Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ultima V: Raid on Blackthorn's

Absolutely nothing happened to me after this exchange. Maybe I was just too fast on the magic carpet.

I didn't mean to hit Blackthorn's palace so soon, but I was on my way to the Island of the Abyss, and then suddenly there it was. I figured the worst that would happen was I'd wake up in Lord British's castle again. As it turns out, with the magic carpet--which moves faster than the guards--I was able to get in, get Lord British's crown, and leave quite easily. In the meantime, I freed a bunch of prisoners, collected an NPC named Gorn, and talked to Blackthorn himself.

After I got through it the first time, I actually quit without saving just so I could do it again and make a video of it. You can see the result below. The video also highlights a bunch of gameplay elements.

At the end of the video, I decide to attack Blackthorn just to see what happens. First, when I attack what I assume is Blackthorn sitting on his throne, it turns out to be his jester! Then, when I hit Blackthorn in his chambers, he and his daemons slaughter me almost instantly. I remember from playing previously that he's an unkillable character, so I'm not overly upset; I just wanted to see what would happen.

Blackthorn's chef is unpleasant.

After reloading, I skedaddled and went to the Island of the Abyss, where I learned a lesson about honesty--as if I needed it.

All right, fine. My name isn't really "Chet."

In quick succession after Blackthorn's, I hit Jhelom, Buccaneer's Den, New Magincia, the Lycaeum, Cove, Empath Abbey (again), Greyhaven lighthouse (again), and Blackthorn's castle (again--I found out a clue later on that the prisoner Hassad had a Word of Power).

Some quests and items along the way:

  • I now have the names of the three Shadowlords: Astaroth (hatred), Nosfentor (cowardice), and Faulinei (falsehood). Lord Shalineth suggests that knowing these names somehow gives me power over them, although I'm not sure how.
  • Each of the Shadowlords is apparently associated with some kind of shard. I have a line on where to find two of them in the underworld (including coordinates), but not exactly what to do with them if I find them.

  • I also have the Words of Power for seven of the eight dungeons. I'm not even sure what the eighth dungeon is, frankly. But I got each of them from the associated council members--the last was Hassad, in Blackthorn's castle, who I encountered on my first visit but didn't know he had a Word of Power until someone told me in New Magincia. My return trip to Blackthorn's had some pretty bad consequences, which I cover below.
  • I have the eight mantras (which I still had from Ultima IV anyway), but I still have to meditate at each of the shrines and apparently visit the Island of the Abyss after each meditation. That's going to get tedious.
  • Just as I was wondering where I was going to find the sextant in this game, a guy in Buccaneer's Den told me that David, the lighthouse keeper in Greyhaven, had it. David gave it to me without a fuss after I complimented him on it.

  • A pirate in Buccaneer's Den told me that he heard of glass swords hidden somewhere in Serpent's Spine, the mountain range north of Lord British's castle. At first, I wasn't sure how I was going to get up on the mountains (there doesn't seem to be a balloon in this game), but then I heard about a grapple that allows you to climb over mountains. Someone told me that Lord Michael in Empath Abbey had it, and in short order I got it from him and, with the help of some gems, found the glass sword. My recollection about glass swords is that they do a lot of damage but shatter on the first hit, so I'd better save it for something special. (K)limbing through mountains with the grapple, incidentally, makes you take damage every move, so I won't be using it a lot.

  • From a mad wizard in Jhelom, I got a clue that when moongates disappear, I can search and get moonstones at those locations and move the moongates to new places. I guess that would help me get out of the underworld or something, although for role-playing reasons I'm wary about moving the moongate locations around. People use those! I don't want some guy traveling from Britain to Moonglow suddenly surrounded by mongbats.

This guy has this schtick where he talks backwards.
  • In New Magincia, where almost all the NPCs oddly had Asian names, I found my old companion Katrina. She had been a humble shepherd in Ultima IV before I apparently ruined her:

Violence begets violence, Katrina.

As I mentioned above, when I went back to Blackthorn's some unpleasant things happened. I got the Word of Power from Hassad, but then I accidentally ran into a guard. Instead of giving me a chance to fight, the game just said I was bound and shackled and blindfolded. Pretty soon, Blackthorn showed up and ordered me released, claiming he was seeking Avatarhood. He wanted to know the mantra for the Shrine of Honesty. I wasn't about to tell him.

Furious, he had his guards grab Shamino and put his head on a guillotine or something. Three more times, he demanded the mantra. This was a fairly difficult role-playing choice for me, as Shamino is a good fighter and...well, he's Shamino, for god's sake. He's in every Ultima game. He was one of my original companions in Ultima IV. But I stuck to my guns, hoping Blackthorn was bluffing. Unfortunately...


