Senor Feesh

Defining 'focus'

68 posts in this topic

So we talk a lot about foci here on 17th Shard. We spend a lot of time trying to determine the focus on Shardworlds where we don't have a definitive answer (currently I believe only Roshar). But what is a focus? The Coppermind page simply states

 

A focus is a specific magic-related term in the cosmere, something which "focuses" a magic system.[Citation needed]

 

 

I feel that before we can really determine Roshar's focus, we first need to understand exactly what a focus is. What it it's purpose? What does it do?

 

Based on Phantom's post here which quotes the AoL Ars Arcanum, and Skaa's topic here which theorises that the Essences are the foci on Roshar, I would say that although I'm not yet 100% on if Skaa's choice of focus for Roshar is correct, I like his reasoning.

 

Specifically, based on what we know of other foci, I would define a focus as something that enables a magic system, without necessarily being magical itself.

 

The examples we have so far:

  • Forms/symbols on Sel
  • Molecular structures (specifically metals) on Scadrial
  • Word-based commands on Nalthis
I'm not going to rule out the possibility that we may see a focus in the future which is also Invested, but so far all the foci are pretty mundane. Atium admittedly is an exception, but unlike other metals, Atium actually powers the Investiture directly.

 

I can't take much credit for this, as Skaa gave me the core of the idea, but I do think it deserves its own topic so we can discuss it. If you agree/disagree with the reasoning, please post why below!

Edited by Senor Feesh
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Seems right to me. The biggest question I have about focuses in general, is how closely they are tied to the world in general compared to the people on that world.

 

In other words, supposing a Scadrial born allomancer travelled to Nalthis. Would they still use metals to access the shardic power (focus is set in spiritual dna by the world) ? Or would they use word-based commands (focus is entirely dependant on the world they are on)?

 

The second begs the question of what would happen in space. They would presumeably keep the focus of their home planet.

 

(In these situations, to my understanding, there would still need to be at least a sliver of preservations power accessable wherever they were to use their powers.)

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My problem with the def is things like color and stormlight are required, but probably aren't focuses.

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Indeed, I don't hold them to be a focus in the same sense. Others have used the term 'fuel' to describe this component of the process. It does rather set Allomancy apart though, in that the focus is consumed/destroyed as part of the process, thereby making the metal both fuel and focus.

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For soulcasting at least it seems the gems are the focus (on phone, pretend I inserted the heat treating/impure color reddit ama 2013 quote here). If an impure colored gem acts like a bad alloy, that implies they serve the same purpose.

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Only issue there is that Kaladin doesn't need gems, other than as a vessel to carry stormlight in. Perhaps they are a focus for one of the systems but not all?

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I think it's possible different systems have different foci... hard to tell, roshar is kinda weird.

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Hi! I'm back! Someone somewhere might remember me, and I've been away a while on university business, but I'm back to bring in my opinions on the matter because I have quite a set personal understanding of the way things on Roshar and Scadrial work (I'm not so familiar with the systems in Warbreaker and Elantris, still fitting them in).

 

I feel that several things are essential to casting any sort of magic or employing any sort of ability anywhere in the Cosmere.

 

Focus, as we are trying to define, seems like the gateway between Power, Shardic Power, in the Spiritual Realm and the Physical Realm. This may be due to the kind of Shard that you are trying to access, and its storage point/type, or the Shardworld you reside in (either the Spiritual location or Physical location).

 

Fuel, whatever you want to call it, something who's energy is taken up in the process, maybe material energy, such as metals and their atomic energy, or mystic energy like Stormlight, presumably to preserve balance between the Physical and Spiritual Realms.

 

Conduit, like an Allomancer, or Soulcaster, or any type of magic user. Most likely to provide both the motivation and the will of the Power to use the gateway provided by the focus, a presence in the Cognitive Realm that facilitates Power transfer and formation.

 

Shard, or Sliver, potentially (such as Atium/Vin/the Storm) to provide the energy and its type and uses, whether determined by Shardworld, user, or Shard, something there must be deploying the energies of Creation remnant from Adonalsium.

