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Webcomic / Runewriters

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Experiencing Tentacle Difficulties
Runewriters is a fantasy adventure webcomic set in the land of Varænske, a world plagued by strange demonic monsters known as aberrants. Fortunately, some people are runewriters, who use magical runes to unlock their powers to help and protect others.

The story follows Childhood Friends Tareth ("Tarri") Ari and Severian ("Sev") as they travel to solve a... small problem of Sev's. Specifically, Sev screwed up a Voluntary Shapeshifting spell and is now stuck with tentacles instead of hands. Tarri, who was born deaf and as a result has been very sheltered by her family, volunteers to go along and vouch for Sev as he seeks a healer that can correct his miscast spell, as he is already being mistaken for an aberrant himself. Along the way they get caught up in others' problems and discover many ways that magic can go wrong.

Runewriters is written and drawn by Shazzbaa, the creator of Journal Comic Today Nothing Happened and artist of As We Were, a side-comic to Sorcery 101. The comic updates on Tuesdays. The comic went hiatus at the start of 2014 due to the author taking time off for family matters, but started updating again on January 4, 2016.

This series provides examples of:

  • Always Chaotic Evil: Aberrants, which are very magical, very dangerous monsters, even the intelligent ones. There's no real commonality yet shown between them, aside from their highly magical nature and tendency to hunt and kill people. They seem to correspond to the varieties of magic, and so far most aberrants of a sort have been seen only in proximity to corresponding runewriters (the facestealer and Sev, the aberrant that attacked Jonan, and so on), suggesting a deeper connection.
  • Beard of Evil: Jonan. The Rusanne elementalist even calls him evil.
  • Body Horror: Miscasts tend to have unpleasant backlashes against the caster. An elementalist may find some part of her body is now composed of that element, while a shapeshifter may be permanently stuck with a feature (such as Sev's horns). Other miscasts are not so benign, while one of Sev's more ghastly spells intentionally turns him into an aberrant, which is exactly as unpleasant-looking as it sounds.
  • Bonus Material: The vote incentives (for a comic ranking site), which sometimes show off the steps of work that go into each page, or act as a Fourth-Wall Mail Slot. Links to old incentives are added to the relevant pages in the archive later on.
  • Elemental Powers: One of the varieties of runewriting. Some elementalists only have command of one element, while others have two or possibly even three.
    • An Ice Person: Elementalists with command over earth and water can produce ice.
    • Dishing Out Dirt: The runewriter in Rusanne who saves Tarri and Sev from an aberrant-hunting moon wolf.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Aberrants are hideous and tentacle-y, and several look like ooze monsters using stolen (or undigested) skeletons for structure, only they arrange those bones in strange and disturbing configurations. Facestealers in particular either imitate the form of something or someone (apparently after killing it), or are a mass of tentacles, teeth, and eyes. It may be that some aberrants were once runewriters mutated and tainted by miscasts or the wrong spells, as Sev keeps setting off aberrant-detecting magics.
  • Flat "What": Sev doesn't appreciate Tarri's request they take the incredibly rude, borderline sociopathic Jonan with them to find someone who should be able to fix their miscasts.
  • Functional Magic:
    • Runewriting works as an Inherent Gift - one can only be born a runewriter, and instinctively knows a first rune and the words of power to activate it. Later runes must be worked out through experimentation. As a result there's little training aside from personal study and only one person has even bothered to study it scientifically - Loa, who was born without the instinctive knowledge of a first rune. Runes must also be drawn on something magical to work and go away when used. Most runewriters use special "runestones" that they can redraw their runes on.
    • Ritual Magic seems to work as Rule Magic - very little is known of it yet, and it's only been shown practiced by the Agorath Order, but seems to involve certain ritual practices and the writing of symbols or runes to accomplish some effect at the time of writing (as opposed to storing the power for later release, as in runewriting). Iavin calls the Order "plagiarists" and calls their magic corrupted, meaning it may be some variant on the principles of runewriting.
    • Moon wolves also possess an inherent gift for magic that works somewhat similarly to runewriting but is still distinct.
  • Half-Human Hybrids: Humans and muulorn (moon wolves) are capable of interbreeding, though it's apparently quite rare. Only one such case has been mentioned, Loa the half-muulorn.
  • Holding Hands: Actually becomes a plot point in chapter three. The party gets separated in part due to their initial refusal to hold hands in a crowded city.
  • Ironic Echo: Sev attempts to throw Jonan's words back in his face about needing help due to a miscast, but misremembers a word or two. The creator even notes it. "Ironic Echo: You're doing it wrong."
  • Jerkass: Jonan. He likes to use healing spells to seal shut the eyes and mouths of people who piss him off or steal from him. Fortunately, the spells are only temporary, lasting a week at most. Unfortunately, he never realized that people can't go without water for a week.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Right after refusing to help Sev with his miscast and having him and Tarri bodily thrown out by zombies, Jonan ends up with a mouth-sealing spell rebounding on him and leaving him locked out of his own home, and is forced to rely on Tarri and Sev's help to get back in.
  • The Load: Tarri, so far. Her family is quite overprotective since she was born deaf, and have made Sev her bodyguard. That she wanted to head out for Rusanne with Sev shocked everyone. She's not much of a fighter and is so far the only major character not to have any kind of magic.

  • Morphic Resonance: Sev's shapeshifting forms.
  • Necromancy: One of the three aspects of life magic (the other two of which are healing and nature-control).
  • No Name Given: The earth elementalist in Rusanne who provides a bit of an Info Dump on elementalism and runewriting in general.
  • Only One Name: Severian and Jonan both. In Sev's case, it's because he's an orphan and so has no patronymic. His full name would be "Severian of Ilvanov" which, according to the creator, amounts to saying "John of America."
  • People Puppets: Iavin's magic gives him direct control over a person's body, though it takes a lot of concentration.
  • Pet the Undead Miniature Pony Thing: The only thing Jonan shows anything other than contempt or anger towards is what looks to be his reanimated pet... dog... pony... thing.
  • Shapeshifter Mode Lock: The features Sev gets stuck with through miscasts will show up no matter what form he takes. As a result, whether he turns into a squirrel or a dragon, he still has those horns.
  • Shapeshifter Mashup: See the above-mentioned Shapeshifter Mode Lock; in addition to the horns, he now has tentacle hands no matter what he tries to become.
  • Shout-Out:
  • The Speechless: Jonan, after his spell rebounded and sealed his mouth shut. He tries, but a muffled grumbling is the best he can manage. And he still manages to be the wordiest person around once he finds a pen and paper.
  • Squishy Wizard: Jonan obviously doesn't get out much, and looks like even Tarri could snap him over her knee. Sev is much more sturdy in comparison, and will wade into a fight once he takes on an appropriate form. The earth elementalist in Rusanne is also far from squishy.
  • Translation Convention: The sign language Tarri uses is represented by American Sign Language, along with speech balloons coming from her hands.
  • Transformation Horror: Some of Severian's transformations into other creatures can look down right painful, especially the aberrant.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Sev.
  • What the Hell, Healer?: Sev points out that Jonan has risked killing everyone he has ever slapped his mouth-sealing spell on, because it lasts for a week and Jonan never thought of the simple fact that people need water and food to live. While it has been stated by characters in universe that Jonan has a very well known reputation for never killing, we still don't have a garentee that 100% of his victims have survived this ordeal.
  • Younger Than They Look: Jonan is only 29. He looks middle-aged. The years and his work have been unkind to him. A vote incentive shows him "several years ago" and he looked his age then.