Saturday, March 11, 2023

Serpent Isle: Pit of Vipers

The ruler of Moonshade explains his philosophy.
As this session begins, we've freed Captain Hawk from the Bull Tower jail, and he's plenty ready to set sail for Moonshade, storms or no storms. He shouts, "The Arabella leaves in two minutes!," which seems a little unfair to the other passengers, who have been here for weeks and presumably have belongings strewn all over their rooms.
As the ship sets sail, we're joined by Flindo, Kane, and Kane's parrot, Ale. Selina is still nowhere to be found. A teleport storm hits us halfway across the channel, and the ship runs aground on the south side of Moonshade's island. I guess we'll need to find another way back.
I'm not sure you understand the extent of this problem.
We start exploring the area outside the city, but there isn't much there. Just outside the walls are a few abandoned buildings with nothing in them. The eastern side of the island is marshy. Several alligators and slimes attack. We find a hut on the southeastern shore. It has a stairway going down. It leads to a small, watery basement where a tentacle attacks us. A corpse has a fishing rod and sphere, and there are 49 filari in a nearby crate. On the way back up the stairs, the Avatar nearly kills himself walking on broken glass. Aren't I wearing boots?
We enter the city via some stairs on the southeastern wall. Almost immediately, we find a serpent gate. As we explore the houses, it becomes clear that most of the mages who live in the city have automaton servants that protect their property. The mages also keep odd hours, sometimes sleeping late into the day, and unlike their counterparts in other parts of Ultima VII, they don't happily engage in conversation if you wake them up.
For the hundredth time, a denizen of this world is lucky that I'm the Avatar.
It becomes clear from multiple conversations that there's a strong caste division in Moonshade between mages and "mundanes." Most of the mages won't even speak to us because we're the latter. I have to learn about them through environmental cues and what their automatons say. Mages have all the wealth and political power; the best that mundanes can hope for is to make enough money to buy an automaton to help with the work.
  • Gustachio, a member of the Council of Mages, has a large telescope on his roof, which shows us various scenes from the frozen north, including one of Magebane sitting on top of a nest. He has been researching the "Blink" spell, which has gone wonky since the teleportation storms started.  
Why does the image show an egg and a sword on the nest? And then the one at the top has no egg at all?
  • Stefano lives in a grand house with a roaring fireplace, a grand piano, and a private pool. From Topo, I learn that he's not a very good mage, so he makes his living by stealing from his fellow mages.
  • Frigidazzi has a goblin servant, a large blue statue in her entry hall, and a private ice cave. She has several locked doors that we can't pick. Flindo says that she's the MageLord's mistress.
  • Rotoluncia the Red Witch, a member of the Council of Mages, lives in a narrow, stone house with a naga in a jail cell. Her automaton gives me a scroll that allows me to speak with her. She says she met Batlin and his gargoyle companion, Palos. She thinks Palos was a "daemon" and wants to know how Batlin "controls daemonfolk." I say sure, whatever, but Shamino objects, Rotoluncia blasts him with a gout of fire, and the communication is severed.
Also, we have "FaceTime" in my world.
  • Topo the Artisan is apprenticed to the lazy Master Ducio and works all day in his shop. He specializes in pottery, which is too delicate for automatons. He also runs a basic equipment shop (torches, shovels, rations) and trades guilders for gems.
  • Ducio recognizes our apparatus as one that he made years ago for a mage named Vasculio. The Council had him killed for necromancy and supposedly destroyed his things, but Ducio thinks that Ensorcio, Vasculio's apprentice, might have stolen some of them. We met Ensorcio back at the Sleeping Bull. 
  • Bucia runs a separate provisions shop for Flindo. She also exchanges money and has dirt to dish about everyone in town. Like Harnna in Monitor, she cuts off conversation after a few questions, but she invites the Avatar to meet her after 22:00 in the Blue Boar.
  • Rocco runs the Blue Boar, which Dupre notes is the same name as the pub in Britain. He says Batlin stayed here months ago but fled on a ship after he stole some artifact. Gweno also stayed with him before leaving for the Isle of Monks eight months ago. She and Rocco became friends. Iolo is briefly jealous.
Iolo falls victim to the "257-year itch."
  • Petra is an automaton that works with Rocco. Unlike the other automatons, she seems to have a personality. Torrissio created her for perverted reasons, but she escaped and found shelter with Rocco.
  • Flindo from the Sleeping Bull is now hanging out at the Blue Boar. His provisions shop next door is tended by Bucia. To thank us for convincing Hawk to sail, he agrees to introduce us to the MageLord, Filbercio. He also gives us information on just about everyone else in town.
  • Kane is also in the Blue Boar with his parrot, Ale. He has not had the courage to speak to any of the mages yet.
  • Mortegro the Necromage lives in a house with black floor tiles, black wall hangings, and skulls everywhere. There's even a skull painting in his foyer. He is studying teleport storms and has spells for sale if I get a spellbook; he suggests that I talk with Master Fedabiblio at the Seminarium. He offers to run a seance if I return after midnight.
What I originally took for a surrealist painting turns out to be a still life.
  • Mosh the Beggar lives in a stick hut on the outskirts of town. She claims to be a former enchantress, cheated of her powers by her sister, Columna, who also stole Trulacci, the love of Mosh's life. She still has some magic, clearly, as she repeatedly conjures rats.
