All information to get the rare items is already in the game, if the Stranger talks with every character. Although the NES remake has shorter dialogues, most information is still found in the same towns and also at the same pubs.
If you are playing the NES remake, and in particular if you are playing as the shepherd, this is the first side quest you will do.
In the NES remake the party can include up to four companions, while the other ones can be left at the hostel in Castle Britannia. Because of this, some items were created to upgrade two characters (the shepherd and the fighter) considered weak, otherwise players would have seldom used them.
- The sheep flute for the Shepherd: it allows to cast "Sleep" on all opponents unlimited times with no MP consumption;
- the humble robe for the Shepherd: it is an armor upgrade excleusive to the shepherd class;
The flute and the robe are found in Magincia ruins. First of all, you need a companion who can cast the "cure poison" spell, then you also need to purchase the magic key that costs 2000 GP. In other words, if you are playing as the shepherd, it is impossible to obtain these items since game start. When you come back to the ruins, talk to the skeleton in the north-east, and it will give you permission to take them (otherwise, your virtue score will be lowered). Both items are in chests, in two different basements: the flute is at the centre of the ruins, and the robe is in the south-west.
In the NES remake, all characters have been "shifted forward by one town". The first clue about the fungus comes from a fighter in Vesper (Presto); he directs you to the pub in Trinsic (instead of Vesper), then the companions are directed to a mage in Moonglow (Virgil, rendered as Brazil/Basil), instead of Trinsic.
All the thread can be followed by moongates: start in Vesper, take the Minoc moongate to Trinsic, then the Trinsic moongate to Moonglow, eventually get back to mainland using the Moonglow moongate to Britain.
There is a bridge near the nightshade fungus location, to the north-east: wait there for easy battles against trolls, and move to the "harvest" one battle after the full moons.
- When the NES remake was developed in Japan, Virgil was rendered something like "Vai-ru-dji-lu" or "Ba-ru-dji-lu" (in Japanese, V=B). Then, when the remake was localized in English, "Ba-ru-dji-lu" became "Brazil" or "Basil".
Five spells (two more than in the original version) require Nightshade fungus:
- Jinx: useful against large numbers of enemies;
- View: useful, but it might be more convenient to buy magic gems instead;
- Destroy (Kill): not useful, ranged weapons are more reliable;
- Reflect: a spell exclusive for the NES remake;
- Life (Resurrect): absolutely necessary, although hopefully used seldom; in the original version, the poisonous fungus was excluded from the recipe.
Does this new recipe make sense? Yes: often the difference between poison and medicine is just the quantity.
In the NES remake, too, the mandrake root thread starts near the end of the fungus one. Go from Moonglow to the Lycaeum: a druid in the library (Swindrik from Trinsic) directs the party straight to Calumny of Yew, without need to tip 100 GP tip at any pub.
Calumny tells you the exact coordinates of the only one spot where mandrake root grows: in the plains south of Minoc. As the nightshade fungus, mandrake root can only be found "on the darkest of nights".
Purchase a good stock of ginseng and blood moss (not garlic!), for a good number of "Cure" spells. Even better: purchase reagents for just 8 Cure spells, overpay the apothecary, and restock after every trip to the Blood Plains, so to improve Honesty and Justice.
There is a long bridge near the mandrake root location, near the shrine of Sacrifice: wait there for easy battles against trolls, and move to the "harvest" one battle after the full moons.
Nine spells (two more than in the original version) require mandrake root:
- Jinx: useful against large numbers of enemies;
- Negate: useful against enemies that cast disabling spells (sleep) on the Companions;
- Life (Resurrect): absolutely necessary, although hopefully used seldom;
- Gate travel: use sparingly, because walking allows to fight and earn experience and gold;
- View: useful, but it's more convenient to buy magic gems instead;
- Tremor: not useful, ranged weapons are more reliable;
- Iceball: not useful, ranged weapons are more reliable;
- Defeat: a spell exclusive for the NES remake;
- Squish: a spell exclusive for the NES remake.
In order to reach the exact coordinates where the rare reagents are located, you need a sextant. Sailor Sam of Trinsic said to ask to the barkeep in Jhelom (Celestial). Leave a 100GP tip, and she reveals how to obtain it from a guild shop.
There are two guild shops: one in Vesper and one in Buccaneer's Den. The former is easier to reach. Once a sextant is purchased (for 900 GP), you can see the party's coordinates by selecting it from the "Use" menu. Travel to align exactly with either latitude or longitude, then turn at 90° and go straight to the coordinates of your destination. Search the location and retrieve some rare reagents.
Original spell quests
Whenever the Companions learn a recipe from one or more characters, go to Moonglow. In the "Spells Unlimited" shop, they will be asked the recipe for that spell. If the correct recipe is given, the party becomes able to cast that spell.
