Ultima 9: The Bob White Plot

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Joe Garrity of the Origin Muesum, and courtesy of none other than Bob White himself, the Ultima Codex is pleased to present the following document — which has been broken out into fifty three (53) images — which contains the final revision of the legendary Bob White Plot of Ultima 9.

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For those not entirely familiar with the development history of Ultima 9, Bob White worked with Brian Martin, Chuck Zoch, and the late John Watson, under the guidance of Richard Garriott, to put together what was probably the second version of the plot of Ultima 9, after Richard Garriott decided to move the setting of the game back to Britannia in response to fan outcry after Ultima 8. He teased out many details of this plot in a lengthy synopsis released over a decade ago, although many questions were left unanswered even so.

The date on this particular revision of the document — July of 1997 — correlates with the time frame in which Origin was moving the game over to the 3D engine that ultimately powered it. Indeed, this revision to the plot was done after the Ultima Online development team were being pulled back onto Ultima 9 development.

In this plot, the game began at Stonegate, after the playing of the arrival movie we all know so well from Ascension. The Avatar (for the purposes of this summary, I’m assuming a male Avatar, although in this document it is noted that Avatar sex selection was intended to be offered) was to awaken in a well-appointed room and be greeted by Hawkwind, who woudl go on to reveal that he is the Timelord.

Hawkwind woult then give the player Raukarist, which initally had the form of a simple dagger. Forged by the “ancients of [the] world long ago, in preparation for the one who would come later and lead [the] world through darkness and into the future”, Raukarist was meant to respond to the player’s karma, and was evidently supposed to change its form and grow in power as the Avatar gained in the Virtues throughout the course of the game.

As you explored the room, you would learn of the horrors — plagues, famines, rumours of impending war — that had afflicted Britannia, and you also would have learned how the Guardian formed the eight columns by hurling corrupted glyphs across all Britannia. When you had exhausted what the starting room had to offer, Hawkwind would set you on the course to Britain, there to see Lord British. Getting there involved navigating a short journey in which you were to be attacked by a Wyrmguard named Damon. If you rested during this journey, the first “sending” movie — in which the Guardian would have taunted Lord British with twisted visions of your actions on Pagan — would have played.

Upon arriving at Castle Britannia, Geooffrey was supposed to accost you if you arrived wearing Damon’s Wyrmguard armor. An ailing and sickly Lord British, despite being concerned from what he saw in the sending, would have asked your help in restoring Britannia, and would have instructed you to seek out your companions. You would have learned about some other points of history — the revolt of the gargoyles on Terfin and the construction of the Guardian-shaped Tower of Exultation thereupon — at this time.

Seeking Shamino in Britain — which is being afflicted by a terrible famine — would have led you to find him at the Cathedral of Love, in a sacred trance. Geoffrey’s daughter Mistral, a monk at the cathedral, would have set you on the “Book, Bell, and Candle” question to free him, with the Bell taking the most effort to obtain. Once freed, Shamino would have explained that he entered the trance to ward off horrible visions and spiritual corruption that he had begun to feel. This initial conversation would have also been one of the only points at which Dupre was mentioned.

The plot was not supposed to be particularly linear, even at this early point, but for the purposes of ease in communication it was assumed that the Avatar would next have journeyed to Moonglow. Mariah would have given the Avatar some information about the plague afflicting Moonglow upon joining the party, and would also have sponsored the player’s apprenticeship in the Circle of Mages, which the Avatar would have had to join in order to gain spell powers. To join the Circle of Mages, the Test of Mages — involving exploring the dungeon Deceit — would have to be bested, a task which Mariah would encourage the Avatar to complete straightaway.

(It’s interesting to note that at this point in the plot, some Virtue-related tensions between party members would have started to emerge, with each companion siding with a different cause or Virtue in deliberations. Each companion would also have been tasked with “shepherding” a particular plotline.)

Should the Avatar have chosen to complete the Test of Mages, besting Deceit would have required solving several golem-themed puzzles with various magic spells. Completing the test would give the player a massive boost of karma (enough to cause Raukarist to change form).

At some point, the player would need to pause and rest in a wilderness area. At this point, a cutscene of an ambush by the Wyrmguard soldier Slaine would have played; Raven would have appeared at this point and intervened in the attack, costing Slaine an eye in the progress. Interestingly, Raven was supposed to have been male if the Avatar was female, and vice versa, which is a hint that Raven was always seen as a romance option for the Avatar. This is confirmed later on, on page 22, in which a small note after a particular sequence remarks that said point in the plot would be a “[g]ood opportunity for a Raven EncounterTM“.

