Friday, March 12, 2010

Ultima III: Won!

Exodus: Ultima III
United States
ORIGIN Systems (developer and publisher)
Released in 1983 for Apple II, Atari 800, and Commodore 64; 1985 for DOS, Macintosh, PC-88, and PC-98; 1986 for FM-7, Amiga, and Atari ST; 1987 for NES; 1989 for Sharp X1
Date Started: 7 March 2010
Date Ended: 10 March 2010
Total Hours: 10
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate (2.5/5)
Final Rating: 51
Ranking at Time of Posting: 9/9 (100%)
Ranking at Game #420: 396/420 (94%)
Exodus has fallen. I won Ultima III in about 10 hours of total gameplay.
I should have been saying this all along in previous entries, but ***spoilers follow!*** If you're planning on playing Ultima III you might read my first entry on the game but leave this one until you finish.
Ultima III is not a terribly difficult game if you don't push your luck with the dungeons until you're ready. As I think I said in my first post, I don't believe in saving and reloading games just because you don't like a certain outcome, like a character dying during a battle. Instead, I force myself to haul my character to the healer and get him or her raised or resurrected. It makes the game more challenging. The only time I reload is when my entire party is wiped out. Even with this restriction, though, my characters only died a few times.
A commenter pointed out to me that another blogger has already done a fantastic job with the Ultima series: Zac Bond's "Blogging Ultima." Over a one-year period from 2007-2008, he played every Ultima game, including the little-known Escape from Mt. Drash and the Nintendo Gameboy Runes of Virtue. I'm trying to avoid spoilers, but I read his commentaries for I, II, and III. We had a lot of the same impressions--I even took the same "Copy Protect!" screen shot as him, and he also commented on the rampant evil of your character in Ultima II. Anyway, if you like my blog, his is definitely worth reading through (he still posts now and then with new material).
As far as I know, no one has blogged Wizardry, so I still have a corner on part of this market.
Although the gameplay was occasionally a little repetitious, I found Ultima III to be authentically fun. There are hints of the greatness that would soon follow in Ultima IV. The storyline is much more sensible than in previous Ultimas, the magic system much more developed, and the combat more tactical. If you're really interested in getting in to the Ultima series but don't want to slog through some of the nonsense in Ultima I and Ultima II, I recommend starting here.

The towns of Fawn and Monitor/Montor, first introduced in Ultima I, are here--I think for the last time until Ultima VII. You also run in to both Dupre and Shamino, soon to be your close companions in Ultima IV, in a couple of bars. As I said last time, Iolo and Gwenno are both in Lord British's castle. You practically have the whole gang here.

Finishing the game involves visiting every town and talking to each person to obtain a series of clues. By piecing these clues together, you discover that the main steps are:

  • Visit the dungeons and find each of four "marks"--hot iron brands on the walls that I guess permanently imprint on your characters. The Mark of Kings allows you to advance to higher levels; the Mark of Fire allows you to cross lava without damage; the Mark of Force allows you to walk through force fields; and the Mark of Snakes allows you to bypass the silver snake guarding Exodus's castle.
The things I do for Sosaria...

  • Take a ship through the whirlpool and into the land called Ambrosius. Within this land there are four shrines, and at each shrine you find a "card." The are called love, sol, moons, and death. You need these to defeat Exodus.
  • Find exotic arms and armor, which are the only weapons and armor that work in Exodus's castle.
  • Build up your characters until they're strong enough to make it through Exodus's castle.

Exodus's castle, beyond the silver snake. Anything to do with the later Serpent Isle?

Of these steps, the last is the most time-consuming. I discovered fairly early in the game that your spell points do not increase as you level up. They are dependent upon your ability scores and stay fixed based on those scores, so I realized if I was ever going to get my cleric to cast "greater heal" or "raise dead," I'd have to increase her wisdom. Fortunately, the shrines in Ambrosia that hold the cards also allow you to raise your stats--for a price of 100 gold per single stat increase.

For hours, therefore, I spelunked the dungeons, collecting both gold and experience, and made repeat trips to Ambrosia to increase my numbers, focusing on wisdom for my cleric and intelligence for my wizard. Some of the dungeons have fountains that heal you to your max hit points, and I found that a good strategy was to stand near one and wait until attacked, then heal after battle. I also found a town that contained a large cache of treasure chests I could plunder. They refreshed each time I left and re-entered, so it was an easy if time-consuming way to build up my gold.

This town made life a little easier.

The dungeons, I should mention, are a lot more interesting than in Ultima I or Ultima II. First, you have to use them--they're the only way to get marks. Second, they have a lot more perils, including traps, gremlins that steal your food (God, I hate those little buggers), strange winds that blow out your torches, fountains both foul and refreshing, and occasionally treasure rooms. You really do have to map them so you can avoid running in to the same traps over and over. Fortunately, you can buy gems that, when peered at, give you a map. I took screen shots of these maps and then annotated them in Word. Also, unlike previous Ultimas, in the Ultima III dungeons you can't see the monsters coming. One second you're walking down the hall and the next you're in battle.

This is for Gandalf!

Now, I did break my rule about saving and reloading once. Look, I'm not an evil man, but at least once every Ultima game, you simply have to try to kill Lord British. Well, it was surprisingly easy in this one. Lord British's castle holds a frigate which you can steal and use to blast guards, jesters, and other castle denizens--including our revered sovereign:

If you leave the castle and return, he's back on his throne, acting like nothing has happened. Still, I figured I'd better not press my luck and I reloaded.

When my characters all had 2150 hit points and reasonably high attributes, I decided to try my luck with Exodus. It was a little easier than I expected and I won on the first try. The monsters were fairly difficult, and just before the end you face a battle with--this is definitely an Ultima III original--the floor itself. Wave after wave of floor tiles, which you cannot see, attack you.

Ah, that dastardly floor! Quick, Ur-Emp, cast PINE-SOL!

After that, it's a simple matter of inserting the four cards in to Exodus, who seems to be a computer.

The heroes destroy Skynet...uh, Exodus

I recorded the ending as usual, including some audio this time. I'm going to see if I can find someone to whom to "report my feat." After that, it's on to Wizardry III if I can get it to work or Alternate Reality: the City if I can't.

Further reading: My posts on the entire Ultima series: Akalabeth (1980), Ultima (1981), Ultima II (1982), Ultima III (1983), Ultima IV (1985), Ultima V (1988), Ultima VI (1990), Ultima VII (1992), Ultima Underworld (1992), and somewhere in there we have the dreadful Ultima: Escape from Mount Drash (1983).


  1. I love the comment in the screenshot: "Lord Britishs Destroyed!" He's plural! NO WONDER there's another on the throne next time you go back!

    198,881 moves. Wow!

  2. You were supposed to "Report thy feat!" to Origin Systems, who would then send you a certificate for completing the game. Needless to say, such certificates are collector's items now.

  3. Replies
    1. I "reported my feat" to Richard Garriott on Facebook. I received a "like" by him on my post.

  4. Interesting ending...

    Did the first Star Trek movie invent the trope of the Machine From Our Time as the robot overlord/enemy?

    Aside: my mother-in-law did her Ph.D. dissertation on punch cards... I assume she'd agree with this vision of the 70s era mainframe as the Ultimate Evil.

  5. that's really cool you tried sending a letter. I wonder if any companies still offer any personalized acknowledgement of players completing their old games?

    1. Sort of related: I think it was the Finnish game reviewer Tuukka Grönholm from Pelit-magazine who got a poster from CD Projekt RED, signed by the majority of The Witcher 2's developers, for being the first game reviewer to actually play through the bloody game before reviewing it. =)

  6. I've only recently discovered your blog and have been reading through from the first entry. I'd mostly like to thank you. You've satisfied my curiosity about some of the older games (rogue/wizardry/ultimaI&II) that I no longer feel the need to spend (or waste) time on. Also it is very nice to see how some of the basic CRPG elements -- that we now take for granted -- were developed and refined over time.

    At first I was confused about how your Ultima III screens and experiences differed from mine. The game seemed (in my fuzzy memory) more refined and didn't feature a computer terminal as the final boss.
    Like many other comments in your blog, this was because it was a different port. I had played the Nintendo version, which was released in 1988, and also didn't have a keyboard available.

    The final boss in that port is a set of pulsing alters:

    I'll continue to read through, although it may be a couple weeks before I catch up.

    Again thanks, and good luck!

  7. Glad to have you, Silence. Platforms really made a huge difference in this era, didn't they? I couldn't believe the differences in Pool of Radiance when I saw William playing it on the NES:

    1. The NES Pool of Radiance is simultaneously a triumph and a travesty. I guess they did pretty well for cramming an over 2MB game into a 640KB cartridge (and that 640KB is within the 5 largest NES/Famicom games, out of over 1,000), but... there are so many things that have been cut or scaled back, that it feels either seriously rushed, or severely unfinished. Really, they either shouldn't have bothered, or waited to port it to the SNES (which had 1MB carts when PoR came out for NES, and over the next several years would eventually have 2MB carts being very common and 4MB semi-common.)

  8. I really should have come back here as soon as I beat the game, but it continued to slip my mind until today.

    Here's my first post:

    and my last:

    It has been one of the least enjoyable games, mainly due to constant grinding, and unbalanced combat. Basically I leveled too quickly, and found myself short on cash not able to take on the higher level monsters that were appearing.

    Maybe it was port differences, but it took me about 30 hours to get through the game. A couple points I wanted to note:

    - The enemies still attack diagonally, but you cannot.
    - The ship has no bombard or shoot option.
    - I didn't get the exotic arms, which made Exodus' castle take quite a few attempts more than was really necessary.
    - I didn't find the clue for the order to use the cards, which in this version of the game is given by an NPC hidden in a dungeon, but he doesn't show up as a point of interest on the gem map.
    - This meant it took a few attempts to get the correct order, which I guessed at being related to the cycle of life.
    - I did my best not to steal anything, and I somehow missed the bribe command. I realized it afterwards, and found it is given by an NPC you need to speak to twice to enable.
    - Replacing the Dig command are the silver and gold picks used to dig up the exotic arms. I didn't quite understand the clues to get these, and one in fact required stealing, which I decided I wouldn't do.

    The ending did reference altars, but you didn't interact with each one. It was more of a single device that requested you place the cards in the proper order.

    I hope that the other Ultima games prove to be better. I have Ultima IV coming up soon (will probably get to it next January or so). Before that I have the NES port of Wizardry. Wish me luck.

    1. Forgot to mention another difference. I believe new to this version is the option to donate blood to the doctor (give 100 HP, get 50 gold). This is how I ended up earning all of my money for stat increases. It took a long while, but it seemed just as quick as getting into long battles. Basically go through nearly all my HP, run to the nearest dungeon with a healing fountain, go back to town and repeat. Only took about an hour or two to get nearly max primary stats once I found this method.

    2. Dang, I should really let my thoughts ruminate for a while longer before posting. One other thing new to the NES port was an escape sequence. After shutting down EXODUS, the castle begins to crumble, and you must race to the exit. Get caught by falling debris, or have the way blocked would mean a game-over. It's an interesting addition.

    3. Thanks for all this information, Zenic. I didn't realize the platform differences were so significant. The only one I can say that I "like" is the last one you mention. The game did seem to end a little abruptly after the fight with the fllor (is that in the NES version)?

    4. The fights with the floor are in the NES version as well. They're still invisible, about 8 or 9 enemies (whatever the maximum was), and there are two fights. Basically there's a 4 x 2 area where the fight automatically occurs. So you step in this area and get into one fight. After this, you need to step up one more square into another fight.

      I don't know how it is on the PC version, so I'm trying to describe it best I can. After the second fight there are two more squares from which you can see the altars across the water. Here you use the Pray command to interact with them I believe.

      Also, the game makes reference to an Anhk symbol you retrieve before racing to the exit.

      One of the biggest things that held me back, and increased my time, was avoiding the dungeons. Early on I jumped in one and met Gargoyles and Demons are level 1. I figured dungeons housed more powerful monsters than outside all the time, but they seem more or less fixed at a certain difficulty instead.

      A lot of the the classes in the game seem superfluous when you can raise everyone's strength to the highest, equip them all with the exotic arms (called mystic sword and armor in the NES version), and HP is all the same. It makes more sense to have everyone in a priest or magic class to increase utility.

  9. Ultima III was the first of the series that I played, and I had a lot of fond memories of it (those spell descriptions!!!). A few years ago, I went back and played it again. Unfortunately, the few memories that I had were really all of the cool parts, and while I still enjoyed it (I had been 10 the first time), this is one game that just doesn't bear replays very well.

