Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Serpent Isle: Love and Lightning

Best not to study those pixels too carefully.
As I covered at the end of my last entry, there seems to be no avoiding a resurrection and discussion with Karnak, as reloading will just put me in the same situation again: almost dead, with no way to heal. Karnak apologizes for our previous meeting but says Thoxa overstepped by giving me the Hourglass of Fate. He tells me more about Xenka's visions, which referred to the prophesied hero as "from another world"; he becomes excited when I confess I'm not from Sosaria. He tells me that Miggim, the librarian, found a forgotten chest that contained an amulet and a scroll identifying it as the Amulet of Balance. He gives it to me, suggesting that I try using it near a serpent gate. After a few more words, he sends me back to the gates of Fawn, hit points restored.
"Let's name ourselves after her!"
At first, it appears I'm no longer poisoned, but pretty soon I'm green again and Shamino is telling me I look terrible. We enter the city to look for Delphynia. I'm not interested in doing a full exploration yet, so we bypass anything that doesn't look like a greenhouse. Fawn seems to be built on top of the water, with bridges connecting artificial islands. I circle the entire town, and the only thing I can find anything like a "greenhouse" is the Royal Gardens, but no one is there.
You're about to be struck by some terrible fist.
I sleep in the owner's bed until she shows up. Fortunately, it turns out to be Delphynia. She is grateful to receive Ruggs's letter, but torn because everything she has been taught tells her that physical ugliness is a sign of internal evil. She may be right in this case: It turns out that Ruggs is a member of the Fellowship. He came to town with Batlin preaching their philosophy. Delphynia fell for him and thinks she's to blame for the storms. Nonetheless, she gives me a letter to bring back to him. She also, thankfully, gives me the Varo leaves without requiring some side quest or something.
More like, "Before I kill Shamino."
It's 04:21 as we leave Fawn to head back to Monitor. As we approach the bridge, Dupre remarks that it's blocked, but it's not, so I don't know what he's talking about. To avoid the goblins south of town, we cut east across the open plain to the main road, then follow it south to Monitor. We go to Harnna's house immediately. She's asleep, but we bustle about until she wakes up. With the Varo leaves, she heals the poison.
She also has some insight into our lost items--or, rather, the new items that replaced them. I've appended them to the "lost and found" list below. I get these comments over several conversations, as Harnna likes to cut things off after a couple of topics. Some of her answers point us to other townsfolk. 
We get my new wolf cloak from Cellia, then head outside to pass the time until nightfall and the victory banquet. We explore east of the city and almost immediately find a cave heading into the mountains. It leads to a cave with several trolls, which we kill with little problem. Their bodies yield gold, gems, and a few useful items like leather helmets and gloves. The tunnel opens into a large area with a bridge crossing a pool of lava. My companions start complaining about the heat. We come to a chamber with several corpses with nothing on them. In an adjacent room, we find two warriors who immediately start demanding water. Before we can do anything, they attack us and we're forced to kill them. Between their floor and bodies, we find several pelts, items of food, and armor upgrades.
Sporting my fancy new cloak.
We find a fiery room with a drawbridge, but the bridge is up on the other side. Another bridge is down, but on the other side, we just find a locked gate. There's also a locked metal door in a room full of trolls.
This is more than I intended to take on right now.
By the time we get out of the caves, our pockets are bursting with gems, and it's quite late. We head directly for the banquet hall. For some reason, Dupre and Shamino stay outside as the banquet begins. I wonder why neither of them were interested in taking the Knight's Test, in addition to or instead of me.
Lord Marsten welcomes us to the banquet, and both Caladin and Brendannn, as the heads of their orders, make little speeches. During the meal, Flicken asks what part of the test I found most difficult. Between the options--gremlins, explosions, cyclopes, and "the invisible man"--I guess I found the cyclopes the most difficult. I answer such, but during the subsequent conversation, I end up telling the knights about all of the elements I experienced. They react with a mixture of disbelief and horror, explaining that the test isn't supposed to have any of these elements. This makes me wonder how the normal test runs. The candidate just unlocks some doors, stacks some rocks, and heads for the exit? Anyway, Marsten vows to speak with Shmed, giving me no option to relate that I've already killed him.
Uh . . . yeah. About Shmed . . .
Harnna suddenly bursts in, saying that Cantra is missing. Most of the knights think that the goblins must have taken her. Harnna insists otherwise but offers no evidence. If that isn't enough, Templar--the only survivor of the goblin attack in which Astrid was killed and the Helm of Monitor lost--declares that his patrol was betrayed and there's a traitor in town. An argument erupts, with Spektor insisting that there's no traitor, Luther accusing Krayg, Shazanna defending Krayg, and Luther and Shazanna trading blows with weapons before Marsten ends the banquet and asks me to speak to Harnna. We fill our packs with food and leave.
No point letting this go to waste.
I head over to Harnna's place. She asks if I believe in magic, to which I of course say yes, and she tells me to look inside her crystal ball. I do. The image shows Batlin and Cantra in a richly-furnished room in some kind of castle. Batlin is chasing her around the room while she shouts, "Leave me alone! I am but a little girl." But Batlin replies: "I know what thou art, Bane of Chaos. That body is but a shell that thou dost wear." The two of them exchange spells--fire, poison, lightning. The image fades. 
Batlin has become unhinged.
"As thou hast now seen," Harnna says, "the peril that faces Cantra doth go beyond merely taken by the Goblins. Some foul thing doth possess her." She implores us to rescue her, saying that the other knights think she's already dead at the hands of goblins. Of course, we say we'll do it. She gives us Cantra's practice sword and says we should find one of the legendary Hounds of Doskar. She has also seen a vision that we'll need the Helm of Monitor to complete the quest.
We knock off for the night. The next day, Marsten finally gives me the key to set Iolo free. The first thing Iolo tells us is that half his items have been replaced with new ones. He adds to Shamino's list, and I add to the list below.
You were perfectly capable of spellcasting when I met you.
We make another round of the NPCs in town, asking about the items on the list and any other new dialogue options. Some highlights:
  • Renfry, the operator of the crematorium, will pay for the bodies of pikemen returned to the city. There were a bunch in those caves. We bring him Lydia's body, which no one has cleared from her house, but apparently that doesn't count.
