The world of Valheim can be harsh and unforgiving. Players find themselves quite literally dropped into the wilderness with very little to guide them. There are massive Runestones dotted across Valheim‘s landscape that offer some clarity, but who left them – and why?
Valheim‘s Runestones serve an important gameplay purpose; they mark various biomes, as well as provide guidance for how to summon the bosses in the game. Each boss requires a sacrifice to be summoned, and the Runestones give hints as to what is needed. The Eikthyr Runestone, for example, reads, “Hunt his kin.” Since Valheim‘s Eikthyr is a giant deer, this indicates Deer Trophies must be what’s needed to summon him.
In addition to their practical uses, Runestones also provide much of the game’s story and lore. While the opening text crawl presents Valheim’s basic plot, much of the broader flavor is doled out by these big rocks. One stone says, “Great cities so not rise of themselves / Harden your hearth, settler in a strange land / Build from the ground upwards.” This isn’t an explanation of a boss or an enemy; it’s simply an exercise in world-building, and it serves to add some flavor to the setting. The opening may let players know who they are, where they are, and what they’re doing, but the rest is all in the Runestones.
There are Runestones that discuss the various hostile creatures players encounter. The stone on the Greydwarfs says (in part), “Let all who read me beware of the Greydwarfs, the skulkers in darkness, the soulless ones.” Without this stone, the Valheim‘s Greydwarfs would just be random mobs that attack the player character for no reason. The Runestone provides background and motivation for these enemies as a crucial piece of storytelling.
As to who left them, some of Valheim‘s Runestones mention a writer named Ulf. A stone in the mountain biome (one of several biomes in Valheim), for example, reads, “This marks the spot where the great drake was first seen by me, Ulf, in the third summer of my life in Valheim.” Obviously, Ulf left this stone, and they are most likely another of the potential heroes that Odin recruited to fight his enemies, just like the player character. Players can also find stones left by someone called Astrid. “I was Astrid, a shieldmaiden of the forest,” reads one of their messages. As with Ulf, they appear to be a hero who braved the realm of Valheim in service of Odin.
It is not clear who left the longer, more lore-filled Runestones. The Ulf and Astrid stones directly name their authors, while the others are left vague. They may have been left by those that came before – the abstracted voice of those countless others who have been sent to Valheim. Maybe they were left by Valheim‘s Odin himself as instructions for those who would be his champions. The authors of those Runestones may be revealed as Valheim moves through its early access period.