Still though, in the absence of a replacement theory / explanation of how Runesmiths do their thing from GW, just rules suggesting they can or can't, it leaves things open for us to come up with our own explanations. Unless of course someone else (Gav?) would like to weigh in with some theories.
I'll dig up my old notes on this area. They obviously aren't 'official' in any way or at any time, but they might spur the discussion on and stretch this thread out for a bit longer.
I suppose you could house rule it so that the Runesmith has some sort of artefact that allows him to 'sense' magic, even if he can't himself. Still though, this seems a bit of a fudge as it doesn't really explain how Runesmiths handle magic in the first place - unless of course we go with the idea that they don't handle magic at all and that it's all down to the enchantments already present in Anvils of Doom, which I think was the proposition a while ago. For me this just passes the buck back to previous Dwarf generations and, in final analysis, doesn't really explain how Runesmiths can devise and empower their own runes...
We could still say that the Runesmith feels other spellcasters gathering magic together to cast a spell, even if this process takes only a few moments. He doesn't have to wait for the spell to be released in order to feel the focussing of the magic that powers it.
Found my old stuff. It's a bit rough and ready (they were just notes after all) and a lot of it is now mooted by the publication of more recent imagery, but here are some ideas for the mixing pot:
THE DWARF RUNIC TRADITION
Dwarfs worship their ancestors, like a cross between elements of traditional Chinese culture and ancient Norse culture. They have only three Ultimate Ancestors, the first of their kind (whether these three truly were the first Dwarfs or not is forgotten to history and largely irrelevant). The three Prime Ancestors are to all intents and purposes Gods, but it is important to make the distinction that, first and foremost, they are considered by the Dwarfs to be the Prime Ancestors. Dwarfs venerate their ancestors, and the older something gets, the more wise, powerful and worthy of respect that something becomes. Hence the Prime Ancestors can be considered Gods, although that is a reductionist term for them. These prime Ancestors are: Grimnir, Grungi, and Valaya.
Grimnir was the greatest Dwarf warrior ever, an incarnate deified engine of destruction, and he supposedly taught his people how to fight to survive, regardless of the odds.
Grungi was the ultimate artisan, craftsman, smith, stone mason, miner, jewellery maker – you name it. He supposedly taught the dwarfs how to delve into the mountains and make stuff.
Valaya is harder to pin down. She supposedly founded Karaz a Karak, the centre of the Dwarf Kingdoms, the greatest fortress city of all, and the seat of the High King. She is also renowned for being a protector against the dark magics of Chaos. There is an indication that it might have been she who first devised reading and writing to educate her people. So runic script could have come from Valaya. Where she got them from is unclear – either from her own devising, from Warp entities or from the Old Ones themselves is unknown, but I think it would be worth placing hints of all three of these (and more) in the various subjective parts of the narrative for this chapter.
I think each of the Prime Ancestor Gods learnt something of the things that was epitomised by the other two, but Grimnir was always the best fighter, Grungi was always the best artisan and Valaya was always the greatest scholar. Magic runes and Runecraft was, I would suggest, an amalgamation of the efforts of these three Prime Ancestors working together. Grimnir asks for ever better weapons to defeat the enemies of Dwarfkind. Valaya comes up with a concept of an axe that burns white hot and she creates the rune to signify this concept. Grungi forges the axe and etches the rune in. Grimnir raises the axe and pours his warrior spirit into it by using it, completing the circle. Together they form a trinity of purpose and meaning to the Dwarfs.
Therefore, there can be runes devised by all three of these gods, and indeed many other dwarfs throughout history, but the First Great Runes that are said to have been devised and forged by the Three Prime Ancestors together, should always be the best of the best – the greatest of all Master Runes.
As the Dwarfs are ancestor worshippers, they have no particular priests or clerics. The older a Dwarf is, the more respect he gets, and the more ‘holy’ he becomes. The same with items – the older an item is, the more sacred it becomes.