In the NES remake, the trail for the Resurrect/Life spell starts in the Lycaeum, where Nigel reveals all ingredients except for one. Marina (formerly Suzanna) of Empath Abbey reveals the last one: her family name, Mandracha, hints at the mandrake root, or "manroot". The recipe is different from the original ports: three reagents are replaced by the poisonous fungus (often, in real life, the difference between poison and medicine is a matter of quantity).
In the NES remake, it is sufficient to talk to a single character in order to learn the Gate Travel spell: Mentorian of Cove (misrendered as "Mentallion").
NES exclusive spell quests
In the NES remake, there are seven more spell recipes to be found.
Here is a quick tour of all the locations, starting near Britain and ending in Moonglow, where "Spells Unlimited" is located:
- Paws: talk to a mage (Jingles) for the Reflect spell and to a girl (Francesca/Teresa) for part of the Tremor spell;
- Vesper: talk to a black mage (Flatbush) for the Destroy/Kill spell;
- Sail north to Serpent's Hold: talk to a beardless mage (Garam) for the Jinx spell;
- Sail south to the Minoc moongate and travel to Skara Brae: talk to a beggar (Granted) for part of the Tremor spell;
- Enter the moongate to Yew: talk to a woman (Kansas ranger) for the Squish spell;
- Enter the moongate to Jhelom: talk to a fighter (Slithe) for part of the Tremor spell;
- Enter the moongate to Moonglow and the Lycaeum: talk to a mage (Lord Terence) for the Negate spell;
- Moonglow: talk to a mage (Cosima) for the Sleep spell.
In the NES remake, the thread for Mondain's Skull starts in Skara Brae, where an injured man (Sebastian from Britain) directs the player to Buccaneer's Den. In the pirates pub, a man (Ragnar) gives precise directions to find the location of the cursed item.
The Reaper in Castle Britannia and a tinker in Minoc (Jude) explain what happens if the Skull is used. The player can easily understand why it is better to avoid so! Therefore, this quest is completely optional.
The shortest sea route to reach the location starts near the full moon moongate (Minoc & Shrine of Spirituality). Sail north to the island of Serpent's Hold, then continue east until you reach three volcanoes with a gulf between them: that is the spot.
Believe it or not, the Quest of the Avatar can be completed without these special equipment parts (unlike in Ultima 3). Sure indeed, a great armor is useful. On the other hand, the Sword of Paradise (formerly Mystic Sword) is just a melee weapon; anyway, it can be equipped to the Avatar at level 8, because he/she needs no more experience.
In the NES remake, the thread for the Mystic Arms is far shorter: a fighter in Paws (Sir Simon) gives all the necessary information, and a druid in the Lycaeum (Scatu) confirms the part about the sword.
The Exotic Armor (former Mystic Robe) can be found at the bottom of a magic staircase in Empath Abbey. The Sword of Paradise (former Mystic Sword) can be found at the top of a magic staircase in the Lycaeum (instead of being in Serpent's Hold).
Legendary axe (NES exclusive)
The legendary axe is an item exclusive for the NES remake.
Three characters originally from the Mystic Arms quest changed their dialogue. An injured person in Minoc (Seesha from Castle Britannia) starts the thread by informing the party that the town smith Zircon waits for the scale of a legendary snake, and a woman in Vesper (Lady Tessa from Paws) explains that such item is "in the mountain".
Only after crawling through Dungeon Hythloth the Companions will obtain the means to reach the mountaintops.
Give the scale to Zircon, then wait (explore one or two more dungeons). Eventually, the smith will turn the scale into the magic Axe +2. This is a short-ranged weapon similar in power to the Sword of Paradise, but it can only be equipped by Geoffrey the Fighter (or a fighter Stranger).
If, at this point of the game, you still need thousands of Gold Coins to purchase the best equipment, you might decide to stop before exploring the dungeons. In fact, most of the gold collected in dungeons will have to be used for resting/healing and to restock on magic reagents. In the NES remake, the top floor of Dungeon Deceit holds just four chests (instead of nine), and the top floor of the other dungeons are even worse.
The main source of gold are battles with enemies on the surface. A chest always holds a random amount of Gold Coins between 1 and 99 (average: 50 G). It is impossible to improve this number, but it is possible to reduce expenses: just stand and wait on a bridge, possibly near a town with an inn.
Further refinement of the technique: if the Avatar steps forward and the second party member steps back, the enemies will focus on the hero, but the Exotic Armor will absorb most of the damage. The shepherd's Sheep Flute also helps reducing the damage suffered.
Bridges near towns with inns:
- 08 steps north-west from Moonglow;
- 16 steps north from Vesper (near mandrake root location);
- 18 steps east from Britain;
- 24 steps north from Yew;
- 32 steps south-east from Minoc (between mandrake root location and full moon gate).
Other bridges, far from inns:
- North-east from Spiritwood (nightshade fungus location)
- Between Lock Lake (to the south) and Dungeon Wrong (to the North)
- West from Paws
- North and east from the Lycaeum
- Near Serpent's Hold
- Beween Lock Lake and the sea (surrounded by poison swamps)