“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake ... The object of power is power.”
—George Orwell, 1984
Power is a dangerous thing. In excess, it can raise armies, level cities and awaken dragons. The abuse of power corrupts, absolutely. That’s why it’s so important that there is always a balance of power. Contrary to popular belief regarding the Combat Triangle (among other things), there is in fact a balance of power within Runescape. This balance does not exist in PvP, or even in PvM; instead it constitutes an often-overlooked part of the game: quests.
Runescape’s detailed and immersive storyline, spread over almost two hundred quests, generally has the player investigating the actions of, and later fighting, an ‘Abuser of Power’. This ‘Abuser’, who is often given the deceptively simplistic description of ‘Evil’ (which is to say, someone who is unafraid to use power), is inevitably defeated during the quest by the player, thus resulting in a rebalancing of power.
The importance of this victory (no matter how symbolic it may be) over the ‘Abuser of Power’ should not be overlooked. Its significance originates in the sense of Justice that is produced once the villain of the quest lies, vanquished, at our avatar’s knees. A perfect example of this situation is present in the quest “Nomad’s Requiem”. Nomad, an ardent ‘Abuser’ of the Soul Obelisk’s power, is confronted by the player and after a grueling battle (ending in Nomad’s defeat), the player finds that balance has once more been restored to Gielinor: Justice has been done upon the Evildoer and it is this sense of Justice that satisfies the player.
The case of Nomad’s Requiem is a common one in Runescape’s quests. The player finds, confronts, and executes Justice upon an ‘Abuser of Power’. However, this is not always the case. In certain quests, the player cannot mete out Justice on their own, simply because even they are not powerful enough. This is the situation presented to the player in While Guthix Sleeps, where for the first time they meet a villain they actually can’t beat. Lucien is no ordinary villain, either; his uniqueness, as well as his great strength, is built on his use of power. Unlike most ‘Abusers of Power’ such as Nomad, Lucien wields power for power’s sake. He kills with impunity, fears nothing (not even Dragonkin!), and sets no concrete goals. Instead, Lucien is satisfied with abusing his power only to gain more power, which explains his interest in ancient artifacts like the Stone of Jas.
The existence of overpowered characters, like Lucien, in any storyline poses a complex problem to that chronicle’s creators. Jagex, in their infinite wisdom, propose a rather simplistic solution in the quest ‘Ritual of the Mahjarrat’: the introduction of the Dragonkin, who promptly kill Lucien off. Unsurprisingly the Dragonkin bear a striking resemblance to Lucien in that they too are overpowered and abuse power only for power’s sake. This raises the question: how can the player-base mete out Justice upon such beings, and in doing so obtain their long-awaited sense of satisfaction? Clearly Jagex can’t repeat their trick of pulling a bigger gun out of the proverbial hat, so they will need to do some serious thinking in order return the balance of power in Runescape’s storyline to normal levels. This equilibrium is essential, because a balance of power is what everyone craves, what we all seek to achieve—even in an online fantasy world.