Avatar

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Avatar
Avatar
Avatar
Magic Ability: Full, depending on INT
Bonus: Depending on original class

The Avatar is the title used to refer to the Earth born protagonist of the Ultima series after Ultima IV. It is theoretically an appellation which may apply to any who have attained a state of fully embodying the Eight Virtues, although throughout the series it is only the player's character who has accomplished this.

As a character class, the Avatar is unique, differing from the standard professions of Britannia. Those who follow the way of the Avatar have no restrictions on weapons or armour.

The Avatar's proper name is almost always left to the discretion of the player.

Gender and Race[edit]

For individual portraits, see Avatar Incarnations.

In Ultima IV, Ultima V, Ultima VI, Ultima Underworld I, Martian Dreams, Ultima VII, Ultima Underworld II and Ultima VII Part Two, the player had the option to deem that the Stranger was male or female. In Savage Empire, Ultima VIII and Ultima IX this option was removed, and the character of the Avatar was explicitly male. In various cut scenes throughout the series, the hero is portrayed as a man, albeit a somewhat androgynous one.

The Avatar has always been portrayed as human, although earlier games featuring the Stranger gave the player the option of playing several additional fantasy races. Later games which featured character portraits allowed the player to further specify the hero's racial identity, although the vast majority of options portrayed Caucasians. Over the course of the series where portrait options were available, seven out of forty-three portraits portrayed a non-white Avatar. In Savage Empire, Martian Dreams, Ultima VII, Ultima VIII and Ultima IX there were no options regarding race, and the Avatar was, by default, white.

History[edit]

The Age of Enlightenment[edit]

Becoming the Avatar

In Ultima IV, the Stranger who had previously defeated Mondain, Minax and Exodus in the Sosarian Ages of Darkness answered Lord British's call for a new champion to embody the Eight Virtues of the newly christened Britannia. During this trial, the Stranger strove to attain enlightenment in each of these tenants, honing the inherent Honesty, Compassion, Valor, Justice, Sacrifice, Honor, Humility and Spirituality that exists within each person. Once the Stranger attained a state of near-Avatarhood through this process, the hero ventured into the depths of the Great Stygian Abyss to read the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom and thereby become the Avatar. Throughout the ages, the Avatar returned numerous times to Britannia to save it when it was in need.

In Ultima V, during the years of Lord British's disappearance and the oppressive rule of his regent, Lord Blackthorn, the Avatar's companions endeavored to magically summon the hero back from Earth to assist them in locating the missing monarch and restoring him to power. The hero accomplished this after many struggles, which included felling the triumvirate of Shadowlords which had corrupted Blackthorn's reign.

Later, the actions of the Great Council in raising the Codex from the Abyss and the eventual collapse of the Underworld created havoc for a race known as the gargoyles who had long been mistaken for daemons by the Britannian populace. Injured by what they saw as the theft of their holy book and fearing the destruction of their land, the gargoyles enacted war upon the Britannians, blaming the sufferings that had afflicted their society upon the "False Prophet" - a figure which featured in their prophecies. Hopeful that spilling the blood of this adversary would prove the salvation of their race, they summoned the Avatar to their world, intent upon killing the hero. The Avatar was rescued by friends, but remained in Britannia, striving to end the war in which the land had become embroiled.

In Ultima VI, the Avatar eventually discovered the truth of the gargoyles intentions and, sympathetic to their plight, submitted to be sacrificed if no other solution was discovered to enact peace. After this bold gesture was undertaken by the hero, the gargish people assisted in the champion's attempts to fulfill their prophecies by other means, and eventually the Avatar was able to avoid a place upon the altar by offering up the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom to the Void and creating a means through which both races had access to it.

Over the next two centuries in Britannian time, the Avatar engaged in several strange adventures on the hero's home world of Earth - accidentally discovering the lost valley of Eodon and saving it from the scourge of the Myrmidex and later traveling back in time to 1895 A.D. in order to assist in a voyage to Mars with Nikola Tesla. The Avatar returned to Britannia only once during this long interim, although the hero's presence was not widely known at the time. After having been brought to the Isle of the Avatar by the ghost of the wizard Garamon, the Avatar was falsely accused of kidnapping the local Baron's daughter, and was sealed in the Great Stygian Abyss as a result. Eventually, the hero managed to rescue the girl and to put an end to the machinations of Garamon's brother, Tyball, who sought to bring a demon of immense power into the world.

