View Full Version : The Sygaldrist - a Glyph-based Full Caster

2013-12-06, 04:01 AM
Image credit the RWBY series by Rooster Teeth Productions

The Sygaldrist
a Glyph-based Full Caster

Converted and posted from a pdf. See this link for the always up to date version. Changes will always be made to the pdf first as LaTeX is harder than BBCode. Link (http://lcspace.net/share/sygaldrists.pdf)

12/8/13 4:39 am - added Drain Transference Glyph
12/8/13 4:21 am - modified DC to n-Sleep and slightly reworded nonlethal damage recovery thingy
12/6/13 4:03 am - posted. Up to date with pdf.

Times are in CST for the curious.

Motivation and Intro
The motivation for the Sygaldrist came when I was creating my own world for a 3.5e campaign I was building. In it, there was a great war between the six races(Elves, Humans, Dwarves (the major three) and Orcs, Gnomes, and Halflings (the minor three).). The two major rivals were the Humans and the Elves. The Elves were unmatched in Magic, with the Humans being their nearest equal, but also outnumbering them. Not being capable of even matching the Humans in Magic or number, the Dwarves withdrew back to their mountainous home in the North. They were last of the races to withdraw peacefully.

Humiliated by their defeat and inadequacy at the hands of the Human and Elf mages, the Dwarven mages retreated to their labs, dedicated to producing a potent magic of their own. The succeeded and, as a result, Sygaldry was born.

Sygaldry reduced Magic into specific Essence Runes manipulated to produce a result. While Essence Runes govern a specific aspect of reality (and are discovered, not created), they were too general to compete with the Magic of the Elves and Humans. But, by combining the proper Essence Runes and binding them together in the proper shape and wording, almost any conceivable effect could be achieved. The wording used to coerce the Essence Rune's power into the Sygaldrist's meaning is a personal language innate to the Sygaldrist. However, with training, it's possible to learn other binding languages, allowing Sygaldrists to systematically share the resulting Glyphs(Although it is possible to learn other binding languages, in general it is incredibly difficult to learn another Sygaldrist's personal language. It was for this purpose that simpler (more limited) binding languages were created for systematic use. Unfortunately, different binding languages can never be used in the same glyph.).

But Sygaldry did more than they could have hoped. By placing their Glyphs on items, Sygaldry combined magic with the thing that Dwarves were truly unmatched at: crafting. With Sygaldry, Dwarven artisans, engineers, and mages could imbue their creations with magic power to enhance it or create something altogether new and different.

This class is, essentially, a mash-up of magic from Full Metal Alchemist, The Name of the Wind, and Eragon. Specifically, the tattooed casting is taken from FMA, the item creation is taken from NotW, and the constitution-tied casting is taken from Eragon.


Sygaldrists are practitioners of Magic who coerce reality through the power of Essence Runes. Their ranks are filled primarily by Dwarves, as it was a magic developed by Dwarves to compete with the other races. As such, Dwarven Sygaldrists are hesitant to share their magic with the other races, though there are a few Sygaldrists at the Arcanum\footnote{The Arcanum is the preeminent university for magic in my world. Previously run solely by the Elves, after the war the other races began to have their own presence there as well.} who may be willing to teach it to those they deem worthy.

Most Sygaldrists go on adventures as a means of making a living while practicing some of the more rare uses of their craft. After all, in the big cities there aren't many legal reasons to throw a fireball at someone.

Still some go on adventures purely for the thrill or to help others or to represent their race throughout the world.

And a rare few Sygaldrists are privileged enough to know that while the Dwarves invented Sygaldry, the Dwarves were not the first to discover Essence Runes. These rare adventurers often seek out long lost Essence Runes either for themselves or the school they represent.

Sygaldry requires precision and patience to succeed. Even with those skills, you have to know the precise order and location of where to place the Runes in order to have the proper effect. The difference could be life or death. Because of this, Sygaldrists are generally appreciative of Laws, Structure, and Order and are often Lawful.

