Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA

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Name Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA
Date
Date Dec. 12, 2018
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Entries 82
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#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Before we start, I wanted to say something about continuity and canon. I don't represent Wizards of the Coast, obviously. This was a very fun project, and I had a lot of freedom in developing Davriel, Tacenda, and the lore of the Approaches. However, I can't state or make official Magic canon, beyond the extent of what is in the text of the story.

So, when I answer these questions, I'll often have a couple of different terms. If I mention Official Canon, this is (by my understanding) the current canon of the Magic storyline--as explained to me by the local in-house experts. I could be wrong on this sort of thing, but I'll try to pass along my understanding of what the canon answer is in relationship to this story. (For example, I was assured it was okay to have female demons in my story, despite it not being something that Wizards has done very much in the past.)

I'll relate my own Head Canon on other items--things that I haven't cleared with Wizards. This should be taken as what I was going for, and can work for your understanding of the story, but it shouldn't be taken as gospel--and it could very well be contradicted by future decisions by the lore team. They take their continuity very seriously, and I am not up-to-date on everything they're doing with the stories of the other characters. I was pretty focused on my little corner of the multiverse.

In other places, I'll talk about decisions I made (or didn't make) in relation to the story--if I am talking about the process, you shouldn't infer too much from decisions I didn't make. I did a lot of this work before talking to the lore team about larger continuity, so things I considered (and discarded) before the story was finished shouldn't be taken as hints for the larger story. To be honest, I didn't know much about it at that stage anyway.

#3 Copy

wiresegal

Tacenda seemed to Planeswalk at the end. Did she, or did she just "ascend" within Innistrad? Was she an unsparked planeswalker before she accepted the Entity? If she wasn't, did the Entity give her a Spark, similar to how Slobad was grafted one? And if that's not it, the third possibility... is the Entity native to the Blind Eternities, like the Eldrazi?

Brandon Sanderson

I will give you both the canon and Brandon head canon.

Canon is: ambiguous on all counts. It's not confirmed that Tacenda planeswalked at the end, or whether she (or Davriel) had sparks of their own--or if their planewalking powers are granted by the Entities. I can say, in canon, that the Entities are not native to the Blind Eternities--they are the souls of ancient, powerful planes that were destroyed, and their power harvested.

The Soul of planes sequence from m15 were their inspiration, though something special happened with these specific planes. I can't confirm or deny how many of them there were, but at least two.

Now, the Brandon Head Canon. (See my post at the top of this thread for an explanation.)

In my discussions with Wizards, they gave me leave to create one planeswalker--but in the course of the story, I decided to have Tacenda spark as well. This wasn't done with canon permission from Wizards, and I promised them that I'd leave it ambiguous in case they didn't want to have to deal with me playing loose and free with creating planeswalkers.

I personally imagine that the entities are providing the sparks for both Davriel and Tacenda. Davriel THINKS it's his own spark, and it ignited when he saw the true nature of the multiverse--and this is, right now, the canon answer. But I personally like the idea that one of the reasons these Entities are important is because they provide planeswalking ability to whoever holds them.

That has too much lore implication for me to canonize, however--and I didn't push Wizards to do so. (I also didn't ask them to make Tacenda a planeswalker; I simply wrote the story, and left them the option of using her in the future.) So take this part all with a grain of salt.

#5 Copy

Rutherfox

Did you consider other planes for the story, or was Innistrad your go-to?

Brandon Sanderson

Since this story had been brewing for years as inspired by Innistrad, I didn't really consider others. I'd say that if I hadn't done Innistrad, I might have done an old-school story about one of the legends from Legends (which is the first MTG expansion I ever bought) that doesn't yet have a story.

#6 Copy

carnivorouspickle

If you hadn't had the opportunity to write for MtG, would any of these characters have made it in one form or another into one of your other books, or would they only fit in this setting? If they would have made it into a different story, which one?

Brandon Sanderson

I've wanted to do this story for a number of years, and it was inspired by me asking myself (after my first visit to WoTC a number of years back) what I would do if I were to write a story for them.

I didn't seriously consider doing this in another setting, since the concept of demons and contracts isn't really a Cosmere one--and the first ideas were for Davriel and Miss Highwater. That said, spren bonds have some slight similarities, so it's not impossible.

#7 Copy

DataLoreHD

When can we expect all your non-Cosmere novellas be collected into one anthology book?

Brandon Sanderson

We are quietly getting everything ready for the non-cosmere collection, just in case. The thing that would make us pull the trigger early would be if Snapshot actually gets greenlit for a film at MGM--though I don't know how close we are to that. We want want to be ready just in case.

I feel like it needs one more story or two before publishing it otherwise, though, so I'd expect a little wait.

Glamdring804

I remember hearing a while ago that there was a non-Cosmere collection in the works. I too would like to know if this is still a thing, before I go and buy each novella or short story individually.

Brandon Sanderson

It WILL happen, so you might want to wait--but the release of the movie (if it happens) for Snapshot will influence timing. I wouldn't expect it in 2019, if it does happen. 2020 would be much more likely.

#8 Copy

wackyHair

How did writing this differ from writing the Infinity Blade novellas?

Brandon Sanderson

The IB novellas were interesting in that I was specifically looking to explain game mechanics with a narrative, something that the Wizards people didn't want me to do. (That said, I slipped a little in here and there, such as Davriel "flashing back" many of his spells, using them again and again.)

I'd say that here, the biggest difference was knowing of an existing lore and mythos that I wanted to weave my story into, rather than creating it wholesale from the game. (Which is what I did with IB.)

