- "No true Dwarf has truck with that kind of wild magic, oh no! In the olden days our ancestor realised the perils of dabbling with the forces of magic in its raw form, and they knew best. Runes they made, powerful runes to capture the magic, not let it float about all willy-nilly where it could do no end of harm. Everything had runes on in them days, not like now where they're something rare and special. Even had me a rune-lamp once, and a rune-cloak, but now there isn't the Runesmith who can make 'em."
- —Durgrim Redmane, Longbeard
Rune Magic is a unique form of magic-manipulation used almost exclusively by Dwarf Runesmiths. While it is a well-known fact that Dwarfs are resistant to magic, few denizens of the Old World understand Grungni’s folk are fundamentally incapable of using magic as wizards do. While Elves and humans can perceive and use the Winds of Magic, Dwarfs cannot. They cannot develop any witchsight, they cannot learn to channel magic, and they cannot cast spells in the traditional way. However, this does not mean Dwarfs are bereft of magic like the Halflings. Rather, Dwarf magic takes on a completely different form known simply as Rune Magic.
For thousands of years, an ancient guild of craftsmen known as the Runesmiths has jealously guarded the secrets of this form of magic. Mastery of the runes has made the Dwarfs the pre-eminent creators of magical items in the Old World. Many famous human weapons, like the Runefangs or Sigmar’s hammer Ghal Maraz, were crafted by Runesmiths. It is no wonder then that the Runesmiths do not share the power of the runes, and only guild members are allowed to practice the art. Rune magic takes a fundamentally different approach than the art of wizardry. While Imperial Magisters use the Winds of Magic like fuel, Runesmiths are more careful. They believe wizardry is inherently unsafe, and Tzeentch’s Curse proves them right over and over again. They do not ignite the fuel of the Winds of Magic. Instead, they trap it inside a rune to bind it and hold it. When so confined, the magic can be used safely. Runesmiths treat magic like any other Dwarf craft. Mastery takes patience, hard work, and dedication.
The race of Dwarfs is not magical and has never developed spellcasters the way other races have. This, the Dwarfs affirm, is not by accident or lack of ability, but rather the benefit of good common sense. They believe the first Dwarfs, the Ancestor Gods, saw magic for what it was: a fickle power at best, and at worst, wholly corrupting. It was Grungni who first learned to capture magic with his hammercraft, binding its wayward energies into good solid rock and metal, taming its powers for his own use. Since that time, those known as Runesmiths have learned the art of striking magic runes. All Dwarf language is written in runes, inscriptions specifically designed to be carved in stone or metal, but magic runes, as struck by a Runesmith, are far more potent. They hold the Winds of Magic to an item the way a nail affixes two pieces of timber together, creating items of incredible power.
The earliest of Runesmiths were the most potent at capturing mighty enchantments with their work, for they learned their hammercraft from the Ancestor Gods or the ensuing masters that emerged from those initial teachings. As they do not write down lore and would rather die than pass along secrets to an unworthy successor, each time a Runelord falls in battle, irreplaceable knowledge is lost. Living Runesmiths reckon that fewer than half of the magic runes created are still in use today, as the skills to replicate them are no longer known.
Runesmiths constantly search for lost runes. Any Dwarf-made artifact of antiquity is examined, not only to marvel at its expert craftwork, but also to seek for hidden signs. In some cases, runes fade over thousands of years as their magic gradually leaks away, although this does not happen with master-forged items. Many runes are visible only to another Runesmith, who can re-activate their power. But replicating secrets from the golden age is difficult, for it is not enough to copy the rune - the proper ritual must be observed in full. To strike a rune of power a Runesmith must know what chanted verses will imbue the forge fires with sufficient heat, how many times to hammer the molten metals, as well as correct tempering agents. The Master Rune of Swiftness must be slaked in quicksilver and to apply the Master Rune of Gromril requires purest metals and months of non-stop hammering in exact rhythm - missing a single strike can diffuse power. A Runesmith who knows all a ritual save a single element can still spend the rest of his considerable lifespan experimenting hopelessly seeking to complete it. Given time, the best Runesmiths intuitively feel stone and steel, and can eventually work out the correct course of action, be it tempering the red-hot metal in Troll’s blood, or a series of sonorous chants between clanging hammer blows.
Rules of the Runes
- "Seek the mountain's heart. Take it on third moon's last day. Stoke the furnace at midnight. When the ore glows red, hammer it before dawn. Seven times bend the white hot metal upon itself. Seven times sing the forging song. Quench in dragon's blood. Slake red hot in Karak Ungol's quicksilver. Do this in Haki the ancestor's name. Temper in Varn's water. Hone the blade upon a dragon's horn. On winter's third moon, carve the slaying rune. Anoint with blood of Troll, slain on Grungni's day. Bind the hilt with dragon's hide, with hornside inside. Haft the hilt with Azgal's gold, bind with Azul-metal. Mark the Orc's fang pommel with Grimnir's sign. Make the naming rite with ale upon Valaya's altar. The slaying of a Troll by night will make the rune to glow for a thousand years."
