Runic Weapons - Homebrew
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After the success of my last homebrew item, Downtime Days, I figured I could share something else we mentioned in that episode of the podcast, Runic Weapons. This will be a quick article as I am currently on vacation! If you have any questions or want some clarifications, leave them down in the comments!
So, runic weapons… what exactly are they and why did I create them? They are weapons that focus on customization and having the right tool for the job. They were inspired by games like Fable (and they even show up in Pathfinder 2.0!) where you had runes you could put into weapons to get them to do different things, and I wanted to give weapons to my players that just weren’t the typical +1 magical longsword… cause that’s boring. I wanted something more, and something they could customize to better match their characters and what they might be preparing for.
For those that don’t care for the nitty-gritty explanation:
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So in my world, these weapons are forged to include veins of rune ore throughout the weapons. This is an ancient technology that is just now coming back to the ‘modern’ world and is expensive equipment that my players can spend their hard earned income on.
They are designed to give the players an ability to create the right tool for the job. Some players really like the idea of wielding a huge blade of fire like the Flame Tongue… but that’s a problem for them if they end up having to fight a Red Dragon. With these Runic Weapons (ØW), they can swap out their Flaming Rune (Ø) and put in a Frost Rune (Ø). This is great news for those that only want to carry around a single sword… for whatever reason.
What makes these weapons innately more interesting than a regular +1 weapon is that they have slots in them. Anywhere from 1 to 3 Ø slots that will allow you to put in a number of Runes Ø. Though, once a weapon is crafted, you can not increase the number of Ø slots, this is so I can sprinkle in a few of these weapons in the early levels with a few of the lower powered runes so that the players can have some cool weapons in the beginning.
Another key thing about these weapons is that they are not considered magical for overcoming resistances or immunities. This does put a few limits on their usefulness in the eyes of some players, but the fact that you can add a bunch of different effects more than makes up for it. I wanted to challenge my players. Do they want the same small, magical bonus to their hit and attack rolls like they always get, or do they want a weapon they can customize to their heart’s content?
With them not being considered magical, it puts a greater focus on how to load out their weapons. Before they go off adventuring to the Abyss they’ll swap out their Flaming Ø and grab a Holy Light Ø, or maybe they are about to go into a dark cave and they’ll grab a Light Ø. Being able to prep your weapon for the upcoming encounter or session is a great way for the players to be involved in the game when the spotlight is on them.
I will also add that I have variant rules at the bottom of this article that addresses how long it takes to swap out runes. Maybe for your world these runes take a long rest to ‘charge’ up in the weapon, maybe it only takes an hour. Having the runes be something that can be swapped out easily is definitely a conscious design decision for my higher magic world. For those in mid-magic campaigns, consider having a rune swap take a long rest to charge, and for those in low-magic campaigns, have the rune become permanent once you apply them to your weapon.
Now let’s talk about the runes. I mentioned earlier I drew inspiration from Fable, but that was only for the idea of them. I wasn’t sure how I wanted it to work mechanically until I was reading through the new Pathfinder 2.0 magical items. I like the idea of runes that can be swapped out, though Pathfinder made it so it took about a day to do that. I wanted something faster… 1 action to take out, 2nd action to put in a different rune. I wanted something that could be done quickly, something a little bit faster than just waiting for an hour (Read: Short Rest) to move things around. Now, this does make it very costly during combat, but that’s fine... It rewards the players to have their weapons properly prepared before they take on a creature.
The runes themselves were created from inspiration found in Pathfinder runes, from spells, magical items and from just random musings in my head. I wanted to create an assortment of items that could be used in a variety of locations and had more than just combat focus to them. I wanted utility in my weapon runes. If I was a player, I would want my weapon to do more than just hit things really well.
Unfortunately, that means certain runes may require more Ø slots than other runes, but I think that that is a sacrifice worth making. Besides, you can always switch out your runes quickly!
One last note on the runes, they are priced based off of the Sane Magical Prices guide.
Putting It All Together
So there we have it, a system for modular weapons with a lot of utility and creative problem solving when it comes to fighting monsters. It’s a method to replace the normal, dare I say, boring +1 magical weapons you will inevitably hand out to your players. There are a lot of rules you could change for your own system so I’ll go ahead and add some variant rules that might fit better for your table:
Runes take a full short rest to ‘charge’ up in your weapon. This means runes can only be swapped at the beginning of a short rest. No switching out in the middle of combat. This keeps shenanigans and potential rune abuse down.
Runes take a full long rest to ‘charge’ up in your weapon. This means that players have to decide the night before what runes to choose for their weapons, and puts greater emphasis on strategy.
Runes become permanent once you apply to your weapon. This means that players get to craft their own magic items, and allows them to customize it for themselves and puts greater emphasis on choosing the best runes for the most types of jobs. This does mean that certain runes just won’t be used.
Make it so that the runic weapon requires attunement, this stops players from just having a huge arsenal of rune weapons that they can just swap whenever they want during combat.
Don’t allow players to buy the weapons or runes. Make these hidden treasures throughout your world, the knowledge lost to craft them thousands of years ago. Plus, these can be the items to stock the dungeons and secret locations I mention in my Travel article!
Make it so that runes can’t stack. If you have 3 different damage focused runes in your weapon, you must pick a single rune when you hit a creature and are figuring out damage. This will help your players from becoming too powerful, though I would just only let them have 1 Rune slot weapons before limiting them like that.
Drop the price (or make them very easy to find) and have the runes have a certain amount of charges per day or per life of the rune. Players will think twice before burning a rune charge on that one annoying peasant.
Runes have different shapes to them. When a runic weapon is crafted, there are two different rune slots you can create for each weapon. Damage runes have a circular shape whereas Utility runes have a triangular shape. [Idea by /u/Stovetop85]
I hope you enjoy this system and let me know if there are any runes you would like to see added in! Or, have a complaint or a concern? Let me know down below! This system is still being worked on, and I love feedback!
One last link to the Runic Weapons: