Instant Runes

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Traditional Hermetic Magic often required creation of elaborate pentacles, pentagrams, magic circles, runes, etc. before a spell could be cast. These would typically be scratched into the ground, or made with special materials. This takes too long to be practical in a fight or immediate crisis, but it does look really cool.

Many works get around this by having special effects do the work. As soon as the mage calls out the attack, any required circles, designs and written magical incantations appear glowing in the air. This is common for Hermetic-flavored Magical Girls.

Either these designs are prepared by the mage beforehand, or whatever force the mage serves under contract does it for them. But this is mostly speculation on our part, as it's rarely, if ever, shown how it's actually done. See: Simplified Spellcasting.

In recent years, almost always done in CG to keep an intricate look.

Many video games using magic have it, including RPGs and Real Time Strategy games. Increasingly common in modern fantasy webcomics and in the artwork of 3rd edition d20 Dungeons & Dragons, probably inspired by computer games and anime. Glowing magic circles and mystic runes floating in the air around the spellcaster look so much cooler in a visual medium than a wizard waving a staff around.

For the Sci-Fi cousins, see Tron Lines and Matrix Raining Code. See also Sphere of Power. Magic portals very frequently have Instant Runes to show how magical they are.

Examples of Instant Runes include:

Anime and Manga

  • We sometimes see this in Saga of Tanya the Evil before Tanya fires an attack. These runes might not just power the spell, perhaps displaying information gathered by the spell. Also at one point we see inside his computation jewel and runes develop very quickly.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha
    • Interestingly, while Intelligent Device help, it's shown in the manga that those circles must be constructed mentally. If you don't have the math right; the magic won't work.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura
  • Mahou Sensei Negima. For the most part these don't even require prior construction, but a significant aversion to this occurs in the Magic World Tournament finale, when Negi activates a massive set of runes out of nowhere to absorb Rakan's power, and Rakan realizes with a shock that Negi had written them in the ground unnoticed while in his Fragile Speedster mode much earlier in the fight.
    • Nitpick: the inscriptions in the outer circle pictured above are in Armenian.
    • THIS and this are the ultimate incarnations of this trope as far as Mahou Sensei Negima! goes. They are likely the ultimate incarnations for the trope anyway.
    • Negima also features an aversion in the Pactio circles, which must be drawn by hand.
  • All the magic in Scrapped Princess.
  • Slayers: Anime only, and then only with some larger spells.
  • Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle has both this and a variation. Fay's magic seems to work by him literally writing it out on the air with his staff, though he can use other forms.
  • .hack//Sign when a wavemaster uses their powers.
  • Naruto
    • Kanji have been known to appear on fingers (Jiraya, when removing Orochimaru's seal that was on top of the demon fox seal on Naruto's belly) or hands (Yamato, when supressing Naruto's fox demon transformation) of a person performing certain types of jutsu.
    • In the anime, a Taoist Bagua symbol appears when Neji Hyuga performs his Eight Trigrams, Sixty-Four Palms technique.
      • Possible subversion-the symbol might not actually appear, and could just be a guide to show the boundaries of the Eight Trigrams, and to show how the jutsu works. Or just because it's cooler that way.
    • The pattern that forms on the ground whenever Naruto et al perform a summoning jutsu does fit this trope. But it's a variation, since the pattern always forms on the surface of whatever Naruto puts his hand on (usually the ground).
      • However this is more like an aversion. All summoning jutsus require the user to have a contract with the summon in question. Their use of it may not be instantly drawing it out, rather their chakra copies the symbol on the contract and lays it out.
    • In the second Naruto movie, one of the characters uses existing runes on the ground to summon a black hole.
  • Subverted in Mahoujin Guru Guru, where "Guru Guru Magic" works mainly in summoning creatures through drawings in circles. While these drawings can be very simple, Kukuri (the little, naive Guruguru witch) does them wrong... more often than you expect.
    • And more often the summoning still works with wrong circles, displaying nonsensical monsters and gag devices.
      • And finally Kukuri figures it how to invent new spells. Well, not so simple.
  • An interesting inversion is made with Fullmetal Alchemist: alchemy, here seen as Magitek and dependent on the energies of the earth, requires the alchemist to draw the runes beforehand before attempting any effort. However, this does not stop the alchemist from bringing permanent copies of it whenever they need to use it.
  • Shakugan no Shana
  • Disgaea features these in the OP, the ED, and the eyecatch, as well as within the show itself. A few attacks in the games utilize them, too.
  • The Seal of Orichalcos in Yu-Gi-Oh!.
  • A primitive and weirdly nonmagical example: in King of Braves GaoGaiGar, when the titular Humongous Mecha uses his "Protect Shade" power to defend himself, the averted lasers/energy bolts trace out a pentacle-shaped path in the air in front of him rather than being directly reflected.
