If you have ever tried to get a friend into League of Legends, you have had the “rune conversation.” It starts the same way with everyone. The new person asks you “Hey, what are these rune things?” Your heart sinks, knowing it is a terrible system. Not wanting to alienate your new friend, you stumble with a “Ummm, don’t worry about it.”
A moment of silence occurs. They look at it themselves. And now, we have a very unhappy camper who just discovered that they will eventually have to spend their precious IP not on cool champions, but on horrible little rocks that make your early game slightly better.
I have had that talk with a couple of people, including Polygon’s Phil Kollar, who still complains to me about runes on a regular basis. And who can blame him? They are complain-worthy. It can be easy for long-time players to forget the pain of rune accumulation. Most of us don’t even think about it anymore, but for the new player, it is a massive barrier to entry.
Thankfully, Riot has announced plans to simplify the system for both runes and masteries. If you haven’t heard anything about their upcoming plans, check out this video.
Not only are runes and masteries being consolidated into one, easy system, they will also be free to all players. This is fantastic news for new and old players alike. The rune conversation is far simpler now, allowing for a short chat about which runes they should use, rather than inadvertently threatening them with forced IP purchases.
The thing about the current rune system that is so frustrating is they hardly feel useful. Masteries have a similar problem, outside of the keystone of course. They feel significant enough to blame for your poor performance in lane, but they don’t go far enough to really matter.
The choices Riot looks to implement are far more powerful and interesting than ever before. The goal with keystones was always to make a semi-powerful change to a champion that could be different every game. Of course, the abilities aren’t nearly powerful enough in their current state to make that big of a difference, and everyone has determined which keystone to use on which champion. There is no surprise: nobody reconsiders an engage based on whether or not their enemy has Thunderlords. It is just something to show on the death recap.
Actually allowing for different play styles through a more impactful, less confusing system has a lot of potential. Not everything about the new system seems perfect, but we don’t have the full picture yet. Allowing all players to have access to all runes is crucial and will do quite a bit to lower the stress of players across the board.
Runes in their current state only act as a wall. They allow for minor customization that doesn’t make a difference at all past the 20 minute mark. However, not having them can make you feel as though you are naked on the battlefield, if only subconsciously. A revamp of runes has been needed for years, but it is great to see Riot getting out in front of the problem and soliciting advice this early.
Once pre-season rolls around, we will have the entire scoop on how the new system, “Runes Reforged,” is going to work. For now, I just look forward to never having to defend such an archaic and poor system again. One day, Phil and I will be able to frolic across Summoner’s Rift, free of the rune burden.