- —A rune rite of forging
- Rule of Three - No single item can have more than three runes. It is virtually impossible to forge items able to bear the strain of carrying so much power.
- Rule of Form - Weapon runes can only be inscribed on weapons, armour runes can only be inscribed on armour, banner runes can only be inscribed on standards, engineering runes can only be inscribed on war machines, and talismanic runes can only be inscribed on talismans.
- Rule of Pride - No more than one item may carry the same combination of runes. This restriction also applies to the use of single runes. Creating runic items takes a great deal of effort, and Runesmiths don’t like repeating themselves. Nor do they copy other Runesmiths’ work, except during their apprenticeship.
- No master rune may be used more than once per army, and no more than one master rune can be inscribed on an item. Master runes are so powerful that they cannot be combined together on the same item or used together on the same battlefield. For this reason, Runesmiths describe these runes as Jealous Runes.
- Master Rune of Skalf Blackhammer - Runesmith Skalf forged many hammers of great might, and some maintain the hammer of Sigmar, Ghal Maraz itself, was his work. Many of his hammers were later held by Dwarf Lords as heirlooms of their kingship.
- Master Rune of Smiting - This rune was previously only known on the Axe of Dargo wielded by the Kings of Karak Kadrin. Prior to marching out to face Vardek Crom, King Ungrim Ironfist gifted the Rundrokikron, an ancient tome of rune lore, etched on wafer sheets of gromril, to Thorgrim Grudgebearer, the High King of Karaz-a-Karak. Within it was the secret of striking this Master Rune.
- Master Rune of Alaric the Mad - No one knows what happened to Alaric the Mad after he forged the famous Runefangs for the Elector Counts of the Empire, though some say he wrought rune weapons for the Khan Queens of Kislev.
- Master Rune of Breaking - First used during the War of Vengeance, this rune was inscribed upon King Gorrin's axe, which destroyed the High Elf general Elthior's enchanted blade. It has become a popularly used rune ever since; Runesmiths in particular take delight in the sound of the inferior works of other races breaking like icicles beneath a hammerblow.
- Master Rune of Dragon Slaying - With this rune many great wyrms of the ages have been slain.
- Master Rune of Flight - This rune has been used to surprise the Dwarfs’ foes since the world was young. However, the original inscription for this rune did not specify that the hammer returns to the wielder's hand after being thrown, and many Dwarfs found themselves knocked unconscious as their own weapons returned to them.
- Master Rune of Snorri Spangelhelm - Runesmith to the High King during the time of Kallon Vikramsson, Snorri wrought the exquisite war panoply of the High Kings for several generations. Such is the awesomeness of his work that it still brings tears to a Runesmith's eyes. He fought in many battles and was renowned for his magnificent gromril armour as well as his unique weapon rune.
- Master Rune of Swiftness - This rune was first struck by Thurgrom the Hermit, the last Runesmith to work in the High Elf cities of the Old World.
- Master Rune of Kraggi the Grim - This rune was commonplace in the past but its secrets had been lost to the centuries. However, Dwarf adventurers in Karak Azgal discovered several axes bearing the rune and carried one to Karaz-a-Karak where it came into the possession of the Master Runesmith, Kraggi the Grim. By dint of long study, Kraggi came to understand the secrets of the rune and how to inscribe it. The jealous old Runelord might have kept the secret to himself but, knowing that other Runesmiths were probably studying it, elected to share the knowledge and thereby gained the credit for deciphering the secret.
- Rune of Fire - A skilled Runesmith is able to inscribe this rune on the metal while it is still white hot from the forge.
- Rune of Fury - Bright and angry glow the Runes of Fury. The Dwarf wielding a weapon marked with them concentrates upon an unavenged grudge, causing him to became enraged at the wrongs his race has endured.
- Rune of Dismay - The uncanny glow of this rune is an awe-inspiring sight, apt to fill foes with dread.
- Rune of Cleaving - This rune was first made for the pickaxes of the Dwarf Miners, to allow them to break through the hardest rock with ease.
- Rune of Might - Though short in stature, a Dwarf wielding a weapon bearing this rune is a powerful opponent, who can even fell a Giant in a flurry of axe blows.
- Rune of Striking - A weapon with this rune moves to strike the foe’s most vulnerable area with an uncanny precision.
- Grudge Rune - If an enemy’s misdeeds are great, a Dwarf can have this rune struck upon his weapon. Only when his foe is slain will the rune grow dim.
- Rune of Parrying - A weapon with this rune moves to block incoming attacks, making its wielder extremely hard to hit.
