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    Canonfire :: View topic - Greyhawk Runes and Glyphs
    Canonfire Forum Index -> World of Greyhawk Discussion
    Greyhawk Runes and Glyphs

    How often do you use GH runes and glyphs?
    Often
    27%
     27%  [ 5 ]
    Rarely
    61%
     61%  [ 11 ]
    Never
    11%
     11%  [ 2 ]
    Total Votes : 18

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    Adept Greytalker

    Joined: Jul 29, 2006
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    From: Dantredun, MN

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    Sun Aug 18, 2013 10:20 pm  
    Greyhawk Runes and Glyphs

    How much do y'all incorporate Gygax's old rune system in your games? Any clever uses? Any homebrew additions or non-GH sources? Is player knowledge automatic? I don't think I've ever seen a discussion about this element of Greyhawk and I'm curious.

    I recently started using the runes and glyphs IMC and found they add a nice touch. Most of the Flanaess is illiterate in my game, with the exceptions of landed gentry, nobles, professional scribes and clerks, spellcasters (including rangers and paladins), most knights, and about half the middle class (about 10% of the population). Traditionally-raised demihumans of average+ Int automatically read/write their racial language. PC's not in these categories or wishing to read extra languages need to spent NWPs. This leaves runes and glyphs as a common-tongue shorthand for the masses from Bissel to Ratik (the Baklunish, jungle cultures, and northern barbarians have different characters).

    In actual gameplay, I add runes to previously explored dungeons, wilderness trails, maps, and some urban areas. Runes come up about once every 2-5 sessions. I just give my players a copy of the GH Players Guide p17 and allow them to interpret my hand-drawn handouts as best they can. Sometimes I draw accurately; sometimes I give them chicken-scratch or flourishes. The old 1980 Folio has some additional symbols and variations to keep them guessing; I don't share that list.

    I also found an awesome sheet of "Urban Markers" in Dragon #343, p87, which I only allow PC thieves to reference. The style is very similar to the Gygax glyphs.

    I recently had some fun as my PC's followed a map to a forested area marked with the "friendly" rune, not realizing that the bandits they took the map from were allied with a large tribe of humanoids. Wink
    Apprentice Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 12, 2013
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    From: Lublin, Poland

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    Mon Aug 19, 2013 12:31 am  

    vestcoat could you descibe in more detail what are the runes and were can be found info about them?
    Adept Greytalker

    Joined: Sep 20, 2004
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    From: British Isles

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    Mon Aug 19, 2013 1:48 am  

    I recently ran The Shroud of Karyne from the WGR2 Treasures of Greyhawk. That adventure uses the glyphs quite a lot as part of a puzzle for bypassings trapped doors in a tomb. Their inclusion did make my ponder on their origins.

    I hadn't previously paid much thought about who can read them or where they originate. I think somewhere in the back of my head I had a vague idea they might have been waymarkers used by rangers based on ancient Flan sigils but I'd never thought about it further.

    I'd also be interested to hear how other people use them and explain their origin.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Mon Aug 19, 2013 6:38 am  
    rune usage

    I make extensive use of runes; we use them extensively for communication by messenger avions amongst a loose knit band of rangers working in our campaign area and have assigned meaning to the order, color and size of the runes, even orientation in some cases. Classic steganography. it keeps bandits from being able to simply tell my rangers that an area is friendly with a trick map. Fharlanghan associated group.
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    From: Mt. Smolderac

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    Mon Aug 19, 2013 7:48 am  

    I did some research on this and most of the runes can be found in Rudolph Koch's The Book of Signs. From the article I started writing, "While most of the runes are from esoteric, scientific, or religious sources, a small number are more mundane in origin, being drawn from what Koch refers to as 'house and holdings marks,' which are symbols used to denote ownership, somewhat like trademarks or livestock brands."
    GreySage

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    Mon Aug 19, 2013 11:15 am  

    Wyrdhamster:

    You can find Greyhawk-specific runes within the last few pages of The World of Greyhawk Gazetteer (1980), in an article entitled Glossary of Portentous Runes and Glyphs.

    My first use of these runes was on the magic items found in The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl. I enjoy using those and the Egyptian hieroglyphics found in the original Deities and Demigods to write short phrases on magic weapons, armor, and shields. These bits of information inspire the players to research the history of their new treasures and can lead to future adventure.

    SirXaris
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    Adept Greytalker

    Joined: Jul 29, 2006
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    From: Dantredun, MN

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    Mon Aug 19, 2013 11:35 am  

    wyrdhamster wrote:
    vestcoat could you descibe in more detail what are the runes and were can be found info about them?
    Gygax added a small alphabet of runes and glyphs to Greyhawk "likely to be found in eldritch writings and ancient buildings". They communicate things like "dragon", "warning, danger", and types of metals. Carl Sargent expanded their use as a "pictorial analog to the Common tongue." They appeared on p29-32 of the 1980 Folio, p17 of the Guide, p18 of the Atlas, and p17 of the '98 Player's Guide. Later publications made some changes and omissions.

    Wolfling wrote:
    I recently ran The Shroud of Karyne from the WGR2 Treasures of Greyhawk. That adventure uses the glyphs quite a lot as part of a puzzle for bypassings trapped doors in a tomb.

    Thanks, I forgot about WGR2. Any other published uses besides Karyne and ToEE?

    smillan_31 wrote:
    I did some research on this and most of the runes can be found in Rudolph Koch's The Book of Signs.

    Awesome. I just ordered a copy!
    GreySage

    Joined: Sep 09, 2009
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    Tue Aug 20, 2013 7:24 am  

    I've been pretty lax incorporating the sample runes and glyphs into my games, and have only done so sporadically. This is not to say that I don't appreciate or like the list, which I think is quite good, but rather to say that I have not made use of them very often.

    Maybe that should change, as it would surely add more mystery to my campaigns.

    -Lanthorn
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    From: Yeomanry

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    Thu Aug 22, 2013 3:54 pm  

    Great topic Vestcoat. I'll admit I haven't used the greyhawk runes in a while. Think I'll start working them in a little more now. I have (perhaps had, as I can't find it now) an old book on american hobos in the depression. They made extensive use of signage that most folks wouldn't recognize as being signs. Small markings on fences, houses, almost anything stationary were used to convey specifics to other hobos coming into town. Everythig from "mean cops here" to "this lady makes great pies for the hobos passing through" and so on could be marked with just a few discreet scratches.
    Always wanted to incorporate this into a Fharlanghn code to use in greyhawk, but never got around to it. It was different from secret thief type codes and the regular greyhawk runes in that it dealt very specifically with things a drifter or wanderer would need to know about a town. Gonna have to keep looking for that book, I think.
    Has anyone else heard of this? If so speak up - it would make for a great set of runes the followers of Fharlanghn would know and use in their rambles.

    -GreyMaus
    Adept Greytalker

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    Thu Aug 22, 2013 7:08 pm  

    Wow. Let me know if you find out the name of the hobo book!
    CF Admin

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    Thu Aug 22, 2013 7:32 pm  

    Another excellent use for them is as parts of Glyphs of Warding, Explosive Runes, Symbols, Sepia Snake Sigils, Wizard Marks, and such. Zagyg's symbol is the Rune of Insanity, too. I also use runes fairly regularly on treasure maps, which constitute 10% of all "magical" treasures per the 1e DMG (it's 25% in OD&D!).

    If you're looking for further examples of runes, Larry DiTillio wrote an article entitled "The Glyphs of Cerilon" (his home campaign) in Dragon 50, too. Dragon 69 had a series of articles and fiction about runes, too. "Pages from the Mages III" in Dragon 92 also introduces some new glyphs. All three are well-worth looking up.

