The main considerations in planning a fast route:
- Getting the key early allows for not needing to visit anywhere twice.
- I want to reach level 4 early on so I can get the ship. A lot of places can only be reached on ship. While Buccaneer's Den can also be reached by balloon, I would prefer to go there by ship so I can get the key there and avoid dungeon crawling until I am stronger.
- The encounter rate on the ship is low. Quite a bit of sailing is still necessary but many trips can be handled by warping with the Gate spell and hiking from the moongate.
- There is a 60 step cooldown between shrine meditations that only counts down while walking on the overworld. This is not a big deal for the more remote shrines but it is an issue for several of them.
- Fighting the large groups of enemies in the dungeon rooms takes a lot of time. I want to avoid those fights as much as possible. This means tweaking the route to enter some dungeons from the overworld entrance rather than using the altar rooms connected on the bottom floor. It also means exiting after getting the stone rather than working my way back to the altar room sometimes.
- Tremor is the key to getting through the tougher fights faster. So I want to get it in my spellbook and up my MP to use it before doing other dungeons.
- Moongates are nice but Gate travel magic is much nicer. The only downside to Gate is that it clears all of your captured pirate ships.
- There are a few points where I need the moons to be at a certain phase. Either I want to travel through the gate or reach the shrine of Spirituality. I can't completely forget about the moons after getting Gate magic because if I warp to where a moongate is open I immediately enter it. It is not a coincidence that the moons are at the right phase exactly when I want; subtle tricks are being used to alter the moons' progression. See the game resources page for details.
- The pirate fights take a long time. I want to minimize how many times I need to fight for a ship, especially before gaining magic power.
- Deathwarps can be useful, but the death sequence is long. It is really only useful if you have business in Castle Britannia.
- I want to finish the 49th fight just before entering the shrine of Valor. That should be the last thing I do before sailing to the abyss. Otherwise I'd waste time on fights that I could be using towards Valor.
- In the abyss I need to gain most of my MP walking in rooms in order to advance the RNG and line up really good luck for the last few rooms.
The hero's name is repeatedly printed one letter per frame so keeping it short saves quite a bit of time over the run. I went with 'i' because it is fast to enter and looks cute in many of the dialogs. To pick your character class you need to pick the virtue corresponding to it every time it comes up. The others don't matter, so I pick whatever generates less text in the later questions.
I start out in front of Trinsic. The first thing I do is visit town for some shopping. The chain armor sells for 600 gold, the maximum price the shop will take. This is above the 300g offer so I lose virtue in several areas. Starting gold is 400 so I have 320 left. I hold on to my sword for time being. On the way out of town I pick up the rune of Honor.
After equipping the bow I begin grinding. The goal is to reach 1300 gold and 400 experience in 11 fights. So I need to average at least 89 gold per chest. Among the enemies that appear at this level the orc has the distinction of being the enemy worth the most experience that falls to one shot of my bow. It is only worth 6 xp, not enough to reach my target. Rather than manipulate some battles with two of them I make two of my fights against wizards worth 12 xp each. The wizards are a little too strong for one hit with the bow but if I can close in to melee range they will go down with one hit from my sword. Luckily I am able to get two fights where they appear in perfect position for us to move together on the first turn before striking with my sword the second turn.
Grinding on the swamp serves two purposes. First, swamp has the highest encounter rate. Second, I can achieve very fine control over the RNG by moving on the swamp. I actually want to get poisoned and run down my hp for a deathwarp later. As a result this sequence features some of the strongest luck manipulation in the run. Almost every fight gets an ideal setup and they come up very close together.
While getting through these fights I take moongates to Moonglow and then Britain and Minoc. Except for the short stop at Britain I am able to find a patch of swamp near each gate. The Moonglow gate is where the black stone is found after taking the gate at double new moons. Getting into a fight afterwards reopens the gate; otherwise it wouldn't open until Trammel's next new moon.
