Ilian Jotunnspeaker – Fighter – Rune Knight
I want to present you the very first Fighter – Rune Knight – that I felt in love with. I’ve created this character one lazy afternoon and it became a corner stone for a big piece of lore in one of my games.
In this out-of-ordinary post format I give you fully fledged dnd character based on unearthed arcana Rune Knight, ready to grab and introduce in your game as a PC or a very cool NPC.
DndBeyond Character Sheet
Rune Knight Moodboard
I use ArtStation a lot for inspiration. Here I create a little moodboard for Ilian character and his story, to convey the general vibe I had, while creating him.
Rune Knight Story
Ilian is not a knight. He comes from poor area, where men had only two choices – work in the mine owned by dwarfs or join the military. Either way the job was hard, dangerous and usually ends up being dead or drunk. Ilian chose to leave his hometown. Equipped with a pike and pair of dirty shoes, he marched in the army, tasting the bitter life of a soldier.
He traveled, saw the world, met new people, just as he had been promised by the recruiter. His feet were bloody and covered in blisters because his shoes wore down. He mostly saw burning villages and pile of bodies. He met new people but most he was ordered to rape, kill or hang.
The fighting was fun. It gave him pleasure and sense of freedom. He was invincible, his comrades were there for him. He was a good soldier, but a one without a future. He could only observe the knights on their high horses in shining armors, officers from nobility, educated and perfumed, separated from the regular footsoldier. So when opportunity arrived, he took it. For a dozen of swords for the quartermaster provided by the Roaring Coats and Ilian’s year of services, the mercenary group bought him into their ranks. Quartermaster signed him off without even looking, excited about the idea of providing new weapons to the officers. Nobody missed Ilian.
They bought him shoes. Heavy, black, leather boots with metal plates. Nobody in Roaring Coats was barefoot, nobody had bloody blisters and nobody fought with broken pikes or shattered shields. Six hundred men and women, different races, all bound under one banner. All of them wear black coats, heavy and fluttering on the wind. When they joined the battlefield, the roar scared the enemy. The officers were among them, the sergeants knowing every man’s name and story. It was a good company. Good for another seven years of his life. Good enough to earn his Coat, his own small fortune and a rank of sergeant. To be educated in tactics, map reading and history.
But in a war eventually everyone loses. It’s just a matter of time.
Roaring Coats were scattered in the battle, hit by a cavalry hidden from their sight. The employer didn’t join them, scared to lose their troops as well. They fought well. The blood and mud forced riders to step down, but the overwhelming numbers were enough. Half of Coats were dead, another half wounded. Some were left to die, some were taken to the camp. Ilian’s life made a circle. It was a big, fat joke. Only he didn’t laugh.
The prisoner camp was high in the mountains. Escape was a suicide, especially in winter. So he did what he had to. Worked in the mines, survived, stole and lie. He was no one’s friend now. He had no bannerman here, no allies, no protectors. A sergeant of nothing. Some were bought back by their families, some by state. A few bought their own lives back by sticking knife into their hearts or throwing ropes around their necks. Ilian was digging. The drifts were not the darkest places he went. He was broken.
The rope was cut. A looming figure he avoided so many times, one of many in the camp, saved his life. Huge fellow, muscular, with longer ears but not an elf. Ilian served with orc and half-orc, even they would be smaller than this one. The heavy bearded, gray face ripped the knot and said ‘Dig’. And Ilian dug. Till the end of the day and the next day and the next week. He dug.
The name was Arkvik. After weeks Ilian was able to find out, because firbolgs talked only among themselves. In the language only they knew. About matters only they understood. They were here the longest but they were strong. Even guards respected them for the amount of work. Ilian was curious. Curiosity led to courage and courage led to acceptance. Arkvik agreed and they took him in. The taught him the language, they taught him the legends and stories. He taught them to be bold.
The riot was sudden and bloody. After two hours of shouts and roars and screams, the silence coated the prison. Half was lost, but the other half was free now. Arkvik and Ilian survived. As friends they’ve traveled to firbolg domain, deep within the mountains, hidden in mystery and dangers of wilderness. Ilian was greeted as one of his own. He had a home. He learned more. He became the Jotunnspeaker. There was a brief moment of peace, months of recovery, till the restlessness came back. Arkvik and others saw it. He was given a great gift and bid a farewell. He could always come back. But Ilian Jotunnspeaker and Arkvik both knew, he had to dig again.
