Ultima I Tips and Tricks

Ultima I is a fairly primitive game, even despite being remade years after its initial design. There are a number of ways to exploit the relatively simplistic logic of the game to give yourself an advantage. Indeed, understanding how the game works is key to avoiding frustration and achieving victory. This document covers anything you might want to know that isn't part of the main plot walkthrough. (Space flight is covered on its own page.)

Combat Strategy

You'll find yourself fighting constantly in Ultima I, whether when traveling the land, delving a dungeon, or even when in civilized areas. The specifics of combat are different in each context, however, and understanding them all will make your life considerably easier in the long run.

Overworld Combat

Enemies will spawn at random on the overworld, both on land and at sea. For the most part, enemies will make a beeline towards you until they are in range to attack, and then will attack at every opportunity. Unlike you, enemies can attack on diagonals, which puts you at a disadvantage. However, enemies with a ranged attack will fire at you at range even if you're not actually at an angle they can hit you from. You can't hit them either, but this is helpful when trying to focus on one enemy at a time.

Overworld enemies range from mere nuisances like Bears to legitimate threats like Wandering warlocks. You can find the full list of overworld creatures on any Lands of Lord British page to determine which enemies are the biggest threat. Watch for low-HP enemies that dish out a lot of damage, such as Thieves and Ness creatures, and attack them first. By the end of the game, you'll have attacks capable of destroying any overworld creature in one shot, at range, but they can be quite dangerous early in the game.

There isn't much strategy to speak of when fighting overworld creatures. Sometimes you can trap enemies in a bottleneck, and they are too dumb to go around objects (such as mountains) directly in their way. It's usually easy to avoid the groups of sea creatures that litter the coast. If you have a vehicle and some open space, you can usually outrun enemies if things get hairy. However, it behooves you to fight as you'll need all the money you can get. (It's less clear whether experience is really worth it, but you do need to reach level 8 to beat the game regardless.)

City/Castle Combat

Unlike later games in the series, there's no need to be ethical in Ultima I. (I think it's more fun to act virtuous, just so the game works better in the retconned story of the later series, but to each his own.) You can steal from any armour, weapon, or food shop, and you can even find weapons this way that are not actually available for sale. However, if you are caught, the Guards will come after you. They hit very hard and have the most HP of any normal enemy in the game, and because you can't cast spells in cities or castles you can't use Kill to take them out quickly, so your best bet is to run away. Understanding how to run away is the key to survival.

Like other enemies, Guards always make a beeline right for you, moving on diagonals when possible, so it's virtually impossible to completely elude them. Certain towns are laid out better than others for the purposes of thievery, as mentioned on their individual pages. However, in general you can take advantage of the fact that Guards are entirely predictable. Most notably, they will not move as long as they can attack instead. Therefore, you can usually get around a guard as long as you're willing to take a few hits, though early in the game this will likely be impossible. When stealing, it pays to be a thief, and not to push your luck.

However, at some point in the game you will have to rescue at least one Princess, which requires you to deal with Guards. It's easier to do this in a castle laid out like The Castle of Lord British, with the large courtyard that contains a pond. In other castles, you will have to kill at least one Guard to get to the Princess and get out.

To save a princess, the first step is to kill the castle Jester, who will drop a key. This will alert the Guards, so move directly to the prison where the Princess is held, maneuvering Guards to get them stuck on walls when possible. There is a chance the key will be for the wrong cell, at which point you'll have to run away empty-handed. However, if you manage to bring the Princess back to the castle entrance, she'll reward you with 500 experience, 500 hit points, and 500 pence. If you're a space ace, she'll also reveal the location of the Time Machine you need to confront Mondain. (Amusingly, if you rescue more princesses after that, they will also tell you about Time Machine—you can build up quite a collection of them.)

Note that you can also kill the residents of any city, including Merchants, but this has no real purpose (aside from possible taking your frustrations out on that thieving Bard!). You won't get any reward, and the citizens will be back like nothing ever happened when you return.

Dungeon Combat

Dungeon creatures work a lot differently than those found in other parts of the game, for reasons I can only assume are due to massive game bugs. The first oddity is that, for the first six dungeon levels, creatures' attacks don't deal random damage. (This is also true of the Tangler found on Dungeon Levels 7–8.) The level of the dungeon is added as bonus damage to every creature's attack, so each creature's set damage is increased by 1 on the second level they are found on. This non-random damage makes dungeon creatures incredibly dangerous, as they end up many times more damage than their overworld counterparts. You'll need a lot of hit points to survive a sustained assault on the middle dungeon levels.

The good news is that once the set damage would surpass 255, it becomes normal damage with a maximum of 255. This means that the creatures on the lowest dungeon levels actually deal less damage on average than some of the mid-level denizens. Of course, damage isn't your only problem in dungeons. The creature lists on the dungeon and dungeon level pages can tell you more about the special properties of dungeon creatures' attacks.

The other oddity of dungeon creatures is that the vast majority of them seem to go down in one hit from any weapon, regardless of damage. I have a few theories on what causes this, but I can't say I actually know what's going on. Suffice it to say, most dungeon creatures are easy to kill. However, they usually get the first attack, especially if they attack from behind or from the side, since the game's graphical limitations make it impossible to see them coming. It's often prudent to fight from the far end of an empty hallway to ensure you only fight a single enemy at a time. And note that every now and them you'll come across a creature that has a good chunk of hit points. Combined with their incredible damage, these creatures can be very dangerous, especially in the middle levels of the dungeon.

The good news is that you do gain extra rewards for fighting in dungeons. First off, you won't use any food while in a dungeon, which can save you some cold hard cash. You'll also find money in chests and coffins. (Coffins often produce a random creature who gets a free attack when you attempt to open them. You can prevent this with the Open spell, though given how little money coffins often hold, this may not be worth the investment.) The real prize of dungeon delving (aside from finishing the plot-important gem quests) is that you will gain HP simply by making it out of the dungeon alive. The amount gained is equal to double the experience value of the creatures you killed (and you'll get HP even if you've maxed your experience out at 9999). This probably won't offset your losses if you delve especially deep, but it's a nice bonus in any case.

Increasing Your Stats

There are a surprising number of ways to increase your stats in Ultima I. Experience (and level) is obvious—go kill creatures or save a Princess. But the rest, including hit points and food, are a bit more interesting. I'll cover each in turn.

Increasing Hit Points

The basic method of increasing your hit points is to offer pence to any king. The king will grant you one and a half times the number of pence offered as hit points (rounded down, so always give in even amounts!). If you find this exchange rate favorable, however, you may be better off Dropping pence into any pond, lake, or waterway inside a city (but not a castle). This will grant you hit points at the exact same rate, but there's also a small chance you will receive a random spell. You can tell when this happens because the usual "Shazam!" message will change to "Alakazot!".

The other two methods of increasing your hit points were both mentioned above: you gain double the experience earned in a dungeon as hit points when you successfully exit the dungeon, and you are given 500 hit points (among other rewards) when you save a Princess.

Increasing Food

You don't have quite as many options for gaining food as hit points, but they are a bit more strategic. The basic option is to buy it, which has a base cost of 5 pence for 10 food. This cost drops by 1 penny for every 20 points of Intelligence you have, to a minimum of 1 penny for 10 food at 80+ Intelligence. Alternately, you can drop money in specific ponds in castles (see the stat page for specifics) and gain back 3 food for each penny dropped. This is the cheaper option if you have less than 40 Intelligence.

Increasing Strength

Unless you're a wizard with money to burn, you're usually going to be attacking creatures with weapons, and efficient weapon use relies on Strength. This is arguably the most important of your six basic stats, and not coincidentally it is the hardest to get to 99. There are only two ways to increase Strength after character creation. The first is to go on a Strength increase quest. One of the two kings in each land (the one that lives in the castle near a city) will offer you a quest to find a particular landmark in another land. If you do so, not only will you gain the usual benefit from visiting that landmark, you will also gain Strength when you return to the king that gave the quest. The amount of Strength is based on your current score—below 12 you will gain 11 points of strength, and this number decreases for each 8 points you gain, to a minimum of 1 point per quest once your Strength reaches 81. At this point the effort of the quest isn't really worth the payoff, as running back and forth gets boring very quickly.

Fortunately, there is another way to increase your Strength. The same castle ponds that can randomly increase your other stats have a chance of increasing your Strength. See the next section for details.

