The Worst Ninja, Chapter 4 – Power

Continuing (and probably concluding) my irregular misadventures in Ultima Online: Kingdom Reborn. For the story so far, a sad tale of axeless lumberjacking, lost shoes, bullying healers and being rubbish at hiding, clicky here and scroll down.

Things are looking up. I mean, I’m being diligently followed everywhere by a horse, a llama, a dog, a cat and a rabbit. They’ll fight for me if I tell them to. Even the rabbit. I can’t think a more definite sign that I’ve made it.

You may remember that the conclusion of Chapter 3: Logs saw me reach something of a turning point in Ultima Online. I discovered how to trade. It’s unquestionably an essential part of any RPG, on or offline, but for some reason UO thought that not mentioning the obscure way it’s gone about wouldn’t be any sort of problem. Once I’d stumbled across it by accident, in an instant the population of New Haven was transformed from surly, silent nobodies to bounty-laden merchants one and all. Shift and right-click on them. Don’t ever forget that if you decide to play UO – because the game won’t tell you.

Frankly, I’ve been on an insane spending spree ever since. I accrued a fair whack of cash during my many hours of clueless wandering, with no idea until now how to spend it. I’ve got all manner of useless crap now, mostly tools for tradeskills that I only practiced until I was 2.8% proficient before I got bored of building chairs, sewing animal hides together or whatever. With a belly full of expensive cheese and wine (just because I could) and a backpack full of miscellaneous sharp implements, I staggered contentedly over to the harbour. That’s when I see her. The animal handler, a winsome brunette standing coyly outside some stables, apparently not at all worried by the big wolf waiting a few feet away. Could she.. Could this be… Surely not. Yes. Oh yes. She’s willing to sell me pets.

I start with the Llama. A mere 400-odd gold – pocket money, thanks to my regular scavenging of high-level players’ cast-offs (again, see Chapter 3) – and not only did I now have a faithful and pleasingly weird pet, but also a giant bag on legs. For this was a llama that could carry stuff for me, the solution to my recent lumber-hauling woes, and one more thing that could have saved me rather a lot of confused misery, if only the existence of this wonderful, and surprisingly affordable, beast had been mentioned before I tried to carry 60 logs across town. In thanks, I killed the wolf.

I leave the horse until last, convinced there’d be no way to ride it without programming an 80-key macro or something. Dog, cat, rabbit, in that order, each with their own little shift-right-click menu. I order them to follow. They duly follow, all stood apparently on top of each other (and the llama) in one big pile of furry meat, going faithfully going wherever I go. And now, the horse. I can’t believe it. Just a double-click and I’m riding it, hurtling around New Haven at a speed it took me 40 levels and hundreds of hours to achieve in World of Warcraft. I can go into shops on horseback, and no-one complains. I can even chop down trees on horseback, even though this surely means I’m only getting the spindly branches at the top and not the good trunk-wood. Still, beats walking. Man, I feel good. I’ve got my own personal animal army and a magic axe – what’s not to celebrate?

Well, I still can’t fight anything more serious than, as it happens, a llama. Depressingly, my own llama keeps picking fights with passing Mongbats, and beating them more soundly than I can. I’m a successful lumberjack with five faithful pets – is that all I’ll ever amount to? It’s not fair. I want to kill zombies. The magic axe isn’t quite magic enough to stop them from killing me, unfortunately.

It’s then that I notice something new in my inventory. It’s a gift. UO has just celebrated its tenth birthday, and I’ve been given a present. It must be some terrible mistake, some robot that manages the server confusing ten huors with ten years. Guys, really, I just got here – it’s ludicrous to treat me like a veteran. I feel like I’ve just been given too much change by a shopkeeper. It’d wrong to keep it, surely, but ooh, shiny.

The gift allows me two free items. There’s a lot of furniture and decorations in there, stuff only of use if I ever owned a house, and just thinking about the degree of complexity and crazy logic this would involve is absolutely terrifying. Let’s just say I’m not a ninja who likes to settle down. What else have you got? Ooh, that’s a nice hat. Samurai, you say? Ninja, samurai, same difference, right? Sold. And that’s a rather big sword. Yes, I know it says Paladin on it, but hand it over.

I now look awesome. I have a fearsome helmet and massive sword, though admittedly these do clash a little with the jester outfit I’m currently wearing. Both hat and blade list multiple statistics I don’t entirely understand, but I’m hedging my bets that more numbers = more killability. Steeling myself nevertheless for more failure, I go find a zombie.

I found the end of the universe inside an abandoned house.

He’s dead in an instant. I barely touched him, and he certainly didn’t land any blows on me. Oh my. These guys have bested me time and time again, but now they can’t so much as scratch me. Everything really is coming up roses. Soon enough, there are piles of dead-undead around me. I’m unstoppable! I’m also as confused as ever. A gift I wasn’t expecting has reversed my fortunes in an instant, and I don’t know quite why or how.

Then an amazing thing happens. A passing player asks politely for my help against some skeletons that are giving him trouble. It’s actually the first time anyone’s communicated with me unbidden in UO so far, but more than that, he thinks I can help. Me! Of all people! I’m totally taken aback, but then I look at my hat, my sword, my llama, my horse, my dog, my cat and my rabbit. Yeah, I guess maybe I do look like I know what I’m doing. Who ever would have thought it?


  1. Andrew says:

    Success! Kind of?

    I presume these 10th-anniversary-items were so ludicrously overpowered because they were meant for veterans rather than newbies. Heh, nice oversight there on the developers’ part.

  2. Alex Hopkinson says:

    Hmmm, a dog, cat and rabbit… Is gud?

  3. Cyren says:

    Handy that your llama carrys around giant rolls of toilet paper for you.

