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Reaper, from Ultima IV manual
Also known as: "Tangler" (in Ultima I)
First appearance: Ultima I (as Tangler)
Last appearance: Serpent Isle

This article is about a bestiary entry. For the Ultima IV character, see Reaper (NPC).

Reapers are a malevolent species of magical trees, which are said to be possessed by spirits which enable them to practice the mystic arts. These beings are almost always hostile when encountered and have proven the unfortunate end of many an unwitting adventurer who makes the mistake of taking them for nothing more than harmless deadwood. These creatures appear from Ultima IV through Ultima VII Part Two.


A tangler from the FM-Towns port of Ultima I.

The origins of reapers are said to lie with an unnamed enchanted forest, which was swallowed by the Sosarian earth in one of the great geological cataclysms which shook the world. The trees of this forest, somehow imbued with individual, sapient spirits, continued to grow underground after the upheaval which buried them, and eventually came to spread to the subterranean dungeons of the realm.

Reapers are sentient creatures - intelligent enough to engage in magical practices, and have been observed casting bolts of energy and lightning at their prey. Some specimens are further capable of sleep spells, which can prove disastrous to even well-equipped adventuring parties who fall amidst a grove of such practitioners. While immobile for the majority of their lifespan, reapers are capable of extending woody tentacular limbs, which they may employ to entangle and attack targets in close proximity to them. During the brief ambulatory phase of their life cycle, reapers are able to move at a slow pace, allowing them to give chase. Some reapers appear to be capable of human speech,[1] although it is rare for them to engage in conversation.

The metaphysical relationship between the physical component and the spiritual component of a reaper is not entirely known, and it has been speculated that the soul which possesses such a being may be able to exist independent of its tree host. Whatever the truth, reapers do not appear to be able to harm adventurers once their body is destroyed.

A reaper-possessed tree always appears void of leaves and growth, and is of such a quality that fire takes to it easily.


During the time of the Stranger's adventures in Ultima I, a subterranean tree-race known as "tanglers" existed within the lower reaches of the realm's dungeons. Similar in appearance to reapers, these creatures may well have simply been the same beings by a different name. However, tanglers showed no demonstrable magical capabilities, with their mechanism of attack relying solely on their viney pseudopods, which they used to entangle their victims until such a time that they starved to death.

Dire Reapers[edit]

In the depths of the Pits of Carnage there exists a creature known as a "dire reaper," which is rumored to have been crafted from the bodies of thirteen dead men.[2] While its actual origins are not known, it has a visage similar to the other creatures which share its name and appears to function in a similar manner, albeit with greater strength and malice. Once slain, its severed arm retains some of its power and may be used as a wand of Lightning.[3]


A tightly-coiled "tangler" in Ultima I.
Looking for all the world as naught but a vine-covered tree stump, the Tangler lurks in subterranean corridors, waiting to ensnare explorers of the underground. Once a Tangler hath ensnared an adventurer in its tentacles, it will hold the victim fast until starvation ends the struggle. The monstrosity then feasts on the corpse.
These grim creatures stand upright on trunk-like bodies and wave many tentacles at their prey. The evil Reaper can also reputedly cast different energy fields, and this is considered a most vicious opponent.
A reaper (Ultima V, mines)
The strange, magical creatures known as reapers are strong, enduring, and do severe damage by bludgeoning. Their weakness, if it can so be called, is their immobility; although their arms strike out about them, they cannot change locations. They throw magical bolts at distant foes. They also bludgeon nearby creatures with their thick tentacles. Reapers are quite hardy, but often worth the trouble: they hoard good booty.
A remnant of an ancient enchanted forest swallowed up long ago in a cataclysmic upheaval, the reaper at first appears as a solitary tree trunk rooted in the dungeon rock. Closer examination reveals a grim intelligence which lashes out with long, gnarled branches and magical bolts of destruction. But, the resourceful adventurer can turn the threat of the reaper into the evening's campfire, ofttimes uncovering hidden treasure in the process.
Legend tells us that the first Reapers were born when an ancient, enchanted forest was swallowed up in a cataclysmic upheaval long ago. Ever since, these animate, arcane treeforms have been found in subterranean places, often guarding some object they fancy or patrolling their chosen territory. The common Reapers of Britannia are fully mobile for only a brief period in their life cycle, but the specimens to be found here can wander about at will (though quite slowly). Although their wildly swinging branches often miss their targets, one blow that strikes a valiant warrior can do more damage than any sword thrust. Therefore, Reapers are a serious menace, to be avoided by the inexperienced warrior.
Reaper, Ultima Underworld II
The reaper is actually a malevolent tree spirit that has the power to reach out and grab passers-by in its long, powerful branches. The reaper also possesses the magical power to unleash destructive bolts of lightning. As it is a creature made of dry, dead wood, it is quite vulnerable to fire
The Reaper is unique in that it is both plant and animal. Resembling a large tree, the Reaper is able capable of self-animation as well as self-locomotion. Reapers have been known to attack those who cause harm to their home (i.e. the forests), but seldom reveal themselves otherwise...
The legends relate that long ago, an enchanted sentient forest sank underground in a great cataclysm, and there the trees that composed it mutated into something that could survive in the underworld. Reapers appear as ambulatory trees, broken and bare of leaves. Their thick limbs can deliver blows of enormous power, and for all its flexibility their wood is as resistant as any oak or pine. There are a few unconfirmed reports of magic use among the reapers.
The cruel spirit of a living plant, the reaper is a most devastating hunter. Although tethered by roots to one location, the reaper possesses tentacle-like branches strong enough to grasp even the stoutest of warriors. In addition, the creature's magical abilities permit it to fling awesome bolts of lightning. While its natural intangible form prevents harm to a reaper, its body is simply the wood of the dying tree it has inhabited. Killing its host tree renders a reaper powerless.

Notable Examples[edit]


A reaper in the midst of getting its face broken in Yoko Tananka's manga retelling of Ultima IV
  • Reapers may have been inspired by ropers from early installments of the table-top role playing game, Dungeons & Dragons. These beings, which first appeared in the TSR newsletter The Strategic Review #2 in the spring of 1975, are stony stalagmite-shaped beings with a similar hunting mechanism to reapers, employing gray rope-like tentacles to ensnare their prey.[4]
  • In the bestiaries of Memoirs of Sir Cabirus and The Book of Fellowship, the respective manuals for Ultima Underworld and Ultima VII, reapers appear to have been erroneously depicted with an illustration of a Greer plant, a type of harmless, rapidly moving flora seen in the latter game.
  • Reapers were to be included in the canceled Ultima X. See Planned Monsters for Ultima X for further details.

See Also[edit]


  1. Reaper (NPC)Underworld Dragon's Ultima IV TranscriptUltima IV.
  2. ZogithEthereal Dragon's Ultima Underworld II TranscriptUltima Underworld II.
  3. Grossman, Austin. "Pits of Carnage". Gems of Enlightenment (Ultima Underworld II). Origin Systems, Inc.: 1992. Pages 38-39.
  4.  "Roper". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2010-12-09.