    I make FAQs for myself as I play games. Kind of like your blog, but less prose and more hints, and with an intended audience of 1. This allows me to solidify my thoughts, keep notes, and if I'm taken away from a game by work or family for a few months, allows me to jump back in with a minimum of hassle.

    Well, reading my notes once I'd completed U3 the most recent time, I realized that quite a bit of the game is really pretty useless if you already know it, and all that's left is grinding. Perhaps it could be argued that that's true in most games, but it's more pronounced here. Furthermore, said grinding is actually best accomplished by being a worse a-hole than you were in U2.

    When you first start out, you're pretty weak, and it's somewhat tough to find wandering monsters, but the city of Yew has a whole bunch of single-enemy combats just waiting for you to pick up some easy xp (and gold!). Further, once you get more powerful, guards are a great source of consistent xp that you can fight over and over again.

    Also, the entire attribute-gaining system (and thus all the high-level spells) can be completely ignored. Getting to the shrines is required for the cards, but it costs quite a bit to raise stats. And the gain from doing so isn't all that much -- you only need to be able to fight a few nasty battles on the way through the ending castle. Since that's the biggest money sink, most of the money you need can be ignored, too. And if I recall correctly, powders to negate time can still help in the last section, so you don't even need all THAT many levels (though that's still the only real time sink).

    I did find it interesting to note, though, that all of the classes you can choose between boil down to Fighter, Thief, Cleric, Wizard, and then multiclasses like in AD&D. A Druid was a Cleric/Wizard. An Illusionist was a Thief/Wizard. A Ranger was actually all 4. In this way, it's also kind of a prelude to the class system (and therefore the Principle/Virtue system) used in Ultima IV. And, given that raising stats was useless, the best party ended up being a Fighter/Thief variant in front to open chests (I'd choose Ranger to get the "turn orcs" spell), followed by 3 Fighter variants behind him (I'd choose Paladins, so I could turn undead and heal). This allows you to equip all the best stuff so leveling is easier, and that's what the game is really about.

    Last note: I never did figure out if the Exotic Armor was useful. I remember in the final castle trying Exotics on some and regular on others, but couldn't really tell a difference.

    1. That strategy is very interesting. Powders and negate time spells didn't work in Exodus's castle in the original Apple II release. That makes a huge difference in the strength of the characters needed to win.

      While I'm thinking about it, this reminds me of an interview with Richard Gariott I saw recently on YouTube (if I recall it was called "Britannia Burns"). He said that due to a bug, unknown to him for years, weapon type has no bearing on the amount of damage done in combat in Ultima III.

      He described how he found out. A fan send him a letter that said some thing like "wow, you were a genius for making it only possible to kill a dragon by using a dagger. Almost nobody would try to do that!". Richard Gariott said, hmmm, that doesn't sound right and went into the code to check and found that weapons are ignored in the damage calculations. He blames it on the playtest department which was one person at that time, the same person as the programmer, graphics designer and marketer :-)

      So, to your point about a streamlined strategy for winning, yeah, screw the weapons upgrades too :-)

    2. That's an awesome anecdote. Frankly, this could happen in a lot of games--where the type of weapon is less important than player level--and most players wouldn't notice.

  10. So at your recommendation, I decided to get Ultima another shot starting with the third. Any important hints on someone who has only dabbled, unsuccessfully, in the franchise?

    1. You're definitely much better at Ultima 3 than me. I've spent maybe 10 or so hours in it over the past 2 days and seem to be stuck.

      I started off with a ranger, paladin and cleric. The Ranger, Tanuvein, is going to be the character that becomes the Avatar in IV, at least from my perspective. It seems to be a good party. I made slow progress originally, trying to balance out my explorations with weak healing. As I got money, I bought my Paladin a sword and my Ranger a bow, but it quickly became apparent the bow was a better option so I swapped those out as soon as possible. I managed to get them both plate armor as well as chain mail and a mace for my cleric. I needn't have bothered with the mace, he barely seems to do any more damage and doesn't kill anything.

      I've explored all the towns and talked to everyone on the mainland, getting several clues. I've explored the dungeons straight north, northeast and south of Lord British's castle and have managed to get to get the marks of fire, force and king. I haven't been able to find the mark of the snake yet, but there is another dungeon in the southwest I've yet to fully map and explore.

      I did manage to find Dawn after a few easily pieced together clues. After looking at them, however, I was somewhat annoyed with the denizens of Sosaria. Why must each one give me a vague clue about Dawn that only makes sense when I put them together? I feel like I should have tightened the wrenches on the jester in British's torture chamber when he gave me crypted directions. Why not just tell me what's there? Or when I get there? I understand it's to encourage exploration and such, but for some reason it feels silly. At least I know where all the random people who scrawl cryptic notes in Dungeon Master and its ilk are from.

      I digress. Once I got to Dawn, I bought a +2 bow for my ranger. I'm not entirely clear on if dex or str increases bow damage, but I gave him a balance from the start. I've yet to raise their stats as I haven't found Ambrosia - one of the tidbits from your posts I wasn't able to make myself forget. However, I've yet to find Ambrosia or Death Gulch, both of which I've gotten several leads for. I'm assuming their either on the island or the unexplored mountain range in the center of Sosaria, but that's where my problem lies.

      I spent about an hour running along the coast looking for a pirate ship, but one never popped. I'm still landlocked, looking for a way to escape. I finally googled it, and apparently it's just random so I'm hoping when I jump on tomorrow and one appears.

      I'm also stuck with an increasingly useless cleric. While invaluable in the sense of keeping my party alive, he never gets any kills himself. More importantly, since healing doesn't give xp, he's becoming a liability hp wise. With my ranger and paladin around 9 and my wizard approaching 7, it's a bit shameful he's still level 1. I've tried throwing him into combats, but I feel like I'm playing D&D with a level one character and swinging my sword in the air for 10 turns as I try to hit my foe.

      Hopefully if I get a boat, I can find Ambrosia, level his wisdom and get some damaging spells. If you have any tips on cleric leveling, what level I should be at by the end, or how to get a boat I'd greatly appreciate it.

    2. Oh, I also haven't found any of these four cards that were mentioned in some of the clues. Also, as a side note, if anyone else decides to play the game, I highly reccomend using Pix's patcher for ultima games, as it gives Ultima 3 graphics from Ultima 4 and makes it considerably more appealing than the images here.

    3. I've made considerable progress since my last posting. I am not sure if posting these here is acceptable, but as your blog motivated me to play these games it seemed appropriate. If you wish me to refrain through these postings in the future please let me know.

      Early in my session yesterday I continued to be lost. I explored the coast a few more times, looking for dungeons and towns I hadn't finished yet, but found nothing. What did popup was interesting and one of two fortunate accidents that day. I saw a portal just outside of a mountain range, what I imagine is a moongate. I immediately jumped in this portal and found myself at a new dungeon! Here I met the Time Lord who gave me some hints on how to beat the game. I also found the final mark I was missing here. I also found a another dungeon full of even more clues.

      I continued to explore the portal network, realizing that they seemed to shift based on the moon phases. I never bothered to map them and simply kept reentering until (I believe), I explored them all. I found Devil's Guard in the center of the mountain range and solved the mystery of all my missing random encounters and lack of ships. They were all here, waiting patiently for me. I took out about seven hoards of enemies and two ships. Upon leaving, it seemed to appropriately reset the spawn rate and I continued to run into larger amounts of enemies.

      Not much later, I finally got my first ship! First order of business was to explore the two remaining cities. I didn't find much at Death Gulch, but Fawn pointed me to go back to Yew and pray at the center of light. Doing so, I got the clue to say 'Evocare' at the snake and the hint I also needed a Mark (presumably the Mark of the Snake, which I now have).

      I took this opportunity to explore all the small islands, digging for exotics. I found the exotic arms almost immediately, but somehow I missed the armor my first time and had to search them all again. I was beginning to worry at this point, as I did not have any of the cards and could not find Ambrosia! I remembered you saying that is where I can get my stats raised, but I had successfully purged the rest of the information from your blog.

      Still searching for it, I managed to secure a second boat and sought to dock it in a convenient place for a back up. It was at this point that the whirlpool I had seen around decided to create some chaos. First it ate my backup boat and then it seemed as if it was chasing me. I tried to flee, but due to wind shifts I was mostly dead in water until it came up and ate me.

      At that point I expected a game over, but I washed up on a new, unexplored land! So, it turns out, this is Ambrosia. Was there actually a hint for this? The only clue I managed to find was that I had to 'go into the brink'. In retrospect, this probably means the whirlpool, but I would have never taken that as a clue to rush headlong into it.

      Here I managed to raise the stats for my Cleric, but I need money to do a bit more. I managed to get three of the four cards but gave up looking for the last. I didn't try too hard, honestly, as I was mostly seeking to raise my cleric's abilities. I'm sure I'll find it when I go back. In the mean time I've been sitting at the lowest level of the Time Lord's dungeon next to a healing fountain, trying to grind xp and gold. I've also been running in and out to loot his chests. At this point my Paladin and Ranger are approaching level 20, but my cleric is still locked around 7 and wizard is about 10. I intend to go back to Ambrosia soon to max out my cleric's wisdom so she can get her instant death spell. Hopefully a few castings of this will catch her up. Regardless, I might try what I assume to be the final dungeon/castle soon. This game is turning out to be a lot of fun, despite some complaints I have. It makes me look positively forward to trying Ultima IV.

    4. I certainly don't mind you using the comments for this, and I'm sorry I didn't get back here fast enough to provide any hints. That's a riot that the game was spawning all of your enemies out-of-reach, and I'm glad you figured out how to get to them.

      I DID mention that the way to get to Ambrosia was to "take a ship through the whirlpool," but I honestly don't remember how I figured that out for the first time. I'm glad you ultimately got there, if accidentally. Based on your description, it sounds like you're on the brink of winning; I don't recall that there were many more puzzles or obstacles.

      Your point about the NPC dialogue is well taken. I'm on a quest to save the world, here! Do you think maybe you could give me more than half a hint?

    5. So you were right in that I didn't have much to left. I just had to get the card from the strength shrine, which I already knew. I spent the rest of the time grinding, but that seems totally unnecessary in retrospect. My Paladin and Ranger were around level 20 and my Wizard and Cleric were 25. I had both of the caster's main attributes maxed as well as both of my fighter-types melee abilities. I also maxed out my Paladin's wisdom for a bit more healing.

      I jumped in my boat after my last leveling session, taking my boat to the giant snake and yelling 'Evocare!'. I holed up on the other side, passing a few towns casting healing spells. With a little trepidation I entered Doom's castle.

      It seems like there were a lot of false paths, but I didn't get distracted by most of it. Falling the left-hand rule, I pretty much only went into one small red-herring area. The combats were surprisingly easy, and I only lost maybe half of my hp by the time I was outside of Exodus' chamber. I took the opportunity to pass time and heal to max, which turned out not to be needed as well.

      I fought four tile 'monsters', which was a little tricky for the first battle, but I don't think they hit me for the other three. Looking at my notes from Dr. Who, I knew what order to use the cards in and received the final 'cutscene' asking me to play Ultima IV. Why yes, I will, thank you.

      All in all, it was a really fun game and now has me intending to finish the rest of the Ultima games (sans 1 and 2, I'm just going to skip them entirely). I enjoyed the relatively simplistic leveling system, though I was a bit disappointed the other playable races just didn't exist in the world. The story was bearbones, but the exploration and clue-hunting was fun. I would have liked the NPCs to have more developed dialogue as I remember your descriptions of 4, but saw nothing like that quite yet.

      Graphics were good, though I was using the patch to place the Apple versions in my DOS game. Sound was unbearable. My only real complaint was going to be that it barely leveled me or gave me enough gold to get strong enough throughout the main game, but it turns out I spent way more time strengthening my party than neccessary. I honestly think I could have beat it at around level 10 without any spells to back me up, based on the hp I lost and amount of healing I had to do.

      I did find food rations excessively expensive for how shortly they lasted, however. A months supply of food for four shouldn't cost as much as a +4 Plate and Bow.

      I look forward to playing Ultima 4. I already used Pix's patcher and tested it out, making (I think) a bard. I wanted a mage, but decided to answer the questions truthfully. I'm running the game with Apple graphics and C64 audio, both of which seem to be quite good. Unfortunately, Skyrim's Dragonborn DLC comes out in two days, so it may be a bit before I get back into Sosaria.

