrus seems genuine but confused because gargoyles don't have genders and don't mate. Cairbre concurs with me that Ophelia just sent Cosmo on the quest to get rid of him, and he even shares my opinion about Ophelia's likely virginity. Despite all of that, he has a fondness for Cosmo and didn't want him to venture to the dungeon alone. It's nice to meet another group of friends, even if their quest is stupid.
            
"Not that there's anything wrong with that," Cairbre hastens to add.
        
Deeper in the dungeon, we start running into dragons. Dupre proves himself the weakest link of the party, having joined when he was only Level 3 (everyone else is Level 6), so I get a lot of use out of:
           
Heal - MANI ("Life"), Level 3. A simple spell that heals about 10 hit points. A useful workhorse; probably the spell I've cast most since beginning the game.
    
There are a lot of caltrops in the corridors. I really hate those things. You never seem to get them all, and no matter where you move them, someone always seems to stumble over them later. But it's worth it, because we soon find a bunch of gold bars just sitting in the hallway.
          
Can you even see these?
       
In a large, central chamber, we kill three more dragons and find the corpse of a man with a Fellowship staff, a chest with two Fellowship medallions, and a sack full of potions and reagents. Further along, another dragon cave delivers some huge dividends: stacks of gold, gold bars, gold nuggets, and gems, along with the 5-10 gems per dragon that we've already been looting from their corpses. Our economic prospects have definitely turned around, and it's time to reflect that in spells, reagents, and training. Poor Spark has 15 training credits to use. There's also a spellbook in one of the chests, but none of my party besides the Avatar can use it, and he has his own. I'm not sure that any NPC in the game besides the Avatar can cast spells.
            
Coming here should have proven our valor, but it just stoked our avarice.
       
We do find the unicorn, although in a separate set of caves that share the same mountain range with Despise (if there's an illusory wall connecting them, I didn't find it). He's right in the entrance, prancing around a pool of water, and he introduces himself as Lasher. He tells a horrible story about why unicorns can detect virgins: they were originally a species of nature spirits, both male and female, bound to service by a wizard. When the leader of the clan decided to spend one night chasing females instead of heeding the wizard's call, the wizard cursed the entire herd with chastity, forbidding them to mate. This curse caused them to kill all the females of their species and left them with a sensitivity to "sexual energy" such that they could only tolerate the presence of virgins.
         
I thought Britannia was a more enlightened society.
         
He's aware of the presence of Cosmo and his companions, and he's avoiding them because he's "sick of being used as the instrument of women's humiliation." But he laughs when he hears that they're looking for him to prove a male virgin and agrees to help. (I return to them later, but there are no new dialogue options.) During the conversation, he asks whether I'm a virgin. It's an interesting question. I'm not, obviously, but I never thought about whether my character is. He didn't explicitly have sex with Princess Aiela in The Savage Empire, and he rejected the overtures of the gypsies in Ultima VI. He seems pretty old to be a virgin, but one wonders if things back on Earth even count. I mean, his power and skill all reset when he walks through the moongate; why not his virginity? I err on the side of saying no, and the damned horse actually has the nerve to accuse me of lying to avoid embarrassment! After my party has a good laugh at my expense, he confirms that I do regain my virginity upon entering the moongate.

Maybe I put that demon sword away too soon.
           
He then asks if I'm a virgin by choice or circumstance. I say "circumstance" because Jaana's in a relationship and I've otherwise been surrounded by men since I got here. Lasher offers to help and asks if I want love or lust. The real answer is that I want neither in a society that has yet to discover deodorant or razor blades, but I choose "love" and he directs me to Nastassia in Cove.
      
I've already met Nastassia, of course, but the conversation reminds me that I promised to find out what happened to her parents. We're going to make some spell and training stops along the way, but otherwise the next stop is Yew, city of Justice.
   
Time so far: 46 hours

83 comments:

  1. I believe talking to Cosmo before Lasher prevents you from properly resolving that quest; at least, that's what happened to me.

