The Evolution of Boss Drops in RS

posted by on 26th August 2014, at 4:59pm

A new boss slaying reward system has been released last week called Soul Reaper. Apparently Death has a new side gig – because you know, claiming the souls of all the dying creatures in RS wouldn’t keep you busy enough. In honour of this I’ve decided to channel my irritation of Kree’arra’s drop stubbornness and write an article about the evolution of drops, specifically boss drops, in game. You see, when you were a noob wondering the sewers and graveyards of the Misthalin Kingdom drops were easy to understand. You kill a scorpion, you get loot. Wait – scorpions don’t drop loot… I never understood that. Anyways, you kill a zombie, you get loot. Most of the time it sucks (fishing bait? Wha…), but sometimes it doesn’t (5 nature runes? Sweet!) and it goes like that for a while.  Eventually Slayer training isn’t cutting it anymore and you’re ready for more challenge because the more of a challenge the better the chance at an awesome reward. It’s time to start PvMing hardcore with bosses. Now don’t get me wrong, in most cases it still follows the “Mostly Sucks but Sometimes Sweet!” formula (Thanks for the Arma Buckler, Kree…), but some bosses have neat and at least interesting drop mechanics.

Recently Jagex has really been changing things up from the typical kill boss -> get loot way of things and I think that’s great. For example, rather than just dropping great armour, bosses drop materials to craft or smith that armour, which includes skills (and thus skillers) into the process. This makes those production skills more valuable and gives incentive to train them to high levels. Let’s run down the evolution of drops in Runescape by going over the bosses that changed how we get their sw00t loot.

The Barrows Brothers – Released May 2005

The first iteration of a varied drop mechanic that I want to cover are the original bad boys of bossing, the Barrows Brothers. For many of us, this may have been the first encounter with a boss-type fight and it is still today a fantastic and fun system of shelling out the goods. For anyone who may have jumped over these guys in their combatting travels (and you’re missing out, big time!), I’ll break it down. Each of the 6 (7 really, but who’s counting) brothers are contained in a burial mound and they each have some quirk to how they fight. You kill each brother to have a shot of getting their armour and weapon. Within one of these mounds houses a passage to an underground tunnel system that has to be navigated to a central chest, which is where the rewards for all the brothers is dispensed at the same time.

This system is great for many reasons. For starters, it adds an ending trek that summarizes the experience and gives you a large payout at the end rather than after each kill. The tunnel and the chest adds to the story and lore of the brothers and enriches the experience that having the armour just appear on the ground wouldn’t do. It builds suspense and the delayed gratification makes it so much more fulfilling when you do get a good drop. Lumping the filler “junk” drops also doesn’t make it seem so bad and makes every trip fill like it was a success.

This may be the oldest changed drop mechanic in Runescape, but it is perfected and still holds up so much so that I still go and make a few trips just for kicks every once in a while. Besides, some of the armour is still pretty decently priced and useful. For content that is almost 10 years old, that’s impressive!

God Wars Dungeon – August 2007

No other bossing experience has changed how we play the game more than the GWD. It ushered in a new era of top weapons and armours that made other popular sets obsolete.  I’m going to assume everyone has some knowledge of how the GWD works, but here’s the basics. All 5 of the generals of the gods present in the previous God Wars are still fighting in a frozen chamber near Trollheim. The generals and their lesser bosses drop armour. The generals themselves also drop sword pieces and the prized hilt belonging to their God. Before battling a general players must kill 40 of that same god’s monsters.

The Godswords were the first major instance of having to construct a drop, which requires 80 Smithing. Like I stated in my introduction there has long been some push from players to make PvMers and skillers interact and rely more on each other. While 80 Smithing isn’t a difficult requirement, pure monster killers need help to get the best use of the top drops from the generals. While the armour gives instant gratification and a useable drop, getting the much rarer (and more expensive) hilt is useless to those who can’t construct the sword. Of course, you could also just sell of the hilt… but that’s not the point! The point is that Jagex tried to make two player types work together for the first time.

Corporeal Beast – September 2008

Corp is a hellish boss that really requires multiple players to take down. For their hard work, the teams have the chance at expensive sigils that can be attached to a spirit shield. The shield must first be anointed with holy elixir, which has a difficult level 90 Prayer requirement. Only then can the sigil be added to the shield with 85 Smithing. For all the hard work, players are rewarded with some of the best and most expensive shields in the game.

