Hello, everyone! Today’s review is for Deep Magic: Rune Magic, the second in the Deep Magic series by Kobold Press. An altogether separate beast from Wizards of the Coast’s own Rune Scribe Prestige Class, Rune Magic introduces a Scandinavian motif well-suited for a campaign in the upcoming Midgard Campaign Setting.
Rune Magic is presented in a beautiful 24-page PDF with an elaborate background motif complimenting the general aesthetic of the 24 runes featured in the supplement and the Norse Mythology themes in both this book and Midgard as a whole. The illustrations are flavorful and intriguing and make me wish for high-quality prints of them to decorate my game room.
A New Magic System
Unlike most spellcasting features in Fifth Edition, Rune Magic is much more accessible – characters can tap into it at the price of taking a feat(or, with a Storyteller’s permission, in place of an Ability Score Improvement or after a critical story-related task). Because of the flexibility of entry into Rune Magic, any character can benefit from a well-selected Rune.
Unfortunately, with 25 Runes to choose from, a player is never going to have total access to every Rune. The best way to think of these Runes is a hybrid between a feat and a supplemental class feature – the Rune you select for your Rune Knowledge or Mastery feat should compliment the character you’re playing either thematically or mechanically. Most will grant a character a passive boon of some sort, such as a situational bonus or Advantage to skill checks, knowledge of exactly how long it is until sunrise or sunset, or additional languages. Additionally, each Rune tends to have at least one Power accessible from the Rune Knowledge feat(sometimes with a requisite level) which a player invokes by tracing it, and one potent Rune Mastery Power. Some of these powers also have prerequisite character levels, and a Rune’s Powers can only be invoked once per day.
Overall, the system feels more flavorful than the traditional spell slot economy of Fifth Edition but comes with the caveat of additional complexity. A Player wanting to use Rune Knowledge and Mastery will have to research its specifics to utilize it and would most likely find it less of a hassle to treat the Rune Powers as you would a class, background, or race feature than as a spell with altogether unique mechanics separate from regular casting.
A lot of spells introduced in Rune Magic purely flavorful, such as Binding Oath, Cursed Gift, or Hearth Charm, which feel like spells meant to facilitate plots for a storyteller. Spells which a player would more likely consider for their character(Thunderclap, Unluck on That, or Prismatic Ray) may vary wildly in power, so a Storyteller should keep an eye on them to ensure that the spells won’t adversely affect balance in their campaign.
Rune Magic also introduces two new monsters, the Tupilak Golem and Vaettir, who tend to serve similar roles – when created or summoned, the Tupilak Golem and Vaettir are temperamental servants who may assist the enterprising spellcaster, but may also develop alternative agendas. The Tupilak Golem can rebel against its creator with a successful Dispel Magic, and the Vaettir may be easily offended “as small as an accidental word or a single coin,” turning on the one who called for its aid.
Deep Magic: Rune Magic offers some useful options for Players, but I believe that it would be at its most useful as a supplement geared towards Storytellers. It contains a wide range of low-impact, high-flavor spells and peculiar but rich dynamics for the Tupilak Golem and Vaettir, which would serve a Midgard Campaign well. At only $3, though, I’d say that it can be considered a safe buy for either side of the screen. You can get Deep Magic: Rune Magic from Kobold Press’s store, and if you use this referral link, you can indicate that you visited the Kobold Press store through TBM Games.
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