So the oldest Dwarfs, who have seen so much, remember so many things and know all of the traditions and customs of their people, are, to all intents and purposes, the keepers of culture, history, ritual and lore, and therefore fulfil the function that priests might in other cultures (although they have no such formal title). Even a king will listen with respect while a Dwarf much older than him speaks. The oldest person in the room is the equivalent in dwarf culture to a priest, although they have no special trappings.
In this respect, the oldest living Slayers (who although are apostates from Dwarf culture in one sense, are also the closest devotees of Grimnir, emulating his attitudes, desire for combat, and even dress, hair colour and style), are in a sense the high priests of Grimnir. Likewise, the oldest living artisans (smiths, stone masons etc) could be seen to be the high priests of Grungi, and the oldest living scholars, record keepers, song-writers and poets could be seen as the high priests of Valaya.
Runesmiths are special in the sense that they gather into themselves elements of all three of the Prime Ancestors. They are artisans without peer, exceptional scholars who are able to create new runes for new concepts, and superb fighters like Grimnir. They also tend to be the very oldest of all dwarfs. Because of all this, the Runsmiths are amongst the most respected and ‘sacred’ of all Dwarfs – Cardinals amongst the Bishops who are other old Dwarfs.
Every one of the dwarf runes has the ability to draw and/or contain weak amounts of magic, whether the rune is etched by a runesmith or an ‘ordinary’ dwarf, but only the Runesmiths can create the Runes of Power and duplicate the Master Runes.
HOW DWARF RUNES WORK
They work in much the same way as the runes of the Imperial Colleges or of the Elves.
Runes can be divided into three basic types:
- Those that draw upon the Winds of Magic to work – ‘conductors’.
- Those that had a certain amount of magic bound into them as they were first carved – ‘batteries’.
- Those that do both of the above – badass.
Elf runic items tend to rely mostly on the first kind of rune (although this doesn’t apply necessarily to the works of the greatest of Vaul’s priests, or the most puissant Loremasters of Hoeth). If the Winds of Magic are blowing strongly, then the runes draw on the Winds and create incredibly powerful magical effects. If the Winds are blowing weakly, however, the effect will be weaker.
Human Magisters tend to be limited mostly to the second sort of rune. They bind a certain ‘amount’ of one of the Winds of Magic to the rune they are etching, so that the magic in contained within the rune itself. Every time the rune, or the item it is on, is used for a magical effect, some of the magic stored in the rune is used up, until finally the rune is useless (unless it is ‘recharged’ by its original creator or someone who understands the particular rune perfectly).
Dwarfs are The Guys when it comes to runes. As such, although they do make weaker runes as well, on the whole Dwarfs Runesmiths create runes that have stored within them a certain amount of magic (like the human runes), but which also draw upon the winds of magic to ‘recharge’ themselves. Hence they create magical items that never run out of ‘juice’, or if they do, it is only temporary, as they will recharge in time.
Most runes have a maximum level of magic that they can bind/contain, and it is a reflection of the Runesmith’s skill at how high this maximum level is. A ring that shoots warm air and never runs out is pretty useless, a ring that contains and conducts so much magic that it can shoot a conflagration that can melt granite but takes a while to re-charge is pretty damn useful and harder to make.
Master runes are able to contain/bind a staggering amount of raw magic, while also drawing and conducting magic from the Winds of Magic so that they never run out of their maximum charge. Granted that if the Winds of Magic stopped blowing forever, even these master runes would one day run out, but this is unlikely to happen in the Warhammer world!
HOW DWARFS CAST/ETCH/CARVE RUNES
I suggest that despite ‘propaganda’ to the contrary, Dwarfs can subconsciously feel (though not see) magic to some degree. They feel it in their bones, in the fibre of their beings, and generally they don’t like it – it makes them cold, grim and discontent. But unlike other races, Dwarfs are for some reason insulators of magic. They absorb it and lock it away in the very molecules of their being, ‘earthing’ it in a sense, but also storing it unwittingly. Why is this? I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter. Pretend it’s an experiment by the Old Ones or something.