Increasing Other Stats

Your other five basic stats can all be increased by visiting various landmarks. Check the landmark list for specifics. Six of the eight landmarks increase a stat (two increase Stamina) when you visit them. You can gain this increase multiple times, but you have to visit a different landmark before the first will offer its bonus again. Fortunately, pairs of landmarks in a given land are generally pretty close to one another. You can't reach any landmarks until you obtain a vehicle that can traverse water, as they are all on islands or other continents. When going landmark hunting, it's useful to activate Strength quests as well. However, unlike strength quests, the stat increases from landmarks start small and get larger as your stats increase. You gain approximately 1/10 of your current stat value, rounded up, from each landmark. (The exception is when your stat ends in 1, so a stat at 21 will increase by 2, not 3.)

There is another, less well-known method for increasing your stats. Both castle types have a particular pond that will increase one stat at random if you drop enough money in it. The stat increase is the number of pence dropped divided by 10, rounded down. It can choose any stat, even one that you've already increased to 99, so this isn't a very reliable method for specific increases. However, it's relatively cheap and available immediately, plus it's a good way to start your landmark-based stat increases off quickly. Those first 10 points can be a pain to get, and spending 100 pence for instant gratification seems like a fine alternative. This is also a very fast method for maxing out your strength once quests run dry, though unless you're filthy rich you'll likely want to save and keep reloading until you get the bonus to strength and not some easily-increased stat.

Obtaining Equipment

You begin wearing a suit of Leather armor and wielding a Dagger (with a second in reserve). You'll need to upgrade both of these, buy new vehicles, and perhaps buy new spells during the game. For the most part you have to buy items at a shop, but there are some other ways to gain new gear.

Obtaining Weapons

Of all the item types, you have the most options for purchasing weapons. The basic method is to buy them. Several item types, also including armour and vehicles, start off with abbreviated shop lists that grow as time passes in the game. In the case of weapons, shops will initially have two choices for sale. Unlike other shops, there are two types of weapon shop, each with a different item list. Once you've taken 1,500 actions in the game (moving, passing, attacking, or pretty much anything else), the Sword or Great Sword will be the third item available, depending on the shop type. After another 1,500 actions, for a total of 3,000, the sale list will increase to five items, its maximum size.

Of course, shopping costs money, and four weapons including the Blaster are never sold in shops. There are a number of other ways to get weapons. The most obvious is to steal them. While this is risky, you can steal any weapon from any weapon shop, even weapons sold in other shops or those not sold at all. You can also gain a random weapon at no danger to yourself at the cost of only 10 pence, by dropping the money in the northern small pond in the castles found in the vicinity of cities. It can take a few tries to get a really good weapon, but this is almost certainly a better use of your money than actually buying items, especially since you can sell the extras. A third way to gain random items is to Get them from the storerooms in The Castle of Shamino after completing the king's quest. He'll give you permission to take 9 items, including both weapons and armour.

Finally, there is a non-random way to collect the full set of weapons in the game. Simply visit the The Pillars of the Argonauts, a special landmark that gives you a free weapon each time you Enter it. Like other shrines, you'll need to Enter a different landmark before you can get a second weapon. This process is reliable, but it can take a while, because you will always receive the least powerful weapon you don't already have at least one of. (If you have every weapon in the game, you won't receive anything.) Sail or fly south to the The Pillars of the Argonauts to quickly gain weapons this way.

Obtaining Armour

Every town that has an armour shop sells the same, full list of armour. Early in the game, you won't find a Vacuum suit or a Reflect suit for sale. These only become available once you've taken 3,000 actions during the game in much the same way weapons are restricted. Armour is expensive, but as with other goods you can bring the price down by raising your Intelligence. Unfortunately there are no magic ponds that give you cheap armour or anything. Your only alternate methods of finding new armour are to steal it or to take it from The Castle of Shamino after completing the king's quest. Note that stealing allows you to obtain any armor, even a Reflect suit, right at the start of the game (if you're lucky).