Sygaldrists can worship any deity as their magic is ultimately tied to the Universe and not any one god. However, the most common deities are those associated with Magic, Secrets, and Crafting. As such, here are a few that Sygaldrists often worship:

{table=head]Deity | Attractive Qualities | Negative Qualities
Boccob | Magic, Arcane Knowledge, Balance | None
Corellon | Magic, Arts and Crafts | Elves, Chaotic alignment
Moradin | Dwarves, Creation, Smithing, Engineering, Lawful alignment | None
Vecna | Secrets | None
Wee Jas | Magic, Law, Lawful alignment | None

The history of Sygaldry GOES HERE. TODO - dunno when this will get done, if ever.

Sygaldrists are primarily Dwarves for two reasons: the nature of Sygaldry seems to appeal to Dwarves more than the other races and the Dwarves are hesitant to teach anyone else.

While it is possible to learn Sygaldry as a different race, it can be quite difficult. Generally the easiest way to learn Sygaldry is by being admitted to various Sygaldry academies in the Dwarven homelands. It is rare, but not unheard of, for children of other races to be accepted there. If, however, you are not trained from a younger age, the next most likely way to learn is by studying at the Arcanum. While Sygaldrist academies teach rudimentary magic and focus on the finer points of Sygaldry, the Arcanum is the preeminent school on Magic. As such, they have recently been acquiring Masters of Sygaldry to teach their students rudimentary Sygaldry. While this is by far the most accessible route to non-Dwarves, even this is a highly selective path with many eager students turned away by the Sygaldry Masters.

Other Classes:
Sygaldrists have the most in common with Wizards, from a strict theoretical point. However, the hesitance to share their craft means that, in practice, Sygaldrists often shy away from Wizards who are some of the few who might understand their magic without explicit explanation.

They do, however, quite like talking to the other few classes of magic users. From the more common Sorcerers to the rare Truenamer, the Sygaldrist feels more comfortable with these other casters than Wizards.

The Sygaldrists role in a party depends greatly upon the Essence Runes they know and how they use them. There are generally three roles that a Sygaldrist can fill: an Artificer, an Ascetic, or an Affluxer.

An Artificer generally focuses more on imbuing crafted items with power through their Glyphs.

An Ascetic uses Glyphs placed on their body to empower themselves.

An Affluxer uses Glyphs to direct and control the flow of energy, preferring raw power over refinement.

Of course, a Sygaldrist could choose not to specialize and be competent, if not a master, at all three aspects of Sygaldry.

Perception of Sygaldrists:
Sygaldrists are, generally, thought rather highly of. Known mostly for the vast array of useful and innovative items they've been producing since it's inception, you will see items with Sygaldry on them all across the world and in the homes of many of the wealthy.

Generally the only people who look down on Sygaldrists are certain high-brow Wizards who view themselves as superior practitioners.

Constitution and Intelligence are equally important to the Sygaldrist. While Intelligence is required to comprehend the complexities of Sygaldry and to actually imbue Glyphs with power, Constitution is important as Sygaldry deals out non-lethal damage to the caster.


Hit Die:
d8 (isn't final. adjust to d6 or d10 as you see fit)

Unfortunately I have not decided whether the Sygaldrist should have a Druid BAB or a Sorcerer BAB. Nor have I decided on their HD. As such, I have listed both d8 and d10 until it has been play-tested.

Mean values listed as d8/d8(+3 CON) - d10/d10(+3 CON). Standard Deviation (at level 20) for d8 is
9.99, d10 is 12.52. CON Modi er is fi xed at +3 for estimations.

{table=head]Lvl | BAB | Fort. | Ref. | Will | Special | HP
1 | +0 | +2 | +0 | +2 | Glyph Casting, 1 Favored Rune, Craft Glyph | 8/11 - 10/13
2 | +1 | +3 | +0 | +3 | +1 Essence Rune | 12.5/18.5 - 15.5/21.5
3 | +2 | +3 | +1 | +3 | | 17/26 - 21/30
4 | +3 | +4 | +1 | +4 | +1 FR, ER | 21.5/33.5 - 26.5/38.5
5 | +3 | +4 | +1 | +4 | | 26/41 - 32/47
6 | +4 | +5 | +2 | +5 | +1 FR, ER, Extra Item Crafting Feat | 30.5/48.5 - 37.5/55.5
7 | +5 | +5 | +2 | +5 | | 35/56 - 43/64
8 | +6/+1 | +6 | +2 | +6 | +1 FR, ER | 39.5/63.5 - 48.5/72.5
9 | +6/+1 | +6 | +3 | +6 | | 44/71 - 54/81
10 | +7/+2 | +7 | +3 | +7 | +1 FR, ER | 48.5/78.5 - 59.5/89.5
11 | +8/+3 | +7 | +3 | +7 | | 53/86 - 65/98
12 | +9/+4 | +8 | +4 | +8 | +1 FR, ER, Extra Item Crafting Feat | 57.5/93.5 - 70.5/106.5
13 | +9/+4 | +8 | +4 | +8 | | 62/101 - 76/115
14 | +10/+5 | +9 | +4 | +9 | +1 FR, ER | 66.5/108.5 - 81.5/123.5
15 | +11/+6/+1 | +9 | +5 | +9 | | 71/116 - 87/132
16 | +12/+7/+2 | +10 | +5 | +10 | +1 FR, ER | 75.5/123.5 - 92.5/140.5
17 | +12/+7/+2 | +10 | +5 | +10 | | 80/131 - 98/149
18 | +13/+8/+3 | +11 | +6 | +11 | +1 FR, ER | 84.5/138.5 - 103.5/157.5
19 | +14/+9/+4 | +11 | +6 | +11 | | 89/146 - 109/166
20 | +15/+10/+5 | +12 | +6 | +12 | +1 FR, ER | 93.5/153.5 - 114.5/174.5
21+ | ... | ... | ... | ... | ...

Class Skills:
Appraise (Int), UMD (Cha), Craft (Glyphs) (Int), Craft (Int), Decipher Script (Int), Knowledge (Runes) (Int), Knowledge (Arcana) (Int), Profession (Wis), Spellcraft (Int)

Skill Points at 1st Level: (4 + INT) x 4

Skill Points after: 4 + INT

Class Features:

Weapon and Armor Proficiencies:
Sygaldrists are proficient with all simple weapons. Also, since most Sygaldrists undergo training in crafting which involves hammers (Blacksmithing, most often), Sygaldrists are also proficient with hammers. Sygaldrists are not proficient with any other weapons or armor.

Glyph Casting:
A Sygaldrist uses magic by directing Arcane energy through Glyphs (Sygaldrists use arcane energy, thus the magic effects of Sygaldrists are treated as Arcane spells unless otherwise noted. Thus, Sygaldrists are subject to the effects of AMFs. Exception: Only Sygaldrist PrC's progress Sygaldry features.). Sygaldrists may Glyph-cast using any completed Glyph that they are able to touch as a standard action, though it is generally unwise to cast through a Glyph without knowing what it does (That random Glyph with Fire Essence Runes on it might be a Self-Immolation Glyph.). Clearly, having a Glyph tattooed on one's person also counts as touching a Glyph. Even when tattooed, the caster must motion towards the Glyph when casting, so Sygaldrists are still vulnerable to an Arcane Spell failure chance when wearing armor. Also, while more than any ordinary tattoo, tattooed Glyphs and written Glyphs are still vulnerable to erase spells. This is, in fact, how Sygaldrists often replace any Glyphs they get tattooed. This unfortunately means that they often must pay a Wizard to have the Glyph removed, much to the chagrin of Sygaldrists everywhere.

In order to comprehend a Glyph and the complex binding language used, a Sygaldrist must have an Int of 10 + [level of Glyph]. When cast, Glyphs often briefly flash into existence before the caster. The DC to identify roughly what a Glyph would be when written by seeing it cast is a Spellcraft check of DC 10 + 2*[level of Glyph].

As the thug approached the Sygaldrist, he wondered why he appeared so calm. Then, as he drew near, he found out. The Sygaldrist raised an arm and muttered something as he seemed to sweep something off his arm into mid-air. The blindingly bright Glyph flashed into existence and burned into his mind as he collapsed, unconscious. His friends would later tell him all they saw was a dim glimmer before he collapsed.

