Both the original Folio and the Gol Box Guide to the World of Greyhawk include a section on “Portentous Runes and Glyphs” (or “Run and Glyphs as the Guide has it). While I knew that the symbols themselves had undergone a few changes between the iterations, I didn’t realize just how many had changed. More than half of the designs in the Guide are either modified or completely changed from the original version in the Folio. They were also included in a later book (I want to say the Adventure Begins, but I might be wrong) in pretty much the same format as the Guide.
I have no idea why most of these changes were made, but I do have a few observations:
- Many of the original designs were based on runes of the Elder Futhark. Some of those designs survived into the Guide, but quite a few were changed. Some of them are close to their original meaning (the Tyr rune in the Folio edition means “honor”, for instance, which is in the same ballpark as its original meaning, and the Ansuz rune in the Folio for “god” which is its meaning in the Futhark as well).
- Sometimes the glyphs got transferred between one meaning and another. The original glyph for “Earth” gets turned into the glyph for “supernatural watcher” with a slight modification.
- Only one of the symbols for the four elements have connections to the elemental symbols in the adventure module T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil. Air is a circle in all three (notably the illustration on p. 89 of the module has a dot in the center, just like the glyph). As noted above, the glyph for Earth got changed from a circle with a cross atop it to a straight horizontal line, but neither of those is close to the ToEE symbol for Earth (a triangle). In fact, the triangle glyph in the Folio is the fire symbol, but it gets changed to a circle (without a dot) in the Guide. In ToEE, the symbol for fire is a called a “lozenge”, but it looks more like a diamond superimposed over a star (the glyph of evil power in the Folio and Guide). Water is similarly unrelated; wavy lines in the Folio/Guide, and a square in ToEE. I was actually surprised by this, and had hoped there would be a level of continuity between them. Oh, well.
I never really used the glyphs in my own campaigns, but I do want to start using some of the designs as I’m painting miniatures for my Armies of Greyhawk project. What about you? Have you used the glyphs and runes at all in your games?