Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ancient Magic RPG Version

NOTE: Among many other things, this section incorporates the new D&D 3rd Edition character class Sorcerer and provides an unofficial historical basis in the Forgotten Realms for this character class. 3rd Edition sorcerers do not memorize spells in the manner of traditional D&D wizards. Instead, according to WotC, they "create magic the way a poet creates poems, with inborn talent honed by practice. They have no books, no mentors, no theories - just raw power that they direct at will."

The new rules give sorcerers the ability to cast many more spells daily than their wizard counterparts, but they are considerably more restricted in the number of spells they can know. Therefore it is fully conceivable that a sorcerer of first level would be able to use four first level spells a day, but he would know only two first level spells, which means he would have to use at least one spell more than once a day if he wishes to expend his full spell power.

6.2 An Optional Approach to Magic and the Weave

This system is almost completely optional. You can easily run the Northern Journey adventure without implementing this system at all, and you can even more easily ignore it if you're using the various segments of NJ as a setting expansion in your own campaign. If you're using the Projects Group 1370 accessory In the Land of the Lich Lords - with or without Northern Journey - you need to adopt the system of dwarven rune magic below or substitute your own version of rune magic for it. Without rune magic, the kingdom of Ammarindar, as described in In the Land of the Lich Lords, simply will not hold together well.

On the other hand, if you agree with us, that the current system of magic defined by TSR for D&D and the Realms is artificial, inhibiting and unnecessarily caged in by an illogical rules work (or broken rules, as WotC Vice President Ryan Dancey puts it), this alternative approach may be what you need to make magic in your campaign more interesting. The options also can be selective. You can pick those that fit your vision of magic in the Forgotten Realms and reject the others.

Some of the highlights of this system are:

· The Weave is a force of nature, a magical glue that binds Abeir-Toril and Faerûn into a web of magical power. No one, not even the gods can control it, but in principle, everyone, including the gods, can access it.

· There are laws of the Weave, much like the laws of nature, that guide the means by which the magical power of the Weave is accessed. Different deities control certain portions of these laws.

· The human goddess Mystra controls the laws used for the rather direct access to the Weave of those who use human type magic, including most modern day elves.

· The laws by which elves in days of yore accessed the magic of the Weave through spellsong and, in the case of some high level elves, still access it today with high magic, are the province of Corellon Larethian.

· Moradin controlled the laws of the Weave used by dwarves in the distant past to gain access to the Weave through runes of power.

· The concepts of wild magic and magic dead areas and objects deal not with the corruption or absence of the Weave itself, as stated in canon, but rather in the manner in which mages using human type magic obtain access to the Weave. In a magic dead zone, the laws they use to access the Weave are chaotic, in the case of wild magic, and without function, in magic dead areas. The disturbances in these areas do indeed cause discomfort and sickness in the mage, as stated in canon. Magic dead objects also can have serious negative effects upon users of human type magic. Wild magic areas simply destabilize the access that users of human type magic have to the Weave.

· Because clerics of all races receive the magic of their spells directly from their deities rather than personally drawing it out of the Weave in their immediate environment, both they and their ability to use spells are unaffected by magic dead zones or wild magic zones. Several members of the projects group as well as playtesting DMs have found that immunity of divine magic to wild and dead magic areas can lead to extremely interesting gaming situations. It reduces the ruleworks predictability at game time. The same applies to dwarven rune magic, which also is unaffected by such zones.

· Creatures with inherent magic, such as dragons or also D&D 3rd Edition sorcerers of the human and elven races, address the Weave with rules that are beyond Mystra's domain. Their inherent magic is not affected by wild magic or magic dead areas, but when creatures such as dragons use conventional wizard spells from spellbooks in such areas, the effects are valid.

· All living creatures are children of Ao, and Ao is the overgod of the deities of all races.

· The following option will work only if it has not already been answered in your own campaign: Only the human gods were thrown from the planes by Ao in the Time of Troubles. Gods of other races and life forms were not involved in the crimes of the human gods and therefore were not called to task by Ao. Their religions and clerics continued to function as always during the Time of Troubles.

· Elves are creatures of the Weave and so are innately magical. Ancient elven magic is believed to have combined the powers of nature, sun, moon, and stars and the elven spirit with the power inherent in the Weave. This magic was awakened and manifested itself through song and was further developed in communal high magic. Corellon Larethian was the god who controlled the laws of such magic. There may still be a remnant of spellsong somewhere in Abeir-Toril, but no such magic is known to exist today within Faerûn.

· Ancient dwarven magic is believed to have combined the powers of the elements, moon and stars and the dwarven spirit with the powers of the Weave and, in some cases, the lifeblood of dwarven enemies. It was awakened by singing chants and manifested itself in cut and stained runes. Moradin was the god who controlled the laws of such magic. It is believed that a few rare pockets of such magic may still survive in Faerûn, but this may be a myth. As the ability of dwarves to use runic magic waned, their resistance to all magic waxed. Dwarves too have attempted to gain direct access to the Weave, in the manner of humans, but those who have succeeded have been overwhelmed by the Weave's power, which has turned them both insane and utterly evil. The derro savants' god Diirinka is a good example of the evil madness that afflicts dwarves who have attempted to tamper directly with the Weave.

· As elves became more warlike, they learned the human methods of Imaskari wizards for gaining the Weave's power in a more direct manner. The Fair Folk turned more and more to directly accessing the magic of the Weave, eschewing their own inherent magic in favor of the harder and more aggressive human magic learned from warrior wizards of Imaskar, a magic that draws directly and exclusively from the Weave. Its use has placed most modern elven mages at the mercy of Mystra's laws.

· No race was or is immune to the type of magic practiced by another race, but different forms of magic cannot easily negate one another. In other words, a human cleric will have more difficulty removing a dwarven cleric's curse upon a human than a dwarven cleric would. Likewise, a dwarven cleric would have more difficulty than a human cleric would in removing another human cleric's curse upon a dwarf. And it would be impossible in some cases for one form of magic to negate another's effects in a conventional manner.

· Regardless of race, all users of human type magic who access the Weave directly rather than through nature, the elements, song, chants, runes, inherent powers, etc, stand a certain chance of going insane as a result of their direct contact with and use of such intense and absolute power, thus the fall of such great archwizards as Sammaster or, more recently, Halaster Blackcloak. Equally dangerous and often mentally debilitating are the direct use of magical power, such as spellfire or the Silver Fire of Mystra, which Chosen can channel. Canon in several places suggests that the Simbul has become somewhat mentally imbalanced through the use of such power. Other detrimental effects also may be possible. For instance, when the ghost of Syluné, one of the Seven Sisters, uses it, she destroys the physical bodies she uses. (See the FR novel All Shadows Fled by Ed Greenwood - TSR 1995).

6.3 Elven Magic

The Decline of Elven High Magic

I realize that some of the People and some of the savant humans seem to cast the same magics, but these are mere effigies of the true magics they mime. The humans have copied the replica spells, but they have not felt the Art sing in their breath and their hearts as the Selu'taar do.

Eltargrim, Coronal of Cormanthor

quoted in Cormanthyr: Empire of the Elves

NOTE: It is highly recommended that you use the following TSR products and accessories in dealing with elven mythology. Most are out of print, but some of those that are should appear on WotC's Internet web site for download at a credit card fee. Cormanthyr: Empire of the Elves by Steven E. Schend and Kelvin Melka (1998), Fall of Myth Drannor by Steven E. Schend (1998), Demihuman Deities by Eric L. Boyd (1998), Drizzt Do’Urden’s Guide to the Underdark by Eric L. Boyd (1999) and Monster Mythology by Carl Sargent (1992).

The elves who walked Abeir-Toril more than 25,000 years ago were a breed apart from the diminishing race of contemporary elves. The ancient elves - alfar, they were called then - were a proud race that benevolently dominated those lands which they settled, nurturing their new homes and bringing them into full flower, reaching levels of beauty that are done little justice by those rare songs still sung of them.

Exactly when and how the various races first appeared in Faerûn is not documented in detail in official Realms literature, but it is documented that dragons and giants preceded the elves, the Fair Folk preceded the dwarves and the Stout Folk preceded humans.

How and when magic came to Faerûn is just as uncertain, although it appears likely that it always may have been present in the Weave, and it was simply a matter of various creatures, perhaps with the help of the gods they worshipped and who guided them, learning to access and use the Weave.

The official FR literature tells us that these elves were (and still are) creatures of the magical Weave, and there are those who argue that magic therefore arrived with the elves. Perhaps. But that also makes the argument that the dragons who ruled Faerûn before the elves were non-magical, an interesting but unlikely idea. Still, it must be assumed that elves, as creatures of the Weave, merged with it after arriving upon Faerûn, if indeed they came from elsewhere.

How the Stout Folk began using magic is a dark secret known only to the ancient longbeards, if at all, consistent with the nature of this dour race.

Many contend that humans learned to use magic after the elves of Eaerlann in the North began teaching it to an early Netherese settler named Therion Gers in or about the year -3830 DR. This seems doubtful.

There is no clear record of the year in which the human Imaskari empire of Raurin arose in the Southeast, where only the Raurin Desert stands today. It is known that the great empire fell in -2488 DR, after a war of nearly unimaginable battles of magic.

