Okay, so basically I got stuck making a magic system because I thought it wasn't "cool" enough and I started rewriting it from scratch. I instead added a few elements and an origin and kept most of the frame work (i.e. how it's used, its side effects, etc etc).

Basically, in this world you have these spirits called Triven. They can be mindless or basically gods. Each individual (or species, depending on whether they're mindless or not) has a specific set of powers or just a power. Three powerful Triven all, by chance, have the ability to create Words of Power. Very rare. The first, Almnei, is very methodical. He creates a rune system called Carn, which is neat, very nice in calligraphy. The second is Kindril, who was very playful and thought very quickly. Her script war called Nirid and was more flamboyant and rudimentary, written more with haste than with care. Nesrin thought mainly in abstracts and saw that her fellow Triven had created their scripts in two dimensions. Wanting to distinguish herself, she created her script of Kalni in three dimensions. The three Triven then imbued all the scripts with their power, allowing the different scripts to be used in the same phrases.

Carn is now mainly used when writing runes due to how neat and clear it is. Nirid is used when magicians make complex hand gestures in the shape of the strange runes. Kalni is sometimes used in complex hand gestures but is largely used in magical technology.

None of these have any spoken form that a human can make, so humans instead just assigned each rune a name. Like how Hiragana and Katakana have different symbols for the same sound, often the three magical scripts have three different runes for the same thing, though Kalni often has more strange, abstract meanings than the other two, which tend towards more concrete things.

So I'm wondering how I could have this magic system be introduced to the humans. My first thought was that the Triven made notes of their invention, which the humans later found, but I wasn't so sure of this. Maybe the Triven had followers, who learned their magics and passed them down through tradition?

I'm not sure. How could I do it? I want the story I have to be focused on the humans and what they do with the magic. I don't want to have the focus on those who invented it.


To use magic, people have to do two things as well as be touching the rune: They have to be in physical contact with a grey metal called sangium They have an energy source that is the lifeblood of their soul called Sang. They have to consciously draw out this Sang in order to activate the rune.

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    $\begingroup$ Hello Eawnon. Please read our meta posts about high concept questions and open-ended questions. The problem with questions like this is they are not objective and you've provided no criteria for judging a best answer (see primarily opinion-based). Please remember that SE is not a discussion forum. $\endgroup$ – JBH Sep 4 '18 at 23:47
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, I thought it was objective (or rather objective enough). I'll post to the Meta before posting on here from now one, just to be sure. $\endgroup$ – Eawnon Sep 4 '18 at 23:54
  • $\begingroup$ You'll get the hang of it. The problem is SE's rules and operating model: one-specific-question/one-best-answer. We have problems due to our creative nature, thus primarily opinion-based, which usually means "the opinion of the answerer" here means "best choice is only the opinion of the OP." Thus the need to explain how you'll judge the answers. Another way of looking at it is: you need a better reason to fish for ideas than writer's block, and you need to explain what that reason is. $\endgroup$ – JBH Sep 4 '18 at 23:58
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    $\begingroup$ A test I recommend: if I were to post an answer, any answer, is there any criteria with which I can show that this answer is better or worse than any other answer? Also, if I post any arbitrary answer, is there a way to tell if that answer would be invalid? If I suggest that monkeys preserved these written arts in the from of twisted tea leaves, am I wrong? (My inspiration: it is argued that the best Wulong teas are not touched by human hands, but instead picked by trained monkeys) $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Sep 5 '18 at 0:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Eawnon -- As asked, you're questions are pretty open-ended. Basically, if I can legitimately give you the answer "well, it's your world / story, you can do anything you want!" then you haven't asked a proper Stack Exchange question! As JBH says, this place is quite a bit different from most worldbuilding / concultural forums in how it works. As of right now, your query is too broad and too opinion based even with the edit. Also, it's possibly too long and too wordy: best bet is to pare a question down to the minimum required explanation to ask the (one single!) question sensibly! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Sep 5 '18 at 2:08

Random chance could do it with a dash of logic. Someone is doodling on some paper and draws a rune by chance and something happens. Over time people collect these runes and try to improve them by making slight alterations to see if the effects improve or not.