The Age of Armageddon[edit]

Avatar-U5NES.jpg

In Ultima VII, the Avatar was summoned again to Britannian by the Time Lord, an entity of cosmic import who had been imprisoned by a malevolent being known as the Guardian. The Guardian, desirous of invading Britannian, had been slowly preparing a sect of followers the herald his arrival, in the guise of a peaceable philosophical society known as the Fellowship. The Avatar was initially unaware as to the reason's behind the Time Lord's summons, nor did the hero even know of the being's involvement.

During this time, the Isle of Fire which had housed the hellspawn, Exodus rose from the sea. At the request of Lord British, the Avatar investigated the island and found that the Dark Core of Exodus which contained the creature's memories was intact, creating the possibility that the "Psyche" which embodied Exodus' violent consciousness may return and the daemonic machine would be reformed. In order to ultimately banish this device into the Void, the hero had need to enter a pact with the daemon Arcadion, which was bound into the Avatar's service in the form of a black sword. The core was eventually banished and the threat of Exodus' return removed.

Eventually, through investigations into a series of mutilation killings which led back to the Fellowship and numerous adventures which touched upon the organization's plots, the hero at last uncovered the intentions of the Guardian and thwarted them, destroying the Black Gate through which the red titan intended to enter Britannia. In doing so, however, the hero destroyed the only viable passage back to Earth, as the Guardian's meddling had disrupted the normal function of the moongates.

The Guardian, not yet disposed of, continued his assault upon Britannia through other means. In Ultima Underworld II, during a great banquet that Lord British held to celebrate the year of work done following the disbanding of the Fellowship, the malevolent entity imprisoned the party-goers within the castle, covering it with a Blackrock Dome. The Avatar, upon discovering a smaller blackrock gem within the castle's sewers which mirrored the construct that kept the revelers imprisoned, used it to travel to a variety of exotic realms which the Guardian had conquered or assaulted. The hero struck numerous blows against the Guardian's empire across the multiverse in this fashion and eventually was able to procure the tools needed to shatter the dome.

In Ultima VII Part Two, it was revealed that the Guardian had plans targeting the strange world of Serpent Isle, a land formed of the remnants of archaic Sosaria which had been home to the Ophidian civilization. The Ophidians had worshiped the great serpents within the Void - creatures whose existence was tied up in the manifest concepts of Order and Chaos. Although the hero had initially set out for Serpent Isle in the hopes of finding the former head of the Fellowship, Batlin and Gwenno the wife of longtime companion, Iolo FitzOwen, it eventually became apparent that the religion of the Ophidians was playing a major role in cosmological events, and that ill-omened prophecies of were coming to fruition.

It was eventually revealed that the Great Earth Serpent which had kept the serpents of Order and Chaos at bay, had disappeared from the void, leaving the Order Serpent free to destroy its fellow and hurtling the connected universe of worlds toward a violent end. After numerous tribulations, which included the freeing of Arcadion, the slaughter of most of the world's inhabitants and the death of the Avatar's longtime friend and ally, Dupre; the hero was able to reenact the rituals of the ancient Ophidian Hierophant of Balance and to thus restore the Great Earth Serpent. This process, however, left the champion vulnerable within the ethereal plane between the worlds, and the Guardian was able to entrap the hero, dragged to the dark world of Pagan.

In Ultima VIII, the Avatar was stranded upon an alien world, where the inhabitants were cowed in service to four great elemental Titans. In order to escape this exile, the hero spoke to the ancient gods of the Zealeans - a race what had preceded the modern people of Pagan. These Gods gave instructions as to how to defeat the four titans and to rebuild the Blackrock Obelisk, a structure which could serve as an inter-dimensional gateway. In slaying the titans, the hero became a titan as well, earning the title of Titan of Ether and at last becoming free to return to Britannia.

After returning to Earth before Ultima IX, the Avatar goes to Britannia for the final time. The Avatar is saved by Hawkwind from being burned by a dragon, but in the event loses the Titan of Ether powers. The Avatar would find the world of Britannia warped by the corrupting influence of a series of columns which the Guardian had crafted. These magical devices perverted the hearts of the Britannian people, making them cruel and wicked in opposition to the virtues. Through the ritual cleansing of the eight shrines, the hero was able to restore the population to goodness, but was confronted with a terrible truth - that the Guardian had been a component of the Avatar all along, an amalgam of the evil that the champion's soul had seemingly cast off when Avatarhood was attained.

In order to at last undo the Guardian, the Avatar was forced to join in the malevolent entity's fate. During the final confrontation with this foe, the hero cast the Armageddon spell, merging the two halves of what was once the Stranger into some form of being which exists beyond what can be construed as normal reality.

