Artifacts are special items with unique names that can be obtained by various means: using the Stealing skill to pilfer them from disparate locales, through specific monster drop systems, during events associated with game-wide fiction, or by crafting them using rare ingredients.
Named items obtained from the old Seer Quests were not considered Artifacts when they were being given to players, largely because the term had not yet been invented. The term and concept have not been "retro-fitted" to apply to these older items.
First, various items spawned throughout the dungeon that could only be picked up by using the Stealing skill. This was a move by the development team to vindicate the concept of collecting Rares and as a throwback to the way that Rares had originally been created. That is, as items unobtainable to players, that had been used to decorate the environment, but which had been accidentally left unlocked and could be picked up and carried away. The newly stealable items in Doom spawned with the new property Artifact Rarity, which denoted the frequency with which they spawned.
The second method by which original Artifacts entered the game was as a group of items that could be obtained in the Doom Gauntlet, as rare drops that went directly into a character's backpack. These too, possessed the Artifact Rarity property, but since these Artifacts spawned in relation to monster slaying, the Artifact Rarity did not always directly correlate to spawn frequency. Many of these type of Artifacts have entered the game, making the Artifact Rarity misleading.
When the Paragon system was introduced in 2004, people began calling the named items that dropped "Minor Artifacts" due to the system's similarity to the Gauntlet and the unique names that the items possessed, even though these items did not possess the Artifact Rarity property. This custom was repeated for the Treasures of Tokuno events and later for craftable Artifact quality items introduced with Mondain's Legacy.
Artifact quality items were eventually introduced through various in-game events, such as Halloween 2006 and the Ophidian Invasion. Quests also introduced new Artifact quality items, such as the Truth and Redemption quest, which granted The Redeemer as a reward. For UO's 10th anniversary in 2007, a drop system similar to the Paragon system was introduced in the Anti-Virtue Dungeons, which brought with it a new set of Virtue themed artifacts that did possess the Artifact Rarity property.
Recent artifacts, like the Stygian Abyss Artifacts and the High Seas Artifacts have reverted to not having the Artifact Rarity property. This is also true for the new Artifact quality dungeon loot system in Covetous, Despise, and select other dungeons.
Items which possess the Artifact Rarity item property can be classified into several categories.
- Doom Artifacts - Artifacts that can be found in Doom. These fall into two categories:
- Tokuno stealables - Artifacts that can be stolen in the Tokuno Islands.
- Virtue Artifacts - Artifacts that spawn in the eight original Anti-Virtue Dungeons. These were originally introduced as part of the 10th Anniversary festivities and are now a permanent drop system.
- Stygian Abyss stealables - Artifacts that can be stolen in the Underworld and the Stygian Abyss Dungeon.
- Wrong Stealables - Artifacts that can be stolen in Wrong.
Artifact Quality Items
Artifact quality named items which do not posses the Artifact Rarity property.
- Ararat Artifacts - Artifacts that drop from the Shadowlords inside the hold of the Ararat.
- Ararat Stealables - Artifacts that can be stolen next to the Ararat.
- Champion Spawn Artifacts - Replicas of items copied from Event Moderator events.
- Covetous Artifacts - Items that drop from Cora the Sorceress and her minions.
- Craftable Artifacts - Craftable items that, due to their high end properties, are considered artifacts. Rare ingredients available only from Peerless monsters are required to craft them.
- Despise Artifacts - Items that drop from the brothers Adrian the Glorious Lord and Andros the Dread Lord.
- High Seas Artifacts - Items that drop from High Seas bosses.
- Ilshenar Minor Artifacts - Items that drop as part of the Paragon system in Ilshenar, several of which are exclusive to this system.
- Leviathan Minor Artifacts - Items that drop from the Leviathan, a sea monster that is spawned through use of a certain fishing net. These items include those that drop as part of the Paragon system, as well as some which are exlusive to the Leviathan.
- Mondain's Legacy Minor Artifacts - Items that drop in the same style as those associated with the Paragon system, but only in Mondain's Legacy Dungeons or from Peerless bosses.
- Other Artifacts - Items, such as The Redeemer, of Artifact quality and which could be acquired as anniversary gifts or by participating in story arcs and other in-game events.
- Peerless Artifacts - Items that spawn only on the corpses of Peerless bosses. Each Peerless boss spawns specific artifacts.
- Stygian Abyss Artifacts - Items that drop in Stygian Abyss Dungeon, Tomb of Kings and Underworld and from Stygian Abyss bosses or Mini-Champ Mini Bosses.
- Treasure Map Minor Artifacts - Items that drop from Treasure Maps. These items include those that drop as part of the Paragon system, as well as some which are exclusive to Treasure Maps.
- Treasures of Tokuno Artifacts - Items that dropped or that could be claimed as part of the the Treasures of Tokuno events. At present, the Treasures of Tokuno event is not active. Thus the Artifacts no longer drop as reward. However, Greater Artifacts can still be redeemed by turning in 10 of the Lesser Artifacts to Ihara Soko the Imperial Minister of Trade in the city of Zento. Many Lesser Artifacts are available for sale on most Shards.