So the Aaram Dol portion of the Silver Seed quest proved to be the most difficult. The other two quests in the Fiend's Domain and the Abandoned Outpost proved tricky, but not exactly difficult. Technically, I only got the belt of strength from the latter quest in a "day" beyond this one, but shhh, I won't tell anyone if you don't...
The Fiend's Domain was hard to navigate due to lots of fire traps--I ditched my companions at the gate because Boydon constantly exploded, and blasted through the puzzles as a result of my quick gloves! Two goals existed--getting the orb (which allows access to the silver seed), and getting the ring of reagents. The latter was created for the Fiend, an unfriendly fellow from whom all sense of Order was expunged. He lost it due to an automoton's mistake, and in fact the ring is visible just outside the gate to his home, though it takes quite a bit of navigation through invisible walls to actually reach the thing. Nonetheless, the quest was direct since all it required was making a map and avoiding a fair number of traps.
The abandoned outpost, like the Fiend's domain, proved easy in terms of the orb and difficult in terms of the magic item (this time the belt of strength). The most clever trap in this section was a series of gates, two of which are not actually there; they are illusions and you can walk right through. Figuring that out took forever! A much more annoying trap related to a golden platform with an obscure sign; somehow, I was supposed to figure out that I had to put a lightning whip on the platform. I confess, I had to check the walkthrough for that. And I'm glad I did; I probably would have never figured it out otherwise! Jumping ahead a bit, the outpost also has a well that may be descended using rope (apprently rope is useless for any other purpose), and some magic force fields that must be destroyed by reading a scroll (that puzzle also took forever, but at I got it eventually).
All this orb collection leads to the main point of the Silver Seed add-on...The silver seed! (Who would have guessed?) Finding it required pressing a seriously obscure button deep under Serpent's Fang, the citadel you are in during the game, which causes a giant cask to move nearby, uncovering a stairwell. I found the cask movement entertaining, because previously I had passed by it and thought to myself, "Huh, I seem to recall there being something odd about that cask..." but because I only ever played Silver Seed once back in 1995 or so, I had no memory of what was special about it. In any case, when i go down there, I am accosted by a group of female monks who want to kill me because they, gasp, serve the Guardian! I had met them earlier before some of my quests, but they offered dubious advice and then vanished, and I failed to mention them. They died, and for some reason they carried keys to a glade where I can plant the now-recovered silver seed. Karnax the monk appears from nowhere, and cheers me on, also telling me that the silver seed cryptically mentioned by the Forest Master is ruined and worthless, thus ruining the mystique of that character. Thanks a lot, Karnax.
Anyway, the silver seed is planted and grows into a big silver tree. Karnax assures me the job of restoring balance will be much easier, which is true, but that's because of my big pile of magic gear, not because of some tree! This is basically where Silver Seed fails--it has a bunch of fun, useful stuff, but it tries to be relevant to the main plot. yet, because the main plot by necessity must be able to be completed without Silver Seed, it cannot be relevant. I think it would have been better to do like Forge of Virtue, and make a neq quest largely unrelated to the main one, but nonetheless interesting. On the plus side, I like some of the new character portraits, and some of the additional backstory you get concerning the Order/Chaos war. Silver Seed raises more questions then it answers, though, the most pertinent being...Where the hell *IS* Serpent's Fang, anyway? It is not present in the main game, which takes place hundreds of years later. Is it destroyed or what? And what about the tree itself, where's that? And how did Karnax get there!? Were the monks chasing me servants of the Guardian back then? But Ultima IX asserts the Guardian came into being when I became the Avatar. How does that work? Ahhhhh. I hate time travel!
But at least the game revealed the Forest Master is just a brainless chump who doesn't even notice that his Silver Seed is rotten. He was pretty rude to me, you know!