Unlike other casters, a Sygaldrist is not inherently limited in how many times they may Glyph-cast each day. Glyph-casting drains the Arcane energy from their own bodies, inflicting 2*[level of Glyph] nonlethal damage to the Sygaldrist. This nonlethal damage may not be healed by any means other than the natural rate at which the energy replenishes in the body (So don't let your Sygaldrist be able to plane shift to a plane with accelerated time. Or let them. Up to you. :)).

However, Glyph-casting before one has rested long enough to recover nonlethal damage resets the time needed to regain it in addition to the cost of the casting (Since nonlethal damage is replenished hourly, this says that there is no partial recovering of energy. Otherwise you'd have a level 20 Sygaldrist recovering 1 point of nonlethal every 3 minutes. So Sygaldrists have to take breaks from casting in hour intervals. DM's are, however, encouraged to set whatever interval makes sense. This is just to prevent cheesy players. ...like me.).

When a Sygaldrist Glyph-casts and the resulting non-lethal damage would knock him unconscious, there is a strong likelihood that the caster will go unconscious prior to completing the Glyph. To determine whether the casting succeeds, roll a d20. If the result is lower than 2*Overcast damage (Overcast damage is the difference between current HP and total non-lethal damage taken.), then the spell fails.

Sygaldrists are somewhat different from other casters in that they create their own 'spells' somewhat regularly. More important than the resulting Glyphs are the Essence Runes which comprise most of their power. Similar to Wizards, Sygaldrists keep Runebooks filled with Essence Runes they've discovered or been taught. Of course, many also keep Glyphbooks, but these are usually trivial derivations compared to the importance of the Essence Runes that make them up.

Losing a Runebook can be devastating to a Sygaldrist. Without an accurate source of Essence Runes, they are unable to craft any Glyphs and must rely entirely on what they have with them. However, Sygaldrists can often remember the Essence Runes they use most, called Favored Runes. A Sygaldrist has 1 Favored Rune/2 Sygaldrist levels (round down). A Sygaldrist can change 1 Favored Rune slot every level. If at any time a Sygaldrist knows less Essence Runes than they can have Favored Runes, they know less Essence Runes than they can have Favored Runes. They should probably go learn some more.

(What else is needed in this section?)

Glyphbooks and Runebooks:
A Sygaldrist will often have a few favorite Glyphs tattooed discretely somewhere on their bodies. While not cheap, they are certainly useful. Barring the use of tattooed Glyphs, Sygaldrists rely on their items, Glyphbooks, and, most importantly, their Runebooks.

A Sygaldrist begins with a Glyphbook and a Runebook, with the Runebook containing 2 + Int Essence Runes and learns a new Essence Rune every 2 levels. Of course, they might also learn new Essence Runes by other means. Technically, one does not have to know what an Essence Rune is to create Sygaldry for it --- it is just not very safe to try something like that. Similarly, a Sygaldrist starts with 4 Glyphs in their Glyphbook. Some of the first purchases of adventuring Sygaldrists are Glyph tattoos but these are not free.

So you are trying that new Rune you saw in a Necromancer's old books. You think it might be some Ice Rune, since the Necromancer was fond of his cold lair. So, to test it you bind it to some small bursting effect. When you set it off, all the bone's in your shins and forearms shatter, bursting slightly out of your skin. Turns out it was an Essence Rune for Bone. Thank God it wasn't the Blood Essence Rune.

Interestingly enough, Glyphbooks and Runebooks are often pieces of Sygaldry themselves. Due to their great value, they are often adorned with various Glyphs meant to protect these books at all costs.

2013-12-06, 04:02 AM
Prestige Classes

Currently incomplete.

There are several classes that all fall under the same principles of Sygaldry, but merely focus on specific aspects.

Item Creation

The Sygaldrist Artificer is a practitioner of Sygaldry that focuses on imbuing items with the power of Sygaldry. While not as useful if unarmed, an Artificer given the chance to equip himself is a force to be reckoned with. Even unprepared, some Artificers are quick with their tools, being able to prepare less complicated Glyphs on the fly.

