Went ahead and ran with my current dude. He rolled decent STR @ 25.
Higher is better, but that is a good number to have.
The game is seriously confusing me as to what it wants me to do with it. Am I supposed to be questing like in an RPG or just straight shotting it to the bottom (or top, lol) ala System Shock?
Explore as you go. I don't think quests give you XP, but they do yield hints and items. There isn't a quest log or anything, so try to make a habit of writing down anything that looks even moderately important and who/what gave you that information. You'll have to figure out when someone might accept help even if they don't ask for it.
If you try to beeline for the bottom without being familiar with the game, then you're almost certain to get yourself repeatedly killed. More dangerous monsters appear as you go deeper, but level 7 has a large difficulty spike.
Some dude in lvl 2 gave me an objective about a blueprint and I used the levitate potion to get his prints and now he won't take them =\ Was I just supposed to get over there for the loot? Also...the key system is really annoying. First ultima game here so I'm not used to it and based on this it's going to be hard to justify ever playing another one without a key guide first because it's such a pain in the butt to manage all of them like that. Also as far as leveling systems go.... :x
So you've met Ironwit. :)
The reward for returning his blueprints is...a potion of Fly. This is a simple side quest that makes sure you're aware of a number of things, and you've seen most of it already. If he won't take the blueprints, then just drop them in his room and walk away.
Most keys are only relevant for one or two levels of the Abyss, usually for specific sections, but I grab a sack and keep every key I find in the sack. I order them according to when I find them, so keys for deeper levels are generally later in the sack. This also makes it easy to try each key on any locked door you encounter. You can use one of the tiny pouches to hold all your keys for a while, but there are enough keys in the game that a tiny pouch can't hold them all, and sacks are plentiful. You don't need to keep duplicate keys, and you don't need more than one lockpick (if that).
You get XP from killing hostiles and mapping the Abyss. There is more than enough XP to reach the level cap of 16, so don't bother killing non-hostiles for XP. You aren't told when you get a new "chant" to increase your skills, but you can hold those unspent "chants" until you're ready to use them. The various mantras are scattered across the Abyss.
But I digress! I'm just running around lvl 2 and 3 now whacking stuff and trying to make sense of the game and what in the hell I'm doing lol I'm pretty sure that's the point tho, so I'm not complaining or anything ;)
Figuring out what you are supposed to do is indeed the point.
You'll have to remember what various denizens of the Abyss tell you, and you'll have to keep your own notes about who wants what things done. Also take note of everything people tell you; there are a lot of story fragments that can be pieced together to figure out what has happened down here. The game gives plenty of clues, but you'll have to put them together to solve the riddles.
You were given a task in the intro ("A ghost has drawn you to Britannia, leaving you in just the right time and place to see a wizard drop the baron's daughter to a troll before vanishing. You've been accused of the kidnapping. You must rescue the girl to clear your name"). It is up to you to figure out how to accomplish your goals, and even what they are.
I don't know if I'll finish it. Just based on how I'm playing I'm already seeing a game ending item miss screwing me or something. Coming in I didn't really expect the logistics of the game tied in with the inventory to mess with me as much as it has, but yeah....I feel like a clown balancing plates here. Mostly because of keys. God damned avatar can slay dragons and stuff, but smithing a keyring was too much to ask xD
There are very few items that are truly required to complete the game. These are usually uniquely named, or duplicates can be found.
The game gives you a lot of flexibility to sort your inventory how you see fit, so make up a system that works for you.
For example, I always keep my map in the first of the 8 non-body slots, and the rune bag in the slot next to it. 3rd is a pack holding my general adventuring gear (a pole, a pick axe, a fishing pole, one or two oil flasks, a torch or candle, leeches, bedroll, food, etc). Then I've got a sack for magic items, and that sack holds other sacks holding various kinds of items, like one for potions, one for wands, etc.). On the second row, the first slot is my key bag. Keep one or two slots open to make it easier to take things out of your bags for quick access. The last slot is a pack for holding quest related items; anything I find that someone has requested goes in this pack so I can find it quickly.
Containers can be nested (put a sack in another sack), but try to avoid nesting containers too deeply within each other (sack in a sack in a sack in a sack in a ...). Containers two or three deep should be fine (sack in a sack in a sack).
Any given container can only hold so much stuff before it becomes full. Packs can hold the most weight, so upgrade your sacks to packs whenever you find a new pack (assuming it isn't owned, unless you don't mind stealing from people).
Oh and yeah any tips are very welcome! Even if I ditch this run the tips will come in handy next time around. I will beat this game before I die >:D
Skills: you'll get enough skill points to max about 6 skills. The max for any skill is 30. You could get away with lower values (20-25) if you want to spread your points among more skills.
Necessary skills: 1 melee weapon skill (unarmed counts), Defense, Attack.
Sword is by far the best choice when factoring weight, damage, charge speed, and availability of magic weapons. Axe is second with good damage, but battleaxe strikes are slow to charge and they are a little heavy. Maces are a little lacking in magic versions. Unarmed is the least damaging, but it is fast to charge and weightless. Missile weapons aren't worth the effort since they have a minimum range and you should be bum rushing (or avoiding) any monster that doesn't try to bum rush you.
Exceptionally useful skills: Mana, Casting, Lore.
Mana and Casting let you use spells. The damage spells are mostly meh, but there are very good utility spells like Water Walk.
Lore lets you identify magic items just by looking at them. With a higher Lore, you'll be more likely to identify whether an item is magical (magical mail shirt) even if you fail to identify exactly what that item is (Mail Shirt of Protection). However, there are both a spell and a wand that will identify items (the wand has a limited number of charges, but if you don't mind save scumming...). There is an NPC that will identify items, but he charges gold for each identification.
Useful skills: Acrobat, Swimming, Lockpick, Repair.
You've probably already noticed that if you jump into an incline (like up a ramp), you often take a few points of damage. A few points in Acrobat will prevent this damage, so you are no longer at risk of dying of a stubbed toe (yes, jumping into a ramp if you only have a few hp left will kill you). You don't need more than a few points to deal with most situations. I imagine that higher levels of Acrobat let you fall longer distances without taking damage, but simply avoiding those falls in the first place will also prevent that damage.
A few points in Swimming will let you swim longer before you start taking drowning damage. On the flip side, the Water Walk spell lets you cross water as if it were land.
Lockpick is self explanatory, but be advised that locked doors on deeper levels effectively become unpickable. This skill can make your life a little easier, but every door and chest can be opened without a lockpick.
Repair lets you repair most weapons or armor without paying Shak. Shak will not repair anything that is "badly damaged", which means you'd have to repair it yourself if you want it repaired. Again, this isn't a necessary skill; your equipment should stop taking damage when you've gotten your weapon skill and defense up near 20.
Not worth points: Search, Charm, Track, Traps, Appraise, Stealth.
Appraise and Charm come into play when bartering, but you can just trade a large stack of free fish to get whatever it is you're after. Add fish one by one until you're getting a terrible deal, then make the offer, keep adding fish until the offer is accepted. Points in Charm will also reduce the amount the Identify Item NPC charges, but again, limited skill points means it isn't worth the effort.
Search may help you spot secret doors, but trying to look at every section of wall to see whether there is a secret door is stupidly tedious. I don't know if it works passively; if it does, then it might be worth the investment for a new player.
Track, Traps, and Stealth never come up in any capacity that matters.