Dicember 2021: Day 19 (Runic)

One death knight thread per week is clearly not enough. This time around though, I promise to keep it brief. For this one, I’m after an element inspired by World of Warcraft’s death knight class. Don’t quit on me just yet, hear me out; I promise it will only take a moment and then we’re onto the good stuff.

Glenn Rane’s iconic 2007 art of Arthas Menethil, the Lich King, for Blizzard’s World of Warcraft.

If you don’t know, World of Warcraft’s death knights are the generals of the Lich King, servants of dark powers. Each of them is raised from the dead and offered a pact by the Lich King: to serve him in war and live again as super-powered death machines. They are plaguebearers who infect and murder all who oppose their master’s plot of world domination, equipped with dark plate armor and – here it comes – big ol’ weapons magically engraved with runes to give them special enchantments.

To some of you, this may sound very familiar indeed; Elric and the black blade Stormbringer are definite influences on the Lich King in World of Warcraft (his sword is named Frostmourne, and it is of a class of weapon known as runeblades; there’s many clues to the influence). Anyway, that’s the magic we’re after here – runic inscription on weapons.

The cover of the Elric comic adaptation, art by the utterly incomparable P. Craig Russell.

Come at it however you like:

  • Runic scribes toil away for a lifetime to figure out what combination of forbidden marks and secret characters invoke arcane power when engraved on a weapon. Characters of sufficient level, renown, or connection should be able to track down such an artisan – but what will they demand in exchange for their rare craft?
  • Magicians of domain level should be able to research and construct the fabled hellforge, which enables them to weapons with magical enchantments. Legend has it there is demonic forces at play within it, but that’s nothing new for sorcerers.
  • A referee can stock a dungeon with either, both, or other. A monstrous faction may have abducted and imprisoned a runic scribe, demanding that she imbue a weapon with ultimate power so they can invade the surface world. The deepest level of a dungeon may have an unnatural font of hellish magma where the demon cult tempers their blades – the markings on which seem a lot like runic script. Perhaps a tome in the collection of a dracolich reveals the long lost secret of such inscription – but with no practitioners left, how will the party figure out how to put it to practice, and what changes will such magic introduce to the world?

Some engravings could be as simple as making a weapon count as magical for the purposes of striking a mystical creature or granting +3 to damage or whatever. Some could be much more complex – stealing souls from those slain to power magic (recharging slots, perhaps?), or causing the user to grow twice as tall under moonlight, or giving the bearer the ability to slip past trolls as if they’re invisible. Maybe the runes are necessary to activate magical gates to travel here and there, or to pass into forbidden locales like hell itself. Maybe inscriptions are the only way to prove royal lineage – or to usurp it. The sky’s the limit.

The moral of the story here is you should be scribbling things into the bone and steel of your arms and armor to gain special magical effects. That’s all for this post!

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