Buffs and Personal Effects

Ascetic Sygaldrists are generally from one of the few rare monastic orders that have incorporated Sygaldry in recent years, some of them being religious orders. These orders, devoting themselves to a particular concept or deity, have powerful Glyphs magically tattooed on their bodies related to their order's focus. These Glyphs are special in that they are bound using their order's binding language that is uniquely capable at containing the level of power in these Glyphs when relating to their focus.


Sygaldrists who focus on the art of Affluxing are those who focus on using Glyphs to direct the flow of Magic, rather than limit it by harnessing it in too specific of ways. They believe that by using Glyphs they can direct larger raw energies than normal mages ever safely could.

2013-12-06, 04:04 AM
Sygaldrist Feats

In general, Arcane Metamagic Feats can also be taken as Sygaldrist feats and apply the same, raising the drain cost (by raising the Glyph level). For example, Empower Spell raises the Glyph level by 2 and Invisible Spell raises the Glyph level by 0 (Wait. Really? Damn, I love Invisible Spell. Well, the Cityscape version.)

For more information on Item Creation feats, see the Sygaldry Gear section (upcoming).

{table=head]Feat Name | Prerequisites | Description
Extra Essence Rune | (None) | Allows the Sygaldrist to learn an extra Essence Rune. Can be taken more than once.
Extra Favored Rune | (None) | Allows the Sygaldrist to have an extra Favored Rune slot. Can be taken more than once.
Mind Glyph | (None) | Allows a Sygaldrist to burn a single Glyph and it's raw meaning entirely into their mind, allowing them to cast the Glyph without touching it. The Glyph may only use Favored Runes and can only be cast in this way while those Essence Runes remain Favored. Can be taken more than once.
Craft Glyph | (None) | Allows a Sygaldrist to craft Glyphs for tattoos or Glyphbooks or other writable surfaces. Cannot be used to replicate other crafting feats.
Craft Glyphed Armor | Lvl. 3 | Allows the Sygaldrist to take existing pieces of armor and imbue it with the power of various Glyphs.
Craft Glyphed Staff | Lvl. 3 | Allows the Sygaldrist to imbue a staff with the power of various Glyphs.
Craft Glyphed Ring | Lvl. 6 | Allows the Sygaldrist to imbue a ring with the power of various Glyphs.
Craft Glyph Scroll | Lvl. 7 | Allows the Sygaldrist to imbue a scroll with the power of various Glyphs. These scrolls can optionally be made so that they do not require any energy to cast. Scrolls of that type are usable by any class.
Craft Glyphed Weapon | Lvl. 5 | Allows the Sygaldrist to imbue a weapon with the power of various Glyphs.

2013-12-06, 04:05 AM
Sygaldrist Glyphs

Glyphs are complicated. They are not absolute. There is almost always more than one Glyph for any given effect. For example, to create a Sleep glyph, one would need either a Mind or Body Rune. Or, for greater efficacy, you could use both.

Essence Runes:

Fire, Water, Air, Earth, Heat, Cold, Electricity, Force, Arcane, Mind, Motion, Time, Strength, Body, Bone, Blood, Light, Darkness, Void, Positive Energy, Negative Energy, Space, Matter, Death, Life, (Planar) Dimensions, Nature, God Runes (each god has a rune?), Demon Runes (each class of demon has a rune?)