According to the boxed set The Horde by David Zeb Cook (TSR - 1990), warrior wizards were the rulers of the Raurin Empire, long before the founding of Netheril. In their time, the accessory relates, the Imaskari produced "great wonders of engineering, architecture, and subtle cruelty ..." and magical works of unfathomable power to modern Faerûnians. The accessory also explains that adventurers exploring the dangerous desert still find magical devices of the Imaskari today.

It continues, "These items are unique and almost always of artifact power. Sometimes their operation or purpose is unfathomable." It seems safe to assume, then, that the Imaskari gained their access to magic without elven help, that their methods of access probably were different than those of the elves, and that they well may have accessed magic differently than modern humans as well.

Whatever the tale of human magic may be, the magical means the Fair Folk once commanded were far greater and more majestic than those of modern day elven wizards, albeit less effective in battle. However, most modern eleven wizards have lost their talents for naturally tapping the Weave and have turned instead to the human art of wizardry which many men - ironically - learned at first from the elves.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and there are elves and half elves as well as humans who use magic as sorcerers, having inherent magic just as dragons do. In fact, most sages believe that sorcerers are descendants of dragons who mated in humanoid form with humanoids, producing humanoid descendants with dragon blood in their veins and, occasionally, the inherent draconic power of magic within them.

Cormanthyr: Empire of the Elves by Steven E. Schend and Kelvin Melka (TSR - 1998) and the earlier Evermeet - Island of the Elves by Anthony Pryor (TSR - 1994) tell us much about elven high magic. In this section, you'll find still more information you may wish to incorporate in your campaign, although none of it is official. If you choose not to use this information, your decision will not hamper you in the least bit from using our Northern Journey adventure or our Land of the Lich Lords accessory.

This information is relevant only in the tale of the forging of one of the three Weapons of Learning introduced in Northern Journey, the Honor Sword of Baergil. Eliminating our extended history of elven magic has no effect on the sword or its abilities. It merely will move a part of the sword's history from something the DM knows to something he or she doesn't know (DMs who write their own substitute history excepted).

As Cormanthyr: Empire of the Elves tell us, the pinnacle of elven arcana is High Magic, and "the elves practiced this magic long before they ever trod the loam in Cormanthor." Cormanthyr: Empire of the Elves tells us quite a bit about the greater High Magic, the communal magic that resulted from the linking of elven minds, but it tells us nothing about the (unofficial) individual high magic yielded by loremasters of the Fair Folks in days of yore, Spellsong, which still is echoed in the minor singing magic of some modern wizards (see the FR Harper Series novel Elfsong by Elaine Cunningham - TSR 1994).

There are those sages who argue that the magic of bardic song still is a faint echo of this old magic as well, although there seems to be no real evidence that this is the case, and bardic song knows fewer racial boundaries than is believed to have been the case with exclusively elven spellsong. However, some sages do point out that the human Hidden Lord of Waterdeep Danilo Thann succeeded in learning minor Elfsong (again, see Elfsong by Elaine Cunningham).

The ancient elves of talent could create their magic communally, an art men never have mastered. They also could sing songs of magic which transformed their environments into domains of untold beauty and fertility. Their clerics were the leaders of this evolution, guiding elvenkind through the thoughts and teachings of the gods that they worshipped.

In these days, the elven settlements also had master smiths who still knew the art of Völund, the great smith of the Ljösalfar or light elves, He was a poet of sword making whose craft could rival the finest works of dwarves of old. These smiths made mighty weapons filled with magic and consecrated with the prayers of their clerics, weapons that were given unto the great warrior defenders of the proud elven homelands.

The ancient elven magic - be it communal or the product of song - was constructive. It was no great tool for combat or war, but rather a power of fertility, a power of art and beauty and a power of the enlightened elven spirit, which itself was a part of Toril's magical Weave. The ancient elves clearly separated the sword and their defense on the one hand from magic and their spiritual elevation on the other, and the two crossed lines only when the elven warriors' weapons were enchanted with the magic of spiritual enlightenment, not to make the sword take a higher toll, but rather to guide the warrior using it to his own highest level of achievement.

But these and many other elements and qualities of the ancient elven magic passed with time. As is stated in Cormanthyr: Empire of the Elves, the purpose of high magic was the "protection and support of the Weave, the forces of nature and the betterment of all elves." Long did elves honor this definition, while at the same time slowly shifting its emphasis from support to protection, a shift forced perhaps by the intrusions of mankind and increasing rivalries among elves themselves.

Tal'Turien, a legendary master of elven magic who passed on to Aryvandar before the laying of the mythal in Myth Drannor remarked sadly in his parting words to Coronal Eltargrim, "The People no longer know how to protect. They have learned to destroy."

Much indeed had been lost to the elves by the time of Tal'Turien's passing. Non-destructive protective magic was the main defense of the Fair Folk in his younger days. When unwanted human intruders from the early settlements of Netheril attempted to breach sacred areas of the High Forest in the Eaerlanni realm, they failed. Try as they could, they could not breach more than the eaves of the forests.

The elves protected their woodlands with illusions of a might unimagined today. A human who entered the forest and traveled in a straight line actually moved in circles, with the position of the sun, as far as it could be seen through the treetops, always seeming to confirm that the intruder was on the proper course but never leading him anywhere. Sly intruders who attempted to defeat the magic by going in a circle also went in circles. The forest and the sacred sites of the elves remained protected, but no intruder was injured.

However, the time came when the elves of Sharrven then taught the early Netherese settlers some of the secrets of their own magic, and the humans quickly expanded upon that knowledge, learning to defeat the elven protective illusions. Thereafter, the magic that protected the elven domains became deadly although by no means completely successful, and the lifeblood of many an elf and man flowed out onto the carpet of the great wood.

The passing and the eventual loss of much elven magic began more than 25,000 years ago in the Time of Dragons, when the alfar settled Aryvandar where the High Forest is today. From there, the Fair Folk spread out into Faerûn, establishing the five great elven civilizations. The lot of mankind - if it indeed existed at that time in Faerûn - is uncertain, but evidence indicates that humans were a primitive race at that time, one which hid itself from dragons and giants in the huge forests. It appears that even the stout dwarven folk was young at that time.

In the next 7,000 years or so after settling Aryvandar, the elven folk built its new civilizations, but it would be misguided to look upon this time of expansion as an era of peace, for less than 5,000 years after this age had begun, the Ilythiir and Orishaar settlements - each claiming parts of today's Shaar and contesting each other's claims - began a bloody conflict that lasted for seven millennia. The five Crown Wars culminated long years of battle among the elves, and the focus of their magic shifted ever more to direct access of the Weave, in the manner of men today, a manner eschewed by elves of elder days.

It was during this time that the Svartalfar or dark elves of Ilythiir (unofficially) discovered a land of humans who exercised mighty magicks, a land the Ilythiir had found through songs of scrying. The awesome destructive power the Ilythiir had seen in the scryed magic of Imaskari warrior wizards led them to yearn for such wizardry, for the Ilythiir were outnumbered in their war with their Ljösalfar or light elven Orishaar enemy, and they believed they could even the odds by learning and using the powerful but foreign war magic the humans had mastered.

The Ilythiir sent several of their own masters of magic eastward to Imaskar, in hopes that they could win the secret of the war magic of men, and they were not disappointed. Imaskari warrior wizards taught the Ilythiir mages the simpler of the secrets, and in return the Ilythiir revealed secrets of their own songs of enchantment, although these appear to have been of only marginal interest to the Imaskari.

There had not been too many battles in which the Ilythiir had gained the upper hand through fireballs and other magic of warring destruction when the Orishaar elves too decided to seek the secrets of the human Imaskari. So began the spread of magic through direct access to the Weave among the elven folk, and for the first time, the human goddess Mystryl was able to look closely upon the magical dealings of the Fair Folk, who had chosen to work within the framework of her laws rather than their own.

Many of the Seldarine were appalled at the use of human magic by Ljösalfar, and they argued that such magic would corrupt the folk, causing elves to rely upon human magic, which they drew directly from the Weave rather than creating in communion with it, thereby placing their fate in part in the hands of Mystral, whose laws ruled this alien magic. But Corellon Larethian, in a decision he rues to this day, rejected such objections from his clerics and refused to intervene, saying he was loathe to deny the alfar the right to any new knowledge.

So it came to be that ever more elves learned devastating or deceptive magicks from strange books in which their lore was written rather than finding the magic inherent in their own spirits. Nowhere was this striving so great as among the dark elves of Ilythiir, who had been the first to learn the human art. And it indeed must be said that no elves before or after this time had an affinity for human magic that compared with that of the Svartalfar, for spells of a human nature became an intrinsic part of their spirits.

They could use many powers they learned from the Imaskari without having to learn the spells from books, because these magicks were written indelibly in their own minds. Such talents still are the claim of the Ilythiir elves' descendants, the drow of today's Underdark, but the price they paid for this was their loss of the ability to use communal high magic or spellsong.

As the magic of Mystral spread among the elves of Faerûn, so did its curse, for the elves were tainted by human magic, and they would not know relative peace again until their numbers had diminished and they had become a vanishing race in a land of men. First came the War of the Three Leaves and then the five Crown Wars and the many succeeding wars of sword and sorcery pitting elf against elf, for thousands of years.

