Bill White's roleplaying game design blog, with emphasis on narrativist or story-heavy games.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Rune Saga: Oerish Runes

The Oers (say "WEERS") worship the Spire of Oeris and the Flame of Anala. Their legends tell them they were born of that flame and descended the spire into the Silver Sea (Sunderro), living for a time there--a golden age!--until cast out and upon the shore of the isle of Oeria, where they now live. They are prone to mysticism, but their women are wise in lore and their men are hardy farmers and fishermen. From their villages, looking out across the sea to the north, they can see the low-hanging effulgence of Anala and the sheer mountainous spire of Oeris.

The Oerish runes are their creation--they credit Oeris, naturally--and are used in rituals of divination and prophecy. One's fate and its possible permutations are visible to the Wise in the fall of the runes.

The Oerish runes are actually inspired by the I Ching, or Book of Changes, the Chinese divination method in which "hexagrams" of solid and broken lines provide oracular readings of subtle and sublime character. Not so elegant, the Oerish "rune deck" consists of four suits of eight cards.
  • The four suits, or sigils, are sothas, taenas, luemas, and maegas, or Swords, Coins, Stars, and Staves respectively.
  • The eight values, or signs, of each suit are ael, bes, cadh, din, eth, fel, ghot, and hin, or A through H, respectively.
Individual cards, or runes, are referred to by their sigil and sign, either in English or in the in-game fantasy language (called Oerish in these rules; individual DMs should feel free to assign a different name more in keeping with the epic backgrounds they plan). Thus, the card “Child of Swords” can also be called aelsothas or A-Swords.

A deck of normal playing cards can be used as a rune deck by using ace through eight of each suit as ael through hin, with spades for Swords, diamonds for Coins, hearts for Stars, and clubs for Staves. A tarot deck will also work, with swords for Swords, cups for Coins, pentacles for Stars, and wands for Staves.


The four sigils are sothas (Swords), taenas (Coins), luemas (Stars), and maegas (Staves). Each has a number of different symbolic associations, as shown in the table below. The types of meanings associated with each sigil include, for example, actions (doing, talking, judging, and knowing), principles (evil, good, fate, and chaos), emotions (grief, joy, love, and hate), natural elements (earth, air, water, and fire), precious metals (copper, silver, quicksilver — not mercury, but oricalce or “mythril,” a light but hard metal with arcane properties — and gold), base metals (lead, bronze, iron and cobalte — a poisonous silvery metal that glows with an eerie blue radiance), atmospherical elements (lightning, wind, rain, and sunlight), elements of the body (flesh, breath, blood, and bone), modes of thought (instinct, passion, contemplation, and reason), and celestial bodies (the Earth, the Moon, the Stars, and the Sun). Also linked to the sigils are the Planets (four divine astrological powers, named Promus, Danala, Tsangra, and Thomir) and the various types of spirits (demons, angels, anima, and the fey).
  • Swords (sothas): physical acts (action); evil, grief, earth, copper, lead, flesh, instinct, lightning, winter, dusk, the Earth (Uerlan). Sorcery (the invocation of elements). Morgo, Giver of Strength [Cerolian]. Merciful Promus, the Red Planet (Evening Star) [Oerish]. Dhrugal Clubfoot (warrior) [Tuvarian]. Anuris, God of Death, Eater of Souls [Lannish]. Demons.
  • Coins (taenas): social acts (talk); good, joy, air, silver, bronze, breath, passion, wind, autumn, dawn, the Moon (Lunil). Conjury (the summoning of spirits). Ashima, Giver of Glory [Cerolian]. Life-Giving Danala, the Green Planet (Morning Star) [Oerish]. Rroskan Silvermoon (trickster) [Tuvarian]. Rahn, Lord of Life [Lannish]. Angels.
  • Stars (luemas): moral acts (judgment); fate (causality), love, water, quicksilver (oricalce), iron, blood, contemplation, rain, spring, midnight, the Stars. Wizardry (the act of prophetic judgment). Zerasho, Giver of Insight [Cerolian]. Justice-Meting Tsangra, the White Planet (Pole Star) [Oerish]. Khazun Stonebinder (just king) [Tuvarian]. Madez, Lady of Mysteries [Lannish]. Anima (Totem-Spirits).
  • Staves (maegas): intellectual acts (knowledge); chaos (chance), hate, fire, gold, cobalte, bone, reason, sunshine, summer, noon, the Sun (Oeris). Enchantment (the binding of attributes). Katala, Giver of Power [Cerolian]. Far-Seeing Thomir, the Blue Planet [Oerish]. Urdin the Wise (sage) [Tuvarian]. Karan, Warrior-Maid [Lannish]. Fey.

The eight signs are ael (Child), bes (Lady), cadh (Man), din (Tree), eth (Mount), fel (Moon), ghot (Sun), and hin (World). Again, each has a number of different symbolic meanings. At the surface level, each sign stands for the thing it names. Beyond that, various metaphorical meanings emerge as shown in the table below.
  • Child ael (Hero) a novice or newcomer; one who is subordinate to or guided by someone or something else; a thing produced by other forces or agents. Planets. Emotions.
  • Lady bes (Innocent) a victim or one who is blameless; one who is characterized by a stereotypically feminine property (e.g., intuitiveness, empathy) or principle (e.g., motherhood). Modes of Thought. Elements of the Body.
  • Man cadh (Elder) one who is experienced; one who is characterized by a stereotypically masculine property (e.g., aggressiveness, ambition) or principle (e.g., leadership). Actions. Atmospherical Elements. <>
  • Tree din (Faction) a group or collection; a pattern or web; any more-or-less stable system of relations or connections; a path, a maze. Seasons. Times of Day.
  • Mount eth (Location) a mountain; an obstacle; a more-or-less compact aggregation of undifferentiated material, i.e., a pile; a specific landmark; a perspective or point of view; a preconception. Precious Metals.
  • Moon fel (Spirit) a disembodied spirit; a void, lack, or absence; self-serving or self-aggrandizing actions or intentions. Base Metals. Spirits.
  • Sun ghot (Artifact) a tool, instrument, or weapon; a vehicle; a monument; a building; any positive goal, aspiration, or ideal. Principles. Natural Elements.
  • World hin (Area or Region) the totality of circumstances or conditions; the surrounding environment; any varied expanse or encompassing terrain. Celestial Bodies

No comments:

About Me

My photo
A communication Ph.D., I teach public speaking and media-related courses in the middle of PA. I do research on scholarly/scientific communication, and I write & play roleplaying games.