My magic system works through runes. Each rune has a different effect and they need to be carved on different materials for different effects.

Let's focus on a curse named "I rot your life." For this curse I need human leather of a tormented soul, magic ink and very bad vibes. I already have the materials. Each rune only works once and becomes harmless after its use.

For this magic to work the victim needs to see the rune at very close range. Sadly the curse affects anyone who looks at it and is very complex to draw, so I can't close my eyes while working on it.

How can I use my black magic while minimizing the chance of cursing myself by accident?

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    $\begingroup$ Do you need to see the whole rune to trigger the effect? $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 1:53
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    $\begingroup$ What are the conditions for a best answer? How will you decide if "put on a blindfold" is any better or worse than "cast a protection-from-magic spell" or "carve the rune into wood, ink the wood, then cover the wood with the leather and roll it so that you never see the rune on the leather"? What kinds of answers are you not looking for? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 2:26
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    $\begingroup$ You could also let the runes be activated by a trigger first. Draw the rune that has no effect and then activate the rune with a certain spell or ritual or gesture, like putting a drop of blood on it. Like a bomb that has to be armed first to explode later. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 8:37
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    $\begingroup$ I have to agree with JBH. This question is entirely opinion-based. You need to clarify how you are going to evaluate answers. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 10:04
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    $\begingroup$ @SeraphMyrmidon why "of course not"? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 14:34

8 Answers 8


What you want is a Pantograph. This is a device used to scale images up and down. It also lets you work in one space while the real rune is in another.


You mention that the rune takes all sorts of exotic materials, so if your original is just a piece of paper, it should not trigger the effect. Meanwhile, the copy is your exotic rune material, and you keep it under a cloth or in a box so that you can't see it by accident.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a very clever idea. A modern version of Perseus watching the Medusa through a reflection but not so modern that it's an ink plotter working on leather. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 2:23

Write a rune that writes curses

Why do it yourself at all? Think like a software developer. They don't write logs, they write code that writes logs, because writing logs is boring. You have magical runes! Carve a harmless Rune of Rune Carving, and let it do the work. Ideally, write a Rune of Multi-Rune Carving, to maximize your profit. If you can write a Rune of Multi-Rune Carving that carves multiple Runes of Multi-Rune Carving that each carve multiple cursed runes, you'll be really rolling in it.

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    $\begingroup$ While automating the process is a good idea, I don't see how runes can carve runes, even in the realm of magic. However, using minions or summoning minions who are blind and therefore can never trigger the runes, but still can perform the work process (echolocation, or Dare Devil type of perception) would sound more feasible. Maybe it could help to improve your answer, which has a great starting point. $\endgroup$
    – Battle
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 9:44
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, functional cursing. The best arcane language to write these curses is the Hexkell scriptures. Some ancient warlocks also used the now called Language for Impure Summoning and Perjury or its acronym - its real name was forgotten in time. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 12:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Battle if writing complete runes is unrealistic, OP could write most of the rune, and leave all but a simple part for the "rune-carving rune". For example, carve all but a straight line, and leave that simple step the to rune. I'd even wager that's almost possible with purely mechanical means, so I bet a rune could get the job done. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Lord Farquaad - Oh I think my point is even simpler... I assume runes don't have hands, bodies, artificial intelligence or the means to do such tasks on their own. I assume they may fire projectiles, exert telekinetic force, curse, heal, summon, enchant... which are similar to shooting a gun which causes some straight forward effect. The caster may have to hold the rune and aim it, but it would be based on his continuous use what the output is, to which vision may be necessary. However, your approach with just completing 99% of the rune is another good idea. $\endgroup$
    – Battle
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Battle Oh interesting. I've always seen runes as traps, but you're using them as active weapons. That's clever. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 14:12

Use wooden block printing.

Carve your design on a single wooden block. Cover it in ink, or create a portable ink pad, and you will be able to print designs without even having to look at the design on the wooden block or the tortured leather itself.

If you wish you can break your rune down into seperate blocks and apply them in sequence; this way accidently looking at any one of the blocks carved design won't leave you cursed.

Block printing has also been extensively used for decorative purposes such as fabrics, leathers and wallpaper.

  • carving of a whole rune on a block should be done in such away that the entire rune surface is never visible at once.
  • Once you have completed this single dangerous carving, you will be able to reproduce the rune multiple times with much less danger (carelessness can still get you cursed).
  • I suggest a lid/covering on the carved side of the block so that accidently looking at the carved surface is less likely to happen.
  • label or decorate each block in a unique and non-cursive manner, for easy identification of the blocks carving to avoid miscursing.
  • $\begingroup$ This is the best answer IMO, the least complex, safest method. $\endgroup$
    – Korthalion
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 10:55

Cover your working surface

If the same rune on different surfaces causes different effects, then simply cover the surface that you don't want to look at with something thin, easy to cut, and that doesn't cause deleterious effects when you inscribe this rune on it.

For example, cover the leather with paper, then carve the rune. You will be looking at a rune carved in paper, which will not cause a curse. Then, close your eyes and remove the paper. The next person who looks at it will get cursed.

You mention both carving and ink, and this could work both ways. If you want to ink the rune onto your surface, place the ink between two pieces of paper, and cut through them, imprinting the ink only along the cut edges.


Another answer suggested using a telepresence rig with a camera and a remote controlled robot arm to avoid looking directly at the rune. That answer is probably deleted since it was advertising for one particular brand of telepresence rigs.

Use a Mirror

A more medieval-appropriate version of the same is using a mirror. (I automatically think "medieval" when I hear "magic". This may or may not be relevant to you)

Put a screen between yourself and the writing surface, and a mirror so you can see what you are doing.

This has two advantages: First, you will be only looking indirectly at the rune, which might be relevant to effect. Second, you are seeing a mirror image of the rune which is likely to have a different effect, if any.

Of course, writing while looking in a mirror will require a lot of practice, but you can do that practice on non-magical materials.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 I really like that this approach adds a really interesting level of skill to runecrafting. (And it also beautifully simple) $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 17:26
  • $\begingroup$ +1 Mirrors have all sorts of arcane and mystic associations, so this feels a lot more right than the pantograph or runes-that-do-the-writing ideas, both of which seem kinda silly. $\endgroup$
    – mattdm
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 18:04

Signed runes don't harm the person who signed them

Magic-users who craft runes will typically include their own personal seal into the design. This has the effect of protecting the creator from their creation, both during the crafting process and after. The creator can't trigger the effect on themselves, so seeing the rune during its creation isn't a problem.

Signed runes have the added benefit of preventing anyone else trying to copy your runes without understanding how they work. At best they might make a working rune, but if they tried to use it against the original's creator, they'd find it quite ineffective.

Another magic-user creating a rune with the same effect must come up with their own version which includes their own seal. The resulting rune will be different in a few details, even if the overall design is similar.

Unsigned runes would exist, too. They could be used against their creators, and copied far more easily than signed runes. Apprentices would first learn from their master's simpler, unsigned rune designs, before learning the underlying principles and thus how to make more complex and powerful effects.


Perhaps cover parts of the rune while you are carving other parts. Make a leather cover and carve a two-by-two inch hole in it and move it around while you carve the actual rune. You'll only ever see a bit of the rune at a time, which I assume would not be deleterious, as you aren't viewing the entire rune.


Do it in the dark.

You can practice all you like beforehand using regular leather or the wrong components, until you get it down.

Then, find yourself a dark room, draw the rune, and then slip it into a cover until you need to use it.

This method also has some story potential: how does the wizard know they drew it correctly? Or perhaps someone turns on the lights and curses the wizard forever, either accidentally or on purpose.


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