Character Advancement describes the mechanisms employed in the various Ultima games when a character either gains a level, or raises his or her statistics. These mechanisms vary from game to game, making it neccassary to give an overview how advancement is achieved.
Hit points are the most important aspect of advancement. They can be gained by giving tribute to any king. The higher the tribute, the bigger the gain. Alternatively, killing monsters in dungeons and then exiting gives hit points as well. Character levels exist (each 1,000 xp = +1 level), mostly as an indicator of how far the character is progressing, but they also may determine:
- The volume of monsters that appear on the overland map, and
- What items are available in certain shops.
Stats can be raised by finding the various signposts after getting the quest by the king. Note that no signpost can be used twice in a row, meaning that the player first has to find a different signpost, before returning for another quest and boost.
Experience levels exist as in Ultima I; hit points are again the most important thing in this game, and again they are gained by "bribing" the kings with enough gold. Note that the higher the hit points are, the lower the gain per unit of gold.
As for stats, this time the player has to go to the Hotel California in New San Antonio and give the clerk money (in donations of 100). It gives a 50% chance of him saying "Alkazam!" and raising one random stat. It does not seem possible to determine which stat will be increased, or if he'll just take the money. (RUMOR: Supposedly, the # of steps one takes from the moment the player enters New San Antonio to the moment you are next to the clerk determines which stat is raised; confirmation needed).
- Main article: Character Attributes in Ultima III
Experience and levels are only useful to determine the maximum number of hit points a character has, for the first time in the Ultima series. Experience is obtained by killing monsters. One hundred experience points (xp) are needed to go up one level. Levels are given by Lord British after gaining enough experience points. Lord British will increase the maximum hit points for a character to (100*current level) plus 50. However, Lord British will only advance players to level 5. Only after getting the Mark of Kings will he advance up to level 25. After level 25, there is no effect for getting more experience or reaching further levels. (The newer Mac OS X port of Ultima III allows characters to continue advancing past level 25 once Exodus is defeated, but this is mostly for amusement, as monsters remaining on the now-altered contient of Sosaria are all friendly!).
Stats are gained by going to Ambrosia and donating at the shrines there. Each shrine raises a specific attribute and each multiple of 100 gold donated will raise the respective attribute by one point. The maximum value each stat can have depends on the character's race.
Again, Lord British grants levels after enough experience points are collected. From now on, level 8 is the maximum. Maximum hit points are determined by level (1st level = 100 HP max, etc.). The number of XP required to advance doubles with each level (100 xp for 2nd, 200 for 3rd, 400 for 4th, 800 for 5th, etc.). Statistics are also raised somewhat randomly at this point.
Improving stats in a more structured way is difficult. There are Magic Orbs in the dungeons that when touching them, give a stat-boost. Each dungeon gives different bonuses (and these stat bonuses tie into the virtue each dungeon represents), but the more bonuses are given, the higher the damage from touching the orb. For example, touching a magic orb in the dungeon associated with Valor will give +5 strength, but take 200 health away. Touching an orb in the dungeon associated with Spirituality will give +5 to each statistic, but take 600 health away.
A third is virtue, which is gained by doing the right things, and not doing the wrong things.
Since Lord British was kidnapped, level advancement is a little difficult in Ultima V. After acquiring the needed experience points (see Ultima IV), the party has to hole up and camp for the maximum # of hours. Now a little luck is needed for the spirit of Lord British to appear and grant any earned levels. Equipping the Ankh will increase your chances. Starting with this installment, characters gain 30 HP with each new level.
Stats are also given by Lord British during leveling up, although they are chosen rather randomly. Stats are also granted by the shrines after fulfilling the quest given by the shrine (reading the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom).
The shrines grant new levels. After getting enough experience points (see Ultima IV), the party has to "Talk" to a shrine's podium, and then levels are granted. The shrines also give the stat raises in the game with a level advancement, which adds a tactical element, as each shrine raises stats according to the virtue it represents. This allows players to tactically build characters.
It also serves as a possible way to raise the difficulty as one can also use the Shrine of Humility, which grants no bonuses. Otherwise, players may wish to focus on the Shrine of Spirituality which raises each stat by one, or Shrines that increase one stat by 3 (Compassion - +3 dex, Honesty - +3 int, Valor - +3 Str). All other shrines increase 2 stats by 1.
Savage Empire + Martian Dreams
When enough experience points are reached (see Ultima IV), characters will level up and gain new maximum HP automatically upon resting. Before awakening, each party member who has gained a level will have some sort of "vision," which allows the player to choose which stat to raise with the level advancement:
- Martian Dreams: Sword = Strength, Heart = Dexterity, Book = Intelligence
- Savage Empire: Bear = Strength, Jaguar = Dexterity, Monkey = Intelligence
Ultima VII + Serpent Isle
Levels are gained automatically in this game, after getting the needed experience points and, apart from determining the available spell circles, have no other meaning in the game than giving a rough overview on the character.
Instead, gaining experience points also gains training points. These points can then be used in training sessions with the various trainers in the game to gain stats. Each trainer has a different training program, adding much tactic to it. Also new are the "combat" stat, which determines battle abilities, and the "magic" stat, the casting ability.
Ultima Underworld I+II
In the Underworld games, levels are gained with the experience points. However, this didn't help to raise the stats, which were fixed. Instead getting experience player gained training points, which then could be used to train with various trainers to gain points in various abilities available.
Levels do not exist in Pagan.
Stats are gained purely by using them. This means fighting, throwing things, jumping and climbing, reading magic books, preparing and using magic. There is little else that can be done, apart from quickening the process a little.
Levels and stats are directly tied. For each of the eight level advancements, a stat is increased as well, after freeing a shrine. Karma determines magic ability, and is gained by doing good things, and taken away for doing bad things.
Various trainers are also used to increase skill in one of five weapon categories, each of which has three techniques within, and must be learned in a certain order.