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DnD Rune Knight 5e subclass guide

The 5e Rune Knight subclass gives the power of the Giants to a Dungeons and Dragons Fighter – here’s how to make the most of your newfound powers.

DnD Rune Knight 5e with their weapon raised (art by Wizards of the Coast)

The DnD Rune Knight harnesses the power of Giants, carving magical runes into their weapons to bolster their battle tactics. Runes can dole out extra damage, aid in area control, and grant your D&D character a whole host of other advantages. However you apply your runes, the Rune Knight 5e subclass upholds one core mantra. Get big. Gain advantage. Hit hard.

Below you’ll find everything you need for your perfect DnD Rune Knight 5e character. We cover all the basics of this DnD Fighter subclass. And while your DnD classes are spoken for, we can also recommend the best DnD races and 5e feats for your next DnD character build.

DnD Rune Knight 5e shows a weapon with carved runes to a smaller humanoid (art by Wizards of the Coast)

Rune Knight 5e features

Bonus proficiencies

Level: Three

Since your powers come from the Giants, you learn the Giant DnD language. You also gain proficiency with smith’s tools.

Rune Carver

Level: Three

You learn two magical runes at third level, which can be used to alter your DnD weapons, DnD armor, shield 5e, or any other hold-able or wearable item. During a long rest, you can touch a number of objects equal to the number of runes you know, carving a different rune into each object. Each item can only have one rune, and this rune remains until your next long rest.

You’ll learn more runes at certain DnD level ups. By level seven, you’ll know three runes, then four at level ten, and finally five at level 15.

Here are the runes you can choose from:

DnD Rune Knight 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a hero standing among slain monsters

Cloud Rune 5e

An object inscribed with this rune gives you advantage on Sleight of Hand and Deception checks. Additionally, when a creature you can see within 30ft is hit by an attack, you can spend a reaction to choose a different creature (other than the attacker) within range to receive the hit instead.

Fire Rune 5e

This rune doubles your proficiency bonus for any ability check you make that uses your proficiency with a tool. Plus, when you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you deal an extra 2d6 fire damage as your rune summons shackles of fire.

If your target fails a Strength saving throw, they’re also restrained for one minute, taking another 2d6 fire damage at the start of every turn while it’s restrained. They can attempt to escape the shackles every turn by repeating the saving throw. After the shackles have been invoked, you’ll need a long or short rest 5e before you can use the ability again.

Frost Rune 5e

This rune gives you advantage on Animal Handling and Charisma checks. If you spend a bonus action to invoke the rune, you gain a +2 bonus to all Strength and Constitution ability checks and saving throws for the next ten minutes. This ability replenishes with a long or short rest.

DnD Rune Knight 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a human holding an axe

Stone Rune 5e

The Stone Rune grants advantage on Insight checks, and you gain 120ft of Darkvision while it’s inscribed on an object you wear or carry. Additionally, when a creature you can see within 30ft ends its turn, you can spend a reaction to force them to make a Wisdom saving throw. On a fail, that creature is charmed by you for one minute, has a speed of zero, and becomes incapacitated 5e.

The creature can break out of its stupor by succeeding on the same saving throw on a future turn. This ability replenishes after a long or short rest.

Hill Rune 5e

Requirements: Level seven or higher

Thanks to this rune, you have advantage on saving throws against being poisoned, and you’re resistant to poison damage. If you invoke this rune as a bonus action, you become resistant to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage for one minute. You’ll need a long or short rest before you can invoke the rune again.

Storm Rune 5e

Requirements: Level seven or higher

The rune gives you advantage on Arcana checks, and you can’t be surprised as long as you’re not incapacitated. If you spend a bonus action to invoke this rune, you spend a minute divining the future.

While in this state, if you or another creature you can see within 60ft makes an attack roll, saving throw, or ability check, you can spend a reaction to give the roll advantage or disadvantage. Like the other rune abilities, this refreshes after a short or long rest.

DnD Rune Knight 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a giant woman holding a barrel and an axe

Giant’s Might

Level: Three

As a bonus action, you gain the following benefits for one minute:

  • Your DnD size changes to Large (if it wasn’t already), and anything you are wearing sizes up with you.
  • You gain advantage on Strength checks and saving throws.
  • Once per turn, one of your weapon or unarmed strike attacks deals an extra 1d6 damage on a successful hit.

You can use this action a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, with all uses replenished on a long rest.

Runic Shield

Level: Seven

When a creature you can see within 60ft is hit by an attack, you can spend your reaction and force the attacker to reroll their d20. They must use the result of the new attack roll. You can use the Runic Shield feature a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and all charges return once you’ve had a long rest.

DnD Rune Knight 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of fighters battling a giant

Great Stature

Level: Ten

When you gain this feature, immediately roll 3d4. Your character grows that many inches taller. Plus, the damage you deal with the Giant’s Might feature increases to 1d8.

Master of Runes

Level: 15

You can invoke each rune you know twice rather than once, with expended uses refreshing on a short or long rest.

Runic Juggernaut

Level: 18

The damage die for your Giant’s Might feature increases to 1d10. Plus, when you use it, your size increases to Huge and your reach is boosted by five feet.

DnD Rune Knight 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a Goliath

Tips for building a DnD Rune Knight

Rune Knight stats

Generally, a strong DnD Rune Knight will focus on Strength and Constitution as their primary DnD stats. You could go with a Dex-based build if you desired, but many of the subclass’ features revolve around Strength.

Best Rune Knight 5e races

The obvious choice of DnD race for the Rune Knight is the Goliath 5e. They’re related to Giants, so there’s a lot of flavor reasons to tie them to the Rune Knight subclass. They’re also proficient in Athletics and can shrug off significant amounts of damage.

If you’ve only got the Player’s Handbook to work with, you’re in luck – there are plenty of viable race options. The Variant Human 5e is always a sensible choice, giving you flexible stats and a free feat (which pairs well with the Fighter’s extra ability score increase).

The Half-Orc has the perfect stat boosts and several combat-focused racial features, and the Mountain Dwarf 5e ticks many of the same boxes. And while the Dragonborn gives you a less-useful Charisma buff along with Strength, its breath weapon scales with your Constitution modifier – meaning you get better at some literal sick burns as your Rune Knight gets stronger.

DnD Rune Knight 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a dwarf fighting a monster

Best Rune Knight 5e feats

The Rune Knight’s increased size, additional ability score improvement, and focus on relatively few stats mean that taking feats is a great option. Here’s some we’d recommend:

  • Grappler – Rune Knights might be the best 5e grapplers, so having advantage against your grappled foes is always a plus.
  • Skill expert – Expertise in Athletics also makes you a powerful grappler, and it may help in other roleplay scenarios too.
  • Polearm Master – Combine your giant size with the reach of a polearm, and enemies will really struggle to get past you.
  • Sentinel – Since you’re usually in the melee free, more powerful opportunity attacks never hurt.

For more on Giants, check out our full Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants review, where we examine the Giant-themed DnD book in more detail. We can also tell you more about the next TTRPG titles in the DnD release schedule.