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Big Damn Rune Post!

Runes are a pretty big part of the Suikoden mythos. The series doesn't have the same nebulous "magic" you'll find in other RPGs; rather, all forms of supernatural power stem from the primal forces of the 27 True Runes. Now, any other RPG would bludgeon you over the head with a master list of such runes and make them the key plot element. That's not Suikoden's style! Instead of giving you the full story, Suikoden gives you just bits and pieces; any given game in the series makes use of a few of these True Runes but leaves the ones irrelevant to the plot alone. In fact, to this day we still don't know what they all are. Here's the ones we do know:

1) The Rune of Beginning - The rune that essentially created the universe. It has two halves: Bright Shield and Black Sword. The story goes that Sword and Shield waged war against each other at the dawn of time, Sword broke Shield and Shield shattered Sword, and their broken pieces became the rest of the runes and thus all of creation. There's a book in Suiko1 explaining the creation myth, and the two protagonists of Suiko2 carry the two halves of this rune.

2) The Gate Rune - Another rune broken into two halves, this one works by linking this world to others, allowing its users to "gate in" all manner of nasty creatures and objects. Leknaat and Windy have the two halves of this rune. There's a lesser version called "Blue Gate" or "Pale Gate" later on, which possesses many extremely powerful magical attacks.

3) The Soul Eater - This is the rune Ted gave to ○∆□☆. Some weak canon sources call this the "Rune of Life and Death" and it supposedly has two sides as well: Life and Death. Instead of breaking in half, it acts more like two sides of the same coin; one side eats souls and embodies destruction, the other grants life (maybe). We never actually see the Life side of this rune, and there's nothing in the games to indicate it's real, so grain of salt that part. There's a lesser version of this rune much later in the series called the Darkness Rune.

4) The Rune of Punishment - Similar to the Soul Eater, this rune also has two facets: Punishment and Redemption. Unlike Soul Eater, though, we actually do get to see the "good" side of this rune eventually. The game it appears in treats it much like a disease, everyone who gets hold of it lives a short and painful life, except the hero (of course!) who manages to survive it.

5/6/7/8/9) The True Elemental Runes - The five elements in the Suikoverse are Fire, Water, Earth, Wind and Lightning, and of course there are True Rune versions of each one. All five come into play in Suiko3. Years ago some cat called the Flame Champion wore the True Fire Rune and unleashed it, baking a bunch of people and generally scaring everyone shitless.

10) The Dragon Rune - Held by the leader of the Dragon Knights. We don't know anything else about it! Ha ha!

11) The Sun Rune - The Sun Rune, and its two lesser runes of Dawn and Twilight, are the focal point of Suiko5. The Sun Rune does exactly what it says: unleashes the power of the sun, often to devastating results. For example, the crazy bitch who has it in Suiko5 uses it to completely evaporate a lake and bring ruin to an entire region of the country.

12) The Beast Rune - This one works like the Soul Eater on a grand scale. It essentially is the embodiment of pure primal terror. The bad guys in Suiko2 fuel it with mass genocide and use it as a weapon against the good guys.

13) The Night Rune - Stereotypical "power over darkness and the undead" rune. It actually takes the form of a sword, which we'll see later in the game.

14?) The True Holy Rune - Called the "Godspeed Rune" in later games, this one lets the bearer run REALLY fast. Holy lets me zip across locations quickly, True Holy lets me zip across the world map at breakneck speed. There's debate in the fandom over whether or not this is a real True Rune; the fact that it's worn by a minor character and that it gets a name change later on are both strikes against it, but hey, I love pissing off the fandom, so here it is.

As far as I know, these are the only ones very clearly stated to be True Runes over the course of the games. There are a lot of other ones which may or may not be True Runes, things only mentioned in passing or runes being unique and possessed by only one character, but that's for the fanon to wank itself to death over.

The one thing all the True Runes have in common is that they grant immortality. This means at least three of the Suikoden heroes are going to live forever, and it's also one of the key reasons there are so many crackholes out there who want True Runes for themselves. The immorality aspect creates a lot of speculation as to whether or not the unique runes worn by various immortal (or seemingly immortal) characters, like Jeane or Yuber or Viki, are True Runes or not.

Each game in the Suikoden series really has two plots: the rebel-army-overthrows-evil-empire plot, and the struggle-of-the-true-runes plot. The degree to which these two plots intermingle, and how much one overpowers the other, varies from game to game. I feel the first two Suikoden games get the balance just right, with the war being at the forefront and the True Runes essentially being an afterthought.

tl;dr: Magic comes from runes. Let's look at some!

First up we have Attack Runes. These can be used infinitely, and don't eat up MP. They give the bearer access to one special attack in combat. These are typically glued-on (i.e.: can't be removed even at the runemaster) and therefore unique to one character. Here we see Pahn demonstrating his Boar Rune. It looks like his regular attack, but he actually punches the enemy like twenty times. However...

...many of these runes, just like many Unite attacks, leave the user UNBALANCED. Unbalanced is essentially a one-round paralysis. Each time Pahn uses the Boar Rune, he skips his next turn. This (combined with the obvious drawback of having to enter six commands rather than just press Free Will once) really limits the usefulness of Attack Runes in my eyes.

"Hey Brick! Why is Juppo in the party?" Well...

...as it happens, Juppo's glued-on Trick Rune is another example of Attack Runes. He calls his little robot buddy out to attack one bad guy. This does more damage than his regular attack (not that I bothered sharpening his weapon or anything), but is still a major drawback. In Suiko2 onward you can equip a rune on each hand (and some can put one on their forehead), but in Suiko1 characters have only one rune slot. So folks with a glued-on rune, like Juppo, really lose their luster late in the game when I want everyone on my team to have a powerful or useful rune.

