# The Runes

The Runes are a key feature of the world of Glorantha. They are cosmic archetypes—the Elements, the Powers, Conditions, and the Forms that make up the universe. An adventurer’s affinity with different Runes affects their magical potential, personality, and even characteristics. The Runes are the source of the gods’ powers, and drove the cosmogonic cycle known as the Gods War.

The Elemental Runes are commonly conceived as being arranged on a wheel, where Fire/Sky is overcome by Water, Water by Air, Air by Earth, Earth by Darkness, and Darkness by Fire/Sky before the wheel cycles again. Power Runes are inherently conflicting polarities, such as Fertility and Death, Movement and Stasis, Harmony and Disorder. Neither side is good or bad: their principles are merely opposed to one another.

These conflicts between Runes are embedded deeply into the Gloranthan setting. They are the cosmic powers that define Glorantha and are manifested by the gods. Known from the earliest prehistory, Runes suffuse everything in and about the world. Some may have even changed over time! The earliest gods are associated with Runes.

Some philosophers hold that the gods themselves are merely personifications of Runic forces. The real relationship between gods and Runes is likewise unclear: the very question uttered aloud in the wrong context has caused blood to be shed. Even the gods of knowledge are cryptic on this subject; the relationship may simply be beyond human comprehension.

To the pragmatic, it doesn’t matter. Runes are symbols with latent power. People mark their possessions and even their bodies with Runes. Runes not only characterize reality but can be used to manipulate the world. Looking at or writing a Rune isn’t enough, however: these powers can only be unlocked by those with extensive training and preparation, such as shamans, priests, or sorcerers.

As Rune affinities develop and an adventurer’s magical potential increases, the adventurer becomes a Rune Master, adept at their use, using that power to take part in the looming Hero Wars, an apocalyptic battle with Chaos.

# Type of Runes

As noted above, there are four types of Runes: Elements, Forms, Conditions, and Powers. Each god has one or more specialties within the forces described by the Runes. These are the areas in which the god and its followers are the most effective and versatile. To say that a god is a Fire/Sky Rune god, an Illusion god, or whatever, is to say that the followers of that god specialize in those areas. The specific Runes, categorized by class, are described below.

# Elements

The Elements are what Glorantha is made of. Five elements are widely recognized, though a sixth element—Moon—is grudgingly acknowledged. Each Elemental Rune carries with it certain connotations, such as a personality type, a group of related skills, one or more weapons, one or more bodily organs, a color, a metal, and in some cases, a type of living being.

# Elemental Runes Table

Name Rune Description Skill Category Weapons
Darkness o Said to be the most ancient Elemental Rune, the First Born, from whom all other Elements were born or descended. Darkness was the first Element to arise out of the Primal Chaos. Its characteristic is SIZ, and its color is black. Stealth Club, mace, rock
Water w Water was born of Darkness. As an Element, it is called Son of Darkness, Pathway to the Underworld, and Supporter of the Earth. Its characteristic is DEX, and its color is blue. Agility Net, trident, whip
Earth e Earth is the third Element, Daughter of the Seas, Mother of the Sky, Wife to Many, Supporter of All. At least half the cults in Glorantha include the Earth in some manifestation or other, as Life-Giver, Stone-Father, Shaker, or Primal Ancestress. Its characteristic is CON, and its color is green Communication Axe
Fire/Sky . The Sky is different from the Air, for Air separates the Sky and the Earth. After its defeat by its son, the Sky has been aloof from mankind, although vestiges of its worship, such as the Sun Dome Temple, are still present in the land. Its characteristic is INT, and its color is yellow. Perception Spear, bow
Air g Air is the Fifth Born, the Son of Earth and Sky (Sky was also the son of Earth). It is the Breaker of Laws, Destroyer of Heaven, Fighter Against Darkness, and Liberator of the Sun. It usually manifests as a storm god, such as Orlanth in Sartar or the Storm Bull of Prax. Its characteristic is STR, and its color is orange. Manipulation Sword
Moon / Moon is the Sixth Element, little accepted amongst its peers. Outside the Lunar Empire it has hardly any presence at all, though the Moon is sometimes considered a Condition Rune. Its characteristic is POW, and its color is red. Magic Curved blades (kopis, sickle-sword)

# Powers

Said to symbolize the members of the Celestial Court, the Power Runes are unique in that they are formed in mutually antagonistic pairs, each balanced against another at an existential and philosophical level, such as Harmony and Disorder. Unlike Elemental Runes, which form a continuum, Power Runes are defined by the degree to which they differ from their opposites.

