This massive supplement clocks in at 43 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page of SRD, leaving us with 40 pages of content, provided as a birthday present/commission via Interjection games’ patreon for Preston Mitchell…so let’s take a look!
The runesmith class, chassis-wise, receives d8 HD, 4+Int mod skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, all good saves and proficiency with simple weapons as well as light and medium armor. Runesmiths wearing shields increase their inscription costs of all rune activations by +1 inscription point. Furthermore, the methodology employed by the runesmith, chosen at 1st level, influences proficiencies. Calligraphy-users get whip and switchblade knife, runesmiths opting for chiseling gain hammer, warhammer, lucerne hammer and maul; Fingerpainters get Improved Unarmed Strike as a bonus feat; gougers get light and heavy picks and the pickaxe and painters get the starknife and the syringe spear.
In case you haven’t got that – yes, we get a new spellcasting system here – runes. These are magical glyphs that need to be charged before each use. A runesmith begins play knowing 3 runes and learns an additional rune at each new runesmith level. Runes fall in one of two categories – equipment or projection. Furthermore, there are generally 4 categories (or levels) of runes: Least, Lesser, Greater, Grandmaster. The first lesser rune known is unlocked at 5th level, the first greater at 11th level and the first grandmaster rune at 17th level.
Equipment runes are inscribed upon gear, indicating the type of gear it applies to. A given piece of gear may carry one such equipment rune and they usually grant a passive bonus. However, when within close range (25 ft + 5 ft./2 levels) of the rune, the runesmith that made it may activate it, granting a short-lived burst of power. Only least equipment runes may be inscribed upon magical items, with more powerful runes interfering with magical objects; equipment inscribed with the like does not gain benefits from spells or SPs or weapon special abilities.
Projection runes work regardless of the object on which they’re inscribed and usually are carried around on stones, sketchbooks and the like; they are unusable by anyone other than the runesmith. They have no passive bonus, but may be activated when presented in one hand. The radii of two projections with the same name cannot overlap. Additionally, their activation cost when used the first time each day is 0.
Inscribing runes is somewhat akin to preparing spells – once the allotment of runes available is inscribed, previously potent runes exceeding the limit cease to function. Characters need to be proficient with equipment to gain the benefit of runes inscribed upon it. Runes have an activation time and an activation cost; activation cost is paid with inscription points Activation times vary and runes that can be activated as free, swift or immediate actions do not provoke AoOs. The save DC to resist rune-effects is 10 + 1/2 runesmith levels + Int-mod.
Equipment runes count as magic items for the purpose of interacting with effects that hinder magic, potentially suppressing it and ongoing effects continue to have the duration elapse. Effective caster level is equal to runesmith level and runesmith levels double as CL for the purpose of feat and PrC-qualification. Projection runes are treated as arcane spells, but do not incur arcane spell failure. They may be used defensively and have a school associated counting as spells of 1st, 3rd, 6th and 8th level spells for the purpose of counterspelling/interaction.
The runesmith begins play with an inscription pool equal to class level + Int-mod, which replenishes after 8 hours of consecutive rest. 2nd level provides a bonus equal to half class level to Linguistics and Profession (scribe)-checks. Starting at 3rd level, the runesmith may apply lesser, greater and grandmaster runes to magic items and armors with a +1 enhancement modifier, but all effects on the weapon are suppressed while the rune is applied to it. At 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter, these runes can be attached to progressively better magic items; at 11th level, for example, the runesmith may add these runes to +3 weapons and armor.
Interesting: At 4th level, the runesmith may transform one of his inscribed runes within 30 feet into another rune of the same power level and type he knows as a full-round action that provokes AoOs – this may not sound like much, but it provides some interesting tactical flexibility. At 6th level, the runesmith learns to generate and inscribe a compound rune – two least runes can be inscribed as a lesser rune, with a single activation triggering both. One such rune per day can be made, +1 at 10th and 18th level. Starting at 14th level, the runesmith may combine two lesser runes into a greater rune, but may only have one such rune per day. Finally, as a capstone, the runesmith may combine a least, lesser and greater rune into the equivalent of a grandmaster rune. For these combined rune-tricks, activation cost and time is always equal to the highest of the activation costs and time of the runes involved in generating the compound structure.
9th level provides a luck bonus to saves versus writing-related spells or effects that further increases at 13th level and the class comes with favored class bonuses for the core races, aasimar, drow, hobgoblin, kitsune, kobold, orc, puddling, tiefling, vanara and vishkanya – and these should nt be discounted: Some allow for the stacking of identical runes on equipment or temporary hit points when activating runes as a kind of buffer shield. So yeah, mechanically relevant and creative.
