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Firefight Chicago signing ()
#1 Copy


So is that the same thing with Commands, are there like ideals that are Commands?

Brandon Sanderson

This is more of a-- For you to interface with the magic, you need to be able to comprehend it. And so forming a Command-- The same thing happens in Elantris, you know they don't accidentally draw runes, right? The intention is part of interfacing with the magic. So it's like your mind reaching into the Spiritual Realm and you have to like conceive something.

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
#3 Copy


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.


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.

Arcanum Unbounded Seattle signing ()
#4 Copy

Lhyonnaes (paraphrased)

Okay, next question. The Hemalurgic bind points for the right and left eyes - are they the same?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

In terms of...?

Lhyonnaes (paraphrased)

Like, the Inquisitor spikes, is it the exact same process for either eye? Is it interchangeable?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

They're slightly different.

Lhyonnaes (paraphrased)

And on bind points... are these something that we could figure out ourselves one day, through analysis and guessing? Or is it something we'll just have to wait and see?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

They're... it would be a lot of trial and error, but it's... possible? And you need Intent, so... it would be a lot of trial and error. It wouldn't be easy. Probably not.

Worldbuilders AMA ()
#5 Copy


How important is Intent to Hemalurgy? If two people who didn't know about Hemalurgy were running and tripped, falling perfectly onto a spike, would Hemalurgy occur? What about if it was a sick psychopath who liked stabbing people with spikes instead of an accident?

Would the planet these events occurred on matter?

Brandon Sanderson

Location is not relevant to most of the magics.

As for those specifics of Hemalurgy, I will RAFO for now.

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
#6 Copy


Also what would happen if I had a LOT of Breath and tried to Awaken something that was still alive...?

Brandon Sanderson

RAFO on the second question. You could say that investing someone with your Breath, however, IS Awakening them.


Are Commands unique to Endowment and those with Breath, or do other shards have an equivalent or similar power / ability? The girl Vasher rescues, his statements to Denth, and your quote above seem to point that Commands can be used on living entities for some purposes... I've always wondered if there was more to Dalinar referring to "unite them" as a 'phantom command'. If other shards use commands or something similar it could also explain the mechanism of the Nightwatcher's boon/curse related to Dalinar's memory loss.

Brandon Sanderson

Intent is one of the components of the Magic, as you'll see frequently. These things are related.

JordanCon 2016 ()
#7 Copy


Does Hemalurgy require intent to steal the stuff? Or could somebody in theory just stab through in the exact-- I understand the chances are extremely slim, it's like accupuncture ...happen by accident?

Brandon Sanderson

Here's the thing, you've seen it happen without the intent of the person holding the spike.


But I think it's commonly accepted that Ruin was sort of manipulating some-- I'm specifically taking the Spook example off the table, I'm just saying, someone by accident stab - whoops! stab - whoops! and have a power?

Brandon Sanderson

Again, Ruin was involved in that. Every spike-- spiking that you saw had Ruin's intent behind it. I'm not going to answer your question, RAFO. You tried, you got me to admit that I was trying to wiggle around it, and I will tell you, today I wiggled around one question that none of you saw me wiggle around, really well, today. Today. I'm not going to tell you which one it is but there is one here that you all thought, you're all like "woo!" but you didn't realize you'd given me so much wiggle room.


So about that space station.

Brandon Sanderson

It's not that one.

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
#8 Copy


Recently, at DragonCon, you talked briefly about detecting worldhoppers by examining their speech, and you mentioned Hoid using "coin" on Roshar, where there are no coins. Which overlapped with a question I had been meaning to ask - why would the people around him hear "coin" instead of "sphere"? Is this magical translation (something to do with Connection) malfunctioning for some reason? Or is the use of such out-of-context words solely for the benefit of the Cosmere-aware reader?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, this has to do with magical translation. It's a quirk of trying to say something in the language, and the magic mixing up your intent. Someone who actually learns the local language wouldn't make this mistake.


Can I just make sure I understand your reply real quick? Are you saying that if Hoid, or someone with the same magical translation, were to learn a bit of Alethi language and culture, get more used to spheres being used as currency, then the magic would stop using "coin" and replace it with sphere? Or, in a sci-fi world, maybe "credit"?

Brandon Sanderson

If he was thinking about saying sphere, he'd say sphere with the magic.

If he accidentally said coin, through the magic, it would try to translate it into coin.

If he learned the language, there's little chance he'd make this mistake. It's a natural feature of learning another language--you tend to imitate those around you. It's still possible he'd make the mistake, but from my experience with second language acquisition, you don't accidentally say words in your native language expecting them to make sense in the new language.


But wouldn't this require, in his case, the Alethi language to have a word for "coin"? I thought what's happening is that he is saying "coin" (because it's more natural to him), and his magic - not knowing how to translate a word that doesn't exist in Alethi, just sends it across verbatim. Like how he used the word "dog" once, even though the Alethi can't have a word for it.

