Ultima VIII: The Lost Vale/Arthurian Legends RPG Interview

GB: If you had to pick any previous or modern adaptation of Arthur (book, film, play, etc.), what was closest to the spirit you were trying to capture in the RPG?

Sheri: The movie Excalibur was one we talked about a lot when we were designing... and if you talked to my partner in this, Brian Martin, who was a medieval scholar and very active member of the SCA, he would tell you Malory WAS a modern adaptation!

GB: You stated that the main character would be trying to put Camelot back together and you would help the various knights with their quests. How did the team approach the challenge of injecting a new character into the story of any particular knight? Did you try to organically change the story to fit another participant?

Sheri: So, when this project started, it was just going to be a Knights of the Round Table game. The initial idea was the player would be presented with a round table around which were seated the knights. You selected a Knight and then you played that Knight's story.

(But what if the player is female?) I asked. I knew there were almost no female knights and I knew that I wanted to play female characters. So I pushed very hard for, rather than playing Sir Gawain or Sir Lancelot, the player would be their own avatar on a quest of their own and would be involved with the knights along the way.

This would do two things 1. It would allow minorities to play the character that they wanted and 2. It allowed us to build our own story, rather than play stories that had known endings.

After many long hard battles, this was the way we did finally agreed to do it. As a player you were trying to solve the big mystery of finding Arthur and bringing peace back to Camelot and along the way you would encounter the various knights and would help them on their own quests.

For instance, you would encounter Sir Pellinore who was, of course, on his own quest to slay the questing beast. However when you encounter him, you find that he has been blinded by an evil enchanter. He obviously cannot continue his quest if he is blind so it is up to the player to find out how to cure his blindness. Once he is cured he tells the player what he knows about the missing King.

GB: What sort of approach were you taking in regard to NPC dialogue, equipment, and character progression? Were there any Ultima games in particular that you were basing a lot of the primary design decisions off of?

We were amping up the use of "thee" and "thou", but we were making sure is was properly done (a pet peeve of Brian and mine was/is the incorrect usage of those word forms).

As for design, no. Other than the fact it was the U7 engine and we were making sure to take every point of that into consideration, there wasn't anything specific we were basing it off of.

GB: We realize it's been quite a few years since you were working on the Arthurian RPG, but are there any examples you can give us in regard to specific quests, items, monsters, or dungeons we would have experienced?

Sheri: Sure. I have the entire design doc. You would have met Sir Gwain and dealt with the Green Knight, you would have dealt with the cannibal giant, Sir Pellinore, and the questing beast. You would have had to deal with Mordred and a maze made of moving thorn hedges, Morgaine, the Lady of the Lake, Sir Melora, Prince Orlando, Sir Gareth, Sir Percival... and many others... it was a fully designed game.

GB: Given your time designing the game, was there anything that stood out as your favorite element prior to its cancellation?

Sheri: I liked that fact that it actually was set in England, we actually were using Arthurian tales and the fact that the design still holds up today!

GB: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Sheri!

Sheri: Thanks for still caring! :)