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Yeah, exactly what the topic title says...




Ranging to Make Ends Meet (ran October 19th, 2008, title not my own)




I am a ranger. Certainly not a master of putting sharp objects in vicious monsters from a safe distance, but skilled enough to put an arrow between the shoulder blades of a fleeing goblin from two hundred feet away. My choice of combat style came from a severe allergy to blunt, sharp or pointy things being swung in my general direction, and the fact that I look silly wearing a pointy hat. So I walk the lands with bow in hand, raining pointy death down on the heads of my enemies. I dress myself in the skins of slain dragons, carry around a bow carved from the finest maple wood and fill my quiver with steel-tipped arrows that provide me with the perfect balance between damage output and cost.




Of course there are those that express prowess in cold, impersonal numbers, otherwise known as levels. While I personally do not condone this practice, I will provide some relevant levels for the sake of clarity. My defense level is 40, just enough to know how to put on armour made of dragonhide. My ranged level is 62, enough to wear the hides of the red dragon and fire bolts with a runite crossbow. I can, on a good day, take 53 points of damage and my offerings of various types of bones have pleased the gods enough to allow me to use each protection prayer, as well as the Eagle Eye prayer that enhances my prowess as a ranger even further.




I've been doing the adventuring thing for about two years now. I've spent my time cleaning out dens of monsters with no pay other than whatever I could pick from their corpses (why a zombie walks around with tin ore in its pockets I'll never know). Occasionally I'll clean out a specific den of evil for some terrorized villagers, but the rewards are rarely stunning and the number of people that will offer me quests has shrunk to the point that I'm often left with lack of purpose. I have seen the far corners of this realm and am left with very little to explore indeed.




So at last I crumbled, reaching deep into my real life pockets to pay the tithe that the masters of the realm require in return for access to new realms, new quests, new skills and new equipment to wear. The first week in these new worlds were spent running around not unlike a headless chicken; I tried a new quest here, wandered around a new land there, and every now and then I put my attention to a new skill, only to be distracted by something shiny. This lack of focus was somewhat of a problem, as the new equipment often came with a massive price tag that left my coffers quickly draining.




I needed to make money, and I didn't have the attention span of miners, fletchers and the like. I needed some action, preferably action that would yield massive loot. This left me with only one option: Killing stuff. My relatively low combat level would make this somewhat challenging, as the truly impressive drops usually came from monsters whose combat levels was measured in the triple digits. The fact that these monsters were at least twice my level coupled with my aforementioned allergies meant that I would have to pick my target carefully. I needed a low-risk, high-reward monster that was also located close enough to a bank.




The answer was found deep in the wilderness. Packs of green dragons rove the blasted landscape, preying on whatever passes by. The bleak surface of the wilderness would be perfect for a ranger like me, as the widespread debris would give me plenty of places to hide as I peppered the vile beasts with crossbow bolts. I knew from the bestiary that there was a pack lurking within running distance of the teleporters which would be perfect for my purpose, as revenants were a constant threat and conventional methods of teleportation would be impossible this far in the wilderness.




Now that I had my target, my next focus was equipment. As dying was a very realistic possibility, my first priority was food. I had a massive cache of cooked tuna that was a gift from a friend from before the time of trade laws. At 10 HP per slot and essentially no cost, I decided that this was my best option. Next was armour. I hadn't passed the trials that would give me the right to wear an archer helm, and dragonhide coifs were too expensive to risk so I ended up going with a normal coif. I wore a full set of red dragonhide armour, the most powerful armour I could wear at my ranged level. The anti-dragon shield was a no-brainer. Snakeskin boots provided a nice ranged bonus but were, like the dragonhide coifs, too expensive to risk in the wilderness. For the same reason I took no ring. An Amulet of Glory gave me a nice bonus to ranged attack at a reasonable cost. Ava's Accumulator was my choice, as it has the highest ranged attack bonus of any cape. I chose the most powerful crossbow, runite, and steel bolts, since I wasn't a skilled enough slayer for the broad-tipped variant.




My red dragonhide body, amulet of glory and runite crossbow would be kept on death. This left red dragonhide chaps (5K), red dragonhide vambraces (2K), Ava's Accumulator (1K), a coif (negligible), anti-dragon shield (negligible) and boots (negligible) as items that I would lose upon death. I also took a maximum of 100 steel bolts (6K). This would mean that a death would cost me 14K GP (9K GP if I could get the item protection prayer up in time), a price quite manageable at my combat level. Furthermore, with the market price of green dragonhide set at 1.600 GP, this meant that with 20 inventory slots left over for loot, it would be realistic to expect at least 20.000 GP for each trip. All this added up to a method of making money that looked very attractive on paper.




Of course paper rarely translates as well into reality as one would hope, so I decided to make a handful of scouting trips before I took the plunge. For reconnaissance, I brought only an anti-dragon shield, crossbow, a few bronze bolts and a small array of draconic taunts (including 'your mother has no horns' and 'your father was an oversized gecko'). I stepped on the teleportation pedestal and activated the obilisks. After a few attempts I found myself overwhelmed by a sweltering heat and the glow of lava-filled trenches to the north. This was a place where the earth's crust was just a thin scab barely holding back the earth's molten core. Something told me that here be dragons.




I soon had the attention of several green dragons, and through trial and error I learned to position myself in a way that none of them, despite their supposed intelligence, could hope to touch me. After a few more errant insults and crossbow bolts I ran back to the teleport pad, which took me to the back to the bank near the Bounty Hunter arena. I decked myself in the hides of the dragons' red cousins, filled my quiver with steel-tipped bolts and headed back towards the fell beasts.




The first few trips were mostly a matter of learning through trial and error. I learned to plan out my supplies to allow myself to bring back as many hides as possible without taking risks with the revenants. I learned what spoils were worth dragging back to the bank and what could be left behind. I learned the movement patterns of the three dragons that were usually visible on my minimap and I learned to tell the difference between the clan cape merchant that was trying to do business in the area and the revenant werewolves that try to cure me of my chronic breathing.




Of course running as fast as my legs could carry me wasn't always enough to evade death, as at times the revenants were more dangerous than the bloodthirsty humans that formerly haunted the wilderness. One particularly painful moment was when a revenant werewolf jumped me at the dragons' territory. I dashed straight for the teleportation pad as usual, which took me into the very bowels of the wilderness, near the rogues' castle. Just as I got ready to log out I was hit with a teleportation block, forcing me to run as I got pelted with projectiles which, even with divine protection, tore through me faster than I could recover with food. Just as I stuffed the last tuna down my gullet I moved beyond the range of whatever the revenant vampire was throwing at me, and I logged out.




When I logged back in on another world, ready for a mad dash back to the teleportation pad, the first thing I saw was the chaos elemental. As it hit me with all sorts of nastiness I decided to just leg it to the gate to the south-east and run south until I can use my amulet of glory to teleport back to safety. What followed was a hellish trek through the blasted wilderness landscape hanging onto the last shreds of my life, without food, energy or prayer points to increase my chances of survival. I barely made it past the demonic ruins, but the stretch between the clan wars area and the water looked fairly safe, except of course for yet another revenant which blasted me just two levels short of safety.




Despite this painful death, and a few more which were only slightly less painful, killing green dragons was surprisingly fun. With only an hour or so each day I still gained quite a respectable amount of experience and money. I am now well on my way to earning the right to wear black and blessed dragonhide, can take up to 55 points of damage, and have access to the Retribution prayer which allows me to go out in a blaze of glory, should the need arise. Just a few more buried dragon bones should give me access to the Redemption prayers. With the money I've made from green dragonhides so far I've bought a set of blessed dragonhide armour. Even though I don't currently have the ranged skill needed to wear it, it makes a nice dangling carrot to help me focus on my training. I've gained several ranged, hit points and prayer levels in just a week without the training ever feeling like a grind. Overall the green dragons make for an excellent training spot, although knowing that their red cousins are out there hoarding even bigger riches is still tempting. For now I will keep slaying green dragons, and encourage all those rangers whose 'levels' hover somewhere between 50 and 75 to do the same.

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The Joy of Quest (ran January 4th, 2009)




Quests are an unavoidable part of the Runescape experience. From the moment your feet touch Lumbridge soil you're bombarded with blue stars that indicate that there's people who need you to do stuff for them, in return for several different kinds of rewards. From simple retrieval missions to desperate attempts to save the very fabric of creation, quests will take you the world over as you strive to make peoples' lives a little better one step at a time. For some, quests are at best a strenuous task to be performed only if the rewards truly justify the effort. For others each quest, no matter how minor, is a delicious morsel of Runescape lore to be savored and enjoyed to the fullest extent. Regardless of what side of your fence you are on (I'm with the people that actually like doing quests), everybody will have done at least some quests because eventually, quests become unavoidable for those looking for a richer, more fulfilling game experience.




The first, and often most looked down upon reward, is the monetary compensation. There are plenty of ways to make money in the game, and quests are rarely the most effective way to do it. Still, those first few gold pieces might just be enough to get new players the armour they need to survive that mad dash for ten thousand gold through the Stronghold of Security and get some real investments going.




The second, and more important quest reward, is experience. From a few hundred points to push you from level one to level five, to several thousand points that could potentially be huge leaps forward. A great example of this is the Knight's Sword quest, which has only requires about half an hour of mining training and a few GP to pluck some basic items off the Grand Exchange. The reward for this minimal effort is a whopping twenty-eight smithing levels (638 experience points short of the highly lucrative steel smelting) which can greatly speed up the growth of a new character. Of course there's a point where even the biggest experience reward won't seem worth the effort, which lies somewhere around the point where it takes a six digit amount of experience just to advance one level. Again, this might seem pointless to those of higher level, but a break from the endless grind can often be a reward in and of itself.




Right around the point where experience rewards are no longer worthwhile, quests start coming with a new kind of reward that will be worthwhile to even the most reluctant of quester: equipment. More specifically, access to equipment. The very first quest to offer this kind of reward was, of course, Dragon Slayer. On the twenty-third of September, 2001, a new kind of armour was introduced to separate the men from the boys: the runite platebody. Wearing this armour not only told people that you had at least level 40 defense and 64.000 GP to spare (or a smithing level that was, at that point, unheard of), but also that you were capable of slaying a mighty dragon. For most people this is still the first quest of this kind, but for those of us who are willing to pay the fee it will be the first of many. Besides pretty much every kind of dragon weapon there are, amongst others, Fremmenik helmets and bone weapons. The equipment unlocked by quests isn't just fancy looking, a lot of items are amongst the most powerful in the game. Like the runite platebody and the Dragon Slayer quest before, seeing someone wielding a dragon scimitar will immediately tell you that they have braved an atoll full of rabidly aggressive simians with combat levels well into the triple digits.




Which brings me to the fourth reward: Access. Walk long enough in pretty much any direction and you will stumble into some sort of barrier that can only be passed by those that are willing to take the time to quest their way around it. Going strictly by surface area, about thirty percent of the members world is only accessible after doing some sort of quest. Of course these areas aren't just for walking around on, but often offer you some of the most efficient and lucrative training spots in all of Runescape. Access of course isn't limited to just new locations to explore, but also two spellbooks' worth of magic to cast, several different kinds of (almost) free and instant transportation, several different skills, a bunch of different pets and a seemingly endless list of other major and minor benefits that make the world of Runescape just a little (or lot) more pleasant to spend time in.




The final reward, one that is often overlooked and/or unappreciated and, admittedly, has only become a part of the questing experience in recent years: stories. For those who are willing to listen, JAGeX has a whole bunch of different stories to tell. In the east, people living under a tyrannical undead menace that is literally sucking them dry cry out for a saviour. In the west, the power struggles amongst an ancient race sent shockwaves throughout the kingdom of Kandarin and the city of Ardougne. In between lie many more stories that will reveal themselves to anyone willing and able to listen.




