Thursday 4 July 2013

Rune Magic 2: Electric Beamaroo

Welcome to part 2, you made it.

PART THE FIRST - Making Runes
PART THE SECOND - Rune Mechanics
PART THE THIRD - Tutorial Rune Dungeon

Time to learn some mechanical bullshit I made up on the spot at the table.
It meanders a fair bit, so the tl;dr version is to read the stuff in big letters.

I have since updated my mechanics for rune magic, you can find them at the end of my house rules doc.
This article should be current now too... I hope.

What is even the deal here with these runes.

Alright the main thing is that runes can be used by anyone, especially if they're not a wizard.
This is why the all the wizards got together and sealed away the rune magic in a dungeon. There was probably a war or something.

You power runes by touching them and kind of pushing. You'll know it when you feel it.
You do need to concentrate though. The first rune isn't so bad, but casting several runes at once or powering them from a distance increases the strain on your brain.

How to cast a rune
  • The player (not character) draws a glyph and shows you and you work out what it does.
  • The player (not character) slaps the glyph he drew.
  • Rune magic!
How long does it take to draw a glyph?

- It takes one round to draw 1 rune with, say, chalk on stone. This is the quickest possible. Harder materials might take longer.
- It takes 1 round to draw all the connective lines.
- It takes one round to power the finished glyph (like a spell, you declare you're casting at the start of the round and the glyph goes off at the end)

This means that to draw and cast a Beam Lightning glyph in the midst of combat it will take 5 rounds.
Beam Lightning glyph is made up of a Beam rune connected to two Light runes. Hence it takes one round to draw each rune, one round to draw the connecting lines, and powering the glyph takes an extra round beyond that.
Basically, draw them in advance. Unless you're a very specific kind of Dwarf.
Once powered, a glyph stays powered until you turn it off.


Runes are cool but it takes effort to power them based on the number of minor runes in the glyph.

1 minor rune: No penalty!
2 minor runes: -1 AC, +1 encumbrance point.
3 minor runes: -3 AC, +2 encumbrance points.
4 minor runes: -6 AC, unable to move at all.
5 minor runes: Impossible to power.

By "encumbrance point" I mean "next slowest step on the movement speed table", ie. in LotFP each encumbrance point counts as carrying an Oversized item.

You can switch off a rune whenever you want. You just close off the connection in your head.

The strain also increases with distance.

1 ft or less: No penalty!
5 ft or less: -1 AC, +1 encumbrance point.
15 ft or less: -3 AC, +2 encumbrance points.
30 ft or less: -6 AC, unable to move at all.
Over 30 ft: Connection breaks

Putting somebody in a palinquin and having them power three runes and carrying them around is encouraged and working as intended.


You can't cast spells while you're powering a rune, but you can shut off the rune instantly so it's usually no big deal.
If you're damaged while you've got a rune powered it immediately shuts off.

This is partially to give an advantage to regular torches over rune-lights - it's all well and good to have an infinite light source, until you get hit and it gets shut off and you're alone in the dark.


Using effect runes used for direct damage (fire beams, lightning sprays, etc) is pretty common once those rune combinations are discovered.
In general, damage from a glyph does 1dX damage. The base die is 1d6.
If the target is particularly vulnerable to that element the die size might increase to d8 or d10.
If the target is particularly resistant or wearing armour it might decrease to a d4 or d2.
Each tier of armour (Leather/Chain/Plate) reduces the die size (to 0 for Plate) unless you do something like using lightning on metal armour.
Augmenting weapons: Adds +1dX on top of normal weapon damage.
Beam: Deals 1dX damage. Range as bow. Roll to hit once against unarmoured AC, adding your ranged attack bonus. Damage rolls over to the guy behind if you kill someone with it. Unless you spend a round aiming first, a miss means the beam scatters in a random direction.
Repel: Deals 1dX damage, save vs breath for half. Automatically hits all targets in a 30' cone.

Laser beams!

This is all stuff I made up at the table on the spot, change things around if you want.
Beams of fire or lightning sprays or anything that seems like it'll hurt someone badly does 1dX damage.

Beams shoot straight ahead, holding a Beam rune and aiming it means you've got to roll to hit unarmoured AC.
Unless you spent your previous round on an Aim action, Missing means it scatters. If you did Aim first, the beam merely misses everyone and sizzles harmlessly up a wall.

We use a Warhammer Scatter Dice to see which way the beam goes. Of course, it hits the first thing in the way.
The in-universe explanation for this is that you have a moment of unconsciousness when you turn on the glyph as your soul begins powering it, and if you're not prepared you'll just spray it everywhere.

Laser sprays!

Repel glyphs make things like fire and lightning spray out of them in a short range wide area cone shape.
1d6 damage, save vs breath for half.
Yep your players have breath weapons now. Congratulations to them. Make sure you get those enemies all up in their grill so they can't just fireblast everything to rubble!

Other rune issues! 

Make Rune
  • You can't create something where something already exists, so no drawing this on your warhammer and summoning rocks inside people you hit! It's been tried.
Take Rune
  • Weaponise a Take rune by absorbing a whole lot of something into a throwable object then deactivating the rune in mid air. Everything it absorbed will come out at once!
  • Some uses include flashbangs, fire extinguishers, and getting weeds out of cracks in the pavement.
  • If you absorb a bunch of elementals they come out as one GIANT elemental.
 Beam Rune
  • If you cross the streams it's like Magicka. If in doubt, roll a d6: 1-2 They combine 3-4 they pass through each other 5-6 they detonate at the point of contact.
  • If you kill someone with a beam it pierces through them at hits the guy behind him! It keeps going until it hits something without killing it. Barbeque mooks for fun and profit!
Repel Rune
  •  Use Repel Earth on a slab of wood to make an overland hovercar! Put a Repel Mass rune on the back to make it go!
  • Doing the same thing with Repel Stone makes a serviceable replacement for Tenser's Floating Disk in your average dungeon.
Change Rune
  • Things turn back when the rune loses power.
  • The lines of the rune stay the same as the original material. (So wood turned to stone would be a stone surface with the rune inlaid in wood)
  • It transforms an area around the size of your average window, but circular.

That's all I can think of for now! If in doubt, make something up.
Next stop - Rune dungeon!

Part 3 coming soon!


  1. That's a very cool concept. Not sure I'd want Runes to go down like that throughout an entire campaign, but for a particular dungeon it might be just the ticket.


    1. You could always do something clever with a series of rune dungeons, and completing each enables the runes to be used within an arbitrary distance of the dungeon.

  2. I am pretty excited about the story gaming cross-over aspect of this. I would love to try a no-magic scenario (until the runes are discovered that is) and each time a new a rune combo is attempted the effect locks permanently into the game lore/mechanics.

    So, like, a DW style success/success with issue/failure where players hope for a certain effect (say beam of fire) but rolling mediocre locks that rune combo forever into a lesser effect (a updraft of warm air, maybe they can ride it) or poorly (a semi warm breeze, but hey, still useful in trekking overland against the frost giants)

    1. Oh that's a great idea!
      Takes the decision making out of the direct hands of the DM, which is something I'm all about!