A rune first drawn is pretty weak but after much testing and refining, becomes much stronger

This would also give you the chance of new runes being discovered by accident at any point.

Edit after question was changed

It sounds like people need to be genetically gifted to use this magic. I'd say the best way is with dreams.

A person has the right DNA to be a wizard and is wearing the metal, there is a chance of dreaming the runes depending on your state of mind.

Fred comes from a family of magicians. He's wearing a family heirloom bracelet. His mechanic didn't fix his car properly and he broke down when the engine ceased. Fred goes to bed majorly pissed off. He dreams of himself drawing a rune and fireballing both his car and his mechanic. In the morning Fred sketches the rune he saw in his dream.

Over time wizard families collect said runes and teach them to their children.

  • $\begingroup$ I'll edit the post, but there's more to magic than just drawing the rune. Basically people have to 1.) be in contact with a special metal called sangium. This part won't be too hard. The random person is just wearing a necklace of the stuff. 2.) The person also has to consciously try to use magic. They have this magical energy source inside them which they have to consciously draw forth. $\endgroup$ – Eawnon Sep 4 '18 at 23:35
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps I've made it too complicated to use... $\endgroup$ – Eawnon Sep 4 '18 at 23:35
  • $\begingroup$ If people have to consciously use it then random chance can't possibly work. $\endgroup$ – Thorne Sep 4 '18 at 23:42
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    $\begingroup$ Regarding the dream idea, I remember how the scientist who discovered the chemical structure of benzene got the idea from a dream! $\endgroup$ – Eawnon Sep 4 '18 at 23:58
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    $\begingroup$ @Chromane Have you read the Laundry Files? In that series, people doing math or compsci research (its modern fantasy, not faux-medieval) can accidentally discover Lovecraftian magic, so the government has a secret agency to deal with that, and there are secret evil cultists who program computers to explore every variation of some mathematical structure, and so on. You might get some inspiration there (and, if not, they’re still a good read). $\endgroup$ – abarnert Sep 5 '18 at 0:03

I can only think of a few ways how humans discover magic

  1. accidental
  2. apprenticeship
  3. "Magic 101 for Dummies"
  4. observe nature


Discovering one rune would be about as likely as someone drawing a kanji symbol without ever seeing one.

This is a very unlikely method.


In this scenario, each of the three Triven take in one or two people and train and then let them loose into the world.

Each apprentice would write his or her own book. Those become the "master book of spells".

"Magic 101 for Dummies"

In one case, the usage of the magic was written by the Triven and given to the humans.

In another case, the magic is described within stories and folklore. A very imaginative child can easily cast a spell by accident.

Observe Nature

I had a similar question as you. While working on the question, I have come to the conclusion that humans can only discover magic if nature is using it.

example: man discovers a magical rock that, when free to spin, always points to the same direction. Today, we call the magic that the rock uses "magnetism".

For your story, you could use some sort of animal that can draw only one or two symbols of the symbols. eg: a crow draws the symbols for "open this oyster".

Once a few of the symbols are known, the scientific method can be used to discover "the rules". Artist could possible discover the other symbols.

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    $\begingroup$ A gotta admit, the idea of animals using magic like they often use simple tools is an amazing idea. Ants marching in the shape of "protect", apes drawing "warmth" on a rock wall, and an octopus twisting itself into "red fish turn non-poisonous and die" seems like a natural extension of this particular setting. $\endgroup$ – Pinion Minion Sep 5 '18 at 0:40

The idea that the Triven made notes makes the most sense to me. Maybe instead of all the Triven, only the methodical Almnei took notes and left them in "storehouses" throughout the world. Maybe Carn could incredibly plentiful in terms of how many examples exist, but is so complex and exact that only cultures that purposely collect and experiment with them can figure out how they work. Its like a combination of advanced mathematics and Latin: it all makes sense, but there is no one around to give the exact details.

Kindril doesn't seem like the type to takes notes, but he seems like the exact kind of deity to mettle in the affairs of mortals. He/she/the Triven did teach a few humans Nirid and the role of sangium in magic making, which then spread outwards like every good tool does. Heck, Nirid could have served as the key to human understanding of Carn. Before someone tried casting Carn using Nirid techniques, it was simply beautiful patterns carved onto ancient stones.