I enter Minoc with 1338 gold. I sell my sword for 190 and buy a +2 sword for 1500. Asking for only 190 gold saves a couple frames compared to 200 when entering the amount. Since it is at or under the 200 gold asking price, I gain in several virtues. Anyway, this is not for use as a weapon but only to preserve my gold across across death. As the saying goes, you can't take your gold with you, just your weapons and armor. This also means that I will be getting by without a melee weapon for the rest of the game. The rune of Sacrifice is in the very back of Zircon the armorer's furnace. Since my HP has been drained down from poison I die right after getting it.
I should point out that I do not bother with the beggar in Minoc because he is on the other side of town from the weapon shop.
I find myself revived by Lord British in his throne room. My poison is cured, I have full hp and 400 gold. I still have all my items and equipment including the +2 sword I just bought. The first thing I do is speak with LB to raise my level. So my max HP and MP are increased but not my current HP and MP. Lord British will heal you if you say the right thing, but it is better to just leave that 100 HP missing for now. Casting heal is faster than the conversation and gives me an opportunity to tweak my luck.
On my way out of the castle I pick up the rune of Spirituality and talk with a mage. The mage seems to just be spouting magi babble but somehow teaches the most powerful magic spell of Tremor. There are a few more steps before we can actually use it though.
Exiting the castle, a pirate ship conveniently pulls up for me to commandeer. Unlike Ultima 3, pirate ships always have a full complement of eight pirates. Two of them are boss pirates with stronger HP. Energy magic is the fastest way I have to deal with them at the moment, so I use that and watch them burn in a pool of lava I create on their ship.
My first destination is Buccaneer's Den. On the way I need to get just a little more gold to have enough for everything I need to get.
The first thing I do is sell off that +2 sword for 1492 gold, trading off a little virtue for a lot of gold. Now I have 2072 gold, enough to buy the key from the guild shop. The next stop is the herb shop. My shopping list is:
- 90 Ash
- 9 Garlic
- 90 Silkweb
- 90 Moss
- 90 Pearl
- 90 Manroot
I do not get any ginseng, the starting amount is good enough. I only need a few extra garlic past the initial amount and 9 only takes one frame to enter. I pay one gold for each except for garlic. For that I pay 58 gold in order to raise my virtue. After this I have no more use for gold so I give my last 9 gold away to a beggar on my way out. The gold amounts are tweaked to shave a few frames counting it out. This is the first of 10 times I need to give away my last piece of gold in order to max out Compassion and Sacrifice.
The next destination is Paws, heading back where we came from. Before entering we need to pick up some gold from a random battle for the next beggar.
The reason we needed to go to the Den first is because the rune of Humility lies beyond a locked door in Paws. While here we again give away all our gold to the beggar, the second of ten times for that.
We park the ship near Britain and visit the town of Britain after another random fight for gold. There we pick up the rune of Compassion and give away our gold to a third beggar. Note that we couldn't have done this earlier because we weren't ready to give up all our gold.
Back in the castle we visit a tree monster that is for some reason being held in a dungeon close to Lord British's throne room. Talking to the tree builds up several virtues with no cooldown. After 11 conversations our Justice, Honor, Spirituality and Humility are all maxed out. Our honest transactions earlier cut down the number of conversations needed here.
Then we use our key to access the secret entrance to Hythloth and use the Exit spell to leave from a different exit. The purpose of this was to reach the balloon at the main Hythloth entrance. On boarding the balloon the wind is conveniently blowing the direction I want. Yeah, I manipulated that earlier too.
The first stop on the balloon tour is Serpent's hold. There are no required items to get here. The only purpose for this stop is to take advantage of the fastest beggar to build Compassion and Sacrifice. We will do this six times so that only one more donation is needed. This is another fairly highly orchestrated sequence of luck manipulation. Unfortunately, the random battles include more powerful enemies now that we are on level 4. It saves a little menuing time to use the bow instead of magic, but it the plan generally ends up being to get a battle against one enemy as soon as possible. With higher MP and a full stock of herbs I can handle tougher enemies with no problem now. The bridge has an encounter rate that is just as high as the swamp but lacks the luck manipulation ability. So while not as tight as the initial grind I am able to make things work out fairly well.
