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Rune Magic

Magic is learned in many forms. From the lengthy incantations of a wizard to the pious chants of a cleric, the method by which magic is cast can be just as important as its result. However, typical spellcasting is employed in the same manner regardless of its source: a sorcerer whose power comes from his draconic ancestry still uses the same words and motions that a studied wizard will, and produces the same effect. However, this is not true for a caster that learns rune magic, for its magic synthesizes and builds upon itself in ways that current magic cannot hope to accomplish.

In many ways the basics of casting a rune spell are similar to casting an arcane or divine spell, such as with needing concentration or interacting with an antimagic field, and most of their effects replicate familiar arcane and divine magics. However, there are some notable differences. This section will go into detail on each of these differences, and how to incorporate runic magic alongside existing spellcasters in your games.

In any place that these rules do not explicitly differ from the core rules for spells, assume that the rules are identical to casting or affecting an arcane spell.

Casting Rune Magic

Regardless of who is casting a runic script, all practitioners of rune magic function the same way when using their scripts.

Learning Rune Magic

Only characters that have the rune magic class feature learn runic magic (in this case, the archivist, along with the rune binder inquisitor and the rune knight magus). A rune spell is referred to as a “script”; those that employ rune magic are referred to as “scribes”. Each script has its own effect, description, and so on, as a normal spell.

Where clerics can choose from their entire list of spells each day, and a wizard can learn more spells and add them to their spellbook, a scribe must learn their scripts in advance. A scribe’s class level determines the number of scripts he can learn, what kind of scripts he can learn, and how often each day he may cast each of his known scripts, as outlined in the scribe’s class description. A scribe must have a casting ability score of at least 10 + a script’s level in order to learn or cast a script, and it must be a script found on his script list.

When a scribe learns a new script, it can be of any level he is capable of casting, so long as he knows at least one script of every level below that level. For example, should a 5th-level archivist wish to learn a 3rd-level script, he must already know a 1st-level and 2nd-level script. As a scribe can cast his lower-level scripts more frequently than his higher-level scripts, it may prove advantageous to learn multiple lower-level scripts as opposed to always learning the highest level possible.

A scribe can choose to learn a script multiple times. Each time he does so, he gains an additional set of castings for that script each day (see below).

Casting a Script

In order to cast a script, you must first choose which script to cast. A scribe can cast any script that he knows without any sort of preparation, so long as he is capable of casting a script of that level or higher.

To cast a script, you must be able to speak. All runic scripts require a scribe to speak words of mystic power, which are given shape in the form of runes upon the caster’s possessions. As such, you must be able to speak in order to cast a runic script (similar to a spell with a verbal component). Runic scripts do not require somatic gestures, and as such armor and shields do not interfere with the casting of runic scripts. Additionally, you must concentrate to cast a script.

If a script has multiple versions, you choose which version to use when you cast it. You don’t have to learn a specific version of the script. The same applies to scripts with multiple types of overload.

A scribe does not have spell slots like a normal caster. Instead, he may cast each script that he knows a certain number of times each day, based on his class level. For example, a 5th-level archivist could cast each 1st-level script he knows twice each day, each 2nd-level script spell once each day, and each 3rd-level script he knows once each day.

Like a normal spellcaster, a scribe receives bonus scripts per day if he has a high ability score. These extra castings can be applied to any script he knows of the appropriate level. For example, an archivist with an Intelligence score of 20 gains two additional castings each day of 1st-level scripts he knows, plus an additional casting each day for scripts of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th levels. He must be able to cast a script of the given level to receive the extra castings each day.

These extra castings are not granted to each script he knows; rather, the scribe chooses which script to apply them to. In the above example, if the archivist knows two 1st-level scripts (say, empower and aegis), he can choose to gain two additional castings of empower, two additional castings of aegis, or one additional casting of each. He does not need to decide which script he wishes to apply his bonus castings to each day ahead of time.

Once a scribe has cast all of his daily castings of a given script, he cannot cast it again until he regains his daily castings. However, the scribe may still apply his bonus castings each day he receives for having a high ability score to a particular script, even if he has already used up his daily castings of that particular script.


It is possible to cast any script as a counterscript. By doing so, you are using the script’s energy to disrupt the casting of the same script by another character. This functions identically to counterspelling, save that the scribe uses his script to counter a script that someone else is casting.