So the next time you embark on a quest, consider reaching for your sense of adventure first and a guide second. Don't rush through to the reward, but stop every now and then to appreciate the road JAGeX paved towards it. Take the time to actually listen to what NPCs have to say beyond directions to the next point in the quest and they might actually be able to entertain you in a way that you didn't previously think possible. Always remember that you're not just completing a list of tasks for some sort of compensation. You're giving a little boy his ball back. You're uncovering an ancient sword to protect a city against a blood thirsty demon from its past. You're helping a tribe of goblins that hasn't walked the surface in untold centuries take its first steps into a world that's entirely new to them. In the end, you will be swept away in the power struggles between the gods themselves that have stretched across the aeons. It's a hell of a ride, but it can be quite enjoyable if you let it.

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A Beginning Ranger's Guide to Whack-a-Mole (ran January 11th, 2009)




Deep in the bowels of Falador park lies a beast of formidable size and laughable intelligence. You see, when Wyson the Gardener flushed his supergrowth potion into the soil to be consumed by an average mole, the mole's brain forgot to grow along with it. This means that the poor thing has yet to become aware of just how big it has become. This means that its ability to navigate its own tunnels has become severely impaired, to the point where anyone with the ability to kill things from a distance can safely slay this enormous beast. Because I'm a ranger myself this article will only focus on killing it with arrows and bolts, but the basic strategy stays the same for magic and halberds.




So why should a low level ranger try to kill the Giant Mole? Mostly just for bragging rights, as the mole's thick hide means that dealing damage to it can quickly become incredibly tedious, especially luring it into safe spots. However, whacking the mole slowly is still preferable to getting whacked by the mole quickly. Its regular drops aren't all that spectacular, but the claws and two to four hides can be sold for a reasonable amount of GP on the GE or exchanged for bird nests with Wyson the Gardener, which have the potential to yield valuable tree seeds and of course are one of the ingredients for Saradomin Brews. If the fame of slaying a beast with five times your combat level and a guaranteed profit of at least 6000 GP plus whatever it might drop (and it seems to drop 100 noted yew logs fairly frequently) are enough to motivate you to give it a try, this guide is for you.




Of course, one does not simply walk into a giant mole tunnel. The expedition will take some preparations. First of all, you will have to ask yourself if you're actually strong enough to kill that giant mole. While in theory any level 3 could do it, there is a point where it becomes all but impossible to penetrate its thick hide, and even if you do you won't damage it fast enough to overcome the rate at which it regenerates its hit points. In my experience a ranged level of at least 40 is preferable for access to green dragonhides and the Mithril crossbow. Obviously, the higher your ranged level, the better, but as an absolute minimum I suggest 40. Other than that there are no real life-or-death levels, although 40 defense might be a good idea for the use of dragonhide bodies, and 43 prayer gives you access to protection from melee, which is the Giant Mole's only mode of attack and will make it a lot easier to lure it along into safe spots. Obviously the latter isn't nearly as important as the former.




So now you've decided that you want to kill the Giant Mole, and you think you have the levels needed to do it. The next step is selecting your gear. Your equipment and inventory should be effective, yet expendable. Some food (if you don't have the 43 prayer for protect from melee), bone bolts and a Dorgeshuun crossbow* and some super-poisoned bolts*. Your equipment should be something along the lines of: coif, black dragonhide armour, broad or steel bolts, amulet of glory, rune crossbow, boots and Ava's accumulator.


(*) These items are optional (but highly recommended) time savers.




While there are plenty of 'fancier' options (Void Knight robes, gem-tipped bolts, etc.), the equipment listed here is relatively cheap and easy to obtain and gets the job done.




So now you have your inventory and equipment sorted out and you're ready to start whacking. So make your way over to Falador park, find yourself a molehil and start digging. Soon you'll find yourself all the way on the north end of the Giant Mole's lair, which hopefully will be illuminated by your lantern. The mole will spawn in the large open area right in the middle of the lair, recognizable by its summoning obelisk. However, the mole tends to wander around a bit so it could take you a while to find it. If you find other players in the lair you should just switch to another server.








Once you've found the mole, you'll want to lure it towards any of the possible safe spots. While the lair doesn't contain any of the debris that's traditionally used to hide behind, there are plenty of walls that, because of their erratic shape, are too complicated for the Giant Mole's mini-brain to navigate around. These look something like this:








As you can see, the mole's four square sized bulk will try to walk towards your one square in a straight line but can't get past the edge of the wall. These edges are most commonly found along the western wall of the main room and the eastern wall of the corridor to the west of the main room. However, they can be found throughout the lair if you know how to recognize them. Positioning yourself like this leaves you safe to peck away at its health from a distance. If you've brought them, first hit it with your Dorgeshuun crossbow special attack, followed by P++ bolts from your regular crossbow until it's poisoned. Switch to your regular bolts and start chiseling away. Once it's down to about half health the mole will start digging, resurfacing in one of eight possible locations. Once you've found it again you can lure it to another safe spot, although from now on every attack could send the mole scurrying away underground. During this phase of the fight the extra damage from P++ bolts really helps, so make sure you refresh the poison regularly. Eventually your patience will be rewarded with big bones, mole claws and mole skins, along with a random pick from the mole's drop table.





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Varrock Library (on the forums) (ran January 20th, 2006)




Somewhere in the west of Varrock, obscured by more imposing buildings, stands a library. It's a small library, not nearly as impressive as the royal libraries in the castle, guarded fiercely by Reldo, but it's a nice place, a kind place. Unlike the royal library, its shelves aren't filled with the ancient tales from writers long dead, which are usually only reluctantly read by schoolchildren suffering under an old schoolmaster's desire to stuff them with knowledge about literature which they'll never use again in their future careers as cabbage merchants and chicken farmers. No. The shelves of this library are filled entirely with contributions from the public, available freely to whoever wants to read them.




There is poetry, there are songs, there are stories of ancient worlds and visions of a future far away, there is daily gossiping. Of course, since the library isn't fussy about the works it accepts, there's also a chance you'll run into childish word games, wild literary experiments, or entries that simply look like they were written (and chewed on) by the village idiot. But I don't mind. I know that the librarian works hard enough to keep it running, even though it's not uncommon for her to be swamped in civil or military duties. She always has a spare minute to make sure the scrolls are all folded up neatly, sorted and lined up straight in their racks, and if you ask kindly there's always a fresh pot of tea at the ready, although all readers are warned that tea and parchment don't mix.




All in all, I like the library. I like how open it is. I like how it gives me a chance to share my work with the world, even though I'm far from a professional writer. It's just a hobby for me, and the library gives me a chance to explore it. The scroll under my arm is still stiff, its ink barely dry. My wrist aches from the effort of writing the story down in readable print, but it's a small price to pay. I turn away from the main street, just barely avoiding collision with a fishmonger's cart. I dust myself off and check the scroll. Still clean. With a sigh of relief I continue down the road. It would hardly be proper of me to bring filthy scrolls into the library, yet writing the entire story down again is not something I look forward to. One more turn and I'm standing in front of the library.




In front of a closed door. I look around, more than a little confused. Closed for renovation. Is all that the scroll nailed on the door reads, written in the librarian's neat handwriting. Then, just as I'm about to turn away, I smell smoke. And sure enough, from the back of the library rises a small trickle of black smoke, just barely noticeable. Still, the thought of even a small fire so close to a building full of scrollsI almost panic, dashing around the building only to find that my fear had been for nothing. In a small fire pit in the garden of the library I can just barely make out the vague outlines of burning scrolls. Several small scraps of parchment lie around it, apparently escaping the blaze. Carefully I pick one up, lightly rubbing off the dirt. The handwriting is little more than a childish scrawl:




...and then the night rased his sord and hit the dragon in the hed and teh hed exploded liek a mellon...




Renovation indeed. Still, I'm not entirely unhappy to see these scrolls go. One of the library's charms might have been it's open policy, but unfortunately it occasionally proved to be a bit too open. I throw the scrap in the flames and turn around, almost tripping over a gnome carrying an armful of scrolls. I quickly apologize and help the poor creature up, asking her where she's taking the scrolls. With a squeaky voice she explains that she and her kin had been hired by the librarian to aid the renovation. Then she points at a large cart where other gnomes are piling up scrolls, explaining that the city council had finally decided to give the less literary works an the silly word games to a separate building. I smile, realizing that the library will be a lot emptier but at the same time a lot more enjoyable with these gone. I let the little gnome get back to her work and decide to come back tomorrow.




The next day, just as the city begins to come alive, I make my way down to the familiar road to the library. Bathed in the reddish glow of the rising sun, it almost seems like a new building. It seems like the renovation is still in progress, but the doors are open again. A cart from the carpenter's guild stands waiting outside, two young apprentices wrestling with a heavy looking desk. The brass plaque attached to it reads Assistant Librarian, and it's identical to the one waiting in the cart, besides the scroll rack labeled Guides. It seems like the librarian is finally getting some help in getting the renewed library to run smoothly. I duck my way past the apprentices and make my way inside. As I walk towards the librarian's desk I notice that the echoes of my footsteps sound differently because of the shift in acoustics caused by the removal of so many scrolls. Still, the desks, the racks, the smell most of it seems the same, it just seems better. I hand the scroll I brought to the librarian. She glances over it and gives a friendly nod, putting it in the tray for new submissions. As I walk back out I consider staying a bit longer to read some of the older scrolls, but the rumbling of my stomach indicates that there are more urgent matters that I need to attend to. The sunlight that hits my face as I cross the threshold promises a warm day to come, and I can't help but wonder if somewhere some ancient deity of literacy is smiling on the librarian's efforts for a new start for the library that I love so much.

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Introducing: The Dragon Crossbow (ran January 18th, 2009)




From the moment the material was first introduced, dragon items have been some of the most sought after pieces of equipment in the game. From the moment the first dragon weapons were introduced in Runescape Classic (shortly before the introduction of a rampant trading scam involving bronze weapons that was the original reason dragon items were given a look that distinguishes them from more common items), dragon items have been a staple of a high level player's armory. Even though many equipment slots now have more powerful or useful alternatives, dragon equipment often remains the standard to which other equipment is compared.




Today only a handful of metal items haven't been released to the public. Of these items the most sorely missed is, in my opinion, the Dragon Crossbow. While the arsenal of rangers has vastly improved over the past few years, they still have only three weapons that can be considered truly exclusive: Seercull, the Dark Bow and the Crystal Bow. This is in mostly due to the fact that unlike dragon equipment, all other high-end ranged weapons are player made. This has made Rune Crossbows and Magic Shortbows incredibly cheap and easy to obtain.




Therefor, I think the world is ready to recieve the Dragon Crossbow, a new breakthrough in pointy object delivery technology. This raises two important questions: How do we get our hands on this glorious new object? And just how good will it be?




The first question should be answered by looking at how dragon items have traditionally been introduced into the Runescape world. This has in the past been done in three ways: Making the item available for purchase after the completion of a quest (most dragon weapons), making the item a rare drop from high level monsters (most dragon armour) or a crafting process that requires monster drops and high skills (dragon square shield, dragon plate). Obviously, each of these methods has its pros and cons.




By offering the item as a reward for the completion of a quest, the item immediately becomes available to a relatively large section of the public. Of course, this doesn't mean it will be easy. When the Heroes' Quest came out, it had the highest stat requirements of any quest so far, along with a relatively long list of quests that needed to be completed before the player could even get started. How hard this quest would be depends entirely on how exclusive you would want the Dragon Crossbow would be. A good start would be to focus on stat requirements that are often used in conjunction with the ranged skill. The three skills generally most useful to a ranger are crafting (to make armour), defence (to avoid getting hit, to meet requirements for various types of equipment that give bonuses to ranged attack) and fletching (to make weapons, ammunition and projectiles). Of course three skill requirements is hardly fitting for an item as powerful as the Dragon Crossbow, so lesser requirements in other stats would be desirable.




By using a quest and a store price of around 300,000 GP the Dragon Crossbow would immediately be available to a relatively large section of the public, although it wouldn't be nearly as exclusive as some of the other dragon items have been and still are. Still, this seems preferable to the huge economical shockwaves that have been caused by the introduction of various other dragon items in the past.




Making the Dragon Crossbow a rare monster drop could be done in two ways: Adding it to the drop table of existing monsters (as for example has been done with the Dragon Med and the left shield half) or creating an entirely new monster for this purpose (as has been done with Dragon Claws and the Dragon Full Helm). Of course JAGeX could also do both (as has been done with the Dragon Twohander). This immediately gives the item an amount of exclusivity that making it purchasable after a quest simply won't do. While the former method is certainly tried and tested I would prefer the latter, mainly beause it would allow the game designers to not just make it exclusive, but making it exclusive to rangers.




What I would like to see is a monster that can be killed (and reached) only by rangers. By making the entrance require a Mithril Grapple shot of particularly high difficulty, only the most skilled rangers would even catch a glimpse of this new monster. By making it immune to melee and magic and making it attack with all three attack styles for fairly high amounts of damage it can be made sufficiently challenging to anyone looking for their new toy. Of course introducing the item like this also means that its exclusivity isn't based on skill so much as wealth, as new dragon items have hit the market at a street price that sometimes went as high as tens of millions of GP. This hardly seems to be the kind of exclusivity we're looking for in this new weapon.




The third and final method involves a combination of quests, rare monster drops and skills. Like the Dragon Plate, Runescape crossbows are crafted from three different pieces: the stock, the limb and the string. All three parts could be obtained through monster drops or certain parts could be sold in a shop after completing the required quest. A possible way to do it would be a special stock sold for a certain amount of GP, a crossbow limb that's dropped by certain monsters and a string that's crafted by, for example, spinning magic tree roots. These items could then be put together using the fletching skill. A crude extrapolation based on the levels required to craft various crossbows puts the required fletching level somewhere at 78.




Again there's the risk of making this item easier to obtain through wealth than through skill, but adding a quest as one of the requirements certainly helps in there. Furthermore, by making one part available in a shop and the other a monster drop that's very rare but available to a large amount of different creatures, like the left shield half, the chance of the price reaching eight digit heights is severely reduced. For example, the dragon square shield price has long been stable at around two thirds of the price of the part that's purchased at the Legends Guild.




So now that we've explored the various ways in which the Dragon Crossbow can be obtained, we should look at what this weapon actually does. First of all there's the level requirement. The difference in ranged level requirement from one crossbow to the next is, unfortunately, a bit erratic. However, if we start at steel and go up to rune, we can see that as we go one 'level' higher, the ranged level requirement increases by five, plus five for each step that we go up. Five from steel to mithril, ten from mithril to adamant, fifteen from adamant to rune. This would mean that the Dragon Crossbow would require twenty more ranged levels to wield than its rune counterpart. A ranged level of 81 would, in my opinion, be a very fair requirement. Luckily its only stat, the ranged attack bonus, is a lot easier to create. Going through the conventional metals from bronze to rune shows an increase of +12 every time we go up a step. Therefor the Dragon Crossbow would be a one-handed ranged weapon that would require level 81 ranged to wield and would have a ranged attack bonus of +102.




Of course like all dragon weapons the Dragon Crossbow would need a special attack. At the moment there's eight ranged weapons that have a special attack: The Dorgeshuun Crossbow, which reduces the target's defense level, the Magic Shortbow, which fires two more powerful but less accurate shots at once, the Magic Composite Bow and Longbow which is more accurate and guarantees damage, Seercull, which reduces the target's magic level, the Dark Bow, which fires two shots with increased (and guaranteed minimum) damage and the Rune Throwing Axe, which damages multiple opponents in multi-combat areas. Most of these special attacks are useful but boring, but I think the Dragon Crossbow special attack should pack a little more punch than that.




One thing that sets crossbows apart from other ranged weapons is the multitude of enchanted bolts that have a chance of triggering a special effect on impact. This is where I think the potential for a truly useful yet not too powerful special attack lies. My original idea of an attack that drains your special bar 100% and guarantees the next bolt's effect to be triggered looked good initially, one bolt threw a wrench in the plan: the damage dealt by ruby bolts is fixed at 20% of a monster's HP. This means that any monster in a multi-combat zone can be taken down pretty much instantly by a team of five rangers. Therefor I propose that in stead of a 100% chance to trigger the effect, the odds are merely doubled, at a reduced special bar drain rate. Since the Dark Bow has proven that the game code allows for two different special attacks on a single weapon, we could also create a special attack for metal bolts. A good example of a creative special attack using metal bolts would be an attack with a 100% drain rate that turns the next ten bolts you fire into a gem-tipped bolt that's made of the same metal (so bronze bolts would fire as pearl bolts, mithril bolts would fire as sapphire or emerald tipped bolts with each shot having an equal chance to become either) that have the same chance to trigger their special effect as a regular gem-tipped bolt. Of course the wacky world of special attacks offers plenty of fun and useful possibilities, and these are just two suggestions.




So there you have it: the Dragon Crossbow. An item that's exclusive, but hopefully more attainable through skill than through wealth, and with stats and special attacks worthy of the name dragon.

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Your Pet Rock and You - A Guide for New Owners (ran January 25th, 2009)




Congratulations! You have just acquired your very own pet rock. With some tender love and care your pet rock and you can be best friends forever. However, the pet rock can also be a demanding creature, which is why we have created this helpful pamphlet filled with various the various do's and don'ts of pet rock care.




Feeding Your Pet Rock




Pet rocks are well known for their extremely slow metabolism. Even though this makes them excellent pets for the busy adventurer, it does have some needs. For optimal growth, it is suggested that the rock is placed directly under a stalactite drip every fifty years or so, for anywhere from two to five years. By absorbing the nutrients that trickle down from above your rock will grow rapidly. If your rock does not grow or seems to refuse to eat, it is suggested that you feed it by hand by dissolving nutritious minerals in a bucket of lukewarm water and applying a drop every ten seconds until the bucket is empty. Consult your local veterinarian or geologist for nutrition advice for your specific species of pet rock.




Sheltering Your Pet Rock




While pet rocks have been known to survive both the frigid cold of the far north and the scorching heat of the Kharidian deserts, your pet rock does have certain requirements when it comes to shelter. First and foremost your rock should be protected against exposure to streaming water and high winds, especially if these carry small particles such as sand or clay. Furthermore your pet rock, while able to resist extremely low and extremely high temperatures, repeated changes between the two are extremely harmful. While gradual changes may merely cause extreme discomfort (see also the section on common pet rock maladies), repeated rapid changes will often prove fatal. Therefor the ideal shelter for your pet rock protects it from wind, water and rapid temperature changes. Fortunately the pet rock is not very demanding when it comes to roaming space.




Exercising and Training Your Pet Rock




While the rock is normally a mostly stationary creature, it still requires occasional exercise to prevent unpleasant infections (see also the section on common pet rock maladies). Due to its stationary nature it is suggested that any training takes place on a slope of some sort, although hills that are too steep might excite the pet rock to the point where it might injure itself. Furthermore your pet rock might become impossible to keep up with, and nobody likes the idea of losing a footrace to a rock. Training your pet rock is a matter of knowing its strengths. Some popular pet rock tricks include "sit", "stay" and "play dead", although especially intelligent pet rocks can, with some encouragement, also be trained to roll over or even jump. The key to quickly training your pet rock is positive reinforcement. A few encouraging words and the promise of a calcium treat will yield results far more quickly than verbal and physical abuse.




Grooming Your Pet Rock




While some people prefer the aesthetic of the rock's naturally rugged coat, others may wish for a smoother look. This look is easily obtained by the occasional polish with a simple piece of cloth and a bit of mud. However, the most even and smooth results are achieved with a polishing paste made from ground diamond dust. A few minutes of tender love and care every now and then will have your pet rock shining with pride. Please note that some species of rock can lose their polished luster by exposure to water or air. If this is the case with your pet rock, a protective coating may be necessary. The easiest way to do it is to melt a small amount of wax and carefully applying a thin, even coat with a small brush. This protective coat should be refreshed frequently.




Common Pet Rock Maladies




While the rock is an incredibly resilient creature, it is by no means impervious to injury or disease. While these maladies can usually be prevented by proper care, there is always the off chance that your pet rock does run into some form of illness.




The most common affliction for pet rocks is moss infection. This is a fairly harmless condition that can be prevented with regular exercise, but if left unchecked could actually be fatal. It is recognized by a creeping growth, with colours ranging from light grey to a deep green, slowly covering the rock's surface. To cure a moss infection, first carefully remove as much of the growth as possible by hand, then carefully scrub any affected areas with a brush with stiff bristles. Nine out of ten geologists recommend larupia hair brushes. Please note that this procedure can be extremely uncomfortable for your pet rock, so make sure to soothe it with kind and friendly words while you take care of it.




Chips and cracks are usually caused by fights with other rocks, usually over territory or potential mates. Chips are usually not fatal, although sharp edges should be carefully polished down to protect both yourself and your pet rock from further injuries. Cracks are, unfortunately, far more harmful, but still treatable. To treat a moderate to severe crack, you should wrap your pet rock tightly in cloth, pressing the surfaces of the crack together. To ensure rapid healing, carefully drip a highly concentrated mineral solution into the crack for six months to a year. This treatment may need to be repeated several times, and you should take care not to remove the bandage until you are sure the wound has healed properly.




A very rare but very dangerous condition is the thermokarst. This condition occurs when a small crack is left untreated and allowed to fill with water. As the temperature rises and drops the water will expand and shrink, eventually causing great discomfort and even death. If you suspect your pet rock is suffering from a thermokarst you should place it in a warm, dry room for about three days. Afterward, make sure that there are no traces of moisture and treat the crack as necessary.




If you suspect that your pet rock is ill but does not show any of the symptoms mentioned above, please consult a professional.








While necessarily brief, this guide should provide you with all the essential knowledge required for pet rock care. Further reading is available in the better bookstores across Gielinor.

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The Imp and the Jinn (fictional, ran January 25th, 2009, originally posted in December of 2006)




The little imp furrowed its brow in a deep frown, the same frown it used when it tried to remember its full name or when the master asked it why it was late. It was a frown of painful confusion. This time the cause for its confusion was an object. A rusty, dented object that seemed useless by all standards. Still, it matched the description the master had given his diminutive servant, so it tucked the thing away in a hidden fold in its loincloth before scaling back up the wall and out of the window.




The imp hurried along past ramshackle houses and heaps of garbage without paying any attention to either. The two were interchangeable anyway. All it wanted to do was get its delivery done, have a well-earned meal of warm maggots and curl up on whatever corpse had supplied them. The life of an imp was simple: Serve, eat, sleep, repeat. It was enough for the imp, who very much preferred to keep things simple. Simple things always did what they were supposed to do and never asked hard questions like What are you laughing at? or Wheres that wretched smell coming from?




The imp didnt know that the object it was carrying was no simple thing. What it also didnt know was that the filthy fabric of its loincloth had been rubbing against the thing since the moment he had tucked it away there. It had almost forgotten it was there until the object started vibrating. The imp yelped in surprise and skidded to a halt, just barely avoiding collision with a barrel of rainwater nearly four times its size. The sudden jolt jerked the object from its hiding place, causing it to skid across the cobblestones until it came to a halt a few feet away.




