D&D 5e: Carve Your Own Destiny With The Rune Shaper Feat

A wizard shaping runes.

D&D 5e: Carve Your Own Destiny With The Rune Shaper Feat

SOURCE: Glory of the Giants

Rating the Benefits of Rune Shaper

Benefit #1 – 

The character learns the Comprehend Languages spell 

A relatively weak start. Comprehend Languages is a spell that isn’t often cast unless your GM likes to strongly enforce languages and backgrounds in their campaign

Benefit #2 – 

The character also learns another spell, chosen from a list of 13 options. At levels 9 and 17, the character learns a second and third choice from the list

A second spell choice is on par with other spellcasting feats, and the list has options to suit multiple situations. The fact that this continues to scale up into the game is exceptionally good

Benefit #3

Spells gained via this feat can be cast once per day without expending a spell slot. Spells can also be recast and upcast using any spell slots the character has access to 

Several of the spells here are only available on a narrow number of spell lists and scale incredibly hard with upcast spell slots. Both of these things make the Rune Shaper feat very attractive for primary casting classes

A rune shaper adorned with various magical giant runes.

Mechanics and Requirements

Understanding How Rune Shaper Functions

The Rune Shaper feat grants a character additional spellcasting, similar to many other feats. The spells are inscribed on non-magical gear as runes. Mechanically, this does nothing, but a smart GM might find some play in the fact that your feat covers you in visible, magical language. 

 All characters with this feat firstly gain access to Comprehend Languages:

Comprehend Languages – Many campaigns require the use of other languages, but between the options gained from class and background for all the members of the party, and your GM explaining what’s required from this campaign in the session 0, most parties should already speak most of the languages they need.  

Still, this is a reasonable spell to have on hand if the party doesn’t have someone who can already cast it, generally as a ritual. If you’re regularly delving into ancient tombs and forgotten cities, this can see some use. 

Additional Spells

Secondly, a character who has this feat can choose a number of additional spells from the list below, up to half their proficiency bonus. The amount of bonus spells granted is shown below

  • Leve l1+ – 1 bonus spell
  • Level 9+ – 2 bonus spells
  • Level 17+ – 3 bonus spells

Rune Spells

Fog Cloud – Dropping an AOE of heavily obscured terrain is a solid panic button that can prevent enemy ranged attackers or give the party time to regroup. 

Inflict Wounds – High damage, but requires melee range and a melee spell attack. Martial classes are better served hitting things with a weapon, and spellcasters have better options. 

Chromatic Orb – Reasonable damage for a level 1 spell, this is saved by the ability to choose the elemental damage typing when you cast it to ignore resistances. 

Disguise Self – In specific campaigns revolving around subterfuge and secrecy, Disguise Self is incredibly strong. For most adventures though, there are better options that will be used far more often. 

Burning Hands – Low damage and range, even among level 1 spells, and scales awfully. Terrible. 

Speak With Animals – As a once per day utility spell, this is surprisingly handy to have as animals are everywhere. Being able to pick it up on characters like Rogues, who can gain advantage on their Diplomacy checks but don’t normally have access to this as an option, is powerful. 

Armor of Agathys – Generally only available from the Warlock spell list, being able to pick up scaling temporary HP plus damage is almost any caster can appreciate. This is especially strong on characters like Druids and Clerics, who can drop this on themselves and then wade into melee range to take full advantage. 

Goodberry – Excellent low-level healing that can be cast at the start of the day and forgotten about. Handy to have on any character even into the mid-levels. 

Longstrider – An hour of +10ft to all speeds, without concentration. Excellent as your single cast per day, and also solid for primary spellcasters. 

Command – A reasonable debuff. Much stronger when upcast by spellcasters to affect a whole group of enemies. 

Entangle – AOE difficult terrain, plus a potential restrain effect. Useful at any level, and can be cast by any character and still be useful. Excellent. 

Sanctuary – A single target panic button. Decent, but most characters who want this already have access to it, and it’s generally only worth casting for primary spellcasters. 

Thunderwave – An AOE blast with a knockback effect. Most characters who want this already have it. For melee characters, this could be better than attacking up until around level 4, but very quickly falls off. 

How to use Runic Spells

The spells granted by this feat can be used in one of two ways: 

Firstly, a rune can be Invoked, allowing it to be cast once per day, without consuming any resources. The casting stat for the spell is either Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma, which is chosen when you choose this feat. 

For martial characters, this functions almost exactly like any of the other spellcasting feats. It provides a list of spells that function as single use abilities, and there are some great options in the list when using runes this way. 

Many spells, like Longstrider and Speak with Animals, don’t even require a positive casting stat to be useful as they affect you, meaning the hulking Barbarian can somehow cast these spells, despite being unable to spell his own name

Secondly, any spellcaster who chooses spells from Rune Shaper counts as having learned those spells for the purposes of casting them. The spells can then be cast using any spell slots the character has. 

This is incredible, as there are some fantastic options on the list that are otherwise very limited in access, first amongst them Armor of Agathys. This spell is almost exclusive to the Warlock, plus a small scattering of subclasses, but the effect is excellent for almost anyone. Backline casters love a chunk of temp HP, and any melee character who also casts spells, for example, Paladins, Rangers, and Eldritch Knights, will get serious use out of it. 

Atop this, the Rune Shaper list contains a handful of Druidic, Wis-based spells that can now be cast with your own casting stat, letting Bards learn things like Goodberry and Entangle without having to dip into other classes or burn magical secrets. 