Negation as a Counterscript

You can usually use negation to counterscript another script being cast without needing to identify the script being cast. Negation doesn’t always work as a counterscript (see the script description).

Counterspell vs. Counterscript

Generally speaking, an arcane or divine caster cannot counterspell a runic script, and a scribe cannot counterscript an arcane or divine spell, even if the scripts and spells have similar effects. However, dispel magic can counter runic scripts, and negation can counter spells, and the Improved Counterspell and Improved Counterscript feats can let you counter both (see Runic Designs vs. Schools of Magic below).

Script Format

The description of each runic script is presented in a standard format. Each category of information is explained and defined below. The primary difference in scripts are a script’s design, the lack of components (all scripts only have verbal components), and its overload ability. Runic scripts follow the same rules for normal spells when it comes to range, duration, area, effects, targets, casting time, saving throws, and spell resistance.


The first line of every script description gives the name by which the script is generally known.

Design (Subdesign)

Beneath the script name is a line giving the design of rune (and the subdesign, if any) to which the script belongs. Designs are rune magic’s parallel to the eight schools of magic; each group conforms to a general theme, but their effects are more broad than the normal schools of magic allow.

Every script belongs to one of six runic designs. A design of runes is a group of related scripts that adhere to a similar theme.


Alteration spells change the physical form. These spells can change the shape of either an object or of a living creature, or can alter their properties to be stronger or weaker than they once were.


Creation spells create something from nothing, or assemble unworked or broken material into a complete form. They also are responsible for creating life, including healing ailments, mending wounds, or even conjuring forth a living creature to serve.

A creature or object brought into being by a creation script cannot appear inside another creature or object, nor can it appear floating in an empty space. It must arrive in an open location on a surface capable of supporting it.

The creature or object must appear within the script’s range, but it does not have to remain within the range.

Generation: A generation script manipulates matter to create or repair an object in the place the scribe designates. If the script has a duration other than instantaneous, magic holds the generated object together, and when the script ends, the created object vanishes without a trace. If the script has an instantaneous duration, the generated object is merely assembled through magic. It lasts indefinitely and does not depend on magic for its existence.

Healing: Certain creations heal creatures or even bring them back to life. These scripts can also cleanse a creature of harmful ailments.

Summoning: A summoning script creates a temporary replica of an existing creature and breathes life into it. When the script ends or is dispelled, a summoned creature vanishes as if it never existed to begin with. A summoned creature also goes away if it is killed or if its hit points drop to 0 or lower.


Destruction scripts manipulate energies that harm and destroy. These spells most commonly employ negative energy, force effects, or sonic blasts to harm creature and objects, and can often wither away a creature’s body, crippling it both physically and mentally. Destruction scripts can also destroy magic itself, removing ongoing effects or suppressing magic items.


Invocation spells call upon the forces of nature. These spells can invoke the primal energies of fire, air, earth, and water, manifest plants and animals, or even control light or the weather.

Manifestation: The manifestation subdesign uses natural energies to create a simulacrum of an existing thing. These scripts most often call upon animals and plants to do the scribe’s bidding. However, these are not completely real, as they are simply energy given a familiar form: once the script that manifested those things ends, the objects or creatures in question vanish.


Manipulation scripts alter the flow of time and space and control the fundamental laws of existence. All manipulation scripts belong to one of four subdesigns.

Conviction: A conviction script manipulates the four great cosmic energies: chaos, evil, good, and law. All of these scripts utilize these energies in some way, typically basing their effects on their targets’ alignments.

Gravity: A gravity script alters the direction or strength of gravity in some way. This can lift and move objects from a distance, allow a creature to soar through the air, or crush foes to the ground.

Teleportation: A teleportation script transports one or more creatures or objects a great distance. The most powerful of these scripts can cross planar boundaries. The transportation is one-way and not dispellable, unless otherwise noted.

Teleportation is instantaneous travel through the Astral Plane. Anything that blocks astral travel also blocks teleportation.

Time: A time script alters the flow of time in some way, speeding it up, slowing it down, or stopping altogether, either for a single creature or in an area.


Revelation scripts are the domain of the mind. These scripts can enhance or dull the senses or control thought and emotion.

Many revelation scripts have cone-shaped areas. These move with you and extend in the direction you choose. The cone defines the area that you can sweep each round. If you study the same area for multiple rounds, you can often gain additional information, as noted in the descriptive text for the script.