After humans began settling Netheril in -3859 DR, the Eaerlanni elves of the northwest set into motion a self-devouring cycle of magic that appears to eventually have condemned the elven folk to the loss of knowledge of their own intrinsic magic of nature and song. In or about the year -3830 DR - some 1,300 years before the fall of the human Imaskari empire in the Southeast - Eaerlanni elves in the North taught the Netherese settler Therion Gers to use very fundamental magic. The Netherese expanded upon this knowledge with incredible speed, using it for cold conquest, not only of other human realms but also of sacred eleven land.

Less than three centuries had passed before the humans of Netheril hungered for even greater power than that which they had learned from the elves. Their research into the working of the Weave brought them magical might far beyond that which man or elf might imagine today, and the elves, whose nations had been warring with each other for some 17 millennia by that time, hungered too for the power of this magic.

For four centuries, the elves of Eaerlann and Illefarn tried futilely to teach the Netherese to use magic responsibly. Instead, the humans became ever more reckless, while the elves were simultaneously abhorred at human achievements and interested in them as well, seeing the destructive might of human spells as a way to victory in their own internal rivalries.

Nearly a millennium after the Eaerlanni began teaching the Netherese magic, a band of elves succeeded in stealing the 50 legendary Nether Scrolls that were the core of all Netherese magical teachings in the Year -2825 DR.

However, the first great catastrophe in elven magic did not occur until 1,200 years later, when elves, dwarves and human warriors of Tempus marched against the men and liches of Netheril's Western March in -1591 DR (unofficial) and met in battle in Horindon Lhar, known today as the High Gap in the Greypeak Mountains, then a part of the Western March kingdom of Liu Ljöslalthhl, standing above the dwarven Runeaxe clan's halls of Kheldizh, in the northeastern reaches of Ammarindar. The decisive battle - lost by all and won by none - occurred on the plain between Liu Ljöslalthhl castle and Loghmorndin Mountain, the part of the High Gap that dwarves to this very day call Thorklhar - Death Pass.

Before the last of the few bleeding survivors of the four armies had fled from Thorklhar, perhaps the mightiest duel of human, elven and dwarven magic in Faerûn's history had taken place, and dvergr rune magic had brought the dormant volcano Loghmorndin to an explosion of such might that both the castle of Liu Ljöslalthll's monarch in Horindon Lhar and the great complex of dwarven halls that had been Kheldizh were entombed in searing lava.

It is said that magicks in such number and of such might were used in that battle, that the very existence of Abeir-Toril was threatened. The awesome magic from mixed understandings of the Weave and of the necromancy of Orcus, the demonic god of the undead, that were cast during that great battle tore at, turned and twisted the very Weave itself, shifting many of its foundations and invalidating in part the laws that both Corellon Larethian and Moradin had used to steer their races access to spellsong and rune magic.

The land of the Netherese lich lords was bound in a magical cage of the Weave, a cage that the undead masters of the Western March have not succeeded in escaping to this very day. Likewise, magical barriers were woven that drove Orcus back out of Toril, denying his Netherese servants his power, wisdom and voice.

After the battle, the dwarven lords found that their runecutters has lost the path to the magic they had stained in their runes, and in the elven empires, spellsingers found that the Weave no longer yielded its magic to their songs.

Only the human gods Tempus and Garagos seemed at first to escape the Time of Treachery relatively unscathed, until they were called to task by Ao for denying their own natures while helping to drive Toril to the brink of destruction. Ao punished both gods then, condemning them to war with one another, saying they would repeatedly destroy one another in battle, only to rise again eternally and continue on, each futilely seeking the final victory.

And this punishment would end, Ao said, only when either Tempus or Garagos - both of whom the Seldarine and Morndinsamman now abhorred - would ally themselves in magic with dwarf and elf to fight a new threat of great dimension, a battle that would come to be known as the Day of Restitution. Only then, Ao said, would Corellon again understand how to steer the laws of spellsong, or would Moradin again know how to rule the elemental runes of power, or would either Tempus or Garagos at last gain the upper hand and dominate the other. Of Orcus, Ao spoke no word.

The second great catastrophe of elven magic occurred in the Year of the Sundered Webs (-339 DR), when the mad Netherese arcanist Karsus achieved his moment of godhood, only to be destroyed by the human goddess of magic Mystral, who sacrificed herself toward this end. Again, as during the battle of Horindon Lhar, the Weave was rent and torn.

From the ashes arose the new goddess of magic Mystra, who fell too later in the Time of Troubles, and she did her best to patch the damage to the Weave, while denying human wizards further access to 10th and 11th level magic. It should be noted that elven wizards were not denied such spells (See Cormanthyr: Empire of the Elves. There also are other exceptions which are outlined in Secrets of the Magister by Ed Greenwood, TSR - 2000).

Although the elven wizards did not explicitly come under Mystra's ban of 10th level magic for humans, their ability to use the Weave nonetheless was damaged to a devastating degree. After the Battle of Horindon Lhar, the Fair Folk lost the High Magic spellsong.

After the brief rise and fall of Karsus in Netheril, the new Mystra succeeded in repairing most but not all of the damage done to the Weave. Since that time, the few remaining High Mages of the Fair Folk can call upon their communal High Magic only at extreme risk, for the elements of the Weave they must address are unstable. In every case since the fall of Netheril where communal High Magic has been used, it has been at the cost of undesirable negative side effects.

Since the Fall of Netheril, then, most elven wizards are capable of working only the same magicks as their human counterparts. The ability to communicate with the Weave that is a part of the own spirits and draw magic from it has been lost to most. As Coronal Eltargrim put it those many years ago: "I realize that some of the People and some of the savant humans seem to cast the same magicks, but these are mere effigies of the true magicks they mime."

6.4 Dwarven Magic

Old elven legends hold that dwarves were the first to work magic, but so greedily and wildly that it twisted their very nature, which rebelled against the magical forces.

- Ed Greenwood

FR11 Dwarves Deep Accessory

Dwarven Magic in Mythology and Fantasy Literature

With the introduction of the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition rules in the Year 2000, dwarves will have access to magic for the first time in the 26 years since Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson, Frank Mentzer et al introduced the original version of D&D to the world. Northern Journey came to be when the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition rules still were in force, and in this period, dwarves simply were not mages, not legally anyway.

In these rules, dwarves tend to be inclined more to magic resistance than the use of magic, although the creation of magical items and particularly magical weapons remains a talent available to some dwarven smiths. One example is Bruenor's forging of the magical Aegis-Fang for Wulfgar. For another, we can turn again to Ed Greenwood's words in FR11:

"Far and away the most important profession among the dwarves is, of course, the smith. Smiths vary widely in skills and specialties, and not all of them can fashion magical items."

Ed also tells us in FR11 of magical dwarven items whose crafting is beyond the arcane abilities of known smiths today - magical items such as dwarven Fists, Glowstones, Runehammers and Winged Hammers. All of these, according to FR11, demand a command of magic beyond that possessed by known smiths of our age.

Some (not all) of us who work in the Northern Journey adventure project always have been slightly dissatisfied with the non-magical dwarf of official D&D and AD&D, which flies in the face of the magical dwarves in a large part of fantasy literature.

In the ancient Icelandic Elder Edda - where dwarves go by their old name dvergr - one learns of the mighty but cursed sword Tyrfing, which Odin's son Svafrlami forced the dwarves Dvalin und Dyrin to forge for him. In his classic fantasy novel The Broken Sword (Copyright © 1954), science fiction author Poul Anderson gives us an exciting look into the world of a dwarven smith's magic, when the human warrior Skafloc brings the broken sword Tyrfing to the blind Utgard giant Bolverk, to reforge it:

Bolverk's hand fumbled over the pieces. "Aye," he breathed. "Well I remember this blade. Me it was whose help Dyrin and Dvalin besought, when they must make such a sword as this to ransom themselves from Svafrlami but would also have it that it be their revenge on him. We forged ice and death and storm into it, mighty runes and spells, a living will to harm."

He grinned. "Many warriors have owned this sword, because it brings victory. Naught is there on which it does not bite, nor does it ever grow dull of edge. Venom is in the steel, and wounds it gives cannot be healed by leechcraft or magic or prayer. Yet this is the curse on it: That every time it is drawn it must drink blood, and in the end, somehow, it will be the bane of him who wields it.'

He leaned forward. "Therefore," he said slowly, "Thor broke it, long ago, which none but he in the Nine Worlds had strength to do; and it has lain forgotten in the earth ever since.'"

Bolverk reforges Tyrfing for Skafloc. Afterward:

Bolverk held forth the sword. Brightly gleamed the blade, a blue tongue about whose edges a little flame seemed to waver. The eyes of the dragon on the haft glittered, the gold glowed as with a shiningness of its own.

"'Take it!' cried the giant.

Skafloc seized the weapon. Heavy it was, but strength to swing it flowed into him. So wondrous was the balance that it became like a part of him himself.

He swept it in a yelling arc, down on a rock. The stone split asunder. He shouted and whirled the blade about his head. It shone in the murk like a lightning flash.

Such is the dwarven magic some of us have missed in D&D and the Forgotten Realms. We also have difficulty with the current canon theory that the human goddess Mystra (who some dozen years ago was the not always competent human mage Ariel Manx a.k.a. Midnight) suddenly is the overgod of all magic - not just human magic, but also elven magic, dwarven magic, gnome magic, ogre magic, etc. What's more, this young and inexperienced human goddess controls the access of all other gods to the Weave of magic, regardless of race.

