From the moment the material was first introduced, dragon items have been some of the most sought after pieces of equipment in the game. From the moment the first dragon weapons were introduced in RuneScape Classic (shortly before the introduction of a rampant trading scam involving bronze weapons that was the original reason dragon items were given a look that distinguishes them from more common items), dragon items have been a staple of a high level player's armory. Even though many equipment slots now have more powerful or useful alternatives, dragon equipment often remains the standard to which other equipment is compared.
Today only a handful of metal items haven't been released to the public. Of these items the most sorely missed is, in my opinion, the Dragon Crossbow. While the arsenal of rangers has vastly improved over the past few years, they still have only three weapons that can be considered truly exclusive: Seercull, the Dark Bow and the Crystal Bow. This is in mostly due to the fact that unlike dragon equipment, all other high-end ranged weapons are player made. This has made Rune Crossbows and Magic Short-bows incredibly cheap and easy to obtain.
Therefor, I think the world is ready to receive the Dragon Crossbow, a new breakthrough in pointy object delivery technology. This raises two important questions: How do we get our hands on this glorious new object? And just how good will it be?
The first question should be answered by looking at how dragon items have traditionally been introduced into the RuneScape world. This has in the past been done in three ways: Making the item available for purchase after the completion of a quest (most dragon weapons), making the item a rare drop from high level monsters (most dragon armour) or a crafting process that requires monster drops and high skills (dragon square shield, dragon plate). Obviously, each of these methods has its pros and cons.
By offering the item as a reward for the completion of a quest, the item immediately becomes available to a relatively large section of the public. Of course, this doesn't mean it will be easy. When the Heroes' Quest came out, it had the highest stat requirements of any quest so far, along with a relatively long list of quests that needed to be completed before the player could even get started. How hard this quest would be depends entirely on how exclusive you would want the Dragon Crossbow would be. A good start would be to focus on stat requirements that are often used in conjunction with the ranged skill. The three skills generally most useful to a ranger are crafting (to make armour), defence (to avoid getting hit, to meet requirements for various types of equipment that give bonuses to ranged attack) and Fletching (to make weapons, ammunition and projectiles). Of course three skill requirements is hardly fitting for an item as powerful as the Dragon Crossbow, so lesser requirements in other stats would be desirable.
By using a quest and a store price of around 300,000 GP the Dragon Crossbow would immediately be available to a relatively large section of the public, although it wouldn't be nearly as exclusive as some of the other dragon items have been and still are. Still, this seems preferable to the huge economical shock waves that have been caused by the introduction of various other dragon items in the past.
Making the Dragon Crossbow a rare monster drop could be done in two ways: Adding it to the drop table of existing monsters (as for example has been done with the Dragon Med and the left shield half) or creating an entirely new monster for this purpose (as has been done with Dragon Claws and the Dragon Full Helm). Of course JaGeX could also do both (as has been done with the Dragon Two-hander). This immediately gives the item an amount of exclusivity that making it purchasable after a quest simply won't do. While the former method is certainly tried and tested I would prefer the latter, mainly because it would allow the game designers to not just make it exclusive, but making it exclusive to rangers.
What I would like to see is a monster that can be killed (and reached) only by rangers. By making the entrance require a Mithril Grapple shot of particularly high difficulty, only the most skilled rangers would even catch a glimpse of this new monster. By making it immune to melee and magic and making it attack with all three attack styles for fairly high amounts of damage it can be made sufficiently challenging to anyone looking for their new toy. Of course introducing the item like this also means that its exclusivity isn't based on skill so much as wealth, as new dragon items have hit the market at a street price that sometimes went as high as tens of millions of GP. This hardly seems to be the kind of exclusivity we're looking for in this new weapon.
The third and final method involves a combination of quests, rare monster drops and skills. Like the Dragon Plate, RuneScape crossbows are crafted from three different pieces: the stock, the limb and the string. All three parts could be obtained through monster drops or certain parts could be sold in a shop after completing the required quest. A possible way to do it would be a special stock sold for a certain amount of GP, a crossbow limb that's dropped by certain monsters and a string that's crafted by, for example, spinning magic tree roots. These items could then be put together using the Fletching skill. A crude extrapolation based on the levels required to craft various crossbows puts the required Fletching level somewhere at 78.
Again there's the risk of making this item easier to obtain through wealth than through skill, but adding a quest as one of the requirements certainly helps in there. Furthermore, by making one part available in a shop and the other a monster drop that's very rare but available to a large amount of different creatures, like the left shield half, the chance of the price reaching eight digit heights is severely reduced. For example, the dragon square shield price has long been stable at around two thirds of the price of the part that's purchased at the Legends Guild.
So now that we've explored the various ways in which the Dragon Crossbow can be obtained, we should look at what this weapon actually does. First of all there's the level requirement. The difference in ranged level requirement from one crossbow to the next is, unfortunately, a bit erratic. However, if we start at steel and go up to rune, we can see that as we go one 'level' higher, the ranged level requirement increases by five, plus five for each step that we go up. Five from steel to mithril, ten from mithril to adamant, fifteen from adamant to rune. This would mean that the Dragon Crossbow would require twenty more ranged levels to wield than its rune counterpart. A ranged level of 81 would, in my opinion, be a very fair requirement. Luckily its only stat, the ranged attack bonus, is a lot easier to create. Going through the conventional metals from bronze to rune shows an increase of +12 every time we go up a step. Therefor the Dragon Crossbow would be a one-handed ranged weapon that would require level 81 ranged to wield and would have a ranged attack bonus of +102.
Of course like all dragon weapons the Dragon Crossbow would need a special attack. At the moment there's eight ranged weapons that have a special attack: The Dorgeshuun Crossbow, which reduces the target's defense level, the Magic Shortbow, which fires two more powerful but less accurate shots at once, the Magic Composite Bow and Longbow which is more accurate and guarantees damage, Seercull, which reduces the target's magic level, the Dark Bow, which fires two shots with increased (and guaranteed minimum) damage and the Rune Throwing Axe, which damages multiple opponents in multi-combat areas. Most of these special attacks are useful but boring, but I think the Dragon Crossbow special attack should pack a little more punch than that.
One thing that sets crossbows apart from other ranged weapons is the multitude of enchanted bolts that have a chance of triggering a special effect on impact. This is where I think the potential for a truly useful yet not too powerful special attack lies. My original idea of an attack that drains your special bar 100% and guarantees the next bolt's effect to be triggered looked good initially, one bolt threw a wrench in the plan: the damage dealt by ruby bolts is fixed at 20% of a monster's HP. This means that any monster in a multi-combat zone can be taken down pretty much instantly by a team of five rangers. Therefor I propose that in stead of a 100% chance to trigger the effect, the odds are merely doubled, at a reduced special bar drain rate. Since the Dark Bow has proven that the game code allows for two different special attacks on a single weapon, we could also create a special attack for metal bolts. A good example of a creative special attack using metal bolts would be an attack with a 100% drain rate that turns the next ten bolts you fire into a gem-tipped bolt that's made of the same metal (so bronze bolts would fire as pearl bolts, mithril bolts would fire as sapphire or emerald tipped bolts with each shot having an equal chance to become either) that have the same chance to trigger their special effect as a regular gem-tipped bolt. Of course the wacky world of special attacks offers plenty of fun and useful possibilities, and these are just two suggestions.
So there you have it: the Dragon Crossbow. An item that's exclusive, but hopefully more attainable through skill than through wealth, and with stats and special attacks worthy of the name dragon.