    I was going to complain that the idea of magically regaining your virginity is stupid, but I'm starting to wonder if it's not a joke at the expense of hardcore gamers.

    Destroy Trap does work, but I could only get it to work on the things that shoot fireballs (you've encountered at least one in Despise already.) Detect Trap never did anything for me. And of course, neither of them work on caltrops, the most common and annoying traps in the game.

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    1. I suppose it's because the game has no way of knowing what you did in the previous games. But there have been plenty of female party members over the games, and the avatar is explicitly present for after-quest celebrations in several of them (at least, those games where LB doesn't immediately warp you home).

      That said, I did find the lines that you "magically regain your virginity" pretty stupid, back when I first played this game. The game should have gone with asking you yes/no and taking your answer as truth.

      V'z cerggl fher lbh pna'g npghnyyl fyrrc jvgu Anfgnffvn, nygubhtu lbh pbhyq uver n cebfgvghgr ba gur sryybjfuvc vfynaq, naq gur havpbea pna gryy vs lbh qvq. Gur frdhry qbrf bssre frireny rkcyvpvg frkhny rapbhagref.

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    2. V gubhtug gur cebfgvghgrf jrer va Ohpnarref Qra va H7?

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    3. "The avatar is explicitly present for after-quest celebrations in several of them." I don't believe you're right about that. In U4, U5, and U6, the Avatar is sent back to Earth immediately upon finishing the quest. This is quite clear from the in-game narrative. In U1-3, there's definitely no celebration at which he was "explicitly present."

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    4. FWIW the intro for UW2 takes place at a party in the castle a year after the events of U7

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    5. As I recall, U6 ends with you, LB, and Drax at the Codex Shrine; no mention of when you get sent back. For Savage Empire and Martian Dreams, you are explicitly present for celebrations. I'm not sure about UU.

      The ending of U5 is very much a dick move. Thanks for the rescue, now get lost!

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    6. I just checked the endgame for U6, and I was wrong. It doesn't say anything about what happens afterward at all. So we'll assume that everyone got drunk and the Avatar got jiggy with . . . well, looks like Jaana's the only option for my Avatar unless he got REALLY drunk.

      I had forgotten about the spinoffs. The Savage Empire ends with a feast at wihch "there is time for music and dance, friendship and love," and the Avatar doesn't pack up until the next morning, so probably he slept with Aiela.

      What does it really MEAN, though, that the Avatar's "virginity is restored" when he goes through the moongate? Not to get too gross, but physiologically, having sex really doesn't change anything in men, nor does it in a decent percentage of women. Psychologically, he would still have MEMORIES of those experiences, both good and bad. I wouldn't want to hear a rape victim's reaction to Lasher's news that he or she "is a virgin again." In any way meaningful to humans, the unicorn's statement is senseless. All it seems to mean is that the moongates wipe away whatever "energies" the unicorn is able to detect, which is a lot like saying that someone doesn't have a disease because we threw away the testing kit.

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    7. Does that scene play out the same way if the avatar is female?

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    8. The *idea* of virginity is stupid, and reflects a mindset that assumes sex = penetrative sex and that it's a binary - you've had it or you haven't. Plenty of things that two people can do that *definitely* count as sex without any penetration, and some of them don't even involve touching each other.

      Virginity kind of works at a poetic level where it's a metaphor for being above or untouched by the realities of human existence but it falls apart the second you put any actual thought into it, which is why the U7 plotline discussed here feels grosser and weirder the longer it goes on.

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    9. What's so stupid about the idea of virginity? Yes, it's stupid if you take it too literally (there are conservative Christian girls who want to stay virgins until marriage so before that they only use the backdoor because then they technically stay virgins, which is idiotic and completely missing the point), but the principle of it isn't stupid at all. A virgin is someone who hasn't had sexual experience with anyone yet. This carries connotations of purity with it, of not yet being influenced by the vice of lust.

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    10. The issue is with how out of place it is. Chastity is not a Britannian virtue, and Lust is a Christian vice, not a Britannian one.

      Besides, the whole notion of "regaining virginity" through moongate travel is ridiculous.

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    11. I don't think lust have to be always a vice. Yeah somebody could be a harlot or manwhore but they not virgins as somebody who already deeply loved somebody and felt also Lust for the partner. If that partnership broke apart for reasons I don't feels right for me to call that persons impure

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    12. All of the traditional 7 Deadly Sins (Lust, Greed, Envy, Sloth, Pride, Wrath, Gluttony) are perfectly normal (often good) character traits taken to great excess.

      Wrath is the easiest to contextualize - it is not a vice to grow angry, and in many cases it is a virtue if it leads to righting a great wrong. Wrath is anger taken to great heights, a blinding rage that causes you to mindlessly lash out and can never ever be used to good ends.

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    13. I think maybe the Avatar metaphysically inhabits a brand new body every time they're incarnated into Britannia. It would explain the limited portrait selection, and why you lose all of your accumulated skills every time. So since your body hasn't existed more than a few hours or days, you've technically, physically never done the nasty in the pasty and thus never picked up whatever spiritual funk the unicorn can smell from you. It's all very unscientific.

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    14. JarlFrank - are you not a virgin if you masturbate? What about if you masturbate in company? What about if you kiss? No? But it matters where you kiss? Where's the line on where you kiss? Neck? Cleavage? Lower?

      The stupidity in the idea of virginity is in thinking that the natural state of an adult human is in some way non-sexual and that that changes at some point because of some particular interaction with another human.

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    15. The experience of sexuality does change a human somewhat. Considering that in the past, people married pretty young on average, it could be seen as a passage from youth to adulthood. It's an experience of union between man and woman and should be considered more than just a mere pastime. I'm very critical of the sexual liberation and how it has turned sexuality into a casual act. It should be more than that, and the concept of virginity also carries the implication of a higher meaning in the sexual act. Many religions, not just the Christian one, considered virgins to be pure. The Roman priestesses of Vesta had to be virgins, for example, and there was a class of priestesses in ancient Babylonia that were allowed to marry but not to have sex. The sexual act is an embracement of the physical. Not that it's a bad thing - it is necessary for procreation after all, and it can be a spiritual experience too if you do it with the right person.

      And I think that masturbation already removes your sexual innocense and makes you a not-virgin as far as the concept of purity is concerned. It's also a very modern phenomenon and likely wasn't as widespread in the past as it is today.

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    16. The idea that sexual experience somehow ruins a person by making them "impure" is just dumb, and I don't have a problem saying that without any citation. It's along the lines of a doctor telling their patient to avoid miasma and drain their bad humours once a week; i.e. a misconception based mostly on guesswork or personal feelings that did more harm than good to individuals.

      It's funny that you bring up ancient Rome though, since prostitution was totally legal there. That's not even true in most places in America, even after the sexual revolution.

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    17. JarlFrank - "Masturbation as a very modern phenomenon"?

      The Hagar Qim on Malta has a statue dating to the 4th millennium BC depicting a woman masturbating. Ancient Mesopotamian literature details in great depth the alleged benefits of masturbation for men and women, alone or in company. Greek art circa 550 BC contains many depictions of male masturbation, in humans or creatures such as satyrs. The Kama Sutra has much to say on the topic of masturbation (recommending it for women but not men).

      It's counter to common sense to suggest that in thousands of years of human history, people only discovered the idea of self-stimulation recently, and it's well-contradicted by evidence that you can walk into museums and see with your own eyes.

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    18. I'm aware of ancient depictions of the act, but I refuse to believe that it was as common as it is today. In ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia it sometimes had sacred contexts within fertility rituals (such as the Pharaoh spilling his seed into the Nile, or the rivers Euphrat and Tigris being considered the spilled seed of freshwater god Enki), which makes it more than just a mundane act of self-indulgence.

      As Immanuel Kant says, masturbation is a misuse of one's sexual attributes and therefore a violation of one's duty towards one's self, and he puts it on the same level as suicide. It's just impossible to believe that people did it as frequently in the past as they do it today, especially considering the early age of marriage, the availability of prostitution, and the stricter morals.

      And yes Alex, prostitution was totally legal pretty much everywhere. It being banned is the exception, not the rule. Yet society as a whole never had a more casual attitude towards sexuality than it does now.

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    19. JF, that's a simple case of Russell's Teapot. You make an extraordinary claim (i.e. that people in the past masturbated much less than today) so the burden is on you to provide extraordinary evidence for that. A flat refusal to believe otherwise is not evidence.

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    20. The obsession about virginity/purity is mostly due to inheritance. That's also why it's also more strictly enforced upon women, who have harder time to hide sexual activity (pregnancy), and for men the enforcement has often been on the level of nudge, nudge, wink, wink, and losing your virginity has been seen as an important step to manhood.

      Also it sounds to me that JarlFrank you seem to think that young people didn't "fool around" in the past. That is also one of the reasons for those earlier marriages. And even then, children born out of wedlock very a relatively common phenomenon.

      And what does being married and masturbating have to do with each other?

      It also seems to me, that you deposit that moral values are something that just get more lax with time. The rality is that moral values fluctuate. Sometimes some of them are stricter, and some of them laxer. (Also what we even consider stricter is dependant on the time we live in.) For example during roman times virginity was quite important, but mainly only for girls (because of the reasons I stated in the beginning), while not so for boys, not to even mention what was thought the proper age of consent. Also back then marriage wasn't about love or sex (for example Pompey was made fun of loving (although the romans didn't even have the concept that we think of as romantic love) his wife).

      What are usually considered the good old and eternal proper moral values are quite often the ones from the victorian era, which was a reactionary time when moral values got stricter.

      Plus you can't deny that Kant was a weirdo (like most philosophers), with some strange thoughts. Yes, he also had good ideas, but you shouldn't accept everything he said at face value.

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    21. I may be a weirdo with strange thoughts too. :p

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    22. "I may be a weirdo with strange thoughts too. :p"

      Who of us isn't? ;)

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    23. Virginity may function as an aspect of a personality - being de-virgined is like a "rite of passage" of sorts.

      Like a person who commits murder is changed by it forever, or one who betrays someone trusting is changed by it forever. This is a "bad" kind of passage.

      There can be a "good" kind of passage, also.

      Take Bartolome de los Casas: someone who had no personal strong opinion either for or against slavery learned first-hand what a horrible thing slavery really is and was changed by this knowledge forever.

      Virginity and its loss, then, could be a "neutral" kind of passage in respect to sex? One learns to know what this "sex" thing that people are talking about, actually is. And from now on all the conversations on the topic take a new meaning.

      "Virginity restoration", then, would be undoing the effects of such a transformation, maybe?
      Not erasing the memories, but rolling back the changes of personality structure. Like, destroying the information of what "sex" actually personally means for the person, as if he or she never engaged in it? "Everything Avatar knows about sex: (blank page)".
      But at the same time keeping the memory of the bare fact that "it happened".

      It must be one hell of a STRANGE memory, I guess!

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  2. You can change the orientation of the cannons by firing them in a different direction.
    Also, I believe you can turn a spare spellbook to a particular spell, say fire blast, and leave the "bookmark" there and then equip it to a party member. If they have the mana and reagents, they should fire it off in combat.

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    1. Aha it was firing the cannons that let you change their direction, I thought it must have been but couldn't remember. I do remember pinching a south-facing cannon from Castle Britain and not having problems with it when messing around and acquiuring a certain farm implement.

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    2. Well, that ruins my joke, but the solution does add some real stakes to the idea that you should never point a weapon at something you don't intend to destroy. Imagine if every firearm had to actually fire whenever you changed what it was pointing at.

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    3. That would be the firearm version of the mythical sword Tyrfing, which had to kill a man every time it was drawn.

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    4. Or it's like the Fremen Crysknife from Dune which has to draw blood in some way before being sheathed after every time they unsheath it. Brittanians might have similar beliefs, so that the power of cannons must be only be pointed at someone when they really are sure they want to use it.

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    5. Well, the Fremen Crysknife is pretty much a straight-up copy of the mythical sword Tyrfing :p

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  3. There are also ways of making that parrot talk...

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  4. "Can you even see these?" - they are supposed to be invisible caltrops; the regular kind is easier to spot. I believe there's an An Sanct Lor spell or something.

    A minor continuity error that somehow bothers me is that in earlier games, Dupre was already a knight; e.g. the intro from U6 calls him such.

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    1. I never found multiple kinds of caltrops. They're just usually used on that kind of stony gray floor, which makes them practically impossible to spot as they're transparent and the same color as the floor.

      I tried moving them out of the way at first, but eventually I gave up and put them in the backpack of whoever didn't seem to be carrying a lot already.

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    2. The invisible ones can be picked up and moved, although your companions will complain because they are apparently "owned" by someone.

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  5. Dupre was friggin' Mayor of Trinsic when you first met him. Now he's a drunken vagrant... questing hasn't treated him well!

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    1. Three of the companions represent wine, women, and song. Dupre, Shamino, and Iolo respectively.

      Not officially that I know of, but I noticed that years ago.

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    2. I think associating Shamino with any of those is a stretch. Sure, he has a girlfriend in this game (naq va gur frdhry vg gheaf bhg ur unq n jvsr, jubz ur nonaqbarq) but he's mostly withdrawn, is said to rarely smile, and represents the virtue of spirituality.

      Iolo is a bard and is married, so he can go for women and song. Dupre is a drunkard, and talks a lot about women but is never actually seen with any (meaning he's probably either gay or a virgin).

      Unless you're referring to U4.5, Dude Where's My Avatar; where the virtues are Sex (Minax), Drugs (Mondain), and Rock 'n Roll (Exodus)...

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    3. The character Mandrake in Ultima 6 explains the wine, women, song virtue system. Those are the three principles which combine to form the 8 "virtues" of drunkenness, sensuality, harmony, lust, laziness, dance, indulgence, and happiness.

      I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out how they combine. Maybe we should also figure out which of the 8 companions matches best with each one.

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    4. The interesting thing is that whether we go with the "wine, women, and song" version from Mandrake in U6 or the "sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll" version from U4P2, neither explicitly contradicts the virtues. As far as I can tell, vices are welcomed in the Ultima virtue system. While I think Radiant is wrong (thread above) that there was ever a case in which the Avatar could have had drunken celebratory sex with one of his companions, I can't see what eighth he would have lost for doing so.

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    5. One of the Principles is "Love", so I really doubt Britannians have issues with (or a virtue against) sex :P

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    6. Considering how your companions laugh when you turn out to be a virgin, celibacy doesn't seem like it's a virtue in Britannia :p

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    7. Yeah - it appears that both parties to a marriage are supposed to be virgins, but if the woman is not a virgin, its humiliating, and if the man is a virgin, it's humiliating.

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    8. I can't remember the older Ultimas, but I seen to remember Shamino being involved with more than one woman. Might just be a faulty memory though.

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    9. Isn't Dupre tending bar in U3?

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    10. @Drawde no, Shamino was not seen with any woman before Sherry (and nor was Shamuru or Sherman).
      @Daniel yes, and he was selling ducks in U2. But in U4 he's mayor of Trinsic.

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    11. "@Daniel yes, and he was selling ducks in U2. But in U4 he's mayor of Trinsic."

      So his boozing predates his commitment to civic engagement.

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    12. I could very easily see Dupre having a crack at being mayor, and just as quickly tossing the whole job to go back to bar-hopping and adventuring.

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    13. @Drawde Va Frecrag Vfyr lbh raq hc ehaavat vagb Funzvab'f penml rk-tveysevraq gung jnf vzcyvrq gb unir orra jvgu uvz qhevat gur riragf bs Hygvzn V, fb ur unf unq zber guna bar. Vg'f abg ernyyl n genvg gung'f nffbpvngrq jvgu uvz gubhtu.

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  6. There are defintely two versions,(unless that's Serpent Isle I'm thinking of?). There's the version you refer to and there's also a more "real world" version that is dark grey and looks like "real" caltrops

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    1. You're correct. I had forgotten about the visible ones, and thus that the ones I pictured are SUPPOSED to be "invisible."

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    2. I may be off the mark, but I seem to remember that in U6 at least, the 'Protection' and 'Mass Protection' spells prevent damage from caltrops, and that might also work in U7.

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    3. Thanks! I didn't think of that. Another reason to try a spell.

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    4. Extremely minor spoiler: While you're at Lasher's and thinking about protection spells, you may want to take a drink from his fountain.

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  7. Were you aiming for something a little different with this post? I think the vibe of the post works for this game.

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    1. You know, I re-read it just before it posted, and I thought, "What the hell is with that tone?" It wasn't deliberate. I wrote it in the middle of the night four days ago, and I must have just been having a weird night. I'm glad you think it "works," but there's an odd detached quality that I find off-putting.

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    2. Hah, how interesting. It feels a bit more 'in-universe' to me, which I put down to the fact that you were engaging in more roleplaying.

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  8. This is a pretty cool map to follow along with for those interested (spoilers):
    http://www.kxmode.com/u7map/#2/-42.8/-46.1

    Because it might not come up otherwise in this playthrough, regarding the Fellowship corpse: Vs lbh gel gb wbva gur Sryybjfuvc, Ongyva fraqf lbh gb guvf "rzcgl" qhatrba gb erpbire Sryybjfuvc shaqf, juvpu nccrnef gb or na nggrzcg gb trg evq bs lbh.

    When I worried about missing out by using the flying carpet too much, I specifically thought about the long hike to Yew from Britain. It's nothing essential, but I always enjoyed working through that large forest area and finding things here and there. I also remember the walk from Cove to Minoc and stumbling across Stonegate.

    Stashing Dracothraxus is the right move, but I hope we get to see a little more of him at some point.

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    1. Like google maps for Ultima. I love it! (As noted, it is full of spoilers.)

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    2. Great tool.

      Gurer vf bar pbhcyr cynprf V arire znantrq gb ernpu va H7, vg vf gur fznyy uvqrbhg oruvaq gur zntvp oneerref NAQ gur gbjre ba gur vfynaq va

      http://www.kxmode.com/u7map/#7/48.254/72.922

      Anyone knows how to get there and what you can find there ?

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    3. Yes: Vs lbh pnfg Jrngure evtug orsber lbh pbzr urer gura gur enva jvyy pyrne hc gur nagv-zntvp qhfg va gur nern. Abj lbh pna hfr Haybpx Zntvp naq Qvfcry Svryq ba gur ybpxrq pragre gbjre naq fbhgurnfg pnir oneevref. Gur svefg whfg unf n pbecfr jvgu na vagrerfgvat wbheany, gur frpbaq unf n zntr svtug naq fbzr gernfher gb ybbg.

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    4. Oh thanks. I never realized the game could do THAT.

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  9. Also, in your explorations of Jhelom, you missed a spot... You'll need the carpet to find it.

    Ybbx sbe oyhr-juvgr zbhagnva gbcf, juvpu ner glcvpnyyl n fvta bs n pnirea haqrearngu.

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  10. PetrusOctavianusJune 29, 2020 at 4:03 PM

    "Druids=justice and rangers=spirituality were always a bit of a stretch"

    I think Druids=justice makes sense. They are "True Neutral", after all.

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    1. "Justice" is a lawful concept, not a neutral one.

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    2. Not to mention that druids are "true neutral" in D&D lore because alignments are human concepts and they're trying to achieve balance with nature. That makes them somewhat impartial, but I don't think it means they're particularly interested in the concept of justice.

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    3. Isn't vigilante justice a distinctly chaotic good action? I know the archetypal descriptions of chaotic good distinctly point this type of thing out as actions that are not inside the law but still good.

