Tuesday 2 July 2013

Rune Magic

Rune magic is kind of my baby. I hope you like it.

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

Some initial points:
- It's powerful and flexible. If they're clever and into it you might have given them an extra levelsworth of power.
- This is all player skill not character skill, and generally an extra thing any class can use.
- Expect your PCs to start tattooing runes on their foreheads and tongues and carving stuff into armour and thinking up all sorts of badass abuses and exploits like guns and ironman suits.
- Be prepared to make up rulings and mechanics on the fly.
- Don't give them all of this all at once because they'll get overwhelmed. Hell, you might be overwhelmed too after seeing all this. By my genius.
-I introduced it via a dungeon as a kind of tutorial. Half the fun is seeing them try to work out how runes work, which runes mean what, and how to exploit them for fun and profit.

Now, basic rune crafting.
There are two types of rune, which I call Master and Minor.
Combine a Master Rune and one or more Minor Runes to create a Glyph.

Minor runes define the element being cast.
Master runes define how it's cast.

 So this is a Make Light glyph:
And this is a Beam Heat glyph:

So that's your basic two-symbol glyph. Orientation doesn't matter so long as they're connected by a line.

Before I go into the next bit, I tend to think of the elements as either Materials and Effects

Materials are anything that's affected by gravity. 
So Earth would be a material and Heat would be an effect.
This is important because a Beam Earth glyph will shoot out a ball of soil, while a Beam Heat glyph will create a sustained beam of heat for as long as you power the rune.

 These are the five Master Runes.
  • Make creates a fist sized ball a handspan in front of the glyph.
  • Take draws stuff into it, but releases it all at once when you break concentration.
  • Beam shoots a beam of Effect or a high speed blob of Material.
  • Repel throws material away from the glyph or pushes effects out in a cone shape.
  • Change transforms the surface that the rune is drawn on into a material, or applies the effect to it.

And these are the five Minor runes.
  • Light is bright like a light bulb.
  • Heat is warm but quickly heats up like a stove top.
  • Mass is for crazy physics effects and has been used to create zones of heaviness and beams of force and stuff like that.
  • Cold starts off chilly but quickly cools like a freezer.
  • Earth is regular soil.

"Dude you got me all worked up and I find out you've only got like 25 possible rune combinations of limited utility? Shit sucks."
Woah woah chill out imaginary uncouth man because there's more.

Advanced Rune Crafting  (ARC102)

In this unit you will learn how to:
  • Use rune magic to impress the ladies.
  • Compare and contrast Kennard F Wombus' Lesser Rune Theory and the Integrated United Theorum of Universal Lesser Special Runativity using exactly one introduction, one conclusion, and three body paragraphs.
  • Tell the difference between a rune and a potato.
  • Shoot laser beams out of your face.

So the other thing you can do is combine the minor runes to make different elements.
This is done with a triangle shape, but there's a major distinction, as shown below.

In the second example, drawing a master rune and two minor runes in a triangle shape simply casts them both at once. This means you get the benefits of two runes while you're only powering one which is good for saving energy or whatever.
Essentially Heat and Light are both cast separately into the same place, the result being a ball of light and warmth.

But if you add an extra line between the runes like in the third example, they combine to make something different. In this case Heat and Light combine to create a ball of Fire floating in front of the glyph.

You only ever have one Master rune, trying to cast a rune with two Master runes means it just doesn't work.

Rune combos follow in a visually pleasing format.
Also a word of warning some of them don't reeeaaally make sense, but in the real world you can combine two volatile deadly chemicals and get table salt so whatever.
And they're intentionally fucky so that they make you groove in your DM shoes. 
What the fuck happens if they draw a Take Water rune on the seabed? 
How does a Size Beam work? 
Is it really a good idea to tattoo Make Water in your mouth for desert journeys?

You decide!

Cold combos!

Earth combos!

Mass combos!

Heat combos!

Light combos!

Expert Rune Crafting

One last thing!
You always have a single master rune, but you can add as many minor runes as you like!
etc etc etc
They've got to have the master rune in the middle of a geometric shape, but other than that go for your life.
Remember that your players have to actually physically draw the glyph!

Because they're big, you can have multiple combinations of elements depending on where you place the in-between sticks.
So say you want to make an explosion, but you're in space! Do explosions happen in space where there's no air? You don't know for sure, but you do know this is Frank's favourite topic of conversation and he brings it up whenever he's drunk.
Your eye is drawn to the half-empty bottle of beer next his hand. It's his sixth, and he got here late.
Frank's eyes are greedily lighting up, preparing his amateur physicist notes in his head.

You better do something.
You better 


You quickly draw a glyph, taking care not to combine Mass and Cold because it might make the explosion less rad. You PUNCH THE RUNES.

An explosion explodes the thing you're pointing at! Straight balla!
The DM makes boomy whooshy noises and makes explodey motions with his hands! 
Fuck yea the day, and Frank's suspension of disbelief, is saved!

Awesome work! Just don't mention the ending of BSG because he'll be off all night.

Alright! That's all for rune crafting folks.
See you next time as I tell you how they actually work mechanically!

Part 2


  1. I'm going to invent a magic system, too. I'm going to call it lego magic, where I dump a bunch of legos on the table, an whatever the players can built, they can have (as long as I can tell what it is). That's supposed to be a horse? No, here you get a two-legged chair. Use more legos next time.

    But seriously, this shit is awesome. It's a toolbox an it makes the players do all the work.

    1. Christ, that's amazing.
      Plus they could find fiddly bits as treasure!

      And thanks! My chuffed level is through the roof.

  2. Very very cool... and it doesn't have to overpower a campaign. I could use it in my OD&D campaign with these caveats: 1. The runes must be drawn with a special magical ink. 2. The formula for the ink is unknown when the first pot is found in treasure. 3. The formula can be discovered only through expensive research or high level magic. 4. The components for the ink are likewise very expensive/hard to get.

    1. You'd want to have an infinite supply of ink somewhere though so that they can experiment.
      Half the fun is watching them try out rune comboes to see what happens.

      They created a Make Life rune one time and realised it made their arms and hands feel amazing and alive if they put their limbs through the field.
      That was when the muscle wizard uttered the immortal phrase, "I stick my dick in it".

      He declined to do similar with the Take Life rune.

  3. So what happens if you make one giant rune combo (say, Make Fire from the example) with a whole bunch of small rune combos?

    1. The second post is up, hopefully it answers your question!

  4. In a world I created, the rune mages were defeated because runes need to be made with a special substance that only the anti-rune mages could get. The substance could then be turned into ink or whatever it was being used for. I also greatly expand the system to include "written language" form and power runes that would draw energy from a specific source to power any other rune it was hooked up to (possibly making it self sustain) I also added an official life rune. I'll show you all the details once i finish with all the rules and stuff. The people in my world have to have a license to buy rune-ink and even be able to use runes. The mages keep close tabs on runes. My character is a rune-master yordle (he has a level 3 rune license) he was also adopted into a royal family after being sold as a slave to them. He created 24 rune cards that use my rune-system (sometimes, my group plays poker with his cards)

    1. That sounds rad, definitely send the info my way when you've put it together.