11thorderknight

Price of Breaths

54 posts in this topic

 

 

I really feel like the Awakening component to Lifeless is minimal, and should not serve as much of a barrier between the Lifeless and Breath markets. (I wonder what the going price of hiring and Awakener to create a Lifeless is? 1% of the cost of a Breath, perhaps? Probably less, or else every Awakener would be rich pretty quickly.)

 

1%? No way. If it was easy, then everyone would use their personal Breath for a lifeless and it would be a zombie apocalypse. As I said, I'm sure there is a significant learning process; it's not just about knowing the exact words of the Command. As with all other Awakening, it likely requires skill in forming your Intent, and since you can't really practice that much because of the whole permanent-cost-thing, Awakeners who want to get better at making Lifeless would have to "cross-train" by practicing regular, Type III Awakening. And as we know, those Awakenings, while having no permanent cost, do require a pretty significant working reserve of Breath. 

 

Besides, as pointed out earlier, every Awakener IS rich, by definition, since they have a lot of Breath. And rich people generally don't devote their time to piecework that yields a 1% return. I suppose you could have a case of an Awakener falling on hard times, or a second or third child that was taught Awakening but never inherited the Breath, but if they were at a level where they could make Lifeless efficiently, that's how they'd rebuild their fortune. In fact, maybe it's exactly these down-on-their-luck Awakeners that make most of the commercially available Lifeless. 

 

Some other notes: 

 

We aren't really told this, but I would guess that in a society like Hallandren, dying with your Breath would be extremely taboo. It's a form of wealth, after all, and people would tend to pass it on to their heirs once it became clear they were dying. I'm sure the religion specifically encourages this. Look at the length the priests went to in order to get Vahr's Breath from him. Sure, it was worth a lot of money, but for the government of a rich nation it would have been a drop in the bucket. I'm sure it was religiously motivated more than anything else. My point is, it would be quite rare in Hallandren for Breath to be lost to death, except in an accident. So there's some generational accumulation over time.

 

It doesn't look like Awakeners, aside from maybe making and managing Lifeless, do any real work with their Breath. They might use it for their own benefit ("house, fix yourself!") but they're not out there digging ditches using Awakened shovels. Again, the whole I'm-already-rich-why-should-I-work thing. 

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With many thanks to the intercostal Kurkistan, without whom I'd prolly never find the links to half the rust I'm sure I've read.

 

Source

 

... Brandon posted WoBs all over TWG? GAHHHHHHHHHHH I may have to read the entire archives now this is the worst. Thanks!

 

1%? No way. If it was easy, then everyone would use their personal Breath for a lifeless and it would be a zombie apocalypse.

 

I disagree. Lifeless do need regular maintenance, like changing their ichor. Most people don't have the resources to constantly pay someone to deal with that, let alone some poor peasant. And most people don't know how to Awaken (which you bring up later).

 

Besides, as pointed out earlier, every Awakener IS rich, by definition, since they have a lot of Breath. And rich people generally don't devote their time to piecework that yields a 1% return.

 

I'd do it. Making a Lifeless takes a touch and one Command. If you get 1% of a Breath for the job, and we assume you open a business where people bring in a corpse and a Breath for you to make a Lifeless, that's going to get you a lot of Breath. Even if you only did one Lifeless every half hour, that's still 15 a day, assuming regular Earth working hours. For next to no work. More than a Breath every week for such a cushy job? You'd be hard pressed to find a better job, no matter how rich you are. The question is how big the demand is compared to the supply. I think 1% of the cost of a Breath is too high for the little labor required, and how little knowledge is really needed.

 

Also: any person in Hallandren with a lot of Breaths is not really "rich" in the typical sense, as they are ignoring the opportunity cost. What you want to do is keep a minimum amount of Breaths while you invest the money you'd use to buy the Breaths otherwise, then when you finally have enough money for immortality, sell your investments and do that. Then repeat, but this time never sell your investments, and enjoy life forever. Rich people in the real world stay rich due to investment returns.

 

 

We aren't really told this, but I would guess that in a society like Hallandren, dying with your Breath would be extremely taboo. It's a form of wealth, after all, and people would tend to pass it on to their heirs once it became clear they were dying. I'm sure the religion specifically encourages this. Look at the length the priests went to in order to get Vahr's Breath from him. Sure, it was worth a lot of money, but for the government of a rich nation it would have been a drop in the bucket. I'm sure it was religiously motivated more than anything else. My point is, it would be quite rare in Hallandren for Breath to be lost to death, except in an accident. So there's some generational accumulation over time.

 

I disagree, as this has never come up. Metalborn on Scadrial don't gift their powers to their heirs via Hemalurgy when they're dying of terminal illness (though they probably should, assuming Hemalurgy use has no permanent effects in the afterlife), so I don't see why they would do it with Breath. If they did do it, it seems like Vivenna would remark on it as being some sort of abomination. It would be such a central point of their culture that I just can't imagine it never coming up.