Tormented Demons – November 2008

At the end of While Guthix Sleeps we gain access to Tormented Demons. While it’s arguable that these are really bosses per se, they served as such during the quest, so just go with me here, will ya? These demons drop two different drops that further required players to enhance the reward to make it useful and have more value. Demons drop 3 pieces of themselves that are needed to create the mythical Dragon Platebody, which requires 92 smithing. This higher skill requirement was a better use of skiller enhancement and actually acts as a motivator to level up the smithing skill. It also required a 1M gp hammer to create the plate, which introduced a money sink as well.

Secondly, TDs drop dragon limbs, which are used to create dragon crossbows. This requires an even stauncher 94 fletching to create. D Crossbows’ value is further enhanced with the release of the Ascension Dungeon but more on that later.

Vorago – July 2013

Vorago isn’t only an impressive boss with superior magic weapons as a reward for the brave souls that try to tag team him, but with him came powerful craftable armour. This power mage armour is created with high level Runecrafting from tectonic energy dropped by the boss. While the armour isn’t particularly popular and is expensive considering what it is it is, this is the first time we saw a resource dropped on a regular basis from a boss that is used for production of armour. Think of Vorago as a craggy, cranky, and nearly instantly deadly ore rock.

Barrows: Rise of the Six – November 2013

The original Bad Boys of Bossing (sorry, I just wanted to use that again) are back and more powerful than ever in The Rise of the Six barrows expansion. Much like Vorago, the brothers are fought in difficult fights and drop an instant gratification drop of level 90 kiteshields as well as a resource – malevolent energy. This is used along with purchasable plates to create impressive power armour. Again, we see a money sink paired with a high levelled smithing requirement to get skillers involved in the process.

Ascension Legiones

To complete the trio of level 90 creatable armors, Jagex put out a range focused area called the Ascension Dungeon. This time Sirenic scales are used as the resource to craft mage armour. In theme, thread must be bought and high crafting is required to piece the scales together.

But most importantly, the dungeon is home to six Legiones that are needed to create a level 90 ascension crossbow. Within the dungeon are minions that drop keystones that grant access to the Legiones. You have once chance per key to get a decently rare drop called a signet. Only after many kills of each boss will you lucky enough to get all six signets. It is with these that you can then take a dragon crossbow and finally get the mighty ascension crossbow.

This in my opinion is the best boss dropping mechanic in the game. It takes toiling and trials and true effort to get a truly powerful and expensive weapon like the ascension crossbow. The process works so well that players devote a lot of time and a lot of money into buying the keystones and the dragon crossbow in order to then flip the ascension crossbow for a (hopeful) profit. This in turn funds those who kill the lesser creatures and get the keystones and those who camp TDs for the dragon crossbow parts. It’s a beautiful and tight system that, at least for now, functions as a true economy based around bossing.

Araxxor – July 2014

Our newest death bringer, Araxxor, and his mate, Araxxi, entered the picture and kind of turned things on its head as far as drops go. For instance, it’s one of the few bosses that drop pets (Rise of the Six also does) and they are fairly popular at least for the moment. The actual ‘meat and potato’ drops are odd and more complicated to get. Before fighting the big spiders the player must navigate pathways that dictate the battle and what drops you have better odds of getting. This is the first boss that actually allows you to influence your drops in this way. In 4 waves you fight the boss till its death. Only then are you given your booty from Araxxi’s thorax.

There are six total pieces to weapons that you can receive. A top, middle, and bottom leg piece is needed to construct any weapon of any kind. An eye, web, or fang is placed atop the completed leg in order to create a usable item. This, in my opinion, is a weak and dysfunctional system. Let me explain.

For starters, there are no unique instant gratification drops to Spidy. It offers only generic resources like herbs and ores, which are boring and not fulfilling at all. The three leg pieces are merely influenced by your path choices, but there are players who have several dozen kills without a needed leg piece. It shouldn’t be that hard and if you are making it that hard, make the leg pieces tradable. You can literally sink millions in just a chance to get a piece you want. Think back to the Ascension Dungeon. Each Legiones doesn’t drop each signet. You won’t ever be stuck with several of one kind and if you are you know where to get the rest. You can’t and shouldn’t punish a player for something out of their control. At least at the time of writing this this hasn’t been remedied, so please let me know if and when this changes.

So that covers boss drops over the years. Jagex’s efforts to make bosses more entertaining and fun along with attempting to bring skills into the mindless slashing and looting has given us major improvements and greater synergy between players of different types. We also have a greater variety of bosses, from solo excursions to large team beat downs. I can only hope that we continue down this road of innovation and integration as we attempt to rely on each playing style more and more. Doing so will create a much more diverse and healthy economy and a downright more enjoyable experience for killers and skillers alike.

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