Casting through the Gap

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Þar munu eptir | undrsamligar
gullnar töflur | í grasi finnask,
þærs í árdaga | áttar höfðu.

In wondrous beauty | once again
Shall the golden tables | stand mid the grass,
Which the gods had owned | in the days of old


Völuspá, Poetic Edda, Bellows translation

The game system for Niflgap, as a stand-alone product rather than a Series Pitch for Pelgrane’s Drama System — and even back in the days when Niflgap was still titled Dead*Space — was one of those items that consistently resisted development. I knew the direction I wanted the rules to take, in an aesthetic sense, but developing a specific, concrete design led to dead ends or design paralysis.

A while back I came across one of those design attempts still lurking in Niflgap’s folder, and decided to polish it up, hoping it might be of use or spark some creative advancement on the rule-design. It has not. But the core of conflict resolution has always involved the use of runestones. To that end, here is some advice on how to design your own set.

Each player should obtain or make a set of twenty-four runestones marked with the twenty-four symbols of the elder futhark — a system of runic writing created and used by Teutonic tribes in Germany and Scandinavia — as well as one additional runestone without any markings and also clearly differentiated from all the others.

Each set of runestones should be placed into their own small pouch or bag, with a large enough mouth it can be comfortably reached into without being able to see the symbols on the stones. Though runestones can be obtained from many sources on-line, or your local bookstore or New Age-style businesses, please make sure the set contains one ‘blank’ rune for the purposes of play, and that they are generally flat and capable of falling with either side facing up.

You can also make runestones yourself using clay, stone, wood, or metal, as long as whatever material being used is flat on both sides and solid enough to have some heft.

Making Your Own Runestones…

…out of stone.

Obtain twenty-five small, flat stones of similar size and draw or carve a single rune on only one side on all but the last, which should be a black stone left blank. You should have one stone each for each of the twenty-four runes.

To draw the runes, you can use an extra-fine point Deco Color Liquid Paint Marker (they come in a variety of colors: Silver, Gold, Red, White, Black, etc). First clean the stones with water and soap, dry them, and swipe them with rubbing alcohol before drawing on them. After the liquid paint has dried for twenty-four hours, bake them in an oven for about thirty minutes to further “set” the paint. If you want, you can varnish the stones with an aerosol spray to ensure the paint does not wear away with use.

Alternatively, you can use shallow cuts with a dremel to carve the runes into the stones; then use a paint marker afterwards to highlight the cuts, if needed or desired. Remember to wear appropriate safety equipment.

…out of clay.

Obtain some sculpting clay and form it into into twenty-five small, flat, blunt-ended ovals or rectangles about a quarter inch thick, then engrave a single rune on only one side on all but the last, which should be painted black and left blank. Make only one of each of the twenty-four runes. You can paint the engraved runes with ceramic paints before firing the clay in a kiln, or use a paint marker afterwards.

…out of wood.

Cut a rectangular dowel into twenty-five flat, quarter-inch thick pieces, and use a wood burning stylus, or make shallow cuts with a dremel to make each rune, to mark all but the last with a single rune each on only one side; the twenty-fifth piece should be painted black and left blank. Make only one of each rune. Again, don’t forget to wear appropriate safety equipment.

Wood paint can instead be used to mark each piece with a rune, or, if using a dremel, to highlight the runes.

…out of metal.

This is outside my personal cache of skills, so I can’t give any guidance here, but if you have metal-working knowledge such that you can make twenty-five small, flat rectangles or blunt-ovals from some kind of metal, and mark or carve them with one rune each, go for it.

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