 

 

It doesn't look like Awakeners, aside from maybe making and managing Lifeless, do any real work with their Breath. They might use it for their own benefit ("house, fix yourself!") but they're not out there digging ditches using Awakened shovels. Again, the whole I'm-already-rich-why-should-I-work thing. 

 

I agree they're probably not out working with shovels in the dirt, since they're high status, but I think anyone with enough Breath to have learned Awakening but not enough to be filthy rich could and would be out there making Lifeless if the fees are as high as you're proposing.

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We aren't really told this, but I would guess that in a society like Hallandren, dying with your Breath would be extremely taboo. It's a form of wealth, after all, and people would tend to pass it on to their heirs once it became clear they were dying. I'm sure the religion specifically encourages this. Look at the length the priests went to in order to get Vahr's Breath from him. Sure, it was worth a lot of money, but for the government of a rich nation it would have been a drop in the bucket. I'm sure it was religiously motivated more than anything else. My point is, it would be quite rare in Hallandren for Breath to be lost to death, except in an accident. So there's some generational accumulation over time.

 

It doesn't look like Awakeners, aside from maybe making and managing Lifeless, do any real work with their Breath. They might use it for their own benefit ("house, fix yourself!") but they're not out there digging ditches using Awakened shovels. Again, the whole I'm-already-rich-why-should-I-work thing. 

 

Well, in a society like that i would really prefer to give my breath before my death, but it's not a given. when we die, we give our riches to our heir, but in many societies people got buried with them. maybe for halllandren it is distasteful to gift breath before dieing. we don't know.

 

Also, I'm a little surprised, if a breath cost around 10000 dollars equivalent, and 3000 breaths give immortality, why we don''t see any immortal rich person. 30 million dollars means being really rich, but there are people with those.and in the ancient world the income inequality was even greater than today; crassus, a political opponent of jullius caesar, was estimated to have been three timesas rich as bill gates in his best moments. mansa musa, emperor of mali, was estimated to have 250 billion dollars. I'd totally expect that in a place like hallandren there should be at least half a dozen immortals-by-breath. we never see anyone not-returned having more than 600.

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I disagree, as this has never come up. Metalborn on Scadrial don't gift their powers to their heirs via Hemalurgy when they're dying of terminal illness (though they probably should, assuming Hemalurgy use has no permanent effects in the afterlife), so I don't see why they would do it with Breath. If they did do it, it seems like Vivenna would remark on it as being some sort of abomination. It would be such a central point of their culture that I just can't imagine it never coming up.

The difference between passing on Breath and Hemalurgically gifting powers to your heirs is that one of them requires that you say a few words that everyone knows, and the other one requires stabbing yourself with a spike and then stabbing your heir in a very specific spot. Maybe Vivenna would have noticed it, but if it was considered taboo the Idrians might not know, or perhaps they would dismiss it as legend.

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I agree they're probably not out working with shovels in the dirt, since they're high status, but I think anyone with enough Breath to have learned Awakening but not enough to be filthy rich could and would be out there making Lifeless if the fees are as high as you're proposing.

 

Well, that is sort of what I'm proposing. The Awakener's cut might not be astronomical, but I'm sure it's a very nice chunk of change. And I still maintain that only a subset of people with a lot of Breath are sufficiently skilled and trained to be able to consistently produce Lifeless with a single Breath. They probably have their own guild, too, to make sure the price stays high enough to keep them happy. 

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I disagree, as this has never come up. Metalborn on Scadrial don't gift their powers to their heirs via Hemalurgy when they're dying of terminal illness (though they probably should, assuming Hemalurgy use has no permanent effects in the afterlife), so I don't see why they would do it with Breath. If they did do it, it seems like Vivenna would remark on it as being some sort of abomination. It would be such a central point of their culture that I just can't imagine it never coming up.

 

 

For all we know, the Southlanders on Scadrial do exactly that! Remember, in regular Scadrial hemalurgy is an extremely secret art known to almost nobody and associated with a homicidal cult and an evil deity. Whereas on Nalthis, the transfer of breath from person to person is the very foundation of the magic system. You're right in that Brandon doesn't address it explicitly in the book, but one of the really cool things about fantasy as a genre, and that distinguishes good fantasy from mediocre, is how an imaginary change (people being able to give each other pieces of their soul) changes the dynamic of society. And really, if you think about it...it becomes hard to imagine that people wouldn't pass down their Breaths. (unless you're Idrian and believe the whole thing is evil, but it's hinted that even that belief is a recent phenomenon).

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I don't think you can Return if you die a Drab, though...