    6. I'm glad you liked the game. I agree with you on its weaknesses, and I think you'll like the improvements in both U4 and U5. Feel free to post your experiences on those respective entries. I enjoy reading this from someone else's perspective, and to be honest, I didn't post enough about U3 back in 2010. It was early in my blog, and I thought I'd better serve my readers and purpose giving general summaries rather than detailed descriptions. It later turned out that we both preferred the latter.

  11. Hello, I'm playing Ultima III on dosbox. I was able to get the Mark of the King and Mark or Fire. How do you get the Mark of Force and Mark of Doom. I looked at the dungeon map for fire and doom. They seem impossible as there's no doorway to reach them. How do I reach them? I playing using a human barbarian, elven theif, human ranger, and bobbit druid. Do I need to reach them via moongates, using the cleric's magic spell to teleport randomly in the dungeon to reach them? I can't
    seem to find any walkthrough videos on Youtube or anywhere on the internet that shows it.

    Also, how to I increase the magic points for the Druid and Ranger? They are stuck at 12 MP for the Druid
    and 6 MP for the Ranger. Please help. I want to beat this bad really bad.

    1. Druid's MP is half the greater of INT or WIS, and Ranger's MP is half the lesser, so to raise a Druid's MP, you have to raise INT or WIS (no reason to raise both), while for a Ranger you have to raise both (and that comes out to four stat points per MP!) As for the maps... there are walls you can walk through, and check GameFAQs.

    2. Walls that can be penetrated in Ultima spots a small hole in the middle: meaning that some randy lummox had already tried penetrating the wall before.

      So, check out for irregular patterns on the walls.

  12. I meant to say I want to beat this game really bad. Please help me with how to reach the Mark of Force in Dungeon of Time and/or Dungeon of Doom since there's now doorway to get through according to the Ultima III dungeon map location. Also need help increasing the magic points for spellcasters.

    1. 'Nym, I wish I could help, but I played this game three years ago, and I don't remember where all the marks are. My blog is fairly useless for hints because of that reason. But if Andrew Schultz's walkthrough...

      ...doesn't help you out, I don't know what will.

  13. Still a touch of the "science fiction" in there, with the punch cards and computer. Spoony's video of this game has a pretty funny skit on the floor attack.

    As an aside, the gremlins are one of the worst creatures in any RPG ever, along with their vile cousins in Ultima IV.

    1. I would have added them to my "most annoying" list, but you don't actually SEE them in the game, so they're less an "enemy" and more a random encounter that just happens.

  14. Your blog is fantastic and really hits home in a big way! I completed U2 when I was just a kid.. maybe 11 years old? I remember it being a rather bad experience, and the pop culture bits were way over my head. U3 was my next adventure. Interesting story about my experience with U3. My disk became corrupted and only allowed for me to have 1 character in my party. At that time, buying a new copy was not an option. Having limited experience (I was aware of Ambrosia and how to increase hit points from previous, brief plays), I decided to take a stab at a solo character party. For this daring attempt to work, I ultimately decided to go with a Bobbit Paladin (huge sacrifice of spell points for weapon damage). This served as a good choice considering he performed the functions of a fighter, cleric (all truly necessary spells), and makeshift thief with Apper Unem. Long story short, after probably dozens of hours playing the game, I maxed all stats, obtained all marks, and made my trip to Exodus. With 1 character, I was able to make it all the way to the floor tile battles! I could never defeat them all, but I knew, without question, that I was minutes away from completing the game. I'm not sure if it is at all possible to actually complete with 1 character, but I was SUPER close! I may be the only person on the planet to get that far solo, but to finally see the end of the game that I never could quite get to is priceless. Thanks!

  15. I replayed the game after many years and had some fun by completing it with four clerics in 120k moves on DOSbox :)

    1. That's awesome! I'm planning on trying dwarf four clerics the next time I play. With 75 strength and 50 dex I figure they'll be pretty decent fighters plus all the cleric spells. Being able to cast 4 Cleric O's will be really nice. I usually have a wizard but I don't think giving up wizard spells is that significant, except at the beginning when the wizard can give combat and extra push with Wizard A/B. Only using melee weapons as required by clerics will be different, especially in the beginning but I think it's manageable. At the end in Exodus's castle everyone is of course using melee weapons anyway.

    2. It's now 9 years later and I finally did this all cleric party run! (see the comments below around July 2024)

  16. Greetings U3 fans! I’m late to this thread (just found it), but I see there are some open questions I can help with.

    U3 is one of my favorite CRPGs of all time. I’d guess I have over 1000 gameplay hours in, between playing it over and over as a kid on the Apple II in the 1980s and a few times as an adult in emulators and most recently again on an Apple IIe system I bought on ebay.

    I’m a novice at blogging so I’m not sure how it all works, but if the blog sends me an email alert when new comments are posted I’m happy to try to answer any questions about the game anybody might have. I have a lot of information about Ultima 5, and to a lesser extend Ultima 4.

    1. Wow, you really are a bit of a niche player, aren't you?

    2. Yes, thanks :-)

      I’ve done a number of things to keep the game interesting, that I’ll share in case anybody else really likes the game but has won it a few times and it’s become less engaging.

      Things I’ve done are to take different paths and set goals aside from just winning the game such as:

      1) Find the marks in different locations than I remember them. There are multiple locations for most of the marks, and I don’t remember all of them. I have a usual location I get each mark that I seem to remember over time, so it’s been fun to make myself find them elsewhere, which recreates that part of the adventure in a way.

      2) Find a different way to raise mass quantities of gold than Death Gulch. There are several other honey pots out there than approach Death Gulch’s gold per minute acquisition rate.

      3) Experiment with different character types, go way outside whatever your norm is. I’m going to try four clerics next time.

      4) Set a goal of building characters strong enough to completely destroy all inhabitants of Montor east and west (the two towns with the most guards) without pausing after each battle to regain magic points; just plow through. More towns can be added to the list to up the difficulty level.

      The level of character development required to win the game is much less than required to accomplish this goal.

      There are of course some game ethical considerations here and I respect people who choose not to do things in a game that they would not in real life. For me I look at role playing differently, and I like to play the villain. I root for Darth Vader and the Witch King of Angmar ☺

      5) Set a goal of building characters strong enough to completely destroy all inhabitants of Exodus’s castle without pausing after each battle to regain magic points (just plow through) and still be strong enough to destroy Exodus. The level of character development required to win the game is much less than required to accomplish this goal. It is also much harder than #4 above.

      This goal can be divided into two sub goals (a) destroy all inhabitants that will attack you, easier. b) destroy all inhabits, much harder as there are Daemons, Balrons, and prisoners which won’t attack you but are quite powerful as they come in groupings of 8.

      I’ve achieved (a), but fell short of (b). Next time I play I have a new strategy that I think will work for (b).

      Same comment on game ethics applies as #3.

    3. Well...good luck with your next play. Out of curiosity--you do play other games too, right?

    4. Thanks for the well wishes. Yes, I do play other games. There are other CRPGs that I've replayed in recent years (Ultima III/IV/V), some I love but haven't played since the 1980s (Bards Tale III, Might and Magic 3, Wizard Crown, Wizardry I), and some I've recently for the first time (Bards Tale I).

      Ultima III was the first CRGP I played in the 1980s and for some reason always was drawn back to it. I think the other factor was, in the 1980s I recall very long waits between games, partly because of release cycles but also just because it was hard to acquire them as a kid for various reasons. So when I was worn out on Ultima IV, for example, I had nothing better to do than play Ultima III ad nauseum until Ultima V came out, with the occasional diversion into Castle Wolfenstein and trying to program RPGs.

      I've had a very bad experience with newer RGPs. World of Warcraft in particular I hated....also tried Neverwinter Nights and though it was "ok". I recently gave the modern genre another change by playing Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I’m finding that I really enjoy it despite low expectations and a fundamental aversion to the concept of a game that tracks your quests and tells you where to go, who to talk to, etc. I’m spending a lot of brain cycles considering the reason why.

      Sorry for the slow reply. I need to try and figure out how to get google to email alert me for blog replies.

  17. Awhile ago somebody asked a question about where to find the mark of Force. There are two locations. The first is in the dungeon “Doom” southwest of the hidden Town of Dawn. (coincidentally the dungeon “Doom” is the name of the final dungeon in Ultima 5) You’ll know your in the right place if after walking forward a few paces you get misty writing “Welcome Fools, to you doom!!”

    The mark of force is located on the 8th level of the dungeon doom. Level 8 is a wide open level (not a lot of walls). The mark is found in the exact center of the level in a small room accessed by secret passages (view a gem or cast Cleric L to see secret passages on the map).

    The second location of the mark of force is in the Dungeon of Fire (due south of Lord British’s castle, and a little east, in the mountains. It is surrounded by lava.

    The mark of force is on level 8. If you look at a gem map you should see three rooms which are accessible via different ladders from level 7. The mark of force is in the room only accessible via the ladder in the southwest corner of the map.

  18. Awhile ago somebody asked a question about how to find a boat in Ultima III because no pirate ships were appearing.

    Pirate ships should generate randomly but I have seen this problem (where they don’t generate at all) in PC emulators. I once got to level 15 once and no boat, which shouldn’t happen. I’ve never seen the problem on the Apple II version. Not sure why.

    However, there is another way to obtain a boat.

    Use the create boat spell to sally forth a frigate from the netherworld. This spell is available in PC emulator versions and the original Apple version. I know for sure the Mac port doesn’t have it. I’m not sure about other versions.

    1) First, board the boat in the lake (moat) of Lord British’s castle which can't the castle leave due to the protective force field that surrounds the castle and only opens at the entrance with the blessing of the King.

    2) Upon boarding boarding the boat, engage in combat with guards or Lord British himself. Sacrifice one of your players to the gods (allow him/her to be killed by the guards).

    3) Once the sacrifice is given, chant Appar Crashumgame Unem while rebooting your computer (apple II) or closing and reopening the application window (PC emulator). Upon reentering the game, you will appear on the surface map, in a boat, placed on top of the icon for Lord British’s Castle. Move the boat into the bay and you are all set.

    Note: I had some fun making an exploit of the games logical structure into a spell. I told this to somebody once and they took it literally and were trying to use the yell command to yell “Appar Crashumgame Unem” which doesn’t work in combat. So, just for clarify, all you need to do is board the boat, kill a character, and reboot the computer or app window :-)

    p.s. this isn’t a hack, it is an unintended consequence of the logical structure of the game, much like why Lord British can be killed by a canon. If anybody is curious in knowing a more technical explanation of why it works, let me know and I’m happy to elaborate.

    1. U3_Guru, you're really living up to your name. The boat trick is a fascinating bit of lore.

    2. Thanks!

      Here is another bit of Ultima lore:

      In Ultima IV, on the Apple II version, there is a way to create a box with unlimited gold in it. Just keep opening it and it will never run out.

      The way to do it is this:

      1) Backup the Britannia and Underworld (dungeon) disks just to be safe
      2) Go to the surface, outside of any towns/castles/villages (doesn’t matter where)
      3) remove the Britannia disk and insert the underworld disk into the same drive that the Britannia disk was in.
      4) walk around until the game reads from the disk in the drive.

      Ultima IV periodically reads from the Britannia disk when walking on the surface because the map is so large. The result of the game reading from the disk for more map data when the underworld disk is in the drive is that the map tiles go crazy. Tiles become random, and can be any tile used in the game. The end result is chaos and it’s hard to walk around as many things block the way. However, it’s almost always it is possible to walk around a little and eventually come across a tile with the box icon. For some reason, the box doesn’t disappear when it is opened and never runs out of gold.

      I have never tried this in an emulator version and the concept of inserting/removing disks doesn’t apply. There may be a way to do it by manipulating the disk images but I am not sure. If I recall I tried it once on Ultima V for the Apple II and it did not work.

    3. Wow, you just triggered a long-dormant memory. I seem to remember playing with a friend and stumbling upon this cheat by accident. As you say, I don't know how you'd do it with an emulator. Maybe rename the images while the game is trying to access them?

    4. That's a good idea, it might work.

      It's been a while since a I used an emulator but if I recall it access the images as needed...i.e. I don't recall the game pausing to prompt you to insert another image like it would to insert another disk. So maybe load up the game, go into DOS window and rename the underworld disk image as the britannia disk image and see what happens. I'll try it some time.

