Runes of Nordmaar
Wizards are not common in the north, but magic is everywhere nonetheless. The existence of the runes themselves is no secret; it is well known that the Norse use a runic script to write with, and that this script holds a great deal of religious significance. The runes came down to men from the Aesir, the gods of the Norse, and they hold great power. Although southron men see the runic script as nothing more than another alphabet, Norsemen know that each symbol represents a primal and powerful force, corresponding with a fundamental aspect of nature itself. Even the alphabet has power, and this is to say nothing of the secret rune-charms which the mysterious Skalds create.
Runic magic does not employ the common runes used as an alphabet; it has entirely to do with special runespells with great power of their own. Devising a new rune takes great runelore, and those who create a new rune usually keep them as a dear secret, for knowledge of the runes is power itself. Merely seeing a rune carved is not enough to learn it, for the rune is not merely a symbol or pattern, but a working of subtle magic in its own right. Understanding of the runes is represented by the Runelore [WIS-2] proficiency. Runelore represents insight into the subtle nature of the runes and knowledge of how runespells work. A successful Runelore check will allow one to identify the purpose of a carved rune by looking at it, and the proficiency is required to learn new runes. Without a basic understanding of how to shape a rune, it is impossible to learn any specific runespells. Those who are exceptionally skilled at Runelore may attempt to devise new runes entirely, though this is a difficult and time-consuming process. In the end, the rune is often not so much a work of creation as one of discovery - passed to them as a gift by a god, heard in the sound of a waterfall or whispered in their ear by a raven.
Becoming a Runecaster
The art of runecasting - called galdur amongst the Norse - is a difficult one, and not one that can be learned by just anyone. Some traditions amongst the Norse maintain that it can only be learned by men - the woman's art is seidur, better known in Leng as witchcraft. The truth is, however, that galdur or seidar can each by learned by either man or woman. One must be strongly attuned to their inner self and their deep, primal nature - with a Wisdom score of at least 15. Furthermore, they must have a mentor - the galdur requires a mixture of complicated runelore and a very peculiar kind of mental discipline.
The processing of becoming a galdrar is not a swift one - it can only be taught by a master, but to the student it may often seem as though their master is simply taunting them. Especially in the early days, the tasks and duties of a practicing runecaster can seem pointless and insulting. Wandering through the wilds without food or weapons, swimming in a deep lake without moving your legs, or breaking rocks with a piece of wool are just a few of the things an apprentice might be asked.
It is no less frustrating at the later stages; one of the very last tests an apprentice is set is to shape a rune. This is done by setting an example before them. It is no doubt some rune they have seen their master cast a hundred times, every line and intricacy of which they have long since memorised. The apprentice has no doubt tried time and time again to shape the rune in private, and has failed just as many times. Their master then leaves them, locked in a chamber or stranded in the wilderness. Each day they return, and ask their frustrated apprentice - who has no doubt heard from their master's own mouth that it is impossible to learn a rune just by looking at it - and ask them if they have succeeded in their task. The trial ends when their apprentice successfully shapes a rune or dies.
If player characters wish to play a runecater, their character must be at least 25 years of age - it can take anywhere from 2 years to a lifetime to attain the galdur, and most Norse runecasters will teach none but a man grown. It is extremely rare for non-Norse to be taught the runes; the Norse consider runecasting a sacred art that was given to the Norsemen by Odin himself so that they could fight the giants and snow-elves. They are very jealous of it. Finally, those without human blood are utterly incapable of learning the runes. Demihumans can sometimes attain them, but even for them it is much harder.
Learning the galdur never takes less than 2 years. At the end of the first year, you may make a Wisdom check at a -10 penalty. If you succeed, you may complete your training. Otherwise, you must wait another year and make the check again - and so on until you fail or give up.
As noted above, not just anyone can learn a runespell. It requires insight and understanding into the runes and their power, and those without the Runelore NWP cannot attempt it. A character who has the Runelore NWP may attempt to learn a rune if they have a suitable instructor. Usually this is another versed in runelore who knows the rune to be taught; learning a new rune takes a single day and requires a Runelore check. If the check is passed, then the rune has been learnt and the character may add the rune to the list of runes they know. If the check is failed, the character's understanding of the runes is not sufficient; they may not try to learn that rune again until they improve their Runelore NWP.
There are other ways to learn new runes. Sometimes they can come in dreams to those favoured by one of the Aesir, the Vanir, or the Jotunn. Likewise, powerful spirits can lend their aid to a galdrar, their assistance manifesting in the knowledge and understanding of a rune. Finally, it is possible to "figure out" a rune that you have seen performed many times, especially if the runecaster is well known to you. This is how the final trial of a galdrar is performed.