Nesrin's Kalni is the most interesting to me because it seems connected to Nesrin's ideas of abstractions and symbolism. While Carn is learned by deciphering a puzzle and Nirid by finding the truth in the oldest stories, Kalni seems like its learned by meditating and philosophizing, seeing the world through Nesrin's eyes.

Carn is the science, Nirid: the idea, and Kalni? Kalni seems like the closest your world has to a faith.

Sorry, I got caught up in the concept there. Kalni seems like it could be discovered and explored by a combination of trance and experimentation. Basically, I person would "feel" for the shape that fits the abstraction, then apply sangium and will to see how well their shape works. Its an odd combination of frustrating abstractness combined with dependable results. Maybe Nesrin visited the world like Kindril or maybe a few humans thought so similarly to Nesrin that they envisioned the same language she did, like two painters on two different continents deciding that a blue flower denotes melancholic sadness.

In summery, I think this set up gives humans a lot of agency, since really understanding magic is about understanding all three languages. It would be a centuries long process, with knowledge being gained and lost as empires rise and fall, but would eventually come together into to make a powerful and chaotic world. Some characters could devote themselves to a single language while others find meaning in all of them. Its all the same quest for understanding, but there are many different roads to travel.

I like your idea.

  • $\begingroup$ This is really good! I really like the idea of Nirid being the first, being passed down by tradition, with Carn only being mysterious carvings, until someone had the bright idea to use Nirid techniques on them. $\endgroup$ – Eawnon Sep 5 '18 at 0:44

Look at the Story of Odin

Although Odin was a god he found the runes by means of sacrificing an eye and hanging himself over a tree until the runes came to him in a vision. I think what is happening is a place where things that are inexpressible (feelings, inspiration, understanding) are observed and snapshot by the logical mind (stories, poems, pictures, symbols, and formula). It sounds like the Triven are inexpressible, and perhaps humans or heroes undertook visions to observe or interact with the Triven in their natural environment and the runes are the limited expressions of the experience they could document.

Entanglement and Contamination

There's an old hermetic idea called Contamination and a modern idea called Entanglement, but they both are that the products of the same event remain connected. Applying this to an Odin-like vision quest whatever creative expression was made of a Human journeying among the Triven, whether runes or songs, is a real entangled link to the experience. By Contamination, copies of the original work can still re-create that experience. This works especially well if the Triven are timeless "one story ever told" vs timeful humanity (the same stories keep getting told over and over again with inconsequential differences in names and places).

Divine Inspiration

The Triven could reach out to humanity through visions, inspiration, and dreams, at least. There are many examples in literature. Just like the vision quest, these inspired recordings of dreams may remain entangled with the experience, leaving a physical symbol which can be used to re-create that experience.

So, For Example

Nido, a human hero, follows Carn and watches him work. Nido does his best to record the runes he sees when he awakes. Another hero observes the use of Nirid in visions and attempts to record his observations in performance art. Thousands or tens of thousands of similar heroes may build up a great collection of magic knowledge.


Sounds like it's too complicated to discover by accident, as others have stated.

Couple of other options:
The art of magical writing was gifted to the followers of the Triven, who showed early humans how to do it. Perhaps it was just one Triven at first, and the other two followed, or humans figured out the other writing styles by themselves.

Humans stole it somehow - they observed the Triven using their magic and through trial and error and mimicry, managed to duplicated it for themselves.

Either way, if Humans are the focus of your story, I don't think you have to go into detail - just give the basics and move on. Perhaps it's a mystery in-world, lost to the mists of time.

The details aren't as important as how the magic system affects the plot of your story. How do the Triven feel about the humans using their writing?

  • $\begingroup$ They're not too bothered and they prefer to stay out of human issues. Their only interest was creating something new. Either that or they're dead. $\endgroup$ – Eawnon Sep 4 '18 at 23:56
  • $\begingroup$ I think the idea that'd work is if how humans learned magic is now a mere myth and ancient religion, told in old folk stories and such. $\endgroup$ – Eawnon Sep 4 '18 at 23:56

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