  • Julia is the chief of the rangers, the town's law enforcement arm and also the maker of the town's wines. Their winemaking is facilitated by a magic wine press that Erstam created before he went into seclusion. She recognized the bottle of ice wine that I carried, but I couldn't find the mutton anywhere. I practically ransack the place looking for it. I guess the rangers must have eaten it at some point, but I have to tell you, if a hunk of meat mysteriously appeared in one of my wine racks, I don't think I'd eat it.
I searched everywhere.
  • Pothos the Apothecary lives in a house on the lake. You have to take a bridge to get there. I am able to find his house but not him. He never seems to be there.
  • Torrissio makes the automatons for everyone else. He also sells spells. He recognizes the stockings we have as belonging to Columna. Apparently, Stefano stole them for Filbercio in a bid to cause some embarrassment somehow. That must mean Stefano or Filbercio got the Blackrock Serpent. He offers to trade a spell for the stockings, but we decline for now. 
  • Columna and Melino live in a house surrounded by foliage. Neither will speak with me since I'm not a mage. Columna is reportedly dallying with Torrissio. A note in Columna's basement confirms that she is Mosh's twin and that a comb that she stole from the ruler of Fawn has made her beautiful.
Julia makes a point about Lord British's virtues.
The picture painted by these NPCs is that Moonshade is a viper's den, full of incestuous, power hungry mages engaging in shifting alliances. Filbercio, the MageLord, is sleeping with Frigidazzi but his eye is wandering towards Columna. Julia also had a relationship with Filbercio. Torrissio is allied currently with Rotoluncia but also has a thing for Columna. The MageLord sends his political enemies to a dungeon beneath the Mountains of Freedom, north of the city. Gustachio hopes to take the title of MageLord from Filbercio.
Other things about Moonshade:
  • A large locked building in the center of town has the only way to access a little boat, which is the only way to reach a building in the center of a lake.
  • Northwest of the town (but still in the city walls) is a tall platform with a telescope on top as well as a sextant and a "Fire Ring" scroll. Like the telescope on top of Gustachio's house, it shows images not of outer space but other places on Serpent Isle, sometimes underground.
  • There's a wreck of a house west of town (still in the city walls). Bats float around the main floor. Stairs lead to a basement where there's a vampire coffin, just as in Mortegro's house.
  • North of town is an utterly bizarre contraption. A grated door leads to a stairway up to a platform. There's an altar at the far end of the platform. Along the sides, a series of mundane objects--shield, plate, cup, hoe--rest on stones next to levers. Pulling the levers doesn't seem to accomplish anything.
I need an explanation for this.
  • There's a ruined house south of town with a locked door.
  • At the north end of an island, in a little clearing, a nude woman lives by herself under some palm trees. She has a campfire, a bedroll, a music box, a hairbrush, and some ice wine. She won't talk to us. 
What more do you need in life?
  • Stoneheart and Bloodspawn (somehow made from Stoneheart) are outlawed, as is "sorcery," but no one has said why, or how "sorcery" differs from other magic.
Eventually, we come to the Seminarium, where children learn magic. I speak to two of them, Freli and Andrio, for a while and learn a bit more about the city. Fedabilbio teaches the young mages and will sell me a spellbook for three mandrake roots, which I can find on Monk Isle. Damn it. I was hoping to deal with this spellbook issue once and for all. 
I poke around a while longer and eventually return to Flindo, who says he was successful in getting me an audience with Filbercio--in fact, the MageLord intends to hold a banquet in my honor. I just need to await his summons. This summons comes as we're walking around town--suddenly, we're randomly teleported to the banquet hall. 
This world has the worst banquets. Maybe I'll finally get a decent meal in Fawn.
We find ourselves seated with Gustachio, Filbercio, Rotoluncia, and Frigidazzi. The table is laid with food, including "demon roast." (Given that Rotoluncia doesn't know the difference between gargoyles and demons, it's possible that it's really gargoyle roast.) They talk about the teleportation storms and some strangeness that seems to be affecting magic. Rotoluncia thinks we're the cause and starts casting spells at us to "interrogate" us, which the others object to. She teleports out. 
Pothos then comes hustling in to report that he's been unable to locate sufficient quantities of blood moss, which enrages Filbercio and causes him to cut dinner short. Everyone abandons us in the banquet hall, leaving us to explore the larger building.
Yes. That was five minutes ago.
Behind the throne, a barely-visible lever opens a treasure room. A key hidden under a potted plant opens the chests in the room, which contain gold bars, gems, a magic axe, and a fire sword. Tempting though it is, we don't take anything. We can't find keys to a couple of locked doors that appear to have teleporters behind them. We take the bridge to Filbercio's barge, but my companions won't let me take it because it isn't ours.
What is it with you guys and boats?
After midnight, we visit Mortegro, who begins a seance. The first spirit to speak is Christopher, the murdered blacksmith from Trinsic. He thanks us for avenging his death, protecting Spark, and destroying the Fellowship, but he warns us that there are a number of spirits seeking revenge. The connection breaks before he's able to tell us something important. 
An image of the way you looked in life would make sense. Nothing at all would make sense. I'm not sure a skeleton makes sense.
We intend to spend the night at the inn, having purchased a room earlier, but when the time comes, I can't figure out what key opens the door, so instead I duck out of town and spend the night on my bedroll. 
When is this world going to get electronic keycards?
The next day, we find Pothos in his shop. He tells us a lot of stuff:

  • It is a tradition among mages to prove their worthiness by stealing things from the Mad Mage's island. A favorite item to steal is a serpent's tooth. When Batlin was in town, he bought up everyone's supply of serpent's teeth. Batlin was eager to learn all about the Ophidians who used to occupy the island.
  • To make Bloodspawn, you have to use a ritual bloodletting device on yourself, collect the blood, then use the blood on a chunk of Stoneheart.
  • The bloody hand we carry is probably a product of one of Erstam's experiments.
  • Erstam is trying to find the secret to eternal life and frequently murders his assistants in that pursuit.
  • Pothos is Erstam's son. He'll tell us how to contact his father if we'll retrieve some blood moss from the swamps to the south.
Pothos sells us a couple of mandrake roots, thus saving us (I think at the time) from having to go to Monk Isle for them. He sells other reagents, potions, and even magic items like magic boots, axes, leggings, and glass swords. We buy some reagents in anticipation of finally having spells. 
Damn. An authentic money-sink for the first time since Ultima V.
We return to Fedabilbio, but he insists that the mandrake root must be fresh, not stale, so the ones we bought from Pothos are insufficient. Damn it. We head off into the swamp, find the blood moss, and return. Pothos takes it gratefully and tells us how to reach the Mad Mage's island: go to the docks north of town, ring a bell, and chant a mantra, which will summon a sea creature to provide transport. Once we reach the Mad Mage, we'll have to speak a password (ISKATRADEETH) to get him to talk with us. 
Go home, Pothos. You're drunk.
We leave Pothos's shop intending to give it a try, but suddenly Iolo disappears. We search the immediate area and can't find him. We head north to the palace and find Filbercio sitting at the banquet table. He asks who we suspect of the kidnapping, and the options are "Batlin," "Rotoluncia," and "Unknown." We try them all (reloading), and the only one that produces any results is "Rotoluncia"; Pothos suggests we search her manor.
In her house, one of her automatons demands we leave and then tries to kill us. We talk to some other NPCs without luck and eventually return to Filbercio. He lets on that he's been sleeping with Rotuncia, who insisted that he build a secret "love palace" for their trysts. It's in the center of the lake, and he gives us permission to take his boat to it.
T.M.I., Filbercio.
We take the boat to the island and start searching the cottage. The upper floor contains, among other things, a diaper, a banana, and a whip. On the lower level, we find a torture chamber, with Rotoluncia torturing Iolo for information about how to control daemons. When we unlock the door to the chamber, she says that she has the only key to his cell, and we'll have to kill her. She attacks with a couple of gremlins and only lasts a couple of rounds. When she dies, she places some kind of curse on us. Its effects are not immediately apparent.
Fine. First, you open the "" file in your preferred text editor . . .
We unlock Iolo's cell with a key from Rotoluncia's body and bring him back to the party. With another key, we unlock a door leading to a teleporter, which takes us back to Filbercio's palace. He has no new dialogue, so we head to the northern docks. Two guys sitting around a campfire attack us for no reason on the way.
At the dock, we ring the bell and shout the incomprehensible mantra. A giant turtle appears, and we scramble onto its back. It takes us west to a dock, where we hop off.
Well . . . that's new.
On the Mad Mage's island, a wooden walkway winds around to his front door. A couple of animated body parts quiver on the ground as we pass. Inside, Erstam immediately perceives that we're from Britannia and threatens to destroy us, but the password calms him down. It occurs to me as we begin the dialogue options that I have no idea why we're here. In the ensuing dialogue, he confirms his immortality experiments, as he thinks the end of the world is nigh.
Good thing I have a password, as I have no other way to answer the mage's question.
Erstam's creepy assistant, Vasel, tells us that Erstam has been mad since he lost his one true love, the enchantress Drogeni. More important, he tells us that the jawbone of a serpent allows teleportation from one place to another. 
We notice a head talking to us and talk back to it. It turns out to be Boydon, Erstam's previous assistant. He doesn't really have anything original to add, though.
How are you speaking without a larynx?
Shamino's dagger is on the floor behind a stairway. We replace it with the bloody hand and then . . . leave it. I mean, it's just a dagger.