Opposing cults often have opposing Power Runes as part of their identities. A cult of great power may be able to worship two non-paired Powers, but it very rarely has more than those two. Cults rarely have access to two paired Powers.

# Power Runes Table

Name Rune Description
Harmony l Said to represent the Divine Harp with which Order was separated from Chaos. It is quite ancient and revered throughout Glorantha.
Disorder j Directly derived from Chaos. Anarchistic cults claim that this was the first step of creation from Chaos, therefore Disorder is the First Born of the Powers and the foundation of the universe.
Stasis c This Rune is connected with the art of alchemy, and the dwarfs. They claim that this is the First Rune, for it provided the foundation from which all else was created.v
Movement s Denotes the ancient wheel. As usual, there are claims for it to be the First Rune, for there would have been no growth from Chaos without it. Folktales speak of the World Bird which escaped from the Maws of Chaos upon this wheel.
Truth y A Rune of the ancient, all-seeing Sky gods. Said to represent the torch that mortals used to escapevfrom Chaos in the Great Darkness and to survive until the Dawn. Yet another candidate for First Rune, for its constancy and order set creation apart from random, unsettled Chaos.
Illusion i The Puppeteer Troupe, the major cult of the Father of Illusion, always claimed that this was the First Rune, for without Illusion, there would be none of us to think we ever were. They refuse to explainvfurther.
Fertility x Symbolizes the Ancient Cup from which the whole world was poured at the dawn of creation. This is the symbol of growth and life.
Death t Known to be the First Sword, the immortal and cursed weapon which the god Humakt used to bring death to the world. Others claim this to be the first of the Runes, citing the separation of the world from Chaos as the first action in creation.

# Forms

These are descriptive Runes. A god is usually described as being of a Power or Element, and the form determines how its Power or Elemental force is expressed. The Form Runes have many variants and sub-Runes, and are sometimes known by other names, but these cover the ground adequately enough.

# Form Runes Table

Name Rune Description
Beast B This Rune is also called the Dragon’s Eye and is supposed to represent the armor plate over the eye of a dragon. Dragons are thought to be the progenitors of all beasts (at least those with four or more legs) though no one has had the nerve to ask a dragon about it. It is thought to have originally been a Dragonewt Rune, and its complexity would indicate this.
Man , This Rune represents the humanoid shape and is common among all humanoid races. Some other races interpret it as “slave” or “food.” It is said to represent Grandfather Mortal, and numerous folktales are told about him.
Plant p The symbol of the first life upon Glorantha. It is said to symbolize the first Plant god, a son of the Earth and Sea. Many cults have a connection with the Plant Rune, such as Aldrya, whose worship combines the Runes of Earth, Plant, and the Power Rune of Fertility.
Dragonewt A As exotic as the race it represents, it is found only in the Dragon Pass area. Unlike most of the other Form Runes, it is never used with an Elemental Rune. The original owners were Dragonewts.
Spirit b This Rune describes disembodied entities existing in the Spirit World.
Chaos ? Descriptive of beings tainted by Chaos. The Chaos Rune might be combined with any other Rune, as nothing is totally safe from its influence.

# Conditions

There are five widely acknowledged Condition Runes. They indicate which aspect of an Element, Form, or Power is favored by a cult. Some cults believe that other Conditions exist, but they have not been as universally accepted.

# Condition Runes Table

Name Rune Description
Mastery W This all-purpose Rune can symbolize the mastery of mortals, of magic, or of elements. As the mastery of mortals, it describes a Hero; as the mastery of magic, it symbolizes any cult of reasonable power. The use of this Rune usually masks the true identifying Runes of the cult or person described, although it may also signify the independence of a Hero or powerful magician from cult ties.
Magic R Ubiquitous in this magic-rich world, this Rune describes how a cult or individual deals with the power of another Rune. Since it is impossible to deal with Runes without magic, this Rune is especially important.
Infinity S The mark of the gods. One who possesses the Infinity Rune is almost like a god. This Rune is not used lightly, as it implies total control of the power flow around the user, making them invulnerable to almost all magic. It is characteristic of gods, dragons, and the greatest Heroes only.
Luck K Thought to be both an expression of Chaos as well as the stamp of approval of the gods, this Rune is little used, except in the Holy Country, where the Masters of Luck and Death proudly display the symbol of the chance they take with every breath.
Fate X Very few cults use this as an expression of the way of the world. Instead, it is used by downtrodden cultures that have no other explanation for their status, and conversely by those at the top, to justify their own positions.