Beyond these, the pdf also features 3 archetypes, the first of which would be the campaigner. The campaigner must take the sigil of the campaigning soldier at first level and always inscribe it in its highest level possible iteration; if objects are drawn from the cloak it is inscribed upon, the campaigner may roll twice. This sigil generates pockets, from which useful things may be drawn – including armor, weapons, medicine, weapons…and no, they can’t be sold. At 2nd level, the campaign replaces the skill-bonuses usually gained with The Adventuring Soldier feat. This feat expands aforementioned rune to include a dungeoneering pocket and features 2 temporary inscription points for activation of this rune only. At 4th level and every 2 levels thereafter, the temporary inscriptions thus gained are increased by +1. 6th level provides the follow-up feats The Devout Soldier and The Inquisitive Soldier, which provide access to divine and arcane 1st level spells respectively and increase activation cost of the sigil of the campaigning soldier thus modified by +1. Starting at 10th level, the archetype treats the scrolls thus drawn as though they had the campaigner’s full CL and the increased activation cost is eliminated. At 14th level, class ability only upgrades for the pockets containing arcane and divine spells are providing, allowing access to 2nd level spells at 1/2 class level CL and at +1 activation cost. At 18th level, metamagic with a spell-level increase of +1 may be spontaneously applied to scrolls drawn from these pockets for spell level inscription points and an action extended to a full-round action. As a capstone, an oblivion pocket is gained, which may contain multiple powerful random spells.
The Forgemaster archetype gets Knowledge (local) as a class skill and at 2nd level, for every rune class (least, lesser, etc.) he knows, he may inscribe one rune on two items, declaring one a rental, which works just like a regular rune, but may not be activated…until 4th level, when a forgemaster may activate a least rune inscribed and at the same time trigger a single rented rune within 30 ft. of the same type at double activation cost and as a full round action. This ability is unlocked for lesser runes at 8th level, greater runes at 12th level and grandmaster runes at 18th level.
The third archetype would be the projectionist, who only gains projection runes, but gains the Metaprojection Study feat at 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter. This feat unlocks metamagic feats for which you meet the prerequisites and grants you its benefits to apply them to projection runes, increasing activation action to full-round, but without increasing the rune’s level; instead, activation cost increases by a number of points equal to the level increase of the metamagic feat that particular iteration of Metaprojection Study mimics. At 16th level, activation time is no longer extended. Starting at 4th level, the projectionist may forego learning a rune and instead choose a known projection rune with a least variant; when inscribed as a least rune, said rune may thereafter be activated two times for free, not just once. 12th level, lesser runes qualify as well. At 8th level, the projectionist may inscribe a rune and activate it as a lesser type of the same rune, allowing for some flexibility; only the actually inscribed rune qualifies for purposes of the daily free activation(s).
The pdf also features an extensive selection of feats and includes notes on the interaction with arcane spell-modifying feats and the respective runes. A total of 11 feats are covered and I already mentioned a couple of them in the archetype section, since they directly pertain the functionality of the archetypes in question. The feats allow for the DC-increase of runes used in a certain slot, double-inscribe a single item, get more modify runes, learn a least rune or gain two temporary inscription pool points to use in conjunction with a chosen rune. Finally, you may inscribe trickster’s calling card as a grandmaster rune – the rune, as a passive benefit, usually allows for the use of a cantrip, an orison and a 1st level spell, with activation replenishing the uses. The feat increases the scope of this sigil.
Equipment runes are compatible with the armor, feet, hands, head, shoulder and weapon item slots. When a rune mentions “all” slots, it refers to these. The runes, in organization, are formatted by rune level and type – we get alphabetic lists for the equipment and projection runes. Beyond that, we also gain a very handy list of runes alphabetically by function; since runes may be inscribed as multiple levels, the respecive write ups denote these with Lt, Lr, Gr and Gm for Least, Lesser, Greater and Grandmaster, respectively. P denotes the passive ability summary, A the activation summary and S for Special any special ability summary. The list also collates the respective slots and the runic lists, once again, distinguish between equipment and projection runes – these only have an E-entry for effect in the list. Now this may sound a bit confusing when I break it down like this, but rest assured, it’s not.