We loot a bunch of scrolls from Erstam's place. There's a locked building out back, but we can't find the key. We talk to Erstam again and let on that we know about the jawbone. He says he'll give it to us if we go to a northern island and retrieve a phoenix egg. I wonder how we're going to get there, but he says he'll teleport us. In moments, we're in a cave with some weird creatures attacking. I honestly have no idea what they're supposed to be. We kill them and make for the exit.
Looking online, I see that this is supposed to be a "wildman."
The map shows us on an island north of Erstam's. We seem to be in a tropical area surrounded by mountains. We battle a giant scorpion on the way to a second cave. In a lava-filled chamber, we find a pedestal with an animal corpse on it, and a door blocking passage to a lava-filled hallway. Flipping a switch opens the door, which causes the lava around the pedestal to erupt.
A phoenix bursts to life on the pedestal and greets us. He claims to be from Britannia, having flown through the Serpent Pillars to get here. He says phoenixes are drawn to places that are out of balance. By restoring him, I've made it possible to restore the balance between Order and Chaos. Something like that. I'm not sure how he died in the first place. Anyway, as a reward, he gives us his egg. A teleporter brings us back to Erstam's.
The phoenix knows how to make an entrance.
Now Erstam wants us to assemble Boydon's body parts in the "life creation machine" in his laboratory and toss in the phoenix egg. It takes us a while to find the scattered parts, but when we finish the ritual, a Boydonstein pops out of the machine. In reward, Erstam gives us the key to his storeroom and thus the "secret of teleportation." He also gives us a serpent's tooth.
How does that machine sew the different parts together?
We head outside and spend half an hour figuring out what key opens the door--the number of them in my bag is officially ridiculous. We find the jawbone on the other side, but it's getting dark, and I can't find the tooth that Erstam gave us. I have to go to bed for the night to make it light enough to search the bag. Even then, it's pretty tough. It's a tiny little thing. I have a second tooth that I looted from Rotoluncia's place.
This is a really weird teleportation system.
Fortunately, Erstam's shed also has a serpent gate. We wander over to it and double-click. It takes us to a large stone chamber with eight exits: three north, three south, one east, and one west. The west one opens as we approach, but the others remain shut. The west door leads to four more doors, two of which open when we approach. This is clearly related to the number of teeth. Some experimentation shows us that one of the two doors takes us to what appears to be Furnace, and the other takes us back to Erstam's. It's always nice to get access to a teleportation hub.
I wonder if I can leave items here.
Figuring the game wouldn't have trapped me here if I hadn't thought to steal from Rotoluncia, I return to Erstam's and start hunting for more teeth. I don't find any in his manor, but he gives me two just for asking. We talk to Boydon looking for more, and  he offers to join us! I didn't know having five companions in this game was even possible. The rest of the companions aren't entirely happy.
Says the man from the world with no showers or deodorant.
Boydon doesn't have any weapons or armor, and lacking any spares ourselves, we outfit him with . . . Shamino's dagger. So that worked out.
With the other two teeth, it looks like I can visit a second dungeon and return to Moonshade. So that gives me a few options. No other game of the era was offering plots or settings as complex as what Serpent Isle introduced in Moonshade alone, but I still wasn't a fan of the linear and scripted nature of this session. I look forward to some more open exploration for a while.
This will be less of an annoyance from now on.
At least now that I've given up the ice wine, I can feed my party with the "F" key.    
But I'm still pissed about that mutton. 
Time so far: 23 hours
Item update:
  • 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. The rock may be Stoneheart, a volatile substance found in caverns near Moonshade called the Mountains of Freedom.
  • 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. These seem to belong to Columna in Moonshade, but Filbercio hired Stefano to steal them. It's uncertain who was in possession of the stockings when the swap happened. However, it seems likely that Batlin stole the blackrock serpent before leaving Moonshade.
  • 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. I found where the wine came from in Moonshade, but by then the mutton was long gone.

