Well, let it never be said that the dungeons in Ultima IV are overwhelmingly hard. I tackled my first two today, after buying a huge mass of viewing gems with which I could get maps of each level. My strategy in the dungeon is this: Look at the gem. Find the ladder down. Is it hard to get to? If not, go down it. If so, cast Z-Down. For example, in dungeon Despise, I encountered a huge room full of gremlins who stole all of my food before I could kill them. That's the kind of room I am apt to skip over! Using this method I picked up the red and yellow stones.
Let's backtrack. First of all--spells. I decided it was about time to grab the Valor rune in Jhelom, so I whipped out the manual and read about all the spells and made a pretty little list of their reagnents and effects. Then I went and bought some big piles of reagents--travelling with only one fellow in your party means you spend zilch on food or much of anything else--and went to Jhelom. I encountered an unfortunate fellow, Nostro or Norsto or something, who had been walled up inside behind force fields. He demanded that I show him the way out, and I did, but the bastard wouldn't go away! i had to ditch him in the forest and then have door close between us in order to keep the nutball from following me back where he came from.
Shortly thereafter I became a partial Avatar in honor, which is evidently raised by finding random quest objects. Once you've found them all, you better not lose honor I guess! meditating at the honor shrine also apparently booted me up to partial Avatarhood in Spirituality. So I'm really raking in the partials, in other words. Some of the virtues are pretty hard to raise. Justice is a prime example. As far as I know, justice just means not stealing gold. but does the game keep track of every time I fail to steal when I could have? Probably not.
I also purchased a horse, and it was a complete waste of money. The monsters have absolutely no trouble keeping up with me, and I don't go through plains or woods faster. What was the point? On the plus side, buyin a horse meant I got to briefly talk to Smith the Horse in Paws, the recurring character who usually tells you clues a game too late. However, I couldn't figure out what he had to say to me, if anything. Maybe someone else in Britannia will direct me to him.
Now I will institute a poll. The dungeon Hythloth can be entered through Lord British's castle, and it exits on the Isle of the Avata with an important item--the balloon--outside it. My strategy for tackling this dungeon is as follows:
1) Enter the dungeon
2) Cast X-It to get out and get the balloon
Kinda loser-like, I'd say. So the poll is, should I follow this strategy, or actually spend some time exploring? I have no need for the balloon yet, so it will be a day or two. After 2.5 hours today, I figure I will spend tomorrow building up a small party of adventurers.