In the long history of Dungeons & Dragons, has there been a character class that can only create magical effects by drawing on surface? For example, a class that needs to draw a circle on the floor then activate that magic circle to use the circle's powers.

If so, what're these classes called? Further, what names are given to their styles of magic?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Just a comment for reference: The worlds of Elantris, Rithmatist, and Full Metal Alchemist all work this way, but since that's all the magic they know in those universes, they don't give it a special name as a category. \$\endgroup\$
    – coolaj86
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 18:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @CoolAJ86 Don't folks call that form of magic alchemy? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 18:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan In Elantris it's called "AenDor". In Rithmatist I think it's called "Chalklings". Only in FMA is it called "Alchemy" - but that's more about the formulas represented by the drawing, not the drawings themselves. \$\endgroup\$
    – coolaj86
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 19:05

5 Answers 5


It may be called Rune Magic.

In Germanic-inspired high fantasy and the Forgotten Realms lore, a magic rune is a specially crafted symbol (or arrangement of symbols) that has some magical function.

The corresponding player class, and the game mechanics for creating runes, has varied by edition, but the concept is generally the same. In previous editions, the class was called Runecaster or Runepriest or Runesmith.

The class is called Rune Scribe in the 2015 Unearthed Arcana for 5E.

A rune scribe masters the secrets of the runes of power — ancient sigils that embody the fundamental magic of creation.

The 3E feat Inscribe Rune does not specify the exact appearance of a magic rune, however it indicates that magic runes have written form and contain spell effects.

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    \$\begingroup\$ 3.5e also had a runesmith, and probably others besides. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 15:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ 5e now has the Rune Knight. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 17:17

Geometer is a possibility

AD&D’s Skills & Powers and D&D 3.5e’s Complete Arcane both included the option of becoming a “geometer,” a “master of written magic and spells inscribed within a perfectly rendered diagram,” per Complete Arcane’s description. The magic of a “geometer” might then be “geometry.” The association between magic and mathematics—particularly geometry—goes way, way back in our own world, and shows up in a number of games—the 3.5e spin-off Pathfinder, by Paizo, also has a feat called Sacred Geometry.

The 3.5e geometer has powers that focus on “glyphs” and “sigils,” which of course also show up frequently in various spells—glyph of warding, sepia snake sigil, and symbol of death all have a long history within D&D, for examples. Runes also get mentioned—and also appear in spells, e.g. explosive runes. And, of course, there are the magic circle spells that match perfectly what you describe in the question—draw a circle, empower it with magic, and it does things. The geometer simply focuses on such spells, but the geometer is still an arcane spellcaster.

Anyway, this to me has the same problem that “runes” do—they aren’t really drawings. The words “glyph,” “rune,” “sigil,” and “symbol” all refer to things that are rather more letter-like than a “drawing.” You write these things more than you draw them. The page MikeQ links to describes runes as secret letters of the Dwarven alphabet, the geometer is described as a “master of written spells,” and so on. They might be arranged carefully in a diagram, and might well be the subject of pretty calligraphy, but this still seems very different to me from “drawing.” But perhaps that is reading too much into that word in the question.

Note the existence of Nolzur’s marvelous pigments

Nolzur’s marvelous pigments, found in 3.5e and 5e, allow you to literally paint things into reality. So far as I know, no class focuses on these, so this offers no insight into what such a person might be called or what their magic would be called, but it does prove that “drawing magic” does exist in D&D.


Geometer is the spellcaster (prestige) class in D&D 3.5 and AD&D (2.5) that uses sigils and drawings

In the AD&D revised 2nd edition, also called AD&D 2.5 there is a spellcaster class referred to as the Geometer. The AD&D revision included the tome Player's Option - Skill and Power which has this to say about the Geometer:

Potent magical forces can be locked in designs, symbols, and diagrams of mystical significance. Geometers are wizards who study the summoning and control of magic through the creation of intricate geometrical patterns, ranging from runes drawn on paper or carved in stone to free-floating constructs composed of brilliant lines of energy.