The imp stalked closer, eying the thing suspiciously. Lying there on the rain soaked streets with the rest of the garbage it seemed normal, but now the imp knew it wasnt. His master wouldnt send it out to retrieve any ordinary piece of trash, and the strange vibrations had definitely confirmed that. Carefully a bony finger was extended, and the imp wagged its tail nervously as it crept closer and closer. Finally, after what seemed like hours, they made contact. And thats when all hell (and the imp had seen a lot of that) seemed to break loose.




A thick cloud of smoke spewed forth from some unseen opening in the bent lump of metal, filling the alley and blocking it from sight. The imp was just about to reminded of home by the sulfurous smell when it heard a cold but cheerful chuckle. Youd think the feeling gets old, but damn it feels good to be able to stretch my legs again.




The imp just barely heard it, it had already bolted. Smoke wasnt supposed to talk and trash wasnt supposed to produce smoke. The thick stuff filled its lungs, causing them to ache, but the imp was used to much worse so it kept running. Its no use you know it wont let you go until youve done your duty as the new master.




Master? Now there was a novel thought. Imps were bred to serve, and this imp more so than most. Still, it seemed like the smoke was only getting thicker, so after a while the imp decided to give up its attempts to escape. Master?




Of course, by the standards of my contract you will now be my master. At that moment seemingly out of nowhere several feet of parchment erupted from out of nowhere, snaking around the imp a few times before coming to a rest at a convenient reading distance. Of course the imp couldnt read, so he had to take the voices word for it. Who who you?




Again the cold chuckle. Why I am the jinn of the ashtray, havent you heard of me? I really need to get a better publicist, its only been what? Two centuries since I got tucked away?




The imp felt overwhelmed by the concept of living more than two or three years, so overwhelmed that he nearly missed the rest of what the jinn had said. Still, something wasnt right. Ashtray? No lamp?




The chuckle came again, but a lot less merrily this time. Bad real-estate agent Im afraid besides, the lamp market hasnt exactly been very stable for the past few millennia Anyway, where are my manners? I almost forgot




Before the imps eyes, the thick smoke began to coalesce into a single shape. The thick strands were retracted, and the alley came back into view. It remained for a moment as a shapeless grey mass until it began to shift again, sprouting arms, legs, and finally a head. A round, bald head that was dominated by a wide toothed grin set beneath small, beady eyes and a flat nose. Its skin had taken the green colour of corroding copper. Floating about two feet of the ground was what appeared to be a fat little child dressed in a riot of brightly coloured silks, although the head didnt quite match. Before the imp could say anything, the child-jinn bent down to pick up what was supposed to be an ashtray. The imp heard him mutter something along the lines of this wont do before a bright flash of light blinded him. When the last of the black spots had been blinked away, the jinn was holding what appeared to be a simple but well-crafted silver ashtray, which it held out to the imp. Dumbfounded the little creature accepted it, not sure what else to do. Luckily, the jinn seemed more than happy to take the initiative, hovering closer and looking the imp directly in the eyes. So lets get down to business, shall we? My name is ibn-Aravi, but most masters seem to think that simply jinn will do, so I will accept that too. What is your name, my diminutive master?




Difficult question. Bad difficult question. The imp furrowed his brow in confusion. My name Ghrok Ghrok Ghrokila just Ghrok.




An amused look passed over the jinns face, and he was visually struggling to repress another giggle. Very well then, Ghrok, lets talk business. Before we can continue, I need you to sign this. The jinn clapped his hands, and the long scroll from earlier reappeared, but this time it was the end that was hovering in front of the imp. Please sign on the dotted line




The imp was about to open his mouth when he felt a quill appear in his hand, dripping with ink. His hand trembled slightly as he brought it up, drawing a jagged X. The jinn reeled in the scroll and inspected the signature. Very well, I suppose this will have to do Now then, on to business, what is your first wish, master Ghrok?




Ghrok thought about it for a few seconds, which was quite impressive for a creature that considered thinking to be hard labour. Wish? What should he wish for? There had to be something something he had always wanted Of course there was! How silly of Ghrok! Ghrok wanna be biggest imp ever!




The jinn chuckled once again, folded his hands over his sagging belly, and gave a short nod. The blow almost sent the imp flying. It could feel its muscles ripple, its bones twist and extend, its organs swell to fill the newly created room. It wanted to scream but found it couldnt. When the painful transformation was finally over, Ghrok was standing a mighty two feet tall. The imp glanced down at the ground behind him, nearly losing his balance. Finally he managed to shift his eyes back to the jinn, who was patiently waiting. Whats your second wish, master Ghrok?




The imp struggled to think again, which was a lot harder now because its mind was still trying to grasp the consequences of the transformation he had just undergone. Finally he shrugged and gave up. I I think I dunno




The jinn let out a tired sigh, trying his best to remain looking cheerful. He didnt suffer fools lightly, which was very inconvenient in his line of work, especially if your master was a creature bred to understand only simple commands. Proper jinn-master relationship ethics dictate that you send me back to my lamp- my ashtray if you dont require my services just rub it again if you need me Or just make your wish, I can hear you just fine from inside.




And with that, the jinn transformed back into his smoky form, which rushed back into the ashtray. The imp, still confused and disoriented from the encounter, tucked the silver object away again. It stood there for a few more minutes before an awful truth rushed up on it. Master! He was supposed to deliver the ashtray to his master! He would be late! Master would amputate his tail again! Immediately the imp pelted down the crooked alleyways, hoping he would be back in time to avoid punishment.




The masters tower was an impressive thing, towering over the ruined section of the city it was standing in. Of course it was dwarfed by the structures of the central city, but on its own it was mighty. The imp scrambled up the spiraling staircase. The master would be waiting for it in his study all the way on the top floor. By the time the imp reached the floor it was panting, lungs aching with exertion, but it was still alert enough to dodge the howling projectile that came flying at it. It ducked just in time to send the projectile, judging from the high-pitched wailing one of its siblings, crashing into the wall in stead of itself. The little thing groaned and didnt get up. Ghrok let out a whimper. The master was not in a good mood. The imp took a step forward to check up on its kindred. It got no further than that. A multihued fireball burst forth from the open door, engulfing the unfortunate imp that had just been hurled through the same opening in bright flames. The rushing inferno almost drowned out the targets last screams of agony. When the magical blaze cleared, only a small, imp-shaped pile of soot remained.




Master is mean I wish I stomp master The imp had barely spoken the words when the ashtray in its loincloth vibrated briefly. It yelped and scrambled backwards, but the jinn didnt seem to appear. A few moments, just enough to gather its nerves, and the imp stepped forward, into its masters study. Carefully he called out. Master?




Nothing, no response, but master had to be here. The blazing demise of its sibling had told the imp that much. He continued on. As it stepped, the sound of creaking floorboards caught its ears. The sound puzzled the imp, it was something that didnt belong to such a well-built study. The creature stopped walking forward. The creaking didnt stop. Puzzled, the imp glanced around, first to the left and right, then up. Then down. There was master, standing at his toes, screaming and yelling and tall enough to fit ones pocket. Stomp master The imp lifted a foot, which was now enormous by imp standards. It came down fast, but not fast enough. The master had raised his arms, squeaked something in an ancient arcane language, and launched a spell. A spell that streaked upwards at the foot, a spell that impacted in a puff of smoke and feathers. The intended impact of imp on Little person never came. What did come was the impact of chicken on floor. Chicken with about three quarters of imp attached. Before Ghrok could adjust, the chicken clucked loudly and lurched forward, dragging the rest of the unfortunate chicken-legged imp down to the floor. The imp wasnt strong enough to drag it forward, and after a brief struggle it managed to get back up again. Something stuck to the back of its head. The imp brought a paw up against it and pulled it away. Red, sticky. With a shred of a colourful robe. It hadnt been a stomp, but it was good enough. Master was stomped in a way. The imp shrugged. No more master, no more serving eating was next then. Carefully it limped towards the stairs, one leg clucking with every step.




After a few minutes of embarrassed limping past all the masters other servants the imp reached the door. They didnt know yet, and it wasnt about to tell them. Some of them genuinely liked master, and it didnt know what theyd do. No. Now life was just eating and sleeping. Eating first. And eating would be easy now. It still had the ashtray. Carefully he pulled it from its loincloth, gently rubbing it. Almost immediately the jinn burst forth again with the familiar cackle. Master? You needed something?




Ghrok smiled and nodded enthusiastically. I wish food lots of food




The jinn nodded, grinning as always. Lots of food? I can do that. What kind?




Always maggots I wish maggots, heap of maggots, great big heap of maggots!




The jinn smiled broadly and nodded again, twiddling it thumbs. Very well then, your third wish ends our contract enjoy And with that, it was gone, and so was the ashtray in the imps hand. The creature stared at its empty paw, completely puzzled, completely oblivious to the fact that all around it, the city held its collective breath, watching the large indistinguishable mass of white writhing things loom up like a tidal wave, almost blocking out the sun as it reached its apex. Then gravity took hold, and it started toppling forward.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The God Wars II - Part 1 (originally ran February 1st, 2009)




The God Wars. A cataclysmic event that spanned an entire era of Runescape history. Four millenia of brutal fighting that left the world a withered husk of its former self. The beginning of the wars came when the Mahjarrat Zamorak beat the god Zaros in single combat, essentially usurping his position as god. Sensing their opportunity other gods lashed out, hoping to catch Zamorak off guard before he could consolidate his power to seize total control of Gielenor. Unfortunately Zamorak was ready for them, and what followed was four millenia of bloodshed that didn't end until Guthix himself awoke from his slumber.




Nowadays the God Wars are mostly forgotten. A select few still hold knowledge of the event, but they are by far the minority. The archaeologists seem to have no real interest in the Third Age beyond the gathering of knowledge. The church of Saradomin has cowed the general population, with seemingly only the highest ranking officials being aware of the full extent of the conflict. The guardians of Armadyl have gone largely underground. Goblins seem largely unaware of their role in the wars beyond serving their "Great High War God".




But despite the Edicts of Guthix that ended the God Wars, the gods still continue to manipulate life in Gielinor. Each god seems to have staked out claims to various territories and peoples. As proven by the events of Shadow of the Storm however, the Edicts of Guthix are no longer as binding as they once were. The barrier of the River Salve is waning. Mages loyal to Zamorak have repeatedly attempted to bring new, powerful demons back into the realm. The guardians of Armadyl have to struggle to hang onto the last remnants of their power. The influence of the Kharidian desert gods seems to be spreading. There is turmoil brewing beneath the (mostly) peaceful facade of Gielinor.




So let's assume that tomorrow the first blow is struck, and the Edicts of Guthix go out the window. The gods come out fighting, mobilizing their forces, tapping into their resources and digging into their trenches. Armies will need to be mobilized, fed and armed. Who will step into the fray? What will they bring to the fight? How will they be looking to secure their total domination? What role will those groups that seem to hold no divine allegiance play?




The Saradomist forces seem to hold an impressive amount of territory. The kingdoms of Misthalin and Asgarnia and the duchy of Lumbridge are firmly under their control, and while their hold on the kingdom of Kandarin isn't nearly as strong as they like to think they do seem to have some loyal outposts in the west. Each of their cities has a standing militia that is well supplied and armed, and they have a number of knightly orders throughout Gielinor. Their presence in the city of Ardougne, besides the aforementioned knights, includes paladins and heroes. However, their loyalties will be split between their king and their god and any Saradomist general would be a fool to place blind faith in their loyal participation in the conflict.