    • This is apparently inherent to the Protect Shade technology. The heroes reverse engineer it to develop their base's shield system, and the "PS generators" do the same thing.
  • One of the first things you see in Fate/stay night is Tohsaka Rin summoning her Servant with a pretty red glowing rune/incantation circle rising from the floor, through her body and above her head (though this is subverted in the original game, where she does, in fact, prepare the circle beforehand).
    • This is actually a subversion in the anime too, as the circle is shown drawn on the floor and does not rise up past her until after she begins the summoning ritual.
    • Played straight with Rider, in using her Noble Phantasm "Bridle of Chivalry". The best example would be in the Fate route, where a spell circle is formed from her own blood.
    • Also subverted in the verse with runic magecraft. One major drawback is that it must be somehow inscribed on the target. Two characters shown the use of runes in combat: one drew the symbol in mid-air with cigarette smoke and overlaid it on the target, while the other carried around a talon to physically carve them out.
  • In the Hellsing TV series, Alucard does this once, causing a massive, glowing pentagram to hover over the Hellsing mansion. It's the only cool CGI effect in the whole thing.
    • He does one better when he makes the pentagram so big that it not only covers all of London, but is visible from low Earth orbit.
  • Dr. Muraki in Yami No Matsuei uses at one point an intricate magic circle that rises from the floor as pure light. However, it is still linked to a simpler circle he apparently prepared beforehand, and that can be destroyed by shooting the glowing gems at the points of the pentagram.
  • Both played straight and averted in Ah! My Goddess depending on the skill/power of the caster. The goddesses themselves can instantly generate smaller, spell circles but still need to manually draw larger ones, more powerful entities like Urd's mother Hild can easily generate complex spell circles with little effort.
  • Abe no Seimei's modus operandi in New Getter Robo, for barriers and pain spells and everything in between. Sometimes, he takes the trouble to trace his pentagrams with his finger, but mostly he just sticks out his hand and they appear. And as the war between him and Getter goes on, he sometimes doesn't have to expend that much effort.
  • Soul Eater has one with the Kishin. When he's going to do his beam attacks, a rune circle appears in front of him.
  • A Certain Magical Index: Played With by Stiyl. He carries around cards or photocopies of the runes needed for his spells and has to strategically place them around a place, but he can move them with his mind.
  • Bible Black
  • Satella and Fiore have these appear around them when they use their "jewel summoning" powers in Chrono Crusade.
  • Fairy Tail (anime only). Most uses of magic cause a runic circle, known as a Magic Seal, to appear near the caster, most often around the hands. Phantom's walking fortress made a really huge example of those, one used for casting 'Abyss Break'. Unlike the instantly-appearing Seals, this one was being drawn into the air by the fortress' giant arms, like this. What allowed the entire attack to be aborted, since the spell wouldn't be launched before the Seal was complete.
  • The Siestas in Umineko no Naku Koro ni have Formulaic Magic equations and Greek text appear out of nowhere when they're using magic to shoot people.
  • In Magic Knight Rayearth Ascot uses runes whenever he's summoning one of his monsters.
  • Katsumi Liqueur Silent Moebius uses runes when casting more powerful spells.
  • Strike Witches has these (as magic circles) appear as shields and when the Strike Units start up. Miyafuji's circle is a little under 3 football fields. In radius.
  • The Legend of the Legendary Heroes
    • Only in the anime. The original novels explain that part of casting a spell involves literally rearranging magical particles in the air, thus creating the appearance of drawing a magic circle in midair. Though some people are really, really fast at it.
  • Katekyo Hitman Reborn has shown this with the Shimon unleashing their Ring Weapons and later with the Vongola Gear weapons. Apparently they're made of Dying Will Flames.
  • 07-Ghost uses Instant Runes as a kind of battle magic. And a whip-like weapon. And transport. And doll-crafting. And praying. There is quite a lot of it to be found in the anime.
    • Sort of. The manga explains that the letters and words that appear are a reflection of the will of the caster; for example in one scene two characters communicate underwater by spelling out what they want to say.
  • Happens occasionally in ARAGO.
  • Magic circles appear sporadically in Madoka Magica. Most obvious is with Sayaka, who has, rather than runes, musical notes appear. The actual runes in the series don't fit the trope, as they're more of a weird background detail.
  • In Rosario + Vampire, the Board Chairman sometimes uses these.
    • In later chapters, some of Tsukune's new powers also involve these. Apparently, "youjutsu" (a variety of magic/KiAttacks specific to Youkai), which the Chairman specializes in and which Tsukune recently was trained in by the Chairman's own mentor, often involve these.
  • Brave Story: Mitsuru produces one in the movie by tapping his staff on the ground.
  • If a mage in Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? needs to chant a spell in order to cast it, she (or he) will have Instant Runes appear during the casting. Lefiya Viridis also copies Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha‍'‍s "magic circle as gun barrel" effect at the end of the sidestory Sword Oratoria.

