So, how would industrialisation via runecraft affect the economies involved in a high fantasy world?

I have some worldbuilding down below that you can use if you want, but you can also just use this shortened version or talk about it abstractly:

Short version of the worldbuilding:

  • Main races are humans (split into many countries), elf (single country), dwarf (single country), other races are small in number
  • Agriculture and ranching is the main source of food, hunting is unsustainable due to monster presence.
  • In human lands, mages cause monster part trade for alchemy and rituals
  • An adventurer guild exists and tends to support the economy. It is a politically neutral, multinational organisation (no elf or dwarf branches yet)
  • Runecraft requires magical ores/materials or monster parts. Runes can be inlaid in any material, but the rune's filling materials affect the quality

Long version of the worldbuilding:

Major civilizations in this setting:

  • Humans:
    • Most numerous race
    • More advanced overall non-magical technology than all other races, like plumbing
      • Other races have exceptions in individual fields like dwarven metalwork and elven woodwork, as can be expected
    • Mid magical potential
    • Typically monarchic, many kingdoms, let's throw in a magocracy or theology here and there
    • Medieval-ish economy, but also has magical material trades like magical ores and monster parts
    • Adventurer's guilds tend to supply the monster part economy
      • I'll handwave a reason why monster ranching isn't common, maybe politics or theology or maybe "domesticated monsters' parts do not have symbolic connections with freedom which causes the Trelawniclic Pulmnistopheles to unthronglify destructively, making the part worthless
    • Agricultural, hunting is more dangerous due to monsters
      • Also, monster meat is inedible because eating it unthronglifies your Trelawniclic Pulmnistopheles destructively, and that would affect the trout population I think
  • Elf
    • Longevity and high magical potential
    • Elves with high magical potential tend to become part of the upper class
    • Pseudo-agricultural, farms consist of mostly one farmer, who sings fruit and veggies into being, and non-magical laborers who collect it
    • In this world they're isolationist as a theological practice but not xenophobic
    • Elven society is lead by a council of elders, whatever that's called
    • There is a high minimum age requirement to join the government even for low-level positions
    • Politics is essentially frozen in place and no new major policies have even been proposed since the current eldest Councilman's grandpappy sat on the council.
    • They all worship the goddess of nature.
  • Dwarf
    • Longevity and good metalworking - blacksmithing, whitesmithing, goldsmithing, etc.
    • Nearly no magical potential themselves, but have a technique for using runecraft
    • Agricultural, some large cities, especially mountain cities have aboveground farms but the majority of food is grown underground, using "sunstones"
    • There is one dwarven kingdom. The king is also the apostle of the smith god.

World lore so far:

  • The world was created by the old gods who were evil, selfish, cold and uncaring because reasons. Their hobbies included fighting each other and being evil. The mortals were sad.
  • Their kids the gods were mighty, powerful and had the power of friendship. They also figured out they can gather the mortals' worship and become more powerful with the worship.
  • They defeated/drove away the old gods. All the mortals were happy. Then the new gods started being selfish and fighting each other. Some of them are still friends though, and they have tea parties.
  • The god(dess?) of light, justice and antimagic is pretty popular among humans, their followers hate magic and engage in witch hunts. They're also trying to establish themselves as the only true god. Especially hates the god of the dead. They figured out that their humans weren't too strong, so they started kidnapping humans from other dimensions. Not to make them a hero, just to throw them in the dungeons until they cough up technology.
    • Unfortunately, the majority of the summoned people only knew the operation of technological devices, not the science, construction and design.
  • The god(dess?) of darkness, death and the underworld found out about the god(dess?) of light, justice and antimagic's handiwork when they got a new shipment of the dead, couldn't convince the other gods, and is silently raising an army of necromancers and demons to fight the god(dess?) of light, justice and antimagic.