A character who knows a rune may attempt to use it, a process known as shaping. The same rune will look different each time it is carved; factors such as target, place, time, motives and people involved all affect the shape of the rune. The process of shaping a rune takes place in three steps - planning, carving and activating. Planning takes a full turn of contemplation, during which the runecaster plans the rune to be carved in their mind, figuring out exactly how it must be shaped. As soon as they have finished planning, the runecaster must carve the rune; there can be no delay between planning and carving. Typical carving surfaces include blades, stones, and drinking horns, but the exact object that the rune is carved into is usually determined by the nature of the rune itself. Once the rune has been carved, the runecaster must activate it within two rounds. Activation is done by speaking the rune-poem associated with the rune over it, thereby naming the rune and charging it with power. Once this is done, the rune has been shaped. The DM immediately makes a Runelore check for the runecaster; if successful, the rune works as intended. If the check is failed, the rune will not function, though the runecaster will not be aware of this.
This rune detects the presence of poison and protects against poisoning. Once planned, the rune must be carved on a cup or drinking horn. The effectiveness of this rune is not permanent; it must be renewed after every drinking session, though the cup may be refilled many times. While the rune is active, if any liquid poured into the cup is poisoned, the cup will shatter when the runecaster touches it.
This rune, when carved into something, will allow the bearer to understand the speech of a particular animal. Note that this must be a specific animal, such as "Carcharoth the Great Wolf" or "the bear that lives near Flossi's stream". Once the rune is carved, the bearer can converse with that animal as if by normal speech, both man and animal understanding each other. Speaking animals are typically friendly, even helpful; perhaps the novelty of speaking humans intrigues them. Note that this rune can also be used to communicate with humans who speak another language, as long as the specific human is named.
This rune, which must be carved into a weapon, can be used to incite berserk frenzy. Since the name of the person and the instance of the battle must be included in the shaping of the rune, the berserk-rune is generally only effective in battles where the runecaster has time to prepare. If the one named by the rune enters the battle named while carrying the engraved weapon, they will enter a berserk rage. They will gain 2 temporary hit points per hit dice, and a +1 to-hit and damage. This state lasts until the character is slain, uses another weapon, retreats, or is out of combat for more than two rounds.
This rune must be tooled into the palms of a pair of leather gloves. When the rune is shaped, the person to wear them and the instance they will be used must be dictated, as with the Berserk-Rune. Once their power has been activated, they will remain effective for one day. While worn, the named character can try to catch any weapon thrown at him - spears, axes, knives, etc. - as long as he has a free hand. Each time he tries to catch a weapon, he must make a saving throw vs. death. If he succeeds, he catches the weapon and it deals no damage. If he fails and the missile hits him, he takes 1 more point of damage than he normally would. This rune is not effective against arrows, nor is it against things too large for the wearer to catch in one hand.
The rune allows the runecaster to assume the form of a natural animal. When shaping the rune, the runecaster must specify what creature he will become. The rune must then be carved on a bone, feather, or hide of that creature. When he completes the final stage of the shaping process (activating) by naming the rune with its poem, the character assumes the form of the animal. His clothing and equipment do not transform with him. The character has the armor class, movement, attacks and damage of the creature but retains his own hit points, THAC0 and saving throws. The change lasts for 1d6 hours or until the character sleeps or becomes unconscious. They may end the effect earlier if they wish. Note that this rune causes the runecaster to assume the form of the specific creature whose hide, feather or bone was used - if the bone of a human is used, for example, the caster will assume the form of the specific human the bone came from.
This rune, when correctly shaped, functions as a powerful love charm. It is, however, dangerous to use. Each charm must be shaped with a particular pair of lovers in mind and then carved into a plank. The plank must then be placed underneath the mattress of the victim. After each night spent sleeping over the rune, the victim must make a saving throw vs. petrification. If the saving throw is failed, the victim is charmed. He or she views whoever the runecaster has designated most favorably - if they are of opposite gender, they behave as if in love. Once they have succumbed to the charm, the only way to remove it is by burning or otherwise destroying the plank with the rune on it. However, the charm-rune is dangerous - if it is misshapen or poorly carved (if the Runelore check is failed), it acts as a Disease-Rune, bringing harm to its victim.
This dark and potent rune allows the runecaster to converse with those departed. When shaping the rune, the runecaster must know the name of the individual he seeks. The rune is then carved into a stave and driven into the burial mound of the target. If the target was unburied, it must instead be driven into the sea. The mound then opens (or a hall appears in the waters), revealing the dead spirit seated at his high seat. The runecaster can pose up to three questions. Although the summoned spirit cannot lie, it may answer in riddles and obscure poems. The spirit will invite the runecaster to enter its hall, but anyone foolish enough to do so is lost forever. The Dead-Rune has a significant risk in that not all spirits are cooperative of helpless. Each time it is used to summon a new spirit, there is a 10% chance that the runecaster has contacted one of the uneasy dead. The summoning frees such spirits, and they take on physical form. Spirits released in this manner are equal in all respects to wights.