Finally, unlike all other spellcasting feats, this one scales. The growth is slow, true, but learning up to four spells from this single feat means that, at max level, it’s literally twice as effective as comparable options. 

Key Stats

Rune Shaper has no specific stat requirements to take the feat. 

However, there are multiple considerations when you choose Rune Shaper. Firstly, you must choose Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma as the spellcasting ability for this feat. 

Secondly, access to this feat is gated behind having either the Rune Carver background or the spellcasting class feature. 

It’s worth reiterating this, as the Rune Carver background actually grants this feat as one of its benefits. A feat as a background benefit is so strong that there are subsidiary rules for characters who aren’t taking either this or the Giant Foundling option in the Glory of the Giants book. 

We advise speaking to your GM before rolling up to the table with a character that has this background.  

Ideal Characters for Rune Shaper

Top Classes

Bard – So many spells on this list are options that many Bards would love to have, such as Speak with Animals, but simply don’t have the spells known to waste on such situational options.

Defensive spells that can be upcast are also absolutely fantastic. Dropping an upscaled Armor of Agathys adds around 50% effective HP to a casting Bard, and Sanctuary can literally save the life of fellow party members.  

Paladin – The social-minded spells tie directly into a Paladin’s high Charisma and having an extra damage spell to throw around, or Armor of Agathys to drastically increase survivability, are things all Paladins will appreciate having to hand. 

Fighter/Barbarian – It would be remiss to mention this feat without also mentioning Rune Knight Fighters and Path of the Giant Barbarians, the Giant flavored subclasses. Both increase their size as part of their abilities, and have a natural synergy with the effects here, whether that be the Barbarian’s existing spellcasting granted by the subclass, or the Fighter’s runic powers (literally called Rune Carver…)

Combat spells are great. Utility and support spells are better, as this is something both classes can struggle to find their identity within. 

Race or Subrace Choices

Variant Human – Sure, your background grants you a feat. But what’s better than one feat? Two feats. For maximum hilarity, take something like Magic Initiate or Fey Touched, and have more spells known on your martial character at level 1 than the actual spellcasters. 

Tiefling – Resistances, Darkvision, plus a ton of supplementary spells, are a powerful package to slam this feat on top of. 

Also see any racial lineage that offers spells, including High Elves, Gnomes, and others. 

Combos, Tactics, and Synergies

Complementary Feats

Further Magical Feats – Shadow Touched. Magic Initiate. Fey Touched. Strixhaven Initiate. Multiple feats grant more magical ability, letting characters double dip into spells learned, and bolting more potential magical power onto even the martial classes. 

Ritual Caster – Do you want to be a spellcaster, but never went to Wizard school? Combining Rune Shaper and Ritual Caster lets a character contribute to the magical side of things, even if they spent all their training days in the Temple of Iron, instead of the library.   

Strategies for Maximizing Effectiveness: Rune Choices

How effective the Rune Shaper feat will be, and how you should go about getting the most bang for your buck, depends entirely on your class. 

We’ll come out and say it straight, the damage options available to this feat aren’t great. Of the four spells on offer for dealing damage, none stand out, and all fall off incredibly fast. Martial characters won’t have the stats to make these spells a better option than weapons, and casters are likely to have much stronger options as soon as they reach level 3. 

So, characters who focus on swinging swords in combat should instead look for utility, especially the options that aren’t reliant on casting stats. Things like Goodberry, Speak With Animals, and Longstrider are all useful spells to have on hand, and many of them offer something to do when the party isn’t locked in life or death struggles. 

Mainline casters should instead look to grab spells they otherwise don’t have access to. We’re going to mention Armor of Agathys again, both because it’s a great spell, and because basically no class has innate access to it. 

But there are also some standout choices here that are Wis. caster exclusive, for example, Entangle, which is typically Druid-only. 

Half casters; Paladins, Rangers, and Artificers, might want to do both. Filling in gaps in limited spell lists is great, as are picking up some single-use utility spells that won’t be cast every day. Many of these classes have incredibly limited amounts of spellcasting per day, so adding another two free spells is a huge boon. 

Replacing Runes

It’s also worth pointing out that the rune(s) your character knows from this feat can be replaced whenever they go up a level. 

This is excellent to have as an option and prevents several of the spells on the list from feeling like a trap. 

Is a choice just not working out? Swap it. Did you pick up a combat spell for the low-level firepower, and you’ve outgrown it? Pick something more useful instead. 

Final Thoughts on Rune Shaper

Directly compared to its contemporaries, Rune Shaper is a powerful magical feat that offers flexible, effective casting at all levels of the game. 

The two casting styles mean that no matter your character and class, there’s a way this feat is useful to you. Continued scaling into the game is nearly unique amongst magic feats, as is being able to swap the choices at level up. 

But possibly the strongest part of this feat is its ability to be chosen as part of a background. If you can pick this feat up at level 1, in exchange for what amounts to a set of artisan’s tools, the value shoots waaaay up. 

Compared to something like Magic Initiate, Rune Shaper does lose out a little with its limited spell choices, especially the initial, locked-in choice of Comprehend Languages. 

Even with that said, though, there are multiple occasions where we could see this feat being a worthwhile pickup. Especially if we knew that our campaign was running into post level 9 territory, where the feat starts to offer more than one spell choice. 

Long story short, Rune Shaper is a good, well designed feat that’s elevated to great if you take Rune Carver as a background.  

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