Incidentially, Juppo's replacement in Suiko2 gets a robot buddy as her sidekick, who is an actual character I can enlist in my fighting party. I think that's a better way of having done it. I don't think Juppo's robot guy has a name, but I think I'll call him Jimmy.

We've also got what I'll call Utility Runes, which provide their bearer with a passive ability. We already have a couple of these Holy Runes, which allow me to run instead of walk on map screens. There are also things like the Counter Rune, which increases the rate at which your guy counterattacks; the Phero Rune, which causes members of the opposite sex to jump in and take your damage for you; and the Killer Rune, which ups your critical hit rate (although honestly I can't recall if that one is in Suiko1 or not). My favorite Utility Rune is the Double-beat Rune, which gives whomever has it two attacks per round instead of one.

When not placed on someone's hand, runes are housed in crystals, which you can buy at various item shops. Later games in the series move crystal sales over to the runemaster shop instead.

Magic Runes are where it's at. These are the ones that grant me spells and make my enemies quiver with fear. You'll notice here that I have Luc's name highlighted. The heart represents his HPs, and the yellow star represents his MPs. MP in Suiko1 works on a system of spell charges, rather than giving me a mana pool to draw from. We see here that Luc can cast his L1 spell five times, his L2 spell twice, and can't cast his L3 or L4 spells at all. Characters gain MP as they level up, so once Luc has gained enough levels to give him a charge of L3 magic, he'll gain it automatically. This is true for everyone except...

...○∆□☆, who even though has two L2 spell charges, still can't use his L2 magic. His spells are granted to him over the course of the plot rather than as level-up bonuses.

The spell charge system is kind of inconsequential in Suiko1, since people can only use their spells a certain number of times, then they're tapped, then that's it. In Suiko2 and onward, where characters can equip multiple runes, it's a little more pronounced. Say you give someone with one L3 charge a rune with an awesome attack in the L3 slot, and another rune with a powerful heal spell in the L3 slot. That character can either use the attack or the heal, but not both, since once he's used his L3 charge there's nothing left to fuel the other.

Magic Runes come in seven varieties in Suiko1: Fire, Wind, Lightning, Earth, Water, Soul Eater and Ressurection.

Here Luc is using the L1 Wind spell, Winds of Sleep. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't work. Though the Wind Rune does have an attack spell or two, it mostly tries to deal unsavory status effects to the enemy, which is why I don't like it very much. Later on Luc's Wind Rune is glued to him, but not in Suiko1.

Sheena nukes a squirrel with his glued-on Lightning Rune. The Lightning Rune is the boss-killer; it focuses on really strong single-target attacks. For this reason it is my favorite of the elemental runes, although...

...there's something to be said for multi-target attacks of the Fire Rune as well. Not pictured: the Water Rune is focused chiefly on healing and restoring HPs, while the Earth Rune is more about buffing the party (although it does have one really kickass attack spell).

Each of the elemental runes has a more powerful version: Rage > Fire, Flowing > Water, Thunder > Lightning, Cyclone > Wind, Mother Earth > Earth. The leveled-up versions move each of the spells down one slot, so what was the Lightning Rune's L3 attack becomes the Thunder Rune's L2 attack. As a consequence of this, each super-elemental rune loses the old L1 attack and gains a new, more-powerful L4 attack.

If you followed all that, now go back to what I said earlier about spell charges. In Suiko2 onward, if there's an elemental spell you REALLY like, say for example Kindness Rain, the L3 Water spell, you might consider doubling-up by giving Water and Flowing to the same character. This will give that character more uses of that particular spell, since now he can use his L3 charges for it (from Water) and his L2 charges (from Flowing). I don't know if it's possible, but in theory you could take this a step further in Suiko3 by giving Water and Flowing to your True Water Rune user, but now we're getting into things like elemental affinity and god dammit I'm already pretty far out of the scope of what's possible in Suiko1 as it is.

(By the way, Kindness Rain is the most useful healing spell in the game, practically restoring the whole team to full health whenever you want.)

There is a rock/paper/scissors aspect to the five elements, which I believe is Fire > Wind > Earth > Lightning > Water > Fire for all the sense that makes, but it's really not that important outside of Suiko4 so I won't go very far into it.

The best-kept secret in Suikoden are the SUPER RUNE COMBOS you can cook up by having two people in your team both use their L4 spells in the same round. If the runes are compatible the two spells will combine to form an even more extremely powerful attack. This of course isn't even possible until late in the game when people start getting L4 charges. Whether or not a rune is compatible with another has nothing to do with the strength/weakness aspect from the previous paragraph, either:

Fire will combine with Earth and Lightning, Earth will combine with Fire and Wind, Wind will combine with Earth and Water, Water will combine with Wind and Lightning, Lightning will combine with Water and Fire.

All of these basically boil down to "do incredibly hellacious amounts of damage", but the Water combos have the added aspect of restoring everyone's health, too. Bonus!

Suiko1 only has two Magic Runes that aren't elemental: the Soul Eater (which, as we've seen, focuses mainly on instant-death and damage) and Ressurection (which revives and heals dead allies). We won't get any more Soul Eater spells until towards the end of the next scenario, and the guy who uses Ressurection doesn't even pop up until something like four scenarios down the road.

Hmm... I don't think I have anything else to say about runes in Suikoden!

Don't bother voting anymore for the next team. As soon as I post this I'm gonna go play the next scenario, so anyone who's like "hey man use Sansuke ok" after this is just throwing their voice into the void. This magic-themed Suikoden interlude is brought to you buy the number 8, the letter G, and VIEWERS LIKE YOU.

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