Created By: Gamabunta on May 10, 2012

Runic Magic

Using the primeval words of power

Name Space:
Page Type:

Please, I'm sure I haven't investigated enough, is it possible that TV Tropes doesn't have a trope for runic magic? Like in Warhammer Fantasy, the Runelords, etc.? If I'm wrong, I apologize. Otherwise, I'll start writing about it right away!
Community Feedback Replies: 20
  • May 10, 2012
    You mean things like Kotodama or Spellwords/Words of Power? If yes I'm not fully aware of all the things under the Magic Department tropes.
  • May 11, 2012
    It's mentioned under the Functional Magic but we don't seem to have it yet.

    So is this specifically about the Nordic runes or is this about any kind of magic invoked using drawn/written symbols? Instant Runes would be a Theme Park Version of this.

  • May 11, 2012
    Actually runes come from Frisia (now a part of Germany) or England, not Scandinavia. Mythologies seem to have got mixed here... Golems traditionally require words to exist, so could be an example of this.
  • May 11, 2012
    Tabletop RPG
    • Dungeons And Dragons has had many different systems for rune magic over the years.
      • Basic D&D Gazetteer 7 The Northern Reaches had the 24 Power Runes of Odin, from Fehu (find or protect treasure) to Dagar (create light or darkness).
      • The Elves of Evermeet. The elves use runes to power some magic items.
      • HR1 Vikings Campaign Sourcebook. The Vikings use runes to perform magic such as Beast (allows understanding of an animals' speech} and Disease (inflicts a disease on the victim).
      • Giantcraft. Giant runecasters use runes to perform magical feats as Berserk (allows the person carrying the weapon it's inscribed on to go berserk) and Healing (causes any liquid in the cup it's carved on to become a Healing Potion).
    • Stormbringer supplement Demon Magic: The Second Stormbringer Companion. The article "Runes of Rathdor" had 6 runes that could be used for protection, changing shape, illusion, invisibility, preservation, and generating heat and cold.
    • Chaosium's Rune Quest. Runes were naturally an important part of the game's magic system. Powerful characters can become Rune Lords.
  • May 11, 2012

    Most excellent, I'm happy to have found a way of adding to this most wonderful community ^_^Tonight I'll start writing the entry :D
  • May 11, 2012
    Hang on, how is this different from Language Of Magic? This is not an _objection_ exactly; runes are awesome. But it should be clarified.
  • May 11, 2012
    ^ Runes are not a language. They're a system of magical symbols which later on developed into an alphabet. (Heh, imagine writing English in an alphabet which included swastika, up/down pointing swastikas, heart, ouroboros, triple hare etc etc...)
  • May 11, 2012
    Kind of windings font or if you are feeling up to it try Japanese.
  • May 11, 2012
    ^^ I'm quite familiar with the various runic alphabets and how they got used by real-world magical practitioners both before and after Christianity, thanks. :) However, as described, this trope doesn't seem terribly different from Language Of Magic and/or Magical Incantation.

    I can hairsplit, if you like: Language Of Magic posits that there is a language, to speak in which is to perform magic. This trope is about the inherent magic of writing (which, do remember, was the province of the highly educated until only a few hundred years ago). This could come in several forms: perhaps the magical runes are just the alphabet that is used to write the Language Of Magic. Or, perhaps any writing in this alphabet gains magical force. Or, perhaps writing itself has magical force, and this is how writing is done. And finally, perhaps individual runes are intrinsically magical, and combinations of them (which don't necessarily add up to words in any language) form spells.

    In Germanic mythology, Odin discovered the runes by sacrificing himself to himself (when you're a god, you can do things like that) and this discovery was simultaneously the origin of written language and of spellcasting. He then shared bits and pieces of the discovery with the other gods and with favored mortals. (Not all of it; in one passage of the Poetic Edda, Odin brags about all the spells he knows that nobody else does.)

    Real Life rune magic was done either by writing down poetry with magical effect (this is just straight Magical Incantation in written form; specifically, the better a poet you are, the more powerful your spells are) or by writing down specific combinations of runes based on their individual meanings, or by combining the shapes of runes into graphical designs, again based on their individual meanings. Runes are also shuffled and drawn out of a bag for divination, but I think this is a modern invention.

  • May 11, 2012
    Or maybe we can put the usage of magically enchanted equipments that activate via the runes like the on switch (or for effects). Examples... not recalling many now.
  • May 17, 2012
    The Order Of The Stick has the, "I prepared Explosive Runes this morning", among the several uses.
  • May 21, 2012
    Tabletop RPG
    • Dungeons And Dragons
      • 3rd Edition supplement Relics & Rituals. The Ukrudan sorcerers had several spells based on rune magic: Rune of (Darkness, Fire, Poison, Seeing, Sleep). After being cast, all but the Rune of Seeing would exist for a year or until triggered.
  • May 21, 2012
    • The Battle For Wesnoth's dwarves use Runesmithing, a form of magic cast by drawing runes on the surfaces of things.
    • There are quite a lot of instances of this in the Norse mythology, including the runes that were craved into Braggi's tongue, the drink charmed with 'gladness runes' that Brynhild gives Sigurd, etc.

  • June 15, 2012
    • In Elantris Elantrian magic works by drawing Aons, symbolic glyphs that represent concepts such as healing, fire, spirit etc. The Aons seem to have been developed into a standard written language, though its use is rare.
  • August 19, 2012
    how do we not have it yet? It's in Norse mythos and anything remotely based on it.

    • Dungeons And Dragons had extra rune magic systems from AD&D1 and up, especially for dwarves and giants.
  • August 19, 2012
    • Mercenary contractor Gard aka Sigrun from The Dresden Files uses this kind of magic. This makes sense seeing as how she is a literal Valkyrie in the service of Odin The All Father himself.
  • August 19, 2012
    Dungeons And Dragons has the "Symbol of X" family of spells.
  • August 27, 2012
    Literature, in Kathleen Herbert's novel, Queen of the Lightening there is use of Anglo-Saxon rune magic. Tv Series, in the miniseries adaptation of Marion Zimmerman Bardley's Mists of Avalon Morgausse uses a curse runes on a soft metal the melts in the fire releasing the magic.

    Hayley ^_^
  • August 28, 2012
    Mark Anthony's The Last Rune series of novels has two forms of magic, with runic being one of them. Runic magic works by either saying the name of the rune, or through binding the rune in a stone (which is not as easy as it might seem).

    I'm not sure if that reinforces the Language Of Magic theory or if it helps split this apart from the other.
  • August 28, 2012
    • The expansion packs for Heroes Of Might And Magic V add dwarves to the game. Dwarf heroes, runemages, can activate runes in combat, buffing their troops by spending resources instead of mana.