MMO gets its first new skill in 17 years, or it will when players stop fighting over which one should be added

Artwork of a wizard carrying a glowing green lantern to promote Old School RuneScape.
(Image credit: Jagex)

Old School RuneScape (OSRS) was just 'RuneScape' the last time it got a new skill. Back in November 2006, developer Jagex added the Hunter ability, bringing the game's roster of skills up to 23. While modern RuneScape (also called RuneScape 3) has added five new skills since then, OSRS has stuck stubbornly to the 23 from 2006 ever since it released ten years ago. But now Jagex wants to add another, and debate is raging among the playerbase.

As reported by GamesRadar, Jagex is pitching three new skills to OSRS players: Sailing, Taming, and Shamanism. Sailing, as you might imagine, would let players explore the game in a boat and level up by completing tasks on the high seas; Shamanism would let players commune with the spiritual plane, gather new resources and boost themselves with new, spooky abilities; and Taming would let you pick up a furry (or scaly, or chitinous) companion to help you out, distinct from the game's currently-existing pet system.

Once players vote through one of those skills, Jagex will refine it, pin down the details, present it to the community again to make sure people are happy with it, and then push it through to the game after a beta period, creating OSRS' first new skill since its release one decade ago. Time for an argument.

Players are mostly having fun with it, maintaining their good humour even while they argue about which skill—if any—should make the cut, but that doesn't make their opinions any less strident. Wherever you look on the OSRS subreddit, players are making pitches, pleas, and entreaties to their fellow RuneScapers, imploring them to back this or that skill, or prophesying misfortune if Jagex doesn't implement things in the right way.

Team Shamanism has made a strong early showing as players reflect on the impact it could have on the OSRS meta, and also that it might let them open a door and provide an excuse to take a massive quantity of hallucinogenic mushrooms in real life. But it has its detractors: Some players worry that it'll add an unconscionable level of grind to the game and become a skill that's too vital for players to ignore.

Others just really want to sail in a big colourful boat, which is profoundly relatable. Team Sailing hasn't been as strong out of the docks as Team Shamanism, but it's caught the wind and is earning itself some votes, especially among more casual players put off by the notion of grinding for Shamanism's resources. Some players would rather cut the Gordian knot and replace it with a bridge-building skill, though.

Taming is the dark horse by my reckoning: A third-party candidate with the forthright conviction and ideological clarity that the mainstream faves can't afford. Its chances seem slim, but it could be that its passionate base and its memes making fun of people who would rather ride a boat than a shark could see it pull ahead as the polls drag on.

And out on the fringes, you have the genius pitching "Shamailming," a combo of all three skills that modern society isn't brave enough to accept.

New skill concept: Shamailming from r/2007scape

It's an interesting debate to watch, and there's plenty of funny stuff flying back and forth (I'm a particular fan of the guy pitching three alternative skills: Dentistry, Gambling, and Español), but there are some genuine concerns from fans. OSRS' developer only decided to create a new skill after 80% of respondents to a vote said they'd "like to see a new skill enter the game," but that doesn't mean there isn't some trepidation among the community.

OSRS occupies the same strange mental place as WoW Classic: It's an era trapped in amber, something wizened players can return to for a shot of nostalgia and a flood of memories. That doesn't mean people don't ever want to see it change, or that everyone playing it is crusty and stuck in the mud, but it does make big moves like this one a little fraught. It's why over 4,000 players have supported the idea to backup the game's codebase in its current state right now: Players fear the end of a golden age, even if change is both inevitable and necessary.

But while it might be inevitable and necessary, it probably won't be quick. Jagex has a long, multi-stage plan to introduce the new skill to the game—whatever it may be—and it intends to get community feedback at pretty much every step of the way. With any luck, that'll keep (just about) everyone happy when the skill makes its debut, and hey, maybe set the stage for another one in another, oh, 17 years?

Joshua Wolens
News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was much too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. His writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.