      The other key thing I think is whether the emulator reads from the image periodically as the avatar moves around the map. If it does then I think this has a good chance of working. In theory I'd think it would read from the image periodically because as I understand it the code structure functions the same in the image as it did on the Apple II, hence the Ultima III "create boat" trick mentioned in an earlier post is confirmed to work in an emulator.

    5. For some reason this topic was on my mind today, so I set out to see if the Ultima IV disk swap exploit will work in an emulator.

      Quick recap: the exploit on the real Apple II is to go out onto the surface map, then swap the Britannia disk with the dungeon/underworld disk, then walk around until the drive reads data from the wrong disk, and discovery a very bizarre landscape containing a box with unlimited gold.

      The news is mixed. First I tried AppleWIN (PC Software), which can run Apple II disk images. It works! AppleWIN has actual disk drive icons which disk images are loaded into. As a result, it is possible to literally remove the Britannia disk and insert the dungeon/underworld disk into the drive.

      I also tried this using an emulator called Mame, which doesn’t have disk drives the player can manipulate directly. The disk images must be specified advance on the command line when launching Mame. I tried to rename the disk images to create the effect of swapping them but it didn’t work because the emulator put a file lock on the disk images.

      So, I suspect this exploit will work in any emulator that allows the player to insert/remove disks and it probably won’t work on any emulator that requires all disk images to be loaded in some fashion at launch, at least short of hacking DOS to remove the file lock.

      Another tip: it matter where you are on the surface map when switching the disk. The unlimited gold box is usually easily found by flipping the disks a few tiles south and a few tiles east of Lord British’s castle.

      The reason the location matters is because each tile map that the player sees on the screen is represented by an 8-bit hex value ($0-$FF). When the game is functioning normally, as the player walks around it will load data from a specific location on the britannia disk which contains hex values the were laid out so they would represent the map the player is supposed to see. When the disk is switched, the game will read from the same exact location on disk that it normally would, except that it is the wrong disk, resulting the game reading hex values from whatever happens to be stored at that location on the dungeon/underworld disk, which is likely the machine language for the program than renders the 3-D dungeon views.

      Since machine language is just series of hex values, the game doesn’t crash when this happens, it just treats the values it reads in as being the hex ID number for a tile, and it draws the tile graphics associated with it. By altering the location on the surface map when the swap is done it changes the location on disk that the game is reading from, and thus the hex values it reads change, and the tile graphics drawn changes. It is luck of the draw whether the hex value for a box happens to be a value read from disk in any particular location.

      Not sure if the technicals are of interest to anyone but I love games, and what makes them tick, so I thought I’d share :-)

    6. I remember the infinite-chest exploit from back in the 80s. My brothers and I called the Underworld-ized surface 'the Twilight Zone.' I was able to recreate it in the C64 emulator Vice. I blogged about it a few years back:

      I tweeted about it at the time, incorrectly calling it a 'bug.' Richard Garriott politely pointed out that it was actually an exploit.

    7. Just so the people here are aware, MAME's Apple II emulation is pretty much best-in-class these days and comes with a built-in GUI for easy disk swapping.

  19. A long time lurker from Sweden who, like so many others, have read through this blog from the very beginning. I started playing CRPGs on the C64 in 1980 and have never managed to stop. I think I’m about the same age as our addicted host. I must add that this is the most interesting and captivating blog I’ve ever come across. Thanks for all working hours lost :-)

    I noticed that no one has commented on a very peculiar aspect of Ultima III. On the character creation screen, when choosing you characters gender, you can press M (for male) or F (for female). But you can also press O for ”other”. I thought this might be interesting, particularly these days with all the discussion about HBTQ-issues in the media. I wonder what Mr. Garriott thought when he programmed this? I’ve never come across another CRPG where you could choose anything other than male or female for a characters sex, which makes Ultima III rather unique.

    1. That's an interesting point. I suppose it's possible that the developers were being extremely broad-minded. Another possibility is that they though it better served fantasy themes to have a third choice--after all, do "fuzzies" conform to traditional gender roles?

      This absolutely isn't my area, so I could be wrong, but I'm not sure that an "Other" option really signifies HBTQ progressivism. I mean, whether you're gay, bisexual, transexual, or transgendered, you still generally identify with a sex, right? So calling a transsexual person "other"--like you're choosing "it" instead of "he" or "she"--would be a bit insulting, right?

    2. I agree, it is very unlikely that they had anything other than broadening the fantasy theme in mind. But as far as I know this is the only CRPG ever to have had anything other than male/female as a choice. Something to keep in mind if you ever get around to write that book of yours.

      I will read through the comment sections of all games I have played myself, and see if I can find some other tidbits to contribute. Thanks again for this great blog.

    3. Well, there are hermaphrodites, eunuchs and people born with ambiguous (i.e. none) genitalia.

      It's only insulting if the person in question find it so. For instance, most people would take offence if they were called a "f*cker" but I don't mind it at all. But call me a "f*ckee" and you will have to choose how many limbs you want still attached to your body & 1 is the maximum number you can get from me.

    4. 'Other' tends to be regarded as an 'otherising' term. I think the most inclusive (and interesting) way to handle this is providing three options: Male, Female and Blank (write your own description in this space). If 'write your own' isn't suitable for some reason, then maybe you could title the non-binary option "both/neither". In any case, offering 'other' is certainly an improvement over the usual binary!

  20. If anyone is curious, I removed "Owens's" comment not because of the question but because it linked to spam.

  21. Hi, enjoyed reading these comments, it brings back many childhood memories. I'm currently replaying Ultima III and getting pretty close to the end. Could someone remind me if the world map remains intact and if I can continue to use the characters you win with. I have alot of chest unopened on the main map and don't want to loose them. Thx

    1. No, I'm pretty sure the game ends for good when you win. But I could be wrong, because I can't imagine any mechanism by which you could leave unopened chests on the main map.

    2. When you win Ultima III, the game presents you with a special "congrats you won" screen which hints at Ultima IV and then the game stops. You can't "continue" from that point with your characters but you can reboot the game and the game will resume just outside the final castle. Thus, all experience points (and damage) aquired in the castle are lost. From there you can enter the castle again or you can go anywhere in the world with your characters and continue playing.

  22. Just finished the game. It actually doesn't save at the end so when you go back in, it leaves off at your last save.

  23. Awesome blog CRPG Addict! I'm afraid life has left little time for gaming on the computer in recent years, but I've greatly enjoyed living vicariously through your blog. Ultima 3* was the first CRPG I played extensively and I loved the Ultima series, playing all of them up to Ultima 7 prior to real life barging in. Starflight was another fave. Interestingly, I wanted Wizardry, but was terribly disappointed when it turned out that our Tandy 1000 wouldn't run it... but it did lead to me exchanging it for Ultima 3 at the recommendation of our local computer sales guy!

    I will add that my favored party was three fuzzy wizards and a bobbit cleric. I would immediately buy all of them a stack of daggers (99 per person if you have the cash). I found that the ability to cast around 15-18 mittar spells (wizard spell B) along with the cleric throwing daggers was pretty effective in killing most lower level monsters, with only a few ever reaching hand to hand combat. The wizards would tend to outstrip the cleric in terms of experience, but once you saved enough gold to get to Ambrosia you could rev the cleric's magic points up to 99 and left them cast Zxkugyb for a series of combats which would level them up in no time. Once you go back and push all of your mages up to 99 magic points you have a party that nothing can stop at all. It was basically legal cheating! I'm not much a of a grinder you might say...

    Ultima 4-7 (And 7.5 although I never was able to play it through) saw exponential leaps in the gameplay, to my mind they would represent the games to play for anyone who wanted to revisit the golden age of classic CRPGs from 1983 to 1990 - with a side dish of Ultima 3 for dessert. And Starflight too! I have considered going back to Exult and playing the entire Ultima 7 package if I can find the time.

    * I say that... but I actually spent many hours playing Tunnels of Doom on our old TI too... almost forget about it, despite the fact that it was a truly remarkable game for the time it was written and the limited platform of the TI99/4A.

    1. Creative strategy! There is a way around the problem of clerics lagging behind in XP.

      Go to the town of Yew. There are no guards so you can let your cleric grind the cleric villagers for +6 XP each. This of course would not be tolerate in Ultima IV and beyond but Ultima II was before the virtue system. In fact, Richard Garriott has mentioned this tactics was one of the reasons he created the virtue system :-)

  24. A couple things I didn't see anyone mention:

    1) If you stuck in the wrong card in the wrong section of Exodus, you die. You had to find the Lord of Time in one of the dungeons in order to learn the correct order. He looked like a guard, only he was drawn with wall tiles instead of individual pixels, so he covered the entire map window.

    2) You don't have to use EVOCARE to get to Exodus's castle, as there is a moongate that takes you there. This method allows you to get a horse into the castle, enabling you to outrun a few combat encounters.

    3) Having a horse also made it possible to move in between combat sessions with the floors. This means you can walk onto the treasure chest left from the first fight before the second fight, which changes the combat landscape to grass, enabling you to see the floors.

    4) I believe it was possible for the floors to share a tile space with you, which made fighting them a little more difficult. However, all you really have to do to beat them is advance the two front characters two spaces, then keep attacking north.

    5) If you explore Exodus's castle, there were also treasure chests which would attack you.

    Great blog, BTW! I've been reading it so long tonight, I need to wake up for work in 3 hours.

    1. Oops, clearly you can't just moongate to Exodus, as your image above shows. I must've had a boat bridge and forgotten. However, once you get a frigate in there, you can use the moongate to go get a horse.

    2. Thanks for the interesting addend!. In reference to your point #1, it must have been one of the many things I elided in this entry. In my first year of blogging, I tended to summarize a lot more than I do now.

  25. Long time lurker here, finally deciding to post! After a great deal of procrastination and false-starts, I'm finally playing through a long list of CRPG's I've made, beginning with the Ultima series, and I just now finished three. I made it all the way to the end without spoilers or hints, but I eventually had to look up where to dig for the damn exotics, I scoured the whole game and couldn't find one clue as to where they were. I really enjoyed it though, definitely hitting the "good enough" point you've expressed in the past. It took me about twenty five hours, and I'm about to fire up Ultima IV now, which I've been excited to play.

    Also, I've read your blog for years, and over the past couple weeks I've started re-reading from the beginning to make sure I've read all of it, and I just want to say thanks and keep up the good work!

    1. I'd love to be in your position, playing U4 for the first time. Let us know what you think.

    2. Same poster as above, properly signed in this time.

      I haven't yet been able to devote as much time as I'd like, but from what little I have played I have really enjoyed. Ultima III felt like a huge step up from its predecessors, and this one even more so. So far I've picked up Iolo the bard and explored Jhelom (my starting city, I got fighter), as well as Britain and Lord British's castle. I also did my first spot of meditation at the Shrine of Compassion. To be honest most of my time with the game so far has been extensive note taking, as well as printing and annotating the map and documentation. I figure this will pay off later, and I'm settling in for the long haul on this one. More thoughts to come as I go.

  26. Loved this game. I still have a game going that I'm trying to cover every square with unopened chests...still working on it

    1. That's awesome!

      I don't think I ever covered all the land tiles with unopened chests, but I have created chest roads between towns (3 chests wide so mobs can't attack)
      and I've covered the entire forest by Dawn with chests, which makes for an interesting look since a forest tile with a chest on it is no longer
      a line-of-sight blocker, making the entire forest disappear.

      I suspect your goal is achievable. I'm pretty sure this is no memory limit to the number of chests, it's probably stored as bit flag on the byte that stores the tile_ID for the underlying terrain (Ultima 3 only had 16 unique tiles, so that leaves
      3 bit flags that could be use for special cases). If that's the case then every single tile on the map could be a chest tile.

    2. I love how U3_Guru shows up now and then to comment on this and only this pair of entries. There are more games than Ultima III, Guru! Allow yourself to live a little!

    3. LOL! I actually do play other games from time to time, though I can see how it might not seem that way. I just particularly enjoy reading about and talking about Ultima III :-)

    4. The 'chest roads' is something else I remember doing (with my older brothers; gaming was a collective endeavor in those days for me) back in '85.

      The way that Ultima III saves a world state that is independent from the characters' state almost reminds me of an MMO. If your characters die, you can't just reload the last save. What's saved is the world, in which your characters' status is now 'dead' and you need to do the old 'roll another character, disperse/form the party, and start resurrecting' trick. Sort of the old school equivalent of a corpse run...