- Rune of Speed - This rune enhances its bearer’s awareness and quickness so that he moves more fluidly, taking faster opponents by surprise.
- Master Rune of Adamant - First forged on a shield as a gift for the flamboyant Dwarf Prince Gudii Twoboots, the shield was subsequently stolen by a lone bandit who stalked the Undgrim preying on small parties of travellers. This rune makes its wearer harder than granite and more impervious to damage than steel.
- Master Rune of Gromril - The favoured metal of any Runesmith is gromril, and in its purest form, it holds runes better than any substance in the world. If the metal sample is even slightly flawed, the rune will not work.
- Master Rune of Steel - Once this rune has been forged, it binds metals together making them more resilient. Armour with this rune never rusts through weathering or age.
- Rune of Fortitude - It is rumoured that armour bearing this rune eventually becomes sentient. Whilst no Runesmith has ever confirmed this rumour, they make no attempts to deny it either.
- Rune of Iron - When iron is saturated with magic, it is known as lodestone. This rune focuses on the magnetic properties of lodestone to create magical armour. Runesmiths have learned to incorporate this potent rune of protection in multiples, increasing its powers like folded steel.
- Rune of Shielding - This rune was first struck during the War of Vengeance, when entire regiments of Dwarfs would march to battle bearing shields struck with it as a protection against the missile fire of the High Elves.
- Rune of Preservation - When Prince Valkan Firehand was decapitated by a Wight Blade at the Battle of Hunger Wood, many Runesmiths were alarmed at an apparent weakness in Dwarf armour. Their answer was to use rune magic to add extra protection to those parts of the armour that could not be made any thicker.
- Rune of Impact - First designed to enhance drilling apparatus, when struck onto armour, this rune adds thunderous momentum to a Dwarf’s charge.
- Rune of Stone - Dwarf tradition tells that their race was created from the Father of Mountains - the first rock of the world. So, the Rune of Stone is the first magic rune taught to apprentice Runesmiths.
- Rune of Resistance - First used on the armour of the Thane of Karak Azgal by Gorgi Strongbeard, this rune was thought to have been lost amongst the ruined stronghold. Fortunately, the Runesmith survived to replicate it.
- Master Rune of Groth One-Eye - Groth One-Eye, famous for never backing down in an argument, first struck this rune in the time of Kurgan Ironbeard, when the Greenskins were driven from the west and the Dwarfs prospered.
- Master Rune of Stromni Redbeard - Stromni Redbeard made this rune in the days of Bael, Lord of Karak Azul. It was carved onto the battle standard of Durgin, son of Grindo, son of Grimnir.
- Master Rune of Valaya - This ancient rune was invented by Valaya herself, the Ancestor Goddess of the Dwarfs and founder of Karaz-a-Karak.
- Master Rune of Grungni - This rune stirs up the Winds of Magic, using their swirling arcane force to protect its bearer and shield nearby Dwarfs against enemy missile fire.
- Master Rune of Fear - The clan that takes this banner to battle gives an illusion that they tower over the enemy. Dwarfs are a strong enough opponent in their own right, but a unit of giant Dwarfs is enough to scare even the strongest enemy!
- Master Rune of Taunting - This rune focuses the Dwarfs' ability to chant and gesticulate in such an offensive manner that they enrage the enemy beyond all self-control.
- Rune of Battle - During the Golden Age, even the lesser strongholds and fortified mines each had a banner with this rune struck on it. Many of these banners are now lost, but those that still remain in Dwarf hands are held aloft with pride.
- Rune of Slowness - This rune creates a physical barrier by drawing upon the intractable nature of the Dwarfs surrounding it.
- Rune of Sanctuary - This rune magnifies the natural anti-magic aura that already resides inside each Dwarf.
- Rune of Stoicism - This rune reminds every Dwarf that, though their numbers are diminished, each one of them carries the legacy of his ancestors, and thus is never alone.
- Strollaz’s Rune - This rune boosts the already tireless nature of the Dwarfs, allowing troops bearing it to march for days and nights on end. Many times Dwarfs have used this relentless ability to force march into position far more quickly than any foe deemed possible.
- Rune of Courage - A banner with this rune resonates with loyalty, bolstering the resolve of the Dwarfs who bear it.
- Ancestor Rune - In adversity, Dwarfs look to the runes of the Ancestors and remember the duty that is now their own to bear.
- Rune of Guarding - It is no easy task to carry a hold's banner into battle, for every enemy warrior dreams of the glory of capturing it. This rune defends the bearer of the standard.
- Rune of Determination - Even in the most hopeless struggle, it is not within the heart of a Dwarf to concede defeat. This rune magnifies that spirit when it is most severely tested.
- Rune of Kadrin - It is said that any who have undergone the pilgrimage to the shrine of Grimnir at Karak Kadrin will forever be blessed with good fortune. This rune glows red at the centre of the shrine and has been forged onto banners to bless them with good fortune too.