Their resources are bountiful. They hold the verdant farmlands surrounding Lumbridge, Draynor and Falador that produce plenty of wheat and vegetables. They have access to mines south of Lumbridge, inside the Barbarian Village, south of Varrock, north of Rimmington and south of Port Sarim. However, the most productive mines under Ice Mountain and in the mining guild are under dwarven control, and they have historically been highly protective of their treasured ores. One of their biggest advantages is their control of the production of runestones. Several figures that appear to be loyal to Saradomin hold the knowledge of access to the rune essence mines and most of the minor altars lie firmly within their territory. This means that the magical edge appears to be firmly on the Saradomist side.




Those loyal to Zamorak hold several territories. In the east, Morytania is home to werewolves, vampyres, ghasts and various powerful nasties. In the north the wilderness is now mostly desolate, but scattered across the wilderness there are still demons, chaos dwarves and several human groups that appear to be loyal to Zamorak. In the west, King Lathas of Ardougne has proven more than willing to collaborate with the forces of Zamorak to expand his kingdom. Beyond the mountains lies the Elven city of Priffdinas. Although they once worshiped the goddess Seren, the crystal city is currently under control of Lord Iowerth, leader of the Iowerth clan, who has pledged his allegiance to the god of chaos. At a moment's notice his elven armies, armed to the teeth with their deadly crystal weapons, could come streaming from over and under the mountains to help consolidate King Lathas' grip on Kandarin. In the west also lies Port Khazard. With a sizable standing army and a port that, along with Port Phasmatys, would allow the forces of chaos to spread out quickly across the oceans, Port Khazard could easily be considered one of Zamorak's most important strategic strongholds.




Developing a solid stream of resources doesn't seem nearly as important for Zamorak's forces. His non-human soldiers are generally carnivorous, happily feasting on their fallen opponents. They even appear to be farming large groups of humans in the city of Meiyerditch. The kingdom of Kandarin has several farms to feed their human troups, as well as some of the most bountiful fishing areas in all of Gielinor (Piscatoris, the fishing guild, the Khazard trawlers). The claws, teeth, [bleep]es and other appendages of Zamorak's non-human forces are often deadly enough to get the job done. The elves can arm themselves with powerful crystal weapons. The metal for any weapons wielded by the forces of chaos will mostly be coming from the various mines in the wilderness. This includes runite ore, which, when combined with the constant flow of coal from the coal trucks and the general Zamorakian attitude towards slave labour, could provide Zamorak's human forces with a large amount of runite weapons. The monks of Zamorak have recently managed to gain knowledge of access to rune essence, and through the abyss they can churn out large amounts of runes of their own.




The third, and until recently mostly unknown, participant is Bandos, affectionally called the Big High War God by his followers. He is the only god to hold no human forces at all. However, his armies easily hold the highest numbers. Goblins, hobgoblins, various species of giants, several different kinds of ogres, orks, trolls and cyclopes. These species are scattered all over Gielinor, which is a considerable weakness. The goblins hold several enclaves throughout the known world. Hobgoblins have gone mostly underground, along with the giants. Ogres are a little more concentrated, holding large stretches of territory south of Yanille. The trolls can come pouring down their mountain strongholds at a moment's notice. Cyclopes and orks are all but gone from the world. This means that when Bandos goes to war, his first priority should be to gain a defendable foothold in enemy territory. If the war god's forces can't be unified fast enough, various other gods can easily pick off his smaller settlements and leave the larger ones isolated to the point where their position becomes almost indefendable. However, due to the primitive nature of his forces they are highly mobile, which means that amassing a sizable army in a central point could be a very viable strategy, if they are mobilized fast enough.




Another advantage of the primitive nature of Bandos' forces is that they are relatively low maintenance. Their weapons usually consist of crude wooden clubs and makeshift spears, if they even use any weapons at all. Their diet seems to be "anything that holds still long enough". This means that the armies of Bandos can be fed with pretty much anything and are therefor not nearly as dependent on holding large amounts of farmland as the forces of the other gods are.




Armadyl, the fourth participant in the first god wars, is, at this point in time, without a doubt the weakest of the four gods when it comes to sheer martial strength. The Aviantese and Aviansie, highly mobile shock troops, are now all but extinct. The human forces that pledge their allegiance to the god of purity are few in number. The Guardians of Armadyl recently found themselves under a full out attack that left their numbers all but decimated. They are a mostly underground organization that concern themselves with little more than keeping the Staff of Armadyl safe. While they could survive as an underground organization, open participation in the conflict would be suicidal.




However, since the days of the God Wars, various other gods have made their appearance on Gielinor. There is also a number of groups that seem to hold no divine allegiance yet hold enough power to make a significant difference in the tides of war. Check back in two weeks for an analisys on dwarves, desert gods, gnomes, and many other neutral groups that could have a huge influence.

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The God Wars II - Part 2 (originally ran February 8th, 2009)




Last week, in part one of this article, I explored the possibility of a second God Wars, and the role the followers of the four gods that inhabit Gielinor today would play in it. However, since the days of the God Wars, various other gods have made their appearance on Gielinor. There is also a number of groups that seem to hold no divine allegiance yet hold enough power to make a significant difference in the tides of war.




The Fremmenik tribes have carved out their own existence in the rocky wastes to the north of Kandarin. Their territory is fairly isolated, cut off by the sea on two sides and mountains on the third. Their resources are fairly limited. Their main food is the fish they catch in the seas, their main export consists of the Fremmenik helmets and other equipment that only the Fremmenik blacksmiths know how to forge. Their position however, is all but safe. The mountain that forms the eastern border of their territory is swarming with the trolls that make up a major part of Bandos' forces. In the southern kingdom of Kandarin the Zamorakian forces will take any chance they get to expand. The Fremmenik people will not go down quietly however, as they are a nation of proud warriors who will defend their home to the very end. Unfortunately this pride has also lead to an isolationistic attitude that could cost them in the long term. If they do get desperate enough to ask a god for help, it's all but certain that those gods will even listen, and that the Fremmenik are willing to pay the full price of divine intervention. However, if they do decide to rally under the banner of any one god, they will be a powerful asset on the battlefield.




The dwarves' participation in the last God Wars was limited to getting the hell off the surface of Gielinor and walling themselves in as deeply as possible. While the dwarves could easily abandon their strongholds under White Wolf and Snowy Mountain to seek the safety of Kandarin, this might not be the safest option for the dwarves. Many of their mines are accessed to territory that is controlled by one deity or another, and they will be called upon to fork over the goods sooner or later. Knowing the nature of certain gods, this calling upon may be done rather forcefully.




The city of Keldagrim, the main dwarven stronghold in Gielinor, could easily be isolated from the outside world by collapsing the various tunnels that lead into the city. Their precious blast furnace, capable of churning out metal bars faster and with less fuel than any regular furnace ever could, might be too tempting a target, motivating some very determined divine forces to dig through the dwarven defences in search of control for that facility. If the dwarves do call on divine help to protect their mines, the dwarven warriors and metalworks that will be asked in return will surely make a difference in the flow of war.




In the south-eastern Kharidian desert, the peoples' spiritual needs are fulfilled by a wholly different group of gods. The Kharidian pantheon stands completely independent from the gods that control the rest of Gielinor, and are generally much too busy fighting amongst themselves to concern themselves with the larger world. Furthermore, it seems that the sands of the south offer very little of any interest. There are a handful of mines, but other than that most of the area seems to consist of sandy wasteland. If the desert pantheon does become involved in the war however, they could bring in quite a few nasty surprises. Besides the mummies, scorpions, wild camels, Menaphite thugs and Bedannin tribes that inhabit the desert, there is also the constant thread of Kalphites. The tunnels of the hive stretch far, so far in fact that they stand in almost direct contact with Lumbridge castle and the underground city of Dorgesh-Khaan. There would be no end to the carnage if the toxic Kalphite soldiers come pouring into the streets of Lumbridge.




The gnomes, though diminutive in size, make for fierce warriors possess perhaps the most powerful cavalry of all of Gielinor. From the backs of their terrorbirds and war tortoises their warriors, rangers and mages have proven to be more than a match for invading humans. They are also the only faction to maintain an active air force. From their Grand Tree they can launch powerful gliders that have an action radius that covers most of Gielinor. The mobility of their forces is further boosted by their abilities to cross the world at a moments' notice through the spirit trees.




While the gnomes might wish to isolate themselves from the world like the dwarves, their Grand Tree is not nearly as easily sealed off as the dwarven mines. Their two main settlements, the Grand Tree and the Tree Gnome Village, are both surrounded on four sides by the forces of Zamorak. They have had skirmishes with human forces in the past, most notably with the army of General Khazard. There are even elements within the Gnomish community that would actively seek war with the humans around them. These forces are far more unpredictable than your regular garden variety gnomes (editor's note: the author was beaten severely for this pun). While they are rumoured to hold a Zamorakian allegiance very little is known about their loyalties and long term goals beyond destroying all humans.




The pirates of Runescape seem to hold no divine allegiance at all. Their only loyalty is to their wallets. Of course war can be a very profitable business. Whether it's smuggling weapons and supplies or capturing ships loaded with riches to fuel the war effort, pirates will have plenty of opportunities to exploit a global divine conflict for personal gain. One major advantage they seem to have is that all their major ports, such as Brimhaven and Moss'le Harmless, are fairly isolated from any potential battlegrounds, thus giving them plenty of room to retreat and catch their breath if the heat of battle becomes too much for them. Furthermore the pirate fleet seems far superior to anything the gods can put out to sea. This means that, for a while at least, pirates will be free to do as they please.




However, the greed that defines pirates can also be their downfall. To get ahead in the world pirates are willing to make a deal with pretty much anyone, including but not limited to the devil. This is evidenced by the presence of the cursed zombie pirates that roam the seas of Gielinor to this day. Because of their lust for gold pirates may be willing to sacrifice a little independence in exchange for capital gain, but very few mortals realize that there's no such thing as sacrificing 'a little' independence when you're dealing with the gods.




The elves that are still loyal to the Crystal Goddess find themselves in a pretty much indefensible positions. Those outside the mighty Iowerth clan are already hunted by their Zamorakian kin, and the constant pressure they are under seems to have completely eliminated their hope of founding a permanent settlement. They are surrounded on all sides, with little hope to escape except for the small port the humans have established in the far south western corner of their lands. If any god could add those loyal to Seren to their forces they would find that the elves, despite the fact that they have been living nomadic lives for the past few centuries, still make fearsome warriors, rangers and mages.




All these paragraphs are of course nothing but speculation, educated guesses at what might happen if the god wars break out. There is of course one group I haven't discussed yet. You. The adventurer that roams the land in search of fame and riches. Of course each adventurer will choose their own path through the conflict, whether it's joining forces with one of the four gods, trying to stay with one of the independent factions or remaining entirely neutral. Whatever choice we make, when the second God Wars break out all we can really do is strap in, brace for impact and pray to the gods that we have made the right choice.

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Mass Bannings - Damned if they Do... (originally ran February 8th, 2009)




Rule four of the rules of conduct, forbids players to use any glitches or bugs in the game software to gain an unfair advantage, is a rule that pretty much any MMORPG has. It's a necessary part of running an online game to make sure that players do not gain an unfair advantage just because they happened to be at the right place at the right time.




In RuneScape's relatively long (for MMO standards) history, there have been a few incidents of bug abuse that are remembered for their enormous impact on the game. I witnessed in first person the absolute chaos that was caused when a player found a way to duplicate items through the trade window and passed that secret on to a few friends. Within hours RuneScape was flooded with thousands of duplicated party hats, christmas crackers, dragon square shields and dragon medium helmets. Another famous incident was the Falador Massacre, where an innocent house party ended in a slaughter. Anyone wearing anything worth more than a pair of leather gloves was cut to shreds. Other incidents include a brief period of time where players could get infinite amulets of glory by taking down the mounted amulet in a friend's house, and, most recently, the glitched penguin that allowed players to rack up hundreds of penguin points.