#9 Copy

drostandfound

It is mentioned that the Entity is the compressed power of a destroyed plane. How does this happen? Why is it sentient? Why is one in a puddle on Innistrad? Are they related to the planar souls from M15?

Brandon Sanderson

Most of this will have to be revealed at a later date, but what I can say is that yes, M15 was the inspiration--and the creation of these entities happened through some very special circumstances.

#11 Copy

drostandfound

As far as I know, the Entities are new to the Magic lore. Were they your idea? What was the process like of working with creative to develop a new type of being within a very defined lore?

Brandon Sanderson

These were something I wanted to do and create, and a pitch I brought to the lore team. They were on-board from the beginning, though they did a lot of work to help me bring my idea into line with something that would work with MTG lore.

#12 Copy

drostandfound

Is the similarity between an entity and a Shard intentional? They both are objects of great power that allow their holders to move between planes and try to twist the holders personality.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, this is intentional. When Notch designed a card, I liked that he had a nod to his own creation in it. I wanted to bring something that would have a "Brandon Sanderson Lore" feeling to MTG, kind of in the same way.

#13 Copy

drostandfound

Are these characters yours, as in you have claims to them for future writing, or do you hope to see other authors take them and move them through the multiverse?

Brandon Sanderson

I absolutely want to see other authors do things with these characters. Part of the fun for me in doing an MTG story was the chance to do something like create a character for the Marvel universe--I wanted to add to the story, and throw some of my creativity into the mix, and hope to see them get used in the future.

I'd hope that if there's ever a main-line story involving Davriel or Tacenda that I get a chance to write it, or at least consult. But I don't consider them "mine." They were a chance for me to add to the lore of something I love.

#16 Copy

Aurimus_

From a writerly perspective - as part of your process, how do you come up with magitech solutions that feel like they're a natural part of the magic system - IE fabrials, medallions?

Brandon Sanderson

As for magitech, I try to make them still have a sense of mystery and magic to them--but also have those who, in world, do understand them. To walk that line between science and the fantastic.

#17 Copy

mbue

Did Tacenda and Willia start out as a pair of twins who visited the Nightwatcher in your head? Their background sounds a lot like a boon/curse pair. :)

Brandon Sanderson

More, I was looking for a curse to be involved in the story (because I liked the flavor of the curse mechanic in Innistrad) and curses/boons tend to be connected in my brain--probably from playing too many D&D games where I got a ring of wishes, and the DM was feeling grumpy.

#18 Copy

Smackashi

Who is your favorite planeswalker story wise? And who is your favorite non planeswalker character!

Brandon Sanderson

I really enjoyed all the lore of the Brother's War, and so Urza has a soft spot in my heart. I liked the spin that MTG took on the "Gandalf" character, making him quite flawed--even dangerous.

For newer walkers, I love the design (both the visuals and the card) on Ashiok, though they don't have a lot of lore associated with them.

#20 Copy

tharmsthegreat

Davriel is UB just like Brandon's favorite colors.

Tacenda is probs WG before the entity but I guess we could see her Abzan.

I hope both of the demons get cards too.

Brandon Sanderson

As for color identities here, I'd mostly agree with you. I see Davriel as mostly black, but with a blue element to him. I could see him printed under mono black, UB, or even--under just the right circumstances--esper. (He believes in the structure of laws and society, though admittedly mostly as a thing for "other people.")

Tacenda has a strong red streak to her--in fact, my initial concept for her was a mono-red character, but one who expressed the red aspect through music, song, and passion. The entity inside of her is green, however, and the white/green nature of her society has had a big influence on her beliefs in fate, the needs of the many, and that sort of thing. So I'd make her RWG.

sskeeto620

I was considering the same colors for both of them as well. Definitely black and blue for Davriel. I was personally leaning towards Esper, however. Like you said, he does believe in structure of law and society. Also, his ability to summon weapons seems like a white effect to me.

Brandon Sanderson

Well, he stole the weapon-summoning spell. I was told I could have Davriel steal and use spells of any color, so long as it was painful for him, and it was clear he was using them as part of a theft mechanic--meaning he only had access to them for a limited time.

#21 Copy

Korombos

Vorthosy How-does-magic-work Question: In your mind, is Planeswalker magic a different kind of magic than clerics, wizards, druids, and such who are not Planeswalkers, or just different in scale? Does every plane have its own rules for magic (and other existential things) or are they all sharing a common rulebook (if-you-will)? Are there different kinds of planeswalkers, do you think (different sorts of sparks)? Have you ever played Mage: The Ascension?

Brandon Sanderson

This is Brandon canon, not official MTG canon. I've always imagined that growing up with the mana all around them in MTG planes that almost everyone has some kind of little, innate magical gift that you wouldn't really call a spell. More powerful ones manifest in dramatic ways. But you can also learn to do more with study, becoming a wizard or the like. I do imagine that every plane has some slightly different tweaks of physics, and metaphysics.

I think there are probably different kinds of planeswalkers and sparks, but again, this is my instinct--not official canon. Here, I'm just a fan talking about how he sees the game.

I have played Mage, and like most White Wolf games, I found the experience to be very fun--but reading the sourcebooks tends to be even better.

#23 Copy

KaladinarLighteyes

Is there a specific plane that [Davriel] is from?

You mentioned in the article on your site that Wizards integrates him into the larger story, does that mean there’s a chance that he will show up again and things that happened here are related into the future Magic story?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, though I've been asked not to confirm this for right now. He is from a known place in the multiverse.

Yes, he should show up again in the future, before I have a chance to write another story. So keep an eye out for him.