      I think the usual for single player RPGs has long been to inextricably link the world state to the character save game file. U3 seems to look forward (or backward? Plato?) to multiplayer.

      Anyway, the upshot of all this is you can have different parties roaming in the same world. My brothers and I all played on the same scenario disk and would form/disperse in order to use our own parties.

      As for filling the entire map with chests, I got really bored in a recent DOSBox runthrough and tried to see how close I could get. Here's a small glimpse:

      Of course, the more chests you have, the fewer tiles there are for monsters to spawn on. I don't know exactly how the spawning logic is set up but I think the result is a net decrease in monsters spawned as available tiles goes down. I also have a sneaking suspicion that monsters don't spawn on forest tiles, but I'm not sure about that. Anyway, it would take an ungodly amount of turns to actually end up with 100% coverage, if it's even theoretically possible. The closer you get, the harder it is to spawn monsters on the final few tiles.

  27. I believe so as well. I'm not sure how creatures spawn, perhaps some spots will never be able to get a creature due to the chests blocking the spawning locations...

    1. Yeah, if the spawn points are fixed coordinates, that could be a problem. I don't know exactly how the spawning works but two other ways it might work are a random number roll for X and Y coordinates, making every tile a possible spawn point, or creatures might spawn at a fixed distance relative to the player, just off the visible screen.

      If you run into trouble, one approach might be to leave an open area where you know creatures spawn, and then on horseback, lure them to the spot you want to turn them into a chest, then fill in the spawning ground last.

  28. Back in the C64 days, my copy of Ultima 3 was corrupted. For whatever reason, I was only able to play the game with a 1 character party.. and so I painstakingly did. I believe the character was a Bobbit Cleric (though it may have been a Druid). With maximum stats from Ambrosia, I made it all the way to the final room your awesome video just displayed. Alas, I could not beat the floors so I was never able to actually finish the game. That said, I'd say it was quite the accomplishment to get all the way to the end of the game on a single character party!

    1. Really would like to know if U3_Guru has ever tried beating the game with one character lol.

    2. Sorry, I just saw your message from well, 2 years ago!

      No, I have never tried to win U3 with only one character.

      I'm an Apple II player and I can confidently say that it isn't possible on the Apple II version of the game (or I would have tried!)

      The C64 version in particular appears to have fixed the bug causing the weapon and armor damage/defense rolls to be skipped, and if I recall, using powders (stop time) is permitted in the final castle (they fail on the Apple II version)

      As a result you can do all sorts of interesting things on the C64 version, like win the game without talking to Lord British (which means you are winning with 150 H.P. per character since you can't levelup without talking to the King).

  29. Re-read your Ultima III posts after reading your Gates of Delerium post (seems that world is perpetually in Autumn). I was curious as to what Gimlet Ultima III would receive. I apologize if you mentioned this in some other post.

    1. I gave it a 51, but rating it after I played it, I feel I was a bit generous in some categories.

    2. Thank you for letting me know. To be fair, you had probably only been using that system for a little while at the time, so you probably had to work the kinks out.

      I really enjoyed Ultima III. Even though the graphics aren't anything special anymore, I still like how the older Ultima games look. I play them from time to time via my C64 emulator.

      Out of all the first 7 Ultimas, the only one I never completed was Ultima II. Got stuck in Minax's castle with no idea how to get through it.

  30. Don't know if you've said anything about this elsewhere, but there are a few unofficial expansions for Ultima III called Ultimore, at least one of them is currently floating around, but the rest are still lost.
    More info:

    1. I believe the fellow who made a Game Boy Color port of Ultima III said that if you completed the game, he had designed a second full-length campaign after that. I was tempted to try, but the GBC interface didn't seem very conducive to playing the game all the way through.

  31. Just discovered your blog (while dimly remembering reading about it a couple of years back). I like your writing and RPGs are my favourite genre in PC games to, so for now my goal is to read it all.
    Hope you are still having a blast with it.

    1. After 11 years, I'm still having a good time. Great handle.

  32. I'm not sure how trivial the accomplishment is, but I just managed to beat U3 with a two-person party (Bobbit Paladin and Bobbit Druid). I'd be curious to know if others have two-manned this game, and with what class combo. My mix had decent utility but with both characters maxing out at 49 mana, absolutely no access to multi-pronged damage spells. I wonder if a simple Wizard/Cleric combo might be just as effective; you have higher max mana and everyone can wield/wear Exotics for the final castle, which I think is the only real difficulty bottleneck.

    I was playing the ugly DOS version (via GoG) because that's the simplest to run. I noticed that this version doesn't seem to have any poison traps or gas traps when opening chests, which makes it marginally easier than the C64 version, I think. The pirate ship spawn rate was also frustratingly low; I had to just stand around holding down the space bar for long stretches to get another ship after the whirlpool took two of them. I don't know if that's unique to the DOS version or the same in all of them.

    I've played the game more times than I can count, but I made a couple new observations this time. If you don't have a boat and can't get over to do the Death Gulch run, there's a nice little loop in the dungeon just northeast of Lord British's castle, the Perinian Depths (always wonder if that title was meant to be some kind of dirty double entendre...). On Level 2 is a very conveniently located healing fountain that you can use between runs. Then climb the ladder down to L7, use 'Lib Rec' to teleport to the main part of that level, and loot the large number of chests. You can then cast Rec Su to go up a level and climb ladders to get to the SE quadrant of Level 4, which has another big chest-filled chamber. When done, either 'Sequitu' out or go back up to the L2 fountain first to heal. It nets a lot of gold, can be done if you don't have ships to reach Death Gulch, and I think when your party is strong enough to slice through the odd Balron pack you can do the whole thing about as quickly as a Death Gulch run.

    When you're not spending time gathering clues from NPCs, exploring all the dungeons, trying to find the Time Lord, and so on, the intrinsic grind becomes pretty apparent. Buying stat upgrades at the Ambrosia shrines amounts to a huge gold sink; this is not a game where you more or less get the gold you need along the way. (I imagine it feels more like that when it's brand new and you don't already know exactly where/how to do everything, but I remember needing cash badly enough to do multiple Yew-slaughters and later Death Gulch runs even when I first played it in 1985.)

    U3 is still my favorite videogame of all time on an emotional level, but in many ways it's remarkable what a quantum leap U4 was after it. Kind of a 'Rubber Soul to Revolver' moment for Garriott. (Except sometimes I prefer to listen to Rubber Soul...)

    1. I can see why this one would worm its way into your heart. It's such a fundamentally lovable game, flaws and all. Congratulations on winning with such a challenging party--I would definitely call that an accomplishment.

    2. Thanks!

      I just went through it again with a different 2-person combo - Bobbit cleric and Fuzzy wizard. There's an initial hump (when you are only levels 1-2, an 8-pack of Golems can easily wipe your party, and those can be found even on level 2 of dungeons). But once you get over that it's pretty smooth sailing.

      Exodus's castle is much easier when you have multi pronged offensive spells at your disposal. I used most of my magic points to deal with the 2 or 3 dragon packs (having horses in the castle means you don't have to fight as many). Then I rested up to regain mana in the fire/force-field zone before the computer. The four 'floor tile' enemies weren't much trouble.

      So, all in all, the game is eminently beatable with a 2 person party. I think wizard/wizard might work even better, though in that case you would want to be extra cognizant of your healing fountains in dungeons. Also not being able to cast 'sequitu' (dungeon exit) would make things a bit less convenient.

      Still wondering if a 1-person run is feasible. Can 2500 hit points survive Exodus's castle? I think it would have to be someone who can heal, so probably a cleric. But it would be tough.

      Note: Garriott wisely made 'negate time' powder unusable in Exodus's castle, as that would have rendered the entire finale trivial as long as you brought enough of the stuff with you.

    3. So it was actually not that hard to solo the game. My winning character was a human cleric. I actually meant for it to be a bobbit, for the 99 max wisdom, but I must have mistyped, maybe thinking of 'H' for 'Hobbit.' It didn't matter in the end.

      The biggest hump is the first few levels; you can easily wipe even to 8x orcs when you only have 150 hitpoints. Positioning is important so that you minimize the number of monsters attacking you per turn. In the early levels I would mostly stand outside the ladder (later outside the L2 healing fountain) in Perinian depths and hold down the space bar until encounters happened. You don't even need torches at first since you aren't going more than one space into the dungeon. I realize the early XP hump could instead be surmounted by massacring clerics in Yew, but I didn't have the heart to do that.

      I had ~3 player deaths, each one causing me to reinstall the game (GoG DOS version) for a fresh world. I decided not to roll a secondary character to resurrect ones who died, because then I wasn't sure it would qualify as a 'solo' run. So the final successful run was executed on a brand new Sosaria with no deaths. 1262 HP, or about 50%, remaining.

      An important step was buying a few Negate Time powders once I had a few hundred gold. Once you have some of those, you have 'insurance' for when a combat goes bad. After about level 5 you have enough hitpoints that you can breathe easier, but I always carried plenty of powder. Got my stats up in 2 Ambrosia runs and got most of my gold through Death Gulch runs. Built a 'bridge' of boats from the moongate to Exodus's castle so that I could ride up to the castle on horseback for the speed bonus to keep dragon encounters to a minimum. (I'm not sure it's winnable without that, but haven't tried.) Each dragon pack and 3 or 4 'floors' encounters were handled by casting ZXKUQYB (O), the cleric multiprong damage spell. I had to pass to regenerate magic in between and ride out the random fire blasts. I dungeon delved for the four marks but didn't bother to seek out information (as opposed to coded inventory stuff) that I already knew; so I didn't seek out the Lord of Time. I consulted no hints (mainly because all the steps to winning are in my brain anyway) and just used gems for dungeon navigation.

      So anyway, it's probably been done before, but I can confirm that U3 (at least the DOS version) is quite soloable.


    4. Wow, that's amazing. Congratulations. If I didn't spend so much time on a blog that was just about playing the games, I'd love to have a blog devoted specifically to playing games with unusual or challenging parties. I have this perverse desire to replay Clouds of Xeen with something like all barbarians.

      Although I think Ultima IV is a better game, it's too bad you don't get any flexibility in party composition like this.

    5. Thanks! It is a pity, since the combat in U4 offers more tactical possibilities where a weaker party could take advantage, and the combat is too easy as is. I can't remember where the game gates your progress based on having all 8 members... maybe it's entering the Abyss, or entering the Codex Chamber? But I know it does.

  33. ah, good. blogger ate my initial comment [and i didn't think to copy and paste it ;)]

    hello there!

    i've been reading your back catalogue of entries, but this was the game that piqued my interest as i was working my way through them - rather voraciously, i might add - and so i started playing ultima from scratch - largely for the first time since the 80's.

    back then, i didn't have either the patience and the stat-i-ness of these games scared me away, so i have found these early editions of ultima something of a revelation.

    it hasn't all been plain sailing - you DO have to take some leaps of logic to find dawn, for example, and the way to ambrosia was...surprising.

    but i'm getting there and thoroughly enjoying it - much as you did all those years ago.

    i want to thank you for your time and effort in writing this blog, it has been a genuine joy to read and i sincerely hope that it spurs me to try more rpg games in the future. [i'm much more into adventure games. :)]

    1. Cool! I wish I could go back an experience U3 for the first time :-) How far are you in the game?

    2. u3_guru : it's /amazing/ that you're still here! :)

      as of this afternoon, i /just/ discovered ambrosia. i've done some exploring, so i know what i'm doing there, and i'm going to get that done before i move on to the next bit of what i want to do, which is tackle the dungeons.

      but i'm going to be in ambrosia for a bit.

    3. LOL - I will haunt this page until the end of time :-)

      Sounds like you're in the thick of it. Such adventures you have ahead!