Comic Books

  • Averted in Madame Xanadu by... Madame Xanadu herself, while her magic circle is quite impresive and it shines, she has to draw it by hand... with a knife.
  • In a World where the Justice League of America are all powerful magic users (Earth-33 of the DC Comics Multiverse), Superman's spells manifest as Instant Runes ... in Kryptonian.
  • The Ur Example of this trope may be this 1975 Doctor Fate story by Walt Simonson, where, rather than the simple glowy effects and occasional Ditko Ribbons of previous appearances, the magics of Fate and his Mummy adversary manifest as glowing ankhs and hieroglyphics. Almost every subsequent Doctor Fate artist has used the ankh motif for his magics.
  • Simonson may also be the artist who first depicted the Anti-Life Equation as glowing glyphs orbiting the head of its possessor as a halo.


  • Though the circles used for demon summoning in David Eddings' Belgariad and Malloreon are traced by hand (usually with a big stick), particularly potent sorcerers can hold them stable whilst, for example, walking on a storm-tossed ocean...
    • There's also one who did the same on a fast flowing river, and didn't notice that the runes had just been carried away by the water, and proceeded to summon a demon without any protection.
  • Averted in the Sword of Truth series, at least early on. When Darken Rahl's doing an epic-level spell, he draws his magic runes by hand. It takes hours.
  • In Diane Duane's Young Wizards series, a lot of wizardry requires diagrams drawn out in the wizardly Speech. At first, these are mostly drawn out in the dirt, on paper, etc., but as the characters become more proficient, they can learn to conjure glowing diagrams (or sometimes 3D models) in the air, which can be stored in their manuals and later pulled out to be glowing diagrams in the air again. And one character uses a computer program to plot out and save spell diagrams.
    • Justified in that magic is explicitly stated to be highly complex statements in an actual, speakable language - akin to programming code for reality itself.
  • The Weis/Hickman series The Death Gate Cycle features 'instant' glowing runes in the air when Greater Magic is being worked. They do key off of movements, song, and (for the Patryn) pre-existing runes tattood onto the body, however.
  • Averted in Patricia C. Wrede's Mairelon the Magician, and more explicitly in Magician's Ward, as Mairelon explains that the use of most magic requires runes prepared in advance.
    • It is possible to cast spells without having a physical rune prepared beforehand, but it involves visualizing the rune exactly as you prepare the spell. If the rune is visualized improperly, Bad Things are liable to happen.
  • Harry Dresden in The Dresden Files (sometimes averted).
    • In addition, Bob likes to draw runes in the air, though these don't do anything.
    • In the books, runes and circles are explained as not actually required to perform magic, but make magic easier to use by offering a sort of focus or map for the magic user to concentrate their power with. Where this trope comes in is that a practitioner can simply imagine the runes and circles he needs if necessary, but it is difficult to maintain while performing the actual magic.
  • In Elantris, though they don't appear automatically, Elantrians can "draw" AonDor runes in midair to activate their magic,
  • In Tanya Huff's The Enchantment Emporium the characters with magical abilities are able to trace or sketch charms very quickly with their fingertips onto any surface, even the skin of another person. These charms can be used for anything from protection to healing to a form of mind control. Some characters are able to trace charms in the air and one character is able to mark people from a distance with charms using Magic Music
  • In The Light Fantastic the Great Spells materialise as glowing words in the air when cast. Twoflower, a non-wizard, can look at them and deduce that one word was pronounced incorrectly, because it's the wrong colour.
  • Averted by Barbara Hambly, non of her characters have short cuts, they have to laboriously draw out every line and character every time, then scrub the floor and draw them all over again the next time. However, if you are a Mage you do get the glowing, if not you just see two old men drawing and muttering.

Live Action TV

  • Everyone in Mahou Sentai Magiranger and Power Rangers Mystic Force, with Wolzard/Koragg being perhaps the most obvious example.
    • Somewhat subverted in Samurai Sentai Shinkenger/Power Rangers Samurai in that the protagonists have to write out (or text in Genta's case) the kanji all of their Mojikara summons in the proper stroke order. For example, the second episode begins with Chiaki failing at summoning blades of grass because he's writing the kanji (草, learned in first grade in Japan) wrong. However in the first episode it only takes two seconds for Takeru to magically summon a horse, a kanji that consists of ten strokes (馬, a second grade kanji).
  • Notably averted in Supernatural, in which the frequently used runic circles are always drawn laboriously by hand. (Sam and Dean would carry around a sheet or something with a demon-trap painted on it, but it'd be easy enough to tear a sheet open.)
  • Played straight and then subverted in Angel, where a giant pentagram on the floor is used in a couple of attempts to connect to a Hell dimension, but also gets to be a Brick Joke about how they have a GIANT BLOOD RED PENTAGRAM covering the floor of their business's lobby.
  • Kamen Rider Dark Kiva can summon his symbol, which is a bat-shape, to attack other people.

Video Games

  • The X-Box game Nightcaster: Defeat the Darkness uses rune attacks for large-area elemental spells. Each rune flavor has a unique look - Fire magic symbols are primitive and tribal, Water runes appear as sigils and seals, Dark magic uses ornamental stamping patterns, and Light runes look like astral or zodiacal charts.
  • The Real Time Strategy game Warcraft III.
    • Warlocks' demon-summoning spells in World of Warcraft do this, as do the hearthstones characters can use to teleport back to their home locations.
      • In the next current expansion, warlocks will get have a spell that generates one of these in the ground and the warlock can teleport back into it.
      • Death Knight spells are Instant Runetastic.
      • They're since changed it so that all area effect spells create large instant runes on the ground, presumably to help people know the exact edges of their effects.
      • Also, look closely next time you're on the receiving end of a Mage's Arcane Explosion or Arcane Blast spell. There are Instant Runes in the impact mark.
      • All localized AoE spells use a rune circle as a targeting reticle only visible to players
  • The StarCraft Protoss's warp systems no longer look like wobbly portals in Star Craft 2, but rather have neat geometrical effects, with diagrams and strange alien symbols all around them. And the Mothership's Vortex power has mathematical graphs as well as the classic "squared" 2D representation of 3D space. It's never clear if these are holograms, or if space simply works that way. The effects could well enough be the alien equivalent of holographic "STOP signs", that are projected around warp rifts and vortices.
  • Final Fantasy games have started doing this with summoning magic; Final Fantasy X is a prime over-the-top example, while Final Fantasy XI does it in a relatively low-key fashion. Crisis Core also features this when Genesis does his Limit Break.
    • Final Fantasy bosses do it too. The final Sequential Boss of Final Fantasy X calls up a massive, personal sigil of flame in the sky for the last segment of the fight. And Final Fantasy VII's Sephiroth summons a supernova with physics equations, of all things. (Though since physics and astronomy go hand in hand, there is a certain logic to this.)
    • In Advent Children, runes can be briefly seen when Kadaj summons Bahamut SIN.
    • Balthier's quickening, Element of Treachery, in Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings uses these. To turn him into a meteor.
    • Edge in the Final Fantasy IV remake for the DS shows these when he uses ninjutsu.
    • In Final Fantasy IX, Freya's best Dragon skill uses this, despite not being "magic" (as it can be used on the Anti-Magic continent). Is there a trope article for the truly bizarre magic/non-magic distinctions in EasternRPGs?
      • One mustn't forget Zidane and his Dyne attacks. Almost all of them result in runes appearing, whether they simply signal some huge effect or are the weapons themselves. No circles, though, just the runes. And of course, they are in full force for his appearance in Dissidia Final Fantasy.
    • Dissidia Final Fantasy has various attacks involving Instant Runes, but by far the most notable is The Emperor's Starfall. During the charging animation, the runes appear and then expand and grow in complexity as the attack nears completion. Very cool to watch.
      • Zidane uses Instant Runes for his attacks, and one of them, Free Energy, takes the trope to the logical extreme: Free Energy creates a rune of energy that explodes, and is almost literally instantaneous.
      • Yuna uses Instant Runes for basically every attack, as she summons her Aeons from them.
