Runes and Attunements

Hey all,

This post is just some quick rune examples for people who might have either listened to the audio version of Sufficiently Advanced Magic, people looking for a refresher, or just haven’t read that particular series yet.


Enchantments are how people with an Enchanter attunement imbue items with magical power.

The procedure for enchanting an object involves making runes, physical marks that are powered by mana, which is magical energy.

In order to make a rune, you must carve it into the proper shape and then put in the right amount of mana of the right type. For example, a rune for a wand designed to hurl balls of flame would require a fire rune (as well as other runes).

There are a few main categories of runes that are used in the enchanting process.

Function Runes determine what the item can do. For example, a fireball wand would have a fire function rune.

Example: Standard Life Rune.

Basic Life.jpg

Activation Runes determine how the item is activated. For example, if the wand is activated by using some of your own mana, it would have a mana activation rune.

Example: Motion Activation Rune.

Activation - Motion

Recharge Runes are used to cause an item to automatically fill up with mana over time by drawing mana either from the environment or another source. These are not strictly necessary, but they are used in most so-called “permanent” items so that they do not have to be manually recharged.

Example: Life Mana Recharge.

Life Mana Recharge.jpg

Capacity Runes are used to govern how much mana the item can store. Without them, any item with a Recharge Rune will just keep filling up with mana over time until the object has more mana than it can hold and explodes. That would be considered bad item design.

Example: Life Mana Capacity.

Life Mana Capacity.jpg

Complex items may involve many different runes.

For example, an item for creating a barrier may require mental mana runes for detecting incoming attacks, then runes to create a barrier when an incoming attack is detected.

Similarly, an item designed to heal the user when they’re hurt may require mental mana runes to detect when the wearer is injured. An even more complex healing item might have functions for searching for which wounds are the most severe and prioritizing which order they’re healed in, or ignoring certain types of injuries that the item might not be able to heal properly.

Since Enchanters do not have access to every type of mana, they often use items called mana crystals or rely on help from others.

Mana crystals are exactly what they sound like – crystallized magical energy. An Enchanter can draw the mana out of these crystals and use them to power runes. Most mana crystals are found from the remains of monsters inside of the spires, but it’s possible for people with sufficient mana shaping skill to make their own crystals from the types of mana they can use. Veteran enchanters often learn how to make mana crystals so they can make more complex items.

In order to cooperate with someone else to make a rune, an Enchanter must first make a shell that is used to hold the other person’s mana inside the rune. This container holds the mana from the other person inside the rune, preventing it from simply dispersing into the air.

Making a shell is a mana shaping exercise that is similar to making a mana crystal, and thus not all Enchanters are proficient at it, especially early in their careers. Mana shells also have a capacity, meaning that a low level Enchanter can’t make a shell that can hold enough mana for something like an Emerald level enchantment.

Extremely talented Enchanters can also move mana from one rune to another rune. This is dangerous for most Enchanters, however, because moving mana generally involves passing it through your body to prevent it from dispersing in the air. If you pass mana from another attuned through your body, this can cause mana poisoning.

As such, only Enchanters who have sufficient shaping ability to move mana outside of their bodies or purify the mana inside their bodies generally are capable of safely moving mana between two different objects. (There are some exceptions where this is safer, such as being able to safely move mana between two items you created yourself, or moving mana that has already been purified by someone else.)


Attunements are marks that grant magical powers that are obtained in the Soaring Spires during successful Judgments. They can also sometimes be obtained directly from a Visage, but this is relatively rare.

Each Attunement involves a physical mark that appears on the body of the attuned.

Attunements grow stronger as the user’s mana increases, changing in appearance and gaining new abilities. For example, most attunements begin to generate a shroud – a form of barrier of mana – around the attuned when the attunement reaches Carnelian level.

Each attunement comes with an iconic function. These are generally called “unique” abilities, but in truth, they can sometimes be accomplished through other attunements or combinations of attunements. For example, the “unique” function of the Elementalist attunement is access to lightning magic…but a Summoner can still get access to lightning magic if they make a contract with a monster that can use lightning. Thus, the term “unique” is something of a misnomer, and it’s more accurate to say that they’re simply the function that the attunement is best known for.

Every attunement gives access to two or more types of magic when it is first obtained, and generally gives access to a third at a higher level.

It’s commonly theorized that attunements are much more advanced forms of enchanting runes that incorporate several functions into a single rune, or perhaps collections of several runes that visually appear to be one rune.

Artificial attunements have been made in Caelford, meaning that they can be reproduced with some degree of success, but the procedures for how they’re made are not commonly known.

