The smithing skill involves the melting down of ore and coal into metal bars and then creating weapons, tools, and armour. These are used to protect the adventurer, help him fight, and help him perform other skill related tasks. Smithing has a consistent level up table to 99 and is therefore arguably one of the most complete skills. In addition to its normal armour creation and bar creation functions, smithing also allows the adventurer to pay an NPC less to repair the adventurer's high level armour.
Unfortunately, smithing is one of the least useful skills in the game. Although it has received its fair share of content over the years, including minigames such as the Blast Furnace and training areas such as the Artisan's Workshop it fails to deliver any reward other than a higher level in the skill itself. Smithing's core activity, the creation of objects, normally loses money, and as this is the main method of training smithing it means that the skill is not as profitable as it would be in the real world.
Although smithing has been integrated into several diaries and quests, requiring the adventurer to train it for reasons outside its own merits, this does not change its useless position: every skill requires some training in order to unlock the best diary rewards: for example, the most useless skill, firemaking, must be trained to 75 to gain an enhanced excalibur, a sword that is useful for everyday free rechargeable healing and therefore has an important role to play in questing, the slayer skill, and combat as a whole.
Many ideas have been suggested to 'fix' smithing, many on this blog, but in truth training smithing is not an issue: it is fairly simple and practical to train, and while this training may be expensive it is the lack of any reward for training the skill that makes it unfulfiling, not the cost itself.
There are several possible high level rewards: new and extra additions to armour, sharper weapons, or even combinations of the two: what about a shield that rebounds damage, for example, or a sword weighted to defend as much as attack?
The truth, however, is that Jagex implemented the perfect high level updates for smithing months ago and simply failed to pick up on their missed opportunity.
As pointed out at the beginning, smithing is the production of metal and the use of it to provide adventuring gear. But what about the repair of items? That clearly has a role in smithing, and it's one that thus far has been taken care of by allowing players a slight discount on a weird money sink.
Let's clarify that last sentence: to repair degrading armour, players take the failed armour peice to an NPC or a stand in their house and pay a certain number of coins to have this thing repaired. Some coins are discounted for a high smithing level, but this in no way manages to compensate for the expense of a high smithing level that would actually make a difference unless that same gear is going to be repaired far more times than actually happens.
Let's go back to when smithing should have recieved an update it deserved. Almost 7 years ago, the Barrows were released. With them came a new tier of level 70 armour and weapons, the best runescape had ever seen. These offered unparalleled defensive and offensive capability that has only recently begun to be challenged in many categories, so to balance it Jagex implemented a repair mechanism: barrows armour would degrade and would necessitate a little money spent in a shop every now and then.
Almost 2 years ago now, Dungeoneering was released. One of the higher level rewards for training the skill (hey, this skill has rewards for training it!) was a new set of level 80 shields and weapons. They were made of a strange new metal, nicknamed 'chaotic' and degraded: they have to be recharged at a shop run by an NPC.
1 Year ago, the nex section of the God Wars Dungeon was released. Players could gain a new set of excellent armour: Torva, Pernix, and Virtus were the best armours ever known. They degraded, and had to be recharged with coins at an NPC or one's house.
Why, Jagex? Why? What possible relation do coins have to an armour stand? Why does that thing want them? How is bob more skilled at smithing than a level 85 smith? What does tindal merchant do that makes him so marvellous at repairing wondrous 2nd age armour that hasn't been seen for millenia? Can he even smith rune? Isn't his job simply buying rusty swords and cleaning them?
The most obvious possible use for a high smithing level would be to make it necessary to repair special, degradeable armours that were unusually powerful. As a result, at a high attack and defence level, you would need to get your smithing up too. Not so much that it's pointless, as happened initially (nobody smiths rune to wear it as an armour) but at the appropriate level for other skills: level 70 smithing for barrows, level 80 for chaotic, level 85 for nex.
Let's briefly outline how it works using the concept of a torva platebody. I own a torva platebody, the finest chestplate in game, and notice that it has degraded. After entering the zaros section of the god wars dungeon, I buy some enchanted metal and cloth from Ashuelot Reis, an NPC there who might have a stockpile (remember, Jagex still needs a money sink: of course the special materials would be tradeable on the GE and indeed stockpilable). I then take these materials and the platebody to a smithy. I then use the armour and the materials on an anvil to create a fully repaired platebody.
That's how it should work with all armour repairing. You buy material, you smith it yourself, you need a smithing level. This would be applied to future updates as well: for example, when Jagex release a level 90 or 95 set of armour and weapons they will make those require smithing to repair too.
Now, despite this advantage of actually making smithing worthwhile (you can still trade in uncharged variants if you don't have the level, remember), some people would think of this as a bit of a shock. But what else are you going to add to the smithing skill that won't be utterly contrived, and why should you spit at the perfect content for high level smithing when the change is there to be made.
Initially, some people would not have the right smithing level to maintain their armour. The barrows people would suck it up and trade armour on the ge for recharging in the short term, while getting better smithing so that they can do it conveniently. The higher levels would know how to train a skill, suck it up, and do it: 80 smithing is not unreachable, after all.
Finally: "but then chaotics as a dunge reward will be pointless! they require smithing now too!". Well, they always required attack. Good armour always required defence. As a result, being able to take care of your equipment should (naturally) require a good smithing level.