  4. Robert Seddon says:

    Probably concluding, when you’re still homeless? I shall miss these. Unless you move on to Sociolotron.

  5. Thelps says:

    If you do find yourself at the point of garnering a few friends, and running off on an adventure into an interesting looking cave or some such, you’ll encounter UO’s greatest feature: getting lost and separated from your buddies. My cousin once hopped into a moongate unbidden, only to find himself in an unknown locale without any apparent moongate back to where he came from. I failed to notice and had already moved away from the moongate forgetting where it was. What followed was 4 hours of us communicating on ICQ, with me waiting in Brittannia (the game’s capitol city) and him describing the odd places he was, and the occasional ferocious monster that killed him. The humour in the whole thing was we continuously believed that he couldn’t really be more than a few minutes away from finding his bearings again, but it really never happened. As I recall we ended up logging out and he managed to find his way back to Brit on his own across his next play session.

    This was about 6 years ago, in UO’s cycle known as ‘The Second Age’. I quit the game long ago but it’s always nice to reminisce about a game that really was no-holds-barred in its design philosophy (a barely coherent mish-mash of ‘things to do’ without much motive or reason for doing them, or connection between them). A more innocent age in MMOs, definitely.

  6. dekoy says:

    Very funny. I really enjoyed the pets following you around in a giant meaty pile ;)

  7. Pod says:

    Why are you still in New Haven?
    Shouldn’t they have kicked you out by now?

  8. neoanderthal says:

    I enjoyed your four-part expose on UO immensely. While pointing out some of the inanities on the game (especially the tutorial-that-does-not-tutor), you’ve actually got me thinking about giving the game a spin. I am amazingly Johnny-come-lately to the modern MMO scene (MMMORP?), having tried out WoW a mere 4 weeks past. I was quite underwhelmed by the experience, given all the hoopla I’ve been subjected to about it. In that time, I’ve been snuffling about, trying to find something interesting. It seems I’ll have to give UO a go – I played Ultima way back in the day, on my Atari 800, but haven’t had much to do with it since. It will be interesting to see a) how much of the Ultima mythos I can remember and b) how interesting the game truly is. Many hopes that the Ninja-who-cannot-hide will become the Ninja-who-hides-fairly-well. Cheers!

  9. Ian says:

    I would give it a go only that I know it wouldn’t be so funny were it happening to me.

    So, no part 5? Gutted.

    Note: I realise this is late, I just stumbled across the first part in the link to it in the sidebar of the front page.

  10. sinister agent says:

    More, please. If I have to suffer through MGS4 for beteo, you must suffer UO for our enjoyment.

    Seriously though, good stuff, I was very much amused.

  11. cowthief skank says:

    Fantastic. More articles like this please :-)

  12. BigJonno says:

    Random linkage from Eurogamer has brought me to this wonderful series. It’s just a shame that any similar articles about more recent MMOs would all sound exactly the same. “Some guy told me to go kill a few monsters. I did that, got a reward and then got told to go to some other guy who got me to fetch something. I repeated this process a bazillion times and now I’m max level.”

  13. Serondal says:

    The 10 year gift is not over powered LOL It is just that zombies and skeletons are EXTREMLY not dangerous.

    You should thnak GOD you get to shift right click. When I played UO you had to talk to the NPCs !! You had to say Buy and Sell and bank to open your bank box, actually I kind of enjoyed it. You had to literally call guards for help even. They’ve dumbed the game down a million times and aparently it still isn’t dumb enough for some people. I guess this is in line when the woman who went on who wants to be a Mil and lost on the first question that was narrowed down to (What is larger, an elephant or the moon) She choose the elephant O.o

  14. Kilroy says:

    “When I played UO you had to talk to the NPCs !! ”

    I remember the oldschool chat.. I used to hide SW of a group of people, color my chat to look like system messages, and pick the name of one of the people. Then I’d say, “Soandso is trying to steal from you!” and watch the killing begin.

    I also gave books funny titles, and tried to give them to NPCs – to which they’d reply, for all to hear: “A leather dildo up my kiester? I do not want this.”

    Ahh, when we were all newbs.

    • Delrius says:

      This was the game that hooked me, way back when…
      The first year, for Christmas, they had a bunch of Santas in the cities. YOu could actually steal the suits off of them, so there were naked Santa’s all of Yew. I had a toon named Satan Claws who would stand next to the naked santas and spout communist propaganda and other fun stuff.

      And Kilroy…do you remember the wierd zoning issues in the Yew Bank? Part of the bank was actually outside the town? I would use my “thief” to snoop in people’s stuff, then run outside the zone and hide. When the offended player would try to attack me, I would run back into the bank and call for the guards, which would appear out of nowhere and dispatch the poor sap who thought I was stealing from him. At this point I would open my vault and quickly loot the poor bastard’s things.

      I was really kind of an arse…but I had many joyful hours

    • Elusiv3Pastry says:

      Wow, that cracked me up. UO was so awesome.

      Does anyone remember the Imanewbie web comic? All done in UO, utterly brilliant.

      “I would take my own life but my dagger skill isn’t high enough and I am too fatigued to move.”

  15. “Return To Britannia”: Ultima Access | Rock, Paper, Shotgun says:

    […] about Alec’s adventures in the aged MMO just here, and tell us if you’re going to return to Ultima in the comments below. […]

  16. Web Cole says:

    Heh, that was cool, shame it’s so short, but good nevertheless :)

  17. Coops07 says:

    That brings a tear to my UO heart :D

  18. Flaringo says:

    Man, this site totally needs more stuff like this!

  19. JarredStone says:

    This was a fantastic read. Real damn shame I’ve never got a chance to sample the old Ultima Online.

    Any reader can tell me, how’s the population? Does the game cater well to newbies?