 

Using these objects, my personal interpretation of the Foci, as I have stated already, is that it facilitates the movement of certain Power through into the Physical Realm. On Rosher, this might be the gems, or the molecular structure of both the gems and Humans, allowing Kaladin to hold the Stormlight. Presumably on Scadrial, the reason that the metal is consumed is because that is the source of Physical energy at hand that can be swapped for Spiritual energy. Similarly, on Rosher, the Stormlight is held in the flesh or the gem, and its molecular structure facilitates it being swapped for the Spiritual Energy that Kaladin's, or the Windrunner's, Cognitive presence can then interpret into the powers Kaladin and Windrunners and all Knights use.

 

It could be theorised then, if only from these two foci, one definite and one only guessed at, that the Focus is almost always the structure of an object, but that structure determines the object that is the focus. For example, even if the focus for all systems was molecular structure, then its only the structure of certain metals that allow Allomantic power, and only that of certain gems and people to perform Windrunners' powers. 

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Hi Odium's Shard, and welcome back!

 

We do actually have (I'm fairly sure) WoB that Foci on Sel (Elantris/Emperor's Soul) and Nalthis (Warbreaker) are Forms and Commands respectively. Neither of these have a physical structure as such (an argument could be made for Forms on Sel being drawn into physical objects, but this is not a requirement, as we see with ChayShan, and Elantrians drawing in the air). I realise not being familiar with these systems you couldn't have known this beforehand.

 

Also, regarding Allomancy, the metal categorically isn't the source of energy, the molecular structure combined with Scadrian innate Investiture (in the form of Allomantic or Feruchemical sDNA) works as an access key to facilitate transfer of energy (which in Allomancy comes direct from Preservation, in Feruchemy comes from the Feruchemist). Hemalurgy is a little different, but it would seem that the metal combined with the correct location on the body determines which part of a 'donor's' Spiritweb can be stolen.

 

You'll have to forgive the lack of supporting evidence, it's hard to type effectively and navigate multiple tabs one-handed with a baby in your lap :P I'll try and add them later unless someone beats me to it.

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I do not have copypaste atm and even my quoting prowess has limits.

I'll mention that the reddit ama this year included an interesting answer involving magic systems not directly tied to a shard.

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I do not have copypaste atm and even my quoting prowess has limits. I'll mention that the reddit ama this year included an interesting answer involving magic systems not directly tied to a shard.

 

 

It was your question. ;) 

 

PM: Are there any magic systems in the cosmere that aren't shard based?

 

BA: This depends on definitions. The effects of Adonalsium permeate everything, and Adonalsium is also the source of the Shards. It is possible to find a magic that isn't DIRECTLY powered by a specific shard, however, though most of these would have been set up before the shattering and would be much smaller in scope than things like Allomancy and Surgebinding.

 

source

 

 

The following quote might be interesting to this thread too: 

 

ArsenoPyrite: 

I have a technical question here re: gemstones in The Stormlight Archive. How are the lines drawn between different types of gem? Emerald and Heliodor are both varieties of the mineral beryl. Emerald can get its color from trace amounts of chromium, vanadium and/or iron. Heliodor gets its color from iron combined with microscopic crystal defects. So, is the line between these two defined by color? If so, would a heliodor lose its usefulness if it were heated (which would turn it colorless or pale blue). Is it defined by trace elements--in which case, how do you deal with emeralds, or with aquamarine (the blue variety of beryl, which can also contain chromium or vanadium in small quantities and is mostly colored by iron). Sorry for getting so technical, but this gem nerd needs to know!

 

Brandon:

I actually spent a long time working on this while building the world. You'd probably be amused by how long I spent on it. Chemically, many of them are actually very similar, as you pointed out. I tried doing the book originally with them all being different, not using any that were basically the same crystal with different colors, but it didn't work out. There weren't enough, and so I had to stretch to make it all work.

So, I went back to the original, and decided that color was enough to differentiate them. Just as steel and iron are very similar in the mistborn world, Emerald and Heliodor can be very similar--but produce different effects. The idea here is that the physical items (like the metals or the crystals) provide a key by which magical interaction occurs.

So, in a long winded answer, a gemstone with an impure color would be considered like a bad alloy in the Mistborn magic--it either wouldn't work at all, or would work very poorly. The chemical and color signature needs to be of a specific variety to provide the proper key to accessing the power of transformation.