    • Final Fantasy XIII features Instant Runes for some of the Eidolon summons. Some of them also combine this with Sphere of Power.
      • Each party member also has a variation of their unique magical circle in their Crystarium System.
    • In Final Fantasy XII Chaos' Limit Break includes creating a giant mandala, of things.
  • Western videogame example: Eternal Darkness for the GameCube does this every time you cast a spell, complete with columns of light shooting from the Instant Runes and an ominous, supernatural voice (that varies based on spell alignment) pronouncing the runes.
  • A similar circle to the Fate/stay night example appears around the Pioneer II after it comes out of hyperspace (or whatever method it uses for space travel) in Phantasy Star Online, closely followed by a similar circle from Pioneer I on the ground, and then a beam linking both. According to narration, this was all part of a communication uplink. The circle also shows up whenever your Mag uses its Limit Break photon ability.
    • The final fight against Dark Falz (on Hard mode and above) is fought on a giant circle made of Instant Runes that the boss attacks you from the center of.
    • Phantasy Star Universe also features these magic circles, in places. However, in both cases, this is justified by the setting's (literally in one case) Doing In the Wizard. All 'magic' in the online Phantasy Star games is technology derived, with the resultant runes almost certainly created by the electronics on-board the casting device.
  • In Galaxy Angel, Tequila casts spells this way, even in space from her ship, where they appear bigger than it is.
  • The titular Door in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door starts instant-runing whenever you return a Plot Coupon.
  • The Cybuster's "Akashic Buster" attack in Super Robot Wars involves creating a circle and hexagram in midair, before invoking a flaming phoenix from it and merging with it to slam into the enemy. The Lord of Elemental remake takes this Up to Eleven. EVERY unit now summons instant runes for their final attack except Lune's. The Ryu-Ko-Oh does this with Chinese-style trigrams. The Alsignos, Shigzarl AND Larva does when invoking their attacks.
  • Shion's "Spell Ray" Limit Break in Xenosaga episode one involves creating a set of runes in midair, loading them into her weapon (a huge mechanical arm), and firing a BFG-level blast from one of these. Similarly chaos's Lunar Seal attack draws runes in the air, sets them on fire and then blasts them at the enemy.
  • In the Star Ocean games, this is an actual science, referred to as Symbology (or Heraldry, or Runology, depending on the game). The distance from the rune to the caster affects the strength of the spell, so most casters tattoo the symbols on their bodies. The third game deals with three children who were experimented on to have the runes inscribed in their chromosomes, giving them access to various abilities which should allow them to transcend their dimension.
    • The first two games have characters with genetic runes as a trait of their species. Although one character doesn't take advantage of it.
  • Averted in the story-within-a-story of Wild ARMs: Alter Code F, where we are explicitly being told that the heroine is drawing the runes into the air with a finger.
  • In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, instant runes appear as part of the "warp magic" that makes up Marth's and Ike's stage entrances.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, any character that can cast magic causes a magic circle to appear beneath their feet as they cast. This is especially visible with Sheena, who creates four magic circles, and a giant triangle about 4 times as large as the other magic circles when she summons anything bigger then Corrine. Also, the spells "Photon" and its dark equivalent, "Dark Sphere", trap the enemy in circles of appropriately coloured Instant Runes.
    • Tales of the Abyss must have won some kind of award for most Instant Runes in a video game ever. They're in everything, for aesthetics when casting magic to being part of structures to being an integral gameplay element; every spell in the game leaves a 'Field of Fonons' near it's target, and these can be used to power up attacks.
    • In Tales of Phantasia, casters would spawn elaborate magic circles from their hands as the screen froze when their spell resolved. There were even different circles for Arche's Magic, Klarth's Summoning, and Mint's Healing. If you look closely, some versions also have a circle pattern appear on the ground when Cless uses Shugohoujin, which creates a wall-like pillar of damaging light.
    • Just about every single scene in Tales of Vesperia that involves Rita and blastia, or Rita and spellcasting results in instant runes.
  • Certain boss characters in City of Heroes have an ability to curse player characters, halving their endurance pool. They do this by firing a magic bullet at the target, which when it hits produces an instant rune at the victim's feet as they're cursed.