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    4. That's because "vigilante justice" is an oxymoron...

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    5. 'Justice' presupposes order (that there is a natural, or righteous way of existing), rather than law.

      Three kinds of justice I could think up:

      Restorative - when the order is upset, it should be righted.

      Karmic/Retributive - those who upset the order, should experience something negative for doing so.

      Legal justice is a bit different to the other two, in that it is as much about process as it is about worldview - those that break the law should face the law. Those that haven't should be acquitted.

      Druids (and those of the TN alignment) are all about restorative justice. It's basically their raison d'etre.

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    6. My understanding is that druids (real druids, not D&D druids) were akin to judges for some Celtic cultures. The association with justice makes sense to me.

      Rangers being associated with spiritually just seemed like Richard Garriot wanting to make the most powerful class in U4 the class of his then current D&D character.

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    7. Or this might come from the original celtic druids being legal authorities.

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    8. Clerics would have been the perfect D&D class to fit into the Spirituality slot, but it seems like Garriot wanted to avoid overt religion of any sort in U4.

      Thieves and Assassins are the other D&D classes that didn't make the virtue cut, for pretty obvious reasons.

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  11. The Legend of Incelda: Of Valor and Virginity

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    1. I was going to say that Valor & Virginity would have been a great alternate title for Dungeons & Dragons.

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    2. I can assure you that if you're playing D&D and you're not picking up, then it's not because of D&D. :-)

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    3. "If every cigarette you smoke takes seven minutes off of your life, every game of Dungeons & Dragons you play delays the loss of your virginity by seven hours."

      -- Marilyn Manson: The Long Hard Road Out of Hell, 1998

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  12. Regarding AN FLAM and IN FLAM: is it possible that these are in-universe what yr character is casting when you double-click torches? I mean, if I had pyrokinesis I certainly wouldn't bother with matches. Maybe we can interpret the double-click as a shortcut command to avoid the annoyance of having to open the spellbook every time you wanted to start a fire.

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  13. "I say "circumstance" because Jaana's in a relationship and I've otherwise been surrounded by men since I got here."

    It's entirely possible The Avatar may not be strictly heterosexual. After all, you can choose to sleep with a gypsy of the same sex in U6.


    (Think I accidentally commented anonymously before and/or it didn't get past moderation)

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    1. This is where role-playing (perhaps surplaying) comes in, I guess. MY Avatar is heterosexual, so absent anything in-game that says otherwise, I say that he hasn't had sex with any of his companions. Another player could specify otherwise, sure.

      Iolo is married and Shamino has a girlfriend. Dupre talks a big talk about wine, women, and song, but you never see him with one, so I supposed he could be closeted. Sentri is a blank slate. I think we can all agree to leave Spark out of it.

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    2. Well, that still leaves as possibilities Mariah, Julia, Jaana, Katrina, Leodon, Leonna, Nellie and Chsheket :)

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    3. At the risk of being a spoiler (as stat-wise he's one of the best companions iirc), in U7, there's also Tseramed.

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  14. I am enjoying the Ultima VII posts. I have to say, though, that sometimes you finished a game I couldn't stick with and I find I regret it. With Ultima VII, I quit very early and never went back . . . and though I enjoy the entries, they make it clear that I made a good decision. This isn't the game for me.

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    1. I came to the same general conclusion. The entries are very interesting, but I don't feel what I can enjoy this game much if I decide to play it myself. A lot of the elements of the gameplay seem to be unwieldy and tiresome for me. And the game's world somehow strains my Willing Suspension of Disbelief thing, despite many small elements of realism and interactivity.

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    2. If I had played as a blank slate without this blog hyping up the Ultima franchise as a whole, I'm not sure I would have finished it. Despite its strengths in writing and world-building, I found it very annoying the second I had to interact with any of the actual RPG mechanics. I begrudgingly did the dungeons and fought the combats, waiting for the point when I could meet somebody new or find a new location.

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