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/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#101 Copy

vandar10

Could someone with enough Breaths use part of them to heal himself without the help of a Returned?? Could the God King have healed himself without Lightsong with enough knowledge?

Brandon Sanderson

The nature of the Warbreaker magic is tied to the shard of Endowment, which is about giving. There are, therefore, things you cannot do for yourself.

RobotAztec

For healing can Big Breaths heal only one person at a time or can you heal a bunch of people at once?(as long as they are not yourself)?

Brandon Sanderson

Legends say you can heal many.

Shadows of Self release party ()
#102 Copy

clyguy

Someone else brought up the point, can blood be Awakened?

Brandon Sanderson

Anything can be Awakened.

clyguy

If you make a human-shaped mold and you poured blood into it and you Awakened it, would you have a Terminator T-1000 style blood-golem that could recombine?

Brandon Sanderson

Um, heh, well Awakening liquid is possible but I don't think it would work the way you want it to.

Questioner 2

If you had enough of a cloud in one place, could you Awaken a cloud?

Brandon Sanderson

Um, you could Awaken anything. It's probably not going to work the way you want it to. There is a reason why they Awaken the things that they do. For instance if you want to make a transforming golem, you would be much better off with something thicker.

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
#103 Copy

Aurimus

I dont really understand what you mean by sympathetic magic. All that comes to mind is Kvothe, which certainly isn't part of your work. :p

Brandon Sanderson

Sympathetic magic is the classical science idea that "Like influences Like." Voodoo dolls are a more contemporary example, though even spontaneous generation and the humors connect to the idea slightly. It was the basis for Awakening, and (I believe) Rothfuss's sympathetic magic. It's a common theme in fantasy magics, though, much like alchemy and astrology.

ICon 2019 ()
#104 Copy

Inhorman (paraphrased)

Can you Awaken a complex mechanism in a way that it will work by itself?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

I didn't understand the question.

Inhorman (paraphrased)

Like Awakening a gun so it'll shoot by itself.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

It's very hard since you need lots of Breath but theoretically it's possible.

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
#105 Copy

Rhandric

How many magic systems are there on Roshar?

Brandon Sanderson

It depends on your definition. Is Windrunning its own magic system, or is it a division of a larger magic system? Are the ten different Surges each their own magic system, or...it's really how...

Rhandric

If you assume the surges are considered one.

Brandon Sanderson

Well then you would have Surgebinding, and the Old Magic, those are two at least, and there are things that are not explained in those at all, and how do you count creating fabrials? Is that a science and not a magic? Is that its own magic system?

Questioner 2

It's a science, because anyone can do it.

Brandon Sanderson

So Awakening is not a magic, then? Awakening's a science? Because anyone can Awaken if they just get the breath.

Rhandric

That's one thing that stood out to me in your magic systems, because in all your other magic systems that we've seen so far there has to be some form of snapping to occur, and that's unique...

Brandon Sanderson

Not all of them because, um, let's see...

Questioner 3

BioChroma doesn't.

Brandon Sanderson

BioChroma does not requires snapping.

Rhandric

Actually wait, is there an active magic system on Threnody?

Brandon Sanderson

Threnody has a non Shard-based...it depends on what you call magic. Do spirits coming back to life count as magic? It's science to them, but it's goofy science.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#106 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Agrees to Learn Awakening

This has been a long time coming. Sorry to make you wait; in some of my books, I like to use a lot of magic from the start. In others, I like to build out the setting first, letting the characters learn and explore more slowly.

I've long wanted to call a magic system "Awakening," by the way. I tried it out originally in The Way of Kings as the name for the transformation-based magic system in that book. But it never worked. You didn't really "awaken" things. I was just using the term because it sounded good.

So I put it back in the file to be recycled someday. As I began to plan this book, I developed a magic system that could be called Awakening. Bringing objects to life seems to fit that just perfectly. So yes, the word came first—though I'm not sure how much I grew the magic system around that one word, or if I was feeling I wanted to do a "bring objects to life" magic system and realized I could use that great name I'd come up with earlier.

General Reddit 2018 ()
#108 Copy

Jeimaxx

I do have a question, while listening to New Spring today, I realized that a channeler using the One Power sees and hears much more vividly, similar to people invested with breaths from Nalthis. Was the magic of Nalthis partially inspired by the One Power?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, that was an inspiration from the WoT. I always wanted to take that concept RJ had used and see if I could make it a fundamental and quantifiable part of a magic system.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#109 Copy

SydneySedai

Say an awakener wanted to cheat in a card game and strolled in with an awakened hat, which is promply placed on a hat rack behind their opponent.