 

source

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At first: I know we shouldn't do double-postings but I really don't see any way to put quotes (nearly) correctly into an edited post, neither did I find a way to make a "orderly" second quote down here. 

 

 

We do actually have (I'm fairly sure) WoB that Foci on Sel (Elantris/Emperor's Soul) and Nalthis (Warbreaker) are Forms and Commands respectively. Neither of these have a physical structure as such (an argument could be made for Forms on Sel being drawn into physical objects, but this is not a requirement, as we see with ChayShan, and Elantrians drawing in the air). I realise not being familiar with these systems you couldn't have known this beforehand.

 

Searching the WoT-Database for "focus" I only came up with "RAFOs". 

 

But here Chaos said:

 

 

Some backstory: In my own discussion with Brandon (from 2009, I believe), he said that Aons are the focuses for AonDor, metal is the focus for the Metallic Arts. Those are sort of no-brainers. But then he surprised me, and said that the Commands are the focus in Warbreaker. At the time, I had guessed color, so that revelation blindsided me.

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Here's my attempt at a definition.
 
"A focus is a construct used when accessing the powers of creation that helps limit and shape the end effect. This is done by creating a form or pattern that provides a conduit for only a select "pulse length and frequency" of the power of creation. The focus can be bypassed under the right conditions, such as by directly consuming the Body of a Shard."
 
Some supporting evidence: Source
 

Quote

People ask about getting the power from metals and things, but that’s not actually how it works. The power’s not coming from metal. I talked a little about this before, but you are drawing power from some source, and the metal is actually just a gateway. It’s actually the molecular structure of the metal… what’s going on there, the pattern, the resonance of that metal works in the same way as an Aon does in Elantris. It filters the power. So it is just a sign of “this is what power this energy is going to be shaped into and give you.  
 
all the magic systems [in my books] are connected and work on some basic fundamental principles... that tie between Aondor and Allomancy. 
  
imagine there’s like, an imprint, a wavelength, so to speak. A beat for an allomantic thing, that when you burn a metal, it says “ok, this is what power we give.” When it’s [a metalmind], it changes that beat and says, “now we get this [feruchemical] power.”

 

"Some theorists describe the process [of accessing the Dor] using unfamiliar words like 'frequency' and 'pulse length'." Elantris pg 372, Chapter 28

-I don't have the quote handy, but in the mistborn trilogy bronze can detect "pulse length and frequency" differences given off when burning the allomantic metals.


-Pulse length and frequency as a way to describe the power of creation has only been confirmed on Sel and Scadrial, but I believe it is common to all worlds. Gems seem to function as a focus for fabrials and soulcasting (though not for windrunning) and they directly filter out a specific wavelength of stormlight.

-On Nalthis things get a bit more abstract since most people believe it is a mental construct that provides the focus. However, color is an essential part of the magic system and is fundamentally connected to filtering out a specific pulse length and frequency of light. I believe there is more than one focus at work in awakening, and the interaction of biochroma (physical focus) and command (cognitive focus) determines the effect of an endowment. 
 
 

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Here's my attempt at a definition.

 

"A focus is a construct used when accessing the powers of creation that helps limit and shape the end effect. This is done by creating a form or pattern that provides a conduit for only a select "pulse length and frequency" of the power of creation. The focus can be bypassed under the right conditions, such as by directly consuming the Body of a Shard."

 

This. Just this. Sorry for being unclear in my above post, I was getting a bit excited by the molecular theory and mixing some words and definitions.

 

For me, this is what the focus is. For me, while the foci might not actually facilitate the gateway between the Spiritual Realm and the Physical Realm, it is paramount in determining the exact power that is allowed through. As  Senor Feesh said, it may be the sDNA of the Conduit or User combined with their Cognitive presence that validates and begins the transfer (presumably from the User's Spiritual presence, determined by their sDNA, being opened as a Conduit by their Cognitive thought) of the Power of Creation into the Physical Realm.

 

I officially support this as the definition of a Focus (because while vague, it defines all foci we know of).

 

As for Isomere's comments about Nalthis and Sel, as I said while these aren't my strong points I would like to clarify how I perceive their Foci and why they link to your definition.