  • Cellia the Furrier tells me that the most valuable pelts are from fierce creatures called Gwanis who live far to the north. Goblin chiefs often wear these cloaks to demonstrate their prowess. Cellia won't buy pelts from us, so I've been hauling around the ones I found in the caves for no reason.
Don't interrupt Cellia in her work.
  • Krayg says he's not the only one who likes to take long walks in the woods; he's seen someone else, but never clearly. He says the goblins gather in the "midst of the great cypress woods north of the Knight's Test," and I might find some evidence there about the traitor. I sell him my excess leather goods, and I end up selling him items right off the bodies of my companions, as there's no way when selling to differentiate items you're wearing from items in your pack.
  • Standarr tells me that knights frequently go on Quests of Courage, usually to slay goblins, but sometimes to explore a dungeon called Furnace. A knight named Pendar is missing after heading there. I wonder if that's the dungeon I explored.
  • Andral is working on a statue of Luther, who yells at me for trying to talk to him while he's posing.
  • Brendann, the captain of my command, asks me to follow up on Krayg's clues about the goblin meeting place and the other person in the forest. (He thinks Krayg is innocent.) Brendann fancies himself a ladies man and has an opinion about all of the women in town. Lydia, the tattoo artist I killed for poisoning me, has a sister in Moonshade.
  • Spektor won't exchange for gems. I'm not sure where I sell those.
  • Caladin is happy to get his grandfather's urn back, and he gives us some coins as a reward. We return to the crypts to retrieve Iolo's crossbow.
  • Marsten seems satisfied that Lydia and Shmed were the "goblin spies" and there's no more problem now that they're gone. 
I'm beginning to wonder if anyone in this town isn't a spy.
  • Lucilla, the barmaid, hates Luther and says that he apparently has a new magic shield. While talking to her, I get a "court" option, and she asks if I'd like to meet her later. I say yes, and she says to stop back after the bar closes, "in the wee hours before dawn."
There are a bunch of knights I can't speak with because they're hanging out on the List Field, which remains locked.
At this point, I take stock of where I am. I have several open quests and tasks:
  • Gwenno has gone to Monk Isle, having sailed on a ship before all the shipping was shut down. Ironically, I appear on Monk Isle every time I die, but I have no way to ask about Gwenno, and Karnak returns me to where I died when the conversation is over. I'll have to get to Monk Isle the long way somehow. Someone in Monitor told me that there might be ships leaving from Fawn--or was it Moonshade?
  • Batlin is on the loose and has apparently kidnapped Cantra, who is possessed by something called the Bane of Chaos. I have no idea where they are, but Batlin's trail leads to Sleeping Bull and I know at least one of his companions, Rugg, is hanging around there, spouting Fellowship nonsense.
  • Monitor still has problems with goblins and potential traitors, plus the missing Helm of Monitor. I don't know if there are any more traitors. I don't even know if Lydia and Shmed had anything to do with the goblins; it sounds like they might have been working for Batlin. Somehow, Lydia found out I serve Lord British, after all.
  • I've got all my lost items, with leads taking me just about every direction, but the only one I'm really worried about is the Black Sword, which can't fall in the wrong hands. Unfortunately, no one has had anything to say about the ruddy rock. Perhaps someone in one of the other towns will know something.
  • I'm supposed to try the Amulet of Balance at the Serpent Gate.
  • The Avatar has 6 training points and Dupre and Shamino have 3.
Looking at the list, I decide that the Batlin/Cantra quest is the most important, but Harnna says I'll need the Helm of Monitor to rescue the girl, so I guess I'd better track that down. Instead of heading right to the area suggested by Krayg, I start exploring my way northward, but in east-west strips, remaining west of the main road. Lightning strikes repeatedly as we walk, transforming rocks and leaving miscellaneous debris in their places.
Several NPCs have told me about ruins from an ancient civilization of demons, and I see them everywhere. There are thick forests with weird-looking trees, and we get attacked by stray goblins a few times. West of the Knight's Test, we're attacked by a wolf and a bear, and just north of that, we're forced to kill three ragged-looking mages running some kind of ritual around a cauldron and sacrificial altar.
North of that, the world opens to a large, thick wood, and things get weird. Some kind of clown comes out of a dilapidated shack and attacks me. We have to kill him. In his shack is a chest with some money, but a trap leaves me poisoned. There are more goblins, but also snakes, wild boars, and gremlins, and I swear I'm attacked by a rabbit at some point. We come to a locked two story building in good condition with a sign that reads "HOUSE OF WARES" in Britannian. I can't find any way in, and my picks don't work on the door. 
A House of Wares doesn't make much sense if you can't get in!
There's a house with the front door wide open, and a woman's body, severed in half, between the house and the well. The situation is worse inside, where the entire building is ransacked and the body of a man lies on the floor. There's a dead child in the stables outside. A cow and two pigs have oddly been left unmolested.
Someone should have warned them about building a house in goblin territory.
At last, we come to the monolith that Krayg told us about, and we kill a few goblins in a quick battle. Dupre calls attention to a bottle of Fawnish Ale on the ground, and Shamino notes that it's the same variety that Simon the innkeeper gave me. I'm not sure that's quite the clue that he thinks it is. One would assume ale from Fawn would be sold and consumed all over the island. The goblins, having recently conquered a tower near Fawn, probably pillaged it. Shamino acts like it's a smoking gun.
You're like a horrible version of Watson.
Back in town, we head to the inn to question Simon. He says he must have dropped the bottle while out for a walk. I accuse him of lying, and he drops his guise, somehow turning into a goblin. "Thou hast found my secret! Now, thou must die!" he shrieks. The ensuing battle goes about as well for him as any four-on-one combat does. With his dying breaths, he says that he's lived in Monitor for years as a spy, his appearance transformed by a magic potion. He has related patrol routes and other military intelligence to the goblin king Pomdirgun. But Pomdirgun betrayed Simon, keeping the Helm of Monitor that he had promised Simon.
Does the smell of barbershops make you break into hoarse sobs?
We promise to slay Pomdirgun, and Simon tells us that the entrance to their domain is hidden beneath a great dead tree surrounded by rocks, north of the Knight's Test. He gives us a key to an iron door sealing the passage.
There are three keys on his body, but one opens all the doors in the inn, and another opens a chest in his room with 76 monetari, so I leave those behind. The inn, of course, we claim for ourselves. No more sleeping on bedrolls on the streets.