    I'll eventually get around to writing up my house rules and two glyph-related spells, too, but in short hold glyph allows a caster who would otherwise trigger a spell to bypass it for 1 segment/level (and/or to designate multiple targets at the cost of 1 segment per bypassing PC), which would also allow them to copy it for later identification/etc. if they had sufficient time. The follow-up spell steal glyph allows the caster to remove a glyph intact basically by taking a magical rubbing of it once it was previously held. I had some variation which would allow you to hold it, and then to copy it too, instead of stealing it---this would allow you to "bring it back" for further study with other casters, sages, librarians, etc. to help ID a glyph (or normal writing, too---I've had some PCs use it for such as well).
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    Last edited by grodog on Sat Jul 19, 2014 8:15 am; edited 1 time in total
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    From: Mt. Smolderac

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    Sun Aug 25, 2013 8:45 am  

    Started working on my runes and glyphs article again, and just realized why I had set it aside; since I want to include images of the runes and so as not to violate anyone's artwork copyright I'm having to redraw the runes in Photoshop, I just spent 30 minutes drawing the 2 versions of demonic. Granted these are two of the more complex runes, but there are 77 runes altogether, not counting variations. Rao grant me patience, I've only done 12 of them so far. Sad
    I also had to order a copy of Koch's Book of Signs since the only copy at my library was withdrawn from the collection. Oh well, it'll be good to have a copy.
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    From: Yeomanry

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    Tue Aug 27, 2013 5:23 pm  

    Sorry Vestcoat no luck with the old hobo book - I have just completed a full search of my books and short of finding a few small spiders and a large silverfish I have come up with nothing. A quick search of the internet will reveal a number of samples of the old hobo signs however (sorry I'm unable to link anything due to my low intellect when dealing with computers). I thank you for the topic however, as it has inspired me to work on adapting the hobo scribblings into a usable Fharlanghn code. Once completed I will attempt to bribe (or intimidate if that fails) my sons to help me post it on this fine site.

    -GreyMaus
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    Wed Aug 28, 2013 11:06 am  

    Okay, including variations on the runes between the Folio and later publications, there are 103 runes to draw, and I've got 31 done. I've also found a good 18th century source on alchemical symbols to round things out, as well as a good online symbol encyclopedia that allows you to search by description. I found the elusive Folio version of the electrum rune there. This is going to be a huge article, which I'll probably want to publish as a pdf; that is if anyone is interested.
    GreySage

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    Wed Aug 28, 2013 11:10 am  

    smillan_31 wrote:
    This is going to be a huge article, which I'll probably want to publish as a pdf; that is if anyone is interested.


    You can always submit it as an article to Canonfire!, but it sounds like an excellent article inclusion for The Oerth Journal. Wink

    SirXaris
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    Wed Aug 28, 2013 11:31 am  

    Yeah, I was thinking that, although I may have to Peter Jackson it due to the size. Smile
    GreySage

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    Wed Aug 28, 2013 12:36 pm  

    smillan_31 wrote:
    Yeah, I was thinking that, although I may have to Peter Jackson it due to the size. Smile


    The OJ can publish it in parts, if it ends up too large for a single issue. That's no problem.

    SirXaris
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    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Wed Aug 28, 2013 2:45 pm  

    SirXaris wrote:
    smillan_31 wrote:
    Yeah, I was thinking that, although I may have to Peter Jackson it due to the size. Smile


    The OJ can publish it in parts, if it ends up too large for a single issue. That's no problem.

    SirXaris


    Good to know. Thanks!
    CF Admin

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    Wed Aug 28, 2013 6:26 pm  

    Sounds like a fun piece, smillan: keep us posted :D
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    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Wed Aug 28, 2013 8:36 pm  

    grodog wrote:
    Sounds like a fun piece, smillan: keep us posted :D


    Thanks Allan! I'm proud to say I figured out (or should I say stumbled on by dumb luck) on my own that Koch's Book of Signs was a major source for the GH runes and glyphs, but when I was researching this earlier in the week I found a discussion you took part in about 3 years ago where you mentioned it as a source, so looks like you beat me to it by a few years. Smile
    CF Admin

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    Mon Sep 09, 2013 10:46 pm  

    smillan_31 wrote:
    grodog wrote:
    Sounds like a fun piece, smillan: keep us posted :D


    Thanks Allan! I'm proud to say I figured out (or should I say stumbled on by dumb luck) on my own that Koch's Book of Signs was a major source for the GH runes and glyphs, but when I was researching this earlier in the week I found a discussion you took part in about 3 years ago where you mentioned it as a source, so looks like you beat me to it by a few years. Smile


    LOL, no worries: I got the info from Paul Stormberg ;)
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