    • Heroes themselves gain a Rune of Warding of their own, a temporary power gained from a storyarc that is especially effective against certain magical creatures. And looks awesome.
    • City of Villains Masterminds have two powers which enhance the abilities of their pets. For the Ninja Mastermind the visual effect for the 'upgrades' is large, glowing kanji appearing under the feet of the pet being buffed.
    • With Going Rogue, Masterminds got access to the Demon Summoning powerset, which uses this trope to, well, summon demons. You even get to pick what color your magic circles are going to be!
    • There's also Instant Runes costume change animations, the Mystic Fortune power, costume auras... point is, the devs like their shiny runes. It's a superhero game; they're entitled.
  • Warping in more recent Fire Emblem games cause Instant Runes to appear. Especially in Fire Emblem 9, is this very visible.
    • The critical for Shamans in Fire Emblem 7 involves a magic circle being drawn under the character's feet while charging the spell. Criticals for Valkyries and Mage Knights involve creating runes in the air around their hands. Runes appear in the air whenever Sages attack.
    • Criticals and Flare for Arch Sages in Radiant Dawn make layered runes.
  • The Touhou series is big on magic circles, though the amount and complexity depends on the exact game. Embodiment of Scarlet Devil had them appear when you killed enemies, while later games tend to limit them to spellcards (in which they're absurdly huge). Some of these circles are actually funcional: your girl is permanently surrounded with a circle that indicates your grazing hitbox, holding down Shift causes a magical symbol to appear on your girl with a dot that indicates your hitbox, Perfect Cherry Blossom has temporary invincibility indicated by a shrinking pentacle on a circle around your character, and the huge circle that surrounds the bosses during their spellcards shrinks as the expiration timer counts down.
  • In Beyond Good and Evil having a teammate perform a special attack (which launches the enemy off the ground) followed by a stick attack causes floating runes to show up. The result causes the target to become a projectile.
  • Many of the Monk's powers in Diablo III manifest runes when used.
  • Fable has the spells "Divine Fury" and "Unholy Wrath," the latter of which was referred to in Zero Punctuation as "Evil Pentagram Soul Suck Horror."
  • The ill-fated Hellgate: London had a delicious sigil in motion forming the title screen.
  • Ryudo, main hero from Grandia II, despite being swordsman, does that during his ultimate special by sticking his sword into ground.
  • The magikoopas in Super Mario Bros. fire a jumble of simple shapes at the player as a projectile.
  • The Nameless One in Planescape: Torment, if the player follows a certain path, can gain the use of the Awesome but Impractical spell "Rune of Torment", which carves itself into the ground before it goes off.
  • Castlevania is fond of this trope in general, having lots of occultish magic. Two notable examples would be the collectible runic glyphs in Order of Ecclesia and those in Dawn of Sorrow which the player must draw themselves with the DS stylus to activate.
    • One might consider Dawn of Sorrow to have averted this trope by actually making the player draw the rune. However, this is only used in specific situations, and the game probably has Instant Runes elsewhere.
  • In Battle for Wesnoth, the Scribe line of units from the user-created (and very well-done) faction Windsong use Instant Runes to attack. No projectiles or anything, the rune just appears over the scribe's head and the enemy mysteriously takes damage.
  • In Persona 3, fusing Personas places them on a rune configuration before combining them into a single entity.
    • Also with the One Hit KO Hama and Mudo spells; with Hama, several Ofudo surround the target, accompanied by a square of light and with Mudo, a circle of darkness and seemingly gibberish is drawn either on the ground or in the air.
  • The Final Battle of Vagrant Story takes place on a magic circle that floats high above the devastated Cathedral.
    • For that matter, a very early battle against a Dullahan has the animate armor slowly drag its sword across the ground, which creates an instantaneous magical circle around him.
    • Also, in a video sequence early on in the game—as one enters the sanctum—Sydney is shown carving a circle of runes on the stone floor of an abandoned chapel, which he later activates to summon the first big dragon.
  • In Melty Blood, Aoko Aozaki instantly creates runes around her arm for her "Severe Break" Arc Drive.
  • In Skies of Arcadia, each of the magical Moons has a crest assigned to them from the Old World. Naturally these crests appear whenever magic is cast.
  • In the .hack games, these appear both above the caster and near the target whenever magic is cast (either by a PC or by an enemy).