Scrying: A scrying script creates an invisible magical sensor that sends you information. Unless noted otherwise, the sensor has the same powers of sensory acuity that you possess. This level of acuity includes any scripts or effects that target you, but not scripts or effects that emanate from you. The sensor, however, is treated as a separate, independent sensory organ of yours, and thus functions normally even if you have been blinded or deafened, or otherwise suffered sensory impairment.

A creature can notice the sensor by making a Perception check with a DC 20 + the script level. The sensor can be dispelled as if it were an active script.

Lead sheeting or magical protection blocks a scrying script, and you sense that the script is blocked.

Thought: The thought subdesign are scripts that control emotions and thought. These scripts can either influence a creature’s behavior or emotional state. All scripts in this subdesign are mind-affecting.


Appearing on the same line as the design and subdesign, when applicable, is a descriptor that further categorizes the script in some way. Some scripts have more than one descriptor.

Runic scripts use the same descriptors as normal spells do, and they function in the same manner.


The next part of a script description gives the script’s level, a number between 0 and 9 that defines the script’s relative power. This number corrseponds to the level the script is for the archivist class. A script’s level affects the DC for any save allowed against its effects, as well as determining how many times each day the scribe is capable of casting it.


Scripts that are level 0 are considered “fundamentals”, scripts that are incredibly simple to cast and learn. A scribe tracks his fundamentals known separately from his normal scripts known, as shown in the scribe’s class description. Unlike scripts of level 1 or higher, fundamentals can be cast an unlimited number of times each day, but do not generate runic charge (see Runic Charge below).


Scripts do not have components as arcane and divine spells do. They do not require material components, nor do they ever have somatic components (meaning armor and shields do not interfere with their casting).

However, all scripts require the scribe to speak; his words are given shape in the form of the runes upon his belongings. As such, to cast a runic script, you must be able to speak in a strong voice. A silence spell or a gag spoils the incantation (and thus the script). A scribe who has been deafened has a 20% chance of spoiling any script he tries to cast.

As all runic scripts have the same “components”, this line is omitted in the descriptions of each script when compared to a typical arcane or divine spell description.


Each script’s description is followed by a listed Overload effect. This overload effect only applies if the script is overloaded with runic charges (see below). In most cases, an overload effect increases in power based on the number of runic charges used.

Runic Charge

The most notable difference between a typical arcane or divine spell and a runic script is the runic charge system.

Each rune must be given shape before it can create any effects, for without form, it has no power. When a scribe casts a script, he speaks forth words of power that give the rune shape. As he speaks, the rune slowly etches itself somewhere on his equipment. The scribe must choose a single piece of equipment currently in his possession for the rune to etch itself upon, chosen at the time of casting the script. Most scribes prefer to etch it onto weapons, staves, or armor, though some make trinkets and talismans for the runes to manifest upon. Once the rune is complete, it flashes with magical energy, finally bringing forth the power of the script. However, at this point, the rune is not quite finished.

Generating Runic Charge

Once a scribe successfully casts a script, the rune that was created remains on his belongings, even after the spell’s effects end, still lingering with a small amount of magic power. This is known as gaining a runic charge. The charge corresponds to the design of the script that was cast. For example, if the scribe casts see the unwritten, a revelation script, the scribe gains a single revelation runic charge. The scribe can only have a limited number of charges at once based on his scribe level, as shown in Table: Maximum Runic Charge. If the scribe casts another script while at this maximum, the scribe must choose to either forgo the charge he would have gained from casting that script or replace one of his old runic charges with the new one. The level of a script does not affect what kind or how many charges are gained.

Table: Maximum Runic Charge
Scribe Level Maximum Runic Charges
1st-4th 1
5th-10th 2
11th-16th 3
17th-20th 4

An individual item cannot have more than one runic charge on it. If an item that a runic charge is scribed onto leaves the scribe’s possession, the charge can no longer be used, but still counts against his maximum allowed charges. After 1 hour of being out of the scribe’s possession, the runic charge dissipates to no effect. Runic charges in the scribe’s possession dissipate normally at the start of each day when he regains his daily castings of his scripts.

Scripts that have been overloaded (see below) do not generate runic charges. Fundamentals (0-level scripts) never generate runic charge, whether overloaded or not.

