Once a game is complete and the quests have all been accomplished, it's fun to go back to earlier points in the game and take the paths not chosen just to see what the results would have been. Specifically, you want to choose those options that seemed as if they would lead to the most disastrous consequences. The teasing question to be answered is, How entertaining would my ruin have been?

In Ultima IV, the player at one point comes into possession of the skull of Mondain, the evil wizard from an earlier adventure. The skull can be picked up and carried around like any other item, and there is no doubt in one's mind that it can be used to commit acts of badassery on a truly grand scale. However, since the game focuses entirely on the quest for moral and spiritual perfection, one also suspects that slinging a magical artifact of great evil around could have some ill effects on your character.

Having completed the game and acheived Avatarhood, I decided it was time to take the skull out for a spin. I returned to a saved point in the game just after I'd retrieved the skull and set sail for a village full of test subjects.

Once there, I entered the gates of the city. USE SKULL, I typed. There was a loud buzzing noise, and all at once I was alone. I searched every shop, every home, every corner of the village and found no one. I had utterly disintegrated everyone there.

I had also lost all of my accumulated virtues. But no matter, because a great and evil plan was forming in my now-smoldering brain: I would use the skull to KILL LORD BRITISH.

Lord British, for those of you who don't know, is the wise and kind ruler of the fantasy kingdom depicted in the Ultima games. He is invulnerable to harm and it has become a challenge for players to figure out ways to off him. (I recall that in one game a bug in the program lets you fire a cannon through his castle wall and into his throne room to good effect.)

I high-tailed it across the countryside to Lord British's castle, vaporizing the monsters I met along the way with my newly-discovered death ray. When I arrived I went straight to the throne room. I knelt before the monarch and engaged him in innocent conversation for a few moments. Then I whipped out my secret weapon. USE SKULL!

Everyone vanished except Lord British.

The enraged ruler hopped down off his throne and raced toward me. I ran out of the throne room and all through the castle with the furious king at my heels. Diving into the kitchen, I ran around the single table with Lord British in hot pursuit; I bolted back out into the hallway where I slammed the door shut on my pursuer. Lord British, apparently mad with rage, continued to run around and around the kitchen, too blinded by fury to think to open the door himself.

Watching him go I realized that nothing else I could do with the skull could possibly match this, and quit the game a happy, happy boy.