Nonsense, say we of the Projects Group 1370. We view this is an artificial, insubstantial structure that moves the canon Realms far and unnecessarily away from the great and viable lore of world mythology and puts it into an authoritarian, rules-ridden niche that does neither the Realms nor the game you're running any good whatsoever.

Therefore, just as TSR has gone back to one of the roots of humanity in Faerûn - the Netheril of the Arcane Age™ series - we have constructed an alternative approach to the question of races and magic that takes you back to earlier ages of dwarfdom and elfdom in Faerûn, albeit unofficially. Ancient tales of dwarves and elves suggest that the decline of this period began at about -1600 DR and end ended with the Fall of Netheril in the Year of the Sundered Webs, 339 years before the Standing Stone was erected and man began to calculate time in Dale Reckoning.

The Realization of Dwarven Magic

NOTE: It is highly recommended that you use the following TSR products and accessories in dealing with dwarven mythology. Most are out of print, but some of those that are should become available for a credit card fee as downloads on WotC's Internet web site: FR11 Dwarves Deep by Ed Greenwood (1990), Drizzt Do’Urden’s Guide to the Underdark by Eric L. Boyd (1999), Demihuman Deities by Eric L. Boyd (1998), Monster Mythology by Carl Sargent (1992), Axe of the Dwarvish Lords by Skip Williams (AD&D generic - 1999), Cormanthyr: Empire of the Elves by Steven E. Schend and Kelvin Melka (1998), Fall of Myth Drannor by Steven E. Schend (1998), Sea of Fallen Stars by Steven E. Schend (1999), The Wrymskull Throne by Steven E. Schend and Thomas M. Reid (1999) and the article Heart of the Forge - the Dwarven Smithy by Wolfgang Baur in Dragon No. 245 (March 1998). The latter is available on TSR’s Dragon Archive collection of CDs.

When and how did the Stout Folk first gain access to the Weave and begin using its magic? The answer appears to be lost in the memories of the unspeaking rock that is kindred to the dwarven spirit, memories so old that not even magic can awaken them.

The first written records of a dwarven presence record the founding of Deep Shanatar near the modern day Alraiven Mountains and the Lake of Steam somewhere about -11,000 DR, but it seems rather certain that the Stout Folk was mining beneath the surface of Faerûn long before this time.

There are some difficult to reconcile historical data in various official FR publications. While Ed Greenwood tells us in FR11 Dwarves Deep that old elven legends hold that dwarves were the first to work magic, the later publication Cormanthyr: Empire of the Elves suggests that elves may have first come to Faerûn somewhere around -25,000 DR, that they preceded the dwarves and that already knew how to use the magic of the Faerûnian Weave, of which their own spirits (as opposed to souls) were a part. It is difficult to add these elements and obtain a whole truth that is a consistent sum of the parts.

It is our assumption that the dwarves probably have been in Faerûn longer than the elves, that they are in fact native to Faerûn (which, according to Cormanthyr: Empire of the Elves may not be the case with the Fair Folk), that the old elven legends Ed Greenwood quotes are indeed true, and that the dwarves simply did not emerge onto Faerûn's surface until some time after -12,000 DR.

We also assume that the magic the dwarves used so greedily and wildly that it twisted their very nature, which rebelled against the magical forces, as Ed greenwood explains in FR11, already had been eschewed by the dwarven race at the time it emerged, and dwarven wizardry was found only among the derro savants, insane creatures whose very nature indeed had been twisted by the Weave.

The magic of the grey dwarves or Duergar is of course another matter, a product of their enslavement by drow, as explained by Eric L. Boyd in the publications Powers & Pantheons (TSR - 1998) and Drizzt Do'Urden's Guide to the Underdark (TSR - 1999).

While the elven magic of song and nature may indeed be lost for all time, there still are legends among longbeards of a time when some among their number sang songs both horrible and wonderful while cutting and staining runes of great power, and although they are well hidden, there are indeed pockets of long forgotten dwarven clans where the ancient magic combining the elements, singing chant and the Weave still are known and practiced.

The Stout Folk does not hold much of magic in the elven or human sense of the word and certainly not as the evil derro and duergar practice it. In fact, there seems to be a serious clash between the means users of human magic call upon to access the Weave and the intrinsic nature of the dwarves themselves. They resist the effects of normal Weave magic to a certain extent, and the Weave may also resist their attempts to gain direct access to it.

Traditionally, dwarven magic users obtained their abilities through such ingredients as song, the power of the moon and stars, the forces within the elements of earth, water, fire and wind, often the blood of the foe and doubtless also the Weave, although only the stout folk and its gods know how these ancient dwarven masters of the art accessed the Weave.

Moderns sages who know at all of the ancient dvergr magic speculate that the powers of the universe which were tapped through moon- and starshine, the elements, and the dwarven spirit, bound to these through song and the blood of the enemy, drew power from the Weave and into the dwarves' work, but that is only speculation. The answer appears to be unknown today, and it may always have been unknown, for dwarves are of the stock who would feel, channel and use such power rather than questioning it or asking why it works the way it does.

A bit more clear is the division of dwarven enchanters, for they seem to have fallen into three categories:

· The Runecutters (also known as Stainers or Runemasters).

· The Master Smiths.

· The Clerics.

Of the runecutters, the least is known today, and this is the art that above all has become lost, or at least all but lost. Whether dwarven runecutters worked in concert with master smiths and or clerics is uncertain, but what little information can be found suggests that they may have been by and large individual practitioners, working alone and being guarded in their dealings with other dwarves, not unlike most human mages of modern times.

Enough legends about runecutting still circulate among the living longbeards that we can draw a fairly good picture of this process. The runecutters of old carried no spellbooks and they cast no spells. No dwarven wizards marched with their axelords and kings into battle to smite the enemy with magic missiles or fireballs or even Snilloc's Snowballs.

Those who led dwarven warriors into battle had to rely upon the clerics for spell support, to the extent they had spell support at all. The runecutters and the master smiths stayed at home when the horns of war echoed through the dwarven halls or the mountains above them. The clerics marched to war with the magic their gods gave them, and the great warriors carried runestones bearing the magic of their stainers, who remained behind.

Runecutting and the art of the master smith are not arts that can be learned in a school or that can be committed successfully to writing, although it is certain that some dwarves did indeed document in stone the physical shape of a rune and how they personally construed the shape and flow of its power. Rare, however, were the dwarves who could use these archives to awaken the power channeled through the runes, and the secret to the awakening of this power had to already be within them.

Nonetheless, it seems clear that the art of runecutting was not confined to dwarves alone, as evidenced among other things in the ability of the great red wyrm Grafvitnir to learn this art and cut the runes that enabled his long sleep and rejuvenation. It appears that creatures other than dwarves also can experience affinity to those powers which can awaken the magic of runes, although this perhaps can be achieved only by liches or creatures of great inherent magic, such as dragons.

Dwarven runecutters and dwarven master smiths assemble their materials, usually a weapon in the case of a smith and an item of stone, hard ore or metal (although there is evidence that wood also has been used) in the case of a runecutter, along with whatever components the intended enchantment may require. Regardless of whether a smith is enchanting a weapon or a runecutter is enchanting another object, the runes of power are cut, stained and enchanted one base rune at a time, which usually are combined into magical staves consisting of two or more base runes.

(NOTE: True historic runes originally were cut and stained only in beechwood. The Anglo-Saxon word book is a product of runecutting. The Germanic word for beech is Buche, and the word for book is Buch, which is the root of the English word book (Latin names use instead libra). The original Germanic name for a rune and modern German name for a letter of the alphabet is Buchstabe - beach stave in English.)

The runecutter, as a rule, works his art unaided in his chambers and in hidden, isolated mountain valleys above the halls of his clan. The rune itself is cut in advance, before the rite of enchantment. The calling upon the magic is chosen carefully, on a night when the sky is clear and the moon preferably full. The runecutter works by the moon's light, chanting his song, while working the components of his magic and his stain into the rune.

Just what a dwarf does to bind the power of magic into his rune is unknown. He communicates only with his students over such things, and only those dwarves who already have attained affinity with the magic are taken into training by a runecutter. Their work is a secret they share alone.

The system can work similarly for a dwarven master smith, if he is attempting to produce a masterpiece, that is, a weapon of great power that bears his own mark. He too will forge the weapon unaided, and cut the runes into it with his own hands. He too will seek out his lone mountain valley on a starlit night with full moon and working unaided, will stain the runes of power in the weapon he has created to bind the magic.

Nonetheless, the master smith, for all his talent and the power of the weapons he creates, is not learned in magic. His access to its power is intuitive and requires a natural affinity with both his working materials and the Weave that cannot be learned. The master smith is what his name implies, a weaponsmith of great talent. The rune magic must come to him naturally.

The finest master smiths produce many masterpiece weapons in a lifetime, but most turn out no more than one of them. Bruenor Battlehammer, while forging Aegis-Fang for Wulfgar in the novel The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore (TSR - 1988), gives a good example of a dwarf using his natural talent rather than learned lore to create a weapon of great magical power:

The first real test of the dwarf's expertise came when he overlaid the rune carvings with the gem inside the mountain symbol of Dumathoin, the Keeper of Secrets …

Bruenor knew then that his work was nearly complete. He removed the heavy warhammer from its clamp and took out the small leather bag. He had to take several breaths to steady himself, for this was the final and most decisive test of his skill. He loosened the cord at the top of the bag and marveled at the gentle shimmerings of the diamond dust in the soft light of the moon …

Bruenor steadied himself again, then suddenly snapped the bag into the air, releasing its contents high into the night. He tossed the bag aside, grasped the warhammer in both hands, and raised it above his head. The dwarf felt his very strength being sucked from him as he uttered the words of power, but he would not truly know how well he had performed until his work was complete.