 

On Sel, the form of the Aon determines directly what sort of power is allowed through it. The Cognitive desire to draw the Aon opens up a Spiritual gateway (if the user is an Elantrian, presumably having special sDNA) that allows a tracer to be drawn in the air or on the surface. Once this tracer is then thought to be correct, i.e the Cognitive presence tying it down and keeping the Spiritual Realm at bay is removed and the Spiritual Energy is allowed to flow out of the Aon (tied to the user's Spiritual presence) in whatever form the Aon allows/specifies, which in reality means that a misdrawn or incorrect Aon doesn't allowed any energy through.

 

On Nalthis, the Command is a Physical Focus, because it is spoken in the Physical Realm. (Its been a while since I've read Warbreaker, can someone enlighten me as to whether Awakening can be done with mental Commands, not just spoken?). In this way, it is the phrasing and Intent placed once again by a Cognitive Presence onto a Physical manifestation that allows it to conduct between the Conduit's Spiritual Presence and out through the Physical foci, determining the binding effect of Awakening. 

 

What I'm really trying to say is that there might well be three Foci each tied to one another but in all Three Realms that determine the effects of magic in the Cosmere.

 

The Physical Focus provides a defining process for the Spiritual energy flowing through it, determining effect.

 

The Spiritual Focus provides a node in the Spiritual Realm using the sDNA of the Conduit which determines where the Power in the Spiritual Realm is flowing to in the Physical Realm. Think of the Physical Realm as a large RAM system of Conduits. This node would provide the access code that encodes the position of the Conduit accessing the power. 

 

Finally, the Cognitive Focus provides the motivation and Intent that when both conditions are met (fuel and two Foci ready) facilitates interaction between the Physical and Spiritual Realms.

 

On Elantris this means that the Cognitive Focus can hold the Aon while it is Physically drawn, on Scadrial the Intent to draw on a metal reserve, on Roshar the Intent to turn Stormlight into manifestations of Power. On Nalthis, the Command physically spoken is linked to the Cognitive definition and interpretation of that Command that draws through from the Spiritual Realm and shapes that Power, albeit in a Physical form that is determined not to be nonsensical by the Cognitive bridge.

 

If you read all of this, here is a medal

 

TL;DR Random thoughts in response to Isomere, and then a half formed potential theory about Realmatic Focus not just Physical Focus. Thsi theory is based upon all of my previous ideas and theories about the Cosmere that have been posted all over the place, and are still held in my mind, and almost everything I have said might have been proved wrong in the time I have been gone making this theory redundant. But as to my knowledge, there is no WoB on this topic on Three Foci.

 

Odium's_Shard

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If you read all of this, here is a medal.

Why thankyou =) *wears with pride*.

 

I also like this definition of the focus. Might consider the connection between the foci and the worlds thesmelves. Though the details of the connection are pretty unclear at this point.

 

Beyond that, I really like the idea of there being 1 focus for each realm on each planet. It just seems to fit very well with realmatic theory. The same kind of idea was starting to trip around my head when Isomere mentioned the possibility of there being more than one focus active in awakening, though you put it better than I could have.

 

Thinking of 3 foci, for Roshar could actually work quite well:

-physical gemstones

-mental the ideals (or something along those lines)

-spiritual the spren, they appear to operate primarily on the spiritual realm and bonding with a human i expect changes the humans sDNA

 

Nalthis

-physical commands (yeah, i don't think colour is a focus, as it fuels it but doesn't determine what you can do, just that you can)

-mental intent (fairly sure that was mentioned as being important somewhere

-spiritual uncertain, related to sDNA, does having breaths somehow effect sDNA?

 

Scadrial

-physical metals

-mental how you want to use the power, eg, which allomantic line to steelpush

-spiritual sDNA? connection to preservation through it? (not really sure on that one)

 

Sel

-physical patterns (both symbols and movements are patterns afterall)

-mental design of the symbol/pattern?

-spiritual again unsure at this point. We don't know what it is specifically that allows elantrians to draw aons (i think). Although I believe anyone could learn forgery, making it a bit of an oddity, is that correct?

 

thoughts?

 

Edit:

In light of this (which I didn't notice before)

http://www.17thshard.com/forum/topic/3179-new-info-on-spren/

the roshar bit doesn't work as well as before. Although i still think the nahel bond alters sDNA.

