This is a continuation of my Specifics of magical symbols and casting series of questions.

In the process of splitting my post up, I noticed my final question got a bit broad. So to specify how magic works in this world:

Magic in this world is omnipresent, yet largely like science in discovery process. It holds no consciousness or purpose, but acts like a program, "seeking" similar patterns. Runes are largely created in the "library" of magic by association.

For instance, a drawn flame in a cave to signify fire, used again and again over countless generations, created the association that this symbol means fire in the "Magical Library" that permeates all existence. In our world, this relates to a Deep Learning AI, except... there's no code, no point, no purpose. It simply, is.

This also opens up the possibility that, either in densely magical areas, gathering of like minds, basically permeating, society-wide philosophies can create deities, manifest purely-magic beings, or infect a town with fervor, inexplicably turning everyone within the region to the same fervor if they aren't strong of will. Ultimately, this component of nature that just is actually could gain sentience, however, due to the nature of the beast, it could never truly claim autonomy over the entirety of magic.

Magic exists regardless of belief in it - however, belief or mass fervor can and often will generate a certain outcome. Say, people feeling hopeless in a ravaged, pillaged, swamp town may always be surrounded by darkness. Sudden, widespread happiness won't make this disappear in an instant, as it is a magical abstract that has built up over the region that will only go away either in time, or if diminished and replaced by a fervor of emotion that would combine or overwrite it.

One caveat, however, is that you couldn't just get a bunch of random people together and say 'draw this over and over again,' as new functions of this "Magic Library" must draw from some sort of mass phenomena, where some emotion is in a state of mass hysteria among a region, or a belief isn't just skin-deep. The stronger and/or more universal a belief and/or symbol is, the wider the scope this magic can be reliably used in.

This question is most related to the difficulty of mastering magic manipulation

So, we've defined that the "Magic Library" can't be abused, you can't directly influence new spells and abstract ideas within it. However, there will always be those that try, and will find a way to, somehow, manipulate it to make a spell they desire.

How would someone master creating new runes, symbols, and spells for mass/their own use, with the sole intention of creating it?

Remember, the catch is that you can't just make some spell because you want to. New magical 'functions' are made solely by consistent association and widespread belief/feeling of something.


Individuals are able to, over years, have their own unique magical functions, whether its an aura, spell, influence, etc available only to them. Say, a hermit who does the same routine for decades, may find that just by initiating their routine, the objects and environment act out the scene, even if he stops, to a weak degree. Like, predictive reaction to what usually happens. So he may first notice it by noticing a plate that he's washing seems lighter than normal, which behind the scenes, is driven by the Magic Layer preparing and replicating his movements within the world. Again, like an AI that Learns. Also explains "Haunted" homes or locations.

Therefore, while that is a subconscious event, completely unintentional, how would a person try and succeed to get around the caveats of the System - it must be within a meaningfully short amount of time. Say, a year at most.

  • $\begingroup$ How intelligent is the "Magical Layer"? If I see water bottle enough times and think water bottle every time, and do the same for every single object and then one day think, pencil, does a pencil appear? Or if I write down everything I see repeatedly, and then one day add fire to my list, does a fire appear? $\endgroup$
    – tox123
    Aug 26, 2017 at 21:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I presume you can't actually comprehend how the "Magic" works. You can know what it likes; strong emotion, numbers, repetition, etc. but it's not a guarantee that it will work. Maybe, for simple spells you only need 5 people recognizing a symbol, but a seemingly similar simple spell would take 10 people, just because the "Magic" sees it as "very complex to do". $\endgroup$
    – Vylix
    Aug 27, 2017 at 5:02
  • $\begingroup$ @tox123 Additionally, you don't actually know the requirements because it's a closed system which only actually gives the result when it's done. It's like a teacher giving a test without actually telling the goal and how to pass the test. You can only guess in the dark. $\endgroup$
    – Vylix
    Aug 27, 2017 at 5:05

6 Answers 6


What you describe is like making music. Sounds are omnipresent, but certain sound combinations and rhythms gain purchase in a culture. Your hermit might hum aimlessly as he goes along, but happens upon a tune he likes and hums it again and again. Maybe he puts words of a prayer he knows to the song. He cannot tell you exactly why he likes it - the part of his brain that likes it does not have words to articulate why. It just has music.

We can all make music. A song can be well known by many and sung to some degree by most. It is a different thing entirely to hear that song played by a true musician who has mastered it and made it her own. These are your wizards.