That unbelievable bastard. Even worse, he stole my magic carpet! Now I have to walk around like a caveman. He tossed my party back in prison, but I managed to pick my way free and get out of his castle, minus one stalwart companion and one handy traveling device.

Nice use of a Goethe quote.

My last "to do" before doing the shrine quests and exploring the dungeons in earnest (I still have to save up enough for magic axes) is to visit Sir Simon's place "west of Spiritwood." I couldn't find it in my first pass, but I suspect it might be surrounded by mountains and I need the grapple to get there. I also need to collect two new party members--I'd ditched Gorn at some inn, and of course I lost Shamino. I figure I need at least one solid spellcaster, so I might return to Yew and pick up Jaana.


  1. First you burn your followers alive, and now you let them be guillotined? Methinks your avatar is leaning a little heavily on the side of Sacrifice at the cost of Compassion.

  2. Yeah, I feel like I'm doing a pretty miserable job at this one. I've advanced exactly one level since I started, I've died about eight times, I lost the magic carpet, and I managed to get a character killed who's essentially a permanent part of the Ultima world. It'll be a miracle if there's a Britannia left standing at the end.

  3. It's a difficult game that doesn't scale to you. I ran into a dragon in the forest, and that was that. You gotta pick your battles. And after those battles, you gotta press ESC to leave the battlefield; takes to long to walk all the way up and off the screen.

    You didn't find the magic axe in Jhelom?

  4. I forgot to look. I'll check it out when I'm back over there later.

    When I hit ESC to leave battle after a combat, it tells me that I've "escaped!" but when I walk off the edge, it tells me that I "leave." I was worried that the former method was causing a hit to my virtue.

  5. The only way I know of to analyze the state of your virtue is to use CTRL-K to get your (karma?) score, and it doesn't decrease when ESCing the battlefield after combat is complete. (Killing a guard with a cannon, though, that's 5 points.)

  6. I love that game, it's my favorite Ultima. I mean sure, U7 and U4 are good, heck I even loved U3 until I realised it had ackward mechanics. But U5 has a pretty dark scenario, was the first to include the eight circle of spells and so on. It's a perfect game.

    Odd choice of companions tho. I tought you'd be getting more mages (magic is good !). I always get Jaana and Mariah myself, and in some game I recruit someone named Johne.

    Looking forward to more of your blog.
    -- Francois424

  7. Know what? Screw Google Accounts and my horrible Alltel Wireless connection.

    Hey, NOT-"Chet" just wanted to pop in and ask a little bit about UV. When are you having to use the manuals? What copy protection is the game throwing at you? And, seeing as UV is the only Ultima I have tried (albeit in flash version), what is the lure of using the whole keyboard to control the game (seems "A and B buttons" and maybe an options display like PoR had at the bottom of it's text screens could have worked better)?

    Sorry for the little bit of edgieness, but I feel like I'm somehow left out just because I never saw a real at-home PC before 1998 (even then Slingo and some Tonka building game was what my brother and I mostly played, on the PC at least).

    - Giauz

  8. Whew! I was worried at first that you wouldn't experience being captured by Blackthorn. Man, when that happened to me on my first playthrough, I was devastated. I can't remember if I kept going or reloaded an old save. If you hadn't gone back and been captured, I would have suggested you do so just so you could blog about it. ;)

  9. Blackthorn's castle has more interesting people to learn from, as I recall, but it's a lot easier to pull off if you've got the item & word that makes them think you're on his side. (However, the game stays true to form in requiring a very hard decision in order to actually get them.)

    Something you might get a kick out of... Lord British's harpsichord isn't just good for opening a secret passage, it also can magically transform objects!

    Giauz: I know the feeling in a sideways sense. My family didn't have a PC when I was a kid, we had an Apple IIgs -- and aside from the graphics being painfully inferior to DOS games, as an Ultima-obsessed teenager I had to wait 4-5 years after Ultima 6 came out to play it because they didn't make an Apple IIgs version.

    I can answer some of the questions, anyway:
    -- Ultimas didn't use manuals in the sense we have them now. They had a couple of quick-reference cards so we'd know the basics for interacting with the game (like "a" for attack), and the rest of the info was styled to seem like it came from Britannia: a cloth map of Britannia, sort of traveler's guide by a Britannian, a spellbook, and an item from the game. Ultima V came with a coin just like the one used to summon the Avatar to Britannia.

    You can see all of the Ultima V items & read through its Book of Lore here:

    -- I don't think there were copy-protection questions: the disks had anti-copying measures (it took special software to crack & copy the boot disk) at the time instead. I guess the logic was that anyone motivated to get past that could simply eliminate the questions or include the answers on a text file.