Obviously bug abuse needs to be dealt with swiftly. The solution is two part: Fix the broken code and deal with the players who exploited it. The first part is simple. Isolate the broken code, rewrite it and roll it out across the servers. Jagex has done this dozens of times over the last few years. The complicated part is what to do with the players who broke the rules.




The problem with rule 4 is that it's rarely violated by just one person. One person finds a way to quickly wring out a few points of XP or some valuables out of a piece of poorly tested code, tells a friend, who tells their friends, who post it on their clan forum... you get the point. This means that there are potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of rule breakers that will have to be punished.




To do this, Jagex has several options. First of all they can sit back and do nothing. This however, is never the right solution, because it sends a negative message to both the rule breakers by letting them know they can get away with it, and to the regular players who will cheated about the fact that they are essentially being punished for following the rules, losing out on experience and money because they accept the terms dictated to them by Jagex.




Then, on the other end of the spectrum there's the nuclear option: The rollback. What this means is that the state of the game gets reverted to the latest backup made before the exploited bug entered the game. This can be anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Of course, this should be used only in the very worst case scenario. This option is unique because it affects all players equally. Both the player that just gained 99 in their favourite skill and the player that got a Visage drop after camping at the Skeletal Wyverns for the past two weeks will lose all their hard work. For this reason, Jagex has never used a rollback to fight bug abuse, no matter how absolutely massive the impact was.




Then there's the third option. Banning the offenders. Like I said before, the problem with violations of rule 4 is that it's often done en masse. This means that the good people at Jagex will either have to pick through the game logs to manually identify the offenders or just ban everyone that was anywhere near the location where the offense was taking place. Contrary to popular belief, the customer support staff at Jagex is not made up of a pack of chimpanzees that they abducted from a medical lab, shaved and stuck in front of a desk (they have been released to the care of professionals, except for the ones that handle the non-member cases). This has been shown in the excellent handling of the recent penguin bug abusers.




Of course, even as the Jagex moderation team was racing to take a look at each individual banned account, RuneScape players did what they do best: They whined and cried. This was their fearful reflex to the fact that they could no longer access their account after breaking the rules, something which is not entirely uncommon in any MMO game. Frightened they huddled on the various forums, spouting off endless tirades of how unfair it was that they got banned for for breaking the rules just a little bit. While they were complaining, Jagex went to work, producing results within two to three hours.




These are the facts as given out by Jagex:




* 159 players have been banned permanently. These players all have spotted the glitched penguin at least 250 times.




* A larger group of players has been temporarily banned. Although numbers suggest that they clearly knew that they were repeatedly exploiting a bug, their gains were not, in the words of Jagex, 'obscene'.




* The rest of the players that were temporarily banned have had their bans lifted.




All the people that were part of the mass banning but were found to be innocent upon closer inspection not only had their accounts unbanned within two or three hours, but actually received a month of membership credit to make up for the missed playtime. So after the initial mass banning and the panic that it caused, it all turned out to be wasted energy. While players were running around like headless chickens Jagex calmly assessed the situation, set the standards by which the banned players would be judged, and sorted out all the cases individually within three hours. After Jagex announced the results of their efforts, people whined some more.




This is of course to be expected, as for a significant portion of the RuneScape community complaining is the natural response to anything Jagex does. This is why it sucks to be Jagex: No matter what you do, there will always be people who know better. A quest is too easy or too hard. A new weapon is too powerful or not powerful enough. And, in this case, a punishment is too harsh or not harsh enough.




Maybe, just maybe, after over seven years of experience running this game, it is time we start to trust Jagex. Obviously they have made their mistakes in the past. But the fact remains that they are still running the second most popular MMORPG out there. This achievement wouldn't have been reached if the good people at Jagex HQ didn't know what they were doing at least most of the time. The problem is, they often find themselves in no-win situations, like mass violations of the fourth rule. Still, I think that Jagex has done more than enough in the past week to show us that they do know how to deal with bug abuse problems, should they arise. They handled swiftly and openly, while being as open as they could realistically be towards the players. Maybe it's time for those players that still found time to complain that Jagex will never be able to please everyone, and is not in the business of pleasing everyone. They run their MMO to the best of their ability, and judging from the membership numbers their ability to run an MMO is pretty damn impressive.

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How Scams Changed Our World (Just A Little) - originally ran February 15th, 2009




As long as there is an economy, people will try to cheat others out of their money to make a few quick GP without doing any actual work. This is why every MMO, including Runescape, has rules against this sort of behaviour. Of course these rules are rarely a deterrent, and there will always be people that think they can beat the system. As new scams become popular, Jagex takes the appropriate measures to deal with them. Some of these anti-scam measures have ended up being a part of the daily Runescape experience.




An early example of this is the unique look of Dragon items, compared to similar items made of other metals. When the dragon longsword and battleaxe were first introduced, their inventory sprites were, like all other metal items at that point, simple palette swaps of older sprites. This was exploited by people who would offer a sword or axe for trade, then trade the dark red coloured dragon item for a brown coloured bronze item at the very last moment. To put an end to this the weapons were given distinct sprites that made it easy to tell the difference between dragon and bronze. Of course graphical limitations still meant that dragon items still looked like dark red versions of normal items, but when RS2 came around their ingame appearance was given a more distinct look.




Another Runescape Classic classic abused the fact that the width of an item slot allows for stacks of up to seven digits before the number starts flowing over into the next slot. This was exploited by a few 'clever' players who used a combination of two stackable items: coins and needles. They would, for example, offer ten million GP for a party hat, then offer one million GP and a single needle. Because the inventory sprite of the needle was very thin and because the trade window was partially transparant, the needle would be virtually invisible and it would look like the player was offering 10.000.001 GP. To put an end to this Jagex implemented the trade confirmation screen that would clearly list the items being transferred, thus exposing the fact that you were about to receive one million GP and a needle in stead of the expected ten million.




Something that persisted well into RS2, even with the presence of the confirmation screen, was players with quick fingers swapping items at the last second for something cheaper that was very similar both in appearance and in text in the confirmation screen. For example, 100k GP would be swapped for 1004 GP, yew logs would become regular logs at the last second and silver ore was replaced by tin ore. The first measure taken against this was adding colour to the number indicating the size of the stack (white for anything up to 99.999, cyan for anything up to 9.999.999 and green for anything higher than that). Quick swaps became all but impossible to do when Jagex added an angrily flashing red exclamation point to the trade screen that would appear whenever a change was made, and was truly stamped out once and for all with the implementation of balanced trades.




For as long as the game has been around people have been offering their skills to help others process raw materials. Doing this would give them the XP reward and their 'client' the finished product. This was most commonly done with gemstones to raise the crafting skill, but was also done with comparable skills, such as smithing and crafting. However, there was an inherent danger to this scheme as there was nothing to stop the other player from simply walking away with the raw materials. An interesting side note regarding gems is that since the introduction of the Grand Exchange the price of uncut gems compared to their cut counterparts has risen considerably. Because of this Jagex was forced to change the examine text of uncut gems, which had been the same since the start of the game, from the classic "This would be worth more cut." to the simple "An uncut X".




All this was ended with the introduction of the Assist System on November fifth, 2007. This allowed players to 'borrow' the skills of another player and produce whatever goods they needed (with a few exceptions, such as raw materials, quest items and items that have a quest requirement). In return, the assisting player would receive all XP. This meant that players could now turn their raw materials into finished products without the items ever leaving their inventory.




Related to the previous scam are the herb scams. For a very long time all herb drops from members would simply be an unidentified herb, with no way of telling what it actually was unless you had a herblore level high enough to identify it. These levels were similar to the levels needed to clean herbs today. Players would commonly identify whatever herbs they could with their herblore level, then offer everything they could not use for trade, commonly using phrases such as: "Selling unidentified herbs, avantoe and up.". Players would know that Avantoe requires level 48 herblore to identify and thus that the herbs they'd be buying would be relatively high level herbs such as torstol, lantadyme and dwarf weed. The problem here was that each unidentified herb still registered as a separate item, and thus would get its own bank slot. This meant that a player could simply take one herb from each stack and identify it, thus being able to offer a whole stack of unidentified guam leaves and marrentills while passing them off as potentially being more than they really were. Of course, it was also common for people to offer to identify herbs, which, like the aforementioned gems, had the risk of the other player simply walking away with them.




To end the herb scams and to make trading herbs easier, unidentified herbs were replaced with grimy herbs on September tenth, 2007 as part of a larger update to the herblore skills. Players would now know what kind of herb they were holding from the moment it was dropped, and players could no longer pass off unidentified herbs offering false potential.




There are of course many more major and minor scams which affected the game in smaller ways after being fixed. Jagex staff impersonation has led to a small gold crown being added in front of all usernames used by Jagex staff. The scam of getting a player to drop an item in your house, then quickly expelling them, has led to a warning message being shown whenever you try to drop something in another player's house. As players continue to find new ways to scam, new fixes will be introduced to combat those scams. This might sound trivial, but like in Runescape, the real world is filled with things that were, directly or indirectly, implemented to protect people and help enforce the rules. Everything from door locks to zebra crossings falls under this category. While comparable measures in Runescape aren't quite as drastic, they are still quite present at times.

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A Night with TET (ran February 22nd, 2009)




On Saturday, February twenty-first, a group of adventurers gathered around Edgeville. Like most people gathering at this place they were quite literally dressed to kill. Unlike most groups of bloodthirsty adventurers though, this group had an air of general giddiness about it. They were not just another band of killers-for-treasure, but also friends, brought together under the guidance of the Tip.It Events Team.




This night's event was dedicated to killing big stuff, one of the favourite activities of the team. Our target would be the King Black Dragon, the fearsome three-headed beast that lurked deep inside the wilderness. While these days its reputation as a fearsome devourer of men (and women of course) has diminished somewhat, it does not even hold the status of most powerful dragon anymore, it was still a worthy foe.




At level 72 I was definitely one of the weaker players, but I did not came unprepared. As usual my method of attack would be ranging, so I came wearing all the obvious choices: Black dragonhide armour, an archer helmet, Ava's Accumulator, an amulet of glory, a rune crossbow with adamant bolts and of course an anti-dragon shield. My inventory was filled with the usual array of colourful potions and sharks and a teleport tablet to bail out in case of emergency. Of course, even without this quick escape death would hardly be an issue, as we had plenty of holier-than-thou enough players who could bless the graves of the fallen.




Our leader for tonight would be TET-veteran Evil_mumm_ra, who would lead the expedition towards the King Black Dragon's lair. I did not envy his task, but as always he took it upon him graciously and with the authority necessary to keep a group of our size in check. The difficulty of herding dozens of players to a single place became evident quickly, as every time the ancient magicks took us to a random place within the wilderness we lost more than a handful of players who in their bloodlust ran off the platform before we could move on.




Once the main group had made its way inside the King Black Dragon's lair, the party continued to be a victim of its own success. With dozens of players jockeying for position, it became almost impossible for people to see what was actually going on. The King Black Dragon probably didn't know what hit it either, as it never seemed to last for more than ten seconds within its initial spawning.




From that point on the party took on an atmosphere of controlled chaos. People were constantly scurrying about trying to find their loot and trying to find their place in the square. There was yelling, much yelling, at people who didn't move into the right place, at people who yelled at people who didn't move into the right place, at people who got a disproportionate amount of loot and at people who yelled at people who got loot. There was plenty of other randomness, such as the lone attendee in the chicken suit (I guess the idea of dragon bait was worth exploring) and the person who released an army of mechanical dolls on the unsuspecting crowd.




A special round of applause here should go out to Evil_mumm_ra, who did his very best to keep the entire group together even though people were complaining constantly about the fact that there didn't seem to be enough loot to go around, and that the dragon was often dying too fast for them to get their shots in. It was with remarkable patience and authority that he kept the party on track, and it was only because of his hard work that the party lasted as long as it did, even after he left.




Of course these events are rarely attended for its profits. With 100 yew logs and 6 Toadflax from the random events that always seem to haunt TET parties I ended up making more money than most. Of course we still saw plenty of nice drops. Rune longs especially seemed to drop by the armful, and everybody's patience seemed to be rewarded eventually (even if some got rewarded more thoroughly than others). When the second kill of the night already yielded a Dragon medium helm, people seemed to expect the very impossible, but despite various chants and spammed emotes, over fifteen hours of dragon slaying and over 550 confirmed kills yielded no visage.




Did I mention the party went a bit long? Apparently I didn't. I had left the party at 1am local time, having spent nearly three hours killing the three-headed menace. When I woke up after eight hours of deep sleep the first thing Skype told me was that the party was still going. Slightly frazzled I hurried back into the wilderness to find that the party was indeed still going strong. From the original group of about sixty, fifteen or so diehards were still holding strong. Of course the smaller group meant that the dragon would take a little longer to die and people were going through their food a little bit faster, but even though fatigue had begun claiming its victims we were still having fun. There was the occasional random-napping and one or two people actually died, but the party had gone all through the night and well into the wee (and not so wee) hours of various timezones.




It might be corny to say that time flies when you're having fun, but in the case of tonight's party it was most certainly true, and fun is what TET does best. While this party wasn't as elaborate as some of their past celebrations, it definitely shattered the record for longest party ever held. Of course we didn't get visages, most of us didn't even cut a profit, but we all had fun, and in a game that can be so much like work it's not even funny, isn't that the most important thing?

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A Day on the Beat with the P.Q.R.S. (Originally ran March 1st, 2009)




It was early in the day, much too early for me to be in any coherent state of mind, but somehow I had managed to drag myself out of bed. Still, I was not only standing but actually packed up for a long trip. Yesterday I had gotten the message I had been waiting for for weeks: I would be going on patrol with one of the most secretive law enforcement agencies in all of Gielenor, the Penguin Query and Reconnaissance Squad. As I desperately tried to warm myself over a cup of tea my contact walked in. He was a lanky adventurer, surprisingly lightly dressed. I bought him tea and listened to his story as we waited for the rest of the group to check in.




"The P.Q.R.S. is an elite organization. Not just anyone can join..." he paused, winked, and continued, "well, anyone can join really, but not just anyone can do what we do. We're the only thing standing between freedom and the tyranny of the codbreaths." He punctuated the last word by spitting on the ground. "You mean penguins?" "Of course. You've gone north with our leader, Larry, you've seen what they're capable of. Now they have spies all over the land, which is why we have to keep track of them. They try to hide, see? Every week somewhere else! But we're onto them!"




As I was about to ask what exactly they were onto my companion suddenly looked up, exclaiming that "they", which I assumed meant the codbreathing penguins, had moved. I could barely keep up with him as we dashed off to Larry, the frizzled leader of the P.Q.R.S.. I had of course met Larry before. I had accompanied him to the far north where we observed the penguins' peculiar behaviour and where I had even learned their secret handshake. I listened intently as he gave his briefing on the known whereabouts of ten penguin spies. My companion smiled grimly. "You got your water skins, rookie? Then we're off!"




I followed him through the spirit tree and fairy ring network until we were standing in the middle of the scorching Kharidian desert. With penguins reported in both Uzer and Nardah and a fairy ring right between them, it would be as good a place to start as any. We ran north along the river Elid as reports kept flowing in from as far east as this sandy nightmare and as far west as the elven territories. I knew that those lands lay outside my reach, but I would do what I could on this assignment. I was just explained how penguins spying in the desert preferred to disguise themselves as cacti, when we suddenly skidded to a halt so suddenly that I almost stumbled straight into my companion's spirit terrorbird.




I followed his extended finger. Through the shimmering desert air I could vaguely make out a row of small, round cacti. My remark that I couldn't see anything out of the ordinary earned me a menacing look so I tried to focus. When I suddenly saw one of the cacti move towards the bridge. My companion smiled and nodded, and we noted down the time and location where we spotted the penguin before moving on.




Our next target would be in Nardah, and luckily for us P.Q.R.S. members had managed to isolate it. We quickly noted down its location before heading off again. Our next stop would be the haunted woods between Canafis and Port Phasmatys. As we headed there reports kept flowing in of penguin spotters all over the world, and I realized how truly vast this underground network of penguin hunters is. With the information they provided we soon collected the locations of penguins in the desert, Mort Myre, Varrock, Burthorpe, Neitiznot, The Wilderness and the Feldip Hills.




As we ran the world over I could tell that my companion was warming up to me, and at one point he even trusted me to trap one of the penguin spies between two trees. Of course my attempts to approach it while whistling innocently and looking inconspicuously failed spectacularly, but we didn't let it get our spirits down. It wasn't until my companion announced that we'd be making a stop at the elf lands that I had to admit defeat. When I explained that I didn't have the agility levels to survive the elven lands he let out an exasperated sigh. After a moment of quick debate with other field agents he announced, with a sigh that was seeping with frustration, that it was time I went back to Larry.




We were to report our findings to Larry, and claim our rewards. This confused me, as I thought that the P.Q.R.S. worked to protect Gielinor against the black and white threat out of conscience, not for material gain. When I told my companion as much he laughed harshly. "Of course we don't work pro bono. Larry gives us financial compensation for supplies we use while searching for the codbreaths and experience in various skills so that we may be able to look for them further afield than before. Which reminds me, I suggest that you do something about that pitiful agility of yours."




I decided not to press the matter and simply follow my companion back to Varrock through teleportation, then to Ardougne through the Spirit Tree that had been planted there. Once there we headed east to the Ardougne Zoo to meet Larry, the leader of the P.Q.R.S.. He greeted us with all his usual paranoid nervousness, and my report on the nine penguins I had seen moving about that day only seemed to panic him further. He told me with a shaky voice that I had thirteen points that I could spend on either experience or money. At my companion's suggestion I used the money to become more experienced in agility, and to my surprise I instantly felt myself becoming more agile.




At that point my companion had already left for the elven lands to find and report the location of the final penguin, leaving me with the dozens of other P.Q.R.S. members that were there to report their findings. I listened to their conversations a little longer, and while I got the impression that there were very few agents that cared nearly as much about the safety of Gielinor as they cared about Larry's money and training. Still, I realized that the P.Q.R.S. fulfilled, in its own twisted way, a very valuable public service, and to my surprise I already found myself planning next week's expedition.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The Scientific Scaper (originally ran March 15th, 2009)




A scientific Scaper is an efficient Scaper. This might sound like a horrible cliché, but it is... well, it is scientifically proven. What this means is that a Runescape player that plans their game time out with the help of the scientific method will end up training faster and better. They will know where to train, how to train, and what to train on. The scientific method consists, in its most basic form, of three steps: Forming the hypothesis, testing the hypothesis and adjusting the hypothesis.




The first step is usually also the easiest. Just say something that you think is true about what you're researching. "The Yew trees in Edgeville offer the fastest training experience". "Hellhounds will drop more clue scrolls than blue dragons". "The attack bonus from a rune defender is worth the defense I lose from not using a shield". All these are valid scientific hypotheses. The main criteria for a scientific hypothesis is that it's falsifiable: that through observations it can be proven to be either true or false. These observations form the testing phase, and this usually involves little more than going out and doing it. This might sound easy, but it rarely is. To get accurate results there are several factors that have to be taken into account.




The most important thing to take care of is that every test is carried out under conditions that are as identical as possible. For example, if you compare training locations you should always make sure that your comparison is made during similar hours and on servers in similar locations. After all, the amount of players online varies not only depending on the time of day, but also on the day of the week. Testing one location on four in the afternoon on Tuesday and another location on nine in the evening on Saturday will produce horribly skewed results.




Furthermore, it's important to get a proper sample size. After all, a huge part of the game is based on chance. If you get a clue scroll after killing thirteen blue dragons and another clue scroll after killing seventy hellhounds, it's easy to jump to the conclusion that blue dragons drop clue scrolls at a five times higher rate than hellhounds. However, if you test this five, ten or fifty times, you'll wind up with an average drop rate that gets more and more accurate the more tests you run. Increased sample size also helps reduce the influence of flukes on your observations. If you lose six minutes to distractions, you'll get about ten percent less experience for that hour. However, if you spend the next four hours of testing without distractions, the six minutes of distraction go from being a ten percent reduction in output to a mere two percent.




You will of course also need to determine what secondary factors are important to you. Until now, my examples have mostly revolved around time and experience. However, one thing that has to be taken into account in several ways is money. Training skills that revolve around producing raw materials will generally have a net profit while skills that revolve around producing finished products will have a net loss. Of course, this is just looking at skills individually, but no skill in Runescape stands alone. For example, let's go with woodcutting and fletching, training both skills from level 70 to level 80 using the logs from the former to train the latter. For the sake of this article, let's state our hypothesis here: "When factoring in the logs cut to gain the ten woodcutting levels, making unstrung yew longbows is the best option."




Of course, we're hitting a slight snag here: We haven't actually defined what 'best' is. Do we go for the fastest method, the cheapest method, or the most cost efficient method? For this example, we'll go with cost effective. This means there are two parts to our equation: the cost in GP and the time it will take to train. The time and cost for the first part of the experiment (cutting the yew logs for 10 woodcutting levels) are the same no matter what option we choose, but both cost and time change depending on the way we train our fletching. To train your woodcutting skill from level 70 to level 80, you will need to cut 7,134 yews. These yew logs, and the 3,089,022 GP they are worth on the Grand Exchange, will be part of the equation no matter what method we chose.




To train your fletching from level 70 to level 80, you will need to cut 16,646 unstrung yew longbows (8,323 if you also string them). Let's save the possibility of stringing your bows until later. You will need to buy more yew logs; 9,512 to be precise. At the current Grand Exchange price (433 GP) these extra logs will cost 4,118,696 GP.




That seems pretty expensive, so let's try something else. At the aforementioned Grand Exchange price, the yew logs you've cut are worth 3,098,022 GP. Fletching unstrung maple longbows for the ten levels we're aiming for will require 21,433 unstrung maple longbows, and at only 36 GP each you will only have to pay 771588 GP. This would mean that you'd end up with a profit of 2,317,414 GP.




Of course cutting almost 5,000 extra bows, which will cost more time, almost 30% more time to be precise. Now, as our previous calculations have shown, using yew logs has a net cost of 6,436,110 GP (The cost of using yews plus the profit of using maples). Of course, this doesn't automatically mean that maple logs are more effective. To determine whether or not it is, you will have to see whether or not you can make up for the extra cost of using yews in stead of maples in the time you would save by using those maple logs.




Now let's do the whole thing again, this time with bowstrings. Stringing bows gives the same amount of XP as cutting them, so we'd need either 8,323 yew logs and bowstrings or 10,717 maple logs and bowstrings. Let's do the math. Strung yew longbows will require an additional 1,189 yew logs (8,323 required - 7,134 cut) at 433 GP each and 8,323 bowstrings at 180 GP each. This means that the cost of making strung yew longbows for ten fletching levels adds up to (1,189×433)+(8323×180)= 2,012,977 GP. This means that we've already proven that stringing your yew longbows will end up costing you 2,105,719 GP less than grinding out unstrung bows. Switching over to maples, our net result can be calculated like this: 4,118,696-((36+180)*10,717). That's the value of the yew logs you've cut minus the cost of a maple log plus a bowstring times the amount of bows that needs to be produced. It all adds up to a net profit of 1,803,824 GP.




