Old School RuneScape: What Makes a New Skill Old School?

A new skill has finally passed the polls in Old School Runescape, but what that new skill will be is still up for debate. Community suggestions are already pouring in, but what makes a skill "Old School" enough to be added to OSRS?

Old School RuneScape: What Makes a New Skill Old SchoolThe poll question “should we add a new skill to OSRS” was recently posed by Jagex and received the most participation of any poll in the history of the game. The answer was yes, by a significant margin. Now the question is, what should that skill be? 

Three new skills have been polled to be added to Old School RuneScape in the past, Artisan, Sailing and Warding. All three have failed to reach the required 75% approval. The complaints of a lot of previous skill proposals have been “this doesn’t fit in OSRS”. So what does make a skill fit in to OSRS? To answer this, I think it is important to break down what makes an OSRS skill.

Existing OSRS Skill Types

Broadly speaking there are 4 different types of skills in OSRS, and they are as follows:

Gathering

These involve collecting resources from the environment in their raw form. The skills that fit into this category are:

  • Mining
  • Fishing
  • Woodcutting
  • Hunter
  • Thieving

These are generally the most simple skills in OSRS and replicating them is fairly easy, all you need is a new type of node and a new resource to gather from that node. An example of a new skill of this type would be divination in RuneScape 3.

Divination involves collecting wisps which can then be used to create special gathering nodes for other skills.

Divination involves collecting wisps which can then be used to create special gathering nodes for other skills.

Production

Skills of this category take raw resources from gathering skills and process them into something else. The skills in this category are:

  • Runecraft
  • Herblore
  • Crafting
  • Fletching
  • Smithing
  • Cooking
  • Farming (although you gather crops, you first have to collect the seeds to grow those crops)

Adding a new skill of this type is quite difficult, as you need to have something to produce using the raw materials that have been gathered. On top of that, the resources that are gathered are already stretched quite thin. Logs from woodcutting for example are already used in 4 other skills, and resources from mining in 3 other skills. 

To add a new skill of this type you would need to either use one of the less utilised resources, like fish, or add a completely new resource which is then used in the new production skill. This would of course require adding another gathering skill to generate that new resource. Warding was polled in 2019 and tried to be both a gathering and a production skill, but players felt the rewards fit better in other existing skills.

Warding was polled in 2019 as a Gathering-production hybrid, unfortunately many players felt the rewards fit better in an already existing skill.

Warding was polled in 2019 as a Gathering-production hybrid, unfortunately many players felt the rewards fit better in an already existing skill.

Support

Skills in this category are either totally standalone, or take existing resources and convert them into bonuses for your account. The skills in this category are:

  • Construction
  • Agility
  • Slayer
  • Firemaking (this one is mostly useless, but it does provide some passive unlocks in the form of the braziers around the game world.)

Skills of this type are usually the most standalone skills, which can make them a good candidate if you want to add a single new skill. The problem is training these skills. You need to either feed resources into the skill, like construction, or have the skill be completely standalone, like agility. 

I don’t know what a new completely standalone skill would look like in 2022. Agility fills a pretty unique niche of making your run energy restore faster, as well as giving you some shortcuts, and that is pretty much its entire purpose. Similarly, firemaking just unlocks a few passive bonuses which provide minor convenience upgrades in very specific locations. A new skill providing some convenience features could be added, but I don’t think the majority of players would be particularly excited about it. On top of that, the standalone nature of these skills often makes training them quite repetitive. 

So what about another skill like construction which takes existing resources and uses them in a new way? This could work in my opinion. The problem is, most of the current community skill suggestions seem to involve using more bars and logs. As I previously mentioned, logs and bars are already stretched fairly thin as a resource. Adding another skill that uses logs or bars just seems ridiculous from a gathering skill balance perspective.

Sailing was already polled in 2015, and it involved using a lot of already existing resources to train.

Sailing was already polled in 2015, and it involved using a lot of already existing resources to train.

How Were These Types of Skills Added in Runescape 3?

Old School RuneScape was originally pitched as a retro server for RuneScape 2, as it was in 2007. The version of the game which has been running continuously since release is now called RuneScape 3 by the community. RuneScape 3 has had several new skills added since 2007, with a range of levels of success. Two of these new skills are support type skills.

Invention broke down all kinds of existing items in the game and used the materials from them to create new gadgets. These gadgets either gave small to medium combat bonuses or performed passive tasks for you, like the auto alchemy machine. This did have some implications for combat, which makes it an overlap between a support skill and a combat skill. One of the key parts of OSRS is the combat system, so anything that interferes with that is unlikely to pass a poll in my opinion.

Some of the rewards from invention in Runescape 3 were powerful weapon upgrades.

Some of the rewards from invention in Runescape 3 were powerful weapon upgrades.

Dungeoneering added multiple resource dungeons throughout the world which could be used to gather new resources with existing gathering skills. These resources were then processed using existing production skills. It was trained in a totally separate area from the main game, where you couldn’t use any of your items. This made it very divisive amongst the player base as it felt completely cut off from the rest of the game. Many players see this as something which doesn’t feel very “old school”. That said, the resource dungeon rewards seem quite popular, with popular suggestions seeming to try to replicate rewards of this type.

Dungeoneering involved navigation a procedurally generated dungeon and defeating a final boss, using only resources that you collected along the way.

Dungeoneering involved navigation a procedurally generated dungeon and defeating a final boss, using only resources that you collected along the way.