Now if the runic system, so far has not evoked this impression from you, rest assured that you will not mistake them for spells; there are, for example, runes that increase your inscription pool. To provide an analogue – this is a bit like a spell increasing your spell slots…and yes, this is actually balanced. The gamut of the effects and their internal scaling is similarly intriguing – higher levels of runes not only escalate numerical benefits, they provide whole new, thematically linked options. When you e.g. activate an inscribed duelist’s insignia, a +4 dagger and rapier manifest in your hands. And yes, if you have not gleaned that by now – while passive benefits have a basically infinite duration, active benefits do have an activation duration. And yes, the runes take a lot of cool concepts and don’t operate in a vacuum: With the right rune, you can make people capable of operating siege engines as though they had the Siege Engineer feat, for example and via activation, a single character can count as a full crew for reloading purposes. Evader’s Deletion provides means to counteract scrying for progressively more powerful items.
Hangman’s Assistant also deserves special mention – it makes your cloak capable of being used as a primary natural attack that adds progressively better monster quality abilities pertaining combat maneuvers like trip and constrict as activation benefits. Of course, the usual suspects like skill-enhancers can be found, but, as a huge plus, the pdf takes a cue from the Master of Forms in terms of elemental creativity; you will not find boring cut-copy-paste element-themed options herein; instead, elemental themes, when featured, come with unique benefits, with Hoarfrost Emblem inscribed weapons reducing the movement speed of creatures struck by the weapon it is inscribed upon. This should not be taken as an indicator that resistances or elemental bonus damage cannot be found, mind you; but it does mean that, upon activation, an electricity-enhanced weapon generates arcs of lightning upon striking a foe for the first time each round. Using the Exodus Rune to teleport unattended objects as a lesser effect from an entry to an exit area may be nice; at higher rune levels, you can do the portal trick instead, though! If you’ve been thinking that the quasi-Norse theme often associated with runes seems to be missing, let me counter that with the assertion that AoE-designation of areas as halls wherein speaking lies is prohibited or that structures may be erected from the very ground – yes, potentially with permanency option.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Interjection Games’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports copious amounts of thematically fitting stock art. The pdf features bookmarks for the chapters and tables (for e.g. the robe of many-things-like runes), but not to the individual runes.
It is pretty hard to convey the fascination this system has provided for me; you see, the runesmith, make no mistake, is a caster; yes; but at the same time, the class obviously has a completely different feeling than just about all casters I know. Similarly, it is easy to see the appeal regarding an utility/tools character, but that would not take the magical capabilities into account. The appeal it has also does not lie within the engine, for while it like the mechanical framework underlying these guys, it is not my favorite of Brad’s engines.
The best picture to exemplify what these guys do I can come up with is that of the rune-savvy skald (not the PFRPG class) in literature; the rune-casting Pict banishing the giant golden slug-thing in Conan (kudos if you know that one!), the soldier who knows some magical runes in a magical quartermaster-style way; the wise and mystical philosopher-calligrapher in a WuXia-setting or the primitive runecaster in a savage culture – runesmithing represents all of these and does a better job at that task. Better yet, the framework and how it works is *really* simple. The system itself is complex and allows for great tricks, but as for difficulty to play and build, the runesmithing options here are easy to grasp and implement, easier to grasp than e.g. the kineticist, if you need a direct comparison. Runesmithing makes sense in a traditional fantasy context as well as in a more savage or sword and sorcery-esque scenario.
That still does not properly enunciate what I love about this class: Runesmiths are a trickster’s option; an utility (or blasting) option…and they have a very unique feeling. After digesting and testing the options herein, this pdf did not only leave me with the wish to implement the content in my notoriously hard to get in main campaign; it actually made me come up with campaign ideas that focused on it as the primarily available means of performing magic for the PCs. Whether it’s one set in a medieval/stone-age period of our own world, a savage trip through hyperborean realms of ice or early Malazan-like struggles of elite units in a war in a fantastic world – runesmithing, as a system, feels like it could carry a setting. The expansion potential for new runes and tweaks of the system is huge and I do believe that crossovers with e.g. truenamers or similar more caster-y spellcasters would actually work…but for now, I’m content. This book seems to be pretty successful and Bradley Crouch has been consistent in his class support for the classes that have an extended audience. In this case, this is excellent news, for the whole concept of runesmithing as present here has nigh infinite expansion options on its own. Similarly, no or rare magic (items) campaigns could easily use the framework posited here and modify/scavenge it to replace magic items in a world that simply doesn’t have as much and somewhat mitigate the issue of PFRPG’s math falling apart without them.
So yes, runesmithing works impressively smooth, is pretty easy to grasp and has a ton of potential… and I’ll put a campaign using these instead of more traditional types up magic up for a vote when we decide on the next main campaign to run. That’s a pretty huge deal. This is a truly inspiring little book and well worth 5 stars + my seal of approval as well as being nominated as a candidate for my top ten of 2016.
You can get this glorious, inspiring system here on OBS!
You can have Brad craft custom designs for you here via his patreon!