  • Dizzy of Guilty Gear summons these when she gets dangerous. Also, Chipp Zanuff averts this by drawing the lines of the pentagram of his One-Hit Kill move after the victim gets caught in it.
  • Most of Ryu's transformations into his dragon forms in Breath of Fire IV involves a semi-circular sphere enveloping him and his party, which was then decorated with runes.
  • In the Samurai Shodown games, at least Amakusa (from the 3rd game onwards) and Mizuki can make rune-like images to attack.
  • Igniz from The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match makes these appear below his opponent to start his Disintegrational Universe attack.
  • Some characters in BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger have attacks that manifest Instant Runes (such as Hakumen's counterattack ability); like Negi in the Naruto example, these seem to be visual conceits, usually no more visible to the actual characters than the lifebars at the top of the screen. Then there's the attack of Nox Nyctores Gigant in the Story Mode.
  • Most probably the only use in a sci-fi game that doesn't even use magic: Ace Online. The spell "Purify" is available to M-Gears after obtaining the rare Special/Elite Skill Opening Card. The activation animation is quite distinct: you suddenly gain an instant magic circle with a symbol on top, sending sparkles downward. Non-players assume it's a godly buff; players know it does the opposite. No, it doesn't purify you or allies of negative status effects, it nullifies all buffs and skills you have, including the that lets you do the Macross Missile Massacre.
  • The visual effect for "holy" elemental attacks in Lufia: The Legend Returns uses a simple form of this trope.
  • Averted by the Genso Suikoden series - while runes appear above the characters whenever they use magic or special abilities, the hermetic aspect of the runes is served by semi-permanently inscribing them on the character's bodies (almost always the back of the hand or forehead).
    • In a further aversion, while casting and inscription on the body appear instant, actual rune creation is a long and arduous process that takes years to learn, producing a usable crystal for applying the created rune to a user. Screw-ups on the part of rune creators play a significant role in Suikoden I's storyline.
  • Any hero or villain in Dokapon Kingdom who attempts to block magic will do so by conjuring an elaborate wall of runes between him and the caster.
  • Master of the Wind has these appear at characters' feet before they cast a spell. One of the side-effects of Ketsu gaining wings is that he no longer has to deal with this delay, and this is commented on by other characters.
  • Kingdom Hearts invokes this when using Trinity Limit
  • Averted by The Keeper faction of the Thief series in the form of glyphs. Glyph-magic and its associated language, even without considering the years of training required for use, require every glyph be painstakingly (literally, writing and reading these things hurts [1]) written and read, making them basically useless for magic in combat. Rather, glyph magic concerns scyring, and more subtle and insidious effects.
  • In Twilight Princess, The Mirror of Twilight forms Instant Runes after it is repaired, with the bonus of Cool Gate.
  • Dragon Age: Origins has a line of 'glyph' spells which summon glowing purple sigils at the target point. They essentially serve as magical Standard Status Effect landmines.
  • During the Sinjoh Ruins event in Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver Versions, there is a prominent pattern on the floor of the Mystri/Triad Stage chamber. A different pattern is featured during the Google Images montage when Arceus creates a new member of Sinnoh's Dragon Trio.
  • The standard RPG Maker XP sprite set features instant pentagrams as the default spellcasting animation. As a result, they are used in most RPG Maker games.
  • The Witchers cast sigils much simpler than full runes, but for the sake of gameplay they're cast instantly in mid-air.
  • The color-group-matching game QuantZ has Instant Runes all over its backgrounds and transition animation, without any particular explanation.
  • Skyrim features spells which create circular runes that act as landmine-type traps.


Web Original

  • Red vs. Blue parodied the idea when Lopez activated his weather-control device. Immediately, glowing golden runes encircled him. Turns out that Doc added them as a special effect just because he thought they looked cool.
  • This seems to be averted most of the time in the Whateley Universe. Hekate's "fools' circle" trap for Fey took tons of prep time, and she's a really dangerous mage.
  • Flint demonstrates some in Bunny Kill 4.
  • Weiss's snowflake-like "glyphs" in RWBY.

Western Animation

  1. and consumes the user, too - the Keepers' most advanced glyph-reader is a withered hag who is revealed to be some thirty years old at most