#24 Copy

Gruuler

So did the essence of the plane give [Tacenda] the ability to planeswalk, or did she have a spark already?

Brandon Sanderson

This was left vague on purpose, because I didn't want to put the lore team in the position of being saddled with a second planeswalker I'd created--or with the lore implications of the entities granting planeswalking ability. So yes, I intended her to become a planewalker, and the entity to be the source of that ability--but I don't consider that official canon. Only that Tacenda vanished at the end of the story, and nobody is certain exactly what happened to her.

#25 Copy

Gruuler

And where did the essence [Entities] come from? There's like a million questions in that one question, everything from the specific plane, how did it gain sentience, etc, but is it possible to give us at least a brief overview of how it came to be?

Brandon Sanderson

I can't say too much on the second, though I can tell you that the Entities both came from ancient planes that were destroyed, their power condensed into these "entities." (The Soul cards from M15 were an inspiration here.) If I do another story in coming years, I would want to dig into this more specifically.

#29 Copy

tharmsthegreat

You did tell us to keep an eye open for future sets. Well then, in your head, what are the colors of each main character (Tacenda, Highwater, Crunch, Willia)

Brandon Sanderson

Tacenda is GRW. The demons would be mono black, though Miss Highwater has some red and blue to her, while Crunchgnar has some red and green to him. Willia is White Green Black.

yahasgaruna

Is [Tacenda] still GRW at the end of novella, after picking up the entity?

Brandon Sanderson

I imagine that entity actually being green. A darker side of green, but still green. It evoked a feeling of destiny, and of putting it back together (which would be natural) and a kind of survival of the fittest attitude. You didn't get to see much of it, but this is my intention for it.

Think of the Entities as enormous mana reservoirs--the collected mana of a plane--that can be tapped to power spells, but with dangerous results. Davriel's Entity is pure black mana, while the entity of the bog is pure green. (Though in its shattered form, a lot of its instincts were about self-preservation, which comes across black in the story.)

#30 Copy

Argent

There is a mention of a shorthand for the women's script, for faster taking of notes - is that just the script with the top/bottom half cut off (which would lead in no loss of information, since the letters are symmetric), or is more like a code or a compression algorithm (like how someone might write "u" instead of "you")?

Brandon Sanderson

I imagined the shorthand of the women's script being a combination of the two--squiggles instead of full lines, mixed with some actual shortened words or replacement words.

#31 Copy

Kenobi_01

Crossover Time: Which Planeswalker would fit in best/worst/most interestingly into a Cosmere story, and ditto for one of your characters, in an MTG set? (Outside of Hoid: we both know the Mending would be nothing compared to the carnage he would cause in the Multiverse). I suspect Sazed would have an... interesting time with Gideon. Especially on Theros and Amonkhet.

Brandon Sanderson

I like your Sazed/Gideon idea. Tamiyo trying to figure out the science of Roshar's moons might be fun, also. (Hint, it's weird.)

#34 Copy

DataLoreHD

I'm confused of the book title. Isn't "Children of the Bog" more accurate?

Brandon Sanderson

It depends. Some of the characters were children of the angel, some were children of the bog (which also has no name), and some might be considered children of something else which has no name. Notably, Davriel doesn't speak of his actual name in the story, but only the various aliases he has made up.

#36 Copy

Jay13x

Are Vex and Cabralin meant to be the names of planes?

Brandon Sanderson

I didn't get specific permission to name any planes--so while I intend them to be planes, for actual MTG canon I believe they have to be taken as regions inside of planes (that haven't been named yet.) You'll be safer assuming that unless Wizards decides otherwise. I don't think we should go around adding them to lists of planes on MTG wikis, for example.

#38 Copy

chaoticdust75

I have a couple questions about when Tacenda sang and played her song for the demons while Davriel Slept.

From the description it seemed like she was evoking her own story of loss and in so doing the demons saw visions. Miss Highwater was flying while Crunchgnar seemed to be seeing the fires of his home go out.

What was the magical song doing to the characters?

Brandon Sanderson

Part of Tacenda's power is to use music to enhance people's experiences, memories, and emotions. This song was exploring that power--and looking specifically at things they had lost.

chaoticdust75

Why did Miss Highwater see herself flying? Did she used to be able to or envy angels?

Brandon Sanderson

I'm afraid I'll RAFO this for now. But you are asking the right sorts of questions.

chaoticdust75

What did Davriel see?

Brandon Sanderson

Another RAFO. He was very disturbed by it, though.

chaoticdust75

I'm also just curious about the soul of the Nameless Angel. Do you have an in universe explanation for why Tacenda could see it yet no one else could? Or is it just a powerful moment that had something to do with the Bog being afraid of faith?

Brandon Sanderson

You're theorizing along the right lines, but I wanted to leave this one ambiguous. Suffice it to say that odd things were happening.

#39 Copy

Dwarven_Hydra

What was it like keeping this project a secret for so long, especially with so many people guessing it’d turn out to be exactly this?

Brandon Sanderson

So, it did grow kind of annoying to keep this secret--as I tend to be the type to think that a secret doesn't do a project like this very much good. The longer a project remains a (known) secret, the bigger the hype machine--and I knew pretty early on that people were going to blow this out of proportion.

So I hope it wasn't too much of a disappointment that it wasn't some huge film or video game project, like I suspect some of you were expecting. Fortunately, I've had secret projects before, and they tend to be novellas like this.

