I Was a Teenage Con-Artist in RuneScape

By Kotaku on at

By Sayem Ahmed

When I was 11 years old, RuneScape dominated the playground. We could all play together, it was free, and it was a way of spending time with friends outside of school. At this point I didn’t know that I’d be playing religiously for the next three years every single day. Eventually, my two friends and I became the most dedicated out of everyone we knew, walking around in expensive, high level gear and making so much money that it was practically coming out of our ears.

We were better not because we played the most, but because we knew how to get away with scamming innocent, naive players out of their hard-earned gear. Here’s how we did it.

There he was, walking along the path from Lumbridge to Varrock, alone and clad in Gold Trimmed Black armour. Not worth too much, but the set looked nice, and he wasn’t too low-level either. Black armour was nothing compared to my full Rune gear. I hit right-click and selected follow. We went through the cursory introductions and smalltalk, then I baited him.

“Cool armour! I know a place where you can get better stuff, though, some dude died and left all his Rune armour in Wildy.”

Some people used to shrug it off, but he went for it. He started asking me questions and before you know it, he was following me. I was leading him into the PvP area just beyond town: the Wilderness. I messaged Flameguy3, the real-life friend who introduced me to baiting. He was ready and waiting at a secluded point. He dropped some raw meat there: the supposedly “rare” items we were guiding the poor guy towards. Flameguy3 came with no other items in his inventory, naked with no gear, posing as a player looking for his lost items. At this point I privately message the target:

“Kill him to make sure you get to the armour first.”

He fully bought into it, and killed my unarmed accomplice with ease. We then ran to the item Flameguy3 left behind, but the target was mortified when he realised that what he picked wasn’t rare armour, but a single piece of meat, and was also shocked by the Skull that suddenly appeared over his head. After killing another player in RuneScape, you were adorned with a large skull over your character. This signified that instead of keeping your three most valuable items when killed, you lost everything. He realised this and tried to bolt, in fear of losing his gear, money and items. I caught up and attacked instantly.

My character was deceptively tough. I’d power-levelled my melee stats, making me a hard-ass, low level character. Inevitably, the target died and dropped all his carried items and gear. Flameguy3 and I immediately blocked him. I ran back out of the wilderness into the town and logged straight into a merchanting world, where I could sell the Black Trimmed armour for a pretty decent sum. Flameguy3 and I shared the gold. We did this for weeks, targeting unsuspecting players until we heard that another online friend got banned.

We didn’t care. We were rich. We finally had all the money we could dream of. But it wasn’t enough. We needed more. After accumulating the all money we needed, we turned to trading.

RuneScape had separate worlds where you went to trade items and gear; there was one player-made area full of people wanting to make some cash. It was a mess of too many players in one place and it was far too hard to get anyone to buy anything you wanted to sell, due to the sheer number of people typing in chat at any one time. So we turned to an internet forum to sell our stolen goods.

Like any online game, RuneScape had its fair share of fansites. 'Tip.it' was probably the largest at the time, with its own events team organising big marches and fun events that every member of the community could take part in. I originally joined Tip.it to trade with people and was an upstanding member of the community for around a year before Flameguy5 and I saw an opportunity we couldn't resist.

We had a higher-level friend whom we met while grinding out our woodcutting stat, an intimidating looking character named Dabestkillaz. He had a piece of equipment we both drooled over: Dragon Chainmail.

It was impossibly out of our reach and cost more than we both had. It was easily the most valuable thing we had seen in the game so far. Somehow we had to get it. Dabestkillaz helped us out for the next few weeks, grinding together and participating in RuneScape's excellent minigame, Castle Wars. While we were befriending Dabestkillaz, Flameguy3 and I brainstormed how we could get our hands on the Dragon Chainmail. Our eyes turned to the Tip.it events subforum.

The events forum was full of stuff the community could do together, and was relatively sparse at the time. So we decided to run an event off the back of the film 300's release and set up a Spartan march: first through the F2P worlds, then moving on to the members wilderness culminating in a brawl. We advertised this around the board to get as many people as we could. Once the numbers were up, Flameguy3 and I designated ourselves as leaders of the march, walking parallel with each other.

We managed to get Dabestkillaz on board even though they were not a part of the community yet. We asked to borrow the Dragon Chainmail to distinguish ourselves from the rest of the pack in case anyone got lost. Agreeing to this was Dabestkillaz's most costly mistake.

We couldn't just up and leave the march once we got the Dragon Chainmail, so we got Sabrewulf3 (another school friend who was low-level) to help out. We let him in on the plan and offered him 50k before the march and another 50k after he gave the item back to us. With everything in place, we waited for the day of the march.

When it came, players were assembling uniforms, banners and weapons. We arranged for everyone to meet at a sawmill northeast of Varrock, storm through the F2P worlds and swap to a members’ world. This was when I would transfer the Dragon Chainmail to Sabrewulf3. Suddenly, a message popped up:

"Dabestkillaz would like to trade with you."

This was it. The Dragon Chainmail appeared in the chat window and I immediately clicked accept. It was finally mine! This might seem like madness to current players, but at the time it was one of the best and rarest pieces of armour in the game. I wore it and swapped worlds where, much to my and Flameguy3's surprise, a Player Mod was in waiting. I was shaking: could the mod know what we were doing? Was my account about to be banned for scamming people? I messaged Flameguy3 and he had the same reaction. Was the plan completely screwed?

"Saw the thread on tip.it, can't wait to join in."

I breathed a sigh of relief: the mod just wanted to march with us, but it meant that the transfer of the Dragon Chainmail had to be even more inconspicuous. With everyone gathered at the meeting point, we set off and stormed the F2P lands as planned before making the switch to the members world. We got into the wilderness, a cover for Sabrewulf3 to escape with the Dragon Chainmail and for me to "die" and lose the precious gear.

Sabrewulf3 and I ran to a secluded spot away from the fighting. I took the armour off and made the trade with him. Afterwards he teleported to Varrock bank, waiting for me. I ran back to the battle, where Flameguy3 killed me. Dabestkillaz was somewhere in the midst, completely unaware of what was going on. A while later, the battle ended and everyone dispersed. I met back up with Sabrewulf3 and gave him the other half of his 50k for the Dragon Chainmail and his help. Dabestkillaz messaged me afterwards to meet up and get his Dragon Chainmail back.

"Oh **** i pk'd and died in wildy and forgot."

Dabestkillaz was furious. He immediately cottoned on that we had run off with it, logged out of his account, joined Tip.it and started to post about how Flameguy5 and I scammed him. We denied it all as nonsense and an accident, and because we had been members of the community for over a year we actually got him banned. We blocked him in-game, made off with the Dragon Chainmail and split the profits 50/50. We never got caught doing any of this, and that was a massive part of the thrill of playing RuneScape back in 2005-2007.

The game was a wild west where you couldn't trust anyone. Scammers thrived and eluded moderators while some people just liked to grind alone. Now, RuneScape is a different beast, nothing like it used to be 10 years ago. Trading restrictions and changes to the game make these kinds of grand heists impossible to pull off now. What I used to do in this game was wrong, and probably the best way I could express my teenage rebellion while not doing anything actually illegal.

It didn't last, though. After seeing how RuneScape brought out the worst in me, I gave away most of my items and have not touched an MMORPG in 10 years. Honest.