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Submission #4606: TheAxeMan's NES Ultima: Quest of the Avatar in 58:23.98

Console: Nintendo Entertainment System
Game name: Ultima: Quest of the Avatar
Game version: USA
ROM filename: Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (U).nes
Branch:
Emulator: FCEUX 2.2.2
Movie length: 58:23.98
FrameCount: 210585
Re-record count: 4920
Author's real name: Frank Amoroso
Author's nickname: TheAxeMan
Submitter: TheAxeMan
Submitted at: 2015-03-08 09:19:13
Text last edited at: 2015-03-15 06:34:13
Text last edited by: feos
Download: Download (38003 bytes)
Status: published
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Author's comments and explanations:

Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar TAS by TheAxeMan

  • As fast as possible
  • Major luck manipulation
  • Death as a shortcut

lua script - Encoders please read

Use this lua script to light up the dungeons. Turns out that flipping some bits that tell the game to turn on lights before entering each dungeon doesn't affect the timing at all. Ran into problems when I tried setting it with a cheat though. It only affects the dungeon hallways where not much time is spent but it is still nice to see what is going on instead of a black screen.

  --This script will light up the dungeons in TheAxeMan's Ultima 4 run
  while true do
      if emu.framecount() == 42560 or
         emu.framecount() == 79730 or
         emu.framecount() == 95500 or
         emu.framecount() == 105070 or
         emu.framecount() == 123900 or
         emu.framecount() == 165200 then
          memory.writebyte(0x68e7, 255)
      end;
      emu.frameadvance()
  end;
I have also included commentary as fm2 subtitles. It wouldn't be a 25th/30th anniversary run without them. (30 years for the original version and 25 for this NES port)

Introduction

Ultima IV: The Quest of the Avatar is a landmark game from the early days of American-made open-world fantasy RPGs. At least the original PC version was; this is the NES port. While many of the mechanics were changed, the overall flow and openness of the world is quite well preserved. A good balance between faithful adaptation and simplification makes this one of the best console adaptations in the series. Though many elements from the earlier games are present this is the defining game of the series in many respects. In later games the hero is almost always known by his title of Avatar, the world of Britannia has similar geography and culture and the characters of this game reappear in later games.

You can spend a long time playing Ultima. The world is huge and open for exploration, the towns are full of people to talk with and there are a lot of things to do before you can enter and finish the final dungeon. But with a well-planned route and a whole lot of luck it is possible to finish in under an hour.

Making the TAS

This game has always been a favorite of mine. A while back I started posting some tricks I found in the forums to encourage someone to take this up. I finally decided to do this myself when I had an itch to take on another game and saw the 1:58 SDA run by Feasel. Yogidamonk has since gotten this down to 1:32 partly by using a route that I posted on the SDA forums that is basically the same as this TAS with a few modifications for RTA play. A few others have done some TASing but no one else made it very far. Since there wasn't much for comparison I made two test runs to feel things out.

The final version ended up taking a lot of effort to optimize due to how much luck manipulation is involved. It's interesting to see just how much you can control. Killing all the enemies in an earthquake or tricking them into into sitting still as I mow them down is nice, but in this game you can use luck manipulation to alter the direction of the wind and the progression of the moon!

To win the game:

  • Prove yourself in 8 virtues to earn the title of Avatar.
    • There are a number of deeds and misdeeds that affect your virtue. Do enough virtuous deeds and you become worthy of Avatarhood.
    • Each virtue has a shrine and a rune you need in order to enter the shrine. The runes are hidden in the town corresponding to that virtue with a couple exceptions.
    • Once you are worthy, meditate in the shrine for partial Avatarhood.
    • Do this for all virtues to become the Avatar. As the Avatar you get 99 max MP. You also get access to some powerful equipment that isn't helpful in this TAS. Most importantly Avatarhood is required to access the final dungeon.
  • Obtain three items necessary to unlock the final dungeon: Book of Truth, Candle of Love and Bell of Courage.
  • Obtain the eight stones. Six of them are hidden in dungeons.
  • Obtain the three keys. Once you have the stones these are picked up easily in the altar rooms.
  • Reach the bottom of the Abyss, the long and brutal final dungeon. It takes about 12 minutes of this TAS.