Three of us can now level up. I return to the List Field, and I realize I missed something before. There's a guy sitting at a desk on the upper level. You can tell him that you want to fight or train, and he lets you into the field. I have options to train with Caladin, Shazzana, Brendann, or Luther. I take a save and give them all a try. You can't take your equipment with you when you fight or train. Instead, you get a standard-issue weapon of the type you choose, and the guard takes the rest of what you're carrying. The guard has opinions about your chosen weapon, too. If you choose a spear or halberd, he says something to the effect that only a coward fights from a distance (despite most Monitorian pikemen carrying halberds and Caladin using one). He praises the choice of a hammer or axe.
I always imagined an axe "severed" rather than "crunched."
All trainers take 3 training points and 50 monetari per session and increase a combination of strength, dexterity, and combat. Maximum hit points seem to increase with strength. Brendann increases dexterity by 1 and combat by 3; Caladin increases strength by 2 and combat by 1; Luther increases strength by 3; and Shazzana increases dexterity by 2 and combat by 3. My Avatar needs strength and dexterity in equal balance, so I have him do one session with Shazzana and one with Caladin. Dupre, who needs stamina, trains one session with Shazzana, and Shamino trains once with Caladin. In both of the Avatar's sessions, the trainer "wins" the combat, but Dupre manages to defeat Shazzana. This doesn't seem to affect the benefits of training.
Getting all the training organized actually takes us a couple of days, since the trainers are on the field at different times. In between, we run scouting missions to the woods north of the Knight's Test, looking for the entrance to the goblin camp. I eventually find it, but man is it hard to pick out. I use my sextant to mark the location (69S, 32W) because I'm not sure I'll find it again. We're pretty wounded by the time we reach the entrance, so we return to town to get a good night's sleep before we attack the goblins. 
You can vaguely make out the stairs behind the tree.
Early one morning, after most of a night's sleep, the Avatar visits Lucilla at the tavern and gives her the keyword "rendezvous" (but in case he's forgotten, he can also ask "name"). She tells him to meet in her bedroom. There, she squeals, "I am ready now! Come to bed my love!" The Avatar's companions become uncomfortable and scatter from the room. 
I can't believe I walked in here with all of you in the first place.
A brief cut scene shows the Avatar step behind a curtain in Lucilla's room and emerge unclothed, though still carrying his sword, which is a little kinky. He jumps on Lucilla's bed. The screen goes dark and morning dawns. Lucilla gushes about how satisfied she is and gives the Avatar her father's prized Gwani cloak. She kisses him and leaves to run the tavern while the Avatar gets up and dresses. "What a beautiful morning!" he remarks. The companions are all waiting in the tavern's common area. 
It would have been funnier if the Avatar had been a dud in bed.
In the morning, I park myself outside the List Field, hoping to intercept Luther as he arrives. Unfortunately, NPCs haven't quite worked like that since Ultima V. There, they always had some physical presence, and you could always find or intercept them. Starting in Ultima VI, NPCs do go from one place to another, but you only see them in transition if you happen to occupy the same screen as them. If you've lost sight of them, the game will happily teleport them from one place to another without giving you any ability to intercept them en route.
Unable to find Luther during the day, I resort to doing it at night, wandering through houses during the early hours until I find his, then making enough noise that he wakes up. We tell him what other people have said about him ("bully"; "repulsive") and he demands satisfaction on the List Field. We accuse him of stealing Dupre's shield, and he demands satisfaction on the List Field. We deny that he is the greatest knight of Monitor, and he demands we face him on the List Field.
Luther's answer to everything.
The problem is that whatever Luther says, you can't go to the List Field and just fight one knight. You end up having to fight everyone on the field. None of my characters have been able to withstand that. Maybe training with Luther instead of fighting him will work, but I need to get another level up before I can train again.
Miscellaneous notes:
  • Before Cantra disappeared, the crystal ball in Harnna's house just showed us images of a solar system.
This actually looks like it could be our solar system.
  • Torches last about 20 seconds in this game.
  • The jail key that freed Iolo doesn't unlock any of the other cells. I wonder if it's even possible to get into them. Picks don't work and my attempts to bash down the doors failed, too.
  • Marsten gets briefly philosophical when told about Simon's treachery.
Read the room, Marsten.
  • I'm not 100% sure, but I think Monitor is larger than any city in The Black Gate. It still doesn't feel anything like a "real" city, of course, but it's a step in the right direction. In addition to named NPCs, there are many generic "pikemen" wandering around, and there are a lot of small houses.
  • When I finish training or fighting at the List Field and get my equipment back, it's all in the wrong places. Similarly, every time my companions temporarily leave the party and I have to get them back, they've all unequipped their weapons.
As for my list of lost items, here's the updated intelligence:
  • My spellbook was replaced with a chunk of pumice. Harnna thinks Krayg might know more about it. Krayg says such stones come from the center of the Earth, and Standarr often goes deep on his Quests of Courage. Standarr mentions a dungeon called Furnace.
  • My Black Sword was replaced with a ruddy rock.
  • My glass sword was replaced with a pinecone. Pine trees are found in the great forest to the north, according to Harnna.
  • The blackrock serpent was replaced by a pair of fine stockings.
  • A hunk of mutton was replaced by a bottle of ice wine. Harnna suggests that I run it by Simon at the inn. Simon says it's probably made by the rangers of Moonshade.
  • A leg of meat was replaced by 83 filari, a currency from one of the cities. Shamino's note oddly doesn't mention the money. This is the only trade in which I came out ahead.
  • Rudyom's Wand was replaced by a strange apparatus. Harnna doesn't know what to make of it but thinks that it may have something to do with Fawn's statuary or Moonshade's magic.
  • My magic armor was replaced by an enameled breast plate, "suitable for ceremonial occasions." Harnna says I should ask Standarr the armourer about it. Standarr says that he made it for Kylista, priestess of Fawn.
  • My magic helm was replaced by a woman's fur cap. Shamino's note says it's "ridiculous." I think it's very practical and not obviously a woman's at all. Harnna thinks it might be the work of Cellia the Furrier. Cellia recognizes it and says she created it for a mage in Moonshade named Frigidazzi.
This shot has nothing to do with this list, but I didn't get to use all the images I took in the dungeon earlier.