    -- Ultima 5 was one of the last Ultimas to rely on the keyboard; Ultima 6 let the player use keyboard or mouse, and they perfected a mouse interface for Ultima 7. But as far as versions of Ultima 5 (console gamepad vs. compute keyboard), there were two benefits to the keyboard:
    1) Hitting 1 key on a keyboard is a *lot* faster than cascading through menus to pick one of 26+ different commands.
    2) Since the player quickly learns the different keys for commands on the same subconscious level as typing, it's easier to forget we're playing a game than when we're gradually cascading through menus.

    Try playing the NES version of Ultimas 3-5, you'll probably see what I mean.

  10. Oh man, poor Shamino. I've been wondering if Dupre is in the game, or if he doesn't appear until Ultima 6 or 7. He was one of my favourite characters in 7.

  11. Actually, FWIW, I just tried this "captured" scenario as an experiment and gave up the mantra on the first try. Upon which, Blackthorn replied, "Thanks, now I'll just let you free... with only one less companion." So, it seems that you are out a companion permanently no matter your choice. Though I would have to experiment a bit more.

    As for finding out how to use the shards and to give a vague hint since I was in the same situation. There are people who are part of the resistence that can help with that. I suggest looking for members in those villages that the Shadowlords "never touch."

    Good luck, I suspect you'll finish before I do (grumble, grumble, too much to do)

  12. I think that you can actually find more than one glass swords at the spot: just equip the glass swords you already have and search for more!


  13. Oh man! Shamino got executed!
    One one had that is devastating, but on the other hand that is so AWESOME!

    I haven't really played any Ultima games except the Ultima Underworld games... (LookingGlass Love FOREVER! RIP.) ...but ever since your coverage of UIV I have been seriously considering looking them up.

  14. The Ultima guide by Shay Addams actually said that when a companion is executed, he's "wiped off the disk". I don't think that really happens, though; just that you're unable to resurrect them anywhere in the game.

    Then again, he was talking about the era when you always played on back-up copies... maybe it DID delete a companion file. Seems like an extreme way to punish a player.

    Incidentally, you can get an item in-game that will allow you to traverse Blackthorn's castle without this occurring.

  15. It's actually possible to beat the game without ever getting the crown, at least on the Apple version. This was once my favorite game as a kid, and I did it just to see if the game would let me despite telling me I needed all of British's finery. Makes it harder to win since you don't get the one-sided magic immunity, but it can be done.

    You hit Blackthorn's castle sooner than I expected, but I was going to mention it and suggest going without the crown yourself as a challenge. Then again, the way you're going you might need every advantage you can get! :P

  16. Oh, and the magic carpet reappears every time you go back to British's personal quarters - the game doesn't seem to remember most changes to the maps permanently (which is why you got trapped in there the first time). And you're going to need it. There's a place where you MUST have the carpet to get a key item.

    Though if you want to use it ONLY for that point and pretend that, like Shamino, it's gone forever the rest of the game, more power to you.

  17. All that dying? Is bad for your levelling.

    Whenever you die, everyone in your party's exp is reduced. How much you say? It's like this:

    EXP * (0.Karma) - so if your Karma is 75, they've just lost 25% of their XP. If that's enough to take them under a level cap, they'll resurrect at lower level.

    This is bad. But there is a hidden upside, if you're devious.

  18. aaaaaaaahahahaha

    sod off

  19. aaaaaaaahahahaha

    sod off

  20. GOG has Ultima IV available legally for free right now. Sorry if this seems like a commercial, but I just found out and downloaded it myself. I could never quite figure out what to do in the game when I played it back in the day, but now I'm thinking about giving it another shot.

  21. hah, just came by to share the same news about Ultima IV. Just got it, too, and ended up getting 5 other games just for signing up (including Beneath a Steel Sky and Tyrion).

  22. Ultima IV has been freeware or at any rate given away for free in magazines since late 1996. It's still my favorite CRPG of all time. It is the most elegant of the Ultimas and LB took the biggest risk in making a goody two shoes game like this (although it sure paid off)

  23. judgemonroe, I think you're messing with me. I went all around Jhelom and didn't find a single tree with anything in it. Thanks for the "karma" tip, though. I'm at 99; I'm guessing that's the highest. That must mean that this game doesn't track individual virtues like Ultima IV.

    Francois, I haven't found either Mariah or Johne, but I'm about to pick up Jaana. I haven't had much use for magic yet, but I realize that will change.