Some indirect requirements:

  • A skeleton key that costs 2000 gold is the only way to open some locked doors and get some the items.
  • Commandeer a pirate ship to reach some places by sea. Many places, including the Abyss, are only accessible by sea.
    • The pirate ships don't show up until you reach experience level 4. So you need to reach at least that level, speaking to Lord British to level up.
  • The only way to reach Serpent's Spine for the white stone is to find the balloon and float across the world in it.
  • The horn found on a small island clears the way to the shrine of Humility.
  • Fight 49 random battles and win them all by defeating all the enemies. Pirate ships and daemons near the shrine of Humility also count but dungeon rooms do not. This is the only way to gain Valor.

Tasks that aren't strictly necessary but very helpful:

  • Arm your character with a decent ranged weapon. We can get away without a melee weapon by making sure no enemy gets close enough. Armor doesn't make much difference and we won't be taking much damage anyway. Being able to fight physically pays off when MP gets tight.
  • Improve our magical abilities. Magic is extremely useful but requires some setup to realize its potential.
    • Buy some herbs. Each magic spell uses up herbs. You start out with a few but it's necessary to hit a shop to really use much magic.
    • Raise our max MP. For various reasons we will use a character that begins with fairly low MP but has good potential. Leveling up adds some and the rest come from stat-raising orbs in the dungeons. We need 40 MP to cast the most powerful spell.
    • Learn some new magic. You start out with a pretty decent selection of spells. There are others that can be learned by talking with certain NPCs around the world and then visiting Spells Unlimited in Moonglow. Two of these extra spells are extremely useful: Tremor and Gate.

So until reaching the final dungeon I hike, sail, float and warp around the world of Britannia doing virtuous deeds, crawling through dungeons, fighting monsters and collecting various items.

Raising Virtue

Most activities that raise virtue have a cooldown that only counts down as you walk on the world map. So for example, if you give money to a beggar more than once without leaving town you only gain virtue the first time. To raise virtue quickly the key is to either find deeds with no cooldown, get the cooldown over with quickly or spread the activities between other tasks.

Five of the virtues are easy. Justice, Honor, Spirituality and Humility all go up quickly when you speak with a reaper (tree monster) in the dungeon of Castle Britain and there is no cooldown. Similarly, speaking with Flamis, Jaana's campfire flame in Yew, raises honesty with no cooldown. That leaves Compassion, Sacrifice and Valor.

Compassion and Sacrifice can be raised at the same time by giving all your gold to a beggar ten times. Not only is there a cooldown but since you gave away all your gold you need to acquire more before you can do it again. If you give away less than all of your gold you only gain Compassion and the only other way to improve Sacrifice is by giving blood. To speed this up we can visit beggars as we go through towns we need to stop by anyway. Fill out the rest with the beggar in Serpent's Hold who is fastest because he is right near the entrance.

Valor is most troublesome. The only thing that raises it is winning a random fight, a fight vs pirates or a fight vs daemons near the shrine of Humility. Each fight only raises it by one point, so 49 are needed. This becomes a major factor in the routing and execution of the run. The route uses random fights for an initial gold and experience grind and to get the gold for beggars. Traveling overland to a dungeon entrance ends up being preferred in some cases because it means more random fights. At sea the encounter rate is low so again overland travel is preferable. Finally, luck manipulation is used to shorten the time and distance between random battles throughout the run.

