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Diablo > WoWOct 14, 2020 2:00 pm CT

Could a Diablo-like skill rune system work in WoW?

Sometimes you ask a question and you want to answer it immediately, precisely and concisely. So when I ask you the question Could a Diablo-like skill rune system work for WoW? I expect you to belt out a screaming, valkyrie-loud NO.

In Diablo, you have at most six abilities, and having a variety of options to modify them with runes provides a depth that WoW uses its combination of abilities and talents to instead try and deliver. Of course it could never work translated to World of Warcraft, which simply has a lot more in terms of abilities and talents than Diablo 3 does.

At least that was my opinion when first thinking about this. But now I think maybe it could work.

Glyphs were originally a lot like Runes

Back when we first got Inscription, there were a lot of Glyphs. They modified classes in various ways, with Prime Glyphs serving in much the same was as Runes do in Diablo 3, except of course Glyphs were primarily crafted by Scribes using the Inscription profession.

It’s been a long time since Prime Glyphs were removed from the game — patch 5.0.4, to be exact — and Major Glyphs followed suit in patch 7.0.3.

WoW’s Glyphs were similar but not exactly the same as Runes. You could apply as many Glyphs as you had slots for — there were Prime, Major, and Minor Glyphs — and there wasn’t a lot of exclusivity. With Runes, you have five or so for each skill, but can only use one (except for rare exceptions, such as The Undisputed Champion, that allows you to use all of Frenzy’s runes at once), whereas you could usually use whatever mix of Glyphs you wanted. Today’s Glyphs are primarily cosmetic, allowing visual effects but not really doing much in terms of altering or affecting talents or abilities. Thunder Clap is exactly the same in terms of its effects if you have the Glyph of Thunder Strike or not, it just looks different.

But the way Glyphs used to work before patch 5.0.4 is pretty similar to the way Runes work in Diablo 3.  I think we can say that there’s at least a path forward towards a Rune-like system for World of Warcraft. Glyphs have brought interesting customization options to the game before — but could they be revisited in today’s game?

How WoW could add Runes

We already have Runeforging for Death Knights, but we’ve often talked about Runic magic in the Warcraft setting since Warcaft 1. So one way to imagine Runes as a means to empower and change abilities is to consider Runes as a cap system, much like we’ve seen with Azerite powers in Battle for Azeroth or the powers of our Artifacts in Legion. Make Rune magic a separate progression path, let Runes be something you gain access to, and have each Rune be applicable to specific abilities.

Say you have the Rune of Giants, which lets you tap into the power of Azeroth’s giants, and then you can choose to apply that Rune to any of your abilities. Once locked in, the Rune provides a specific benefit depending on the kind of ability or talent you’ve used it on, so as an example a Shaman using Chain Heal with the Rune of Giants on it would gain a damage absorption bubble to each person healed by Chain Heal, while for an Enhancement Shaman using it with Lava Lash, it would give the Shaman the power of a giant and allow them to deal more damage.

This is just one idea, but you can see how you could build on the old Glyph setup and the way Runes work in Diablo 3 in all sorts of new, creative ways. I don’t think we can just copy the way Runes work in Diablo 3 here. It would require too significant a rework to how the game works to just add five or six Runes to each talent or ability in order to allow them to be customized, but by making Runes that work on multiple abilities for multiple classes you could still have a  lot of customization options without needing to make numerous Runes for every skill.

So ultimately I believe that yes, Runes could work in WoW, and could even be a fun capstone system. Heck, maybe just call it Paths of the Titans and it will look like Runes were the plan all along.

Originally published on 8/17/2020

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