Raven would have of course urged the Avatar to travel to Asylum, there to meet Samhayne, who would have urged the Avatar to support his cause “working on the problems the Tribunal [was] failing to solve.” Samhayne would have suggested that the player go and speak to Corrigan — the only Tribunal member accepting public audiences — in Valoria, and would also have inquired as to whether the Avatar would have considered joining the guild. Samhayne would also have asked the Avatar to spie on the two other Tribunal members, Amoranth and Verona. Finally, Samhayne would have revealed to you that many of your old companions were hidden away in Cove, and would have given you information about how to get there.

Joining the Guild was necessary, but the next time you slept after the initiation ceremony, you would have seen a second “sending” cutscene.

If the player opted to journey to Cove, he would have found a very beautiful village unaffected by what had befallen Britannia elsewhere. An old, bed-ridden Iolo would have given the Avatar more information about all that had transpired in the land, and Gewnno would have offered her services as a fletcher and bowyer. Janna, now the High Druid of Cove, would have given you food and plague-curing Serpentwyne as you had need, and would also have provided free healing. She would have pointed you toward Julia, who was to have taken up residence in Trinsic. Speaking with all the companions about Samhayne would have resulted in some interesting deliberations, with the companions again splitting their opinions along virtuous lines.

Visiting Corrigan would have required the player to pass a test, in which the crown of the Troll King would have to be obtained. There were evidently supposed to be both violent and non-violent resolutions to this task. Corrigan’s advisor, Darkblade (Blackthorn in disguise) would have been adorned in red and accompanied by a large wolf, which would have growled menacingly at the Avatar. The conversation with Corrigan would have explained much of the strife in the land, strife which had even divided Corrigan’s own children and set them against each other (each being loyal to one of the other Tribunal members). Darkblade would have served in a Grima Wormtongue-type capacity, speaking up whenever the Avatar urged Corrigan to make a decision about what course of action to take.

Spying on the two other Tribunal members would have involved enlisting the aid of Guild agents in Britain and Moonglow: Bronwyn (a tavern maid) and Mistral in Britain, Arthur in Moonglow. The Avatar would have been required to enter each Tribunal members’ headquarters in disguise, in order to overhear their plans (and in particular to take note of the corrupt advice of their advisors — Ebontyne in Britain and Shadowbriar in Moonglow, both of which are also Blackthorn in disguise). You would have been able to succesfully spy on one Tribunal member; Blackthorn would have outed you when you attempted to spy on the other one, and in either case you would have been thrown into a dungeon.

Interestingly, while in earlier and later plots the player was supposed to have been thrown into the dungeon Wrong directly at this point, in this revision of the plot the player was to have been thrown into a prison beneath each Tribunal members’ headquarters. Raven would have been imprisoned as well, and indeed would have helped the player to escape by pointing out Guild markings leading to a secret passage. This passage would have eventually led to Wrong, briefly, and then back to a passage that would see the Avatar emerge near the town he had been imprisoned in.

Shamino would have greeted the party with waiting horses, and when next the player rested a third sending cutscene would have played, in which a vision of your capture twisted by the Guardian would have enraged the king against you, enough that he would declare the Avatar an outlaw. Samhayne, in Asylum, would have provided you with a forged Writ of Pargon, which would have in turn allowed you to access Britain (and possibly other towns) again.

At this point in the plot, Corrigan would have been assassinated, and his body stolen by Slaine, to be dumped into the Well of Souls on the still-ruined Skara Brae. Finding this out would have involved a murder mystery-type plot, in which the Avatar would have to track down a fletcher in Trinsic, an alchemist in Valoria, and finally a mage in Trinsic. This mage, Helain, would perform a ritual on the gathered evidence which would play back the last moments of Corrigan’s life and the disposal of his body, before being interrupted by magical interference from Blackthorn.

Skara Brae would have been a short quest following this, involving recovering Corrigan’s body from the Dragoliche — a dragon possessed by the evil force that had once possessed Horance the Mage — in the depths of the Well of Souls. An encounter with a Wyrmguard contingent would have capped off the journey to the ruined City of Spirituality, after which point Shamino would have urged the player to journey to Lord British’s castle to present Corrigan’s body to Lord British and, by means of the Death Speak spell, evidence of Blackthorn’s involvement in affairs.

