Common Misconceptions
by Elder Klaitu

The origins of Ultima are now approaching 30 years old, quite a long time for a video game series to last. With a single, unified plot and various retcons over the years, it's hard to keep track of what's going on sometimes. This article will expose and correct Ultima misconceptions and myths with a specific emphasis on those affecting Ultima Online.

Myth: Ultima is set in some past time on Earth.

Britannia/Sosaria is actually a completely seperate planet from Earth. For those of you who are Wing Commander fans, Sosaria's star system is on the extreme far side of Kilrathi space, so far out that the Kilrathi won't discover it before Colonel Blair destroys Kilrah.

This leads me to another point. Britannia and Earth exist in the same time. In the fiction world, Earth exists in the modern day. Of course, time in Britannia moves faster than time on Earth, so many Britannian years can pass before one Earth year does.

Fun Fact: If you calculate the Ultima Online calendar backwards, you'll discover that Britannian Year 1 falls in September, 1972.

Though Britannia and Earth are seperate planets, they were magically merged in Ultima 2, where Sosaria WAS in Earth's distant past, in an era called "The Time of Legends". When Minax was defeated in that game, it erased several alternate futures, and also seperated Sosaria and Earth again. The geography of both planets was altered afterward.

Myth: The Avatar destroyed Mondain and his Gem of Immortality.

Though this is actually somewhat accurate, in actuality "The Stranger" defeated Mondain. The story told in Ultima Online's introduction video is actually the story of Ultima 1. "The Stranger" did not become "The Avatar" until the end of Ultima 4.

It sounds like a semantic difference doesn't it? Read on.

Myth: Ultima Online is set between Ultima 6 and 7.

This myth is a little skewed, and it's also got a twist. Ultima 6 ended in the Britannian year 163. Ultima 7 begins in the year 361. As you can see, a great deal of UO happened before Ultima 7. Ultima 7 ends in the year 364 with the Avatar being cast into Pagan. Ultima Online has now progressed to a period decidedly after Ultima 7.

Fun Fact: Ultima Online will not progress into another Ultima Prime game until the year 564, when it will coincide with Ultima 9. It will be the year 2019 on Earth.

So, now that I've explained all that, here's the twist: The only events that are common to both Ultima Prime and Ultima Online are those events which happened before The Stranger shattered Mondain's Gem. At that moment, the worlds of Ultima Online were created.. each shard an exact duplicate of the realm at that time.

Events that happen after the shattering of the gem happen independantly of what happens in Ultima Prime (or what happens on other shards for that matter). Each shard of the gem is a wholly independant parallel world to Ultima Prime.

This is why it's inappropriate for Ultima Online characters to refer to the Avatar. The Stranger became the Avatar in Ultima Prime, but this event did not happen in the parallel worlds of the shards.

Unproven: The Guardian is Coming!

As with all fiction, it's possible. From Ultima Prime we know that the Guardian is a being of coalesced antivirtue that was formed when the Stranger became the Avatar. I'm sure you're following me now since we talked about the Avatar already. Since there is no UO Avatar, there can be no UO Guardian.

Fun Fact: The Guardian destroyed the Ultima Online beta test shards.

Of course, none of that prevents the Ultima Prime Guardian from messing with the shards...

Unresolved: There are means of getting into or out of the shards.

Is it really possible to traverse from the Ultima Prime world to one of the Ultima Online worlds? The answer is maybe! The only Ultima Prime character that has ever bridged the gap is The Time Lord.

The Time Lord is a noncoporeal being with the ability to travel through time and space at will. He has the ability to influence matter to some degree. His primary role is to provide helpful information.

Fun Fact: The Time Lord is the voice you hear in the Ultima Online introduction video.

In Ultima Online, The Time Lord appeared to Lord British and tasked him with promoting the virtues so that all the shards would be harmonious and reunite with one another. The Time Lord feared that the shards would produce more Shadowlords, similar to those in Ultima 5.

As it can be agreed that The Time Lord is a special being with this ability, and perhaps the Guardian too could somehow enter the shards if he desired. Other beings, specfically people, are unable to traverse into the gem. The Ultima Prime version of Clanin has studied the shards in great detail, and still does not know how to access them.

Myth: Britannia was always a boomerang shape.

If you've seen the Ultima Online map, you know what I mean by "boomerang". It logically progresses, then that when the gem was destroyed Britannia looked the same way.. but it didn't.

Back when The Stranger defeated Mondain, Sosaria was divided into 4 continents, only one of which would become Britannia. In Ultima Prime, the shattering of the Gem caused a great magical cataclysm that altered the geography of the world.. but it still wasn't the "boomerang".

The shape of Britannia as we know it came about after the defeat of Exodus in Ultima 3. "How can this be?" you ask, as we have already discussed how the events of Ultima 3 did not happen in Ultima Online. It is a very good question, so I asked Richard Garriott about it.

Garriott responded that when the Gem was destroyed, and the UO shards were made, Mondain's magic took with it bits and pieces of Sosaria throughout time. So, when the UO world experienced its cataclysm, the end result just happened to be similar to what the Ultima Prime world wouldn't experience for another two decades.

Fun Fact: Garriott has been known to respond to his e-mails as his character, Lord British.

While it is obviously a retcon, his explaination does make some sense. Mondain did have knowledge of time magic.. in fact, he had already created Exodus by obtaining knowledge from the future.

Unresolved: Duplication of everything?

There is some debate over what the Gem of Immortality could and could not duplicate. Among the most prolific items which are questionable are: The Codex of Ultimate Wisdom, Blackrock, and the Shards of the Gem of Immortality itself.