The level of perfection of his carvings determined the success of his intonations, for as he had etched the runes into the weapon, their strength had flowed into his heart. This power then drew the magical dust to the weapon …

Dwarven runecutters and dwarven master smiths may simply be two different branches of the same art. Their methods are similar although not always the same. To become either a runecutter or a master smith, a dwarf must have not only a natural talent for rune magic, but he also must be open to the powers that lend magic to the runes, an openness in a spiritual manner that few of the stout folk achieve.

Runecutters almost invariably work alone. The only known exception is the time when an apprentice is being trained. The cutting of a rune is no comparatively brief task, like the casting of a spell, nor are runes of power usually intended for immediate use. Such runes normally are cut and then stained, usually with a substance that itself has an affinity with the magic.

Because dwarves have been forced to fight for their survival for all of their existence, a large number of the cut runes worked battle magic, and the runes then were strained in the blood of the enemy for whom the runes were intended.

However, many other types of runes also were cut, for these dwarven mages could tap many streams of magic:

· Lesser runes worked much in the manner of a wizard's scrolls. The rune released its magic when it was exposed to or seen by the recipient, victim, etc., and after that, the rune held no power.

· Higher runes could be more accurately compared to the enchantment of magical objects. They could control the flow of much larger amounts of magic, releasing power repeatedly.

· Great runes, cut and stained only by the mightiest of dvergr mages, could be sent, transmitted over great distances, to do their magical work at a place and time where the runecutter himself never had been, perhaps never would be. However, the stainers who could master this magic were rare indeed in the dwarven halls.

Unlike the master smith, the runecutter gained through his experience an ever-deeper understanding of the magical powers that his runes controlled, and he learned how to shape and direct these powers. The master smith, in contrast, learned the runes of his trade, but the channeling of power into his runes, which were inscribed only into the metal of weapons of his own making, stemmed naturally from his spirit, without an inherent intellectual understanding or technical learning of the magic he shaped. The work of the master smith was almost always limited to the forging and enchanting of magical weapons or - in other cases - weapons with a curse.

In most cases, the great smiths created their masterpieces working alone, in much the manner of a runecutter, but for less demanding work, the smiths often worked in groups, together with a cleric, to form the magic that empowered the mighty weapons of the great dwarven nations. This system was defined in considerable depth by Wolfgang Baur in Heart of the Forge - the Dwarven Smithy, in Dragon No. 245 (March 1998). This issue of Dragon was included on the Dragon Archive CDs released by WotC in 1999, and therefore will not be explored in great detail here.

A great dvergr smith would forge his hammers, axes and swords in the lava fed fires deep within Toril. In his metal he would cut runes of power and stain them in the blood of his enemy, in most cases the orug - goblinoid in the modern tongue.

Clerics of Moradin and other dwarven deities would sing the songs of the gods into the glowing steel, and the smith then would temper his blade beneath stars and moon in the mixed waters of winter snows and summer storms and other fluids that bore the natural magic the weapon would bear. In this manner did the great weapons of yore come to be.

No less was the magic of the dvergr stonemason, who communicated with the spirit of the rock itself, focusing its powers into mighty runes they had cut and staining them with the lifeblood of the enemy, the orug (goblinoids) and strengthening them with the songs of the dvergr clerics.

The ancient dvergr magic is a runic magic rooted in the essence of Faerûn itself. It is the first known magic. Heed the words of the Norse God Odin Odvatr in the Words of the High One from the ancient Elder Edda:

You will find runes, readable staves

Staves very strong, staves very stout

Staves that Bolthor stained

Made by the powers of might, stained by prophetic gods

Know how to cut them, know how to read them

Know how to stain them, know how to test them

Know how to evoke them, know how to bless them

Know how to send them! Know how to send them!

In these lines, we find the spirit of the magic of the dvergr runecutter, a magical spirit that is all but lost to the remaining dwarven clans of modern Faerûn.

The Halls With Dwarven Magic

Runic magic was predominant in both Ammarindar in the North and Shanatar in the South; there are clear records of such magic having existed. Likewise, there is rather conclusive evidence that some golden dwarf runecutters worked in the Deep Realms of the Great Rift in the Southeast although there are indications that their version of runic magic may have been tainted by some knowledge of human Imaskari magic from the fallen empire of Raurin. There also is reason to believe that the Imaskari warrior wizards learned something of dwarven rune magic and could mix their own dweomers with dwarven runes.

There is no trace of runic magic left in the lore of the Siremun dwarves beneath the Firepeak Mountains, east of Almorel and the Endless Wastes (and east of conventional Realms maps), but it still cannot be ruled out that the Siremun did not command runic magic at an earlier time. The Siremun were allies of fallen Raumathar, and it is known that Raumathari battle wizards were able to use minor runic magic (see The Horde by David Zeb Cook, TSR - 1990, available as a free download).

It is, however, an open question, whether they learned this magic from the Siremun or whether they gained it from discoveries they made in ruins of the Imaskari Empire. That explanation, while by no means certain, would lend credence to claims that the Imaskari learned some runic magic from the Gold Dwarves of the Great Rift.

It is almost nearly as certain that old Sarphil was a center of runic knowledge, although modern day descendants of Sarphil's clans, such as the Earthfast dwarves of Impiltur, have no records and show no traces of ever having had such knowledge. Signs of runic lore also can be traced to the ruins and remnants of Besilmer, the Fallen Kingdom and Gharragaur. The halls of the Ironstar clan have contradictory evidence, and there is much debate over whether the Ironstar dwarves knew of or used runic magic.

Archaeological findings in the ruins of Dareth, Delzoun, Haunghdannar and Oghrann show no signs of runic magic having been known. In the case of Dareth and related Delzoun, latter day descendants such as the clans Hillsafar and Orothiar in Damara, also have no memory of such magic. It is doubtful that the jungle and albino dwarves of Chult ever learned rune magic, and it is almost inconceivable that one of the four surviving dwarves of Sarphil exiled to the Great Glacier was a runecutter who perpetuated his art and passed it on among the descendant Innugaakalikurit dwarves of the Great Glacier.

The Passing of Dwarven Rune Magic

When elf, dwarf, man and lich met in battle in Thorklhar, Moradin's clerics and the runecasters who worked with them had created the terrible magic that brought the dormant volcano Loghmorndin to an explosion of such might that both the castle of Liu Ljöslalthll's Netherese lich queen in Horindon Lhar and the great complex of dwarven halls that had been Kheldizh were buried in molten lava.

After the battle, the ley lines of the Weave had become so distorted that elves had lost their ability to sing spellsongs of High Magic, and dwarven runecutters no longer could cut and stain staves of power. Only pockets of dwarves were spared, seemingly those who lived so deeply in the bowels of Toril that they were beyond the areas of the Weave that had been twisted. It is believed that these dwarves were to be found only among the rebellious branch of the Goldhammer Clan of Ammarindar in the Halls of Nupung, in the deepest levels of southern Shanatar and perhaps also in the depths of the Great Rift.

After the Time of Treachery, the understanding of the powers contained and channeled by the mighty dvergr runes had faded from the knowledge of the other longbeards who had cut and stained runes of power, and dwarven runecutting quickly became a lost and forgotten magical art. However, runestones cut before the Time of Treachery still retain their magic today, long after the runecutters who stained them have been forgotten.

The Runebearer

In most adventure campaigns, the PCs will see no dwarven runecutters but rather the result of their work. In other words, dwarven warriors and clerics, perhaps also occasional dwarven thieves, will be taking these runes of power into encounters and using them. If you insert dvergr runes into your campaign, any dwarf in any encounter theoretically could be bearing runestones. In practice, runestones should almost never be encountered. They are one of the great rarities of the modern Realms.

Being a runebearer does involve a bit more than just carrying runestones around and waving them in the air. A runebearer must learn what the stave(s) he or she carries mean(s), and he must use trained concentration upon the power(s) he or she is unleashing in activating a runic stave. During the round in which a runebearer activates a stave, he or she must concentrate every bit as much as a wizard or a cleric attempting to use a spell and cannot do anything but concentrate.

Because one usually must know what one is doing to activate the magic in a runestone, the staves seldom are of much use in the hands of non-dwarves. If, on the other hand, a member of another race does gain the knowledge needed to activate a specific runestone, he or she can do so with the same ease as a dwarf; the magic is in the runestone, not in the bearer. In earlier times, when there were close relations between elven Eaerlann and dwarven Ammarindar, there is evidence that elves were given or perhaps sold runestones by dwarves, and some of these have indeed been found in ancient elven runes in the High Forest.

The sources for runestones are extremely limited. It may be that your party encounters a few dwarves of the lost and sequestered Goldhammer Clan of old Ammarindar, as can occur in the Backlands installment of Northern Journey. This is the only known clan where the art of runecutting survives on an appreciable scale. Dvergr runes are predominant in the Goldhammer halls, but the chances are slim that any PC party will come to be in them for long (see Backlands).

