Runes are stationary spells that act as a trap when walked over or passed by in close range. There are three types of runes in the base game: Fire (orange), Frost (bluish-white), and Shock (whitish-purple). The Dragonborn expansion adds three more: Ash (brown), Frenzy (red), and Poison (green). When cast, the spells take about a second to charge up, then they can be "thrown" on either the ground or wall, creating a circle with magic symbols. They can be shot at with a projectile spell or Shout to manually trigger them. The Destruction perk "Rune Master" allows the caster to throw runes 5 times farther. Only one rune can be placed at a time. Attempting to place another while a rune is already in place will cause the previous rune to disappear. Dual casting a rune will boost its damage by double.
Runes are particularly useful in dealing with hibernating or entombed draugr or other enemies behind sealed doors or barriers. If a draugr is sleeping or dormant but still alive, casting a rune next to it will cause the rune to explode, heavily damaging, or killing the draugr. Runes cast as close as possible to sealed coffins or sarcophagi will also explode if the draugr inside is alive, not only hurting it but possibly triggering a premature emergence. Draugr and other undesirables behind sealed doors can also be injured this way, or even killed if they are trapped with no way they can release the doors.
Runes can also be set as traps for enemies in another room; casting the rune in a doorway or hall and then getting the enemy's attention via Throw Voice or projectiles (arrows, Firebolt, etc.) so they investigate and step on the rune. Runes can also be used in active combat with melee-oriented enemies, by casting a rune near the player and letting the enemy step in it. Runes can also act as an escape tool, casting them when fleeing a powerful enemy, like Giants or Draugr Death Overlords.
Fire Rune is an Apprentice-level Destruction spell in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Casting it causes blobs of fire to shoot from the hands and stick to surfaces. When a target steps on or passes too closely to a Fire Rune, it explodes, causing 50 points of fire damage. Enemies caught on fire from the spell take additional damage. An alternate way of casting a Fire Rune is to use a bash with the Dawnguard Rune Hammer,DG using Stamina instead of Magicka. The symbol includes the runic letter 'F'.
Frost Rune is an Apprentice-level Destruction spell in Skyrim. Casting it causes blobs of ice to shoot from the hands and stick to surfaces. When a target steps on or passes too closely to a Frost Rune, it explodes, causing 50 points of frost damage. Frozen enemies have hindered speed. The symbol includes the runic letter 'S'.
Lightning Rune is an Apprentice-level Destruction spell in Skyrim. Casting it causes sparks of lightning to shoot from the hands and stick to surfaces. When a target steps on or passes too closely to a Shock Rune, it explodes, causing 50 points of shock damage. "Shocked" enemies have hindered magicka. The symbol includes the runic letter 'L'.
Ash Rune is an Expert-level Alteration spell in Dragonborn. It causes ash to shoot out of the caster's hands and cling to the nearest surface. When enemies come into contact with it, it explodes, immobilizing all in a small burst for 30 seconds. Unlike paralysis, affected targets cannot be attacked. This symbol includes the runic letter 'T' and what appears similar--though not identical--to the runic letter 'H'.
Poison Rune is an Adept-level Restoration spell in Dragonborn. Casting it will cause a poison spell to shoot out, and stick to a nearby surface. When a target comes into contact with it, it will explode, causing 3 points of poison damage for 30 seconds. (i.e. 90 points of poison damage) This symbol includes the runic letter 'I'.
Frenzy Rune is an Adept-level Illusion spell in Dragonborn. Casting it will cause a Frenzy spell to shoot out, and stick to a nearby surface. When a target comes into contact with it, it will explode causing all nearby creatures, up to level 20 to frenzy, attacking anyone nearby. This benefits from all Illusion perks, increasing the level of foes it can affect. This symbol includes the runic letter 'N'.
Spell Tome locations
- Faralda at the College of Winterhold sells the three Destruction spells.
- Court Wizards may sell the Destruction spells.
- Magic Rune spell tomes can be found as loot in chests (uncommon), on the corpses of magic-users (rare) or Draugr (rare) level 25 or higher.
- All Runes that were added with Dragonborn can be purchased from Talvas Fathryon at Tel Mithryn, assuming the Dragonborn is the appropriate level.
- Runes appears as circles with Daedric lettering, indicating that there is some Daedric magic involved with the spells.
- Fire Rune is also an active ability in the Mages Guild quest line in The Elder Scrolls Online.
- When two rune spells are cast at the same time, one of the rune spell's symbol will be permanently engraved on the surface.
- Enemy rune spells ignore elemental resistance. This, coupled with the increased damage of enemy spells on master difficulty, make fire rune spells an auto death for anyone on master with less than 400 health.
- Charging any rune and placing it as close as possible to a draugr coffin will activate the slumbering draugr, even if the draugr only comes to life via an event (e.g. only after pulling a certain lever or taking the required item in a dungeon). This makes it a lot easier taking on each draugr one by one rather than the whole group that would come to life together.