Sexuality and Romance[edit]

Much like the Avatar's gender and, to some extent, race, the sexuality of the character is largely determined by the player. Players can choose, if they so desire, to have the Avatar engage in non-heterosexual acts of intercourse with prostitutes and sex workers, such as Andreas, Wanda, Wench, Martine and Roberto. In addition to paid transactions such as these, in Serpent Isle the Avatar has the option to engage in a tryst with the ice sorceress, Frigidazzi, who is attracted to the character regardless of gender. The warriors, Brendann and Lucilla of Monitor will also bed the hero, although they will only engage sexually with the opposite gender.

In terms of romantic love, however, fewer options present themselves. Although both male and female Avatars are the recipients of a great deal of flirtation from NPCs, it is only the male Avatar who has the option to form something akin to a romantic relationship within the series, and only with women. In the Savage Empire, the hero, by default, forms a strong bond with the Kurak woman, Aiela, who requites his affection, although she is unable to follow him back to Earth. Later, in Ultima VII, the Avatar, if male, has the ability to court Nastassia, the keeper of the Shrine of Compassion, who, once romanced, seems to desire a committed relationship with the hero, and will await for him to finish his quest. Lastly, in Ultima IX the Avatar falls deeply in love with a sailor named Raven, who is shown looking for him after his ascension at the game's closing.

It is also revealed in Ultima IX that Julia, one of the Avatar's companions, had strong but unrequited feelings of love for the hero. Given that the Avatar was only portrayed as a man in this game, it is uncertain as to whether or not she had any affections for the female incarnation of the character.

The Meaning of Avatarhood[edit]

Initially, the ideal of Avatarhood was to obtain full peace with all eight of the Virtues, a task which was believed to be within the grasp of all humanity, however fallible.[1] Once the Stranger attained Avatarhood, however, the process was never repeated, although it is suggested that the state of Avatarhood, however exalted, is one that requires constant vigilance to maintain and that "the quest of the Avatar is forever."

In Ultima IX, however, Lord British suggests that the Quest of the Avatar had not been entirely successful, as, rather than becoming an example for humanity to emulate, the Avatar had become a panacea for the ills of society, righting the wrongs of Britannia rather than compelling its people to seize control over their own fate.[2]

It is unclear as to what the metaphysical mechanism it was that created the Guardian, as the Avatar seems to have maintained free will to the extent that great acts of evil were capable, implying that not all sin was purged from the character's psyche, and that the Guardian is not a simple conglomeration of all of the Stranger's wickedness. It may be possible that Batlin's revisionist history regarding the Quest of the Avatar may have a grain of truth to it, and that the Guardian was formed from the specific burden of the sins enacted during the slaying of the Triad of Evil. Precisely how the Guardian and the Avatar relate as constructs, however, remains shrouded in some ambiguity.

Lore[edit]

The one who shall tread the path of the Avatar to full revelation is not only brave, but honest and filled with compassion for all living things. Britannia needs one who can show how to fight the forces of Evil found both outside and within the individual.
Embodying the fortitude of a fighter, the quickness, and quick-wittedness, of a bard and the mystic insights of a mage, you have spent long years mastering the principles of virtue. Many are the times you have savored the syllables of the mantras and the spicy scent of incense during morning meditation. But you are equally stirred by the sounds and smells of combat, being as much at home on the field of battle as in a solemn shrine. A paragon of integrity, you have always sought total understanding of the world around you, often journeying to the libraries of the Lycaeum or conferring with the scholars of Moonglow and Yew. However, your love of scholarly pursuits does not weaken your ties to the world outside the cloistered halls of academe. Your devotion to your companions and those in need is total, and you are ever aware that the principles of virtue are designed to guide us in our relationships with our fellow man. Your path offers both great risk and grand reward, but you are concerned with neither. Driven to follow this, the highest path, by forces unknown and unknowable, you follow the Way of the Avatar to whatever end destiny has decreed.

Trivia[edit]

  • The Avatar appears in the final level of Bullfrog Productions' 1997 strategy game Dungeon Keeper as the player's most formidable adversary, and is almost identical in appearance to the character as seen in Ultima VIII.
Avatar0.gif

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Albert, Dave. "Political History". The History of Britannia (Ultima IV). Origin Systems, Inc.: 1985. Pages 34-35.
  2. Lord BritishQuill Dragon's Ultima IX TranscriptUltima IX.

The Major Professions
The Professions Mage Bard Fighter Druid Tinker Paladin Ranger Shepherd Avatar