Prevented by Geoffery from seeing the king, the player would instead have had to take Corrigan’s body to the Shrine of Justice, where Amoranth and Verona’s armies had taken the field and were preparing to do battle with each other. Despite interference from Darkblade, Verona would prove curious to hear the testimony of Corrigan, and would have cast the Death Speak spell herself. Corrigan’s ghost would have outed Darkblade, and Blackthorn would have fled…but not before fighting the Avatar with help from a force of gargoyle warriors. This battle would have lasted for a few rounds before the Guardian would have intervened and called his loyal forces away.

Corrigan’s children and their armies would have pledged their support in defeating Blackthorn at this point, and this scene would have soon been played back for Lord British as yet another sending…with a twist from the Guardian making it seem like the Avatar had amassed an army with which to conquer Britannia.

You would actually have been able to attack Blackthorn, in Terfin, at this point in the game, although doing so would have been a one-sided slaughter (and not in your favour). Journeying to Cove, as Shamino would have advised, would have put you onto the trail of Vasagralem and Desbet, the only two gargoyles who did not fall under the Guardian’s spell. These two were to have been found in Empath Abbey, and would have advised you about tactics and weapons to use against the gargoyle soldiers.

Vasagralem would also have sent the player to gain information about the Guardian, at which point the player would have learned that:

– The Shadowlords were destroyed by the one who is called the Avatar, to whom the gargoyles refer to as the False Prophet.
– These shadows then arose in the form of a worker gargoyle with the powers of a winged gargoyle. This being led the gargoyles to revolt. He was their self proclaimed savior
– [This] Savior warned his people that losing the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom would bring about the destruction of Ambrosia
– [This] Savior commanded the Gargoyles to rise to the surface and attack the human shrines
– [This] Savior fled when the False Prophet came to Ambrosia but fore[told] of his triumphant return, which the Gargoyles must await
– [T]his Savior…disappear[ed] but said that he would soon return and bring the gargoyles back to greatness when the time of tribulation was upon them.

The Shrine would, however, be unable to tell the player more, and indeed this information-gathering quest would have halted until after Blackthorn’s capture at this point. Capturing Blackthorn would, as previously mentioned, have required assaulting Terfin and capturing the Tower of Exultation, which in turn would have meant finding ways to battle or mitigate three obstacles: the Black Fleet (with accompanying sea serpents), the gargoyle warriors, and the dragon-riding Wyrmguard.

The Black Fleet could be mitigated in several ways. Guild Corsairs would have been necessary for a direct assault (and, indeed, to get to Terfin at all), and Raven would have ensured that these were provided to the Avatar. There was to be a “serpent call device” that the player could find, which in turn could have been used to either save your own ship from the sea serpents or to turn them on the Black Fleet. A magical spell was also evidently planned which would have had a similar effect.

The gargoyle warriors would have been mitigated with special combat tactics that Vasagralem and Desbet would have taught to the Valorian Bladesmen, and also with blackrock weapons which Julia, in Trinsic, would have provided. Getting access to blackrock would have required traveling to Mystvale, formerly Minoc, which would be in a state of ruin when you arrived at it. Slaine would again appear there, collecting eyes from the gypsies of Mystvale for a grotesque necklace. The Avatar would fight her here, to the death…and when Slaine fell, her dragon would have flown over and snatched her body away. Once Slain was beaten, Desbet would have provided information about mining to the party, and the Avatar would have had to clean out the dungeon Covetous in order to open it up for blackrock mining operations.

Mitigating the Wyrmguard would have put the Avatar onto a lengthy quest, one which would have begun in Trinsic. Here, the player would have found Sentri (who was recruitable as a party member) and Katrina..who would decline to join the party on account of being pregnant. (Though it is not actually revealed in the document, it is at least somewhat implied that Sentri may be the father.) The player would also have leaned the history of the formation of Valoria and the Bladesmen that inhabit that city; they were to be the remnants of the Order of the Silver Serpent, left decinated after an attempt to attack Terfin many years prior.