    Giauz, I haven't had to use the manuals since the beginning, but I'm sure I will once I get to magic. The only copy protection is in the form of putting key words and messages in the runic alphabet, which you theoretically need the manual to decipher, but of course this is the Internet age.

    I think the lure of the entire keyboard is that actions don't generally take more than a single keypress to activate. WIth nested menus, you have to select an action, then a sub-action, and so on. The keys are so intuitive that you have it memorized after only a few hours of gameplay. I like it, anyway.

    NorweiganRockCat, you've eased my conscience.

    Adamantyr, since I'm probably not going to go back to the castle, what is the item you're referring to?

    DGM, your second message was the best news I've received all week. Thanks!

  24. I just realized that Xyzzy's much more valuable comment on the keyboard issue got flagged as spam by blogger. Read what he said.

  25. It seems I'm not the only one who was shocked by the execution scene. Good example of how a game does not necessarily need a 'realistic', cinematic presentation to provoke an emotional response in the player.

    As for the hidden magic axe, there really is one in a tree trunk, I think. Can't remember the exact location though. Dupre is also available as a companion somewhere.

    The only problem I have with U5 is that the combat system is broken. Magic axes are just too powerful and once you get everybody equipped with one the combat becomes too repetitive. But Ultimas never did that well with the combat so I can forgive that.

    People seem to have lots of problems with UI but I think it suits the game perfectly. I mean, come on, there is only a handful of fairly logical keyboard shortcuts to remember and the keyword based conversation isn't exactly that demanding either. It's not like it's NetHack or Emacs... Later Ultimas tried to improve the UI but IMHO failed hard, everything works just a lot smoother in U5. Same with graphics -- I kinda lost interest in the series when U6 was released since it just looked too different from the Britannia I had always imagined...

    1. Flatlander: "As for the hidden magic axe, there really is one in a tree trunk, I think. Can't remember the exact location though."

      The tree stump along the eastern boundary of Jhelom holds 1 magic axe. Go to the NE tower-chamber at the 1st level, & search the wall beside the innermost barrel for a hidden locked door. This door leads to the area outside.

      I read somewhere that the tree stump regenerates a new magic axe for every 6 months of Britannia time. Not sure how true this claim is though, 'cos I've only found 1 magic axe so far, no matter how many times I visited Jhelom.

      Won't it be cool if Jhelom's tree were to regenerate a new magic axe daily -- like how Minoc's tree (& even the dead stump, ie. when Shadowlord is in town) always regenerates 5 new skull keys at 12am daily without fail ?

  26. The execution of a party member is permanent. I can still remember the shock when playing on the C-64 of seeing that green disk light turn on followed by the whirl of the drive. I lost Iolo back then in the 80's. That is game play if you can remember it decades later.


  27. I would use swear words on Blackthorn when he demanded the mantras, even though it's not a good thing. Just to me emphatic on him.

    When I lost whoever it was the first time, I was floored. Amazing game.

    Once I tried to do a pass through the game as poorly as possible and gave Blackthorn all the mantras. At that point he stops killing your guys, IIRC.

    1. Oh, and how do you know to ask that mad wizard about moonstones? I'm trying to play the game as "fairly" as possible on this trip, and I want to figure out the logic chain to follow so I can finally dig up moonstones.

      When I first played this as a teenager, I think I randomly dig up one of the moonstones, looking for where the Black Stone was in Ultima IV.

    2. According to my notes, Zachariah in Moonglow points you in that direction.

  28. NES version differences:

    Attacking characters is limited to monsters. It's impossible to attack NPCs at random, and this include Blackthorn. Talking to him without the password to the opression causes him to disappear and summon four daemons. Those are easy to deal with if the party has magic gear, and nothing more happens after they're defeated (Blackthorn disappears for the rest of the game). The crown is beyond Blackthorn, so you either have to fight for it or give the password. However, the crown doesn't seem to really do anything, so I'm not sure what the point of retrieving it was meant to be.

    The same lessons of the codex are there, but once again the shrines where you give the mantras and the codex itself don't have an effect on the game.

    There are no moonstones to move around. The moongates are at fixed locations, and the moon themselves only change once a day.

    The whole event with Blackthorn capturing you and demanding the mantras or words of power is completely missing.

  29. Man, you were pretty gutsy when you played this. A trip to the Underworld, several dungeons and three visits to Blackthorn's castle so early in the piece! Creeping through the castle is such a tense experience.

    As somebody said, you can collect up to 7 glass swords at once, then go back for more.

    That magic axe is in a stump outside the walls of Jhelom.

    Dupre is in Bordermarch.

    1. I tried to role-play in an organic way with this one, and it paid off.

  30. I have all magic axes


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