Runic charges that are scribed onto an object can be identified with a Spellcraft check. The DC of this check is equal to the Spellcraft DC to identify the spell that created it, but only reveals what design of script that runic charge belongs to. Effects that can be used to detect a spell or script, such as detect magic and seek magic, detect the runic charge as giving off a faint magic aura corresponding to that script’s design.

Overloading a Script

Once a scribe gains runic charges, he can then add the residual energies of his runic charges into his next script to enhance it. Doing this is known as “overloading”.

When a scribe overloads a script, all runic charges he currently has are consumed, increasing the power of the script for each runic charge used. The scribe must have at least one runic charge in order to overload script; he cannot do so while he has no charges available. The scribe must use all of his current runic charges when overloading; he cannot choose to keep some for later.

Overloading a script is done as part of the action required to cast the script and does not change its casting time. The runic charges are consumed as part of the action to cast the script; if the scribe loses the script, such as failing to concentrate or having his script countered, he loses the runic charges as well.

Overloading a script lets it exceed its normal limits. For example, a strikingscript normally can create a maximum of six darts of force energy. Each runic charge overloaded into it creates an additional dart, allowing a scribe to make more than the normal maximum of six.

Each script in the rune magic system has a specific overload associated with it. Most overloads can make use of any kind of runic charge to increase the effectiveness of the scripts, but some scripts require specific types of runic charge to get the most out of its effects.


Some scribes may find it not worth using their current runic charges to improve the power of a more utility-based script like slipstream, but still wish to tap into the extra power that overloading provides. In such a case, the scribe can engrave the script.

Engraving a script takes 10 minutes, as opposed to the script’s normal casting time (or an additional 10 minutes, if the script’s casting time is already 10 minutes or longer), during which the scribe cannot take any other action. When the engraving is finished, the scribe overloads the script with the maximum number of runic charges possible based on his level. These charges can be of any kind of design. Engraving a script does not consume the scribe’s normal runic charges, if any.

Engraving a script uses a daily casting of that script, just as if it were cast normally. Engraving a script does not generate runic charge. You can apply metascript feats to an engraved script, except for Quicken Script.

Integrating Rune Magic

The default rule for the interaction of runic scripts and magic is simple: scripts interact with spells and spells interact with scripts in the same way a spell or normal spell-like ability interacts with another spell or spell-like ability. This is known as script–magic transparency.

Script–Magic Transparency

Though not explicitly called out in the spell or magic item descriptions, spells, spell-like abilities, and magic items that could potentially affect rune magic does affect rune magic, in the following ways:

Spell resistance is effective against scripts, using the same mechanics. All spells that dispel or negate magic have equal effect against scripts of the same level using the same mechanics, and vice versa. The spell dispel magic also works against runic scripts, while the negation script works against spells.

Dead magic areas and antimagic fields affect runic scripts, the same as a negation field affects spells.

The spell detect magic detects scripts, their number, and their strength and location within 3 rounds (though a Spellcraft check is needed to identify the design of the runic aura), while seek magic detects spells, their number, and their strength and location within 3 rounds (though a Spellcraft check is needed to identify the school of magic).

Unless stated otherwise, feats such as metamagic feats that specifically affect spells do not affect scripts, and feats such as metascript feats that specifically affect scripts do not affect spells.

Runic Designs vs. Schools of Magic

Special abilities, items, and effects that provide resistances or bonuses to a school of magic also provide resistances to runic designs (or a subdesign, in some cases).

Each design and subdesign within the rune magic system can be equated to one or more schools of magic, as shown in the list below. If a subschool is given an equivalent school, that takes precedence over the school that is matched to its parent design (for example, scripts of the thought subdesign are only considered enchantments, not both divinations and enchantments). A creature that resists or is immune to a design’s equivalent school of magic is also resistant or immune to any scripts of that design.

  • Alteration scripts are treated as transmutation spells.
  • Creation scripts are treated as conjuration spells.
  • Destruction scripts are treated as necromancy spells.
  • Invocation scripts are treated as evocation spells.
  • Manipulation scripts vary based on subdesign. Time and gravity scripts are treated as transmutations. Conviction scripts are treated as evocations. Teleportation scripts are treated as conjurations.
  • Revelation scripts are treated as divination spells, except for those scripts of the thought subdesign, which are instead treated as enchantments.

Abjuration and illusion spells do not have an equivalent runic design.