Battles

With so many random battles a great deal of effort went into finishing them efficiently. Here are some of the considerations:
  • The main thing is getting each battle down to a single enemy.
  • Second is winning each battle in one round. I have a number of methods at my disposal:
    • Weaker enemies will go down to a single shot from my bow.
    • Energy is great for certain stronger enemies - daemons, ettins, skulls. The initial hit delivers some damage. Then they get finished off when they step on the lava field created around them. Energy does take 22 MP so I can't do it until reaching level 4.
    • Other enemies go down to the Ice spell. Even if fire works, Ice saves a few frames in the menu and the five extra MP never makes a difference. Ice also doesn't use ash, reducing pressure on my herb supply. Ice takes 17 MP and requires manroot, so I can't use it until I visit the herb shop in Buccaneer's Den.
  • The placement of heroes and enemies on the battlefield has two possibilities. One is across and the other is scattered. The scattered formation puts the enemy much closer to me, saving about 25 frames because my shot does not need to travel so far to hit it.
  • The bow is preferred to magic. Using magic takes about 25 more frames of menuing to select the spell and some extra text on use. Energy is preferred to Ice because the lava death saves time on text display.
  • I want to manipulate the random battles to come faster. It is worth using magic or getting the further enemy placement if I can get the battle a few steps earlier.
    • One consequence of this is doing things like waiting for good RNG and recovering MP in places where I can run up the counter that triggers random battles.
  • Sometimes I need to save MP and so I need to force an enemy that I can use the bow on. Either I just used a spell and my MP is still recovering or I am about to use a spell and don't want to blow the MP I am saving up.
  • Once I have maxed out Valor it is fastest to use Blink and magically escape.

In dungeons there are rooms full of enemies that require other considerations.

  • Even if you can walk by them turn by turn but it's way too slow. Much faster to kill them all.
  • Energy is often very useful. Many of the rooms allow for strategic placement of the lava field to be very effective.
    • When enemies die on the lava field there is a lot less text. No damage is listed and you get no experience. They just disappear, saving about a second.
    • The damage from the lava field is random.
  • Tremor can be manipulated to kill all the enemies, but it takes 40 MP. There is also some text and a screen shake sequence that takes time, plus the animation and text for each enemy's death.
    • So even if tremor finishes the fight faster, other methods are often faster when I consider how long it takes to recover the MP.
    • Tremor is most advantageous against stronger enemies, even if they come in a smaller group. Otherwise each enemy would take multiple attacks.
    • The chance that tremor works on a max size group of 8 enemies is very low, less that 1%. It is likely that I either need to wait a bit for luck to line up or allow an enemy to survive the tremor to be finished off by my bow.
  • If I am using my bow on multiple enemies, the order can make a small difference. I want to target enemies that are moving sideways first, letting the others move closer so my shots have less distance to travel.
    • Enemies stuck in a corner and not moving should be saved until after finishing off enemies that are still moving.
  • Naturally I don't want the enemies to fight back. So I manipulate them to just move towards me.

Ranged attack accuracy

Unfortunately, it is not possible to avoid missing with the bow if I want to keep using it. No amount of luck manipulation can make a difference because the RNG is not involved. See the game resources page for details.

Even with the misses it is still advantageous to use the bow to save time menuing for magic. Plus, since I have to miss sometimes I make sure the misses happen at convenient times.

Luck Manipulation

There are a lot of levers I can pull for luck manipulation. Still, there are definite limits. In many cases it is best to accept less than optimal luck because it would take too long or interfere with manipulating other events. Anyway, here are some examples of I make the RNG to do my bidding:
  • Extra movement or waiting. Movement gets a 16-frame rule meaning that if you stop moving you need to wait 16 frames to move again. Still, sometimes I stop for a step or take extra steps to manipulate luck. Taking extra steps different places might call the RNG different numbers of times.
    • Luckily this quantization does not apply in the first-person dungeon view, greatly increasing the ability to manipulate luck in dungeons.
  • Stepping on swamp or lava. Doing this calls the RNG to decide how much damage you take or whether you get poisoned. Stepping on swamps runs the check and advances the RNG even if you are already poisoned.
  • The RNG advances every frame when you are free to walk in the overhead view. Not so in the first-person dungeon view. Moving at top speed advances only one RNG per step.
    • So when I need to pace for MP I can choose between pacing in a cleared dungeon room or in the hallway depending on how much I want to advance the RNG.
    • Movement in the first-person view is only 15 frames a step vs 16 in overhead view so I can get MP back faster in first-person. Overhead walking is still a pretty cheap way to manipulate luck. Plus, I can only get even amounts of additional MP in first-person.
  • Taking a different path through town can call the RNG different more or fewer times due to how NPC movement works.
  • Using auto calls the RNG to decide what to do in most cases. So I can pick between attack and auto manipulate luck when it happens that auto will do what I want.
  • Pirate ships call the RNG to decide how fast they get to move. So while sailing across the ocean I can tweak things by either outrunning them or turning so that they stay on screen longer.

