Runecasting - Dwarven Magics
It is said that dwarves have problems with using magic (maybe they cannot cast spells at all). This is an attempt to create a distinctly dwarwen school of magic. The way you use it is of course yours.
Knowing runes and symbols is much more than to be a painter. It is to know the way magic flows, the way the world flows. If you concentrate deeply while creating a symbol of power, you may capture a tiny part of the worlds' power, for your own purpose. This symbol may continue to capture the magic necessary for its function for some time.
Runecasters come mostly in the guise of a warrior, and rarely look interesting to other races. Dwarves but know and respect them. While they seem to be no priests, they all revere dwarven gods and dwarven ways. Runecasters are often solitary, which is not unusual, but like to travel and learn about the world, which rare for dwarvenkind. Surprisingly, they also tend to enjoy the Sea - not necessarily sailing it, but watch they can, for hours and hours. All kind of shapes may capture the interest of a Runecaster.
Runes are mostly painted (or carved, traced, drawn, etc.) on the target surface, which with most basic effects takes about 10 minutes. While the result may not look much interesting (incomprehensible is a better word) it requires intense concentration, quite similar to commonly known methods of spellcasting. Sadly, every rune produced must be unique and made specially for a known person or object at that time. All runes have a duration, or defined moments when they loose their magic. At the beginning of casting, most casters shortly reflect on the aura of the moment, the surroundings, or the target person.
The bonuses gained by the user of a Rune are relatively minor, but can often persist for more than many elegant and more potent magical effects.
The creation of a rune is a matter of the moment and personal style - some prefer to scribble wildly, with many lines creating a mish-mash resembling modern art or nonsense, others like to write very slowly and deliberately (reminding of the art of calligraphy), creating simple symbols. Both ways seem to produce the same effects. Note also, that a copy of the symbols made is not a bit magical, just like a used and spent rune. It cannot be used to create another effect.
There are some examples of Runes in the Scroll below.
You spend your life with symbols, creating and getting a feeling for all kind of symbols. If concentrating on symbols of any kind, some information can be felt out of them, from their shape, from the pressure applied to various parts of the letters, even something of the attitude of the symbols' creators may stay behind.
So you may concentrate on a letter from a friend and discover fear between the words saying all is well. And even if the hieroglyphs in the wall cannot be deciphered, you may suddenly feel confident it is a warning. You may get a very bad feeling too, when that scribble is a death curse.
Beware, for in the symbols and shapes much is hidden. Some symbols you should not seek, lest you find what they mean.
'Since when we know the runes? The knowledge has always been with us.
What other people simply call magic, is the life of the world itself, permeating the world, flowing as blood is pumped by the heart. It can be influenced by mortal minds, for good or for ill. But it is power, and power corrupts. We dwarwes know. We had powerful wizards, that achieved many things amazing and terrible. But the price for this disrespect was too great... and we have decided to never abuse magic anymore.
Legend says it was one of the former magicians, that has given up his Art to learn a craft, and noticed the secret that was our company for so long. Lesser races often wonder, how fine are our products. We do things properly, choose solid materials, and take our time to learn and apply the skills. But there is also something more... while learning to add the ornaments, a fresh apprentice, and former master of wizardry, has noticed magic being used by his teacher. Unwittingly, and not powerful, but the effect was there.
And thus it was, that shortly after we have given up this potential, it was found we have been using it for ages.
I will not tell you of the conflicts that followed, but those were turbulent times, as you have surely guessed. In the end, it was agreed that this way of using magic is a part of the dwarwen ways. It should be therefore explored, and used; with all foresight the forces of magic require.
So this is our Art: runecasting, much more subtle than the commonly used magic. It does not create new things out of nothing, it helps with what is already present, it improves our work, and offers deeper insight into known things. Still, it is power, so be careful with it. It is said some runecasters have ended their lives in strange ways indeed... so be careful.'
Shield Rune - gives a +1 bonus to your saves and defense, until you loose a fight or run away from one. Painted on a shield.
Strength rune- carved on a wooden twig, increases the target Strength score a little for up to an hour (let's say a +1d3 bonus for 10d6 minutes). The target must break it to activate its power.
Fire Rune - carved into a torch, it is brighter, but burns much faster. The wearer becomes partially immune to normal fire.
Blood Rune- one useful in battle, much quicker to create. Painted with own blood after being hit, may give a +1 bonus against that oponent, or make the weapon magical against given oponent, if it needs such a weapon to be hit.
Rune of Guard/Detect Enemy- requires solid stonework and weeks to create. Guards in the area have a +1 bonus against sleeping and concealing magics. No matter the protection, guards have always at least a 1% chance of waking up or noticing something, even if IT is invisible or whatever.
Or the Rune of Opendoor/Brittlestone - may be painted on (silently) on a door to make it fragile and much easier to break... a stone door could be treated like a wooden one. If painted on regular, solid rock, it allows much quicker digging in the duration.
The Thiefs Mark - if stolen, the thief gets a minor allergy from this item, gets faster weary, a minor penalty (like -1) to all saves, etc.
Condense Water - not painted, must be carved or something, collects small amounts of aerial water, it usually leads to some kind of container where it is collected. To supply people with enough water, much time must be spent and vast areas covered with this rune. Good in deserts, as in other locations with little water. (Note: there is a more elaborate version below.)
Rune of Awaiting - is carved into the weapon of an aspiring young dwarf. A tiny, say 1% chance in a day of the weapon gaining some minor magical powers, the dwarf must perform heroic deeds for this to work. As the gods more often than not watch this young one, he better not fails in his ways...
How about these few more examples (help/mischief in the community):
Milking Rune - Two versions: one makes a barren cow provide more milk, the other makes a fruitful cow barren. The runes must be tatooed onto the udder.
Wheat Rune - Like a crop circle these runes are cut into the crop. They help to improve harvest.
Rune of Lockdoor - Carved/drawn onto a door. It increases the door's strength (reduces chance of door being barged down or opened). This can be carved quickly in the heat of an escape.
I'm involved in a local archaeology project in our area and we've been finding these strange cup-and-ring-marked stones and other more zoomorphic carvings. We're not sure what they were for so who knows...
Here's a few more for the runic spellbook:
Rune of Light: A glowing glyph whose brightness and duration depends on how long the caster spends carving it and also on the sharpness of the chisel used.
Rune of Iron: Similar to your 'condense water' rune: when carved into iron-rich rocks this rune gradually fills up with liquid iron which seeps from the surrounding rock and then solidifies. The process takes a minimum of 6 hours but depends on the caster's level and the complexity of the shape required. Useful for when a set of replacement arrowheads are needed and a skilled caster can simply carve the arrowheads into the rock.
The Eye Rune
Close your eyes. Paint bigger eyes over/around your own eyes. Open them. You will see much better than you did before. (let's say 2-5 times better)
The rune's effect lasts for as long as you can keep your eyes open. (No blinking!)
- Do not forget that dwarwes are said to see better in the dark.
- If the rune is too often used, and the eyes are forced open for too long, it may have adverse effects.
The Air rune
In deep caves this would come in handy. Traced in the air either with light or smoke it becomes flickering, almost solid, and a gentle breeze blows outwards in all directions for a few minutes.
The Insect Rune
Rarely used and known, it aids in directing tiny critters (but to a degree also larger creatures, like rats) on some predestined path. The route must be carefully adapted to the surrounding conditions; it is to be finely traced into the surface these critters will walk.
The Rune is used to improve living conditions, but also for setting traps, and other ways for changing the local ecology. Naturally, it is more effective underground, and has little effect on creatures that fly. The creatures still behave naturally, so they won't jump off cliffs or walk into fire. They are just much more likely to pick this path than any other.
A rune for the warplain. Made from the blood of a slain comrade, the runecaster applies the rune to the forehead of himself or an ally. The rune creates a bloodlust in its target, giving +1d4 and increased speed at the cost of -1d4 dexterity. The warrior berserks across the battlefield for a maximum of 10 minutes.
The Symbol of Mine
For times of privacy or paranoia... the rune is drawn inside of a limited, enclosed space the caster has a strong bond to (like his own room). It is drawn across all corners, on furniture and walls, floor and even ceiling. It is not necessary obvious, thin lines made with a pencil, or traces in dust are enough (but are much easier to remove).
Inside of such a space, the caster is at home, he will loose nothing, and always find what he is looking for; nor would he bump into anything at night and harm himself. Should his room be searched by someone, however secretly, he will know, and be able to find anything that was left behind, or quickly know if anything was taken.