    4. @u3_guru : it's awesome to bump into you, all the same. i'm glad you're still here, watching this page. :)

      i realized, after i sent my comment that it wasn't a very helpful description of where i'm at, so my /actual/ status follows in rot13, so as not to spoil this post for others, in case they're playing and not reading anything but the comments.

      zl cnegl pbzcbfvgvba vf cerggl oynaq. v fgnegrq bss guvaxvat gung v jnagrq n qehvq, orpnhfr gung'f n punenpgre pynff v trarenyyl yvxr, ohg v qvqa'g yvxr gur jnl guvf tnzr ubooyrq uloevq pynffrf sbe znxvat gung pubvpr, fb v riraghnyyl tnir hc ba gung vqrn naq jrag jvgu n snveyl cher qhatrbaf naq qentbaf frghc:

      zqs, enxrrfu [sebz dhrfg sbe tybel snzr.]
      zrg, dhvyy [nxn fgne ybeq, sebz thneqvnaf bs gur tnynkl]
      zop, ghpx [sevne ghpx]
      zsj, ybfgjbysr [whfg zl thl fghpx va gur onpx gb qrny znffvir qnzntr nf n jvmneq.]

      v yrnearq, rneyl ba gung gur tnzr fpnyrf nebhaq lbh [naq v qvfyvxr gung n gba], fb v yrsg rirelbar ng nobhg yriry 4, juvpu jnf jurer v fgnegrq gb abgvpr obngf pebccvat hc. v qvq guvf vagragvbanyyl fb v pbhyq frg fnvy jura v jnf ernql sbe vg.

      univat tbggra gung bhg gur jnl, v geniryrq gur yratgu bs oernqgu bs fbfnevn, znccvat naq trggvat pyhrf.

      v pbhyqa'g /dhvgr/ jbex bhg jung gur onegraqref jnagrq bhg bs zr guvf gvzr, fb v arire obgurerq jvgu gurz, ohg ybgf bs gur erthyne sbyx lbh pbhyq svaq jbhyq gnyx gb zr naq v tbg rabhtu uvagf gung v unq qverpgvba, juvpu phyzvangrq va svaqvat gur rkbgvpf.

      riraghnyyl, v ena bhg bs fbfnevn gb rkcyber naq gubhtug nobhg gur abgrf v unq. nobhg gur bayl gjb guvatf v unqa'g gevrq jrer svaqvat gur juveycbby naq qvttvat vagb gur qhatrbaf.

      v svtherq gur juveycbby jbhyq or gur fvzcyrfg arkg fgrc naq gung'f jung v'z sbyybjvat hc ba, abj. zl vavgvny sbenl jnf zbfgyl gb purpx bhg jung jnf tbvat ba gurer, juvpu erfhygrq va n snve ovg bs znccvat naq nyfb yrneavat gur jnl onpx.

      abj, zl arkg znwbe tbny vf gb tvir rirelbar gurve "onfr fgng" [qrk sbe guvrirf, sbe rknzcyr] naq gura gb fgneg purpxvat bhg gur qhatrbaf. tvira ubj zhpu tebhaq v'ir nyernql pbirerq, v'z abg fher gurer'f gbb zhpu tnzr yrsg.


      it's a very fun game so far, probably /easily/ taking the honours for 1983 as a rpg. i just wish they hadn't plopped food, poison, level scaling and that INCREDIBLE grind for money in the game.

      all of that knocks it down a peg for me.

      very much looking forward to beating this one.

    5. I agree with you about level scaling. I have never been a fan of it. The good news is that in Ultima 3/4/5, the overworld mobs level scale but the dungeons do not.

      I totally agree that the food and poison mechanics kind of suck. IMO the game is great despite these things not because of them. Food and poison got nerfed in U4/U5.

      Based on your detailed description of where you're at I'll just say this: there are still some exciting things yet to discover!

    6. @u3_guru - glad to hear about u4 and u5 in that respect. my intent is to play those, too, but with a little bit of a remove. i absolutely do not want to burn out on these.

      my recollection - playing these way back when - was that they /seemed/ like good games, but my patience for 40 hour rpg experiences was pretty low back then and i just didn't feel like i had the time to commit to such a big game. better to putter around in the adventure games i so loved at the time, instead. that way, when i got stuck, i understood that i was stuck, i could power down the game, walk away and let my brain noodle on the problem at hand.

      that way, the next day, i could try intervening solutions that had occurred to me.

      part of why i was wary with rpg's had a lot to do with how early games treated the player: many of them wanted you to optimize your party and strategy such that you had the right party composition with the right tools to beat the game, and that just seemed a little unfun to me.

      years later, what's changed for me, i think, is that the patience i've had with everything else in my life is starting to extend into video games. i have to credit the larger games of this era for helping me in that regard, but now, i'm willing to try these older games that demand so much of the player.


      there's been a good back and forth here [in the comments on this blog] about poison and food, so i won't say /too/ much about those, but i'm glad developers ultimately veered away from food, in particular. [poison is still with us, alas.] - so i DO think developers DID learn. it just took a while :)


      that's awesome. my feelings are that i'm about 50% of the way through the game. the next very major undertaking will be the dungeons and that will get me 75% of the way there.

    7. I love that this old thread still gets so much activity, although it just makes me remember that I used to cover games too quickly and I should have spent more text on such a seminal game.

      Thanks for commenting, lostwolfe, and I'm glad you enjoy the blog. I'll be interested to hear your opinion on later Ultimas. You don't need to worry about ROT-13 for games I've already finished; my entries are already full of spoilers.

      I don't think I ever noticed the level scaling in U3. Presumably that scaling is tied solely to level, so that if you visit Ambrosia and use the shrines, your characters will become substantially more powerful than the foes.

    8. @lostwolfe these games are definitely a time commitment. That is great you have the interest and ability to take them on.

      Another piece of good news for you. The Ultimas advanced pretty rapidly. What you're experiencing in Ultima III is a breath of fresh air compared to what came before, which is summed up well by the Addict's opening remarks on this game - "My first impressions of Ultima III are that it redeems Ultima II. It feels like a real game instead of Richard Garriott screwing around."

      I digress, back to the good news, part of the rapid advancement in game dev resulted in Ultima IV and V being pretty flexible about how you play the game in terms of character creation and development decisions, whereas in Ultima III there were a lot of dead ends like you saw. Starting over with a new party was common in U3, and pretty much not necessary in U4 or U5.

      @CRPG Addict - you are correct that mob scaling on the overworld is only tied to character level and that if you're making regular trips to Ambrosia it's easy to outpace the scaling and make short work of any overworld mobs.

    9. @u3_guru

      i think one thing that helps a lot with the time commitment issue in u3 - and i'm not sure if this holds true for subsequent utlimas/other old rpg's [many of which i only played very minimally for maybe an hour or two before abandoning them at the time of their release] - is that you can plan ahead and do little expeditions.

      that keeps u3 fairly manageable.

      my first "expeditions" were learning the lay of the land, for example, and finding all the towns. after that, i powered down the game and came to it the next day, systematically working through the towns to talk to the townspeople, etc.

      so, you build your play experience out that way and while it /is/ heading in the direction of a 40 hour game [for me, anyway], it's not like i'm chained to it.

      i think /some/ of this is by design [and possibly accidental design, too], because grey, towne british, castle british and death gulch are all /fairly/ close to one another, which leads to a happy circle of: "loot death gulch until you run out of keys, sell all your items that you can in death gulch, sell all your items that you can in towne british, head up to towne grey, buy more keys, rinse and repeat" for a good money loop. which kind of lends itself to the "mission-like" structure i've given u3.

      mission? go get money to train in ambrosia.
      way to do mission? death gulch loop.
      when to stop? when someone has 9,999 gold.

      it's very "affable" design in that sense and breaks the game up well.


      that's pretty good to hear about u4/u5. i really badly wanted to play a fuzzy druid. the restrictions on what a fuzzy druid could do was a little harsh :( [but makes sense from a balancing perspective.]

  34. @crpg_addict : as you say in some of your 2013/2012 posts: you were finding your voice. it's all good. i'm /starting/ to see what your blog turned into from my reading of it - i'm presently at dungeon master, and the seeds of your more thoughtful posts are definitely there.

    if you ever swung back around and did a more thoughtful look at u3 - especially - given how it leads into what richard "learns" for u4, i think that'd be interesting and it would certainly show that he was thinking about issues that - to this day - don't really get addressed in games very often at all.

    [i can't think of very many /other/ games - until you hit more modern titles that are as consumed with morality and thoughtfulness as u4, for example.]

    and of course. i enjoy your writing, and it's neat that you get in the weeds with the commenters sometimes and reply.

    as for me: i think i'm going to take a break from ultima for a little bit after this one. i blew through 0-2 very quickly and am finding that 3 is actually a proper game. [my played counter says 35 hours, but at least ten of that was noodling around with parties that didn't work.]

    but i'm very definitely curious to see where richard lands for 4/5/6, which i've only briefly ever looked at in the very distant past.

    as for the rot13: that's fair enough. i just figured i'd err on the side of caution.


    the level scaling is a little weird: if you can get to ambrosia at level 1, you can vastly overpower your party to such an extent that you can just blow through everything overland. i'm not sure you'd have a good experience in the dungeons, because i'm still carting around a l1 cleric and he just regularly falls over if i'm not super careful while opening chests in the dungeons i've visited.

    so, if you go to lb and request level ups from him, the act of making /someone/ very high level seems to invite higher level monsters into the world around them. [this was true in at least u2, too.]

    the result is that in u3, it sort of pays to have a low level party. in u2, it likely matters /way/ less because you can board a frigate and just kill things to your heart's content from range and get xp/gold/items.

    i expect that this will be the framework for at least - as u3_guru says - u4 and u5, which still sort of maintained the look/feel of u0-u3 and thus likely carry over combat/leveling ideas from those earlier games.

    one topic that i do think would be interesting to address - but maybe only /after/ you've finished up with u9, is:

    rg was there at the very beginning of dos rpg's. it's somewhat interesting to see how his design style evolved over time - and his games are likely also a good "barometer" of how the genre settled over time until /just/ before what i think of as "the great homogenization" of the format [where conventions were finally hashed out for the most part and where modern games use many of the same ideas for - say - leveling up, or magic, or the like.]

    this went for longer than i intended, but thank you again, for the excellent blog.

  35. @lostwolfe - Yeah, it really is interesting to see how things evolve in the Ultimas over time. Another key transition point is U6, the first Ultima with mouse support. In U5, Richard really had honed his design skills on the 8-bit platforms and mouse support in U6 added a whole new thing to figure out. IMO they didn't really get a lot of the rough edges sanded off until U9.

    I didn't realize you had played U0-U2. That's great as you are then able to better appreciate what a leap ahead U3 was in a lot of ways.

  36. and now, i, too have beaten ultima 3!

    after ultimas 0-2, this was a breath of fresh air.

    a real game, with some cool [though old] designs. it's definitely a step in a good direction for richard garriott.

    i won't be immediately moving to ultima 4, but i do hope to see everyone in the comments of another game, soon :)

    1. Congratulations! So, on your adventure did you kill Lord British? Cover Sosaria with treasure chests? Completely loot Death Gulch (even the top row of boxes by the merchant) without getting caught? So much fun to be had in this game :-)

    2. i didn't do anything too crazy, no. but i did read about a lot of that stuff when i was done. i was amused to learn that you COULD kill lb, but didn't really work out how to do it.

      at the point where i was done, i hit 37.5 or so hours, which is plenty of time to have been in that world. maybe in ten years time, i'll try it again and goof around, but i'm heading for my next game [which is more of an old adventure game than a rpg] called "below the root."

    3. I totally understand. There are so many games to play!

      I am familiar with Below the Root. Hold onto your shuba!

  37. Pablo Maria Martinez MerinoMarch 2, 2023 at 9:36 AM

    I just saw an interesting twit about Ultima III. You may already know this, but if you don't, you might find it interesting as well: "During the early to mid 1980s, a number of third-party developers released unofficial scenarios on the Apple II for Origin Systems' Ultima III. And by developers, I mean individuals who reverse-engineered the data files and self-published their work."

    1. I didn't know about that! So it sounds like these developers created what we would call "total conversion mods" today.

      Both of these examples come from a single developer going by "Wizard's Caves." Do we have evidence of any more? The person who wrote those tweets says that the games have been "archived and preserved," but I wasn't able to find them with a Google search.

    2. There is more information e.g. here:

      Blogger Daemon Master has dived deeper into this and even created an IBM PC conversion of one scenario. You can find all his posts on the subject here, including this recent discovery of more scenarios (there were/are at least seven by two different creators):

      One of them, Joel Fenton / Backstreet Software, also created two scenarios for Wizardry ('Wizimore').

    3. Not sure if it was mentioned here before, but there is also the 'Exodus Construction Set' which apparently came/comes with a new scenario 'Lavalite World' included, see e.g.

      It was advertised since at least March 1984 ( by a (one-person?) company initially called 'Slothware Software', then 'Magicsoft' (

      This and at least two of the Ultimore scenarios can be found e.g. on a well-known Apple site named after a SF writer ;-) (haven't tested it myself).

    4. These unofficial add-ons are different to the Ultimore ones though, which I actually mentioned above.

      It's interesting that multiple people did this though. Usually this sort of stuff is more reserved with '90s games than some '80s title where it would really be simpler to just code the entire thing from scratch yourself.