Character Selection

The Paladin has many advantages as a starting character:
  • Most valuable initial equipment. That means I can sell off the armor and melee weapon that I don't need and spend less time picking up gold.
  • Highest starting experience at 325. It takes just 75 more to reach level 4.
  • Great selection of equippable weapons. Actually, all that matters is that he can equip the bow. But yeah, you couldn't ask for a better selection unless you really want to grind for the wand.
  • Decent potential for magic. On top of all this, the pally is in the middle of the pack as far as magic potential. The starting max of 10 MP is a little low but this goes up to 23 with a levelup that needs to happen early for a number of other reasons. That is enough for Energy, Ice and other mid-level magic. Good enough that the pally can stay solo until feeling up four orbs in Deceit. That ups the limit to 43, enough to cast the uber-powerful Tremor spell.
  • Convenient starting location. Trinsic is a great place to start things off. It has a weapon shop with the bow we need. The rune is sitting in a field so we do not need the key or a return visit.

So yeah, the Paladin stands above the other characters in many respects and his one drawback can be overcome with a little work.

Going Solo

You can add other characters and assemble a party of four. But staying solo turned out to be fastest. It was actually a fairly close call because Mariah the mage's magic is quite helpful in the dungeons. Turns out the paladin can do well enough on his own with clever use of the energy spell before juicing up his max mp.

There are two advantages to taking on a partner. First, the enemy rooms in the dungeon will have the same enemy groups regardless of your party size. Second, your partner can help out with supporting magic both in and out of battle. Each of you will gain an MP every step.

The main issue is that the random battles that need to be fought get more enemies the larger your party is. With a party of two you can very rarely get one enemy, but not often enough to be practical. You really have to fight two enemies in each fight. With two heroes you can finish the fight in one round but it still adds quite a bit of time. This can be fixed by killing off your partner when you don't need them.

Adding a partner not only triggers a long jingle, it adds a number of extra dialogs to choose the target or initiator of an action. Some smaller things add up like the menu taking a few extra frames to open every time. These issues remain even after killing off a partner who is no longer needed.

The route

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 start

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.

Trinsic

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.

The grind

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.

Minoc

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.

Castle Britannia

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.

Buccaneer's Den

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.

Paws

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.

Britain

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.

Serpent's Hold

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.

Cove

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

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

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

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.

Shame

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

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.

Jhelom

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 Abyss

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.

Thanks

Thanks go out to everyone on the forums who posted and watched my testruns. Also the RTA runners. Feasel's run got me thinking about this and gave me some good ideas to start with. Yogidamonk's new record is way faster than I thought possible for RTA, highly recommended for those interested in this game. Most of all I would like to thank Lord British a.k.a. Richard Garriott and his legendary crew at Origin for creating the Ultima series and other worlds where I have spent a great deal of time over the years. I finished all the games in the main series but now I really feel like I've accomplished a feat worth reporting. :)


Mothrayas: Judging.

Mothrayas: Shout-outs to the run subtitle commentary for explaining very well how the run works. The run itself is a very good technical effort and clearly well thought out and executed. Accepting for Moons.

feos: Pubbing...


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