- Master Rune of Immolation - Devised to keep their prized war machines from falling into enemy hands, it is only invoked in desperate circumstances.
- Master Rune of Disguise - This rune magically distorts the immediate area around the war machine, rendering it almost invisible from any distance.
- Master Rune of Defence - Developed as a defensive measure during the War of Vengeance against the firepower of the High Elves, this rune has saved the lives of many crews.
- Master Rune of Skewering - Elf mages helped create this rune before the War of Vengeance. There's no mention of this in Dwarf records.
- Rune of Penetrating - These runes infuse their war machines with extra piercing ability.
- Stalwart Rune - A war machine with this rune makes its crew unbearably proud - they will fight with great boldness to defend their beloved engine of war.
- Rune of Accuracy - Once a missile inscribed with this rune is launched, the rune glows, invoking the Winds of Magic to blow it in the right direction.
- Rune of Forging - This rune ensures the war machine is free from imperfections and therefore deadly accurate. In order to inscribe it, an Engineer must strike the machine with a hammer and a Runesmith must recite a special litany with each blow, making it a weeks-long ritual.
- Flakkson’s Rune of Seeking - This rune was first invented to shoot down Dragon riders with Bolt Throwers during the War of Vengeance.
- Rune of Burning - Any ammunition shot fired by a war machine with this rune will burst into flames when it strikes its target.
- Rune of Fortune - Discovered by Magnus Hammerson, who broke Runesmith tradition by selling it to the Engineers Guild.
- Valiant Rune - Dwarf crews are famed for always defending their machines to the bitter end when attacked.
- Rune of Reloading - When a war machine has proven its worth, it may be empowered with this rune.
- Master Rune of Kingship - Gotrek Starbreaker was the first great Dwarf Lord to have his crown adorned with this rune. Such a crown is a priceless artefact and the loss of one is dearly mourned as it absorbs the wisdom of its former master and passes this on to the next crown bearer.
- Master Rune of Balance - Forged in the embers of a captured book of spells, this rune hungers after the Winds of Magic.
- Master Rune of Spite - Created to help guard stronghold gates (the first being those of Karaz-a-Karak), this rune has since been used on many other devices.
- Master Rune of Passage - This rune causes rocks, vegetation, snow and mud to become easily passable.
- Master Rune of Challenge - A foe that hears this rune (either from a book or a horn) is suddenly aware of the challenge issued by the Dwarf sounding it as well as the indomitable will that powers it. The only options that remain are fight or flight.
- Master Rune of Dismay - When a warhorn with this rune is sounded, its uncanny voice causes all foes to tremble.
- Rune of Warding - Striking three Runes of Warding correctly is a difficult task, even for experienced Runesmiths.
- Rune of Spellbreaking - It is said that Grungni and Valaya worked together to form this potent rune. Once a Runesmith has mastered the Rune of Warding he will learn this more complex rune.
- Rune of Luck - The Runesmith who first struck this rune, Magnus Hammerson, acquired a fortune in gold through his gambling.
- Rune of the Furnace - First designed to aid Dwarfs working hot forges, this rune has been adapted for use in battle.
- Rune of Fate - A Dwarf possessing this rune will dream portents of the future the night before a battle, and he will know each blow that the enemy will strike at him.
- Rune of Brotherhood - This rune allows a Dwarf to quickly assimilate skills possessed by his closest comrades.
- Rune of Warding - Apprentice Runesmiths are taught the techniques necessary to create this rune early in their studies.
Runes of the Anvil of Doom
- Rune of Sorcery - Created by Kurgaz, this rune is what enables the Anvils of Doom to collect the energy of the Winds of Magic for the forging of runes.
- Rune of Hearth and Home - Also known as the Rune of Hearth and Hold, it was originally the gift of Valaya to the Dwarfs. With each blow of the hammer a low bass note resonates across the battlefield, stirring the Dwarfs' pride in their hold, clan and ancestors.
- Rune of Oath and Steel - When the runes are struck, Grungni's blessing is placed upon the works of the Dwarfs. This hardens Dwarf mail, as each suit of armour remembers the hammer blows that forged it. Also, the Dwarfs, whose resolution and endurance are legend, are driven to make a supernatural effort to ensure that they do their duty.
- Rune of Wrath and Ruin - When the Anvil is struck and the name of Grimnir is invoked, the power of this rune causes the sky to darken and the earth to crack, venting forth fire and sulphur.
Related Invasion Cards
- Warhammer Fantasy RPG: Realms of Sorcery (2005) pages 209 & 210
- Warhammer Armies: Dwarfs (8th Edition).
- Warhammer Armies: Dwarfs (7th Edition).
- Warhammer Armies: Dwarfs (6th Edition).