Dizzy yet? Don't worry, we've just reached the final step of the testing phase: Processing the results. Let's put what we have in a table:




Bow Net GP Time


Yew (u) -4118696 1.00


Yew (s) -2012977 1.00


Maple (u) +2317414 1.29


Maple (s) +1803824 1.29




First, a quick note on the time factor. For the sake of maintaining our sanity I've made the assumption that cutting a bow costs as much time as stringing it. Dividing the amount of maple bows by the amount of yew bows therefor gives us a factor that shows us the difference in time used between cutting maple bows and cutting yew bows. Of course if we want to be fully thorough, we'll spend several hours determining how many bows we can cut and strings we can add, on average, per hour.




This time factor will help us determine what the most efficient course of action is. Looking strictly at the price, we can see that unstrung yew longbows are the most expensive option, then strung yew longbows, then strung maple longbows, then unstrung maple longbows. Adding in the time factor adds an extra variable: How much money can you make in the time you save by using the cheapest fast option (strung yew longs) over the cheapest slow option (unstrung maple longs). If the amount of money you can make in the time difference is greater than the amount of money you'd save by using the cheapest slow option over the cheapest fast option, the fast expensive option actually turns out to be the more cost-effective one, and therefor the best one for our hypothesis.




This means we can finally move on to the third step of the scientific method: adjusting the hypothesis based on our findings. Our original hypothesis was: "When factoring in the logs cut to gain the ten woodcutting levels, making unstrung yew longbows is the best option." Now, from what we've already seen unstrung yew longbows can never be the most cost-effective method as strung yew longbows are less than half the cost for the same amount of time. We have learned that either strung yew longbows or unstrung maple longbows are the best option, depending on the amount of money you can make in the time you'd save by choosing yew over maple. Therefor the new hypothesis becomes:




"When factoring in the logs cut to gain the ten woodcutting levels, making unstrung maple longbows is the best option unless you can make 4,330,391 GP in the amount of time you'd save by making strung yew longbows in stead."




That's a mouthful, but it takes in account everything we have calculated in this article. Of course I've left out several factors for the sake of simplicity, but the basic idea is there: We've used the scientific method to determine the most cost-efficient way to gain ten woodcutting and fletching levels. Of course this is just one bit of the Runescape experience where the scientific method can help us out, but the basic principle of making, testing and adjusting your hypothesis could be applied to pretty much any part of your daily Runescape life.

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  • 2 weeks later...

It's Raining Money! (historic article, originally ran March 22nd, 2009)




On October 31st, 2002, my first Runescape character became, for all intents and purposes, wealthy. It was the day of Hallowe'en, and to celebrate Jagex distributed Halloween masks in three different colours. This was done in the same way previous holiday items were introduced to the game: a system message followed by the items appearing in random places on the world map, available for all to pick up on a first come, first serve basis. I myself was lucky enough to pick up about a dozen masks. Had I hung onto them, my character's net worth would probably be in the nine digit range by now. Unfortunately I ended up selling most of my masks on that very first day, trading them in for two sets of full adamant and two sets of full rune. In the end I only kept a single red mask for myself, which to this day is one of my prized possessions.




That same day a year earlier, Jagex had begun the tradition of holiday drops. To celebrate Halowe'en 2001, Jagex spread pumpkins across the land. The very first holiday item could not be worn, only eaten, for an amazing (at the time) 14 hit points worth of healing. This means that on that October day, millions, if not billions, of GP (in today's market) worth of pumpkins were simply eaten. This is a problem that persists to this day, and anyone trading it today would be foolish not to withdraw it in its noted form to prevent themselves from healing 14 of the most expensive HP they've ever healed.




Due to the success of the pumpkin drop, Christmas 2001 would be celebrated with a drop that was inspired by a primarily British Christmas tradition: The Christmas cracker. These crackers closely followed their real-life counterparts: They could be pulled on with another player, with one obtaining a small paper hat and the other obtaining a trinket. The paper hats especially were a hit, as the festive little 'crowns', which were the first holiday items that players could equip, were quickly spread among the player base.




Of course almost every cracker was popped those first few days for a very simple reason: The trinkets obtainable from it were worth far more than the street price of an unpulled cracker. Even as the price of party hats began to rise, the price of crackers took a very long time to rise along with it. The trend of crackers being worth more than the potential contents didn't come about until recent years, when players began to realize how truly rare crackers had become after years of popping, along with those lost to natural causes such as bans and retirements.




Bolstered by the success of pumpkins and Christmas crackers, Jagex decided to add Easter to its list of celebrated holidays with a dropping of easter eggs. These brightly coloured chocolate treats appeared all over the game world on April 20th, 2002. Like pumpkins before them they were little more than rare food, healing 12 HP for whoever ate them. Although I had already created my first account by then, the whole concept of holiday items was lost on me and I wasn't even online that day. I did get one as a gift from a friend later, but unfortunately I gave it to another friend a few weeks later, leaving me empty-handed.




Of course by the time Christmas 2002 rolled around, I was much better prepared. In the previous months I had seen the prices of the masks I had traded away skyrocket, and I had learned what holiday events actually entailed: It was a day where money rained from the sky. While I had started playing well before Easter 2002, I hadn't been online the day easter eggs were dropped and only heard about them later. Finding the Hallowe'en masks was just a coincidence, as the holiday is barely celebrated where I live and I was thus barely aware of it. For Christmas however, I was ready.




It started with selecting the right spot to await the drops. Unfortunately I was not a member at the time, so I visited several potentially empty areas before I found the perfect spot to await the drops: the area between Port Sarim and Rimmington. Of course I wasn't the only one choosing this tactic, and the spirit of the season had apparently taken the day off. Again and again I was verbally berated by other players who didn't want to share their spot. I wasn't scared off however, eventually making off with over two dozen santa hats before my mom turned off the computer for the day (to this day, this is a common problem for a large percentage of Runescape's players). I held onto them tightly for a while, although most were eventually given away or traded. Today I have eight left, which due to the new trade system will probably be stuck on my account forever.




I wasn't the only one realizing the skyrocketing value of holiday items. Jagex had taken notice too, and they weren't pleased. This wasn't entirely unexpected, as these items would only become more and more rare as time went by. This had happened before with other items that were tradeable and no longer obtainable, such as the Disc of Returning and the Half Jug of Wine. However, holiday items were intended to celebrate, not to give players easy access to huge sums of money. To prevent future releases from unhinging the economy even further, Jagex took two very simple measures: players could only pick up one item, and the items could no longer be traded.




When this new policy was first applied to the bunny ear drop of Easter 2003. Players expecting to once again rake in the gold were surprised with a warning message that they only needed one. The response was, as expected, disappointing. While some players appreciated the fact that holiday items were intended for celebration and not profit, a very vocal group of players voiced their disdain extensively. Jagex however was adamant: money would never rain from the sky again. When the scythes were released for Halowe'en 2003, complaints were once again rampant. It would be the last holiday event of Runescape classic. It would take almost 14 months before Jagex once again released a Holiday event, and instead of items simply falling from the sky players would now have to retrieve their new yo-yo at a fixed position. As time went by both events and rewards would become more complex, but money would never again rain from the skies.

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Runescape-related Recipes! (originally ran March 29th, 2009)




Cooking is one of the oldest skills in Runescape. From simple shrimp to perfect pies, the game offers a wide range of dishes for players to cook, and almost every cooking level comes with a new recipe to try out. While pixels taste rather bland, the real-life counterpart of these recipes are quite tasty and surprisingly easy to prepare. This week I'll show you some of my favourite recipes for such Runescape dishes as fish cakes, baked potatoes and apple pie.




A few notes regarding these recipes:




* Always know what you are doing, or work with someone who knows what they are doing. While these recipes are relatively simple, we strongly advice that those of you who aren't adult yet find one to help them.


* All oven temperatures are in Celsius, but I've added Fahrenheit estimates.


* Cook fresh: When at all possible, choose fresh ingredients. Your body deserves only the best.






Baked potatoes:




Baked potatoes are relatively easy and a lot of fun to try various toppings with. To begin with, take as many large (russet) potatoes as you have people to serve. Scrub the potatoes thoroughly and puncture the peel a few times with a fork. Make an x-shaped cut on the top of the potato, going down about halfway through the potato. Place the potatoes with the cut facing up on a sheet of aluminum foil and carefully cover them up. Preheat the oven at 225 degrees Celsius (~420 degrees Fahrenheit). Place the covered potatoes in the center of the oven and heat them up for about 45 minutes. The potatoes are properly cooked when you can stick a fork in with little resistance on all sides. Be very careful handling the potatoes, as they will be extremely hot. Now, as for the toppings, there are many possibilities for variation, and I've listed two here:




Baked potato with cheese




When you've carefully removed the foil from the potatoes, press the cross cut open as far as it will go and spread in the cheese. Although most cheeses will work, I prefer something spicy like a well-aged Gouda. If you're worried that the potato is too dry, place a small amount of butter on top before serving. Add salt and pepper to taste. For variation, you can also add in some fresh chives or a handful of smoked bacon.




Baked potato with mushrooms and onions




In a frying pan, heat up some butter and olive oil in a 1:1 ratio. When it's hot enough add about a cup of mushrooms and half an onion per potato. Glaze the mushrooms and onions until the onions are clear. Place the onions and mushrooms in the cut, then drizzle the liquid over the potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste.




Apple pie




Apple pie is probably one of the most popular recipes out there. It comes in hundreds of variations, all of which are delicious in their own way. The recipe I'm posting here is one of the simplest I know; it's an apple crumble that's perfect for desert.








* 4 large sweet apples


* 225 grams of flour


* 115 grams of butter


* 90 grams of sugar


* 1 tablespoon of cinnamon


* Honey


* 1 pinch of salt




Peel your apples, cut them in thin slices and carefully arrange them on the bottom of an oven dish. Lightly dust the apples with cinnamon, and drizzle some hoeny over it. In a mixing bowl, mix he flour, butter, sugar and salt into a firm crumbly dough. Spread it evenly across the apples. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees celsius (~350 degrees Fahrenheit). Bake the crumble for about 20 minutes at this temperature, until the top is golden brown and dry to the touch.




Fish cakes




This recipe, taken straight from the Recipe for Disaster quest, is by far the most difficult of the three. I've kept it as straightforward as possible, but it's still rather tricky for inexperienced cooks.








* 750 gr. Cod filet


* 2-3 boiled potatoes


* 2 cloves of garlic, minced


* 1 egg


* 3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley


* 2 teaspoons nutmeg


* Salt en freshly ground pepper


* Flour


* Peanut oil




Poach the cod in water or fish broth. Once it's done, cut it up as finely as possible. Mash it up with your boiled potatoes. Whisk your egg and mix it into the potato/cod mixture with the garlic, parsley, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Moisten your hands to press the mixture into six to eight flat, round cakes. Heat up the peanut oil in a frying pan. Cover both sides of the cakes in flour and bake them evenly on all sides until they're golden brown and crispy. Place them on some paper towels to let the excess fat run out. They can be eaten both cold and hot.




So there you have it, three RuneScape related recipes, two rather simple and one a bit more advanced. Of course, cooking isn't an exact science, and you might find slight (or major) variations to these recipes could make them a lot more appetizing. Still, I hope these recipes are enough to convince you to go out there and cook, either for yourself, your family or your friends, and make the world a tastier place to live in.

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