Putting the ice wine back on the shelf. Where's my mutton!?

  • 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. Bucia in Moonshade suggests I speak with Ducio, the artisan. Ducio says that it belonged to Vasculio and might have been taken by Vasculio's apprentice, Ensorcio.
  • 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. If the helm is to be found in Frigidazzi's place, it's probably behind a locked door.
  • 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. Selina at the Sleeping Bull thinks it might be from a "lesser artisan" in Moonshade. But it really belongs to Alyssand in the Fellowship village.
  • 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. Gustachio's telescope shows the sword resting on a nest in a frozen landscape.
  • 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. Found in a goblin hut.
  • Shamino's dagger was replaced with a severed limb. The note clarifies that it's a "bloody hand." 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. Pothos in Moonshade thinks it's a product of one of Erstam's experiments. The dagger is found in Erstam's manor, which is full of living body parts.

We make the swap.

  • 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. They belong to the innkeeper's wife, Devra, who trades them back.
  • Shamino's magic bow was replaced with a bear skull Found in the opening minutes.
  • 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. Found in the Monitor crypts.
  • 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.


  1. I really love Moonshade and would have happily played a full game set there. This session is a really good example of why the game is so fascinating yet frustrating -- a bunch of really interesting stuff happened, some of which we haven't seen in a CRPG before, but everything is resolved so quickly. They're really pushing the engine to its limits with these scripted sequences. For instance, Rotoluncia can kidnap another companion if Iolo isn't in your party. There's even some leftover scripting for kidnapping a solo Avatar. It really should be a major quest line, but there's very little meat on the bones. You can go from meeting Rotoluncia to killing her in like 10 minutes.

    I'm particularly fond of Mortegro, who seems to be by far the friendliest and most morally upright Adept despite being a necromancer (excuse me, NecroMage) who sleeps in a coffin.

    There are basically three reasons you might be seeking out Erstam: you've been told that he might have one of your exchanged items, that he knows something about teleportation (and thus possibly about the teleport storms), and that Batlin has been collecting the serpent teeth, which originally came from Erstam. The game doesn't really belabor the point but the assumption is that you're motivated to track down Batlin and stop him from doing whatever he's doing, and also possibly to save Cantra, find Gwenno, fix the teleport storms, etc.

    1. It's hilarious that the mages of Moonshade are all total drama queens and jerks except Mortregro, who is just a chill dude.

    2. Speaking of drama queens, if you're a female avatar then Filbercio will of course hit on you too. Lbh pna'g npghnyyl sbyybj guebhtu jvgu vg, ohg lbh'yy unir n aba-bcgvbany rapbhagre jvgu sevtvqnmmv ertneqyrff bs gur ningne'f traqre.

    3. Gustacio and Mortegro are the nicer ones IMO. They also work together.

    4. Gustacio at least has a good reason for being standoffish. He's got important work to do. What does Melino do? Sit around all day and wonder where Columna's gotten off to, and also wonder what's making those distant creaking, thumping, and moaning noises.

    5. To be fair, Melino is just senile. Don't think you can hold that against him, except maybe him going for the trophy wife. Torrisio and Columna are scumbags too. Frigidazzi is actually not too bad either now that I think about it.

      Fedabiblio isn't bad when you talk to him, but he does kidnap children for a living...

    6. Yeah, I also love what they did here. In every other game, the necromancer would be evil, deceiving, a major creep or whatnot. Here, he's a nice guy and probably the sanest, most balanced person in the whole of Moonshade. It's nice when a game plays around with tropes and expectations like that - heck, most RPGs today don't manage it, at least not as nonchalantly.

    7. Well, he's a necromage, not a necromancer, right? After all, the town killed someone for actual necromancy.

  2. AlphabeticalAnonymousMarch 11, 2023 at 1:53 PM

    Riding on the back of a giant sea turtle... inspired by Faery Tale Adventure, or just a common trope?

    1. I was thinking about Dragon Ball. Since this is in turn inspired by Chinese classic novel "Journey to the West" I wonder if that's the common source.

    2. I don't remember a giant turtle ride in Journey to the West but it's been about ten years since I read it, so it's possible there's one in there.

    3. Yup, there's a giant turtle in there - the "Ancient Soft-shelled turtle". A forgotten promise turns into the last trial required of the monk, if I remember correctly.

  3. Maybe it's the lingering influence of mecha-neko's link comment on the previous SI entry, but to me Gustacio (the guy in the screenshot with the caption "Yes. That was five minutes ago.") looks like a grey-haired Jonathan Frakes.

    1. Yep, especially when watching the third season of Star Trek: Picard.

    2. OK, this is kind of funny.

      The Ultima Codex wiki reports the source model for the characters in Moonshade, based on a leaked design document I was mentioning in one of my other comments. They seem to be mostly Origin employees or people that worked in the game.

      The source model for Gustacio is reported as "Larry Kruiz" and check his profile picture...

      Now, look up the Linkedin page of a Larry Kruiz based in Canada and check his profile picture...

      Mortegro is BZ Lewis, "6 time Emmy Award winnning Composer, Producer, Engineer", also with a linkedin page.

      Internet is such a rabbit hole...

    3. ...mind sharing? When I search LinkedIn for "Larry Kruiz" I get no results, just one for a "Larry Kruize" that's clearly unrelated.

