When I wandered into the wilderness to tackle the demon flash mob about to spawn there, I geared up like I had for years for a run-of-the-mill jaunt through the wilderness. My Bandos godsword, my fury, and my dragon plate; everything I need to three-item effectively. I loaded up my inventory of sharks and off I went. I hop over the wilderness wall and get the same warning messages I expect. I glassy-eyed read them, but some words struck me like a ton of brinks - "Pk skulls have been removed from the game" . No skulls?! What is Runescape's wilderness when there are no skulls?! Sure, I remember reading that everything gets dropped now upon death no matter how you died in the wild after the EoC, but it just felt like...the end of an era.
Now I'm not raging or pushing for a riot in world 66 - I'm not even mad, bro; I'm sad for other players. I have been around a long time and I've seen a lot of things come and go, but something as subtle as removing an indicator of another player's intentions changes the entire feel and quite frankly the allure of the wilderness. Old timers and many current players for that matter remember the forces at play in the pre-EoC wilderness. Getting skulled was the mark of death, thus the symbol of a skull and crossbones. All it took was one look at someone and you knew that they were bad news. It was a clear battle of good versus evil, a balance of "playing it safe" while 3 iteming versus a "no guts, no glory" stigmata when getting skulled. You knew it when you ran into trouble, but still had to question everyone's intent there. I remember so many emotions and feelings... Your heart pounding, your scimitar gripped and ready should that assumed rune miner dawn rune armor. That rush as you decide the risk is worth the reward, and the chill as your opponent doubles over himself on the ground. It was enough to make you want to shout "I AM BECOME DEATH, DESTROYER OF NOOBS!" as you wiped the blood from your weapon. Oh the nostalgia that is now lost with the update.
Such a change is particularly potent for me, as I am a leader of a clan that was once in the small family of clans that followed the rules of ARPKing while in the wilderness. The most well known clan with the same practice is the Wilderness Guardians, who's name gives hint to that abbreviation's meaning. Anti-Random Player Killing was the policy of not killing anyone who was not skulled or prepared to fight in the wilderness and protecting those who were there for other reasons from getting PKed. Simply put, we were the PKers of PKers: the cleansers of evil from such a desolate place of deception, theft, and greed. While it was an impossible task, it was a fun and honorable deed we undertook. With the return of free trade, the prospect of having such a duty once again was refreshing, but now with skulls gone, that prospect if forever gone, as there's no way to determine who has blood on their hands.
That was a major cause of the excitement. Not knowing. Is this guy in the deep wilderness training on greater demons, or just waiting till something more rewarding comes along? Who knows. A low level player walking through the wild - is he a noob just exploring or is he a scout for a 50 man PK clan? You just didn't know for sure. It was agonizing. Every second, every click, every breath had to be calculated as you waited for some sort of tell. Then, the sight of a lone skulled PKer. It floods your mind with questions. Is he low on food? Is he burdened with loot? Most importantly, is he truly alone? It took just as much luck as it did gusto to pull the trigger. There's no reason for such worry now. I've long since retired my rune set, but there's no sense in second guessing when you're PKing now because all the strategy and playing along and time investment doesn't matter. When they released dragon claws, that was how you PKed as well. Where we would have to Death Dot (stand on top of eachother to appear as just one person on the map) or follow our leader to appear as only two to fool our prey to get close enough to attack, it doesn't matter today because it's all about the speed of the take down. We no longer have the speedy claws, but now you could essentially do the same thing with any weapon because there's no reason to waste time calculating or being cunning. If you are PKing and you meet another PKer (or anyone for that matter), it's going to go down, so you better strike first. There's skill in the fighting, sure, but a dueling master would do just as well as a professional player killer in the modern day wild. This was not true in the wilderness of the past.
With the loss of skulls, we have lost the feel of the past wilderness. It's not a land of trickery and conniving assassins, it's a killing field controlled by those who can pump out the most damage in the shortest amount of time. Skulls were a warning, a stigma, and a badge of honor all wrapped into one. Without them, we lose our need to think. For a grand majority of us, we don't need to think about the wildy anymore, because if we are at risk of losing everything there's no sense out there for anything. Because of this, there is no PKing going on, because PKers have no one to PK. Then because of this, PKing no longer has any effect on the economy. It has no role in Runescape's culture. There isn't a niche of players that only PK. Player Killing doesn't exist, and the absence of the skull, and all it represents, isn't helping.
I guess in a way ARPKers won out after all. As someone who hated PKing, I sure didn't expect to write an article on how much I miss it. Not that I miss they preying on those who can't protect themselves, but more to the fact that Runescapers won't get to feel the things I felt when I killed and when I was killed (which was way more often). But you know what? I'll be damned if I didn't miss the demon flash mob out there because I was too busy determining what I was willing to give a PKer if I was killed by one out there. I ultimately decided it wasn't worth it. The risk is still out there, but the symbol, the sign that struck fear in me yet spurred my courage and desire to go back out there is not.
Rest in peace, mark of death, o' symbol of doom. You shall be missed.
This was originally posted as an Informer PvP