Sentri and Katrina would also tell of their quest to locate the Paladins and Rangers, neither of which had heeded the call to join in the initial attack on Terfin and the quest to retake New Magincia (which the rebelling gargoyles had assaulted and razed). The Rangers, it was to be revealed, had disappeared entirely, and the Paladins nearly so. Seeking out the Lost Paladins would have involved journeying to the Bastion of the Lost Paladins near Trinsic, but not before exploring the dungeon Destard to find a note to Caine, Lord of the Paladins. Clues in that message would have revealed that the Avatar would need access to a Chalice Device of Honor to gain access to the Bastion.

Upon meeting Caine, the Avatar would have learned what fate ultimately befell the Rangers: they were corrupted by the Guardian and became the Wyrmguard. When discussing the assault on the Tower of Exultation with Caine, he will task a young paladin named Evan — who was the squire of Dupre’s squire — to assist you, and send you to seek the Queen of Dragons, Alexadraconia.

Alexadraconia can be found in the depths of Destard, in the guise of a fair maiden being set upon by Wyrmguard. When she is freed, she will explain that she wishes to protect the dragon eggs secured away in a lower chamber, which would involve finding and killing more Wyrmguard. The Avatar would also have had the option of smashing the dragon eggs…although this would have set Alexadraconia against the party (evidently, the fight would have been nigh-impossible to win). For a male Avatar, the romantic subplot with Raven would have played a small role here, with Raven becoming quite jealous of the beautiful and forward Alexadraconia.

Once the eggs were secured, Alexadraconia would have dropped the illusory guise of a fair maiden and revealed her true form; evidently, a conversation would have taken place in which she agreed to help in the attack on Terfin.

With all these preparatons made, the assault on Terfin would then have been carried out. Not unlike in the final assault depicted in Mass Effect 2, the choices made prior to launching the assault would have resulted in wildly different outcomes. After battling (or not battling, as the case may have been) his way into Terfin, the Afatar would have fought his way through Wyrmguard and up to the top of the Tower of Exultation, whereat Blackthorn would have been captured. From Blackthorn, you would have learned a little more about the Guardian:

– Just as Mondain bound his immortality to the gem, [the Stranger’s] essence became bound to it by [a] simple touch.
– Ages later, just after [the Stranger] became the Avatar, a great force came into being by some means, and this sentient force was attracted to the shards of Mondainís Gem. This was the earliest form of the Guardian.
– The shards, so closely linked with [the Avatar] because of [his] touch, focused the force into the opposite of [his] principles: Falsehood, Hatred, and Cowardice.
– Blackthorn would then taung: ìI believe you know them better as Faulinei, Astaroth, and Nosfentor — the Shadowlords.î
– They were the masters who commanded [him during [his] Regency of Britannia, and they are what coalesced into the Guardian as [the Avatar] know[s] him now.

Alas for poor Blackthorn, even revealing these tantalizing bits of information would do him no good; Lord British would have ordered his summary execution by beheading. At that moment, the Guardian would speak and announce that the Columns have finished their purpose and were standing ready to rip Britannia asunder. The final question, to save Britannia if possible, would begin.

Hawkwind was to reappear at this point, explaining the role of the Glyphs, and sending the player on a quest to recover them. Depending on how the player approached the earlier parts of the plot, he may or may not have recovered some of the Glyphs already. If not, he would have to find them in the various dungeons of the land. Hawkwind would also have revealed that the Guardian, in addition to being ready to release the power of the Columns, was also holding them in check; disabling or (temporarily) slaying him would still cause them to release…and would in fact complete his purpose for them, which would be to release the life force of all Britannia for him to absorb, thus becoming immortal.

The Avatar would then have had to retrieve all the Glyphs. Nicodemus would have been useful in analyzing these, and after being given three or four would have recognized them as the former Runes of Virtue, corrupted by the Guardian. Once seven Glyphs had been recovered, Hawkwind would have told him of the eight, which was to be hidden away in the depths of the Abyss. This is also where the surviving Tribunal members, who were captured ealier on, would have been imprisoned. Lord British would have joined the party at this point

In assaulting the Abyss, the player would have traveled to the sunken Isle of the Avatar and then battled his way through daemons and other horrible creatures on his way into the depths of the world. The two rescued Tribunal members would have briefly joined the party to be led back to the exit, after which point the Avatar and Lord British would have pushed on into the very bottom of the dungeon, there to do battle with none other than the Slasher of Veils. Upon defeating this Lord of the Abyss, the Avatar would have reclaimed the final Glyph, and would evidently have had one final opportunity to visit the Shrine of Spirituality.