As the name may imply, the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom is a book that contains just about everything. Originally it was in some other plane of existance, perhaps the Etherial Void. The gargoyle Naxatilor constructed something called a Vortex lens, and with the help of some moonstones was able to draw the Codex into the physical realm. Trouble is, we don't know for sure when he did this.

The Codex is an object of extreme power in Ultima Prime, arguably more powerful than the Gem of Immortality. Would the Codex allow itself to be duplicated? Was the codex even in our physical realm when the Gem was destroyed, and if it wasn't, did the Gem also duplicate the realm from which the Codex came? There are no answers.

Blackrock is a special substance that blocks the flow of ether. That is to say, if you were inside a house made of Blackrock, you could not cast magic, because you have no contact with the ether. As all magic is inherently based on Ether manipulation, then is it even possible for the Gem of Immortality to duplicate it? Is the blackrock we are finding now in Ultima Online there because it was duplicated, or because it was formed in a natural geological process? We simply don't know.

Then, there are the shards of the Gem itself. When the gem was whole it had a duplicate of Sosaria, complete with a duplicate stranger, duplicate Mondain, and presumably.. a duplicate gem. Inside that duplicate gem must have been a duplicate of that duplicate, and I'm sure you can see where this is going. Infinite gems in infinite shards. It's certainly possible that there are infinite numbers of shards on infinite other countless planes of existance.. but there is another possibility, that the gem could not duplicate its own shards. That when the Stranger destroyed Ultima Prime's gem, that the magic went out of the duplicate shards. Which way really happened? We may never know.

Unresolved: The Nature of the UO Shadowlords.

We know all about the 3 Shadowlords sent to Britannia in Ultima 5. They were the corrupted and twisted souls of 3 crewmen that Captain Johnne murdered using the 3 main shards of the Gem of Immortality. Each one represented an antiprinciple, such as Cowardice, Falsehood, and Hatred.

The Nature of the Shadowlords in UO depends greatly on the duplication of the Shards within each shards as we discussed above. They could actually be very much like their Ultima Prime counterparts. If this is the case, to create the shadowlords in UO, someone has to stab 3 people with the main shards of the gem.

There is, however, another possibility. In Ultima 5, when the Shadowlords were formed, it is described that each antiprinciple sort of "washed over" the victim, giving rise to a physical form for that antivirtue. The physical form of the Shadowlord was always tied to its particular shard. It is possible that the inherent nature of the shard itself represents antivirtue, and thus the shadowlords could manifest themselves within the shard (as it is not a physical manifestation in Ultima Prime)

Unresolved: The sphere of the Gem's Influence.

After the Gem was destroyed, it left an alternate Stranger and alternate corpse of Mondain in an alternate castle. The influence of the Gem covered the whole of the planet, but just how far did the power of the Gem reach?

As far as can be determined, there is little limit to the Gem's power, it may have duplicated the entire universe. The Charter Certificate included with Ultima Online: Charter Edition indicates that other worlds were duplicated as well. Most certainly Earth is one of them. Another logical conclusion is that Mars was duplicated, as well as Kilrah (being much closer to Sosaria).

Fun Fact: The Britannians who encountered a Kilrathi referred to it as a "tigerlion".

A questionable world might be the world of Pagan. We don't really know where it lies, but it is presumably another planet in a different star system than Sosaria. It wouldn't be that much of a stretch to say it was duplicated as well. In fact, some players have developed their characters as being from the world of Pagan.

The dissertation by "The Wanderer" as part of the New Player tutorial seems to indicate that people can "fall through" space and time to end up inside a shard, but it's not precisely spelled out. He later states that he "pulled you across the shards".

Myth: Trammel is just another facet.

It's true that the facet of Trammel has been around. It's been around ever since the Gem was shattered, but its contents are artificial. Lord British, tormented by Minax used her own facet gate magic to impose the image of Felucca onto another facet. What was in that facet before? We don't know.

Fun Fact: As of this writing the known facets are Felucca, The Minax Facet (her home facet), Trammel, Ilshenar, Malas, and Tokuno. There are also various other player-created facets.

Lord British and Nystul used the virtues in their incantation and when Trammel was formed in this other facet, the nature of the land prevented the more heinous of the crimes that permeated Felucca. That's why PvP in Trammel is consentual.

Myth: The Nature of Wisps.

It's easy to look at a wisp and think "I wonder what manner of creature that is". It's so easy that people do it all the time, not knowing that there is already an answer to that question.

Wisps are transdimensional beings with a collective consciousness. They can speak English, but most times prefer to speak their own language.. if they speak at all. They are magical in nature, being proficient in the manupilation of ether, and they are able to create physical objects from seemingly thin air.

Wisps are not ghosts, spectres, or any form of undead. The detailed nature of wisps is kept intentionally vague so as to lend to the intrigue of their curious activities.

Myth: Travel between worlds is commonplace.

Let us be clear, travel between facets is, for the most part, commonplace. Travel between dimensions happens all the time with moongates. Travelling from one planet to another doesn't happen very often at all.

In Ultima Online, there are 5 world-travelling possibilites: 1. The Serpent Medallion of Lord British can open a moongate to Earth, and possibly other worlds. 2. A special moongate may be constructed in a similar manner to what happened in Ultima 7. 3. The Time Lord has the ability to transport people between worlds. 4. Space travel is possible, but Sosaria hasn't discovered it yet. 5. The Gargoyle Orb of the moons can create such a gate.

There are, of course, player-contrived means of travelling between worlds. The main rule of thumb here is that world travel is not supposed to be commonplace.

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