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Video Game / Rune

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Rune is a third-person Hack and Slash game developed by Human Head Studios and published by Gathering of Developers, released in 2000 for Windows and Macintosh. The game uses a modified version of the Unreal Engine to utilize third-person melee combat instead of first-person gunfights.

It is based on Norse Mythology, and follows the story of Ragnar after his initiation into Odinsblade when an allied village gets attacked. When sailing out to the village, he is attacked by Conrack who betrays his fellow Vikings and sides with Loki in his conquest for power, with his boat being destroyed by the power of the mad trickster god. Ragnar is called by Odin, who saves him from his untimely demise, and swims into an undersea cavern. Ragnar must fight his way through the legions of monsters, dwarves, vikings, and the undead that awaits him if he wishes to exact his vengeance against Conrack.

A standalone expansion pack, Rune: Halls of Valhalla, was released in 2001 that features new multi-player modes, new characters, and new maps. The game was later ported to the PlayStation 2, subtitled Viking Warlord, followed by a Linux port by Loki Software in the same year, as well as a series of pen and paper role-playing games by Atlas Games. Rune Gold, a compilation re-release of the original game and expansion pack, was also released at the time. Another re-release, Rune Classic, was released digitally via Steam in 2012 and on in 2013 with the extra enemies from the PlayStation 2 version, streamlined levels, and the game's soundtrack as a bonus.


There was also a Tabletop RPG based on the video game, designed by Robin Laws and bearing the same title. It is notable for being one of the few truly competitive-by-design pen-and-paper RPGs.

A sequel titled Rune II, once again developed by Human Head Studios, was released on November 12, 2019 (nineteen years after the original). It was the last video game to be developed by Human Head Studios as an independent company; they closed their doors almost immediately after the game's release, and the entire team was relocated to Roundhouse Studios under ZeniMax Media.


This game provides examples of the following tropes:

  • All There in the Manual: The game's backstory and Ragnar's upbringing in Wotankeld can be found in the game's manual.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: After Ragnar finishes off Conrack and Loki's plans are foiled, Odin takes Ragnar to Asgard and leads him into Valhalla where his Viking comrades awaits.
  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: Loki is fond of this while going through his rapid mood swings.
  • Auto-Save: Rune Classic automatically saves your game at certain checkpoints of the game although manual saves are possible.
  • Back from the Dead: Even though you fall into the underworld, you get revived by Odin.
  • Barbarian Hero: Ragnar, the lone surviving Viking who sets out to avenge his father and comrades after Conrack betrayed and killed them.
  • Booby Trap: Some levels are rigged with traps, such Smashing Hallway Traps of Doom and blade traps that messily kills you instantly.
  • Bottomless Magazines: The Goblin Axe's Infinite Throw power lets you hurl the axe endlessly for a short period of time.
  • Bottomless Pits: Some levels of the single-player campaign have them, such as mountainous regions of Hlora's Pass and Dwarven aqueducts.
  • The Berserker: Ragnar can go into Berserk mode after slaying many enemies at once before the Bloodlust meter depletes or picking up a Rune of Bloodlust. Once full, any damage he takes goes to his Bloodlust meter instead.
  • Big Bad: Conrack, a rogue viking who allied himself with Loki in the name of conquest and power, and he'll kill anyone who dares stand in his way.
  • BFS: The Dwarven Battle Sword, a huge, curved, two-handed sword that makes mincemeat out of your enemies.
  • Chained to a Rock: Loki. In this variation, the poison drips onto his chest.
  • Chunky Salsa Rule: If it's splattered into pieces, it's boned.
  • Combos: A string of attacks can be done with properly timed swings.
  • Came Back Strong: After Ragnar hacks up Conrack for betraying and kill his Viking comrades, Conrack's dip into Loki's blood turns him into a hulking monster.
  • Camera Lock-On: Players on controllers can lock-on to an enemy by pressing a button that will focus your sights on a target.
  • Competitive Multiplayer: The game features some competitive multiplayer modes such as deathmatch and team deathmatch where players battle against each other. The game's expansion pack adds new multi-player modes such as an Arena mode and a Headball mode, new character skins, and new multiplayer maps.
  • Compilation Rerelease: Rune Gold, which comes with the original game and the Halls of Valhalla expansion pack.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: The hellish temperatures of Hel won't stop Ragnar from exacting vengeance against Conrack.
  • Dem Bones: The skeleton enemies in the PlayStation 2 version and Rune Classic.
  • Doomed Hometown: After coming back as an immortal monster from Loki's blood, Conrack leads an army of Loki's monsters to raid your village for their runestones.
  • Difficulty Levels: Stock easy to hard settings. Hard difficulty is more noticeable in the first boss fight, where Ulf has much more health than he would have otherwise.
  • Drop the Hammer: The maces and hammers.
  • Duel to the Death: Ragnar defeats Conrack in a One on One sword battle, and knocks him into the acid of Loki's venom. It doesn't stick.
  • Emergency Transformation: After defeating him in human form, Conrack escapes and leaves you to die in a pit as monsters keep attacking. The only way to proceed is to transform into one of the Elite Mooks. Loki laughs, saying that Odin would not accept you after you willingly transformed.
  • Eternal Engine: The land of the Dwarves.
  • Expansion Pack: The Halls of Valhalla standalone expansion pack, which adds more multi-players, character skins, and maps. It also adds the ability to deflect thrown weapons with a well-timed attack.
  • Exposed to the Elements: The goblins strips Ragnar of everything above the belt yet this doesn't stop him from hunting down Conrack through the icy mountains of Hlora's Pass.
  • Evil Laugh: Loki makes many of these.
  • First Village: The game's starting point, where you learn the basics of survival and fighting.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: There's an issue with the game crashing in the Rune Extended mod's Halls of the Dishonored level due a missing wall-breaking sound effect. The only way around this is to mute the game, break the walls in the hallway area, save the game, and restart with sounds enabled unless you go out of your way to fix the map manually.
  • Game Mod: The game, being an Unreal Engine 1 title, has a niche modding community who has created unofficial patches, custom game modes/servers, and alternate weapons and extra characters for the original release of the game.
  • Garden of Evil: Those snake-like enemies seen in the first few levels are actually the local plant-life. And the mushrooms release their toxic spores when someone steps on them.
  • God Mode: The computer version of the game has a God Mode cheat that can be activated though console command but also requires using the "cheatplease" code to enable cheat codes for it to work. Once activated, the player is invincible against enemy attacks, traps, and bottomless pits, however the player can still be killed if they're crushed by heavy objects such as boulders or a collapsing building. The PlayStation 2 port also has a God Mode code that can be entered in the pause menu.
  • Heart Container: Runes of Health and Runes of Power respectively raises your health and rune power.
  • Hell Hound: Found in the Hel levels in Viking Warlord and Classic as huge, demonic dogs with red claws and glowing eyes.
  • Heroic Mime: Ragnar, who doesn't speak at all other than his reactions to pain despite being able to speak in his backstory.
  • His Name Really Is "Barkeep": Ragnar's father, the village Jarl (chieftain), seems to be named Jarl.
  • Horny Vikings: You, your fellow Vikings, and Conrack's minions.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: You can recover health by consuming lizards, food, and mead.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: You can carry all 15 weapons (one per class being visible at a time) without them slowing you down and switch between them on the fly.
  • Improvised Weapon: Severed limbs and heads can be used as weapons or to trigger traps.
  • In a Single Bound: The Sarks you deal with near the end of the game are capable of jump at great heights and uses this to sneak up the player. After becoming one himself, Rangar possesses the ability to jump much higher than he could before.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: If you fail to stop Conrack and his minions from destroying the last Runestone in your village (or you break it yourself) in the final level, you're treated to a cutscene where Ragnar is bound in Loki's den along with some text stating Loki will be freed and Ragnarok is coming, then you're kicked back to the title screen.
