What is the wilderness all about?
The farther a player ventures into the wilderness, the more dangerous the area becomes. The risks posed by higher-level monsters in the deep wilderness pale in comparison to the waves of player-killers who regularly roam the area. Venturing into the wilderness used to be the only way to obtain rare and valuable runite ore and a good way to avoid competition for ore at the most heavily used mithril, adamantite and coal mines.
High-level monsters and dungeons tempted players into putting themselves at risk for the possibility of a rare loot drop or faster XP gain. Runite ore and great XP-training spots are now available in areas other than the wilderness, and with so many servers, competition for resources isn't as high as it once was. When you first enter the wilderness, you'll be at wilderness level 1. This means you can attack players up to one level above or below you. The further north you go, the higher level wilderness you reach and the greater risk of player-killing there is.
In high-level wilderness, you'll be able to prey on players significantly lower level than yourself, but there's always the risk of an even bigger fish appearing and swallowing you whole. Roaming gank parties often hit high-traffic locations, sometimes staging log-in traps to surround a victim with little to no warning. Those dangers are part of the overall charm of wilderness PvP, creating a cat-and-mouse style that has more in common with EVE Online than most other MMOs.
When you're killed in the wilderness, you'll drop all but your three most valuable items and the player who killed you can loot whatever else dropped. If you attack another player and the attack is not in self-defense, you'll gain a skull above your head for 20 minutes. Dying with a skull causes you to drop all of your items, including the three most valuable ones.
The Protect Items prayer or curse can be used to let you keep one additional item on death, raising the limit to four items if you haven't been player-killing or just one if you have a skull. As long as you have prayer points left and activate the prayer before you die, you can kill players and still save one item. It's not uncommon to see people player-killing with their best weapons equipped but no armour on. If you do this, be careful, as there are abilities in the game that can drain your prayer. Members are advised to carry a prayer potion to avoid losing a valuable weapon.
One of my favourite games to play in RuneScape used to be the wilderness survival run. Armed with nothing but a tinderbox, a bronze hatchet and one of the many online maps of the wilderness, I would set off into the north with a few friends. The goal of a survival run is to do as much as possible without leaving the wilderness or being killed. Telekinetic grab can be used to steal nature runes from a spawn in the deep wilderness, which can then be used to smelt mined ore into bars. A single anvil in the wilderness serves as a place to turn those metal bars into armour and weapons. Bonus points can be awarded for player-kills, XP gains or any other goals. Players have already organised several survival runs on the RuneScape forum, the most compelling of which requires players to start a completely new character.
Trading for profit
In RuneScape's earlier years, all trading had to be done face to face. Players congregated outside east Falador bank and all throughout Varrock to peddle their wares, spamming colourful messages like a lure on the end of a fishing hook. For those willing to invest some time in finding a good deal, trading produced a healthy profit. Knowing the average price of all the game's items and how quickly they would sell was a very powerful thing.
When the trade restrictions came in, this type of trading became a lot harder to profit from, as the Grand Exchange offered players instant access to whatever they wanted at a controlled price. Although the grand exchange is still active, relaxed price limits have had a massive effect on the in-game markets. The Grand Exchange now functions as a price history tracker, giving players accurate information on what their items are worth and how well they sell.
As happened before the trading restrictions came into effect, certain items like runes now seem to fluctuate on a weekly cycle. By buying at times in the week when demand is low or supply is high, you can reliably shave a few gold off the price. By reselling the items later in the week or starting up a supply shop on the forum for large orders, you can make a tidy profit on this weekly cycle. Some items even vary in price during the day depending on when sellers get online to push their wares. A huge number of players have opened trade stores on the official forum, which is something Jagex was definitely hoping would return.
The wilderness can be a scary and dangerous place, but it's one of RuneScape's most unique features. With the return of wilderness PvP, we've seen a revival of some fantastic emergent gameplay like survival games and "off the record" dueling in Edgeville. The resurgence in free trade has been equally dramatic, giving business-minded players the tools they need to make a profit. Creative players have already discovered how to take advantage of price fluctuations on the grand exchange, and we've seen further emergent gameplay with street gambling and market speculation.