My general ideas for the magic system:

  • General:
    • I haven't decided on a main magic system, but it won't be Vancian magic. It will likely involve magicians having a mana pool that regenerates over time (everyone having different personal speeds) that is used to cast spells and robes/hat/wands/staves/orbs/rituals being able to enhance the wizard's spellcraft.
  • Holy/unholy magic:
    • Gods set up a system that tracks their followers, and when the follower requests that their god use their power to smite the hapless bat that scared them, the system draws the necessary magic and casts it.
      • Some weaker gods set up small-scale scams where they abuse the system to harvest small amounts of divine energy from system-having gods
    • Different gods, different systems, hence one cleric can utter some words and the enemy dies whereas other clerics have to wave around flimsy sticks made of gold to do the same
  • Runecraft
    • Let's say runecraft only requires some magical material, like something derived from monster parts or magical ores like mithril is in held in the shape of runes, and then a corresponding spell be used to make the magic resonate with the shape of the material, producing a runic effect
      • This can even be magically charged liquids or gases as long as you have a way to hold it in place, although the material's current physical state changes the effect of the rune
        • e.g. frozen holy water in a warding rune can create a physical barrier that harms any demons/undead to touch it, but if you hold the liquid into the shape instead, it infuses an area around it with holy magic, such that any demons/undead inside the area take DoT damage
      • The spell can be the same for all runes in a given runeset
    • Runeset: A runeset is a set of runes granted power by an old god - even though the old gods are imprisoned/dead/gone, but these are still functional because reasons. It is possible to create your own runes but it's very difficult and needs lots of power, and no mortal has done it before

All that infodump done, the idea is that the MC is an escaped summonee from a human nation who managed to join the dwarven nation and wants to apply runecraft for industrialisation. How would this affect the economies involved? Any details you can think of for the original pre-industrialisation economics? Any thoughts on the pros and cons of industrialisation that might be relevant here?

  • $\begingroup$ This is the sort of question you could write a whole book in response too. Questions like this aren't suitable for this site. Can you edit this down to be easier to read, and ask something far more specific? $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Mar 3, 2023 at 22:23
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @sphennings! I made a few edits, does this help? $\endgroup$
    – Dpmon
    Mar 3, 2023 at 22:44
  • $\begingroup$ Not really. You're still asking the same fundamental question. Try removing material to make the question easier to read instead of adding more text. Fully enumerating the impact on an economy is far too broad. We also require questions on this site to not have many valid answers. What makes you think that there's a singular answer to this question? $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Mar 3, 2023 at 23:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I get what you're asking, but the wall of text is going to stop most people before they even get started. I'm sure your world is meticulous and fantastic, but you can't expect people to read the first ten pages of your book to answer a question. Could you boil it down to a simple question? $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2023 at 1:02

2 Answers 2


Basically everything that was true of the Industrial Revolution will be true in your setting. The only difference would be the exact resources at play. You'll have Mercantilism, Colonialism, Imperialism, Increased Slave Trade, Decreased Human Rights, a Dwindling Middle Class, Rapid Resource Depletion, Environmental Damage, etc. How bad any one aspect will be will depend on how far you are into the Rune Age you are. Just pick a year during the Industrial Revolution to represent how far along your runes have gotten you and swap out machines for magic, because all the secondary effects on your society and economy should be about the same.


As the other person said, it doesn't really make for a huge difference from our industrial revolution. Unless the dwarves have an entirely different nature from a human one, their industrial revolution will play out more or less identically to the European one.

This is because the important factors of the industrial revolution weren't about who specifically was behind it, or what specific resources fueled it, or when or where it happened. What drove it was the necessary implications of a preindustrial society (necessary for anything vaguely human anyway), and the same implications for an industrial society.

Something important to remember, is that in the industral revolution, there are huge winners, and huge losers, and this leads to massive resentment in society. Often times, people who were at the bottom can find themselves soaring to the top, only to meet a guillotine half way there for all the trouble. Meanwhile a lot of ordinary people have their quality of life massively reduced, because people don't need artisan shoe makers anymore, they need "guy who pulls the lever" in a shoe factory. Or whatever the equivalent is in your world.

The industrial revolution seems great now, and it was great for certain marginalized groups, but that seeming greatness trampled a whole lot of skulls in the moment, and is still doing so to this day.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .