Castle Blackthorn Dungeon
This dungeon, located under Castle Blackthorn in both Felucca and Trammel, was introduced with Publish 85. The dungeon is divided into two parts. The first part is a series of "catacombs" spreading out like a star from the entrance. The second part is a rift in space-time where sections of nine of the surface cities are replicated. The catacombs contain monsters and use normal spawn mechanics. The surface city "rifts" suffer random invasions by powerful creatures.
All creatures in the dungeon have a chance to drop "Artifacts Bearing the Crest of Minax" when killed. The artifact will appear directly in the players pack. These artifacts can be exchanged with an "Agent of the Crown" NPC for Blackthorn Artifacts. The Agent of the Crown is located within Castle Blackthorn at the head of the stairs leading into Castle Blackthorn Dungeon.
The artifact drop mechanic uses a "dungeon points" system similar to the Doom Gauntlet. The more creatures a character kills, the more "dungeon points" are acquired. Eventually enough "dungeon points" are acquired that an artifact is bestowed upon the character. The "dungeon point" counter then resets. Characters can theoretically get an artifact from any creature killed thanks to the Random Number Generator, but the "dungeon point" system ensures a reward for time spent fighting. The Luck statistic also factors into the drop rate for Minax artifacts.
Specific Game Mechanics
Castle Blackthorn was designed to be used in role playing scenarios and as such pets, flying, and spellcasting are prohibited in the castle, as is recalling or gate travelling into the castle or the dungeon below. Since players trying to access Castle Blackthorn Dungeon must therefore travel through the castle, a small amount of extra work is required to access the dungeon. First, runes cannot be marked in the castle, so the closest mark is just outside the castle gates. Second, when riding through the castle gates, the character will be dismounted and the pet either stabled or returned to statue form in the character's pack. Third, pets not being ridden will be automatically stabled while travelling through the castle.
Once in the dungeon, players will notice a trash bin at the base of the stairs. Any path blocking objects placed on the dungeon floor will be removed to this trash bin. Just past the base of the stairs is a hitching post that players can use to retrieve their pets. (Say "claim list" for a list of all stabled pets.)
Characters who hide in the dungeon will be auto-revealed after a short interval. Characters who remain in one place for too long will be auto-teleported to another location in the dungeon. This location is usually in the middle of a poisonous gas cloud surrounded by hostile creatures which will immediately attack the character. Fun Times!
Upon entering the dungeon, three paths will be available. To the South are generally harder creatures such as Balron and Dragon. To the West, generally easier creatures such as Skeleton and Brigand can be found, along with a broken wall leading to a cave full of Earth Elemental. To the North is a small room with Golden Elemental (and a forge! - a great place to collect ingots), Lich, Giant Spider, and the path to the rift invasions.
The catacombs contain a number of monsters at varying difficulty. This system allows for characters of almost all skill levels to have success fighting in this dungeon. Not only can you acquire gold and normal dungeon loot, but every skill level has the chance to get a Minax arti and therefore the more powerful Blackthorn Artifact. This is an excellent system for helping new or lesser skilled characters, while at the same time providing continuing content for higher level players.
One of the big questions is "What should I fight" in the catacombs to maximize my time and acquire Minax artifacts as fast as possible? Many players fight mid level creatures like the Evil Mage, since the spawn is so fast, and so many can be killed in a short time. Other players insist the Balron is the best path to riches as it is worth so many "dungeon points". No "One Answer" will fit here as this is truly a per character (for skill) and per player (for enjoyment) preference.
Arroth Thaiel's Observations - When deciding what to fight to maximize drop potential, keep in mind that it is not just how fast you kill something, but what that something is worth in "dungeon points" and vice versa. So, how can you figure out somethings "dungeon points"? Well, just use gold. After getting over 50 Minax drops from the catacombs I can tell you that with ~2000 luck, I need to collect about 45k (+/- 15k thanks to the RNG) in gold for a drop. You don't have to collect the gold, just know how much gold something gives and use that as a proxy for "dungeon points". For instance, a skeleton drops ~35 gold, an evil mage ~150 gold, a balron ~1250 gold. With ~2k luck, I have to kill about 37 balrons for a drop, about 300 evil mages, or about 1300 skeletons - Yikes! I've tested this with balrons, evil mages, earth eles, liches, gold eles, and rotting corpses. It has never mattered what I'm killing. With ~2k luck as soon as I've killed enough to get around the 45k (+/- 15k) gold mark (regardless of if I'm picking up the gold or just counting kills) I get a drop. So, can I kill 8 evil mages (for 1200 "points" at 150 gold/points per mage) in the same time it takes to kill 1 balron (worth ~1250 gold/points)? Depending on the spawn, why yes, yes I can. However, over time I can probably kill 37 balrons faster than 300 evil mages. Just recognize that however you decide to do it your luck will play a factor and that you can use gold as a proxy for "dungeon points". - Arroth
Space-time rifts contain sections of nine surface cites. An invasion is always occurring in one of these rifts, but the rift being invaded is random. The invasion consists of a beacon, a group of invasion captains, and minions for those captains. The invasion beacon is a lighthouse, and whichever rift is being invaded with have the lighthouse in it. Captains and minions are random per invasion.
An individual invasion happens in waves, with multiple captains per wave. When the wave begins the captains are invulnerable and highlight yellow. Minions highlight red and can be attacked. When all of the minions for a particular captain have been defeated, the captain will become vulnerable and highlight red. When all minions and captains for a wave are defeated the lighthouse beacon will become vulnerable. Attacking the beacon will damage it (the beacon can withstand a tremendous amount of damage) and when enough damage has been dealt a new wave will start. After the final wave has been killed the beacon will again become vulnerable and can now be destroyed, freeing the rift of the invasion.
As in the catacombs, creatures killed during an invasion can award Minax artifacts directly into the players pack. Being such high level creatures, Captains have the greatest chance at awarding an artifact, but minions may as well. The destruction of the Lighthouse Beacon after the final wave of the invasion, and thus the freeing of the rift city, can also award Minax artifacts.