Assuming the awakener knows the rules of the game, would a command like "be as my eyes and signal when I should fold" let the hat tip someone off, or would they need a more general command like "be as my eyes and signal a flush"?

Brandon Sanderson

This is hard because the skill of the Awakener is a factor, as are other elements that aren't entirely understood. For sake of discussion, I'd say the second one is a whole lot more reasonable.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#111 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-One

Vasher Awakens His Clothing, Then Leaps off the Palace

One of the subtle, yet drastic, changes to Awakening that happened in this story came during the middle drafts. Originally, the Command was part of the process of Awakening—but wasn't as important as I eventually made it. I had intended for very difficult things to be accomplished through the use of very long and intricate Commands. However, as I wrote the first draft, I felt this was bulky. What it meant that was if you wanted to use a powerful Awakening in battle, you'd have to stop and spout several paragraphs of instructions. It really cut down on the tension of the battle sequences. (And Awakening was already slower than I preferred, with the need for all of the steps—Breathing, finding color, then Commanding.)

So during revisions, I changed this. Instead of requiring a lengthy Command to create a powerful Awakening, the strength and skill of the Awakener is instead determined by their ability to visualize what they want the Command to do. The Command is a focus, the spoken words an important part of the process, but the real trick is getting the right mental picture.

This way, someone can practice a lot, and still use simple Commands—like "grab things"—yet have them do very powerful things. It also allows me to have Commands be easier to learn and use, yet still require skill to master.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#115 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna and Siri Reunite; Vasher Shows Off His Returned Breath

I believe that this is the first time in the book that Vivenna and Siri talk to each other. (Weird, eh?) I knew I couldn't make their reunion very effusive, since they're both Idrians, and Siri has learned to control herself. Plus, the situation is very tense. (And beyond that, despite Vivenna's coming to rescue her sister, the two were never terribly close. They were sisters, but separated by five years or so.)

This chapter focuses on other things, primarily the changes in the God King's personality and the revelations about Vasher. For the first, I hope they are plausible. Remember, the God King has grown a lot with Siri's help. Beyond that, he's been trained to look regal and act like a king, even if he's not had any practice talking like one. I think he works well here, projecting more confidence and nobility than he really feels, speaking in ways that don't make him sound too stupid, yet still betraying an innocence.

The bigger surprise is Vasher's revelation about his nature. I almost didn't put this in the book, instead intending to hint at it and save it for the second book. The reason for this is that I knew it would be confusing.

The big question is, if Vasher is Returned, why can he give away his Breaths and Awaken things without killing himself?

The answer is simple, in many ways, but I'm not sure if I have the groundwork for it properly laid in the book. (Which is why I hesitated in explaining it.) Remember when Denth said that Awakening was all or nothing? Well, he lied. (I think you've figured this out now.) A very skilled Awakener can give away only part of their Breath. It depends on their Command visualizations. So Vasher needs to always give away everything except for that one Returned Breath that keeps him alive. As long as he has that one Breath (which he's learned to suppress and hide), he can stay alive.

Prague Signing ()
#116 Copy

Questioner

My friends would like to know if you can Awaken liquids?

Brandon Sanderson

This is almost impossible.

Questioner

Almost impossible?

Brandon Sanderson

Almost impossible, but not fully impossible, but basically impossible. Particularly if you're talking about just a liquid, not in a container, anything like that. Technically, you can kind of Awaken a dead animal, which will have some liquid in it and stuff. But if you just want to Awaken like--

Questioner

A bowl of water?

Brandon Sanderson

A bowl of water, almost impossible.

TWG Posts ()
#118 Copy

DavidB

Also, it seems to me like it would be more internally consistent if Awakened objects consumed Breath, to make all of these Breath-consuming powers in the last few chapters fit in better. So for example, if Vasher Awakened a shirt and left it Awakened and doing stuff for a day, then he might be down one-seventh of a breath when he took it back at the end of the day. (Of course, that mechanic requires it to be possible to transfer or Awaken with portions of a Breath, and if you could do that, then using the "putting the Breaths you don't want to transfer into a cloth until after the transfer" thing, you could feed the Returned by taking a tiny fraction of all the Halladren's breaths, instead of taking some people's entire Breaths and turning them into Drabs.)

Brandon Sanderson

Hum. I like that suggestion, actually. I think I'll use it. Though, what I'll do is say that if you leave the breath in for too long, one of them vanishes. If you can get them back quickly enough, however, there is no loss. That gives a bit of a better explanation of why there aren't a lot of awakened objects doing things all over the place. True, using the breath to make them would be initially expensive--but if you got a magic object that never winds down, then that might be worth the expense.

