Content of the article: "Your torch illuminates the stone tunnel, and as you turn the corner you find a door, the threshold etched with glowing Arcane Runes…"
Your torch illuminates the stone tunnel, and as you turn the corner you find a door, the threshold etched with glowing Arcane Runes.
You find a leatherbound tome, blow off the dust, and inlaid into its cover in silver leaf is a set of Arcane Runes.
You cast detect poison, and suddenly a putrid green light appears, and a ring of glowing Arcane Runes orbits your drink.
TL;DR: wtf are "Arcane Runes" (in your world?)
"Arcane Runes" is such a defacto descriptor for anything involving spellcraft, it's hard not to default to them when improvising a description as a DM. The wizard rolls high on his arcana check, determines their Draconic or whatever origin, and is able to determine the spell that created them.
Then, one game, my 7 year old asks me, "Well, what do they say?" (A question no adult player has ever asked me.)
"Uh, well, um… They're Arcane Runes! It's more about what they do than what they say."
"Yeah, but how do I know what they do? You said I could 'read' them."
Insert a DM flavored existential crisis. 13 years of DMing and I've never really thought about how Runes work and what they are. They look cool! They glow and float in the air, they are mysterious yet somehow convey eldritch knowledge, but how?
So that's my question, how do Arcane Runes work for you guys? How do they produce magic? Do they have history? Can they be translated into Common or any other language? Do they have "meaning", or are they simply geometric? Are they letters or pictographs or something else? Can you combine Runes, break them apart? Does any of this matter if you don't have a curious wizard in the party? Can anyone draw a rune and do the magic, or is it how they are drawn that makes them magical? Can anyone do the magic and make new runes, or are they specific and predetermined?
Obviously, these are all DM choices, I'm just looking for help and inspiration, and asking questions helps me organize my thoughts. I've used Runes as a crutch for describing magic for so long, they feel cliche, like a cop-out, like I'm not trying hard enough. I'd love to give them some depth.
TIA and thanks for listening to me ramble!
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