Long ago, in 2007, a 12-year-old Colton found himself in the possession of a Treasure Trail clue scroll. He didn't know what Treasure Trails were, necessarily. Well, he had no clue what they were. In all honesty, his assumption was that this one scroll (which happened to have been dropped from a hobgoblin whilst training near the Crafting Guild) was redeemable for the really cool stuff! Party hats, godswords, and that super fancy rune armour with the gold all around it (the only somewhat close assumption made) would be available to him whenever he found out what the heck this gibberish anagram meant. Once he had finally figured out this clue, he went with eyes as big as dinner plates to receive his grand reward from the figure alluded to in the clue.
Much to his dismay, no such treasure awaited him. Merely another clue. After four or five legs, the casket was finally in hand. Surely this was his time, his moment, his one shot at riches aplenty. The loot? A water talisman, 2500 coins, and 10 hard leather. This pubescent Colton was devastated and would never again seek a clue scroll until his time would come, much, much later...
Pictured is an old, terrible loot from an elite clue, but you get the point
Treasure Trails came out May of 2004 and, over time, have been given new coats of paint, new fancy puzzles, new rewards, and even new tiers. Yet even through those changes, the heart of this unique Distraction and Diversion remains. The Treasure Trail stands as one of my favorite in-game activities outside of questing for reasons which I will now unfold.
In 2015, the now 20-year-old Colton was still playing Runescape, yet still had not truly begun to value Treasure Trails for their engaging qualities. This long period between 2007 and 2015 was characterized by completing all the quests, achieving numerous level 99 skills, and engaging in just about every new piece of content imaginable (outside of a 2-year break in the middle). Finally, thieving was on the list to train and Prifddinas made it so much more convenient to train without constant clicking. Driven now by a desire to complete all tasks given to him, this more-recent Colton began completing each new clue scroll that came to him, learning more and more about them (elites, in particular) along the way. Eventually, I became quite good at clues and the thieving training became merely a means to find more scrolls. At the time of writing, I have completed over 260 elite clues and a smattering of those from other tiers. Although I no longer have the hours upon end of free time to spend in Runescape nowadays, the clue scrolls ever call my name.
One of the first reasons Treasure Trails really held an allure to me then and now is the fact that these are solo activities. I don't need to coordinate with someone else to do this. I'm not competing with someone else for monster spawns, worlds, or mining rocks. It's as though I'm the only player in the game when I'm on the hunt for treasure.
Second, my interest in Treasure Trails came only a year after I essentially burned myself out of high-level PvM after marathoning the Araxxor release to get a full staff in 313 Araxxor kills in a week. After pushing myself and probably taking a couple years off of my life by all the stress that high-level bossing puts on me, I decided to lay down the Razer Naga and instead take a much more lean-back approach to bossing, skilling, and all Runescape activities. Treasure Trails scratched this itch perfectly and they still do today. To get the first clue, all I did was sit back and pickpocket Prifddinas workers until I found one. Back then, I could usually get one elite clue every half hour at most. From there, the clue involves essentially no combat of any significance (for one who was maxed combat) and merely relies on your ability to do puzzles and run around, things I'm relatively good at! Doing an elite clue was a low level of investment, allowed me to be social/watch something else while I was doing them, and was not nearly the risk to my personal assets as compared to high-level PvM.
Yet even if it was less of a risk as opposed to bossing, Treasure Trails still offered insane rewards. Of course, there are the classics (God armour, 3rd Age, etc.), but now there were dyes and other fun goodies to get! I even got the ridiculous chance at one point at the height of my clue-ing to have received a shadow dye. No, I'm not kidding. Yes, I did **** away the money soon after. No, I will not tell you how, that's an embarrassing story for me to know, and for you to find out.
And lastly but possibly most important is that Treasure Trails are uniquely Runescape. It's a game within a game that doesn't take itself too seriously, encourages experimentation, whimsy, offers fun through the journey itself, and most of all fosters a distinct sense of place and adventure. Unfortunately, that sense of adventure and discovery is somewhat muted in today's game with endless teleports to everywhere and lodestones available at most important locations, but I still will sometimes take the backroads, neglect my teleports, and simply enjoy the landscape between clue destinations. So next time you happen upon a clue (elite and masters, especially), take the time to do it and try your best to forget that guides and teleports exist, just appreciate the journey for what it is. I hope you can enjoy this piece of content as much as I have.