    5. @Morpheus: Ah, see that now - sorry, didn't check all the older comments before writing. The Ultimore link was the reaction to Chet's question if there were others than these newly discovered by 'Wizard's Cave' mentioned in the tweet. And as I wrote, there are thetefore at least two different creators, though I agree I could have made that clearer.

      In any case, if one is interested in the subject, I'd say it's worth checking out Daemon Master's posts. And see if maybe even more are found.

    6. Fair enough, its fairly easy for certain popular topics to keep cropping up on particular entries and this is a interesting topic.

    7. Ahh, glad to see we're all tuned into the same developments out in the Twittersphere. I guess when one of us starts pestering Chester independently we may be easier to dismiss but when we all start doing it across many of his posts, he may feel that we're onto something!

  38. I've been playing the NES versions of Ultima III & IV and for all the great elements of setting the approach to levelling and combat is a bit maddening. Level up too far and we will slow combat to a crawl with much tougher monsters that do not provide more gold. The game is literally punishing me for levelling up.

    Can anyone advise if this feature is in the DOS versions?

    If so I think my next stop will be a fan modified version of NES Exodus that reportedly addresses some of the combat issues.

  39. This was my first CRPG, via a pirated copy played on the family Apple ][e in a windowless basement room, late 1983, complete with era-appropriate wood paneling. Thanks to this game, and others like it, I have more intense and fond memories from that tacky room than from many real life milestones (prom, graduations, etc.) That computer was a portal to other worlds. When my parents would let me, I would even sleep down there, just so I could be near it. Having to walk up and down the stairs was cutting into precious game time.

    Thank you for your blog. For many of us, it has helped us vicariously relive the magic of these games. The blog reminds me that there are still places on the internet that don't suck. It even provides a counterexample to the old saying, "Do not scroll down to the comments unless you wish to lose all faith in humanity." The comments on your posts are often my favorite parts! I have gained many new insights into these games by reading them.

    Having no manuals or prior knowledge of CRPG tropes, I had to discover everything on U3 through trial and error gameplay. That sounds like torture to me now, having to roll up characters of every class and try every letter on the keyboard for commands and spells just to see what happens, but at the time I loved it. It was part of the process of discovery.

    An experienced CRPG player can finish this game in a day, but I got literally months of enjoyment out of it. Sometimes I felt like I lived in Sosaria. Like many people of the time, I played the game in a ruthless, amoral fashion. I remember using a thief to steal items from merchants, then sell the stolen wares back to them for gold. ("That's funny, I could swear I've seen this suit of plate mail before...") If you chose your escape route from the town carefully, you could avoid getting curb-stomped by the guards, then you could turn right around and go back into town like nothing happened. ("Mornin' Fred. Mornin' Ralph.") I remember discovering early on that there were no guards in Yew, and the wandering solitary clerics within could be picked off quite easily for a few XP. And, of course, I remember eventually coming back with powerful characters and laying waste to entire towns. I recall being upset that some merchants were walled off within their shops so you couldn't kill them too.

    In short, I played the game like an absolute psychopath. My characters were power-hungry, heartless monsters who were a far greater threat to the peace and prosperity of Sosaria than Exodus or any of his paltry minions. If anything, Lord British should have been hiring Exodus to try to do something about this terrible band of adventurers that bring complete ruin upon every locale they visit.

    The transition from Ultima 3 to Ultima 4 was a quantum leap. U4 changed not just how I play games, but how I live life. I can't say I've been a perfect follower or practitioner of the virtues ever since, but the experience did deeply shape how I go through worlds (real and imaginary), and I am at least trying to do better. From reading your experiences with the game, and those of your commenters, I can tell I am not alone in feeling that way. U3 was not the home run that U4 was, but it was a solid double. It was the first game in the series that really clicked. It brought a lot of us into the CRPG fold. Some of us never left.

    1. What a great comment. I should turn it into a full post so people actually see it. Thank you so much for offering your recollections on playing these games.

      It's interesting that you had such a reaction to Ultima IV that it changed the way you approached games from then on. I've written about how important the game was to me when I was young:

      It didn't occur to me that it might be responsible for an inability to play "evil" characters in RPGs from then on, but it's definitely been a handicap.

    2. Chiming in on what a great comment this is (and bumping it back into recent comments! found it from the U3_Guru posts below).

  40. I played Ultima III much in the same way as you did ask a kid, and in my various replays as an adult I continued the tradition.

    Regarding experimenting with different character times, and in fact the necessity to do so, I thought was an interesting if tedious puzzle, but as a kid I didn't care about tedious. Replay Ultima III as a different party or play Apple Panic was an easy decision!

    Interestingly, that kind of puzzle is now a cardinal sin of game design, even within modern era CRPGs. Allowing the player to create characters that cannot win the game? The horror!

    Lord British hiring Exodus to do something about the rampaging adventurers is hilarious!

    " then you could turn right around and go back into town like nothing happened. ("Mornin' Fred. Mornin' Ralph.")"

    LOL!! Okay, that sounds awfully familiar in a 1980s sort of way. Hip shot here - was that a Farside Cartoon where the torturer walks into the dungeon and he and the prisoner exchange cordial greetings, like they're both just reporting to work?

  41. Funny you should mention Apple Panic. That was among the many average-to-terrible action based games we had on 5.25" floppy disk on the old family computer. One of the many ways U3 was eye-opening was in showing that a game with no discernible real-time action could actually be more fun, immersive, and memorable than any arcade style game. The limitations of the Apple ][ (one-bit sound, anyone?) were obvious on action games, but those became a kind of strength for CRPGs, where inspiring the imagination was more important than razzle-dazzle effects. I'd say from about 1979 to 1984 the Apple held its own against any other system out there.

    The "Mornin' Fred, Mornin' Ralph" reference was certainly in the spirit of the Farside comic you mention, although the actual inspiration was a Loony Tunes cartoon in which a sheepdog and a wolf spend all day fighting, beating, maiming, and thrashing each other, only to suddenly become civil, polite, and make vapid small talk when the "end-of-shift" whistle blows and they are off the clock. Turns out I got the names wrong, I should have said "Mornin' Sam, mornin' Ralph." But early CRPGs often make me think of that cartoon, where a quick step outside of the boundary of an area (and the reassuring whirring of the floppy disk drive reloading the sector) is all it takes to end absolute slaughterhouse combat and restore everyone to their best behavior. If only the real world were so simple!

  42. I remember well those average-to-terrible action based games which I tended to call "files games" because a whole bunch of them would fit on one disk as DOS files!

    I remember the sheepdog / wolf Loony Tunes cartoon now that you mention it. Makes me wonder if that was the inspiration for Larson's dungeon cartoon!

    I totally agree that CRPS really promoted the use of imagination! Specifically relating to leaving the boundary of small maps like towns and reentering - I tried to embed some of that into the lore of the Ultima inspired Apple II RPG that I released a few years ago, specifically stating in the game manual that the realm is full of horse thieves and the wise adventurer does not leave their horse unattended in towns and castles, to explain why unmounted horses disappear when you exit and reenter. Why guards and merchants forget any malfeasance is still left to the player to imagine.

    What was your favorite party build in Ultima 3? As a kid, I generally settled in on ranger, fighter, cleric, wizard. As a replay idea, I've been intending to try it with 4 clerics.

    1. That's pretty cool that you designed an RPG in the classic vein recently. I got so into them back in the day that I tried to teach myself 6502 machine/assembly language as a pre-teen child so I could do some gamewriting of my own. I never became proficient (or disciplined) enough to produce an entire game, though. I did mess around with some U3 world-altering and scenario building with the Exodus Construction Set.

      My party of choice at first was usually a fighter variant (usually a lark because I liked its use of the "jester" icon), a thief (because my early party development often revolved around stealing from local merchants), and the obligatory wizard and cleric. For a replay these days, I'd be interested in adding to the challenge by using some of the "half" magic user classes (alchemist, illusionist, druid) instead of the "full" ones. Four clerics would be a very interesting run, though. Difficult at first, but then the party would be very formidable indeed once they are all powered up.

      CRPG Addict, if you are reading this, your 10-hour run of U3 from start to finish with no prior knowledge of the quest or walkthrough is actually quite impressive. I believe it took me in the hundreds. But those memories are CRPG gold for me. Even making graph paper maps of quest-useless locations like Dardin's Pit was exciting. I didn't KNOW it would be useless. Maybe there's something cool down here? Something more than a bunch of gremlins and a mark of fire you could get in 10 other easier ways in the game? That's part of what I don't like about walkthroughs in general - the very linear A->B->C style of play they encourage, when the whole point should be exploration. Although sometimes I enjoy a well-written walkthrough AFTER I am done with a game just to see someone else's perspective. But 10 hours for U3... wow! Probably a course record! And that's including the important "side quest" of killing Lord British!

    2. It wasn't with no prior knowledge. I'd played it at least four times before, probably most recently in the late 1990s. In fact, the 14 years since I wrote this entry is almost certainly the longest period of my entire life that I have gone without playing U3. That's weird to consider.

      Still, I don't remember the sessions well enough to comment on the time. The web site HowLongToBeat gives a mean time of 13 hours for the main game, but 57.5 hours for "completionists," as if there's any such distinction to be made with U3.

    3. Metsän,

      Thanks! Yeah, I tried Apple II game dev as a kid as well and never finished any games, I kept starting over when I learned something new, or a new game Ultima game out and distracted me! When I made another attempt as an adult, I had to swear of playing games for 5 years (including Ultima 3!) for fear that I’d get distracted.

      I also really enjoyed that the Lark used the jester icon! I never really experimented all that much with it though. As far as the half magic user classes, I agree that would be interesting to experiment with now, just to see if it’s possible. Since magic isn’t very powerful without Wizard P, Cleric O, I think it’s a real question.
      I think it’s probably possible on the C64 version because it allows the use of powders to negate time in Exodus’s castle so you can basically skip the battles except the floor by Exodus.

      A friend of mine did a speed run on the C64 version where the novelty of it was, he never talked to Lord British, thus keeping his party at 150hp. The key was using powders in Exodus’s castle. No way is that possible on the Apple II version!

      My theory on the all cleric party goes something like this -

      If 4 clerics can handle the overworld mobs at low levels, when all they can do is melee attack (I’m least sure about this point), I think getting the marks should be manageable if they cast down, exit etc. to make a beeline to them and out. Four cleric spell O’s I think would handle any random encounters in these short dungeon exposures.

      In Exodus’s castle, taking the left route, I don’t think there are more than 4 mandatory battles with Dragon/Griffon/Wyverns, if your party has a horse. So Cleric O them, and then it comes down to the floor by Exodus and that should be no problem with melee attacks huddled in the screen corner like usual.

      Damn, this makes me want to drop what I’m doing and try it :-)

  43. ======================ALL CLERIC PARTY (POST #1)==========================

    I finally got around to trying to win Ultima III with a party of Clerics to see if it was possible. My typical party in past games were two tanks (fighter/ranger/paladin) plus a cleric and wizard, so this was a big deviation.

    It turns out, it was possible and actually not that hard.


    I entered Exodus's Castle with my character levels at 9, 9, 8, 8. I brought a horse with me, which can be accomplished by first boating to the castle, then using the moongate to return to the mainland, then getting a horse and using moongates return to the castle. The ship acts as a bridge allowing you to ride your horse from the moongate area to the castle.

    Once inside the castle, I took the "left" route, using the horse to make a beeline past the first two Dragons (I did take some incoming fire) and the Balrons. Then I fought two mandatory battles with Dragons (the ones wedged between the forcefields). I cast Cleric spell O on both of them.

    After that, I headed to Exodus's room and passed until I regained enough magic for 2 cleric spell O's and then fought the floor. There were four battles in total so two I had to fight without mass-destruction magic. From there, I insert the cards into Exodus as usual and Bob's Your Uncle.

    To be continued in another post....

  44. =======================ALL CLERIC PARTY (POST #2)==========================

    ===WAIT - CLERICS??===

    "I believe we can handle Clerics" - Sturm Brightblade, DragonLance Chronicles, Autumn Twilight. A comment that didn't age well!