  • Kill It with Fire: One of the only ways to kill zombies.
  • Lethal Lava Land: Hel, with lava as far as the eye can see in some parts of it.
  • Life Meter: The (red) Health meter.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: You can use a shield with small or one-handed weapons to block enemy attack, but your shield will eventually break from abuse. The Viking Short Sword (or Viking Axe in Rune Classic) lets you create a large, impenetrable magic shield temporarily.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: The player and enemies can be brutally killed if they take a severe amount of damage and be reduced to a pile of gibs and body parts. Dead bodies can also be reduced to gibs by attacking it.
  • The Maze: One the levels in Loki's castle has you trying to through a maze where entering the way doorway will send you back into the beginning.
  • Necessarily Evil: After your Emergency Transformation you will have to traverse your home village, and fight your former comrades who cannot tell you from other Elite Mooks.
  • No-Gear Level: After clearing the Skerkir Ravines, Ragnar falls victim to the goblins' trap and get knocked out. In the following level, Ragnar finds himself half-naked and all of his equipment gone, ready to become dinner for a carnivorous beast.
  • Off with His Head!: Doable with bladed weapons. This is also the other way to kill zombies.
  • Puzzle Boss: The Dark Dwarf cannot be beaten by brute force thanks to the Power Armor he's using to amplify his strength with Runestones. Instead, Ragnar must open up portals and overload the Dark Dwarf with power so he'll explode.
  • Real-Time Weapon Change: How you switch between your different weapons and weapon classes.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: During Berserk mode, your eyes glows red. Hell Hounds' eyes also have glowing demonic eyes.
  • Rise to the Challenge: Performed with lava.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Throughout the single-player campaign, Ragnar slaughters his way though goblins, the undead, dwarves, Conrack's vikings, feral beasts, and the undead on steroids to claim the head of the guy who murdered his father and fellow vikings.
  • Save-Game Limits: On the computer versions of Rune, you only have nine save slots to use to record your progress during the single-player campaign.
  • Set a Mook to Kill a Mook: The Viking Axe (Broad Sword in Classic) has the Ally power, and (almost) anything it strikes turns an enemy against each other. It is possible to have enemies to fight each other to without this power if you can get them attack one another.
  • Shows Damage: As you or the enemy lose health, you can see them bleed and have cuts on their bodies.
  • Spellblade: All of your weapons have a unique magical effect that can give you an edge in battle. These effects include:
    • Charm Person: The Viking Axe's Ally power makes whoever you hit with it fight for you temporarily. The Broadsword has this power instead in Rune Classic.
    • Dishing Out Dirt: The Dwarven Battle Sword's Avalanche power allows hurling huge boulders against your enemies. The Dwarven Work Hammer also has Earth Attack, where slamming the hammer causes three earth blasts to run across the ground.
    • Flaming Sword: The Roman Sword's Flame power cloaks the blade in flames.
    • Ground Pound: The Rusty Mace's Blast power causes a shockwave that knocks surrounding enemies back.
      • The above two combined are the Trial Pit Mace's power, Blaze.
    • Harmless Freezing: Sigurd's Axe's Freeze power freezes enemies. Hitting them while they're frozen shatters them to pieces, killing them instantly.
    • Invisibility: The Hand Axe's Spirit power gives you this effect.
    • Life Drain: The Viking Broadsword's Vampire power, where each slash drains your victims' health and gives it a shiny red glow. In Rune Classic, this power was given to the Viking Shortsword.
    • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: The Viking Short Sword's Magic Shield power creates an invulnerable shield for a limited time. Rune Classic gives this power to the Viking Axe instead.note 
    • Make Me Wanna Shout: The Bone Club's Sonic Blast power adds sonic waves to your attacks.
    • One-Hit Kill: The Dwarven Battle Axe's Super Damage does this to your enemies when it's activated.
    • Shock and Awe: The Dwarven Work Sword's Lightning power temporarily adds electricity to your attacks and can summon balls of lightning with each swing.
    • Sword Beam: The Goblin Axe's Infinite Throw power allows casting illusionary axes whenever you perform an attack.
    • Taken for Granite: The Dwarven Battle Hammer's Stone power petrifies enemies and turns them into stone. Hitting enemies while they're petrified will also shatter them.
  • Spiritual Successor: Rune is very similar to Heretic II in terms of gameplay, but with more of an emphasis on melee combat. Justified, since Human Head Studios is made up of much of the original team that worked on Heretic and Hexen for Raven Software.
  • Suspend Save: The computer versions of the game gives you the option to quicksave the game at anytime by pressing the F5 key by default and the quick save can be load by using the F9 key.
  • Suspiciously Cracked Wall: If you see one, smash it to proceed or find goodies.
  • Sword Lines: Every time you swing your weapon, including the hammers.
  • Take Up My Sword: After being fatally wounded from being overpowered by Loki's undead minions under Conrack's control, Sigurd gave Ragnar his axe with his dying breath.
  • Tin Tyrant: Conrack, the Big Bad of the game, wears a black, spiked suit of armor.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Happens in the last level if you destroy the last Runestone instead of defeating Conrack, or he or his minions do it; we get to see Loki laughing and Ragnar being crucified inside his lair and the texts states that Loki will soon be freed and unleash Ragnarok.
  • The Low Middle Ages: The game's setting, which is based off Norse mythology and centered around the Vikings.
  • To Hell and Back: Performed twice. First was fighting the way out of Hel and back to the surface. The second time, Ragnar needs to re-enter Hel, although the exit trip is much faster.
  • Underwater Ruins: The first main level of the game.
  • Updated Re-release: Rune Classic adds the new enemies seen the PlayStation 2 version and streamlined or removed the game's more larger levels.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Ragnar becomes one by the time he gets to Hlora's Pass, but he kills off an enemy Viking and steals his armor later on.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: When Sigurd began to have second thoughts about siding with Conrack in aiding Loki, Conrack had no use for Sigurd as he got Loki's monsters fighting for him, then orders his minions to kill off Sigurd and his men.
  • You Killed My Father: Conrack killed Ragnar's father (and his fellow Vikings), and he won't rest until he claims Conrack's head.