    4. It's 'Kruitz'. He just passed away in late December.

  4. What's odd about this whole questline (Fedabiblio to Porthos to Erstam to Fawkes and Boydon to the jawbone) is that you already HAVE a way to get to Monk Island: any time you die, Karnax resurrects you there. It would make sense to ask him for some mandrake before he sends you on your way.

    1. Karnax doesn't want to help you, and there's a convenient plot explanation for why you have to personally go retrieve the mandrake roots. Not necessarily a satisfying reason, but it's there.

    2. True enough, note that the Monks also teleport at will and can send you anywhere they want post resurrection.

  5. While U7 is full of phrases and names that are meaningful when translated from the Gargoyle/Runic/Magic language (such as "Anmanivas" and "Draxinusom"), the phrase taught here by Pothos appears to be complete gibberish.

    On the other hand, most mages in Moonshade have names that sound like a semi-goth teenager made them up to sound cool, naq gung'f cerpvfryl jung gurl ner. Zntvpnyyl vapyvarq xvqf sebz bgure pvgvrf trg noqhpgrq gb zbbafunqr, naq gurl riraghnyyl fjvgpu sebz gurve ovegu anzr gb bar gurl cvpx sbe gurzfryirf. Naq vs gurl qb gung nf n grra, jryy, gurl pnyy cvpx anzrf yvxr Oynpx Zntr Rivyjvmneqvatgba.

    1. The names of the inhabitants of Moonshade are all Italian-ish (except for Pothos and Freli):
      • Filbercio : Filiberto (a real given name)
      • Gustacio : Gustavo (a real given name)
      • Stefano : a real given name ("STE-fa-no", not "ste-FA-no")
      • Andrio : Andrea (Italian for Andrew)
      • Columna : Colonna (a real family name)
      • Torrissio : Torrisi (a real family name)
      • Melino : a real nickname (it is to Carmelo what Johnny is to John)
      • Rotoluncia : from Rotolo (roll/chubby) + "-uccia" (a cutesy suffix)
      • Frigidazzi : from Frigida (undersexed) + "-azzi" (a pejorative suffix)
      • Mortegro : from morte (death) + negro (black)
      • Fedabiblio : from "fede" (faith) + biblio (Greek for book)
      • Mosh : from "moscio" (ugly, floppy)

      • Ernesto : a real given name
      • Rocco : a real given name
      • Julia : Giulia (same pronounciation)
      • Ducio : Duccio (a real given name)
      • Flindo : Lindo (a real given name)
      • Topo : mouse, but also a real family name
      • Petra : from "pietra" (stone)

      • Selina : Selene (a real given name)
      • Ensorcio : from "sorcio" (rat)

    2. I always thought the Italian Renaissance was the clear inspiration for Moonshade.

      Aside from the names, there are also some of the clothes (especially Filibercio), and most of all the “Machiavellian” politics that the nobles of the era were involved in.

    3. They're clearly Italian-inspired; my point is that the necromancer has a death-themed name, the frost magic specialist has a frost-related name, and so forth. That suggests to me that these are names they picked for themselves as teenagers, and not the names that their parents gave them (naq orpnhfr frireny bs gurz ner noqhpgrq sebz bgure pvgvrf gung qb abg abeznyyl tvir vgnyvna anzrf).

    4. The "roll, chubby" etymology for Rotoluncia is funny, but I think it's more likely they started with "rosso" (she's the Red Witch) and they changed the consonant (maybe too similar to Rocco?). And similarly "Frigidazzi" is surely based on the English "frigid", not the Italian "frigida" (which I believe is a borrowing back of the English). The name might also be a bit of a double entendre but the pun exists in English, too.

    5. @Happy Camper: you are more or less right, the English "frigid" (very cold) and the Italian "frigida" (undersexed) and "freddo" (cold) all come from Latin "frigidus" (cold).

  6. That's what I love with Serpent Isle. The Black Gate is incredible for exploration, but all the cities have the same architecture. In Serpent Isle, Monitor looks a bit like a Black Gate (Trinsic, more specifically), then you have Fawn with its own tileset... and then you have Moonshade where almost every building is different, with automates,... I was in awe. Generally I prefer wargames over cRPG, BUT my top games are cRPGs, including the U7 duo.

    Funny you bypassed Fawn by the way. I did not know it was possible. I am curious to know whether it changes anything.

    I am curious what the earlier commenter who said he started the Ultima series with Serpent Isle thought about the Seance with characters from Black Gate.

    1. He visited Fawn briefly to get the poison cure, but there's really nothing in the game that pushes you to complete Fawn's storyline before going to Moonshade. The game's reputation for linearity is a little overblown. You don't even have to finish up Monitor before moving on. I believe all you have to do to progress is pass the Knight's Test.

      When I first played the game I took a similar route to Chet -- I really wanted my spellbook back!