  • My magic gauntlets were replaced by a ring. Shamino's note says that it's a "finely crafted ring, of silver, of a size to fit a small woman or child." I don't know what to make of the Avatar wearing it, then. Harnna points us to Lucilla, who is "interested in baubles and trinkets," but Lucilla only offers that it might be a marriage or engagement ring.
  • Dupre's Magebane has been replaced by a blue egg. Based on the thickness of the shell, Harnna thinks it probably comes from a bird that lives up north.
  • Dupre's Shield has been replaced by a Shield of Monitor. Harnna mentions that it could belong to anyone, and I should inquire around and see if anyone is missing a shield. Later, I hear that Luther has a new magic shield.
  • Shamino's 24 burst arrows were replaced with an odd hairbrush. "Crude," according to Shamino. Harnna has an odd reaction to it and says I should ask Templar about it. Templar says that it's a goblin hairbrush, made from the bones of their victims.
  • Shamino's dagger was replaced with a severed limb. The note clarifies that it's a "bloody hand." Actually, I suppose the hairbrush could have replaced the dagger and the hand could have replaced the burst arrows. Harnna suggests we check with Renfry to see if he's encountered a body missing a hand. Renfry doesn't know where it came from, but he deduces that it's "not dead," so some kind of magic is involved.
  • Shamino's swamp boots were replaced with a pair of slippers, "such as might be worn in the privacy of one's home." Harnna doesn't believe they belong to anyone in Monitor and suggests I check with Krayg the Provisioner. Krayg says the closest place where someone might wear these is Sleeping Bull.
  • Shamino's magic bow was replaced with a bear skull.
  • Iolo's crossbow has been replaced with an urn with ashes. Harnna confirms what I already know: it's a funeral urn, and Caladin's grandfather's urn is missing.
  • Five torches Iolo was carrying in his pack have been replaced by a pumpkin. Iolo's list doesn't mention this substitution, and all the others have been one-for-one.
Next time: We recover the Helm of Monitor and continue to depopulate the town.
Time so far: 5 hours