Either way, I do wish they'd let me announce it sooner. Not sure exactly why they wanted to keep it a secret. Announcing it in July and letting people anticipate would have been great for building interest--but I think they were a little wary since they really didn't know how big it would be or what it would be like, since they didn't commission the piece so much as say 'yes' then try to ride the wave that is Brandon creating a story.

#40 Copy

Use_the_Falchion

I'm not a MTG fan by any stretch, (I've played a couple of rounds with friends, but it usually takes some heavy coercing) but if I wanted to become one, especially for the lore, where would I start?

Brandon Sanderson

Well, this story isn't a bad place, since I wrote it hopefully in a way that will be interesting to those who don't know any of the lore. Otherwise, the soft reboot mentioned below is a good place.

I liked a number of the earlier comic books (though I haven't read the current one) and thought they were well done. I also liked the work Martha Wells did recently--I linked it in my blog post today.

For years, each Magic story was isolated, with each set having its own story. (Save for one long arc near the beginning.) Some ten years ago, they decided to create a group of people who would travel between the worlds, and let the story center on their interaction with the locations--which gave it some stronger continuity. The soft reboot at Origins (which is kind of the second soft reboot for MTG) is the start of the current larger arc.

#41 Copy

Aurimus_

As a worldbuilder, I love digging into worlds I wouldn't experience otherwise - DnD setting guides, wikis and the like. From the chapter released on io9 already, and what I've seen on various reddits discussing your novella, it feels like MtG has a massive world behind it too (someone described MtG as very similar to the Cosmere?)

First off, will your novella be suitable for someone like me who has never actually dug into the MtG lore before? And secondly, where would you say a Cosmere fan should begin digging into the lore here? What are your favorite worldbuilding elements? Have any inspired elements in your stories? (Cosmere or otherwise)

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, this novella will be suitable for someone who knows nothing about the lore. I wrote it expecting most wouldn't know anything about it.

If you want to dig into MTG lore, the various MTG wikis talk a lot about the world and lore--but you could do worse than just reading the other stories on Wizard's website, as a lot of them are well done.

My favorite MTG worldbuilding elements tend to be their visual worldbuilding--they have a lot of artists, and much of what they come up with is beautiful. It's a lot of fun to just go to Gatherer (the website with all the archive of cards) and pick a Set (like Innistrad) and read the flavor text at the bottom of the cards. (They are quotes or things in-world. Not every card has them, but much do.) That, with the art style, can tell you an entire story on its own.

I've been playing MTG since I was in high school, so I'd say my writing was probably influenced by it a lot--but I don't know if I can name any specifics.

#42 Copy

MagisterSieran

How would you compare writing this novella to the Wheel of Time books you wrote? Both have treasure troves of existing lore and characters and both are fantasy media that you're a fan of.

Brandon Sanderson

It was a similar experience in some ways--I had a lot of creative freedom in both cases, for example, and I had a lot of lore to draw upon.

For the WoT, though, I was very, very steeped in the lore--and made sure I did another deep dive before writing the stories. Here, I have familiarity with a lot of MTG lore, but there's a lot I don't know. I haven't read most of the fiction, particularly the older fiction, for example.

So for WoT I felt confident taking main storylines and resolving them, while for this, I tried to create my own sort of sectioned-off part of the plane to play in. Then I created my own lore for that area that I could control more specifically--traditions and lore that were related to the well-known places on Innistrad, but not exactly the same. That way, I could play with them, and undermine them, and do what I wished with them.

#43 Copy

mbue

  1. Did you get to choose Innistrad as the setting, or was that something that was already part of the planeswalker WotC had in mind that your character got merged into?
  2. How many MtG novels have you read yourself?
  3. I understand that your novella will stand very well on its own, but I'm sure there will be references to existing lore. Could you point out any existing MtG novels that would particularly increase our understanding and enjoyment of some details in yours?

Brandon Sanderson

  1. I got to choose. I had built Davriel most of the way when they said, "Hey, we've got this blank slate planeswalker in our files. Do you want to make this your character?" It worked perfectly, as it let me fill out the lore for this person and have them work as part of the larger narrative.

  2. Not a ton. I've read a lot of the more recent web-based fiction. I bought the early novels to get the sweet promo cards, and remember liking them--but it's been a while. Otherwise, little spots here and there. (I particularly liked the comics.)

  3. Davriel is partially a contrast to Liliana, a main-line character who also has had dealings with demons (but has done it much differently...) and who is a necromancer (exactly of the sort Davriel would hate.) I think reading about her might make for a fun contrast. She's heavily involved in the previous Innistrad story, which you might enjoy if you liked this one. You can find it on Wizards site: https://magic.wizards.com/en/content/shadows-over-innistrad-story

#44 Copy

Jovh

What challenges are there in writing for an already established IP vs something of your own creation?

Brandon Sanderson

The biggest challenge is always the push and pull between what the larger story needs vs. the little story I want to tell. For example, MTG has established rules about what the planeswalkers can do--and it's important to stay in canon for the greater good of the story. (Planeswalkers, for example, can't take people with them when they hop between worlds.) That limits me, for example, if I wanted to do Davriel on another plane--he couldn't take any supporting cast with him.

That's a rule you probably wouldn't set up if this were just stories about Davriel, as the supporting cast is what makes him shine as a character. But the structure of it is important for not breaking the larger stories the team is telling.

#45 Copy

Arkm21ebr

Are there any MtG planes that have had an influence on you and share some characteristics with any of the planets in the cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

It's hard to say how much influence MTG has had on me, since I started playing in high school--right around the time when I started writing. I don't ever remember seeing the connected shared worlds thing, and connecting it to the cosmere. (I see that as more directly influenced by Asimov and Stephen King connecting their books together) but it's totally possible that MTG was an unconscious influence.

