For most RuneScape players, and especially the audience I’ve become familiar with at Informer, the common notion is that PVM is by far the best money maker, with skilling being so far behind that it’s a serious problem with game design. Since the release of God Wars Dungeon way back in 2007, where suddenly you could get drops worth tens of millions in an economy where training Woodcutting or Fishing at the highest levels might net you a few hundred thousand, this has largely been true.
Following the Evolution of Combat up to the release of God Wars Dungeon 2 in 2016, this became absolutely the case. Suddenly high-level creatures could be killed AFK for millions of coins an hour and it seemed like every last skilling resource that had once been valuable had been dumped on PVM drop tables, resulting them to crash from their original prices, making those methods even worse. Invention exacerbated this problem further, with the first year or so resulting in a 25-30% damage increase in PVM, causing even more resources to flood the market. In response to these concerns, Jagex began to address the disparity head on in RuneFest 2017 with their “five-year skilling plan.” While the plan got off to a slow start, the gap has narrowed significantly for two primary reasons: the cost of PVM has massively increased and skilling has gotten way better. The purpose of this article, therefore, is to examine if the taken for granted assumption that skillers have no chance compared to PVMers is still the case halfway through 2020.
To set the backdrop for this article, let’s examine some data for skilling item prices on the grand exchange over the past 10 years to demonstrate the effects PVM does in fact have on skilling. Category 1 – bulk commodities without a high alchemy floor. My test case for this item will be magic logs, but you’ll find a similar story for things like yew logs and fish as well. For the vast majority of RuneScape history prior to the Evolution of Combat, magic logs were roughly 1500 GP each, they were obtained primarily through Woodcutting, with some coming through Nex. In 2014, the release of Araxxor starts bringing them into the game in much higher volumes. Nobody was killing Araxxor for the magic logs (they’re one of the weakest drops) but suddenly PVMers were getting them in quantities of 150-324. Araxxor kill volume was fairly low, both in terms of kills/hour but also in terms of accessibility – at the time, it was considered to be very difficult top-end content. The price immediately craters around this time, dropping down to around a thousand, where it stabilized for a couple years.
Then, in March of 2016, God Wars Dungeon 2 comes out and Vindicta is released. Perhaps the most popular boss in the games history, Vindicta is far easier and can be killed far more times per hour than Araxxor or Nex. By April of 2016, magic logs crash to less than 500 each, becoming increasingly worthless through the massive influx. A second example might be torstols and torstol seeds. Prior to Evolution of Combat, they carried huge prices of over 30k and over 300k for the seed. Following Evolution of Combat bosses like Nex become far easier to kill quickly and bosses like Kalphite King start dropping them in mass. Within a year both prices are down to about 15% of their original prices, with the seeds eventually crashing to the point of being near worthless. This story is similar for Herblore prices across the board, that is until the release of 120 Herblore which tripled the price of nearly the entire market.
While the situation for many commodities seems dire, the last few years has seen a huge shift in the thinking behind skilling. What made PVM so good? It was never the skilling resources or supplies, because as soon as a new one was added to a new bossing table it would be farmed to oblivion and become a near worthless drop. Aside from a few bosses that have maintained their profitability through consistency with very little variance (looking at you Vorago) the allure of PVM was always the chance to get a big drop. From way back in the days of trying to snag a Dragon Chainbody of the Kalphite Queen or a Guthan’s Spear at Barrows, PVM was better because of the huge upside. The major change in the last 3 years? Skilling is slowly but surely getting that huge upside.
In the past few years, skillers have been able to get a taste of going after big loot. Notable examples include Big Game Hunter, which are sort of skilling mini-bosses that combine consistent drops with a chance at a piece of the Terrasaur maul, which were around 300m each prior to the release of Archaeology and the massive influx of drops into the game. After Archeology, the addition of the Dragon Mattock has added another big money item to the table. Adding Seren Spirits with Grace of the Elves means that at any time skilling can net you rare drops, including the sought after near max cash Hazelmere’s Ring. Tavia’s rod gives players using the Deep Sea Hub a shot at an extremely rare but extremely massive pay day, the Player Owned Farm and the Ranch Out of Time in particular gave players an access to lots of money in terms of harvests such as Bottle Dinosaur Roar and consistent profit if they sell animals, and clues became obtainable through skilling. Archaeology has been the biggest boost to skilling, arguably being more profitable than nearly any PVM method outside the very top end content. Gathering resources at middling Archaeology levels or sifting soil (at higher levels) can easily top 10m/hour factoring in the cost of porters and is completely AFK. At higher levels, a chance at a Spear of Annihilation Tip, Inquisitor Staff pieces, and Tetracompass logs (consistent profit + chance at a dragon/Tony’s mattock) all represent a chance at big money. When it was all finished, I profited around 400m from getting 200m Archaeology with pretty average to poor luck with rare drops, and I was able to do so while working from home, clicking once every 4-5 minutes to avoid being logged out. The relics have made already existing money makers better – Divination is 6-8m/hour depending on focus, Runecrafting can easily top 13m/hour to name a few.
PVM, on the other hand, has never been less profitable. While some players have been doing 2500% enrage claims at Telos for huge money and a few bosses such as Vindicta have benefited from their rare drops increasing, on the whole, rare PVM drops are way down across the board. Additionally, the cost of PVM has never been higher. Deaths at places like Solak using meta-strategies can cost 15-16m without a Ring of Death. Even if you elect to not use a hybrid setup, my single style loadouts easily cost upwards of 8m/death. Divine charge cost has gone up exponentially, armor repair costs have spiked, the cost of supplies, ripper demons, scrolls, onyx’s, summoning flasks… the list goes on, have all become so high to the point that even without any deaths, PVM can easily cost 15m+ per hour to maintain high end setups. Obviously, you could use much lower tier gear, scrimshaws/grimoire, familiars, and supplies but then your kills/hour (or even the ability to get kills) will suffer greatly. There isn’t time to get into this issue here, but due to so many bosses that have come out over the past few years relying on phase mechanics, where not doing sufficient DPS in a small window requires the repetition of entire sets of mechanics, the difference between elite setups and average setups at a place like Solak could be 7-8 minute kill times versus 12-13 minute kill times.
In conclusion – skilling has almost, if not already, caught up. There will always be some exceptions where PVM is much, much better, but those exceptions require many hundreds if not thousands of hours of practice perfecting rotations and often many billions of GP up front to perfect. If things continue to progress as they are, there may be very little point to doing PVM at all. After all, why maintain intense focus when you can click once every 5 minutes for almost the same amount of profit? Or even Big Game Hunter and Runecrafting, which aren’t AFK but don’t require much focus compared to something like Vorago. I don’t think this is a bad direction for the game at all – it’s great the 5-year plan is beginning to work. The point here is only to tackle the notion that the disparity is overwhelming and skillers have no chance at competing.