Diviner Attunement

Diviner Level Rune
Quartz Diviner 1
Carnelian Diviner 2
Sunstone Diviner 3.jpg

Guardian Attunement

Guardian Level Rune
Quartz Guardian 1.jpg
Carnelian Guardian 2.jpg
Sunstone Guardian 3.jpg

Elementalist Attunement

Elementalist Level Rune
Quartz Elementalist 1.jpg
Carnelian Elementalist 2.jpg
Sunstone Elementalist 3


Enchanter Attunement

Enchanter Level Rune
Quartz Enchanter 1
Carnelian Enchanter 2.jpg
Sunstone Enchanter 3


Mender Attunement

Mender Level Rune
Quartz Mender 1
Carnelian Mender 2.jpg
Sunstone Mender 3.jpg


Shadow Attunement

Shadow Level Rune
Quartz Shadow 1
Carnelian Shadow 2.jpg
Sunstone Shadow 3


Shaper Attunement

Shaper Level Rune
Quartz Shaper 1.jpg
Carnelian Shaper 2.jpg
Sunstone Shaper 3.jpg


Summoner Attunement

Summoner Level Rune
Quartz Summoner 1
Carnelian Summoner 2.jpg
Sunstone Summoner 3.jpg




18 thoughts on “Runes and Attunements

  1. That was a cool little refresher, I love how planned out it all is. Do you have a guide for yourself saying what each rune represents?

      1. I can’t recall if you’ve mentioned before, but will you eventually release an RPG book or guide? If yes, what system would it use? D&D 5e? Pathfinder? Something original?

      2. I’ll probably release a tabletop RPG book with a custom system at some point. I’d consider doing something for d20 as well, but I’m not sure. It’s a low priority right now, since I have so many books to work on. =)

      3. Im actually working on writing up a custom TTRPG with the 2d6 system based off of your books right now, just for me and my friends to use, Hope you dont mind 🙂 Im doing my best to stay true to the magic system in the books.

  2. Your article makes it clear that Arbiter was a prefect 2nd Attunement for an Enchanter like Corin. They work very well together and strengthen each other. However, There are very people who ever earn the Arbiter attunement, and even fewer of them are Enchanters. I suspect that at MOST there are a handful of other Enchanter + Arbiters, and that Corin might well be the ONLY person currently alive on his continent that has that combination. He is certainly the youngest person to ever have that combination. Most people in other countries with other Spires will not even have Enchanter as an available Attunement, so unless they got an Enchanter Attunement from a Judgement by visiting Vallia, they will not even have the possibilty of having it to combine with Arbiter. So probably any other (if any) Arbiter + Enchanters will be from Valia.

    I also wonder about the Biomancer Attunement that is available in Caelford. We do not know what mana types it uses, but Earth and Transference is a possibility since other likely mana combinations are already used by other known Attunements (Mender, Guardian, Shaper, and Arbiter in particular). If Biomancer is Earth+Transference, there is the possibility that adding Earth to Corin’s Arbiter Mark could give him Mender (Earth/Life) as well as Biomancer (Earth/Transference). That would make him a perfect person for the Artificial Attunement Programs in both Caelford and Valia, as well give him the best chance of being able to modify Tristan/s Mark that keeps Tristan from leaving the Tower/Spire. Or if it is a different combination of Mana types he still might get Biomancer on his coming trip to Caelford (either by adding Earth to Arbiter or as a separate Attunement), either by a Judgement visit to it’s Tower, or from a long climbing trip up it’s Tower, or even by meeting Caelford’s Visage.

    An Arbiter/Mender/Biomancer combined Mark would be very powerful and useful, and Corin can add Enchanter to complement and strengthen it.

    I still think that Corin needs to get Soul Blade (on his left hand) as well as Spirit and Ice to use and control his sword. There is a good possibility that Spirit is already in the Soul Blade Attunement. But it will probably require a visit and probably a Judgement trip to Dalenos and it’s Tower to get Soul Blade. We already know Corin’s mother has been in Dalenos for months, possibly she might ask Corin to meet her there rather than in Valia when they return from Caelford.

    PS adding Earth to Marissa’s Guardian Mark, would add Mender and Shaper to her abilities. A person who is a Guardian for short distance combat, and Shaper for long distant combat will be a very dangerous fighter, and Mender might help as well in combat. Put a direct (close) combat Attunement on her right hand and she will be awesome (I am hoping for Abjuror on her right hand, which would require meeting a Visage). Although, we do not know much about Caelford’s combat Attunements which she might pick up (one of) on this trip to Caelford.

    PPS do you think that Marissa and friends will get a chance to visit her home and family on their return trip to Valia. Getting a look at her home and family would add to our knowledge of Valia and society, and be very interesting to your readers.

  3. Does Jin know about Corin’s Arbiter Mark/Attunement or about Sera’s Ascended Mark? I do not think that they were mentioned to him during their final (3rd) school test in the mock tower. Then there is the question of did he survive the attack on the graduation ball. I assume that he did, but he was not mentioned after that.

    In the long run, I think that Jin’s greatest value to the rest of the party will be as a source of information and contacts in East Edria, particularly if they ever try to go there, or if a War erupts between Edria and Valia/Caelford. I do not see him being part of their group after school is over.