#47 Copy

Nallebjurn

Is it a possibility that we in the future get to see the characters from Children of the Nameless represented on magic cards?

Brandon Sanderson

It is a possibility, but as the other responder mentioned, I don't have any control over this--I think it's likely, but I certainly couldn't say when. I think the fact that Dack got a card--after being created by the comic book team--bodes well for Davriel, at the very least.

#48 Copy

cantoXV1

Brandon, how was character creation different for Children of the Nameless compared to the rest of your other works?

Brandon Sanderson

Character creation wasn't that different--I start usually with a conflict or a theme. For Davriel, it was "Economist gets magical powers" mixed with "Person who uses contracts with demons not for crazy power, but to get good staff members."

For Tacenda, I was looking at her curse and the way she uses music. (Mixed with the conflict of being able to hear your entire village get killed--but not being able to stop it.)

From there, I did apply some MTG philosophy to the refinement of the characters.

#49 Copy

cantoXV1

Did you struggle with the limits of the magic world and magic system since you're so used to creating your own?

Brandon Sanderson

I worried about this a lot when going into the Wheel of Time--but I found that I really like taking an established magic system and pushing it this direction or that direction. It's a lot of fun to me to dig into how something works, and see if I can "break" it in interesting ways.

I suspected I'd have a similar experience with MTG, and I did--though I did need something I could play with to be unique. I settled on the kind of "Gonti/Nightveil Specter" ability to steal spells from someone else, then use them yourself. This was a really fun space for me to play with, and I found it thoroughly engaging.

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_i_am_root

Mr Sanderson, you have been a very active member in the communities about your books, and still manage to create such quality stories.

My question is, what has been the most memorable interaction you have had with a fan?

PS. Back when I first started reading your books, I sent you an email, and I got a reply. I just want to tell you how much that meant to me 5 years ago, no other author had ever responded to my emails, and I just want to say thank you.

Brandon Sanderson

Actually, the most memorable is probably when I saw someone on Reddit wishing they could be in the Stormlight Archive. (I believe it's /u/Kaladin_Stormblessed.) Well, I found her a spot in the books, and it turns out she is very involved in fandom and is a writer herself, so the two of us have become friends over the years. To the point that I forget we first met over a random thread on the internet.

You might also count the fact that a pair of fans, who met at one of my signings, eventually got engaged via a proposal that happened at one of my lectures. (With my involvement.)

Anyway, I'm glad I was able to answer that email! I don't get to do much of that any more, and a lot of people get form mail or responses from Adam instead. (It just got to be too much for me.)

#51 Copy

The_Vikachu

Are there any existing MtG cards with little lore behind them that have really gotten your creative juices flowing? For example, cards like Helm of the Host or Dark Depths, which hint at tons of story potential but are otherwise ignored by the larger ongoing story.

Brandon Sanderson

I have always loved Dark Depths for that reason--and for similar reasons, I like cards that tell a story by themselves. (Figure of Destiny, or the Sagas are examples of this.)

#53 Copy

SeanWhelan1

Having you create a story for Magic has been speculated for a very longtime now. Will there be a return in the future (possibly a full length novel) or was this a one-shot type of deal?

Having Magic go back to novels is going to be amazing and hope to see you around for these!

Brandon Sanderson

I doubt this will be the last time I write something for MTG, but it is difficult to fit this sort of thing into my schedule. Doing it for free this way actually helped, as instead of thinking about how much it would earn relative to other things, I could just relax and treat it as a gift to the readers. I don't know if I could have fit it in otherwise, oddly.

I don't know that I'll ever be able to do a main-line MTG novel, as the amount of time I'd want to spend going to the planning meetings and the like would probably be prohibitive. But we'll see.

#54 Copy

marquisdc

Did you go into creating Davriel with the color pie in mind? What colors would you say he is?

Brandon Sanderson

I went into the story knowing I wanted to write a black-alinged hero. Someone who showed off the pragmatic side of black, and someone whose ambition was different from traditional black-aligned ambition.

I'd say that Davriel is black primary, with a strong secondary blue aspect. There is a slight white tertiary side to him, mostly in his belief in organized systems and society that makes sense. (Though he prefers these boundaries for others more than for himself.)

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virgineyes09

Writing question. When writing a fantasy novel in which the setting and the plot are so tightly linked (i.e. the plot of Stormlight is linked inextricably and specifically to the world of Roshar) which area do you focus on first, world or story, or both simultaneously? Can you talk about Stormlight specifically and how you built the world and the story to work so tightly together? Do you ever make small changes in the worldbuilding that end up forcing you to make big changes to the plot and vice versa?

Brandon Sanderson

The way I design stories, I'm usually always thinking about items in three areas that catch my attention: Character conflicts, setting themes, and plot archetypes. I keep a notebook where I'm writing down in these three general areas, looking for ideas that strike me as feeling new or interesting in some way.

Books begin to form when several of these ideas start to grow together, and influence one another in interesting ways. Roshar, as a planet, was interesting--but the story wasn't working t until the idea of the spren, the characters who interact with them, and the world all together started to play off each other.

When I feel like something is really coming together, I sit down and build an outline from all of these idea. This back-and-forth experience leads to the story being interconnected as I jump back and forth between outlining plot, setting, and character. Often, these things will change one another greatly as I work through it, trying to see it all as a whole, rather than parts.

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pluto7443

Just a quick question, what colors would you think Davriel would be?