The Geometer prestige class in D&D 3.5 is described in Complete Arcane (p 39) as:

Runes, glyphs, sigils, and symbols hold great magical power. The geometer is the master of written magic and spells inscribed within a perfectly rendered diagram. While other spellcasters must record their spells in pages upon pages of cryptic formulae, the geometer knows that every spell has a perfect geometrical design, a figure whose angles and intersections hint at the secrets hidden in the structure of the multiverse.


The term for the drawings that invoke magic is "sigil." Sigils are used in many RPG's to invoke magic, summon creatures, teleport, travel to other planes, etc.

For a detailed explanation of sigils check out the Wikipedia page on sigils:

A sigil (/ˈsɪdʒəl/; pl. sigilla or sigils) is a symbol used in magic. The term has usually referred to a type of pictorial signature of a demon or other entity; in modern usage, especially in the context of chaos magic, it refers to a symbolic representation of the magician's desired outcome.

Google dictionary defines a sigil as:

an inscribed or painted symbol considered to have magical power.

The etymology is from the Latin word sigillum which means ‘sign’.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If I understand correctly, Sigils are the symbols themselves. Might there be a term that describes the kind of magic that uses Sigils? I think the most direct way would be "Sigilism", but if there's a better, existing name, that would be the answer :D \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 10:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ In addition to the OP’s quite-valid critique, the question has been reformulated to focus on the history of D&D, so pointing to a particular class centered on sigils and what that class and its magic were called would be necessary to properly answer the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 14:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @user2738698 I updated the answer to address your question. You could call it "sigilism" but that's not what I've seen it called in D&D lore. \$\endgroup\$
    – lightcat
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 18:26

Other fine answers have already delved into some of the intricacies of the edition that this writer knows best: the Dungeons & Dragons, Third Edition era that includes the 3.5 revision. As mentioned elsewhere, prestige classes centered on drawing magic include the geometer (Complete Arcane 39–41), runecaster (Player's Guide to Faerûn 69–71), and runesmith (Races of Stone 118–20). I'd add the runescarred berserker (Unapproachable East 31–2) and tattooed monk (Complete Warrior 82–5), both turning the creature itself into a surface on which magic is drawn.

And, with that in mind, a large number of tattoo-related feats are scattered around various Third Edition-era sources if that's a PC's jam—for example, conventional magic tattoos and psionic tattoos (the kind the PC touches and the magic happens) can be created using the feats Tattoo Magic (Races of Faerûn 170) and, more popularly, Scribe Tattoo (Expanded Psionics Handbook 51), respectively. This latter has more support, allowing a player who wants his PC thoroughly sleeved to have his PC scribe an entire psionic tattoo computer on his PC's body using these expanded rules for psionic tattoos that are analyzed here.

In addition to magic and psionic tattoos, a player can instead just pick a for his PC magic item creation feats that involve drawing. Beyond the old standby feat Scribe Scroll (Player's Handbook 99–100), divine casters can make written magic items with the feats Inscribe Rune (PG 40) et al., and any caster can make written magic items with the feats Etch Rune (Dragon #324 26–7) and Etch Schema (Magic of Eberron 47). Undoubtedly, others are available with enough looking.

Add to this magic items like the aforementioned Nolzur's marvelous pigments (Dungeon Master's Guide 263 and more here) (4,000 gp; 0 lbs.) and whatever else can be dug up—like the magic paintings and tapestries here—, and there's plenty of art magic for the magician and nonmagician alike.

However, many of these options—the runewhatever classes, for example, and the nontattoo feats and arguably others besides—, are, essentially, just different ways of employing magical writing rather than actually employing magical drawings. The real Third Edition no-power-without-art! class and style of magic is below.