Brandon Sanderson

That's exactly what is happening--it's sending across the word verbatim.


Ah, so when you say that is he had said "sphere" in his own language, instead of "coin" (which would be weird to him, because he doesn't think of spheres as currency), then the translation would be fine. Not that he could say "coin" and have the magic interpret his intent and turn into "sphere".

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, to an extent. Remember, this is magical means through connection--not exact translation. But this is a short version of what is happening.


*in response to Brandon's original answer* Is that how translated puns work, then? Based on your intent?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, that has something to do with it. Though being aware that you're using the magic, and how it works, helps. For example, Hoid (very experienced with this sort of thing) can manipulate the magic and get a feel for what will work and what won't. It's a strange thing, because in most cases, you're actually SPEAKING the language, not speaking your own and having it translated. The magic pretends you were born and grew up in that place.

So you can speak in puns, and riddles, and so forth. However, there's latency from where you actually grew up that causes a kind of "blip" when you try to force through something that just doesn't translate. If you just let the magic do its thing, you'll naturally use idioms from the world you're in. But if you lock on to one from your past, it causes a kind of disharmony in the magic--reminding your spirit web that you don't actually speak the language. It will spit out a transliteration or verbatim phrase in this case.

You will rarely see Hoid having the trouble that Vasher does in using the language and magic, as Vasher doesn't really care. But you will still see even the most expert slip up now and then.

There's an extra layer on this that I don't focus too much on, in that the books themselves are in translation--so when Hoid's using a pun, he's filtering his intent to pun through the magic, into Alethi, creating a local pun that works in the language--then that is in turn translated to one that works in our language.

JordanCon 2018 ()
#9 Copy


Ancient glyphs. If they are drawn with the proper Intent, do they provide some form of Investiture? Is that where the modern idea of glyphwards and burning prayers came from?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Oh, I get where you're going. I'll RAFO that.

Warsaw signing ()
#10 Copy

Oversleep (paraphrased)

I asked whether we could call the Bands of Mourning the Survivor's Spearhead and whether it did have all 16 basic metal metalminds.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

He hesitated a little but eventually said yes, there were all 16 metalminds.

Oversleep (paraphrased)

I asked whether Marasi tapped all of them, because she would tap Kelsier's Identity and memories.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

He said intentions are important and she didn't tap all of them.

Holiday signing ()
#11 Copy


Allomancy requires, you need to be either a Misting or a Mistborn to be able to do that. But Hemalurgy you just need to stab someone through the heart. So what would stop someone on Roshar from using Hemalurgy, because it's not Innate? Do you have to be in proximity to Ruin?

Brandon Sanderson

Intent is a big part of a lot of the magics, including Hemalurgy, meaning that you need to know what you're doing. Or somebody needs to-- There needs to be Intent involved in what's happening to you.


So like with Spook when he got spiked, where was the Intent?

Brandon Sanderson

The person who was driving that spike was being influenced by Ruin, and the Intent was there.


So unless you knew what you were trying to do with a Hemalurgic spike, you couldn't do Hemalurgy?

Brandon Sanderson

You could not steal attributes no.

Questioner 2

Is it possible to steal Surgebindings.

Brandon Sanderson

It is possible to steal Surgebinding.


Is there going to be crossover, like is someone going to have Feruchemical powers and also Surgebinding?

Brandon Sanderson

That's a Read And Find Out.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#12 Copy


If metals shape the Investiture in Allomancy, causing a Steelpush or whatever, how is it that the mists can be used to perform the same feat? What is 'shaping' the inhaled mists into a Steelpush, if there's no metal "nozzle" to do so?

Brandon Sanderson

Consistently through the cosmere, once you have the power in hand and it has permeated you, will becomes your nozzle. This can be seen in Warbreaker, where the power has been distributed and inhabits the people. The nozzle idea is important for Magics that are drawing power externally, as it keeps the power from overwhelming and destroying you. (Which, basically, happened to Vin at the end of the Trilogy--she got consumed by the magic. She became something new, now, so it didn't KILL her. It destroyed what she was, transformed her into something else.)

So you see magics like on Sel and Scadrial where a specific nozzle is needed--as the power source is external, at least with Allomancy. Will and intent take a backseat, though still pop up on occasion. On Nalthis (and in a lesser way, Roshar) will and intent are more important, and what you are trying to do shapes the magic more directly.

A little direct manifestation in this is found in the subtle differences between Allomancy and Feruchemy. In Allomancy, when you enhance the senses, you just get a blast of power--and all senses are enhanced, whether you want them all or not. In Feruchemy, you can be more precise, and pick a specific sense to store. The power is internal here, and therefore more limited in how much you can draw--but you can also be more precise with its manipulation.

Note that Roshar Surgebinding is a special case, as the magical symbiosis there is stronger than it is on other worlds, as much of the magic involves bits of power who have become sapient.


How much crossover is there in use? Like if one "breathes" in the mists they can use it to power their allomancy. Could an Allomancer utilize stormlight to power his allomancy as well?

Brandon Sanderson

Most of the magics can be hacked together in one way or another, but some are easier to interchange than others.

Leipzig Book Fair ()
#13 Copy


You recently compared the Aon Dor to a programming language of some sorts. Could you actually go one step further and build something like a curcuit board?

Brandon Sanderson

The difficultiy with all of that is that you have got to remember that the magic as they understand it right now only works based on Elantrian intention and activation. There were basically these sorts of things, but the switch has to be flipped by an Elantrian. Those things existed in Elantris.


It's just that I think that Elantris itself could be some sort of a really big circuit board.

Brandon Sanderson

That may be a little too far for what Elantris is, but there are places in Elantris which are just what you are describing.

FAQFriday 2017 ()
#14 Copy


Why didn't Dalinar get the powers of a Stoneward when he bonded Taln's [Honorblade]?

Brandon Sanderson

Some readers have already figured this out, so I don't think I'm engaging in too large a spoiler to dig into this one here.

There are several oddities going on here. The most important one relevant to this question is the Blade in question. If you compare the descriptions of the sword described in the epilogue of The Way of Kings to the one that traveled with the madman (allegedly Taln, the Herald) to the Shattered Plains, you'll find they are different.

The one that the characters obtained in Words of Radiance is NOT an Honorblade. It's an ordinary Shardblade (as ordinary as one of those can be called.) I'm not going to say specifically what happened to the Blade Taln arrived with at Kholinar, but I will say that it IS a different weapon from the one in Words of Radiance.

The other issue here is the somewhat lesser question of whether this character is actually Taln, the Herald, or not. Some characters in-world don't believe that it is, though his viewpoint in Words of Radiance strongly implies otherwise. This isn't specifically relevant to the conversation for reasons I'll talk about below--but it is tangentially related. Because in the cosmere, Intent is important to many of the types of magic. It's theoretically possible to hold an Honorblade and not realize what its powers are, and therefore be unable to access them.

As an aside, this character was actually the primary protagonist of the version of The Way of Kings I wrote in 2002. A man who woke up, with lingering memories of madness, and claimed to be a Herald when nobody believed him--as he couldn't manifest any powers, seemed to have lost his sword, and lore said the Heralds weren't coming back anyway.

When I wrote the new version of The Way of Kings in 2009 or so, one goal was to focus the storyline. I'd included so many characters in the 2002 version that none of them progressed very far in their arcs, creating a strong setting and interesting characters--but a bad book. During the new version, I decided that this character would be moved to the later books, and I'd explore him there.

In the 2002 version, the text was very dodgy on whether or not Taln was a Herald. Confronting the fact that he might be crazy was a major arc and theme of the book--however, as I've worked on the new version, I've realized that it would be dangerous to be too vague on this. Stringing people along with the question for a book or two is one thing, waiting until book six or eight to do a character's arc, and leaving the question of whether they're a Herald or not all that time, seemed unfair.

So the text is going to be making manifest fairly quickly who this person is. You'll have confirmations long before we dig into his viewpoint in the later books.

So, a recap:

1) The swords WERE swapped somehow.

2) Someone could hold an Honorblade and not realize they had access to powers.

3) This character may or may not actually be a Herald--but the text is going to make the answer clear, and I'm not trying to trick you.

Worldbuilders AMA ()
#15 Copy


Compounding requires practice, according to The Hero of Age's annotations. And yet, it's apparently as easy as burning a metalmind. What was going on that meant the Inquisitors couldn't figure out how to do it (despite Ruin likely knowing how and undoubtedly wanting them to learn) for over a year? What skill did they need to practice doing, exactly?

And what happened while they were practicing burning metalminds without successfully Compounding? Did they get an Allomantic effect?

Brandon Sanderson

What I think I was getting at in the annotations was a cosmere magic rule that, perhaps, I hadn't completely refined yet. This is the idea that INTENTION is vitally important to the workings of most cosmere magics.

You can learn to burn metals instinctively over time, but it does take time--time for your body to figure out what it's doing. If you have instruction and guidance, you can pick it up in an evening, like Vin did. Same goes for most of the magics. This ties into Awakening, with the idea that you have to form a command.

During Warbreaker was where I really refined this aspect of the magic. Logically, since the beginning of the cosmere, I've wanted all three Realms to be important to the way the magics worked. The "Practice" therefore for compounding is mental practice--a barrier to overcome in understanding what is happening, and what it will do to you.

If you already know all of these things by having it explained to you, that barrier is far less high. I think that was what I was talking about in the Annotations, without really having the idea specified yet--though I'd have to look back at the annotation and re-read it to say for certain.