    I am not sure that they want Jin to pass on to Edria knowledge about their abilities in case of that War. He might be useful if they ever try to visit either of Edia’s Towers, particularly the East one, IF they can Trust him to not betray them.

    Also I am not quite clear about getting a 3rd mana type added to an Attunement at higher levels and Ascended Attunements. Are they the same thing, or is the Ascended Attunement something a little different and more?

    1. I viewed them as not the same thing.

      My thoughts were you get your third mana type when your attunement and body have the tolerance to take it. That’s why it is added at higher levels.

      An Ascended Attunement is more like having access to a secret passage or ‘easer egg’ attached to the attunement. I did wonder if for instance Sara’s new ability is a part of all summoner attunement’s, but for safety or to horde knowledge the Visage’s restrict parts of them deliberately. When she flushed herself with all that power, as well as causing scarring, it broke the lock and allowed her access to something she would never normally be given.

  4. Alternatively, if Biomancer includes Transference and Corin gets Biomancer from a 3rd Attunement Mark, then he would have Transference in 3 different Marks and would probably be even faster than he already is at transfering mana to objects/runes and people.

  5. Good Afternoon, Just like to say love your books, only just recently read them. I was just wondering with the comments above about an RPG book and your conection the Blizzard has anyone suggested turning this world that you’ve created into a MMORPG. the concepts behind your world would be great and think it would give games like elder Scrolls online and World of Warcraft a run for there money.

    1. Absolutely, it’s something I’ve talked to a lot of people about. There are difficulties, though.

      Most game companies want to either one of two things:

      1) To own the world that they’re working in, so they have complete creative freedom and don’t have to spend money paying for a licensing agreement. Blizzard, for example, creates their own worlds and owns their own intellectual property for all of their modern products (e.g. Warcraft, Diablo, Starcraft, and Overwatch).

      2) The other alternative is using a setting that is so famous that it serves as a multiplier to sales. Examples are things like Star Wars, Star Trek, the Marvel universe, the DC Universe, and Dungeons and Dragons. In these cases, the company is willing to pay a licensing fee and deal with a loss of creative freedom because there are so many existing fans that would be interested.

      My books – much like the overwhelming majority of books out there – are not quite famous enough yet to fall into the second option, and since I made the setting and already published things in it, the first option isn’t applicable.

      In order to get a game made in my setting, I would have a few options.

      1) Convince a game company that while my sales aren’t in the same league as something like Star Wars, I’d still have a starting audience, which may be a benefit over creating their own work from scratch. I could also emphasize that having a pre-existing setting would save significant development time and highlight the game-like features of the setting itself. This is much more likely to be useful if decision makers at the company in question are already familiar with my books.

      I would probably have to offer the intellectual property rights for the game at a much, much smaller rate to make this work. This approach would be more plausible if I was selling about ten times my current numbers (which means it may be possible down the line).

      2) Work with a small indie developer, rather than a large established company. This is fairly plausible, since the time saved on writing could be much more meaningful to a small group of indie devs. That wouldn’t be a MMO at that point, though – it would mean making something smaller, most likely a visual novel or a small scale single player RPG.

      3) Try to start a company myself or make something myself. This is not currently feasible – that’d be something more plausible if I was selling copies in the same league as Martin or Rowling.

      I’m definitely going to be looking into options for this, but all of it will be more likely as I get more books out and more sales.

      1. Thank you for the reply. It is greatly appreciated. Again love you work and can’t wait for then new books to come out. Good luck.

      2. Andrew,
        I am enjoying the series and my brother and I discuss it at length since we both enjoy it.

        As far as making an RPG from your series, I suggest you contact Marion Harmon. He wanted to create an RPG for his series “Wearing the Cape” and originally had a particular system in mind, but changed to the FATE system, which is open source, and set about publishing the game himself.

        I don’t know all the specifics, but he seems like he would be an excellent person to contact to learn what you may want to do to make it happen for your world. I know that I would purchase that, and even contribute to a kick-starter for it, if/when you get it published.

  6. I can see others have been speculating on this already. Can you confirm if the attunement mana types overlap? If I had the Enchanter and Arbiter attunements like Corin – I would have access to Mental and Life.

    1. Would this allow for the abilities of the attunement associated with these two mana types? Perhaps not in such a specialised way, but would it with practice be possible?

    2. Or are they are hard wired specifically to the rune design for those using magic granted from attunements?

    Or will this be answered in your upcoming work and we should just wait: 🙂

    1. Just having access to additional mana types does not give you the full functionality of other attunements, but some attunement functions can be duplicated without having that attunement if you have sufficient knowledge and mastery.

      There will be more explanation of this in future books.

  7. I’ve noticed that the arbiter attunement only has one picture. Does this change as it his carnelian, sunstone, etc?
    If so, what do those look like to you?

    1. It does change, but I don’t have artwork for the additional levels just yet. Hoping to get that done eventually. As a general rule, extra levels typically add one brush stroke per level.

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