Brandon Sanderson

I think his first incarnation is likely to be mono-black--because I pitched him as a mono-black hero to the team.

lacker

Here’s what I was imagining while reading:

1UB, 3 starting loyalty

+1: Exile the top two cards of your opponent’s library

-1: You can play one card exiled with Davriel until end of turn, using mana of any color to cast it

-6: Exile your opponent’s hand

Brandon Sanderson

That's a great rendition of him. Nice work! The only problem with it that I can think of is that it feels a little like Ashiok, mechanically.

I would enjoy a Davriel who could thoughtsieze and cast those spells, as I think it aligns better--but this feels like a really dangerous ability to make repeatable on a cheap walker, but a weak ability on an expensive walker after hands are empty.

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Argent

I enjoyed the story a lot. Davriel was a lot of fun to read about, as was Miss Highwater. I wish I had interesting things to ask about them, but I just don't know enough MTG lore to come up with anything - which leads to my first question:

  • How can a guy learn more about the lore of MTG?

And, a related question:

  • Had I been more versed in MTG lore, would I be able to recognize specific spells or creatures in this story? Davriel's eyes changed color a few times when he was casting, I figured the color might match either the color of existing spells or what you felt his spells would've been, had they been actual cards.

Brandon Sanderson

MTG lore is pretty deep (and at times, a little confusing.) I'd suggest the Dominaria stories written by Martha Wells for sheer writing quality reasons--even though they might be a little more confusing than some others. You could also go back and read the stories set on Innistrad (this plane) during the Shadows over Innistrad story sequence.

If you'd known the lore, you'd have picked out little things here and there. But they would have been easter eggs, mostly.

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Kenobi_01

Were there any other Planeswalkers, Gatewatch or otherwise, that you would have liked, or would like to write for, at some point?

 

Brandon Sanderson

I like a lot of the odder, less central characters. Ashiok, Tamiyo. I do really like Elspeth, partially because of her origin, and partially because of her arc.

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les_lim

Crunchgnar mentions that as a lesser demon, he is forced to give up the souls he has claimed to his lords - presumably demon lords, not the mortals with whom he engages in contracts.

How does demonic feudalism work? Under what circumstances do lesser demons come to have lords? What benefits does Crunchgnar receive for his vassalage (or peasantry)?

Brandon Sanderson

Basically, you do what the more powerful demon says, or you end up getting roasted. It's not quite feudalism. More, if you have a tasty morsel, someone is likely to steal it from you--unless you've already picked someone strong to give some of what you claim, so they can tell everyone else to shove off.

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ILikeBreadsticks

If you could design a new mechanic for Magic, what would you make? Thank you!

Brandon Sanderson

For my own Mistborn custom cube, I designed a mechanic that cared if a card was sleeved or not. It couldn't work in regular magic, of course, but in the context of a cube that is already pre-sleeved, it played very well. Basically, being sleeved equated to being protected or shrouded in the mist. You could give up your protection to become stronger, sometimes, but it made you more vulnerable. (There were many cards, for example, that could only destroy unsleeved cards.)

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ChiralPhoton

When I think of Brandon and MtG, I wonder, if the 5 kinds of mana, were suddenly replaced by investiture from the 16 shards, how would that affect the game? Upsides? Downsides?

Brandon Sanderson

I don't know if this would even be mechanically possible--MTG is balanced around those five poles. It would probably make things a whole lot more complicated, and might be better matched to a game with a lot of flexible factions.

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DataLoreHD

Aside of the mind probe stealing spell, did Davriel have any other spells of his own? If not, why didn't he try to learn something which comes in handy in battle (e.g. Doom Blade)?

Brandon Sanderson

Remember, he loses what he grabs over time. Generally, he can keep a few stolen spells in the back of his mind--but even they weaken. So he can't really learn Doom Blade. He has to work with what he finds in the brains of nearby people.

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Wifrin

How did you find the experience of writing in an established universe that wasn't your own? Did the setting having a much softer magic system than you usually write present a challenge you, and what do you feel it taught that you can take back to your other writing?

Did you get any access or information about Magic lore that wouldn't have been available to fans yet?

Lastly, I feel like this story had less of your trademark "Sanderlanche" in it. Do you agree? Do you think that is a function of it being a short story, or other elements? Was it intentional, or did a more gradual set of revelations just work better for this story?

Brandon Sanderson

  1. I found the experience to be a lot of fun. The system was soft, but I created my own very hard corner of it to play in, so that worked just fine for me. Most of what this taught me was how to better collaborate--I am glad for the experience in that regard, and hope it will help me better at similar writing tasks in the future.

  2. I did!

  3. Most of my short fiction has a smaller Sanderlanche. Basically, I need lots of threads intermixing so that I can start pulling them together rapid-fire for a good Sanderlanche, and short fiction will need smaller ones in turn. Most of the stories in Arcanum Unbounded had climaxes similar to this one.

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Oversleep42

Do you have any advice on writing multiple magic systems? How to write it so that the reader is not confused in there being more than one? How to foreshadow combining them? How to play them off each other? How to balance them in one setting?

Brandon Sanderson

I really like to make sure I don't do too much at once. What has worked for me (both in Mistborn and Stormlight) is to introduce one system up front, and use it to start exploring the setting. Then I slowly add more in future books.

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beingcobra

What has been the hardest book for you to write? And the easiest? Was this particular book difficult to write?

Brandon Sanderson

Hardest was by far A Memory of Light. Easiest was probably Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, which I discovery wrote and did half as a writing exercise to keep me from burning out while working on the Mistborn trilogy.

This one was middle of the road. Most of it was easy, but the ending in the first draft didn't work and required a lot of beating my head against the wall until I was able to get things to click together.