It is said that there still are a few ancient runecutters in the remnants of Shanatar in the South. The rare dwarves one may encounter from there could be carrying a runestone or two. And there well may be a few runestones still scattered among other clans here and there, hoarded since their ancestors had runecutters in their ranks. For most parties, an encounter with such a runebearer should be, at the most, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. See New Classes, Dwarven Runecutter.


Many runes are portable. They are cut into small, thin slabs of hard stone or ore or thin plates of metal and bound together with leather thongs that the runebearer uses to carry them. The average runestone weighs about two pounds and has an encumbrance of about three pounds.

In areas where there was close and friendly contact in earlier ages between elves and dwarves, it appears that runecutters at times left the dwarven halls and came to the surface to work. It well may be that the runic sun and wood radicals were first learned at this time, and it is known that wooden boards similar to runestones that beyond doubt were the work of dwarves of ancient Ammarindar have been found in elven runes in the High Forest. The few who know of such items usually call them rune boards and rune tables.

In the Underdark, runecutters inscribed not only runestones but also cut and stained runes on surfaces at locations that they or their clans wished to protect. Such runes can be seen infrequently on the surface as well, but usually only on the entrances to ruins of great dwarven halls. In the Underdark, runes inscribed at such locations sometimes also have purposes other than protection.

Mintiper Moonsilver, the bard of Silverymoon, has said that there is a fountain in the Halls of Radruundar in the ruins of Ammarindar that can heal. The few who live today who have seen that fountain believe that the water has healing magic, Moonsilver says, but the healing power is instead in ancient dvergr runes cut into and stained in the fountain.

Runic Magic vs. Conventional Magic

Although runic magic, the lost magic of elven song and modern day human and elven magic that accesses the Weave directly draw their power from the Weave, they nonetheless have sometimes limited effect upon one another. Attempts to dispel human magic with runic staves often go awry, and human spells such as Detect Magic or Dispel Magic have unpredictable effects upon runic magic.

No human magical protection will shield a mage with certainty from an attack of runic magic, but at the same time, no runic magic is certain to protect a dwarven runecutter from human magic. The same is not always true for the effects of magic. If either a dwarven stave or a wizard's spell brings a stone wall into existence, that wall certainly will protect against magic of all kinds that is stopped by a stone wall.

The degree of effectiveness when different types of magic clash with one another depends upon how each work of magic has bound the power of the Weave into the spell, song or rune that releases it. Different works of magic have little difficulty countering one another when the result of the magic is a genuine physical effect. Magic that produces a physical barrier or fire or even physically real swirling blades can be dispelled without difficulty by a work of another magical form that deals with such physical realities.

Other more abstract, spiritual, divining or psychological magical effects can be more problematical, because different forms of magic may use opposing facets of the Weave to attain similar results. The dispelling or unraveling magic of a different origin then would attack the effects on the wrong basis and be only partially effective or perhaps totally ineffective.

Magical invisibility offers a good example:

· A human invisibility spell creates an illusionary picture of nothingness and transparency that the target sees. In a magical world, an illusionary image is something rather than nothing, and it can be seen. To dispel it, one would have to deal with magic of the type illusion and dispel the illusionary image that the victim sees, which in and of itself is a real thing, albeit intangible.

· The elven invisibility song deals with the mind of the victim, changing the perception of the victim, so that he does not perceive the subject of invisibility and therefore does not see it. This type of invisibility would have to be dealt with by magic similar to the cleric spell True Seeing. To defeat the invisibility, one would need to use divination magic. It creates no illusion to dispel.

· The dwarven rune stave of invisibility is elemental. Light is an element. Sight is a matter of the perceiving of direct and reflected light. The dwarven rune destroys the light waves and replaces them with new waves that show what is behind the invisible object. To attack this effect, one would have to use magic of the type transmutation. Neither illusionary magic nor divination would be able to combat it.

In this case, human magic effectively deals with human invisibility, because it destroys the illusion of invisibility, but it isn't bound in a matter to deal with the victim's elven perceptions or the dwarven neutralization of light waves.

The Dvergr Runes

NOTE: We have attempted to make our rune names as compatible as possible with the samples of the dwarven language offered by Ed Greenwood in the gaming accessory FR11 Dwarves Deep (TSR - 1990), available as a pay download. Because a large part of the runic knowledge available today stems from old Icelandic, we have selected Icelandic terminology for most names of concepts that weren't identified in FR11.

To see the runes properly, you need to install the TrueType fonts Germanic Runes (RUNE_G.TTF) and Rune English 2 (RUNENG2.TTF) created by Daniel Smith. They are available on his Internet site, which is devoted to runic lore ( and they also are included in the Northern Journey FR Fonts Pack (FRFONTS.ZIP) available from the NJ Internet site (

There is and can be no such thing as a complete catalog of dvergr runes. The dwarven masters who cut and stained the ancient runes learned to understand the powers represented by the runes. They learned the true names of these powers and the shape of these names, cutting these shapes into stone, ore, metal and, infrequently, wood as well, and then staining these staves and calling into them the secrets they knew to awaken the powers whose names the runes represented.

It is known that the dvergr runic system worked somewhat like the written Chinese language of our own world, Earth. Runecutters began by learning the basic powers, their true names and the staves that fit those names. The basic runes represented sources of power rather than powers themselves, constituting runic radicals.

Most useful runes combined radicals to bring varying powers together, to achieve very specific goals. This building of powerful, composite runic staves out of individual runic radicals is the most difficult part of the runecutter's art. There are many old tales of adventuresome runecutters who combined radicals they did not understand fully, unintentionally wreaking devastation upon themselves as well as or even rather than their foes.

How many radicals actually exist is an open question. Most of the few sages who are aware of the old dvergr magic speak of ancient texts that mention the "runic radicals, four times nine in number," suggesting that the ancient dvergr runecutters had 36 radicals or base runes with which to work.

However, the bard of Silverymoon, Mintiper Moonsilver, inscribed a parchment a decade ago for the Vault of the Sages in which he describes things seen in certain old halls of Splendarrmorrn, where the kings of Ammarindar once had their throne. Moonsilver saw the kings' hall once when it had been freed briefly from the hordes of Hellgate Keep. Among the wondrous things he described seeing there was an old, nonmagical Dethek runestone, in which a dvergr smith attempted to record the glories of his art.

The old Dethek runes, according to Moonsilver, stated in part that "four times nine in number, are the runes from which the master smiths shape their staves, but nine times nine number the runes, that the master stainer can call into his art," suggesting that the overwhelming number of 81 radicals may have been known in Ammarindar.

Whatever the case may be, we have succeeded in unraveling the secrets of only 27 of these runic radicals. We must leave it to the DMs and PCs who follow us to uncover the remaining nine, or, if Moonsilver's translation is factual, the remaining 54.

The number of staves that can be fashioned from these radicals is a quite different question. It is sometimes said that there once were as many composite staves as there were runecutters. While this certainly is an exaggeration, there doubtless is a grain of truth within it.

Radicals seldom were used alone. Composite staves are not recordable symbols of magic, as is the writing in a wizard's spellbook. Instead, they are a runecutter's descriptions of the names of basic powers. To combine these runic radicals into staves, each runecutter must understand the power behind each radical and also how these powers work together and how they conflict with one another.

To make radicals work together within a runic stave, the lines of each cut and stained radical must turn in a manner so that their forces flow together and cooperate. It would not do at all for one runecutter to merely copy the runes of another or even to combine the same radicals as another, for each runecutter perceives and understands these radicals differently. A combination that one runecutter understands well enough to make function could spell catastrophe for another.

For this reason, it is not possible here to make an extensive list of known staves that every runecutter has a chance to learn, as is the case with magicians' spells in the (A)D&D Player's Handbook. Instead, we can list only the 27 known runic radicals and some of the composite combinations that have been known to be used successfully by a number of runecutters in days of yore.

Many of the runic radicals and staves listed below are marked with an asterisk (*). Regardless of their general difficulty, this magic will be learned by only the rarest of runecutters, because the runes require a deep and encompassing understanding of things above Toril's surface. Runecutters, by their very nature, only seldom leave their dwarven halls and ascend to the surface, except to cut runes by the light of the moon. Therefore, they never are privy to such knowledge.

Only runecutters who spend time before learning their art on the surface, and who have concentrated themselves deeply upon knowledge of their environment, will be able to learn such runes and staves. You may not have to explain to your PCs how this knowledge was gained, but you should be able to explain it yourself, if you want to run a credible campaign.

Interestingly, the magical power behind the sun and tree radicals - while inaccessible to most runecutters - belongs to the natural talent of a dwarven master smith.

Known Runic Radicals

T - Sæma. The radical of sending.

Sæma is the most difficult radical of all to learn. It is the radical that a runecutter must use to create a rune that he personally can read to send the magical effect of the rune to another location. Only the greatest master runecutters ever learn sæma well enough to use it effectively. And only the few greatest of these masters ever learns it well enough to cut and stain a stave that someone else can use to send a rune's magic.

p - Splendarr. The moon radical.

Splendarr is a power source rune. Runecutters use it to draw power of the moon into their staves. Dwarves also interpreted splendarr to mean bright, shining, beautiful and hopeful, according to FR11 Dwarves Deep.

g - Uugh *. Pronounced like the word you. The sun radical.