How do musicians get good? How can they create music out of nothing but their ideas and experience? They are born with gifts, they have insight into how the tune and rhythm and words should fit together, and they practice a lot.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Oh this is brilliant! $\endgroup$ Aug 24, 2017 at 23:44
  • $\begingroup$ @MackenzieFritschle you can mark his response as the answer, unless you are shopping for a better one, though I doubt there will be given your parameters. $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Oct 25, 2017 at 16:33

It is said that the word "quiz" was invented for a bet. Richard Daly, who bet he could introduce a new word into the English language, hired people to daub the word QUIZ all over Dublin, until it was on everybody's lips. And everybody wondered, what does it mean? Then, it was simply a matter of providing a definition; holding a question-answering competition and attaching the new name to it.

A magical symbol in your world could use the same process. It would have to be well designed; memorable and attractive enough for people to start to consider it significant but mysterious, without knowing its special meaning. Then, the magician could use some big public event to attach a particular meaning to it. For example, wait until a well-known public figure dies, then paste up posters bearing the face of the deceased alongside the symbol. Now, that great potential you have been building up in the Library has a definition. You have a spell of death.

Of course, complications could arise if the meme is allowed to promulgate too long before association. It could start to acquire a whole different meaning to the one you intended. Then, you might have to hurry things along; say, by ensuring that a well-loved public figure dies by somewhat less magical means.


Introduce them as a curriculum in a mage school. They will never know that the symbol they learned in the mix is a fake symbol that is yet to be recognized by the "Magic".

Give the symbol a definition you like, but never actually used it. On the days of final, make them practice it together again and again. The students will fail, again and again, and actually really want it to work, "forcing" the "Magic" to recognize the symbol (maybe only on that particular region?) and eventually allow the new spell come to life.

Bonus: If they complained that they've never seen the spell is cast by their professors, just dismiss them.

It is the very basic symbol and easy to cast. You all must not be paying attention in the earliest class.

Make it the deciding factor on graduation. That way people will train harder for the symbol.

This way you can have at least 1 new spell per graduation ceremony.


Languages (Spoken, Written or "signed") are in perpetual evolution. New words are invented everyday and older ones can be forgotten. And it all depends on how useful they are at describing the world. Thus they evolve along with it. For example, we tend to use some famous brand names for some objects that had already a defined technical word. The brand name was made to be easily memorized so it overtook the previous word. I think this understanding of languages is quite adapted to your magic system.

A new words could be invented when new magic properties are discovered, or when to older words are used together so often that people feel the need to come up with a combined version. For example : someone finds a new property of magic by mashing two complex words together. The result is unpractical so he comes up with a shortened version. It is a first weakened by the lack of resemblance with the two original words. But when people adopt it, and maybe start transforming it a bit to fit their own pronunciation (preferences that are based on other words so maybe that can be a way to add even more power), it becomes more and more efficient. Also, there could be people casting more complex spells with older, but more precise words, which would take more time. While others would prefer simplified, faster words... with less precised effects, less power maybe.

The problem is that it seems that interaction with magic is only made through the words (again, not only the spoken words). So how was the first "Word of Power" discovered ? Also, it seems that forgotten words would totally lose power, which means that "ancient magic" would not exist ?


Sounds like he needs a viral marketing campaign!

Something innocuous like releasing a mobile app (or a popular toy, in non-modern worlds) that requires a certain gesture to win. No individual player knows that they're making the same gesture as everyone else, but they all do it day in and day out until the gesture takes on some meaning.

One example, make a box of matches that must be opened in a specific way, (unfold here, tear here, slide there) the hand movement required to open it could become associated with fire. Give out the match boxes for free and you get a new rune under your control.


What if the meaning of a symbol is not always objective? What if it is always subjective, and has to work its way towards that ideal objective state?

Consider the master of a school of magic. This master can introduce a symbol, but can only have so much control over its meaning. However, if all of the disciples in the school take this symbol and start using it, they may find a meaning for this symbol in their own life. It doesn't have to be exactly the same meaning as for someone else. It just matters that it has a meaning, and they believe in it.

From there, the master looks at all of the meanings their disciples have given the symbol, and can begin the very human process of trying to create a coherent meaning to which all of the subjective meanings can migrate towards. This is not an easy task, but similar tasks occur in real life as masters teach their students, so it's not unfathomable.

In this sense, the masters that can create new symbols are really not masters of magic, but of people. Craft the right meanings in the minds of the peoples, and it matters not how much magic you had.


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