Jotunnspeaker comes from Jotunn, an Old Norse word for Giants in Nors mythology. It was given to him by firbolgs, who are descendants from Giants. The idea behind this name is not only Ilian ability to speak Giant but also tell the ancient Giant stories and connect with them on the deeper level. It is a name given to outsider, but as a sign of respect and appreciation.
I took a safe (but strong) option here, by taking variant human. Ilian could easily fit into a dwarf, elf or halfling – in the very beginning I thought of him as of black dragonborn – but I decided that other elements of his character and history give enough interesting hooks. I felt like going to wild with the race could overshadow other parts of his identity. Also, making him a human felt very organic when it comes to the relationship with firbolgs and him being accepted by them.
Ilian thinks he lived through more than one man should. He feels burned out, lost and despondent. It all makes him tired, but he also can’t give up. Ilian understand who he is. He is not a creature of peace nor happiness. All he knows is fighting, but for the first time in his life he is looking for a fight that is worth it. He doesn’t look for redemption, but a new, last goal in his life. Someone to protect, something to be retrieved. He knows there is no family life for him, no long evenings with a cup of ale and stories of good ‘ol times. But then again, does any of us know what plans life really has for us all?
Jotunnspeaker is loyal to comrades but can be difficult towards others, imposing his fake bravado. He’s blunt with words and swift with actions but can be overwhelmed if shown affection or genuine friendliness.
The long, stories-songs about Giants gives him comfort. He sings or recites them from time to time by the fire, but never whole. He might even talk some Giant through sleep, usually between twitching and waking up abruptly.
Rune Knight Mechanics & Tactics:
Ilian is a mixture of strong soldier, fighting in the front line and a cunning mercenary, cleverly assessing the battlefield. He is highly armoured with AC around 18 and decent amount of Hit Points. To boost it further I decided to give him Haug (Hill Rune), protecting Ilian from poison damage and giving him ability to gain resistance from piercing, bludgeoning and slashing damage for a minute.
With chainmail, shield and longsword Ilian works great as a fair damage dealer. With Giant Might, Action Surge and Extra Attack at this level we are looking at 20 to 68 points of damage per turn, at level 5. That’s definitely a power to reckon with. I like how this elements emphasis the warrior part in Ilian, him actually liking to fight and being a soldier.
The mercenary side of Ilian is more about fighting smart, picking a right enemy and using all his skillset to overwhelm the battlefield. To give him more strategic vibe, I focused on Stein (Stone Rune), which gives him 60 ft. of darkvision and incapacitated a foe. With some clever maneuvers granted by Martial Adept feat he can make sure his attacks always hit (Precision Attack) and help others in dealing damage (Distracting Strike).
Ilian is very well rounded melee character with a very strong presence on the battlefield. He always makes sure he has a good position and use his abilities to gain upper hand over the enemy. He knows his weaknesses and doesn’t make foolish decisions when it comes to fighting, but he does enjoy a scrap and wouldn’t back down from one.
A few things I found really interesting about the class. I focus mostly on runes here, as his subclass feature. I believe that Ilian’s life and the spiritual aspect of the runes makes a perfect catalyst for roleplay.
Ilian has two carved runes, on in the bone of a mammoth and the second in the whetstone of white colour. The bone has a rune of Haug, drawing power from hill giant ancestry. The whetstone is imbued with power of Stein, a stone giant craftsmen. Each rune needs to be prepared in a ritual with special tools, materials and very specific state of mind, by tapping into the stories of prominent giants in the history of the world. After preparing the rune, it can be then copied into a piece of parchment or a strip of leather and pinned to an armor or a coat. The power of the rune can be harnessed directly from the print, which should be maintained every day to keep its properties.
Finding the right materials for carving another runes and telling the stories of giants are a great hooks for adventures and role-play material, so make sure to talk about them with your DM.
Our fighter is in his late 30s, but his hard life makes him look a little older. His face and hands are rough, hardened by cold, dirt and wind. He is sinewy, tall men with short hair, cut by the cheapest barber surgeon he could find.
He wears heavy boots, chain mail and a coat over it. He wish he had the same Roaring Coat again. Mostly in tones of black, gray and brown, Ilian has a little interest in nice clothes or his image. Yet, he always makes sure to have dry, quality boots and clean sword.
Free to use Fighter Rune Knight
If you like this character or it gives you the right vibes to build something new upon it, feel free to use it. The character is published on DnDBeyond, so you can just copy this character sheet and adjust it to your own needs.
If after-all you like warlocks more, check my Warlock of Restless Souls homebrew subclass and guide.