This rune looks very similar to the Charm-Rune. When shaped, the victim must be named and the rune carved on a plank. This is then placed beneath the mattress of the victim. Each night they sleep on the mattress, the victim must make a saving throw vs. death. If they fail, the victim weakens, losing a point of Constitution. This continues until the victim's Constitution reaches 0 and the character dies. Removing the plank or sleeping elsewhere will halt the loss of Constitution, but lost points cannot be regained until the plank is burned. After this Constitution will return at a rate of 1 point per day.
Used by seers, the Fortune-Rune allows the caster to predict the fate of others. A set of 24 runes must be fashioned - each set must be fashioned for a particular person and carved into wood. It is then typically cast onto a surface. If the runes were shaped successfully, a general indication of the character's fate in life is given. This can be as broad or precise as the DM desires. Of course, one a prediction is made the DM should make efforts to see that what has been foretold comes true. Fortune-runes are useless in determining the outcome of small details and events such as whether a monster lurks behind the door. Such hazards of life are left for the characters to face on their own.
This valuable rune can be fashioned to cure diseases, including most of those caused by magical means. It has no effect on illness caused by Disease-Runes. When shaped, the caster must know the name and symptoms of the sufferer. The rune is then carved on a plank and placed under the ailing person's pillow. Each morning the patient makes a saving throw vs. death. If successful, the disease lessens and one of the symptoms vanishes. When all symptoms are gone, the person is cured. The rune is then ineffective.
This potent rune is much valued by warriors of all types and frequently used by raiders and berserkers. This rune is shaped for a particular person and carved into a wooden amulet. It must be donned by the specified person as soon as it is carved. This must be worn around the neck at all times - removing it cancels its power. Thereafter, all attacks made with weapons deal the wearer one less point of damage than they otherwise would. The rune is effective for as long as they wear the amulet or until their hit points are reduced to 0. Only one of these runes may be used by a character at a time.
This useful rune can be used to heal injuries, particularly those suffered in battle. To be effective, the rune is shaped with the injured persons name and then carved into the branch of a living tree. Blood from the wounded person must be touched to the carved letters. If the runecasting is successful, the injured person heals 1d10 points of damage. Only one Limb-Rune can be carved for a given injury. Alternately, Limb-Runes can be used to speed the process of natural healing. The process of shaping is the same, but the rune is carved on the inside of a piece of bark stripped from a living tree and placed against the wounded characters skin. Thereafter, they recover hit points at twice the natural rate until they are full recovered. When they have fully healed, the rune becomes useless.
This is a potent and dangerous rune, great in both its rewards and its risks. It allows the runecaster to seek the answer to a single question. The runecaster formulates his question in the form of magical runes and carves these on a stone, which must be cast away and forgotten. If the rune is successfully shaped, an answer to the question will come to the character in a dream in 1d6 nights (as long as the stone is intact after this time). Like most prophetic answers, the vision will be couched in strange mysterious terms for the runecaster to puzzle out. The risk comes if the rune is fashioned incorrectly. Then, instead of a prophetic dream, the runecaster suffers six visits by a gast, one on each night. A gast is a form of spectre that can become invisible at will and can become solid and make itself incredibly heavy, weighing more than a man can lift.
This rune, carved onto a stick or other wooden objects, gives a single person luck for one day. The shaping of the rune requires the person to be protected to be named. He must then carry the rune with it to be effective. If the rune is successfully shaped, the carrier gets Good Luck: he gains a +1 (or +5%) bonus to all die rolls and random effects that affect him and only him. However, if the rune is unsuccessfully shaped, the carrier instead gets Bad Luck, which confers the opposite effect. He suffers a -1 (or -5%) penalty to all such die rolls. It is impossible to tell whether the rune has been successfully shaped or not, and throwing the rune away negates its effect either way.
The Nyth-Rune is a highly charged and emotional rune to use, since it is a grave insult to the man named. It is used to exact a powerful curse of vengeance against one who has done wrong. To fashion this rune, the caster must named the person to be affected and the wrongs they have committed to justify the curse. The rune is carved into a staff, which is topped with an animal skull and thrust into the property of the victim. The Nyth-Rune clearly identifies the name of the caster and its victim, so anyone who finds it and reads Runic will be able to learn who made it. The Nyth-Rune is also complex and difficult to make, and the caster take a -1 penalty to the Runelore check when shaping it.