    2. I think I often try to skip Fawn because it's kind of annoying, but it's pretty easy to get caught up in its scripted events if you hang out there for too long looking for the poison cure.

    3. Gur zber yvarne cneg bs gur tnzr fgnegf nsgre gur guerr pvgvrf, bapr lbh ragre tbeyno fjnzc.

    4. The only real choice the player has in the early-mid game is to postpone Monitor's and Fawn's quests, which most players will do on the spot because it's convenient.

      Half of the map is effectively locked out for half of the game, and there are sections (like the one Chet just went through) when you cannot even backtrack to earlier locations.

      Compare it to basically all the other previous Ultimas, where you can access 90% of the overworld map from the start, being limited only by your combat prowess or mean of transportation.

      And, by all means, there for a reason for that, it would not be possible to have such a tightly scripted plot with the same level of nonlinearity as earlier Ultimas.

    5. I think it's fair to say that SI is more linear than previous Ultima games, and what you mention about convenience is a big contributor to why that sometimes gets exaggerated further. If you're playing with forewarning that there's an extended period where you can't get back to Monitor and Fawn, the natural choice is to do as much as you can before leaving. Over time I think that's led to walkthroughs (and Let's Plays) being written in a way that makes it seem like there's one obvious correct way to play.

      Serpent Isle seems like an early attempt at the "branching and bottlenecks" structure of scenario design. The main problem is that they never got around to fleshing out the branching parts as much as they intended, but the bottlenecks are very obvious.

    6. I didn't mean to bypass Fawn. I assume there's still a way to get back there and finish the plotlines, as someone mentioned earlier that some players wait until they have the spellbook to attack the goblin village.

      If I thought more about it, I guess I would have realized the trip with Hawk was one-way and perhaps finished up that part of the island first.

    7. Yeah, you're fine.

      Vg'f orra njuvyr fvapr V cynlrq, ohg V erpnyy lbh'er gnfxrq gb erghea gb gur znva vfynaq ivn gur pngnpbzof naq Sheanpr, fb lbh pbzr onpx bhg arne Zbavgbe. Ba gur jnl lbh trg frecrag grrgu fb lbh pna whzc nebhaq zber rssvpvragyl. Riraghnyyl lbhe cngu jvyy gnxr lbh gb gur fjnzcf bs Tbeyno, juvpu ner evtug ol Snja.

    8. While you're fine plotwise, we're approaching a part of the game where there's a clear benefit of the Avatar being level 6 and vairfgvat va trggvat Perngr Nhgbzngn va lbhe fcryyobbx

  7. Excuse me, but this session sounded more like a bad acid trip than any before it.

    Counter arguments?

  8. I doubt it was intentional on the part of the designers, but the fact Monitor is still familiar, re-using the same art from Black Gate, leads you into thinking it's just more of the same. Then you visit the other two cities with their unique architecture just blow you away. (Apparently they pushed the limits of the engine with Moonshade, and had to scale it back a bit.)

    I do find it interesting that the friendliest mage you meet is Montegro, a nice twist on your expectations.

  9. Uh, wait a minute…why are all the rangers dead in that screenshot posted below his description of the mutton search?

    1. Um, sorry, just read your rules regarding anonymous commenters and I don’t know how to delete my previous post. New reader of your lovely blog.

    2. Because Chet was Committed to finding that mutton =p

    3. My guess is he used a screenshot from much later in the game by accident. (He's usually way further than his blog posts indicate.)

      Or it's as Tristan says, the unhinged Avatar went into a killing frenzy. "MUTTON!!! GIVE ME MY MUTTON BACK!!" *hack* *stab* *slice*

    4. It's kind of annoying as there is an somewhat hidden vault (er, cellar) in Julia's quarters with several bottles of wine, which would be the perfect location, but the mutton it's not there.

      I guess the devs forgot to put it or didn't bother.

    5. Mmmhh, apparently there are some leaked design documents available which say that originally the lost item was supposed to be a map, and ranger Ernesto was supposed to exchange it for the wine.

      Kind of makes sense, as the mutton is such a mundane item to have the player chase around .

    6. If some mutton appeared in my wine cellar, I wouldn't eat it, but I definitely wouldn't let it rot there among my wine bottles.

      I'd feed it to the alligators on the swamp and see what happens.

    7. How could the avatar had a map of serpent isle at the start of the game?

    8. I'm a LITTLE ahead of where I'm blogging, but that screenshot was contemporary. I killed all the rangers, searched their bodies, and reloaded. I felt like the mutton had to be SOMEWHERE.

      As for the map, I suppose the Avatar having one makes about as much sense as the player having one. Maybe Lord British has sent agents to the Serpent Isle over the years to collect intelligence.

    9. It was with Batlin's notes. Whenever you mention a place name, a giant screaming red head pops out and tells you where to go.