A Memory of Light Dayton Signing ()
#120 Copy

NutiketAiel (paraphrased)

If a native of Sel or another Shardworld traveled to Nalthis, would they be a drab?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

No, they would not be a drab. But, no one would be able to take their Breath.

NutiketAiel (paraphrased)

If such a person died on Nalthis, could they Return?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

No, they cannot Return.

NutiketAiel (paraphrased)

If such a person received breath, could they use BioChroma?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes

Goodreads Fantasy Book Discussion Warbreaker Q&A ()
#121 Copy

Mark

It was said throughout the book that you cannot just give some of your breath, but must give all of it. Perhaps I'm simply forgetting part of the book where this changes, but wouldn't Vasher have to give his Returned breath along with his others?

Brandon Sanderson

The "You must give up all of your Breath, not some" line was mostly perpetuated by Denth, who is saying it to Vivenna to stop her from giving away her Breath to all the people she passes. It is a lie. Now, it's a lie that's commonly accepted by a lot of people. But it's still a lie—as we find out midway through the book, you can stick some of your Breath in an object and bring it to life, and then recover that Breath. So it's very easy to give some of your Breath to someone if you know the logical steps to take. Invest most of it into an object, give what you have to someone else, then pull back what you Invested. So it's flat-out proven in the novel that what Denth is telling her is wrong. Now, he could dance around that lie by pretending to be the ignorant mercenary—he's just perpetuating a falsehood that many people believe. But it is a lie. In fact, a lot of the things people believe about BioChromatic Breath isn't true.

One of the things I was trying with this book was to take a few steps back from MISTBORN, where so much was understood. I feel that the approach I took in MISTBORN is right for that book, and yet people have so much superstition regarding all sorts of science. I worry sometimes that there isn't enough superstition in my books, regarding magic as science. What people believed and what people knew and what people understood was so varied and confused throughout most of history, that I worry that I lack realism in that. Vasher brings up at several points in the book that they don't know a whole lot and that people perpetuate a lot of myths and stories and lies.

Vasher has learned to suppress his Returned Breath. When it's suppressed, it's as if it doesn't exist to him. He's Invested it into a place within himself, much like you can Invest your Breaths into a shirt, and when he gives away the rest of his Breaths, he doesn't give that one away. He could split off others of his Breaths if he wanted to—he's learned to do that, so that he could give a few Breaths and not all. It's just a matter of practicing as long as he has. But even people who aren't as practiced as him do it all the time when they Invest an object with not all of their Breath but just enough to bring it to life

General Reddit 2019 ()
#122 Copy

TheFoxQR (paraphrased)

In Awakening, can you with some mental gymnastics, view yourself as both the donor and recipient of Breaths? Is this how Vasher hides his Divine Breath (and consequently nature), by tucking it inside of himself rather than an external object? Theoretically, can you Awaken yourself, and with the right Commands enhance/extend yourself Cognitively, like how burning atium comes with Cognitive enhancements to process the raw information?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

This is a theory worth exploring. You're not quite there, but you are on to something.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#124 Copy

Questioner

Is there any other magic types on the Warbreaker world?

Brandon Sanderson

There are different manipulations and manifestations of Breath.

Questioner

Okay.

Brandon Sanderson

They are gonna be much closer than, like, the Selish magic systems and things like that.

Questioner

Okay.

Brandon Sanderson

So, the deviation is much smaller, but it does manifest in slightly different ways-- Kind of a thing.

TheHunter

Have we seen any?

Brandon Sanderson

Ahh! RAFO!

JordanCon 2021 ()
#125 Copy

Questioner

(Disclaimers so that you can't say, like, "well if a Shard...") If a regular Awakener, just a mundane Awakener with nothing more than a few hundred Breaths and not any other outside influences, is there some Command they could give a blanket to get the blanket to turn warm? Generate heat; is that a normal thing you can Command?

Brandon Sanderson

Not in just a normal situation. I mean, technically, you could tell the blanket "start rubbing one part against another part" or something like that, or "set yourself on fire," right? But that's not what you're asking. For Awakening to work, you have to work within the intrinsic properties of the matter you're making, except it can move around a bit and with a few little other things it can do.

It's not outside the realm of possibility you could activate those Breaths as Investiture to do something else, but you would need more than just the simple magic system of Awakening. 

Leipzig Book Fair ()
#126 Copy

Questioner

In Warbreaker: the magic system is really visual, and when heightened people are around, the colours get really saturated and I was wondering about blind people or colour blind people. How can they percieve the effects of Investiture?