Combat

The final type of skill is combat skills. Skills of this type give you direct benefits in combat. This may seem obvious, but for the sake of completion the skills of this type are:

  • Attack
  • Strength
  • Defence
  • Ranged
  • Prayer
  • Magic
  • Hitpoints

I’m not going to talk too much about how to add another skill of this type. Simply put I cannot see one passing any time soon. The balance of combat is extremely delicate, and adding a new combat skill has wide ranging implications for a huge amount of content, particularly bosses. Summoning in RS3 did this and was wildly unpopular. I can’t see the player base ever agreeing on a combat skill to add to the game.

How Is This Relevant to Adding a New Skill to OSRS?

I think that to understand what makes a skill “old school” it is easier to first understand what makes a skill not “old school”.

What Shouldn’t the New Skill Be?

There is one skill that has been added in RS3 that hasn’t been mentioned and that is archaeology. Archaeology is simultaneously a gathering skill, a production skill, and a support skill; and in my opinion does all 3 badly.

The gathering part is extremely slow XP/hour, because the production part is such fast XP/hour. This means that you could buy levels in the skill extremely quickly, but the gathering part of the skill felt extremely unrewarding as it would provide almost no XP compared to the production part. The support part of the skill provided some powerful rewards, but there wasn’t really much to it; once you got the right level you just looked at a guide, did a one-time puzzle and collected your reward. There was no replay or re-use value, and the skill overall just felt extremely bloated.

Runescape 3's archaeology skill involved digging up artefacts and restoring them. Then using those artefacts to solve puzzles.

Runescape 3’s archaeology skill involved digging up artefacts and restoring them. Then using those artefacts to solve puzzles.

I believe this is the reason why Warding failed to pass the poll back in 2018. It tried to be both a gathering skill and a production skill, which always leaves one part of the skill feeling unrewarding compared to the other. On top of this, there are no skills in OSRS that straddle the line between multiple skill categories. Arguably magic is the closest to this, but it only provides teleports and some minor utility spells, which make sense in the context of the skill. Skills that try to be in multiple categories are often left feeling very bloated and don’t really fit into OSRS, as there are no other skills like them.

What Would I Suggest for the New OSRS Skill?

I think that there are broadly speaking 3 options for new skills that will feel “old school” enough to pass a poll. I have both a safe suggestion and two more radical suggestions. 

A New Support Skill

This seems the safest and the most likely to pass a poll. Players love slayer, and love unlocking new passive stuff for their accounts. Most of the sailing suggestions that are popular at the moment are skills of this type. The problem that I don’t see being talked about much is, how do you train the skill? As I have said, I am not particularly satisfied with adding even more uses for already existing gathered resources.  I don’t think the majority of players share my reservations however, so I think this is the most likely type of skill to make it into the game.

A concept for sailing was already made and polled in 2015, although it only received 67.9% yes votes, and so failed to pass the poll.

A concept for sailing was already made and polled in 2015, although it only received 67.9% yes votes, and so failed to pass the poll.

The other option is a skill that is trained totally standalone in a separate space. These seem to be perceived as not “old school”, so it is unlikely that such a skill will pass in my opinion. That said, I could see the new skill having some parts trained in this way alongside other parts that use existing resources.

A New Support Skill and a New Gathering Skill

I would personally like to see a new support skill released alongside a separate new gathering skill. The new resources from the gathering skill could be used to fuel the support skill, either in whole or in part. The new resources from the gathering skill could also have uses in other existing production skills, like a new herblore potion. 

This avoids the problem with having yet another skill that uses the already existing types of resources, and keeps both skills feeling “old school” by not rolling them all into one bloated mess. 

The downside of this proposal is that there is a subset of players that are likely to be unhappy about having to train two skills rather than one, as it will take them even longer to get their max capes back. I personally am maxed and I don’t care about this. I just want good new content added to the game and I think this is the way to do it. The other catch is that the poll only mentioned one new skill, so Jagex may be reluctant to bend the rules slightly and propose two separate ones. 

A New Gathering Skill and a New Production Skill

This is similar to the previous suggestion in many ways. The only way I can see a new production skill being added is alongside a new resource to process. Yet another skill which turns logs or bars into something is unlikely to excite players. Most would probably just want an expansion to smithing or crafting instead.

One of the problems with warding was that many players felt the rewards already fit in another existing skill, so why did it need to be a new one?

One of the problems with warding was that many players felt the rewards already fit in another existing skill, so why did it need to be a new one?

A production skill is slightly more difficult to implement than a support skill, because it requires the skill to produce something that has utility and demand to be constantly produced and used. The upside however is that it introduces lots of opportunities to have cross interactions with already existing skills. Being properly integrated into the already existing game content is an idea that seems to often come up when an “old school” skill is being discussed. 

The downside of this proposal is that finding something totally new to produce is difficult. Warding had some good ideas, but I think it was fundamentally ruined by the bloating issue, and the ideas have since been added to other skills. This means a totally new niche of producible items would need to be found or created. Again it would also require adding two skills which I feel is unlikely to happen.

Conclusions

Overall I think a new support skill like sailing is the best fit for an “old school” skill. This means it is the most likely to pass the polls and eventually make it into the game. I would personally love to see it alongside a new gathering skill, but I think this is probably quite unlikely. Either way, I am just glad to see OSRS continue to evolve and add new content, especially a new skill. New skills were a key part of the 2007 era of RuneScape and were added on a fairly regular basis. I think the hype of a new skill is something fundamentally “old school”, and I am happy to see it finally coming back to the game.

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