If the caster fails the Runelore check or if they do not have good cause to desire vengeance, the curse rebounds upon the caster. They receive a saving throw vs. death to resist, and if they fail the curse (or something similar) affects them instead. If the shaping is successful and the caster has good cause in fashioning the Nyth-Rune, their victim is cursed. The curse lasts until its conditions have been fulfilled or until the two parties have achieved some kind of reconciliation.
The nature of the curse depends on the imagination and desires of the runecaster. Typical curses include misfortune, madness, illness, poor harvests, harsh winters or evil weather. The curse cannot directly cause the death of the victim. For example, the runecaster cannot wish for a fatal illness for the victim, or for their ship to sink in the middle of the ocean. However, he could reduce the victim to feeble weakness (making him easier to kill) or request a terrible storm (that might sink the ship of anyone foolish enough to sail).
This rune allows the caster to extinguish any single conflagration. When shaped, the name of the place to be affected must be included in the rune, which must then be carved into a piece of wood. This wood can be thrown into a blaze and, if shaped correctly, will instantly extinguish any flame of up to the size of a single building. If the flame is larger than a single building, one building's worth of flame will be extinguished. Only one fire can be extinguished per rune.
With this rune, the chances of a safe voyage are improved greatly - no small thing for the sailors of the stormy northern seas. Since the rune is most effective if shaped and carved when the ship is being built, wise shipwrights seek out the most skillful runecaster they can find. The runecaster shapes the rune and carves it on the prow, rudder and oars (if applicable) of the ship. The rune remains in effect until any of these items are broken or lost. If the rune was carved while the ship was being built, the ship gains a 15% bonus to all further seaworthiness checks. If the rune was carved after the ship's construction, this bonus is reduced to 10%.
The rune is highly desired by all warriors. It must be shaped for a particular warrior and carved into the inside of his shield. Thereafter, the warrior gains a +1 bonus to all saving throws while carrying the shield. The shield only works the named one; any other carrying the shield will find it functions as a normal shield. The rune remains in effect until the warrior is defeated in a duel or runs from a battle, at which point it is immediately negated.
This rune can be used to free others, or sometimes oneself, from bonds and fetters. It can also open locks. To use, the caster names the person to be freed or the item to be opened and carves the rune on the bonds themselves. He then shouts to activate the rune. This rune unties knots, open locks, breaks fetters, and undoes any other restraints.
This rune is carved onto a piece of wood and must be shaped for a particular individual. Once activated, the runecaster may look at the named person with the Second Sight as long as they carry the rune. They can see invisible things or incorporeal spirits with 5 feet of the person, and can look into their eyes to see something of their luck and fortune. Trying to learn something about someone's fate with the Second Sight is only effective 50% of the time.
This rune is shaped for a particular person, then carved on an amulet for them to wear. It is effective for 12 hours after the carving, and prevents enemies of the wearer from speaking evil of him. Those attempting to defame, denigrate, or spread lies about the named person must make a saving throw vs. spell to do so. Furthermore, this rune prevents others from casting runes against the wearer unless they make a saving throw vs. spell to overcome it.
As the name implies, this rune increases the strength of the recipient. When shaping the rune, the runecaster must include the name of the one to be strengthened and then carve the rune into a piece of wood or stone. This is driven into the earth and touched by the named person. As long as it remains undisturbed, the recipient's Strength will be increase by 1d3 points (10% if above 18) for a period of 2d4 hours.
This is a powerful and much-desired rune that improves a warrior's skill in battle. The rune must be shaped for a particular warrior and a particular battle or setting, like the Berserk-Rune. It is then scratched onto the warrior's sword-hilt and blade (or spear-shaft and head, or so on). The warrior gains a +1 bonus both to-hit and damage with that weapon for the remainder of the battle. The rune-carved weapon is considered to be a +1 weapon for the purposes of hitting magical monsters. It lasts until the battle ends, the warriors loses the weapon or sheathes it, or is defeated. While it may seem weaker, the main advantage of this rune over the Berserk-Rune is that it makes one's weapon magical and that it does not require the warrior to enter a berserk rage.
This rune is often used by sailors to protect against the risk of drowning. It is shaped with a person's name and carved into a piece of wood. This is set adrift on the ocean or on a sea. Its affect applies only to the ocean or sea the rune was set adrift on. Thereafter, the person has limited protection against drowning in the following ways: he can hold his breath for twice as long as normal and is automatically considered proficient in the Swimming NWP. When swimming long distances, the character gains a +1 bonus to Constitution checks to stave off exhaustion. The character does not suffer from exposure to icy waters and reduces damage caused by drowning or similar water-based attacks (such as the attack of a water elemental) by 1 point.