Brandon Sanderson

Their minds would interpret it in a way that works for them. Their brain would come up with some way to interpret the sensory they're getting. And so the colour blind... The colours are still going to saturate, but saturate in a way that they can tell. Not being colour blind it is really hard for me to describe. But I read about it, and at least that's the rule I have for myself in the head. For an actual blind person this is going to be a magic system that's harder to use. Just having a disability, unfortunatly. But it also gives perfect pitch, and I think that partially their auditory senses would compensate to a degree, but it's going to be a harder magic system to use. I'm sure they could find a way to work around it.

Goodreads Fantasy Book Discussion Warbreaker Q&A ()
#127 Copy

DylanHuebner

I was wondering how the animation of the lifeless statues worked, in regard to the use of Susebron's Breath. If they were lifeless, then vasher wouldn't have been able to take his Breath back out of them, nor would susebron have needed such a great deal of breath to revive them—he just would have needed a password. But if they were simply Awakened, no password would have been necessary to animate the statues, just Breath and Command.

It seems like the statues could be neither lifeless nor awakened. Are they unique, because of the use of bone, or am I missing something? The only other explanation I could think of was that they were lifeless, but Susebron's breath wasn't used to activate the statues, he simply had it passed down from vasher, in addition to the statues. If that's the case(and then I've simply been confusing myself with unnecessary, convoluted logic), why was it necessary to keep the breath safe for all these years?

Brandon Sanderson

Wow, there are a lot of questions in there. If you follow the drafts, I think you can see the evolution of what became of the Lifeless army. Originally I had planned for the statues to simply have been placed there so that you could Awaken them—just in my original concepts, before I started the writing—and then that became the army.

I eventually decided that didn't work for various reasons. Number one, as I developed the magic system, Awakening stone doesn't work very well. You've got to have limberness, you've got to have motion to something for it to actually be stronger. So a soldier made out of cloth would be more useful to you than a soldier made out of stone, if you were just Awakening something. At that point, as I was developing this, I went back to the drawing board and said okay, I need to leave him a whole group of really cool Lifeless as the army. But that had problems in that the ichor would not have stayed good long enough. Plus they already had a pretty big Lifeless army, so what was special about this one? Remember, I'm revising concepts like this as the book is going along. You can see where in the story I could see what needed to be there. So I went back to the drawing board again.

I think the original draft of WARBREAKER you can download off my website has them just as statues, though at the time when I was writing that I already knew it would need to change. I was just sticking to my outline because I needed to have the whole thing complete on the page before I could work with it. A lot of times that's how I do things as a writer—I get the rough draft down, and then I begin to sculpt.

I eventually developed essentially what you've just outlined in the first part, before you started worrying if you were too convoluted. I said, well, what if there's a hybrid? What happens if you Awaken bones? Can you create something? The reason that you can't draw the Breath back from a Lifeless is because the Breath clings to it. If the Lifeless were sentient enough, it could give up its own Breath, but you can't take it, just like you can't take a Breath from a person by force. You have to get them to give it up willingly. So it sticks to the Lifeless. A Lifeless is, let's say, 90% of a sentient being. The Breath doesn't manifest in them, because they aren't alive, yet they're almost there. A stone statue brought to life would be way down on the bottom rung.

Is there something in between? That's the advancement I had Vasher discover—what if we build something out of bone, but then encase it in stone to make it strong, and build it in ways that the bone is held together by the force of the Breaths? That's really what you're getting at there, that you need a lot of Breath, a lot of power, to hold all that stone together. There are seams at the joints. What the Breath is doing is clinging there like magical sinew, and it's holding all of that together.

Vasher left the Phantoms Invested with enough Breath to hold them together but not to move. You needed another big, substantial influx of Breath in order to actually make them have motion, to bring them enough strength to move and that sort of thing. So it's kind of a hybrid.

17th Shard Forum Q&A ()
#128 Copy

Kurkistan

Do Breaths inherently possess the ability to interpret and carry out commands, or does the Awakener need to impart that decision making ability on Awakened objects?

If the Awakener does need to impart the decision-making ability, then does Awakening consist of an Awakener copying a portion of his/her Cognitive aspect (as determined by his/her visualization and verbal Command) onto the Cognitive aspect of the object being Awakened, with Breath then providing the "juice" for the object to actually follow its Command: powering both physical motion and "cogitation" based upon the copied Cognitive aspect?

If so, is that copying what drains color?