    10. I vaguely remember that in the story, the map is mentioned as being in the items left behind by Batlin?

      Carefully left behind, just like the note from the group that attacks the Avatar at the exit of the Royal Mint :D

    11. The Avatar had a bone to pick with them.

      I'm not sure I'd even know what this Avatar would do with a, by now, decaying leg of mutton at this point.

      I don't suppose the devs expected someone to hunt every last minor item.

  10. You could solve one of your ongoing issues ol whfg cbccvat gb gur Fvyire Frrq sbe n pbhcyr bs zvahgrf..
    (hopefully that was vague enough not to qualify as a spoiler)

    1. That's a bit more annoying. Orsber pbzcyrgvat Fvyire Frrq gur Nzhyrg bs Onynapr unf n 1 jrrx erpunetr gvzr, fb lbh unir gb fyrrc n ybg.

    2. I played it so long ago that I thought vg bayl nccyvrf gb geniryvat gb gur cnfg, abg gur bgure jnl nebhaq.

      Also, on a comparative scale of annoyance, I would definitely put it lower than the alternative.

      (NB to Chet: the comment above is a very explicit spoiler)

  11. Do NOT mess with that contraption, doing so too early is one of several ways to break the plot. If you didn't touch the items you should be fine though.

    1. Replying to myself, in order to not start too many top level, comments but very minor spoiler on the blood moss:

      Gurer'f n zvavzhz nzbhag bs oybbq zbff gung Cbegubf jvyy npprcg (V jnag gb fnl 3). Fvapr ur qbrfa'g fryy vg, vg vf bar bs gur ener erntragf ng guvf cbvag bs gur tnzr naq vg vf tbbq zbir gb xrrc nf zhpu bs gur Oybbq Zbff sebz gur fjnzc sbe lbhefrys nf cbffvoyr.

  12. I really enjoyed reading this one. Moonshade is my favorite part of the game.

    I like the vibe, the high fantasy setting, the intrigues...
    Also the level of detail. So much story is already told by how the houses look like and what items they have.

    I even thought the Space Phoenix was a touching wow moment.

    BTW, When I played, Rotoluncia kidnapped Shamino. Maybe it's random?

    When I last played Serpent Isle, I did Fawn first and then Moonshade. And then did Monitor Helm of Courage storyline last. For me, Simon the Innkeeper (remember him?) came as a whoa! moment, because I had been sleeping in his inn for so much of the game.

    Anyway, I think it's in Moonshade where the puzzle/adventure game nature of SI really shows. You'll be going through people's stuff trying to find smt compromising (sex toys, kinky underwear), pulling levers, finding secret doors...

    And another thing: the other towns have less of it, but Moonshade has several moments where the lives of the background characters seem to change together with the plot progression. Making it feel as the world is progressing with you.

    I still think there are so many good design choices in Serpent Isle, that every game designer should play it once.

    1. > I still think there are so many good design choices in Serpent Isle, that every game designer should play it once.

      Exactly this. There are days I think Ultima 6 is the best one because it does everything beautifully. There are days I think it's SI because it's flawed by a few things but so nicely executed on others

  13. What?! No "This giant sea turtle doth not belong to us?"

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. More parallels between Ultima 1 and 7.2:

    - U7.2 Monk Isle = U1 The Brother (village) (monks = brotherhood)
    - U7.2 Erstam's isle = U1 The Morbid Adventure (dungeon)
    - U7.2 Mountains of Freedom = Free Death Hole (dungeon)

  16. Looking at that bag full of keys, I remember now why I was always in a hurry to get to/through Moonglow.

    Gur xrlevat lbh trg sebz gur Fvyire Frrq rkcnafvba znxrf xrrcvat n gvql onpxcnpx fb zhpu rnfvre. V'z arire ragveryl fher jura gur evtug naq cebcre gvzr gb qb gur rkcnafvba vf--vg frrzf yvxr vg znxrf gur zbfg frafr yngr va gur tnzr, ohg gung vf nyfb jura vg srryf yvxr vg vf yrnfg yvxryl gb gnxr gvzr bhg sbe jrrxf gb tb rkcybevat qhatrbaf.

    Naljnl lbh qrsvavgryl jnag n fcryyobbx gb pbzcyrgr gur rkcnafvba.

  17. As always, screenshot captions are on point, though you excelled here!

    I still have yet to play an Ultima, but I have enjoyed both this series and Antepenult thoroughly so far, thanks!

  18. It was pointed out earlier that "Erstam" is an anagram of "master". However this also applies to EVERYONE related to him, i.e. "Vasel" = "slave", "Drogeni" = "ignored" (noting you'll find her corpse early in the beach where you start the game), "Boydon" = "no body", and "Pothos" = "to shop". GROAN.

    1. Thanks for pointing that out. You'd think this would be second nature by now.


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