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I don't think you can Return if you die a Drab, though...

 

You are correct:

 

Zas678

Can a Drab Return?

Brandon Sanderson

A Drab can not Return as the Returned are known, and there are things about the Drab that are not completely understood. But a Drab without a Breath, it's going to be very hard. Drabs do not Return. Good question, by the way. No one has ever asked me that before.

(source)

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Huh. I could have sworn Vasher mentioned in the book. I must be remembering wrong.

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I'm very curious to see whether Brandon expands on what exactly it means to be Drab in the grand scheme of things. It's basically stated in the book that it's an extremely subtle difference, one that most people can't even notice. If Denth was telling Vivenna the truth (and he probably was - he was much more of a "long-con" kind of guy that a habitual liar) it wasn't uncommon for people to sell their breath and then buy back another one, often many times. You'd think that if there was a noticeable difference, people would have picked up on it.

 

That being said, the very name does suggest that a difference does, in fact, exist. Perhaps it's so subtle that it takes the First Heightening to see it?

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Well, you don't have lifesense, for one thing. You don't get neck tinglies when someone stares at you, which in the Cosmere is a magic thing rather than a combination of subconscious clues. Nalthian human biology is adapted to having a Breath-boosted immune system, and without that, you basically get mild immunodeficiency symptoms, culminating in death in poor conditions. And remember that Denth treats Breath much more flippantly than most people, having held and lost thousands over centuries of life. I think that he was lying about the selling his Breath, though, as he needs at least one every week to survive. Selling it, unless he was to get an immediate return on his investment, would be flirting with death, though I suppose, should  it become necessary, abduction, torture, imbibment of Breath, and then disposal of a random passers-by would work week-to-week.

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Good point on Denth. But regardless, my point in trusting his information to Vivenna is that he's playing the long game with her, and everything else he tells her seems to be true, or at least generally believed to be true. I doubt he'd tell her something that would be contradicted by anyone she happened to meet on the street, for instance - that wouldn't help his credibility with her. 

 

I find the Breath concept really cool for a magic system because it's so contrary to the standard "some people are just born special" concept that pervades fantasy. Even on other Shardworlds, like Scadrial, or Sel, or even Roshar. On Nalthis though, anyone can become a "magician", but not everyone can, because essentially, society has to choose who gets the "tools". And Hallandren being capitalistic, they swap the "tools" around for money. Very 'Murican of them :-)

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Well, it's not so much being born special as being reborn special that's important on Nalthis. It's true about the average unReturned awakener, though. The Shaod from Elantris and the Mistborn genetic inheritance don't really diverge from this trope much, though.

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Well, it's not so much being born special as being reborn special that's important on Nalthis. It's true about the average unReturned awakener, though. The Shaod from Elantris and the Mistborn genetic inheritance don't really diverge from this trope much, though.

 

No, they don't. Which is why I find the Breath concept so refreshing. You're right about the Returned though, they certainly fit the usual pattern. 

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...

 

Jee... So much accounting...  :D

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Well, it's not so much being born special as being reborn special that's important on Nalthis. It's true about the average unReturned awakener, though. The Shaod from Elantris and the Mistborn genetic inheritance don't really diverge from this trope much, though

right on allomancy, but on the shaod there are speculations that people are chosen because they are devoted to something. and in the sa radiants become such because of their actions and belief. so,  brandon don't use much the old genetic magic.

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right on allomancy, but on the shaod there are speculations that people are chosen because they are devoted to something. and in the sa radiants become such because of their actions and belief. so,  brandon don't use much the old genetic magic.

 

That's true, the Shaod chooses people. As do the spren. But it's still the same basic idea - something that's effectively beyond human control grants a small number of people magical powers. What makes Awakening so cool is that literally anyone can do it with the right resources, the same way that literally anyone can learn any other skill. But just like any other skill, it takes practice, and some people will have more talent at it than others. 

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Good point on Denth. But regardless, my point in trusting his information to Vivenna is that he's playing the long game with her, and everything else he tells her seems to be true, or at least generally believed to be true. I doubt he'd tell her something that would be contradicted by anyone she happened to meet on the street, for instance - that wouldn't help his credibility with her.

 

If you read the Warbreaker annotations, there are several times that Mr. Sanderson references the information Denth gave Vivenna. I would provide the links but they're really all throughout the book.

 

Basically, they say that yeah, Denth flat-out lied, but the information isn't actually as "common" as you might think. Remember, this is a society without Wikipedia. Idris has Awakening in it's history and lives a few hundred miles from a city full of Awakeners, and people there have tons of horribly wrong information about how Awakening works. Idrians in the city will sometimes wear black to keep up with "don't wear colors because of Awakeners" tradition, ignorant of the fact that black is the most powerful color for Awakening.