Edited by lord_Ffnord
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Commands do not need to be spoken aloud, though only the God Kings have exhibited this ability.

 

I do not believe that there are three foci for each world, mostly because I don't feel it is substantiated by any of the texts or interviews I have read.  Brandon has said that the focus for allomancy is metal, not one of the foci for allomancy is metal.

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Ok, quickly working through this of a lunchtime break. I'm going to clarify the Spiritual Focus because the hardest one you found to determine was the Spiritual Focus. 
 
Spiritual Focus on:
 
Sel: The Spiritual Focus here is whatever the altering of sDNA becoming an Elantrian facilitates. Also, in terms of Forgery, there is the potential for a temporary Spiritual connection based on the Intent of Cognition and whatever the Shard allows in terms of sDNA.
 
Nalthis: The Command forms a Physical presence and is interpreted by the Cognitive knowledge of language. In this way, the Breaths could be viewed as either Fuel or Spiritual connection to Endowment. But since colour is a fuel here, most likely each person is born with a connection to Endowment that they can pass on via the Intent of the Shard to do so. That this connection is consumed is telling towards the nature of that connection as temporary and material.

 

Scadrial: The sDNA that defines an Allomancer, a connection to the Shardic presence of Leras/Preservation as passed into the bloodstream by the initial feeding of Lerasium to the Lord Ruler's most trusted nobles. Is anyone sure what gave the original Feruchemists their Feruchemical ability? I can't remember reading anything that might hint to that.

 

Roshar: This must be tied to spren and the idea of the Nahel Bond, because if spren are embodiments of ideals or purposes, then they sound like a perfect bridge between Spiritual manifestation and the validity of Intent as defined by Cognition of the Conduit.

 

TL;DR The spiritual focus might well just be the manifestation of a Physical Conduit's sDNA in a tangible and usable form in the Spiritual Realm. The two might well be exhaustive or transgressive to one another depending on situation.

 

In reply to WeiryWriter:

 

Commands do not need to be spoken aloud, though only the God Kings have exhibited this ability.

 

I do not believe that there are three foci for each world, mostly because I don't feel it is substantiated by any of the texts or interviews I have read.  Brandon has said that the focus for allomancy is metal, not one of the foci for allomancy is metal.

 

The God Kings maybe have this ability due to their high Breath count, or all Returned may have this ability because of the way that their Cognitive presence is entirely in the hold and at the whim of the Shard Endowment, potentially allowing their Cognition to directly impact the Power waiting for them in the Spiritual Realm.

 

Secondly, in reference to the possibility of Realmatic Focus, what you say is entirely likely. I just feel that while the Cognitive and Spiritual foci are entirely additive, and most likely do not fall under the definition of 'focus', while they may inherently be tied to the notion of a Focus in the Physical Realm, then they are still paramount in determining the sequence of magical empowerment in the Cosmere.

 

While they maybe fall under different names other than Spiritual Focus (which is at this stage basically the manifestation or result in the Spiritual Realm of a Conduit's sDNA and the two are almost one and the same if not exhaustive) and Cognitive Focus, which one might well just call and Intent or a thought or even just having the base amount of wits to think about performing magic, they are still essential and you must agree!

 

Without an intent to perform magic or the correct access key or permission to do so, regardless of whether you have the fuel or focus to hand, you must agree that magic simply cannot occur in the Cosmere. If you can show me a case where either of these things have, knowingly or noted or not, been missing and magic has still occurred, then I will accede to you.

Edited by Odium's_Shard
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Commands do not need to be spoken aloud, though only the God Kings have exhibited this ability.

 

Can you confirm for me where this is written? In the book, Susebron Awakening all the tapestries happens off-screen; we don't actually know if he speaks the command or not. If there's evidence fine, I'm just having trouble finding it.

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Can you confirm for me where this is written? In the book, Susebron Awakening all the tapestries happens off-screen; we don't actually know if he speaks the command or not. If there's evidence fine, I'm just having trouble finding it.

Sounded familiar and its listed on the coppermind as a 10th heightening power. Unsure if that was confirmed in the book or outside.

