Old School RuneScape has left me enamored with two things: mornings, and papayas. That’s surprising for two reasons – I’ve never actually eaten papaya, and I’m not a morning person. That can’t be stressed enough: school was a nightmare because I’d regularly stay home snoozing, and the distant memory of a 9AM lecture at uni remains a harrowing prospect. I’m a little better now that I have a job I actually want to be at, but I still miserably optimise my morning routine to maximise my minutes – seconds, even – in bed. Over the last 13 years, I’ve tried all sorts to remedy my morning woes but nothing’s stuck – until I received help from an unlikely source.
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In the purgatory between Christmas and New Year, Old School RuneScape (OSRS) sank its claws back into me. It always does. A RuneScape offshoot that captures the game’s nostalgic 2007 days, OSRS works a little differently to other MMOs because rather than grinding through endless fetch quests to level up your character, there are 23 different skills – many of them non-combat – to level up. There are still bosses to kill, raids to vanquish and quests to tackle, but the point is that you’re largely left to your own devices: do what you want, it’s your time.
In my case, a return to RuneScape meant once again setting my eyes on completing Song of the Elves, a Grandmaster-difficulty quest that requires a number of rather high skills – varying from agility to smithing – before you can even start it. One of these skills include level 70 farming, a skill I’d woefully neglected and was now suffering for as it’s not something you can buy or grind your way through: even in the fantasy world of Gielinor, growing a full-size tree takes time.
In RuneScape, farming involves travelling to plots of farmland and planting whatever you intend to grow, be it flowers, veggies or trees. If you want to be a little hands-off while they grow, you can pay a local gardener in produce to keep an eye on things until they’re done.
With my mind set on finally hitting level 70, I eased back into things by traveling the land with a handful of willow tree saplings. Willows take a reasonable four hours to grow, yet when I started throwing some fruit trees into the mix, I found myself looking at 16-hour wait times to get my hands on a bounty of pineapples. It sounds daunting, but it’s not: once they’re planted and you’ve roped a local gardener into watching for disease, it’s a case of leaving to do something else, either in-game or (heaven forbid) the real world.
Farming is a significant departure from most MMO skills – even RuneScape‘s traditional grind – because there’s very little interaction involved. Instead of spending every second clicking away at a crafting recipe or anvil, farming is designed to be levelled up in sparse 15-20 minute increments – an unusual, rare thing in a genre that’s typically all about working hard to maximise exp gains.
As my farming level grew, I started to dabble in new seeds that rewarded more experience. Willow trees turned to maple, pineapples to papaya. I even started to grow herbs, which allowed my greenfingers to turn a profit by selling the produce to other players. A routine soon formed – twice a day I would spend 15 minutes teleporting across Gielinor with a backpack full of saplings and seeds, clearing the plots of my old projects to plant something new. My love of RuneScape has been with me for as long as my AM troubles, so I would visit the locations that defined my nerdy teenage years – from the small fishing village of Catherby to Varrock’s bustling streets – with a twinkle of nostalgia, all while my farming experience inched closer toward that elusive 70.
Yet time waits for no man, even renowned papaya farmers. Eventually my Christmas break ended – it was back to work, and being functional by 9AM. While my farming career should have taken a backseat to my real one, a miracle arrived in the unlikeliest of places: my girlfriend’s dentist appointment. On my first day back, I needed to be up a little earlier to watch our five-month puppy – so with an extra 20 minutes on my hands, I brewed a cup of coffee, played with the dog, and sat down to sneak in a quick farming run before work started.
I had no idea how much difference those 20 minutes would make in my life. Rather than going to my job frazzled after a hectic morning routine speedrun, I was relaxed and switched on. My newfound zen carried me through the day, and I optimistically pushed forward the next day’s morning alarm by 20 minutes in the hopes of squeezing in more sweet, sweet experience.
To my surprise, the next morning I managed to get out of bed when the earlier alarm went off, and cleared another farming rush before work. It happened again on the next day, too. And the next. Soon, those 20 minutes of botanical bliss became more than just a chance to sneak in some farming exp – they were a chance to settle into the day and enjoy some me-time before the world and its many emails jumped down my throat.
Three weeks later, and my new routine means I’ve finally hit 70 farming. There are still plenty of skill requirements I still need to tick off before I can tackle Song of The Elves, but none of them are as relaxing as farming and are far more time-intensive, meaning they bear a much closer resemblance to traditional MMO skills. I’ll soon be spending my free time leaping across rooftops to level agility, smashing up ore veins for mining exp, and smithing enough weapons to field an army.
Though I’m turning my plowshares to swords and easing off on growing trees, I’ll still be keeping up my daily herb run. More importantly, those 20 valuable minutes – which have done the impossible and helped me tackle an issue I’d nearly given up on solving – will be sticking around for longer than the many trees I’ve left swaying in RuneScape.
Old School RuneScape is available on PC and Mobile.