Uugh is an anti-power source rune. Runecutters use it to draw power of the sun into their staves and to use it to weaken attacking magic from other runecutters. Dwarves also interpreted uugh to mean blind or blinding, and it usually was used with this meaning in battle runes.

e - Elh. Pronounced like the letter L. The star radical.

Elh is a power source rune. Runecutters use it to draw power of the stars into their staves. Elh evokes not only the powers of starlight but also those of the heavens in general.

o - Olor. The Toril radical.

Olor is a power source rune. Runecutters use it to draw the physical power of Abeir-Toril itself into their staves. Olor refers to the world in which the dwarves live along with many other creatures, good and bad, not to the rock of the planet, which is represented by the sonn radical. Dwarves interpreted olor to mean world, all land or all of Toril known to dwarves, according to FR11 Dwarves Deep.

s - Sonn. The stone radical.

Sonn is a power source rune. Runecutters use it to draw the power of stone into their staves. Dwarves interpreted sonn to mean good stone, according to FR11 Dwarves Deep. In rune magic it tends to relate to fundamentals of the dwarven spirit and is often used to represent good faith, truth and other values represented by the dwarven word samryn (see FR11).

l - Logh. The O is long. The fire radical.

Logh is a power source rune. Runecutters use it to draw the power of fire into their staves, causing not only fiery magic but also the magic of light beneath the surface of Toril.

w - Wurn. The water radical.

Wurn is a power source rune. Runecutters use it to draw the power of water into their staves.

N - Is. Pronounced ees. The ice radical.

Is is a power source rune. Runecutters use it to draw the power of ice into their staves.

3 - Vindur. The air and wind radical.

Vindar is a power source rune. Runecutters use it to draw power of the air and the wind into their staves.

v - Vudd *. The tree radical.

Vudd is a power source rune. Runecutters use it to draw the power of wood into their staves, but it is accessible to very few runecutters, because most have no relationship to forests or trees. Vudd evokes the life power of trees, forests and wood and is based upon the dwarven belief that trees were the first intelligent (and hostile) life form. In the dwarven tongue, vudd means forest or wood (see FR11).

d - Darh. The storm radical.

Darh is a power source rune. Runecutters use it to draw the power of storms into their staves. Darh also can evoke the fury of nature in general.

J- Elding. The lightning radical.

Elding is a power source rune. Runecutters use it to draw power of lightning into their staves. Elding appears to work only above ground, where natural lightning can occur. In the Underdark, dwarves seemed to have used the composite stave edr, eldarrorn, which could produce an electrical blast in the depths. On the other side of the coin. it is believed that eldarrorn could produce only erratic, chaotic storms with uncontrollable lightning in the surface world.

f - Lifr. The life radical.

Lifr is a key rune in necromantic staves, and it is believed that some master runecutters could use it in staves to resurrect dead dwarves.

h - Raugh. The death radical.

Raugh is a key rune in necromantic staves. In the dwarven tongue, raugh means death, endings, conclusions, etc. (see FR11).

b - Bura. The motion or movement radical.

Bura represents movement, but to be effective, it usual requires inclusion in a compound rune that defines what motion will be magically created. As an example, to pass through stone, a runecutter combines sonn, bura and krin - stone, motion and melding (the latter a very difficult rune to master).

i - Igh. Pronounced like the letter E. The honor radical.

Igh usually refers to honor in dealings, negotiations, treaties, etc.

r - Rorn. The radical of dissolution.

Rorn usually causes destruction, decomposition, etc. The dwarven word rorn can mean destruction, devastation and war.

k - Krin. The melding radical.

Krin is a very difficult radical for a runecutter to understand and extremely difficult to cut successfully, for it goes to the very root of nature, as dwarves understand it. In nature, it is impossible for two objects to occupy the same space at the same time. Krin, which is a revalation one gains only after learning to deeply understand sonn, is the secret of having two objects occupy the same space at the same time. Krin's scope of power is wide. It also is a key radical in transmutation staves.

n - Donnar. The metal (ore) radical.

Donnar represents the power of metal, although it relates to this power from an understanding of metal in its natural state as ore. In the dwarven tongue, donnar means metal ore (see FR11).

a - Findar. The good fortune radical.

Findar was used in composite staves intended to improve the fortunes of friends and allies. In the dwarven tongue, findar means good luck, good fortune, favorable chances, etc. (see FR11).

t - Thuldul. The ill fortune radical.

Thuldul was used in composite staves to effect curses. In the dwarven tongue, thuldul means fate, doom, ill luck, etc. (see FR11).

j - Xoth. The knowledge radical.

Xoth was used in a wide variety of staves, most in the area of divining, but some also intended to communicate by telepathic and similar means. In the dwarven tongue, xoth means knowledge, lore, etc. (see FR11).

O - Mrin. The flight radical.

Mrin is used for most staves that involve climbing, flying or the lifting or elevating of objects. In the dwarven tongue, mrin means climb (see FR11).

I - Deladar. The fall radical.

Deladar is used for most staves that involve falling or the lowering of objects. In the dwarven tongue, deladar means descent (see FR11).

z- Breyta. The transmutation radical.

Breyta requires a deep knowledge of the physical nature of the item or being to be transmuted.

J- Heimför. The reversal radical.

Heimför requires a deep knowledge of the nature of the condition that is being reversed and also an equally deep understanding of the nature of the condition's opposite.

Known Composite Staves

NOTE: The degree of the effect achieved by the staves is completely dependent upon the degree and understanding of the represented powers on the part of the runecutter.

A. Toril Staves

odr - Olardarorn.

Earthquake. This stave creates an earthquake. The mass and depth of the quake are dependent upon the runecutter's abilities.

okw - Olarkrinwurn.

Earthmorph. The stave brings the element of water into the soil, making wet mud of it. The effectiveness of this stave depends upon the amount of clay in the soil.

wdo - Wurndarholar.

Mudmorph. The stave removes the element of water from mud, making hard soil of it. The effectiveness of this stave also depends upon the amount of clay in the soil.

B. Fire Staves

lok - Logholarkrin.

Awaken volcano. This stave is reserved for the greatest master runecutters to stain. It will cause a dormant volcano to erupt. This was the notorious stave that caused Loghmorndin to erupt in the fateful and notorious Battle of Thorklhar during the Time of Treachery.

lhr - Loghrughrorn.

Fire blast. The effect is similar to a Fireball spell, but it usually covers a wider area than the spell with less damage at any given point within the area of effect.

ln - Loghrdonnar.

Heat metal. The stave can be used like the cleric's spell Heat Metal, but, when stained by a powerful enough runecutter, it also can be used to heat metal to temper it.

lf - Loghrlifr.

Create heat. The stave is used to make a cold space warm and liveable.

lfl - Loghlifrlogh.

Firesight. Loghlifrlogh is an extremely difficult stave, because it uses two different facets of the power logh. It can work like the clerics' spell Fire Eyes (s. Demihuman Deities and FR11), causing searing beams of red fire to emerge from the bearer's eyes.

C. Water and Ice Staves

Nhr - Isrughrorn.

Ice blast. The stave is similar to the wizards' spell Icestorm.

Nn - Isrdonnar.

Freeze metal. The stave can be used like the cleric's spell Heat Metal, except that it makes metal intolerably cold.

Nf - Isrlifr.

Create cold. The stave usually is used to make a warm space cold and uninhabitable.

Noz - Isrolarbreyta.

Freeze land. The stave is quite similar in power to the Artifact the Ring of Winter, except that that area it can affect is considerably smaller. This stave can be cut and stained only by very high level runecutters.

D. Air Staves

3d - Vindurdarh

Windstorm. The stave can affect up to a mile/1.6 km square of space to a height of up to 100 feet, dependent upon the understanding and ability of the runecutter.

3f - Vindurlifr.

Breath of Life. Vindurlifr can create a pocket of fresh air in water or in a vacuum, it can replace polluted or poisoned air with fresh air and it even can resuscitate a living being who has stopped breathing.

3h - Vinduraugh.

Breath of Death. Vinduraugh can create a pocket of deadly poisonous air in water or in a vacuum, it can replace fresh air with polluted or poisoned air, and it even can stop a living being from breathing.

E. Stone Staves

sjl - Sonnxothlogh.

Stone Mask (Underdark). Sonnxothlogh can work like the clerics' spell Maskstone (s. Demihuman Deities and FR11), but it is effective only in the Underdark. It alters the appearance of stone, to hide seams, traps, runes, doors, etc.

sgl - Sonnughlogh.

Stone Mask (Surface). Sonnughlogh can work like the clerics' spell Maskstone (s. Demihuman Deities and FR11), but it is effective only upon Toril's surface. It alters the appearance of stone, to hide seams, traps, runes, doors, etc.

sI - Sonndeladar.

Stoneslide. Sonndeladar can work like the clerics' spell Stonefall (s. Demihuman Deities and FR11), causing anything from a stoneslide to a mountain avalanche of rock, dependent upon the runecutter's abilities.

sl - Sonnlogh.

Stoneburn. Sonnlogh can work like the clerics' spell Stone Fire (s. Demihuman Deities and FR11), causing stone to turn into melting, burning lava.

swz - Sonnwurnbreyta.