Obtaining Spells

You can't steal spells, so you'll be forced to buy them. Because they are used up when cast, this can get expensive pretty quickly. Note that unlike other items, all spells are available at the start of the game (though you need to be a wizard to buy some of them). If you're going to make heavy use of spells, you'll want to get your Wisdom to 41. This will drop the price of every spell by a hefty 20%. You'll get a 25% discount from those prices (40% from the original) if you get your Wisdom all the way up to 73.

You can also obtain spells by dropping money in waterways in towns, but this is a highly unreliable method. You will always get 150% of the pence dropped as HP by doing this, but the chance of receiving a spell as well is fairly low. The spell you get is random, but you can even get normally wizard-exclusive spells like Kill in this way. Building up a decent stock of spells would take extreme patience, but it's worth tossing money into these ponds instead of giving it to kings for HP regardless.

Obtaining Vehicles

The bad news is, there's only one way to obtain new vehicles, and that's to buy them. As with armour, the last two vehicles (the Aircar and Shuttle) won't become available until you take at least 3,000 actions in the game. You can never buy a Time Machine, as they must be earned by saving a Princess after becoming a space ace. Note that when you buy a vehicle, it appears on an appropriate adjacent square outside the city it was purchased in. If there are no open squares of the correct type, you will not be able to buy a particular vehicle at all.

General Considerations

Understanding the specifics of combat and the item system is important, but you'll need a basic understanding of other game functions to complete Ultima I.


Food is one of the more annoying aspects of the early Ultimas. If you should run out of food, you will immediately die, much like running out of hit points. Make sure you always keep an eye on your food supply. The specifics of obtaining food are covered above, but how does it get used? The good news is that you won't use food at all in dungeons, cities, or castles. You only need to worry about food on the overworld.

You consume one food for every other action you take while on food in the overworld. An "action" can mean anything from moving, to attacking, to simply passing time. The rate of two actions per one food is actually based on your current vehicle—if you're riding a horse, you instead use one food every three actions, for instance. For this reason it is usually best to be riding in a vehicle of some kind. Note that you don't have to X-it your vehicle to enter a city, castle, landmark, or even a dungeon.


You don't actually need to go to taverns at all, but theoretically they are where you'll learn many of the game's secrets. Each ale you buy costs one penny, gets you slightly drunk, and may come with a hint from the bartender. There are eight of these hints, and you can read them without worrying about being seduced and robbed on this page.

The risk with taverns is that if you drink too much, you will be seduced by the tavern Wench (or Lecher, if your character is female). This will result in the loss of half of your coin, rounded up, and any further drinks will result in another seduction. You can reset your drunkenness by leaving the city and returning. Exactly how many drinks it takes to get drunk is random, but the number is generally based on your Stamina. To be safe, never have more than a couple of drinks in any one trip to the tavern. (Good advice for real life, too!)

Selling Items

You can sell extra weapons or suits of armour you come across for a little extra cash. You won't find any in dungeons, but you can steal them, get weapons from magic ponds, or sell your old gear when you buy new. The sale price is based on your Charisma. You'll get very little money for your goods when your Charisma is low, but once it reaches 99 you'll generally get about half the base value of the item you're selling. (And this in turn isn't much less than what you'll pay to buy the same item if you have 99 Intelligence.) There is one restriction on selling weapons that you should be aware of. Due to limitations, you can only sell the 8 cheapest weapons you are holding. The rest won't be listed, and the game will not let you sell them even if you press the appropriate key. Better weapons generally make lesser ones obsolete, so this shouldn't be much of an issue.


Death doesn't mean game over in Ultima I, but it comes with some rather harsh penalties. First, both your hit points and food will be reset to 99, often resulting in a big loss of whichever of the two didn't run out to cause your death. Second, if you're riding in any vehicle, it is lost permanently (including your Shuttle, if you were in space). Third, you lose all of your weapons, including the one you had equipped. (You don't lose any armour or spells, but anything you were using is unequipped.) And finally, you lose all of your money. This last one hurts the most, since you need money to get back all of the other things you lost. If you're worried about dying, and unwilling to simply reload the game to a point before you died, your best insurance is to buy a lot of armour, which you can then sell after being resurrected.

It's not really a penalty per se, but it's worth noting that you will not be resurrected at the exact point where you died, but rather within a screen or so on the overworld. If you died in a dungeon, city, or castle, you will appear near that location, and if you died in space you'll appear near where your Shuttle launched from.