  1. Nice update! Two quick notes:

    Training is a bit weird with the 'combat' skill. Some trainers increase it directly, but it also by 1 if you increase dexterity.

    Trainers who directly increases combat (all except Luther) cause the rubber-band effect where combat gets a boost depending on the difference Dex - Combat. So if your Dex is higher than your Combat skill, Combat can quickly catch up. There's some ways to use this mechanic to your benefit. It also means the number of stats point you get per training can differ between characters which can be frustrating if you are trying to grok the mechanics.

    Second one is on the Amulet of Balance: it's the entry point to the Silver Seed expansion. That's basically mentioned in the Silver Seed Box and it is obvious when you have played Serpent Isle without the expansion first as the dialogue is new, so I do not think it counts as a spoiler.

    I'd personally not do it before you have better equipment and a spellbook, but it can technically be done at any point.

    1. On the contrary, I'd actually recommend starting Silver Seed early, just getting the key ring, and exiting again.

      Or even more: iirc one of the Silver Seed puzzle areas could be done with little to no combat and big enough rewards, so that is also an option

  2. "For some reason, Dupre and Shamino stay outside as the banquet begins. I wonder why neither of them were interested in taking the Knight's Test, in addition to or instead of me."

    Probably they spent too much time with Lord British: "We'll just let the sucker do all the work while we chill out."

  3. I think Britain of Black Gate is still bigger, especially if you include Paws into it.

    Britain is still I think the best example of a living town in any RPG, which found the right balance giving each person an unique identity, but not overbearing you with too much info.

    I've also noticed how similar to Ultima towns some of Bethesda towns are: Skyrim towns have a lot of similarities with Ultima 5, and both Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 create a very Ultima like living feel to some of their settlements.

    1. This was always something I liked about the Ultimas (until 9!). The towns seemed like real places where people could live and work, not just a collection of houses. There were places for NPCs to work, eat, socialize, and sleep and the NPCs actually went to those places to do those things!

  4. The House of Wares is a little easteregg. You can get the key later from a ghost

    1. The name makes more sense if you fcryy 'jnerf' jvgu n m ng gur raq.

    2. That anonymous post was me. Apologies.

    3. Fcrpvsvpnyyl, gur ubhfr bs jnerm pbagnvaf gur fbsgjner cvengr jub xvyyrq tnagg gur oneq.

    4. I predict that Chet will be unhappy to learn that Tnaag jnf zheqrerq sbe ernfbaf bgure guna gur dhnyvgl bs uvf irefr.

  5. Someone pointed this out before, but the dialog portraits are weirdly inconsistent: Some appear to be straight scans from people in costume, some appear to be scans touched up to fit the fantasy setting, while others appear to be pure artistic renditions. I wonder what reasoning went behind that design decision.

    1. And the tattoos look pretty weird, like some pasted on pixel art. They look like a late addition to the graphics?

    2. Considering the game's rushed, I wouldn't be surprised if the inconsistancy's a result of them not having the time to make them consistant

  6. A bit OT but I'm surprised there is Ice wine in the game. I'm living near where some of it is produced and never met someone from farther away who knows what that even is

    1. Hello neighbor.

      I assumed someone came up with ice wine because the land is cold (which would actually make it unsuitable for ice wine). But I noticed that's just the intro before they sail through the gate, and probably not the Serpent Isle itself.

    2. That said, I’m in the UK and I absolutely love ice wine

    3. I’ve heard of both ice wine and ice cider (have very fond memories of tasting ice cider on the beautiful Ile aux Coudres which I suppose might not be too far off from your neck of the woods? :)

    4. There's Ice Wine in the liquor stores here in the US Southwest. It's delicious if you like very sweet wine.

  7. I've never understood how Cantra ends up with Batlin. She was in the town before you went to the Knight's Test, then suddenly she's ba gur bgure fvqr bs Tbeyno jvgu Ongyva. Fb znal dhrfgvbaf: Ubj qvq fur trg cbffrffrq ol n onar bs punbf va Zbavgbe? Jnf fur cbffrffrq jura lbh zrg ure? Vs fb, qvq fur yrnir gbja bs ure bja nppbeq? Vs fb, ubj qvq fur trg guebhtu gur fjnzc naq ubj qvq Ongyva svaq ure? Vs ab, qvq Ongyva pbzr onpx gb Zbavgbe naq xvqanc ure? Vs fb ubj qvq ur trg nebhaq gur fjnzc? Gur tnzr zvtug nafjre bs gurfr dhrfgvbaf boyvdhryl, ohg vg'f arire znqr frafr gb zr.

    1. spoiler heavy, but Gur onfvp gvzryvar vf gung fbzr gvzr orsber gur Ningne neevirf Ongyva serrf gur Onarf, juvpu nyfb rvgure pnhfrf be frireryl ntteningrf gur gryrcbegre fgbezf. Ur vf hanoyr gb pngpu gurz evtug njnl naq gurl rfpncr naq fpnggre, fb ur unf gb genpx gurz qbja.