The binder from Tome of Magic

That said, you may also be interested in the available-as-a-starting-class binder. To contact a vestige—a being beyond space and time and the source of any binder's powers—, a binder uses the supernatural ability soul binding to

draw [the vestige's] unique seal visibly on a surface (generally the ground), making the image at least 5 feet across. Drawing a seal requires the ability to mark a surface and 1 minute of concentration, and the act provokes attacks of opportunity. A seal not used within 1 minute of its drawing loses all potency, and [the binder] must draw a new one to contact the vestige.…

Once the seal is drawn, [the binder] must perform a ritual requiring a full-round action to summon the corresponding vestige. During this time, [the binder] must touch the seal and call out to the vestige using both its name and its title. The ritual fails if [the binder] cannot be heard…. Otherwise, a manifestation of the vestige appears in the seal’s space as soon as [the binder] finish[es] the ritual.… (Tome of Magic 10)

Then the binder cuts a quick deal with the vestige's manifestation: in exchange for a modicum of the vestige's power, the binder agrees to host a portion of the vestige. This deal is useful both ways: for a while the vestige once more experiences reality, and the binder gets superpowers. After 1 day, the vestige leaves the binder, and the binder can use soul binding again, picking and binding one or more different vestiges each day.

But, still, nothing happens if the binder doesn't draw the seal.

More official information about the binder (and art) is online here, here and here, and fans provide an in-depth analysis of the binder's options, strengths, and weaknesses here.

This probably still isn't exactly what you're looking for—this isn't, for instance, any kind of draw-a-box-shoot-a-laser-type drawing magic at all—, but it might serve as inspiration.

Off-track: The Palladium Role-playing Game's diabolist and summoner

This is for folks who want to range a little wider. If only interested in 100%-pure Dungeons & Dragons material, you're going to skip this part; this answer's author totally admits that this is only just barely related to the question at hand. However, let me justify this inclusion with some history: In the early days of Dungeons & Dragons many companies and even individuals published their own distinctly different but often clearly D&D-influenced fantasy role-playing games—for example, the games had classes and races, often had spell lists, sometimes even psionics, different weapons dealing different damage, and so on. These D&D features a modern reader views as commonplace across many RPGs were revolutionary during that era… and extremely influential.

One of these games that was so influenced was The Palladium Role-playing Game (1983), written by Kevin Siembieda and published by his own Palladium Books. The black-cover-red-dragon Palladium Role-playing Game included two new and innovative casters that went beyond the know-a-spell-cast-a-spell-then-wait-until-tomorrow-to-cast-it-again style of magic: the ward specialist diabolist and the circle specialist summoner. Both classes remain today—to this reader, anyway—largely incomprehensible, but both classes' ideas are so interesting and so inspiring, that I couldn't in good conscience not bring them up in regard to any question about drawing magic.

A short 2008 RPGNet thread with more information about diabolists and summoners is here, and a 2013 The RPG Site "Let's Read" thread for the Palladium Role-playing Game is here, this link going to the page discussing diabolists and summoners.


There is a class for D&D 5e on dandwiki called the Runepriest.

At level 1, it gets the Runecasting feature, which says:

Runes have a casting time of 1 action (unless specified otherwise) and are cast by tracing them with your fingers, usually on a surface or in the air. Placed runes can be almost invisible if you so choose and an Intelligence (investigation) or a Wisdom (perception) check must be made for a creature to see one. Unless otherwise stated a rune lasts until it’s effect is discharged, it is dispelled (using a spell or ability such as dispel magic), a number of hours equal to your Runepriest level or you regain all expended rune points at the end of a short or long rest, whichever is the shortest.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi AJP247, welcome to rpg.se! Take the tour and check out the help center for more information when you get a chance. If you need help just ask here in the comments (use @ to ping someone). While this is an answer to the question, it might be a good idea to clearly indicate that the class is a homebrew variant and not published as part of any official ruleset. danddwiki has a bad reputation for not clearly identifying what is and isn't homebrew. You can improve your answer by editing it. Good luck and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Commented May 18, 2020 at 1:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ See also: Why does dandwiki have a poor reputation? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented May 18, 2020 at 2:21

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