Fire. It's the most hypnotic of the classic elements. No tool of such great importance that us humans have ever wielded had to be handled with such care for such a long time in history for fear that it would get out of control. We're still struggling with it today.
Throughout our history, the duality between the usefulness and dangers of using fire has made it the centre of many cultures. Think about it. Is it any wonder that 'worst ways to die' polls pretty much always have burning to death in the top 3? No, and that is why the most "successful" religions have used it as part of their threat and punishment routines.
On the other hand, the most successful civilizations were the ones that learned how to handle fire and use it for their benefit. Light, heat and food preservation, the most primitive uses of fire, speak for themselves as to how a tribe might be more prosperous than its neighbour.
And yet still, few people know the mysteries behind it. To some, it is as magical today as it has been when the first humans picked up that burning stick. So when we sit by our campfire, what is it that mesmerizes us? What are we staring at? In short, what is fire?
Fire is a chemical reaction that requires three components: an oxidizing gas that is usually oxygen, a combustible source of fuel such as coal or wood, and a source of energy to heat the fuel to its ignition temperature. This energy can come from friction, sunlight, a hot enough spark, or something else that is already burning.
When wood is heated to about 150 degrees Celsius, it starts to give of volatile gasses when the cellulose material starts to break down. Heat these gasses further and eventually (around 300 C) the energy from the heat becomes more powerful than the electromagnetic energy that binds the atoms in these gasses together, shaking the molecules apart.
Smoke is a mixture of gasses that consists of those hydrogen, carbon and oxygen atoms that got shaken apart from the wood molecules. These free atoms will almost instantly bind themselves through the same electromagnetism with oxygen, which has a few spare electrons and gladly shares those with other atoms (it's one of the reasons our biochemistry has made such great use of oxygen).
Fire is an outbreak of energy in the form of light and heat (both forms of electromagnetic energy) as all the carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms rearrange themselves in their lowest and most stable energy-state. The energy that is released is the energy that these atoms no longer need to form a stable bond with one another in their previous and higher energy-state.
But even before we thoroughly understood what fire is, we learned to use it in many other places. Scaring off predators and pests, clearing dead underbrush to encourage new growth, as a weapon, in hunting, and, most importantly, to sanitize water, may all sound like things modern man did. But you'd be wrong in that assumption, as all of these uses were invented before the first humans ever stopped being the nomadic hunter-gatherers.
You would think then that fire would be broadly used in a medieval fantasy game such as RuneScape. And while an entire skill has been dedicated to the art of starting a fire, I think they missed the point entirely.
The skill is called Firemaking, but all you really do to train it is light a whole log at once on fire. The art of making a fire, which is using a spark or friction on some tinder to create an ember, which you then add kindling and oxygen to to produce a flame, is not seen at all in RuneScape, save for the use of a bow when using barbarian methods.
The problem extends through every other aspect of the skill. So much so that the entire skill could be renamed to Tinderbox-wielding and nothing would have to change.
There is more stupid stuff. For example, you can't light a torch on another fire, which you cannot keep going because you cannot add fuel, but it doesn't matter, because your torch never burns up anyways.
But I digress. As interesting and useful as fire is, I wanted to see if I could think of something to make the Firemaking skill just that: useful and/or interesting.
The useful part seems easy and Clan Citadels already have it. Turning wood into charcoal to be used as a supplement for coal is something that can be done in "downstairs" RuneScape as well. It even makes sense, as a blacksmith actually prefers charcoal over regular coal.
Yet the interesting part eludes me. While I can think of many new uses in RuneScape when fire is combined with the Crafting, Woodcutting, Farming and Combat skills, none of it would involve actually making a fire. No, it all comes down to using that fire.
So, to make it interesting, would we need to change the purpose and even the name of the Firemaking skill? In a word: yes. In a few more words: About bloody time!
But suppose we did change the skill to Fire Usage, there will be a few problems to deal with, and I don't mean just the abbreviation. Logically, lighting a log on fire would no longer give you any XP, but cooking on that burning log now WOULD give you XP. In a similar fashion, smoking a trap while hunting would now also give you XP, but lighting that torch still would not.
Obviously, if things change, they will do so radically. But in a gameworld where just a fistful of runes can produce massive fireballs, I expect nothing less. Either that, or the Firemaking skill is doomed to be as useful in RuneScape as it is in our own daily lives. A match and some lighter fluid just isn't that magical anymore.