Recently Jagex announced their largest update in some time - the combat rework. Until the beginning of beta, we're going off hints on what the new combat will be like, and so far the hints and videos have been encouraging. Players now don't have to just click and wait. The more efficient method will now be "abilities" that are unlocked by advancing your combat skills. At the moment we’re working off the assumption that you select which abilities you want on you main combat HUD, which you then click to improve your combat performance in a cool fashion.
A couple of years ago, I offered the suggestion of having skill based monsters included in the pantheon of slayer beasts. These would be beasts that attacked and defended against a non-combat skill. As such, you could have a Magic Tree Ent that could be attacked by people with Slayer of 75, Woodcutting of 75, and an axe. Similar monsters could be sharks, golems, tanglebushes, mummies, etc. If you wanted to see a similar game mechanic in action, just look at Runespan monsters attacked with the Runecrafting skill, although it's not 100% the same as you don't need slayer and the Runespan monsters don't attack back. However, it's definitely the type of idea I thought could work with many skills. The main idea being that normal skills behave like combat skills at times.
These two ideas made me realize that Jagex is missing a great opportunity. Due to the size of the revamped combat skills, Jagex is introducing a Beta release of the update to test out bugs and fix any game balance issues. What if Jagex used this rare opportunity to introduce these new concepts to non-combat skills and test those in Beta as well?
The most obvious choices to adapt are the "gathering" skills. These skills are most similar to combat. You usually have a weapon (axe, pick, fishing pole) going against an NPC (tree, ore rock, fish spot) that may or may not move. The main difference is the NPC does not attack back excepting the now extinct random events. In addition, the NPC usually has 1 hitpoint (successful harvest) and a guarenteed drop (log, ore, fish). Could such monotonous click and wait events be improved just like combat? I think it's easily doable and many ideas from combat are available.
Imagine "abilities" unlocked as you advance skills. These don't have to be locked to one skill. For example, an ability in Agility and Firemaking could offer benefits to Woodcutting. Some abilities could even be unlocked when two or more skills reach a certain level. The abilities can be graphically pleasing such as rapidly gathering from multiple spots, getting more resources, rapid banking, or whatever creativity can bring about.
Monsters that follow the concept of Runespan monsters could wander the major harvesting areas in Runescape. Ents travel the forests. Golems travel the mines. There can be tanglebushes (Farming) and desiccated mummies (Firemaking). The underwater locations can let you attack fish directly. Even Agility could be shown some love with a monster that when you fight it you have to climb to reach its weak spots or avoid the attacks. Unlike Runespan, these monsters can fight back by lowering the related skill and/or Hitpoints. This too can be further improved with the various abilities and maybe even a skill based prayer book.
All in all, this is about the big idea. Can Jagex revamp all skills and not just combat? The specifics are not that important if the big idea is not doable. Is it too late? I don't think so. Adding special moves to skills is easy as they've done it with auras and summoning special attacks. Creating skill based monsters is also easy as there's already models for most types. Balance is also not an issue as they can test it on a large skill in this beta phase. I understand this is all based on early hints. It could be that what Jagex has planned is completely incompatible with other skills. Even in that unlikely case, there's still the hope they'll continue with Beta to test other major updates.