{table=head]Glyph Name | Level | Essence Runes | Binding/Description
Sleep | 1 | Mind | Puts a monster to sleep. Will save of 10 + Int
Sleep | 1 | Body | Puts a monster to sleep. Fort save of 10 + Int
Sleep | 2 | Body, Mind | Puts a monster to sleep. Fort and Will save of 10 + Int
Sleep | n* | Body/Mind | Puts a monster to sleep. Will save of 10 + n + Int mod
Fireball | | |
Burning Hands | | |
Acid Splash | | |
Ghost Image | | |
Arcane Lock | | |
Arcane Lock [trap] | | |
Immolate [trap] | | |
<element>ball | | <element> |
Paralyze | | |
Passwall | | |
Stone Ladder | | |
Anti-Magic Field | | |
Wall of <element> | | |
Shield of <element> | | |
Deflection | | |
Spell Absorption | 7 | Body, Arcane | Allows a Sygaldrist to negate spells that strike him by expending his own energy. The Sygladrist takes 3*[spell level] non-lethal damage instead, after the damage taken to cast the Glyph. While this nonlethal damage can knock the Sygaldrist unconscious, it is not taken into account for Overcasting purposes.
Haste | | |
Heal | | |
Black Hole | | |
Fly | | |
Levitate | | |
Suspend Motion | | |
Slow Time <area or target> | | |
Dehydrate | | |
Stone to dust | | |
Teleportation Circle | | |
Mind Trap | 5? | Mind | Traps someone within their own mind. Will save of X
Alarming Ward | | |
Kinetic Dampener | | |
Invisible <area> | | |
Silent <area> | | |
Drain Transference | n* | Arcane, Body, Mind | Transfers up to n*n Glyph-casting inflicted drain (nonlethal damage) to up to n willing allies. However, the drain incurred in casting the Glyph is left with the caster and is not transferred in the casting. It can be transferred in subsequent castings but they, too, leave drain from their casts. (3rd level minimum unless you're an idiot.)
* n is set at the time of Glyph Creation

2013-12-06, 04:06 AM
Sygaldrist Gear

Need to elaborate on item creation feats, types of glyph effects (activated continuous effects (a passive effect with a duration that periodically re-casts itself until dismissed), duration effects (same as previous but doesnt reactivate), activated effects, passive effects (truly passive, no energy cost/energy cost at creation)), and example gear.

2013-12-07, 02:45 AM
Thanks for making this an actual playable class. With any luck I'll be able to test it out in a couple weeks.

2013-12-07, 05:32 AM
Thanks for making this an actual playable class. With any luck I'll be able to test it out in a couple weeks.


I've also got a neat idea regarding the nonlethal damage. It currently says that nonlethal damage caused by Glyph-casting cannot be healed... I'm thinking maybe have an example Glyph/item where that damage is transferred to a willing ally. This would let two or more Sygaldrists balance the damage load, so to speak. If one Sygaldrist has taken 80 (out of say, 90 max), and the other only 10, then they could balance it so they're both at 45. Now they have a much better action economy potential in the short term.

My only immediate concern is that someone could use a leadership feat to cast an UBER-Glyph and then have their followers soak it up. However, I think it's insignificant enough to leave up to DM management. And it would allow for some neat set ups...

2013-12-07, 12:00 PM
I like this, it looks like it'll be really neat when finished.(Also, huzzah for Name of the Wind references.)

However, Glyph-casting before one has rested long enough to recover enough previously spent energy results in the dissipation of that energy in addition to the cost of the casting (Since nonlethal damage is replenished hourly, this says that there is not partial recovering of energy. Otherwise you'd have a level 20 Sygaldrist recovering 1 point of nonlethal every 3 minutes. So Sygaldrists have to take breaks from casting in hour intervals. DM's are, however, encouraged to set whatever interval makes sense. This is just to prevent cheesy players. ...like me.).
I don't know what this paragraph means. After a very careful reading I think it might be that whenever you employ glyph-casting that resets the amount of time remaining until you next naturally recover nonlethal damage, but I can't say I'm sure.

Sleep|n*|Body/Mind|Puts a monster to sleep. Will save of 10 + n * Int mod
No. 10 + n + Int mod.

2013-12-07, 04:00 PM
I like this, it looks like it'll be really neat when finished.(Also, huzzah for Name of the Wind references.)

What do you think it needs to be finished besides more example Glyphs and maybe a few more feats? At least, just the base class. The Prestige classes will come eventually.

I don't know what this paragraph means. After a very careful reading I think it might be that whenever you employ glyph-casting that resets the amount of time remaining until you next naturally recover nonlethal damage, but I can't say I'm sure.

In hindsight, yea that's a really over-complicated way to say that. You read it correctly, though!

No. 10 + n + Int mod.

Can't tell if that was a typo or if I actually thought that was a good idea... I will change that.

2013-12-08, 05:42 AM
Alright, I edited in the few modifications and added the Drain Transference Glyph. I think the math makes it relatively balanced. Even with the additional short term action economy benefit is balanced by the overhead from the casting.