Improved Counterspell/Counterscript

Normally, the only way for spellcasters and scribes to counter each other’s magic is with dispel magic or negation. However, the feats Improved Counterspell and Improved Counterscript allow both spellcasters and scribes to counter each others magic by using a spell or script of at least one level higher than the spell or script they wish to counter by using spells or scripts with equivalent designs and schools, as shown above.

For example, a spellcaster with the Improved Counterspell feat can use any necromancy spell of 4th-level or higher to counter decaying ray (a 3rd-level destruction script), while a scribe with Improved Counterscript could use any 4th-level or higher invocation script to counter a wizard’s fireball (a 3rd-level evocation spell).

Magic Items

Rune Magic Items

The following magic items and magic item properties are created using rune magic, and are especially useful for rune magic users:


Metascript Rods

Wondrous Items

These are intended for use by rune magic users, and as such have construction requirements and auras appropriate for rune magic. An arcane or divine spellcaster with the appropriate item creation feats can still make these items, using the normal rule of increasing the Spellcraft DC by +5 for every requirement not met for the item’s creation. The same applies for a rune magic user wanting to make magic items that require arcane or divine spells.

Scribes have also learned to implement their runic magic into creating magic items. These magic items are crafted as any other, using the same item creation feats that arcane or divine casters use to make their own and using similar methods to determine their costs.

Creating a magic item follows most of the same rules as normal creation of magic items does. However, rune magic does have some caveats when it comes to making magic items, due to the runic charge system that empowers their function. This primarily comes from the cost of adding runic charges to magic items.

Rune magic users can create their own potions, scrolls, and wands (using Brew Potion, Scribe Scroll, and Craft Wand, respectively). These items function based on the script’s level and the creator’s caster level, as is normal with created magic items.

The scribe must know the script he wishes to imbue into the item. The act of crafting the item triggers the script; the creator loses one use of that script for the day, as though he had cast it. The scribe must supply all the necessary material for these items, and must have a quiet and well-equipped workspace, crafting the item across one or more days based on its price.

Scribes cannot use spell completion or spell trigger items created by arcane or divine casters, even if those spells have an effect similar to a script. The same is true in reverse; an arcane or divine caster cannot use a spell completion or spell trigger item that uses runic scripts. Either are able to do so through the use of the Use Magic Device skill, as normal.


Potions created of runic scripts function like any other potion. A potion made of a runic script cannot be made with an overloaded version of that script, nor can it be overloaded by the imbiber when consumed; the script always functions as if cast on the consumer with no runic charges used. Drinking a potion does not generate runic charge.


A scroll containing a runic script can be made to use runic charges. The charges must be imbued into the scroll during its creation, and once done cannot be changed. Using the scroll consumes all runic charges put into it during its creation to overload the script contained in the scroll. Casting a script from a scroll does not generate runic charges.

A scroll that has runic charges overloaded into it is more expensive than a normal scroll. The cost to add a runic charge to a scroll is as follows: 1 gp x the level of the script x the level of the caster. This cost is cumulative for each runic charge added to the scroll.


A wand containing a runic script can be made to use runic charges. The charges must be imbued into the wand during its creation, and once done cannot be changed. Each use of the wand is considered to be overloaded with all runic charges put into it during its creation. Casting a script from a wand does not generate runic charge for its user.

A wand that has runic charges overloaded into it is more expensive than a normal wand. The cost to add a runic charge to a wand is as follows: 40 gp x the level of the script x the level of the caster. This cost is cumulative for each runic charge added to the wand.

Optional Rule – Runic Crafting

An arcane or divine spellcaster with the appropriate item creation feats can still make items that require runic scripts, using the normal rule of increasing the Spellcraft DC by +5 for every requirement not met for the item’s creation. The same applies for a rune magic user wanting to make magic items that require arcane or divine spells. However, this is a fairly lopsided deal, as there are far fewer magic items that require runic scripts or metascript feats than there are magic items requiring arcane or divine spells.

By using this optional rule, a rune magic user can use a script that is stated to function similar to an arcane or divine spell to meet the requirements of a magic item that has that equivalent spell as its requirement. For example, an archivist could use dawn’s fury to meet the crafing requirements of a necklace of fireballs, or use decipher and comprehension to create a helm of comprehend languages and read magic. Talk with your GM if this rule is in effect when playing a rune magic user before taking any item creation feats.

Section 15: Copyright Notice

Path of Iron, © 2015, Ascension Games, LLC; Author Christopher Moore