      Vg'f fcrphyngvba bs jung rknpgyl unccraf arkg, ohg tvira gung gurl ner noyr gb fjvgpu ubfgf naq unir fbzr gryrcbegngvba novyvgl, fb vg'f rnfl gb vzntvar gurl pbhyq trg nebhaq.

      Pnagen'f Onar vf Vafnavgl (V guvax vg vf n ovg hapyrne, orpnhfr ng fbzr cbvag fur fcbhgf fbzr bs gur Jnagbaarff yvarf vafgrnq). Fb vg cebonoyl qbrfa'g unir pyrne zbgvingvbaf rvgure. Ng gur bgure unaq vs lbh ybbx ng gur qvnybthr orgjrra gur Onar naq Ongyva vg'f pyrne gung gur Onar vf gelvat gb uvqr. Fb Vafnavgl frrzf gb srne Ongyva naq zvtug whfg unir gevrq gb eha nf sne njnl nf cbffvoyr.

      Naljnl, vg vf ynfg bs gur 3 Onarf pnecrgrq ol Ongyva. Jung vf irel pyrne sebz gur wbheany bs bar bs gur urapuzna bs Ongyva vf gung gurl genpxrq ure qbja va gur ehvarq pnfgyr, gurl qvq abg gnxr urer gurer.

    2. Also, Ongyva unf n frecrag wnjobar uvzfrys, fb ur vf hfvat gung gb zbir nobhg gur vfynaq. Gung'f ubj ur pbhyq genafcbeg Pnagen fb dhvpxyl.

    3. I'm with Daniel that this doesn't make much sense. V pna ohl gung gur onar gryrcbegrq gb n enaqbz fcbg (zbavgbe) naq cbffrffrq gur svefg crefba vg fcbggrq (pnagen). Ubjrire, onfrq ba ubj gur onarf orunir ryfrjurer va gur tnzr, ng gung cbvag vg jbhyq jernx unibp ba zbavgbe, abg gryrcbeg gb ongyva'f orqebbz.

    4. *more heavy spoilers*

      I guess the timeline is tight, but plausible. The more difficult thing for me to grasp is the motivation of the various parties.

      Ng fbzr cbvag, gur onarf jrer serrq sebz gurve pbeerfcbaqvat beqre grzcyrf naq gurl rfpncrq vagb gur jbeyq. V'z abg pyrne ba ubj guvf unccrarq, ohg V zvtug whfg abg erzrzore. V thrff Ongyva serrq gurz fbzrubj. Va nal pnfr, Ongyva vf ybbxvat sbe gurz gb bcra gur Jnyy bs Yvtugf.

      Phg gb gur Ningne. Gur Ningne neevirq va Zbavgbe naq fcbxr gb Pnagen orsber fur orpnzr cbffrffrq. Gura, juvyr gur Ningne jnf qbvat gur xavtug'f grfg, gur onar bs vafnavgl, gryrcbegrq gb Zbavgbe (jul?), cbffrffrq Pnagen (jul?) naq vzzrqvngryl gryrcbegrq onpx abegu gb gur ehvaf bs Funzvab'f pnfgyr (jul?). Ongyva fbzrubj yrnearq bs guvf (ubj?) naq pbearerq gur onar va gur pnfgyr (ubj?). Nyy bs guvf unccrarq va gur gvzr vg gbbx gur Ningne gb pbzcyrgr gur xavtug'f grfg, trg n gnggbb, ghea va n jbys pbecfr gb gur sheevre, naq erfg n ovg.

      Ongyva onggyvat gur onar vf gur zbzrag gur cynlre frrf jura Unean vaivgrf gur cynlre gb hfr ure pelfgny onyy. Ubj qvq Unean xabj gb hfr gur pelfgny onyy gb fpel ba Funzvab'f pnfgyr? Vs fur xabjf gb fpel gurer naq fur fnj Pnagen gurer, jul qbrfa'g fur xabj jurer Pnagen vf? Creuncf gur ivfvba va gur pelfgny onyy vf fbzr fbeg bs erpbeqvat bs riragf gung Pnagen fbzrubj frag gb ure zbz qrfcvgr orvat cbffrffrq ol gur onar bs vafnavgl naq abg univat nal pbageby bire ure npgvbaf, ohg gung whfg envfrf zber dhrfgvbaf! Ubj qvq Pnagen yrnea gb qb gung? Ubj qvq fur ergnva gung yriry bs pbageby? Ubj qvq gur onar abg abgvpr? Ubj qvq gur rkcyvpvgyl aba-zntvpny crbcyr bs Zbavgbe nppbzcyvfu nyy guvf zntvpxvat?

      V fhccbfr gur onar bs vafnavgl zvtug unir frag gur ivfvba gb Unean sbe... ernfbaf? Creuncf gb chg gur Ningne ba gur genpx gb serrvat vg sebz Ongyva'f pbageby? V qba'g xabj. Abar bs vg znxrf frafr naq vg'f obgurerq zr fvapr gur irel svefg gvzr V cynlrq gur tnzr.