In this visit, the Avatar would have learned many surprising things, not the least of which was the existence of a great and powerful race called the Ultima, who “thought theyíd found the way to be rid of the evil within themselves”:

– Along the path to enlightenment, [the Ultima] created Avatars of Virtue, but for each Avatar, a dark being was created, the Avatars of Corruption. Wars raged across the Void, nearly destroying all as these colossal forces contended with each other.
– Finally, near the brink of total annihilation, the last of [the Ultima] met and confronted his evil sibling who he knew to be a facet of himself and he battled this dark brother until they and the universe were nearly spent.
– Gaining sudden clarity, he reached out and embraced his dark brother, giving himself up to him. In doing so, the dark part was forced to give itself up as well.
– What emerged was a being of immense power, and the wisdom to know how to use that power. The wisdom that there are no absolutes. Each action, each situation, each being must be judged within its own context of good and evil, right and wrong. Otherwise an imbalance is created in the order of all things, an imbalance that will bring about doom if it is not balanced once more.
– This being created the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom. It is meant to be a guide to those who seek the path of enlightenment we found, for Virtue is a noble purpose. It is also a warning of the knowledge of our downfall, for Virtue is not an end, but a means. Finally, it is a key to ascension, “my personal ascension that can be attained by all.”

And at the conclusion of all this, one final revelation:

“For I am Hawkwind the Timelord, Keeper of the Ages, the last of the Ultima.”

That is right, Dragons and Dragonettes; Hawkwind — in addition to being an all-around cool guy and the Time Lord as well — was to be revealed as the author of the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom.

Upon returning to Castle Britannia, Hawkwind would have opened a time gate, and Iolo would have carried the Glyphs through it to reverse the effect of time on them; a much younger Iolo was to emerge from the time gate carrying the Runes of Virtue. With ragged breaths from the exertion of opening the gate, Hawkwind would have explained how to use the runes to protect Skara Brae, amidst many other revelations. He would have faded from view after begging your forgiveness for not revealing more sooner, and the final quest of the game would have begun.

The Avatar would briefly have journeyed to Skara Brae to place the runes, after which point Samhayne would have overseen the conversion of the isle into a temporary shelter well-stocked with provisions. Lord British and the Avatar would have raced to Stonegate to confront the Guardian, who would have finally confirmed what the many clues previously gathered were pointing to:

“I suppose now that you realize we are one. When you shattered that gem along time ago, your evil essence was drawn into it. From this birthed the Shadowlords and from them I was formed. Does it disturb you to realize that your own force is what has brought this world to its knees and even now places it on the brink of destruction. Come nowÖlet us dance this one final dance.”

This may be the most surprising element in the entire document, for a great many disgruntled Ultima fans seem to have convinced themselves that the whole “Avatar/Guardian equivalence” aspect of the final plot was a late innovation in its development. Clearly, this was not the case, and it was in fact Richard Garriott’s intent to present each entity as being one half of a single being. The major difference in this revision of the plot is that the Avatar does not appear to damage himself when attacking the Guardian.

In the final battle, the Avatar would presumably have had to use all of his Titanic powers to defeat the Guardian, after which point Lord British and the Avatar would have climbed to the top of the tower. A video would have played showing the island of Skara Brae lifting off from Britannia and streaking off into the void, before ultimately coming to rest on a new world, New Britannia. The camera would have panned back at this point, apparently, revealing that all these events were being seen through Richard Garriott’s own telescope. The game would then have flashed back to Stonegate, as Lord British cast the Armageddon spell, destroying everything remaining on Britannia (including those who opted not to evacuate to Skara Brae) and leaving the world quiet and empty.

Anyhow, the usual disclaimers follow.

The images here, in JPEG format, are lower-resolution extracts from a PDF copy of the original Word document. They are legible, but not of particularly high quality, and thus are not recommended for printing; download the DOC or PDF file(s) for that purpose.

Most importantly, though: enjoy! Pull up the images, download the PDF, and pore over them. Search out every little detail, and enjoy a fascinating glimpse into the nuts and bolts of how the plot of the final single-player Ultima title evolved. The Ultima Codex is indebted to Bob White for providing these documents, to Joe Garrity for his tireless efforts in seeking out such treasures, and to Brian Martin, Chuck Zoch, John Watson, Bob White (again), Richard Garriott and everyone who worked at Origin Systems for their amazing vision and creativity.

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