    As it turns out, I think a party of clerics is the most powerful party you can have in Ultima 3. Here's why -

    1) Unlike Wizards, you can build tank clerics. A dwarf cleric has a max STR of 99, max DEX of 75 and max Wisdom of 75, which is enough for Cleric O (the nuke spell) so you're good to go. A Bobbit Cleric can have 75 STR and 50 DEX, and 99 Wisdom, so that's another way to go if you want a Cleric with max magic capability. I made all my Clerics Bobbit's and there was no class based cap on STR/DEX, I was able to reach 75/50.

    2) Offensive Magic isn't really all that powerful until you get the top Wizard spell (P) and top Cleric spell O, which are roughly comparable nuke spells. And, Cleric's really have the better set of non-offensive magic spells - lots of dungeon exploration spells as well as heal, cure, resurrect etc. In other words, I think Wizard's are kind of overrated. For a first time player, they are great because they can use offensive magic early to levelup and Cleric's tend to lag behind in a traditionally balanced party, but for player who knows the game well, I see no material advantage.

    3) There is a bug in Ultima III, confirmed by Richard Garriott in several interviews, that the weapon type isn't factored in to the damage calculation. I've confirmed it is in the original Apple II version, I am not sure other platforms (might have been fixed in some ports). He said somebody wrote him a letter mentioning they killed a dragon with a dagger and he checked the code and found the bug, never noticing before because most players progressively increase their STR stat (which is part of the damage calc) and buy better weapons, so you can feel your attacks getting more powerful, it just turns out it's all because of the STR stat increase and the weapon has nothing to do with it.

    So, I equipped all four clerics with daggers, which conveniently can be thrown in Ultima III. As as result, my entire party could range weapon attack, and as I increased the STR/DEX on player 1 and player 2, the effectively operated just like a a paladin but with the capability to have max cleric magic (Paladins can never cast Cleric O, they only get half magic).

    Daggers are lost when thrown so effectively I had to buy ammunition, in addition to food, as part of the game loop. Annoying, especially with the rudimentary UI in Ultima 3 but manageable for the sake of experimenting with this. I would setup each player with the amount of gold I wanted to spend on daggers and then hold down on the B key in the merchant dialog when buying and very quickly I had purchased 50 daggers or whatever I wanted.

    To be continued in another post....

  45. =======================ALL CLERIC PARTY (POST #3)==========================

    As I write this, I think a human race can have 75 max in each stat. Unless the Wizard class has a limit on STR/DEX (Cleric's didn't) then maybe the "most powerful" party would actually be two cleric (Bobbit or Dwarf) and two wizards (human) as it would give the party access to the full complement of spells and all could wield daggers and have high STR/DEX values. BTW, 75 STR and 50 DEX is plenty. I was two-shot'ing top tier mobs and one-shot'ing everything else, and almost never missed. I've played fighters with 99 STR / 75 DEX and it's only slightly noticeable mobs would be one-shot maybe 50% of the time.

    But, as a practical matter it's not necessary at all. I didn't even max out all my stats. I maxed out STR/DEX on player 1 and 2, and maxed out Wisdom on players 3 and 4, and won the game with everyone at level 8 and 9. If I had maxed out all the stats and maxed out character levels (25), I would have rolled over Exodus and come back for seconds, but totally not necessary to win.

    Last comment here is Cleric's can use pretty good armor (up to Chain) and Wizard's can't, but I wouldn't be surprised if the bug mentioned before also affects armor and it doesn't get factored into the damage calc either. I was going to step through the machine code in an emulator debugger to find out but never got around to it. Another time.

    To be continued in another post....

  46. =======================ALL CLERIC PARTY (POST #4)==========================


    I think the most challenging parties to win with would be the ones with the half magic classes, like alchemist, illusionist and Lark. I never really experimented with them much because the way magic is balanced, it's really pretty weak until you get to the top tier spells, which you can't do unless you are a Wizard or Cleric class.

    In effect, I think the half-magic classes could be used as a difficulty setting. I have no doubt it's possible to win with them. I don't think top tier spells are not must-haves give how quickly tanks with range weapons can cut through even top mobs.

    I suspect these half-magic classes can acquire substantial STR and DEX, and that plus a ton of hit points is really all you need to win. It's just a question of how many hit points you need to make up for killing mobs more slowly (without the top tier spells). You can get get up to 2550 hit points per character (level 25) and my Cleric party won with less than 1000 each so that's a lot of extra hit points to make up for not being able to cast the top spells. It should work.

    I don't know what my next Ultima III adventure will be. Every 2-5 years I end up replaying it to try something! I do eventually want to check out the "Ultimore" fan made expansions. That might be next (for Ultima 3, contrary to what it might seem, I do play other games too!)

    (last post)

    1. I thought I had extracted every possible nanogram of enjoyment and replayabiilty out of this game back in the day, but you have proven me wrong. I'm pretty sure I spent more time playing it than Garriott spent writing it. I have stepped on nearly every playable square, including the mid-levels of the "useless" dungeons and the empty corners of vastly oversized towns. I have killed every reachable fixed character in the game, friendly or otherwise. It is, perhaps, a bit telling about my mentality at the time that "100% completion" also meant "murder everyone that can possibly be murdered," but hey, it was the '80s! It took U4 to get that out of my system.

      I especially enjoyed the "annihilation run" of Exodus' Castle, killing all the guardians on both paths to the throne room as well as killing all the innocent prisoners in the cells. I can just see it from the prisoners' perspective now... "What's all that commotion outside? At long last! Rescue is here!" only for the four adventurers to break into your cell for the express purpose of killing you. After the slaughter, I enjoyed wandering the castle grounds undisturbed for a bit ("Maybe I'll make this a vacation home... the wife is always saying she wants an island... and the dungeon could come in handy...") before finally disposing of Exodus.

      That is very cool about the bug where the weapon type doesn't factor into the damage. I can't believe I didn't notice that in all my hours of play! Like you said, though, most players were building up strength in the shrines at about the same pace they acquired fancy weapons, so it was easy to miss. I do recall at least once accidentally leaving a fighter with only "hands" equipped and being surprised when he took out a powerful monster in one hit. I laughed about it at the time - the diabolical balron from the foulest pit of hell's 9th plane has his reign of terror ended by being slapped. But I didn't put 2 and 2 together and kept saving up for that +4 sword like a fool.

      Anyway, the 4-cleric run is a very interesting perspective on this game. Thank you for sharing it.

    2. Thanks for the reply and sharing your experiences! I can relate to many of them.

      Spend more time playing it than Garriott prolly spend writing it - check.

      I don't think I ever set out to step on ever single square, but I probably came close, especially on the overworld which I did fill with boxes several times :-)

      Your adventure with the "annihilation run" reminded me of a replay I did ~2015 and posted a comment about it to this page -

      5) Set a goal of building characters strong enough to completely destroy all inhabitants of Exodus’s castle without pausing after each battle to regain magic points (just plow through) and still be strong enough to destroy Exodus. The level of character development required to win the game is much less than required to accomplish this goal. It is also much harder than #4 above.

      This goal can be divided into two sub goals (a) destroy all inhabitants that will attack you, easier. b) destroy all inhabits, much harder as there are Daemons, Balrons, and prisoners which won’t attack you but are quite powerful as they come in groupings of 8.

      I’ve achieved (a), but fell short of (b). Next time I play I have a new strategy that I think will work for (b).
      =====END SNIP======

      Congrats on achieving the annihilation run! Exodus most have been blowing it's circuitry in anger as it had to sit there while you tromped around.

      I never got around to trying it again, and as I read my prior comment about it, I realize that I've completely forgotten what the revised strategy was that I was thinking about!

      In any event, I think the annihilation run could be expanded until the mathematical limits of the game's stats system is reached. For example, try annihilating Monitor East and then annihilating Exodus's castle. If that's possible, do Monitor East and West, then Exodus etc.

      Regarding the weapon bug, I didn't realize it either until Garriott said it. Like you, I saw some clues but didn't make the connection. For example, I recall often being skeptical whether buying a +4 bow (versus a +2 bow) was worth it. It didn't really feel any better. However, I interpreted that as a game balancing issue, assuming that the +4 did more damage but just not enough for it to be noticeable in terms of how many attacks it takes to take down a guard or top mob.

    3. Guru, you remain as ever an absolute lunatic. You really ought to host your own blog devoted exclusively to U3. You have enough material in your comments here alone to field three or four entries.

      The weapon damage issue is quite a revelation. It appears in all versions?

      I'm guessing the hardest game would be either an all-fuzzy fighter party or an all-dwarf thief party.

    4. Thanks for the reply Chett. That is an intersting idea about a U3 blog! Perhaps someday.

      I don't know if the weapon damage bug exists across all versions. I wouldn't be surprised if it were "fixed" in some of the ports because there are other game mechanics that were fiddled with such as powders (or Wizard spell M) can't be used in Exodus's Castle in the original Apple II version but that can be in the C64 version.

      Good thoughts! I agree that an all fighter fuzzy party would the hardest or one of the hardest because they'd have no magic by class rules and be limited to 25 STR. I'm tempted to speculate that it would be impossible to win, at least on the original Apple II version where you can't negate time in Exodus's castle. Even if player save scummed until they got lucky enough RNG to grab the Marks in the dungeons, I can't fathom how a party like that would survive two battles with full compliments of dragons plus the four floor battles in Exodus's castle, and that's the minimum, with a horse, unless time is negated.

      Just grinding a party like that up to level 25 at max H.P to test it out would be mind-numbingly tediously slow. That might be a job for a hex editor, even for me:-)

      After 40 years, there is still more to explore in this game! I don't recall after if I commented on it before, but Ultima 3 was the first RPG I ever played and it had a huge impact on me, so these crazy strategies are in many ways just a way to walk down memory lane experiencing the game again but with enough of a twist that I can feel like I've got a goal to accomplish.

    5. Sometimes I find it reassuring, reading this blog, to know that there are people who are even more fanatical about these games than I am. When I'm explaining to a marriage counselor/parole officer/etc. for the 30th time how it is important not just to defeat Exodus but to utterly humiliate it, and the counselor says that I might have a problem, I can say "You think I'VE got it bad, you should see THIS guy..."

      Re: the fuzzy fighter party, magic free parties in general are an interesting way to ramp the difficulty WAY up in CRPGs. The majority of games, I would guess, become unwinnable. Most games have a puzzle, monster, or alternate realm somewhere that can only be overcome through use of the correct spells. U3, however, just MIGHT be beatable. I don't see any step on the solution path where lacking magic is a completely insurmountable deal-breaker.

      As far as I'm concerned, any magic-free combination of characters (fighters, thieves, barbarians) gets the "U3 Ridiculous Completionist" trophy here. No need to up the difficulty to the point of absurdity by going all fuzzy, all dwarf, etc. If I were doing it, I'd want a couple thieves, because their trap evasion skills become paramount when you have no "Appar Unem" spells.

      Fighter-free parties (like that in your all-cleric run) are also interesting. I'd say they are generally much easier. In the "arithmetic fighters, geometric spellcasters" (see tvtropes) world of RPGs, the main purpose of a fighter is to be a damage-absorbing pincushion between the monsters and the feeble spellcasters during the early game. They're also useful for shoveling snow. And those "the thief is already dead and we need someone to open the chest who can take a bomb blast to the face" moments. From about mid-levels onward, an all-magic party is usually very formidable.

    6. ", and the counselor says that I might have a problem, I can say "You think I'VE got it bad, you should see THIS guy..."

      LOL - I am honored to have this distinction :-)

      "U3, however, just MIGHT be beatable. I don't see any step on the solution path where lacking magic is a completely insurmountable deal-breaker."


      If save scumming is done liberally to optimize RNG in key situations, (which I think is valid because I did that on the Apple II with floppy disks back in the day), I see nothing insurmountable until Exodus's castle.

      How do you envision the party surviving and destroying Exodus?

      Using a horse, I've been able to limit the battles to 2 sets of Dragon/Wyvern/Griffons plus 4 sets of floor. I don't know of any way in the original Apple II version to avoid those battles.

      Since Fuzzy's are limited to 25 STR and 99 DEX, and the weapon's don't increase damage due to the bug, and the dragon battles are always full sets of 8, I'm picturing the Fuzzy's always hitting but taking lots of hits to kill a dragon and my mental math works out to their hit points (even maxed out at level 25) would run out before the they do enough damage to survive the 2 full sets of dragons + 4 sets of floor.

      I am curious if your mental math coming out differently of if you see another angle?

      "As far as I'm concerned, any magic-free combination of characters (fighters, thieves, barbarians) gets the "U3 Ridiculous Completionist" trophy here."

      I totally agree! My comments above are just for the sake of discussion.


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