After the lucky beggar has received his last offering I get back on the balloon. Again, the wind is blowing my way and I float south to Cove. While it is possible to manipulate a shift in the wind, it is a difficult manipulation and it ended up being faster to cast the wind spell. This allowed for a closer focus on speeding up the grind at Serpent's Hold. Landing the balloon at Cove, I cast heal to recover HP and tweak my luck.
In Cove I speak with Mentallion for the Gate spell and then pick up the Candle from a secret basement.
After that I get back on the balloon and float to Serpent's Spine.
Serpent's Spine is a small cave in the mountains that is only accessible by balloon. The reason for the visit is to pick up the white stone.
Back on the balloon we float over the mountains before ditching the balloon for the rest of the game. The next stop takes us into the Deep Forest to Yew.
Yew has several points of interest. The first is a talking campfire named Flamis. Talking to Flamis 10 times maxes out my Honesty. Next is the lower level of the jail where the rune of Justice is in the corner of a cell. On my way out I make my last donation to max out Compassion and Sacrifice. Only Valor remains.
On leaving Yew the moons are just right for the moongate to take me to Britain. This alignment needed be considered throughout all the travels up to this point with the final tweaks done during the Serpent's Hold grind.
Voyage to Moonglow
Leaving the ship by the moongate earlier prepared for this next trip and saved another long fight against pirates. The itinerary first takes us east to the shrine of Compassion where we meditate for our first slice of Avatarhood. Then to a small island where we pick up the horn for later. After that we land on Verity Isle by squeezing through a gap in the shoals and walk down to Moonglow.
In Moonglow I pick up the rune of Honesty and visit Spells Unlimited to have Tremor and Gate added to my spell list. At the moment my MP is too low to use either one.
Exiting Moonglow, I head north along the coast of Verity Isle. I visit the Lycaeum to pick up the Book. Continuing on around the north end of the island I reach dungeon Deceit. On the way I pick up a chest of gold for a reason that will be explained later.
Deceit is the first dungeon we will complete for its stone. The reason for this is to touch its orbs and increase max MP. We need to do this four times, each time gaining 5 MP and taking 200 HP of damage. The HP can be healed back but the stat gain is permanent. With so much HP to heal back I manipulate higher recovery amounts to cut down the number of times I need to heal.
Before reaching any of the orbs we need to pass through a couple rooms filled with enemies. The strategy for now is to cast energy to create a lava field in a strategic spot and lure the enemies to their deaths on it. This allows for the the first two rooms to be cleared easily. That gains access to two orbs.
The third room is more difficult; all of the enemies have magic or ranged attacks and higher hp. This was one of the tougher spots to manipulate in the run. While the luck isn't perfect, it's about as good as it gets. This is the only fight in the entire run where I allow enemies to damage me.
Once all three rooms are cleared I can touch one more orb and reach the stone room. Entering the stone room resets the orbs, so I can get the last orb I need by going back to the last one. After this my max MP is now 43, high enough to cast Tremor and Gate. With everything we need from the dungeon we cast exit to get back to the dungoen entrance where our ship is waiting.
The next dungeon to do is Shame. On the way we get off on Dagger Island to meditate at the shrine of Honesty for our second virtue. To reach Shame we need to sail down Lost River, the only way to reach the surface entrance. The reason for the delay before entering is to run up the random fight counter while the RNG advances.
In the first room Tremor kills all the enemies. The next two rooms are dealt with using energy. We pick up the stone and take the stairs from the stone room to exit to the outer world.
Despise is next on the list and like the first two it will be done from the top. To reach the entrance we cast Gate to warp to Britain and hike north through the mountains.
Right off the bat again is a room packed with eight enemies. Unfortunately it was not possible to line up a Tremor that took them all out so we are forced to finish one survivor with the bow. The two rooms on level 2 are both cleared with tremor. On level 4 energy is used on the weaker gremlins. The cyclops in the last room are cleared with tremor. In the stone room the beggar will not give up the stone unless I give him some gold. That was the reason for picking up the chest earlier. Again we use the stairs behind the stone to exit to the outer world.
