Virtues of Ultima

The Ultima series of computer role-playing games featured a Virtue system that the player was required to follow in the game as the Avatar. These Virtues were inspired in part by the codes of chivalry and the Eightfold Path of Buddhism, and were created specifically for Ultima.

Strangely enough, The Wizard of Oz also played a part in the creation of the virtues, with designer Richard Garriott stating at one time that the three companions of Dorothy Gale could be linked to the three principles — Scarecrow (Truth), Tin Woodsman (Love) and Cowardly Lion (Courage).


The Three Principles

The Eight Virtues explored in Ultima are based on Three Principles:

Principle Place associated Item
Truth Lycaeum Book
Love Empath Abbey Candle
Courage Serpent's Hold Bell

These Principles are themselves derived from the Axiom of Infinity, which is represented in Castle Britannia.

The Eight Virtues

The Principles are combined to form the following Eight Virtues:

Virtue Principles Towns associated Mantra Player Class Dungeon Color Symbol
Honesty Pure Truth Moonglow Ahm Mage Deceit Blue Raised hand
Compassion Pure Love Britain¹, Cove Mu Bard Despise Yellow Heart
Valor Pure Courage Jhelom Ra Fighter Destard Red Sword
Justice Truth, Love Yew Beh Druid Wrong Green Scales
Sacrifice Love, Courage Minoc Cah Tinker Covetous Orange Teary eye
Honor Truth, Courage Trinsic Summ Paladin Shame Purple Chalice
Spirituality Truth, Love, and Courage Skara Brae Om Ranger The Great Stygian Abyss White Ankh
Humility Beyond the three principles New Magincia² Lum Shepherd Hythloth Black Shepherd staff


  1. Britain is the original town of Compassion, Cove is nearest the shrine.
  2. Magincia was destroyed by demons for its Pride (Pride's mantra is Mul). New Magincia, built in its ruins, was founded on Humility.

The Embodiment of the Virtues in the game is the Avatar, the character who the player is roleplaying. He (or she) is commonly seen with an Ankh which represents life and luck.

Missing image

The relationship between the Principles and Virtues is often explained this way:

  • Honesty is respect for Truth
  • Compassion is Love of others
  • Valor is Courage to stand up against risks
  • Justice is Truth, tempered by Love
  • Sacrifice is Courage to give oneself in name of Love
  • Honor is Courage to seek and uphold the Truth
  • Spirituality is to seek Truth, Love and Courage from one's own self and the world around
  • Humility is the foundation of all Principles, and exists outside of them

See also The Codex Symbol, which explains the relationships between the virtues through colors.

Lord Blackthorn's Code of Virtues

In Ultima V, Lord Blackthorn, the tyrant who ruled in Lord British's absence, codified the Britannian Virtues into a set of draconian laws.

Virtue Law
Honesty Thou shalt not lie, or thou shalt lose thy tongue.
Compassion Thou shalt help those in need, or thou shalt suffer the same need.
Valor Thou shalt fight to the death if challenged, or thou shalt be banished as a coward.
Justice Thou shalt confess to thy crime and suffer its just punishment, or thou shalt be put to death.
Sacrifice Thou shalt donate half of thy income to charity, or thou shalt have no income.
Honor If thou dost lose thine own honour, thou shalt take thine own life.
Spirituality Thou shalt enforce the laws of virtue, or thou shalt die as a heretic.
Humility Thou shalt humble thyself to thy superiors, or thou shalt suffer their wrath.

Blackthorn's Code is a good illustration of the fact that the Virtues always come from one's own self rather than the norms of society; codifying ethics into law doesn't automatically make evil people good. Further, unethical lawmakers can take the Virtues and turn them into something that is quite contrary to what Virtues actually stand for.

The Principles of the Shadowlords

In Ultima V, each of the Shadowlords opposed one of the three Principles.

Principle Opposing principle Shadowlord
Cowardice Courage Nosfentor
Hatred Love Astaroth
Falsehood Truth Faulinei

The Virtues of Mandrake

The joyful Mandrake the bard, in Ultima VI, has his own set of three Principles, which also form eight Virtues.