Brandon Sanderson

You're very close here.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#129 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Hides Her Breath in a Shawl

This has been possible from the beginning, and if Denth had truly been on her side, he would have admitted that there's a way she could get rid of her Breaths. What she would need to do is Awaken something with a one-Breath Command. There are some. They don't do much, but you can Awaken a very tiny scrap of cloth tied into the shape of a person with a very simple Command. That takes one Breath.

Next, you put the rest of your Breath into another object. Then you get that one Breath back and go hunting for a Drab to give it to. Then you take the rest of your Breath back from the object. From there, you can repeat the process if you want to. Vivenna could get rid of the Breaths one by one.

Of course, Denth didn't want that to happen. He was coveting those Breaths. What he said was intended to sound like an innocent mistake. Many people unfamiliar with Awakening would make that mistake, so if Vivenna learned the truth later, he wouldn't look suspicious.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#130 Copy

Oudeis16

If Bob the Awakener Awakened fifty straw men to dance around, then died, then Returned as FormerBob the Appropriately Named, would FormerBob be able to reclaim the Breath from the straw men in the normal fashion (once he learned the "Your Breath to Mine" Command)?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. He has enough of his original Identity, and the spiritual connection would remain.

sonofstannis

What if he instead were reincarnated as a lifeless? Is there a way he could reclaim it then?

Brandon Sanderson

Lifeless have someone else's investiture replacing their own. (As opposed to Returned, who are augmented.) Depends on how much of them is left, and if they can achieve sapience again, but I'd say this is unlikely.

WeiryWriter

What if the Lifeless is Awakened with their own Breath? (i.e. they gave it away right before they died and the person they gave it to then used it in the Awakening)

Brandon Sanderson

This has happened already in the world, and it does help.

-Nayrb

Did this happen "on screen"?

Brandon Sanderson

RAFO.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
#131 Copy

little_wilson

Mi'chelle is wanting to know for a fanfic she's wanting to write if when you cut/break an object that has been Awakened if the object then "dies", or if the pieces will try to carry out the command. Also, either way, can the breaths be recovered from it?

Brandon Sanderson

The object does not die, and will try to continue its purpose. The level of damage will determine just how well it can continue. The Breaths are recoverable. (Though there could be some loss of Breaths, depending on how the item is destroyed.) There's a scene near the end where Vasher Awakens some clothing, then it gets cut down and he recovers the Breath.

Skyward Seattle signing ()
#132 Copy

Questioner

Would it be possible to Awaken a microbe, like a bacterium?

Brandon Sanderson

Probably not. I could imagine that happening. Awaken is the wrong term for it. I would say "No, because Awaken is the wrong term for it." But Investiture could potentially create something weird out of that.

Holiday signing ()
#134 Copy

zas678

If an Awakener went to Roshar and bled color from a gem, would this gem still hold Stormlight?

Brandon Sanderson

If an Awakener bled-- No it would-- Oh wait yes it would because a colorless gem could still hold Stormlight. It just would not have--

zas678

Would not have the properties of the original color.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, the color is integral to what's going on because molecularly some of these gems are the same except for the different coloring. The coloring is kind of what--

zas678

What defines what magic.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. It has to with fabrials and some of the effects, and that relates directly to the spren and what spren-- anyway.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#136 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher casually mentions that the Idrians used to be Awakeners. That's true. Before they left, they were as big into Awakening as anyone else—of course, what he doesn't mention is that Awakening back then was much more new than it is now. It was fresh then, and the Idrians had some very bad experiences with it turning against them. (And what we call Idrians were just one noble house, the Idrian line, those related to the king and his servants.)

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
#137 Copy

Questioner

Based on what we know currently about ten heartbeats, why does Szeth require ten heartbeats to bring forth his Honorblade?

Brandon Sanderson

Perception is a very important part of how these things all work, and remember the Honorblades work differently from everything else. Everything was based upon them. Why don't you read and find out what's going on there, but remember that the characters's perception is very important.

Questioner

So then that's why at one point Shallan requires ten heartbeats and now she doesn't?

Brandon Sanderson

Right, it's the exact same reason that Kaladin's forehead wounds don't heal. Because he views himself as having those somewhere deep inside of him and he can't heal until that gets away. And it works for the same reason why in Warbreaker when you bring something to life, your intention rather than really what you say is what matters. It's all about perception.

Orem signing ()
#138 Copy

Zas678 (paraphrased)

Do people in the cosmere, besides Nalthis, have Breaths?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

No. To elaborate a little more, that's not to say they don't have a life force, because they do. But if someone not from Nalthis were to suddenly gain the ability to become an Awakener, they could not use what they have to Awaken something. That's not to say that they can't receive Breaths though.