Shrines of Spirituality and Sacrifice
On exiting Despise we are short of MP for Gate so we pace a bit. As before, the reason for doing this outside the dungeon is to build up the counter towards our next random battle. In this case we also want to advance the moons to double full. That causes our Gate spell to Minoc to chain with that moongate, taking us to the shrine of Spirituality for our third virtue. After that we hike to the shrine of Sacrifice to get that virtue as well. The hike is just long enough to satisfy the meditation cooldown.
After finishing our meditation on Sacrifice we Gate to Jhelom. There we work our way through the city walls to pick up the rune of Valor from a basement corner covered with damage squares. Instead of going back through town we die to end up in front of Lord British as before. Now it seems that this would be a big timesaver with how long it takes to go through Jhelom. Turns out that the death text and walking out of the throne room take so long that is really only worth a few seconds. At this point we don't need the gold but it is nice to have our HP and MP restored.
The rest of the dungeons
Deathwarping would not have been worthwhile if we didn't want to be in Castle Britannia. The reason we want to be there is to take the secret entrance to Hythloth again. From there we can use the altar rooms to jump to the rest of the dungeons and reach those stones from the bottom.
We start by using the altar of Love to transfer to Covetous. The stone room there can be reached after taking care of one group of enemies with tremor. On the way back we head through a different room of enemies to reach the altar of Courage.
Next up is Destard. Ironically, the dungeon corresponding to Valor is the only one that can be navigated without a single fight. We can simply transfer from the altar of Courage to walk through the halls and up and down some ladders to the stone room. Back at the altar of Courage we have all the stones we need for the key so we pick that up.
Last is Wrong. From the altar of Courage we need to cut through Shame to the altar of Truth where we can then transfer to Wrong. The stone room is not far from the altar but just past a room of enemies. After the fight we need to regain some MP and step on a trigger under the lava. The damage from lava is quite random so we can stretch out our HP by manipulating lower damage. After getting the stone and clearing the room again we head back to the altar of Truth.
Now that we have all the stones the last thing we need to do underground is pick up the other two keys from the altar rooms. So we get the key of Truth and then cut through Hythloth to the altar of Love for that key. We need to leave the altar room in order to cast Exit so we take the closest way out to Wrong.
The rest of the shrines
The next task is to meditate at the four remaining shrines and complete our Avatarhood. Meditation cooldown and MP management will be important.
Finished with the dungeons, the Exit spell takes us to the mountain entrance of Wrong. Again we pace a bit because we are short on MP for the Gate spell. First up is Honor. We Gate to Trinsic and the shrine is a short walk away. It has been a while since the last shrine but the meditate counter did not count down for most of it. As a result we just barely satisfy the cooldown.
Next up is Justice. Gate takes us to Yew where we walk through the forest and down the peninsula to the shrine of Justice. In this case the hike is easily long enough to satisfy the cooldown.
The next Gate takes us to Magincia for a more involved trip to the shrine of Humility. To reach the shrine we need a ship and to get the ship we need MP to take out the pirates. So we pace for MP before taking on the pirates with Tremor. On the way to the shrine we take a side trip for the Bell, the last of the three items we'll need to open the entrance to the Abyss. To reach the shrine of Humility we need to sail around the northern tip of the Isle of the Avatar and walk through a mountain pass. Just before the shrine is a place where daemons attack unless you blow the horn. You get pushed back after the fight so you must blow the horn to reach the shrine. On the other hand it is an opportunity to rack up some Valor without waiting for a random battle. It turns out that I only need to do this once to line up my Valor nicely. After that I blow the horn and enter the shrine.
Finally we come to Valor. When I Gate to Jhelom my Valor is at 96, so I need three more fights. I need to run down the meditate counter and recover MP so it is no problem that there is a bit more left. I finish up with a random fight, another pirate fight for the ship and one last random fight right in front of the shrine. At last, Avatarhood is mine and my max MP jumps to 99.
Conveniently, this is a great spot to take off for the Abyss. Magincia is slightly closer but it isn't worth fighting more pirates. Planting a ship earlier is also out because Gate would have cleared it. So I sail around the Isle of the Avatar and navigate another mountain pass to reach the fiery entrance to the Abyss. Since no longer need Valor I now want to tweak my luck to reduce the number of random encounters. I deal with those last two by casting Blink to escape.
The only thing left is to reach the bottom of the Abyss. I enter by using the Bell, Book and Candle. There are no random encounters in the Abyss but no shortage of enemies to get past. This will be a nonstop display of luck manipulation to clear each room as quickly as possible. Note that stepping on lava uses the RNG to determine damage while otherwise the RNG advances once per frame. So each time I step on lava it basically saves a frame. I'll be trading off the rest of my HP to save a little time that way. Otherwise I can manipulate luck by trading off how much MP I regain in cleared rooms vs dungeon halls, using time that I would need to get MP anyway. Finally I should point out that when there are multiple rooms in a row I have some limits in luck manipulation since my movement is subject to that 16-frame rule.
With Tremor it doesn't really matter how strong the enemies are. What does matter is that the chance that Tremor kills every enemy gets lower the more enemies there are. Luckily there are only a couple rooms where I need to deal with a full pack of eight. The odds are still pretty low for six and seven though. So while it might look like I just stroll through and take down every enemy easily, it actually took quite a bit of work to make Tremor kill all the enemies every time I use it.
Of course Tremor isn't my only option. Some rooms with weaker enemies in a convenient formation can be taken down with Energy, using less MP. In some cases it is even worthwhile to shoot them down one by one with my bow. Keep in mind that I gain an MP each turn, so a series of physical attacks actually gains MP while fighting.
The first floor has a few enemy groups that go down easily. Dinosaurs, balrogs and hydras all have high HP making the decision to use Tremor an easy call. The lava here makes it easy to tweak my luck. The fountain fully restores HP but I don't need it.
On the second floor I need to do four rooms in a row. The 16-frame rule is a major problem because the fastest strategy in each room has a rather low probability of success. The chance for an ideal fight is actually lowest in the room with the reaper and wisps. The wisps have 15 HP which happens to be the maximum damage that the lava can do. Additionally, each time the reaper takes damage needs to be at the higher end of the range as well. With great luck they could all die with one step on lava. Unfortunately I not only need to line that up with the reaper's behavior and damage but also hit a good spot with respect to the 16-frame rule for Tremor in the next two rooms. So while not perfect the result is pretty close and quite lucky.
The third and fourth floors are simpler with only three fights between them. In each case the enemies are stronger and inconveniently positioned for Energy so Tremor is used.
The fifth floor has two rooms in a row but the damage square makes it easy to line up tremor in the second room.
The sixth floor forces you to take a torturously long path through many rooms. Luckily most of the fights are relatively easy with smaller groups and weaker enemies. I use the bow in three rooms to save MP and a little overall time. The nixies have low HP and go down in one shot from the bow, but what really saves time is making sure they don't shoot back. That and saving the enemies stuck in corners until last. Another advantage is the ability to tweak my luck by using auto to get to a good spot for the 16-frame rule.
On the seventh floor there are four rooms to fight through. Stepping into the hall after each room means that I don't need to worry about the 16-frame rule. However, when there is only enough room to turn around there is no room there is no room to pace for MP. The second room is another fight with reapers and wisps where getting perfect lava damage on the wisps saves some time.
Finally we get to the bottom floor where a gauntlet of rooms with strong monsters awaits. First we have four rooms in a row ending with a room of eight dinosaurs. Then the famous fight against clones of all eight heroes followed by the final room with seven strong enemies. Tremor clears all of them.
With that we can continue on to the Codex and the ending! Input continues through most of the ending to advance a long speech from Lord British and congratulations from each of the heroes.