    5. V guvax gur ernfba gur Onarf ner abg jernxvat nf zhpu unibp nsgre Ongyva serrf gurz, vf gung gurl frrz gb or fbzrjung nsenvq bs gurz ng gur zbzrag. Vg'f cerggl zhpu qrfpevorq gung gur svefg guvat gurl qb vf syrr. Naq Vafnavgl fcrpvsvpnyyl gevrf gb uvqr uvf vqragvgl va gur qvnybthr orgjrra Pnagen naq Ongyva.

      Nf sbe gur zntvp cneg - gurer vf n uvfgbel bs zntvp cbccvat hc nyy bire Frecrag Vfyr jvgu gur Zbbafunqr zntrf onfvpnyyl noqhpgvat tvsgrq xvqf. V guvax Uneean rira unf fbzr qvnybthr ba ure orvat noyr gb hfr n pelfgny beo, ohg V qba'g ernyyl erpnyy vg.

    6. Very interesting. It works if we assume that (1) unaan'f pelfgny onyy fcvrf ba n crefba engure guna n ybpngvba, fb fur pna fpel pnagen qrfcvgr abg xabjvat jurer fur vf; naq gung (2) ongyva unf n fcryy gung fhzzbaf n onar-cbffrffrq crefba vagb fbzr xvaq bs jneqvat pvepyr, yvxr gur Evgr bs Nfux'Ragr be gur svefg rcvfbqr bs Fnaqzna. Abar bs guvf vf zragvbarq va gur tnzr gubhtu.

      As noted, children with magical talent are noqhpgrq gb zbbafunqr naq envfrq gurer; gung'f cneg bs srqnovoyvb'f wbo. Ur'f bireybbxrq unaan'f gnyrag, ohg gura abobql fnvq ur jnf vasnyyvoyr.

  8. Of course it's subjective, but ice wine for mutton also sounds like a trade up

  9. I wonder how the "interaction" with Lucilla would have changed if the player had a female Avatar. Has anyone tried that?

    1. Haven't tested it myself, but according to the Ultima fandom wiki, she offers the "rendezvous" if the Avatar is male, which I understand to mean only then.

      On the other hand, also according to that site, (ROT13) Sevtvqnmmv is attracted to the Avatar irrespective of gender.

    2. If the MC is female, then the "rendez-vous" is with Brendann, for "private sparring sessions". The, er, "reward" is the same : a gwani fur cloak.

    3. Another rendezvous is xlyvfgn gur cevrfgrff bs snja, jub gryyf lbh gb pbzr gb ure orqebbz va gur riravat gb, nurz, ybbx sbe gung oernfgcyngr gung tbg gryr-fjnccrq. Qhr gb snja'f fpevcgvat orvat ehfurq naq vapbzcyrgr, lbh pna'g npghnyyl sbyybj guebhtu jvgu guvf.

      And then there's the vfynaq bs ahqr purreyrnqref. Ab, V'z abg xvqqvat.

    4. That's not cool Brendann is the Avatar's superior.

  10. I vaguely recall on one occasion getting frustrated about the banquet, waiting outside the hall for it to open (the doors looked like they were locked), but not realising you could just click to open the doors. I think I broke all my lockpicks and waited outside for hours before I actually tried just clicking on it! It's been a while since I played so I'm not sure if that was just a visual bug or not.

    The fawn ale clue I guess I always made a little assumption that any "real" monitor knight would of course want to drink their own town's ale, and probably look down on the produce from the other towns.

    1. I remember having the exact same issue and being basically stuck there, thinking it was a bug and loading an earlier save, etc.

    2. This started to happen to me, but I fortunately thought to click on the door after a couple of minutes.

  11. I wonder if this is a first in RPGs? Several older RPGs offer a "one true romance" option and/or let you marry the princess at the end, but I can't think of an earlier RPG that has one-night stand encounters like with Lucilla.

    1. The previous two Ultima games let the Avatar have sex with prostitutes (commercial sex is way more common in earlier RPGs than the non-commercial sort, for some reason), but other than the handful of erotic RPGs Chet has played I can't think of any other such opportunities, no. And Serpent Isle is particularly notable for actually making a bit of a cutscene out of it rather than an immediate fade to black. (Ultima IX, on the other hand...)

      Years later, I know Fallout 2 lets you sleep around a ton, and more recently it's been a thing in The Witcher, but I honestly don't think it's ever been that common.

    2. I think it really is the first time in RPG's when casual sex is portrayed like this between two consenting adults. They don't make a big deal out if it, and it feels very mature. Lucilla feels like a real person, your characters had good time, that's it. You could already sleep with prostitutes (both male and female) in Ultima 6, but it's not the same.

    3. Well...there are at least the Dragon Knight adult jrpg's before Ultima 7 Part 2 of which Chet played Knights of Xentar.

    4. Yeah, I'd love to give the prize to U7P2, but there have been several Japanese RPGs that, in addition to plenty of non-consensual sex, have featured consensual sex.

      Also, Lucilla isn't necessarily a one-night stand. Based on her dialogue, you can slip into her room in the wee hours every night. It makes it all the more amusing that when you talk to her, one of the dialogue options remains "Name."

    5. Sorry it was so hard to reply, Joshua. Blogger diverted all of your attempts to Spam, probably because of the subject.