 

"A third ability granted is the ability to give commands mentally (Mental Command), although this is said to be difficult to learn. This is the ability that allowed the God Kings of Hallandren to pass on their breaths after their tongues were removed."

 

Yeah, reckon there is a component for each realm like that but "focus" is the wrong word for the spiritual and mental components.

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Sounded familiar and its listed on the coppermind as a 10th heightening power. Unsure if that was confirmed in the book or outside.

 

"A third ability granted is the ability to give commands mentally (Mental Command), although this is said to be difficult to learn. This is the ability that allowed the God Kings of Hallandren to pass on their breaths after their tongues were removed."

 

Yeah, reckon there is a component for each realm like that but "focus" is the wrong word for the spiritual and mental components.

 

Yes this is what I stated; these are just temporary names. Realistically I was just pointing out a convenient love triangle between Intent, sDNA and Foci in the formation of any magic, that just happens to fall along the boundaries of Realmatic Theory. To me, there is no coincidence even if these other two aren't Foci at all. Apart from those three things all that is necessary is a fuel, a conduit (or maybe this just comes with Cognitive presence) and the Shardic power and its own limitations based on the way it Splintered from Adonalsium. 

Edited by Odium's_Shard
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allomancers can unintentionally burn metal without being aware or conscious of it.  that's how atium mistings were found.

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Umm... The impression I have been getting from the last few posts is that you are thinking of foci as being exclusively physical, which isn't the case.  Foci can, theoretically, be in any of the three realms (we don't have confirmation of any spiritual foci at the moment though).

 

Thank you for acknowledging that Focus is the wrong word for what you are describing, because that phrasing is imprecise and could lead to confusion in new members.  I agree that there are aspects of all three realms in every magic system but the focus only exists in one of them, i.e. aons/metals in the physical and commands in the cognitive.

 

Mental Commands are mentioned in Chapter 58 of Warbreaker (on page 576 in the ebook version on Brandon's website).

 

In my mind, mental commands aren't really an exception to the rules of Awakening but rather is the rule.  Commands are a cognitive focus so strictly speaking the vocalization is not necessary to accomplish Awakening.  The words just aid in getting the Awakener's "mind" into the right shape to act as a focus.  Only with a great multitude of breaths does someone have the clarity of thought that allows them to learn to get their mind in the right shape without vocalization. (does that make sense?)

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Here is some info/thoughts that might help out the discussion.

 

1) Kaladin uses stormlight and performs lashing multiple times on a completely unconcious level.

 

2) The gem makes a difference for soulcasting.  IIRC, you can use any gem to soulcast anything, but particular gems or gemcombinations work better than others for each substance being soulcast.

 

3) For Kaladin's and Szeth's surges, the gems are merely containers for stormlight (as far as I know given the info we have).  Larger gems and more precisely cut gems hold more stormlight or hold stormlight better.

 

Note: Isomere touched on 2 and 3 earlier, but I thought these aspects needed to be given more attention and fleshed out a bit more.

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Ok. It seems I have been proved wrong on the Focus in all Three Realms, though this opens the doors for what constitutes a Focus (a full definition) as well as whether 'something' has to be present in all Three Realms. For example, even if Mental Commands are given through a Cognitive Focus as opposed to Physical, is there something Physical that then arises because of this.

 

Also, if there is no Intent, as you say Kaladin's Surgebinding of desperation, is there something there Cognitively allowing it (the spren's presence through the Nahel bond?).

 

Also if the gem colour is the focus, or cut, or the gem itself, is that not to say that a certain Intent is forcing the circle through the square, limiting the capabilities of the Power it is transmitting through the wrong or badly formed (loose Command, bad Alloy) Focus.

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Some of it I think is a certain amount of intuitiveness that comes with the ability.  We have seen this sort of thing in Mistborn where Vin uses her luck to produce a desired effect.  Initially, though, she had to be able to intuitively be able to 'burn' a metal.  I think it is discussed more in depth at the end of WoA where Elend has to burn the Lerasium without any concious knowledge or education as to how one goes about doing that.  A pewter burn also gives intuitive balance and coordination.  Atium burning enhances the mind to give it the ability to process the atium shadows and to essentially unconciously respond and react to those shadows.  It may be the same with Kaladin.  Intent is there, but the intent is instinctual rather than concious.

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