Stoneflood. Sonnwurnbreyta can work like the clerics' spell Flowstone (s. Demihuman Deities and FR11), causing stone to liquefy and flow but without heat. Unlike a cleric casting Flowstone, the runebearer cannot direct the path down which the liquid flows. It is steered entirely by gravity.

szb - Sonnbretyrbura.

Stone Explosion. Sonnbretyrbura can work like the clerics' spell Rockburst (s. Demihuman Deities and FR11), causing a boulder or rock pile to explode.

sJz - Sonnheimförbretya.

Stone Shield. Sonnheimförbretya can work somewhat like the clerics' spell Circle of Stone (s. FR11), using at least three sizeable rocks or boulders as poles of a defensive triangle or circle that foes cannot enter. Those within the circle gain a savings throw bonus of 5, an armor class bonus of 4 against missiles fired into the shielded area and will be hit by rune magic unleashed outside of the shield only on a roll of 1 on 1d6. All other rolls affect the attacker, reflecting the rune magic back upon him or her. Sonnheimförbretya offers no protection against human or elven magic of direct access to the Weave.

slz - Sonnloghrbreta.

Blindstone (Underdark). Sonnloghrbreyta can be carried dormant by a runebearer on an enchanted runestone. If the runebearer touches another stone - regardless of size - with the enchanted runestone, sonnloghrbreyta will etch itself unstained into the stone with which it came in contact. 1d4+6 rounds will pass before the stave has been completely cut. After that time, it will stain itself with blinding light the first time a creature comes within 10 feet/3 m of the etched stone, and then dissolve itself again and vanish. All who look upon this rune will be blind for 1d4 days and have impaired vision for another 1d6 days. A savings throw for magic reduces the duration by 50%. The runebearer must take special care with sonnloghrbreyta. The stave also will do its work if the runestone comes accidentally and unnoticed into contact with another stone, and neither the runebearer nor members of his party are immune against the blinding effects of the etched rune!

sgz - Sonnughbreta.

Blindstone (Surface of Toril). Sonnughbreyta works exactly like sonnloghrbreyta, except that it functions on the surface of Toril and not in the Underdark.

sbk - Sonnburakrin.

Stone pass. Allows the affected being(s) to pass through stone.

slJOI - Sonnloghheimförmrindeladar.

Stone Trap. Sonnloghheimförmrindeladar is a difficult stave, because it binds five radicals. It is one of the few staves ever successfully cut and stained that has bound so many radicals. It can work like the clerics' spell Stone Trap (s. Demihuman Deities and FR11), allowing the runebearer to place an invisible stone in the air that falls upon a creature walking beneath it.

F. Necromantic Staves

fzh - Lifrbetyraugh.

Death stave. Lifrbetyrauch can work like the spell Power Word Death.

hzf - Raughbetyrlifr.

Life stave. Raughbetyrlifr can return a dead corpse to life.

hb - Raughbura.

Animate undead. Raughbura can animate undead as zombies or skeletons.

fOz - Lifrmrinbreyta.

Heals - wounds, disease, etc. What a runecutter can heal is dependent upon his or her knowledge of the being and malady being healed.

G. Staves of Other Base Radicals

JeJ - Eldingelheimför.

Invisibility. The duration of the effect is dependent upon the runecutter's abilities. Unlike the wizard's spell, the stave does not become ineffective when the enchanted being makes an attack, but rather when the enchantment's duration has been exceeded.

Jhr - Eldingrughrorn.

Lightning bolt in surface world. The range and damage of the bolt are dependent upon the runecutter's abilities.

ehr- Elrughrorn.

Underground lightning bolt, wild uncontrollable storm in the surface world. The range and damage of the bolt are dependent upon the runecutter's abilities.

il - Ilith.

Binds parties to a contract, treaty or other agreement to hold honorably to the agreement. Failing to uphold a bound agreement can result in a curse, death, etc., based upon the will and power of the rune cutter.

ils - Ilithsamryn.

True dealing. This stave prevents one from lying when it is stained by a powerful cutter. It works like a Detect Lie spell if stained by a lesser cutter.

6.5 Human Magic

According to the theories of Eric L. Boyd (posted on WotC's Realms-L Internet mailing list on July 22, 1997) the four most ancient human civilizations in Faerûn may have been the Netherese, the Imaskari who populated the Raurin Empire, the Rus who migrated into Rashemen and the Talfir, who claimed lands in the West beginning north of the Chionthar River and extending into the High Moor and perhaps beyond.

Of the Netherese, the most knowledge remains today. The history of the Talfir is cloudy; there are those who believe they may have been immigrant Netherese. Whatever the case may be, the Talfir produced the notorious Shadowking and commanded shadow magic (also attributed to ancient Chessenta, see The Shadow Stone by Richard Baker, TSR 1999), which appears to be outside the bounds of conventional magic used by humans in Faerûn today.

The Rus too are something of a riddle. From the ranks of their women come the mysterious Witches of Rashemen, whose magical powers are not quite explained by standard theories on the methods other human mages use to access the Weave. Of the Imaskari, probably the magic mightiest of the four ancient civilizations, there are many myths and some relics, but too little facts are left today.

How humans first came to know, understand and use magic is indeed a riddle of Faerûnian history that goes unanswered in the official Forgotten Realms literature published by TSR or its successor, Wizards of the Coast. It will remain unanswered here. Instead, we will provide the little our research has discovered (much of it unofficial, of course) on how humans came to use magic in Faerûn.

We make no claims to know when the first human appeared in Faerûn, much less when a human for the first time successfully called upon the Weave to work a spell. The rule over Faerûn passed from the Creator Races to such creatures as dragons and giants, stayed briefly in the hands of elves and dwarves and then was overtaken for the most part by humans.

The earlier ruling races - elves and dwarves included - did little to document what men were doing in their world, for they viewed humans as being primitive creatures, perhaps animals, worthy of little attention. Nonetheless, at some no longer known point in time, a great empire of humans rose in southeastern Faerûn and formed the great Imaskari empire of Raurin.

When one looks back today upon the history of nations like the Imaskari empire, it appears that at times men have to certain extents mastered not only the kinds of magic practiced today but also have learned other types of sorcery and at least rudimentary forms of dwarven runecutting.


Before the fall of the Imaskari empire in -2488 DR, a human land of fishermen that came to be known as Netheril arose in the North, for the most part in lands now covered by the sands of the great desert Anauroch today. Somewhere around -3830 DR, the elves of neighboring Eaerlann began teaching rudimentary elven low magic to the Netherese Therion Gers.

The Netherese humans learned their elven lessons quickly and developed a magical hierarchy exceeded in known history only by the work of the Imaskari warrior wizards in the Southeast, although it is unlikely that these civilizations knew of each other for some time.

The history of the rise and fall of Netheril and its magic is well-known. The arcanists of Netheril pushed magic ever farther, developing their own spells of 10th and 11th level, just as the Imaskari wizards doubtless did. When the Netherese nation at last fell in the Year of Sundered Webs (-339 DR), most of its cities had departed the surface of Faerûn and instead, through magic, floated above it.

The end came after the mad but mighty arcanist Karsus developed the first 12th level spell Karsus Avatar and then ascended for an instant to godhood, before being destroyed by Mystryl at the cost of her own existence. At that moment, it is written, magic came for a time to a stop everywhere in Faerûn, and the mighty floating cities of Netheril crashed back to the surface of Toril and were utterly destroyed.

In the aftermath, the new goddess of magic Mystra (later destroyed in the Time of Troubles) arose, restoring magic to Faerûn but also limiting humans to the use of magic of 9th level and lower (exceptions are explained in the accessory Secrets of the Magister by Ed Greenwood, WotC - 2000).

With the fall of the Imaskari empire in -2488 DR and later of Netheril in the Year of Sundered Webs (-339 DR), the era of inordinately powerful human magic seemed to have met its end. However, it appears that both empires were destined to live on a bit and clash by proxy, perhaps destroying one another at last less than 200 years after Netheril's fall.

6.6 Gnome Magic

Unlike the dwarves, who have a positive aversion to most magic, the Forgotten Folk has tended only to be uninterested in it. While the Stout Folk tends to be first and foremost the race of mines, stone shafts and great halls established in caves or carved in Toril's mother rock, the gnomes are more inclined to occupy themselves with gemstones, ore and the making of mechanical devices to work these things.

It would be a rare gnome who would understand why one would achieve a certain end with magic when it would be more sensible to him to build a machine or a tool to do the job. Illusion is the only area of magic that ever has been able to command a gnome's attention, perhaps because it has to do with the idea of creating a unreality, where the rest of gnome life tends to deal exclusively with realities. And no gnome has succeeded to date in creating a machine or a tool that produces illusions.

Interestingly, while it's a riddle how some other races truly came to learn magic and begin using it, there's nothing unknown at all about how gnomes began to use illusionary magic. Gnomes in Faerûn used no magic at all until more than 4,000 years ago, when the Netherese enslaved a large number of them (also see Demihuman Deities by Eric L. Boyd - TSR 1998).

The elves of Eaerlann and Illefarn tried to help the enslaved gnomes, and one of the tools they gave them was the knowledge of illusionary magic. There are old elven tales over which the Fair Folk still laugh, telling how their ancestors tried to teach gnomes other magic as well, but their students' attention span proved to be extremely short in these matters.

In any case, it is fully clear that gnomes use low elven magic, just as modern day humans and elves do, but only of the school of illusion.

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