 

In the Annotations, it's explained fairly simply. First, Denth fully expects to have so much control over Vivenna that he'll be able to prevent her from talking to anyone who could correct his information. Second, enough people on the street have the information wrong that, even if Vivenna does, at some point, learn from a source she'd actually trust that Denth's information was wrong, he can point to the hundreds of other ignorant citizens of the city and tell her, well hey, I'm just a simple mercenary, I guess i was just wrong like everyone else.

 

Is it an absolutely perfect plan with literally no possibility of failure? Nope. Is it reasonable that Denth would decide that feeding her this scrap of information about Breath, in order to keep all the Breath safe so he can take it from her someday, is worth the minor risk that he might potentially look like less than a scholar of BioChroma? Yep.

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If you read the Warbreaker annotations, there are several times that Mr. Sanderson references the information Denth gave Vivenna. I would provide the links but they're really all throughout the book.

 

Basically, they say that yeah, Denth flat-out lied, but the information isn't actually as "common" as you might think. Remember, this is a society without Wikipedia. Idris has Awakening in it's history and lives a few hundred miles from a city full of Awakeners, and people there have tons of horribly wrong information about how Awakening works. Idrians in the city will sometimes wear black to keep up with "don't wear colors because of Awakeners" tradition, ignorant of the fact that black is the most powerful color for Awakening.

 

In the Annotations, it's explained fairly simply. First, Denth fully expects to have so much control over Vivenna that he'll be able to prevent her from talking to anyone who could correct his information. Second, enough people on the street have the information wrong that, even if Vivenna does, at some point, learn from a source she'd actually trust that Denth's information was wrong, he can point to the hundreds of other ignorant citizens of the city and tell her, well hey, I'm just a simple mercenary, I guess i was just wrong like everyone else.

 

Is it an absolutely perfect plan with literally no possibility of failure? Nope. Is it reasonable that Denth would decide that feeding her this scrap of information about Breath, in order to keep all the Breath safe so he can take it from her someday, is worth the minor risk that he might potentially look like less than a scholar of BioChroma? Yep.

 

I think we're saying the same thing. Sure, Denth "lied" in the sense that he told Vivenna information that he, as one of the Five Scholars, knows to be untrue. But I don't recall him telling her anything that the average Joe on the street would know to be false, and certainly nothing that his "simple mercenary" persona ought to know to be false. Basically, whatever "lies" he told her were instances where the actual truth would blow his disguise (granted, not to Vivenna since she knows nothing, but you get my point).

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I think we're saying the same thing. Sure, Denth "lied" in the sense that he told Vivenna information that he, as one of the Five Scholars, knows to be untrue. But I don't recall him telling her anything that the average Joe on the street would know to be false, and certainly nothing that his "simple mercenary" persona ought to know to be false. Basically, whatever "lies" he told her were instances where the actual truth would blow his disguise (granted, not to Vivenna since she knows nothing, but you get my point).

 

Oh, I misunderstood then. From my reading of your initial post, I thought you were saying that anyone on the street could have corrected this gaffe, so Denth would never have told her the information if it wasn't true. I didn't realize you were saying, this can't be common knowledge, or Denth wouldn't have taken the risk of lying to her. My mistake, I apologize for putting words in your mouth.

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Oh, I misunderstood then. From my reading of your initial post, I thought you were saying that anyone on the street could have corrected this gaffe, so Denth would never have told her the information if it wasn't true. I didn't realize you were saying, this can't be common knowledge, or Denth wouldn't have taken the risk of lying to her. My mistake, I apologize for putting words in your mouth.

 

Lol, no worries!

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This has been a good thread - went in a lot of interesting directions. I'm going to revise my initial $5,000 estimate (of the price of one Breath) up to $10,000. 

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The best you'll probably get are vague answers until Brandon posts a conversion Ratio for Cosmere - US Dollar which i highly doubt he will.

My personal guess would be $3000-$5000, 

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Colours! I just realised something truly horrible...

TAXES.

Imagine that the government makes a tax on Breaths - if there is a passing of, let's say, 50 Breaths, five of them go to the state. If you hold a significant number of Breaths, you must give some % of them yearly to the state.
...
On the other hand, State Awakeners (FMA anyone?) would be paid in Breaths, so it's not that bad.
 

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Colours! I just realised something truly horrible...

TAXES.

Imagine that the government makes a tax on Breaths - if there is a passing of, let's say, 50 Breaths, five of them go to the state. If you hold a significant number of Breaths, you must give some % of them yearly to the state.

...

On the other hand, State Awakeners (FMA anyone?) would be paid in Breaths, so it's not that bad.

 

 

I shudder to think of the riots that would occur if any government tried to put a tax on Breath.  Far too many people, even in Hallandren, who only have the one Breath would protest such a tax strenuously.  

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