The duration of the symbol and the insight gained (or the concentration/searching needed) depend as usually on the quality/permanency of the rune, but also on the familiarity with the place.
Rune of Binding
A basic rune used for many purposes. The main function is to prevent change. Dwarven strongholds of old are often covered and bound together with many runes of binding, conveying them supernatural hardness (OK, they are not super-hard, but with a good architecture it is quite a bonus). The thin lines that few notice, running for miles across rooms and halls... but most of them are much smaller, serving lesser purposes. A simple rune can make a supporting beam stronger, a hastily painted one helps a man with a broken bone to walk, slowly and with pains, but on his own.
This is one of the reasons why dwarwen-made items are so sought after... some of the dwarwen artisans intuitively create variants of this rune on their products.
Rune of Change
A powerful rune, it helps to bring change where there was no before. Carefully carved into a wooden plank, it may be bent without breaking while the symbol's effect lasts. Painted on a living being, it may become a contortionist, more powerful variants mean the ability to change the actual shape of own body... not at will, but under pressure it will become malleable, able to squeeze through thin cracks, slowly returning to its former shape.
True masters of runecasting, that used the rune many times can become permanently affected by it (the process can be helped along, with making the rune more durable as tatooes or scars). There are but also horror stories, of those that have lost their shape permanently. Wise runecasters therefore combine this rune with the Rune of Binding; the correct combination is of course hard to get (not to mention that both must be applied on the whole body, even on places that are hard to reach - like own back).
The Path of Voice
Another of the more powerful runes (or requiring more skill, depending on how you look at it). The rune must be etched on the surface, to help lead sounds in a certain direction, or to make them unclear. The effect is not unlike what master architects can achieve in some of their buildings - making words spoken in one place heard elsewhere, or create places secured against prying ears.
The effect is of course weaker on loud sounds, and may change unexpectedly on the type of voice or sound (in some places deep voices carry further, in some places thin voices are hard to overhear). A successfully used rune may be made permanent in its place, but will require much more time and etching.
In all cases, the caster traces the rune into the element, and submerges his hands into it, to read something of its nature (the information is only rudimentary - size or weight of creatures, their distance, etc). The casting being relatively fast, the effect lasts only as long as the palms are inside and the caster concentrates.
Earth may offer information on the creatures walking it now, or those that passed it recently. More effective if used on tracks directly.
Water will also convey knowledge of creatures passing it (on the surface, or inside), but also currents that move it.
Air speaks of its own movements as well, but can also help with finding the source of a certain smell, sense movement, etc.
Fire reveals a little about its source, or those tending to it. Alternatively, the caster's mind may rise with the smoke and take a look on the world from above. The palms are protected from the fire, while they stay on its surface. The pain is the same, however.
Sensing The Earth
Tracing the simple sign into surrounding earth (skilled runecasters can do this innocuously with their foot), the caster may, after a short period of concetration, start to perceive what the Earth speaks.
This usually means detecting the movement of large creatures or groups, or similar noises that carry through Earth. The effect might last from minutes up to several hours (especially if the area is known), but ends immediately when the caster leaves the symbol.
Note: this is really a modification/extension of the Feel Element rune.
The Mark of Obvious
Those, who have a certain skill in art, and have an air of mystery around them, are usually afforded due respect by their surroundings. But sometimes, they are bothered, begged, or otherwise whined into cooperation - couldn't they please work their magic, and cast some amazing sorcery on the supplicant, or his possessions? And sometimes the runecaster obliges.
The Mark will last maybe a few hours, it's typically painted on a shield or armor. The wearer that openly displays it, will become surprisingly noticeable to other people, which is typically accompanied by a lot of finger pointing and whispering. While it's easy to confuse the aura for a 'touch of Fate', or 'true power', a better look may dispel that notion. Yes, it is a practical joke, but not without other uses...
Depending on the size and shape of the intended item, the casting may take months to complete, but luckily, it is not a continuous process. The Master of Runes chooses a fitting stalagmite that grows out of a cave's floor, and etches the first runes into it. Over the next weeks and months is the desired shape helped along with further runes and care; application of the last rune ends with cutting it loose from the ground.