Eight of the virtues are derived from these three principles:

Virtue Principle
Drunkenness Wine
Sensuality Women
Harmony Song
Lust Wine, Women
Laziness Wine, Song
Dance Women, Song
Indulgence Wine, Women, Song
Happiness Absence of Wine, Women, Song

The relationships between the Virtues and Principles isn't explained in the game, but the one presented in the table is the only logical deduction that has been made.

Presumably Happiness, just like Humility, exists independently of the Principles and is their foundation, therefore the need for Happiness would then be the fundamental reason to seek the truths of Wine, Women and Song.

Somewhat related to this, in Ultima V it is explained that the mantra of eating is "yum".

The Gargoyle Virtues

The Virtues of the Gargoyles were first explored in detail in Ultima VI.

The Gargoyles have three principles based on Order, and its opposite, Chaos.

Principle Mantra Embodiment Dungeon
Control UN Mondain Shrine of Control
Passion OR Minax Shrine of Passion
Diligence US Exodus Shrine of Diligence

The Gargoyles have eight virtues based on their three principles

Virtue Principles
Direction Control
Feeling Passion
Persistence Diligence
Balance Control, Passion
Achievement Passion, Diligence
Precision Control, Diligence
Order Absence of Control, Passion, Diligence
Singularity Control, Passion, Diligence

The Ophidian Virtues

The Virtue system of the Ophidians, in Ultima VII Part Two: Serpent Isle, is formed around the following three Principles:

Principle Embodiment Symbols
Order Blue Serpent of Order Diamond, Ice
Chaos Red Serpent of Chaos Ruby, Fire
Balance Great Earth Serpent Earth

In the Ophidian symbology, the Great Earth Serpent is the keeper of Balance, and lies around "in a vertical plane"; the opposing serpents of Chaos and Order wrap themselves around the Great Earth Serpent, each spiralling in a different direction.

The Ophidian system is comprised of six Forces, three from Order and three from Chaos; the Forces of Order are Ethicality, Discipline and Logic, while the Forces of Chaos are Tolerance, Enthusiasm and Emotion. Their descriptions are as follow:

Force Description Symbols
Ethicality The belief that there is great value in abiding by rules of condict. A beacon and a scroll
Discipline The drive to complete a task and avoid the distractions that will prevent its completion. A dagger
Logic Clear, reasoned thought, free from any instinctual biases. The abacus
Tolerance That which encourages the acceptance of all things. A chain
Enthusiasm The energy that allows one to perform great tasks. A rose
Emotion The ability to perceive those feelings that come from the heart, as opposed to coming from the mind. A heart

When combined by pairs, these Forces form the Three Principles of Balance (not to be confused with the three Principles of Order, Balance and Chaos above). The Principles of Balance, their descriptions and relations to the Forces of Order and Chaos are illustrated in the table below:

Principle of Balance Arises from Description
Harmony Ethicality and Tolerance The ability to be at peace with the self, the individual and the world.
Dedication Discipline and Enthusiasm That which permits one to surmount obstacles and lead others.
Rationality Logic and Emotion The ability to comprehend life and understand the world around us.

There also exists Anti-Forces associated to the Forces of Order and Balance. These Anti-Forces arise from Imbalance between the Forces, and are essentialy perversions of their corresponding Forces. The Anti-Forces are:

Anti-Force Arises from Description
Prejudice Ethicality without Tolerance Disrespect for the beliefs and rights of others.
Apathy Discipline without Enthusiasm A spirit of hopelessness which retards positive action.
Ruthlessness Logic without Emotion Taking self-advancing actions without regard to the wants or needs of others.
Anarchy Tolerance without Ethicality A lack of standards of conduct.
Wantonness Enthusiasm without Discipline Acting without self-restraint.
Insanity Emotion without Logic An inability to overcome emotional impulses with rational thoughts.

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