    6. Games with sex outside of a "one true romance" covered on this blog, besides Rance and Knights of Xentar, in a similar vein are also e.g. Cobra Mission (with both dates and prostitutes, 1991/92) and Mad Paradox (different rescued girls, 1992), plus outside of the eroge Star Control II (you can sleep with the Syreen commander, 1992), SpurguX (prostitutes, 1987), Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny (I think there is a brothel with prostitutes of both sexes?, 1992) and of course Wasteland (prostitute, 1988). The earliest on the blog is probably Empire II (prostitute, 1982), I guess?

    7. I am also amused that in Ultima VII Part I, the avatar was a virigin (if you trust the unicorn) before "visiting" that House in Buccaneer's Den [which could actually be considered a one-night stand encounter].

      One year and half later, the Avatar's performance is so over-the-top he received a special cloak for it. Either he is a fast learner, or has kept himself somehow under that dome of blackrock.

    8. The difference between hentai rpg like Knights of Xentar and Lucilla scene here is the tone. As I said it before... in this game sex feels very maturely done. Knights of Xentar imo is the opposite of mature. This is were I'd give SI credit.

    9. Weird, I thought I already saw my comment published, unless Blogger ate it later / moved it to spam or you took it out, Chet.

      Was just mentioning some games covered on this blog, basically confirming what stepped pyramids and Joshua say: outside the eroge, in which it feels very forced and artificial, and the bought variant (Empire II, SpurguX, Wasteland, Realms of Arkania,...), the only example I saw was Talana in Star Control II. And that also seemed less adult and more like 'fan service', trying to build in a bit of kinky alien action with a siren-style female.

    10. @The Wargaming Scribe: According to the unicorn, the Avatar "dost magically regain [their] virginity each time upon returning to Britannia". To quote Steve the Avatar, "That's... kind of not a good thing. You know I'm a woman, right?"

    11. @Stepped Pyramids : I did not remember this. Are you sure that's not the Avatar's version ?

      @Busca : The strategy game Centurion : Defender of Rome (1990) famously had a seduction scene with Cleopatra that could have major diplomatic impact, but was only available if you played the game at the maximum difficulty level.

      I find it well designed : [TW : Pixelated semi-nudity]

    12. This comment has been removed by the author.

    13. @Joshua and @Busca I totally see where you're coming from and I agree to give SI credit in that regard. However, and I hate to be that one nitpicky guy, I just can't resist to point out that the question asked was "I wonder if this is a first in RPGs?". The answer to that can only be no from a technical point of view. I know that some here consider neither JRPG nor eroge "real" RPG, but most sites concerned with genre differentiation like Wikipedia do and that's what I regard as at least semi official.

    14. I'm quoting the game transcript here:

    15. @fireball: Oh, no worries. I just felt the discussion had already evolved to differentiate a bit more. Of course everyone can take from these comments the information (and/or opinions) he or she wants.

      Including Japanese eroge-style games, one of the earliest examples (1983) of the non-commercial variant could be 'Danchi-zuma no YĆ«waku' ('Seduction of Condominium Wives' - guess the title says it all, apparently you play a condom salesman, inter alia trying to score with the ladies...) which e.g. mobygames qualifies as RPG.

      I stumbled across that one in part IV of Felipe Pepe's 2015-2016 series of articles on CRPGs which included new elements (it starts here:

      Which, going a bit OT, led me to another one by him on the genesis of JRPGs: And since we're there, complementing it, I also found this one by a different author informative on the same subject:

    16. In Dragon Quest/Warrior I, a woman in town would follow you and talk to you, and she could be taken to the Inn. Depending on the version, the innkeeper's dialogue would imply that the two of you were pretty loud the night before. You could also do the same thing with the princess after you rescued her from the dragon cave, before you took her back to the castle... and you could even take both women to the inn at the same time.

  12. "This makes me wonder how the normal test runs."

    If you are going to effectively banish your children over not being able to pass the test, it makes sense that it would be rigged to be easy enough for everyone.

    1. not sure that at age 15 or whatever it is, I'd want to face off against a bear, a leopard or a wolf in single combat! presumably that part of the test remains the same without meddling?

    2. The key is probably to start stabbing before it fully materializes.

    3. I am sure 15 years old me could manage to kill a wolf if they gave me a mace or a sword. Possibly a leopard too.
      A bear ? Eh.

      Apart from that, given the test can clearly be, well, "adjusted", I am sure the rulers of Monitor make sure their scions have the easy mode. Everyone they don't like ? Cyclops !

    4. As one of the other NPCs said it's normally quite easy, since they managed to pass. I think it's more of a formality.

      Plus, children there are probably given a decent amount of training.

  13. The explosions are there for everyone, that's why they prepare you for those. It is also the only item you can mention without them going all shocked at the banquet.

    The animal you have to slay obviously as well as you stated. My guess would be the snakes maybe too.

    The rest is probably the extra traps for the Avatar.

    1. Even the explosions are called into question at the banquet. They apparently aren't usually as deadly.

    2. Indeed? Then I need to to reread the dialogue - I remember reading it as them being surprised that the Avatar would find the explosions difficult in the first place ('but they are so easy to avoid...')


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