While applicable to tools, it is mostly used to produce weapons - spears, even sword-blades, and of course smaller pieces like daggers or arrowheads. All profit more from their point rather than blade, but are genuine magical items (they could play the part of the generic +1 weapon). Even with their power, limestone is not the same as steel; it is suspected that they are more likely to break when not held underground.
Desert rune of Erkina'an
The desert people of Erkina'an live in one of the most hostile environment in the land. The smallest drop of moisture is revered as an immense wealth, to be protected and cared for. Their shamans have long been dedicated to helping the tribes gather water, and the Shaimal-Shan (Lit: Gathering hand) is a rune that all learn how to carve from the earliest age, since it could easily save their life.
Once carved into a surface of any kind (rock works well) the rune's magic will attract all the moisture in the nearby environment to it, and the magic will condense the water into small droplets within the etching. this then allows the water to be collected.
Interestingly, this rune is also used during the funeral rites of the Erkina'an people. Once a tribe member dies, the rune is carved on their chest using their own knife, and the moisture of the body is extracted and runs out of the carving in the form of pure water. This has the side effect of stopping the Erkina'an dead from decomposing, which has led to their custom of cremating them after the Shoman-al'jiman (giving of the water) ceremony.
Tribute to Dune
Rune of Earth Stilling
This rune serves to still the movements of the earth within it's radius, reducing the impact of quakes and preventing cave-ins.. All stone structures which are reasonably well constructed will not fall unless acted upon by a sentient being. The area affected by the rune is dictated by the skill of its construction. With enough such runes, even massive underground cities can be built.
Mark of Draught
On any location with a bit of airflow, this basic rune will guide air on a certain path. This is good to create an uncomfortable feeling, or pretend there is a secret passage nearby.
While it is possible (and very time consuming) to cover entire tunnel networks with it, air conditioning should be a part of the architecture.
The path of Heat
Many talented builders embed it unwittingly on their fireplaces, creating comfort zones, where the temperatures are "just right", or warm up a room with less fuel.
A newer approach is to use it in forges to direct the heat, and make the forging process faster.
This rune is simple and pretty quick to make - you scrawl a line (or more lines) weaving around in a complex pattern, and then lay out a piece of rope (or several ropes) on the top of it, following the lines. If somebody steps on the ropes, there is a high possibility of getting entangled on them or even falling.
(The trap doesn't work if somebody sidesteps the ropes, pushes them to the side, or walks through with the intent of not getting entangled - it only catches the unwary. On the other hand, clumsy people may find themselves completely trapped. Runecasters too.)
The rune could be used to trigger another trap. Watch out.
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? Responses (27)-27
Dwarves and a Magic System that does not require spells seems to be a good mix. We need runes for enchanting things, which is a common Dwarven pastime.
Updated: Added a few runes and done some minor edits here and there.
Im conflicted on what I need to vote as. I want to give it a higher vote, but it doesn't reach out and smack Oscar to me... It does however sound really good.
I think what I need is a little more background to it. A little history as to why these runecasters began.
Now, I love this idea because it is different. My magic system is based off of runes similar to this. This speaks of a fun filled session as long as those who are doing it can think outside the box. Good job once again manfred... I lilke it.
-.5 for lack of history
-.5 for lack of detailed background.
I went to change my vote and it isn't letting me.
4/5 I like this branch of magic.
Updated: Added a bit on history and personal style.
I really like rune magic, and I am considering a simple rune/chants system for a campaign. This thread has many good ideas, and can trigger the imagination too. Great scroll!
Thanks a lot! If you like this one, there is also the School of Entwiners, similar in style, in its own way. You may want to use that, too.
I like this - a lot! It deserves being seen! /David
Another rune came to me after your Bump. Thank you for it - and for the HoH!
Just noticed that I doubled up on the first post! oh, dear... not very good. Never mind. will leave for the background info and fancy names.
Well, background info and fancy names are always welcome. :)
Love this, it makes Dwarven magic unique
Man, can't believe I missed this one. Nicely done Manfred!
Good solid idea for a 'spell-less' magic system, very fitting for Dwarves or low (or at least non-obvious) magic settings.
4/5 + HoH bump.
I like the many attached ideas.
I really like the idea of different schools of magic and have employed rune casting as such a school in my own D&D campaigns. This is nicely done.
Superb collection of ideas!
(the Dwarven Guild hereby claims this work for its annals)