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Glamdring804

While we're on the subject of you and MtG, do you have a spreadsheet or a document somewhere with the color identities of all your characters? Some of them are obvious, like Kelsier being red with maybe a splash of white, but others I can't make a solid decision on, like Vin.

Brandon Sanderson

See, I think Kelsier is blue black--though you're right, he probably has some red to him in his rebellious nature and focus on friendship and emotion. But no, I don't keep track of this. I enjoy talking about it with people, but it isn't an important part of how I design characters.

Glamdring804

Really? Blue black? I see where the blue comes from, and the black as well, but he was always felt like primarily red to me. Namely, his rebelliousness, desire for revenge, and general dislike of society’s structure feel like strong red traits to me. I suppose then, that might make him Grixis?

Brandon Sanderson

I could see Grixis.

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NPDgames

  1. When did you first start playing? Who/What got you into it? have you been playing non-stop since then or on and off?
  2. What formats/decks do you play?
  3. And something book related i guess. What plane would you LEAST want to set a story on.

Brandon Sanderson

  1. I started in 1994, when my brother brought home a Starter deck soon after Revised had launched. I was hooked from that moment, and have bought packs from basically every expansion since then.

  2. I used to play something akin to EDH before EDH was a thing, but now I almost exclusively draft. Powered cube combo is my jam, though I'll try just about anything.

  3. Hmmm. You know, I hadn't even thought of that. I don't really think any of the settings are bad, and most are quite good. Probably something like the Arabian Nights plane, as I think there would be a lot of problems with trying to do a story like that--not the least of which being Wizards probably hating the idea.

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Shpjokk

Are there any easter eggs that you either got to add or wished to add to the story that reference something Magic-related that's close to you?

Brandon Sanderson

Hmm. I toyed with writing in cameos for some people I know, but decided against it, as I know Wizards isn't fond of that sort of thing in their card art, and figured it would be a bad idea in fiction.

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Jay13x

Which bit of Magic lore inspired Davriel?

Brandon Sanderson

Mostly me thinking about what I'd do if I were to write a story (I started thinking about this years before I got the chance.) I'd say the biggest influence might have been Umezawa, as I really liked the way a black-aligned hero played in that story.

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EndlessKng

As someone who has studied Asian cultures and history and mythology, would you consider writing a story in the Kamigawa plane? It's one of my favorites but it seems to be a bit underloved, and I'd love to see some more development of it in a story.

I know you were instructed to not be as concerned with replicating game mechanics, but were there any particular cards or concepts that inspired you as you worked?

Which orders of Knights Radiant do you think the main characters would best belong to?

Brandon Sanderson

  1. I'm a big fan of Kamigawa, and would call Toshiro Umezawa an inspiration for doing a black-aligned hero in this story. So it is something I'd consider.

  2. Rage Thrower shows up in a quite obvious moment, and I imagine the dismissal spell that Davriel uses to be Silent Departure. (My interpretation of a blue unsummon effect, as opposed to an actual creature destroying spell.) There are a few other things, like the "summon equipment" spell he learns.

  3. Hm. Let me think on that. I'm not sure if Davriel would fit into any of them, honestly, though Tacenda could fit several

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Gadmond

Were the Whisperers inspired by the card Permeating Mass? Their green color and the way they turn everyone they touch into more of themselves seems too similar to be coincidental.

Since you knew you were writing for Magic the Gathering, did you ever think about what kind of abilities a hypothetical Davriel planeswalker card (Spoilers: or Tacenda planeswalker card) would have?

Is the Nameless Angel supposed to be the same one referenced in the official Magic story "A Gaze Blank and Pitiless"? If so, do you know if the story team is planning on addressing how she came back to life?

Brandon Sanderson

The Whisperers were actually more inspired by the card Strangleroot Geist. (Though I can't discount the fact that other cards, like Permeating Mass, might have been unconscious influences.)

I knew going into the story that I want green-aligned villains, and so was trying to ask myself what would inspire a group of green geists--and what would motivate them. We've seen green villains in MTG before (the Kami and the Phyrexians both did a good job of this.) I wanted to see if I could approach the color from another direction, and was trying to think of what green would want. It seemed to me that completion, the pieces being gathered to the whole, could be very green--as could the idea of survival of the fittest. (In the form of the Entity putting itself into two souls, and figuring the stronger of the two would eventually consume the other and become its host.)

Davriel would, I hope, have the ability to exile a card from a player's hand, then at some point in the future play that card using black mana.

Tacenda would be tougher. Emotional manipulation is hard to capture in MTG, other than as threaten effects. But I'd want something that could mimic this.

You're speaking of the fourth sister, the WB one? The team asked me to RAFO this, meaning leave it ambiguous for now.

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Aaronator17

I see a lot of people commenting and suggesting that Davriel is straight up UB (as represented in this story). Would you agree that this is the case? And if a different side of Davriel were to be represented on a card (say, his days as a conquerer) what do you think his colour alignment have been then? 

Brandon Sanderson

I think Davriel is most easily explained as UB, and the creative team agreed with that.

However, I think there's a strong argument for mono black for him. His power is a mix of a thoughtsieze and the power seen often on mono black cards (like Gonti.) Granted, it's also seen on blue cards, but it can exist in mono-black.

He does have an academic side to him, but mostly for studying demonology--a very black pursuit. His past is that of a very pragmatic economist, approached from a very black-aligned view. So mono-black makes a lot of sense for him.

He could also be seen as Esper. He believes in order, and the importance of social institutions--particularly as a means of controlling the masses.