Dwarfs that are exposed to too much magic eventually turn to stone – they may mutate as well, but the stone-turning is a precedent set by Chaos Dwarf imagery. We can say that this is a product of their biological and spiritual makeup; if they absorb too much magic, their bodies work harder to insulate against it, making their bones, and eventually everything else, denser and harder. Eventually they turn into a substance so similar to stone no-one would know the difference. The amount of magic required to do this in one go, however, would be enough to spontaneously turn a large group of normal humans into a melody or spray of colour – in other words, loads. More often than not, dwarfs are killed by a massive spell (like a huge fireball) before their bodies can absorb and insulate enough of its magic to turn them into stone.
They can be mutated if enough non-terminal magic washes over them quickly enough, although this is exceptionally rare. They might even be some tales that Dwarfs with minor mutations who have taken the oaths of a Slayer and gone seeking their deaths, only to find that over time the mutation retreats – doubtlessly as their remarkable bodies ‘metabolise’ the magic that warped them in the first place.
Dwarfs can’t cast spells in the normal understanding of the word. As mentioned above, it takes a huge amount of magic to mutate a dwarf even a little (unlike a human), and it takes a lot of magic in the air before a Dwarf will even sense it subconsciously. Some Dwarfs, however, sense it a bit more easily than others, and this is because they are even more ‘absorbent’ than others. This has a dual effect, spells are even less likely to work around them, while they are slightly more likely to be drawn to, or talent-spotted by, Runesmiths.
Runesmiths cast runes by focussing all their attention upon the rune in question, and fixing into their minds and their every intention exactly what it is that this particular rune is meant to do. Then, while hammering out the weapon (or whatever), they chant songs intended to focus this will even more upon the matter in hand. Essentially they force the magic stored and insulated within them into the rune. This ‘fires up’ the rune, dictates how much magic the rune will be able to store and makes in receptive to the so-called Anvils of Fate or Anvils of Doom that all great rune items are made upon.
The runesmith’s absolute faith, utter determination and complete self-confidence (in a way that humans could not possibly understand) that what he is doing will work, in turn fires up the anvils, which dating from the time of the Prime Ancestors themselves, draw unto themselves the winds of magic, like a conductor and battery, and supplies the magic that is needed for the rune to work.
Rune crafting is an incredibly personal thing, and most dwarf runesmiths say that a part of their soul goes into whatever they make. In the sense that they are squeezing stored magic out of themselves into the rune to give it its initial ‘charge’ and determine how much magic it will be able to store, this is true. With every drop of sweat that falls from the runesmith onto the item he is making, every lungful of breath he blows into his forge, and every drop of blood he dowses his creation in (a very common practise), more of the magic stored and insulated in the runesmith is passed on the item.
So the runesmith provides the concept of what the rune is to do, the initial ‘charge’ to make it able to attract magic and the size of the rune as a metaphysical container (note that this has nothing to do with the physical size of the rune), and the Anvil of Doom supplies the rest of the magic.
However, runesmiths also make items out of quasi-magical alloys like gromril (which attracts more magic than other metals – even gold), and different runes require different ‘ingredients’ in their casting for their specific effect to take place – like dragon blood (highly charged with magic), orc blood (again, but in a different way), or the ground fangs, bones or talons of various magical (warp-touched) creatures. Just as a powerful magister can draw the weak magic that saturates the world around him (as opposed to just drawing upon the winds of magic), so too do different runes draw upon specific combinations of magic that have been absorbed into various substances – substances that are more often than not the remains of some kind of magical creature.
Dwarf runes are like the words of a very specific and powerful spell, but instead of needing to be spoken to work, the runes, in effect, read themselves again and again and again. Once cast, they do not require help or interference from mortals, unless such a requirement is actually built into them (like an activation word or whatever).