The past version of him is very in alignment with this. He never approached his conquests in a red or green way--always in U/B/W ways.

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Argent

I got some Nightblood vibes from Davriel's Entity - are the Entities established... well, entities, in MTG lore, or are they more yours in design?

Brandon Sanderson

They're very me. I wanted to bring some ideas that were classic Sanderson to the project, and the Entities were one of my earliest pitches to the team.

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huriel19

  1. It's clear that Davriel is a Dimir aligned character but I find Tacenda a little bit harder to read (my closest assumption it's Boros). If she would be printed in a future which color combinations would she have?

  2. If you have the chance to write a short story about any member of the Gatewatch, which one would you choose? And why would be Liliana? :)

  3. Maybe it's something that you cannot answer or confirm, but do you consider that the Raven man or the Chain veil are some kind of Entity?

Brandon Sanderson

  1. I'd make Tacenda G-W-R. Green for her belief in fate, and for the power of the Entity. Red for her passion and music. White for her belief in, and protection of, her community.

  2. It would be fun to write about how much Lili and Davriel would hate each other.

  3. I came up with the Entities on my own, but I was aware of some of the similarities between this story and Liliana's story when writing it. I toyed with using some more direct connections, then decided to back out of them for various reasons.

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meramipopper

 

  • How would your characters fit in your power cube?
  • If it's okay, what colors would Spensa's class be?
  • What is your favorite snack to eat while playing MtG?
  • How many "embarrassing" white bordered dual lands do you have left? ;)

 

Brandon Sanderson

 

  • I guess it would depend on the cards. But I think I'll get a demonic tutor altered to have Miss Highwater in the art.
  • Spensa is about as mon-red as a character can get, I think.
  • Peanuts.
  • Too many! I've only gotten ahold of three alpha/beta duals so far. I like to pick them up when I see them, as opposed to specifically seeking them out. Feels more narratively appropriate, but I might have to break down and just buy the rest over the internet.

 

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Mithre

Two questions; if the characters were cards, what abilities would you like them to have?Are we going to see Tacenda again, or will future stories all be about Davriel?

Brandon Sanderson

  • I'd like Davriel to steal cards out of people's hands and then play them. I don't know about Tacenda, though. I've been drawing a blank so far.
  • I suspect you'll see both of them again some day.

Aaronator17

What of Davriel had a unique mechanic that read something like; When an opponent casts an instant or sorcery spell, -X loyalty where X is the spell's CMC and exile it with a theft counter (activate any time you could cast an instant), and another that was +2 and return a card exiled with a theft counter to its owner's [hand/graveyard], you may cast a copy of that spell using any coloured mana?

Brandon Sanderson

That would be cool, and I would like to see planeswalker cards with odd mechanics. But I think it would be a lot of complicated wording to do something that would, in essence, be very similar to:

Minus loyalty: Look at target player's hand an exile a non-land card from it.

Zero Loyalty: You may play cards exiled with Davriel, and may use black mana as mana of any color to cast those cards.

Mithre

Maybe Tacenda would have a tap target creatures effect?

Brandon Sanderson

That's a pretty good idea.

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diffyqgirl

Is the writing process for writing a novella different from writing a novel?

Brandon Sanderson

It is, but they are similar arts. I think of novellas like short novels, rather than long short stories--so I tend to plot and pace them in similar ways to novels. That said, I tend to narrow my focus to one day, and don't muck around as much with flashbacks. I try to keep the narrative tight on one sequence of events.

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BusinessCress

Speaking of writing process, how does it feel to work with your own series and with already existing (Magic, WoT)? Is there some differences?

Brandon Sanderson

It's actually a lot of fun to take established rules and see how I can play with them. It makes working on something like MTG different in an interesting way for me. I don't have absolute control of everything, and have to work within certain narrative restraints--which gives me a chance to do something new and different.

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AutonomousJoy

As somebody who has little to no knowledge about Magic: The Gathering beyond the fact that it is a card game, could somebody explain how novellas like this fit into everything?

Question for Branderson: How does writing for an already established IP feel compared to writing in your own universes? Do you feel limited?

Brandon Sanderson

It's a good kind of limitation--it helps me think with restrictions, and is good for me in making certain my own pieces remain consistent and rigid in their magical approach. So yes, it's limiting--but so far, with all three tie-ins I've done, I've been given enough freedom that it's been a good kind of limitation.

As for your first question, since nobody else is answering, Magic story these days is told via novellas like this. The creative team works closely with the game team to design the setting and story for a given set, then the creative team commissions or writes stories to post on the website for the fans who want to follow the story as they play the game. (The cards themselves evoke story nicely, but their focus isn't on the narrative, but on the mechanics of the game.)

My novella is a little odd in that I designed it working from worldbuilding materials sent to me, but without requiring it to follow a specific storyline for a set.

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Ankylosaurian

I'm not sure how familiar you are with superhero comics, but if Marvel/DC offered you a similar opportunity, are there any characters that you would want to write for?

Brandon Sanderson

Marvel did actually offer me this chance, and at the end of the day, I decided I didn't have the time at that point. I'm not closing the door entirely on doing something with them, but this project was different for several reasons.

First, I could create my own characters and situation--but know they were going to be important and relevant in the future of the narrative done by others.

Second, I could write it as a novella, to fit better into the time I had to give it.

Third, I could have it released for free, as a present to the fans.

I'm quite a big fan of what Marvel has been doing with its stories, but I didn't feel like it was the right time for me to become involved.

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Name Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA
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Date Dec. 12, 2018
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